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[3.1]Essence Drain Occultist Starter Build - Odealo's Crafty Guide

[3.1]Essence Drain Occultist Starter Build - Odealo's Crafty Guide

Low Life/ES Based Witch build. It utilizes the powerful damage over time of Essence Drain and Contagion Chaos Spells

Essence Drain
Occultist/Witch build

Updated for Patch 3.6

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Guide notes
March 7, 2019
-Updated for Patch 3.6
Changes in 3.6: 
-Increased Essence Drain damage and the DoT is also applied to enemies in a small radius around the initial Hit
-Energy Shield Leech which makes this build much more convenient to play
-New Passives related to hand-casted spells on the Skill Tree
March 12, 2019
-Added gameplay video

Essence Drain is a projectile-based spell that deals very high Damage over Time. The damaging debuff can be spread further to nearby enemies by the Contagion Spell for an even better area of effect and greatly increased clear speed. There are a lot of variants of this build, which is also very powerful as Life/Hybrid build. Our suggested build revolves around Occultist Ascendancy class which grants terrific bonuses to Chaos damage and Energy Shield, as well as allows you to use three different Curses, boosting both your DPS and defenses. The damage of Essence Drain has been greatly increased in Patch 3.6 making this build even more powerful. On top of increasing its' damage, the skill no longer applies it's debuff to the first enemy hit, but also to targets around it. This makes the use of Contagion Spell optional, however, you will surely find it helpful when farming and leveling.

This build carries a lot of potentials as a League starter build. It will allow you to start mapping with literally no unique item requirements, while most of the end game gear can be still fairly easy to obtain. It is suggested to level up and start mapping with ED Occultist as a hybrid Life/ES character. After you can afford Shavronne's Wrappings, you should switch it to the Low-Life variation. It will allow you to use additional Auras that by using Blood Magic Support Gem will reserve your Life instead.

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1. Gameplay

This build has quite unique gameplay mechanics. The Essence Drain is a projectile-based spell, which applies its' debuff to the first enemy hit and other enemies in a small radius around it. You can use your Contagion Spell first, which will cause the DoT to spread in a wider area, greatly enhancing clear speed. This combination grants this build very solid AoE damage, which is triggered with only two Spell casts. Your damage can be further amplified by the use of Wither Spell Totem and Abyssal Cry.

0:06 Tier 14 Crimson Temple
0:34 Tier 13 Colosseum
1:03 Tier 14 Palace
1:36 Tier 15 Shaped Belfry

This video was recorded on a level 89 Occultist with Breath of the Council and Heretic's Veil equipped

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2. Build's PROS & CONS

  • high Damage over Time with good AoE
  • good as a League starter build - with no unique items required to start mapping effectively
  • end-game viable with proper gear adjustments
  • good clear speed
  • immunity to reflect mods
  • provides interesting gameplay mechanics and a very enjoyable playstyle
  • can feel squishy before you transition fully into Energy Shield
  • slow leveling
  • it's not one of the no-brainer builds

3. Leveling tips

Leveling this Essence Drain Occultist is not as smooth as other popular League starter classes. You should start off by using Freezing Pulse (or any other spell of choice - after all the early levels are easy with anything you decide to pick up) and swap it to Essence Drain as you get it at level 12. This is when you reach Merveil's Cavern. At this point, you will have to apply the Essence Drain debuff to enemies and finish them off with Freezing Pulse (or other spells that you feel comfortable with). Since this build requires more links in your main DPS setup than other builds, it is advised to invest in Tabula Rasa.

Suggested leveling Gem setups:

Essence Drain setup
Essence Drain Essence Drain - your primary DPS Spell Gem
Void Manipulation Support Void Manipulation Support - increases the Chaos Damage dealt with supported skills
Controlled Destruction Support Controlled Destruction Support - grants very high Spell Damage at the cost of reduced Crit. Chance
Contagion setup
Contagion Contagion - this spell spreads your Essence Drain's DoT, as well as deals additional chaos damage
Increased Area of Effect Support Increased Area of Effect Support
Faster Casting Support Faster Casting Support
Utility Gems
Stone Golem Stone Golem - grants extra Life Regeneration
Decoy Totem Decoy Totem - another useful defensive Spell Gem. It will spawn a Totem which taunts nearby enemies
Despair Despair - recommended Curse for this build which increases the Damage over Time cursed enemies receive

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We recommend killing all the Bandits for two additional Passive Points

Leveling Skill Trees:

31 Points Skill Tree 
Priorities: 1) Occultist's Dominion 2) Deep Wisdom 3) Growth and Decay 4) Entropy

59 Points Skill Tree
Priorities: 1) Written in Blood 2) Atrophy 3) Retribution 4) Sanctity 5) Mind over Matter

Recommended leveling items:

LifesprigLifesprig - amazing leveling wand, may work fairly well for at least 40 levels
(8-12)% increased Spell Damage
+1 to Level of Socketed Spell Gems
(20-28)% increased Spell Damage
(5-8)% increased Cast Speed
+(15-20) to maximum Life
+(15-20) to maximum Mana
Regenerate (6-8) Life over 1 second when you Cast a Spell
WanderlustWanderlust - great leveling pair of boots. Grant movement speed, and the quite important for this build's defenses, energy shield
+5 to Dexterity
(20-40)% increased Mana Regeneration Rate
+(10-20) to maximum Energy Shield
20% increased Movement Speed
Cannot be Frozen
GoldrimGoldrim - the best leveling helmet in Path of Exile. It might be expensive early in a new League, but as soon as you can afford one it's totally worth it
+(30-50) to Evasion Rating
10% increased Rarity of Items found
+(30-40)% to all Elemental Resistances
Reflects 4 Physical Damage to Melee Attackers
Level Requirement reduced by 100 (Hidden)
Tabula RasaTabula Rasa - Essence Drain builds heavily rely on Support Gems to inflict proper damage. This is why Tabula Rasa is an extremely powerful item starting at level 31 (when a bunch of new Support Gems becomes available)
3% reduced Movement Speed (Hidden)
Item has no level requirement and Energy Shield (Hidden)
Item has 6 White Sockets and is fully linked (Hidden)



4. Final Skill Tree, Ascendancy Points, and Pantheon

Final Skill Tree:

116 Points Final Skill Tree 
116 Points Path of Building (PoB) link

Ascendancy points:

Preferably in that order:

  1. Wicked Ward
  2. Vile Bastion
  3. Profane Bloom
  4. Malediction


Major God: Soul of Lunaris 1% additional Physical Damage Reduction for each nearby Enemy, up to 8%; 1% increased Movement Speed for each nearby Enemy, up to 8%

Minor God: Soul of Gruthkul 1% additional Physical Damage Reduction for each Hit you've taken Recently up to a maximum of 5%

5. Final Gems links

[DPS] Essence Drain setup
Essence Drain Essence Drain - your main DPS spell. You have to apply it only to one enemy within Contagion's area of radius
Void Manipulation Support Void Manipulation Support - increases Chaos Damage to supported skills
Efficacy Support Efficacy Support - increases both Spell Damage and Damage over Time
Swift Affliction Support Swift Affliction Support - another Gem used to buff the ED's DoT
Controlled Destruction Support Controlled Destruction Support - greatly increases supported skills' Spell Damage. Since Damage over Time cannot Crit. there is no downside from using this Support Gem
Energy Leech Support Energy Leech Support - one of the best Support Gems introduced in Patch 3.6. On top of granting Spell Energy Leech, it also grants insane damage bonuses
[MOBILITY] Flame Dash
Flame Dash Flame Dash - a decent movement Spell that will grant you the Arcane Surge buff whenever you use it
Arcane Surge Support Arcane Surge Support - grants increased Spell Damage and Mana Regen. when you use Flame Dash. Keep this Gem at level 6
[UTILITY] Wither Spell Totem setup
Spell Totem Support Spell Totem Support - this skill will let you summon a Totem that will cast the supported spells
Wither Wither - it will slow affected enemies, as well as increase the Chaos Damage they take
Faster Casting Support Faster Casting Support
[UTILITY] Abyssal Cry + Contagion setup
Abyssal Cry Abyssal Cry - applies the Hinder debuff to affected enemies, which causes them to explode upon death, dealing 8% of their maximum Life as Chaos Damage to nearby enemies
Contagion Contagion - AoE spell that deals Chaos Damage, and spreads you Essence Drain DoT effect on all enemies in radius
Increased Area of Effect Support Increased Area of Effect Support
Faster Casting Support Faster Casting Support
[CURSE] Tri-Curse Blasphemy setup
Despair Despair - this curse reduced Chaos Resistance of nearby enemies
Enfeeble Enfeeble - the best defensive Curse in Path of Exile
Temporal Chains Temporal Chains - same as above, grants extra defenses
Blasphemy Support Blasphemy Support - this makes your Curses work as Auras around your character. There is no need to socket it in the Heretic's Veil helmet
[AURAS] Blood Magic setup
Blood Magic Support Blood Magic Support - will make your Auras reserve Life instead of Mana
Discipline Discipline - grants additional Energy Shield. Discipline is an extremely important defensive Aura in this build
Clarity Clarity - grants extra Mana Regeneration. Adjust Clarity's level depending on your Maximum Life
[GOLEM] Lightning Golem
Summon Lightning Golem Summon Lightning Golem - increases your Cast and Attack Speed
Cast when Damage Taken Support Cast when Damage Taken Support - will auto-cast your Golem

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5. Gear Setup

In this section, both the budget-friendly and end-game items are included. We have also provided the required stats for each item.

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The recommended items from our list will:

  1. Cap your resistances 
  2. Give you enough Energy Shield and DPS to start mapping

Stat priorities on items:

  1. Energy Shield
  2. Elemental Resistances
  3. Chaos Damage/Spell Damage/Damage over Time 
  4. Cast Speed
Heretic's Veil(Helmet) Heretic's Veil - one of the best in slot items for this build. Will help you equip three different curses
+(40-50) to maximum Energy Shield
(90-110)% increased Evasion and Energy Shield
+1 to Level of Socketed Curse Gems
Socketed Curse Gems are Supported by Level 22 Blasphemy
Socketed Curse Gems have 12% reduced Mana Reservation
Rare Helmet(Helmet) Rare Helmet - a good option for the leveling/early mapping phase. It will not allow you to use three Curses though
Min. requirements:
220 Energy Shield
Optional affixes:
Elemental Resistances
Helmet enchantment:
40% increased Essence Drain Damage
Sai(Weapon Slot) Rare Sai - crafted with Essence of Delirium, with an increased Spell and Chaos Damage, possibly increased Cast Speed as well. The essence of Delirium guarantees the following attribute on the crafted item: "Your Hits inflict Decay, dealing 500 Chaos Damage per second for 8 seconds"
Min. requirements:
50% increased Spell/Chaos Damage
Optional affixes:
increased Cast speed
maximum Mana
Elemental Resistances
Breath of the Council(Weapon Slot) Breath of the Council - this unique mace is mighty for this build. It is rather expensive and rare though, and might not be easily obtainable early in new leagues
32% increased Elemental Damage
(260-310)% increased Physical Damage
(80-100)% increased Chaos Damage
10% increased Area of Effect
40% increased Chaos Skill Effect Duration
Rathpith Globe(Weapon Slot) Rathpith Globe - good and inexpensive ES/Spell Damage shield. You can always replace this item with a rare piece with possibly better stats (and higher price)
3% reduced Movement Speed (Hidden)
(40-60)% of Block Chance applied to Spells
(40-60)% increased Spell Damage
10% increased maximum Life
(120-160)% increased Energy Shield
+25% to Lightning Resistance
Shavronne's Wrappings(Body Armour) Shavronne's Wrappings - the best in slot item for this build (the low-life variant). It is rather expensive, but worth every bit of it. It allows you to use a few additional auras with Blood Magic Support Gem and makes you benefit from the Pain Attunement passive
3% reduced Movement Speed (Hidden)
(3-10)% increased Spell Damage
(100-150)% increased Energy Shield
10% faster start of Energy Shield Recharge
+(30-40)% to Lightning Resistance
Reflects 1 to 250 Lightning Damage to Melee Attackers
Chaos Damage does not bypass Energy Shield
Rare boots(Boots) Rare Boots - get a pair with the highest maximum defensive stats you can afford
Min. requirements:
120 Energy Shield
25% increased Movement Speed
39% Fire Resistance
39% Cold Resistance
Optional affixes:
Greedtrap(Boots) Greedtrap - new Fated Unique item introduced in patch 3.2. It increases the Quantity of Items found, which greatly helps you accumulate wealth while farming low and mid-tier maps. They also provide very decent Energy Shield and Movement Speed bonuses. Using this pair of boots may require you to adjust Elemental Resistances on other parts of the gear
+7 to Strength
+9 to Dexterity
+10 to Intelligence
+108 to maximum Energy Shield
12% increased Quantity of Items found when on Low Life
20% increased Movement Speed
Boot enchantment:
Adds 120 to 180 Chaos Damage if you've taken a Critical Strike Recently
Stygian Vise(Belt) Rare Belt - again, we try to grab one with the highest defensive stats
Min. requirements:
40 Strength
45 maximum Energy Shield
44% Lightning Resistance
32% Cold Resistance
Presence of Chayula(Amulet) Presence of Chayula - best in the slot amulet for this build
+(10-16) to all Attributes
30% increased Rarity of Items found
+60% to Chaos Resistance
Cannot be Stunned
20% of Maximum Life Converted to Energy Shield
Rare Amulet(Amulet) Rare Amulet 
Min. requirements:
30 maximum Energy Shield
12% increased maximum Energy Shield
15% All Elemental Resistances
Optional affixes:
maximum Mana
maximum Life
Coral Ring(Ring) Rare Ring
Min. requirements:
25 maximum Energy Shield
40 maximum Mana
35 Dexterity
25% Fire Resistance
13% All Elemental Resistances 
Optional affixes:
Mana gained on Kill
Coral Ring(Ring) Rare Ring
Min. requirements:
45 maximum Energy Shield
40 maximum Mana
25% increased Mana Regeneration rate
25% Fire Resistance
10% All Elemental Resistances 
Optional affixes:
ES Gloves(Gloves) Rare Gloves - you should alter the required Resistances to cap them with this pair of gloves
Min. requirements:
120 Energy Shield
40 maximum Mana
33% Fire resistance
33% Cold resistance
Optional affixes:
increased Spell Damage
Cobalt Jewel(Jewels) Rare Jewels - this should provide extra ES and damage bonuses
Recommended affixes:
increased maximum Energy Shield
increased Chaos Damage/Spell Damage/Damage over Time
Optional affixes:
Hypnotik Abyss Jewel(Jewels) Abyss Jewels - you should use at least one Abyss Jewel for the Hinder on Spell Hit effect
Recommended affixes:
maximum Energy Shield
Added Chaos Damage to Spells
Added Chaos Damage to Spells while holding a Shield
Chance to Hinder enemies on Hit with Spells 
Optional affixes:
Mana Regenerated per second
Witchfire Brew(Flask) Witchfire Brew - mandatory Flask for this build. It increases your Damage over Time by up to 40% during Flask effect. It also grants Despair Curse Aura on use which means you could skip this Gem in your curses' setup and have higher unreserved Mana pool
100% increased Evasion Rating
Creates a Smoke Cloud on Use
50% increased Charges used
(25-40)% increased Damage Over Time during Flask Effect
Grants Level 21 Despair Curse Aura during Flask Effect
Kiara's Determination(Flask) Kiara's Determination - provides the Onslaught buff and immunity to 4 different status ailments for the duration
Immune to Freeze, Chill, Curses and Stuns during Flask Effect
60% reduced Duration
Other suggested flasks:
  1. Perpetual Quartz Flask of Staunching (immunity to Bleeding)
  2. Ample Sulphur Flask of Heat (immunity to Freeze)
  3. Experimenter's Quicksilver Flask of Adrenaline (increased Movement Speed)
Kiara's DeterminationWitchfire BrewQuartz FlaskSulphur FlaskQuicksilver Flask

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Pictures used in this article are the intellectual property of Grinding Gear Games.