[3.12] Sword & Board Scion | Cleave | League Starter, Budget, New-player friendly

I started out as a casual PoE player in the early days, when there were only three acts and no ascendency. For the most part I’ve played co-op with my brother every so often, but for Synthesis I wanted to play solo. I was also disappointed by how few sword and board builds I saw, so I decided to make one of my own. The build turned out way better than I had anticipated, so I felt a write-up was in order. I also found that, the deeper I got into mapping and end-game, the more I drifted from being just a casual player.

This build maximizes block nodes and relies heavily on a good shield. With the right gear and ascendancy we’re looking at a block rate maxing out at 78% even without flasks. High armor, decent life-leech, and an ever-present Fortify get us through the rest. While this build is listed as a Sword & Board, there’s enough flexibility here to skip sword-based nodes and spec into axes instead for a good Shield & Wield.

Attack speed is key here for keeping your life leech up. With the 3.6 patch our life leech per second is limited based on how often we hit and how much life we have, so we have to hit a lot and have enough life in the pool. Cleave will be your main damage skill, and you have a choice of shield charge or whirling blades for your movement skill (Shield & Wield, no whirling blades for you). I also wrote this guide to be new-player and casual-player friendly, and I am totally open to feedback and questions.

Update: This build has been updated for 3.12, though I didn't find that a lot of updating was necessary. I had no problem with the heist mechanics, even when testing the build out in SSF.

- Viable league starter
- Cheap! Around 1.5 exalt (less than 200 chaos) for all of the best gear combined (more $$ in standard league). Less if you want to run this on a lower budget.
- Flexible (see above)
- New-player & casual-player friendly
- Can handle reflect maps
- Co-op friendly
- 6 minions!
- 4k+ life at lvl 80
- Can handle Uber Izaro, Atziri, and T11's (not yet tested beyond)

- lower DPS than some builds
- clear speed is decent, but not the fastest
- not tested against the biggest baddies (Uber Elder? Shaper? No clue!)
- less detail about stats than some other builds

Part of being a good build for new folks and for casual folks is having a detailed guide of what to do when. This section is mostly written for newer folks or casual folks who want a refresher. If you’ve played before or know your way around this kind of game, you can skip this section (aside from the leveling skill trees).

Leveling Skills
You can use Cleave from the start here. You’ll probably be able to pick it up relatively early, and it might even be your starter skill on the strand! Add in another skill of choice (molten strike is a good option) on a separate item when you can get it. I tend to link Cleave on my left click, another skill on my right, and a movement skill in the center. Dash is a good option for an early movement skill (until you pick up whirling blades).

When you first get cleave, link an Onslaught Support. This will change once you can get the proper support gems. Take any totem you can early on (Holy Flame Totem is a good start) to get used to popping out a totem before bigger fights. Get the ancestral protector once you can.

Leveling Gear
Don’t spend a lot of currency on gear for leveling. Focus more on socket links (and colors) and acceptable damage levels. If you don’t intend to get deep into crafting in the late game, it’s not a terrible idea to find white gear with the sockets and colors you need and use lower level essences to turn those into rares. Don’t forget to use armorer’s scrap or whetstones before you use the essences, and don’t be doing this all the time or you’ll use up all your currency. Once every 7-10 levels or so should be fine.

The carnage heart amulet can be worn early on (level 20). This is the first item you should buy. If you haven’t used poe.trade before, now is the time to learn. Go read up on it on the wiki and give it a shot. One thing they don’t tell you on the wiki: if you are asking to buy something, have your currency ready in your inventory and be ready to accept an invite to a party. Then travel straight to the seller’s hideout and wait for a trade request.

Poe.trade is also a good way to get more chaos orbs. You probably won’t find enough in a regular play-through early on to buy the necessary gear, so look at trading other orbs to get more chaos (to trade for gear).

Leveling skill trees
Lvl 50ish: www.poeurl.com/c7dR

Lvl 70: www.poeurl.com/c7dQ

Lvl 88: www.poeurl.com/c7dP

Passive Skill Tree

Skill Gem linkage

Cleave-Melee Physical Damage-Multistrike-Maim-Added Fire Damage Support:
A part of our survivability comes from the ability to have Fortify most of the time. In the early game this will come from having a fortify support gem on Whirling Blades/Shield Charge, but once we get the Overwhelming Odds cleave jewel we can do away with the Fortify support gem in favor of culling strike or something else.

Whirling Blades/Shield Charge- Faster Attacks-Fortify/Culling Strike:

Because so much of the gameplay in recent versions has focused on the need to go fast, we have our dedicated movement skill with faster attacks support. Attach a Fortify support gem for early game defenses, and swap in Culling Strike or another support gem for later game.

Ancestral Protector-Blood Rage-Increased Duration:
Ancestral Protector gives us attack speed without sacrificing damage (Warchief would slow our attacks, while upping damage). Connect it to an Increased Duration gem in order to have it last longer, and throw Blood Rage in here too so you can pop that for extra speed and damage when you’re feeling confident that you can handle the life drain.

Lightning Golem & Flame Golem:
The cheese stands alone, and so do your golems. You should use the lightning golem first, but keep leveling your fire golem on a secondary set of weapons until you get your elementalist ascendancy.

Hatred/Herald of Ash:
You’ll probably get access to Herald of Ash before you get Hatred, so run that until you get used to it. Hatred does more damage, but once you get the elementalist ascendancy you can choose to go with herald of ash if you need to reclaim some of your mana pool (you should be fine though).

Herald of Purity:
Herald of Purity is lovely because it not only gives us extra damage, it gives us extra minions whose life we don’t need to monitor!

Cast When Damage Taken (lvl 1)-Cold Snap (lvl 7):
Cold Snap and Bloodrage work towards the accumulation of frenzy charges, which help improve our attack speed. What’s not to love about that? Keeping cast when damage taken at lvl 1 means we proc more often, and we can do this as long as we have Cold Snap at level 7 or below. Protip for new folks and casual gamers: when a gem shows up on your screen to level up, right clicking it will make it disappear without leveling the gem.

We’re gonna start by going for the Gladiator Duelist ascendency. This adds to our block chance, adds bleeding to enemies, and gives us a chance to blind. Next we’ll head for the Elementalist Witch ascendancy, which gives us several benefits. In addition to benefitting our Herald of Purity, it allows us to run two golems and prevents elemental reflect! This latter part lets us run reflect maps without dying horribly. Finally, we’ll go for Path of the Duelist in order to get one extra Melee Physical node. This will also let you respect some points that get wasted at the beginning in nodes that only boost your overall melee physical by 8% or 10%


Ancestral Protector lets us hit faster, which is important for life leech. It also doesn’t have a reduction to attack damage, whereas warchief slows our attacks while upping damage.

Our elementalist ascendancy lets us run two golems at once. Since you cannot stack the buffs from a golem, we want to run lightning golem for attack speed and fire golem for extra damage. Run lightning on its own until you can run two.

Lunaris or Solaris. I found that I died more in mapping when there were multiple enemies, so I tended to stick with Lunaris here. If you find yourself dying in boss battles more, go with Solaris. You can also just remember to swap to Solaris before taking on Atziri, Elder, or any other big bosses.

Gruthkul or Tukohama. When you are tanking and standing still (i.e. acts 6-10), Tukohama is great. In late game you may want to switch to Gruthkul because you’ll be moving around more.

Amulet Anointments
Blight introduced amulet anointments, which allow us to add special passive effects to our amulets that slot in where we would normally have an enchantment. There are a number of anointments that could work well but I've identified two that provide good support, depending on where you need the most help (based mostly on your gear).

Command of the Elements is a balanced option. This boosts your elemental damage and attack speed while giving some penetration of the elemental defenses that bosses might have. The balance part of this comes from the extra 40% defenses from our shield, which will kick in hundreds of extra armor for us.

Otherwise, Precise Interception is our best defensive option, with a 60% increase in the defenses offered by the shield and 3% increase in block chance. Even here, we get a boost in attack damage and a boost in attack speed. I put this anointment last because I think it's not as good, but if you really need the defense then this one is your best bet.

Cluster Jewels
Delirium introduced cluster jewels that could be socketed in around the edges of the passive tree, expanding the tree and adding access to new passive nodes (including some new notables). After careful consideration I decided not to incorporate these into the build. As I've said above, there is flexibility here and you could try for it. The closest one in my build is near the Rampart node, but I usually leave that node until end-game.

I left gear for last because I’ve tried to make this build less dependent on gear. Some builds require you to buy certain items specifically; I’m trying to avoid that and I’ve succeeded for the most part. That said, you do need the Overwhelming Odds cleave jewel in order to make this build work survivability-wise. Thankfully you automatically get this as a reward in Act 5, so it costs you nothing! For new folks, the prioritizing bit will make more sense as you play through (and as you look at my gear).

Generally, for each piece of armor I will note what you should prioritize in the order you should prioritize it. I will also list possibly useful uniques (or suggest skipping uniques altogether)

4-link, prioritize armor | life | resistances
Uniques: The Brine Crown Prophet Crown

Minimum 5-link; prioritize armor | life | strength | resistances
Uniques: The Iron Fortress Crusader Plate ups both our block chance and our damage. Expensive, but worth it.

3-link, should be an Ezomyte shield if not going unique, prioritize extra block chance | armor | life | resistances
Uniques: The Surrender or The Anticipation. Anticipation is a budget version of The Surrender, and if you can afford The Surrender I highly recommend you get it. This is a Sword & Board build, so this is where I’d encourage you to spend the most money.

1-handed sword, 3-link, prioritize attack speed | physical damage | elemental damage
Uniques: Rebuke of the Vaal Vaal blade gives us extra attack speed and a really high DPS. Look for one with DPS over 900 and physical DPS over 300. This will help boost our overall DPS a lot, and the high elemental DPS isn't a concern for us because we're immune to elemental reflect.

4-link, prioritize movement speed | armor | resistances | strength
Uniques: none. I purposely leave some items as rares so that you can have wiggle-room for resistances.

4-link, prioritize block chance | attack speed | life | armor | resistances
Uniques: none. I tend to prefer keeping this piece of gear rare and looking for good crafted, elder, and shaped mods.

Prioritize global physical damage | resistances | life | added damage
Uniques: Doryani’s Invitiation (physical damage version) is great for survivability, and Perseverence Vanguard Belt is great for extra damage and onslaught. I aim for Perseverence for the extra damage.

Unique: Carnage Heart Onyx Amulet

Prioritize resistances | life | added damage
Uniques: Sibyl’s Lament Coral Ring, right ring slot (for reflect maps only). I generally recommend finding good rare rings and sticking with those. That allows for the greatest flexibility in keeping up your resistances.

-Divine Life Flask with 50% increased recovery rate (Catalysed) and increased armor during effect (of iron skin)
-Amethyst Flask* with bleed removal (of staunching) and whatever other mod you want
-The Sorrow of the Divine Sulphur Flask (aim for 50% increased duration if you can)
-Granite flask with curse removal
-Forbidden Taste Quartz Flask** is not a bad panic button, as it gives you immediate life refill. The deeper I get into mapping, the more I find myself tapping it to give a quick life boost when I'm getting slammed by elemental damage.
-*Atziri’s Promise Amethyst Flask can be swapped in for the regular Amethyst flask is you want, but you lose your bleeding removal
-**I usually throw forbidden taste in slot 5 and swap it out if I need say a ruby or topaz flask for a specific boss.

I don’t have a ton of recommendations here other than the unique below, which is necessary. Prioritize attack speed, damage modifiers, and life.
-Overwhelming Odds Crimson Jewel

My gear:

Is this build hardcore viable? Depends on how far you want to go. I only died once through the first 10 acts, and that was because I wasn’t paying attention when fighting the Brine King. That’s honestly better than any other build I’ve ever run (in part because of my play style and not paying attention). In mapping I’ve died several times, so if you’re looking for hardcore viable that can handle maps I’d say probably not. On the other hand, I don’t know the game mechanics as well as I could and I tend to be too stationary. I mostly die in temple incursions and maps within maps (so, higher enemy level).

Solo Self Found
I finally got around to trying this build out in Solo Self Found (SSF) in Heist league. I can confirm that this build is viable for SSF up to early mapping. I haven't yet tried it beyond T1's and T2's in SSF. I will say that I started to experience real difficulty with metamorphs in rare T2 maps. This was due mostly to a low DPS. If you find better gear or are better at crafting than I am, you can definitely push farther into mapping. But if you want to run deep into mapping in SSF, this isn't the build for you.

Hardcore SSF
Nope, not gonna happen. Without being able to buy good gear, you'll die sometimes with this build. So it's not Hardcore SSF viable.

Reflect Maps
Our elementalist ascendancy prevents reflect of elemental damage, and throwing Sibyl’s lament on the right hand prevents 40% of reflected damage. Block is applied to reflect damage though, so our block chance for physical damage being at 78% helps us with anything that does get reflected.

As I mentioned before, this build is really flexible. You can roll with the Sword & Board setup I’ve outlined, but you can also cut out some sword nodes in favor of axe nodes to go for a Shield & Wield. This might involve not branching out to the brutal blade/fatal blade nodes, in favor of the cleaving and slaughter nodes on the Templar side for axes.

Thank you to my brother for reading this guide over before I posted it (and catching some errors!) Thanks to PsychicMuffin for a great Instant-Leech build that I used in 3.5 and that I learned a lot from, and thanks to StormHavoc and Espetado for managing the Duelist and Scion build lists (respectively).
Last edited by Astiny on Dec 27, 2020, 7:49:31 PM
Last bumped on May 25, 2020, 4:04:12 AM
That’s a lot of armor!
Updated with notes about boss capability.
I'm following this build right now and it seems fun so far. Is there any chance you might update it for 3.7 legion?
Updated for 3.7!
Hi, can you explain the use of Reave vs an extra dps support on Cleave? You never mention Reave in the whole article except its appearance in Cleave's link chain.
I'm running this build in blight, and doing 'OK' with it.

What would you recommend for the Amulet anointment?
I'm not always able to update this guide, especially during the semester, but when I do I aim to address everyone's concerns.

I've updated the guide for 3.8 temporarily until I finish my 3.9 run through and can make additional changes. Amulet anointment suggestions are now present.

As to the presence of Reave... I've been thinking about that for days and I have zero clue why I put that in there. My best guess is that I have another gem I was thinking of and put the wrong name? Per the question above, I've swapped in an added fire damage support gem as the final link in that chain. I'm fully open to suggestions for something else.
Updated for 3.9
How do some of the skills in the passive go from the duelist slot, if I'm not mistaken. It just lacks a connection to the center, or scion. Is this possible via the respec's once you get to another's circle? (Witch/Duelist/Shadow) For what I mean, it's in the level 90 link and the Final.

Final Edit. Just finally read the Duelist Ascendancy!
Last edited by Bummelant on Feb 17, 2020, 10:34:53 PM

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