Ritual League Update
Not much has changed here. We lost a very minor 5% chance to Deal Double damage but got Harvest for it in return. Whereas I think the build does not like losing any of its damage, it’s not like it has lost a great deal of it. Because of the popularity this guide had in previous Leagues and the amount of optimization you guys have been doing for it, I’ve made a FAQ section that includes an optimized Path of Building review from one of the people who played and min-maxed this build in Heist League. Rather than making the guide harder to understand for people who are not looking to push it to its limits, I think that’s a great way to showcase what the complete endgame looks like.
Overall, I think the build is in approximately the same boat it was pre-3.13. This means it still rivals to be the most tanky build in the game, while maintaining acceptable amounts of damage. It’s a great pick if you’re looking to play safe, learn new bossfights or when fighting 10 bosses simultaneously wink.
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 Calamitous Visions as a possible reason why the build could get out of control if it hadn’t been adjusted a little.
Calamitous Visions really was a really nice bump in the build’s damage potential and is the reason why we will be recommending a Cluster Jewel setup. Worry not though, even without this Cluster Jewel setup, the build will play perfectly fine, which is what makes it a very solid League Starter or Solo-Self Found candidate. It doesn’t look for any particular damage modifiers on gear whatsoever, so all of them are fairly easy to acquire. In this guide, however, we will be focusing on a Trade League environment and will be including some items that are more optimal if you can buy them off the market. Items like a Glorious Vanity or a Saffell's Frame are quite rare to find in Solo-Self Found but if you’re familiar with how to focus specific items or if you play a lot, getting them shouldn’t pose much of a problem.
This build achieves 89% Elemental Damage Reduction, 92% Physical & Chaos Damage Reduction, while still getting around 7000 Life. Additionally it has over 500 Life Gained on Hit and around 500 Life Regeneration. While this obviously makes it very tanky, it still maintains a solid 1.7 million Shaper DPS 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 whirling around with Cyclone and pressing your flasks, there really isn’t anything you need to manually cast. We’ve harbored all the skills in automated setups through Cast when Damage Taken Support so you can focus on playing and enjoying the content while your character keeps all your buffs up for you.
Since you’re playing a Minion build, it is fairly important 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 attack something, you’re only running Summon Holy Relic to grant you some extra utility with around 20% More Damage and a chance for them to Taunt enemies off of you.
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, that brings you up to 89% 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 80 or 81 maximum Elemental Resistances. Through the Juggernaut Ascendancy and sustaining Endurance Charges, Physical Damage also doesn’t scare us.
On top of that, with instant Warcries through Call to Arms, you can reliably put Enduring Cry on left mouse button and automatically cast it with no delay as you’re moving around. This, in addition to Vaal Molten Shell, makes the character deal with bursts of damage really well too.
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 bosses for the first time or farm them without feeling at risk at any point. We opted for this variation of the build as opposed to Guardian or Raider because of how straightforward it is to gear it and to understand its gearing process. Therefore, it’s perfectly suited for both new and veteran players. 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
+ Completes all boss fights in the game
+ 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
+ Doesn’t get the most insane DPS numbers
+ 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 instead of 40, so you need to hit relatively fast to inflict enough Poisons to be able to keep them up reliably.
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 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 Life Gain on Hit Support which gives you a tremendous amount of recovery. Additionally, because you’re linking it to Fortify Support, you should almost always have the Fortify buff up and running.
Being focused on your Herald of Agony, you’d be forgiven for forgetting about the other Minion skill the build uses. The Summon Holy Relic will be linked to Culling Strike Support, Meat Shield Support, and Feeding Frenzy Support to provide additional utility. It procs every time you hit an enemy (which will be quite frequently), which means it also grants you a nice amount of flat Life Regeneration, which is definitely nice and adds even more to our tankiness.
Otherwise, aside from having Enduring Cry being used automatically as it should be on your left mouse button, there isn’t too much to explain mechanic-wise or playstyle-wise. The strengths of this build lie in the damage uptime. 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
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, we also have a PoePlanner for you. Do note that PoE Planner does not support Cluster Jewels and some specific unique jewels and 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||Ideally a Bone Helmet w/ “+2 to Level of Socketed Minion Gems”, 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 HoA Buff Effect & Crawler Damage|
|Weapon||Cold Iron Point|
Questions & Support
I made it a habit to check all comments in my guides on a daily basis. Obviously, there might be occurrences where getting a reply might take longer but I really do try to get back to you as soon as possible. I prefer you making remarks, suggestions or asking questions that way as it allows others to read through the comments, providing them with a potential answer to their question, without having to wait for me again. If I have somehow missed your question, you can try reaching me on our Discord.
If you enjoy my content to such an extent that you’d like to support me and my work, I have a Patreon you can check out. At no point should you feel pressured to contribute, but if you do, your support means more to me than you will ever imagine.
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:
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:
- Lesser Poison Support (change to Poison Support after doing Library in Act 3)
- Fortify Support
- Faster Attacks Support or Life Gain on Hit Support
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 Minion Skills 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 (magic) Helmet with the right colors for your Herald of Agony
- Any Life Flask
- Any Bone Spirit Shield
- 1 Orb of Alteration
- 1 (or 2, depending on whether your Helmet is Magic) Orb of Transmutation
First of all, you’re going to sell 1 Orb of Transmutation, 1 Life Flask (of any kind) and the Bone Spirit Shield to the vendor. It should return you with a Flask of Animation which you will need to do the next recipe.
Since you acquired your Flask of Animation, you’re now going to sell that together with your 4-Link Helmet (make sure it’s Magic, use an Orb of Transmutation otherwise) and an Orb of Alteration, and the vendor will return you with a Helmet with the same colors and links as the one you gave him but with an extra “+1 to All Socketed Minion Skills modifier” on it.
At this point, you want to socket your Herald of Agony setup in this helmet, as that’s the only way we benefit from the gem level-up. 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.
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.
My Mana Feels Awful after Getting the Attack Speed Gloves
The Mana sustain is fairly tight but was tailored to be that way. There’s hardly any point in having more Mana regeneration than you absolutely require, as that’d be investments you’d better spend elsewhere. Cyclone in a pseudo-6-linked pair of Gloves should cost 7 Mana for starters, which gets reduced to 4 by crafting the “Channelling Skills have -3 to Total Mana Cost modifier” on an Amulet. Next up, you’re picking up a jewel that has +2 Mana gained for each enemy hit by your Attacks. This effectively reduces the cost of your Cyclone by another 2, as I expect you to hit something when you Cyclone and each hit both consumes the base 7 Mana and gets you 2 back from the jewel. So, at this point, you’re effectively using 2 Mana per attack at about 10 attacks per second. So this means you somehow have to find a source of 20 Mana per second. At level 90, your base regeneration will be about 13 which leads you to draining 7 Mana per second. Now, there’s also some leech going from Lioneye's Vision, netting this to be about 5 Mana lost per second. Getting that last little bit of Mana can be fixed in multiple ways and will most likely happen randomly when you pick up gear.
However, should you be on the lookout for fixes you can either run a second Mana on hit jewel, get a single high Mana regeneration roll somewhere (most likely on amulet), Mana regeneration if you’ve cast a spell recently enchant on boots (since you cast dash), Mana – Intelligence or Mana regeneration rolls on your Cluster Jewels, Divergent Life Gain on Hit Support, “% of Damage taken gained as Mana over 4 seconds when Hit” on an Abyssal Jewel, and so on.
Any small help to Mana, which you genuinely will get on some random piece of gear will, push you over the threshold of being able to sustain infinitely, as long as you’re hitting something!
How do I further minmax this build and optimize for damage? I have all the gear the guide suggests!
So apparently you guys have taken a liking in pushing this particular build to its absolute limits! Aside from making it more tanky though, there’s very little optimization to be had. I’ve reviewed one of your builds and checked where I could find optimizations and peeked at about 3.5 Million Herald DPS. I think that is fairly achievable with Harvest Gear and I also think that is plenty to conquer the later stages of the game! Here’s that Path of Building
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.