[3.13] [SSF] Essence Drain Beastmode || Ultimate Guide to Solo Self Found

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Whaaaaaat's up folks! I wrote this guide because there is a distinctive lack of Essence Drain build guides that focus on SSF. I have played ED numerous times as a league starter and tested a lot of different approaches to the build in the past, so this is the definitive version, ready for the new 3.13 expansion Ritual.

Why should you listen to me?
- 5,500 hours of experience grinding Path of Exile
- Played ED Tricksters in many variations over time
- Probably spent more time in PoB than in PoE

Enjoy and feel free to ask questions in the comment section or on Twitch. You can find my social links in a section above.

0....... About
I....... Gear Overview
II...... Gem Setup
III..... Gear Explanation
IV...... Labyrinth
V....... Bow Crafting 101
VI...... Flasks
VII..... Jewels
VIII.... Pantheon
IX...... Leveling
X....... Path of Building
XI...... Videos

Essence Drain is the best build for starting a new league hands down. Once you get used to the 1-2 playstyle of using Contagion and Essence Drain, you'll find out just how amazing and consistent it is.

What are the cons?

- If you are lazy and need the 1-button clear, this is not for you
- Needs some basic understanding of the game and concept
- Will not reach crazy DPS numbers (although 800k to 1.5 million Shaper DPS is quite doable)

What are the pros?

- Easy leveling and item progression
- Doesn't require specific uniques to function
- Very flexible setup, can easily go max block / full dodge
- Insane clear speed that scales with monster density
- Satisfying to play

Example Gear (3.9):

This is what my endgame gear looked like during Legion league. I was able to drive through 20+ Uber Elders with ease. One tanky boy. :)

Before you go around asking me why I am not recommending Cane of Unravelling, here's a quick screenshot from my Path of Building showing the big difference in DPS:

6L - Essence Drain:

Essence Drain benefits from modifiers to Spell Damage, Damage over Time, Chaos Damage and regular Damage. Skill Effect Duration is nice as well since the DoT will have more uptime. If you play SSF or are low on money, Decay can be a decent single-target option for the 6th link.

2L - Auras:

We used to run a Solstice Vigil amulet that drops from the Shaper exclusively for a free Temporal Chains aura with Blasphemy, but since the item is much less accessible with the new atlas, we only use Witchfire Brew for the Despair aura. Malevolence provides skill effect duration and chaos multi while Flesh & Stone (Sand Stance) provides a blind aura that helps mitigate damage.

4L - Blight

Blight gives you an easy way to procc Infused Channeling, providing 10% more Chaos Damage and less Chaos Damage taken. With Spreading Rot (unique jewel you can get from a quest during the story) you apply stacks of Wither which further improves your DPS.

If you can get a level 21 Vaal Blight that's a huge asset as it provides good clear, applies extra Wither stacks and adds a lot of damage over time. Quality is a nice QoL but not at all necessary.

3L - Contagion:

The combo of Increased Area of Effect + Intensify boosts the AoE of Contagion to 35. Contagion doesn't provide damage but instead repeats when an enemy dies and spread Essence Drain with it while it does. This is how we clear screens and Monoliths in seconds.
Alternative: you can run Contagion on a 4-link with Faster Casting if you care more about clearspeed than gem efficiency.


Basic CWDT setup. You can play around with this to your preference, but I found the damage reduction provided by IC to be the best. Steelskin can also work, but I find it inferior for larger hits and we take the small ones rather well already. Vaal Grace is for those moments when you need that extra bit of damage mitigation.

4L - Flame Dash

Flame Dash + Second Wind is a staple for caster builds. You could opt for a 3-link Flame Dash and get rid of Faster Casting, put this where you'd normally have the 3-link CWDT setup and add Increased Duration to IC and Vaal Grace as an alternative.


Bows are the highest DPS option for Essence Drain. With ED level 21 + Empower level 4 we get a level 28 Essence Drain and level 24 support gems. About half of our damage is coming from this weapon combo. How this type of gear can be crafted will be explained later in this guide.


You are looking for T1 Non-Ailment Chaos Damage over Time Multiplier, Chaos Damage and DoT. Can be easily multi-modded like mine.

Quivers are very flexible in that you can craft loads of different things on them. Hunter influenced quivers can roll 10% Movement Speed as a prefix and up to 25% Chaos Damage over Time Multiplier as a suffix. Best base is going to be a Penetrating Arrow Quiver for some quality of life for the ED projectile.

For wand users:

A shield with high ES and life adds a lot of eHP to your character. You'll want to pick Arcane Guarding (go the 3-node way) and Arcane Swiftness (also 3-node way) in that case since they provide loads of spell damage and ES.

Your chest slot provides 1 Energy Shield for every 6 Evasion Rating on your Body Armour. Prioritise high Evasion Rating and Life and fill in some resistances here. You can also get +1 Curses from this slot and get rid of Whispers of Doom on the passive tree.

If you are using a bow, go with two 3-links, otherwise with a 6-link obviously. The best base would be a Sadist Garb (Eva/ES).

A discussion on unique chests:

Perfect Form: interesting option that gives us free Arctic Armour and the Phase Acrobatics keystone (30% spell dodge). However, you can get a lot more Life, Evasion and ES as well as other useful stats like resistances and veiled mods.

Carcass Jack: good for mapping thanks to the increased Area of Effect (Contagion: 35 Aoe -> 39 AoE). Easy to colour since it's a hybrid Eva / ES chest, but low defenses. More of a mid-game option, but can be argued for.

On your helmet slot you are looking mainly for a high ES roll since Escape Artist provides 5 Evasion Rating per 1 Energy Shield (200 ES = 1k Evasion Rating). Other useful stats are a high life roll and resistances.

Alternative: Heretic's Veil

Doesn't provide any life and thus isn't the BEST option. However, it allows you to scrap the Unset Ring and move Flesh and Stone to your helmet setup. It has decent ES and could allow you to run an extra curse instead of Flesh and Stone if you craft +1 Curses on your Body Armour.

Looking for decent ES and high life roll. Fill in Resistances and stat requirements as necessary. Ideally, we want Gloves like the first example. Ilvl 80+ Gloves can roll up to 16% non-ailment chaos damage over time multiplier, which means a lot for the build. If you are trying to maximise DPS, Elder Gloves are the way to go.

Alternative: Allelopathy

Good option for a higher DPS Blight. Removes the option to go for Vaal Blight but regular self-cast will have much higher damage. If you pick this, add Efficacy to the setup. Do note that this is much less defensive.

Prioritize 30% or more movement speed. A high life roll is always good. Resistances are secondary since we have other gear slots to fill them in.

Alternative: Atziri's Steps always roll 30% movement speed, decent life and ~15% spell dodge. Can be farmed by killing Atziri.

High life and resistances are most important. You can try and use Aberrant Fossils + Pristine to get a high Life roll with up to 30% Chaos Damage, but that's just luxury.

Abyss jewel: Onslaught if you don't have a Quiver with that mod and high life roll.

For Leather Belts it is best to search for 130+ Life and at least 80% total resistances. Flask Duration is great. Elder-base can grant life recovery rate which boosts our life regeneration a lot, not our leech tho.

Above you see the BiS option which is a Harvest-crafted amulet with +2 for ED as well as chaos damage over time multiplier. Either of these affixes is going to be quite a substantial boost to your DPS.

A few points about Anointments:

Hunter's Gambit: (Clear/Verdant/Silver)
10% Skill Effect Duration, 10% Chaos Damage Over Time Multiplier
Dirty Techniques: (Amber/Amber/Silver)
About 5% more DPS
Disciple of the Slaughter: (Amber/Verdant/Golden)
About 5% more DPS, 1 Minimum Frenzy Charge and FC on kill chance
Spiritual Aid: (Silver/Silver/Golden)
About 4% more DPS and option to craft Minion Damage on your Gloves for extra damage

Prodigal Perfection: (Clear/Azure/Azure)
10% Spell Damage, 15% Max Mana, 2% Spell Damage per 100 Max Mana
Heart of Oak: (Verdant/Crimson/Golden)
8% Maximum Life, 20% Chance to Avoid Stuns, some Life Regen
Golem's Blood: (Teal/Golden/Golden)
10% Maximum Life, good Life Regen
Devotion: (Crimson/Crimson/Silver)
8% Maximum Life, +20 STR, non-Curse Aura Effect

Ascendancy Order:
1) Patient Reaper
2) Ghost Dance
3) Prolonged Pain
4) Escape Artist

Here we have a couple interesting options to customize the character a little better to suit your needs.

40% increased Essence Drain Damage: gives us about 5.6% more DPS on the DoT (for me: 800k -> 845k DPS on ED)
30% increased Essence Drain Duration: this enchant is better than you might think. Base duration for Essence Drain is 3.8 seconds. 30% longer ED pushes it to 5 seconds before increments from Skill Effect Duration (Malevolence, Efficacy, Trickster Ascendancy)
35% increased Temporal Chains Curse Effect: pretty underrated Enchantment in my opinion. More time before being hit is quite valuable!

Commandment of Light: when you're critically hit you'll generate Consecrated Ground, regenerating 6% of your Maximum Life per second (7k life = 420 life per second)
Commandment of Reflection: creates a clone of you (10 seconds cooldown). Your clone will take aggro for you, so can be quite handy.

Regenerate 2% of your Maximum Life and Mana per second: this is the best option by far. All life regeneration we have is amplified by Trickster's Life Recovery Rate bonus.
10% Movement Speed: really awesome for going faster than light. We already have loads of Movement Speed, but the more the better.

Attack / Spell Dodge can be good, but imo they're too situational and unreliable for me to recommend them. If it floats your boat, go for it. In any other case, the above 2 are best.


So the above is the final goal for the character. But how do we get there?

100-500 Alteration Orbs
0-1 Annulment Orbs
4 Exalted Orbs
Have to have finished the prophecy chains for https://pathofexile.gamepedia.com/The_Pale_Court

1) We want a base bow for this. The best is to gather The Porcupine cards. If you are playing SSF, the cards drop from Gardens, Plaza, Terrace (maps) and High Gardens (story). The result is a 6-linked Short Bow with ilvl 50.

2) Now we want to get the colours right first. For this, we want to use the 1B Vorici bench craft. The average number of tries is 20, so we don't need many Chromatic Orbs. Target colours are 3 Blue, 2 Green and 1 Red. If you are instead using the bow from the Imperial Legacy set, make sure you roll the Reduced Attribute Requirement suffix on it before bench-colouring it.

3) Next step is to get the +1 to Level of Socketed Gems. This can appear on any bow from ilvl 50 onwards, which we have. This can take anywhere between 10 to 500 Alteration Orbs.

4) We want to use a Regal Orb on it. This turns the item into a rare and will stay this way even if we remove mods again. We need to have only the +1 Gems as a Prefix, otherwise we need to use an Annulment Orb. We need 1 Prefix and 1-2 Suffixes for the method to function.

5) Check again: does your bow only have 1 prefix and is it "+1 to Level of Socketed Gems"? (not to Bow Gems!) - if so, great! We can carry on.

6) Craft "Can have up to 3 Crafted Modifiers"

7) Craft "+2 to Level of Socketed Support Gems"

8) Craft "+40% to Chaos Damage Over Time Multiplier"

And we're done! You now hold the most powerful DPS tool for an Essence Drain Trickster in your very hands. Congratulations!


Life Flask: we use a Catalysed Eternal Life Flask of Staunching. At 20% quality it will regenerate 2500 life over 2.7 seconds (927 hp/s). With so much effective life an instant Divine Flask just doesn't do the cut.

Quicksilver Flask: we use an Alchemist's Quicksilver Flask of Adrenaline for covering lots of distance in a short time. This guarantees we'll be right in front of the next pack in as little time as possible. Provides about 85% MS with these rolls.

Granite Flask: we do not have much Armour to note, so a Granite Flask provides a bigger defensive boost than a Basalt Flask (about 20%). Duration + Freeze / Curse Immunity are best.

Jade Flask: Ghost Shrouds give us 5% of our Evasion Rating as ES back when hit. With a Jade Flask with increased Effect and the 100% increased Evasion Rating from the Witchfire Brew we have about 27k Evasion Rating which translates to ~1350 ES. That's why we'll often not even notice we're hit.

Witchfire Brew: extra Damage over Time and level 21 Despair aura gives us so much DPS actually. About 19% of our DPS and 27% of our total Evasion Rating come from here. If you are running a Chaos Impresence instead of Solstice Vigil, use a magic Stibnite Flask with 90%+ increased Evasion Rating suffix for even more Evasion Rating.


Spreading Rot: socketed in the top middle Witch part of the tree (next to the Power Charge). Makes Blight add stacks of Wither and increases the length of the Hinder duration.

Glorious Vanity: socketed below Mind over Matter. We can use it for the Doriyani keystone "Corrupted Soul" which provides us with 20% of Maximum Life as Extra Energy Shield. Provides about 2k ES for me, but is optional.

Watcher's Eye: we're mainly looking for Chaos Damage over Time Multiplier since it's a sort of more multiplier for chaos DoTs. About 10% more DPS come from this. Can be replaced with a rare jewel of course. It is an excellent luxury item, though!

Rares: look for Maximum Life, Damage over Time and Non-Ailment Chaos Damage over Time Multiplier

Bandits: there are no benefit from any of the bandits for us, so we kill them all.

Small Pantheon: Garukhan for the 6% increased Movement Speed for mapping, Ralakesh for uber lab if you are not feeling safe with the traps.

Big Pantheon: Lunaris for general mapping, Solaris for big bosses like Shaper or Elder

Make sure to capture all the relevant souls since they enhance the Pantheons massively. Especially Gorgon on Solaris (8% reduced elemental damage) and Sebbert (5% dodge of spells and attacks) are important.

Availability of Skill Gems while leveling:

Essence Drain (Level 12): reward for Shadows after The Siren's Cadence (Act 1)
Blight (Level 1): reward for Shadows after Enemy at the Gate (Act 1)
Frostblink (Level 4): reward for Breaking some Eggs (Act 1)
Wither (Level 10): reward for Shadows after The Caged Brute (Act 1)
Contagion (Level 4): reward for Shadows after Breaking some Eggs (Act 1)
Steelskin (Level 4): reward for Breaking some Eggs (Act 1)
Temporal Chains (Level 24): reward for Lost in Love (Act 3)
Malevolence (Level 24): reward for Lost in Love (Act 3)
Flesh and Stone (Level 16): reward for Fallen from Grace (Act 6), can be acquired in Act 3 by doing the Siosa quest in the Library

In general: if you are able to get one skill gem from a quest but not all of them they'll be available for purchase from the skill gem vendor after quest completion.

Early on the best advice is to use Freezing Pulse (available from Enemy at the Gate, Act 1) until you can get your Essence Drain + Contagion combo running.

Most important links while leveling are:

4-link (3B1G) Essence Drain + Void Manipulation + Efficacy + Controlled Destruction

2-link (1B1R) Spell Totem + Wither

2-link (2B) Blight + Infused Channeling (Act 1, Mercy Mission (Quicksilver Flask quest))

2-link (2B) Flame Dash + Arcane Surge

2-link (2B) Contagion + Increased Area of Effect

Path of Building: https://pastebin.com/tvgkvJRP

Make sure to install the Community Fork by LocalIdentity and upgrade your Path of Building. It provides many features and support for countless uniques. For more: https://github.com/PathOfBuildingCommunity/PathOfBuilding

Tier 16 Hydra: ......................... https://youtu.be/nx5-QWll4js
UElder Guardian (Purifier): ........ https://youtu.be/triSp-HCL_8
UElder Guardian (Constrictor): ... https://youtu.be/guIAi-muY8Q
UElder Guardian (Enslaver): ...... https://youtu.be/rguxRrM2i-M
UElder Guardian (Eradicator): .... https://youtu.be/poIDv2A8_jQ
UElder Kill #23: ....................... https://youtu.be/oL_5qiqa1WE

As this build guide is catered towards an SSF playstyle where you may or may not have access to certain Unique items, here are some other notable Essence Drain guides that I find commendable:

>> Ultimate ED Trickster by Darkxellmc

Pretty optimized and min-maxed for trade league, tanky and quick. Darkxellmc has a lot of experience with ED Tricksters and offers a lot of knowledge on the class.

>> Havoc's LL Trickster

If DPS is what you thrive, DPS is what you get. This is much squishier however, so I do not recommend this for HC.
Twitch: https://twitch.tv/artcrusader
Last edited by ArtCrusade on Jan 13, 2021, 1:43:46 PM
Last bumped on Mar 12, 2021, 8:44:14 PM

"Is this build HC viable?"

I have played this build successfully in HC before, but I don't play HC that much. I definitely do not recommend the bow approach and would rather suggest leaning more towards wand + shield and getting some block investment going.

"How do I get Witchfire Brew in SSF?"

While there is no 100% way to guarantee one, the flask can be chanced with ilvl 48+ Stibnite Flasks. There are only two unique versions of that base type, the other being Sin's Rebirth which is much rarer. You can also farm Einhar for unique flask recipes, use Ancient Orbs or use the T3 Sacrifice room in the Temple of Atzoatl.

Twitch: https://twitch.tv/artcrusader
Last edited by ArtCrusade on Mar 10, 2021, 5:27:41 AM
Awesome guide! Love the layout and detailed explanation of the gems and gear. :)
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCohOcaCm7l6ex2to0QZ5Cgg

Twitch: https://go.twitch.tv/wheeze_dk
Thanks for the guide. I want to go SSF with this build as soon as you post leveling trees. Please hurry lol.
Thanks for the guide. I want to go SSF with this build as soon as you post leveling trees. Please hurry lol.

Just added the leveling trees. Thanks for the reminder! Hope you have a good start in SSF! :-)
Twitch: https://twitch.tv/artcrusader
Hi. I really like your guide. But i was wondering about the Bow craft guide, are you gonna add that ?
RunRonnie wrote:
Hi. I really like your guide. But i was wondering about the Bow craft guide, are you gonna add that ?

Done! Added it right after Gear Explanation section! :)
Twitch: https://twitch.tv/artcrusader
ArtCrusade wrote:
RunRonnie wrote:
Hi. I really like your guide. But i was wondering about the Bow craft guide, are you gonna add that ?

Done! Added it right after Gear Explanation section! :)

Excellent :-) THX
Added a section for Labyrinth Enchantments! More to follow soon.
Twitch: https://twitch.tv/artcrusader

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