[3.9] Herald of Agony (Melee!) Necro--Get in Monsters' Faces Safely (5M Shaper DPS/8.4kLife+Fortify)

  • Introduction

I'm pretty new to build guides but this is the first build I designed myself from the ground up, and I'm immensely happy with it, so I figured I'd share.

This build has insane pack clearing speed, and even more insane single target with a single gem swap. I've had no trouble clearing all content with it even on a 4-link, and now that it's a 6-link I kind of feel bad about how easy it was to build.

  • Table of contents

3.10 Viability Note
Build concept
3.8 Videos
Pros / cons
3.9 Updates
Example Gear
Gear breakdown
Gem Setups
Ascendancy and Passive Tree
Final Thoughts

  • 3.10 Viability Note

The old build, great as it was during 3.8 and 3.9, will remain below for posterity. However, as of 3.10, I am declaring this build dead.

Some people may read the 3.10 patch notes and go "Wait, wasn't the dps insanely high? Isn't this still perfectly viable with the lower increased physical damage value?" But what you actually need to look at here is the Necromancer nerfs. We were able to use a very large number of uniques thanks in large part to the elemental resistances on Bone Barrier. A rich player could conceivably reach the same resistance values as before with the same number of rare slots, but frankly the point of this build was to be cheap and exciting.

The resistances can be made up by switching to Commander of Darkness, but then we lose all of the other benefits of Bone Barrier. The physical damage reduction and life recovery rates are too important to survival in this build. A normal necromancer doesn't need as much defense because their minions take all the hits for them. The entire point of this was an engaging playstyle for a necro. That's gone. GGG killed it.

If anyone has success making a build like this in the future, feel free to point people to it in the comments of this guide, but I encourage you to make your own guide, as I really, really enjoyed playing this build while it functioned.

  • Build concept

When Cold Iron Point was first teased, I immediately noticed that it's just insane for Herald of Agony builds. Herald of Agony has already been known for a number of leagues as a good general-purpose skill, for both clear and single target, with the focus usually on increasing its level and maximizing your poison stacking speed (since its strength grows cubically with virulence stacks up to a max of 40).

Most importantly, it was now possible to hit level 31--a previously unattainable value--and without even using a slot on Empower or expensive corruptions. Why level 31? Well, that's the breakpoint at which it maximizes its minion attack speed. At 40 virulence stacks, the gem itself at level 31 will have 181596 unmodified dps. With no supports or passive skills at all. Compare that to level 30 where it gets 141232 unmodified dps and you'll see that it's 28.5% more damage in just a single gem level, more of a jump than any other spell in the game can get in 1 level (the practical dps isn't quite as high because of the additive stacking of minion damage and minion attack speed, but the point stands overall). When you consider that people were already happy to use level 26 herald of agony *with* a gem slot tucked away for Empower, having level 31 and another free support gem slot was just too good to pass up.

For stacking virulence, we choose Cyclone. Rain of Arrows as many HoA builds use obviously wasn't viable because of the dagger, but why Cyclone instead of some type of spell that can poison on hit? Well, it turns out that it's incredibly easy to stack enough attack speed on Cyclone, and it leaves you permanently mobile, and on top of that, you can have the benefits of permanent fortify and even intimidation of enemies thanks to the abyss gloves. That last one was added on well after the build idea solidified, though.

  • 3.8 Videos

Uber Atziri

This was my first attempt at her this league (as is obvious from the challenge completion), I actually got hit by her flameblast once because I'm an idiot but I survived.

Depth 308 Crit Turbo Aul

Mostly did a good job of dodging--it's not possible to be oneshot at this depth but he did kill me the first try with the crystal cage thing (4ish hits while I was in that and failing to escape).

Sorry I had to mute these videos--I didn't realize OBS was capturing additional sound outside of the game at the time, so I had a twitch stream on in the background lol.

  • Pros

[+]Insane clearspeed *and* single target
[+]The most interactive choice of Summoner since you have to actually run into packs to deal the most damage
[+]Extremely cheap to start
[+]Can do any single map mod (dps is low enough to handle phys reflect with pure regeneration; no-regen requires a mana flask; the combination of phys reflect and no regen is the only thing I can't handle)
[+]Great survivability even though you're constantly diving into packs of monsters. I play fast and loose in softcore and have still only died like 3 times (usually I'm in the hundreds by now) so I'd say it's definitely hardcore viable, but I admit that I do not play hardcore.
[+]Low minion count (11 including crawler) means way less lag than other Necromancers (more hardcore viability)
[+]Fast delving

  • Cons

[-]Not good with proximity shields unless you fit in convocation
[-]Basically just a regular, boring summoner until level 62 when you can buy the daggers

  • 3.9 Updates

Basically, this build is exactly as good in 3.9 as 3.8, maybe slightly better with perfect gear. It's harder to use effective multimodded rings now, but if you do multimod, the only two "craft-only" mods we ever take are a minimum endurance charge and -mana cost, which is as many crafts as you can afford to get with the new multimod limit.

Overall, very little changed and not much will change in terms of actually making the build work

Here's what we lost:
[-]5% minion attack speed from feeding frenzy
[-]A decent amount of minion movement speed from feeding frenzy and the Necromancer ascendancy (25% total)
[-]Zombie tankiness. Your zombies WILL die more often

Here's what we gained:
[+]Awakened Chain Support for clear
[+]Awakened Minion Damage Support
[+]Awakened Vicious Projectiles Support
[+]Awakened Generosity Support for Hatred
[+]Life catalysts for all jewelry
[+]Hunter's Slam on Amulets for +1 Chaos gems or +1 Dexterity gems (only slam with an open prefix)

Yes, all of the improvements are more expensive. But we didn't rely on any of the influenced item mods that were nerfed and we can scale very well without any of the new influence mods--the only one that's a clear upgrade over life+resists is the new Hunter's prefixes for +gem level.

It's worth noting that the Warlord's mod pool also has "+1 to Level of all Physical Skill Gems" as an outcome, but using a hunter's orb is far better because there are 2 good outcomes instead of just once, and even the "failed" outcomes include some decent ones, like movement speed.

  • Current Blight Gear

  • Gear Breakdown

Скрытый текст
Weapons: 2x cold iron point is mandatory to hit level 31 Agony Crawler, which as explained above is incredibly important. An attack speed corruption is ideal but not mandatory to hit max virulence stacks against a single target. Very cheap.

Helmet: Devoto's Devotion is my choice for mapping because of the pure, insane speed boost you get. The dexterity helps a lot with stat requirements. I was running Starkonja's for a while, but once I could maintain 7k life without it, I switched over. The movement speed buff is way more important than the 6% increased attack speed bonus. Starkonja's can be switched back to for bossing if needed without needing to change any other gear, as it also provides the large dexterity bonus. Starkonja's is also cheaper than Devoto's.

One alternative if you don't want to stack so much attack speed is Maw of Conquest, with Golden Rule as your 5th Jewel slot. This was suggested by Troublesome08. Because Maw has "Unaffected" by poison rather than "Immune", your poisons will reflect back at you but then do nothing. The loss of movespeed is big for mapping, but the life recovery mod is great if you want to feel tankier, and it's also affected by our necro 30% life recovery rate from the bone passive! Aside from the movespeed, the biggest downside is you'll need to stack dex elsewhere, but considering that we take an entire attack speed cluster in our tree, giving that up for 2 30-Dex notables plus a free passive is easy, so you should really only think of it in terms of losing 20% movement speed.

The best enchantment to get is Agony Crawler Fires 2 Additional Projectiles. This makes pack clearing even faster! You don't need the increased damage enchantment because it's a pretty trivial increase compared to the 900ish% increased damage from the combination of the gem itself (40 virulence) and your own minion passives.

Gloves: Why 1-socket tombfist? Well, first off, they're cheap: even a perfect one with a perfect level 12 enfeeble on hit cost me 35c. But actually, I use so many gem slots that 2-socket tombfists would impact the build. If you can afford 2-socket tombfists with a good corruption (enfeeble probably best), then I'd probably put zombies with meat shield (no minion life) in them, and swap my CwDT setup to a dagger.

If you're lacking attack speed for single-target virulence stacks (especially before dropping Lesser Poison from Cyclone), you could instead get insanity gloves for your cyclone setup.

One alternative partially suggested by Llyrain would be elder gloves with support gems for your Cyclone setup (then CwDT can go into your helm and add Molten Shell). If you get gloves with both the Poison and Faster Attacks support, then you can add Life Gain on Hit and Withering Touch (the latter suggested by Troublesome08 to your Cyclone Setup. This makes your cyclone setup pretty expensive, so you will definitely need 2 Elreon crafts rather than just 1, but you should be able to sustain mana with natural regen on 2 crafts (60% less regen maps will become hard though).

Body Armor: The Coming Calamity is another item that enables our whole build. As a 4-link it's incredibly cheap, and a 4 link is enough to clear all content.

Amulet: Focus on life and resists. When you can afford it, the best annointment is probably Golem's Blood. I also crafted minion speed because map clearing with full speed flasks is a bit too fast for the agony crawler without it.

Rings: Life and resists. One should be crafted with the -channeling mana cost Elreon craft. With Lesser Poison, Cyclone comes out to a cost of 3, with Faster Attacks it comes out to a cost of 4. If you don't want any mana investment whatsoever, you should target a mana cost of 2, because your attack speed will be very, very high.

The best single craft after you have Elreon's is a minimum endurance charge. We don't need resists but the extra physical damage reduction stacks well with the rest of this build.

The "rich" option would be two multicrafted elder coral rings with "life gained for each enemy hit by your attacks". This is a prefix so your remaining crafts could be "multimod, life, elreon's [channelling], resists, minimum endurance charge". Having two such rings combined with the "alternative" gloves mentioned above would let you have up to 84 life gained on hit.

Personally, I've been surviving well with 0 lgoh (and am more interested in boss survivability than delve survivability), but 84 lgoh would definitely be insane for a lot of speed-clearing purposes. Much moreso than the temple life mod that I've gotten for bossing purposes.

Boots: Movement speed, then life, then dex. I didn't even craft resists because it was enough to get it on my other gear.

Belt: Leather Belt or Stygian Vise with life and resists. If you're rich, an elder leather belt with life, resists, and life recovery rate is best.

Jewels: This is incredibly important so pay attention. The first four jewels you get should all have both life and 5% chance to poison on hit. Why is this important? Well, because we don't want to waste other gear slots for poison chance. Before you get these four jewels, your cyclone setup should be "Cyclone - Fortify - Poison - Lesser Poison". With herald of agony, this will bring you to a 120% chance to poison (obviously capped at 100). With 4 jewels with 5% poison chance on them, you can drop lesser poison for faster attacks, which will be a huge boon for your single-target virulence stacks.

For other jewel stats, you can go for attack speed or resists or minion damage, whatever you want/need. Most of my jewels don't have dps stats because we don't need them. Don't bother with abyss jewels as they're pitiful with the agony crawler.

Flasks: Nothing special. Quicksilver and Silver for clearspeed. Basalt for defenses. A life flask. The last one can be anything, a mana flask for no regen maps or... well, anything. We have plenty of physical damage reduction but you could still go taste of hate for more physical defense.

  • Gem Setups

Our virulence generation comes from Cyclone. When we're dual wielding daggers with 1.4 aps each, we get a base cyclone attack speed of 3 * 1.4 * 1.1 = 4.62. This isn't garbage but it's also not amazing, so we should be trying to stack attack speed further until we're at around an 0.07s cyclone attack time (about 14 attacks per second). This isn't as hard as it sounds for reasons we'll get to later.

Thanks to using a melee attack, we can link Fortify and also get intimidate on hit with Tombfist. Necromancers already have tankiness through a zombie horde, but with the ability to just focus on almost exclusively survivability as a herald of agony build, Fortify gets us pretty near immortal even before getting an enfeeble curse on hit corruption.

One of our remaining two links is always Poison.

The last link is either Lesser Poison or Faster Attacks, depending on whether we have a 100% chance to poison on hit without Lesser Poison.

Go ahead and level up Cyclone fully; the dex requirements are less than agony crawler and the mana doesn't change, so it's just more max AoE.

Herald of Agony

This Herald of Agony setup I've settled on isn't quite like most. The dps is already so high, that when clearing maps (especially blighted maps) I tend to use Chain as my 5th link. Some time ago, Chain's targeting algorithm was improved. A lot of people prefer Pierce, but with Chain, a large blighted map pack will be completely annihilated in a single volley no matter what angle the agony crawler fires from. People think the lower dps from chain makes it bad, but it's been my #1 clearspeed improvement of the league simply because the crawler's damage is SO high from the get-go. Pierce is still good though, especially if you don't have a level 31 HoA yet. Some people advocate for GMP; those people are wrong. The Crawler has plenty of projectiles already.

So the link priority for me is HoA > Minion Damage > Deathmark (being able to target things when necessary is important even when clearing) > Damage on Full Life (the crawler is always on full life) > Chain > Vicious Projectiles.

When you are doing a real boss (like Shaper or Uber Elder), swap Chain for Vile Toxins. Vile Toxins is a very strictly single-target gem (way more than death mark) since it only boosts hit damage against enemies you've actually poisoned.

Raise Zombie

Pretty straightforward, these are your meat shields. Meat Shield and Minion Life are all that are necessary. The taunt is nice for enemy distraction in thicker fights. Just another thing keeping you immortal.

Stone Golem + Holy Relic

Not many people have thought about this, but Stone Golem also gets the nice, beefy +6 levels from Cold Iron Point. That and Holy Relic both give you regen, and are linked to Feeding Frenzy. The golem literally does not need any support to stay alive, at high levels. The holy relic may die occasionally but is cheap to resummon.

Further, the Holy Relic guarantees that feeding frenzy is always up, which benefits the agony crawler. This is because every time we smack enemies, the "pulse" the relic emits activates feeding frenzy immediately. It also provides life regen to our zombies to further ensure they never die.


Frostblink is my get-out-of-combat gem of choice. Can easily swap to flame dash in pillars of arun or whatever (teleport distance of frostblink is too low). I don't need a real movement skill because we're already quite fast with flasks up.

Hatred is my aura of choice just for the damage boost. I'm currently leveling enlighten but really it should be linked to Generosity; aura effect actually scales the total effect of hatred quadratically (since it impacts both phys as cold and more cold damage) so it's an impressive bump.

I have a CwDT setup with Desecrate plus Spirit Offering. Contrary to the beliefs of people who haven't tested it, thanks to the super-miniscule delay of corpse summoning of Desecrate, the gem linking order doesn't matter: the CwDT setup will always result in the corpses already on the ground being consumed for spirit offering, and then 5 new corpses landing on the ground. So after it triggers, there will be 5 corpses on the ground, guaranteed.

While it may be frustrating to not have spirit offering always up, since it does provide a substantial boost to the agony crawler, it's really not necessary. This is more of a bossing and blighted maps setup, since blighted monsters unfortunately don't leave corpses, so we want desecrate to leave behind some corpses here and there to trigger the buffs we get from Plague Bringer. And the offering is on top because in longer fights, it's bound to trigger sometimes for bonus DPS, but thanks to desecrate, it can trigger without impacting the nearby corpse functionality.

Lastly, if you're having trouble with proximity shields, find a way to socket in Convocation. This was suggested by Poor_Exile. Personally, I'm able to maneuver into proximity shields with just a couple extra seconds of annoying delay, so I'm fine without convocation, but since you're always in melee range yourself, it does make perfect sense to Convoke your crawler into a proximity shield so its somewhat dumb AI doesn't just try to spam from the back.

  • Ascendancy and Skill Tree

1. Mindless Aggression - obviously necessary pathing
2. Unnatural Strength - necessary for to hit level 31 crawler
3. Bone Barrier - this was the main reason I even knew I'd be running zombines. 30% increased life recovery rate is INSANE, the resists make gearing super easy, and the physical damage reduction is just a bonus.
4. Plaguebringer - This was the hardest thing to decide on, but the offensive and defensive bonus combined made me decide against mistress of sacrifice (which would've also requirement me to take a more active role in casting spirit offering, if I were building around that)

My passive tree at level 93 is here:

As expected, kill all bandits.

Here's my level 100 path of building in 3.8:
I actually did reach level 100 in Blight league (character codetaku_agonizes) thanks to how tanky this build is.

For the Pantheon, Lunaris and Gruthkul are best for the additional physical damage reduction.

As far as prioritization goes, minion accuracy, 4 jewel slots (for 100% poison chance without Lesser Poison), Resolute Technique, and Spiritual Command were my "special" priorities, with everything else being geared towards just stacking survivability.

Spiritual Command is a very underrated node for Herald of Agony builds (the number of Rain of Arrows builds I saw that didn't take it was... high). You don't stack a ton of minion attack speed literally everywhere (since your agony crawler already does that for you), but even the attack speed you incidentally get ends up being an insane buff. In my level 93 tree, I have 51% increased attack speed for my character from this one node (don't forget to factor in the 10% you get from your ascendancy). That's almost the entire 20/20 faster attacks support gem from a single passive.

I'm not even sure how much Minion Accuracy on the tree matters on a level 31 agony crawler after the minion accuracy buffs, but they all came with other positive stats so I didn't care. I'm pretty sure my agony crawler never misses now, at least.

When leveling, just play zombies and skeletons. You won't need to respec anything. Minions are broken. At level 62 you can immediately spec Resolute Technique and start using herald of agony (buy your daggers then).

  • Final Thoughts

The last time I played a summoner was right when ascendancy classes were introduced. Necro was the first one I tried! I never minded it but I just wanted it to be more interactive--running away and occasionally triggering an offering wasn't my style.

I'm incredibly satisfied with how this build clears. You know you're relying on your army of minions to both distract and kill things, but it still feels like you're really playing the game when you have to actually smack yourself headlong into a pack every couple of seconds. Taking the occasional damage is fun, to me (especially spinning through blight lines), but with fortify, enfeeble, plaguebringer, and all the defenses you're stacking, you're never really in a ton of danger.

  • Credits

Header formatting shamelessly stolen from EkarPoe here: https://www.pathofexile.com/forum/view-thread/2639237/page/1. It was sufficiently well-formatted and I don't have a sense for style. Ultimately, this was a guide I looked at because I was interested in making a herald of agony build at league start, but I decided to go in a 100% different direction with it from the beginning, so I wrote my own guide to document my build.

Thanks to all the contributors in this thread that have offered potential improvements for the build. I credited each of you whose suggestions I actually thought could be a potential improvement in the sections above, by what you added to the build.

And thank you all, for reading this guide and trying out what has been a very fun and successful experiment for me!
Последняя редакция: codetaku. Время: 11 марта 2020 г., 11:48:26
Last bumped on 3 апр. 2020 г., 12:00:08
nice concept but would it be possible with links for level stages how to build this build? or maybe even in Path of Building
It's such a linear progression though. I league started with this build and the skeletons and zombies just played themselves.

I guess, going backwards....

When you hit maps your tree should look something like this:

By level 62 your tree should look at least like this:

Halfway through the story maybe like this:

The start is about as close to linear as a PoE passive tree gets though:

As for Path of Building, I don't use it.
Последняя редакция: codetaku. Время: 17 сент. 2019 г., 21:07:43
Okay, I imported the char into path of building, upped the gems to their final forms, and turned on the configuration options that apply to single-target fights (herald of agony doesn't have any dps flasks and I don't use any vaal auras so it's possible to have 100% uptime for single-target dps), and got 4.6 million shaper dps. (tail spike is pretty much always used; the mortar kicks in every so often to add some burst damage but it's infrequent


Also, now at level 94 I do have 7.6k life (along with my fortify and enfeeble on hit) and I'm on track to have over 8k at level 99 (sooner if I anoint golem's blood).

Edit: The path of building link above has been further updated with my new gear, and has also been edited into the initial post, after multiple requests
Последняя редакция: codetaku. Время: 22 сент. 2019 г., 10:34:09
I'll give this one a go the build idea seems interesting. I still need to respec some points,but slowly I'm getting there.

So far the map clear is really fast,and to me it feels a lot smoother than your usual summoner build where at times the screen seems to be too cluttered with too many things.

nothingtoxic написал:
nice concept but would it be possible with links for level stages how to build this build? or maybe even in Path of Building

There really is not much to it, go with your basic summoner till lvl 62-70, you know,zombies,skellies,raging spirit,specter....etc. then respec a few points,get the daggers and there you go.

You don't really need to start with agony crawler from the beginning,and pretty much any generic summoner type build is more than enough to kill kitava.

Последняя редакция: Nosferat. Время: 19 сент. 2019 г., 0:55:27
Hi, your build looks very interesting and i am thinking on doing it for my next build.
Do you have any gameplays videos of it ?
Im leveling for Hc atm and i wanna go Storm brand for Poison.

This is a 112 points tree, i'm still working on it to see whats better.
The setup is the same as OP but i removed all the Jewels with poison since i wont need them, POB shows 1,2m damage at 30 Virulence stacks and 2,1m dmg with 40.


This is not the final POB. If you have anything to change lmk.
This world is an illusion, exile!
Totems for life!
Последняя редакция: Mawwk. Время: 19 сент. 2019 г., 10:30:34
Could I assume it goes with the usual summoner bandit of killing all of them?
Nosferat написал:
So far the map clear is really fast,and to me it feels a lot smoother than your usual summoner build where at times the screen seems to be too cluttered with too many things.

Thanks, I'm glad you're enjoying it! That was my design idea in the first place, being smooth and not too cluttered while still being undeniably a summoner :)

Exylee написал:
Hi, your build looks very interesting and i am thinking on doing it for my next build.
Do you have any gameplays videos of it ?

Sorry, I haven't yet downloaded any software to make videos. I'll have to consider it if the build gets more popular, but for now, just trust me: run forward, Cyclone through packs, and occasionally use Frostblink when you notice yourself taking burst damage, and things will die in your wake :)

Mawwk написал:
Im leveling for Hc atm and i wanna go Storm brand for Poison.

This is a 112 points tree, i'm still working on it to see whats better.
The setup is the same as OP but i removed all the Jewels with poison since i wont need them, POB shows 1,2m damage at 30 Virulence stacks and 2,1m dmg with 40.


This is not the final POB. If you have anything to change lmk.

You're designing a very different build than I am. The entire point of this build is to be interactively smacking things. Any improvements to my build that leaves the playstyle fundamentally the same are appreciated, but maybe make your own build guide if you like poisoning with storm brand that much? Not every Herald of Agony necro is the same.

There's someone who made a Herald of Agony necro that uses Winter Orb for virulence stacks, maybe check them out! https://www.pathofexile.com/forum/view-thread/2639237 My build will never consider scaling cast speed.

Aklyon написал:
Could I assume it goes with the usual summoner bandit of killing all of them?

Yes! Thanks, I forgot to mention both that and the Pantheon. I've edited both into my initial post.
Последняя редакция: codetaku. Время: 19 сент. 2019 г., 15:09:03

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