Path of Exile – Crit Witch/Summoner Build Exposition


           After I grew bored of Diablo 3, with my ARPG appetite unsatisfied, I revisited Path of Exile in closed beta once more. By then, much has changed in Path of Exile, and my old witch has since moved into the legacy league. So I started a new witch, and fifty nine levels later in act two of merciless difficulty, I have a fairly strong character that maximizes spell critical strike chance with zombies as tanks. My build can be seen here.
           My initial goal was to create a pure critical strike spell casting build, but a couple of problems forced me to do otherwise. First, in the beginnings of the game, my character’s critical strike chance was so low that critical strikes rarely happen. And without any specialization in a specific elemental damage type, my spells were terribly mana inefficient. Four mana potions were a must, and I barely killed efficiently enough to sustain the potions. Low damage spells led to another problem: I could not kill monsters fast enough before they could close the gap and hit me. As monsters progressively dealt more damage, a few hits to my squishy witch meant death, so I needed something else to tank for me. Summon zombies soon became a staple in my skill bar.
           My character started to shine once my critical hit chance reached around 25% when my character reached middle age levels. Spells that critical hits almost always nearly one shot a normal monster. With one in four chance of critical striking, my spells became mana efficient, often killing multiple monsters in one cast of fireball or freezing pulse. However, with no passive nodes in mana regeneration, firestorm was still too mana hungry despite the high critical hit chance. So I moved that skill onto a totem, where firestorm could be constantly cast by it with only a single investment of mana. Another plus was that firestorm became a cast-and-forget spell.
           My main two damage dealing spells are fireball and freezing pulse, both supported by increased critical chance gem and lesser multiple projectiles. Firestorm totem linked with chance to burn support gem provides additional damage when I encounter large groups or champion or rare monsters. Elemental weakness curse further increases my damage and elemental status effects (burning, freezing). Summon zombies linked with increased damage and health are my tanks, and surprisingly they hit pretty hard as well. Frost nova, although rarely used, provides additional security just in case I am badly surrounded. Discipline aura increases the survivability of my minions and myself. Temporal chains was a recent addition. I haven’t found a compelling use of it over elemental weakness yet. Although future plans for my character may be to attain Whispers of Doom (allows two curses to inflict one monster).
           Let’s talk about the strengths and weaknesses of this build:

Strengths
High damage: With 49% critical strike chance for my main spells and 285% increased critical strike damage, my witch Bonifaes is a killing machine. A single cast of critical freezing pulse at close range can one hit kill multiple monsters at once. Same for fireball, or essentially any other projectile spell with these critical strike chances and damage.
Versatility: Notice in my passive skill tree I did not specialize in any particular element. This means one could take any primary spell they like, and a secondary spell of a different element to deal with those resistant to the first one, without feeling the second spell is inefficient at dealing damage. All elemental spells are supported equally in this build. I chose freezing pulse for its piercing projectiles, freezing critical strikes, and quick cast times, and fireball against those resistant to cold damage and as long range bombardment spell.
Crowd Control: A critical strike chance build naturally lends itself to cold spells, as cold spells freeze enemies when a critical strike hits. At such high critical strike chances, monsters are indefinitely frozen until their death with freezing pulse and frost nova. Shattered corpses also means necromancers cannot resurrect. Of course, those who prefer fire and lightning spells will enjoy seeing constantly burning and shocked monsters. Summoned zombies also provide an additional layer of crowd control.
Low Item Dependency: Aside from decent sockets and links, this build is not particularly item dependent. Even though I am nearly level sixty, I am still using items from when I was in level thirty, and doing quite well with subpar items. This is mostly because spell and minion damage do not rely on weapon damage (*cough*Diablo 3*cough*), and instead is mostly based on passive nodes, support skill gems, and skill gem levels.

Weaknesses
Mana Inefficiency at Low Levels: As described above, at low levels with low critical chance rates, your spells will do very little damage for the cost. It’s only when your spell rolls a critical that it becomes an efficient cast. That won’t happen until you have sunk quite a few skill points into critical chance nodes, so chug those mana potions.
No Corpses to Raise Zombies: If one chooses a cold spell as their primary damage dealer, a lot of times all the enemies shatter, leaving you with no corpses to summon your zombies. This can be alleviated by using Summon Skeletons instead, or using a non-cold spell to kill a few monsters for you to raise.
Low Mana: This build does not have a single passive point spent on mana regeneration. Fast casting spells like freezing pulse means mana runs low fast and often. Auras that reserve mana further exacerbates this problem. On the plus side, you will kill so efficiently that your potions will nearly never run dry. Thus, one still has to drink mana or hybrid flasks like water.
Vulnerable to Chaos Damage: With a low health pool, this build is quite vulnerable to chaos damage. The immediate and perhaps most efficient solution is to take Chaos Inoculation. But for now, I am getting by without needing that node. Although I suspect Chaos Inoculation will soon be unavoidable.

           I am still contemplating on the future paths of this character. I could progress towards the curse passive nodes, enabling me to inflict both elemental weakness and temporal chains simultaneously at enemies. Or I could proceed west, towards Arcane Potency, to further increase spell critical strike chance and damage. Or I could spend my skill points more defensively, taking Chaos Inoculation and Energy Shield nodes, and Lord of the Dead to increase the effectiveness of my minions. One thing is certain, this build is end-game capable.
           Footage of my character in action can be seen at my twitch.tv channel.

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Published in: on August 27, 2012 at 5:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

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