(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.
When it came time to figure out what to do for my final Inquisitor class, the Vindicator, I really didn’t have to do much thinking at all. Across the many characters I’ve levelled I kept finding this shiny cool crossbow called The Korvan Wyrm and I knew I wanted to do something with it at some point. And what do you know, it’s a full Vindicator item. Simplicity itself. Or so I thought.
I was quite surprised to find out how little direct item support for Primal Strike there actually is. When it comes to item modifiers, at least those that aren’t tied to some sort of conversion, there was very little to be found, which meant I had a pretty open inventory. I began by slotting in a belt. I knew I wanted +1 Shaman skills on it and physical support, and I’d be hard pressed to find a better fit than Avenger’s Girdle. Which also supported 2H ranged, so not only was I getting a solid belt but also pretty chonky passive bonuses. With that piece in place figuring out the shoulders and chest was trivial. However, outside of the Shaman skills on belt none of the items were actually helping with Primal Strike directly, and to maximise damage I needed at least the first node hardcapped. Stormtitan Treads and Signet of Astral Ruminations would be able to get me there, provided I get a +1 Shaman amulet or helmet. There were only really two modifiers to Primal Strike on the helmet and amulet slot to consider. The crit from Ultos’ Hood, which would require that I get some reliable crit chance going for it to do anything, and the flat from Starfury Emerald. However, given how much damage Primal Strike does baseline and how much damage Korvan Wyrm was bringing, it didn’t feel like Starfury was really doing all that much, at least not when I intended to use the spam version of Primal Strike, not the CD one. Starfury was also not providing any % phys making the flat damage it brings in less effective. So I chose a different route for both slots: let’s stack phys RR. Between the Shaman Conduit and Korvan Casque I could squeeze 30 % phys res out of a mastery that has no phys RR natively. Not bad. All that was left was to fill in the gloves, pants, medal and other ring slot and I’m all set. Here’s what I settled on for this testing:
1.2 UPDATE: Primal Strike now has more %WD, Storm Surge increases its AoE. As a result, the sheet DPS has increased by about 6 %, and the AoE, despite my initial skepticism, has improved quite noticably. The new Runic Seal transmuter for Inquisitor Seal is perfect for this build, as it not only helps it deal with the need to relocate to avoid Sunders, it also makes it much easier to quickly apply Seals under enemies for the RR from Korvan Wyrm (downside is, you need to find a skill point for it somewhere, I took it from Word of Renewal). All in all, the build’s stock has gone up. Unfortunately, not enough. The DA is pretty low for pushing into higher shards. At SR80-81 you’ll be hearing constant crits coming in, and enemies do 10 % more crit damage on Ultimate now, so that’s just bad news for this build. Even at 80-81 it can have a bad time with some fights (Fabius, for instance). It can do these runs, but it’s not entirely reliable.
I must stress that this is FAR from the only setup I’ve tried, but the things I have tried would spill over a bit to Performance, so I’ll leave it until then.
I finished levelling and gearing up this build about mid-way through 9.7. With 9.8 around the corner I chose to postpone testing until now, though I did do a single SR75-80 run just to see if I’m at least in the ballpark. I don’t remember much from that run but I do know I completed it. When I was coming back to this build to test it for this overview, I was pretty confident. I mean, come on, it’s a physical build, with an item specifically tailored to the class combo I’m using, with heaps of phys res reduction, safety in Seal, lots of health from Shaman and Vigor. Testing this was going to be a mere formality.
I hate this build. I hate everything about it. It’s a good thing I’m calling these Overviews and not Guides, because writing a Guide for this character would imply I recommend anyone else play it. Do. Not. Or if you do, try a different route than I did.
As I mentioned, what I posted above and what you see in the screenshot is the final version I settled on for this overview. It is far from the only one I’ve tried though. The majority of the core has remained the same throughout. In terms of gear the rings, amulet, helmet, Avenger pieces, pants, boots have all remained the same. The only changes I made, outside of components/augments, were in the medal, gloves and relic. Starting with the relic, the build I finished in 9.7 was using Deathstalker for the extra phys RR and the total speed. Plus the summon served as a good target for binding devos, as the build was otherwise fairly short on good proccers due to the limited selection of skills. On the medal I was using Sigil of the Bear King for the generic phys support and attack speed, though I’ve also tried Mark of the Farseer just for the Storm Surge points for a brief moment. On the gloves I’ve been swapping a lot over the many iterations, from Thundertouch Bracers for the OA and Storm Surge points, to Sandreaver Bracers to convert more of the Lightning from Torrent over to Phys, to Grasp of Unchained Might for when I tried swapping from Primal Bond to Aura of Conviction. On the devos things stayed mostly fixed, except for the source of flat RR, which I was originally getting from Scales until I did some reshuffling.to get more OA.
But why did I do all this messing around when the first iteration I finished in 9.7 already completed SR75-80 on its first try? Well, when I came back to this character and gave it a whirl in 9.8, I couldn’t believe I was happy and confident about the character before. It was so unbelievably slow. Like, my mouse hand would start hurting from holding down the Primal Strike button because the SR75-80 run took so insanely long. I persisted though and did 3 runs with the old version from 9.7, with Scales, Sandreavers, Sigil of the Bear King and Deathstalker (and attack speed component on medal). I finished 1 of those runs, and just barely, while the other 2 either went the torturous, plodding distance only to fail at SR79/80, or ate shit right at the start in 75. It was just not a build worth running, it felt awful in every way imaginable. So I started making changes.
At first I thought the problem was that I was a bit too defensive. Between the increased res caps, high health, Seal, constant DR and % absorb, maybe I was just being too careful and didn’t invest enough in damage. So I decided to try switching over from Primal Bond to Aura of Conviction and swapped gloves over to Unchained Might to convert the flat Piece damage I was getting all over the place, from things like Ranged Expertise, Azrakaa and Arcane Empowerment. Another motivation to try Aura of Conviction was that the build I ran in 9.7 only had like 2700 OA, which meant that a lot of the time I was missing out on a ton of damage because I wasn’t proccing the RR from Assassin’s Blade. That also motivated a swap from Deathstalker to Azrakaa’s Epoch.
The assumption that I was overdoing it on the defenses proved incorrect very quickly. The moment I took the Aura of Conviction setup out for a spin I could feel the difference. I mean, obviously the survivability was going to be worse if I was trading 17 % absorb for just 17 % phys res. But with Seal, the high health and the increased resistance caps I thought the build would still be ok defensively. It wasn’t, not even remotely. I did 3 runs with that version and none of them made it past SR77. And the best part is, the damage didn’t feel noticably better anyway.
And so I swapped and swapped and swapped. I went back to the Primal Bond version and chose to solve the low OA in a different way, through things like keeping the Azrakaa relic, switching to the Vaultkeeper medal over Bear King, taking a different medal component (Spark over Dread Skull), and changing devos (slotting in Panther). Through these changes, I incidentally slowed down the build’s attack speed a lot, unfortunately. With Bear King, Dread Skull and Deathstalker all gone the attack speed went from around 167 % to 153 %, which is just…ouch! The sheet DPS though, remained fairly similar (the current version with everything up is just 3k DPS down from where I started, while it has a ton more OA and therefore more reliable RR application, and while it doesn’t have the 8% RR from Deathstalker, it instead gains that back by taking Manticore over Scales). Another thing I incidentally broke along the way to getting the OA sorted was the sustain. Now, the sustain wasn’t the best to begin with, but without Scales it was now just unreasonable, both on the energy and health front. The inclusion of Arcane Spark did help a little with the former, but it was only after I scrapped some points in Oak Skin and brought them over to Mog’s Pact (primarily to improve the damage) that Energy became sustainable. On health sustain I was eventually forced to reach for Crimson Claws cause I just couldn’t find a way to get reasonable amounts of leech on the devo tree and I couldn’t afford to drop the glove component for Restless Remains, not when my attack speed tanked so drastically because of the medal and relic slots. I also couldn’t swap over to Seal of Blades to get the leech on the weapon, as dropping Seal of Might took a wrecking ball to the resistance setup.
Once I arrived at the setup linked above I finally started having some success and with greater consistency. But there is very little reason to celebrate. Because regardless of whatever “improvements” I ended up making, literally anything you can name, this build is bad at it. In essence, the build feels like it’s a Vitality build. Except it lacks all of the advantages that Vitality builds bring. It’s just excruciatingly slow with no upside.
Starting with the damage, it’s just bad. The sheet DPS makes it seem like that shouldn’t be the case. But it is. You can be fighting an enemy with essentially no defense against your damage type, like Zantarin, and it feels like you’re playing an Acid build against him. You can be fighting an enemy that you should have very easily handled thanks to Inquisitor (Eldritch, Chthonic) and it just doesn’t feel like anything special’s happening. And the worst part is, with other slow builds I’ll generally be able to at least say that the build is slow on this and that but it makes up for it somewhat with something else. Like it’s bad on single target but has great AoE, or vice versa. Or it just has bad damage overall, but at least it’s very survivable. Or it has bad damage and isn’t even survivable, but at least it’s a pretty experimental playstyle, or does an expected playstyle but on a mastery combo you wouldn’t usually think of. But this has none of these excuses. This is using the intended playstyle, on the intended mastery combo, and it doesn’t have a single strength to its name. The single target is shit, against all types of enemies, as I’ve mentioned. And you might think “oh, well, it’s Primal Strike, it’s going to make it up on AoE”. No. No. ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NOT! As of 9.8 Upheaval has a 50 % bigger AoE than transmuted Primal Strike does. If Upheaval of all things is shitting all over you in terms of AoE then, brother, you have NO AoE. Unless enemies are literally piled on top of each other like sex just went on sale, you’re just plinking away at them 2, maybe 3 at a time. For, may I remind you, pathetic damage.
In terms of survivability, where you’d think the build would redeem itself, it once again fails to do so. You’re sitting in Seal, so automatically you should be tanky against hordes. You’re also working with permanent 30 % DR and 17 % absorb on top of that, and have all resistance caps increased, in some cases quite massively too, like on Pierce, Bleed or Vitality. And yet, it doesn’t feel safe at all. I have had to regularly leave Seal and run for my life, if not because of incoming damage then because of imminent threats. The disrupt res is low, so if you just sit in that Seal when there’s a Diseased running around, you’re gonna get clapped sooner or later. Because of the absolutely miserable AoE and non-existent reach, if there’s a healer standing in the second row of enemies, you have absolutely no way of getting your damage onto them other than minor tickles from Torrent, so you may have to just pull back, let the horde spread out a bit and then you can single the healer out. If there’s an Arcane somewhere in there, well, you can’t rely on being able to kill them before they cast. If they’re right in your face, sure, the DPS isn’t that atrocious, most Arcanes will keel over fast enough. But if there’s just a few enemies crossing the Arcane’s path, that’s shots that are never gonna touch that Arcane because of the atrocious AoE, so that Arcane’s gonna live. And this just goes on. Timewarped or Chilled are an actual nightmare for this character. Now, I’ll admit that I don’t value Slow res nearly as much as other builders do. But then again, I don’t measure the performance of my characters by speed, just by reliability. But this character absolutely loathes slow. Not so much that its slow res is low, which it is, but not uncharacteristically low. The issue is the character is already slow to begin with, not just on DPS but on attack speed after all the changes I made in favour of getting more OA for reliable RR. Because of that, every little slow feels like the character is wading through honey to pull off every shot. And as it so happens, Timewarped and Chillled apply their slows either around them or on a location. So if you see that Timewarped vortex inside your Seal, well, you either sit there in the middle of all the shit and accept you’re gonna be doing like half your DPS for the forseeable future (or be Petrified), or you’re gonna have to run. Again. You can’t snipe these problematic enemies unless they present themselves right in your face, cause you can’t reach them otherwise.
Speaking of reach, let’s talk about the build’s ranged playstyle. It doesn’t exist. This character would be way better off if Korvan Wyrm was a 2H mace or axe because then at least it would have some actual damage on it. Its max damage wouldn’t cap out at 314 but more like 550. The main culprit in sabotaging the ranged playstyle is the weapon itself. If you’re gonna have % RR on Inquisitor Seal then what exactly are you supposed to do other than facetank. You can’t apply Seals at range so in order for that RR to be effective, you and the enemy will pretty much have to share a Seal, or you’ll need a lot of time to lay those Seals out ahead or behind you. In that time, the enemy will close the distance anyway, so what’s the point. Another reason for the melee playstyle is Wendigo Totem, which you can’t use to sustain if you’re away from it. In my case, it also carries a part of the build’s RR through devos, so I want the Totem to be both within the reach of me and the enemy. So I’m once again forced to facetank.
Despite all the potential defensive upsides, the damage output, sustain and AoE coverage is so poor I’ve had to play this char very carefully, and even then, I’ve died 4 times across these 10 runs. Out of those 4 times I have only recovered once because the build is so fucking slow. And the things that killed me? I don’t actually quite remember the circumstances of my first failed run, I died to a group of heroes but I’m not sure exactly what it was that got me. The other two fails I remember very well. A crit from full health to dead from phase 2 Theodin punch. 22k health just gone, through 17 % absorb and 30 % reduction. There was, admittedly, a Cruel mutator in play, but that’s still apalling. The other fail? All three TSS projectiles from phase 2 Allostria landed right on top of me and oneshot me from full at SR80. And while normally I would excuse these as just freak occurrences, flukes that would happen once in a hundred hours, this time I can tell you confidently that no, those were not flukes. Cause I then returned to the boss room after the timer was out and tried again. And died the exact same way, again. In fact the second time I ony ate 2 of Allostria’s TSS and it still oneshot me. Not clear as to why, cause I’ve eaten 2 or 3 from her on other runs with this and nothing happened. Maybe there was another Cruel mutator up and I don’t remember? Either way, the survivability is not great on any front and is pretty much entirely reliant on Seal, cause without it, this build is surprisingly defenseless despite the res caps (and the nerfed sustain because of Thunderous Strike doesn’t help). And if there’s even a hint of Elemental RR going around when you’re forced out of your Seal, well, grab your ankles and kiss your ass goodbye, cause you need to get above average Ele res roll on gear for your res to not be below cap. Normally I try to overcap Ele res on Inquisitors anyway but here I just couldn’t find the room.
There really is just nothing good I can say about this build or any of the versions I’ve tried. It’s possible there is a permutation out there, using the things I’ve used, but in just the right combination to make things a little bit better, at least on the damage front. Perhaps conceding some of the OA and going back to Bear King medal and Deathstalker would net better DPS despite the lower RR application rate. The Arcane Spark cannot be sacced for Dread Skull to improve that attack speed further without tanking the energy sustain, as that has been a constant issue without Tip the Scales, and wasn’t really fixed until I fully invested any extra points I could spare into Mogdrogen’s Pact, of all things. Unfortunately it’s not just the OA that ends up taking the hit, as without Azrakaa’s Epoch the vitality res tanks to uncomfortable levels, which means that the Topaz on the ring will probably have to go for Soul Shard, cause there’s no more room to fix Vit res on augments. With the removal of Epoch and Topaz, now we’re also tanking the DA, and as the Theodin and Allostria encounters outlined above have demonstrated, the DA should probably be going up, not down. And, lest we forget, I have tried a Bear King + Dread Skull + Deathstalker setup before and it wasn’t doing well on damage despite the improved attack speed. Maybe there’s a setup without Avenger that works better. Maybe there’s a different devo route without Azrakaa that could work, though I don’t see it. Oleron doesn’t seem to be the way as there isn’t that much good stuff for the build on purple affinity. Maybe there’s something on the Korvaak route that could be useful, but the build still wants to go at least a bit towards yellow/purple anyway just for Assassin’s Blade, Hydra, Dire Bear and Ulzaad, so where does Korvaak fit in? Perhaps if I invested a whole extra week just in this build to test out other possible avenues, I could maybe figure out a way to make this build better. But to make it good? I don’t think I have the capabilities to make that happen.
Fun side note: this is now the fourth 2H ranged build I’ve overviewed. And every one of them was bad in their own way. This is the first one though, that’s bad top to bottom and where I’m not sure I’m to blame. My 2H Fire FS Pyromancer didn’t live up to my expectations because while it had excellent support during levelling, 2H Fire FS itemisation at endgame is essentially an empty desert. My 2H Tri-Elemental Cadence Battlemage was just torturously slow, even slower than this build, but at least it had the highlights of Cadence passthrough for some nice AoE moments and was extremely survivable. My Crit/Upheaval Sniper Elementalist was let down only by its poor matchup against Fabius, as its damage was great and it fulfilled its purpose nicely but was not doing well on tankiness. But this is a fully supported build, where I’m not doing any funky shit, not forcing a playstyle onto a weapon or class combo that doesn’t properly support it. And I dare say it’s my worst build to date, rivalled perhaps only by Vitality Blade Arc. Either that means I just have no clue how to build 2H ranged, or at least, no clue how to properly build this character. Or Korvan Wyrm Vindicator is actually shit. When you’re rivalling Vitality Blade Arc in terms of performance…on a Physical build…then something is just very, very wrong somewhere.
If, for whatever reason, you want to bear witness to the torment that is this character, I’m gonna leave you with physical evidence in the form of the SR75-76 and SR80 parts of one of my runs. Where normally I would have some substantiated excuse such as “this run is a bit slower than usual because of mutators”, this time I’m not gonna bother. Cause while yes, there are some parts of the mutators slowing me down (-10% TDM), there’s also a reduction to enemy phys res. And while I would say I’ve been pretty unlucky with this character, as I usually had to deal with -TDM, or lower attack speed, or higher enemy phys res, usually even two of those at a time, I’ve also had a run where I had none of these problems and had, in fact, increased TDM. It still felt like everything was taking an actual age to kill. I also later failed that run to Theodin because of Cruel. So, no, I have no excuses to make and nothing good to say about this build as a result. The only possible reason anyone might ever want to go out of their way to play this is if they’re a massive fan of the colour yellow. In which case, there’s phys AAR or Doom Bolt, which will probably be both better and more fun.