Picture with Lethal Assault, Pneumatic Breath and Word of Renewal
Last review: Patch 220.127.116.11
Status: improving guide formatting
Yes yes, another beginner cold Infiltrator, this time it’s a Shadow Strike edition. This was a special project for me because with all of the affix and monster infrequent changes I wanted to have a character capable of target-farming them, and that naturally comes to using the mastery with mobility skill. Another reason why it’s special for me is one of my first characters back when I knew nothing about the game was a Shadow Strike Nightblade. Back then I did my best replicating Corvo from Dishonored, which I scrapped because there was (and still is) no offhand that looks like a heart
In anticipation of questions “how does it compare to your Blademaster?” and “how it is for hardcore?” I’ll tell you in advance that I can’t do such comparison because Blademaster was levelled three patches ago and the game was pretty different back then. I don’t even have that exact build at hands anymore. Dummy-test shown a comparable damage output, but Blademaster is more durable and hence can be considered a better, more reliable build.
I’d like to credit master Xervous, I admit I had a look at his Shadow Strike Spellbreaker, even though in the end I decided to foolishly ignore most of this advice, which will probably boomerang at me later on.
This section is for determining skill priorities in the general case. Early game the Levelling section below takes priority, later in the game whenever you don’t know which skills you should improve you come back here.
Max means you’d want as much as possible in a given skill up to hard cap. Keep at X means that you need to add or substract skill points based on whether you have some skill bonuses from gear or not.
- Shadow Strike - max
- Nidalla's Justifiable Ends – max
- Nightfall – max
- Lethal Assault – max
- Night's Chill – max
- Aura of Censure - max
- Veil of Shadow – at least 1 point, but any extra you can spare should go there first
- Pneumatic Breath – keep at 6/12
- Shadow Dance – keep at 12/12
- Elemental Awakening – keep at 6/12
- Breath of Belgothian – 1/1 transmuter
- Word of Renewal – 12/12 is enough, but the more the better
- Dual Blades – 7/16 is enough, but the more the better
- Ring of Steel – one point, devotion proccer
- Ring of Frost – 1/1 transmuter
- Circle of Slaughter – keep at 4/12
- Storm Box of Elgoloth – one point, devotion proccer
- Lightning Tether – one point for better devotion proccing
- Deadly Aim – keep at 12/12
- Inquisitor Seal – max, only for the hardest content
- Vigor – one point
- Execution – one point
- Amarasta's Quick Cut – one point
- Amarasta's Blade Burst– one point
- Storm Box of Elgoloth – one point
- Lightning Tether – one point
- Phantasmal Armor – one point
- Anatomy of Murder – one point
- Merciless Repertoire – one point
Tidehunter is a devotion setup based on Leviathan. The main idea is to provide AoE to the otherwise pretty single target build. With Leviathan being picked it makes most sense to get Rhowan’s Crown and Chariot of the Dead – the former is an important flat resistance reduction constellation and the latter is a useful offensive ability booster with minor healing proc. Murmur is a must pick on any cold build, 4 points into Ghoul for the defensive proc it provides. Bat is picked for sustain reasons – to combat high damage over time effects that are abundant once you step into Ultimate. Note that Bat only makes sense if you’ve already got Gargoyle Waistguard.
Stat-wise this setup is a balance of offensive and defensive ability, and a good array of resistances – both damage and crowd control.
My preferred proc binding is:
Whirling Pool [Leviathan] to Shadow Strike
Rumor [Murmur] to Ring of Steel
Elemental Storm [Rhowan’s Crown] to Amarasta’s Blade Burst
Twin Fang [Bat] to Storm Box of Elgoloth
Wayward Soul [Chariot of the Dead] to any permanent aura
Alternatively you can try binding Whirling Pool to Blade Spirit and Rumor to Shadow Strike – some might argue it’s better because it procs Rumor more reliably due to actual difference of cooldowns between well-invested Shadow Strike and one pointer Ring of Steel. I tested this setup briefly, it works too, and quite good. It is more of a defensive, slow clear setup though due to how Blade Spirits behave in teamfights – you want to go in with Shadow Strike and then fall back to let Blade Spirits activate Whirlpool.
Suggested devotion path:
- Crossroads Purple
- Crossroads Green
- Empty Throre
- Remove Crossroads Purple
- Rhowan's Crown
- Remove Crossroads Green
- Crossroads Blue
- Crossroads Red
- Murmur the Mistress of Rumors (4 pt up to proc)
- Chariot of the Dead
- Remove Hawk
- Remove Crossroads Red
- Ghoul (4 pt up to proc)
- Remove Crossroads Blue
- Remove 1 point from Leviathan like on image above
As the name suggests this devotion setup includes Yugol, but the main idea is actually getting Revenant instead of Rhowan’s Crown. The reason is Revenant gives +10% damage to Undead and 10% less damage from Undead. If you haven’t figured it out yet it’s a specialized setup to farm Alkamos in particular and Steps of Torment in general. You shouldn’t need this setup before you’re level 100.
Yugol is just a well aligned cold constellation with Revenant, so I went for it, otherwise I don’t find it particularly good. As AoE would be very lackluster otherwise I included Amatok with Blizzard proc, which ended up to be pretty good for single target too. The rest is basically the same as Tidehunter setup.
Blizzard [Amatok the Spirit of Winter] to Shadow Strike
Rumor [Murmur] to Ring of Steel
Elemental Storm [Rhowan’s Crown] to Amarasta’s Blade Burst
Twin Fang [Bat] to Storm Box of Elgoloth
Black Blood of Yugol [Yugol, the Insatiable Night] to any permanent aura
Stat-wise it has slightly better offensive ability and slightly worse defensive ability compared to Tidehunter, which is pretty good. The damage resistances are biased to vitality, which I think should work out. The lack of CC resistances, especially stun, is a severe disadvantage of this setup – you will have to fix it with your gear. Well, that said you’ll need freeze resistance the most for Steps of Torment, and you’ll get plenty from suggested faction gear pieces. An accidental specialty of this setup is a crazy amount of % Attack Damage Converted to Health.
The character was levelled through hardcore veteran and elite into ultimate in a close to true self-found mode (there was another infiltrator before this one, RIP). The early levelling was optimized to work reasonably well in veteran mode, but it is under my expectations that you might still have some difficulties, in which case you should reduce the difficulty to normal. There is nothing shameful about it because since patch 1.1.4 veteran mode isn’t something you can faceroll without good knowledge of the game.
The main idea is to open Nightblade and get Amarasta’s Blade Burst (ABB), which provides a nice early AoE clear. You need to invest 1 point per level, until you reach about 8. That’s about how much you can manage without investing anything in energy regen. From 9/16 and above the skill energy cost starts to increase by 4 per point instead of 3, so 8 is a sweet spot.
The weapon you use at that point doesn’t matter much. The easiest would be a rifle. Yes, you heard it right, Amarasta’s Blade Burst works with ranged weapons.
Level 2 - Open Nightblade, 2 points into Amarasta’s Blade Burst
Level 3 – 2 in Nightblade, 1 into Amarasta’s Blade Burst
Level 4 - 2 in Nightblade, 1 into Amarasta’s Blade Burst
Once you hit 5 skill points into Nightblade mastery bar put 1 point into Pneumatic Breath. It’ll save you on healing potions a lot.
Level 5 - 1 in Nightblade, 1 into Amarasta’s Blade Burst, 1 in Pneumatic Breath
Level 6 - 2 in Nightblade, 1 into Amarasta’s Blade Burst
Level 7 - 2 in Nightblade, 1 into Amarasta’s Blade Burst
Once you hit 10 skill points into Nightblade mastery bar put 1 point into Phantasmal Armor. At this point into the game that one point is like having an extra belt slot.
Also Shadow Strike becomes available, but to use it you need a melee weapon. If you have been using a rifle you’ll have to get a 2H weapon for it to work. If you love how it plays with a rifle then there’s nothing wrong with delaying it, but I’ll assume you switched now.
There’s also a free skillpoint from a quest that comes around that point. Put it into Nightblade mastery bar.
Level 8 - 1 into Amarasta’s Blade Burst, 1 into Phantasmal Armor, 1 into Shadow Strike
Your next big goal is to get Ring of Steel and later Ring of Frost. Ring of Steel’s damage is pretty high even with low investment, and the AoE is quite good, which makes it a good skill for levelling. The downside is quite high energy cost though.
Level 9 - 3 in Nightblade
Level 10 – 2 in Nightblade, 1 in Lethal Assault
Level 11 – 3 in Nightblade
Level 12 – 2 in Nightblade, 1 in Ring of Steel
Level 13 – 2 in Nightblade, 1 in Ring of Steel
Level 14 – 2 in Nightblade, 1 in Ring of Frost
Now you have the stuff you need to reach Act 1 boss and the rest of the build is a freestyle. You can try pushing Nightblade mastery for stats, you can invest more into Ring of Steel, you can get more points in Lethal Assault or Pneumatic Breath. Try various stuff.
Devotion-wise I beeline Leviathan with Harpy -> Spider -> Empty Throne -> Quill -> Hawk, but getting a temporary Tsunami or detouring for quick Rhowan’s Crown (Scholar’s Light -> Quill -> Purple Crossroads) is a perfectly fine strategy too, if not straight up more efficient. The reason I haven’t done it this time is because I wanted to keep things simple, leaving small optimizations for you, the reader, to explore yourself.
Once you reach Act 1 boss (which happens at around 18-20 levels) riftgate away from him and respec. You want to get rid of Amarasta’s Blade Burst and invest into Ring of Steel and Shadow Strike instead. The reason is the boss just spams his abilities at you, and on veteran you don’t have a liberty of facetanking him. What makes it even worse is one of his skills is very hard to dodge up close and it’ll debuff your total speed. You don’t want your Amarasta’s Blade Burst to be even slower than it already is, trust me. Which is why the optimal strategy is to Shadow Strike in, use Ring of Steel and back out.
My character at level 20 looked like that:
Near level 20 you’ll get access to Spined Cove, which is the first place into campaign that has ghosts. What you particularly want is two copies of Spectral Longsword. Affixes do not matter.
Skill-wise I recommend to reduce the points in Ring of Steel if you copied my level 20 snapshot if the energy cost ends up to be unbearable. For common enemies you don’t need 16/16, something like 7/16 or 9/16 would be more reasonable. Use the spare points to push Nightblade mastery further, your goal is Nightfall, which would make playing the build much more pleasant.
Aim at the similar skill distribution setup
This level range is where you must consider getting components in your gear. The poor man’s component setup is:
- Chest and Leg armor – Scaled Hide. Very cheap craftable, recipe is known by default. Boosts survivability a great deal.
- Weapons – Coldstone. Somewhat expensive if that's your first playthrough, but still that's something you should get ASAP. Recipe known by default.
- Shoulders – Silk Swatch. A lot of enemies deal some pierce or bleed damage in Act 2 and early Act 3, so this helps.
- Belt – Antivenom Salve. Another easy craftable, recipe known by default.
- Amulet and Medal – Wardstone. Relatively easy craftable, recipe is known by default.
- Helmet – either Antivenom Salve (craftable) or Ectoplasm (grindable from ghosts)
- Rings - whatever
- Gloves – ideally Unholy Inscription, but it's a rare drop you might not get. Use another Antivenom Salve or leave empty
- Boots – Mark of Traveller. Honestly not sure if you can get it in this level span, but if you manage to – use it.
Once you hit 35 first thing you shoud to is to go to Devil’s Crossing Quartermaster and buy yourself a decent Devil’s Chestguard and Devil’s Spaulders. If you also have enough reputation with Homestead buy yourself Harvest Footpads. Optionally get Rhowari Grips or Harvest Grips from Rover and Homestead Quartermasters respectfully. These faction items are super convenient for 35-45 level range, but mid-40’s you should start looking for random drop replacements due to outdated armor rating.
If that’s your first ever playthrough then another thing you should absolutely buy from factions is their mid-level component blueprints as well as relic blueprints. It’s super important and all of your savings from now on should be spent on this.
Somewhere around level 45-50 you will also hit the necessary amount of devotion points for Leviathan, which will make the build much more comfortable to play.
Assuming you already have Nightfall you should get:
- Nidalla's Justifiable Ends. Less cooldown on Shadow Strike = more damage and more fun = very good
- Night's Chill. Cold resistance reduction = more damage = very good
- Lethal Assault. More flat damage and OA = stronger Shadow Strike and autoattacks = very good
Once you got the above finally open Inquisitor mastery and push it as far as possible. Your goal is Aura of Censure.
At level 50 my character looked like that:
From this point it gets very straightforward, because the gear starts playing a more important part than your skill point distribution. You should continue towards Aura of Censure, once you reach 50 in Inquisitor remove all points you have in Ring of Steel and put them into Aura of Censure. Optionally you can get 1 point in Word of Renewal and then get 10/10 Steel Resolve, which is a huge pile of racial damage and rare resistances. If you’re in Malmouth this would be extremely helpful. That’s just another case when it doesn’t really matter what you do with your points if you beeline a long term goal since you can always respec. Try different stuff!
After you got Censure you should get in no particular order:
- Shadow Dance
- Dual Blades at 7/16
- Pneumatic Breath 6/12
- Elemental Awakening 6/12
- Word of Renewal
- Steel Resolve
Level 65 is another point when a bunch of faction gear becomes available. There aren’t particularly impressive pieces except Wendigo Bladed Pauldrons, so it’s fine to use whatever looks ok, I settled on Wendigo Guardian Cuirass from the same vendor.
For 65 to 70 levels your goal should be getting access to Devil’s Crossing and The Black Legion armor augments (require Revered reputation).
At level 70 you can get Elite Devil’s Spaulders which have better armor rating than Wendigo Bladed Spaulders, so I suggest to replace the latter with the former. If by some weird coincidence you’ll end up with maxed out Homestead reputation by 70 or slightly past that then get yourself Elite Harvest Footpads.
This is where you start to polish your build and farm for better gear. The leftover skillpoints are just enough to get either Deadly Aim or Inquisitor’s Seal. I don’t think you need Inquisitor’s Seal for anything but Steps of Torment farming, so if you don’t plan to go there right after you hit 100 (no reason tbh) then get Deadly Aim.
Assuming you’ve capped your reputation with all relevant factions you should get:
- Elite Wendigo Bladed Spaulders from Barrowholm
- Coven Sky Seal (x2) from Coven of Ugdenbog
- Mark of Shadow Queen (expensive craftable medal, recipe sold by Cult of Bysmiel)
- Nightstalker's Pendant (expensive craftable amulet, recipe sold by Cult of Bysmiel)
For gearing other slots you should check the Items and Walkthrough sections of the guide.
Walkthrough, Factions and Farming
In early levels one of the most important things by far is to prioritize armor rating over other stats. 10% extra cold damage or 20 defensive ability won’t save you, having more armor will. This is especially important if you’re playing veteran mode.
Another thing you should keep in mind is if you find it too hard on veteran you can switch to normal without the loss of quest progress and come back to veteran without any loss of progress after you feel like you’re ready. In my opinion it is totally reasonable to play Act 1 on Normal and then switch on veteran for challenge.
In Act 1 definitely do a Slith Ring quest, it’s better than whatever you’ll find for a long time.
After Act 1 you can follow the Emissary through the portal. Your choices are:
- Go through cults storyline until cult selection and pick Cult of Bysmiel, then go north and do the Forgotten Gods campaign till you have Friendly with Dreeg and buy Rift Tear rune from his Quartermaster. Leave FG campaign and proceed to do vanilla one.
- or pick Cult of Dreeg and get Rift Tear right away, proceed into vanilla campaign.
- or leave the cult selection for later and just collect lore notes for a small exp boost.
In Act 2 there would be a Rhowari relic quest where you can either give relic back to Rovers or keep it to yourself. Choose keep it to yourself, it’s a good relic that will solve your energy issues for a while.
Early in vanilla campaign there’s a location called Spined Cove where you can farm your first pair of Spectral Longswords. At this point whatever affixes you get will be fine.
Once you reach Blood Grove riftgate you can find a secret vendor Benevald which sells Spectral Longswords. It is better to get an upgrade from him than farm ghosts for Spectral Longswords.
For the rest of notable vanilla campaign decisions see the Factions section below.
After you do the vanilla campaign you can either proceed into Ashes of Malmouth Campaign or get back to Forgotten Gods campaign. Whichever campaign you do first isn’t that important, but don’t skip to Elite right away unless it’s not your first playthrough. You can temporarily go into Elite up to Act 1 Slith Ring quest to get an upgraded version though, but that’s about it.
Sometimes I see people asking about how should they deal with faction reputation. Do not do bounties on normal, they aren’t worth it. Do not farm reputation on normal, it is unnecessary. But you should go through all of the content on Normal/Veteran to open up all factions and collect reputation from their quests that you manage access to. From some factions (notably Barrowholm and Malmouth Resistance) it is worth it to come later from elite and do their quests you didn’t had access to on Normal/Veteran due to low reputation.
Most of the real faction reputation farming starts at about level 65 on Elite because level 70 is close and you want armor augments. You specifically want to grind Revered with Devil’s Crossing and The Black Legion since I find their augments to be the most useful. Devil’s Crossing also has Survivor’s Ingenuity augment for rings/amulet, and it’s the best you can get until level 90. Another faction you can bring to Revered early is Homested for their Elite Harvest Footpads, but if you won’t be able to do it before you’re well past level 70 then ignore it.
Best way to grind Revered with Devil’s Crossing is doing Cronley runs while only picking bounties that are along this run.
Best way to grind Revered with The Black Legion is to do their bounties. Some are better than the others, but that’s not a topic for one build, figure it out yourself.
Ashes of Malmouth and Forgotten Gods factions you want to grind to Revered just in time for your level 90. Coven of Ugdenbog you can ignore since it’ll probably caps without your input due to their favoured enemies being Beasts. For Barrowholm do all of their quests on normal and elite and then run Bastion of Chaos a few times. For Malmouth Resistance do all of their quests on normal and elite and then just do their bounties. Cults shouldn’t be a problem because you’ll be farming Gargoyle Waistguards in Astral Fields as your pasttime till 90.
Faction choices are:
- Death's Vigil vs Kymon's Chosen – Kymon's Chosen
- The Outcast friend vs foe – doesn't matter
- Barrowholm friend vs foe – friends
- Cult on Normal – Bysmiel or Dreeg
- Cult on Elite – Bysmiel
- Cult on Ultimate – doesn't matter
The reason I suggest Kymon’s Chosen is while the faction gear they offer is equally irrelevant for this build you can farm Malkadarr’s Dreadblade if you side with Chosen, which may be useful for some of the endgame cold infiltrator setups.
Barrowholm is needed for one of their faction items. While missing it won’t be a super big deal on the larger scale of things it would be a suboptimal decision.
The Cults the items you’ll need in endgame all come from Bysmiel Cult, but if you want to get Rift Tear right away then it’s fine to pick Dreeg. This is a rather minor decision on the larger scale of things.
Spectral Longsword – buy them from Benevald using the shop reset gimmick. Farming them the intended way in Steps of Torment turned out to be a rather hopeless enterprise.
Gargoyle Waistguard – farm these in Astral Fields on Elite difficulty (worse than Ultimate but easier). It has a reasonable chance to drop with a nice useful affix with some farming.
Endgame component blueprints – the first option is to run Treasure Troves (I prefer to run the one in Darkvale village on Ultimate since it also has a free dynamite along the road). The second option is to switch to Normal difficulty and go into Shattered Realm to at least shard 20, but the deeper the better. Shattered Realm is good for blueprints but takes time to unlock shards with good yields.
Farming Stormserpent pieces – either run Ultimate or Shattered Realm on normal. Alternatively you can get any other blue set piece your don’t need and use the Transmute (from Cult of the Three Inventor available once you do a quest for him, the Tome of Eanatum one). Transmuting a blue set piece into another random blue set piece is pretty cheap.
- Mythical Cortosian Chestguard - deserves a mention for it's conversion, but otherwise skill bonuses are pretty useless for this build and being a level 82 light armor it's armor rating is rather low. Replace ASAP.
- Any lategame heavy chestguard (Preserver, Redeemer series), look for %cold and resistances
- Murderer's Breastplate - only if you somehow get one with worthwhile affixes
- Mythical High Consillar's Coat - useful skill bonuses, I only got garbage
- Mythical Nighthunter's Chestguard - useful skill bonuses, craftable
- Stormserpent Armor - set item, not as useful as the previous two standalone, reasonable with Stormserpent Mask
- Mythical Stormweave Armor - possible lategame upgrade, craftable
- Morgoneth's Black Heart - possible lategame upgrade, target-farmable
- Any lategame heavy helmet (Preserver, Redeemer series), look for %cold and resistances
- Elite Malmouth Chilling Headguard - faction option, besides that the only redeeming point about it over random green item is that is has cooldown reduction
- Mythical Silver Sentinel's Mask - flat cold, pierce to cold conversion. Unlike chest piece from the same set I think this one is worth using
- Stormserpent Mask - set item, this is what you use if you got Stormserpent Armor too
- Mythical Crown of the Winter King - possible lategame upgrade, craftable
- Horns of Korvaak - possible lategame upgrade, target-farmable
- Morgoneth's Visage - possible lategame upgrade, target-farmable
- Elite Wendigo Bladed Pauldrons - Barrowholm faction gear, this is what you'll be using for a while
- Mythical Chilldread Mantle - possible lategame upgrade
- Morgoneth's Dark Mantle - possible lategame upgrade, target-farmable
- Any lategame heavy pants (Preserver, Redeemer series), look for %cold and resistances
- Mythical Slithscale Legwraps - best in slot
- Mythical Dreadchill Grasp - peculiar for their conversion, the armor rating is pretty low, resistance is only poison and skill bonuses are irrelevant. They aren't worth it imo.
- Any lategame heavy hands (preferably Redeemer series), look for some attack speed, offensive ability and resistances. Yes, you heard it right, I said attack speed. Even if the build is not reliant on autoattacking you'd still sneak them in regularly.
- Mythical Chilling Grip of Hagarrad - peculiar for their conversion, low resistances though, somewhat meh skill bonuses, but skill modifier for Veil of Shadow makes it worth considering over a green with good affixes.
- Morgoneth's Grip - possible lategame upgrade, probably best in slot regardless of whether you're using Morgoneth set or not.
- Any lategame heavy boots (preferably Redeemer series), look for resistances, both damage and CC, movement speed as well
- Mythical Final March - unless you've got some damn good double rare chances are this item is better
- Morgoneth's Step - possible lategame upgrade
- Gargoyle's Waistguard - very good even with modest affixes and definitely best in slot with good ones.
- Coven Sky Seal - faction item, good stats but irrelevant skill bonuses
- Seal of Anubar - +2 to Nightfall, target farmable
- Alkamos' Touch of Anguish and Alkamos' Touch of Dread - a best in slot set of two rings, target- farmable (good luck though!)
- Nightstalker Pendant - faction craftable item, recipe is sold by Cult of Bysmiel vendor
- Mythical Night's Embrace - possible lategame upgrade
- Ellena's Necklace - possible lategame upgrade, with good enough affixes could be best in slot
- Kaisan's Burning Eye - uber affixes only
- Kaisan's Eldritch Eye - uber affixes only
- Mark of the Shadow Queen - faction craftable item, recipe is sold by Cult of Bysmiel vendor. Best in slot for Tidehunter devotion path, still very good medal regardless of devotions
- Mythical Mark of Dark Dreams - possible lategame upgrade, craftable.
- Mythical Undying Oath - possible lategame upgrade
- Deathchill - basic T2 relic, you can't go worse than that lategame. With Gargoyle's Waistguard gives shitton of flat cold damage. Recipe can be bought from Hyram, although he doesn't sale it every time. Nothing some liberal shop grinding can't fix.
- Nemesis - a Nightblade T3 relic. Untested.
- Belgothian's Carnage - a Nightblade T3 relic. Untested.
- Scourge - T3 relic, my current favourite. Scourge Strike is pretty much as strong as 26/16 Shadow Strike. Downside is it doesn't have +1 to all skills in Nightblade
- Serenity - T3 relic, this is what I would had used if I had Ellena's Necklace with uber affixes