Herald of Agony
Image via Loate's Guide.

Path of Exile: Defensive Herald of Agony Build

Oct 23, 2018
Image via Loate's Guide.

This Herald of Agony build is something crafted by the streamer Nugiyen. It is based on a build that was posted on the forums, and utilizes maximum block chances. Nugi took this build, kept the core, and swapped the block into pure defensive stats. He has made a power house that can still clear content smoothly. Now, let’s Delve into how he did it!

Herald of Agony Build

Before we get too far, you should be known that this build is NOT for beginners. In fact, it’s one of the most expensive builds out there. It’s also quite convoluted to set up. However, if you can get all the currency and properly set it up, it has the potential to be one of the strongest defensive builds in the game. Perfect for those particularly deep delves!

The base build costs around 20 exalts. Nearly all of this goes directly into a Zerphi’s flask, which is essential for the build. The rest of the gear is optional, with the stuff Nugi himself is wearing as the high end.

The Concept

The idea for the defensive Herald of Agony build is to layer as many defenses as possible, without giving up offense entirely. How is this done? Through the use of the new Herald of Agony minion. Herald of Agony is a new Herald launched in 3.4. It has a built-in mechanic where it adds a stack whenever the player poisons an enemy. As long as you have at least one stack, you will have an immortal minion to attack alongside you. The stacks go up to 40, and the minion gets stronger based on how many stacks you have.

The base damage of the Herald minion is incredibly high, and scales quite well with higher stacks. With a six link Herald you can easily clear all map and boss content, damage wise. Because of this, you don’t have to scale your minion damage high, and can focus almost entirely on mitigation.

Layers of Defense

Most of your defense comes through increasing your maximum resistances far above what is normally possible. Typically a character is capped at 75% maximum elemental resistances, and the game is balanced around characters having this amount. This build focuses on raising this by a considerable amount.

By using Saffell’s Frame you can raise your resists by 4%. Having each Purity at level 23 allows you to raise each of them by another 5%. This puts you at 84% maximum resistance. Then you get another 10% to each by using each type of flask, plus Divination Distillate. However, you also have 26% increased flask effectiveness from the tree, so the 10% bonus becomes a 12% bonus. This brings you up to 96% to all maximum resistances. Since the game is balanced around you taking 25% of elemental damage, and you’re taking 4%, you only take 16% of the elemental damage that a normal build would.

Since you take so much reduced elemental damage, it only makes sense to convert physical damage taken into elemental. Using a Lightning Coil, Saffell’s corruption, and Taste of Hate, you can convert 58% of your physical damage taken to elemental. This can be increased by up to 30% by getting the right Watcher’s eye. Nugi is using a Watcher’s Eye with 11% additional conversion, bringing it to 69%. At 69% conversion, this means you’re taking 42% of the physical damage that normal builds do (31% plus 69*16%).

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The only required gear for this build is a Zerphi’s Heart. This is obviously an extremely expensive item, but if you can get over that hurdle you can make the build work while you build up currency for the others.

For the body, you’ll want Lightning Coil. You can’t get around the fact that 30% of physical damage converted to elemental (so essentially negating 25% of physical damage) is incredibly powerful. A five link is fine to get the build rolling. You’ll want to get level 23 Purities, which means getting level 21 gems and putting them in a +2 piece of armor. Right now, that means either getting an Alpha’s Howl or using the +2 to heralds corruption on boots.

For a weapon you can choose between Ichimonji or Mjolner. Ichimonji is probably better overall, whereas Mjolner is more interesting and fun to use. The shield is Saffell’s Frame. You can get a non-corrupted one for a couple chaos, but you’ll want to save up and get one with an 8% of physical damage taken as an element corruption.

For flasks, aside from Zerphi’s Heart, you’ll want Taste of Hate (can be replaced with a Sapphire flask until you can afford it), a Topaz, a Ruby, and a Wise Oak.


You already know that the basics behind the Herald of Agony build will be to quickly apply poison to enemies in order to keep your Herald of Agony powered up. To do this you want a skill that hits rapidly. All of the guides I’ve seen decided to make use of Cyclone. Cyclone allows you to channel a skill while moving, which is the best thing for every part of the build. It applies poison stacks quickly, moves you forward, and allows you to continue channeling for Zerphi’s.

Herald of Agony
Herald of Agony stats. Image via Esports Edition.

Zerphi’s is probably the most confusing part of this build. Zerphi’s gives you back all the mana you spend, multiplied by 5-6 times, as life. So you want to spend a bunch of mana as frequently as possible. However, there’s an interesting mechanic that has been used for several leagues now. For some reason, using Blood Magic still counts as spending mana, even though you are spending life. This means you can get away with spending massive amounts quickly, because the health that you are spending is being regenerated at 5-6 times the speed before other modifiers come into play.

In order to properly utilize this, you’ll want a glove with at least two, preferably three “socketed gems are supported by . . .” modifiers. That way you can get a pseudo 6 or 7 link for massive “mana” expenditure. However, this also means you have to keep your mana low enough for Zerphi’s not to stop. If you ever fill up, it will stop and you’ll stop regenning. This is done by putting on Mind over Matter and using Blood Rage to trickle your mana down faster than Zerphi’s + Divination Distillate regenerates it. Make sure to leave those two flasks at 0% if you can, so you don’t have to worry about the regeneration.


This Herald of Agony build is not for beginners, and this guide provides an in-depth look at the mechanics involved. If you’re interested in this build and have the funds, I would highly recommend playing it. It is one of the builds that will make you a better player, because of how much comprehension goes into making it work. Sure, in the end it’s a one button build, but getting to the point where it works is pure art.

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Stephen Draper
Stephen has a degree in English from Brock University. He grew up playing video games and card games, always having an affection for strategy. He picked up League of Legends in early Season One and has since achieved Diamond rank multiple times. He also picked up Hearthstone in Beta and has since achieved Legend consistently. When he isn’t reading, writing, or gaming, he’s probably watching other people game.
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