While Vortex is an ancient skill when it comes to PoE gems, it has only somewhat recently picked up popularity. Initially, Vortex was clunky skill and best used as an On Hit effect rather than a Damage over Time mechanic. It wasn’t until 3.5 Betrayal League when Vortex became an instant cast, was castable significantly more reliably due to cooldown changes, and saw its Damage over Time numbers doubled that the skill really got picked up by a lot of high-end players. They soon realized that because of the decently high inherent damage numbers, the build could reach immensely potent defenses while remaining acceptable DPS.
That League also included the a new way of scaling Damage over Time mulitpliers and Cold Damage wasn’t left out! The new modifiers that were named “Damage over Time Multiplier”, which came in different variations (e.g. Cold Damage over Time Multiplier) gave Vortex and any other DoT skill a more multiplier that scales all of your damage after all of your increased damages. Damage over Time skills were the only build archetype that lacked this way of scaling before this patch. Lastly, the Occultist ascendancy also got a rework which introduced a decent chunk of Cold Damage over Time Multiplier in the Ascendancy, allowing Vortex and Occultist to go hand in hand from that point onwards.
All in all, that resulted in a build-archetype that gets most of its damage from Gear, Skill Points, and Gem Levels, and was able to focus on picking up significant amounts of defenses in the tree. Therefore, the build is capable of reaching over 10.000 Energy Shield and a decent chunk of further mitigation. Because of that, and because the mechanics behind Vortex, you’ll be able to safely kill bosses without any issues.
Pros and Cons
+ Kills any boss in the game while staying safe
+ Solid choice to learn boss fights as you’ll have a lot of spare time
+ Doesn’t require any high end Rare items
+ Hardcore viable as it is incredibly tanky
– Doesn’t reach optimal numbers easily in Solo-Self Found
– Low Life builds require a couple of items to get going
Map Modifiers to be Avoided
Elemental Reflect will kill you, and on top of that you should most likely avoid No Regeneration maps since your ES Regen is such a big part of your survivability package.
Playstyle, Mechanics & Strengths
When you cast a Vortex, it will place a pool of Cold Damage over Time under you which remains there for a duration. While the pool does initial hit damage, you’re going to only care about the Damage over Time portion of the skill. Because Vortex has a cooldown, it is often paired with another Cold skill to semi circumvent the inconveniences this introduces while mapping. We opted to use Vaal Cold Snap, because it helps significantly in generic mapping but is also useful to apply some debuffs on bosses while retaining its usefulness otherwise.
At the pinnacle of your front-loaded damage, the build deals just shy of 5 million boss damage while you are running around and dodging. The uptime of your damage therefore is incredibly high. To put that in perspective, that means it kills a Shaper phase in about 5 seconds when everything comes together correctly. Most of the damage comes from stacking Auras and scaling them through Cluster Jewels, being Low-Life, damage rolls on gear, and your Ascendancy. That’s why most of your passives and your non-damage-oriented pieces of gear get to focus so much on stacking Energy Shield which leads to having 9000 or more. If you were to really push it and perhaps give up a tad of your damage. the build easily even reaches upwards of 10.000 Energy Shield.
So, as mentioned before, the way we decided to scale the build is using Auras up as much as we could and Cluster Jewels. The main advantage of this route is that while we’re boosting the damage of the build quite significantly, it also giving us access to a stronger pool of Energy Shield & a lot of regen too, which will eventually lead to the build having a really solid amount of Energy Shield Regeneration. Between Occultist and those Clusters, you’ll reach over a thousand Energy Shield regen per second, which means your recovery is incredibly solid. Combined with stuff like Wicked Ward, which makes ES Recharge uninterruptible, and some faster start of Energy Shield Recharge the effective recovery this build has is effectively even higher! This means that as long as you don’t get one shot, which is fairly hard with 9000 Energy Shield, you will almost never die.
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|
|Amulet||Presence of Chayula|
|Gloves||Sorcerer Gloves with high ES, Aspect of the Spider and Resistances|
|Boots||Sin Trek or Rare ES boots|
|Rings||Rare Opal Rings with as much ES as you can possibly find|
|Weapon||+1 Spell/Cold Skills Wand with Cold DoT Multi & Spell Damage|
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.
If you enjoy my content to such an extent that you’d like to support me and my work, I have a Patreon you can check out. At no point should you feel pressured to contribute, but if you do, your support means more to me than you will ever imagine.
Since we are very adamant about trying to give you a leveling experience that lies as close to your endgame playstyle as possible, we will be providing you a way to level up with Vortex. If you are looking for the most optimal way to level a character to maps, 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.
In order to level this build as a Vortex build, you need to make your way to level 28 to be able to use the gem.
Getting to Brutus & Merveil
For starters, create a Witch in whichever league you want to start. Optionally create a Scion and run to town to store an Onslaught Support for your Witch. She does not get access to Onslaught until Act 3 Library.
Make sure you have two wands at all times while leveling for that extra chunk of Damage! Get a second one off of the vendor at Level 1 if you didn’t get one from Hillock. Use the following setup to kill Hailrake.
After killing Brutus, you will be adding an Added Lightning Damage Support to your Frost Bomb. If you have a spare Orb of Transmutation you can add a Trap and Mine Damage Support to Explosive Trap too.
Level 12 and Onwards Setup
From level 12, after killing Merveil, you’ll be setting up for your road to level 28. It might be a little rough for some bosses, but you should eventually be fine with this setup.
Swapping to Vortex
When you reach level 28, you’re pretty much just going to try and get to your late game gem setup as fast as possible. Make sure to run at least a 4-Linked Vortex:
Additionally, fit whatever you can fit in your sockets from your late game setups such as Frost Bomb, Frostbite and Malevolence.