[ –] Build Overview - Acid Retal DEE/Aegis Sentinel (SR75-80+)


(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:

  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, two final things before we get to the build itself:

  1. 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 :smiley: 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.

  2. 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.

Build Concept


Ever since my mind was blown out the back of my head by the performance of my first retaliation build, the Fire Retal Commando, I’ve wanted to return to retal to see if that was just a fluke, or if retal was actually just absolutely insane overall. As I was completing my collection of mastery combinations, I came around to the Sentinel which held a lot of promise for retaliation. At the time, DEE had built-in retal on Terrifying Gaze and Aegis of Menhir (AoM) had (and still has) an Acid-focused transmuter built around retaliation. In addition, the two skills were tied together on Ronaprax’s Sting and Basilisk Fang, making for easy build-arounds.


With the two core skills of the build already decided and the amulet and medal slot set in stone, all that was left to figure out was how to stack up the Acid retal damage on the build. There is surprisingly a great deal of options in that regard. There’s the Perdition set, which could take the build from levelling all the way to endgame, the Daega set made specifically for Sentinel, and then the eponymous Sentinel legendary set. I elected to go for the latter, as even though it had absolutely nothing to do with AoM or DEE, it provided more retal than Perdition and wasn’t saddled with Poison retaliation as Daega was at the time (until 9.8).

1.2 UPDATE: Not sure how it’s possible but the build feels much better than before. Daega had its retal numbers nerfed (which affects only the head piece here, but still). On the plus side, the build has gained 70 OA and around 200 DA. Somehow, that made this decent SR75-80 runner into a very comfortable build at SR80-81 from my brief testing. Might be partially due to the nerf to enemy phys damage. Could definitely see it pushing 85+ now.

I then filled out the rest of the inventory with the best acid retal options that would also help cover the necessary resistances. Again, there was a lot of options outside of the items I picked. There were the Vilescorn items for pants, boots and gloves, Murmur’s Kiss or Venomspine Girdle for the belt, Terror of the Grove on the helmet, Dreeg-Sect Legguards or Soiled Pants on the legs, Venomspine Greaves on the boots, and Ring of the Black Matriarch on the ring slot that were all viable options in place of what I ended up using.

On the skill points I went for maximum retal, of course, but I didn’t go full greed for damage. Normally the go-to option for an exclusive would be Path of the Three for its CDR for Aegis, Vire’s Might (added because of the set), Judgment and Ascension. It would also bring in Fire to Acid conversion, which would yield additional Acid retal from Ascension and Messenger of War. However, when putting the setup together I noticed a distinct lack of health on the character, which, combined with complete absence of DR on Sentinel would make for a pretty squishy build, particularly if the whole idea is to be getting hit to retaliate. And so, I instead elected to go for the safer Possession, which ended up also being a good choice to cover the Chaos res and make play more comfortable by not having to worry about disruption.

On the devo side, since there is no T3 acid retal devotion I simply took the devotion procs I could get the most RAtA or % retal out of. The pathing required strangely forced me to skip on Rat, which would normally be an easy pick T1.

A thing worth highlighting before I move to performance is that between DEE and Aegis there’s quite a bit of incentive to stack OA, as both skills come with some native crit damage bonuses, which are then highlighted even more by Basilisk Fang. However, the build is natively absolutely starved for OA, so I farmed all the greens for Aggressive prefix and OA suffixes. Originally, both my rings were Aggressive of Readiness, bringing me to 3k DA and 3k OA at rest (with BoD up), but I was eventually forced to swap one to Demonic so that my stun res is covered without a Topaz component. That let me solve my Bleed res through an extra Bloodied Crystal, which in turn freed up some augment/component slots to cover other resistances, since it was a major headache to get all the overcaps in place.


(DEE DPS with permabuffs, BoD and Eldritch Shard up)


I must say I’m both pleasantly surprised and disappointed, which is quite the mix of emotions. Disappointed because this is a far cry from the Fire Retal Commando’s performance. And pleasantly surprised because, while 8/10 isn’t quite what I would have hoped for, it’s better than how this build used to do. A LOT better.

I can’t remember which patch exactly it was that I tested this build last. I think it might have been as far back as 9.0, or at least that’s when I was playing the character, maybe I tested it in endgame a few patches later. Either way, the build’s stock has improved dramatically since then. When I tested it last, it performed to a 4/5 and just barely, it was more of a 3/5 by feel. But patch after patch things have gotten better. Both Ronaprax’s Sting and Basilisk Fang have been getting buffed consistently over the last few patches on both the sustain they provide and the retal percentage they bring in. Though some of that was partly to compensate for Terrifying Gaze losing its built-in RAtA, DEE has more RAtA on it now than it used to have with both the amulet, the medal and a high level Terrifying Gaze, while requiring none of the skill point investment. Just last patch, several items had their Poison retaliation replaced by Acid, including the Daega set, from which this build uses the helmet (for retal and cast speed). In addition, Shattered Souls in SR now also increase total retaliation damage, making the build faster than it was before. All of that increases the build’s performance drastically. Where previously this build was a bit of a pain to play for a number of reasons I’ll get into shortly, now it really only has one key inherent problem: it’s not a Commando. Or, to be more precise, it’s not a Soldier to access Counter Strike, nor a Demolitionist to access Ulzuin’s Wrath.

What’s the big deal? Well, my initial worry on the Commando was that, since retal is unleechable, I expected to be taking a lot of hits to apply my retal while I would only be leeching from a small handful of CD-based abilities that had a smidge of %WD on them. What I didn’t realise until I started to play that character in endgame is just how much damage Counter Strike and Ulzuin’s Wrath would be doing with each proc and therefore how much sustain they would be bringing in through their %WD and built-in ADCtH respectively. So what ended up happening is the character would take some blows, proc Counter Strike and Ulzuin’s Wrath and what damage it took it would leech back tenfold like the hit never happened. Except for the retal that got applied, that very much did happen. Sentinel, sadly, does not have that luxury. Where on a retal Soldier or Demolitionist you would see a dense group of enemies, with heroes of all shapes and sizes just waiting to pounce on you, and you’d merrily rush into that mess knowing that in the next 3 seconds you’ll apply more damage through retal than some characters have dealt in their entire lives of autoattacking and you’ll leech back more health than god, on a Sentinel, you see that pack, you rush into that pack, you apply a lot of retal damage and you get absolutely bodied. The only way you’re sustaining is through %WD on your skills like Vire’s Might or through direct leech on AoM and DEE. If you can’t cast those because of disables, you’re toast. If you’re taking more damage than you’re putting out casting, you’re toast. There’s no automatic safety net to save you if you’ve overcommitted. And with that, you’re essentially playing a retaliation build that, at times, can’t afford to be in the thick of it taking hits to apply its retaliation. Instead you’re better off sniping from the outskirts with DEE and AoM, applying a fraction of your retal damage in these situations cause going in is too dangerous. While it’s nice that the build isn’t relegated to full on tanking to get anything done, it still feels wrong to do that on retal.

All the buffs the build has received simply cannot make up for this basic reality of Sentinel, it’s a hole that will always be there unless the Eldritch Blast proc from the chest piece turns into a pseudo Counter Strike with %WD or built-in leech. What the buffs have done though is make the build feel much better overall. The speed in chunks has improved thanks to the change to Shattered Souls, but that was never a major problem for the build. What was its problem outside of the above was 1) sustain and 2) dealing with certain bosses.

ad 1) The sustain has improved dramatically, as both the medal and the amulet have been gradually providing more and more leech while also bringing in more and more damage to the two core skills, so the sustain has been improving through both avenues. DEE actually just provides an offensive amount of RAtA at this point. 30 % from two items and no skill point investment! With some built-in splash! What would RF give for that? The only thing keeping DEE in check IMO is the difficulty of getting cast speed going on a retal setup. The devotions the build wants to take don’t provide much, if any, and the gear options, like the Sentinel set, provide none. At least there’s some to be had on the Daega helmet and Vilescorn gloves, and some more could be put together on the greens, but it’s still not much. Were the build able to get 170+% cast speed, retal DEE would be an absolute monster, as its sheet DPS is already quite respectable even with the low CS I have on my setup.

ad 2) With this solid DEE and AoM DPS brought in through the medal and amulet changes, the biggest issue the build had outside of the safety in hordes has all but disappeared. With some damage types and skill setups you just enter the boss room and think to yourself “oh god why am I doing this to myself?”. It’s a thought that crosses my mind quite often when playing Fire (which seems to be like half of my damn builds for some reason) and seeing Iron Maiden, Fabius or Grava, or when playing Cold and running into Moosilauke and Kuba. But nothing has ever made me question my damage type choices for bossing quite like this build has in the past. Let’s take a look at some of the common Acid resistant bosses that one will run into in SR: Benn’Jahr, Zantarin, Aleks, Slathsarr, The Duskreaper. Notice something about them? Like the fact that except for Benn’Jahr none of them ever attack in melee? Let me tell you, it was a real joy fighting these guys every other boss room with half the RAtA the build now has on DEE and with Daega only applying Poison retal. That is no longer a problem. Or, well, at least it’s not nearly as brutal as it used to be. These enemies still take considerably longer to kill, as not only are they inherently resistant to the build’s damage type but they then also tank the build’s damage output even further by forcing it to apply a mere fraction of it. But they’re no longer actively painful, just more time consuming and in the case of Zantarin and Slathsarr occasionally threatening. But where previously this build would die in a chunk and then have to pray it doesn’t meet most of these in the boss room (Benn was always fine), now the build is not only faster in chunks thanks to Shattered Souls but is considerably better off ih the boss room as well.

In the end the only thing truly bringing the build’s performance down from a possible 10/10 is its inherent fairness caused by the lack of auto-proccing heals from Counter Strike or Ulzuin’s Wrath. Were this done on Witchblade, there would be no VM or AoM, nor would there be any second RR mastery, so the build’s damage potential would go down a lot, but in return the build could access more cast speed through Squad Tactics to pump those DEEs out faster and it would have Counter Strike making the build considerably more resilient. In essence, Witchblade is the defensive variant of the build, while Sentinel is the offensive. Even with some defensive decisions (e.g. taking Posession over Path of the Three) its vulnerabilities show. They would show even more if I went along with the intended gameplan of Sentinel of the Three and took on Bloody Pox with its 15% AS modifier. Admittedly, the reason I didn’t take that route was not as much concern for the build’s safety, but rather a shortage of keybinds. Already I was forced to skip on a RAtA mobility rune due to a lack of room, and Bloody Pox would be way behind that in priority.

Here’s the usual SR75-76 and SR80 parts of one of my runs. While I usually try to present how the build plays in your average run, this time around I’m uploading one with a bit shakier SR80 section (those Leafmanes, man!) just to show how unsafe the build can feel at times even with the more defensive setup. I imagine with Path of the Three I would have probably died there. Also, the run includes a Time-Warped Seeker of the Damned while I’m sporting a -TDM mutator, so just fun for all the family on this one. And still, the time was not half bad (not that I do runs for time).


Great build! I made some changes to bump overcap aether/chaos resistances. What do you think?

Looks good.

Thanks! Do you know if Sentinel of the Three set can be transmuted? Not sure what the rules are on what sets can/cannot be transmuted.

Unless the individual set pieces only drop from a specific enemy (Dark One set, Krieg set etc.) it can be transmuted.

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