Pure Caster Builds - Viable?

I see a lot of good builds from jajaja and others but every single one seems to be soldier + something or nightblade + something or demo + something.

Is there a reason there are no occultist + arcanist builds or are they just pretty weak compared to sol/occ, nb/occ, etc?

If you are using an arcanist skill as main attack then going demolitionist second is better. If you use evil eye as main attack on the occultist side then nightblade second is better. Only pet warlock (high item req) is really good for that combo imo. Not sure about chaos/vit ray with the new items out, but not paticualrly good

Pure casters are definitely viable though.
Evil eye witch hunter is extremely strong/top notch. Wicked kill times, good aoe, tanky with right setup or can be a kiter
Callidor’s tempest+off/devastation based sorcerer is pretty good dps and super tanky can also use panettis instead of callidor.
Phantasmal blades spellbreaker is pretty dang solid as well

I think the other casters are pretty weak. Cold/lightning druids are trash, demolitionist bomber man is something I quite enjoy but it’s not very good and very item dependent. I hate aether ray and won’t really comment much on it, but it’s decent and did just get a nice dps buff

Ya Aether Ray can do some crazy dps but it blows out energy so fast it’s not real sustainable.

I keep messing around with diff builds and it just seems I keep coming back to:

Arcanist + (something other than occultist)
Occultist + (something other than arcanist)

Can’t get a good warlock build going. :frowning:

Don’t confuse "viable (“strong enough”) with “optimal” (“strongest”). There are absolutely some very viable caster-based builds which can complete all content. However, if you’re trying seriously to maximize character effectiveness, you need attack skills with a percent weapon damage factor, because damage scaling on all caster-type abilities is weak at ultimate levels.

Casters are fun and strong enough to finish ultimate. A good weapon based build is almost always going to be stronger. Jajaja isn’t logging in to roleplay and enjoy the scenery, he wants to kill monsters and take their stuff as efficiently as possible, which is why all his builds are weapon based.

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You just need a good gear and a good devotion tree, but it’s posibble to use an AAR build (I think there is a guide for warlock and sorcerer).


I’ll take a look!

I must have ef’d up mine something fierce as I ran into a wall in elite and just could not put out enough damage to take down anything more than trash mobs.

Good point on the weapons. It does seem those scale a bit better. I’m hoping maybe Crate tweaks casters a tad in upcoming patches. I always had issues with figuring out really what to gear my caster with. Usually shot for +% on whatever elements I was using [PRM, devastation, et al] but I think I may have just had too many eggs spread around instead of really stacking one type of damage. That’s one other thing I noticed in a lot of the melee builds is they tend to pick a damage and just stack it to the ceiling [bleed, cold, lightning, whatever] whereas my arcanist was doing cold, lightning, aether [and chaos I think? devastation] as well as whatever PRM actually is [elemental?].

So ya… sounds like user error on my part. :slight_smile:

I need to read up on the guide info and see what I can tweak out as well as look at the Warlock build again.

This one I’m guessing…
[v1.0] (u) (hc) (vid) (g5) (l) Aether Disintegration (Crillow)

[wont let me link yet because I’m new… yay?]

Or go pets which seem to add a bit to survivability.

[v1.0] (pet/caster) (u) (vid) (g4) (l) Voidmancer Summoner (Avatar of Dreeg)

Focusing on all 3 elements and aether is no bueno as buffing all 3 to equal levels is tough, you will want to focus 1x ele+aether or 2x+aether. Not really any different for casters or melee except that some melee builds have an easier time going allin on one type. You usually have 2 significant damage types with a 3rd or maybe 4th doing some dmg on the side

You definitely did something wrong if you couldn’t kill stuff in elite though. Arcanist is really powerful early on with flash freeze to wipe mobs and aether ray/devastation for bosses

I followed that guide and it’s viable, but you need a lot of mana regen and items with high attributes. If not, you’ll have the same problem as I had with mana regen. It took me several days to get enough mana regen to be able to use that build, but the result was pretty nice.


First GD char since playing briefly in early access. Heh. Was 100% arc. Focus was on PRM and my gear was terrible. RNG-Jesus hated me.

Didn’t have ray on that build as it destroyed my mana pool. Was plinking with PRM/devasation/trozans/flash so was all over the place.

Prolly will redo that char at some point… but… be less stupid about it. :wink:

100% arc is good early on. For future leveling attempts be sure to use searing ember weapon component and later flintcore bolts, they gave you a really nice fireblast spammable skill for left mouse. Good base damage and combines nicely with the huge -fire res on flash freeze is the freeze doesn’t kill stuff on it’s own

For single target boss damage you can start skyshard, but definitely want aether for later in veteran and at least early elite. You definitely can’t sustain it well (keep it at a medium point investment so you can use it for awhile), but it does way way more damage to bosses than panettis, callidors, etc and can keep the laser on them in between devastation casts

I don’t know, man…it seems to me that warlock is a very hard class to play compared to pretty much everything because you have to achieve a balance between huge OA, resistances and energy management. That usually translates into ad nauseam farming for ultra rare MIs and even then you might hit a brick wall if you do not have a good plan for the build. Recently I have completed a Black Flame set and I have to tell you it is not really that bad.

I don’t know if this would be considered “competitive” enough, but without the ultra rare double rolled greens this is how it would look like (this char doesn’t even have auguments on the gear yet, btw):

Ya started a new one last night and rolling this so far…


May or may not take demo at 50 but doing the leveling bit first as arc. OFF is insane. It literally one shots stuff in A1 and I’m already up to the prison. Whatever doesn’t die gets fireballed from ember [now flintcore] and for kicks I might toss enh flint on other hand to add even more fire debuff. It’s a bit crazy how much those items [esp searing ember] can do starting out and how easy they are to get.

I had never put more than 1 point in OFF on my other arc so I did not know the joy of full screen freeze. Jebus. :slight_smile:

I think the gist is weapon based builds are currently fastest clear times which is fine. I just want to be able to clear all content even if not the fastest. I find spell casters more fun than melee often. I have a blademaster sitting at about 75 right now that has been smashing faces with a 2h mace and I can literally play that character with like… two buttons… and only die if I fall asleep which is hard because it’s boring af. :slight_smile:

Oh and yes that looks sweet. ZAAAAP! :slight_smile:

Because 500 000 persons play Grim Dawn and not everyone posts their build.

The funny thing to me about a lot of the caster builds I’ve made is that, for those, a lot of them were more gear-dependent than my melee weapon builds. I didn’t understand that early on and started predominantly with casters with this game for the rationale that I thought they would be the least gear-dependent characters in the entire game (as with the case with Diablo and lots of other RPGs) so that I could farm better gear for other builds to try. I thought their spells would be obliterating stuff left and right even if they ran around naked (squishy but still doing respectable damage while naked).

Oh, how wrong I was. In fact, I don’t think I was just wrong about gear independence but the idea that casters have to be the squishiest characters in the game. Skills like BoD, maiven’s sphere, possession, etc. are arguably some extremely good defense skills and a battlemage might be just as tanky as a warder in some cases. Even skills like Totem or SoC are more “caster” kind of “spells” and boost survivality a great deal, just as much or more than something outside of the caster/spell realm.

I just recently and finally crafted Agrivix’s Malice for my CT sorc using my 85 witchblade and wawaweewa, I just feel like that character doubled in terms of efficiency.

At no point with my melee characters like my witchblade or warder or saboteur or trickster did I feel like one piece of equipment boosted my effectiveness that much. With my witchblade in particular, he is the least gear-dependent build I have. Finding better gear for him results in minor improvements (with the exception of maybe legendary sets perfect for that build for which I have few), not like crazy night and day changes with just one substitute of one equipment slot. The only melee build which I feel is close to as gear-dependent as some of my casters are my nightblade dual-wielder lines (my saboteur and blademasters), and they’re still arguably less gear-dependent than my casters.

With my casters I tend to face hurdles in the game at various points which I can only overcome easily with better gear.

So for at least some of the caster builds IMO, they actually rely more heavily on gear than even like a soldier with a meh shield and one-hander or a shaman destroying stuff with a meh heavy two-hander.

OFF is insane. It literally one shots stuff in A1 and I’m already up to the prison

OFF is great early on but it tends to hit a damage wall the further you progress. I’ve only heard of a few select items I don’t have (wrapfire, e.g.) that might make OFF viable as a damage source endgame. You tend to have to ween off of it as a damage source (and not just CC for trash) at some point. I had to learn that lesson the hardest way possible after designing an entire build around cold damage and OFF since I thought it could be just as effective later on. Being a long-time Diablo 2 player I kept wanting a substitute for frozen orb and I thought OFF could be it (though cooldowns depress me). Frozen orb also became less viable in hell difficulty in Diablo 2 but not to the extent of OFF IMO. If you’re using OFF for damage then I think you have to give up that idea much sooner.

I was thinking about this subject and some other people far more experienced with the game than I am told me casters verge on being underpowered because their damage doesn’t scale as well as those who use weapons, and also because their damage can be more easily resisted (multiplicative) as opposed to simply being subtracted by armor ratings on enemies. One person told me that if the level cap was raised to something higher than 85, casters would really start to lag behind those relying on weapon damage.

That got me thinking a lot about the game mechanics for casters and I can only agree based on my observations so far at least when fancy legendary BiS gear isn’t involved.

But a solution that comes to mind IMO is to make offensive ability no longer apply to casters – to make their spells hit with 100% chance like traditional RPGs (AD&D, e.g.). If we want to allow crits, maybe make spirit determine crit chance for spells. That might be too intrusive to the game mechanics, but making OA irrelevant for a caster would definitely make casters a bit more appealing over those wielding swords and giant axes and so forth and getting crits left and right but only by accumulating tons of offensive ability.

It’d also kind of fit traditional RPG mechanics (I found the idea that spells can miss and even trigger criticals to be very counter-intuitive with this one initially). That would leave casters more room when they no longer depend at all on cunning and OA (basically THAC0) to maneuver with their build while melee and ranged weapon types would have to keep on focusing on OA a lot.

I feel like that’s too intrusive to the game mechanics as is and too intrusive towards what long-time players have already designed (pissing them off), but I dunno – it just doesn’t feel right to me to make casters focus a lot on OA – it never quite fit what I would ever expect. It’s one of those design decisions that bring casters and weapon users to the lowest common denominator to make them both focus on OA and misses and criticals, but that feels weird and it kind of makes the game a bit more bland in some sense where we’re just thinking more about damage on paper between casters and weapon users instead of feeling like we’re truly comparing apples and oranges.

To me the most interesting balance is achieved when balance is no longer easy to determine, when people truly feel like they cannot compare one thing to another (apples and oranges) instead of being able to easily break things down mathematically as to which one is more optimal.

Fully agree and that’s been, it seems, one of my biggest painpoints. I ran a witchblade up with meh gear and it worked as long as I had reasonably ok resists and an ok 2h, even yellow.

OFF is great early on but it tends to hit a damage wall the further you progress.

About level 40-ish… ha. Well it still is fairly effective. I tried to switch over to PRM and it went poorly. Devastation is still lovely of course but I think I need a few more points and more +aether gear to make PRM work for me. This is off Firebirds build [Panetti’s Sorcerer]. Went back to OFF and will drag it kicking and screaming as long as I can while I try to find gear that doesn’t suck. There’s a L50 BL faction dagger that should help in that respect.

As usual, at the mercy of RNG. My best gear for my caster was found using my witchblade… :slight_smile:

To your second reply, fully agree.

I threw out this idea while intoxicated a bit and already feeling like it’s too intrusive to the mechanics and to existing players with the game in its mature state.

Generally when I feel like an idea is too extreme and intrusive, maybe a dialed down version might work. Perhaps it would be interesting if casters (spells independent of weapons, i.e.) could never miss, but offensive ability can still allow them to crit. That would still allow those players who created some sorcerer with like 3000 OA to still get their beloved crits left and right, but it’d leave maneuvering room for other builds starved on OA to be viable as casters since they’d never miss.

Dunno, the knee-jerk thought came from just distinguishing casters and weapon users a bit more to allow them to explore different possibilities by putting them under different constraints. Relieving offensive ability from casters as such a crucial property would allow them to kind of deviate and try out different avenues, different devotions (ex: not every single build needs to be tempted to include Hawk), etc. It was more of an idea for diversity rather than one carefully focused on balance as the end goal, and doesn’t necessarily solve the “beyond-endgame” problem if the level cap was raised.

That beyond endgame problem is a bit difficult because the idea of weapon user and caster is blurred – they bleed into each other and is not distinguished so much by mastery selection. The ones using weapon skills will always have the possibility of benefitting both ways (from both the weapon and the damage types they focus on) while casters benefit only on boosting the precise damage type (aether, fire, chaos, lightning, poison, etc).

what ever happened to the reduction to resistances mechanic that we oh so loved in TQ? lol, it enabled mediocre low-elemental based dmg still be effective throughout until the end-game.

this solves a lot of things for sub-par dmg rates casters face in GD. who needs to crit if you can put your baddies’ resists in the negative zone?:stuck_out_tongue: there must be something they changed about the mechanic if this has not already been put forward as a suggestion. i know im curious about it. im developing a pure caster atm in HC but im putting her on standby until i get answers to get over this “hump”

I think this “casters suck” theory has gone too far lately backed by absolutely no real comparative empirical analyses. I say this because:

  1. If you look at the game along all three difficulties, you will see that casters perform 2-3 times better in Veteran than melee builds. They fall off in Ultimate if you have no idea how to play to their strenghs or rush the content without rational grinding before. However, they are not trash.

  2. Poison Witch Hunter, PB Spellbreaker - these are caster build archetypes that do not suck at all.

  3. Pet builds - which are technically speaking closer to casters than to WD builds - have enormous damage output. I have already proven that you can take out the Mad Queen with them in less than 15 seconds. Risks are also minimal because you are not required to facetank anything.

  4. An AAR Warlock using the new Black Flame set does not suck. I have tested it extensively vs. every nemesis (including Fabius in less than 20s) and the damage output is tier 1. I have also completed 120 waves of the Gladiator Crucible with it and I still sit at 0 deaths currently. I am pretty much sure it can finish Glad solo with some tweeks.

  5. Ppl. have proven ad nauseam that a proper CT sorcerer represents a tier 1 build. I have nothing to add to this subject.

In conclusion, casters do not suck. I’d rather be concerned about 2h rifle builds because they really do suck unless you play a Witchblade build around the Gutripper or the Harbinger set.