How to Build Path of Exile
A Beginner's Guide on How Not to Fall Off the Passive Tree
Path of Exile is probably the most fun game I've ever played. Every minute I spend in it, whether it be in the game or time outside of it thinking about it, I can't seem to take myself away from it. However, trying to build a PoE build, for many people, is like finding a needle in a haystack, but the haystack is the sun. So let's learn how to narrow that into something manageable.
Step 1: Find Your Build Defining Thing
Almost every build in Path has something that distinguishes it from every other build. The key things that define a build are an ascendancy, a weapon, a skill, a passive, or a specialization (farmer, mapper, aurabot, etc). In order to show this build process, I will be building a build to show my thought process. I will be using the Path of Exile Wiki and the build planning application Path of Building. I have decided to form this build around the Kitava's Feast unique axe. I have done this because it looked fun to do and it allows me to use a skill I enjoy. This is as simple as it needs to find something you want to build around.
Step 2: Fill in the Rest of the Conceptual Essentials
The term “conceptual essentials” is one I made up. This describes things that are vital in concept for making a build work, such as defenses, main skill, and ascendancy choice. For this build, I will be using the Duelist's Champion ascendancy as it is one that interests me mechanically, and as such this will be a life-based build that uses armour as its primary defensive tool. Other possible options would be the Duelist's Slayer for sustain and damage, the Marauder's Juggernaut for tankiness, the Marauder's Berserker for damage, the Scion's Ascendant for versatility, or the Templar's Inquisitor for elemental damage and critical strike support, if you choose to go with an elemtal skill. For the main DPS skill, I will be using Heavy Strike, because the innate melee splash support of the Kitava's Feast means we will get strong clear speeds out of it.
Step 3: The Tree
This is the hardest part of the build, without doubt. The passive tree is huge, and it's incredibly easy to get lost in it. The best approach I've found is to narrow in on a few areas and nodes you know will help your build massively. It wouldn't make sense for this build to grab a passive wheel like Snowforged, or the dual wield nodes below the Duelist's starting area. We also want to grab as many jewel nodes as possible, as they can be as strong, if not stronger, than many notable passives (spiky border) on the tree, and especially because of the “Weight of the Empire” threshold jewel, which massively improves the DPS of Heavy Strike. Generally, the priority in which you should get your nodes when planning is survivability, then some minor utility, then you can pump the rest into damage. In terms of survivability, you're going to want at least 6k life on a life build and maybe closer to 8k energy shield in a low life/Chaos Inoculation build. Good places to get life on the tree are places like the wheel below Scion's start with Constitution, and the plethora all across the Duelist and Marauder sections of the tree, which often include benefits like more armour and resistances. We will also be grabbing Blood Magic, as we won't be reserving any mana, and the additional life it gives us will be invaluable. Once you have all of your life, around 175% increased armour from the tree, and utility where you want it and can fit it, now you get to put nodes into damage. Wheels like Cleaving/Slaughter, By the Blade, Splitting Strike, and Executioner/Wrecking Ball will provide more DPS than you know what to deal with. Generally you want to keep your total passive point usage to 113, as level 90 is the soft cap for most characters. In terms of ascendancy, you're gonna want to get nodes like Worthy Foe and First to Strike, Last to Fall on champion, as they provide supreme DPS, and defense, along with the ability to never miss. On Slayer, just grab the top 8 nodes, you already have innate melee splash and the stun bonuses don't help much, if at all.
Step 3.1: More versus Increased
This is the one thing everybody brings up about Path of Exile, the difference between More and Increased modifiers. Here's the basics: More modifiers stack multiplitively and after all increased modifiers, while increased modifiers stack additively. This means more modifiers are incredibly valuable, and why nodes like the Berserker's Aspect of Carnage will add upwards of 700k dps in some situations. These same rules apply to less and reduced, respectively.
Step 4: Items
This step is the easiest. After you've spent anywhere from twenty minutes to a month (I have done this before, you will not do this, because you are smarter than I am) on your tree, you finally get the pleasure of filling out your item slots. Let's just go in the order presented on PoB's Items tab. In this build we already have our weapon selected, Kitava's Feast. However, if you want a rare weapon, you'll generally want things that increase your damage such as % increases, added flat damage, and critical strike chance and multiplier. Our helmet in this build will be Abyssus. It's risky as it causes us to take increased physical damage, but it proves its worth in spades through the 633k DPS it provides, and in PoE your offense is your defense once you have enough defense. Our body armour will be Kaom's Heart. We don't need the sockets it provides because our weapon will be six-linked, but the life is invaluable. We will use a rare set of gloves, boots, and amulet. These, and our rare ring and belt we will socket later, will be our biggest sources of regen. Don't expect to get the exact copy of these items, but plan your build around knowing this is where you're going to get your elemental resistances. After act 10 you have -60% to all of your resistances, and being at 0% means you're taking about 4x as much elemental damage. For one of our rings, we will use an Essence Worm with a Herald of Purity, as it gives us a huge boost to DPS without sacrificing life to be reserved due to Blood Magic. For our flasks, we will use a Lion's Roar for the OBSCENE 25% MORE MULTI to phys damage on a pure phys build. Three of our flask slots will be filled with magic utility flasks such as a Quicksilver, Diamond, Sulphur, or Silver flask, with the “of Warding”, “of Grounding”, and “of Heat” suffixes. Shock makes you take more damage, and the effects of freeze and chill should be self explanatory. Not having immunity to these can and will kill you. We will also use a life flask with either increased recovery rate, or instant recovery, with an “of Staunching” suffix, as bleed is another thing that will Just Kill You. For jewels, we will be using 2 Weight of the Empire unique jewels so we have a 40% chance to deal DOUBLE DAMAGE AFTER ALL MULTIPLIERS APPLIED WHAT THE FUCK. ALSO 12% INCREASED PHYS DAMAGE. BONKERS. Fill out any other jewel slots with rare jewels idc.
Step 5: Gems
THE FINAL STRETCH. Now we get to put in the most fun thing: skill and support gems! These are what give us our damage, and thankfully our setup this time around on this specific build is super simple. In our Kitava's Feast, we're going to socket our Heavy Strike, and the 5 best support gems it can give us: Bloodlust, Brutality, Melee Physical Damage, Ruthless, and Multistrike. With Bloodlust in our Heavy Strike, we need to worry about applying bleed with another skill, but we can take care of that. For our first utility slot, we're gonna put Herald of Purity in the Essence Worm ring. Even though it isn't an aura, the fact we don't reserve mana on something that adds so much damage is invaluable. Next we have our movement skill and it's support. We want something fast and something that can go over impassible terrain, like Leap Slam! Give it Faster Attacks, Fortify, and Culling Strike and call it a day. Next we get our Big Deeps Improvers here. Blood Rage degens our life but our life leech will rectify that, so we just get Big Damage off of it and the frenzy charges. We're gonna use Vaal Haste for increased attack speed, and a Vaal Ancestral Warchief supported with Chance To Bleed so that we can proc the Bloodlust on our Heavy Strike. We also use a Cast when Damage Taken setup with Immortal Call to provide physical immunity and a Vulnerability curse to improve our DPS and survivability, and a double damage chance with Heavy Strike enchantment to bring our total DD chance to 52%. If you do this in PoB, you get told exactly what is biggest DPS, and you should almost always follow it, with a few exceptions like GMP and Concentrated Effect
Step 6: Tweaking
This is the part where you play around with values a bit. Maybe try wheel Y instead of X, or try a different weapon in your mainhand, or an offhand Shaper statstick. The world is your oyster, and after you've farmed them, this is your chance to shuck them.
Step 7: DONE
WE'RE DONE. WE DID IT. I'll probably Make a second version of this bguild focused around building for spells and CI, but hopefully you can take this knowledge and expand it into something that interests you more. If you want to import this build into Path of Building, the pastebin link is here. I hope this helps you learn how to build, and any questions can be directed to me on my twitter account @267Burgers.