The Herald of Agony skill was introduced in Path of Exile’s 3.4 Delve League Expansion and immediately showcased it was very good at that expansion’s theme. It has been used to Delve to great success ever since, because it is able to get incredibly tanky while dishing out relatively reliable and high damage. In fact, the Herald of Agony (HoA) builds that rose up, and we’ve seen quite some variations of them (Dodge-focused Raiders, Super tanky Juggernauts, or Energy Shield-based Guardians), had to get nerfed in GGG’s eyes with the release of 3.10 Delirium League. Admitted, they might have seen the addition of Cluster Jewels and more particularly Renewal and figured it needed some tweaks.
However, after a few patches, some Juggernaut changes, a lot of powercreep and solutions being found, the build now packs an absolute punch. IIt is delicate to gear but very much not expensive or well, not to get going. You will need a bit of insight into the game or you will need to dare to ask us for help if you’re stuck in the gearing proces. There’s a lot of delicate intricacies that could be misunderstood which end up making you feel weaker then you should. Go out and explore the plethora of options to fix your specific shortcomings at various points and make sure to use all our resources to cut them short!
This build easily achieves more than 200.000 Effectiev Health while it has over 500 Life Gained on Hit and a bit of Life Regeneration on top of that. While this obviously makes it very tanky, it still maintains a solid 3-8 million Pinnacle DPS, depending on the investment, on a skill that has 100% uptime! Don’t forget that while other builds might be reaching more DPS, their uptime definitely is a lot lower as they can’t deal damage while dodging incoming abilities or attacks.
Besides spinning around with Cyclone and pressing your flasks, there really isn’t anything you need to manually cast, outside of a second curse on bosses and a Molten Shell should you feel the need to become even more tanky. This makes the build super easy to play, and more importantly makes it feel like a breeze to blast through some maps & some bosses!
Since you’re playing a Minion build, it is fairly important to know that you’re not going to be running around with an insane army of Summons. Besides your Herald of Agony, which appears automatically as soon as you inflict poisons onto something through cycloning on top of them, you’re only running a couple of automated things focused at keeping virulence stacks as high as possible!
As Juggernauts are obviously associated with tankiness, we tried to not disappoint. This build uses a Glorious Vanity with Divine Flesh which converts 50% of all Elemental Damage taken to Chaos Damage, and gives you extra Maximum Chaos Resistance. Combined with Saffell's Frame and a few cluster notables, that brings you up to 90% maximum Chaos Resistance which greatly reduces the overall amount of Elemental Damage you take. Since Saffell’s Frame also increases your maximum Elemental Resistance, you’ll also have 79 or 80 maximum Elemental Resistances. Through the Juggernaut Ascendancy and sustaining Endurance Charges, Physical Damage also doesn’t scare us.
This build is incredibly capable of dealing with all the most difficult content in the game. Through its almost stupid amounts of mitigation, it’ll be perfect as a character for you to try out non-uber bosses for the first time or farm them without feeling at risk at any point. Therefore, it’s perfectly suited for both new and veteran players alike. It uses no super-expensive gear anywhere and is very well executable for someone who takes his time getting expensive items.
Pros & Cons
+ Really solid build for Hardcore
+ Can potentially kill all content in the game at high investments
+ Very easy to play
+ Doesn’t rely on flasks too much
+ One of the best Delve builds
+ Very new player friendly.
+ Can feel a little slow
+ You don’t deal damage yourself
Playstyle, Mechanics & Strengths
The first thing we need to understand is how Herald of Agony actually works. Activating the Herald does not actually spawn the minion that attacks (the Agony Crawler), but instead just grants an inherent chance to Poison. The Agony Crawler will spawn as long as you have at least one Virulence stack, stacks which you gain by poisoning enemies. The Agony Crawler scales extremely well from Virulence stacks, so you really want to keep as many stacks up as possible. With Cluster Jewels, the maximum Virulence stacks becomes 50, 60 or even 70 instead of 40, so you need to hit relatively fast to inflict enough Poisons to be able to keep them up reliably. Because of the automated Balls of Lightning that pop out you’ll be easily maxing out your Virulence stacks.
An extra mechanic that comes into play here is The Golden Rule. Poisons you inflict on yourself count towards your Virulence stacks, so this jewel effectively doubles the speed at which your Virulence stacks. Obviously, this means we do Poison ourselves but due to our really high tankiness and Chaos Resistance, this doesn’t really hurt us that much. After all, Poison scales off of your hit damage and you’re using a low level gem to keep your Poisons low.
While using Cyclone to inflict the Poisons on enemies, you also link it to a Cast While Channeling setup with Ball Lightning. This skill inherently has a lot of hits, leading it to be one of the premier ways to stack virulence. Additionally, you’re going to link it to Lifetap Support as we no longer want to deal with Mana issues and have enough life recovery for this not to matter. Whenever you have access to a source of Mana cost reduction (preferably on rings), you’ll swap the Lifetap for Life Gain on Hit which makes you infintely more tanky.
As mentioned, outside of manually cursing Despair & pressing Molten Shell occasionally, there’s not much you have to do. While you are whirling around with Cyclone while still dodging everything, our Herald of Agony just shreds every boss / trash pack you encounter. This in itself is already a huge upside to almost any build and is a huge reason as to why Brands or Totems see so much popularity with newer players or boss killers.
If you can afford a suffix on your gear (we’ll talk about those choices in the gear section), we are able to run an extra Aspect. While there’s upsides to almost all of them, we recommend running Aspect of the Spider, as it provides as much offense as it does defense. This requires some very profound optimizing of your Resistance rolls though, or relying on Endurance Charges to get you capped.
Passive Skill Tree, PoB, and Gem Links
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. it is highly recommended you install Path of Building to follow builds most optimally.
More information about the Passive Skill Tree, as well as all the Gem Links can be found on our dedicated page.
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.
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.
|Item Slot||Item Name|
|Head||Any w/ “+2 to All Mininon Skills”, Life & Resistances|
|Amulet||Rare Turquoise Amulet with high Int & Dex, Life, Resistances, Channelling skills have -# to Total Mana Cost, Anointed w/ Ravenous Horde|
|Gloves||Titan Gauntlets with Poison & Faster Attack Supports, Life, Resistances & Minion Damage|
|Boots||Two-Toned Boots with Dexterity, high Life, Movement Speed & Resistances|
|Belt||Stygian Vise with high Life, Resistances, and Aspect of the Spider|
|Rings||2x Circle of Nostalgia with Crawler Damage & Mana Reservation|
|Weapon||Cold Iron Point|
Questions & Support
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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 will be providing you a way to level up with Herald of Agony. If you are looking for the most optimal way to level a character to maps, we refer you to the following guides.
- 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.
In order to level this build as a Herald of Agony build you need to make your way to level 16 to be able to use the gem, and you’ll need a Quill Rain for the most optimized HoA leveling. If you’re not planning on getting a Quill Rain at level 16, you want to delay the transition until level 28 when you can get Cyclone.
Getting to Brutus & Merveil
For starters, create a Marauder in whichever league you want to start.
You will want to start out by buying two Axes from the vendor. On top of that, pick up a Molten Strike or a Perforate as a quest reward. After you’ve run the Mud Flats, you’ll proceed to kill Hailrake in the Tidal Island with Perforate or Molten Strike.
From there on, you’ll be able to pick up your first Quicksilver Flask and an Ancestral Call Support from your quest rewards and perhaps a Chance to Bleed Support and an Onslaught Support from the vendor. Your main Molten Strike link should look something like this:
- Molten Strike or Perforate
- Ancestral Call Support (only if you’re using Molten Strike)
- Chance to Bleed Support or Onslaught Support (Both if using Perforate)
Transition to Herald of Agony at 16-18 with Quill Rain
For starters, it’s important to know that Marauder doesn’t get a lot of the Skill Gems required for this leveling process. Therefore, in a Solo-Self Found environment, you’ll have to progress to Act 3 Library in order to buy them from a vendor. If you’re playing Trade League you can obviously ask someone in global, a friend, or worst case just go buy them on the official trade site.
The reason why the transitioning becomes so much easier when you have a Quill Rain is the base Attack Speed the bow offers. Because of its insanely high attacks per second, keeping up Virulence stacks will become really easy, even at low levels and low increments on Attack Speed. You’re going to use Rain of Arrows to maintain stacks, as it can hit a single enemy multiple times and thus generate multiple stacks per attack.
- Herald of Agony
- Vicious Projectiles Support (requires level 18)
- Damage on Full Life Support (requires level 18)
- Pierce Support / Faster Attacks Support (use Faster Attacks for bosses)
In the case of the HoA link, it will obviously only be possible to add the 4th gem when you obtain a 4-link. Do not worry too much if this is not yet the case for your character.
Transition to Herald of Agony at 28 without Quill Rain
Otherwise, you can start using Cyclone at level 28. Cyclone inherently feels good to use while gathering stacks for your Crawler and therefore is chosen. Your Cyclone links for now should be:
Whether you use Faster Attacks or Life Gain on Hit depends on your overall amount of Virulence. If you feel like the stacks / damage of your Crawler is doing fine, then Life Gain on Hit obviously provides a decent chunk of Defenses, otherwise Faster Attacks gets you more Virulence uptime.
Your Herald of Agony links are the same as they were in the Quill Rain setup. Should you be playing with a Tabula Rasa you can add Maim Support and Minion Damage Support. Otherwise, as you’re stuck on a 4-Link you can add a Hatred linked to Generosity Support in Act 3 / After Library Quest.
Crafting a +1 to Level of all Minion Skill Gems Helmet
Very few people actually realize this vendor recipe exists but it is a GREAT help for leveling Summoners! Now, to acquire this helmet you will need the following items:
- Any 4-Link (Normal) Helmet
- 2 or more quality gems with a combined total of 40% quality & the Minion tag
you’re gonna sell the helmet and the 40% quality of minion tagged gems together and it will return you the helmet with +1 to Level of all Minion Skill Gems
Level-ups are really strong for your Crawler though, so don’t skip this step!
The Holy Relic & Other Buffs
Whenever you get the possibility to get a Summon Holy Relic setup rolling, especially with the Feeding Frenzy Support, that’s a huge bonus to your Herald of Agony. Additionally, setting up a Cast when Damage Taken Support with all the buffs linked will provide a lot of help as well.
- Cast when Damage Taken Support (Level 2)
- Spirit Offering (Level 8)
- Desecrate (Level 8)
- Sniper's Mark (Level 6)
We created a leveling Passive Skill Tree you can use to get an idea of how your build should be looking at the transition point. From here on out, you’re really just gradually completing your Endgame Passive Skill Tree. Here’s what we think your leveling tree should look like.
Useful Leveling Unique Items
As you begin a new character, there are a couple of items that can make your leveling process a lot smoother. Tabula Rasa allows you to have a 6-Linked skill as early as you are able to use specific support gems. Wanderlust gives a decent amount of movement speed, which will make your leveling that much more efficient and a Goldrim provides a lot of Elemental Resistances which help a great deal during the leveling.
If you are a new player (or if this is your first character for the league), 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.
I can’t sustain my Cyclone with your links
To sustain Cyclone with Life Gain on Hit, Cast While Channeling & Ball Lightning, you will need the Mana Cost Reduction implicit on the Circle of Anguish rings. If you don’t have this, we recommend swapping to Lifetap Support. Eventually, you could also find the mana cost reduction on an amulet but given the amount of throughput you could get from an amulet, it’s hardly advised to do so. Additionally, you will need one jewel with Mana Gained on Hit.
I can’t sustain 60 Virulence at all
Take a look at your Cyclone attack speed & compare it with the PoB. Do you have the Awakened version of Cast while Channeling? Spiritual Command notable? T1 Elder Mod on Gloves? Corrupted 7% Attack Speed Cold Iron Point or perhaps you’re missing the Divergent quality on a Ball Lightning? Plenty of reasons why but since we proved that 70 Virulence is possible, I surely do recommend you to check out the explanation by JosBosmans here.
You also need to make sure your chance to poison is 100% – This means you’re either running a Divergent Herald of Agony (Level 21/20, which will be expensive probably) or 1 Circle of Anguish with Buff Effect.
Is it worth to invest into the Rings when I could just be running Lifetap Support?
Life Gain on Hit support on the cyclone gives you a ridiculous amount of sustain. With Cyclone APS going over 10, you’re going to be getting hundreds upon hundreds of life per second. I would argue it is, but ofcourse it depends.
I don’t seem to have a source of Wither? Why is this?
Wither can be found on a correct Glorious Vanity. check the Gear section of the guide for seed numbers that have this mod. If you don’t have this notable on your Glorious Vanity, Withering Step support can replace the Lifetap or Life Gain on Hit in your gloves, depending on whether or not you have mana cost reduction.
Why do we take Resolute Technique in the tree?
Every hit you miss is a hit that doesn’t generate Virulence. Every Virulence lost is a big loss in terms of damage.
My curse doesn’t seem to be up all the time.
One of them is cursed on hit where as the other one is cast manually!
My Agony Crawler Seems to Die a Lot
Your Agony Crawler is actually immune to damage. However, for it to not disappear you need to be hitting enemies and keep your Virulence up. If you’re not seeing your Crawler, it is because you have most likely dropped your Virulence to 0 making, it go away. Make sure to aim for a lot of attack speed and have a The Golden Rule to get as many stacks as possible if you’re facing this issue.
Map modifiers to avoid
This build is fairly well-rounded and generally is able to clear most of the maps anyhow. Obviously, some are more tedious than others. No Regeneration for example is a modifier that hurts you quite a bit. Other than that, just be super careful about the most dangerous mods such as Minus Maximum Resistance& Crit Multiplier in combination with other damage mods. In some rare scenarios, you should also be afraid of Physical Reflect.
This Herald of Agony Juggernaut is a really well balanced build. While it’s impervious to most types of damage it still packs quite a punch in the offensive department. It’s extremely suited for the most challenging content in the game, such as decently deep delving or endgame bosses. It finds its place both in Solo-Self Found and League Starter environments while still being fun to get upgrades should you be in a Trade League.