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.
Cast on Critical Strike (CoC) builds have long been one of the iconic build archetypes in Path of Exile, offering an engaging and very unique experience that can tear through maps and decimate bosses with little effort. While the Cast On Critical Strike Support gem was gutted in the distant past, it has seen a new lease on life since Patch 3.5: Betrayal, where it has returned triumphantly as one of the most potent and entertaining build archetypes in the meta.
This build is one of incredible power and potential, that feels capable with only a few core investments, but scales into a monstrously powerful end-game that hardly any builds can match. Incredible offensive firepower is distilled into a simple and engaging end point, allowing you to annihilate bosses like The Shaper in seconds.
Survival, however, is often just as important as the raw attack power of your exile, perhaps even more so. Fortunately, this build boasts incredible an incredible array of defenses, just in case anything actually has time to get an attack off against you.
Overally, this build can be one of the most fast-paced, exciting, and well rounded in the entire game. It excels in practically every respect, and has plenty of changes and permutations that can be made to customize it to preference, or upgrade it further towards god status.
+ Incredible damage output (~6.5m Shaper DPS)
+ Amazing defenses (80% all Resistances, permanent Blind Support, Blasphemy Support Enfeeble, reliable Life leech, Physical mitigation, permanent Freeze/Chill, and more).
+ Melts all types of content; Bosses, Mapping, Delving, Labyrinth, etc.
+ Extremely fast clear speed
+ Extremely fast kill times (Uber Elder, Shaper, Aul the Crystal King, Mastermind, etc.)
+ High movement speed
+ Viable as both league starter and league finisher — functions a budget, but has plenty of investments to continually elevate the build
This build clears everything extremely quickly, whether you are farming your T16 Maps or farming the Uber Elder. Players who love smashing through content but have a measured and precise style of play will enjoy this build the most, as it does require and reward careful movement in certain cases.
Cyclone is used as the trigger spell for our CoC build, due to its extremely high attack speed and relatively generous range of effect. Cyclone is technically a movement skill, and it can be a polarizing choice for this reason. That said, the sheer power of Cyclone when compared with alternatives, such as Blade Flurry, make it the clear winner.
Each time you approach an enemy, activate Cyclone, ideally clicking close to your character to minimize the distance traveled, affording you more agency to avoid dangerous abilities and ensuring you are not slowed for any longer than necessary. This will trigger our Ice Novas, which are socketed in both our main 6-link (with Cyclone and Cast On Critical Strike Support) as well as Cospri's Malice, our weapon of choice. Frostbolts, also socketed in Cospri’s, will trigger additional Ice Novas, resulting in a satisfying helping of freezing and screen shattering that absolutely tears apart the enemies on screen.
This build also incorporates skills like Vaal Righteous Fire and Vortex to increase our damage on sturdy targets and bosses. There are plenty of personal adjustments and customizations to be made, if desired, allowing you to adapt the build to further specialize towards a specific style of play. For example, if you really enjoy the security of playing with a Decoy Totem on tough bosses, there are multiple “optional” gems that could be swapped out to accommodate personal preference.
Cerebral use of Flasks is relatively important to maintaining maximum damage and clear speed, as we do rely on The Wise Oak and the Diamond Flask quite heavily to maintain our absurd damage output. While liberal use is advised, be careful not to “munch” charges by re-activating them too early and wasting any remaining duration. Additionally, due to Cyclone’s status as a movement skill, certain care must be taken when using flasks that affect movement speed. Using a Quicksilver Flask will cause your character to travel farther and faster, which can be detrimental for uptime on a boss. There is no hard and fast rule; becoming comfortable with the skill and how your character moves is the main optimization and can only be developed with practice and muscle memory.
This is our recommended skill tree for the build. Well there is a lot of flexibility in the gem links and gearing, it is relatively difficult to make adjustments to the tree without making meaningful sacrifices. Doom Cast could be dropped once end-game gear is fully acquired, as the Critical Strike is not as necessary, and a well rolled Jewel is more valuable. Alchemist could also be feasibly removed from the build, although we feel this node is very undervalued by many players and is exceptionally strong when proper Flask play is done. The main goal with the tree is to acquire the necessary damage nodes, while still picking up a fair amount of additional Life and up to 6 Jewel sockets.
Start by taking the Life notables close to the Shadow starting wheel, as well as Doom Cast, before moving up towards the Witch area. Head through Blast Radius into Power Charge and Cruel Preparation. Continue down to the Templar wheel and start working your way through the Life and damage notables there. Finally, head towards the large Constitution wheel of life. Save Jewel sockets for last, except for the one to the right of the Witch starting wheel, which you need to socket with Frozen Trail as soon as you have Cospri's Malice.
Ice Nova is the main “damage dealing” skill within the build, and therefore, much of our build is optimized towards increasing its effectiveness and damage. Cyclone is used as the “trigger skill”, and will proc all our damage via Cast On Critical Strike Support. Frostbolt creates additional Ice Nova casts, and is socketed in Cospri's Malice with another Ice Nova so that it triggers automatically, effectively doubling our damage.
Vortex is used to increase our Chill effect and apply the effects of Bonechill Support and Unbound Ailments Support. Our Critical Strike chance also benefits, via the 60% increased Critical Strike Chance against Chilled Enemies that Cospri's Malice affix it has.
Below, the entire setup for gem links is available, with recommendations for optional gems included.
For all the gem links we provide below, keep in mind that we list the gems in order of priority (starting from the top left, going to the right on each row of the links), meaning that if you lack the required number of sockets to fit all the gems, the first ones to drop are the ones at the bottom (with the bottom right being the last). Also note that in-game, as long as the sockets are linked, it makes no difference at all what order the gems are placed in.
This is our primary link, and the first one you should aim to fully upgrade with 20% Quality and/or Level 21 gems. The sixth gem is very flexible, and should be adjusted based on the content you are doing. Having a white socket(s) from Vorici’s Syndicate rewards can be very useful in allowing you the greatest degree of flexibility.
|Cyclone||Cast On Critical Strike Support|
|Ice Nova||Increased Critical Strikes Support|
|Hypothermia Support||Player’s Preference|
Here are a few options for the sixth link, once you acquire it:
- Concentrated Effect Support: Highest possible damage option, at the expense of clear speed. Recommended to swap in for very tanky bosses, such as Uber Elder, Shaper/Guardians, or Aul, the Crystal King.
- Elemental Focus Support: A good all-purpose damage option that is great for both clearing and general bossing.
- Fortify Support: The best option for defense and stability. Your damage will be more than enough to deal with T15/T16 bosses, and it feels great against the Syndicate. A good option for players farming to reach Level 100.
- Increased Area of Effect Support: The best option for clear speed on some maps, particularly the more open layouts.
- Increased Critical Damage Support: Another good all-purpose option, but generally falls a little short of Elemental Focus Support.
Cospri's Malice 3-Link
This link triggers automatically, with the Frostbolts providing additional spawns for Ice Nova and Vortex (read the tooltips of these skills if you are confused). Life Leech Support is not required, but does add a lot of defensive smoothing that is recommended. Frozen Trail is used to create additional Frostbolts.
|Life Leech Support|
An important function of Cospri's Malice to take note of is that the socketed gems trigger in order from top to bottom. We want the frostbolts to spawn, and then gain the additional casts of Ice Nova from them, therefore, you will want to ensure that Frostbolt comes before Ice Nova in the link.
This is one of the most important links in the build, and it greatly boosts our general defenses and survivability.
While Act/Map bosses have 60% less Curse effect, and Guardians/Shaper/Elder have 80% less Curse effect, this setup is highly valuable for most other situations.
|Herald of Ice||Enfeeble|
|Blasphemy Support||Player’s Preference|
The last gem can be filled with whatever supplemental gem you prefer. We like to run Vaal Righteous Fire, as it can offer some incredible burst potential on certain bosses. Flame Dash is a good choice as well, as it allows you to have a movement skill that can cross gaps and ledges, but still have a movement skill link that can utilize Fortify Support. Decoy Totem is a comfortable choice for certain bosses, particularly as a melee build. Phase Run can also boost clear speed noticeably, and should be considered as a viable choice.
Discipline can replace Herald of Ice if you are using a Watcher's Eye with a Discipline mod (the +Energy Shield gained for each Enemy Hit while affected by Discipline mod is particularly attractive). This is optional, but it does add a noticeable defensive increase at the cost of a small amount of damage. The ideal second affix on Watcher’s Eye would be Gain % of Maximum Mana as Extra Maximum Energy Shield while affected by Clarity, however, this will force you to use a Level 1 Clarity in the fourth slot of this link, rather than any of the above recommendations.
|Unbound Ailments Support||Arcane Surge Support (Level 6)|
Cast When Damage Taken 4-Link
This is a simple and effective link that will help prevent unexpected chunks or death from large bursts of Physical damage.
|Cast when Damage Taken Support (Level 1)||Immortal Call (Level 2)|
|Summon Ice Golem/ Summon Chaos Golem (Level 3)||Player’s Preference|
This does not necessarily have to be a 4-link, but there are several options that are useful here. Enfeeble (Level 5) can be used, for example, as our Blasphemy Support will not affect mobs that are off-screen or at range. This can be helpful in Incursions, for example, where a large percentage of the enemies are not in melee. Another great option is Frost Bomb (Level 10), which has excellent base damage and scales off the rest of our cold damage. A Vaal skill could also be fit here, for example, Vaal Righteous Fire if you are not using it in another link.
Mobility Skill 3-Link
Pick one of the following skills based on preference. Our default recommendation is Shield Charge, but Leap Slam has the advantage of being much more versatile in areas with many gaps or walls, such as the Labyrinth.
|Shield Charge||Faster Attacks Support|
Alternative Mobility 3-Link
If you are using Fortify Support in your main link, or do not feel it is necessary for clearing or bossing in your mobility skill, you could opt to use Flame Dash instead, which offers the greatest flexibility.
|Flame Dash||Arcane Surge Support (Level 6)|
|Faster Casting Support|
Ascendancy, Bandits, and Pantheon
- Unstable Infusion
- Deadly Infusion
- Ambush and Assassinate
Assassin is a fantastic choice as an Ascendancy for Cast on Critical builds, as it provides large amounts of Critical Strike chance and Multiplier innately, without forcing us to invest heavily on the Passive Tree. We are left with much more flexible possibilities, allowing you to acquire more rounded defenses and additional Jewel sockets.
Assassin offers a high amount of quality of life and damage, and the natural complement to our build.
Unstable Infusion should be your first acquisition, particularly if you plan on leveling using a CoC setup. The organic Power Charge generation is extremely valuable, and allows you to easily maintain 4-5 charges consistently very early in the game.
Deadly Infusion has perfect synergy with Unstable Infusion, and grants a large amount of additional Critical Strike and Multiplier while you have Power Charges. Since we can expect to have maximum charges at virtually all times, this is essentially a permanent and reliable increase.
Opportunistic feels really great as you are first entering maps, as it provides a huge injection of Movement Speed, which helps us level and clear much faster. The reflect immunity to Critical Strikes is also great quality of life. The increased damage and critical damage immunity while one target is present is also very valuable when you are first dealing with bosses, and continues to pay dividends when engaging end-game bosses such as Aul, the Crystal King. It also makes the Eternal Labyrinth far easier when you attempt it for the first time, which is another reason why it is recommended to take this third.
Ambush and Assassinate is the icing on the cake, providing guaranteed criticals on full life and low life targets, as well as a large amount of damage and multiplier respectably. Culling Strike on criticals is also great quality of life, particularly on certain bosses.
Deal with the Bandits Reward
Help Alira for the Critical Strike Multiplier and Mana Regeneration. The Elemental Resistances are also quite valuable early on, as well as very late in the game when we start dropping Rare items in favor of more Uniques.
- Soul of Lunaris: The default choice for this build. The Movement Speed and Physical damage reduction are both very valuable for us, and the upgrades are all marginally useful.
- Soul of Solaris: The default choice for bossing. The 8% Reduced Elemental Damage upgrade is particularly good.
- Soul of Gruthkul: The default choice for this build. Additional Physical reduction and the reduced Attack Speed on enemies are both great for survivability.
- Soul of Shakari: A great choice to reduce Chaos damage and eliminate Poison damage entirely. Once your defenses have reached a sufficient level that mapping feels very stable, this can be a great alternative choice to bolster your survivability in other areas.
- Soul of Yugul: An alternative choice for Elder, Aul, or Shaper when upgraded.
Gear, Jewels, and Flasks
Some example gear used by our character has been included for reference. There are plenty of options for this build, in particular, and you should not feel like you absolutely need every recommended item. Quite notably, there are some very potent Corruptions/Double Corruptions that are not included, as they are simply not realistic acquisitions for most players.
Loreweave is our go-to Unique chest, offering a selection of everything we need. Ensure that the Loreweave you purchase or roll has an 80% Maximum Resistances roll, as this is the most important affix that the item offers. After that, prioritize Global Critical Strike Chance and Elemental Damage. The Attributes and Life rolls are nice bonuses as well, but there is no need to prioritize them.
Starkonja's Head is the best overall option, and cheaply obtained at any point in a league. The Dexterity roll is of particular importance, as many of our core gems and items have sizeable requirements. The rest of the stats are great, granting large quantities of Life and Evasion.
Devoto's Devotion offers superior clear speed and a large injection of Dexterity. The defenses are not as attractive as Starkonja’s, however, and the Attack Speed can actually be a negative in some cases (see Cast on Critical Strike Mechanics Explained later in the guide).
Recommended Labyrinth Enchant is Ice Nova Damage Increased by 40%. This one can be expensive once the beginning of the league has passed, however, so feel free to try other options. Ice Nova Area of Effect is a decent option, and Enfeeble Curse Effect is great for defense.
Rare gloves with solid defenses will do fine for just about any setup. When starting out, look for a pair with:
- 70+ Maximum Life
- 30%+ to at least 2 Elemental Resistances
You will also need Dexterity on at least one Rare item, and gloves can be a convenient slot to have it.
Atziri's Acuity are the best Unique option, which improve your defenses and sustainability, as well as granting some additional Critical Strike. These are more of a luxury item and are very low priority, and should be one of the last upgrades sought after. We recommend waiting until you can afford a nicely Corrupted pair before purchasing a set of these. Some of the best options include:
- Curse Enemies with Enfeeble on Hit
- +1 to Socketed Gems
- % Increased Maximum Life
Rare boots are the go-to choice for most. When starting out, look for a pair with:
- 70+ Maximum Life
- 30% to at least 2 Elemental Resistances
- 30% Increased Movement Speed
You will also need Dexterity on at least one Rare item, and boots can be a convenient slot to have it.
Bubonic Trail with 2 Abyssal sockets is an exceptionally strong item, and can be considered as very late-game luxury upgrade. You will need to socket at least one Abyssal Jewel into your Passive Tree to get the full bonus (1 of each: Searching Eye, Murderous Eye, and Hypnotic Eye), unless you are using a Stygian Vise in your belt slot. It is not worth using a Ghastly Eye Jewel for the Bubonic Trail damage bonus, as they have few useful damage affixes for non-summoner builds, and we do not use Tombfist or Lightpoacher to provide spare Abyssal sockets.
Weapons and Shields
Cospri's Malice is mandatory and the item that breathes life into the build. In addition to triggering Frostbolts, which in turn generate more casts of Ice Nova, Cospri’s adds a nice amount of Critical Strike chance and flat Cold damage to our attacks.
Do not purchase a Cospri's Malice with an Attack Speed roll that is higher than 9% if you are not using the Shaped belt described in the Accessories section. See the FAQ section for more information.
Lycosidae provides guaranteed hits, which is a massive damage increase and removes the need for any Accuracy on your gear.
The Ring section has been split in two for this guide, as there are certain pairings that only work together. Pick whatever Unique ring you can afford, then examine the “Rare” section for a second option. Do not use two Unique rings or you will struggle to properly cap Resistances.
The Pandemonius should be our go-to choice for amulet. Permanent Blind to enemies we hit, Cold Damage and Penetration, Cold Resistance, and a nice Dexterity implicit make this necklace an incredible pickup.
A Rare amulet can be used until The Pandemonius can be afforded. Nothing fancy is necessary, as the Pandemonius is fairly cheap, and will be an early pickup. The following stats should be enough to get you started in maps; any damage, such as Global Critical Strike Chance/Multiplier, is just icing on the cake.
Ring #1 (Unique)
Mark of the Shaper is an incredible choice for one of our rings. Your other ring must be an Elder item for this ring to be worth using, as the Spell Damage bonus is quite significant. The Volatile Anomalies that automatically spawn on kill can actually do fairly significant damage in certain situations; namely, bosses that spawn adds. The flat Lightning damage coupled with the Maximum Life and Energy Shield make this ring the complete package, and well worth the investment. Since your other ring has to be an Elder item out of necessity, you should purchase the other ring before upgrading to this piece.
Berek's Grip can be used in in place of Mark of the Shaper until you can afford it. This item is fantastic for leveling and the Mana leech is useful for sustaining Cyclone until you have enough innate regeneration. It also offers superb damage for its very low requirement of Level 20.
Gifts from Above can be used in place of Mark of the Shaper until you can afford it. It is extremely cheap, can be used from Level 28, and has a handful of effective stats. The Global Critical Strike is very nice to have if you are leveling with Cast on Critical Strike, and the Consecrated Ground actually provides surprisingly potent defensive smoothing.
Ring #2 (Rare)
An Elder Rare ring is the best possible option, as it will enable us to use Mark of the Shaper once it is acquired. If you cannot afford an Elder ring yet, or one with a nice set of rolls, simply use a normal Rare ring with a base of your choosing. Opal is the best base for damage, while Resistance rings can be useful for filling out your defense. Prioritize the stats in the same way:
- [Uncapped] Resistances
- +# to Maximum Life
- Dexterity (if needed)
- Global Critical Strike Multiplier (Elder Suffix)
- Increased Cold Damage
- Life Gained for Each Enemy Hit by your Attacks (Elder Prefix)
- Cold Damage Leeched as Life (Fossil Craft)
Our ideal belt is a Shaped Leather Belt that has the Increased Cooldown Recovery Speed affix. You will need a roll of 14% or higher, where we reach a Cast On Critical Strike Support breakpoint that allows your linked spells to trigger more than an extra time per second, resulting in noticeably higher damage. Additional Increased Cooldown Recovery Speed beyond 14%, however, results in little benefit as another consistent breakpoint cannot be attained. Prioritize the rest of the stats as follows:
- +# to Maximum Life
- [Uncapped] Resistances
- Increased Cold Damage (Delve Mod)
- Increased Damage
- Energy Shield
The Shaped upgrade can be made relatively late in the build, so do not worry about buying an expensive belt right away. A standard Stygian Vise Rare with just Life and Resistances will serve you perfectly well for the majority of the end-game, and well past Uber Elder.
Ideal Jewels can be very expensive, but are not at all necessary to reach extreme highs with this build. Do not be afraid or ashamed of compromising a little bit, or crafting your own with Life and another damage affix before purchasing upgrades down the road.
Frozen Trail is the only mandatory Jewel within the build. It should be placed in the socket just to the right of the Witch starting wheel. The intelligence mentioned in the tooltip does not need to be allocated, just within the radius of the Jewel, so as long as it is socketed in the correct position it will function properly.
A Watcher's Eye with the Discipline mod +Energy Shield gained for each Enemy Hit while affected by Discipline mod adds a noticeable defensive increase at the cost of a small amount of damage. The ideal second affix on Watcher’s Eye would be Gain % of Maximum Mana as Extra Maximum Energy Shield while affected by Clarity. This is not a required upgraded, and is usually at least a few exalts, so feel free to save it for later in the build.
- +% to Maximum Life
- % to Critical Damage with Cold Skills
- % to Critical Damage with Elemental Skills
- % Increased Critical Strike Multiplier for Spells
- % Increased Cold Damage
- +# Increased Global Critical Strike Multiplier
- % Increased Spell Damage While Holding a Shield
- % Increased Spell Damage
- % Increased Area Damage
- % Increased Damage
- +# to Maximum Life
- Adds Cold Damage to Spells While Holding a Shield
- Adds Cold Damage to Spells
- % to Global Critical Strike Multiplier
- Adds Lightning Damage to Spells While Holding a Shield
- Adds Fire Damage to Spells While Holding a Shield
- Adds Lightning/Fire Damage to Spells
- Damage Penetrates 2% of Elemental Resistances if you Haven’t Killed Recently
- % to Global Critical Strike Chance
Here is our recommended Flask setup, although you can change them out based on personal preference of Flasks or Prefixes/Suffixes.
- Seething Divine Life Flask of Staunching or Catalysed Eternal Life Flask of Staunching
- The Wise Oak
- Experimenter’s Diamond Flask of Warding
- Chemist’s Basalt Flask of Heat
- Alchemist’s Quicksilver Flask of Adrenaline
As a reminder, we have several guides to help you level up a character.
- Our step-by-step leveling walkthrough, which allows even more experienced players to save time and speed through the leveling process.
- Our guide to Unique Items for leveling, which helps you gear up your characters for the leveling process.
- Our beginner leveling guide, which answers many of the questions new players might have and will set you on the right path.
We recommend starting with Freezing Pulse, which works well with Lifesprig if you have one. Once you are Level 12, and enter the Cavern of Wrath, pick up Storm Brand and start using it as your main clearing skill.
Use this Level 48 Passive Tree as a general reference if you are leveling with Storm Brand. You will need to respec a few points later, but nothing drastic.
In order of priority, the Storm Brand links are:
|Storm Brand||Elemental Focus Support||Added Lightning Damage Support||Controlled Destruction Support||Added Cold Damage Support||Hypothermia Support|
If you are using a Tabula Rasa, simply fill in the other gem sockets with whatever supports are available from the vendors until you reach Act II and Act III for the other gems.
|Lightning Spire Trap||Added Lightning Damage Support||Controlled Destruction Support||Trap and Mine Damage Support|
You can play Storm Brand into early mapping if you like, which may be easier for league starter characters until Cospri's Malice can be acquired. Take a look at our full Storm Brand guide for tree reference if you plan on respeccing later.
You can transition to Cast On Critical Strike Support as early as level 44, when Widowmaker can be acquired. Ideally, you will also want to have a Diamond Flask, which is really essential before you get your second Ascendancy node, Deadly Infusion. Refer to the links and Passive Tree earlier in the guide for more details. Instead of Herald of Thunder, use a Warlord's Mark with Blasphemy Support instead to provide you with a source of life leech while leveling.
Cast on Critical Strike Mechanics Explained
Cast On Critical Strike Support can only trigger a maximum number of times per second, which is just over 6 times per second, due to an internal cooldown. Cyclone hits twice with every hit, and therefore we want to have a “Attacks Per Second” (APS) of 3.0, which would result in 6 total attacks per second. Since this is just under the maximum trigger rate of Cast on Critical Strike, this gives us the best chance of attaining the maximum possible triggers since there is almost no overlap.
This means that using a Silver Flask will actually reduce your damage output, since your Cyclone hits will no longer cleanly line up with the Cast On Critical Strike Support internal cooldowns, which will result in slight delays between some triggers and a sizeable amount of lost damage potential. You will essentially be wasting every 7-8th “attack” from Cyclone, as Cast on Critical Strike would be on cooldown for that period. In order to not exceed this limitation, you should not purchase a Cospri's Malice with an Attack Speed value that exceeds 9%, and avoid Attack Speed on Rares.
There is a way around this, however, and it is explained in our Belt section. A Shaped Rare belt with Increased Cooldown Recovery Speed (ICRS) of at least 14% will increase the maximum number of Cast On Critical Strike Support triggers to ~7.60 per second. This means our optimal APS value would become around 3.75, giving us 7.50 attacks per second, once again just beneath the maximum trigger rate for the smoothest triggers.
If you have 14% ICRS, you can upgrade your Cospri's Malice to a maximum Attack Speed roll (14%). You can also swap your Basalt Flask for a Silver Flask for a sizeable damage boost, but at a loss to defensive capability.
Cospri’s Malice Explained
Gems trigger from top to bottom in Cospri's Malice, as explained earlier in the guide. This item will trigger automatically from our Cyclone, so there is no need to do anything beyond socketing the gems.