Strengths and Weaknesses
Lightning Strike is the primary source of damage of this build. Positioning is key and can double your damage when you correctly stand at the specific distance from your target. Additional strikes also target effectively, allowing us to hit with both our melee strike and projectiles at the same time.
Vaal Lightning Strike does incredible damage in bursts, which is fantastic for clearing maps and defence, thanks to the life on hit it offers during the duration. It is much less useful on bosses, and takes some time to charge up. It can attach to enemies or be positioned on the ground to shoot out auto targeting lightning beams, that scale with our attack speed and damage.
Whirling Blades allows for swift mobility in all situations where an obstacle is not obstructing our path. It scales extremely well with attack speed making the attack time almost instant, allowing the build to blitz from pack to pack as well as avoid dangerous mechanics.
Utility And Auras
Determination + Grace + Defiance Banner multiplies our base defence and makes the Champion absurdly tanky by scaling our Evasion and Armour. Precision grants us a lot of flat Accuracy as well as a little bit of Critical Strike Chance.
Additionally Molten Shell linked to Cast when Damage Taken Support will mitigate burst damage, absorbing 75% of incoming damage for a short duration. While you can't use Molten Shell yourself in this setup, Vaal Molten Shell gives you a panic button to use on demand for an even bigger shield that absorbs 35-40% of incoming damage.
Single Target Debuff
Assassin's Mark suits our Critical Strike-based build. We link it to Mark On Hit Support to automate its application. This way we have easy access to Power Charges while mapping, as well as extra damage to bosses or tanky rares/uniques we may come across in maps.
Ancestral Totem Buffs
Ancestral Protector + Ancestral Warchief can be placed down right before engaging a boss or when fighting in a confined area like Rituals to further boost our damage as they collectively provide us with a huge attack speed and damage multiplier.
Withering Step is a crucial part of our kit and must be placed on left click. This ensures that we maintain our Elusive buff as much as possible to maximum effect. Elusive is an additional layer of defence that grants a great deal of movement speed, a chance to avoid all damage from hits, and scales our Critical Strike Multiplier thanks to Nightblade Support.
Lightning Strike is a skill with two damage elements: a ground strike and a following burst of lightning projectiles emanating from the impact. We move around maps swiftly, unafraid of hit damage as it is greatly mitigated by Fortify, in addition to the core defences we build. We must maintain maximum effect of Elusive by binding Withering Step to left click; this ensures we get the most value out of Nightblade Support. Vaal Lightning Strike is the main damage cooldown available in our kit. When used in combination with Ancestral Protector and Ancestral Warchief we are be able to effectively burst down bosses with ease.
Positioning on single target encounters is crucial to maximize DPS with Lightning Strike. Standing at the right distance from your target doubles your damage from Strike Skills target 1-2 additional nearby Enemy which is critical for your endgame setup. This modifier has a range reaching further than the primary strike, allowing us to hit a target with both our projectiles and the melee hit.
While mapping we must be wary that damage over time is not mitigated by our defence. We are practically near-immortal as long as we are attacking thanks to the immense recovery provided by claws' life gained on hit implicit, as well as the ability to spec into leech nodes on the passive skill tree. Whirling Blades and Elusive give the Champion massive movement speed and packs are cut down rapidly thanks to the projectiles piercing from Lightning Strike.
The double-hit mechanic of the impact + projectiles plays the biggest role when fighting Bosses. Before engaging place both Ancestral Protector and Ancestral Warchief to gain their buffs. Make sure to keep pressing left click to ensure Withering Step resets the Elusive buff granted by Nightblade Support. Every 20 seconds, as long as we aren't in danger, use Corrupting Fever. This grants the First to Strike, Last to Fall buff, greatly boosting our damage. Keep an eye on the buff time and press it again after it has expired. When the souls are filled for Vaal Lightning Strike, drop it directly on the boss for a big damage burst.
Key Build Information
Transitioning to Lightning Strike
As powerful as Lightning Strike is in endgame, it is mechanically outmatched in the early game by Spectral Helix. Luckily, Spectral Helix is a highly capable skill which can carry us from level 12 all the way to endgame which incidentally shares the same scaling and skill tree as Lightning Strike, making the transition seemless. In order to transistion at endgame to Lightning Strike we need an item with the Strike Skills target 1-2 additional nearby Enemy modifier. We can obtain this modifier from a few different mechanics:
- Hunter/Searing Exarch Influence or Lesser Eldritch Embers on gloves.
- Tribal Fury anointed on a Talisman.
- Ancestral Call Support.
Getting Strike Skills target 1-2 additional nearby Enemy on gloves is the ideal route because it sets us up to use Crystallised Omniscience to bring the build to even greater heights.
Obtaining Strike Skills Target Additional Nearby Enemy on Gloves
You can spam Orb of Alteration crafting on a pair of Hunter-influenced Gloves on an item level of 80+ (appears on average 1 in 180 times) to obtain Strike Skills target 1-2 additional nearby Enemy. Alternatively you can also roll it as an implicit on any pair of non-conqueror influenced gloves, thanks to the Lesser Eldritch Embers dropped in tier 14+ maps or purchased on trade. Be wary it may take anywhere between 30-50 of these embers on average to roll. Using a higher tier ember is only useful if you are planning to invest multiple Divine Orbs to reach tier 5 of this affix which grants +2 Additional Strike Targets instead of +1.
Improving Critical Strike Chance
Scaling our Critical Strike Multiplier is useless if we don't actually deal Crits, so we need to stack as much Critical Strike Chance as we can. To ensure that your Critical Strike Chance is as high as possible do the following:
- Only equip a claw with a tier 3+ Critical Strike Chance roll.
- Roll a flask with the #% Increased Critical Strike Chance During Flask Effect suffix.
- Equip a Diamond Flask.
- If you are still struggling to get to 80%+ Critical Strike Chance you can swap out Elemental Damage with Attacks Support with Increased Critical Strikes Support in your main links.
Leveling Section by tytykiller
Key Leveling Notes
This build is easy to level, provided that the player understands how to create a good leveling Weapon. Pasting this line, called a regex, into the Search Bar of Vendors selling Armors and Weapons when you go back to town, substantially speeds up leveling.
Your Weapon is your most important upgrade! Always keep your Two-Handed Weapon up to date within ~7 levels of yourself. Make sure your Weapon either has % Physical Damage or Flat Damage. Here is an example of a good Weapon at Level 23: Double Axe
Besides picking up an Axe and identifying it, our primary way of getting a weapon is from using an Essence that adds Flat Damage on Two-Handed Weapons, whether its Physical, Fire, Cold or Lightning Damage. This method has the highest probability to create a good Weapon, especially early on.
When this method does NOT work, we use the Rustic Sash Vendor Recipe. When you sell a Rare Rustic Sash with a Blacksmith's Whetstone and a Weapon, the Recipe produces a % Physical Damage Weapon back! You may then use an Orb of Augmentation and pray that you land Attack Speed, a Resistance or a different (hopefully useful) stat.
This build chooses Ascendancy points from the Labryinth differently in Softcore and Hardcore. In Softcore, choose First to Strike, Last to Fall first, Inspirational second, Unstoppable Hero third, and Fortitude fourth. The third lab should be done at the same time as the Uber Lab, as there is no other way of getting Fortify. In Hardcore however, Fortify is an insane defensive layer, so choose Unstoppable Hero first, Fortitude second, Inspirational third, and First to Strike, Last to Fall fourth. This will end up being a bit slower early on, but will even out by the third lab.
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: Level 2
- Kill Hillock. Talk to Tarkleigh and choose Splitting Steel as your reward.
- Splitting Steel gives a new skill called Call of Steel, which grants steel shards. Use Call of Steel to generate shards, cast Splitting Steel a handful of times to spend shards (if available), and then cast Call of Steel to finish enemies.
- Talk to Tarkleigh, click Purchase Items, and copy the following line: -[rgb]-.-|g-g-r|g-r-g|r-g-g|nne.
- Paste it in the vendor window in-game and it will highlight four links, movement speed boots, and items with Green-Green-Red (GGR) sockets. This is a regex filter, and is imperative to finding important items quickly!
- 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 Onslaught Support.
- Talk to Nessa and Purchase War Banner.
- War Banner is our first aura. Activating it causes monster deaths to store 50 charges. When released, it gives us the Adrenaline buff for a huge damage boost. This is best used on magic packs, rare monsters, or large packs of regular monsters.
- Talk to Tarkleigh and grab: Ancestral Protector and Dash.
- Click Purchase Items from Tarkleigh and paste in the regex: -[rgb]-.-|g-g-r|g-r-g|r-g-g|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.
- Ideally you will have a Green-Green-Red (GGR) item for Splitting Steel - Onslaught Support - Chance to Bleed Support.
- If you only have a Green-Red then just link Splitting Steel to Chance to Bleed Support.
- Our rotation on packs is Call of Steel for 12 stacks of Steel Shards, Dash forward constantly, place Ancestral Protector on packs of monsters, and use Splitting Steel until the pack is low.
Step 3: Level 8
- Reach Lower Prison and use the Waypoint back to town.
- Talk to Nessa and grab: Maim Support.
- Linked Maim to Ancestral Protector if you have a Red-Red item.
- Talk to Tarkleigh to grab your Passive Skillpoint.
- Click Purchase Items from Tarkleigh and paste in the regex: -[rgb]-.-|g-g-r|g-r-g|r-g-g|nne
- Go back to Lower Prison, complete the Trial of Ascendancy, and slay Brutus.
- Two handed weapons are a substantial DPS increase and help tremendously on Brutus. The recommended weapons here are either a Longsword at 8, or a Jade Chopper at 9.
Step 4: Level 10
- After killing Brutus, return to town.
- Talk to Tarkleigh and grab Leap Slam. This replaces Dash.
- Click Purchase Items from Tarkleigh, then paste in the regex: -[rgb]-.-|g-g-r|g-r-g|r-g-g|nne
- Complete the quests The Marooned Mariner and The Siren's Cadence.
- Note: you do not need to kill Merveil to acquire a gem from The Siren's Cadence.
Step 5: Level 12
- After killing Fairgraves and reaching the Waypoint in Merveil's Caverns, purchase Spectral Helix from Nessa for 1 Orb of Transmutation, OR grab Shattering Steel for free.
- Spectral Helix is better, but many people dislike the playstyle of attacking twice and moving on. It is very comparable to the Hammerdin from Diablo II. A decent alternative to Spectral Helix is Shattering Steel, as it is better than Splitting Steel in almost every way.
- Talk to Bestel and grab the Passive Skillpoint, then complete The Siren's Cadence.
- Look for a Bastard Sword to use at level 12, or a Woodsplitter at level 13.
- 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.
The following modifiers are impossible to run on the build:
- Monsters reflect #% of Elemental Damage
- Cannot Leech from monsters
The following modifiers are to be avoided if possible:
- Players have #% reduced effect of Non-Curse Auras from Skills
- Players have #% less Armour
- Players have #% less Accuracy Rating
Recommended Farming Content
First step is to progress through the Atlas following our Atlas Progression Guide. As a mapping focused character you should focus on the mechanics listed below depending on what level of content your character is currently capable of completing. If you're struggling in higher tier content it is always recommended you 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 maximizing your profits from that mechanic or content.
Inspiration Support grants us a considerable boost to both our elemental damage and critical strike chance, but most importantly, greatly reduces the mana cost of Vaal Lightning Strike. Added Cold Damage Support is our preferred added damage link. It helps balance our resonance for Trinity Support and provides additional defensive utility such as chills, freezes and shatters. Nightblade Support grants Elusive on Critical Strike, 1% to base Critical Strike Chance while Elusive and also grants Critical Strike Multiplier scalable with Elusive Effect. Elemental Damage with Attacks Support is a more multiplier for elemental attack skills.
Corrupting Fever linked to Lifetap Support and Increased Duration Support allows us to consistently proc our First to Strike, Last to Fall Ascendancy. This grants us a considerable damage and speed boost. If at any given point this gem setup fails to proc Adrenaline you can replace Lifetap Support with it's Anomalous variant, but if that's still not enough Increased Duration Support can be replaced by Second Wind Support.
Molten Shell linked to Cast when Damage Taken Support provides us with a massive defensive boost. It is best to keep Cast when Damage Taken Support at level 6 and Molten Shell at level 13, it ensures the buff procs more often with little to no downside. When you take 897 damage the gem automatically triggers, granting the player a huge absorb shield which scales with Armor. The more Armor, the larger the absorb shield up to a maximum of 10,000. Keep in mind that Molten Shell only works against Hit damage, not Damage over Time.
Determination, Grace and Defiance Banner are our main active defensive auras. They provide a bonus flat as well as a % more multiplier to both Armor and Evasion to scale up our base defences. Precision is a gem which reserves more mana and grants more flat accuracy as it is leveled up; therefore it is important to balance out its level to ensure we still have enough mana to play comfortably. If there is ever a point where your accuracy rating is not capped but you cannot afford to level up precision any higher, you should invest more into passive skills that grant accuracy or find equipment with either % increased or flat accuracy.
Ancestral Totem Buffs
Ancestral Protector & Ancestral Warchief linked to Multiple Totems Support can be used as a temporary buff to damage and Attack Speed. Place these down on hard boss fights and re-summonthem as they expire for maximal damage output.
Single Target Debuff
Assassin's Mark linked to Mark On Hit Support triggers when a rare or unique enemy is hit, marking him. This grants lots of additional Critical Strike Chance and Critical Strike Multiplier. It's important to keep track of the skill's high mana cost, which can easily overwhelm your entire unreserved Mana pool. In that case, keep Assassin's Mark at a lower level until you can solve it. Hydrosphere can be used when facing tougher enemies, granting exposure (-10% to an elemental resistance).
Whirling Blades is your primary way of moving around, it is an ability which scales with attack speed allowing for very quick movement. Flame Dash allows you to get over ledges untraversable by Whirling Blades. Withering Step should be placed on left-click to ensure that you are refreshing the Elusive buff on cooldown granting the highest potential effectiveness of Nightblade Support.
Skill Tree Progression
Helix leveling to Helix Early-Mid Game Tree Swap should be performed as soon as you have been able to transition from the levelling setup supplied in the campaign walkthrough to Elemental Damage Critical Strike Claws. Removing the extra points on your tree used allows you to re-allocate the points toward completing the endgame tree.
Path of Building
- The Spectral Helix/Lightning Strike Champion is a great all-round build with strong defences. In its final form it can take on the toughest challenges in the game with ease.
- The build rewards frequent upgrades from the early to the late game with satisfying power jumps along the way. Balance out your elemental damage types for Trinity support and other various benefits such as Shocks, Chills, and Ignites that buff damage and defence, as well as fully unlocking the potential of the Yoke of Suffering.
- Perseverance is a core item that scales both offenses and defences for very little cost, making investing into defences very rewarding.
- The build can fit an Inspired Learning at no passive skill cost granting a boost in mapping efficiency.
- Once itemized properly this Champion is able to take on Simulacrum wave 30, 100% Delirium as well as all the Uber bosses with ease.
If you're looking for an endgame build beyond this Champion, much of the gear can be used as a stepping stone to the endgame titan: Omniscience Lightning Strike or Tornado shot builds as much of the same gear can be interchanged between the two builds. Additionally as the build can take on all content in the game, it can be used as a stepping stone to farm up currency for whatever project you may have in mind for the future.
Written by Crouching_Tuna.
Reviewed by Wudijo and Echohack.
PoB & Video Updated
Build updated for 3.19