Ritual League Update
With 3.13 Ritual coming, Path of Exile underwent a big update to all its Ascendancies including the Trickster. In this patch, Trickster lost approximately 10% of its tankiness, due to losing its Damage Reduction on Weave the Arcane, losing Spell Dodge on Ghost Dance, and a tiny bit of Evasion on Escape Artist. However, as Trickster got nerfed, it still remains a fairly strong defensive class. On the upside, you now recover a little bit more Energy Shield when you lose a Ghost Shroud and the re-introduction of Harvest League also allows more and better modifiers on gear.
For this build especially, I think the introduction of Harvest gear is incredibly potent as you want to get Shaper items in every single slot. This way you can just craft whatever modifiers you want on shaped items through Harvest making it very easy to get the items you want and the affixes on them you want! Overall, I think you can definitely make up for the lost Effective Health Pool by getting easier access to otherwise rare modifiers such as % Life on Belts, Physical Damage taken as Fire on Helmets, and so on. Damage-wise the build stayed the same which means it still pumps out damage once the gear is there!
This is definitely a build I’d recommend playing at some point when you have the means to get the gear together, as Penance is going to feel really good for Ritual League!
With the introduction of Penance Brand (and Wintertide / Arcanist Brand), a completely new way of working around & scaling Brands came to surface. This is a very special take on Penance Brand, as generally most builds use the Assassin Ascendancy and try to scale up through combining as many Power Charges, critical strike chance and items that work well with those. I personally however tried making this feel good on a medium to early endgame budget and I must say I was not impressed. Most of the Assassin Penance Brand players you see are one of two things. They either play with an Aurabot, which is insanely strong for Penance Brand as it scales so well of off so many things, or they’re playing Delving builds which have no Health or defenses whatsoever and only focus on dealing damage (also often paired with an Aurabot).
Being a solo player & trying to use Penance Brand sadly is more challenging then it should be, but it is very rewarding when it eventually all comes together! On a Trickster, making use of conversion and non-Chaos as extra Chaos, the build suddenly became a lot more enjoyable at “normal” levels of gear. However, because there’s no reason to play Penance if you’re not looking to scale a build up a decent amount, we opted for making this build guide centered around using The Eternity Shroud for the most optimal scaling. This makes the build, on its high-end, still moderately expensive, however it enables its capabilities to pump out double digit millions of Shaper DPS while remaining an S-Tier Clear build that isn’t incredibly squishy.
While usually people shy away from Eternity Shroud builds, this one actually has fairly accessible gear. Because of the way The Eternity Shroud works, you’re going to need as many Shaper-Influenced Items as possible. Ideally, you want every item in your setup to be Shaper-influenced for the last advantage the chest piece – being able to completely ignore enemies’ Chaos Resistance. Since a large portion of the damage you will be dealing is Chaos Damage, this final upside is fairly big, however this bonus damage is gated behind getting 2 Shaper-influenced Call of the Brotherhood Rings which will require you to purchase 2x Trash to Treasure prophecies (or use a lot of Orb of Chance). However, even before that last chunk of damage, the build performs completely fine!
If you’re looking for something that just outright works from the mid-game maps until you’ve farmed enough currency to blast with the necessary upgrades, this build is definitely something I’d recommend, as the Penance Brand mechanics paired with Herald of Ash & Holy Conquest Cluster Jewels make for one of the most entertaining and enjoyable build you’ll ever play!
Pros and Cons
+ Incredibly satisfying to play
+ Functions on very cheap gear
+ Very rewarding to min-max
+ Ridiculous single target & clear once optimized
+ Super safe for a build of its magnitude damage & clear-wise
– To get it to a point where you melt content, investment is required
– Between early maps & melting red maps, the step-up cost is significant
– Requires specific Uniques which are hard to obtain in SSF
Map Modifiers to be Avoided
No regeneration is incredibly annoying to run as you’ll have to drop your Jade Flask for a Mana Flask if you’re not already running one. Other than that, Elemental Reflect should obviously be avoided whatsoever. Physical Reflect can be run if you have no source of Physical Damage (which you shouldn’t, if you converted it all). This can be checked by hovering your Penance Brand tooltip.
Playstyle, Mechanics & Strengths
While Brands have existed for a decent chunk of time, a couple new Brands were introduced in PoE’s 3.11 Harvest League. These brands brought new Brand mechanics in the sense that they were scaling with Attachment Duration. Penance Brand is no different, as it gains damage for every stage it reaches. For it to reach stages, it needs to be active for a while. Other than, for example, Wintertide Brand, Penance actually loses stacks while being detached, making it important to optimize your Duration and Cast Speed ratios.
This might be a bit complicated for people who’ve never used the software before, but in the newest update from Path of Building’s Fork (which is linked below), Penance Brand has (finally) gotten full support for the math behind it! It now has the option to show the maximum amount of damage a single Brand will deal by calculating the frequency it gains stages & the Attachment Duration is has. This is done by selecting the “Max Explosion per Brand” option on Path of Building (or manually checking the # Activations per Brand).
This is important because Penance Brand activation rate is scaled by Cast Speed. This means that you could be on a break point of getting to another maximum stage with a single point of Increased Cast Speed somewhere. The easiest way to figure this out is to edit a Unique item in Path of Building and add a single line saying “#% increased Cast Speed” where # is the value you want to test. Path of Building will show you the new maximum damage after you’ve saved the item! It sadly is impossible for me to plan out what kind of gear you will have exactly, therefore it’s vital you double check this after every change to your gear / passive tree that affects Cast Speed or the Duration of your Brands!
*Note: If you’d like playing around with the PoB that is used for this build guide, it needed 192% Cast Speed at its current duration (5.04s) to get a 12th Activation per Brand.
After all of that mathematical information you probably understand even better why Aurabots help this build tremendously. First of all, through scaling their Haste Aura through the roof, they make it very easy to reach the maximum amount of Activations per Brand. Additionally, because the build picks up so many Cast Speed nodes and goes out of its way to get more Activations, there’s very little room to actually pick up damage nodes. Sure, Penance Brand does a dumb amount of “More damage” with Stages, but for that to matter we need an initial chunk of damage to scale. This is where Trickster comes in handy. Contrary to Assassin, you don’t invest into any Crit chance at all but just focus on scaling up Elemental Damage as much as you can.
Between the Cast Speed and Critical Strike Chance Assassin uses, there really is no room to try and scale the base damage that Penance Brand has. Because we opted for Trickster, we get to spend a decent part of our Skill Tree on nodes / clusters / keystones that amplify Penance Brands innate Physical Damage. The way we do that is by converting all of its damage to Elemental Damage – Penance Brand already automatically converts half of its damage to Lightning so we add on that by wearing a pair of Gloves that converts 25% and picking up Divine Wrath in the Skill Tree. As you then only deal Elemental Damage, you get to use both Elemental & Physical Damage scaling.
This is important because this enables things like “Physical Damage gained as Extra Fire” to both be scaled by Physical and Elemental Damage increases. Lastly, Trickster’s “Non-Chaos damage as extra Chaos Damage” works on each of the Elements you cycle through. Since you’re starting at Lightning Damage because of the conversion you use, it’ll grant you that amount of Lightning Damage as extra Chaos Damage. However, afterwards, Call of the Brotherhood will convert 98% of your Lightning Damage to Cold Damage, again proccing Trickster’s Non-Chaos as Extra Chaos Damage and it being applied again. Lastly, because of Cold to Fire Support, this gets used a 3rd time, albeit at a lesser effect because of a lesser amount of conversion. This is why “Harness the Void” from Trickster is incredibly busted on builds that can convert their damage multiple times.
Those shenanigans also immediately introduce the usage of The Eternity Shroud. Through the 40% of Elemental Damage as Extra Chaos Damage (assuming all of your items are Shaper-nfluenced) you already gain ludicrous amounts of damage. Lastly, if you manage to get all your items Shaper-influenced, you’re ignoring monsters’ Chaos Resistance which makes bosses take the same amount of damage as regular white monsters do. Obviously, that is incredibly vital while bossing and an absolute beast of a damage increase! Sadly, because of Call of the Brotherhood and how hard it is to get Shaper Influenced ones, this will be your last upgrade. Luckily, none of your other items are super demanding and can easily be acquired / crafted with Influence on them.
Anyway, enough with complicated conversion mechanics! TL;DR: You will do big damage if you acquire all those items! Even though I think offense is almost always your best defense in Path of Exile, I feel obliged to leave you guys with build guides that also offer you the chance to make mistakes & not be overly punished because of it. Trickster is one of the (if not the) strongest defensive Ascendancies in the game and generally is fairly popular because of that! After all of the offense we have obtained because of Trickster, imagine now getting all of its defenses too! Trickster makes use of Ghost Shrouds which replenish your Energy Shield when you are hit, providing you with a super solid way of keeping your entire Health Pool topped up!
Other than that, it has a scaling mechanic that converts Energy Shield in to Evasion and vice versa (more about that on our Ascendancy page). This equates to the fact that you will innately get a reasonable chunk of Energy Shield on top of your Health Pool. As a “Right-Side of the tree” (on the passive skill tree) character, you will never get to the highest amount of Health, and this build is no exception. At fairly reasonable (gear) levels, it peaks at about 4500-5000 Health but it is supplemented by almost 3000 Energy Shield. The way to obtain this amount of Energy Shield is through usage of the incredibly potent Glorious Vanity of Doryani. This grants you the Corrupted Soul Keystone which takes care of about half of that 3000 Energy Shield.
All of that combined, with up to 8,000 Effective HP, Ghost Shrouds, Dodge and Evasion, the build reaches numbers that you wouldn’t expect from a clear-speed build that has very potent bossing skills & plays a “brand-esque” style which allows you to move around while they do their thing!
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||Shaped Hubris Circlet with Life – ES – Resistances & a Penance Brand Damage Enchant|
|Amulet||Shaped Amber Amulet with Life – #% Phys as Extra & Multimod|
|Chest||The Eternity Shroud|
|Gloves||Shaped Sorcerer Gloves with Life – Resistances & Phys Conversion|
|Boots||Shaped Two-Toned Boots with Life – Movement Speed – Resistances – Dexterity|
|Belt||Shaped Leather Belt Life – Mana – Resistances|
|Rings||2x Shaped Call of the Brotherhood|
|Weapon||2x Rare Sceptre with +1 to (Lightning) Spell Skills – #% Phys as Extra & Multimod Cast Speed & Non-Chaos as Extra|
Even though we are very adamant about trying to give you a leveling experience that lies as close to your endgame playstyle as possible, we will recommend you to use the standard leveling setups until after act 10. Penance Brand just doesn’t function that well until you have some of your stuff going. Storm Brand is a very strong replacement until you get Cast Speed & Cluster Jewels. For more information about leveling, 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.
Getting to Brutus & Merveil
For starters, create a Shadow in whichever league you want to start.
Pick up an Explosive Trap from the vendor to start your journey and go to kill Hailrake and clear Mud Flats. Set up the following links after Mud Flats:
After killing Brutus, you will be adding an Added Lightning Damage Support to your Frost Bomb.
Level 12 and Onwards Setup
From level 12, after killing Merveil, you’ll be setting up for your road to level 28. You should be breezing through content at this point as these skills are really strong while leveling.
Personally, I think you stick with Storm Brand or Armageddon Brand until you have completed Uber Labyrinth. If that is too long, I would recommend getting at least 2 Medium Clusters & 2x Cast Speed – Phys as Extra Weapons before swapping to Penance! Luckily, since there’s no respeccing going on, you can freely swap back and forth to test when you prefer to swap around .
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.
While I initially started playing this build as an Assassin and gave up on trying to somehow make a super fun skill work without a support as an Assassin, looking at poe.ninja for inspiration learned me that a seemingly decent amount of people were playing Eternity Shroud Penance Brand and I immediately started throwing some stuff together because I felt like that could actually make Penance work as a solo build! Later on, even after writing this build guide months later, I learnt that the initial influx of people doing this was because of the influence of RemiCaster1 who is mostly known for his prevalence in the PoE Discord or for his research on Toxic Rain! Big props to him for coming up with this iteration of Penance to make it feel as good as it does.