Chain Lightning Sorcerer Leveling Guide

Last Updated: August 20th 2023

Season 1 - Malignant

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Welcome to the Chain Lightning Sorcerer Leveling Guide! This is pound-for-pound one of the best leveling builds for any class. We combine the amazing AOE from Fireball Enchantment-empowered Chain Lightning with the high damage basic skill Arc Lash to destroy our enemies.

We take Frost Nova, Ice Armor and Teleport as our main defensive skills. Teleport gets us out of harms way, Frost Nova Freezes enemies and applies Vulnerable from Mystical Frost Nova, and Ice Armor gives us a solid Barrier and Mana Regeneration from Enhanced Ice Armor. These tools should keep you alive as you turn up the voltage!

One problem this build faces is Unstable Currents, or to be more specific, its 70 second cooldown. There is no great way to solve this problem with our leveling set up, so only pop Unstable Currents on big Elite Packs and Bosses.

Overall this build feels incredible while leveling. Check out our Endgame Chain Lightning Sorcerer Guide for how to transition to the endgame! You can also check out our other endgame Sorcerer Guides for powerful alternatives.

Chain Lightning Sorcerer with Codex Powers

Arc Lash

Unstable Currents

Frost Nova


Ice Armor

Chain Lightning

Chain Lightning


This build guide takes you through the Campaign up to Level 50. Check out Endgame Guides in our Sorcerer Guides section!

Great Mobility
Doesn't Require Good Aim ✔

Blows Up The Entire Room
Great Single Target Damage

Long Cooldowns
Melee Basic Skill
❌ Bounces Are Unpredictable
Mana Problems Early Game

Season 1 - The Malignant

Players on the Eternal Realm should ignore this section of the guide. This build is designed to work without Caged Hearts, though it can be enhanced by them.

Diablo 4 Season 1 introduces a new questline to hunt Malignant Monsters across Sanctuary. Defeating them drops Caged Hearts that are placed in Jewelry infested sockets to gain build-altering powers. Check out the full Season 1 The Malignant guide from Chewingnom to learn more!

  • There are 32 Caged Hearts divided into 4 different colors, 1 color for each type:
    • Vicious: Orange, Offensive Power
    • Brutal: Blue, Defensive Power
    • Devious: Pink, Utility Power
    • Wrathful: Black, Super
  • The first 3 must be socketed into their respective infested socket color, while the 4th can be placed into any infested socket.
  • Once socketed, they cannot be removed. Instead they can be broken down into Invokers to target farm the Caged Hearts you want inside Malignant Tunnels.
  • Higher powered Caged Hearts drop at higher levels.

With this in mind, let's look at the top 3 best Caged Hearts (and alternatives) for this leveling build:

Best-in-Slot Caged Hearts

  1. Caged Heart of Tal'Rasha - Since you deal damage with 2 elements on this build, this is a solid choice.
  2. Caged Heart of the Picana - In the early game, this Heart does a decent job supplementing this build's damage. Extra Lightning Damage everywhere!
  3. Caged Heart of the Malignant Pact - All of the cycle bonuses on this Heart are great for this build.


Arc Lash is an incredible basic skill. It deals very respectable damage and attacks quickly. Flickering Arc Lash helps us move faster, since we can't make use of Glinting Arc Lash because we lack Stuns on this leveling build.
Chain Lightning Sorcerer Skill Usage Demo

Skill Tree & Gameplay

Getting Started (Points 1-6, 6 Skill Points)

We start off with Arc Lash for it's incredible AOE damage. At early levels we use Flickering Arc Lash upgrade because Cooldown Reduction doesn't become important until later. At level 4 we pick up Chain Lightning and the fun begins. Grab Enhanced Chain Lightning and Greater Chain Lightning to increase your Critical Strike Chance and single target DPS.

Point 1: Arc Lash

Point 2: Enhanced Arc Lash

Point 3: Chain Lightning

Point 4: Enhanced Chain Lightning

Point 5: Greater Chain Lightning

Point 6: Flickering Arc Lash

Scroll to see the Leveling Progression

Adding Defense, Damage & 1st Enchantment Slot (Points 7-17, 11 Skill Points)

After investing 6 Skill Points, we gain access to Defensive Skill cluster. Here we instantly pick up Teleport, Ice Armor, and Frost Nova. These are our main utility spells and they will stay with us until the very end. We also max out our two damaging skills: Chain Lightning and Arc Lash.

For the 1st Enchantment Slot we take Chain Lightning Enchantment, which gives us a free cast every three times we throw it. This helps us on boss fights, which are the only things that can really survive our damage at this point.

Hint: Run the Zenith dungeon ASAP to acquire Recharging Aspect for essential Mana sustain!

Point 7: Teleport

Point 8: Ice Armor

Point 9: Frost Nova

Points 10-13: Chain Lightning

Points 14-17: Arc Lash

Level 15: Enchantment Slot 1 Chain Lightning

Power Up & Ultimate! (Points 18-25, 8 Skill Points)

Now we pick up some bells and whistles for our Defensive Skills. We pick up Mystical Frost Nova to gain Vulnerable and Shimmering Teleport for the Damage Reduction. Enhanced Ice Armor provides much needed Mana regeneration. Align the Elements provides a large amount of Damage Reduction versus Elites.

At Skill Point 24, we gain our Ultimate which gives us a very nice damage boost on Bosses and Elites. We get Prime Unstable Currents for Attack Speed but ignore Supreme Unstable Currents because Crackling Energy does not deal any significant damage.

Point 18: Enhanced Frost Nova

Point 19: Mystical Frost Nova

Point 20: Enhanced Teleport

Point 21: Shimmering Teleport

Point 22: Enhanced Ice Armor

Point 23: Align the Elements

Point 24: Unstable Currents

Point 25: Prime Unstable Currents

2nd Enchantment Slot & Key Passive (Points 26-34, 9 Skill Points)

From Points 26-30, we want to prep our 2nd Enchantment Slot by maxing out Fireball. At Level 30, we take all powerful Fireball Enchantment. This makes each of our Chain Lightning bounces trigger a fiery AoE explosion, which is particularly devastating against high mob density. Since you typically want to power level in Dungeons and/or Strongholds, there is nothing more perfect. We follow this up by taking Enhanced Fireball and Destructive Fireball to make Fireball Enchantment as impactful as possible.

A couple levels later you reach the bottom of the Skill Tree and pick up Vyr's Mastery. This passive works perfectly with our build, providing both damage and defense.

Points 26-30: Fireball

Level 30: Enchantment Slot 2 Fireball

Point 31: Enhanced Fireball

Point 32: Destructive Fireball

Point 33: Protection

Point 34: Vyr's Mastery

Essential Damage & Defense Passives (Points 35-48, 14 Skill Points)

There are a number of highly effective Passives you are going to want to prioritize at this point. Both Glass Cannon and Elemental Dominance provide sizable damage boosts. Electrocution, Protection, and Mana Shield greatly contribute to your survivability.

Points 35-37: Glass Cannon

Point 38: Devastation

Points 39-41: Elemental Dominance

Point 42: Coursing Currents

Points 43-45: Electrocution

Points 46-47: Protection

Point 48: Mana Shield

Renown (10 Skill Points)

You get 10 Skill Points by completing Renown objectives, so don't forget to do your Side Quests! At this point our build is largely complete, so we max out Frost Nova so that it is off cooldown as much as possible. Also, we pick up a few extra Passives for further boosts to our damage and survivability.

Renown 1-2: Mana Shield

Renown 3-6: Frost Nova

Renown 7: Permafrost

Renown 8-10: Hoarfrost

Check out our Renown Speedrun Guide to unlock all your additional rewards efficiently. 

Sorcerer Enchantment Slots

The Enchantment Slots allow Sorcerers to select up to two spells and receive powerful passive effects from them. You must have at least one rank in a skill to put it into Enchantment Slot but it doesn't have to be on your Skillbar.

Unlocking the Enchantment Slots

Once you hit Level 15, you automatically start the "Legacy of the Magi" Priority Quest. Complete it to unlock your first Enchantment Slot. The second Slot unlocks on it's own when you reach Level 30.

How the Enchantment Slots Impacts Leveling

Enchantments are extremely important to any Sorcerer build. In fact, the moment you hit Level 15, you should drop whatever you were doing and go unlock your Enchantment Slots!

Slot 1 - Enchant Chain Lightning. This gives us a free cast for every three times we throw it. This helps us on boss fights, which are the only things that can survive our damage at this point.

Slot 2 - Enchant Fireball. Significantly increases your Area of Effect (AoE) damage, which is especially effective in high density areas such as dungeons.

Learn more details in our full Enchantment Slots Guide.

Gear Progression & Global Stat Priorities

Leveling up in Diablo 4 is similar to most other ARPGs and MMOs - we're at the mercy of what drops. For the most part this means replacing Rares with better Rares all the way up to 50. If you're lucky enough to find some Legendaries, they can provide a significant power boost (discussed in the next sections). Assuming you don't find any of those, let's look at some key stats to look for along the way:

Hint: Press SHIFT over an item to compare it to what you're wearing!


Early on, you generally want to use a 2-H Weapon (Staff) simply because it deals much more damage than the 1-H Weapon and Focus combo, despite being slower. Also, a low item power Focus does not yet provide high enough supporting stats to typically be worth. No matter what loadout you choose to go with, always go for higher DPS over the rest of a Weapon or Focus' stats during leveling. The useful stats to look out for on a Weapon and Focus are:

  • Weapon: Core Skill Damage, Critical Strike Damage, Intelligence, Basic Skill Damage, Vulnerable Damage, Damage to Burning Enemies, Damage to Crowd Controlled Enemies.
  • Focus: Cooldown Reduction, Critical Strike Chance, Mana Cost Reduction, Basic Skill Damage, Intelligence.

Only upgrade Weapons 1 or 2 times at the Blacksmith and socket them with Topazes.


Armor pieces typically grant us Defense and Utility stats, except the Gloves which offer a tidal wave of Offense. Here are the important stats to look for:

  • Helm: Cooldown Reduction, Armor, Life, Intelligence, Mana
  • Armor: Armor, Damage Reduction, Intelligence, Life, Damage.
  • Gloves: Chain Lightning Ranks, Critical Strike Chance, Attack Speed
  • Pants: Armor, Damage Reduction, Life, Intelligence
  • Boots: Movement Speed, Frost Nova Ranks, Mana Cost Reduction


Jewelry provides powerful Offensive stats that help us on our leveling journey. Pay close attention to the rolls as higher leveled pieces aren't always better:

  • Amulet: Defensive Skill Ranks, Glass Cannon Ranks, Cooldown Reduction, Movement Speed, Mana Cost Reduction, Armor, Damage Reduction
  • Rings: Critical Strike Damage, Critical Strike Chance, Vulnerable Damage, Life, Damage to Crowd Controlled Enemies, Mana

Socket Armor with Rubies and Jewelry with Skulls.

Read more about itemization in our Damage Explained, Defense Explained, and Stats Explained articles.

Codex of Power

The Codex of Power is a collection of Legendary Aspects you can imprint onto Rare or Legendary items at the Occultist. They unlock after completing specific Dungeons located around Sanctuary. For leveling there are a few aspects that can significantly help us if we have the funds to imprint them:

Top Codex Leveling Aspects in Order:

1. Recharging AspectZenith - Fractured Peaks
2. Aspect of the Unbroken TetherSeason Journey Chapter 3 Reward
3. Aspect of ControlSunken Library - Kehjistan
4. Aspect of EfficiencyDomhainne Tunnels - Scosglen
5. Snowveiled AspectSarat's Lair - Scosglen

Warning: DO NOT imprint your Weapons as they are constantly replaced while leveling. Put Offensive Aspects on your Amulet, Rings, or Gloves instead.

Learn more details in our article covering the Codex of Power.

Helpful Legendary Aspects

Here are all helpful Legendary Aspects for the leveling Chain Lightning Sorcerer that can either be found in the Codex of Power or Extracted from an item drop. Note that all Legendary Aspects can be found from item drops, and that these can roll better and often significantly better than ones sourced from the Codex of Power.

Aspect of the Unbroken TetherSeason Journey Chapter 3 Reward,
Item Drop, or Gambling Only
Aspect of DisobedienceCodex of Power
Dungeon: Halls of the Damned - Kehjistan
Aspect of ControlCodex of Power
Dungeon: Sunken Library - Kehjistan
Recharging AspectCodex of Power
Dungeon: Zenith - Fractured Peaks
Prodigy’s AspectCodex of Power
Dungeon: Witchwater - Hawezar
Aspect of EfficiencyCodex of Power
Dungeon: Domhainne Tunnels - Scosglen
Elementalist's AspectCodex of Power
Dungeon: Pallid Delve - Dry Steppes
Frostblitz AspectItem Drop or Gambling Only
Accelerating AspectItem Drop or Gambling Only
Aspect of the UnwaveringGood as an Item Drop or Gambling Only
Aspect of MightCodex of Power
Dungeon: Dark Ravine, Dry Steppes
Protecting AspectCampaign Item Drop
Aspect of the ProtectorCodex of Power
Dungeon: Lost Archives - Fractured Peaks
Snowveiled AspectCodex of Power
Dungeon: Sarat's Lair - Scosglen
Ghostwalker AspectCodex of Power
Dungeon: Broken Bulwark - Scosglen
Aspect of AudacityItem Drop or Gambling Only
Charged AspectCodex of Power
Dungeon: Maddux Watch - Scosglen
Rapid AspectCodex of Power
Dungeon: Buried Halls, Dry Steppes
Edgemaster’s AspectCodex of Power:
Dungeon: Oldstones - Scosglen
Storm Swell AspectCodex of Power
Dungeon: Onyx Hold - Dry Steppes
Conceited AspectItem Drop or Gambling Only
Stable AspectItem Drop or Gambling Only
Mage-Lord's AspectItem Drop or Gambling Only

Discover every Sorcerer Legendary Aspect in our Sorcerer Overview.

Leveling Tips and Tricks

Before we end this leveling guide, let's look at some general tips and tricks to remember for all classes and specs!

Complete the Campaign or follow our Leveling Guides. Follow the Campaign if you haven't completed it yet. If you have, use our Alt Leveling Guide and Renown Speedrun Guide to progress your character quickly!

Level Up Your Potion. Many players don't know that you need to farm materials to upgrade your character's potion. Make sure you collect all materials as you explore Sanctuary, especially Gallowvine which is used in many recipes!

Alchemist location in Kyovashad

Compare your Items... Literally. Press Shift over an item in your inventory to compare it to what you're wearing. This makes it easy to determine what is and isn't an upgrade.

Renown is your Friend. While exploring the different zones, take time to gather Renown along the way. It has long-term benefits for your entire account, including more Skill/Paragon points and Potion charges. Renown is gained by activating Waypoints, finding Altars of Lilith, completing Side Quests/Dungeons and rescuing Strongholds.

Be Careful with Gold. A lot of endgame processes, like extracting and imprinting Legendary Aspects, are extremely expensive for a brand-new character. Don't spend all of your Gold along the way!

Don't Imprint Your Weapon. The most critical piece of gear while leveling up is your weapon, which gets replaced constantly. This makes imprinting a Legendary Aspect on it a waste of resources. Instead, put your best offensive Aspect on your Amulet, which can be used for a long time.

Video Guide

Next Steps


  • As a Chain Lightning Sorcerer, Sizzle your enemies to a crisp with Chain Lightning and use Arc Lash when you're low on Mana.
  • Use Teleport to get out of harms way, and Mystical Frost Nova to apply Vulnerable to your enemies.
  • Against strong enemies pop Unstable Currents and unleash the Lightning Apocalypse.
  • Dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge to stay alive as a Sorcerer.
  • Unlock your Enchantment Slots ASAP.
  • Look out for helpful Legendary Aspects in the Codex of Power.
  • Read the "Next Steps" above to continue your journey. We now have a Chain Lightning Sorcerer Endgame Guide if you want a smooth transition!


Written by DarkHumility
Original Post by Raxxanterax
Reviewed by Northwar

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