[1.2] Beginner's Fire Pet Cabalist

The Necromancer is my favourite mastery in Grim Dawn and plenty powerful. My first level 100 was a Death Knight, my second was a Ritualist and my third was… not a Necromancer, but that’s not the point. I spent a lot of time playing Diablo II back in the day and my favourite character there too was the Necromancer. For the longest time, the Fishymancer build was my go-to and the ability to take your pets with you when you teleport led to hours days of fun, tele-stomping act bosses and farming loot for… reasons.

When I started playing Grim Dawn, I loved the idea of a Skeleton pet build, and I found several guides for level 100 Skeleton builds that all looked great, but there was no Cabalist pet guide in the Beginner’s Build Guide Compendium and the one Skeleton heavy levelling guide I did find was a Ritualist which plays better with the Ghol’s set which has no support for skeletons. Sure, I could level as a Vitality Caster and then swap at 100, but where’s the fun in that? I want to level with skeletons, farm the gear for the end-build with skeletons and just generally play with skeletons. If I wanted a vitality caster, I’d make one.

So just like Thanos, I said “Fine, I’ll do it myself.” Then I promptly forgot about it for months.

Anyhow, the goal of this guide is to make something capable of starting from nothing, playing through a hardcore campaign, on SSF rules and then transition into a Lost Souls build. I think the result looks solid/powerful enough to be called a beginner’s guide to the Skeleton Pets Cabalist.

1.2 Update - Buffs all 'Round... Mostly.

Patch 1.2 comes with buffs for this build pretty much across the board. We even picked up a few free skill points from item buffs. Korvaak’s Burning-Blade now also converts pet Vitality damage to fire, so we’re full on fire pets!

  • Blood of Dreeg gets its cooldown reduced (more heals!) as well as it’s duration increased.

  • Possession gets extra damage absorption %

  • Hellhound gets more damage, just as a baseline on it’s attack

  • Hellhound’s Infernal Breath gets increased AoE

  • Master of Death is now actually good for the build and would be the exclusive of choice, except that it would cost way more points than we have. Stick with Possession.

  • Skeletons now have aggressive pet leash range!

  • Skeleton Mage’s Meteors have increased AoE

  • Blight Fiend does more damage and has more AoE on it’s attacks.

The only real nerfs come in the form of Mark of Torment being heavily nerfed and now requiring 10 points to be less effective than it use to be with less, and the complete removal of the Necromancer’s prefix making it much harder to get your skeletons to 26/16 early on. While this is a huge nerf early on, cutting our skeleton damage in half, it’s not going to cripple the build and is negated by the time we get to 65 and have access to the Coven’s Reputation gear.

Build Summary:

Skeletons are the main source of damage in this build, and we’re converting their physical damage to fire. This combined with the Hellhound and Skeleton Mages already being majority fire, the Familiar and Hellhound both providing elemental/fire damage auras and utilising Enchanted Flint components and the Ancestor relic boosts our fire damage to pretty nice levels. Our devotions have Eldritch Fire and Elemental Storm for shredding enemy resistance. For defences we have 2 different self-heals, in addition to the Turtle Shell proc and a Prismatic Diamond in our helmet. The Blight Fiend will be our main tank pet, with the Hellhound also having increased threat generation (though being a fair bit squishier).

Grimtools, no affixes:

Fire pets? Why not just do Vitality? Lost Souls is Vitality anyway.

A lot of people will be asking why I didn’t just level with vitality since that’s what most pet Cabalists use at 100 and this build will be hard-swapping from fire-based devotions to vitality-based ones. You absolutely can do that, but I prefer having a smooth levelling experience over saving a little bit of time at level 100 when I get there. Fire pets do a decent amount more damage than vitality does until you can fully convert physical and elemental to Vitality. While levelling, Vitality conversion is limited to the Marrow Bands, and one belt. This means you’re only going to have about 50% physical and elemental converted to pets, it will come online late (50+) and you’re not going to get to 100% until you get those shiny purples at 94 (100) regardless. When you do swap to a Lost Souls (or other) build at 100, the items themselves should carry you while you level those new devotions.

Also, since I prefer to play all my characters SSF in hardcore, power level in the campaign while levelling is something that I care about more than theoretical ease-of-transition into a build that I won’t be using for 40+ hours of playtime, and may never use if I’m dead before I get there.

So. Fire.

Gear

All the gear used in this build is 100% target-farmable and ranges from MIs to Faction Reputation Items. The grimtools linked includes green affixless items to show that the build can work just fine with whatever MI rolls you happen to get. Obviously pet rolls are going to be preferred and you will have to have some resistance rolls at various points in the leveling process, but gearing is very open.

  • Weapon: Korvaak’s Burning-Blade. This will easily be the hardest piece of gear to farm up. I recommend leveling with the first 100% conversion one you get, don’t spend half your life trying to get a pet affix here. Dropped by the angry fire guys with swords for arms in the second half of Forgotten Gods. There may be something screwey going on with drops from these guys. I’ve farmed this weapon multiple times and it seems there’s a level range around 25-27 where it doesn’t drop, then as soon as I hit 27 I get several very quickly. Consider waiting until 27 to farm this.

  • Off-hand: Fleshwarped Archive. Damage and Physical resistances for all your pets, as well as some buffs to make the Hellhound do more damage. If you can get a pet affix here, great. Houndmaster’s of Caged Souls would be the dream, but chances of getting that are going to be very low. Vendor farmed from Hyram in the Steel Cap district in Malmouth. Karvor’s Conjuring Bone, the Witch’s Effigy or a good shield will work until you get to Malmouth.

  • Amulet: Death-Watcher Pendant. You can buy this from Benevald’s “secret” shop in the Blood Grove. It gives us one of our self-heals as well as +1 to Necromancer skills. If you can get a pet affix or ‘of the Grove’ suffix you’re golden, otherwise resistances.

  • Rings: Bloodsworn Signet. This is one of the only MIs that have pet stats at all. Even with that said, these still aren’t amazing for us, with only 1 of the 3 skills being used by this build. Other options are to use Slith Primal rings (or just anything with good resist rolls) to cover resistance holes and the Dreeg Venom Seals at 90 are much better, though will require faction reputation for a witch cult, which can be hard to get by 90. These rings can be vendor farmed in the Bastion of Chaos, though that will require a lot of time and may not be worth doing for a leveling build.

  • Medal: Wendigo Gaze. This will result in at least 1 extra skeleton and depending on your other gear, may give 2 extras. Can be a pain to drop, probably don’t bother farming a pet affix, just get one with resists and move on. has a high drop rate from the Barrowholm quest Wendigos (Yuvolloth etc)

  • Helmet: Ascendant Cowl. This lets us summon 7 (9) skeletons at a time instead of only 3 (5) and removes the Energy cost. Will also usually grant an extra skeleton due to Undead Legion levels. Pet elemental resists and additional flat Aether damage are pretty good also. Use a Spectral Crown, Chosen Visage or regular helmet with good armour and resistances until you get to Malmouth.

  • Chest: Elite Coven Lifebinder Vestments. +3 to Raise Skeletons, +3 to Call of the Grave, good resistances for both the player and our pets. What’s not to love? Bysmiel Stormshroud or Solael Vile Cuirass would also be acceptable, though not as good and require us to actually go out of our way to farm Witch Cult reputation.

  • Shoulders: Elite Coven Lifebinder Mantle. +3 to both Blight Fiend and Skeletons. Again, the Bysmiel or Solael pet shoulders would work, but require reputation grinding.

  • Gloves and Boots: These are more of a ‘go with what you find’ slot. I have included Rhowari reputation pieces because they are targetable and have good resistances, but I would recommend finding yourself a good rare set with ‘Taskmaster’s’ or ‘of the Wild’ for pet resistances. Also ‘of Kings’ would be great.

  • Belt: Ideally you want +1 to Necromancer skills here. Lunal’Valgoth’s Waistguard is my choice, just make sure you don’t take the one with pet damage conversion on it as that will completely brick the damage of this build. If you find a Shadowfiend’s Cord, that would also be a good choice.

  • Relic: We’re playing a fire/elemental build here, so you have 3 options while levelling. Start with Hysteria from Homestead, then upgrade to either Savage or Ancestor when you have them available (Blueprints from Hyram in Steelcap District). Ancestor is the goal for this build while leveling and Mogdrogen’s Ardor will be the preferred level 94.

Pet Resistances

The main complaint of Skeleton builds is that Skeletons are squishy and no one wants to have to resummon them. This complaint is also true of other pets, but no one complains when they have to resummon their Brairthorn because it died in the same goo as the Skeletons. Anyway, the solution to both issues is the same: pet resistances. You get these from other sources as well, but the main one is augments. So, the following augments should be used on your rings and amulet at the following levels.

At level 40 Rifthound Salts (Devil’s Crossing) - 8% Chaos Resistance and 15% Elemental Resistance.

At level 65 Mender’s Powder (Malmouth Resistance) - 20% Aether and Chaos Resistance.

At level 90 Sylvarria’s Essence (Coven) - 30% Poison & Acid Resistance. This one is not usually required on a Cabalist as we have Blood of Dreeg to provide silly amounts of Poison and Acid resistances.

Other things you should be looking for are the Taskmaster’s prefix, which gives Aether and Chaos Resistances and the of the Wild suffix for Elemental Resistances.

Leveling and Skill Points

Just a quick note here: Skill points are incredibly tight in this build. The linked Grimtools character has used every skill point available, including the ones from Shattered Realm and Ultimate-only quests and it still isn’t enough. You could conceivably cut the familiar, you could cut Spectral Binding/Wrath and you could skip Aspect of the Guardian (you would still be 6% overcap with an affixless gear setup and no BoD/AotG) though Aspect does give physical resistance, which is a very nice thing to have.

  • Start as a Necromancer and place 2 points in Raise Skeletons and 1 point in the bar per level until level 9.
  • Kasparov quest reward goes into Bone Harvest for Shepherd’s Crook skill.
  • From level 10, continue placing 1 point per level into the bar and max out Undead Legion
  • At level 15, take 1 point in Summon Blight Fiend.
  • 16 to 21 should be spent maxing out Will of the Crypt and putting 1 point each into Spectral Binding and Spectral Wrath (do this early). If you happen to have found a Marrowband and Karvor’s Conjuring Bone, 1pt in Spectral Wrath will be enough to pretty much summon both pets on cooldown without you having to do anything but get shot in the face. One procs when you are hit, the other when you hit something. Spectral Wrath will allow you to do both when you get hit by anything.
  • 22 to 28 we spend maxing out Summon Blight Fiend and getting 1 point into Rotting Fumes so he can tank for us as well as 1 point into Call of the Grave for the damage buff and also to enable us to heal ourselves once we get the Death-watcher Pendant.
  • 29 to 56 is all about getting the auras and buffs online. Put 15 points into the Occultist bar and (finally) take your Hellhound, sadly just 1 point for now. Get 1 point into Summon Familiar and max out Storm Spirit. Put 6 points into Blood of Dreeg then take the bar to 32 and max out Hellfire with 1 point into Ember Claw along the way. Max out Spectral Binding whenever you feel squishy, or just do it when you’re done with your damage auras.
  • From 50 onwards we only get 2 points per level, so our progress will slow down. With that said, take 1 point in Curse of Frailty, Bonds of Bysmiel and Blood Pox then 10 points in Vulnerability.
  • Max out Aspect of the Guardian then take the bar to 50.
  • Once Occultist is at 50, take Possession as our exclusive skill and max both it and Manipulation. 1 point into Infernal Breath to finish up our tree.
Devotions

Crossroads Blue
Imp - Aetherfire on Raise Skeletons
Crossroads Purple
Shepherd’s Crook - Shepherd’s Call on Bone Harvest
Raven
Rhowan’s Crown - Elemental Storm on Summon Blight Fiend
Crossroads Red
Jackal
Solael’s Witchblade - Eldritch Fire on Summon Hellhound
Crossroads Yellow
Tortoise - Turtle Shell on Spectral Binding
Empty Throne
Typhos, the Jailor of Souls
Bysmiel’s Bonds - Bysmiel’s Command on Curse of Frailty
Remove Crossroads Red, Blue and Yellow
Mogdrogen the Wolf - Howl of Mogdrogen on Bloody Pox

Attributes

We’re quite tight on stat points with this build. The mainhand requires 396 cunning and the offhand requires 724 spirit. If you don’t get some +Spirit/Cunning on your gear, you will need 17 points in cunning and 32 points spent in spirit. The rest (58) can go into Physique.

Campaign Route/Walkthrough
  • Act 1, kill Krieg. At this point you can use the Warden’s Judgement to convert your pets to Aether and put a Wrathstone on both your main and off-hand in order to boost your pet damage by a huge amount. Or you can just wait for the Korvaak’s Burning-blade to convert to fire. If you don’t want to bother with Aether conversion for now, grab a Salazar’s Sovereign blade for an extra summon. Make sure to grab the Slith Primal Ring, Fortified Doublet and Karvor’s Conjuring Bone as well as any gear you can find with +2 to Raise Skeletons. Use the Tainted Brain Matter you get from Krieg’s Chest to craft yourself an Equilibrium Relic. We’ll use this until Homestead. Silk Swatches for your shoulders and legs, Antivenom Salve for your belt, Scaled Hide for your chest and Wardstones for your amulet and medal.

  • Start Forgotten Gods. Side with Bysmiel for easier quests. You only have to do the first 2 quests to get 3 Blood of the Watchers, which you can get in the Korvaan Docks area and then kill the bad doggy in the pocket dimension. Anything else is optional for the purposes of farming the MIs here. Proceed through the first half of Forgotten Gods to the Vanguard of the Three. North of here you will start encountering the Rageflames and such that can drop the Burning-blade as well as Korvaak’s Chosen that drop the Chosen Visage helmet. You may find that KBB drops much faster if you farm it around level 27. Once you have those drops and any devotion shrines you want (FG has 8 that are easily accessible) head back to Devil’s Crossing and across the bridge to Act 2.

  • Act 2, save Steven Skinner’s family and consider using his ring. Don’t bother stealing the relic from the Rovers, it isn’t good for this build and you gain less reputation by doing it. Make sure you side with the Caravan driver so that he will be in Homestead and sell you resistance potions. The Chaos Resist ring is nice and all, but potions for bits without having to find recipes is nicer. Kill Cronley and move through to Homestead.

  • Act 3, make sure to pick up Dahlia’s Diary and shop yourself a decent Death-watcher Pendant when you get to the Blood Grove. Get the Hysteria blueprint and craft one once you can, it will get you an extra pet with a cold nova ability. At 35, check out the Rovers for their pet shoulders and chest and their gloves and boots for resistances. Side with the Death’s Vigil because you don’t have a choice. With the changes to boss-dropped non-Legendary MI’s now being 100% drop chance, make sure you farm Thall’Nosh in Darkvale Gate for pet rings. Get 2 of them with good resist rolls or pet affixes.

  • Act 4 opens up the ability to do the Hidden Path quest and farm Bysmiel-sect legs, though I generally use whatever blue pants I’ve found with good resists and armour and don’t usually farm Bysmiel pants until … uh. Ever. If you absolutely have to have pet-legs though, you can farm these. Kill the Loghorrean.

  • Dip into Act 1 Elite and get yourself a replacement Slith Primal Ring and Karvor’s Conjuring Bone (if you’re still using one). Then head back to Normal/Veteran

  • Act 5 gives access to the Coven and Barrowholm merchants, though Barrowholm won’t be useful until later (if at all) and you can choose to be hostile if you want with very little loss. The coven will be where you get your chest/shoulders from at level 65, so make sure you take their reputation whenever you can and get a writ for them as soon as you hit Honoured. Farm up a Wendigo Gaze medal and consider popping your head into the Ancient Grove to farm Vileton for the Prismatic Diamond blueprint. This is very optional though and probably pretty dangerous, so be careful if you do this.

  • Act 6 is the City of Malmouth. On the plains in front of the city is where you can find the C’thonic plane with Lunal’Valgoth at the bottom. Kill her until you get your +1 necro belt and make sure not to use the Occultist one. It will convert your damage away from fire. Kill the mages in Malmouth (specifically the yellow-named ones, Myrmidon and Spellbreaker) for an Ascended Cowl and kill Fleshshapers and Fleshweavers for the Fleshwarped Archive.

  • After this, progress through Elite and Ultimate and just replace your MIs and faction items as you get upgrades. Similar to Normal, once you kill the Loghorrean in Elite, dip into Ultimate for a new ring. You shouldn’t need another Karvor’s bone because you’ll have a Fleshwarped Archive by then.

Actual Run Grimtools and Comments
Level 10
Level 18: End of Act 1
  • Krieg is dead. You can use his weapon and shield if they drop. I picked up the Blight Fiend to tank, though he’s not going to be very good at it until I get Rotting Fumes. Spectral Wrath lets me use items with triggered effects that require me to attack things.
    Necromancer, Level 18 (GD 1.1.9.8) - Grim Dawn Build Calculator
Level 27: Korvaak's Burning-Blade
  • I farmed the Rageflames and similar near the Korvaan City Rift (ran backwards) for a few levels and finally got my drop. It may be that they don’t drop it until level 27 or so because I’ve had a few characters now where I tried to farm it and it would always drop just after I hit 27. Blight Fiend is now a tank and I’ve completely maxed out Skeletons and their skills.
    Necromancer, Level 27 (GD 1.1.9.8) - Grim Dawn Build Calculator
Level 33: Arrive at Homestead
Level 40
  • Picked up the Raven and maxed out it’s aura. Flat damage from the bird really bumps the damage on the skeletons. Keep the Raven on defensive so it stays alive a bit longer. Swapped into the Hysteria relic once I could buy it from Homestead. One cold crabby-boi please!
    Cabalist, Level 40 (GD 1.1.9.8) - Grim Dawn Build Calculator
Level 50
  • Fleshing out the Occultist tree a bit more. Blood of Dreeg solves some major issues that the Skeletons have with poison on the ground. Very useful to have with Ugdenbog being around this time in the game. I’ve also picked up the Hellfire aura for the Hellhound, adding even more damage to the Skeletons.
    Cabalist, Level 50 (GD 1.1.9.8) - Grim Dawn Build Calculator
Level 60: Elite start
Level 70
  • Continuing through Elite. No issues. Added in Curse of Frailty, and used more points than the guide says to. It’s just a QoL thing that I didn’t really need as it’s supposed to be just for bosses, but it does give me something to spam. Upgraded to Ancestor relic. No more lightning doggo, instead we get an aura giving us flat and % elemental damage. Losing the +1 to class skills from a relic hurts, but the extra damage is worth it. Picked up the first set of chest and shoulders from the Coven here, as well as Mender’s Powder from Malmouth Resistance for fixing pet Aether and Chaos resistances.
    Cabalist, Level 70 (GD 1.1.9.8) - Grim Dawn Build Calculator
Level 80: Ultimate start
  • Ultimate start is similar to Elite in that it feels like a joke, but there’s a much higher chance of death now. I’ve picked up Kingsguard Powder and Mankind’s Vigil for easy-mode resistances for my character and I’ve had all the MIs for several levels now. Completely maxed out Curse of Frailty for spamming, those points could have gone into getting Possession or Manipulation by now and they probably should have.
    Cabalist, Level 80 (GD 1.1.9.8) - Grim Dawn Build Calculator
Level 90
  • Picked up Possession for more tankiness and Manipulation for more pet damage. Level 90 also gives access to the Elite Coven gear, though I didn’t pick it up straight away for some reason. I recommend having it in your inventory ready to go when you hit 90 and swapping immediately.
    Cabalist, Level 90 (GD 1.1.9.8) - Grim Dawn Build Calculator

Conclusion

Fire pets Cabalist is a decent levelling build. It is going to cap out fairly low-middle on power at level 100, but it will be more than good enough to both get you there and also allow you to farm totems and treasure troves to get the gear together for a proper level 100 build with shiny purple gear. For a pet Cabalist, I’d recommend a Lost Souls build as the set is basically made for a Cabalist, with heavy bonuses to Hellhounds and Skeletons.

10 Likes

Consider legion conjuration seals while leveling: available at respected and give some resists.

For relic, it might take some time to reach honored with malmoth, but Mortality is not that much worse on the granted skill bonus (uptime aside), and gives +1 to necro skills as well.

Source: am playing a defiler based on some of these.

Re: belts I looked at the wendigo crafted, saw it needing 4 chtonic seals of binding, and realized that I’m not going to use green necro belts at all.

Yes, there are a lot of options while leveling. I tend to use my rings to fix resistances, so I generally will opt for greens unless there’s a really good reason to use blues. There’s no reason you can’t use Legion (55) or Wendigo (90) Conjuring Seals, or any other option you like really :slight_smile:

For belts, it is as you say, there are several options. As long as you get a belt with +Necromancer skills it will be fine.

As for Mortality though, I would say it is strictly inferior to Ancestor for this build. +1 to all Necro skills is nice to have, but Ancestor is just better for Elemental pet builds.

Oh shoot, I forgot only us defilers get to convert the flat vit to fire. Yeah ancestor is better for cabalist.

you don’t
korvaak blade might convert vitality to fire for a player dmg defiler, but it does not convert vitality to fire for a pet defiler

anyways, would personally have gone with Swarmlings for relic, buut it’s a bit fancy/not guaranteed to acquire is suppose :grin:

Welcome here and great first post :slight_smile:

cant believe I spent 12 seals on that relic…

I was a bit hesitant to even put a level 94 relic in the guide. It’s mostly going to come down to what drops, and most people are (hopefully) going to transition out of fire pets once they hit 94 or have farmed the gear for a proper level 100 build.

Mog’s is a generically solid relic, but you can use whatever you like… as long as it drops.

1 Like

thankfully relics are not so bad to acquire these days, so nothing wrong with you to include a high lvl option at end, imo.
people that want it can get it with a bit of farming effort, or MP trade crafting.

Added in grimtools links for leveling “diary”

Thanks, this is what I want to get start

I wanna hear what you guys think about my suggestions (this is not for hardcore):

  1. remove points from possession, spectral binding, call of the grave (and maybe hellfire?) and instead put them into master of death and soul harvest and blood of dreeg
  2. use fiend instead of imp since the blight burst passive from blightfiend can confuse targets, but im not sure if imp is still more damage cause it has no cooldown? if someone knows please tell me
  3. more devotion changes: Remove turtle, jackal, raven, add behemoth and stag
    grimtools just for devotions: Cabalist, Level 100 (GD 1.2.0.3) - Grim Dawn Build Calculator
  1. You’re trading a lot of defence for some more damage on a build that’s already focused on damage. I know you said you’re not playing hardcore though, so if this is a change you want to make, then by all means give it a shot. You can expect to die more often though.

  2. Imp has 0 cooldown, so every attack from every skeleton can trigger it. Fiend has a 0.5s cooldown which means it’s not going to fire off as often. It’s also less good for skeletons because the melee skeletons die fairly often and as you resummon you’ll end up with mostly mages/archers. Which means you’ll get a whole bunch of useless swirly procs around your mage/archer skeletons that do very little damage.

  3. Not a huge deal either way. I like Tortoise because hardcore and I didn’t tale Behemoth because I’ve already got 3 healing buttons but not much in the form of shielding/circuit breakers. Just quickly looking at it, I think my map is better.

1 Like

This is very well written and presented. Thanks, man.

2 Likes