The new Affliction Challenge League has finally arrived and it brings many exciting changes alongside it. This expansion features an unusual amount of meta shakeup, which is very much welcome in a pretty stale environment. We won't get much into the details of the content of this update in this guide, but you should know that all existing alternative gem variants and various labyrinth enchants are now gone, replaced by transfigured skill gems. We don't know all the details yet, but it looks very promising for completely new builds to arise.
On top of that, the new League Mechanic also looks like a ton of fun. The gameplay impact it brings should affect all kinds of Builds, but the balance of monsters and their rewards can be a bit rough at first. Regardless of how impactful the new Affliction mechanics will become, the core gameplay for starting the new league stays the same. You will need to unlock all Maps in the Atlas and defeat some Bosses. The ways to generate Currency are quite limited, so you should pick a Starting Build that doesn't need any particular investments to comfortably accomplish those goals. All Builds on this list are capable of achieving that, so pick the one you will enjoy playing the most!
With that being said, let's explore our recommended Builds for the upcoming Affliction League!
Note: not all the builds are updated for Patch 3.23, but they all are in a state which will allow you to get started while we work on updating them
|SENTINEL OF RADIANCE GUARDIAN
Our first recommendation is the Minion Build that primarily uses Sentinel of Radiance, an exclusive Guardian Minion. It feels almost like a cheat code, as you can trivialize all content with bare minimum Gear. The Sentinel casts a wide AoE Burning Aura and delivers heavy Hits. The only limitation here is his slow Movement Speed, which you can bypass with the Convocation Spell. Your Movement, however, is pretty great, as the Spiritual Command grants tons of Attack Speed for your Shield Charge, which makes the early Map progression very fast. The Damage starts to slow down as you approach Red Maps, but with the help of other Minion setups and more investments, you can tackle all content. The generic investments into the Minion Damage allow you to incorporate any Minion type you desire. It is also a very defensive-orientated Build, as you will have lots of Armour, a decent chance to Block incoming Damage, and great Life Recovery. You also redirect 20% of Damage Taken to your Sentinel.
For the full Guide, you can check: Sentinel of Radiance Guardian
|LIGHTNING TRAP ASSASSIN
The Lightning Trap is a heavily underused Trap Skill. It has one of the best Clear Speed of all Traps thanks to the massive amounts of Projectiles fired in every direction. The Returning Projectiles Support Gem, or potentially a new Transfigured Gem variant, can be used for even more Damage and Clear Speed at the same time. There are many ways to build around this Skill, but the Assassin is the best choice for low-investment situations. It grants tons of Damage and covers your Critical Strike Chance, so you won't get stuck at lower Maps. The nearly guaranteed maximum effect of Shocks on your Enemies also helps with that. It is quite squishy at first, but the fast-paced gameplay and easily capped Spell Suppression are good enough to comfortably clear the Atlas. You are also immune to all negative Map modifiers, which makes it an excellent choice for the first character. As you invest more into the Build, you can easily drop some of the Damage to get more defenses, or even change the Ascendency to the famously tanky Trickster.
For the Guide please check: Lightning Trap Assassin Starter
|ATZIRI'S RULE SABOTEUR
It can be somewhat controversial to include a Build that relies on certain Unique Items to function, but considering it cost around 5 Chaos Orbs on day 2 of the Ancestral League, we feel it can be easily justified. The Passive Tree is good enough for most Spell Casters, so the Campaign shouldn't be that big of a problem. Once you pick up the Atziri's Staff, you are ready to crush the end-game. Being Immune to Reflected Damage is a great asset while completing the Maps for your Atlas. You also don't need to worry about Linking it, which saves a lot of effort at the beginning of the League. The Saboteur is a great choice here, as Cooldown Recovery is quite hard to obtain without bigger investments. The Triggerbots have great synergy with the Queen's Demand Spell, improving both the Clear Speed and Single Target Damage. Our suggested end-game Setup uses the Abyss Uniques to further boost your Elemental Damage and improve Mana Reservation Efficiency, but by any means, it is not required for the Build to function.
Full Guide: Atziri's Rule Saboteur
|TRINITY MOLTEN STRIKE CHAMPION
The first Melee Build on this List, the Trinity Molten Strike Champion. It is a simple, tanky, and reliable Build, with minimum risk involved. The Champion Ascendency is famous for its durability, and the Molten Strike is the current king of single-target Melee Skills due to overlapping Projectiles, without much compromises on the AoE. If you dislike this Skill, you can easily adjust the Build for any other Melee Skill, the Passive Tree is very flexible. It still faces the same downsides of all Melee Builds - you have to use Ancestral Totems to max out your Damage, and most of the Boss Attack patterns are heavily disfavourable for Melee fighters. The Rakiata's Dance is confirmed to be included in the Core game, but its rarity is uncertain. Fortunately, with the Trinity setup, you have a lot of freedom when it comes to your Weapon of choice, and most Enemies don't have that much Resistance to begin with. It can be on the slower side of the spectrum without bonuses to Attack Speed or Additional Targets for your Strike Skills, but it will quickly catch up as you start to invest more Currency into the Build.
Full Guide can be found here: Trinity Molten Strike Champion
|GLACIAL HAMMER SLAYER
And if you dislike the dependency on your Weapon, you should check our Guide for the Trauma Glacial Hammer Slayer. All your Damage comes from the Trauma Support, the Weapon is used more like a Stat-stick. The Glacial Hammer is used for its Built-in Damage Conversion and powerful Freeze on every third Hit, but just as in the previous Build, it can be adjusted for any Melee Skill that can be used with Axe, Mace, or Staff. The Cold Element is preferred, as you can use the Heatshiver for even more Damage, and the Freeze is a powerful defensive layer. Even after the Nerf this Helmet is absurdly strong for a single piece of equipment, and will probably see a reduction in its price. The Build, however, is very tanky even without the Freeze, as you simply have to build it that way to mitigate the Damage coming from Trauma. It is not as durable as Juggernaut, but the Slayer Ascendency provides a lot more Damage so you don't have to wait that long for the Damage ramp-up. With the Damage Taken conversion available on the Lightning Coil and Dawnbreaker Shield, and lots of Endurance Charges, you will have more than enough Damage Reduction to freely stack Trauma. Unfortunately, it also shares the downsides of previous Build. You don't have to always use Ancestral Totems, but the Damage bonus from having them is simply too great to ignore during Boss encounters.
Full Guide can be found here: Glacial Hammer Slayer
|VENOM GYRE DEADEYE
If you prefer to stay at range, Venom Gyre Deadeye is just for you! It is a very powerful Build that excels at quickly Clearing the Maps, but the Single Target Damage is also good thanks to its unique interaction with Whirling Blades. Thanks to the Buff it received in this Patch you can now store up to 40 of the returning Projectiles and release them all at once when you use Whirling Blades. When used directly on top of your Enemy, it will be Hit by all of them, resulting in an insane amount of Damage. The Build is not as tanky as the previous ones, but it simply doesn't have to. You will kill most Enemies before they can even notice you, and the decent amount of Armour and Evasion Rating paired with capped Spell Suppression is sufficient enough for the remaining scenarios. The insane amount of Life recovered with every Hit is also not to be understated. The initiate chance to Block from your Shield and insane Attack Speed with your Whirling Blades will keep you away from danger too. This Build also uses Ancestral Protector to boost your Attack Speed significantly, but it is not as intrusive as the double Totem setup of the Melee Builds.
Full Guide: Venom Gyre Deadeye
EXSANGUINATE COC POISON ASSASSIN
The Cast on Critical Strike is certainly a powerful archetype, but it is usually quite hard to accomplish on a low Budget, as you have to invest in many different aspects. This Build, however, is quite different. The Ungils Harmony Amulet grants you up to 400% Critical Strike Chance but disables any Critical Strike Multiplier, which doesn't work that well with the usual CoC Build. Here, you can completely ignore the downside, and enjoy the massive amounts of investments you just skipped with a single Amulet. The Assassin is a very good Ascendency for Poisons, but the regular variants are often overshadowed by the Pathfinders. As you invest in Critical Strikes anyway, you can benefit from powerful but underutilized modifiers for Critical Poisons, which gives the Assassin an upper hand. The Damage may not be as good as highly optimized self-cast variants, but it is the simplicity of Spinning-to-win that catches the hearts of many players. The playstyle is very comfortable, and you rarely have to break the flow in order to Cast a Debuff. The Physical Damage over Time of the Exsanguinate is not that great but is enough to cover up the usual ramp-up of the Poison Build.
Full Guide can be found here: Exsanguinate Poison Assassin
|ENERGY BLADE COC INQUISITOR
The Inquisitor is another great Ascendency that can start using the Cast on Critical Strike setup in a League-starting scenario. Here most of your Damage comes from the Energy Blade, and more specifically, the Battlemage and Spell Blade effects that transfer its Damage to any Spell of your liking. The Energy Blade is an Aura that reduces your Energy Shield but creates a powerful Weapon, whose Damage is based on said Energy Shield, so your goal here is to acquire as much Energy Shield as possible. The Critical Strike Chance is not as easy to manage as the previous Build, but thanks to the insane scaling with your Attributes, it can still be achieved on a rather low budget. The remaining aspects of this Build also hyper-scale with your Attributes as well. The Strength increases your Spell Damage, maximum Life, and Energy Shield, while Intelligence further improves the Energy Shield and covers the Accuracy Rating. It also grants you enough flat Mana to not worry about your Spell Costs. Even though it is an attribute stacking build, it is not as restrictive as others of this type. Even a single bonus on each of your gear pieces will be good enough at the start, and you will need a support gem to further boost the critical strike chance. That being said, the start is a bit rough compared to other Builds on this list, but it is still easily manageable if you are familiar with game mechanics, so we wouldn't recommend it if you are completely new to the game.
Full Guide: Energy Blade CoC Inquisitor
ARC IGNITE ELEMENTALIST
The Arc is a very popular and cherished Spell, but its weak single-target Damage makes it somewhat problematic at League start, especially if your desired farming strategy includes farming Bosses. Here this problem is resolved by using Ignite, but that's not all. In this setup, we use the easy-to-acquire Unique Cadigan's Crown to gain the Battlemage and source all our Damage from the equipped Bow. If it's not available, you can also use Nycta's Lantern and Spell Blade Support instead, but it shouldn't be a problem anyway. For the purposes of defeating the campaign, the build is no different than any other Ignite Build, so expect no surprises here. The reason behind this setup is that Bows can provide tons of base Elemental Damage, and thanks to the Shaper of Flames all Damage counts towards the Ignite. It can also grant a lot of Damage over Time Multiplier, so it doesn't fall behind a regular Weapon anyway. You can also use the Unique Quiver to automate Frenzy generation, as well as apply Combustion debuff or Cull Enemies. The Spell of choice is also easy to adjust - we chose Arc for its amazing Clear Speed, but if you value pure Single-target Damage, the Flameblast is simply insane. The defenses are quite lacking, as you don't have access to Shield or Leech, but thanks to the powerful Chill and consistent nature of Damage over Time-based playstyle, it is not that bad.
Full Guide: Arc Ignite Elementalist
|FREEZING PULSE TOTEM HIEROPHANT
The Totems are historically one of the best archetypes to choose for starting the new League. The reason for that is simple - they offer insane Damage even at the lowest investment, and the playstyle is very safe regardless of your defenses. This Freezing Pulse Hierophant is a great example of it - with just basic Items you can easily farm Tier 16 Maps, and as you acquire more wealth, and swap the Active Gem to the Ice Spear, it becomes one of the best Boss Killing Builds in the game. Don't worry, the Freezing Pulse is capable of most content, so you don't have to micromanage all the time. It is not a particularly tanky Build, as the Mind over Matter Keystone doesn't allow you to use too many Auras, but the sheer amount of maximum Life, Energy Shield, and Mana is enough to take a few Hits without dying. It can be solved with a higher Budget, but most players tend to opt for even more Damage anyway, as with smart positioning and game knowledge you can avoid most dangerous situations. You can also use this Build as a template for basically any other spell totem setup, which is ideal for testing new skills introduced in this patch.
Full Guide: Freezing Pulse Totem Hierophant
|BLEEDING BOW GLADIATOR
Bleeding is currently the most underused Ailment in the Game, but over the last few Patches, it received solid improvements, without much notice from the community. Even in the current content update both Snipe Support and Puncture Skill got a major Damage upgrade, making it even better. The Gladiator Ascendency could see some improvements as well, but it still works very well for this Build, as the bonuses related to Block Chance are not that relevant for a Bow Character anyway. The Manaforged setup can automate both Frenzy Generation and the Ensnaring Arrow debuff, making it a very simple and enjoyable Build to play. It is a Build that typically uses two different Setups, the Puncture for Single-target and Split Arrow for Clearing, but don't worry about it too much, as you don't have to change your Gems before each major encounter or use both of them in a rotation. The Bleeding is a fairly strong Ailment, whose biggest upside is that it very rarely is resisted by Enemy modifiers. The Explosions of Bleeding Enemies will also greatly help in tight corridors and dense packs of monsters. The Bow is obviously the most important aspect of a Bow Build, but you have no need for bonuses like Additional Arrows or high Critical Strike Chance, so you will be able to get a powerful one for quite cheap. Coincidentally, all other gear pieces are also rather cheap, and most of them are Rares that simply provide basic defenses.
The full Guide can be found here: Bleeding Bow Gladiator
|DARK PACT OCCULTIST
As opposed to the previous Build, this one features a Skill that requires a bit more micromanaging. The Dark Pact is an AoE Chaos Nova that deals a decent amount of Damage, but if you use it with Summoned Skeletons, it will Chain a few times between them, dealing Damage with each bounce. It will also deal greatly improved Damage, based on the maximum Life of your Skeletons, which also got a pleasant Buff in this update. The two-button playstyle can be a bit jarring at first, but with a bit of investment into the Cast Speed, it becomes quite natural to play. As with many other Skill combos, you are greatly rewarded for this playstyle, as the Damage output is simply insane. Since your main Damage is Chaos type, you can opt for a Poison or Critical Strike variant, each having its own upsides and downsides, but both being very good on the Occultist Ascendency. The Profane Bloom explosions take care of your Clear Speed, making this Build excel at every front. It is also worth noting that you don't need the extra Damage from your Minions Life when killing weak Enemies, one Cast of the Dark Pact will be more than enough to kill most Monster Packs anyway. The Chaos type is also immune to Reflect, while the Eldritch Battery relies on Recharge instead of Regeneration, so you will have an easy time completing the Atlas.
Full Guide: Dark Pact Occultist
|DEATH WISH ELEMENTALIST
It is another unusual yet powerful approach to the Ignite Ailment. It also combines some traits from the previous Build, as you will stack Minions Life to improve your Damage. The Death Wish Spell comes from the Unique Helmet, which may be the most expensive Unique Item in this list, as it costs around 20 Chaos Orbs in the second Day of the Ancestor League, which is still quite manageable, and just as the Arc Ignite, it uses a rather universal setup for any Ignite Character for the campaign. The Death Wish is a Channeling Skill, that shortly empowers your Minions and causes them to explode when you end the Channel. The explosion deals simply massive amounts of Damage and can be easily scaled by investing in Minion Life or Gem Levels. It also got better with the changes to Carrion Golem, which gains even more maximum Life as you level him up now. It is a great Build to kill Bosses and other tough Enemies, but the Clear Speed can be lackluster. The Ignite Proliferation is extremely helpful in that regard, but you still have to Channel the Death Wish, and occasionally wait for Minions to be close enough to actually Hit your Enemy. You don't have to resummon your Minions, as the Elementalist Ascendency automatically revives them after 4 seconds.
Full Guide: Death Wish Elementalist
|ABSOLUTION SUMMONER NECROMANCER
The Absolution Necromancer takes a more usual approach to your Minions, as in this Build they deal the majority of your Damage, however, it is also not the usual passive Summoner, as you have to constantly resummon or refresh their duration. It is also a bit more Boss-Damage-oriented Build, as the Damage of your Sentinels of Absolution can be quite insane. To push your Damage to the absolute limits you will need Doryani's Prototype Armour, but it is not required at the start. In fact, this Build can easily clear Tier 16 Maps with just random Rare Items you find on the way. The Vaal Absolution summons a giant Minion similar to the Innocence, which deals even more Damage and is insanely fun to use. This Build can be easily played on both the Necromancer and Guardian Ascendency, but the Necromancer has a bit more Speed and early tankiness thanks to the Commander of Darkness Notable and your Offering affecting you as well.
Full Guide: Absolution Summoner Necromancer
|LIGHTNING ARROW DEADEYE
The last pick for this list is the Lightning Arrow Deadeye. It is a very popular and well-known Build by now, but it is simply too powerful to not include it here. It is easily one of the best Clearing Builds in the game, and the Single-Target Damage is not that bad if you help yourself with a few Balistas. The lower uptime of the Berserk after the nerf to Kaom's Spirit Gloves will be noticeable for all Builds, but it is still a very powerful Buff to use when fighting Strong Enemies, you just will have to limit its usage when defeating regular packs of monsters. The new Quality of the Lightning Arrow that grants additional Targets is also a very nice improvement for your Clear Speed on the lower Budget. This Build is the definition of Glass Cannon, but most enemies will be long dead before they see you. You can also freely change your Main Skill to any other Bow Skill, as most of them use exactly the same modifiers to scale the Damage. The best candidate for that is obviously the Tornado Shot, but it lost a lot of Projectiles compared to the previous League, so it might be much harder to make that skill comfortable.
Full Guide: Lightning Arrow Deadeye
As you might notice, we tried to avoid the most popular Starting Builds out there like Explosive Arrow Balista, Boneshatter Juggernaut, Corrupting Fever Champion, Toxic Rain Pathfinder, or even Poison SRS. Those all are powerful Builds, but we feel like at this point everyone knows about them, and there were no significant changes to them in this Patch, so including them in this list would be rather redundant. The only exception here is the famous Righteous Fire, which received a very strong Nerf, so obviously it didn't make it to the list either.
As always, basically, all the builds mentioned here are described in full detail on our website and in their video counterparts. Our build guides will help you understand the purpose and inner workings of each element implemented, explain the leveling process step by step, and suggest minor changes if the build allows for any adjustments. If you enjoy this type of content, subscribe to our Youtube channel as we often cover the hot new popular builds as well as some niche and interesting ones you might find of interest. And don't hesitate to suggest the topics you'd like us to cover, leave feedback to let us know how's the work, or help us improve our presentation formula.
Pictures used in this article are the intellectual property of Grinding Gear Games.