Creating A Build

Getting Started

Now that you've hopefully got an idea what your build will be, let's get started on actually fleshing it out. For the purposes of this section, I'll be making a build of my own to demonstrate the process step by step. My build will be quite different from yours, but it should give you some concrete idea of the steps involved with its creation.

To get started, fire up Path of Building and import this "build" - really it's just a batch of convenient pre-set items and tree skeletons for you to use if you wish. Go to Import/Export Build -> Import with Pastebin and enter the following link:

A Build-Around

Hopefully you've already chosen some, but I'll walk you through my decision-making as I create my own build.

I took a moment to flip through some build-around items and identified one I like - The Whispering Ice - whose stats as of this writing can be seen in the screenshot next to this section as they would appear in Path of Building.

Whispering Ice gives two things I care about: the Icestorm special item skill, which scales with Intelligence, and a % Increased Spell Damage modifier for each point of Intelligence I have. This is going to be a defining feature of my build - I'm going to stack up as much Intelligence as I realistically can in order to scale this effect sky-high.

This already puts some constraints on my build. I'm playing a caster, since Icestorm is a Spell, and I'm trying to rack up Intelligence. That suggests I should probably start near the top of the Passive Tree, where there are lots of Spell- and Intelligence-related nodes.

Major Choices

Alright, so I'm stacking Intelligence as high as it'll go. That's helpful for deciding on my main forms of defense - Intelligence grants bonuses to Mana and Energy Shield, so I probably don't want to play a pure Life build. I know making hybrid Energy Shield builds is a pain (and since I don't trade with other players, it's nigh impossible), so I have to choose between a Life/Mana hybrid with Mind Over Matter, or a pure Energy Shield build with Chaos Inoculation. I'll go with the former for this example - my main defenses will be Life and Mana, meaning I'll need lots of Life nodes. Mana I'm probably set for, given the enormous amounts of Intelligence I plan to rack up.

The next question is how I'll scale my damage. Hmm, I think, how long is Icestorm's cast time? If it's very long, like close to 1 second, I might want to trigger it through some secondary means. So I go ahead and equip the Whispering Ice staff and take a look at Path of Building's readout for my new Icestorm skill.

"Cast Rate: 1.47". That's a little under a cast and a half per second, or about 2/3 of a second per cast. Pretty long, but not so long that triggering it is the only viable path. I'll go with self-casting for the purposes of simplicity here, although I actually do think triggering it is probably stronger. Whatever, maybe I want to cast it myself.

Okay, so what tags does it have? A quick Google search tells me that Icestorm is a Cold damage Spell that hits enemies in an Area. So Cold, Spell, and Area damage are major scaling options. However, because Icestorm's base damage scales off of Intelligence, I'll mostly look for that. I can also look for Cast Speed (since I'm self-casting) and maybe Area of Effect modifiers. I need to invest heavily in Intelligence, so I probably don't have the points for Critical Strike - I'll go with a non-crit option for this build. Ice Storm lasts for a while, raining ice down on an area, and the longer it lasts the more ice it can rain, so Skill Effect Duration is a powerful modifier for me.

Next, I need to pick an Ascendancy. I'm playing a caster at the top of the tree, so probably some sort of Templar, Witch, or maybe Shadow. Shadow's out - I'm not playing damage over time (so no Trickster), crit (so no Assassin), or Traps or Mines (so no Saboteur). I'm not going with minions or support effects, which eliminates Guardian (Templar) and Necromancer (Witch). Still no damage over time, so no Occultist (Witch). That leaves me with three viable options: Elementalist (Witch), Hierophant (Templar), or Inquisitor (Templar). Inquisitors lean towards crit builds, so I'll eliminate that too, and I happen to know that as of this writing Elementalists are kinda weak. That leaves me with my choice: a Hierophant, which gets defenses based on Mana in addition to my Mind Over Matter keystone and thus goes well with the build.

At this point I go up to the top of my Path of Building window and set my class to Templar -> Hierophant.

Next comes my choice of sustain tool: Hierophants get Life Leech by default, so sustain isn't a big issue. I'll make sure to pick up some Mana Regeneration to recover that, too.

Finally I look at secondary defenses. Since I expect to have an enormous effective health pool thanks to my very large mana pool and the bonus Energy Shield on top of it provided by my Hierophant ascendancy, I don't think I need it for my build. I'll go without.

Sketch Out Your Tree

Every build has a few places it has to get to on the tree. They might be bonuses to your skills found only in one particular area, they might be some Keystone Passive core to your build. Figure out where those locations are now, because you're going to have to plan out how to get to them.

In my example build's case, I know I need Mind Over Matter and tons of Intelligence. Mind Over Matter is really close to where I start, and Intelligence is all over the top of the tree. I particularly want the % Increased Intelligence node ("Utmost Intellect") at the top of the tree, so I'll make sure I go by there. I also need plenty of Life, which means I probably want to make a trip to the central Life cluster (more on this later).

The reason we want to consider these essential locations first is that we want to pick up useful bonuses on the way. We don't want to make separate detours for Life and damage - we want to get them both together, if we can. So now that you know roughly where you start and where you need to end up, search the Passive Tree nodes along possible routes and see if there are any passives that might be useful to you.

I go ahead and just start by clicking all the major nodes I'm interested in - the Intelligence clusters mentioned before, a few major Life clusters, and my core keystone Mind Over Matter. Since I'm playing a non-crit build, I also go for Elemental Overload, another Keystone, which will add a lot of damage. At this point, my tree looks like this:

It's not much of a build yet. I've only allocated 45 Passive Points, less than half my total. But already I have at least some contours for my build to structure itself around. I'm not going very far on the tree, so I'll need to squeeze what Life nodes I can. I already have a ton of Intelligence - more than 400 - which is a great start. Still, I'll want to limit myself to the top third of the tree anytime I can.

You should consider what the must-haves are for your build, and sketch out a skeleton at this point.

In my own example build, I go ahead and grab major useful nodes near the must-haves. I flesh out the full Life clusters, grab some free Skill Effect Duration near the center of the tree, grab some nearby Life I didn't click before, and pick up a couple of Jewel Sockets nearby. (A Jewel socket that you can reach for 2 or fewer points is almost certainly worth it.) I also run a quick search for "Intelligence" in the bottom bar - maybe there are some normally-just-okay nodes that get better when you're trying to stack Intelligence as much as possible. That brings me to 75 points spent - about 3/4ths of what I can spend - and the following tree.

At this point, we should check for weaknesses. With only about 30 points left to spend, we better be sure we got the big things that we absolutely know we'll need.

I check my Life increases - 161%, not too bad, especially since we're not a pure Life build. Intelligence is doing well, too, at a nice even 500 - with gear, I think, I bet I can push that over 1,000. Hmm, why is my Life only 420? Oh, I forgot to set my level. - I forgot to set it to a higher value so that I can see how much Life I'll have for real. I go with Level 80, which puts me at 2.6k Life. Not enough, but we're not done yet and I haven't put any gear on, so it's probably fine. My Mana is sitting comfortably at roughly half my Life pool - a bit below where I want it, since I'll be diverting 40% of incoming damage to Mana, but as I stack Intelligence this number is probably going to go up.

I check my damage. Oof, "Average Hit: 312". Okay, I haven't added any Support gems to my Whispering Ice yet, but that's awfully low. Icestorm hits many times per cast, but not that many - I better make sure I pick up some damage gains.

Equip Some Basic Gear

It's best not to plan around very good gear unless you're sure you'll have it. Almost anything will work if you throw enough gear at it; we need a build that works even if we don't. That's why mediocre gear has been included with the starter build. Flip over to the Items tab of Path of Building and equip gear appropriate to your type of build.

I'm playing an Intelligence character focused on Life, so I pick out the associated armor from the list and equip it. I also grab Life and Resistance rings, an amulet, and a belt. My weapon - Whispering Ice - is already set. It looks like I'm short for Fire Resistance with this example gear, but have too much Cold and Lightning - I edit a couple of the overly high resistance items to cover Fire instead by double-clicking on them and using the crafting dropdown. I replace modifiers instead of adding them, to be sure I'm still planning around weaker items. That's better - now I'm at 75% across the board for Elemental Resistances and even hit 0% Chaos Resistance (well, it's better than -60%).

Now, my build scales off of Intelligence, and that's where I'm going to get a lot of my damage and defenses. As given, none of the example items stack Intelligence, but I can fix that. I don't care that much about Chaos Resistance, and I happen to know I can get a lot of Intelligence on Rings, so I replace the Chaos Resistance on them with Intelligence modifiers more appropriate to my build. Path of Building even helpfully tells me how much I gain by this - a whopping 10% damage per ring!

I'm now up to 4.4k Life and 1257 Mana. Not too bad, though less Mana than I'd hoped for.

Finish a First Draft Tree

I go back to my Passive Tree now and fill out some Passive choices that seem reasonable up to 103 Passive Points spent. I'm not ruthlessly optimizing yet, I'm just grabbing nodes I think might be helpful. My mana's a bit low, so I grab some modifiers to that. I need more damage so I grab relevant damage nodes near my tree.

At this point I also fill out an initial pass at my Ascendancy points. Some of the nodes apply conditional effects like Arcane Surge to me - I make sure I go into my Configuration tab and enable them. Or I try to, anyway - it turns out that Arcane Surge, which is normally gotten from a Support Gem, doesn't show up on the configuration tab as of this writing! It turns out I was able to find a workaround - PoB is a flexible tool, and sometimes you can do this. I just go directly into the text editing window for one of my items - say, my amulet - by selecting the item and clicking "Edit" at the top right. I then edit in the needed lines manually, like so:

After picking up some side nodes, I end up with the following tree, a first draft of my final build. This tree isn't optimal, and that's okay - it's just to get me close enough that I can start to optimize from here.

Again, we should take stock of our stats. Are we short of anything?

I'm now up to 4,600 Life and 2,300 Mana. That's still less Mana than I want, but it's a ton of effective health - especially since my Ascendancy is now adding an additional 1,200 Energy Shield on top for a total of 2,200.

My damage is still low. Only 1,142 per hit. That's a little more tolerable than it was, but still weak; I expect my Icestorms to hit maybe five or six times per cast, meaning my actual per-cast damage at this point is about 6,000 or 7,000. My cast rate is now 1.85, so I'm doing about 12,000 DPS to a target standing still inside my Icestorms. (For most skills, Path of Building would display my overall DPS, but it can't know how many times Icestorm hits. So it just tells me the per-hit damage and leaves me to guess.) Still, I don't have any Support gems yet, so maybe this is okay - we'll have to see.

Add Support Gems

The reason we don't do this to begin with is that some Support gems give Increased modifiers and some give More modifiers. If we started with support gems, the power of Increased modifiers would be inflated by the lack of other Increased modifiers present in the build. But now it's time to add some Support gems. Flip to the Skills tab in Path of Building.

In my case, I'm lucky - because I'm using an item that grants a skill directly, I don't have to worry about links for its supports. Any support gem in my Whispering Ice will support my Icestorm. That means I can likely count on being able to use six support gems early on. You probably shouldn't make this assumption unless you happen to be using a primary skill granted by a six-socketable item - you should probably plan around a 4-link, which means you'll have room for three Support gems early on. I'll stick to four Supports in my build for easy comparisons.

The easiest way to select Support gems is just to go to the Skills tab, create a new socket group, add your main skill, and then just take whatever three Support gems Path of Building recommends. It's not necessarily the optimal way, but it's fine for a first draft. (In my case, my Icestorm isn't from a gem, so I have to create a separate socket group and set them to be socketed in my Whispering Ice.)

In my case, I add in Efficacy and Increased Duration to make my Icestorm last longer (and therefore hit more times), Concentrated Effect for extra damage and more impacts per target, and Elemental Focus for raw damage. This brings me up to 3.2k damage per impact, and I think my Icestorms will hit any given target far more times now - my best guess is perhaps 10-12 times. That means I'm doing more like 30-35k per cast, and with my cast rate, that means I'm doing about 70k DPS. Still not quite where I want to be, but a lot better, and maybe something some optimization will clean up.

Add Secondary Skills

Most builds don't only use their primary skill - they also take advantage of buffs on themselves, Curses on enemies, defensive skills, and so on to flesh out their strengths and weaknesses. There are lots of options here, and they depend on the kind of build you're making:

  • Auras block off ("Reserve") a section of your Mana pool to provide buffs to you and other players near you. They're powerful effects, but except in specialized builds you can probably only afford one or two. Banners are a subset of Auras that reserve less mana and can be placed as objects to sustain their effects.
  • Heralds are self-buffs that also Reserve mana. Most add damage of various types and trigger secondary effects. Heralds are frequently misunderstood - if you want to emphasize one as part of your build, take a look at the Act 2 guide page on them.
  • Curses are spells you cast on enemies that reduce their damage, defenses, stats, or resistances in most cases. They can either be cast directly or triggered through one of Path of Exile's many automatic trigger effects. By default, you can only apply one Curse per enemy.
  • Defensive skills can help you stay alive. The most common examples are Guard skills, like Steelskin (which absorbs a percentage of incoming damage up to a cap) or Molten Shell (which absorbs damage based on your Armour).

In my case, I'm making a build that wants to use its Mana as a secondary health pool. That means I don't want to block off any of my Mana for Auras or Heralds. I do want a curse, and since I'm worried mostly about damage, I'll go with one I expect to help my damage. Frostbite will cut enemies' Cold Resistance, and since I deal mostly Cold Damage, this is easily my best pick in my example build.

If you create a new empty socket group on your Skills tab, Path of Building will suggest secondary skills that might boost the skill you have selected in your main panel at the left hand side of your screen. Note that some of these skills have significant costs, are temporary effects, or are otherwise not straight damage gains, so be careful and make sure you actually read what the skill does!


Now that we've got the main skeleton of our build fleshed out, we want to go back and tweak things to work better. Maybe we missed a cluster of Passive nodes that are more powerful than the ones we picked, or maybe we could have chosen a different Support gem.

Let's start with the tree. In my case, I notice:

  • I missed a Jewel socket only 2 points out of reach. I get it.
  • I picked up a 4% Life node when I could have gotten a 5% Life node. I swap the two.
  • Intelligence is so good that even the 'road' nodes on the Passive Tree are giving me 1.8% damage per point, while the Cold Damage cluster at the top is only giving me 3.2% - that suggests to me that I can maybe do better things with the points I have in that cluster, if they're barely beating out raw Intelligence for damage. I unallocate that cluster and go looking for alternatives, but I don't find them, so I put that cluster back.
  • Several of the branches of my passive tree come close to forming loops, so I check for more efficient pathing options. I find one, at the cost of dropping some Life - but recall that I'm okay with this, because I felt like my Life was too high relative to my Mana anyway. So I take the more efficient path, then grab some % Increased Mana nodes.
  • At the top of the tree, I can swap a couple of equal-length paths to get Intelligence instead of Strength. I do so. Intelligence is so good for this build that I actually avoid a path I would normally take, pathing through Elemental Damage nodes rather than just raw stats.

Next, I check my gems.

  • It turns out Efficacy's increased duration effect isn't enough to be worth it relative to other gems. Unleash - which Path of Building didn't recommend because it's not a straightforward percentage-based damage increase - is probably better, so I swap Efficacy for it.

I would normally check my items, but in this case, we're just using example items.

Take Stock

At this point, your build is mostly done.

I go over my critical stats one more time:

  • 4.5k Life, 2.3k Mana, and some extra Energy Shield for insurance. More than enough.
  • Resistances are capped, even in bad example gear.
  • Stat requirements are mostly met. I'm slightly short on Dexterity for my Frostbite curse, but it's close enough I can probably make it up somewhere, or just live with a slightly lower level Curse skill.
  • 3.9k average hit. I expect about 10-12 hits per cast, and cast about 2.5 times per second (if I count Unleash's extra cast). That comes out to about 100k DPS. Not great, but not terrible, especially considering that I know I can work two more Support gems in without too much trouble.

All in all, it's good enough! I could definitely make a better iteration of this build (and in fact, I have before), but now I have a build that will at least function. Check the next page for a quick checklist of things to look at.