I love builds that depend on weapons that do not have a real 6-link requirement. Items like Ngamahu’s Flame that allow you to put support gems regardless of linking provide interesting game play as you’re given a bit more flexibility as you can mix and match gems to create diverse builds. The Soulwrest staff is one such item and had been something I’d been eyeballing for a while.
The main premise behind the Soulwrest staff is providing a level 20 Summon Phantasm Support style effect based upon being triggered from consuming a corpse. There’s a few abilities and items even that allow this effect to occur. In addition, you can add a normal Summon Phantasm Support gem to get up to 20 phantasms. Phantasms themselves are ranged minions. You can add ranged support gems such as greater multiple projectiles to increase their area of effect.
The build I ended up choosing was based on one of KittenCatNoodle’s builds, using Scorching Ray connected with Cast While Channeling, Desecrate, Spirit Offering and Spell Cascade. The idea here is that Scorching Ray acts as the mechanism to quickly invoke the Soulwrest ability. Linking it to Cast While Channeling causes your Desecrate to summon a pile of bodies that gets consumed by Spirit Offering. In turn, you’re able to bring about 20 phantasms within a very short period of time.
There’s other variants such as doing a raw Desecrate with another consume corpse ability. But I prefer this method because it’s automated. The main variant in my build compared to hers is that I employ a single Abyssal Socketed Bulbonic Trail. The reason is that this item’s Death Walk ability helps to maintain the Phantasms as it consumes corpses as you run across dead bodies.
For movement abilities, I use Phase Run connected to Increased Duration and Flame Surge for going between hard to reach areas. In addition, I use both Arctic Armor and Herald of Purity for defense and a slight bonus to physical damage while I keep a Stone Golem around for a small amount of life regeneration. Lastly, I use Zombies as meat shields in a Bone Helmet. I suppose if I manage to find an Elder version of the Bone Helmet, I would attempt to get some of the cooler socketed abilities to further augment my zombies.
Although KittenCatNoodle uses MoM, I decided to focus more on a mix of life and energy shield. I don’t feel the build is mana heavy but I’m not a huge fan of spreading my defenses too far apart. I doubt that I’ll move to CI with this build just because the amount of energy shield I do have isn’t great.
I do have two Violent Dead gems at the moment. Originally, they were used because I had leveled up using a combination of Zombies and Vaal Skeletons. At some point, I hope to move away from these gems and most likely convert them over into Abyssal Jewels.
Ascendancy-wise, I’ve chosen Commander of Darkness, Mistress of Sacrifice and Invoker. I’m not yet ready for Uber Lab but I’m debating between Puppet Master and Flesh Binder. Flesher Binder’s only real purpose is more defense from having additional zombies. I suppose if I chose this route, I might end up keeping the Violent Dead gems. However, Puppet Master feels a little more useful for the speed and minion duration. The other two skills really don’t apply to me as I don’t use skeletons nor specters any longer.
In terms of leveling, it was quite painful to be blunt. I started off with a combination of freezing pulse and zombies, moving my way into using Arc for a while. I almost went to Summon Raging Spirit but I just have no love for that ability. It’s pretty painful and I ended up going towards Skeletons. I think neither are great and the clear speed was quite abysmal.
However, once I obtained level 62, everything changed drastically. Even without the Bulbonic Trail, I noticed that my clear speed just quadrupled. With a Bulbonic Trail, your main antagonist is empty space. Pretty much Acts 9-10 were pretty much done quickly while Merciless Lab turned out to be a joke once I bypassed all the traps.
At the moment, maps can be cleared in less than a minute or so, depending on the density and layout. An open or linear map definitely can be cleared fast as long as you can avoid backtracking. And with bosses, while there are other gems you can socket to increase damage, I have yet to really find the need to swap. Maybe once you reach into the upper tier maps or low delves, you’ll need to optimize your damage. But initially, the build just pushes out a ton of damage without much investment.
One thing that was a game changer in switching to this build was Incursions. I knew that zombies and skeletons wouldn’t be able to clear Incursions. However, because of the amount of ranged attacks that this build can handle, you can nuke down Incursions efficiently.
Now, I know some people go all out with minions using spectres, skeletons and guardians. However, I feel that those aren’t great. I’m just not a fan of spectres because of how you need to set them up. I don’t think skeletons really add much outside of more meat shields. The problem I face is simply running out of gem slots. I think Scorching Ray feels smoother and easier to trigger your phantasms. Combined with Bulbonic Trail, the build is pretty slick.