The greatest strength of Path of Exile’s Witch class is her incredibly lofty Intelligence. While a high Intelligence stat provides her with considerable Mana boosts and offers unique gear and spells to suit this purpose, her negligible Strength leaves her particularly vulnerable to Life damage once her Energy Shield breaks. Fortunately, the Nine Lives skill gives her a reliable means of passively regaining this lost life.
How Nine Lives Works
Nine Lives is an Ascendency modifier that increases the recoup rate of your Life, Mana, and Energy Shield every time you take damage. With Nine Lives active, up to 25% of incoming damage is converted to these resources and restored to all three pools. Exclusive to the Witch and her three Ascendency classes — Necromancer, Occultist, and Elementalist — this skill provides critical survivability to a heavily intelligence-based class that is very squishy by default and sorely needs it.
As a passive skill, Nine Lives activates in absence of a cooldown, with the recoup occurring with every single attack endured. It also causes the recovery process to speed up by a full second compared to the natural recoup rate of four seconds. These effects stack multiplicatively and synergize well with other skills that provide boosts to recovery, such as Mender’s Wellspring and Profane Chemistry.
Keep in mind that the “damage” upon which Nine Lives bases its recovery includes both Lost Life and Energy Shield. This means that agile and situationally aware Witches can kite enemies and intentionally take moderate Energy Shield damage to restore their lost life, then flee to give their Energy Shield time to regenerate passively. Alternatively, spells that cause self-damage to the Witch, like Forbidden Rite, can be used to manually activate Nine Lives’s effects.