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 trying to make something similar. 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: 1) no consumables other than healing and energy elixirs can be used; 2) 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; 3) 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, one final thing 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 the build I set out to create as good as I can 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 in the first place. With that out of the way, let’s get to the build itself.
Build Concept and Setup
1.2 UPDATE: If the build wasn’t particularly good before, it’s not any better now. Lost a bunch of flat damage on Blazeseer (all flat removed from belt, flat reduced on set bonus), energy sustain seems to have gotten worse due to the energy regen nerfs, about the only good thing the build gained is an extra 1 s duration on BWC, which is a major defensive tool for the build (DR, OA debuff). If you’re interested in trying something like this, I’d recommend waiting for Fangs of Asterkarn. It’s possible Epic set upgrades will give this build a ton of extra possibilities through upgradeable Blazeseer and Flamekeeper sets. Until then, not recommended, can do 80-81 but unreliable.
This was the very first character I created in GD. Since I was starting off with no pre-existing knowledge of the game’s itemisation, like most of my early builds this character was built from the bottom up, i.e. by putting together synergies present on the skill trees and then figuring out the gear later.
When I first saw the class selection screen, there was exactly zero doubt what my first class is going to be. RPGs and ARPGs have always overflowed with wizards, archers, rogues, warriors. But alchemists and engineers? I’ve found those sorely underrepresented. So when I saw that the Demolitionist can shoot fire and toss around grenades and molotovs, I was sold. Then I quickly realised what time period the game was set in. No high fantasy staves and archery. We got fuckin rifles in this shit! From that point on it was clear. I’m gonna be wielding a goddamn rifle and I’m gonna set the world on fire. The choice of the second mastery was similarly easy. In vanilla GD there wasn’t nearly as much choice in terms of elemental support as we have now. The only masteries with elemental RR were Shaman and Occultist. Since the majority of the build’s skill points were gonna be invested on the Demo side, Occultist’s CoF seemed within easy reach and the mastery’s dark nature seemed much more in line with the character’s theme than Shaman did.
Now some of you may already see the problem. We’re a Pyro. Ok. We’re using Fire Strike at range. Splendid. We’re…not going for Chaos with the Darkblaze set? Uh oh. We’re Fire, at range, 2-handed. Oh dear. For those of you who don’t see the issue, let me brief you on the 2h ranged Fire situation. There’s. One. Gun. The Desolator You may think there’s more. There ain’t. All the other 2h ranged fire options are either heavily caster oriented, have no inherent item modifiers or skill bonuses that lean towards attacking, lack attack speed, have the wrong base damage type (Ugdenbog Arcaneweaver) or, and this is a big one, get their additional on-weapon damage in the form of Burn, not flat Fire. Flamekeeper’s Repeater, Hellmaw Shotgun… I was gonna say “you name it, it has burn damage on it”, but these are actually the only ranged 2h fire options that even HAVE extra damage on them. There’s Messenger’s Blaze Cannon on the MI side but that lacks attack speed and any useful skill bonuses. So Desolator is it. Now, until a few patches ago, that wouldn’t have been all that bad, that meanie of a rifle had passthrough on it after all. Well, that’s gone now. Unless you’re an Inquisitor. Which Pie-romancer most certainly ain’t. So, that ain’t great. It might look like the build makes sense on the skill tree side but on the item side, it’s kinda left hanging.
The removal of passthrough did come with a decent chunk of extra flat on the gun for us of the non-Inquisitor persuasion, but given how much flat damage the build then loses just to get some of that lost AoE back (through things like the shoulders, the relic, and the weapon component) that’s more of a consolation prize than anything else. To fix the problem, I decided to lean on the Blazeseer set, since the belt was already attractive due to its Chaos to Fire conversion. Though it costs us the medal slot, which is highly contested, the set does provide another hefty chunk of flat fire plus a bunch of AoE through a pseudo Ulzuin’s Torch devo proc.
Now, the above may sound pretty bad. We’re using a gun that doesn’t even really support our playstyle all that much, the thing that made it stand out has been shifted to a mastery we don’t use. and we’re now having to scramble to fix the passthrough that used to work in our favour in the past (this actually felt like a pretty solid build before the passthrough change, for the record). But because the build doesn’t use a set, it doesn’t really have a lot of pieces set in stone. There’s A LOT of options for our item slots. For instance, if we’re ok with not getting full benefit from Chaos to Fire conversion, we can solve the conversion problem through just a single item slot instead of three using the Dagallon helm. This frees up the chest for either the Dagallon chestpiece or Ignaffar’s armor for Fire Strike skill points. The medal offers a lot of difficult decisions. If we’re skipping on Blazeseer, Korvaak’s Brand gives a slew of awesome bonuses (though the wrong flat damage), while Pyroclasm Mark gives a passthrough proc and flat fire damage. On the amulet we can use the defensive Thread of Mortality to make up for the lost leech on the medal if we’re not using Korvaak, we can use Alazra’s Ruby for the flat damage, or we can use the CoF Occultist conduit for extra -15% elemental RR plus its extra max resists to make us considerably harder to kill.
Aside from the surprising lack of direct item support for the playstyle/class combo, another thing that threw a spanner in the works of my intended build was how much I ended up having to invest in Occultist. Originally all I wanted from Occultist was the curse. But though there’s a lot of good stuff to take on the Demo side, the lack of survivability there eventually forced me to climb all the way up the Occultist tree for Possession’s damage absorb (and the flat chaos doesn’t hurt since we convert it to fire), while Aspect of the Guardian shored up the build’s otherwise frightening lack of phys and acid res. As a result, I wasn’t able to max out Agonizing Flames, or Blast Shield, or Temper, or the Flashbang line, and overall, the build ended up way more spread out and less laser focused than I would have hoped. There’s skill point shortages as far as the eye can see, and this is partly caused by the simple fact that, since we’re lacking so much direct support, we’re having to plug a lot of holes and simply don’t have the points to do everything we want.
Looking at the build’s on-sheet stats, it looks a bit iffy. And that’s cause it is. The OA and DA are just barely clawing their way to the “somewhat acceptable” level, at least for builds that intend to regularly contend with SR80 content (yuss! writing!). Now, it’s not actually as bad as it looks. The thing is, a massive portion of the build’s survivability comes from BWC. With its OA debuff and % damage reduction, it’s a major component of not being face down on the pavement and it makes our shoddy numbers go considerably farther than they normally would. But that has its issues. If we’re ever forced to pull back, we need to reapply BWC within 3 seconds else the debuffs from the enemies we’re fighting fall off. And when they fall off, it’s gonna be even harder for us to stand our ground, so we may need to relocate even more. It’s a similar case for OA. We’re pretty damn reliant on Flashbang shredding enemy DA and.CoF is contributing in that department as well, as that’s not just our RR but also DA shred (which stacks with Flashbang). All put together our numbers climb from around the 2500-2700 range to closer to 2900, which is respectable, but we need to keep all of that up all the damn time (let’s not forget recasting Thermite Mines every 5 cm we move). That means a lot of casting in between our shots. That’s particularly entertaining in the case of BWC cause that shit just refuses to come out sometimes. And when it doesn’t, there goes that DR and lovely OA shred that was keeping us alive. As such the build is constantly dancing on a razor’s edge of having one of its crucial debuffs fall off, and it doesn’t take long for us to feel the effects when that happens. It’s, in fact, often the last thing that happens before the screen goes dark.
All in all, this is a build with just under 18k health, with 19 % DR, 15 % absorb, 30 % phys res, 22 % leech, 25 % fumble and several resists with increased cap, and it sure doesn’t feel like it’s very safe or sturdy. And while we do have 128 % RR, the damage isn’t stellar either, cause we lose a bunch of it to cover AoE holes, and our need to cover AoE holes and convert Brimstone also leaves us short on Fire Strike skill point bonuses.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not a train wreck. The build will do SR75-76s pretty damn reliably. In the 10 runs I did I failed to complete 76 within timer once (got splatted at SR75 twice in a row in the same spot). For the purposes most people would be using it for, this is a perfectly adequate build. Some fragility, some issues with speed, but overall solid. However, taking it anywhere beyond SR77 is a gamble. While, funnily enough, several of the runs I’ve completed were with some of the most stomach-churning mutators out there (like Cruel in 4 of the 6 runs I finished, 2 of which also included Brutal) the build can then easily stumble on what should theoretically be a standard SR78 boss room with decent mutators cause all of a sudden a big hit landed out of nowhere and timer was already too low to recover. 3 out of the 4 runs I failed had better mutators than most of the runs I completed, but the build just isn’t reliable enough to always pull through even in what should be ideal conditions.
It’s possible there’s a configuration out there that improves on these aspects. Perhaps abandoning the Blazeseer route (which I admittedly turned to when the other routes have failed me after the passthrough nerf) might bear fruit. Maybe going back to the Dagallon helm (which I used for a long time) and swapping out some of the Chaos conversion gear as a result to get more points in Fire Strike will yield enough raw damage to shore up the issues with kill speed and improve health recovery enough that the character will be less prone to detonating (itself, not enemies). As it stands, it’s a decent enough build which will carry you through SR75-80 more often than not, but there simply isn’t enough support for the intended playstyle to expect stellar results in high end content. SR75-76 is fine, if not lightning fast, but a high SR slayer this is not.
To finish off with, I’ll leave you with what an example 75-80 run looks like. I originally intended to provide a single full SR75-80 run for every build so that both those who only care about 75-76 and those who want to see how the builds play at 80 can have a look, but when I recorded one and then checked it out, it was inexplicably dropping frames like crazy even though the gameplay was smooth. Rather than risk having to toss another hard-earned good run in the bin due to technical issues, I decided to record the 75-76 section separately, checked that it’s ok (of course it was, just my luck) then I started recording again at SR80 within the same run. So you get two videos instead of one. Eh, at least the footage isn’t 45 minutes long like the first one.