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Vortex Cold Snap ES/CI Occultist build - Odealo's Crafty Guide

Vortex Cold Snap ES/CI Occultist build - Odealo's Crafty Guide

Very powerful spellcaster build based on Cold Damage over Time Spells and mechanics redesigned in Patch 3.5

Vortex/Cold Snap
Energy Shield/Chaos Innoculation
Cold Damage Over Time Occultist build

Updated for Patch 3.6

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Estimated budget: mediocre
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Guide notes
March 12, 2019
-Updated for Patch 3.6
-Added gameplay video

Betrayal League and Patch 3.5 introduced a completely new type of Damage over Time effects - Cold Damage over Time Spells. This new addition brought Vortex and Cold Snap (that were up to this point almost completely useless) to the highest Tier, making them contenders for being the best Boss killer skills in the game. Great Damage and Area of Cold DoT combined with an enormous amount of Energy Shield thanks to Occultist Ascendancy makes this build perfect for killing all the Bosses in the game, including Shaper and Uber Elder. Regeneration and a massive pool of Energy Shield make this build one of the tankiest in the game as well.

You can also check our other Path of Exile builds: Odealo's Crafty Guides - Full List

1. Gameplay

Our main skill for both clearing maps and bosses is Vortex. It is an instant cast skill, which means that we can cast it while running, without interrupting movement. The second most important skill is Cold Snap/Vaal Cold Snap, which is great to use against rare monsters and Bosses for more damage and for Maps clearing because it provides us with Frenzy Charges, which increases both Cast and Movement Speed. It will also apply Bonechill, which increases all our Cold Damage over Time and Chill Effect.

0:06 Tier 14 Crimson Temple
0:34 Tier 13 Colosseum
1:03 Tier 14 Palace
1:36 Tier 15 Shaped Belfry

This video was recorded on a level 89 Occultist using Cerberus Limb, Solstice Vigil, and Rare Gear. I have decided to skip Elemental Equilibrium and self-casting Storm Brand/Orb of Storms. Instead, I took a CwDT+Lightning Golem setup. It made it less complex to play for the purpose of this video since I do not own a Crafted Sceptre to trigger those Spells.

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2. Build's PROS & CONS

  • insane Defenses thanks to 10-15k Energy Shield and Curses
  • Shaper/Uber Elder viable
  • can clear all content in the game
  • survives even hardest hits from Syndicate members
  • good clear speed
  • Vortex is cast under your feet, so it's more of a Melee range skill
  • vulnerable to elemental reflect map mods

3. Leveling tips

For leveling, we are going to use Freezing Pulse, before we can switch Vortex at level 28. During leveling, it's recommended to use Life Gear, before you switch to full Energy Shield because it's easier to regenerate with Life Flasks. If you have enough gear with Energy Shield to make your play comfortable, you can do the switch at any time.

Suggested leveling Gem setups:

Freezing Pulse setup
Freezing Pulse Freezing Pulse - one of the first available spells in PoE
Added Cold Damage Support Added Cold Damage Support - adds a lot of Cold Damage 
Lesser Multiple Projectiles Support Lesser Multiple Projectiles Support - boosts the number of supported skills' projectiles
Vortex setup
Vortex Vortex - this will be your main skill throughout the game. Use it from level 28
Controlled Destruction Support Controlled Destruction Support - grants a lot of Spell Damage at the cost of Critical Strike Chance
Elemental Focus Support Elemental Focus Support - a great boost to Elemental Damage
Efficacy Support Efficacy Support - will boost your Cold Damage, Damage over Time and Vortex duration
Utility Gems
Flame Dash Flame Dash - your main Movement Skill
Enfeeble Enfeeble - perfect Curse for our build, reducing Cursed enemies damage and chance to hit. Preferably linked to Blasphemy so it acts as Aura
Discipline Discipline - grants additional Energy Shield


We recommend helping Alira for Mana Regeneration and Elemental Resistances.

Leveling Skill Trees:

32 Points Skill Tree
Priorities: 1) Arcane Focus 2) Heart of Ice 3) Breath of Rime 4) Unnatural Calm

64 Points Skill Tree
Priorities: 1) Entropy 2) Growth and Decay 3) Written in Blood 4) Essence Surge 5) Arcanist's Dominion

Recommended leveling items:

Goldrim Goldrim - one of the best leveling helmets in Path of Exile, will fix your Elemental Resistances during leveling
+(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)
Doedre's TenureDoedre's Tenure - powerful leveling gloves, providing a lot of Energy Shield and Spell Damage
(50-60)% increased Spell Damage
+20 to Intelligence
15% reduced Cast Speed
+32 to maximum Energy Shield
Berek's GripBerek's Grip - grants amazing DPS boost to our builds and Mana Leech
+(12-16)% to Cold and Lightning Resistances
(25-30)% increased Cold Damage
Adds 1 to (50-70) Lightning Damage to Spells and Attacks
+(30-40) to maximum Life
1% of Damage Leeched as Life against Shocked Enemies
1% of Damage Leeched as Mana against Frozen Enemies
Le Heup of AllLe Heup of All - these Rings provide everything - Attributes, Damage, and Resistances. Perfect choice for the entire leveling process
(10-30)% increased Damage
+(10-30) to all Attributes
(10-30)% increased Rarity of Items found
+(10-30)% to all Elemental Resistances
LifesprigLifesprig - great leveling Wand, which provides both Spell Damage and Cast Speed. It's recommended to socket your Spells in them as the increased Level of Socketed Gems is a huge damage boost. It's recommended to dual-wield them
(8-12)% increased Spell Damage
+1 to Level of Socketed Spell Gems
(20-28)% increased Spell Damage
(5-8)% increased Cast Speed
+(15-20) to maximum Life
+(15-20) to maximum Mana
Regenerate (6-8) Life over 1 second when you Cast a Spell

4. Final Skill tree, Ascendancy Points, and Pantheon

Final Skill Tree:

117 Points Final Skill Tree
117 Points Path of Building(PoB) link

Ascendancy points:

Preferably in that order:

  1. Wicked Ward
  2. Vile Bastion
  3. Void Beacon
  4. Frigid Wake


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] Vortex
Vortex Vortex - your primary skill for both clear speed and Boss fights
Controlled Destruction Support Controlled Destruction Support - grants a lot of Spell Damage at the cost of Critical Strike Chance
Elemental Focus Support Elemental Focus Support - a great boost to Elemental Damage
Efficacy Support Efficacy Support - will boost your Cold Damage, Damage over Time and Vortex duration
Swift Affliction Support Swift Affliction Support - increases Damage over Time
Energy Leech Support Energy Leech Support - extremely powerful Support Gem for Energy Shield builds. On top of granting high Leech, it greatly increases Vortex's DPS
[CURSE] Enfeeble and Temporal Chains Auras
Blasphemy Blasphemy - it will use our Curses as Auras, automatically applying them to nearby enemies
Enlighten Support Enlighten - it will decrease the Mana Reservation of your Curses. It has to be at least level 2, and preferably 3
Enfeeble Enfeeble - reduces enemies damage and their Chance to Hit
Temporal Chains Temporal Chains - cursed enemies has less Attack and Movement speed
[DPS] Vaal Cold Snap
Vaal Cold Snap Vaal Cold Snap - insane Damage boost against Bosses
Efficacy Support Efficacy Support 
Bonechill Support Bonechill Support - increases Effect of Chill and Cold Damage over Time
Hypothermia Support Hypothermia Support 
[UTILITY] Immortal Call setup
Cast when Damage Taken Support Cast when Damage Taken Support - will auto-cast supported spells after a certain amount of damage is taken by the player. Do not upgrade it above level 1
Immortal Call Immortal Call - grants brief Physical Damage immunity. Keep this Gem at level 3
Increased Duration Support Increased Duration Support - will extend the duration of Immortal Call 
[MOBILITY/AURA] Flame Dash + Vaal Discipline setup
Flame Dash Flame Dash - great Movement ability 
Faster Casting Support Faster Casting Support  - faster movement with Flame Dash
Arcane Surge Support Arcane Surge Support  - after casting Flame Dash it will grant Arcane Surge buff, which increases Spell Damage. Keep the Gem at level 6
Vaal Discipline Vaal Discipline - use it only when in a dangerous situation. It will allow you to start recharging Energy Shield, even while taking damage. Do not use the regular Aura unless you have Solstice Vigil and can afford to do so
[UTILITY] Frost Bomb + Storm Brand + Orb of Storms setup
Use this setup in a weapon with crafted property "Trigger a Socketed Spell when You Use a Skill"
Frost Bomb

Frost Bomb - apples Cold Exposure to targets, reducing their Cold Resistance

Storm Brand Storm Brand - triggers Elemental Equilibrium
Orb of Storms Orb of Storms - same as above

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5. Gear Setup

This Vortex build is not an expensive build. Below you will find all the recommended gear. If you would like to have the end-game items also added here please let us know in the comments below. 

The recommended items from our list will:

  1. Help you cap your Elemental Resistances 
  2. Give you enough DPS and Life to start mapping successfully

Stat priorities on items:

  1. Energy Shield
  2. Elemental Resistances
  3. Spell Damage/Cold Damage
  4. Cold Damage over Time
Rare Helmet(Helmet) Rare Helmet - this is our best choice, grants both Resistances and a lot of Energy Shield
Min. requirements:
300 Energy Shield
35% to Fire Resistance
35% to Lightning Resistance
Optional affixes:
Nearby Enemies have -9% to Cold Resistance
Helmet enchantments:
Vortex has increased Cooldown Recovery Speed
Cerberus Limb(Weapon) Cerberus Limb - it's a great, budget option which provides high DPS and Energy Shield Bonuses
24% increased Elemental Damage
(70-100)% increased Spell Damage
(15-20)% increased Cast Speed
0.5% of Spell Damage Leeched as Life if Equipped Shield has at least 30% Chance to Block
+1 to Maximum Energy Shield per 5 Armour on Equipped Shield
+5 to Armour per 5 Evasion Rating on Equipped Shield
+20 to Evasion Rating per 5 Maximum Energy Shield on Equipped Shield
Shield(Shield) Rare Shield - if you decided to use Cerberus Limb this shield is the way to go. Try to get one with the highest Armour, for the highest Energy Shield Boost
Min. requirements:
1800 Armour
25% to Fire Resistance
25% to Lightning Resistance
Rare Sceptre(Weapon) Rare Sceptre - with the right affixes this is definitely the best weapon for this build
Min. requirements:
Trigger a Socketed Spell when you Use a Skill
Minions deal 70% increased Damage
Optional affixes:
Increased Damage when on Full Life
Spell Damage
Rare Shield(Shield) Rare Energy Shield - our go-to shield if we are using Rare sceptre
Min. requirements:
300 Energy Shield
50% Spell Damage
Optional affixes:
Cast Speed
Rare Energy Shield Armor(Body Armour) Rare Body Armour - definitely the only option for Energy Shield build
Min. requirements:
650 Energy Shield
25% Fire Resistance
25% Cold Resistance
25% Lightning Resistance
Optional affixes:
Amulet(Amulet) Rare Amulet - good alternative for more survivability
Min. requirements:
15% Increased Maximum Energy Shield
15% increased Spell Damage
30 Maximum Energy Shield
45 Strength
Optional affixes:
Solstice Vigil(Amulet) Solstice Vigil - best in the slot for this build, not only reduces the Mana Reservation of Temporal Chains but on top of that grants Shaper's Presence boost which increases the duration of Effects by 50% (like Vaal Discipline or Immortal Call)
+(10-16) to all Attributes
(20-25)% increased Damage
+(50-70) to maximum Life
(2-3) Mana Regenerated per second
Temporal Chains has 100% reduced Mana Reservation
Gain Shaper's Presence for 10 seconds when you kill a Rare or Unique Enemy
Berek's Grip(Ring) Berek's Grip - a great option for a budget build, grants a lot of bonus damage and Leech. Use it only if you have all the Resistances capped already
(25-30)% increased Cold Damage
Adds 1 to (50-70) Lightning Damage to Spells and Attacks
+(30-40) to maximum Life
1% of Damage Leeched as Life against Shocked Enemies
1% of Damage Leeched as Mana against Frozen Enemies
Rare RingRare Ring(Ring) Rare Opal Ring - more expensive, but definitely the best option for this build. One with Fire, the other with Cold Resistance
Min. requirements:
40 Maximum Energy Shield
12% to all Elemental Resistances
29% to Fire Resistance/Cold Resistance
Optional affixes:
Cold Damage
Rare boots(Boots) Rare Energy Shield Boots - get a pair with the highest maximum Energy Shield and Movement Speed bonuses you can afford
Min. requirements:
150 Energy Shield
20% increased Movement Speed
29% Fire Resistance
29% Lightning Resistance
29% Cold Resistance
Boots enchantment:
16% increased Attack and Cast Speed if you've Killed Recently
Crystal Belt(Belt) Rare Crystal Belt
Min. requirements:
100 Maximum Energy Shield
22% Fire Resistance
22% Lightning Resistance
22% Cold Resistance
Optional affixes:
Increased Energy Shield from Body Armour
Gloves(Gloves) Rare Energy Shield Gloves - as much Energy Shield as possible and additional Dexterity for attribute requirements
Min. requirements:
150 Energy Shield
40 Dexterity
29% Lightning resistance
29% Cold resistance
Optional affixes:
Crafted Strength
Cobalt Jewel(Jewels) Rare Jewels 
Recommended affixes:
increased Maximum Energy Shield
increased Spell Damage
increased Cold Damage
Optional affixes:
increased Damage over Time
Abyss Jewel(Jewels) Abyss Jewels - your priority is maximum Energy Shield and flat Added Damage to Spells
Recommended affixes:
Maximum Energy Shield
added Elemental Damage to Spells
Optional affixes:
Strength and Dexterity

Witchfire Brew(Flask) Witchfire Brew - Increases Damage over Time for both Cold Snap and Vortex

50% increased Charges used
(25-40)% increased Damage Over Time during Flask Effect
Grants Level 21 Despair Curse Aura during Flask Effect

Dying Sun(Flask) Dying Sun - increased Area of Effect. Has limited utility in this build, but if you can afford it, it may be worth it

(-10-10)% increased Charges used
(15-25)% increased Area of Effect during Flask Effect
Skills fire 2 additional Projectiles during Flask Effect
Suggested Flasks:
  1. Ample Sulphur Flask of Dousing (immunity to Ignite)
  2. Experimenter's Quartz Flask of Staunching (immunity to Bleeding)
  3. Experimenter's Quicksilver Flask of Adrenaline (increased Movement Speed)
Witchfire BrewDying SunSulphur FlaskQuartz FlaskQuicksilver Flask

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