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PoE Builds 3.20: Spell Echo Hydrosphere Build

By Nancy G2023-02-17

A senior gameplay programmer, Mark, described this build as "madness in the best way." Behold, Ifnjeff's Spell Echo Hydrosphere. It takes an unusual and rarely used support skill and turns it into a veritable wrecking ball.


Spell Echo Hydrosphere pic


How Does It Work?

I will explain the main set of mechanics in the whole post. And let's begin. Ifnjeff was inspired by the Plume of Pursuit unique helmet. This starts us off with a massive downside. Every non-critical strike will now deal 80% less damage. However, the helm also makes every final repeat of a spell, a repeat as in, when using the Spell Echo support gem, an automatic critical strike.


So, for example, if we cast Arc supported by Spell Echo with this helmet on, the first beam will deal very little damage, but the second beam will always be a crit. Ifnjeff notes that this tradeoff is usually not worth it unless we go all in.


What we need is a skill that deals damage over a duration and can benefit from our automatic crits. A skill that doesn't rely on having multiple casts active at once. Meet Hydrosphere. It's a watery ball that emits damaging pulses. When you cast the spell, it will first move the ball, then make it pulse. When supported by Spell Echo, the repeat simply causes the ball to "move" on the spot and pulse again. This repeat will always be a crit, thanks to the Plume of Pursuit helmet. A good start, but this only really hits once.


move the ball


Hydrosphere has another property - it pulses cold or lightning damage, doing so regularly when affected by different ailments. All we have to do is hit the ball with another spell that will inflict an ailment. Thanks to our helmet, these regular pulses will also be crits, as the ball is managed by the most recent use of the Hydrosphere skill. So to get the most out of this skill, we have to put an ailment on it.


Ifnjeff has decided to use Freeze - this ailment is unique in that its duration is scaled by the damage of the hit, so if we hit our ball hard enough with Freeze, it will continue to pulse for a nice long time.


Herein lies the tricky part. Hydrosphere only registers one hit from the player every second. Other hits in that time will be ignored. So for most skills supported by Spell Echo, if we hit the ball with them, our boosted final repeat won't affect the ball at all, and it might not get the ailment we need.


Ifnjeff found only one reliable solution - Wave of Conviction. This spell creates a damaging wave that can only ever have one instance. So if we cast it with Spell Echo - the final repeat cancels our useless first wave and replaces it with the automatic crit we so desire.


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Now we can reliably hit our Hydrosphere with an automatic crit. But all of this is just the beginning of the story. To get the most out of this strange combo, Ifnjeff gets even more creative. We obviously don't need critical strike chance because of our automatic crits, but we do want a huge critical strike multiplier.


Marylene's Fallacy is perfect for us, granting a huge boost to crit multi. The amulet also has the added bonus of giving us Culling Strike on all our crits - which is all the time. For our weapon, we can wield The Winds of Fate. It also gives us more crit multiplier. But even cooler, it has huge base physical damage. To make use of this, Ifnjeff has picked up Battlemage from the Inquisitor Ascendancy, a property that adds our main hand weapon damage to our spells. This means Hydrosphere is gaining one-thousand-whatever physical damage from Winds of Fate.


The weapon's downside limits our critical strike chance and makes it so non-crits don't deal damage. Since we don't have to roll for crits and our non-crits have already been rendered useless, this downside does not bother us at all.


Next, we are going to talk about damage conversion. This is where things start to get even more complex. Hydrosphere has base physical damage and converts all of it to cold or lightning damage depending on the ailments it's affected by. Ifnjeff explains that he prefers cold damage, as freezing the ball helps with extending the pulse duration, as mentioned earlier. Plus, cold damage is a bit easier to scale, and freezing enemies is nice for defence.


damage conversion


Now, Winds of Fate has a property where some of your physical damage is randomly converted to elemental damage, which could be a problem. Fortunately, Hydrosphere itself isn't affected because it converts 100% of physical damage. This is a skill gem calculation, meaning it has priority over the random conversion from Winds of Fate, so we're safe there. However, Wave of Conviction - which we're using to apply ailments to Hydrosphere - converts 25% of physical damage to lightning and 25% to fire. The remaining 50% of physical damage can be affected by the Winds of Fate conversion.


So how do we ensure a consistent damage type and that we're not accidentally shocking the ball instead of freezing it? The only way Ifnjeff found is to take Avatar of Fire. This completely prevents us from dealing non-fire damage, so we're not accidentally going to shock the Hydrosphere ball. Avatar of Fire also converts 50% of cold damage to fire. To improve the conversion, we'll use the Cold to Fire support gem. Winds of Fate will still sometimes mess with our damage conversion here, but now at least, we have some consistency.


Great! But unfortunately, fire can't freeze. For this, we turn to Expedition's End. This unique body armour lets our fire damage freeze. As an added bonus, it makes our freezing more effective, and it chills nearby enemies. At this point, Ifnjeff notes we've completed our little puzzle. The looming problem now becomes a clunky slow cast speed, a small Area of Effect, and high mana costs.


Ifnjeff has a very smart solution to this problem: Instruments of Zeal is an Inquisitor passive that grants us Fanaticism. This buff gives us a massive boost to all three of the stats we need - cast speed, AoE, and mana cost reduction. The only problem is that we need to be able to use an attack skill frequently to maintain this buff.


It would make sense to use a movement skill, but we're using a staff, and something like Leap Slam would be too slow or awkward for us. Instead, Ifnjeff is using Cyclone, bound to the space bar, simply tapping it as needed, slightly more than once a second. It's an unusual, rhythmic way to play, but it absolutely gets the job done.




This article does not cover everything, but hopefully, this gives you an idea of the sheer number of cool interactions at work here. Ifnjeff's Hydrosphere Inquisitor - as he puts it - tends towards meme territory. It's not going to be the wrecking ball that destroys the meta, but it showcases an extremely creative use of mechanics and unlikely items and is completely viable at the endgame.



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