Path of Exile is a game of huge flexibility. When you pick some character archetype it doesn’t represent what this character will look like in the endgame. You can be caster Marauder, or melee Witch or whatever you want. But summoners are another extra level of flexibility in PoE. Because the variations of your character’s progression are dozens. You can use golems as damage dealers, or supports. Your zombies can be the main source of damage or just buff your golems. Summon Raging Spirit, Summon Skeletons, Summon Holy Relic – all these skills can have a lot of variations. And don’t forget about Spectres. These minions are truly unique because this ability resurrects fallen monsters to serve you in their undeath. And these spectres have all the abilities of a regular monster! That gives you an insane amount of possibilities. You can summon a couple of different spectres to buff your army of undead. Or you can build an army, using only spectres. And they don’t have to be of one type. You can mix your spectre army with different monsters. In this guide, we will take a look at some summoner variations and will create our own Master-Necromancer.
Pros and Cons
Before we start to build our PoE summoner, let’s take a look at some positive and negative sides of summoners in Path of Exile.
- Beginner friendly – if you are following a guide, almost any minion build is pretty easy to play;
- League starter – minions have extremely high damage compared to many other abilities in the conditions of the league start, and most of the required uniques are pretty cheap and common;
- Huge build variety – as it was said, the number of minion builds are extremely high so everyone can find something he likes;
- Insane scaling potential – with a huge amount of currency your summoner can become a literal god.
- Specific gameplay – some people like to do damage by themselves, and in most minion builds you are just the commander of legions but not the damage dealer;
- A lack of sockets – you will need many different minions for most builds (supports and DPSers) so there is no space for utility gems;
- High-end versions are really expensive.
If you decide to play a minion build, you must be ready for two things – passive gameplay and the high cost of endgame gear. By passive gameplay, we mean that you don’t actually have any attack button. Instead, you will try to stay in safe spots, sometimes buff your pets and resummon them if they die. And, speaking about cost, if you don’t have enough time to level up character and farm currency, you can just use our custom build service or summoner offer!
So let’s look closely at summoner’s gameplay.
Playstyle and mechanics
Most of the Path of Exile minion builds imply that you will keep some distance from your enemies while your pets kill them. But you are not just simply waiting for the fight’s end. You must empower your army to prove its success. So how does minion build gameplay in PoE looks like? You have to cast an ability that will trigger your Desecrate and Flesh Offering. As you can trigger spells, socketed in your wand, only once per 8 seconds, you don’t really need to spam your “trigger ability”. Simply cast it once and then dodge encounter mechanics.
Another active ability you have is Convocation. This skill resummons all of your pets to your location and buffs them with life regeneration. Unfortunately, pets can’t predict where you want to go, so they always will be behind you during mapping. And here comes the Convocation. When you reach a pack of monsters, you can use this skill to unleash your undead army upon it. At some point, your minions will become so fast that you don’t need to use this ability. But it will stay useful for some situations, such as forcing your pets to attack some monsters during blight encounter.
For minion DPS scaling you will need special minion nodes on the passive skill tree as well as on your gear. All nodes and items with the “Minion” tag will affect your pet’s damage. If your build uses zombies, spectres or skeletons, you want to have nodes from the passive tree, that increase their maximum amount. So here is the list of best stats for our character in most situations:
- Maximum number of minions
- Flat physical/elemental damage for minions (from abys jewels)
Minion build variations
You can divide all minions in Path of Exile by two types – damage dealers and supports. Some of them can belong to both types at the same time. But if you build your character around Zombies, you can’t make your Carrion golem do huge damage. And that works contrariwise. So you have to choose which minion will be your main source of damage and which will empower them.
There are only four effective Ascendancies you can choose for summoner build – Scion, Guardian, Elementalist and Necromancer. Each has some strong and weak points so let’s look closely at them.
Scion is the most flexible archetype of all. You have more skill points than other archetypes and can combine their Ascendancies to make a unique build. The problem is that you have only about half of the power of each Ascendancy you choose. So if you decide to play Scion you have to know “why” you do it. Usually, the reason is to use more cluster jewels, but for most of the builds, you don’t really need to be a Scion.
Guardian isn’t exactly a minion-specialised Ascendancy, but because of his specialisation in empowering allies, he can be a good choice. It is definitely not the most powerful Ascendancy for the minion build, but, probably, one of the best in terms of defensives and for sure has its niche.
Elementalist isn’t a pure minion Ascendancy. As you can see from her name, it is more about elemental magic and spellcasting. However, she has Golem-specialisation nodes which makes her one of the best Golemancer in PoE.
You still can do some great spellcasting builds, using Necromancer, but for most situations, it is a pure minion specialist. Lots of minion-specific nodes, Offering specialisation, corpse-related nodes – Necromancer is the commander of undead legions and the best Ascendancy for almost every minion build.
So, it’s time to choose what minion build we want to play. We want our build to be a great and cheap starter as well as have the possibility to scale its damage for any endgame activity. So one of the best variants is “Summon Skeleton” with “Dead Reckoning” unique jewel, which transforms our Skeletons into Skeleton mages. And our Ascendancy will be Necromancer as it is the strongest summoner in the game.
Skeleton mages Necromancer
Every minion build has to pick the same nodes on the passive skill tree. The only difference is the way to these nodes and what you want to drop if you use cluster jewels in your build. For example, if you use two big clusters, you can drop some minion-specific nodes, because the best talents on cluster jewels are usually stronger than on the regular passive tree. But it all depends on the situation and if you don’t want to lose damage, you can always drop some life nodes. So we will look at two variants – with and without clusters.
No Cluster Jewel tree:
On the basic version, without cluster jewels, we will need all Minion-specified nodes, Life nodes and some very important talents for our damage and survivability. These talents are Glancing Blows and Elemental Equilibrium. The first one doubles our block chance, but makes us take 65% of blocked damage instead of fully blocking it. The main point of it, that you must have “recover 5% of Life when you block” from your shield so you will overheal incoming damage The second greatly increases our damage. As we summon three types of skeleton mages, one of each element, Elemental Equilibrium always will buff our minion’s damage. Also one of the most important things is a unique threshold jewel – Dead Reckoning. Because of it our skeletons become Skeleton mages and without it, the build simply doesn’t work.
Dead Reckoning – the core of our build
Cluster Jewel tree version:
With Cluster Jewels our skill tree will get a few changes. We have to drop some Life and Minion nodes to get enough skill points for our clusters. Also, as we lose some effective HP, we will need more offence. For that case, we will take a timeless unique jewel – Glorious Vanity. But there is one important thing about it. Each timeless jewel changes or upgrades passive skills on the tree and can roll two parameters – General and Number. General determines what keystone passive you will get instead of a regular one, and the number just rolls bonuses on other passives on your tree. For our build, we need the Divine Flesh keystone passive, which increases our maximum Chaos resistance by 5%, but makes all damage bypass the energy shield and convert 50% of elemental damage taken to chaos damage.
Cluster jewels we will need must be with “Minion damage” for Large and “Minion life” for Medium cluster bases. Also, we will need one small cluster jewel with chaos resistance on it. Talents from jewels must be – “Feasting Fiends”, “Renewal” and “Call to the Slaughter” for the large ones, “Life from Death”, “Renewal” and “Blessed Rebirth” from medium and “Born of Chaos” for the small one. Also, we don’t need to take all of the talents from large clusters. We only need to take 2 jewel sockets so you can skip the farthest talents on them.
Correct talent choice on Cluster Jewels
Large Cluster Jewel example
Medium Cluster Jewel Examples
Small Cluster Jewel Example
The first Ascendancy talent we will take is “Mindless Aggression”, which simply buffs our minions.
The second one will be “Unnatural Strength”. This talent gives us “+2 level of all minion skill gems” and this is one of the most powerful attributes for any minion build.
“Commander of Darkness” will give us both damage and survivability and will be good for capping our elemental resistances.
The last talent we will need is “Mistress of Sacrifice”. It will make our Offering skills also affect us at half of their power, so we will cast and move faster.
Our starter gear isn’t so expensive. We will need any 6-linked body armour with Life and Resistances, a rare Convoking wand with some minion mods and, perfectly, with “+1 to Level of All minion skill gems”. Darkness Enthroned belt and Alberon’s Warpath boots are our core uniques, that we will use even in the endgame, so you can buy them at the very beginning.
The hardest and at the same time the most enjoyable thing about any minion build is getting good endgame equipment. Some of the gear pieces can have insane prices so you must be ready for it. At the same time, you can keep upgrading your build over and over again and it will become truly godlike. Below we will take a look at some good endgame versions of summoner gear you should aim for.
The best weapon for us will be a rare Convoking Wand, because it’s the only weapon that can roll minion modifiers. So, what mods do we need? The most powerful two are “+1 to level of all Spell skill gems” and “+1 to level of all Minion skill gems”. Our endgame wand must contain both of them. The second important mod we need is “Trigger socketed spell when you use a Skill”. It allows us to automatise our corpse generation and Offering casts. The other mods should be “Minion damage” and/or “Minion attack and cast speed”. Double Skill gem level plus Trigger mod is already a great variant, and any extra Minion mod will make this wand extremely more expensive.
Endgame wand example
You can start with any rares with Life and resistances, but for endgame, you will need to swap them to some specific items.
Our endgame boots are Alberon’s Warpath so you can get them from the beginning because they aren’t very expensive. But with other items, you can have some difficulties.
Best endgame boots
Our best high-end gloves are Breathstealer. All because of that you can apply an extra anoint on them in addition to their good bonuses.
Best endgame gloves
There is a bit more complexity in our helmet and body armour. For body armour, you have some flexibility. You can take Fleshcrafter unique, which makes our Skeletons ignore enemies elemental resistances or you can make a well crafted one on Sacrificial Garb base. As we are using Elemental Equilibrium, we will stay with the second variant. The point of using a Sacrificial Garb base is implicit “+1 to level of all vaal skill gems”. As we are using Vaal Summon Skeletons, it will give us a lot of extra damage.
Best choice if you don’t use Elemental Equilibrium
Well crafted body armour example
For our helmet, we will need a Bone Helmet base with Minion’s Life extra link mod, Life, resistances and “+1 to maximum summoned Skeletons”. We will place our Animate Guardian in a helmet and if he dies you will lose all items he had, so extra minion’s life is pretty helpful.
Endgame Helmet example
There are two important mods on our shield – “recovers 5% of Life when you block” and “+2% to all maximum resistances”. Other stats should be Maximum Life and Elemental resistances. You can choose what base type for your shield you want, but in this guide, we will stay on Battle Buckler because of its movement speed implicit.
Endgame Shield example
There are no special requirements for our rings. Generally, it’s our main source of elemental and chaos resistances. Good addition to it will be life and minion damage. If you are short of gem sockets, you can take an Unset ring base, otherwise, the best option for you will be an Amethyst ring.
Example of good Amethyst Ring
Example of good Unset Ring
Our amulet must have “+1 to level of all Intelligence skill gems” and “+1 to maximum number of skeletons” mods. Other stats aren’t so important, but perfectly you should have Maximum Life, resistances and some damage mods on it.
Example of good Amulet
For our belt we will use unique Darkness Enthroned or if we have some resistance issues, a rare Stygian Vise. In abyss sockets, we will place Ghastly Eye Jewels with minion damage mods and life.
Darkness Enthroned unique belt
Example of good rare belt
Most of the summoners have not only their own gear but also special items they give to their Animate Guardian. This minion consumes armour and weapons to increase his attributes. He also gets all of the item’s bonuses. You can use every item you want for your Animate Guardian, but only one per slot. There are two variants of what exact items you will need for your Animate Guardian – cheap and endgame.
We will need five items – four armour pieces and a weapon.
Our best cheap weapon will be Dying Breath unique staff. It will debuff our enemies as well as giving our Guardian some block chance.
weapon for Animate Guardian
Guardian’s helmet will be the Leer Cast. It will increase the maximum life of our Animate Guardian and our other minion’s damage.
helmet for Animate Guardian
We will use Ambu’s Charge body armour, so we can generate endurance charges for us and our minions.
body armour for Animate Guardian
Our Animate Guardian will use Vicrario’s Flight unique boots, to give us a movement speed aura.
boots for Animate Guardian
There are no special requirements for gloves, so you can use any with life and defensives.
We will use the same boots and gloves in the expensive version so let’s check other items.
Our Guardian should have Kingmaker in his hands, so he will give us and our other pets Fortify and Culling strike.
endgame weapon for Animate Guardian
The endgame helmet for the Animate Guardian is Crown of the Tyrant. You should roll the socket colour to blue on it before giving it to your Guardian, so it will provide a huge amount of flat lightning damage to our minions as well as reducing nearby enemies elemental resistances.
endgame helmet for Animate Guardian
Finally, the best body armour for our Guardian will be Doppelgänger Guise. This item will grant huge survivability for the Animate Guardian and because he is wearing some really pricey items, you don’t want him to die and lose them.
endgame body armour for Animate Guardian
The only unique flask you will need is Rumi’s Concoction Granite flask. It will give you a huge amount of block and spell block, especially with Glancing Blows keystone passive. Also, you will need a Life flask with instant recovery and Bleed immunity, a Quicksilver flask, Basalt flask and Quartz flask with curse immunity and freeze immunity on them.
Our unique flask
our Life flask
our Basalt flask
our Quartz flask
our Quicksilver flask
Our main DPS link will be Vaal Summon Skeletons + Lesser Multiple Projectiles + Pierce + Minion Damage/Awakened Minion Damage + Elemental Focus/Awakened Elemental Focus + Spell Echo/Awakened Spell Echo.
Vaal Summon Lesser Multiple Pierce Awakened Awakened Awakened
Skeletons Projectiles Minion Damage Elemental Focus Spell Echo
In our helmet, we will place Animate Guardian and Raise Spectre linked to Lifetap Support and Flame Dash. Crafted Minion Life support in our helmet will provide extra survivability to our support minions. At the same time, Lifetap will replace Flame Dash mana cost with life cost.
Crafted Helmet Animate Raise Spectre Lifetap Flame Dash
with Minion life Guardian
Our sockets in boots we will fill with Raise Zombie, Convocation, Feeding Frenzy and Summon Stone Golem. Zombies are simply the “meat shield” between us and the enemy. Stone Golem will slightly increase our survivability and Convocation is one of our active buttons which allows us to resummon all of our minions to our location.
Raise Zombie Feeding Frenzy Summon Convocation
In wand, we will place Desecrate, Spell Cascade and Flesh Offering. Because of the crafted “trigger” mod on it, you won’t need to cast these spells directly. Instead, they will proc when we will use some other abilities.
Desecrate Spell Cascade Flesh Offering
In gloves, we will use Arcanist Brand + Hydrosphere + Sniper’s Mark + Blade Blast. Arcanist Brand will trigger all linked spells as well as spells socketed in our wand (because of the “trigger mod”). Hydrosphere applies exposure, which reduces enemies elemental resistances by 10%, Sniper’s Mark reduces enemy’s resistances to projectiles, and Blade Blast will Unnerve your foes.
Arcanist Brand Hydrosphere Sniper’s Mark Blade Blast
Auras for our build we will put into a shield. We will need Zealotry, Summon Skitterbots and Generosity support. Generosity will make your Zealotry aura affect only your allies (minions) with increased effect, but not affect you at all. And Skitterbots will simply apply Chill and Shock to nearby enemies.
Summon Zealotry Generosity
Pantheon and Bandits
Soul of the Brine King is a great choice for a major god. It will give us temporary stun immunity and faster stun and block recovery. And for minor god, you can pick the Soul of Shakari. As we will get 50% of elemental damage as chaos damage with Glorious Vanity timeless jewel, 5% extra chaos damage taken reduction will help us a lot.
Our build will require a lot of skill points so the best option will be to kill all of the Bandits.
Levelling as a summoner is probably one of the easiest in Path of Exile. There are no special requirements and you can start with skeletons, or use zombies until you reach maps. All you will need for comfortable levelling are Tabula Rasa and Goldrim.