Continuing the 3-month content release schedule players have been enjoying for years, the Path of Exile Blight League launched on September 6, 2019. It’s a tower-defense based mechanic which also added item Anointments, Blighted Maps, new Skills and Unique items, and made many skill and Ascendancy adjustments. The master quest mechanic (for mapping) was also changed.
There were numerous performance issues at launch, mainly tied to server crashes and slowdowns due to the high concentration of monsters in blight maps. Most of these issues have been resolved, but because of the sheer number of monsters on the screen in Blight maps, there are still performance issues with slower systems.
While last league was the Cyclone League, this league is the Minion League. Cyclone was nerfed, and it’s not nearly as popular this league, but that was expected due to how OP it was last league. With Blight and the buffs to Minions, pet builds are now the top builds in the game, and even more OP than Cyclone was last league. This includes many minion builds achieving more than 40M shaper DPS, and players killing Uber Elder with Zombies on a 4L. There’s no question minion nerfs are incoming for 3.9. The good news is after minion builds, there is more diversity in skills and ascendancies than last league.
Numerous new skills were introduced with Blight, but many fell short in play and support. Cobra Lash (which is basically poison Spectral Throw) is the most played new skill, but it accounts for only 1% of characters in the normal league (2% in HC and 6% in SSF). Pestilent Strike is nowhere to be found in the top builds. However Deathmark, Feeding Frenzy and Meat Shield all play a key role in minion support. Skitterbots have also become a standard for many builds with their cold support abilities. Icicle Mine (formerly Freeze Mine) has become the new top mine build, and with the refined mine and detonation play, it’s a ton of fun. 19 new Divination Cards and 16 new Unique items were also added.
Anointments allow players to combine oils (which drop from blighted nodes) and apply those combinations to Rings and Amulets to provide the benefits of Passive Skills or Tower Enchantments. I’ve personally found most players are ignoring the anointments because the benefits are so selective, but in some cases, it can be worth it (for example there’s an anointment that doubles your chaos Resistance). Anointed Oils can also be applied to Blight Maps, impacting pack size, tower damage, and even the experienced gamed. You can find the complete list of anointments here and an overview of Oil Craftinghere.
The Daily Master Quest adjustment is awesome as players now receive random daily quest iterations based on the tier of completed map, and can store those iterations for later use. This new system is fantastic; the only issue is players want to be able to set the master mission from the map device, not have to visit each master individually. Legion is also now a core game mechanic.
Ultimately, Blight is a more laid back league than before. The mechanic revolves around building towers to kill and hinder large groups of monsters that move along expanding paths. As such, builds that can handle large groups are prevalent this league. The complete 3.8 patch notes can be found here.
Zombies… Zombies everywhere… Trading this league is very entertaining because whenever you go into somebody’s hideout, all you see are… Zombies (or spectres, but mostly zombies). When you don’t see Zombies or Spectres, you feel compelled to ask the other player what crazy build they are doing. While this is the minion league, many players are intentionally playing other builds to stay away from the meta, so it’s always interesting to meet other players through trade who aren’t running minions and asking what kind of build they’re running.
I played Blight for a few days when it came out, but then took a break to play Borderlands 3 (one reason this review is a bit late compared to the previous league releases). Once I got my fill of BL3 (and wrote a review), I dove back into Path of Exile and have taken the following builds to end-game. Note I intentionally play LOTS of builds each league to see how they perform so I can share the results:
Ice Shot Deadeye
Orb of Storms (multiple builds, including with Storm Brand and Golems) Assassin, Elementalist
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.
As we can see, Zombies and Spectres have been king this league with either Cyclone, Skeletons or Icicle Mines as the third choice (depending on hardcore, etc.). The Necromancer ascendancy has dominated the game even more than Slayer did last league.
The follow-up most used skills for Softcore are:
Ice Nova (CoC)
The follow-up most used skills for Hardcore are:
When it comes to Delving in Softcore, Scourge Arrow Raider is king with an achieved depth of more than 5,000. When you’re that low, no amount of damage mitigation works, so the builds focus on not being hit (dodge/evade). Scourge Arrow is dominating in this area, but the players die all the time, so it’s not HC viable.
Looking at Delving in Hardcore, Dan has dominated as the best player. He’s created 3 builds that have gone as deep as 1400, two being Cyclone Juggernauts and the third being an ES Vortex/Cold Snap Occultist.
The deepest SSF HC Delve is low 400’s, achieved with Spectres and the next following up with Zombies, so minion builds are rock solid in Delve.
My Favorite Builds from 3.8 Blight
Before I dive into the recommended build list, I wanted to share my favorite builds from Blight so far.
The best build I played this league was the Caustic Arrow Trickster. With the Poison rework of 3.8, this build destroys all game content, melts Uber Elder and can safely delve very well. It can do all map mods, is tanky as all getgo, and clears maps very quickly. And because few people are playing it (most players simply don’t realize how powerful it is now, and single target is solid), the gear is very affordable. It’s also HC and SSF viable. Here’s a PoB of the build I ran; look in the Notes section for leveling information.
When it came to minions, I had the most “fun” with SRS Necromancer. There’s just something magical about releasing those nasty face-eating homing bees, ravens, or whatever MTX you have to decimate enemies off-screen. Plus SRS rocks with Blight maps. I recommend Brittleknee’s SRS build. Note I did try Infernal Legion Minion Instability SRS, but found it to be weaker at end-game than Brittle’s SRS.
Keeping an eye on the leaderboards, I saw a Korean who had nearly 27M DPS with his L100 Storm Brand Trickster build. I spoke with him and decided to try it out, and it ROCKS. It’s safe, fun, and absolutely deletes content (destroys Minotaur in <1 second). There isn’t an official guide, but I put together a Path of Building with skill progression in the notes section for those who want to try the build out.
I really enjoyed the Block Bleed Lacerate Gladiator. While it’s slower in speed compared to other builds (it can still pull ~200M/hr XP in the 80’s), it’s so tanky that it can delve below 500 in hardcore and kill all bosses in the game deathless (including Uber Elder). While there’s not a guide I’m aware of, I’ve included a PoB for this build (which is based on Stafford’s character). Check the notes section for additional details. There are also Multiple Skill Trees to help with leveling.
I hadn’t played Bane since it was added in Synthesis, and have to say that Bane Occultist is a lot of fun in Blight; it’s tanky, can do blight maps, bosses, and delves well. You just have to be patient with bosses since they take a bit of time to melt. For those who want to try to Occultist version, Thi3n’s Bane Occultist Guide is good for those who are interested. However, I think Bane Trickster is the superior version. While it doesn’t clear as fast as the Occultist version (due to Bane AoE and explosions from the Necro ascendancy) it has superior single target DPS with a 6-link Essence Drain, and I found it to be tankier than the occultist version. Here is the PoB for the build I recommend. Check the notes section for additional details.
I love the Orb of Storms Storm Brand Assassin, and it’s probably one of (if not the) best map farmers in the game. It also delves very well. Surprisingly, there really aren’t any good guides for this build on the forum. I tried 4 variations this league and have put together what I believe is the best version, which has a 4L OoS (with the unique Tempest Binding mask) and 6L Storm Brand (which is a must if you want to do bosses). Here’s a copy of the PoB for the build. Check the notes section for additional details.
The Impale Cyclone Slayer is still top notch, even after the nerfs from last league. It can do all content, can delve below 1000 and this particular build uses dual Ahn’s Might blades (which are very cheap). While it’s not as tanky as a block build, the survival is fantastic and it’s definitely HC viable. Here’s the PoB of the build I ran, which melted end-game.
Top 3.8 Blight 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 what I consider to be the best build guides, many of which I have used myself.
There are really 4 Minion build styles. While most use a mixture of minions, each build focuses on a different minion type as the primary damage source.
Zombiemancer is very popular this league, often referred to as the “walking simulator” that destroys everything. Here’s the build guide I recommend.
My understanding is Skeletons are currently the highest DPS, able to hit more than 40M. I believe DatModz has put together the best build and have his PoB here. There’s tons of information in the Notes section.
Summon Raging Spirits (SRS) is a ton of fun, can do all content, and can hit 100. I recommend Brittleknee’s SRS build.
Cyclone is still very popular this league, but not like before. Most end-game cycloners are Juggernauts pushing Delve, Claw+Shield for life gain on hit and max block, or dual Nebuloch (which was also one of the best deep delvers last league). Plenty of people are still playing Champion and Slayer, and we’re also seeing many Assassin Cyclone builds (Cospri’s Cast on Crit with Ice Nova).
Scourge Arrow is the deepest delve pusher this league, but as mentioned at the beginning of this overview, that variation is a 1-shot squishy build that has no hardcore viability, however many have taken it to level 100 which means it has solid speed and XP gain potential (second only to Minion builds). Raider is the most popular ascendancy in Softcore, but Pathfinder is most common in Hardcore.