How to make a build - quick start guide (2.0 updated)

How to make a build

It's not that hard. Really. I'm just tired of seeing threads asking "is my build good?" and all they show us is a passive tree. Honestly, that is nowhere near enough information to define a build. Help us help you; give us enough information that we can give you sound advice in return.

Part 1: Planning

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. This is especially true in Path, of all games.

1. The 'hook'
What is it that you want to build around, what's special or unique or interesting or fun that catches your eye? That's your starting point.

Some examples from popular/known builds:
- Hey guys, guess what? The effects of these exploding projectiles can stack on the same mob! I'm gonna do something with this. (Found a skill synergy of interest)[/b])
- Grr. Why would they even make a projectile skill which can't be aimed? There must be some way to solve this problem. (Building around a specific skill)
- Go forth, minions, and do my bidding. (Aiming for a particular playstyle)
- Look, this pair of gloves makes unarmed damage actually hurt. I'm totally going to punch Piety in the face with it now. Ha. (Building around an item)

Others can be less well-defined:
- I've always wanted to dual-wield swords. What's good with dual wield swords?
- That's an interesting damage formula...let me see exactly how many "more" multipliers I can get to work together at once.

Or completely off-the-wall:
- I'm going to make a character as close to being Piety as I possibly can.
- CI EB folks, I'm going to make it actually work. Pity I can't use BM with that.
(Yes, these are actual build concepts)

2. Skills and supports
If the starting point was a skill, that's the primary skill. If the starting point was not a skill, it's time to break out the list of active skills. Generally, the 'hook' will specify implicitly some criteria that the active skills have to fulfill: must be AoE, should be usable while unarmed, etc. Sometimes only a combination of skills will fulfill the criteria: melee splash and multiple projectiles are notable for this reason.

Following that, choose a primary single-target skill, if applicable. (Most spellcasting builds and splash multistrike builds have the primary multi-target skill doing double duty. So do a number of other builds, notably the shotgunning variety.) You are, of course, free to pick up several skills and try them as you go to see which fit your build concept and play style better.

Naturally, one must then pick support skills to go with the active skills. Realistically, the maximum number of absolutely required links should be 5 on the primary skill and 4 on the others. (Except for 2h and bow builds, which can be planned for double 5L unless using Kaom's.) It's sort of okay to decide that the build needs a 5L to work properly, since 5Ls are common like water in the ocean these days, but 4 is still preferable. Feel free to plan for up to 6 links, but understand that the sixth is a luxury. Support gems in items (looking at you, Bringer of Rain) do not count toward this limit. I have a list of support gems in hard copy format just so I can go down the list and pick out any that might work.

Curses, totems, auras, golems and assorted utility and trigger skills come next. These are generally the ones that require few supports. Every character has free use of one curse and one totem, both of which can provide plenty of utility; there is usually no downside to using them except the socket/hotkey slot, but please be considerate in a party and do not over-curse other people.

Remember, the total number of sockets on a regular set of gear is 24, and the total number of hotkey slots is 8, of which one is generally used for movement.

3. Gear
If you haven't already done so, now is the time to decide what items you want, if any. Some requirements are universal, such as HP/ES (as appropriate) and resists, but some are not.

- What stats are you looking for in a weapon? Besides the obvious damage roll, cast speed and local crit are probably the biggest offenders here. This also applies to armour and accessories, but weapon is the most important one. Most of the time.
- Any uniques that would be strictly necessary for your build? (For example, a facebreaker enables unarmed builds.) Any that would be really nice to have?
- And the big one: can you reasonably afford any gear requirements and build enablers? If you don't have a Shav's, you can theorycraft all the low life builds you want, as long as you accept that you probably won't get to actually play them through higher maps.

CI builds tend to be more expensive, gear-wise, than their equivalent HP builds, but are still reasonably affordable even on a new player's budget. (Proof by construction, even if he did make his brother spend 3 days in trade chat for it. This was before the advent of indexers.)

Do remember, though, that a build can be successful even without best-in-slot rare or unique gear. Good enough is good enough, when you're starting out, and "good enough" tends to be fairly cheap these days.

4. Passives
It is generally advisable to have an idea of what your endgame build will look like before you ever click on the Create Character button.

Start by beelining to the nodes you need, which means HP/ES as appropriate while going for all the keystones you want. Fill in the remaining points up to 90 (giving a level 70~ build) as you wish. Check whether there are shorter paths or better clusters. Repeat as necessary.

Feel free to decide where you'll put any additional points after 90, but if your planned build cannot stand on its own by level 70, the problem is not with the build.

General rules of thumb:
- Pick up at least 150% HP or ES, not taking INT bonus (1% ES per 5 int) into account. HC builds should try for 200%. I have no numbers for hybrid builds except "as much as possible", because hybrid HP/ES builds don't really have the space to get efficient mitigation from other sources like armour.
- Crit builds should aim for every relevant and available (and efficient) crit node; multiplier is less important as this is more effectively gotten from equipment. If you can't get >300% crit from passives, you're doing it wrong.
- Aim for at least +80 to each of STR/INT/DEX, unless planning to use Astramentis. My preference is +100 of each. Odds are you'll need the stats for your support/utility gems or auras.

More on the passive tree
plasmaballs wrote:
The only other advice I would give is to watch youtube videos where the person describes why their build takes the path (through the skilltree) it does. How those skills will help you in the long run. There are some great youtube videos that really explain a lot of synergy and purpose to taking a certain path in the skill tree.

I learned quite a bit from that. Choosing targets on the skill tree that you want for your build and then calculating the least points to get those main passives while also examining all the things that you pass along the way. The shortest path might not have the right other skills or attributes that you want. You have to think bigger picture from the beginning.

wxyjac wrote:
One thing you might want to mention is skill point effectiveness.

For example, there's critical chance clusters offering 100% and 105% increased global critical chance; however the 105% cluster takes 5 points, while the 100% cluster only takes 4 points.

At first glance the 105% increased global critical chances sounds more, but at the cost of 1 extra skill point; you're basically gaining 21% increased critical chance per point, while the 100% cluster gives 25% increased critical chance per point, while also giving 5% critical strike multiplier.

But the calculation doesn't just end here! You don't have to always take the full cluster, the 105% cluster can give you 60% critical chance just for 2 points! While on the another hand, the 100% cluster can give 60% critical chance and 20% critical multiplier for just 2 points too, often you won't be right next to it, unless you already grabbed coordination or spell power.

This bring us to the third stage to watch out for when calculating skill effectiveness, build distance. 105% and 100% for 5 points are nice, but they won't be nice anymore if you have to travel there to grab it; sometimes, even just 1 or 2 points matter. For example, if you need two points just to get to the 105% cluster, that makes your critical strike chance effectively 15% per point; that's something to think about. At this stage, sometimes those with higher stats per cluster is useful, which is why I listed it as first thing to consider, gives build flexibility.

The fourth stage of skill point effectiveness involves the use of equips; for example 20/20 increased critical damage multiplier gem gives 149%; while 20/20 increased critical strike gem only gives 125%. A skill point for the common critical multiplier is 10%, while for critical strike is 15%: this makes it a lot better to just invest into critical chance nodes and use increased critical damage gem, rather than invest into critical damage nodes and use increased critical chance gem.

And finally there's the last stage, the build effectiveness or the performance. You can stack a lot of critical chance, up to 95%, but if your accuracy is shit (for attackers), most of the critical roll won't do anything. In the end you will have shit damage (because focusing so much on critical) performance. On the other hand, even if you're able to stack critical chance to 95%, accuracy also 90% or higher; you will still do only average damage; because you sacrificed so much +% damage nodes that your 250%+ critical damage is about the same as people who just stack +% damage nodes, and -1 support gem on your main skill.

Skill Point Effectiveness:
(1) Stats per points clustered
(2) Stats per points scattered
(3) Stats per points traveling
(4) Stats per points including equips/gems
(5) Overall strength as a whole build, performance compared to a different approach but similar build concept

Jauer wrote:
a common mistake I usually see is that people are blinded by big passives or common known good circles and use a lot of points to travel there... maybe by taking a small detour you'll spend more points but gain much more on the way, so you actually don't need to travel all the way to different other skills.

a small - 1 point more - detour through an int node might fix your curse/aura/gear requirements.

this process you should repeat a couple of times. save the builds take a break and return... look more and make a friend or veteran player take a look at it.. very important part.

scale your spec to the future. so as I 100% agree with plan for 90 points but.. does your spec offer good past that point? I personally believe a spec really unfolds at lvl 90+ so, if you're not seeing noticeable gain in efficient points at that point, you should possibly think you maybe should chose a path that offers a bit less good setup at lvl 70 but will scale way greater at lvl 90, remember at that point you will probably have access to better equipment, that will support that even more.

Part 2: Playtesting for viability; debugging

Make the character and start leveling it. You may choose to use a leveling build at first, and change over to your planned spec once you reach a specific point - say, the required level for the unique whose effects you are building around. For example, a facebreaker build uses a weapon until reaching level 16 to equip the gloves.

As soon as reasonably possible, start using your planned spec. Spend some quality time with it. Learn what makes it tick and how it feels. And try to settle issues with it instead of getting a divorce immediately, because you will always run into some unforeseen problem. Always.

The first issue you run into will probably be resource management.
Up to about merciless, it's generally expected that you can/will spam mana flasks while using 3-linked skills; finishing out the storyline and reaching the endgame, it becomes possible to reduce or completely remove your flask dependence where mana is concerned.

There are four distinct ways to resolve mana issues without resorting to flasks: Blood Magic, mana leech, Eldritch Battery, mana regen. Several unique items also offer alternative solutions, and some claws also have mana on hit. The solution you finally settle on may be one or a combination of the above, or you may choose to just keep the mana flasks, especially if you're using Surgeon's flasks on a crit build.

Other problems and the solutions to them are more varied and colourful. Rules of thumb: if there are DPS problems, first look to get a level-appropriate weapon if applicable, then look to your skill links. If that doesn't work, it might be a mechanics issue you overlooked. (I have an oops story about that. Multiple ones, actually.) If there are survivability problems, pick up HP/ES/resists on gear as appropriate, and try to find some way of running endurance charges if you don't already use them. Alternatively, a distraction of some sort, such as a decoy totem, often provides the answer. And if you have the currency to spend, uniques like Lightning Coil provide great damage mitigation, which is why they're so expensive.

Actually, let's talk more in-depth about defenses.
With the advent of 2.0, layered defenses have now become necessary rather than nice. Even with a 9k EHP pool, if incoming damage is not mitigated in some way (and preferably multiple ways), you are likely to go splat if something so much as brushes you on its way past.

There is no point at which I can say "this will be enough", given the various combinations available, the differing requirements of builds (totems vs melee, for example) and the differences in people's applications of the concepts. But generally speaking, more is better.

What even is EHP? E stands for Effective. So if I have 5.5k HP and 4.5k ES, I have effectively 10k HP to go through before I die, hence 10k EHP. If I then add Mind over Matter to the mix, I take 30% of damage to mana first - so I can take approximately 14k damage before I die, hence 14k EHP.

As large as your EHP pool is, at some point reducing incoming damage will have better returns. There's mitigation, and then there's avoidance, and we'll look at these one at a time.

We'll start with the easy one: direct reduction from armour, which stacks additively with reduction from chaos golem, Fortify and endurance charges. More armour = better. For this reason, most people bring around at least one Granite Flask (or Jade if they also took Iron Reflexes).

Then there's the not-so-easy one in the same vein. Uniques such as Lightning Coil and Taste of Hate are very expensive in HC leagues, and for good reason: they convert part of physical incoming damage to elemental. This has two effects: one, it reduces incoming physical damage, making armour mitigation more effective due to the way the formula works. Two, the portion converted to elemental is further reduced by elemental resistance. The end result is that a character running LC might be taking maybe half the damage of an identical character without LC.

Or you could approach it from the other side and run Enfeeble to reduce the damage mobs deal, right at the start.

And what if we could simply not take hits at all (damage avoidance)?

Well, there's evasion. Evasion in this game is deterministic, which means that if you have a 20% chance to be hit, you'll take damage every 5th hit, no questions asked. (The first few are random until you get hit once or the counter reaches 4 so the next one becomes autohit.) And as a note, you can apply Blind to enemies in some way, to reduce their accuracy. Double whammy!

Dodge is not evasion, they're different things in-game. Dodge is true random, so if a hit gets through your evasion counter, you roll for dodge. (Dodge is also compatible with Unwavering Stance. Just so you know.)

Block is also true random. If a hit gets through your evasion counter and you fail to dodge it, you roll for block. Between evasion, dodge and block, you can reasonably set up to take maybe 20% of incoming damage - but that 20% is going to hit you full force unless you also have some mitigation in place. I once made a full ev/dodge/block character who one-shot herself every time she met physical reflect and managed to hit herself. It hurt.

I should mention, at this point, that Enfeeble also reduces mob accuracy. It's an all-around great gem.

Finally, there's...wait for it, drum roll please...simply not being there when the attack happens. Either by interrupting/slowing their attack, or by redirecting it. Arctic Armour, Temporal Chains, Decoy Totem, et cetera. Hell, walk out of the line of fire. If it works, right?

Combine as you can, or as you will. Your character, or your XP bar in SC, will thank you for it.

Repeat until there are no more problems. This process is likely going to last all the way through lower maps and act 4 merciless. The target end result is reasonably safe and fast solo clearing of said lower maps, defined as blue 68-70 (the levels A4M covers) with mods that do not make them directly unplayable (eg. blood magic for CI), and reasonable damage/utility contribution and survivability in higher maps according to your preferred playstyle (solo or group).

Preferably, this would be achievable using only low-cost items and build enablers. And yes, I know there are some builds with a lot of rather expensive enablers, without which they would fall apart. But really, if you absolutely need a 6 link to do Aqueducts at level 70, something is probably rotten in Denmark.

One last point of note: sometimes, a build is going to crash and burn regardless of how interesting it is or how much time and effort you put into it. Learn from the experience, figure out why it failed, and move on.

Part 3: Minmaxing

By this time, you should be running higher maps with little trouble, and can focus on squeezing the last few drops of performance out of an already successful build plan.

This is where the 6L Taryn's Shiver, Kaom's Heart, etc. find their way in: items that are not strictly necessary as build enablers, but very good all the same. You never plan for these items unless you already have them or have the resources to get them immediately; however, they are often best-in-slot for a particular build. This is also where skill points above 110 (level 90~) find their way in. Jauer has made a really good post on the topic, which I quoted above.
How to make a build:
Current guides: N/A
Last edited by Kirielis on Aug 9, 2015, 3:57:26 AM
Last bumped on Aug 9, 2017, 5:14:36 PM
Questions and comments welcome in this thread, suggestions extremely welcome and will be edited into the first post if they're any good.

Regarding PMs: Suggest you post sufficient information in a new thread in the relevant class forum, rather than coming to me. I am not your personal build monkey or anyone else's. I appreciate that you're trying, but if you come back to me with thoughtless questions instead of taking the time to consider the pros/cons and implications, I will more than happily return "use your brain for once". Fair warning.

Build lists: Duelist Marauder Ranger Scion Shadow Templar Witch

Regarding HC/SC divide
Losing 10% on a level 90 SC character is at least equivalent, in both currency and playtime, to losing two level 70 HC characters, for the same intensity of play. Anybody who says SC builds can afford to glass cannon has, in all likelihood, never done higher maps on a glass cannon. It just doesn't work past a certain point. I will concede, however, that SC players can afford to skimp on defenses while leveling up, where HC players generally cannot.

I do a lot of build crafting on SC because (1) that's where all the currency and items are (2) I do iterative build crafting, which involves a lot of pushing the limits and a lot of experimentation, and consequently a lot of deaths while working out the finer points of a build (3) that's where I have all those high level characters to respec after patches, and I'm lazy. But in the final analysis, my build crafting is incredibly skewed towards what is generally seen as the HC style of play.

Some of that is consequently lost when people make squishies on the basic template, particularly as I write guides and not character profiles. Oh well, so be it.

Okay, when I wrote that a couple years ago, it was true. Now? Yeah, no, XP has just gotten way too easy to get in the end game. SC builds can be squishier than HC builds now.

For what it's worth. Used to be I did all my build crafting on SC and then played them on HC, but that got real boring real fast. Now I just build things on HC and finish playtesting them on SC after they rip.

Post archive
This is where I keep things that are no longer useful. Follow links at own risk.

Other useful links:
Path of Exile Wiki
Wiki: Mechanics page (I think some of this might be outdated)
Why Acrobatics? (this was written right after the Acrobatics patch, which made it actually functional)

I think this list is kind of outdated, but I'll keep it here anyway. We were doing cool things before they were cool:
Everything Pew does
CI Marauder
Penta curse party support
Perma stun build
Chaos damage abuse
AFK build
Pillar AoE detonate dead build
How to make a build:
Current guides: N/A
Last edited by Kirielis on Sep 3, 2015, 5:30:01 AM
Great guide, nice work!

I especially like this point:
Kirielis wrote:
As soon as reasonably possible, start using your planned spec. Spend some quality time with it. Learn what makes it tick and how it feels. And try to settle issues with it instead of getting a divorce immediately, because you will always run into some unforeseen problem. Always.
Face it, all of your suggestions are worse than this idea:
This is great. Could use a few more pointers, though, like the fact that every build should have a curse at some point. Also maybe mention that no matter how interesting your build is, it might still end up crashing and burning (see: builds based off of Infractem.)
Hehe, tell me about it! I swear I'll make that bow work one of these days. Work well might be a different story entirely.

Truthfully, I don't run with a curse most of the time. The other point, though, is valid. I'll see what I can do about it tomorrow morning.
How to make a build:
Current guides: N/A
Kirielis wrote:
Truthfully, I don't run with a curse most of the time.

You should fight some harder monsters then! :P
Face it, all of your suggestions are worse than this idea:
I don't think it gets a whole lot harder than impalers in Crematorium, as melee. Party was off somewhere, don't ask me, my job is to start the fight and hope they follow me into the fray. (They did eventually.) But yeah, enfeeble/TC would definitely have been helpful. I'm just a lazy bugger who won't curse or micro if at all possible.

First post updated with suggestions from TherosPherae - look under Skills and Supports for the curse bit.
How to make a build:
Current guides: N/A
Most helpful guide I've seen yet. Every other guide is about a specific build and they rarely tell you which direction to go first. You usually have to figure out what you need first.

Focus on pure armor, evasion, or energy shield equipment and focus on one or two types of damage. Summoners are the easiest thing once they hit about level 20.
Last edited by Natharias on Sep 2, 2013, 11:14:20 PM
To be fair, I did only write this because I'm mad at the threads which just give a 120 point build link and nothing else, and expect useful advice. It's easier to hotlink this than type out "tell us more about your skills/supports/gear, and don't make a 120 point build".

First paragraph updated for clarity.
How to make a build:
Current guides: N/A
TherosPherae wrote:
This is great. Could use a few more pointers, though, like the fact that every build should have a curse at some point. Also maybe mention that no matter how interesting your build is, it might still end up crashing and burning (see: builds based off of Infractem.)

i've built a totally working build around infractem with burning arrow , its a good bow =)

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