[ –] Build Overview - Ice&Fire Nex&Ortus Saboteur (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


Here we go! My final mastery combination to cover. Given that this was once meant to be my very last character in GD, I wanted to go out with a bang. I wanted to do something flashy. I wanted to do something stoopid.

The Saboteur is an interesting class, as it merges two masteries that, on the surface, are polar opposites. Demo is all about Fire (and Lightning and Chaos). Nightblade is all about Cold (and Pierce and Acid). Fire and ice, now that’d be a cool combination…or a hot combination. And there is even a pair of weapons specifically designed for Saboteur with that union of elements in mind: Nex and Ortus, the Sacred Harmony. Fire+Cold Fire Strike and Shadow Strike. That sounds fun. Except the set is pretty much never used for dual-typed builds. It’s primarily used for Cold builds, specifically Cold Fire Strike.

The reasons are fairly obvious. To begin with, gearing and setting up a devotion path for a single damage type is far easier, more efficient, offers more choice and freedom, and generally ends up with better overall numbers as a result. If Cold gear and devo path gets you to 2500+% Cold damage, it only stands to reason that Cold + Fire gear and devo path will get you less of each. When it comes to gear, trying to maintain a dual-typed Fire Strike is also kind of a hassle. It is way better and easier to just go for Cold, because the items just line up so naturally. When I was looking for how I was going to gear this build, it was like dancing in a mine field. I wanted a +1 Demo belt, that would ideally do something for Cold damage since getting the Fire damage support on Demo was fairly straightforward. Except Chains of Nightfire, the perfect Cold Demo belt, converts Fire to Cold. Ok, maybe I can get some good Saboteur support on the chest, then. We got Fire Strike and Shadow Strike to work with in order to stay with the theme, I’m sure there’s gotta be something there on the chest. Nighthunter’s Chestguard would fit perfectly. If it didn’t convert Fire to Cold. Ok, maybe we can get some nice mods on the medal for Sabo. Galeslice’s Mark is a neat Sabo item. You guessed it, converts Fire to Cold.

If I wanted to stay on theme with the dual elements and ideally maintain both the Fire Strike and Shadow Strike focus of the build, I was gonna have to get creative.


If going for the easy Sabo picks wasn’t going to be an option because of all the interfering conversions, I decided to look around in the Tri-Elemental area. And I did kiiinda find what I was looking for. Though it may not be a Saboteur set, the Mageslayer does sorta get me what I’m after. It boosts both damage types and it fixes the problem of uneven RR. On the Demo side, I’d be able to reduce enemy resistance to both easily with Thermite Mines. But on Nightblade the only elemental RR is for Cold. Not with Mageslayer though. Not only does the set amplify the natural Cold RR Nightblade already has, it also brings in a bunch of extra RR in the form of both Elemental and direct Fire RR. All was not perfect, though. To begin with, until 9.6 the set gloves only had cast speed. That’s no longer a problem, thankfully, but at the time I made the character that was a pretty major downside. The other problem, unfortunatly, remains to this day. Mageslayer may boost elemental damage, but it does so kinda poorly. There’s no % damage on any of the set bonuses and the amulet completely neglects % flat damage. It only boosts DoT. So just on the set alone the build will be down like 200+% damage. Add to that the fact each of the swords only boosts the damage for its own element AND the fact I was now going to have to devo path for two damage types instead of one and you can see why people don’t do this. Cause it’s not smart.

Speaking of not smart, I was also fairly adamant that I was going to try to get both the Fire Strike and Shadow Strike aspects of the build as maxed as possible, even the nodes people generally skip (those being, namely Static Strike and Nightfall). That would mean major point investment into both skill lines, leaving me possibly pretty starved for points on the other crucial aspects, like sources of OA, DA, defensive passives like Blast Shield…you know, those minor things that make good builds good. If it wasn’t clear already, this is a build made by a flavour slave. Going for dual-typed Fire Strike alone would not be optimal. Adding dual-typed Shadow Strike on top of that is “not optimal” squared. But I really wanted to try it anyway, just to see what the result would be.

The result:

1.2 UPDATE: No real changes to the build specifically. Global changes have impacted it though. The regen rebalance brought the build about 500 extra health per second at rest, about 1000 extra health per second at peak. The global leech nerf doesn’t seem to have particularly hurt the build as a result. Like for all builds, some of the resistant Nemeses have had their resist numbers tweaked down, but then they gained extra health in return so not much has changed. The most notable change is that, since builds that used to do 75-76 are now doing 80+, all the enemy OA and DA numbers go up with it. That is a problem for builds with low OA or DA. In this build’s case it’s the DA. As the build pushes higher shards it’s going to be eating a lot more crits, and while there’s no more bullshit 60 % crit damage mutator, enemies have gained 10 % more crit damage across the board on Ultimate. So while this build can do 80-81 now, going higher is going to get disproportionately more dangerous as the low DA keeps getting more and more inadequate. 80-81 is fine but running 85+ might go beyond this build’s capabilities.

Though I wanted to get support for both elements on as many item slots as I could, I ended up making some sacrifices anyway. The medal felt like a must have, which meant Cold damage would be missing from that slot, and it was a similar case for the Relic. There were no Elemental Nightblade or Demo relics, so unless I wanted to go for something off-mastery like Ignaffar’s Combustion, I was gonna have to miss out on an element there as well. Though there are good Elemental options on the pants, I elected to go single type as the others didn’t provide the resistances, phys res and health that I was after. On the rings I could have gone for RR, as each element just has one ring for that, but I decided to commit to the theme even further, combining The Sacred Harmony with The Elemental Harmony. It was for more than just the name though, it brought in decent flat damage, a nice (and gorgeous-looking) proc and support for both damage types on both rings, whereas the RR rings would each only support one.

On devotions I originally tried applying the same logic and went for the Tri-Elemental path of Blind Sage and Attak Seru. It was horrific. The health was meh, OA was almost in the negative and flat damage was lacking (partly cause there just isn’t much there, partly cause there was Lightning mixed in). The worst part though, was the lack of any defense. Both Attak Seru and Sage are nice offensive devos, but Sabo has no % absorb and I couldn’t afford % DR from Demon Fire due to a lack of points. The build was pretty much made of wet tissue paper with that devo pathing while sucking on offense as well due to miserable OA, so I switched over to the green+red path instead, as it held both a Cold and a Fire T3 devotion, gave access to a good bit of flat damage, had a LOT more OA, brought in DR, and was also nicely aligned with each element’s respective RR devotion. There was not much need to head for the purple path for Crown thanks to the proc on the swords, so flat RR was sorted even with the green+red path on the tree.

But the part that made me doubt the wisdom of this build concept the most was the skill tree. Well, ok, let me rephrase. The wisdom of this build was never in question. It’s just trying to do too much, that was clear from the start. But nowhere was that more evident than on the skill tree. Fire Strike is insanely points hungry. Particularly so if, like me, you insist on maxing Static Strike as well, regardless of the skill’s efficiency. When you then try to slap Shadow Strike on top of that, and the two RR skills from each mastery, and Pneumatic Burst, you are left with next to no skill points. I couldn’t even get the 2 extra points in Dual Blades for that last bit of phys res. Each WPS gets exactly one point and no more cause there are no more to spare (and the damage of the WPS themselves isn’t all that impressive cause it’s mostly pierce, which we don’t convert). There are missing points for Shadow Dance, for Flame Touched, for Temper (for the DA, plus a lot of the phys is converted), Blast Shield (yikes! that’s gonna hurt), even getting a single point for Blade Spirits for some extra flat damage on the side felt like too high of a price to pay given how stretched thin I was on defense. And all that, with me breaking my committment to max both skill lines. I pussied out. I couldn’t max out Nightfall, as much as I would have loved to for the flavour. But I’m a coward, the skill point shortages were so bad I felt I had to make that compromise so that this thing is at least playable. Even with that, I was very much ready to see the build fall flat on its face.


(DPS for Fire Strike with permabuffs and Pneumatic Burst up. Shadow Strike DPS is about half of that)

(damage breakdowns for both skills; SS does lean a lot more towards Fire but on FS I got the split fairly even)


I’m frankly astounded that I didn’t drop any runs on this character. I totally expected to lose anything between 2 and 4, but I completed them all within timer despite about 4 or 5 deaths across these runs.

So, the good news is, despite me splitting the build’s damage in two halves, despite me pathing my devotions so that I build up the damage of each element separately, rather than together, despite the fact the armor set and the set’s amulet lack % damage, and the pants, the medal and each of the swords only supports one damage type or the other, leaving me with extremely low % damage bonuses for each element, the damage is actually pretty solid. That is thanks in part to the WPS and various damage procs from rings, relic and swords secretly boosting it a bit through a good amount of extra flat and thanks to the sword set providing a lot of extra flat to the skills as well to compensate for the low % damage. And particularly thanks to Mageslayer, N&O and the devo path giving the build a lot of RR for each element. Add to that benefits of dealing two damage types so that very few enemies can be considered properly resistant (IM only resists Fire, not Cold, Moose and Kuba go vice versa), and the build gets things dead quite nicely. Though to be fair, it would be pretty damn disappointing if the damage sucked, t given how many points I’ve sunk into the two skill lines at the expense of everything sane. Pretty much the only enemy that can be properly considered “resistant” to this build is Fabius, and even he doesn’t feel like he’s taking much extra time to kill. He’s dead within a single Blade Barrier rotation, because there’s just so much RR going around, and also because he’s human and takes a bit of extra damage due to Anatomy of Murder.

The part that threatened to turn this build into a bit of a disaster was the survivability. Because of how few points the build is left with to spend on defense, it’s just very glassy. Or rather, it’s unpredictable. For example, I nearly lost a run because at SR79 I encountered Bliegna, one of those lovely Acid shotgun heroes that can delete an entire health pool with a shot or two if you’re in the wrong spot. And, well, I stood in the wrong spot, that being “in front of her”, so I ate her entire shotgun and lost 17k health in an instant. Thankfully, the build is fast enough to have timer to spare, so I recovered. Then in that same run, meaning with the same mutators, I accidentally aggroed both Iron Maiden and Kubacabra in an SR80 chunk and pretty much facetanked both of them (only dodged Kuba’s breath attacks). I then did a similar thing in another run, where I fought 4 Riggs’ Associates at SR80 with some really nasty negative mutators on. Lived through that too. So on one hand the build can just tank and spank some crazy stuff, on the other it can get entirely deleted in a split second when you don’t expect it. Because I didn’t spend the appropriate amount of points on the reliable defense like Blast Shield or DA, I wound up relying a lot more on unreliable defense. This build does a good bit of damage and leeches health at an insane rate. As long as it’s left with just a sliver of health, it recovers back to full very quickly between the high FS leech thanks to medal, the heal proc on Ortus, the leech proc on Nex, and the defensive devo trio of Giant, Turtle and Ghoul. The character is also able to permanently lock down groups of enemies as long as they’re vulnerable to CC thanks to the proc from the swords, so many non-Nemesis encounters are essentially threatless. On the other hand, though, the DA is low (though mitigated by about 150 OA reduction), the armor blows, the phys res is just ok, there’s no absorb, there’s only 16% of low AoE DR from Yugol, and the health pool is meh. What there is, is a lot of evasion. 39 % projectile evasion, 19 % melee evasion and 25 % fumble. That can protect you against a series of consecutive hits, but it does nothing to actually mitigate a single big hit. You either dodge it, or you eat all of it, and if it’s enough to one-shot you, that’s that, cause the mitigation isn’t there. Because of this, the character occasionally just completely crumbled in the blink of an eye the moment the heat got a little bit too high. It’s not an issue against regulars such as IM or Fabius (though Grava does get some good hits in), I’ve even sooorta tanked Gargabol and Theodin (with some prudent dodges) at SR80 and Korvaak at SR78 without dying. But then I died two or maybe even three times to Reaper at various points, and got bitchslapped by a group of Ancient Gargoyle heroes once. Reaper and Gargoyles in particular are a problem for this build, as they don’t let it capitalise on the projectile evasion and they heavily exploit the build’s low-ish phys res, low health pool and absolutely non-existent slow res. Not that having slow res would help against eating a 17k damage hit from Reaper after his WPS, but it would make Gargoyle and Timewarped healer fights more comfy for sure. A lot of these problematic Hero enemies (Gargoyles, Ancient Armors) are also cc resistant/immune, so the permafreeze from the swords doesn’t get to come into play against them, where otherwise it would turn the encounter into a non-issue. Of the Nemeses, the build is safe enough and fast enough against pretty much all of them, though Grava and Reaper are best avoided for safety reasons.

Because of how shaky the build felt sometimes, I was seriously considering giving up on one half of the meme after a few runs, to instead stick to just Fire+Cold Fire Strike. Given that the build uses no gear to further reduce Shadow Strike’s cooldown, my thought was that I probably wasn’t even getting all that much from the skill anyway, and the 20+ points I could free up by unskilling it to 1-1-1 could let me address the glassiness problem through more points in Blast Shield, Shadow Dance, Dual Blades and Temper. Then I checked the DPS numbers. And to my surprise, Shadow Strike was like a third of the build’s DPS. Though the Fire Strike DPS number will be inaccurate, as it doesn’t account for WPS ,it’s also probably not accurate for SS either, because it has a hefty DoT aspect that the number will likely not capture correctly. So 30% is a rough estimate. It could be correct, it could also be less. Either way, it felt like if I gave up on that part of the meme, not only would I be breaking the core flavour of the character, but I’d also possibly be breaking the DPS, the one thing that felt good about it, and in return it was quite likely that the defensive side would get better, but not get fully “solved” anyway. So I decided to stick to my guns and keep the concept of the build as is. After all, it’s supposed to be a Saboteur. Being kinda squishy, but slippery and lethal was on theme. Even though I’m not sure how he’s actually stealthily sabotaging anything with the elemental lightshow he creates.

If you’re not 100 % committed to the theme but still want to do something unorthodox, I’d still recommend dropping the SS side and just working with Fire+Cold Fire Strike. I’m willing to put up with the volatility, and in the end the deaths didn’t impact the final score, but this level of shakiness isn’t for everybody, no matter how on theme it may be. Though there would be a good bit of damage lost without SS, the build might become sufficiently steady so that you’re not having a minor heart attack every few chunks, and perhaps there might be a few more points left over to get better WPS coverage to make some of that damage up on the autoattacks. If you don’t care for the theme at all and just like the swords, you can take the most optimal option and just slap on Cold Fire Strike with much easier itemisation and devo pathing, and end up with a better build overall, with more tank and more damage. But you’ll miss out on all the pretty lights :slight_smile:

Here’s the usual SR75-76 and SR80 parts of one of my runs. Though the Grava fight looks super shaky at SR75, it’s actually not that bad and the character gets to redeem himself at SR80 in round 2.


Ooooh, nice, never thought to use Mageslayer’s too for an Nex and Ortus build either. Definitely going to use this for a Nex and Ortus endgame build now.

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