Picture with Lethal Assault and Pneumatic Burst up, but no Ascension
Last review: patch 18.104.22.168
Here’s a beginner version of another popular DW melee build. It is meant as a lower end version of the Dervish based on Vileblade Pact set, more commonly known as mythical Venomblade.
Contrary to some of my other builds it is pretty straightforward in how it is levelled, with little to no detours, respecs and other things.
How the build works
There are two kind of builds – those that scale flat damage and those that scale DoT damage. The way they are built is different, and the vast majority of builds have either strong flat damage and small DoT or vice versa. Dervish is unique because he’s firmly in both realms. The focus is on acid damage, but you’re going to end up with high ticks as well. Naturally, you could either emphasize the flat damage part or poison damage part, this build ended up somewhere in-between though.
For a general knowledge on how nightblade procs (WPS) work check here.
For a general knowledge on how DoT builds work check out this thread. It’s outdated about some of the exemplar numbers, but don’t let it bother you.
The only thing I could add is one particular quirk with Nidalla’s Hidden Hand. Nidalla’s Hidden Hand adds poison to three WPS procs, and that poison would stack from each of them, so the actual impact of NHH on your poison ticks is thrice than what it seems.
- Crossroads (green)
- Akeron's Scorpion (bind Scorpion Sting to Amarasta's Blade Burst)
- Eye of the Guardian (bind Guardian's Gaze to Righteous Fervor)
- Crossroads (red)
- Crossroads (blue)
- Murmur the Mistress of Rumors (bind Rumor to Shadow Strike)
- Abomination, everything but rightmost proc node (bind Tainted Eruption to Ring of Steel)
- Revenant (bind Raise Dead to Amarasta's Blade Burst)
- Remove Crossroads (blue)
- Remove Crossroads (red)
- Remove Akeron's Scorpion
- Remove Jackal
- Yugol (bind Black Blood of Yugol to any permanent aura)
- Ulzuin's Torch (first three nodes)
- Shadow Strike. This is the easiest answer. The levelling above is already adopted for this strategy with investment into NJE. It is better to re-bind your Akeron's Scorpion proc to Shadow Strike for this fight since proc chance is higher. Basically just use Shadow Strike on him every time it's off cooldown, then hit him with ABB and back off, repeat. He'll die from poison eventually.
This is what your character should look like following this strategy:
- Face Tank. Yes, it is possible to facetank him to some extent, just requires some over-optimization and it would still be a big annoyance due to his stun and slow. This is a strictly dual wield strategy, because it needs to abuse a 5 sec cooldown Pneumatic Burst with Breath of Belgothian. You'd need about 250 armor rating too, which can be done by putting more points into Phantasmal Armor.
If by some chance you’re already level 20 and can craft at least one Purified Salt the fight would become even easier.
This is what my character looked like using this strategy:
- Grind Moar. The fight with Krieg should become easier with every extra level since past 20 the absurd scaling of veteran starts to break down slowly. If you're the kind of player that loves full clearing everything this is probably in your favor here.
Keep in mind that most of my advice for this level range is for Veteran difficulty, which is rather brutal after patch 22.214.171.124. Due to that I had to change a few things to how I would level a Dervish. Specifically, I recommended to go dual wield from level 2 before, but that was under condition that you can facetank things. You probably wouldn’t be able anymore. While I still recommend to level with Amarasta’s Blade Burst (ABB for short) it is no longer used as simply an extra AoE but as the main nuke instead. Cheese your way with diving in, using ABB and then backing down, repeat once ABB’s cooldown is off. This is now an optimal strategy for completing Act 1 on Veteran until Warden Krieg. On Warden Krieg it breaks down, kinda.
So, first thing is try to get some two-hander. A rifle should be easiest, but a maul would be best damage. Spend your early points like that:
Level 2 – 1 point into Nightblade mastery bar, 2 points into Amarasta’s Blade Burst
Level 3 to 9 – 2 points into Nightblade mastery bar, 1 point into Amarasta’s Blade Burst
Free skillpoint from Kasparov’s quest goes into Phantasmal Armor
Level 10 to 13 – 3 points into Lethal Assault
You’re keeping your ABB equal to your level up to about level 9. 9 points in Amarasta is about how much you can afford with your energy regen.
One thing I’m going to recommend now is every time you come back to sell your loot you should also check the shop for gear pieces with higher armor rating. Even white ones are okay – having higher armor rating at this point is better than some small bonuses to attributes, OA or DA.
Once you have an access to blacksmith you can push your durability higher by crafting Scaled Hide. You’d need Bristly Fur for it which drop from beasts normally, or you can find some pieces in a shop on the Accessories tab. If you can afford to make two Scaled Hides – well done, your durability just jumped amazingly. Put them into chest and leg armor. If you’re level 15 already then also get yourself Antivenom Salve and put it into belt. You can also craft one Resilient Plating and put it into your shoulder armor. Do note the pattern – I’m using components that improve my armor rating and armor absorption.
Level 14 – 2 points into Nightblade mastery bar, 1 point into Pneumatic Burst
Level 15 - 3 points into Nightblade mastery bar
Level 16 – 2 points into Nightblade mastery bar, 1 point into Shadow Strike
Level 17 - 3 points into Nightblade mastery bar
Level 18 - 1 point into Nidalla’s Justifiable Ends, 1 point into Ring of Steel, 1 point into Ring of Frost
Level 19 - 3 points into Nidalla’s Justifiable Ends
Level 20 - 3 points into Nidalla’s Justifiable Ends
So, if you’re level 20 you’re probably about to fight Warden Krieg. I’m unironically calling Warden Krieg the hardest boss on Veteran these days. The scaling is just off – in his second form he has an AoE nuke that will remove half of your hp, you can dodge that easily, but he gets into ranged mode and will start to zone you out, and while you’re closing distance while dodging his projectile barrage his AoE nuke is off cooldown already. He also has a wave nuke with 50% slow.
First do this:
Level 21 – 1 point into Veil of Shadow, 2 points into Night’s Chill
Level 22 - 3 points into Night’s Chill
Level 23 – 3 points into Night’s Chill
Level 24 - 2 points into Night’s Chill, 1 point into Oathkeeper Mastery Bar
Level 25 - 3 points into Oathkeeper Mastery Bar
Level 26 - 1 point into Oathkeeper Mastery Bar, 1 point into Righteous Fervor, 1 point into Dreeg’s Reproach
Why you say? That’s because we’ll be fighting plenty of poison-resistant bastards from now on! Ideally you’d want to stack poison resistance yourself too, since these bastards are also venomous.
The thing you want to have after you’ve reached level 20 is two Vitriolic Gallstones in both of your weapons. Unfortunately, they are pretty expensive to craft, each one requires 4 Mutagenic Ichors. If that’s your first playthrough I don’t expect you to have 8 Ichors by level 20, if you have at least 4 it’s already pretty good.
So, getting Ichors. Despite the name they can drop from pretty much any beast monster, a bit more often from Insectoids. There’s also an alternative way to get them – you can craft three of these just out of one Mutated Scales. These also drop from beast monsters, a bit more common for scalies and insectoids.
Act 2 does have some, but it is much better to make a detour and head into Forgotten Gods campaign first. There are scaly raptors, there are scarabs, there are vipers and there are scorpions. All can drop what you need.
Last but not least, there are two Monster Infrequent items available - Korvan Gaze (best place to farm is Cairan Docks) and Gannar’vakkar’s Sting (a Scorpion boss slightly past Sunbane Oasis, map). Affixes do not really matter that much that early, but skill bonuses and skill modifier would boost your DPS a great deal.
After you get all of the above you can just get back to vanilla campaign. There isn’t really a need to finish Forgotten Gods campaign.
Level 27 - 3 points into Oathkeeper Mastery Bar
Level 28 - 3 points into Oathkeeper Mastery Bar
Level 29 - 3 points into Oathkeeper Mastery Bar
Level 30 - 1 points into Oathkeeper Mastery Bar, 2 points into Consecration
Level 31 - 2 points into Consecration, 1 point into Pneumatic Burst
Level 32 - 3 points into Pneumatic Burst
Level 33 - 1 point into Pneumatic Burst, 2 points into Consecration
Level 34 - 3 points into Consecration
Level 35 – 3 points into Consecration
The idea here is to quickly get some attack speed.
Once you’re level 35 visit Devil’s Crossing Quartermaster and buy Devil’s Cuirass. If you have Respected with Rovers then visit their Quartermaster and buy Rhowari Mantle, otherwise buy Devil’s Shoulderguard from Devil’s Crossing. If you didn’t had much luck with Gannar’vakkar’s Sting you can buy Rhowari Gavel.
You can also buy Gluttony relic blueprint from Devil’s Crossing Quartermaster. It’s pretty good.
If you were playing on Veteran then good news for you – here’s the spot when absurd scaling breaks down and the game becomes more manageable.
Remove all but one point from Amarasta’s Blade Burst, invest 1 point into Dual Blades, Belgothian’s Shears, Amarasta’s Quick Cut, Nidalla’s Hidden Hand and Whirling Death, and the rest goes into Righteous Fervor.
Put one point into Resilience, because we’ll be binding Behemoth’s Giant Blood to it. Then just improve Righteous Fervor to max and push Oathkeeper bar to 50 next.
As you reach level 40 you can get back to your sandy farming grounds and get an upgraded Gannar’vakkar’s Sting and Korvan Gaze.
If you happen to get Honored with Homestead you can buy Harvest Venom Seal
Also, if you’ve reached Malmouth and rescued Hyram you can grind his shop till you buy all T1 and T2 relic blueprints. Ones that are somewhat useful for this build are Blight and Zeal. Both are quite good and about similar in expenses. I advice to be discreet here – the Gluttony you should have been using so far was doing a good job at keeping you alive. I suggest to get Revenant constellation first before you swap out of that relic.
Progression will begin to slow down since you’ll be getting less skillpoints, but on a bright side your character should be tearing everything apart right now.
Get 50 in Oathkeeper, then get 1 point in Summon Guardian of Empyrion, get 1 point into Scion of Dreeg and dump points into Celestial Presence. Then get Path of the Three. This should keep you busy for this level range.
Here you also aim for the upgraded Gannar’vakkar’s Sting and Korvan Gaze, the new version would require level 55. Once you’ve reached this level go and farm some.
Level 65 is very bountiful for most characters, and this Dervish is no exception. If you managed to get at least Respected with Barrowholm (which is pretty easy to do by doing their quest chain and farming Chthonians a bit) then you can buy Wendigo Vile Spaulders and Wendigo Vile Chestguard. You can also buy a blueprint for Malmouth Bladed Waistguard from Malmouth Resistance Quartermaster. Alternatively you can use Dreeg Venomspine Waistguard or even White Lotus, but I find the former to be worse stat-wise and the latter to be overkill (but if you like overkills it’s fine to get). Also, if you have Honored with Cult of Solael, I recommend to get Scorpius Venom augment for your jewelry, and if you have Honored with Cult of Dreeg you need to get Korvan Cactus Powder for your weapons.
You can also get Solael-sect Pants, which is a Monster Infrequent dropped by one of the bosses of Hidden Path questline, but it isn’t that necessary.
Get Shadow Dance to 12/12 and just push Nightblade mastery bar as far as you can. Put 1 point into Merciless Repertoire once it’s available.
Once you’ve reached level 70 get an upgrades for Gannar’vakkar’s Sting and Korvan Gaze as usual. You can farm them on Normal / Veteran, but that is the last tier available on this difficulty.
Since level 70 is the minimum required level for armor augments that’s where I recommend to grind reputation with The Black Legion to Revered. I suggest them because in my opinion they have the best level 70 armor augments - Mankind’s Vigil and Kingsguard Powder.
Levels 76-100 (old)
This level range is more about updating your gear rather than getting new skills. It is a very common mistake to get used to level 65 faction items or epic (blue) items. While their bonuses may be juicy, their armor rating will get outlevelled by enemies, resulting in you dying a lot. It is especially true for chest and leg armor, but head and shoulders are important too. Gloves and boots you could keep a bit behind, but not too much as well. Remember that even if nothing good seems to drop you can craft gear and check out shops.
You can buy Wendigo Claw from Barrowholm by level 84 and the rest of faction gear pieces by level 90. Refer to gear section below to check out details.
My character snapshots:
Here’s the list of suggested endgame gear. When it comes to upgrading my build there are basically three paths you can take:
Misery Dervish in Shattered Realm set. Example by thejabrixone
Mad Queen’s Claw Dervish in Shattered Realm set. Example by ya
There are other Dervish builds like Dunefiend, cold RF Deathmarked or Phantasmal Blades, but I do not consider them an upgrade for this build because they have different playstyle. If you’re interested in all Dervish builds check this post.
- Gannar'vakkar's Sting - a Monster Infrequent, can be farmed from Gannar'vakkar. There are level 20, 40, 55, 70, 84 and 94 versions.
- Wendigo Claw - bought from Barrowholm Quartermaster
- Mad Queen's Claw - used in some Dervish builds, fairly meta, target farmable
- Misery - used in some Dervish builds, fairly meta
- Mythical Fist of the Venomblade - meta upgrade
- Mythical Razor of the Venomblade - meta upgrade
Main and off hand:
- Elite Wendigo Vile Chestguard - bought from Barrowholm Quartermaster
- Mythical Stealth Jacket of the Venomblade - meta upgrade
- Shattered Realm Armor - meta upgrade for Misery/MQC Dervish
- Elite Malmouth Enforcer Headguard - bought from Malmouth Resistance Quartermaster
- (ultimate) Fettan Mask - guaranteed drop, [map](https://www.grimtools.com/map/markers/chests/11734)
- Mythical Cowl of the Venomblade - meta upgrade
- Shattered Realm Mask - meta upgrade for Misery/MQC Dervish
- Elite Wendigo Vile Spaulders - bought from Barrowholm Quartermaster
- Venomtongue Mantle - meta upgrade for Venomblade Dervish
- Shattered Realm Mantle - meta upgrade for Misery/MQC Dervish
- Any lategame heavy leg armor (preferably Redeemer series) that would get your resistances capped (Stonehide should do the trick)
- Mythical Chausses of Barbaros - the usual meta upgrade
- Any lategame heavy hands (preferably Redeemer series) with resistances and attack speed
- Mythical Vilescorn Bracers - random drop, good enough to be best in slot for some builds
- Mythical Iceskorn Talons - meta upgrade for Venomblade Dervish
- Any lategame heavy boots (preferably Redeemer series), with movement speed and resistances
- Mythical Final March - random drop, easy to find, good stats. Often used in finished builds
- Mythical Stonetreaders - meta upgrade
- Malmouth Bladed Girdle - craftable Nightblade belt, recipe bought from Malmouth Resistance
- Mythical Pack of Deadly Means - meta upgrade
- Coven Defender Seal - bought from Coven of Ugdenbog Quartermaster.
- Mythical Widow's Sting - craftable, recipe is a random drop. Farm Benevald's Secret Shop, Treasure Troves or SR on normal or elite. Good enough to be considered in finished builds.
- Mythical Ring of Black Matriarch - meta upgrade
- Deathguard Sigil - meta upgrade
- Ring of Shuroth - meta upgrade
- Coven Darkener Pendant - bought from Coven of Ugdenbog Quartermaster
- Mythical Pestilence of Dreeg - meta upgrade for Venomblade Dervish
- Shattered Ream Ward - meta upgrade for Misery/MQC Dervish
- Mark of Lethal Intents - craftable item, recipe is sold by Cult of Bysmiel vendor
- Blight - T2 relic, good stats and a good freebie skill. It's only fault is being an Occultist relic. Recipe can be bought from Hyram after you rescue him, although he doesn't sale it every time. Visiting him multiple times should do the trick.
- Zeal - T2 relic, good stats. About as good as Blight. Recipe can be bought from Hyram after you rescue him, although he doesn't sale it every time. Visiting him multiple times should do the trick.
- Meditation - a meta offensive T3 Oathkeeper relic
- Nidalla's Outbreak - a meta offensive T3 Nightblade relic
- Serenity - not quite meta but still very much usable defensive T3 relic with +1 to All Skills
In my final setup I used some of the high end components, best way to farm blueprints for them is to run Treasure Troves on Ultimate. The most convenient route is Darkvale, because you get a free dynamite here. You probably can do the same on Elite, but it would require a location with monsters above level 85, so Ugdenbog / Malmouth / Korvan. I admit I haven’t tested it out, but it should work.
While doing the above you’ll get plenty of other blueprints, like ones for Mythical Widow’s Sting and Mythical Alchemist’s Belt.
Blueprints for rare components like Living Armor and Sacred Plating could also be farmed the same way, but they require a level 92 location, so you just can’t get them on Elite that way. And even on Ultimate their chance to drop from Treasure Trove is much lower than blueprints for other components or mythical epics. There’s a high chance to get them dropped from roguelike dungeon’s end chest, but that’s going to be hard w/o a well optimized build in the first place. There’s a cheesy way to get them though – farm shattered realm on normal, try to go up to shards 25-30 and you’ll get your blueprints in a relatively short time.
Ignoring Armor Rating
A great deal of damage you receive from enemies, especially melee ones, is physical damage. Physical damage is mitigated by your armor. Your enemy’s level is adjusted to yours, so it can be said that the higher your level the more damage your enemy does. Your armor rating on the other hand isn’t adjusted automatically – the game expects you to update your gear as pieces with higher armor rating become available. Grim Dawn isn’t like that other game where you can play barbarian in a stat-less robe and still be fine. Here even most tanky builds will become squishy if you neglect armor.
So you say you’re feeling too squishy. What should you do is:
- Open your inventory
- Find Armor Rating, mouseover it for more info
- Check which gear slot has the lowest armor rating
- Try to recall how long ago did you get this piece of gear. If it's more than 10 levels ago then you should look for replacement.
- If you don't remember then get to the shop and check if there are pieces with much more armor rating available. If they are then it's also a sign that you should look for replacement.
- Find a replacement. Craft with blacksmith or check multiple shops.
- Replacement found? Great! Now go back to step 1 and do it again for the next piece.
There needs to be some discretion when putting this to practice. Light and especially caster armor needs to be updated in a timely manner, but when it comes to heavy armor pieces you can afford to be more lax about it. But it doesn’t mean that you should use heavy armor no matter what, no, it isn’t that simple – useful skill bonuses for example take precedence – but with everything else being equal you should prefer heavy armor. Another thing to keep in mind is gear slots aren’t equal – there’s 26% chance for the enemy to hit your chest and only 12% chance for the enemy to hit your boots. Because of that mechanic chest and leg armor require most attention while you can afford to be a little lax with gloves and boots.
If you find yourself killed not in melee but by some spells instead you should check your resistances. It is fairly easy to have high resistances in Grim Dawn, but it is mandatory. Resistances is a stat you should favor on gear above everything but skill points. Early game you may be fine with low resistances, but the importance rises gradually and past level 75 something being uncapped is out of question.
Generally when it comes to enemy spells it’s pretty easy to guess the damage type they do, with a few exceptions. What looks like fire may easily come with hidden physical damage part, so you’d need armor against such spells too (notably explosive aetherial zombies, Sister Crimson and Father Kymon). What looks like aether often comes with fire damage. Chaos is most of the time a package deal with fire or vitality damage as an extra. Gun and crossbow shots and some monsters that shoot pointy things would have piercing damage.
You can have an incredibly fun time trying to figure out what your enemies are capable of (no sarcasm here, I often browse this database), or you can just cap all your resistances and don’t worry. Even a healthy 15-30% overcap is welcome because some enemies can reduce your resistances.
Unlike that other game where stuff is hoarded for high end crafting here you absolutely should use components during levelling. Refusing to do so counts as a self-imposed challenge. Classic, also strategic.
While I’ve seen some people say that components aren’t necessary until later, I disagree wholeheartedly. I always advocated that one should start using components at around level 20-30. Recently I’m moving to the idea that some of the cheap but useful components should be crafted at level 15.
So, what are components for. Components are needed to improve a variety of stats.
For starters, there’s an Increased Armor Absorption stat which is incredibly scarce outside components. I won’t go over how Armor Absorption works, for this you can check the official game guide, it is under Armor Formula section. I’ll simply tell you that it’s very important. You can check your armor absorption if you mouseover your armor rating in stats, the baseline value is 70%. Normally one wants at least 90% later in the game. It can be achieved by using one Scaled Hide in pants and one Ancient Armor Plating in chest. Alternatively you can use one Scaled Hide in shoulders and one Ancient Armor Plating in leg armor. Early on you’ll be fine with just one Scaled Hide in your leg armor.
For amulet and medal you should at the very least use Wardstone. It’s a very cheap components available as soon as you get access to blacksmith. Just using that improves your resistances a great deal.
Early on there isn’t much you can put into rings that would instantly make a difference, but somewhere mid levels Mark of Illusion will start to drop, and this is basically the go to component before you get Bloodied Crystal blueprint.
The belt should use Antivenom Salve, which is available once you get access to blacksmith. It is only replaced very late into the game, usually by Ugdenbog Leather or Spellscorched Plating.
As for the components used in weapons it is entirely build dependent, but the rule of thumb is if you can use a component that has a damage boosting aura matching your main damage type this is what you should be using.
While it is totally possible that I made a mistake in the suggested devotion order, do know that the chance for that is rather low. A chance that it’s an issue on your end is, on the other hand, very high. You can easily make sure if that’s the case with replicating the devotions step by step in Grimtools build calc. If you can do it in grimtools then you should look for the mistake on your actual character.
There are two kinds of common issues:
Not finishing a constellation. Some constellations are very branched out, and if you forget a point then you’d get a roadblock later on. If that’s the case then you’re in luck, because it’s easy to troubleshoot. You just need to carefully check your constellations one by one.
Accidentally putting a point into random constellation. This can happen with accidental missclicks or when you do a respec and don’t complete it. A sure way to know whether this is the case or not is to count the stars in constellations you have, add unspent points and compare to your total. If there’s a stray point in the wrong constellation then the sum should be less than total. Once you know for sure all you need to do is to zoom out and check constellations. Locked constellations are automatically out for obvious reasons. Constellations you get are also out. What’s left is constellations you have unlocked but didn’t get. Here’s the trick – all three of these are actually different in brightness. Locked constellations are dim, those you’ve got access to are medium and those you’ve got at least one point in are brighter. The rest is easy to figure out.
Last thing I would recommend is do this kind of troubleshooting in grimtools calc instead rather than within the game. There’s an option to upload your save file on the left sidebar. Main reason I recommend it is you can zoom out your devotion screen farther than within the game.
Not customizing hotkeys
I’m no good with pianey builds myself, so none of my builds truly are. But I do use custom hotkeys to make my life a bit easier. I mean, come on, the default ones are obviously bad, the thought of remapping them should had at least crossed your mind.
Since I’m a former (low skill) MOBA player myself I prefer my skills on Q-W-E-R. The default mapping for E and R is using energy and health potions respectively. Yes, these are special hotkeys not related to your skill bar. I rewired them to D and F instead.
Most of the modern mice have two side buttons, they are usually called Mouse 4 and Mouse 5 (M4 and M5). You can bind some of the skillbar slots to them. I only use M4, but I’ve seen some players use both M4 and M5. My default usage for M4 is a mobility skill.
Alternatively, other players map one of the skillbar slots to Spacebar (SP) as a default button for mobility skills. Personally I don’t follow this practice.
Next is the wheel. You can actually bind three slots to your wheel – one to pressing it (middle mouse button, MM), one to scrolling it up (WU) and one to scrolling it down (WD). All three of them are camera controls by default, but most people don’t like to mess with the camera except zooming it out to max (there’s a special hotkey for that - NUM3 by default). But anyway, I’m using all three of them. Middle mouse isn’t very convenient, so I avoid using it when possible. Wheel up and down on the other hand are convenient for many skills that do not require precise targeting. Very good examples are War Cry, Pneumatic Burst, Word of Renewal, Blood of Dreeg, Ascension.
Last but not least, there’s an auto-pickup button that is non-mapped by default (it’s intended for gamepads). But you can actually bind it to something and quickly collect loot. I’m using “~” button for that.
And – just in case you missed the in-game tooltip – there’s a second skillbar which you can switch to by pressing Y (by default, it can be remapped as well). It’s main use is to place various permanent buffs and auras here that you need to activate and forget. A typical high level Grim Dawn character got a large array of 4-6 auras that won’t fit on your main skillbar otherwise.
Although admittedly it isn’t very common, but sometimes people ask how good my build is for Crucible, Shattered Realm, etc.
The build is NOT intended for high end challenges. No intended for Gladiator Crucible 150, not intended to climb Shattered Realm on Ultimate up to 60 and not intended to fight superbosses. And I do not provide tips on how to tweak the build to do it. Open Build Compendium, find some of the most recent builds for your class and try to build it.
What you do can expect out of my builds is being able to farm roguelike dungeons on Ultimate, except Tomb of the Heretic and maybe Ancient Grove too.
Grim Dawn is a game about loot, would be silly if you could do everything in stepping stone gear.