Welcome to the Complete Build & Leveling Guide for the AETHER MAN Albrech’s Aether Ray (AAR) Mage Hunter. This build works great as a starting build in the game, can do most content (including a few super bosses) and easily farm Ultimate for set gear with self-found drops. While I would say it’s only hardcore viable for very experienced HC players, it is new player friendly, fun, easy to farm the green best in slot (BiS) items, and scales very well. If you’re looking for a fun starter build that focuses on the recent changes to AAR with a complete leveling guide, this is the place! Note the GrimTools link is at the bottom of the guide.
With the release of 184.108.40.206, AAR received a major buff where it now pierces all enemies, and the buff is fantastic. The beam melts pretty much everything, only having issues with high aether resist bosses (which have to be kited). Continuing my mission to find solid starter builds to share with the community paired with the interest in AAR, I decided to try multiple variations of AAR; this included 4 different devotion layouts, multiple item combinations, and other class combinations (including Warlock). I found the build presented in this guide to be the best for self-found, solid for leveling and surviving in Ultimate. And yes, AAR is a great leveling skill, and the end-game variations can kill super bosses!
However it’s important to note that moving to a converted lightning variation of AAR is recommended. As such, I’m including a link to this transition with recommended BiS gear.
This build is only hardcore viable for experienced HC players.
I want to extend special thanks to RektByProtoss; he provided great support and information for the end-game variation of this build. He’s also one of the best Grim Dawn streamers out there. I recommend people subscribe to his channel.
I also want to extend thanks to bluewilliama on reddit, who also provided some great support and ideas.
Before we begin, I recommend these mods to anyone playing Grim Dawn, especially new players. Note none of these mods cheat or change the core of the game – they just add quality of life:
Augments are the most important thing for end-game and require honored or revered reputation with a faction to access them. Rule of thumb: as soon as you hit Honored with any faction (which will begin to happen in Elite mode), immediately buy the Writ (for 88,000 iron) that doubles your faction gain. This will help you get to Revered much quicker, and give you access to the necessary augments to help your resists in Ultimate.
Augments List The factions a player gets Honored and Revered with first are generally: Devil’s Crossing, Rovers, Homestead, Black Legion, Order/Kymon, and Coven of Ugdenbog. I’m listing some of the most popular defensive Augments below for reference, which can greatly help in surviving both Elite and especially Ultimate.
40: Arkovian Rose Powder | 10% Elemental Res | Rings/Amulet | Rovers Honored
40: Necrotic Flesh | 15% Bleeding Res | Rings/Amulet | Order Honored
40: Chillheart Powder | 15% Cold & Vitality Res | Rings/Amulet | Order Honored
70: Venomguard Powder | 15% Poison & Acid Res | All Armor | Rovers Revered
70: Nightshade Powder | 7% Pierce & 10% Cold Res | All Armor | Rovers Revered
70: Bladeward Powder | 10% Pierce Res | All Armor | Devil’s Revered
70: Mogdrogan’s Touch | 10% Poison & Acid Res, 7% Vitality Res | All Armor | Devil’s Revered
70: Kymon’s Blessing | 15% Fire Res | All Armor | Kymon’s Revered
70: Kymon’s Conduit | 15% Lightning Res | All Armor | Kymon’s Revered
70: Demonbane Powder | 7% Vitality & Chaos Res | All Armor | Kymon’s Revered
70: Mankind’s Vigil | 7% Aether Res, 7% Chaos Res | All Armor | Black Legion Revered
70: Kingsguard Powder | 7% Pierce Res, 10% Poison/Acid Res | All Armor | Black Legion Revered
70: Flameweave Powder | 7% Pierce Res, 10% Fire Res | All Armor | Homestead Revered
70: Solarstorm Powder | 10% Fire Res, 10% Lightning Res | All Armor | Homestead Revered
70: Wraithtouch Powder | 15% Cold Res | All Armor | Order Revered
70: Spiritguard Powder | 10% Vitality Res | All Armor | Order Revered
70: Spellward Powder | 10% Lightning Res, 7% Aether Res | All Armor | Order Revered
90: Coven Warding Powder | 7% Elemental Res | All Armor | Coven Revered
90: Coven Black Ash | 8% Pierce and Chaos Res | All Armor | Coven Revered
Transmutation This is a new and critically important feature introduced with Forgotten Gods that allows the player to convert set items to another item of the same set. And it works with BLUE (non-legendary) set items! The quest to unlock Transmute is given by Kargon in the Conclave of the Three. The quest unlocks after you’ve progressed to the Oasis area. The Tome is found on Canen’s Corpse. It costs 120,000 iron per transmute, and uses 1 Eldrich Essence (which is quite rare, so make each transmute count!). Luckily, a player put together a guide on Farming Eldrich Essence. Remember, if you can craft the helmet of a set, you can transmute those helmets to other pieces. This means you can craft an entire set just from the helmet recipe!
Another technique is to convert a set item to another random set item. This costs 30,000 iron, scrap and crystals (which is a lot cheaper than converting to the same set). A good example of this technique is if you want the Mythical version of a set item (but you have none, and don’t have the recipe to craft the helm), you can take another mythical set item and convert it to a random set item with the possibility of getting a mythical of the set you’re looking for!
Final Level 100 Stat Distribution: 83 Physique, 24 Spirit Faction of Choice: Kymon
This build is very easy to level but becomes quite gear dependent about half-way through the leveling process. The good news is the core gear is very easy to farm!
An important note on Energy management! This build is VERY energy hungry. You can avoid constantly running out of energy by initially using Ectoplasm in your Rings and Amulet, and later on putting a Focusing Prism (Level 27) in your amulet, and an Arcane Spark (Level 35) in your medal.
The most important piece is the Pulsing Shard which drops 75% of the time from The Amalgamation, located west of Homestead. Get this as soon as possible; I believe the lowest level variation is level 32. The life leech makes all the difference.
Let’s talk Relics right quick. Prior to transitioning to Lightning, I do recommend Haunt. Solid damage and great Aether debuff.
While leveling, you’ll find these items to be very helpful:
18: Bone Talisman (Relic) Mana Regen
20: Wrathstone (1H Component) Damage
25: Specter (Relic)
27: Focusing Prism (Amulet Component) Regen
30: Twilight’s Veil (1H)
35: Haunt (Relic)
35: Arcane Spark (Medal Component) Regen
40+: Pulsing Shard (OH) BiS (The Amalgamation)
40+: Arcane Scepter (1H) BiS (Sister Crimson)
46: Immaterial Edge (1H)
65: Essence of the Grim Dawn (Amulet) Craftable (Ancient Grove)
70: Agrivix’s Malice (Relic) or Iskandra’s Balance (Relic)
75: Seal of Corruption (Component) Mainhand
90: Aetherbolt Pendant (Amulet) BP from Coven of Ugdenbog
94: Mythical Arcanoweave Cord (Waist)
Phase I (Arcanist) Iskandra’s (1) → PRM (1) → Distortion (1) → PRM (Max) → Respec At L10 – Remove all PRM → AAR(1) → Arcane Will (1) → AAR (Max) → Nullification (1) → Elemental Balance (1) → Mirror (1) → Maiven’s Sphere (1) → Mental Alacrity (1) → Fabric of Reality (1) → Disintegration (1) → Reckless Power (1) → Fabric of Reality (Max)
Phase II (Arcanist) Mental Alacrity (Max) → Reckless Power (Max) → Disintegration (Max) → Maiven’s Sphere (Max) → Conversion (3) → Arcane Will (3) → Iskandra’s (3)
Phase III (Inquisitor) Word of Pain (1) → Word of Renewal (1) → Deadly Aim (1) → Vigor (1) → Death Sentence (1) → Inquisitor Seal (6) → Word of Renewal (6) → Death Sentence (Max) → Deadly Aim (Max) → Inquisitor Seal (Max) → Word of Renewal (Max) → Steel Resolve (1) → Arcane Empowerment
AAR is quite strong, easily destroys all trash and melts most bosses. This build is quite tanky as long as the damage is flowing outward and you’re standing in a seal. However, physical spike damage (from bosses like Galakros) can quickly kill you (even in your seal) if you’re not careful (and running solid gear). Lining up a dozen or more enemies that fill the screen (including orange bosses) and melting them in a second or two is like a perfect golf swing. AAR is a ton of fun.
Wondering why your Maven’s Sphere of Protection is toggling off? It automatically turns off if you run out of energy!
I found this build goes up and down while leveling; it destroys a lot of content, but when you encounter a problem boss, it can be quite a problem, which is why I don’t think it’s a good HC viable build except for those who have extensive HC experience.
This build is designed to facetank, however blinking away to avoid terminal damage is often required with certain boss fights – but most of the time you’ll just be standing in your seal and manically laughing as you vaporize everything around you.
Survival is dependent on life leech from uninterrupted damage, the Inquisitor Seal, Maiven’s Sphere and the OH GOD NO invulnerability of Mirror from Arcanist. Do more damage and get more leech. It’s that simple. A really strong AAR build often doesn’t even need to use a Seal while farming trash and orange bosses.
Rotation for Trash: AAR. That’s it. It’ll vaporize all trash.
Rotation for Bosses (Kite): Seal, Word of Pain, Haunt, AAR. Use Word of Renewal either for regen or insta-heal (depending on boss) and of course Mirror for the 3-second invulnerability. Nullification is also warranted for certain bosses, but it’s more of a conditional than a norm.
As mentioned this build guide focuses on the full Aether variation of AAR, however the strongest transitional end-game build is conversion to electricity (full). I’m including the initial Aether build below, and also the transitional build for those who want to pursue it.