Path of Exile 3.9 Metamorph Best Starter Builds

With the highly anticipated Path of Exile 3.9 Metamorph league right around the corner, players are asking on a daily basis in both the forums and on Reddit what builds people are going to start the new league with.

Without the patch notes, we cannot define with absolute certainly what new awesome starter builds will emerge, and what existing builds will be nerfed, however, we can take what we’ve learned in 3.8 and come up with proven builds we are fairly certain will be just as viable in 3.9.

We know Metamorph focuses on Bow skills and bossing. The second part is very important because the upcoming league will need builds that can not just clear well, but are solid for killing bosses.

Learning what we have with 3.8 Blight, there’s no question Zombies, Skeletons and Spectres are going to get nerfed. I’m hoping that SRS isn’t touched since they aren’t wiping the game like the other minion builds are. There is also the chance that Mines will be tweaked, but I believe that is far less likely than the nearly certain minion nerf. For this reason, and the fact people are a bit burned out on them, I’m staying away from Zombie/Skeleton/Spectre builds in this overview.

Introduction

Skip Straight to the list!

I want to preface by saying I spent weeks testing each one of the top builds (and many in the follow-up list) as SSF/Leveling to end-game to verify their viability as they compare to each other as potential league starters for 3.9. This includes verifying their performance while leveling on as little as a 3-link to Act IV, their overall survival, bossing, clear speed, and scaling potential based on the first and second day of the league (which is often more SSF for players until the market grows and stabilizes).

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 as great league starters for 3.9 Metamorph.

Path of Building is required to view many of the below builds. Additionally, make sure you have a good loot filter. I personally recommend NeverSink’s Loot Filter.

Qualifying the Best Starter 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”. I’m presenting this list based on my personal experience as well as the feedback of other gamers and streamers. I’m sure there’s a few solid builds that could make the top 5 list that I have either overlooked or personally don’t care for the play style of (but others could really enjoy). One thing to keep in mind is 3.9 Metamorph focuses on boss killing; as such, I’ve chosen builds that in addition to clear speed and survival, are very good at taking down bosses.

A breakdown of the Top 3.8 Starter Builds and their respective Strengths.

I created the above list of builds based on my personal experience from 3.8. As you can see, Zombie Necromancer dominates everything; but it will be nerfed (and people are probably worn out on playing it), so I am omitting it from the top build list (but have included it at the bottom of the follow-up list for those who are interested). There are also numerous builds on the above list that aren’t just as good as others for starting in 3.9 Metamorph.

When it comes to a league starter, my core goal is to have a build that can easily handle yellow-tier maps on self-found gear and farm enough currency to “kickstart” any other build I want to try; but I also want a build that is capable of growing into and handling nearly all content if I want to stick with that build for a long period of time.

In addition to the above, here are the qualifiers I used to put together the list:

  1. Easy to Gear (SSF to T6-T10 Maps).
  2. Easy to acquire skills during leveling.
  3. Works on 4L to T6 Maps.
  4. Good Clear.
  5. Good Bossing.
  6. Solid Survival (most are HC Viable).
  7. Can Delve “well”.
  8. Fun to play.

Let’s get started!

The 3.9 Metamorph Best Starter Builds List

Note there are more than 20 build guides/PoB links below. If the build you were hoping to find isn’t in the top five, check the following section!

Here is the list of what I believe the top five Path of Exile 3.9 Metamorph top Starter Builds are, omitting the pursuit of the new Ranged skills and minion nerfs. I also cover a number of other builds after the list for reference.

Make sure you check the Notes section of any PoB you download; that’s where most of the leveling information will be found!

#1 SRS Necromancer

Pros: Cheap, Start at Level 4, Good Clear, Very Good Bossing, Safe, HC Viable.
Cons: None
Play Style: Self-Cast Homing Minions, Phys/Cold/Fire Damage.
Build Links: SRS PoB #1 (Brittle alt w/Meat Shields), SRS PoB #2 (Alley_cat w/Zombies), BrittleKnee’s SRS Build (without Zombies)

This is hands down the best league starter I tested in 3.8, and I ran it 3 different times in a fresh start SSF environment. Most recently, I used a variation of Brittleknee’s version; instead of CWDT for protection, I use a 4L of Zombies with Meat Shield and such because they taunt and absorb damage. This build outperformed all the other builds as far as all key qualifiers are concerned. It ignores projectile shields, seeks out enemies, Meat shield Zombies taunt and take the damage, and with Unleash, you can release enough raging spirits to kill pretty much the whole screen in just a few seconds. It’s fast, fun, and doesn’t play like the other minion skills – and more importantly, SRS should not be nerfed with the 3.9 Minion changes.

#2 Holy Flame Totem Hierophant

Pros: Cheap, Start at Level 4, Good Clear, Good Bossing, Safe, HC Viable.
Cons: Totem Play Style can bore some.
Play Style: Channeled Totems, Fire Fire Fire!
Build Link: HFT PoB (Wallach), Link to Wallach’s complete HFT guide

Steady is good, and Holy Flame Totem is exactly that. While Freezing Pulse Totems is my favorite for end-game totem murder, that build requires two unique jewels (First Snow) and a Soul Mantle to really shine. Without Soul Mantle, a socket must be taken by Spell Totem. With HFT you don’t need to socket a ST. The damage is good, bosses melt, and it’s solid to T10 on just a 4-link.

#3 Storm Burst Trickster

Pros: Cheap, Start at Level 12, Very Good Clear, Very Good Bossing, Very Fun.
Cons: Can be a bit squishy; not recommended for HC.
Play Style: Self-Cast Channeled, Lightning & Physical Damage.
Build Link: SB PoB (Esoro), Esoro’s Storm Burst Trickster Video Guide

I want to preface by first saying I hate squishy builds, and most self-cast builds are lessons in murder and death – often your own. But man, does self-cast Storm Burst kick ass. You can destroy the entire screen in seconds and melt bosses like few other skills (with very little investment). It’s very fun, scales well, and is a great league starter, able to quickly get you to maps. Just be prepared you could die a few times.

#4 Toxic Rain Mines Saboteur

Pros: Cheap, Start at Level 12, Good Clear, Very Good Bossing, HC Viable, Fun.
Cons: Miner play style; nonstop key-pressing and clicking.
Play Style: Ranged Mines; lots of clicking… Poison/Chaos Damage (DoT).
Build Link: TR Mines PoB (Octavian)

We all knew a Miner build would be on this list, but oh boy. Toxic Rain Mines are simply awesome, and in my opinion outperform Icicle Mines (the mine meta for 3.8). While icicle has better clear, TR mines has better bossing and damage overall. Plus it’s just more fun to melt the entire screen with those pods of poisonous death.

#5 Scourge Arrow Pathfinder

Pros: Cheap, Start at Level 28, Good Clear, Very Good Bossing, Fun
Cons: Charge-up required for tougher mobs
Play Style: Ranged Attack, Poison/Chaos Damage (DoT).
Build Link: thedeathbeam’s Poison Proliferation Scourge Arrow Pathfinder Build Guide.

Another top tier build that’s always been strong and will continue to perform. While Cold Scourge Arrow will possibly be nerfed (since it’s one of the strongest ultra deep delvers) I think Poison Scourge Arrow is in a good place and should remain untouched; but even if it received a slight nerf, it will still function as a rock solid league starter.

What about the other great builds?!

There are a ton of other great builds to consider as league starters for 3.9. Here’s the continued list for consideration.

Make sure you check the Notes section of any PoB you download; that’s where most of the leveling information will be found!

  1. Essence Drain/Contagion performs very well during leveling with two 4-links, it just doesn’t perform as well as the above top 5 (in my opinion). You’ll notice it’s not even in the list. I did run it once this league, but quit shortly after maps because I’ve played it so much and it was slower than the other builds. I recommend Ghazzy’s Universal Essence Drain & Contagion build guide.
  2. Toxic Rain is a great league starter, but the mines are just so much better. Angry_Roleplayer’s Toxic Rain & Herald of Agony Pathfinder is a great guide.
  3. Icicle Mines is another great league starter, but I enjoyed the other builds more. Here’s a PoB of BeerLeague’s Low Life Icicle Mines Build. Here’s a link to the forum guide.
  4. Cobra Lash clears well, is fun and is great as a league starter, but has poor bossing damage without investment. Here’s the PoB of a high DPS (5M+) lower life (4.8k) version, and the PoB of a lower DPS (600k) and higher life (6.5k) version.
  5. Orb of Storms and Storm Brand is quick and fun, but it doesn’t perform as well as the other builds while leveling when it comes to bossing (but the clear is fantastic, and it’s rock solid for experienced players rushing to maps). Here’s the OoS+Storm Brand build (27M DPS) I recommend based on sxc’s character. As an alternative, here’s a SSF OoS+SB PoB build.
  6. Frost Blades lacks boss damage while leveling with self-found gear and is squishy, but is fun, clears great and is amazing at end-game with the right investment. Here’s a PoB based on Unchained’s 40M DPS version.
  7. Cyclone Impale Slayer is solid, tried and true, but is very slow to level up without solid gear investment (compared to the top 5 list). Here’s a PoB based on Duel Wield Ahn’s Might. It rocks, and is a great league starter because Ahn’s Might is very common and cheap.
  8. Blade Vortex is a solid build and comes in many flavors (poison, cold, etc.), but it’s generally squishy and a bit clunky to play. It’s close proximity also requires knowledge of tougher boss fights. Here’s the PoB of a solid Poison Blade Vortex build.
  9. Caustic Arrow is fantastic (one of my favorites), but it’s very slow to level and has boss damage issues without good investment. Here’s the PoB of one of the highest DPS (3.3M) Caustic Arrow builds in Blight.
  10. Bane is fun, fast, and solid, but doesn’t boss nearly as well as the top builds in the list. Some players also prefer Bane with Essence Drain rather than Contagion. Here’s the PoB of a Bane ED Trickster. It’s solid.
  11. Lacerate Gladiator is one of the best builds I’ve ever played, but it required substantial investment to get good end-game damage and must be leveled as something other than Lacerate (Cleave, etc.). Switch to Lacerate around level 50. If you want a HC viable build that can delve to 600 and do Uber Elder deathless; this is it. Here’s the PoB of this fantastic build. Here’s another variation by Dunkelvieh showcasing his version of the build.
  12. Rain of Arrows Poison Pathfinder is a ton of fun. It’s faster clear than Caustic Arrow but bosses a bit slower. Here’s the PoB of this build. It’s fast, fun, and is a great farmer. Here’s a link to Astarift’s Pathfinder Poison RoA build (the one I ran, which rocks).
  13. Freezing Pulse Totems is one of the best totem builds in the game; balanced for clear, bossing and delving, once you get the jewels and “good” equipment, you can do all the content PoE has to offer, which includes shattering the entire screen. It’s just not the best league starter because you need two First Snow jewels and a Soul Mantle to make it really work. Once you have those, the build rocks. Here’s Wallach’s Freezing Pulse Totems build guide.
  14. So you’ve gotten to the end of this list, but you’re hellbent on playing Zombies again in 3.9 regardless of any adjustments. Fine! Here’s the KING OF ALL SUMMONERS ZOMBIEBANCER & SPECTRES ON STEROIDS. I ran this build (among others). It is all that it claims. In all honesty, this build will probably rock in 3.9, just not nearly as strong as it is in 3.8. Minions have always been great starter/SSF/leveling builds.

Conclusion

There are definitely other great builds that could have made it on the list, but I believe the above list is solid for what we’ve learned in 3.8 and what should carry to 3.9 Metamorph as Top Starter Builds.

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!

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