Path of Exile

Hexblast: a Post-Mortem

Content of the article: "Hexblast: a Post-Mortem"

I played Hexblast from level 28 all the way to level 89 in SSF, using the Cold Hit-based variant on an Occultist. Up to t14s. Currently I have a level 20 Hexblast, level 20 Added Chaos, and a 6-link setup with the following supports:

Controlled Destruction, Void Manipulation, Added Chaos, Hypothermia, Energy Leech.

I use Skitterbots for the shock and chill to enable Hypothermia. Currently running Triple Curse with self-cast Ele Weak and Temp Chains and a Blasphemy’d Frostbite.

Example of 3 Watchstone Drox with every possible upgrade except for a Vixen's, or Eye of Malice (because ssf)

Let’s discuss the several failures of Hexblast and the Hex Rework.

1) The Doom mechanic is clunky and hard to use.

The Doom mechanic acts as 30% free curse effect for regular builds, or 40% with an Intuitive Leap in the Witch socket. Doomsday helps cut down the duration to max Doom from 3-4 seconds on a build with no Doom Gain Rate down to 1 second. But when used on a build specializing in Doom, there are several hindrances:

  • Doomsday only allows 1 Hex Area at a time globally. This means you can’t Hex 2 distant packs at once, or use more than 1 Hex self-cast this way. This makes Doomsday pretty awful for clearing, not to mention having no Doom scaling for an entire second.
  • When self-cast, 150% Doom Gain cuts the time down to 1.44 seconds to Max Doom with 4 base and 40 max. Considering that Hexblast gains 50% more damage additively per 5 Doom, that’s a cap of 500% of Base Damage per 1.44 seconds, with a Cast Time of 0.6 seconds. A cast time bypasser like Cast on Crit/Cast While Channeling is almost as competitive without any doom and the clunkiness of casting and waiting. Cast on Crit being a More Damage support gem means that at .15 seconds per proc, you have around 9.6 casts. Hexblast lacks a strong 6th support gem when self-cast, so you’re still doing around 600% of base damage through COC. Just COC’ing would be 20% more damage than Hexblasting a single Hex.
  • Additionaly sources of gain rate only exist on 2 curses: Enfeeble and Temp Chains. New enfeeble is garbage. You also need to have 60 quality to make it worth it, which means you need an Enhance 4 in a + 2 supports Wand, and probably Trigger multmodded.
  • The visual indicator for Max Doom is almost impossible to see. At low levels you can see a small flash, but at mapping/endgame you have 3-5 curses on an enemy, plus the visuals of Malediction on top, spinning around the enemy’s head. No one can see that at a glance and know “oh, it’s time to cast”.
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2) Hexblast is too dependent on other mechanics.

  • Self-casting Hexes are incredibly tedious, especially when they are removed on each hit. Vixen’s is a mandatory unique to actually play as an Occultist. Additionally, you need to cast several debuffs, which makes Trigger craft necessary to not kill your wrists.
  • Speaking of Occultist, no Occultist buffs to any of the Curse or Chaos Ascendancy nodes means that point for point Occultist is rather weak. Hexproof bypassing is nice. But 20% res reduction? 1 Wither a second? Malediction isn’t even that great since it’s only 10% dmg reduction and the equivalent of 1.5 Wither stacks. Why does Malediction have non-Chaos as Chaos on Kill when it’s only used for Damage over Time? Trickster is a superior option for getting this consistently. Forbidden Power and Vile Bastion are so weak in the current metagame, and building a 4% Base Crit spell is incredibly tedious. Wasting a Support for Inc Crit Strikes, Bottled Faith gatekeeping, or casting yet another spell (Frost Shield and Assassin’s Mark) on anything relevant? Incredibly tedious.
  • Trickster and Hiero are superior Ascendancies. Why? Ignite. Hexblast’s hit mechanic is extremely underwhelming and doesn’t do the “huge chunky damage” it advertises in red maps. Everyone is bypassing this by going the Archmage Ignite route. You know that there’s an issue when anyone not playing Archmage Ignite has quit the skill already before hitting 4 Watchstones. Being balanced around Archmage isn’t an identity, it’s a crutch. Also, Hiero gets crazy AOE and leech. Occultist gets.. Malediction.
  • Curse immunity become Hexproof is nice. Too bad that you forgot Lab Totems, certain Totem enemies (e.g. Veritania’s SRS launchers & map mod “Adds Totems”), and a couple other annoying enemies.
  • Was it really necessary to gate AOE behind removing a hex? If you don’t Blasphemy a curse (which goes against the Doom rework) you literally need to cast a Hex on every pack, often more than once. Influence and Beyond mobs spawn staggered, so if you accidentally namelock on an un-hexed target you’ll get the tiny laser and do no damage and die. Another reason people go Ignite, for Prolif.
  • Hexblast has weak support gems. Void Manip, Controlled, Added Chaos are the only clear options. Then what? Hypothermia, only if you use Skitterbots or waste a cluster jewel spot. ES Leech? A penetration gem loses its power when you’re stacking Cold Res reduction. Empower..? The fact that Concentrated Effect does nothing for single target is a bit underwhelming. Crit seems barely worth the investment.
  • Extremely hard to get Leech. The main options from what I can see: Berek’s Grip, Hunter Ammy or Essence of Delirium, Delve rings, or having to use Thirst for Horrors. Occultist basically has no sustain for Life until you get one of these, so you’re almost completely relegated to Low Life or CI to have any defenses.
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3) Removing Hexes – the issue with this mechanic

  • So, removing Hexes is cool. It provides the identity of the charged attack, and enables Impending Doom. Here’s the problem: Impending Doom is incredibly weak for things that matter. The base damage is 1/3 of Hexblast, no Res scaling, uses up a support link, and only 50% added damage effectiveness. You’re better off using Impending Doom as utility for Onslaught at the moment. The cooldown also means you’re not making use of it well without Profane Bloom.
  • Instead of removing the Hex, why not let it just reset to 0 Doom and let it gain it again? This incentivizes Doom Gain Rate instead of Doomsday as you would be stuck with the base gain rate otherwise. Doomsday should be a niche Keystone that has clear advantages and disadvantages, and there’s no benefit to Curse Duration currently – which makes no sense on Hex Master.
  • Why does Doom have to reset when you cast the same one? If you’re self-casting 2+ Hexes misclick and oops, 0 damage.
  • Random name-lock is awful. Make it a soft aoe.

4) Final Comments

Overall, the skill feels underwhelming for the investment needed to make it work and the tediousness of the skill to play. This seems to be a common thread amongst most of the new skills in 3.12. I sincerely hope that the Doom scaling gets buffed in a patch, if not end of league. The initial hit needs an aoe portion like storm call to improve clearing qol. More doom cap and gain rate alone isn't enough to make this skill feel good to play. Plus some base ailment chance. Everyone I know has shared these experiences, with almost all Hit variant players rerolling by day 2-3 and Archmage Ignite players on the verge of rerolling. I'm dreading having to kill Sirus.

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