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.
1.2 UPDATE: So much potential in this patch. To start with, Primal Strike deals more %WD and hits in a larger AoE, which makes the build’s AoE considerably better. The build has also gained a tinsy bit of phys res, though it did lose a smidge of OA (about 30) in return. Not great, given this version already lacks OA and is slotting in Upheaval cause it doesn’t have the points to build up the Soldier WPS. And the lack of points is what hurts this take on Ultos the most. With 1.2 Ultos has gained a good amount of support for health regen. Just as a baseline this build has gained around 800 regen per second. Unfortunately, the combined Savagery + Primal Strike version just doesn’t have the space to build up that regen to its full potential through points in Mogdrogen’s Pact and Veterancy. As it stands, the regen gain is kinda just compensating for the leech nerfs, but this particular build isn’t really getting much extra out of it. The only real benefit is, the build now sustains even when disabled (which happens a lot due to zero trap, disrupt and petrify res) or when unable to deal damage (Fabius’ Blade Barrier, Sunder dodging). Wendigo Totem also heals for 1 % more to aid in this respect as well. The removal of flat RR from enemies could open up some component options for the build to make up for some of its shortcomings, for instance by dropping the Tallow on medal and replacing it with Arcane Spark to improve OA, energy sustain and disrupt res). Sadly, the resist side of Ultos hasn’t improved so there isn’t really space for major armor component overhauls, the pierce, acid and chaos res are just too bad. In its current form the build can do SR80-81 but it’s not the cleanest by any means.
Once I was firmly decided that I’ll be sticking with GD as my ARPG of choice, literally the first build archetype I put on paper as a thing I want to make was a 2h Barbarian-style build. The choice of the primary mastery was rather easy. Shaman is the go-to two-handed mastery and it carries with it the savage, barbaric type of flavour I was looking for. To complete the idea of a brutal melee warrior, Soldier seemed a fitting second choice, given its support for melee combat and some slight leaning towards 2h fighting on some of its skills. Now, looking at it today, admittedly if I wanted to stick very strictly to the core flavour of a barbarian of generic fantasy, it would have made a ton of sense to make him a full physical character, perhaps working off of the Soldier side first with Forcewave, or sticking to Shaman as the primary and wielding something like a Troll Bonecrusher. However, at the time of character creation (this was back in vanilla GD), Troll Bonecrusher did not have lightning to phys conversion. And since I was building the character from the masteries up, not starting with the gear, and the primary mastery I wanted to base the build on was Shaman, I was perfectly fine accepting GD’s take on a tribal 2h fighter and go with Lightning. This left me with only one RR mastery, but as is typical for my character building, I lean more towards fulfilling the flavour of the build rather than sticking strictly to optimal synergies. Soldier still seemed to provide a decent number of things I was after, and given that I soon found there was an entire 5-piece set supporting my primary playstyle, it seemed the build should be smooth sailing regardless.
Or not. Now, I was very close to getting an 8/10 out of this character (long story short, I kinda got myself killed at SR80 chunk 3 needlessly by avoiding getting into a Reaper fight I would have easily won; the boss room after was not an issue either). So you could say 7/10, almost 8/10 build, that’s not bad at all. But numbers can be deceiving (deafening yelling from the mathematician crowd ensues; I spray them with a water bottle). Where my Blademaster landed on an 8/10 and I spent half of the performance section profusely apologising to the build for letting it down, this build really deserves the 7 it got. Because getting even just 7 successful SR75-80 runs out of this build is hard work. It could have been 8. It could have also very easily been 6 or 5, and nearly was if I didn’t work hard to save those runs.
Before I get into the why, I must preface this by saying that I’m aware an Ultos build is not just one thing. There are three general ways of building the Shaman side of an Ultos character: you can use Savagery and supplement it with WPS for AoE, you can use transmuted Primal Strike only, or you can use both Savagery and the CD version of Primal Strike. I decided very early on that I want to use both Savagery and Primal Strike and I have not tested the other two variants at all. It is entirely possible that I chose the worst of the three options and kneecapped myself right out of the gate. However, that is not to say that the combined version doesn’t have its merits. By not transmuting Primal Strike, the build retains the skill’s stun aspect. And given the newly introduced flat CDR to Primal Strike in 9.8, this allows even the minimum stun roll on Primal Strike to permastun enemies even if they have 50 % stun resistance. That gives the build an ample serving of crowd control, which, as it turns out, it can definitely use. On the other hand, this dual skill use also ends up eating a lot of the build’s skill points. The lack of skill points eventually forced me to abandon my initial approach of using Primal Strike on cooldown and solving the shortage of AoE in between Primal Strikes by using Shaman’s and Soldier’s WPS. Since I ended up having a lot of issues to solve on the build, I ended up dropping the Soldier-side WPS entirely, which was originally a big reason I took Soldier in the first place. Thankfully Ultos does help in this regard through the weapon’s Lightning Nova and the on-crit proc on the full set, so the AoE in between Primal Strikes didn’t wind up being as bad as I feared (plus not using as many WPS allowed me to take Upheaval which goes well with the build’s focus on critting). Speaking of skills, one unfortunate missing piece that I wasn’t able to fit on the build is one extra level for Savagery, which would bring it from 8 to 9 stacks. But frankly, that’s the least of the build’s issues.
So let’s get into those and stop beating around the bush. Despite hauling around over 20k health, the build feels squishy. It can take a tremendous amount of damage even through the near permanent 25 % DR (near permanent thanks to all the CDR Ultos provides). There is no % absorb to be found, not unless the build is willing to skip on its go-to exclusive skill and take Menhir’s Bulwark or Primal Bond just for that (in which case it’s likely to start struggling tremendously on damage and stun res). Circuit breakers only exist in the form of 1 level in Menhir’s Will, and Ghoul. For whatever reason, ground effects seem to slurp the character’s health like lemonade on a hot day. Particularly so if they snapshotted their damage before you applied War Cry. This combined with poor CC resists, particularly on the trap front, can leave the character stranded in the middle of a whole lotta pain, unable to attack or relocate. It’s easy to get surrounded in a skill disruption pool without a way out, because despite the character’s seemingly very nice raw DPS, it doesn’t seem to kill enemies at nearly as blistering a pace as the aforementioned Blademaster (who, on paper, had about half of this build’s DPS).
This is not helped by the fact that despite having Squad Tactics, Storm Touched and Kraken, this setup struggles to even get acceptable attack speed, let alone an overcap to handle enemy slows. Now, there are ways to get that attack speed up, but all of those come at a cost I think the build cannot afford to pay. Firstly, the rings. Since there are no lightning rr rings, the build is free to do whatever it chooses on this slot. Theoretically. The ideal option is Signet of Astral Ruminations, given its fairly high AS roll and relevant skill bonuses. However, the build was so desperate for any survivability it can get its hands on, I elected to drop all alternatives for Coven Storm Seals, which provide % DA but less AS. Another route to improve attack speed is Light’s Defender Gauntlets, which is what I was using initially. Despite lacking the flat damage that Cindertouch provides, the extra attack speed actually makes them the higher sheet DPS option. And the % armor bonus is certainly welcome, given that the build has fairly low armor. However, Cindertouch provides a good bit of OA, which, given the build’s astronomical crit damage and number of on-crit procs, is extremely valuable. Cindertouch also shores up the build’s freeze res. And chaos res, but I’ll get to damage resistances in a moment.
Another downside is, the build is entirely melee, with no ability to sustain itself or deal damage without being engaged at face-licking distance with an enemy. This makes the issues with cc res even more of a problem. The fact that the build is 100 % melee and Lighting focused also turns the Grava fight into pure suffering. It was so bad at SR75 I had to include Black Tallow and Sanctified Bone to even be able to reliably make it through the encounter. With the current setup the build can kill him at SR80 within two dispell rotations but may Ch’thon have mercy on your soul if Grava is the first boss you have to fight and you have no maneouvering space, cause at times he can have you running across the arena not to avoid dispell, but to not tick down to his aura before you can heal from all the damage you just took.
And then there’s the damage resists. They’re. Bad. Thankfully, Ultos’ 3pc set bonus provides major help in that regard, and for that I shall be eternally grateful. For a second there, I was indeed worried that my lightning res overcap would be LESS THAN A HUNDRED. But the god of storms did come through for us in the end, blessed be his name! You will notice the wondrous pants that I’m wearing. It was a sheer stroke of good fortune that I had these inexplicably in my stash when I concluded that I just couldn’t get my resists to work with Feralmane Legplates. And that’s a damn shame because those pants seem to be tailor-made for this build. But with them on, the Aether and Bleeding resist is absolutely atrocious, and the build ends up with awful freeze res to combine with all the other nonexistent cc resistances. And while freeze (and petrify but who cares) can partially be remedied through the ring components, that would then leave the build short on stun res and drops its DA. So it’s just patching one hole and exposing another. I’m honestly not sure if I’d have made it to above 50 % success rate without these pants. Cause even though we have Wendigo Totem healing us and providing extra lifesteal, and have Korvaak’s Brand for more off-sheet lifesteal, and have Feral Hunger for sudden bursts of healing, even with the extra leech off the pants the build is sometimes taking more damage than it can leech back when fighting bigger groups.
If the build goes for the ideal 2h Lightning devo route of getting Elemental Storm, Ultos, Spear, Kraken and Widow, it’s a real struggle to cover up all the holes in resists that Ultos leaves us with (which is pretty much everything except Lightning res). The build has baseline 46 % stun res from its exclusive skill and it only just manages to cap it. Almost every resistance on the build could be better. There’s just barely enough acid res to not get it broken by Kaisan or Slathsarr. Pierce overcap is too low to protect against Reaper (which is an ok fight anyway) or Fabius (which is a bad fight even without his rr). Without the MI pants Aether and Bleed res are awful. Even with the pants, there is very little room to fix the awful cc resistances.
Oh and I almost forgot about Energy. The build chugs Energy potions pretty much on cooldown, because there’s no energy sustain on the set, the devo route taken doesn’t help much, and there’s no room for Spark on the medal because the Tallow feels mandatory here. If an enemy wraith decides to burn your mana, you better have an elixir ready else that Stormcaller Aura from the relic is falling off (you’ll see me reapplying it at the start of the SR80 chunk because of that XD).
It’s problems on problems on problems. But to end on a more positive note…despite all that I’ve said, the build works. Completing SR75-80 within timer 7 out of 10 times is no small feat, after all, and SR75-76s are perfectly fine. But if you aim higher and try 75-80 within timer, it takes some work and careful play to get him through despite this being seemingly a chonky boy. Even the successful runs often come with some deaths and struggles to still finish in time afterwards. Nothing really comes easily to this build. Other than maybe stunlocking some hero groups. It’s shaky, it requires careful engagement, not pulling too much, knowing when you’ve pulled too much and need to lose aggro, judging when the ground effects are mounting up beyond safe levels, keeping an eye out for enemies that apply entrapment and so on. Where someone like the Blademaster can enter an SR80 chunk against the three Manifestations of Hunger and wonder how much time it’s gonna lose killing them, this build enters that room and wonders if it’ll get out alive. It actually does, I don’t think I’ve ever died to them. But it’s always a question with this build. Will I make it? The feel of the build just doesn’t fill the player with confidence simply because of the incoming damage and vulnerability to being immobilised or having one of its weaker resists shredded. On the other hand, it can also be quite rewarding. Cause when you succeed, you’ve earned it. Not just because your build carried you through but because you played well. I’ll admit that when I played the monstrous Retal Commando it did at times feel kinda boring, cause I was just wading through legions of enemies and I knew I’ll be fine. With this, you don’t know, and that can be exciting. I was never bored playing this build, because the build just won’t let you. It demands something from you. And at the same time, I never felt handicapped by playing it, like I was playing a bad build from the get go and that I put yourself in the shit. I was just playing a decent build that had some weaknesses. And without weaknesses, without problems, would it really be that fun?