Build Last Updated: July 2019, Patch 3.7.1, Legion League
(This build is playable with minimal modification in Patch 3.8)
This build is a generic Physical/Bleed core built around the Gladiator's ability to cause bleeding enemies to explode. It works with a number of major skills, but we focus on Lacerate, which fires two slicing waves of force that deal Melee damage at range. It offers easy in-combat tradeoffs, giving it more flexibility than most builds. You can choose between damage and safety by deciding how close to stay to enemies: you can hit from long range but will do more damage up close. You can also swap between single targets and packs by switching between Blood Stance (which reduces the width of your slashes but raises your damage) and Sand Stance (which widens your slashes but reduces your damage).
This build can clear extremely quickly or deal high single target damage, although it is weaker at doing both at once because it has to make explicit trade-offs between the two. It requires more attention and micromanagement than most builds do, but the reward is a very flexible build able to do most content without trouble. Adventurous players can also try using other skills that interact well with Bleeding, like Double Strike.
This build uses Melee Attacks, but deals damage at moderate range.
Gladiator is one of the Duelist Ascendancy subclasses. When you create your character, you'll create a Duelist; you'll choose to be a Gladiator 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/AVZnJ9Cw
Main Skill Basics
This build alternates between Blood Stance and Sand Stance. Since its main skill's behavior depends on these stances, we'll cover them first.
By default, you're in Blood Stance. Stances do nothing innately, but some skills choose which variant they use depending on what stance you're in when you use them. Once you get access to one of the two stance-swapping skills in this build (Blood and Sand or Flesh and Stone), you'll be able to use them to swap between Blood Stance and Sand Stance.
Each of these skills also adds passive effects while you're in once stance or the other:
- Blood and Sand makes you do more Area Damage but have less Area of Effect while in Blood Stance. While in Sand Stance, these effects are reversed.
- Flesh and Stone slows nearby enemies and causes them to take more damage while in Blood Stance. While in Sand Stance, it Blinds nearby enemies (which doesn't benefit this build because of some of its passive choices) and reduces the damage distant enemies do to you.
Swapping between stances swaps both skills, not just one (you can't be in Sand Stance with Blood and Sand but in Blood Stance with Flesh and Stone, for example).
In addition to the above effects, your Lacerate's behavior depends on your stance. See below for more on this.
Lacerate fires two waves of force, one to the left of the targeted location and one to the right. The two waves overlap in the center, and enemies in this overlap will take damage from both waves. In addition, it gains a bonus depending on your stance: in Blood Stance, it deals extra Bleed damage (see below for more on Bleeding); in Sand Stance, the slashes have a wider angle. Lacerate can only be used with Axes and Swords, not with other weapon types.
Lacerate is an Attack, and therefore 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). Despite its long range, Lacerate is still a Melee Attack, uses a Melee Weapon, and benefits from Melee and Attack modifiers. It deals damage in an area, and thus benefits from Area Damage modifiers. Modifiers to Area of Effect increase the distance each slash travels, but not the width of the slash. Increases to Attack Speed will increase the rate at which you attack, just as they would for any other attack.
Despite appearing quite similar to some skills that are, Lacerate is not a Projectile and does not benefit in any way from Projectile-related modifiers.
Bleeding is an Ailment (a special kind of debuff) that can only be applied by Physical Attack Damage. It deals Physical Damage Over Time to an affected enemy; the amount of damage is based on the base and added damage of the applying hit (and not on any Increased or More modifiers to that hit's damage). By default, only one Bleed at a time can damage an enemy; in this build we'll take a passive that lets up to eight deal damage at a time. By default, Bleeding does more damage to moving targets, but this build sacrifices that effect.
The exact mechanics of how much damage Bleeding does are complex, and are probably not something you want to read if you're just starting out. The short version is "better weapon + added Physical damage + slower base weapon speed + global bonuses to physical damage (but not physical attack damage or weapon damage) = more bleed damage". The full details can be found on the Mechanics Reference page on Ailments, but for your purposes, Bleeds are just applying some extra damage and enabling a passive we'll get in the midgame that causes enemies to explode when killed while Bleeding.
This section is meant to accompany the main "Act 1" section of the guide.
Early Act 1
You won't get Lacerate until the end of Act 1, so you can use the Double Strike you start with for now.
We don't care about any of the gems from Enemy at the Gate, although you can play with them for now if you like.
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. Pick up Ruthless Support, which we'll use with our Lacerate throughout the game. Not only does it add a solid amount of average damage, the high bonus to every third strike also means this is a large net gain for our Bleeds (since we're capped on how many Bleeds can deal damage at a time, fewer, larger bleeds are better).
From Breaking Some Eggs, pick up Blood and Sand. This won't do anything for now if you're using Double Strike, but stick it in a socket somewhere on your gear to start leveling it for later.
You can also grab 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. You can use this against bosses throughout the game, if you like, though it's hard to keep it alive with this build's longer-range playstyle.
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 Maim Support. We won't always use this on our main attack, but we will be using it on a support skill in the endgame, so start leveling it now.
Brutus (The Caged Brute) will vary in difficulty depending on how lucky you've been finding a weapon by this point. Don't be afraid to corpse-zerg him if necessary, he'll go down eventually.
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 Axes or Swords with high Physical damage. Later on, we'll transition to using Axes exclusively, but nothing we have yet is Axe specific.
- Armour with Life and Resistances. Gear with Armour is most likely to have the red sockets you want.
- Jewellery with Life, Resistances, or Adds X Physical Damage to Attacks.
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 Lacerate. You can also pick up Chain Hook, which works well with this build's tendency to jump in and out of melee range.
Now that you have Lacerate, you'll need to start using an Axe or Sword (since it's not compatible with other weapon types). You'll also want to enable the Blood and Sand you picked up earlier. Reuse Blood and Sand to switch stances between Blood Stance (for bosses) and Sand Stance (for larger packs).
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 help Oak. Oak gives us a global Physical Damage bonus that is useful for our Bleeds (and, later on, the explosions they'll cause).
From Intruders in Black, pick up Flesh and Stone and link it to the Maim Support you picked up earlier. When you're near an enemy in Blood Stance, Flesh and Stone applies a Maim effect to that increases the damage an enemy takes; Maim Support further adds to this bonus. From now on, stay close to a boss when you can safely do so to maximize your damage.
Sharp and Cruel offers Melee Physical Damage Support, which should go with your Lacerate. Your Lacerate link should now be Lacerate - Ruthless - Melee Physical. If you happen to get a 4th link, add in Faster Attacks or Maim.
Late Act 2
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 Proficiency passive node below and to the left of your starting location can help a lot.
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 and Auras. Pick up Pride for now. You can start using it at this point, but the combination of Pride, Flesh and Stone, and Blood and Sand will eat up the vast majority of your Mana pool. You'll want to either find an item with % Physical Attack Damage Leeched As Mana or, more likely, just forego Pride for now. You should still start leveling it.
Late Act 3
Sever the Right Hand offers Bladestorm, a powerful alternative skill for adventurous players who want to deviate from the main guide.
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 when you're getting up close and personal. (Dash won't work, because it doesn't Hit.)
Start moving away from any Elemental damage remaining in your build. We'll start using a support that prevents non-Physical damage shortly.
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 when you want to get up close and deal extra damage. 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.
We don't care about any gems from Breaking the Seal.
We don't care about the actual rewards from The Eternal Nightmare, but you can now pick up Brutality Support from Petarus and Vanja. This should go in with your Lacerate alongside Ruthless and Melee Physical Damage Support.
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. You'll want to pick up Resolute Technique (at the top left) as soon as possible. If you're having trouble with Dexterity, pick up Proficiency without further delay (below and to the left of the Duelist start).
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 is very susceptible to long-range hit-and-run tactics; don't be afraid to use your Sand Stance Lacerate for foolproof hits at long range if you find you can't fight him toe to toe.
Once you've completed the Labyrinth, pick up Blood in the Eyes. This isn't a very strong passive by itself; we're getting it so that we can get Gratuitous Violence behind it.
Late Act 4
There's nothing of note for this build in late Act 4.
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 Gratuitous Violence. This causes Bleeding enemies you kill to explode, dealing Secondary, Physical, Area damage around them. This isn't an Attack, so it doesn't benefit from Physical damage modifiers and unfortunately cannot itself apply a Bleed (so no chain reactions). Nevertheless, it's a massive improvement to your clear speed, and even helps against bosses if they summon smaller enemies.
Epilogue & Maps
Once you complete your third Labyrinth, sometime early into Maps, pick up Arena Challenger. This is a huge bonus to your Attack and Movement speed, and makes it much more important to use Blood Stance in pure single-target situations.
The main map mod of note is "Monsters Reflect X% of Physical Damage". This build doesn't have any good way of dealing with physical reflect, so you're best off avoiding such maps entirely if possible. If you must run one, pick up a Sibyl's Lament ring and select the anti-reflected-damage Pantheon power to improve your chances.
Once you complete your final Labyrinth, late in the endgame, pick up Outmatch and Outlast for free damage and defensive bonuses anytime there are things to kill.
The Full Build
Main Skill Links
Lacerate - Ruthless - Melee Physical Damage - Brutality. In a 5- or 6-link, add in Fortify and Close Combat. Close Combat can be used earlier if mobility is particularly important to you, but it's a lower damage option unless you're getting in enemies' faces and does almost nothing for your damage at long range.
(Beyond the standard ones listed as part of the Act 4 Guide)
Blood and Sand, unlinked.
Flesh and Stone - Maim. You can put this in a 4-link with Blood and Sand if necessary; Maim cannot support Blood and Sand so it won't increase its Mana reservation.
Leap Slam / Chain Hook linked with some combination of Faster Attacks (for quicker movement), Rage (for added dmg on your main skills), or Curse On Hit (plus one of the curses below for damage or defenses).
Dash, probably unlinked.
Pride, if you can sustain mana with it active (you'll reserve almost all of your remaining mana).
Punishment is the offensive choice versus packs and Vulnerability is the pick against bosses. Enfeeble is the clear defensive pick. You don't have the spare Mana for a Blasphemy setup, so you'll need to either link these in a Curse on Hit setup with Leap Slam or Chain Hook (see above) or run them through Cast When Damage Taken.
Your weapons should be the highest Physical damage Axes you can find. Speed matters: faster lets you be nimbler against weaker packs, but slower makes your Bleed effects deal much more damage to bosses. If you have two weapon sets of comparable quality, you can even swap between them.
Your armour should emphasize Resistances (to cap), Life, and Armour amount, in that order.
Your jewellery can be a mix of Resistances, Life, Added Physical Damage, and Attack Speed. Note that Critical-Strike-related modifiers are worthless to you, as you cannot Critically Strike due to Resolute Technique.
Somewhere on your gear - probably your gloves, rings, or amulet - you'll want to pick up Physical Attack Damage Leeched As Mana for sustain.
Notable Uniques include:
- Haemophilia (gloves which add another explosion to your kills of Bleeding enemies, doubling up on your already rapid clear speed)
- Lion's Roar (a flask that gives a large damage bonus and causes your Melee attacks to knock enemies back)