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Path of Exile Build Archetypes - All Types explained

Path of Exile Build Archetypes - All Types explained

All types of Path of Exile builds explained in details

Path of Exile
Build Archetypes


It's hard to divide Path of Exile builds into well-defined subcategories. Many of them are stretching their own definition by making use of many different, or exceedingly specific game mechanics with seemingly no coherent and simple label to be put under. There are, however, time-tested archetypes which most ARPGs use. After all, the game was initially heavily inspired by Diablo II, so to some extent, you can expect a typical for this genre experience of having various ways in which you can execute your opponents.

There are 7 exiles you can start with. Templar, Shadow, Marauder, Scion, Ranger, Duelist, and Witch. Each of these can later in the game ascend - choose a path if you will, and evolve into one of three subclasses. Note that this change can be reverted. This, and the starting location on the circular Passive Skill Tree, is the only defining characteristic of each character. The only requirement the game imposes on you to for example wield a weapon or use a skill, are Attributes (Strength, Intelligence, or Dexterity). It opens a lot of possibilities to create very unique builds - it is not uncommon to see a Templar wielding a Bow, a Witch with a Sword or a Marauder holding a Wand.


Types of Builds in POE


One of the core types of playstyles in pretty much any RPG game. You are simply going to swing your weapon to kill enemies (usually) within close distance of your character. In most cases, your character will be quite tanky to be able to take some beating before going down. After all, you are not looking to avoid incoming damage but rather soak it up while dealing damage. In Path of Exile, you can wield one-handed weapons (either as dual-wielding, with a shield, or in rare cases without any off-hand weapon), two-handed weapons, or play unarmed (with the use of specific Unique Items that favor such playstyle). Overall, this isn't the most popular archetype because of the clear speed and mobility issues, with rather mediocre damage. The most popular builds that use Melee Attacks are actually quasi-melee builds that use attacks with extra AoE or projectile effects that make them more suitable to be described as Ranged builds actually - for example, Lightning Strike or Frost Blades. You can find different types of Attacks which include AoE attacks that hit all enemies in a specified area, Strike skills that hit a specific target and can be boosted by Strike-related mods like Melee Strike Range or Multistrike Support Gem, and Slam Attacks, which are usually slower but can be greatly boosted by Warcries or Slam-related Support Gems.

It can be picked by any class but is the most popular among all Marauders (Chieftain, Berserker, Juggernaut), Duelists (Champion, Slayer, Gladiator), and some Ranger's ascendancies - Raider or Pathfinder. 

Most popular Melee Builds:

  1. Lightning Strike Raider
  2. Shockwave Cyclone Slayer
  3. The Ultimate Flicker Strike Raider
  4. Frost Blades Berserker
  5. Stunning Boneshatter Slayer


Another vast group of builds that use ranged Attacks fired by Bows, Wands, and sometimes Melee Weapons. Most of these builds deal base damage of your equipped Weapons and offer much better clear speed than melee weapons, as you should be able to kill enemies further away thanks to the nature of abilities used. Bow and Wand builds are usually very expensive, and are the types players tend to dump hundreds of Exalted Orbs into to make them into monstrous end-game farming machines, but are not exactly recommended early on, or for beginners in general. Ranged Attacks that use Melee weapons like Lightning Strike or Frost Blades should be more accessible and budget-friendly, but without bigger investments, they may not shine vs. end-game content too. Other Attacks like Shattering/Lancing Steel with powerful Impale effects (commonly used by Champions), or Poison skills like Cobra Lash, Venom Gyre that can be often found in Assassins' or Pathfinders' weapons, are quite good to start new Leagues with because of their lower reliance on equipment in general, but again, their performance vs end-game can vary greatly.

It is most often played by Wand or Bow-wielding Ranger's (Raider, Deadeye, Pathfinder) classes and Duelist's Gladiator. Throwing attacks are often performed by, again, Ranger's sub-classes, Shadow's Assassin or Trickster, or even Marauder's Berserker.

Most popular Ranged Builds:

  1. Tornado Shot Deadeye
  2. Spectral Helix Trinity Raider
  3. CI Int-stacker Kinetic Blast Wander Deadeye
  4. Bleeding Split Arrow/Puncture Gladiator
  5. Venom Gyre Berserker


It is yet one more very large core group of builds that rely on dealing Spell Damage to enemies via Spells that are cast directly by the character. In Path of Exile, there are many potential sources of Spell Damage (and damage in general) so in this group, we would prefer to keep only the builds that rely on self-casting. There are three main types of Spells which include instant-cast Spells, Spells with specified Cast Time, and Channelled Spells. There aren't many instant spells that you can build your entire build on, usually, those are utility Spells, so when deciding on such a build, it will usually rely on abilities from the other groups. Generally, Spell Casting isn't that popular nowadays because of limited mobility imposed by your Cast Speed - as you can't exactly travel while casting spells (at least not when doing so manually). Many Spells can offer quite high damage, and you will still see a lot of players using those, but you can't really compete in Path of Exile on Spell Damage alone.

Spell Casters often prefer classes like Templar's Inquisitor and Hierophant, Shadow's Assassin and Trickster, or Elementalist and Occultist - ascendancies of a Witch.

Most popular Spell Caster Builds:

  1. Arc Elementalist
  2. Winter Orb Occultist
  3. Storm Brand Assassin
  4. Lightning Conduit Trickster
  5. Armageddon Brand Inquisitor
  6. Blade Vortex Occultist

Source: TOTEM

One of the most popular types of builds for Beginners. You are going to basically summon Totems that will use Spells, Ranged Attacks, or Melee Attacks to deal damage for you. They are a safe pick for starting new Leagues and are generally cheap. This comes, however, at a cost. They are generally clunky and relatively slow. Your character will play mainly a supporting role by casting Auras, and Curses, debuffing enemies, and avoiding damage. Still, it doesn't exactly mean these builds don't have end-game potential. In fact, there are some very powerful Item and Skill synergies that can make your damage exceptionally high, but the beforementioned downsides will still apply here.

Spell Totems are almost exclusive to Templar's Hierophant. Attack Totem can be divided into Melee ones - picked by Marauder's Chieftain, or Ranged ones - referred to as Ballistas. Ballista builds are common among Ranger's Deadeyes (played alongside regular ranged Attacks), Templar's Hierophants, and Witch's Elementalists (only for one very popular Explosive Arrow build).

Most popular Totem Builds:

  1. Shockwave Totem Hierophant
  2. Freezing Pulse Totem "Low Life" Hierophant
  3. Ancestral Warchief Totem Chieftain
  4. Siege Ballista Hierophant
  5. Explosive Arrow Ballista Totem Elementalist


Just like with Totems, this playstyle puts you in a more support role, where it's your Minions that deal damage to kill enemies. In most cases, these are very beginner and budget-friendly builds, and there are many viable League Starter builds in this group. Overall, Minion builds are very popular as they are very good early on, and most of them will offer an easy and smooth transition into the end game. Still, you can't expect much excitement when playing Minion builds as you will be running around the screen avoiding damage and casting utility skills, but depending on the type of Minions you are summoning, the builds can be, at least, visually appealing.

Minion builds are the domain of Witch's Necromancer or Elementalist, Templar's Guardian, or in rare cases - Marauder's Juggernaut.

Most Popular Minion/Summoner Builds:

  1. Summon Skeleton Mages Necromancer
  2. Raise Spectre Necromancer Summoner
  3. Summon Raging Spirit Necromancer
  4. Arakaali's Fang Spider Summoner Guardian
  5. Herald of Agony Juggernaut


One of the most popular groups of builds in Path of Exile. Possibly, it's not the official name for it, but that's what first comes up to mind when you want to define this type of playstyle. The idea behind "trigger" builds is that you are dealing damage with Skills that you aren't casting yourself, but are triggered by different Skills, Support Gems, or Items. This allows you to bypass long casting times, sometimes the original Mana Cost and such. In many cases, these types of builds are used mainly because you can progress through areas quickly while your damage-dealing abilities are cast for you without hindering your mobility.  Most of the builds in this category will have the Spells triggered by Cast on Critical Strike, Cast while Channelling, or Spellslinger Support Gems, items like Cospri's Malice, Mjölner, or unusual abilities like General's Cry, Battlemage's Cry, Corrupting Fever. In our opinion, builds in this group offer the smoothest and most enjoyable playstyle, while not being exactly behind in any aspect compared to other archetypes, making them the #1 in PoE overall.

For these builds, we recommend Scion, Templar's Hierophant or Inquisitor, Marauder's Berserker, Shadow's Assassin, and Witch's Occultist or Elementalist.

Most popular Trigger Builds:

  1. Cospri's CoC Ice Spear Occultist
  2. Eye of Winter CoC Mjölner Inquisitor
  3. Whispering Ice CI Scion
  4. General's Cry Blade Flurry Berserker
  5. Herald of Thunder Auto-Bomber Assassin
  6. CoC Cyclone Forbidden Rite Occultist


A very interesting build archetype that relies on casting abilities via Traps and Mines. Except for a couple of Gems that are exclusive for the Trap/Mine playstyle, it's basically an alternative for casting Spells by hand, as almost any of them can be easily converted. The gameplay boils down to throwing contraptions that when detecting an enemy on it, casts a Spell. It is slower than self-casting, but the key advantages are the ability to amass a lot of Traps/Mines in one place for a large instant damage burst, and no need for aiming. You can carelessly throw them around, they will get activated sooner or later as the enemies gravitate toward your character, stepping on them. This playstyle is extremely appealing to the Saboteur Class which is practically made for it and nothing else. It is also one of, if not the most popular pick for league starters. With basically no investment it is able to easily reach the endgame within a few days. It loses its momentum after hitting a wall that is the most demanding end-game content.

Shadow's Saboteur is the most specialized class for this playstyle. Traps and Mines can also be vital for some specific Templar's Inquisitor and Scion builds.

Most popular Trap and Mines build:

  1. Seismic Trap/Exsanguinate Saboteur
  2. Explosive Trap Saboteur
  3. Ice Trap Saboteur
  4. Glacial Cascade Mine Saboteur


Damage over Time is a very vast archetype which relies on ailments that include Ignite, Burning, Bleed, Poison, and other Cold, Physical and Fire Damage over Time effects. This type of damage can be applied by basically any of the beforementioned types of builds, however, setting up a DoT build takes you on a completely different route, and as such, we have decided to make a completely separate category for it. The initial damage you deal with such characters will be usually very low, so you shouldn't be surprised that you will see very low DPS numbers on your tooltip. All your generic damage multipliers will not be applied and calculated, but when an enemy is hit, the Damage over Time effects of your abilities should do their magic. Some builds can be set up for a single potent effect (like Ignite for example) whereas other ailments may require you to apply multiple instances, ramping up for more deadly effects after some duration (Poison, some Bleed builds). Generally, those builds will be less powerful during the initial phases of your fights, but fully optimized setups with bonuses from sources like Cluster Jewels can make it nearly impossible to distinguish DoT builds from regular Attack/Spell Caster ones. 

Currently, the best Classes for DoT builds are Templar/Inquisitor, Witch/Elementalist (Ignite), Witch/Occultist(Chaos and Cold Damage over Time variations), Shadow/Assassin (Poison) and Duelist/Gladiator (Bleed/Physical DoT). However, most of the bonuses offered by Ascendancies in regard to DoT damage, make it an archetype that can be played basically on any Class in the game with just a few exceptions. 

Most popular Damage over TIme build:

  1. Righteous Fire Inquisitor
  2. Bleeding Split Arrow Puncture Gladiator
  3. Detonate Dead Ignite Elementalist
  4. Poison Blade Vortex Assassin
  5. Vortex/Cold Snap Occultist


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If you have any other Guide requests please leave that in the comments below. We are always open to suggestions and constructive feedback.

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

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