[] Beginner Lightning Rune Paladin - With leveling guide, budget setup, end game version

Build explanation

In this guide, I will show you the main guidelines to build your own lightning rune caster. This build is a rather sturdy cooldown caster that can facetank most of the enemies the game throws at you and can kite when needed. I provide a “budget” setup with either common items, or ones that you can buy or target farm, as well as an end game goal build.

This build is suitable for fresh playthroughs and can be played from level 1, with minimal re-spec. The main items needed for this build are rather easy to obtain. It is perfect for farming gear for other characters as it can easily one shot monster totems, doesn’t need expensive gear to farm SR up to 75-76 range and can beat Lokarr.

Grimtools links

Budget setup CLICK ME

Budget setup stats

End game goal CLICK ME

How to play

Runes are not the most popular skill in the game since they can feel “clunky” to the newcomer due to the arm time. However, they are powerful skills and it is very rewarding to learn. Rune of Kalastor in particular covers a wide AoE and has also strong single target damage since enemies can get hit by multiple projectiles.

Gameplay loop is basically: drop the seal, stand in it, cast runes and storm box repeatedly, heal with word of renewal.

While it’s better to facetank to ensure that enemies get hit by the maximum amount of projectiles, kiting is also very much possible. Experience will tell you which enemies you can facetank and which you can’t, but most of the time, you can, as shown below (as long as your gear is up to date).


All videos are from 1.2 playtest patch.
Budget version
Perfectly able to beat the easier superbosses as well as SR 75.

End game version
Apologies for the sloppy gameplay, I’m not used to Sunder yet.


Usually doesn’t matter much but it’s a common question and there is ONE crucial choice to make here.

  • Kymon vs Death Vigil: You NEED to pick the Order of Death’s Vigil on this build. Otherwise you will not be able to farm one of the core items of this build.
  • Outcast: I always kill her on SSF playthroughs to get more early Legion reputation but you do you.
  • Barrowholm: Friendly if you want to fight Ravager.
  • Witch God cults: Solael cult has a decent lightning ring with +2 to RoK so you may want to choose them first but honestly doesn’t matter much.

The highest-level caster armors require about 600 spirit. This means about 15-20 points in spirit is enough to wear all the gear you need. Just dump the rest of your attribute points in physique for more health.

Skill Explanation and Order

Active skills

  • Rune of Kalastor: Your main skill. Places a rune on the ground that takes 1.5s to arm. Once an enemy walks over it it will explode into a number of projectiles, which will then break into 2-3 fragments each. Bigger enemies will take damage from multiple fragments/projectiles at once. Its modifier, Ignition, adds an initial explosion that will stun weaker enemies in place. Max both nodes.

  • Storm Box of Elgoloth: Casts a debuff that does periodic damage and reduces enemy DA. Can stay as a 1 pointer for most of the game once you’re past the very early stages of the game. Very efficient skill to proc devotions with. Max the main node, 1 point in Lightning Tether.

  • Inquisitor Seal: Stand in seal to gain massive flat absorb and some other stats. The damage is negligible. The absorb scales better after soft cap. Not a priority but eventually max Seal, 1 point in Arcane Empowerment.

  • Word of Renewal: Active heal, also grants an aura that improves a wide range of stats. WoR breakpoints are 5/12 and 13/12. Steel Resolve is busted so max it, and Vigor is also quite useful; max it too.

  • Ascension: Flat Absorb, OA and damage boost, however, the budget setup doesn’t have enough points to max it. Never put more than 1 point in Clarity of Purpose.

  • Vire’s Might: 1 point for another movement ability. Notice that Skybreaker Circlet does NOT convert volcanic stride.

  • Guardian’s of Empyrion: reduces enemy elemental resistances in a small area around them. 1 pt guardians, max celestial presence.

Passive skills

  • Artifact Handling: reduces RoK cooldown and grants tdm (total damage modified). Max this of course.

  • Aura of Censure: the best exclusive here, with damage and resistance reduction. However this forces you to be relatively close to enemies for maximum damage potential so keep that in mind. Max this too.

  • Deadly Aim: Good temporary damage boost, but 4/12 is the breakpoint; more than 12/12 is a waste.

  • Presence of Virtue: Energy regeneration and OA. Haven synergizes well with word of renewal with its %hp and healing increase. Haven breakpoints are 6/10 and 10/10, more isn’t worth it.

  • Resilience: powerful circuit breaker. Either one point this or keep it as a multiple of 3 (+max resist is the most important part).

  • Safeguard: value point, for placebo effect.


Grab a couple one pointers here and there, but while you are leveling, your priorities are as follows:

  1. Rune of Kalastor
  2. Artifact Handling
  3. Aura of Censure
  4. Ignition
  5. Steel Resolve
  6. Celestial Presence (yes push oathkeeper all the way there)
  7. The rest of the skills, in whatever order you like. Max Seal when you feel like you’re starting to take a little too much damage.

Since flat resistance is covered by gear, we can skip purple affinity and Elemental Storm and thus afford triple tier 3 devotions instead. Widow is a must on any self-respecting lightning build. Behemoth and Tortoise are a nice defense boost.

  1. Blue Crossroads
  2. Sailor’s Guide
  3. Remove blue Crossroads
  4. Green Crossroads
  5. Spider
  6. Widow (Bind to Storm Box)
  7. Red Crossroads
  8. Vulture
  9. Behemoth (Bind to Resilience)
  10. Remove red Crossroads
  11. Lizard
  12. Ultos (Bind to Rune of Kalastor; leave out chaos resist node)
  13. Yellow Crossroads
  14. Tortoise (Bind to any passive)
  15. Remove yellow Crossroads
  16. Eel
  17. Korvaak (Bind to Guardians of Empyrion)
  18. Spear of the Heavens (Bind to any passive)

Core items

  • Skybreaker Circlet: Make sure you side with the Order of Death’s Vigil in Homestead. This adds flat damage on RoK, converts its fire damage to lightning and, most importantly, makes it blue. This also converts Ignition damage to lightning but the in-game tooltip lies to you. Farm Sister Bravna in fort Haron.

  • Martin’s Crest: Additional projectile to RoK and converts its physical portion to lightning. Farm Moneybags Martin in Cronley’s Hideout.

  • Obsidian Bulwark: Additional projectile and flat resistance reduction to RoK. Ideally, you want one of the many prefixes that provide physical resistance (I prefer this) OR either Chronomancer or Stormcharged prefix for cooldown reduction (damage option). Notice that there is no lightning damage scaling on this, so you can keep a low level one all the way to level 100 and it won’t matter at all. Farm the Void areas and Chthonic totems. You can vendor farm this in Bastion of Chaos if you have trouble finding one.

Less important but still valuable gear pieces

  • Ulraprax’s Sting amulet : +1 Inquisitor and good modifiers to Storm Box. Farm the Bee Queen in Twin Falls.

  • At lvl 90 you can upgrade the amulet Aetherbolt Pendant (buy the blueprint from Coven merchant). Provides additional resistance shred and maximum elemental resistances.

  • Ugdenbog Waistguard or Coven Waistguard : Any +1 inquisitor belt will do. The crab boss in Barrowholm mine is a guaranteed drop or you can vendor farm this Ancient Grove.

  • Vendetta relic : Cannot drop, you have to buy the blueprint in Steelcap District. Doing Malmouth questline in normal + some minor rep grind will unlock it.

The rest
You can use whatever you find and faction gear, this won’t make or break the character. Some quick notes.

  • Weapon: The weapon doesn’t matter much here. If you find Arcane Storm Invoker for +1 inquisitor, use that. Otherwise, any dagger or scepter with high %lightning damage will do. Crafting lightning implements is a decent option for leveling.

  • Rings: Use Solael’s Stormfire Seal if the rest of your gear doesn’t let you hard cap RoK, otherwise Coven Sky Seal is (slightly) better. Use Living rings or whatever rings you find until you get there.

  • Boots: Final March has some useful skill bonuses and are fairly common, otherwise just use whatever you find.

  • Armor: Whatever you find is fine. Valaxteria’s has a lightning base if you want to farm her once in a while; Ascended Vestments aren’t too bad either. Later on, you can choose from many common blue items like Eastern robes, Astral Robes or even Stormserpent armor.

  • Pants: Many choices again, but Dreeg sect Legguards are never bad since they grant baseline stun resistance and OA. Farm the first boss of the Hidden Path.

  • Shoulders: Doesn’t matter much, but Chosen Spaulders from the Korvaak’s servants are decent for +3 ignition. Keep an eye out for Stormscorched Shoulderguards.

  • Gloves: the more resists it has, the better. I used Eastern to get the 2 piece set bonus but this isn’t mandatory.

The journey

Very early game (level 1-10)

Start inquisitor and put 2 points in storm box. From there, put 1 or 2 points in the mastery bar each level and the rest in storm box; you also want to grab Word of Renewal for extra early movement speed. As soon as you reach level 5, equip a cracked lodestone or searing ember and use the component skill alongside storm box.
As for attributes, I like to put my first 5 points in Spirit. Caster off-hands requirements can get pretty high early in the game, and you should use one before you can get your hands on an Obsidian Bulwark. At level 10, your character should look approximately like this: Inquisitor, Level 10 (GD - Grim Dawn Build Calculator

Respec to Rune of Kalastor (around level 12)

You now have enough skill points to respect smoothly to Rune of Kalastor. Pay a visit to the spirit guide and remove all but one point in storm box and lightning tether (we will max storm box eventually, but much later). Push the mastery bar until you can get Ignition and distribute skill points like this: Inquisitor, Level 12 (GD - Grim Dawn Build Calculator
Notice that RoK deals fire and physical damage for now. This is fine, damage types do not matter this early in the game.

Level 13-20

RoK should be maxed, push mastery bar to get Artifact Handling to reduce their cooldown and improve their damage. You should have components on most of your gear at this point. Inquisitor, Level 20 (GD - Grim Dawn Build Calculator

Level 21-30

At this point you’re probably past Cronley already, make sure you have you Martin’s Crest and Ulraprax amulet. Aura of Censure should be close to max. Inquisitor, Level 30 (GD - Grim Dawn Build Calculator

Level 31-40

You should have your main damage skill and exclusive all maxed in Inquisitor. Grab some points in Steel Resolve for resists depending on what you need at the moment and then switch to Oathkeeper side. Paladin, Level 40 (GD - Grim Dawn Build Calculator

Level 41-50

Push Oathkeeper and grab the bare minimum in skills along the way. Reach Celestial Presence asap. Paladin, Level 50 (GD - Grim Dawn Build Calculator

Level 51-60

This is the character at lvl 55, all geared up and ready for Elite (or go straight to ultimate since you can do that now): Paladin, Level 55 (GD - Grim Dawn Build Calculator
Make sure you have all your core Mis, Vendetta relic and Ugdenbog waistguard before you switch difficulty.
Lvl 60: Paladin, Level 60 (GD - Grim Dawn Build Calculator (Finally with augments)

Level 61-70

I like to get revered with Legion before moving on to ultimate since their augments are fairly powerful and make gear selection much easier. Celestial Presence is maxed, I maxed Vigor next. This is the character at the beginning of ultimate Paladin, Level 70 (GD - Grim Dawn Build Calculator

Level 71-80

Here I remembered I had to put more points in spirit in order to wear high level caster armor. Paladin, Level 80 (GD - Grim Dawn Build Calculator

Level 81-90

At 90, switch to Coven jewelry with triple skyshard powder. Aetherbolt Pendant requires Vendetta in its recipe so make sure you equip the best one you have and craft with the other one. It’s also about time to max out Seal if you didn’t already.
Paladin, Level 90 (GD - Grim Dawn Build Calculator

Level 91-100 and beyond

This is the setup I killed Korvaak with: Paladin, Level 96 (GD - Grim Dawn Build Calculator

This is when I reached 100: Paladin, Level 100 (GD - Grim Dawn Build Calculator

After doing quests in SR and some farming, we get the final budget build linked above.


How to use this guide

Do NOT try to replicate exactly the gear I had while leveling, work with what you get. You will rarely need to refarm gear outside of your main monster infrequents every 15-20 levels.

Selecting gear while leveling

Prioritize resistances on the gear you find. Damage bonuses do not matter much early on, the raw damage of the skills themselves is enough to carry you through normal until early ultimate. OA is important because you have a lot of procs on-crit and rather high crit scaling. DA doesn’t matter.


Speaking of gear, always use components once you’re around level 20+. The best choices for leveling, in my opinion, are as follows. Adjust depending on the resistances you have on your gear. Other options are valid as well, but this is the setup I use the most. Remember to visit your local blacksmith and to buy faction blueprints.

  • Double Scaled Hide in pants and shoulders|

  • Anti-Venom Salve in belt, boots

  • Wardstone/Aether Soul/Black Tallow in amulet and medal

  • Corpse Dust or Soul Shard in rings

  • Silk Swatch/Sanctified Bone/Ancient armor plate in chest armor

  • Runestone/Sanctified Bone in helm

  • Amber in weapon

  • Imbued Silver or Purified Salt in off-hand

  • Unholy Inscription or Spellwoven Treads in gloves

Secondary class choice

As this is mainly an inquisitor build, many secondary class choices will also work well

  • Shaman: Second best choice. Max Raging Tempest and Maelstrom, as well as Heart of the Wild and Oak Skin. If you choose this route, make sure you pick Segarius’ Sacred Blade as your weapon while leveling.

  • Demolitionist: Strong support class. Max Thermite Mines and Flame Touched, invest in Blast Shield and Vindictive Flame for defense as well. Use Flashbang if you think you need more buttons to press or something.

  • Occultist: Decent support, nothing flashy. Max Vulnerability, Blood of Dreeg and Aspect of the Guardian.

  • Arcanist: Might look good at first glance, however the best thing about arcanist for a build like this would be the cooldown reduction on Star Pact and picking this would lock you out of Aura of Censure. Bad choice.

  • Soldier, Nightblade, Necromancer: Just no.

Community League version

If you play the Grim Dawn Community League, you can take this build to the next level with Hallbera’s set.
Here’s the build I made in Season 5 Paladin, Level 100 (GD - Grim Dawn Build Calculator (GD League Season 5 Mod) . This was my starter build in hardcore league, but suffered a tragic death to busted ghost nemesis in high boundless dungeons (thanks @RektbyProtoss), but not before crushing all regular content and some superbosses.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments. Thanks for reading!


I’m currently leveling the build in 1.12 and I have to say, it’s really fun. It’s something different than what I’ve always played. It’s also nice to play an inquisitor as a main build.

It feels a little weak at first with the build, compared to other builds that i played.
I think other skills are better suited. Maybe maxx Storm Box and reskill it later. My go-to level skill for inqui was always Word of Pain.
Without MI the runes are already clunky and dont feel realy powerfull.
Especially against normal mobs it feels clunky. And against bosses it feels weak. But I am l

I think I have found my starter for next season.

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Hey thanks for the feedback.

Yea Word of Pain is better for clearing whole screens of zombies early on, but I wanted to switch to the “final” playstyle asap. Also I find RoK pretty satisfying for taking down totems and I think it has good single target damage. Whether you switch around lvl 12 or 30-ish is just a matter of taste.

very good and complete (detailed) guide for beginner players like me.
Thank you for all your efforts and sharing your experiences.
regards :+1:


very cool and fun build, using it now for SSF HC. Can you help me understand why you don’t use Viper in the devotion tree? If you skip vulture and lizard and use viper+jackal+blue node you can still get the same T3 deotions. Is vulture that good? or is the viper not as good as i’m thinking here?

viper doesn’t stack with hand of ultos, is that the answer? for some reason i thought only the “reduce by X” doesn’t stack, but neither “reduce by x” nor “reduce by X%” stack?

That’s right, viper and ultos is the same kind of rr so they don’t stack. Jackal isn’t bad, but total speed isn’t all that impactful on a build like this.

On the other hand, Vulture has more resists and provides roughly same OA as viper, while Lizard is getting buffed in 1.2 and is a decent sustain boost.

I’ve never tried runes before and decided to give this a try…its a blast! Well done! Any suggestions on where to take this for endgame beyond what you posted or do you just consider this a leveling build?

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Glad you enjoy!

You can play lightning RoK in end game as shown above with the “end game” version of the build or you can respec to an entirely different build; Paladin might be one of the most versatile classes in the game.

Personally, I enjoyed aether gunner (with rutnick blasters + bonemonger set) and physical shattering smash (built around Siegebreaker shield) a lot. I posted those a good while ago, working on updating them for 1.2 at the moment :slight_smile:

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Viper and Ultos are pretty low value for resistance shred (end-game) because of how they’re applied. Ultos has the advantage of also being a damage proc though.

First you apply the sum of all your ‘-n% X resistance’ types. This is a flat subtraction from the enemy’s resistances. Then you apply ‘n% Reduced Target’s X Resistance’ which applies only the largest one, is a multiplier and has very low effect when enemy resistances are close to 0. Last you apply the highest source of ‘n Reduced Target’s X Resistance’ that you have. This is again a subtraction and can go negative.

So for an example, pretend you’re attacking Father Kymon, who has 60% lightning resistances. (I’m going to do lightning only for simplicitty)

This build has -35% Lightning Resistance from the Widow constellation, -30% Elemental from Aura of Censure and -8% from the Aetherbolt pendant, for a total of -73% Lightning Resistance. This is applied first and reduces Father kymon to -13% Lightning Resistances. Since ‘n% Reduced Target’s X Resistance’ is a multiplier, we then remove 20% of -13, taking him to -15.6%. Then you apply the 24 Reduced Target’s Resistances for 3 seconds that the shield applies to RoK and Father Kymon’s effective resistance to lightning becomes -39.6%.

If we take Valdaran,the Storm Scourge as another example, this time we reduce his 88% by 73% in the first step, leaving him on 15%, which then get multiplied by 0.8 (20% reduced from Ultos) and leaves him on 12%. Ultos applied a MASSIVE 3% resistance shred.

Ultos and Viper are good early when you don’t have large sources of -x% resistances and it has a large number to multiply. Later on it does very little or even nothing to a majority of mobs.

EDIT to fix maths, thanks to tqFan

This is false, I even have such example in my calculator thread


Here is also a video proof / dummy test of that Question about Viper Devo (vs. Ultos specifically) - #14 by tqFan


Assuming it applies to negatives, then we’d be getting:

-13 - (13*0.8)= -15.6%

So not completely worthless, just close. If you had significantly more or less -x% resistances than the target, then Ultos/Viper get stronger. The closer you get to being at 0 after the first type is applied the less effect you get from Viper/Ultos.

Thanks for pointing it out, and with useful sources as well.

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Sure, sure, I don’t disagree with your conclusions at all.

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Would bane be better than vendetta?

Of course, but it’s also a random legendary drop, so I didn’t want to include it in the budget version.

Oh, I didn’t know it was a random drop. Thanks, guess I got lucky.

EDIT: Looks like it’s still reducing cooldown when I search up the skill online, that’s confusing! My game just doesn’t show it.
Double edit: Oookay the cooldown changes on the rune when I remove points from artifact handling, so it works, the game just doesn’t show cooldown reduction when I cursor over artifact handling. I guess your build is fine!
Original text: Hmmmm I’m starting fresh in 1.2 using this build, since it was marked as that here on the forums, but it’s not updated for 1.2, at least not fully. The passive skill Artifact Handling no longer reduces the cooldown of Rune of Kalastor. Not sure if it’s a good thing to max it now. Makes me curious what else has changed and how much of a nerf that is to the build, will continue with the build since it seems fun so far and will give more feedback if I notice more relevant changes.

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Uh that’s weird the tooltip in-game really doesn’t show the -skill recharge anymore

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Made a bug report.

v1.2.0.2: “Fixed an issue with missing Cooldown Reduction modifiers in masteries and on items.”