[Build/Story] A Cabalist’s Tale of Discovery

So, you want skeletons?

This build was inspired by Kluga’s pre-expac Cthonic Necromancer (http://grimdawn.com/forums/showthread.php?p=414094). Briefly, Kluga’s build contained 4 key elements – the Black Scourge weapon (to create up to 3 Black Scourge temporary pets on enemy death), the Will of Bismiel amulet (which creates 3 Void Fiend temporary pets on command), the Raise the Dead ability from the Revenant constellation (which spawned skeletons on enemy death), and the Chaos Strike ability from the Riftstone component for mobility. It is a melee build that binds the Demolitionist’s Fire Strike line to Raise the Dead, and relies on Soleal’s Witchfire and Summon Hellhound for the heavy lifting in a Fire/Chaos build. This is not an OP build, but rather what he called a “roleplay build” which seemed effective (and fun!) enough for a non-serious gamer like myself.

Not being someone with all the gear in the game but being aware of this build, when I dropped a Black Scourge just prior to the expac (and having a Will of Bismiel in my stash) I knew I had to try this out with the Necromancer/Occultist Cabalist class. I expected a few problems though. I suspected the Cabalist would be short of health and defence, there would not be enough skill points to max Raise Skeletons, Blight Fiend and Hellhound, I would lack the Fire element for Flame Torrent (because the Cabalist seems to specialise in Vitality damage instead) and it would be impossible to bind Raise the Dead to a basic attack skill so it would be difficult to find something else with Fire Strike’s immense damage potential. But once the expansion hit and I started with a Necromancer, I noticed that Crate had changed quite a number of things in my favour.

Current Build http://www.grimtools.com/calc/qNYP5ErZ. This is at level 85 – the skills are where I’m headed (without current gear bonuses shown), but equipped gear is current. Some of the gear, like the Golemborns and the Sash are there entirely for resistances, but the rest is the best I have though I’m sure there is better stuff out there that I’ve not yet found.

For starters they seemed to overhaul the Dying God constellation into a chaos/vitality line that supported pets. Initially I wanted to use Tree of Life and the new Ishtak constellation to help solve the suspected health problem, and unlocking Dying God would happen automatically if I did that. I later realised I could not have Dying God, Tree of Life, Revenant and Fiend with only 55 points, so Tree of Life had to go.

But the expac change to Revenant/Raise the Dead is the real game-changer. I have used the Revenant constellation before, and the skeletons have a primary weakness – when fighting a major boss that doesn’t spawn adds the toon is on its own, which is a bad place to be for a pet master! But now Raise the Dead no longer triggers on enemy death. Instead it’s 10% on attack. This alters the view of this build utterly. Now I could play as a melee-caster hybrid with a single point in Bloody Pox to spam Raise the Dead AND it was no longer vital that the toon had to be able to kill things (though I still wanted to), so the reliance on a high-damage, high OA melee build was gone. The pets raised by the constellation also scale with player damage bonuses, so the vitality damage bonuses from Dying God would be more effective for them. The vitality resistance debuff from the Necromancer’s Spectral Binding completes the picture. Between these and the other spawns I earned the 18 pets achievement on Steam. :smiley:

Devotion Path:
Jackal (remove Chaos)
Revenant (bind to Bloody Pox)
Lion (remove Order)
Staff of Rattosh
Remove Jackal
Ishtak (bind to Master of Death)
Dying God (bind to Curse of Frailty - not Bone Harvest because you don’t want the self-bleed all the time)
Fiend (bind to Raise Skeletons)

I took the build in stages: Max Raise Skeletons, then get Undead Legion to +3 spawns. Then get a decent sized Blight Fiend before taking Occultist and pushing for the point in Bloody Pox in time to complete the Revenant constellation. The next target was to take Necromancer to 50 and max Master of Death while putting in a few points to the two pet lines while ignoring Occultist until it became necessary to get Blood of Dreeg. A few points to get Spectral Wrath going (I stopped when the skill was at 8 which seemed most efficient) and then went for Curse of Frailty for the Vitality debuff. In truth, I hardly ever remember to cast Curse of Frailty, such is the speed the pets wipe things even early in Ultimate. For a long time I used Siphon Souls instead of Bone Harvest for the heal, but ultimately that was the wrong choice and Bone Harvest is far more effective.

I didn’t intend to full clear all areas prior to Ultimate – just the essentials and the side quests that didn’t need a lot of work or were on the way to devotion shrines. I cleared Loghorrean at level 42 (having died once in act 1) and finished Malmouth 10 levels later. There wasn’t a single hiccup or difficult mob through the entire thing, so much so that it was only when I got to the Master of Flesh on Elite that I found something truly challenging. I have honestly never self-built a toon that was this effective through the original game content.

I added what I felt was 1 key piece of gear to the build when I found it – Combat Medic’s Mark. I didn’t have anything better at the time, but quickly fell in love with its ability to keep my pets alive, and I’m having a hard time letting it go now. Although they dished out the hurt they seemed to have poor health, especially the Necromancer skeletons. For a long time I didn’t have proper armour until I dusted off Devil’s Cage Hauberk – the special ability that holds enemies in place and gives a -50 DA debuff has proven extremely effective even though I’ve since found Fiendmaster Raiment which is way better for my pets but forgets that the toon is melee.

Elite Malmouth was difficult. It was the first time the build stopped wiping the screen of enemies in seconds, and boy did I have a lot of deaths dealing with the Master of Flesh. I’d killed it so fast on Veteran that I didn’t know it had a breath weapon that could kill all my pets and the toon in one cast (despite 60% aether resist and 12k health), and I didn’t even know there were 3 stages to the thing! But once I worked out how to avoid the breath attack entirely (eventually!) the other stages didn’t matter. Because I could resummon the Skeletons (3 at a time), Dirge of Arkovia’s Skeletal Servant, the Void Fiends and my Blight Fiend, and Bloody Pox would churn out a new skeleton every few seconds instead of never in a boss fight pre-expac, I could easily move around the room without danger while they took the boss out for me. Which they did, and very quickly too now that it couldn’t wipe them out with a single spell anymore.

Once I was into Act I Ultimate it was back to mowing down everything in sight. For a build that I didn’t expect to be OP it sure is impressive. But I’ve a long way to go yet.

It took me a long time to unlock Fiend’s Flame Torrent and bind it to Raise Skeletons for two reasons. I didn’t think the damage would be all that impressive without Fire damage bonuses, and right up until late Elite the pets melted everything so fast that Flame Torrent didn’t have time to both trigger and deal damage. But from Elite Crown Hill on, and into Ultimate, the enemy mobs have enough health to stick around a bit longer, and Flame Torrent is almost certainly effective now.

I eventually made one change to the core gear. Will of Bismiel, which has served me extremely well, had to go when I dropped a Mythical Sovereign Ruby of Domination in the Flooded Passage. I loved those little guys for their support in large melees, but this is just way better.

If anyone has any suggestions on how to improve this build or what gear to look out for as I make my way through Ultimate, please let me know. I’m truly surprised how effective the build has proven to be (except for the first stage of Master of Flesh, where the deaths were entirely down to the player and not the build).

And for those who got here, thanks for reading this essay-length post!

eyeballs the combat medic medal


EDIT: Ya done good btw. You’ll have a hard time letting go of that medal and it’s upgrade for any effective skele build imho (if you consider effective to be skeles actually having a DPS role instead of a constant pain in the butt role). I started with it to address skele fragility and quite honestly have just about talked myself into going back with it. It’s that important.

:smiley: The combat medic medal is awesome! It allows me to be that bit more selective with Blood of Dreeg, and has allowed me to not feel so bad about losing out on some of the potential heals in the devotion tree. With 12k health the toon can survive most big hits (but not getting hit by more than 1 bolt from Master of Flesh - I think even the toon has nightmares about that fight on Elite when I shut the app down to sleep, lol).

I can craft or know about several potential replacements for Combat Medic, but that reliable 6%+665 and 80 health/second has become a major part of the build’s sustainability. For big fights I need to resummon a few dorks, of course, but only Master of Flesh and the boss in the rift near Ulgrim made me re-summon the whole army (so far anyway).

And watching the skeletons from Raise the Dead hare around the screen to attack new targets is really quite heart-warming. GD can be a grind sometimes but this build has been great in terms of clear speed and sheer enjoyment.

One thing I forgot to highlight in the OP was the role of Blight Fiend’s Rotting Fumes. The massive DA debuff (-212 at level 12) almost certainly accounts for a great deal of DPS gains to the pets in its vicinity. It also helps the toon proc Voidsteel Gauntlets’ Witchblaze special attack, and Witchblaze is one of the main ways of proccing Conjure Black Scourge. It’s a nice little synergy that helps keep the toon at melee range in support of the DPS machine that the pets are.

Hey, you’re preaching to the choir man! I had more than a couple conversations when I dropped Skelemancer build with that medal on it. I think as time goes by, more players will agree with our assessment of it’s value.

It doesn’t bring anything else to the table for summoner we can applaud but what it does bring works perfectly for skeleton users.

I too love rotting fumes for skeleton support. Your use of it with the voidsteel is certainly creative. Props.

I’ve since read your guide - great work! :smiley:

I did a very brief browse before posting but I couldn’t see anyone using Revenant/Raise Dead so I figured must of the stuff I had to say was fairly new or different, but your 73k views and actually reaching level 100 suggests I’m the slow one and should have paid more attention to your build before claiming any particular brilliance on my part. My bad.

I purely lucked into the Combat Medic Mark tech anyway - I picked the normal one in loot and figured “why not?”, fully expecting to substitute it later for something more … resist heavy or beefy? But it has such great synergy with the pets given the melee nature of this build, so it’s always a mass heal. I later found an Empowered cue fistpump.

Thanks! Devil’s Cage Hauberk also fits into this category - I really didn’t write the OP very well in explaining that, did I?

Oh, no, no… I’m not tripping at all! Please don’t take my commentary that way! I’m just genuinely happy to see another skele build go up with similar decision making as mine. It’s very validating to me as I have only ever posted that one build. Especially since you came to the discoveries yourself.

I do wish Raise the Dead would get changed though. That proc really needs to be pet bonus scaled. The fact builds similar to ours are the ones getting posted up using it instead of some wonky caster type builds would seem to be some sort of argument.

Again, gratz man. I like your build! :slight_smile:

What are your thoughts on Ishtak so far in regards to skele support or in general?

TL;DR: For a short while in Elite I dropped the last two points in Ishtak to get to Hungering Void off Dying God. It didn’t take long before I reversed that decision! Also, your build uses a lot more pet procs where I’m going for Vitality damage/health/OA on the toon instead (vitality damage/OA on self = vitality damage/OA on Raise the Dead minions).

Here’s how it influences the build:
I’ve reached level 90 now (@Homestead in Ultimate), but have not changed gear since the OP. So as it stands my pet resists are:
Fire/Cold/Lightning/Pierce: 0 (danger! danger!)
Acid/Poison: 25 (from Ishtak penultimate dot)
Bleeding: 20 (from Ishtak 3rd last dot)
Vitality: 50
Aether: 68 (helped by components)
Chaos: 80 (helped by components)

Without Swampdweller’s Legguards or Ishtak my Acid/Poison resist would be 5%, and the pets would have all 6 primary resists at 0. That’s not great in Ultimate. With Ishtak I can choose different pants at will, and switch to Swampdwellers purely for heavy poison areas (eg “Acts” 1 and 5) or rely on Aspect of the Guardian for temporary poison resistance, of course. Elemental pet resists will probably need some attention as I progress, but I can’t expect 1 constellation to fix all my pet resistances.

Istak’s addition of 900 to base health for a melee 1-hander toon that doesn’t wield a shield is pretty big, so I’ve just crept over 13k health and have only now dropped the blueprint for Enchanted Earth (though I see you’ve used Runebound Topaz instead) and obviously don’t have purple level 90 gear yet because this is now my highest level toon. The 300 Energy made quite a big difference too when I took it - I spam a lot of stuff and Energy is never an issue, even were I to drop the Focussing Prism, and the 3% Spirit means the 10 points I spent in Spirit could have been a lot less. The 3% DA + 4% Total Speed to everyone is tasty gravy.

So all in all, the “rest of the tree” is invaluable to both the toon and the pets, imo. The ability it grants (Nature’s Guardians) is really good - I’ve got it at level 10 now, and 39% damage absorption is definitely noticeable. The enemy mobs tend to just disappear after it triggers - the huge OA boost and flat physical damage bonus to my pets are not to be underestimated, plus it’s another 84 health/second for the pets.

I see it as being all about combinations: the 3 heals (Blood of Dreeg, Combat Medic, Nature’s Guardians’ heal over time), the 6% DA to pets from Staff+Istak, the OA and DA boosts from Nature’s Guardians plus the Blight Fiend’s DA debuff, the Vitality debuffs from Vulnerability and Spectral Wrath, the confuse/terrify from Pretty Great Pants and Blight Burst. These add up to tough pets that hit hard all the time against enemies that don’t fight too well together. Major bosses with broad area elemental effects aside (resists = 0, remember), I don’t find myself re-summoning things much at all. The odd time when my skeletons drop from 8 to 6 in a large brawl where I forgot to use Curse of Frailty or Pet Attack properly, maybe.

I’m not the most careful player in SC (I die to stupidity quite a bit, lol), but with this build I just Chaos Strike in without too much concern for the most part and haven’t died yet in Ultimate (not done Hidden Path [had no dynamite, lol, not gone back but am wary of the poison] or Kalis Ka admittedly). Ultimate so far is way easier than Elite Malmouth was. For eg, Zarthusellen was the last time I needed a mass re-summon, in a fight that took about 20 seconds in total (see: “major enemy with elemental damage area effects”). I re-summoned nothing when slaughtering Krieg, by comparison (think I finished with 7 skellys), and Kilrian didn’t kill even a skeleton (first time I found that guy to be trivial - most of the time I have to kite him around the chamber with other toons)…

But yeah - I think Isthak is key, and is definitely much more important than, say, Tree of Life which is what I would have taken otherwise.

Cool. I’ve been toying with it for another build concept but figured you’d have a superior opinion given it’s place in your setup.

Thanks for the in-depth answer!

Anything to help! :smiley:

No, please no. Raise the dead is perfect as is and shouldn’t be changed. Just because most builds posted on here are unimaginative, doesn’t mean there are no legit non-wonky builds using it to great potential.

Yeah, I went ahead and used it as is anyways. Just to drive home the unimaginative salt.