Pick A Build-Around
A Seed of Power
One easy way to begin your build is to pick one powerful effect to serve as the core of your build, then try to develop everything else around that. This provides a unifying theme to your build, and gives you a way to evaluate what effects might be more powerful. For example, if you decide you want to build around Molten Strike - a skill that can potentially hit dozens of times per use - you might recognize that on-hit effects like Life Gain On Hit are particularly strong.
There are lots of possible seeds for a build. Just a few examples include:
- Ascendancies, the powered-up subclasses you'll gain access to during the main story. Many Ascendancy effects are extremely powerful. For example, the Occultist can cause enemies she's applied Curses to to explode for massive Chaos damage. If you want to use that passive, you'll need to be sure to apply Curses somehow and might consider bonuses to Chaos or Area damage to boost the explosions.
- Keystone Passives, the most powerful Passive skills on the Passive Tree. Many Keystones provide very powerful effects at the cost of major drawbacks. For example, you might decide to build around Point Blank, which causes your Projectile Attacks to deal More damage at very close range, overriding your normal instinct to keep your distance as a ranged attacker. You can find a list of Keystones on their Mechanics Reference page.
- Items. Some items provide extremely powerful effects that have to be built around to achieve their full potential. For example, the Iron Commander bow lets you summon additional copies of Siege Ballista, a Totem skill, beyond the normal cap of just 1. The number of copies you can summon depends on your Dexterity, and a build with gigantic amounts of Dexterity is necessary to make it work. Getting that much Dexterity warps your build decisions significantly, encouraging you to (among other things) stay in one section of the Passive Tree.
- Skills. Some skills are strange and require lots of support to make work. For example, Righteous Fire deals a huge amount of damage to you while it's active, so a build that uses it needs to have lots of Fire Resistance (to mitigate the damage it's inflicting on you) and Life Regeneration (to heal back the rest) in order to keep it active. These builds are rewarded with a huge amount of outgoing damage for their trouble.
- Interactions. Sometimes you can come up with a clever combination of more than one of the above. For example, you might realize that The Three Dragons (which lets your Fire damage Shock instead of Igniting) can combine with Herald of Thunder (which triggers when you kill a Shocked enemy) to allow your Fire damage to trigger Herald of Thunder. If you can figure out a reason doing so is particularly strong, you can create a build around that interaction.
We'll go over your options for these categories in a moment. First, let's see how this plays out in the creation of a build.
An Applied Example
One experimental build I tried (which turned out to not work that well) was based around an Assassin passive that adds Poison Duration for every Poison applied recently. That seemed like an interesting effect, particularly since the bonus is limited only by the capacity to apply Poisons as rapidly as possible.
Poisons are applied by individual Hits of Physical or Chaos, and those Hits don't have to do much damage to apply one. Hmm, I thought, so I need a skill that hits lots of times for small amounts of Physical or Chaos damage. One that came to mind was the wand skill Kinetic Blast, which hits a target and then causes a series of small explosions around it that also deal damage.
Now that I'd picked a skill, I wanted to push the rate of poison application as high as it could possibly go. This meant adding as many hits as I could get. So I added Greater Multiple Projectiles, Chain, and Fork Support to my Kinetic Blast. Now I'd be firing four shots, each of which split into two smaller sub-shots, and each of those sub-shots would bounce twice, causing explosions on every hit. This meant I could potentially hit hundreds of times per attack. Those supports cost some damage, of course, but I didn't care: my goal was to apply Poisons, not deal damage with the main Hits.
To actually apply Poisons, of course, I'd need a Chance to Poison. Assassins get 40% from one of their passives, but I'd want another 60% to maximize my rate of Poison application. Chance to Poison is actually a kind of hard stat to find. You can get lots of it from a support gem, but I'd rather save those for more damage! Instead, I looked for it from a passive buff I could keep active (adding a new skill, Herald of Agony, to my list) and from the Passive Tree (constraining where on the tree I wanted to go).
From there I knew what skill I was using, what my damage source was, and where I'd be starting and going to on the passive tree. At this point I had massively narrowed the possible options for my build, enough to start thinking about more specific things.
Picking Your Core
You can, of course, browse all the possible Ascendancies, items, and Keystones at your leisure, either online or in Path of Building (which we'll learn about in a moment). To get you started, you can find a number of representative examples on the pages linked below. Note that some of these skills may not be available for the first couple of acts, meaning you may have to rely on other skills to get you through until then. These are not necessarily the strongest skills, items, etc - they're just ones with interesting ideas to get you started.