Wandering Wraeclast: A class guide to getting started in Path of Exile

    
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Just because Path of Exile is more than five years old doesn’t mean the influx of new players has dwindled. In fact, for quite a few leagues now the player base and participation has continued to grow with each new launch. Some are returning players, sure, but thanks to the very nature of leagues, PoE is primed for new players to jump in; everyone is starting over when a new league begins. And I’ve already met a number of new players just getting going!

On the surface, PoE isn’t difficult to just pick up and play at all (just do not psych yourself out like I first did by looking at the skill tree too soon!). If you are used to MMOARPGs, you may feel pretty comfortable with all the basics of the game. Folks unfamiliar with the genre may need a a few more hints to get settled, but it is still pretty straightforward. That does not, however, mean the game is shallow by any means: There are many depths of complexity available that experienced players can dig deep into.

That said, that’s not my focus here. Today starts a series of getting-started guides to help those folks who are either new to the game or just looking into it. Path of Exile is a fun game definitely worth checking out, even if you don’t want to devote all your gaming time to it and don’t have/want to spend hours upon hours researching all the ins and outs. (Save that for later when you get the urge to deep-dive the complexities more!).

Where’s the best place to start? At the beginning. Here’s a guide to PoE classes.

Class does not dictate skills

Before we even mention the classes, I need to make one thing perfectly clear: Nothing about a class dictates what skills you will have or even what weapons you can use or armor you can wear! Because skills come from gems added into gear, any class can make any build it darn well wants to. Also, every piece of gear in game is equippable by anyone (that includes after you have already used a piece and now want to pass it along). If you want to be an atypical archer that only wields swords or an atypical caster that bludgeons mobs with a giant hammer instead, go for it. If you think it, you can build it; it may take a while, but you can.

However, due to the design of the skill… web, let’s call it a web… some types of gameplay are easier to pair with certain classes by design. For example, the Witch, who typically casts, has passive skill lines spreading out that focus on casting speed, intelligence, and spell damage, while the Marauder, known more as a melee-monger, has strength, melee attack speed, and armor. Each class just has easier access to its standard core attribute/s: dexterity, intelligence, or strength. Skill gems are also split along these attributes. Gear type is slanted toward specific classes (or playstyles) as well, but we’ll cover those more in a later guides. Which class you start with also dictates which weapon, gem, and support gem you are given in the intro area to start your adventures.

Beginning classes

When you start the game, you have the choice of six classes. (Once you have played one class through to the end of Act III, you open up the seventh class, the multi-purpose Scion, which will be available from then on out). Think of it, however, more as which avatar you really want: Beginning classes are gender locked with only a single model and no customization. Three of the starting classes are slanted toward one core attribute while the other three are hybrids of two attributes. Only the Scion has equal access to all attributes.

Here’s a general overview of each class to help get you started. For full base stat information, follow the links to the official site.

Duelist
A dexterity/strength hybrid swashbuckler type to deal and avoid damage. Effectively uses shields, two-handed weapons (including longbows), or duel wield. Armor preferences include scale and brigadine. Male.

Marauder
A pure strength class, typically seen as tank and melee monger. Plate mail armor pieces and tower shields are preferred. Male.

Ranger
A pure dexterity class that focuses on critical damage and evasion using ranged weapons, notably the bow. Gear preference includes leather and tunics. Female.

 

Shadow
A dexterity/intelligence hybrid that prefers pairing fast weapons (like daggers) with evasion and/or setting magical traps and mines. Armor preferences include jackets, spiked shields, and other dex-based items. Male.

Templar
An intelligence/strength hybrid comfortable using a shield (as protection or a weapon) as well as magical abilities. Tank-like enough to be on the front lines. Chainmail and kite shields are suited to this class. Male.

Witch
A pure intelligence class, focuses on casting spells, be it elemental, chaos, disease, or creating minions. Typically wears robes and uses wands and spirit shields. Female.

*Scion
A blank slate with equal access to all skill lines and attributes. Has closer skill route to explore and mix playstyles, but can dilute specialization much faster. Preferred gear depends on which skill direction taken. Female.

Ascended classes

One thing that is set in stone when you pick a beginning class is which Ascendancy classes are available to you later in the game. If you want to aim for a specific playstyle and gain access to the skill tree of a specific Ascendancy class, you will have to pick its corresponding base class. While we’ll cover these advanced classes in depth later, here is an overview.

Duelist
Champion: A combination of support and defense, can tank using buffs and debuffs
Gladiator: A supped-up Duelist, focuses on bleeds, blocking, and frenzy
Slayer: Focuses on power and sustainability, using life leech and stuns

Marauder
Berserker: Focused on fast battle, gains its power when killing and being hit
Chieftain: Focuses on fire damage and totems
Juggernaut: Focuses on defense and physical damage reduction

Ranger
Deadeye: Focuses on projectile damage and AoEs
Pathfinder: Focuses on flasks, with skills granting bonuses during use
Raider: Focuses on maintaining buffs

Shadow
Assassin: Focuses on offense and critical strikes
Saboteur: Focuses on traps and mines
Trickster: Focuses on getting in and out fast and using DoTs like poison

Templar
Guardian: A combination of tank and support with passives that enhance and protect
Hierophant: Focuses on damage and defenses using spells, totems, and brands
Inquisitor: Focuses on elemental damage

Witch
Elementalist: All things elemental
Necromancer: Focuses on minions
Occultist: Focuses on DoTs from cold, chaos, or curses

*Scion
Ascendant: Player’s choice — picks ascendancy class passives from base classes

What if your world changed every three months? What would you do differently? Path of Exile does, and MOP’s MJ Guthrie explores and experiences each new incarnation in Wandering Wraeclast. Join us biweekly for a look into each new challenge league and world expansion — and see whether MJ can finally reach the end of one world before it ends!
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Carlo Lacsina
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Carlo Lacsina

ok but now to address the elephant on the island: What’s the earliest point in the game where I can get my templar to wear pants?

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Tithian

Base classes do not dictate skills, but skills can certainly dictate what Ascendancy you pick. So rather than saying “I want to play a witch” you are better off saying “I want to play Soulrend” and then see which class complements your build better.

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Darthbawl

The MJ foolproof class selection method: Witch. Choose Witch. Choose only Witch. 🤣

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BalsBigBrother

As I play SSF pretty much exclusively I tend to go in with the attitude of well this is ideally what I would like to be or to have for this character but am I willing to change.

Due to the random nature of gear and drops in general I have always been willing to change my initial plan to fit or if something else presents itself then scrap it completely and start over. It is a little better these days as all the various crafting options can really help fill in some gaps that come up and help with progress but sometime it just doesn’t work which is fine I learn as I go along.

I use a tool called Path of Building to flesh out a plan and I would highly suggest for folks to use it. I won’t link but it is pretty easy to find and useful for learning how skills, passives and gear link together. However don’t be tethered to what you have come up with, don’t expect it to work and be willing to change or start over as options present themselves within the game in which ever mode you play.

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Tanek

Nice overview.

I doubt I will ever be a really good player in this game. I don’t build characters for speeding through the zones or events, but I do have fun with it every time I play. :)

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Arktouros

I think what’s most important when making a character in POE is asking yourself two questions:

First, how am I going to deal damage? Choosing how you deal your damage is critically important to where or what you start your character. For example if you are going to use a Chaos skills majority of the chaos nodes are in the upper right in between Witch and Shadow.

Second, how am I going to survive? Choosing the defensive options that work best for you is also critically important to which character you pick. Making a character with a single defense mechanic is going to put a lot of pressure on you to play really well. Choosing defense that’s item based will cripple you until you get that item.

From there that leads to things such as what ascendancy you’re going to go and consequently which character you end up starting with.