Defense Guide for Beginners


Investing solely into damage doesn't get you far in Path of Exile. Having a good defensive setup has a massive impact on your overall experience and is crucial to completing all stages of the game. Let's go over how Life, Resistances, Base Defenses and other sources of damage mitigation work so you can survive and clear the game!

Health Pool

Life is your primary defensive layer. When it's reduced to zero, you die.

It can be increased through the following sources:

  • "Increased Life" modifiers on your passive tree
  • "+Maximum Life" modifiers on your gear
  • +12 Life per Character Level
  • +5 Life per 10 Strength


Elemental Resistances are the next most important layer of defence after Life. Enemy damage output in Path of Exile is balanced around having your Fire, Cold and Lightning Resistances at the default cap of 75%. You need to reach this by the end of Act 3 at the latest! Chaos Damage on the other hand is balanced around the assumption that the player has 0% Chaos Resistance as it's harder to obtain, but can be worth stacking higher than that if possible.

A cheap and effective way to gain Elemental Resistances is Purity of Elements, which also makes you immune to Freeze, Chill, Shock and Ignite. You can buy this skill from Clarissa in Act 3 after finishing the Lost in Love quest.


Ailments are negative effects that either debuff or damage you. Here are the most dangerous ones to know about during the campaign. Einhar's Menagerie lets you craft the modifiers mentioned below to counter each ailment.

  • Bleed: Deals Damage over Time that increases massively if you move. Can be countered with Steelskin or crafting of the Lizard on a Utility Flask.
  • Freeze: Prevents any movement or skill usage. Can be countered with crafting of the Deer on a Utility Flask.
  • Chill: Slows you down significantly. Can be countered with crafting of the Deer on a Utility Flask.
  • Shock: Makes you take a lot more damage. Can be countered with crafting of the Conger on a Utility Flask.
  • Ignite: Deals Damage over Time. Can be countered with crafting of the Urchin on a Utility Flask.

Base Defenses

  • Armour mitigates Physical Damage from hits, regardless of whether the incoming damage is an attack or spell. Armour is a powerful mitigation tool throughout the campaign, however its efficacy drastically reduces in the endgame without heavily investing into it.
  • Evasion gives you a chance to avoid all damage from attacks, but has no effect against spells. It compliments Spell Suppresion well, particularly due to the fact that Spell Suppression can only be obtained from Evasion-based gear and passives within the Dexterity part of the passive tree.
  • Energy Shield protects your Life against all damage types except Chaos Damage until it's depleted. It recharges on its own after not sustaining damage for a short period. While you have any Energy Shield, your character receives a 50% chance to avoid stuns.

Life Recovery

You mainly rely on Life Flasks to recover Life during the campaign, so you should always have at least one equipped and continually replace them with better ones as you progress. Vitality is a powerful source of Life Regeneration if you have the mana and socket to spare.

Defensive Buffs

  • Auras: Determination and Grace reserve some of your Mana to grant lots of Armour or Evasion.
  • Flasks: Granite Flask and Jade Flask are a great way to enhance the Armour and Evasion scaling of your gear and auras.
  • Guard Skills: Most Guard skills give you a temporary health pool. The common early choice is Steelskin, but if you're stacking Armour you should use Molten Shell instead.

Know Your Enemies

There are many enemy mechanics that kill you no matter how good your defenses are. Don't get discouraged and instead try to learn from each death! Observe your enemies to learn their skill patterns and find spots where you can safely position yourself. Nothing is more powerful than not taking any damage at all.

Regardless, here are a few general tips:

  • Never stand still! This helps avoid projectiles and ground attacks.
  • Don't backtrack, instead push forward or you might run straight into attacks that were coming for you already.
  • Beware of on-death effects and corpse explosions. 
  • Keep an eye out for damage over time effects to counter them with a Life Flask
  • The slower and bigger an enemy, the harder they hit. Dodge telegraphed attacks! 
  • Pay attention to enemies spawned by league mechanics, which are generally more powerful and rewarding. 


  • Try to obtain 300 Life per Act if you have troubles staying alive.
  • Counter Elemental damage by getting your Fire, Cold, and Lightning Resistances to 75%.
  • Learn how Armour, Evasion and Energy Shield work to boost your survivability.
  • Mitigate the impact of ailments with flask modifiers.
  • Keep your Life Flasks updated to recover your health.
  • Various Auras and Guard skills provide additional defense.
  • Understanding the ways enemies deal damage is a crucial part of survival.
  • Move constantly to avoid damage aimed at where you were standing.

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


Written by Enki
Reviewed by Raxxanterax, wudijo


Jul 5th 2022
Article created.