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Exsanguinate Poison Assassin Build

Exsanguinate Poison Assassin Build

Critically poison your enemies without ever breaking your flow to cast a spell manually!

Cast on Crit Exsanguinate Poison
Assassin Build

Updated for Patch 3.20

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Guide notes
December 23, 2022
-Build created
Build overview



Boss DPS:



Cast on Critical Strike is a very unique playstyle in Path of Exile that allows you to Cast many Spells without actually Casting them - instead, you trigger them with your Attacks when you happen to land a Critical Strike. This setup, while not perfect, has many advantages over manually casting a Spell (often called self-casting). The biggest of them all is the high frequency of triggered Spells -  getting similar levels of Cast Speed on self-cast is very hard, and if a specific Spell has a particularly slow base Cast Speed it's almost impossible. Another key factor is positioning, fast Attacks don't lock you in a place as most Spells do, and in the case of this Build, allow you to continuously move while performing said Attack. This significantly increases the survivability and enjoyment of the Build.  In return, you have to invest in Critical Strike Chance for both Spells and Attacks. It just so happens that Assassin is a great Ascendancy for such requirements, as it offers immense Critical Strike bonuses. 

With that being said, let's talk about our Spell of choice. Exsanguinate is a Physical based Spell that fires bloody Tendrils at nearby enemies. It offers great Damage but has one major downside - a very low base Cast Speed. To further emphasize the synergy with the Assassin, we decided to take the Poison route. Thanks to this Ascendancy you will have a higher Critical Strike Chance against Poisoned enemies, and your Poisons from Critical Strikes will deal more Damage.

Defensively speaking, it's quite a safe Build, but nothing out of the ordinary. You can easily reach a decent amount of Maximum Life with a little bit of Energy Shield on top of it, high amounts of Evasion, and capped Spell Suppression Chance. As an Assassin you will take greatly reduced Damage as long there are at least 2 Rare or Unique Monsters nearby, which happens very often during regular Mapping. Your biggest threat is your own Spell Cost - instead of Mana, it consumes Life. If the fight prolongs, you will need to help yourself with Enduring Cry and Life Flask to sustain it. 

You don't need expensive Items to play comfortably with this Build, but some investments are recommended to achieve good survivability. There are many cheap and useful Unique Items that can be later replaced with proper Rare Items. 

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1. Gameplay

For the most part, all you really need to do is simply spin with your Cyclone, which will trigger the Exsanguinate at all nearby enemies, and move around using Whirling Blades. Occasionally you will have to cast your Despair Curse and apply Wither to your enemies. The latter one will become fully automated when you acquire a specific Unique Jewel. 

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2. Build's PROS & CONS

  • very smooth gameplay
  • high DoT DPS
  • scales well with investments
  • excellent sustain during Mapping
  • not so good sustain during long Boss encounters
  • poisons lack upfront Damage


3. Leveling tips

Leveling with this Build is very smooth, but we recommend avoiding committing to both Poison and Cast on Crit until you reach the later Acts of the campaign.  You can easily level up by self-casting the Exsanguinate Spell and rely on its initial Damage over Time effect. Getting Items that boost the level of your Spell Gems will greatly enhance your experience, as this Skill scales very well with it. 

Suggested leveling Gem setups:

Exsanguinate setup
Exsanguinate Exsanguinate - fires bloody tendrils that automatically target nearby enemies, applying severe Physical Damage over Time effect, which can stack up to 3 times.
efficacy support Efficacy Support - improves the Damage over Time effects and their duration. 
controlled destruction Support Controlled Destruction Support - gives a very strong bonus to your Spell damage.
cruelty Support Cruelty Support - increases both Hit Damage and DoT effect. 
brutality Support Brutality Support - if you have access to Tabula Rasa, it's an excellent Support Gem to boost your Physical Damage, but it disables your Poisons.
swift affliction Support Swift Affliction Support - another great Support Gem to increase your Damage over Time effects. 
Auras setup
grace Grace - you can get a lot of Evasion Rating early into the game with this Aura, which drastically improves your survivability.
blood and sand Vitality - casting Exsanguinate is very draining on your Life. Flat Regeneration from this aura is very helpful to counter that.
Clarity Clarity - you will also need a low-level Clarity Aura to cast your other Spells such as Flame Dash or Curse.
Vulnerbility Vulnerability - increases the Physical Damage taken by the Enemies. Swap to Despair once you transition into pure Poison setup. 
steelskin Steelskin - gives you a protective buff that absorbs part of incoming Damage. 
flame dahs Flame Dash - quickly teleports you into the targeted location, leaving a fiery path on your way. 


Kill all three bandits to get two additional Passive Skill Points


Leveling Skill Trees:
We recommend picking up a few additional nodes that boost your Physical Damage and respec them later in the Campaign when you transition into Poison Setup. 
33 Points Passive Tree
Suggested order of allocation: 1) Trickery 2) Entropy 3) Fangs of Viper 4) Will of Blades  5) Blood Drinker 6) Revenge of the Hunter

65 Points Passive Tree
Suggested order of allocation: 1) Fatal Toxins 2) Inveterate 3) Quickstep 4) Serpentine Spellslinger 5) Whispers of Doom 6) Written in Blood 7) Influence  


Recommended leveling items:

Le Heup of AllLe Heup of All - greatly helps with Attribute requirements while also providing a bit of Damage and Resistances
Adds 1 to 4 Physical Damage to Attacks
+(10-30) to all Attributes
(10-30)% increased Damage
(10-30)% increased Rarity of Items found
+(10-30)% to all Elemental Resistances

GoldrimGoldrim - you can obtain a lot of Elemental Resistances with this Helmet

+(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 - having an early six-link setup will greatly help with your progression
Item has no level requirement and Energy Shield (Hidden)
Item has 6 White Sockets and is fully linked (Hidden)
perandus blazonPerandus Blazon - further helps with your Attributes and makes your Flask last longer
(15-25)% increased Stun and Block Recovery
+(20-30) to all Attributes
(6-8)% increased Quantity of Items found
+20% to Fire Resistance
20% increased Flask Effect Duration
-2 Physical Damage taken from Attack Hits
sring of servidtueString of Servitude - one specific version of this Belt can give you a lot of Elemental Resistances
<(1-2) Random corrupted implicit modifiers>
Implicit Modifier magnitudes are tripled
Desired modifier
48% to All Elemental Resistances
rare wandRare Weapon - the best Weapon you can get is a Rare Wand with a +1 Level to your main Spell Gem. It's a pretty common modifier even at lower levels. 
Min. requirements:
+1 to Level of all Physical Spell Skill Gems
Optional affixes: 
Spell Damage
Damage over Time Multiplier
Doedre's TenureDoedre's Tenure - an insanely high amount of Spell Damage is very useful at lower levels to boost your DPS. 
+(20-50) to Intelligence
100% increased Spell Damage
(25-15)% reduced Cast Speed
WanderlustWanderlust - immunity to Freeze is very useful if you don't have a good Flask setup. It also grants decent Movement Speed. 
+5 to Dexterity
+(10-20) to maximum Energy Shield
(20-40)% increased Mana Regeneration Rate
20% increased Movement Speed
Cannot be Frozen

4. Final Skill Tree, Ascendancy Points, and Pantheon

Final Skill Tree:

112 Points Final Passive Tree (doesn't include Cluster or Unique Jewels)
119 Points Path of Building (PoB) link

Ascendancy points:

Preferably in that order:

  1. Noxious Strike
  2. Toxic Delivery
  3. Opportunistic
  4. Unstable Infusion


Major God: Soul of the Brine King: You cannot be Stunned if you've been Stunned or Blocked a Stunning Hit in the past 2 seconds; Cannot be Frozen

Minor God: Soul of Shakari: You cannot be Poisoned while there are at least 3 Poisons on you; 50% less Duration of Poisons on You


5. Final Gems links

[DPS] Exsanguinate setup
Exsanguinate  Exsanguinate - it's your main damaging Spell, it fires tendrils that deal Physical Damage and apply DoTs at all nearby enemies. You can add extra Chains to improve your clear speed. 
Cast on Crit Cast on Critical Strike Support - you can't manually cast linked Spells, but they will be triggered when you land a Critical Strike with a linked Attack. 
cyclone Cyclone - it's the best Attack for this Setup due to the very high amount of Hits. Also, you can move while channeling this Skill, which makes a perfect combination. 
unbound ailmentsSupport Unbound Ailments Support - significantly improves the Duration and Damage of Ailments, in this case, Poisons.
empower support Empower Support - increases the Level of your Active Gems, which means much higher base Damage. It's also affected by the Skin of the Lords, which adds 2 Levels to all Gems. 
deadly ailments  support Deadly Ailments Support - gives a lot of Damage to your DoTs, but lowers the initial Hit Damage. Use it if you need a lot of single-target Damage.
Chain  support Chain Support - greatly improves your Clear Speed, but hinders a bit your Damage output. Use it during general Mapping. 
[UTILITY] Ancestral Totems Setup
wither Wither - applies a stacking Debuff on the enemy that increases the Chaos Damage they take. 
spell Totems support Spell Totem Support - with this Support, you won't need to manually cast Withers to apply the debuff.
Multiple Totems support Multiple Totems Support - used to increase the maximum limit of Summoned Totems.  
[UTILITY] Auras 
grace Grace - grants you a lot of Evasion Rating and improves it even further. You can also use the Vaal version to improve your Spell Suppression temporarily. 
herald of agony Herald of Agony - gives you a lot of Poison Chance and improves your Damage with them. Use the Divergent Quality to boost your Chances even more.
vitality Vitality - grants a lot of flat Life Regeneration which you will need to sustain your Casts. 
malevolence Malevolence - gives a huge bonus to your Damage over Time effects. 
[UTILITY] Utility Spells setup
despair Despair - lowers the Chaos Resistances of Cursed enemies. It's best to manually cast it to get maximum Damage effectiveness. 
plague bearer Plague Bearer - stores a portion of your Poison Damage and releases it on demand in AoE around you. 
withering step Withering Step - applies a few layers of Wither on your enemies and gives you an Elusive Buff for a short duration. 
lifetap Lifetap Support - allows you to pay Mana Costs with your Life instead. You want to have as much Mana Reserved by your Auras, so you might need this Support to cast your Utility Spells at all.  
[UTILITY] Whirling Blades and Enduring Cry setup
whirling blades Whirling Blades - a quick Attack that moves you in a specific direction. It can be spammed, as it doesn't have a Cooldown.
faster attacks support Faster Attacks Support - makes your Whirling Blades even faster to perform. 
lifetap support Lifetap Support - you will need this Support to freely spam without worry about Mana Costs.
enduring cry Enduring Cry - this Warcry can be used to give yourself a burst of Life Regeneration and generate Endurance Charges. It also needs Lifetap Support. 
[MOBILITY] Guard setup
immortal call Immortal Call - reduces all Damage Taken for a short duration. It scales poorly with Levels, so try to keep it as low as possible. 
cast when damage taken Cast when Damage Taken - triggers linked Skills upon reaching a certain threshold of Damage Taken. Keep at the 1 level to trigger as often as possible. 
lifetap support Lifetap Support - this Setup also requires this Support Gem to avoid problems with Mana Costs.

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6. Gear Setup

There are many cheap Uniques that can be used to kickstart the Build until you can afford better Rare Items. On the other hand, there are also a few Uniques that are much better than any Rare Items. The Balance of Terror is a new Unique Jewel that with a proper modifier to Despair Curse can completely replace the Wither Spell Totem setup. Forbidden Flame&Flesh with Polymath Notable is a luxury choice, as it offers a great Quality of Life and solid Damage bonus, but it's not required. You should aim for high amounts of Spell suppression on your Shield and Boots, as it's pretty much unavailable on your other slots. You should aim to use hybrid Evasion and Energy Shield bases for your Gear, however, most of your Energy Shield comes from Timeless Jewel. If possible, get the Life Regeneration modifiers on all Gear pieces you can. It greatly improves your sustain, as Regeneration is the only form of recovery available for DoT Builds. You will need to get a bit of Poison Chance from various sources other than your Passive Tree, such as rare Weapon, Jewels, or alternate quality on your Gems. 


Stat priorities on items:

  1. Cap Elemental Resistances
  2. Maximum Life
  3. Attribute Requirements
  4. Spell Suppression
  5. Chaos Damage
  6. Life Regeneration
  7. DoT Multiplier
alpha howl(Helmet) Alpha's Howl - a great Helmet to begin your journey with. It provides additional levels for your Auras and improves their Mana Reservation efficiency. 
+2 to Level of Socketed Aura Gems
(80-100)% increased Evasion Rating
+(20-30)% to Cold Resistance
25% chance to Avoid being Chilled
Cannot be Frozen
16% increased Mana Reservation Efficiency of Skills
rare helmet(Helmet) Rare Helmet - you can get similar levels of Aura Reservation efficiency as Alpha's Howl by using Essence of Loathing on Helmets with Eldritch Implicit that grants the same stat, especially if the Helmet has useful Enchant on it. 
Min. requirements:
+15% increased Mana Reservation Efficiency of Skills
Optional affixes:
Maximum Life
Spell Suppression
Elemental Resistances
Curse Effect
cold iron point(Weapon) Cold Iron Point -  this easily accessible Dagger provides an amazing Damage Bonus by increasing the Base Damage of your Spells, however, you will need to invest some Passives into Accuracy Rating to achieve a 100% chance to Hit
30% increased Global Critical Strike Chance
+3 to Level of all Physical Spell Skill Gems
Deal no Elemental Damage
Rare Claw(Weapon) Rare Claw - simply crafting Hits cannot be Evaded on a Weapon with a Fractured DoT Multiplier is already a big upgrade. You can also get increased Chaos Damage there or boosts to Weapon Attack Speed and base Critical Strike. 
Min. requirements:
Hits can't be Evaded
+20% to Damage over Time Multiplier
Optional affixes:
Chaos Damage
Poison Chance/Duration
Attack Speed
Critical Strike Chance
rare shield (Off-hand) Rare Shield - try to get as much Spell Suppression Chance as you can. Other than that, look for Life, Resistances, Regeneration, or open suffix to craft Extra Chaos Damage. 
Min. requirements:
+20% chance to Suppress Spell Damage
+70 to Maximum Life
Optional affixes:
Elemental Resistances
Maximum Elemental Resistances
8% of Physical Damage as Extra Chaos Damage
skin of the lords(Body Armour) Skin of the Lords - it's a very powerful Unique Armour that provides both offense and defense. Fortunately, Socket Colours for our Setup are rather unpopular, so you can get them very cheaply. Try to get the Call to Arms Notable to make your Enduring Cry instant. 
Sockets cannot be modified
+2 to Level of Socketed Gems
100% increased Global Defences
You can only Socket Corrupted Gems in this item
Random Keystone 
stygian vise(Belt) Rare Belt - Try to get as much Life and Life Regeneration as you can, ideally on the Stygian Vise Base. Additionally, seek for lacking Resistances or Attributes. 
Min. requirements:
+70 to maximum Life
+70% to Elemental Resistances
Optional affixes:
10% increased maximum Life
Regenerate 50+ Life per second
Rare boots(Boots) Rare Boots - get at least 30% increased Movement Speed and high maximum Life. You should also get the remaining Spell Suppression here. 
Min. requirements:
+70 to maximum Life
+30% to Movement Speed
+10% chance to Suppress Spell Damage
Optional affixes:
Regenerate 50+ Life per second
Elemental Resistances
asenath gentle touch(Gloves) Asenath's Gentle Touch - very strong Gloves for every Poison-based build. Temporal Chain on Hit is a very strong Curse even at level 1, and additional explosions are always welcome. Since they cost is rather low, you can try to get useful corrupted Implicit such as Critical Strike Chance for Attacks or Spells. 
+(20-30) to Intelligence
+(60-80) to maximum Life
+(60-80) to maximum Mana
Curse Enemies with Temporal Chains on Hit
Non-Aura Curses you inflict are not removed from Dying Enemies
Enemies near corpses affected by your Curses are Blinded
Enemies Killed near corpses affected by your Curses explode, dealing
3% of their Life as Physical Damage
ungils harmony(Amulet) Ungil's Harmony- a very powerful Amulet for this Build. It grants a lot of Critical Strike Chances, while the downside is not affecting our Poisons. Use the Critical Catalyst to boost it even further. 
(250-350)% increased Global Critical Strike Chance
Your Critical Strikes do not deal extra Damage
+(30-50) to maximum Life
+(30-50) to maximum Mana
40% increased Stun and Block Recovery
Recommended Anointments:
Rare Ring(Ring) Rare Ring - your Ring slots are rather flexible depending on your budget and the state of the remaining gear. You can opt for basic maximum Life and Resistances if those are the stats you lack the most, but you can also get a lot of damage through Chaos Damage or DoT Multiplier modifiers. 
Min. requirements:
+60% to Elemental Resistances
+60 to Maximum Life
Optional affixes:
% increased Chaos Damage
Damage over Time Multiplier
icefang orbit(Ring) Icefang Orbit - a great starting Ring that provides a lot of Damage and Poison Chance. Use it if you can't get the Poison chance anywhere else.
+(20-30) to Dexterity
25% chance to Poison on Hit
(40-60)% increased Damage with Poison
You are Chilled when you are Poisoned
Non-Chilled Enemies you Poison are Chilled
Poisoned Enemies you Kill with Hits Shatter
ming hear(Ring) Ming's Heart - if you simply want more Damage at all costs, you can use this Ring. It severely cuts your survivability, but gives a tremendous amount of Damage in return. 
25% reduced maximum Energy Shield
25% reduced maximum Life
+(40-50)% to Chaos Resistance
Gain (40-60)% of Physical Damage as Extra Chaos Damage
Cobalt Jewel(Jewel) Rare Jewels - Jewels are a great place to fill your lacking stats such as Resistances or Attributes. Try to get the maximum Life modifier on every Rare Jewel you get. If you got your Resistances covered, you can simply get more Damage here. 

Recommended affixes:
(5-7)% increased maximum Life 
Optional affixes:
Elemental Resistances
Increased Damage with Poisons
DoT Multiplier

large cluster jewel(Jewel) Large Cluster Jewels - provides a lot of Physical Damage bonus, which improves your Poisons and Exsanguinate initial DoT. 
Recommended affixes:
Grim Oath
Masters of Fundamentals
forbidden flameforbidden flesh(Jewel) Forbidden Flesh&Flame - you can obtain a very strong Notable from any Shadow Ascendency using this Jewel combination. The best pick is the Polymath from Trickster Ascendency, but it's a bit pricy. 
Allocates <Random Ascendancy Notable> if you have the matching modifiers on Forbidden Flesh/Flame
Glorious Vanity(Jewel) Glorious Vanity - Corrupted Soul granted by this Jewel if it's sacrificed in the name of Doryani provides an enormous amount of Energy Shield. 
Bathed in the blood of (100-8000) sacrificed in the name of (Ahuana-Doryani-Xibaqua)
Passives in radius are Conquered by the Vaal
Watcher's Eye(Jewel) Watcher's Eye - you can get a lot of useful Modifiers here, especially the defensive ones, such as Life gain on Hit or Flasks Charges on Critical Strike. 
(4-6)% increased maximum Energy Shield
(4-6)% increased maximum Life
(4-6)% increased maximum Mana
<Two or Three random aura modifiers>
Recommended Aura mods:
Life gain on Hit while affected by Vitality
Balance of terror(Jewel) Balance of Terror - a newly introduced Jewel that allows you to apply Wither stacks without using Spell Totem Setup, but you will need to remember to recast Despair every 10 seconds. 
+(10-15)% to all Elemental Resistances
<2-3 random curse modifiers>
Recommended Curse mods: 
Inflict Withered for 2 seconds on Hit if you've cast Despair in the past 10 seconds
bottled faith(Flask) Bottled Faith - significantly increases your Critical Strike Chance and overall Damage Taken by closeby foes. 
(30-15)% reduced Duration
Consecrated Ground created by this Flask has Tripled Radius
Consecrated Ground created during Effect applies (7-10)% increased Damage taken to Enemies
(100-150)% increased Critical Strike Chance against Enemies on Consecrated Ground during Effect
sins rebirth(Flask) Sin's Rebirth - this Flask grants you Unholy Might, which adds a lot of Extra Chaos Damage for your Spells. It also grants Immunity to Ignites.
Unholy Might during Effect
Grants Immunity to Ignite for 4 seconds if used while Ignited
Removes all Burning when used
corality signiature(Flask) Coralito's Signature - it has great synergy with this Build, as it grants a lot of Dot Multiplier to Poisons applied with Critical Strikes. 
25% chance to Poison on Hit during Effect
Your Critical Strikes do not deal extra Damage during Effect
+(20-30)% to Damage over Time Multiplier for Poison from Critical Strikes during Effect
Take 250 Chaos Damage per Second during Effect

Suggested Flasks:

  1. Quicksilver Flask with additional Attack Speed
  2. Life Flask with Bleeding removal
  3. Diamond Flask with Critical Strike Chance bonus
  4. Granite Flask with an increased Armour Rating modifier
  5. Quartz Flask with Curse Effect reduction (if you don't have Unique Flasks)
coralito signiaturebottled faithquicksilver FlaskLife Flasksins rebirth

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