Essence Drain & Contagion Occultist Build Guide (PoE Blight 3.8)

Vvckd

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Introduction

The combination of Essence Drain Essence Drain and Contagion Contagion has been strong for a long time. Contagion is an AoE skill that applies a DoT when an enemy is hit by your Essence Drain and dies, which causes Contagion to spread both itself and Essence Drain to nearby enemies. This allows for a very satisfying and efficient way to clear packs of monsters. Essence Drain is also a great single-target damage output skill, one of the strongest when it comes to Damage-Over-Time Chaos skills.

The Occultist ascendancy class has great perks when it comes to building around Chaos skills and provides a lot of defensive power for every Energy-Shield-oriented character. It also makes going Low Life very easy compared to other ascendancy classes; going Low Life can improve your damage by a great deal in this particular case.

Build Summary

The Essence Drain & Contagion Occultist does not require any initial investment in order to start. When it comes to endgame, there are some expensive items you can save up currency for. Shavronne's Wrappings Shavronne's Wrappings will allow you to transition into Low Life. Presence of Chayula Presence of Chayula will help out a lot with the Chaos Resistance and the additional Energy Shield, but is not mandatory since you are immune to Stun via the Occultist ascendancy anyway. Decently rolled Energy Shield gear can also be pricey.

Pros & Cons

Pros

+ Hardcore viable
+ Cheap to start
+ Good balance between clear speed, single target, and defense

Cons

- Using two skills instead of one in order to clear can feel clunky to some people

Playstyle

Offensively, your main goal when clearing is to apply Contagion Contagion to enemies and then hit one of them with Essence Drain Essence Drain. This will allow your Essence Drain to affect all enemies and basically degenerate their life in a second. Against single targets you do not have to use Contagion at all, instead you can have a Vaal Blight Vaal Blight you can use in your spare time.

Defensively, even though you can take a lot of damage in a short amount of time, it is a good idea to keep your distance. Both your main skills have good range and you only need to be near enemies when casting Blight Blight. Occultist’s Wicked Ward and Vile Bastion will prove to be very powerful defensive mechanics over the course of your character’s lifetime.

For playstyle, apply Contagion and then Essence Drain when clearing. For single target, make sure you have good Essence Drain uptime on the monster; in the free time you have, use Vaal Blight Vaal Blight and its normal version in order to augment your single target damage output even further. Vaal Discipline Vaal Discipline will allow you to tank immense amounts of damage in a short period of time.

Ascendancy, Passive tree, Bandits and Pantheons

Ascendancy (Witch – Occultist)

  1. Profane Bloom
  2. Void Beacon
  3. Withering Presence
  4. Vile Bastion

Profane Bloom improves and smooths out clear speed by a great deal. Void Beacon acts as a debuff aura to nearby enemies, reducing their Chaos resistance and stopping them from regenerating life. Withering Presence provides a great amount of damage boost, along with 60% Chaos resistance, which is very handy when going Low Life. Vile Bastion provides stun immunity when you have Energy Shield, which is mandatory for every Energy Shield-based build. The additional way of sustaining your Energy Shield pool and the flat 150 amount is also a great addition.

Passive tree

This is the endgame Low Life passive skill tree.

Going Low Life means you need some expensive items; if you cannot afford them, simply drop Arcane Vision and Pain Attunement and go for Chaos Inoculation instead.

Bandits

In the Act II quest Deal with the Bandits we choose to kill them all for the two additional passive skill tree points.

Pantheons

Major: Soul of Solaris is very good when it comes to raw damage reductions. When this pantheon is fully upgraded it is best in slot for this particular build.

Minor: Soul of Abberath is good in every Energy-Shield-based build for the immunity to burning ground.

Gems

Essence Drain Essence Drain is your signature skill, which should ideally be used in a 6-Link. Contagion Contagion is used in order to spread your Essence Drain to nearby enemies for better clear speed; Contagion is essentially a utility skill. For mobility, use Flame Dash Flame Dash. Vaal Blight Vaal Blight can be used for additional single target damage. Wither Wither spell totems will increase enemies’ Chaos damage taken by a considerable amount. Vaal Discipline Vaal Discipline and Malevolence Malevolence should be used for auras.

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.

Essence Drain (6-Link)

Essence Drain Essence Drain is the bulk of your damage: the skill shoots a projectile that applies damage over time debuff on enemies it hits. We recommend one gem link that works great for both single target and clearing.

  1. Essence Drain Essence Drain
  2. Controlled Destruction Support Controlled Destruction Support
  3. Void Manipulation Support Void Manipulation Support
  4. Efficacy Support Efficacy Support
  5. Swift Affliction Support Swift Affliction Support
  6. Energy Leech Support Energy Leech Support

Contagion (4-Link)

Contagion Contagion will help you spread your Essence Drain damage over time effect.

  1. Contagion Contagion
  2. Increased Area of Effect Support Increased Area of Effect Support
  3. Faster Casting Support Faster Casting Support
  4. Increased Duration Support Increased Duration Support

Flame Dash (3-Link)

Flame Dash Flame Dash will give you the additional mobility you need in order to jump over certain terrain and dodge lethal game mechanics. It will also provide the Arcane Surge buff with every cast. Make sure your Arcane Surge Support Arcane Surge Support gem is locked at low level.

  1. Flame Dash Flame Dash
  2. Arcane Surge Support Arcane Surge Support
  3. Faster Casting Support Faster Casting Support

Vaal Blight (4-Link)

Vaal Blight Vaal Blight can be used on a 4-Link in order to deal additional single target damage.

  1. Vaal Blight Vaal Blight
  2. Controlled Destruction Support Controlled Destruction Support
  3. Void Manipulation Support Void Manipulation Support
  4. Efficacy Support Efficacy Support

Wither (4-Link)

Wither Wither is a debuff that stacks up to 15 times and increases enemies’ Chaos damage taken by 6% per stack. This skill is cast by totems, with the following setup.

  1. Wither Wither
  2. Spell Totem Support Spell Totem Support
  3. Multiple Totems Support Multiple Totems Support
  4. Faster Casting Support Faster Casting Support

Other Gems

Vaal Discipline Vaal Discipline and Malevolence Malevolence are two of the best choices when it comes to auras. Arctic Armour Arctic Armour or Curses on Blasphemy Support Blasphemy Support can also be implemented once you are Low Life. Phase Run Phase Run will improve your mobility even further.

Gearing

Capping your elemental resistances is essential and it should always be your top priority in any build; it should be the first thing you do when gearing up a character. Obtaining a 6-link, while very powerful and certainly recommended, can potentially be very expensive (requiring an average of 1500 Orbs of Fusing, obviously depending on your luck); as such, this should not really be a goal for you while gearing up, and you should instead settle for a 5-link until you have enough resources.

Helmet

A well rolled Energy Shield helmet is best in slot for the build. When it comes to enchantments from the labyrinth, you should look for Essence Drain or Contagion “% increased Duration”. Heretic's Veil Heretic's Veil will allow you to utilize strong curses easily. The rare affix priority is:

  1. # +#% total Elemental Resistances (until capped)
  2. Energy Shield (at least 250)
  3. Nearby Enemies have -9% to Chaos Resistance (Aberrant Fossil)

Body Armour

Shavronne's Wrappings Shavronne's Wrappings will allow you to go Low Life. Prior to it, simply use a well rolled Energy-Shield-based body armour. The rare affix priority is:

  1. # +#% total Elemental Resistances (until capped)
  2. Energy Shield (at least 500)

Gloves

Well rolled energy-shield-base is best in slot for gloves. Allelopathy Allelopathy is a good choice if you want to run your Blight Blight on a 6-Link essentially (since it is level 22 already). The rare affix priority is:

  1. # +#% total Elemental Resistances (until capped)
  2. Energy Shield (at least 100)
  3. to Level of Socketed AoE Gems (for Blight Blight)

Boots

As other items, well rolled rare Energy Shield boots is best in slot. Meanwhile, you can use Sin Trek Sin Trek or Steppan Eard Steppan Eard. For labyrinth enchants, look for “Regenerate #% of Life and Mana per second if you were Hit Recently” or anything else you prefer. The rare affix priority is:

  1. # +#% total Elemental Resistances (until capped)
  2. % increased Movement speed (at least 25%)
  3. Energy Shield (at least 150)

Belt

Any well rolled Crystal Belt Crystal Belt or Stygian Vise Stygian Vise can be used early on. For a complete endgame goal you should look for a rare belt with “Grants Level # Aspect of the Spider Skill”. Bated Breath Bated Breath can be used before any of these rares. The rare affix priority is:

  1. # +#% total Elemental Resistances (until capped)
  2. % increased Energy Shield from Body Armour (Dense Fossil)
  3. Energy Shield
  4. % increased Chaos Damage (Aberrant Fossil)
  5. Grants Level # Aspect of the Spider Skill

Amulet

Solstice Vigil Solstice Vigil is a very good Amulet, although it can be expensive and you should not worry about it too much, since we do not really invest into Curses. Presence of Chayula Presence of Chayula is another very expensive Amulet that allows you to drop Wicked Ward and Vile Bastion in order to pick Profane Bloom and Malediction. The rare affix priority is:

  1. # +#% total Elemental Resistances (until capped)
  2. Energy Shield
  3. % increased Energy Shield
  4. % increased Spell Damage
  5. # to Dexterity; Strength

Rings

Dream Fragments Dream Fragments will allow you to not worry about Chill and Freeze effects, which can otherwise be lethal to Low Life and Chaos Inoculation characters. Lori's Lantern Lori's Lantern is a good unique ring when playing Low Life. Besides that, simply look for well rolled rare rings. The rare affix priority is:

  1. # +#% total Elemental Resistances (until capped)
  2. Energy Shield
  3. % Faster start of Energy Shield recharge (crafted via crafting bench)
  4. # to Dexterity; Strength

Weapon

Breath of the Council Breath of the Council is a great unique weapon for the build. A well rolled rare Wand can outclass this Mace when it comes to pure damage output. The rare affix priority is:

  1. % to Non-Ailment Chaos Damage over Time Multiplier
  2. % increased Spell Damage
  3. % increased Chaos Damage
  4. % increased Damage on Full Life (Pristine Fossil)
  5. % increased Minion damage (Bound Fossil)
  6. % increased Damage over time (crafted via crafting bench)

Note: The minion damage also affects you via the passive skill tree node Spiritual Aid.

Shield

Well rolled rare Shield is best in slot. You can try to roll one by yourself, use Dense Fossils on a Titanium Spirit Shield iLvl 86. The Rare Affix priority is:

  1. # +#% total Elemental Resistances (until capped)
  2. Energy Shield (preferably 300+)

Flasks

Considering you mainly rely on running for mobility, Quicksilver flask is mandatory for the build; it should be rolled with additional movement speed. Quartz flask provides additional dodge chance and Phasing, which will allow you to run through monsters. Stibnite flask creates a smoke cloud, which blinds nearby enemies, it should be rolled with Bleeding immunity. Basalt flask provides 15% physical damage reduction, it should be rolled with Burning immunity. Sulphur flask has a great duration, this is why it should be rolled with Curse immunity. Witchfire Brew Witchfire Brew can be used for the great amount of damage over time it provides along with an aura of Despair Despair.

Jewels

The build does not require any specific jewels in order to work. Spreading Rot Spreading Rot will improve your Blight Blight by a considerable amount. A Watcher's Eye Watcher's Eye with Malevolence Malevolence or Discipline Discipline mods can be very beneficial, but very expensive. You should prioritize Regular jewels over Abyssal jewels.

Regular Jewel Affix Priority

  1. % Increased Energy Shield
  2. % to Non-Ailment Chaos Damage over Time Multiplier
  3. Any Spell/Damage Over Time increase

Abyssal Jewel Affix Priority

  1. Chance to gain Onslaught for 4 seconds on Kill
  2. Energy Shield (at least 35)

Leveling

As a reminder, we have several guides to help you level up a character.

The Essence Drain & Contagion Occultist can be leveled with its signature skills since the beginning.

Leveling Trees

Here is an example of the early passive skill tree, before you are ready to transition into Low Life / Chaos Inoculation.

Useful Leveling Unique Items

As you begin a new character, there are few unique items that can boost your power exponentially. Tabula Rasa Tabula Rasa allows you to have a 6-Linked skill as early as you get the gems. Wanderlust Wanderlust gives a decent movement speed, which will make your leveling that much more efficient. Goldrim Goldrim provides a lot of elemental resistances, this will let you worry less about gearing when approaching certain Act encounters.

If you are a new player (or if this is your first character for the league), then note that obtaining these items will be very difficult, if not impossible. They are rare drops, which you can otherwise only acquire if you have saved up currency, so do not focus on them too much, and instead simply look for items that match the affix priorities listed in the gearing section above.

Gem Progression

Using Tabula Rasa Tabula Rasa will allow you to have 6-Link gem setups early on, which is why we show such examples below. If you cannot get Tabula Rasa (or another item with a 6-Link), then simply prioritize the first gems in each link provided below.

In order to acquire gems that are not available to your class as a quest reward, simply ask a friend to buy them off vendors for you, or buy them yourself from Sioasa in The Library in Act III Library.

From level 1, you should use the following link.

  1. Blight Blight
  2. Arcane Surge Support Arcane Surge Support

At level 4, you should pick the Contagion Contagion gem.

At level 10, you are able to add Flame Dash Flame Dash, which will help with your mobility.

At level 12, you can start using your signature skill, Essence Drain Essence Drain.

  1. Essence Drain Essence Drain
  2. Void Manipulation Support Void Manipulation Support

By level 18, your Essence Drain Essence Drain link should look like this.

  1. Essence Drain Essence Drain
  2. Controlled Destruction Support Controlled Destruction Support
  3. Void Manipulation Support Void Manipulation Support

At level 24, you should add Malevolence Malevolence or Discipline Discipline.

By level 31, your Essence Drain Essence Drain gem setup should look like this.

  1. Essence Drain Essence Drain
  2. Controlled Destruction Support Controlled Destruction Support
  3. Void Manipulation Support Void Manipulation Support
  4. Efficacy Support Efficacy Support
  5. Swift Affliction Support Swift Affliction Support
  6. Energy Leech Support Energy Leech Support

FAQ

What map mods are impossible to do?

No regeneration is rough, but doable if you run a Mana flask.

Conclusion

The Essence Drain & Contagion Occultist specializes in applying very powerful Chaos damage over time effects upon enemies. The build has decent clear speed and very good endgame potential when it comes to killing bosses.

Changelog
  •   

    Revisited and updated passive trees for Blight 3.8. The character still remains a very solid choice when it comes to Chaos Damage over Time builds.

  •   

    Revisited and updated for Legion 3.7.

  •   

    Build added.

  1. Posts
    1

    In the level 1 gem setup, there is no need to support Blight with Onslaught, since Blight can’t be supported by Onslaught.

  2. Vvckd

    Moderator

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    467

    On 25/04/2019 at 4:48 AM, radulf said

    In the level 1 gem setup, there is no need to support Blight with Onslaught, since Blight can’t be supported by Onslaught.

    Will fix that, thank you.

  3. Posts
    2

    Hi. Wicked Ward is not a Ascendancy (Witch – Occultist) on my Skill tree in game ……

    Edited by Samwolf82 on June 11th, 2019

  4. Vvckd

    Moderator

    Posts
    467

    On 11/06/2019 at 10:27 AM, Samwolf82 said

    Hi. Wicked Ward is not a Ascendancy (Witch – Occultist) on my Skill tree in game ……

    As of 3.7 Occultist got reworked, you can now pick up Wicked Ward on the passive tree. We are working hard on updating 3.6 builds but it takes time.

  5. Posts
    1

    I’m using this build to start and having a great time with it, so thanks. My question is that I don’t have enough Dex to support my gems – am I missing something? The tree only has very few dex nodes so do I need to lock the gems before they reach a certain level?

  6. Vvckd

    Moderator

    Posts
    467

    On 14/06/2019 at 10:04 PM, Aquinbean said

    I’m using this build to start and having a great time with it, so thanks. My question is that I don’t have enough Dex to support my gems – am I missing something? The tree only has very few dex nodes so do I need to lock the gems before they reach a certain level?

    You should acquire the Dex you need mainly from Amulet and Rings, getting a single 30Dex node on the tree is fine but we aim to bypass wasting points on that.

  7. Posts
    9

    Hey can I ask what support gems for blight if used Allelopathy Allelopathy

  8. Posts
    2

    On 12/06/2019 at 11:01 AM, Vvckd said

    On 11/06/2019 at 10:27 AM, Samwolf82 said

    Hi. Wicked Ward is not a Ascendancy (Witch – Occultist) on my Skill tree in game ……

    As of 3.7 Occultist got reworked, you can now pick up Wicked Ward on the passive tree. We are working hard on updating 3.6 builds but it takes time.

    Thx u :D

  9. Posts
    2

    Hey there! Thank you for the build. Might be a stupid question, but can you explain why take Righteous Army and Spiritual Aid passives? As I don’t see any minion abilities in this build.

  10. Vlad

    Moderator

    Posts
    65

    On 18/06/2019 at 8:48 PM, kudlajz said

    Hey there! Thank you for the build. Might be a stupid question, but can you explain why take Righteous Army and Spiritual Aid passives? As I don’t see any minion abilities in this build.

    I can answer this! The Spiritual Aid node makes it so that “Increases and Reductions to Minion Damage also affect you”. So, every minion damage increase you have (like from Righteous Army and the other baby nodes around there) will boost your own damage once you have Spiritual Aid. It’s most likely recommended because mathematically, it provides the biggest damage increase you can get, even considering you don’t benefit from some parts of those nodes (like the minion life, minion accuracy rating).

  11. Posts
    2

    On 19/06/2019 at 5:37 AM, Vlad said

    On 18/06/2019 at 8:48 PM, kudlajz said

    Hey there! Thank you for the build. Might be a stupid question, but can you explain why take Righteous Army and Spiritual Aid passives? As I don’t see any minion abilities in this build.

    I can answer this! The Spiritual Aid node makes it so that “Increases and Reductions to Minion Damage also affect you”. So, every minion damage increase you have (like from Righteous Army and the other baby nodes around there) will boost your own damage once you have Spiritual Aid. It’s most likely recommended because mathematically, it provides the biggest damage increase you can get, even considering you don’t benefit from some parts of those nodes (like the minion life, minion accuracy rating).

    Wow, you’re right! I totally missed the “also affects you” part of the skill. Now it makes sense. Thank you!

  12. Posts
    2

    Ok love the build so far just got up to lvl 80 have all but a few pieces for the build so far my only question is how do you get the build to go low life and stay there.

    Edited by sirgrumpy88 on June 25th, 2019

  13. Posts
    2

    Ok love the build. One major question how do you get the build to go low life mode and stay there?

  14. Vvckd

    Moderator

    Posts
    467

    On 25/06/2019 at 6:00 PM, sirgrumpy88 said

    Ok love the build. One major question how do you get the build to go low life mode and stay there?

    Shavronne's Wrappings Shavronne's Wrappings allows you to stay on Low-Life without dying to Chaos Damage, you are staying Low-Life by reserving a portion of your with a combination of a mana reservation gem and Blood Magic Support Blood Magic Support. For example:

    1. Discipline Discipline
    2. Blood Magic Support Blood Magic Support

    Edited by Vvckd on June 26th, 2019

  15. Posts
    1

    Hello ^^
    I don’t really understand how you use the “Profane Bloom” Ascendancy, because I can’t find a way I could curse enemys within the guide. Would be nice if someone could help me with that :).

  16. Vvckd

    Moderator

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    467

    On 02/07/2019 at 4:30 PM, Flinkfuß said

    Hello ^^
    I don’t really understand how you use the “Profane Bloom” Ascendancy, because I can’t find a way I could curse enemys within the guide. Would be nice if someone could help me with that :).

    Hey, if you are high enough level you can use Witchfire Brew Witchfire Brew. Heretic's Veil Heretic's Veil is another great unique item which will allow you to utilize Curses very efficiently. If you do not have these, simply run one of the three on Blasphemy Support Blasphemy Support: Enfeeble Enfeeble, Temporal Chains Temporal Chains, Despair Despair.

    Edited by Vvckd on July 3rd, 2019

  17. Posts
    2

    Hey, I don’t really understand how we utilise Malediction when we have presence of chayula, what curses would we be running and where do they fit in considering there isn’t any spaces left for extra skills. I am running blood magic with both auras in the remaining 3 link, is there something I should drop in favour of some curses?

    just in general I see we have a lot of things that mention curses but there isn’t a single curse as part of the gem setup

    Edited by umbraj on July 13th, 2019

  18. Vvckd

    Moderator

    Posts
    467

    On 13/07/2019 at 8:49 AM, umbraj said

    Hey, I don’t really understand how we utilise Malediction when we have presence of chayula, what curses would we be running and where do they fit in considering there isn’t any spaces left for extra skills. I am running blood magic with both auras in the remaining 3 link, is there something I should drop in favour of some curses?

    just in general I see we have a lot of things that mention curses but there isn’t a single curse as part of the gem setup

    Hey, if you are high enough level you can use Witchfire Brew Witchfire Brew. Heretic's Veil Heretic's Veil is another great unique item which will allow you to utilize Curses very efficiently. If you do not have these, simply run one of the three on Blasphemy Support Blasphemy Support: Enfeeble Enfeeble, Temporal Chains Temporal Chains, Despair Despair.

  19. Posts
    2

    still not making any sense to me, what gem setup do I not use instead? with the spare 3 link we have to use malevolence + discipline + blood magic. I don’t see how these curses can fit in anywhere

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