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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
Build updated for Patch 3.2

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Estimated budget: low (200 Chaos Orbs)
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Guide notes
March 3, 2018
-Updated Skill Trees to Patch 3.2
-Added Mind over Matter suppport
-Increased builds defenses with the recent 3.2 buffs to Occultist's Energy Shield
-Added new 3.2 unique items: Greedtrap 

Essence Drain is a projectile-based spell that deals very high damage over time. It deals Chaos damage which is spread to nearby enemies by the Contagion spell for even better area of effect. There are a lot of variants of this build, which can also be used on several different classes. Our suggested build revolves around Occultist Ascendancy class which grants amazing bonuses to Chaos damage and Energy Shield, as well as allows you to use three different types of curses, boosting both your dps and defenses.

This build carries a lot of potential 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 (which currently cost around 50 Chaos Orbs) you should switch it to low-Life variation. It will allow you to use additional auras based on your maximum Life.

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1. Gameplay

This build has quite interesting gameplay mechanics. The Essence Drain is a projectile-based spell, which applies its' debuff only to the first enemy hit. It becomes a necessity to use the Contagion spell, which will spread the ED to all enemies in radius. This combination grants this build extremely potent aoe damage, which is dealt by only 2 Spell casts. Your damage is also further amplified by the use of Wither Spell Totem and Abyssal Cry.

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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
  • very enjoyable build
  • can feel squishy with low Life/ES
  • leveling with it is not as fast as other popular League starter builds
  • it's definitely not one of the no-brainer builds (if you were looking for one)

3. Leveling tips

Leveling as an ED 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 moderately 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 ED debuff to enemies and finish them off with Freezing Pulse (or other spell that you feel comfortable with). Since this build basically 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 main dps spell gem
Void Manipulation Support Void Manipulation Support - increases the chaos damage dealt by your ED dot effect
Controlled Destruction Support Controlled Destruction Support - another decent dps buff
Contagion setup
Contagion Contagion - this spell spreads your ED debuff, 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 - extra Life regeneration
Decoy Totem Decoy Totem - another great defensive spell gem, will taunt nearby enemies

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We recommend killing all bandits for the additional 2 passive points

Leveling skill trees:

33 Points skill tree
Priorities: 1) Deep Wisdom 2) Occultist's Dominion 3) Growth and Decay 4) Entropy

60 Points skill tree
Prorities: 1) Writtnein Blood 2) Athrophy 3) Retribution 4) Amplify 5) Sanctity 6) Mind over Matter

Recommended leveling items:

LifesprigLifesprig - amazing leveling wand, may work farily 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 - this build heavily relies on support gems to inflict proper damage. This is why Tabula Rasa is extremely powerful item starting at level 31 (when a bunch of new support gems become 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 link

Ascendancy points:

Preferably in that order:

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


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 5-6L setup
Essence Drain Essence Drain - your main dps spell. You have to apply it only to one enemy within Contagion area of radius. There is no need to reapply the spell's debuff unless it expires and/or new enemies show up within range
Void Manipulation Support Void Manipulation Support - increases the supported spells chaos damage at a cost of elemental damage. Since this build deals no elemental damage there is no downside to using this gem
Efficacy Support Efficacy Support - direct buffs to both damage of spells and damage over time effects
Swift Affliction Support Swift Affliction Support - another gem used to buff the ED dps
Controlled Destruction Support Controlled Destruction Support - same as above. This is certainly a non-crit build after all
Empower Support Empower Support - great buff to dps, however high level empower may be extremely expensive and/or hard to get
[MOBILITY] Shield Charge setup
Shield Charge Shield Charge - main mobility skill in the dagger/shield build variant
Faster Attacks Support Faster Attacks Support - increases the attack(movement) speed of Shield Charge
Fortify Support Fortify Support - grants defensive buffs on melee hits with your Shield Charge skill
[MOBILITY] Flame Dash setup
(with Staff equipped)
Flame Dash Flame Dash - main mobility skill when using a staff
Faster Casting Support Faster Casting Support
Arcane Surge Support Arcane Surge Support - will increase mana regeneration and spell damage after certain amount of mana is spend on supported skills. It's best to level it up to the point when the buff is activated with every cast of Flame Dash
[UTILITY] Wither Spell Totem setup
Spell Totem Support Spell Totem Support - this skill will spawn a totem that will cast the supported spells (Wither in this particular example)
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 - area spell that deals chaos damage, and spreads you Essence Drain debuff on enemies in radius. A mandatory skill gem for this build
Increased Area of Effect Support Increased Area of Effect Support
Faster Casting Support Faster Casting Support
[CURSES] Tri-Curse Blasphemy setup
Despair Despair - this curse reduced chaos resistance of nearby enemies. If you are low on Mana for Discipline Aura, you can remove Despair from your curse setup, and stick only to the Despair Aura you have while under the effect of Witchfire Brew Flask
Enfeeble Enfeeble - the best defensive curse aura
Temporal Chains Temporal Chains - same as above, grants extra defenses
Blasphemy Support Blasphemy Support - this makes your curse work as Auras around your character. Do not socket it in the Heretic's Veil helmet - it's already provided by this helmet
[AURAS] Blood Magic setup
(for low-Life variation)
Blood Magic Support Blood Magic Support - will make your Auras reserve Life instead of Mana. Used only in low-life builds with Shavronne's Wrappings equipped
Discipline Discipline - grants additional Energy Shield. Discipline is the most important Aura in this build that greatly increases your maximum Energy Shield. If you are playing hybrid, you should remove the Despair curse from your helmet and use Discipline instead (you get the Despair Aura while under the effect of Witchfire Brew Flask)
Arctic Armour Arctic Armour - grants extra physical damage reduction and slows melee attackers
Clarity Clarity - grants extra mana regeneration
[DEFENSIVE] Immortal Call CwDT setup
Cast when Damage Taken Support Cast when Damage Taken Support - will cast supported spells after you take certain amount of damage. Keep it at level 1 for more frequent casting
Immortal Call Immortal Call - grants brief immortality. Keep it below the level of CwDT support gem otherwise it will not cast it for you
Increased Duration Support Increased Duration Support

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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 affixes and their minimum values for each item. We would like to take this opportunity to invite you to visit our Path of Exile marketplace. You can find all types of cheap PoE Orbs in there.

The recommended items from our list will:

  1. Cap your resistances 
  2. Give you enough DPS, Energy Shield and Life to start mapping successfully
  3. Save at least a couple of hours since all the item requirements are listed below

Stat priorities on items:

  1. Energy Shield
  2. Elemental Resistances
  3. Chaos/Spell/Damage over time
  4. Life
  5. 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 ES/Life helmet - good option for the leveling/early mapping phase
Min. requirements:
220 Energy Shield
60 maximum Life
Optional affixes:
Elemental Resistances
Sai(Weapon Slot) Rare Sai crafted with Essence of Delirium  - with increased spell and/or chaos damage, possibly increased cast speed as well. Essence of Deliriums 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 scepter is extremely powerful 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
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Cane of Unravelling(Weapon Slot) Cane of Unravelling - this staff was introduced in patch 3.1's, and it grants amazing dps buffs for this build. Staff variant of this build however is not recommended for beginners.
18% Chance to Block
+2 to Level of Socketed Chaos Gems
(60-80)% increased Chaos Damage
2% increased Cast Speed per Power Charge
Gain a Power Charge after you spend a total of 200 Mana
2 Mana Regenerated per Second per Power Charge
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
Rare ES Armour(Body Armour) Rare ES/res armour - this should be your number one pick untill you can afford Shavronne's Wrappings
Min. requirements:
180 Energy Shield
25% Fire Resistance
25% Lightning Resistance
25% Cold Resistance
Optional affixes:
maximum Life
Death's Oath(Body Armour) Death's Oath - this is also quite interesting body armour for this build. It provides the Death Aura skill that deals chaos damage in a radius around the player. This Aura is affected by some of the support gems that you are using in the ED setup, including Efficacy Support and Void Manipulation Support. This makes the Aura itself rather formidable not to mention all the other bonuses of this unique armour.
5% reduced Movement Speed (Hidden)
+(8-12)% to all Elemental Resistances
Grants Level 20 Death Aura Skill
+(40-50) to all Attributes
(10-15)% increased Attack Speed
(180-220)% increased Armour
+(60-70) to maximum Life
1% of Attack Damage Leeched as Life
You take 450 Chaos Damage per second for 3 seconds on Kill
Gore Footprints
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 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
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Rare boots(Boots) Rare ES/Life/res boots - get pair with the highest maximum stats you can afford
Min. requirements:
50 Energy Shield
40 maximum Life
20% increased Movement Speed
37% Fire Resistance
37% Cold Resistance
Optional affixes:
Lightning Resistance
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 alos provide very decent ES and Movement Speed bonuses. Using this pair of boots may require you to adjust Elemental Resistances on other parts of 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
Chain Belt(Belt) Rare ES/Life/res belt - again, we try to grab one with the highest stats affordable
Min. requirements:
60 maximum Life
35 maximum Energy Shield
35% Fire Resistance
27% Lightning Resistance
35% Cold Resistance
Presence of Chayula(Amulet) Presence of Chayula - best in slot item for this build. Used best only in combination with Shavronne's Wrappings as it will lower your maximum life - this might be deadly when playing as hybrid Life/ES Occultist
+(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
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Rare Amulet(Amulet) Rare ES/res amulet 
Min. requirements:
30 maximum Energy Shield
12% increased maximum Energy Shield
15% All Elemental Resistances
Optional affixes:
maximum Mana
maximum Life
Coral RingCoral Ring(Ring) Rare ES/Life/res rings
Min. requirements:
45 maximum Life
45 maximum Energy Shield
15% All Elemental Resistances
Optional affixes:
increased Chaos Damage
maximum Mana
ES Gloves(Gloves) Rare ES/Life/res gloves - you need to cap your resistances with this item. If this is the last piece you are buying, always check what are you current resistances, and according to it adjust search filters.
Min. requirements:
40 maximum Life
80 Energy Shield
15% Fire resistance
35% Lightning resistance
15% Cold resistance
Optional affixes:
increased Cast Speed
Cobalt Jewel(Jewels) Rare jewels - this should provide extra ES and damage bonuses
Recommended affixes:
% increased maximum Energy Shield
% increased Generic/Chaos/Spell/over time Damage
Optional affixes:
% increased maximum Life
% increased Spell Damage while holding a Shield
% increased Spell Damage while wielding a Staff
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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
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 Onslaugth buff and immunity to several status ailments for the duration
Immune to Freeze, Chill, Curses and Stuns during Flask Effect
60% reduced Duration
Other suggested flasks:
  1. Experimenter's Eternal Mana Flask of Warding (mana rege. and curse immunity)
  2. Perpetual Jade Flask of Staunching (extra evasion and immunity to bleeding)
  3. Ample Quicksilver Flask of Heat (extra mobility and immunity to freeze and chill effects)
Kiara's DeterminationWitchfire BrewEternal Mana FlaskJade FlaskQuicksilver Flask

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