Path of Exile – Top 5 builds in the Sentinel League

Count down to the best five meta builds.

Image via Grinding Gear Games

With the Sentinel League in Path of Exile in full swing, and after several hotfixes, the meta has settled down enough for us to be able to determine what are the top builds this time around. Since there were no buffs or nerfs to skills and passives, the biggest impact came from just how deadly the Archnemesis mechanic was now that it was implemented to Magic and Rare monsters. The difficulty spike caught all players by surprise, meaning that it favored the tankier builds, as well as those who dealt damage from a distance or some semblance of safety, once more leaving most melee builds by the wayside.

Passive defenses and aura stacking were on a premium ever since the Expedition expansion, and the Sentinel League seems to culminate with just how important stacking all forms of defenses really is. Look no further than the top three skill gems in use, with Determination used by 83%, Molten Shell by 79%, and Defiance Banner by 74% of characters across all classes and ascendancies. Furthermore, 71% of characters use a Shield in their second-hand slot, with the distant second being those who equip bows at 11%.

Even with all of those caveats in mind, many of the popular builds from the previous few leagues have been refined and had therefore endured to crop up as some of the top builds in Sentinel. So let us count down the top five builds in Path of Exile: Sentinel League.

5. Explosive Arrow

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Being the preeminent bow build in this league, Explosive Arrow doesn’t start with Ranger or any of their ascendancies, as one might’ve expected. Instead, it is most often played as Elementalist Witch, with Champion Duelist being the second choice for those who prefer an even tanker approach. This build utilizes its namesake skill with Ballista Totem Support and a variety of elemental boosts to, pun intended, explode scores of enemies with each cast.

Despite that, it can be clunky to get going, especially due to the expensive nature of some of the core unique items, such as Dyadian Dawn belt, the Rain of Splinters gem, and Polaric Devastation ring. Even the rare bows it uses often look to stack more skill levels, which can get pricey if you seek crafters to make one for you, or even attempt the craft yourself.

For defensives, this build stacks most of the usual suspects that have become the norm by now, but can lack Spell Suppression without a shield, so has to make up for that by using more defensive flasks. In turn, that means that it has to choose between using offensive or defensive flasks, overall decreasing its power potential compared to the other top picks. Even though it has slightly fallen in popularity compared to the previous league, it has still remained one of the most popular builds for players who seek some variety.

4. Lightning Strike

Lightning Strike is the build with the highest diversity of ascendancies that can utilize them on our list, with the three most popular characters being Champion Duelist, Raider Ranger, and Berserker Marauder. Variants of this build use both the normal version of the skill gem, as well as the Vaal version, Anomalous version, and rarely even the Divergent version; and with varying primacy of elemental damage represented across all builds. That is possible because one of the core support gems is the Trinity support, along with elemental damage boosters, and Nightblade to help stack with the Elusive modifier.

The major hurdle for all variants of this build is acquiring the Crystallized Omniscience amulet, which is an extremely rare and expensive item. And while not core uniques, this build also utilizes two other expensive ones in Watcher’s Eye jewel and Mark of the Elder ring. It is also very important to acquire and craft a well-stated elemental damage claw and defensive shield combo of Rares.

To help with survivability, this build needs to utilize very specific passive nodes and rare item combinations, along with the usual skills. And since almost all versions of this build spec into the Point Blank notable passive, said survivability is of paramount importance with how close to enemies you have to get to leverage the full power of your casts.

3. Saboteur Trapper

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One of the strongest and most popular boss killers in the game, the Trapper only works as the Saboteur ascendancy for the Shadow class. With the ability to frontload damage by stacking traps under the bosses before the encounter starts, it is no wonder that some players seek out their services for many late-game boss kills.

It is also not a terribly expensive build to play, with most players using the relatively cheap Cold Iron Point dagger. The main skill for this build is the Seismic Trap, which is paired with a variety of supports, allowing it to work as pure physical damage, a critical variant, and even poison and fire options make an appearance. The other important skill, especially for map clear, is Exsanguinate supported with the Trap Support gem or the Deerstalker unique boots that provide the same function.

Their defensives are the usual stacking auras and Summon Skitterbots, with Withering Step acting as the movement skill of choice. The relatively non-prohibitive cost compared to the power of this build are what made it such a firm favorite for many players, and just seeing the bosses melt once they activate is a cathartic experience.

2. Skeleton Mages

Summoner builds have always been popular in Path of Exile, in one form or another. There is always one among the top builds in a league, ranging from Golem builds, Spectres, and some Skeleton variants. This time, it is the Skeleton Mages build for Necromancers of the Witch class. This build usually starts out as a Skeleton Warriors version, before acquiring its mandatory unique jewel, Dead Reckoning, which turns skeletons into ranged casters.

This build provides a good balance between map clears and boss killing, performing very well at both tasks. The Skeleton Mages are usually specced into casting piercing volleys of bolts that deal massive elemental damage to everything they touch, and the Necromancer’s minion army is further bolstered by Spectres and a Golem. Bone Offering helps to direct and augment the minions, which grow even more powerful once the 5-6 linked Fleshcrafter unique armor is acquired.

Most Necromancers add to the usual defensives with the Tempest Shield skill gem, extra spell suppression, and block chance on items, plus Rumi’s Concoction unique flask providing further chance to block. The playstyle helps there as well, since you can summon minions to block incoming projectiles for you, or swarm an enemy to pin them in place, giving the Necromancer a chance to escape and reposition.

1. Righteous Fire Inquisitor

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The power of this League’s strongest and most popular build is oddly not derived from the damage numbers that it can put out, but rather from just how tanky it gets and how quickly it can clear maps. It kills bosses decently quickly too, though the kill speed is not paramount to it in this instance, since it can survive for longer than any other build can. And with the Aegis Aurora unique shield equipped, the build has been dubbed “Immortal.”

It’s run exclusively by the Inquisitor ascendancy for Templars, to utilize the ascendancy’s notable passives: Sanctuary, Pious Path, Augury of Penitence, and Righteous Providence. Another mandatory unique item is the Legacy of Fury boots which help clear monster packs at rapid speeds when paired with the Righteous Fire skill gem setup. To help this relatively passive build deal with those pesky persistent monsters and bosses, it uses a 6-linked Fire Trap gem to provide it with a single target damage option.

The playstyle of this build is deceptively simple once you get it going fully outfitted, allowing players to simply move through the map while killing monsters all around the character. For this reason, some variants of this build have been called “The AFK farmer.” Still, it needs a decent investment to equip it; with the two above-mentioned uniques, it also needs a variety of Cluster jewels for augmentation, as well as benefiting greatly if you can get the Melding of the Flesh and Brutal Restraint unique jewels.

Notable mentions

Along with the top five builds that we’ve listed, there are a variety of off-meta builds that are being played in the current league. For example, for those who still prefer melee, Cyclone is being used by Occultists, Slayers, and Inquisitors. While not being part of the current meta, Rangers (mostly Deadeye) play with the Tornado Shot builds from the previous patches. Players have been experimenting with the Spark builds through many different ascendancies, including even the Ascendant.

Meanwhile, Poisonous Concoction has been seen as a major letdown, as many have held out hope that it could be the next breakout build, but with the ramp-up in monster difficulty due to the way Archenemesis monsters work, it has fallen out of favor without even getting a real chance to shine. Similarly, Detonate Dead Occultist and Necromancer have previously been some of the strongest builds, yet seem to struggle in the current late game, at least compared to the more powerful options that are available to them.