Home / Guides / [2018] Best Path of Exile Beginner guide [Extended]

[2018] Best Path of Exile Beginner guide [Extended]

Since game launched for the public, there has been a huge increase in the amount of Path of Exile players, that also means a lot of beginners. If you haven’t played an ARPG before, Path of Exile is quite a challenge to start with, that’s why we decided to put together Path of Exile beginner guide – it will contain explanations of game mechanics, a little bit about classes, skills, endgame bosses and things that were introduced in the past with challenge leagues.

Path of Exile skill gem system

One of the unique things that sets Path of Exile apart is its brilliantly designed skill system – skills come in forms of gems that are socketed in the items. At the inception of the game, many skills were obtainable only through drops, however now you can buy practically all skill gems from NPCs with exception of few.

Skill gems are divided into two types – active skill gems and support gems. Active skill gems grant the player active skill such as spell, trap, mine, aura, curse or warcry. Skill gems have several tags associated with them that many beginners overlook, below I have added a picture with 3 different active skills and their tags. When active skill gems are linked with support gems, it increases mana cost of the active skill.

These tags are pretty much essential pointers for everyone, even the most experienced players – they basically tell us what kind of skill this is and which support gems are going to work with said skill.
First one – Flameblast. As you can see it has several tags – Spell, AoE, Fire, Channeling that tell us what kind of support gems would work with the skill. For example, we could link Flameblast with Faster Casting support or Spell Echo, that works with all active skill gems that have tag Spell, we could also link it to Increased Area of Effect Support or Concentrated Effect Support because of AoE tag, and Fire Penetration Support because of Fire tag. If we tried linking Flameblast with Lesser Multiple Projectiles Support or Greater Multiple Projectiles Support, these support gems would not affect the skill because it doesn’t have a Projectile tag, however, they would affect skills like Ice Spear, which has Projectile tag.

3rd Skill gem is a minion gem – as you can see it has tag Minion, which means it will be affected by such skill gems as Minion Damage Support or Minion Life Support; it can also be supported with Faster Casting Support or Spell Echo Support. This specific skill gem has hidden attack modifier as well – some of the minion skill gems (this included) summon minions who use attacks when they kill enemies, which means it can also be supported by Melee Splash Support, however, does not benefit from Weapon Elemental damage because they do not attack with weapons. Not everything is written on the gem and you will learn these hidden combinations while playing the game but a lot of information can be found just by looking at the tags that are on skill gems.

Sockets

In Path of Exile, you use skills by putting them in sockets of your equipment. There are 4 socket colors in Path of Exile – Red- associated with Strength, Green – associated with Dexterity, Blue – associated with Intelligence, and White. You can change the color of sockets on the item by using Chromatic Orb on it. Red, Green, and Blue are socket colors that you will encounter all the time but white sockets can be found on some unique and corrupted items.

Let me note, that main color of the sockets on items is biased towards its base type and attribute requirement to equip the item – armour items (associated with strength requirements) will most likely roll red sockets, evasion items (associated with dexterity requirements) – green sockets and energy shield items (associated with intelligence requirements) – blue sockets.

It also applies to weapons, for example, claws are intelligence and dexterity based, so they will most often roll green and blue sockets when colored with Chromatic Orbs. If a claw has 50 dexterity requirement and 70 intelligence requirement, blue sockets will be rolled more often.
The same principle applies to all weapons, and to see which color sockets you will roll most of the time, you just have to check attribute requirements on the weapon.

Skill gems can be socketed in sockets of their corresponding color – for example, you can put green gems only in green and white sockets (White sockets can have a gem of any color socketed in them). The maximum amount of sockets one item can have is 6 (Only two-handed weapons and Body armors can have 6 sockets), so naturally, 1 active skill gem can be supported by 5 support gems. However, for active skill gem to be supported by support gem, sockets that they’re in have to be linked together. Below you can see a 3-linked item with 1 active skill gem and 1 support gem linked together.

And below you can see an item with 3 sockets where 2 of them are linked together – active skill gem is not supported by support gem because they are not linked together.

Common skill gem combinations

Below you can see some skill gem combinations and their effects.

Active skill gem Support gem Support gem’s effect on active skill gem
 Spectral Throw  Greater Multiple Projectiles Support Instead of 1 projectile, Spectral throw will now have 5 projectiles.
 Flameblast  Concentrated Effect Support Flameblast will have less area of effect but considerably more damage.
 Flameblast  Spell Totem Support You will now place a totem that will cast Flameblast instead of casting skill yourself.
 Caustic Arrow Slower Projectiles Support  Your Caustic Arrow projectiles will be slower but will deal much more damage.
 Blade Vortex  Spell Echo Support  Blade Vortex spell cast will repeat an additional time.
 Molten Strike  Multistrike Support  Molten Strike will hit 2 additional times after initial hit.

Item Level and sockets

Each item in Path of Exile has an item level that’s hidden from the eye until you press ALT  key while hovering over the item. Item level is not level requirement for using the item but rather games way to put items in tiers.

Item level can be very important for several reasons:

  • Magic or rare items have affixes (prefixes and suffixes) that are divided into tiers – for example, to get Merciless %increased Physical Damage prefix on a weapon, it has to have at least item level of 83. All rare and magic items you can equip can have affixes, including flasks, jewelry, armour and weapons – jewels are the only exception and their affixes are not affected by item level.
  • Sockets – the number of sockets an item can have is determined by its item level – for example, item with an item level of 15 cannot have more than 3 sockets. This, however, can be overridden by crafting the item using Vorici’s crafting bench but usually is not required. I would also like to note that not all items can have the same amount of sockets even with item level higher than 50 – only body armors and 2-handed weapons can have 6 sockets, gloves, helmets, and boots can have maximum of 4 sockets, 1-handed weapons and shields can only have maximum of 3 sockets, rings can have 1 socket.

Below you can see a table with minimum item levels for the number of sockets on items:

Number of sockets item can have Minimum item level
1 1
2 1
3 2
4 25
5 35
6 50

Path of Exile Character classes

Currently, there are 7 character classes to choose from – Duelist, Ranger, Witch, Scion, Marauder, Templar and Shadow. In Path of Exile biggest difference between classes used to be their starting point on the skill tree, but after expansion Ascendancy classes were introduced. After completing Izaro’s Labyrinth, you will unlock ascendancy class for your character class which takes your build into more specific direction and gives it more power.
To get access to Izaro’s Labyrinth, you have to complete trials of ascendancy.
Trials to first 3 Labyrinths are found in certain locations, which you can see in the wiki link above and trials for Eternal labyrinth can be randomly found in endgame maps. Each class (except Scion) has 3 Ascendancy classes to choose from – you can see the list here.

Another thing that sets classes apart is their starting attributes which you can see in the table below:

 Class  Intelligence  Dexterity  Strength
 Witch  32  14  14
 Ranger  14 32 14
 Shadow 23  23  14
 Scion  20  20  20
 Duelist  14  23  23
 Marauder  14  14  32
 Templar  23  14  23

When planning out the build and skills that you are going to use, most important thing is to look at Ascendancy classes because they have a bigger impact than just starting point on the skill tree. At first, check out a list of active skill gems if you don’t know what kind of skills the game has, pick some and check them out in the game and if you want, also check builds that revolve around the given skill gem in youtube. We have started adding builds to our website and plan on adding at least one build for each of the most popular skill gems – take look at our builds here.

Attributes

There are 3 core attributes in Path of Exile – Strength, Intelligence, and Dexterity. Equipment such as weapons and armors/skill gems have certain attribute requirements to be used – if skill gem requires 100 intelligence to be used, you will have to have at least 100 intelligence to use that skill gem.

Each character class starts with different attributes which I listed in a table previously. Attributes are useful not only for meeting requirements but they also provide different bonuses:

Every 10 strength gives you +5 to maximum life and 2% increased physical damage
Every 10 intelligence gives you +5 to maximum mana and 2% increased maximum energy shield
Every 10 dexterity gives you +20 to accuracy rating and 2% increased evasion rating

When leveling your character, sometimes it might be challenging to meet the requirements for certain gems – there is an easy solution to that: buy jewelry with attributes from a vendor. There are amulets that give you a good boost to attributes – Lapis amulet for intelligence, Amber amulet for strength and Jade amulet for dexterity and there are also hybrid amulets that give 2 of the attributes but in a bit lower numbers. I almost always use them while leveling to be able to use skills that I want and recommend that you do too if you need some attributes. Even in late game, the best way to meet attribute requirements for most builds is using jewelry, so keep that in mind if you’re ever lacking them.

Path of Exile Passive skill tree

One more thing that sets Path of Exile apart from most ARPGs is its enormous skill tree. Consisting of more than 1000 nodes, it looks extremely complex if you are looking at it the first time, but don’t worry – building your character using skill tree is not as hard as it looks.

As I mentioned before, all classes share this tree but each character class starts from the different area of it. Upon leveling up, you receive 1 passive skill point that you can allocate within the skill tree.
There are several kinds of skill points within the tree – Regular passive skill points, Notable Passive skill points, and Keystone skill points. Notable passive skills differ from regular ones by being larger and having stronger effects, Keystone skill points, however, have a bigger impact – they change the way your character is played. Usually, Keystone skill points have positive effect + drawback, for example, Point Bland keystone skill point makes your close range attacks deal much more damage and reduce damage for farther traveling projectiles. Another example would be Resolute Technique keystone – your hits never miss but you cannot critically strike.

There are also skill points that look like sockets – when you allocate those, you unlock jewel slots. There are lots of different unique jewels you can use in your skill tree, some of which are mandatory for a few builds like Vaal Spark or Golemancer. Most of the time it’s worth unlocking jewel slots because you can buy/find great rare jewels that boost your damage or survival capabilities. Below you can see how jewel slot looks.

If you have allocated a skill point earlier and want to refund it, there is a currency for that – Orb of Regret. Another way to reallocate skill points is to obtain respec points from quests (let me note that there is a finite amount of quests that can give you that).

If you are new to the game and don’t want to mess up your first build (which will probably still happen), follow some build guide from our website. Another option is to just mess around yourself and see how things work but sometimes it can get frustrating if you cannot kill monsters/progress further, so be careful with it.

Path of Exile vendor recipes

Vendor recipe system allows players to sell items with certain mods, properties or item combinations to vendors in every town for some sort of reward.
Path of Exile wiki page holds all the discovered vendor recipes in the game – check them out HERE.

You can also check out our article with some of the most popular or useful vendor recipes HERE.

Life / Mana / Energy Shield

At the beginning of your journey, every character you create will have two basic resources – life and mana. These two are pretty straightforward – life represents how much damage you can take before you die and mana is used for casting spells and using auras. You scale the amount of life on mana using items with such mods as (+ x to maximum life / +x to maximum mana or %increased maximum life/mana etc) and using passive skill tree mentioned earlier. There is another option – Energy shield.

Energy shield is like a barrier that absorbs damage before it gets to life – for example, if you had 1000 life and 2000 Energy shield, monsters would have to deal 2000 damage to you before they get to your life, so effectively you have 3000hp. But there is one important thing you should be wary of when using Energy shield without some unique items or keystone – by default chaos damage can directly bypass it and attack your life while ignoring your Energy shield – that’s why most Energy Shield builds use Chaos Inoculation (widely known as CI) keystone that turns your build into purely Energy Shield character (The drawback of keystone is that you have maximum life of 1 but you are immune to chaos damage). CI builds were extremely popular but now with the introduction of 3.0 patch Energy shield builds are getting nerfed and life builds are getting buffed.

While talking about life, I will also give a little explanation about flasks in this game. There are two big categories of flasks – recovery flasks and utility flasks. The first ones provide you with the ability to regain health and mana (or both when using hybrid life+mana flask) and utility flasks give you various other buffs such as movement speed, resistances, damage, defense and so on. The way flasks work in this game is that they have charges which are consumed when you use flask. They regain charges when you are killing monsters so you don’t have to buy flasks like in other games (Diablo 2 for example).

When you are playing Energy shield builds, you have no option of using life flasks to quickly regain health as you do have when playing life builds. Like other items, there are unique versions of flasks, some are very strong and can boost power of  your build by quite a bit. You can see a few flask examples in the image below, but you can always visit PoE Wiki and see the list of all flasks.

Defense mechanisms

This game is very unforgiving when it comes to poor character defense, so being able to survive is a vital part of the experience. Defense is arguably much more important than offense in Path of Exile and each character must have a way to survive.

There are 3 main defenses that go on top of your life – Armour, Evasion, and Energy shield. On top of that, you also have 3 Elemental resistances (Fire, Lightning, and Cold) and Chaos resistance. Elemental resistances start with 0% and as you progress, more resistance is needed for them to be capped (for example your resistances will be -60% when you hit late game and have no +% to x resistance stats on your equipment). Capped resistances is a must for every character that goes into the late game (Except chaos resistance, which even at -60% is not deadly at all).

A little more about defenses – Armour will make you take reduced physical damage from hits, Evasion will give you chance to avoid damage completely and Energy shield will give you more effective hp (3000hp + 3000 Energy shield gives you 6000 effective hp).

Armour (associated with strength) – lots of melee characters have armour as their primary source of damage mitigation – some combine it with block chance, which is another way to avoid taking damage but requires shield or dual wielding weapons. Also, Granite Flasks and Basalt Flasks are extremely useful when used in combination with armour. In terms of reliability, armour would be the most consistent defensive mechanism.

Evasion (associated with dexterity) is another way to avoid damage – it is mostly used by ranged characters that do not expect being hit a lot. Combined with Acrobatics keystone in the Passive skill tree, evasion gives you pretty high chance to avoid taking any damage at all, but it’s one of the most unreliable defensive mechanics (because few unlucky hits can take you out instantly) – that’s why it’s not as popular in hardcore.

Energy shield (associated with intelligence) is a defensive mechanism that was meta until 3.0. Characters that used Energy Shield as their form of defense relied on it as very high effective hp. Combine that with Granite Flask and Basalt Flask and you still have a good amount of armour with extremely high effective hp. On top of that lots of builds used Vaal Pact keystone in combination with life leech which made these characters able to facetank even the biggest hits and regain full hp in an extremely short amount of time.

There are more ways to avoid damage – block (your character blocks incoming attack and does not take damage from it), dodge/spell dodge (allows you to dodge attacks and spells similarly to evasion) – these are usually used as extra layers of defense on top of one of the previously mentioned defense mechanisms.

Offensive and defensive stats

When you open up your character panel, there are plenty of different stats; let’s take a closer look at some of them.

Defensive stats

Estimated physical damage reduction – associated with armour, this stat tells you how much physical damage you are mitigating. The stat can be boosted by certain unique items, Basalt and Granite flasks, Endurance charges and few other options.

Fire / Cold / Lightning / Chaos resistances – elemental resistances reduce damage taken when you are attacked with elemental damage. A natural cap is 75% of each resistance but it can be lifted by equipped items, auras, elemental flasks or certain nodes on the passive skill tree. When you are approaching end-game (at least LVL 60-65), make sure you have all resistances except chaos capped at 75% because with uncapped resistances you will die often. If you want, you can invest in Chaos resistance, but from my experience, even having -60% Chaos resistance is not that deadly.

Chance to block – this stat tells us how likely we are going to block monster attacks by using shield, staff or dual wielding weapons. When you block the attack, you take no damage from the blocked hit. Certain unique items or nodes on passive skill tree makes your block chance apply to spells as well, therefore, enabling you to block not only attacks but spells as well. The cap for a chance to block attacks and spells is 75%. One more thing you should keep in mind – when you block the attack, the game calculates whether or not the attack you blocked would have stunned you, if it would have, blocking animation is played and you are stunned for a moment. Stats like faster stun and block recovery and increased block recovery will reduce the stun duration after block.

Chance to dodge attacks/spell damage – this stat shows your chance to dodge attack or spell. When you dodge damage, you completely avoid it. It is completely different stat from evasion and they can both used together very effectively.

Offensive stats

Damage per second – this stat shows total combined damage for given skill taking into account all the different modifiers when calculating it. Be aware of the fact that for some builds or skills this stat is not shown correctly because of the way the given skill works – one example would be poison builds that stack multiple instances of poison on the target and only the initial hit damage is shown on the tooltip.

Accuracy – accuracy is a stat that determines your chance to hit monsters using attack based skills.

Critical strike chance – this stat shows how likely the spell or attack is to critically strike.

Critical strike multiplier – this stat shows how much extra damage you will inflict on the target when you critically strike.

Attack and cast speed – these stats show how quickly you repeat attacks or spell casts.

Buffs / Debuffs

Buffs and debuffs are temporary effects on your character that can change its offensive or defensive statistics. You can differ buffs from debuffs by their border (buffs have green border while debuffs have red).

Some of the most popular buffs in this games are:

Auras – they can boost your and your allies’ offense and defense (for example added armour, attack speed, added elemental damage etc).
Blood Rage – Blood rage is an active skill which when cast, temporarily gives you attack speed, life leech and chance to get Frenzy Charge on kill, however, it makes you take physical damage 4% of your maximum life or energy shield. You can renew duration of Blood Rage by killing enemies.
Fortify – this buff grants you 20% reduced damage taken from hits.
Onslaught – this buff gives you 20% increased attack speed, cast speed, and movement speed.

Then there are debuffs, that negatively impact your character. Some of the most popular debuffs are:

Curses – some monsters or bosses use curses that reduce your damage, resistances, make you take increased damage etc. Best way to counter curses is to have a flask with curse removal affix on it. Players can also use curses, there are tons of builds for which curses is the cornerstone around which the build is made.

Blind – when you are affected by blind, your chance to hit is halved and light radius reduced to its minimum value.

Maim – when you are affected by Maim, your movement speed is reduced by 30%, which can hurt in some situations but there aren’t many monsters that apply this debuff.

Corrupting blood – this one can kill you very quickly if you aren’t careful and do not have bleed removal flask with you. When you hit a monster with Corrupting blood mod, you get one stack of the debuff per hit and it stacks to a maximum of 20 charges.

Charges

One more important buff mechanic you should know about are charges – they are temporary stackable buffs that your character can generate in several ways. They are visually seen as small glowing orbs of different colors around your character or monsters.

There are three different types of charges:

Endurance charges – associated with strength,
Power charges – associated with intelligence,
Frenzy charges – associated with dexterity.

Each charge type provides different bonuses and by default, each character can have a maximum of 3 charges of each type. To increase the maximum amount of charges you can have, you can get certain nodes on the passive skill tree or equip certain unique items. Usually, it’s a good idea to incorporate some charges in your builds because the bonuses can give you a good boost in damage or survivability.

Each charge type gives a different bonus for you:

Endurance charges: 4% physical damage reduction per endurance charge and 4% to all elemental resistances per endurance charge,
Power charges: 40% increased global critical strike chance per power charge,
Frenzy charges: 4% increased attack and cast speed per frenzy charge and 4% more damage per frenzy charge.

Ailments

Ailments are very similar to debuffs, but they are mostly associated with damage types – physical, chaos, cold, lightning and fire. Each damage type can inflict one or several ailments.

Ignite (associated with fire damage) – when affected by ignite, target burns and takes fire damage over time.

Shock (associated with lightning damage) – when affected by shock, the target takes increased damage from all sources.

Chill (associated with cold damage) – when affected by chill, the target has reduced movement, attack, and cast speed.

Freeze (associated with cold damage) – when affected by freeze, the target cannot perform any actions. You should always have a way to counter freeze because it can be extremely dangerous. Unless you are wearing Dream Fragments unique item or other items that prevent you from being frozen, carrying a flask with freeze removal mod is the best option to counter this ailment.

Bleed (associated with physical damage) – this is pretty nasty ailment that some monsters can inflict on you. Bleed makes you take physical damage over time. While you are under effects of bleed, you take considerably more damage while moving and a lot of characters die that way. Best way to deal with bleed for most builds is flask that removes bleed in combination with having the presence of mind to stand still while the debuff is on you (if the flask is empty).

Poison (associated with physical and chaos damage) – this ailment makes you take chaos damage over time. Poison ailment is a stacking one, that means there can be more than 1 instance of poison on you. To counter it, take a flask with poison removal with you, but from my experience, this ailment isn’t that dangerous to have a special flask for.

Currency in Path of Exile

Currency in this game has interesting concept – not only it serves as a medium of exchange but also as a tool for crafting. Every type of currency serves its own purpose, for example, Exalted Orb when used on a non-corrupted rare item with less than 6 mods, will add a random mod to that item, however, Orb of Annulment can be used to remove one random mod from a rare item.

We have created currency guide which explains what each type of currency is used for and some tips and tricks.

Zones and instances

Every area in Path of Exile is instance based. When you enter an area, a new instance is created. It remains open as long as you are in it, in addition, it remains open for more or less 15 minutes after you have left it.

You can force-create as many instances of the area as you want – it is useful if you want to repeatedly run the same zone for leveling or divination card drop purposes because creating new instance means having it populated with monsters again. To create a new instance, hover over the entrance, hold CTRL key and left click on it. Doing so will bring up instance creation menu where you should choose “NEW” option. Below I have attached an image of the menu. Just a note: you can also create a new instance of the zone by CTRL-clicking on the waypoint which is associated with a given zone.

Something to add if we are talking about instances is that for some areas instances cannot be generated repeatedly. Some examples:

1.) Endgame maps (one instance with 6 portals to it is created)

2.) Vaal Side areas (one instance, once you clear it from monsters, you cannot generate new one)

3.) Boss rooms for Shaper, Atziri, Pale Court, etc.

Path of Exile playthrough

When you register and join the game, upon creation of your character you are given a choice of what league you want to play in. Currently, there are 2 permanent leagues – Standard (Softcore version) and Hardcore. Each permanent league also has solo self-found option (In solo self-found mode you cannot interact with other players – that means you won’t be able to play in a party together or trade).

Besides these permanent leagues, every 3 or 4 months, new challenge league is released. Challenge leagues usually run for 3 or 4 months and most Path of Exile players participate in these leagues because everyone starts from level 1 in a completely new economy. These leagues always introduce new game content and offer challenges that give cool rewards upon completing them. Each challenge league has softcore and hardcore version and also solo self-found versions.
After the challenge leagues end, they merge with standard and hardcore leagues meaning all your characters and items from challenge league go to their respective permanent league (standard for softcore versions and hardcore).

For new players that are wondering whether they should start out in Standard league or challenge league – always pick Challenge league and experience all the cool content firsthand.

Getting to endgame

Characters start out with level 1 and get stronger as you level up. To finish the main storyline you have to go through 10 acts that are divided in Part I and Part II where you revisit Part I.
In each of the acts you have to complete mandatory quests to progress; there are also optional side-quests that give you great rewards (skill points) but they are considered mandatory for basically every character.

One important quest is the Deal with The Bandits quest in act 2. In this quest, there are 3 bandits that are terrorizing the village that you are asked to take care of. The unique thing about this quest is there are 4 possible rewards that depend on what you do. When you encounter the bandits, you are given the choice of helping him or killing him. If you choose to help one bandit, you have to kill other 2. You can also choose to kill all 3 bandits for a different reward. Here are the possible rewards from this quest:

1.) Helping Oak:

  • 1% of Life Regenerated per second
  • 2% additional Physical Damage Reduction
  • 20% increased Physical Damage

2.) Helping Alira:

  • 5 Mana Regenerated per second
  • +20% to Global Critical Strike Multiplier
  • +15% to all Elemental Resistances

3.) Helping Kraityn:

  • 6% increased Attack and Cast Speed
  • 3% chance to Dodge Attacks
  • 6% increased Movement Speed

4.) Killing all the bandits:

  • 2 Passive Skill Points

Before doing bandit quest, check out what your build guide recommends as a bandit reward (best build guides should have this information).

As you progress through the acts, the game difficulty will increase not only with monster damage & defense but also with Resistance penalty. After completing Act 5 and Act 10 you will have -30% to all elemental resistances (-60% total), so you will need stronger items to cap the elemental resistances.

As soon as you finish Act 10, you have successfully gotten to Path of Exile endgame which you will be able to read about next.

Endgame content

While approaching the end of the main storyline you might start seeing some map drops. Maps are items that are used to open randomly generated areas that have higher level monsters in them. Each map will open 6 portals to it, meaning you can enter and exit the map 6 times (useful for selling items to vendors). Each map has monsters and one or several bosses in it – to complete the map you have to kill the boss/es. Maps are essentially items so you can craft them using currency for additional risk and reward.

An important thing to keep in mind before you start doing maps is to have character level 63-68, at least 3500-4000 effective hp, elemental resistances at 75% and enough damage to comfortably and quickly kill monsters in Act 10 – that’s when you are ready to jump into maps. 

To enter maps, you have to finish Act 10 and go to Templar Laboratory where Zana is located. She is one of the forsaken masters and is all about maps and endgame. After finishing her first mission, you can now use maps in Map Device to open them and invite her to your hideout (about which you can read in Forsaken Masters section) and also have map device in your hideout. After finishing your first map, you will be introduced to Atlas of Worlds, which is a visual representation of your progress in endgame maps.

There are currently more than 150 different maps in Path of Exile and some of them have unique versions with special/interesting mechanics and encounters. The maps are divided into tiers, starting from Tier 1 (T1) to Tier 16 (T16). You start with Tier 1 maps in the outer corners of the Atlas and progress to higher tier maps with tougher monsters and bosses. There are 4 Tier 16 maps in the game and they contain 4 guardians of the Void in them – Hydra, Minotaur, Phoenix, and Chimera. Each of the guardians drops their respective fragment and 4 fragments (each from different guardian) opens up a portal to Shaper’s Realm which is one of the toughest boss encounters in the game. Shaper drops exclusive unique items you can only get from killing him so he can be profitable to farm.

War for the atlas

After War for The Atlas expansion, new boss has been introduced that is associated with maps – Elder. Shaper and Elder now battle for influence on the atlas and you can help the influence of one or another to spread. Spreading the influence can benefit you because maps on the atlas that are influenced by Shaper can drop shaped items and maps influenced by Elder can drop elder items. Shaped and elder items are powerful rare items with mods that you cannot usually get on rare items.
To help spread the influence of one or the other, you have to finish the maps of the opposite influence. For example – if I wanted for Elder influence to grow, I would have to finish maps with Shaper influence on them.

Shaper’s influence will start on the atlas by default, but many have been wondering – How do I get Elder influence on the atlas? To start Elder influence, you have to kill the boss of Tier 6 Shaper influenced map. When you do that, Elder influence will start to show up on the atlas and you can choose what to do next.

If you have spread the Elder influence a lot, his guardians and Elder himself will start to appear on the atlas. In the image below you can see Elder influence spread out and how his guardians appear on the atlas.

Just keep in mind, when Elder and guardians appear on the atlas, you cannot fight Elder until you have defeated 4 guardians first.

Strongest endgame bosses and encounters

Uber Izaro

Izaro is the boss of Lord’s Labyrinth and Uber Izaro is the strongest one, located in Eternal Labyrinth. To get all ascendancy skill points for your character, you have to complete all 4 labyrinth difficulties once. A lot of people like to continue doing Eternal Labyrinth for chest rewards and helmet enchantments because doing Eternal Labyrinth can be extremely profitable, especially at the beginning of new challenge leagues.

Atziri, Queen of The Vaal

Atziri is an endgame boss that can be accessed by combining 4 different Vaal sacrifice fragments in the map device. Doing so will open 6 portals to Apex of Sacrifice where she’s located. Before facing Atziri, you will have to go through some monsters and mini-bosses until you finally get to her.
Atziri drops specific unique items that cannot be obtained outside of the encounter and sometimes she drops one of the 4 Vaal mortal fragments. Combining 4 different Vaal Mortal fragments in the map device will open 6 portals to Alluring Abyss which is where you can fight Uber Atziri which is much more powerful (is considered as the hardest encounter in the game by some people). The Uber Atziri is exactly the same fight as regular Atziri, only mini-bosses and Atziri hits much harder and has a lot more HP. Uber Atziri can drop some of the most sought-after and powerful items in the game so being able to kill her can get you some awesome rewards.

The Pale Court

The Pale Court is a boss encounter that you can get to through prophecy chains. There are 4 prophecy chains associated with The Pale Court and when you get to the last prophecy of the chain, you have to kill one of the four members of the Pale court. Each member drops their respective fragment (Volkuur’s key, Eber’s Key, Inya’s Key, Yriel’s Key). When combined in the map device, these fragments open portal to the Pale court where you have to face all 4 Pale Court members together in a tougher encounter.

As many of the stronger game encounters, The Pale Court rewards players with specific unique items upon completion – but the item dropped depends on which Pale Court member you kill last.

Guardians of The Void

Technically Guardians of The Void are map bosses, but they are much stronger than any other map bosses in the game and have unique drops associated with them.
There are 4 guardians of the void, each is boss for different map – Guardian of The Hydra (Lair of The Hydra boss), Guardian of The Minotaur (Maze of The Minotaur boss), Guardian of the Chimera (Pit of The Chimera boss) and Guardian of The Phoenix (Forge of The Phoenix Boss).

Each guardian always drops their fragment upon death and has a chance to drop some unique items specific to each guardian. Combining 4 fragments, one of each guardian in the map device opens portal to Shaper’s Realm where you can face Shaper.

The Shaper

The Shaper is one of the strongest bosses in the game. To fight him, you need to combine Fragment of The Hydra, Fragment of The Minotaur, Fragment of The Chimera and Fragment of The Phoenix in the map device and 6 portals will open to Shaper’s Realm. The fight consists of several phases that change when you get Shaper to specific hp levels.
When new challenge leagues start, people who are able to kill Shaper the fastest usually can acquire huge amounts of currency by selling unique items he drops – Starforge, Dying Sun, Voidwalker or Shaper’s Touch.

The Elder and his guardians

Elder and his guardians are some of the newest endgame bosses added to the game. To fight them, you have to spread Elder’s influence on the Atlas until he and his guardians occupy some maps. Then you have to kill 4 guardians first and then you can attempt to fight Elder. If you try to fight him without guardians defeated beforehand, he will not spawn in the map.

Breachlords

Breachlords are 5 endgame bosses (Uul-Netol, Xoph, Esh, Tul, Chayula) that were added to the game with Breach challenge league. You can face them when you combine 100 splinters of the given breachlord (for example 100 Splinters of Esh) to create breachstone of the corresponding splinters. When breachstone is used in map device, it opens portals to given breachlord’s domain where you can kill him. Each breachlord can drop blessings that are used to upgrade some unique items and also has some specific unique item drops associated with him.

Other game mechanics and encounters

There are many other encounters in the game I haven’t talked about yet and I will tell you about them so you wouldn’t have to wonder “what the hell is this” when you see Tormented Spirit, Rogue Exile or Forsaken master.

Forsaken Masters

Forsaken masters are NPCs that randomly spawn when you are progressing through the game. They will give you missions and after you complete the missions, you gain reputation with the master and level him up. When you level the masters, you get exclusive crafting options with each master and ability to create your own player hideout (to create hideout, you have to have a master with a minimum level of 3). Levelling up master lets you upgrade the size of your hideout and invite more masters to your hideout, which gives you the ability to do their daily missions for some guaranteed reputation. Inviting master to hideout also lets you place his crafting bench in your hideout and use it.

In images below, you can see player created hideout and completed master mission.

There are currently 8 masters in the game, each with their own special crafting options:

Haku, The Armourmaster (crafts body armours, helmets, boots, gloves, shields),
Elreon, The Loremaster (crafts amulets and rings),
Catarina, Master of The Dead (crafts wands, scepters, helmets, staves),
Tora, Master of The Hunt (crafts belts, ranged weapons, boots),
Vorici, Master Assassin (crafts item sockets, their links and colours),
Leo, Master of The Arena (Leo doesn’t have to be randomly encountered, he is found at Sarn area; crafts helmets, boots, gloves and some jewelry),
Vagan, The Weaponmaster (crafts one handed and 2-handed melee weapons such as axes, maces and swords),
Zana, The Master Cartographer (When you level Zana, she provides you with options to open map with specific challenge league modifiers such as Essence, Breach etc).

Essences

Essences – a group of currency that is used for crafting. Every essence, when used on normal rarity item (white), will turn it into a rare item with 1 guaranteed mod. For example, when you use Screaming Essence of Wrath on a white helmet, it will turn into rare helmet with 36%-41% to lightning resistance (guaranteed essence mod) and several other random mods. Essences are divided into tiers and 3 essences of the same tier can be upgraded to  1 essence one tier higher. I have attached visual reference for essences that I have found extremely useful, it offers an overview of all essences.

You can obtain essences by encountering monsters that are trapped in ice crystals. By clicking on the crystals several times, you release the monsters, the middle one carries the essences. After you defeat the monster, it drops all the essences it’s carrying. In the image below you can see how essence monsters look when you encounter them while playing.

In the image you can see Weeping Essence of Doubt – let me explain a bit: “Weeping” is prefix and it represents the tier of the essence. Other tiers you might see is wailing, screaming, whispering, muttering etc. “Of Doubt” is a suffix and it represents type of the essence – different types of essence offer different mods. For example, Essence of Woe offers energy shield mods when crafting armour but Essence of Greedlife mods. To see all the mods and all the essences, check essence page on Path of Exile wiki.

Rogue exiles

To quote path of exile wiki: “Corrupted by the world of Wraeclast, several exiles have gone rogue, causing them to turn against their own kind.”. Rogue exiles are unique monsters that use some of the skills that players can use – lightning arrow, totems, flameblast, leap slam to name a few. They can appear very early in the playthrough – even Act 1. Some are more dangerous than others so new players might get surprised by how much damage they can deal. When you are approaching T11-T16 maps, Rogue exiles inside those maps can be extremely deadly, so be wary of that.

In the image, you can see duelist Rogue Exile with name Armios Bell who uses Flicker Strike and Dual Strike to attack. When slain, Rogue exiles always drop an item from each of their equipment slots – helmet, belt, rings, amulet, weapon/s or shield, body armour, gloves, and boots.

Breaches

One of my favorite thing when doing maps is to discover a breach – let me note that they can only appear in endgame maps. When you approach a breach, you open up a parallel realm that contains monsters associated with breach type. Opened breach expands over time and more monsters are coming through until the breach closes.
Slain monsters drop splinters associated with the breach type – there are currently 5 breach types – Uul-Netol Breach, Tul Breach, Xoph Breach, Chayula Breach and Esh Breach so you can get Splinters of each type depending on which type the encountered breach is.
Combining 100 Splinters of the same type will create a Breachstone (for example 100 Xoph Splinters will create Xoph’s Breachstone and so on) which you can use in the map device to fight the Breachlord in his domain.

There is a slight chance of breachlord appearing in the breach itself but you cannot kill it completely. It does drop a lot of splinters though.

Some powerful and rare unique items can only be obtained through breaches, for example, Xoph’s Heart or Voice of The Storm and most of these unique items can be upgraded with Blessing of their associated Breachlord (Xoph’s Heart can be upgraded to Xoph’s Blood by using Blessing of Xoph on it for example).

In the image below you can see how breach looks when encountered.

Abysses

Abysses is another league mechanic that’s added to the core game. Abysses function similar to the breaches but differ in some key aspects – when you open them, monsters start spawning and you need to keep killing them to keep the abyss open. When you kill all the monsters, abyss will continue to grow by creating cracks in the ground that monsters will crawl out from. You have to keep killing the monsters and follow the abyss cracks.

After finishing abyss, you will be rewarded with Abyssal Trove which contains some items or there can be an entrance to Abyssal Depths. When in Abyssal depths, you have a chance to encounter an Abyssal Lich that drops powerful unique items and Stygian Belt bases.

Prophecies

Prophecies add certain events to the future when you play. Example: next Orb of Transmutation you use on a white item, will make it rare instead of magic. There are lots of prophecies, some are extremely powerful, for example, Fated Connections lets you get a 6-linked item by just using 1 Jeweller’s Orb on body armour or 2-handed weapon.

There are also some Prophecy chains consisting of several parts, for example, prophecy chain Ancient Rivalries consists of 4 parts – Ancient Rivalries I, Ancient Rivalries II, Ancient Rivalries III and Ancient Rivalries IV. While doing prophecy chain, you cannot unlock next part without doing the previous first.

To start doing Prophecies, you have to rescue Navali – she is the NPC associated with prophecies. After you rescue her, she will go back to town where you can invite her to your hideout. Prophecies are not free – each one costs 1 Silver Coin. When you have some Silver coins, talk to Navali and choose “Seek Prophecy” option and that’s it, you are given a prophecy. You can view your active prophecies in prophecy menu.

Sometimes you get a valuable prophecy that you don’t really need but someone else could use it. There is an option for that – you can seal the prophecy for a cost of several Silver Coins, sealing prophecy turns it into a tradeable item that you can sell or give to one of your buddies.

Divination cards

This game mechanic was introduced to give more deterministic approach when farming for specific items. Before divination cards, every item drop was completely random and some items were extremely hard to get as a drop yourself. Now you can farm for specific divination card set and redeem it for specific items.

There are almost 200 different divination cards in the game, some extremely rare and some extremely common. One key aspect of Divination cards is that they drop in specific locations – for example, if I wanted to farm divination cards for Tabula Rasa (Humility cards), I’d have to continuously kill monsters in Blood Aqueduct or Channel Map. One more thing about divination cards that different cards have different set size – that means that some sets need more cards to be completed than others. Only a full set can be traded for the item referenced in a divination card (some sets are full at 1 card, some sets are full at 16 cards).

PoE Wiki is a great resource for Divination cards – you can see where to farm them and how many cards are in a complete set.

Tormented spirits

Tormented spirits are green ghost-like unique monsters that can be occasionally encountered through Wraeclast. When you encounter them, they do not fight but instead, flee and imbue nearby monsters with additional powers. When you slay monsters affected by Tormented spirits, they drop better rewards.
If they encounter rare or unique monster while fleeing, they crawl inside him and possess it, making the monster way more dangerous. Multiple Tormented spirits can possess one monster and sometimes possessed monster can surprise you with the amount of damage it does.
In the image below you can see how tormented spirit looks when encountered.

Nemesis and Bloodlines

Once in a while, you will encounter special rare and magic monsters, rare monster with nemesis property and magic monster pack which shares bloodlines mod. Both of these monster encounters can be dangerous, depending on the mod that you encounter – Volatile Flameblood is very dangerous nemesis mod because when you kill a rare monster with this mod, a flaming ball will follow you until it explodes (it is not hard to avoid but you can sometimes miss it. Frost / Flame and Storm bearers are dangerous bloodline mods – when you kill monsters with this mod, they leave bomb under their corpse which explodes after a brief delay.

In the image below you can see a monster with nemesis mod on the left (Berserker mod) and a monster with bloodlines mod on the right (Living blood mod).

Beyond demons

When you are crafting maps, or using Zana’s mods on map device, it is possible to roll Beyond mod on the map. When an area has this mod, slaying monsters close together will create little portals in the ground and spawn Beyond demons. If there are a lot of portals close together, a larger one will spawn and summon even stronger beyond monsters. Spawn enough bigger portals together, and the large one will open and summon one of the dangerous Beyond unique bosses.

There are several beyond bosses:

Tzteosh – casts Vaal Flameblast and other fire skills
Na’em – uses Leap Slam, Cleave and fires physical projectile nova which deals pretty high damage
Haast – casts Ice Spear with multiple projectiles and cold version of Vaal Fireball
Bameth – uses Split Arrow, creates and detonates corpses
Ephij – uses Vaal Storm Call, shoots Ball Lightning in a nova and other lightning skills
Abaxoth – the most powerful beyond boss and he combines and uses skills from previously mentioned bosses

In the image below you can see player fighting Abaxoth.

Strongboxes

Strongboxes are item boxes found throughout Wraeclast. There are several types of strongboxes, containing currency, gems, divination cards etc.
Each strongbox is guarded by monsters that come out and attack you when you open the strongbox, so be prepared.
Strongboxes can be crafter using currency so if you find normal rarity strongbox, you can upgrade it to rare strongbox with several mods by using Orb of Alchemy on it. Let me note that some of the mods can be pretty dangerous, for example casting Ice Nova or freezing you when strongbox is opened. There are several unique strongboxes that can be sometimes found but they are pretty rare.

We have written a more in-depth guide about strongboxes where you can learn what mods to look for and also some information about types of the strongboxes.

Shrines

Shrines randomly appear through Wraeclast and give you random bonuses for 45 seconds when you touch them. Usually they are surrounded by a bunch of monsters and until you touch the shrine, monsters have its bonuses.

Vaal side areas

While you are leveling, you might encounter Vaal side areas (but you cannot encounter them in endgame maps). They are marked with a red heart icon when you open the minimap and go near them.
In general Vaal side areas are pretty small and you can run through them pretty quickly, each of them contain a boss at the end. Slaying the boss lets you open Vaal Vessel which drops either Vaal Skill Gem or one of the 4 Vaal Sacrifice Fragments that give access to Atziri.
Let me note that different zones spawn different Vaal side areas and different bosses inside of them, and some of those bosses can be pretty tough to take down while you are leveling so be careful.
In the image below you can see how the entrance to Vaal side area looks.

Tips before you start to play

1.) Pick a build guide – if this is your first build, pick a build guide and follow it as closely as you can. Good build guide will always include Bandit quest choice, skill tree, recommended items and skill gem setups.

2.) Set up a loot filter – monsters in this game drop soooo much loot that without filter your whole screen would be littered with useless crap.
There are several loot filters to choose from but I myself use Neversink’s filter and recommend it to you as well because it is new player friendly and is regularly updated. HERE you can download it, readme.txt file contains detailed instructions on how to set it up.

3.) Make sure Lockstep is enabled – when you open game options -> UI, Networking mode should be set to Lockstep. This prevents the game from desyncing which was a huge problem some time back because there was no lockstep option at all.

About gems

gems
Always tries to keep up with the game, its ever-changing mechanisms and explain them in understandable manner.

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