[3.3] Dark Pact-Skeletons Assassin ft. Gloomfang (Cast on Crit and Poet's Pen) [Shaper video]


This build went untouched in the 3.3 Patch Notes and is good to go. It looks like the meta will revolve around some of the revamped skills, so I expect everything in this build to remain cheap and under the radar, including Essences of Fear and Gloomfang. The only pricy items will be your Poet's Pens.

The build has lost the Aspect of the Spider gloves since Bestiary was not added to the core game. A well rolled pair of rare gloves will be a good replacement as it will assist with filling out resists and making sure you are at the attack speed breakpoint for your Poet's Pens.

Losing the Aspect gives us an opportunity to make the build a bit more defensive if we want to by using Mind over Matter. Dropping Despair in exchange for EHP may be worth it since curse effectiveness is so weak on bosses. With the mana pool unreserved we simply take MoM nodes and run Clear Mind for some free spell damage and mana regen. I've added the PoB link to the guide below.


Path of Building Pastebin Level 91
MoM Pastebin Level 95
Level 91 Skill Tree
Shaper Kill (YouTube)
T15 Carcass Map (YouTube)


First of all, credit and kudos to Chris Kluwe aka "Loate" for creating The Poet's Pen - it is an amazing item! This build is also inspired by his "Pencromancer" build, so I'm certainly not the first person to use these skill gems with the Pens.

The goal with this build is to scale Dark Pact/Skeleton life as much as possible using the recently buffed Assassin ascendancy, the underrated Gloomfang amulet, and Essence of Fear for increased minion life on as much gear as possible.

I enjoy making builds that scale damage in non-traditional ways, and with Dark Pact being off-meta right now it was easy to get going since the relevant essences are quite cheap. This is a great build for players that want to create their own gear but don't want to go down the road of expensive meta crafting.

The build is able to kill endgame bosses like the Guardians and Shaper quite easily. I haven't attempted Uber Elder because I haven't had time to collect all of the memory fragments.

Given that this is an Assassin spell crit build, putting together a life pool is quite challenging. For that reason I don't think this build is HC viable.


Shaper Kill (YouTube)

Not the cleanest kill - but enough to showcase the damage the build can do. Also cool that the Skeletons are so tanky they can survive the bullet phase.

T15 Carcass Map (YouTube)

Just a quick mapping video since this was requested in the thread.



+ Great damage, especially single target - but also good at mapping.
+ Chaos damage cannot be reflected.
+ Scales damage in a cool way and uses off-meta skill gems and gear.
+ Fairly cheap to get going, but also very fun to sink currency into essence crafting and min-maxing.
+ Great build for those who like to create their own gear, but want to avoid expensive meta crafting.
+ The Skeletons are so tanky that they double as meat shields and bosses will often focus on them.
+ Doesn't use Watcher's Eye, stat sticks or any of the other meta gear that's incredibly expensive these days.


- Can only achieve 5k-6k life. Must use MoM if you want to achieve higher EHP.
- Likely not HC viable due to Assassin being all-out offense and low life pool.
- Must be careful with hexproof mobs and reduced curse effectiveness map mods.
- Cannot be built as CI or LL due to Gloomfang.
- Like all Poet's Pen builds, cannot use a T1 movement skill like Shield Charge or Whirling Blades.


It goes without saying but the build revolves around The Poet's Pen - Dark Pact in one Pen and Summon Skeleton in the other. One Pen spawns tanky Skeletons and the other Pen casts Dark Pact on those Skeletons for massive Chaos damage. The higher the maximum life of your Skeletons, the more damage Dark Pact will churn out.

Since quality on your Summon Skeleton gem is irrelevant, I was able to get a lvl 21/0q gem for 10c. You can also use bricked Poet's Pens as long as they have the correct colours. Just a couple of examples of how the nature of the build allows you to cut corners when gearing and get good value. With a lvl 21 Summon Skeleton gem and lvl 4 Empower, your Summon Skeleton gem will reach lvl 27.

Gloomfang is a very underrated Amulet. Dark Pact itself chains 2 times amongst your Skeletons, hitting nearby enemies a total of 3 times by default. Gloomfang's additional +1 chain makes each Dark Pact cast hit a 4th time, resulting in 33% MORE damage. It also provides some Chaos life leech which, along with Warlord's Mark, easily negates the life lost from the item itself. Because this amulet is so cheap I was able to get one with a +1 curse corruption for only 40c. Note that the projectile portion of the Gloomfang is irrelevant to this build.

Provides Aspect of the Spider which is a great DPS boost along with some utility and protection. Aspect of the Spider is great for the build because there just aren't many ways to scale Chaos damage in the game right now.

Instead of running utility supports with Frenzy, we run a CoC Dark Pact setup to get even more Dark Pact casts flowing onto our Skeletons. Cherrubim's provides Chaos damage, decent life, and increased life leech. Another competitive option here is Bloodbond, but PoB indicates to me that Cherrubim's is the superior choice once you have enough increased minion life elsewhere on your gear.

A shaped belt allows for the cooldown reduction affix which reduces the internal cooldowns of both The Poet's Pen and the Cast on Crit setup. You can also get this affix on boots but I was never able to hit a good essence craft.

For the helmet, look for any base with the Dark Pact damage enchant. Then, like all of your other pieces of rare gear except rings, craft with Essence of Fear. The T1 price of this essence fluctuated between 4-6c throughout Bestiary league which actually makes essence crafting a fun and reasonable currency sink.

The rings are the most difficult items to craft. Essence of Envy was a bit pricier (6-8c) and ideally you want Warlord's Mark on hit (Elder base) and at least one large accuracy roll (350-400). Keep in mind that if you do not have a +1 curse amulet, you can just run Warlord's Mark in your Blasphemy setup, and save Despair for later once you have a properly corrupted amulet and a curse on hit ring.

Having at least one large accuracy roll, plus the Precision node in the skill tree goes a long way to improving how often your CoC setup will cast Dark Pact. Unlike most Poet's Pen builds, we actually care about our Frenzy hitting mobs consistently so that we trigger as many additional Dark Pact casts as possible. I would recommend pushing your hit chance to at least 75%.

Use Diamond ring base if your resists are in good shape.

Flasks are very flexible. Diamond and Sulphur are your key damage flasks, the rest can be mixed and matched based on the situation.

A final note on gear:

As you can see, my gear isn't that great. I am missing some huge upgrades such as Empower lvl 4, and some of my essence crafted pieces are lackluster. In fact, one of my rings isn't even essence crafted as I needed the accuracy for my CoC setup! To me this is one of the best parts of the build - there will always be room for improvement in your gear but it is easy to achieve solid DPS early in the gearing process.


Path of Building Pastebin Level 91
MoM Pastebin Level 95

This is the PoB pastebin of my current character. If I get some time I will try to create a fictional PoB with more ideal gear.

Frenzy and Power charges are both checked off because we use Frenzy as our trigger skill, and the Assassin ascendancy provides innate Power charge generation. I've set webs to 3 to simulate a boss fight and also set the opponent to Shaper/Guardian.

PoB cannot calculate and display the exact DPS of this build. For example, Gloomfang's +1 chain is not reflected in the DPS numbers, but each cast of Dark Pact will be hitting four times instead of three. With the cooldown recovery I have, Dark Pact is casting a little over 4 times per second, as well as every time Frenzy crits (subject to CoC's internal cooldown) - this adds up to some substantial damage.

I'm sadly in the legal profession which means I'm terrible at math. Someone smarter than me could probably calculate the actually DPS through the raw numbers in PoB but I am confident it is quite high given how quickly the build can kill Shaper.

Ascendancy Points: (1) Opportunistic, (2) Ambush and Assassinate, (3) Unstable Infusion, and (4) Deadly Infusion.

Bandit: Alira


Level 91 Skill Tree

The skill tree is your standard spell crit tree that takes increased minion life wherever possible. If I had more skill points to spend I would grab the AoE/area damage nodes in the Witch and Templar areas. Only thing I'd like to note is that the Precision node in the Templar area might seem odd at first, but recall that the accuracy is useful for increasing the proc rate of your CoC setup.


Main DPS Setup

Dark Pact - Void Manipulation - Controlled Destruction (Concentrated Effect for bosses)

Summon Skeleton - Minion Life Support - Empower (lvl 4)

Frenzy - Faster Attacks - Cast on Critical Strike - Dark Pact - Void Manipulation - Concentrated Effect

These are the DPS links. With Empower lvl 4, Summon Skeleton reaches level 27, and we have two sources of Dark Pact procs.

CWDT Setup

Cast when Damage Taken (lvl 1) - Immortal Call (lvl 3)

Even though it is a 2L it is still useful for mapping since Warlord's Mark is a decent source of Endurance charges for feeding the Immortal Call duration.

Mobility Setup

Flame Dash - Arcane Surge (lvl 7)

This is the only mobility still we can use as we are dual wielding wands. Always be sure to keep Arcane Surge low enough to activate on each cast of Flame Dash.

Wither Totem

Wither - Spell Totem - Faster Casting - Increased Duration

Wither totem setup for bossing.

Utility Setup

Blasphemy - Despair - Enlighten - Open Slot

I use Purity of Ice here because the resists on my gear are deficient. Enlighten can be dropped if you decide not to use an additional aura and you can use the open slots to rejig your gem setup.

The following are a few options: you can incorporate Flame, Lightning, or Ice Golem depending on what stats you may need, add Faster Casting to your Flame Dash, or add Increased Duration to your Immortal Call.




Dark Pact damage enchant, life, increased maximum minion life, resists

Shaped Boots

Life, increased maximum minion life, increased cooldown recovery rate, movement speed, and resists.


Life, increased chaos damage, accuracy, and resists (with at least one Ring having Warlord's Mark on hit in a dual curse setup).

Shaped Belt

Life, increased maximum minion life, increased cooldown recovery, increased life recovery rate, and resists.


My jewels are awful so they aren't worth linking here. Increased maximum minion life and increased maximum life are the most important all around stats. For damage affixes you can go for crit multi, crit chance, spell damage, chaos damage, area damage, damage, etc. Because my gear is deficient I had to use my jewels to top up my resists.


This was my league starter so I leveled it without using the Pens. You can level with whatever spell you want until Dark Pact is available, and then level into the tree shared above using self-cast Dark Pact. I transitioned into the final build once I was able to buy my two Pens. This had little impact on the tree - it just meant that I could start taking the minion life nodes and then finally build into the power charges.

If leveling the build with Pens, just use whatever two spells you think are the most fun and away you go. I don't think going Dark Pact/Summon Skeletons will be very fast at low levels so I would encourage more standard leveling spells instead.

BUDGET OPTION: Mind over Matter - Hidden Potential - Clear Mind

To start out, I actually built the character with magic (blue) items and used Hidden Potential to scale the damage. This made leveling a breeze and I actually took the build all the way to red maps before pivoting into essence crafted gear.

During this time I didn't use a CoC setup in my chest, and instead just ran a utility setup with Life Gain on Hit and Curse on Hit. This meant I didn't need to reserve any mana so I also ran Clear Mind (for extra spell damage) and Mind over Matter (for increased eHP).

This was a great cost-effective way to get started, but eventually as I gained wealth I wanted to invest in essence crafting some endgame gear. Around this time I also realized that Aspect of the Spider would be great for the build so I dropped Clear Mind and started reserving my mana.


Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the build.
Last edited by anomz on Jun 24, 2018, 1:54:41 AM
Last bumped on Aug 9, 2018, 5:26:41 PM
Updated for 3.3 based on yesterday's Patch Notes.
I'm really interested in this build. Any reason for Assassin over trickster or occultist?
OhtoBelikeYou wrote:
I'm really interested in this build. Any reason for Assassin over trickster or occultist?

I was thinking about boss killing so I went with Assassin for the innate Power Charge generation. I also didn't think the build would achieve such insane damage at first so I figured I would need the DPS. I don't see any issue with going with a more defensive Ascendancy - just note that the build won't work as CI because of the Gloomfang amulet.

I was reviewing the revealed 3.3 uniques and will be adding a thought to the build - The Mask of the Stitched Demon is very intriguing. "Top of the tree" builds struggle with putting together a good life pool and this item will provide a life bonus from Int and allow you to achieve some solid life regen % by taking some ES on gear.

From looking quickly at Occultist and Trickster, the issue I see is that this build deals only Chaos damage, so you can't take advantage of Malediction and Harness the Void respectively. Forbidden Power will be a struggle as well since Poet's Pen builds don't expend much mana.
Last edited by anomz on May 31, 2018, 10:33:21 PM
This build has been a blast. I'm still pretty low level (40), but with the help of some guild mates I was able to get two poets pens and its been pretty smooth so far. Just wanted to say thanks for the build!
Could you post some map clearing videos?
ArloZoric wrote:
This build has been a blast. I'm still pretty low level (40), but with the help of some guild mates I was able to get two poets pens and its been pretty smooth so far. Just wanted to say thanks for the build!

No problem! Glad you are having fun that's what it's all about.
lucastb wrote:
Could you post some map clearing videos?

I don't have much time to play right now, but I will try to put something together when I can and add it to the guide!

The build has solid clear speed but won't be a top tier mapper because Poet's Pen builds can't use Shield Charge or Whirling Blades. For maps I ran Controlled Destruction rather than Conc Effect but the damage is so good you can even run Inc AoE if you'd like (or just put Inc AoE in one of the Pen or CoC setups). You can tinker with support gems until you get a desired AoE that you're comfortable with.

Overall, mapping damage and AoE is very good but your overall clear speed will be limited due to not being able to use a Tier 1 movement skill.

Just FYI, its projectiles gain 15% more per chain, darkpack is a spell, aoe, minion, chaining but not projectiles.

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