The Paladin (Inquisitor, Oathkeeper) is a class that most people consider to be a mediocre class at best (e.g. see here [188.8.131.52] Grim Dawn SUBJECTIVE Class Rankings - Post your personal rankings here and we'll pool it into a singular list of sorts). However, the motivation behind this guide / build was not to improve the reputation of the class, it started solely with the intention to have a fun to play build, which could later use two Oathbearers (https://www.grimtools.com/db/items/12630). So I started to level a dual wield ranged (dw ranged) paladin around one year ago and while the levelling was quite fun, the level 94+ build had quite some room to improve. So I revisted the concept and levelled a second dw ranged Paladin to level 100, this time with a much more satisfactory result.
The Build Compendium X (Forgotten Gods) has some Paladin end game builds supporting different play styles, most of them are not top performers, and ranged retaliation builds were likely affected by the latest patches. The number of shared non retal ranged end game Paladins is rather limited, the latest ones use either a shield for improved defense ([184.108.40.206] Aether Rutnick Blaster Paladin - Ravager, Mogdrogen, SR 80, Crucible 170) or is a physical dw Paladin (Double pistol Paladin). There is currently already one levelling guide / budget build for this specific class in the compedium (Shield Throwing Paladin: [220.127.116.11] Fire Shield Throw Paladin from scratch - build journal and guide), another older guide covers levelling a dw ranged Tactician ([18.104.22.168] Beginner's/budget project-DW pierce ranged Tactician).
Only self-found gear and self-found crafting materials were used while levelling. Also, no mandates were transferred, writs were bought as soon as possible. However, all necessary blueprints were already found with earlier characters. Blueprints for high level relics might be problematic, so use the best one you currently have at hand (here: quite long Guile works rather well, the replacement should have +1 to all skills in Inquisitor). The character was started in 22.214.171.124, 126.96.36.199 came with level 84.
[Righeous Fervor, Word of Renewal and Arcane Empowerment]
Most attribute points were invested into Cunning, one point in Spirit was necessary for the amulett (it require 376), 20 points in Physique for defense ability (DA) bonus. The necessary resistance can be reached without specific pre- or suffixes. Beside of the pants, the gear can either be directly bought from faction vendors or the recipe is available there.
The full campaign (softcore) with both expansions was finished in all three difficulties (Veteran, Elite, Ultimate). Monster totems were activated on sight - after cleaning the surrounding area.
All challenge dungeons were finished in Ultimate. Against Morgoneth one Aether Cluster was used - likely needed to avoid a death. Shard 15 was reached (without death) in the Shattered Realm in Ultimate for the additional skill points. The following nemesis were slain in Ultimate: Benn’Jahr, Grava’Thul, Kubacabra, Moosilauke, Valdaran and Kaisan.
Levelling / SkillsThe character starts as Inquisitor to be able to dual wield guns as early as possible. In the first ten levels, Ranged Expertise is maxed as fast as possible (10/10). The remaining skill points can be either put in the Inquistor mastery bar or kept in reserve. After reaching level 10, Oathkeeper as second mastery is started. If not kept, all additional points invested in the Inquisitor mastery bar should be regained via the Spirit Guide (so Inquistor mastery bar should be at 1/50, Ranged Expertise at 10/10). Invest 15 points into the Oathkeeper mastery bar and 1 into Righteous Fervor and Consecration. Afterwards invest the gained skill points in Righteous Fervor, Consecration and Smite. [Note: Owning a ring with +2 to Bursting Round, I invested also some points into the Inquisitor mastery bar and one point in Bursting Round].
After Righteous Fervor, Consecration and Smite are maxed, start to max the Inquisitor mastery bar. While doing so, also invest in the three WPS: Bursting Round (without gear: 6/10), Chilling Rounds (without gear: 6/10) and Storm Spread (without gear: 7/10). The next step is to max Aura of Conviction (12/12). This should be finished before level 50 is reached. Start to max Word of Renewal, Steel Resolve and Inquisitor Seal. After all three have reached their maximum level, max Presence of Virtue and invest in the Oathkeeper mastery bar (25/50). Than invest in Rebuke and again in the Oathkeeper mastery bar (32/50). After rebuke is maxed and the Oathkeeper mastery bar has reached 32, invest one point each in: Haven, Vigor, Resilence, Deadly Aim, Arcane Empowerment and Word of Pain. All aditional points are than invested in Death Sentence until maxed. The last points are invested in the Oathkeeper mastery bar (40/50), Arcane Empowerment (max) and Word of Agony (1/12). While adding gear (guns, head, amulett, relic) with +1 to all skills, shift some skill points from Aura of Conviction (with gear at 22/22), Chilling Rounds (with gear at 9/10) and Storm Spread (with gear at 11/10) to Arcane Empowerment. One point in Horn of Gandarr would provide an additional layer of defense (and another button to press), but as the used Rune also has Reduced target’s damage, it is not taken so far (the last skill point is currently reserved for the Horn).
The character later focuses on pierce damage, however, for quite some time at the beginning the character will be a physical / pierce hybrid. Most non epic / legendary guns have a rather low armor piercing value (for details about armor piercing see the pierce damage aspect in Mechanics of Pierce Cadence of Stupid_Dragon pierce blademaster guide: [188.8.131.52] Beginner's Forgotten Blademaster), the highest value can be found on Devil’s Crossing faction guns (https://www.grimtools.com/db/items/693, https://www.grimtools.com/db/items/694). Ranged charactes have no devotion to increase the armor piercing, however, they have now the craftable component Silvercore Bolt (https://www.grimtools.com/db/items/2902). With two of them, 100% of the physical damage is converted to pierce damage using Devil’s Crossing faction guns. While the character first used Silvercore Bolts at level 73 (artificially delayed), it should be used as soon as it becomes available, as all the physical damage from Righteous Fervor, Smite, Bursting Round, Steel Resolve and Rebuke (and potential augments) is than converted to pierce damage. And if no physical damage is left, no armor can absorb it. Also, as most of the flat damage of the higher level characters does not come from the used gun itself, but from skills and augments, using Elite Devil’s Retribution does not really have a strong impact on the damage, with good roled ones above 80.000 sheet dps (damage per second) could be reached.
Also, being a ranged dw [Inquisitor based] character, there will be the typical shift in playing the character. Early in the game, playing a ranged character allows you to keep your distance, and therefore utilizing the strongest of all defenses: not being hit by the enemies. Later, it is not possible to keep all enemies at distance, and playing a ranged character means therfore often shooting at close range. Additional defense layers become therefore more important, especially Inquisitor Seals with its damage absorption, however, using it implies a rather stationary gameplay.
Faction-wise, I sided with Kymon’s Chosen and stayed friendly with Barrowholm. It is rather important to increase the reputation with key factions for the core gear as fast as possible, especially Devil’s Crossing will require some reputation farming to be able to use their guns while levelling. To reach revered status with them at around level 70, Elite was started before Veteran was fully completed. Revered was reached for the other important factions (Coven of Ugdenbog, Cult of Bysmiel) at the end of Elite.
level 10: https://www.grimtools.com/calc/62aQY6k2
level 20: https://www.grimtools.com/calc/pZrk5EMN
level 30: https://www.grimtools.com/calc/lNkQd3QV
level 40: https://www.grimtools.com/calc/M2gQ8egZ
level 50: https://www.grimtools.com/calc/RVvRz3EV
level 60: https://www.grimtools.com/calc/O2GEyP6Z
level 70: https://www.grimtools.com/calc/b28GzaKN
level 73: https://www.grimtools.com/calc/L2JYdr8N [level 70 faction gear update]
level 80: https://www.grimtools.com/calc/q2MGvE0Z
level 90: https://www.grimtools.com/calc/RVvRbqpV
level 100: https://www.grimtools.com/calc/YZe5j1QZ (reaching level 100, partially upgraded gear)
level 100: https://www.grimtools.com/calc/pZrk5l3N (current status)
- Crossroad Yellow: devotion point - necessary to take Assassin’s Blade
- Assassins Blade: mainly for the resist reduction (RR), taken early to level up the proc (skill Assassin’s Mark)
- Remove Crossroads Yellow: not longer necessary as Assassins Blade supports itself after all nodes are completed
- Crossroads Green: the following steps are to take Hydra, building up green and red devotions are necessary
- Spider: (stats and attack speed) - devotion points
- Remove Crossroad Green: not longer necessary, spider supports itself
- Crossroad Red: devotion point
- Jackal: (attack speed) - devotion points
- Hydra: offense ability, life leech (attack damage converted to health), flat damage, attack speed
- Remove Jackal: not longer necessary
- Toad: life leech and devotions points
- Remove Spider: not longer necessary, as Hydra and Toad together support Hydra
- Harpy: pierce damage, flat pierce damage and purple devotions
- Panther: offense ability, crit damage
- Lizard: devotion points - necessary for Solemn Watcher
- Harvestman’s Scythe: stats increase, defense ability, devotions
- Solemn Watcher: defense ability
- Crossroad Blue: devotion points - to be able to remove Lizard
- Remove Lizard : not longer necessary
- Azrakaa [see note below]: pierce damage, flat pierce damage, attack speed and proc
- Lion: devotion points - necessary to take Assassin’s Blade Scales of Ulcama
- Scales of Ulcama: life leech, stats, resist reduction
- Remove Lion: not longer necessary, Scales of Ulcama support itself
- Crossroad Purple: devotion point
- Unknown Soldier [see note below]: pierce damage and proc
The devotion setup focuses on Assassins Blade (RR), Hydra (damage, Adcth), Solemn Watcher (defense), Harvestman’s Scythe (stats, defense), Scales of Ulcama (RR, stats, Adcth), Azrakaa (damage) and Unknown Soldier (damage), the other devotions were chosen to reach the necessary devotions points while still providing useful bonuses. Some devotions are taken temporarily to get the necessary devotions point and were removed afterwards (Spider, Jackal, Lizard and Lion).
Note: While levelling the character, the proc of Azrakaa was not taken, the point was invested in the right shoulder of Unknown Soldier (attack speed, health). As with 184.108.40.206 Hydra now provides an attack speed bonus - and with good gear - this node is not longer required to max the attack speed. Therefore it should be removed and instead the proc of Azrakaa should be taken. Additionally, while early in the game the proc might be of less value (as Shifting Sands starts from the character) - especially if fighting still mainly happens from the distance - the different combat style at higher levels makes the proc a much more sensible choice later. [I simply missed this while levelling, thanks to Monceaux for the advice]
(Elite) Devil’s Retribution: pierce damage, high amor piercing
Bloodborer: 100% armor piercing, +1 to all skills in Inquisitor
Nightstalker Pendant: pierce damage, Offensive Ability, +1 to all skills in Inquisitor
Dreeg Blade Seal: Aura of Conviction
Coven Mark of Blades: flat pierce damage
(Elite) Coven Combatant’s Chestguard: flat physical damage, Aura of Conviction
(Elite) Coven Combatant’s Spaulders: falt pierce damage, Righteous Fervor, Ranged Expertise
Coven Lethal Girdle / Waistguard: +1 to all skills in Inquisitor
(Elite) Rhowari Grips: attack speed
(Elite) Rhowari Greaves: resistences
Solael-Sect Legguard: life leech
Guile: flat damage
Vengeance: +1 to all skills in Inquisitor and Defense Ability
Seal of Blades: pierce damage, life leech
Bloodied Crystal: bleeding resistence, armor
Runebound Topaz: defense ability, reduced stun duration
Dread Skull: total speed
Restless Remains: life leech
Mark of the Traveler: Slow resistance
Leathery Hide: reduced stun duration
Note: Use the vendor reset after visiting another vendor to get as good as possible faction items. Fettan Mask (https://www.grimtools.com/db/items/12319) is a guaranteed drop. For the character above, the best two of four crafted Bloodbores are used, around 40 runs were necessary to get the pants, and around 70 craft of Coven Lethal Girdle gave no suitable result, therefore the earlier Coven Lethal Waistguard (best of 15) is still used. While playing, keep in mind the necessary materials for crafting of the amulett, the two Bloodbores and the relic, i.p. 63 Chthonic Seals of Binding are necessary.
What Else / What Now
Go Farming: The character is able to farm totems, challenge dungeons, nemesis and low shards in the Shattered Realm in ultimate. With 220.127.116.11 a natural improvement are Oathbeares instead of Bloodbores. The current list of endgame builds can be found in the Build Compendium X (Forgotten Gods).