This is an outdated guide, kept for historical purposes and to allow people who started using it to continue to do so if they so choose. If you're new, do not use this guide!
Guide Last Updated December 2018 (Betrayal League, Patch 3.5)
This build uses Double Strike, which doesn't get too fancy: it just hits twice with your main-handed weapon and deals bonus damage to Bleeding enemies. For trash clear, it also uses Cleave, which hits nearby enemies for some basic damage. It brings some utility by Taunting enemies, keeping them off your party members and making your party both take less and deal more damage. A strong generalist build capable of handling content solo and bringing extreme bonus utility to a party.
This build is focused on Melee Attacks.
Champion is one of the Duelist Ascendancy subclasses. When you create your character, you'll create a Duelist; you choose to be a Champion later.
If you want to explore this build's stats, links, and Passive Tree interactively, head over to the Links page and download Path of Building. Then, in Path of Building, select Import/Export Build -> Import from Pastebin, and enter this link: https://pastebin.com/iqVrYbuc
Main Skill Basics
Double Strike hits a target twice with your weapons and deals bonus damage against enemies that are Bleeding.
Double Strike is an Attack, and as a result uses your weapon's damage as its base damage. Any damage-type-specific modifiers will apply only to that portion of your weapon's damage (for example, Increased Lightning Damage would increase only the Lightning Damage on your weapon).
Double Strike otherwise lacks special modifiers. It therefore benefits from Attack and Melee damage (in addition to damage type modifiers), and Attack Speed modifies how quickly Double Strike hits, but there's not much to speak of in the way of special modifiers.
Double Strike has an upgraded Vaal variant:
Vaal Double Strike
Vaal Double Strike also hits an enemy twice with your weapons, and is eligible for similar modifiers to regular Double Strike. Like other Vaal skill gems, a Vaal Double Strike gem also grants the regular version of Double Strike.
In addition to hitting twice, it summons two clones of you who will continue to attack enemies the same way. These clones are not minions, and simply hit with the same damage you would for their duration. They cannot die or otherwise be affected by outside effects once created. The clones snapshot your stats on creation, so Vaal Double Strike is best used during windows where your stats are boosted (say, by an active Flask).
Unlike regular Double Strike, Vaal Double Strike cannot be used at will. It must be charged by Souls gained by killing enemies or damaging bosses before use. See the section on Vaal skills in the Act 2 section of the main guide for more on Vaal skill mechanics.
Cleave deals damage in a half-circle in front of you.
Cleave is an Attack, and as a result uses your weapon's damage as its base damage. Any damage-type-specific modifiers will apply only to that portion of your weapon's damage (for example, Increased Lightning Damage would increase only the Lightning Damage on your weapon). Cleave combines the damage of both your weapons into a single hit.
In addition to damage-type-specific bonuses, Cleave benefits from Attack, Melee, and Area damage modifiers. Increases to Area of Effect will increase the radius of the half-circle. Attack Speed modifies how quickly Cleave hits.
This section is meant to accompany the main "Act 1" section of the guide.
Early Act 1
You'll start with Double Strike, one of your core skills, so you can get started with it right away.
From Enemy at the Gate, you can pick up Cleave, your other primary skill. Using the two is simple - use Double Strike on a single target and Cleave on packs, basically. For the most part you'll want to use the same support gems on them during the leveling process, though we'll specialize them a bit more in the endgame.
With your first few passive points, work your way towards the following tree:
Once you finish Mercy Mission, you'll get access to Ruthless Support, which is a good support for both Double Strike and Cleave for now. You can also link them to Onslaught Support or the like, if you have other sockets available.
From Breaking Some Eggs, pick up Ancestral Protector. This totem will attack enemies while it's up, which is a minor damage gain, but more importantly grants you a substantial Attack Speed bonus. You'll want to use this for bosses throughout.
Once you enter the Prison (The Caged Brute), you can pick up Added Fire Damage Support, which is worth using alongside Ruthless.
Brutus (The Caged Brute) shouldn't be too difficult, but if need be you can back off and try to clip him with the edge of your Cleave area to avoid taking too many melee hits.
Once you've defeated Brutus, you can pick up Leap Slam, your primary movement skill for this build. We'll talk about movement skills much later, but you can use it for now if you want.
Late Act 1
As you go, you'll want to look for a few specific sorts of item:
- 3- and 4-linked items with mostly red sockets (although you can probably find a worthwhile support or two for one or two green sockets in a 4-link, our final build uses red).
- One-handed weapons with high Physical damage. Eventually we'll restrict ourselves to Axes, but we haven't gotten any Axe-specific modifiers yet. High elemental damage weapons are okay for now, but they're not what you'll use in the endgame.
- Armour with Life and Resistances.
- Jewellery with Life, Resistances, and "Adds X Physical Damage to Attacks".
As you continue to gain more Passive Skill Points, work your way towards the following tree. You'll have enough points for all the Passives shown here sometime around Act 3 or 4, at which point you can move on to the full Passive Tree (listed in the "Full Build" section of this guide below).
Once you enter the Cavern of Wrath (The Siren's Cadence), Nessa will offer some gems, but you don't care about any of them for this build.
This section is meant to accompany the main "Act 2" section of the guide.
Early Act 2
For the Deal with the Bandits quest, we kill all the bandits. Helping Kraityn or Oak is defensible, but passives are the flexible option.
From Intruders in Black, pick up Herald of Ash. We don't really care about its secondary effect, we're just using it for extra damage - but it's pretty good for that by itself.
From Sharp and Cruel, pick up Melee Physical Damage Support. This completes your main 4-link for both your primary skills: [skill] - Added Fire Damage - Ruthless - Melee Physical Damage.
Late Act 2
If you haven't gotten one by this point, consider asking in chat if anyone has a spare Vaal Double Strike for some small tip (say, a few Chromatic Orbs). It's a nice boost to your damage against bosses if you can get it.
This section is meant to accompany the main "Act 3" section of the guide.
Early Act 3
Once you've completed Lost in Love, you'll be rewarded with a choice of a few Curses. Punishment is by far the best of these for damage, and Enfeeble or Temporal Chains are your defensive options.
Late Act 3
Sever the Right Hand offers an alternative movement skill: Charged Dash. Leap Slam gets you moving quickly, but Charged Dash gives you the ability to teleport directly across hazards (which is very useful in the upcoming Labyrinth). I'd recommend picking it up at least for now, and continuing to use it if you find it useful in addition to Leap Strike.
A Fixture of Fate rewards Fortify Support, worth linking to any movement Attacks you have. Now that you have access to almost all the vendor-available gems, you can consider setting up some of the utility links discussed here or in the Act 4 guide.
This section is meant to accompany the main "Act 4" section of the guide.
Early Act 4
Leap Slam is your main Movement skill, but Charged Dash is a valuable alternative to have around. I would recommend playing with both, although you may as well not equip one you never use if you're short on sockets.
We don't care about anything from Breaking the Seal.
From The Eternal Nightmare, you'll be offered a few alternatives. For now, we won't use any of these, but you can start leveling a Multistrike if you want - eventually, we'll use it in 5-linked gear. Increased Area of Effect support is okay for Cleave but (a) we'll shortly get much better increases to its area-of-effect and (b) you probably don't have the Intelligence to level it up.
By this point you've probably completed the Passive Tree shown above. Here's the full tree, which you should work towards from here on out, adjusting how much damage or life you pursue as you feel your damage or survivability is in need of more help.
The Labyrinth should be fairly straightforward - you're playing a durable build with a good single-target attack and movement skills built in. Not that it might not kill you once you're twice if you're new, but this is definitely an easy build for it.
Once you've completed the Labyrinth, pick up Conqueror on your Ascendancy passive tree. In and of itself, Conqueror isn't very good, but it's a pre-requisite to Worthy Foe, arguably the strongest single passive node in the entire game (in the endgame, it's responsible for roughly one-third of this build's entire damage output, and it helps your party out too!).
Late Act 4
All the bosses in late Act 4 allow you to go in with a charged Vaal Double Strike, and as a result should drop very quickly compared to Izaro.
If you haven't already shifted away from using non-axe or non-physical weapons, you ought to start doing so now as soon as you can find alternatives.
This section is meant to accompany the main "Act 5" section of the guide.
The only major build-specific note for Act 5 is the choice of Unique Jewel from Death to Purity. Double Strike doesn't benefit from any of them, but Cleave does, and the Overwhelming Odds jewel is actually a nice bonus to your survivability. Now you can just Cleave once in a while during a boss to keep the powerful defensive buff Fortify up, and can use your movement skills to apply other utility effects. The extra Area of Effect is just gravy.
You can buy a second Overwhelming Odds from another player for an Orb of Alchemy or so if you like, but the second one is a lot less beneficial than the first. This build does incorporate Jewel Sockets for both, however.
Part II (Acts 6-10)
Once you complete your second Labyrinth, around the end of Act 7 or the beginning of Act 8, pick up Worthy Foe and watch your damage - and the damage of any Attack-based character you're partied with - skyrocket.
Epilogue & Maps
Once you complete your third Labyrinth, sometime early into Maps, pick up First To Strike, Last To Fall. This adds another 10% damage taken to your enemies (which is close to just 10% More damage for you and Attack-based party members), and gives you a gigantic boost to both defense and offense when you fall low on Life.
Like most builds where you're doing damage yourself, this build does not like Reflect maps. However, the fact that you do an almost even mix of Physical and Elemental damage means that you're much more able to run these maps than a lot of self-damage builds. As long as you're careful, and pick up the Pantheon power that reduces reflected damage, you can probably run them without too much problem. Optionally, you can shop for a Sibyl's Lament ring and use it for Reflect maps, just to be safe.
Once you complete your final Labyrinth, late in the endgame, you can pick between Inspirational (which will help with speed and benefits your party as a whole) or Unstoppable Hero (which will help with your own defenses and damage). In this guide I've taken Unstoppable Hero, but both are fine.
The Full Build
Main Skill Links
Vaal Double Strike - Added Fire Damage - Ruthless - Melee Physical Damage. In a 5- or 6-link, add in both Multistrike and Maim. You can optionally use Bloodlust instead of Maim, but it requires you to keep bleeds up with your Cleave in order to benefit from it. It's somewhat higher damage, at the cost of some minor maintenance.
Cleave - Added Fire Damage - Ruthless - Melee Physical Damage. If you're using Bloodlust on your Double Strike, swap out one of these gems for a Chance to Bleed and use Cleave to apply Bleed to bosses (as well as picking up Fortify).
(Beyond the standard ones listed as part of the Act 4 Guide)
Leap Slam - Faster Attacks - Curse on Hit - (Curse of Choice) is the way to go, since this build gets Fortify natively from its Cleaves. If you want to apply Curses by some other means, you can replace CoH and the Curse here with other utilities like Blind or Maim, or even support it with Fortify anyway to guarantee uptime in hectic moments.
War Banner is a free damage boost that applies to your party members as well. If you plan to use it and to party with others, consider taking Inspirational for your final Ascendancy Passive.
Hatred and Herald of Ash, unlinked.
Punishment is the no-brainer offensive choice, and Enfeeble or Temporal Chains are the defensive ones (you probably won't be able to level them very far unless you have major Intelligence or Dexterity bonuses on your gear somewhere).
Your weapons should be the highest Physical damage axes you can find.
Your armour should be a mix of Armour and Evasion base ideally, although you don't need to overly worry about coordinating an exact balance between the two. Either works, although you'll probably want your chestpiece to be Armour-based just to get all the red sockets you want more easily (and because Astral Plate, the best Armour chest base type, is far better than the best Evasion base). Look for Resistances first until capped, then for Life, and finally for Armour/Evasion amounts.
Your jewellery can include Added Damage (ideally Physical), Life, incidental Crit Chance or Crit Multiplier, Resistances, and Elemental Damage with Attacks.
There aren't any notable Uniques for this build that aren't just generically good damage items. You're looking mostly for the same stats on Uniques as you would be on rares.