This is an outdated guide, kept for historical purposes and to allow people who started using it to continue to do so if they so choose. If you're new, do not use this guide!
Guide Last Updated December 2018 (Betrayal League, Patch 3.5)
This build uses Caustic Arrow, which fires an arrow that explodes into a damaging cloud. Although it's an Attack build, this build focuses on scaling the cloud's Damage over Time instead of focusing on the hit itself. It's more gear-dependent than a lot of the other builds featured on this site, but has a fairly high damage ceiling with the right gear. It also comes with a number of bonuses to its survivability thanks to the defensive Trickster ascendancy.
This build is a ranged Attack build focused on Damage over Time.
Trickster is one of the Shadow Ascendancy subclasses. When you create a character, you'll create a Shadow, you'll choose to be a Trickster 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/25F6PbP1
Main Skill Basics
Caustic Arrow is an Attack that fires an arrow, converting part of your Physical damage to Chaos damage. On impact with a target, the arrow explodes into a damaging cloud that deals damage over time. If the arrow hits more than once (by, for example, piercing its primary target, then striking another one), it will spawn more than one cloud. Any given enemy can only be damaged by one Caustic Arrow cloud at a time, however.
Caustic Arrow's Hit is an Attack, and like all Attacks it deals damage based on your weapon's damage. It scales with Bow, Attack, and Projectile damage modifiers along with any modifiers appropriate to the damage types on your weapon. However, we won't care about the Hit portion of the skill in this build, which focuses on the Damage-over-Time aspect of Caustic Arrow.
Caustic Arrow's cloud is a Chaos Damage over Time effect. It scales with Chaos and Damage over Time modifiers as you would expect. It does not deal Attack damage and does not scale with modifiers to Attack damage, nor does it incorporate your weapon's damage in any way. It is also not a Projectile, but it has a special modifier that allows Projectile damage modifiers to affect its Damage over Time. Like all Damage-over-Time effects, the cloud does not itself Hit (although the arrow that created it might), and it cannot trigger effects that depend on Hitting (it cannot critically strike, for example). Modifiers to Skill Effect Duration will modify the duration of the cloud.
Caustic Arrow's cloud is not a Poison, and does not scale in any way with Poison or Ailment-related modifiers. Although it does not use your weapon's damage, Caustic Arrow is not a Spell and does not scale in any way with spell-related modifiers.
All of the above notwithstanding, the Caustic Arrow skill itself is an Attack skill, and modifiers to Attack Skills will affect both portions of Caustic Arrow if otherwise applicable. It is also a Bow skill and will benefit from +X to Level of Socketed Bow Gems modifiers.
This section is meant to accompany the main "Act 1" section of the guide.
Early Act 1
You'll start out on the Twilight Strand, and you'll need to use the starting dagger you're given while you look for a bow. Once you've completed Enemy at the Gate and found yourself a bow (any bow will do), you'll be able to purchase a Caustic Arrow gem from Nessa in town (she won't offer it as a quest reward, but you can buy it from her once the quest is done).
Use your first few passive points to work towards the following tree:
Once you finish Mercy Mission, you've got a few options for a support gem. Volley Support will let you fire several arrows that fly parallel to one another, giving you excellent coverage with your Caustic Arrow clouds. Mirage Archer, on the other hand, will give you a ghost that piggybacks on you and fires arrows for you while you move. I'd suggest playing with both and seeing which one suits you; both are perfectly fine choices for the early levelling process.
Breaking Some Eggs has nothing you care about.
Once you enter the Prison, you'll have a few options for support gems. Pick up Void Manipulation and use it along with Volley or Mirage Archer once you've got a 3-link.
Brutus (The Caged Brute) is all about the hit-and-run. Keep your distance, dodge his hook-grabs, and keep your clouds ticking away. Mirage Archer can be really strong here, since it'll keep shooting while you're dodging.
Once you're finished with The Caged Brute, you'll be rewarded with another batch of gems. Pick up Wither and, if you can find yourself a blue-red link, link it up with Spell Totem Support for a powerful utility effect to help you against bosses. We won't discuss Movement skills until later in the guide, but you can buy a Blink Arrow from Nessa now if you want.
Late Act 1
As you go, you'll want to look for a few specific sorts of item:
- 3- and 4-linked items with green sockets. These will be easiest to find on Evasion gear.
- For a bow, you're looking for fast attack speed and Physical damage. Later in the levelling process we won't care at all about damage on our bow, but for the moment it can still contribute something since we haven't invested heavily into Damage-over-Time modifiers yet.
- Gear with Life and Resistances.
- Rings with either high resistances or (as a temporary measure) high "Adds X-Y 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).
You don't care about the gems from The Siren's Cadence unless you want to fool around with some other skills temporarily.
Merveil (The Siren's Cadence) is another hit-and-run affair, which is going to be the theme for bosses for this build throughout the game. Fortunately she's more of a stationary ranged monster, which makes her a bit easier than Brutus for this build.
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 will kill all three bandits. No real reason to do anything else for a build that doesn't benefit much from any of their rewards.
From Intruders in Black, you can pick up Herald of Agony for some minor extra damage. There's no particular reason not to use it, but it's nothing to write home about and we'll phase it out in a little while.
We don't want any of the gems from Sharp and Cruel. Faster Casting might have some niche use in the endgame along with your Wither, but at this point you won't have the sockets to use it. Note that Deadly Ailments does nothing at all for us, because Caustic Arrow is not an Ailment.
Late Act 2
You can use the narrow doors in late Act 2 to your advantage. It's easy to lay clouds in them and let monsters conga-line to their deaths. Don't be afraid to play peekaboo with them, firing an arrow and letting the cloud tick while you hide out of sight.
At around this point, you should probably stop caring about the damage on your bow. There are a couple of cheap Unique bows that can be worth your while if you want to trade a bit (neither should cost more than an Orb of Alchemy). One is Death's Harp, which gives a free extra arrow; the other is Silverbranch, which is a free +1 to Socketed Bow Gems. You'll also want to keep your eye out for a quiver with "Arrows Pierce an Additional Target", which will substantially help your clear speed.
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. Despair is the one we want.
You'll also now be able to buy a few different Aura skills. Haste is probably your best bet. Again, they're not going to do very much, but there's no particular reason not to use them as we shouldn't have any mana problems to speak of.
Late Act 3
None of the gem choices from Sever the Right Hand are relevant to you.
Once you complete A Fixture of Fate and gain access to all of the vendor-available gems, you'll want to pick up supports that have been unavailable to you so far. If you've got two 4-links available, which is not terribly unlikely, you can set up two separate links for your Caustic Arrow:
- Bosses: Caustic Arrow - Concentrated Effect - Vicious Projectiles - Swift Affliction
- Trash: Caustic Arrow - Volley/Mirage Archer - Pierce - Vicious Projectiles/Swift Affliction
If you've only got one 4-link at this point, run Caustic Arrow - Mirage Archer - Vicious Projectiles - Swift Affliction.
This section is meant to accompany the main "Act 4" section of the guide.
Early Act 4
You're playing a bow build, so your go-to movement skill is Blink Arrow, which should be supported by Faster Attacks and Faster Projectiles. There's not a lot of choice here.
Breaking the Seal rewards the minor utility skill Phase Run, which can help you clear ground where there aren't any monsters worth attacking.
The Eternal Nightmare gives Increased Area of Effect Support, which can improve your clear speed at the cost of single-target damage. You can use this with the trash setup for Caustic Arrow if you want, but loading too many area-coverage supports will start hurting your ability to kill things.
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.
The Labyrinth should not be horribly difficult for this build. Blink Arrow allows you to teleport past a number of the traps you'll find inside, and your damage against bosses should be reasonable at this stage. Play it safe against Izaro and don't be afraid to kite him around for a while until he summons more skeletons on which to refill your Flasks if you're low. In many cases they'll die incidentally to your clouds as you go.
Once you've completed the Labyrinth, pick up Patient Reaper. It's a large bonus to your Damage over Time, but the real power here is the substantial almost-always-up benefit to your Recovery of life and mana. Note that "Recovery" is not the same thing as "Regeneration" - Recovery means any source of gain, including Flasks, Leech, gain-on-hit, and others.
Late Act 4
There's nothing particularly notable 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. None of these Jewels affect your build, so you may want to not take this reward yet so that you can easily pick one up if you decide to try another build. Alternately, you can take one and sell it, probably 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 Prolonged Pain for a big boost to your Damage over Time against bosses, or grab Swift Killer for smoother trash clearing. Either is a perfectly fine choice, and you'll take the other after you've finished your third Labyrinth.
Epilogue & Maps
Once you complete your third Labyrinth, sometime early into Maps, pick up whichever of Prolonged Pain or Swift Killer you didn't pick up before.
This build's isn't particularly worried about most map modifiers, since damage-over-time effects tend to circumvent most of them.
Once you complete your final Labyrinth, late in the endgame, pick up Ghost Dance. This is the only real pick available to us. It's mostly defensive benefits, since Attack Speed is only loosely useful to this build, but the 10% Movement Speed is pretty nice in and of itself.
The Full Build
Main Skill Links
For bosses, use Caustic Arrow - Concentrated Effect - Vicious Projectiles - Swift Affliction. In a 5 or 6-link, add in Void Manipulation and Slower Projectiles. The expensive drop-only gem Empower is marginally better than these last two options in a bow with +1 to Socketed Gems.
For trash, use Caustic Arrow - Pierce - Vicious Projectiles - Swift Affliction. In a 5- or 6-link, add in Void Manipulation and Mirage Archer. As above, Empower is marginally better than Void Manipulation in a +1 to Socketed Gems bow. You've got some options here - swap in more damage if enemies aren't dying to single clouds, or swap it out for Mirage Archer, Pierce, Volley, etc. if you want more area coverage.
(Beyond the standard ones listed as part of the Act 4 Guide)
Blink Arrow - Faster Attacks - Faster Projectiles is your movement setup. You could toss in something like Maim in a fourth link for minor utility.
Wither - Spell Totem - Faster Casting - Multiple Totems is a huge damage gain against bosses. Just drop the totems at a safe distance and watch them debuff the target to hell and back.
Various Auras are options, since they don't do a lot for you personally. If you're playing solo, your best bet is a Purity of Ice, Lightning, or Fire aura to cover your lowest Resistance or the main damage type of whatever you're fighting, plus a Blasphemy'd version of one of the curses below
Despair is the only offensive option; note that Projectile Weakness does not work because it only affects Hits (i.e., not your clouds). Enfeeble is the go-to defensive Curse. Either can be run through Blasphemy as an aura since we have little other need for our mana pool.
You want one thing and one thing only on your bow: +X to Level of Socketed Gems. The ideal is a so-called "+3 Bow", which is +1 to Socketed Gems and another +2 to Socketed Bow Gems. It's ideal for this bow to be reasonably fast for quick shots on the move and faster Blink Arrow movement, but the +skills are what you're primarily after.
For defense, this build seeks the standard Life/Resists combination typical of a generic Life-based build. Resist cap is the first priority, then as much Life as you can get. You'll probably want at least one Armour/Energy Shield item for your Wither Totem link. In any event, you'll want to make sure you're using at least one item with Energy Shield in the endgame in order to activate Ghost Dance.
If your gear shakes out with mostly Evasion and very low Armour and Energy Shield, consider taking the Acrobatics passive on your tree. I've left it off in the default build listed here, but I would probably take it in the endgame after skewing my gear towards Evasion.
Optional Uniques include:
- Witchfire Brew (a flask that gives you a high-level Despair curse aura)
- Windshriek (boots that let you apply an extra curse, which you have the mana to run via Blasphemy)
- Not most Unique bows, which are generally unsuited for this build.