A lot of changes are coming to Path of Exile with the launch of Bestiary league: new league mechanics, new uniques, and new skills. But we’re also getting massive changes to the core gameplay in the form of ascendancy changes. This is something that’s been anticipated for a while, and will change virtually every build in the game on some level.
Rather than try and balance the classes by buffing and nerfing, they decided to bring most of the worse classes up to the same power level of the strong ones. There are a few nerfs that went out, but it was nothing major. The buffs, on the other hand… Well, let’s take a look at the three main ones, and you’ll see what changes were made.
The buff to the Assassin class may have had the most impactf. There are others that got massive buffs too, but even if theirs were bigger, this one matters more. The Assassin class is an extremely popular one, or at least it was until it was nerfed into the ground a couple patches ago. In this patch they are going above and beyond to not just restore the former glory, but also push way past it.
They took the Ambush and Assassinate nodes and combined them. Now, you can get both of those nodes for just two points, instead of four. That alone would have been a massive buff, but they went much further. Unstable Infusion used to give a 10% chance to gain a Power Charge on non-critical strike. This was awkward because Power Charges increase your critical strike chance, so you’d sometimes reach the point of a 100% critical chance and not gain power charges, which would force you to refresh them every once in a while. Now it’s been changed it to also give a 10% chance to gain a Power Charge on critical strikes, and they also buffed the chance to get one on non-critical strikes from 10% to 20%.
They added an entirely new node as well to make up for the combining of Ambush and Assassinate. The new node is Opportunistic, and it gives you every stat you could want: 20% increased movement speed if you’ve killed recently, 100% increased damage if there is only one enemy nearby, and you take no extra damage from critical strikes if there’s only one enemy nearby. This node is insane, and may actually be the best in the game.
I think Assassin will be the most played class because it fits a lot of people’s playstyle. However, I think Hierophant has received the biggest buff from the classes we’ve seen so far. It also has the distinction of being the first non-Scion class to have more than six keystone nodes to chose from. Hierophant is now perfectly viable for both totems and normal spellcasters. In fact, having not seen the new Witch ascendancies yet, Hierophant is currently the best spellcaster class in the game. This could obviously change with more releases.
The totem aspect of Hierophant was buffed through the roof. They split up its extra totems so you can now get three with your first ascension, and four with your second. Between both nodes you can still get the bonuses that the old nodes gave, but also get +100% totem duration, 50% increased totem placement speed, you regenerate 0.5% of your mana per second per totem, and you and your totems regain 1% of your health per second per totem. It received massive buffs across the board. This is particularly strong for Dark Pact totems, as they stay alive longer from the regen.
The spellcaster section of Hierophant also got a massive buff: they got rid of the weird node that gave bonus effects to gems socketted in your gear. It was replaced with two nodes that give massive bonuses when you have Arcane Surge, and give you Arcane Surge on kill. Arcane Surge itself gives 20% more spell damage (more, not increased), as well as increased cast speed and mana regen. That, on top of the bonus damage, and, most importantly, spell leech, is insane. That’s right, they’ve added in spell leech. If you have Arcane Surge and the node, you leech 0.5% of the spell damage dealt as life.
The spell leech aspect alone is the reason I think Hierophant is currently the best class for spellcasters, but they also have increased Mind over Matter, as well as Power Charge and Endurance Charge generation. For a well rounded spellcasting build, it’ll be hard to beat Hierophant.
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Chieftain got an entire overhaul. It’s no longer just a totem build; now, they can do pretty much any attack-based build. The totem aspect wasn’t touched at all, those two nodes were left alone. The other four, however, were drastically changed. A lot of stats that were shuffled around between the nodes, and were all drastically buffed.
The node that gave Endurance Charges and regeneration based on Endurance Charges was moved to be the start of a tree, and it now gives +10% fire damage per Endurance Charge. This is big, since it allows the stacking of Endurance Charges as a means of damage as well. It leads to a node that gives +100% fire resistance, 1% life regen per second, 10% of physical damage taken as fire, 2% more life regen per second if you’ve taken fire damage recently, and is unaffected by ignite. This is a combination of random stats from a few old nodes, as well as some extra bonuses.
The other new tree starts with a huge node: 50% of damage converted to fire, damage penetrates 10% fire resistance, and every 10 seconds gain 100% of physical damage as extra fire damage for three seconds. This allows players to build full physical builds that deal a ton of fire damage. This makes Chieftain a rather nice choice for many Cyclone and Reave builds. This tree leads to a node that gives 1% of fire damage leeched as life, 10% increased strength, 1% of totem damage leeched as life, and 10% chance to cover Rare or Unique enemies in Ash for 10 seconds on hit. This provides a ton of stats that any physical build will need.
Similar to Hierophant, I expect to see a lot of Chieftains due to how powerful they are both offensively and defensively. In hardcore in particular I can see a lot of people swapping to Chieftain for the defenses offered while still allowing aggressive gameplay. Of course, there are still a lot of ascendancies coming, so everything could change!