Choose a Build
Choosing a Class
As listed before, there are six classes available to you when you first start playing PoE. Each of these classes, in turn, has three subclasses called Ascendancies, but you don't pick your Ascendancy immediately - you'll have the chance to do that once you've progressed partly through the main story.
In general, it is your Ascendancy that will matter most, not your base class, in determining how your build functions. Asking, for example, "What's a good build for a Witch?" would immediately mark you as a new player, because being a Witch means little. Whether you choose a Necromancer, an Elementalist, or an Occultist (the three Witch Ascendancies) matters far more. Most builds are described by their Ascendancy and their core skill, e.g. "Blight Occultist" or "Molten Strike Chieftain".
Most players choose a skill to use first, then pick an Ascendancy to go with it. If you're the sort of player who cares a lot about the 'flavor' of what you're playing, however, see the section on flavor near the bottom of this page, then pick a build that works with your chosen class.
Picking a Build
I'll be blunt: if you're new to Path of Exile and you try to build a character blindly, it will probably be weak, bordering on outright unplayable.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. If you're like me and find most of the fun in plotting out clever builds, then you might want to do this, just to get the hang of how the game's mechanics work (and what things might fail or succeed in a build).
On the other hand, sometimes you just want to play a bit to get a feel for the game without dying all the time. To that end, this guide includes eighteen basic builds spanning all eighteen available Ascendancy classes for a new player. These guided builds are not optimized, but they should be functional enough to play comfortably into the endgame without undue difficulty for a new player.
If you want to play a homebrew build: Consider heading over to the Links page and downloading Path of Building, an invaluable utility for planning out builds. It allows you to explore the passive tree, set items, skill gems, and support gems, and calculates your damage, maximum life, and so on with the ones you've chosen.
If you want to play a guided build: Pick from the eighteen builds listed on the Guided Builds page. Each links to a page with the full build guide, but they're summarized here to help you pick one more easily. You can look up a build yourself if none of these appeal to you, but make sure the build is both current (as in, not written for a long-past version of the game) and reasonably affordable (in that it doesn't require particular Unique items to function).
A lot of people don't care about this sort of thing, but some do. Feel free to skip this section if you don't, nothing here is gameplay-related. All of these depend on class only, and not on Ascendancy.
- Gender: the Scion, Witch, and Ranger are female, the Templar, Marauder, Duelist, and Shadow are male.
- Lawful vs Chaotic: the Templar and Marauder are basically Lawful in Dungeons-and-Dragons terms. The Ranger is Chaotic. The Duelist, Scion, Shadow, and Witch are more or less Neutral.
- Serious vs comedic: the Templar, Marauder, Scion, and Ranger are serious. The Duelist, Witch, and Shadow tend towards more comedic dialog.
- Character archetypes:
- The Witch is a loner who pretty much just wants to do her own thing, and who is more than happy to fry anyone who chooses to make her life more difficult than it needs to be. She's not actively evil, but she's not especially concerned with society as a whole and likes to dabble in forbidden magic. The sort of person who will cuddle with a skeleton, then zap you if you try to tell her not to.
- The Shadow is a killer for hire. He likes to kill stuff and watch it die. He's not exactly killing stuff for fun, but he's close enough to it to be evil by most alignment system standards. "Ruthless" is the word, although of the classes he probably cracks the most jokes and James-Bond-style one-liners.
- The Ranger values personal freedom and nature above all else - think a granola girl with a bow. In D&D terms, she's a hard-line Chaotic Neutral type. Presumably at some point in her time in the forest a stick got lodged somewhere, because she's the most serious of the bunch. Canonically a lesbian, if the whole Amazon streak wasn't established enough.
- The Duelist wants a good fight and the glory that comes from it and couldn't care less about anything else. He's out for himself and the thrill of a fight, and fits firmly into a D&D True Neutral archetype. Not comedic, exactly, but not especially worried about killing stuff either.
- The Marauder is a former slave following his people's "Way", and takes things pretty seriously. He's Lawful Good, though his Way does not have any problem fighting people. He has, for obvious reasons, a vengeful streak against those who enslaved and then exiled him.
- The Templar is, as his name suggests, a former member of a religious order cast out for heresy. He's firmly Lawful Neutral, following his code with zeal and not caring about much else - up to and including his former brothers. The man does not have a lot of doubts.
- The Scion is an aristocrat who had and has no patience for prissy upper-class life. She's smart and ruthless and is just out to see what she can do and who she is. She basically just sees her life as a test of her abilities.