The sprawling grim dark fantasy ARPG Grim Dawn has seen quite a few changes both to existing masteries and loots drops in recent patches, but also with the addition of whole new masteries in the latest expansions.
With those changes in mind, its time to update our guide to the best Grim Dawn builds. If you want to take a look, our previous version of the best build still has some solid tips if you want to try out a Warder character, although some of that info is now outdated.
Before diving into specific mastery combos and skill load outs, first let’s clarify what we mean by “best”. Our best builds have these qualities:
- Less squishy and more survivable in most situations
- High damage output potential
- Ability to make it to later waves of Crucible or the Shattered Realm
- Can tackle the sealed dungeons
- Have the potential to defeat secret god boss Mogdrogen (with the right equipment and at level 85 – 100)
Up until the release of Forgotten Gods, one of the top damage dealing classes was easily the Cabalist (Necromancer + Occultist) with a focus on pets and chaos damage. Unfortunately, the latest patches have heavily nerfed chaos damage and items that boost chaos pet damage.
While that’s still a potentially viable build just for fun, we can’t recommend it as an actual “best” build anymore at this point. Instead, we’re going to look at three classes focused on melee attacks, undead pet summoning, and poison / acid damage.
Ritualist (Shaman + Necromancer)
Based on personal play style preference, this is my current favorite build, although your mileage may vary if you don’t care for melee combat or using a ton of pet summons.
There’s a dual focus here, first on summoning creatures to keep the enemy busy, then on two handed weapon attacks with internal trauma damage. It may seem strange to have two caster classes focused on physical attacks, but trust me, it works wonders.
Internal trauma damage bypasses armor and continues dealing damage over time, making it very helpful with big tanky bosses. In terms of devotion points, Hammer gives you bonus internal trauma, while Shepherd’s Crook is a must for the bonus to pets. Be sure to pick a devotion constellation tied to whatever 2 handed weapon type you end up using (Rhowan’s Scepter gives a ton of internal trauma damage for maces).
The goal with this build is to always have 8 skeletons, a briarthorn, a blight fiend, and a primal spirit to thin out the enemy while you go to town with a 2 handed weapon.
These are the preferred skills out for the Necromancer side:
- Reaping Strike 10 (bonus main hand damage)
- Necrotic Edge 12 (bonus default weapon damage)
- Raise Skeletons 16
- Undead Legion 12 (upgrades skeletons)
- Will Of The Crypt 12 (upgrades skeletons)
- Call Of The Grave 4 (upgrade all pets for limited time)
- Summon Blight Fiend 16
- Rotting Fumes 1 (upgrades Blight Fiend)
- Blight Burst 1 (upgrades Blight Fiend)
These are the preferred skills for the Shaman side:
- Brute Force 12 (increase internal trauma damage with main attack)
- Feral Hunger 10 (heal yourself on melee hits)
- Summon Briarthorn 16
- Ground Slam 4 (upgrade Briarthorn)
- Emboldening Presence 4 (upgrade Briarthorn)
- Primal Bond 12 (additional internal trauma damage and upgrades pets)
- Conjure Primal Spirit 6
Of course there are ways to tweak the skills if you want to focus more on pets than melee attacks, as Reaping Strike and Necrotic Edge can be swapped for maxing out the Blight Fiend and Briarthorn upgrade skills instead.
So long as you buy faction items or equip items that that increase poison resistance, you’ll even do very well in the harder Ashes Of Malmouth content like the Ancient Grove sealed dungeon.
There are really only two main weaknesses to pay attention to here.
First up, the only place you are really going to struggle is with Father Kymon near the end of Forgotten Gods, who will be difficult to overcome with this build on epic and ultimate modes.
Since Kymon can one shot many players with melee hits, you want to stay far away and let your pets do the work, or equip an item that gives you an extra ranged power to use while you hide in the area’s entrance.
Second, while this build will see you surrounded by a horde of pets, unfortunately it doesn’t have quite enough summoning potential to actually unlock the Pet Hoarder achievement… unless you manage to find a significant number of loot drops that give you bonus summoning powers.
Dervish (Oathkeeper + Nightblade)
As a brand new mastery, the player base is still trying to figure out the best secondary class and skill load out for the Oathkeeper, and many players are convinced only Soldier or Demolitionist are viable options.
They are dead wrong (at least for the moment before any future patches).
The Oathkeeper has excellent synergy with poison and acid when paired with the Nighblade mastery. To get the most use out of this build, obviously you are going to want to equip any items that increase your overall acid damage.
In terms of devotions, make sure you pick up Rat, Eye Of The Guardian, Scorpion, Manticore, Murmur, Abomination, and Yugol The Insatiable Night for maximum acid damage output. Ghoul also works well, since it gives you some healing while attacking capability for survival.
These are the preferred skills out for the Oathkeeper side:
- Righteous Fervor 16
- Dreeg’s Reproach 1 (converts physical damage to acid damage)
- Consecration 12 (bonus attack speed and defense)
- Retribution 5 (adds internal trauma damage)
- Presence of Virtue 12 (bonus retaliation, bleed, and internal trauma damage)
- Haven 2 (bonus health and shield block chance)
- Rebuke 2 (bonus damage reflection)
- Resilience 2 (increase resistance when low on health)
- Ascension 2 (bonus to all damage for limited time)
- Clarity of Purpose 2 (reduced debuff time and big resistance bonus)
- Summon Guardian of Empryion 2
- Scion of Dreeg 1 (convert Guardian’s damage to acid)
- Celestial Presence 12 (Guardian gains big acid damage bonus)
These are the preferred skills out for the Nightblade side:
- Amastara’s Blade Burst 16
- Lethal Assault 12 (bonus acid damage)
- Dual Blades 5
- Belgothian Shears 3
- Nidalla’s Hidden Hand 8 (bonus acid damage)
- Shadow Strike 16
- Nadalla’s Justifiable Ends 12 (bonus poison damage)
- Veil of Shadow 10
- Night’s Chill 10 (bonus resistances)
- Merciless Repertoire 12 (big bonuses to acid and poison damage)
Switching between Amastara’s Blade Burst and the Righteous Fervor attacks can result in crazy damage to just about any enemy as poison and acid eat away at health. Don’t forget to summon your Guardian so he can also go out and perform area burst acid attacks!
The main downside here is a lack of crit percentage, but with how much poison, acid, bleed, and internal trauma damage you will be dealing, it isn’t that much of a weakness.
For maximum damage output, don’t forget to grab those Dreeg-focused faction items that add in additional poison/acid damage to whatever dual wielding weapons you are using.
Conjurer (Occultist + Shaman)
A lot of the pet builds were sadly diminished with the Forgotten Gods expansion, but this one remains viable if you play it right.
A counterpoint to the Ritualist, this mastery combo is mostly about summoning creatures and letting them do the damage, while then lowering enemy resistances so your summons can tear at them with damage types like acid, cold, lightning, etc.
For devotion points, Ulzuin’s Torch is a great idea that can be bound to any of your summon skills, as it eventually gives you the chance to randomly call down a high damage meteor swarm with any basic attack. Other than that, Behemoth, Jackal, and Rhowan’s Crown are all critical for the bonuses to pets.
Finally, don’t forget Modgrogen the Wolf, as the final star on that devotion constellation gives you Howl Of Mogrdogen for a big bonus to your pets.
These are the preferred skills out for the Occultist side:
- Summon Familiar 16
- Storm Spirit 10 (grant area elemental attack to Familiar)
- Bonds of Bysmiel 12 (big health and energy buff to all pets)
- Manipulation 12 (big damage buff to all pets)
- Summon Hellhound 16
- Curse of Frailty 5
- Vulnerability 10 (greatly reduce enemy resistances)
- Blood of Dreeg 16
- Aspect of the Guardian 12
- Dreeg’s Evil Eye 6 (extra attack option for poison / acid damage)
- Focused Gaze 1 (increase poison / acid damage)
These are the preferred skills out for the Shaman side:
- Summon Briarthorn 16
- Ground Slam 4
- Emboldening Presence 12 (this is critical for upgrading your other pets)
- Modgroden’s Pact 4 (increased healing opportunities)
- Heart Of The Wild 7 (extra health and resistance)
- Oak Skin (retaliation damage)
- Wind Devil 5
- Raging Tempest 12 (Wind Devil deals cold damage and reduces elemental resistance)
- Primal Bond 10 (bonus to all pets)
- Conjure Primal Spirit 12
Your focus here is on getting as many pets on the screen as possible that all deal elemental damage, while you then use your Occultist abilities to lower the resistances of any enemies.
The main weakness is that your character won’t be directly dealing a ton of damage, and of course you don’t have a ton of defense. Just make sure to always be on the lookout for any equipment that gives pet bonuses, elemental damage bonuses, or debuffs the enemy.
Want to see what builds other players have come up with? The Grim Dawn build compendium over in the game’s official forums are a great place to start.
However, keep in mind that many of those builds revolve heavily around using very specific equipment, which you may not be able to get since loot is random.