Damage Guide for Beginners


Do you find yourself killing mobs too slowly and don't know why? You've come to the right place! Understanding how damage scaling works helps you make better builds, improve clear speed, generate more currency, and even survive against bosses. Let's learn everything about damage so you can dominate!

Skill Tags

Before you can start scaling your skills, you need to know which modifiers apply to them. That's what skill tags are for! Each skill gem has tags below its name that tell you if it's an attack or spell, and which modifiers apply to it.

The tags above show that Freezing Pulse is a spell that is affected by Spell, Projectile and Cold Damage modifiers. Cold, Fire & Lightning tags also let skills get affected by Elemental Damage modifiers.

Scaling Your Damage

  • Base Damage: Most attacks deal damage based on the damage of your weapon, with some exceptions such as Explosive Arrow. Spells (and a handful of attacks) on the other hand deal damage based on the level of the corresponding skill gem. These gems gain experience along with your character, however they level up independently (provided you meet the requirements).
  • Added Damage: Additional "flat" damage can be added to your skills through a variety of sources to supplement their base damage, regardless of whether you deal damage with an attack or spell.
  • Damage Effectiveness: All damage dealing Skill Gems have their damage effectiveness percentage displayed at the top. This multiplier works a little different depending on if it's an attack or spell. Attacks add all Base and Added Damage together and then multiply that by their damage effectiveness to determine their total Base Damage. Spells (and attacks that get their Base Damage from gem levels) multiply all Added Damage by their Damage Effectiveness and then add it to their Base Damage for the final value.
  • "Increased" Damage: "Increased" damage modifiers give you great returns for relatively low investment, however all sources of "Increased" damage applicable to your skill stack additively with each other, giving them diminished returns. E.g. 20% Increased Fire Damage increases your damage multiplier for Fire Skills to 1.2. Adding 20% Increased Elemental Damage raises it to 1.4, which effectively is only a 16.67% increase.
  • "More" Damage: "More" damage multipliers are multiplicative and mostly gained from support gems and keystones. E.g. If we replace the modifiers from the previous example with 20% more Damage, they multiply your damage by 1.44 (1.2*1.2 instead of 1+0.2+0.2).
  • Hit Rate: Increasing your skills' hit rate is another way to improve your damage, commonly done through attack or cast speed. You need to be careful with this however, as too much can cause mana issues. Additionally, attacks rely on accuracy to hit while spells aren't affected by it. In general, try to keep your Chance to Hit as close to 100% as you can.
  • Critical Strikes: If a hit deals a critical strike, its damage is multiplied by your critical strike multiplier. E.g. with a 200% critical strike multiplier, your crits deal twice the damage of non-crits. Generally it's not very effective to fully invest into crit until you reach endgame maps.

Damage Formula Example

Now that you know the variables of damage scaling, here's an example with a simplified formula to visualize them.

What are these values?

  • 100 Cold Damage from a Level 8 Freezing Pulse
  • 50 Cold Damage = 15 Cold Damage from a Level 5 Added Cold Damage Support multiplied by Freezing Pulse's 330% Damage Effectiveness
  • 300% damage = 200% total "increased" Damage from Passives & Gear added to the 100% default damage
  • 40% "more" Damage from the Elemental Overload keystone
  • 20% "more" Damage from a Level 1 Elemental Focus Support
  • 2 Casts per Second

The resulting DPS gets affected by the enemy's Cold Resistance and any other buffs or debuffs on them.

Auras & Heralds

These reserve some of your mana to grant damage buffs. Their effects get removed upon death or when disabling them, but can be regained by activating the skill again. They can be categorized as follows:

  • Offensive Auras: Auras provide the biggest damage buffs, but also reserve the most mana. There's an aura suitable for each damage type (E.g. Hatred, Pride, Malevolence) to cover all kinds of builds.
  • Heralds: Heralds (E.g. Herald of Thunder) give you less stats than auras, but also trigger a damaging effect whenever you kill an enemy. Their buff only gets applied to the player that has the Herald activated.
  • Banners: Banners (E.g. War Banner) buff you and debuff enemies around you for a very low mana reservation cost. They can be placed for a duration, which increases their effects while being within their radius. Each character can only activate one Banner by default.
  • Stances: Stances (E.g. Blood and Sand) allow you to switch between Blood and Sand Stance to gain stats based on the stance you're in.


Curses apply strong debuffs to enemies. Only one curse can be applied to an enemy by default. This limit can be raised through specific gear and passive tree points. There are two types of curses:

  • Hexes: Hexes (E.g. Flammability, Elemental Weakness) apply their debuff in a targeted area and can affect multiple enemies at once. If you cast them on your own, they increase their effect over time until they run out of duration. This is not the case if the curse was triggered through means such as Hextouch Support or Cast when Damage Taken Support. Hexes have a lessened effect against bosses, with an even bigger penalty against pinnacle bosses that you encounter in endgame.
  • Marks: Marks (E.g. Sniper's Mark, Assassin's Mark) grant stronger effects and can only be active against one enemy. They are permanent and don't increase their effect over time, but also aren't affected by the penalty against bosses. Regardless of your curse limit, you can only apply one Mark to an enemy.


  • Blood Rage is a commonly used buff for attack builds that grants Attack Speed and lets you gain Frenzy Charges on kill for even more damage. However, it also drains your life and energy shield while active.
  • Ancestral Protector and Ancestral Warchief grant powerful buffs for melee characters while active. While using them for every pack of enemies just slows you down, they're great tools to boost your damage against bosses.
  • Warcries buff your next few attacks in various ways and can be used to increase clearspeed (E.g. Ancestral Cry) or damage (E.g. Intimidating Cry).
  • Frost Shield and Sigil of Power provide significant buffa while staying within their area.
  • Some Vaal Skills (E.g. Vaal Righteous Fire, Vaal Haste, Vaal Ancestral Warchief) grant powerful buffs for a short duration. If timed right, they allow you to deal massive burst damage against bosses.


  • Exposure reduces enemy resistances to the according element and can come from various sources such as Wave of Conviction, Frost Bomb or Hydrosphere.
  • Wither stacks up to 15 times for a duration, with each stack increasing the Chaos Damage an enemy takes. The most common ways to debuff enemies with this are Withering Step, or Wither linked to Spell Totem Support.
  • Shock increases all damage an enemy takes. While it's inherently applied through dealing large amounts of Lightning Damage, you can also shock enemies through Summon Skitterbots or Vaal Lightning Trap.
  • Bonechill Support increases Cold Damage taken by an enemy and is usually used with a secondary skill that creates a Chilling Area (E.g. Vortex).
  • Maim Support debuffs enemies to take increased Physical Damage.
  • Bear Trap makes enemies take increased damage from Trap or Mine hits.
  • Ensnaring Arrow is a great addition for Bow characters to increase the damage an enemy takes from any Projectile hits.

Additional Information

  • Minions don't scale with your damage. They have their own modifiers that state that they're affecting minions.
  • Totems and Brands aren't minions. They do scale with your character's damage in addition to applicable Totem and Brand modifiers.
  • Some skills convert your damage from one type to another. In that case, modifiers of both damage types apply. However if the damage isn't fully converted, then the modifiers for the element you're converting to only affect the converted part.
  • Flat damage on a weapon is added to the weapon's base damage and doesn't affect spells unless explicitly stated otherwise.
  • Increased Physical Damage on a weapon increases the weapon's base damage and doesn't affect spells. Increased Global Physical Damage however affects attacks and spells.


  • Skills have tags that determine which modifiers work with them.
  • Attacks gain damage from your weapon, while Spells primarily gain damage from their skill gem.
  • Increased Damage (additive) and More Damage (multiplicative) are crucial tools to scale your damage.
  • Attack Speed and Cast Speed improve your damage and the overall feel of your character.
  • Attacks need Accuracy to reach 100% Chance to Hit.
  • Critical Strikes are massive damage increases that need lots of investment, and therefore shouldn't be focused on until reaching the endgame.
  • Various skills can help to increase your damage.

For further information, you can find an in-depth guide about Damage here.


Written by Enki
Reviewed by Raxxanterax, wudijo


Jul 5th 2022
Article created.