Hey exiles, welcome to Navandis Gaming's Path of Exile guide, this time with a Soulwrest Phantasm Necromancer Build. Right off the bat, I need to clarify this is not one of those hipsters builds, which, you know, has barely average damage but a quirky mechanic so bored people will play it because it's different. On top of that, it's incredibly cheap, with many of its gear pieces costing just a few Chaos Orbs, and the build can clear tier 16 maps on a 5-link.
The build revolves around a very common and cheap unique item, the Soulwrest Staff, which says, "trigger level 20 summon phantasm skill when you consume a corpse". Phantasms are ghostly minion spellcasters which fire a projectile that deals physical damage and pierces all targets.
By default, the staff can summon up to 10 phantasms, but by socketing a "Summon Phantasm Support" gem in it, you can increase this cap up to 20 or 21. Another critical aspect to keep in mind is that support gems socketed in this staff will affect all 21 phantasms without linking them.
You can have no links on your staff, and your ghosts will receive all the bonuses just fine. Since getting 6 sockets is easy and cheap, you can have the equivalent of a 6-link main skill setup as early as level 60, allowing you to cruise through the last acts of the campaign or early atlas tiers. The way corpses are generated and consumed has no impact on the summoned phantasms, so it doesn't matter if you produce those corpses yourself or if they resulted from killing enemies. Also, the number of phantasms summoned at once is equal to the number of corpses consumed. So, if you consume 5 corpses, you'll instantly gain 5 new ghosts.
The build completely automates the process of generating and consuming corpses through a Cast while Channeling setup. Cast while Channeling will trigger linked spells in a sequence as long as you're using a linked channeled skill. The ideal skill for this purpose is Cyclone for a multitude of reasons: it allows you to move while channeling, it hits enemies so it can trigger various on-hit effects, and it can be supported by Fortify, greatly boosting your defenses. So, while cycloning around, you'll trigger Desecrate, which generates 5 corpses, and Flesh Offering, which will consume those, summoning ghosts and providing them a massive DPS buff. Keep in mind that you don't need to hit anything with Cyclone to generate and consume corpses, and this is crucial against bosses as you can pre-summon all your ghosts before engaging.
And since we're talking about damage, your phantasms physical damage will be converted entirely into elemental, mostly cold, by using a dirt-cheap item, "The Triad Grip" gloves. This is done because scaling physical spell damage for minions is incredibly hard, while converting it to elemental opens up many additional options such as "Elemental Equilibrium", reducing enemies' resistances, etc.
Finally, the build uses a few additional minions, such as Animate Guardian or spectres, whose sole purpose is to provide various buffs to your phantasms. While it sounds like a lot to take in, don't worry, as usual, I'll talk more about these in the passives, gems, and gearing sections, respectively.
Summoning dead stuff to fight for you is the signature of a Necromancer, so that is what you'll be picking as the Ascendancy class.
First points go to "Mindless Aggression," a clear-cut and efficient passive: it simply buffs the damage as well as cast speed and movement speed for your minions. Nothing complicated.
After completing the cruel labyrinth, follow up with "Commander of Darkness" - both yourself and your minions get a large amount of damage and cast speed, as well as elemental resistances. While the damage bonuses are useless for you, 30% to all elemental resistances will greatly help with gearing, allowing more flexibility in choosing useful unique items.
Third in line is "Plaguebringer," a fairly simple passive: while there's at least one corpse near your enemies, they'll take more damage and deal less to you and your minions. And since you'll be generating corpses non-stop with your Cyclone cast while channeling setup, this buff will be up permanently.
Finally, take "Bone Barrier," a really strong defensive layer for both yourself and your minions with the last ascendancy points. First, you get a whole bunch of physical damage reduction, Life, and energy shield recovery. Your minions also gain 20% increased maximum Life, a stat that you can never have too much of. In addition, you obtain the "Bone Armour" skill – when activated, it creates a shield on yourself and each of your minions, which absorbs up to 2200 damage from hits, removes bleeding, and provides immunity to this ailment while the buff is up. Just remember to actually place this skill on your Hotbar and use it as often as possible.
For the major god, "Soul of Lunaris," - it provides quite a few bonuses to evasion and chance to dodge, as well as physical damage reduction and movement speed. In addition, you'll avoid any projectiles that have chained – while this might not seem like much, keep in mind there are close to 30 minions around you at all times, and projectiles can potentially chain from each of them to hit you. As for the minor god, the optimal choice is likely Soul of Gruthkul: since you're operating in melee range while cycloning, you'll likely receive a significant amount of hits. Reducing enemies' attack speed as well as incoming physical damage will keep you somewhat safer.
Gems and Links
1. With that out of the way, as usual, I'll start the main skill. As I've said in the build overview section, the active skill is baked into Soulwrest staff, so all the other gems you'll be socketing in it are supports. You also do not need to link them, so just having 6 sockets is enough –they need to be socketed in the staff, not anywhere else.
2. Next setup is the engine driving the entire build, Cyclone + Cast while Channeling. If you've watched the build overview section, this should come as no surprise. In this case, Cyclone is the skill that will trigger other linked spells as you keep channeling it.
3. Up next is your auras setup. The only way you can fit all of them is if you're using the recommended best-in-slot helmet, Devouring Diadem, as auras socketed in it will reserve significantly less mana.
4. Next gem setup brings a few additional minions whose sole purpose is to buff the phantasms and yourself to some extent.
5. Next gem setup is a bit of a strange one. It's more or less an improvisation that's being forced on us by the unique gloves used in this build, the "Triad Grip." More specifically, the gloves say, "Minions convert 25% of Physical Damage to Cold Damage per Green Socket". Similarly, red and blue sockets would convert their damage to fire or lightning, respectively. However, as I mentioned earlier in the Build Overview section, you need to convert most of the phantasms' damage to cold, as scaling physical damage for them is almost impossible. Other elements are also worse, for reasons that go beyond the purpose of this guide. So, the setup consists of an "Ice Golem" linked with "Feeding Frenzy" and "Culling Strike," as well as a "Sniper's Mark" curse.
6. Finally, you have two really important utility skills, which will only fit if you're using "unset" base rings, with their gem socket implicit.
Pros and Cons
+ Excellent league starter
+ Dirt cheap
+ Insane clear speed
+ Super boss killer
+ Really solid defenses
- Relies on specific uniques
- Level up as skelemancer