[3.16 updated] BRO, DO YOU EVEN SUMMON? Life/ES Dark Pact Skeleton Caster League Starter


-huge dps even with an early-league gear
-can run any map mods
-good league starter
-decent clearspeed
-doesn't require any specific gear to work

-quite a lot of buttons to press
-not designed for an AFK playstyle

3.16 Before you decide wether to follow this build
Go with that build when you need a solid league starter which can carry you to the very endgame with a few ex invested. Go with it if you are looking for a single build for a whole league. Go with it if you need decent clearspeed and big singletarget potential. It's a great allrounder.

Don't go with this build if you are looking for a good HC or SSF build. There are better builds for that. Don't play it if you want the fastest build, the biggest dps, the best lab runner etc. It's a jack of all trades but master of none.

Dark Pact dps looks better in PoB than it feels in a real life scenario. 30-50m sDPS with like 5ex invested is totally achievable, but using its full potential in the actual gameplay is often not doable when a boss moves around a lot, your Wither Totems are being easily killed, when you can't use Vaal Skills etc.

3.16 Gear and gem links

Gear and gem links

Dark Pact has to be put into the body armour and Skeletons into the Helmet. Blasphemy Aura has to be put either into boots or gloves.

Jinxed Juju + Replica Doedre's Damning for mapping. Gloomfang + life gain on hit Shaper ring for bosses.

Weapon Swap:

Important Mods:
Generic Important Mods:

increases to Life/ES and Minion Life, resistances

Specific Important Mods:


+3 to level of Socketed Minion Gems (requires ilvl 86 base)

30% increased Temporal Chains Curse Effect

Body Armour

Gain 10% of Life as Extra Maximum Energy Shield (unlocked by unveiling items dropped by Gravicious upon completing Jun missions)


#% Increased Movement Speed

Non-Vaal Skills deal #% increased Damage during Soul Gain Prevention
(rare boots)

You can apply an additional Curse (WIndshriek)

60% increased Area of Effect of Hex Skills (WIndshriek)


#% increased Attack and Cast Speed while Focussed


Your Critical Strike Chance is Lucky when Focussed


#% increased Effect of your Curses (Jinxed Juju)

#% of Chaos Damage Leeched as Life (rare amulet, only when you don't have Divergent Void Manipulation)

Lose (15-10) Life for each Enemy hit by your Spells (Gloomfang)


# Mana gained for each Enemy hit by your Spells (requires Shaper base)

# Life gained for each Enemy hit by your Spells (requires Shaper base)

Non-Channelling Skills have -# to Total Mana Cost (unlocked by unveiling items dropped by Elreon upon completing Jun missions)

Trigger Level # Assassin's Mark when you Hit a Rare or Unique Enemy (requires Shaper base)

#% increased Effect of your Curses (Replica Doedre's Damning)

You can apply one fewer Curse (Replica Doedre's Damning)

Weapon Swap

Trigger a Socketed Spell when you use a Skill (unlocked by unveiling items dropped upon completing Jun missions)

+# to Minimum Frenzy Charges

3.16 Path of Building

List of things you need to set up manually after importing your char in PoB:

-check 'Do you use Power Charges' [Configuration]
-check 'Are you Focussed' [Configuration]
-check 'Do you use Frenzy Charges' [Configuration]
-set 'is the enemy a Boss' at Shaper/Guardians [Configuration]
-set '# of Intensity' at 4 [Configuration]
-set 'Frost Shield stages' at 4 [Configuration]
-set Wither stacks at 15 [Configuration]
-set Dark Pact at 'Cast on Skeleton' [left side panel]
-check all your flasks [Items]
-check 'Show Minion Stats' window [Calcs\Summon Skeleton]
-manually type in Skeleton Life value into 'Skeleton Life' window [Configuration]
-add '300% MORE Damage' mod to any of your items (200% if you are not using Gloomfang)

3.16 Videos

My videos:

Your videos:

If you have a video of you playing with my build and want it to be featured here, let me know! However, I don't know yet if I want to put here every single video you submit or just the selected ones.

3.5 Elder Armoury MF run:

3.5 Delve depth 1000:

3.16 Progression & Leveling
Start off with a Freezing Pulse as a main skill. At the end of Act 1 replace Freezing Pulse with Storm Burst and use it until Act 3.

After killing Gravicius in Act 3 you can now use Dark Pact as a main skill. At that point you may craft yourself a +1 Minion helmet:
(life flask + bone spirit shield + transmute = life flask of animation)
(life flask of animation + magic helmet + alt = +1 minion helm)

After helping Siosa in Act 3 and before doing Normal Lab pick Blasphemy and 1 curse of your choice (Temp Chains, Despair, Enfeeble).

After completing Cruel Lab take Malediction (so now you can apply 2 curses) as well as the mana reservation efficiency Curse and Energy Shield masteries (so you are able to reserve enough mana to use Discipline + 2 curses).

After completing the campaign buy some items with resistances and increases to Life. Buy Replica Doedre's Damning, amulet with 'chaos spell leech' and +2 Minion helmet.

Buy ilvl 86 Hubris Circlet to boost your Temp Chains Blasphemy aura when map or league monsters become too dangerous.

Buy Gloomfang when you feel you need more damage. Remember to also buy 'life gain on spell hit' ring to compensate for Gloomfang's life loss.

Buy +2 to Frenzy Charge shield to have a lazy way of generating Frenzy Charges any time you want.

Buy 2x Void Batteries when you are at least around lvl 90 and you already picked all 3 Power Charge nodes on a tree and did an Uber Lab. Along with VB buy a Brinerot Flag so you have a good way of generating Power Charges before bosses, Incursions etc.

Buy Assassin's Mark ring when you need to upgrade your dps against Guardian-tier endgame bosses.

Start crafting your gear with Essences of Fear when you are comfortable with spending at least 10 essences per item and anytime you feel like you need a damage upgrade. Decent gloves should be the easiest one to craft that way.

On a league I usually push my char to be worth like 15-20ex. You might push it further if you are willing to spend more currency to have a biggest DPS in a hood. -#% to chaos res on helmet, +1 Power Charge on helmet, +1 to socketed gems corrupted implicit on body armour, essence crafted rings, Synthesis bases, Bottled Faith, augmented flasks and awakened gems are expamles of multiple option to push this build to the limit.

3.16 How It Works

We are casting Dark Pact on our skeletons and sacrificing their life to deal damage. The more life they have the higher damage we deal, so in order to scale our DPS we invest into minion life. Also, with +1 chain from Gloomfang, Dark Pact deals damage 4 times with single cast. Furthermore, we invest into Power Charges, crit, cast speed, spell / chaos / AoE damage so typical spellcaster stuff.

Our first layer of defense is a Blasphemy Temporal Chains + Enfeeble aura. With enough increassed effect it slows down monsters so much that they very rarely manage to hit us before we kill them but even when they do their damage is significantly reduced. By default we can apply 1 curse and we get +1 increase from Malediction (Ascendancy). Keep in mind that Replica Doedre's Damning has a -1 decrease to the curse limit so to compensate for that we also need either Windshriek boots or Whispers of Doom (Passive Tree / amulet annoint).

When we get hit we do have a few ways of recovery. It's 2% of ES and life gained on kill (Passive Tree), ES leech (Passive Tree), Vaal Discipline, ES gained on hit (Watcher's Eye), life leech (amulet), life gained on hit ring (only if the value is reasonably higher than the life loss value on Gloomfang), life flask. This build is a hybrid life / ES build - that means approximately half of our eHP is life and the other half is ES.

ES recovery also has an additional function - it lets us sustain Righteous Fire without burning ourselves to death.

Frost Shield is also for both defensive and offensive purposes. If we are standing within its radius it absorbs a portion of monster damage and gives us a dps boost. It also slows down any monsters within the radius.

+2 Frenzy Charge shield in a secondary weapon swap grants us 2 frenzy charges upon pressing 'X' two times. This can be done even during intense boss fights. Before boss fights or during phase transitions we can hit Hydrosphere with a Frenzy skill and get an additional charge for each hit.

Speaking of frenzy charges, Phase Run can consume them to increase its duration (be careful to not consume them by accidentaly casting it during boss fights).

To boost our damage against bosses we are using Wither Totems, Focus buffs, Righteous Fire, Vaal Righteous Fire, Vaal Blight and Vaal Haste (depending on your setup you might not be able to use all of it - in my Scourge Dark Pact char I'm not using Vaal Blight in favor of using Animate Guardian and Summon Spectre).

3.16 Animate Guardian & Spectres

Animate Guardian

When AG dies all of the items he has been using are lost so keeping him alive is a must. I don't recommend summoning AG until the gem lvl is at least lvl 19 and he has around 30k life. Also 'Minions Recover 5% of Life on Minion Death' Minion Defence Mastery is mandatory for his as well as the spectres survivability

Weapon: Dying Breath - boosts our curses and dmg. Kingmaker is a good alternative if you don't mind sacrificing one more socket to link your AG with a Meat Shield (Kingmaker's range is so small that AG needs to be literally on your face for you to use its benefits).

Helmet: Crown of the Tyrant - boosts our damage. For lower budget use either a rare helmet with -9% to all res or a Leer Cast.

Boots - Omeyocan (if you want the AG to keep up with you) or Victario's Flight (if you want to boost your movespeed)

Gloves - Southbound

Body Armour - Garb of the Ephemereal (nearby enemies cannot deal critical strikes is a very good defense buff). For the lower budget Belly of the Beast for some life and res to your AG.


Lvl 20 Summon Spectre allows us to have 2 spectres. My personal choice is Pale Seraphim and They of Tul.

Pale Seraphim - he has a charging attack that increases the damage taken by an enemy and lowers its damage taken.

They of Tul - he places huge AoE chilling area that slows down the enemis and makes you more likely to avoid dmg when standing within its radius.

Arena Master - gives 40% cast and movement speed buff from time to time

3.16 Passive Tree
Travel to the right side of the tree first.

Green colored nodes are some good alternatives you might consider to pick.

Red colored clusters are the ones you choose between depending on if you decide to use an Animate Guardian or not. By default pick curse effect cluster and when you decide to use AG pick minion cluster instead.

3.16 Ascendancy


3.16 Bandits

Help Alira

3.16 Masteries

Life Mastery

+50 to Maximum Life

10% increased Maximum Life
10% reduced Life Recovery Rate

50% increased Life Recovery from Flasks used when on Low Life

Caster Mastery

+1 to max Intensify

Evasion and ES Mastery

30% of Chaos Damage does not bypass Energy Shield

Charge Mastery

100% increased Charge Duration

ES Mastery

Discipline has 25% increased Mana Reservation Efficiency

Chaos Mastery

0.5% of Chaos Damage Leeched as Energy Shield or 20% increased Effect of Withered or +17% to Chaos Resistance

Curse Mastery

30% increased Mana Reservation Efficiency of Curse Aura Skills

Critical Mastery

+25% to Critical Strike Multiplier against Unique Enemies

Minion Deffence Mastery

Minions have 15% reduced Life Recovery rate
Minions have 30% increased maximum Life

Minions Recover 5% of Life on Minion Death

3.16 Flasks, Pantheon, Ailments

You should organize your flasks and Pantheon in such a way that most ailments won't be problematic to you. There is some flexibility with the way of doing that.

There are 2 most important ones: the first one is the immunity to freeze and I recommend getting it in the Soul of the Brine King Pantheon as soon as possible and using a flask with freeze removal until that. The second one is the immunity to bleed / corrupted blood and the best way is to get it on enduring mana flask.

The other important one is silence and you can get the immunity to it on a corrupted jewel or by stacking reduced curse effect on you to 100% (flask, jewels, Pantheon).

Make sure your life flask is the one with the burning removal as it works as a killswitch to your Righteous Fire.

Your life flask should also provide instant recovery and it should be as high as possible. This combined with the Sorrow of the Divine and the single increase to life recovery on low life (Passive Tree or the Pantheon) will make you recover almost all of your Life + ES by one use of your life flask.

Shuffle you Pantheon, flasks, jewels and Passive Tree to get the protection against any other ailments you need (shock, poison, burning ground etc).


Exile: I'm dying too much on higher maps.
Me: Try to get as much life and strength on your gear as you can. Take all life nodes and jewel slots on Passive Tree as early as possible. Put life jewels into that slots. Use Temporal Chains, Phase Run, Warlord's Mark, Cast When Damage Taken setup and Vaal Blight. Pre-cast Cold Snap on bosses before they activate to slow them even more. Swap out Spell Echo and put Faster Casting into your 6L to prevent being locked by casting animation.

Exile: Which gems use for 4L/5L?
Me: You should always check it in Path of Building. As you progress, certain supprt gems become more or less effective than others (e.g. Power Charge on Critical is pretty useless at the begining of your adventure, but it becomes really powerful once you have picked all +1 Power Charge nodes on a tree and you have 2 Void Batteries).

Exile: My dps is't satisfying.
Me: Show me your gear and Passive Tree so I could help you.

Exile: I'm confused what scales my dps the best.
Me: It depends on your current gear/tree. Let me quote my representation when I was having 8.4mil dps and my skeleton hp was 15210:

10% increased spell damage gives me 100k dps.
10% increased cast speed gives me 330k dps.
10% increased crit multi gives me 190k dps.
10% increased crit chance gives me 44k dps.
10% increased minion life gives me 218k dps.

It may vary depending on your current gear, e.g. if your crit chance is low then crit multi won't be that effective. Or if you maybe have low cast speed, any cast speed modifier will be godlike for your dps. You should always import your char into Path Of Building and compare all increases there.
Last edited by brant09081992 on Nov 20, 2021, 10:17:23 PM
Last bumped on Dec 16, 2021, 4:21:05 PM
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Thanks for listing Kwitch! I have added Uber Atziri fight and Gorge full run.
Good stuff.
⚡ Lightning Golems:
⛄ Ice Golems:
Hi this really looks like a fun build and one I want to test for next season when my Harbinger chars move to standard.

Just wondering how you feel about its mapping speed? From the Gorge run video it looks a bit slow when it comes to mapping.

edit: Just found out about the VP nerf, ouch!
Last edited by Eathb on Nov 18, 2017, 4:10:35 AM
Hey! I'm not a big fan of fast clearing but you can self-cast DP if you want to make it faster and use skeletons once you reached to the boss. However, VP changes will push us now to use skeletons in most encounters I think. I messed a bit into PoB yesterday and made a CI concept of this build based on fast ES recharge and that's how I'm gonna probably play in upcoming league. I don't know how reliable would self-casted DP be without insta leech. I'm gonna play the current variant of my build on Mayhem HC to enjoy the last days with current VP mechanics and I recommend you to do so if you want to try that one ;)
I have something like u, but in video u kill much easily despite my items are a bit better. I think its because of Onslought and Sulphur flasks. Vaal Clarity which allows u to fire from distance and dont aggro helps a lot too.

I do with Power Charges 160k dps (without golem and Arcane Surge`, 7 Poweer Charges), hp is 4.8k and minions hp is almost 7.9k. 5.5k hp when minions life 6.8k.

I like idea of Vaal Clarity as mana is problem if out of leech range.

Main problem is with aggro: exile aggro instead of minions almost all time; while outside of curse range(?), minions are usually attacked first (but this theory fails if something is shooting out of screen like spiders, harbingers totems, demons..).

I was using Lightning Warp, but its really bad if have to play in range of aggro. Maybe if Vaal Clarity is present than Lightning Warp can be more useful. But maybe I just lack of skill, but its not Whirling Blades and even Flame Dash is faster.

Problem with this build is mainly that skeleton do almost no aggro, u have to press too many buttons to start shoot, u fire stationary with possibility of not leeching and can be under fire while dp is "casted" from minions. Heavily flask dependent. Sustain of Power Charges is also tricky.

But hey, at least we gave a try..

I have another Dark Pact on Scion totems and is much better overall: better hp, better dps, better dodge, no flask dependent at all, but lucky flask is useful, much faster clear speed, and much better survival ability overall.
Last edited by Rexeos on Nov 22, 2017, 11:55:03 PM
Rexeos wrote:
I have something like u, but in video u kill much easily despite my items are a bit better.

That's a bummer to read, your damage looks like it should be even better than the video with your gear, which should more than compensate for the flasks you mentioned.

You aren't using Vaal Summon Skels for bosses, are you? That seems like it would totally tank your DPS as DP dmg is based off skel life, and lvl 24 skels + lvl 24 minion life has to be a gigantic boost over unbuffed VSS.

I was considering this build so hopefully the OP can weigh in.
Is 7 your maximum number of charges? I have 9 max and 2 charges more = 108% increased damage with my setup. Also flasks make a difference indeed as well as the boot enchant. The rest of your gear is comparable or better than mine. I think the biggest difference could be into your passive tree.

I don't have any problems with exiles either meele or ranged ones. I sometimes find regular monsters more dangerous when one of them comes close to me in a very moment I just spawned my skeletons a few meters away and I can't attack it until skeleton cooldown expired. I keep Vaal Clarity mainly to always have a possibility to spam DP while keeping a distance from any danger. Atziri's Promise does its job when it comes to leech from an out of curse range.

I have started playing with this build when it was already levelled which resulted with dps being good enough that I didn't have any issues with having lightning warp as my movement skill. But if I played it from scratch Flame dash would be a better option if it comes to sustain longer boss fights and mechanics avoidance but it actually all depends on the content you face. While Whirling blades is being a top tier movement skill, it cannot be used with void batteries. You can use Brightbeak in addition to the Brinerot Flag and Whirling Blades into one weapon slot for fast clearing and Flame Dash with Void Batteries into another and swap on them only for bosses and that's something which I also probably should consider when I will be playing at the next league.

To be honest my build is not flask depentend and I could do all the endgame content without flasks. After a few days of playing with DP I have already got used to its playstyle and now I can minimize the risk caused by bad skeletons placement.

The thing with power charges sustain is that you always gonna call a warcry when they are about to expire. I have no problems with it but I understand some players may find it uncomfortable.

I don't like totem playstyle but I have to admit that totems are indeed really strong and safe option. I bet most of HC players gonna play DP with totems on the Abyss League especially after the Vaal Pact changes.
i can't view any of your gear or anything

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