Introduction(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 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.
Note: In this overview, I’ll be doing things a little differently. I’ll be presenting two builds, rather than one, and so, instead of presenting the concept of the build along with a GT link right at the start and then going over its performance, I’ll first introduce what I was trying to do with the build, how I arrived at the first workable version, how I arrived at the second version, and then I’ll present the performance of both builds in comparison to each other.
Have you ever played a game that made you want to play as the enemy? The irredeemable bad guy? I sure have. A lot. And if the world of Warhammer is any indication, so have a lot of people. And so for the very last character I created in GD before any of the expansions came out, I set myself the goal to play as one of the Bloodsworn, with all their sinister looking spells and cool bad guy vibes. I wanted it all, the entropic Doom Bolts from the sky, the lifedraining Sigils, the vicious Curses, all of it.
Question was, what do I do then? Occultist had all the evil goodies I was after, but was lacking a suitable spammable spell to fill in the downtimes. There was Dreeg’s Evil Eye, of course, but all the spells I was really after worked off of Vitality and Chaos damage. DEE didn’t fit that very well. The Oblivion relic, which would probably be the first logical choice, wasn’t a spammable skill at the time (not that I would have designed around it then cause I was still building around masteries and not BiS gear). Now the next thing you might think of is “well, there’s transmuted AAR”. I honestly can’t tell you what my reasoning was for not taking that path at the time. Maybe I wanted to save AAR for another build that would focus on it more. Maybe I just didn’t think of it. Maybe I thought including a channelling skill in a build where I plan to constantly cast down Doom Bolts and Sigils wouldn’t be the best idea. Couldn’t tell you, it’s been over 5 years (oh god!). Instead, what piqued my interest was Phantasmal Blades. They deal a whole mess of damage types: Pierce, Vitality, Cold, Chaos. However, transmuting them into a spammable skill turns the pierce into vitality and voila, we got ourselves a mostly Vit + Chaos spammable filler. Yay! So Witch Hunter it is. Even though the character really is going to be more the Witch than the Hunter.
Now, as usual, I only got as far as completing the first difficulty with the build at the time before I jumped over to a new build. It wasn’t until years later when this build came back up in my rotation to be finished and tested in endgame. One of the core ideas, aside from the Bloodsworny skills, was that I wanted to work off of BOTH Vitality and Chaos damage, not just one or the other. All three of my core skills incentivised that approach. Because of that, I decided to outfit my character with the Black Scorch set, which also happened to directly boost at least one of my skills. I then filled the other slots with whatever Chaos + Vitality gear there was. Which was surprisingly little. In a lot of slots I had to settle for one damage type or the other. Beyond that, there was the slight issue that 1) the gear that did boost both Chaos and Vitality or, hell, even just one of them, often neglected the majority of my damaging skills, especially Phantasmal Blades and 2) the resistance reduction situation sure could be better. Occultist may be the head honcho of the Chaos Department of Heretical Affairs but it doesn’t actually have any Chaos rr. All it has for this build is Vitality rr. Nightblade has neither. And so, foolish me, inexperienced in the ways of endgame, I made a choice. I chose to use the Blade Trap Conduit. It converted the pierce on BT to Vitality, it provided Vit rr, it helped sustain me, it locked enemies in place so that my Sigils could eat them alive, what more could I ask for? It was perfect! I completed the campaign on Ultimate, encountering little resistance (as you might expect). And then I took the build to endgame and got clapped. Hard. The build was struggling to even climb up the SR levels to 75. I don’t even remember how many attempts at 70-75 I made. 5? 8? They all went terribly and ended very quickly.
What conclusion do you think I made from that? That the Blade Trap conduit is fucking worthless? Or that trying to focus on PBs, SoC, Doom Bolt AND now also Blade Trap might be a bit much? Nope. My conclusion at the time was, this entire concept is worthless. All of it. Throw it out the window. Why am I splitting my damage between Vitality and Chaos? What good is Chaos to me when I don’t even get a lick of rr for it on either mastery? I need to refocus! And that brings me to…
Version 1: Demonslayer Witch Hunter
NOTE: I will not be updating this version of the build post-9.8. For an up-to-date Bloodsworn Witch Hunter, check version 2 below.
The Vitality portion of the original build seemed to make some sense at least. Occultist was providing some rr for it and Phantasmal Blades seemed the one part that was working kinda ok on the previous iteration, so that’s what I decided to stick to. That brought me to the Demonslayer set. It built entirely on Vit damage, so I could stop splitting my focus, it properly supported the Phantasmal Blades line, and it brought Blade Spirits to the fold as another skill to focus on. Because of that, I tossed Doom Bolt and SoC out of the build (plus the occupied amulet slot mercifully saved me from trying to make Blade Trap work). While I would otherwise be very, very reluctant to abandon a build concept so completely, there were two things drawing me to this option. Firstly, the original build failed so miserably I didn’t think there was anything there worth saving. Secondly, I had yet to make character that really used Blade Spirits for anything but devo proccing. And mind you, at the point when I was first testing this build for endgame, I was already some 30 characters deep. So that was a glaring omission I wanted to fix and this was my chance. I put it together, filling my non-set slots with gear that would boost Vit damage, reduce Vit resist or improve the Phantasmal Blade or Blade Spirit skill line. I then gave endgame a shot and boom, from a build that couldn’t even do SR70-75, I landed on a build that was doing 4 out of 5 SR75-80s within timer. I was so relieved. While I did have to ditch a good portion of what I set out to do with the build, I ended up with a strong character, and one that was covering skills that I had yet to use on any of my other characters (Phantasmal Blades and Blade Spirits). So phew. Problem solved, disaster averted, everyone is happy. R-right?
No, not me. I HATE having to give up on ideas. And so, while this build was very successful and has been sitting in my collection as a completed build for about a year and a half at the time of writing, for 9.8 and my second round of testing, I decided to go back to the drawing board to see if, perhaps, I’ve learned enough from tuning 40+ characters for endgame that I could pull the idea off the way I initially wanted to. Which resulted in…
Version 2: Black Scorch Witch Hunter
1.2 UPDATE: The build has gained a surprising amount. 5 % phys res, about a 100 OA and DA and an extra 1 second duration on Sigil of Consumption. Add to that the slight reduction in enemy Vitality resistance and the build is even better than before. Easily 80-81 viable, haven’t tried pushing further but I’m confident it could do it.
I went back to the Black Scorch set for its support for SoC and Vit + Chaos. Now why should this go any better than the first time? Well, to begin with, I ditched Doom Bolt. There was already enough to focus on on the build and I didn’t have the room to do Doom Bolt justice by knocking down its cooldown or improving its damage in a major way, not when I wanted to keep some semblance of support for Phantasmal Blades and SoC. I also didn’t go back to messing around with Blade Trap. There was a much more interesting option for the amulet slot: the Chaos Phantasmal Blades Conduit. I’m not sure why I didn’t try it on the original build. Maybe it didn’t exist, maybe I was a dummy, maybe I just got excited that I could finally use Blade Trap for something (what a crazy notion). Either way, the Conduit would make it so that I wouldn’t be wasting the Cold portion of Phantasmal Blades anymore, something even the fully PB-focused Demonslayer version didn’t manage to do (that one only had 60+ % conversion). Now, the Pierce to Chaos conversion on the conduit was a bit of a waste, as I was already converting it to Vitality through the transmuter and Vitality at least had rr on the tree, which Chaos had none of. But as it turns out, that’s not as harmful as it may seem. Thanks to the Black Scorch offhand, the Voidheart ring, and the devo route taken, the build ends up with 85 Chaos rr even while having none on the mastery trees. Vitality, despite having an on-tree rr skill and an extra rr ring on the build, ends up with just 24 rr more. However, Vitality is considerably more resisted than Chaos is across the game, so even though Chaos has less rr, it still performs very well regardless.
Like I mentioned earlier though, there was the issue of finding gear that would support both damage types and do enough for the skills themselves. The most notable piece on this setup is the chest, which doesn’t support the build’s damage types at all. However, it is vital for the +3 to PBs, without which the build would be down one Phantasmal Blade projectile. Getting enough points in Phantasmal Blades and their related nodes in general is a major pain in the rectal cavity and trying to get them on an unusual damage type even more so. So some sacrifices on % damage had to be made, particularly on the chest and the medal, The medal slot could theoretically be occupied by a Rylok Mark, which would allow the build to cap Destruction, but the medal would have to have, at the very least, Elemental res on it, and the build’s sustain against single target would go down considerably without the extra leech on Blades through Mark of Consumption. Plus Mark of Consumption is craftable, which helps cover the build’s lacking cc resists (stun and freeze in particular) as do the other craftable slots (helm and amulet).
Still, despite these “refinements” of the original concept, this is still based on an approach that failed to even complete SR70-75 a single time. And you know what they say about polishing a turd. So how much of a difference did all of this even make? Well…
Performance and Comparison
(DPS is for Phantasmal Blades, with both builds having permanent buffs, Pneumatic Burst, Blood of Dreeg and Hungering Void active; keep in mind, DPS is per projectile and Demonslayer is firing two projectiles more than Black Scorch)
Since I already knew that the Demonslayer version is solid, and I was mighty curious about whether the overhauled original with Black Scorch would even work at all, the latter is what I decided to tinker with and test first for 9.8. The result?
Black Scorch Version:
Muhe-hehe-hehehehahahahaha! It’s ALIIIIVE! My baby! My sweet, sweet baby! Why did I ever doubt you?
What am I saying, I had plenty of reasons to doubt it. And yet I made it work and made it work damn well. On paper it makes very little sense. Using a set that only supports one mastery and one skill, half of the gear only supports one of the damage types, one damage type has no rr on either mastery, the other only on one. And yet, it fucking works. A surprise to be sure, but a welcome one!
Still, the Demonslayer version landed on a 4/5 a few patches back, it’s safe to assume it’ll score somewhere in the 8-10 out of 10 range, depending on luck. So I then quickly switched over while the Black Scorch version was fresh in my mind and tested Demonslayer too (only the switching over was quick, testing took another 7 hours ).
Oh?! OH!! Ok that was unexpected. How did that happen?
Now, I don’t want you to get the idea that the Black Scorch version is somehow an unstoppable monster of a build that swats away all opposition with ease and nonchalance while Demonslayer is just barely holding things together. The Black Scorch version is just very fucking consistent and safe. No matter what’s happening to it, as long as there are Sigils of Consumption on the ground and enemies within them, it’s sustaining. It can be frozen, stunned, disrupted, running away in sheer panic, doesn’t matter. It’s healing. The more mobs are swarming it, the more it’s healing. In one of my runs, I was at SR80, chunk 1, and I unexpectedly ran into Kubacabra along with 5 heroes, two of which were Time-Warped, three of which were Basilisks. At one point in that fight I got completely surrounded while trying to run away. I kid you not, I was chain-petrified for at least 2 seconds straight, so no attacking of any kind, getting wailed on by all 5 heroes and a Nemesis, internally screaming my head off in panic as I was trying to get out. I lived through that. Over the course of those 2 seconds of petrification, my health went up and down and up and down faster than crypto on an average Sunday (so really fucking fast). I’m pretty sure at a few points I was at under 1k health. Couldn’t tell you for sure though, cause before I could read the number I was back at full. If you have not played a build with even the slightest bit of Sigil of Consumption support, you owe it to yourself to do so. Cause holy hell is it comfy to have a lasting ground effect that leeches. I think I get why Zantai refuses to give BWC leech. Oh and if that wasn’t enough in terms of safety, when shit really hits the fan, the Black Scorch version also has the Ritual Circle skill granted by the set to bolster its survivability and damage output in a major way, with 15 s uptime and 10 s downtime. Lest we forget.
Can’t say the same for Demonslayer. Demonslayer does extactly one thing: it spams Phantasmal Blades. It does that very well, much better than Black Scorch. But it has no fallback. The Blade Spirits aren’t leeching for you, they’re just autonomous damage and nothing more. A deviation to Bat linked to Blade Spirits could be made with some component and augment tinkering (cause dropping Vulture drops Bleed res below cap), but that’s still not gonna make up for the big area coverage and massive healing with 100 % reliable consistency that SoC provides. If enemies are surrounding you, Black Scorch just plants a Sigil at its feet and it’s damaging and leeching off of everyone. Demonslayer nukes in a line. It does a good job of thinning out enemies while they approach, but once they’ve got a concave it’s taking them out one at a time (plus whatever the Blade Spirits happen to be doing). The periodic damage and serious survivability surge of Black Scorch’s Ritual Circle isn’t present at all on Demonslayer. The best the latter’s got is the proc on the amulet, but with a 6 s uptime and 24 s downtime, reliance on dipping below 45 % health, and complete lack of any damage increase, it’s hardly a comparable effect.
Then there’s the issue of cc resists. Like I said, even if Black Scorch is frozen solid or otherwise incapacitated, as long as there are SoC on the ground, it’s sustaining and doing so very well. And yet, it has better cc resistances than Demonslayer, which doesn’t sustain at all if disabled. Now that I’ve tested how much the build struggles with this, there are things in retrospect that can be done on that front. The shoulders can be swapped for Kra’vall’s to improve the freeze res, though doing so does cost the build damage through loss of points in Vulnerability and loss of Elemental to Vitality conversion (to convert the cold on PBs and Blade Spirits). Otherwise, however, the points gained on the Kra’vall shoulders aren’t nearly as attractive as they look, since Nether Edge provides very little without conversions (which we mostly lack), PBs is already capped and Witchfire is just a slight bit of % damage cause the flat Chaos is mostly useless on Demonslayer. There’s also room to improve on the pants. I’ll confess that the Reaper pants on the Demonslayer version were not found legitimately. When I thinkered with the build for this testing, I realised that the Demonslayer version I worked with a few patches back was using the Dread Knight’s Legplates that I used on the original (and also the final) Black Scorch build. However, Reaper’s Legguards would be much more desirable since they could get Blade Spirit over the next summon limit breakpoint. However, I didn’t want to put my testing on hold before I find suitable Reaper pants, so I went for a compromise and GDStashed Reaper pants with affixes I would be reasonably likely to find and settle for. I specifically did not want to generate the ideal affixes, one of which would be Demonic, with its chunk of Stun resistance. So this is not an unsolvable issue, it’s simply an issue I did not solve before testing. The cc weaknesses on the Demonslayer can be fixed, with a good bit of farming. And provided the right affixes are found and the right components and augments can be shifted around to cover the Bleed res, the single-minded focus on sustaining off of just PBs can also be negotiated by including Bat on Blade Spirits. However, these are all issues on the Demonslayer version that Black Scorch just solves natively without having to farm for perfect greens. I must also point out that out of the 3 failed runs on Demonslayer, only one could be linked to the weakness to crowd control, and only indirectly.
One thing that I was tempted to say in favour of Demonslayer was speed. Because just by the feel of it, it does seem to output more damage, at the very least on single target. But since I didn’t just want to throw around the statement that “it feels faster” without qualification, I decided to do a brief dummy test. And, surprisingly, the difference wasn’t as great as I anticipated. Demonslayer killed the dummy (with Blade Spirits commanded to attack as well) in 19 seconds. Black Scorch did so in 21. Now, Black Scorch did take advantage of the Ritual Circle, which is not something it can sustain through the entire fight. It’s a periodic buff that gives the build an initial surge of damage that falls off later, so in a lengthier fight, Demonslayer will pull ahead on the damage even more. Yet its speed just isn’t enough to make up for its downsides. Even without crowd control the Demonslayer version simply is more vulnerable. It has dramatically less phys res as baseline, lacks the safety of Ritual Circle, lacks the reliable AoE leech of SoC, and just takes a lot more damage across the board because the Black Scorch version has all its resist caps boosted by the Conduit. The only cap the Demonslayer has higher is Chaos. By 3 %. Everywhere else Black Scorch is ahead. And so despite its better damage for single target, when Demonslayer eventually does get killed, it’ll often not be able to make up enough time on clear or boss killing to still complete the chunk in time. It will, more often than not, just clear without dying. But when it does die, and it is more prone to that than Black Scorch by far, it can be a tough proposition to recover. It has higher damage for sure, but it’s no speed demon. The Black Scorch version might lag behind it in speed but it doesn’t mind, because it will live through SR runs far more reliably and make it out of pants-shittingly terrifying situations alive thanks to its leech and Ritual Circle. And when you don’t need to be making up for lost timer due to death, who cares if you’re a bit slower?
So there you have it, a terrible build turned into a solid build that then turned out to not be as solid as it seemed when compared to the original concept properly implemented. Y-yeah. That sums this up about right. How concise!