Path of Exile: Mid-Term Betrayal League Review

It’s about mid-season for Betrayal league and I managed to pull through, despite some of the earlier set backs. I would say that the holiday season hurt a bit just because the developers weren’t able to quickly address some of the issues in moving past league features into core. That said, I’ve stuck with the game and decided to write up my current situation.

First, I managed to optimize my main Sunder Juggernaut build well enough where I felt like I was repeating myself from the previous league. While the character had been fun, the skill Sunder itself really is not great when it comes to end game content these days. I did manage to 6-link my Atziri’s Disfavor and got enough basic gear to push myself to 6.5k life. However, as per my usual character ADD, I simply grew bored stomping around and wanted to do something different.

Along the way, I ended up trying out an Ascendant Hierophant + Elementalist Arc Totem build. The basic thought process was that Hierophant’s rework in removing one of the +1 totems made Ascendant more on par in that regard. The trick was to find another Ascendancy that would synergize with Arc Totems. Essentially, that left three obvious ones: Elementalist, Chieftain and Saboteur.

In general, Chieftain, on paper, sounds like a natural pairing considering that Chieftain is generally the other major class associated with playing a totem style build. The main advantage in going this route is gaining more life regeneration and life leech. Many people use Slayer for overleech when creating a tankier build. Here, Chieftain would provide the more defensive mechanisms to Hierophant.

I ended up going with Elementalist because of how lightning, shocks, heralds, elemental penetration and even the extra golem seem to work nicely with the Hierophant. However, the real idea was to be able to do elemental reflect maps…but after thinking about the situation, I quickly realized the point would be moot. While this version seems nice, the elemental reflect issue I believe would not apply to totems. I might be wrong on this since I’ve heard that the wording should include “you” but it feels like the case here.

While the build ended up being reasonably strong once I got 2 totems, it was a struggle to level early on just because of how far Ancestral Bond was from the Scion starting point. I felt that certain other key aspects from Hierophant such as Ritual of Awakening along with a higher mana regeneration rate make Ascendants much weaker. Also, the heralds and golem inclusion didn’t feel that useful in the end. As someone who has tried Blade Vortex elementalist and a golemancer, there always is the temptation to move in one of those directions. It felt easy to get distracted and not have a central focus dedicated to this type of build, which sounded interesting in theory but terrible in practice.

The not-so obvious last choice which might’ve been the better choice¬† potentially is Saboteur. This one is a sleeper because of how traps are not really a skill that gets affected by Ancestral Bond since damage occurs from the traps themselves. It’s why elemental reflect maps are moot vs trappers. What’s interesting in this build is that I think more of the skills synergize better overall and feel more focused than in the case of the Elementalist choice. Also, the leveling experience might end up being better too since you can use totems or traps to compliment one another. It depends on which one you decide to be dominant.

You could, for instance, forgo the Ancestral Bond keystone and just focus on traps. Instead of using a Soul Mantle for the +1 totem, you could go for a Tinkerskin, which allows you to avoid being forced into using a Kikazaru or Atziri’s Reflection for curse immunity. Overall, you would have a little more flexibility while your damage points will still be critical strikes, multipliers and lightning damage.

Because of my disappointment in really making that build work or finding a better focus for it, I ended up starting a separate Hierophant. At first, I started him as your typical Arc totem type but ended up switching to Freezing Pulse. The problem is that Freezing Pulse really is terrible at the stage I’m on. The damage simply wasn’t there even when I tried one of the key jewels to increase the projectiles. Against stuff like Fortifications, Freezing Pulse on totems simply takes forever. So if I ever decide to finish this character up, I’ll probably go back to Arc until a later stage.

From there, I fumbled around a bit with ideas on doing a Facebreaker/Bringer of Rain Vaal Ancestral Warchief. Originally, I wanted to go Ascendant due to the +1 totems with Hierophant then compliment that with Chieftain. The thing is that it really takes a lot to get an Ascendant off the ground. So I ended up sticking with a vanilla Chieftain.

Pretty much this build is great with the multiple support totems gem and +1 totem crafted shield. While Tukohama’s Fortress would probably give me a bit more life and damage, I feel the Blood Magic portion really limits the build. The biggest thing impacted is auras like Heralds or Anger. Without those, you can’t utilize something like a Watcher’s Eye. Also, you need to find other ways in getting back resistance since you lack a variety of spots on gear for that.

The +1 totem shield though opens you up a bit more and the support totems part just feels better. Combined with Bringer of Rain, the build is pretty strong and I got my first deathless Elder. I haven’t had much issues in dealing with bosses. The main problem is just overall clear speed and pushing through pacts due to the range.

Although I do feel this character is my strongest at this point, I decided to create one more Hierophant. I had 6-Linked a Lionseye Glare and acquired a Tombstone fist and own a Frostferno, which planted the seeds for me to do a bow build. The one that had been nagging me for sometime was a ranged totem build. But which one? And what ascendancy?

As per my usual fascination with Ascendants, I considered a scion to start. There even is a guide for Ascendants but only with Elemental Hit. The biggest challenge with Ascendants along this path is that there’s a desire to use double Might of the Meeks and Unnatural Instinct, both gems which cost an unbelievable amount.

However, the same guide was written for a Hierophant minus the three gems. It’s still an expensive setup but much more doable in my eyes. Right now, I’m at level 62 with this build and really love it. The damage is simply insane despite nerfs to Combat Focus. And with it being a ranged totem play style, I feel that it’s a little safer than a raw Mirage Arrow type.

The biggest challenge I’m finding at this stage is mana. There’s a few setups with curses, haste and grace. When I use haste or grace, I find myself mana starved. One of my worries that I’ve read about is taking the Divine Guidance where deep delves become a problem due to mana loss. I have seen a few higher level players use that node while others take an extra mana regeneration type of node instead. I’m not concerned at this stage but will be once I get to Uber Lab.

Beyond that, there’s a few things I hope to accomplish before the league ends. I would like to try Atziri sometime. Hence, why I’ve create two more totem builds. Second, I would like to dive deeper into maps. I think my current point is the furthest I’ve progressed. The rework to maps threw me off but I’m slowly making my way through red maps. Lastly, if I can do it, I’d like to try Shaper. I feel that in identifying two potential end game builds, I should be able to handle most bosses. I’m comfortable enough with handling uber lab where I have enough of a strategy that would previously hold me back from pushing far into the end game.

The other goal is just my usual one where I still want to try other interesting builds. The ones that look the most interesting are Soulwrest Necromancer, some form of CI with Occultist, a CoC build (most notably Assassin Cyclone with Cospri’s Malice) and perhaps another bow character given that I have my 6Linked Lioneye’s Glare. Three builds that I’m not sure about though are brands, shattering steel and miners. Brands remind me of miners in that you have a two button rotation which might be awkward. Shattering steel I heard just was bad while miners feel awkward in my experience.

I suppose the biggest thing would be some form of CoC because of how it interacts with other skills. I’ve seen winter orbs and ice spear type of builds both for totems and without. But it’s one of those things that looks potentially interesting because of how a skill operates (kinda like how Poet’s Pens allows you to fire other skills).

At any rate, there’s still a lot to do. I think I’ll play as long as I feel like there’s some form of growth or learning. Most of that is due to trying different things out and figuring out what feels like the most fun. But I think the real fun is still in the theory crafting and putting those ideas into practice to see them blossom.

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