The upcoming Path of Exile Incursion League continues the exceptional pattern of content and gameplay growth of what has become one of the best ARPGs ever made. Even though 3.3 is going to include substantial skill changes, now that the 3.2 Bestiary Ascendancy changes have taken root, players can plan starting builds that we know will be perfectly viable in 3.3 based on their performance in 3.2. And now that the 3.3 Incursion patch notes have been released, we see there are no real nerfs to the builds covered herein; quite the opposite, there were many buffs!
The 3.3 skill changes are for the most part only buffs, and the redux of the Trap and Vaal skills (essentially allowing a Vaal skill to also level and act as a base skill) paired with enhancing ignite is going to empower builds even more; however these changes aren’t really going to make a huge difference in choosing a starting build based on what we learned in 3.2 unless one wants to try something new solely based on the redux of traps, ignite or a specific vaal skill. While Arc was buffed, Fireball looks solid, and Lacerate was reworked, the proven builds listed below are just as good as they were in 3.2, if not better due to the new Vaal skill changes.
As such, this overview is for players who prefer starting a new league with a build they can rely on rather than trying out something new and unproven based on the changes (but lets be honest, we know Arc will rock).
The core goal of this post is to provide links to solid, viable, fun, good starting and end-game viable build guides based on what we know will work (and not untested changes in 3.3). If you have any recommended changes to the below list, please make a comment!
With the 3.2 Bestiary league, I have taken the following builds to end-game: Melee Skeletons, Zombiemancer, Zoo Summoner, Sunder (multiple), Cyclone (multiple), Molten Strike, Magma Orb, Tornado Shot, Poison Quill Rain, Reave and Reave/BF, Righteous Fire, Frost Blades, Wander, and Frostbolt/FP/GC/Arc Totems. There’s probably a few other builds I’m not remembering as well.
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, including Shaper. People on the top 100 list are hardcore (play style not HC mode), experienced, and pushing 100 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.
Bestiary No worries about dying, can group, and can trade with others!
Top 5 Skills: Tornado Shot (13%), Barrage (13%), Righteous Fire (12%), Scorching Ray (10%), Molten Strike (5%)
Top 5 Ascendancies: Juggernaut (18%), Deadeye (15%), Ascendant (8%), Necromancer (7%), Guardian (7%)
HC Bestiary Dying is a no go – but can still group and trade.
Top 5 Skills: Righteous Fire (11%), Raise Spectre (9%), Scorching Ray (8%), Barrage (5%), Tornado Shot (5%)
Top 5 Ascendancies: Juggernaut (27%), Necromancer (12%), Deadeye (10%), Hierophant (7%), Guardian (6%)
SSF Bestiary Dying is just fine, but no grouping or trading.
Top 5 Skills: Barrage (6%), Raise Spectre (6%), Sunder (6%), Cyclone (5%), Glacial Cascade (5%)
Top 5 Ascendancies: Juggernaut (14%), Heirophant (13%), Necromancer (10%), Deadeye (10%), Champion (8%)
HC SSF Bestiary No trading, grouping or dying allowed!
Top 5 Skills: Sunder (11%), Raise Spectre (9%), Righteous Fire (6%), Essence Drain (5%), Reave (4%)
Top 5 Ascendancies: Juggernaut (24%), Necromancer (13%), Hierophant (11%), Champion (7%), Trickster (6%)
What can we learn from this? Juggernaut is the king of Ascendancies across the board due to its survivability. Barrage is #1 in SSF solely because nearly all ranged builds use it (TS/LA/Ice Shot/KB). Sunder is king of SSF, and for non-HC and non-SSF, players prefer Tornado Shot – but end-game TS builds require expensive gear and are squishy. Totems are very popular in SSF, and next to Juggernaut, Necromancer is the most popular Ascendancy to span all four game modes. Players also love their Spectre builds (which have great survivability).
My Favorite Builds from 3.2 Bestiary
Before I dive into the recommended build list, I wanted to share my favorite builds from the 3.2 Bestiary 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: Melee Skeletons, Zombiemancer, Zoo Summoner, Sunder (multiple), Cyclone (multiple), Molten Strike, Magma Orb, Tornado Shot, Poison Quill Rain, Reave and Reave/BF, Righteous Fire, Frost Blades (multiple), Wander, and Frostbolt/FP/GC/Arc Totems. While I haven’t decided on the build I’ll start the 3.3 Incursion league with, it will probably be one of the below three.
Catharsis’s Melee Skeletons was my favorite this league. Easy to level, the survivability was fantastic (SSF and HC viable), and the skeletons are quite powerful and fun. More than that, this build is capable of doing all game content (although Uber Elder is very difficult). Once you complete Cruel lab, you’re good to go; cast your skeletons in the middle of a group and watch the entire group explode. And this build rocks on just a 4-link Femur, which should be available the first day of the new league.
KissMeQuick’s Reave Build is the best melee build I’ve ever played (and that’s saying a lot). I was shocked to find Reave worked just fine for leveling, and once you hit L70+ Reave outperforms Sunder. It’s viable for all game content and the single-target damage is staggering. At L85 I killed Uber Izuro in ~3 seconds, and I didn’t even have BIS gear. And the survivability of this build is fantastic; there were numerous times I survived combination breach/abyss, and harbinger/beast attacks that no other melee build I’ve done in the past could have. And it’s fun. I also want to mention the buffs to Lacerate in 3. 3 could make the skill much more viable alternative to Reave and Sunder.
Frostblade builds are well-known to be glass cannons; once you Hit ~T10 there’s a threshold where characters start getting 1-shot left and right — however, Fiver’s Frostblades Raider is a blast, is very powerful, and for a Frostblades build, it has great survivability due to the leeching. This is the frostblades build to use, and it’s a great league starter and map clearer.
Each of the above builds will be just as viable in 3.3 as they were in 3.2, if not more due to the Vaal skill changes (except for Frost Blades).
The Build List
For clarity, this list is not created solely based on the top 100 builds from poe-racing; it’s based on many additional factors (covered above) including player support/recommendations, end-game viability, overall fun, and personal experience. Here we go!
Best all-around Starting Builds
Sunder still holds the top spot for softcore and hardcore “all around” gameplay. Sunder is also one of the most beginner friendly builds in PoE. The most popular Sunder builds are Gladiator and Champion, but it can be played as Slayer and Juggernaut as well.
Righteous Fire is the end-game king in 3.2 when it comes to all-around gameplay. Mapping, Eternal Lab, Uber Atziri, Guardians and Shaper; this is the build of choice by some of the most experienced players. While Juggernaut is the most popular ascendancy, the top players to reach 100 in HC and SSF (Aila did it in just 5d12h in SSFHC) used an Occultist variation of Righteous Fire – but this play style requires crazy flask management and is only for those most experienced with PoE. The Juggernaut style is much more relaxing and laid back, and the preferred choice by most RF players. For those who are interested, here’s the English translation of Aila’s Occultist RF guide. Note there are potential changes in 3.3 which will nerf Aila’s RF Occultist build.
Molten Strike with leech is crazy powerful and one of the best all-around builds available in PoE able to do all content. I actually completed the storyline and got to mapping faster with this build than any other (with 0 deaths). While the clear speed isn’t top tier (I’d give it a 5 out of 10), the boss melting and survivability is top notch. Plus it’s just fun to watch everything melt while sucking your victims life away. There is also a Sword’n’Board Juggernaut variation that’s built to farm all game content.
Essence Drain is still going strong and is one of the best league starters around; it also does a very good job of clearing maps, but requires substantial investment to complete Guardians and Shaper.
Ancestral Warchief is also considered one of the best league starting builds since it has minimal gear requirements, scales well, and allows for easy farming of the Lab. It’s excellent at killing bosses, but isn’t very quick at mapping. The Facebreaker Variation is considered one of the strongest, but requires the Facebreaker unique gloves; however these are usually very easy to acquire within the first day or two of a league.
With the recent ascendancy changes to Hierophant, Spell Totems are more powerful than ever. The most popular are Glacial Cascade totems followed by Frostbolt. GC totems handle bosses very well (and do not require any jewels to augment like FB/FP, making them a better choice as a starting character in a new league) but don’t clear maps as quickly as Frostbolt. Freezing Pulse totems are perfectly viable as well (1.5M Shaper DPS with end-game gear), and with the upcoming buff to FP, they will be even more viable in 3.3. Milky’s Righteous Fire Totems are also very powerful and fun for those who like totem builds. Arc was already solid in 3.2 and is receiving a very nice buff, so Arc Totems should rock in 3.3.
Melee Skeletons are decimating end-game and a blast to play with the Ascendancy changes in 3.2. My personal opinion is they are more fun than Spectres because the player doesn’t have to wait for them to move around and catch up, and they can be cast in strategic locations. Put them in the middle of a blue group and watch the entire group explode in one shot. Cast twice around a boss and watch it melt. Melee skeletons were the most fun I had last league and the mapping speed is quite good (6 out of 10). Boss killing? I’d rate it a 9 out of 10, and the build runs Eternal Lab with ease.
While I love skeletons, there no question Spectres are still exceptional for completing all content in the game. While players (like myself) are jumping on Melee Skeletons (as the new meta in 3.2) because they’re “new”, Spectres will always be a solid choice. The Zombiemancer is also a lot of fun, just not as quick as the Melee Skeleton build for map clearing, but the Zombies pack a whallop against bosses!
Best Speed Mapping/Farming Builds
Wander (Kinetic Blast) comes in first for speed farming and end-game mapping. People prefer Windripper for the magic find, but Kinetic Blast can clear faster than Tornado Shot, but it is not a boss killer. The Queenliness Wanderfinder is also a long-standing and classic wander guide. The standard is to farm Burial Chambers or Toxic Sewer.
Reave has replaced Sunder as the end-game melee speed farming skill because it has a wider strike radius than Sunder (and can thus kill faster). Most players start with Sunder and convert to Reave when they have upgraded/optimized their gear (around L75). However, I found a Reave guide that has the player using Reave from the start, and it’s probably one of the best melee builds I’ve played; as such I highly recommend KissMeQuick’s Gladiator Reave build. Additionally, here’s a Champion Guide.
I also want to add the best Cyclone build I’ve ever played to this list; the Tesla Cyclone (Slayer/Raider Ascendant) by Vashseden. It’s fast, powerful, maps almost as fast as a wander, and is capable of doing all game content (which a Wander is not); however the cost to do all content is quite expensive (due to the Starforge requirement).
There are definitely other great builds that could have made it on the list, but I think the above recommendations are solid for the upcoming Incursion league.
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!