[3.17] 20M in a single explosion // End-game viable Vaal Molten Shell build // Wardloop Ascendant

14.03.22 Update:
Build guide now available in PoB Notes: https://pastebin.com/Lhu22WK5 Recommended starting budget: 15ex
Changes since making this post:
1. Acquired a rare shield and switched to non-lowlife.
2. Dropped the Basalt flask to free up a few flask passives for additional exposure Fire Mastery.
3. For single target, swap to Abhorrent Interrogation gloves for additional inc. damage taken.
(Original LL PoB: 14M explosion: https://pastebin.com/3RM8yKQC)

Shaper (probably): Am I lagging? What are these damage spikes?

Salutations Exile! This is obviously a love letter to the Forbidden Build 3 by Jousis, now with more tricks to up the damage of Vaal Molten Shell (VMS). For those unfamiliar, here’s the original concept.

In this build, I dialled up the Shaper damage to upwards of 28M per molten shell*, and an average of 1.8M DPS. There are many new ways to scale up the VMS damage for it to be viable DPS-wise, and surprisingly it is rather smooth for clearing too! Here's the PoB: https://pastebin.com/3RM8yKQC, but the damage is deceiving. Here's how to properly calculate it:

Scaling VMS Damage

To recap, VMS does not scale with increased damage or more damage mods (which PoB used), nor is it a hit that can ignite or penetrate resistance**. There are only 4 directions to scale up the DPS of VMS:
1. Gem level (more % reflected damage)

Using Skin of the Lords + Empower 4 together with Ashes of the Stars gives +8 to VMS. At level 28 it reflects 16290% damage as fire.

2. Armour (bigger shell)

VMS caps at 100k Armour, which translates to a 30k shell. To reach that value, we use the combo of Grace + Determination + Defiance Banner + Iron Reflexes. It is further raised with a Basalt flask and around 10 passive points on tree (for both % increase and reservation efficiency). The buff effect Helmet Enchant can also provide a huge boost to flat armour, but will require lab farming (which this build is NOT good at).

3. Enemy damage taken multiplier (resists and % damage taken)

There are two multipliers that help scale the damage: enemy fire resistance and enemy increased damage taken. Curses are a great source for this. Elemental Weakness and Flammability lowers resistance, while Punishment afflicts massive increased damage taken at low life. Especially with EW quality being multiplicative with curse effect (similar to Anomalous Defiance Banner with aura effect), Ashes of the Stars and Enhance make the curses much more effective.

One innovation is the use of Elemental Equilibrium + Elementalist exposure (VMS doesn’t count as hits anyways), which grants a massive -45% Fire Resistance.

Finally we have elemental ailments: Shock and Scorch. Investing some into non-damaging ailment effect gives us 20% shock and -20% elemental resistances. Shock is procced with a Hexblast which also conveniently ignites without dealing fire damage hit, so we can fit in a Combustion support.

4. Proc rate, uptime and cooldown (the overall DPS)

With the above 3, the damage ceiling of the final burst is at 30k * 162.9 * 2.88 = 14M. But realistically it is not easy to consume all 30k of the shell without dying, as it only protects 41% of damage taken. Hence, it is Wardloop time (I’m not good at explaining it so here’s a video by CaptainLance9 that inspired me). But it has to be a Wardloop without Skeletons, as we stack massive Armour that Heartbound Loop is negligible. Since we are using Cyclone + Empire’s Grasp to pull enemies in anyway, Cast while Channelling + Forbidden Rite is the go-to choice. With some delicate balancing of Ward, Chaos resistance and an echoing Cast when Damage Taken + Forbidden Rite, I have managed to proc 25k of the shell myself within the baseline 9s uptime. This combined with damage from enemies makes for pretty consistent max-damage VMS proc. With this we avoid Skill Effect Duration, since it prolongs the Soul Gain Prevention time and lowers the overall uptime, hence why I also use alt-quality MS. To fill up souls for VMS, we squeeze in a Soul Ripper flask in the Olroth-Traitor combo, so VMS is up every 14 seconds, resulting in an okay 1.8M DPS on average.

The Good and the bad

There are many items that work together so well, but prior to this build I never thought about them. These serendipitous finds make me love this game so much more. For example, the Empire’s Grasp knockback + Cyclone + Scorched ground trail guarantees the enemies are Scorched while they are dragged behind you. Skin of the Lords serving 3 purposes: giving a massive +7 to VMS levels, 100% global defences for Armour AND Ward, as well as giving Resolute Technique for our Cyclone vacuum.

Speaking of vacuum, I have never considered Fidelitas’ Spike being one of the best weapons for a build: best attack speed to proc more vacuuming hits, shock chance for Hexblast and some EE-proccing lightning damage. Admittedly a high APS Sceptre or Rune Dagger with +1 Fire gems may be better for single target, but the cheap-to-find implicits giving me Frenzy Charges and almost 10 APS certainly make clearing a lot smoother.

Obviously, there are some glaring issues with the build. While the recoup mechanics provides good survivability and sustain, balancing a Wardloop for maximum self-damage means any source of increased damage taken on us blows up the character, that includes Shock, Punishment curse cast or reflected on us, lab green aura totem thingy and that Cemetery map boss. So, Purity of Elements is mandatory, and ideally we want reduced curse effect on us but that is expensive for how niche it is.

Another intrinsic flaw of this build is that 50% of the 28M payload is at 9s after you cast VMS, so bosses entering invulnerable phases will screw with your timing. Yet another flaw is that most endgame bosses cannot be dragged around***, so you need to latch onto them at point-blank range. Some AoE helps but is not the most noticeable given the tiny base radius of VMS blast.

One alternative is to forego Low Life, MoM and Petrified Blood to frees up a shield for Life, max-res and even another +1 to VMS. This mitigates the dangers of Punishment curse, but requires more investment in Mana and Reservation as the Curses cost a lot of Mana to trigger. In the end, using Petrified Blood and MoM gives more EHP and also utilizes the Mana recoup more effectively, but a rare shield probably has a higher damage ceiling if optimized.

It’s a meme Vaal Molten Shell build, the first in this new era of powercreep, so at the end of the day I’m happy to embrace whatever flaws this build have. It is a build that I can truly recommend for end-league shenanigans, when you want to see both your character and your enemies dropping dead without knowing what “hit” or “not-a-hit” them.

(*) Molten shell damage calculation: 30k (shell size) x 16290% (Lvl 28 tooltip) x 1.57 (enemy -57% fire resist) x 1.84 (enemy increased damage taken (at low life)) x 2 = 28M. The final 2x multiplier is to account for the burst per second throughout the uptime, together with the final burst. Realistically it’s closer to 1.5 since the last second burst is usually lost and one may not be able to stick to the enemy for the entire duration.
I made a Spreadsheet made to calculate self-damage, DPS and survivability.
(**) The exception being Divergent quality, but that does not apply to VMS, only MS sadly.
(***) Surprisingly, The Infinite Hunger can be dragged around, so you can stay on highground longer.

Half a VMS (without the final burst) kills T16 map bosses
Last edited by ABCkid on Mar 14, 2022, 11:54:34 AM
Last bumped on Mar 26, 2022, 5:52:32 AM
so while i know this isnt a league starter do you have any suggestions what you might try to play a while early on working your way into this build? or is this a strict have to big respec later to play kinda thing
rozakk wrote:
so while i know this isnt a league starter do you have any suggestions what you might try to play a while early on working your way into this build? or is this a strict have to big respec later to play kinda thing

I levelled with Hollow Palm Technique + infernal blow. With Astramentis, Fluid Motion, 40 dex from first ascendancy (while rushing for Path of the Witch start for more elemental damage) it was quite smooth.
Rushed bottom left for cluster jewel. I also used a cheap large fire damage cluster to reduce number of Regrets I need to spend.

But yes there will be a respec of like 10-20 points (Lava Lash, Tribal Fury, large cluster jewel etc.). I don't remember exactly how many regrets I've spent as I have been modifying the build constantly, but the "big" respec comes after I've done Eternal lab and the build is online only with permanent flasks from Pathfinder (also wardloops suck at doing lab).

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