[1.1.9.5] Beginner's Acid Shadow Strike Witch Hunter Guide

Introduction

I wanted to make an Acid / Poison Shadow Strike Witch Hunter on a budget ever since I saw the Rift Scourge Slicers. Seeing @fordprefect post their Dunefiend Witch Hunter build inspired me to actually play and level one based on Monster Infrequent, guaranteed drops, and faction items.

This build has fairly high single target damage, high mobility, and interesting defensive layers. It is NOT tanky and does not do well surrounded by enemies, but is quite effective against isolated strong enemies.

I played this chararacter on veteran from 0 to 100 solo self found except for faction writs. So it should work without them as well. Also, this guide will have spoilers in it, you have been warned.

Build / Grimtools

Core Build without any pre/suffixes on Monster Infrequents: Grimtools

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This looks like it has low OA, but you can get pre/suffixes on the following items: Weapons, Rings, Amulet, Pants, Belt, and Medal. So mix and match components and augments to have overcapped resistances and higher OA/DA.

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Build with mediocre gear and rolls: Grimtools
Image with Blood of Dreeg and Pneumatic Burst active
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Weapons

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This is an intentionally nerfed version of the character since I had found some very nice Rift Scourge Slicers and didn’t want that to skew the results.

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Build with best rolls I found, used in my first SR65-66 run: https://www.grimtools.com/calc/eVLokLP2
Image with Blood of Dreeg and Pneumatic Burst active
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Weapons

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Those of you with sharp eyes will notice that one of the rings is missing an augment in the grimtools. I only realized this after the run, so the performance could have been slightly better with more OA or DA. The picture reflects the increased OA from the missing augment.

General Gameplay

Curse of Frailty the enemy, Shadow Strike in, activate Amarasta’s Blade Burst for bonus damage, then Ring of Steel for some AOE.

After that, if you are surrounded by enemies, hop out of the pack. If not, keep debuffing the enemies, buffing yourself with Amarasta’s Blade Burst, and keep doing damage with Shadow Strike and Ring of Steel.

Offense Details

Our offense is maxed out Shadow Strike on a 2 second cooldown buffed by fully (depending on gear rolls) converted Lethal Assault and devotion skills. To sum up:

  • Maxed Shadow Strike on 2 second cooldown,
  • 80% chance to use a Weapon Pool Skills when Shadow Strike is on cooldown
  • Fully (depending on rolls) converted Cold to Acid Damage, affects Shadow Strike, Lethal Assault, Execution, Murmur, and Black Blood
  • over 2000% Acid damage and 1950% Poison damage with no affixes on items, so it will go up with good affixes
  • 150 reduced target’s Defensive Ability
  • -109% Acid & Poison resist reduction from -26% (Vulnerability) + -29% (Night’s Chill) + -30% (Murmur) + -24 (Raise the Dead)
Defense Details

We do NOT have good health or armor, so our defense comes from many other layers. We have:

  • 41% Physical Resist
  • 23% chance to dodge melee attacks and deflect ranged attacks
  • 24% chance for our enemies to fumble their attacks (if they were hit with Ring of Steel)
  • 16% enemy damage reduction from Black Blood
  • 15% Damage Absorption from Possession
  • -96 Offensive Ability from Murmur
  • Tainted Eruption confuses enemies. While this doesn’t help against bosses it does keep mobs off our back while we do our bit of damage before we disengage
  • Ghoulish Hunger as a circuit breaker
  • Blade Barrier as an active panic button
  • Hit and run tactics

Devotions

This set of devotions was copied directly from @fordprefect Dunefiend Witch Hunter build. The order is mine to reduce the amount of backtracking when putting points in.

Devotion Path:
  1. Chaos (Red Crossroads)
  2. Rat
  3. Akeron’s Scorpion (Bind Scorpion Sting to Amarasta’s Blade Burst, switch this to Blade Spirit once you get it)
  4. Primordial (Blue Crossroads)
  5. Sailor’s Guide
  6. Murmur, Mistress of Rumors (Bind Rumor to Shadow Strike)
  7. Jackal
  8. Revenant (Bind Raise the Dead to Curse of Frailty) (6% lifesteal)
  9. Remove Primordial (Blue Crossroads) NOTE: Steps 9 & 10 are possible because we now have Revenant’s Complete Constellation Bonus supporting both itself and Murmur, Mistress of Rumors
  10. Remove Chaos (Red Crossroads)
  11. Ghoul to skill (Bind Ghoulish Hunger to any Aura) (4% lifesteal) NOTE: Do not complete this constellation, we only want the skill.
  12. Scholar’s Light
  13. Spider
  14. Yugol, the Insatiable Night (Bind Black Blood of Yugol to any Aura) (6% lifesteal)
  15. Abomination every node except Abominable might. (Bind Tainted Eruption to Ring of Steel)
  16. Ulzuin’s Torch, first two nodes

Aspects for newer players to note:

We have 16% total Attack Damage Converted to Health from Revenant, Ghoul, and Yugol. This means you do not need to find ADCtH from items or components once you have all 3.

Leveling

I did not take snapshots of the build while I was leveling, but here is the general approach I took. I will make note of which skills I find important and why, as well as relevant gear once it becomes available. More details for the gear can be found in the Gear section. The gear in the leveling section is not always at the correct level except for Faction Gear and Fetan Mask, but you can always farm an on level versions of it.

My approach

I like to aggressively level my mastery bar and allow for gear and devotions to supply a lot of my damage. Whenever I play a new character I try to reach my endgame mastery levels by the time my character hits level 50. This is not optimal for every build, but I recommend doing this for this one since the gear and devotions provide a lot of damage and this build has fairly low health so every point the mastery bars provide is precious.

This path has the skeleton of the build finished by level 49. Level 50 and on is about fleshing it out. I have notes about what I did and why, but you can choose to prioritize aspects of the build differently.

How do we do damage?
  • Our main source of damage early on is Lethal Assault, the modifier for Amarasta’s Blade Burst. For 3 seconds after you hit an enemy with Amarastas’s Blade Burst, it will add cold and acid damage (both % and flat) to your weapon damage, greatly increasing the damage of your regular attacks.
  • After you get the Rift Scourge Slicers, Shadow Strike starts to do a lot of damage due to the skill bonuses and modifiers.
  • In between Amarastas’s Blade Burst and Shadow Strike, your regular attacks (modified by the Dual Blades Weapon Pool Skills and Nidalla’s Hidden Hand) do decent damage.
How do we stay alive?
  • Pneumatic Burst with the Breath of Belgothian modifier gives us 12% health back every 5 seconds, a great source of healing early on.
  • Blood of Dreeg also gives us % health.
  • Attack Damage Converted to Health, AKA life steal. Our devotions give us a total of 16% lifesteal once they are completed, which becomes our primary method of keeping our health bar filled. Since the source of this lifesteal is “guaranteed” from our devotions, we do not need to farm for Attack Damage Converted to Health on items.
  • Do not stay surrounded by strong enemies. We have Shadow Strike to stay mobile and we can also grab any other movement skill from the Forgotten Gods expansion to complement this.

Detailed guide:

Level 1-19

Attributes: Everything in Physique

Key Skills:

  • 1 point in Pneumatic Burst with 1 point in Breath of Belgothian for healing
  • Amarasta’s Blade Burst with maxed Lethal Assault for damage
  • Shadow Strike for damage and mobility
  • Ring of Steel for AOE
  • Dual Blades line with WPS for slightly more damage and AOE

Key Gear:

Level 19: https://www.grimtools.com/calc/r2BMLGbN

Pusquill’s Tail does not have a minimum level, and can be used to minmax the early game before the Rift Scourge Slicer, but is by no means required.

Viloth’s Ring gives us some free points in Amarasta’s Blade Burst, helping our AOE. You will want to pick this up at some point, but it is not necessary to do so as soon as you can.

Putrid Necklace gives us some acid/poison resistance and points in Blood of Dreeg. This becomes more relevant once we have a point in Blood of Dreeg.

Level 20 - 34

Attributes: Everything in Physique

Key Skills:

  • Blade Spirit for easy ranged devotion proc’ing
  • Circle of Slaughter for fumble chance
  • Nightfall for a bit of AOE and easier proc’ing of devotions
  • Execution for more damage outside of Shadow Strike
  • Blood of Dreeg for healing / OA / Acid damage

Key Gear:

Level 34: https://www.grimtools.com/calc/M2g3x0g2

We start to have access to Rift Scourge Slicers here, a very important item in our build, for more info see the gear section.

By level 20, many components are available to your character. Crafting them at the blacksmith can help you bring your resistances up to 80 as well as boost your damage.

You can also start using whatever relic you like and have the blueprint for. The only one we really care about is Slaughter, but we can only guarantee getting it later into the game.

Level 35 - 49

Attributes: Everything in Physique

Key Skills:

  • Veil of Shadow / Night’s Chill for resistance reduction
  • The following skills get 1 point since we’re starting to have a decent amount of + to all skills in nightblade.
    • Phantasmal Armor
    • Merciless Repertoire
    • Anatomy of Murder
  • Aspect of the Guardian for physical resist, acid/poison resist, and acid/poison damage

Key Gear:

Level 49: Witch Hunter, Level 49 (GD 1.1.9.5) - Grim Dawn Build Calculator

If you have the reputation for the appropriate faction, you can start using faction gear and augments. You should start putting augments into your jewelry and weapons at this point. By this level, we have created the skeleton of the build. Every piece exists, now we need to improve it with whatever we think is most important to us.

Level 50 - 64

Attributes: Everything in Physique

Key Skills:

  • Max possession, for % Acid/Poison Damage, Damage Reduction, and Chaos resistance.
  • Max Vulnerability for resistance reduction & -Defensive Ability
  • Blood of Dreeg Offensive Ability & flat Acid damage

Key Gear:

Level 64: Witch Hunter, Level 64 (GD 1.1.9.5) - Grim Dawn Build Calculator

I’ve included the relic here, since I think you should be able to have gotten to Steelcap District to farm the recipe. More information on this in the gear section.

Level 65 - 74

Attributes: Everything in Physique

Key Skills:

  • Max Blood of Dreeg for Offensive Ability & flat Acid damage
  • Max Aspect of the Guardian for physical resist, acid/poison resist, and acid/poison damage
  • 1pt Elemental awakening for frostburn converted to poison damage and elemental resist
  • Start Shadow Dance for Defensive Ability and evasion

Key Gear:

Level 74: Witch Hunter, Level 74 (GD 1.1.9.5) - Grim Dawn Build Calculator

If you have the reputation, here is when we upgrade to elite versions of the faction gear we have been wearing. Remember to get 5% physical resistance on both Elite Devil’s Spaulders and Elite Legion Greaves.

Level 75 - 90

Attributes: Put 12 points into Spirit and so we can wear the Elite Malmouth Tainted Vestments. After that, the rest go into Physique.

Key Skills

  • -1 to Possession since we can soft cap it with the helm now.
  • Shadow Dance Soft Cap for Defensive Ability and evasion
  • Max Shadow Strike for damage
  • Max Nidala’s Justifiable Ends for cooldown reduction on Shadow Strike & poison damage
  • Blade Barrier as a panic button, since enemies start hitting harder around this level.

Key Gear:

Level 90: Witch Hunter, Level 90 (GD 1.1.9.5) - Grim Dawn Build Calculator (This link also has all the devotions filled in.)

If you can find sources of spirit in item affixes or by replacing the soul shards with Marks of Illusion, you can get away with putting more points into physique, which I would recommend since the more health we can squeeze into this character the better. 12 points in spirit is the maximum we would ever need.

Level 91 - 100

Attributes: Everything in Physique

Key Skills

  • Dual Blades for Pierce damage converted to Acid & Phys Res
  • Soft cap Pneumatic Burst for total speed and Offensive Ability

Key Gear:

Level 100: Witch Hunter, Level 100 (GD 1.1.9.5) - Grim Dawn Build Calculator (This link also has all the devotions filled in.)

If you feel like you are tanky enough, go for Pneumatic Burst first, else go for Dual Blades. For Dual Blades, we want to make sure we stop on an odd number, since we only get bonuses to physical resistance on odd numbers.

There are more skill points / attributes being added here than the level would indicate, since I am including all of the quest rewards.

Gear

Early-game items of interest (AKA No reputation required, min levels: 1 to 30)
  • Weapons

    • Pusquill’s Tail (Optional)
      • First weapon to consider is Pusquill’s tail, which can be dropped by Pusquill the Horder in the Putrid Den.
      • You do not need to farm this weapon. I would consider it unnecessary min-maxing. However, if you find that you are lacking damage when fighting Warden Krieg, this could be a way to get more.
      • If you do get this weapon, make sure to take advantage of the skill modifiers by putting 1 point into Belgothian’s Shears and 1 point into Curse of Frailty. It adds a lot of poison damage to Belgothian’s Shears and -20% resistance reduction to Curse of Frailty.
      • The entrance to the Putrid Den can be found in 1 of three places, randomly selected every time you start the game with your character. (Links to Grimtools map: 1, 2, 3)
    • Rift Scourge Slicer (Required)
      • This item makes our build possible. It adds a lot of flat damage to Shadow Strike, converts 100% of Piercing damage on Shadow Strike to acid damage and, when dual wielding, can fully convert cold to acid damage. Fully converting Cold to Acid is very valuable on this build as it almost doubles the flat damage we get from Lethal Assault and doubles the damage that Rumor and Black Blood do. We even get a bit of extra poison damage from Elemental Awakening and nightfall. It also gives some points to Nidalla’s Hidden hand for extra damage while Shadow Strike is on cooldown.
      • How do I get it? Where can I farm it? I recommend waiting until you have defeated Warden Krieg and are in Act II. Once you have access to the Arkovian Foothills rift, you can go to Staunton Mine and get some Dynamite.
      • Once you have 2 pieces of Dynamite, you can go to the first area of the Hidden Path quest gated behind this detonation site. This place is crawling with the insects that can drop the Rift Scourge Slicer and is my primary location for farming them. The green outline shows where you can find a ton of enemies that drop this item.
  • Jewelry

    • Viloth’s Ring
      • Viloth drops this ring that gives us +3 to Amarasta’s Blade Burst, some OA, and Acid damage. Since it is a monster infrequent, it can also roll other pre/suffixes. This is some nice extra damage for us and also increases the Area of Effect for Amarasta’s Blade Burst, which gets mostly if not fully converted from Cold to Acid damage due to our weapons.
    • Putrid Necklace
      • Primordian, the Forgotten One Drops an amulet with interesting bonuses to Blood of dreeg and gives our desired conversion of Elemental > Acid damage. It may be worth picking one up once you have Blood of Dreeg to take advantage of the bonuses, but it is not as helpful as +1 to all skills in Nightblade. We will drop this eventually.
  • Armor

    • Fortified Doublet
      • This is guaranteed from the Act I quest “The Seamstress”. It has some nice resistances and a bit of energy regen. It can be replaced with pretty much anything, but is a nice guaranteed way to get some of those resistances, and you can get a new one every difficulty.
  • Components

    • Vitriolic Gallstone
      • Once we hit level 20, we will always have one of these in each weapon. They give flat poison damage, % acid damage, and % poison damage. They greatly increase our offensive potential.
    • Craftable Components:
      • The following components can be crafted at the blacksmith and give good resistances.
      • Wardstone 18% Bleed and Elemental resist
      • Silk Swatch 18% Pierce and Bleed resist
      • Antivenom Salve 20% Poison & Acid resist
    • Uncommon components
      • Both Soul Shard and Unholy Inscription are uncommon drops early on, but you should eventually find some and they also give decent amounts of resistances.
      • Soul Shard 20% Vitality resist
      • Unholy Inscription 10% Vitality and 15% Bleed resist.
Mid-game items of interest (AKA reputation required, min levels 30 to 74)
  • Jewelry

    • Ellena’s Necklace
      • This is the only Monster Infrequent amulet which gives +1 to all skills in Nightblade and we need all the skill points we can get. Ellena, the First Slith drops this item. In order to be able to fight her, you need to do the quest “The Origin of the Slith”, which is given to you by Kasparov after you to have reputation of Honored or higher with Devil’s Crossing.
    • Basilisk Mark
      • The Basilisk Mark gives us helpful modifiers to Blood of Dreeg and Ring of Steel as well as bonuses to Nidalla’s Justifiable Ends (to help us lower Shadow Strike cooldown) and Aspect of the Guardian. We want all of these things and whatever else we can get on the pre/suffixes. The best place I found to farm these is a pack of Basilisks will always spawn right outside of Coven’s Refuge in the place circled below. If anyone has a better way to farm these, please let me know, since it is pretty slow to restart for a single pack of mobs.
  • Armor

    • Solael-Sect Legguards
      • Provides some nice resistances that this build needs as well as a bit more Attack Damage Converted to Health. If you want these, you will have to fight the Guardian of Solael. Note that you will need to have retrieved the Runestone of Dreeg from the Guardian of Dreeg before being able to access this area, as it is part of the Hidden Path quest.
    • (Elite) Devil’s Spaulders
      • These faction items are perfect for our build. They give us OA, DA, some tasty resistances (notably physical resistance) as well as skill points to Shadow Strike. You can reroll the stats of the items in the shop by saving & exiting the session and hopping back in. You will want to have 5% phys res on these. Everything else is negotiable.
    • (Elite) Legion Greaves
      • Just like the spaulders, a lot of good resists for our build. These are hard to replace because the physical resistance is so valuable, but it is possible. You can reroll the stats of the items in the shop by saving & exiting the session and hopping back in. You will want to have 5% phys res on these. Everything else is negotiable.
    • (Elite) Harvest Handguards
      • These are generic gloves, but the %DA and flat health are valuable to us and since they are faction items we are guaranteed to be able to find them. These can be replaced with any better gloves.
    • Legion Belt / Waistguard
      • A craftable belt that gives +1 to all nightblade skills. This is one of many options for getting the skill bonus. The blueprint can be purchased from the Black Legion once you have enough reputation, with the belt only needing respected. This is not an endgame item but a guaranteed way to get skill bonus earlier on.
    • Gargoyle Waistguard
      • Another option for the +1 to all Nightblade skills. These can be farmed between the Eldritch Gate rift and the final boss of the Forgotten Gods expansion.
    • Korvan Gaze
      • A nice helm which gives us more points in Nidalla’s Hidden Hand as well as some extra poison damage to Whirling Death. It is nice if you find it, but is not build defining and not worth farming for.
  • Relic

    • Slaughter
      • This relic gives us +1 to all skills in nightblade, exactly what we want. The dream is to have this roll with +1 to Nidalla’s Justifiable Ends, but if it doesn’t it is still perfectly serviceable. If you have the blueprint and materials for this at level 35 great, if not wait until you get to Hyram in the Steelcap District. His shop (open to you once you rescue him during the “Liberate the Liberators” quest) sells lower level relic blueprints. Reroll his shop (by saving & exiting and hopping back in) until you find the blueprint(s) you need.
  • Augments

    • Pick and Choose between what is available to you based on your reputation. We do not have any build defining augments at this point, but try to keep your slots filled with helpful resists.
Late-game Items of interest (AKA maxed reputation required, min levels: 75 to 100)
  • Armor
    • Fettan Mask
      • This item is guaranteed to drop and gives us +1 to all skills as well as some helpful resistances. It can be found just East of the [Korvan Sands rift] (Grim Dawn World Map) The level of the item depends on the difficulty in which you found it. Only the level 75 (Elite) and 94 (Ultimate) versions give the +1 to all skills bonus.
    • Malmouth Bladed Waistguard / Girdle
      • +1 to all skills in Nightblade, hard to find resistances (Aether & Chaos), and offensive ability. Anything we get from the affixes is a nice bonus.
    • (Elite) Malmouth Tainted Vestments
      • More tasty resistances, skill bonuses, and % Acid and Poison damage. Blood of Dreeg also give us more flat OA and Acid damage.
    • Slithscale Legwraps
      • This is the only item on this list that is not a Monster Infrequent or sold by a faction vendor. It is an epic item, so I think it is reasonable to find by running totems, but since it is not “guaranteed” I am leaving it separate and presenting an option with it. The extra points to Blood of Dreeg and Shadow Strike are nice, plus there is more Acid/Poison damage. The points for Nidalla’s Justifiable Ends, along with a lucky relic, can push us to maxing out the cooldown reduction for Shadow Strike.
  • Augments
    • Rotgut Venom
      • For Rings and Amulets. Acid & Poison damage with Defensive Ability. If the items you found give you enough Defensive Ability, switch it up with Irrah’s Venomtongue.
    • Irrah’s Venomtongue
      • For Rings and Amulets. Acid & Poison damage with Offensive Ability. A nice alternative if you already have enough Defensive Ability
    • Dreeg’s Spinedust
      • For weapons. This gives us everything we want. More health, more flat and % acid damage, and some relevant resistances.
    • Resist augments
      • Every faction has their own augments that provide various resistances, you can use grimtools to mix and match them to your preference. The only thing to keep in mind is that if you have enough resistances, you can fill out the remaining pieces of armor with Solael’s Bloodbinding to boost your health, since this build does not have a lot of it.

Accomplishments & Videos

This build only uses Monster Infrequents, guaranteed drops, and faction gear. Given the limitation, I am very happy with how it performs. It has cleared all the skeleton key dungeons, though I don’t have footage of it. I did record 2 SR65-66 Ultimate runs:

Solo Self Found SR65-66: Beginner Acid Shadow Strike Witch Hunter SR 65-66 (1.1.9.5) - YouTube

Solo Self Found SR65-66 with weaker gear, and effectively no relic completion bonus just to show it can be done without great rolls on items. I died once in this run, but I also didn’t feel like rerolling scary mutators for this char like Time-Warped (25% reduced enemy cooldown) and Afflicted (-15% health), so it seems reasonable to complete without dying. Beginner Acid Shadow Strike Witch Hunter SR 65-66 (1.1.9.5) - YouTube

I have not tried any celestials, but I think this build is too squishy for them. I will update if I try.

Lokarr successfully defeated: Beginner Acid Shadow Strike Witch Hunter Lokarr (1.1.9.5) - YouTube

Helpful Links

The Build Compendium (Build Compendium X (Forgotten Gods)) has a section labeled Resources with lots of helpful links

If you’re looking to find other beginner friendly builds, check out the Beginner build guide Compendium (Beginner build guides Compendium (for AoM + FG expansions))

Updates

see more
  • 5/29/2022 Remembered that the ability is called Ring of Steel, not Circle of Steel.
  • 5/30/2022 Added Damage Absorption from Possession to Defensive Details section, added Lokarr video.
8 Likes

Finally, a Beginner’s Witch Hunter. Great work with the guide (and the work invested in the write up) :slight_smile:

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