[3.3] Explode-a-bone minion instability skeleton/dark pact necro

Ever wonder what happens when you construct your skeletons out of dynamite? well obviously they explode a lot. which is basically the point of this build.

This build uses

a new unique scepter to steadily burn down your skeletons until minion instability triggers for a large burst of damage. The skeletons do decent damage on their own and apply the covered in ash debuff to further enhance their explosions.

However, the degen doesn't explode your skeletons immediately, so dark pact is utilized to speed it up a bit while doing some pretty decent damage on its own. It also applies EE thanks to some damage from an abyss jewel.

Heres a pastebin for the PoB tree


I havn't had quite as much time to play this league, so havnt been able to really stress test this vs higher content yet. Its currently only level 81 and just tickling red maps. will update further as i make some actual progress


actually pretty great single target damage
"pop"sounds from exploding skeletons are rather satisfying
gloriously off-meta
insane burst from vaal skeletons
reflect immune (if anything it increases dps)


rather hectic playstyle
not the tankiest build. depends on potions to regain health
ideal hat can be hard to come by
clunky while leveling
really cant handle incursions well until cruel lab
large hordes can be a hassle
probably a pretty bad league starter

so lets get into the gritty details

exploding skeletons

so as mentioned previously, this build focuses on minion instability as a large source of damage. Towards this end, you want to grab every source of minion life and damage in the tree. Minion instability triggers when your skeletons reach 35% of their maximum life, dealing 33% of their maximum life as fire damage. This damage is increases by any mods effecting minion general minion damage, and any effects applying elemental damage increases directly to your minions, such as through the elemental focus support. Skeletons also gain large bonuses to their maximum health with gem level. So getting a level 21 gem would be ideal (although i admittedly do not have one myself yet)

AS such, your skeletons should ideally be socketed into something like this

Finding the ideal helmet is probably the hardest part of this build, and this one isn't truly perfect. No matter what, your helm should have +2/3 to minion level and the Supported by minion life elder mod. This will provide the maximum possible health to your skeletons, increasing the damage of both minion instability and dark pact. Ideally your helmet would also have the Supported by minion damage elder mod. This would allow you to socket an empower gem to truly maximize skeleton health. The Essence OF Horror may also be used to grant a 30% elemental damage multiplier to your skeletons which is a major boost but very expensive to pull off. I was very lucky to buy this helm for cheap, I would fully expect an ideal helmet to run for several exalts. So if you are on a budget, just get as many of these mods as you can find.

So in order to trigger minion instability, your minions have to be lowered to 35% of their maximum health. This build has 3 good ways of doing this.

the first is to simply summon the skeletons somewhere they will take lots of damage. But that is a situational thing so lets focus on the other two.

The primary means of damaging your skeletons is this shiny new unique scepter

This thing is loaded with bonuses to make your skeletons hurt things. outside of the straight damage increase, skeletons Cover enemies in ash on hit makes enemies take 20% increased fire damage and applies a 20% slow. This is a great boost to both damage and safety. The avatar of fire lets your flammability and EE benefit the skeletons normal attack damage as well. It should be noted that in terms of attack damage, your skeletons wont compete with a more traditional melee focused build, but they can certainly hold their own. But most important is the minions take % of max life per second as fire damage. You want this mod as close to 30% as you can get. This scepter will kill a skeleton in ~4.5 seconds by itself. This is less than ideal by itself, as in a game this fast paces that can feel like an age. but the third method can help with that.

Dark pact will sacrifice 6% of skeletons maximum life on cast, and chain to 2 other skeletons. with fairly minor investment in cast speed, you can cast it at 4.7 times per second. So for a single pack of 3 minions, this will lower detonation time from 4.5 seconds to about 2. However, without increased number of chains it will only effect 3 minions at a time, so there is some diminishing return when you summon all of your skeletons. but it still definitely makes things flow smoother.

It is important to note that in order to maximize the damage your skeletons are taking, you should avoid any excessive sources of minion resistances, regen or leech. Your skeletons will have at least 2% regen from Invoker, but it is an unfortunate necessity. The minion circle around Death attunement also provides some small bonuses to leech and regen, but i found it added maybe a quarter of a second to degen timing in exchange for several thousand damage so i think it is worth it.

The last thing to think about with skeletons is their corrupted variant. Vaal summon skeletons will summon an additional 38+ skeletons, which will explode after a couple seconds of pummeling everything in the vicinity. This is truly ridiculous burst damage. With this setup, each skeleton deals a bit over 81k damage on death, making this one skill cast do upwards of 3 million damage (not even counting their attacks or general bonuses. Also, that is vs shaper, way more for normal mooks). This dissapears most map bosses (usually before the explosions even happen). IF it comes down to a choice between a level 21 gem and the vaal version i would probably choose the vaal (though you can get both this league)

Dark Pact

Dark pact was added to this build in order to burn down the skeletons faster. However, it does plenty of damage on its own. Realistically, the skeletons are used more as the single target nuke while dark pact carries you through most of the general clearing. However, you take almost no actual spell or chaos damage from the tree to help with its damage. So instead you just use one of these

The scourge lets you use all of your minions damage increases for yourself. It also provides a large general damage increase if you hit things, which dark pact does. Additionally, it lets you use whirling blades for movement, and can summon wolves whenever you kill with dark pact. It is not terribly hard to get a pack of 20 wolves going with this skill, which provide a massive meat shield as well as some damage. Also helps add to a feeling of momentum while powering through a map

Generally speaking, you will generally summon a single group of 3 skeletons in the middle of a pack, then use dark pact to actually kill them all.the chaining effect will overlap around those three skellies, so a single cast is usually enough to wipe out a pack.

However, it should also be noted that you yourself do not have very good sustain. It is one o the larger downsides of this build. So if all of your skeletons explode and you keep casting this ability, you will start to rapidly burn through your own health. obviously this is not a good thing, so you need to be vigilant on keeping your skeletons up, especially in more dangerous encounters. If your skeletons are taking enough damage to die quickly n their own, focus on just summoning them, only casting this occasionally to apply elemental equilibrium.

Speaking of which, by itself, dark pact cannot apply elemental equilibrium. So you need to add a bit of cold or lightning damage onto your spellcasts. This is accomplished using an abyssal jewel. If possible, this jewel should also apply a chance to hinder on spell casts, as generally keeping things away from you is your first line of defence in this build.

defensive strategy

Defenses are admittedly not this skills strongest point, but they are not totally ignored. The primary defensive technique used by this build is simply "apply meatwall." By keeping up a small group of zombies, a stone golem, wolves and skeletons, most things on the map will simply elect to not target you. skeletons can be cast far in advance of your position to draw fire, letting you maintain a large distance between you and threats. Additionally the wolves from the scourge tend to spread out and attack anything nearby, usually occupying the attention of most enemies, though they are not guaranteed to be up in harder encounters.

Abyss jewels can be very useful in giving minions additional defensive bonuses. Jewels such as these
can be used to blind and taunt opponents. anything that survives more than a second or two (which doesn't happen a lot) will most likely be blinded and taunted. Blind is incredibly powerful by itself, providing more power the less you focus on evasion. It halves the chance for you to be hit, so with no evasion it will provide ~50% miss chance, while still allowing you to focus on armor or energy shield. Taunt will also apply a 10% less damage multiplier to any damage you take (since it should be hitting your minion)

gearwise, you should try and get as much armor and ES as you can, although there is very little investment from the tree so neither will get very high. Generally speaking it is far more important to get as much health as you can scrape together.

in addition to all of this, the build runs temporal chains on a blasphemy setup. The need to summon skeletons before you can use dark pact means that you have a small setup time, and this usually slows enemies enough that you aren't just blasted in the face before you can get your skeletons out. Enfeeble would also be a viable option, and would passably allow you to sap in elemental weakness for an extra damage boost.

additionally, this build has no problems maintaining potions while mapping. Ideally you should use a granite and basalt potion for maximum damage resist. You will need a potion of staunching as dark pact can accumulate bleed stacks very quickly. Warding and heat flasks are also useful though not as critical. An Atziri flask could also provide some leech from your dark pact.

gem links and explanation


vaal summon skeletons - minion life - minion damage - fire penetration - elemental focus - empower 3+

This setup is the biggest source for damage. Increasing skeleton life increases damage of both minion instability and your dark pact, so try to maximize it as much as possible. AS mentioned above, this setup will most likely depend on what helmet you are able to acquire. Losing a level or two off the minion gems isn't significant compared to the benefit of having more links, so if you cant find a helm with lvl 20s don't sweat too much. because your minions do exclusively fire damage, both fire penetration and elemental focus provide a major damage boost. empower is great to have, but is only worth it if your helm has both minion life and damage already. If possible, get a lvl 21 skeleton, but i would still prioritize the vaal version first.

Dark pact

Dark pact - spell echo - controlled destruction - void manipulation - added chaos - increased area/concentrated effect

pretty self explanatory i think. echo is doubly important, as it both increases net damage and shreds your skeletons faster. controlled destruction and void manipulation are your best damage multipliers, with a dded chaos coming after. Increased area is very helpful for general clearing, but should be swapped to concentrated effect for hard fights. If you only have a 5 link, than drop the area/conc effect. This should obviously be socketed into armor so as to maximize available links.

curse/aura setup

Temporal chains - flammability - blasphemy | Clarity (lvl 17)

You run both temp chains and flammability on a blasphemy setup for ease of use (and because you just don't have enough skill slots to self cast). Clarity does not strictly need to be linked to the rest of the setup and could theoretically go anywhere, but i prefer to not have auras set on weapons so i can swap out gems without having to recast, so this is as good a place as any(same with minion se4tup below). Clarity should really be as low a level as you can handle without running out of mana while dark pacting. this should go in boots or gloves

Defensive minions

Raise Zombie-Summon stone golem-Minion Life-Fortify

These guys constitute your primary meatwall. The golem has absolutely no problems keeping itself alive in most situations, but the zombies do need to be resummoned occasionally(minion instability makes them far more prone to dying than most minion builds). The other two gems just help keep them alive. This should also go in boots or gloves

Flesh Offering

Flesh offering-increased duration-desecrate

Flesh offering is a massive boost to your clearspeed and damage. Beyond just allowing you to get skeletons out faster and cast more dark pacts, it also gives your minions the speed to reposition and find new opponents before exploding. This also helps your wolves and zombies in heading off packs before they can target you. It also increases the speed of your whirling blades, adding to your ability to dodge and get around the map. It is manually cast, so be sure to cast it frequently. Desecrate is useful for keeping the offering up during boss fights or when there aren't any corpses around naturally. It doesn't really need to be linked to anything or even leveled, but is here because it is convenient. This should be socketed in Earendels Embrace, mostly cause other things are more useful everywhere else

Whirling Blade

Whirling blades-faster attacks-fortify-[Summon spectral wolf]

This is primarily used for just moving fast, whether that is actively dodging or getting around the map. This is socketed into the Scourge, as the fortify and faster attack bonuses will also effect the wolves. Ideally your scourge should have as much attack speed as possible. Additionally, quality on the whirling blade and faster attack will also increase your general speed. fortify provides a survivability boost if you ever have to dash through anyone.

optional additions

Vaal lightning trap/vaal haste/enduring cry

If you felt like getting a unset ring, any one of these could be a decent boost. lightning trap would probably be best for damage. vaal hast paired with vaal skeletons is ridiculous burst, but depending on your mana regen may make you run out from casting dark pact. enduring cry is a decent boost to survivability. There may be some other options but these are the ones that spring to mind

as i mentioned previously, this build has a lot of active skills so i don't see you really getting more than one of these. (pro tip: if you set skeletons to left click/m1, than you will cast skeletons when you hit the stop button but otherwise move normally. map the stop command to spacebar or something otherwise convenient. this lets you squeeze out another active skill, but adds a bit of clunk to the controls)

Wither-spell totem-faster casting

In some end game fights (such as shaper) zombies will likely have fairly low usefulness. So it may be worth swapping them out for a wither totem. Havnt really tried this outside of leveling and having not gotten to the big bads yet don't know really how necessary/useful this will be. but putting the option up here nonetheless.


I mentioned most of the big equipment priorities previously, but here is a quick summary of what should be on what

focus on getting as much degen as possible. after that, minion damage, then whatever attribute bonus you can

Biggest priority is attack speed. After that minion attack speed is helpful but not critical

This is the big one. Get a +2/3 to minion level, with the biggest minion life you can find. after that, minion damage, and if you have the budget the elemental damage essence craft. Life is also nice is minion damage isn't available. Absolute ideal would have a skeleton enchant (preferably additional summon chance). dark pact enchants, zombie resists and curse effectiveness would also be nice.

primary thing here is to get at least a 5 link. As much life and resists as possible are also priority. You likely want some ES here as most of your links are blue and that makes colors easier. Ideally you would have an open prefix slot for catarinas +1 skeleton enchant to get you to a nice round 12 skellies. (mine will get this as soon as i actually coax a relevant master into being level 7 to nix the enchant i bought this with)

LIFE. as much as possible. and resists too

These two just get life and resists. The movespeed is nice but whirling blades means its not too necessary. I would say get as much armor as you can while still having friendly colors, though ES ain't bad either.

these are used to fill out any resists and attributes you are lacking. Besides that, MORE LIFE. Mana regen is also fairly important and easy to get here. some damage from the amulet is just butter on your bread.

NOTE The absolute ideal gear can be obtained by essence crating basically everything everything but helmet and weapons and maybe rings with essence of fear. But frankly i lack the patience and currency to bother with this. If you are just leaking these things in abundance than more power to ya.

I like 2 health potions, one instant and one to just refill health faster without blowing through the other. I made that one panicked just for the "oh shit im gonna die" safety buffer. The granite/basalt flasks give a nice level of durability. Make sure to have a staunching potion of some variety. Heat and warding can also save your ass from bad situations. An atziri flask can provide some leech but i think i overall prefer the onslaught for damage/mobility boost.

These jewels are used to add some defensive layers. The only one truly critical is that you need some cold or lightning damage to spells in order to trigger EE. After that i would say blind is most important, then taunt then hinder. if you want some damage get fire damage to minions (as rest suffers conversion penalty). Life and mana are also useful options. I am currently working on filling out to the last 2 jewel slots, which i plan to use standard minion life/minion damage jewels for for straight damage increase. I will add these once i get to them

passive tree and Ascendancy

This build is, big surprise, a necromancer. This is almost entirely because of the Bone Sculptor ascendancy node. This makes life so much easier for you. summoning three skeletons at once is a major quality of life boost, and the movement speed and guaranteed hitting really helps in making skeletons more than just shambling timebombs. So get invoker and bone sculptor first. For merciless lab i recommend Mistress of sacrifice, as flesh offering provides enough cast and movement speed to smooth most of the clunkiness out of the build. Puppet master is the uber lab choice, as its basically just a numbers boost. It is important to NOT get commander of darkness, as the additional resists will massively increase time to detonation for your skeletons. If you want you could probably switch puppet master for the zombie node for a bit of durability and more meatshield but i don't think its worth it.

This build uses two keystones from the base tree. Minion instability is your main source of nuke damage so you should get it as soon as you quip the scepter. EE is a major damage boost to your skeletons, so you should get that shortly afterwards, once you have a jewel adding a bit of damage to dark pact. You should also have probably at least 3 jewel slots by the time you get to maps., and should have 5 eventually.

Other important nodes are Whispers of doom for the additional curse, Deep thought for some critical mana regen, and the minion nodes. Generally you should pick up ALMOAST every minion node. However, Herd the Flock and the nearby regen node should be avoided so as not to fight the degen on your skeletons. Similarly the leech node next to Gravepact isn't useful either. Death attunement gives a boost to minion attack speed but you don't use spectres so it isn't critical.

Outside of this we pick up every life node within reasonable reach.

The tree as posted is for level 85 and has everything of real importance i can think of. Once you get past that some decent choices would be getting combat stamina for some more regen, skittering runes for curse effectiveness, getting some of the area/spell damage/cast speed around the Templar or witch, or just migrating down towards marauder for more health.

general gameplay tips

This is an oddish build so there is some practical advice i can offer in actually playing it. will likely add to this as i think of things.

Generally speaking, this build has no issues with single packs or tighter spaces. This is where it thrives. just drop some skellies and dark pact away. generally it can struggle more with wide open spaces with mooks coming from different directions. In such cases, it is best to spread skeletons around first before working around with your dark pact. This lets the skellies distract things away from your squishy hide and if they explode they should still take out most of them. Generally, your wide area damage isn't great.

This build functions best at long range. you can summon skeletons from far away and dark pact has plenty of range.i would say be close enough to blasphemy targets but no need to be closer.

Vaal skeletons will annihilate most tough enemies (as long as they don't have immunity phases or anything like that) They are especially good for just dropping on the incursion architects and continuing to clear the rest of the area, so try to have the souls charged before you enter an incursion or boss room.

these probably seem obvious but IM HELPING DAMMIT


I leveled this build as a summon raging spirits until i got to dark pact in act 3. grab some minion nodes early and just go at it. Once you get to dark pact you can just power through with that, its got some pretty good base numbers and doesn't need much damage boost outside of gems. However, if you do this i would HIGHLY recommend grabbing one of these

Until cruel lab you can only summon one skelly at a time. This fixes that at the cost of some clunkiness from the cooldown, but still less clunky than having to summon them one at a time. Between level 28 and 35 try make sure to get to minion instability and preferably EE. Equip your fancy scepter as soon as you can and you are in business. if you want you can still just continue with SRS until cruel lab.

The normal lab doesn't really do that much for you so you can probably just skip it until its time to do cruel, up to you. The cruel lab is a massive usability boost so you should do it as soon as you reasonably can. After this you build really turns on. You can drop the from dust and actually start spreading skellies around. The biggest source of clunkiness drops and build can really start going. This is also the pint where you actually start being able to reliably do incursions. So just sort of keep going until merc lab, where you should get your offering running. At this point you really aren't "leveling" as much as just playing the build so i think i can shut up now. Get uber lab and puppet master eventually.


I've already spent too much time in this sitting typing this up so i am not going to do videos right this second. But i will try to get a couple up in the next few days.

My OTHER minion instability build

This is actually the second exploding minions build i have written up (what can i say, exploding minions are funny) so i figured i would provide a link to the other one. I havnt played this one since 3.0 but i figure i would give it an update in the next couple days so that it at least has a correct passive tree.

SUICIDE SQUAD--- minion instability zombie necromancer

Numbers Dump

I've been kind of avoiding stating any kind of direct dps on this build. This is mostly because it basically runs in loose cycles of alternating skills and degens and is really hard to actually calculate. but i figure i could dump some of the numbers off of PoB so that you have a rough idea of what to expect. (going to use shaper dps for everything. Should be much higher vs normal mooks/bosses)

Okay, minion instability.
According to my current setups, i expect to reach 81208 damage per skeleton explosion. I will have 12 skeletons, it takes 1.4 seconds to cast them all, and 4.5 seconds for them to explode from degen alone. Wither way, for each skelly-summoning session that gives a total of 974496 damage, so just shy of a million per second and a half (with a slight delay). but you cant really call that per second because if you keep casting they don't explode. additionally, should they die zombies will do 30k damage and wolves will do 38k.

additionally, as stated above, vaal summon skeletons causes 38 explosions for 3 million damage

The skeletons are also no slouch on the "just hitting things" front. Each one deals 44311 DPS, so all of them ganging up can do 531732 DPS. So that's a half million dps going on while the nuke counter dips down.

The vaal skellies once again multiply this by an awful lot. 22 warriors doing 44k, 9 archers doing 10.8k, 5 mages doing 29.6k 1/3rd the time and 11.3 the rest. Then whatever the general throws in to the mix. Its a wild card but the aura version in particular is a massive increase. generally math works out to 1.16 million not counting generals. For as long as thy are alive anyway.

Dark pact, with concentrated effect on, deals 60533 DPS per burst. The spell hits three skeletons per cast so that should come out to 181599 DPS. Which is not insignificant. Without conc effect it drops to 39739 per burst, for total of 119217, which is absolutely sufficient for general clearing.

if you somehow manage to assault shaper with a full pack of 20 wolves they will add a whopping total of 50k damage. zombies will add 19k dps with occasional burst of 43k every 5 sec.

crunching some very rough numbers in an excel sheet, i estimate a full cycle of summoning 12 minions and dark pacting until they die yield a total of about -3.1 million minion damage and takes about 4.5 sec. so in total actual dps should be a little over 865k per second. which is not a god killer but perfectly respectable for a meme build. ideally you would probably want to start summoning before they all die so that number will skew further though im not sure which direction. also the vaal skeletons would deal a grand total of 8.27 million damage per cast if they don't die early. And since they are alive for same time it comes out to about an additional 1.84 million dps (for less than 5 total seconds)

so yeah numbers are complicated but respectably large. ~865k single target dps on normal play pattern, with additional burst skill for 1.84 million. HUZZAH (assuming my assumptions aren't horrably wrong at least)

Last edited by sagiterios on Jun 22, 2018, 10:15:17 PM
Last bumped on Sep 16, 2018, 6:25:42 PM
I have started doing a minion Grenade build and like where your going but if you use Bloodbond chest you'll get more DPS for the minion instability.

Currently leveling this. here is my current gear. Sidhebreath also increases DPS as well. Will get RES from belt and rings. also using cobalt jewels with 12% increased minion life. and one from dust unique jewel. I've done a dark pact totem so I can just worry about spamming Skeletons. Will most likely swap to scourge once I am lvl 70.

openallhours wrote:
I have started doing a minion Grenade build and like where your going but if you use Bloodbond chest you'll get more DPS for the minion instability.

Currently leveling this. here is my current gear. Sidhebreath also increases DPS as well. Will get RES from belt and rings. also using cobalt jewels with 12% increased minion life. and one from dust unique jewel. I've done a dark pact totem so I can just worry about spamming Skeletons. Will most likely swap to scourge once I am lvl 70.


Big Dick Damage version of this build.

Millions of damage per second, no 6links... just an impossible to craft helm i happen to have heh.
I run something like that with a slightly different approach.

My Skelly are summoned by a totem and supported by minion life, minion damage, fire pen, elemental focus

I use a totem because I want them to die as quickly as possible. With a lvl 1 DP+spell echo+faster casting+chain and a bunch of "faster cast speed when a minion has been killed recently" ghastly jewels I shred through them in under a second.

That way my MI DPS should be way higher. I also kinda HAVE to use a totem because I play on Xbox and it's impossible to place your skellies correctly on console. Totems do a pretty good job

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