The Most Well-Rounded Starter Build In PoE - Detailed Leveling Guide for CA/TR Starter by Asmodeus
Welcome to my Toxic Rain/Caustic Arrow Pathfinder leveling guide.
I strongly recommend watching the video, as it contains a lot more explanations and visual help, which will make everything very clear to you.
The video also contains a build showcase and footage from all stages of leveling, which will give you a good idea about whether this is a build you would enjoy playing. This written guide is meant as a supplementary way to provide notes about all the gem setups which you can look up at any time. Most of it is also contained in the PoB.
About the build:
TR/CA Pathfinder is an excellent starter build for new players as well as a league starter. It is unique in how well rounded it is. It is one of the best builds to progress the atlas quickly at the beginning of a new league, which is why I decided to make this guide before the new Atlas Expansion and the 3.13 league. Personally I don't know any other build that matches all of these characteristics:
- very fast clear speed
- easy bossing
- good survivability
- able to do all maps mods, without any adjustments and without exceptions
- has great quality of life, and is easy and comfortable to play
- works great as a league starter with zero budget
- is HC and SSF viable
- can be leveled with the same skill from the very beginning of the game to maps
- scales well into the late game, reaching millions of DPS if you want to invest in it
I recommend this build very strongly. I also think that one of the reasons why it isn't a more popular build is the prevailing opinion that during leveling through the acts, the single target damage is very low and the build struggles with the act bosses. This is completely false, and if you watch the video guide, you'll witness bosses being melted faster than soft butter on a hot pan, on a rooftop in Egypt in the middle of July. This all comes down to knowing the proper setup. I have heard all kinds of solutions for the single target of this build, from TR mines to self casting TR and all kinds of weird recommendations, but nothing worked nearly as well as the solution I'll share with you in this guide.
In every act you should know what your goals are. Which links you need to get on your gear, which skill gems you're going to buy, how much they cost and how much currency you are going to need. You should also have your skill tree planned in advance. Knowing all of those things will almost double your leveling speed as opposed to leveling without a specific plan for all of those things. The earliest acts have the most information because that's when you're setting your character up, and in the later acts you're just cruising and blasting.
I also recommend using a proper loot filter that will highlight items and currencies mentioned in this guide.
Goals for Act 1.
1. Links and gems:
The links and sockets you need to look for in this act are: 3-link G-G-G and G-G-R as well as at least 3 green and 2 red sockets on your gear. At minimum you should leave the town with G-G and G.
Your initial setup is:
- Caustic Arrow + Pierce
- Burning Arrow
After lvl 4 you will want to use:
- Caustic Arrow + Pierce + Mirage Archer
- Burning Arrow
After you pick up the Primal Spirit passive, equip Steelskin and put it on left click.
At lvl 8 you add Void Manipulation to your CA setup instead of pierce and if you have extra green links you can link Pierce Support with Puncture or Burning Arrow for now, but it's not necessary.
Use CA to clear and for the single target (Brutus) use Puncture -> CA -> Burning Arrow. Stack Burning Arrows until any of the previous debuffs expires and then refresh. Priority is keeping CA and Puncture up
After Brutus you're going to swap Dash for Smoke Mine (level Dash in the offhand weapon slots, we'll use it again in act 6), also purchase Vitality and use it from now on (you need a transmutation orb to purchase it, you should have them from selling unidentified items that drop from Brutus).
After reaching the Cavern of Wrath waypoint, pick up Toxic Rain as your reward and buy Ballista Totem Support and Void Manipulation (they both cost a Transmute). You'll also need a G-G-R 3-link for them (if you don't have one yet, just use G-R until you get it).
Make sure to set all of your attack skills (including the TR Ballista) as well as your Smoke Mine on "Always attack without moving".
Your combat pattern for boss fights is now:
- Place 3 ballistas next to the boss (they have a very fast totem placement speed)
- Use Caustic Arrow, Puncture and stack some Burning Arrows until any of the debuffs expires, then refresh them and continue with your rotation.
By not having to cast TR yourself you can still take full advantage of your other abilities and position correctly to avoid incoming damage.
2. Movement speed boots:
You can copy and paste "runners" or simply "nn" and then ctrl+f, ctrl+v in the vendor to search for the runners prefix which is the 10% movement speed on boots. The vendors reset every time you level up so make sure to regularly check the vendors for the links and boots until you're happy with what you have. Do not make extra trips to town when you level up, just do it whenever you happen to be in town picking up your quest rewards.
If you find an early alchemy orb or essence it is worth using it on a pair of boots, especially if it's a 3-link with good colors. Otherwise save 3 augmentation orbs for MS benchcraft in act 2.
Try to get a Short Bow as soon as you can (it requires lvl.5). The only stats you care about on the bow are:
- Attack Speed
- + to levels of socketed gems
- Damage over time Multiplier
- Chaos Damage suffix craft
The extra phys/elemental damage helps early on, but later we will have low accuracy and deal damage mostly with chaos DoT's therefore focus on having a fast base, and if you can get any of the above mods, that's ideal. You can get to maps with a lvl 5 white short bow though, because our base damage comes mainly from the gem levels of our skills.
The bases which you should use are: Short Bow, Grove Bow and Thicket Bow. They're all 1.5 attacks per second, which makes them the fastest bow bases in the game.
Act 1 TLDR:
Goals for Act 2.
1. Links and gems:
As soon as you finish the chamber of sins you want to use Skitterbots and Blood Rage. This will require an extra blue and an extra green socket, and an alteration orb to purchase the skitterbots gem.
After finishing the weaver you should grab Vicious Projectiles and buy and extra copy of it from the vendor for another Alteration Orb. Replace Mirage Archer with VP in your CA and replace the Void Manipulation in your Ballista TR for the second VP. Keep Mirage Archer and Void Manipulation in your offhand weapons to level them for later.
2. Movement speed boots
If you've had no luck finding them anywhere, grab a pair of boots with good links and use an alteration or an essence on them for a high chance at an empty prefix then, using the recipe before the entrance to vaal pyramid craft MS on them - it costs 3 augmentation orbs.
Act 2 TLDR:
MS bots craft,
Kill all bandits
Goals for Act 3.
1. Links and gems:
Item level 25 is the item level at which 4 links begin. Since vendors sell items of a level 1 higher than your character level, you want to start checking for 4 links at lvl 24. You are looking for a G-G-G-R and later for G-G-G-G. Even if an item doesn't have those exact colors, a dexterity requirement item is more likely to roll green sockets so ideally you want a Dex or Dex/Str base to roll the desired colors with chromatics. As soon as you get a 4 link, use TR+Ballista Support+ViciousProj+VoidManip.
An extra gem you'll pick up in this act is the Despair curse. You can now also drop the 1 link BA from your setup. Despair will be a massive boost to your single target damage. Your combat pattern against bosses is now:
- Drop 3 TR Ballistas
- Puncture in spare time
In act 3, I recommend picking up a couple of well rolled (15%-16%) two-stone rings if you don't find any. you can use spare essences on those to look for extra suffixes which you can craft extra resistances on.
I usually go for fire to make the Gravicious fight easier and Lightning to make the Piety fights easier. The amount of crafts you can do depends on the number of Transmutation orbs you will find and the amount of open suffixes on your gear
Act 3 TLDR:
Pick up 2 two-stone rings and bench craft resists on your gear
Goals for Act 4.
1. Links and gems:
You can pick up a Stone or Flame golem + Withering touch and use them linked together for a small boost to your boss damage, it is not necessary and completely optional. Do it only if you have extra G-R linked sockets in your gear which you're not using.
2. Staunching Flask
This is optional in softcore but I would consider it mandatory in hardcore and recommended if you want to have a MUCH lower chance of dying. Once I have access to Sacred Life flask I beast craft the Staunching mod. Sacred Life flask requires lvl 36 and I usually end up hitting that level right after killing both Kaom and Daresso and I equip it before entering the belly of the beast. Belly of the beast is the first zone where bleed removal matters but it makes a massive difference if you don't want to be forced to stop running because you can't afford to take the increased bleed damage. It's a massive QoL and it ends up saving enough time to justify getting it on a league start, especially if you save it in your stash for future characters.
Before fighting Kaom you should try to cap your fire resistance or get as close to it as possible. Daresso is a joke and you should instantly phase him, so cold res is not as important, but I usually have my resistances already capped in act 4 and you should aim to get as close to it as you can.
Some time at the beginning of this act (ideally right after reaching the Crystal Veins waypoint) you should do your first lab and ascend to Pathfinder. Your first node should be Nature's Reprisal for the extra AOE and damage.
Act 4 TLDR:
Sacred Staunching Life Flask,
Goals for Act 5.
After finishing The Key To Freedom Quest, immediately grab a Silver Flask as your reward.
After killing Kitava you will lose 30% of your resistances, to counteract this, keep constantly improving them as you run through this act. Ideally you'll get 105% elemental resistances and that way end up back at 75% after killing Kitava.
Act 5 TLDR:
105% ele res goal,
Goals for Act 6.
1. Links and gems:
Start off by doing Lily's quest on the beach. This will give you access to all of the gems you need. As soon as your currency allows, you should purchase Malevolence, Swift Affliction, Flesh and Stone and Second Wind.
Your setup should now look like this:
You can now put detonate mine on your left click and use smoke mine for the MS boost + Dash for even more mobility.
Make sure to fix your resistances after receiving the -30 penalty. In Act 6 you should at least cap your cold res before the final crab boss.
Act 6 TLDR:
Goals for Act 7-8.
1. Utility Flask
I recommend Picking up Jade or Basalt Flask from the early A7 quest. You'll be able to pick up the Quartz flask in act 10.
Blast through the rest of the act 7-8!
Act 7-8 TLDR:
Jade or Basalt Flask,
Goals for Act 9.
1. Blood Aqueducts
In BA you can catch up on levels and start doing chaos recipe. If you find any humilities, sell them for 2c each. Together with chaos recipe and whatever chaos you have found during the story this will allow you to afford a 5-link Quill Rain for whenever you want to swap to TR. You should also push for 105% elemental resistances again, so that you can progress straight to maps after killing A10 Kitava.
Once you reach lvl 63 or zone level 64 you'll be able to get an iLVL64 Thicket Bow, you need iLvL64 in order to get the +2 to socketed bow gems mod. Once you have that or a 5 linked thicket bow (preferably both), you can use Arrow Nova support with CA for some crazy clear speed.
At this point you should do your second lab and take the Nature's Boon.
Act 9 TLDR:
l.64 Thicket Bow for +2
Nature's Boon from Cruel Lab
Goals for Act 10.
At this point your character should be already set up for maps and it's just a formality. Kill Kitava, make sure your resistances are capped and do your Merc Lab (pick up Master Alchemist).
Once you have a 5 link or a +2 bow, swap to Arrow Nova Support for Caustic Arrow.
Act 10 TLDR:
If 5-link or +2 bow -> Arrow Nova Support CA
Here is an example of my gear on a fresh start SSF HC character that just got into maps:
Here is a PoB link for this leveling process:
There are separate trees for approximately each 10 points spent. This is just one example of ordering your passives, but it does change depending on how much life you find on your gear, what are your links and how much mana/int you find on your gear. My example of the passive skill tree is aimed for consistency so even with bad RNG you'll have good damage.
For an example of an end game setup with Asenath's Chant and Maloney's Mechanism check: https://pastebin.com/4Echd6H9
This guide took many hours to research and write and it is packed with information. There is still more I could share but the guide is already extremely long, despite me trying to make everything as concise as possible. If you still have any questions I'll be visiting this thread from time to time to answer them. You can also check out my Youtube guides for examples of runs and more tips: https://www.youtube.com/asmodeusclips
Last edited by AsmodeusPOE on Nov 28, 2020, 10:02:47 AM
Last bumped on Dec 22, 2022, 3:30:20 AM
on Nov 28, 2020, 10:01:41 AM
I've started with a variation of CA/TR every league since Delve.
The Act progression is really helpful.
Do you find the dps loss is too great to use Blood and Sand (sand stance) over Skitter Bots?
Have you tried routing the tree for No Witnesses and using Withering Step?
on Nov 28, 2020, 3:35:57 PM
Blood and Sand only works for Melee skills.
In terms of Withering step I think it is a massive noob trap. I do get No Witnesses for elusive, it's a great way to get elusive before you can get it on boots, but using withering step will prevent you from using smoke mine and dashing, by eating the cooldown up and locking your superior mobility skills when you actually need them. It will also remove your elusive when you use skills (which you do all the time) and it's a really horrible idea to play with it in my opinion. The wither is insignificant while map clearing and once you swap to TR you will have wither totem for bosses anyway.
Again for clarity - DON'T use Withering Step - it makes you less tanky, slower and more likely to die :D
on Nov 28, 2020, 5:02:42 PM
As a casual player I really enjoyed the guide because it has so much detail and just watched the youtube bid as well. Thanks so much!
But even a good guide can't prevent me from asking a stupid question.
In the video at the very end and starting maps you mentioned taking toxic rain out of ballista support and use it as your main skill dropping CA.
There was no other mention of how you should be linking it etc. Is that just because at this point you have now left this guide and I should just be researching a pure TR skill setup from another guide?
Can you elaborate a little bit on once getting there, what to do next?
I want to know what do to next too :D
And what about endgame stuff ? :o
Yes, I'm planning on releasing an end game build guide for this, before the next league launch. This is essentially a part one, which covers the leveling. You can use another TR guide for now, or just copy the setup I showed in the second PoB - it has all the end game gems and items I was using for the showcase.
In short, once you get a 5 link Quil Rain, you can switch to TR with Vicious Proj, Void Manip, Swift Affliction and Mirage Archer (6-link add Efficacy or Empower lvl 4)
Last edited by AsmodeusPOE on Nov 29, 2020, 2:37:27 AM
on Nov 29, 2020, 2:34:47 AM
Thank you! Patience is a virtue. Looking forward to the next part!
Great stuff sir! Thank you for the guide
This is probably one of the best easy to interpret guides I've seen on this site. I've been wanting to do a CA/TR build for a while and just wasn't sure how to get it there and here come your video and written guide. I hope you'll share more builds in time because this was exactly the type of build guides everyone needs to do!
on Dec 2, 2020, 9:13:10 AM
I just want to thank you for such a comprehensive guide & video. I love it and can't wait to try it out in Mayhem this upcoming Friday!
on Dec 2, 2020, 1:36:03 PM