Harbinger League Mechanic Guide
Primary Rewards: Fracturing Orb, Ancient Orb, Harbinger's Orb, Orb of Horizons, Basic Currency Shards
Well-suited for: Low-investment mapping, Alch-and-Go Strategies
Poorly-suited for: Extreme clear-speed characters
Harbinger is a league mechanic that adds Harbingers to your maps – Unique enemies that spawn waves of enemies to kill, and drop stacks of currency shards. These currency shards include several types of Basic Currencies, as well as many powerful Harbinger-specific currency shards.
Harbinger is fantastic for building up currency and sustaining maps early in a league, and its special currencies are used in the creation of some of the most powerful items in PoE, creating incredible demand for its rewards late in a league, as well!
This guide will cover everything you need to know about how to add Harbingers to your maps, the currencies you can acquire, and farming strategies, so you can make the most of this league mechanic!
A Harbinger is a unique enemy that cannot be attacked and is immune to player damage. Instead of fighting a Harbinger directly, it will spawn waves of enemies for you to kill – as you kill these enemies, the Harbinger will take damage. It will take several waves of enemies for you to defeat a harbinger, and as you’re fighting (or waiting for it to spawn the next wave) the Harbinger will continuously attack you using skills of its own.
As you cannot attack a Harbinger directly, if you’ve killed an entire wave, you may find yourself standing around waiting for the next wave to spawn. As a result, Harbingers have a fixed minimum time to defeat, and extremely powerful builds may find that it isn’t worth their time standing around waiting for more enemies to spawn, and choose to focus on other league mechanics.
Atlas Passives can enable you to find a King Harbinger. A King Harbinger leads a group of Harbinger enemies, all spawning waves of enemies, as one large group. The increased number of enemies – and skills used by the Harbingers themselves – can lead to a much tougher fight, but with significantly better rewards.
Not only do King Harbingers drop more currency shards… they also drop better currency shards. Extensive player testing indicates that King Harbingers roll their drops 3 times, and choose the “best” (ie, rarest) outcome. As a result, King Harbingers are a major source of rare currency shards.
Unlike most league mechanics, Harbingers cannot naturally spawn in zones or in maps. The only way to have a Harbinger spawn is through an effect that specifically adds Harbingers to a map.
The primary way of doing this Is through Atlas Passives, but you can also find Harbingers with Harbinger Scarabs, Kirac’s Atlas mods (in some leagues), Maps with special implicits, and Kirac Missions with “Defeat the Harbinger” objectives.
For more details on how to juice your maps with Harbinger content, check out the “Juicing Harbinger” section:
The primary reward from Harbingers are Currency Shards. These “shards” are fractions of currency orbs, which turn into a single orb when you have a full stack of 20. You will get several small stacks of different shards upon defeating a Harbinger, and some of these Harbinger-exclusive currencies are important parts of creating the most powerful items in PoE!
As a result, farming Harbinger for these currencies can be incredibly lucrative throughout an entire League.
Fracturing Shard / Fracturing Orb
Fracturing Shards are a very rare and valuable Harbinger-exclusive currency shard. Fracturing Orbs can be used to Fracture a single modifier on a Rare item – locking it in place, even as you continue to craft more on that item.
Fracturing orbs are a cornerstone of crafting some of the most powerful items in PoE. Many of the best methods for crafting involve getting your hands on an item with a specific fractured modifier as a starting point. As a result, Fracturing Orbs are a very in-demand currency among PoE’s wealthiest players – and they’re willing to pay high prices for them!
Ancient Shard / Ancient Orb
Ancient Shards are an uncommon Harbinger-exclusive currency shard. Ancient Orbs can be used to turn a unique item into another random unique item for that slot, among any of the global drop uniques that are possible. Note that the results are weighted – you will get common uniques far more often than chase uniques.
For SSF players, Ancient Orbs can be a useful way of targeting a build-enabling unique that hasn’t dropped for you yet.
In trade leagues, however, Ancient Orbs are generally used in bulk to create some of the most valuable chase uniques in the game – Headhunter and Mageblood.
As a result, Ancient Orbs tend to be quite valuable in trade leagues, as they have their price directly tied to some of the most powerful uniques in the game! With them being uncommon – but not rare – drops, Ancient Orbs tend to be a very consistent source of profit from Harbingers!
Annulment Shard / Orb of Annulment
Annulment Shards are an uncommon currency shard. Formerly exclusive to Harbinger, Annulment Orbs now exist as a rare drop in the core game.
Annulment Orbs can be used in crafting to remove a random affix from an item. This carries the risk of bricking the item by removing a valuable modifier, but if you’re lucky, it can remove a worthless modifier, freeing up space for additional crafting.
While Annulment Orbs have some value, they’re generally not incredibly valuable outside of Leagues with a heavy emphasis on crafting, due to their limited usefulness in comparison to other, more deterministic crafting methods.
Horizon Shard / Orb of Horizons
Horizon Shards are a common currency shard, and can be used to turn a map into a different map of the same tier.
Notably, this does not include ALL possible maps on the Atlas – only maps whose tier when you have 0 voidstones in your atlas matches the tier of the map.
As a result, Horizon orbs used on T16 maps will often have a very small pool of outcomes – often only 4-5 possible maps! How useful Horizon orbs are depends on what maps are currently in the pool of possible outcomes. This pool of maps changes each league, and if the current league has at least one good T16 map in the pool, Horizon Orbs allow you to effectively turn all of your T16 maps into that specific map!
This can be incredibly useful for farming strategies built around farming a specific map, or for bulk-selling desirable map layouts to other players.
Harbinger's Shard / Harbinger's Orb
Horizon Shards are an uncommon currency shard, and can be used to turn a map into a different map 1 tier higher. It also has a chance – somewhere between 15% and 20% based on player testing – to instead turn the map into a Beachhead Unique Map, with the tier of the Beachhead determined by whether it was a white, yellow, or red-tier map.
While Harbinger’s Orbs have some value early in a league to help with map sustain, these days they are mostly used to create Beachhead maps.
The Beachhead unique map and its associated Uniques are covered more in the “The Beachhead” section of this guide:
Binding Shard / Orb of Binding
Binding Shards are an uncommon currency shard, and can be used to turn a normal item into a rare item with 4 linked sockets.
This effect is generally only useful in a league start environment… but you don’t start encountering Harbingers until maps. As a result, this item isn’t super useful for its intended purpose of making 4-link items.
However, it can be used on non-gear items to function as an Orb of Alchemy, and may be useful early in a league to alch your maps, until you have a stockpile of alchs built up.
Engineer's Shard / Engineer's Orb
Engineer’s Shards are a rare currency shard, and can be used on a Strongbox to improve its quality.
While this is marginally useful for a few strongbox types (Divination Cards and Scarabs), the general consensus among players is that it’s not worth the effort to bother.
As a result, Engineer’s Orbs are pretty much worthless.
Basic Currency Shards
In addition to these Harbinger-exclusive currency shards, Harbingers can also drop shards of a number of types of Basic Currency.
Obscenely valuable, and obscenely rare. The Mirror of Kalandra is the most valuable currency in PoE, and getting even 1/20th of one is incredibly lucrative.
Don’t count on it happening to you, though.
Exalted Shards are a rare currency shard, and while Exalted Orbs aren’t worth what they used to, Harbingers do provide a relatively steady supply of them.
Chaos Shard / Regal Shard
Chaos Shards are a common currency shard drop. Picking up all of the Chaos and Regal Shards that drop is a great way to offset the costs associated with adding Harbingers to your maps.
While Chaos Shards can be quite valuable early in a league, some players deep in endgame may find that Chaos Shards simply aren’t worth their time to stop and loot, and hide them on their loot filter. Personally, I recommend picking up Chaos Shards if you intend to invest heavily in farming Harbingers – as the chaos shards will add up – and otherwise hiding them.
Alchemy Shard / Alteration Shard / Transmutation Shard
These are extremely common Harbinger drops, but outside of Alchemy Shards at the very start of a league, these shards are worth far too little to be worth picking up, and should be hidden on virtually every player’s loot filter.
Harbingers can also drop maps – and do so at a pretty high rate! Adding Harbingers to your maps can really help with your map sustain, especially early in a league.
Relative Drop Rates
Extensive testing by players has figured out the relative rarities of the Harbinger currencies. For every 1 Fracturing Shard you get, you can expect to find the following:
|Qty per 1 Fracturing||1||8||50||53|
Be sure to check out the other pages of this guide, covering even more topics related to Harbinger! This guide will be kept up to date as Path of Exile is updated – if you have any feedback, or find something cool you want to share, head on over to the PoE Vault Discord, and let me know!