Like many aspiring Occultists new to the Grim Dawn, I immediately took to the Bloody Pox (BP) skill. What’s not to love? With a single button press, you can spread a plague that can wipe out an entire screen of enemies. Unfortunately, the damage of BP has historically been pretty lackluster with the skill itself suffering from severe diminishing returns in the late game. BP has mostly been relegated as a supporting skill, acting as a debuffer and as a way to trigger devotions for many builds.
Enter patch 184.108.40.206 with its host of BP buffs. If there was ever a time to use BP as a main damaging skill, it was now. I started this character with very low expectations; it’s BP after all. Because I truly believed that this would just turn out as a meme build, I went into character creation with a bunch of less than optimal conditions to at least make the gameplay somewhat unique compared to my other characters.
Condition 1: The build must use BP as THE main damaging skill, preferably also using the Fevered Rage (FR) transmuter (the most efficient way to boost BP damage). FR meant that my defenses needed to be on point.
Condition 2: Stay true to the gameplay of BP which is cast debuffs/dots directly on enemies and then run away. No ground effects like Wendigo Totem, Ravenous Earth (Basically Dark One casters which have been done to death) or anything else that requires face-tanking.
Condition 3: Has to be non-retaliation. Currently, there are no mods that give retaliation damage to BP. Going retaliation would then go against my first condition (BP must be the main damage dealer).
Condition 4: Dual vitality/bleed. I wanted to make full use of all nodes of BP, and I have never played with a dual element build before. Pure vitality or pure bleed is probably better damage-wise though.
And some stats:
Bloody Pox damage breakdown buffed
Bleeding damage buffed
Vitality damage buffed
Vitality Decay damage buffed
First defense layer: Near maxed out Physical Resist
I went Cabalist because Siphon Souls and Ill Omen felt more in line with BP gameplay. Siphon Souls also has a very on-theme animation with all the ghostly red skulls. Lastly, Maw of the Damned is an insane shield and Cabalist can make better use of the mods it gives.
Basically, cast debuffs, layer dots, cast BP and then run away until the enemy dies. This sounds a lot worse than it is. The item mods for BP, along with FR actually gives the skill pretty respectable damage. Against enemies which I know can’t really kill me, I like to just wail on them with auto-attacks. I got a point in Reaping Strike just for this purpose. It’s not a significant part of the damage output, but damage is damage.
Defense wise, the character able to survive FR boosted mobs because of its near maxed out physical resist (current is at 78%), % damage reduction from Ill Omen and % damage absorb from Possession. Sustain comes from the ADCTH of multiple devotion procs, Hungering Maw, Siphon Souls and heal from Blood of Dreeg. Mobility is also an undervalued defense layer that this build makes full use of. No need to stand still and take damage when you can move away and still do damage.
As you can see from the title and the videos linked below, the build is apparently much stronger than anticipated. I was able to clear Lokarr, Bourbon Clones, Ravager of Souls and SR95. The character can somewhat face-tank first phase Ravager while the second phase requires kiting. I also felt that the build can push up to SR100 but will require heavy fishing for beneficial mutators / dodging of certain bosses (Kaisan is extremely deadly).
Bourbon Clones kill: (202) [Grim Dawn 220.127.116.11]Bloody Pox Cabalist vs Bourbon Clones - YouTube
Why Cabalist? As I said, I prefer the synergy of Siphon Souls and Ill Omen together with BP. Cabalist also had better defenses in my testing thanks to % damage reduction from Ill Omen and Mark of Torment. Other class combinations like Conjurer and Sentinel would most likely give more damage at the expense of defenses.
Why is your DA so low? I originally started with much higher DA with Ravager’s Eye augments. I eventually realized that with FR boosting enemy OA by a massive 25%, mobs were going to crit me anyway, DA or no DA. Might as well drop all pretense of stacking DA and go for more damage. As it turns out, DA truly is optional if you build accordingly.
Why no Dying God / Howl of Mogdrogen? Why not go full Vitality or full Bleed? Choosing to build this character as a dual element caster meant that some things had to go. In this case, it was the use of tier 4 devotions. Going pure Vitality damage with Dying God is probably better for a Cabalist, albeit a bit boring. I haven’t tested full Vitality damage Pox though. For bleeding damage, my preliminary Youtube research before posting this revealed that banana peel has a full Bleeding damage Pox Sentinel that has much better damage output than my version. See that version here: (202) Bleeding Pox Sentinel vs Ravager [18.104.22.168] - 2:11 - YouTube. Most of the gear choices are similar to mine, with a greater focus on spamming Vire’s Might to help stack bleeds.
Bloody pox is now, for the first time in the history of Grim Dawn, a viable main damage dealer at late game. Enjoy while it lasts.