Hi there, been a while I posted a build, and this time it’s a bit unusual. The unusual thing is it’s a pet build and I hate pets in Grim Dawn with passion. No, I haven’t made three typos in the word “hate”. There’s good reason for that – I just don’t feel my character’s impact when I play pet builds. Pet builds aren’t necessarily “lazy” in GD, some could be called pianey even, but game mechanics discourage you from active participation in combat regardless. Playing a typical pet build you do not want to generate any excess aggro because that means you’d have to kite, and you don’t want to kite because chasing a running target reduces pet damage output.
So I tried making a pet build I would enjoy playing based on my old fantasy of pet DK. For that I reverted the roles – my tanky character is holding the line for frail summons. This instantly lifted up all the issues I had with pet gameplay.
The playstyle is basically a tank with damage being external. The damage is pretty low in my book, but that’s compared to my usual Nightblade builds. Even though the level 100 version has many buttons it isn’t pianey since cooldowns are pretty high. But the build is quite micro-intense on the other hand - not only you have to play your character properly but issue commands to your pets too (which isn’t just focus X but also involves moving them away if they stand in the fire). If you miss the experience of being a tank for 9 idiots in a PUG raid then this build is for you.
This probably won’t be the best of my builds, but the foremost goal was fulfilling a specific power fantasy rather than making a content destroyer anyway.
Raise Skeleton Skill
TL;DR – Stack Raise Skeleton levels, it’s hyper important
Raise Skeleton functions differently from other pet skills in regard that it summons a random pet from the list. There are four types of skeletons it could summon – Warrior, Archer, Arcanist and Revenant.
The probability of what you get isn’t fixed – level of Raise Skeleton affects the odds. The picture below reflects how these odds change based on Raise Skeleton skill level.
Notice that you can never eliminate the spawn chance of any skeleton, so a skeletal army is always going to be the mix of the four.
You do can micromanage the state of your army by feeding up weaker skeletons to enemies and replacing them with the new set of random skeletons, hopefully making your army contain more high quality skeletons than what the odds would normally allow. Sometimes it can happen naturally – e.g. Revenants are durable and Archers try to keep distance, so they end up surviving. No matter how it happened though this state is fragile and such micromanagement games are not worth it past early levels.
TL;DR – Stack Raise Skeleton levels, it’s hyper important
Main difficulty of theorycrafting pet builds in GD comes from their mechanics being pretty obscure. Those who had built multiple pet builds just intuitively know them, but I’m not one of them so I delved into datamining the game files. One of the first questions I had is what affects skeleton damage.
All skeletons got a passive skill called Ancient Weapons that adds some physical and vitality flat damage to them. The level of that skill changes by Raise Dead level. Players can actually see that on the in-game Raise Skeleton tooltip. While tooltip shows only Skeletal Warrior data, Arcanists and Revenants have a skill with same values. Archers do not – they have Ancient Weapons too, but their’s gives them less flat damage.
But it just clicked in my head – what about the actual weapons they carry?! Skeletons are the only pets that carry them after all. So I dug deeper and found their weapons. The result is all weapons except Arcanist’s wand and Revenant’s shield are dummies with 1-1 physical damage. Skeletal Arcanist’s scepters have 45-88 flat fire damage and Revenant’s shield has a respectable 30% chance to block 920 damage with 1.0 second recovery. These are values comparable to character level 84 gear, which I guess is part of the reason why Arcanists rekt stuff early game and Revenants feel incredibly tanky.
So bottomline, the weapons they carry are mostly dummies and they do NOT scale with character level like stuff your enemies would carry (yes, it’s a thing in GD), the base damage is 100% dependent on Raise Skeleton level. It’s very important to cap that skill.
Pet Stats and Skills
TL;DR – Skeletons have skills and their level depends on your Raise Dead. Skeletons have basic stats like health, OA, DA, Physique, Cunning and Spirit, and they depend on your player’s level. Skeletons also got baseline resistances.
In Grim Dawn all non-player entities, be it pets or enemies, have their own stat profiles that determine how their physique, cunning, spirit, health, energy, their regenerations, OA and DA scale based on their level. For Skeletons their level is equal to your character’s level. Unlike players they don’t receive additional health from physique, cunning and spirit, but the rest of stats like OA, DA and %damage should apply properly. They also got a flat OA and DA bonus on top of that. Although not a part of profiles, pet armor scales with their level. Skeletal Warriors, Archers and Arcanists have the same paper-thin armor and Skeletal Revenants have about 50% more. Warriors, Archers and Arcanists have baseline damage resistances of 25% physical, 15% pierce, 50% cold and 50% vitality, plus 50% resistance to freeze. Skeletal Revenants get an extra 10% physical and pierce resistance on top of that.
Skeletal Warrior is the basic type of skeleton. He’s available in grimtools Pet Database, so you can play around to check how his stats change with various player levels.
His only skill is charge:
Skeletal Archers may appear pretty meh at first, but later in the game they become blood crazed machinegunners. Which puzzles me a bit, because crossbows are supposed to be slow weapons. In practice they would make about shots while Warrior or Revenant swings with either axe or mace. I don’t know what’s the deal with them.
Their only skill is Deathbolt, they would be using it every 7 seconds:
Arcanists are the powerhouses of early levels, but later they start to fall off, mostly because their damage is fire while this build focuses on vitality. You can make them more useful with pet conversion gear. Their attack is actually a spell, making them the only skeleton type that scales with pet cast speed bonuses instead of attack speed.
They also have it in their behavior to approach enemies in melee range so that their fireball nova shotguns enemies. Useful for maximizing their damage, but also the reason why they die often.
This is their attack skill:
And this is what they cast every 5 seconds:
Revenants are the tank type, they have the most durability among skeletons. In practice this durability isn’t that amazing and they usually die too.
This is their projectile skill that they use on engage:
And this is their aura:
Pet Crits and Offensive Ability
It’s well known that pet builds stack some crazy pet +%OA. But I began to wonder whether it’s worth it to stack it so much, since generally stupid high OA for non-pet builds is not how most people build their characters. So I ran math, won’t bore you with the process, here’s the result:
In short, yes, given how easy it is to stack +%OA on pets as well as free crit damage they get from Dying God and Shepherd’s Crook it’s best not to shy from stacking it to high levels.
This is the setup I came up with. The centerpiece is Dying God for it’s massive bonuses to damage for pet builds.
- Crossroads (red)
- Crossroads (blue)
- Wendigo (bind proc to Raise Skeleton)
- Crossroads (purple)
- Shepherd's Crook (bind proc to Bone Harvest)
- Crossroads (yellow)
- Typhos the Jailor of Souls
- Ulo the Keeper of Waters (proc to anything, I like binding it to mobility runes)
- Staff of Rattosh
- Dying God (proc to War Cry)
- Remove Wendigo
- Remove Typhos the Jailor of Souls
- Remove Crossroads (purple)
- Tree of Life (4 points up to proc, ignore branches; bind proc to any permanent aura)
- Obelisk of Menhir (2 points)
Past level 90 do that:
- Remove everything from Tree of Life and Obelisk of Menhir
- Dryad (bind proc to skill from Symbol of Solael)
- Remove Scarab
- Remove Crossroads (yellow)
- Reacquire Wendigo
- Remove 1 point from Dying God
- Crossroads (blue)
- Remove Viper
- Restore Dying God to full
- Obelisk of Menhir (3 points at it's base)
I follow your build but my pets are dying?!
They aren’t very durable during mid-levels, they are especially weak to AoE damage. What could help you is adjusting your devotions slightly. This is the kind of build that wins from that a lot. You have Crane, Tychos, Ulo and Wolverine to help you with resistances tremendously.
I wasn’t bluntly heading towards the final setup either, picking up things I needed at the given moment instead. Which is why the devotion path is a bit more complex than just rushing the final setup.
Why no Tree of Life, you have it in your levelling snapshots?!
I took it to counter hp drain from Dying God’s Hungering Void proc, which worked quite well while I was levelling. I tried Dryad but found it inadequate mid to high levels because my health wasn’t that big. Basically, Dryad scales with your health pool while Tree of Life just provides huge regen to offset hp drain much quicker.
Later on the character has 17k+ health and Dryad will heal 2300 hp every 3.2 seconds, which is like having extra 700+ health regen. Reasonable Healing Rain setups result in about 700 health regen with 66% uptime and some extra health regen during the downtime.
The big downside of Dryad is you’re not healing out of combat while Hungering Void will continue to chip away at your health, while Tree of Life smooths things out. But that’s mostly an issue when your health pool is small. Dying God eats up to 6000 of your health during it’s total duration, which is worrisome if your health is around 10-12k and completely different story if your health is 17k+.
In short, level with Tree of Life, then switch to Dryad later on.
What about Behemoth?
Behemoth is a nice cheap Tree of Life, but it didn’t fit well in my general line of how I wanted my devotion setup to be. It’s allergic to green affinity, any extra point I invest in green is taking away points from some other goodies in red/yellow.
Also, Giant’s Blood is best on circuit breakers with 60-70% health activation threshold. Death Knight only has Menhir’s Will with 33% threshold, which makes it wonky.
Revenant or Scales of Ulcama?
Ulcama’s player stats are slightly better and it makes the character bit more beefy, and proc is nice for extra Dying God degen offset, especially since it’s a vitality proc and this build has significant %vitality damage under Hungering Void.
Revenant on the other hand offers 5% adcth for pets, which isn’t that big of a deal but it helps, and it’s Raise Dead proc works well with Pet Attack command, so flat RR would always be applied to their target, in contrast to Tip the Scale’s RR being applied to three random enemies that happened to attack your character.
I decided that since I also have guaranteed 10 flat RR from Terrify the extra sustain that comes from Ulcama outweights the inconveniences.
Is Shepherd's Crook necessary?
Yes, it’s a lot of free damage. You’d be challenged to find a pet build that doesn’t take it.
Skill distribution for early levelling is extremely simple – open Necromancer and put points into Raise Skeleton skill line.
Bind Pet Attack to right mouse button slot, this is important. Start practicing managing your skeletons while it’s easy.
The recommended way is to rush 9/16 Raise Skeleton first. This is done for one specific reason – you open up new Skeleton types as you invest more into the skill, and 9 is the level at which Raise Skeleton would begin spawning Skeletal Arcanists, albeit with only a 10% chance. Skeletal Arcanists are stupid strong early on. They also don’t scale all that amazing
Then you better 10 in Necromancer bar to open Undead Legion. The problem you’d be facing till that point is you summon three Skeletons, and your max number is also three. So if you have only Arcanist left you’d de-summon him since you’d be above the limit. And you really want to keep accumulating Arcanists since they are your main force. Undead Legion makes it possible by increasing the summon limit at skill levels 1, 3, 6, 9, 12, and further into the game 16 and 20. You’d want to quickly grab 3/12 Undead Legion and then build up both Raise Skeleton and Undead Legion till it’s maxed. Know that if you’re going to increase Undead Legion it’s better to do it in a burst, spending all three points you got on level up. This is because intermediate levels of Undead Legion aren’t very useful.
Whether you’re maxing Undead Legion first or Raise Skeleton isn’t terribly important, but you need to do it before going further. Next stop is Will of the Crypt. Will of the Crypt is honestly not that strong of a skill, but you need that %damage for your skeletons it offers since at this point pet damage bonuses are scarce.
Once you unlock a Blacksmith craft yourself two Scaled Hide, one Resilient Plating and one Antivenom Salve, put them into your chest, legs, shoulders and belt respectively. From now on you’re expected to have components in these gear slots. The aim is to improve your Armor Absorption and resistances.
At level 20 my character looked like that:
For starters you need to craft two Purified Salt and put them into your weapon and offhand. They have activable skills that would improve your pet’s aether resistance. Use that to comfortably farm Act 1 boss (Warden Krieg) till it drops you Warden’s Judgment. Affixes do not matter, you only want it’s Raise Skeleton bonuses. Chance to drop is 35%, so it shouldn’t take long. If he also drops a good shield then you can consider using it too.
Skill-wise you want to get Soul Harvest. First push Necromancer to unlock it, then invest one point to Bone Harvest, then max Soul Harvest. Put Bone Harvest into your left mouse button slot.
Before that point you’ve probably been playing as a normal pet build, once you have Bone Harvest you begin to play as a pseudo-melee. Skeletons are frail, so you’d want to aggressively divert attention from them. Note that what you should do is a close-range kiting, similar to how you’d play a frail melee damage dealer. You’re not durable enough to facetank shit. Yet.
Once you have Shepherd’s Crook bind it to Soul Harvest for convenient activation.
Used relic at that point is whatever drops for you. I used Guile for flat damage aura it provides. If you’re pals with Homestead already you can buy Hysteria from them.
At level 35 my character looked like that:
Go for Master of Death first, then put 1 point into Spectral Binding and max Spectral Wrath, then open Soldier and go for Overguard.
If you happen to get Symbol of Solael then use it in your weapon instead of whatever you’ve been using. Symbol of Solael gives a debuff skill – Solael’s Flame, which reduces enemy vitality resistance by 10%. This is something other pet builds would probably never use because having an extra debuff skills increases the odds of aggro-ing enemies manyfold. But that’s exactly what we want because skeletons are stupid frail at that point.
Also, I don’t usually recommend grinding reputation early, but for this build it very much makes sense to get Honored with Devil’s Crossing by level 40 and use
At level 50 my character looked like that:
This is the level range when you’d probably head to Ugdenbog. You’ll notice your Skeletons being wiped out every fight. It’s normal, you don’t have any acid resistance and there’s no easy way to deal with it at this point into the game, except adjusting your devotions to include Typhos, Ulo or Crane, which is what I encourage you to try out.
Push Soldier mastery further, get Markovian’s Defense transmuter, then aim for War Cry, then Field Command.
Markovian’s Defense is a jewel of this build. It’s something you’d probably never see in any other build, because it cuts your damage in exchange for more tankiness, and noone likes to sacrifice already unimpressive damage of the S&B build. But here’s the big secret - Markovian’s Defense doesn’t affect pets in any way.
War Cry is a nice AoE debuff and it has taunting function too, making it easier keeping enemies off your skeletons.
If you have Honored with The Black Legion you could also buy Legion Mark of the Void and if you have Honored with Rovers you can buy Rhowari Lifecaller from them.
And if you’re Honored with Malmouth Resistance you can buy yourself
Once you’re level 65 you can finally buy some decent faction items that would help you a lot. These items are:
- Solael Vile Cuirass from Cult of Solael
- Solael Vile Pauldrons from Cult of Solael
- Solael Vile Headguard from Cult of Solael
- Bysmiel Flameshroud Headguard from Cult of Bysmiel
At level 65 my character looked like that:
Push your Soldier mastery bar further until you hit Squad Tactics, max Squad Tactics.
Level 70 is when first armor augments become available. My approach is to max out reputation with only The Black Legion at this point, because they have best armor augments at this point – Mankind’s Vigil and Kingsguard Powder. There are basically two methods to farm The Black Legion reputation – either do their bounties on Elite or kill Aetherial Vanguard enemies on Normal/Veteran (since it’s easier and the level is appropriate). The Aetherial Vanguard method is superior because you’re grinding reputation with Malmouth Resistance too.
At level 75 my character looked like that:
At this point it is only small adjustments to your skills. Max Squad Tactics, get 2 points into Shield Training, 1 in Menhir’s Will and up to 5 in Military Conditioning. Also 3 points into Terrify, if you still haven’t.
The faction pieces you’ve got at level 65 have to be replaced, because their armor rating is inadequate at this point.
At level 84 my character looked like that:
Start to grind all important factions to Revered – Coven of Ugdenbog, Barrowholm, Malmouth Resistance and Cults. You especially need Barrowholm and Cult of Solael, since that’s where most of the faction items you’ll be using are coming from. Once done you can buy exp boosting potions from Malmouth Resistance to get to 90 quicker.
Get these things from faction Quartermasters once you’re 90:
- Elite Solael Vile Cuirass from Cult of Solael
- Elite Solael Vile Pauldrons from Cult of Solael
- Ravager's Eye into weapon and offhand from Barrowholm
- Coven Manipulator Pendant from Coven of Ugdenbog
- Wendigo Conjuring Seal from Barrowholm
At level 90 my character looked like that:
Start farming Cryptstalker. Cryptstalker is a legendary weapon that drops only from Spirit Totems, The chance is 1.25%, 2% and 3.75% from normal, forsaken and ancient totems respectively. It’s best to farm Ancient Spirit Totems, the first one you’d find while you progress through campaign is in Broken Hills.
In theory you can also get it from normal and forsaken totems, but in practice normal totems have awkward spawn points, and Forsaken Totems are give or take the same in difficulty as Ancient Totems, so you won’t be saving much time.
- Claw of Hagaraz - guaranteed item, recipe is bought from the Barrowholm Quartermaster. It's bad, but if you've got nothing better then it would do.
- Mythical Deadbeater - very good, but since it's neither craftable nor part of the set the odds of you actually getting it aren't that great. You might have a full stash of legendaries before you get one.
- Cryptstalker - a target-farmable legendary from Spirit Totems. That's an item you probably won't see in any other pet build, but it's perfect for this one.
- Ravager's Eye - undeniably the best augment for the build. Barrowholm faction.
- Mythical Lichguard - one of the two pet necromancer shields in the game, defensive edition. It's craftable, so probably a bit easier to get than the alternative.
- Mythical Dreadguard - the other one. Much better offensively than Lichguard, significantly worse defensively.
- Ravager's Eye - undeniably the best augment for the build. Barrowholm faction.
- Elite Solael Vile Cuirass - bought from Cult of Solael Quartermaster.
- Elite Solael Vile Headguard - bought from Cult of Solael Quartermaster. In theory fits the build just right, in practice hardcapping Raise Skeleton is pretty easy at this point.
- Ascendant Cowl - MI, drops from Possessed Arcanist enemies in Malmouth. Much needed elemental resistance for pets, much welcome bonuses to Undead Legion, and you'd be surprised, but burst summon skill modifier is also pretty useful. Affix priority is Necromancer's/Theurgist's/Taskmaster's, then goes of the Wild, then any other defensive affix for your character.
- Elite Solael Vile Pauldrons - bought from Cult of Solael Quartermaster. Some damn good stats, much needed poison resistance for pets.
- Mantle of Lost Souls - random drop legendary, if it would allow you to have 20/12 Undead Legion then it's worth it, if not or you already have 20/12 UL via some other means then I'd think twice or even thrice – not an obvious upgrade.
- Stat filler slot, I go with Taskmaster's crafted heavy pants here for capping pet aether resistance & chaos resistance.
- Mythical Rifthound's Legwraps - +2 to Undead Legion, pet %OA and aether resistance.
- Mythical Deathrite Handguards - +2 to Undead Legion, physical to vitality conversion for pets, more %damage. Good gloves overall.
- 100% stat filler slot. There are no boots that fit this build to a T in the game.
- Mythical Rifthound Leather Boots - only mention them because they are craftable and have pet %total speed that is rather hard to find.
- Mythical Acolyte's Cord - +2 to Raise Skeleton and good pet stats including much welcome pet elemental resistance. Most of the other pet belts provide pierce resistance instead, and I find it to be a non-priority stat for this build.
- Mythical Shadowfiend Cord - the only good thing about it is +1 to Necromancer, otherwise the above one is better.
- Mythical Spiritseeker Cord - best in slot.
- Wendigo Conjuring Seal - bought from Barrowholm Quartermaster. Good offensive pet stats and +2 Raise Skeleton.
- Mender's Powder - silly strong augment, basically an extra Taskmaster's affix on top of the item. Malmouth Resistance faction.
- Sylvarria's Essence - essential augment for capping poison resistance on non-Occultist pet builds. Coven of Ugdenbog faction.
- Rifthound Salts - useful for some specific gear combinations that lead to pet aether resistance being capped but not chaos and elemental. Devil's Crossing faction augment.
- Mogdrogen's Blessing - best offensive pet augment you won't be using before you get better gear.
- Coven Manipulator Pendant - bought from Coven of Ugdenbog Quartermaster
- Legion Mark of the Void - bought from The Black Legion Quartermaster. +2 to Raise Skeleton and silly amount of pet %OA, considering you can restart the game to get one with best rolls.
- Mortality - T2 Necromancer relic, recipe can be bought from Malmouth Resistance Quartermaster.
- Bysmiel's Domination - generic pet relic, recipe is a random drop
Since it is the first pet build I took whatever I could find from other prominent pet builders and studied a variety of their builds.
I built upon the knowledge left by the old ones:
While not a renown pet builder, @omnitrio 's builds were the first I checked when I just started out.