(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.
Ah, the satisfaction of being a completionist and getting something off your list! By the time of this character’s creation, I had a build for every single Soldier class combination with the exception of the Death Knight. And, of all the skills in the Soldier arsenal, there was just one skill left that I had yet to make a build for: Blitz. So just do Blitz on DK and then Soldier is done. And as it so happens, there’s a perfect set for that, one that I’ve had in my stash for ages and never had a use for it. Time to Krieg things up!
The one question mark hanging over the build was what to do in between. There’s no way to make Blitz a full spam skill, Necro has no autoattack, and while there is the possibility of Aether Cadence through the Conduit, that eats up the amulet slot which I would very much like to use for Bloodbriar’s Thorn. There’s also the slight issue of the weapon slot. There’s nothing there for Blitz. But there IS something there for Aether autoattacking, and it comes right from the same expansion too: Heart of Theodin Marcell. Very thematic. Is it a meme? You can’t know until you try.
1.2 UPDATE: No major changes. The build gained some DA and lost 5 % phys res due to a change to the Wendigo constellation. Still probably worth keeping it. Otherwise, there’s been a minor change to Overguard scaling, so more block amount while it’s up. The WPS do slightly more % WD. Sunder doesn’t really change much for this build defensively, but it can be used offensively with Mark of Torment. Like all Aether (and Chaos) builds, the build benefits from Reaper losing his bullshit flat RR projectiles. Build can do SR80-81, might be able to go higher.
I’ve got uncharacteristically little to say about the gear and devo setup. With Krieg being the sole 5pc multiclass Legendary set, it eats up a big portion of the inventory. With the weapon slot sorted, amulet and medal a given for the Blitz item modifiers and the belt fairly obvious (+1 Soldier), there was really only the rings, the pants and the shield to figure out. On the pants the choice was once again easy, especially with how little OA the build ended up with. One ring I occupied with RR, the other with the best available flat damage + attack speed + skill bonus option. On the shield the choice is similarly obvious but there is one thing worth considering. Since the build is built around a cooldown skill, CDR is very important for its damage output. Now, while Warden’s Fortress provides flat CDR and damage to Blitz (another Krieg item; the theme is strong with this one), Death Knight can also benefit nicely from Colossal Bulwark. And since Bulwark is an Aether item by nature, it’s much more likely to roll the Supercharged prefix, which brings in % CDR. So, if you have a Warden’s Fortress without Supercharged but have a Bulwark with Supercharged, you can actually break close to even on Blitz DPS while also getting a lot more extra damage on your autoattacks if you take the Bulwark. That’s not factoring the extra damage from the temporary 10 % TDM on Overguard or the fact that Bulwark comes with built-in Phys to Aether conversion. That’s meaningless for Blitz or Fleshwarped Strikes, but it matters for Markovian’s Advantage, plus the Krieg set comes with a good number of procs, all of which are part Aether part Physical. The Phys portion gets mostly wasted since the build doesn’t sport any global conversion (except on the weapon, if you get the right affixes). With Bulwark you get to dip into that just a little bit. Ideally, you’ll still want to farm up a Supercharged Warden’s Fortress, but if you really can’t be assed farming that, you can very easily get the perfect Colossal Bulwark, as that drops much more frequently and you can vendor farm it in Steelcap District.
I’m a bit miffed about the score as this could have very easily been a flawless 10/10. I’ll get into the why in a little bit.
Let’s start with the damage. To preface, though the OA might look frighteningly low, Blindside kinda fixes the whole thing on its own by knocking down enemy DA by nearly 400. The Blitzes are solid. Each Blitz lands with a satisfying “k-thunk” and shaves off a noticable portion of boss HP and utterly wrecks hordes and heroes alike. There is a bit of anemia on the autoattacks though. Since the Heart of Theodin is a scepter, not a physical mace we convert to Aether, the base damage is on the low end. The Fleshwarped Strikes DPS hangs at below 60k, which is a bit terrifying. Admittedly, that does not factor in the 100 % WPS coverage or the average 160 % increased Aether damage from the Fleshwarped Strikes’ % proc. Still, any way you slice it the autoattacks are not good DPS, but they do their job in keeping the build sustained in between Blitz hits, which is their whole point anyway.
Speaking of sustain and survivability, because I chose to err on the side of caution and stick to a full Physique dump the build is pretty damn tanky. And while on a tanky build I’d maybe be inclined to shift a bit more towards damage, I’m not sure it’s the right choice on this one. The thing is, the build does output very nice damage on Blitz but it’s still not nearly enough to onetap anything above yellow enemies, or even some of the tankier yellow enemies. That means that the build will engage a group, Blitz into the lot of them, and then it’s right in the middle of everything with the most dangerous enemies still alive. It’ll only be 1.5 s before the next Blitz so there’s no point creating distance, you might as well stand in there and autoattack/apply some of your other cooldowns like War Cry, Krieg’s Wrath and Siphon Souls. Even after the second Blitz enemies will still be around, there will be debuffs on you, ground effects underneath your feet, but there’s still no point going anywhere when the next Blitz is right around the corner. So the build spends most of its time in the middle of hordes, in surrounds, in the area where all the shit is happening. Being tanky enough to survive there is more important than outputting 5 % more damage through Spirit dumping IMO. Military Conditioning makes Physique dumping very efficient in getting the DA and health where it needs to be. On the other defensive aspects, while the build’s shield use is not particularly stellar on the defensive front and the phys res could be higher, the build has decent enough armor, War Cry, though with a bit of downtime (less than a second), Overguard and Phoenix for flat absorb, Mark of Torment, plus Siphon Souls which specifically makes getting into surrounds a safe proposition. So when it comes to survivability the build has no issues in general.
There are some details though that mar the perfection. First off, the build is working off of a single RR mastery. Now, as I said, the Blitz damage is solid, both through good flat and through high %. However, as I played I couldn’t stop thinking whenever I entered the boss room that I’m sure getting a lot of resistant enemies. So, out of curiosity I scoured GT to check the resistances of all SR bosses. Turns out, it wasn’t just my impression. About 40 % of SR bosses have Aether resist above 30 %. What that means is, while the build will be doing well in chunks the boss rooms just end up feeling a bit slower than one might expect with such solid damage output. The build is still fast enough, I wouldn’t call it slow by any means, but there is definitely more friction in the boss rooms. The lack of additional RR simply makes the resistant enemies a bit more noticable. Speaking of RR, one thing I need to point out is Krieg’s Wrath, the stomp from the full set. It’s a no-brainer for hordes, but when it comes to single target, there’s little point in using it unless your Heart of Theodin rolled low on the flat RR. In my case there is only 1 % difference, so in 1v1 I really shouldn’t be using it, because its damage is worse than my autoattacks, it can’t proc WPS and it’s slower animation-wise. However, I wanted to illustrate what the gameplay will look like in general, so in the videos below I’m using it pretty much on cooldown. If you roll a 14 on the scepter that’s just what you’ll have to do. But the RR from the stomp doesn’t have full uptime anyway, so you should still try to farm for a good scepter RR roll as you’ll be relying on it one way or another.
Another thing that messes things up is the helmet proc. Setting aside the fact that there’s a good bunch of wasted damage on it and pretty much all the Krieg procs cause we’re not converting much of the Physical damage, the main issue with the helmet proc in particular is the lack of cooldown. Say you’re fighting, oh, I don’t know, Valdaran as a completely random and not at all relevant example. He triggers his lightning barrage shield. Meh, who cares, you’re a melee build, Valdaran can eat it! Then Spear of the Heavens procs, triggering Valdaran’s barrage. You get hit by 2-3 projectiles. Those projectiles trigger your helmet proc, and you fire 5 spines back at Valdaran. Which, you guessed it, triggers his shield again several times, firing more projectiles at you, which in turn trigger even more projectiles from your helmet. This all happens within the span of like a second, btw. So what you end up with is an instant and perpetual shooting match. Issue is, you got 21k health. Valdaran has 9 million. Since you can’t exactly leech off of the projectiles, you’ll run out way before he does. This has resulted in the single failed run I’ve had with this build. Now, I was well aware of this danger, as the fail happened in my 10th run. The reason I’m a bit miffed about it is: I’ve fought Valdaran a lot. Not once have I died to him, cause when he triggered the shield I either Mark of Tormented him or gave him some space till the shield drops. But the one run where I did die to him due to an immediate burst of projectiles the moment he put his shield up, it just so happened that I also died in the chunk before that. Which, BTW, has only happened twice before across the 10 runs. So I’ve done 60 boss rooms. Only ever died in 1. I’ve done 180 chunks. Only ever died in 3. And it just so happened that in that last run, the chunk death and the boss room death happened in the same shard.
Outside of that one wrinkle, this build was a pretty satisfying conclusion to my Soldier adventures. It got to sport all the trademark moves of the very first major boss of the game (down to his mines thanks to the proc from Widow) and even got to make some use of the funky Theodin scepter. Though the weapon is by no means the star of this particular show for the AA aspect, the fact that it supplies the build with a source of flat RR to fill in the gaps from Krieg’s Wrath means it actually nets the build some very nice extra damage on Blitz or, at the very least, frees up space the flat RR would normally occupy on the devo route. The reliance on just a single RR mastery does slow the build down a tad in the boss rooms because of the surprising prevalence of Aether resistance, but this obstacle does not hamper its ability to reliably deliver thanks to the build’s tankiness.
Here are the usual SR75-76 and SR80 parts of one of my runs. I’ll reiterate once again that I’m using Krieg’s Wrath more than I should in the boss rooms, that’s just to illustrate how the build would play if you’re forced to rely on the skill for the flat RR because the scepter rolled poorly. One final note on gameplay though: since there is a good number of cooldowns to keep in mind, between Blitz, War Cry, Krieg’s Wrath and Siphon Souls, you might be tempted to ease the burden by just holding down the Blitz button so that it triggers on cooldown. Don’t. Because that will turn off your Fleshwarped Strikes. If you’re holding down LMB for Fleshwarped Strikes, that’s what your character will be using. If you then hold down RMB for Blitz, your character will Blitz, but then when Blitz is on cooldown it will fill the downtime with basic attacks because the game only tries to execute the last button you pressed. It will ignore your LMB if you held down RMB afterwards, so you won’t be getting the extra damage from Fleshwarped Strikes, or the % crit damage, or your devo proc from it. If you do it vice versa and hold down Blitz first, then hold down Fleshwarped Strikes, you’ll stop Blitzing and will have to let go of LMB every time Blitz comes off cooldown. So you’ll have to mind the cooldown of Blitz anyway. There’s no circumventing it, you have to remember the rhythm.