(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.
As I was finishing up all the mastery combinations I have not yet used, I got around to the Oppressor as the last Oathkeeper class left…and I had exactly zero ideas what to do with it. On the Necromancer side, I’ve used every single skill on the tree. I had DK for the WPS, a Spellbinder for Drain Essence and SS, Ritualist for all the pets, Cabalist for Ravenous Earth, Reaper for Bone Harvest and some actual Ill Omen damage. On Oathkeeper side, the only skill I haven’t really used much was Judgment and I had no clue how to even make a build out of that. And even if I did figure something out for it…it didn’t sound like it’d be a fun centrepiece. And I wanted to have fun with these “last” builds.
There was, though, a fun thing in Necromancer that I haven’t done. While I have used Blight Fiend as my dedicated tank on my Ritualist, Blight Fiend also has a transmuter. And, a timed pet with an on-death effect, that reminds me just the slightest bit of Minion Instability from PoE. Unstable Anomaly might not have quite the same effect (in fact it’s hardly similar at all) but it does carry just a tinge of that spirit and it does sound fun. And as it so happens, Blight Fiend is natively an Acid pet, for which Oathkeeper does at least provide some RR. There might be no other direct pet support on Oathkeeper but it’s gonna have to do. It might end up a disaster but hey, at least that’s another class combo off my list.
1.2 UPDATE: Reuploaded the above link to be specific to 9.8. 1.2 link is below.
Pretty much everything about the build has gotten even better in 1.2. Pets have more health. The build gained +1 to Reap Spirit so that all 3 Wraiths can now be summoned. Blight Fiends are better in several ways (buffed attacks, larger AoEs). Headpiece now provides extra Blight Fiend CDR, meaning the build can shit Blight Fiends out every 1.6 seconds. Makes replacing any losses nearly instant. The Scourges from the amulet have had their Pierce damage turned to Physical, which the build mostly converts to Acid. So more damage there as well. Pets also have more Chaos res from somewhere, which was one of the two resistances not capped on the build. The character blazes through SR80-81, could definitely see it pushing to SR90 and beyond, provided you can keep aggro off your ass. The build has gained a number of skill overcaps on the Blight Fiend line, freeing up 7 skill points. Can be used on Soul Harvest (Vitality is unconverted so only benefits from the % damage) or Resilience (probably better if you intend on pushing higher, the build has plenty of damage, but it can use the defense).
There is actually an astonishing lack of Blight Fiend item modifiers, so putting the gear together was very simple. I just took all the modifiers I could. As of patch 8.1 it was no longer possible to use both the full Ghol set and keep up all the summons on Unstable Anomaly, as the flat CDR on Blight Fiend was moved from Circlet of the Great Serpent to Rotdrinker Crest. That meant no Ghol medal, so no full set bonuses and also no full Vitality to Acid conversion on Blight Fiend. However, given that the only source of Vitality damage on Blight Fiend is Blight Burst, that wasn’t that big of a deal. The more disappointing part was that without the Ghol medal it would be impossible to get global Vitality to Acid conversion for pets, which would have benefitted the Wraiths from Reap Spirit. Oh well.
Even though all the Physical damage on Blight Fiend is converted by the weapon, I still chose to go for the Yugol Rings. Not only do they help cap Blight Burst, and contribute a ton of damage to Acid pets, the global conversion they provide is actually still valuable, as it converts the Phys on the spiders from the Ghol gloves and the Phys from the Bysmiel Hound on the devo tree.
Now, one important aspect of this build is that its pets are timed. The Blight Fiends time out, the spiders time out, so does the Bysmiel Hound, so do the Wraiths (more on those fuckers in a bit). That means that technically, the pets only ever need to be tanky enough to survive their full duration. Beyond that, who gives a shit. And so, intentionally going for pet damage at the expense of pet survivability (namely, health and pet resists) is a viable option. And yet, I still ended up getting the pet resists a bit more sorted than I set out to. After I put on the gear I needed to get the right skill bonuses and modifiers, the gear that then helped sort my resistances also incidentally helped sort the pet resistances along the way, and so it looks like I was working hard to cap pet resists even though I wasn’t. Pretty much the only obvious places where I sacrificed pet survivability is the ring augments, where I purposefully skipped Mender’s Powder, and the relic, where I just went for max damage. I did, at least, manage to keep the pet health % real low though, so pat on the back for me on that one. Stacking health would have been a massive waste.
The amulet is a humorous tale. As I theorycrafted the character I realised that if I get a +1 to Necro amulet and +2 to Reap Spirit on the weapon, I’d be able to get the maximum Wraith summon cap. And so I hoarded/vendor farmed Scorpius Pummelers through like a dozen playthroughs to get the right affixes on it. Then I meticulously vendor-farmed a Death-Watcher Pendant for a near full uptime on Call of the Grave (which would also bring auxiliary healing for self sustain, since I had nothing going on there). I triumphantly put it all together…and then nearly facepalmed my brain right out the back of my head. Why the fuck am I working my ass off to get all 3 Wraith summons when I have exactly zero Acid conversion for any of their damage? Can anyone explain? And so that beautifully vendored Pendant went right back in the stash and I got myself at least full Cold to Acid conversion for the Wraiths through the Blightshard amulet. This did unfortunately spoil the part where I only had timed summons on the build, and it also does unfortunately mean that we have at least one pet in our lineup that ends up suffering due to the lack of pet survivability (low % health, primarily). But at least the Wraiths are now actually worth something and I have some extra pets to bind Murmur onto to scale its damage. Plus, Murmur is now also converted fully to Acid. Shame that I ended up just that one damn point off of the third Wraith though
One thing worth mentioning before I move on to performance: I didn’t necessarily have to be married to the idea of going for Acid pets. Blight Fiend has a Conduit that solves all the conversion in one slot and turns it to Vitality. Now, that is a more resisted damage type, but unlike Acid, it’s a damage type Necromancer actually has RR for, so there would be some way to compensate. In addition, Vitality already aligns with at least one of the damage types for the Wraiths, so I would only need to convert the Cold to Vitality to get full benefit. There are, however, a few things that spoil that whole idea. Firstly, a lot of the good items that help the Blight Fiend line along do focus specifically on pet Acid damage over generic pet damage, such as the Yugol rings, the mandatory Rotdrinker medal and the mandatory Circlet. The Conduit also offers no global conversion, so any secondary summons, like those from the Ghol gloves or the Bysmiel doggo from the devo tree would either have to be converted separately or go to waste. There is also no weapon replacement for the Pummeler, so the build would have to skip on the 50 % crit damage due to the conflicting conversion. And finally, to get the devo RR for Vitality, the build would have to climb all the way to Rattosh, a devotion that does exactly jack for pets. So, morbidly, I am once again making an Acid build on Necromancer, a mastery with no Acid RR, even though there’s a Vitality option for the same skill.
Hopefully it’s not the wrong choice This is a build I completed in 9.7, not long before the release of 9.8 with its changes to SR, so I never actually properly tested it for endgame until now. And given that I’m dragging an Oathkeeper into a pet build, it wouldn’t come as a huge surprise if the build were a disaster.
Jesus Fucking Christ (I know I shouldn’t be using his middle name, sue me)! I expected this build to be a lot of things but “completely busted” wasn’t one of em. But here we are. Across all the builds I’ve overviewed to date, this is easily in the top 3, right alongside my Fire Retal Commando and my Tri-Elemental Beastcaller Conjurer. Holy fuckballs is this build not fair.
There are essentially three criteria to judge a pet build by. How good the pet DPS is, how survivable the pets are and how survivable the build is. Well, criterion no. 2 doesn’t fucking matter cause enemies only have between 12 to 20 seconds to kill any of the pets before they time out (I’m not counting the pets from the Amulet cause they’re mainly there to just drop a Rumour on enemies). Say Aleks dropped a meteor on one of your Blight Fiends and killed it. It’s an unrealistic situation cause, no that won’t even remotely kill a Blight Fiend, but let’s say it does. That Blight Fiend probably had like 2 seconds of life left on the timer anyway. Ar nar, whatever shall we dooo?! Maybe we could…summon another one? It only has like 3.3 s cooldown, that doesn’t inconvenience us at all. All the other pets? Auxiliary, and automatically resummoned every few seconds anyway. The Bysmiel hound is the only temp pet we got that has a lengthy cooldown, and we don’t even need it. The OA reduction it provides is meaningless, our pets don’t give a shit about enemy OA. The RR it provides is lower than from Manticore.
In terms of damage…absolutely absurd. You encounter a nemesis at SR80 and unless it’s one of the hyper Acid resistant ones, its health goes down so fast you could swear there must be like 3 player characters hitting it. And, well, there are. 3 Blight Fiends. Eat your heart out Ghol, we don’t need your extra summon! I think in all the times I’ve fought Fabius with this build he only ever got to use his Blade Barrier once, maybe twice. Everything is just that dead that fast. And here’s the funny part. That absurd damage is happening despite the fact timed pets interact poorly with SR. As you go through a chunk you’re supposed to be making up for the huge enemy modifiers and negative mutators by gradually stacking your survivability and damage by collecting Shattered Souls, right? Well, pets only benefit from Shattered Souls if they are alive at the moment you picked the Soul up. It’s not an aura tied to your character and if you have 10 stacks of Souls your pets get 10 stacks of benefit. If you pick up all the Souls and then summon a pet that pet has nothing on it. And this build is pretty much all about constant pet replacement. You’re lucky if half your pets are having any Shattered Soul buffs going on at all in any given fight. And yet, you can start an Immolation map at SR80, make it up that one slope on the left, have Ill Omen aggro pretty much the entire map onto you and that whole map will be over in like 20 s. The Blight Fiends and you assorted auxiliary summons just eat anything that comes close, any Blight Fiends that went byebye over that duration just leave a nice parting gift in the form of a disgusting pool of noxious excrement for enemies to die in and you just melt through everything.
And in terms of your defenses…well, you don’t have much of any healing, but you got some tricks up your sleeve and also, who needs defense when everything is just drowning in your swarm of dispensable summons? Most of enemies won’t live long enough to make it anywhere close to you, and even though you got some pretty decent Blight Fiend turnover, your chubby nurglings still manage to hold aggro incredibly well. For the few foes that do make it to you without missing most of their limbs, you got %DR from Ill Omen, Blight Fiends apply a bunch of Fumble, you got a ton of health thanks in part to Oathkeeper, you got Resilience, Mark of Torment, two absorb shields (from boots and amulet component), and if worse comes to worst, you got the offhand proc there to pop you right back to full every 100 s. Yes, it pops you back to full thanks to the % heal amplification from Oathkeeper. That said, like pretty much any pet build this character most certainly does not enjoy trapped maps, where you’ll be taking all sorts of environmental damage even before you get into a fight. Those can be a bit tense, you’ll see one below at SR80. But if you do happen to eat it, who gives a toss? There’s gonna be so much timer on the clock you won’t know what to do with it.
Now, how much of a role does Oathkeeper play in all this and what other options would be better. Obviously Oathkeeper isn’t a pet go-to, but then again, neither is Soldier and yet there are pet DK items around. And Oathkeeper actually provides more than Soldier does, if for nothing else than the fact that unlike Soldier it actually has an RR skill, which amounts to a pretty big % damage advantage. Beyond that Oathkeeper helps a bit with your survivability through Haven and Resilience, but a crucial aspect is also the fact that, like Soldier, it provides a nice aura that pets can benefit from. Except on Soldier, the aura provides flat stats (OA/DA) and % based damage and speed. On Oathkeeper, the aura provides % health, which for pets is more impactful than some DA I’d say, provides more OA than Field Command AND it provides a bunch of flat damage. Like, flat flat damage, i.e. the Physical on Rebuke, but also flat DoT on Presence of Virtue. The Bleed we don’t care about but the Trauma turns into a nice bit of Poison thanks to our Phys conversions from weapon and rings. And we do crank out quite a few pets. Up to 3 Fiends, 2 Scourges, 2 Wraiths, 1 doggo and 3 spiders. That’s 11 benefactors of all that flat damage. That’s not nothing, and all for just one unassuming aura. Who would be able to offer as much? Shaman doesn’t have Acid RR, not when we have to break Ghol’s 4pc bonus to keep our Blight Fiend numbers up. Nightblade has the RR but nothing else pets would care about. No auras, no buffs, no nothing, PB only applies to the player. So pretty much the only option capable of rivalling Oathkeeper on an Unstable Anomaly setup would be Occultist. The flat damage it offers on BoD is lower than that on Rebuke, but it’s in the ballpark, plus BoD has aspect with % Acid damage on it. There would also be the % heal from BoD to keep the Scourges up for longer. And then, of course, Manipulation with its damage and total speed. That’s a big one. Occultist wins the first place. But Oathkeeper is a not too remote second. So even if you’re not forced into this combo by trying to check it off your to-do list, there’s no shame in putting it together like this. I does have its merits, at least as long as you’re going for Unstable Anomaly and not full Ghol. Then Shaman would surge ahead.
Here are the standard SR75-76 and SR80 parts of one of my runs. Except, well, these aren’t standard cause they’re about half the usual length. If you feel shorted, just play them twice, it’ll make Papa Nurgle happy