Warning: Guided Builds have not yet been updated for major game changes in Patch 3.6. The Attack based builds are fine to use, but the Spell based ones are somewhat outdated.
Path of Exile is a complicated game, and there are literally hundreds of possible builds that are viable in the endgame. Guides for these can be found all over the internet. However, many of these builds require specific items, or don't gain their main skills until later in the game. In this section, you'll find 18 Guided Builds, one for each of the Ascendancy Classes (except for the Ascendant, who you won't have access to on your first playthrough). Each of them walks you through the basic mechanics of its core skills and guides your gem choices during the main story campaign.
The builds featured here are not fully optimized. You can find better, stronger builds abusing whatever the strongest skill of the day is all over the internet, if that's the sort of thing you're worried about. But they're all playable into the endgame at various levels of power, and have:
- Main skills available before the end of Act 1. That way, if you find that a skill doesn't really suit your style, you'll find out quickly and won't have to replay much to restart as another build. Note that the power level of these builds can vary as you level; focus on the feel of the build and trust that it will be at least playably viable in the late-game.
- No specific items required to function. You won't need to spend any of your currency to buy items, although you will obviously be able to pick up some more powerful pieces if you do.
- A wide range of skills. The skills featured in these builds form a cross-section of the available skills in Path of Exile, covering Attacks, Spells, and Damage over Time, all different types of damage, and a variety of different playstyles.
- Representing all 18 Ascendancy classes available to new players. Since Ascendancies are the core of most builds, the guided builds here are intended to give you some vague idea of how to exploit some of their strengths if you decide to create one of your own.
Notes on Using These Builds
The first and foremost note is this: these builds are not perfect and you can absolutely tweak them if you so choose. They are there as guidelines for new players who may be totally lost or intimidated by the skill tree, and will help you avoid common pitfalls made by new players. Because they are built assuming no access to Unique items (besides the one Jewel available from a quest), the items you get - or the items you are willing to purchase - can be major factors in tweaks you make to a build.
The builds are built up to Level 80. If you pass Level 80, you'll have more Passive Points than are shown on the tree, but by that point you should be on your feet enough to have some idea what to do with them. If not, well, more Life never hurt anyone.
Each guide lists when it was last checked for accuracy. If a guide has gone more than six months without a check, it may be unreliable, and you should probably ask an experienced player to give it a once-over for accuracy before committing to it. (In that event I have presumably stopped updating this site for whatever reason, so emailing me is unlikely to help!)
Just want the strongest ones here? Go with the Frost Blades Raider if you want a melee attacker, the Elemental Hit Deadeye for a ranged attacker, the Sentinel Guardian for a minion-based build, the Essence Drain Occultist for a damage-over-time build, or the Fireball Elementalist for a spellcaster.
As of this writing in December 2018, some of the Ascendancies are just not very good for starter players. They're here for completeness, but unless you have some compelling desire to play them, I'd lean away from the Assassin and the Berserker.
Occultist Guided Build: Essence Drain / Contagion
(Ranged, Damage Over Time, Spell)
This build centers around Essence Drain, a powerful single-target Damage Over Time effect, and Contagion, an Area effect that spreads Essence Drain's effect around. Against packs of monsters, you apply Essence Drain to one target, then spread it to the others with Contagion to watch the whole group die. Against bosses, you keep Essence Drain ticking and stay alive long enough for them to fall. A popular starter build, even for experienced players.
Elementalist Guided Build: Fireball with Armageddon Brand
This build centers around Fireball, a Spell that fires an exploding Fireball projectile in a straight line. However, instead of scaling the direct Hit damage of your Fireball alone, this build scales the damage of its Ignite, an Ailment you can apply with Fire damage. It deals damage over time, and even burns nearby enemies. Later on, it also incorporates Armageddon Brand to call meteors down on bosses, and casts Fireball for free while you channel a Scorching Ray. Capable of very rapid pack clearing and respectable boss damage, but doesn't move very quickly (and in fact has to stand still for full damage output) and is relatively fragile.
Necromancer Guided Build: Zombie and Skeleton Summoner
This build focuses on raising minions to fight for you. For the most part, you won't engage in combat directly: instead, you'll summon limited-duration Skeletons into enemy packs. Later in the game, you'll also be able to raise enemy monsters as Spectres that retain the abilities they had in life, although this build does not focus on scaling Spectres in particular. Strong versus bosses, although not as efficient as some other builds at clearing weak packs.
Assassin Guided Build: Viper Strike
(Melee, Attack, Damage over Time)
This build uses Viper Strike, a single-target attack that applies a long-duration Poison. It's focused mostly on single-target damage, but later on it'll gain the ability to cause enemies you kill to explode, dealing heavy damage to nearby enemies and Poisoning them as well. It rewards clever play by scaling strongly with the number of Poisons applied in the last few seconds. Weak against trash but with the potential for very extreme damage in the right situations against bosses.
Trickster Guided Build: Caustic Arrow
(Ranged, Damage over Time)
This build uses Caustic Arrow, which fires an arrow that explodes into a damaging cloud. Although it's an Attack build, this build focuses on scaling the cloud's Damage over Time instead of focusing on the hit itself. It's more gear-dependent than a lot of the other builds featured on this site, but has a fairly high damage ceiling with the right gear. It also comes with a number of bonuses to its survivability thanks to the defensive Trickster ascendancy.
Saboteur Guided Build: Freezing Pulse Traps
(Ranged, Trap, Spell)
This build throws traps loaded with Freezing Pulse, which fires a fast-moving piercing wave of Cold damage that deals less damage the further it travels. Traps allow you to stay back out of the action while still getting the benefit of Freezing Pulse's high up-front damage. Later in the game, you'll be able to throw several traps at once, each of which will fire several pulses. Not recommended for the epileptics among you, but for the rest of you it's an extremely efficient trash-clearing build with acceptable boss damage (particularly if the boss has delays where you can set up a nest of traps).
Deadeye Guided Build: Elemental Hit
This build uses Elemental Hit, a Bow Attack that adds a large amount of Elemental damage to your hits and causes them to create a nova on impact with an enemy. Most Elemental Hit builds convert the skill entirely to Fire damage, but doing that requires some specialized items, so this build instead takes advantage of the Elemental Equilibrium Keystone Passive to make each element's hits improve the damage of the other elements' hits. Like most Deadeye builds, it's a very efficient trash clearer with weaker performance on bosses.
Pathfinder Guided Build: Toxic Rain with Herald of Agony
This build uses Toxic Rain, a Bow skill that causes poisonous plant pods to rain down in a targeted area. The pods deal damage over time and slow enemies near them, then explode for more damage. These explosions apply Poisons, which deal some damage in their own right and empower a powerful Agony Crawler minion that deals more damage the more Poisons you apply. A varied build with a lot of room for strategic play and good all-around reliability, although it isn't particularly amazing at any one thing.
Raider Guided Build: Frost Blades
(Hybrid Melee and Ranged, Attack)
This build uses Frost Blades, which while mechanically-speaking a Melee attack can be used at significant range. It also shoots Projectiles out from the target it hits, dealing further damage behind them. This build hits incredibly quickly in the endgame, as much as 10 or more times per second with the right items and links. A fairly slow starter, but a strong and well-rounded endgame build capable of handling almost all content efficiently, with the option to play defensively by attacking from range against dangerous enemies.
Slayer Guided Build: Molten Strike with Cull
This build uses Molten Strike, which causes projectiles to pop out of the struck target and hit nearby enemies. Large enemies can be hit by multiple projectiles, and it can clear nearby enemies for free. This build is designed with one purpose in mind: going toe to toe with bosses for as long as it takes. It's durable and sustainable and immediately kills any monster, including bosses, below 20% of their maximum Life. A mediocre trash-clearing build that will move slowly through the main story, but no other build listed here can eat hits from bosses like this one.
Champion Guided Build: Double Strike/Cleave Tank
This build uses Double Strike, which doesn't get too fancy: it just hits twice with your main-handed weapon and deals bonus damage to Bleeding enemies. For trash clear, it also uses Cleave, which hits nearby enemies for some basic damage. The Champion Ascendancy also lets this build Taunt enemies, keeping them off your party members and making your party both take and deal more damage. A strong generalist build capable of handling content solo and bringing some bonus utility to a party.
Gladiator Guided Build: Lacerate with Bleed Explosions
(Long-Range Melee, Attack)
This build uses Lacerate, which shoots damaging waves a substantial distance ahead of you, allowing you to hit enemies with your weapons without getting too close. It also applies Bleed effects for extra damage, and will eventually cause Bleeding enemies to explode when killed, making for rapid pack clearing. Highly efficient and safe in the open field, although its damage leaves something to be desired on bosses that don't summon extra monsters to explode.
Juggernaut Guided Build: Sunder
(Long-Range Melee, Attack)
This build uses Sunder, which fires a linear wave of damage in front of you, causing explosions each time it hits an enemy. This is just about as generic a build as is possible: it gets the life to survive, runs a decent clear-speed skill, and gains immunity to a number of disrupting effects like Slows. Efficient clear and well-rounded ability to do most content make this a very solid choice if you want a consistent general-purpose attacker.
Berserker Guided Build: Ground Slam
This build uses Ground Slam, which creates a cone in front of you that deals damage throughout, with more damage to closer targets. Like the Juggernaut above, this is a fairly generic build, but a more aggressive one that scales for higher damage and lower survivability. This build is somewhat harder to play than the others listed here, since careful management of the Berserker's signature Rage mechanic is important. Fast movement and high damage, but low durability.
Chieftain Guided Build: Infernal Blow
This build uses Infernal Blow, which causes enemies you kill to explode for Fire damage based on their maximum life (and further scaled by your increases to Fire damage). Like most Chieftain builds, this one works by converting all of its Physical damage to Fire. Particularly strong versus packs of mixed amounts of health, since smaller enemies exploding can take down larger enemies and cause a chain reaction.
Inquisitor Guided Build: Crit Arc with Storm Brand
This build uses Arc, a Lightning Spell that bounces around between multiple targets and forks off to hit others. Unlike most other builds listed here, this build does not have a source of Leech to automatically restore its health, but it deals heavy damage to potentially enormous numbers of enemies in return. It also applies Storm Brand to bosses, shocking them periodically while it attacks with other spells. Later on, it will combine Arc with Lightning Tendrils, dealing heavy damage and combining wide area coverage with bouncing lightning bolts. An excellent trash-clearing build, but may have trouble sustaining on long boss fights.
Hierophant Guided Build: Magma Orb Totems
(Ranged, Totem, Spell)
This build uses Magma Orb, which fires a bouncing projectile that deals damage in an area on each bounce. Later on, you'll get extra projectiles on it more or less for free, allowing you to cover much of the screen in bouncy-ball death. Instead of casting Magma Orb yourself, you'll summon Totems - up to three, by the build's endgame - that will cast Magma Orb for you. Magma Orb wipes out packs effectively and using Totems allows you to remain at a safe distance, making this a strong all-purpose build with fast trash clear and slow-but-safe bossing.
Guardian Guided Build: Sentinels of Purity & Dominance
Unlike the other builds, this one has to wait a while to get its primary skills, because the Guardian ascendancy is made for support effects and solo play requires very specific skills that aren't available until Acts 2 and 3.
This build focuses on minions, but it has to get up close and personal to summon them. It uses Herald of Purity and Dominating Blow, two skills that cause your hits to summon powerful Sentinel minions to fight for you. Dominating Blow can even copy modifiers from enemy monsters, allowing you to benefit from effects that are normally monster-only. Your personal damage will fall off by the late-game, but you'll still be engaging enemies from the front-lines rather than playing a more passive minion-master like the Necromancer.