Path of Exile Witch Summoner Build / Guide by Teucer.
There always seems to be a lot of chatter in General Chat concerning the Summoner Build, and I guess for good reason. For a starting character seeking to get used to the game mechanics as well as the Passive Tree, the Summoner is probably the easiest of the starter builds is probably the least gear dependent.
The first thing I should probably get out of the way is that while the Summoner is a "relaxing" build in that you'll find rarely find yourself in a situation you can't get out of, it's not an "I WIN!" button. By that I mean you're not going to summon a mess of zombies and skeletons and just sit back while they clear the map for you. Your minions are basically tanks, and rather weak ones at that, who will hold the enemies' attention while you hang back and safely nuke at a distance. This means, of course, that you're going to have to choose which nuke to toss in. Pretty much anything will work so go for whatever best fits your playing style. I use Firestorm with a Chance to Ignite support gem which works well for me.
Most people seem to have the opinion that the Summoner Build doesn't become workable until level 35, but truthfully if you treat it right it starts to come into its own much earlier. Now as you can tell by the title, my example is a "Quick ad Dirty" build with no frills and only a few requirements in regards to gear.
Build at Level 25: http://www.pathofexile.com/passive-skill-tree/AAAAAgMBAuMHYxEtJwso-iq6LJxGcUjnSbJXK2vbc1N8g4LHjr6PRpMnlSCboacItAy4k8360NDr7vsJ_kk=
As you can see, you don't have to go to level 35 to get an idea how the build progresses. At level 25 you're pretty much done as far as the "Quick and Dirty" part goes. From this point you're basically going to be refining the character to fit your play style, and you'll be very well established in your Passive Tree for wherever you want to go. You are only a couple nodes from Chaos Inoculation, you're right at most of the "Minion Buff" nodes which also give you more zombies and skeletons to play with, and you're even well established to begin boosting your own spell power if you're looking at being a Nuke specialist with minions giving you the time and space you need. Completely up to you.
Now for the rundown on the early gameplay of this build. As you can see, you'll have the "Lord of the Dead" node enabled almost immediately (4 passive skill points) which will give you 4 Zombies to play with and once you open the glyph door in the Mud Flats you'll have 6 zombies to go along with them. Trust me, this is plenty for now. Gameplay is simple:
- Step 1: Summon 4 zombies.
- Step 2: Let your zombies charge enemy and hold them while you nuke away.
- Step 3: Summon new zombies as needed.
- Step 4: Repeat.
What about the skeletons? The skeletons are your "Ace in the Hole." They are SLOW so you're not going to cast them and let them follow you around like you do the zombies. They have two basic uses:
1) For emergency situations when there aren't any corpses strategically placed to raise as zombies.
2) Boss fights.
By "Boss Fights" I mean you're going to stand well back and cast Summon Skeletons right on top of the boss. The 6 skeletons will surround the Boss, keeping him pinned while you nuke. This works amazingly well for bosses that don't have a "Movement Skill" such as Oak's "Leap Slam". For those bosses that do have a "Movement Skill" you'll have to change tactics to deal with them.
Now for the bad news. Minions are weak and do little in the way of damage. This can be helped a great deal with Auras. Personally I prefer the "Wrath" aura because it uses little in the way of mana compared to other auras and the Lightening Damage compliments my Firestorm nuke well. Since you're going to be standing back from your minions, you'll need the three "Aura Range" nodes you notice I have activated in the Passive Tree.
As I stated previously, the Summoner Build is not very gear dependent. Sure, there is equipment that will boost your minions a level or two, but frankly that's just icing. In fact, early in the game you're not even really worried about sockets and links much at all because your minions will work just fine unmodified and you only need one "nuke" spell.
Wands and Spirit Shields, obviously. Sure, there are some excellent staves out there, but frankly the + Spell Damage % is much more useful than the + Block % since finding yourself in melee range of monsters is a very rare event. Don't worry about the level of the Wands and Spirit Shields, just the + Spell Damage % (which can easily reach +30% early with two wands or a Wand and Shield.)
Sockets and Links:
You'll be looking for two things to start off with. A 2L and a 3L blue. The 2L will be for your nuke coupled with a booster support gem (such as Firestorm and Chance to Ignite) and the 3L will be for your zombies and the dream that you'll be able to find/beg/borrow/buy the two best Minion Support Gems; Minion Speed and Minion Life. If you don't have them already and can't get them, don't worry. They help quite a bit, but not having them won't break your build.
For the rest of your gear you'll probably be focusing on three things.
1: Mana Pool. Believe it or not, Summoners don't burn through mana nearly as much as other builds because they smmon well before the fights, but they still need it... A bigger Mana Pool is always a good thing, but remember that usually +Int is better than +Mana. +Int not only increases your Mana Pool but your Energy Shield as well.
2: Farmer Gear. That's right, Summoners are great farmers because minions take care of most of the things other builds have to worry about. That means you can concentrate on boosting your +Item Rarity and +Item Quantity as high as you can get them. Later in the game you may run into the Item Rarity and Item Quantity support gems you can attach to your nuke.
3: Mana Regeneration.
Q. You talk about Firestorm, are other nukes viable.
A. Yes. I prefer Firestorm because of its ability to be cast around corners, but other nukes are certainly viable. In fact, there are a multitude of people who will argue THEIR nukes are more viable for a Summoner build than Firestorm, and make very good arguments too. Firestorm is merely my personal choice.
Q. Why didn't you talk about the Spectre?
A. Spectres are just plain too controversial. Let's say I did bring up Spectres and gave my opinion that monsters that Flickerstrike or Poison Arrow make the best Spectres, can you imagine the arguments that would follow?
Q. Your Passive Tree ignored all the Minion Buff nodes, why?
A. Because I am focusing on the "Quick and Dirty" Summoner Build. In other words, a passive tree that builds quickly and gets people into position to easily go for a variety of different Summmoner sub-Builds. If they wish to go "pure" summoner they're already at several "branches" that boost their minions. If they want to go elemental, they're close to those nodes as well. Even if they want to experiment with CI they're not only almost there, but they're at the both sides of the "Energy Shield Circle" as well.
Q. Why did you detour to Minion Instability?
A. It's only a 5 node detour, and the benefits of Minion Instability far outweigh any inconvenience of waiting 5 more levels to boost your auras.
Q. What about totems?
A. What about them? I love totems... However, the Spell Totem is level 31 and by that time you'll be building to your own specialty Summoner Build.
Q. Where do I go from here?
A. Entirely up to your playing style. If you find you need your nukes to burn through enemies faster, build up the respective spell powers. If you find your minions are dropping too fast for comfort, go for "Minion Swarm" by activating all the +1 Zombie/+1 Skeleton nodes you're already next to (which will give you 7 zombies and 9 Skeletons to play with.) You can head for CI and the "Energy Shield Wheel" to make your character more survivable in Cruel and Merciless, or even start stacking Life nodes to get ready for Righteous Fire.
Q. What about the rumored "desync" issues of Summoners.
A. Truthfully, I've had more problems with my Marauder's "Physical Build" than with my Summoner. Try a Marauder with Heavy Strike linked to Life Leech and Attack Speed along with a stacked Attack Speed gear (otherwise known as "Stunlock Marauder" or "Boss Killer") and you'll see what I mean. As far as Summoners go, I've never really had a desync issue with the 4 Zombie / 6 Skelly combo, but I've heard it becomes an issue with Summoners that use "Minion Swarm". I've never seen the need to have 18+ minions active at once, so I really couldn't confirm or deny that.