Staff mage build that can clear 187

The Basic Idea

I enjoy being a mage and using a staff in RPGs, and I wanted to find the most effective build possible based on a staff. Anything else was fine: using a staff was my only rule.

Defense: heavy armor and HP

In early access, heavy armor and toughness were the way to go, and I liked how that played and stuck with it here. The concept is to be able to facetank anything, and thus increase the amount of time I'm putting damage on the target (if I'm running, I'm not attacking).

I'm currently at 90% all resistances (doesn't look like I can go higher), and about 100K HP. Block chance is lowish (50% or so), and efficiency is fairly low, but I'm primarily using block to proc Weakness stacks (I don't need it for defense).

With Dire Juncture, few bosses have one-shot me, and the number of abilities I need to avoid are low. Bulwark of Dawn plus leech keeps me healed; the most annoying bosses are those that stun me or push me around. I don't have problems with any particular boss, although my least favorite is probably the Alpha, due its stun, and the Soul Demon, because it bounces around so much (it messes with my offense).

Offense: anything I can get :)

I tried numerous permutations, at first avoiding ailments in hopes of getting raw damage spells like Annihilation to work, but no joy. :( I settled on multiple persistent AoE, the theory being that even though any single spell is weak, getting parallel streams of damage adds up. So, four of my six skills are the following:

  • Winter's Grasp as DoT AoE, shadow damage, and a shadow damage boost
  • Double Anomaly as DoT AoE, lightning damage, and constant pull to keep trash enemies within the AoE stack
  • Tear of Etheliel as DoT AoE and fire damage
  • Bulwark of Dawn as DoT AoE, attached to my person

I tried Solarfall, but it kept crashing my game, so I don't know if it would be a more effective option.

I use Aether Jump for movement through the dungeons, tactical positioning, and guaranteed Stasis. I also have the passive allowing dodge roll through enemies (very useful for mobility). Finally, I use Infinity Blades, because of the willpower on hit (for masses of trash mobs), the Stasis on block, and the spell damage bonus.

Naturally, I took all major Cabalist nodes, and That Which Time Cannot Heal, plus all three major Siegebreaker nodes, for damage and defense.

Because I'm 90% allres, however, all I also took the Retaliator nodes (despite the crit chance nerf). I believe that translates to 112.5% more spell damage, doubled through That Which Time Cannot Heal, and it also applies to DoT damage.

I also found a unique gauntlet, The First Men's Legacy, which nerfs your damage, but buffs any buffs you get from spells. This affects the buff from Winter's Grasp and Infinity Blades, and wound up giving me significantly more overall damage (including for DoT). I'm tempted to once again try Annihilation, have its buff active, and see how it works. Could even stack with the buffs from Consuming Embers and Thunderstrike, but I might wait if/when I get a second gauntlet.

Finally, I went for basic damage nodes, the big crit and ailment chance nodes, and attribute nodes, because attributes add damage (even agility).

Gear optimizations

On gear, I'm optimized for Aether damage, not elemental, but the elemental DoT definitely boosted my DPS, so I've got room to try out a different optimization path. I was able to upgrade all my gear to very nice crafted legendaries.

On the heavy armor, the basic idea was to get the following with good rolls and then upgrade:

  • +X allres
  • %allres
  • CD reduction (where applicable) or %damage or move speed
  • +attribute (ideally Toughness, but any will do, because is effectively %damage with bonuses)

Note that with AoE DoT spells CD reduction is basically DPS: that plus CD reduction passives plus CD reduction runes plus duration increase runes mean I can permanently keep the AoEs running (most of them last longer than their CD).

On accessories and weapon, I went for three flat damage spell increases, of course, plus %damage. I note that the Omnistar amulet is by far the best if you want damage. I waited until I found a trash rare with the max innate roll of 20 to all attributes, and then crafted it (well worth it!). I was thinking of doing the same with 30% crit damage rings, but haven't yet.

I have HP gems on armor, aether damage and ailment chance on accessories, and aether damage on the weapon.

I don't have the trial belt, by the way! :) (I do have O'Malley's, but I don't use it.)

How it plays

Basic stuff: I speed through a dungeon, getting aggro, clumping enemies, trapping them with Anomaly, and then burning them down with all the permanently-running AoE. I ignore tougher enemies, because oddly they don't seem to affect the monster bar any more than weak enemies, I fill my inventory with rares anyhow, and the final boss is a long enough fight. (Enemies that spawn trash enemies that don't count are annoying! :) )

The final boss is generally a matter of making sure I can stay next to him and keep the AoEs going. I use two willpower potions, but when I run out, basic staff attacks regen my willpower quickly enough. I spam Infinity Blades against trash mobs, but against bosses, I mainly use it to keep the spell buff going (so I hit it occasionally, but don't spam it).

A boss fight is usually me standing in one place hitting all the AoE buttons in sequence plus one shot of Infinity Blades (assuming the button presses work! :P ), then basic attacks to regen willpower, repeat ad nauseum till dead. I only shift position to chase down moving bosses, or dodge the few mechanics that can one-shot me.

It's very nice to have a mob spawner nearby: keeps my potions filled and damage up.

I completed a 187-189 expedition, I think when I was level 78 (am 79 now). The final 189 boss was the Justicar, and he wasn't a problem (after working him into a corner so he wouldn't go invulnerable). I didn't time it, but it didn't feel too long (five minutes?).

I haven't tried untainted at 187; my only experience with those was a mob that kept yanking me into the air, and I couldn't find a way to kill it (although it couldn't kill me), so that was annoying, and I haven't tried again.

Right now I don't see much reason to use difficulty to buy production for dungeon runs: most of the useful missions are cheap enough that one or two levels finishes them anyhow. The hard missions fail enough I don't think they're worth it.

The boss maps are good for quick production. Wealth omens I'd do at lower difficulties for quick kills, but the chest maps can be interesting (most of my uniques I think have come from chests). I haven't tried an uber boss (no idea what the reward is, but if there is one, it's not advertised well!).


At this point, I've stopped playing. I've proven this build to myself, gotten good enough gear, am discouraged by the threat of leagues (why bother grinding more if they're coming!), and am also discouraged by the crafting RNG: it's too high to really try to get perfect gear.

Another problem is that I have to be choosy when I pick up loot. Being able to grab everything and sort through it later at leisure would promote my working towards trying other builds.

I didn't finish building out the city, but it's not really compelling at this point. I wish the city missions were actually the core of a sandbox RPG, in which the point isn't just killing mobs for loot, but also interacting with and changing a greater world. :) Grinding is more fun when you're accomplishing multiple goals at once!

Replies: 0

Created: 2 months, 1 week ago

Category: Gameplay

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