I mentioned this build concept in another thread, but thought I would detail how it works as a class build. I have not played past the tutorial area yet with this build, but it was pretty insane during that limited play time. How good it is depends a bit on whether or not there are a lot of enemies immune to charm powers. I plan to use it more and find out if there are any hardships farther down the road.
The idea of this build is to take the super cost effective ability, whispers of treason, and use it to dominate the game from start to finish. In order to make sure it never misses, and to provide yourself a bodyguard to delay enemies, you multi-class with ranger. Rangers have a ton of passive accuracy buffs that apply to both weapon attacks and your cipher powers. Accuracy is really important with spell-casting since grazes reduce duration by half and critical hits increase durations by 50%. Also, new in POE2, critical hits provide bonus penetration. This is good if you decide to use a low penetration, but high DPS weapon, like a hunting bow or blunderbuss.
As for whispers of treason... what is not to like? 20 second base duration charm, reasonable cast time, and the most powerful affliction in the game (charm/dominate), all at level 1. It was super powerful in the first game and it is even more powerful in this one. If you look at similiar powers in other classes, they are all gained at a much higher level and have a much shorter duration.
Notes about charmed enemies:
1) You can freely attack them; they don't care at all, so feel free to do so when you have run out of non-charmed enemies to attack.
2) You will not gain focus from attacking your charmed allies. I recommend saving them for last because of this and always keep one enemy not charmed.
3) You will eventually get more powerful charm-like powers, but I am not sure they are ever worth the power cost. I would rather have more charmed enemies than a single dominated one. In POE1, I would use the more powerful charm spells later on just because I had more focus than I knew what to do with. However, having too much focus is a good thing as an Ascendant providing even more reason to just stick with the level 1 whispers of treason. By doing this, you can just take passives instead on other levels and use all those ability points to max out your ranger passives (rangers have a ton of passives that they want).
Race: Nature Godlike is not actually that great this time because I don't think your ranger side benefits from Power Level very much. I still need to confirm this, but I think ranger animal companions scale just on character level and your main ranger ability, marked prey, is not helped at all by it. Whispers of Treason benefits only with a slightly increased duration, but you will already have a plenty long duration given your high accuracy and intelligence. Your late-game damage spells are helped by Power Level, but they already do enough damage without it. I think you would actually benefit quite a bit more from race that can wear a helm. I went with Hearth Orlan to continue the "critical hit" theme of the build.
Class: Ascendant Cipher / Ranger (your choice of subclass or vanilla; they can all work pretty well if played right. I think the ghost one is the most powerful, though I am not a big fan of the idea of summoning my pet and don't really like the aesthetics. You would rather spend your "bond" power source on things that help build your focus so you don't want to waste your "bond" on healing your pet and you really don't want the accuracy penalty if it should die making this subclass perfect. Stalker can have issues with the range limitation being anti-synergistic with ranger accuracy passives likes marksman and the general goal of being as far away from enemies as possible. Picking no subclass I think is pretty reasonable option if you don't like the ghost pets)
Below are the stat priorities:
I would personally do this mix:
Weapons: Club (only against high will enemies, due to modal, otherwise avoid melee) and either bows or guns. With guns, you can get the gunner passive for faster reloads, but currently reload time is bugged so I would avoid duel-wielding guns until that is fixed. With bows, you take the reduced recovery penalty passive ability since they use recovery instead of reload. For unique items, there are a lot of good two-handed ranged weapons with reload, so I would personally go that route. You can then benefit from the gunner passive ability fully and get a big alpha strike in for some quick early focus.
Armor: Cloth (you want to attack and cast as fast as possible and you don't really need heavy armor since you will try to avoid melee and stay out of range of enemies)
Accuracy abilities you want to pick up (they all stack and none applies a perception inspiration, so feel free to use an item or have a friend cast one on you)
- Marked Prey (+10 accuracy. Super fast cast and no recovery. Only costs one bond and can be upgraded to jump to new opponents so that you never have to recast)
- Stalkers Link (+10 accuracy)
- Marksman (+5 accuracy)
- The empty soul (+10 accuracy against will)
- lingering echoes (increased spell duration for longer charms)
- Survival of the fittest (+10 accuracy against enemies with less than 50% health)
- Evasive Fire (doesn't help accuracy, but I recommend using your bond on this. It only costs one bond and gives Quick inspiration for high casting speed and also functions like escape, allowing you get away from enemies who insist on trying to engage you in melee... all while dealing damage. Particularly good to use this right before you "Ascend" since casting speed is really important then)
Other build notes:
Resolve is the dump stat because, well, it is generally a weak stat and we are not going to engage in melee. You don't have any self healing and don't want to be killed immediately by ranged enemy attacks, so we want high CON. Might can be dumped since we have no synergies for it, other than the general desire to do more damage in order to gain focus, but dex/per/int helps your focus enough. Your late game damaging powers are deadly enough without extra might and you have no healing (pet healing isn't really worth over just resummoning). Dexterity is particularly important for this build because of the Ascended state. With that, it is all about pumping out as many spells as quickly as possible. It is also helpful early to get your charm spells out quickly before the enemy can hurt you too much. Int is good for a longer whispers of treason duration; I am not sure if it extends Ascended or not, but if so it is doubly good. Perception is good since it really hurts to miss with your powers as cipher. You could probably drop this a bit, though, if you wish since ranger provides a lot of accuracy. However, my opinion is to just go all out on accuracy so that you can benefit more from synergy with items that require critical hits and just give this character all of them you find.
The flow of combat is simple from the beginning to the end of the game. Whenever you have 10 focus, use whispers of treason, otherwise attack. If you are facing an enemy immune to charm instead try to max out your focus so you can power them down with damage spells after ascended. If facing a high will defense enemy, first hit them with a club using the proficiency modal; this will lower their will significantly. I would only do this against a "boss" enemy where that is the only way to hit them reliably, otherwise it isn't worth putting yourself in danger by entering melee and there is only one unique club in the game (and it is not a very impressive). If you get bored in later levels, you can forgo charming and just rush to ascended state and nuke with spells like detonate and disintegrate.
The true power of this build is that it is over powered right from the start of the game. Other build eventually become insanely over-powered after getting higher tier powers, but this one starts out over powered and stays that way. 100% of game time over powered > 10% of game over powered.
One final note: This build seems like it would work well with the beguiler ranger subclass since you are only ever spending focus on deceptive spells. That can be the most "focus" efficient indeed, but I don't like it because it is too fiddly. I don't want to have to worry about afflicting my enemies before charming them and you also miss out and the fun LOLs of nuking everything with high damage spells in the late game. Even if you never "ascend" in the early game, the ascendant subclass is still great because of the increased focus generation of draining whip and the higher starting focus.
Edited by Braven, 23 May 2018 - 01:54 PM.