5 great builds to help you get started in Path of Exile's new Pokémon-esque league

What you need to know

The Bestiary league offers more than just the ability to capture monsters for your nefarious crafting purposes. It also introduces a host of changes to Path of Exile's endgame, in addition to three new skill gems and a load of new items. To get the full scoop, read our preview.

Path of Exile's Bestiary league, which lets you capture and sacrifice monsters for powerful loot, opens today. Like all of Path of Exile's temporary leagues, this means you'll have to start a brand new character if you're looking to catch 'em all. But where to start? Hardcore players will have already planned out their builds weeks in advance. For us more casual types (and especially if you're new), picking the right build to get a good start is daunting. Fortunately, I've rounded up some personal and community favorite build guides that can help you survive your first weeks in Wraeclast.

Called League Starters, these builds are designed to get you up and killing with minimal effort. They're built around readily available skill gems and usually don't require too many specific unique items—which is fantastic since most uniques are very expensive at the start of the league. In short, they'll get you through most of Path of Exile's medium-difficulty content so that you can stockpile currency to spend on more expensive endgame-viable characters.

Even if you don't care about that extra hard endgame content, though, any of these builds will let you experience all but the most challenging of Path of Exile's maps. And they're fun as hell. For this list, I'm also trying to give you a wide variety of play styles instead of prioritizing what's technically best of the best—which is pretty hotly debated anyway.

Max Block Scorching Ray Scion

This build holds a special place in my heart because it was the build guide I followed that finally let me appreciate why Path of Exile is the indisputable king of ARPGs. The core concept around this build is using Scorching Ray to sweep over packs of enemies, letting its damage over time ability melt them away while your (hopefully) maxed out blocking stat mitigates any incoming damage.

What I love about this build is how it comes together over time. As you level, you'll start to grab nodes on the passive skill tree that increase your fire damage. Each one provides such a raw boost to your damage that it's intoxicating when you unlock one. By level 50, you'll feel like Hephaestus, God of Fire, and the entire world is yours to burn.

There are some downsides: because Scorcing Ray is a channelled attack, positioning is critical and some boss fights will require constantly moving around to avoid damage. That can get really annoying sometimes.

Engineering Eternity's build guide is the one to read, especially if you're new, since he breaks down how to level the character (something a lot of build guides skip). 

Quad Frostbolt Totem Hierophant 

Youtuber LiftingNerdBro's take on the Frostbolt Totem Hierophant is an excellent build if you're brand new to Path of Exile. Because it relies largely on spells that scale with your level, you don't need to worry about min-maxing your gear—in fact you can play fairly deep into endgame without any of the suggest unique items.

Totem builds aren't for everyone, as they're a very passive offensive style that relies on placing totems that cast spells for you while you focus on moving around and dodging any deadly attacks. That said, if you love the idea of being the final boss in a bullet hell arcade shooter, this build rocks because your totems cover the field in bolts of frost that rip through enemies easily. The constant application of wide area-of-effect damage means you can hastily rip through maps, so new players can focus more on the basics of movement and positioning. As I mentioned, it's also a great build in that you can easily play it using only the rare items you find on your own. While Path of Exile's unique trade economy is a blast to mess around with, this build gives you an opportunity to explore it at your own pace.

There is a drawback, however. As LiftingNerdBro explains, this is not the build you want to use if you intend to farm bosses. If you're new or a casual player, don't sweat this, but the lack of decent single-target damage will draw out boss encounters and make them a bit of a slog. During the leveling process, this won't matter, but this build is better off for general map clearing and farming instead.

LiftingNerdBro also has a handy written guide you can reference over on the forums—and yes, he includes some great leveling tips if you're new. 

Thicc Jugg Tank 

Engineering Eternity's Thicc Jugg Tank has quickly become a community favorite thanks to its impenetrable layer of defense that lets players face-tank just about any boss. If you've dabbled in Path of Exile and hate how many bosses can one-shot you if you're not careful, this is a great build to play. It's designed for running the Eternal Labyrinth—an endgame dungeon with all sorts of nasty traps and randomized properties—but can fare well enough in normal areas too.

Thicc Jugg uses the melee skill Cleave to deal damage, but what really makes it special is the insane number of defensive layers that make you nigh unstoppable. You can literally just stand in front of some of Path of Exile's toughest bosses and eat the full force of their attacks without taking damage. This is great for beginners, as the added survivability will definitely help in later areas when the difficult starts to scale up significantly. Another great perk is that this build is sustainable without relying on flasks, so beginners have less things to worry about in the heat of combat.

There is a downside in that all of that defense leaves the Thicc Jugg a little light on offense. Clearing areas and killing bosses will take longer, which isn't great if you're looking to rip through Path of Exile's ten acts on your way to endgame. If slow and steady wins the race is your mantra, consider this build.

Here's Engineering Eternity's written guide. Be sure to take time and understand how all of the defensive layers work together. 

Lich Queen Skeleton Summoner 

If there's one thing I enjoy in Diablo more than Path of Exile, it's the Necromancer and his army of undead. While Path of Exile does have summoning, it's never felt as satisfying, but Ghazzy's build comes pretty damn close. If the idea of having a horde of spell-slingling skeleton mages obliterating packs of enemies for you sounds appealing, then look no further.

This Skeleton Summoner is a complex build that relies on a cheap unique called The Baron in addition to two unique gems called Dead Reckoning to summon up to nine skeletal mages that will then slaughter enemies for you. That's an intimidating obstacle for new players, but this build is also versatile enough that you can get by with melee skeletons and even zombies while you level and scrounge up the required currency. If you're unfamiliar with summoning builds, this one might take a bit of researching before you understand how all of its skills and passive abilities work together. Fortunately, Ghazzy has a great guide that breaks down how it all works.

Defensively, you don't have to worry too much thanks to your skeletons acting as a large and very distracting meat shield for most enemies. You'll also be picking up a bunch of increase HP nodes from the passive tree, giving you a large HP pool to soak any damage that sneaks through your wall of skeleton mages.

Here's Ghazzy's written guide. It's not the most comprehensible for new players, but once you get started I guarantee it will begin to make more sense. 

Sunder Gladiator 

Sunder has one of the most popular skills for league starter builds. While it's not overly flashy, it is dependable and scales well all the way to endgame content. Better yet, it's a dirt cheap build that just about anyone can master. That said, the Path of Exile forums are full of dozens of variations you can follow, and all of them are pretty good. I chose WorstSmitesEU's guide because it's thorough and takes time to explain the basics and has a solid foundation that you can always adjust to fit other Duelist-style Sunder builds. For example, with the 3.2 patch, a lot of players are saying that Champion is now the ascendancy class of choice instead of Gladiator—but, like everything in Path of Exile, it's up for debate.

Sunder is about as basic a skill as you can get in Path of Exile. With your main hand you strike the ground, causing a wave of broken earth to pulse out and strike nearby enemies who, in turn, create their own mini-shockwaves that deal added damage. The gist here is to get close and Sunder away until everything is dead. Yup, it's that easy. Defensively, the build relies on skills like Fortify to mitigate incoming damage—again, this is Path of Exile at its most basic.

The only real downside to Sunder Gladiator builds is that their efficiency in endgame maps starts to drop off significantly unless you invest a lot of money into powerful uniques. This is a league starter build in the purest sense, as most players will quickly abandon this character once they've farmed enough currency to afford a more specialized build. Still, if you're starting out or really struggling to pick a build, you can never go wrong with Sunder.

Here's a link to WorstSmiesEU's written guide. Or check out the video below for an alternative option. 

Steven Messner

With over 7 years of experience with in-depth feature reporting, Steven's mission is to chronicle the fascinating ways that games intersect our lives. Whether it's colossal in-game wars in an MMO, or long-haul truckers who turn to games to protect them from the loneliness of the open road, Steven tries to unearth PC gaming's greatest untold stories. His love of PC gaming started extremely early. Without money to spend, he spent an entire day watching the progress bar on a 25mb download of the Heroes of Might and Magic 2 demo that he then played for at least a hundred hours. It was a good demo.