This is a guide on how to ascertain whether build needs any specific gear pieces to function. Ideally that’s something to ask the build author about, but some quit the game long ago already while others already have every single legendary stashed.
The guide is example-based, because I felt like it’s an optimal format. It is also a work in progress – there’s room for improvement (suggestions welcome!), but I decided it’s fine enough to post it as is for now.
Conversion is a mechanic that enriches the buildmaking opportunities in Grim Dawn, allowing for wacky builds. The other side of the coin is a large chunk of endgame builds is pretty much impossible to downshift into lower versions, because it is strictly made possible with exotic conversions you won’t find before level cap.
For example, you found a cold Stun Jacks Saboteur build. You’re interested in it, but Stun Jacks are normally mostly lightning, and conversion of lightning to cold is hard to come by. You can play a lightning version instead, but alas, you’ll have to redo the whole devotion setup and Saboteur is no longer a preferred class to get.
That said, having a damage conversion in a build doesn’t mean it’s automatically a no-go for lower levels. Some builds use conversions to optimize damage types rather than being 100% reliant on them. Following with the above Stun Jacks example, some items grant 100% physical to lightning conversion to it, but it isn’t necessary for the build to function.
Examples of builds based on conversions
The build is a tanky caster that relies on converting Devastation and Heart of Wrath to physical damage, which is achieved with Spellscourge Bulwark and global Elemental to Physical conversion on Targo set shoulder and chest armor.
The build somewhat relies on the conversion from the amulet. Somewhat because all builds that convert from physical damage could substitute full conversions from skill modifiers with more common global physical damage conversions found on weapons, weapon components, some amulets and some exclusive skills, but it won’t be easy to get a full conversion that way. Which leads to a question whether you want to play with a converted skill that does 75% of the damage of the non-converted alternative.
Fire is probably the richest damage type for builds that could be played without specific conversions from gear pieces, partially because fire got some of the best offensive devotion procs in the game. They could carry you through the game even if your build is kinda suboptimal.
This is a cold Grenado / Rune of Hagarrad caster. Rune of Hagarrad part is pretty playable without any exotic conversions, Grenado one isn’t. Without gear Grenado should just be dropped altogether. Purifier isn’t the best class for a pure Rune of Hagarrad build though.
Melee and ranged cold builds are quite gear dependent in general (not unplayable on early levels, but the curve is more steep for them). Casters may vary – Rune of Hagarrad trapper or Trozan is easy mode, cold Drain Essence or cold Bone Harvest are less lucky.
Lightning devastation, lightning CT. Needless to say the build relies on conversions a lot. Wind Devil part is playable without gear.
Overall Lightning is second place after fire in the number of builds non-reliable on conversions. One exception that comes to mind is Cyclone-based Eye of Reckoning build, which is easier to play as a fire build until you get the right gear.
Relies on conversion from Conduit as well as global Chaos to Acid conversion from the Venomblade set and Venomtongue Mantle. Difficult to play without gear.
You want a DW acid melee viable on lower levels you go Dervish.
Makes little sense without M. Brutallax, M. Pack of Treacherous Means and to lesser extent Bladetwister Signet. Damage types will be all over the place without them.
Poor man’s DW melee pierce build is Blademaster, DW ranged pierce is Tactician. Infiltrator is pretty possible too if you don’t mind it a bit challenging. Pierce damage classes outside those are exotic.
The build functions by applying a conversion of elemental to vitality to Flame Touched, which is global kind of a conversion. As a result of that the fire, lightning damage from Fire Strike and cold damage from Soul Harvest is converted to vitality for some rather high damage. Without that damage types would be all over the place, resulting in a very ragtag build.
Vitality is the damage type with strong caster builds, and most of the vitality casters are pretty playable without specific gear pieces – vitality builds based around Sigil of Consumption, Corrupted Storm Totem, Bone Harvest, Siphon Souls, Phantasmal Blades, Ravenous Earth. As for melee or ranged – well, won’t say they don’t exist, but you need to know what you’re doing really well.
Another Conduit-based build. The conduit is the only reason why it has to be Reaper, take that away and the build is going to fall apart.
If you’re looking for aether builds that are easy to play out of the box your search would probably end up with Spellbinder. If not out of the box but still easy to gear it would be Krieg Deathknight.
Relies on skill modifiers as well as global conversions to get as much of Aegis damage into chaos as possble. Actually, when it comes to chaos damage builds only a few one are nominally playable out of the box – transmuted FoI, transmuted AAR and Fire Strike Pyromancer (who’s more of a fire/chaos mix without Darkblaze set though), maybe . The rest are builds that heavily rely on conversions from gear.
Weapon Damage-over-Time (DoT) Builds
This is a whole different type of gear dependency not tied to conversions. The way DoT builds often work is like that:
- get a weapon with DoT damage on it
- get a skill with high %weapon damage
- hit with it, profit
The weakness is the first part, obviously. You can’t really find a replacement for a big candle that has 500+ burn per 3 seconds – alternatives simply don’t exist.
Check this build for example. It uses Gutripper – a rifle with 500+ bleeding damage per 3 seconds. Alternatives are somewhere below 200+ bleeding damage per 3 seconds, and they aren’t freebies either.
This is a rather common thing for bleed builds. DoT builds could be roughly divided to weapon-based and spellcasters. Naturally, weapon-based rely on specific gear pieces while spellcasters only need relevant skillpoints, so they have more liberty in this regard. But bleed spellcasters are very off the meta thing, so the vast majority of bleed builds you’d find are weapon-based and thus gear dependent.
Bleed damage aside such builds are not very common at the moment. Burn damage builds are more of a spellcaster thing, most electrocute builds are also spellcasters with a major exception of some Stormreaver-based builds; frostburn, poison and vitality decay are more of a supplementary damage types to their respective non-DoT counterparts.
Proc, counter-proc and auramancer builds
These are very similar since they rather than doing damage with some skills of choice heavily rely on procs. The difference is only how you trigger procs and proc chains. Proc builds get skills that have a tick rate, like Storm Box or Word of Pain. Counter-proc builds either collect on-hit procs or launch proc chains with skills like Counter Strike or Vindictive Flame. Auramancers use auras to launch proc chains.
Naturally a lot of procs are granted by endgame items, which makes reproduction of such build without them very questionable. Here’s an example:
Pretty much a standard auramancer setup – Cataclysm set, Cindertouch, proc Relic, proc rings.
There’s no particular technique to check whether the build is a proc / auramancer build, but they are usually advertised as such.
Similar to proc builds, but these give active skills that play a major part in a build. A relatively good way to check whether the build uses some granted skills is to check the skill panel in Grim Tools. Such skills will have “(Granted by Item)” in their description. Not all granted skills are what makes to breaks the build.
The build uses Touch of Chaos as an default attack replacer, which is granted with a complete Rah’Zin set. Won’t claim the build to be 100% unplayable without it, but it surely loses a lot of it’s luster in this case.
The build uses Obliteration from Mythical Tome of Arcane Wastes as a main skill. Unlike the above case here the build would totally fall apart without it.
Builds that change how the skill works
As of now there are only three cases of this, so it’s easier to simply remember them.
Devastation normally requires caster offhand, but this shield is a single exception. You literally can’t replace it with any other shield because you won’t be able to cast Devastation with it.
Amarasta’s Crusher is unique because it makes Amarasta’s Blade Burst spamable – something that drastically alters the build. There’s cold and acid version, the one above is cold.
Ludrigan set adds cooldown to Panetti’s Replicating Missile, changing it into an electrocute nuke. Obviously, without the set it won’t be the same build anymore.
Shattered Guardian set builds
Shattered Guardian is generic set that suits a large number of builds, so it’s pretty popular. The reason why this set deserves a special mention is because to get a fulll set you need to complete a 60-th shard, which is not going to be very easy, to say the least. You’d probably have most items before you reach there. Commonly used in two cases:
- when specialized items that support the build end up worse in some aspects (like durability)
- when items that support the build simply don't exist
Unfortunately, distinguishing between the two if you don’t know the item pool yourself is impossible. So unless you plan to ask someone to give you a ride into 60-th shard in multiplayer just steer clear of builds based on Shattered Guardian.
It is possible to play with pierce FW in early levels, but since there’s so little support for it the build just falls flat at some point, being unable to progress. SG set covers the lack of support here.
Another build with SG set. Non-retaliation physical Righteous Fervor has no support, so SG set is used instead.
Badge of Mastery builds
A very rare class of builds by now. Badge of Mastery is something people use for the most meme setups that can’t cap the main skill by other means. The reason why it deserves a special mention is chance to craft a Badge of Mastery with +5 to particular skill is about 0.03%. And they aren’t cheap.
This is a build that converts Panetti’s Replicating Missiles to chaos. Since that’s a build with non-existing support Badge of Mastery is taken to boost the main skill.
Similar situation – acid Trozan is achieved via Conduit, but since acid is a damage type completely unsupported by Arcanist Badge of Mastery was used to push main skill to max level.
Retaliation and Retal-to-Attack (RtA) builds
Most of retaliation bonuses come from gear rather than skills or devotions, both flat values and %bonuses. In an endgame retaliation build masteries make up about 10% of total bonuses, devotions probably 10% more, the rest is gear. Because of that retaliation could be viewed as very gear dependent playstyle.
A pretty standard physical retaliation Warlord. Most of gear pieces have 1 or 2 alternatives, some of them are only available at higher levels too. Technically you could stack greens with “of Thorns” and “of Blades” affixes, so that build is playable on early levels, albeit only nominally.
This is a lightning retaliation build based on Mythical Dawnbreaker set. Unlike the Warlord above, Savagery doesn’t have intrinsic RtA stat. Moreover, while physical retaliation could be collected from affixes, skills and devotions, lightning retaliation can’t – it basically doesn’t exist outside of narrow selection of gear, most of which is endgame.
Below are several builds with explanation hidden. Check out the build and decide whether it’s easy to play without specific gear pieces or not, then compare it against my explanation.
Gear dependent – needs the helm to convert physical to aether and two Dreadfire daggers to convert fire to aether globally.
Gear dependent – the build is based on Deathguard set, which converts Bone Harvest to acid.
Normal build, a pretty good caster for beginners in fact. Conversion of chaos to fire to Blackwater Cocktail is mostly irrelevant because it’s a burn damage build, conversion of physical to fire to Judgment is very nice, but not a must have for the build to function.
Normal build. An elementalist version of Primal Strike, could had also been Warder, Conjurer or Druid. One of the most beginner friendly builds.
Gear dependent. The build is basically a proc/counter proc tank, so while Blood Knight set doesn’t gives all that much to Counter Strike (the most comes from the green shield) it provides the Bloodbathed and Nazaran pseudo-pets, which are quite a significant part of the build’s DPS.
All of the builds provided as examples are purely a theorycrafted work and weren’t tested, so don’t ask me about them.