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Ball Lightning Archmage Hierophant Build

Ball Lightning Archmage Hierophant Build

One of the strongest Spell Caster builds in Path of Exile based on self-casting massively buffed Ball Lightning

Ball Lightning
Archmage Hierophant Build

Updated for Patch 3.11

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Guide notes
July 18, 2020
-Guide created


Archmage is a Support Gem which defines a number of Spell Caster builds. It's oriented on maximizing Mana pool, Lightning Spell Damage, and in most cases, Energy Shield (as it's easier to boost Energy Shield when you have high Maximum Mana). Archmage Support is the single-best Support Gem in terms of how much it can increase your Skill's DPS so if build correctly, it simply outperforms any other Gem in the game. For Archmage, you will usually want to go Hierophant as it's the class that offers the highest bonuses to Maximum Mana and Energy Shield, making it easy to build properly without excessive expenses on end-game equipment and Uniques. This build utilizes Ball Lightning as it's one of the top Lightning Spells, has high effectiveness of Added Damage (considering how it periodically zaps enemies with high frequency) and overall, allows you to take down Bosses on Tier 15 Maps with a single Spell Cast (quite a feast currently). 

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1. Gameplay

This is a very straightforward build to play. You Dash around Maps and self-cast Ball Lightning which will trigger several times thanks to the use of Unleash Support Gem. You don't really need to spam it, as all enemies will go down from a single "ball". You should be looking to have your Arcane Cloak up at all times,  or at least have it ready for Bosses, as it boosts your damage significantly, and grants you a protective shield which will absorb damage based on your Mana (similar to Molten Shell and Armour, but with no hard cap). 

0:07 Tier 15 Acid Caverns
0:25 Tier 15 Courthouse
0:43 Tier 15 Courtyard
1:00 Tier 15 Park with Al-Hezmin
1:18 Tier 16 Summit
1:38 Tier 16 Sunken Temple

This video was recorded on a level 91 Hierophant with 12,7k Energy Shield and approximately 480k Ball Lightning DPS. However, we used a Legacy Fevered Mine and Mind of the Council (to replenish the Mana faster because of higher Mana Cost of Spells). You can expect the build to have around 20% less DPS, 2k Energy Shield more, and more consistent Leech from Light Eater.

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2. Build's PROS & CONS

  • insane damage when on all buffs which can take down Bosses on Tier 15 Maps with a single cast
  • very high Energy Shield Pool
  • Top Tier performance without having to spend a ton of Exalted Orbs or getting Mirror-level equipment
  • very good clear speed
  • all content viable
  • requires a number of specific Uniques making it non-viable for SSF play
  • requires refund half of the Passives when you want to switch to the actual build
  • can't do Elemental Reflect Maps


3. Leveling tips

For leveling, we recommend playing with Ball Lightning Totems. It's a much safer and easier route. You will be playing a standard Life/Spell character without having to obtain any specific Uniques while completing the campaign, and the damage from Totems is more than enough to get you through the lower levels. They will also attract your enemies' attention, so you shouldn't die too often either (if not at all). Approximately at level 75 (shortly after you start Maps), you can try respeccing to full Energy Shield and self-casting, but that will most likely require you to have the equipment prepared beforehand.

Suggested leveling Gem setups:

Ball Lightning Totem setup
Ball Lightning Ball Lightning - primary Spell used in this build. During the campaign and leveling, you should have Totems casts it for you
Spell Totem Support Spell Totem Support - allows you to summon Totems which will cast Ball Lightning for you
Added Lightning Damage Support Added Lightning Damage Support - adds a lot of Lightning Damage 
Faster Casting Support Faster Casting Support - allows you to cast Arc much more frequently
Lightning Spire Trap setup
Lightning Spire Trap Lightning Spire Trap - it's your single target skill which can deal solid damage against Bosses even when you are using Ancestral Bond Passive
Faster Casting Support Faster Casting Support - definitely the best gem for Trap. While it might not be noticeable in Path of Building or tooltip DPS, it is the highest Damage boost, because it increases Lightning Strikes cast frequency
Trap and Mine Damage Support Trap and Mine Damage Support - increases Trap Damage by a lot
Utility Gems
Lightning Golem Summon Lightning Golem - the recommended Golem for this build which increases your Critical Strike Chance
Assassin's Mark Conductivity - perfect Curse for our build because it lowers Lightning Resistance of cursed enemies
Herald of Thunder Herald of Thunder - perfect Herald Spell for leveling that will grant additional Lightning Damage
Flame Dash setup
Flame Dash Flame Dash - recommended mobility Spell
Assassin's Mark Faster Casting - increased casting and movement speed of Flame Dash


We recommend helping Alira for increased Critical Strike Multiplier and Elemental Resistances. It's also reasonable to kill all the Bandits for two additional Passives

Leveling Skill Trees:

35 Points Skill Tree
Priorities: 1) Light of Divinity 2) Ancestral Bond 3) Quick Recovery 4) Shamanistic Fury

62 Points Skill Tree
Priorities: 1) Shaman's Dominion 2) Cruel Preparation 3) Heart and Soul 4) Lightning Walker 5) Purity of Flesh

Level 70+ Skill Tree
You should have level 75+ at the point where you switch to self-casting Ball Lightning and Energy Shield (or higher if you don't have all the gear ready). This Tree does not include Cluster Jewel(s)  but assumes you have 10+ Points spent there as well

Level 70+ Skill Tree
This is what you should have after you refund your Passives and switch to Energy Shield. This Tree does not include Cluster Jewels and has 6 Points free to allocate all the Passives from Thread of Hope that's recommended for this build (Lightning Walker, Light Eater, Heart of Thunder, Utmost Intellect etc.)

Recommended leveling items:

Malachai's Simula Malachai's Simula - great leveling Helmet for Lightning Builds. If you wear it, then you should not use any Aura or Heralds for leveling
(15-30)% increased Spell Damage
+20 to Strength
(20-30)% increased Lightning Damage
+10% to Lightning Resistance
Blood Magic
Axiom PerpetuumAxiom Perpetuum - one of the best leveling weapons for Spell Casters in PoE. It grants very high added damage to Spells and extra Crit
12% increased Elemental DamageAdds (2-3) to (5-6) Fire Damage to Spells
Adds (2-3) to (5-6) Cold Damage to Spells
Adds 1 to (10-12) Lightning Damage to Spells
(4-6)% increased Cast Speed
(100-140)% increased Critical Strike Chance for Spells
Stone of LazhwarStone of Lazhwar - grants a lot of Chance to Block Spell Damage and Cast Speed, which increases both Arc and Lightning Spire Trap Damage
(12-15)% Chance to Block Spell Damage
(10-15)% increased Cast Speed
+(30-50) to maximum Mana
Le Heup of AllLe Heup of All - perfect choice for the whole leveling process, it's recommended to use it on both ring slots
(10-30)% increased Damage
+(10-30) to all Attributes
(10-30)% increased Rarity of Items found
+(10-30)% to all Elemental Resistances
Trolltimber SpireTrolltimber Spire - grants high bonus Life and Life Leech. If you are using Malachai's Simula, it will help you replenish Life quickly that's spent to cast your Spells
+(20-30) to maximum Life
(130-150)% increased Armour
+(40-60) to maximum Life
You and your Totems Regenerate 0.5% of Life per second for each Summoned Totem
15% increased Area of Effect for Skills used by Totems
0.5% of Damage dealt by your Totems is Leeched to you as Life


4. Final Skill Tree, Ascendancy Points, and Pantheon

Final Skill Tree:

113-116 Points Final Skill Tree
113-116 Points Path of Building(PoB) link

(the exact number of Points allocated depends on the Cluster Jewels you managed to get)

Ascendancy points:

Preferably in that order:

  1. Pursuit of Faith
  2. Ritual of Awakening
    (these two have to be refunded when you switch to Energy Shield, and you need to pick Divine Guidance and Sanctuary of Thought in their stead)
  3. Illuminated Devotion
  4. Arcane Blessing


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] Ball Lightning setup
Ball Lightning Ball Lightning - your main all-purpose Spell which deals massive damage to all enemies it passes through when it's fully buffed by Archmage Support and Arcane Cloak
Archmage Support Archmage Support - adds a lot of Lightning Damage based on the amount of Mana Spent to Cast Support Spells. It's the single-best DPS Support Gem in the game and the build-defining one
Arcane Surge Arcane Surge Support - grants very high bonus Spells Damage, Mana Regeneration Rate, and Cast Speed. Since Ball Lightning's Mana Cost is very high, you will get Arcane Surge with each cast
Unleash Support Unleash Support - accumulates charges and when you finally cast your linked Spell, it will repeat several times for each charge accumulated allowing you to dish out insane burst damage against Bosses when fully loaded
Slower Projectiles Support Slower Projectiles Support - reduces Ball Lightning's travel speed, which lets it hit each enemy more times
Lightning Penetration Support Lightning Penetration Support - your enemies have lower Lightning Resistance
[UTILITY] Flame Dash/Arcane Cloak
Flame Dash Flame Dash - recommended Movement Spell for this build. It allows you to travel faster and avoid big attacks
Arcane Cloak Arcane Cloak - a must-have Guard Spell for this build which removes a portion of your current Mana to grant protective shield and extra added Lightning Damage based on the Mana removed that way
Increased Duration Support Increased Duration Support - increases the duration of Arcane Cloak buff
Second Wind Support Second Wind Support - allows you to carry additional use of Brand Recall and reduces its' Cooldown Recovery Speed
[UTILITY] Curses setup
Conductivity Conductivity - main Curse, which reduces enemies' Lightning Resistance. Will be applied automatically by Storm Brand
Curse on Hit Curse on Hit Support/Awakened Curse on Hit Support - makes Storm Brand apply linked Curse or Curses
Storm Brand Storm Brand - applies your linked Curse or Curses. It has very good AoE and cast frequency making it perfect for the job
Elemental Weakness Elemental Weakness - if you manage to get Awakened Curse on Hit, you can use a second Curse here, and that would be Elemental Weakness
[AURA] Wrath
(Socketed in Prism Guardian)
Wrath Wrath - increases Lightning Damage. Like all the other Auras in this setup, it has to be socketed in Prism Guardian so that it reserves your Life instead of Mana
Discipline Discipline - increases your Maximum Energy Shield making it a must-have Aura
Zealotry Zealotry - increases your Spell Damage and Spell Critical Strike Chance
[UTILITY] Clarity
Clarity Clarity - use a level 1 Clarity if you have the recommended Watcher's Eye for it. It also slightly increases your Mana Regeneration Rate
[UTILITY] Lightning Golem
Cast when Damage Taken Support Cast when Damage Taken Support - will auto-cast your Golem after you take a certain amount of damage
Summon Lightning Golem Summon Lightning Golem - increases your Attack and Cast Speed while active
[UTILITY] Wave of Conviction, Tempest Shield
(Socketed in Crafted Wand)
Wave of Conviction Wave of Conviction - applies Lightning Exposure to enemies, reducing their Lightning Resistance
Tempest Shield Tempest Shield - increases your Chance to Block and zaps nearby enemies with moderate Lightning Damage
Increased Duration Support Increased Duration Support

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5. Gear Setup

Below you will find the required and recommended equipment for this Ball Lightning Archmage Hierophant build. It includes only the end-game Items which you should have when you switch to Energy Shield/self-cast mode. Up until that point you simply have to focus on random equipment with high Life, Resistances, Lightning Spell Damage and Spell Critical Strike Chance/Multiplier bonuses. You should do the switch before the game gets actually hard, so its' less relevant what you use before that.

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The recommended items from our list will:

  1. Help you cap your Elemental Resistances 
  2. Give you enough DPS, Energy Shield, and Maximum Mana to start mapping successfully

Stat priorities on items:

  1. Energy Shield
  2. Elemental Resistances
  3. Maximum Mana
  4. Intelligence
  5. Spell Damage/Lightning Damage
Rare Helmet(Helmet) Rare Helmet - always a decent option if you are playing a INT/Mana stacking build
Min. requirements:
200 Energy Shield
75 Maximum Mana
Optional affixes:
Elemental Resistances
Mindspiral(Helmet) Mindspiral - the BiS Helmet for this build. It grants very high bonus Mana as well as Energy Shield
(10-15)% increased Cold Damage
(10-15)% increased Lightning Damage
+(100-120) to maximum Mana
Gain (5-10)% of Maximum Mana as Extra Maximum Energy Shield
Enemies Cannot Leech Mana From you
(5-10)% of Damage taken gained as Mana over 4 seconds when Hit
Cannot Leech Mana
Helmet enchantments:
Ball Lightning fires an additional Projectile
Arcane Cloak Spends an additional 15% of current Mana
Rare Wand(Weapon) Rare Wand - it's best to buy a Spell Damage Wand with an open suffix to craft "Trigger Socketed Spell when you use a Skill" which will cast several important Spells for you automatically
Min. requirements:
90% increased Lightning/Spell Damage
140 maximum Mana
Trigger Socketed Spell when you use a Skill
Optional affixes:
increased Cast Speed
Added Lightning Damage to Spells
Prism Guardian(Shield) Prism Guardian - a must-have Item for this build which will allow you to use all main Auras (Wrath, Zealotry, Discipline) by Reserving Life instead
+12% to all Elemental Resistances
+2 to Level of Socketed Aura Gems
Socketed Gems have Blood Magic
Socketed Gems have 25% reduced Mana Reservation
+(20-30) to Dexterity
+25% to all Elemental Resistances
The Ivory Tower(Body Armour) The Ivory Tower - a must-have and build-defining Item. Similar to Shavronne's Wrappings, it allows you to play Low-Life because of how high your Mana Pool is. It also grants a lot of Mana, Energy Shield, and Intelligence
+(40-70) to Intelligence
+30 to maximum Energy Shield per 100 Reserved Life
+(80-100) to maximum Mana
Regenerate 2% of Energy Shield per second
Chaos Damage is taken from Mana before Life
Amulet(Amulet) Rare Amulet - can get tons of Mana if you can invest a bit more Currency in it
Min. requirements:
15% Maximum Energy Shield
60 Maximum Mana
Optional affixes:
Maximum Mana%
+1 to Level of All Lightning Gems
+1 to Level of All Intelligence Gems
Atziri's Foible(Amulet) Atziri's Foible - one of the best Amulets you can pick for this build. It's also very cheap compared to the Rare one but grants higher bonus Mana and Mana Regeneration Rate
(20-30)% increased Mana Regeneration Rate
+100 to maximum Mana
(16-24)% increased maximum Mana
(80-100)% increased Mana Regeneration Rate
Items and Gems have 25% reduced Attribute Requirements
Recommended Anointments:
Rare RingRare Ring(Ring) Rare Rings - just aim for high Mana, Energy Shield, and Elemental Resistances. It's also a good spot to get some Attributes for Items' requirements
Min. requirements:
40 Energy Shield
60 Maximum Mana
Optional affixes:
Elemental Resistances
increased Lightning/Spell Damage
Skyforth(Boots) Skyforth - the best pair of Boots you can use for this build. It grants very high bonus Mana and Stun Threshold
+(60-120) to maximum Mana
30% increased Movement Speed
25% chance to gain a Power Charge on Critical Strike
6% reduced Mana Reserved
You have no Life Regeneration
Stun Threshold is based on 500% of your Mana instead of Life
Boot enchantment:
16% increased Attack and Cast Speed if you've Killed Recently
Damage Penetrated 10% of Enemy Elemental Resistances if you haven't Killed Recently
Crystal Belt(Belt) Rare Belt - preferable Crystal Belt as it offers the highest Energy Shield, but you as always want to prioritize Maximum Mana here
Min. requirements:
80 Energy Shield
60 Maximum Mana
80% Total Elemental Resistances
Gloves(Gloves) Rare Gloves - mainly for defensive stats and extra Mana
Min. requirements:
150 Energy Shield
50 maximum Mana
80% Total Elemental Resistances
Optional affixes:
Spell Damage
Voidbringer(Gloves) Voidbringer - a great pair of Gloves if you feel comfortable playing with less defensive bonuses. It will increase the Mana Cost of your Ball Lightning, greatly increasing your DPS
+1 to Level of Socketed Elemental Gems
(125-150)% increased Critical Strike Chance for Spells
(180-250)% increased Energy Shield
(80-40)% increased Mana Cost of Skills
+(15-20) Energy Shield gained on Kill
Thread of Hope(Jewels) Thread of Hope - getting this Jewel with a "Large Ring" on it is a must. It will allow you to pick as much as 7 important Passives for this build without connecting them to your Tree (in some cases even 3 or 4 Passives is good enough to use Thread of Hope and here you pretty much double that)
Only affects Passives in <size> Ring
Passives in Radius can be Allocated without being connected to your tree
-(20-10)% to all Elemental Resistances
Allocated Passives:
Light Eater
Heart of Thunder
Utmost Intellect
Arcane Focus
Practical Application
Lightning Walker
Snowforged (optionally if you need the extra Resistances)
Healthy Mind(Jewels) Healthy Mind - socketed right below Melding will grant you very high bonus Mana (approximately 1,000)
(15-20)% increased maximum Mana
Increases and Reductions to Life in Radius are Transformed to apply to Mana at 200% of their value
Cobalt Jewel(Jewels) Rare Jewels - simply get extra Mana and DPS bonuses
Recommended affixes:
increased Maximum Mana
increased Spell Damage/Lightning Damage
Optional affixes:
Maximum Energy Shield
Large Cluster Jewel(Jewels) Large Cluster Jewel - this build should be made with two Large Cluster Jewels. You should aim to get two Scintillating Idea Passives and one Supercharge - which greatly increases your non-crit. damage
Recommended affixes:
1 Added Passive Skill is Scintillating Idea
1 Added Passive Skill is Supercharge
2 Added Passive Skills are Jewel Sockets
Optional affixes:
1 Added Passive Skill is Widespread Destruction
1 Added Passive Skill is Storm Drinker
Small Cluster Jewel(Jewels) Small Cluster Jewel - you should aim to get 4 Small Cluster Jewels which increase your Maximum Mana with one of the two listed Passives
Recommended Passives:
Scintillating Ideas
Will Shaper
Watcher's Eye(Jewels) Watcher's Eye - it's an excellent pick for this build, that can greatly increase your Mana Regeneration while you are affected by Clarity (level 1 is enough)
Recommended bonuses:
Gain (12-18)% of Maximum Mana as Extra Maximum Energy Shield while affected by Clarity
Damage Penetrates (10-15)% Lightning Resistance while affected by Wrath
(40-60)% increased Lightning Damage while affected by Wrath

Cinderswallow Urn(Flask) Cinderswallow Urn - pretty much the best Utility Flask for this build. It grants amazing Mana and Energy Shield Recovery mechanic and Onslaught buff

Recharges 1 Charge when you Consume an Ignited corpse
Enemies Ignited by you during Flask Effect take 10% increased Damage
Recover (1-3)% of Life when you Kill an Enemy during Flask Effect
Recover (1-3)% of Mana when you Kill an Enemy during Flask Effect
Recover (1-3)% of Energy Shield when you Kill an Enemy during Flask Effect
<One Veiled Mod>
Atziri's Promise(Flask) Atziri's Promise - grants very high bonus damage, though if your Lightning Resistance is the highest (uncapped one) you could be better off with Wise Oak instead
+35% to Chaos Resistance
2% of Chaos Damage Leeched as Life during Flask effect
Gain (15-20)% of Physical Damage as Extra Chaos Damage during effect
Gain (10-15)% of Elemental Damage as Extra Chaos Damage during effect
Dying Sun(Flask) Dying Sun - increases the number of your Ball Lightning's projectiles, greatly increasing your damage and clear speed
+50% to Fire Resistance
20% less Fire Damage taken
(-10-10)% increased Charges used
Skills fire 2 additional Projectiles during Flask Effect
(15-25)% increased Area of Effect during Flask Effect
Suggested Rare Flasks:
  1. Experimenter's Quicksilver Flask of Warding (immunity to Curses)
  2. Enduring Eternal Mana Flask of Staunching (immunity to Bleeding)
Cinderswallow UrnAtziri's PromiseDying SunQuicksilver FlaskMana Flask

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