How to make your own Gladiator: a guide
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.
- [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 grimtools.com 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.
- 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.
- 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.