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3.12 ❆ iLL3aT’s Cold Skeleton Warriors/Archers ❆ League Starter ❆ All Content ❆ 40/40

I plan to play skeleton archers in 3.12! Skeleton archers are from an alternate quality Phantasmal Summon Skeletons Gem – since it is locked behind heist and expensive, don’t count on getting the gem early.


Skeleton builds have always been great characters for beginners to learn the game, as well as for veterans who want an efficient league starter and/or a strong build that can clear all content.

For beginners, skeletons offer a simple playstyle with few gear requirements and incremental upgrades that you can feel the impact of. It is also great to learn boss mechanics on, since you can focus on dodging while your minions do the work. A skeleton focused build can bring you to the endgame (Shaper and Sirus) at a cost of around two exalted orbs worth of currency. A few players have killed their first awakener ever using this build!

For veterans, skeletons are a cheap league starter that is also able to tackle everything in Path of Exile. With enough investment, it can go over 100 million Shaper DPS. Awakening level 8 mapping is smooth and safe, featuring over 6,000 life, 1,200 ES, fortify, blind, five defensive flasks, chaos resistance, among other defensive layers. It is capable of killing all end game bosses, mapping in tier 19 or 100% delirious maps, deathless 20 wave Simulacrums, and delving beyond 1,000. The build format is very versatile with many chances to personalize your own version of it!

High Level Table of Contents

1. How to read this guide
2. Build Overview
3. Videos
4. About the author
5. Pros and Cons
6. Path of Building and Passive Tree
7. Bandits, Ascendency, Pantheon, and Leveling
8. Gear
-------Post #2------
9. Gems
10. Spectres, Animate Guardian, and discussion on other minions
11. How to play the build
12. Advanced Mechanics
13. Boss, Delve, T19 Guides
14. Other setups worth considering
15. Crafting Guide
16. F.A.Q.s
17. Update Log
18. Credits

1. How to read this guide

The guide is split into sections, and then further into subsections (the bracketed numbers) – this is to help in navigation if a section points you to another. I would recommend reading through the guide rather than look just at the Path of Building (“PoB”), since some of my choices may seem odd without explanation.

For beginners, I recommend starting with the PoB in 6(2), and then going through the gear and gems sections before reading through the whole guide. For everyone else, the guide is structured in what I believe is a good order to read through. Some sections may also be marked as “Advanced,” and can be skipped by those just starting the game or do not care too much about in depth mechanics, but may enhance your knowledge of PoE, even if you are not playing skeletons. There is a lot of math in the guide since that is how my brain works, but if you don’t care about the reasoning, just skip that part.

2. Build overview

This build is based upon using the unique Triad Grips gloves to fully convert the physical damage from the summon skeleton skill to cold. This allows for full abuse of the hatred aura by taking advantage of both parts of it, making for some absurd scaling that other variants of skeleton summoners or cold conversion attack/spell builds do not have access to. While there are many minions, the main damage dealers will be the summoned skeletons.

Defensively, it is a minion build which means there are many bodies taking hits meant for us. Since there is only one required unique, it is easy to add lots of life through rare gear, much of it can be self-crafted. I would describe this build as more of an active minion playstyle compared to a normal skeleton, spectre, or zombie build due to having to summon skeletons, apply elemental equilibrium (“EE”), and optionally utilize other ways to increase damage.

This build guide will cover both skeleton warriors and skeleton archers.

3. Videos

3.12 Skeleton archer videos to come

3.10 Videos
Early League Shaper
Early League A8 Sirus
Early League Simulacrum, Waves 19 & 20
Cortex (Crit variant build)

3.9 Videos – recorded when DPS was at about 80M.
Uber Elder in 1:35
640 Aul with 100% increased AOE

Juiced T19 Map – no sound

4. About the Author

I have been around since the Abyss League, typically getting 24-40 challenges done per league, killing my first Shaper in Bestiary and my first Uber Elder in Incursion. I finished all forty challenges in the metamorph, delirium, and harvest leagues. I have played a variety of summoners, including two golem characters and a totem build. I played a modified version of Viperesque’s Pure phys skeletons & friends necromancer in 3.8, built this cold variant in 3.9, and further improved it in 3.10. I took a break to play spectres in 3.11, but converted the character to a skeletons character in the end.

My characters in the last three leagues (gear/trees for reference):
3.9: EllySkellyBeefWelly:
3.10 PopsicleSkeletons:
3.11 BowLeagueBois:

I am more than happy to help out with questions but would prefer if you post a reply in this thread rather than DMing me or whispering me in game. If this build has helped you kill an endgame boss or achieved something new for you, I would love to hear it!

5. Pros and Cons

(1) Pros
+League starter
+Versatile – phys or elemental? Other minion types?
+High DPS on a low budget but able to scale well with currency
+Sirus and Shaper kills on a 2-3 ex budget
+Tanky – Up to 7.5k+ EHP, plus other defensive layers
+Freeze map bosses and monsters alike for additional safety
+Full mobility while maintaining maximum DPS
+Can be played with one hand

(2) Cons
-Poor visibility with so many minions
-Cannot do elemental reflect maps without suffering
-Delve gets hard past 800 as a life based build
-If this build gets too overpowered, GGG will nerf cyclone.

6. Path of Building & Passive Tree

(1) Guide to Using Path of Building (Beginner)
Download Openarl’s Path of Building from the link below:
This is what allows for you to view my passive tree, and to calculate DPS, survivability, etc.

You will also need LocalIdentity’s fork version. This adds some more functionality into PoB such as correctly calculating multistrike DPS, impale DPS, etc. It is being updated by the community and adds more features and thus is a better tool than just the vanilla PoB. See below:

Install Path of Building and update to the newest version.
-Click “New” at the top middle to open a new build
-Click “Import/Export Build” at the top left
-Click “Import from Pastebin…” under “Build Sharing”
-Paste the Pastebin URL (see subsection 6(2) for the current pastebin) where prompted, and click “Import”
-Under “Build Sharing,” click “Import” once more

(2) Pastebin #1 – League Starter to Endgame (Recommended)


NOTE: You NEED the community fork to open the PoB. See the instructions in 6(1).

This version of the build can be played by anyone, is a strong league starter, and is able to get very far into the endgame. Note that the gear is endgame level – focus more on the concepts than the gear itself.

Leveling trees are found in the leveling section: 7(4). New league start notes are found in 8(13).

Notes: Read these with the Pastebin, otherwise it may not make sense!
  • DPS for skeleton warriors is about 23M without including host and carnage chieftains. With those added on, it is about 43M
  • See disabled gems in the skills section for mapping gems and skeleton archer gems
  • Thread of hope: see subsection – 8(7)
  • Level 94 Tree – should be achievable for most players
  • See 8(7) for the explanation on the Glorious Vanity jewel and why Pain Attunement is allocated
  • There is no Animate Guardian functionality in PoB yet – his stats are added to my Basalt Flask. Disable this flask to see stats without an AG
  • Enemy Cold Resist -10 is from elemental army support.
  • Call to Arms fixes a weakness from pre-3.11 versions of this build: adding Enduring Cry as a near instant heal
  • The weaker minion nodes have been replaced with one large cluster jewel and two medium cluster jewels – these are super efficient in terms of damage/point. More in 8(9). With enough currency, another cluster jewel node is an option.
  • Blessed Rebirth + leech on a ghastly eye jewel will keep skeletons at 100% life for the first few seconds.
  • The scion life wheel is available if you would rather spec into more life than damage.
  • Intelligence – If you cannot get it from gear, path to “Ancestral Knowledge”

(3) Pastebin #2 – 100+ million DPS Crit Variant (Requirements: Level 95 & 100+ exalts)


Do not run this variant unless you meet the requirements listed above. You will need sufficient currency for jewels alone, and for good stats on gear to have enough life and resistances.

This hypothetical tree and gear is the results of my experimentation to see if we could get back the damage we lost between 3.10 and 3.11 with the vicious bite and precise commander nerfs (See 8(9). The end result is: 10.6M per skeleton x 12 skeletons without frenzy and power charges checked. This is made up of a combination of my 3.9 gear and 3.10: It is more of a glass cannon but still has 5.5k life, 1.5k ES, max chaos res, fortify, blind, chill and freeze for maps. A good high budget final build is probably something between the 6(2) Pastebin and this one.

Notes – Read through the League Starter to Endgame notes first:
  • Level 100 Tree. Lose some life if at a lower level.
  • It can be scaled back to two clusters in favor of more life and utility
  • All the gear is realistic (but expensive) and not one of a kind in the league
  • Steelskin in an unset ring is the chosen guard skill here since there is no armor stacking for vaal molten shell
  • Host and Carnage Chieftain charges are not checked, but will add a lot of hypothetical DPS
  • Frostbite is in the trigger wand, but I assumed that it missed - I did not check it off for this calculation but it could push DPS past 150M. A better idea is to get frostbite on a ring
  • Avatar of fire is to get both exposure and EE from frost bomb
  • Note that this version is min-maxed and is thus harder to play than the one listed in 6(2). More in the how to play this build section, 11

7. Bandits, Ascendency, Pantheon, and Leveling

(1) Bandits
Kill them all; we need the skill points.

(2) Ascendency

After the normal labyrinth, choose necromancer, and the following notables in this order:

Mindless Aggression – Gives offensive stats and opens up two more nodes.

Unnatural Strength – Scaling minion levels is super important. Essentially it’s about 20% more damage and 20% more minion life.

Commander of Darkness – Helps with capping resists, and adding some damage. Not amazing, but solid.

Bone barrier – With the nerf to mistress of sacrifice and with heist needing defences, bone barrier is now the uber lab choice again.

Optional: Commander of Darkness can potentially be replaced once resistances are sorted out for one of the following:
Mistress of Sacrifice – Previously the uber lab option, this is a glorified 15% movement speed node with some utility. If bone offering is favored over flesh offering though, take this node instead.

Plaguebringer - For maximum DPS, Plaguebringer (10% more damage) with 10% reduced damage taken for survivability. The issue is that you need a corpse nearby, meaning for bosses, you would have to manually cast desecrate. Not recommended personally.

(3) Pantheon

Major god:
General play: Lunaris for the movement speed, physical damage reduction, and not taking damage from chains
Bosses (Optional): Solaris for more defenses against one enemy
Sirus only: Arakali for the 25% chaos DOT resistance if chaos resistance is not capped (Sirus only).

Minor god:
General play: Shakari for reduced chaos damage taken or Yugul for reduced cold damage taken
Burning ground maps/delves: Abberath for immunity to burning ground

(4) Leveling
I personally like the leveling guides on this website:
List of all skill points from quests:

Below is a rough progression idea for gem links and suggested skills while leveling.

Act 1
Pick raise zombie after clearing the twilight strand, and purchase Stormblast mine from Nessa. Purchase dash after completing the Breaking some Eggs Quest. After killing Brutus (The Caged Brute), you can pick up Summon Skeletons, and buy from Nessa up to two minion damage supports. Be sure to complete the labyrinth trial in the lower prison.

The playstyle will be to summon minions, while supplementing their damage with stormblast mine’s aura (non-detonated). You can also detonate the mines for additional burst damage. You do not have to use all minion types, nor support them all – pick your favorites! The mines are also optional.

Note: If you are leveling with a friend and they are able to (based on class), have them pick up dash, enduring cry, and vitality for you. Vitality in particular makes life very easy!

Act 2
After completing Sharp and Cruel, you can purchase faster casting (for dash/flame dash), predator and melee physical damage (for zombies/skeletons) from Yeena. After completing The Root of the Problem, purchase Summon Skitterbots from Yeena. You can link infernal legion (from act 1) to them for some additional damage. Be sure to complete the two lab trials located in The Crypt Level 1, and the Chamber of Sins Level 2.

Act 3
You can pick up Raise Spectre after completing Sever the Right Hand. For now just raise any monster while leveling up the skill gem. Finish up the last three lab trials in the Crematorium, Catacombs, and the Imperial Garden. If you have about 1,000 life, you should be able to clear the first labyrinth and pick Mindless Aggression.

An ideal four link for skeletons/zombies would be: Summon skeletons/zombie-Minion Damage-Melee Physical-Predator

Act 4
You get another minion in Carrion golem after completing Breaking the Seal. After The Eternal Nightmare, pick Spell Echo or Multistrike.

Act 5
In The Control Blocks, raise some Slave Driver Spectres, and put them in a four link if possible with minion damage, spell echo, and predator. Remove damage supports from zombies/carrion golem to make room for spectres (better clear speed). Link maim and feeding frenzy to either of these minions for them to act as support. Damage at this point will come from both spectres and skeletons.

Acts 6-10
At this point, skeletons and spectres will carry you through the rest of the acts with no issues. Keep up with gear, picking up life and resistances where possible. A good rule of thumb is 300 life per act (e.g. 1,800 life in act 6). Completing Fallen from Grace allows you to purchase almost all gems from Lilly, so do that as soon as you reach act 6. The Cruel Labyrinth trials are located in The Prison (Act 6), the Crypt (Act 7), and the Chamber of Sins Level 2 (Act 7). Recommended for the Cruel Labyrinth is 2,000 life and level 55.

The Merciless Labyrinth Trials are located in the Bath House (Act 8), the Tunnel (Act 9), and Ossuary (Act 10). Recommended for the Cruel Labyrinth is 3,000 life and level 65. Complete the Cruel Labyrinth before beating Kitava in Act 10 to have some more resists.

Leveling Uniques
See below for a few uniques which may make the leveling process easier. Most are pretty cheap even at league start, but some are only accessible for second characters and on:

General Tips
I typically play with a non-strict loot filter, and keep an eye out for items with the links I want (e.g. four blue links). Use an essence on these to turn them rare and probably usable. Keep essence of fears for wands, as they add a pretty significant amount of damage for your minions.

Levelling Trees (3.10)
25 Points
50 Points
76 Points
101 Points
Final: See PoB – 6(2). In between 100 points and the final tree, you will be trying to obtain a good set of cluster jewels, a medium thread of hope, and anoint Death Attunement onto a worthy amulet (generally +1 intelligence skill gems or better). A few regrets will be required.

The build is pretty flexible that you can aim for damage or life as you need it – no need to follow the trees perfectly. If you swap to elemental earlier for example, path to elemental equilibrium right away. If you acquire a Doryani jewel early, path that way. If you want to save on regret orbs later, don’t path to Ravenous Horde.

8. Gear

See below for my gear in 3.10. For gearing, just pick which level of currency you fall into. The gear tiers will be referred to a few times in the guide. Jewels, cluster jewels, and flasks will be in a separate section of their own. A progression summary will be at the end of this section recommending the order you acquire your gear. Note that you will require some dexterity and intelligence from gear.

(1) Mandatory Item

Triad Grips – These gloves allow for full conversion from physical to elemental or chaos damage based on the colors of the sockets. Elemental conversion is probably one of the most broken mechanics in Path of Exile, allowing for double dipping or taking full effect of items or auras. In our case, we get full benefit from the hatred aura, both the added portion as well as the more damage multiplier. In both PoBs, turning off hatred loses the build over half its damage.

Guide on how to get off colors on gear:

(2) You have: Just reached maps and very little currency (Level 1 Gear):
The first goal would be to max resistances and to try to get some life on your gear as this build does not need anything special. Some prefer a shield for resistances/life. Due to a Triad Grip being a unique item, it may not be available for cheap early league – there are no issues with starting out as physical skeletons and transitioning over to elemental conversion later on (see 8(13) for league start tips).

Your first major purchase should be a six linked chest – typically a tabula rasa or a corrupted rare with the correct six colors (3R3B, or 3R1G2B at league start). Life and other stats on top are nice, but may be too expensive at this point. A green socket (with hypothermia or impale if still physical) can also be substituted, but is not optimal for endgame for this build. While expensive, nothing in the game adds more DPS than an extra support gem for so little cost (relatively). The second purchase should be level 21 vaal summon skeletons. Six of the divination card “The Bones” will give the level 21 vaal summon skeletons gem and may be cheaper than buying the gem. Belt of the deceiver is a very nice unique early on due to intimidate (10% increased damage taken by monsters, resistances, and life. For a weapon, use the highest tier of Essence of Fear on hand on a convoking wand. The Jinxed Juju is a good budget amulet early on.

By the end of Level 1 Gear, you should have a six linked chest, level 21 vaal summon skeletons, 4,000+ life and capped resistances. This should take you through to yellow maps or so.

(3) You have: 1 to 5 exalts (Level 2 Gear)
Starting in this section, the gear will be broken down by slot. In general, as resistance per piece of gear goes up, start to switch some elemental resistances for chaos resistance, as chaos damage is far more prevalent in this league than in leagues past.

Helmet – Rare helmet - This is where we will be parking some of our non-skeleton minions which we want to keep alive. They are not here to do damage so Look for a helmet with +(1-3) to level of socketed minion gems, life, and an open prefix. Other useful stats: resistances, dexterity, and intelligence. The prefix is for a +1 to maximum number of skeletons craft, unlockable by unveiling veiled helmets. An alternative is a helmet with a great enchant on it.

Body – Six linked rare, with high life, possibly percent life and resistances. Alternatively, purchase a tabula rasa corrupted with +2 to level of socketed duration gems to raise the level of skeletons by +2. In 3.10 and on, it is no longer possible to craft +1 skeletons on body armor. Skeleton warrior colors: 3R3B; Skeleton archer colors: 1R2B3G, 2R2B2G, or 1R3B2G

Weapons – Two wands. Look for either +1 to level of all spell skill gems, or +1 to level of all minion skill gems. Both together is the set-up for Level 3 Gear, but so far is out of this level’s budget. You will also want other minion stats on the wands including minion damage, attack speed, minion movement speed, and life – in that order of preference. One wand should either have an open suffix for crafting Trigger a socketed spell when you use a skill, or already have that mod crafted. The Trigger wand may potentially cost double that of a full suffixes wand but will greatly increase quality of life and clear speed.

Gloves – Triad Grips – Four green sockets. Physical skeletons are better than lightning or fire variants.

Boots – Rare boots with life, resists (and/or dexterity), and movement speed. A nice enchant is a bonus.

Amulet – One of your bigger purchases at this level – a rare amulet with +1 to level of all intelligence skill gems. Depending on your budget, the other stats could be life, dexterity, or resists. Craft either life, a resist + chaos resist, or minion speed. The preferred base is turquoise (due to lacking dex/int on tree).

Rings – Rares with life, dexterity and resists. Prioritize chaos resistance.

Belt – Stygian Vise (or other belt) with high life and resistances. An alternative is Darkness Enthroned with two decent ghastly eye jewels.

Cluster Jewels – Likely not affordable in this tier

By the end of level 2 gear, you should have triad grips (4g), two +1 to skill gem convoking wands, a +1 to all intelligence skill gems amulet, 5,000+ life, and capped resistances including some chaos resistance. This is more than enough to kill awakening level 8 Sirus, Shaper, and other bosses depending on your skill level.

Rough break down of costs for 2-3 exalteds for shaper
Helmet: 10c, Body, 40c, Wands: 20c and 40c, gloves: 50c, Boots: 20c, Amulet, 1 ex, Rings, 20c, Belt, 20c. Cluster jewels are optional.

(4) You have: 6 to 50 exalts (Level 3 Gear)
You’ll start trying to consolidate resistances into fewer pieces at this point, focusing more on damage and/or survivability.

Helmet – Better version of the helmet in 8(3) - +3 socketed minion gems, life, an open prefix for a +1 to maximum number of skeletons craft, and non-terrible sufixes. An alternative is a rare redeemer influenced helmet (bone helmet base preferred) – Nearby enemies have -9 to cold resistance.

Body: A body armor with +2 to level of socketed duration gems is ideal here. Your search will start with this, either six linked, or not (if the stats are sufficiently good to six link it yourself at the bench for 1,500 fusings + 1,500 vaals). Stats to look for are high life, possibly percent life, and resistances. You can recolor corrupted body armors at the crafting bench with both vaal orbs and chromatic orbs. For skeleton warriors: Stay away from body armors with an evasion base, otherwise it will be near impossible to get 3R3B for colors at a reasonable price.

Weapons – Look for wands with both +1 to level of all spell skill gems, and +1 to level of all minion skill gems. You will also want other minion stats on the wands including minion damage, life, speed, and attack speed. One wand should have the Trigger a socketed spell crafted mod. Look for other minion mods.

Gloves – Triad Grips – Four green sockets – Look for a corrupted pair with 5-6% increased maximum life. You can recolor them with the method from 8(1), except that it will cost vaal orbs as well.

Boots – Rare boots with life, resists (and/or dexterity), and movement speed. A nice enchant is a bonus.

Amulet – Use an awakener orb to combine a hunter amulet with +1 to level of all intelligence skill gems and an elder amulet with +1 to maximum number of skeletons. Make sure there are no other hunter or elder mods on the base amulets! Craft life or a suffix (elemental + chaos resistance or minion movement speed) to finish. Another option with an open prefix & suffix is to craft prefixes cannot be changed, use a scouring orb on the amulet, and then multimod for life and a suffix of your choice (resistance + chaos resistance or minion speed usually).

Rings – Rares with life, dexterity and resists. Prioritize chaos resistance. If you’re happy with a certain ring, use some catalysts to either boost life or resistances.

Belt: Stygian vise with 90+ life, and high resistances. Use a fertile catalyst and then slam a hunter orb – you might just hit % life!

Cluster Jewels – Pick a up a copy of the jewels on the left side of the 6(2) PoB.

The upgrade over level 2 mostly comes from the two wand upgrades, a body upgrade, and just generally better gear with more life. At the pinnacle of this stage, you can do everything in the game comfortably.

(5) You have: 50 exalts+ (Level 4 Gear)

While there are many variations, here are some general goals to aim for. At this point, I would suggest swapping over to the setup in 6(3), or a mix between 6(3) and 6(2). Two large cluster jewels is a large DPS increase as you spec more into crit. Read through level 3 before you read this section as it refers back often.

Helmet – Good enchant + one of two options: Redeemer helmet for -9% Cold resistances to nearby enemies (along with +3 minion levels, life, open prefix, resistances), or a pseudo 7-9 link (slot skeletons here). This approach requires a hard to craft helmet (shaper/elder base, good enchant, and poor odds via fossils: glyphic, prismatic, and bound). An ideal version of this helmet below:

Body: Either the same body from level 3 gear, or just one with better stats. An alternative is to awakener orb a body, likely warlord for +1 level to active gems, and either +1 curse, 25% increased effect of offerings, or for Xibaqua players, 15% of physical damage taken as chaos. Unless you corrupt +1 gems or +2 to duration gems though, these will not offer as much damage as a simple +2 chest.

Wands: +1/+1 wands with minions deal 50+% increased damage. For those with open suffixes, you can potentially metacraft them and slam them with a redeemer orb to try to hit hatred. An alternative for the second wand is to path to necromantic aegis, and awakener orb a +2 minimum power & +2 minimum frenzy charges shield.

Gloves – Triad Grips – Four green sockets – Corrupted pair with 6% increased maximum life.

Boots – Rare boots with life, resists (and/or dexterity), and movement speed. A nice enchant is a bonus. If resistances are covered by other slots, consider one with +2 to socketed AOE, Aura, or +1 to all socketed gems to get hatred to level 25.

Amulet – Same amulet as level 3 but with life and generally better stats.

Rings – Rares with life, dexterity and resists. Prioritize chaos resistance. Minion damage (redeemer) and frostbite on hit (redeemer) are great bonuses. If you’re happy with a certain ring, use some catalysts to either boost life or resistances.

Belt: Stygian vise with 90+ life, and high resistances. Alternatively, darkness enthroned with two great ghatlys is higher damage, and headhunter is just fun in general.

Cluster Jewels – Two+ ideal large clusters and four+ ideal medium clusters. See cluster jewel section.

(6) Perfect gear and perfect double corruptions – Theoretical but impossible (Level 5 Gear)

It is hard to describe the perfect gear in text, so I put together a PoB (Patch 3.10) with the goal of maximum damage while maintaining the level of defenses discussed in section 12(3). See the PoB below for what I feel is ideal gear given infinite currency and infinite re-tries for double corruptions. Most of this gear is for reference only, though a few pieces (wands, gloves) are actually achievable. This build has twelve skellies x 126.9 million DPS = 1.52 BILLION DPS. Read the notes for explanations on configuration, etc. As a side note – for experienced players, creating a theoretical max build is a good way to see how your build can improve, and how close or far you are from “perfection,” and you may discover some cool interactions, or improve your build in a way you did not think of originally.

Not updated yet for 3.12, but there are some improvements I have in mind.

Four clusters can boost damage over 2 billion, but leaves survivability and quality of life behind.


(7) Jewels
Cluster jewels are described in subsection 8(9)

Possible gem choices
  • Thread of Hope – This is my favorite jewel for a lot of other characters that I have theorycrafted, usually able to get three or four keystones for next to nothing skill point wise. For this build, it is just used to save points when going for ravenous horde since it costs seven to path to ravenous and to get Cruel Preparation for cheap. Try to get one with as little resistance reduction as possible. See the following Pastebin for some cool Thread of Hope skips (note – not all of these are useful):
  • Ghastly Eye Jewel – I refer to “generic ghastly” a few times in this guide: This means 26+life and minion attack speed at minimum, with a third utility stat on top. One jewel should have “minions have X% chance to blind on hit with attacks” for another layer of defense, and another should allow minions to leech. Other useful stats are “minions have X% chance to taunt on hit with attacks,” “minions deal X% increased damage if you’ve used a minion skill recently,” flat damage, minion movement speed, chaos resistance, chaos resistance for minions, and resistances/attributes as needed. Flat damage does not add a lot of damage to minions and is often grossly overpriced, but if you can get one, every little bit helps. For those: phys>cold>lightning>chaos>fire. Most of your non-cluster jewels will be these generic ghastly.
  • Cobalt jewel with increased life %, minions deal X% increased damage, minions have X% increased attack speed (delve drop only), and an additional suffix. These are technically better than ghastly jewels, but are near impossible to get.
  • From Dust – cheap jewel that allows for 4 extra skeletons to be summoned per cast. Not required, but a nice quality of life addition that is easy to corrupt for the corrupted blood implicit. For those with mana problems due to skitterbots, this may make life easier.
  • To dust – cheap alternative to ghastly jewels. They are not as good since they do not have life on them but are fine when starting out on a budget and offer a little more DPS.
  • Fortress Covenant – Some like this jewel since it gives minions block and good increased damage. However, no life.

Highly recommended:
Glorious Vanity with “Doryani” (gives Corrupted Soul) or “Xibaqua” (gives Divine Flesh) in the description.

Doryani is the recommended one unless you can get over 85 chaos resistance and have points for a few small cluster jewels to increase max chaos resistance. The Doryani keystone changes pain attunement into “Corrupted Soul, which gives 20% of maximum life as extra maximum energy shield. At 6,000 life, this is 1,200 energy shield, nothing to scoff at. As a bonus, it also corrupts all of the minor travel nodes on the way as well, some of which are minion damage, aura effect, life, resistances, and movement speed. The full list of possible corruptions can be found here:

The jewel can be divined, but the name may be change, so it will take three divines on average to land a jewel with the same name.

The Xibaqua jewel is very nice with the addition of cluster jewels in 3.10 since you can now get to 89, or even 90 chaos resistance. It corrupts the keystone to Divine Flesh with the upside of basically +5-7 maximum elemental resistances, at the cost of zero energy shield (it’s still there, but useless). I ran one of these in 3.10, and feel extremely tanky, probably more so than if I ran a Doryani. However, you need a lot of chaos resistance, and ideally three “Born of Chaos notables from small cluster jewels or megalomaniacs.

My 3.9 Doryani Jewel illustrated:

(8) Flasks
Due to not needing flasks for damage (with one exception), this build is allowed to run five defensive/utility flasks to maximize playability and survivability. You will need to have at least three magic flasks in order to be immune to bleeding, freezing, and curses. I recommend the three “required” flasks and two “optional” ones. Where possible, try to get 26% on these via Hillock in research (betrayal content) My flasks, followed by the write-up:

  • Life flask – We are life based and without any crazy regeneration mechanisms, so a life flask could be a lifesaver. The best prefix is “bubbling” and the best suffix would be “of staunching” for bleed immunity. Blood of the Karui is an option to those who prefer it, but you would not have the staunching effect.
  • Quicksilver flask – Movement speed is a huge layer of defense, since if monsters cannot hit you, they cannot do damage. For maximum movement speed, the best prefix is “Alchemist’s” and the best suffix is “of adrenaline.” The adrenaline suffix has a range of 20-30%, with the 30% being quite expensive. If two unique flasks are run, then the suffix may have to be changed for one of the defensive ones.
  • Quartz flask – Two reasons for this – 10% dodge for both spells and attacks is another defensive layer, and phasing – super important so that you do not get stuck on enemy hitboxes. Roll heat or warding as a suffix, and increased duration as a prefix.

Optional – Choose two
  • Basalt flask – We do not have a lot of physical damage reduction. Get freeze immunity and either reduced charges or increased duration as a prefix.
  • Rumi’s concoction – For the triple offering version, this stacks on top of the bone offering block, taking you to almost max attack block while adding some spell block.
  • Granite Flask with increased armor, increased duration: Activate this flask before you cast vaal molten shell to get a huge amount of “guard.” 10,000+ is easily possible.
  • Bottled faith – enemies take 10% increased damage while on the consecrated ground created by this flask. This is for the rich guys who want to min/max damage and is especially helpful for crit variants.
  • Silver flask – if you want more movement speed
  • Mana flask – Not required outside of no regen maps – I keep one in my inventory as a swap for those maps.
  • Forbidden Taste – possibly as a panic button for those who like this flask. You will want max chaos res.
  • Atziri’s Promise – We run avatar of fire in one build variant -so you can equip a promise for the memes. It’s actually useful due to the chaos resistance funny enough.
  • Writhing Jar – for max DPS runs to get the Chieftains to cast their frenzy/power charges early.

(9) Cluster Jewels

Note: Vicious Bite and Precise Commander were nerfed in 3.11, and again in 3.12 – pictures are not updated yet. Vengeful commander was nerfed in 3.12, but it is still very good.

Cluster jewels offer a lot of DPS and utility at the cost of mostly minion life. The passive tree is full of weak minion nodes that had to be taken before due to a lack of choices, but cluster jewels offer a way around that. These have to be placed in the jewel sockets at the six outside jewel sockets of the passive tree. Large, medium, small clusters or any normal jewel can be put in these sockets. Mediums, smalls, and normal jewels can branch from a large cluster’s jewel sockets, and only smalls or normal jewels can be placed in a medium’s jewel socket. Due to these jewels going from moderately expensive to very expensive depending on rolls, one cluster is recommended for the base build, two for the crit build, and three (no PoB) if damage is more important than survivability. Four is the maximum possible but will result in a near unplayable build.

PoB 1: First Cluster Jewel Branch: One large jewel into two medium jewels into two generic ghastlys
The large cluster jewel should be the socket to the left of the tree since the pathing nodes give armor, an actually useful travel path.

Large Cluster Jewel: Added small passive skills grant: Minions deal 10% increased Damage
Important notables: Renewal, Vicious Bite, and two jewel clusters, ideally on a jewel that only has 8 passive points. To save on costs, a jewel with 9 or 10 passive points can be substituted, or another notable instead of Vicious Bites. For min-maxing, you want Renewal, Vicious Bite, Rotten Claws, and two jewel clusters on a jewel with 8 passive points. We do not pick Rotten Claws, but refer to the image above – by not picking it we save a passive point. Note that this jewel is very expensive.
Medium Cluster Jewel 1: Added small passive skills grant: Minions have 12% increased maximum life
Important notables: Renewal, Blessed Rebirth, one jewel socket: This should be pretty cheap. Blessed rebirth gives skeletons four seconds of invincibility upon being summoned, which means that Renewal’s double damage is active. Get one with 4 or 5 passive points.
Medium Cluster Jewel 2: Added small passive skills grant: 6% increased effect of non-curse auras from your skills
Important notables: vengeful commander, precise commander, one jewel socket.

Put a generic ghastly into each of the medium’s jewel sockets.

PoB 2: First Cluster Jewel Branch: One large jewel into two medium jewels into two generic ghastlys
The two sockets on the tree for large clusters should be the left and top left ones. Since two jewel sockets is for richer players, no substitutes for the below will be offered.

2 x Large Cluster Jewel: Added small passive skills grant: Minions deal 10% increased Damage
Important notables: Renewal, Vicious Bite, Rotten Claws and two jewel clusters, ideally on a jewel that only has 8 passive points. See the above images, but we do not pick rotten claws – it is just to save on passive points since it is always between the two jewel sockets.
1 x Medium Cluster Jewel 1: Added small passive skills grant: Minions have 12% increased maximum life
Important notables: Renewal, Blessed Rebirth, one jewel socket: This should be pretty cheap. Blessed rebirth gives skeletons four seconds of invincibility upon being summoned, which means that Renewal’s double damage is active. Get one with 4 or 5 passive points.
3 x Medium Cluster Jewel 2: Added small passive skills grant: 6% increased effect of non-curse auras from your skills
Important notables: vengeful commander, precise commander, one jewel socket. This jewel is more expensive so on a budget, drop precise commander for either Replenishing Presence or First Among Equals.

Put a generic ghastly into each of the medium’s jewel sockets.

Image with descriptions of all passives noted above:

(10) Additional Cluster Jewel Discussion (Advanced)

1. Why not fettle or other small jewels? Fettle gives 10% increased maximum life and +20 to maximum life, and the small node gives 4%. On a jewel with two passives (include the jewel socket), this is an average of less than 5% per node, making fettle a below average life node on the tree. A ghastly eye jewel gives roughly the same life as one node, with attack speed and other stats on top.

2. Megalomaniacs? All the content in the game can be completed without the use of megalomaniacs, but this jewel allows for large, medium and small jewel notables to appear on one jewel. The best megalomaniacs are shown off in the perfect gear setup in 8(6), but these will be (near) impossible to find in league. Even two notable megalomaniacs command ridiculous prices. I’ve tested what is theoretically the best combination: Vicious bite and Precise commander against an aura medium setup above, and the damage is about the same, but without the life and utility given from the ghastly eye jewel. My conclusion? Unless you get a great megalomaniac or want some niche notables, they’re too expensive for what they give.

3. Born from Chaos You need this node either on a small jewel or on a megalomaniac if you are running a Xibaqua Glorious Vanity. Each adds +3 max chaos res, up to a cap of 90.

(11) Enchants, catalysts, and anointments

Helmet: The best enchant with the triple offering setup is “flesh offering grants an additional 21% increased attack speed”, about 1.5% better (for my build) than the second best, and 2.7% better than the third best. The second best, but best for non-flesh offering users, is “skeletons deal 40% increased damage” and the third best is “150% increased effect of the buff granted by your carrion golems.” Other useful enchants would reduce skitterbots’ or hatred’s mana reservation.

Gloves: Whatever to be honest. Just make sure it does not do cold damage if you are not using avatar of fire.

Boots: Movement speed (favorite #2), attack or spell dodge, mana regeneration (favorite #1), or life regen per second

Ring Anoints: Whatever you like – I like meteor or scout towers personally

Amulet Anoint: Death attunement. With enough thread of hope shenanigans, Gravepact is also an option.

Catalysts: Either life or resistance catalysts for all pieces, whatever makes the most sense. These are expensive however, so ensure that you are using catalysts only on items that will not be replaced quickly.

(12) Progression summary
-Cap resistances with all rare gear
-Six link body with some life – 3R3B/Skeleton Archer colors.
-21/0 Vaal Summon Skeletons
-+1 to all spell skill gems convoking wand
-+1 to all spell skill gems convoking wand with trigger
-General gear upgrades – more life and resistances
-+1 to all intelligence skill gems amulet
-+2 Duration corrupted body
-Buy some cluster jewels
-Cheap awakened gems (get a start on leveling them)
-Cheap animate guardian setup
-+1/+1 wand without “trigger”
-+1/+1 wand with “trigger”
-Awakener Orb crafted amulet
-Better cluster jewels
-21/23 vaal summon skeletons
-Better animate guardian setup
-Awakened melee physical damage support
-Other awakened gems
-Upgrade wands again
-Awakened multistrike & bottled faith
-Vaal/altar amulets for hatred/+1 Curse
-Mirror level wands
-Finish decorating your hideout

(13) League Start
I recommend starting with classic physical impale skeletons at league start. Skeletons are a strong league starter due to not needing any uniques, having over a million DPS just by gems, links, and support skills in other sockets. See 14(2) for gem links and a sample PoB.

Recommended early upgrades:
-wands/scepters with the hybrid mod: “Minions deal 50-66)% increased damage” and “Minions have 5% chance to deal double damage.” Get one with an open suffix, and these should cost 1-5c apiece. Craft either trigger, minion attack speed, or mana regen onto the weapon.
-Pick up a six link with at most one green, and at 2+red and 2+ blue sockets. This should cost about the price of a divine orb and will be sold to a vendor for a divine orb once you are done with it. A red socket will be melee splash/multistrike based on activity, and the wildcard socket will either be melee physical damage, or
-Minion damage can roll on rings and gloves – if resistances are capped, you can add one of these items.
-Belt of the Deceiver is a solid early game belt.

Phys vs. Cold
Physical skeletons do comparable damage to cold skeletons in the early and mid-game, so there really is no need to switch if you like the playstyle. Follow the PoB in 14(2) in this case. However, cold skeletons far outscale physical skeletons in the endgame due to the ability to scale hatred, and access to crit builds while providing chilling and freezing in the early mid-game as an extra defensive layer.

When to Switch?
I personally usually switch before I face Sirus for the first or second times, since by then I have enough currency to purchase the triad grips, and possibly a cluster jewel or two to scale hatred a little more.

The guide continues in the following post!
3.12 ❆ Cold Skeletons guide:
Last edited by iLL3aT on Sep 21, 2020, 7:38:10 PM
Last bumped on Sep 23, 2020, 4:09:57 PM
Build Guide Part II

9. Gems

Due to the item choices, there is not much flexibility in where the gems are socketed. Gem levels are the suggested level at endgame, though if you can get a higher level/quality version, use that instead. Where there is 0 quality listed, it means that you can cut costs to get a 21/0 version for a lot less currency, though there may still be value in getting a 20 quality version.

(1)(a) Chest – Skeleton Warriors Variant:
Mapping: (Vaal) Summon Skeletons (21/23) | (Awakened) Minion Damage (21/20) | Predator (21/20) | (Awakened) Melee Physical Damage (21/20) | (Awakened) Melee Splash (21/20) | (Awakened Elemental Damage with Attacks (21/20)

If on a four link, drop the last melee splash and predator (formerly known as deathmark), and if on a five link, drop predator. Damagewise, this could be considered a 4.5 link, since melee splash does not add damage and only half of predator is active. Melee splash speeds up clearing significantly while freezing groups of mobs – try running maps without it, it does not feel nearly as good. Feeding frenzy can be put on other minions, but for mapping, it gives skeletons a charge skill. Once damage is no longer an issue, predator can be changed out for feeding frenzy support. Due to how conversion works in PoE, melee physical damage support is fully converted to cold damage.

Bossing: (Vaal) Summon Skeletons (21/23) | (Awakened) Minion Damage (21/20) | (Awakened) Elemental Focus (21/20) | (Awakened) Melee Physical Damage (21/20) | (Awakened) Multistrike (21/20) | (Awakened Elemental Damage with Attacks (21/20)

This setup is optimal for bossing since it gives five high tier support gems. If you are early on in the build and struggling with bosses, or just straight up want to delete them, I would suggest to swap to this variant for bosses only. This build does not lack damage even when in the mapping setup, so if you do not want to gem swap, you can just use the mapping set up for end game bosses as well. If you are mapping with predator, you can boss with predator too to minimize gem swapping.

(1)(b) Chest – Skeleton Archers Variant:
Mapping: (Vaal) Summon Skeletons (21/23) | (Awakened) Minion Damage (21/20) | Predator (21/20) | (Awakened) Greater Multiple Projectiles (21/20) | (Awakened) Chain (21/20) | (Awakened Elemental Damage with Attacks (21/20)

It is probably not possible to run this variant on any less than a six link otherwise the damage may be horrible due to the two green gems being less damage multipliers, yet you want them for clearing quality of life. Lesser Multiple Projectiles can be run instead of greater or a smaller less damage multiplier. Some players may also prefer pierce or fork over chain. I recommend not running two awakened green gems due to the less damage multipliers. Alternatives for predator to account for colors: Damage on Full Life (R), Slower Projectiles (G), Faster Projectiles (G), Cold Penetration Support (G)

Bossing: (Vaal) Summon Skeletons (21/23) | (Awakened) Minion Damage (21/20) | Predator (21/20) | (Awakened) Vicious Projectiles (21/20) | Hypothermia (21/20) | (Awakened Elemental Damage with Attacks (21/20)

Ranged attack minion builds unfortunately need to do a double gem swap for maximum efficiency (at their tasks anyways) Alternatives for predator (because it’s annoying to cast): Damage on Full Life (R), Slower Projectiles (G), Faster Projectiles (G), Cold Penetration Support (G), Elemental Focus (B).

(2) Helm – Support minions
Feeding Frenzy (21/0) | Elemental Army (21/20) | Carrion Golem or Raise Zombie(21/0) | Animate Guardian (21/0)

The main purpose here is for your support minions to stay alive, and with level 3 gear, you should end up with level 31 zombies or carrion golems, and a level 30 animate guardian all supported by elemental army and feeding frenzy. The other minion (golem/zombie) will either have to go into an unset ring or not used.

(3) Gloves – Green gems
Dash (12/23) | Phase Run (6/23) | Second Wind (21/20) | Enhance (4/0)

All gems here have to be green in order to fully convert minion damage to cold. Since getting enough dexterity is a hurdle for this build, I limited each gem to 100 dex – the same as a level 21 hatred gem. If your gear can handle it, phase run and dash can be leveled further. The new second wind support is very nice for fixing dash’s problems – enhancing survivability greatly and increasing mobility. Portal can be substituted for enhance or phase run if preferred.

(4) Boots – Auras, Spectres – Be sure to keep this as 2 two links and not a four link!
Hatred (21/20) | (Awakened) Generosity (21/20) | ]Raise Spectre (21/0) | Blood magic (20/0)

Since your character does not need hatred for its attacks, generosity increases the effectiveness of hatred greatly for your minions. For the second two link, spectres are linked to blood magic to enable the chieftain spectres to cast their abilities more often. I used to keep spectres in my wand, but found that too annoying since you could not weapon swap without having to re-summon all spectres. If this is kept in a full four link, then hatred will reserve half of your life instead of mana. If you are not using chieftains as your spectres, you do not need blood magic.

(5) Wand without “trigger a socketed skill” – Curse (or skitterbots), Exposure & EE
Frostbite (21/0) | (Awakened) Blasphemy (21/20) | Armageddon Brand or Frost Bomb (1/0)


Summon Skitterbots (21/0) | Bonechill Support(21/0) | Armageddon Brand or Frost Bomb (1/0)

Two choices here: Frostbite is nice because it lowers monster resistances, and is the easier to recommended option due to reserving less mana, increasing quality of life.

Skitterbots is the more offensive option, essentially making enemies take 36% increased damage while chilling them. The downside is that this reserves more mana than the other setup – I recommend a mana regeneration roll somewhere on your gear since a mana flask is not worth it. See 10(3) for advanced details on how Skitterbots work.

If frost bomb feels too clunky, Armageddon brand and dropping avatar of fire is an option. Three brands can be placed to activate EE and is quick to cast.

(6) “Trigger a socketed skill” wand – Offering and Optional
Flesh Offering (21/20) | Desecrate (1/0)| Enduring Cry (21/0)

Make sure desecrate is above flesh offering since the trigger wand goes from top to bottom. Enduring Cry is not cast by the trigger wand and is mostly here as a free slot. (Optional but recommended) Enduring cry heals 2,000+ life over two seconds and provides some physical damage reduction via endurance charges – other options below in the unset ring section.

(7) Unset rings (optional)
Various options here – convocation, portal, armageddon brand (for easier EE procs in frost bomb setup), steelskin, Vaal molten shell, carrion golem, raise zombie, possibly Frost Shield (new in 3.12 for the base crit chance). Summoners are notoriously socket starved, and an unset ring may help fit everything in..

10. Spectres, Animate Guardian, and discussions of other minions

(1) Spectres
Three spectres are normally available via gem levels and death attunement, but a fourth becomes available at gem level 25. Maximum theoretical damage is two host chieftains and two carnage chieftains for greater uptime on both power and frenzy charges respectively. Charges are much greater effectiveness on minions than on players. Some other setups would have two carnage chieftains, on host chieftain, and another spectre – options listed below:

Carnage Chieftain – grants frenzy charges (needs blood magic), found in the ashen fields (act 7)
Host Chieftain – grants power charges (needs blood magic), found in the ashen fields. (act 7)
Death Bishop – curses enemies with a -40% frostbite (6 second duration, 10 second cooldown), found in the catacombs (act 3)
Ruins hellion – uses rallying cry (10%? Increased minion damage), found in the quay (act 8)
Undying Evangelist – Proximity shield, found in the (upper) scepter of god (act 3)
Slave Drivers – High DPS and fast clear, but we do not scale lightning and has low life. Excellent for leveling, found in the control blocks (act 5)
Redemption Sentries – High DPS, high life, Physical to cold attacks with AOE. Found in redeemer influenced maps. The best spectre at not dying.
Arena Master – Beats its shield granting 40% movement speed, 40% attack speed, and 40% cast speed (4 second buff, 12 second cooldown). High life, but the sound is very annoying. Found in warlord influenced maps
Baranite Cleric – Aura that grants nearby allies 20% of physical damage as lightning. Tested – about 5% more damage so probably not worth it. Found in Crusader influenced maps.
They of Tul – Defensive spectre: Casts a swirling cloud that gives 15% reduced damage taken, 20% dodge each of attack and spell hits. Downside is that the visual is VERY annoying, especially stacked with delirium. Found in Tul breaches and Tul breachstones.

To summon a spectre, first kill the monster that you have chosen (you may have to put in elemental focus to avoid shattering them, and take out your offerings to avoid blowing up the corpse you want). Hold “A” on your keyboard and move around until you have the chosen spectre selected. Press your summon spectre button, and you will have your spectre! If your spectre ever needs to be resummoned, it should be in your desecrate pool in your hideout for a quick resummon.

Spectres used to be difficult to handle due to having to re-summon them at high monster areas, but this has changed with the 3.8 patch. Spectre levels are now tied to the gem level. In this set up with level 3 gear, the spectres at gem level 28 have a monster level of 84. Unfortunately some spectres die easily. To resummon them go to your hideout and press desecrate (you may have to move the gem from your trigger wand). Your hideout has a “spectre bank” containing the spectres you have used and saved.

(2) Animate Guardian
The animate guardian (“AG”) is made up of scarified piece of armor, keeping the stats and special effect of the armor, but cannot equip gems, jewelry, nor trigger most skills from gear. It can equip either two one hand weapons, a one hand weapon and a shield, or a two handed weapon. For armor, it can equip a helmet, body armor, gloves, and boots. The AG can be unsummoned by removing the gem from its socket, and resummoned with a click of the skill. If it dies however, all gear that it was wearing is lost forever, so it is recommended to gear to keep the AG alive.

There are three options for the AG: Cheap, Max DPS (or throwaway), and expensive. At level 2 gear, it may make sense to invest in the cheap AG, and at the higher ends of level 3 gear, invest in the expensive or throwaway versions. The grave intentions node on the passive tree (three points - optional) does a lot to keep the AG and other minions alive by providing chaos resistance, as well as 10% of their life as extra energy shield. Considering the high life totals of all non-skeleton minions, this is pretty significant.

Cheap AG - ~10c:
Weapon: Dying breath – Cheap weapon that gives increased effect of your curses plus grants nearby (75 units of distance) allies 18% increased damage.
Helmet: Leer cast – Grants 15% increased damage to nearby allies (75 units of distance)
Body Armor: Belly of the Beast – Gives life, elemental resistances, and looks cool
Gloves: Southbound – Gives life
Boots: Victario’s Flight – Gives you 10% increased movement speed

Expensive AG:
Weapon: Kingmaker – Expensive but amazing weapon that gives your minions +50% to critical strike multiplier, culling strike, and fortify. It gives the player fortify and +30% increased item rarity.
Helmet: Mask of the stitched demon – the key line is the phase “regenerate 1% of life per second per 500 maximum energy shield.” Some 3.9 math (HP has gone down significantly in 3.10+): My level 30 animate guardian supported by level 20 minion life has 140,000 life on PoB, and has grave intentions allocated. 140,000 x 10% from grave intentions = 14,000 energy shield. Mask of the stitched demon gives 1% life regen per 500, or 28% of life as life regeneration per second. 28% x 140,000 life is 39,200 life/second. This makes the AG virtually immortal outside of some exceptions to be discussed below.
Body Armor: Two options here: Rare chest with the crafted mod “Gain 9-10% of maximum life as extra energy shield,” or a garb of the ephemeral. The first option takes the 39,200 life/second from the mask of the stitched demon, and doubles it. The garb is more defensive for the player, since in a small (maybe 30 units?) radius, it provides immunity to enemy critical strikes and does not let you get slowed below your base speed.
Gloves: Vixen’s entrapments with elemental weakness on hit. With windscreams, a double corrupted vixen’s is an (expensive) option.
Boots: Victario’s Flight, or Windscreams for +1 curse.

Max DPS/Throwaway AG:
The expensive AG’s gear except that the Helmet is replaced by either a Crown of the Tyrant (green socket) or a redeemer influenced helmet with the “Nearby Enemies have -9% to Cold Resistance” mod. The best body armor is Garb of the Ephemeral.

Despite the expensive animate guardian being virtually invincible, there are a few places that the AG should be unsummoned for: Hall of Grandmasters and the Acid Caverns Map. Acid Caverns has a boss called Morgrants, the Deafening, which casts a variant of storm call of hit. With how many minions this build runs, the damage can potentially reach the billions, easily annihilating your AG. Against metamorphs, it is important to read all monster mods as well, since storm call on hit has appeared there before, wiping out my first AG in seconds.

The Throwaway AG gives the most DPS, but has a higher chance of dying, which means buying another kingmaker, garb of the ephemeral, etc. which can get expensive I it dies. Personally, I ran a throwaway AG in 3.10 and 3.11, losing one in 3.11 (no regen 100% delirium map) and two in 3.10 (Sirus and 100% delirium map).

(3) Other minions
This build also features up to eleven zombies and a carrion golem. The zombies’ role is to protect the player character from projectiles and stray monsters that wander too close. They add a decent amount of damage (in the millions), but next to nothing compared to skeletons. As such, no damage support gems are linked to them. The carrion golem adds a small amount of DPS to all minions (about 2.8% on my PoB). It can be cut for other gems if you prefer.

Support minions can be linked to gems that help out the main damage gem (skeletons). This includes elemental army (-10% elemental resistance for enemies), feeding frenzy (buff grants 10% more Minion Damage, 10% increased Minion Movement Speed and 10% increased Minion Attack, and Cast Speed”

Skitterbots shock enemies for 15-20%, and chill enemies for 10%. The chill procs bonechill support’s line: “Enemies in Chilling Areas from Supported Skills have Cold Damage taken increased by Chill Effect.” Since skitterbots gives increased chill effect and bonechill increases this further, this results in about 15% additional damage – combined with the shock, this is about 36% increased damage taken by enemies, and works on bosses. Credits to Keyen and wazzupdj for this suggestion.

11. How to play the build

(1) Playstyle
The playstyle is like a hybrid of a summoner and an aurabot.

Mapping: Run as fast as you can, while summoning skeletons in front of you. If monsters are ranged, run in a zigzag pattern or beside them (so projectiles will shoot behind you). Casting dash, phase run, and skeletons will be enough for you to proc your offerings. There is no need to cast frost bomb as mobs are typically not tanky enough to be worth the effort (if using that setup).

Metamorphs: Against scary metamorphs when under geared, you can cast Vaal summon skeletons, maximize your skeleton count, and then run away. Not the most elegant solution and the minions do not get your auras, but it is safe!

Bossing: Before the boss fight starts, summon all of your skeletons, then drop either frost bomb or your brand skill to proc EE. Two contrasting lines of thought: do not resummon skeletons too often (I have a bad habit) so that they can keep their frenzy and power charges; On the other hand, re-summon often enough that skeletons are at maximum HP for the renewal (cluster jewel node) damage buff.

Frost Bomb: This is a skill used to proc both exposure (-25% elemental resistance) and elemental equilibrium (-50% elemental resistance, “EE”). The first part of the skill, about four seconds of pulses, applies the exposure, and the explosion itself applies EE in its radius. The skill in this comes from having the explosion occur right after the boss becomes vulnerable so that it is also hit by one pulse of exposure. For mobile bosses, this may be a challenge so it may be better to drop the exposure and just focus on elemental equilibrium via an easier skill – Armageddon brand. Frost bomb does not usually allow for EE due to being a cold skill, but we have fully converted it to a fire skill by the keystone, avatar of fire.

Left Click: Patch 3.10 allowed for the binding of an instant skill to the left mouse button, casting it off cooldown while allowing the player to run without interruptions. I personally like phase run here, but other alternatives include enduring cry, convocation, or bone armor (from Bone Barrier).

(2) Map Mods
The build can handle all map mods. However, just because it can does not mean that you should run certain mods, since it may either kill you, or make the game too inconvenient:

-Elemental Reflect – Can be done by changing gloves, but is just too much trouble. Skip for convenience
-No regen – Mana can be offset by changing to a mana flask, but there is additional risk to the AG since it cannot regen life. Skip to save currency
-Temp chains – Annoying if you do not have a warding flask
-Chilled Ground – Annoying if you do not have a heat flask
-Combinations of a lot of damage mods – dangerous, and as a result, play safer on those.

12. Advanced Mechanics

This section is more advanced, so newer players do not have to read it. I have done quite a bit of math for this build, so some players may benefit from it, even for other non-minion builds.

(1) Hatred
As the core of the build, hatred deserves a section of its own. The gem at level 3 gear will be either level 23 or 24, and there is no difference between the two. Two levels come from +1 spell wands, one from awakened generosity, and a level 21 hatred is the last way to get over level 20. At level 23, the hatred gem grants 27% of physical damage as extra cold damage, as well as 19% more cold damage. The second part applies to the extra cold damage from the first part.

See the spreadsheet above. Since there is no other element converted to and chaos damage from spirit offering is negligible, the added portion of hatred is essentially a 27% more multiplier on its own. The full 127 is multiplied by the more multiplier (1.19) to get the total damage of the base minion plus hatred = 1.51. This means that a base level hatred with no increases to its effect is more or less a 51% MORE multiplier for our minions. Once you add some more effectiveness via generosity, corruptions, the skill tree, and redeemer suffixes on weapons, hatred’s effect can be increased to around from the 100% base effectiveness to somewhere around 340% (depending on glorious vanity). At that point, hatred is a 240% more multiplier instead.

I also ran another test, and compared a level 23 hatred vs. a level 25 one, when it hits the next breakpoint (28% phys as cold, 20% more cold). The increases can be seen in the final tab, and are pretty minimal considering the only way to get this would be either empower (the mana multiplier reserves an additional 12.5% mana) or a corruption for the boot. My conclusion was that it was not worth chasing for such a small increase.

(2) Distance

I lifted this image from the Path of Exile’s wiki page on distance (credits to rkiga). There are a few key distances to keep track of: hatred’s range, frostbite’s range, and the -9% to cold resistance on the helm.

Hatred: No real numbers despite my research from the internet. I had a friend test the distance with me and based on the above chart, hatred’s range is between 50 and 70.

Helm: Per the wiki, it has a range of 60

Frostbite: See the work done by rkiga: It looks like the radius of frostbite is probably somewhere around 40-50 units.

Kingmaker: Again, no concrete numbers, but from repeatedly running away from my animated guardian, the radius looks to be around 40 units.

Victario’s Flight: Per the wiki, it has a range of 50

Dying breath and leer cast: Per the wiki, it has a range of 75

Skitterbots: Base radius of 30 units, but moves around.

For reference, the player character is 15 units tall in this graphic.

In summary, for maximum damage, the player should be around 40 units away from the monster at most. Animate guardian may not be on top of you, so it may be better to be 20-30 units away for the skeletons to receive all kingmaker buffs.

(3) Layers of defense summarized
  • 6,000+ Life
  • 1,200+ ES with Corrupted Soul, or max chaos & elemental resistances from Divine Flesh
  • 10+ non-skeleton minions to absorb hits and projectiles
  • Fortify from kingmaker
  • No damage taken from monster critical strikes from Garb of the Ephemeral
  • Minions have a chance to taunt enemies on hit
  • Minions have a chance to blind enemies on hit (50% less chance to hit)
  • 4% physical damage reduction per endurance charge (max of 3) from enduring cry, with another 2%/charge upon activation, 15% from basalt flask
  • Option to add enfeeble/temp chains to the main build via glove corruption (three points for whispers of doom), and the other to the animated guardian
  • Flasks to prevent bleeding, chill, freezing, curses, as well as 10% attack and spell dodge
  • Chilling and freezing enemies. Bosses up to and including conquerors can be chilled.
  • Corpse destruction (anti-detonate dead) from freezing and shattering.
  • 50% reduced visibility when phase run is up
  • Vaal Molten Shell, steel skin, or bone armor available
  • Frost Sphere may reduce some damage if picked up.
  • 198% increased movement speed when phase run is up, 154% when it is not

(4) Cold vs Lightning vs Fire minions

Math to come at some point – it is pretty complicated

Cold vs Lightning vs Fire
Of the elemental variants, most of the scaling is pretty similar since all skill gems are generic for elemental conversion, and all curses are the same except for the name and ailment. Cold gets chilling and freezing, lightning gets shock, and fire gets ignite – the least useful of the three.

One major advantage of cold is frost bomb – it is the only source of exposure (outside of elemental army) that does not mess up EE. This is an extra 15% (25 – 10) in reduction of the enemy’s resistance (though again, frost bomb is annoying to play). Furthermore, all three variants still use hatred as the aura after testing wrath and anger for their respective elements. Cold is the only one that takes full advantage of the “more damage” part of the aura – once again proving it is the best for scaling. This is further improved by cluster jewels (vengeful commander).

The downside for cold is the gems since you have to use the shorter ranged dash instead of flame dash & faster casting combo for lightning builds, though the advantage is phase run. Fire builds are again the worst of the group since I cannot think of a useful set of four red gems.

13. Boss, Delve, T19, League Guides

I personally like poelab’s boss guides for a quick reference for certain attacks. There are multiple full boss guides to be found on YouTube as well. If a boss is not specifically mentioned here, treat it as a generic boss (see the How to play this guide section) except you may need to look up their specific mechanics.

(1) Sirus
Try to have as close to 75 chaos resistance as possible – use the Arakali Pantheon if necessary. If you are already chaos capped, Solaris is best but Lunaris also works if you are lazy to change. You will want a corrupted jewel (usually a from Dust) that has the implicit “corrupted blood cannot be inflicted on you” or at the least a staunching flask to prevent deaths from corrupted blood (the spinning laser).

For Sirus himself, summon minions, cast frost bomb/your brand and desecrate as necessary in between his attacks. Run circles around him, while staying perhaps 10-30 units of distance (see subsection 12(2)) from him to dodge lasers easier. If he teleports (sometimes followed by a die beam), follow the light trail from his teleport and get close again – never lose sight of him for more than a second.

Die Mechanic (Sirus says: “DIE”) – When Sirus says die, run/dash to his left or right. Staying close will help in dodging this mechanic.
Meteor mechanic – try to run out of the maze, following the red glowing indicators. If you cannot escape in time, activate guard skills, heal, and use your defensive flasks – this build can tank the meteor sometimes.
Corridors Mechanic –teleport through him and out of the corridor since he takes 80% less damage during this phase now. Skeletons and zombies no longer absorb the projectiles so there is no point do DPSing during this phase.
Four clones (Sirus says: “Everlasting fire”) – Phase four only: Position yourself beside the main Sirus (follow your minions), and follow the spinning laser beams while dodging his attacks. Touching a beam will apply corrupted blood and an action speed slow.
Circle clones (Sirus says: “Feel the pain of the void”) – Keep running circles, and right before the says “the void”, teleport to the left or right of Sirus since the beam just fires straight.
Storms – Let them fully spawn, then run back under Sirus once they are out of the way.

(2) Aul
Deepest Aul killed by this build: 838 in 3.9 (did not delve in 3.10 and on).

Aul is by far the hardest boss in the game, unable to be instantly phased at deeper depths. This is due to his high health, high mobility, high damage, and punishing mechanics that scale very hard with delve mods. Some items to make the fight easier may be boots with the “cannot be frozen” mod, as well as a Taste of Hate flask to reduce cold/physical damage taken. Unlike normal bosses, I would recommend the boss gem setup, except that feeding frenzy is left on skeletons and meat shield on the zombies link. This is for two reasons: to freeze mobs during the mobs phase, as well as to chase the very mobile Aul to actually do damage.

General tips: Remain mobile throughout the fight while dropping frost bomb and desecrate to keep auras up. Against increased AOE and faster Auls, it may make sense to sacrifice a portion of the room during the pillar phase if you are bad at dodging his projections like me. His most dangerous attack is the “crystalline arc” – watch Aul for when he puts his sword in front of his left arm on stops. This is your cue to either get behind him or to get far away to dodge in between the projectiles.

(3) General Delve Guide
This build is capable of delve depths of 1000+. It is a strong delver due to being cold based, with the freeze affecting multiple enemies with melee splash. With so many minions, a majority of the enemies hit will be frozen, making delve much safer than with a non-cold build. When moving between nodes, the goal is not necessarily to kill them all at lower depths but to just get through them. This is done through killing, freezing, and sometimes just running through them. For particular difficult nodes (extra projectiles, tons of damage/speed mods), the best strategy may be to just use a quicksilver flask with phase run and run to a relatively safe spot to wait for cooldowsn, before doing it again.

For most lower level (sub 600) nodes, it is possible to just activate vaal summon skeletons, summon skeletons, and then find a place to hide until the node is over. At deeper depths, the monsters are able to kill the vaal skeletons, so it requires a more active playstyle – summoning while running around with all defensive flasks activated. With the layers of defense we have, especially the freeze from our minions, this is very safe most of the time.

Stay away from fungal cavern biomes if your chaos resistance is not high – the when the enemy zombies die, they deal high amounts of chaos damage.

(4) Tier 19 Maps Guide
Patch 3.9 introduced ivory watchstones to the game, three of which add +1 to monster levels in the area (terror, stalwart defenders, and misinformation). For tier sixteen maps, in addition to the general monster scaling for life and damage, the three ivory watchstones also have their own mods, increasing monster damage, life, and “modifiers” – essentially all of the affixes on a rare map. When combined with awakening level eight, map mods are essentially 1.5x as hard, but with item quantity to match. The purpose of these are usually to farm high level shaper and elder bases such as iLevel 86 elder bone helmets, though some do it for experience. Since the ivory watchstones are expensive, it is a good idea to add on a fourth ivory watchstone (War Among the Stars for shaper/elder mobs, or Booming Populace for larger mobs), sextants, scarabs (typically Breach, Harbinger, Elder/shaper, and one other – divination cards, unique, strongboxes), and Alva.

Regular mobs are not much different from a tier sixteen, though with more health – have your skeletons freeze them like any other mob. Rares and bosses are tougher, and may have to be treated as if you are fighting an end game boss except without the gem swap. The metamorph is the biggest difference (see the fight in videos), as it has a ridiculously high amount of HP, on top of spawning mobs and moving around. I suspect some T19 metamorphs have more HP than shaper. This is where the advantage of playing minions can come in handy – you can summon your minions and retreat to a safe distance, until the metamorph is dead.

100% delirious maps are a similar concept – higher damage higher HP mobs in exchange for extra loot.

(5) Heist Guide
The biggest thing to focus on in heists is movement speed – getting in and out as fast as possible. There is not much to write on concerning the infiltration section, but here are some tips on the escape phase:

Escaping: Focus on maximizing movement speed, movement skills, being as tough as possible, and having phasing as much as you can. One of the first major upgrades would be flasks – see 8(8), but I would stress having an optimized quicksilver, quartz, basalt, and life flask, and having them used off cooldown while escaping.

Phase run (linked to second wind for the cooldown reduction) bound to left click adds some speed and phasing as well. Time enduring cry when running by rare/unique mobs for another layer of safety. Another recommendation is to switch at least one spectre to arena master. He casts a +20% movement speed buff that lasts about four seconds, with a 12 second or so cooldown.

Fortified areas: Behind doors, there will sometimes be a large mob of guards in wait, ready to one shot the player character if they walk through normally. The best solution for this is to pre-summon skeletons (clearing setup, with melee splash) at the door, prepare all damage buffs (offerings, brands at the door, etc.) and let the skeletons go in first to lessen the enemy numbers. The player character should then activate all defensive buffs (flasks, guard skill if any, enduring cry when close to a rare mob), and dash twice right after the mob attacks.

14. Other setups worth considering

(1) Magic Find Variant
With a lot of flexibility in gear and the fact that skeletons scale largely due to minion levels, gems, and hatred, some items can be swapped out with item quantity gear if you so choose.

Both rings can be replaced with Ventor’s Gambles (the resistance is needed, otherwise Pariahs would be better)
The necklace can be replaced with a shaper/hunter awakener orb’d necklace with +1 to intelligence gems, 10% item quantity(IIQ), and crafted life. A bonus stat is movement speed.
The belt can be replaced with a string of servitude with IIQ.
The boots can be replaced with Goldwyrms.
A wand could be replaced with Sentari’s Answer
Rumi’s (since we no longer run bone offering) can be exchanged for a divination distillate.

(2) Physical Skeletons Variant
PoB – based on 6(2)’s, but replaced with physical skeleton gems, gear, etc.:


Hatred-Generosity gets replaced by pride
Blasphemy-Frostbite/Skitterbots-Bonechill get replaced by Dread Banner-Generosity and Flesh and Stone-Maim (this works similar to skitterbots).
Elemental Damage with Attacks gets replaced by Brutality
Predator/Elemental Focus get replaced by Impale
Cluster Jewels: Only one set of clusters needed: Large: Rotten Claws, Renewal, something else. One medium would be a megalomaniac with rotten claws and optionally some kind of life notable. The other would either be an aura medium with first among equals and another aura effect notable, or a curse based one.
The tree does not have to path to EE, and can go elsewhere.

The main reason that phys skellies are good is impale – the whole impale package is pretty easy to slot in while adding in a ton of damage. This makes phys skeletons good for league start and in the midgame, and is more beginner friendly. The downsides are that it cannot scale as hard with cluster jewels and scale crit in particular since Aura clusters without vengeful are poor value. It also lacks the safety of freezing (aka corpse removal, safety from porcupines) and chilling.

(3)Triple Offering Variant
This variant was fun to play in 3.9, but with the Spirit offering nerf in 3.10 and Mistress of Sacrifice nerf in 3.12, is unfortunately dead. If interested, leave me a note in the comments and I’ll send the legacy instructions over.

(4) More Defensive Options
While my personal philosophy is that offence is the best defense and that whatever is dead is less threatening, I know many would prefer to have additional defensive layers and options. Below are a few ways to beef up your defense.

A stone golem (133 life regen per second at level 25) or a chaos golem (5% physical damage reduction at level 25) can be substituted in place of the carrion golem. Opportunity cost – about 3-5% damage.

A rare or unique (recommended: Lioneye’s Remorse, Ahn’s Heritage, or The Surrender (expensive)) shield can be substituted in place of one of the wands to add life, resistances, block chance, among other defensive options. Opportunity cost – dependent on budget, but relatively small with lower levels of gear, and high when at higher levels.

Physical Damage Taken as X
Physical damage is one area of vulnerability, with only bone barrier and a flask to mitigate it. There are a few influence mods on body armor and helmets that convert physical damage to elemental of chaos damage, of which 75% is mitigated by resistances. A flask can also be changed over to Taste of Hate. Opportunity cost – Probably a +2 duration chest (~20% damage and minion life), potentially a flask slot.

Defensive Curse
Either temporal chains or enfeeble can be applied via blasphemy instead of frostbite. Opportunity cost – frostbite.

Flesh and Stone
At the cost of 25% mana reservation, you take ~10% less damage from non-nearby enemies, and nearby enemies are blinded (though your minions should already do this). Opportunity cost – Probably have to switch a ring to an unset ring, skitterbots cannot be used, and frostbite would have to be applied by hextouch support.

15. Crafting Guide

(1) +1/+1 Convoking Wands
You will need a four socket resonator, a corroded, jagged, metallic, and shuddering fossil. You will also need an uninfluenced convoking wand; ilevel 72 if you want the best odds of hitting +1/+1, or ilevel 84+ if you want a chance of hitting 79% minion damage, +1/+1 as prefixes. The latter can potentially be crafted into a mirror tier wand

---Rest of this section is WIP--- Let me know what you want help crafting.

16. F.A.Q.s


What is the use of Avatar of Fire?
Frost Bomb: This is our skill used to proc both exposure (-25% elemental resistance) and elemental equilibrium (-50% elemental resistance, “EE”) in the 6(3) PoB. The first part of the skill, about four seconds of pulses, applies the exposure, and the explosion itself applies EE in its radius. The skill in this comes from having the explosion occur right after the boss becomes vulnerable so that it is also hit by one pulse of exposure. For mobile bosses, this may be a challenge so it may be better to drop the exposure and just focus on elemental equilibrium via an easier skill – Armageddon brand. Frost bomb does not usually allow for EE due to being a cold skill, but we have fully converted it to a fire skill by the keystone, avatar of fire.

17. Update Log

It’s been updated!

18. Credits
Brokensaint7 – Guild leader of “<°v°>”, PoE encyclopedia, and person who introduced me to the game. He says “bodies”
Keyen and wazzupdj: Suggested skitterbots and bonechill interaction found in subsection 8(5)
Viperesque – for the original skellies guide:
Dawnz – for the guide on post formatting:

3.12 ❆ Cold Skeletons guide:
Last edited by iLL3aT on Sep 22, 2020, 8:45:10 PM
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IGN- Brokensaint
Well, I know what I'm playing next league.

This is a stellar guide - elemental scaling is completely and utterly absurd.

Are you able to skip phases on bosses reliable with this DPS? I noticed that when playing Physical/Impale Skeles there was a "wind-up" of sorts while vulns/curses/impales/multistrikes applied and, as a result, damage started slow and then over about five seconds or so, would ramp up very quickly to max.

The problem being, of course, that this gives bosses plenty of time to invuln - with only 25m DPS, and without a lucky crit or a very early impale, I almost always end up getting forced into phase transitions (especially obnoxious on, say, Shaper).

Has this been your experience with this build as well?
drewmcduffy wrote:
Well, I know what I'm playing next league.

This is a stellar guide - elemental scaling is completely and utterly absurd.

Are you able to skip phases on bosses reliable with this DPS? I noticed that when playing Physical/Impale Skeles there was a "wind-up" of sorts while vulns/curses/impales/multistrikes applied and, as a result, damage started slow and then over about five seconds or so, would ramp up very quickly to max.

The problem being, of course, that this gives bosses plenty of time to invuln - with only 25m DPS, and without a lucky crit or a very early impale, I almost always end up getting forced into phase transitions (especially obnoxious on, say, Shaper).

Has this been your experience with this build as well?

Thank you for the kind words!

In regards to bosses - mostly yes, and you can refer to that Sirus video. Sirus usually does not get a chance to do meteor, walls and bowling balls, or the four clone mechanics. Shaper is more tricky though - for phase two in particular it seems he always does a red bubble phase at the start of it, and sometimes during phase three as well.

For fast DPS, it depends on how well you hit the frost bomb - if you get EE and exposure down very quickly, then the boss should melt. The scale up portions mostly come from the monkeys being pretty slow to cast their shouts for charges.

On a side note, I like the way you managed to get Xibaqua working and the additional layer of safety that provides. I believe you can get +1 chaos res as a corrupted notable on the glorious vanity.
3.12 ❆ Cold Skeletons guide:
Very detailed and strong build! Thank you for it !!!
One question, what is it for, Paine Attunement?
ssHozjaina wrote:
Very detailed and strong build! Thank you for it !!!
One question, what is it for, Paine Attunement?

Thank you!

The Doryani glorious vanity changes pain attunement to corrupted soul, adding 20% of max life as extra ES. Here is a wiki page on corrupted soul

For more details (I’m on my phone), refer you the passive tree notes - 6(3) and the jewel section 8(7)).
3.12 ❆ Cold Skeletons guide:
This build is the most insane boss killer I saw in action, the endgame is turned into a joke, Good job on the build bro <3.

Looking foward to play it in 3.10
Last edited by Senti3nt on Feb 20, 2020, 10:58:06 PM
Thanks Senti3nt - always a good time playing with you =)

Feb 23. 2020: Added 12(4), comparison of elemental minions, 13(1-4), Sirus, Aul, Delve, and T19 maps.
Added 14(1): magic find variant, a few pictures, and two new videos (T19 map, Cortex).
Added 8(12) & 8(13): progression guide and an optional wand to mirror. Some general formatting updates
3.12 ❆ Cold Skeletons guide:
Cool builds and very nicely written guide, thanks.

Might play league as 3.10 leaguestarter :-)

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