TbXie's Essence Drain Contagion Trickster Build Guide (PoE Trial of the Ancestors 3.22)



Due to the latest balancing changes, we do not recommend playing this build anymore, as it does not meet the high standards we apply to our guides in terms of fun and performance. We are leaving it up as a reference and it might be revived in a later patch.


Essence Drain Essence Drain is a widely-recognized and appreciated build by a large chunk of the community. It is generally perceived well because of its potential in all areas of the game. When built correctly, it excels in clear speed, killing some easier bosses, and staying alive. While there is a ton of Essence Drain content out there, I feel like a lot of it focuses on non-optimal things. I feel like scaling Essence Drain out of control through investing in the most nutty perfect items to do what is, in a best case scenario, about 10-15% more damage while giving up survivability will just result in you playing a build that still doesn’t do top tier damage but feels more squishy than it should. The skill / build archetype was not made to be a top tier damaging build, but focuses on doing its damage rather safe and maintaining its top tier clear speed perk. So, rather than grabbing that 10% or so extra damage, I went all out and stacked as many defenses as possible. In the end I landed on about 8K Combined HP/ES, Capped Block & Spell Block with Recovery on Block affixes to be permanently full HP, a ton of Regeneration, close to 40.000 Evasion to almost permanently evade any incoming attacks, a little chunk of Armour just in case random attacks come through and to round it all out, capped Spell Suppression which effectively negates about 40% of all incoming damage.

The best part about tackling the build in this way is that almost all your gear is self farmable or craftable and can easily be purchased for relatively cheap as well. The build runs a single Unique item which is easily obtainable from killing normal Atziri, and most of its Rare items are literally just some resistances, Life and a benchcraft. If you’re looking for something that is fairly durable, excels at clearing maps and kills bosses at a decent pace while being nearly impossible to kill, this Essence Drain variation is definitely what you’re looking for!

Build Summary

Pros and Cons


+ Exceptional map clear
+ Functions on very cheap/accessible gear
+ Does very potent DPS bosses while being durable
+ Ridiculous single target & clear on relatively limited gear
+ Really solid at pushing clear-speed on league starts


2-Button build – you need to spam both to clear maps
Some multimod pieces can be a tad annoying to acquire

Map Modifiers to be Avoided

No Regeneration is incredibly annoying to run as you’ll have to drop a Flask for a Mana Flask. Other than that, this build excels at dealing with most map mechanics!

Playstyle, Mechanics & Strengths

Essence Drain’s playstyle is highly dependent on Contagion Contagion. When you cast an Essence Drain Essence Drain, it’s going to just fire a single projectile into a massive amount of mobs. As you expected, that’s not going to go well. However, as you cast a Contagion Contagion into a pack and then Essence Drain into it, you’re going to proliferate your damage making it so you can clear multiple screens at once. Contagion will expand as monsters die while being influenced by it. That is why this build requires you to press two buttons almost all the time.

On bosses, however, you’re just using one Essence Drain every couple of seconds while casting Blight Blight on the boss as much as possible. This deals a decent amount of damage once you give it time to ramp up. As casting multiple Essence Drains on a boss doesn’t really help your cause, you might as well channel some Blight damage into them. Outside of the extra DPS you’re getting from Blight, you mainly get to just dodge mechanics while Essence Drain deals damage over time to the boss(es). This allows you to play fairly safely when you need to, and aggressively when you can!

As you’re playing a Trickster, you’re already innately fairly tanky through Ghost Shrouds and Energy Shield recovery every 2 seconds (provided you’re actually taking damage). Since Trickster also scales very well with Damage over Time, they’re a match made in heaven. Because of the Evasion you naturally stack on Trickster, it usually is more of an archetype that wants to avoid as much damage as possible and stack just about enough health pool to survive the content you’re tackling to never get one-shot. However, since Essence Drain doesn’t require any Unique items and has a decent amount of leeway to stack health passives in the skill tree.

That all leads to a character that already has a reasonably amount of effective health before all of the mitigation layers that you’re stacking. Since you also automatically recover your Energy Shield, you’ll stay topped up throughout most of your playthrough. Obviously, like any build, you shouldn’t be tanking the most dangerous, most telegraphed boss mechanics out there!

Passive Skill Tree, PoB, and Gem Links

You can find an optimized Path of Building here. Every build I release will use the community fork of Path of Building, which is maintained and updated in a much more regular fashion than the original one. You can find PoB’s Fork, by LocalIdentity, here.

If you are not comfortable with Path of Building, PoePlanner’s website offers you a non-PoB alternative to import the code from the above link.

More information about the Passive Skill Tree, as well as all the Gem Links can be found on our dedicated page.

Passive Skill Tree, PoB & Gem Links

Ascendancy, Bandits, and Pantheons

Our Ascendancy, Bandit, and Pantheon Power page goes into detail about all the choices you need to make in these regards.

Ascendancy, Bandit & Pantheon Power Page

Gear Summary / TL;DR

A lot of this is explained more in depth in the Gear Page, however we will provide you with a basic idea of what gear you’re looking for in this short summary.

Gear, Jewel & Flask Page

Our recommendation:

Item Slot Item Name
Head Hubris Circlet Hubris Circlet with Life – Chaos Res – Spell Suppression and as much Energy Shield as you can find
Amulet Turquoise Amulet Turquoise Amulet with Life – +1 Chaos Skills & Maximum Energy Shield
Chest Sadist Garb Sadist Garb with Evasion, Energy Shield & Suppression
Gloves Murder Mitts Murder Mitts with Dexterity, Life, Spell Suppression & Chaos Res
Boots Atziri's Step Atziri's Step
Belt Leather Belt Leather Belt with Life & a lot of Resistances
Rings Rare Rings with Life – Resistances & Mana Regeneration
Weapon Rare Wand with Chaos DoT Multi – +1 Spell Skills – Spell Damage – Damage over Time Multi
Shield Rare Titanium Spirit Shield Titanium Spirit Shield with Life – Spell Block & ES Recovery when you Block

Questions & Support

If you enjoy my content to such an extent that you’d like to support me and my work, or you have a specific question you request my private time for, you can buy me a coffee over at Patreon. At no point should you feel pressured to contribute, but if you do, your support means more to me than you will ever imagine.

Even though we try to make our guides as complete as possible, obvioulsy it’s possible you still have questions. We have an entire mod-team readily available to support you & your questions on Discord. You can find us on the ARPG Vault Discord. Make sure to open a Guide Help thread so things stay clear in the main channels.


Since we are very adamant about trying to give you a leveling experience that lies as close to your endgame playstyle as possible, we recommend the following setups to blast through the game with Essence Drain Essence Drain. The skill is particularly potent at the later parts of the story but at no point should you have any issues. For more information about leveling, we refer you to the following guides:

Getting to Brutus & Merveil

For starters, create a Shadow in whichever league you want to start.
Pick up an Explosive Trap Explosive Trap from the vendor to start your journey and go to kill Hailrake and clear Mud Flats. Set up the following links after Mud Flats:

  1. Blight Blight
  2. Infused Channelling Support Infused Channelling Support
  1. Contagion Contagion
  2. Arcane Surge Support Arcane Surge Support

After killing Brutus, you will be adding some Void Manipulation Support Void Manipulation Supports gems to your links.

Level 12 and Onwards Setup

From level 12, after killing Merveil, you’ll be setting up for your road to greatness. What’s important here is that you’re going to use Contagion as your clear skill without having to use Essence Drain as long as you can. Eventually, Contagion wont be able to one-shot white monsters anymore at which point you’ll move your Essence Drain up to have the damage supports and link supports such as Increased Area of Effect, Arcane Surge, Item Rarity on Contagion to help out. Before that though, use the following links:

  1. Contagion Contagion
  2. Void Manipulation Support Void Manipulation Support
  3. Efficacy Support Efficacy Support
  1. Blight Blight
  2. Void Manipulation Support Void Manipulation Support
  3. Efficacy Support Efficacy Support
  1. Essence Drain Essence Drain
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