Grim Dawn is one of the best ARPGs ever made, resulting in continued growth with the latest Forgotten Gods expansion, and a very dedicated following of hardcore gamers pushing the internal mechanics to its limits. While top tier build publication is an excellent reality for those who are experienced with Grim Dawn and have a huge repository of legendary set gear, the majority of builds shared with the community are complex end-game builds that often leave new players in the dust, confused and wondering where to start, how to progress, and most importantly: how to equip.
To help new and returning players, I have put together a collection of ten detailed build guides that are fantastic starters, can do nearly all content, and are capable of farming their own end-game gear. This means the builds perform excellently on self-found equipment and can farm ultimate to acquire the best-in-slot legendary items. Whether it’s stabbing your enemies with giant pincers or cold steel, shooting elemental guns of death, tossing flesh-melting bombs, commanding an army of ravenous undead, electrocuting everything on the screen, smashing with a life-leeching 2-handed club, shooting a beam of aether murder, or summoning mounds of filth to obliterate your enemies, we’ve got you covered!
Gun builds are some of the most fun in Grim Dawn, blasting targets from a distance and piercing hoards of enemies, often killing them because they can get close. One of my favorite builds is the Dual Wield Elemental Purifier, and was the first build guide I did. Since then, I’ve wanted to do an alternative gun guide for a build that’s solid, fun and capable of pursuing end-game content.
MR. THUMPYSHARTS is VERY easy to play, supporting the simple right-click shooting termination of most enemies with Cadence. The only additional skills used are War Cry, Word of Renewal and Inquisitors Seal. That’s it. So this is great for players who want a simple build that does great damage and doesn’t require piano skills to play and survive.
SIR BLOODYDOTS features great crowd control, vitality leech and bleed damage, additional supportive healing (Wendigo & Blood of Dreeg) paired with resistance reduction, this build is a DoT powerhouse that loves shredding everything to pieces. And while everything is bleeding to death, you get the beat on larger targets with your giant 2-handed weapon. The build has excellent AoE and solid single-target damage, and once your devotions are complete, it rips through all of the core content with ease. Oh, and it’s fun!
SIR CRUNCHYBONES Skelemancer Cabalist is a very strong pet build with a mini-army of minions that quickly and efficiently dispatch your enemies while you pick up the loot. I believe this is not only one of the fastest leveling builds in the game, it’s also one of the safest. Your pets (namely Skeletons) murder everything as you run through the content and pick up the juicy loot. Once the regeneration from Blood of Dreeg and the Devotions is established, you rarely have to recast your pets except during tough boss fights. As with most pet builds, ground-based AoE damage is the most dangerous and can quickly kill all of your little buddies, which is why resists are very important. The ground-based Aether damage from AoM can be quite challenging, but once you get the pet Aether resistances up, they do very well. It’s also important to remember when you summon skeletons, it’s random if you get an archer, warrior or mage. Many players will recast skeletons to get a balanced collection of all three while others prefer pure warriors or archers; but this can be difficult to achieve with the RNG-nature of the build.
MR. ZAPPY Wind Devil Storm Totem Vindicator utilizes electrifying totems and wind devil pets to debuff and zap your enemies. I believe this is one of the fastest leveling builds in the game. Your Totems and Wind Devils decimate everything around you, and the general technique is to drop them and run off while they murder the entire screen. Lightning equipment drops like crazy, so it’s easy to consistently raise your damage as you level. The build can be tanky as well with Word of Renewal, Inquisitor’s Seal and Windigo Totem all working in unison; but for those nasty bosses you just can’t keep up on the damage, kiting is a requirement (as is a movement Glyph). The good news is your Wind Devils love to chase every living thing, and your Totems will shock anything in their proximity all while your Storm Box continually zaps tagged targets.
MR. STABBY Blind Assassin Pierce Infiltrator is a high DPS melee build that shreds your enemies before they can break your defenses. This build actually levels rather quickly because pierce does fantastic damage. As with all melee builds, the biggest problem is usually ground AoE, which we have to stay out of. All you need to do is grab the best Dermapteran Slicers from those nasty bugs west of Homestead, and you’re solid! Just make sure you keep your resistances maxed (stun resist is very important with this build) and Pneumatic Burst up at all times (for Shadow Dance, which may be one of the best survival skills in the game).
COLDYLOX Deathmarked Cold Infiltrator is similar to the above Pierce infiltrator, but has more defense due to its cold damage, freezing and frostbiting your enemies. This build can be a bit slow while leveling and there may be instances where you have to run away to escape AoE damage on the ground. There may also be issues with AoE damage, and it could feel like it takes forever to kill things. Don’t worry. It’s part of the growing process and once you approach level 60, the build really begins to shine. By the time you hit 80 or so, you’ll be destroying everything you come across and Shadow Striking into large groups just to slice everything up like a master chef. Just make sure you keep your resistances maxed (stun resist is very important with this build) and Pneumatic Burst up at all times (for Shadow Dance, which may be one of the best survival skills in the game).
MR. WHACKY Savagery 2H Vitality Ritualist is a very heavy hitting melee build that utilizes life leech to sustain itself through battle. This build can be a bit slow while leveling and there may be instances where the leech doesn’t support the mini-boss battles. Don’t worry. It’s part of the growing process and once you approach level 60, the build really begins to shine. By the time you hit 80 or so, you’ll be destroying everything you come across. Just make sure you keep your resistances maxed (stun resist is very important with this build) and synergize your leech so you’re never without it. The only time you’ll die is if you stop leeching and you get heavy hitters whacking you at the same time. For bosses that like to freeze or shock you, be sure to have some Ointment buffs ready to counter the affects.
Aether Man AAR Mage Hunter is a fun caster that utilizes a penetrating beam of death, melting everything it can see. 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.
BURN THE WORLD BWC and RoK Purifier is a napalm-tossing boss melting firestorm of death build. This build is so strong to play while leveling, most of the time you’ll just drop your BWC and run ahead, knowing you leave a trail of burning screams of anguish behind you. Your goal is to stack fire and burn damage any way you can while keeping good resists and health. I recommend the 100 health per level rule (e.g. at level 50, have at least 5000 – and at level 90 have at least 9000). While this build can facetank later on with great DA, you are a kiter. You run around and avoid taking any damage, and often kill everything (including mini-bosses) before they even have a chance to reach you. If you do get some great DA and health early on, facetanking with Fire Strike is devastating and you’ll kill bosses 2x (or more) faster. You’ll get a feel for what works or not rather quickly.
Acid Ravenous Earth Oppressor is a very high DPS mobile caster build of melting death. The key items for this build are easily found and farmable as the player progresses through the story. The Bonespike drops from the Mages in Mountain Deeps. This lowers the recharge time and raises the duration of Ravenous Earth. The Leafmane Horn is what converts Vitality Damage to Acid Damage, and drops from the Leafmanes east of Coven’s Refuge in Ugdenbog. While the Leafmane Horn is usable at level 20, most players won’t get to Ugdenbog to farm it until 40 or so; but Ravenous Earth is so powerful it’ll perform just fine before the conversion to Acid. The Basilisk Crest also drops in the same area the Leafmane Horn does (east of Coven’s refuge) from the Basilisks. That is the most difficult one to find, so don’t spend too much time farming a good one until Ultimate; prior to that time, any prefix rolls will work just fine as long as you have the skill recharge adjustor for RE.
Dual Wield Lightning Purifier is a pistol-based gun-slinging ranged build of elemental death. It’s also held as one of the most fun builds to play, but isn’t recommended to hardcore players because it can be very squishy. But the damage is glorious. The standard play style is to stand in your Seal and shoot (I recommend binding Fire Strike to your right mouse button). You can destroy the entire screen in just a few seconds. Use Thermite Mines to lower the resists of hard targets, and hit Word of Renewal while in your seal to regenerate health. If you have to run, run – but know outside of your seal, you are very squishy!
While there are many other top-tier starter builds, I felt these ten builds were a great start to choose from for those who are trying Grim Dawn for the first time, or returning after a long sabbatical.
Forgotten Gods is a fantastic expansion, and I recommend everyone who plays Grim Dawn purchase both Ashes of Malmouth and Forgotten Gods. They’re worth every penny!
If you have a recommended build to add to this list, please let me know in the comments section!