This is a pretty old-school build for my main character in HC where I’m currently lvl 93. I mostly put this up because it’s a very good, very cheap, solid end-game build that I never see anybody else playing anymore, and all the builds that I see out there are outdated. This character started in Onslaught, so that’s a good indication of where I’m coming from. Lots of people will tell you that Explosive Arrow is not viable in HC leagues due to reflect, and this character is living proof that that’s just not true. It is ABSOLUTELY possible to one-shot yourself with explosive arrow (even with ~9k life), but the nice part about the skill is that you have lots of control over exactly how much damage you do, because you can choose not to 5-stack mobs.
Ridiculous life total – My lvl 93 character gets over 300% life from tree for a total of about 8.5k life. Admittedly, I run Kaom’s, but even with no chestpiece at all, I’m sitting at 6.5k life.
Obscenely cheap to gear – You shouldn’t look at my gear and be discouraged. My character is geared the way you’d expect a lvl 93 character to be geared. Here’s a complete list of what you need to make it to level 70: 4L quill rain. That’s it. Seriously.
Solid AOE clear speed – A single 5-stack will clear just about any white pack, and then you can move on. If you’ve never played with it before, burn proliferation is an extremely powerful mechanic.
Good (and safe) single target – Later in the game, you can swap in conc effect whenever you’re fighting bosses to increase your damage significantly. If you get the ignite (which you should most of the time, with a curse, my ignite chance is something like 88%) you’ll burn down bosses quite quickly. I say safe because you can use hit and run tactics very effectively. If you 5-stack a boss and get the ignite on them, you don’t need to be attacking them again for the duration of the ignite (~8 seconds), so you can run around, hide behind things, whatever during that time, as opposed to most builds that need constant line of sight to DPS.
Can do ANY map mod – There is no single map mod that this character cannot do, and some of them it gets for free (ele equilibrium and blood magic, for two.) I’ve done no-regen, I’ve done reflect, I’ve done double-boss on most of the hard bosses. The one PAIR that I try to avoid is -max and reflect, as that’s just asking to die. Fire resist is annoying, but doable.
Free regen – We’re going to run Split Arrow – Chain – Life Gain on Hit to proc EE and it gives us free regen as well.
Reflect – You have to be careful around reflect. That’s it. In reflect maps, don’t do more than 2-3 stacks at a time. In -max maps, try to make sure that you can see packs pretty well before 5-stacking them. Like I said above, you can deal with reflect because you have a lot of control over your damage output.
Parties/Auras – Because you run Elemental Equilibrium, partying with people running anger, and to a somewhat lesser extent wrath, is a no-go. I proc EE off a small amount of cold damage on a ring, which means that things will be pretty much always +25% cold res and -50% lightning/fire res. You just need to be careful about who you party with. Especially if you’re building for a new league and know what your normal party members are building, then this can be an advantage, however. Just make sure they do lightning/fire damage.
Ele Resist Mobs – Can be a pain in the ass, but EE + curse helps a lot.
Explosive Arrow – Chance to Ignite – Elemental Proliferation – Fire Penetration – Increased Burning Damage (5L) – Increased Area of Effect/Concentrated Effect (6L): This is obviously your main skill. Like I said in the intro, you can get away with the 4L into the beginning of maps, but you will eventually want a 5L or 6L to add the last couple gems. I used to swap increased AOE for Conc Effect on bosses for extra single-target DPS, but I have an off-hand weapon setup for single-target damage now (see gear).
Split Arrow – Chain – Blind – Life Gain on Hit: This skill provides incredible utility. It does 3 things: First, we use this combined with a small amount of cold damage on gear to set EE on all mobs. Spamming this into a pack a couple times should easily hit everything. Second, blind has the obvious utility of severely reducing the damage of anything that deals damage with attacks. This is why we don’t take unwavering stance, but if you did take unwavering stance chance to flee would also be a viable option for this link. Third, the many arrows plus chain means we hit a lot of times, and hence get a massive amount of life regen from Life Gain on Hit. (Attacking ~5 times/second * 6 arrows * 3 (initial hit +2 chains) * 54 LGOH ~ 4k life regen/second) You’re not gonna hit all those arrows, but the regen you get from it is huge. This helps when you’re taking a lot of damage. This helps early when EA is very expensive compared to your life pool. This basically single-handedly allows us to do no-regen maps with bunches of free regen.
Decoy Totem – Faster Cast – Lightning Warp – Flammability
Cast When Damage Taken – Enduring Cry – Immortal Call – Increased Duration
These two are self-explanatory utility links.
I don’t run a 5th set of links currently, as I run Kaom’s Heart, but one option would be something like Split Arrow – Chain – Culling – Increased Rarity for some utility.
The beauty of this build is that it needs absolutely zero damage from gear. Having extra fire damage rolled on a ring or amulet is great, but not necessary. This frees you up to get pure defensive items. Look for things with life/resists/dexterity (this is essential because of high dex requirements on the EA gem). The one thing that you CANNOT get on gear is flat fire damage. This will completely ruin your EE setup, and occasionally makes shopping for gear a little awkward.
Good unique choices:
Carcass Jack – Damage, life, AOE, and resists, all good fits. I used to run one of these before I got Kaom’s, and it’s easier to color for EA than a quill rain is. I think this is best in slot aside from a Kaom’s.
Hyrri’s Bite – Attack Speed, Dex, AOE, all nice. I’ve always run a light quiver for the dexterity, but since they’re going away this should fill much the same role.
Devoto’s Devotion – I just happened upon this one recently, actually, and it can get kinda spendy but good AR/EV, attack speed, movespeed, and massive dex all make this great for this build. (plus we don’t care about the reduced phys dmg)
Kaom’s Heart – This is eventually best in slot for this build, but far from necessary. Interestingly, this one of a few builds where the new Kaom’s is probably BETTER than the legacy version.
Cloak of Flame – A decent chance for leveling with fire res, chance to ignite, burn duration, and a mini-lightning coil-type effect.
Infernal Mantle (AKA Troll Shavs) – I put this one in here, not because I’m convinced it’s good, but because I find it intriguing. Technically, I believe that BM users are never “low on mana” so the downside is gone, it gives +1 to fire gems, and increases fire damage. However, the chaos conversion, while good for reflect concerns, is bad for ignites. It’s worth looking into, but I’m not sold.
A Word on Quality gems:
This build, more than any other that I’ve played (or even know of, really) benefits HUGELY from quality on all of its gems (except conc effect, where we don’t really care). As a result, investing in high-quality versions of all the gems in the main link will pay huge dividends. There was a long time on my character where my gems were worth more than my gear. That being said, I bought my quality gems for this character before the 20% gem recipe went public, but now you can level and prestige all your supports without much loss. The only thing that you really NEED to buy quality is an EA gem.
For an idea of what an extremely geared-out version of this character would look like, here’s my gear at time of writing:
For those of you who may not be familiar with explosive arrow, the way that it works mechanically is when you hit a mob with it, the mob gets a fuse charge which can stack up to 5 with a one-second timer that refreshes every time a new charge is applied. This damage is counted as non-weapon fire projectile AOE damage, and so anything that affects those keywords affects the explosion damage.
The way that play on this character will usually go is: 5-stack a mob in a pack –> curse –> split arrow a couple times to set EE both before and after the explosion –> move to next pack. A single 5-stack is enough to clear just about any pack outside of the very hardest maps, and the prolif stretches basically the width of the screen. If you’ve never played a burning prolif build, it’s worth noting also that corpses proliferate burns as well, which means things like rhoas that are outside an initial blast and then charge you are often dead of the prolif burn before they even reach you.
The high cost of EA means you cant run it until you have blood magic and a significant amount of regen. This makes leveling until you can start using EA a little bit dicey. I suggest using a two-hander with groundslam/leapslam and heavy strike and taking the melee phys passives near the marauder start. Then start to get the connections you need to eventually swap. Get an EA gem ASAP and level it in your offhand. If you need more dexterity, don’t hesitate to take nodes on the tree/gearpieces to make it happen. This is absolutely crucial. The absolute minimum, in my opinion, to spec into BM and switch to EA is Troll’s Blood, Golem’s Blood, the Templar life regen node, and the Templar burn dmg nodes. A bare minimum EA tree might look something like this:
You will then be using EA – Chance to Ignite – Prolif – Fire Pen. This link lasts you until maps basically. Right when you switch, the cost of a 5-stack EA will be a decent chunk of your life, but you can use the split arrow/chain/LGOH link to regain life quickly. From here, you can go where you want. Need defense? Take life and armour nodes. Need dex? Fill out the duelist part of the tree. Need damage? Head towards Elemental Equilibrium or take the marauder fire nodes. (these are both pretty huge boosts to damage) My current tree looks like this:
For bandits, I do Oak, kill, kill. I originally had taken the endurance charge, but didn’t use it much.
Screenshots and Damage Calculations
These numbers are all solo. I regularly run with a group that runs both grace and determination, in which case I have something like 30k Armour. Even now, with a Granite popped, I’m over 20k.
For offense, I’ll link the screenshots but they mean just about nothing. EA is one of the few builds that tooltip DPS is meaningless for (not unlike Detonate Dead). So I have a spreadsheet for trying to calculate rough damage numbers: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0ArU8pATdWV7hdGZfdGtpMFVQSDNfUndIa0JmOVBNd2c&usp=drive_web#gid=0
The upshot here is, with flammability on I do about 125k damage with a 5-stack and an ignite with the main-hand weapon. With the off-hand conc effect/empower setup I do about 300k with a 5-stack and an ignite, and will do something like 400k with lvl 20 EA and lvl 3 Empower.
A note on 5L/6L
One thing that’s great about this build is that the fact that it runs a super-cheap unique bow and a relatively affordable unique chest (carcass jack is best in slot until you get enough to but a Kaom’s – a large hurdle for most players) is that you can acquire these en mass and bootstrap your way to a 6L. What I mean by this is you can buy a quill rain (ideally with high proj speed roll), 6-socket it, and then dump every fusing you get into it. If you get a 5L, use it. If you already have one, sell it and start over. In this way you can work towards a 6L without wasting 5Ls and lots of currency. Same goes for the Carcass Jack. This is how I got my 6L quill rain and the 6L carcass jack that I used for a long time.