WARNING: THIS GUIDE IS OUTDATED. WE DO NOT RECOMEND PLAYING THIS BUILD.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Call forward your Summon Skeletons Mages that fire piercing elemental projectiles to tear through packs of monsters. Fill your Vaal Summon Skeletons with the souls of fallen enemies to unleash a Skeletal army led by a powerful general that heeds your call.
Raise Spectre summons a ghostly copy of an enemy from their corpse to fight on your behalf. The best Spectres to raise are the Carnage and Host Chieftain. These give our minions Frenzy and Power charges which boost their Critical Strike Chance, Cast Speed, and damage.
Utility And Auras
Keep all of your Aura gems active at all times, and re-activate them after death. Molten Shell activates a shield. Shield Charge and Flame Dash should be used whenever to assist with movement. Use Convocation to easily recall your Raise Spectre and Animate Guardian to your location, keeping them out of danger and granting extra Life Regeneration.
Absolution is how you level Skeleton Mages and progress early atlas until you can buy the "3 key items".Absolution calls down awesome Lightning power that applies a debuff. Enemies killed with that debuff active will have their corpse consumed to summon Sentinels of Absolution. Attacking Unique enemies also has a chance to summon Sentinels. Sentinels last for a long duration which allows you to play without worrying about constantly re-summoning them.
When battling high Life enemies, casting Sniper's Mark causes them to take increased Projectile Damage from your Summon Skeletons Mage’s Projectiles. The Projectiles that hit an enemy Marked with Sniper's Mark split into additional projectiles that spread in every direction, giving you additional coverage.
Animate Guardian summons a special minion that wears pieces of gear you choose to give them. Our Animate Guardian will be decked out with specific items to give our character and minions Offensive + Defensive buffs.
A staple of all necromancer builds is the use of offerings. Bone Offering grants our minions and character additional Attack/Spell Block and Cast Speed. The boost to our survivability means we block 75% of all spells and 50% of all attacks. Put Desecrate and Bone Offering into a trigger wand to cut down on required button presses.
When playing as the Summon Skeletons Mages Necromancer your primary focus is to summon your Skeletons every 4-5 seconds to keep up the Rebirth Cluster node making your skeletons immune to damage. Activating Vaal Summon Skeletons costs Vaal Souls which are obtained by killing monsters, or dealing damage to Unique Bosses. Use Vaal Summon Skeletons when mapping on big juicy packs early, but make sure you save a use for the Map Boss to quickly delete it.
Level and play as Absolution until you obtain the "3 key items" . The Absolution playstyle relies on the damage of the Gem killing a target until the Absolution sentinels are summoned. They continue to use this ability, but not apply the debuff themselves, for a set duration. Activate your temporary aura and curse the boss to give a boost in damage. Once you get your trigger wand (1st step in "Milestones") you only have to activate your Aura, Curse the enemies and your Absolution Sentinels take care of the monsters for you.
When mapping, summon your Summon Skeletons Mages and Shield Charge to the next pack of monsters re-summoning them as you go. Whenever taking on strong monsters, cast your Sniper's Mark before laying into them. Make sure to have a use of Vaal Summon Skeletons ready for the map boss to nuke it down.
When dealing with tougher enemies, make sure to cast your Sniper's Mark and walk over the boss with your Brittle Boots. If you have the higher budget variant of this build, your Animate Guardian handles the Brittle Boots debuffing for you. Your goal is to keep your skeletons as summoned recently which means in the last 4-5 seconds so that they are always immune to damage.
Leveling Section by tytykiller
Key Leveling Notes
Absolution is currently the best way to level minions. Despite being a minion gem, Absolution has a 200% Effectiveness of Added Damage. This means that the wand craft and Added Lightning Damage Support add a substantial increase to the initial hit of Absolution. If the initial hit kills a target, it will activate Onslaught Support, provided they are linked together. While the summoned minions are important, they only help on longer fights.
This build will do Library in Act 3 to gain access to Shield Charge and Physical to Lightning Support. Onslaught makes Shield Charge one of the best movement abilities in the game, even early on.
The "Wand Craft" is the easiest way to make any caster leveling better. Selling a magic wand, an Orb of Alteration, and a normal Topaz Ring produces a wand like this: Snapping Driftwood Wand.
If you need a magic wand, purchase a 3-linked wand from Nessa with favorable colors, those being Blue-Blue-Green, Blue-Blue-Blue, or Blue-Green-Red. Then use an Orb of Transmutation on it. If you need a Topaz Ring, you can sell an Iron Ring with any Skill Gem that is colored Green.
Note: Selling rare items identified they will give you Alteration Shards, while selling them unidentified gives Transmutation Shards.
Campaign Step By Step
Beginner players should follow Enki's Campaign Progression guide.
The levels listed below are based on speedrunning. Always be greater or equal to the levels listed.
Act 1 - 10 Cheatsheet
Step 1: Muling Onslaught
- Create a Scion character
- Scion gets access to Onslaught Support, which grants 20% Increased Movement Speed, Attack Speed, and Cast Speed. This is an amazing buff for running through the campaign.
- Note that brand new accounts do not get access to the Scion character. In this case, ignore this step entirely and replace Onslaught Support with Summon Phantasm Support.
- Kill Hillock. Talk to Tarkleigh and choose Molten Strike as your reward.
- Talk to Tarkleigh, click Purchase Items, and copy the following line: -[rgb]-.-|b-b-g|b-[bg]-b|g-b-b|nne
- Paste it in the vendor window in-game and it will highlight four links, movement speed boots, and items with Blue-Blue-Red (BBR) or Blue-Blue-Blue (BBB) sockets. This is called a regex filter, and is imperative to finding important items quickly!
- Talk to Nessa, click Purchase Items, and paste in the regex: -[rgb]-.-|b-b-g|b-[bg]-b|g-b-b|nne
- Next put all of your items into the Stash, hit escape, and press EXIT TO CHARACTER SELECT. Selecting a different log out option puts you in a queue on a league start.
Step 1: Level 2
- Create a Witch character
- Kill Hillock. Talk to Nessa, click Purchase Items, and paste in the regex: -[rgb]-.-|b-b-g|b-[bg]-b|g-b-b|nne
- Talk to Tarkleigh and choose Freezing Pulse as your reward.
- This spell does more damage at point blank range, so don't cast this far away from monsters!
- Talk to Tarkleigh, click Purchase Items, and copy the following line : -[rgb]-.-|b-b-g|b-[bg]-b|g-b-b|nne
- After this, complete the quests Mercy Mission and Breaking some Eggs.
- Upon killing Hailrake, hit escape and press EXIT TO CHARACTER SELECT (or type /exit in chat). This saves you a Portal Scroll. Selecting a different log out option puts you in a queue on a league start. This "return to town" method is used many times in this guide.
Step 2: Level 4
- Talk to Nessa and grab: Quicksilver Flask and Summon Phantasm Support.
- Purchase Holy Flame Totem from Nessa and paste: -[rgb]-.-|b-b-g|b-[bg]-b|g-b-b|nne
- Talk to Tarkleigh and grab: Flame Wall and Frostblink.
- The primary purpose of Flame Wall is so any projectile that passes through the wall gains extra damage. Cast Holy Flame Totem followed by Flame Wall. Any monster still alive should be finished off with Freezing Pulse.
- Click Purchase Items from Tarkleigh and paste in the regex: -[rgb]-.-|b-b-g|b-[bg]-b|g-b-b|nne
- Complete the quests Dweller of the Deep and The Caged Brute.
- Note: you only have to reach the Waypoint in Lower Prison to acquire a gem from the quest.
Step 3: Level 8
- Reach Lower Prison and use the Waypoint back to town.
- Talk to Nessa and grab: Added Lightning Damage Support.
- Click Purchase Items from Nessa and paste in the regex: -[rgb]-.-|b-b-g|b-[bg]-b|g-b-b|nne
- Sell Nessa a magic wand, an Orb of Alteration, and a normal Topaz Ring. This step is incredibly important, and is covered in the Key Leveling Notes found above.
- Talk to Tarkleigh to grab your Passive Skillpoint.
- Click Purchase Items from Tarkleigh and paste in the regex: -[rgb]-.-|b-b-g|b-[bg]-b|g-b-b|nne
- Go back to Lower Prison, complete the Trial of Ascendancy, and slay Brutus.
Step 4: Level 10
- After killing Brutus, return to town.
- Click Purchase Items from Nessa, then paste in the regex: -[rgb]-.-|b-b-g|b-[bg]-b|g-b-b|nne
- Talk to Tarkleigh and grab Flame Dash. This replaces Frostblink.
- Click Purchase Items from Tarkleigh, then paste in the regex: -[rgb]-.-|b-b-g|b-[bg]-b|g-b-b|nne
- Complete the quest The Marooned Mariner and grab the waypoint in Merveil's Caverns.
Step 5: Level 12
- After killing Fairgraves and reaching the Waypoint in Merveil's Caverns, return to town.
- Talk to Nessa and grab Absolution.
- Buy Spirit Offering from Nessa for one Orb of Transmutation.
- This gem consumes corpses to buff your minions with increased Physical Damage as Extra Chaos Damage, on top of giving your minions much needed Chaos and Elemental Resists.
- Talk to Bestel and grab the Passive Skillpoint, then complete The Siren's Cadence.
- Equip a Sapphire Ring for Merveil to nullify her Cold Damage. Kill Merveil and move onto Act 2!
You're done with the Campaign and are ready to take on the Path of Exile Endgame. Priority 1 is to ensure your Elemental Resistances are capped (75%) and have sufficient Attributes to continue leveling your Skill Gems. Use Essences you have gathered on any item that is not Magic or Rare already. Items with an open modifier slot can be crafted on. Head to the Crafting Bench and craft Resistances wherever possible according to what you need, and Life wherever else possible.
From this point, you can grind your Atlas out by progressing Maps until you've obtained enough money to buy the "3 key items". On the first day of the league these are expensive, but by day 3 they are easily obtainable. If you wish to purchase them as soon as possible on league start, Heisting and doing the Chaos Orb recipe is a great and easy way to obtain currency.
Take note of the below modifiers as they should be avoided or run with caution when they appear on your maps:
- Avoid Elemental Reflect because Absolution deals Lighting Damage (This can be ignored once you swap to Skeleton Mages)
- Watch out for Beyond because the monsters can easily kill your character until you get a Life on Block Shield.
- Less Armour and Block Chance reduces your main defence, so it should be avoided at all costs.
- Reduced Effect Of Auras eliminates your defences.
Recommended Farming Content
First step is to progress through the Atlas following our Atlas Progression Guide. As a bossing focused character, you should focus on gearing your character with strong pieces to prepare yourself to tackle the non-Uber bosses once the low budget gear is acquired. If you're struggling in higher tier content, go a step back and farm up more Currency and Gear. Clicking the League Mechanics below takes you to either a full Explanation Guide or a detailed Currency Farming Guide based around maximising your profits from that mechanic or content.
Main Damage Setups
Use Absolution until you purchase the "3 key items". Link Physical to Lightning Support to convert Physical to Lightning damage to take full use of -resistances. Summon Phantasm Support summons small minions that deal extra damage. Spell Echo Support provides a Cast Speed bonus to Minions and players. Increased Critical Damage Support gives all the Critical Strike Multiplier needed.
Once you obtain your "3 key items" swap to Skeleton Mages. There is 1 important Skill Gem swap to do for Skeleton Mages on pinnacle bosses. Swap Greater Multiple Projectiles Support for Hypothermia Support since an enemy can only be hit by 1 projectile per cast.
Raise Spectres and Zombies
Use Raise Spectre to summon the Carnage, and Host Chieftains to give Frenzy and Power Charges to our Minions. Use Raise Zombie for extra muscle to get that initial kill for our Absolution Minions to spawn. Link Feeding Frenzy Support to give ALL Minions a damage and Cast Speed buff. Elemental Army Support gives Minions extra Maximum Resistances and allows them to inflict Exposure, taking away a portion of monster Resistance.
When you swap to Summon Skeletons Mages exchange Raise Zombie for Summon Stone Golem to get a Life Regen buff. Swap Elemental Army Support for Minion Life Support because you don't need exposure anymore.
The wand setup is VERY important. Obtain Trigger a Socketed Spell when you Use a Skill from Unveiling Wands so Desecrate and Bone Offering are automated. Desecrate spawns corpses on the ground, which are consumed by Bone Offering to give Attack and Spell Block once you do Uber lab.
Once you swap to Summon Skeletons Mages use Lifetap Support in the Wand your Mana is not stressed. This makes our Bone Offering and Desecrate cost Life instead of Mana.
Utility and Auras
Put Molten Shell on left mouse button to proc a shell to absorb damage. Use Determination and Defiance Banner to mitigate Physical Damage. Conductivity is a Curse that lowers the enemy Lightning Resistances. Tempest Shield gives Spell Block and Immunity to Shock.
For Summon Skeletons mages swap Conductivity for Punishment to give our Minions extra damage against enemies when they're less than 50% Life.
Use Shield Charge and Flame Dash as movement abilities for all versions. Convocation calls your to Minions to you, keeping them safe and increasing clear speed.
Absolution uses Eldritch Battery combined with with Life as Extra Maximum Energy Shield obtained by Unveiling Gravicius Body Armors from Syndicate Missions to spend Energy Shield before Mana for Skill costs. Link Divine Blessing Support with Wrath to create a temporary Aura. Normally you reserve all Mana and don't have enough use, Divine Blessing Support, but since Energy Shield is now a huge Mana pool you get a free Aura. Link Generosity Support to Wrath to boost our Minions Lightning Spell Damage.
After swapping to Summon Skeletons Mages, replace Wrath with Zealotry still keeping Generosity Support linked to only this Aura.
Unset Ring 1
Obtain an Unset Ring as soon as possible to fit in Assassin's Mark for extra Critical Strike Chance and Multiplier with Vixen's Entrapment to allow an automatic additional cursing of enemies when you curse with Conductivity.
Once you swap to Summon Skeletons Mages swap Conductivity for Punishment and Assassin's Mark for Sniper's Mark
Unset Ring 2
Once you hit the "endgame" gear setup you'll need two Unset Rings. This is because you need to fit in an Animate Guardian in your Helmet.
Skill Tree Progression
3 Key Items
Summon Skeletons Mages requires 3 key items to function. You must start the with a different ability until you obtain the "3 key items." Level as Absolution which can carry you all the way through Red Maps and can even complete your early Bossing Invitations on a budget. There is no worry if your build is lacking before being able to swap. Absolution can even be played on its own as a full build but it doesn't have as good a playstyle, coverage and clear, or ease of damage as Skeleton Mages.
The "3 key items" are as follows
- Dead Reckoning jewel allows you to summon Summon Skeletons Mages instead of Warriors with Summon Skeletons.
- Fleshcrafter causes your Skeleton Mages completely ignore Elemental Resistances while your Summon Skeletons have Energy Shield. This is what gives our Skeleton Mages easy damage. It lets the tri-elemental damage of the Mage’s projectiles work at maximum efficiency.
- The downside is that our Minions Life is converted to Energy Shield and they need to maintain their Energy Shield to ignore the monster’s Elemental Resistances:
- Here's where Rebirth Cluster comes in! Now minions can't be damaged if they were summoned recently. This grants minions a 4-second window where they’re invincible AND they’re guaranteed to ignore monster Elemental Resistance
IMPORTANT! Once you swap to Fleshcrafter DO NOT give any Chaos Resistance to your Minions. Extra Chaos Resistance causes them to convert too much of their Life. Without an easy source of Energy Shield Leech or Regen your Raise Spectre and Animate Guardian dies much quicker, or even as soon as you summon them if you've converted all of their Life to Energy Shield.
AND ONE MORE THING When summoning your Spectres, take out Bone Offering and Desecrate from your trigger Wand. Put Desecrate in a different socket (temporarily) so you can freely cast it and so that Bone Offering doesn't consume the corpses you're spawning.
Wait until you're level 60 and have a level 14 Raise Spectre Gem before using this Skill.
The Spectres you use for Absolution and Summon Skeletons are the Carnage and Host Chieftains. These are obtained in the Ashen Fields zone from Act 7.
Charges are 10 second buffs that stack up to (default max) 3 times for each Charge type, and are so much more powerful for Minions compared to players. Frenzy Charges give Minions 5% More Damage, 15% Attack/Cast and Movement Speed per charge! Power Charges give Minions 200% increased Critical Strike Chance per charge!
With 3 Power Charges our Minions have 600% increased Critical Strike Chance, which combined with the extra base Critical Strike Chance from Brittle Boots gets our Minions close to the Critical Strike Chance of 100%.
Animate Guardian is only used when you have the upgrades in the “Skeleton Mage Swap” section. Equip your Animate Guardian with Kingmaker, Garb of the Ephemeral, a pair of Brittle Boots and Unnerve Gloves with NO CHAOS RESISTANCE but at least 30% Elemental Resistance for each Element between the Boots and Gloves.
- Kingmaker gives 10 Fortification Stacks which means you take 10% Less Damage from Hits. Minions also gain 50% Critical Strike Multiplier and Culling Strike Support which automatically kills enemies that are <=10% Life.
- Garb of the Ephemeral provides Action Speed cannot be modified below Base Value letting you ignore slows and Nearby Enemies Cannot deal Critical Strikes to help prevent one-shots.
- Equip Animate Guardian with Unnerve Gloves chance against unique enemy gloves by grabbing a pair off the trade site.
- Unnerve makes enemies take 10% increased spell damage from our Skeletons.
- Mask of the Stitched Demon is a bit confusing but the TLDR is; Animate Guardian 's Energy Shield is not usable, but it instead regenerate 1% Life for every 500 maximum Energy Shield it had. With Fleshcrafter 40% of it's maximum Life is converted to Energy Shield because it has a base Chaos Resistance of 20%.
- This gives Animate Guardian >30% Life regenerated each second!
- Use Brittle Boots. Get at least 4 seconds of Brittle Ground.
- Brittle Ground causes Enemies to have +5% Base Critical Strike Chance against them
Video coming after patch notes.
When you start this build you must play Absolution until getting the "3 key items", but after completing this guide you will be ready to slay all the Uber bosses in the game and farm any bossing content with Summon Skeletons Mages. You can take this completed build into nearly all the content in the game, letting your Summon Skeletons do all the work while you easily relax and pick up the loot afterwards.
If you have any questions, come ask them on my livestream Twitch.tv/TriPolarBear
If you're looking for what bosses to farm, and how to make currency check out our invitation or boss farming guides
Written by Tripolarbear.
Reviewed by MacroBioBoi.