[3.7] Essence Drain/Contagion Trickster (the best one)
While there certainly is no shortage of ED/Contagion build guides on the forum, I wanted to add one with a particular emphasis on 3.7 Legion content since this is currently the second most popular skill for the league.
As everyone figured would be the case, this skill combo absolutely wrecks the league mechanic. It’s not quite as strong in the multiple army emblem encounters as it is in the map monoliths, but combined with being a strong/cheap league starter, it’s a great all-around choice.
To make the build go, we stack Spell, Chaos, and Damage over Time to scale our damage. We also put a tremendous amount of effort into stacking increased AoE. The end result is a one-two punch that wipes out multiple screens at a time.
This version does NOT run Eldritch Battery. We don't spam spells, so we can reserve almost all of our mana without issue, leaving our ES to fully protect our life pool. Alternatively, we can use Essence Worm + MoM for a more defensive version. By not going EB, we also can proc Arcane Surge much easier.
- Decent clear speed (gets better with heavier investment into pack size/monster count)
- Can be very effective on a budget
- Good survivability
- Dominates the league mechanic
- Runs all map mods
- Top end DPS is capped. DoT builds generally don’t instant-pop end game bosses
- Two-spell combo of Contagion/ED feels awkward to people just used to just going zoom-zoom.
Essence Drain - Efficacy - Controlled Destruction - Void Manipulation - Swift Affliction - Empower
Before you have a high level empower, Energy Leech, Arcane Surge, or Decay can suffice as the 6th link.
Contagion - Intensify - Increased Area of Effect - Arcane Surge
Arcane Surge can be replaced with Faster Casting if you have another way to proc it.
Blight - Infused Channelling - Efficacy - Controlled Destruction
You will need to use the Spreading Rot jewel with this setup in order to enable the Withered debuff. Insert Faster Casting or Void Manipulation as a 5th link if you have Allelopathy gloves.
Miscellaneous but mandatory:
- Flesh and Stone
- Flame Dash
- Vaal Grace
Put these wherever you can fit them in the build. Despair can be linked to Bane, CWDT, or manually thrown depending on your style. You can drop it from the gem slots if you have Witchfire Brew flask.
Flesh and Stone is an amazing defensive utility. Leave it in Sand stance 100% of the time for a permanent blind aura and 10-11% less damage taken from far enemies. This is basically like a free Born in the Shadows Sabo Ascendancy and is amazing.
You can put Malevolence in an Essence Worm ring and spec into MoM if you want an even more defensive setup. Flesh and Stone will go from 25% to 35% mana reservation as a result, but you’ll still have 65% of your mana unreserved for a big boost in eHP.
Miscellaneous and optional:
- Phase Run
- Clarity if you have a nice Watcher’s Eye mod
- Arctic Armor if using Perfect Form
- SteelSkin or Immortal Call
- Lightning Golem
- Blasphemy - Temp Chains or Despair if using Solstice Vigil/Impresence amulets, respectively.
Optionally you can go for a second curse if you want to add Temp Chains to the build via Solstice Vigil. Survivalist is also a nice defensive node that’s only 2 points extra if you need help with resistances. Deep Thoughts is great for additional mana. Note that this tree is not the MoM version and assumes you aren’t using Essence Worm. If you do go the Essence Worm route, just spec MoM. Deep Thoughts also becomes more mandatory.
Trickster. Patient Reaper -> Ghost Dance -> Escape Artist -> Prolonged Pain.
Almost 100% of folks take Ghost Dance and Escape Artist, but there's a reasonable case to be made for Swift Killer and Weave the Arcane too. Swift Killer gives more consistent frenzy charges and gets them for bosses, but I use Intuitive Leap and Overcharged to generate my charges. Prolonged Pain's more multiplier should make up for the damage difference vs. bosses. Weave the Arcane would increase clear speed if you reach the point where you have more than enough DPS. Without top-end gear though, you'll probably find yourself struggling to break all of the Legion bosses with a single cast, so the extra damage and duration from Prolonged Pain is really nice while the league is still relatively new.
For bandits, kill all for the 2 points.
- Lunaris is an amazing "set it and forget it" choice here. Physical damage reduction, movement speed, and some extra dodge/avoidance are all spectacular. Avoiding chained projectiles also makes your golem less dangerous to you.
- Solaris can get special consideration for specific boss fights. Specifically, if the boss you're fighting is solo and doesn't spawn a lot of adds.
- Yugul for end game bosses. A lot of Elder/Shaper damage is cold.
- Garukhan for mapping. More evading and move speed.
- Gruthkul can be useful as you build your character up and is more defensive.
Ultimately you will want to use a bow for the bonus gem levels. We don’t have access to the crazy Synthesis bows, but these will still do. The tree in this guide gives us 183 Dexterity, so we can afford to go for a 6-link Maraketh Bow for the additional movement speed. If you don’t want to get any more dex on gear, you can use a Short Bow:
- +1 to level of Socketed Gems
- +2 to level of Socketed Support Gems
- Non-Ailment Chaos Damage over Time Multiplier
- Increased Cast Speed/Arcane surge on kill
- Increased Chaos Damage
Due to the Porcupine div card, 6-linked short bows are fairly common. Early in a league, finding a 6-link bow is actually much cheaper than getting a 6-link popular armor like Carcass Jack or Perfect Form. If you're poor, don't blow your currency trying to 6-link your armor. Grab a 6-link short bow, alt-spam for +1 gem levels and just craft non-ailment chaos multi. That alone without the multimod will still beat out having your ED in a garbage 5-link chest. Plus you can wear your Carcass Jack/Perfect Form before it's 6-linked and still benefit from the stats.
If you've chosen to spec Swift Killer, that will change the last mod you put on the bow. The increased chaos damage suffix is only 13-16%, so you're better off going for the "5-6% increased damage per frenzy charge" instead. You'll likely have 4 frenzy charges up always (even bosses since you charge Blight first).
For your quiver:
- Life/resists as needed
There are some fun quiver mods that you can go for here too. Chance to gain Onslaught on kill, increased movement speed, chance to gain frenzy charge on kill, increased area of effect are all available on Shaper/Elder quivers and give you some flexibility with other gearing options.
One-hand plus shield:
Before you can craft yourself a nice bow, go with a one-handed wand and shield combo. For wands, your mod priorities are:
- Non-Ailment Chaos Damage over Time Multiplier
- Increased Cast Speed (or the hybrid cast speed/arcane surge on kill)
- Increased Spell Damage
- Increased Chaos Damage
- Increased Damage over Time
For the shield, Zeel’s Amplifier is a great choice. It gives nice defenses, but the big mod here is the increased AoE. Amazing for Legion content.
If you are dirt dirt dirt poor (you just hit level 60 on first character), Cane of Unravelling will get you started. Any currency spent beyond 4-linking it will be a waste, but 40-55% non-ailment chaos multi is still great for a staff that you can buy for 1 alch.
Useful Uniques for other slots:
Body Armor choices are:
- Perfect Form. Amazing chest for all content. Great defensive synergy with the build. If you want to set it and forget it, use this one.
- Carcass Jack. Up to 50% more AoE at the cost of survivability. Use this if you plan to just map 24/7 and farm monoliths.
Gloves – Allelopathy
Boots – Atziri’s Step
Amulet – Impresence (chaos version), Solstice Vigil, Aul's Uprising
Ring – Essence Worm
None of these uniques are requirements. All can be replaced with rares that just have life/resistances if needed. Amulets and Gloves can roll the “Non-ailment Chaos Damage over Time Multiplier” mod, so a multimod version of those should be your end-game goal.
On Impresence vs. Solstice Vigil, I like the former. Despair is mandatory, so using Temp Chains requires the second curse nodes. Free curse auras are such a luxurious feeling and provide a nice quality of life. Seems others feel the same way too since Impresence is something like 5-10 times the price.
Aul's picks a random aura and has it reserve no mana. If you happen to find an Aul's with Malevolence reserves no mana, it's a MASSIVE boost. It's basically Essence Worm but without the penalty and a bunch of other good stats. You can certainly take MoM and/or add some other auras like Grace or Discipline. Be prepared to pay an enormous amount, so this is only for the super rich.
Rings are a great place to fill out life/resists/ES/mana since we don’t have any build-enabling uniques or mods that we need here. Same goes for belts. Stygian Vises got nerfed indirectly through abyssal jewel nerfs, but they’re still a good source of Onslaught on kill. A single heavy belt can also get you all the strength you need to max level Steelskin or Immortal Call.
Your end-game helmet should be a rare ES or EV/ES base fossil crafted to have “nearby enemies have -9% to chaos resistance” along with good life/ES/resists.
- Watcher’s Eye with Non-Ailment Chaos Damage over Time Multiplier
- For the rest, fill in your holes with life/resists/damage/spell damage/damage over time/chaos damage
- Get an Onslaught on kill abyssal jewel if you don’t have another way to get Onslaught
- Spreading Rot is mandatory if you use Blight instead of Wither
- Life flask with bleed immunity. “Catalyzed” Eternal flasks are really nice with Tricksters, and I actually prefer them over Seething life flasks.
- Quicksilver flask of Adrenaline
- Witchfire Brew if you don’t have Despair anywhere else
For the rest, it’s personal preference. Jade Flask of Reflexes synergizes great, especially with Queen of the Forest. Silver Flask for Onslaught. Quartz Flask for phasing and dodge. Sulpher Flask for offense.
Helms don’t have any game-breaking enchants, but there are several that provide a modest boost.
- 40% ED damage
- 30% increased Despair curse effect (can be situationally better than ED damage, and cheaper)
- 12% increased Contagion AoE
Boots have a few choices:
- Attack and Cast Speed if you've killed recently
- Regenerate 2% of life and mana if you've been hit recently
- Chance to dodge attack or spell hits
- 10% increased movement speed if you haven't been hit recently
Karui Jewel - very melee focused, not good for us
Vaal Jewel - everything is pure randomization, so it's not possible to discuss
Templar Jewel - directed with an elemental focus, so mostly useless
That leaves two worth discussing. The first is the Eternal Jewel. This jewel completely removes all of your minor passives and transforms your notables into super powerful ones. There's also the Supreme Ego Keystone which you get if your jewel has "Chitus" in it. You can try placing versions of this jewel in the socket next to MoM. You give up 4 travel nodes, Arcanist's Dominion, and Quick Recovery. You're mainly hoping to get +80% spell damage on Arcanist's Dominion. After that, there are many other 3-point notables in range that you can choose to pick up or not. If using the Chitus version, you can play some fun games with Malevolence in an Essence Worm for some really powerful increased aura effect.
Lastly, and best in almost all cases, is the Maraketh Jewel. The Wind Dancer keystone looks pretty powerful for survivability, so you can try the Deshret version of this jewel in the same MoM socket to spec this defensive node. Fortunately, Maraketh bonuses are additive, so you don't lose any of your current nodes. If you're not interested in Wind Dancer, just try plopping these jewels in the Blood Drinker or Instability sockets and hope good stuff is added to your notables. "You gain onslaught on kill for 8 seconds" is the dream node, but you also have chance to gain frenzy charge on kill, flask effect, move speed, aura effect, max life, or attack and cast speed.
Note that I am not a PoB expert. It also doesn't include the -9% resist delve mod or the Malevolence Watcher's Eye. There's both an Acro tree (if you don't wear Perfect Form) and a non Acro tree (if you do wear Perfect Form).
Last edited by rlauren2 on Jul 10, 2019, 9:08:58 AM
Last bumped on Sep 22, 2019, 7:31:28 PM
Great guide, loved your last one too for winterorb :)
What are your thoughts on the 'best' setup for hard bosses like uber elder for:
1) Evasion defensive by using Hyrri Ire and getting 10% more spell and attack dodge instead of MoM?
2) Wither totem vs Blight totem vs Self-Cast Blight setup?
Also for immortal call and steelskin, do you have that on a CWDT setup?
on Jun 11, 2019, 7:48:33 PM
what i'm worried about is one shot from T16 legion mobs. with MoM sometimes i still get one shotted. how do you think about the survivability without MoM?
on Jun 11, 2019, 10:52:48 PM
Grouping these since they're both mostly about survivability.
I don't like Hyrri. Between evasion, acro, blind aura, quartz flask, atziri's step, escape artist, jade flask, vaal grace, etc. you already have an insane amount of avoidance mechanics. You'll often be over-capped on dodge. As a Shadow, avoidance is your main tool by design. The playstyle of this build is 1) move out of the way of telegraphed attacks, 2) cast spells when it's safe, 3) move out of the way again. The long duration of ED plays nicely into this. Legion's rework of Immortal Call also makes "active" defense more valuable and punishes "passive" defense. I personally don't know the mechanics of the super end game bosses too well, so I plan on putting my defensive skill on a much higher leveled CWDT so it will only trigger when I'm taking a beating. Not sure how exactly that will end up. For a more experienced player, self-casting will reward that higher skill cap.
The problem with avoidance as a defense mechanic is that, while lowering your probability of getting one-shot from 100% to maybe 5%, you're still gonna die eventually. We have *some* mitigation in the form of ghost shrouds and IC/Steelskin, but not much. The only defense is HP. For a pure defensive setup, Perfect Form plus Essence Worm/MoM is the best option. With PF, I would drop acro from the tree entirely, use those 8 points to stack more ES or mana with things like Void Barrier, Unnatural Calm, Arcane Focus, Deep Thoughts, etc. Without the 30% ES penalty from acro, it shouldn't be a stretch to get 5-6k life, 3k ES, and 1-1.5k unreserved mana. That's a pretty massive eHP pool for a build that also has an insane amount of avoidance mechanics. As far as how much you can deviate from this and still be OK, it depends on too many factors (your character level, your skill, your gear, your tolerance level for death frequency, etc.). You kind of have to just feel it out.
As for Wither/Blight, self-cast blight is the most offensive since you can trigger the infusion buff and add more damage support gems. Blight totems are the middle ground, still doing some damage. Wither totems are the most defensive, since they don't do any damage now, but you get to free up a gem slot by not using Spreading Rot. Right now I'm self-casting, but I haven't reached high red maps, so we'll see how it goes.
Last edited by rlauren2 on Jun 12, 2019, 10:25:09 AM
wow thanks a lot! this is exactly what im looking for. thanks for the input im gonna buy perfect form soon, been using cloak of defiance.
Last edited by jinhaoxuan on Jun 12, 2019, 10:29:45 AM
on Jun 12, 2019, 10:29:20 AM
interesting thoughts on the build. I have been running Ziz's version. Since you're running a shield what about taking points in arcane swiftness?
I may respec and try this version out. How would you recommend crafting the end game bow? I am terrible at crafting and need a step by step.
How are you running grace, mal and flesh and stone?
on Jun 12, 2019, 11:08:26 AM
first one is grab a cheap 6L short bow or collect porcupine card, then you use alteration until you get +1 socketed gem (this usually takes 600 alt on average, i got it at 230 alts), next you regal the bow and annul so that only +1 gem the only mod (if the +1 got annulled you need to scour and alt the bow again), after that just multimod the bow and craft +2 support gems and spell damage, dot multiplier etc.
you dont run grace. just the vaal version to boost your defense in certain situation. Hope that answers
on Jun 12, 2019, 11:21:26 AM
Correct on both accounts. It's actually one of the easier multimods out there. Depending on annulment orb vs. alteration orb costs, the only awkward decision comes if you happen to alt spam into a magic bow with +1 socketed gems along with a garbage suffix. You can try regal and then annul twice, but that's more expensive and a higher chance to brick. Or you can just keep alt spamming until you get it with only the prefix and no suffix. Then you only need to hit one annul. There are actually a few cool suffixes on shaper/elder bows, and the chaos damage suffix we craft is only up to 16% so it's pretty weak. The dream would be to get lucky alt spamming a shaper/elder bow to end up with something like +1 gems prefix and one of (chance to gain onslaught on kill, inc aoe, inc movement speed, +1 max frenzy charges) as the suffix. Then regal and go for the super lucky annul, multimod, leave out the increased chaos damage suffix.
Ziz's guide is amazing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gLo047shkI&t=28s for those who want to check it out. He has a PoB with leveling trees, tons of different example gear, etc. You'll learn a lot by watching it. The biggest differences:
- Ascendencies. I talk about the Patient Reaper/Prolonged Pain vs. Swift Killer and Weave the Arcane in the guide, but he's got the other ones.
- Life on the tree. He uses Perfect Form and spends the saved points on the life nodes in the Templar area. I feel like it's a long distance to travel to pick those up. You're already around 160% life from the tree before grabbing those. That said, there's nothing you really "need" to get after about level 80, so the final few skill points aren't too consequential.
- He goes wand/shield the whole way. I think bows are just such a massive DPS upgrade, and since you can still use quivers for life/resists, you don't lose much survivability for it.
I didn't include Arcane Swiftness or Arcane Guardian in my tree since the final end-goal is meant to use a bow, but certainly those are both really powerful nodes for the time being when you still are rocking wand/shield.
Fantastic reply, thanks for so much insight! I will take ur advice and happy to follow it :)
on Jun 12, 2019, 12:00:09 PM