(this section will repeat between my build overviews; you can skip to Build Concept if you’ve read one of my overviews before and are familiar with my rating system and test criteria)
Patch 9.8 brought, among other things, major changes to the Shattered Realm. Given that SR is where I do my endgame build testing, with the release of the patch I decided to redo all the testing for all my builds. And since I’d be putting in the time and noting down all my results anyway, I thought I might as well post the builds and their scores publicly for others. Who knows, maybe you’ve been thinking of trying something similar and are curious if it even works. Or maybe you’re just morbidly curious and like that tickly feeling in your brainhole when you see someone play something utterly stupid.
Now, what exactly does this testing entail? Each character has to do 10 SR75-80 runs (I used to do 5 runs but I’m expanding it to 10 for this second wave). Every run completed within timer counts as a success. It takes 6 successes (over 50 % success rate) for me to consider a build complete. If a build keeps failing to meet that quota, I keep improving it till it works. Ergo, no build I post here will have a lower score than 6/10, because if it doesn’t have over 50 % success rate, I’m not done improving it and it doesn’t get posted.
Three rules were followed to make the results more representative:
- no consumables other than healing and energy elixirs can be used;
- no shrines can be taken; if a build has bad resists, it’ll have to make do with bad resists, Rattosh isn’t gonna be saving its ass;
- no mutator hunting; if I get shitty mutators, I’ll have to succeed with shitty mutators.
Other than that, it doesn’t matter in what manner the runs are completed. If a build takes twice as long to finish a run than others do, that’s perfectly fine as long as it successfully finishes. Doesn’t matter whether the build has to dodge Nemeses in shards like the plague or whether it hunts them for sport, doesn’t matter if it has to kite like crazy or stands its ground with ease, doesn’t matter if it completes the runs deathless or not. Only thing that affects the score is completion within timer. Generally, a weaker build that is slow, fragile, hard to play etc. will end up with a lower score regardless because its shortcomings will affect its reliability across the 10 runs.
Now, two final things before we get to the build itself:
As mentioned in the title, this is a build overview, not a build guide. What’s the difference? Well, a build guide says “this is the way you should build this type of character”. What I’m saying is rather “this is what I did, here’s why I did it this way, here’s how it turned out”. It’s more of a documentary, a post-mortem, rather than an example to be followed. “Wait, that’s just a fancy way of saying you make shit builds,” you might say. No, not exactly. I try to make a strong character without deviating from the concept of the build. But the concept of the build might not necessarily be something one should even be doing in the first place While my build concept and the in-game support will often align to create a reasonably predictable, almost cookie cutter build, just as often I’ll just be doing something abundantly demented for my own reasons. I’ll always endeavour to explain in the Build Concept section why I chose to do a thing a certain way, but I don’t want you to get the impression that what I’m presenting is a thing you should necessarily be doing.
I’m also by no means hyperfocused on optimising the crap out of a build once it’s in a workable state. There will almost always be things to optimise on my characters, but frankly, I prefer spending an hour theorycrafting a new character rather than shuffling an existing character’s devo tree, gear, component and augment setup just to squeeze 5 % more damage out of it. I don’t care that much.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the build itself.
My previous two builds had a strong theme of “things left undone”. Outside of Vitality Totems I haven’t done much with pseudo-pets and so the Mortar Trap Elementalist and GoE Sentinel filled in that gap. The same theme motivated my final two builds.
Cold damage has been one of my most neglected damage types, second only to Chaos so I wanted to explore something there. And continuing with the pseudo-pet theme, I was very interested in doing something with Blade Spirits. While I have made a build heavily featuring Blade Spirits, the Demonslayer version of my Bloodsworn Witch Hunter, I wasn’t very happy with the build. Not because Blade Spirits were underperforming, but because it wasn’t the build I originally set out to create. I eventually swapped away from Blade Spirits to recreate the original idea of the character, leaving me with no Blade Spirit builds.
Now, the issue with Blade Spirits (BS) is, they’re not exactly an easy build-around, primarily because there’s just very little item support (8 items in all, plus two sets). So it was obvious this wasn’t going to be a true BS build, it was going to heavily feature some other skills that were going to carry it, and BS were just going to be a presence. To get as much out of BS as possible, I decided to go with Chillwhisper since that would at least make BS also a part of the sustain to make it feel more integral, and I would fill in the main attack slot with Drain Essence.
As I’ve said many times before, I’m not a huge fan of channelling skills. Furthermore, I don’t like reusing the same core on a build and I’ve already made a Drain Essence build with the Uroboruuk set. The only things that made the idea a bit more palatable were that 1) it was going to cover the gap I had in Cold damage and 2) the Uroboruuk build was sturdy, very reliable, but its damage certainly could have been better. Part of the fault lies with Uroboruuk not providing enough damage and with the Aether conversion wasting all the Vitality Decay damage on the skill, part lies with me because I chose to do it on Spellbinder and thus lacked a second RR mastery. With Chillwhisper and Reaper, I was going to be missing an RR mastery as well because of Necro, but at least the Cold transmuter for DE has a nice total damage modifier to compensate. So the hope was, I was going to cover both the Blade Spirits I was after and maybe redeem Drain Essence a little in my eyes.
1.2 UPDATE: Build works even better than before. DE DPS has gone up by about 10 %. Build has gained about a 100 OA for more of those chunky crits, 4% phys res and 50 DA for good measure. Kuba and Moose also got easier to deal with for Cold builds. 80-81 viable and could definitely go even higher.
Because I was using Chillwhisper on Reaper, the build was a bit paint by the numbers. It was the intended mastery combo, using the intended items, on the intended damage type, with plenty of item support. So it’s not nearly as explorative and whacky as most of my builds. The majority of the gear is a given. You’re going to use the full Chillwhisper set, and Deathbound Amethyst, and Ilgorr medal, and Riftwarped Grasp as must haves and complement them with a Gargoyle belt and Band of the Eternal Haunt and probably Wraithwalkers. The one real decision to make on this build is the offhand. There are two very enticing options: Gravetouch and Grasp of the Dead. Now your immediate reaction might be “the fuck kind of decision is that, Grasp of the Dead gives you EVERYTHING you want”. Well, not exactly. When you look at Gravetouch you might think to yourself that the Vit to Cold conversion is entirely superfluous. After all, you got anywhere between 40 to 60 % conversion on the belt, you got another 24 to 36 % on the headpiece and Deathbound Amethyst brings another 45 %. Even with minimum rolls you should be set. But you’re not. Cause Deathbound Amethyst doesn’t provide global conversion, it provides local conversion. And that isn’t additive with the global. So Deathbound Amethyst converts your 45 %, leaving you with 55 % Vitality. And then whatever rolls you get on the belt and the headpiece will be converting just that 55 % at a range from 64 to 96 % efficiency. There’s always going to be some Vitality left over. When it comes to Drain Essence damage and Drain Essence damage alone, Gravetouch is a much better choice. How much better? Well, here’s what the numbers look like on paper:
Seems like about a 7.5 % difference. But surely, the number is skewed, cause Gravetouch has a pesky extra DoT component screwing with the numbers, while Grasp of the Dead adds more flat. True, DoT isn’t nearly as valuable as flat on a skill that deals damage every 0.9 seconds. But there’s the matter of the conversion, so even if Gravetouch’s extra damage is lower, the conversion efficiency ends up beating Grasp. And secondly, Gravetouch has that RR mod for Veil of Shadow. Gonna need more concrete proof I guess. So I did a dummy test of pure DE DPS. The Gravetouch setup took about 27 seconds for a kill, while the Grasp of the Dead setup took 30. That’s a 10 % difference in favour of Gravetouch. Yet above I’m linking the Grasp version only, why?
OCD is a bitch. With the Gravetouch setup, I may have been getting the full conversion, but there were things I was missing out on. Things that I wanted, just cause they were neat, not necessarily vital. I wasn’t able to hardcap Decomposition with Gravetouch on, provided all the other item slots stayed the same. I was also just 2 points off the hardcap for Blade Spirits, which, as you may remember, were meant to be a major part of the build. With Grasp of the Dead, I could solve all these “problems”. Both BS and DE would be fully and neatly hardcapped. Also, the build revolves around three “active” skills. BS, DE and Ill Omen. Grasp of the Dead provides a mod for all of them. None of these were counted in the dummy test, it was just a check of DE DPS. So while Gravetouch might make for a better DE item, there were other factors that push things more in Grasp’s favour in real combat situations. Then again, Gravetouch provides other benefits not related to damage, such as a heap of health. And opportunities for more gorgeous fashion. Caster with a shield…yummy!
It’s important to note though, that things only looked this close in my specific case. And my specific case was that my Gargoyle belt rolled the second lowest conversion it could have (41 %). Without Gravetouch, I was thus only converting about 60-70 % of the remaining 55 % Vitality damage to Cold. With a better rolled belt, the numbers would look very different. Issue was, my belt rolled beautiful affixes. And if I have to decide between neater conversion and the sexiest res overcaps on Cairn, I’m choosing the latter. Between the rolls on the belt and the medal, I don’t think I’ve ever had a build with this easy resist capping. Things would look a lot different on augments, components and possibly even devos if my affixes were crap. Even just the neat touches such as incidental disrupt res from the medal can do a lot for the feel of a build.
You’ve seen these numbers from my builds before, and usually, there are some caveats. There are none here. While I have done some paint by the numbers builds before, this time the performance actually matches and even far exceeds the expectations.
The damage is absurd. Like actually absurd. While on paper you may have something like EoR showing much greater numbers and then in reality the damage is just ok, this build absolutely melts, or, well, frostbites its way through everything. There’s exactly one boss that even bears considering, that being Moosilauke because of the damn cold immune crystals (which finally go bye bye in 1.2). That’s it.
Looking at the defensive stats of the build, you might be skeptical. After all, the build doesn’t have armor and its phys res is a pathetic 12 % on average. It also doesn’t even have capped cc res like stun so how safe and reliable can it really be? Extremely, is the answer. The key thing about phys res is, yeah, you’re going to be taking a lot more physical damage if you don’t have it. But all that matters is, is that damage enough to kill you? And for this build, the answer is a resounding no. To begin with, we have a stable 26 % DR. No absorb though. We have some evasion thanks to Nightblade. But little real mitigation beyond Ill Omen. We have a few things going in our favour though. Firstly, the health pool is pretty decent, giving a buffer against one-shots. Secondly, the DA is great. No, sorry, that’s a lie. The DA is bulletproof. Cause it’s not just 2800 DA. There’s also -130 OA shred from Veil of Shadow and another 235 from Decomposition. That means the build is sitting at a constant 3150+ effective DA. Before Inspiration procs. After Inspiration it’s more like 3300. This build is uncrittable. I have not heard this build screaming in pain after a crit in all the runs I’ve done, and I don’t think it was all just because I was blasting metal in the background. A second major factor on top of that is the sustain. It’s Drain Essence, and this time Drain Essence that does some real nutty damage, so the sustain is smooth, even smoother because Blade Spirits are also bringing in health, even if you’re temporarily disabled. What makes the sustain even better than on the usual “good sustaining builds” is because DE is a channelling skill and we’re blasting it out at 200 % cast speed, it brings in health like 10 times a second. If you take a big hit enemies do not have a large window to get another one in before you’re back to full. So if a big physical hitter like Iron Maiden or Reaper just doesn’t have the damage to take this build from 17k health to dead in a shot because they have no hope ever of critting, and they don’t do damage frequently enough to finish the build off after a big hit has landed, they’re just harmless. And this goes for pretty much everyone. Outside of Moosi who is just a pain in the ass, the build just really doesn’t give a shit about anything. And if worse comes to worst, it has Turtle and two Oh Shit buttons. And if, god forbid, it does actually die, who gives a toss?
Cause the build is supersonic at everything. Bossing, horde clear, hero killing, you name it, this excells at it. DE has awesome AoE coverage, that has always been the case, but transmuted Cold DE also has ridiculous single target, so you’ll never be pressed for time after a death. Whatever chunk the game throws at you, this blitzes through it. I know it doesn’t say much cause I make all sorts of weirdass builds (or weird assbuilds), but this is the fastest build I have. Faster than my Unstable Anomaly Oppressor, faster even than my Fire Retal Commando, my two fastest builds to date. The only possible negative this build has compared to those is, it is more fragile. It can actually die, which the Commando just doesn’t know how to do and the Oppressor doesn’t have to worry about because of pets. Because of Ill Omen specifically this build can end up pulling like half of all the monsters on some of the tighter maps and it can end up taking enough damage within a sufficiently short span of time to actually die. But then you just course correct in round 2 and zip through the rest of the shard no problem.
I really have just nothing bad to say. Initially I had some struggles with the energy sustain, cause energy leeching isn’t a thing for this build without weapon damage, but Harp+Scythe pretty much solved all of that. I can’t even bitch about having to keep buffs up, cause thanks to the Ilgorr medal Pneumatic Burst lasts an actual eternity so you never have to think about having to maintain it, you literally only ever press it to heal, which is a nice change. Makes me really wish all the heal skills had massive durations like this.
Here are the traditional SR75-76 and SR80 parts of one of my runs. Play at half speed if you feel short-changed by the runtime.