Path of Exile 3.0 Best Starter Builds

Path of Exile is on its way to becoming the most successful ARPG in the industry with its biggest expansion yet in the upcoming 3.0 “Fall of Oriath” release, potentially challenging even the Diablo franchise in the near future. The impending Xbox and China market releases will also serve as a catalyst for exploding the user base as well. Ultimately, PoE is growing by leaps and bounds, and both veteran and new players alike are trying to decide which build(s) to run as their “new league starters” for the 3.0 launch on August 4th, 2017.

I’ve compiled this overview based on years of personal experience and hundreds of hours of 3.0 BETA (and Alpha) play time and the latest 3.0 patch notes. The recommended builds are also based on public/forum/reddit-based feedback and recommendations.


(August 7th, 2017 Update) Here’s a great thread on Reddit where hundreds of players talk about how their starter builds are going!

Each of the below recommended builds should easily take both new and veteran players to end-game, have been tested with the 3.0 BETA, include (if any) changes from the official 3.0 release notes, and are rock solid starters for varying gameplay styles.

Before we begin, Path of Building is a very important tool when planning and testing builds before they’re put in-game. If you don’t have this tool, get it (especially since it’s necessary for some of the builds recommended below).

The requirements for a solid starting new league/3.0 release build are:

  1. The ability to grow with minimal gear requirements.
  2. Balanced leveling, clearing speed and boss killing with good survival.
  3. Entry to and good performance in end-game map farming for items and currency.

Even though some of the builds covered below are shaper capable, I do not qualify the need to do Uber Izaro, Atziri, or Guardians as a “requirement”. Getting to maps and farming while surviving is key.

For many players, play style is important. Some people hate totems while others only play totem builds. Some like Melee while others love bow builds. The diversity of PoE is one of its greatest features, but also one of the most complex aspects of the game. This guide keeps things fairly simple. There are other more powerful starting builds that are more complex (and sometimes powerful), but they generally require respecing, farming specific items/uniques/item rolls, and other factors — but the reality is most of these builds don’t provide enough of an advantage to the core requirements to outperform the below recommendations.

Before we begin, it’s important to point out the ability to obtain unique threshold jewels from an act 5 quest. This reward greatly enhances numerous starting builds that were not as viable prior to 3.0. This includes First Snow and Frozen Trail jewels, which are critical for Freezing Pulse and Frostbolt builds. One can also obtain Fight for Survival, which was specifically designed for Frost Blades.

The Best Starter Builds

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”raised” width=”” height=”” background_color=”#e4ffe0″ border_width=”2″ border_color=”#000000″]Even though some of the build guides below state they are for version 2.6, I can confirm the guides work just fine for 3.0.[/dropshadowbox]

Totem builds are some of the best league starting builds for 3.0, and as mentioned above, with access to threshold jewels with 3.0, this opens the door to previously unconsidered builds like Freezing Pulse and Frostbolt totems. While Ancestral Warchief and Flameblast are some of the most common crowd-pleasers (and have been for some time), recommended league starters are below.

  1. I have played every build listed below, and I truly believe the strongest and best starting build for 3.0 is Essence Drain. ED is beginner and veteran friendly, and it’s even better in 3.0 due to the Contagion AoE buff. The starting version of ED can easily begin mapping with minimal equipment requirements (just a 4L works fine), it’s very good at boss killing, and has excellent survivability. It can also have top tier clear speed if played right. There are generally two variations, the Trickster MoM (Mind Over Matter) build (above), and the Occultist ED build. Trickster generally does more damage, but doesn’t have the survivability of Occultist. Both are great variations of the best DoT skill in the game.
  2. Ancestral Warchief is another top choice. It’s powerful, easy to scale (just craft 2H axes), has great survivability (swap out Concentrated Effect for AoE when doing Izaro, etc), is one of the best lab runners in the game, and is fun. I hadn’t played this since the 2.0 release, and when I played it in 3.0 I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it; and it was very powerful. And when you find or craft a high DPS 2H axe, it’s simply magical. It is also Shaper viable. The downside? It doesn’t clear as quickly as other builds. The most powerful version of the build is the Facebreaker version, but that’s a choice to pursue after a “first build”.
  3. You can’t go wrong with a 2H RT (Resolute Technique) Cyclone build, especially with the 3.0 fix to the Cyclone skill (now ensuring players don’t get stuck on objects). Cyclone builds are tanky, fun to play, and awesome with the right items that enhance blood and gore. Plus it’s nice to not have to worry about getting stunned. For those of you who are interested in an alternative to the RT Cyclone “norm” you can also try the Electro Cyclone, which is also a great build that has more than 1M DPS with the proper gear.
  4. Freezing Pulse Totems (Path of Building Link) are awesome; a crit-based cold build that has great survivability and can shatter every enemy on the entire screen in just a second or two. They also do a reasonable job against bosses. This build is one of the best farming builds out there and can take a character to level 100. If you want to see FP Totems in action, check out this video.
  5. Summon Raging Spirit (SRS) is one of the best starting builds that also scales well, even with the 15% damage reduction for 3.0; and the rogue nature of your little skulls flying off screen like homing missiles and killing whatever they find is always enjoyable. Plus this skill can start to be used at the very beginning of the game. There are 3 core flavors: Baron, Elemental (in the initial link), and Combination (note this guide from 2.4 is viable for 3.0). Since a Baron helmet may be difficult to get early league (but can have the best damage), I recommend either Elemental or the Combination to start with. The advantage of the Elemental is the damage is higher, where the Combination build has better survival (it’s just not as quick at mapping and bossing). The downside to a SRS build is with bosses that attack and move so quickly that it’s hard to cast your SRS while running around. One solution is to swap in a Spell Totem for such circumstances (Izaro is a notorious PITA for SRS builds without top notch cast speed).
  6. Righteous Fire Totems paired with Searing Bond pretty much melts everything. It is Shaper viable, but doesn’t clear as fast as other builds mentioned below. This build is incredibly easy to get up and running (Milky’s guide is solid and built for 3.0) and it can do nearly all end-game content. Once you get Soul Mantle (which is a common unique), it’s pure melty magic. Clearing maps, Bosses and Zerg Breaches; this build does it all. I was quite surprised at how much I liked this build, and it performed better than each of the below builds as a league starter for balanced clearing, boss killing and survival. Note: this build is still rock solid for 3.0 even with the perceived nerfs outlined in the patch notes. Burning Damage and the Tree nodes were buffed to compensate for the totem life hit. Searing Bond was also buffed, and the overall difference in RF totem damage is negligible and this build is still a top tier league starter. You can read more about the impact of the 3.0 patch notes here.
  7. Frostbolt Totems (Path of Building Link) have the best clear speed of any totem build I’m aware of and can 1-shot the entire screen.  The only real disadvantage is the single-target damage can be quite lacking – but the build is fun, powerful, and can take the character to level 100 for those who want to farm shaped maps. If you want to see FB Totems in action, check out this video. Lifting also just released a 4-totem Hierophant version of this build; the complete guide can be found here.
  8. Glacial Cascade Mines are a fantastic starter and extremely powerful. Numerous players who followed ZiggyD’s guide after the launch of 3.0 have reported it’s one of the best builds they have ever played. I personally found it quite clunky, but the damage is quite impressive. For those who don’t mind the play style, it’s rock-solid.
  9. There’s a reason Sunder is always in the top 20 of league and race leaders. It’s the go-to skill for leveling quickly, is fairly easy to gear for, and does very well at end-game. It’s also fun for those who like to play a melee build vs. ranged/spell/totem. Once you get multistrike with a great weapon, Sunder is a blast. A Sunder build can also transition into other melee builds as well, which makes it easier to respec. Engineering Eternity also posted a great Stunning Sunder Berserker build for 3.0 that is also a solid starter.
  10. Flameblast Totems (also known as Pizzasticks or Pizzablast) are a great common league starter, annihilating enemies and burning them to a cinder. The build also works beautifully with just 4 links, and doesn’t require any custom crafted gear. The only downside is the “spin up” time of casting; if not synchronized properly with certain bosses and situations, the chance of dying raises substantially.
  11. The Frostblade Raider is also a very popular starting build. It scales well and performs great at end-game; especially now that one can purchase the Fight for Survival unique threshold jewel in Act 5. The major downside of Frostblades is single-target damage early on, but once you pass a threshold, it can melt bosses. But prior to that time, fighting bosses and some high hit rares can be tedious.
  12. Spectral Throw (ST) is actually one of the most-used skills in PoE by players at the top of race and league ladders. Dreamfeather ST has been a crowd pleaser for quite some time, and Raider Elemental ST is also a very solid build. And now with the ability to purchase the unique Steel Spirit threshold jewel, ST builds are even stronger as league starters in 3.0.
  13. Ethereal Knives (EK) with Ring of Blades is another build that, even after the threshold gem nerf from 10 projectiles to 5, does a great job of hammering through maps. While taking down bosses is a bit slower than before, progress to end-game is very quick, and gear upgrades can make a substantial difference, making it a favorite among veteran players.

There are definitely other great starter builds that could have made it on this top 10, but I wanted to provide what I had personal experience with, as well as recommendations from the PoE community (through numerous threads and discussions).

Each one of the above mentioned builds work great as a starter; they are fun, powerful, and capable of taking both new and veteran players alike to end-game. Additionally, each build is solid for SSF (solo self found) play as well.

I hope this list helps the PoE community; here’s to the upcoming 3.0 launch and the fantastic job Grinding Gear Games has done with Path of Exile!

  1. Righteous Fire Totems damage are based on the totem’s life, not your character’s.

  2. Ahh excellent reminder; I ran RF (non-totem) prior to Totems, so I was still in the char-based/life mindset of DPS. Thanks for the correction!

  3. Great post David,
    I see you linked in the Ghazzy/TheUberElite SRS build for #2.
    I’ll be using a slightly modified version of this when 3.0 is released straight into HC (because why not?).

  4. Thanks, John! I’ve actually run multiple SRS builds and I personally enjoyed Yoji’s combination build the most (with zombies and spectres) because the survival was amazing, which IMO makes it more fun even though it kills a bit slower.

  5. I’m bored of the zombie/spectre build due to having to resummon each time you log out/in.
    I now use a Decoy Totem in place of Zombies and found it to be a better alternative as I can cast it on an exact location where I want an immediate distraction.
    This free’s up a couple of sockets too for other skills 🙂 notably Haste and Level 1 Clarity if you know what I mean…

  6. True, the resummoning is irritating, but the Zombies and Spectres can actually help with mapping/clearing trash mobs. Either way, most SRS builds are viable – they just cater to one gameplay style or another. SRS is one of my favorite skills in the game 🙂

  7. With dot changes, wont ST be kinda low now ? at least the one that is scaling with poison ( as linked in article ) or did i miss some news ? xD

  8. Hi David, thanks for the great article. I liked the look of the Freezing Pulse totem build, but when I copied the date into Path of Building there are only a few key items shown. No indication for a newb like me as in what to put in weapon slots etc I think just boots, belt and 1 ring is shown.

  9. The last thing I expected was to do a google search looking for a new build to check out and find out the website I was looking at randomly was yours! How small the work really is. Hello from Seattle, Dave!

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