[3.12] Cold ANIMATE WEAPON Summoner | League-Start & Leveling Guide | Low Budget, High DPS!


It's like playing Summon Raging Spirit but the minions last longer and deal more damage!


Necro keeps getting nerfed, Animate Weapon keeps being awesome.

If you are in a hurry, jump to the Passive Tree section for POB link, and read the marked (***) sections to understand the core of the build. Please do read the whole post before asking questions.

To see my other build guides and resources, click here.

Changelog (Most Recent: Sept 22, 2020)

9/22/2020: removed references to Deathmark gem that no longer exists (now Predator).
9/15/2020: 3.12 league. Small nerfs, no longer recommending Glancing Blows.
7/24/2020: POB update - no longer requires janky workaround for chill/shock effect with Bonechill
7/8/2020: added note about Glancing Blows as people seem to be screwing that up a lot.
7/5/2020: new 3.11 video uploaded, new POB, fixed some typos, changed utility gem links around.
6/17/2020: Update for 3.11 patch notes! Adjustments to passive tree, recommended gearing to use Glancing Blows. Removed some redundant sections of guide.
5/1/2020: Significant change to recommended ascendancy points, updates to cluster jewel section, and gem links.
4/19/2020: Advanced section updated with new Cluster Jewel setup.
4/8/2020: More detail on Timeless jewels in "advanced gearing" section at the end, for surviving at level 90+
3/2/2020: Added video guide for getting 4 green sockets in Triad Grip. and FAQ section.
2/28/2020: Original post.

Contents

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  • Videos
  • FAQs and Pros/Cons
  • Animate Weapon Mechanics
  • Custom Loot Filter
  • Passive Tree
  • Leveling Guide
  • Gem Links
  • Gear & Jewels
  • Advanced: Defensive Mechanics & Gear Setups


Videos

Video Update for 3.11 - includes patch changes, comparing physical and cold versions of the skill, as well as a lot of tips for a smooth playstyle and fixing common issues.
Gameplay footage: Red Maps, Shaper Guardians, Shaper, Delve.

Build Guide Video: Big picture overview of build, gem setup, passive tree (3.10 League).

3.10 Gameplay:
- Tier 16 Maps and Baran. Well-geared, zoom-zoom!
- Red Map Delirium encounters (pre-nerf) tiers 12-14.
- Yellow Maps and Conquerors with some rippy Delirium mods.
- Early Maps with Cheap Gear before full cold conversion, using a 5-link.
- Leveling Tips: Vendor Recipes and Passive Tree. Some of the passive tree advice is now out of date.

Pre-3.10:
- Why is Animate Weapon worth playing?
- GGG Teaser & Thoughts on Scaling Animate Weapon

Short Summary

TLDR: Get Triad Grip gloves to convert all minion damage to cold. Use Hatred and Summon Skitterbots + Bonechill to scale cold damage. Animate Weapon kills everything.

For newer players there is a highly detailed description of all build mechanics, without any jargon, in the very next section!

Pros and Cons:
+ Safe playstyle with minions that chill, freeze, taunt and blind enemies.
+ Fantastic boss killer.
+ Low budget to get started, but scales easily into end game.
+ Can get high health and/or hybrid defenses, with easy 200% increased life on tree.
+ Very flexible passive tree that benefits a lot from cluster jewels.
- Cannot tank big hits. The best defense is mobility and avoiding huge slams.
- Dexterity is needed on gear to meet gem requirements.
- More active playstyle than other summoners.

*** FAQs ***

"Should I league start with Animate Weapon?"

A summoner playstyle doesn't depend heavily on gear, making it very easy to start a new league with. Further, you get access to the Animate Weapon gem right at the start of Act 1 so leveling is simple.

"I'm new to Path of Exile. Can I try this build?"

Sure! This guide is comprehensive and intended to be accessible for players with all levels of experience. Check out the Intro and Mechanics sections first, and then leave a comment if you still have questions.

"Solo self found (SSF) and budget friendly?"

Mostly. There is only one "highly recommended" unique, Triad Grip Mesh Gloves. This drops frequently in maps. Even without finding them right away, the build should still be functional without those gloves for a long time. Aside from that one unique, you can reasonably craft or find every needed item yourself.

"Hardcore Viable?"

Probably. The skill tree is 90% the same as one for Summon Raging Spirit, and many people have taken that to high levels in HC before. This guide is for a SC perspective but with small adjustments, more defensive options are available. (i.e. more Marauder life nodes, Soul of Steel, and Bone Offering for block rather than Flesh Offering for speed)

"I want to avoid a lot of clicking. Is this hard to play, mechanically?"

While leveling, Ethereal Knives or Bladefall generate "ammunition" for Animate Weapon. It's a one-two skill usage, a bit like Essence Drain/Contagion, but weapons have a long duration so it's not required all the time. Flasks are only used defensively, so no "piano flasking" to keep up DPS. Once you are actively running through a level, you can just raise weapons as you go.

Later on some of this can be automated away through gearing, but while leveling there are quite a few skills to use. If you want a summoner build with a less active playstyle, this build may not be for you.

"What about some other Ascendancy?"

I wrote a section on why Necromancer is the best for this build, so at minimum read that before asking. Guardian is also viable (slightly lower damage, more minion speed).

"Cast While Channeling / Spellslinger / other clever gearing setups to trigger Animate Weapon?"

I fully researched various automation methods, and the conclusion I reached was Not Worth It. Huge loss of DPS for very small added convenience, and gem slots are in short supply as it is. Link an Unleash Support to Animate Weapon if you are bothered by casting it repeatedly. For a fully automated build, look into Chains of Command with a Scion instead.

"Does your build work with Chains of Command?"

Aside from being visually similar, a Chains of Command build has nearly nothing in common with this one. Most guides I've seen for that build use Scion instead of Necromancer, so look there instead.

"Why Cold, instead of Physical with Impale?"

Physical is less demanding for gem slots and has a slightly more flexible passive tree, but the damage with cold is higher. I started off the guide with the idea of showing various different damage types but it was getting too wordy, and the gearing for varied setups is different enough to make it awkward to cover all of them.

I've played both versions and in my opinion, Cold conversion is the strongest way to start off with Animate Weapon. Physical benefits more from a high budget and top-tier cluster jewels.

"Which spectres does the build use?"

Stygian Silverback (frenzy charges) and Host Chieftain (power charges) both of which can be found in Riverways of Act 6. Spectres go into a +2 minion gem helm so they stay alive better. When a third spectre is available, use the Arena Master which spawns from Drox's portals.

If you have other questions, please do leave a comment!

Patch Comments

3.12:
Minor nerfs-- Glancing Blows is no longer all that great for defenses, Mistress of Sacrifice gives us less move/cast speed, Vengeful Commander cluster jewels nerfed from 30% to 20% - less useful now.

It may be more optimal to play the build as Guardian instead at this point, which sacrifices a small amount of damage but has a block-based defense. Necromancer version is still much easier to level and play, however.

3.11:
Animate Weapon is not mentioned anywhere in the patch notes - which is a good thing, as most stuff that got mentioned was nerfed.

3.10:

Us after 3.10 minion and Necromancer "nerfs"

High Level Analysis of Animate Weapon buffs in 3.10! (not my video)

Detailed Introduction to Animate Weapon

If you have little experience playing summoner builds or are new to Path of Exile, this section will get you up to speed.

Animate Weapon: the Basics

The Animate Weapon skill turns an identified melee weapon on the ground into a flying minion with high damage, which chases down and slays your enemies. And you can summon a lot of them!

If you've played other summoning skills in Path of Exile, think of Animate Weapon as the cross between Raise Zombie and Raging Spirit. Like a Zombie, the Weapon must be raised from something on the ground - a dropped weapon, rather than a corpse. And, like a Raging Spirit, the Animated Weapon flies and has fixed duration before expiring. (Unlike Raging Spirits, Animated Weapons will be targeted by enemies so their health pool does matter).

The problem for Animated Weapon builds prior to 3.10 was that unless monsters dropped enough weapons for you to raise, your animated army could stall out for lack of "recruits". Further, the targeting of weapons on the ground was awkward, requiring very picky selection with your mouse cursor to animate them.

In 3.10 the first issue has been fixed because blade-related spells (Blade Vortex, Ethereal Knives, and Bladefall) now leave behind lingering knives to animate at will. The second part has also been simplified with buffs to cast speed and a reduced mana cost, making the skill much more pleasant to play.

We now have an easy two-skill combination - cast a blade skill (realistically Bladefall because it creates the most knives) and then animate those knives to fight for us. As an added benefit we can apply curses and debuffs to monsters with hits from Bladefall, making our minions more effective.

How Animate Weapon Calculates Damage

When you cast Animate Weapon it inherits the damage, crit chance, attack speed etc. of the identified item on the ground which you targeted. This includes any magic, rare, or unique modifiers (though be aware, you won’t get that weapon back!) Then the skill adds its own modifiers to base damage, attack speed, and so on to the minion which flies around and hits things until it dies or the duration expires.

When a weapon is summoned from a lingering blade (created by Bladefall) the process is slightly different. All summoned blades have base stats roughly equal to a Glass Shank. Then, Animate Weapon adds an additional damage bonus based on its own skill level to the created minion, if it is from a lingering blade. This boost is substantial!

What it means to you: the level of Bladefall you use, or any supports attached to that skill, don’t matter for your DPS. All that counts is the level of your Animate Weapon.

The plan is very simple: keep up as many Animate Weapon minions as possible, buff their damage, and we're along for the ride as they kill everything in the game! The rest of this guide is about how to accomplish that.

Minion Mechanics for New Players

For those completely new to this type of build, here are the mechanics that matter.

An Animate Weapon skill gem has the tags Duration, Minion, Spell, Physical attached to it so let's unpack those first.

Each animated weapon lasts for either 40 seconds duration or until it has zero hitpoints. We increase that duration with the passive tree so that we don't need to recast as often.

Minions count as Allies (but are not Party Members, which is only other players - this distinction occasionally matters). In order to improve our minions' damage with gear or the passive tree, the modifier must explicitly say "minions have..." or "allies get..." otherwise it has no effect!

For example, although an Animated Weapon attacks with physical damage, a passive node saying "15% increased physical damage" will not benefit it, because that is only for the player and not Minions.

Casting Animate Weapon is a Spell, and is improved by Cast Speed. However, as the Animated Weapon is a Minion, increases to spell damage do not help its damage. If you add Spell bonuses or supports, it will support the spell which animates the weapon, but won't affect the weapon's damage when it attacks enemies.

The reason these tags matter is that a support gem usually has to match a tag on the skill it supports. In addition to Duration, Minion, Physical and Spell, Animate Weapon can also be supported with Melee Attack tags.

The damage our minions deal with attacks can be Physical, Elemental (Cold, Fire, Lightning), or Chaos. The type of damage matters because monsters can resist attacks by having resistance to Cold/Fire/Lightning/Chaos, or armor against Physical. Bosses especially have significant amounts of armor and resistances.

Animate Weapon deals physical damage by default (so increased physical damage benefits us) but eventually, we want to convert all that damage to cold.

*** Why Convert Damage to Cold? ***

There are three benefits to converting all damage to one element.

First, it lets our minion benefit from more sources of increased damage. If we convert all minion physical damage to cold, any item that says "minions have % increased physical damage" or "minions have % increased cold damage" will benefit them equally.

Second, by picking just one element, we can focus our build toward breaking through that one elemental resistance on bosses. It's easier to find gear and skills which reduce, or penetrate, one sort of resistance rather than all of them.

Third, physical damage gets reduced by armor. Armor blocks a flat amount of physical damage from each hit (rather than a percentage as resistances do), making it most effective against small hits. Animated Weapons attack with a lot of fast hits so bosses with high armor won't take as much damage. Fully converting to elemental will ignore monster armor, and we have lots of ways to break through resistances.

One way we do that is with Elemental Equilibrium (EE), a keystone node located between Witch and Templar. With EE, when an enemy is hit with one element (for example, lightning) they get +25 resistance to lightning but -50 resistance to cold and fire. We hit enemies with a small amount of lightning or fire damage so that they have negative cold resistance when attacked by our minions.

Lastly, cold damage benefits from some of the most powerful damage multipliers in the game. Very rarely, buffs can "double dip", or increase both physical and elemental damage at the same time, so final damage benefits from both increases. The Hatred Aura is one example, because it gives added cold damage based on physical damage, and also more cold damage, double-dipping from any increase to physical.

The other big multiplier we gain is from linking the Bonechill Support to Summon Skitterbots. Skitterbots have two effects: one is a shocking aura, which at level 20, causes monsters to take 18% more damage. There is also a chilling aura, and with Bonechill, that causes monsters to take 18% more cold damage. Together this causes much more damage to the unlucky boss which is affected by both our shock and chill at once.

Incidentally, cold damage has some defensive benefits by chilling enemies so they hit us less often, and freezing and shattering corpses to avoid nasty on-death effects. But mostly we're in it for the big, meaty damage increases.

Loot Filter

To enjoy playing Animate Weapon, a custom loot filter is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED! Feel free to use mine.
Custom Loot Filter for Animate Weapon

Normal rarity weapons we might want to animate will be hidden by default for most loot filters. I'd strongly recommend a custom filter because the pace of play is much better when you animate weapons off the ground instead of trying to generate all weapons yourself with Bladefall.

Easiest: click my profile >>> "Item Filters" >>> "Follow" to use my pre-made filters.

To Adjust Filters, load these (links to filterblade.xyz):
- Leveling Version (should be good up until red maps)
- Very Lategame Version (will filter out lots of stuff you might still want to see early on)

After you load the filter you should be able to see what I've changed and make your own adjustments.

DIY: To make your own custom filter which includes weapons to animate, follow these steps.

1. Go to http://filterblade.xyz/.

2. On the first page, select the Strictness of filter that you want (for example, in late game, Very Strict).

3. Under the “Customize” tab, scroll down to Miscellaneous >>> Optional Filter Modules >>> Animate Weapon Mode.

4. Pick the correct options (Normal, Spirit Guards if you use that jewel, Cloak of Tawm’r Isley if you use that item) and click Show.

Make any other changes you want to customize your loot filter, then download, put it in the correct folder and load it in Path of Exile, or sync it to your profile.

Passive Tree

Import to Path of Building:
3.11: https://pastebin.com/3azrHj7K (Level 94, 10M Single Target Sirus DPS) - uses Glancing Blows which was nerfed in 3.12 and is no longer recommended.
3.10: https://pastebin.com/nFapt1EN (Level 93, no Glancing Blows setup)

For which order to fill out the tree, see the leveling section. Cluster jewels and Abyssal jewels are very important for DPS, see those sections and prioritize trading/crafting good ones.
Final Passive Tree: Level 93


About Path of Building

The program was created by Openarl, and can be downloaded here:
https://github.com/Openarl/PathOfBuilding/releases

You will also need the community-maintained fork version, which adds several useful features and more regular updates. Once PoB is installed, follow the instructions here:
https://github.com/LocalIdentity/PathOfBuilding/wiki/Installing-this-Fork

After you update Path of Building to the newest version, follow these steps to load a build:
- Click "New" (top middle) for a new build
- "Import/Export build" at top left
- "Import from Pastebin", paste the URL given above, and click "Import".
Done!
How to Calculate Your Animated Weapon DPS in POB

1. In the "Items" tab, go to the top for Item Set, click "Manage"

2. Click "New", name the new item set something (like "shank") and then set that as your active equipment set.

3. Still in the Items tab, go to the right side and click "Create custom..."

4. In the dropdown, select "Normal", and then type
Glass Shank
Adds "x" to "y" physical damage


5. To know what to enter for x and y, navigate to the Skills tab, highlight your Animate Weapon skill. You'll see a line which reads
Animated Lingering Blades deal x to y Added Attack Physical Damage
and enter those figures for your custom Glass Shank.

6. Change your active equipment set back to Default, for the gear you're actually using.

7. On the left side of the screen where you see Main Skill, there is a dropdown which may read Default Item Set. Instead select "shank" (or whatever you named your custom item set with the custom Glass Shank in it)

Done! You should now see an accurate estimate of your minion's DPS. Make sure all the other configs are right then come brag here about how much damage you do.

Explanation of Configuration settings

- Enemy hit by lightning damage (added by some piece of gear or Storm Brand) for Elemental Equilibrium. (Irrelevant whether Fire or Lightning)
- Minions have power/frenzy charges from Raised Spectres on Silverbacks/Chieftains in A6 Riverways
- Enemies have -10 cold resistance from Elemental Army
(Any buffs from Animate Guardian equipment not included.)


Ascendancy Choices


Recommended Order:
1. Mindless Aggression - boosts minion damage and movement speed to kill stuff faster.

2. Mistress of Sacrifice - increases Animate Weapon duration and lets us benefit from Flesh Offering. Can take this first if DPS is sufficient and want the QOL improvement sooner.

3. Bone Barrier - increases minion HP and gives some physical damage reduction. Put "Bone Armor" skill on left-click and it will automatically activate the buff while moving!

4. Unnatural Strength - +2 Minion Gem levels from Eternal Lab so our minions HP and damage continues scaling nicely into the endgame.

Optional: if gear is extremely bad, take Commander of Darkness as #3 (before killing A10 Kitava) for extra resistances and damage. This can be re-spec'd out of later as it's not really necessary with optimal gear, but can be helpful when league starting or in SSF.

Alternately, in the very late game with optimal gear (Animate Weapon Level 25+) the extra HP from Bone Barrier may not be necessary, and again can spec into Commander of Darkness for damage.

Why Necromancer?

The main reason to play Necro is the Mistress of Sacrifice node:

- 30% Increased Skill Effect Duration; 30% Increased Minion Duration
- Your Offerings also Affect You, with 25% Reduced Effect on You

Increased duration is not available on any other ascendancy, and reduces the amount of times recasting minions, improving QOL and clear speed.

Alternately, if defense is the priority, Spirit Offering and Bone Offering are large boosts to Chaos Resist and Block Chance, respectively. It's an incredible amount of flexibility for very little investment.

Guardian will have slightly less DPS and require more investment into Minion Life than Necro given the same gear. It's a viable alternative, though and comes with slightly more move speed for minions. (Templar does not get a lot of key gems right away - wouldn't recommend league starting with it).

Scion is also viable, but it will have considerably lower damage. The main reason to choose Scion would be for the Pathfinder flask nodes for some specialized, alternate build (beyond the scope of this guide).

Bandits & Pantheon

Kill all the Bandits for skill points.

When fully upgraded the Soul of Lunaris lets us avoid chained projectiles, which are otherwise very dangerous to a summoner. Lunaris also has some helpful damage reductions which we otherwise are weak on, making this the favored choice.

As a minor god, I'd suggest Gruthkul (more phys reduction) or Shakari (poison defense if you lack Chaos Resistance). Optional: switch to Ryslatha for going through Labyrinth.

Cluster Jewels

How cluster jewels work: These special jewels may only be socketed in jewel nodes on the outer edge of the passive tree, and will have varying numbers of small passives, notables, and implicits within them.

Try to get a cluster jewel with the minimum number of passives on it to save on points - for large, the minimum will be 8 passives. On a medium, 4 or 5 are equally efficient.

With a large cluster jewel that has 8 passives, you can spend 7 points for 3 excellent notables plus two jewel sockets to either place medium cluster jewels into, or a regular jewel.

Large Cluster Notables (small passives: minions have increased damage):
  • Renewal: Minions Regenerate 1% of Life per second; Minions have 10% chance to deal Double Damage while they are on Full Life.
    Great DPS boost - high priority.
  • Vicious Bite: Minions have 50% increased Critical Strike Chance and +20% to Critical Strike Multiplier.
    Blades have good base crit making this very strong - but it's rare/expensive
  • Call to the Slaughter: Minions deal 15% increased Damage; Minions created Recently have 10% increased Attack and Cast Speed, and 30% increased Movement Speed.
    Better for SRS than this build, but decent.
  • Feasting Fiends: Minions have 10% increased maximum Life; Minions deal 10% increased Damage; Minions Leech 0.4% of Damage as Life.
    Allows you to drop minion life leech nodes from the passive tree
  • Primordial Bond: 10% increased Damage per Summoned Golem; 40% increased Effect of Buffs granted by your Golems; Golems have 25% increased Maximum Life
    Increased Carrion Golem buff helps damage.


Medium Cluster Notables (small passives: minions have increased life):
  • Feasting Fiends. (See above)
  • Renewal. (See above)
  • Life from Death: Minions have 15% increased maximum Life; Regenerate 2% of Life per second if a Minion has Died Recently; Minions Recover 4% of Life on Minion Death.
    Keeps animated weapons alive, as minion duration expiring counts as "dying recently"!
  • Dread March: Minions have- 10% increased maximum Life, 10% increased Movement Speed, 10% additional Physical Damage Reduction and +10% to Chaos Resistance.
    Excellent for minion survivability.
  • Blessed Rebirth: Minions have 20% increased maximum Life; Minions created Recently cannot be Damaged.
    Good against bosses with large AOE hits that stall our momentum


Medium Cluster Notables (small passives: increased non-curse aura effect):
  • Vengeful Commander: Hatred/Anger/Wrath have 20% increased Aura Effect.
    Pretty good for DPS!
  • First Among Equals or Replenishing Presence
    Not as strong but decent.


Small Cluster Jewels sockets are often best used to place regular or Abyssal jewels into. Note that radius effects are disabled within cluster jewels, making these slots ideal for placing Fortress Covenant and Quickening Covenant. If you use these unique jewels, they must go into the Cluster sockets.

Leveling Guide

From a fresh character in a new league up to the end game.

Important playstyle tip: don't try to summon all your weapons at the start of a zone. Instead, summon a few, and then animate the weapons that drop from mobs. You will easily stay at maximum weapons and never have to stop and resummon until you leave the zone.

Acts 1 to 2

Item goals:
  • several 3-linked items with G B B colors.
  • 2x one-handed weapons with 3 sockets each (used in off-hand weapon swap to level gems)
  • any rarity of Bone Spirit Shield, to be used for a vendor recipe.
  • Boots with Movement Speed (check vendors)
  • Jade Amulet for Dex requirements.
  • Sell unidentified magic items for Transmute shards (needed to buy skill gems).


Act 1. After Hillock, take Raise Zombie. Purchase Ethereal Knives.

In Submerged Passage, take Frostblink and purchase Animate Weapon. You can now use Ethereal Knives to fuel your weapon summonings!

After Tidal Island, take Quicksilver Flask and Summon Phantasm Support, link to Ethereal Knives. Can buy Spell Cascade (won't need this right away).

After Brutus, take Flame Dash, replace Frostblink. Buy Minion Damage, Added Lightning and optionally: Clarity aura.

Before Merveil, get Flesh Offering and buy Melee Splash to either level up or use.

Links:
Animate Weapon - Minion Damage - Added Lightning
Ethereal Knives - Phantasms - (Arcane Surge)
Link in Melee Splash when damage feels good enough, to clear faster.

Act 2. Intruders in Black: take Desecrate.

The Weaver: take Faster Casting, buy Melee Physical Damage.
Passive Tree: End of Act 2


As Dexterity is an issue, pathing into the Precision passive node by Templar can make leveling much smoother with added move speed and cast rate (re-spec out of this later).

Acts 3 to 5

Item goals:
  • get a 4-linked helmet with 1 green socket, 1-2 blue and 1-2 red (check vendors).
  • Recipe: magic helmet + Orb of Alteration + Life Flask of Animation = +1 Minion Gems.
    (Bone Spirit Shield + Life Flask + Orb of Transmutation = Flask of Animation)


Act 3.

Tolman: take Convocation. Buy the Hatred aura and Frostbite curse from Clarissa.

Ribbon Spool: take a Jade Amulet to help with dexterity requirements.

Gravicius: take Raise Spectre, purchase Bladefall. Link Bladefall to Spell Cascade and Faster Casting. Keep Bladefall at level 1 to keep mana cost and req's down.

Fixture of Fate: take Feeding Frenzy (optional).

Act 4. Pick Summon Carrion Golem after opening the mines and start using it. After Kaom and Daresso, you can take Multistrike.

Gem links will depend on items found so far, but the goal is to have:
- Animate Weapon in a 4-link with +1 minion gem levels. Supports can include Minion Damage, Melee Phys, Multistrike, even Added Lightning or Added Cold (depending on colors in your gear). Add Melee Splash for faster clearing when DPS is high enough;
- Bladefall - Faster Casting - Spell Cascade;
- Carrion Golem - Feeding Frenzy;
- Auras: Hatred and Clarity;
- Flesh Offering, Desecrate and Convocation un-linked.

Do first Labyrinth before entering Act 5.
Passive Tree: End of Act 5


Use the 6 re-spec points from quests in order to change the pathing out of Witch.

Acts 6 to 10

Item Goals: Capped (75%) resistances.

Act 6. After clearing Twilight Strand for Lilly, purchase some gems to level or use: Summon Skitterbots, Animate Guardian, Generosity, Elemental Army, Elemental Damage with Attacks, Multistrike, Hypothermia and any others you might have skipped earlier.

If playing in hardcore, set up Cast When Damage Taken - Steelskin links here.

Go back to A1 and buy as many copies of Animate Weapon as you can fit in off-hand weapon slots, and begin leveling them.

Acts 7 to 8. Item Goals: acquire defensive utility flasks.

Silver Locket: take the Basalt or Granite Flask, whichever you have not yet found.

Wings of Vastri: take Conqueror's Efficiency as reward, consider socketing it if you have mana issues.

Act 9. As soon as a Divine Life Flask drops, upgrade its quality to 20% and roll a Bubbling/Seething prefix onto it with Alteration Orbs, then use Einhar's Menagerie to craft "...of Staunching" onto it. You can use that flask for the whole game!

Act 10. Safe Passage quest reward: take Quartz Flask (very useful for Delve).

Complete Cruel and Merciless Labyrinth at some point before entering maps.
Passive Tree: Entering Maps



Common Issues in Early Maps

Going into maps you'll be about Level 66-70. You won't have the "trigger socketed spells..." craft unlocked from Jun yet, and your resistances might be bad. However, what you should have is a 4-link helmet with +1 minion gems and some decent flasks.

Your gems should be:
Bladefall - (Optional: Faster Casting or Spell Cascade).

Main damage links:
Animate Weapon - Minion Damage - Multistrike - Added Cold. Start using Elemental Damage with Attacks when you get Triad Grip. Switch Melee Splash instead of Multistrike for general map clear.

These are boosted by: Carrion Golem - Feeding Frenzy;
Hatred - Generosity and Skitterbots;
Flesh Offering for clear speed, and a curse for bosses. Other gems will be used eventually but that's all you really need.

"I Just got to Maps and my Gear is Awful!"

Relax, this is why we play a summoner! The only "required" unique is Triad Grip and while these gloves do boost DPS, it should be possible to progress before finding or trading for them (and they are dirt cheap...) In fact, having a full elemental conversion probably doesn't even matter until late yellow/early red maps where monsters have high armor ratings.

"My Resistances are Bad!"

Use the Crafting Bench to add resists to your gear. Even with early crafts you should be able to get them to decent levels. You can also spec into parts of the passive tree which add resists, and re-allocate those points later.

"I run Out of Mana all the time!"

Take the nodes near Templar which give extra mana and reduced mana cost, and re-allocate them later. You may not be able to run Skitterbots right away until leveling up more, and can use Clarity aura instead.

Dream Fragments is a useful ring that can fix mana problems in a pinch.

"My Minions die a Lot!"

Early on you can trade for a Skullhead helmet and it will keep both you and your minions alive.

Minion leech on the tree or a jewel is the best way to sustain their HP. Taking more minion life and defense nodes, such as Indomitable Army, will help. Animated Weapons gain a significant amount of HP with more gem levels so in the very late game you can re-spec out of some minion life nodes.

"Animate Weapon AI is crap!"

Yeah kinda. The main problem is they're slow. A 20% quality gem helps. You can link Feeding Frenzy or Minion Speed to get more movement speed at expense of lower DPS. Heavily prioritize getting minion speed on gear (crafted on rings with open suffix) as this makes Weapons much more aggressive.

Item Progression Goals

There are several item milestones to seek out as you progress deeper into the Atlas. In order of priority, those are:

- Capped (75%) elemental resistances.

- 5-linked body armor. Easiest method is to trade for a Jeweler's Touch prophecy, which typically go for ~20-25c at the start of a league. If playing SSF, you can farm Flora's Gift cards as a temporary measure, and use a staff temporarily. Save your Jewelers and Fuses!

- Triad Grip Gloves, socket color irrelevant. Can start using Elemental Damage with Attacks support efficiently after equpping these.

- Positive (>0%) Chaos resistance, better when possible.

- A few decent Abyssal Jewels to improve your maximum life and minion damage (see that section in Gear).

- Color Triad Grip gloves with 4 Green sockets. (Video) You'll need to enter Delve and go down very slightly to get the socketing recipe, and have saved up a few hundred Jeweler's Orbs from vendoring 6-socket items. At this point, link Bonechill to Skitterbots if you haven't already.

- method to trigger Elemental Equilibrium (see Gear section below for options) and only then, take the EE node.

- Anoint Ravenous Horde (or other good notable) onto amulet with blight oils.

- Unlock Jun's "Trigger Socketed Spells..." craft, and acquire a Wand good enough to be worth applying this onto.

- Trade for 6-linked body armor (if SSF, suggested to farm for cards to get this. I recommend against attempting to link it yourself at this stage).

- Get Level 21 Animate Weapon gem, either through trade or by using a Vaal Orb on a Level 20 gem you have leveled up (this can take a few tries...)

- Acquire some method to curse enemies with Elemental Weakness. Most accessible is with corrupted gloves on Animate Guardian. Get enough other decent gear for the Guardian so it won't die (see that section in Advanced).

- Other more expensive upgrades such as a good amulet and rings, specialized cluster or timeless jewel setups, top-tier Abyssals, Level 21/20 quality gems, Awakened Supports, etc etc to fully maximize the build!

*** Final Gem Links ***

We're using Hatred to double-dip off added physical damage from Jewels or other gear, and Summon Skitterbots linked to Bonechill provides an additional "more" damage multiplier to cold. Supports which give us more melee physical, more cold, or more minion damage will all be effective.

Here are the gem links used to take advantage of that in the endgame.

Cold Conversion - Animate Weapon Supports (5L/6L)

Core Damage Supports:
- Minion Damage
- Elemental Damage with Attacks - must have Triad Grip Gloves on first
- Added Cold or Melee Physical Damage
- Clear speed: Melee Splash
- Bossing: Multistrike (switch this in for Melee Splash)

And choose one of these:
- Elemental Focus - great damage but can't freeze/shatter corpses
- Hypothermia - recommended to use for defensive boost of freeze.

(If you have a lot of flat added damage from jewels, Melee Physical is stronger than Added Cold, but before a lot of good jewels are acquired, Added Cold is better). Check in PoB to see.

Optional:
Unleash - when DPS is high enough already or going through area with a lot of re-summoning (Delve, Labyrinth) this is great QOL.

Use Awakened supports when you have access to them.

Cold Conversion - Utility Skills

Gloves: Bladefall, Dash - Second Wind, Portal (optional).

Must fill those 4 green sockets in Triad Grip. Don't level the Dex gems all the way, keep requirements under 110 Dex to avoid gearing issues. (How to get 4 green sockets into Triad Grip).

Auras: Hatred - Generosity and Skitterbots - Bonechill (these can be in separate links or all together in a 4L, doesn't matter)

Support Minions (Helmet): Raise Spectre - Animate Guardian - Blood Magic - Elemental Army.

Elemental Army will cause our utility minions to apply Exposure to Cold on hit, and also keep them alive. For spectres we summon a Stygian Silverback plus a Carnage Chieftain from Act 6 Riverways to apply Frenzy/Power charges to our minions. (When a third spectre is available, use the Arena Master that spawns from Drox portals). Blood Magic causes spectres to cast their buffs more regularly. Get "+2 Minion Gems" on Helmet so these guys stay alive better (see Gear section).

Weapon: Desecrate, Flesh Offering, Storm Brand (optional).

(Weapon has crafted "Trigger Socketed Spells when using a Skill"). This will automatically cast the Flesh Offering buff as you use other skills. Storm Brand is present to trigger Elemental Equilibrium - this is not necessary if you have added fire/lightning added to Bladefall spell damage, as you can cast that instead.

Shield: Summon Carrion Golem - Feeding Frenzy and Convocation.

The Golem's job is to apply the Feeding Frenzy buff by hitting enemies. Flesh Offering should be active all the time. Convocation helps clear speed by gathering minions to you and focusing their damage on closer targets.

Defense: Bone Barrier skill from Ascendancy. Put this on left-click to move and automatically activate as you go.

As you see, there are two "optional" gem slots which you can adjust around and use as you see fit - but this is my recommended setup for smoothest play. You could sub in Vaal Haste, Smoke Mine, Enduring Cry, Tempest Shield, or various other choices as you see fit.

To fully min-max damage we could also try to apply Frost Bomb exposure (-25 Resistance) rather than exposure from Elemental Army (-10 Resistance). However, this also requires pathing to Avatar of Fire to not mess up EE, costing several extra passive points.




...Continues...
Last edited by ThanatoZGaming on Sep 22, 2020, 1:40:31 PM
Last bumped on Sep 23, 2020, 1:06:32 AM
Choosing Gear

As a general rule when picking between rares, Armor is the best defensive stat as it’s the only one scaled by the passive tree. Energy Shield is mildly useful, and Evasion is worthless.

All rare items should have at least +50 Maximum Life, or hopefully better (80+), in order to be considered really good.

We must find approximately +70 Dexterity from gear to reach gem requirements. Best sources for Dexterity are Rings, Amulet, Boots, or Jewels.

One item must have "#-# added fire or added lightning damage to spells" in order to trigger Elemental Equilibrium using Bladefall.

How to Activate Elemental Equilibrium

Perhaps the most common area of questions about the build, this section gives an exhaustive explanation of how the keystone works.

Elemental Equilibrium (EE): Enemies you hit with Elemental Damage temporarily get +25% Resistance to those Elements and -50% Resistance to other Elements.

Note: Do not worry about getting EE early on - damage should be sufficient without it at least until late yellow/early red maps. I would personally not recommend taking the keystone until character level 80-85.

Mechanics: Minions cannot trigger EE themselves as it only works from YOUR hits. If an enemy is hit with fire damage, lightning damage, or both (it does not matter which non-cold element, and they do not stack), that enemy will get -50% cold resistance. Against bosses and with all minion damage converted to cold, this will nearly double DPS!

How to Trigger EE: get some added fire/lightning damage to spells, and then cast Bladefall to hit the boss. The amount of fire or lightning damage dealt doesn't matter. You can tell EE is working from the blue/red/purple circle which appears underneath affected enemies.

Where to get Added Fire or Added Lightning Damage to Spells:
  • Wand: "Adds # to # Fire/Lightning Damage to Spells"
  • Shaper-influenced Ring: "Adds # to # Lightning Damage to Spells and Attacks"
  • Elder-influenced Ring: "Adds # to # Fire Damage to Spells and Attacks"
  • Ring with Betrayal unlocked, crafted prefix "Adds # to # Fire Damage and # to # Lightning Damage"
  • Hypnotic Eye Jewel: Adds # to # Fire/Lightning Damage to Spells
  • Boots with Labyrinth Enchantment "Adds # to # Lightning Damage if you haven't Killed Recently."

A Common Area of Confusion is the difference between local and global added damage. If you have a wand that says "adds # to # Fire Damage" that is local to attacks with the weapon, and does not affect your Bladefall. On the other hand, a ring that says "Adds # to # Fire Damage" will add that globally to both spells and attacks (unless it explicitly says "...to Attacks" or "...to Spells").

Key thing to remember is that if the added elemental damage is on a weapon, it must explicitly say "added to spells" or else it just adds to the weapon's damage, and nothing else.

Alternately, use Storm Brand to hit enemies with a lightning spell directly. This just takes an extra gem socket.


Still confused? You can easily check in-game whether your Bladefall will correctly trigger EE.

How to see if EE will be working: hover over the Bladefall icon in the in-game skill bar.


As for what to look at in specific item slots, read on!
Gloves: Triad Grip


Build-defining item here! Triad Grip to convert minion damage to elemental. It's a frequent drop and can be found easily even in SSF.

90 second guide: how to get 4 green sockets into Triad Grip.

Late-game: gloves corrupted to apply a curse or give +% increased Maximum Life.

Body Armor

A Tabula Rasa can go far, but I personally prefer to use a 5-link with actual stats instead.

Keep in mind that we want at least 3 Red and 1 Green sockets in our eventual chest armor, so picking a base without any Armor on it may make getting the desired colors costly. Easiest will be a Strength/Intelligence or Strength/Dexterity chest armor.

Defense: Bloodbond will help in keeping both you and your minions alive with extra HP. Belly of the Beast serves the same role and is top-tier for Hardcore.

Convenience: Cloak of Tawm'r Isley. Built-in life leech support makes your minions survive a bit better, and blind improves defenses immensely. Having magic items drop identified is designed for this build, and gives you a higher quality of minion if you are bothering to click on dropped weapons. Downside is this item is a very rare drop so it’s expensive.

Mana Issues: The Covenant is a solid option, allowing you to cast using life instead of mana, as well as a built-in Added Chaos Damage support. Not a high demand item so it can be very cheap, but getting Red sockets will be painful.

Early DPS: Skin of the Loyal. Can be found early in a league if lucky with socket colors.

Clear Speed: Saqawal's Nest. Aspect of the Avian is powerful buff to damage and move speed. May require you to shift around your auras/passive tree a bit to accommodate. Look for a good roll on “reduced mana reserved” on this item if you get it. Defensively weak.

Maximum DPS: Skin of the Loyal double corrupted for additional gem levels. These are most commonly obtained from The Price of Loyalty divination cards, however getting it in the appropriate socket colors and with good corruptions will be expensive.

Extra Auras: Victario's Influence will allow you to run additional auras and might get the theoretical highest possible DPS on the skill. Tradeoff is you must socket main skill into a 6L weapon instead of using wand/shield. Not covering that method in this guide but it is an option.

Helmet

Unique Helmets:
  • Skullhead is cheap and has nice defensive boosts. Annoying to get blue sockets in it but can serve through the early game.
  • Hale Negator offers an abyssal jewel slot, which can improve DPS, and also has significant life/ES recovery when you take a big hit. If you are going deep on Abyssal Jewels this can be a viable defensive choice.
  • The Devouring Diadem opens up the option to use an extra aura, and then take Mind Over Matter for defenses. This changes up the build significantly but is definitely viable. Results in a higher DPS/lower survivability character so look to offset that in other areas if you use this item.

The best-in-slot is likely a rare, Elder-influenced Bone Helmet with minion damage, minion life, added gem levels, etc. in addition to life and resistances. This will be expensive.

Helmet Crafting

You can obtain an elder-influenced Bone Helmet with the Nook's Crown card (ilvl 100, only from Catarina in Mastermind’s Lair) or the Dark Dreams divination card from exile Minara Anemina. These can be gotten through trade or Stacked Deck cards, likely not realistic to drop them for SSF.

Crafting your Bone Helmet:

Option 1) Slam with Essence of Fear (+% minion life) and hope for something else that’s good.

Option 2) Fossil crafting. Use some combination of Bound Fossil (minion mods) and Pristine Fossils (life mods).

Faceted Fossil can increase the chance for level of socketed minion gems, but that fossil is rare and expensive relative to the added power it actually gives – probably not worth it.

Visit https://poedb.tw/us/mod.php to see what fossils influence the mods you can get.

Helmet Enchants:
  • 24% chance to create an additional Animate Weapon copy (Highly recommended for QOL)
  • 30% increased Animate Weapon Duration.
  • Flesh Offering grants 21% increased Attack Speed.
  • 150% increased Effect of the Buff granted by your Carrion Golems.
  • Increased Animate Weapon damage.
  • Dash has +2 Cooldown Uses
  • Reduced mana reservation on Hatred or Skitterbots.


Weapon

Weapon: best possible will be a rare Convoking Wand. Desirable stats for DPS:
  • Minions Deal #% Increased Damage (prefix)
  • Minions Deal #% Increased Damage and have % chance to deal double damage (Incursion)
  • Increased Minion Attack Speed (suffix)
  • +1 to Level of all Physical Skill Gems (prefix)
  • +1 to Level of all Spell Skill Gems (prefix)
  • Increased Minion Duration (Incursion suffix)

The wand should have an open suffix to craft “trigger socketed spells when you use a skill.”

How to Craft a Great Wand

Depending on what stage your character is in, there's a variety of ways you can craft your own excellent wand.

Starting point: a Convoking Wand, preferably of Ilvl 82 or higher.

Essence (Cheap) Method: Essence of Fear can give up to "Minions deal (63–69)% increased Damage", depending on tier of the Essence, with the rest of affixes randomly generated. Hope for something else that's good!

Trade and Craft Method: often wands or scepters with +1 to Physical Skill Gems and #% Increased Minion Damage/Chance for Double Damage (from Incursion) will be priced very low, because not many builds want those stats. You can trade for one cheap, Orb of Annulment if needed to hopefully get an open suffix, and create a serviceable item.

Multi-Mod: with two open suffixes and one open prefix, you can craft "this item can have up to 3 crafted modifiers" and then add two other mods, such as minion damage or movement speed. This costs at minimum two Exalts and is therefore often more expensive than just trading for a decent item.

Fossil Craft. To get a wand with +2 to gem levels, use the following fossil/resonator combos:
  • 4: Corroded + Faceted + Lucent + Shuddering
  • 4: Aetheric + Corroded + Lucent + Shuddering
  • 3: Aetheric + Corroded + Shuddering
  • 3: Aetheric + Corroded + Jagged
  • 2: Aetheric + Corroded

Fossil Crafting improves the odds significantly by limiting the mods you roll, but can still take many tries to get what you want. Costs can easily range from 2 to 7+ exalts before a good outcome.

Visit www.craftofexile.com to experiment with different fossil combinations.

Mid-game uniques: Earendel's Embrace, Clayshaper (high strength requirement), or Severed in Sleep.

The Cold Iron Point dagger would be tempting to use, HOWEVER with it on you cannot do elemental damage to trigger EE!

Shield

Several good unique options:
  • Ahn's Heritage gives good defenses/max resists. Two Fragility jewels grants permanent Onslaught if move/cast speed matters more than DPS.
  • Lioneye's Remorse for very high life and defenses.
  • Whakatutuki o Matua improves DPS by buffing auras. Weak defensively due to no added life.
  • Victario's Charity can be used to generate frenzy charges for minions. Typically spectres would be used for charges but this is a backup option.


Optionally, in the late game you can take Glancing Blows keystone and get a shield which has Recover #% of life on Block, or use The Surrender. Combined with Bone Offering (instead of Flesh Offering) this is a way to improve defenses late game if they ever feel lacking.

Boots

Look for a good rare with movement speed, life, and resistances - in that order. Increased Cooldown Recovery Speed is moderately useful if you can get it (Shaper/Crusader influence). Cannot be Frozen or Cannot be Chilled are very nice depending on your budget.

Unique Boots:
- Rainbowstride gives additional spell block chance, which is great with Glancing Blows. Lacks a life roll, however.
- The Stampede is viable to get an extra anoint and more DPS or life.
- Saqawal's Talons might be chosen if using Aspect of the Avian, and have not found it on a jewelry item.

The Labyrinth enchant "Adds # to # Lightning Damage if you haven't Killed Recently" is a good way to proc Elemental Equilibrium. Life and mana regeneration are other useful enchants to have, or "movement speed if haven't been hit."

Jewelry – Ring, Amulet, Belt

Attributes to look for on Jewelry items:
  • Maximum life
  • Resistances (elemental and chaos)
  • Dexterity
  • Reduced mana cost of skills, Maximum Mana, and Mana Regeneration Rate (helps sustain casting spells).
  • Rings and Amulet: open suffix to craft "minions have increased movement speed"

Belt: a rare Abyssal Vise with life and resistances. You can use a Bound Fossil or an Essence to get a belt with “+% minion life”.

Mother's Embrace is a potential build-around item having minions use flasks, but this character is not really optimized for it. Leash of Oblation allows offerings of all types, another neat build-around, but finding enough sockets to put all those Offerings in will be tough.

String of Servitude is available double-corrupted. Added Effect of Hatred Aura has potential to be highest DPS option on belt.

Rings: the best possible ring will have “Minions deal #% increased damage” (Redeemer influenced) and “Minions have #% increased movement speed” added by the crafting bench, plus life and resists.

“Curse enemies with… on hit” can roll on an influenced ring, to save having to apply a curse some other way.

Amulet: Ultimate goal is to get a rare influenced amulet with +level to Dexterity Gems, +Level to Physical Gems, and a suffix to craft on “Minions have #% increased movement speed.”

Amulets also are a great spot to get some needed dexterity for gem requirements.

Low Budget Amulets:
The Jinxed Juju will cause spectres to take some of the damage for us, which is good defensively if they have sufficient HP. Aura effectiveness also helps DPS.
Sidhebreath for DPS. For cheap and purely defensive, consider Bloodgrip (prevents bleed), or Winterheart (prevents chill).

Amulet Anoints:
  • Ravenous Horde is best DPS and clear speed. (Verdant - Opalescent - Opalescent).
  • Grave Intentions is cheap and good for minion survival (Sepia - Violet - Violet).
  • Death Attunement for an additional Spectre. (Clear - Crimson - Silver).
  • More defensive: Crystal Skin for resists and ailment avoidance (Sepia - Black - Silver).


*** Jewels ***

The passive tree puts high priority on jewel sockets because a ton of our final DPS comes from well-rolled jewels. If playing in SSF, dedicate some effort toward crafting them.

Ghastly Eye Abyssal Jewels are the best rare jewels for bonuses to life and damage, so this section is a bit long.

Desirable prefixes:
  • +# Maximum Life
  • Minions deal (15–17) to (22–26) additional Physical Damage
  • Minions deal # to # additional Cold Damage (Much weaker than added Phys)

Desirable suffixes:
  • Minions deal 15-20% increased Damage if you've used a Minion Skill Recently
  • Minions have #% increased Attack Speed / Cast Speed
  • Minions have (6–8)% increased Attack and Cast Speed if you or your Minions have Killed Recently (weaker)
  • # to Dexterity or All Attributes (if needed for gear stats)
  • Minions have (6–8)% chance to Taunt on Hit with Attacks (On at least one jewel).
  • Minions have (5–6)% chance to Blind on Hit with Attacks (On at least one jewel).

Getting the most damage from jewels:
Whether the "% increased" minion damage or flat "additional damage" is best for DPS will depend on the aggregate of other gear stats so there's no one size fits all rule.

Added Physical is much better than added Cold because Hatred will double-dip from it. Other added elements (fire/lightning) are almost worthless.

Before trading for a jewel, I suggest copying its stats and pasting them into Path of Building using "create custom..." item to pre-test them in your build. Very similar-looking jewels can be very different for your DPS, and the magnitude or "tier" of mods make a huge difference!

Cobalt Jewels are on average worse than abyssals, with far fewer good attributes. Desirable stats:
  • % Increased Maximum Life
  • Minions deal #% increased Damage
  • Minions have % increased life, resistances, or accuracy rating (not very useful)
  • Mana Regeneration Rate, Reduced Mana cost of Skills (if mana sustain is an issue)
  • Minion attack speed (if crafted with a Bound Fossil).

Unique Jewels: Fortress Covenant is a large damage and survivability boost for minions. Place it in socket southwest of the Scion life wheel, or in a Cluster jewel-created socket. Quickening Covenant is also okay, but not quite as good.

Spirit Guards allows animating ranged weapons, but the only convenient spot to put it is south of the Scion starting location near the resistance nodes.

Anatomical Knowledge can be placed between the Witch and Templar areas for a nice life boost, or Careful Planning in that same spot if starved for Dexterity on gear.

Watcher's Eye: most mods will only boost the player and not minions so there are practically no benefits to be gained here.

Corrupted Jewels from using a Vaal Orb can give:
  • Corrupted Blood Cannot be Inflicted (highly desirable and expensive)
  • Cannot be Cursed with Silence (not essential but convenient)
  • 1% Reduced mana reserved
  • Minions deal (4–5)% increased Damage

Unique jewels are best place to get these corruptions. I’d recommend against corrupting good rare jewels, as it's more likely to ruin an item than be a win.

Flasks

This build has room for a lot of defensive flasks because they're not needed for extra damage.

You should always have:
- Seething/Bubbling Divine Life Flask of Staunching (bleed removal)
- (Some prefix) Quicksilver Flask of Adrenaline or Warding (move speed or curse removal).

Along with 2-3 defensive utility flasks:
- Stibnite Flask (blinds nearby enemies- good before having "blind on hit" jewel for minions)
- Granite Flask of Iron Skin and/or Basalt Flask (armor and physical damage reduction)
- Quartz Flask (dodge and phasing - good to avoid being cornered by mobs and prevent desync, especially in Delve).

On defensive utility flasks, I personally always like to have at least the following suffixes available:
- Curse Immunity (Warding)
- Freeze and Chill Immunity (Heat)
And depending on the zone or boss, switch in immunity to Poison, Shock, or Ignite. Also, have an Enduring Eternal Mana Flask available for no regen maps.
Short Guide to Crafting Flasks

First step before crafting, for all flasks: increase quality to 20% with Glassblowers Baubles if they are available. Increased duration means less button pressing means less carpal tunnel!

I would personally not bother with crafting a flask unless it has quality first, as the difference between spending 4 Glassblowers (normal flask) vs. 10 (magic flask) to upgrade is huge. If you need a particular type of flask and only have Magic versions of it, I recommend scouring and qualitying it before crafting.

Life Flask: spam Alteration Orbs until hitting Seething/Bubbling Prefix and no suffix, and then beast-craft on "of Staunching." (Go to Einhar's Menagerie, and select the option Add Suffix to a Flask in the arena).

Utility Flask: beast-craft on the desired suffix (immunity to "X") first, and then use an Orb of Augmentation to add a random prefix.

Nearly all prefixes are good for utility flasks except for Surgeon's (we don't crit much, so no benefit) and Alchemist's (reduced duration). Flagellant's and Avenger's are also relatively weak as we prefer not to get hit so ideally they won't be triggering. The most desired rolls for utility are Increased Duration, Reduced Charges Used, or More Charge Recovery.

Only a few Unique Flasks are worth considering. Rumi's Concoction is excellent defensively. Blood of the Karui becomes good if you have over 6000+ HP, as instant flasks alone start to have little impact. Lastly, Bottled Faith is the only flask good for DPS, but it's expensive!

Niche uses to explore: Doedre's Elixir to trigger CWDT setups. Forbidden Taste in gear that manipulates how chaos damage is taken. With no armor or overcapped cold resistance, Taste of Hate can be a slightly better Basalt Flask.

Advanced Topics

Automated Casting Mechanics

There are lots of ways to trigger spells using specialized gear or gem setups in order to make gameplay smoother. Early on in looking at the skill, everyone wanted to automate it as much as possible. After playing the skill with no automation, I personally found it works fine. However, to reduce the amount of buttons to press, there are a few ways.

After looking at all the options I think two stand out as the best.

Be aware that if you trigger Bladefall, only half as many lingering blades are created compared to casting it yourself!

1. Craft on a Weapon

Unveil weapons with Jun to unlock a craft, “cast triggered spells whenever you use a skill”, and then apply that to a wand (this requires an open suffix mod). Then socket whichever spells you wish to automate such as Flesh Offering and a golem, and it will cycle through casting all of them.

This triggered effect has a cooldown of 4 seconds, and has minimal cost in terms of gearing and gem slots.

Or,
2. Craft on a Helmet

Also from Jun, craft "Trigger socketed spells when you Focus" onto a helmet. "Focus" requires a hotkey, can be activated instantly, and has an 8 second cooldown.

The advantage of Focus-Helmet method compared to Weapon-Trigger is you can socket an additional gem, allowing you to trigger more spells at once (for example, Desecrate - Flesh Offering - Bladefall - Spell Cascade Support).

The downside of Focus is the longer cooldown, requirement to use it on a hotkey, and that we would rather have minions socketed into the helmet (rather than spells) to potentially benefit from added gem levels or other minion supports we could get from an Elder Influenced Helmet.

This method is probably only preferred if you are using only unique weapons, or for some other reason can't craft anything onto a weapon.

In the interest of completeness, here are the other methods I researched for automating various skills. To avoid confusion: none of these later methods are recommended!
Other Automation Methods

Other Ways to Automate Bladefall

1) Kitava’s Thirst Helmet with Bladefall (and any other desired spells) socketed into it, and get your cost of Animate Weapon to over 100 mana. You would probably only choose this option if it were not possible to craft onto your weapon, as it requires giving up your helmet slot for a distinctly inferior piece of gear.

2) Cast When Damage Taken loops. Bladefall can be at level 1 without impacting its effectiveness in generating knives. There are several ways you could damage yourself to trigger it (must cause 528 damage to yourself for this to work, if CWDT is level 1, and don't forget about armor), easiest being Scold’s Bridle. But, this takes up your helmet slot and precludes getting a good enchant unless you are mega-rich / lucky.

3) Some sort of Cast on Crit or Cast While Channeling setup, likely powered by Cyclone.

Other Ways to Automate Animate Weapon


Animate Weapon has a very long duration so I don't know why someone would bother with this. But if you wanted to...

1) Craft “Trigger socketed spells…” onto a 6-linked weapon, which also houses your Animate Weapon gem setup.

The main downside of this is that (a) getting a good, rare, 6-linked minion staff with an open suffix is hard, so you probably lose some DPS and defense compared to a 1-handed option and (b) there is a 4 second cooldown between triggers of your Animate Weapon gem. This will make it very slow to build your army.

You can get “Reduced Cooldown Duration” on influenced Belts and Boots and will almost certainly want that if you go this direction. The advantage of this is you can put a Curse on Hit attached to your Bladefall. (I would call this the “rich and lazy” setup.)

These next methods all involve some additional gem links being attached to your Animate Weapon and so there is a tradeoff of lower DPS for more convenience.

2) Some Channeling Skill + Cast While Channeling + Animate Weapon. This severely reduces DPS.

3) Cast When Stunned + Some self-damage mechanism + Valyrium ring + no Energy Shield on gear. Valyrium causes your stun threshold to be based on ES, so even small amounts of damage can stun you and trigger your Animate Weapon.

This costs only a single gem link, however it also requires several other pieces of sub-optimal (self-damaging gear) to work, and you’ll also want to itemize heavily for Stun Recovery – because you’re getting stunned all the time.

Full Automation Builds for Max Laziness

These methods involve very specialized gearing choices and big sacrifices in raw damage, convenience, and/or ability to do all content. I won’t claim to have tested all of them (yet).

1) Use the Cast While Channeling method above for Bladefall, and the Cast When Stunned method to trigger Animate Weapon. Cyclone will not work for this, as it prevents you from being stunned.

2) Dual-wield two Poet’s Pens; one for Bladefall, the other for Animate Weapon. This gives up a lot of damage due to highly limited gem links (only 2 damage supports) as well as any minion-boosting weapons you would use. Advantage is that you can link something like a Curse on Hit to your chosen attack skill.

3) Use one Poet’s Pen to trigger Bladefall, and have Barrage + Cast on Crit + Animate Weapon in your six-link. The downside is that it’s very difficult to gear and create a skill tree which will get a respectable number of crits to trigger with this method. However, it gives you an additional damage support compared to #2.

3a) Poet's Pen - Bladefall; Spellslinger Support in 6L with Animate Weapon. I think this is the easiest possible way to trigger both spells at once with some attack skill, which also can be linked to a Curse on Hit. Does reserve a hefty portion of mana due to all the supports, so some lost DPS from less auras.

4) Null’s Inclination bow socketed with Animate Weapon links, and Asenath’s Chant socketed with Bladefall (and any other desired gems).

The downside is that kills are required to cause Animate Weapon to trigger, so you cannot do all content (particularly: bosses in arenas without monsters leading up to it, delve, etc.) You can use Writhing Jar flasks or Vaal Breach to help, but it’s an incomplete solution.

5) Use Jorrhast's Blacksteel to trigger Animate Weapon on kill, wear Speaker’s Wreath so that your minions cannot kill, get a small source of poison, and have Scorching Ray + Cast While Channeling + Bladefall to get kills and generate weapons.

There is a guide from Woolfio for this build in 3.0, which you can use with minor modifications. See his video. Downside: cannot do all content because kills are needed to trigger Animate Weapon.

6) Play with Chains of Command. Tenpuraudon's guide here. Very fast for mapping, but loses much DPS from not having Spectres and Carrion Golem.

Applying Curses

Cursing bosses will improve damage. There are a few ways to do that.

- Self-cast a curse, manually. Effective, but requires an extra hotkey.

- Link Bladefall - Curse on Hit - Curse. Easiest solution, and gives the most powerful curse effect, but there may not be enough gem slots available to do this, depending on your final setup.

- Influenced Rings (Hunter/Warlord) can give a Level 5 or Level 8 curse on hit. Then it's applied with Bladefall.

- Gloves corrupted with a Vaal Orb can gain "Curse on Hit". These will be level 10-12 curses, so more effective than from a ring.

- Curse on Hit corrupted gloves worn by the Animate Guardian.

- Use Raise Spectre on an enemy which casts curses. Death Bishop from The Catacombs or Caverns Level 2 will cast Frostbite.

For average map clearing the curse is not really necessary, but the DPS boost against bosses is nice to have.

Animated Guardian Gear

Animate Guardian is not strictly necessary for this build, but it does give a nice bit of DPS and is definitely "on theme" for animated weapons! Its items will persist even after logging out of the game (as long as the Guardian doesn't die). Therefore, when picking gear for your Animate Guardian, there will be a balance to strike between offensive and defensive stats.

Head: Leer Cast or Redeemer-influenced helmet with “Enemies have -9% to Cold Resistance.” Nice DPS boosts.

Gloves: Southbound (extra HP), and/or gloves corrupted with curse on hit.

Boots: Victario’s Flight to make the whole team move faster, or Rainbowstride for resists. Alternately, % life regen on rare boots.

Body: Ambu’s Charge, Belly of the Beast, or Gruthkul’s Pelt in increasing levels of defensive power relative to budget. Garb of the Ephemeral can prevent you being slowed or hit by crits.

Weapon:
- 2H: Dying Breath staff (some damage, cheap), or Kingmaker for culling strike, crit multi, rarity and Fortify (very strong, expensive).
- 1H: Singularity (hinder), or Sign of the Sin Eater (takes ailments)
- Shield: The Oak (massive regen) or Victario’s Charity (frenzy charges- not necessary with Chieftain spectres).

Maximum Survivability: a chest armor with "% of Life gained as Energy Shield" with Mask of the Stitched Demon grants huge life regeneration to keep our guy alive.

Recommended to unsummon the guardian in Hall of Grandmasters, while fighting the Acid Caverns boss, or against Al-Hezmin (big chaos damage hits - we can max our Guardian's elemental resists but it will be weak to chaos).

Adjusting to Map Mods

This build can do every map mod, but there are a few which require some preparation or are just easier to re-roll.
  • Elemental Reflect. Remove the Triad Grip gloves, turn off the Hatred aura, equip Pride aura instead. Lower DPS but should be doable. Additional monster Phys Reduction with this could be very slow, however.
  • Cannot Regenerate Life/mana/ES. Have an Enduring Mana Flask ready to swap in. This mod is very annoying regardless.
  • Temporal Chains. I like to have "of Warding" on my Quicksilver Flask. Extremely annoying if map has reduced flask charges. Big brain solution: Timetwist ring.

Mods that are dangerous:
  • Monsters skills Chain (bad unless you have Lunaris pantheon fully unlocked)
  • Multiple "% extra damage as <element>", especially with -% maximum resists or extra damage/speed.
  • Bloodlines: Corrupting Blood could surprise you on hitting a pack with Bladefall.
  • Chilled Ground. I hate this mod as much as Temporal Chains. Get a Heat flask with very long duration.

Dangerous combos, but less obvious:
  • Inhabited by Goatmen + Increased Monster Speed.
  • Inhabited by Lunaris Fanatics + Extra Projectiles.
  • Cultists of Kitava + Increased Crits.
  • Rogue Exiles + Tormented Spirits.
  • Inhabited by Sea Witches + Monsters from Beyond (this can be either amazing or terrifying).

Some map bosses with extra speed or extra AOE can become extremely difficult to fight and are best skipped. Acid Caverns boss is very good at killing Animated Guardians.

This build should be more flexible than most in the mods it can do. Just slow down a bit in the dangerous ones.

Conclusion

Thank you for reading this far! There's a lot of great discussion in the comments, please join in. The comment section has gotten quite long at this point, so here are some useful placeholders of where to go.

Navigating the Comments:
- Page 13: 3.10 Patch Notes Reveal.
- Page 42: 3.10 League goes live.
- Page 156: 3.11 League!
- Some Awesome Gear: pg. 146; pg. 150 (External91); pg. 152 (VECTĒVSONFIRE, crazy DPS); pg. 166 (azureheaven333, Level 99).
- Page 168: 3.12 League.

Many thanks to all the people who have contributed comments while this build has gone through many iterations and improvements. The guide would not be where it is now without your help!
Last edited by ThanatoZGaming on Sep 15, 2020, 9:32:00 PM
Would the level of those knives skill affect the damage of animate weapons summoned from them? For example, a lvl 21 baldefall will leave maybe item level 70 knives on the ground, which would in turn increase the base dps of the knives?
What a great guide! I think we will learn a lot as GGG gives us more details and this could be the best post on animated weapons!

I wonder if the stats of the weapon you animate with animate weapon spell impact the dps and survivability of the animated weapons?

Also, will the summoned knives from the ethereal blade spells have different stats based on the item level of the ethereal blade spell and the support gems linked to the ethereal blade spell when it was cast? (like would the summoned blades from a lvl 1 ethereal blade spell with no support gems be worse than the summoned blades from a lvl 23 ethereal blade spell that was linked to added cold damage support, added fire damage support, added lightning damage support, melee splash support, multistrike support)

"
solidghost wrote:
Would the level of those knives skill affect the damage of animate weapons summoned from them? For example, a lvl 21 baldefall will leave maybe item level 70 knives on the ground, which would in turn increase the base dps of the knives?


No, it appears it does not. From the GGG post on Blade Blast:

"Animate Weapon adds bonus physical damage to Ethereal Blades based on the level of the Animate weapon skill... This also means that blades from a low level Bladefall can be used by a high level Animate Weapon as effectively as a high level Bladefall's blades."

https://www.pathofexile.com/forum/view-thread/2779779
[/quote]

"
LilyKittens4 wrote:


I wonder if the stats of the weapon you animate with animate weapon spell impact the dps and survivability of the animated weapons?


The weapon does affect the DPS. Animate Weapon takes the base damage, attack speed, crit etc off the weapon, adds its own bonuses, and thats the final DPS.

"
LilyKittens4 wrote:


Also, will the summoned knives from the ethereal blade spells have different stats based on the item level of the ethereal blade spell and the support gems linked to the ethereal blade spell when it was cast?



No - see the link above. It appears that all the weapons summoned by all blade spells have the same stats, being equivalent to a Glass Shank. But, then Animate Weapon adds a special bonus onto ethereal weapons, which is based on the AW skill level (not the level of the skill that summoned the weapons).

I'll add this info to next version of the guide as it is not obvious. Thanks for your interest!
Another question regarding the knives skill - how will it affect the life of the animated weapons summoned from them?
Krav mentioned about using a buffed Carrion golem (which gives flat phys to minions) to the setup. At lvl 26, it gives about 40 to 60 physical damage to non-golem minions. Not too shabby, especially considering that the glass shank has just 6-10 base phys damage.
"
solidghost wrote:
Another question regarding the knives skill - how will it affect the life of the animated weapons summoned from them?


If it works same as currently, base item doesn't affect HP of summoned weapon. I didn't read anything to indicate that would be changing- it appears all the tweaks are on the damage/AI side.


"
solidghost wrote:
Krav mentioned about using a buffed Carrion golem (which gives flat phys to minions) to the setup. At lvl 26, it gives about 40 to 60 physical damage to non-golem minions. Not too shabby, especially considering that the glass shank has just 6-10 base phys damage.


Carrion Golem is definitely worth running. Added flat damage from anywhere is really good because AW has such high effectiveness for added damage (of course, this is looking at 3.9 numbers, who can say what 3.10 changes).

Doing full elemental conversion we'd be using Immolate and getting a big chunk of flat fire damage against ignited enemies, which makes Carrion Golem less impactful (but still good). Going pure Phys and without Immolate, even taking the Golem Commander cluster is highly efficient for DPS because the flat damage is so impactful.

In short it's definitely good. If you can get high levels of Carrion Golem it's totally worth it. Only question is how hard do you want to invest there.
On the topic of the Carrion golem: I wouldn't rule out Elementalist as an ascendancy for Animate Weapon builds. Especially since Necro could get a nerf in 3.10.

With Elementalist you can get the Carrion golem's buff easily over 200 flat physical and on top of that you get insane life regen from Stone golem and heavy phys reduction from Chaos golem.

Everything will ofcourse depend on the rebalance of Animate Weapon. I'm very much looking forward to the rebalanced gem preview!
"
Soepkieken wrote:
On the topic of the Carrion golem: I wouldn't rule out Elementalist as an ascendancy for Animate Weapon builds. Especially since Necro could get a nerf in 3.10.

With Elementalist you can get the Carrion golem's buff easily over 200 flat physical and on top of that you get insane life regen from Stone golem and heavy phys reduction from Chaos golem.

Everything will ofcourse depend on the rebalance of Animate Weapon. I'm very much looking forward to the rebalanced gem preview!


good point on elementalist! but it seems like only two ascendencies would be good for animate weapon build (the golem ones)?

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