How to make your own Gladiator: a guide

How to make your own Gladiator: a guide

>>> Russian translation <<< (Google Drive don’t understand PDF bookmarks, so better download the guide in order to use the document navigation)
Last update: 2018/07/26

As said many times before, probably the most challenging game mode in Grim Dawn is Gladiator crucible. It is also very rewarding, in a single run of waves 150-170 (taking 10-15 minutes) you get ~10 legendaries, lots of iron bits and huge pack of rare green items. © Zhuugus
But in exchange, you must adjust your character to deal enough damage to crowds of monsters and be able to survive.

So, this leads us to thought: the character aiming for Crucible farming must have certain parameters, let’s call it “todo-checklist”.

It’s easy to guess that your global 2 characteristics are Damage output and Survivability.
Both are irreplaceable and lack in Damage output or Survivability closes the further farming route.

I. Damage output

The first thing you’re looking for is damage.
It’s obvious that without damage you can’t kill enemies quickly before getting killed. However, the damage stacking in this game is not so obvious. I often receive questions like “How did you achieve 1 million crits while weapon damage is only 22000?”. It’s time to stop the misunderstanding.
For ease of understanding I’ll do all calculations in Base damage before any % bonuses are applied, you can see the base damage of any skill in Grimtools. % bonuses are only counted in last step of my calculation.

  1. [li]Choose one or maximum two damage types to focus on them.[/li]Mixed damage is a direct way to die in Crucible. Mixed damage means you can’t stack enough % bonuses with gear, you need to pick up multiple Resistance Reduction devotions, you can’t pick up defensive devotions because all devo points are spent. However, there are many class combos that can make it with 2 linked damage types, for example, Cold+Lightning (Trozan’s Sky Shard), Fire+Chaos (Fire Strike) etc. And one that can make it with 3 damage types, it’s Elemental damage type containing Fire, Cold and Lightning. In other cases mixed damage type is most likely bad idea.
    This step also includes selecting Resistance Reduction to your damage type, including special constellations. If you go for Aether or Lightning damage, the Widow is must have; elemental builds should always take Rhowan’s Crown, as well as separate Fire, Cold and Lightning builds; Fire and/or Chaos builds must take Solael’s Witchblade; Poison and Cold builds should take Murmur etc.
    Good gladiators oftenly have 130-150% RR to their damage type. Mid-tier gladiators have ~100% rr. It’s the edge if you deal any magic damage.
    Physical and Pierce based characters should aim for ~80-90% rr, it’s specific to these damage types since they don’t have more sources of RR.
    Keep in mind that classes containing resistance reduction skills (to your damage type) in both masteries vastly outperform combinations with only one resistance reductions skill available. For example, Nightblade + Inquisitor both have Pierce RR skills (Night’s Chill and Death Sentence), so this class combo will most probably outperform pierce Nightblade + Soldier because Soldier doesn’t have skills with Pierce RR.

    [li]Any build aimed for Crucible must have both single-target and multi-target offensive potential.[/li]=> Quick summary: top-tier gladiators deal > 750k damage to multiple targets and around 500k to single target per second.
    Saying “to multiple targets” i mean damage that can be dealt through both AoE (like Devastation hitting all targets in its radius) and simply hitting many targets (Cadence + Fighting Form, Feral Hunger).
    Classic Soldier based shield-wielding Gladiators have Cadence to deal with single target and Blitz+Blindside to deal with crowds, because Blitz hits 8 targets. Soldier-based Gladiators wielding two-handed massive weapons oftenly use transmuted Forcewave as main skill because it provides good damage for both AoE and single-target. Arcanist based gladiators use Devastation as AoE and transmuted Callidor’s Tempest as a nuke with both single and AoE potential. Inquisitor based gladiators shred Crucible with Rune of Hagarrad as both single-target and AoE skill.

    [li]Choose the damaging skills wisely.[/li]Damage in Grim Dawn is dealt by skills.
    They can be split to 2 large groups: Weapon Damage based (%WD) and Raw Damage based skills.
    Weapon Damage based skills naturally include Weapon Damage, these are mostly used by melee and ranged characters. Example: majority of Soldier skills (Cadence, Forcewave, Blitz, Blade Arc) deal Weapon Damage.
    Raw Damage based skills are mostly used by casters. Example: majority of Arcanist skills (Panetti’s Replicating Missile, Trozan’s Sky Shard, Albrecht’s Aether Ray, Devastation) do not deal Weapon Damage, they deal Raw damage.
    => Quick remark: you can find gear modifiers granting % Weapon Damage to Raw Damage based skills too. They are pretty useful.
    If you like some skill, make some math, look how much base damage it does and choose for yourself, what skill will become the core of your build.

    Weapon damage based skills
    Cadence (Soldier) deals 500% Weapon Damage and 300 flat physical damage on 26/16. If you are equipped with one-handed weapon, its base damage will most likely be 500 if you equip proper items. Cadence with that math will hit for ((500 flat * 500% Weapon Damage) + 300 flat) = 2800 flat damage. This skill become even more powerful if you equip the Two-Handed weapon, these weapons provide around 800 flat damage with proper gear.
    This works little different with charged auto-attack replacers and weapon pool skills (WPS).
    For example, Fire Strike (Demolitionist) deals 132% weapon damage on 22/12. If you have WPS skills like Bursting Round having 165% Weapon Damage, their damage are multiplied. Bursting Round shot with Fire Strike will deal (132%*165%) = 217% weapon damage, so you need to adjust your maths accordingly.
    Same for Savagery (Shaman): 26/16 Savagery with two-handed weapon and transmuter will boost 175% of Feral Hunger WPS to (165% weapon damage * 120% charges * 118% transmuter * 175% Feral Hunger) = 408% Weapon Damage hitting 5 targets.

    Raw damage based skills
    Trozan’s Sky Shard (Arcanist) have 3 projectiles with (367 cold + (208 to 306) lightning) = 575-673 total damage for each projectile. This means 1725-2019 base damage for the entire skill at level 26/16. Doom Bolt (Occultist) does nearly the same: (938 vitality + 1288 chaos) = 2226 total base damage at 26/16. These skills are very strong and you can take them as the core skills.
    In opposite, Grasping Vines (Shaman) deal only (167 physical + 167 bleeding) = 334 base damage per second and you actually can’t build your character around it to successfully farm Crucible, it can be taken for additional Crowd Control or proccing devotions and not more.

    In Ashes of Malmouth era almost all skills have gear modifiers with expected and non-obvious application. Trozan’s Sky Shard will shoot two projectiles more if you equip Mythical Trozan’s Starkeeper and Mythical Starfury Emerald. Also these items add a big chunk of flat Cold damage to each projectile. With these modifiers skill’s base damage drastically increases so keep it in mind. You can look for gear modifiers for your favorite skill before assembling the build, using item database.

    [li]Aim for conversions[/li]All damage types in this game (except Bleed) have conversions if you want to make the skill work different. For example, Avenger’s Crusher has built-in 100% Lightning to Physical conversion, so you can stack flat Lightning bonuses from Brute Force, Savagery and they will automatically become Physical.
    Clairvoyant’s set have built-in 40% Chaos->Aether conversion, and with Albrecht’s Duality ring you can achieve 90-95% Chaos->Aether conversion (depending on rolls), making Doom Bolt half-aether. You can also equip the Mythical Dismember Stone and Fleshwarped Tome to make Doom Bolt almost fully Aether.
    Sometimes conversions are needed to make skill’s damage working, many skills deal 2 damage types, and you need to convert unused damage to useful.

    [li]Boosting the damage output[/li]This step is multi-layered.

    [li]After you choose the core of the build, you must collect bonuses to your damage via gear and devotions. For example, Cadence-based Soldier most likely will equip Mythical Warborn set and go to Oleron constellation.[/li]If your character’s class combo uses Weapon Damage based skills all the time, the direct way to increase Damage output is to boost Weapon Damage with gear and devotions providing flat and % damage.
    If your character’s class combo uses Raw Damage based skills, the ways to make them great are stacking % bonuses to your damage type and gear modifiers.
    Mid-tier number for % damage is 2000%, top-tier gladiators aim for 2500% damage. Some builds can achieve 2800-3500% damage, you can do it too if possible, why not?
    Do not forget about conversions and Resistance Reduction.
    [li]Get attack speed, cast speed or cooldown reduction capped, depending on what your core skills are.[/li]But also do not forget about balance: if you get 5% total damage output via attack speed but lose 200% damage (or 10% total damage output) in exchange, it’s not worth it.
    Don’t forget that different weapons achieve different bonuses from stacking attack and cast speed: 2H maces receive much less than 1H daggers.
    [li]Next step is boosting Offensive Ability. My personal aim for Crucible is now 3200-3300 OA, it’s a mid-tier number. Top-tier gladiators may aim for 3500-3700 OA to ensure maximum chance to crit and crit modifier. OA is needed in crucible, because if you have 2800% damage but 2500 OA, you wont be able to deal crit damage to Nemeses and battle will become very slow and painful. OA needed for each build is dependent on kind of that build.[/li]Stacking OA after 3700 is useless, OA gradually loses its effectiveness after reaching 3700.
    You can get easy effective OA by shredding enemy DA with skills like Blitz, Markovian’s Advantage, Curse of Frailty, Storm Box of Elgoloth, Rune of Hagarrad.
  2. Next step is looking for Crit damage. Vast of melee builds have around 50-80% crit damage, casters stack it as much as possible. If you can stack more crit damage, do it. If you lose way too many bonuses to get Crit damage, leave it as is. Certain Gladiators even take Dying God constellation instead of their “profile” constellation because these 40% crit damage and 10% total speed are huge boost to damage output.
  3. Racial bonuses (if you have them) can add huge bonus to damage output. Builds having 2x Sanctified Bone, Revenant, Direwolf crest deal 57% more damage to the Reaper of the Lost. Builds with Racial bonuses always have huge crit numbers.

After this you will have an ideal Damaging character with non-adjusted defenses. It must have ~2000-2500% damage bonus, big base damage, % resistance reductions, OA and Crit damage.

[li]Importance of damage balancing and choosing between Flat damage and % damage[/li]It’s common opinion that “flat damage is the best damage”. I have counter-arguments to this.
Let’s do some math: to get 20k weapon damage with two-handed weapon we need 833 flat base damage and 2300% bonus. So, 35 flat base damage is equal to 100% bonus damage in this case. To improve damage further with best returns you need to choose weapon augment properly, because between 10 flat + 80% and 120% augments, 120% wins. Same for other equipment: if you have, for example, some ring with 10-14 flat Aether damage without % damage on one hand and 100% bonus on other, it’s not obvious that 100% will perform much better.
This rule vary if you wield different weapons. For dual-wielding and shield wielding characters top base weapon damage is 500, so with 2300% bonus 21 flat damage is equal to 100%.
Common rule for damage balancing is “you have many % bonuses - you must raise flat damage, and vice-versa”. Both flat damage and % damage have diminishing returns, so balancing them for most possible damage is important.
All you need is to check different weapon augments and items impact on real damage output, and not rely blindly on common opinions.
This paragraph is only applied to Weapon Damage based skills since casters with Raw damage don’t make use of Flat damage anyway, they are forced to stack %.

[li]Peculiarities of using DoT damage types (credits to @x1x1x1x2)[/li]Pretty much everything written above applies to DoT casters. The only things that are different are DoT stacking, the importance of crit/OA, and increased duration.

Dot stacking is already explained in the thread linked. Crit/OA generally needs to be bigger than in flat damage builds cause the highest damage dot rolls will take priority from the same source. That means one crit at the start (esp those inflicted with full RR) will be there for the next 4-6 seconds until that dot expires or until you get a better crit.

You’ll want around 200%+ increased duration especially on those builds where main skills have high cooldowns. Dots usually have 2-3 seconds base duration, so making those last for 6-9 seconds will leave you more space before reapplying skills with 5s cooldowns (BWC, Blade Arc). Also with increased duration, those highrolled crits with RR will last longer and won’t be overwritten. Highly valuable because RR on dots is only checked when the dot is applied. Increased duration will also allow you to kite more, enabling you to build more on offense instead of defense, but this part isn’t as relevant atm cause the focus on cruci right now is on cleartime and more kiting will only decrease cleartime.

Let’s dissect my tactician build for better understanding.

It uses transmuted Forcewave as multi-target skill and bunch of powerful Weapon Damage based skills on single target. The main nuke is transmuted Blade Arc.

  • The base flat weapon damage of this weapon (Mythical Stonefist Rebuke) under all buffs is 860.
  • Transmuted Blade Arc deals ((175% weapon damage + 30% from gloves + 45 flat) * 275% transmuter) = 564% weapon damage = 4972 flat physical.
  • With % damage bonus it’s (4972 flat * 2460%) = 122k total damage per Arc.
  • Regular mob can be debuffed by our Resistance Reductions to -80% which literally means 80% vulnerability. If you hit mob like that with transmuted Blade Arc without crit, it will receive 220k damage.
  • I have 60% crit damage, so with high enough OA I’ll deal up to 350k crits.
  • With high OA like I have (3900 under all own buffs) you’ll naturally receive a 1.3-1.4 specific crit modifier against regular mob (not nemesis!). This makes our Blade Arc best crits ~493k without Crucible buffs and banners.
  • Under crucible buffs and banners you’ll receive various offensive bonuses: 300% total damage, 25% crit damage, additional OA boost. In single player Crucible my Blade Arc deals up to 888k damage as result.
  • This math don’t include enemy armor and Blade Arc’s own crit damage, they level each other out (more or less). But crit damage is always a huge boost if you aim for maximum crits.
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II. Survivability

Grim Dawn have many overlapping layers of defense. Some builds can use one combination of defenses to survive, other can use different combination.
Investments in each defense layer on partial character is always the result of the decision “How much can I invest into defense to not being killed and keep my killing potential?”.
Actually balancing between Damage output and Survivability is what this game is made around. Any character can go pure Defensive devotion route, wear tankiest armor and stack resistances, but if he don’t kill the swarming mobs, even superdefended tank can’t survive.

The most obvious survivability option is HP pool.
The more is better. Melee characters can achieve big numbers, casters oftenly can’t. Casters should aim for 10-12k HP, melee characters feel enough on 14-15k or more. If you can take more HP and not sacrifice too much damage or defenses, do it.

Defenses can be splitted in 2 large categories: Global Defenses and Mastery specific sources of sustain.
Global Defenses are ones that are common and mandatory to all characters across the game:

  • Resistances to various types of damage: Fire, Cold, Lightning, Poison/Acid etc;
  • Armor, its absorption and physical resistance;
  • Defensive Ability;
  • Secondary resistances: Stun, Freeze, Slow, Trap, Disrupt etc.

Mastery specific sources of sustain depend on masteries and are described in their own chapter.

  1. Global Defenses
  1. [li]Resistances to various types of magic damage[/li]They are the first you should look at. All resistances without exception must be at 80% with slight overcap (like +10%) if you use Ulo blessing, and +30-40% if you don’t use it. Lack of overcapped resistances is instant death, because many mobs and bosses just shred your resistances without any shame. If you caught 2 dangerous mobs like Theodin + Anasteria, their debuffs can be stacked. Theodin shreds 40 resistances instantly and Anasteria shreds 50% of what was left, leaving you naked.
    By default all max resistances are capped at 80%, but pay special attention to items granting “+x% max resistance”, they are very good. There are many items in this game granting such bonuses: 8 items named Conduit of … Whispers for each mastery in the game; Iskandra’s Focusing Prism; Avenger of Cairn; Starfury Emerald; Mark of Anathema and much more. For example, every 3% max Fire resistance means that you achieve 15% less damage from Fire if not debuffed. Let’s say, someone hits you with Fire for 1000 damage. 80% are instantly absorbed by resistance and you achieve 200 fire damage. If your max resistance is 83%, you’ll receive 170 damage.
    It is possible to leave one resistance not capped, for example keeping Bleed at 77%, if you think mobs dealing that damage are not dangerous for you. However, this requires experience and I don’t recommend you to leave resistances not capped, until you learn how does this game work.

    [li]Armor, its absorption and physical resistance[/li]Every character wears Armor. With recent buffs even Magic Armor is now (more or less?) viable to live with.
    Armor choice naturally depends on playstyle.
    Casters oftenly don’t have life leech abilities and don’t need to stay in place to deal damage, so they must run around. Coupled with non-existence of armor bonuses from masteries, gear and devotions, even if caster wears the heavy armor it will most probably not help to survive. So the best way to get use of Armor for kiting casters is to wear light armor with strong offensive bonuses to kill everyone fast.

    => If this is not enough to survive for you, it’s possible to cover yourself stacking Physical Resistance. It can be performed with Formidable suffix on any green pants, boots, Loghorrean shoulders, plus Fateweaver’s Raiment, plus Immovable/Hoarfrost Colossal Bulwark/Fortress if you can replace offhand with it. 32% physical resistance becomes 40% if you’re under Blessing of Ulo in crucible, it’s huge boost of your durability.
    => Physical resistance can be used as the universal defensive layer, you can always stack 40% to significantly reduce incoming physical damage.

    Tanky chars, you know, tank everything with their faces, they oftenly have life leech if fight in melee, strong armor bonuses from armor itself, masteries and devotions, so making use of heavy armor is must-have. Stacking physical resistance with heavily armored characters gives good returns because many Heavy armor pieces have built-in % physical resist. However, physical resistance is lower on heavy pieces than on specific Formidable MI items.

    Casters that need to stay in place to deal damage (like the users of Drain Essence or Flames of Ignaffar) must adjust their armor situationally. @Superfluff’s Uroboruuk Apostate wears light armor with strong damage bonuses and buffs to core skills, but also uses Mastery specific abilities (Ravenous Earth + Decay, Mark of Torment) to mitigate incoming damage.

    Everyone should respect Armor Absorption. Base Armor Absorption is always 70%, if you don’t raise it to 100% every physical hit you receive will deal 30% through armor instantly. This is way too dangerous. However, 92% is something more likely if you have enough Damage output to not suffer from hits much. Always boost armor absorption to 100% unless you’re sure about not doing that.
    Armor absorption can be acquired via components: Sacred Plating, Living Armor, Scaled Hide and Ancient Armor Plate. Also it is given by Soldier’s passive Scars of Battle and constellation Obelisk of Menhir. Character without Soldier or Obelisk can rely on 3 Sacred Platings or Living Armors in any combination + 1 Ancient Armor Plate in pants, it’s enough to ensure 100% absorption. Or 2 components + Scaled Hide. Or non class specific belt Hammerfall Girdle in addition to these.

    [li]Defensive Ability (DA)[/li]It is very simple mechanic. With 3100-3200 DA and Blessing of Ulzuin no enemy except Kubacabra and probably Iron Maiden can deal crit damage to you. Further increase of DA will reduce enemy chances to even hit you with regular attack. The hardcap for DA after the patches is 3500 against most enemies and 3700 against Kubacabra and Iron Maiden. Hardcap means that enemy chance to hit you can’t drop below 60%.
    => DA can be used as universal defensive layer, you can always hardcap it to reduce incoming damage by 40%.
    If your DA is not enough, you’ll be vulnerable to enemy crit attacks, and with Aleksander and Reaper it’s instant death most likely. On the other side, if your damage output is great enough to kill stuff quickly, you can live even on 2800 DA, but that’s too edgy in my opinion, so I’d recommend keeping DA at 3100 or more.
    Optimal amount of DA is dependent on whether you use Blessing of Ulzuin / Stonewall Banner, playstyle and other defensive skills; Spellbinders, for example, can infinitely chain Mirror of Ereoctes and Mark of Torment, so they need even less DA because they are half-immortal.
    You must count your effective DA in these calculations. Characters having Bloody Pox with Wasting (1 + 12/12) and casting it constantly actually have 180-200 better DA because 180 of enemy OA is shredded with Wasting. There are couple of such skills across the masteries and sometimes on components and items.
    Enemy OA shredding always shows more effective than simply adding DA to your build: 2820 enemy OA vs 3000 defender DA is 84.9 PTH, while 3000 enemy OA vs 3180 defender DA is 85.0 PTH. It’s a little difference, but if you stack it enough, difference skyrockets.

    Easiest ways to acquire reasonable amount of DA are:
  2. High Physique;
  3. Constellations Quill, Harvestman’s Scythe, Ishtak, Chariot of the Dead, Bard’s Harp, Wolverine, Solemn Watcher, Obelisk of Menhir;
  4. Some epic and legendary items having built-in % DA;
  5. Relics Avenger and Citadel, craft bonuses on not class-specific relics;
  6. Stalwart prefix and … of Readiness, of Dranghoul, of Protection suffixes on green rings and medals;
  7. Ravager’s Eye and Potent Ravager’s Eye weapon augments;
  8. Shredding enemy OA.

    [li]Secondary resistances: Stun, Freeze, Slow, Trap, Disrupt etc.[/li]Listed secondary resistances are most important. God bless the developers! They provided us the Blessing of Ulo which raises all Secondary resistances for 50% EXCEPT Slow. Needed resistances are dependent on your playstyle.
  9. Stun. Everyone stuns you, so reducing duration of Stun is essential for any character. Keep this at 25-30% if you use Blessing of Ulo or 80% if you don’t. The best choices to raise Stun resistance are Leathery Hide component, Thunderstruck prefix, … of Kings suffix on rare green items, and first node of Empty Throne constellation. Some legendaries provide it too.
  10. Freeze. Same rule is applied as for Stun, but with different items. I’d recommend to use Hoarfrost Ointment if you see Moosilauke or Alkamos on arena, it’s not so dangerous as Stun for example.
  11. Slow. Melee characters using Autoattacks must have more than 50% slow resistance. If you don’t, any monster with Slow ability will break your attack series and you’ll be killed quickly. Melee characters can’t heal theirselves via ADCtH if slowed, this is dangerous. So, Slow resistance ftw. Kiting casters also make use of Slow resistance to run around quickly. If your character relies heavily on running or attack/cast speed, invest into Slow resistance. It can be done by Legwraps of Tranquil Mind, Boneshatter Treads, Titan Pauldrons, some other legendaries and rare greens.
  12. Trap. Kiting casters must have Trap resistance to kite without troubles, because they rely on running. Keep it at least 25-30% if you use Blessing of Ulo or 80% if you don’t. Melee characters oftenly don’t need much Trap resistance, because they are already melee: you just take the enemy face to face, no matter are you trapped or not. If possible, 30% is enough for melee. Can be achieved via Chains of Oleron component, Footpads of the Grey Magi, some other legendaries or green items.
  13. Disrupt. Someone says it’s super important, someone says the opposite… I can say, it’s important for characters that must stay in place to deal damage via casting. It’s Drain Essence characters, transmuted Forcewave characters and… that’s all I think. If you rely on Disrupt resistance, take it, no doubts. All my builds don’t need it at all. You can achieve it from Arcane Harmony Leggins, Possession in Occultist mastery, some other legendaries, … of Gildam Arcanum suffix or green items.
  14. Other secondary resistances are not worth mentioning.
  15. Additional sources of multiple secondary resistance are: Arcanist provides Maiven’s Sphere of Protection with its brilliant passive Conversion, it provides Stun, Slow, Freeze resistances. Soldier have passives that grant resistances to Stun, Slow, Freeze. Other classes may have such skills too, don’t miss them. Seal of the Resonance component grant 15% Stun, Freeze and Trap resistances as aura.

After this step your character should have 80% all resistances to damage types (including required overcap to ensure resistance is not going shredded), armor most fitting your playstyle, decent physical resistance to complement the effectiveness of the armor, at least 3100 Defensive Ability and needed secondary resistances: Stun and some Freeze for all characters, Trap and Slow for kiting casters, Slow for melee characters, Disrupt for standing-in-place casters.

  1. Mastery specific sources of sustain

These defenses heavily rely on what your class combo is. Almost every class combo have an access to few or all listed sources, but usage of them is always a player’s choice.
Imagine sustain as the weights on the scales. Each added defensive layer tips the scales to your side. After certain boundary the scales are balanced and you need to add only reasonable advantages to keep the scales on your side, and stop stacking defenses to not kill your damage output. But if you feel unsafe, don’t hesitate to go further and defend your character as much as possible, sacrificing little chunk of damage for huge chunk of survivabinity is better than constantly dying in Crucible.

Melee characters dealing Weapon Damage most probably will live on Life Leech and Healing Skills.
Kiting casters always take Healing Skills and celestial powers because they have no sources of Life Leech and few consecutive blows can bring them to death.
It’s huge advantage for any character to have temporary immortality or circuit breakers.
All characters can use Health Regeneration and Damage Absorption.

  1. [li]Timing your runs and kiting[/li]Yes, the most obvious thing is no one can hit you if you run non-stopping. Kiting casters can oftenly have poor defenses, but with high enough skill, secondary resistances and little help of other kinds of sustain backing up, they can survive and deal damage at the same time.

    [li]Life Leech[/li]Life Leech is the ability to return part of the damage dealt to enemies as heal.
    Attack Damage Converted to Health (ADCtH) is the only form of Life Leech in Grim Dawn. It is used by all characters with Weapon Damage skills, and certain casters have such skills too.
    For characters dealing Weapon Damage ADCtH is the direct way to increase their survivability. With proper defenses, DA, secondary resistances and reasonable amount of ADCtH they return HP with every hit, and increasing ADCtH by few % can tip the scales to your side.
    Most common and reliable sources of ADCtH for Weapon Damage based skills are constellations: Ghoul, Toad, Bat, Revenant in any combination. Many items also have this bonus, especially gloves and relics. Restless Remains component to gloves gives 3% ADCtH; Haunted Steel provides 8% and grants temporary aura with increased ADCtH; Hallowed Fang does literally the same but weaker; Seal of the Blades provides constant 5% ADCtH.
    Minimum ADCtH for Weapon Damage based skills is 8%, higher is better. 15-20% is very good number to aim at.
    Special attention comes to Shaman’s Feral Hunger and Necromancer’s Reaping Strike WPS’. They both are Weapon Based skills, but have built-in ADCtH, so they can be used as great additions to Weapon Damage based builds.

    [li]Healing skills and procs[/li]Majority of healing skills are contained in masteries and usually instantly replenish some HP when you use them. Also healing skills are granted by certain Celestial powers and gear. Healing skills oftenly provide increased Health Regeneration, so these defensive layers can cross.
    Mastery granted healing skills are Blood of Dreeg, Word of Renewal, Pneumatic Burst, Wendigo Totem.
    Devotions granting healing powers are Behemoth, Chariot of the Dead, Tree of Life, Dryad.
    Healing skills do not depend on your damage output like Life Leech does, so they can be used as stable and constant sources of instant heal. Classes having 2 healing skills in their masteries can make good use of them, like Infiltrators using both Pneumatic Burst and Word of Renewal; if they are in danger situation, they run away and use both healing skills to replenish more than 50% HP. It’s huge advantage to such classes.
    Wendigo Totem is more suited for melee characters than other abilities, it have great healing power restoring 10%+1000 hp per second, but you need to be in its radius to get heals. Also its passive Blood Pact gives the melee characters so much needed Life Leech. If you’re melee Shaman, it’s the brilliant addition to your survivability with relatively low cost.

    [li]Health regeneration[/li]This kind of sustain is something special, usually players aiming for Gladiator don’t use Health Regeneration itself except of super-defended tanks. It’s because of damage amounts you receive across the battle, most likely any regeneration can not keep you alive if it’s not like 2000 per second. Even with it, Health Regen can’t be used single without support of other defensive layers.
    Kiting casters can make good use of Health Regeneration if they don’t have other sources of sustain.
    => I never built characters on Health Regen, any additions for this chapter are appreciated.

    [li]Damage absorption and reflection[/li]Damage absorption.
    It is used to reduce the damage you receive. Damage Absorption can be 2 types: % and flat.
    Flat absorption is treated like amount of damage which is always absorbed no matter what. For example, you receive the punch of 1000 fire; 80% are instantly ignored by resistance, and if you have at least 200 flat absorption, you in fact receive 0 damage.
    It is strong defensive layer, it removes incoming damage after all resistances and armor, so 800 flat absorption from Blast Shield can nullify even strongest nemeses blows.
    % damage absorption works pretty like said: all incoming damage after counting all resistances and armor gets reduced by that %.
    Ways to get:
  2. Occultist, Arcanist, Demolitionist, Inquisitor, shield wielding Soldier and Necromancer have skills granting % and flat Damage Absorption.
  3. Helm component Prismatic Diamond available to all characters gives you granted skill Prismatic Rage with flat damage absorption; amulet component Seal of Ancestry gives Aether and Chaos flat absorption.
  4. Constellations Tortoise, Crab, Alladrah’s Phoenix, Obelisk of Menhir provide flat absorption, Ishtak provides strong % absorption.
  5. Aether Cluster consumable gives you whooping 75% damage absorption for 8 seconds. Use this as an emergency rescue tool, it is always better than dying.

Damage reflection.
It is used to reflect incoming damage back to enemy with the same or increased amount. You must understand that mobs hit you very weakly compared to your own damage output, so Damage Reflection is mainly used by Retaliation characters to cover theirselves from ranged attacks, and they must stack ~500% damage reflected.
However, resistance reductions are reflected too, so you can use reflection to debuff enemies. If Anasteria hits you with her 50% RR shredding attack and you are under Mirror of Ereoctes, she will actually debuff herself instead. Most characters can use Prismatic Diamond and Empowered Essence of Beronath to achieve 50% damage reflected and every enemy debuffing you will apply half of that debuff to theirselves, making kills easier. However, not every character can afford this.

[li]Cleansing debuffs from character[/li]There are 2 skills that can remove any negative effects from you (Burn, Bleed, reduced resistances, DA, damage and many more) and positive buffs and auras from enemies.
They are Nullification in Arcanist mastery and constellation Ulo, the Keeper of Waters.
Nullification is easy to target and use, but the celestial power of Ulo depends a lot on what skill you attach it to. If you attach it to War Cry, it will proc on any random enemy in the War Cry radius, it’s bad. Therefore, attach Ulo to melee skills with a small reach, in this case you can hit the nearest mob and proc Ulo on yourself.
Nullification and Ulo can be used in debuffing enemies as well.

[li]Debuffing enemies[/li]You can reduce enemy offensive potential by directly reducing its damage, shredding Offensive Ability, casting fumble, impaired aim, secondary effects like Stun, Freeze, Trap, Slow upon them, and removing positive buffs from enemies.
Every class have an access to one or few skills with such effects.
The most effective ways to debuff enemies are reducing enemy damage, shredding OA, casting fumble / impaired aim, because no enemy in this game have resistance to these.
Most strong bosses oftenly have huge resistances to Stun, Freeze, Trap, Slow, so against nemeses these methods are not effective unless you have a build focused on shredding enemy resistance to that effect. So, most probably it’s no.

[li]Circuit breakers[/li]Circuit breaker is the skill granting you few seconds of breathe by making you immortal, super hard to kill or just replenish huge chunk of HP. If you caught in danger you can use these few seconds to run away and heal yourself or to quickly kill a dangerous enemy.
This class of defenses is crossing with Damage Absorption because for example Mirror of Ereoctes with its huge 100% Damage Absorption makes you immortal for 3 seconds and thus does literally what you want from a circuit breaker.
If you can, always get at least one circuit breaker.

Ways to get:

  1. Soldier (Will of Menhir), Nightblade (Blade Barrier), Demolitionist (Blast Shield), Arcanist (Mirror of Ereoctes), Necromancer (Mark of Torment) have built-in circuit breakers.
  2. Ghoul constellation makes attack speed insane, gives 85% life leech and 18% physical resistance, so characters attacking with Weapon Damage become unkillable with it. Ishtak constellation can be treated as a circuit breaker with its 45% damage absorption.
  3. Aether Cluster, described above.
  4. Medal Mark of Divinity and amulet Avatar of Mercy grant an easy circuit breaker skill if your class combination or devotion route don’t have it. These items are especially useful on Hardcore.

[li]Cooldown reduction (CDR)[/li]It is easy. CDR can be used to reset the cooldown of offensive skills, healing skills, celestial powers and circuit breakers. Not every character needs it or have an easy access to it, for example melee and ranged characters using mainly auto-attacks. But it is probably the best way to survive for casters due to fast recharging of heals and circuit breakers.
Ways to get:

  1. Casters gear and offhands oftenly have % cooldown reduction of all skills, make use of it.
  2. Aeon’s Hourglass constellation reduces CD of all active skills and celestial powers for 6 seconds each 16 seconds, mostly used by: casters; any characters that need a quick refresh of the Mark of Torment, Mirror of Ereoctes, other powerful defensive skills; characters chaining powerful attacking skills, for example, for a double Shadow Strike, Bone Harvest or Doom Bolt.
  3. Dual wielding melee characters can use the Belgothian’s Carnage relic granting -1 sec cooldown to all active skills once in 4.5 seconds, proccing with certain chance on critical attack.
  4. Aether and Elemental casters can use the Eternity relic granting -1 sec cooldown to all active skills and celestial powers once in 4.5 seconds, proccing with certain chance on critical attack.
  5. Shield wielding characters can use the full Markovian set granting -1 sec cooldown to all active skills and celestial powers once in 4 seconds, proccing with certain chance if you are hit.

Different CDR sources stack, for example Aether casters can make use of % cooldown reduction from gear, CDR from Aeon’s Hourglass and Eternity.
For Dual wielding melee characters Belgothian’s Carnage is not mandatory, but it’s always a nice addition to use the heals and damaging skills more frequently. Same for Markovian users.
Item granted active skills (Doomforce, Bloodthirster etc.) are not affected by % CDR but are affected by -x seconds CDR.
Item granted passive skills (Divine Light etc.) are not affected by any kind of CDR.

[li]Shields[/li]I placed this section in the end of the guide because shields are used in very few build concepts. Shield do what they have to do: they block incoming damage by fixed amount once per certain time.
The best way to make use of shields is to get Soldier mastery, then stack Block Chance, Block Recovery and Damage blocked via Soldier skills and gear. If you build you character around shield, you must aim for listed shield bonuses and correct devotion route including Shieldmaiden, Obelisk of Menhir, probably Anvil and Targo the Builder.
This is a classic defensive way to use shields, but you may not bother with shield constellations and just pounce on damage. Both ways have their application, characters with a shield and an attacking constellation scheme can inflict quite a lot of damage so they do not sweat at all.
Some shields are used only for bonuses or as offhand replacement.

[li]Dodge and deflect chance[/li]Dodge chance is a chance to dodge melee attacks in close range combat. This is not related with DA.
Deflect chance is the same but for ranged attacks.
This is a specific thing, available only to some classes. Deflect chance is not so useful, but with Dodge chance you can build a character using the mastery of Nightblade and items with dodge chance.

After this step your character should have few sources of sustain: life leech, healing abilities, damage absorption, enemy debuffs and at least one circuit breaker (without circuit breakers life is hard). It’s impossible to get them all, get what you can.
Sometimes even dedicated melee build can take Ishtak as easy source of safety.

Let’s dissect my Vindicator build defenses for better understanding.

Global defenses:

  • ~15000 HP pool;
  • Resistance to all types of damage, overcapped by 10-15% at least;
  • 2500 armor, 100% armor absorption and 27% physical resistance under all own buffs;
  • 3200 Defensive ability under all buffs;
  • Secondary resistances needed for this kind of gameplay (aggressive melee Weapon Damage based): 30% Stun, 30% Trap, 64% Slow.

Mastery specific sources of sustain:

  • It don’t use kiting at all because of aggressive melee playstyle;
  • 16% ADCtH without buffs and 101% when Ghoulish Hunger is active; also it uses Feral Hunger with built-in 35% ADCtH added to existing ADCtH; also Blood Pact from Wendigo Totem adds 33% chance of 13% ADCtH added to existing ADCtH.
  • Wendigo Totem and Word of Renewal as healing skills;
  • Health regeneration is not used;
  • Inquisitor Seal as Damage Absorption;
  • Cleansing enemy debuffs from character is not used because character has no access to Nullification or Ulo;
  • Wind Devil debuffs enemies casting Impaired aim upon them, making them miss; Aura of Censure reduces their total damage by 20%;
  • Ghoulish Hunger used as a circuit breaker, making us nearly immortal;
  • This build have an application neither for CDR nor for shields.

In result, this build is overall well defended, it constantly heals by devouring enemy health via ADCtH; it constantly receive heals from Wendigo Totem; it mitigates damage with Inquisitor seal; it shreds enemy overall damage by casting Impaired aim and Aura of Censure damage reduction; it have at least one Circuit Breaker. You’ll die very rarely using build like this.
This is a good example of how several layers of defense can cross to make the strong overall defense.

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III. Banners and Blessings impact on build’s OA and DA required

I’m not going to repeat what is described in official Crucible guide.
I’ll just translate this into precise advices.

  • Fully upgraded Vanguard Banner is the strong offensive structure boosting all bonus damage by 300%, crit damage by 25% and OA by 100 flat + 4%. So, you can leave your OA at 2900-3000 (~200 compared to default setup) if you use it.
  • Fully upgraded Stonewall Banner grants additional HP, health regeneration and DA by 100 flat + 4%. You can leave DA at 2900-3000 (~200 compared to default setup) if you use it.
  • Ulzuin’s Blessing adds 30 flat + 5% both OA and DA, so even characters with low OA and DA can live in Crucible, it’s another 150-200 difference compared to default setup.
  • It is better to keep either OA or DA high if you can’t keep them both, because Banners ranges oftenly don’t intersect. I recommend you to buy Vanguard Banner, use the Ulzuin’s Blessing and thus easily raise OA to reasonable number, but keep decent DA (2900-3000) to not lose survivability.
    [li]It is common that Gladiator builds posted on this forum use only 4 blessings and no banners, or 2 blessings and banner.[/li]If your clear time is under 12 minutes per one 150-170 run, you can safely use all 4 blessings (or 2 blessings + banner) to keep your tributes at maximum, because Crucible rewards you with decent amount of tributes if you complete it twice on one set.
    If you can’t complete under 12 minutes, buy 3 or 2 blessings or aim for better damage output to make it faster, because if you continue buying all 4 blessings you probably will spend all tributes after few runs.
    [li]You must count your effective OA and DA in these calculations. Characters having Bloody Pox with Wasting (1 + 12/12) and casting it constantly actually have 180-200 better DA because 180 of enemy OA is shredded with Wasting. There are couple of such skills across the masteries and sometimes on components and items.[/li]Enemy OA shredding always shows more effective than simply adding DA to your build: 2820 enemy OA vs 3000 defender DA is 84.9 PTH, while 3000 enemy OA vs 3180 defender DA is 85.0 PTH. It’s a little difference, but if you stack it enough, difference skyrockets.
    DA shredding works pretty much the same, shredding enemy DA works better than adding your own OA.

IV. Resources (taken straight from Build Compendium VII with additions, © Chthon)

Credits to our contributors and correctors (in no particular order)

  • x1x1x1x2
  • sir spanksalot
  • Ceno
  • Safarel
  • korsar

Guys, your help is really appreciated.

I think it’s enough reserved posts atm.
Any feedback on this guide is appreciated.

Good, well-written guide. Should be a lot of help to new players venturing to cruci with their own builds.

Btw, what’s the buff/banner standard here? The OA threshold greatly changes depending on if you use banner or not. I’d say 2800 is good for builds without high crit while 3k for those who rely on crits to do damage. That’s before buffs and banners and my standard is 4 buffs + vanguard.

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Agreed. I’ll think about it and represent in guide.

There’s no buff/banner standards. I’ll speak about it in Survivability section or Addendum. Superdefended tanks can succeed using Amatok only, while strange-but-viable builds lacking OA, DA or defensive bonuses (due to class combo or lack of itemisation) desperately need to buff theirselves with additional buffs and banners.

Edit: my standard is 4 buffs, if the build can safely clear Crucible under 12 minutes. Or Empyrion+Amatok and Vanguard Banner if I have +25% all resistances capped.

Are you not entertained!


Welcome, Mr. Sneakiest Parrot on the forum :smiley:

Might be worth mentioning:
i. attack speed and cast speed
ii. the multiplicative effect WPS has on autoattacking skills.
iii. Armor absorption

P.S. Nice guide!

i and ii are displayed already =) iii and other defensives are the theme of next chapter (Survivability).

Edit: it’s I.3 and I.5.2.

Touche. :smiley:

I think it’s also worth mentioning that players may want to focus on 1 or 2 skills only.

Getting that 26/16 is usually super important.

As for %bonus damage and OA…I know I’m not the best crafter, but I’d be happy with:

  1. 2000% bonus damage
  2. 3k OA

The cost of squeezing in that few hundred more OA or % bonus damage is usually quite costly.

Reading this post made me go through what I believe to be my top builds (e.g. and I’m a little confused as to how it performs so well.

EDIT: Maybe it’s because of RoH and not the crafter/pilot. :rolleyes:

Well it’s a good build but since you built around RoH, then it will be the reason why the build is good. That doesn’t take away any credit from the builder. The skill is just that good.

This build looks like mostly oriented on Trauma damage which is btw 2400%. Physical damage supports Trauma here.
Also 3300 OA under all buffs fits this perfectly =) All in this build is pretty good, so I’m not surprised it performs well.

Talking about guide, 2000% and 3000-3200 OA are good and decent, but usually top-tier gladiators using dedicated sets and dedicated weapons, like good old Fluff’s Belgothian, anyway will have outstanding performance due to better gear support.

Added pt. I.7. to Damage output chapter. It’s interesting.

Fluff’s belgothian can only be piloted by fluff.

Hahahaha 100 cunning? :rolleyes:

I saw that build and was like HEEEEEEELL NO. That ain’t for me.

Then proceeded to secretly hate fluff for being a better pilot than me. :stuck_out_tongue:

You’ve put together a solid guide.

I’d also point out that different damage types need different amounts of RR to run smoothly. A physical or pierce build can get away with comparatively low RR around 60-70%, since few enemies in crucible have more than 20-30% resist and armor is generally negligible compared to the hits you’re putting out. Meanwhile, a fire build fighting Sharzul with the same RR is going to lose a big chunk of its damage trying to go through 118% resist. In my experience, the same goes for %damage, where physical and pierce builds can get away with lower percentages more comfortably than others, since they have more flat damage to work with from the start.

Regarding the flat damage part of the guide…wouldn’t 10 flat+ 80% bonus benefit more from say a savagery build because of how it gets multiplied?

It is displayed actually, read that chapter again :slight_smile:
Physical builds have their own troubles because enemies also have armor. I have 2 characters based on one set of abilities and WPS, both having around 800 base weapon damage. Aether version works just godly with 120% RR, but Physical version works very slowly and meh with 83% rr because of enemy Armor. My other character having 80% pierce RR works pretty good. I think 80-90 is good number, but 60? Questionable.

800 base * 500% weapon damage * 2300% bonus = 96000
800+10 base * 500 weapon damage * 2260% bonus = 95580

Damage amplification of Weapon Damage based skills also amplifies damage difference. In this example it’s little damage dfference to mention it, but if you’re trying to stack flat damage at all costs, loss of % bonuses become significant.
Results of the calculation also can vary if you wield different weapons.
Quoting myself, “All you need is to check different weapon augments and items impact on real damage output, and not rely blindly on common opinions” :slight_smile:

if the bonus damage is 2300%, you should multiply by 24 since 2300% is the BONUS damage, right?

Yes. And if you’ll try to repeat these calculations, you’ll see I multiplied it by 24.