After the initial topic was posted here Top 20 Softcore builds in Grim Dawn (An Opinion) - Grim Dawn / Classes, Skills and Builds - Crate Entertainment Forum, there were few comments in both forum’s thread and on Reddit. People asked if it’s possible to include tips for beginners regarding these builds. Some of the classes already have similar starter guides, some don’t have, and few are really impossible to be leveled in same way as their end game versions. In this thread I want to link existing guides to matching builds, add tips and maybe in future budget versions of builds. I would appreciate any help in this endeavour. But for now, it’s my pet project (no pun intended). I hope this topic can help starting players or people who will start GD after time and see the other thread.
Top 20 builds
1. Avenger Archon
This is build focused around Avenger set, which deals physical damage and uses the set own’s 2H weapon. For leveling/budget setup your core item is Troll’s Bonecrusher, farmed from the giant troll enemies (you can’t miss them). The weapon converts lightning damage to physical to Savagery skill. Also, mod to Feral Hunger, which will grant you the much-needed AoE damage.
Skill-wise after farming weapon, you should max Savagery, Feral Hunger, Might of Boar and eventually max Brute Force (flat damage would convert to physical to Savagery after all). But it would be really helpful if you progress in Oathkeeper’s mastery bar and reach the end of it, so you can grab Divine Mandate exclusive skill and Celestial Presence for - resitance reduction. 1 point in Vire and second node with help with movement/procing.
Devotion: start with Assassin’s Mark and put it on Savagery. After that work your way to Kraken and Dire Bear (maul).
Here’s the excellent guide by The Coyote.
2. Gutsmasher EoR Warlord
Since this build uses random drop weapon - Gutsmasher and end game set Warborn, it’s not that easy to gear up. But if you want to replicate it, you can level up with any 2H physical weapon (with no conversion to x or armor piercing) and focus around native physical part of EoR and weapon damage. Finding MI items with elemental to physical conversion would be beneficial. I would also look for ways to increase attack speed for such build with gear, devotions and Squad Tactics. Devotions priorities are similar to the Archon.
Here’s level 100 budget DW physical EoR by tqFan.
You can also check beginner’s compendium for Warlord class guides, using different skill.
3. Spellscourge Battlemage
This one is a bit tricky. Physical Devastation is supported only by the set shield and off-hand version would be extremely weak and inefficient. I would instead focus on the other main skill - Blade Arc. BA is excellent leveling skill and is supported by number of MI items, like Korvan casque helmet, Sandclaw Slicer weapon, Kalis’Ka shield and even Cronley ring. Leveling with shield would be truer to the original build but you can also opt to use 2H melee weapon instead.
Skills: Max Blade Arc and Laceration and focus early on Soldier bar, Oleron Rage is nice exclusive skill, also Field Command and Squad Tactics and without the set, you should take Break Morale for flat resistance reduction.
Devotions: Assassin’s Mark is absolutely top priority. After that you can take Turtle and Dire Bear and start a zoo.
*Disclaimer: without Spellscourge set as end game target, it makes little to no sense to play physical Battlemage, since Arcanist won’t contribute much.
You can also check The Coyote’s guide with shield, using Cadence/Forcewave and Blitz.
4. Acid RtA Aegis Spam Sentinel
Key items for this build are: Sentinel of three set (on Sentinel class if you can believe that) and conduit of Divine Whispers with Aegis mod, which removes the cooldown and makes the skill spamable. If you want to stay close to this build (since it’s impossible to level with spam Aegis) you can focus on acid Aegis or even Acid retal Aegis. There are few green MI items with mods: Ravna’s Claw weapon, Ronaprix’s sting amulet and Basilisk Fang medal. Basically kill spider, bee and serpent bosses and you can gear up nice Aegis Sentinel.
These are the two acid beginner guides on the forum. Mine uses Aegis but it’s pretty old. TqFan’s is using Dreeg’s. Mine is pretty outdated sadly. If you want to level with retal added to attack use the devotions from the end game setup.
Also you can check Rektbyprotoss and acid retal using Perdition set. Sentinel - Perdition acid retalitaion - YouTube
5. Evoker Vindicator
Lightning build focused around that Evoker weapon. Since it’s purple L94 weapon, you can’t level with it. The 2H green weapon is Sparkthrower but it boosts Primal Strike and not Savagery. You can level with PS or simply use the weapon (preferably with attack speed suffix) and still use Savagery combined with WPS skill, which can’t be used with Primal Strike btw.
Devotions: Widow/Kraken/Hydra is your deadly trio of devotions for taking early/mid game, also Revenant. For defense you can take Turtle and/or Ghoul. Finally you have options for lightning based devotions. In his end game setup Eard took Tempest and Korvaak.
Also check my Vindicator (caster) guide with outdated 2H PS version at the bottom.
6. Demonslayer vitality PB Reaper
Vitality Phantasmal Blade Reaper is pretty cool. And finally, a build which can be played the same way from the beginning till the end with superb guide written by Stupid Dragon!
7. Physical FW 2h Warlord
Since the end game uses MI weapon - Obsidian Cleaver, it’s easy to play self-found and use the build for leveling the same way as end game setup. Link to the great guide by The Coyote.
8. Demonslayer Trickster
This is vitality/bleeding hybrid, instead of pre vitality like the Reaper. You can still level it as pure vitality with Spectral Arbalest and using the Stupid Dragon’s Reaper guide. But you can also level with bleeding Blades with Packla’s Visage helmet, Viper Hemorrhager ranged weapon and add vitality mod with Groble Death Effigy.
You can also check this link for tips from Stupid Dragon for leveling bleeding trickster with same shield as the end game build.
[188.8.131.52] Bleed Me a River: 4:30 Crucible Gladiator 150-170, Shard 100, Ravager facetank, All Celestials bleeding hybrid Trickster by mad_lee [vid][g4][everything+] - Grim Dawn / Classes, Skills and Builds - Crate Entertainment Forum
And video playlist as well.
Beginner SSF Trickster - Bleed Spirits - YouTube
9. Vitality Ravenous Earth Oppressor
You can check my guide:
Think it’s written pre-Magi Visage was added mod to Ravenous Earth. But with this helmet and Bonespike it’s pretty easy to gear cheap, yet powerful vitality caster. I recommend using devotions from Lee’s end game setup. For any vitality caster you should take Bat>Wendigo>Scales>Rattosh>Dying God devotions (recommended in this order).
10. Lightning/Acid RtA Grasping Vines Archon
And we hit the first bump on the road. And it’s major one. The needed items with skill modifiers are only end game items. Actually, the only MI item with Vines skill mods is Groble Sand Effigy, which is for vitality/bleeding damage builds. Furthermore, leveling with retal characters isn’t optimal, so I wouldn’t recommend Vines without the end game skill modifiers. For leveling with Vines, I suggest combining it with Swarm for vitality/bleeding caster.
11. Aether Phantasmal Blades Reaper
This build is powered by Nightblade conduit, which converts phantasmal blades damage to aether. You can level with vitality blades using the posted guide above for Reaper. If you want to level with aether you can still use Blaze Heral weapons, although you don’t have spamming skills (PB would be weak with no conversion and mods) but you have few options. Rotation caster with Ravenous Earth or melee using Theodin weapon for instance and 1x Blaze Herald weapon.
12. Avenger 2H physical Warder
The baby brother of the Avenger Archon. You can still use Savagery with the Troll Bonecrusher but there’s also more interesting option.
Voldrak’s weapon boosts Cadence skill, have mod to Mogdrogen’s pact and health regen, like the Avenger’s set.
In forum there’s guide with this weapon by Ulvar1: [184.108.40.206] Voldrakia : budget Two-Handed Cadence Warder from scratch (SR65+) - Grim Dawn / Classes, Skills and Builds - Crate Entertainment Forum
13. Harbinger Conjurer
Big swing and miss. This build is only possible for end game setup. You need the conduit, which converts Savagery damage to chaos and full Harbinger set. For leveling/budget setup you don’t have any natural synergy at all. You can level with alternative methods if you have the necessary gear like vitality caster or pets. Or you can level with ranged Savagery but lightning damage. For leveling with chaos gun, you can check this sketch for vitality/chaos PS and Sigils from tqFna.
Conjurer, Level 100 (GD 220.127.116.11) - Grim Dawn Build Calculator (grimtools.com)
14. 2H physical Blade Arc Death Knight
One of the easiest to gear budget setup. You have Korvan Halberd weapon, Mogara amulet, Balthazar’s medal and Cronley’s rings green target farmable items. There’s guide for this exact build by Stupid Dragon.
Build focused on physical Devastation. Unfortunately you need set’s shield and can’t level in similar fashion. For physical build you can use Sandclaw Slicers. There’s guide for Oppressor posted, you can adjust it to Templar and take basic support from Arcanist like Mirror, Maiven, Inner Focus, etc.
16.Lightning RtA Aegis Archon
It’s again only end game possible build. You need the build defining Conduit of Divine Whispers, removing the cooldown from Aegis. And also Skybreach shield, Scion of Burning Vengeance pistol and Dawnshard’s helmet. For leveling it’s hard to recommend leveling with lightning retal, although for Archon is possible. It’s possible to level with fire damage (with some retal) using Colossal Defender MI shield but it would still be different build.
17.Phyiscal Blitz S&B Warlord
One of the more beginner-friendly builds on this chart, since the core items are target farmable monster infrequent (MI) items. This includes the Warden Krieg’s Fortress shield, Milton casque helmet, Bloodbriar’s amulet, Wendigo Glare’s medal and Bargoll’s Root weapon. If I am about to start as beginner, it would be one of my two top choices alongside Ravenous Earth. You can check the following guides:
Rekt’s playlist Beginner SSF Warlord - Physical Blitz - YouTube
And Coyote’s guide for Cadence/Blitz Witchblade and make minor adjustments for the Warlord class.
Beginner SSF Warlord - Physical Blitz - YouTube
18. Physical DW Ranged RF Warlord
This excellent ranged Warlord using 2x Viper Sandpitter pistols, which are target farmable and can be used for leveling. If you want to dual-wield pistols you need item to enable that. Early items are Gunslinger Talisman relic and Gunslinger Jacket chest.
You can also check the end game version for excellent devotion map. For every physical build, you need to start with Assassin’s devotion. You also should take Hydra for ranged characters. Turtle and Ghoul are early devotions, extremely useful. Also maul for shredding armor and extra sustain and Scales for flat resistance reduction.
You can also check the gear I’ve used for my budget DW pistols Paladin with same weapons.
19. Vitality DW Ranged RF Oppressor
Build using 2x purple Gargabol’s pistols. Target farmable weapons but low chance to drop and you need two of them. The other key item is Crown of Revenant King.
For leveling you can use Bloodsworn repeater pistol and later Udgenbog Howler but both are not really suitable for DW ranged auto-attacker. Bolvar’s amulet and Namadea medal are used in the end game version and are pretty good for leveling as well.
Extra information about leveling this build and gunslingers in general, please check this detailed explanation by Gaurhoth here. How to level top 20 (softcore) builds in Grim Dawn topic - WiP - Grim Dawn / Classes, Skills and Builds - Crate Entertainment Forum
20. Trozan Druid/s
Trozan Druid is one of all-time classics in GD. For experienced self-found players Nofika’s version is excellent, cause it doesn’t contain any green items and doesn’t demand specific affixes. For any beginner you want farmable items though. Luckily you can use Rolderathis off-hand.
For guides, you can check Monceaux Trozan Warlock and adjust it to Druid. From Shaman side, you just need Wind Devils nodes and Mogdrogen’s Pact skill line. [18.104.22.168][Guide] Trozan’s Ice Shards - A cold Warlock Beginner Guide - Grim Dawn / Classes, Skills and Builds - Crate Entertainment Forum
- Honorable Mentions -
Vitality EoR Oppressor. Check the official build thread, there are few comments discussing leveling. [22.214.171.124]: The Oppressor: 4:20 Crucible, Shard 90, Celestials, the ultimate vitality EoR Oppressor by mad_lee - Grim Dawn / Classes, Skills and Builds - Crate Entertainment Forum
Physical AAR Templar. Check guide about physical AAR Battlemage or fire AAR Templar. [126.96.36.199 / update: 188.8.131.52] Budget physical AAR Battlemage - Grim Dawn / Classes, Skills and Builds - Crate Entertainment Forum
[184.108.40.206] Beginner’s Scorching Ray Templar - Grim Dawn / Classes, Skills and Builds - Crate Entertainment Forum
Diviner Spellbinder. You have few guides for this class, you can check. [220.127.116.11] Semi-beginner target-farmable Outcast Spellbinder → How to farm/ Crucible 5:15/ SR 100/ Ravager + Mogdrogen/ safe 75-76sr farmer - Grim Dawn / Classes, Skills and Builds - Crate Entertainment Forum [18.104.22.168] Beginner’s Albrecht’s Aether Ray Spellbinder - Grim Dawn / Classes, Skills and Builds - Crate Entertainment Forum [Caster] Beginner’s Nephrite Spellbinder - Grim Dawn / Classes, Skills and Builds - Crate Entertainment Forum
Dunefiend Dervish. Since the build is mix between Shadow Strike and Eye of Reckoning acid/poison damage, you can check SS Witch Hunter guide and EoR Dervish. [22.214.171.124-126.96.36.199] Beginner’s Acid Shadow Strike Witch Hunter Guide - Grim Dawn / Classes, Skills and Builds - Crate Entertainment Forum [188.8.131.52] Dreeg’s Dreidel - 2H Acid EoR Dervish - Beginner friendly MC farmer! - Grim Dawn / Classes, Skills and Builds - Crate Entertainment Forum
Belgothian Blademaster. Easy to gear build with Dermapteran Slicers and they drop in abundance. [184.108.40.206] Beginner’s Forgotten Blademaster - Grim Dawn / Classes, Skills and Builds - Crate Entertainment Forum
Dark One Ritualist/Valguur Ritualist. You can check my guide for vitality Ravenous Earth Ritualist. One of the recommended builds for starting players. [220.127.116.11] Beginner’s Ravenous Earth Ritualist - suitable for first character - Grim Dawn / Classes, Skills and Builds - Crate Entertainment Forum
Fire Flames of Ignaffar Paladin. Maybe we’ll see beginners guides posted in future. For now all I can offer is my old budget setup for fire FoI Purifier.
Purifier, Level 100 (GD 18.104.22.168) - Grim Dawn Build Calculator (grimtools.com)
Warborn Death Knight/Warlord. Warborn set support both DK and WL classes and can be used either as Dual wield or with shield. Here’s guide for shield Warlord. [22.214.171.124 - 126.96.36.199] Budget Physical Cadence S&B Warlord - Grim Dawn / Classes, Skills and Builds - Crate Entertainment Forum
Octavius Paladin. You can level with Aegis of Menhir skill but without Octavius set and gloves Inquisitor isn’t great support class for physical damage. You can ofc level with fire Aegis. Guide for that: [188.8.131.52] Fire Shield Throw Paladin from scratch - build journal and guide - Grim Dawn / Classes, Skills and Builds - Crate Entertainment Forum
Pierce RtA Aegis Dervish. This is only end game possible build. I can suggest leveling with acid damage. But if you want pierce, you can try using Rigteous Fervor skill + Nightblade based weapon pool skills (WPS)
Cold Morgoneth 2H/DW Reaper. For 2H version you need target-farmable weapon with low chance to drop - Soulrend. DW version have easier weapons to be farmed - Malkadarr swords and Spectral Battle Axes. Most of the cold DW guides are similar, you can check mine about Sabo, which is also good option btw. [184.108.40.206] Beginner’s Cold Dual Wield Melee Saboteur - the journey! - Grim Dawn / Classes, Skills and Builds - Crate Entertainment Forum
Vanquisher Templar. You can level with Vire’s Might from the beginning using Zarthuzellan’s archive off-hand. Vanq set is target farmable, each piece drop from specific dungeon but extremely low drop rate.
Fire Forcewave Commando. Build, which is hard for gearing. SharZul weapon have extremely low chance to drop from the boss with same name. And you need Justicar set. For leveling/budget build I can suggest Sunherald’s Claymore for weapon.
Cyclone Archon. Build using Cyclone set using Eye of Reckoning and Wind Devil skills. For Lightning EoR you can go DW or with off-hand with fire to lightning conversion. TqFan’s sketch for this build. Archon, Level 100 (GD 220.127.116.11) - Grim Dawn Build Calculator (grimtools.com)
- Beginner compendium for additional guides: Beginner build guides Compendium (for AoM + FG expansions) - Classes, Skills and Builds - Crate Entertainment Forum
- My collection of beginner builds and sketches: Nery’s beginner builds collection - Grim Dawn / Classes, Skills and Builds - Crate Entertainment Forum
- Carnival of animals, Maya’s extensive guide about pets: The Carnival - A Guide to Pets - Grim Dawn / Classes, Skills and Builds - Crate Entertainment Forum
- Guide about devotions, since it’s own of the more complex mechanics in Grim Dawn. Important thing to know for any new player is the fact devotions can sustain themselves (their affinity cost) and you can remove points via spirit guides, first one is in Devil’s Crossing. Devotions: A how-to on maximizing them - Grim Dawn / Guides and Tutorials - Crate Entertainment Forum
- Baseline stats for your end game character. Should help you for what to aim after you reach max level. Guide: Recommended stats for end game - Grim Dawn / Guides and Tutorials - Crate Entertainment Forum
- Guide about speed-leveling Companion Guide to RektbyProtoss’s Alt Speed-leveling videos - Grim Dawn / Guides and Tutorials - Crate Entertainment Forum
- Suggestions/tips for new players from @Dilrakai (direct quote)
Main suggestion, a preface, hidden behind one of the fancy drop down thingys :: Links and basic information that underly the foundations of ANY new player’s journey ::
- Have fun, explore, play, kill, it is your game!
- GT, GI, Rainbow, IA (steer them away from GDStash, some people cannot handle it) & NX’s Discord
- A link to the Carnival since pets got left out from the top 20, but has everything I mention (mostly) and more for any aspiring petmancer
- Components exist!
- For true first toons, a mention of Hevill, Francis, Olman, and Ghavlin (maybe too much detail, just ‘Open Everything, Blow up Everything!’
- Augments are 40 / 65 rings/weapons (Honored), 70 / 90 All slots (Revered), for altaholics, Clarity too
- Pick a damage type and stick with it (or change 100% if you do not like it)
- Side quests give Faction
- Only Masteries are set in stone (how / where to respec, and the basics of self sustaining devotions, removing stepping stone devotions, Crossroads, etc.)
- Basics of attributes :: most first toons will be 80+ Physique, mention of Cunning / Spirit dump if any of the top 20 utilize it
- RR is your friend (lesson 1) :: basics of skills and devotions, not the whole spiel, but not to ignore skills that do no damage but lower resists
- Resists, and the cheapest ways to get them (Silk Swatch, Soul Shard, Antivenom Salve, Wardstone, Black Tallow, Aether Shard)
- The importance of Faction (and Faction gear), and that neither the Cult, nor DV/KC will really ‘break’ the game (particularly the cults), no need to start a new toon
- How blueprints work and how to search for what you want, e.g., you can search for resistance or damage
- Crafting (lesson 1) :: smith crafting bonuses (Angrim!), and the general value of crafted items, +2-4% armor or physique can make a huge difference, and if you have a piece of gear you cannot upgrade, check the blacksmith
- Stealing from the rovers in chapter 2 (250 faction, bah for a Level 18 relic with Mana Infusion)
- How Writs work (right click them, and stop trying to buy Mandates at Revered and using them)
- Dynamite is craftable (guilty of that myself occasionally when I take a break)
- Gear is transitory until at least 50, when you might start getting things that last 10+ levels
- Honored faction quests (go back for a juicy quest when you hit Honored)
Advanced topics at level 75-94 ::
- Knowing what items to use for patching resists (never sell pants with good resists - does not break sets)
- Transmuting (how to farm an entire set from the blueprint)
- Late Game Blacksmiths :: Necropolis (recommended) and Tyrant’s hold / Tomb of Herald Mathis (not recommended)
- Crafting (lesson 2) :: Always check if an item is craftable even if it drops (some Helms, Windshear, etc.), target farm the right blacksmith bonus for what your build needs (and beyond the scope of the Top 20, when weighing two options that are ~equal, but one is craftable, consider that)
- Links to the farming route guide, Trove farming, Totem routes, etc. for mid-late game blueprint / rare component / item farming before endgame
- RR is your friend (lesson 2) :: links to the RR order / calculation
- Links to the defense in depth calculation, value of Phys Resist / Damage Absorb
- SR / Cruci and what they can do for you (cost you your job due to a deep addiction)
- Vendor farming (particularly SK dungeons… and how Benevald you can just teleport away, visit another vendor, teleport back… doh)
I want to thank @tqFan for his massive help for this guide. Also credit to @The_Coyote and their links and to @Gaurhoth for their detailed information regarding ranged characters. Massive gratitude to all forum members posting the guides, I’ve linked and to @banana_peel for writing top 20 (softcore) builds thread. And finally, thanks for people reading this topic!