Delve is one of the best content releases for Path of Exile, expanding the end-game in a nearly limitless fashion, allowing players to push their builds to the limit for survival and reward. We have seen a substantial change from 3.3 to 3.4 in the most popular builds for pushing end-game content, as well as adjustments to what was the normal meta.
This overview is based on personal experience paired with feedback from the player base and the statistics on poe.ninja. The good news is I have played more than 80% of the end-game meta builds, so I am familiar with how they really play and “feel”.
The core goal of this post is to provide links to solid, viable, fun, and good build guides for Delve based proven guides, content clearing and player support.
With the 3.4 Delve league, I have taken the following builds to end-game: Blade Vortex, Double Strike, Reave, Molten Strike, Holy Relic, Toxic Rain, Caustic Arrow, Arc (Self-cast, Totems, Traps and Self-Cast), Tornado Shot, Elemental Hit (Self-Attack and Totems), Raging Spirits, Holy Relic (Guardian). This includes numerous variations of single skills (for example I did Elementalist, Occultist and Trickster self-cast Arc), and also tested a number of the builds I thought were the best in SSF.
I first want to acknowledge how important play style is. Some people hate totems while others only play totem builds. Some like Melee while others love bow builds. The diversity of PoE is one of its greatest features, but also one of the most complex aspects of the game. While a build may be listed as “best” some players may disagree because of the style(s) they prefer – but one thing is assured – the builds listed herein are all rock solid and viable for their represented roles. There are other more powerful builds that are more complex (and sometimes powerful), but they generally require respecing, farming specific items/uniques/item rolls, and other factors — but the reality is most of these builds don’t provide enough of an advantage to the core requirements to outperform the below recommendations.
The below list was created based on a combination of my personal experience with the builds, the experience and recommendations of my friends and colleagues in PoE, comments and feedback from players in Reddit and the PoE forums, builds run by active PoE streamers taken to end-game, and cross-comparing to the top 100 leaderboard builds.
Before we begin, Path of Building is a very important tool to have when following a build guide since many of them share PoB links. Additionally, make sure you have a good loot filter. I personally recommend NeverSink’s Loot Filter.
Getting to maps and farming while surviving and having the ability to do all end-game content are key requirements for each of the recommended builds. This guide does not include ultra expensive builds for players who have accumulated a large amount of currency. This guide is perfect for new players, late league starters, or those who just want to try another build that will work for end-game and is fun.
The Leaderboard and Top Builds
Before I present the list, I want to say something very important: just because it’s on the top 100 list doesn’t mean it’s a “best build”. Many (if not most) of the top players run builds that are designed solely to push 100 and nothing more (farming specific maps); however many of these builds are capable of doing all content (Shaper & Uber Elder), and pushing deep delves 600+. People on the top 100 list are hardcore (play style not HC mode), experienced, and pushing 100 and/or delves 600+ is an art all of its own that generally has no application to the average player – but we can still learn from these builds. I also want to elaborate on how I interpreted the top build from the leaderboards. These characters can be found on poe.ninja builds. There are three core categories to consider: Softcore, Hardcore and SSF (and variations of each). Keep in mind those who are 95+ and do not play SSF often group with others (including aura bots), which includes sharing items and maps. This augmentation can misrepresent the viability of an end-game build and its capability to run without a party and reach 100 as quickly as it has. This means SSF is the best indicator of a build’s capability to progress without aura bots and party support. SSF players that push 95+ are a special breed of dedicated folks who usually put 8-12+ hours of game time in each day. These are not average players; but average players can learn from them.
Below are the statistics pulled from the poe.ninja builds top characters in each league subsection. Note many profiles are set to private, so this data is only based on public profiles that have their skills shared with the community. The below list is in order of popularity and use.
Delve (300+) No worries about dying, can group, and can trade with others!
Top 5 Skills: Blade Vortex (12%), Molten Strike (11%), Elemental Hit (11%), Frenzy (Poet’s Pen – Volatile Dead – 10%), Arc (7%)
Top 5 Ascendancies: Ascendant (17%), Juggernaut (16%), Pathfinder (13%), Elementalist (12%), Deadeye (8%)
HC Delve (300+) Dying is a no go – but can still group and trade.
Top 5 Skills: Blade Vortex (12%), Elemental Hit (12%), Righteous Fire (11%), Molten Strike (11%), Arc (7%)
Top 5 Ascendancies: Juggernaut (18%), Occultist (18%), Ascendant (12%), Pathfinder (11%), Guardian (7%)
SSF Delve (300+) Dying is just fine, but no grouping or trading.
Top 5 Skills: Blade Vortex (21%), Arc (12%), Toxic Rain (11%), Molten Strike (8%), Herald of Agony and Caustic Arrow (5%)
Top 5 Ascendancies: Elementalist (16%), Juggernaut (12%), Pathfinder (11%), Occultist (9%), Ascendant (9%)
HC SSF Delve (300+) No trading, grouping or dying allowed!
Top 5 Skills: Blade Vortex (19%), Arc (12%), Molten Strike (7%), Elemental Hit (6%), Toxic Rain (5%)
Top 5 Ascendancies: Occultist (17%), Elementalist (14%), Ascendant (11%), Saboteur (10%), Juggernaut (9%)
What can we learn from this? Blade Vortex is the most popular skill across the league and Juggernaut is the most popular ascendancy (overall). But, delve depth is a factor. The above numbers are for those who have reached a depth of 300+. Note in normal Delve this only pulls level 95-100 characters as numerous characters in their 80’s have reached delve 300+. So let’s dive in a bit deeper and look at the builds that have achieved a deeper Delve depth.
Delve (600+) No worries about dying, can group, and can trade with others!
Top 3 Skills: Frenzy (Poet’s Pen – Volatile Dead – 18%), Molten Strike (16%), Blade Vortex (15%)
Top 3 Ascendancies: Pathfinder (20%), Ascendant (20%), Juggernaut (13%)
HC Delve (600+) Dying is a no go – but can still group and trade.
Top 3 Skills: Molten Strike (23%), Blade Vortex (23%), Righteous Fire (13%)
Top 3 Ascendancies: Occultist (45%), Pathfinder (23%), Ascendant (6%)
SSF Delve (600+) Dying is just fine, but no grouping or trading.
Top 3 Skills: Blade Vortex (30%), Molten Strike (15%), Elemental Hit (10%)
Top 3 Ascendancies: Occultist (25%), Juggernaut (15%), Elementalist (15%)
HC SSF Delve (600+) No trading, grouping or dying allowed! Only 5 characters have gone deeper than 600! Top 3 Skills: Elemental Hit (20%), Molten Strike (20%), Frenzy (Poet’s Pen – Volatile Dead – 18%)
Top 3 Ascendancies: Occultist (60%), Ascendant (20%), Guardian (20%)
The fact that just 5 characters in HC SSF have gone below Delve 600 shows how dangerous deep delving is and how refined equipment (not available in SSF) is essential. While the last few leagues saw Sunder as “king of SSF”, it is now Blade Vortex and Molten Strike. Elemental Hit is tough because an optimal EH build requires the two jewels to negate cold and lighting damage (to solely focus on fire).
But the final results of Delve are this – it’s the league of Blade Vortex and Molten Strike.
My Favorite Builds from 3.4 Delve
Before I dive into the recommended build list, I wanted to share my favorite builds from the 3.4 Delve league; and of course each of them is on the below build list. Out of every build I played, these were my favorite. While I shared this list above, I’ll do it again for context. I have taken the following builds to end-game: Blade Vortex, Double Strike, Reave, Molten Strike, Holy Relic, Toxic Rain, Caustic Arrow, Arc (Self-cast, Totems, Traps and Self-Cast), Tornado Shot, Elemental Hit (Self-Attack and Totems), Raging Spirits, Holy Relic (Guardian). This includes numerous variations of single skills (for example I did Elementalist, Occultist and Trickster self-cast Arc), and also tested a number of the builds I thought were the best in SSF. The Relic Guardian (below) will be my 3.5 league starter.
My favorite build this league was the little-known Holy Relic Guardian. It uses Cyclone with Life Gain on Hit for movement, Herald of Agony for bosses/tough targets (with Phantasms for distraction), Herald of Purity and Holy Relic for additional damage. I’ll be honest. This is the best build I’ve played in years. It’s fully end-game viable, can do all content, is SSF friendly, and fun to play. I killed Minotaur in under 15 seconds with this build and took it below delve 300 (others have taken it 600+). What makes it so great is all the “pets” are targeted by the mobs, and for those few that target you, the life-gain on hit cyclone works beautifully – especially in darkness.
Toxic Rain Pathfinder is fun, quite powerful, scales well, is a great league starter, can delve below 600 and can also do Uber Elder. I really enjoyed it this league.
Molten Strike has always been strong, but it has undoubtedly become king of Delving due to its AoE damage and leeching capabilities. I played many variations of Molten Strike this league (including the 1000+ delver) and actually had the most fun with FastAFGaming’s Deadeye Molten Strike version. There isn’t a build guide, but he includes a Path of Building link that is very easy to follow.
Arc (Self-Cast, Traps and Totems) is a ton of fun and I tried all variations this league. I’ve linked the strongest of them all below in the Best Delve Builds section (Arc Traps), but want to also include the very powerful and fun Arc Totem variation (which somebody took to 950+ so it’s definitely viable). I also played all 3 self-cast versions of Arc: Enki’s Witch Elementalist (which was fun and balanced), a tankier Occultist version (which survived better, but didn’t have the damage I wanted), and the Zeus Assassin variation, which I found to be the best overall (and could actually kill bosses pretty well!).
I want to wrap up with Lunasicc187’s Elemental Hit Totems because he created a near 10M DPS version that truly wrecks everything. While it’s not very good at delving deep, it completely wipes all maps and bosses.
Each of the above builds should be just as viable in 3.5 as they are in 3.4.
The Build List
For clarity, the below build list is designed for pushing delves. This is very different than pushing other end-game content, since Delves require close quarters combat and avoidance mechanics; the opposite of (for example) fast mappers. The good news is these builds do very well in both Delves and end-game and can be used to easily push 600+ and kill Uber Elder.
Best Delve Builds
The Poet’s Pen Volatile Dead Pathfinder is the #1 deep delver for Path of Exile. Frenzy is used for “tagging” and life gain on hit, and Unearth/Bodyswap paired with Volatile Dead destroy pretty much everything in sight – think of it as Summon Raging Spirits with a nuke and without the required casting time. It’s fun, moves fast, and was just as powerful last league – it’s just proving to be the best overall delver. However, this build is very expensive (the flask alone is more than 20ex in a new league). The good news is the Hierophant Poet’s Pen Volatile Dead build doesn’t require this expensive flask! However it requires a 6L Shavrone’s chest and other items with a total investment of roughly 15ex to start. Either way, this build is expensive, but does it perform in softcore. It’s not hardcore viable.
For both Softcore and Hardcore, Molten Strike has proven to be the all-around best deep delver for 3.4. While there are many variations and ascendancies a player can choose for Molten Strike, the most common deep delvers are the Nebuloch Juggernaut MS and HoWA ES Occultist MS version.
Blade Vortex is one of the most popular all-around builds in 3.4. Elementalist BV for fun factor, speed and quick killing, and Occultist BV for survival.
Elemental Hit has been taken below 1000 and the majority of builds (90%) are Ascendants (Scions). The reason it is so popular is due to 1-shot clear speed, destruction of bodies (from fire and Pyre, which removes the exploding corpses in Delve), and the quick switch between the mapping bow and Chin Sol bossing bow (which can hit like a truck). My favorite Elemental Hit version is Thickk’s Super Tanky Elemental Hit build.
Arc Traps also reign supreme for survival and deep delving – while they can’t go as deep as the above builds, they’re solid for delving 600+ and quickly clear all content because they zap around corners.Sequel’s “Just Another Arc Trapper” build guide is the one I recommend.
Scion Reave is the most popular “true melee” (not counting Molten Strike) skill used to deep delve, and it performs very well with the right equipment, but can get rather expensive due to the 1H foil, offhand stat stick, and jewels. However I want to point out the most popular variation of the Scion Reave that is delving deep (1000+ in softcore) is a Slayer/Juggernaut variation that nobody has made a build for as of yet. You can see this end-game variation on the character Zandaera (who is level 100 and has gone to 750 in depth).
Righteous Fire is always a popular choice, and this league Juggernaut is joined by Guardian for the most played ascendancies. While RF wasn’t a popular choice in softcore, it did very well in hardcore. While RF is fantastic for farming easy delves for currency (darkness, etc.), very few players have gotten deeper than 600 with RF.
Deadeye Tornado Shot is still a party pleaser, and has surprisingly taken players below 1500 (and performs better than arc traps and righteous fire). Note these are cold TS builds that shatter the enemies, thus removing the exploding bodies. But make no mistake; TS is not a viable option for Hardcore deep delving. You will die. A lot.
There are definitely other great builds that could have made it on the list, but I think the above recommendations are overall the best for the Delve league, and will also be viable for the upcoming 3.5 release.
I hope this list helps the PoE community; here’s to the continued success of Path of Exile and the fantastic job Grinding Gear Games has done with the game!