[3.14] Penance Brand Elementalist - Smooth Fun T16 Mapping on 400-600c Budget





[This guide was originally written for Ritual League, but I played this build again in Ultimatum League and found it to work exactly as well this league. The skills, passives, and gear are all completely unaffected by the Ultimatum patch.]



Author's Note

As a player who has often turned to guides when my character ends up getting wrecked in a new league, I'm often frustrated by the recent phenomenon of "guides" having evolved into a bragging platform rather than offering useful advice to someone interested in trying a new build.

I know you're not here to see me put on a Headhunter and an Explode Vaal Regalia, then smash my way through T16 maps at lightning pace. I know you're not here to see me 1-shot Sirus while wielding mirror tier wands and then somehow claim this means I have a good build and that you should follow it.

No, you're here because you're curious how the build functions and what you need to do to make the build work for you, right now, on a reasonable budget.

Path of Exile is a game that's about the journey. If you look at the beginning and end, you'll realize we all start in the same place with the same one-dimensional gameplay, and in the endgame we yet again converge to a common path of one-dimensional gameplay. We start as a random person walking across a beach and attacking Hillock with a single ability, and we end as some sort of superbeast sprinting through areas right clicking once to clear entire screens.

But what happens in the middle is where the interesting decision arise and where the player's skill manifests. What happens in the middle is where the game is really played. And that is what I intend to focus on here. So without further ado, let's jump into my best attempt at a sub-500 chaos endgame-viable Penance Brand Elementalist.



Introduction

Penance Brand is a somewhat esoteric skill. With its strange mechanics, it seems like garbage the first time you try it, but once you understand and build around those mechanics, it becomes super fun to play and incredibly strong in the late game.

I played this build initially as a duo with my brother playing an aura support Scion, but my character is totally fine to blast through T16 maps solo as well (even though I haven't optimized her at all for solo play). We got to level 100 in the first week purely through normal T16 mapping, spending very little currency on gear except RMR gear for the aura support and a couple cluster jewels. So, what you get out of this build for the amount of currency you put in is fantastic, not to mention the Penance Brand booms are just amazing.



Penance Brand Mechanics

So why does Penance Brand seem to suck so badly if you just throw it in your gear and try it out yourself, while other people are able to make an endgame build that one-taps three screens worth of monsters with the selfsame skill?

Penance Brand's skill description is quite confusing in-game, so I'm not going to paste it here. Simply put, Penance Brand zaps enemies repeatedly for a relatively meager amount of damage while stacking up a thing called "energy", and then at some point it blows up dealing a large AoE damage that receives a huge more multiplier based on the number of energy stacks. So, booms = good, zaps = a tool for booms, but useless in their own right. In order to make this skill good, we need to get as many booms as possible, so the question becomes, what specific conditions cause the booms and how do we create those conditions faster or more frequently?

Penance Brand booms can happen in two scenarios - when the brand is removed, or when the brand expires. The former will happen when the enemy dies, which is what causes beautiful chain explosions, or when we cast brand recall. (There is one more technique to trigger brand removal more often, and that is Holy Conquest, which we will discuss more later.) The latter is the one that influences our build decisions in a more complicated way. When our brands expire, they explode based on the number of energy stacks on its target. So we would like more cast speed to get as much energy stacked on the target as possible before it expires, except energy caps at 20, so ideally the brands' lifetime will end immediately after the target reaches 20 energy stacks.

Note: I would not recommend jumping immediately to trying to optimize the math perfectly on this if you're just starting this build. There are many complicating factors, some of which I have enumerated below. Just bear in mind that more cast speed builds you up to max energy faster, but too much brand duration can actually be harmful if your brands are sitting on max-stacked bosses but not ready to explode yet. Of course, computer-perfect play could allow one to bypass this by casting brand recall whenever the target hits 20 energy, but let's not fool ourselves that anyone is going to pull that off with any degree of accuracy whatsoever.

Complicating Factors and The Breakpoint Spreadsheet:

Spoiler

1) Runebinder means we can actually have two brands attached to an enemy. But do we optimize for precasting brands as a boss is about to spawn, or are we going to run at the boss then cast our brands?

2) If running at a boss, in what order do we cast our exposure and brands, and do we need to take time to dodge in between casts?

3) If we optimize for non-precast, the math will be wrong for every pair of brands after the first explosion, because those are effectively precast.

4) Is our cast rate even stable? Silver flask means no, any on-hit, on-crit, or on-kill cast speed buffs also mean no.

5) How do you balance the negative consequences of being over max versus under max stacks when the brand expires? Under max at least means no wasted time (no time spend not stacking energy), but over max means you are energizing all targets faster, so is far superior in any single-brand scenario, in addition to Brand Recalls and Holy Conquest jumps.

If you are interested in jumping straight into the maths of this, there is a spreadsheet someone linked to me which can let you know how many energy stacks your brands will have versus a single target. It is built for the scenario in which you start casting brands after the boss is alive. However, note that this means the math is only correct for the first explosion, for the second, your energy stacks will be 2 times the number of stacks from your first brand (two times the larger number of stacks in the spreadsheet). This also means it is incorrect for Conqueror fights and Sirus, which are arguably the most important fights in the game. Anyway, with all that in mind, here is the spreadsheet:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1uqXMR5hh4dL1z6ZKJkrVTxzy-WzZMPAxM_6y7TTMblA/


To summarize the fundamentals of Penance Brand mechanics, scaling activation frequency will give us faster energy stacking, increased cast speed gives increased activation frequency, and when our brands expire or switch targets they are going to create enourmous booms that absolutely wreck monsters in beautiful fasion.



Leveling

Spoiler


Overview

The rough leveling plan is to go Elemental Overload-based Armageddon Brand as soon as you hit level 28 (end of Act 3) and use it all the way through the campaign and early/mid mapping. Armageddon Brand is amazing through the campaign and early mapping. Once damage starts to fall off in higher tier mapping (which also roughly synchronizes with the time when you will have enough regrets to respec), use the currency you've earned so far to buy some crit multi gear and a few cluster jewels, and switch to crit-based Penance Brand.

At league start, this probably means waiting until red maps to switch to Penance Brand, but if this is not your first character, you can just go straight into Penance Brand whenever you want.

Act 1

Do whatever is comfortable for you - unless you're a racer there's no point optimizing one act when you're going to change all your skills out immediately anyway.

I use Frost Bomb - Frostblink - Onslaught, Freezing Pulse - Arcane Surge, and a Fire Wall. Fire Wall can stay in the gear all the way through to mapping as it's always useful bonus damage for blue packs or bosses.

For a skill tree, I like to go the "Triple Walker" build (Ice Walker, Lightning Walker, Fire Walker), because I will use Ice in Act 1, Lightning in Act 2-3, and Fire in 3+. They also help out your resistances.

Act 2

I like to go Storm Brand (Merveil Reward) with Added Lightning Damage and Onslaught. Rush to Elemental Overload on your tree, then get Explosive Runes. (For a more racer-esque build, rush Dark Arts after Elemental Overload and use Smoke Mine + Flame Dash combo).

By end of Act 2, you should be level 20 and do at least one Magic Wand + Rare Ruby Ring + Orb of Alteration vendor recipe --> Magic Wand with added flat fire damage to spells.

This is my Vaal Oversoul tree, but of course Dark Arts is not necessary and always feel free to add Life nodes like Heart and Soul and Quick Recovery.



Act 3

Make sure to do General Gravicius in the Ebony Barracks and go get Armageddon Brand from Maramoa (along with Flammability). As soon as you hit level 28, switch to Armageddon Brand - Combustion - Concentrated Effect - Added Lightning Damage or Onslaught (depending on links available and personal preference). Use Herald of Ash now if you're not already.

On the passive tree, grab the two fire wheels in the top left to scale your newfound Armageddon Brand power.



For extra single target damage, you can go Desecrate + Cremation. Fire Wall, Desecrate once under the boss and then cast three Cremations. Cremation shotguns so it scales with multiple projectiles supports very well. Fire Wall also scales Cremation damage. If this sounds too complicated, don't worry about it at all. Flammability + Armageddon Brand and run around in circles will own everything anyway.

Act 4

This is where monsters start to actual deal damage, so start getting some life nodes if you haven't already. Go for the Runebinder node on the left of the tree before doing Lab, as it will make the Izaro kill super smooth. When you ascend, take the Golem path. I use Lightning + Flame Golem here, but Stone is fantastic as well for a more defensive option.

Act 5

Craft reistances on your gear to prepare for Part 2 (pick up extra transmutes if needed here), right click and let Armageddon Brand carry you. Swap out Onslaught support if you're still using it because you have a Silver Flask quest reward (second quest).

Maybe bring your favorite novel for the Innocence fight.

On the tree, I go down from Runebinder through Devotion to travel to the Templar tree in preparation for Part 2. My Kitava tree looks like this:



Part 2

You have plenty of damage to carry you all the way through the game now, just work your way into the Life and Resistances portion of the Templar tree. Once you're ready to do second Lab, save a few points to get Golem Commander on the top center of the Witch tree. Ascend and finish the golem path on your Ascendancy tree. Now you can sit back and revel in the joy of self-resummoning golems. Flame - Lightning - Stone - Chaos is my go-to golem setup.

Some good gems to add in your build from the Act 6 Twilight Strand quest are Second Wind (connect to Brand Recall + mobility skill(s)) and Intensify Support. Intensify + Concentrated effect is a great pairing for clearing zones smoothly and getting bonus single target damage when needed. I will discuss it more later on in the guide.

After finishing Act 7, I do second Lab with this tree:



Continue through the questline, taking the fire circle at the top of the Witch tree once you feel you have enough defensive nodes.

Option: go Mind over Matter in Part 2 to provide super tankyness. In my experience, the downside to this is Mind over Matter is not actually a 1-point node (although it appears to be), because you will need to start spending points in maximum mana, mana regen, reduced mana cost of skills, etc. in order to support it. So I recommend this only to people who are willing to spend several points for it, but not to someone who wants quick 1-pointer keystone for bonus survivability.

Early Mapping

Make sure your resistances are capped or as close to capped as possible. Craft where needed. Remember a rare Two-Stone ring with 3 garbage suffixes is far worse than a white Two-Stone ring with crafted resistances. Check gear for open suffixes and abuse resistance crafting as much as possible!

You can go two different directions with gem links at this point, either focus more on scaling your on-hit damage, or focus more on scaling your burning damage. In my case, I was playing in a duo with an Aura support, so I did not focus much on scaling ignite/burning damage because the Aura support cannot scale that, whereas on-hit damage can be scaled with Anger and Zealotry. No matter which path you take, I think a very strong starting point is:

Armageddon Brand - Combustion - Burning Damage.

From here, you can go the Ailments route and add Ignite Proliferation + Deadly Ailments, you can go the Concentrated Effect + Intensify route which is always good, you can even go Controlled Destruction if you can get some Crit Chance anywhere on your gear (because with 4 brands, it's not difficult to proc Elemental Overload even with quite low crit chance).

The point is, there are lots of options here, so pick what you want, and you won't be here long anyway, because the great Penance Brand swap is coming soon.

Note: as a league starter build, it's very helpful to have the Fire Wall + Desecrate + Cremation setup here for map bosses. I would do Cremation - Elemental Focus - Controlled Destruction - Greater Multiple Projectiles, since your Armageddon Brand is already Igniting. But if this is your second character, I'm guessing you'll just buy Penance Brand gear and skip this step anyway.





The Penance Brand Swap

So we leveled as Armageddon Brand and now we're asking ourselves, what do I need in order to ditch these meteors and use the super cool Penance Brand skill?

From the discussion on Penance Brand mechanics at the top, we know that what we want is cast speed. Conveniently, there is a helmet enchantment that gives 12% increased cast speed with Penance Brand. This is super strong and highly recommended - buy a random one and slap a greed essence or two on it. On the tree, cast speed can be a little tough to come by. However, remember that in the late game increased damage nodes are not nearly as effective as they were early on, so we happily respec the start of our tree from the spell damage brand on the left to the cast speed branch on the right. We can also take Mental Rapidity for a significant cast speed boost.

The rest of our increased cast speed will have to come from cluster jewels, specifically the Grand Design notable found on Medium Cluster Jewels, giving 10% increased cast speed with Brand skills (in addition to other brand bonuses). We want to pair this with the Brand Loyalty notable which is super strong, giving Enemies take 5% increased Damage for each of your Brands Attached to them, or in other words, 10% more single-target damage (remember we get two attached brands thanks to Runebinder).

There is one more deceptively strong Cluster Jewel Notable for Penance Brand that almost anyone would overlook if they didn't understand the mechanics of Penance Brand very well. Holy Conquest: Brands Attach to a new Enemy each time they Activate, no more than once every 0.3 seconds. Why is this so strong? Remember that one of the nuances of Penance Brand was that it explodes when it detaches. This means with Holy Conquest, if you cast a Brand in a pack of monsters, it will explode 0.3 seconds later, rather than having to wait for 20 zaps or the first monsters to die. This is the notable that allows you to instantly one-tap packs of monsters with a skill that seems to play almost like a DoT skill at first.

One final note: as soon as you switch to Penance Brand, start leveling 6 new Penance Brand gems in your secondary weapon slot. Penance Brand gains 10% more damage for each level up, so getting a 21/20 Penance Brand is your top gem priority!



Passive Tree Overview

Path of Building with all trees (including leveling checkpoints): https://pastebin.com/QY39JrAB

Path of Building with current state of my budget character (MidnightBrilliance on this account): https://pastebin.com/XK0dJNZ4

Images:

Spoiler


Single Cluster Variant:



Double Cluster Shadow Variant:



Double Cluster Templar Variant:



Or a cheaper non-fettle variant of above:





The key items in our passive tree are Runebinder on the left (allows us to attach two brands to a single enemy), Golem Commander on the top middle (to synergize with our Golem ascendancy), and Runesmith if we go towards the Shadow Tree (otherwise it will be Anointed). On the left ofthe tree, there is also a very powerful medium ring Thread of Hope. Beyond that, we scale Crit Multi and Life wherever we can.

I recommend you look at the three variants above and see which one suits your style the most. The single cluster variant allows you enough points to travel to Constitution, which is great if you are trying to push for a high level, especially if you don't want to spend currency on expensive Fettle cluster jewels. The dual cluster variants will definitely allow you to pump more DPS, however this comes at the obvious cost of more currency invested in cluster jewels, as well as a squishier build (unless you are willing to buy the 1.5-2 exalt Fettles to fill out your small cluster jewel slots). The Templar 2-cluster variant spends relatively few travel points for the second cluster, but gets nothing out of them (other than the cluster itself). The Shadow 2-cluster variant spends more points but acquires some extra crit nodes as well as Runesmith, freeing you up for another Anoint.

For my push to 100 at league start, I did the single cluster + Constitution variant, which helped to balance out my lower survivability from going dual wands (rather than carrying a shield), and of course my Aura support ensured I had no damage problems at all. However, as a solo player, you generally have to pick two of the following three: Damage Output, Survivability, Budget. (So it's time for you to ask yourself, which one are you throwing out the window?) After 100, I switched to the Shadow double cluster variant, and I can attest it is way glassier. In fact, if you're trying to level up past the mid-90s and don't want to sink a ton of currency into min-maxing your life, I wouldn't really recommend it. But if you're happy to stop at some level in the mid 90s (or you've gotten to 100 already), you will really feel the damage from this variant.

When I started writing this guide, I theorycrafted a third version: the Templar double cluster variant, serving as somewhat of a middle ground between these two. It saves all those points from the Shadow tree to invest in life, while still reaping the benefits of two sets of cluster jewels. Having now played it on the budget gear linked in this guide, I do actually think it is better than the Shadow version for all but the most extreme of glass cannon players. It's a more well-rounded build that utilizes where you already have traveled in the Templar tree more efficiently. You can use a couple Fettles in one of your cluster groups to top off your Life, or you can even take advantage of your proximity to Tireless (straight right from the second cluster) to get cheap extra Life.

The number one choice for Anoint is Runesmith (if going for the non-Shadow variant), but Heartseeker is also a fantastic source of relatively cheap crit mult (e.g. at leaguestart Runesmith may be out of your budget for your first mapping amulet, so start with something cheaper like Heartseeker). If you are going for Runesmith on the tree, then you are free to Anoint Heartseeker or any other good source of crit multi. Assassination can be another option; it's more expensive but you gain +25% crit chance for -5% crit mult. This isn't necessarily better, but depending on your build it might be.



Ascendancy

For our Ascendancy, we take the Golem path and the Convergence path:
- Liege of the Primordial -> Elemancer
- Mastermind of Discord -> Mastermind of Destruction

Image:

Spoiler






This gives us 4 self-resummoning golems, ailment immunity, super-exposure (self-cast Wave of Conviction or use Heraldry to apply it), and best of all, Convergence for boss killing and mega AoE for mapping from Mastermind of Destruction.



Gems Overview

Penance Brand - Swiftbrand - Concentrated Effect - Intensify - Controlled Destruction - Inspiration

As discussed before Swiftbrand is absoultely required for this build and works wonders for Penance Brand. If you're worried about Concentrated Effect, first remember that Intensify is basically Increased AoE Support unless you're standing still (in which case it just gives damage), and remember that our Ascendancy Heart of Destruction gives the massive 60% increased Area of Effect whenever we are not fighting a boss. So CE-Intensify is an amazing pairing with the Elementalist Ascendancy right now. Next, Controlled Destruction is almost always one of the strongest damage gems for casters. Finally, Inspiration is good damage and very useful to help with our mana problems (given how expensive Penance Brand is). Depending on your build, it may not be the maximum DPS support, but I would happily lose a few percent damage to save myself from being perpetually out of mana (especially in conqueror fights if you use up all your flask charges, this can be quite annoying).

Funny note: At some point, you may actually need to start using Elemental Focus support because penance brand has the ability to freeze bosses that health-gate forever (after you stop attacking). This means your boss fights and Maven fights can be permanently blocked from progressing, unless you leave the area. Hopefully this bug (https://www.pathofexile.com/forum/view-thread/3024267) will be fixed soon though.

Golems: Flame - Lightning - Stone - Chaos

You could consider swapping in an Ice Golem depending on your specific build as well. Remember your golems resummon themselves, so no need for quality, no need for support gems! In fact, you can level them and sell / vaal them, then start over at level 1s if you want.

Movement: Flame Dash - Arcane Surge - Brand Recall - Second Wind

The Flame Dash - Arcane Surge helps you guarantee you have Arcane Surge damage boost for bossing and provide you with mana regen if you run out of mana flask charges. Second Wind with Brand Recall is great, and this is a convenient way to combine them all efficiently.

I also add a Smoke Mine elsewhere, but that's personal preference. You don't really need both.

Auras and Heralds: This depends on if you are playing solo or with an Aura support. If you are solo, a nice setup is Zealotry and Herald of Purity. You can also add in a Vitality on top of this and just level it to a level that's comfortable for you. With inspiration on Penance Brand and an Enduring Mana Flask, it's okay to not have a full 25% of your mana unreserved. Furthermore, if you decide you want to invest in an Enlighten, you will have the available socket group for Zealotry - Hearald - Vitality - Enlighten, and this should allow you to get a high level Vitality.

Exposure applier (solo): You can self-cast Wave of Conviction to utilize your exposure ascendancy (Mastermind of Discord: Exposures you inflict apply an extra -25% to the exposed resistance). If you go for the cold conversion variant (Call of the Brotherhood rings), then you can also consider Frost Bomb, which has an added anti-healing debuff. The two skills have very different mechanics, so experiment and use the one that harmonizes most comfortably with your playstyle.

Exposure applier (with Aura support): You can utilize the Heraldry notable to synergize with your exposure Ascendancy, causing all nearby monsters to have mega exposure. (Note: this "nearby" is quite short range, sadly it was nerfed this league. I recommend testing it by going to an easy zone and walking into the middle of monster packs, which will show an obvious exposure graphic on those monsters within range.) Get Discord Artisan via Reduced Mana Reservation on the top middle of the Witch tree and go for triple heralds, add in Purposeful Harbinger for even more aura scaling. (Heraldry + Purposeful Harbinger is super expensive right now, start with them split on two separate jewels and then merge them when you can afford it. I went all the way to 100 with them split.)

Extra Buff: Vaal Righteous Fire

A nice one-button 20% more damage boost to have available for boss fights. Recommended to be used in conjuction with Bubbling Divine Life Flask to instantly restore the life it takes away. Don't spam this ability as it has a huge lockout period, just use when it's really going to make a difference.

If you have an Aura support, you can also pop normal Righteous Fire here for Conquerors, Metamorphs, and super tanky bosses, as long as the Aura support is giving you a super buff Vitality and Purity of Fire. Just remember, if you leave Aura range you're going to get burned alive, so save it for end of map fights only (you can't turn it off, even by removing the gem).



Gear Overview



For Cluster Jewels, I chose to go the double cluster route, which means my Clusters are a bit more expensive than the single cluster Constitution variant. Unfortunately I can't seem to link the cluster jewels here (unless I go into the game and pull them all out of my tree), so feel free to look at my character "MidnightBrilliance" for the details.

Total Cost: 650 chaos, or 460 chaos for the single cluster variant.

Cost breakdown: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/19Xk0FHmyLAGttsZLWP05EEzT98xRF-LDen2d69m86rg/edit#gid=0

Helmet: Penance Brand cast speed enchantment + greed essence for Life + Res
Gloves: Life + Res + Physical to Lightning Veiled craft (prefix)
Chest Armour, Belt, Rings: Life + Res
Boots: Movement speed + Life + Res
Amulet: Crit Mult, Life, Res, any needed attributes for gear, cast speed can be a nice bonus
Weapon: Either 2 wands/sceptres or wand + shield. Wands/sceptres have a bunch of affixes that can boost spell damage, so there's no fixed recipe here. Crit multi is number one, after that you can look for crit chance, % spell damage, adds flat spell damage, cast speed, +1 level of all/lightning/physical spells (because Penance brand is both a lightning and physical spell), gain X% of ___ damage as ___ damage (very good because this is a conversion build). Feel free to use this search as a template for your wand, but you can adjust the weights on the affixes based on how strong they are for your individual build:
https://www.pathofexile.com/trade/search/Ritual
(Select a max price and then left click Sum in the results to order by weighted sum.)
Shield: Big Life, some spell damage if you can find (but if you're going shield over dual weapons, the focus should be on defensive stats here).

Flasks: nothing special here, except that a mana flask is kind of required if you're solo. Here is what I recommend:
- Bubbling Divine Life Flask of Stanching
- Enduring Mana Flask of Warding*
- Atziri's Promise / Silver Flask of Quickening
- Diamond Flask of Staunching*
- Quicksilver Flask of Adrenaline*

*The suffixes on these three flasks can be shuffled around.
Can use a defensive flask like Granite or Basalt if you prefer instead of Silver. If you have an Aura support, you can get away with no mana flask. And if you don't feel you need a life flask, put the Atziri's in for your life flask and keep the Silver flask as well.

Remember that we have over 100% chance to avoid ailments from our golem ascendancy, so that means we do not need a freeze immune flask!

Cluster Jewels:

- Large: Sadist synergizes very well with Penance Brand (dealing multiple elements of damage) if you don't go Call of the Brotherhoods. Stormrider is a great source of power charges as long as you have any cold damage at all (if you don't try to get one wand with flat cold damage to spells - any amount will do). However, the pairing Sadist + Stormrider proved super expensive, and since I went Call of the Brotherhoods in my build, I decided to abandon Sadist altogether. Instead, I focused on cheaper Large Cluster jewels that just had one or two decent notables each. I ignore the back notable in every case to save skill points. I'm still not exactly sure on what the rules are for which notable goes in back, so copy the jewel into PoB to test before you buy if it's important.

- Medium: Grand Design on every Medium Cluster Jewel, Brand Loyalty second priority but make sure to get one Holy Conquest somewhere. If Grand Design + Brand Loyalty is hard to find or too expensive, swap out Brand Loyalty for another decent brand node. (Note: for duo with Aura support, Heraldry and Purposeful Harbinger combined with Discord Artisan and Mastermind of Discord is very strong as well.)

- Small: You can just fill with Crit Multi / Life jewels here, or get Fettle if you feel it's needed. If you go the single cluster Constitution variant of the build, Fettle is definitely not needed. If you go for a dual cluster variant and have a few exalts to spare, you may find the Fettles a worthy investment.



Expensive Gear - For those that have too many exalts and just need to know how to spend them

Spoiler


Nice Wand for Penance Brand:



The classic OP explode chest:



Anomalous Golems are also great, getting increased buff effect from quality (and you don't need minion life anyway, they resummon themselves!):



Anomalous Brand Recall is also great for cooldown reduction.

Of course, the go-to DPS flask of any build:



And do I even need to mention this one?



Scales outrageously well with Penance Brand though, just in case anyone was in doubt.






Playstyle

If you have no brands active, cast brands on packs as you meet them. If you have brands active and Brand Recall is available, you can charge into the pack and press brand recall to explode them all. Be careful of doing this into strong monster packs, as you might get exploded first. (If you want to be super safe, you can use Brand Recall very rarely and pretty much just cast brands, the build still works super well.)

When you meet a boss, you want to apply your exposure (either Wave of Conviction, Frost Bomb, or stand next to him with Heraldry) and if he's not hexproof also cast your curse (Conductivity or Frostbite), cast Vaal Righteous Fire, Flame Dash for Arcane Surge, and cast Brands on him to stack up Intensity. If possible, use Flame Dash to move rather than running so you don't take away too many Intensity stacks. However, always prioritize surviving over dealing some small percent more DPS.

To maximize single target damage in boss fights, pay attention to how many brands you have active. You will start the fight with 4 active and 2 attached. As soon as the two attached brands expire, recast two more brands. Repeat this process, casting new brands in pairs as the old ones expire. Ensure you don't overcast brands, thereby removing/refreshing attached brands before they have a chance to explode.




The Whys and Why Nots

If cast speed is so strong with Penance Brand, why not go Inquisitor for the absolutely absurd 75% more cast speed?

Sadly, only increased cast speed translates to Penance Brand activation frequency, so Fanatacism's mega cast speed buff would give us absolutely nothing!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

If the brands explode when detached, couldn't I just use Brand Recall to manually detach and explode brands instead of getting Holy Conquest, and replace that with a damage node instead?

I tried manual Brand Recalls to explode Penance Brands for a while, and it runs into several issues. The first is that you really would like to be able to run into a pack and Brand Recall all your brands into it for maximum clear speed and mega booms, which you can't do if you're using your recalls in other ways as well. Second, if you recall all your brands out of a pack but they don't kill everything with the explosions, you end up wasting even more timing recasting brands to pick up the stragglers. Third, using Brand Recall you would most likely be pulling the brands backwards or sideways away from the pack, with Holy Conquest, they will be jumping themselves forward, and pretty soon you'll be auto-clearing screens of monsters with just one or two clicks. Trust me, it's worth it.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

If we are getting Holy Conquest to create explosions, why even bother scaling cast speed anymore? I thought the whole point of cast speed was to get faster explosions anyway.

This is a tricky one. Cast speed actually helps Penance Brand in another way - it still helps the penance brands zap faster and build up stacks ("energy") faster. The number of times a Penance Brand has zapped before it explodes determines how big the more damage mulitplier will be when it explodes. Thus, activation frequency is still super important - just making a brand explode with only a few zaps will not create the boom you're looking for.



Thanks for reading & have fun!


Last edited by CommAshen on Apr 24, 2021, 1:23:03 AM
Last bumped on Jul 6, 2021, 3:35:37 AM
I was thinking about doing a Penance Brand build, but because 95% of the ones on poe.ninja are for running with an aurabot I wasn't sure how viable it was without one and 2 sets of clusters. I think I'll give it a go with the cast speed spreadsheet in hand. Very nice write up; I'll report back in a few days with how it's going.

Also as a headsup: the imgur link doesn't seem to work.
Last edited by JoeODanger on Jan 27, 2021, 6:18:15 AM
Curious to see how this will perform solo as I've been also meaning to try a penance brand build this league. What level would you recommend to swap over from AB to PB or is this just depending on if you already have some gear lying around and also the cast speed for it? Thanks for the well written guide!
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ygrenys wrote:
Curious to see how this will perform solo as I've been also meaning to try a penance brand build this league. What level would you recommend to swap over from AB to PB or is this just depending on if you already have some gear lying around and also the cast speed for it? Thanks for the well written guide!


Solo should be totally fine. With an Aurabot I literally delete A9 Sirus in the blink of an eye, so even if I'm 20 times weaker solo, its not even bad at all. And I'm not optimized at all for solo play. My plan is when I get a chance is to buy all 10c gear (except mandatory clusters and maybe some slightly better wands) and make a concrete item and build plan for anyone playing solo to smash T16 maps. I'm very confident this will be possible given my experience playing the build so far.

I switched from Arma to Penance in the early level 90s both times (Heist Flashback for practice and then Ritual), and both times I felt it was too late. Like you said though, it's mainly about gear not character level, so if it's your second character you can go Penance as soon as you want. Even at mapping start would probably work as long as you have the points for Grand Design and Holy Conquest. Make sure to get the helmet enchant as well and switch your tree start to the right branch (cast speed) if you leveled by going spell damage start.
Last edited by CommAshen on Jan 27, 2021, 7:09:19 AM
FFIW I just swapped over at level 60 as soon as I could equip the helm enchant (with the medium clusters; I don't want to spend on Fettles right now, and my medium has other passives on it as the two named in the guide right now are 5ex for a 8 passive one and I'd rather keep the skill point over getting a 9 right now).

It works just fine, but boss damage at this level is not as good as Armageddon for sure although the clear is already delightful. Probably better to stick with Armageddon as you recommend for as long as you can stand it. It was actually a blast to level with, so that's nice.
Edit- I half take it back; while true Arma still felt a little stronger at this low level, Penance already does work. I was completely underestimating how quickly they blow up and how often you have to reapply due to inexperience with the skill.
Last edited by JoeODanger on Jan 27, 2021, 12:59:16 PM
Hey, well written Guide, i really loved playing PB in Heist even though in the more popular shadow version. I threw this quickly together in Standard and i feel like this needs to be put in a spreadsheet just like someone said before. Otherwise something isnt working and your lacking tons of DPS, mainly ST. I didnt put in the Helm Enchant, the rest should be fine. I do almost zero ST, cant even kill t16 conqs. So either the whole build relies on really expensive gear (like assasin with badge,HH etc) or specific breakpoints which arent shown here.
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Hey, well written Guide, i really loved playing PB in Heist even though in the more popular shadow version. I threw this quickly together in Standard and i feel like this needs to be put in a spreadsheet just like someone said before. Otherwise something isnt working and your lacking tons of DPS, mainly ST. I didnt put in the Helm Enchant, the rest should be fine. I do almost zero ST, cant even kill t16 conqs. So either the whole build relies on really expensive gear (like assasin with badge,HH etc) or specific breakpoints which arent shown here.


The breakpoints without an aurabot are pretty hard to hit on elementalist; harder than I anticipated. I actually swapped over to PB ignite until I can get some pretty GG gear since even looking at potential upgrades my stacks were going to be hard-pressed to break 7.

I'll be the first to admit that regular casting with the jumps is way more fun to play though :D

Here's a link to the old Remi spreadsheet which is, as far as I know, still good to go if anyone wants to make a copy for themselves.
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1uqXMR5hh4dL1z6ZKJkrVTxzy-WzZMPAxM_6y7TTMblA/edit#gid=0
Last edited by JoeODanger on Jan 28, 2021, 7:20:25 AM
Such a well-writen guide! Thank you :) using it to try improve my assassin which is feeling a bit meh atm
Added full gear setup that I just purchased today for 650 chaos and testing in T16 mapping! This is the double cluster variant, so single cluster with Constitution would save 200c.

There is also a section for some expensive gear if anyone's just dying to know how to spend that stack of exalts rotting in their stash.

As always, use this as a starting point and tweak to your liking. My goal is to teach you how Penance Brand works and give you the understanding you need to make the build that fits the vision in your head!

Good luck everyone~
The first lines of the guide resonated with me. Most guides seem to be about showing a character blow screen fulls of enemies with one hit to the point they all resemble each there. There is no particular difference between one and the other.

it is a beautifully informative guide btw, I wish more people would use your template.

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