While the Synthesis league mechanics are probably some of the weakest expansion features released for PoE (steam charts show the worst gain and retention since the Prophecy league in 2016), the newly added skills are great and have paved the way for new builds that are a ton of fun. This is where the Synthesis league shines. I also want to point out the new music tracks are fantastic.
10 notable new skill gems added in Synthesis: Bane, Divine Ire, Malevolence, Purifying Flame, Soulrend, Wave of Conviction, Zealotry, Energy Leech, Intensify and Unleash. Other existing skills were also buffed, like Freezing Pulse, Ethereal Knives, and Contagion. It’s my opinion the skill additions and enhancements for Synthesis are some of the best we’ve seen and have allowed us to not only embrace new builds, but breathe fresh life into older/other skills (and builds) that many players have come to love and enjoy. Trickster’s Ghost Dance system was reworked, making the ascendancy a solid choice for survival. Inquisitor was also adjusted to focus more on Consecrated ground. Both of these ascendancy overhauls are solid and made the core classes “better” to play. Ultimately, the skill and play-based changes from Synthesis focus mainly on DoT (Damage Over Time), and it’s a great thing.
While last league was known as the “Arc Mine” league, Synthesis will be known as the Winter Orb, Soulrend and Storm Brand league, even though Winter Orb and Storm Brand were nerfed!
Playing Synthesis since launch, I have taken the following builds to end-game:
Winter Orb Trickster
Storm Brand Inquisitor
Freezing Pulse Totem Hierophant
Essence Drain Trickster
Blight CWC Soulrend Occultist
Holy Relic Guardian
Purifying Flame Chieftain
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.
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 the top 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 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.
Synthesis No worries about dying, can group, and can trade with others! Top 5 Skills: Winter Orb (16%), Soulrend (11%), Vortex (7%) Storm Brand (6%), Molten Strike (5%) Top 5 Ascendancies: Occultist (27%), Trickster (21%), Elementalist (15%), Inquisitor (6%), Juggernaut (6%)
Hardcore Synthesis Dying is a no go – but can still group and trade. Top 5 Skills: Winter Orb (8%), Storm Brand (6%), Soulrend (6%), Divine Ire (5%), Molten Strike (5%) Top 5 Ascendancies: Occultist (24%), Trickster (20%), Juggernaut (11%), Inquisitor (10%), Elementalist (7%)
SSF Synthesis Dying is just fine, but no grouping or trading. Top 5 Skills: Soulrend (12%), Divine Ire (9%), Winter Orb (7%), Storm Brand (6%), Vortex (3%) Top 5 Ascendancies: Occultist (29%), Trickster (27%), Inquisitor (12%), Elementalist (11%), Hierophant (3%)
HC SSF Synthesis No trading, grouping or dying allowed! Top 5 Skills: Winter Orb (11%), Soulrend (8%), Divine Ire (7%), Storm Brand (7%), Tie: Essence Drain (3%) & Holy Flame Totem (3%) Top 5 Ascendancies: Trickster (28%), Occultist (23%), Elementalist (10%), Inquisitor (10%), Juggernaut (6%)
What can we learn from this? First, there is a greater diversity of builds taken to end-game than last league (where arc was >20% and everyone was Elementalist). Second, Winter Orb and Soulrend are the two most popular skills across the league, and Occultist is the most popular ascendancy followed by Trickster due to the survival mechanics, which I can attest are fantastic.
Another great thing about this league is the new skills (Soulrend, Bane and Divine Ire) are seeing a lot of appreciation and enjoyment from the player base, as are the new support gems.
Nearly 3 weeks into the league, every level 98-100 leaderboard is topped by Winter Orb, showing it’s the best skill in the game for both farming and survival to push max level.
My Favorite Builds from 3.6 Synthesis
Before I dive into the recommended build list, I wanted to share my favorite builds from the 3.6 Synthesis league so far.
Soulrend Bane Trickster is currently my favorite build. While there are guides, I am going to share my own Path of Building pastebin link complete with notes to help with the leveling process. It’s smooth, melts bosses, clears very well, can do all content, and is simply fun to play.
Freezing Pulse Totems is my second favorite build. With the enhancements to Freezing Pulse, it’s completely overpowered with nearly no investment, and capable of reaching more than 600k per totem, which is 2.4M cold DPS. It shatters the entire screen and decimates bosses while the players just stands back and laughs (while picking up loot). If you want to try a Totem build this league, Freezing Pulse is the recommended choice! I’m including my own Path of Building pastebin link complete with notes to help with the leveling process.
While I played Winter Orb Trickster last league, with the adjustments to Trickster, the new AoE variation is simply awesome. It clears maps faster than any build I’ve played, and the freezing/cold greatly helps with survival, slowing bosses, and completely immobilizing trash and rares. It’s also a lot of fun to watch the screen shatter in unison. There really isn’t a guide online to the new AoE Trickster variation, but I can completely vouch for it. The build is awesome. Try it. I’m including my own Path of Building pastebin link complete with notes to help with the leveling process.
Top 3.6 Synthesis Builds List
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 the best build guides, many of which I have used myself.
Winter Orb (Normal #1, HC #1, SSF #3, HC SSF #1) is the top played skill in 3.6 Synthesis. Even with the nerf, it maps like a dream, is quite powerful and can boss “well enough” to balance survival and progress.
Storm Brand (Normal #4, HC #2, SSF #4, HC SSF #4) is still loved by the community due to its quick, safe and “fire and forget” play style. It’s also fun to attach them to bosses and watch the zapping take them down.