When it comes to tier lists, I will not argue to have 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. If, however, 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 Starter Builds
This page covers the builds that we have picked out to be excellent choices to play in Solo Self-Found. Whilst some of them 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.
TL;DR Build List
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.
February 2nd Update: Even with removal of the Scourge Spectres, this build still looks really solid going into Archnemesis.
Raise Spectre builds will always remain strong as long as Spectres can live & you can build the character tanky enough. As far as we can tell, the build will still be perfectly fine.
February 2nd Update: Poison BV remains one of the strongest builds in SSF because how common the items are you require & how strong the build is even though Blade Vortex lost a bit of its presence in the meta.
Assassin might have gotten changed, but we still believe this is an S+ tier pick for you to enjoy Solo Self-Found Leagues. Given there’s a couple of uniques that synergize well with it and that they are super easy to acquire in SSF, this build packs a large chunk of punch.
February 1st Update: The build lost a little bit of its overall tankiness and has been losing damage ever since forever. However, it remains a potent pick & works are in place to scale its damage up to true endgame damage. Because it’s soo easy to get this going, on no gear, we think it deserves a place up here.
Herald of Agony has been a skill that trivialized the game in past expansions. Whilst being nerfed quite often, its mechanics still lend itself to building a really tanky character. That’s what we did! Do not expect any insane damage numbers, but expect to be playing a character that is surprisingly durable throuhgout the game.
February 1st Update: Toxic Rain took another significant hit but still remains the best bow skill to play in a SSF environment. It will still do enough damage and has gained tankiness compared to earlier leagues.
The way Toxic Rain scales is a little bit awkward in SSF leagues but because of how strong it is, it’s perfectly executable even without trade. Therefore, the build provides to be an excellent way to start in SSF whilst providing a good amount of scaling.
February 2nd Update: As the league is around the corner, Essence Drain will always gain popularity.
Poison Blade Vortex packs a decent amount of mapclear at the very early stages of the game. It requires virtually no investment to get going and will only get better when your character progresses. It will, however, at no point rival the very best builds for speed but it’ll get close at way less of a budget.
February 2nd Update: 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.
Vortex has been an awkward skill. People either love it or hate it. However, the more necessary tank stats become to kill bosses, the more Vortex rises to the occasion. Since the current state of the game requires both, we’ve put it rather high up the list.
February 2nd Update: Arc has gotten really big buffs and with the overhaul to defenses being a bit better optimized now, this build should thrive in almost any scenario.
Arc has been a crowd-favorite ever since the game came out of beta testing. It has seen its ups and downs in terms of powerlevel but is now back to being a very solid skill and possible the best handcaster out there.
February 2nd Update: Blade Blast still remains a decent powerhouse and Assassin & Poison are still one of the more reliable ways to scale it.
Blade Blast still remains one of strongest skills in the game. The Poison variant gets a bit more damage & clear at the cost of a bit of tank stats.
February 2nd Update: Freezing Pulse now requires a unique jewel, which has put its SSF viability down a notch. However, getting a rain of splinters probably isn’t the end of the world and until then, using a projectile support will do you just fine.
Ever since the build saw its first signs of play, it has been picked up by a lot of top end players as a leaguestarter, bosskiller, Solo Self-Found build. The changes to Hierophant will definitely make it a little less reliable to clear maps but it’ll definitely be top of the pack for a SSF environment still.
February 2nd Update: Blade blast went unchanged in 3.17, and is thus still a fairly strong build to play.
With Blade Blast being as strong as it is, people tend to go towards a more beefy iteration of the build. That’s exactly what the Chieftain version does for you. It provides you with enough damage at incredible tankiness.
February 2nd Update: Bladestorm has been unscaved for a while now and is one of the build people like to play in SSF. It will still do really well for a melee build.
Bladestorm is generally considered one of the better picks as far as melee goes in both League Start & SSF environments. Because it synergizes so well with certain mechanics / supports, this is one, if not the only, melee build that doesn’t rely on a super expensive weapon.
February 2nd Update: Saboteur & Mines generally got a fairly big buff last patch and remain unchanged right now.
Ever since its rework, Glacial Cascade has provided a mean to combine significant clear with capable boss killing potential. Since it requires almost no specific items, you’re going to have a great time regardless of being able to trade or not.
February 2nd Update: Slayer & Cyclone will always remain an iconice duo. Due to changes to other builds, Cyclone has now taken an even more prevalent role in the top tier builds.
Because of the changes to Slayer it is the most reliable way to play Cyclone in an SSF environment. It requires much less of an insane weapon to feel great, therefore making it the best iteration of the build for SSF.
February 2nd Update: Through more layers of defense & different supports, the build now again packs a lot of damage while being incredibly durable.
Scourge Arrow is a skill that feels very different to your usual bow skill. It however has interesting mechancis you can make use of to combine its excellent clear with its very potent bossing capability!
February 2nd: Nothing much to report here – The build still does what it does best. Clear maps on virtually no gear whatsoever.
Focusing on map clear, Coldslinger Occultist packs a decent amount of punch and is something we recommend trying out if you haven’t yet.
February 2nd Update: Through extra layers of defense, this build is now close to unkillable. The damage remains on the lower end, but it will tackle most things you face.
Because we feel like you need to get a solid clearing option as well, which remains very safe, this build will get you there. Soulrend is a really fun skill and the way this build was built makes it incredibly tanky. Sure, it doesn’t have the most obscene damage numbers but it will still clear most endgame content sufficiently fast.
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 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.