The purpose of this guide is to explain how you should use our Path of Exile build guides, also going over a few of the most frequently asked questions. While it might seem like a pointless task, since each build guide we have on the site goes into a lot of detail explaining pretty much everything you need to know, this is not really so. The main reason for this is that Path of Exile is a difficult game, at least compared to most of the games on the market today. Mechanical difficulty (moving your character correctly, etc.) is only part of it, and most of the difficulty comes from the complexity of the game’s systems and the many obscure interactions that exist.
For these reasons, it is important that newer players are made aware of certain aspects that go beyond the scope of any one build guide. Indeed, we feel that this guide could benefit everyone except for “veterans” of Path of Exile, by which we mean those who have been playing for more than at least 2 leagues (although, of course, the argument could certainly be made that one cannot be considered a veteran if they have not been playing for years).
Another reason why we feel this guide is important is that Path of Exile is the kind of game in which reverting your decisions is never easy, and in some cases it can be incredibly frustrating or even impossible. For this reason, it is important to lay the correct ground work for your character in order to minimize the amount of time you waste.
Without further ado, let us begin!
Choosing a Build
When you choose a build to play, it is important to ask yourself what you want your character to achieve. Because of many different elements interact to make a build viable, it is typically very difficult (and often simply much faster to start a brand new character from scratch) to alter a build in order to allow it to do something other than it was designed to once you have already leveled and geared that character. This specificity of Path of Exile builds means, therefore, that your decision of which build to play can have serious consequences on the time you invest into the game.
For example, if you choose to play a character that is a Labyrinth farmer, you might find it prohibitively expensive (both in terms of in-game currency and time) and frustrating to modify it to do something else very well (like deep Delving).
The tag system on our site provides you with some clues at to what a given build is good at. For example, builds tagged as League Starter are good at the start of leagues, and so on for the other tags, builds tagged as “Clear Speed” are good at clearing the packs of monsters in maps quickly and safely (as opposed to killing single targets/bosses), and so on.
To go further, once you have identified a build that looks suitable based on its tags, you should look at its Pros & Cons section. This will tell you in more detail not only what the build excels at, but also what its disadvantages are. This can save you a lot of future frustration if, for example, you were looking for a build that clears maps very quickly and you realize that the build you were looking at is actually very slow (but perhaps excels at some other aspect to compensate for it).
Understanding Your Build
Many builds in Path of Exile, especially among the popular ones, rely on one or more key synergies in order to reach their true potential. These key synergies could be between such things as your passive skills, your Ascendancy, one or more Unique items, certain gems, or some combination of all of these. Very rarely are characters good lacking any sort of synergy, just by attacking monsters. The level to which these synergies (or the lack of them) affect the build depends on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes, they synergies required for the build are so critical that the build simply does not work (you will see the term “build-enabling” to refer to these situations), while other times they might just be quality of life improvements.
Understanding what makes your build tick is important, because that is going to be the most crucial thing to look out for and ensure you do not disturb it. If, for example, the entire point of your build is a specific interaction between one of your Ascendancy points and a Unique item, not using one of these two elements might make your character completely unplayable. If it so happens that that unique item is prohibitively expensive (and you missed this aspect while reading the build guide), you might find yourself unable to continue that character, and forced to abandon it.
Passive Skill Tree
The passive skill tree is the first part of your character where, while leveling up, you begin making decisions that are difficult to reverse. Any Skill Point you invest can be refunded and re-used, but doing so costs an Orb of Regret (or the limited passive refund points you are granted while leveling up). While this might not be an issue late in a league when you have a lot of currency, it can be much more frustrating earlier on.
As such, be very careful not to invest your passive skill points unwisely, especially if this is one of your first ever PoE characters. Your first reference for skill point investments should be the passive skill tree we list in the build guide. Look at the build guide’s leveling section, as it may contain passive skill trees for lower levels. This can be very useful as a skill tree does not display the order in which the points are to be taken, and in many cases some skill points are of no use (or are even detrimental) early on before your character reaches some milestone.
The more experienced you become in Path of Exile, the more freedom you can have with allocating your skill points as you level up to better address the issues your character might be facing.
In Act II (so quite early on), you will have to decide how to interact with the 3 bandits (Alira, Kraityn, and Oak). You can choose to kill all 3 of them, the reward for which is an additional 2 passive skill points, or you can help one of the 3 and kill the other 2. Depending on which bandit you help, you will receive a different reward.
All of our build guides mention very clearly how you should interact with the bandits, and we advise you to follow this advice. The decision can be reverted, but doing so is mildly annoying and so you are better off doing things right from the start.
Your Ascendancy is what gives your character their final identity. This is not a decision you are likely to get wrong, since you only choose your Ascendancy when you complete a Labyrinth, but even so you should be careful to select the Ascendancy and the Ascendancy points that the build guide recommends.
The benefits provided by your character’s Ascendancy are often critical to the build, to the point where taking liberties with your Ascendancy can mean that the build simply is not viable anymore. As such, we advise you to follow the build’s recommendations very closely, since there is far less room for improvisation here than for the passive skill tree.
Note that even if you choose the wrong Ascendancy, this decision can also be reverted, although doing so is rather costly and annoying.
Compared to the elements mentioned above, gearing your character is a more dynamic, adaptable, and somewhat easily reversible process. However, it is also extremely complex, and it has the potential to give your character most of its power. As such, a lot of attention needs to be dedicated to it.
All of our build guides have extensive gearing sections, and you would do well to read those fully first (ideally before even committing to the build), in order to get an overview of what your character’s overall gear should look like.
In the sub-sections that follow, we will go over two of the more important gearing elements.
Capping your Elemental Resistances (except for Chaos) is imperative, and you should aim to reach this cap fairly early on in your leveling process and maintain the cap all the way into the end-game. The base cap is 75% (though this can be increased slightly in various ways), but you will actually want to have at least 109% in order to handle the Elemental Weakness map mod.
At every stage in your gearing decision-making process you must keep in mind your Elemental Resistance cap and respect it rigorously. Being uncapped is going to be by far the biggest contributing factor to many of your deaths. Any time you consider changing/upgrading an item, you must keep in mind how your resistances will evolve and what you will need to do to remain capped.
Keep in mind that using your Crafting Bench to add resistances to your gear (where possible) can be a great way to solve Elemental Resistance cap issues.
It is easy to fall prey to the mindset that you should just stack more damage onto your character, but focusing on survivability is an extremely important part of Path of Exile, and one that is often overlooked by newer players.
Maximum Life is perhaps the most important stat to look for on all of your pieces of gear (except for Unique items that your build uses which sometimes have no Maximum Life). You will not only want to make sure all your items have Maximum Life on them, but go so far as to try to find items with as high Maximum Life rolls as you can.
Frequently Asked Questions
I Don’t Have Enough Strength/Dexterity/Intelligence to Equip Gear
This is a common problem – depending on the build you are playing, you may lack enough of one or even two primary attributes to be able to equip an item. This can be very frustrating, but there are a few solutions you should investigate.
- The item you are trying to use may be socketed with a gem that is increasing its attribute requirements; a short-term fix may be to remove that gem (especially if you are not using it in your build – perhaps a left-over gem from your leveling process), or even to reduce its rank to lower its attribute requirements (by trading it to a vendor together with an Orb of Scouring).
- Depending on what your Passive Skill Tree looks like, you could pick up a nearby +30 Strength/Dexterity/Intelligence node. There are a few such nodes on the passive tree, and if you can take a nearby one (even refunding one of your less important skill points to do so), this can solve your problem until you can address it in a more permanent way (next point).
- The only ways to get primary attributes in Path of Exile are passive skill points and gear (including jewels). It is generally not a good idea to have an end-game build that takes +30 primary attribute nodes, since these are not considered good value. So, in the long-term, you will want to get all the attributes you need from your gear. Amulets and Rings are good sources of Intelligence and Dexterity, and Strength can often be found on Boots and Belts, although you can usually find nearly any stat in any slot. If you are struggling to meet an attribute requirement, spend a bit of time shopping around for items that also have the attributes you need.
I Am Running Out of Mana
If you find yourself running out of Mana while doing damage, the most likely reason is that you have overlooked something in your passive skill tree or Ascendancies that provides the necessary Mana regeneration or Mana leech for your build. If in doubt, go ahead and post a comment on that build asking for help, and we will be glad to answer!
Alternatively, it might be the case that you are in a “Players cannot Regenerate Life, Mana or Energy Shield” (or “Players have 60% less Recovery Rate of Life and Energy Shield”) or a “Cannot Leech Life from Monsters | Cannot Leech Mana from Monsters” map, one or both of which might affect your build.