“Quantity has a quality all its own.” -Joseph Stalin
Last guide edit: 1/14/2018 <-- Tiny addition to alternate builds.
Old Skelemancer link posted under alternative builds for those who want to respec or play it instead.
22.214.171.124 Changes: Luckily, skelemancer didn’t take too big a hit with the patch. More importantly, the 1.0.3 patch fixed something I wanted to run with when AoM released but couldn’t because it was bugged. We get a new summon! A BIG skeleton! Dirge of Arko pet got a brain transplant and after some pretty thorough testing I am happy to report it’s actually very functional now (thank you Crate devs). Also, our skeleton horde now keeps up for the most part (thank you Crate devs). So, there’s been some minor changes to get our DPS back (or close enough) to pre-patch levels. After some skill shuffling and aug/comp changes we’re back in business. Cleared Glad Cruci several times (white knuckle unfun) and main story Ultimate campaign is actually even easier now (there’s a surprising number of badguys who really get nuked when you hit them with Ulo proc). Summons are a tad bit squishier but… we get a nice summon time reduction on the important ones with our gear choices and decent CD reduce with our offhand, so that it’s really no big deal (we aren’t using Hourglass though so you’ll want to NOT let your summons completely suicide wipe as you can’t pull off double casting them back to back).
NOTE: You can exchange Mirror on chest for Titan Plating, and scaled hide on pants with silk swatch or ugden leather, and then replace Seals of Might for Resonance on main and offhand for some VERY nice stun/freeze/etc resists. I thought this would be an improvement for cruci but I died 2 times back to back after that change. Can’t say if it was bad mutator luck, last wave spawns (suspect it was twin maidens), or something like all the phys res and armor absorb loss that was the culprit. Just letting you know.
So why play a skelemancer and how does it work? Skelemancer focuses on combining pet damage synergy and flat damage stacking along vitality/chaos/elemental and to a lesser degree fire (Skeleton skill tree, Master of Death, Hellfire, Storm Spirit, Soul Harvest and gearing picks). These are also the focuses of it’s resist reductions (Vulnerability and Solael’s Witchblade including a flat reduction from Foul Eruption). It boosts total pet damage admirably, total pet speed adequately, and focuses on pet OA and pet crit to get the numbers up for ultimate content. Skelemancer also takes a few design decisions to sustain summons and protect them as they are our primary avenue of DPS and more fragile than comparative summoner builds (Aspect of the Guardian, Revenant celestial for pet ADCTH, Blood of Dreeg and Call of the Grave). We get some nice utility and CC from various sources such as Blight Fiend, Hungering Void, and Raise the Dead.
+15 permanent summons +1 Sundered Wraith
+The usual powerful feeling when you have endgame gear but also the usual lack of a need for twink gear while leveling. Not gear dependent.
+Can handle a wide variety of the game content and this ability scales with player gearing. A decent choice for new players.
+A more backseat approach to the game with you calling the shots and observing the battles. This can allow you to learn game mechanics and encounters quickly IF you pay attention.
+Forgiving play style. With other builds a lot of new players don’t know there’s a problem until they die. Skelemancer gets some leeway because usually the pets start wiping first which means he can take measures ahead of time, whether that is fleeing or otherwise.
+A different feel from other summoners but nothing radically different. Pet Attack usage is more rewarding for us.
+Great DPS, at a cost…
+Easy to play (You can not have a clue what you are doing or what is going on and monsters will still get killed).
-It’s still a summoner so if you don’t like the play style you won’t like this.
-Struggles with some few notable game content currently (difficult but not un-doable). This isn’t exclusive to us as Ravager, Avatar of Mog and ??? are a handful to most builds out there right now.
-Can be lazy in a bad way if new players don’t take the time to learn the game mechanics and encounters. You’ll feel pretty powerful up until you don’t, then you’ll wonder what happened and probably blame the wrong thing.
-EDIT: Apparently is viable for gladiator crucible but I wouldn’t consider it farm worthy (used all my tribute points).
-Squishier than other summoners all things being equal.
-Difficult to master. (Placing you character, placing your summons and knowing when and how to change those is an entirely separate guide worth of info.)
Physique: 92 , Spirit: 13 , Cunning: 0
Ascendant = Purple, Chaos = Red, Eldritch = Green, Order = Gold, Primordial = Blue (These are always referring to the Crossroads star)
- Finish Bat (attach Curse of Frailty)
- Finish Fiend (attach Raise Skeleton)
- Finish Shepherd’s Crook (attach Bone Harvest)
- Finish Panther
- Finish Sailor’s Guide
- Finish Staff of Rattosh
- Finish Lion
- Finish Ulo the Keeper of the Waters (attach Reap Spirit)
- Finish Solael’s Witchblade (attach Hellhound unless you don’t have endgame gear, in which case attach Blight Fiend)
- Finish Revenant (attach Ravenous Earth)
- Dying God (everything except last node on arm, attach Siphon Souls)
- Last node of Dying God
“Klaatu Barada N… necktie… nectar… nickel… noodle. It’s an “N” word, it’s definitely an “N” word! Klaatu… Barada… N…
CoF, Ravenous Earth, Siphon Souls (be in range of as much baddies as possible), Bone Harvest, BoD, CotG (Now assess the battle and reposition if necessary, if you see Hero or Boss worth blowing up, Reap Spirit it) Wrath of the Beast Tincture in emergencies! Remember to stay on top of your Ravenous Earth and Bone Harvest. Ravenous Earth should be cast whenever it comes up from recharge, right in the thick of bad guys. Bone Harvest is the same for it’s flat damage add and Shepherd’s Crook activation timing. Most trash engagements don’t require more than 1 cast of Siphon Soul. If even that much. If you lose more than a couple Skeles, resummon them. Stay on top of your other summons.
PROTIP: JayNyne had the brilliant idea to clue newbies in on something veteran players learned the hard way, so credit to him and I am repeating it for my guide. There are certain enemies in the game that you should absolutely avoid certain casting on, or at least wait before casting CoF on (or anything else besides skele support skills) because they’ll bypass all your summons to beat your face. Hulks are notable for this. Do yourself a favor and learn which enemies warrant such consideration on lower difficulty levels if you are a new player.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Right button should be Pet Attack on any summoner but ESPECIALLY this summoner. Send your troops in, let them get aggro if there’s a dangerous baddie (Looking at you Kalakros, the Mountain), then after you see the flame torrents lighting up, walk your summons behind or beside the bad guy(s). Wait a few seconds and assess the battle. If it’s still in full swing, walk the summons again. You want to drag your flame torrent skeles across or through the bad guys. (DO NOT spam this! They need to attack enough to at least activate Flame Torrent. Wait till you see the flames. Also, moving them keeps them from attacking and they are supposed to attack, so we really just want to focus on parking them where they are attacking AND hitting the bad guys with the Flame Torrent proc). Keep a close eye on Skele count. If you lose even one or two and the screen is hectic, re-summon immediately and get ahead of the loss. Losing skeles is losing DPS and that’s the quickest way to get surprised by a boss/hero/swarm.
ADDENDUM: I’d like to point out here that the skele walk tactic is way less valuable in the early to midgame phase because your skeletons move about as fast as molasses at that point. Early game, don’t tinker with this so much as it interrupts their attack which puts the brakes on DPS output. Mid to late game when they start buzzing around pretty fast is when you should really start practicing skele parking. DO however walk them out of danger throughout the game!
ROUGH LEVELING GUIDE.
Factions: You can join whichever faction you want. Just DON’T aggro Barrowholm if you want the Ravager Eye augment or the beautiful Claw of Hagaraz dagger (wonderful craftable while you wait on Beacon of Lost Souls). If for some reason you do want to aggro Barrowholm cough, you’ll want to rep grind them on a lower difficulty to grab a bunch of their inventory and murder them later.
NOTE: Be aware that if you are planning on using non-scepter weapons (like the claw of Hag), you’ll want to bank some attribute points ahead of time for their requirements (if you want to use minimal attribute tonics). This could be a hefty sum.
“Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it. Thank you.” -Willy Wonka
Devotions: Raise them as listed. You need to do this to give them the most time to level up with you anyways, also they are useful in that order for leveling (until you get to the blue slog on your way to Dying God but dems da breaks). One change: Twin Fangs goes on CoF (or Raise Skeleton) early because you won’t need blight fiend for a while and he won’t need twin fangs until later. You will want it though for healing until you pick up Dryad. Or, you might want to attach fangs to Raise Skeleton if you aren’t having any problems not dying (I haven’t). It actually works better than expected as a Skeleton Damage boost and keeps them from being so squishy early game. Just don’t forget to switch them to Flame Torrent as soon as it’s available.
Items: In this order, prioritize +occult/+necro/+Raise Skeleton, pet bonuses (All damage, OA, crit, and total/attack speed are priority BUT skeles really benefit from +health and resist bonuses more than other summons, so don’t turn your nose up to that gear if you are a veteran summoner.), then your resists. Even if you get something for a totally different build, if it has any of those key bonuses, slap it on there. UTILIZE early to midgame components and augments. Corpse Dust, Mutated Scales, and anything that raises resists (particularly aether and acid/poison for act 5) make a substantial difference in survival. Thats it. Hunt for the BiS gear posted. Slot in an enchanted flint on your main hand and offhand items (remember to activate the auras) for an early game boost. Don’t overcap anything except Raise Skeleton, Hellfire, Storm Spirit, and possibly Undead Legion if you can actually reach another skeleton total (remember to respec down if you have to if you pick up +skills as every point you can shuffle elsewhere matters). Don’t neglect your faction chores, particularly Legion, Rovers and Order of Death. They all have valuable midgame pet gear and augments. Also, Guile, Deathchill, and Ancestor are the premier early game relic choices for this build. Yes, crafting early game relics can be a bit of a chore if you don’t have a rich alt character but those items can turn a problem Skelemancer into Uroboruuk’s star student. Night and day change in game difficulty. I would go so far as to say Guile should actually carry you through the other options with ease and you might just want to skip them unless you are having problems.
NOTE: If you aren’t a veteran pet player be advised. As you approach higher difficulties (like Act 5 elite), you’ll seriously want to consider dropping some pet gear for better character resists. I didn’t personally have to, and even ran through it with 12 points in Bonds of Bys unactivated but I felt it.
Example of a tough item choice that requires some thought from the player
“Do not be trapped by the need to achieve anything. This way, you achieve everything.” -Hayt, the ghola
Skills: Max Raise Skeleton immediately. Get Undead Legion to 6 after that. Now spec into Occultist and put 1 point in Curse of Frailty (get in the practice now because it’ll be more useful if they scale back Raise Skeleton in any way). Max Undead Legion. Now push for at least 1 point in Blood of Dreeg. Push for Bonds of Bysmiel, Raven, Hellhound, Hellfire and Storm Spirit for at least 1 point investments. Then splash Vulnerability and Aspect of the Guardian for at least 1 point. Push to Blight Fiend, then Rotting Fumes and Call of the Grave for 1 point each. Soul Harvest and Will of the Crypt come next for 1 point each. Now you have the majority of your active skills to practice with so you aren’t dealing with a learning curve in Ultimate. Will of the Crypt is the next to max. Blood of Dreeg, Call of the Grave and Bonds of Bysmiel are the prime early game boosts in that order for keeping summons alive. Vulnerability is a great midgame DPS boost so put a point in there occasionally if you want to speed things along. Reap Spirit for 1 point comes in when we BEGIN Dying God (if you come up short on SP for Reap Spirit before getting to Hungering Void proc, then respec points from Storm Spirit and Hellfire to cover it). Ravenous Earth comes in when we get close to Raise the Dead. Master of Death, Manipulation, and Foul Eruption come last in that order (so Foul Eruption would be last).
ADDENDUM: If you are having a hard time keeping up with skele attrition once you reach the bog in expansion, seriously consider respeccing some points into Aspect of the Guardian. It will give your skeles much needed early level poison res.
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” -Bruce Lee
Gameplay: About the only thing to remember starting out is to keep CoF and Bone Harvest applied, keep the Skele boosters up, position your skeletons where required (melt faces liberally), and move them out of area damage. I’m not sure if Crate improved the Skele behavior or I am imagining things but they are pretty good about staying out of stuff that will wipe them now if you observe a bare minimum of awareness and command them to step away. Always have Blood of Dreeg up and start learning when best to pop it in between it’s duration window to keep skele attrition down. Always Call of the Grave when you see a hero or boss as it and Blood of Dreeg together are essential to keep skele attrition in check. If you want to make things even easier, step into Crucible and snag some early game loot and devotions (early devotions are the best time to get them). As soon as you have Raise Skeletons you can push 20 waves back to back. In fact I recommend doing crucible until you have Twin Fangs because it works remarkably well for Raise Skeleton until they get Flame Torrent. Stop wasting time in Crucible after Twin Fangs though, unless you just enjoy it. NOTE: Be prepared to change how many/much health tonics you consume when Hungering Void comes into play! It may catch you by surprise since this is not a vitality caster and your Dryad’s Blessing may not be leveled up enough to do what it is in this build to do, which is compensate for Hungering Void health cost. As soon as you can, acquire some Wrath of the Beast Tincture from the Rover merchant and assign it a skill bar slot you are comfortable using in an emergency! I like putting it behind active skills and before summons. I keep Raven on 2 bar bound to the 0 key since it dies the least. (Just be sure to only pop it if you have skeletons up to utilize it. I actually like these things for speed leveling and just pop them at key moments during any big fight to move the game along. “It’s super effective!”) Once you unlock Revenant proc you will be spamming Ravenous Earth in between keeping the rest of your skills applied. When you find yourself in troublesome spots, they key to difficult battles almost always revolves around skeleton positioning. Skelemancers must utilize pet attack to reap the full measure of their power.
ADDENDUM: I have found that elite xpac is actually a bit tougher than early ultimate. Something to consider if you have hit a wall.
PROTIP: Remember those enemies I warned you about casting attack skills on? You may notice that in ultimate some of them don’t even care if you target them or not. They’ll still blitz you as soon as they see your summons. If you are undergeared for this in ultimate (typically from not using components and augments) you’ve got two options. The run away option is one. The other is to kill them before they kill you (also a compelling reason to consider Mark of Torment for one of your spare points. Enjoy fitting that in on your skill bar somewhere). The most effective way to attempt the latter, is skele parking. The only change is, you park them all on you and you hit the badguy with EVERYTHING in your rotation, holding off on Blood of Dreeg until your life bar demands some tribute. Then you start backing out of the protective skele circle and make the baddie slog through them for the entire encounter to get to you. If you are not severely outclassed, and if you do this correctly, and time your BoD and health pot precisely, you’ll typically prevail in these encounters. If there are too many ranged attackers on the board in this situation, I’d advise kiting the big bad to an area you have already cleared or just fleeing instead.
One exception: If you are playing through the difficulties without twink gear, you will need to run away in Act 5 Malmouth Elite (later stages). Even if you’ve dropped some optimized pet gear for better resistances and you’ve picked up some +aether res for your pets (which you should), the heroes and sub bosses here can kill you extremely fast and there’s a big level gap between mid-level and end-level faction gearing (for some strange reason). Oddly, you’ll probably stomp all over the last storyline boss with ease but some of the bounty bosses and bad-guys leading up to the finale can just sack you if you don’t play extremely carefully at this point. Aether Cluster on the middle mouse button and a point in Mark of Torment go a very long way to making this slog more bearable.
PROTIP: Don’t forget there are occasions where you don’t want to utilize skele parking. Sometimes having them all bunched up makes it easier for certain attacks/situations to wipe them. Leaving your skeles in blob formation (they figure out what to do themsleves) has it’s place in skelemancer strategy. Savvy players will pick up when it’s best to let them off the leash.
IMPORTANT NOTES: If you are a new player, remember to ALWAYS push your summons through boss fight doors/gates with the pet attack command before you go through. Otherwise you may be stuck in a big fight without all your summons able to participate until you resummon them on your side! Also, when you find yourself in a strenuous battle, Skelemancer does not retreat! If you are fleeing you are most likely already dead. Skelemancers strategically withdraw instead. This is not a punchline. When you are fighting a serious threat that is mobile, you should always, always be planning how you are leading that enemy to their certain end. Where other summoners get caught flat footed, Skelemancers are in control. Always plan a circuit of retreat involving the terrain, it’s obstacles and most importantly, your skeleton horde. This is done with some intention while being learned but later becomes efficient instinct and it’s a prime reason for some of Skelemancers design decisions regarding absorb, CC, and sustain. LEAD the enemies through through skeleton horde and around it whenever something engages you instead of your minions. Not only does this give the benefit of allowing the summons to go about their work unencumbered but Skelemancers get the added benefit of lashing the adversary with Flame Torrent swarm. This is terribly effective if done correctly and is essentially the exact opposite of the skeleton parking tactic described earlier. Practice it.
“I’ve got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom.” -Thomas Carlyle
Gearing up. The grind to Ascendency:
Since I am starting to get this question via PM as you guys level up, let me answer it here. Ultimate is tough. It’s supposed to be. It’s the endgame time sink for the players that stick around through normal difficulty. Some of us love GD so much we even got bored with Ultimate and so there are other even bigger challenges. I love that about Grim Dawn. Some builds, regardless of setup or gear just don’t hack Ultimate. Some builds can’t hack Ultimate without BiS gear, or at least they can’t stroll around through the content like they own the place. This build as configured is in the latter category. Make no mistake, as of patch 126.96.36.199, I can tell you Skelemancer fully dressed up is a definitive tier 1 build in my opinion, but replace 2-4 gears and that is not so (for my setup at least). Don’t be discouraged. I don’t personally know of a build that can clear ultimate xpac without at least %50 optimal gear equipped but I suspect it would involve nothing but retaliation and unending tears of boredom. My first two characters built using a guide from GD forums did not complete their own gearing requirements. I found their gear taking a break from them and playing other toons (of course, I may just be a crappy player). If you are getting frustrated or feel you have hit a difficulty wall, play a different character instead of allowing yourself to get sick of the game. Trust me. The gear will come. It always does!*
ADDENDUM: Just to verify skelemancer’s lack of gearing requirements, I completed elite (including xpac) with my self found toon without EVER activating Bonds of Bysmiel (invested in but not activated, so playing at an SP disadvantage). Even under those circumstances, the skelemancer was STILL vastly more fragile than the summons. If you are having difficulty, address your own resistances before concerning yourself with pet bonuses. If you have barely followed this guide, your skeletons should not be having wipe issues. If they are, I recommend re-reading because you are missing something in the guide.
*not including non-trade MIs
Lastly, if you are a newbie and this is your firstish build, don’t forget you can respec! There’s no need to follow the point allocation shown in the ENDGAME build. You can respec into that later on. Do yourself a favor and invest more than is listed in some of the build skills or even in skills not listed, like Bloody Pox for instance. Heck, you can even run a vitality caster all the way up till endgame and just collect the summon build gear until you feel comfortable respecing. I was running vitality caster just for quality of life and only rolled a starting summoner to answer these questions. Also, for the new players: Do yourself a huge favor and check out some of the other summon builds or the new player info sticky.
Most of that is completely applicable advice even for this build with a few exceptions I listed (like +pet health and +pet resists being much more valuable to this build). Good luck and have fun!
Alternative builds for the more imaginative player.
Gladiator Crucible build (patch 188.8.131.52) —> DaShiv’s Night King!
Gladiator Crucible build (patch 184.108.40.206) —>thepowerofmediocrity’s ret conjurer is still amazing.
UPDATE: Witching Hour Summoner (not thoroughly tested but it certainly blows through the typical vanilla benchmarks so far. Credit to thepowerofmediocrity for the patch followup and input.)
Thanks for the read and may Uroboruuk bless your drops!