People often struggle to upgrade their characters in a new Path of Exile league, or if they are new to the game. This guide explains how to upgrade without relying heavily on big-ticket drops or trade, using just a few mechanics and some knowledge.
If you have questions about anything in this guide, feel free to ask in:
Info For New Players
The only stats that matter in the early game are life and elemental resistances. They are what the game is balanced around, with the rough guidelines being:
- Character health should increase by 250-300 for every act cleared
- 40% Cold resistance end of Act 1
- 50% Cold/Lightning resistance end of Act 2
- 50% Cold/Lightning/Fire end of Act 3
- 75% Cold/Lightning/Fire end of Act 5
- Act 5 and 10 both apply -30% penalties to resistances, and they must be raised back to 75%
If your character doesn’t meet these checkpoints they will start to struggle and eventually hit a wall. Because of this, learning to upgrade gear during the early game is very important.
Obviously, you need damage, and you can use the methods here to craft weapons as well. Early-game damage comes more from abilities and skills though and this guide won’t cover it much.
Crafting can be intimidating in Path of Exile, but the basics are simple and useful to understand. This section helps you understand items and start improving them right from the start.
Affix Basics – Implicits, Prefixes, and Suffixes
These are tied to the item base and mostly cannot be changed, so always prioritize strong bases. Upgrade away from things like Gold Ring or Cloth Belt to bases with better implicits like Topaz Ring or Leather Belt.
This normal quality ring has zero affixes available, but implicits don’t count towards that limit.
Prefixes and Suffixes
Affixes are the mods your item can roll, they are divided into two pools called prefixes and suffixes.
Upgrading the ring to Magic with an Orb of Transmutation gives it room for one prefix and one suffix. The transmute also added life, a prefix, so this ring only has a suffix open.
For armour and jewellery, the breakdown is roughly:
- Prefixes: Life, Movement Speed (boots only), Armour, Evasion, Energy Shield.
- Suffixes: Resistances, STR/DEX/INT, Attack/Cast Speed, %Elemental Damage.
With no prefix slots available, Orb of Augmentation can only add a suffix. Resistance was a lucky roll and this item’s slots are now full.
A rare item could have more affixes, three of each. To demonstrate with the same ring I used a Regal Orb to turn it rare and add a random prefix or suffix.
The regal filled a suffix but there is still one open to craft fire resistance at the bench. Since life and resistance are the only stats that matter at first, this a very good ring for early game.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking more mods always means better. The righthand ring can’t have crafted life because it already has a very low life roll, and the suffixes are all filled so no crafting resist either. Plus it’s on a base with useless implicit. This ring has nothing to offer.
The left ring however gives a nice amount of life, with a resistance implicit and open suffix. You could also remove the craft, augment then regal it, and recraft the resistance to gain 2 mods. This ring could easily be worn through the campaign into early maps.
That’s all the info you need to spot good items! Just look for high resistances and an open prefix, or high life with one resistance and an open suffix. Use the bench to add what’s missing.
Because the currency picked up at level one is also used in the endgame, it pays to know what it’s for and whether it should be saved. This section gives info about the basic currency.
Orb of Transmutation: Upgrades items from Normal to Magic rarity, adding a prefix or suffix.
- For the first few acts, only use these to purchase from vendors or craft at the bench. When you have a surplus you can start using them however you want. These can also be vendored for Scroll of Wisdom early on.
Orb of Augmentation: Add a mod to Magic items without changing the existing mod. You always know whether a suffix or prefix will be added since magic items can only have one of each.
- You can use these if you find a magic item with high life or resistance and open affix, but it’s smarter to just craft that slot at the bench. Because of this augments don’t have much value.
Orb of Alteration: Rerolls a Magic item with new mods, changing everything but the implicits.
- Needed to craft flasks and other things after the campaign, don’t use before then unless buying from vendors or crafting.
Regal Orb: Turns Magic items Rare, adding one prefix or suffix.
- Scarce, but not commonly needed. I don’t hesitate to use these during the campaign if I find a Magic ring with high life and resist.
Chaos Orb: These will reroll a Rare item with new mods.
- Chaos are the main currency for trading and there are better ways to craft, don’t waste them! Also used for buying maps from the vendor and crafting them yourself.
Exalted Orb: Add a random mod to a Rare item if it has room.
- Don’t use until you have very good items, sell them to other players for chaos. Also used for the highest tier of some bench crafts
Orb of Annulment: Removes one random mod from a Magic or Rare item.
- These can be sold to players also, I would keep them around though. The value of annuls is in saving items that only need one free affix to be useable. Always a gamble but can pay off big.
Orb of Scouring: Removes all mods from a Magic or Rare item, turning it normal.
- Hold on to these, you will need them to roll your maps after the campaign.
Orb of Alchemy: Upgrades Normal items to Rare, adding several random affixes.
- Used heavily in the endgame. Together with scours, they roll maps without using chaos orbs. The vendor also sells maps for alchemy.
- Orb of Binding will function as an alchemy for map rolling purposes.
Orb of Binding: Upgrades items from Normal to Rare, same as an alchemy, while also adding and linking 4 sockets.
- These can be used immediately! If you find one that’s an easy 4link for you.
Orb of Chance: Upgrade normal items to a random rarity, potentially even unique.
- Save, they are scarce and needed to buy gems and maps from vendors. You will eventually have a surplus and can do whatever you like with them at that point.
The big thing to know is that colors aren’t random, they roll based on the required attributes.
The helmet requiring 122INT will roll a ton of blue sockets but few red or green, while the STR/INT helmet will roll many red and blue but few green.
- Don’t use Chromatic Orb on bases with the wrong attributes for your colors. This is mainly important during the campaign, but knowing how to color properly can save you headaches.
If you need to hit a lot of offcolors, there are some methods below using the crafting bench.
Many years ago somebody made a tool to calculate the cheapest bench option for any color combination on any item. Using this and a lot of Chromatic Orb can hit 3-4 offcolor sockets fairly easily compared to just spamming chromatics yourself.
It’s called the Vorici Calculator because that was an old crafting NPC.
Entering my item’s stats and desired colors, it says hitting BBRG on a base requiring 62STR and 85DEX is cheapest using “At least one Blue”.
Do not use on linked items, link after this is done.
Forcing 5-6 offcolors is possible by taking advantage of how the crafting bench handles sockets.
Each time you add a socket it rolls the color, and if you set it back one socket lower it ALWAYS removes the socket you just added.
The process looks like this:
- Set to 3 sockets
- Craft your 3 hardest colors
- Set to 4 sockets
- Set back to 3 if you don’t like the result
- Repeat all the way to 6
Adding another link to your main skill is one of the biggest DPS increases available, but for most of the campaign you won’t have the currency to reliably socket and link items yourself.
Since this will be around act 4-5, access to Orb of Fusing is limited. This is the part of the game where knowing how socket colors work is very important.
If perfect colors don’t happen to drop, you have a few options:
There are a ton of supports out there, you can usually make a viable 4link in several ways. For example, all of these setups are great for Ethereal Knives.
Find and Recolor
Since you know which bases are likely to roll your colors, and which alternate colors are viable, you can use some Chromatic Orb on linked bases of the proper types.
Getting onto a 5L is among the first priorities after finishing the campaign, no matter what gear your build will eventually wear. Increased clear speed helps farm out the gear you need later.
With a steady supply of 6socket items vendoring for Jeweller's Orb it isn’t hard to 5link yourself in early maps, but I would still buy it if you play on trade.
My build needed 4 blue and 1 red, but I also wanted specifically a STR/INT base. Since I can recolor easily I only filtered for 5link and the basetype.
Just alter the colors and basetype to find your own gear. You can add life or resistance to the search and maybe pay a bit more, or just do some basic crafting on it yourself. If your colors are hard for the basetype you should specify how many of each.
Getting an effective 6link running is usually more important than having a great chestpiece, and since corrupted 6L are decently priced it’s often best to wear one while farming for your unique or waiting to craft a good rare.
Corrupted chests are cheaper and work just fine for early mapping. The tradeoff is they cannot be crafted, and changing socket colors is more expensive. You want to get big resist rolls on other items, especially jewellery, so you can remain capped with very little on the chest.
Same search as for 5L, I just added another blue socket and some life then specified corrupted.
For corrupted items, it’s important to specify how many of each color you want.
If you can’t find anything that way, recoloring is possible if the colors fit the basetype very well.
Changing colors on a corrupted item is possible, but the price now includes a matching amount of Vaal Orb. This should only be done when desired colors match the basetype very well.