Caustic Arrow CI Trickster Build Guide (PoE Heist 3.12)

Brittleknee

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Introduction

With Path of Exile becoming more dangerous, I wanted to create a character that could stand up to all the content currently offered and do so in a comfortable, approachable way. The Caustic Arrow CI Trickster boasts an impressive toolkit to tackle in-game content and bosses, while remaining modular enough to be easily customizable to players’ preferences.

Scaling the damage output is straightforward, and the defenses are easy to handle. You can league start on this build, and even play it in SSF and SSFHC. Crafting for this build is less of a headache than other builds!

Caustic Arrow deals damage over time, leaving behind a noxious payload that lingers once you fire an arrow. It feels and plays very similarly to other area damage over time abilities such as Vortex. This “set it and forget it” style of dealing damage, when combined with many defensive layers, will result in your turning punishing bosses into reliable farming opportunities.

About the Author

Brittleknee has been playing Path of Exile since 3.0 and focuses on providing consistent, approachable guides that are exceedingly detailed. If you’d like, you can follow her on twitter and twitch.

Guide Format

This build guide is split over multiple pages, both to prevent it from getting too long, as well as to help you better find the information you are looking for.

Path of Building Links and Gem Links

Gearing Overview and Detailed Crafting

Ascendancy, Bandits, and Pantheons

Build Overview

Here we’ll touch upon all the fundamental basics of how this build works. This will provide an adequate overview so you can make an informed decision if this is the right build for you. Note that this was published a few leagues ago, but everything here is still relevant.

Build Considerations

While these do not cover every advantage and disadvantage of this build, I believe these are the important highlights.

Pros

+ Bosser – Has cleared all boss content including Awakener 8, Conquerors, Uber Elder, Shaper, Shaper/Elder Guardians, Uber Atziri (even reflecting temp chains on myself like a dumbass), Cortex, all Distant Memories, and a handful of non-ridiculous delve bosses.
+ Defensive – Has 10K ES with the ability to have even more with better optimized gear, in addition to Wicked Ward with a recharge delay of just 0.95 seconds and a recharge rate of 10,301 in my current gear. On top of all of this, you have replenishment from Ghost Shrouds as well!
+ Fun Mapping – The sheer amount of coverage you can get from Arrow Nova makes for fun mapping and respectful clear, especially when combined with a source of exploding enemies, either from Asenath’s or Unspeakable Gifts.
+ Chaos Inoculation – Chaos damage? What Chaos damage?

Cons

Attribute Starved – Need to invest some points into attributes on the tree, in addition to grabbing certain bases and picking it up on jewelry as you can.
Stun Immunity is Conditional – If you deplete your Ghost Shrouds, you lose your stun immunity, and that can lead to some trouble. You will need to learn to keep an eye on the buff, and back away from danger if the icon is missing.

Playstyle

This is another build that is a jack of all trades, in that it can do everything reasonably well. It’s not the fastest, or the most damage ever, or the deepest delver, but for the extent of a league and completing all the challenges, this can do it.

You can start as life-based Caustic Arrow Caustic Arrow or Toxic Rain Toxic Rain, and transition to ES/CI Caustic Arrow when you’ve collected the appropriate gear.

Once you’re set up, you’ll quickly move between packs using the area coverage from Arrow Nova Support Arrow Nova Support to make very quick work out of mobs. During bosses, you’ll have a little bit more to manage in the form of either Wither or Withering Touch, depending on your personal preference, and using Ensnaring Arrow Ensnaring Arrow to slow the boss, or Frenzy for more damage.

Wicked Ward shines in this build, and is augmented by a very low recharge delay, and high recharge rate. While successive powerful blows can still kill you, getting clipped here and there by the odd attack is not much to worry about.

Damage Scaling and Defensive Layers

Scaling damage for this build is very straightforward, as there are only a handful of mods than can affect Caustic Arrow Caustic Arrow. First, and most importantly, is gem level. Sourcing additional gem levels through the use of item mods and gems such as Empower Support Empower Support is essential. Every slot you can reasonably afford or craft a gem level increase, it should be your first priority as it is CA’s most powerful modifier.

Secondly, CA can be scaled by all of the specific and non-specific damage mods and damage over time mods and multipliers. These are, Damage, Chaos Damage, Damage Over Time, Damage Over Time Multiplier, Chaos Damage over Time Multiple and Damage Over Time with Bow Skills. However you should note that while Projectile Damage affects Caustic Arrow’s damage, Projectile Attack Damage does not, as Attack Damage implies hits, and Caustic Arrow does not hit. This means you don’t need to shell out for things like Gripped Gloves Gripped Gloves.

Your defenses on this character are numerous and sound. While you’re leveling you’ll use Mind over Matter and the various tools Tricksters have to regenerate that Mana for a good base EHP and recovery. When you’re ready, you can follow tips in the gearing section to know when to go CI, and how to know if the ES gear you’ve bought or crafted is “enough.”

Once you’re CI/ES, the tankyness begins. The Keystone we build our defenses around is called Wicked Ward, which allows Energy Shield recharge to continue uninterrupted if it has started recently. “Recently” in PoE always means within 4 seconds. Using a combination of gear, passives and clusters, we lower our recharge delay to less than a second, roughly 0.91. In gear using the PoB, our recharge rate exceeds our total ES value, meaning while in recharge you are recovering your entire ES pool per second. Bonkers, huh?

But wait there’s more! Don’t forget you have Vaal Discipline Vaal Discipline in your toolkit as well, which allows you to force recharge as long as you have sufficient souls. So, if you get into a pinch with multiple successive hits, you have a way to mitigate sustained heavy damage.

And we’re not even close to done! We can’t forget about Ghost Shrouds, which recover 4% of your Evasion Rating as Energy Shield. Ghost Shrouds are expended on hit and are instant so it’s like an instant life flask, but for ES, and you don’t even have to think about it. Ghost Shroud recovery mileage will vary based on conditionals such as flasks, but for the demonstrative purposes of this particular character, his shrouds can replace up to 1,258 ES per shroud.

We combine all of this this by taking advantage of the Trickster’s natural affinity with Evasion and Dodge, and sprinkle in a little extra thanks to Elusive from the passive tree.

Current League Tips and Suggestions

With all heists being indoor areas, this means you will be able to blanket the floor easily and concentrate your damage. With the QoL improvements with things like Elusive being added to the passive tree, the build just keeps getting better. You’ll also be able to approach the new bosses with comfort and ease. I think this is a great pick for someone wanting the swiss army knife of builds.

PoB and Passive Skill Tree

This is the PoB for the end-game CI/ES version of the build.

To get a quick cursory glace at the passive three, here’s a link for the part of the Final CI/ES Tree. Note that PoE Planner does not support the use of Cluster Jewel Setups, such as Large Cluster Jewel Large Cluster Jewel, Medium Cluster Jewel Medium Cluster Jewel and Small Cluster Jewel Small Cluster Jewel, so this is the tree without those, sadly. Full details can be seen including the names of all the recommended notables in the gearing section.

PoB and Passive Skill Tree Page

Further Build Information

These sections cover everything else there is to know about the build! I’ve tried to be as detailed as possible from gear to some of the decisions you can make to customize this build even further to your needs and preferences as a player.

Path of Building Links and Gem Links

Gearing Overview and Detailed Crafting

Ascendancy, Bandits, and Pantheons

Leveling

This build has detailed leveling advice, which you can find here.

Check out my leveling guide if you are newer to PoE and wish to have a guided tour of Wraeclast:

Combine this with the leveling trees in the PoB & Gems section and you’ll be in maps in no time!

Otherwise, there are these additional guides on the website:

FAQ

Aren’t ES builds hard to level?

Don’t worry! You’ll be leveling as a Life version that’s pretty tough, too! It’s got about 6-6.5K Life in modest gear, 214% Life Scaling on the Tree, in addition to the synergistic combination of the Acrobatics, Phase Acrobatics, and Wind Dancer Keystones combined with the Kintsugi Kintsugi armor.

How do I know when to switch to CI/ES?

You’ll want to have about 8K ES to reasonably switch over to the CI/ES setup. It’s best to collect the gear you’re planning on using, copying the item in-game (if you’ve crafted it) by hovering the item and hitting Ctrl + C, then clicking into the PoB window and hitting Ctrl + V. This should post the item into PoB for you to use. Similarly, if shopping from the trade site, there’s a little box in the bottom left of the item listing like this

If you click it, it will copy the item to your clipboard, and you can paste it into PoB the same way as listed above. Once you import all the gear you’ve crafted or bought, then you can fiddle with the passive tree and figure out if you’re within adequate number to make the switch to CI/ES without making the mistake end-game and being left stranded with half of a functional character.

Conclusion

All in all, I’m very proud of this build. It’s nothing too unique, CA builds have been the bread and butter for many over the many leagues, but I feel like I’ve found a good compromise between offense and defense as well as utility. I wanted to make it very forgiving to mistakes, because I remember my frustration as a newer player trying to learn the end game bosses. Hopefully, this build will open up the end game for you like you haven’t experienced before, or provide you a nice, all-in-one character if that’s what you’re looking for as well. Enjoy!

Changelog
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    Build added!

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  1. Posts
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    Brittleknee.

    Great guide.

    The only issues I have (and it’s entirely on me) is that I have the worst of luck when I comes to crafting. Would there be any uniques I could use to suffice while I craft my gear? And how far in the game is it usually when you transition into pure ES? Mapping or pre Kitava?

    Speebs

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