Ritual League Update
As per Ritual League, a lot of Ascendancies got completely overhauled / changed. Assassin was no exception and it got hit rather “severely” according to people, but objectively is completely fine! It lost a “lot” of Movement Speed modifiers, but effectively didn’t lose more than 10-15% total Movement Speed. Other than that, it lost a tiny bit of Damage Reduction through Elusive, but in return got back more Elusive Effect. What that effectively comes down to is that you’re more tanky whenever Elusive is at high effectiveness and become more squishy when your Elusive is at its lowest and is about to refresh. Honestly, no-one has ever played around its Elusive uptime and therefore I’d say that it is a slight nerf not to have the 8% damage reduction straight up, but it was a warranted nerf!
Damage-wise Storm Brand didn’t change whatsoever and still remains incredibly potent to both kill bosses and clear maps. It most likely has a lot more potential to reach its end game gear due to Harvest. Removing affixes to be able to craft stuff such as Minimum Frenzy Charges, or getting a Power Charge on a Helmet and even getting a higher amount of Life on certain pieces is just a lot more convenient when you have controlled options to remove & add affixes through Harvest.
Storm Brand has always been the king of the early game. However, after people started (ab)using it with Archmage Support, the skill got reworked. While it no longer relies on Brand Recall and refreshing to feel great, through more activation speed it now feels like you’re just playing a spellcaster. While just spamming recall to drag along 5 Brands throughout a map was really nice, it honestly also was pretty overpowered. Nowadays, you’re going to have to launch a Brand per pack or every other pack. but on the upside its damage has stayed very relevant while its clear speed has gone up tremendously.
Because you’re focused on being a fast build and because of the way Brands gain their damage, going for an Assassin build seemed like a logical choice. I honestly don’t prefer writing guides from an Assassin point of view, because they usually require items that sync up very well with Power Charges. Obviously, you can take this as far as you really want by investing into stuff like Precursor's Emblem or Badge of the Brotherhood, but for Storm Brand specifically the only Power Charge interaction you’ll need is double Void Battery. These generally are fairly affordable and after looking into Elementalist and Inquisitor, the conclusion was that Assassin is just a lot better and fulfills the builds needs a lot better.
While Assassin is notorious for playing squishy builds, I went to great lengths to try and include as much tankiness into the build as possible. I feel like most people who opt into Storm Brand generally are looking for something that is solid across the board and thus doesn’t fall flat at the tiniest of incoming damage. Through permanently freezing entire screens, incredibly damage and clear, decent chunks of Energy Shield and Health which both get replenished fairly reliably and a playstyle that is very safe as you can run around while your Brands kill everything, you reach levels of safety you wouldn’t otherwise expect from Assassins.
Pros and Cons
+ Really fast playstyle
+ Functions on very cheap gear
+ Very rewarding to min-max
+ Ridiculous single target & clear on relatively limited gear
+ Fairly safe for a build of its magnitude damage & clear-wise
– To get brands to feel amazing you need Cluster Jewels
– Assassin is fairly squishy before optimizing gear
– Should be played with Void Batteries 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 a 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). This can be checked by hovering your Storm Brand tooltip.
Playstyle, Mechanics & Strengths
As mentioned before, Storm Brand has existed for a while but got reworked after people figured out how to massively abuse its scaling and detached duration. Because GGG thought it wasn’t intended that one could run around with a single set of Brands for almost half a minute and just keeping them on their targets by spamming Brand Recall. Because their Detached Duration was nerfed which basically means they last a lot shorter now and thus are less often recallable, luckily it got buffed in other ways. First of all, it gained .5% base critical strike chance. Whilst this doesn’t seem that impactful it actually equates to quite a significant amount of crit chance after all multipliers kick in!
Next up, Storm Brand gained base activation speed and Swiftbrand Support was introduced to the game. While it’s very hard to explain why and how that affected Storm Brand for the better (or at least in did so in my opinion) but the only thing you should take away from this is that Storm Brand feels more like a regular caster build where you have to cast your spell on a pack of monsters. When doing that, however, I honestly think it got better rather than worse for most applications. Obviously, the completely busted Archmage mechanics are gone and the immortal 20K HP with 50+ Million DPS Hierophants have ceased to exist.
Assassin became the next choice because Storm Brand is a skill that needs damage scaling to feel great. It only has that good feel to it whenever monsters feel like they’re made of paper. Otherwise, especially in its current iteration, with Brand duration being as short as it is, you’re going to end up casting multiple brands per pack which will feel terrible. Hence, choosing one of the best scaling Ascendancies is only expected.
The problems that brings is that Assassin doesn’t offer a clear direction of how to become reasonably tanky. Additionally it’s a right-side of the tree build which already has a lot less access to gear. Lastly, because of the location of Runebinder, which you obviously need for the build to function, as it doubles your single target DPS, going for Evasion mechanics combined with stuff like Phase Acrobatics and Wind Dancer are out of the question. The best way to counteract this is to scale as much Energy Shield on top of the Health you already pick up. This also forces you into some choices. How much Clear Speed can you really stack before feeling like you’d rather not wear certain Unique item pieces but wear their Rare counterparts instead so you can focus on Life instead?
I think the recommendations I make in this guide offer a fairly well balanced build that tries to do everything decently well. It uses the Inpulsa’s for explosions and offers you the option to make the explosions chain by themselves. Other than that, most of its items are focused around stacking as much Life and Energy Shield as possible rather than focusing on really aggressive stuff like Power Charges or Resistance reductions on Helmets. Obviously, excessive damage is never bad but then you end up in situations where you run around with a HP pool that is under 4000 which I don’t think is recommendable if you’re not incredibly experienced at the game.
Between the Elusive Effect giving you Dodge and Spell Dodge, the massive amount of Energy Shield to supplement the 5000 Life, a boosted Aspect of the Spider, clever Flask usage and certain combinations of Cluster Jewels to permanently freeze the entire screen and guarantee your Storm Brand blasts everything fast this Assassin will fill great to play and will not feel like it is overly squishy or overly annoying to play!
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 Storm Brand Penetration Enchant|
|Amulet||Shaped Citrine Amulet with Life – Crit Multi & Min Frenzy|
|Chest||Inpulsa's Broken Heart|
|Belt||Stygian Vise with Life – Mana – Resistances|
|Rings||Rare Rings with Life Conductivity on Hit – Spider – Min Frenzies|
|Weapon||2x Void Battery|
Since we are very adamant about trying to give you a leveling experience that lies as close to your endgame playstyle as possible, we recommend the following setups to blast through the game with Storm Brand. The skill is particularly potent at leveling up so at no point should you have any issues. 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.
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.
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