VI. NECROMANCER ABILITIES
Necromancer Abilities for Pet Builds [Updated: 220.127.116.11]
No mastery in Grim Dawn is as well-tailored for pet builds as the necromancer. Here’s what you should know about the mastery abilities for any necromancer-based pet build, regardless of your specific pet build or selected second mastery. For each ability, a link to all relevant item skill modifiers will also be provided
Note: The following analyses are from the perspective of pure pet builds only. Melee, caster, and hybrid builds should assess these abilities based on their own needs.
Reaping Strike and Necrotic Edge – Avoid
These two weapon pool skills (WPS) only trigger from the player’s default attacks/replacers, which pure pet builds never use in combat.
An AOE ability that applies leech-over-time to all affected enemies, similar to the Wendigo’s Mark devotion proc. Unfortunately the AOE is far too limited for pet builds at lower skill ranks, thus requiring significant skill investment for use. With high vitality %damage and RR, this ability can help keep the player alive against large crowds of trash, but it’s less effective against a single strong hero/boss.
Item skill modifiers: http://www.grimtools.com/db/items/skill-modifiers/2141[ul]
[li]Blood Boil (modifier): The stackable OA debuff can be useful, although other masteries offer much more effective alternatives (such as BWC, Wasting, etc). Health is not leeched from the extra DOT damage.[/ul][ul][/li]
[li]Sear Souls (transmuter): Avoid. Pet builds generally have much higher vitality +% damage (from necromancer abilities and/or Dying God) than aether +% damage.[/ul][/li]
Drain Essence, Hungering Reach, Decomposition, and Gravechill – Avoid
Channeling abilities require stationary continuous casting and are a poor fit for pet builds, because pet builds rely on mobility for survival and need to constantly cast CD-based buff/debuff abilities. For health leech and OA debuff, use Siphon Souls or devotions instead.
Harbinger of Souls – Avoid
An exclusive ability that’s strictly worse than Master of Death for all pet builds, and for most non-pet builds as well.
An AOE damage ability with good uptime and lots of multiple hits. This makes it very useful as a 1-pointer to proc both devotions that require continuous refreshing (such as Shepherd’s Call) or devotions with low/no cooldowns (such as Twin Fangs). Ravenous Earth’s high hit frequency will also draw a lot of aggro, which can be helpful to keep aggro off of more fragile pets or harmful for a passive taunt build.
Item skill modifiers: http://www.grimtools.com/db/items/skill-modifiers/2132[ul]
[li]Decay (modifier): Extremely useful for the reduced target damage debuff, since this reduces damage received by both summoner and pets. This is the only part of the skill that warrants heavy investment by pet builds.[/ul][ul][/li]
[li]Foul Eruption (modifier): Avoid. Pet builds will almost never land kills using the base ability to trigger this death proc. Use something else for flat RR.[/ul][/li]
Bone Harvest – Core Ability: 1 point+skills
Extremely useful AOE attack. A single point can apply all weapon-based RR effects and other debuffs at 100% (>100% for non-debuff weapon effects, such as flat damage) across a wide AOE. Keep in mind that weapon-based RR isn’t only found on weapons, but also on other items (such as Mythical Open Hand of Mercy) and devotions (such as Viper). Even if not using weapon-based effects, Bone Harvest use is still required to maintain the pet bonuses from Soul Harvest. Avoid wasting additional points to increase this skill’s slow effect – CC effects suffer dramatically reduced effectiveness beyond Normal difficulty. The base ability inflicts a surprising amount of damage with high investment and can be a starting point for hybrid pet builds.
Item skill modifiers: http://www.grimtools.com/db/items/skill-modifiers/2137[ul]
[li]Harvester of Death (transmuter): Avoid. Pure pet builds have no use for the increased %WD, damage, or conversion.[/ul][ul][/li]
[li]Dread (modifier): A single point is useful to extend the AOE. As with the base ability, additional points for terrify are not effective beyond Normal difficulty due to significantly reduced duration.[/ul][ul][/li]
[li]Soul Harvest (modifier): Core Ability: 12 points+skills. The only Necromancer ability to provide all pets with additional flat damage, making this an absolute requirement due to the large number of pets available to Necromancers. Overleveling provides even better flat damage. For additional details on the important role that flat damage plays in pet DPS, refer to the article Understanding Pet Damage.[/ul][/li]
Reap Spirit – Core Ability: 1 to 16 points+skills
A direct damage spell that also summons a temporary wraith upon impact. Hybrid builds can benefit from the direct damage portion’s high %WD+base damage. Because the wraith’s uptime (10s) is much longer than its base CD (6s), it’s easy to maintain 1-2 wraiths, with additional sources of CDR and/or item modifiers allowing for the maximum 3 wraiths. However, significant skill investments are also required to unlock the additional wraiths, with breakpoints at 17/16 (2nd wraith) and 23/16 (3rd wraith). Skill investments improve both the initial direct damage and stats of temporary wraiths.
Even for builds planning on investing heavily elsewhere, a single point should be spent here to pick up a cheap temporary pet that benefits from flat damage bonuses.
Abilities (skill level 16):
- Wraith’s Touch[ul]
[li]Default melee attack, 100% weapon damage[/li]> [li]124-213 vitality damage, 160 cold damage (51%/49%)[/ul][/li]> 2. (unnamed teleport attack)[ul]
[li]1 target maximum, +500% movement speed[/li]> [li]124-213 vitality damage, 160 cold damage (51%/49%)[/li]> [li]1.5s stun target[/ul][/li]> 3. Vitality Nova[ul]
[li]283 vitality damage, 4m target radius[/ul][/li]
Item skill modifiers: http://www.grimtools.com/db/items/skill-modifiers/2136
Note: Item skill modifiers and devotion bindings apply to the direct damage portion of the ability, not the resulting wraith.
Raise Skeletons – Core Ability: 8 to 16 point+skills
The quintessential pet ability for Necromancers. Four different types of skeletons can be summoned, with probabilities determined by skill rank. Due to skeleton mix for each skill rank, at least 8 points (after skills) should be invested when using this ability.
Health/Armor: No bonuses
Abilities (skill level 16):
- Ancient Weapons[ul]
[li]Default melee attack, 100% weapon damage[/li]> [li]60-76 physical damage, 20 vitality damage (77%/23%)[/ul][/li]> 2. (unnamed charge attack)[ul]
[li]1 target maximum, +120% movement speed[/li]> [li]60-76 physical damage, 20 vitality damage (77%/23%)[/ul][/li]> The basic skeletal warriors have a very fast charge attack to open combat and clog enemy pathfinding, but otherwise they are completely mediocre. Their main saving grace is their ability to make full use of flat damage bonuses, especially since they lack any spells to distract from their melee attacks.
Health/Armor: No bonuses
Abilities (skill level 16):
- Ancient Weapons[ul]
[li]Default ranged attack, 100% weapon damage[/li]> [li]44-60 physical damage, 18 vitality damage (74%/26%)[/ul][/li]> 2. Deathbolt[ul]
[li]Projectile spell: 80% chance to pierce (scales with skill rank)[/li]> [li]60 piercing damage, 27 vitality damage (69%/31%)[/ul][/li]> Skeletal archers are the best skeletons for pure DPS. Their fast-firing ranged attacks can track moving targets, such as enemies chasing a kiting player and/or struggling to find pathing through pets and other obstacles. They can also focus fire while ignoring the max limit on melee attackers against a single target, which is especially important against smaller human-sized bosses like Anasteria, Fabius, and Iron Maiden. Because of target tracking and focus firing, archers can utilize their damage very effectively under any circumstances, even as army size increases.
The primary drawback to using skeletal archers is that after patch 18.104.22.168, archers have about 20% less base damage than their melee counterparts. This means that effective use of archers will require stacking lots of additional flat damage to help offset their lower base damage.
Combat: Ranged AOE
Health/Armor: 25% Increased base health
Abilities (skill level 16):
- Fire Shard[ul]
[li]Bombardment spell: 3m target area, 2m projectile radius[/li]> [li]119 fire damage, 106 burn damage over 2 seconds[/ul][/li]> 2. Firebolt Nova[ul]
[li]Radial projectile spell: 12 projectiles, 1.5m projectile radius[/li]> [li]252 fire damage, 150 burn damage over 2 seconds[/ul][/li]> Skeletal arcanists provide fire damage as AOE support. Arcanists are very strong in the early-to-mid game and their AOE makes them great for leveling, but because their spells don’t benefit from flat damage bonuses, their damage starts to lag behind after reaching Ultimate. (Players using non-%WD spells such as PRM often face similar scaling problems.) Also, arcanists’ fire spells don’t have much synergy with other Necromancer abilities, and their damage is unaffected by physical conversion. This means that at endgame, arcanists are generally the lowest single-target DPS skeletons.
Due to how powerful arcanists are at early-mid game, the damage of their primary Fire Shard spell was decreased by about 12% with patch 22.214.171.124. However, this makes them even less effective in Ultimate than before.
Health/Armor: 25% Increased base health, 48% increased armor bonus
Abilities (skill level 16):
- Ancient Weapons[ul]
[li]Default melee attack, 100% weapon damage[/li]> [li]60-76 physical damage, 20 vitality damage (77%/23%)[/ul][/li]> 2. Undeath Missiles[ul]
[li]Projectile spell: 3 projectiles, 1.5m projectile radius[/li]> [li]107 vitality damage[/ul][/li]> 3. Undeath Aura[ul]
[li]Passive damage aura: 4m radius[/li]> [li]43 vitality damage, 8% reduction to enemy health[/ul][/li]> Skeletal revenants are the most versatile of all skeleton summons, with high (relative) tankiness and extremely effective abilities for proccing devotions. Their main drawback is that they require high skill ranks in Raise Skeletons to summon, and even at 26/16 their summon weight remains relatively low.
The increased frequency of revenants and arcanists from overleveling can effectively increase a skeleton army’s durability, since these two types have better health (and in the case of revenants, better armor as well). This may be of interest to builds utilizing pet taunts or concerned about pet survivability in general.
Probabilities by Skill Rank
Skeletal archers and revenants are generally the most useful and most preferred skeleton types, but it’s impossible to summon them 100% of the time since summons are random and probabilities vary by skill ranks. Thus, skeleton armies are virtually guaranteed to be a mix. Here are the probabilities to summon each skeleton type for every rank of Raise Skeletons:
Item skill modifiers: http://www.grimtools.com/db/items/skill-modifiers/2151
Note: For item skill modifiers, “+X Summon to Raise Skeletons” increases how many skeletons are summoned per cast (i.e. summoning more than 3 at once). “X Summon Limit to Raise Skeletons” increases maximum skeletons allowed (additive with Undead Legion).[ul]
[li]Undead Legion (modifier): Core Ability: 12 points+skills. Increased pet count is one of the best bonuses for any pet build, and 12 points (after skills) for increased skeleton limit and resummon speed is the minimum requirement in Undead Legion for any build using skeletons. Overlevel breakpoints for additional skeletons are at skill ranks 16 and 20.[/ul][ul][/li]
[li]Will of the Crypt (modifier): This modifier looks great on paper, but all the bonuses provided are actually fairly lackluster in importance. In most cases, it’s not worth investing more than 1+skills when using skeletons, unless hardcapping for maximum base damage.[list][/li]
[li]Flat vitality damage provided is far less than from Soul Harvest, and scales extremely poorly before Ultimate ranks.[/li]
[li]+% damage bonuses are generally poor investments for skill points compared to other ways of improving DPS.[/li]
[li]The provided vitality resistance bonuses do not scale well with additional points, are already obtained elsewhere (Master of Death), and vitality damage is not a major AoE threat to skeletons.[/li]
[li]Skeleton base armor is so low that the effectiveness of +% bonus to armor is negligible.[/li]
[li]Partial skill-based vitality conversion is an inefficient mechanic – see below.[/ul][/list][/li]Technical Analysis: The Inefficiency of WotC Conversion
In Grim Dawn, there are three main types of damage conversions:[ul]
[li]Skill-based: Found on base skills, transmuters, or item skill modifiers, and are applied only to damage from the designated skill. These are calculated before other conversion types.[/ul][ul][/li]
[li]Other conversions: Typically found on equipment and buffs, and are applied to all damage.[/ul][ul][/li]
[li]Piercing: Special physical conversion type, calculated last.[/ul][/li](For more details, refer to the Conversion article in the official Game Guide.)
For skill modifiers like WotC, partial conversions (less than 100%) generally function poorly. This is because skill-based conversions are calculated first, separately from conversion from other sources (buffs, items, etc). The result is that partial skill-based conversions will always conflict with your intended conversion strategy.
Scenario 1: Stacking same-type conversion
Let’s say you want your pets to inflict as much vitality damage as possible, so you hardcap WotC for 35% vitality conversion to stack with Master of Death’s 25% conversion and Mythical Guardian of Death’s Gate’s 30% conversion. Thus results in a total of 90% physical to vitality, right? That’s not how it actually works. Assuming your skeletons deal 100 base physical damage to start, 35 of it gets converted to vitality first from skill-based conversion, with 65 physical damage for other conversions. Next, the remaining 55% of that 65 gets converted to vitality, resulting in 35.75 converted in the second stage. Therefore instead of producing 90 vitality damage from stacking conversions, your skeletons will only produce 70.75 vitality, which is 21.4% less conversion than expected.
Scenario 2: Stacking other-type conversion
Let’s say you want your pets to inflict chaos damage instead but you still like the other bonuses from WotC, so you hardcap WotC anyway with its 35% vitality conversion (and still take Master of Death’s 25% as well). You then attempt to outweigh those vitality conversion bonuses by using 2x Mythical Voidwhisper Bands for a total of 200% physical to chaos conversion. This means that 200/260 = 76.9% of physical damage will go to chaos, and the remaining 23.1% will go to vitality, right? Once again, not so. Assuming 100 base physical damage again, 35 physical damage will be converted to vitality right away, and 200/225 of the remaining 65 physical will be converted to chaos, resulting in only 57.8 chaos damage. Similar to the previous scenario, this is 24.9% less conversion than expected.
The end result is that no matter how you use WotC’s vitality conversion, it will always be less helpful and more of a drawback than you’d expect due to being a partial skill-based conversion. In fact, some non-vitality conversion builds should completely avoid WotC altogether, depending on how their numbers work out.
An auto-spread debuff ability primarily used for CC, not damage. Ill Omen’s main endgame use is as a Bloody Pox substitute to spread and proc devotions such as Wendigo’s Mark and Will of Rattosh. Ill Omen’s physical damage reduction is strictly inferior to Decay’s all damage reduction, and physical damage reduction can also be obtained far more cheaply from other masteries via Focused Gaze or High Potency.
Ill Omen’s high hit frequency will also draw a lot of aggro, which can be helpful to keep aggro off of more fragile pets or harmful for a passive taunt build. The continuous terrify effect can also improve pet survivability against large packs of trash.
Item skill modifiers: http://www.grimtools.com/db/items/skill-modifiers/2126
Summon Blight Fiend – Core Ability: 1 to 16 points+skills
A pet with multiple taunt abilities to draw aggro. Blight fiends have much better health and armor than skeletons, and thus can be useful to draw aggro away from them. Every attack from a blight fiend will also inflict surprisingly large amounts of poison, and thus blight fiends cause a lot more damage to enemies than it might seem since their poison DOTs will heavily stack but are not displayed.
Abilities (skill level 16):
- Blighted Claws[ul]
[li]Default melee attack, 100% weapon damage[/li]> [li]202-286 physical damage[/li]> [li]750 poison damage over 5 seconds (Note: Pet DOTs are not displayed)[/ul][/li]> 2. (unnamed vomit attack)[ul]
[li]Cone-shaped AOE spell: 4.5m range[/li]> [li]202-286 physical damage, 184 acid damage (57%/43%)[/li]> [li]750 poison damage over 5 seconds (Note: Pet DOTs are not displayed)[/li]> [li]1s confuse[/ul][/li]> 3. Virulent Death[ul]
[li]Ground damage AOE spell: 5s duration, 3.2m radius[/li]> [li]154 acid damage[/li]> [li]338 poison damage over 2 seconds (Note: Pet DOTs are not displayed)[/ul][/li]> 4. MODIFIER: Rotting Fumes (skill level 12)[ul]
[li]Passive damage aura: 3.5m radius[/li]> [li]338 poison damage over 2 seconds (Note: Pet DOTs are not displayed)[/li]> [li]212 reduced target’s DA for 2 seconds[/li]> [li]15% chance of fumble and impaired aim[/li]> [li]Generates additional threat[/ul][/li]> 5. MODIFIER: Blight Burst (skill level 12)[ul]
[li]AOE radius spell: 10m radius[/li]> [li]300-394 acid damage, 168 vitality damage (67%/33%)[/li]> [li]625 poison damage over 5 seconds (Note: Pet DOTs are not displayed)[/li]> [li]2s confuse, generates additional threat[/ul][/li]
Item skill modifiers: http://www.grimtools.com/db/items/skill-modifiers/2147[ul]
[li]Unstable Anomaly (transmuter): The skill description suggests using this transmuter to trigger the blight fiend’s Virulent Death, but its real use is to turn blight fiends into damage sponges that can be quickly resummoned to absorb even more punishment. With enough CDR (such as from Time Dilation or Mythical Circlet of the Great Serpent), multiple blight fiends can be maintained for additional threat stealing and debuffing via Rotting Fumes. Keep in mind that due their short lifespan from Unstable Anomaly, blight fiends will no longer hold aggro for extended periods, and their aggro draw will instead serve to cause chaos and misdirection rather than maintaining undivided enemy attention.[/ul][ul][/li]
[li]Rotting Fumes (modifier): Core Ability: 12 points+skills. This passive debuff aura is the strongest ability of blight fiends. All of its effects are extremely useful, especially the DA shred to support other pets. Overleveling helps to compensate for its small AOE. Since this ability also acts as a constant damage aura, it can be used to very effectively proc any devotion bound to the blight fiend.[/ul][ul][/li]
[li]Blight Burst (modifier): AOE attack with great radius, but cooldown limits its damage potential. Its radius, confuse, and threat effects can all be fully unlocked with a single point. The ability’s base poison duration may look great, but keep in mind that pets won’t benefit from the player’s extended poison duration bonuses.[/ul][/li]
Master of Death – Core Ability: 12 points+skills
This is the best pet exclusive from any mastery, especially for hybrid pet builds. The massive pet OA bonus is the main draw, with very generous amounts of DA, resistances, and pet +% damage being additional icing on the cake. All pet builds should invest least 12 skill ranks after skills. Master of Death scales poorly beyond rank 12, but for builds who are desperate for more pet OA, additional OA breakpoints can be reached at ranks 16, 19, and 22.
A great player-only passive buff for aether builds, but pure pet builds will only benefit from its flat health bonus. For hybrid builds, Spectral Binding’s flat OA bonus has excellent synergy with the %OA bonus from Master of Death. This ability’s flat aether damage and health bonuses also scale exceptionally well when overleveled.
Item skill modifiers: http://www.grimtools.com/db/items/skill-modifiers/2145[ul]
[li]Spectral Wrath (modifier): An automatic, proc-based, stackable RR ability with dramatically improved coverage (proc cooldown, duration, radius) with additional ranks. The proc targets both melee and ranged attackers. Most pet builds will benefit from reaching the first breakpoint at 4 ranks to support Master of Death’s vitality conversion, while builds centered around vitality and/or aether damage should aim for at least the second breakpoint at 8 ranks. Builds focused on other elements (such as fire- or lightning-based pet builds) will likely invest elsewhere.[/ul][/li]
Call of the Grave
A short-duration buff for all pets, and one of only a handful of abilities from any mastery to provide pets with crit damage. High CDR is a must when using this ability due to its lengthy cooldown and poor uptime. Most pet builds should aim for the breakpoint at 5 skill ranks, and Call of the Grave scales especially poorly beyond the 11th skill rank.
Item skill modifiers: http://www.grimtools.com/db/items/skill-modifiers/2125
Note: Despite the fact that Call of the Grave only provides pet bonuses, bonuses from item modifiers are applied to the player, not pets.
Mark of Torment – Core Ability: 6 to 10 points+skills
The must-have mitigation ability for Necromancers, similar to Mirror of Ereoctes, Blast Shield, and Overguard for other masteries. Compared to Mirror, it has lower %absorption and an inconvenient target requirement, but also has advantages in better uptime ratio and more useful overlevel scaling. Due to the targeting requirement, this is ability is primarily used for boss and/or hero fights, rather than other uses such as trash or ground damage. The most logical breakpoint for endgame use is 6 points, but overleveling can be very useful for improved uptime, especially for high CDR and/or Time Dilation builds. Ignore the reflected damage bonus – this ability’s only use is mitigation.
Item skill modifiers: http://www.grimtools.com/db/items/skill-modifiers/2144
Special thanks to Ceno, Superfluff, and TomoDaK for providing input and feedback during closed testing, and to Dammitt for extensive updates to pet data on Grimtools.