[3.6] 90 and bust - an Ngamahu Chieftain to get HC achievements

I created and ran this build in 3.5, this is the updated version. There were minimal changes, and while the general nerf to leech affects the build, with the life gained on hit it still restores to full effortlessly.

The purpose of this build is to get the Eternal achievement - level 90 in hardcore, with minimal budget or preparation. I am a SC player that just wanted to do HC for the achievements and have no intention to play late into endgame.

TL;DR Summary:

Heavily defensive Ngamahu cyclone build.


• solid defenses with massive life restoration
• easy intuitive playstyle
• minimal budget (no 6L and only one cheap unique needed)


• unreliable single target damage
• unimpressive clear speed
• cyclone is terrible for endgame

Path of Building and skill tree:



Skill tree actually used from 3.5:


I didn’t bother with the last ascendancy as I didn’t need it and uberlab was a risk. The core ascendancies are conversion to fire (Ngamahu) and endurance charge generation (Tawhoa). The +100% fire resist (Ramako) was a useful crutch for simplifying gear requirements.

Key nodes in the passive tree are Point Blank, Iron Grip, Elemental Overload, and all three endurance charges. Everything else is mostly life, life regen, life leech, (Hematophagy and Vitality Void), axe damage (including Slaughter for Onslaught), two-handed damage, and stats. I didn’t get many jewel slots as I had no useful jewels. I'm half-tempted to say that Resolute Technique is a better pick than Elemental Overload as it, again, simplifies gearing and damage was more than sufficient for the modest goals of the build.[/spoiler]

Critical skills:

The core idea is to let Ngamahu balls do all the damage and use just about everything else for defense.

The core skill (Molten Burst) is granted by the axe, Ngamahu’s Flame. Since everything in the sockets is linked to the skill the sockets don’t have to be linked to each other, creating a quasi-seven-link. It has a 20% chance of triggering on hit, so attack speed is critical. Iron Grip and Point Blank are available from the tree, so it’s almost a 9L. Greater Multiple Projectiles is the most important support as it more than doubles the ball count. Concentrated Effect, Vicious Projectiles, Elemental Damage with Attacks, Elemental Focus, and Fire Penetration are the other five.

We generate lots of attacks with Cyclone, but unlike most Ngamahu builds this one simply ignores the base damage from Cyclone and supports it with Life Gain on Hit and Fortify for added safety. Fourth is Combustion as we need burning enemies to generate endurance charges from the Chieftain ascendancy, though it also adds damage to the balls by reducing resists and to Cyclone itself. Faster Attacks is a good fifth link here, I never bothered with a sixth. Do not use Vaal Cyclone - standing in place with no ability to move is a good way to accidentally die. The perfect accuracy makes it tempting and it's a fun skill to use, so it's nice to have for some boss fights and delves.

Supporting skills:

Mana reservation goes to Herald of Ash, Haste or Hatred, and War Banner. Hatred provides more damage, but Haste provides for some nice quality of life and an opportunity for Vaal Haste. For leveling before the leech nodes are taken, Blasphemy and Warlord’s Mark replaces either of the H auras. Don’t forget to pop War Banner for extra damage when needed.

Cast When Damage Taken
setups vary, but I don’t recommend Immortal Call as we don’t generate charges very quickly and the flat damage reduction is more useful than fleeting invincibility. I used Enfeeble and Molten Shell, and putting a Stone Golem in this setup isn’t a bad idea as constantly recasting gets annoying. My 4th for Cast When Damage Taken was Blood Rage for frenzy charges; like the golem it could be cast manually to make space for another triggered spell. Cold Snap is another option for charges, and Vortex is another possible defensive tool in this setup.

A 4L Ancestral Warchief rounded out my build, mostly used for a token ranged ability and trash clear at endgame.

Gearing :

The only important item is Ngamahu’s Flame, which is typically dirt cheap (a few chaos) once the league gets rolling. 2B2G2R will take a few chromatic orbs but it’s not difficult. It’s also lower level than many would expect.

The build will need a some dexterity and some intelligence from gear, easily covered.

Otherwise the gear is just life and resists. Some accuracy is definitely useful. Attack speed or elemental damage with attacks or fire damage are nice to have. 30% move speed boots are a nice quality of life improvement and can be made with repeated use of the quicksilver flask recipe if desperate.

Playing the build:

General notes -
This is not a "league starter" build in that it's not ideal to play right at the start of a league. Ideally it'd be played a month or so into the league once the trashier leveling gear and Ngamahu's become cheap. For the entire run, play conservatively, expect to be higher level than the zone, and don't be afraid to run if something isn't easy - better to take a little longer than to have to start over.

Act 1 -
Easy enough that pretty much anything works. I recommend using Smite with whatever support gems you can link to it. Used with Ancestral Call it clears very effectively with whatever trashy weapon you come across - fast attack speeds are better, and a +1 gems scepter would be great if you can find a three-link. Some cold resist for the boss is handy, but not much advice needed here. For the passive tree, pick up the stuff around the Marauder's area (life nodes to Warrior's Blood, Heart of the Warrior, Versatility, Born to Fight) and then heading towards Barbarism and the resist nodes around it.

Act 2 -
Again, nothing here should be a challenge. Smite and Ancestral Call should still clear everything easily, though you may want to switch to whatever strikes your fancy for better single target damage. Building up the rest of your resistances is the objective here in gearing. If you see one for cheap, grab a Hrimnor's Hymn or some other cheap two hander and switch to using Sunder, but for the most part just play with whatever drops. At this point, head up to the Templar starting area towards Sanctity, Discipline and Training, Holy Dominion, and Devotion.

Act 3 -
The first act with any serious concerns. You should aim to have all resists at least 50% or so by the time you fight Dominus, and do your best to buy a Geofri's Baptism for a weapon as it's usually cheap and effective. Don't do labyrinth until you have beaten Dominus (you might be able to face tank "The Touch of God" but don't risk it). After doing the library quest you'll have access to most of the gems for the build, so pick them up and start leveling them. Cyclone isn't worth running without a Blasphemy and Warlord's Mark setup at this point, as it'll use too much mana. Taking Retribution and the dexterity and intelligence behind it on the way to Quick Recovery will help with stat requirements. At this point you will likely need to start finding dexterity on gear.

Act 4 -
Run aqueducts or dried lake until five levels over the zone if you don't have the gear to have capped elemental resists at this point (I prefer aqueducts for the chance to get a Humility card). For Malachai you should have maxed elemental resists and be making an effort to find +life on gear. Ancestral Warchief with Concentrated Effect, Melee Physical Damage, and Multiple Totems is a big help on bosses where you need to dodge telegraphed attacks. Chober Chaber is a good investment prior to Malachai as it tends to be cheap. Rigwald's Charge might require a little bit of grinding to meet the level requirement in Act 4, but the extra accuracy and solid damage means it'll be the last leveling weapon you'll need before Ngamahu's. For the tree, start picking up the two endurance charges near marauder and templar.

Act 5 -
Both Innocence and Kitava are the bane of many a hardcore character. For both of these the 4L Ancestral Warchief setup should be sufficient damage for the boss, leaving you free to run around dodging things. It's slow, but much safer than trying to cyclone either of them. Always leave a portal up so that you can return to town to refill flasks. Otherwise, start overcapping your elemental resists to be ready for the -30 from the end of the act. For the tree, start working around the outside towards Juggernaut and Bloodless, skipping the axe nodes for now.

Act 6 -
This act is pretty easy if you're ready for the hit to resistances. Lilly's quest is a convenient way to swap around gems if you missed any along the way. While you might not hit 55 this act it's a good point to grab an Ngamahu's so that you can start boosting the quality and vainly throwing Jeweller's orbs at it hoping for the six. By 55 you'll want to at least have Iron Grip, and you shouldn't be far from grabbing Point Blank (and a lot of convenient dex nodes on the way). Stick with Warlord's Mark for the mana leech until you do the second lab, as it's the easiest way to generate endurance charges.

Act 7 -
Be very wary about Maligaro in the map as it's likely you're at -30% chaos resistance. Also, don't underestimate Gruthkul. By this point you should have at least a four socket Ngamahu's and should be using it by the end of the act. Continue to work towards Point Blank and grab Golem's Blood when you can. Once you have those, grab the axe nodes on the left side of the tree to get to Slaughter for that sweet, sweet chance at onslaught on kill. After Act 7 you can do the second labyrinth. With that, and once you have Combustion on your Cyclone setup and some mana and life leech from the tree, you can drop Warlord's Mark for Hatred or Haste, but that may not be until Act 8.

Act 8 -
Doedre, the first boss of the act, can be fairly dangerous if you don't know the fight well with all of the damage zones. As with other dangerous bosses, keep a portal up ahead of time to run and refill your flasks if needed. Yugul and Lunaris/Solaris can also have their moments. Get Vitality Void and Hematophagy (and a small node) for a total of +9% of maximum life to life leech rate when you can. Try to buy a five link body for Cyclone if possible, but don't sweat it too much if still on a four link.

Act 9 -
Grind away at Blood Aqueducts, stopping in the late 60's or early 70's. It's an easy zone and has a chance to drop Humility cards, which can be used to make a Tabula Rasa (ironically marginal for this build, but it's good trade fodder if you don't want it). Even with xp penalties it's great xp at minimal risk, but after level 73 those penalties are high enough to make it dubious. If you grind heavily in Blood Aqueducts, nothing else in Act 9 will be a challenge.

Act 10 -
Again, assuming there was a lot of grinding in Blood Aqueducts, the content here should be easy. Aim to have at least 4,500 life before taking on the Merciless lab and 5,000 life for Kitava. The Ossuary is a decent place to farm if needed, and can take you to level 75 without any xp penalties, 77 or so at reasonable losses. After Kitava, fix your resistances again, and try to get at least some chaos resistance and a five link armor if possible.

Maps T1-5 -
If you can beat Kitava, these should be easy as long as you avoid any bad modifiers. No regeneration, no leech, and reflect elemental damage maps should simply be rerolled or tossed. You can do the uber lab trials if you're confident in taking the risks, but there's no reason for this character to actually run uber lab and they aren't worth xp, so... why bother? Stay in this map tier until you have at least 6,000 life. Don't worry much about Zana's quest line, but complete them if you can.

Maps T6-10 -
Stick to these maps for the majority of the 80+ grind. They're slower, yes, but slow and steady wins the race. Craft mercilessly to avoid anything approaching difficult mods on maps, and you'll get to 90 soon enough. For maps with potentially dangerous bosses (e.g. the Kitava rehash at Belfry) consider running the map without the boss. The major risk here are things like syndicate members, beyond bosses, and other unexpected events. As always for hardcore, be ready to run for a portal or just quit out. Play it safe and be patient, and it'll be over soon enough. 50m xp/hr is slow, but two hours of grinding for a level is better than 30 hours of starting over.
Last edited by SDY225 on Mar 7, 2019, 3:07:53 AM
Last bumped on Mar 26, 2019, 8:16:02 AM
Especially thanks for the Playing the build section guide!


Tips after 3 rips around level 60:
* Don't do league contents without decent gears since most of those are very rippy. Especially early Synthesis memory and all Betrayal masters.
* Never AFK in maps except towns, even when in loading screen.
* Always cap resistance. If you don't have chaos resist after act 5, try take a flask +30% chaos resist.
* Craft common ailment immunity on your flask using beast receipt. Especially bleeding and freeze.
Last edited by jaege on Mar 19, 2019, 4:41:46 AM
Just gotten the achievement using your guide, thanks! Found myself just leeching XP in T8 volcano for most of 75+ leveling. As long as you get out of maps with Syndicate(was brought down to about 20% HP in one hit with 5% chaos res and 7k HP) it's probably the safest and fastest way of getting to 90.

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