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Spectral Helix Lightning Strike Champion

Last Updated: May 20th 2023

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Introduction

The Vaal Lightning Strike Champion is a league start viable all around build, capable of going from the Twilight Strand all the way to beating the pinnacle endgame bosses and taking on the most difficult maps in the game. The build excels at clearing fast but also deals good single target damage. It rewards the player for investing in defence as much as offence thanks to the scaling granted by Perseverance. The Champion ascendancy provides speed, damage, and defence, making this build currently one of the most well rounded builds in the game.

Mid Game Gear Overview

Strengths and Weaknesses

DifficultyModerate
BudgetModerate
MappingGreat
BossingGreat
DefenceExcellent

Skills Breakdown

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.

Ascendancy Breakdown

The Champion is an outstanding choice as it provides the some of the best defensive layers currently in the game, complimented by a modest amount of additional damage and aura enhancing bonuses.

  • Fortitude & Unstoppable Hero grant the Champion 20 Fortification stacks, effectively reducing all incoming hit damage by 20% as well as providing Stun immunity, Attack Speed and flat Armour and Evasion.
  • First to Strike, Last to Fall intimidates targets permanently, increasing the attack damage they receive by 10%. It also grants the Champion Adrenaline for 20 seconds on reaching low life and heals for 25%. This is a massive buff that grants 100% increased Damage, 25% increased Attack, Cast and Movement Speed and 10% additional Physical Damage reduction.
  • Inspirational allows for a banner aura to be reserved for free and increases the effect of all non-curse auras granting us a substantial boost to the Champion's Defensive and Offensive Auras.

To learn how the Labyrinth works, feel free to consult our Labyrinth Guide!

Playstyle

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.

Mapping

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.

Bossing

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.

Build Scaling

Offence
Defence

Lightning Strike is a hit-based critical strike scaling elemental skill. Most of our critical strike multiplier comes from Nightblade Support, allowing us to focus on other stats to further scale our damage output.

In general, we prioritize the following stats, which are abundantly found on the Passive Skill Tree. However we must mainly rely on gear for our critical strike chance.

  • Added flat Fire, Lightning, Cold damage
  • Critical Strike Chance/Multiplier
  • Elemental penetration
  • Generic Damage Increases (Elemental/Attack)
  • Frenzy Charges
  • Attack speed
  • Elusive Effect
  • Auras scaling

Champions have easy access to many layers of defences granting an absurd amount of mitigation for all incoming hit damage. Perseverance allows the Champion to scale Attack Damage by stacking Armour and Evasion. The bulk of our base defences come from Armour/Evasion hybrid item bases as well as both Jade Flask and Granite Flask flasks. In addition Grace and Determination grant additional flat Armour/Evasion and a massive more multiplier. Due to the unique effects of Perseverance, it is important to strive for balance between our Armour and Evasion as we gain extra value from both the closer they are together. Fortify reduces all hit damage received by an additional 20% and Elusive also grants avoidance up to 40% depending on how much Elusive effect we are stacking. In addition the build also greatly benefits from both leech and life gained on hit provided by our weapon of choice, the Imperial Claw.

The most important stats we must focus on to make sure our defences are scaled effectively are:

  • Armour and Evasion from Gear, Flasks, Skill Tree and Determination + Grace
  • Capped Elemental Resistances at 75%
  • Fortify
  • 100% Spell Suppression
  • 100% Ailment Avoidance
  • Stun Immunity
  • Corrupted Blood Immunity
  • Elusive effect
  • Aura Effect
  • Mana & Life leech

With all these defensive layers against Hit-damage our main weakness remains Damage over Time. As a result we always try to maintain a high uptime on a target if we are degenerating, as leech and life gained on hit will effectively mitigate them.

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.

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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.

Step-By-Step Helix Leveling Links
Open leveling skill tree in new tab
Act 9
Step 1: Level 54
  • Your goal is to farm Blood Aqueducts until character level 62 for both gem levels and currency. While farming Blood Aqueduct you might find Humility cards, which sell for approximately 2 Chaos Orb at the start of a league. Sell these to other players, as there are far better options for chest pieces in the current state of the game.
  • Continue identifying any rare claw you find for the swap over to crit elemental helix.
  • The final goal we have of Blood Aqueduct is to farm gear that has good resistances. We want our resists to be close to 105% when killing Act 10 Kitava, as we get another penalty to our resistances. Mapping with ~60% resists is fine for softcore, but is a definite no-go in hardcore. Continue farming gear, currency, and xp in Blood Aqueducts until 64, then move on to act 10.
Step 2: Level 62
  • Go back to the Lunaris Concourse in Act 8 to get the Trial of Ascendancy in The Bath House and complete Reflection of Terror in the High Gardens.
  • Return to town and talk to Hargan for a Passive Skillpoint.
Step 3: Level 62
  • Complete the quest The Storm Blade. Return to town, talk to Petarus and Vanja for a Teak Round Shield, Sin for the next quest item, then Petarus and Vanja again. Return back to the Vastiri Desert waypoint and complete the quest Queen of the Sands.
  • Return to town and talk to Irasha for a Passive Skillpoint.
Step 4
  • Kill The Basilisk in the Boiling Lake
  • Complete the quest Fastis Fortuna
  • Complete the Trial of Ascendancy in The Tunnel
  • Complete the Ruler of Highgate, then return to town and talk to Irasha for a Passive Skillpoint.
Step 5
  • Finish the quest Recurring Nightmare by killing Act 9 boss The Depraved Trinity. Avoid the boss' slam, and avoid getting hit by the scorpion ads that spawn. Next, move onto Act 10!

Mapping Preparation

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.

Map Modifiers

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

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.

Pantheon

To learn how the Pantheon works, feel free to consult our Pantheon Guide!

For Major Pantheon, select Brine King to gain Immunity to Freeze and Reduction of Chill Effect. This bonus is not baseline and needs to be acquired with a Divine Vessel.

For Minor Pantheon, select Abberath and upgrade it. This grants you defences but most importantly Immunity to Burning Ground. Alternatively you may want to select Ralakesh until you gain Corrupted Blood from a flask suffix or jewel corruption.

Skill Gems

Gems are a fundamental part of your build, getting the correct link setups before entering Maps and leveling those Gems as you progress through the Atlas is one of your main goals. This is how your Gem setup should look like before entering Maps:

Lightning Strike

Vaal Lightning Strike is our main damaging ability. Trinity Support simply explained rewards the player for investing in a combination of 2 or more added elemental damage rolls, for example Lightning + Fire or Cold. With Trinity Support in your build, an icon appears in the top left corner of the screen indicating the current state of the buff. If you see all three bars filled after attacking an enemy, you are on the right track. If one remains empty, you need to rebalance two of your three elemental damage types so that their average damage done is roughly equal. Check your skill's offense details in the character tab for that!

Use Slider to see Skill Progression

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.

Adrenaline

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.

Guard Skills

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.

Defensive Auras

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).

Mobility

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.

Character Progression

Early Game
Gear Overview
Milestones

Early Game Goal

Our goal in the early game is to establish our defenses by crafting on the appropriate Armor/Evasion hybrid bases and flasks. Work towards capping your Critical Strike Chance, upgrade your weapon at every opportunity and level your skill/support gems. Keep in mind that maintaining our chance to hit at 100% is essential throughout the entire gearing process.

Early Game Gear Overview

Milestone 1 - Weapon

Next we upgrade our damage by acquiring an Imperial Claw or Gemini Claw. Use the Harvest mechanic to spam for high elemental damage rolls or the following essences: Deafening Essence of Anger, Deafening Essence of Wrath & Deafening Essence of Hatred. We are looking for a claw with at least:

  • 400+ elemental DPS
  • 25%+ increased Critical Strike Chance

If you can get a Claw with the above pre-requisites and also try to get one or multiple of the mods below:

  • % increased Attack Speed
  • % to Global Critical Strike Multiplier
  • % chance to deal Double Damage (crafted)

You can find a claw with these specifications using this trade link.

Milestone 2 - Perseverance

The best in slot belt for the build is Perseverance. Which can be acquired by following this trade link.

On top of its great synergy with the Champion ascendancy we also get rewarded with permanent Onslaught (grants 20% attack, cast & movement speed). This makes this item the single most important unique in the build which carries on through to the endgame.

Until we can afford Perseverance we can use a rare belt to satisfy our Attribute & Resistance requirements while gaining some HP and damage. To make up for the loss of Onslaught a Silver Flask can be used.

Milestone 3 - The Gull

The Gull can be one of the most powerful upgrades we can make early in conjunction with a set of Atlas Passive Skills. It grants Lesser Shrines but most importantly 75% increased effect of shrine buffs and 50% increased duration of shrine effects. These effects can buff the shrines found in maps greatly helping with our early atlas progression.

The Atlas Passive Skills you should aim to get as soon as possible are:

  • Supplication
  • Drawn to Power
  • Syncretism

Milestone 4 - Flasks

Flasks are significant defensive upgrade and are our next pickup. The flask bases to run with this build are:

  • Eternal Life Flask
  • Diamond Flask
  • Quicksilver Flask
  • Granite Flask
  • Jade Flask

Craft your Flasks using basic crafting methods by first using an Orb of Transmutation on Normal Rarity Flasks and then alternating between using Orb of Alteration and Orb of Augmentation until hitting the following mods on your Diamond Flask, Granite Flask and Jade Flask. Any of the below mods can be on any of the flasks you're rolling:

  • Increased Evasion during Flask effect.
  • Increased Armour during Flask effect.
  • Reduced Effect of Shock on you during Flask effect.

Roll your Quicksilver Flask using the same method as above for the following modifier: Increased Movement Speed during Flask effect.

When rolling your Eternal Life Flask look for the following modifier making sure that it's not rolled with any negative modifiers: Grants Immunity to Bleeding if used while Bleeding.

Flasks have modifier tiers just like items so be sure to upgrade these as you gain access to higher level flask bases.

As you pick up Glassblower's Bauble, use them on your flasks until they hit 20% quality. After picking up enough Instilling Orbs check the Crafting Bench and craft the following enchant on each of your Utility Flasks: Used when charges reach full.

Milestone 5 - High Life, Attribute and Resistance Gear

We want to invest heavily in making sure we gain more Resistances and Attributes than we need here as we require it later on in progression.

For your Helmet, Chest, Gloves and Boots prioritise Armour/Evasion Hybrid Bases for crafting: (Pig-Faced Bascinet, Nightmare Bascinet), Triumphant Lamellar, Dragonscale Gauntlets, Dragonscale Boots & Two-Toned Boots. These hybrid bases allow you to stack exactly the right defences for the build as well as Spell Suppression, a very important defensive layer. It is recommended that you have these bases on your filter or purchase them from other players to craft on. Once you have your bases ready you can begin crafting.

To craft your Gloves and Chest spam any combination of the following Essences on the item until you hit satisfactory life and total elemental resistances:

  • Screaming Essence of Greed
  • Screaming Essence of Hatred
  • Screaming Essence of Anger
  • Screaming Essence of Wrath
  • Finish the item by crafting Life or Hybrid Elemental Resistances with the Crafting Bench.

To craft your Boots spam the following essence and then finish with a bench craft:

  • Shrieking Essence of Zeal
  • Bench craft Life or Hybrid Elemental Resistances.

To craft your Rings spam one of the following essences depending on which attribute you require on the base you require the Elemental Resistances for and finish with a bench craft:

  • Screaming Essence of Spite
  • Screaming Essence of Rage
  • Bench craft Life, Hybrid Elemental Resistances or Intelligence/Dexterity.

Milestone 6 - Jewels

This build has very limited Jewel sockets, prioritize slotting in one Mantra of Flames as it grants us with a ton of added flat fire damage to attacks, greatly boosting our damage.

Jewels with life on them are expensive but offer greater defences, early on in your character's progression it is recommended to pick up double or triple mod damage Jewels to keep things affordable and effective.

For rare Jewels you can use the following trade link to find high damage jewels with life.

Another stat we might want to grab on an Abyssal Jewel is:

  • % chance to gain Phasing for 4 seconds on Kill

This build has great synergy with Inspired Learning. If you are lucky enough to find one or afford one you should use it. It greatly aids your mapping experience and provides a lot of fun when stealing certain types of buffs.

Milestone 7 - Anointed Talisman Amulet

Look for Talismans with usable stats as well as the Tribal Fury Anoint. This allows us to swap to Lightning Strike as early as possible as the anoint grants us an additional strike. You can find talismans with the following trade link.

Video Guide

Path of Building

Summary

  • 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.

Credits

Written by Crouching_Tuna.
Reviewed by Wudijo and Echohack.

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