League Starter Builds for Path of Exile (Sentinel 3.18)

TbXie

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Foreword

When it comes to tier lists, I will not argue having a monopoly on wisdom, as a lot of this is vulnerable to bias and preference. Especially in Path of Exile, you should not constrain yourself to only playing S-Tier builds & Ascendancies. However, if you are adamant about playing a top tier build, the following list will help you pick one as it is regularly updated when new builds rise to the surface.

Best League Starters TL;DR

This page covers the builds that we have picked out to be excellent choices to be your League Starter. Whilst some of the are more notorious for being strong early game, others might have risen up there because they bring a decent early game but scale into the end game so easily. Note that within each tier, the builds are not in order.

Tier Build Tier Build
S+ Essence Drain Trickster S Poison Blade Vortex Assassin
S+ Raise Spectre Necromancer S Toxic Rain Trickster
S+ Absolution Necromancer S Arc Elementalist
S+ Freezing Pulse Totems Hierophant S Dominating Blow Necromancer
S+ Skeleton Mages Necromancer S Glacial Cascade Mines Saboteur
A Carrion Golems Elementalist B Herald of Agony Juggernaut
A Dark Pact Totems Hierophant B Poison Bladefall Bladeblast Assassin
A Raise Zombie Necromancer B Bleed Bow Gladiator
A Cyclone Slayer B Bladestorm Berzerker
A Vortex Occultist B Storm Brand Assassin

You can read below to get more details about each of the builds we mentioned.

About the List of Builds

Hello, I’m TbXie, someone who has sunk over 25.000 hours in Path of Exile as of when I started to write Guides. That experience as well as getting as much insight as possible from other potent and top tier Path of Exile players is what determines whether a build guide is warranted a higher or lower ranking on this page. Whilst all of the writers, including myself, put in a tremendous amount of effort to get their guides updated before a new League, it’s important to us that this page helps you understand why and how you should be picking a build.

The build tier list has different subsections that will rank builds as per their strengths. A build might qualify as a top tier mapping build but not be considered any good for starting in a new and fresh economy or killing bosses. Overall, the emphasis on the build and whether you want it to be more defensive or offensive depends on the ultimate goal of the build and whether that includes tough content or just farming some extra currency.

Understanding Your Own Goals

While I could go on about why you could want to play the better tier of builds it is of utmost importance for you to understand what your goals are in the game. If you don’t mind having to play through the game at a slower pace or if you’re just in it to play whatever skill is fun, any of the Guides on this page have been written by exquisite players and will all get you to the endgame sufficiently. Sure, there might be a discrepancy between how fast, cheap and easy they are to play but by no means should you feel pressured to play S-Tier builds exclusively. Generally, it is recommended to play Spellcasters or Minion builds before dabbling into Melee or Bow archetypes as they are usually way harder to gear for and execute.

S+-Tier Builds

February 1st Update: Essence Drain Essence Drain has been an will remain an incredible leaguestarter. The build has only become more & more tanky whilst still being a really solid build to progress the game.

Essence Drain Essence Drain brings incredible clear speed through Contagion Contagion and respectable boss damage combined with Blight Blight. On top of that, it lines up with a lot of Passive Tree pathing to get relatively tanky early on in a characters progress netting them a highly ranked overall spot.

February 1st Update: Minions remain very solid starters because their inherent damage & tankiness. Therefore, they need very little investment to get going on basic levels, thus a perfect leaguestarter.

Raise Spectre & Minions are generally associated with the earlier content & league start scenarios because they require virtually nothing to get going. Therefore, this build couldn’t go unmentioned in this list.

We have a second Raise Spectre guide for you to enjoy, which focuses on Slave Drivers for a bit of a more nostalgic touch.

February 1st Update: The removal of Scourge items has made it significantly harder to stack large amounts of negative lightning resistance for the Doryani’s variant, this does not affect the viability of the low & mid budget version of the build which is all content ready.

Absolution Absolution is a really solid choice if one likes minion builds. The Doryani's Prototype Doryani's Prototype will almost always carry a builds damage, where as this build remains a decent amount of durable. Given you’re melting bosses in seconds, you should really enjoy this build.

February 1st Update: Mage skeletons are as strong as they have ever been, being the perfect build for safe boss killing without having to break the bank.

Thanks to the minion playstyle being more passive than most, the Mage Skeleton Necromancer becomes the perfect build for tackling new unknown content in the Siege Of The Atlas Expansion.

February 1st Update: While the build is built a little different, it has gained damage and tankiness so it reigns supreme as one of our top tier starters.

The Hierophant Ascendancy lost its biggest perk by the removal of the Ascendancy node that made you summon two Totems instead of one. This has altered the build a little bit but we feel very strongly about its potential, still, even after the changes. Because it’s a Totem build, it pops off relatively early, making it an incredible league starter.

S-Tier

February 1st Update: So many small things are pushing this build back into its old form. It packs a relatively solid punch while being borderline immortal.

Poison Blade Vortex Blade Vortex still packs a ridiculous amount of damage whilst staying relatively tanky even at the earlier levels of mapping. Since it’s useable starting from whenever you pick up the first labyrinth and stays potent right until the most endgames of encounters, it warrants a spot on top of the League Starters ladder.

February 1st Update: tToxic Rain Toxic Rain has been moved down a notch as it got hit once again. It still is an incredible skill to level with while having its place in the endgame meta.

Toxic Rain Toxic Rain and its newly researched mechanics have not been changed whatsoever. This means that even though its Ascendancies got nerfed a little bit the build still packs plenty of bunch to be considered by a lot of people as a league starter. We predict the build to be very widely present and amongst the best builds in the game when it comes to clear and boss killing potential at the start of a new League.

February 1st Update: The buffs to arc were enormous, putting it back to its rightful place as thé go to lightning spellcaster. Combined with multiple new & old layers of defence, this is our suggested handcaster of choice!

Arc Arc and more in particular this iteration of the build packs an incredible amount of punch without being to complicated to gear making it exquisite all around for new or less new players.

February 1st Update: With the buffs to Absolution’s raw damage output, the build now has more levelling options, should you choose to level with a Herald Of Purity & Absolution setup alongside Dominating Blow.

Thanks to the straightforward design of the ability, we are able to tweak this build into some pretty juicy defensive styles allowing it to be a solid first choice for starting a league in Hardcore as well! Packing a punch both damage-wise and defensively, this build warranted a spot here.

July 23rd Update: This build has made steps forward. Sure, it’s not Seismic Trap but it has its place up there in the higher tier starters.

Glacial Cascade Glacial Cascade is in our opinion one of the strongest miner skills and its popularity has shown that a lot of people tend to agree. Ever since its rework & overlaps it packs a good amount of Clear Speed & Boss killing potential at higher levels of gear where it remains potent at doing the earlier game content very cheaply with no requirements whatsoever.

A-Tier

February 1st Update: Golems are still up there in terms of progression and scaling. Therefore, they’ve moved to the A-Tier.

Summon Carrion Golem Summon Carrion Golem has been nerfed quite “significantly” in the last patches. However, the build did ludicrous damage on a very acceptable budget and will still do very good damage on that budget even after the nerfs. The changes to Elementalist definitely helped the build’s defensive capabilities and allows it to mitigate both Elemental and Physical damage very adequately. We feel like the build definitely still warrants an A-tier mention.

February 1st Update: Given the availability of Astral Projector, I think Dark Pact warrants a place high up the ladder.

Dark Pact totems is a build that has always relied on a specific unique to function, the Astral Projector Astral Projector. Given this unique usually gatekept this build away from leaguestarts, the fact that it was 7 chaos on day 5 of last League makes it so this build warrants a mention in our top tier starter list.

February 1st Update: With so many additions to the tree, changes to gems and whatnot, Zombies are so reliable again to get to a capable level before scaling into the endgame. Back on the menu thus, as a league starter.

This old school goodie build uses Raise Zombies which get scaled through a The Baron The Baron. It nowadays is incredibly easy to get it going, as getting loads of strength no longer is a pain.

February 1st Update: As expected, Slayer is mostly dominating the Cyclone meta after the changes and will remain to do so for a decent while.

Cyclone Cyclone is and remains a crowd-favorite and Slayer has notoriously went hand in hand with the skill. This hasn’t changed and probably wont change anytime soon. Given that Attack builds always rely on weapons that are sometimes a little expensive, they’re usually never S-Tier ready.

February 1st Update: While the buffs to hand casting significantly increase the on hit damage of our skill gems, this does not affect the damage over time components of the gems which the Vortex build scales. The high bossing potential off the build will at the very least remain the same, and may become even better depending on the new Implicit Influence modifiers released in Archnemesis League.

Whilst being a very reliable build, Vortex Vortex builds are often overlooked. Especially when building it CI or Low-Life you’re getting a lot of defenses out of the build whilst getting a very respectable amount of offense. Because it relies on Damage over Time to kill monsters, it also gets you incredibly high uptime on bosses whilst dodging. It didn’t get tiered into the S-tier builds because it generally has a little bit less clear speed and is a little harder to pull of on League Start due to its CI/Low-Life nature.

Alternative Vortex Occultist Build Guide

B-Tier

February 1st Update: Being moved down at the start of Expedition league, the build has its place currently – It is a reliable build that will never top any numbers.

If you’re looking for something super tanky that kills everything in the game – and is minmaxable very far – this is a build that you’d want to play! Being a mixture of a Cyclone & Minion build, it also suits a lot of players very well.

February 1st Update: Nothing really changed. However, it is unthinkable of that we wouldn’t have poison bfbb in this list so I moved it down to the lowest tier. It should honestly play fine considering how broken it actually was.

Being a Poison build and being able to stack Poisons on bosses is generally considered overpowered if the skill does well without Poison too. This is very much the case as you don’t need any ramping to kill trash packs so you basically get all your boss damage investment for free. A clear S-Tier pick in our book.

February 1st Update: Bow league, huh? Bleed Bow is actually looking really solid!

Gladiator in combination with Bleed builds and even bows has been a decently strong build for quite a while now but as other builds get nerfed more and more, obviously others rise to peoples attention.

February 1st Update: Whilst largely unpopular, we feel adamant about keeping a very high paced build in here as it still is as strong as ever.

Bladestorm Bladestorm and Berserker just go hand in hand when it comes to early game power. The combination of Berserk Berserk, Rage Support Rage Support and Berserker’s Rage just make Bladestorm so incredibly powerful. Because of that, it’s less reliant on a very high end weapon to actually deal great damage.

February 1st Update: Brands didn’t get changed and were in a great spot to begin with. I generally feel like brands are in a decent spot.

Storm Brand Storm Brand will almost always remain a top pick as long as the skill is functional & playable because of how it works mechanically. Being able to drop some brands and dodge on bosses whilst being able to control the environment with recalls, the playstyle just allows people to play a lot more aggressively than on other builds.

Honorable Mentions

Aside from the top picks in the list, there’s multiple other guides that can be played as a league starter. However, they might require you to farm some a couple of Chaos Orb Chaos Orbs whilst leveling up to pick up a necessary unique, fall of after the story line or rely on some skill swaps to make them feel great. They’ve therefore not made an appearance in the Best League Starters but still deserve to be referenced on this page. More information about them is to be found inside the guide.

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