Continuing the 3-month content release schedule players have been enjoying for years, the Path of Exile Harvest League launched on June 19, 2020. It’s the first building-based league where players create connected structures focused on seed-planting and harvesting, all tied to enhanced item crafting. Harvest appears to be more about overall balance and a few reworks than anything else as there were no major additions or changes to the game like there were with previous leagues. This is fine since there is so much content in PoE, and balance is critically important.
Links to numerous complete guides for some of the strongest builds in the game can be found below.
Below is a quick snapshot of the buffs, nerfs and other adjustments this league.
BUFFED: Unleash received strong buff. Numerous elemental skills buffed, such as Ball Lightning, Freezing Pulse, Fireball, Frostbolt, etc. Energy Shield builds easier to grow in passive tree. Two-handed Weapons re-balanced & enhanced. NERFED: Brands reworked (big nerf to Storm Brand). Cyclone no longer grants stun immunity. Spectres, Zombies & Skeletons nerfed, but still solid for end-game. Headhunter nerfed. Archmage nerfed. MORE: Warcry Redux (including new support gems). New Brands Added (Penance, Wintertide, Arcanist, Swiftbrand). Earthshatter new melee skill. Delirium added to core game. Vaal side areas in maps improved. Visual effects changed for many skills (like Earthquake. Firestorm, Arc, etc.).
The launch of Harvest was quite smooth, especially compared to the myriad of problems we saw during the launch of Delirium. Part of this is due to the fact Harvest revolves around building and farming, which is a controlled interaction players can choose to participate in. There have been a number of patches since the release of Harvest, and overall, the league is in a good position, especially for supporting SSF play due to its crafting focus.
While last league (Delirium) was all about Cyclone and Storm Brand, the top skill this league is Volatile Dead, however, we have more of a diverse range of follow-up skills than last league, including Essence Drain, Earthquake, Raise Spectre, Ball Lightning, Toxic Rain, Earthshatter, and more.
While the War Cries saw a big redux, which has greatly enhanced survival and melee skills as a whole, the new skill introduced with 3.11 that’s being used the most is Earthshatter.
While Volatile Dead is dominating this league, there is a lot of variation in builds in Harvest, which is a good thing. I started playing Harvest a bit late (roughly two weeks into the league), and have taken the below builds to end-game:
Relative to this overview, I 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” or “top”, 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, but they generally are much more complex, expensive, require respecing, and specific uniques — but the reality is most of these builds don’t provide enough of an advantage to the core requirements to outperform the below recommendations.
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 overview 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 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 and pulling in a minimum XP/h amount); however many of these builds are capable of doing all content (Shaper & Uber Elder), and delving deep. People on the top list are hardcore (play style not HC mode), experienced, and pushing 100 (while also delving) is an art all of its own that generally has no application to the average player – but we can still learn from these players and 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.
As we can see, Volatile Dead is king this league; this is because it’s cheap, strong, reliable, steady and easy to gear for. Spellslinger is what makes Volatile Dead so viable, casting three spells with the single click of a button. Summoner (Spectre) builds come in second (considering both Softcore and Hardcore), followed by Essence Drain and Earthquake. Cyclone is still used, but not nearly as much as last league, and both Blade Vortex and Ball Lightning are still quite popular.
Once again, Necromancer is the dominant Ascendancy by far due to its Volatile Dead, Spectre and Zombie support. Trickster comes in second, with Juggernaut third.
The follow-up most used skills for Softcore are:
The follow-up most used skills for Hardcore are:
When it comes to Delving in Softcore, Icicle Mines lead the pack with a depth approaching 3,000. Ice Shot Deadeye runs as a close second.
Looking at Delving in Hardcore, a Vortex/Vigilant Strike build has outperformed everyone else with a depth below 700. The closest after the Vortex build is a Earthquake build at 402. In the 300’s Bladefall/Blade Blast is performing very well, along with Volatile Dead.
My Favorite Builds from 3.11 Harvest
Before I dive into the Top build list from the statics, I wanted to share my favorite builds from Harvest so far.
My favorite build this league was the non-meta Creeping Frost / Vortex / Cold Snap Trickster. It’s like Vortex, but with ranged DoT on top. It’s tanky, fun (we bind Vortex to the left click so it casts seamlessly as you run), and can do all content in the game. It’s also HC and SSF viable. Here’s a PoB based on GIPPOOO’s build, complete with leveling trees and notes (including how to transition from Life to ES).
The second most fun (and powerful) build I played this league is the Bladefall / Blade Blast Assassin. Not only is it SSF viable, it is also one of the best delvers for HC, which shows the overall power and diversity of the build. AhhCrying was one of the first players to reach level 100 in HCSSF, and when he did, he held first place in delving. That speaks for itself. There’s no official build guide, so I put together a PoB based on AhhCrying’s build with notes and skill tree phases. It’s awesome. If you haven’t played a Bladefall/BB build, I highly recommend it.
The third most fun and enjoyable build I played this league was the self-cast Ball Lightning Hierophant. It’s tanky, SSF viable, HC viable, and can do all content (including Delve). It’s steady, fun, zappy play. I’ve put together a PoB complete with leveling trees and notes (thanks to KooArchmage).
I’ve always loved SRS, but it’s generally too squishy for HC and deep delving. Well, the Guardian variation of SRS is not only HC, but all content viable. While it doesn’t have the crazy DPS a Necromancer can reach, for those who want to enjoy SRS in a HC environment, it’s awesome. I’ve put together a PoB complete with leveling trees and notes (thanks to pjn76).
As mentioned, the below list is based upon the Statistics pulled from poe.ninja; not just normal mode, but hardcore as well (which indicates fantastic survival). I will include links to what I consider to be the best build guides, many of which I have used myself.
Volatile Dead Necromancer is top tier this league because of its steady survival, DPS and bossing. I can vouch for its effectiveness, but the constant screen clutter can be quite overwhelming. ShamefulPenguin wrote a solid build guide.
Essence Drain is still one of the most popular skills this league due to its great clear and reasonable bossing paired with the DOT and run play style. I recommend Darkxellmc’s Ultimate ED Trickster Guide.
An alternative to the standard above Essence Drain build is the Caustic Arrow/Essence Drain combo build, which is also rock solid and fun to play (and doesn’t require to constant 2-cast Cont/ED style). It also has great clear due to the pierce creating multiple CA clouds. Here’s a custom PoB with notes based on the #1 CA/ED build in SSF.
Even though Cyclone received a nerf through the removal of stun immunity, it’s still a top tier skill this league. The most popular ascendancy is Champion, and people are running Facebreaker, 2H Axe, and Duel Wield variations. Strangely enough, there aren’t any build guides on the forums for these (that I could find). As such, here’s the the PoB I put together for the Facebreaker Cyclone Champion complete with leveling trees from 3.10. It should be just a solid in Harvest.