Revision Status: Initial Release, 14-Sep-2023, game version 3.22
This is presently in a draft state.
Video from when the build started to come together:
My character as it is now (note, it was worse in that video): https://pobb.in/cI9s2EpVpTT7 – note, POB does not model Punishment or Infernal Cry well. Infernal Cry is realistically 60% uptime on bosses and is a 12% more multiplier to damage while active (x1.072), Punishment has around a 37% uptime and is 60% more damage (x1.222), but Punishment performs unusually well on some bosses like Sirus final phase, and unusually poorly on some others.
Other than the chestpiece (which is unfinished) nothing on the character is overly expensive, as I like to keep things able to be replicated, but do check the gems. There’s a good 15 divines tied up in gems.
Planned changes: Work on chest suffixes with Eldritch Chaos, improve chest implicits to Perfect Exarch aura effect/Exceptional Eater Determination effect, replace gloves and rings with something better, work in a 15% phys taken as cold Taste of Hate, experiment with Loyalty Tattoo of Kaom, experiment with other tattoos, cap chaos resist, gain outright immunity to traditional bleed, find a lower opportunity cost alternative source of immunity to corrupted blood.
In this guide, any references to times are locations on the passive tree. “6 o’clock inner” means “if you consider the passive tree to be a clockface, this node is south of the centre (Scion start), but it’s in the innermost third of the tree”. Contrast “6 o’clock middle” or “6 o’clock outer”. For clarity “middle” doesn’t mean “near the middle of the entire tree” but “in the middle of this range”.
Partly, it’s shiny and new.
Contrast to the well-explored Juggernaut, the glass cannon Elementalist or the high boss damage Inquisitor version of RF – all thoroughly explored builds. All very good at what they do.
But also, the Chieftain uses different gear and this opens up new options. Investment into fire resist covers our cold and lightning resists, freeing up suffixes for chaos resist mods and attributes. Gaining attributes this way allows using more tattoos. Because fire resist is such a good stat for us, we can get incredible use out of the Breach unique The Formless Flame or the Grasping Mail mod with similar stats. (Note: Formless Flame has the stats that The Formless Inferno used to have until five months ago)
Ascendancy Strengths: Relatively easy to reach 90% resist to all elements, relatively easy to hit 70000 armor flasks down (110000 flasks up), possible to hit 30% or more physical damage shifted into elements (which makes your armor better), Hinekora explosions that can ignite, ‘overwriting’ monster resists allows us to shine against monsters with unstrippable resists as you might find in Cortex or Uber Breachstones when you learn after entry that the zone rolled “Monsters have +X% fire resistance”, or worse, gigatanked rares. In general, zone mods that increase monster or boss fire resistance, such as the Invitation mod “Resistant” or the obnoxious endurance charge mod have minimal impact.
Ascendancy Weaknesses: Lower damage than Inquisitor or Elementalist versions of the build against pinnacle bosses that do not have unusual resistances such as from the Resistant zone mod. Less explosive damage propogation than the Elementalist, and less high end scaling than Elementalist can pull off. Less top-end defenses than the Juggernaut, but not by as much as you might expect.
Content Strengths: This build performs extremely well in Breachlord related content (including the Hidden invitation), Heist, Blight, Blight-Ravaged Maps and especially Expedition content. With modification (a big lifegain on block shield) it could do well in Simulacrum, and without that, it is still serviceable there. It is exceptionally strong against boss monsters that summon large numbers of adds, such as the Guardian of the Minotaur. The large regeneration also makes it well-suited to Enriched Eternal Labyrinth farming.
Content Weaknesses: This is not a build suited to heavy bosskilling. Experienced players will have no issue getting their own Voidstones with this build, but this build was not smooth at killing Maven-witnessed Uber Atziri, Maven-witnessed Shaper and is not designed for Uber Pinnacle Bosses at all. It can probably do Uber Cortex and Uber Exarch with difficulty but will struggle severely with other Ubers. It’s also TERRIBLE at Sanctum and Legion, and bosses with high elemental penetration.
Epic Moments: Sometimes you’ll fight a boss that has tanky adds present, and get a Hinekora explosion proc that ignites the boss. When this happens, the boss will suffer DOT capped damage per second until it is slain. I’ll link footage of this from the Guardian of the Minotaur – you will notice I am intentionally prolonging the fight by not using Searing Bond and then at one point an elemental gets Hinekora’ed, sets the Minotaur on fire and the Minotaur loses 35791394 life per second (the DOT cap) until it dies outright. Monsters cannot lose more than 2^31 hp per minute to DOTs. This is particularly reliable in Blight-Ravaged Maps and in both the trash clear and bosskill phase of Flawless Breachstones.
Optional: You can invest in the gem “Vaal Breach” to be able to set this off somewhat on demand. I am yet to explore this option.
Why Searing Bond?
Fundamentally, this could be Fire Trap instead. Fire Trap does less damage but has access to the outstanding Trap and Mine Damage Support and this makes it about as good as Searing Bond is (with its weaker support options).
Searing Bond’s ‘Phantasmal’ alternate quality is really good, but unlike many other chase quality options, it’s not all that rare. Anomalous and Divergent qualities are among the most common alt quality gems in the game, and Phantasmal is only twice as rare.
Superior Searing Bond is serviceable, but Phantasmal is a huge upgrade, allowing you to place 4 totems instead of the usual 2. In my experience 2 isn’t enough but 3 is (the 4th and any subsequent ones are a luxury). We won’t be attempting to scale quality beyond the usual 20%.
Note that Righteous Fire will kill a large majority of monsters in any map area we enter (or similar content like Heists). Searing Bond, however, will do six to ten times as much damage per second.
VERY IMPORTANT: Note that Searing Bond and Righteous Fire do not scale with exactly the same character stats. SB has the line of text “Modifiers to spell damage apply to this skill’s damage over time effect” and RF does not. Where possible, we want fire damage mods rather than spell damage mods for this reason. Note that Searing Bond does benefit from Righteous Fire’s spell damage multiplier buff, and this will influence our endgame plans somewhat. VERY IMPORTANT THE SECOND: Searing Bond is absolutely awful until you turn on “Always Attack Without Moving”.
You can level with Searing Bond and Righteous Fire from act 2, but I don’t recommend it. RF has terrible support gem options until Act 4, and the Marauder can’t buy them anyway. I suggest muddling through to Act 6 utilizing any skill you enjoy playing.
If you want to rush RF/SB, you will need to rush to the Arsonist cluster (9 o’clock centre), take the fire mastery that makes all your fire resistance also provide life regen, and then rush to Prismatic Skin (7 o’clock centre). Equip two Ruby Rings that have bench crafted fire resist on them and you are fine.
Gems: Act 6 To Early Endgame
Once you’ve done Lilly’s quest in Act 6 you can buy all “non-special” gems in the game. At that point you will want to set up the following gem links:
Searing Bond – Burning Damage – Lifetap – One of Elemental Focus and Controlled Destruction. (If you get a lucky 5 link, use both, with a miracle 6 link drop, also add Efficacy)
Righteous Fire – Elemental Focus – Burning Damage – Efficacy
Shield Charge – Faster Attacks – Culling Strike
Punishment – Hexbloom – Lifetap
Malevolence, Determination and Defiance Banner (use as many of these as you are able, as gear improves that will become all of them)
Purity of Fire
Molten Shell (cap at gem level 3) – Cast When Damage Taken (cap at gem level 1)
We cap Molten at gem level 3 to keep its mana cost low. 3 becomes 4 with a weapon with the Magister’s prefix and level 4 has the lowest mana cost possible, 20 mana. Levels 5-8 cost 22, levels 9-10 (the highest CWDT level 1 can support) cost 25. Few things are worse than dying because you don’t have enough mana for a CWDT Molten at the instant it would have triggered.
Infernal Cry has a long cooldown, but it’s really good. Especially when you get quality on it.
Upgrade all gems to Superior versions when able.
OPTIONAL: Faster Attacks and Culling Strike can be lower gem level. This will significantly lower your Dexterity requirements allowing you to eschew Dexterity suffixes on items.
Gems Well Into Endgame:
The most important upgrade is Phantasmal Searing Bond with 20 quality. Gem level 20 is fine for a long time.
The next most important is replacing Efficacy on Searing Bond with Empower gem level 3.
After that, it’s sourcing Awakened Burning Damage and Awakened Elemental Focus for your Phantasmal Searing Bond, and upgrading to 21/20 Phantasmal Searing Bond and Empower gem level 4.
In the Righteous Fire setup, Empower level 4 is only a small boost over Efficacy and this is the least important upgrade by far.
Malevolence, Determination and Defiance Banner (use all of them now)
Purity of Fire
Molten Shell (cap at gem level 3) – Cast When Damage Taken (cap at gem level 1)
OPTIONAL: Remove something, add Vaal Breach
OPTIONAL: Remove Defiance Banner, add Tempest Shield. This solves shock, removing the need for the Garukhan pantheon. This and the next option require more reservation efficiency.
OPTIONAL: Remove Defiance Banner, add Arctic Armor. Solves freeze, allowing a major pantheon swap to Arakaali.
Level 33 and 55 labs: Take Tasalio, Cleansing Water and Ramako, Sun’s Fury in whichever order feels right to you. If in doubt, take Tasalio first as it will help you deal with the resistance nerf after act 5. Ramako starts to shine when you encounter more durable bosses, and the first really tanky boss in the game is Act 9’s Depraved Trinity.
Level 68 lab: If you already own the unique shield Rise of the Phoenix, take Valako, Storm’s Embrace. Otherwise, take Hinekora, Death’s Fury.
Level 75 lab: Take the other one.
Ramako rewards standing still, but it is important to remember – you are not REQUIRED to stand still. If an enemy is using a big skill your defences don’t stand up to well – get out of the way. Doing poor damage for the 13 frames a Shield Charge lasts for isn’t a big deal, going splat to a slam is. Frostblink is instant, and so works exceedingly well with Ramako.
We will use Shield Charge and Frostblink to move around. These have a powerful interaction where their cooldowns don’t really interact, and you should get used to using Shield Charge once, then Frostblink when you near the end of your movement, then immediately Shield Charging again. You won’t be able to keep doing this as Frostblink won’t be immediately ready, but with practice you will learn the timing and zip through maps at breakneck speed.
Ramako removes both the need to use curses and exposure to strip enemy resistances, but also removes the benefit of doing so. As such we will use Punishment as curse of choice.
Punishment looks to have 50% uptime but in the real world it’s less. You burn through the second half of a monster’s health 60% faster which means they actually spend only around 37.5% of their time at low life.
Both Righteous Fire and Searing Bond are ‘burn’ damage. This is fire damage over time that is NOT an ignite.
You may be curious as to why there is some investment on the passive tree into ignite specific nodes (one small node in the Divine Judgement cluster, a bit later than 9 o’clock outer; one small node in the Holy Fire cluster, 10 o’clock outer, two small nodes in the Breath of Flames cluster, 12 o’clock outer, and it’s part of the incentive to take Holy Dominion, 9 o’clock middle), as well as a weapon prefix devoted in part to it.
This is because we have multiple sources of corpse explosions which deal extremely high amounts of fire damage. Fire damage that’s not from a critical hit has a default 0% chance to ignite, but this is raised to 95% on my character.
This is also the reason for the glove implicit. Being on fire is like being in love, it’s best when the feeling is shared.
OPTIONAL: You could experiment with the unique ring Berek’s Respite. Around 5 times rarer than Rise Of The Phoenix as a drop, self-compiling a set of the divination card The Spark and the Flame will average dozens (but not hundreds) of alch-and-go maps.
Meeting Attribute Requirements:
Strength, Dexterity and Intelligence are boring stats but you need to get them somewhere. Some come from travel nodes, some from rings and gloves. There’s 30 point nodes on the tree but these are last resorts.
Before moving into gear in depth, let’s talk about five unique items. You will outgrow two of them, the other three are ‘forever gear’.
Rise of the Phoenix
There is a godly tier shield for this build that you can get reasonably early in progression, Rise of the Phoenix. You will eventually outgrow this item, but not until quite late.
In 3.22, this item has a divination card that drops in any zone with level 49 and up (so not Act 3) that has Solaris as a boss or with strong thematic ties to Solaris. Temple map, Cold River map, Harbor Bridge, A8 Solaris Temple, and the much less accessible Twilight Temple unique map.
RotP is in the second most common tier of uniques, the same rarity as Goldrim and Berek’s Grip, and self-compiling a set of its divination card should take 10 or fewer maps with a developed Atlas, or 15-20 maps with a fresh Atlas.
If playing in trade, sourcing this item should cost you three chaos orbs or less, even if it is quite well rolled.
If you are playing with hardmodes enabled (SSF or HC, this does not apply to Ruthless) and want an extra power boost before tackling maps, you can target farm this item in Harbor Bridge, and you should acquire it before hitting level 67.
Your first upgrade past RotP is quite likely to be… another RotP that has a good Vaal implicit on it.
This gives a monstrous amount of life and life recovery. Drawback of nerfs to resistances are trivial to overcome on a Chieftain.
There’s no good way to target farm this, but it’s in the most common tier of unique items, ~40% more common than Goldrim and Rise of the Phoenix.
Use this when you get it, replace it with one with better rolls when able, and much later, when you have an Elderslayer’s Exalted Orb, acquire an item level 86 Stygian Vise, apply the Elderslayer Exalt, then use Harvest’s influence shift (the craft that costs 1000 blue goo) until your belt is Elder or Hunter influenced. Then scour your belt, Fertile Catalyst it 4 times, then roll it with Pristine Catalysts until you have a masterpiece.
A well rolled The Darkness Enthroned (80% to 100% explicit roll), or Mageblood, can also be upgrades from Immortal Flesh.
If you have to ask how expensive Mageblood is, you can’t afford it.
The Formless Flame
Reminder: this item was overhauled in 3.21 and now has the stats that used to be on “The Formless Inferno”.
If you have 340% fire resistance with 90% applying to your character, TFF’s mod ‘converts’ the wasted 250% into a GLOBAL 250% increase to your entire character’s armour rating. This stacks additively with other similar effects (armour% nodes on the passive tree, the ‘Chayula Chest Mod’ with its 50% or 100% global defenses)
This item most commonly drops from Xoph in the non-Uber version of his Breachstone. It can also drop from rare monsters in Xoph-aligned breaches, both in maps and in Breachstones, but this is exceedingly rare.
There is a substitute for this item. A Grasping Mail can be acquired by simultaneously vendoring 60 Breach Rings or by slaying Uber Breachlords. Grasping Mails are a bad armour base but when they are generated by the vendor recipe or an Uber Breachlord kill, they can have special mods otherwise only found on Breach uniques, and if they come from Uber Breachlords, these can be fractured on. The Xoph-aligned fire resist increases armor mod is exceedingly rare on these chests, so consider this a bonus moonshoot, not a thing to target farm.
Replica Dragonfang’s Flight: Searing Bond edition
New in 3.22, this is really good. It’s ‘forever gear’ like Formless Flame, you never replace it with anything better.
If you can’t get a Searing Bond version of this amulet, you instead want an amulet with as many as possible of the following mods:
Exalter’s (+1 all gems)
Vulcanist’s (+1 fire gems)
Athlete’s or Virile (T1 or T2 max life)
of Dissolution or of Melting (T1 or T2 generic DOT multiplier)
Benchcraft suffix: either +1 min frenzy charge or +15% fire and chaos resistances
Getting more than 2 of those mods will not be easy.
It is likely that your optimal anointment will be Disciple of the Slaughter. Amber + Verdant + Golden. I’ve experimented with Overcharged and it has disappointed me so far.
Legacy of Fury
The ‘Maven Boots’. The indirect scorch at magnitude 13-15% is of minor benefit to us here (while moving it adds damage, when stationary it does not). Unlike other players, we don’t care about the magnitude of the 30-50% increased effect of scorch. We assess these boots on their other mods and rolls of 39% chance, 31% scorch effect and 297% armour are great for us.
We wear these for the explosion like effect and the movespeed.
If you own a large number of Tattoos of the Ngamahu Warmonger (2% chance for monsters to explode dealing fire damage), you might elect to use those in place of Legacy of Fury, and then to replace LoF with a rare set of boots. Your ideal rare boots would be an armour base and have movespeed, life, fire resist, chaos resist and then utility. Max fire resist is available as a Searing Exarch implicit, although getting 2% requires Exquisite tier.
My planned upgrade path in this slot is just Maven Boots ==> Maven Boots with one or two exceptionally good Vaal corruption(s).
We will be using the left side Red Nightmare block package. I posted a short video on this package: https://youtu.be/q3mGxy5H3r4 but basically, for under 3 divines and a number of passives it gets you 109 fire resist, 109% increased armor, 109 life regen per second and 53% attack block.
Additionally you will want some number of Ngamahu Makanga tattoos to get your fire resistance cap up to 90% (exact number will vary with gear)
I recommend an Honoured Tattoo of the Warlord near Acrimony, in the 11 o’clock 30 strength node. These are only 20 chaos in trade when I am writing this. I would still recommend this tattoo if it were 2000 chaos.
Finally, I am presently experimenting with Loyalty Tattoo of Kaom. Initial thoughts are promising, but I’m not yet willing to recommend it. Uptime is low but while it is up you pretty much can’t die.
Gear By Slot:
D tier – Ditch By T16s C tier – Crummy in T16s (still good enough for them but you will want to upgrade fast) B tier – Basic T16 gear, not urgent to upgrade A tier – Amazing S tier – Sublime
Note that unlike typical RF builds, we are not aiming to scale RF’s damage to the moon in this slot. You can do that if you want, and at that point it becomes quite a different build. Pohx has lots of advice on this including steps to craft an S tier helm for that version of the build.
D: Rare with life, fire resistance and crafted fire/chaos hybrid resist C: Rare with life, fire resistance, chaos resistance, a useful but low tier Eater mod (not necessarily an ideal one), a useful but low tier Exarch mod. B: Any 5 of life, fire resist, Shrieking of Loathing mana reservation mod, chaos resist, high armor, +1 socketed AOE gems bench mod, Eater implicit ‘6% phys taken as X’, Eater implicit ‘6% reservation efficiency’, any good Exarch implicit A: Formless Flame S: Formless Flame with 1 or 2 excellent Vaal implicits
I have a video on crafting “physical damage taken as X” helmets which might be an option, although I prefer Formless Flame unless you source the perfect Grasping Mail chest. This video is at https://youtu.be/eotYFHRQY5g
D: Rare with two of life, fire resistance, chaos resistance or attributes you need at tier 4 or better, plus a benchcraft C: As D but with more relevant mods and higher tiers B: Immortal Flesh, poorly rolled explicit mods A: Immortal Flesh, well rolled explicit mods S: Hunter or Elder Stygian Vise with excellent explicit mods and 20 life quality, or Darkness Enthroned with 90%+ explicit mod and outstanding good Abyss jewels S+ tier: Mageblood.
D: Four link levelling rare or Tabula Rasa C: Five link rare crafted with Shrieking or Deafening Essence of Greed and some basic Eater/Exarch mods (not perfect, just starting points), or a ‘corrupt’ 6 link B: 2500+ armor six-linked chest, ideally with fire resistance and no life mods (so you can use the exceptionally good life mastery), and Greater tier (12%) Exarch aura effect implicit. If you apply the implicit yourself, this should cost 200c or less. A: As B, but 3000 armor and Exquisite tier (18%) aura effect implicit and a non-useless Eater implicit S: As A, but with the Essence of Horror prefix (15% phys suffered as cold) and Perfect tier Exarch mod. Absent the extreme luck I had (hitting the prefixes in 2 essences), this requires rolling Essences of Horror on Heist enchanted (8% defense mod) chests until you get one tier 1 armor mod, then attempting to Eldritch Annul/Exalt into the other, or fracturing once you have the Horror mod and a tier 1 armor mod. Or maybe some fossil combination with Glyphic and Dense fossils.
D: Life/resist item C: Rise of the Phoenix B: Rise of the Phoenix, with useful Vaal implicit A: Int-based shield with +3 max fire res and +1 gem levels to fire skills and 22% or more total attack block. These are quite cheap in trade. S: As A, but better, and with at least one good Vaal implicit.
D: One of “Increased Fire Damage%”, “+1 fire gem levels”, “+1 All Gem Levels” and bench crafted fire resist on a sceptre C: +1 to gem levels total on a sceptre with the bench crafted fire%/ignitechance hybrid mod B: As C, but on a Void Sceptre and with one other useful mod (ideally fire dot multi) A: +2 fire gem levels (+1 fire and +1 all) with the bench fire%/ignitechance and fire dot multi S: As A, but the Aisling version of the fire% mod.
The Searing Touch, replacing both weapon and shield. This is C tier. Cane of Kulemak with fire oriented mods. This can be A tier but changes a fair bit in the build. Do not use Martyr of Innocence, as good as it can occasionally be on ignite builds. We get nothing from it. A +5 staff with the default (20% attack block) implicit is definitely a real option too, such an option would be S tier.
D: One of T1 life, +1 fire skills, +1 all skills, fire dot multi C: Two of T1 life, +1 fire skills, +1 all skills, fire dot multi B: Three of T1 life, +1 fire skills, +1 all skills, fire dot multi A: Replica Dragonfang’s Flight, Searing Bond edition S: Replica Dragonfang’s Flight, Searing Bond edition with 15% reservation roll
Anoint Disciple of the Slaughter.
This slot is somewhat of a work in progress, I’ve done most of the game’s content on absolute garbage in these slots. Still thinking here, but I think the correct choice will be Amethyst rings with T1 chaos resist, T1 fire resist, T1 life and bench crafted +1 min frenzy charge. Sublime tier needs a lot of additional thought here.
D: 25% movespeed T2 life T3 fire resist C: 30% movespeed T1 life T2 fire resist on an armour base B: Legacy of Fury A: Legacy of Fury with 40% burn chance S: Legacy of Fury with 40% burn chance and a good Vaal implicit, or (in conjunction with Oriath’s End) high power rare boots. Stats to be determined on rare boots.
Like the ring slot, this is a work in progress. The “ignites spread in a radius of 12-17” Exarch mod is incredible, however. Otherwise this slot covers basic stats. The more of them, the better.
Optimizing these is a work in progress. Don’t copy mine, I have decision paralysis on how to improve mine currently.
Address ailments that wreck you in this slot.
1x instant life flask of anti-bleed 1x 15% phys taken as cold Taste of Hate
Any 3 of the following:
Amethyst Ruby Granite Taste of Hate if not attack block capped without it Basalt (weaker than Granite but stacks)
Do not use an anti-burn flask unless you are 100% fine with that interaction (it turns off RF on use, this is defensively powerful but extremely annoying, except on the Maven)
I still require a mana flask to use moveskills when in mana drain monster abilities (Baran, Baranite trash, Mana Siphoner rares). This is not absolutely needed but is serving me well for now.
Note that while The Price of Devotion fits my naming convention, it’s not one of the cards I commissioned. It’s a great card, but it’s not one of mine.
The Price of Protection
This divination card has been broken multiple times by game changes, and each time GGG have changed it to something I’ve OKed that maintained the core theme.
The card has always been tied to the Elder in theme and was very loosely inspired by the game Darkest Dungeon, which is set in and around a mansion eldritch horrors have taken over after a foolish owner invited them in.
In the 3.2 to 3.8 era of the Atlas – Elder Chateau Map (T16)
This card was added in 3.4
In this Atlas era Voidstones did not exist – instead you could earn multiple Shaper’s Orbs which were each like a Voidstone but applied only to one tier 1-10 map of your choice per Orb, and one Elder’s Orb, which could raise any map you desired to Tier 16.
T16 maps were much rarer than they are today and the gameplay loop for the less obsessed endgame player focused on tier 8-13 maps, with occasional higher tier maps thrown in. Today those same players might run tier 16s, with an occasional tier 16 map enhanced with scarabs and Delirium layers thrown in.
This scarcity made tier 16 maps quite exciting drops. For example, in patch 3.3 I traded for my first Headhunter, and each Doctor card was worth about 30-33 tier 16 maps.
Your Elder’s Orb was a key strategic resource and even though it was only 10-15 chaos to respec which map it was on, players almost universally used it on the very best possible maps. This made T16 versions of unremarkable tilesets extremely scarce.
My goal here was to create T16 versions of a map that otherwise would not exist, because it was never worth using the Elder Orb upon.
In practice, players often turned this card in then applied Horizon Orbs until the map was an above-average tileset. Not my original goal with the card, but a smart way to make the best use of content that was too precious not to use but that wasn’t exactly what you wanted.
The 3.10-3.15 era of the Atlas – Chateau Map with Watchstone Count 4
3.9 removed the Elder orb and the card went offline for one league while a new version was worked out. In this era the Atlas was broken up into regions which each had their own Voidstone analogues, and the card came back in 3.10 granting a Chateau map which was at the maximum possible tier.
Because high tier maps were much less valuable in this Atlas era, this card was likely not on your loot filter during these leagues.
3.16 Breaks It Again – Elder Guardian Occupied Map, Corrupt Rare Modcount = 8
3.16 saw about one third of the maps removed from the Atlas, and a rotation system implemented, in preparation for the major shakeup of 3.17.
This broke all divination cards that awarded specific map tilesets. It wouldn’t have broken cards for maps like Atoll or Dunes that are always on the atlas due to having a unique map based upon them, but the unique Chateau map, Perandus Manor, had also been retired. In 3.16, the card didn’t drop.
At this point I reached out to Hrishi at GGG and originally suggested changing it to a “Guardian Occupied Map” intending this to mean a Conqueror, or an Elder Guardian, or a Shaper Guardian – the 12 member group I collectively call “Atlas Minibosses” now. I had the terminology wrong there – Elderslayers are not actually guardians, and Shaper guardians don’t occupy a map. Hrishi counter-suggested exactly what the card is now, and I agreed – especially as locking it to Elder guardians fit the art so well.
Player Determined Drop location: Unique monsters guarding Vaal Vessels in either the Vaal Temple map, or monster level 79 and higher Vaal side areas
Drop frequency: Common (player testing found 126 of this card from 1012 bosses). It’s a monster drop and not a strongbox drop, so it is not duplicated if you allocate Vault of Mysteries on your Atlas.
It also drops from the exact same Exarch altars that drop “The Trial”, at about ¼ of the drop rate of that more common card.
The Price of Prescience
This card is in many ways the modern-day version of what The Price of Protection was in 3.4 – access to content that’s very much on the harder end of what is available in game, and that otherwise might not exist in any meaningful quantity even in a trade league.
Trading for it has become popular with magic find groups that have an aura-oriented support character on days 1-3 of a league. With the poor gear that exists at that point of a league, only people with an aurabot can realistically defeat the tough monsters found in a 100% delirious Vaal Temple and claim the very juicy scarab, map, currency and/or divination card reward layers you often find one or even two of on these maps.
Of course, the Vaal Temple map bosses do not mess around at all and even the trash monsters can be wrecking balls with 100% delirium, so running these maps requires you to bring your A-game.
Storyline wise, at the time I commissioned this card, I’d recently read, reread, replayed or rewatched several pieces of fiction that dealt with prophecies of horrendous fates – Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn books, the films 12 Monkeys and The Butterfly Effect, and probably most of all the 1990s classic RPG Chrono Trigger. Thus begun an embryonic horror story in my mind set in Path of Exile’s world: the trickster god Tangmazu visiting Kurgal and showing a true, utterly unchangeable vision of the future. Kurgal wasn’t watching his own ‘civilization’ fall but instead watching Atziri and the Vaal fall, having already been forgotten himself.
Unfortunately, this didn’t work lorewise. I’d interpreted Kurgal as an intelligent lich, but in the cannon lore he is not intelligent enough to comprehend such a vision.
After I learned this, Aul came up as the obvious replacement.
In the card’s art, Tangmazu is showing Aul a vision of a world where he and his entire civilization are completely forgotten, and other civilizations are being ground into the dust.
Did this vision ever occur in POE cannon? That I do not know. All that matters is that some in-world historian either believed it did, or fabricated evidence that it did – and that historian’s story wound up on a divination card.
Player Determined Drop location: Unknown! I’ve been unable to find any video of this card dropping except from sources that can drop any divination card at all (such as rare monsters that convert all of their drops to div cards, or Diviner’s Strongboxes) or from Eldritch Altars. Rumors that it drops from Elderslayers fought while the player is under the effect of the Delirium mirror were quashed when a player tested 144 of those maps and got none. It does not appear to drop from any Aul-related content either.
Drop frequency: Uncommon. Like The Price of Protection, it drops from the exact same Exarch altars that drop the common card “The Trial”, but seems to be about 30 times rarer than The Trial.
The Price of Loyalty
In 3.6 spoiler season, the card Arrogance of the Vaal was announced and I loved its high variance nature.
Most of the time, you’d get a non-endgame unique such as Goldrim, with corruptions that add little to the item’s power.
But sometimes, you’d get a true jackpot.
I realised the same could be true but with more jackpots if the unique was specified to be one that was already good enough to use, and that had the potential to be almost best-in-slot with the right corruptions on it.
Once I settled upon two-implicit krangled Skin of the Loyal, I tried to think of a storyline.
I wanted a horror story and imagined the RPG cliche of an ‘evil cult’ people willingly join, and asked myself “What is a cultist singing up to this thinking before they join? How does the reality live up to their expectations?”
The cultists pictured on the card truly believe that they are the “Chosen One” who will channel Chayula’s terrifying power to dominate the world. In reality – they are loose ends to be disposed of, after their skin and souls are used up creating garments for someone much more important in Chayula’s cult than themselves.
Don’t join evil cults in RPGs, folks.
I set the ilvl to 25 so that people wouldn’t feel compelled to level an alternate character to 20 to 44 to turn this card in. The most synergistic corruptions this item can roll require either level 1 or 20 and higher level ones such as the level 45 “4-6% reduced fire damage taken” just dilute the pool.
3.15, 3.16 and 3.17 changes massively improved Skin of the Loyal.
First 3.15’s support gem nerfs mostly missed Empower Support, making it go from a reasonable choice of support gem to the unquestioned best support for most spell gems. Empower Support is much more sensitive to gem level bonuses that affect supports, such as the one found on Skin of the Loyal, than most other support gems. Anything that makes Empower more appealing to use makes Skin better.
Next, 3.16’s Determination and Grace overhauls made the 100% increased global defenses far better than it had been. This same patch also improved the related unique Skin of the Lords.
Finally, 3.17’s addition of Awakened Empower Support added new appeal to this item for the very, very wealthiest of players. Whilst Awakened Empower level 5 is not something you try to acquire until you have Mageblood and maybe also a mirror tier weapon, it’s still a huge upgrade over the more accessible (but still semi-chase) Empower 4. And again – anything that makes Empower better makes the Skin uniques better.
Player Determined Drop location: Zilquapa, Architect of the Breach in the present-day Temple of Atzoatl, monster level 77 or above.
Drop frequency: Staggeringly rare. This card has always been quite rare, but 3.21’s Breach overhaul made much rarer, a true chase card. Most of the Breach uniques were made about 10 times as rare at the same time as being buffed, but the already very strong Skin uniques just ate the rarity nerf. Someone who opened almost half a million Stacked Decks in 3.21 got 16 House of Mirrors, 13 Unrequited Love, 25 Apothecary… and only 10 Price of Loyalty. Card is RARE.