Between the new mobs, orbs, and shards, Path of Exile's Harbinger league brings a lot of new mechanics to the table.
(Featured image via Grinding Gear Games.)

Path of Exile’s Harbinger League: Mobs, Shards, and Orbs

Aug 18, 2017
(Featured image via Grinding Gear Games.)

The new league and 3.0 came to Path of Exile two weeks ago. We’ve discussed the new content to death, and it deserves it. The Fall of Oriath expansion is excellent, and it brought quite a few new players in. Many streamers have tried out Path of Exile for the first time and fallen in love, and player counts have never been higher.

But what about the league itself? Fall of Oriath was great, but how is Harbinger faring? Unfortunately, not nearly as well. The mechanics are interesting, but poorly executed. Enough so that a patch fixing them has already been released. But will it be enough to save Harbinger?

Harbinger Mobs

The Harbinger league adds new mobs and mechanics to maps. The Harbingers themselves are similar to Breaches, but smaller and less chaotic. Harbingers cannot be targeted, although they will attack you occasionally. When you find a Harbinger as you wander the world of Wraeclast, they’ll have a blue pack near them — kill the blue pack and it’ll summon mobs. Each time you kill one of the mobs that spawn, the Harbinger’s life goes down until it’s dead. Once you’ve slain the beast, you’ll get shards of different currencies as a reward.

As far as the fighting itself goes, I love Harbingers. They are a bit slow sometimes, but for the most part it’s exciting to have mobs popping up around you, especially when you can make them explode. Mechanics that add more density to the maps in Path of Exile are always fun. Harbinger like a less dangerous, more relaxed Breach. Sure, it might be less exciting than Breach, but it’s still a solid idea.

The real issue with Harbinger mobs is the reward. Breaches are high-risk, high-reward, with you killing up to a few hundred mobs in a few seconds while taking incredible amounts of damage. Harbinger packs present some danger and a few dozen enemies, but the rewards are nearly nonexistent.

How Do Shards Work in Harbinger League?

Rather than drop normal items, the Harbinger mobs drop shards of currency items. They’ve also introduced a handful of entirely new currency items, which we’ll get to later. The shards are extremely underwhelming. I know many people hate the concept entirely, but personally, I’m a fan. I like picking up small things and working towards a larger goal. That being said, the shards in Harbinger league are a flop. When I’m mapping and I stop for 30 seconds to kill a Harbinger pack, I want more than three Chaos Shards to show for it.

Drop rates for mirror shards, orbs, and other new items in Path of Exile's Harbinger league could use a bit of tweaking.
These aren’t the shards you’re looking for.

The average Harbinger mob seems to drop approximately half a chaos worth of items. This means it’s rarely worth it for you to stop and farm the Harbinger mobs if all you care about is currency. The problem is that the expensive shards drop infrequently, and the cheap shards stack so high. There’s no reason a Chaos stack needs to go up to 20, but it does. There’s also no good explanation for why an Exalted Shard is almost as rare as an actual Exalted Orb. Of course, there’s also Mirror Shards, the only really expensive item Harbinger mobs drop, but I’m sure I’ll never see them. I can’t even get that excited about Exalted Shards knowing that they’re worth two Chaos each. In other words, Harbinger mobs bring us frequent drops that are worth very little.

It’s worth mentioning that the new shard types take up lots of of inventory space. The Harbingers drop twelve different types of shards. Twelve. Even if you ignore the Exalted and Mirror Shards, you’re still looking at two full rows of your inventory filled by tiny pieces of items. And they don’t all fit in a Currency tab now either. This has been addressed by the developers and they’ve said there are more slots coming soon, but even then, there’s no reason for these shards to exist, at least in their current form.

New Currency Orbs

The Harbingers have also brought with them six new currency types. Orb of Binding, Engineer’s Orb, Orb of Horizons, Harbinger’s Orb, Ancient Orb, and Orb of Annulment. Some of these are decent, some are incredibly strong, and some are useless after level 40ish. All six are Harbinger exclusive items.

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The first three orbs are incredibly common. The most common of these is Orb of Binding. It upgrades a normal item to a rare item with up to four linked slots. Being able to make a four link item at level 20-40 is pretty strong. Beyond that, however, Orb of Binding is pretty useless. Engineer’s Orb improves the quality of a strongbox, and they’re fairly common — to be entirely honest, I haven’t used these much, but my strongboxes are still doing just fine. Orb of Horizons reforges a map to another of the same tier. This is great for players trying to fill out their Atlas without trading. For late game, it’s also fairly worthless.

Orb Drop Rate Issues in Harbinger

The other three orbs are much stronger, and, as you might expect, substantially more rare. Harbinger’s Orb reforges a map to another of a higher tier. Much like the Orb of Horizons, this is perfect for players who want to fill out their Atlas, but it’s also good for players who want to tackle high-level content. These orbs allowed some players to kill Shaper on day two of the Harbinger league–for context, we didn’t get our first Shaper kill until day six. Ancient Orb reforges a Unique item to be another within the same class. So gloves will change into a different glove.

Obviously, you’re gambling, but these orbs can give great rewards. The last is Orb of Annulment. Arguably the most powerful out of the new currency items, Orb of Annulment removes a property from an item. If you have a well-rolled item with one bad stat, Orb of Annullment gives you a chance to remove the bad stat before attempting to re-roll. For end-game crafting, this could easily save you dozens of Exalted Orbs.

All of the new orbs serve a purpose, but not all of them are necessarily equal. Orb of Binding in particular is bad, as you’ll be past the level where it would be useful before you can finish your first orb. The final three–Harbinger’s Orb, Ancient Orb, and Orb of Annulment–are incredibly strong, but I’d still like to see a higher drop rate.

What do you think about Harbinger league? Let us know on Twitter.

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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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