(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.
While the final iteration of this build may have ended up somewhat…unsurprising, the concept of this character went through quite the journey, covering three main iterations, only the last of which ended up working. I’m not gonna spend too much time on the first two (by my standards, anyway) cause, well, they didn’t end up being fruitful, but just in case some of you may have been toying with a similar idea, I’m gonna spare you the effort.
When AoM released I immediately dove into making builds using the two new masteries. This initial flurry of builds yielded a total of 6 builds, 3 for each mastery. In my last build overview, I covered the Fire FoI Purifier, my first channelling caster. And since I was already messing around with channelling, a playstyle I don’t particularly enjoy in any ARPG, I thought I might as well get the rest of the channelling mastery skills out of the way and be done with it. Here comes the stupid part: I wanted to get it all done on the same character. At the time, Albrecht’s Aether Ray (AAR) did a bunch more damage than it does now but did not feature the ability to pass through enemies. So it was a very destructive beam but you had to dispatch each enemy one at a time. To me, it felt pretty horrible to play. Cooking bosses with it was fine but using it for clear was tedious. Drain Essence (DE) felt like the exact opposite. Its damage on single target was considerably lower than AAR’s but the AoE coverage was outstanding. So I decided to combine the two into one build, with each skill performing the role it fills best. Hence, I landed on a Spellbinder.
Of course, that state of things didn’t last. Once AAR was overhauled, with reduced damage but added passthrough, the build, which was already fairly shaky in concept due to the lack of overlap between AAR and DE gear support, just stopped making any sense altogether. And so, since I was primarily interested in building around the new masteries, I cut AAR out of the build and stuck to Drain Essence as the focus. With this second iteration, I wanted to repeat what I’ve already done on a number of other builds and stay dedicated to the damage types the skill naturally supports. That being: Aether and Vitality. Not only was there a decent amount of gear focusing on DE that supported both, but the damage types just kinda made sense together. Necromancer provided RR for both equally within a single skill, and they were often paired in devotions as well (such as Toad or Rattosh). Plus, since Aether doesn’t have a DoT version anyway, I would be stuck with various sources of Vitality Decay regardless of any conversions I might attempt. Spoiler alert: this approach didn’t quite end up working as well as I imagined. The reasons:
- Firstly, the primary source of support for Vit/Aether DE is the Uroboruuk set, which, once completed, converts away from Vitality. This meant that, if I was interested in maintaining the dual-type support, I would have to settle for a 4pc version of the set.
- Secondly, the items that I could use to break the set apart were all leaning in just one direction. Abyssal Mask wanted nothing to do with Aether and converted away from it, Skull of Gul’Amash did the same, Vigar’s Hunger didn’t actively work against the dual-typed approach, but it wasn’t doing anything for the Aether side and was providing nowhere near enough damage to compensate for the fat chunk of flat I’d be getting on DE if only I completed the Uroboruuk set and gave in to the Aether conversion.
- Thirdly, finding a weapon that actually works with the Aether/Vit combo was a challenge. Wrath of the Ascendant only works with Aether and converts away from Vit, Hex Launcher does the same but with direct focus on DE, Ascendant Source supports the dual-typed damage in the sense that it doesn’t lean one way or the other but it also doesn’t exactly provide a ton of meaningful support either (the AoE is not the problem and 20% crit damage doesn’t revolutionise the single-target).
On @Neferakh’s suggestion sometime in 18.104.22.168 I eventually tried Cryptstalker as my weapon of choice. Though it didn’t support DE directly in any way and it lacked cast speed, at least it was doing something for both damage types, including an RR proc. That setup, i.e. with 4pc Uroboruuk, Vigar’s Hunger (as the only set breaking item that didn’t actively convert away from Vit+Aether) and Cryptstalker, was what I first took the build into endgame with post-SR release. SR70-75 was the highest I got with it and it was one hell of a struggle to even climb that far. And so, finally, I gave up on this second approach as well, and surrendered to the inexorable pull of conversion, with full Uroboruuk.
(In retrospect, if I were to do it all over again, with what new support has been added to the game since then, I imagine the Vit/Aether version might bear some fruit at last. This is, namely, because since then, Leafmane Horn has also gained some DE support. Between it and Vigar’s Hunger, the flat damage lost by not using the full Uroboruuk set would be at least mostly compensated for. The issue of finding a good weapon to support that style would still remain though, as would the problem of missing % damage for one of the types on some pieces, such as Vigar’s Hunger. It is still a suboptimal option, but maybe it might now go higher than SR75. That is, however, pure speculation on my part, as I’ve not tested the dual-typed version since, and stuck solely to the full Aether setup with Uroboruuk.)
1.2 UPDATE: Build just straight up gained 33 % more damage without the need for any build changes. Still doesn’t quite rival the DPS of Chillwhisper DE (about a 50k DPS difference) but is much, much closer now, where previously the gap was colossal. Current DPS of the build on DE sits at around 249k, up from 187k. Runs SR80-81 no problem and likely can do 85+.
What was the point of all that gumflapping? Well, it explains the origin of a number of things that may seem questionable about this build.
Firstly, the mastery combination. With the Aether setup, with full Uroboruuk on, there’s no access to %WD on Drain Essence. That means there’s no benefit from global flat damage, such as that found on Fabric of Reality. And without that, what does Arcanist really bring? Cast speed, sure, lots of % absorb, an Oh Shit button, Nullification, some racial and % damage, some OA and Spirit. But there’s no RR anywhere. Given that, it’s quite possible Spellbinder isn’t the best place to do this. It’s not a nonsensical combination by any means, and there’s a good bit of gear that suggests this is the way to go (Cord of Violent Decay, Hex Launcher and Screams of the Aether in particular) but the raw damage brought in by Arcanist isn’t as high as it could be with a mastery that brings in RR as well. Mental Alacrity and Inner Focus do probably swing things more heavily into Arcanist’s favour, but I do wonder if similar or better yield could be brought in by, say, Demolitionist with Searing Light, Vindictive Flame, Blast Shield and Hellfire Mine, or Inquisitor, with Seal, Death Sentence and Deadly Aim.
Secondly, the devotion tree. A lot of it makes sense. Widow is obvious and Scales + Scythe is kinda necessary for energy sustain, even with Arcanist. There’s also the ass-saving combo of Turtle and Ghoul. But then there’s the T3. I used Rattosh instead of Spear of the Heavens for three reasons. First and foremost, it was what I was already using for the Vit/Aether combo, where it was an obvious choice. So I would need a compelling reason to switch out of it. Second, it still made some sense after I made the switch to full Aether as it still boosts Aether damage, it still provides a big boost to leech, it still deals flat Aether on the proc, and I still have Vitality Decay on all my damaging skills cause that can’t convert to Aether, so even the RR is doing something. And lastly, it didn’t feel like going out to Spear was actually giving me much of anything I wasn’t already getting. Sure, the Spear proc has more flat Aether on it and some %WD too. But then again the Rattosh proc triggers more often in crowds due to no cooldown, so it does more damage there, and it boosts my various sources of sustain dramatically which Spear doesn’t do other than by providing leech through the %WD. The flat Aether damage on the Spear constellation isn’t any more useful than the flat Vit damage on Rattosh since DE (or Siphon Souls for that matter) has no weapon damage. Spear is supposed to yield me more OA but if I tried to switch from Rattosh to Spear without losing any of my major devotions, it actually broke pretty much even on OA cause I then had to drop Chariot. Which meant I lost its proc, so that’s less armor, DA and sustain there. It just felt that, strangely, even without focus on flat Vitality damage the Aether/Vitality constellation still made sense to stick with. Here’s a Spear setup for comparison. Doesn’t look much different to me, other than that with Spear, the cast speed is down, the Vit Decay % is lower, the leech will be worse and there will be no Chariot procs. In return, I’d be getting more damage out of the Spear proc, which would help some with single target. So it’s safety vs damage. Tough call, honestly. Since I was already using Rattosh, I decided to just stick with that after the switch since the Spear switch didn’t seem to make much difference at a glance.
There isn’t much to say about the gear setup, since so much of it is taken up by the set. All the other slots are pretty self-explanatory. Just items that let me cap all nodes on the Drain Essence line, RR ring, best available skill modifier pieces (medal, weapon, gloves) and voila, whole inventory filled without a slot to spare.
Dayum, that sure feels better than struggling at SR70-75. Well, actually, just partially. It succeeds where the split version failed, obviously. And it doesn’t struggle, as the 10/10 score clearly indicates. But despite achieving a perfect score, it’s not a perfect build and it has the same flaw as its predecessor, just not to the same degree. The main issue of the split damage version wasn’t fragility, it was speed. Without the full Uroboruuk bonus, the split Aether/Vit DE simply lacked damage too badly. It was slow in chunks, it was slow in boss rooms, and if it died its timer would be too low to recover. Groups of high health heroes, with gameplay disruptors such as Arcane or Timewarped, and with healers in the mix were an unsolvable issue due to the low DPS. With the fully dedicated Aether setup with full Uroboruuk and with Hex Launcher, the damage is decidedly better. Like, astronomically better. But in comparison with other builds I’ve overviewed lately, it’s not a speedster still. It’s absolutely, definitely, not a slow build. But in comparison to the aforementioned Fire FoI Purifier, the channelling build I overviewed directly before this one, the difference in damage output is noticable.
The FoI Purifier absolutely torched shit. Its issue was relative fragility (low-ish health, no % absorb) and lower AoE coverage. Anything in front of it it would turn to cinders in seconds. But the backline, the concave, those would require dedicated attention. This here Spellbinder is almost the exact opposite. Its phys res may be atrocious (when I tested it in one of the prior patches I wasn’t even using Turtle so my phys res was 9 % and I still got 5/5 out of it), but it has a lot of health, lot of % absorb, solid constant DR, two Oh Shit buttons, three defensive backups (Turtle, Ghoul, Chariot) and various secondary survival tools (the bone armor from Uroboruuk, constant leech from Siphon Souls even if incapacitated, over 400 OA shred from DE and Siphon, boots proc). And its AoE coverage is astounding. Like, you can be fighting Zantarin, and he can be churning out his swarms upon swarms of skeletons everywhere around him, with the Death Revenant he summons creating its own private army to the side, and literally all you need to do is just point Drain Essence at Zantarin and it will take care of everything on its own. DE lashes out in such a large area, it will cover an entire quarter of the screen in dead bodies. Its issue is with single target DPS. It doesn’t have, like, Panetti’s Replicating Missile levels of bad single target DPS, but it could be a bit faster at killing high health foes for sure. Some of those high health mob + high health healer combos the split version struggled with can still be an issue even for this one. It just happens about 9 SR levels higher and probably requires that at least one mutator nerfs your damage
Beyond that slight negative though, there really isn’t much bad I can say about this build. Its low phys res and trouble with bursting down specific targets can lead to it getting overwhelmed and bursted down at times, especially in super dense chunks where Ill Omen and Eternal Haunt can spread like wildfire and pull half the map onto you, but between Necro and Arcanist the build has so many tools to negate incoming damage it can stay surprisingly safe even in these situations, at least for a short period of time. It may be about average in the boss room, but its above-average AoE makes it so that, unless you go out of your way to fight every Nemesis you can, you should have plenty of time to spare from clearing Chunks. Therefore, even an occasional death, which I have suffered a few of across these 10 runs, will not end a run. It might get a bit sweaty at times in the boss room if you’re tight on timer and you get, say, Reaper and Kubacabra in there, but probably nothing short of a timer-waster chunk like Gazer Prime will be able to stop this build from completing on time after a death. If you’re sticking with just SR75-76, you’re golden taking this one out for a spin, of course. In fact, at that level you can probably solve the damage issue by just going into a full Spirit dump, since you won’t need as much survivability there as I do at SR80. For higher shards though, going too low on Physique can be real gamble. I can’t count the number of instances where a sliver of health kept me alive at SR78+. With less health and less DA, there would have been a lot more one shot kills and, possibly, some failed runs as a result.
The only other negative I can think of is, this definitely isn’t the best build to play after you’ve just finished playing another channelling build. My poor hand’s gonna need a break from holding down the RMB this much in one week Don’t try this at home kids! I mean, try this build, no problem. Just, don’t play channelling builds back to back.
Here’s the SR75-76 and SR80 portions of one of my runs to show the build in action: