Path of Exile is a daunting game to take on, even if you are already experienced in other ARPG titles, such as the Diablo franchise. There numerous complex and interlocking systems in the game, all of which can make your experience significantly smoother if you are aware of how to use them for your personal gain.
If you would like advice on how to quickly and efficiently level through the zones in Path of Exile, please refer to our leveling Quick Reference Leveling Guide for 3.11 Harvest .
This guide will walk you through the systems and tricks you need to be aware of when leveling for the first time, as well as answering a host of frequently asked questions that are on the lips of every new player. What to pick up? Where do I get more Portal Scrolls? We’ve got you covered.
Understanding the Basics of Path of Exile
If you are confused with regard to the basic fundamentals of the game, we recommend reading our Welcome to Wraeclast: The Beginner Guide to Path of Exile. It explains all the basic systems that allow you to play the game, such as the function of gems, or what differentiates the basic classes.
There are practically limitless amounts of vendor recipes, advanced tricks, and esoteric scraps of knowledge that are floating around the world of Wraeclast. To fully make use of it all, you should at least understand the very basics of the game and how to control your character.
Leveling Builds vs. Build Guides
There is a big question on the minds of numerous players, new and experienced alike, which is how to reconcile your end-game build with the leveling experience. You might want to play a 6-totem Righteous Fire build in the end-game, but how exactly do you go about getting there? Can it be done without spending a lot for Orb of Regrets?
In many cases, it makes more sense to level with a tried and tested leveling skill, rather than trying to make your end-game build work from level 1. Generally speaking, it is best to choose skills that require similar passive trees to your final build. That way, you can skill most of the points that you intend to actually use at mapping level, and any respeccing can be taken care of by the points acquired through the leveling questlines.
Currently, there are a variety of skills that are suitable for leveling in Path of Exile, giving you an array of options to choose from. Here are some recommendations:
- Arc (also has fantastic synergy with Totem and Trap/Mine builds)
- Blade Vortex
- Fire Trap
- Storm Brand
- Static Strike
- Armageddon Brand
- Winter Orb
- Purifying Flame
Perhaps the most famous example of builds that are generally considered difficult to level as league starters are Bow Builds. Many of these builds rely on having multiple links, or late-game gear, before they start to gain effectiveness. When evaluating leveling skills, we instead look for skills that have strong base damage, and can clear packs of enemies without the need for additional gems such as Greater Multiple Projectiles Support.
Learning to Loot
It can be very tempting to pick up every item that fountains out of the fallen enemies. Sometimes it can be difficult to leave those shiny yellow Rare items on the ground – it feels like leaving candy from a piñata on the floor.
There is something you need to come to terms with very quickly, however, in order to play the game effectively. You need to learn to leave the loot behind, or at least loot less. This is no exaggeration; there is far more to be sacrificed if you are looking to play efficiently or even optimally. Just as a starting point, however, we need to come to terms with the fact that many pieces are simply not worth picking up.
This is particularly true while we are leveling up. Think of it logically; the best drops in the game come from high level enemies. If you are leveling, chances are you are in a pretty low level zone. You already know everything you pick up is going to be garbage, at best. Jewelry and Accessories, however, can still be worth identifying, as they can have nice combinations even at lower item levels. This means Rings, Amulets, and Belts.
You can and should still loot Rare items that you can use. If you are level 10 and you are using a White/Common chest, you should definitely pick up that Blue chest lying on the ground. It can even be worth it very early on in the league to pick up every Magic or Rare item, just to help bolster your Scroll of Wisdoms.
Once your exile is up and running and you are past the first handful of levels, however, it is time to start leaving some of the items behind. If you know you are making a trip back to town shortly, fill up that inventory. If you are just setting out, make sure you keep some space for the whole journey ahead.
The exception to this rule is Solo-Self Found leagues, especially Hardcore variants, as you will want to identify as many pieces that are useful to your build as possible, in the hopes you find an item worth holding on to.
Supplying Yourself with Scrolls of Wisdom and Portal Scrolls
One major difference between Path of Exile freshmen and the seasoned veterans is this: newer players find themselves running out of scrolls left and right, while the experienced players do not even bother picking them up. But how can you sustain your adventure without picking up these most essential of items?
The answer is the Orb of Transmutation. This orb is commonly dropped throughout the game, and has little use on its own, save for a few niche instances. Trade a Transmute to a vendor, however, and they will offer 4x Scroll of Wisdom in return.
Though all players should pick up Portal Scrolls and the Scroll of Wisdoms they find early in the game, especially on league launch, you can quickly create an infinitely sustainable supply using this trick.
Portal Scrolls can be bought from vendors for 3x Scroll of Wisdom, which means that every Orb of Transmutation is also worth 1.25 Portal Scrolls. Players can also acquire a Portal gem to eliminate the need for Portal Scrolls entirely.
Installing a Loot Filter
There are thousands upon thousands of items and currencies in Path of Exile, and it would be impossible to teach a fresh exile every single one to keep an eye out for. Fortunately, a Loot Filter is a great way to highlight the best and rarest drops, while filtering out the items that are not worth picking up. It only takes about two minutes to do, and is absolutely necessary at higher levels, where so much loot is dropping that it can obstruct your screen entirely. Take a look at this comparison below, showing the same loot with no filter (top) versus a basic loot filter (bottom).
To get started installing a basic loot filter, take a look at the following steps.
1. Go to https://www.filterblade.xyz/
2. Set your basic options. We recommend “semi-strict” for new players.
3. Name and download your filter.
4. Put the filter file in your Documents/My Games/Path of Exile folder.
5. Log in to Path of Exile. Press Escape, then Options, and navigate to the UI tab. The last option on the page will allow you to select a Loot Filter in-game.
Having a Loot Filter will greatly reduce confusion for new and seasoned players alike, highlighting the rarest and most valuable items with colors, sounds, and more visible text. Most of the useless items are filtered so that they are longer seen, and this level of strictness can be changed later on if need be. Higher level players, or those with greater wealth, often choose to run stricter filters, only stopping to loot items that are “worth their time”.
Acquiring the Links You Need to Level
No one starts the league with a Tabula Rasa hidden in their back pocket. How does one put together a functioning build without any items or links? Without Jeweller's Orbs or Orb of Fusings, crafting the item yourself is not even an option.
A Loot Filter, as mentioned above, can help with this immensely. With our recommended filter, 3-Link and 4-Link items will be automatically highlighted at lower levels to help you obtain the links needed as soon as possible.
Checking the vendors in town is also a highly recommended option. You could obtain a 3-Link at level 1, if you are lucky, by talking to Tarkleigh or Nessa in Lioneye’s Watch.
Coloring Your Sockets
Now that you have the links necessary, you have to ensure they are the right colors for the gems you will require. Items will need to be correctly re-colored using the currency of Chromatic Orbs.
As mentioned in our Welcome to Wraeclast: A Beginner’s Guide to Path of Exile, items have a base type that assigns them preferred colors. To reiterate:
- Evasion-based items prefer Green sockets
- Energy Shield-based items prefer Blue sockets
- Armor-based items prefer red sockets
This follows for weapons, in a logical fashion. Daggers and Swords are Dexterity, Wands are Intelligence, and so forth.
Therefore, it is easiest to start with an item you can realistically color with only a small number of Chromatic Orbs. If you are trying to get 4 Blue sockets on an Armor item, you are very likely going to need hundreds of Chromatic Orbs, and this simply is not realistic while leveling.
Acquiring Chromatic Orbs
The Loot Filter is very helpful for this purpose, as it will automatically highlight “Chromatic Pieces” that can be traded for these orbs. Keep an eye out for these items, as they are very valuable to your personal progress when starting a league or the game for the first time. While the orbs themselves do not have a great financial value, they have a practical necessity that gives your character a lot of freedom to change gear pieces at a whim and instantly re-color them as needed.
Acquiring the Gems You Need
Many classes will receive core skill gems as quest rewards throughout the game. Worth noting, however, is that the rewards are variable based on your class. Strength-based classes, like the Marauder, will receive more Red gems, while Intelligence-heavy classes, such as the Witch, will see a lot more Blue gems.
Muling is a technique used early in the league to receive gems you need in Act I. This is done by creating a different class than the one you intend to play, in order to receive gems from the opening quests. Since these quests usually only take a few minutes, you can have some of the gems you need already in your stash within minutes of a league launching.
Some gems can not be obtained as quest rewards by your class, but can be purchased from a specific vendor after completing the quest that would have rewarded it to another class. The only hard and fast way to check the availability of gems and their source is using the Path of Exile Wiki.
Siosa, found in the Library in Act III, carries virtually every gem available up until that point in the game, and can be used to supplement any missing pieces once you arrive there. When you reach Act VI, Lily Roth sells every gem available, excluding the very rare drop gems like Empower Support and Enlighten Support.
I’m Using a Leveling Skill – How do I Level My End-Game Skill?
If you are not using your main skill to level, there is a way to level another set of gems simultaneously. You can equip a second set of weapons by opening your inventory and clicking on the ”II” near the weapon slot. You can also press “X” at any time to swap to your secondary weapons.
When leveling, you can simply equip two 1-handed weapons of any type, ensuring they have three sockets each. Even if these weapons are not your active set, the gems will still gain experience, allowing you to level 6 additional gems for no cost.
The 20 Quality Gem Recipe
Leveling gems in your weapon swap can be used for another valuable purpose – the quality gem recipe. If you trade a vendor a Level 20 Gem and 1 Gemcutter's Prism, they will give you back the same gem, at Level 1, with 20% Quality. If you are not clear on what quality does for you gem(s), this can be found on our database.
Typically, “20/20 gems” (Level 20 Gems with 20% Quality) are very expensive early in the league. This is a cheap way of obtaining 20% Quality gems, although they will need to be leveled up a second time.
Many players have different strategies for their off-hand gems. Some will level 6 of their main skill, trade them in for quality gems, level them again, then corrupt them all with Vaal Orbs in the hopes of obtaining a Level 21 gem with 20% quality. This is a rare result, but extremely valuable. Others will level one of each of the gems in their final build’s 6-Link, then use them when they are eventually at-level. Finally, certain gems are worth significantly more than others due to supply and demand, and some players will opt to level gems for the pure goal of profit itself.
Why Do Certain Guides Recommend Low Level Gems?
In many of our guides, you will notice certain gems have specified levels that you should not level them past. The most prolific examples are Cast when Damage Taken Support and Arcane Surge Support, as many builds incorporate one or both of these gems. The main reason for this is that leveling up these gems increases their threshold for activation, so depending on what you have them linked to, this may actually be a detriment.
Cast when Damage Taken Support, for example, will activate linked skill gems when a certain threshold of damage is taken. By leveling the gem, you increase the amount of damage your character must take before the linked gems are triggered. Since this is most often linked to Immortal Call, which provides Physical damage immunity for a short time, most players generally prefer that this triggers more consistently.
In the case of CWDT (Cast When Damage Taken), however, leveling the gem does have benefits. The level requirement to use CWDT is Level 38 at gem level 1, and part of the caveat of the gem is that it will only support gems that have the same level requirement (38) or lower. That means that using a level 1 CWDT will only allow you to use low level gems (usually 1-5) when linked with it. If you level the gem, however, you can have proportionally stronger gems linked with it, which may be advantageous if you want to link it to curses like Temporal Chains or Warlord's Mark.
The logic behind certain gem levels is usually specific to the gem and build itself, but trust that the reasoning for it is sound.
How to Prevent Gems From Gaining Experience
Normally, when a gem is ready to level up, it appears on the right side of the screen flanked by a “+” symbol to let you know that you can send to it the next level. If you want the gem to remain at the current level, however, you can opt to simply ignore it. It can get a little annoying having several gem alerts on the side of the screen, however, and there is a way to make them disappear.
If you want to stop leveling a gem, simply right click on the “+” symbol (where you would normally left click to level it up). This will dispel the alert on the side of the screen, clearing up some real estate for you.
Should you wish to level the gem in the future, open your inventory pane (I) and you will find the gems, ready to be leveled, beneath your inventory slots.
It is not uncommon for a player aiming to get their Arcane Surge Support to Level 7, for example, to unconsciously click “+” on the gem and send it to Level 8 by accident. Fortunately, gems can be easily and cheaply de-leveled.
Simply trade any vendor your gem of choice along with an Orb of Scouring, and they will provide you with a gem one level lower in return.
One of the most confusing parts of Path of Exile is its intricate currency system. When you are leveling for the first time, you will see a variety of “Orbs” dropping, from simple Chromatic Orbs to the more elusive Chaos Orbs. You will immediately notice that all of these orbs have a practical usage; some link sockets, some add properties to items, while others reroll or reforge these properties.
While leveling, you should hold on to all of your orbs, storing them in your stash. Not only will these serve as your financial means of purchasing end-game items from other players, but many of them will also be necessary to properly adjust the gear you obtain.
Should I Use My Orbs to Craft Gear?
It is not recommended for newer players to attempt to craft gear using their currency orbs. There are a variety of properties and affixes in Path of Exile, and many of them can only appear on specific types of items, or specific bases. Unless you have a clear picture of what you want to craft, and a rough idea of how much currency investment it will actually take, you will likely just be throwing away currency.
The item level of an item also determines the maximum stat budget it can have. Attempting to craft low item level pieces is absolutely not worthwhile in most situations, as even if you get a good set of stats, they are unlikely to have strong rolls. Check out the website poeaffix.net to examine these concepts in greater detail.
Maximizing Experience Gain
A common mistake that new players make is trying to fully clear every zone of monsters. While this does become necessary late in the game, it is extremely inefficient to do so in the early acts, as you will end up extremely over-leveled. Additionally, the drops for these low level monsters are extremely poor, so there is practically no incentive to kill any more than necessary.
For peak efficiency, it is ideal to be a few levels below the zone you are currently in. Advanced players will often intentionally ensure their character is 2-3 levels below the zones they are progressing in, as that is generally the range that maximum experience is rewarded.
Check out our Quick Reference Leveling Guide for advice on a more streamlined leveling path that will help ensure you are getting the best experience possible.
Struggling Against Enemies
If your character is having a hard time dealing with enemies or bosses, you may have to look at investing in some better gear, or adding additional links to your setup. The website poe.trade is the center of most player to player trading within the game, and there are countless leveling pieces that can be obtained for a single Chaos Orb or less.
Generally, this only happens if you are using a skill that is not suited to leveling. You can opt to change your skill to one of our recommended skills, or add a second 4-Link to your build to supplement the type of damage you need more of.
Ascendancy and the Labyrinth
Ascending is an important part of Path of Exile that allows you to turn your base class into a more specialized weapon for your build. A Witch that wants to increase the potency of their Lightning Damage, for example, would likely choose the Elementalist Ascendancy, while a Marauder seeking to bolster their Regeneration and defenses would become a Juggernaut.
To Ascend, the player must complete the Lord’s Labyrinth without dying. The Labyrinth has four different difficulties, and each rewards 2 Ascendancy points when completed for the first time. In order to attempt the Labyrinth, the player must complete related Ascendancy Trials. This must only be done once per league, and is shared between all characters.
|Labyrinth Denomination||Monster Level||Trial Locations|
|Normal||33||The Lower Prison, The Crypt (Level 1), The Chamber of Sins (Level 2), The Crematorium, The Catacombs, The Imperial Gardens|
|Cruel||55||The Prison (Act VI), The Crypt (Act VII), The Chamber of Sins (Level 2, Act VII)|
|Merciless||68||The Bath House, The Tunnel, The Ossuary|
|Eternal||75||Randomly spawned in Maps|
To triumph in the Labyrinth, the player must defeat the boss Izaro three times. In each encounter, the player must deal 33% of his health in order to succeed. Izaro has different incarnations, and he is always accompanied by bodyguards or buffs. Just like the Labyrinth layout itself, the combinations are changed every day.
The website poelab.com is extremely valuable for determining the current layouts, affixes, puzzle solutions, and more.
The Importance of Resistances
There are three primary forms of Elemental damage in Path of Exile: Cold, Lightning, and Fire. Players and monsters alike can also have Resistance to these damage types, which can greatly reduce the amount of damage they take.
Elemental damage can also inflict status ailments, corresponding to the type of damage taken. Having greater amounts of resistances also reduces the chance for these ailments to be inflicted. Critical Hits have a 100% chance to apply status ailments, and Chill can be applied by any hit. The four main types of ailments are:
|Status Ailment||Associated Element||Effect|
|Chill||Cold||Slows the target by up to 30%|
|Freeze||Cold||Prevents recipient from moving, attacking, or using any skills|
|Ignite||Fire||Inflicts damage over time|
|Shock||Lightning||Increases damage taken by the recipient|
There are three other types of status ailments, introduced in Patch 3.5 Betrayal, but they can only be inflicted by players using the newly added Unique helmets Flamesight, Galesight, and Thundersight.
Elemental Resistances are the most important aspect of your character’s survival.
Resistance for each Element is capped at 75%. This means that while you may have 150% Fire Resistance, only 75% will be applied to damage reductions from Fire spells. If your character were to be cursed to have reduced Fire resistance, however, this excess Resistance would also act as a buffer so that you do not fall below Resistance cap.
You can see your character’s Resistances by opening the Character Pane ( C ) and clicking on the defense tab.
The number in brackets is the “Uncapped” or total resistances, while the number of the left is the capped Resistance value. Resistance caps can be raised beyond their normal value using certain means, such as the Purity of Fire (and other elemental auras) gem and certain items such as Loreweave or Saffell's Frame. There are also several skill nodes on the Passive Tree that can increase maximum Resistances by 1%.
It is extremely important you stay at 75% Cold, Fire, and Lightning Resistance whenever possible. Resistance is generally found on items, although there are also a wide variety of Passive Skill tree nodes that offer additional Resistance.
The Basic Math Governing Resistances
Whenever you are hit by Elemental damage in Path of Exile, the damage is filtered through a multiplier based on your Resistance to that damage type. For example, if you are hit for 20,000 Fire damage with 70% Fire Resistance:
20,000 × (1 – 0.70) = 6000 Fire Damage
If you were to have capped Resistance, however, the damage would be:
20,000 × (1 – 0.75) = 5000 Fire Damage
Now, look at the following:
1 – (5000 / 6000) = 0.167
And therefore, despite there only being a 5% difference in flat Fire Resistance, a player with capped Resistances would be taking 16.7% less Fire damage.
This is a dramatic example, as there are very few forms of damage that hit for such extreme values, however, it illustrates the concept well. Aim to remain Resistance capped whenever possible to reduce the possibility of being one-shot by a large Elemental attack.
Chaos Damage bypasses Energy shield, affecting the Life pool of enemies directly, and it is not considered Elemental damage. Chaos Damage is relatively rare in Path of Exile, as is the corresponding Chaos Resistance. By the end-game of Path of Exile, you will likely have -60% Chaos Resistance, the default value for all Resistances if you none on your gear or Passive Tree. Fortunately, most Chaos damage dealt by enemies is balanced around this, as it is unlikely for most players to have more than a marginal amount of Chaos Resistance.
Unlike the Elemental Resistances, you should not be worried if your Chaos Resistance is deeply negative, as this is a natural and expected part of the game for most builds. Chaos Innoculation builds are completely immune to Chaos damage, however, most other builds must simply deal with it.
Resistances Throughout the Game
There are penalties to Resistances that increase throughout the game. When you start the game in Act I, the default Resistance value is 0%. As you progress further into the game, however, there are additional penalties applied to Resistances, as your gear will also get better and better to counteract this.
|Resistance Penalty||Applied In Act|
Essentially, this means that if you had 75% Cold Resistance in Act I-V, you would have 45% in Act VI, and only 15% upon reaching the Epilogue. The only way to counteract this is to continually upgrade your equipped items as you level up and progress further into the game.
The Importance of Flasks
Flasks are one of the most singular and important mechanics that govern your characters ability to succeed in Path of Exile, and perhaps even the most important in many situations. Having a good flask setup will greatly ease the leveling process, particularly in Act V and beyond.
Life and Mana flasks are the standard Flasks everyone starts the game with, and many newer players never use anything else until they reach the end-game. Certain flasks, however, can be extremely valuable while leveling up due to their imbalance at lower levels.
The Quicksilver Flask is the most important flask for leveling. Early in the game, it can be extremely beneficial to even have 2 of them, allowing you to kill less monsters and run through the low level Acts much faster. One important note is that the ideal suffix for Quicksilver Flasks (of Adrenaline) can only be obtained on a flask of Item Level 5 or higher. The Quicksilver Flask obtained from the “Medicine Chest” quest (from Nessa in Act I) has an Item Level of 3, and therefore cannot have this very attractive suffix. Quicksilver Flasks are a fairly common drop, so keep your eyes peeled and you will likely find a few extras by around Act III.
The Granite Flask provides a flat +3000 Armour to your exile for its duration, which can be further increased by the “of the Iron Skin” suffix. This flask can be used as early as Level 27, which makes it an extremely potent choice for leveling. Walking into a pack of monsters in Act IV or Act V with +3000 Armour or more results in your exile taking practically no Physical damage, which can be a godsend on fragile characters that might otherwise struggle at this point in the game.
If you are playing with Acrobatics from an early level, which halves your Armour, you might instead opt to use a Jade Flask or Stibnite Flask, or perhaps even both. These flasks focus on boosting Evasion instead of Armour, and can be a great replacement for the more elusive exile.
The Diamond Flask increases Critical Strike chance by a significant margin, and is a great option for characters that rely heavily on criticals. Since obtaining a consistent Critical Strike chance is difficult while leveling, this flask can smooth the process considerably.
The Silver Flask fits into many builds while leveling, providing the Onslaught buff for its duration. Onslaught increases attack speed, cast speed, and movement speed by 20%, which is great for both damage and simply getting around faster.
There are a variety of other flasks in Path of Exile, many of which are excellent in the end-game, or fit into certain builds specifically. Once you have reached Act V or so, and are looking to proceed into “Part 2” of the game, you should be running more than just simple Life and Mana flasks. In fact, Mana flasks are generally quite useless for leveling, unless you are running the keystone Mind Over Matter. If you are having Mana issues, simply run the Clarity aura while leveling. Do not run any more than 2 Life Flasks, either.
This guide will have more sections added over time. If you are a new player and confused by a game mechanic that you have not found in the guide, please leave a comment and we can look at adding a section on it! Stay safe out there, Exiles.
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.