[3.16] Wintertide Brand Occultist | League Start Viable
Hi guys !
Quick disclaimer before you read this guide, I need you to understand this is my very first attempt at a build guide so it’s probably gonna be missing lots of things and the build surely is far from min-maxed. I’m open to any suggestion and/or question and I'm not a native english speaker so please don’t roast me too hard. With that out of the way, let me introduce you to my take on Wintertide Brand as an occultist. I’ve tried to create a build with a good balance between offence and defence, not getting 1-shot in maps but still capable of cruising through T16 and handling its own in boss fights. This build is incredibly smooth to play and I think I did a good job with it.
So, is this build for you ?
-cold damage = nice chills for easier bossing and freezes while clearing
-pretty tanky & ranged
-chill, freeze & stun immunity
-league start friendly
-guaranteed chaos res cap (as soon as you’re low life)
-very high investment possible
-brand playstyle (very polarizing)
-mediocre boss DPS
First of all, what is Wintertide brand ? Well, it is both a brand - as the name suggests - and a cold DOT intelligence spell skill gem.
If you’ve never played brands before, well the concept is just to summon a brand that will attach to an enemy and deal damage until the enemy dies or the brand duration ends. In theory you can only attach 1 brand per enemy, but the Runebinder keystone allows us to attach one more and Wintertide brand has a built-in copy of this affix, allowing us a total of 3 separate brands on a single enemy at the same time.
While attached, Wintertide brand gains up to 20 stages (24 with the helmet enchant) and each stage gives us 20% more damage. So basically we want our brand to reach its max stage as fast as possible and then stay on the enemy for as long as possible, since applying a new brand implies to restart the stacking of said brand’s stage. This means we need to focus on 2 things : brand duration (via brand duration and skill effect duration nodes) and brand activation frequency (which is increased by cast speed).
Regarding the cold DOT side of the spell, it is affected by modifiers to spell damage which means we’re gonna look for increased/more spell damage on our gear and passive tree. And of course any elemental damage or cold damage increase are also welcome.
Regarding the playstyle, it is pretty straight forward even though it isn’t a 1 button build (sorry cyclone lovers, I feel you). For clearing, you simply place your brands now and then, making sure each pack has at least one brand and you can focus on dodging or rushing if you have the zoomies. You might think that a brand attaching to enemies 1 by 1 would have a terrible clear and you’d be right ! But here comes the magic of a former cluster node known as “Holy Conquest”. It has been converted to a brand mastery in 3.16 and reads
". What this means is simple : every 0.3 second your brand will attach to a new enemy if there is one nearby, this “chaining” gives us a great clear and doesn’t affect our single target at all. The reason this is especially good on WT brand is because when detached, WT brand inflicts a secondary DOT known as Wintertide’s end to all nearby enemies. The two DOTs can inflict damage at the same time, inducing a nice chain reaction relatively similar to the Essence Drain & Contagion combo or to an ignite proliferation.
When facing bosses, on top of making sure you have 3 brands attached to them at all time, you wanna use your Frost Bomb spell to both apply cold exposure and our 2 curses thanks to hextouch support. These curses are crucial to apply if you want decent DPS on end-game bosses and also give us a little more survivability thanks to the Malediction node in our ascendancy. You also wanna make sure the enemy is chilled at all times but the Skitterbots should have you covered. Finally, you want to drop Vortex under the boss to trigger the Bonechill support gem, making the enemy take increased cold damage based on the chill. Once this is done, you can fully focus on dodging, which isn’t too hard thanks to the substantial chill we have.
Though it could be played as a life version, a hybrid version, or even CI, the build is intended to be played as low life, making use of the pain attunement keystone for a huge boost in damage. Thus we make use of both a Shavronne’s Wrappings body armour (the chaos damage doesn’t bypass energy shield) and a Prism Guardian shield to reserve up to 3 different 50% auras on our life (reservation masteries are awesome). Of course we are also reserving the majority of our mana, having a total of 7 auras. We equip the Presence of Chayula amulet, this piece is perfect for low life builds, converting part of our life into Energy Shield, giving 60% chaos res and stun immunity on top of helping a bit with attributes requirements. (I highly recommend using fertile catalysts to convert even more life into ES). Since we are low-life, I chose to make use of Lori’s Lantern ring. This item is a no-brainer in my opinion : all elemental resistances, movement speed, light radius, chaos res to make sure we’re capped and most importantly “Enemies are unlucky when damaging you” which helps greatly with survivability. Our last unique items are the Energy From Within jewel to get even more ES and the Crown of the Inward Eye helmet which grants us Transfiguration of Soul, applying increases to Energy shield to spell damage at 30% of their value. This affix alone is responsible for as much as 15% of our DPS.
The rest of the gear is made of rare pieces with ES and resists, but try to get at least 1 piece of equipment with evasion rating to make sure the Ghost Dance keystone doesn’t limit your ES pool. Of course any instance of “% to damage of time multiplier”, “%increased cold damage” or “%increased damage over time” as well as any increase/more cast speed or speed damage is a great addition.
For the weapon, I very highly recommend getting your hands on a “+1 to level of all spell skill gems” with increased spell damage and/or cast speed on it. This level of spell gives us a ton of damage and quality of life since it also applies to our auras and not only our Wintertide brand.
Cluster jewels are not mandatory at all in this build but I find them to be a nice addition. I chose to get Blast-Freeze and Prismatic Heart on my large cluster. Blast-Freeze is a nice little bit of damage coupled with freeze proliferation which is always good to have in high density areas such as scourge or delirium. Prismatic Heart is also a very good node to help us cap our resistances as well as getting some more damage.
The medium cluster is a brand cluster with Brand Loyalty giving us even more damage and Grand Design is a great all-in-one package with brand damage, brand duration and brand attachment range.
Finally, my small cluster jewel focuses on Energy Shield with the node “Energy from Naught”.
Around level 95 you can expect to have approximately 7k ES with decent gear, considering you’re focusing on damage and not defenses on the passive tree.
I’m not using any unique flask so just equip whatever is giving the most quality of life.
Flasks are where I deal with corrupted blood and bleeding, ignite and poison. Silver flasks are a big DPS boost, granting us a good amount of cast speed. Sulphur flasks are a nice little damage boost as well.
For the defensive side of things, a Granite flask helps us get some physical damage reduction against small hits and a Jade flask gives even more chance to evade.
I highly recommend using a Quicksilver flask to help with mobility since this build doesn’t have any build in movement speed.
Regarding corrupted blood, you can also just take any jewel with corrupted blood immunity.
Layers of defense
-Enemies are unlucky when damaging you
-~50% dodge chance
-Recover ES on kill
-Good recovery rate
-Chills & freezes
-Some block chances
-Capped chaos res
-Enemies deal 20% reduced damage (ascendancies)
-Elusive when needed
The ascendancy nodes are very straight forward in my opinion, providing a great mix of quality of life and damage.
1st we take Void Beacon to lower enemies cold res and nullify their regen
2nd we go for Frigid Wake for chill and freeze immunity as well as more cold Damage, a free freeze every 4 seconds and some damage reduction on chilled enemies
3rd is Malediction. We make great use of a second curse as well as the Malediction debuff, making cursed enemies take increased damage and deal less of it
4th is Withering Presence for the 60% chaos res
The 4th major ascendancy point is really up to you. I chose Withering Presence to have an easier time capping my chaos res, but if you can do it without the ascendancy, then Vile Bastion is probably the best option, granting you some ES regen. I do not consider Profane Bloom to be of any use since we already have a great clear and would need to run a blasphemy setup to make good use of it. As for Forbidden Power, power charges are of no use to this build and the AOE would only affect Wintertide’s End debuff so really nothing interesting here.
POB (community fork) : https://pastebin.com/SV6MqUqV
The POB contains 3 different trees :
Life : for the leveling part until you get the items to play low-life
Default : when you play low-life but without clusters
Cluster : the high-end version of the build
It is important to note a few things:
POB doesn’t account for all 3 brands but only 1 for some reason and only shows DPS for a certain stage. I have made my own little google sheet for DPS calculation that gives me results which match the feeling of the build in game
Don’t rush for ES nodes & Pain Attunement keystone and don’t reserve your life until you have the items needed to play low-life with a decent ES pool
Don’t take Ghost Shroud if you haven’t reserved Grace yet or you will have close to no ES
Life reservation mastery is mandatory to reserve all three 50% auras in your shield
Don’t forget the Brand Mastery is key to enabling the clear on this build
Energy Shield Mastery to base Light radius on ES isn’t mandatory but great QOL
Enchants and Anointment
The helmet enchant is of course “Wintertide Brand +4 to maximum Stages”, this is a monumental increase in DPS.
Best in slot for gloves enchant is probably any enchant “of reflection”.
Boots enchant can be anything depending on how you feel but I like “% increased Mana Regeneration Rate if you've cast a Spell Recently” and “% increased Movement Speed if you haven’t been Hit Recently”
The best anointment is in my opinion “Exceptional Performance” with a very low cost of 1 clear, 1 amber and 1 black oil for a huge 25% increased skill effect duration but if you already have enough cast speed and/or brand duration, you can opt for any other defensive of offensive anointment.
Skills and Links
Regarding movement, I chose Flame Dash for a fast repositioning skill and Withering Step for both a good movement speed boost and the Elusive buff, granting us 15% chance to avoid damage from hits, a good additional survivability skill. I also equipped a Frost Shield skill but haven’t found it all that useful to be honest. A good alternative if you’re looking for a good DPS boost would be using Vaal Righteous Fire instead, it is a temporary 20% increase in damage at the cost of 60% of your health pool so be careful not to use it when the boss is about to burst you.
Please note that you don’t have to link your hextouch and curses to Frost Bomb specifically. Frost Bomb only applies its hit when it detonates and thus isn’t always easy to use on moving targets, you can swap the setup with vortex if you want an easier time applying curses.
You can’t mix and match auras however you like, Malevolence needs to be placed in the Prism Guardian shield to benefit from the +2 levels so you get additional skill effect duration by reaching level 23. I also highly recommend socketing the Grace aura inside the shield too, this will provide you with a little extra evasion, which is always good.
Wintertide Brand (lvl 21 if possible)
(Awakened) Controlled Destruction
(Awakened) Swift Affliction
(Awakened) Elemental Focus
Malevolence (needs to be in here)
Grace (needs to be in here)
Clarity (lvl 6 should be enough, don’t reserve too much mana)
Arcane surge (lvl 6 max)
Frost Shield / Vaal Righteous Fire (depending on what you prefer)
Soul of Arakaali to help mitigate damage over time.
Soul of Shakari helps when dealing with poisons.
I’m currently trying to build a POB for an Elementalist version of the build, making use of lightning golem buff to have insane cast speed and thus a very high activation frequency. If this is of interest to you, do not hesitate to ask for said POB ! I haven’t tested it yet, but it would sacrifice some Quality of Life to get more DPS.
Why not take any damage penetration ?
Penetration only applies to hits, not to DOTs.
Is increased AOE good in this build ?
Nope, this would only apply to Wintertide’s End debuff so investing in it isn’t worth it. If you want your brands to attach from farther and thus “chain” better, you need to invest in brand attachment range. There are two small nodes for this just next to the Runebinder keystone and also a brand mastery which is probably the most interesting since you get a 40% increased attachment range with just 1 passive point.
What is the starting price for this build ?
Well, it isn’t very easy to say. You can start the build with just rare pieces and do the campaign and early maps just fine, so basically, the entry cost is inexistent. But Shavronne’s Wrappings, Presence of Chayula and Prism Guardian can be expensive in a league start scenario so you’ll probably need to farm with the suboptimal life version of the build until you can afford to switch to low-life and cruise through content.
Do I need awakened gems ?
Absolutely not, awakened gems are great to reach higher DPS but they aren’t mandatory at all ! You can start with the normal version of these gems and then, when you have enough currency, switch to the higher damage ones. It’s good to note that these awakened gems are on the cheap side though, which is always welcome.
Thank you for taking time to read all this, I hope this makes you wanna try this build.
Do not hesitate to post any question or feedback, I’m sure the build is far from perfect and I’d gladly exchange with you on how to make it better.
Stay sane exiles.
Last edited by yamakuchi54 on Jan 8, 2022, 3:11:00 AM
Last bumped on Jan 19, 2022, 5:13:10 PM
on Jan 6, 2022, 12:48:11 PM
Do I need to understand the reasoning behind making a Wintertide Brand Build while there is literally one of the most in-depth cold dot builds from Shak?
Just to share and exchange about this build and see how people would change it/make it better. At this point all skills have been covered by someone already so if i follow your logic, why even post on this forum at all ? But i guess i should've just keep it to myself. Thanks
Last edited by yamakuchi54 on Jan 7, 2022, 6:10:56 AM
on Jan 7, 2022, 6:08:46 AM
I saw a gameplay of a build like that on a youtube video few days ago. I definitely want to play that build next league :)
Thanks for the guide!
on Jan 7, 2022, 6:51:12 AM
Looks cool, do you have any video showcase and is the dps calculation in pob correct? 1m dps seems a bit low for the investment
on Jan 7, 2022, 10:55:58 AM
Thanks, I'm glad some people find it cool ! I've just uploaded a youtube video, I'll be updating the build guide with a showcase tomorrow as soon as the HD version is available.
Regarding DPS, POB doesn't seem to calculate the Full DPS properly as I mentioned, only accounting for 1 brand instead of 3 so when all brands are at max stage you should get around 3m DPS. To be fair, i'm not even sure this gives an accurate DPS but the build really feels smooth even in end-game fights like maven. The best way to judge is certainly through the video showcase, especially on conquerors.
Update : I just added the video showcase to the guide, I hope it helps you ! :)
Last edited by yamakuchi54 on Jan 8, 2022, 3:38:53 AM
on Jan 7, 2022, 5:34:53 PM
I was browsing for new ideas for the upcoming league and the lori's lantern is such a great idea! I am curious - how often often do you get hit and is physical damage a problem?
If it is, changing skitterbots to Determination and changing the reservation mastery from aura effect to increased mana efficiently significantly increases physical reduction from 21% to 60%, without including a granite flask (65% reduction while its activated). Just some food for thought!
I do love the safe feeling of playing Wintertide Brand!
I ended up changing a couple of things to fiddle around.
I changed frost shield to steelskin. dropped zealotry, kept the increased aura effect, and added defiance banner (helps evasion/armor), dropped the chaos/life cluster picked up utmost intelligence cluster. I saved one passive point, added more defense, added more ES, and you could throw that extra point for some ES leech =]. Overall, you're tankier.
Let me know what you think!
Last edited by dxEmpathyxb on Jan 16, 2022, 3:42:16 AM
on Jan 16, 2022, 1:45:39 AM
This is a very interesting take you got there !
So, first of all, about the physical damage and overall getting hit. I don't feel like i'm getting hit too often while mapping honestly and I do regen my ES pretty fast with the ES on kill. But as you can see in the video showcase, even during clear, I have all my ghost shrouds most of the time and physical damage doesn't seem to be more of a problem than other sources. At least not during clear. For bossing it's certainly something else. However even with your changes, armour isn't giving any significant damage reduction for big hits, you can see that by setting a big number for "Enemy Hit Damage" in POB.
The changes you made seem like a great HC take of the build to be honest ! More tankyness is always welcome, but as you can see, you go from 1M DPS to 650K DPS, which is a huge diff. I personally prefer having more damage and a lil less defenses but that's just personal taste and only cause I'm playing softcore.
Regarding the ES leech you mentioned, it's pointless. Leech only applies to hits, so your brand wouldn't leech a single ES point. I don't consider the Vortex/Forst Bomb hits to be enough to invest any point in leech.
Overall, you just made a great job at making a more HC viable version of the build, great job and thank you !
on Jan 19, 2022, 5:13:10 PM