Path of Exile

Totem Review

Content of the article: "Totem Review"

Totems are by far my favorite playstyle within Path of Exile and for the past couple leagues I have been playing almost exclusively spell totem builds, experimenting with different skills, ways to build them and different ascendancies. Here are my thoughts and conclusions after multiple leagues of playing almost exclusively totem: the good and the bad, and how I would go about improving this archetype.

The Playstyle

I place totems on the ground, they cast spells, things die. Pretty simple, right? For general mapping, yes, that is how it normally goes. But for bossing there is a little bit more managing to it, having to upkeep your curses and exposures as well making sure the little guys are in a good position where they won’t get instantly destroyed by boss and can do the most damage, if I’m running something like Sleepless Sentries, manage my uptime on Onslaught, on top of self-casting curses and exposure. I love it, it is relaxed and simple when I want to be relaxed and simple and it is hectic and exciting when I want it be hectic and exciting.

The Damage

The damage floor for totems is good, at least for the main skills people tend to use, meaning that it is really easy to get into maps and have a good experience and even do endgame bosses smoothly enough. However, it is really hard to get past this “smoothly enough” state without some very big, often feeling like I’ve hit a wall that I can’t break through without investing multiple Exalted Orbs in a good weapon, which I believe would make the average player frustrated about not being able to steadily progress their character.

On Shockwave and Holy Flame totem, this “wall” problem could probably be solved by simply increasing the power scaling of these skills, which would make getting a wand with a little bit more added damage to spells more valuable, I also have another solution for these two, which I will get into detail later in the gearing section. For the rest of spells what I can think off is to reduce the damage penalty on the Spell Totem Support or make at least make it scale similarly to Spellslinger, though I think the latter would be quite unbalanced.

The Clearspeed

It depends mostly on the skill that you are playing, but just like the damage it’s once again no more than good enough. The skills themselves clear fast enough, the issue here is that the totems take a second to start attacking, I wouldn’t have a problem with this delay, but when you crash against a bigger group on a high tier map they often die before they can do anything, which forces me to pull back and resummon them a bit further away hoping they don’t get killed again.

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Having the totems die on bosses or harder monsters is fine, but it would be great if they could at least get one cast off before going down. This could maybe be addressed by having a Notable on the Passive Tree similar to the Clever Construction node for Mines and Traps.

The Gearing

It’s boring. Getting to 4 totems is the name of game and there seems to be only two viable options, with one seemingly much better than the other. I can use a Soul Mantle to get myself a pseudo 7-link, get myself curse immune either through Kikazaru Rings or Atziri’s Reflection and put a Self-Flagellation jewel on the Passive Tree to get absurd amounts of damage out of what would be a downside of playing with Soul Mantle. Or I can just run a Shaper Influenced Shield with a +1 to Maximum Number of Summoned Totems and be locked into running a one handed weapon. There is not much I can do besides that, running Multiple Totem support is a damage loss more often than not and Tukohama’s Fortress is just bad if your build doesn’t have enough life regen. With Holy Flame Totem you don’t even get to pick, because someone decided it was a good idea to make the Consecrated Ground it spawns remove all of your curses.

It’s not such a big deal for skills supported by Spell Totem, since Soul Mantle is already really strong when built around while still having the option of running other types of weapons, such as staves or dual wielding. However, Shockwave and Holy Flame totems would really benefit from having 2 totems baseline, making at least the weapon selection much more flexible.

Maybe having the second totem on everything and removing the +1 to maximum number of Summoned Totems from Soul Mantle wouldn’t be a bad idea, as it would up the damage floor and the ceiling of the skill. Because of the self-curse and 7th link, the unique chest would still be a solid option if you decide to build around, but would also open up the possibility of running a rare chest with +1 level of active skill gems and/or +#% critical strike chance.

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The Ascendancies

The damage is surprisingly even when comparing Hierophant to not just Chieftain, but also Elementalist and Inquisitor, especially given the fact they have to run Multiple Totem Support. But the Hiero just feels so much better due to the huge amount of Totem Placement speed it gets.

I do believe Hiero should continue to be the top dog when it comes to totems, but I believe Chieftain could use some love: starting by getting 20% Totem Placement Speed on the small nodes rather than the current 10% as well as getting +1 to Maximum Number of Summoned Totems on either Arohongui or Tukohama like it used to. This should even the grounds a little bit and players could decide between the more damaging Hierophant and the more Survivable Chieftain instead of just flocking towards the obvious better option.

Ancestral Bond

This is just a rant, but I feel like I have to address this one. Not being able to deal damage is just infuriating, Elemental Equilibrium is not an option; if you are playing a Fire or Lightning Skill, it forces you into another Spell Totem setup just for Wave of Conviction. This could be overlooked, but having Runebinder right beside it with practically no drawback is just salt on the wound.

I can’t see other ways to improve the node that are not reducing the drawback by just making it reduce the character damage by a certain amount, or really increasing the node power by adding two totems instead of one, or an on death explosion mod that everyone seems to love, or even going for something similar to what Clever Construction are for traps and mines.

Utility Spell Totem Skills

Searing Bond, Rejuvenation, Devouring and Decoy Totem. Searing Bond still sees some plays when paired with already niche skills such as Scorching Ray or the good old meme Flame Dash. Decoy Totem also sees a little bit of play on Hardcore, but it is only function is to taunt. Rejuvenation and Devouring Totems are the ones that really see no play and I believe they would work better as a support gem or completely removed from the game.

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Totems are very easy to get going and can clear all content in the game well enough. The issue is that they are just “well enough”; I can do bosses just fine, but not destroy them like I would with other skills, I can map fast enough, but I won’t zoom zoom through them like other skills, I can’t turn my braing and watch them do the content for me like if I was playing a minion build. Totems are just average at everything, overshadowed by skills that are at least just as good in most scenarios, but excelling in at least one thing. Gearing and planning the tree is also very streamlined, there is not much wiggle room. And before seeing anything done to them I have seen Brands being released and reworked and melee getting the rework treatment twice. Maybe they are just showing signs of their age, or they are just a bad archetype, either way, I believe they need a breath of fresh air.


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