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Greetings Obsidian Build Forum!  I've been a lurker on this board off and on since PoE1 released, but finally felt the need to register in order to ask for some much-needed advice.


I'm currently wrapping up my (long-running) PoE1 playthrough - technically my second but it will be my first to actually complete, on normal.  My player character is a Dual Wield Cipher (double Bittercut) and I'm having an absolute blast with him.  I realize that my DW Cipher could be made more efficient by using Blunderbuss or Arquebus, but I enjoy the playstyle of a melee, dual wield spellcaster (and since it's not PotD suboptimal builds still work to some degree).


Once I finish with PoE1 I want to start PoE2 and play a class that has the same "feel" to it.  I was pretty stoked when I read about subclasses and saw that Ciphers were getting Soulblade, so my initial thought was do roll something like a Rogue or Rogue Subclass multiclassed with a Soulblade.  However much of my research has indicated that while Soulblades were good right after Deadfire's release, they've been nerfed a lot since then and aren't really worth using (alarmingly, I've read similar things about ciphers in general, not just Soulblades).  So I'm currently considering other options.  I've also heard that spellcasting in melee is much harder in PoE2, so that's another reason I have concerns.


Unfortunately most of the builds, guides, or comments I'm seeing seem to be rather dated, and with the sweeping changes that have been made since release I don't have high confidence that I can make an informed decision.  Which is why I'm here - I'm looking for a melee build that combines weapon attacks with spellcasting and provide the same kind of punchy, face-melting gameplay that my DW Cipher did in PoE1.


If you read this much, thanks!  If not, below is what I'm looking for:


  • Role: Melee damage dealing, with spellcasting component.
  • Weapons: Strong preference for Dual Wield.  I am willing to consider 2H weapons or single One-handed if people think that it will be more fun or work better.
  • Class: Prefer Cipher, specifically Soulblade or Ascendant (I prefer my player characters to be damage dealers so Beguiler doesn't hold much interest for me).  Not picky about what I multiclass with (if at all) though it's a feature I'd like to try out.  I'm willing to consider non-cipher options if they reproduce the same feel (Battlemage or Wizard/Paladin would be fine, for example, though I would prefer more rogue-like multiclasses)
  • Difficulty: Probably Hard.  I felt like I got a pretty good understanding of basic mechanics and re-learned some of the micro-management from my old Baldur's Gate days in PoE1, so I'm ready for a bit more of a challenge in PoE2.  I realize that you can kind of make any build work on anything lower than PotD, but I want something that's going to feel powerful and fun.
  • Race/Background/etc: Strong preference for builds that do NOT require a specific race or background.  I prefer to leave these choices open for RP purposes.  Again, since I'm not on PotD I feel like this isn't too difficult to work around.
  • Party: Since I haven't played PoE2 yet I can't say which companions I'll have, but I'll choose the ones that work with my player character's build, or for RP purposes.  I don't plan on soloing or anything crazy.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: I'm not really looking for the most optimized build in the world, but something that feels fun and powerful, and (ideally) falls within the constraints above.


Thanks in advance for any suggestions.


P.S. Apologies if this isn't the right place for "give me a build" requests.  Mods feel free to remove it if it's in the wrong place.


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If you are playing RtwP, Streetfighter/Ascendant with dual Blunderbusses can get pretty crazy. Running with the modal to give you the Flanked status, your recovery is halved and you should fill your focus with the first barrage. Once you hit Ascended, you can spam your cipher spells and decimate the enemies with debuffs and shred spells. Add to the fact that they get the Brilliant buff at PL7 and they become a pretty awesome team player that helps keep your team in fights longer.


If it's TB, I would almost recommend a Soulblade/Fighter with a focus on two-handed weapons. Since soul annihilation is only a primary attack, two-handers will hit a bit harder. If you are wanting to dual wield, then I would pair with a flavor of rogue, either Trickster(more defense and debuffs) or vanilla. Most rogue attacks are full attacks and will attack with both weapons. Ascendant makes more sense with rogue, but in TB I found the buff to be underwhelming because you can't spam cast like you can in RtwP. You might want to consider a Beguiler/Trickster, it's actually pretty potent especially when you can spam tons of debuffs on the enemies and let your team mop them up.


*One caveat is that TB is still in Beta, so things may change, but with the one action per turn that they currently have, it limits some builds that are strong in RtwP that rely on recovery.

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Sorry I forgot to specify, I'm playing RtwP.  Turn-based sounds interesting but not something I'm interested on my first playthrough.


If you are playing RtwP, Streetfighter/Ascendant with dual Blunderbusses can get pretty crazy. Running with the modal to give you the Flanked status, your recovery is halved and you should fill your focus with the first barrage. Once you hit Ascended, you can spam your cipher spells and decimate the enemies with debuffs and shred spells. Add to the fact that they get the Brilliant buff at PL7 and they become a pretty awesome team player that helps keep your team in fights longer.


I actually (briefly) considered this build since it's sort of the continuation of the classic PoE1 Blunderbuss Cipher build.  However I've really got my heart set on melee at this point.  I had heard that Trickster/Soulblade or Trickster/Ascendant could be good, but wasn't sure if that info was still accurate.

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Alright you could do something sort of silly if you want...


You could do beguiler and debonair and use the debuffs / charms tand attack the charmed dudes for 100% crit chance..


But I kind of get what you want, a pure ascendant works too...


You could do an ascendant / assassin build and get high damage from stealth that would allow you to hit ascended and spam cast.


The thing with soul blade is that it's only a main hand attack so it definitely works better with 2h but could be alright with 1h.


I'd go assassin / ascendant though since you can get that focus right at the start pump out cast, and possibly stealth again or just wade into melee.


Just run with what ever concept you want it'll work more than likely!

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This is a nice basic idea - however it's kind of a waste for a Debonaire to only deliver melee crits to charmed enemies (keep in mind that a charmed target flips back as soon as you damage it - and Cipher powers are all foe-only and can't be cast on charmed enemies).


A Cipher and a Debonaire/Wizard can exploit the 100% crit rate better. :)


The good thing about Soul Annihilation is that it doesn't care much about your weapon base damage - so a light weapon with +5 ACC (for example a Rapier) can be better than a two hander in order to make sure that SA connects. Especially in the early game (where you will miss with SA often and then waste a lot of focus) a single handed Rapier with modal (+12 ACC, +5 ACC, +20 ACC) can be really good.

Deadfire Community Patch: Nexus Mods

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Soulblade is still pretty good if you can regularly generate lots of focus! Inquisitors (Paladin/Cipher) can load out some good Soul Annihilation alternating it with Flames of Devotion to refuel. Feels really thematic too - "I'll light you up with purifying fire, then send your soul straight to Hel!" Bleakwalker would be the best Paladin order for this but if you prefer playing as good guy, Kind Wayfarers is a great team player. Inquisitor would be a good fit if you wanted to keep dual wielding Sabres - Paladins are great at dual wielding and Sabres have big enough damage that having to "only" do a primary attack for Soul Annihilation isn't a big deal. Some early battles are surprisingly difficult in Deadfire (like PoE1 cave bear hard!), so even on "just" Veteran, you'll probably appreciate Paladin's added survivability. Especially in the starter zone while you're figuring the PoE1/2 differences out.


Helwalker/Ascendant is very good in RTwP. It's pretty simple - take Mind Blades, use Duality of Mortal Presence's Wounds-to-INT to extend your Ascendance and Swift Strikes for the action speed buff, shred the entire screen with Mind Blades. The standard set up is dual mortars to ascend right away but the main reason that works is AoE damage. You could probably Wahai Poraga or Whispers of the Endless Paths (both are accessible pretty early too!). Once you get full attacks from the Monk side, you could also just emulate your PoE1 set-up. There's a variety of strong Sabres and whichever Swift Strikes upgrade you take can end up adding a lot of extra damage.


I'll also put in a vote for single-class Cipher. Once you get Draining Whip (always pick Draining Whip in Deadfire), you don't *need* another class to get you going into caster mode and the extra PL/earlier access is very nice.


Speaking of Draining Whip, I'll mention Cipher has changed a bit in case you didn't know. You have to choose between Draining Whip and Biting Whip now, and Draining Whip is widely considered the better choice for Focus generation. It generates a TON of focus. Other notable changes:

  • The PoE1 classic Prone Cone (Mind Wave) doesn't prone things anymore. It does have a way bigger cone and Interrupts on hit (similar function, significantly less powerful than PoE1's prone).
  • Mind Blades doesn't stop bouncing on a miss, which makes it a great spammable power.
  • You said you wanted to focus on damage but it's worth mentioning that Mental Binding isn't a powerhouse anymore. It has a much shorter duration and no accuracy bonus now.
  • I used Psychovampiric Shield a lot on melee Ciphers in PoE1, so I'll mention it: It gives +5 Resolve instead of +25 deflection now. It's still good but don't expect to turn into a tank on this alone.
  • Phantom Foes is a good damage set up now, since Flanked reduces Armor and helps with PEN.
  • Silent Screams got toned down on damage a bit, I remember spamming it in PoE1 but I mostly used it for Stun utility in Deadfire.

In general, you're also going to have less powers. Ciphers have a lot of great passives and if you multiclass, your second class will be competing for ability points, too. I wouldn't pick any powers that I didn't plan on using at least once in most fights. I highly recommend the Penetration passives available to a Cipher (they have one for weapons and one for spells). DR works differently in Deadfire, and underpenetrating things basically entirely turns off your damage. Likewise, overpen is a massive damage boost.


More meta-gamey but I'd recommend also having your first character be a story-mode speedrun to 3 achievement points and then start your actual first run with the Bonus Skills Berath's Blessing. If you like dialogue stuff, there's a lot of extra tidbits gated behind History and Insight checks, so if this is your playthrough for the story, you'll get more out of it with the skills blessing. Just IMO, really, not a necessity.

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Thanks for the excellent responses everyone!  I'm intrigued by the Paladin/Cipher combination - it isn't something I had initially considered but it looks like it aligns well with what I'm looking for.


Also thanks for the info on Cipher changes - you probably saved me from some headaches, particularly the nerfs to Mind Wave and the buff to Mind Blades.

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