Infernal Blow Chieftain
Build Last Updated: June 2019, Patch 3.7.1, Legion League
(This build is playable with minimal modification in Patch 3.8)
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. It supports Infernal Blow with Ancestral Totems, which are stationary allies that, when placed, will attack enemies that come near.
This build focuses on single target damage, though a more AoE-friendly variant is available. Although it has some clearing power - especially with some alternate choices of Support gem for its main attack skill - it will clear general packs more slowly than most of the other builds listed here. However, it deals extremely high single-target damage, and is by far the tankiest of these Guided Builds. It can even turn additional small mobs in boss fights into extra damage against the main boss by killing them nearby to cause their on-death explosions to hit the boss.
The Passive Tree for this build is fairly generic for a Physical to Fire conversion build. Variants will work with most Attacks that deal Physical damage and don't convert it to some other element. For example, it would not be difficult to make a Ground Slam or Sunder variant of this build.
This build is a Melee attacker that supplements its single-target damage with Totems.
Chieftain is one of the Marauder Ascendancy subclasses. When you create your character, you'll create a Marauder; you'll choose to be a Chieftain later.
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/bMHJB086
Main Skill Basics
Infernal Blow strikes a target, converting some of your Physical damage to Fire. Like other Strike skills, it will also damage other enemies in the path of the swing. It applies two different debuffs, one 'charged' debuff that stacks and one 'uncharged' one that does not. The exact behavior of these debuffs is pretty technical, but the short version is this: stuff you hit with Infernal Blow a bunch, or hit with Infernal Blow and then kill, will blow up.
The charged debuff is applied only to enemies directly hit by the strike itself. It detonates upon the monster's death or upon hitting 6 stacks. The explosion deals a high percentage of the damage of the hits that applied the debuff stacks to enemies in an area around the affected monster. The debuffed enemy itself also takes this damage, unlike many explosion effects. (It also carried the uncharged debuff's effect, described in the next paragraph.)
The uncharged debuff is applied to any enemy damaged by the hit (for example, enemies struck by the splash damage of Melee Splash Support) that was not hit by the primary strike. The uncharged debuff causes the monster to detonate if killed (even if killed by effects other than Infernal Blow itself), dealing a percentage of its maximum Life to nearby monsters.
Infernal Blow is an Attack, and uses your weapon's damage as a base, with type-specific damage modifiers affecting the types of damage present on your weapon (for example, Increased Lightning Damage would increase any Lightning damage present on your weapon). It's also a Melee Attack, and benefits from Melee and Attack modifiers. Despite Infernal Blow having the "AoE" gem tag, the main hit of Infernal Blow does not scale with Area Damage in and of itself (but see below).
The explosions caused by the charged debuff deal a percentage of the applying Attack hits. As a result, they effectively scale with the same Attack modifiers as the main hits do (even though this damage is technically not Attack damage). They deal Area damage, and are therefore also affected by Area Damage modifiers.
The explosions caused by the uncharged debuff, which deal a percentage of the monster's maximum life, are Secondary Damage and are not affected by modifiers to Attack or Spell damage. They are, however, the result of an Attack Skill, and therefore do benefit from Elemental Damage with Attack Skills modifiers. They are also an Area effect and benefit from Area Damage modifiers accordingly. This explosion deals pure Fire damage and benefits from Fire damage modifiers.
To summarize: the primary target stacks up an explosion based on your hits, which scales with Attack damage (and with your weapon damage). Secondary targets explode only when killed, and that explosion does not deal Attack damage (it deals Fire, Area, Secondary damage).
There are two different Ancestor Totems - Ancestral Protector and Ancestral Warchief - but since their mechanics are for the most part identical I'll cover them together.
Using either skill places a Totem, a stationary allied unit that uses skills for you. In this case, the Totem carries an Ancestor spirit that uses your weapon to attack nearby enemies. Ancestral Protector uses regular single-target Melee Strikes that, like all Strikes, deal damage to enemies in the way of the weapon swing; Ancestral Warchief uses an Melee Area slam that damages enemies in it. Both totems grant you bonuses when you're near them: Protector grants you Attack Speed and Warchief grants you Melee Damage.
Totems are limited to 1 active at a time by default; we'll override this using a Support gem to summon two Protectors and one Warchief in the late-game. Like all Totems, Ancestors benefit from anything that would modify your damage if you were using a strike or an area attack yourself. For example, if you gain an Increased Attack Speed modifier, your Totems will Attack faster. Totems are not Minions and do not benefit in any way from Minion-specific modifiers.
Both totems use Attacks, which use your weapon's damage as a base. Modifiers to specific damage types, like Physical or Fire, will apply only to the portion of your weapon's damage that matches that specific damage type. For example, Increased Fire Damage modifiers would only modify the Fire portion of your weapon's damage. In this build, we'll be dealing exclusively Fire damage, but most of our Fire damage originates as Physical damage and therefore benefits from both Physical and Fire damage modifiers in accordance with the normal rules for damage conversion.
Ancestral Protector's strikes benefit from Attack modifiers, Melee modifiers, relevant type modifiers (i.e., Physical and Fire), and Totem modifiers. Ancestral Warchief benefits from these and also benefits from Area modifiers.
Totems are not You, even though they use your skills and damage modifiers. Effects that require You to do something - like kill an enemy or Hit to Leech life - won't apply through Totems under normal circumstances.
For more on Totems in general, see the Mechanics Reference page on Totems, Traps, & Mines.
Later on, you'll gain access to an upgraded version, Vaal Ancestral Warchief. Vaal Ancestral Warchief behaves similarly to the basic Ancestral Warchief, except it can leap at enemies and grants you a significantly larger damage buff while active.
This section is meant to accompany the main "Act 1" section of the guide.
Early Act 1
You won't get your first totem for a while and won't get Infernal Blow until the end of Act 1, so you will have to make do with other skills for now.
From Enemy at the Gate, pick up Ground Slam, which will carry you through Act 1. The Ruthless Support you may have picked up in the first area will work just fine as a support gem for it. Other Attacks are options if you find one you like; see Nessa's store stock in town for a few options.
With your first few passive points, work your way towards the following tree:
Once you finish Mercy Mission, you'll be offered a few support gems. Onslaught Support is the best of them for now - if you're using Ground Slam as your current skill, note that you cannot use Ancestral Call (which can only support Strikes). However, if you're using a Strike skill instead, Ancestral Call is likely the strongest Support available for now.
From Breaking Some Eggs, pick up Ancestral Protector. Use it against strong single targets (bosses and rares) to help take them down faster; it's usually not worth dropping on regular monsters. Ruthless is a good support for it for now. Onslaught is useless on it: the Totem would hit or kill enemies, not you, and thus the Totem (and not you) would gain Onslaught, but totems use your modifiers (not their own), so this does nothing.
You can also now buy a Dash gem from Nessa for quick movement. You may not always have enough Dexterity to keep it leveled up, but leveling it just reduces its cooldown slightly, which isn't too important yet.
Once you enter the Prison (The Caged Brute), you can pick up Added Fire Damage Support, which will be a good support for Ground Slam and your Ancestral Protector for now. You should also buy, and start leveling, a Combustion Support, which we'll use later on.
Brutus (The Caged Brute) shouldn't be too too difficult. Ground Slam deals extra damage when you're close to him, so if you can't avoid being hit either way you're best off getting in his face and knocking him around.
Once you've defeated Brutus, you can pick up Leap Slam, a longer range movement skill alternative. We'll discuss movement skills much later in the guide, but you can start using it now alongside Dash if you like. It's slower but can get you across wider gaps.
Late Act 1
As you go, you'll want to look for a few specific sorts of item:
- 3- and 4-linked items with primarily red sockets.
- One-handed weapons, ideally maces, with high Physical damage. Later on, we'll transition to using Sceptres specifically, but for now the Intelligence requirements might be a bit hefty.
- Armour with Life and Resistances. Gear with Armour is most likely to have the red sockets you want.
- Jewellery with Life, Resistances, Adds X Physical Damage to Attacks, and Elemental Damage with Attack Skills.
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), Nessa will finally offer you your Infernal Blow. You can also pick up Chain Hook, a convenient movement option for getting into melee range.
At this point, you can choose to set up your Infernal Blow in one of two ways. One way is to use Ancestral Call and Melee Splash Support to apply your Infernal Blow debuff to as many targets as possible and create large chain reactions of explosions. The other way is to use Ruthless and Added Fire Damage for improved single-target damage against bosses. Throughout this guide, I will assume you're using the single-target setup. If you would prefer the more AoE-heavy variant, replace the last two supports in every Infernal Blow link mentioned with a Melee Splash and an Ancestral Call. You can, if you choose, swap back and forth between the two setups at the cost of some gem micromanagement.
Against packs, Infernal Strike is pretty simple to use: attack a few enemies (or one if you're using the AoE variant) to apply the charged debuff, then kill one to set off a chain reaction that will kill the entire pack.
Against bosses, the biggest thing you can do to up your damage is to try to only kill smaller enemies right next to the boss, so that you benefit from the substantial damage of your triggered explosions. (Of course, using the single-target supports will also help.) Don't forget to use your Ancestral totems and to replace them if they die.
This section is meant to accompany the main "Act 2" section of the guide.
Early Act 2
For the Deal with the Bandits quest, we kill all the bandits. Helping Kraityn is an option for movement speed and damage, but he doesn't give any benefit to our chain-explosion trash clearing.
From Intruders in Black, pick up Herald of Ash. This adds a percentage of your Physical damage as Fire, which is why we use it. It also causes any enemies you kill to also apply a burn to nearby targets based on how much you overkilled them by, but this burn doesn't benefit from any of our Fire damage mods and is therefore only a minor damage gain. (Normally a Burn would benefit from Fire damage, but Herald of Ash specifically overrides this normal behavior to benefit only from Damage over Time-specific boosts.)
Sharp and Cruel is a big turning point for this build - we actually get all three of the Support gems we'll be using with Infernal Blow for the rest of the storyline!
Pick up Elemental Damage with Attacks, Rage, and Melee Physical Damage Supports and link them to your Infernal Blow. Note that even though the explosions from your Infernal Blow don't deal Attack Damage, they are damage done by an Attack Skill, and therefore Elemental Damage with Attacks does benefit their damage.
(AoE-variant players should replace Melee Physical and one of either Rage or Elemental Damage with Attacks with Ancestral Call/Melee Splash. Rage is better for bosses because the effect of the Rage buff boosts your Totem's damage too. It's also better when you can consistently keep Rage high. Otherwise, Elemental Damage with Attacks is better.)
You'll now gain Rage as you hit enemies. Rage stacks up to 50, granting Attack Damage, Attack Speed, and Movement Speed based on the number of stacks. Rage decays quickly when you're out of combat. You can see your Rage stacks at the top left of your screen or as a reddish bar on the top of your Mana globe at the bottom right of your screen. You can support your movement skills with Rage Support for easier maintenance.
You'll also want to redo your Ancestral Protector link as Ancestral Protector - Melee Physical - Ruthless - Added Fire. Later on, we'll use Elemental Damage with Attacks with our totems as well, but at this stage of the build we haven't converted their damage into Fire damage yet.
Late Act 2
By now you may have picked up the Resolute Technique Keystone Passive. If you have - or once you do - you won't be able to Critically Strike, so any bonuses that relate to Critical Strikes are/will be useless to you.
You may find yourself having some issues with Dexterity at various points in the leveling process. A Jade Amulet or an early point in the Expertise passive node above and to the left of your starting location can help a lot.
At around this point you should be transitioning into using mostly Sceptres. We're still looking for high Physical damage on them; Increased Fire Damage (not added Fire damage, which is much weaker) is worth something but Physical damage is the priority.
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. Even though we'll be dealing exclusively Fire damage in the endgame, Punishment is by far the best offensive choice of these (remember, our converted Physical -> Fire damage benefits from Physical modifiers on us as well). Enfeeble is the defensive option.
Late Act 3
Sever the Right Hand offers Ancestral Warchief. Stick this in a socket in your weapon-swap slot and start leveling it, but we won't use it just yet. (It also offers Tectonic Slam, an alternative skill that can be used effectively without large changes to our Passive tree if you find it appeals to you. Players who like this option should modify the Ascendancy choices later in the guide, removing Tukohama, War's Herald and replacing it with Tawhoa, Forest's Strength.)
A Fixture of Fate rewards Fortify Support, a good choice to link to Chain Hook or Leap Slam in order to keep the substantial damage-reduction buff up during boss fights. (Dash won't work, because it doesn't Hit.)
This section is meant to accompany the main "Act 4" section of the guide.
Early Act 4
Your available movement skills are Leap Slam, Dash, and Chain Hook. All are useful in their own ways, and they can be used together: Dash gets you quickly out of the way of an incoming attack, Leap Slam lets you bypass hazards on the ground easily, and Chain Hook lets you gap-close to get into the fray faster. It's a good idea to use all three for now and see if you can make use of them. Faster Attacks and Rage Support are good options for Leap Slam/Chain Hook.
From Breaking the Seal, we can pick up Berserk. This isn't really central to the build, but it offers an option for front-loading even more damage on bosses if you can come into them with a full rage bar. Berserk consumes your Rage over time to grant a gigantic damage buff.
From The Eternal Nightmare, pick up Multiple Totems. We can now set up our Totems properly, with two Protectors and one Warchief. Your new links for these skills are Ancestral Protector - Ruthless - Multiple Totems - Melee Physical and Ancestral Warchief - Ruthless - Melee Physical Damage - Combustion (strictly speaking Combustion may be useless for now, but it won't be very soon.) You can now summon one Warchief, then use Protector one time to summon two Protector totems in addition to your Warchief.
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. Again, if you're having trouble with Dexterity, pick up Expertise without further delay (above and to the left of the Marauder start).
(Sorry for the blurry image - the design of this site does not like very vertically-large images!)
The Labyrinth is a chance to practice what you've learned so far. Dash and Leap Slam will help you avoid traps scattered throughout the zone. Izaro himself can be damaged by detonating his summoned skeletons next to him, although you'll want to carefully land a few hits on Izaro himself when you're able. Use your Totems to contribute extra single-target damage, and don't be afraid to keep your distance and damage Izaro with Totems if you find that you can't easily take his hits.
Once you've completed the Labyrinth, pick up Ngamahu, Flame's Advance as your first Chieftain passive. This is the first half of your Physical to Fire conversion for your Totems, and completes the conversion for your Infernal Blow (which innately converts Phys to Fire). You should swap the Ruthless gem on your Totem links to Elemental Damage with Attacks at this point.
(Although we're converting all our Infernal Blow damage into Fire, we're still using Physical Damage nodes on the tree. As mentioned before, damage converted from Physical to Fire benefits from modifiers to both.)
Late Act 4
There's nothing of note for this build in late Act 4. It's tight corners with lots of bosses, which is an ideal situation for this single-target-heavy build.
If you haven't already gotten one, consider picking up a Vaal Ancestral Warchief gem from another player.
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. This build doesn't need any of these jewels, so you can either not take the reward (and come back for it later when you want to try another build) or you can take one to sell to another player for an Orb of Alchemy or so.
Part II (Acts 6-10)
Once you complete your second Labyrinth, around the end of Act 7 or the beginning of Act 8, pick up Hinekora, Death's Fury. This is a large damage gain (the "Covered in Ash" effect is essentially 20% More Fire Damage against bosses), and it gives you Leech to help stay alive.
Epilogue & Maps
Once you complete your third Labyrinth, sometime early into Maps, pick up Arohongui, Moon's Presence. Strictly speaking, Ramako, Sun's Light is a better damage boost, but the damage reduction effect from Arohongui is worth the slight damage loss.
The main map mod of note is "Monsters Reflect X% of Elemental Damage". Although your damage is pure Elemental, the damage from the on-death explosions you cause cannot be reflected (and your Totems won't reflect damage to you). So it's conceivable that you could work your way through these maps (with, say, a Pantheon power to reduce reflected damage and a purchased Sibyl's Lament ring). It is still, however, very dangerous and should be avoided when possible.
Once you complete your final Labyrinth, late in the endgame, you have three options for your last Chieftain passive. Pick up Tukohama, War's Herald for another big damage gain when your Totems are active. You now have a new ability to play tactically by letting Totems leech life for you without going into melee yourself, which can be useful against very dangerous melee bosses like a buffed-up Izaro.
The Full Build
Main Skill Links
Infernal Blow - Elemental Damage with Attacks - Rage - Melee Physical Damage. In a 5- or 6-link, add in Elemental Focus and Ruthless supports. Swap out the last two gems in whatever your link size is for Melee Splash and Ancestral Call if you want to play the more AoE-heavy variant.
Ancestral Protector - Elemental Damage with Attacks - Multiple Totems - Melee Physical Damage.
[Vaal] Ancestral Warchief - Elemental Damage with Attacks - Melee Physical Damage - Combustion. Combustion is quite important, since it offers a large damage boost to all our skills, not just Warchief, by shredding enemy Fire Resistance. Alternately, you can use the Cast When Damage Taken Blade Vortex utility link below and replace Combustion with Elemental Focus for a small damage gain.
(Beyond the standard ones listed as part of the Act 4 Guide)
Cast When Damage Taken - Blade Vortex - Combustion is an alternative way to apply Fire Resistance-shredding Ignites. You don't need to level any of these skills for it to work.
Leap Slam/Chain Hook - Rage - Fortify - Faster Attacks for movement and easy uptime on the damage-reducing Fortify buff and cheap Rage generation.
Herald of Ash, unlinked.
Berserk is a very strong option for burst damage if you can go into a fight with enough Rage to use it. If you're using it, you can also use:
Riposte - Vengeance - Rage for some easy passive Rage generation at the cost of only one link setup and no mental bandwidth. Note that Fortify Support does not work with these skills. You can also link Combustion if you don't want to use one of the two Combustion setups already mentioned.
Punishment is the clear offensive choice, and Enfeeble is the clear defensive one. Both can be applied through a Blasphemy setup.
Your weapons should be the highest Physical damage Maces you can find. Note that Sceptres are Maces, mechanically speaking, and will usually be better than non-Sceptre Maces for this build because of their implicit modifiers. Large % Increased Fire Damage bonuses are also valuable, but high Physical damage is a higher priority. Added (as opposed to Increased) Fire Damage is weak and not worth looking for.
Your armour should emphasize Resistances (to cap), Life, and Armour amount, in that order. You'll mostly be using Armour equipment, although in the late game you can use Armour/Energy Shield mixes for more convenient socket colors if need be.
Your jewellery can be a mix of Resistances, Life, Added Physical Damage, Attack Speed, and Elemental Damage with Attacks. Note that Critical-Strike-related modifiers are worthless to you, as you cannot Critically Strike due to Resolute Technique.
Notable Uniques include:
- Doryani's Catalyst (a Sceptre that deals good base Physical damage and gives a large boost to Fire damage, notable in that you can actually farm it yourself - it's a rareish boss-specific drop from Queen Atziri)
- Xoph's Blood (a very expensive endgame amulet that gives you Avatar of Fire and covers enemies in Ash, freeing up a bunch of passive points - not to be confused with Xoph's Heart, its weaker non-upgaded form, which is also an OK item for this build)