Learning to play Path of Exile can be a deeply enjoyable and rewarding experience, but with the many playstyles and seemingly infinite build variations available comes a level of depth and complexity that can leave even the most dedicated ARPG veterans in need of a little direction.
While creating your own build and experimenting can be one of the most engaging aspects of PoE, until you have a firm grasp on the game’s systems it’s strongly recommended that you opt to play something more reliable. That is, one which is capable of both league-starting and scaling efficiently into late-game content once you’ve managed to grind enough currency to invest into it. The Cyclone Impale Champion Duelist build checks these boxes, and — since it’s viable across all modes of play from softcore trade through hardcore SSF (Solo Self-Found, i.e. no trading server) — is one of the more forgiving builds for beginners.
Leveling This Build
We’ll be leveling with Frost Blades and then later Bladestorm before finally transitioning into Cyclone. As a melee build it’s important to keep your gear up to date with the latest base weapons available from vendors and from loot drops as you progress through the acts.
You’re looking for one-handed axes with both the flat physical damage and percent increased physical damage mods, preferably with some attack speed. Feel free to try your hand at crafting your own as you amass crafting currency. Essences and Orbs of Alchemy are fairly common and you’ll eventually get something usable if you throw them at every good base you find.
It’s also important to keep your elemental resistances capped as much as possible. Chaos resistance isn’t as important, but is still nice to have. The crafting bench can be accessed from your hideout after Act 2 and it can turn a dodgy rare item that has a couple of stats you want into something more usable by adding something like a life or resistance roll to it, once you’ve found the relevant bench-crafting recipes.
Gearing doesn’t matter as much in the early game, but Path of Exile can really punish you for not having enough life and resistances later down the line. Generally speaking, items worth considering in the later acts (with the exception of your weapons) will have, at the very least, a decent life roll backed up by two elemental resistance rolls.
Skill Tree Build for Early Game
When first starting off follow the above skill tree which will get you through your first 34 points.
Best Unique Gear for Leveling
If it’s not the first few weeks of a league, you can probably buy a Tabula Rasa for about the price of a Divine Orb (i.e. a currency item that re-rolls the values of modifiers on an item), which should be about 10-15 Chaos Orbs (another currency item which re-rolls the modifiers on an item), otherwise it’ll be a lot more expensive. While a Tabula is definitely not required to level this build, it will help you out a lot and allow you to transition into your late game gem set-up a lot earlier. If you don’t know, the Tabula Rasa is a unique item which has no defense, but comes with six linked white sockets. This means you can put gems of any color in it and forget about having to worry about the socket colors as you level up.
If you are starting in a league, or if you’re playing SSF (Solo Self-Found) and can’t purchase one, consider obtaining one by farming the Humility divination cards from The Blood Aqueducts or Vanity divination cards from Vaal side areas. Due to the builds innate tankiness you can keep using Tabula Rasa well into yellow maps and even early reds.
After Tabula Rasa, Goldrim is easily one of the most – if not the most – commonly used leveling uniques, and it’s easy to see why. It offers up a ton of resistances and is wearable from the start. Picking up one of these for one or two Chaos Orbs can make it much easier to hit your resist cap while leveling.
If you’re having mana issues while leveling Praxis is a solid option and can usually be picked up for a single Chaos Orb.
What Gems to Use As You Level Up
During Act 1 you can pick up Frost Blades as soon as you enter Lioneye’s Watch for the first time. Do so, but hang on to the Double Strike you start out with as it has better single target DPS until you kill Brutus. It should be supported by Ruthless and Chance to Bleed. After Brutus, switch to an Ancestral Call–Onslaught-Frost Blades link but swap to Ancestral Call-Maim-Frost Blades for bosses.
Lastly, don’t forget to grab Leap Slam once it becomes available after the upper prison to help us get around faster.
After killing The Weaver, talk to Silk and he’ll give us Faster Attacks to add to our Leap Slam. We also pick up Melee Physical Damage and Close Combat, socket them in on your alternate weapon slots if possible. Gems will still gain EXP in these slots even when you have your main weapon set equipped.
Killing Gravicious in Act 3 rewards the Bladestorm and Cyclone skill gems. Start using Bladestorm immediately instead of Frost Blades. You’ll want it supported by Close Combat, Melee Physical Damage, and — once you’ve completed the quest in The Library — Fortify.
You can now also switch your War Banner out for Dread Banner and your Ancestral Protector for Ancestral Warchief.
In a switch from the norm, get an Enfeeble support but make sure you don’t level it up past gem level five.
Act 4 and Beyond
Here you’ll get Stone Golem and Brutality as quest rewards. The latter becomes available from the Act 4 skill gem vendor after defeating Malachai. You can also snag a Damage Taken support and link it to Enfeeble. Be sure to keep the Cast when Damage Taken at level 1 and the Enfeeble at or below level 5 in order to have them activate as frequently as possible.
Once you have a 5-Link you can drop Melee Physical Damage support from your Bladestorm and replace it with Impale support. Alternatively you can run Cyclone on a 5-Link; your link should be Cyclone-Brutality-Pulverize-Impale-Fortify.
Skill Tree Build for Mid-Game
As you progress through the campaign, the above skill tree will get you through 60 skill points.
Late Game Gem Links
This is what your gem links should look like towards the end of Acts.
6-Link: Cyclone, Impale, Fortify, Close Combat, Brutality, Pulverize
2-Link: Leap Slam, Faster Attacks
4-Link: Ancestral Warchief, Melee Physical Damage, Brutality, Multiple Totems
2-Link: Level 1 Cast When Damage Taken, Level 1 Enfeeble
2-Link: Flesh and Stone, Maim
Additionally you’ll want to run the following unlinked skill gems: Blood Rage, Blood and Sand, Herald of Purity, Dread Banner, Molten Shell, and Stone Golem.
The golem is optional and some players don’t like them as enemies will occasionally target your golem with their skills instead of you, making enemy behaviors less predictable. If you don’t want to run it there are other options. For example, you could consider running Dash and Second Wind for more mobility or Abyssal Cry for endurance charge generation.
If you’re running Kaom’s Roots you’ll have four less sockets to work with. Fortunately dropping the Stone Golem and Faster Attacks gems to accommodate this gear choice doesn’t lose us a noticeable amount of power.
Bandits, Pantheons & Ascendancies
We choose to help Alira during the Deal with the Bandits quest in Act 2 for the bonus Critical Strike Multiplier and +15% to all elemental resists. Alternatively you can choose to kill all three bandits for two bonus passive points.
For ascendancies take Master of Metal > Conqueror > Worthy Foe > First to Strike, Last to Fall
Your pantheon options are flexible and will depend on what content you’re currently doing most but Soul of Lunaris as a major pantheon for more physical damage mitigation and soul of Shakari for poison immunity as your minor pantheon are solid choices.
Endgame Gear Build
Belly of the Beast is a solid and inexpensive chest that gives us a valuable 10-15 percent boost to all elemental resistances and 30-40 percent increased maximum Life. While not quite as good as a very well crafted rare armour base chestpiece it’s low price tag and well-roundedness make a 6-Linked Belly a solid late-game goal for this slot.
Kaom’s Roots provide us a solid chunk of survivability as well as knockback immunity and stop our global action speed being reduced below its base value (read temporal chains and freeze/chill immunity etc.). Alternatively, a well rolled pair of Rare Two-Toned Boots provides some more elemental resistances, and gives us four more sockets to work with.
A well rolled pair of rare Spiked Gloves is best in slot. Look for good life and resistance rolls as well as increased attack speed and flat physical damage to melee attacks. Life and mana leech can fly here too.
The addition of a Soul Tether to your build will provide a good boost to your survivability. The Energy Shield leech means most damage won’t even reach your life pool providing you have capped resists and are putting out consistent damage with Cyclone.
Aim for well rolled rare Steel Rings for more DPS or Vermillion Rings for more survivability or Two-Stone rings if you need to fill a gap in your elemental resistances. Added flat physical damage is nice to have on either of these and you can also roll life or mana leech, but you should prioritize Life and resists as well as looking for flat attribute rolls that you need to meet the setups attribute requirements
Soul Taker is a solid choice, but you’ll eventually want to upgrade to well rolled rare Siege Axes in both slots for better damage once you can incorporate an amulet with “Channeling Skills have -X to Total Mana Cost” into your build.
An Aul’s Uprising variant that allows you to run pride without reserving mana would add a decent amount of damage to your build but can be very expensive and unless you’ve min-maxed every other part of this build then it’s probably not worth the price. A well rolled rare amulet with, as mentioned above, the “Channeling Skills have -X to Total Mana Cost” craft on it should be your first late game goal for this slot
For your amulet anointment Discipline and Training is a solid choice but the more expensive Tenacity and Way of the Warrior anointments are also viable options
There are a lot of stats that come on jewels that this build can benefit from. In order of priority, look for jewels with % Increased Maximum Life and at least one of the following stats:
- % Increased Attack Speed with Axes
- % Increased Attack Speed
- % Increased Attack Speed while Dual Wielding
- % Increased Physical Damage with Axes
- % Increased Physical Damage while Dual Wielding
- % Increased Physical Damage
- % Increased Melee Damage
- % Increased Area Damage
Other jewel mods to consider include % Physical Damage Leeched as Mana if you find yourself out of mana (OOM) a lot, and Elemental Resistances if you’re struggling to hit the cap with them.
If you did opt to use Aul’s Uprising and are therefore running the Pride aura then a Pride Watcher’s Eye jewel with impale mods on it is probably the strongest single Jewel you can get for this build, but a good one can be even more prohibitively expensive than Aul’s and is 100% not required for the build to function.
Something I see a lot of newer players do is neglect their flask setup. Flasks in Path of Exile provide your character with an absolute ton of survivability and utility, so it’s important to get them right. You’ll want to have removal for at least the Bleeding, Frozen, Shocked and Cursed status effects between your flasks
Here’s my current setup on this build:
- Seething Divine Life Flask of Staunching (Instant-heal Life flask with Bleed removal)
- Chemist’s Silver Flask of Warding (Curse Removal)
- Chemist’s Granite Flask of Iron Skin (Gives bonus armor)
- Pop this before casting your Molten Shell for a bigger shield.
- Chemist’s Basalt Flask of Grounding (Shock Removal)
- Chemist’s Quicksilver Flask of Heat (Freeze Removal)
The Chemist’s prefix reduces the amount of charges used by a flask by 20-25 percent depending on the roll and it’s important to ensure the rolls on your Chemist’s prefixes are high enough that we get two uses out of the flask before having to recharge. Use bestiary flask crafting to make it easier to roll your flasks and save currency.
Late Game Skill Trees
The finished skill tree doesn’t assume a level 100, as this can be very hard to achieve. If you have extras after hitting all of our recommendations, just spend your last few points picking up the two point Jewel Sockets near your pathing. If you have made it this far you probably have a pretty good working knowledge of the build archetype by now, so feel free to crack open one of the stacks of Orbs of Regret you’ve likely amassed and do some theorycrafting and customisation.
If you’re still struggling The Official Community-Maintained Path of Exile Wiki is a great source of information but there should be enough in this article for even a new player to recreate this build and make it to the endgame with a little perseverance.
Regardless of experience with Path of Exile, I’d encourage players to experiment with variations to the build once they hit maps to find the sweet spot between survivability and speed that best suits their play style as it’s a great way to learn more about the game.