[3.16] Dark Pact Totems | The smoothest spell totem skill around, now post-nerf updated
More nerfs in 3.17. I recommend playing a different build, but Dark Pact Totems still works as a build and its one of the better choices if you must play Hiero Spell Totem. The build guide below, heavily updated for 3.16, should still apply for 3.17.
I'll be league starting Elementalist Explosive Arrow Totems :)
I’ve played this build twice, in 3.12 and 3.14, and liked it enough to push it to Level 100 both times. My friend has played it twice, in 3.14 and 3.16, casually reaching Level 94 and Level 93. The nerfs from 3.15 and 3.16 have been nasty, though the build still manages to feel quite alright.
Dark Pact Totems is a very affordable and efficient build. Scourge league, at least temporarily, has made the build even cheaper (mainly the 6L changes). What used to cost 10-15EX now is 5EX or less. Astral Projector, because of a new div card, was less than 10C on day 3 of Scourge. This build comes online very quickly, minimizing the awkward league start transition from Holy Flame Totem, etc. These are all really good improvements!
Clearing your league start Atlas is a breeze, and the early Conquerors are no trouble. A few key upgrades by the time you reach T14+ maps will have you clearing A8 Sirus and unlocking the juicy Maven passives in the middle of the atlas. With good player skill and good upgrades, all Maven invitations can be completed including Maven herself, though deathless is not guaranteed :)
As a Hierophant, you will pray that your modest Life + Mana pool and beefy regen are enough to keep you alive, while you manually dodge all one-shots and scary ground degens, while also expertly keeping your totems up and in position. All while not wearing any pants!
Why you SHOULD play this build:
You want a capable league starter, able to handle the Atlas and all Conquerors/Sirus
You prefer a build that is cheap
You like ignoring all map mods except regen/recovery
You like the auto-aim targeting of totems
You like a build that is easy to play
But also a build that rewards you for playing well
You like curse immunity
You like simple gearing (Life, Mana, Res, specific uniques)
You like the way Dark Pact looks and sounds
You enjoy everything dying around you while you loot or talk to NPCs in peace
Why you SHOULD NOT play this build:
You want to play SSF
You hate totems or indirect damage
You want to AFK tank Sirus’ Die Beam
You want to freeze/shatter/explode enemies
You want to stack more defenses like leech, Armour, etc.
You want Chaos Immunity, or lots of easy Chaos Res
You want to stack auras
You want omega DPS that is the envy of Reddit
You want to scale and min-max to infinity
You want insane movement speed / mobility
You want to off-screen mobs so hard that even the mobs’ children die
Passive Tree, POB, Videos:
The passive tree in 3.16 received a lot of changes, including the new Masteries. Unfortunately this build does not benefit from many Masteries, and the passive tree is much more expensive/inefficient to path across. One of your challenges will be deciding what to spend your late game points on, after your Cluster Jewel setup is complete. Is the ‘Corruption’ + ‘Heart of Darkness’ area worth it? Which Masteries are even worth it?
3.16 Character: https://www.pathofexile.com/account/view-profile/Astrognomix/characters?characterName=Hierognomix
3.14 Character: https://www.pathofexile.com/account/view-profile/BlueeGreg/characters?characterName=The_Saskatchewanian
3.12 Hipster: https://www.pathofexile.com/account/view-profile/BlueeGreg/characters?characterName=The_Jamaican
Path of Building:
3.16 + leveling: https://pastebin.com/pm4RTL55
3.14 Level 100 POB: https://pastebin.com/r4uUwC5e
The 3.16 POB included is of my friend’s character, with some minor updates and clarifications. This POB has an early leveling tree for Holy Flame Totem, an early mapping tree for Dark Pact before you have proper Cluster Jewels, and a ~Level 93 endgame tree. As a reference I’ve included an extra POB of my 3.14 Level 100 character, with passive tree adjustments for 3.16.
I have some short video clips from 3.12, where my character is Level 100 but he emulates the gear he had back at Level 96. This character handled all endgame content while not using a Soul Mantle and not using Coward’s Legacy, which would both would have been very strong items for this character. These clips are old and the game has become tougher since then, but the overall playstyle and relative power from the build in these clips hasn’t changed.
T16 Drox https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EamKla8TYbo
T15 Baran https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRqK0NoIMZw
A8 Sirus https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uo6OfWJQSNQ
T16 Uber Elder https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKzI5qaCUAY
T16 Heist https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7xqxmc6QQE
T16 Summit (1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MozysFrSmQQ
T16 Summit (2) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWeVN_cipf8
Mathil also has two videos from 3.11 that do a very good job of showcasing the mechanics and playstyle of this build, which I stress has not changed much over time.
I’m very open to people submitting their own video clips for this!!
Dark Pact is cast by your totems with the Spell Totem Support gem. The Astral Projector ring turns this into a ranged spell. This spell travels instantly to a nearby enemy, and ‘explodes’ with an AOE. The size of this AOE is scaled by area of effect, and the size is good at eliminating packs of monsters. There is no chaining, projectiles, proliferation, damage over time, or ailment stuff involved. The totems will keep casting the spell when a valid target is in their range.
Dark Pact has Added Chaos Damage and a “More Damage with Hits” multiplier, which both increase with gem level. Dark Pact also gains extra damage based on the Max Life of the totem, since the totem is the one sacrificing its life to cast the spell. This doesn’t scale with the Dark Pact gem level, but it does scale with the Max Life of your spell totem.
Dark Pact DPS is scaled by, in no particular order:
Gem Level. Totem Life. Totem Damage. Spell Damage. Area Damage. Chaos Damage (not DOT). Added Chaos Damage (to Spells). Cast Speed. Critical Strike Chance and Multiplier. Chaos Resistance Penetration. Wither Stacks. Effect of Withered.
This damage is then multiplied by the amount of totems you have alive and targeting the enemy.
This is a unique ring that is mandatory to make Dark Pact feel good with totems. Do not use Dark Pact without this ring; just use another skill until you’re able to have the ring, like Freezing Pulse or Holy Flame Totem.
There is a new div card from 3.15, ‘The Mind’s Eye’, that grants you the Astral Projector ring if you turn in 7 cards. This card seems to drop frequently enough, and has made the ring incredibly cheap, like ~10c with good snipes by Day 3 of 3.16. This affordability should be maintained into the future.
Stats & Misc.:
Dexterity and Strength are needed for certain skill gems, and these stats are rare on our passive tree. At a minimum you want 98 Dexterity, which will cover a Level 20 Withering Step and a Level 5 Phase Run; you won’t need much more Dexterity then this. For Strength, you want a minimum of 119 to cover a Level 20 Vitality, and more than this will help with a higher level Immortal Call / Steelskin.
Bandit choice is Alira or Kill All. Alira has useful benefits for us so she is an easy choice.
Pantheon Major, you will start with Brine King for the eventual Freeze Immunity once you have upgraded it later in maps. If you have Freeze Immunity from somewhere else, then I really like a fully upgraded Lunaris. For the Pantheon Minor choice, Shakari tends to be useful because it helps us with our Chaos Res deficiency.
Ascendancy is Templar’s Hierophant, going ‘Pursuit of Faith, ‘Ritual of Awakening’, ‘Conviction of Power’, ‘Divine Guidance’.
All of your damage, and a huge part of your Life + Mana regen, comes from your totems being present and alive. Certain buffs, like Onslaught, are enabled for 4 seconds after spawning a totem. Curses, which are explained later, stack on you over time and you need to keep spawning (and killing off) your totems to maintain this DPS buff.
It’s easy and almost automatic to keep these buffs up during mapping, because you’re always blasting forward somewhere, and are forced to keep spawning new totems. But with bosses, you will need to be more deliberate with your totem uptime. Frequent enough to keep all the buffs up, but not so frequent that you keep killing off your old totems and they never get a chance to sustain some DPS.
In simplest terms, you want your totems between you and the enemy, and there should be a totem ahead of you, where you intend to move next.
For mapping, this means you’ll want to run a bit zig-zag or tangentially, instead of just straight ahead, to give your totems time to engage and kill the mobs. This will also help you avoid enemy attacks that have already been launched at your totems, since there is no need for you to get hit in this way.
For bossing, it is generally better to have your totems on the sides or behind the boss, but this is not always possible. You want to avoid lining up with your totems and then being hit by a lethal attack, like the Sirus Die Beam. You don’t want all your totems together in the same cluster, because then they’ll die at the same time. And no matter what, you want all of your totems alive and within range of the boss at all times.
Withered Stacks on bosses are incredibly important for this build, and even more important now because of many DPS nerfs. Wither slows down the enemy (this doesn’t stack), and increases damage dealt to the enemy, up to 15 stacks of this. There are three ways to apply Wither, and we make use of two of them.
You will choose whether to use self-cast Wither with alternate quality, or to use a Spell Totem Wither setup. In addition to this, you will use Withering Step to apply even more stacks. More on this in the Skills & Gems section.
Curse Immunity and Stacking:
Once you obtain a Soul Mantle chest, preferably already 6-linked, your character will start having every curse in the game thrown at them. This is debilitating, so instead we mitigate it and actually turn it into a buff.
A single Kikazaru unique ring, and spending 4 passive points for the Asylum cluster plus the ‘20% reduced effect of curses on you’ Mastery, makes your character effectively immune to all curses. You then want a Self-Flagellation jewel, which will turn those 0% effect curses into a chunk of DPS.
Later with the build, you will replace your Kikazaru ring for the Viridi’s Veil helmet, a blue magic ring on the right slot, and a Coward’s Legacy belt.
So What About Defense?:
We don’t stack layers of defense. If you don’t play well, you will die more often than you need to. We can’t leech, or benefit from on-hit mechanics. Chaos Res tends to be low. We use ‘Mind over Matter’ to increase our base EHP pool. Our Ascendancy provides a good amount of Life and Mana regen. With clever gearing, some passive points and/or amulet anoint, we can be elemental ailment immune, though I would save that for endgame min-maxing.
Skills & Gems:
Dark Pact is a 6L in something like a Tabula Rasa, and then becomes a ‘7 link’ with the Soul Mantle chest, when that item is fully linked. We don’t gem swap for bosses because there is no longer anything worth swapping to. Thanks GGG?
Dark Pact, buy 21/0, regular quality gives AOE which is nice, Anomalous is only BIS if the gem is also level 21
Spell Totem, 20/0 as part of the Soul Mantle chest
Void Manipulation, buy 21/0 early, and use a 21/20 Superior until you can afford the Awakened version
Added Chaos Damage, buy Awakened because it is cheap, a 20/20 Anomalous is also good
Increased Critical Strikes, 20/20 Superior is fine
Increased Critical Damage, 20/20 Superior is fine
Multiple Totems, 21/0 regular or 20/20 Divergent are fine
*if you use Multiple Totems on your Wither setup, then use Cruelty 21/0 here instead*
Wither has two possible setups. My preference is ‘hipster’ self-cast, which is carried by a really good alternate quality that doubles your Wither, and adds in Infused Channeling and a Cast-while-Channeling Curse for extra damage. With this setup, you will rarely be using it, but very deliberately when you do.
The other setup is Wither Spell Totem, like you would use with old school Toxic Rain, or with new school Poisonous Concoction. This choice is excellent for players who don’t have the right supports and qualities for self-cast yet, or for players who really don’t want the Less Damage multiplier from Multiple Totems Support being on their Dark Pact. You will also need to spam Wither totems frequently, to keep yourself at max totems for the global DPS and regen from the Ascendancy.
Wither, 20/20 Divergent and you need this ASAP
Infused Channeling, 20/20 Superior makes it quicker to proc the DPS buff
Cast While Channeling, 20/0 is fine, though Anomalous is technically BIS
Despair, 21/0 is fine, can also use 20/20 Anomalous
*Assassin’s Mark (Divergent) can be used as the curse here, more DPS and hits only one target. Test and see which you enjoy more!*
Spell Totem, 20/20 Superior is fine
Multiple Totems, 20/20 Superior is fine
Wither, 20/20 Superior is fine
Increased Duration, 20/20 Superior is fine
Withering Step + Mobility Skills:
This is a ‘blink’ skill that applies quite a few Withered Stacks on enemies who enter the aura around you. This aura is cancelled by any player action other than movement, which means it is cancelled all the darn time. This is fine. You only need the aura to be active for a split second, when you’re next to the boss, to apply the Withered Stacks. Then you run away and let your big bad totems do the rest of the work for you!
Withering Step is one of the tools at your disposal to make this build stronger through player mechanics and skill. It’s also an intentionally awkward skill because GGG made it compete with Flame Dash’s cooldown. ANY USE OF FLAME DASH WILL LOCK OUT YOUR NEXT WITHERING STEP FOR THREE SECONDS. This means you have to be deliberate with your use of both Withering Step and Flame Dash.
Withering Step hits a breakpoint for Withered Stacks at Level 21, which can be achieved with a Level 20 gem and +1 Chaos Skills on your weapon, shield, or amulet. Anomalous quality adds +2 to Withered Stacks, making it BIS.
*Second Wind has been nerfed and should never be linked to Withering Step*
Flame Dash is our mobility skill of choice. The first use is always instant, and rapid use afterwards is dictated by cast speed, and of course by charges available. We scale cast speed, so you can spam Flame Dash in case of emergency, though this is not recommended.
Because this ‘Blink’ class of skill is shared with Withering Step, it also means that use of Withering Step will temporarily stop Flame Dash from gaining future charges. You must be tactical and deliberate with both Flame Dash and Withering Step.
*This skill can be used as a 1-Link, or with 20/20 Second Wind if you have the room*
This skill is optional. Phase Run grants phasing, and more importantly it grants movement speed like a Quicksilver Flask. The buff is cancelled when a non-movement player action is made, or when the buff duration expires.
Totem characters are in a unique position to use Phase Run. They spend more time running than they do attacking, compared to other builds. This means they actually have time to benefit from Phase Run. Totem characters also can’t generate their own Frenzy Charges, which would be a barrier to using Phase Run.
I put Phase Run on my Left Click. We don’t have a strong ‘Guard’ skill like Armour-stacking Molten Shell, which would normally go on Left Click. In empty parts of maps, I alternate between Phase Run and Withering Step to maximize my movement speed. Phase Run on Left Click does have some downsides. It won’t be ready off cooldown if you want to use it exactly during combat, which I feel is minor. It does cancel out the Withering Step aura upon use, but this isn’t much of an issue because you should be standing *just* close enough to the boss when you deliberately activate Withering Step.
This also lets us use Arcane Surge Support with 100% uptime and without thinking.
Withering Step, 20/0 with +1 Chaos until you can afford 20/20 Anomalous
Phase Run, 20 Superior quality and low gem level like 8 because Dexterity requirements
Arcane Surge, no quality needed and low level like 2 for easier proc
Increased Duration, 20/20 Superior is great here
Flame Dash, 20/20 Superior for the cooldown bonus
Remaining Flexible ~9 Sockets:
There’s a lot you can choose here, though nothing that impactful. I strongly like a Level 20 CWDT with Stone Golem and Immortal Call / Steelskin. Another spare socket goes to Vitality aura, for some Life Regen. Nerfs to trigger weapons, Vaal RF, and to Shield Charge + Fortify, have further limited our options here, and Tempest Shield is now an aura instead of a spell.
This leaves some cute low-level CWDT setups, that may or may not be useful. You can also use a Portal gem! Or better support your skills like Flame Dash (Second Wind, Enhance if rich), Withering Step (Increased AOE). Void Sphere for the Hinder and the crowd control. Tornado for the Hinder. Cold Snap for some Chilled Ground. Curse here if you’re not using self-cast Wither or not good with it.
Vitality, 20/0 or 21/0 are both fine
CWDT, 20/0 Superior is fine and Anomalous is technically BIS
Stone Golem, 20/0 is fine and Anomalous when can afford
Immortal Call, 20/20 Superior is fine (or lower level because of Strength requirement)
*Steelskin is technically better than Immortal Call, but only with high Strength ~155*
CWDT, low level like 4
Void Sphere, low level like 1
Cold Snap (or Tornado), low level like 1
Gear, Jewels, Flasks:
Progression of Items:
Leveling -> Tabula + Astral Projector -> Soul Mantle + Kikazaru -> Viridi’s Veil + Magic Ring + Coward’s Legacy -> Endgame $$$
This build has some clear milepoints of gear progression, and you’ll pursue these based on your currency and the affordability of the items involved. It’s impossible to predict the cost for future leagues, but everything has generally become cheaper since 3.12 Ultimatum. All along the way, you’ll want to keep upgrading your rare items, improving your Cluster Jewel setup, and buying alternate quality gems.
Leveling = getting through the campaign, using Holy Flame Totem as your starting skill. This can largely be skipped with twink gear on a 2nd character. This ends roughly around Level 75, when you should definitely have a Tabula (or any 6L chest) and have purchased the Astral Projector ring.
Tabula + Astral Projector = with these two items, you will begin tackling most of the Atlas. Save your currency for future upgrades, while buying cheap incremental upgrades everywhere else on your character. Also keep your eye out for a cheap +2 AOE Tabula Rasa.
Soul Mantle + Kikazaru = in the past, a 6L Soul Mantle was cost prohibitive for any budget-focused player, especially in the first week of a league. 3.16 Scourge has improved that, and hopefully that change remains in place. You will pair the Soul Mantle chest with the Kikazaru ring, and the passive points mentioned in the ‘Build Mechanics’ section, to make everything work.
Viridi’s Veil + Magic Ring + Coward’s Legacy = this does not need to be rushed. The curse solution from Kikazaru and your passive tree is surprisingly strong and efficient. Eventually you will want these new items because they allow you to use Coward’s Legacy and the one passive point for the DPS bonus granted by ‘Pain Attunement’. This combination of items, especially the belt, will put a lot of stat pressure on the rest of your rare gear. Suddenly your Ele Res might not be capped, your Strength and Dexterity too low, Chaos Res embarrassingly low, and also missing out on some Life and Mana. Oh and the ‘Magic Ring’ can be tricky to roll/buy too. Ideally you want a % Life implicit, and a single high tier Maximum Life explicit, with a craft of your choice.
Endgame $$$ = now that you’ve balanced all your stats with your gear, it's time to blow everything up again by buying some baller items! Welcome to POE. Basic examples here include a +2 AOE Soul Mantle, a Viridi’s Veil with a relevant enchant, and a strong amulet/shield/wand. If you’re extra crafty, you can fit in 100% Avoid Elemental Ailments here, using 3 out of 4 options of Helmet craft, Boot craft, ‘Arcane Sanctuary’ on the passive tree, and the relevant ‘Shield Mastery’.
Tabula Rasa is a fine chest to start with, since 6-Links will give you a lot of power for early Atlas completion. You’ll want a +2 AOE Gems corruption after this. When you’re ready, you’ll get a fully linked Soul Mantle, and after that, a +2 AOE Gems corruption!
A Wand is usually best here. The best implicits are Spell Damage and Cast Speed.
You want large rolls for Spell Damage, Cast Speed, and Critical Strike Chance for Spells. You really want +1 Level of all Chaos Spell Skill Gems. The 5th roll is a prefix, best of which is +1 to All Spells. The 6th roll is a suffix, and Crit Multi is best here.
For a unique/budget option, Apep's Rage wand is a workable choice. The weapon adds flat Chaos Damage, Cast Speed, Spell Damage, and a splash of Chaos Res. The big downside is the Mana cost increase to all skills, which means you’ll be hurting yourself with every action you take, especially with self-cast Wither.
The minimum requirement for the shield slot is the Shaper-influence mod, “+1 to maximum number of Summoned Totems”. This is why you are using a shield instead of another DPS wand. The rest of the shield can be junk, as long as you have this mod.
Trade link for ultra basic shield: https://www.pathofexile.com/trade/search/Scourge/92PJ0mHK
The next step up is to look for some bonus elemental resistance on the shield, in addition to +1 Totem, and both Life and Mana if you can get it.
When you are ready to spend more currency on a shield, you want to look for these affixes: +1 to Level of all Chaos Spell Skill Gems, maximum Life/Mana, Critical Strike Chance for Spells, Spell Damage, and other useful stuff like resistances. +1 Chaos is very rare, but no other build wants the combo of +1 Totem and +1 Chaos, so you can usually score a deal on trade.
You will start with any rare helmet, preferably with the Dark Pact enchant for Damage or Cast Speed. You want big life, mana, and good resistances.
Eventually you’ll switch to Viridi's Veil. This helmet gives us curse immunity when we use a magic ring in the right slot. This item quickly becomes cheap after the first week, so don’t be in a rush to buy it.
There are good enchants here, ranging from DPS to utility. They are ‘Dark Pact Damage, ‘Dark Pact Cast Speed’, ‘Withering Step inflicts’, and ‘Effect of the buff granted by your Stone Golem’. The Withering Step enchant is deceptively strong if you are good with using this skill, and the Stone Golem enchant can grant 140 Life Regen.
Nothing fancy here. Any rare glove, you want a lot of Life and Mana, while using the suffixes to fill up a bunch of Res including Chaos. Or Strength/Dexterity if you really need it. You can pay more for a useful implicit, but it usually isn’t worth the cost.
You can also get Cast Speed here, or the really strong Culling Strike which does work with totems, but I still prefer using this slot to max out other stats, while saving currency for more important upgrades.
This slot can be tight without a lot of flexibility. You want 30% Movement Speed, can accept 25% if the boots are otherwise amazing. Good Life roll, some Mana is also nice. Res when you can get it.
The endgame players will want to craft the suffix ‘Avoid Elemental Ailments’ here, or have it as a Shaper-influence roll. There’s room for more resistances, though the cost will rise quickly. ‘Cannot be Chilled’ is a nice roll that combines well with the Brine King Pantheon, if you’re not able to be Elemental Ailment Immune.
The best enchant for DPS is the 120% Crit Strike Chance one, while the Movement Speed one is also universally good..
You will start with a rare belt, and Abyss is always best here, though Leather is plenty fine for the budget-conscious. You want good Life and Mana rolls, while having some Res. This is a good place to sneak in a large roll for Strength, since that is common on belts; this will take up a Res slot though. What also takes up a Res slot is ‘Flask Effect Duration’, which is nice to have if you can make it fit.
Eventually you’ll upgrade to Coward’s Legacy, making everything before moot. This is a difficult item to jam into the build, because it has no Life, no Mana, no Res, and just a little Strength and Dexterity. You can spend some Metamorph Catalysts here for a little extra Attributes, or 2% Movement Speed (with max roll of 10%). Don’t forget to spend the passive point on the passive tree for ‘Pain Attunement’!
The best Belt enchant from the Super Uber Lab is ‘Enemies Withered by you have -6% to all Resistances’. ‘15% increased Area of Effect while you have Arcane Surge’ is second best.
There are a lot of possibilities here. The best implicit is something that corrects a deficiency, so usually Strength + Dexterity, or any Res. Do not underestimate the usefulness of a good implicit here.
Chaos builds tend to be popular, so +1 Chaos Gems or +1 Intelligence Gems on a good amulet will be expensive. While Dark Pact does improve with gem level, it isn’t as dramatic as other Chaos skills, so we don’t want to overpay for this upgrade. Instead, you can focus on more basic DPS rolls, like Spell Damage, Cast Speed, and Crit Multi. Life, Mana, and Res are always good here.
An open suffix is always ideal. This lets you fix your Res or Attributes as you progress your build, while also allowing you to craft the strongest option possible later, which is +1 Minimum Frenzy, once your build is ready for it.
You should always use some type of Metamorph Catalyst to quality your endgame amulet. Attributes are always cheap, with Life + Mana and Res being expensive.
There are many options for amulet anoint, and it will depend where you’ve gone on the passive tree and if you are min-maxing for Avoid Elemental Ailments. ‘Arcane Sanctuary’ will help you reach the cap for Avoid Elemental Ailments. If you don’t path through the big Chaos cluster north of the Witch area, then ‘Corruption’ or ‘Heart of Darkness’ are both reasonable choices. For early on extreme budget, ‘Ironwood’ gives you some DPS from Totem Life while also beefing up your totems (and giving you some Armour).
You will start with a rare ring. Good Life, some Mana, a lot of Res, and an open suffix for +1 Minimum Frenzy Charge craft, which is the best DPS craft. For your implicit, any Life roll is good, and any Res or Strength/Dex roll. You can get Chaos Damage on the implicit, but you’ll probably be too starved for Res etc.
When you make the switch to Viridi’s Veil, your rare ring with 6-mods will need to become a magic ring with 2-mods (or 1 mod with 1 craft). Plan accordingly! Metamorph Catalyst quality for either Life/Mana or Resistances, if that works for you.
The other ring is Astral Projector, required for this build, so you best get used to it. At least it gives some Lightning Res, and Avoid Elemental Ailments. Do not put Caster quality on this ring; it will increase the Less Area multiplier! One downside of using this ring compared to a regular totem build, is that the other totem builds would likely use Essence Worm for a free aura, while we are forced to use Astral Projector.
This build has 3 regular jewel sockets on the tree, and another 2 at the end of the Large + Medium Cluster jewel setup. One of the regular jewels will be a ‘Self-Flagellation’, once you are using the Soul Mantle chest. You will likely use 1 Abyssal jewel in your belt, until you upgrade to Coward’s Legacy.
There are many possible rolls to look for on a regular jewel. Maximum Life and Totem Life are prefixes and I value them both very highly. The power of Totem Life has recently been nerfed, but it is still a good roll to have. The suffixes are your choice, and can be Res, Strength/Dexterity, Crit Multi etc, Critical Strike Chance, Area Damage, and anything else you think might be good. I find Elemental Resistances really helpful here to smooth everything out.
Below is a trade link that has a lot of useful rolls pre-checked. I encourage you to take a closer look!
The abyss jewel can be anything you want, though they are unlikely to be good enough to replace a well-rolled regular jewel on your tree. Life, Mana, Strength/Dexterity, and Crit Multi are all good here. This is also a good place to buy a Corrupted Blood abyss jewel, which you slot in exclusively for the Sirus fight.
A Cluster Jewel setup is very important for this build, and you will eventually want a properly rolled Large Chaos and two Medium Totem jewels.
When you are first starting out, you should prioritize buying any Medium Totem that has ‘Sleepless Sentries’ rolled on it (or try to roll it yourself). This jewel does not need to be rolled perfectly, and you don’t need a Large to use it first. ‘Sleepless Sentries’, which gives Onslaught, is very strong and is worth spending passive points inefficiently early on.
An ideal Large Chaos jewel will have 3 out of 5 possible Notables on it; ‘Dark Ideation’, ‘Touch of Cruelty’, ‘Unwaveringly Evil’, ‘Wicked Pall’, ‘Unholy Grace’. I haven’t tested Touch of Cruelty, but others have said it works.
The Large Chaos jewel will initially seem expensive, because league start has a lot of Chaos-based characters. You have two main options when you are ready to upgrade. Buy a pre-rolled 8 passive jewel with all the right rolls on it, or buy the ‘crafting base’ and try your luck with Harvest-crafting or whatnot. Make sure the Large jewel says ‘adds 8 passives’.
Trade link for the crafting base:
Trade link for ideal jewel:
Craft of Exile for Large Chaos:
The Medium Totem jewels will have 4 Notables between 2 different jewels, ‘Sleepless Sentries’, ‘Ancestral Echo’, ‘Ancestral Reach’, ‘Snaring Spirits’. Make sure the Medium jewel says ‘adds 4 passives’ or ‘adds 5 passives’. ‘Sleepless Sentries’ is the most important roll and is also the most expensive.
Trade link for the crafting base:
Trade link for ideal jewels:
Craft of Exile for Medium Totem
Small Cluster jewels should generally be avoided. They just cost too many passive points to use for not enough benefit.
We use both a Life and Mana flask. Since we use Mind over Matter, the Mana flask acts as a type of Life flask, and works synergistically with our Life flask. You can choose to not use a Mana flask, since the build only uses it for EHP sustain, and not for actual Mana sustain.
The utility flasks are Diamond, for the extra crit chance, and Quartz, because reliable phasing is great for smooth running through enemies. The last flask should be a Quicksilver, because we want to be fast!
Life - Eternal or Divine, ‘on Low Life’ is a really good Prefix, and bleeding immunity is a good Suffix
Mana - Eternal, ‘Enduring’ is a good Prefix, choose any Suffix here
Quicksilver - so many combos, just roll something which seems good
Quartz - any Prefix, Crit / Cast Speed for Suffix
Diamond - any Prefix, Crit / Cast Speed for Suffix
Because flasks can now roll a million different tiers, you will eventually want your flasks to be high item level, like 81. Mostly this means you should upgrade your flasks sometime after you finish the campaign. There’s also a lot of different Prefix/Suffix options available, so don’t get too attached to trying to get one exact roll.
This build can use Bottled Faith for a DPS boost, if you can afford the flask. Probably replace the Mana flask with this.
You will league start as a Templar, using Holy Flame Totem or another skill of your choice. The POB at the top of the guide has recommendations for Holy Flame Totem leveling.
Once you finish the first lab after the end of Act 3, you will want to take ‘Ancestral Bond’ on the tree and grab your ‘Pursuit of Faith’ Ascendancy. This brings your max totems up to 3 from 1, with the downside of not being able to deal damage yourself.
You will complete your second lab after the end of Act 7, taking ‘Ritual of Awakening’. This gives you DPS and regen. At this point you could change your skill over to Freezing Pulse, or Dark Pact if you already own the Astral Projector ring, or keep blasting forward with Holy Flame Totem.
You will then finish the campaign and your third lab, taking ‘Conviction of Power’ which gives DPS and defense. Later you will finish your fourth lab, the Uber Lab, and take ‘Divine Guidance’, which gives you a lot of Mana, improves your Mind of Matter, and some extra DPS. You will officially switch over to Dark Pact Totems once you have purchased the Astral Projector ring.
Once you have your first 6-link or Tabula, you should start using Multiple Totem Support, but not before. Your passive tree will be feature complete around Level 75. Slot in regular jewels when you can snipe a good deal, and definitely be working towards your Cluster jewel combo.
Wallach has a very good guide for Freezing Pulse totems, and other leveling-focused tips.
The End? :)
Last edited by BlueeGreg on Jan 29, 2022, 12:37:07 PM
Last bumped on May 9, 2022, 2:25:54 AM
on Oct 27, 2020, 4:03:20 AM
Old ~3.14 version of the guide kept below!
This guide is currently discontinued, as of the end of 3.14. This build should still work for 3.16 and beyond, as long as you use the right support gems, flasks, etc. I'll return to play for 3.17, and we'll see if totems are still playable then <3
3.15 Gon’ Give It To Ya
Best of luck to the brave souls who will be playing 3.15! May your masochism not be in vain :)
- Unique items are untouched, specifically the Soul Mantle Combo + Astral Projector
- Cluster Jewels are untouched
- Hierophant Ascendancy untouched… well just the parts we care about
- Huge flask nerfs that impact every build, especially crit builds like this. No idea what a proper flask setup looks like now. Don’t be afraid to run double Quicksilver, etc.
- Crafted ‘Avoid Elemental Ailments’ is reduced, but is now available to craft on Boots and Shields.
- Virtually every support gem now has a higher mana multiplier.
- Spell Totem Support has a larger Cast Speed penalty, now -40% from -30%; we do gain 2% More Damage though!
- Controlled Destruction should now never be used, except when using Elemental Overlord during the acts.
- Conc Effect loses 15% Damage
- Void Manip and its Awakened version both lose 5% Damage
- Added Chaos Support, Increased Area of Effect, and Multiple Totem Support all unchanged?
It’s not clear what the best 6 or 7-link combo for Dark Pact looks like. Will need to see what Path of Building thinks!
Our biggest loss of power comes from the flask changes, since so much DPS and QOL was associated with ‘skillful’ uptime of flasks. That’s now all gone. Surprisingly the support gem changes aren’t all that bad, but it hurts to lose Awakened Controlled Destruction since that was a very good gem to use. Dark Pact continues to have a lack of strong, solid support gem options.
I expect Viridi’s Veil helmet, for the Soul Mantle Combo, to be significantly more expensive in 3.15. Players are nerfed, and the helmet is a Maven endgame drop. Players also want curse immunity, which the helmet provides. Likewise, any totem character is going to be desperate for the Soul Mantle Combo, if they want to stand a chance of clearing juiced T16s comfortably.
This is a new skill, added in 3.15, that seems primed for exploitation with totems. It scales similarly to Dark Pact, with a bigger tax on Totem Life and Totem Chaos Res, for potentially a bigger DPS upside. The skill is scaled by everything that scales Dark Pact, in addition to Projectile Damage.
While the skill is given in Act 2, I don’t think the skill will be truly usable until you are into maps and you specifically have two Medium Cluster Jewels, both with ‘Ancestral Preservation’. The two other notables you’d want would be ‘Sleepless Sentries’, and then whatever else you want like ‘Ancestral Reach’ or ‘Ancestral Echo’. Until then, the skill will simply nuke your Totems too fast for it to be enjoyable or powerful.
Projectiles - The skill always launches one projectile where the totem is targetting. There will be additional projectiles launched for nearby enemies, and there will always be a 2nd projectile if there is only one enemy in range. It is unlikely that increasing your projectile count will improve single target DPS, and the skill tooltip says there is built-in 7 extra projectiles.
AOE - Each projectile’s explosion is AOE damage, like Dark Pact. We are assuming that the AOE explosions of each projectile can overlap its damage. If that is the case, then increasing Area of Effect radius will be incredibly important for most any situation.
Cast Speed - The skill has a longer casting time than Dark Pact, and 3.15 is also increasing the Cast Speed penalty for Spell Totems. This will be a slow skill early on, and the projectiles aren’t instant once cast (Dark Pact is instant). Likewise, if you scale Cast Speed too high without also increasing your overall DPS, then your totems will nuke themselves long before any beefy enemy is dead. So you’ll need a balance here.
Projectile Speed - There is also travel time of the projectiles (Projectile Speed), which you could think of as a second type of Cast Speed. There’s no efficient way for us to scale Projectile Speed, and GGG has nerfed this many times already. So probably don’t worry about this.
This is a guide for Dark Pact Totems, Hierophant ascendancy. I was very impressed with how mechanically strong and sound this build was after playing it to Level 100 and 40/40 challenges in 3.12 Heist league, and also Level 100 in 3.14 Ultimatum! Original inspiration came from Mathil’s version of the build in 3.11 Harvest.
Ranged, safe playstyle
Reliable DPS uptime
Able to do ALL map mods
Life and Mana based gear (simple)
Cluster Jewels are straight-forward and reasonably cheap
Elemental Ailment immunity (shock, freeze, ignite)
Totem builds generally ignore bleed, except for Sirus fight
Good amount of Life and Mana regen; no mana sustain issues
Tabula-focused budget version is very strong, and the Soul Mantle version becomes affordable later in a league
Open maps feel really good
Simple spell visuals, so it’s easy to see WTF is going on
Able to pick up loot, take a sip of beer, all while your totems kill stuff around you
Requires the Astral Projector ring, but this is now cheap
League starting is an awkward transition, but 100% feasible
Not able to life leech, life gain on hit, etc.
The map mod “no life/mana regen” makes dying more likely
We don’t stack block, or that much dodge
Cramped maps feel a little clunky
Can never have enough Chaos Res
Mind over Matter approach means we shouldn’t use offensive auras
How does Dark Pact work and scale?
Dark Pact is cast by your totems with the Spell Totem Support gem. The Astral Projector ring turns this into a ranged spell. This spell instantly ‘explodes’ on a targeted enemy. The size of this explosion is scaled by area effect, and can obliterate small packs of mobs with a single cast. There is no inherent chaining, projectiles, proliferation, damage over time, or whatnot. The totems will keep machine gun casting until all enemies are dead, or until the totems run out of their own Life from casting.
Dark Pact has built-in flat Chaos damage and a “More with Hits” multiplier, that increases with spell gem level. Dark Pact also gains extra damage based on the Life pool of the totem! This doesn’t scale with the Dark Pact gem level, but it does scales with the Max HP of your spell totem, and Spell Totem gem level!
Dark Pact DPS is scaled by, in no particular order:
Gem Level. Totem Life. Totem Damage. Spell Damage. Chaos Damage (not DOT). Area Damage. Cast Speed. Critical Strike Chance and Multiplier. Chaos Resistance Penetration. Wither Stacks.
PoB, Skill Tree:
Here are my personal POBs from the 3.14 league, at Level 95 and at Level 100. You can also look at the poe-ninja ladder for some more ideas! I will be working on a multi-stage POB for 3.15 release.
https://pastebin.com/C4dqQPs6 Level 100 (3.14)
https://pastebin.com/Ucy6q6Wv Level 95 (3.14)
https://pastebin.com/RRZTT8mt leveling tips
For posterity, here is a link to my character’s profile from 3.12 Heist.
I have 7 clips from my character, at Level 100 but emulating the gear of my Level 96 character. These are from 3.12 Heist.
T16 Drox https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EamKla8TYbo
T15 Baran https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRqK0NoIMZw
A8 Sirus https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uo6OfWJQSNQ
T16 Uber Elder https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKzI5qaCUAY
T16 Heist https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7xqxmc6QQE
T16 Summit (1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MozysFrSmQQ
T16 Summit (2) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWeVN_cipf8
Here’s a clip from 3.14, where a guide follower takes on Awakener 9 Sirus.
Mathil also has two videos from 3.11 that do a very good job of showcasing the mechanics and playstyle of this build.
Templar into Hierophant. 'Pursuit of Faith' for first lab. 'Ritual of Awakening' for second lab.
For third lab, ‘Conviction of Power’ is a strong and simple choice. This gives us 4 Endurance Charges and 4 Power Charges. This gives us offense, defense, and helps with elemental resistance!
For fourth lab, 'Divine Guidance' is the only choice left. This increases our EHP, increases our Mana Regen, makes our MOM more balanced, and throws in a little DPS with the Transfiguration of Mind.
I prefer Alira for the Crit Multi, Elemental Resistances, and Mana Regen. Elemental resistance can get a little tight on our gear, we’re a crit build so we like the multi, and the mana regen is never useless for us.
Kill All for the +2 passives points is also acceptable.
Lunaris, fully filled out, is my preference. Avoiding chained attacks is very relevant for a totem build, and all of the Lunaris bonuses have value for us. Brine King is reasonable because we don’t have stun immunity. However, getting stunned isn’t that bad because our totems keep trucking away, and the extra bonuses under Brine King are largely wasted on our build. And Brine King only prevents being perma-stunned anyway.
For the Minor, I prefer Shakari because we don’t stack a lot of Chaos Resistance, and we need help in that department. Garukhan is the zoom zoom choice.
Astral Projector & Bench-Crafting Concepts:
Astral Projector is a unique ring that is mandatory for this build. The cheapest way to get this ring, especially early in a league, is to gamble with the Div Card “Haunting Shadows”. Try not to overpay for this ring, because it will drastically drop in price if you give it a little time.
Our other ring, and our amulet, have open suffixes so we can craft +1 Minimum Frenzy Charge. This lets us sneak in a good chunk of DPS, at the opportunity cost of not being able to craft more resistances.
Our helmet and gloves have open suffixes, so we can craft “chance to Avoid Elemental Ailments”. Combined with the Astral Projector ring, and taking ‘Arcane Swiftness’ on the passive tree, this makes us immune to elemental ailments. Once you’re on the ‘Soul Mantle Combo’ version, you won’t be able to craft on the helmet. So you’ll have to buy/roll Shaper-influenced boots that have 25%+ Avoid Elemental Ailments (a roll with 23 or 24% can be Divine Orb’d up to 25%).
Natural Progression of the Build:
This build has four different stages of growth, with the majority of focus on the ‘Budget’ version and the ‘Soul Mantle Combo’ version. The general flow is:
Leveling ==> Budget ==> Soul Mantle Combo ==> $$$ End-Game Options
The passive tree, jewels, gem links, and general playstyle of the build do not really change between these versions. Only specific gear pieces change!
The ‘Leveling’ version isn’t Dark Pact, more details in the Leveling section. The ‘Budget’ version is centered around a Tabula Rasa, preferably with +2 AOE Gems implicit. The ‘Soul Mantle Combo’ version is a 6-Link Soul Mantle chest, the Viridi’s Veil helmet, a magic-rolled ring, Coward’s Legacy belt once your budget and resistances can allow, the Self-Flagellation jewel, and new boots that have Avoid Elemental Ailments.
You transition from whatever Leveling character you are using into the Budget version, once you have the Astral Projector ring and are at least Level 40. I also recommend a Tabula at this time, or a usable 6-link corrupted chest. The rest of your items will be decent rares, with Life + Mana + Resistances. You'll want a +1 Totems shield as soon as they come on the market, and it's OK to use a decent DPS wand here in the meantime. You might also consider crafting the Elemental Ailment Immunity, and Frenzy Charges, if you feel like your gear is good enough for it.
Transitioning into the Soul Mantle Combo involves changing a lot of gear, and I recommend trying to do it at all at the same time. The belt, Coward's Legacy, can be saved for a later time if you don't have the currency for it, or you can't balance your Life/Mana/Res with it yet. The Soul Mantle Combo also becomes cheaper over time, so you do save currency by waiting!
[the ‘Skin of the Loyal’ version of this build has been officially retired]
The first chest you should start with is a Tabula Rasa, with +2 AoE Gems corruption when possible. This chest is cheap, and the corruption provides good DPS. This is all you need up until red maps, and beyond.
Soul Mantle 6-link is what you should seek after you’re done with the +2 Tabula. Soul Mantle is always strong for any Spell Totem build, and Dark Pact is no exception. The +2 AOE Gems corruption here is also nice, but is quite rare and totally not required for end-game.
Before you can afford the full Soul Mantle Combo, you can slum around with a Curse flask and try your best not to die while using this chest :) This works fine during mapping, with diligent use of flasks. But things will be rough for long bosses like Sirus.
Because of the challenges of using the Soul Mantle chest, I don’t recommend bothering with a 5-link version. Best to run around with a +2 Tabula until you can afford to properly switch over to Soul Mantle 6-link, and preferably with the other items that go with it.
A rare 1H wand is best here. Most any Implicit here is decent too.
You want large rolls for Spell Damage, Cast Speed, and Critical Strike Chance for Spells. You really want +1 Level of all Chaos Spell Skill Gems. The 5th roll is a prefix, best of which is +1 to All Spells. More economical choices here can be something like +Mana or added elemental damage to spells.
The 6th roll is a suffix, and Crit Multi is best here. In the past I would craft ‘Trigger Socketed Spells’ here, but that has been nerfed.
For a unique/budget option, Apep's Rage wand is a good choice, especially if you're not ready to invest and commit to this build yet. The weapon adds flat Chaos Damage, Cast Speed, and Spell Damage, to increase DPS. And a splash of Chaos Res. I've seen people dual-wield these in early league, before +1 Totem Shields come online. The main downside is the Mana cost increase to skills, which this build can handle because of mana regen and mana flask.
The minimum requirement for the shield slot is the Shaper-influence mod, “+1 to maximum number of Summoned Totems”. The rest of the shield can be junk, as long as you have this mod. Crafted Life is then what you would put on this shield.
Trade link for ultra basic shield: https://www.pathofexile.com/trade/search/Ultimatum/92PJ0mHK
The next step up is to look for some bonus elemental resistance on the shield, in addition to +1 Totem, and both Life and Mana if you can get it.
When you are ready to spend more currency on a shield, you want to look for these affixes: +1 to Level of all Chaos Spell Skill Gems, maximum Life/Mana, Critical Strike Chance for Spells, Spell Damage, and other useful stuff like resistances.
Basic rare, preferably with the Dark Pact enchant for Damage or Cast Speed. You want big life, some mana, two rolls of elemental resistance, and an open suffix for crafting “chance to Avoid Elemental Ailments”, which needs to be 25%.
Once you switch to the Soul Mantle Combo, you will also wear the Viridi's Veil helmet. This helmet gives us curse immunity when we use a magic ring, which is the main synergy with Soul Mantle. This item is expensive in the first week of a league, so do not be in a rush to burn currency on this!
Basic rare. Big life, some mana, two rolls of elemental resistance, and an open suffix for crafting “chance to Avoid Elemental Ailments”, which needs to be 25%. Also nice to sneak in some Dexterity here.
I need to list examples of expensive end-game gloves!
Basic Rare. 30% movement, big life, some mana, two rolls of elemental resistance, and an open suffix for crafting even more resistances.
Once you switch to the Soul Mantle Combo, I recommend getting Avoid Elemental Ailments here on Shaper-influenced boots.
My two preferred lab enchants are the Crit Strike Chance one, and the Movement Speed one.
Before the Soul Mantle Combo, any good Abyss belt will do. Big life, some mana, and it’s really nice to score some Strength here. Elemental resistances, and an open suffix to craft more resistances. Catalyst quality for either Life/Mana or Resistances can also be used here.
Once you go Soul Mantle Combo, you will want to use the Coward’s Legacy belt. Take note that this belt has no EHP and no resistances! You can also catalyst quality for some extra attributes, or 2% movement speed. Don’t forget to spend the passive point on ‘Pain Attunement’, on the passive tree!
The best Belt enchant from the Super Uber Lab is "Enemies Withered by you have -6% to all Resistances". It’s nice to have if you can get it, but don’t sweat it. "15% increased Area of Effect while you have Arcane Surge" is second best.
Headhunter does work with totem builds, and works perfectly fine on this build for clearing maps. So aim for this if you want to!
Dark Pact doesn’t scale the best from gem levels, so seeking out a +1 or a +2 amulet is not as strong as you might think. Still an option though!
A more economical approach is to look for an amulet that is generically good. Big life, some mana, Spell Damage, Cast Speed, Crit Multi are all fine here. Also useful here is Strength and Dexterity, if you need more of these stats.
We also want an open suffix on our amulet, for the +1 Minimum Frenzy Charge craft, which does limit our options. Catalyst quality for either Life/Mana or Attributes are both strongly recommended here.
The anoint you want is "Primal Manifestation", which is cheap and gives a big chunk of DPS.
Your spare ring is a standard rare ring. Big life, some mana, a lot of elemental resistance, and an open suffix for +1 Minimum Frenzy Charge craft. Catalyst quality for either Life/Mana or Resistances are both strongly recommended here.
When you make the switch to the Soul Mantle Combo, your rare ring with 6-mods will need to become a magic ring with 2-mods. Plan accordingly!
The other ring is Astral Projector. Do not put Caster quality on this ring; it will increase the Less Area multiplier!!
This build has 3 regular jewel sockets on the tree. 1 Abyssal socket on the belt, if not using Soul Mantle / Coward’s Legacy. And 2 more regular jewel sockets at the end of your two Medium Cluster jewels.
The regular jewels have Maximum Life and Totem Life for their prefixes. The suffixes are your choice, and can be elemental resistance, strength/dexterity, crit multi, crit multi for spells, critical strike chance, area damage, and anything else you think might be good. I tend to find Elemental Resistances really helpful here.
Trade link with a variety of suffixes: https://www.pathofexile.com/trade/search/Ultimatum/DYzyBOgU5
The abyss jewel is similar to a regular jewel. I like Life, Mana, Str/Dex, and Crit Multi. This is also a good place to buy a Corrupted Blood abyss jewel, which you slot in exclusively for the Sirus fight.
Once you are using the Soul Mantle Combo, you will want to use the Self-Flagellation jewel.
These jewels provide a lot of DPS, and good quality of life. They should not be ignored.
The full skill point cost of 1 Large Cluster, 2 Medium Clusters, and their empty jewel sockets being filled, is 18 skill points. That’s a bargain for what they offer! Before you can afford the full set of Cluster Jewels, I would recommend using a single Medium Cluster that has ‘Sleepless Sentries’ on it; the Onslaught proc is just so nice to have ASAP!
The Large Cluster jewel comes from the Chaos Damage family. You want it to have “Adds 8 Passive Skills”. The best roll has 3 notables on it, two of which are Prefixes, and one of which is the Suffix 'Unholy Grace'.
For the two Prefixes, you want two of the four 'Dark Ideation', 'Touch of Cruelty', 'Unwaveringly Evil', and 'Wicked Pall'. Go for what feels best for your character, and of course is affordable :)
Trade link for the crafting base: https://www.pathofexile.com/trade/search/Ultimatum/9adWadzUK
Trade link for ideal jewel: https://www.pathofexile.com/trade/search/Ultimatum/vwXVnmBcE
The two Medium Cluster jewels are your bread and butter, and they come from the Totem Damage family. They can have 4 or 5 “added passives skills”, but you do not want 6. Each can have 2 notables, which means you will have a total of 4 notables to work with. That means you want 1 each of: Ancestral Echo, Ancestral Preservation, Ancestral Reach, Sleepless Sentries.
Trade link for the crafting base: https://www.pathofexile.com/trade/search/Ultimatum/yp3bZyeUR
Trade link for ideal jewels: https://www.pathofexile.com/trade/search/Ultimatum/yVleyJBhR
Below is a link that helps detail these medium Cluster jewels.
Small Cluster jewels should generally be avoided, in my opinion. They just cost too many passive points to use.
We use both a Life and Mana flask. Since we are MOM, the mana flask acts as a type of life flask, and works synergistically with our life flask. You can choose to not use a Mana flask, since the build only uses it for EHP sustain, and not for actual mana sustain.
The utility flasks are Diamond, because we are crit, and Quartz, because reliable phasing is just too good to not use. The last flask should be a Quicksilver, because we want to be fast!
We have a lot of choices for our flask suffixes, since we are elemental ailment immune. If you need Curse Immunity, I recommend putting that on the Mana flask. The Catarina flask craft from unveiling a Cinderswallow Flask is really strong here, especially if you can get the Crit Chance one.
Eternal Life Prefix: Bubbling, Catalysed, or Panicked.
Eternal Life Suffix: Staunching, though we don’t really need it
Eternal Mana Prefix: Enduring, for the always-on effect
Eternal Mana Suffix: Warding, if not using Soul Mantle
Diamond Prefix: Experimenter’s, generally best here
Diamond Suffix: Cast Speed, a good Catarina craft, or your choice
Quartz Prefix: Experimenter’s or Chemist’s
Quartz Suffix: Cast Speed, a good Catarina craft, or your choice
Quicksilver Prefix: Experimenters, Chemist’s, Alchemist’s, Ample
Quicksilver Suffix: Adrenaline
Lastly, this build does benefit from a Bottled Faith flask. I’d drop the Mana flask, because standing on the Consecrated Ground gives 6% Life Regen, and partially makes up for losing the ‘regen’ from the Mana flask. Bottled Faith can be a little awkward to use, because we need to get closer to scary bosses in order to get the benefit. But boy is it strong when you get everything working!
Gems & Links:
Dark Pact 6L: The gold standard 5-link for Dark Pact is Dark Pact (anomalous), Spell Totem (divergent), Multiple Totems (regular), Void Manipulation (awakened), and Controlled Destruction (awakened).
For the 6th, and possibly 7th link, there are a few options. Awakened Added Chaos (level 5) is good. The new red gem Cruelty Support is acceptable. I also really like doing a gem swap between Awakened Increased Area of Effect, into Concentrated Effect for bosses like Conquerors and Sirus.
Wither 4L: Wither (divergent), Despair (anomalous), Cast while Channeling (Anomalous), Infused Channeling
This is our self-cast damage boost for tanky bosses, and is rarely used outside of bosses. This adds Wither stacks to the enemy. It also casts Despair on the enemy, which increases our DPS. If you channel longer than 0.5 seconds, you gain the temporary DPS buff called “Infusion”. This overall combination DOUBLES our DPS on bosses, assuming 6 Wither stacks.
The most important alt-qual here is Divergent Wither, which literally doubles the rate at which enemies gain Wither sticks. Do not overlook this.
As your character gets stronger, you’ll find yourself using self-cast Wither less and less. This is a good thing!
Movement 4L: Flame Dash (anomalous), Arcane Surge level 4, Second Wind, Withering Step
Flame Dash is used for crossing gaps and quickly escaping from danger. I don’t use Flame Dash for advancing towards the unknown, because this can put our guy in danger, stunned, with no totems nearby, and into a quick death.
Withering Step is deceptively strong, and I encourage everyone to fit it into their gameplay. This skill is instant cast, and applies an aura around you. This aura, when it touches an enemy, immediately applies 6+ stacks of Wither to them. Withering Step also grants Phasing and Elusive to you.
There are some downsides. Withering Step competes with the same recharge as Flame Dash, and this makes the skill awkward to use if you aren’t used to it. You will also lose the Withering Step buff once you use any other skill, which should be often. This isn’t as bad as it sounds, because you only need a millisecond to apply the stacks of Wither to the enemy.
The Arcane Surge goes without saying :)
Remaining Flexible ~10 Sockets:
There should be a 4-link, a 3-link, and another 3-link worth of sockets remaining open, that you can experiment with or insert your preferred combos. In 3.14 Ultimatum, I ended up going with:
CWDT Level 20, Stone Golem, Immortal Call
CWDT Level low level, Tempest Shield, Void Sphere
Shield Charge, Fortify Support (strictly for Ultimatum and Ritual content)
We used to use a trigger-weapon, but that has been nerfed. Vaal RF was also nerfed.
I like Phase Run on my left-mouse click, for a build like this. It acts as a bonus Quicksilver flask, and generally just feels good. Be sure you buy a high-quality version of this, and keep the gem level low because of the Dexterity requirements.
Vitality Aura, I like because it gives Life Regen. That’s it. It’s fairly weak, you don’t have to use it. There is no other aura that I recommend.
I like a high level Cast When Damage Taken in all of my builds. Here, I use a max level Stone Golem for the life regen, and a level 12-14 Immortal Call for the defense (unlikely to be max level because of Strength requirements).
There’s room for a low level Cast When Damage Taken. I like Tempest Shield, for the tiny bit of Block that it gives. I also like Void Sphere, because it occasionally sucks up some corpses and it just looks cool.
Shield Charge + Fortify is very reasonable for content like Ultimatum. It’s otherwise very clunky to use and I don’t recommend trying to use it during bosses or most other content.
This is not a true league starter build, because of the Astral Projector ring. You must level up as some type of Hierophant, such as Holy Flame Totem or Freezing Pulse Totem, and then switch over later to chaos damage and Dark Pact. Leveling as a 2nd character, with pre-bought leveling gear and an Astral Projector for level 40, feels really good!
Wallach has a very good guide for Freezing Pulse, and other leveling-focused tips.
I've created a POB that might help with leveling. It has three phases of Story Mode (first lab), Early Mapping, and then End Game. It also has example support skills like Arcanist Brand.
Your main goal is to the clear the first lab, at the start of Act 4. This gives you an explosion of power, and this is also when you double down on your totem synergies. 'Ancestral Bond' should be taken on the tree immediately after you finish your first lab, taking 'Pursuit of Faith'.
How you get to Act 4 is up to you. Use any style and Spell you prefer, it really doesn't matter. Once you're at Act 4 and beyond, you'll want to focus into a main 4-link Spell like Holy Flame Totem or Freezing Pulse + Spell Totem Support, while also adding in some support skills like Arcanist Brand.
'Elemental Overload' is great to use for most of leveling, until you have enough crit nodes on your tree and also a really good Diamond flask. Unfortunately with the upcoming flask nerfs, its unclear how potent the Diamond flask will be. So you should expect to use Elemental Overload for longer, and postpone taking crit nodes on the tree. Oh and when you're using Elemental Overload, don't be in a rush to use Controlled Destruction Support; your crit chance could be lowered to 0% :)
Once you have your first 6-link or Tabula, I strongly recommend using Multiple Totem Support. Combine this with your Spell of choice, and your early mapping should be set.
Your skill tree will be feature complete, shortly after Act 10 Kitava, around Level 75-78. Slot in regular jewels when you can snipe a good deal, and definitely be working towards your Cluster jewel combo.
Combo While Waiting On The Boss
This applies to any boss with a long summoning animation, such as Metamorph, all Conquerors, Sirus, Cortex phases, Maven phases. The steps are this:
- Stand close to the boss
- Spam out your totems, preferably on the other side of the boss
- If Soul Mantle, spam out even more totems to make sure you have lots of curses going
- Wait for the boss to become targetable. You will know when this happens, because your totems will start shooting
- Hit all your non-Life flasks, especially Bottled Faith if you got it
- Hit your Withering Step button
- Run away like a scared child, but not with Flame Dash because its locked out
If the boss doesn't immediately vaporize, you should start to burn them down with self-cast Wither from a safe distance. At all times, make sure you have all your totems up and shooting.
End Game Variants
Elegant Hubris ES Stacking:
@Bobirosan1 took this version to Level 100 in 3.14.
Elegant Hubris (Cadiro) is used to access the Supreme Decadence keystone. When combined with the Panicked 'instant because low-life' Life flask, this provides very reliable recovery to the ES pool, which the build otherwise does not have. There are other small bonuses from this jewel, if you allocate more points around it and rolled good RNG.
ES is further boosted by changing the Ascendancy points. A Clarity Watcher's Eye is used. Some mana is reserved for Zealotry, to make up for missing DPS elsewhere. A double curse setup is used for more boss DPS. There are also clever passive tree changes to fit this all in.
Agnostic Arcane Cloak:
@ciggaro took this version to Level 100 in 3.14.
The Agnostic keystone, and a high level Arcane Cloak skill gem, leverage a healthy mana pool into a significant source of regen, and also a chunk of DPS. This creates a surprisingly balanced and defensive character, though some DPS is sacrificed to create this balance. The passive tree choices largely mimic what a person would do for an Archmage build.
Elemental Ailment Immunity is maintained by anointing 'Arcane Swiftness'. Clarity, and a Clarity Watcher's Eye, are used to balance out the MOM even more. Unnatural Instinct jewel is used because cash money why not? :)
I personally like this variant and I think I will try it whenever I play Dark Pact again!
Which map modifiers should I look out for?
There is no single map modifier that will 'brick' a map for us, so therefore every single map can be completed. The main one you want to look out for is 'Cannot regen life/mana', and I skip this almost 100% of the time.
When I start getting close to the next level and can't afford to die, I start looking out for other dangerous rolls. 'Additional / multi proj for enemies' and '100% increased enemy AOE' are lethal when combined with other modifiers. 'Monster crit chance and multi' and 'monster attack and cast speed' can be lethal. Also, any of the 'enemy gains 100% of phys as an element' is a big increase in enemy DPS.
If too many of these modifiers exist at the same time, I would consider re-rolling the map, if your goal is to not die.
"Is there a good Watcher's Eye jewel that we can use?"
The simple answer is, no. The Vitality bonuses are fairly weak across the board. Some of the Clarity bonuses can be good, but I would never recommend paying for that unless you're focusing on a variant. We have no offensive/DPS options. A well balanced regular jewel really goes a long way instead.
July 18 2021, leveling section updates and with new POB there
May 20 2021, huge update on all sections of the guide! Need to finish Leveling section and POB section for 3.15
Apr 23 2021, addendum at the front for 2nd week 3.14 Ultimatum, includes current POB
Apr 13 2021, 3.14 patch notes, cleaned up the guide, new POB soon
Mar 22 2021, initial thoughts on upcoming 3.14 League
Feb 21 2021, brief update to Gems / Trigger Weapon. Also the Ascendancy section.
Nov 18 2020, updated Shield information and added trade link
Nov 11 2020, actual video clips of my character added!
Nov 1 2020, Skin of the Loyal chest now expensive? :(
October 2020, 3.12 Heist
Last edited by BlueeGreg on Dec 9, 2021, 4:08:04 AM
on Oct 27, 2020, 4:03:31 AM
on Oct 27, 2020, 4:03:39 AM
Hey man - been trying to catch you online but no luck. I am playing this on HC and invested a bit as this will be my last char. I am really enjoying it. I was wondering if you can take a look at my POB for my level 84 and let me know if you see any potential changes I could make... hoping to be level 90+ today.
Thanks ahead of time!
Last edited by dsata on Oct 30, 2020, 4:51:11 PM
on Oct 30, 2020, 2:45:58 PM
็Hi. Im playing this build to lv90 now. Its absolutely blast and quite cheap to get going.
on Nov 1, 2020, 4:21:41 AM
can you tell me why you ignore the imba chant on totem and miners from the labyrinth for a 120% crit chance on boots? has it nerf and no longer works?
on Nov 1, 2020, 7:58:25 AM
The Storm Brand from the trigger weapon crits all the time, which gives us Power Charges but also means you can't benefit from that boot enchant. These crits count as YOU critting. If you aren't using a trigger weapon, it's totally OK to use that crit boot enchant. I think I would still prefer the movement speed enchant, since DPS feels already really good once you get everything together.
on Nov 1, 2020, 10:59:33 AM
Yes it's a very cheap build, if you ignore the cost of the Astral Projector ring. That's a good thing too because that ring itself can break someone's bank early in the league, not leaving a lot left for good gear.
on Nov 1, 2020, 11:01:44 AM
Your char is very impressive for level 84 and in Hardcore!
The Bottled Faith is a tough flask to fit in. It really only helps with bosses and you need to be close to the boss, which is scary for HC. Also means you likely lose a Quartz flask or a Mana flask, both of which are great defensively. I would honestly drop the Bottled Faith flask and use an Enduring Mana flask, so your EHP stays topped off.
I love your focus on stacking Chaos res, which I wish I had been able to do. Your chest is very good for defense, though you lose DPS obviously. Probably the right call for Hardcore.
Your Small Cluster jewel with Blessed is a great choice. That actually might be BIS, and I didn't notice it. That extra Mana and Chaos res go a long way.
You were able to fit in Elemental Ailment immunity on your boots with Shaper influence. Nice!
Lol your gear is so good and cohesive, I feel like you're playing an entirely different game than me! :)
on Nov 1, 2020, 11:15:02 AM
Can it be considered tanky enuff for endgame heisting ?
Edit: Chest price went up a lot .. sigh
Last edited by Yloss on Nov 1, 2020, 6:50:01 PM
on Nov 1, 2020, 3:59:20 PM