The Forbidden Sanctum expansion is launching within the next few days, so it's about time we give you our opinion about what can be expected from this promising League. The core mechanic takes you on a journey to discover the Forbidden Sanctum which hosts new Boss encounters and unique rewards. The way you are going to explore it resembles roguelike games, with simple choices you will have to make along the way. Those shall determine the difficulty and rewards. Your character will also have a completely new and unique "resource", completely separate from the main defensive mechanics PoE has to offer, which will run out as you get hit by monsters, and once depleted, have you start all over again. It all sounds really exciting and hopefully will suffice to make this one of the best Leagues ever, even without too many interesting balance changes. We still hope that the few nerfs here and there, and a major change to the Curse system can somehow shift the meta in 3.20 - time will tell.
Let's get down to business and talk Starter Builds. Before we present you with our picks, let us state that the Toxic Rain, Corrupting Fever Duelist, Poisonous Concoction Ranger or Occultist, Righteous Fire Inquisitor, Explosive Arrow Elementalist/Champion, are all still exquisite, and we cannot recommend them enough. However, if you've played them already, or you want to pick something else that's not as overused, and equally good (if not better) this is a list for you. We've selected builds that are easy to level up with, and relatively powerful for their price, which are important qualities for a Starter.
The Forbidden Sanctum expansion introduced a few nerfs, most notably to Spectral Helix, Lightning Strike, Lightning Conduit, and other indirect ones to some Minion builds or the usage of a Withering Step to refresh the Elusive buff. Inquisitors and Occultists are also a bit weaker. keep that in mind while selecting a character.
What builds would perform well in this League? It's hard to say - the League mechanic is nothing out of the ordinary, but the Atlas changes are quite significant. Farming Maven instead of altars may be good, the same goes for Harbingers and Einhar's beasts, but it's tough to predict such shifts in meta.
Please note: not all the builds are updated for Patch 3.20, but they all are in the state which will allow you to get started while we complete their updates
|WINTERTIDE BRAND OCCULTIST
Let's start with Wintertide Brand Occultist. Yes, a 15% decrease in the Curses Effect and loss of malediction from ascendancies is a nerf, but it does not make it that bad, it can still be picked up from the regular passive skill tree. Moreover, the effect of Curses against bosses has been significantly magnified, which is great for a class that can apply many of them at once, or one that deals Elemental Damage over time, which perfectly matches the description of this one. Wintertide Occultists is a Cold Damage over time build, that uses a brand and a Vortex combined with Temporal Chains to slow down its enemies nearly to a halt. It's smooth gameplay-wise, as Vortex is cast instantly, and the brand sticks to an enemy dealing damage continuously. It doesn't require unique items, although Rimegaze and Solstice Vigil would be really good to have. It's not very tanky on itself, but can still be durable because of slowing down enemies, later you can invest in Spell Block Chance and Energy Shield. This one is probably the most popular and well-rounded build on our list, we can safely recommend it to everyone.
For the full Guide, you can check: Wintertide Brand Occultist - This is the Low-Life version, so obviously when leveling you should focus on the standard Life nodes in close proximity to WItch's Starting location. However, this Guide should give you a general understanding of the build's principles, and display how to get into the end-game with it.
|STORM BRAND INQUISITOR
The next one is the Storm Brand Inquisitor. This ascendancy performs exceptionally well lately, but this patch is barren in upgrades. The major buff to all curses won't affect a class that already penetrates all Elemental Resistances via Inevitable Judgement, and that would be a shame, if not for the fact that it uses predominantly an Assassin's Mark anyway. Pious Path Keystone is weakened, it no longer upgrades the Consecrated Ground. Despite that, the overall performance of Inquisitor stays more or less the same. Elemental Damage and Critical Strikes are the main characteristics that define this class, so a Storm Brand is a perfect fit. You can easily grab the Runebinder keystone that almost doubles your damage against bosses, not to mention the overabundance of Lighting damage and Brand nodes right outside Templar's starting location on a skill tree. The clear speed with this skill is great, as the brands will target adjacent enemies but also jump from one to another each time they activate. It's a very basic build that has a rough start but performs better the higher up you go, so you can even keep it as your main build for the endgame.
You can view the full Guide right here: Storm Brand Inquisitor Build
|LIGHTNING ARROW/STORM RAIN DEADEYE
If it's the old-fashioned Bow skill you want to use, Lightning Arrow is probably the best pick. As a Deadeye, it'll be very easy to opt in for this Projectile Attack and fully crack its potential. Lightning Arrow is better for leveling than most Bow skills, it has excellent clear speed due to the additional targeting and Deadeye's Richochet and Endless Munitions. Single Target Damage is also good, that's because as your second setup you can run Storm Rain Skill shot by Ballista Totems. As all attack builds, this one is heavily tied to the weapon, and as the Windripper might be good for a start, you will need to buy later more powerful Bow, which is quite expensive. The build is also very fragile, not really suited to deal with end-game threats with a minuscule budget, but more focused on quick farming maps infused with altar or maven modifiers, a glass canon that relies on quickly disposing of threats from afar. Lighting Arrow Storm Rain Deadeye is as great as a starter as it is later in the game, you can pour a lot of currency into it, and the new Voltaxic Rift Bow might open up possibilities for a novel and experimental type of build.
You can check our Build Guide for this Deadeye character right here: Lightning Arrow/Storm Rain Deadeye Build for Path of Exile
|SHIELD CRUSH TRICKSTER
Let's inspect some more durable options now. Trickster is one of the tankiest classes thanks to its Energy Shield Leech, high Evasion Rating, insane resource recovery, and Spell Suppression. This build additionally capitalizes on Armour, Fortify, Ghost Dance, and later, capped Block Chance. It creates an impenetrable layering of multiple defensive mechanics. With Soul Drinker, not even Damage over Time is an issue - it truly is imperishable. The damage comes from Shield Crush with Emperor's Vigilance and Hrimsorrow Gloves. These items are not expensive, and are vital. Shield provides you with almost 2000 Armour and around 350 Energy Shield, while gloves convert your damage to cold. To enhance damage, use Polymath and Swift Killer for 7 Frenzy Charges. Due to the high Evasion and Armour, we recommend a cheap Perseverance Belt for increased Attack Damage. Other cheap unique items to look for are Alpha's Howl, The Taming, Yoke of Suffering, Taste of Hate Flask, and Seething Fury - now corrupted jewel. With its relatively low damage, the build is bad at leveling up quickly and slow at farming.
You can check the Full Guide right here: Shield Crush Trickster Build
Absolution Necromancer is an established way to kickstart a Minion build at early levels, but why stop there? It's a quite good Spell that creates Sentinels of Absolution in a fashion similar to dominating blow. It deals half-converted Lightning Damage with the initial hits, and with minions - that can carry you beyond yellow maps. Initially, you will invest in Spell Damage, but that quickly becomes obsolete as Absolution's Damage gets overshadowed by that of Minion's. To summon the initial batch of self-sustaining Sentinels you will simply need to slay the first few enemies after hitting them with a Spell, which might as well kill them straight away because the damage of the spell you're casting is supported by the same gems the minions are using. As a necromancer, you will of course use multiple other Minions for damage and utility purposes. It's also important to mention the changes to the Kingmaker's drop rate, it's a popular weapon to put on a Spectre, but it may be inordinately expensive now, nerfing all Minion builds. If you, however, despite all the recent changes, enjoy the minion playstyle, it's a pick worth recommending.
Check out Absolution Necromancer Build for Path of Exile to see the full Guide for this build
You simply cannot ignore Bane Occultists in a Patch that introduces major changes to Curses. It's quite a popular and well-received build that historically always struggled in the high-end without many investments, but it might just change now. Bane works super well with a multi-curse setup, as it gains a lot of damage for every Curse it inflicts. Changes to the Despair Curse look pretty grim on paper, but the significantly improved effectiveness of curses on Bosses cannot be overlooked. It's also overshadowed by enormous buffs to defensive Curses, as they are now a very potent layer of defense. There is one thing that didn't change compared to the past versions - you simply can't use this Spell on its own to deal with Bosses. You will need a second setup to do that, which might be a major turn-off for some players. Thankfully, Soulrend's damage was buffed by over 20% in the last patch, making it a very potent skill that synchronizes very well with Bane. Occultist's distinguishing feature is still there - Profane Bloom's explosions will greatly help you with your clear speed. This build is very flexible when it comes to gear choices, making it a great pick to start the League with.
The full Guide can be found here: Bane Occultist Starter Build
|POISON SEISMIC TRAP SABOTEUR
Now it's time for a build that requires no introduction - Seismic Trap Saboteur. This time, however, we are recommending a Poison variant. the major buff this Skill has gotten in the new Patch is quite a sneaky one - it's actually a bug fix to the Poison Mastery that was incorrectly reducing the duration of Poisons. This build also uses a second damage setup, but this time, it's the other way around. You will use the Seismic Trap to quickly kill Unique and Rare Enemies, but for most of your clear, you will be using Exsanguinate with the Trap Support. paired with additional chains, it's an extremely good Spell to quickly kill whole packs of monsters and then some more. the natural safety of the Trap playstyle is augmented by many mechanics, such as defensive Auras, Shock Immunity paired with the Blind aura from Saboteur Ascendancy, and easy access to Spell Suppression. the Deerstalker boots are a very common drop, giving you quick access to a 5-link setup. thanks to the Divination Card introduced in the previous expansion, The Cold Iron Point, your best-in-slot weapon, is also quite easy to get. overall, this build has many stepping stones with its gear upgrades, making it very pleasant to progress.
Full Text Guide: Poison Seismic Trap Saboteur Build
|RAGE VORTEX BERSERKER
Coming up next, Rage Vortex is a great candidate to replace Spectral Helix in the pseudo-melee meta. Just like the Helix, it provides very strong single-target damage and decent clear speed. another thing they have in common is their uniqueness - it's a skill like nothing else so you will have to adjust to its playstyle before you become fully comfortable with it. despite stacking a lot of Rage and Attack Speed, you don't want to spam this Attack, as you can have only one Vortex at a given time. But do not let be deceived by that - that one Vortex is extremely strong! There are many ways to generate Rage, but the most common one is to use the Redblade Banner paired with Berserker Ascendency. The mentioned Shield gives you infinite power for all your Warcries, thus you will generate Maximum Rge every time you use your Warcry while under the threshold. It also makes them extremely good at Exerting your Attacks. This Shield is very strong, but not necessarily required for this build to function, so you can safely start the League with this build without worry. Your Attack Speed is not that useless - you will move with your Leap Slam insanely fast! this makes the build very good at clearing Maps and dodging incoming attacks in the Boss fights. the second part is quite important - as a Berserker, you are not particularly tanky.
You can view the Full Guide here: Rage Vortex Berserker Build
|DETONATE DEAD NECROMANCER
Now it's time for the final type of damage over time builds - Ignite. the best way to start with Ignite is by using Detonate Dead. It's a very potent Spell that scales off by itself - you really don't need much gear to comfortably clear Tier 16 Maps. as a downside, it has limits on how much damage you can reach, but don't worry, that limit is pretty high anyway. thanks to the minimal gear requirements, you can invest a lot into defenses, which makes this build outstanding in that regard. you will be able to steadily take down all Bosses in the game, while also having a nice time when clearing the Maps. the key component to this build is Corpse Explosion - it scales with Map level, so the more tanky enemies are, the more damage you deal! this is also why you can ignore the Gem levels - the main damage component counts as reflected damage. and since reflected damage cannot be reflected again, you can safely do maps with Elemental Reflection, which will be a huge advantage when completing the Atlas for the first time in the League. if you find spawning the corpses too tiresome, you can simply wear a pair of Corpsewalker boots to automate this process for you. at later stages, you can either continue pushing Detonate Dead to its maximum or simply swap to a different, more gear-dependent Ignite setup. either way will work great!
For the Full Guide check: Detonate Dead Ignite Necromancer Build
|DUAL STRIKE GLADIATOR
Finally, a build for every true Melee enjoyer. there are many possibilities If you want to fight your enemies face-to-face, but our recommendation here is the Dual Strike Gladiator. Thanks to the new Masteries that grant Melee splash to your Attacks, you don't need to constantly juggle your Support Gems when playing with Strike skills. another great addition to this build is the newly buffed Bloodseeker Unique Claw that grants you instant Leech. that property is much stronger than regular life gain on hit, as it simply restores more. however, it's not your only choice, as you can use a lot of different weapons, which allows you to create many unique combinations. The Curse rework doesn't affect this build much, as assassin mark is usually a better option damage-wise, but you could consider a second curse and use a defensive one like enfeeble to protect yourself better. We can't say for sure before the League starts, but supposedly Sanctum's mechanics are well-adjusted for Melee builds. One of our team members will test it with exactly this build, so we can keep you updated on that topic as soon as possible!
Here's the link to our previous installment of this Build: Dual Strike Gladiator Build
All the Builds, and the ones included in the beginning too, are available on our website. Links can be found in the description of this video as well as in the article here. We will try to have them all up and ready for the current Patch so that you can start with them on day one. Let us know if there's a build you'd like to see too, we might have it.
We're currently expanding our build library with leveling guides, publishing new builds regularly, and updating the old ones. We will also keep an eye on the freshly-reworked Unique Items and new skills, especially the Frozen Sweep, it looks really unique and promising.
We tried to condense a lot of information here, but if you haven't read the Patch Notes, we encourage you to do so to avoid unpleasant surprises, but generally, the pageant of meta Starter builds stays in the exact same spot as it was a League ago.
If you enjoy this type of content subscribe to the channel, at the end of the league we usually publish some off-meta niche stuff that you might find interesting. Your suggestions are an integral part of our channel and website, and so we heavily encourage you to leave feedback in the comments. Good luck.
If you have any other Build requests please leave that in the comments below.
Pictures used in this article are the intellectual property of Grinding Gear Games.