[] [Something Clever about Hammers]: Leviathan Death Knight (SR90, controller friendly)

Part seven of my controller friendly build series: Physical Leviathan Cadence Death Knight

Grimtools link. update: build updated to clear SR90

To start, I should acknowledge RektbyProtoss’s Leviathan Death knight. I made my build without looking to see if it had already been done. As it turns out, RektbyProtoss had created something very similar. Except for the amulet and boots, everything in my build was done without looking at RbP’s build. That said, the similarities made me wonder about whether I should post this as a separate build, but ultimately I decided to for a few reasons:

  • My build is rated for SR90, while RbP’s build is rated for SR65, which is much much much easier to reach.
  • This is updated to
  • Like all my builds, my Death Knight is confirmed and tagged as controller friendly. I think RbP’s is controller friendly, but it’s not in the tag.
  • My Death Knight has no MIs.
  • My Death Knight has a few different skills, most notably Menhir’s Bulwark instead of Oleron’s Rage, and I don’t use Bone Harvest/Soul Harvest.
  • I believe my active devotion skill choices are superior, more on that below.

Overall, despite the lower OA and DA, I believe my build is substantially tougher, and I think it has more damage as well, which is good for high SRs. I have higher sheet DPS (unless RbP’s is without Fighting Form active), higher WPS percentage and greatly improved Zolhan’s Technique.

Regardless of their relative merits, this one can clear SR90, although I wouldn’t try it much higher.

There is also a max damage variant which uses Voldrak’s Crusher, but won’t be tough enough for high SR. It’s good fun though.

Deadly Momentum is active in this screenshot, since it has 100% uptime, other temporary buffs are not:

Video proof of clear

Fight tips

  • Offense: Ulzaad’s Decree is on Great Tide so that you can use it when you like. Save it for when you need the damage or defense. Use War Cry on CD for it’s insane resist reduction, and make sure to Blitz/Blindside important enemies on CD as well for the DA reduction. You actually have a .5 second gap between when these skills come off of CD and when their debuffs wear off, so don’t need to hit them exactly on CD.

  • Defense: Save Mark of Torment for when you need the protection.


As usual, the resists are overcapped to deal with resist reduction on high SR.

Essential Gear:

  • nothing is essential; this build will work with any of its items replaced with a lesser alternative.

Stuff I’m pretty sure is best in slot:

  • Leviathan: weapons are important. Voldrak’s Crusher does more damage, but leads to lower defensive performance.

  • Ring of the Black Matriarch: +2 to cadence, and -10% physical resistance makes it really good.

  • Avenger of Cairn: 4% cap to all resistances (and another 4% to aether), and a bunch of health and DA make it super valuable.

  • Warborn Visor: +1 to all skills is great, and the -3s recharge to War Cry means you can perpetually debuff your enemies with it.

  • Warborn Pauldrons and Warborn Chestguard: bonuses to key skills, and provides a pretty useful 3 item set bonus.

  • The Crimson Claws: 60 degree arc increase to Cadence +2 extra targets is great. That brings the Arc to 300 degrees, and 8 targets.

  • Windshear Greaves: not sure how I missed them in my intial build, they’re really good.

  • Arcane Harmony Leggings: I know I’m probably the biggest fan of these, but I believe a build is only as strong as its weakest link, and without disruption protection you will really struggle against certain enemies. +84/126 spirit goes towards the spirit requirements of your gear, and +84/126 DA is awesome as well. The resistances are good too. I don’t know why other people don’t use this as much as I do.

  • Serenity: helps finish your Chaos resist, and gives +1 to all skills. Doom or Oleron’s Wrath would give you more damage, but to clear SR80 with a melee build you need a lot of defense.

Other stuff:

  • Gladiator’s Distinction: turns all Vit into Phys, and has a nice passive. But there are probably other strong options here as well.

  • Mark of the Dreadblade: There isn’t a great fit here, but it gives you some mediocre bonuses (Cadence only needs 12 points to hit its maximum of 26, so the +3 from Mark of the Dreadblade goes to other, less important, skills.)

  • Combustion Band: gives you attack speed and -8% phys resist reduction, but doesn’t boost any of your skills, so there are probably other options.



  • Assassin’s Blade: Physical RR, so it goes on the main skill.

  • Azrakaa, the Eternal Sands: good bonuses to your damage, and gives OA reduction and impaired aim. It’s on Zolhan’s Technique since that is the highest percentage WPS in the build. While Azrakaa won’t be procced on CD, the debuffing it provides should still have very high uptime.

  • Kraken: 26% attack speed, and other good stuff.

  • Dire Bear: the armor reduction isn’t too important, since pretty much all enemies have low armor. Apparently, (thanks Gnomish_Inquisition), each flat source of damage gets reduced by armor individually, so there are around 10 sources on an attack, making Dire Bear worth a few percent damage increase. But by putting it on War Cry it gets a 100% activation chance, so it’s consistently applied to enemies. Dire Bear also makes War Cry deal some AOE damage every time you use it, and it can instantly heal you to full health if there are enough enemies around.

  • Ulzaad’s Decree: putting it on Great Tide means it has a 100% activation chance, so Great Tide goes from a mediocre skill to a useful and reliable buff for when you need it. I forgot about that for the clear in the SR90 video, but I still recommend that.

Not core

  • Everything else is mostly for defense. Tortoise is probably worse than Solemn Watcher, so I’m not sure why I went with it.
Skill choices

  • Cadence: main damage skill. Max this.

  • Zolhan’s Technique, Reaping Strike, and Necrotic Edge: WPS are good, but the way Cadence works is: you do two normal attacks which can proc WPS, followed by the Cadence strike which cannot. So your WPS are far less important than in most auto attack buids.

  • Menhir’s Bulwark: this provides more defense than I would have expected. You lose the OA from Oleron’s Rage, and the internal trauma, and the physical % increase, but get 95 flat physical damage back. More importantly, the combination of 17% damage absorption and 17% healing increase makes a big difference in your survivability. 38% resistance to life reduction is nothing to scoff at either.

  • War Cry provides great damage reduction, 43 physical resist reduction from Break Morale, and procs Dire Bear on all enemies hit for potentially huge healing.

  • Spectral Wrath: AS reduction and Physical Resist reduction make this core.

  • Blitz/Blindside: 340 DA reduction perpetually applied.

  • Mark of Torment: has low uptime, so save it for when you need it. The number of points in it varies by need. You should be nearly unkillable while it’s active. I found I needed a total of 8 points.

  • Everything else: points in passives should be allocated by need, based on the stats of your particular items.

  • Bone Harvest/Soul Harvest: I considered these, since much of the damage converts to phys. However, it didn’t actually work out to be that significant, (maybe 10%? I don’t remember.) With this build, the defense you can get from those 13 points is far more important if you’re interested in clearing high SR.

Leveling tips

I levelled this build a few weeks before I wrote this guide, so I don’t remember it super well. I do recall that I found this to be one of the smoothest levelling experiences I’ve had. Cadence is great from start to finish, and there are plenty of sources of defense to keep you alive.

Try to get Azrakaa as soon as possible because it takes so much experience to max out.


*in your GT you have no augment on boots btw

do you mean Fighting Spirit ? (since fighting form isn’t a buff) the proc OA+dmg buff ? - because that doesn’t have 100% uptime, it doesn’t even have 40% uptime

the armour reduction is somewhat significant, despite enemies low armor
flat physical dmg is reduced by enemy armour individually by “source”/instance of flat phys, it’s not pooled together to then powerthrough and reduced combined, which means flat phys gets reduced quite a bit

Thanks, I meant Deadly Momentum. The no augment on my boots is totally a statement of how strong this build is, since it can clear SR80 without augmented boots, and not a reflection of the fact that I forgot to augment my boots. That boots augment really helped my overcaps, so I updated the grimtools link.

I did not know that. Googling said it wasn’t important. So how many separate sources would it count on a Cadence strike?

each instance of your flat physical
so deadly momentum is 1 source, 1 augment on 1 ring is a single source, if you have 3 augments that’s 3 individual sources, flat bonus in a devotion is its own source etc
basically each time you have a mention of X flat phys, that’s a single source, which gets checked against enemy armour on its own
*still boosted by your bonus dmg ofc, so it’s not like you get 12 phys checked against enemy armour, it’s still 12 phys * bonus dmg and weapon dmg

The weapon damage bonuses don’t all get grouped together as a single “weapon damage” damage? If you’re right, then Dire Bear is huge; I count 10 individual damage sources on Cadence (although I’m bad at counting).

nope, each instance individually,
so 1 ring augment with 12 flat phys, and 2500% bonus dmg would be 12*26 and then multiplied but whatever weapon dmg swing you did, “checked against enemy armour”
another 12 flat phys augment on other ring would then go through the same armour check on its own etc etc
it’s why dire bear got the armour reduction, because before we used to cheese the game by avoiding armour check, using converted phys dmg, (vitality/cold/x etc dmg converted into phys would 100% ignore armour), but that got patched out, and we got dire bear armour reduct to compensate (and some general phys dmg increases)

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Cool, I didn’t know that. (And the internet mislead me!) I think “Huge” may have been an overstatement, since with 10 sources a 2000 armor enemy can reduce at most 20k damage, if they have 100% absorption, which works out to 10% of the damage, so Dire bear would be around 3% damage boost. Not huge, but not insignificant either.

very few does, (totally obscure mechanic), and the guide that actually explained it got deleted :confused:

if an enemy has 2000 armour
and a source is 12dmg, with 2500%bonus bonus dmg, and 500%wd, that 1 source is doing 12x26x5 dmg that’s 1560 dmg, on 1 (small) source
now if enemy had 100% absorb, which they luckily don’t that would swallow all those small sources entirely, a fat 0 dmg…
Fortunately they only have have 70%
so 2000 at 70% is 1400 armour, not much penetration there, 1560*0.3 = 468 dmg applied to the enemy from your 12 phys ring augment, dire bear increases that to 650 if i calced right.
basically goes from 0 immediate penetration, to a couple hundred, because enemy armour is now at 1300, and still at 70% effective, so now you have 260 free dmg at the get go, and only need to check the remaining, and becomes like a 38% dmg increase there/for that 12 flat phys augment/source
basically the more sources, and small, you have, the more dire bear benefits


and to makes the things even more complicated - physical resistance is applied before the armor check happens …


which is why phys RR becomes so valuable so the resist can go into negatives and boost dmg before the armour reduces it


So, I’m a total newbie to the game, and I’m trying out this build.
Loaded up cadence, zoltan’s and blitz. I’m level 22 now.

I really am not a fan of this build, or maybe it’s the game. Too new to decide.

This thing makes you a melee glass cannon early on, not a great combination.

This game throws elemental damage at you - all of the time. The only way to not die (veteran) is to run away from things and hit blitz every three seconds, because standing and fighting anything for more than two seconds gets you dead by elemental damage of some sort (if not the 20 things that mob you)

Welcome to the forum. :slightly_smiling_face:

If you haven’t played ARPG’s before then don’t play on Veteran difficulty, switch back to Normal. Also this is an endgame build, not a beginner’s one.

Best if you post your build here so we can have a look at it. To upload your character to Grim Dawn Build Calculator click the ‘up arrow’ button in the upper-lefthand corner. If you have cloud saves enabled (enabled by default) your save file will be in \Program Files (x86)\Steam\userdata########\219990\remote\save\main_{character name}\player.gdc

Otherwise it will be in \My Documents\My Games\Grim Dawn\save\main_{character name}\player.gdc

Then click on the icon below the arrow and copy the link shown to paste here.

I have, I am a 20 year vet of Diablo series, in fact in D3 and D4 I play almost exclusively hardcore. In Path of Exile I exclusively play ruthless mode (I’m not nearly as good at it, but I finish the campaign, anyway).

Between the bulk of these builds being years old (aka, probably outdated), and these being end game builds…it really doesn’t help me at all since I’m trying to learn the game, you know?

edit: link - Death Knight, Level 22 (GD - Grim Dawn Build Calculator

Speaking of this build calculator, it’s not clear to me how to even pull up skills on a build…

that’s why we have beginner/levelling builds seperate

Could stand to have its own sticky, since I clearly overlooked the one line at the very top of a massive post of builds.

no idea why it’s not on the “front” page of general build section but it’s in the compendium page

I also recommend Grim Dawn Discord if you want some tips / learn the game quicker / ask questions. For example at level 22 I’d already have many components crafted from Blacksmith to increase resists even further which could make the Elemental damage you take 1/3 - 1/2 of what you take now.

I’ll do that.

Main problem I see is that you’ve maxed skills out too early and not climbed the mastery bars enough to help with your survival.