Aschere's ExplodyMinion Lowlife Build | 0.9 | Detailed Written Guide | 11K out-of-combat ward | 16K in-combat ward | 100+ Armor Shred | 300+ Empowered

Do you want exploding skeletons? Or exploding zombies? Why not both? You think it’ll be too clunky - not if we automate most of it! I played this build to level 100 and it was very smooth including breaking into 300+ empowered monoliths. With good gear the build should work in 500+ empowered, but I didn’t grind that far.

Welcome to my extremely detailed written build guide aimed at explaining everything about the build in particular for newer players.

This build leverages several interlocking mechanisms. We summon skeleton’s, which our mage’s will sacrifice, which spawns zombies, and generates a ton of mana/ward/damage/armor shred/mage health leech. We have two movement options available (summon skeleton and transplant - no skill tree for transplant). It works well in multiplayer with hit-based builds given the armor shred will boost physical damage by ~79% and non-physical damage by ~55%. We utilize the new “Summon Skeleton” teleport “Grave Passage”+“Death’s Cavalry” to greatly improve our ability to position/reposition our mages.

This build is mostly new player friendly. There are two required uniques, one of which is medium rarity and the other which can be easily acquired. The build works without the uniques, but you won’t get the survivability without them; I did play the build without them into early empowered monoliths as this was my league starter, so it’s still viable without them, but the build will really shine once you get them. The two required uniques are body Exsanguinous (or Shroud of Obscurity as a weaker substitute) and Last Steps of the Living. Last steps can be easily target farmed (common 50% drop rate from monolith boss). Exsanguinous is medium rarity so its harder to come by, but you can also substitute shroud, a common drop, as an alternative if you have that. Note, you don’t need these to be legendary to have the build to work but it will have higher potential.

The build is Hardcore friendly once you have the uniques.

Important Note: Zombie nodes “Necromatic Fervor” and “Vital Ward” do NOT work correctly (see Vital ward bug - zombies still healing ). Do NOT take Vital Ward. Once the nodes are fixed, this build will probably get an extra 1-3K ward on top of the already absurd amounts.

How does build actually work?
  • We have five skeleton mages spec’d into “Underlings” to allow them to cast Sacrifice on Skeletons
  • In one cast, we summon three skeleton warriors next to enemies we want to damage
  • The mages cast sacrifice on the skeleton warriors
  • The mages heal 10% of their max health every time they crit. They crit 50% of the time and cast 2.3 times per second.
  • The skeletons grant 45 mana back thanks to “Mind Catcher”. This means each cast grants us a net positive 18 mana! That mana gain will let us automatically cast zombies.
  • Approximately one out of three skeletons automatically summons a zombie because of “Awakened Presence” node on Zombie tree.
  • Zombie’s are summoned next to enemy (rather than at your own feet) so they don’t have to run towards enemy. This removes the biggest clunky factor from zombies and let’s us make them stationary for more damage and AOE.
  • We generate an average of ~900 ward per second from minions dying thanks to “Reclamation of Souls” on Necro tree, “Soul Catcher” on Summon Skeleton skill, a small amount from “Mania of Mortality” on Acolyte tree, a small amount from the bugged zombie node “Necromatic Fervor”, and stacking tons of cast speed. Option to get even more ward with ward variant.
  • We generate an average of ~1230 ward per second from Exsanguinous, Last Steps, and our Catalyst (and potentially Relic).
  • We stack intelligence (82) to get a whopping 501% ward retention and a stable out-of-combat ward of 11,050.
  • We have a golem that will tank and grab all agro (thanks to “Tower of Bones”), protecting both us and our mages.
  • Our golem can be built offensively with bone shatter “Bone Hail”/“Flight of Femurs” or built defensively with max armor using “Marrow Eater” node.
  • We cast dread shade on one of our mages to grant a large amount of cast and damage buffs.
  • We stack flat minion damage because the abilities we’re using have GREAT damage effectiveness. Sacrifice has 200% added damage effectiveness and Zombie has 600% (!?!?!) added damage effectiveness.
  • We position our mages so they are clustered in the dread shade. Make use of the “Minion Attack Command” key binding (default “A”) to group up your mages.
  • We try to stand with the mages as we benefit from Dread Shade thanks to “Symbiotic Apparition” which grants us cast speed and armor.
  • We have two teleport abilities.
  • We can cast “Summon Mage” to teleport + reposition mages (including if they fall behind in a monolith). It will move up to four of your five mages (one summoned + three teleported). Zombie’s are stationary and thus won’t waste one of the reposition teleports.


  • Extremely high effective health pool (ward)
  • Extremely high recovery through combination of both low life and minion deaths.
  • Will work on bad gear. No legendaries required.
  • Although it works on bad gear, it ramps up in power significantly as you improve gear (you should be able to hit 20K+ ward with godly gear/legendaries).
  • Golem absorbs all of the minion aggro so you don’t even get attacked.
  • Enemies Chilled. Enemies have DOTs on them to prevent “XXX if not damaged recently” mods.
  • The new teleport REALLY helps in repositioning your mages.


  • You need to manage dread shade and your mage positioning to maximum DPS. If you aren’t using the “A” button to reposition, you are losing a lot of damage.
  • It’s a minion build. Take it or leave it.
  • Damage isn’t the highest out there. You aren’t going to one phase T4 Julra, but it’s still very good.
  • If your mages all die (example you let them all sit in Emperor of Corpses breath attack), they can be annoying to get back online because of the cooldown on summon mages.
Full Build Planner

Level 80:

Level 100:

Note 1: The “core” build is pretty much done at level 80. The remaining points is mostly for more life, some cast speed, and a little extra chill chance/small dmg bump.

Note 2: You do NOT need a legendary Exsanginous; I got lucky, but the build plays fine without it (you’ll lose about 1300 stable ward compared to me). However, I also have a bad roll on my Last Steps which if you get better should make up for that. If you land a legendary Last Steps as well that is a big improvement you can make over mine.

Note 3: Jade ring is a bad base, don’t use it, I just wasn’t able to replace it.

Note 4: We have transplant on our skill bar, it gives us a second teleport when we don’t want to relocate our minions. We are not using the skill tree for transplant (we instead use volatile zombie tree but it is automated and doesn’t need to be on our skill bar).

Build Variants
  • Defensive Variant: You can build the golem more defensively by pathing up to “Marrow Eater”. If you have a decent amount of “Minion Health”, I don’t think it’s needed. I found even at 300 Corruption, the golem didn’t die too often and it wasn’t hard to resummon when he did. If your golem is dying though you can spec to Marrow Eater to get the golem max armor. Only one point is really needed.

  • Death Knights Lazy Person Variant: You can drop two points (probably out of Frost Lich and Cryomancers) to pickup Death Knights. This will make them into melee allowing them to group up better for Dread Shade without having to deal with minion positioning management. They will lose 20% of damage and they become more vulnerable, so be warned. I think they’d work better at lower corruption levels. You could also optionally drop the mage teleport nodes to pick it up (leaving frost lich point for 20% multiplier) and just use a non-skill tree transplant for movement as the minion teleport becomes less important.

  • Vessel of Strife Variant: It’s an option, but the gear and setup will be quite different. You need to lose a skill tree to pick up Aura of Decay - losing the golem is a big hit to survivability. Next, you really need to get a T5+ Summon Skeleton Mages legendary on Vessel of Strife. Next you’ll need to pretty much all of your gear to have life regen. You’ll need to change out the Lagon monolith blessing to health regen. You’ll need change out the Summon Golem to Aura of Decay for health regen and Numlock automate casting it.

  • More Ward Variant: For 15 skill points you can get about 200ward/sec extra. First put up to 7 points into “Mania of Mortality”. Still not enough? Then put up to 8 points into “Wisp Weaver”. At 96% increased cast speed, “Mania of Mortality” gives an average of 15 ward/sec/skill point AND works for enemies. When you go into a pack of small spiders and blow them all up, you’ll get a ton of ward. For Wisp Weaver, this build also spends a very large amount of mana (~92mana/sec) which will translate to an average of 12ward/sec/skill point (92/8) if you want even more.

  • Chill Application Tweak Variant: You can drop the points at the end of the necro tree (Blades of Forlorn) and pickup something more valuable (such as more vitality/minion health). If you do this, you should change up the mage tree to take “poison chance” which is converted into chill. You’ll lose the extra projectiles though which are nice during general clear.

Skills and discussion
Summon Skeletons

Shambling Steel and Mind Catcher are both needed to get this build started. Shambling Steel is necessary because Mage’s cannot sacrifice Archer’s. Mind Catcher is necessary so you can actually sustain mana. After that you’ll want “Empty the Graves” for casting multiple skeletons at once (you can alternate putting points in Empty the Graves and Mind Catcher until they are both maxed). Then build into mana efficiency, ward, and a final skeleton. The last point in Unholy Rage is largely unnecessary - it helps a little bit with attack speed for some extra armor shred. You could also spec over to pickup one extra skeleton, but I felt like you don’t need it and would rather have the mana efficiency.

I do NOT recommend Rogues. They have a teleport ability which makes them appear good on paper. Unfortunately the teleport has an 8 second cooldown AND it starts on cooldown when you summon them. They won’t survive long enough to use it effectively.

I also do NOT recommend “Immortal”. It will be a DPS buff in a purely stationary single target situation. But it’s kind of annoying having skeletons summoned behind you that then take up a place in your teleport (see mage section) during normal monolith clearing. You could spec into here, but I just didn’t like it; three seconds is just too long.

Summon Skeleton Mage

The bread and butter of the build. You’ll want to immediately spec up to “Underlings” as this is the core node this entire build is built around.

Early on, you won’t have much crit scaling (it’s deep in the necro tree), so I’d advise on taking the teleport first. This takes a lot of pathing nodes to Grave Passage. You can hold off on taking Death’s Cavalry for now.

A note on pathing: There are two pathing options (extra projectiles or poison/chill chance) both of which are very viable options. The extra projectiles is nicer in my opinion especially early on. Later on when you have the cryo nodes, the poison converts into chill which can save you from having to spend the skill point trees in “Blades of the Forlorn”. I went with projectiles, but they are both solid. It’s also important to note that the other path nodes aren’t bad. You’ll pick up cast speed, frenzy, and even the max mana node will equate to 4% more damage (at level 95 you’ll hit 100 mana naturally).

Next go pickup an extra mage. 3 points in Celer (for crit chance) and 1 point in Order of Death (for mage).

Next put one or two points in Grey Merchant for 10% heal per crit. You can get away with one point here especially during leveling/early monoliths, but personally I felt two was the most comfortable. You don’t want your mages dying as it can be annoying.

Next go back and put a point into Death’s Cavalry to give you the ability to better reposition your minions/pull them ahead.

Next put a third point into Gravetide, one point into Cryomancers, and one point into Frost Lich. This will get you some extra damage (+3 spell and 20% more multiplier) and convert all your mages into frost.

Lastly, if you have +2 points from your relic prefix, put them into Celer Mortis for extra crit chance. If you are lucky enough to have a +3/+4 exalted relic, you can put the extra points into Gravetide for even more flat damage (which is effectively doubled because sacrifice has 200% damage effectiveness).

Summon Golem

Recommended Version:
Alternative Defensive Variant:

The number one important node here is “Tower of Bones”. Do not underestimate how good this node is. At 4/4 points on a monolith with the modifier “monsters focus attacks on players” enemies will run around you to attack your golem instead of you. Seriously, it’s that good. This will take all of the threat off of both you and your mages.

The next points are all flexible. The movespeed helps and is granted to neighboring minions which is nice for clearspeed/helpful to boost skeletons that aren’t next to enemy.

The Bone Shatter nodes are for some extra offensive power. We have so much scaling that it does respectable damage on its own.

Alternatively you can spec into defensive and go pickup “Marrow Eater”. This will give your golem pretty much max armor (it’s exponential). At a single point you’ll be pulling in 6000-8000 armor per second that lasts for 8 seconds. After less than two seconds, you pretty much will be at max mitigation.

We are scaling minion physical the most (see weapon section) so keeping the minion as physical is ideal. The only other physical minion is Blood Golem, but that golem is really bad for low life as it will constantly heal you through Hunger node. As such, I wouldn’t advise any of the other golem types. Likewise for the “double” golem, I don’t think its really necessary. It’s a lot of points to get not a lot of benefit since the golem is just meant to be a meat shield.

Dread Shade

This is a pretty standard dread shade tree. You’ll want to first go for Lone Watcher to address the damage. Next you’ll want to pickup AOE (4/4 in Spectral and 4/4 in Grim Fate) to make it easier for you to keep all your mages in the area. Next put a third point in Dying Coven for more cast speed.

At this stage you have some flexibility in what you want first. If you need cast speed for yourself take Symbiotic Apparition. If you want more damage first, take Lingering Doom.

Next take Martydom for some extra armor (which is also shared to you if your standing in area)

The last point isn’t really important. I put it in Duskheart for some extra DOT chance to help with “XXX if enemies haven’t been damaged recently” mods. It’s also a decent amount of damage since we have good general minion and necrotic damage scaling.

Note: Flesh Harvest isn’t very good as your mages should quickly top off their health if they take a big hit. Congregation of Shades could work, but you’ll have to drop a point somewhere else on the tree and the other 19 points are all very good that its hard to justify unless you have +Level Skills for Dread Shade as a legendary affix on your body armor (not advised).

Volatile Zombies

This skill will really ramp up your damage, but make sure to get the mana nodes in summon skeleton first as this will greatly drain your mana otherwise.

First, put 2/2 points in Forceful Commander to get some mana efficiency. Next travel over to put 3/3 points in “Awakened Presence”. The skill doesn’t work without these nodes. Note, you can’t “turn it off” so if you aren’t prepared for the mana drain, don’t take these yet and just stockpile the three points.

Next, spec into Rite of the Grave in order to (i) (bugged and doesn’t work yet) make them stationary so they won’t teleport with you in summon mage (ii) gives them a lot more AOE and damage. Normally when you self-cast, the zombie summons at your feet - but when combined with “Awakened Presence” they summon where the skeleton just died (which should be right next to the enemy).

Next spec up towards “Pull of the Grave” to pickup a 16% kill threshold. This makes endurance monolith mods mostly ignorable.

Then just fill out the remaining points for damage.

IMPORTANT: Do NOT take Vital Ward. Yes, the skill would be an enormous benefit to us, but, as of the writing of this guide, the node is completely broken. Vital ward bug - zombies still healing

Passive Tree Discussion

We will put the first 20 points in Acolyte to unlock the Necro tree. We won’t touch it again until late game.

We will then put the majority of the points into the Necro tree until we unlock Dread Shade.

At this point we’ll fill out the rest of Necro along with putting 10/10 in Lich when we want more int+mana regen.


8/8 in Forbidden Knowledge for intelligence and resist
6/8 points in Stolen Vitality for minion health and vitality (optionally you can put these 6 points into Mania of Mortality or Dark Rituals - It’s pretty flexible)
1/8 points in Mania of Mortality for Pathing
5/5 points in Unnatural Preservation
We won’t touch this tree until you hit late game (level 80+) where you will want to pickup some extra cast speed for both you and your minions through 5/5 Dark Rituals which we double dip on. We will have always have cast a minion spell in the last 10 seconds (since that’s our main attack) so this node will naturally trigger.


This is a pretty standard minion tree with a couple changes.

8/8 Risen Army for minion cast speed and damage.
5/5 in Reclamation of Souls for a lot of extra ward
4/10 Cursed Blood for more damage scaling
8/8 Aegisfall for massive 200% armor shred. This node alone is why we can hit 120+ armor shred stacks and will translate to a 80% damage multiplier for physical damage (and 55% damage multiplier for non-physical).
5/5 Frantic Summons for more cast speed which we double dip on (because we need both cast speed and minion cast speed).
5/5 River of Bones for Crit chance (the leech here is nice, but we mostly want the % crit in order to trigger the mage leech within the mage tree)
5/10 Moonlight Pyre for more added flat
3/3 in Rite of Undeath for traveling and some ok benefits
1/1 Disciples of Necromancy for an extra Mage.
10/10 Heresy for Intelligence and more Crit chance
Detour into Lich Tree now for 10 points
2 points in Blades of Forlorn for some chill chance for survivability and some small damage
5 more points to 10/10 Moonlight Pyre for more added flat
Fill out remaining nodes (Cling to Life, Tyrant, Dark Rituals) however you feel you like.


10/10 in Apocrypha for intelligence and some small amount of mana regen.


First, I want to stress the importance of Intelligence. You want it on every piece of non-unique gear you can (and on the legendaries for uniques if you can land it). That is Helmet, Gloves, Relic, and both Rings.

In rough order of importance:

Body Armor

This is the most important piece of the build to make it feel good. We want Exsanguinous here ideally. The natural rolls on it don’t matter too much.

If you don’t have Exsanguinous yet but do have Shroud of Obscurity, you can use that instead. It’s a pretty big downgrade, but it can hold you over while you farm for Exsanguinous. If you get both this and Last Steps it should still feel really good even without Exsang.

Legendary: % Life is by far the best thing you can put on it. Intelligence or flat health are the next best things. Although the build planner has a T6 % life roll, you don’t need it for the build to feel good - I didn’t get that until I was level 90.


Last Steps of the Living. The other important unique, but this is VERY easy to farm. It drops from the non-empowered monolith boss at Blood Frost and Death Timeline and has a 50% drop rate.

Unlike Exsanguinous it does have variable rolls. We want a high “% missing life gained as ward” roll (up to 15%). I just used the first one I got, but if you want to min-max this is one of the biggest impactful areas you can improve as going from a 11% to 15% roll equates to around 144 ward/second.

Revenant Helmet

The base type here is non-negotiable. You are better off running a modless Revenant helmet with a +15 implicit roll than almost any other helmet. +15 looks really amazing and then when you realize that Sacrifice has “200% damage effectiveness” and Volatile has “600% damage effectiveness” it is sheer amazingness. For reference, the base unmodified Sacrifice does base 40 physical damage (and helmet would add +30 to that for a 75% damage increase to the base). Likewise the unmodified zombie explosion is base 120 damage (and helmet would add +90 for a 75% damage increase).

For first prefix you want Intelligence.

For second prefix you have a lot of options: Vitality, Crit Chance for Mages, Increased Crit chance for you and your minions, Increased Skeletal Mage Damage, Minion Health, Level of Bone Golem, Level of Volatile Zombie. If you only expect a low tier mod I’d go with “Increased Crit Chance for you and your minions”. If you expect a higher tier mod I’d go for Vitality.

For suffixes life, resists, and crit avoidance. Note that both “% health” and “+health” can roll on helmets.


Several basetypes work well here including Caged Souls, Cursed Bones, Runed Bones, Decaying Homunculus, Homunculus Blood, and Putrid Souls. Putrid Souls is probably the ideal one as it solves poison resistance and gives you ward/sec generation.

For the first more important prefix is you’re looking for +Level to Summon Skeleton Mages. We really want +2 or more here. If you can land an +3/+4 exalted item on this even better. Make sure to be shattering every piece of gear you come across that has this mod so that you can craft it onto a good base later!

For second, also very important, prefix we want intelligence.

For suffixes you’re looking for resistances and health.

Alternatively you can go with a Vessel of Strife (see variant section) and build as health regen instead of low life. However if you do this, you should probably try to land a +Level of Skeleton Mages on the Legendary.


For leveling I’d recommend going with a Reach of the Grave Reach of the Grave - Unique Archive Wand - Wand - Last Epoch Item Database if you have one.

Otherwise, and end-game wise, you should aim for a Skeletal scepter (%minion damage). A horned staff (+ minion skills) is also good, but you’ll lose out on the intelligence/ward of a focus. Before you get a perfect base, you can always craft one on any other scepter base.

For prefixes we want cast speed. The second prefix does not matter at all.

For suffixes we want T5 Minion Physical Damage and T5 Minion Spell Damage. These are both “uncommon” so make sure to shatter any that you find. You’re looking for a scepter or staff to hopefully drop with one of them (and hopefully a blank second suffix). You can also pick up good bases with a single suffix and use glyphs of Chaos and hope you get lucky (and then craft on second mod that you need).


We want an Opulent Focus base. Its got a lot of intelligence, ward/sec, and ward retention.

Prefix 1: Cast speed is most important.

Prefix 2: Minion damage or minion health

Suffixes: Resistances


Base wise, Crusader Gloves are probably best as they’ll help you resistance cap. You could alternatively go with Noble Gloves for some extra cast speed, but losing all that void resistance is hard to make up for.

1st Prefix: Intelligence

2nd Prefix: Minion health, minion damage, cast speed, potion health as ward (you’ll want to get 40%+ of this either on your belt/gloves/ring or on an idol… it’s easiest to get from idols)

Suffixes: Resistances, hybrid health, health, crit avoidance


Ideal basetype is Turquoise for minion implicits. Second options would be Gold Ring (Ele Res), Coral (Vitality, although Health regen is a negative), Opal (Attributes), Ruby (Fire Res), Ivory (Ward retention).

1st prefixes: Intelligence

2nd Prefix: Minion health, minion damage, potion health as ward (you’ll want to get 40%+ of this either on your belt/gloves/ring or on an idol… it’s easiest to get from idols)

For suffixes: Health, Resistances, Crit avoidance


Ideal basetype is Turquoise for minion damage and crit chance (its one of the few sources of crit chance in gear). Second option would be a Gold Amulet to ease resistance capping. Otherwise almost all of the rest are beneficial still: Ruby (Small amount of health), Brass (Cast speed), Copper (Lightning res), Sapphire (Cold res), Bone Amulet (Phy Res… necrotic isn’t that useful due to how much Acolyte gets already), and Oracle (DOT reduction).

Prefixes: Minion health, minion damage
Suffixes: Health, Resists


Ideally you want one of the +Armor belts (Plated or Bronze). We don’t really care which. You could also get a well rolled Noble to squeeze out an extra 1% mage damage as an option, but I like the armor more personally.

Prefixes: Minion health, minion damage, potion health as ward (you’ll want to get 40%+ of this either on your belt/gloves/ring or on an idol… it’s easiest to get from idols).

Suffixes: Health, % Health, Resistances, Crit avoid


You will want about 40%+ of “Potion Health Converted to Ward” somewhere in your idols.

You will also want a source of Marked for Death. Your minions are hitting so rapidly, it doesn’t need to be super high.

Everything else should aim for +% Health, +Health, % Ward Retention, and Resistances. Maybe +Vitality if you don’t have anything else.

How do I best maintain Dread Shade?

We want to keep dread shade up at all times as it is a lot of flat damage and cast speed to your mages. We also want to try to stand in it as well when possible (mostly for bosses/tough rares).

First, the easiest way to see if dread shade is active is to look in the bottom left hand corner, you’ll see a buff icon for dread shade there. Trying to see the actual light circle can sometimes be hard to see especially in the midst of combat. The biggest thing is to make sure to hit your mages and not to accidently cast it on a skeleton warrior or your golem.

It is also important to understand how targeting works on Dread shade. You target a location and the nearest minion to that location will get the dread shade. What this means is if you’re running out ahead of all of your minions and a Mage is closest behind you, you can cast it without moving your cursor and it will hit the mage on the opposite side of the screen (since it’s “closest”).

When that isn’t an option, I like to cast it at the start of an engagement. The golem and any melee skeletons will run inwards and the mages will stop behind you allowing you to flick your mouse backwards and cast it on them.

The third option is to teleport and then quickly cast it if it doesn’t pull in your golem/any melee skeletons.

How do I Micromanage the positions of my minions?

There is a button in the key bindings called “Minion Attack Command” (Default to “A”). This is extremely important for this or frankly any non-stationary minion build.

If you click this key on an enemy, the mages will stand in place and cast at that enemy (not good). If instead you click this key on an open area on the ground where there is no enemy, the mages will all run to that spot and cluster together (good). This let’s dread shade hit them all. This isn’t necessary for monolith clearing (as the mages will tend to group up in the back, but it’s important for bosses/tough rares.

You can also use the “Summon Mage Teleport” to an open area and immediately click “A” to have them group on the spot you teleported to. The minions that teleported with you are already there and will just start immediately attacking… any that didn’t teleport to you will run over to your spot.

Lastly, you can look up the “Lazy Person” Variant up above (i.e. go Death Knights instead of Cryomancers).

Potions are hurting me!?!?

Low life builds basically turn potions into damage taken. You’ll run over a potion (which will heal you since you’re on low life) which will cause you to have less ward generated per second, causing to to drop in ward.

To fix this there is an affix that will resolve the issue. I find the sweet spot is about 40% “of Potion Health Converted to Ward” affixes make it so that potions don’t really harm you anymore.

You can obtain this on gloves, belt, and rings, but frankly I’d rather get more valuable prefixes on those items. As such, I’d recommend getting one or more idols totaling ~40-50% (at least).

Once you get 40% of the mod, it’ll let you actually drink potions to get a movement and cast speed burst thanks to exsanguinous (feels like a quicksilver from POE).

Mark for Death

You will want one source of mark for death (-25% resistances) somewhere in your build. Ideally you should get this on your idol. Even a 5-6% roll should be sufficient.

Alternatively you can take 1 or 2 points in the “Mark of Punishment” node on Necromancer which should reliably apply Mark for Death.

Balancing Cast Speed / Minion Cast Speed

TLDR: Aim for around 80-90% character sheet “increased cast speed” when standing in Dread Shade AOE (after casting a minion skill to trigger “Dark Rituals”)

Skeleton Mages will always prioritize casting Sacrifice if they can. Our damage is linked directly to not just our cast speed, but also our minion cast speed. If we don’t have enough personal cast speed, our minions will resort to casting lower damage icicle attacks. If we have too much personal cast speed, we’ll chew through mana faster as we are oversummoning skeletons.

Summon skeleton and Mage’s casting sacrifice have the exact same base cast speed: 1.467 casts per second.

We summon three skeletons per cast but there are five total mages that can cast sacrifice. Theoretically (but not in practice), the formula we need to balance is:

  • 3/5*Personal Increased Cast Speed = Minion Increased Cast Speed

In reality, against the training dummy, it doesn’t seem to be that way as I think there is a strict recovery delay on the skeleton mage sacrifice. We don’t have a lot of ways of boosting minion cast speed (without sacrificing precious mage level points) which will equate to around 120%. Therefore most of the formula will be on aiming balancing your own personal cast speed. I find that somewhere around 80-90% net increase (don’t forget the chill effect) will balance out the minions 120% net increase. Using my own gear I have:

  • Sources of Minion Cast Speed: 16% (Necro - Risen Army), 20% (Necro - Frantic Summons), 20% (Acolyte - Dark Rituals), 20% (Mage Tree - Ossein Frenzy), 24% (Dread Shade), and 10% More (Argonautic Speed). Total = (1+.16+.20+.20+.20+.24) * 1.1 = 2.2 (120% increased)

  • Sources of Our own Cast Speed: 20% (Necro - Frantic Summons), 20% (Acolyte - Dark Rituals), 23% (T5 Scepter Prefix), 26% (T6 Catalyst Prefix), 24% Dread Shade, and average of 9% less (chill from boots - note its 50% less effective on players). Total = (1+.2+.2+.23+.26+.24)*(0.91)= 1.938 (94% increased)

This equates to slight overcasting. If I take off my scepter, I have slight undercasting. So the sweet spot is somewhere around ~84%.

Monolith Blessings
  • Reign of Dragons - All resistances (this is ideal). I think a lot of people overlook this and think its just elemental resists. It’s +% to every single resist. So a +20% all resist roll is the equivalent of a whopping 140%! With this mod you will cap out necrotic resistance with no rolls on your gear. Second option would be crit avoidance as you’ll want to get 100% (but this is better obtained on your gear).
  • Black Sun - Health
  • Ending the Storm - Ward Regen
  • Spirits of Fire - Minion Damage.
  • Age of Winter - Physical resist, cold resist, or armor. Armor is ideal, but physical or cold resist is also a very viable option as it makes gearing significantly easier.
  • Remainder ones - your choice.
Gameplay Video

Empowered 100: Last Epoch Aschere's Explody Minion Build 0.9 - YouTube

Empowered 257: Last Epoch Aschere's Explody Minions. Empowered 257. Version 0.9 - YouTube

Volatile Zombie nodes bugged

I already mentioned this a couple times, but don’t take Vital Ward. It is bugged and doesn’t work (and Necromantic Fervor also bugged but in the fact that it doesn’t work correctly).

Additionally, stationary zombies still teleport with you with the skeleton mage teleport (even though they are not supposed to teleport).

Loot Filter

Loot filter

You can change the colors to whatever you want. It’s a personal preference color system (just go into loot filter and change the color if you want). The loot filter is on the stricter side, so you can always make it more broad (more basetypes/less tiers) if you’re starting out.

Gold = Unique items
Purple = Exalted items (T6+ roll(s))
Green = Set items
Pink = Good bases to start crafting on (most important craft)
Teal = Mediocre Ring, Boots, Amulets, Body Armor, Gloves, Relics, Staffs to craft on
Yellow = Generic rares that are just good (not specific to this build)
Red = Important shatter items
Blue = General shatter mods (its just all the specialty mods, you can uncheck mark and hide this if its too much).


You can level with this if you like (I did). It is ok for leveling, but the build will really take off once you level-up get some better gear.

If you want a super easy leveling, you can also do self-cast Volatile zombies. It is completely overpowered but drops off fast once you get to monoliths.

Leveling uniques that are valuable: Reach of the Grave Wand ( Reach of the Grave - Unique Archive Wand - Wand - Last Epoch Item Database )

Arboreal Circuit ring is good to help keep your minions alive during leveling. Arboreal Circuit - Unique Silver Ring - Ring - Last Epoch Item Database


You’ll want to try to get legendaries on the Exsanguinous and Last Steps. Ideally you want % life on the exsanguinous and hybrid life on the last steps. Secondary important mod is intelligence. This will be a good way to push the build to its maximum potential, but its not needed unless you want to go past empowered 300+.

Why not death rattle?

There is a terrible terrible mod called “Regain 30 health on minion death”. We are low life and in combat you can shoot up to almost 1,000 life which greatly cuts into your ward regeneration.

Additionally the mod “+1 Sacrifice” doesn’t help us at all as that applies to the sacrifice tree and NOT our minion’s sacrifice tree.

If you have a well rolled Death’s Rattle with a good legendary additions, I’d potentially consider using it, but otherwise its not worth the regain health downside.

Why not Skeleton Rogues? They have a teleport.

I do NOT recommend Rogues. They have a teleport ability which makes them appear good on paper. Unfortunately the teleport has an 8 second cooldown AND it starts on cooldown when you summon them. They won’t survive long enough to use it effectively.

Why not "Immortal" node in Summon Skeletons and/or Sinathia's Reserection.

Yes, this set item and node is practically made for this build. It is a big boost damage boost for stationary targets. But the time frame on the resummon seems like an eternity. And its really annoying for clearing as you’ll have skeletons resummoned behind you (and they’ll now occupy one of the teleport spaces in Summon Mage).

Why only a single point in Death's Cavalry (Mage teleport)

We are incredibly point starved in the mage tree as there is just too much to take. One point in this feels REALLY nice though as we can quickly reposition a good portion of the mages. Even though it only teleports “3 minions”, it also summons a fourth mage in that location. If you have no melee skeletons, you will always end up with 3-4 mages at the new location. While 6 minions teleported (+1 summoned) will more easily pull the whole team of mages, I thought it was unnecessary and would rather put the point towards other parts of the tree.

Why not drop the skeleton mage teleport and just use transplant?

You absolutely can. I just felt like the mage teleport was really nice for relocating my minions easily. The nice thing is since volatile zombies is automated and not needed on your skill bar, you can run transplant without investing into its tree.

Why stationary zombies? They're just sitting behind after I clear mobs

You will have several zombies littering the battlefield behind you as you clear through areas (because they die on the skeleton explosion and then the zombie doesn’t have anything to kill). You can get more DPS by letting them move, but we don’t really need it. They also move slower and if you summon more before the old ones have caught up to the target, the old ones just de-spawn.

By making them stationary we improve our quality of life of managing our minions, improve our single target damage, and add some AOE to each of their explosions.


Added loot filter and gameplay videos.

Just in time, PERFECT!

The other guides Aschere has made were really well done and easy to follow and this look no different. Going to get stuck into this right now. Cheers!

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It doesn’t seem like the stationary Zombies are teleporting with Skeletal Mages. Maybe this has been fixed recently.

Nevermind, I didn’t have a point in Death’s Cavalry!

Probably the most unique build in terms of skill interaction.

I especially like not being afk while your minions do the work. You’re actually involved how it works together.

Gruesome yet brilliant.

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