(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.
This build started as a silly experiment. As I was making my way through all the remaining mastery combinations I had yet to use and looking for playstyles and skills I have not yet explored, I got around to Archon and was a bit stumped. The only immediately obvious overlap between the masteries was Vitality, as at the time, Celestial Presence only reduced Fire, Bleed and Physical res, not Elemental, so there was no obvious Lightning/Cold synergy to be found. However, when it came to Vitality support, Oathkeeper still wasn’t offering that much outside of the RR, only some % damage on the exclusive skill. So I needed to find the core of the build in Shaman. That gave me a really stupid idea: if I’m looking to explore skills I haven’t used yet…how about I try to make a Wendigo Totem build.
From the very outset this seemed an astonishingly bad idea. By default, only one Wendigo Totem can exist at a time, which would mean all the damage would have to come from just a single entity. There were also very few ways to improve the skill’s damage. The best option available was the Dark One set, which would essentially double the skill’s damage output by allowing a second Wendigo Totem to be summoned. Even then, it seemed unlikely that two Wendigo Totems as the sole sources of damage would be even remotely sufficient. It also sounded like levelling such a build, with just Wendigo Totem as the damage source, would be absolutely miserable, given its miniscule range and lack of scalability. However, since I was already in the Totem mindset I thought: how about I stay on theme and support Wendigo Totem with Vit-transmuted Storm Totems? It was a skill I badly wanted to find an opportunity to use ever since I was forced to cut it from my Druid in the interest of streamlining for Trozan. Though my intention was always to come back to it and make a full Storm Totem build in Lightning for some beautiful lightshows, this build did seem like a good opportunity to use the skill, and the required conversion for it was right there on the tree. I was still, however, committed to retaining the Wendigo Totem focus, and so the build became a duo Vitality Totem Archon…with Dark One. Certainly not the most intuitive combination one would normally set out to explore.
1.2 UPDATE: the build has gained everything it could have dreamed of. The damage output on both Wendigo Totem (through set) and Storm Totem (through weapon) has gone up a good amount. Even better, the amulet now has a +1 summon burst to Storm Totem, meaning the build’s main issue, the ability to quickly set up and maintain Storm Totem count, has all but disappeared. If that wasn’t enough, enemy Vitality res has gone down globally, and the build has gained around 80-ish OA and an astounding 250+ DA. And 2 % phys res. Like wow that’s a lot. The build is now faster, comfier, tankier, deadlier.
Also, Mythical Soulbearer has just gained the ability to summon an extra Wendigo Totem on top of the one from Dark One, so if you were so inclined, you could try leaning more in the Wendigo Totem direction the build was originally inspired by. Still wouldn’t recommend it as Storm Totems give the build a lot more reach. Also also, the Storm Totem route is now more open with the Valguur set, as the summon burst from the Halakor amulet now makes it easier to maintain totem summons on the set. I’d say Dark One is still safer given it provides access to % absorb and % DR the build would otherwise lack. Valguur is a much better set now for Storm Totems than it was before but without Occultist I wouldn’t recommend going for it.
Now, as a reminder, in case it wasn’t clear from the Introduction or in case you skipped it, this is not a recent build. Though I have tested it for this overview in 9.8, I created it many patches ago. That is important because what the item options looked like back then and what they look like now are two very different things. The crucial difference is this: Storm Totem was not, and still is not, particularly overendowed on item options to improve its damage. For Vitality specifically, there was only the Valguur set, which was undesirable for reasons I’ll get into shortly, and other than that, there was only Decree of Malmouth. This was the only viable Storm Totem weapon for the build. And until patch 9.6, there was no leech on Decree, which meant that there was no way to sustain directly off of Storm Totems. This is where the inclusion of Oathkeeper started making sense. If the build was going to be left to sustaining off of just devotion procs like Twin Fangs or maybe Wendigo’s Mark, having a way to capitalise on that healing as much as possible was going to be important. And of all masteries, none do heal amplification as well as Oathkeeper does (actually I think nobody but Oathkeeper even has that stat). Between Haven and Resilience, the build would be able get a lot more out of the little sustain it would be getting.
After patch 9.6 (GT says 9.2 but that seems to be wrong), this stopped being a problem as the leech was added to the weapon. And yet, Archon still made a lot of sense. Wendigo Totem was still going to be a big part of the sustain, particularly in 1v1 where Storm Totems couldn’t multiply their damage from the chaining effect, and so having both heal amplification and ways to stack a lot of health had merit, and Oathkeeper did both on Haven. In addition, one of the main chores of the build was keeping Storm Totems up, as even with the BiS Sky Effigy and meticulous casting of Storm Totems on cooldown, there wasn’t much time when all the totems were up before they started dropping again. Oathkeeper helped alleviate that issue through the %CDR on Path of the Three.
The Storm Totem uptime in particular was a major reason to not even consider the Valguur, and it remains the case even in 9.8. Though Valguur is the Vitality Storm Totem set, you’re better off not using it. When I created the build, all Valguur provided to Storm Totem was 35 flat damage on the headpiece and +1 summon limit on the full set. +1 summon limit the build would be unable to maintain, as the offhand slot was blocked by Valguur’s Focus, which meant no flat CDR from Sky Effigy. So in essence, all Valguur was providing was the 35 flat, as the locked-out Sky Effigy would have provided the extra summon anyway, and Sky Effigy also made it possible to actually use that summon while Valguur did not. As of 9.8, maintaining the extra summon is no longer an issue with Valguur, as the full set now also grants +6 s duration to Storm Totems. And I would still not touch it with a ten foot pole. Because the issue that Sky Effigy solves is not just maintaining the full Totem count, it’s also addressing the lengthy setup time. When a fight starts, all the build has at its disposal is a single Wendigo Totem and a single Storm Totem. That’s not a lot of damage. In order to start doing meaningful damage and sustaining more reliably, the build needs to get those Totems up ASAP. And Valguur actively blocks the item slot that makes that possible. As if that wasn’t enough, on the defensive side Valguur was once again coming up short. On Archon, there is no on-tree access to damage reduction and, unless Primal Bond is taken, there is also no % damage absorb. Dark One addresses both via the Wendigo Totem modifier on the headpiece and the full set proc respectively. Valguur does nothing in that regard and blocks the helmet and glove slot where some of the useful Dark One modifiers can be found. So even though Dark One is not a Storm Totem set and even though it has no direct support for Oathkeeper, it seems a much better option to support a Vitality Storm Totem Archon than the actual Vitality Storm Totem set.
OK, enough yapping about Dark One and Valguur, let’s talk about the rest of the setup. Like I mentioned, Storm Totem is pretty lean on the item support, there are very few meaningful item modifiers to be had, even fewer if Dark One occupies the helmet slot. So, the only crucial skill modifier item for Storm Totem aside from the aforementioned Effigy and Decree was Celestial Stone of Halakor for its essentially 25 % TDM. For Wendigo Totem the only available item with what slots were left was Mark of the Forbidden (not that there were many damage modifiers to be had for the skill anyway). Since the build’s working with Vitality, the ring slots were easy to solve, as there’s three RR rings for the damage type to choose from. Boots and pants were easy, as among the % Vit damage items there weren’t many other options with valuable skill bonuses. All is then capped off with a craftable belt to fill in whatever resist gaps there are (primarily Acid where the setup leaves a gaping hole).
On the devos, despite the fact that there is now a direct way to sustain through Storm Totems, Bat is still the best option for a spammable damaging Vitality devotion proc. Similarly, the previously used flat RR and heal devotion, Scales, still makes sense as it lines up reasonably with the Rattosh path. We even get to lean a bit more into the whole heal amplification idea of the original build with Lotus.
I…did not expect that. I’ve tested the build in endgame in a number of patches. Originally when I first completed the character before Decree of Malmouth had its lifesteal added. Then I tested it again after the lifesteal was added in 9.6. And in neither case was I particularly impressed. Though the comfort of the build has improved considerably through the leech, in both cases the build performed to an uneasy 3/5. Though I’ve certainly improved in its piloting, I’d say the more dramatic improvement was that the build’s environment has changed in its favour, so much so that I’d say the build is pretty damn solid, even if not quite all the way great.
The core issue of the build is inherent to its skills. It’s essentially a pseudo pet build, where the pseudo pets are both entirely immobile and also incredibly short ranged. In Crucible that might not be a big deal since the threat comes to you, but in SR, which is very exploration/movement-based, that’s an obstacle. It means that the build either has to start each fight at its lowest damage before it sets up its full Totem “nest”, or it needs to spend time luring enemies to the nest it used in the last fight. Even that isn’t particularly efficient though as the uptime of all 5 Storm Totems is low enough that in the time the character moves forward to aggro and then back to lure to the nest, 2-3 of the totems will have dropped, so the build might as well be starting from scratch again. This ramp time means that even if the peak damage were great (and here it’s just average), the character’s not going to be very fast, as it needs time to get up to that damage in almost every encounter. Unless the chunk can be solved by aggroging enough enemies to complete the chunk from a single position (like, say, on the Immolation map), speed is never going to be the build’s strong suit.
This creates two weaknesses:
- the build’s sustain is at its worst exactly at the point in the fight when there are the most enemies and therefore the most damage coming in.
- there is no way to quickly nuke down priority targets.
You can imagine why that would lead to poor performance. Issue no.1 can result in a quick death which the build will have issues recovering from since it’s not fast. Issue no. 2 can result in the build being forced to relocate a lot if there are powerful immobilisers in the mix alongside debuffers, Diseased, Arcane, area denial monsters like Gargoyles, or healers. And if the build has to relocate, it then has to start ramping up its damage all over again. So…why is the build good then? How is it a 10/10 of all a sudden?
Well, a frequent pattern in the past was that the build would start a fight and plant down a few totems to start with while the fastest enemies charge in. Then the slower enemies would start making their way in and it would start becoming clear what the situation is, what dangerous enemies there are, how many Arcanes and Diseased etc. might pose a risk. And as the build danced around in its nest avoiding all the nasty effects, or just channelled its Acid Purge filler if it could afford to, it would become evident that nothing is fucking dying…cause oops, there are healers in the mix and the build is unable to nuke them down. Healers pretty much brickwalled this character in the past as the build would be chipping away at a health bar for a few seconds and the healers could just refill it in the blink of an eye, at will, with no cooldown. That is no longer the case. Health pools that go down generally stay down. So now, the build stays in its nest and just works its way through those health bars, and then it moves on. With the main enemy type in need of nuking essentially eliminated, issue no. 2 is now just a nuisance, rather than an occasionally insurmountable problem.
And with that, the only thing the build needs to worry about is: don’t die. I know, I know, such a minor problem to solve, right? Well, actually, for this build, that is just a minor problem. While the build’s sustain is at its lowest when there are the most enemies around, it’s actually still good enough to keep the build alive while it’s ramping the Totems up, as enemies thankfully have an initial cooldown on their abilities and don’t get to unload all of their best stuff at you all at once at the start. So outside of some truly colossal hordes, the build has enough time to set up so that by the time enemies do start popping their dangerous skills, the vast majority of the damage and of the sustain is already up and running. Or, well, down and planted. The build’s damage also scales very nicely with larger hordes, as Storm Totems chain like absolute maniacs between the enemies, bringing the entire horde down steadily all at once. And when it comes to the sustain part of horde combat…between the, let’s see, two Wendigo Totem heals, Storm Totems leeching, Twin Fangs, Tip the Scales, Sigil of Consumption from the pants proc, Wendigo’s mark, heal amplification, leech amplification from Rattosh, direct leech from Acid Purge and Devouring Swarm leech, the build has so much fucking health coming in all the time that unless enemies are capable of nuking the entire 20k health pool down within about 0.5 s, the build rebounds back to full instantly.
It’s also worth noting that a lot of this healing just comes in without any input from you. A big mistake I used to make was believe that the build is tied to its nest. If it’s getting rushed, its best option is to stand its ground, stick within that Wendigo Totem range and hope the heals see it through, hope that Acid Purge channel brings in enough to keep it up. But this is not necessary. Twin Fangs, Devouring Swarm, Wendigo’s Mark, Tip the Scales, Sigil from pants, Storm Totems, those are all bringing in health even if you’re forced to move out of the nest. And so, when there’s 3 Burning heroes raining fire down from the sky on your location, you don’t have to just clench your jaw and bear it, you can just fuckin move. If an encounter is too dangerous and there is enough space to do so, the build can easily kite its way to victory by just running circles around its nest, planting a Totem down on cooldown to keep the numbers up, and it’ll have most of its damage going out and most of the health coming in all the time. In the rare few circumstances where the build does actually lose all 20k health in an instant, due to the oh-so-deserved nerfing of healer heroes the build is now just fast enough to recover from a death and maintain timer all the way through and past the boss room, provided no time-waster chunks get in the way. Across the 10 runs I’ve died 3 times and I’ve recovered smoothly every time, which previously would have been quite the challenge. While the build still can’t be called fast due to the ramp time alone, it’s also not quite all the way down in the slow category and so it can make a recovery, even if the timer is a bit tight (like, less than a minute on the clock by the time the final boss dies).
Speaking of bosses, there is not a single one I’ve encountered that I’d call dangerous, and I do believe that across these 10 runs I’ve encountered pretty much everything SR has to offer. Theodin, Korvaak, Rashalga, Gargabol, Morgoneth, all the usual culprits were no problem. They don’t hit hard enough to one-shot and therefore don’t have what it takes to kill the character, at least as long as you do the bare minimum dodging required. I’m sure if you just stood in Theodin’s or Gargabol’s everything and facetanked Rashalga, red aura or not, you’d be able to get yourself killed. But beyond that you have nothing to worry about. Even the damage specific culprits are no worry. The build is tanky enough that it doesn’t need to dodge Kuba’s breath, so you can literally spend the entire fight in one place, never letting Kuba move to some of her larger pool clusters, and you just burn her down over time, as with all the Totems up and running you do enough damage to overcome whatever heals she manages to put together. Zantarin is an actual joke. Once the Totems are set up, Zantarin can summon all the skellies he wants, the chaining Storm Totems will immediately rip through all of them as they fire away at Zantarin. The absence of leeching is also of exactly zero concern as the Wendigo Totems just pump you full of health non-stop. Funnily enough, the most “concerning” enemies are a rare few that you wouldn’t expect. Generally, the thing this build doesn’t like in boss fights, is being forced to relocate. Gargabol can be a bit bothersome in that regard as he makes large areas essentially uninhabitable in his second phase, but that’s a universal issue, not one specific to this build. Same with Grava, whom you can technically run in circles after his dispell cast so that he’s in range for your Totems to zap away at him. No, the bothersome enemies are those that summon things you can’t kill. Kaisan’s crystals may have a good bit of Vitality res but they’re killable, after a bit. Same with Aleks’ shards, as long as you remember to apply Devouring Swarm, they’ll go down. The same can’t be said about Zaria’s and Karroz’s void crystals or Korvaak’s Celestial Effigy with their 500 % Vitality resistance. What in the actual fuck, Crate? While we’re nerfing Moosi crystals how about we have a gander at these, huh? Needless to say, you don’t want to be anywhere near these summons. In the case of Karroz that’s not too much of an issue, as he summons them so late into his phase 2 he’ll usually be dead before then. But Zaria pops her crystals very early on and those things are capable of one-shotting some real tanky bastards, so make sure to move away from them. You also obviously don’t want to fight Korvaak near his effigy, and since you can’t kill it, the only option left is relocating. Beyond that, there are no bosses worth mentioning, they’re all just minor hurdles.
Here are the traditional SR75-76 and SR80 parts of one of my runs to show the build in action. I even got to show some of the “nesting” this build can do pre-fight in the Splendors and Gazer Prime chunks, which I’m quite happy I got to showcase. It’s worth noting that this run was done with slightly different affixes on the belt (it was missing %Vitality damage and OA i.e. it was purely defensive), so the damage got very slightly better after this run when I decided to try recrafting for a better roll. Probably not enough to be noticable, but every little bit helps.