Advanced Atlas and Map Strategies Guide (PoE Blight 3.8)



About the Author

Furty has been playing Path of Exile since the release of the Onslaught League in 2013, and has a deep and diverse well of experience within the game. Equally comfortable playing on Hardcore, Softcore, and Solo-Self Found Leagues, Furty finished the Betrayal League at Rank 186 on the ladder playing Elemental Hit. You can follow him on Twitter, or check out his occasional streams on Twitch.



The Atlas of Worlds has numerous systems at play, and can often overwhelm new and experienced players alike with its layered complexity. If you have ever watched a Path of Exile stream or video, talked with other players in-game, or done a little poking around on the internet, you will have likely come across the term Shaped Atlas Strategy. Many players find themselves confused by this term, including veterans of multiple leagues, simply due to how mutable the game is from league to league, the mystery of the Atlas itself, and the pros and cons of such a strategy.

This guide will explore multiple strategies for the Atlas and Maps, including the Shaped Atlas Strategy. One thing that is important to remember about this game is that there is rarely one perfect answer — there are multiple viable strategies that fit different player play styles and preferences, and of course, the type of build you have settled on. For example, a build that heavily focuses on increasing Quantity is far more likely to use a Shaped Atlas Strategy that revolves around sustaining one map in perpetuity, allowing the player to target an exclusive Divination Card to farm.

If you haven’t already unraveled the mechanics of the Atlas, we recommend checking out our Atlas of Worlds and Map Guide, which teaches the mechanics of Shaper and Elder influence, how to craft the best possible Map, and much, much more.

Removing Maps from the Atlas of Worlds

There are several reasons to remove Maps from the Atlas of Worlds. Removing a Map from the Atlas removes it from your eligible Map drop pool, unless you are running adjacent Maps on the Atlas. Removing Maps is essential for strategies like the Shaped Atlas Strategy or Elder Atlas Strategy, for those tactics rely on sustaining a Shaped or Elder Map of choice. Having additional Maps as part of the same drop pool adds needless competition for your Map of choice, making it more difficult to sustain for long periods.

Maps can be easily removed from the Atlas using a Cartographer’s Seal. Seals can be obtained by trading an Orb of Scouring Orb of Scouring and 3 of the appropriate sextants (Apprentice Cartographer's Sextant Apprentice Cartographer's Sextants/Journeyman Cartographer's Sextant Journeyman Cartographer's Sextants/Master Cartographer's Sextant Master Cartographer's Sextants) to a vendor. The type of Sextant you trade in relates to the color of your Map; white sextants for white Maps, and so forth. Cartographer’s Seals are one time use, however, their effect is not permanent — you can always opt to add the map to your Atlas again later on in the league simply by running it.

Unshaping Maps

When you acquire Memory Fragments and trade them in with Zana for Shaper’s Orbs, the decision you make for which of your Maps become Shaped is not permanent either. Players can purchase an Unshaping Orb by trading in 5 Orb of Regret Orb of Regrets and 20 Cartographer's Chisel Cartographer's Chisels with a vendor. Unshaping Orbs can downgrade Shaped and Elder Maps of any tier, and are one-time use.

To remove a Shaped Map from the Atlas it must first be downgraded to its original state using an Unshaping Orb before being removed with the appropriate Cartographer’s Seal.

Purchasing Maps from Zana

Zana, Master Cartographer, is an exceptional resource early in the league for acquiring Maps you have not yet completed, or Maps of a higher tier. She is especially helpful on Solo Self-Found, as players are not a resource for you to draw on, and you should not hesitate to purchase Maps from her to help fill in your Atlas if it fits within the frame of your chosen strategy.

If you are playing on a trade league, you should check the availability of Maps on before purchasing higher Tier Maps from Zana, as her prices for Red Maps (for example) are often higher than the prices that might be obtained from other players.

Atlas Bonus Strategy

The Atlas Bonus Strategy, or “Non/Un-Shaped Atlas”, is the most straightforward tactic when proceeding with your Atlas. Instead of targeting specific maps or strategies, the player aims to complete as many Atlas Bonuses as possible to give themselves the best possible overall map sustain. Essentially, this strategy is “no strategy at all”.

Surprisingly, this is actually one of the best default strategies to employ for a variety of reasons.


+ Most variety possible
+ Least complicated and least setup involved
+ Best overall map sustain
+ Allows you to farm Uber Elder


- Difficult to target specific maps to farm
- Cannot setup Elder/Shaper influence on a specific Map
- Using Sextants efficiently is more difficult

Executing this Strategy

One of the great benefits of the “Unshaped” Atlas is that the strategy is that it is very simple to put into practice. Simply complete as many Maps as possible, ensuring that you snag all the Atlas Bonuses along the way.

We want to stress that this strategy is viable and acceptable for players of all experience levels. Sure, it is extremely easy to execute and does not require any setup or capital to implement, but this does not make it a worse strategy simply because it is a less complex approach. In fact, many well known players in the community, such as the content creator Mathil, practice this strategy league after league, as it provides comparable or better experience, great variety and entertainment, and fantastic overall Map sustain.

The major downsides of this strategy mostly center around the positives; variety means your build cannot prepare for every Map with equal levels of safety, and hopping between many Maps makes Sextants and Elder/Shaper influence more difficult to employ. This comes with one major upswing — Uber Elder, the most well known and sought after boss in the game. Not only can players with Unshaped Atlases farm Uber Elder easily, no special tricks or tactics for obtaining or sustaining the Guardian Maps or Fragments are necessary to do so.

Keep a careful eye out for Zana Missions, as they are a free and great way of adding Maps to your Atlas [and potentially Atlas Bonus] completely free of charge. Whenever you encounter Zana in a Map early in a league, be mindful of what Maps she offers as missions — your Atlas should dictate your choice of mission, rather than the potential reward or objective.

Single Map Shaped Atlas Strategy

The Shaped Atlas Strategy usually revolves around farming a Shaped map and attempting to sustain it indefinitely. This is most often done with maps that have very profitable Divination Cards, or maps that have layouts and densities that are ideal for gaining high experience per hour.

In some cases, there are other reasons to do this — for example, a player on Solo Self-Found that needs to acquire Kaom's Heart Kaom's Heart at some point in their build is likely to farm Shaped Volcano, where they can hunt for The King's Heart The King's Heart and Pride Before the Fall Pride Before the Fall while still maintaining a good rate of experience per hour.

Shaped Atlas Strategies are also relatively popular on Hardcore and Solo Self-Found compared with Softcore, as it gives the player a much higher degree of control over the safety of their build. If you are only farming one Map in the end-game, it is significantly easier to control for the boss of the map and how your build deals with the map versus an Unshaped strategy.

The most famous implementation of a Shaped Atlas Strategy is employed by Magic Find builds that seek to farm The Doctor The Doctor from the Shaped Burial Chambers Map.


+ High degree of safety and control
+ Excellent way to farm Divination Cards
+ Good method for Solo Self-Found to obtain rare Uniques
+ Apprentice Cartographer's Sextant Apprentice Cartographer's Sextants can be cheaply used to increase profit and experience


- Limits variety
- Takes time to properly set up
- Experience per hour is usually slightly lower
- Difficult to acquire Memory Fragments to get your Shaper’s Orbs
- Expensive to remove Red Maps from the Atlas

Setting up a Shaped Map to Farm Forever

Since the Atlas of Worlds is based on rules, it can also be manipulated. Specifically, we are interested in taking advantage of the following rules:

  • A Map can only drop a maximum of +2 above the current area, even with Atlas bonuses
  • Maps that are connected to the current Map have a higher likelihood of dropping if they have not been completed

Since the Maps adjacent to Shaped Maps are much lower level, Shaping a map organically disconnects it from the Atlas, which voids the second rule listed above.

Additionally, removing other Maps of the same or higher tier forces your Shaped Map to be the only drop in the pool. For example, if you are planning on sustaining Shaped Burial Chambers, a Tier 11 Map, you would want to remove all Tier 11, Tier 12, and Tier 13 Maps from your Atlas. If Shaped Burial Chambers is the only Map in this 3-Tier pool, a map that would have dropped as a Tier 12 or Tier 13 will automatically downgrade to a Tier 11, since there are no completed Maps in the pool for it to drop. Since this is a Shaped Map, adjacent Red Maps do not exist that would automatically drop as a means of expanding your Atlas. As the only Tier 11 in your Map pool, the Map is guaranteed to be Shaped Burial Chambers.

To put it simply, removing all maps from the Atlas that are the same Tier, +1 Tier, and +2 Tiers as the map you are planning on sustaining will force the Atlas to drop only your chosen Map when it would have dropped a map of the same tier or higher.

You can still receive lower tier Maps — there is no way to prevent this with any strategy, and is a natural part of the game.

A compromise some players opt to make is only removing Maps of the same Tier and +1 Tier, since receiving a +2 Tier map is uncommon enough that you can still sustain your Map of choice, and sell the +2 Maps for profit.

You must run Red Maps and spawn the Elder to get your Tier 11-15 Shaper’s Orbs. They must then be removed from the Atlas using Master Cartographer’s Seals.

Multi-Map Shaped Atlas

This strategy is similar to to Single Map Shaped Atlas strategy, however, instead of maintaining a single Map to run in perpetuity, your goal is instead to only run Shaped Maps of Tiers 11-15 that you have decided on ahead of time. This can be due to Divination Cards, layouts, experience, and bosses, and this is a very popular strategy on hardcore. This allows you to still get a decent amount of variety and experience per hour and only run Shaped Maps since they are not connected to any adjacent Red Maps.

This strategy is more commonly used by players concerned with experience while still maximizing safety and profit.


+ Apprentice Cartographer's Sextant Apprentice Cartographer's Sextants can be cheaply used to increase profit and experience
+ High degree of safety and control
+ Good profit since you can still control for Divination Cards among your Shaped Maps
+ Good method for Solo Self-Found to obtain rare Uniques
+ Excellent for abusing Apprentice Cartographer's Sextant Apprentice Cartographer's Sextants


- Limits variety
- Takes time to properly set up
- Experience per hour is usually slightly lower than Elder Atlas strategy
- Difficult to acquire Memory Fragments to get your Shaper’s Orbs
- Expensive to remove Red Maps from the Atlas

Executing this Strategy

While this strategy does not diverge greatly from the Single Map Shaped Atlas Strategy, there are a few key differences to take note of. Before taking your first steps into the end-game you will want to have a concrete plan for which Maps to shape, the reasons why you want to Shape them (Divination Cards, Layouts, Densities, Comfort, Personal Preference, etc.), and the positions of Maps around your Shaped choices.

One of the major upsides of this approach is the accessibility of Apprentice Cartographer's Sextant Apprentice Cartographer's Sextants. Not only are they far cheaper than their Journeyman and Master counterparts, but certain White Maps have positions on the Atlas that make them ideal for being Shaped, due the placement of surrounding Maps and the potential for Sextant overlap. This should be a major consideration for any player looking to implement this strategy.

Elder Atlas Bonus Strategy

The Elder Strategy is a handshake between a Shaped and Unshaped Atlas Strategy. As with the Atlas Bonus Strategy, you should acquire as many Atlas Bonuses as possible, completing all the maps. Once you have acquired your Elder’s Orb, however, you will remove the Tier 16 Guardian maps from your Atlas.

The consequence of this is that the only Tier 16 Map that can drop is your newly upgraded Elder Map. If you are running your Elder Map with Zana mods such as Harbinger and/or Beyond and a fair Quantity bonus (~85%+) you will be able to sustain your Elder map (over a large sample size). If you mix in Delving from time to time, you will easily positively sustain the Map, as Cities will provide a large number of your Elder map.


+ Best experience per hour
+ Easy to set up
+ Good variety; you can still run your Tier 15’s and other Red Maps
+ Great profit if you set up Elder/Shaper influence on your Map
+ Can also target specific Divination Cards
+ Apprentice Cartographer's Sextant Apprentice Cartographer's Sextants can be cheaply used to increase profit and experience


- No Guardian Maps means no Uber Elder
- Takes a fair bit of investment to get going (you need a pool of Tier 16 Elder Maps to start)

Shaper and Elder Influencing Your Farm Map

This is most often done by players using a Shaped Atlas or Elder Map Atlas Strategy, as they are not concerned with running the Uber Elder.

  1. Spawn the Elder on your Atlas by running Shaper Influenced Maps. If the Elder spawns on the opposite side of the Atlas, or far from your chosen Map, you might need to immediately erase his influence and re-spawn it until you get lucky. The Elder Influence tends to appear on Maps of similar Tier to what you have been recently running.
  2. Spread the Elder Cloud until your chose Map is Elder Influenced and on the immediate edge of the influence.
  3. Once you have a small Elder Cloud, you want to get Shaper Influence immediately adjacent to your Elder Cloud and chosen Map. This can happen automatically if you are lucky, but you might need to run Shaper Influenced maps on other parts of the Atlas until it relocates.
  4. You are now finished, and each time you run your Map it should alternate between influences, commonly referred to as “ping-ponging influence”.

A large part of this process is affected by randomness, which cannot be controlled by the player. This process can be a lot of work to set up, however, it is a large natural Quantity influence for your Map of choice and the Shaped/Elder bases have enormous value, particularly if you are farming a T16 Elder Map (due to the high item level). Persevere and you will be able to eventually set up your influence correctly, but be warned it can often take hours before it works.

There are several rules to follow after you have your influence correctly set up:

  • Never let your Elder cloud cover 20 Maps and spawn The Elder and his guardians. Ideal range is 4-10 Maps influenced to make this easy to manage. If the cloud grows by itself, you will have to run some of the affected Maps to trim it down.
  • Shaper and Elder will occasionally take over Maps without any player interaction. Depending on how this affects your influence grouping, you might need to run Maps nearby to force the influence back to your chosen Map(s).
  • When you are “cutting” Elder influence to prevent it from reaching 20 Maps, you must ensure the “cloud” with your Map is larger than the section you are trying to sever. Elder influence will always prefer the larger area of influence when choosing what will be cut-off.

Generally maintenance is not necessary every Map, but you should check your Atlas every few Maps to ensure nothing unexpected is happening. Over a period of a hundred Maps, you will usually only have to maintain 2-5 times in that entire period. You do not have to clear the entire Map; if your aim is to return to your farm as quickly as possible, simply rush to the boss and kill it to transfer the influence.

Preferred Zana Mods

Zana, Master Cartographer, can apply additional affixes (based on past league mechanics) to your Map in exchange for Chaos Orb Chaos Orbs when using her Map Device in your Hideout. As we discussed in our Atlas of Worlds and Map Guide, which explains the fundamentals of the end-game, you should start considering Zana Mods around Tier 13, depending on your currency. Maps above Tier 14 should always be Zana modded.


The mods you have unlocked are based on your relationship level with Zana. If you have not unlocked the advised affixes, always use Fortune Favors the Brave.

Harbinger is by far the best mod for Map sustain.

Beyond is the second best mod for Map sustain in Maps with high mob density, and widely considered the most fun mod. Beyond is the best mod for map sustain if you have a Beyond affix on your base Map, causing Beyond monsters to spawn twice as often as they otherwise would.

Selecting a Strategy

The Atlas of Worlds is such a vast network that there is no right or wrong answer when selecting a strategy. You, the player, must evaluate what your priorities are and how best to achieve them. If your goal is to farm the Uber Elder, this can only be done with an Unshaped or Shaped Atlas, but not with the Elder Atlas strategy, as an example.

Additionally, you can always “handshake” your strategy and meet somewhere in the middle. You can still upgrade a map with the Elder’s Orb without committing to sustaining it and simply running it whenever you have a couple of extras lying around.

For newer or recent arrivals to Path of Exile, it is highly recommended you do not go for any kind of Shaped strategy, as they are somewhat complicated and confusing to implement, particularly if you are trying to ping-pong influence. It is far, far better to run as many different Maps as you can and get a fundamental understanding of their layouts, how much you enjoy them, and the bosses and densities. This will make it far easier and more effective in the future if you decide to implement a targeted stratagem.


Perhaps the greatest part of Path of Exile is that there is no real “wrong decisions” — at least not permanently. Armed with the knowledge we have outfitted you with, you can quickly and easily adapt your strategy to the needs of your league or your build. Shaped the wrong Maps? Go ahead and purchase a few Unshaping Orbs. Love your build and want to make the push for Level 100? The Elder Atlas Strategy is ideal for safety and experience per hour.

No matter what choices you make or have made, your approach to the Atlas of Worlds is always mutable, always reversible, and always a personal choice.

Stay sane, Exiles!


    Updated for Patch 3.8.0 Blight League.


    Checked and updated for Patch 3.7 Legion!


    Guide added.

  1. Posts

    Hello, great guide, I finally understand :D Just wanted to ask, could you make/add sextants strategy for certain map strategies mentioned above? Personally I would prefer it for Elder Atlas Bonus Strategy as I wanna exp my Howa Lightning strike Occ at 100lvl. Also is influencing good only for items or for exp as well? :)

  2. Furty



    On 10/09/2019 at 9:26 PM, JulianSlink said

    Hello, great guide, I finally understand :D Just wanted to ask, could you make/add sextants strategy for certain map strategies mentioned above? Personally I would prefer it for Elder Atlas Bonus Strategy as I wanna exp my Howa Lightning strike Occ at 100lvl. Also is influencing good only for items or for exp as well? :)

    It’s great for experience, you are essentially just adding additional monsters to the map. I’ll look at adding some sextant advice when I’m done updating builds, good call!

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