Chaos DoT Occultist
Build Last Updated: June 2019, Patch 3.7.0, Legion League
(This build needs moderate modification to work in 3.8. Many passive clusters have moved.)
This build is a generic Chaos Damage Over Time setup that can be modified to work with one of four different playstyle options with minimal tweaking, making this a good choice for experimenting with different approaches. Options include:
- Essence Drain + Contagion, which is fully available by the end of Act 1. Essence Drain fires a Projectile that applies a powerful Damage Over Time effect to a single target. Contagion is an Area effect that applies another Damage Over Time to enemies. When an enemy dies while affected by Contagion, it spreads both itself and any active Essence Drain to nearby targets, enabling this build to cause chain reactions that wipe out huge numbers of enemies. An extremely strong and safe trash-clearing option, at the cost of having to actually get the chain reaction going.
- Blight, which is fully available by the end of Act 1. Blight applies a stackable Damage Over Time effect to enemies in front of you repeatedly. Capable of extremely high damage when stacked up, but shorter range and slower damage than the other options. Can be used as a boss-killing skill alongside another choice.
- Soulrend, which fires a piercing Projectile that applies a powerful short-duration Damage Over Time effect to enemies hit. The Projectile homes in on nearby enemies. The suggested variant with this build splits the Projectile into four, each of which seeks out enemies, making it a very long-range build with high clearing potential and simpler playstyle.
- Bane, which applies a powerful Damage Over Time effect to enemies in an area. Curse skills linked to Bane will also be applied and the Damage Over Time effect is stronger for each one applied. Can be used as a primary damage skill or as a convenient way to apply multiple Curses at once.
These playstyles can easily be combined. You could, for example, use Essence Drain + Contagion to clear weak monsters and stack Blight to kill strong ones, or use the Cast While Channelling gem to trigger Soulrends while you channel Blight.
Regardless of your choice of specific skill, this build brings powerful trash clear, scalable single-target dps, and fair defenses. It also offers a large amount of utility by applying multiple Curses, increasing the damage enemies take, and stacking Wither, an effect that increases the Chaos damage taken by enemies.
This is a ranged Spell build that relies on Damage Over Time.
Occultist is one of the Witch Ascendancy classes. When you create your character, you'll select a Witch; you'll choose to be an Occultist later in the game.
If you want to explore this build's stats, links, and Passive Tree interactively, head over to the Links page and download Path of Building. Then, in Path of Building, select Import/Export Build -> Import from Pastebin, and enter this link: https://pastebin.com/mcZmsU86
Main Skill Basics
This section is very long because it has to explain all of the skill options. If you choose not to use one of them, you can safely skip that section.
Essence Drain fires a Projectile that travels in a straight line. When it hits an enemy, it deals minor (Spell, Chaos, Projectile) damage. It then applies an effect that deals further (Damage over Time, Chaos) damage to the target affected and other targets very close to them. Although this damage-over-time effect is not, strictly speaking, Spell damage, Essence Drain specifically overrides this and allows modifiers to Spell damage to affect its damage.
As a result, Essence Drain's damage over time effect is affected by modifiers to Spell damage, Damage over Time, and Chaos damage. As a Damage over Time effect, it is unable to Critically Strike, so Critical Strike bonuses do little for this build. Chaos damage does not count as Elemental damage, so bonuses to Elemental damage do nothing for this build. Note that not all debuffs are Ailments (see the mechanics reference), and in particular Essence Drain's effect is not an Ailment. The initial strike does hit, so on-hit effects do work with Essence Drain on its initial impact only.
Essence Drain's damage over time effect also allows you to regain (mechanically speaking, Regenerate) Life based on the damage that it does. Although this is similar to the Leech employed by other builds, it is not Leech in game-mechanics terms, it is Regeneration. The base regenerated life is 0.5% of the outgoing damage dealt by the Damage over Time.
Essence Drain only fires a single projectile, and therefore only applies to one target and its immediate vicinity. However, it can be spread to other nearby targets by:
Contagion applies a Chaos Damage over Time effect to all enemies near a targeted location. If a target dies while affected by Contagion, the remaining duration of Contagion's damage-over-time effect will jump to nearby enemies. In addition, if the dying target is affected by Essence Drain, the remaining Essence Drain duration also jumps to nearby enemies. This effect is specific to Essence Drain; Contagion will not spread other effects.
Contagion, like Essence Drain, has a modifier that specifically allows Spell damage to apply to it. As a result, Contagion's damage benefits from modifiers to Spell damage, Damage over Time, and Chaos damage. Although it is applied by an Area effect, the damage itself is not dealt in an area, so Contagion does not benefit from modifiers to Area damage (but it is affected by modifiers to Area of Effect). As a Damage over Time effect, it is unable to Critically Strike, so Critical Strike bonuses do little for this build. Chaos damage does not count as Elemental damage, so bonuses to Elemental damage do nothing for this build. Note that not all debuffs are Ailments (see the mechanics reference), and in particular Contagion's effect is not an Ailment.
Blight is a Channeled skill that repeatedly applies a stackable Damage Over Time effect to enemies in a cone front of you. When the first stack is applied to an enemy, it also applies a powerful Hinder (slowing effect) to them that lasts for a shorter duration.
Although Blight applies its effect in an area, it does not directly deal damage in an area, and thus does not deal (and does not benefit from modifiers to) Area damage. Although it does not technically deal Spell damage, it overrides the normal behavior to benefit from Spell damage modifiers as though it did.
As a result, Blight's damage over time effect is affected by modifiers to Spell damage, Damage over Time, and Chaos damage. As a Damage over Time effect, it is unable to Critically Strike, so Critical Strike bonuses do little for this build. Chaos damage does not count as Elemental damage, so bonuses to Elemental damage do nothing for this build. Note that not all debuffs are Ailments (see the mechanics reference), and in particular Blight's effect is not an Ailment.
Soulrend fires a piercing Projectile that homes in on enemies near it. The Projectile itself does minor damage, Leeching some Energy Shield to you based on the damage done, and it applies a short-duration Damage Over Time effect to enemies near it as it flies.
Soulrend deals Chaos Damage Over Time. Only the initial hit is damage actually done by the Projectile, so only that hit benefits from Projectile damage modifiers. The initial hit deals Spell damage and, while the Damage Over Time is technically not Spell damage, the skill specifically overrides this normal behavior to allow Spell damage modifiers to apply to it.
As a result, Soulrend's damage over time effect is affected by modifiers to Spell damage, Damage over Time, and Chaos damage. As a Damage over Time effect, it is unable to Critically Strike, so Critical Strike bonuses do little for this build. Chaos damage does not count as Elemental damage, so bonuses to Elemental damage do nothing for this build. Note that not all debuffs are Ailments (see the mechanics reference), and in particular Soulrend's effect is not an Ailment.
Bane applies a powerful Damage Over Time effect to enemies in an area. It also applies any Curses linked to it to the enemies it affects, dealing More damage and increasing the duration of its Damage Over Time effect for each Curse applied. (In practice, this means using it with curses is only moderately less damaging than using it with a proper support setup.)
Although Bane applies its effect in an area, it does not directly deal damage in an area, and thus does not deal (and does not benefit from modifiers to) Area damage. Although it does not technically deal Spell damage, it overrides the normal behavior to benefit from Spell damage modifiers as though it did.
As a result, Bane's damage over time effect is affected by modifiers to Spell damage, Damage over Time, and Chaos damage. As a Damage over Time effect, it is unable to Critically Strike, so Critical Strike bonuses do little for this build. Chaos damage does not count as Elemental damage, so bonuses to Elemental damage do nothing for this build. Note that not all debuffs are Ailments (see the mechanics reference), and in particular Bane's effect is not an Ailment. While Bane's damage effect is not itself a Curse, Bane is a Curse Skill, and benefits from modifiers to Curse Skills.
This section is meant to accompany the main "Act 1" section of the guide.
Early Act 1
You won't start with any of the skills listed above. You can pick up the first one (Blight) after you complete the first quest, Enemy at the Gate. Blight is a blue gem, so you'll need a piece of equipment with a blue socket (you'll start with a wand that has two linked blue sockets). If you have a link available, consider buying an Arcane Surge Support gem from Nessa in Lioneye's Watch and linking it to your Blight for now. If you don't plan on using Blight long-term, you can pick one of the other skills to use for now.
You can spend your first few Passive Skill Points on the path pictured below. Once you get the shield nodes at the far left, you'll want to make sure you're using a shield (ideally one with lots of Energy Shield on it).
Some of the gems from Mercy Mission may be relevant to you, depending on the skill you want to use. Infused Channeling is used with Blight, Spell Cascade can be nice for Bane in some zones (although it isn't a primary recommendation as part of this build).
After you complete the Breaking Some Eggs quest in the Mud Flats, at around Level 5, you'll be able to choose Contagion as one of the rewards. If you want to use Essence Drain as a primary skill, start leveling this now. You can also use it as a backup damage source with one of your other skills for now. In either case, you'll also get Frostblink, a useful Movement skill that will help you move around more quickly.
Once you enter the Prison (The Caged Brute), you can talk to Nessa in town. She'll offer you Wither, which you can channel on bosses once your Damage over Time effects are applied to increase your damage. (You can also link it to a Spell Totem to let the Totem do it for you, especially if you're using Blight.) You'll also gain access to some other movement skill options at this point.
Brutus will probably be a somewhat difficult fight. If you die a few times to him, don't feel too bad; this build starts out a little bit 'squishy'.
Once you defeat Brutus (The Caged Brute), you'll have access to the Void Manipulation Support gem from Nessa as well. Void Manipulation is a green gem, so you'll want to keep an eye out for items with a blue-blue-green link chain (the order doesn't matter; only the colors and links). Void Manipulation is a strong support choice for any of the main Chaos skills at this stage of the game.
Late Act 1
As you go, you'll want to look for a few specific sorts of item:
- 3- and 4-linked items with mostly blue sockets (and possibly with one green for Void Manipulation Support).
- A Wand, Staff, or Sceptre with a large bonus to Spell damage. "Adds X to Spells" bonuses, however, will do nothing for you, since such effects cannot modify Damage over Time.
- A Shield with Spell Damage or Energy Shield on it.
- Gear with Life and Resistances. Energy Shield gear is most likely to have your required sockets, although we won't get large bonuses to Energy Shield for a while, so for now Life is more valuable.
As you continue to gain more Passive Skill Points, work your way towards the following tree. You'll have enough points for all the Passives shown here sometime around Act 3 or 4, at which point you can move on to the full Passive Tree (listed in the "Full Build" section of this guide below).
Once you enter the Cavern of Wrath (The Siren's Cadence), you'll be able to get Essence Drain, the third of the main skill options. It does not need to be (and should not be) linked to your Contagion gem if you're using it. Instead, you'll want to put your Essence Drain in a separate slot in your equipment, so that you'll be able to link the maximum number of Support gems to both Essence Drain and Contagion.
At this point:
- If you're using Essence Drain and Contagion: against packs, your goal is to apply Essence Drain to one enemy, then hit the whole pack with Contagion. Essence Drain's high damage will kill its target quickly, and the Essence Drain will start jumping around the pack, killing the rest of it. Against bosses, try to keep both Essence Drain and Contagion ticking, and otherwise just stay mobile and stay alive. Essence Drain will regenerate your Life quickly, so as long as you're not actively being hit, you should be okay. You can also apply extra Essence Drains to extra enemies summoned by bosses.
- If you're using Blight: against packs, you can play a hit-and-run game with the slow it applies. Blight isn't the strongest trash-clearing skill, so it may take some finesse at this stage of the game. Against bosses, apply every stack you safely can, and consider a Spell Totem + Wither combination (both gems are available from Nessa at this point).
- If you plan to use Bane or Soulrend later and don't want to use the above, you can experiment with other skills Scorching Ray, available from Nessa at this stage, is a fun option.
This section is meant to accompany the main "Act 2" section of the guide.
Early Act 2
If you haven't found a weapon with a huge amount of Spell Damage (remember, not Elemental Damage, and not Added Damage to Spells, which are not beneficial to this build), consider using the +1 Chaos Skills wand recipe listed in the 'Vendor Recipes' article. Put your main skill(s) in them, it's a substantial damage boost over using rare-rarity (yellow) wands with mediocre affixes. (If you're not using one of the Chaos skills yet, you can use the wand recipe corresponding to whatever skill you're using.)
For the Deal with the Bandits quest, this build will kill all three Bandits. It doesn't really benefit from the bonuses offered by any of them, so we just take the free skill points.
None of the Skill Gems offered by Intruders In Black are particularly useful for this build, but you can take Desecrate if you want a third Damage over Time effect to apply to rare monsters. If you're not using a Chaos skill yet, you can pick up Cold Snap as an optional extra damage skill.
Once you've completed Sharp and Cruel, you'll be rewarded with Controlled Destruction Support, which is an excellent Support Gem for most of the skills featured in this build. From now on, you'll generally be maintaining your main skill 3-link as (Main Skill) + Controlled Destruction + Void Manipulation whenever possible. Faster Casting is an option for now if you find a 4-link.
Note: You may be tempted to use Concentrated Effect Support for the area skills in this build. Unfortunately, this not only doesn't boost your damage, but instead actively harms it: it successfully reduces the Area of Effect (because these skills do have an Area of Effect), but it does not increase damage because these skills do not deal Area Damage - their Area effects only apply the Damage over Time effect, and do not actually deal damage in their own right. There are builds where this gem is useful, but this is not one of them.)
Late Act 2
At around this point, you should be picking up enough Energy Shield bonuses for the Energy Shield amounts on equipment to start being relevant. As you level, shift your gear steadily in the direction of Energy Shield.
This section is meant to accompany the main "Act 3" section of the guide.
Early Act 3
Once you've completed Lost in Love, you'll be rewarded with a choice of a few Curses. You can probably figure this one out for yourself, but Despair - which benefits Chaos damage and Damage over Time - is the one you want. See the 'Curses' section of the Act 3 guide for more on Curses - we'll eventually be picking up the ability to use more Curses, but for now we're limited to one.
At this point, you'll also get access to Bane, the next of your main skill options. If you want to use Bane at this stage of the game, link it with Controlled Destruction and a Curse of your choice (Despair is recommended).
Late Act 3
Sever the Right Hand yields Soulrend, the last of the main skill options for this build. It works well with the same supports as the other skills listed so far, but should also be linked with Lesser (and later Greater) Multiple Projectiles to more easily wipe out large packs.
From A Fixture of Fate, pick up Efficacy Support. This is almost always the most powerful support available for any of this build's main skills, since it adds a large damage modifier and improves their durations.
At this point, you have access to all the main Support gems for this build. Depending on which skill you use, your links should look like:
- Blight - Efficacy - Controlled Destruction - Infused Channeling
- Soulrend - Lesser Multiple Projectiles - Efficacy - Controlled Destruction or Arcane Surge (later, Decay)
- Bane - (Curse of choice) - Efficacy - Controlled Destruction
- Essence Drain - Efficacy - Controlled Destruction - Void Manipulation
- Contagion - Faster Casting - (more to come in the next act)
This section is meant to accompany the main "Act 4" section of the guide.
Early Act 4
If you haven't picked up a movement skill yet, grab Flame Dash or Frostblink and support it with Faster Casting.
None of the skills from Breaking the Seal especially benefit this build. The best would be Flame Golem, but depending on your gear it's rather unlikely you can use it (you probably don't have the Strength).
From The Eternal Nightmare, pick up Increased Area of Effect Support if you're using Essence Drain/Contagion. It's a useful addition to Contagion for trash clearing, allowing you to apply its Damage over Time effect to a larger pack at once. (Again: even though Contagion does not deal Area damage, it does have an Area of Effect and benefits from modifiers to such.) If you're using Soulrend, pick up Decay, which works very well with Soulrend's hits (which can apply it).
By this point you've probably completed the Passive Tree shown above. Here's the full tree, which you should work towards from here on out, adjusting how much damage or life you pursue as you feel your damage or survivability is in need of more help. (Note that if you're using Bane, you'll want to pursue the Curse cluster at the top right of the above image. Other variants of this build don't need to worry about it, but this wheel is extremely powerful with Bane.)
The Labyrinth, depending on build variant, is...
- Essence Drain/Contagion: ...likely to be quite difficult, because your build offers mediocre damage against bosses and because Izaro hits your relatively squishy character like a truck. Play hit and run, and don't worry about killing him fast unless he has Charges (see the Labyrinth page for more on his mechanics and what this means).
- Blight: ...likely to be easy, since Blight will melt Izaro quite quickly. Just make sure not to get one-shotted by his telegraphed attacks while standing nearby.
- Soulrend or Bane: ...easy, but slow. These skills are long range and, in Soulrend's case, will actively home in on him, so it's very easy to maintain damage on Izaro and keep your distance.
Once you've completed the Labyrinth, pick up Void Beacon, which is a strong damage boost in its own right, but is mostly taken so that we can get Withering Presence behind it as soon as possible.
Late Act 4
The last few bosses in Act 4 can hit very, very hard. Play a safe hit and run and try to keep moving; some of these effects will close to one-shot you.
If you're using Blight as a main skill, or just want a burst cooldown, consider picking up a Vaal Blight gem from another player. It shouldn't be expensive.
This section is meant to accompany the main "Act 5" section of the guide.
The only major build-specific note for Act 5 is the choice of Unique Jewel from Death to Purity. The main option for this build is to pick up Spreading Rot - which applies a short-duration but hefty Chaos damage taken increase when you apply Blight's Hinder effect. You can use two copies of this jewel if you want, though the build as presented here doesn't go out of its way for a second socket and you'll need to trade for it. This jewel is probably worth using even on non-Blight variants just because Blight itself is so strong against bosses and because that's where you'll most want the damage bonus.
Part II (Acts 6-10)
Act 6 and the first half of Act 7 are very rough for this build. Chaos damage pierces through your Energy Shield, and you're unlikely to have much Chaos Resistance at this point. Combined with the post-Act-5 resistance penalty, this means that Chaos damage is going to kill you a lot. Fortunately, help is on the way:
Once you complete your second Labyrinth, sometime around the end of Act 7 or the beginning of Act 8, you should pick up Withering Presence on your Ascendancy Passive tree. In addition to a huge stacking damage-taken effect on nearby enemies, a passive +60% to Chaos Resistance means your Life pool is a lot safer from the Chaos damage piercing through your Energy Shield. Once you have it, you can generally just worry about maximizing Energy Shield, not just Life.
Epilogue & Maps
Once you complete your third Labyrinth, sometime early into Maps, you should pick up Profane Bloom. If you can apply Curses to enemies before killing them (say, through Blasphemy Support or Bane if you're using it), this'll cause enemies to explode for huge amounts of damage on death, further improving your clear speed.
This build is fairly agnostic about monster modifiers on maps. Higher chaos resistance will hurt it, of course, as will greater monster life, but this build can run most map modifiers without concern.
When you complete your final Labyrinth, late in the endgame, your last point can go into Malediction, which allows you to use a third curse and reduces enemy damage.
The Full Build
Main Skill Links
Depending on your main skill:
- Essence Drain - Efficacy - Controlled Destruction - Void Manipulation - Swift Affliction - Empower or Increased Duration. The options for the last slot depend on whether you can/want to buy the relatively expensive Empower from other players. Back Essence Drain up with Contagion - Faster Casting - Increased Area of Effect - Increased Duration. The damage of Contagion is minimal in the late-game, so we don't bother scaling it. You likely won't have two 6-links, and Contagion would benefit little from being in one anyway.
- [Vaal] Blight - Effifacy - Controlled Destruction - Infused Channeling - Void Manipulation - Empower or Increased Duration. The options for the last slot depend on whether you can/want to buy the relatively expensive Empower from other players.
- Soulrend - Greater Multiple Projectiles - Efficacy - Decay - Arcane Surge - Swift Affliction. If you get Decay on some other source - like a Wand that applies it on spell hit - or want to maximize boss damage at the cost of trash clear, you can swap it out for Void Manipulation.
- Bane - (Curse of choice) - Efficacy - Controlled Destruction - Swift Affliction - Void Manipulation. Spell Cascade is an option if you want to throw Banes in a long line rather than a single area, but is unequivocally weaker for bosses.
(Beyond the standard ones listed as part of the Act 4 Guide)
Spell Totem - Wither - Faster Casting - Increased Duration or Multiple Totems is a useful damage utility - drop the totem near a boss and it will rapidly stack an extreme damage-taken increase on them, helping to cover this build's relative weakness on single-targets. Note that you already apply Wither stacks if you stay close, so this only helps accelerate the stacking or keep them up while you're staying far away.
[Vaal] Blight - Faster Casting - Increased Duration - Efficacy is a good utility boost for non-Blight builds if you picked up the Spreading Rot Jewel during Act 5. Wither is a better fit for a Spell Totem, so you'll end up self-casting this. Note that the Hinder effect (which is what provides the damage-taken boost from Spreading Rot) is only applied to enemies not already affected by Blight, so you'll need to let the Damage over Time effect wear off by using this skill only every 10 seconds or so if you're using it to support other damage skills. Vaal Blight gets such a bonus inherently, making it nice to have if you can get it.
Vaal Righteous Fire - Burning Damage - Elemental Focus - Swift Affliction is a huge damage boost if you can go in to a fight with the Souls to use it. It requires you to stay close to an enemy, but sometimes that's safely possible, and this will add a lot of damage if you can do so. This will require more Strength than the build has innately, but that can be made up by an Amber Amulet or similar.
Discipline, unlinked, for extra Energy Shield.
Frostblink or Flame Dash - Faster Casting for movement.
Zealotry or Malevolence are Aura options to boost your damage if you're not using a Blasphemy'd curse or Discipline.
(This build can apply 3 Curses because of its Passive build.)
Offensively, the choice is always Despair, which does by far the most damage of any curse for this build. With the beginner gear I've cooked up for this build, it nearly doubles your damage against normal mobs.
The build has no other offensive options for yourself. If playing with others, you can load up their offensive curse of choice. Otherwise, look to defensive options like Temporal Chains (which has the added bonus of extending your Damage over Time effects) and Enfeeble.
Curses should be applied through the standard utility setups or through a Bane 4-link if you're not using Bane as your main offensive skill.
For offense, you're looking for Spell Damage, Chaos Damage, or Damage over Time bonuses; not much else affects this build's damage.
For defense, this build is looking for high Energy Shield and enough Chaos Resistance to be sure to cap it in addition to the normal desire for Life and Resistances.
Optional unique items include:
- Breath of the Council (a mace with high Chaos Damage and a boost to the duration of Chaos skills).\
- Allelopathy (gloves that grant a high-level Blight, allowing an effective 5-link and improving its damage further if you choose to use Blight).