[3.10] HOLY FLAME Hierophant | SSF, League-Start & New Player Friendly | Full Leveling Guide
At a glance, I think 3.11 doesn't change much at all. You might want to adjust pathing to take Glancing Blows eventually. Some of the cluster jewels got nerfed, so that section is slightly outdated now. I may update eventually if I have time - but the build is still basically the same.
Introduction to Holy Flame Totem
We summon totems, they kill stuff! Read this section to see if you will enjoy this build.
Pros and Cons
+ Safe playstyle with totems that tank for you and distract enemy mobs. + Easy to play. Doesn't require a lot of buttons. + Can do almost all map mods (elemental reflect is slow, but possible) - Cannot tank big hits. You will have to manually avoid boss slams and avoid rushing headlong into enemies. - Clear speed is reasonable but not especially fast. - Some people don't enjoy totem playstyle.
"Why Holy Flame Totem (HFT)? Doesn't that skill suck?"
Totem gameplay in general is not flashy, and HFT in particular is a very old skill that doesn't get much love nowadays. However it's very solid, flexible, and easy to scale, all of which make it great for SSF or a league-starter off zero currency. Check out the "mechanics" section as to why Holy Flame Totem in particular is good - most notably, it has fantastic scaling with Herald of Ash, which just got better with cluster jewels.
"How is this different from other HFT guides?"
Mine is more updated, particularly in light of the new cluster jewels that substantially change how the damage scaling works.
"Is this build SSF-friendly?"
Solo self found: players cannot party or trade items with each other. Your character's gear will be exclusively items found or crafted yourself. SSF builds cannot rely heavily on specific gear combinations or unique items that may be easily accessed through trade.
This build does not require any specific unique items, and the rares it uses can be reasonably crafted yourself with a bit of patience.
Yes. Totem builds have built-in defensive benefits which helps a lot for HC. While I wrote this guide for softcore SSF, it should be fine in HC with minor modifications.
"Be more specific, how does it stay alive?"
The build has several layers of defenses:
- Reasonable HP pool (160+% on the tree, more available through jewels). No required uniques so we can get more life on every piece of gear as well.
- decent block chance from a shield, which can be invested in further if desired.
- Permanent uptime of Endurance Charges from the Hierophant ascendancy, and a leveled Immortal Call to prevent damage spikes.
- A golem which taunts enemies to reduce aggro on us.
- Mobile playstyle as totems cast while we dodge.
In short, not an invincible tank, but safe enough if played carefully.
"What about some other Ascendancy?"
Hierophant gives a nice balance of QOL and damage for a totem playstyle, however you could also probably do this with Inquisitor, Chieftain, or even Scion. The tree and gearing will look quite a bit different though, so don't assume everything in this guide still applies!
"But don't most HFT builds use Chieftain?"
Chieftain doesn't need to take Avatar of Fire to get full fire conversion, which is nice. However it doesn't get to benefit from power charges like Hierophant does, plus the ability to summon two totems at once effectively saves an extra support gem slot. Chief can get higher HP but has a lower DPS ceiling.
If you have other questions, leave a comment below!
Important: Totem Mechanics, Keystones, and Damage Scaling
When you summon a totem it inherits all of your offensive stats and buffs. However, when a totem hits an enemy it counts as the totem delivering the hit, not you, and counts as the totem's kill, not yours. This can be both good (you will not be hit by reflected damage) and bad (mechanics such as life or mana leech or "gain ... on hit" cannot benefit you).
Totems cannot gain power, frenzy, or endurance charges - but they do benefit from power or frenzy charges you generate for yourself.
By default, a player can only summon one totem. We take the Ancestral Bond keystone to increase that limit to two (at the expense of not dealing damage with hits from skills ourself), then the Hierophant ascendancy grants an additional totem, and we may be able to get items which raise our maximum number of totems to four. Obviously more totems = more damage!
Holy Flame Totem (or HFT) comes with many tags associated with the skill: Totem, Spell, Projectile, Fire, Channelling, Physical. In short, that means any effect which has "increased XXX damage, where XXX is any of those tags, will boost our totem's DPS.
HFT casts a channeled projectile spell to deal damage so it also benefits from increases to cast speed, and has a base critical strike chance of 5%. Increased projectile speed will add to its range.
HFT has two other mechanics to be aware of. First, it deals base physical damage, but 50% of physical is converted to fire damage. We use the Avatar of Fire keystone to convert the other 50% of physical damage to fire as well.
Second, HFT spreads consecrated ground around the area it is summoned in. While standing on any consecrated ground our character regenerates 6% of health per second, and HFT also gives us immunity to curses. Enemies on consecrated ground have a 100% increased chance of taking critical strikes.
"That stuff is boring. Just tell me how to scale damage."
In addition to whatever increased physical, fire, channeling, projectile, totem damage or cast speed we can pick up here and there, there are three big sources for extra DPS.
First, Holy Flame Totem is great for scaling critical strike chance and multiplier. While it has a low base crit(5%) the consecrated ground around it is a bonus 100% increased crit chance - as enemies will basically always be standing near our totems. There are also several highly efficient crit nodes for totems that we get easily on the passive tree, and then we supplement that with gear.
Second, Herald of Ash is an EXCELLENT buff for spells which start as physical but convert to fire. At Level 20, Herald of Ash gives: Gain 15% of your Physical Damage as Extra Fire Damage; 12% more Spell Fire Damage.
We get to double-dip on both sides, gaining 15% more of our base damage before it is converted to fire, and then 12% more spell fire damage - in total, 28.8% more damage for just 25% mana reservation. (The "overkill" portion of Herald of Ash's text does nothing for us, but who cares - we don't need that anyways.)
This gets even better once we start to scale the effectiveness of Herald of Ash's buff with cluster jewel notables - more on that in a moment...
Lastly, we run Summon Skitterbots to apply shock, and if mana allows it, Herald of Purity adds a bit more base physical damage to be scaled up by Herald of Ash.
Final Passive Tree
20 passive points remaining to fill in cluster jewels, or take additional DPS nodes.
My SSF character at Level 88: https://pastebin.com/iZQajrKi
1. Pursuit of Faith for +1 totems, increased damage and cast speed.
2. Ritual of Awakening for faster placement speed and summoning 2 totems at once, very good for QOL.
3. Conviction of Power to generate power and endurance charges. Get this before killing Kitava in A10.
4. Illuminated Devotion for extra DPS with Arcane Surge. This is non-essential so no big deal if it takes awhile to reach eternal labyrinth.
Cluster Jewels: A Deep Dive
The type of implicit on a cluster jewel will determine which notables can roll on it. We also ideally want the minimum number of added small passives (8 for a large cluster jewel, 4 for a medium) although that is less controllable in SSF.
A large cluster jewel must be ilvl 75 or higher in order to have two medium jewel sockets in it.
Large Cluster Jewels with a few different implicits can be desirable.
1. 12% increased Physical Damage implicit can roll notables:
- Force Multiplier (5% chance to deal Double Damage; 25% increased Physical Damage) - best possible for DPS
- Furious Assault (8% increased Attack and Cast Speed; 25% increased Physical Damage)
Some other notables (e.g. Grim Oath which adds chaos damage) are useless.
2. 10% increased Spell Damage implicit can roll notables:
- Ancestral Inspiration (Gain Arcane Surge when you Summon a Totem; Spells cast by Totems deal 25% increased Damage)
- Arcane Adept (5% increased Attack and Cast Speed while Channelling; Channelling Skills deal 20% increased Damage; Gain Arcane Surge after Channelling for 1 second - note that this doesn't help totems)
- Burden Projection (30% increased Spell Damage; 8% chance to Knock Enemies Back on Hit with Spell Damage)
And the other notables are mediocre.
3. 10% increased Elemental Damage implicit can roll notables:
- Disorienting Display (25% increased Elemental Damage; 10% chance to Blind nearby Enemies when you use an Elemental Skill) - excellent defensively
- Prismatic Heart (+10% to all Elemental Resistances; 30% increased Elemental Damage)
4. 12% increased Fire Damage can get the same as Elemental damage, plus:
- Smoking Remains (35% increased Fire Damage; 10% chance to create a Smoke Cloud on Kill)
Passives such as Master of Fire or Corrosive Elements which give Exposure should be avoided, as we do that with Wave of Conviction more efficiently.
Medium Cluster Jewel Implicits:
1. 10% increased Damage while affected by a Herald is most desired, and can have notables:
- Heraldry (20% increased Effect of Herald Buffs on you; 10% reduced Mana Reservation of Herald Skills) - MUST HAVE. Roll the jewel until getting this and one other.
- Empowered Envoy (Herald Skills deal 40% increased Damage; 20% increased Effect of Herald Buffs on you)
- Endbringer (25% increased Damage for each Herald affecting you)
- Agent of Destruction (10% chance to Freeze, Shock and Ignite while affected by a Herald; 25% increased Elemental Damage while affected by a Herald)
Note that damage dealt BY our herald skills is not useful, we just want the increased buff effect.
2. Minions deal 10% increased Damage while you are affected by a Herald implicit can still get Heraldry or Endbringer but its other notables aren't helpful.
3. Other medium cluster implicits worth looking at: Totem Damage (various nice utility notables), Projectile Damage, Critical Strike Chance. Use best judgment on these - many are nice, none strictly necessary. (The "Channeling Skill" notables mostly deal with infusion which doesn't help totems).
General Tips for Leveling
- You can use ESC > Quit to Character Selection to return to town while saving on portal scrolls early game.
- Selling Whetstones and Armor Scraps is an easy source of Wisdom Scrolls to ID items. Later on, Transmutation Orbs fill the same purpose.
- Do the labyrinth trials as you encounter them. I won't mention them explicitly in the guide but it's easiest to just complete all the trials as you naturally progress, and do the Labyrinth ASAP as it's a big power boost.
- Avoid using any crafting orbs to adjust gear sockets (Jeweler, Fuse, Chrome, etc.) until at least Act 6, preferably later. You'll likely be finding upgrades frequently so it doesn't make sense to invest in fixing your sockets much early. While I have suggested gem links for each of the acts, it's no big deal if yours vary some depending on the items that drop!
- 3-socketed item with RRB colors.
- Sell unidentified magic items for Transmute shards (needed to buy skill gems).
- Boots with Increased Movement Speed (check vendors)
Act 1 Quest Rewards:
- Kill Hillock and take Purifying Flame and unsocket Glacial Hammer / Elemental Proliferation.
- After "Breaking Some Eggs", take Holy Flame Totem and Frostblink.
- Return Medicine Chest, take Quicksilver Flask and Infused Channeling (link to Holy Flame Totem) and buy Arcane Surge (link to Frostblink). Leave Arcane Surge at Level 1!
- After getting Prison WP, return to town and take Added Fire Damage. Can buy Combustion, and link either of these supports to Holy Flame Totem (depending on socket colors found so far).
- After killing Brutus, take Flame Dash and replace Frostblink. You can also buy Clarity Aura now (optional).
- Take Storm Brand before killing Merveil.
Act 1 Gem Links: Holy Flame Totem - Infused Channeling - Added Fire or Combustion
Flame Dash - Arcane Surge Purifying Flame - Combustion or Added Fire
Use a Ruby Ring + Orb of Alteration + Caster Weapon to get Added Fire Damage to Spells.
Act 2 Quests:
- Exit town to the right, look for entrance to the Den and kill White Beast. In town, take second Quicksilver Flask from Yeena.
- Entering Crossroads, travel north to Chamber of Sins. On completion, take Herald of Ash and buy Herald of Purity.
- After killing the Weaver, take Controlled Destruction. Can also buy Faster Casting and Elemental Focus.
Finish remaining areas in Act 2 in whichever order desired, and move along.
Item Goals: 4-linked item with either BBRR or BBBR socket colors.
- After Tolman in the Crematorium, take Flammability curse.
- From Dialla, get a Jade Amulet to assist with Dexterity requirements.
- No gem rewards that matter from Gravicius.
- Library: take Fire Penetration and purchase Summon Skitterbots, which can replace Herald of Purity (not enough mana to run both and also cast totems easily).
Recommended to wait on taking Ancestral Bond until having a 4-linked HFT.
Acts 4 to 5
Item goals: weapons to carry in off-hand weapon slots with as many red sockets as possible (used soon for leveling gems).
Upon clearing entrance to the mines in Act 4, take Lightning Golem and begin using it.
After killing Kaom and Daresso, take Multiple Totems, and switch this in for Added Fire (for now).
Complete the first Labyrinth before entering Act 5 and take Hierophant Ascendancy.
In Act 5, take Assassin's Haste after killing Utula. This jewel is moderately useful until something better is found.
Item Goals: In SSF, stash away any normal (white) 4-linked armor pieces that are close to the right socket colors.
At the beginning of Act 6, clear Twilight Strand and buy any gems from Lilly you may have missed earlier on.
Return to Act 1 and buy as many copies of Holy Flame Totem as you can fit into off-hand weapon sockets. (We level these extra gems to 20 to eventually corrupt with Vaal Orbs and hopefully get a Level 21 gem). Going to Act 1 lets you buy pre-leveled gems which saves some time, compared to buying gems in Act 6.
After completing Labyrinth Trials in Acts 6 and 7, you can take the next ascendancy points. Getting the Ritual of Awakening node allows Multiple Totems support to be replaced with Added Fire for a massive DPS increase! Begin using the final gem link setup as sockets become available.
Passive Tree: End of of Act 7
Note the small re-spec around Witch area to gain access to more crit nodes.
The remainder of the quests allow you to fill out missing gear slots and flasks (take Diamond Flask in Act 7 for Silver Locket reward). Complete Merciless Labyrinth before killing Kitava in Act 10.
Before proceeding to maps, type "/passives" into the chat bar to make sure you've collected all 24 passive skill points from quests, and then it's on to the end game!
Gear Progression for the Endgame:
Gearing for White Maps
After fighting Kitava, in SSF I like to craft whatever normal 4-linked armor pieces I've picked up with Essences. Sometimes it hits something great!
On entering maps, the main goal is to have capped (75%) resistances and get a 5- or 6-linked item as quickly as possible for more damage. One option is to farm Blood Acqueducts for Humility cards to get a Tabula Rasa, however doing that is slow, boring, and in my opinion, unnecessary.
Instead, proceed to maps and farm for five Flora's Gift cards. These cards frequently drop in:
- Ashen Wood
- Jungle Valley
- Tropical Island
After getting a 5-linked staff, use Orbs of Alteration on it until hitting one of the following prefixes:
+2 to all Fire Spell Gems
+2 to all Physical Spell Gems
(If your staff is the Warstaff base type, it will only be "socketed" gems but that's fine also, although you're less likely to get other good mods on it. Flora's Gift is so easy to farm it may be worthwhile to retry and get a regular Staff rather than Warstaff).
With a +2 gems prefix, use an Orb of Augmentation, then a Regal Orb, hoping for some good mods and then use the crafting bench to add on increased spell damage, cast speed, or added fire damage to spells. The resulting item should be good enough to get you into late yellow maps!
Those are listed in order of priority, so if you only have 5 links skip Controlled Destruction.
For Infused Channeling, the totems cannot gain Infusion but the damage multiplier is still excellent. The less damage taken for totems is useful as well.
Faster Projectiles improves clear speed by increasing the range of totems significantly. For single target, switch to Slower Projectiles or Hypothermia. If able to get enough projectile speed on jewels/gear, can run Fire Penetration instead. This also has the benefit of a lower Dex requirement.
Optional or non-essential supports are in gray and can be skipped depending on available sockets.
Boss DPS: Wave of Conviction - Trap - Combustion - Elemental Proliferation.
Throw this trap at bosses to give them negative fire resistance. Due to Ancestral Bond we can't deal damage "ourself" but a trap can still cause damage and the exposure debuff with Wave of Conviction. We also want this trap to cause an ignite, which triggers even more negative fire resistance with Combustion. Elemental Prolif is included just for the extra ignite chance.
Moves us around and triggers the Arcane Surge buff. Second Wind gives us more Dash uses and better cooldown, and Efficacy causes Arcane Surge to last a bit longer. Arcane Surge support can be dropped if we get Ancestral Inspiration notable on a cluster, otherwise be sure not to level it up too far as we want the buff to trigger off the mana cost of just one Flame Dash usage.
The golem's cast speed buff is great for DPS, and Meat Shield keeps it alive (and us alive too, hopefully). With extra sockets we can have it Cull bosses on low life, and give improved item rarity on drops.
Immortal Call consumes our endurance charges but prevents rapid deaths. Cold Snap creates chilling ground, and if an enemy dies in it, we gain frenzy charges for a slight clear speed boost. Tempest Shield can be used instead of Increased Duration for slightly better block chance, depending on our defensive focus.
Buffs: Herald of Ash, Summon Skitterbots.
Curse: Flammability- Curse on Hit - Storm Brand.
Applying the curse with a brand is optional. You can also just manually cast it on bosses.
Optional Buffs: Clarity (low level), Herald of Purity.
As mana allows. Herald of Purity may not be practical to run until very high level because totems have high mana costs. Its damage boost is relatively small.
Gear Choices The priorities for rare gear are:
- Cap Resistances at 75% for all Elements
- Good Life Rolls (at least +50 to maximum life) and ideally higher (80+) to be considered great
- Chaos resistance where possible
- Added Dexterity (we need about 35 Dex from gear in order to meet gem level requirements, or take a notable Dex passive)
- Added damage of a type which matches up to our Holy Flame Totem, wherever we can get it.
When looking at defensive stats, armor and energy shield are most useful while evasion should be avoided because we won't have the dexterity to use top-tier evasion gear.
As for what to look at in specific gear slots, read on!
Wand, scepter, dagger - doesn't really matter which. Watch out for the Dex requirements on daggers, however. A good rare weapon will be best in slot.
Desirable Rare Weapon Stats:
- +1 to level of all Physical Spell Gems
- +1 to level of all Fire Spell Gems
- increased spell damage or fire damage
- increased critical strike chance or critical multiplier for spells
- increased Cast Speed
- Adds # to # Fire Damage to Spells (not very efficient)
Unique Weapons: Doryani's Catalyst is all-around pretty strong until a great rare comes along.
Tulfall can easily keep up max frenzy charges, as we generate a ton of power charges. Otherwise not very good, however.
A Shaper-Influenced shield with +1 to maximum number of totems is one of the highest priorities for a gear upgrade, as moving from 3 totems to 4 is an immediate 33% more damage. Ideally try to get this on an ES-based shield so that it's also possible to roll spell damage, spell crit, etc.
Tukohama's Fortress is a trap for this build, because while it looks good the Blood Magic/Mortal Conviction on it will shut down our heralds!
The best defensive unique is Belly of the Beast for its significant HP boost, resistance, and flask effectiveness.
For extra DPS, a Skin of the Loyal corrupted with +gem levels for Projectile Gems is strong, but getting it in the correct socket colors is rare/expensive.
Warlord-influenced rare body armor can get "+1 to Level of Socketed Active Skill Gems" as well as good defensive mods like life and resistances. These give a solid balance between offense and defense, being very good for both.
Helmet & Enchants
Best rare helmet option: Get a Warlord-influenced helmet and used Scorched Fossils (plus Pristine fossils, for life) until you craft "Nearby Enemies have -9% to Fire Resistance" and some other useful mods. This is a significant DPS boost!
Crown of the Tyrant for a rare/expensive but high DPS-boosting option - at the expense of less gem sockets.
Helmet Enchants (in order of priority):
- Consecrated Ground from Holy Flame Totem applies 9% increased Damage taken to Enemies
- Holy Flame Totem has 30% increased Projectile Speed
- Holy Flame Totem fires 2 additional Projectiles
- 150% increased Effect of the Buff granted by your Lightning Golems
- Wave of Conviction's Exposure applies -6% Elemental Resistance
- 30% increased Flammability Curse Effect
- Summon Skitterbots has 20% reduced Mana Reservation (allows running extra Herald more easily)
Best rare gloves will likely be Incursion temple gloves with "#% increased Critical Strike Chance against Shocked Enemies." The Chill version is also fine, damage against burning enemies is less desired unless we drop the Elemental Focus support.
Alternately, Fingerless Silk Gloves for increased spell damage. Simple to craft with fossils.
Hunter-influenced gloves can get "7–10% chance to Unnerve Enemies for 4 seconds on Hit" (10% increased spell damage taken), and Warlord-influence gloves can get up to 30% increased spell damage.
High movement speed, life, and resistances on a rare set of boots will be best.
Shaper-influenced boots can have increased totem damage or totem placement speed on them, while Warlord-influenced boots can have "gain #% of physical damage as extra fire."
Torchoak Step has nice buffs to totem placement speed and makes our totems harder to kill, if those stats are desired - but the lack of HP roll for us is a significant downside.
Good Boot Enchantments:
- 120% increased Critical Strike Chance if you haven't Crit Recently
- Damage Penetrates 10% of Enemy Elemental Resistances if you haven't Killed Recently
- Adds 1 to 160 Lightning Damage if you haven't Killed Recently
- Regenerate 2% of Life per second if you were Hit Recently
A rare Opal Ring crafted with Essence of Hysteria (gain 10% of physical as extra fire damage) is a significant DPS increase.
Aside from that, there are several good unique rings for this build.
Profane Proxy socketed in the left ring slot can apply our Flammability curse automatically with Skitterbots, which is nice for ease of play and saves a hotkey.
Malachai's Artifice with a Lightning Golem socketed into it will debuff bosses with Elemental Equilibrium for -50 fire resistance, a massive damage boost.
Circle of Anguish can give added buff effect for Herald of Ash and is a massive DPS increase for clearing as well as bosses - somewhat rare/expensive to get, however!
Amulet & Anoints
The best rare amulet will have:
- +1 to level of all Strength Gems
- +1 to level of all Physical Skill Gems
- +1 to level of all Fire Skill Gems
- increased spell, physical, or fire damage
- increased critical strike multiplier
- cast speed
- life and resistances.
Amulets can have "increased Projectile Damage and increased Projectile Speed" crafted onto them which is ideal.
Suggested Amulet Anointments:
- Ironwood (Clear, Amber, Teal): keeps totems alive. Best defensive node for totems
- Totemic Zeal (Verdant, Verdant, Violet): best for QOL with faster totem placement and some DPS
- Arcane Swiftness (Clear, Silver, Silver): strong mix of DPS and block chance for defense with a shield.
- Prodigal Perfection (Clear, Azure, Azure): extra mana and some extra DPS.
- Master of Force (Black, Black, Opalescent): best DPS increase if you don't have other "chance to deal double damage"
A Rare Rustic Sash gives DPS from the implicit and is otherwise good for defenses. Barring a really top-notch Abyssal jewel for an Abyssal Vise, this is a good choice.
The Magnate (or in fated form, The Tactician) is nice for both offense and defense, although lacking in HP.
A Diamond Flask of Quickening (increased cast speed) will be the single largest DPS increase available.
Defensive attributes to have available on flasks I would consider essential are:
- Staunching (bleed)
- Warding (curses)
- Heat (freeze)
- Less essential: Curing (poison) or Dousing (ignite).
Stibnite Flasks to blind enemies are excellent, and also have long duration/few charges used. Quartz Flask to phase through monsters and avoid being cornered is also near-essential for Delve.
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. The only case this doesn't work is for some suffixes that beasts can't provide.
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.
Unique Flasks: Rumi's Concoction is fantastic defensively if using a shield, to get some extra block and armor.
The Wise Oak offers some resistance penetration as well as less elemental damage taken, a solid choice.
Dying Sun works for the build but extra projectiles benefit us less than most others would.
With the addition of arcanist brand you can change the setup to Arcanist Brand - Wave of Conviction - Curse on Hit - Flameability and combine two into one
Sadly, this won't work as Wave of Conviction must do damage to trigger exposure, and with the totem keystone, we cannot do damage ourselves (this is why it must be a trap). And traps cannot trigger Hextouch (curse on hit)...