Essence Drain Contagion Trickster Build Guide - Path of Exile: 3.24 (2024)

Do you want a fun build in Path of Exile that utilizes damage over time mechanics? While there are many options out there, the Essence Drain Contagion Trickster is one of the best. Read on to learn why this build rocks and how you can improve it from zero to hero.

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Essence Drain (ED) is a chaos spell in Path of Exile that fires a projectile when used. This projectile applies chaos damage over time effect on the affected enemy. This gem interacts really well with Contagion.

Unlike Essence Drain where you fire only a single projectile when used, Contagion affects a large area. Additionally, when an enemy dies, Contagion's effect will spread to nearby enemies, causing even more havoc!

To complement these spells, you will also use Blight. This is a channeling spell that does chaos damage over time to those who come near you. Blight is more suited in situations where enemies are not killed by the combination of Essence Drain and Contagion.

As you can see, stacking chaos damage is one of the best ways to take this build to the next level. Here are the modifiers that you should look for on your gear to improve the Essence Drain Contagion Trickster's damage potential:

  • Chaos Damage
  • Damage Over Time Multiplier
  • Chaos Damage Over Time Multiplier
  • Spell Damage
  • Area Damage
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Essence Drain

Transfigured Gems

If you have been living under a rock, Grinding Gear Games has introduced a new breed of gems called Transfigured Gems in Path of Exile 3.23 Affliction League. These new gems have effects that previously were only available from labyrinth enchantments, threshold jewels, and alt-quality gems.

That said, you are probably asking if any of the new Transfigured Gems for Essence Drain, Contagion, and Blight are worth using for this build. Actually, to put it simply, the base versions of the gem are so much better, and here's why:

Essence Drain has two Transfigured Gems in this 3.23 Affliction League. Essence Drain of Wickedness has a higher base chaos damage on hit and better damage effectiveness overall. The problem with this is that the debuff does not spread by Contagion, making it practically useless for the build. By itself, you can use this for sure. However, this build revolves around the interaction between Contagion and Essence Drain, so this one is a no-go.

How about the Essence Drain of Desperation? Well, this can spread to nearby enemies when you use Contagion. But, the problem is that you will lose life and energy shield as opposed to regenerating them like the base version. Hence, this gem has no place here.

Now, Contagion of Subsiding is good on paper as it deals more damage over time. However, it has two downsides. First, it has a considerably slower cast time. Second, the damage falls off as the debuff is spread to multiple enemies. This Transfigured Version, you could say, is befitting its name.

Contagion of Transference is another Transfigured Gem that boasts an impressively larger area of effect and deals more damage over time. But, just like its TG counterpart, it has a slower cast time and costs more mana as well.

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If anything, Blight has some Transfigured Gems that you might want to try out for yourself. Blight of Contagion deals more damage the longer it is channeled. It also has a faster cast time compared to the base version. However, it has a damage ceiling in that the debuff can only have up to five layers of damage.

Blight of Atrophy has shorter damage over time duration, but it makes up for it in a longer secondary debuff duration that applies a hopping 80% reduced life regeneration rate, which can help if you are dealing with enemies who like to run away after getting hit.

If you are to use any of the Transfigured Gems above, we recommend the transfigured versions of Blight and nothing else.


Your main skill here is Essence Drain. You run around the map and hit enemies with ED. Then, you supplement that with Contagion so that the effects of ED/Contagion are spread in an area.

Essence Drain Contagion Trickster Build Guide - Path of Exile: 3.24 (2)


Essence Drain does not have good single-target damage. For this reason, you will use Blight as well. The gem setup for Blight will vary depending on whether you're using a main hand + shield or a two-handed staff.

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In addition, you're going to use Withering Step for this build. Wither is a debuff that causes enemies to take increased chaos damage. You'll gain great benefit from Wither because Essence Drain, Contagion, and Blight are all chaos spell gems.

Why Trickster?

There are two ascendancy classes to choose from when using an Essence Drain/Contagion build: Occultist and Trickster. For this guide, we will focus on using the Trickster ascendancy. Why, you might ask?

The Trickster has some pretty nice ascendancy passives that offer a good mix of offense and defense. Polymath gives you 3% more damage for each different type of mastery you have allocated. Masteries provide additional bonuses that are always great for any build in PoE. They are found on the passive tree and for each different type you have, you deal even more damage with all of the chaos spells that are available in this build.

For example, if you have six different masteries allocated on your tree, you get an 18% more damage multiplier. Combine that with chaos damage and spell damage and you can see why Essence Drain/Contagion can slay enemies in a cinch.

Another reason why Trickster is good for ED builds is the ascendancy passive, One Step Ahead. This sets your base action speed to 108% instead of 100%. This means that you have an 8% boost to your action speed that will not be affected by status effects or debuffs like chill or Temporal Chains.

Conversely, nearby monsters have their action speed reduced to 92% (from 100%), so they're slightly slower than you. This helps you get away from monsters that have strong affixes, which you will encounter often in yellow- and red-tier maps. One Step Ahead is a godsend, especially early in the league when you don't have access to good self-crafted gear yet.

Speaking of gear, your defensive equipment will mostly consist of evasion/energy shield bases. Because of this, you're going to get Escape Artist and Spellbreaker as your final two ascendancy passives.

Escape Artist gives a five-point boost to your evasion rating per one maximum energy shield on your equipped helmet. Furthermore, it gives one point to maximum energy shield per six evasion rating on your equipped body armor.

You can maximize Escape Artist by equipping a Hubris Circlet on your helmet slot and a Hyrri's Ire unique body armor to get good amounts of energy shield and evasion rating. Hubris Circlet provides the highest energy shield rating among similar bases. With Escape Artist, utilize Hyrri's Ire body armor to bump up your maximum energy shield even further!

Spell suppression is a relatively new defensive mechanic in Path of Exile that mitigates 50% of the spell damage you receive. That is why you should aim for a 100% spell suppression chance when playing a character that utilizes evasion-based equipment.

That said, Spellbreaker helps you cap your spell suppression chance as this ascendancy passive gives you a 20% chance to suppress spell damage just by taking this node.

Moreover, when you have a full energy shield, it prevents 10% of suppressed spell damage, thereby increasing your survivability. This is quite helpful when you're farming T16 maps just a couple of weeks into a new league. With Spellbreaker's final effect, you have a 50% chance for energy shield recharge to kick in when you suppress spell damage. This effect works quite often since you're going to be surrounded by a lot of enemies when mapping.

Alternatively, you can take Soul Drinker rather than Spellbreaker. Soul Drinker allows you to leech energy shield based on 2% of your damage. On top of that, you get 20% increased attack/cast speed while leeching energy shield.

The last ascendancy passive is entirely up to you. Spellbreaker is much more consistent, gives you better defense thanks to the 20% spell suppression chance, and you have a 50% chance for your energy shield to restart when you suppress spell damage.

Soul Drinker is the preferred choice if you play more actively. Remember, if you take this passive node, you must cast ED/Contagion often to take advantage of Soul Drinker's energy shield leech.

As you gain more PoE Currency, you have the option of purchasing Forbidden Flame and Forbidden Flesh jewels with Opportunistic as the matching modifier. This notable passive comes from the Assassin ascendancy tree. This allows you to deal 25% more damage so long as there is one rare or unique enemy nearby. Additionally, you take 20% reduced damage if there are at least two rare or unique monsters on the screen.

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Essence Drain/Contagion Trickster Ascendancy Passives

Is Occultist Good?

Of course! While this guide revolves around the Trickster variant, the Occultist is a great alternative if you want to go all-offensive. With the Occultist, you have access to Profane Bloom - an ascendancy passive that makes cursed enemies go kaboom, inflicting chaos damage to nearby monsters in the process.

The Occultist also has Withering Presence, which applies the withered effect to nearby enemies for 15 seconds, causing them to take more chaos damage.

You can never go wrong with the Occultist or Trickster. It's just a matter of personal preference. Do you want a more well-rounded character? Choose Trickster. Do you want monsters to explode whenever you cast Essence Drain or Contagion? Then go for the Occultist.

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Build Variants

When you look at other Essence Drain Tricksters out there, you will find that there are two common setups, such as:

  1. Main Hand + Shield

This setup is quite common for league starters where most people do not have access to really good gear yet. However, it can be a competent mid-game build, provided that you craft some of the equipment yourself.

With this build, you're going to get Glancing Blows - a keystone passive that doubles your chance to block attack and spell damage. The downside is that you'll take 65% of the damage from blocked hits.

You might think that Glancing Blows harms the build, but that is just far from the truth. If anything, this keystone passive improves your survivability because it helps you cap your block chance easily, making you block attacks more often.

  1. Two-handed Weapon

The Essence Drain Contagion Trickster is a build that is primarily built for fast mapping. But, if you want to take it to the next level, you should use a two-handed weapon. Why? Because you want to increase the damage of Blight, which you will use to deal with bosses and tougher monsters.

Blight is another spell gem that deals chaos damage over time. However, unlike Essence Drain or Contagion, Blight is a channeling skill, meaning you have to be stationary while casting it. The said channeling spell not only deals damage but it reduces the movement speed of affected targets by a whopping 80% as well.

The reason why you want to use a two-handed weapon for Blight is that you want to include five support gems to increase its damage manifold. This is not possible when you use a one-handed weapon and a shield because you are only limited to three gem slots on each piece of gear.


One of the main reasons why Essence Drain Contagion Trickster is a viable league starter is that it doesn't require crazy gear to begin with. If you are going to go for this build, here are some options you can take:


If you're going to start a new league with ED Contagion Trickster, the Eber's Unification unique Hubris Circlet will help you until you can get your hands on a self-crafted helmet. This thing can trigger a Level 10 Void Gaze when you use ED or Contagion, which reduces the chaos resistance of enemies affected by the debuff by 20%. It also provides a hefty 135% increased energy shield, further improving your tankiness on a budget.

After some time, you have the option to upgrade to a Crown of the Inward Eye. This unique Prophet Crown increases your energy shield by up to 333%. Additionally, it increases your max hp, mana, and global energy shield by up to 21%.

The main draw of Crown of the Inward Eye, however, is that it grants you the effects of three notable passives: Transfiguration of Soul, Transfiguration of Body, and Transfiguration of Mind. These notable passives do the following;

  • Transfiguration of Soul: Increases and Reductions to Maximum Energy Shield also apply to Spell Damage at 30% of their value
  • Transfiguration of Body: Increases and Reductions to Maximum Life also apply to Attack Damage at 30% of their value
  • Transfiguration of Mind: Increases and Reductions to Maximum Mana also apply to Damage at 30% of their value

Transfiguration of Soul and Transfiguration of Mind increases your spell damage and raw damage, respectively. The bonuses that they give will even be more pronounced as you increase your energy shield and mana.

The only problem with Crown of the Inward Eye is that it can only be dropped by Sirus. So, unless you take him down by yourself, you have to be patient until other players have farmed him enough to sell them on the trade website.

In the endgame, you want to craft your own helmet. As mentioned earlier, you want to use a Hubris Circlet with at least an item level of 82. Use Essence of Anger/Hatred/Wrath if you're struggling to cap your resistances. Having difficulty getting enough strength or intelligence? Spend some Essence of Rage or Spite, respectively, on the Hubris Circlet depending on your needs.

Aside from a rare Hubris Circlet, you can use a Deicide Mask if you want to give a boost to your overall evasion rating. Using this crafting base gives you access to the mod, "chance to suppress spell damage", allowing you to cap your spell suppression stat more easily.

If you need more mana to work with, you'd want to craft a helmet using the Hubris Circlet as a base. Then, spam Essence of Loathing until you get some useful mods, such as energy shield mods, life, and some intelligence.

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Self-crafted Helmet

Body Armor

Resources are scarce at the start of a new league. So, for your body armor, you want to craft your own using a good evasion/energy shield base. Get yourself an ilvl 85+ Carnal Armour as it gives you the best evasion rating and energy shield values over others.

Use various essences that will complement your current setup. Having trouble getting enough strength or intelligence? Use Essence of Rage/Spite. Do you need more HP? Use Essence of Greed. Struggling to cap your elemental resistances? Use Essences of Wrath, Hatred, or Anger, whichever resistances you still need to cap to 75. If you want to fit more auras or have a comfortable supply of mana, you can use Essence of Loathing for some mana reservation efficiency.

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Self-crafted Body Armor

When you have a couple of Divine Orbs, you can purchase a Skin of the Loyal or even Skin of the Lords if you manage to find a cheap one. Although, if you're going to buy either of them, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

First, the gem sockets of these unique body armors cannot be modified, meaning you have to buy one that already has the right colors. Since you're going to put your Essence Drain setup here, you should get one with the following socket colors: three blue, two green, and one red.

Second, Skin of the Lords is special because it also provides a random keystone passive. That's why you have to buy one with a keystone that will not brick your build. Some of the ideal keystone passives to have are Ghost Dance, Glancing Blows, Wicked Ward, or Glancing Blows (if you're using a main hand weapon + shield).

If you do not want to use Skin of the Lords, you can opt for Shavronne's Wrappings instead. This grants increased spell damage, energy shield, and some lightning resistance. However, the main draw of this body armor is its unique effect where chaos damage that you take does not bypass the energy shield.


The weapons you use depend on whether you're going for the one-hand/shield variant or a two-handed weapon. For the one-hand + shield variant, you want to get your hands on an item level 85+ rare wand and shield.

You can go with an Imbued Wand or a Prophecy Wand for the crafting base since they grant up to 37% and 40% spell damage, respectively. Then, use Harvest "Reforge Chaos" to get any of the following modifiers:

  • +1 to Level of All Spell Skill Gems
  • +1 to Level of All Chaos Spell Skill Gems
  • % Increased Spell Damage
  • +% to Damage Over Time Multiplier
  • +% to Chaos Damage Over Time Multiplier (Can be bench crafted)
  • % Increased Cast Speed

It certainly helps if you have any of the +1 gem mods fractured. Harvest Reforge Chaos provides you with the best chance of acquiring these mods. If you have only four out of the six mentioned, they are good enough unless you have enough currency to keep going.

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Self-crafted Wand

For the shield, you have plenty of options to choose from. The Golden Buckler and Enameled Buckler are good choices if you want to have a boost in movement speed. If you're struggling to cap your spell suppression chance, you cannot go wrong with the Sovereign Spiked Shield, Mirrored Spiked Shield, or Supreme Spiked Shield. These shields provide a 5% chance to suppress spell damage as their implicit mod.

Now, if you have capped your spell suppression chance, you can use a Spirit Shield instead. Get a Titanium Spirit Shield as it grants a huge chunk of energy shield, as well as a 25% increased chance to block.

Again, you want to use Harvest Reforge Chaos to get the mod, "+1 to Level of All Spell Skill Gems". Other mods that you can consider on the self-crafted shield include:

  • + to Maximum Life
  • + to Maximum Energy Shield
  • Chance to Block Attack/Spell Damage
  • Elemental Resistances
  • Chaos Resistances
  • Faster Start of Energy Shield Recharge (Can be bench crafted)
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Self-crafted Spirit Shield

For the two-handed variant, you can start with a Cane of Unravelling. This is a unique Ezomyte Staff that improves your chaos damage over time multiplier and chaos damage. On top of that, it raises the level of all chaos spell skill gems that you use, including Essence Drain, Contagion, and Blight by two. The Cane of Unravelling is very cheap, though you may have a slight problem six-linking it at the start of a new league.

Of course, for the endgame, you should opt for a self-crafted rare Primordial Staff. You want to use Primordial Staff as your crafting base as it enhances your chance to block attack damage by 18%.

The most cost-effective way of crafting the staff is to buy an ilvl 84 Primordial Staff with either "+2 to Level of All Spell Skill Gems" or "% Increased Spell Damage" already fractured. Then, use Harvest Reforge Chaos until you get "+3 to Chaos Spell Skill Gems".

Once you have the prefixes sorted out, put "Prefixes Cannot Be Changed" from the Crafting Bench and then use Harvest Reforge Chaos again to obtain, "+% to Chaos Damage Over Time Multiplier.

The rest of the suffixes can be filled using the Crafting Bench and an Exalted Orb.

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Self-crafted Staff


Allelopathy is a great budget option and one that you should consider acquiring during league start. This unique pair of gloves grants increased damage over time, up to 120% energy shield, and 10% increased area of effect of area skills - useful for both Contagion and Blight.

For the endgame, you'll want to craft a pair of rare gloves. You can use Sorcerer Gloves if you want to up your maximum energy shield or a Stealth/Shagreen Gloves for a huge boost to your evasion rating.

When crafting the gloves, spam Essence of Envy until you are happy with the suffixes. Then, lock the suffixes and use a Veiled Chaos Orb afterward. Aim for that "+2 to Level of Socketed AoE Gems" mod. The remaining prefixes can be filled by using any modifiers from the Crafting Bench or an Exalted Orb.

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Self-crafted Gloves


There are a couple of unique boots that help you get started with Essence Drain Contagion Trickster without breaking the bank. They are Sin Trek and Atziri's Step.

Sin Trek is great because it gives you dexterity, intelligence, increased evasion rating, maximum energy shield, and 30% movement speed. It also has a unique effect where enemies cannot leech life from you. Because the Trickster inherently doesn't have a lot of HP, Sin Trek can improve your survivability for cheap. You can snag a Sin Trek for just a few Chaos Orbs.

Atziri's Step is a great alternative and one that you might want to consider, particularly when you have problems capping your spell suppression chance. It grants a huge chance to suppress spell damage, 180% evasion rating, up to 75 to max HP, and 30% increased movement speed.

Since these unique boots are inexpensive, you can purchase them off the trade website with some useful corrupted implicits. Look for any of these:

  • +% Chance to Suppress Spell Damage
  • % Increased Maximum Energy Shield
  • % Increased Maximum Life
  • % Increased Movement Speed
  • +1 to Level of All Socketed Gems
  • +2 to Level of Socketed Aura Gems
  • +2 to Level of Socketed AoE Gems

Both of the aforementioned unique boots are great, but they have one glaring flaw - they don't provide elemental or chaos resistances. For that reason, you must craft your own pair of boots using an evasion or evasion/energy shield base later down the line.

Use a pair of Murder Boots as a crafting base so that you have a chance of rolling spell suppression. Then, spam Essence of Envy to guarantee chaos resistance. You can follow our crafting guide if you want to create a pair of Onslaught Boots.

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Self-crafted Onslaught Boots


Because elemental and chaos resistances are hard to cap in this build, especially if you equip a lot of unique pieces of gear, rare rings are your only option. You have a few crafting bases to choose from.

If you're having difficulty capping your elemental resistances, you can craft on a Two-Stone Ring. To improve your chaos resistance, craft on an Amethyst Ring.

Once you've reached the endgame and you have your elemental/chaos resistances sorted out, you can now transition to an Iolite Ring for better chaos damage.

Use Harvest Reforge Chaos to guarantee chaos resistance. Additionally, look for other useful mods that can benefit your character, including life, elemental resistances, and attributes. Leave a prefix open so that you can put either "% Increased Damage"; or "Non-Channeling Skills Have -7 to Total Mana Cost" from the Crafting Bench

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Self-crafted Ring


You should use a rare amulet for this build because you want to craft one that has "+1 level to all chaos skill gems". The amulet slot is a great way for you to fill in the gaps, such as attributes or resistances. Be sure to go to our dedicated crafting guide to learn how to craft this specific amulet.

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Self-crafted Amulet

Alternatively, you can equip the Presence of Chayula for a whopping +60% increase to your chaos resistance. On top of that, you cannot be stunned, which is great from a survival standpoint.

Another great unique amulet to use for the build is Replica Dragonfang's Flight, specifically those that grant +3 to Essence Drain, Contagion, or Blight.

No matter what amulet you end up using, be sure to anoint it with Tranquility (Azure Oil, Golden Oil, Golden Oil). The reason why you want to anoint this is so that you can gain access to Transfiguration of Soul for more spell damage.

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This slot is nothing special. In fact, you can just craft using a Crystal Belt as a base for that energy shield implicit mod. Spam it with any essence that guarantees a suffix, such as Envy (Chaos Resistance), Sorrow (DEX), or Anger/Hatred/Wrath (Elemental Resistances).Now, leave one affix slot open. If the belt has an open prefix, use a Crusader Exalted Orb and hope that you get the mod, "Increased Energy Shield Recovery Rate". Conversely, use a Hunter Exalted Orb if you have an open prefix for a chance of obtaining either "Increased Maximum Life" or "Increased Chaos Damage".

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Self-crafted Belt (with Crusader Exalted Orb)


The Watcher's Eye is one of the best jewels in the game. That is because it provides bonuses depending on the auras that you have active. Here are some of the best mods that you should look for when purchasing a Watcher's Eye:

  • +% to Damage Over Time Multiplier While Affected by Malevolence
  • % Increased Energy Shield Recovery Rate While Affected by Discipline
  • % Faster Start of Energy Shield Recharge While Affected by Discipline
  • % of Physical Damage from Hits Taken as Fire/Cold/Lightning Damage While Affected by Purity of Elements
  • +% to Chaos Resistance While Affected by Purity of Elements
  • +% to All Maximum Elemental Resistances While Affected by Purity of Elements

A Large Cluster Jewel (chaos damage) is great for the build. You can add just one of it and use Harvest Reforge Chaos to obtain the following notable passives:

  • Unwaveringly Evil

    • 30% Increased Chaos Damage
    • Chaos Skills Ignore Interruption from Stuns
  • Wicked Pall

    • 30% Increased Chaos Damage
    • 5% Increased Skill Effect Duration
  • Unholy Grace

    • 30% Increased Chaos Damage
    • 10% Increased Attack/Cast Speed

Aside from that, you can include a Medium Cluster Jewel (chaos damage over time) and use Harvest Reforge Chaos to get Vile Reinvigoration and Eldritch Inspiration.

  • Vile Reinvigoration

    • 24% Increased Damage Over Time
    • 6% Increased Maximum Energy Shield
    • Regenerate 2% of Energy Shield per Second if You've KIlled an Enemy Recently
  • Eldritch Inspiration

    • 20% Increased Chaos Damage
    • 16% Increased Maximum Mana
    • 20% Increased Mana Regeneration Rate

Later on, if you love the playstyle of this build and would like to take things a step further, you can get an Impossible Escape jewel, particularly one with “Passives in Radius of Necromantic Aegis…” This allows you to allocate Dreamer, Foresight, and Path of the Savant on the passive tree.

Important Mods

Your endgame setup mainly consists of rare (yellow) self-crafted gear. Here are the important mods that you should be looking for in each slot:

Main Weapon


-% increase to chaos damage over time multiplier

-Increased spell damage

-Increased cast speed

-+1 to level of all spell skill gems

-+1 to level of all chaos spell skill gems

-33% increased projectile speed

-Can have up to 3 crafted modifiers (bench craft)

-Increased damage over time (bench craft)

-Increased spell damage (bench craft)


-Increased spell damage

-+2 to level of all spell skill gems

-+3 to level of all chaos spell skill gems

-Can have up to 3 crafted modifiers (bench craft)

-% increase to chaos damage over time multiplier (bench craft)

-Increased cast speed (bench craft)


Dex/Int Shield:

-Chance to suppress spell damage

-Increased evasion rating

-Increased maximum energy shield

-Increased maximum life

-Increased maximum mana

-Elemental/Chaos Resistances

Spirit Shield (INT):

-Increased energy shield

-Maximum energy shield

-Chance to block

-Recover 5% energy shield when you block (Crusader/Shaper-influenced)

-Chance to avoid cold damage from hits (Warlord/Shaper-influenced)

-Increased Armor and Energy Shield + maximum HP (bench craft)

Body Armor

-Increased evasion and energy shield

-Increased evasion rating

-Faster start of energy shield recharge

-Elemental/Chaos resistances

-Increased maximum life

-Chance to suppress spell damage


-Malevolence has increased aura effect (Eater of Worlds implicit mod)

-Increased chaos damage (Searing Exarch implicit mod)


Hubris Circlet:

-Maximum energy shield

-Increased energy shield

-Increased maximum life

-Elemental/Chaos resistances


Deicide Mask

-Chance to suppress spell damage

-Increased maximum life

-Increased maximum mana


-Elemental/Chaos resistances

-40% Increased Essence Drain damage (lab enchant)

-Increased Mana Reservation Efficiency of Skills (Eater of Worlds implicit mod)

-Increased Despair Curse Effect/Increased Cast Speed (Searing Exarch implicit mod)


Sorcerer Gloves

-Increased maximum mana

-Increased maximum life

-Elemental/chaos resistances

-+1/+2 to level of socketed AoE gems + 10% increased area of effect

Shagreen/Stealth Gloves

-Chance to suppress spell damage


-Increased maximum life

-Elemental/Chaos resistances

-% increased to chaos damage over time multiplier (Hunter-influenced)

-% increased damage over time (Warlord-influenced)

-+1/+2 to level of socketed AoE gems + 10% increased area of effect

-Withered You Inflict Expire % Slower (Eater of Worlds implicit mod)

+% to Chaos Damage Over Time Multiplier (Searing Exarch implicit mod)


-Chance to suppress spell damage


-Increased maximum life

-Elemental/Chaos resistances

-Increased evasion rating (if DEX boots)

-Increased maximum energy shield (if INT boots)

-Chance to avoid ailments OR % Increased Life Regeneration (Eater of Worlds implicit mod)

-Increased action speed/movement speed (Searing Exarch implicit mod)



-Increased maximum life

-Increased maximum energy shield

-% increase to damage over time multiplier (Essence of Delirium)

-Increased chaos damage (Iolite Ring)

-Elemental/Chaos resistances

-Increased chaos damage (bench craft)


-Increased spell damage


-Elemental/Chaos resistances

-+1 to level of all skill gems

-+1 to level of all chaos skill gems

-Increased chaos damage (bench craft)


-Acrimony: +15% to damage over time multiplier

-Tranquility: 5% increased maximum energy shield, Transfiguration of Soul

-Heart of Darkness: 27% increased chaos damage, damage penetrates 7% chaos resistance

-Whispers of Doom: You can apply an additional curse


-Granite Flask

-Quick Silver Flask

-Jade Flask

-Stibnite (evasion) or Basalt (armor) (if you want a percentage increase rather than flat increase)

-Health Flask

Unique Flasks

-The Sorrow of the Divine

-Bottled Faith

-Rumi's Concoction



As previously mentioned, the Essence Drain Contagion Trickster has two main builds that are solely dependent on your weapon.

Here is the rundown of the gems for the main hand + shield combo:

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Main Hand

  • Withering Step
  • Despair
  • Flame Dash

Withering Step not only increases your movement speed for a brief period, but also inflicts the Wither debuff to nearby enemies, causing them to take more chaos damage.

Flame Dash is your main travel skill for this build, so use it accordingly. Despair is also included in this setup, but you have to cast it manually.

Alternatively, you can forgo Flame Dash and Despair in favor of Shield Charge and Faster Attacks Support if you want a faster mode of travel. However, you have to craft at least one rare ring with the "Despair on Hit" mod.


  • Intensify
  • Contagion
  • Increased Area of Effect Support

Contagion is one part of your main skill rotation. But, since you are fairly limited when equipping a wand and shield, you will have to make do with this setup.

Both Intensify and Increased Area of Effect are support gems that further expand the Contagion's AoE, making it affect more enemies with just one single cast. They increase the damage of the said spell as well.

Body Armor

  • Essence Drain
  • Awakened Swift Affliction
  • Awakened Void Manipulation
  • Awakened Controlled Destruction
  • Efficacy Support
  • Empower (level 4)

This is your main skill setup. Essence Drain is supported by a few awakened gems for even more damage and bonuses. Awakened Void Manipulation grants a "more" chaos damage multiplier, as well as "+1 to Level of Supported Chaos Skill Gems".

Awakened Controlled Destruction gives a more spell damage multiplier. This support gem also grants your Essence Drain the power to "unnerve" enemies for several seconds, causing them to take more damage in the process.

Both Awakened Swift Affliction and Efficacy Support provide more damage over time multipliers, which helps scale Essence Drain's potential even further.

The Empower support gem is great because you want to improve the level of the Essence Drain gem as high as you can. A level 4 Empower provides plus four to gem levels, making it quite an appealing gem to include in the setup.


  • Blight
  • Awakened Void Manipulation
  • Infused Channelling
  • Efficacy Support

Awakened Void Manipulation and Efficacy Support is also used to support Blight, giving it more oomph thanks to its damage over time multipliers.

However, unique to this setup is Infused Channeling - a support gem that increases the damage of Blight and grants a bit of protection while you are channeling the spell.


  • Malevolence
  • Grace
  • Purity of Elements
  • Enlighten Support

The helmet slot is reserved for all of the auras that you need for the Essence Drain Contagion Trickster. Malevolence provides more damage for all of your main attack spells.

Grace and Purity of Elements grant more evasion rating and elemental resistances, respectively. The latter makes you immune to elemental ailments too!


  • Vaal Discipline
  • Defiance Banner
  • Clarity
  • Arrogance Support

If you have enough mana to spare, you can activate Discipline along with Defiance Banner to improve your survivability. Otherwise, you can enable Defiance Banner and just activate the "Vaal" portion of Discipline whenever you are in a tough situation.

Clarity is a commonly used aura for builds in Path of Exile that involve some channeling skill. It is linked to Arrogance Support so that you can activate it without having to worry about mana.

Two-handed Staff

  • Blight
  • Infused Channeling Support
  • Efficacy Support
  • Awakened Swift Affliction Support
  • Awakened Controlled Destruction Support
  • Awakened Void Manipulation

By now, you're familiar with the support gems used in his Blight setup. This deals even more damage compared to the four-gem setup mentioned above. But, be sure to use the +5 gem level staff if you want to take advantage of what this build has to offer.

Secondary Ascendancies

During the start of the league, you can choose Warden of the Maji to help improve your defenses. But more importantly, you can gain access to Tinctures that allow you to coat your weapons with various effects and bonuses. For example, you can use the Oakbranch Tincture so that you can instantly kill enemies that are below 10% of their life. You can also roll for the mod that enables your damage to penetrate up to 12% chaos resistance.

In the endgame, you will transition to Wildwood Primalist mainly for that secondary inventory slot, as well as the three Charm slots. Here are our recommendations for the Charm modifiers that are great for the build:

  • Cursed Enemies You or Your Minions Kill Have a % Chance to Explode, Dealing a Quarter of Their Maximum Life as Chaos Damage
  • % Increased Mana Reservation Efficiency of Skills
  • % Increased Effect of Withered
  • Recover 2% of Life/Mana/Energy Shield on Kill
  • If You've Cast a Spell Recently, You and Nearby Allies Have +% Chance to Block Spell Damage
  • Regenerate % of Energy Shield per Second

Passive Tree

Essence Drain Contagion Trickster Build Guide - Path of Exile: 3.24 (15)

Passive Tree for Essence Drain Contagion Trickster


Wand + Shield Setup

Two-handed Staff Setup

Final Thoughts

Essence Drain Contagion Trickster is one of the most fun builds in Path of Exile. It is a good league starter because it doesn't require expensive items to work. It makes use of damage over time mechanics so you can just hit enemies once and then run around the map using Shield Charge or Flame Dash.

Although it is not deemed as a bossing build, you can invest currency to make it somewhat of a competent performer against much tougher content. For instance, you can get a two-handed staff where you put Blight in so that it will have five support gems, increasing its damage in more ways than one.

The Trickster ascendancy is used for this build because of its good mix of offense and defense. You can use equipment that boosts evasion rating and energy shield. Polymath improves your damage, especially if you've invested your passive skill points on masteries. One Step Ahead slows enemies down while speeding you up in the process.

For defenses, you have three ascendancy passives that improve the build mightily. You can get Escape Artist to give you a huge boost in evasion rating and energy shield. Then, you can decide to go for Spell Breaker for that increased spell suppression chance or Soul Drinker if you want energy shield leech.

If you're looking for a fun build in Path of Exile that utilizes damage over time mechanics really well, then the Essence Drain Contagion Trickster is definitely one to consider.


+Fun build to play

+Does not require expensive items to function

+Can invest currency to make it a competent bossing build

+Trickster ascendancy provides a good mix of offense and defense


-Damage over time playstyle may not be for everyone

-Endgame gear is expensive

Essence Drain Contagion Trickster Build Guide - Path of Exile: 3.24 (2024)
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