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Necrotic Lich Build - Looking for Feedback

I’ve got a new character that I’ve been playing around with for the last week or so that’s focusing on necrotic damage (both hit and DoT) and the low life bonuses with the unique chest(s)/boots that drain life and generate ward. So far it’s doing good damage and cruised past Lagon and Majasa without any issues, as well as the Monolith bosses up to Formosus in Blood Frost and Death. I just got the boots to drop and made the switch from HP to Ward. Originally I had planned on using Death Seal as the last skill thinking that if it just zeroed out my ward and it immediately started regenerating, it would be doable. Now that I have the chest/boots to test with, it looks like it not only zeroes my ward, but prevents ward generation until Death Seal is over. That means my character would be sitting at a whopping 70ish HP for the duration of the spell, and I can’t imagine it not getting one shot on a regular basis.

This is how the character currently looks. Keep in mind that it’s HC/SSF, so the gear quality is due to a lack of good base item and forging material drops so far.

I’ll eventually start trying to get some more cast speed and crit on my gear, but haven’t gotten that far yet. Cast speed in particular requires getting more mana regen to sustain, otherwise there’s not much point if I’m just waiting for mana anyway.

I just started playing around with Wandering Spirits for the last skill slot. So far it’s just kinda “meh…” It’s not terrible, but it’s nothing to write home about either. Bosses seem to be the only things that get regular hits from the spirits; everything else is just a random bonus but nothing I can really depend on.

Anyone have any suggestions on the last skill slot in particular, or thoughts on the viability of the build in the later end game? Would I be better off ditching Wandering Spirits and something else and going Reaper/Death Seal instead?

Current methodology is:

Spirit Plague:

  • AoE curse status for Soul Feast
  • Decent supplemental damage; it does about half as much DPS as Soul Feast does
  • I’ve intentionally left a point out of Scourge (extra damage but can’t spread) for now because it’s great for clearing packs… I just cast it on a group and even if it doesn’t hit them all or more join the fight, just keep casting Soul Feast and it keeps spreading as stuff dies…

Soul Feast:

  • Main DPS skill
  • works great at hitting groups of mobs in arenas that aren’t grouped together; i can tag stuff on opposite ends of the screen and hit both groups simultaneously as Spirit Plague spreads through them
  • Originally went with the poison to armor shred conversion thinking that I was going to be getting a big “poison on hit” bonus from Death Seal

Bone Curse:

  • Supplemental damage
  • Mostly used for high HP targets or bosses
  • Keeps them perm. Marked for Death, extra damage on hit, and every hit adds an extra stack of Armor Shred
  • 12% kill threshold

Transplant:

  • Movement skill
  • Figured if I was going to be using it on my skill bar anyway, I couldn’t think of anything else better to replace it with that wouldn’t require being on the skill bar in its place
  • Some damage and if I use it near a boss at the right time, 20% kill threshold

Wandering Spirits:

  • Supplemental damage
  • Doesn’t seem to help much outside of boss fights right now even when it’s on auto-cast
  • When the last skill point unlocks, I plan on putting it in the node that lets you cast it at a target location so I don’t have to hug a boss for it to be useful
  • Mostly took it because I couldn’t think of anything better to put here

I’m thinking about a very similar build currently. For the 5th skill instead of wandering spirits I’d go with rip blood speccing for necrotic damage and ward generation. It also has synergies with transplant as you can trigger it this way even several times.

I played around with Rip Blood on a previous incarnation of this build where I was using necrotic Rip Blood to generate ward and mana rather than a bunch of mana regen… Every time I cast Rip Blood it felt like a huge DPS loss compared to casting Soul Feast. Actually gave up on that character when I got to the lvl 70 monolith because it didn’t feel like the DPS was keeping up with mob health and even trash was taking longer than I wanted to kill.

To put it in perspective, I just respecced Transplant to Rip Blood and took all but one of the damage nodes and the necrotic conversion node with the 9 points I had; Rip Blood was doing like 4k dps, while Spirit Plague was doing about 9k dps and Soul Feast was doing a little over 17k dps. Going the mana regen route rather than relying on Rip Blood, I’m getting 20-22 mana per second depending on gear, so my mana orb fills back up to full without too much running around; usually dodging Boss attacks or getting to a new pack in a monolith is enough to get me topped off.

Yeah, it’s not your main DPS skill. You want to have as many blood splatters as possible that also hit enemies and triggers bone curse.

So there are a couple of things here that could be improved or adjusted.
I can definitely say, that the viability of this build is definitely very high and you will be able to clear 200-300 corruption empowered with it, once you improved you gear and maybe work on a few things that I will point out here.

I think some of the stuff I am about to mention are because you transitions from Regualr HP build into Low Health/Ward or maybe xperimented a bit and didn’t switch back some stuff.

General Gear Adivce:

  • All the Health Lost/Ward Gain Uniques work with flat missing health, not %-based missing health, this means, if you have more health, you will gain a lot more ward.

  • You should try and get some good Health affixes on some of the most prominent gear pieces, like Gloves, Belt and Helmet (These have % Health and Hybrid Health affixes, which are rarer, but more powerful).

  • Also try to get some Vitality (also availble on idols), this will give flat health which will work well together with all the % health from gear and idols.

  • As you already mentioned, getting more cast speed would only be beneficial if you have enough mana sustain, so I would not necessarily focus on that. Your Amulet base type seems like a waste here. There are really strong amulet base types that have 2x T5 values for resistances for example. (Gold or Bone Amulet) Or oyu could get a Oracle Amulet for good DoT defense.

  • Try getting intelligence on more gear pieces, its moderate damage and most importantly ward retention. Ward retention is a big stats for these Health Lost/Ward Gain builds. If you combine the first tip with max health and this one you will get a lot more ward.

Passives:

Generally the distribution of passives points from your build is not optimal, even with the limited amount of points you have. Int will give you moderate damage, while also massively increase your ward retention. Also the “downsides” of many of those strong passive points arenot even downsides for Health Lost/Ward gain builds.

Skills/Playstyle:

Another thing that does not really work well and this comes back to cast speed/damned chance for Soul Feast. You try to get a lot of % damned chance on hit, while Soul Feast is your only skill that reliably hit targets. I would focus less on damned and try to make the rest of your kit deal more damage directly. (Suggestiosn for skill tree changes below).
If you really want damned to be your “main thing”, you still need to adjust some of your skills.

Soul Feast:

  • Thought Corrosion (Poison Chance → Armour Shred) doesn’t have any particularly useful affect, because armour does only affect hit damage and the majority of damage you deal is DoT damage. You much rather want to put even more points into Sharpened Influence for even better mana sustain and targets.

  • Also with some of the suggestions that follow here, you might want to think about speccing Usurp (6 Mana from Rares/Bosses). As soon as there is at least one rare within a bulk of enemies, you immediately regain mana or its at least +/- 0, depending on how much mana regen you have. This skill node is also very strong for bosses, especially big boss fights like Shade or MoF bosses.

Bone Curse:

  • Defile Defenses (armour shred) isnot particularly useful, same as the armour shred from Soul Feast.
  • I would recommend Chilblains for something defensive or more dmg via Iron Maiden

Wandering Spirits:

This is by far the most chaotic skill tree from your build IMO.
I am not really sure why your intention with this setup was.
Do you want WS to be a good supportive skill for clearing? Or you would like to have it as additional dps for bosses?

  • Whatever the case may be, since you already using damned and curses, not using Reap The Damned is a total waste of good dps.

  • Drained Will is possibly the single strongest node in the entire tree and should be maxed. This would also counteract the loss in penetration that I suggested with the passive changes for the time being, until you catch up passives again. WS alone can give a bigger enemy 20 stacks of necrotic shred on its own.

  • If you want to use WS solely for bosses you should take 3/3 Familiar Souls

  • If you want to use WS for clearing you should not take Locus Mortis
    For all of the above you can take points out of Spirit Swarm, Thin Veil and Lingering Souls

So here is a suggestion of how the skills and passives could look like.
Obviously this is not the only setup, so there are different other setup that work as well.

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@Heavy THANK YOU! This was exactly the type of feedback I was looking for! It’ll take me a few days to read through it a few times and really process it, and I’m sure I’ll end up with more questions as I do, but you already confirmed a few things I was curious about, and pointed out a few things that I’d done while playing around with skills and forgotten about… Even pointed out a few things I misread the description on; everything else in that branch in Soul Feast was related to ward generation, I never caught that the last node, Usurp, was mana and not ward or I would have taken it a lot sooner.

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Opinion, here, so have a free grain of salt:

I feel like this build tries to do the same thing in two different ways, all the time; however, you just end up splitting your ability to do either one well. Spirit Plague, Damned, and Drain Life work super well together to DoT all the things on the screen to death in short order.

Bone Curse, Soul Feast, and Hungering Souls do the same thing, but with on-hit effects, rather than DoT.

Either way, Wandering Spirits is your one-stop debuff skill, with Drained Will allowing you to use a much lower threshold to kill enemies, by doing more damage per-tick, either with hits or DoT (keep in mind DoT won’t take advantage of your Cull thresholds) and in the case of DoT builds, SIns of the Forgotten allows you to stack those up extra nicely against bosses and packs alike.

I always build into DoT because of the ready availability of damage nodes on the Lich Mastery Tree - 100% increased if you’ve killed recently right behind all your penetration, double-dipping on the end of the tree with Spell and DoT damage, plus extra nodes that take full advantage of using Damage over Time Spells (like Drain Life) allowing you to use a one-hand and catalyst.

Though I personally build into Reaper Form rather than Transplant, it would look something like this:

I was also not sure what @00formulahawk wanted to achieve with his build, because it is indeed a little bit of a mixed bag.

But at the end of the days, its about choosing skills that you like and feel like add to your builds’ experience.

And while Soul Feast and Bone Curse are not optimal with all of their functionality, they make the build more fast paced and flexible.
And while Soul Feast is still a hit-based skill in OP’s example it was mainly used for stacking high effect Damned stacks on enemies, which is far more powerful than Drain Life’s damned application.

Drain Life is something a lot of people don’t like and its not that much better and has the downside of channeling.

Drain Life is probably better at low investment levels, but once you have all passives, idols and gear in palce (especially with Damned Chance and Mana Regen), Soul Feast is probably a lot stronger.

Another thing that can be very misleading about what you said:

While this is a very good conditional passive with 20% damage/point, this is nothing so powerful, that you should change your entire build based on that one node.

I just want to emphasize that %inc. damage is something that loses a lot of value the higher you get, because of diminishing returns.

Why don’t you take the node that makes it cast rather than channelling then?

That node still does not make Drain Life good at clearing, because the AoE is very limited and you have to recast it a lot of times, which is very mana intensive with the upfront costs.

That nodes gives Drain Life more of a secondary/supplementary role, which in that previous dicussed context would not be the desired thing.