New Players Guide to Path of Exile, updated to 3.6 and Synthesis League
So, it’s been a while since we wrote our original New Players Guide to Path of Exile, so we’re going to recreate a new version of that guide for new POE players, with all the changes from Incursion, Delve and Betrayal League included in some form. This is going to be a very streamlined guide, which builds on some of the information from our other guides, so go check out our original guide if you want the full treatment and need to learn everything you can about Path of Exile.
Right off of the bat, you need to know, Path of Exile ain’t your dads action RPG. It may be free-to-play, and it may share similarities with other games in the genre, but this is one of those games that you can’t just dive blindly into. Well, you could jump right into POE, but you’ll have much more fun if you actually know what you’re doing.
First things first, let’s get started with a primer on how characters work in POE.
Skills, Builds and Getting Started
Path of Exile has classes, but these only determine your starting position on a behemoth entity known as the Passive Skill Tree. In simple terms, there are two types of Skills in POE. Active Skills, which is what you actually use during combat, and Passive Skills, which are nodes that you take on the Passive Skill Tree as you level up, which grant you bonuses to various stats. This tree is one of the core elements of POE.
There are 7 core classes in Path of Exile. 6 of these classes each have 3 Ascendancy class specializations (sub classes). The remaining, the Scion, has 1 ascendancy class. Each class has their own specialized focus, such as Melee-based abilities for the Marauder, or Ranged-based abilities for the Ranger. But you can easily branch out from these archetypes and get creative if you wish.
- Templar: Inquisitor, Hierophant & Guardian
- Witch: Necromancer, Elementalist & Occultist
- Shadow: Assassin, Trickster & Saboteur
- Ranger: Pathfinder, Raider & Deadeye
- Duelist: Slayer, Gladiator & Champion
- Marauder: Berserker, Juggernaut & Chieftain
If you want to learn more, check out the POE Wiki for more detail on character classes, including full stat breakdowns, to pick the class right for you. But don’t worry too much about it, as a new player you’re likely to be following a build guide which will give you recommended class choices.
Looking at this you might be lost, but don’t worry, the POE community has an entire group of talented players who help new players by putting together “Build Guides”. These well-written guides lay out all of the skill choices, gear options and end-game goals for a huge number of builds. There are literally thousands of build guides out there, and the community keeps pumping them out with each patch.
If you’re looking for a build to play in Synthesis League, check our Synthesis League starter build recommendations.
The Basics of Builds
Stats are the first area of your builds you should be paying attention to. And this is more than just how much Life or Mana you have. In short, there are three main stats – Strength, Intelligence, and Dexterity. Each build in POE will usually have one or two stats which it seeks to maximize.
Here’s the list of how stats break down:
Every 10 strength gives you +5 to maximum life and 2% increased physical damage
Every 10 intelligence gives you +5 to maximum mana and 2% increased maximum energy shield
Every 10 dexterity gives you +20 to accuracy rating and 2% increased evasion rating
Path of Exile is a complex game, and there’s a lot of depth that’s seemingly hidden to new players, until you start paying attention. Luckily, Grinding Gear Games has made some great strides in accessibility for POE across the last few patches. One such change is the addition of Skill Gem tooltips which tell you how a skill is affected by your other socketed Skill Gems. Hovering over a Skill Gem will show all of the Skills you have Socketed, and either a green check for skills with which that new Gem can work with, or a red X for skills with which it is incompatible.
The skills of your build are determined by Active Skill Gems. These gems slot into your gear itself, and can be buffed directly by “Links” to passive skill gems. Once again, you should focus on Skill Gems that are cohesive with your choice of build. For example, if you’re running a projectile-based build, you might want Gems linked to your main damage-dealing skill that increase the number and overall damage of those projectiles.
You might be a bit confused, let me explain.
Items that you equip in POE can have anywhere from a single Socket to as many as six Sockets. With a randomized combination of links as well, it can be quite difficult or expensive to find good end-game gear. 6-link items are the most valuable, that is to say items with six sockets all linked together in order. Item Sockets and Links can be reforged with Crafting.
Build Guides will almost always give the reader some options for different gear in addition to all the other information. Pay attention to both the recommended items and stat priorities in a build guide, you’ll want to look for gear that fits in with the intended purpose of the build and its Skills.
Builds themselves focus on three main areas. Offensive buffs, Defensive Buffs and Core Skills. Offensive Buffs will need to work in tandem with the core skill of your build. For example, a Totem Warchief build will likely want Totems that deal a type of Elemental Damage and bonuses from the skill tree that boost Elemental Damage, all while reducing the amount of damage the player takes by buffing Totem life and other defensive layers. There’s builds for every manner of play style, and you’re free to try out as many as you like until you find one you like.
Remember to read item stats and skill descriptions of Gems and on the Skill Tree thoroughly. Some skills offer flat additive bonuses to damage, while others increase damage in a multiplicative way. Always opt to multiply your damage when possible. Tanking through damage output is often the way to go in POE.
Crafting in Path of Exile could take up an entire guide unto itself, so to save time, here’s the basic idea. Crafting is the process of using Currency to modify the properties, values, Sockets and Links of a target item. This process used to be really difficult to fully unlock, but the developers have made it far simpler in a new patch.
With the launch of Path of Exile 3.5 and Betrayal League, Master Missions and the grind to unlock Crafting recipes is gone, replaced by a Veiled Mods system in which you unlock new Crafting Recipes by selecting them manually, each time you get a drop with a Veiled Mod. If you want to learn more about Betrayal League and Veiled Mods, check out our Betrayal League guide.
There’s a ton of items in Path of Exile, it’s a loot-fest ARPG after all, so there’s one piece of advice that you need to take from this guide if you want to have fun in POE.
Loot filters are your friend!
Loot Filters are scripts that interact with Path of Exile to filter out items that the player doesn’t want to see when dropped. Without Loot filters, lots of players struggle to see rare item drops, especially when a shower of items is all over the ground after a boss fight. Loot Filters help reduce the appearance of worthless or low-level items as the player increases in level.
I would recommend new players stick to using an established Loot Filter and try multiple until you find the one you like. Most Loot filters can be found on the forums here. A good guide for installing one can be found here. Shout out to ZiggyD who made the great guide, and makes a killer Loot Filter.
For those who wish to use a customized filter, I highly recommend checking out FilterBlade. This online tool user NeverSink’s popular loot filter as a base and allows you to fully customize every single rule within the filter to your liking. It allows multiple filters to be saved and even has a loot simulator to test out your changes. And for the best part, it’s entirely free.
The process of getting a character to the point where it’s considered “done” in POE is one of the first skills you’ll master. If there’s a certain art to this game, it’s efficiency. Knowing what content to do, and how to do it quickly can make leveling so much easier in POE. Many build guides will also lay out a recommendation for how to level their build. Usually this will offer a specific skill combination and gear choices to make leveling as fast and smooth as possible. There’s a few things to keep in mind though.
- Get a good guide: Having good recommendations for both leveling and end-game gear as well as skill choices makes leveling much faster and gets you to actual League content quicker. Check out our Synthesis League Starter Builds Guide for some great options.
- Don’t be afraid to spend currency. You can always farm more currency. And spending a few Chaos or Alchemy Orbs on some even minor gear upgrades can make the leveling process that much easier.
- On the same token, hang on to more valuable currency until the end-game. Mirrors, Exalts and such are highly prized, and you should only spend these on build-enabling Uniques or other important gear. This is where a good build guide really helps.
- Don’t be afraid to die. Deaths and zerging tough bosses in the story acts is expected as a new player. It takes time to learn your build mechanics and how to fight each boss, so don’t sweat the mistakes.
- Don’t be afraid to grind either. Farming for loot and currency is a big thing in POE, especially in Solo-Self-Found Leagues where no trading is allowed. This is why many players spend time farming later story zones like Blood Aqueducts for Divinations Cards or other rare drops to build wealth. Keep in mind that this tedious process is nowhere near as efficient as running Maps. Especially considering the drop penalty that’s imposed when you over-level content.
Unlike in MMOs and other ARPGs, you actually get penalized for trying to take on content that’s too high-level for you, as well as too low-level. And don’t think you can boost with a friend either, party play rewards the lions share of EXP to the highest level players in a group first. This is because grinding to max level in POE, which is level 100, is a huge chore. This is why most builds are considered finished by around the high 80s or low 90s.
The leveling formula you should always keep in mind is pretty simple, and it changes predictably. You start by earning 100% of the EXP from a mob kill within 3 levels of your current character level. So at level 10, anything below level 7, or higher than level 13, will start being less efficient for farming EXP. This formula increases plus one every 16 levels so once you are level 16 you get full EXP against level 20 mobs for example.
Quests will be encountered over the course of POE’s ten Acts, each with their own rewards, ranging from Rare items, to Skill Points. The quests that reward Rares can almost always be skipped if you’re trying to speed through leveling as fast as possible. If you want to know which Quests you should absolutely complete to earn as many Skill Points as possible, here’s a list:
Act 1 : The Dweller of the Deep
Act 1 : The Marooned Mariner
Act 1 : The Way Forward (after you’ve killed Captain Arteri in the Western Forest in act 2)
Act 2 : Deal With The Bandits (2 from killing all bandits)
Act 3 : Victario’s Secrets
Act 3 : Piety’s Pets
Act 4 : An Indomitable Spirit
Act 5 : In Service to Science
Act 5 : Kitava’s Torments
Act 6 : The Father of War
Act 6 : The Cloven One
Act 6 : The Puppet Mistress
Act 7 : The Master of a Million Faces
Act 7 : Queen of Despair
Act 7 : Kishara’s Star
Act 8 : Reflection of Terror
Act 8 : Love is Dead
Act 8 : The Gemling Legion
Act 9 : Queen of the Sands
Act 9 : The Ruler of Highgate
Act 10 : Vilenta’s Vengeance
Act 10 : An End to Hunger (2)
The Labyrinth and Ascendancy
The Labyrinth is one of the first major challenges you’ll face as you’re leveling in Path of Exile.
The general idea behind the Labyrinth is to complete increasingly difficult puzzles and boss fights to earn three rewards, loot, power and Enchantments. The Ascendancies are some of the biggest buffs you can get while leveling, and completely change the way a character plays. You should always do the Labyrinth once you’re able. And since there’s a ton of mechanics involved, I’ll let you visual learners get a treat here and feature one of the best guides on the Labyrinth by a prolific member of the POE community
You’ve done it! You’ve leveled your first build into the 80s or 90s and started wondering what you should do next. You might want to look into completing the Atlas of Worlds. You could also try taking on the Shaper and the Elder. There’s previous League mechanics too, like the endless Delve. POE is full of possibilities, and it’s entirely up to you what you do next. If you have no idea what any of that means, we’ve got guides that explain the basics of all of that.
We’ve compiled a handful of useful tools for new and veteran Path of Exile players. These scripts, sites and programs are developed by the POE community to make the game more engaging and easier.
Path of Building – Arguably the best thing ever made by the POE community. This tool allows players to create builds for the game, down to the smallest detail. Gear, Passive Tree, Classes, Ascendancy and more can all be planned out with this tool. Most build guides use this extensively in order to make sharing builds much simpler via its built-in import/export features.
POEBuilds – This website indexes all of the current build guides, and sorts them by class type. Choosing a build is incredibly easy with this site.
POE.Trade – A trading indexer that you can use to help find items to buy for currency in-game. Trading is incredibly lucrative too, some players just trade all day, and this is the site that helps them do that.
POE.Ninja – A sort-of addon for POE.Trade which indexes average and median prices of Currency, powerful Unique items and other in-game items. If you want to price check a Unique listed in a build, or a Map drop, or Currency, this is the best place to start as a new player.
ExileDiary – This tool tracks drops, leveling and other progress while you’re playing, making it easy to see your progress.
POESummary – A helpful member of the community made a website that compiles links to many of the major POE tools in one place. Save space on your bookmarks toolbar using this helpful compilation. POE,Trade, POELab, POE’s Subreddit and more are all here.
POEChecklist – Another community-made tool. This one allows players to track quests, item checklists, lets you know which trials you’ve completed in the Labyrinth, and many other QoL improvements.
POEDB – Using POEDB to search for affixes for the new Shaper and Elder Rare items is a huge boon for the trader looking for different deals on high-end rares that will take their builds to the next level.
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