[] ForgottenKane's Hardcore Survival Guide


[li]Useful Tools[/li]
[li]Normal / Veteran[/li]
[li]The Hidden Path[/li]
[li]TL;DR & Final Notes[/li]

I - Introduction

Hello! I often hear about people complain about how hard it is to play Hardcore in Grim Dawn and how leveling is slow because of how careful you have to be, but after nearly thousand hours of playing Grim Dawn on Hardcore and getting over a dozen characters to beat the game on Hardcore Ultimate, I honestly don’t find that to be the case. People often come to me for advice on Hardcore, so I decided it was time to make a thread!

This thread aims to be a comprehensive guide on how to safely level your characters to Hardcore Ultimate without fear of death. If someone wants to use this to get into Hardcore, then by all means use this guide. If you’re having trouble with your current Hardcore characters and hit a brick wall, look no more! If you want a bedtime story then you’re in the right place, this amount of text will put you to goddamn sleep!

Note: this is for vanilla GD only, no mods.
Warning: memes are present in this guide
Special Thank You for suggestions!: Chthon, TorusNC, Ryzel, Sinistrality, Roger, Barnacle_Ed, Draon Con Color, EnjoyTheJourney, and everyone else at the GD Discord!

Extra Note: My Suggested Way To Read This Guide

I’ll keep this short: you don’t have to read this whole thing to understand how to play Hardcore.

Play the game and if you’re worried about something coming up or something you’re currently having trouble with, find that section of the guide and see if it helps you. I encourage skimming, as I’ve made my guide bullet-pointed to death so that despite it’s huge size, it’s easy enough to read. And finally, ask questions! If you’re not clear about something in the guide, come in the thread and ask it. I’ll try my best to answer you and update the thread if things really aren’t clear enough. Happy playing!

II - Useful Tools

First things first, using 3rd party tools are going to help you a lot on your Hardcore journey. The most important part about playing Hardcore is being prepared and these tools help you achieve that. Between planning out your build beforehand, preparing replacement items for when you hit a specific level, skewing your resists to what you’re fighting at that point in time (whether through pots/oils/ointments or through itemization), and boss preparation, you’re going to need to do all of this to guarantee survival. Now, this might seem like a lot to do at first, but with these tools they make it all easy as pie.

The Maphack: http://the-maphack.com/index.php?page=2&lang=en
The Maphack is the entire map of GD’s world, although a bit outdated as you can see it doesn’t have Port Valbury. This is incredibly useful for finding shrines and to make sure you don’t miss any of the secret ones. Keep in mind not all the spawn locations for things are here and it doesn’t show anything to do with random map generation that still occurs in GD.

Grimtools: http://www.grimtools.com/index.html
Grimtools is great for both looking up items and setting up builds. I prefer the build calculator a lot more than Grimcalc when it comes to finalizing with items, although Grimcalc is super useful for leveling. Speaking of Grimcalc…

Grimcalc: https://grimcalc.com/
Everyone here should know this by now. Grimcalc is not as good as Grimtools for a finalized comprehensive report on a build, but it’s great to help you plan where you’re going. I use Grimcalc regularly to see where my build is heading every 10-20 levels and by when should I have what skill.

GD Stash: http://www.grimdawn.com/forums/showthread.php?t=23414
Finally, GD Stash is a near-necessary tool after a few runs. You’re going to run out of shared stash space, that is an inevitability. For your first run, this is unnecessary, but when you notice that you’re trying your hardest to squeeze every last bit of space in your shared stash and have mules going, I highly suggest GD Stash.
Disclaimer: GD Stash can essentially be a cheat if you use it that way. If you do not trust yourself with the ability to dupe items or edit your characters do not use it.

III - Hardcore Normal / Veteran Guide


[li]Your First Run[/li]
[li]Subsequent Runs[/li]

III.1 Preface

For all three difficulties I’m going to break it up into two parts: your first run and subsequent runs. What this means is that for those of you who’re trying Hardcore for the first time (or close to it), you want to follow Your First Run’s guide. For those of you who already have completed Hardcore Ultimate at least once, Subsequent Runs is for you.

Your First Run will be more about what to do in each act and how to complete the game without any items other than the ones you pick up. It is my honest suggestion to not rush through the game on your first playthrough on Hardcore. I suggest to take it slow and take in everything and try to amass resources as you progress through the game to completion. Many people often say that loot doesn’t matter until Ultimate - for the purposes of your first run and this guide, I’m going to say that’s incorrect. Early level blues (Epic items) are oppressively strong on later runs if you can get the sets together, so collecting them now and storing them away until later is actually a very good idea. Throughout the guide I’m going to identify good sets and other Epic items to keep ahold of if you run across them.

Subsequent Runs will not go into depth about what to do in any act, but more about how to utilize the resources you now have effectively to breeze through the game at an accelerated pace. This is the part of the guide where I go over early and mid level Epic itemization, shortcuts, and more extensive preparatory actions you can take to make the speedy run safe.

Finally, an important note for taking engagements in Hardcore: never let yourself get surrounded, especially with heroes nearby. You can always abuse constitution and kite enemies to deal with troublesome mobs, but when you’re surrounded you cannot. The easiest way to die in Hardcore is to realize at the last second “oh crap I can’t take this guy,” only to realize there’s a skeleton trying to give you a backrub blocking your escape.

III.2 Your First Run


[li]First Ten Levels & Useful Skills[/li]
[li]Act I[/li]
[li]Act II[/li]
[li]Act III[/li]
[li]Act IV[/li]


So you’ve started your first Hardcore run on Normal/Veteran (or close to it)! Don’t worry, you’re in good hands, I play exclusively HC Veteran when I start a new character and I’ve only lost a dozen so far! Jokes aside, I’ve died and figured out why it happens and how to avoid it so you don’t have to. For the purposes of this guide I’m going to assume you don’t have Crucible, so below I will detail how to level in the early stages of Veteran Hardcore Grim Dawn via campaign only.

Also, if you’ve played in softcore extensively, you probably don’t need most of this part of the guide. Head straight on over to Subsequent Runs if you feel like I’m saying stuff you already know. It may be your first Hardcore run, but it’s hardly your first run to Ultimate if you’re part of this group.

First Ten Levels & Useful Skills

First things first, you want to start the game knowing what direction you’re going in. The most basic of this is choosing your starting mastery combo - and you want to know both so you can choose the one that’s better at leveling first. Not all masteries are equal, at least not at the early starting levels they are not. I’m going to bring this up again in the Subsequent Runs section later as well. Below I’ve listed the best starting mastery and leveling skills for each class combo:

  • Warder: Shaman - Devouring Swarm or Primal Strike
  • Battlemage: Arcanist - Olexra’s Flash Freeze
  • Blademaster: Nightblade - Night’s Chill (Veil of Shadow upgrade)
  • Witchblade: Occultist - Dreeg’s Evil Eye (with Focused Gaze)
  • Commando: Demolitionist - Explosive Strike (Fire Strike upgrade), Stun Jacks, or Black Water Cocktail (with High Potency)
  • Elementalist: Depends on your build. Both masteries have a lot to offer.
  • Sorcerer: Arcanist - Olexra’s Flash Freeze. The -fire resists combos well with Demolitionist past level 10.
  • Saboteur: Demolitionist - Explosive Strike (Fire Strike upgrade). Best used with dual-wielding.
  • Pyromancer: Depends on your build. Both masteries have a lot to offer.
  • Conjurer: Shaman - Devouring Swarm
  • Warlock: DEE (with Focused Gaze) or Flash Freeze. I would go with Flash Freeze as it’s less investment early, but DEE scales much better.
  • Witch Hunter: Occultist - Dreeg’s Evil Eye (with Focused Gaze)
  • Trickster: Shaman - Devouring Swarm
  • Spellbreaker: Arcanist - Olexra’s Flash Freeze
  • Druid: Devouring Swarm or Flash Freeze. Devouring Swarm is better but synergizes less with Druid as a whole.

Soldier is generally a bad leveling class unless you go Blade Arc, and I’ve honestly not had a lot of fun with the skill so I’ve left it out of the list above. This is something out of personal experience, which is why I’m throwing this disclaimer down here.

Now surviving early isn’t a problem on veteran as nothing crits you for half your health (yet), but the reason you want to choose strong leveling skills early is so you can go to Hargate’s Isle ASAP and clear out the Slith there for easy levels. This makes everything move along faster and smooth as butter. Don’t forget the book that’s in the shack at the back of the island, it’s worth a LOT of experience!

Otherwise, for leveling past that point I hear the Searing Ember and Flintcore Bolts components are pretty good (thanks Roger), Canister Bomb for Demolitionist (thanks Barnacle_Ed), and Doom Bolt for Occultist (this is a joke, don’t actually do this). Additionally, Chipped Claw helps with physical-based melee builds in the early game quite a bit, but don’t forget to not sell the item once you’ve moved on from it and instead get the component out thanks to Kasparov’s apprentice - these are quite useful components for crafting! The same goes for Battered Shell for shield users!

As a final note about Soldier: if you have a shield or two-handed melee weapon, put at least a few points into Menhir’s Will. I usually keep it at six points for the entire game, the skill does wonders. Abilities like this are called Circuit Breakers, for future reference, and they’re very valuable to Hardcore builds. At least, the good ones are (there is a lot of bad/mediocre ones!).

Act I

Thankfully Act I isn’t that dangerous where you need to be worried about a random crit nailing you aside the head and ending your playthrough right there. There are only two bosses you need to be worried about in Act I besides the final boss, The Warden: Gutworm, the Maneater and Salazar, Blade of Ch’thon. Keep in mind that neither of these guys are necessary to kill at any point. If you’re up for the challenge and think you’re willing to take the risk, then I suggest to go kill Gutworm first. Gutworm is the easier of the two to kill, but he’s still a pain in the arse if you’re not prepared. He does absurd amounts of bleed damage, has a net that can trap you, and has a massive AoE stun. If you dodge his nets, save health potions for the stun, and have good bleed resistance you can definitely take him down (and remember to dodge his attacks if possible otherwise). Salazar is, well, another story, as he does tons of chaos and vitality damage and both those resists on items and ointments are hard to get this early. I wouldn’t suggest fighting him on your first HC run until later, after you’ve entered Blood Grove to shore up your chaos and vitality resists. He still has a one-shot chest after all, so it still might be worth going back for him. Keep in mind you also need a Strange Key to get at his sanctuary, which you can get either from cultists in Act I dropping it, or Direni (honestly though - just kill him. You get a Blood of Ch’Thon from it and Salazar only has a chance of dropping it unlike Direni’s guaranteed quest reward for little effort).

The resistances you want to work on the most in Act I are Acid/Poison, Cold, and Pierce. In that order.

Now the final boss The Warden is usually not an issue by the time you reach him if you’ve played your cards right, but just in case I have some advice: he does aether, physical, and pierce damage, so shore up those resists if possible. Dodge his attacks when possible and you should be just fine. Make sure you watch out for those large animations; they’re quite repetitive so you have plenty of time to do so.

   / jjjj      _ 
 / タ       {!!! _ ヽ、 
,/  ノ        ~ `、  \  You are strong 
`、  `ヽ.  ∧_∧ , ‐'`  ノ   but now 
 \  `ヽ(´・ω・`)" .ノ/    I will demonstrate 
   `、ヽ.  ``Y"   r '       my true 
    i. 、   ¥   ノ         poweeeeeeeeeeeeeer!!!!! 
    `、.` -‐´;`ー イ

Act II

Act II is where things start to get a bit annoying. Getting fire and pierce resistances should be your highest priority at the start of Act II, since all of Cronley’s gang, the Undead, and all of their heroes tend to do pierce damage. The undead do cold damage, which will be relevant post-Cronley (when you’re in the Arkovian Undercity or Steps of Torment), but until you kill cronley fire takes a much higher priority. Those exploding, molotov-cocktail throwing, gun-toting assholes Cronley has under him are a big pain in the ass and can randomly kill you if they’re all bunched up next to you when they die. Otherwise, being careful around heroes and Moneybags Martin (screw that guy) should keep you safe and progressing well. As for Darius Cronley himself… He does aether, physical, and pierce damage! Who knew! Treat him like The Warden, dodge his fire pits, destroy his crystals, and run away from him while his shield is up. Fairly straightforward fight. He can hurt a lot sometimes, but he’s so slow and lacks any reach so you can honestly use your Constitution to refill your health, circling around him as he meanders over to try and kill you.

Note about when you first enter Act II after killing The Warden: The very first boss, Edmund " Shanks" Doyle, is not a pushover. I personally have never had a problem with him, but after some other experienced players telling me they find him more dangerous than The Warden, I’ll give you some warnings: Do not get surrounded. He is in the midst of a ton of gun-toting gang members that will overwhelm you if you’re not careful. Dodge the cocktails. The exploding fire butt-heads throw them and they will hamper your ability to both deal damage and escape. And for god’s sake, get pierce resistance. Can’t tell you how important it is the very moment you step into Act II. Every other act, it’s not so important, but here it really is.

Also, another important note: Spined Cove will kill you if you’re not careful. Out of all areas, bosses, or dungeons in the game it is the reigning champion of my character deaths. Specifically, watch out for the desecrated shrine, it can spawn up to five heroes and they will ruin your deck and piss on your parade. I haven’t lost a character in a long time now, and I can owe it to respecting the threat that shrine has. New Grim Dawn and Hardcore players beware.

And another important note: Do not kill Isaiah Reddan as part of the Vengeance quest. He’s incredibly useful for wares in his shop that you’ll see later in Homestead. He carries Ointments in his shop, which are usually a pain to craft for newer players. I always let him go so I almost forgot you could actually kill him!
(Thanks for reminding me EnjoyTheJourney!)

For the next part of Act II, you’ll want to make getting cold and vitality resistances your highest priority. After Cronley you’ll be fighting tons of undead, which all do pierce damage (something you should already have resistances for), cold damage, and to an extent vitality damage. The skeleton giants also do some bleed damage, but just dodge their attacks and you should be fine. At some point you’re going to fight Kilrian, the Tainted Soul, and he’s really annoying for some builds and really chumpy for others. He does fire and vitality damage, so fix up your resists accordingly!

Once you’re done with Kilrean and into the Broken Hills zone, jump down Steps of Torment and kill off Grand Priest Zarthuzellan, if you have capped fire resist by this point (and you should have), you’ll be fine. Now, once you get the Skeleton Key do not go through the roguelike dungeon. This isn’t a place to mess with so early on and the keys are also best saved for Ultimate where the loot is much better. After this just complete Act II and head to Deadman’s Gulch (beware of Blitz hog heroes on the way, they’ll ruin your day if you’re not careful).


Act III is where things start getting harder. I suggest that if you have the dynamite, go to Pine Barrens and clean that area up. Besides Manticores, which are notorious for randomly killing people, there is a lot of bleed damage in this area. Make sure you have enough of that resist before going forward. There are two shrines in this area and a lot of quests that can nail you both Black Legion rep as well as XP. One of the quests requires killing Ungoliax, the Gloomweaver, and she deals a powerful Poison DoT, so take note of that. After this, clean up the area along the quests you get from Homestead - except for the Conflagration quest to find the lost cannons. Do that one after clearing out the fields. The damage types present in the fields is a mixture between the aether, fire, and lightning from the Aetherials, and acid/poison and peirce from the Dermapterans. The first boss you should run across is the Dermapteran queen, Swarm Queen Ravna, and she’s honestly a pushover in her first stage. Her second stage is when she starts following you around and causing rocks to fall, but if you can dodge those then you should be fine. The final boss of the farm fields area is the Aetherial The Amalgamation, a gigantic AIDS-spewing monstrosity that hits like a truck. Be very careful around this one, dodge the AIDS-floors and the aetherspouts he summons around him.

After dealing with everything in the fields, go to the Conflagration and complete the Lost Armaments quest. Be extremely careful of the aether floors that deal damage, they will end you if you’re not careful. Make sure to always have a health potion off cooldown before traversing them. After finishing the quest, it’s time to head to Blood Grove. This is a fairly safe area other than the Ch’Thonic portal which presents a mild amount of challenge. The damage types present from this point to the end of Act III are as follows: chaos, fire, vitality, and depending on whether you chose Kymon’s Chosen or The Order of Death’s Vigil, you’ll either be up against more fire and lightning (Kymon’s) or cold and vitality (Order). The final boss of Act III is Karroz, Sigil of Ch’thon and while he’s not a pushover, he’s not particularly hard either. He deals chaos and vitality damage and has two forms, the second stage of which creates an area of obstacles that hurt you if you touch them (tentacles).

A side note about Blood Grove: There is a little secret shop in the middle of this area and many don’t know their way there. Just click that little link to see the way. If you know where he is, good, he can offer some super useful crafting MI’s and other things.

Act IV

Finally, we’re on to Act IV. At the start of the final act you’ll encounter tough yetis who deal cold and physical damage, Aetherials contesting both the local yetis and Ch’Thonic forces, more Kymon’s Chose/Death’s Vigil faction enemies, and finally the last bastion of Ch’Thonic forces at the end of the game in Necropolis. Be wary of all damage types here. In the stretch of land between Fort Ikon and Necropolis lies a massive minefield that’s filled to the brim with Aetherial enemies, both of which will nuke you down if you don’t watch your step. This area is called the Plains of Strife, and it will ruin your day if you’re not on an exceptionally tanky build. They do predominantly fire damage, so if you have high fire resistance they should be a “cakewalk.” As an additional note of my own, you can position yourself in the middle of a bunch of mines if you’re ranged and rail on enemies from afar - this will aggro them to dumbly run on the mines and explode. Not only will this deal with your Aetherial enemies, it will also clear the road. Two for one, what a deal!

Fort Ikon Armory is home to Commander Lucius, who hits like a goddamn truck. Be extremely careful of this guy, he’s taken more than one character from me in the past, the only other thing in the game besides Spined Cove to do so. He does absurd amounts of aether damage. Even with high aether resists he still hurts, so just kite him around the pile of dead bodies in the middle of the room and do damage to him when it’s safe. Dodge his aether boogers that fall from the sky at all costs, because they do huge amounts of damage and also stun you. If they all land on top of you at once, you’re dead. Like, super dead.
(note: thanks Sinistrality for the video!)

Finally, Loghorrean, the Voice of Ch’thon is the last enemy you’ll need to face before moving on to Elite. As the final boss of the game, he’s no pushover, and deals a lot of different damage types. He does chaos, physical, acid/poison, vitality, and summons Ch’Thonian Dreadguards, chaos whirlwinds, and tentacles galore. If you’ve made it this far, good luck!

A note about Bastion of Chaos: if you’re overleveled and want to give it a try, go ahead, but it is difficult without proper gear. It also isn’t the most rewarding as you’re not in Ultimate yet. Fire, chaos, and vitality need to be capped and the rest of your resistances can’t be too shabby either.

An important note about Anasteria, The Outcast: You almost never want to fight her. She offers the widest range of augments and some pretty decent gear out of all the faction. While her quests come at the cost of Black Legion reputation, you don’t need to do that whatsoever. Just killing Aetherials or Ch’thonics will net you all the reputation with her that you’ll need to unlock all her stuff, it’s not even remotely difficult. The only reason you’d kill her is if you want to farm her legendary on that particular character - but that’s not really necessary since you can get it in Crucible too. The only reason you’d do her quests is because you’d want a guaranteed Mythical Relic reward (which I know she gives on Ultimate at least) and/or a guaranteed legendary reward.

X - Legend of Terms

One more thing. There is some terms you may need to know when people use them in threads, conversations, or when I inadvertently use them in this guide. Clicking the link in the “X - Legend of Terms” title above will take you to Draon Con Color’s thread, which should be incredibly useful. If you see an acronym or term you don’t understand here, just look it up in this link and see if you find it!

III - Hardcore Normal / Veteran Guide

III.3 Subsequent Runs


[li]Epic Sets[/li]
[li]Individual Epics[/li]
[li]Useful Rares[/li]
[li]Important Ointments[/li]


Now this is the juice of the guide. The reason I created this guide was to answer questions in this category, since most of what you need to learn for your first Hardcore run can be learned in softcore anyways. This is the start of the real meat of the guide and where I go into how to utilize resources in such a way that you can quickly ascend to Hardcore Ultimate difficulty without fear of death. Now let’s get into it: I’m going to split this section up not by not by Acts, but by itemization; Epic sets, specific Epics, specific Rares, and key Ointments. They will be split up by level and organized accordingly. Many people think that early level itemization doesn’t matter - but that’s softcore. Shredding through the campaign in both Veteran and Elite is something you can do with little care for you life in softcore, but in hardcore a single mishap can end your entire career right there, and to prevent that you need to be prepared. Prepared how? Itemization!

As a final note before moving on, I will say this: in Hardcore you want to use your items for defense and your skills for offense. At least, in Veteran. So pick good clearing skills that can hold their own to match up with your items. First Ten Levels & Useful Skills is a good section to look at for powerful early skills.

Epic Sets

Epic sets don’t start coming into play until around level 20 - but from there on out, they play significant roles at key levels to progress you ahead at a rapid pace. I’m not going over mastery specific sets for the purposes of this guide for now, just generic ones. Keep in mind that you can change pieces of each set as you feel necessary (I’ll actually make some recommendations down below in the Individual Epics section).

Explorer’s Garments

[li]Explorer’s Cover[/li]> [li]Explorer’s Tunic[/li]> [li]Explorer’s Trousers[/li]> [li]Explorer’s Footpads[/ul][/li]> The Explorer’s Garments set is incredibly good when you hit level 20, to the point where I keep a hand-me-down ready at all times for a new character. This set is so good that even if you don’t have all the pieces, it’s worth it for even just two of the four. The most important of which is the Explorer’s Cover (which gives xp gain) and Explorer’s Footpads (which has a very fast movespeed among resistances). Once you have this set, the high movespeed and xp gain it offers you literally speeds up your progression speed and also offers good resistances on top of that. Don’t forget to put components as necessary in them!

Herald’s Regalia

[li]Herald’s Mask[/li]> [li]Herald’s Jacket[/li]> [li]Herald’s Ward[/ul][/li]> This level 35 set’s bonuses come at a key time when you’re fighting between Aetherials and Ch’Thonic enemies right outside Homestead, as it gives both aether and chaos resists. It also gives a bunch of decent stats, resistances, and +skills to top it all off. The head piece even comes with an ability that AoE stuns (similar to Gutworm’s stun) and the amulet also carries a passive stun to boot. The set makes you very survivable thanks to all of this.


[li]Faceguard of Perdition[/li]> [li]Shoulderguards of Perdition[/li]> [li]Chestguard of Perdition[/li]> [li]Handguards of Perdition[/li]> [li]Shield of Perdition[/ul][/li]> This level 40 set is fantastic for melee builds (with or without shield), retaliation builds, and acid builds. It provides a high amount of armor, good resistances, and an absurd amount of stats. While I would consider the Herald’s Regalia and Explorer’s Garments sets to be almost core, this one is not so much, just for specific builds is it really that good.

The Praetorian

[li]Praetorian Faceguard[/li]> [li]Praetorian Chestguard[/li]> [li]Praetorian Shoulderguard[/ul][/li]> This level 50 set comes with one of the most useful set bonuses yet: 15% physical resist for two (2) pieces worn. This is a significant amount for casters especially. The third (3) piece worn gets you some sick 35% aether and chaos resists, which come in handy if you’re overleveled for Necropolis. Otherwise it’s unnecessary, as you’ll probably already be in Elite by the time you can use this set. Any sets past this one in level will be covered in the Elite section of the guide.

Individual Epics

These Epics are everything from replacements for some pieces of those sets listed above to powerful additions that can drastically improve your progression speed. I always have some of the ones listed below on hand to be hand-me-downs. Once again, I’m leaving out mastery specific stuff, leaving in just the generics. I might come back and add mastery/archetype specific stuff later if people find this guide helpful! Also, there are no pictures below because there is only 10 images allowed per post and I gotta’ be conservative!

[ul][li]The Final March[/ul][/li]> This level 14 item is pretty great to have between the 14-20 levels, but is by no means necessary. If you have it, feel free to pass it down your characters. But it’s not something you should feel compelled to do like you should with the ring below.

[ul][li]Obsidian Seal[/ul][/li]> This level 18 item provides an absurd amount of fire resistance, good amount of defensive ability, and a bunch of flat armor. All around one of the best defensive items in the game.

[ul][li]Zealot’s Gauntlets[/ul][/li]> This level 20 item is perfect for casters, melee, and ranged builds. It provides a lot of both attack and cast speed, the primary reason why you’d use the item, and some offensive ability and skill disruption prevention to boot.

[ul][li]Oldenar’s Stabilizer[/ul][/li]> This level 20 belt has both good armor (something you want in a belt), great stun resist, and a ton of defensive ability. Great item, even if you’re not going to take advantage of the Soldier +'s.

[ul][li]Mistwalker Leggings[/ul][/li]> This level 20 item is good enough to replace the Explorer’s Trousers you’d otherwise use at the same level, with higher armor rating as well as resistances and movespeed. It’s a little harder to get, but definitely worth using and having as a hand-me-down.

[ul][li]Hermit’s Legguards[/ul][/li]> This level 23 item is a decent replacement if you don’t have either Explorer’s Trousers or Mistwalker Leggings. You mostly wear it for the XP gain.

[ul][li]Warlord’s Spaulders[/ul][/li]> Even if you don’t use a shield, this level 28 item offers a lot of armor, some armor absorption, physique, and pierce resistance. Very decent to good item.

[ul][li]Templar’s Leg Armor[/ul][/li]> These level 37 legs offer a ton of armor, resistances, defensive ability, and health. The lightning retaliation is cool and all, but man are these legs tanky. Definitely worth passing down.

[ul][li]Legplates of Valor[/ul][/li]> These level 40 legs offer even more armor, resistances, defensive ability, and health than the ones listed above. The reason I’m listing them both is because some builds have a hard time with fire/lighting versus pierce/bleed. In any case, I prefer these, but if you don’t have the legplates, you can use Templar’s Leg Armor as a substitute.

[ul][li]Glory of the Silver Knight[/ul][/li]> This level 50 helmet offers a ton of stats, but the most impressive is the fire resistance it offers you. But usually by this point, that’s capped, so I lean towards just using the full Praetorian set. However - this item offers something unique: Abolish Evil. This item skill deals a crapton of damage and is very valuable for some builds.

[ul][li]Runic Bracers[/ul][/li]> This level 50 pair of gloves is incredibly good in the defensives it provides you. The proc attached to it is wonderful and the base stats are hardly poor by themselves. All around a highly rated by me.

Useful Rares

These Rares are MIs that I find to be quite useful if they drop. Here I’ll go over generics, or class specific stuff that actually can be used on other character masteries because of how good they are. I might come and revise this section to include class specific stuff later, but for now that’s not the case. As an important note, you don’t need to farm for these. These are just useful items worth considering if they happen to drop for you. Saving the ones that drop with an absurdly good affix in your stash is an honest suggestion of mine - because if they’re really good, you might just be using them for 20+ levels and it will impact your run speed.

[ul][li]Viloth’s Ring[/ul][/li]> The Slith boss under Devil’s Crossing, Viloth, the Corruptor, can drop a super sick ring for Nightblades that is decent for everything else too. At this point in the game where you’re going to otherwise pick up crappy yellow or even white rings, this Rare ring is quite good with virtually any affixes.

[ul][li]Slith Primal Ring[/ul][/li]> While this is a quest drop and not an MI, it’s still a decent-to-good item that you’re going to use for a while on most characters. The real kicker about it is that you can just save one in your stash for next time and use it right off the bat with any of your new characters. When then means that once you finish the quest, you have two! Gee Bill…

[ul][li]Bernard’s Slightly-Chewed Buckler[/ul][/li]> This level 6+ shield has a 100% chance to drop from Pussquill the Hoarder in the Putrid Den and can get some disgusting affixes. I have one that rolled the affix to have the exact same effect the buckler comes with, but with a 20% chance. The kicker with this is that they do not share the same cool down and can proc independently. Great for shield users.

[ul][li]Putrid Necklace[/ul][/li]> This level 8 MI drops from Primordian, the Forgotten One in Act I, and can roll some really good resists. It comes at a time where you might not have any real amulet still and does some work. The best part about the item is that it’s guaranteed the most relevant resist in Act I: poison/acid.

[ul][li]Cronley’s Signet[/ul][/li]> This level 20 MI drops from Darius Cronley and rolls both pierce resistance and attack speed. The pierce resistance is really nice since after killing Cronley, you’ll be heading on down to fight undead which also deal pierce damage. The attack speed is a hard to come-by commodity as well, so it’s an overall very nice item to have for non-spellcasters.

Note: this section is currently incomplete and will be updated later

Important Ointments

Finally, the last type of item that you’ll need to work with in Hardcore Veteran is Ointments. They are extremely important to have on hand if you don’t have capped resists moving in for a boss. Whenever I fight The Warden with a subpar character, I always have an aether Ointment on hand in case I need it for the fight. Whenever I face Salazar, Blade of Ch’thon, I always make sure I take health regen, chaos, vitality, and even fire Ointments. These are just examples of what is listed below. Now, you may be asking yourself “doesn’t this cost a lot of resources?” And… you’re right! But the most important part about Hardcore is living. Hardcore takes up a lot more resources than Softcore and that’s part of the fun and challenge. Resource management and deciding if and when to use an Ointment or two is how you’re able to keep up the pace with Softcore players in run times and progress without worrying about randomly dying to a particularly annoying boss. Below I’m going to list the main bosses of the campaign and what Ointments are good against them. Nemesis and sidequest bosses will be listed under the Ultimate section of the guide. Other minor bosses may be added to this section later, besides the tough ones that I will be posting to Ultimate.

  • [li]Viloth, the Corruptor

Ointments: Venomguard, Frostshroud
Notes: Low threat level, consumables are unnecessary. Listed just in case people want to know.

  • [li]Ancient Shambler

Ointments: Unknown
Notes: Long wind-up animations, if you dodge consumables are unnecessary.

[ul][li]The Warden[/ul][/li]> Threat Level: Medium/High
Ointments: Spiritbane
Notes: Some builds don’t need any consumables, others need a lot of help. Royal Jelly Balm, Salve, and Ointment really help if you feel it’s necessary. Take some with you if you’re unsure, just in case; you don’t need to use it, just be prepared.

  • [li]Edmund " Shanks" Doyle

Ointments: Flamedrinker
Notes: He mostly does pierce damage, consumables are unnecessary. Listed just in case people want to know.

  • [li]Special Mention: Spined Cove Desecrated Shrine

Ointments: Frostshroud
Notes: This shrine will spawn up to 4-5 heroes that will ruin your day if you’re not careful. They might surround you. Run away and slowly pick them off.

  • [li]Darius Cronley

Ointments: Spiritbane
Notes: The only damage type from him that you can get a consumable for is aether; thankfully he’s slow.

  • [li]Kilrian, the Tainted Soul

Ointments: Flamedrinker, Deathwhisper
Notes: Watch out for his circular purple pits of damage and try not to arouse too many skeletons while fighting him.

  • [li]Swarm Queen Ravna

Ointments: Venomguard
Notes: Try and clear most of the mobs around her before killing her and watch out for her second form’s ceiling barrage.

  • [li]The Amalgamation

Ointments: Spiritbane
Notes: Be very careful of this guy. I also suggest some Royal Jelly when fighting him. Also watch out for the aether-floors.

  • [li]Bolvar, the Bloodbinder

Ointments: Bloodbound
Notes: Does craptons of chaos damage, be careful of being bursted and you should be fine. Warning: does life leech damage.

  • [li]Zaria, the Carver

Ointments: Bloodbound, Deathwhisper
Notes: She’s by herself, if you can’t take the damage, run away then come back. Never had that problem myself though.

  • [li]Karroz, Sigil of Ch’thon

Ointments: Bloodbound, Deathwhisper
Notes: His first form is straightforward, his second form is what you need to worry about. He slaps you hard (warning: tentacles)!

  • [li]Commander Lucius

Ointments: Spiritbane
Notes: Aether damage out the wazoo! Wow this guy hurts! Kite him around the pile of dead bodies in the room if necessary. Highly suggest Royal Jelly for this fight. Make sure you dodge his aether-devastation ability at all costs.
(note: thanks Sinistrality for the video!)

  • [li]Bane’Galgalor, Guardian of the Gates

Ointments: Venomguard
Notes: If you have poison/acid resistance this guy is a chump. However, if you don’t have the right damage types, he will take forever to kill, just a note.

  • [li]Bloodlord Thalonis

Ointments: Bloodbound, Deathwhisper
Notes: Not too much about this guy, also by himself so you can just run off or kite him until Constitution kicks in. Warning: does life leech damage.

  • [li]Loghorrean, the Voice of Ch’thon

Ointments: Flamedrinker, Venomguard, Bloodbound, Deathwhisper
Notes: Final boss of the game! Has a bunch of damage types. Be careful of that acid spit he does, it hurts! Also suggest some Royal Jelly, can’t go overboard with the final boss when it comes to preparations!

IV - Hardcore Elite Guide

[li]Useful Skills[/li]
[li]Epic Sets[/li]
[li]Individual Epics[/li]
[li]Early Legendaries[/ol]
IV.1 Preface

So you’ve made it to Hardcore Elite! At this point I’ll expect you to know bosses, damage types, and have a bit of resources on hand. Once you make it this far go back and read the Important Ointments section of the Subsequent Runs part of the Hardcore Normal / Veteran Guide. Now that you’ve completed one of the difficulties of the game, you’ll definitely have enough resources on hand to start cranking out these consumables when necessary. If not, go back and farm Veteran for a bit. They’re necessary if you want to be entirely safe while moving forward in Elite. Now for this part of the guide I’m not going to split it up into first-timers and returning Hardcore players, I’m going to deal with everything in one go. The reason for this is simple: you have amassed a certain amount of resources now and can properly prepare for fights. While the Epic Sets section won’t be of much use to newcomers to Hardcore Elite, the following Individual Epics and Early Legendaries just might be handy in identifying useful item drops you might come across. Items start to become even more important than before now! Other than that, the first section below is where I’m going to identify the rest of the possible skills each class has that are largely important in Hardcore once you get them, greatly expanding the list from the earlier First Ten Levels & Useful Skills section. I’ll be splitting them up into the six masteries within quote tags below in the Useful Skills section. This should be very useful for fresh Hardcore players to compensate.

IV.2 Useful Skills



Below I will list the six classes, in the order that you’d see when you first choose your class in-game, and their notable skills. Mind you I will not be going over every single last skill and how they’re useful - I will only be going over ones that are particularly useful for play in Hardcore. This will almost always be some kind of survivability skill (ex: Blast Shield) or Circuit Breaker technique (ex: Menhir’s Will). One thing I’d like to note that is when the expansion comes out, I hope to update both Necromancer and Inquisitor into this guide as well! But who knows when that’s coming out :wink:


[ul][li]Menhir’s Will[/ul][/li]> Okay let me tell you about ya’ boy Menhir’s Will. This skill is right out of the gates one of the most useful skills in the game for a Hardcore player. If you use it once or twice a campaign, it does it’s job. If you never use it, it does it’s job. You never want to rely on it - but simply having it is a reassurance. If you find yourself popping it a bunch, that indicates a problem with your build. Sit back and try and figure out a way to not let that happen. If you can do that, you’re making some real progress. Final note: six points is where you want to keep this skill at all times, in my Hardcore experience opinion.

[ul][li]Blitz[/ul][/li]> Not only is this skill fun as hell to use, it’s also good at saving your ass. If you’re not 100% sure you’re going to be fine when you Blitz into a crowd, don’t do it. Save it as an escape. Use it on some random skeleton hanging in the back (if it’s a Skeleton Priest, extra points) to burst out of a crowd when you feel like you’re being surrounded and taking on too much heat. I wouldn’t max it, but damn is that first point worth a million dollars.

[ul][li]Overguard[/ul][/li]> Shield users are already very good in Hardcore, but this skill really takes it over the top with survivability. The modifier is good too. If you’re both a shield user and a Soldier - take it. It will keep you alive.

[ul][li]Decorated Soldier & Scars of Battle[/ul][/li]> Both good passives that give resists and then some. If you find yourself up this far in the Soldier tree, you’d have to be insane to not at least have a point in them. The rest depends on your build.


[ul][li]Vindictive Flame[/ul][/li]> This is a very all-around decent skill for any Demolitionist build to pick up. I’d drop at least one point in it at any level - it offers total speed, health regen, and even a damage knockback when you get hit. The second part, Ulzuin’s Wrath, is useful for a stun too. I’d put one point in each - if you want more, it depends on your build, but all Demolitionist builds should have at least a singular point in each. It may be minor, but it really does mean something in Hardcore.

[ul][li]Temper (second part of Flame Touched)[/ul][/li]> This second part of Flame Touched offers some flat armor, which (while minor) is useful. The single point is worth it for that.

[ul][li]Blast Shield[/ul][/li]> The mother of all defensive abilities, Blast Shield is something you’ll want to max in most situations. It offers a short period of absurd resistances and damage absorbtion. The fire retaliation is kind of nice, but that’s not why you get the skill. It’s the Demolitionist’s Menhir’s Will in a way, and boy is it good. Get it and put a minimum of six points into it.


[ul][li]Blood of Dreeg & Aspect of the Guardian[/ul][/li]> The Occultist’s sole claim to survivability fame (besides two other tacky skills, mentioned below), and it’s quite a doozy. Blood of Dreeg offers not only an absurd amount of HP regen and a huge burst heal, but also an absolutely maniacal amount of offensive ability tacked onto an otherwise defensive skill. This is something I recommend to even builds that want nothing to do with acid damage; it just offers so much. The second part of the skill, Aspect of the Guardian, is also quite absurd. It offers both a huge amount of poison/acid resistance, but also physical resistance, which is hard to come by. While I wouldn’t max it for most builds, dropping some points into Aspect after maxing Blood of Dreeg (you usually want to max it) is the furthest thing from a bad idea.

Note: Sigil of Consumption is a very good skill for life gain, but doesn’t fit into most builds. That is why it is not mentioned here. Same with Possession and it’s damage absorption.


[ul][li]Pneumatic Burst[/ul][/li]> This still is essentially the Nightblade’s Blood of Dreeg. It offers a crapton of health regen, a good burst heal, and even total speed! I suggest maxing it. The modifier is also great if you are dual wielding weapons; so get it if you are. The second part of it, Shadow Dance, is also worth a few points at least for both it’s miss chance and the chunk of defensive ability it grants you. Survivability is key!

[ul][li]Phantasmal Armor[/ul][/li]> A slightly better Temper for the Nightblade, this one-point wonder gives a good amount of flat armor with a little bit of other cute stats, none the least of which is pierce resistance. With +skills this one-point wonder carries pretty hard.

[ul][li]Shadow Strike[/ul][/li]> This skill is quite notorious as of [], but even if you don’t build around it, it offers itself as a slightly swifter Blitz, allowing you to weave in and out of crowds when things get hairy. I not only highly suggest you put at least a single point into this skill, I demand it!

[ul][li]Blade Barrier[/ul][/li]> Put a point into this, it is your panic button. When things get hairy and you think you’re dead, press the button this is bound to and take a deep breath, because you’re alive. You only need a single point - that’s all it takes for this piece of insurance.

[ul][li]Ring of Steel[/ul][/li]> Surrounded by enemies? Don’t know what to do? Blade Barrier and Shadow Strike are down? Now let me tell you sir, I got just the skill for you! For just one single skill point, this little skill will stun every enemy near you (almost) guaranteed! Buy now for 20 (mastery bar points)!


[ul][li]Mirror of Ereoctes[/ul][/li]> This skill that I cannot pronounce has the absurd ability to make you invincible (for a limited time only). Much like Blade Barrier, I highly suggest putting a single point in. Some builds put a lot more! But a single point is utterly necessary.

[ul][li]Maiven’s Sphere of Protection[/ul][/li]> One of the tankiest abilities in the game, Maiven’s Sphere of Protection is incredibly good if the damage decrease isn’t so harsh on your character. It also takes an absurd amount of mana to run, so keep that in mind. The second part of it, Conversion, is also decent and worth a point, especially if you intend on maxing the sphere.

  • [li]Nullification


[ul][li]Heart of the Wild (second part of Mogdrogen’s Pact)[/ul][/li]> Heart of the Wild should honestly be maxed on every Shaman build. It offers a significant amount of health that shouldn’t be overlooked. Having a lot of health is one of the easiest ways to survive something, and this does just that.

Note: while Wendigo Totem is a good skill, it isn’t fit for every build. That’s why it’s not mentioned above.

IV.3 Epic Sets


[li]The Epic Sets[/li]


A continuation of the same section from Normal / Veteran! This covers Empowered sets and their ilk. This will only cover generic sets for now even though there is not many; I may add class specific stuff later once all is said and done. Although that may be added to it’s own post later on in the thread then linked back - I am hitting the character limit with these posts after all. And image limit, which is a shame because I totally want to post images of these sets. Anyway, on to the items!

The Epic Sets

Herald’s Markings

[ul][li]Empowered Herald’s Mask[/li]> [li]Empowered Herald’s Jacket[/li]> [li]Empowered Herald’s Ward[/ul][/li]> An upgrade of the Herald’s Regalia set from Normal / Veteran difficulty. It’s better in literally every way and a very good set to have for any build that doesn’t know what direction it’s going in yet, or hasn’t gotten geared out yet by this point. Should be shedded around level 75.


[ul][li]Empowered Faceguard of Perdition[/li]> [li]Empowered Shoulderguards of Perdition[/li]> [li]Empowered Chestguard of Perdition[/li]> [li]Empowered Handguards of Perdition[/li]> [li]Empowered Shield of Perdition[/ul][/li]> An upgrade of the Perdition set from Normal / Veteran difficulty. It’s better in literally every way and a very good set for any melee/shield build that doesn’t quite want the Herald’s Markings set. The gloves are pretty damn good on this set for casters too.

Note: more will be added to this section later.

IV.4 Individual Epics


[li]Individual Epic Items[/ol][/b][/li]

This section is going to be much smaller than the previous one in Normal / Veteran. Most items start coming with a bunch of different +'s to skills so generic Epics start fading away. The list here has the few that I’ve used multiple times that I’m sure can be used on multiple different mastery combinations. I won’t leave a description, just their average base stats. Let those speak to you by themselves.

Individual Epic Items

[ul][li]Empowered Obsidian Seal[/ul][/li]> [42 Armor
55% Fire Resistance
27% Chaos Resistance
+220 Health
+60 Defensive Ability
+2 to Aspect of the Guardian
+1 to Shield Training

Item Level: 58](http://www.grimtools.com/db/items/1002)

[ul][li]Empowered Oldenar’s Stabilizer[/ul][/li]> [64 Armor
20% Bleeding Resistance
20% Aether Resistance
50% Reduced Stun Duration
+6% to Maximum Bleeding Resistance
+4% Defensive Ability
+70 Defensive Ability
+2 to Military Conditioning
+2 to Shield Training

Item Level: 58](http://www.grimtools.com/db/items/1084)

[ul][li]Empowered Zealot’s Gauntlets[/ul][/li]> [495 Armor
18% Pierce Resistance
25% Chaos Resistance
30% Skill Disruption Protection
+25 Offensive Ability
+16% Attack Speed
+16% Casting Speed

Item Level: 65](http://www.grimtools.com/db/items/1208)

[ul][li]Empowered Death Ward[/ul][/li]> [54% Cold Resistance
47% Vitality Resistance
+5% to Maximum Cold Resistance
+5% to Maximum Vitality Resistance
8-20 Vitality Damage
+44 Physique
+240 Health

Grants Skill: Defy Death (Level 2)

Item Level: 65](http://www.grimtools.com/db/items/884)

Note: more will be added to this section later.

IV.5 Early Legendaries


[li]Craftable Legendary Items[/li]
[li]Non-Craftable Legendary Items[/ol][/b][/li]

Finally onto the Legendaries! Now I’ll only be posting legendaries between levels 50-65 here as they are early legendaries that you might not only run unto during your Elite run, they must also be equipable. I will also only be posting generics. They will also only be things I have personally played with (I will add suggestions later). Keep in mind most of these you’re probably (almost definitely, with the exception of Voidsteel Gauntlets) going to want to replace them at some point with better Legendaries (or MIs). Alright then, let’s head into it!
(note: definitely going to reiterate this paragraph/section)

Craftable Legendary Items

[ul][li]Badge of Mastery[/ul][/li]> This item rolls randomly between +3 of one skill and +2 of another for a total of +5 between two skills. It also has a chance to roll the same skill, for +5 to a single skill. It’s extremely good and a staple for many builds. Mind you, this is on top of a ton of elemental resists, a good ability, and other miscellaneous stats. Level 58.

[ul][li]Tinker’s Ingenuity[/ul][/li]> Very decent item worth crafting once and passing down your characters to fix resists until you finalize your build. It’s decent, not good. The only costly part of the crafting requirements is honestly all the iron bits, and you can just farm those anywhere. Cheap Legendary for characters slowly getting into the end of Elite and beginning of Ultimate. Level 65.

Non-Craftable Legendary Items

[ul][li]Voidsteel Gauntlets[/ul][/li]> Holy Gloves Batman! This thing is pretty great if you find them at all for leveling, and some builds even use these level 50 gloves at level 85! They’re great! Try and replace them at some point if you’re not a chaos build or can’t convert chaos to something else, though.

[ul][li]Silverbolt[/ul][/li]> Two handed ranged? If you find this thing, you’re set (for a little while at least)! It’s a decent leveling item, especially with it’s absurd +2 to all skills, and comes just as you enter Elite at level 50.

[ul][li]Avatar of Mercy[/ul][/li]> Desperately need defense? If you happen upon this item, it’s pretty damn good at keeping you alive until you find better gear. While it’s not usable the moment you step into Elite, being level 58 means that you can still use this item quite early.

V - Hardcore Ultimate Guide


[li]Finalizing Your Build[/li]
[li]Skeleton Key Dungeons[/li]
[li]The Hidden Path[/ol][/b][/li]
V.1 Preface

The final part of the game: Ultimate difficulty! Here you will find dungeons full of treasure, powers beyond imagination, and dragons!.. Well, maybe not dragons. In any case, welcome to the final part of the main Hardcore Survival Guide! Here I will go over how to finalize your build, how to both prepare for and traverse the Skeleton Key areas (Steps of Torment, Bastion of Chaos, and Port Valbury), and cover the dangers of The Hidden Path! Those last two parts of the guide will also be relevant for all three difficulties too (Normal/Veteran, Elite, and Ultimate). Now let’s get into it.

V.2 Finalizing Your Build


[li]Skill Build Layout[/li]

Truthfully you should’ve done this sooner, but this is the last chance to figure out what direction you’re going to take your build in. Ultimate is not a forgiving place and the last thing you want to do is roll in with a suboptimal version of any build - you’ll just be courting death. Now there are a few steps you can take to make sure your build is, or close to, being finalized. The first of which is to cover the skills, then the devotions, and finally I will introduce the use of Grimtools. It’s super useful. This is all assuming, of course, that you are fitted with the best gear that you have available to you. Now let’s get with it!

Skill Build Layout

I’ll put this section into list format to make everything easier on you:

[ol][li]Take out points from one-point-wonders if you lack any +skills[1][/li]
[li]Streamline your damage types; narrow down your skills damage to 1, maybe 2 damage types at most[2][/li]
[li]Overmax your main damage source, an example being Cadence should be at 26/16 if at all possible[3][/li]
[li]Grab as much resist reduction for your damage type as your masteries let you, it’s very important on Ultimate[/li]
[li]Grab OA and DA abilities until they are at minimum around ~2000, devotions and items should help with this[/li]
[li]Cap as many resistances as possible[/ol][/li]Footnotes:
[1] Exceptions to this rule: Blitz, Fighting Form, Searing Light, Ulzuin’s Wrath, Static Strike, Ulzuin’s Chosen, Mirror of Ereoctes, Nullification, and Anatomy of Murder.
[2] With the single exception of Elemental damage, it’s three types
[3] Maiven’s Sphere of Protection should also be overmaxed if you have that skill at all as an Arcanist, it’s overmaxed levels are fantastic


Once you narrow down your damage type(s) you can now decide on a final route to take your Devotion. Engineering your devotions to your damage type(s) and getting tier 3 constellations is an extremely important factor to both dealing damage as well as surviving on Ultimate difficulty. I’m going to leave the weaving of the lower-tier constellations to you and just explain the tier 3 constellations below.

[ul][li]Abomination[/ul][/li]> Affinity Required: 8 Chaos 18 Eldritch
Damage Type(s): Chaos, Poison/Acid
Skill(s): Abominable Might (Chaos), Tainted Eruption (Poison)

Although an extremely powerful set of skills it offers you, sadly the chaos one is on enemy death, so not really useful on bosses. The poison one has a massive AoE and does lots of damage however.

[ul][li]Aeon’s Hourglass[/ul][/li]> Affinity Required: 8 Chaos 18 Primordial
Damage Type(s): N/A
Skill(s): Time Dilation

This constellation doesn’t offer much in the way of damage, but it makes up for it in the skill: it resets (or lowers, rather) cooldowns by six whole second when activated. This is extremely powerful on high-cooldown builds. Otherwise, it just comes with a lot of miscellaneous stats.

[ul][li]Blind Sage[/ul][/li]> Affinity Required: 10 Ascendant 18 Eldritch
Damage Type(s): Elemental (Fire, Cold, Lightning)
Skill(s): Elemental Seeker

A fairly terrible tier 3 constellation. The skill it gives is quite bad and it splits it’s bonuses into three directions, on top of an awkward Devotion cost.
Very few builds utilize this constellation with good reason. You can
do so, but it’s usually suboptimal. One of the reasons why Elemental damage is quite bad, to be fairly honest.

[ul][li]Dying God[/ul][/li]> Affinity Required: 8 Chaos 15 Primordial
Damage Type(s): Chaos, Vitality
Skill(s): Hungering Void

Honestly my favorite constellation and unarguably one of the sickest abilities among the stars, Dying God and Hungering Void offer some disgusting stats and abilities. If you’re heading down either the chaos or vitality route,
I highly suggest picking this bad boy up if you can feed the health cost the ability has. It also doesn’t have an exorbitant Devotion cost compared to other tier 3 constellations cough Blind Sage cough.

[ul][li]Leviathan[/ul][/li]> Affinity Required: 13 Ascendant 13 Eldritch
Damage Type(s): Cold, Frostburn
Skill(s): Whirlpool

While not the most intimidating of tier 3 constellations, it does provide a lot of one of the more powerful damage types currently in the game, cold.
The good amount of damage it provides with a good enough ability make it quite a good constellation to head for if you find yourself using cold as your main damage type. Or you find yourself playing a Coldbreaker, which turns this decent-to-good tier 3 constellation into a Whirlpool of absurdity…

[ul][li]Light of Empyrion[/ul][/li]> Affinity Required: 8 Order 18 Primordial
Damage Type(s): Fire
Skill(s): Light of Empyrion

Not something I use often, but I still understand is decent-to-good, is the Light of Empyrion. This constellation may deal in fire damage, but not a lot of it. It’s call to usage is it’s chunk of defensive stats it loads your character up with. It also offers the same to pets, if you’re using pets…

[ul][li]Mogdrogen the Wolf[/ul][/li]> Affinity Required: 15 Ascendant 12 Eldritch
Damage Type(s): Bleeding
Skill(s): Howl of Mogdrogen

This is the de-facto constellation for bleeding damage-oriented builds.
It offers a bunch of bleeding damage with a good ability and some other various useful stats and resistances. Also, interestingly enough, it offers lots of unrelated pet bonuses!

[ul][li]Obelisk of Menhir[/ul][/li]> Affinity Required: 8 Order 15 Primordial
Damage Type(s): N/A
Skill(s): Stone Form

One of the most defensive constellations in the sky, Obelisk of Menhir offers a crapton of defensive stats and an ability that also only works off of a shield. It’s good for builds that want to take some hits and also for builds that want to abuse retaliation damage.

[ul][li]Oleron[/ul][/li]> Affinity Required: 20 Ascendant 7 Order
Damage Type(s): Physical, Internal Trauma, Bleeding
Skill(s): Blind Fury

This constellation is for people who don’t care about casting spells and want to take the enemy by the throat! Oleron offers a ton of physical damage and internal trauma damage, perfect for builds that just want to hit things with a good ol’ normal stick. Mixed with other decent stats and an impressive ability, aptly named Blind Fury, it makes for a good tier 3 constellation for physical builds (note: bleed damage is quite minor for this constellation).

[ul][li]Spear of the Heavens[/ul][/li]> Affinity Required: 7 Chaos 20 Primordial
Damage Type(s): Lightning, Aether
Skill(s): Spear of the Heavens

With two damage types which honestly don’t make sense being next to each other, Spear of the Heavens still finds a way to be quite a good tier 3 constellation. Perhaps it’s the lack of better alternatives or it’s the huge chunk of equal modifiers that riddle this thing, either way it’s what you want for a late game aether or lightning build (or one that deals in both, not necessarily recommended). I’ve built more than one build that uses this thing. Also, final note: the name of the skill is literal. It’s literally a spear from the heavens.

[ul][li]Tree of Life[/ul][/li]> Affinity Required: 7 Order 20 Primordial
Damage Type(s): N/A
Skill(s): Healing Rain

Another damageless late game healing constellation, Tree of Life offers a ton of health, health regen, and an absolutely huge healing ability.I recommend it over Behemoth’s ability if Tree of Life is easier to get due to your Devotion requirements. It also offers the same bonuses to pets, if you somehow cared about that.

[ul][li]Ulzuin’s Torch[/ul][/li]> Affinity Required: 8 Chaos 15 Eldritch
Damage Type(s): Fire, Burn, Physical
Skill(s): Meteor Shower

Now this is a sick constellation with a sick ability. Tons of fire damage,
plenty of burn, and a little bit of physical tacked onto the skill itself. What’s not to love? The miscellaneous stats it comes with are also quite good and very offensive. If you find yourself trying to dish out tons of fire damage,
this is the constellation for you.

[ul][li]Unknown Soldier[/ul][/li]> Affinity Required: 15 Ascendant 8 Order
Damage Type(s): Pierce, Bleeding
Skill(s): Living Shadow

The only tier 3 constellation that panders to piercing damage, the Unknown Soldier is something many builds finding themselves forced to take. Well, at least it used to, the ability Living Shadow used to be quite poor, but after the buff giving it lifesteal,
it’s now quite good. I’d even say it’s great now. Not sure if it’s good enough to be considered a defensive ability on it’s own, however…


Finally we get here. Grimtools is a 3rd party website that lets you plan your build in advance, much like Grimcalc, but it also takes in account items and tells you more comprehensive information. It also takes into account item +skills and modifies your skills based on the information you input to it. While I use both Grimcalc and Grimtools depending on the situation, for all my Ultimate builds I use Grimtools, especially since it helps me plan resistances and takes into account the -resist modifier higher difficulties drop on you. Here’s the link below:

Grimtools Build Calculator Link

Now we got that out of the way, I’m going to ask you to do three things:

[ol][li]Put your skill build in Grimtools[/li]
[li]Put your devotions in Grimtools[/li]
[li]Put your items in Grimtools[/ol][/li]Now you should see the same stats on your screen as you see in-game. Sadly, sheet DPS is not calculated, but it’s not like that was a relevant number for most builds anyway. Now that your build is in here, you can modify it and test changes you’d otherwise just have baseless conjecture on or have to waste resources trying. Try a Silk Swatch in your shoulders! Chains of Oleron or Hallowed Ground in the chest? Min-max ahoy! The changes you plan to make from the earlier two sections can also be done in here in Grimtools to see what effects they’d have on your build before going through with them.
Disclaimer: I am not responsible if you find yourself spending the rest of your days simply planning builds in Grimtools instead of actually playing the game. The allure has trapped many veteran Grim Dawn players in the past and still continues to do so today. Good luck!

V.3 Skeleton Key Dungeons


[li]Steps of Torment[/li]
[li]Bastion of Chaos[/li]
[li]Port Valbury[/ol][/b][/li]

The three Skeleton Key dungeons are the best place outside of crucible to farm items. With this in mind, it’s important to note that most people don’t enjoy Port Valbury nearly as much as the other two, as it has constant aether-floors and awfully annoying aether-tornados that follow you around, can’t be destroyed, and deal damage. It’s extremely frustrating in fact. In any case, I’ll go more over those things and more in that section of the guide. Overall these three dungeons make for the latest part of the game in Ultimate, as killing the end boss Loghorrean, the Voice of Ch’thon is usually considered not as hard. Clearing him is one story, while clearing Bastion of Chaos is another… So keep that in mind when reading this part of the guide and when heading into these roguelike dungeons!

Also, another fairly important note that deserves to be separated from the rest, if you didn’t already know somehow: you cannot teleport out of these dungeons. Rift gates won’t work. They’re roguelikes for a reason.

Steps of Torment

The Steps of Torment dungeon lies under the first few levels of the base, right behind the doors where you fight Grand Priest Zarthuzellan. Behind these doors is a multi-layered roguelike dungeon most people simply call by the same name as the whole area, Steps of Torment. A Skeleton Key is obviously necessary to enter this place. I’m going to split this section into a guide of the two floors and then the boss, Alkamos, Lord Executioner.

Resistances required: Cold, Pierce, Vitality, and decent general resists.


The first part of the dungeon is the fourth floor of the Steps of Torment, called Suffering. The first thing I’ll mention is to be careful of trapped chests that will spawn a ton of dudes to fight. They will be quite obvious and have no enemies near them usually, so prepare for a fight when you open one. Secondly, there are a few possible “kill rooms” (something me and a few friends dubbed these places) that will lock you inside and force you to kill everything it spawns until it’s run out before letting you go again. The first one is guaranteed to spawn and it’s on this floor. The next belongs to the boss on this floor and is also guaranteed to spawn, but the rest are random and lies on the floor below. It will be marked on the map below (that I’ve shamelessly taken from the wiki) as the Chamber of Souls. Be prepared for a hard fight in a tiny room. The second sealed room on this floor, belonging to the boss Ilgorr, the Eternal, is at the back of the floor. He’s a Skeleton Golem (gargantuan and titan) with two forms and each spawns lots of ghosts.

Otherwise, the only other things to this floor, and dungeon as a whole, are the delayed skeleton and ghost spawns as well as the traps that appear on the floor randomly. Just take it slow and watch your step and you should be fine, assuming you have the right resists.

Map of Suffering

The fifth and final level of the Steps of Torment as a whole, and second and final level of the roguelike dungeon is Anguish. This place is home to Alkamos, Lord Executioner, who does an insane amount of cold damage. But more on him later. There is a chance for a vendor to spawn in one of a few locations here too, but he only sells items, keep that in mind. The “kill room” can spawn on the top, bottom, both, or neither locations whenever you enter. They’re located near two of the three vendor locations. A final friendly reminder that a trapped chest can exist on this floor too, watch out!

Map of Anguish

The Lord Executioner

Alkamos, Lord Executioner is one of the single most dangerous bosses in the game. He’s the real thing you prepare for when you decide to go down into the Steps of Torment. Absolutely nothing you’ve faced thus far is as tough as a bastard as this guy. And by tough, I don’t mean tanky, I mean he will outright kill you if you don’t cap your cold resists. I would even consider him more of a pain than the final boss of Bastion of Chaos.

In order to put down this executioner’s ghost, you’ll need to be aware of a few things: you don’t have much room to move around in, he spawns pits of cold as he hits you, he has a high damage Shadow Strike-like ability, and boy oh boy does his scythe hurt even normally. Come in with high cold resistance, be prepared for his SS-like ability, and always keep out of the circular pits of cold damage and you should be able to take him down. Once you do, there’s tons of loot waiting and he can even drop some spectacular stuff himself.

This section will be expanded upon later

Bastion of Chaos

The Bastion of Chaos is located at the very end of Act IV and is generally considered to be harder to clear than the final boss, Loghorrean, the Voice of Ch’thon. For this reason, I’m going to warn you now that if you haven’t cleared this Skeleton Key dungeon before, be very careful. I’ll go a little bit more in-depth in the few sections below, but do note that not only are enemies tanky as hell here, they’re also capable of doing absurd amounts of damage and bursting you down from nowhere. The ‘kill rooms’ present are also more formidable and honestly more like ‘hell rooms’ considering all the fire. Speaking of fire, Shar’Zul, Harbinger of Chaos does a lot of it, so beware.

Resistances required: Fire, Chaos, Vitality, Bleeding, and good general resists.
Warning: Some enemies do lots of life leech damage.


The first part of the Bastion of Chaos, Discord is a fairly straight-forward dungeon level. It’s a series of rooms attached by thin walkways, some of which are sealed by crystals (that you can just click on to open), and others are wide open melees. My suggestion with this section is to use the map geometry to your advantage: funnel the enemies down the walkways to you. Some of the Ch’Thonian guards will try to Blitz behind you, but otherwise it has been an extremely effective way to AoE everything to death for me. Once again, this is Hardcore, so always try and keep the path behind you open in case you need to back up for a bit. If you’re a brawler and not an AoE spellcaster, then you can still use this strategy to your advantage to single-file dealing with everyting you come across. Otherwise, deal with the enemies at your discretion.

Now the last few rooms on this level are ‘kill rooms,’ which means they will close up and spawn a lot of heroes and other mobs. When this happens, try and turn off your loot because it’s going to get quite hectic in there and you’re going to need to see what you’re doing. There are two ‘kill rooms,’ followed by a boss chamber that’s also filled with random mobs. You can check this out on the map below.

Map of Discord


The second level of the Bastion of Chaos roguelike dungeon is Anarchy. This level is a little unorthodox with how the boss is near the start. So beware, this caster boss loves his bleed damage! Lagoth’Ak, Harbinger of Blood is his name, and he and his gang of merry… things are here to stop your advance. Try and deal with all the random floaty dudes around him before you deal with him is my suggestion, then you can get to dealing with him. They’ll impose debuffs on you and you don’t want that while trying to deal with this guy or it’ll be the end of you if you’re not careful.

After killing that big bad you’ll continue on your descent until you reach a tentacled monster called a Chthonian Unraveler, the same kind of monstrosity that Karroz, Sigil of Ch’thon turned into in his second stage at Darkvale Gate. Be very careful of this damn creature, because it can just outright kill you when you’re not looking. To this day I have no clue how it does so much damage or what damage type it may be, but my gut says Chaos, and I’ve learned to try and kill it from a distance when possible.

After those two big bads, the rest of this level of the dungeon is just a bunch of random dudes. Clean them out on your way out to the next level, Entropy.

Map of Anarchy


Finally we reach the last level of the Bastion of Chaos. This level brings us back to the rooms connected by walkways theme, but it’s much more cramped this time. There is also another ‘kill room’ here this time, however, it’s not mandatory, and it may or may not spawn. You’ll know if it’s there if you see a chest in the middle of the room for afar. Due to the cramped nature of this final level, it’s filled to the brim with dudes that are going to be harder to get off your back because of the level design. Take it slow if you have to, but if you are doing fine at one section of the map then you’ll be fine through the whole thing until you reach the final section, the final boss Shar’Zul. I’ll seperate him into his own section below.

Map of Entropy

Shar’Zul, Harbinger of Chaos

And now we reach the final boss, Shar’Zul. This gigantic monster deals lots of fire damage, so you better hope you have your fire resistance maxed (and then some) by the time you reach him. Luckily he has no other friends to help him fight you - just you and him for this fight, just like Alkamos. His normal attacks deal fire, physical, and some chaos damage, and boy do they hurt. The part you want to watch out for from him though are his array of abilities that build up with each other to become overwhelming. He has Orbiting Flames that can be cast multiple times and encircle an area that deal damage when you touch them. He can summon a Fire Devil to meander around the arena where you fight him, following you and dealing damage whenever you stand near it. He also can cleave a straight line directly in front of him to deal a lot of damage. However, these, and his few other abilities can all be dodged. He may move fast, but his animations are very long and give you plenty of time to get out of the way. Always keep moving when you fight him, never stand in any of his abilities, and you should be able to deal with him properly.

As a final note about him, here are his resistances in case you plan to tackle him with a build he has resistances against (it’ll just be a long fight): Fire (100%), Pierce (35%), Physical (30%), and Chaos (25%).

Port Valbury

Port Valbury will be added last! I intend on completing this section off after one more Port Valbury run so I can make sure it’s comprehensive!

V - Hardcore Ultimate Guide

V.4 The Hidden Path


[li]Runestone of Dreeg[/li]
[li]Runestone of Solael[/li]
[li]Runestone of Bysmiel*[/li]
[li]Temple of the Three[/ol][/b][/li]

The Hidden Path is one of the more interesting questlines and dungeons the game has to offer. I hate to spoil it, but this is a section that many people do have trouble with, which necessitates a guide. So in order to spoil as little as possible, I will move forward without telling you how to complete the quest, only talking about how to deal with the Bosses themselves. Also, watch out for those little exploding duders (you’ll know what I’m talking about soon enough). The only information I’ll give you about it is how to start it: go to Lower Crossing, the town filled with basic zombies right outside of Devil’s Crossing and head right (assuming north is pointing up on your screen). It’s off on the side of the map and requires some dynamite to get into. From here, I’m out.

Runestone of Dreeg

The boss and area here is extremely straightforward: lots of poison and acid everywhere! Just lots of it. No, really, that’s all the boss amounts to. God, there is so much of it, why, why God. In any case, kill the boss, open the chest and you’ll get two things. First, a note, then a Runestone. They will be your guide on this journey. Read the Runestone’s text after you get the other two, for now the note will help you move forward. Good luck!

Runestone of Solael

Now the boss here is a real threat. He does lots of vitality damage, but most importantly of all, he does a lot of life leech damage. Like, a lot. You will die if you’re not careful with him or have a lot of life leech resistance. Once more, a note and Runestone will drop. Use them well!

Runestone of Bysmiel

Now this boss does lots of Lightning damage and a little bit of pierce (I think). Be careful of him because he does a lot of damage and has a Shadow Strike-like ability. Much like the spiders you’ll see in the same cave (why do spiders have that ability again, of all creatures?). Once the final Runestone drops, use everything you’ve gotten thusfar to figure out the puzzle. It’s not that hard, honestly.

BONUS: Rashalga, the Mad Queen

Now that meme is over, let’s talk about miss Mad Queen. She is found in the Foundation of Corpses, another secret area attached to the already secret Runestone of Bysmiel area. Stare at some rocks in the cave (I hear it’s good for your health), you’ll find the entrance. Once you find her, beware of literally everything about her. She summons worms that deal tons of damage. She creates poison pools that deal tons of damage. And she herself most certainly does tons of damage! The single most threatening part about her though is her life leech strike that can virtually instantly kill you from full health. Cap your Poison/Acid, Pierce, Vitality, and Life Leech resistances at all costs if you’ve never tangled with her before. If you’re unsure how to cap your life leech resistance, the Torment relic is a great place for 100% of it. It can cap you even on Hardcore Ultimate.

Temple of the Three

Required resistances: Poison/Acid, Vitality, Lightning, and good general resists.

The final part of The Hidden Path quest and one hell of an interesting dungeon at that. Don’t worry about a Skeleton Key or not being able to teleport out or anything - none of those shenanigans are present here. It’s just a normal old dungeon filled with cool enemies and interesting level design. Take it all in. Watch out for the aids-floors though (at least you can see them unlike at Hargate’s Isle!). There is a single “”“kill room”"" and it’s easy to spot because it has a chest in the back with a gigantic vortex in the middle of the room. When you walk in, tons of enemies will spawn, but it’s not like your exit will be blocked, and if your resists are capped then you don’t have much to worry about.

The final boss of this place is called The Sentinel and he’s a doozy. I’ve had some characters where he ruptured my butt and others where he was the chumpiest chump to ever chump. He also happens to have one of the most detailed boss pages online I’ve ever seen. Anyways, I’ll list what he does here for your convenience: Poison/Acid and Fire. He has a %life reduction AoE blast, a damage reduction wave ability, a Commander Lucius-like rain ability (dodge it!), and breathes a beacon that he can summon that buffs him, along with a two other abilities and lots of weapon attack damage. Wow that’s a lot! It’s impossible to dodge everything, so my suggestion is to load up on resistances, HP regen consumables, and only dodge that stupid rain and man-mode him. Beware of a few summons that may spawn when you walk to certain parts of the room he’s in - they can and will heal him back to full health. Good luck!

Once The Sentinel is dead, head to the back and talk to the dude doing a Jesus Christ pose on the rocks. You won’t regret it.

A tl;dr will be added soon!

Last one reserved. For table of contents.

Will be updating the rest tomorrow, there’s a lot that needs to be formatted and it’s pretty late here. Wanted to get these posts reserved for now while I could.

Alright, I’m gonna ask the real question:

When’s the hardcover release?

Very nice, can’t wait to read more!

Useful guide.
Btw, nice avatar pic, Amaurus)

I’d ask the mods to remove the tag since it is highly unlikely that this guide will go out of use after expansion or pre-expansion patch

The tag would invite annoyingly stupid questions like “Is this still viable?”

Good work, as expected. :slight_smile:

thanks for all the effort! nice read!

Looks good so far. :smiley:

I really need to get around to giving HC a shot at some point. :eek:

Sticky this very useful

Excellent guide. You might consider putting a warning in about the mines in Act IV - Plains of Strife. If you have the fire resist, they are a cakewalk. Otherwise, if you aren’t careful you will be incinerated.

Thank you for this. I especially like where you tell what resists to use where.

Wow, the amount of effort you’ve put into this guide is staggering. Thanks so much for your contribution!

Little nitpicky, but maybe mentioning how useful components like Chipped Claw and Battered Shell are for melee builds as extra single-target DPS against bosses would be cool =)

Updated again! The last few parts are going to be updated over tonight and tomorrow! I accidentally forgot to write the second half of Ultimate - whoops! Anyway, after everything has been added I’ll be adding suggestions and fixing formatting to make it easier to read.

Shall do when I update the next part!

Thank you! I will put something in about early components a bit more after the whole guide is done. Don’t worry, I won’t forget about this! I just need to get done with everything else first, haha. :stuck_out_tongue:

Man really appreciate the effort you have put into this! :slight_smile:

This will be very handy for new HC beginners or players who go from SC to HC

good luck with updating the page :wink:

Updated once again! One more section to go! Will update that tomorrow. It’s late again and I didn’t have much of an opportunity to work on it today.