The Forbidden Sanctum League Mechanic

PatrickHatTrick

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Introduction

The Forbidden Sanctum is a league mechanic that functions similarly to a Roguelike – but within PoE! Each map will have a portal to the next room in your current Sanctum, and as you progress you will acquire Boons to aid you, Afflictions that drag you down, while trying to successfully complete a run. Dying or taking too many hits will kick you out of the Sanctum, and force you to start over from scratch – meaning this league mechanic is not for the faint of heart!

The Sanctum is quite complex and punishing, with far more going on than most league mechanics. Success requires practice, knowledge, and skill – and this guide aims to give you everything you need to know to start successfully beating Sanctums.

I have won every single Sanctum run since implementing the strategies this guide outlines, and with some practice, you will too.

I have a video version of this guide available. This written guide will be updated over time, so be sure to refer back to this written guide in the future, as the video may be out-of-date.

Unlocking the Sanctum

Forbidden Sanctum Entrance Portal

During the 3.20 Challenge League, a portal to the Sanctum can be found in each and every zone, starting from the very first zone in Act 1. However, your Sanctum run will be missing two very important rooms until you complete quests in Act 2 and Act 7. Divinia in Acts 2 and 7 gives quests that require you to visit the entrance to the Sanctum in the Fellshrine Ruins. Make sure you complete these quests – they unlock the Merchant, Relic Altar, and Pacts, and are essential to having successful runs!

The Sanctum is character-specific – it can only be completed on the character that gathered the rooms, and started the run.

Mechanics

Resolve and Inspiration

Resolve and Inspiration Health Bar

Resolve and Inspiration are an additional pseudo-health bar that you have in the Sanctum, that tracks damage taken throughout your run. You start with 300 Resolve, and 0 Inspiration, and any time you get hit by a monster or trap, you will take “Resolve Damage” in addition to regular PoE damage, and your Resolve and/or Inspiration will decrease. These will persist across rooms in a run, and if you ever reach 0 Resolve, your run will end, and you will have to start a new Sanctum run. (You will also have to start over if your character dies to regular PoE damage).

This damage cannot be mitigated or avoided IN ANY WAY by traditional PoE defenses. It cannot be evaded, reduced by damage mitigation, suppressed, etc. If an attack connects, you will take Resolve Damage.

Inspiration acts as a sort of energy shield, but for Resolve. It will appear over your Resolve meter, and any Resolve Damage that you take will first be subtracted from your Inspiration, before any leftover damage is taken from your Resolve. Inspiration has a cap of 1,000, and can be gained from many different sources, including Radiant Fountains, Boons, and Relics. Gaining large amounts of Inspiration is key to successful runs.

Many Boons and Afflictions refer to “losing Resolve”. Unfortunately, this is inconsistent wording on the part of GGG – some of these effects act as “losing Resolve or Inspiration”, and others act as “losing Resolve”, specifically. The “Afflictions” section of this guide covers which are which.

Afflictions

Aureus Coins

Aureus Coins in Sanctum

Aureus Coins are a form of per-run currency. They are acquired over the course of a run, and spent over the course of a run on beneficial effects. They do NOT carry over from one run to another – spend them if you’ve got ‘em!

You can acquire Aureus Coins from Guards that you kill over the course of a run, and from small chests you will find in every room. You can also find large quantities of Aureus Coins from treasure reward rooms, bosses, and minibosses.

Floor Map

Forbidden Sanctum Floor Map

Before entering a room, you will choose which room you want to travel to next, using the Floor Map. This shows all of the rooms on the current floor, the contents and Afflictions for the next two columns of rooms, as well as the connections between every room.

Each floor has 8 rooms, and there is a total of 4 floors – meaning that a complete Sanctum run consists of 32 rooms.

Note that you can see the connections for every room, even when the rooms’ contents aren’t visible to you. This is important for planning out paths – picking rooms that have multiple connections will give you more choices for future rooms, allowing you to find valuable rooms, and avoid debilitating ones!

Afflictions

Affliction Acquisition Pop-up

Afflictions are negative penalties that you acquire over the course of a run. They come in both Major and Minor varieties, and they make runs harder in a variety of ways – with some of them being absolutely back-breaking.

The primary way you get minor Afflictions is by entering rooms with afflictions on them – some rooms will have a purple border on the Floor Map, and list a specific affliction that you will get upon entering that room. Sometimes, you will simply be able to avoid entering a room with a bad affliction, but oftentimes entire columns of rooms will have Afflictions – meaning you simply have to pick the least bad outcome.

Major Afflictions come from accepting Pacts. You can see what Affliction you will be getting ahead of time, and have the option to pass. As a result, Major Afflictions are always skippable – you have to opt-in to getting one.

Every Minor and Major Affliction is covered in detail in the “Afflictions” section of this guide, so you can know which ones are safe to pick, and which to avoid:

Afflictions

Important note: You cannot have duplicates of the same Affliction. This means that as you acquire more and more afflictions, it becomes harder and harder to avoid back-breaking afflictions that would mess up your run.

Boons

Sanctum Boon Acquisition Pop-up

Boons are positive bonuses that you acquire over the course of a run. They come in both Major and Minor varieties, and range from extremely beneficial, to completely worthless.

You can acquire Boons from a variety of sources: Merchants, Pacts, Benevolent and Radiant Fountains. Most of the time you will simply get a random Boon – but the Merchant and some Pacts can allow you to hunt down specific, powerful Boons that can change the course of your run.

Reward Types

Each room has an icon on it on the Floor Map, indicating the reward you will get for successfully completing that room. The Reward Types are:

Fountain Room Icon Fountain

  • Costs 5 Aureus Coins
  • Restores 25% of max Resolve

Afflicted Fountain Room Icon Afflicted Fountain

  • Costs 5 Aureus Coins
  • Restores 50% of max Resolve
  • Grants a random Affliction upon using the fountain – If you don’t use the Fountain, you don’t get the Affliction

Benevolent Fountain Room Icon Benevolent Fountain

  • Costs 150 Aureus Coins
  • Grants a Random Boon

Radiant Fountain Room Icon Radiant Fountain

  • Costs 5 Aureus Coins
  • Grants a Random Boon
  • Removes a Random Affliction
  • Grants 200 Inspiration

Merchant Room Icon Merchant

  • Spend Aureus Coins on Boons and Relics from a small selection

Accursed Pact Room Icon Accursed Pact

  • Grants powerful beneficial effects… at a cost
  • If you take a Pact, you gain access to an Offer reward – but you can’t see the contents of the Offer ahead of time

Treasure Room Icon Major Treasure Room Icon Treasure

  • Grants Large numbers of Aureus Coins
  • Minor Treasure rooms have 2 large chests, Major Treasure rooms have 5

Offer Room Icon Offer

  • Allows you to pick actual PoE currency rewards
  • Can choose an immediate reward, a reward at the end of the floor, or a reward at the end of the Sanctum
  • You can see the specific rewards available on the Floor Map
  • These rewards get better the higher your area level, and the deeper into the Sanctum you are
  • Floors 3 and 4 can have Divine Orb Divine Orbs as the 2nd or 3rd offer – these Divine Orb Divine Orbs are the primary reward you get from running Sanctums

Room Types

Sanctum Room Name Tooltip

Each Room on the Floor Map has a name – this name is associated with the objective you must complete upon entering the room. There are 5 room types, and the chart of the room names for each floor and their associated room types is as follows:

Room Type“Defeat All the Guards”Skull Arena – “Defeat All the Guards”“Find the Exit”Trap Gauntlet – “Find the Exit”Miniboss
Floor 1Chambers of InscriptionTemplar AnnalsAbandoned LibraryHoly TrialsScriptorium
Floor 2Derelict CavernsBattlegroundsDecrepit CellarGauntletReliquary
Floor 3Unholy LairInfernumHalls of WorshipCrucibleSanctum Bellum
Floor 4Lost CatacombsDesecrated CryptUndercroftEntombmentMausoleum

The Minibosses drop ~200 coins, in addition to their room’s rewards. This puts them nearly on par with a Major Treasure reward room! Learning the names of Miniboss rooms can help you get some extra Aureus Coins in a run.

“Infernum” and “Desecrated Crypt” are considered the two most difficult room layouts. All else being equal in terms of room rewards, some players may wish to avoid these rooms.

Relics & Relic Altar

Relic Tooltip

Relics are a new item type specific to Sanctums. They can drop off of Guards and Bosses, and can be slotted into a Relic Altar, to give yourself beneficial effects during your Sanctum runs. The collection and upgrading of Relics serves as a form of meta-progression for Sanctums.

Relics are account-bound, cannot be traded, and have the “Unmodifiable” tag, meaning they cannot be modified or rerolled with currency. There is a Relic locker to store your relics, and excess relics can be stored in normal stash tabs. Relics of the same base type can be vendored with the usual 5-to-1 vendor recipe, in order to get one with new affixes.

Relics come in one of three sizes: Small (2 slots), Medium (3 slots), and Large (4 slots). The affixes available on relics are different for each size of relic, and are covered in detail in the “Relics and Loadouts” section of this guide.

Relics & Relic Loadouts

Relic Altar

Sanctum Relic Altar

The Relic Altar is unlocked by completing Divinia’s quest in Act 2, and is where you slot in your Relics to gain their effects. You have a limited amount space to place your relics in, and have to puzzle out how to fit your Relics into the space available.

When you first unlock the Altar, not all the slots will be available to you. You unlock additional slots by completing each room layout (by name) for the first time. You can hover over a locked slot to see what room you need to complete to unlock that slot.

Your Relic Altar is locked-in prior to beginning a new run, and cannot be changed until you’ve completed your current run.

Unique Relics

Gilded Chalice Unique Relic

The Herald of the Scourge boss has a guaranteed drop of a random Unique Relic. Unlike regular relics, these Relics modify the Sanctum by making it harder, but give additional rewards. Each Unique Relic can only be used for a single challenge run, and is destroyed when that run ends.

Lycia Boss Gauntlet

Lycia Boss Gauntlet

The final room of the Sanctum is a gauntlet against the final boss – Lycia. This room features red mist that will deal Resolve damage to you over time if you stand in it. The red mist will move as you fight Lycia, forcing you to move through a gauntlet of traps as you fight.

Once you deal enough damage to Lycia, she will retreat, and the red mist will dissipate. A number of additional enemies will spawn, but once the red mist dissipates you can run straight to the end of the gauntlet, where you will have to fight Lycia again, inside of a small arena.

Herald of the Scourge

Herald of the Scourge Boss Fight

If you defeat Lycia in an area level 81+ (T14+ maps), upon defeating her, a portal will spawn to the secret final boss – The Herald of the Scourge. Entering this portal and fighting this boss is OPTIONAL. If you want to, you can simply skip the portal and head to the rewards room, and collect your rewards – which you may choose to do if you’re unsure if you can beat her, and have a number of Divine Orb Divine Orbs on the line.

The Herald of the Scourge functions differently to the rest of the Sanctum. Her attacks do NOT deal damage to your Resolve – they simply deal massive amounts of regular PoE damage. The fight is set up like a typical pinnacle boss, with a number of telegraphed attacks which one-shot all but the tankiest of characters.

Most of her attacks are very slow and easy to dodge, but her intermission phase is quite tricky. She will go immune, and spawn waves of red lightning that emanate out from her – these lightning waves deal large amounts of lightning damage, and can easily kill you. There are small gaps in each waves that you must either navigate through, or teleport over.

If you struggle against this phase, you may want to consider bringing a Topaz Flask Topaz Flask to fight this boss – the lightning damage mitigation can save you from dying to this phase.

This intermission phase has been patched several times by GGG, on account of how lethal it is, and how difficult it can be to see the gaps – it should be significantly easier now than it was at 3.20’s launch.

It’s worth noting that it’s possible to kill the Herald quick enough to skip this intermission phase entirely – which trivializes the difficulty of this boss, if you have the DPS to do it.

Rewards

Sanctum Final Chest Rewards

The Sanctum’s Rewards are HEAVILY weighted towards successful runs in high tier maps. While doing Sanctums in T16+ maps, most runs will have multiple rooms with Divine Orb Divine Orbs available on Floors 3 or 4 – and this is where the bulk of rewards from running Sanctums comes from. Additionally, Sanctums in these high tiers will often reward a large number of Stacked Deck Stacked Decks, Awakened Sextant Awakened Sextants, and Chaos Orb Chaos Orbs.

While the currency per hour of running Sanctums doesn’t quite hold up to many end-game farming strategies, the fact that it gives raw Divine Orb Divine Orbs and Stacked Deck Stacked Decks is nothing to sneeze at – both of these items have their values tied to some of the most powerful items you can make/acquire in PoE, and will retain value for the duration of a league.

If you cannot consistently clear Sanctums in T16+ maps, the rewards from running Sanctums are borderline nonexistent – however doing Sanctums at lower area levels is a great way to build up a collection of powerful Relics, while getting some practice in!

Sanctified Relics

Sanctified Relic Tooltip

Sanctified Relics are a special type of relic which grant character power – regardless of whether or not you’re in the Sanctum. They can have a number of powerful affixes, and serve as a reason for characters to grind Sanctums, hoping to find the perfect one for their build.

Sanctified Relics can drop off of Guards and Bosses in Sanctums of area level 75+. Like regular Relics, they cannot be traded or modified – you simply have to grind out the Sanctum to get more chances at one with affixes you want.

Sanctified Relics are slotted into a special slot, that exists just for the duration of the 3.20 Sanctum challenge league. GGG has stated their intent that Sanctified Relics will not go core, and will be deleted when the league ends.

The Herald of the Scourge has a guaranteed drop of a Sanctified Relic, so you will get at least 1 every run, if you can consistently clear T14+ Sanctum runs.

Invocations

Invocation of Magebane Tooltip

Invocations are a currency item that is awarded upon the completion of challenge runs with specific Unique Relics. Invocations can be used to add a keystone implicit to a Sanctified Relic of your choice – making them far more powerful.

The Invocations themselves are tradable, allowing players to simply buy an Invocation for the Keystone they want, and can be quite valuable!

Unique Items

There are a number of new Unique items that can drop off the Herald of the Scourge:

The Winds of Fate Unique Item Sandstorm Visage Unique Item Eternal Damnation Unique Item The Balance of Terror Unique Item

The Balance of Terror works similarly to a Watcher's Eye Watcher's Eye – it can have a number of different modifiers, all related to curses. The one that can drop regularly off of the Herald will always have 2 modifiers, but a specific Unique Relic challenge run will cause the Herald to drop one with 3 modifiers.

Conclusion

Be sure to check out the other pages of this guide, covering even more topics related to The Forbidden Sanctum! This guide will continue to be updated in the future – if you have any feedback, or find something cool you want to share, head on over to the PoE Vault Discord, and let me know!

Good luck, and have fun farming The Forbidden Sanctum!

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