In this Path of Exile Skill Gem Tier List we will present to you the strongest and weakest spells (skill gems) that are present in the latest 3.5 patch of PoE League (Betrayal expansion). This list of skill gems only contains the spells that can be used as a primary skill in a build and you will also be able to find a build link for every offensive skill that we mentioned. Because of the recent Betrayal league launch we have prepared two really useful guides that you should also check out: Path of Exile Leveling Guide and Path of Exile Betrayal league mechanics guide.
Please note: All Path of Exile skills are more than viable for casual players but for some of you that enjoy playing highly efficient builds and killing end-game bosses such as uber shaper and elder this PoE Skill Gem Tier List will potentially be of great use.
We will keep this post up-to date with the current meta during Betrayal and every other league so make sure to bookmark this post if you want to have a collection of builds or offensive skills for theorycrafting all in one place.
Skill Gem Tier List Descriptors
S+ Tier – Godlike. Path of Exile spells which do crazy amounts of damage with minimal to no investment. With god tier gear, these spells absolutely decimate everything and are able to clear any content in the game (Uber Elder, Uber Shaper, Red maps…)
S Tier – Powerful. PoE skills which are one level below the “Godlike” tier skill gems, but they’re still very strong. All of these skills are powerful in the current Meta (Betrayal League) and they’re a great choice for any beginner.
A Tier – Strong. Path of Exile skill gems that don’t lack any DPS, this tier of spells is still very viable for Red Maps but it will require moderate investment.
B Tier – Balanced. PoE spells which are usable and very often fun to play. These spells do okay damage and you should be able to clear yellow maps if you pick a solid build.
C Tier – Not Efficient / Useless. Not very good Path of Exile skill gems, you will most certainly struggle with making a decent build around them. They should be “okay” for softcore leagues but on hardcore you’ll just insta-rip. Most players that pick these spells just want to troll around and test hipster builds.
Path of Exile Spell Meta Descriptions
In this section you’ll be able to find all of the important information about offensive spells that can be used as skills one can base a build on. Below every skill you’ll find a button that will take you to one of the many up to date 3.5 (Betrayal league expansion) articles on the official Path of Exile forum. If the builds that we linked are not HC/SC/SSF/Low Budget/High Budget friendly, just do a quick google search and we’re sure you will find a PoE build that fits your character playstyle.
Arc – has been one of the strongest skills for a couple of Leagues, it’s currently the “meta” skill to play if you want to destroy everything with close to no gear investment. Either self casting Arc or Arc Mines/Traps will clear any content and with some investments Arc builds are easily viable for Uber Atziri, Shaper, Elder …
Glacial Cascade – a really strong choice if you prefer playing a Mine build, with good investment a GC Miner can one-shot Uber Atziri Vaals and Trio Phase which means it packs a good punch. The problem with GC Miners is that they’re often squishy if you don’t use tanky gear with a solid defensive passive tree.
Blade Vortex – this skill has been very strong for a long time, it’s great in all stages of the game. Blade Vortex is a really powerful leveling skill (with no spell damage from passive tree it can carry you to A5 with ease) and with enough investment it’s a great spell for CI builds. If you prefer to stay low budget, life Blade Vortex build is awesome as well.
Herald of Agony – HoAg is an extremely powerful choice if you want to steamroll through content and enjoy that kind of playstyle (relying on the summon). A good Herald of Agony build requires no investment and shreds content, do T15 maps with a blue weapon and cheap Unique Chest.
Winter Orb – recent addition to the game (Betrayal League 3.5 expansion), Winter Orb is a really strong skill that is great for fast clearing maps because it’s essentially a free aimbot spell. You charge it up and use a mobility skill to dash around and just clear everything with ease, though if you prefer to do bosses then there are better options.
Elemental Hit – very strong skill that is mainly used by bow characters because it scales really well with attack speed and it clears really nicely when you’re ranged. It somewhat got nerfed when GGG nerfed Quill Rain (clear speed) and Chin Sol (bossing) but it’s still one of the best ranged skill choices although now you’ll need to get a bow which may be more expensive than a Quill Rain in the past Leagues.
Molten Strike – in my opinion the best melee spell, it scales so well and you can burst down pretty much anything with it. What it lacks in clear speed, Molten Strike pays off with great survivability if you get life gained on hit and it does tremendous amounts of single target damage. Molten Strike is definitely the best melee skill for killing bosses.
Vortex – deals very high cold damage, it’s been in the meta lately because Ziggyd was playing a CI Vortex DoT build. Overall, a very solid skill that has great potential especially in CI builds.
Cold Snap – deals high cold damage, very good skill for clearing out a pack really quickly or permafreezing a monster. Not quite useful on it’s own, but when paired with another skill such as Vortex they make a deadly combo.
Storm Brand – exceptionally strong skill that was added with the Betrayal Expansion, RaizQT has been playing a Storm Brand build and it looks very solid. Great clear speed potential and good single target damage — easily reach red tier maps with this one but it’s more expensive to run than an Armageddon Brand build.
Armageddon Brand – a fire alternative to Storm Brand, Armageddon Brand does crazy amounts of damage with little to no investment — it can carry you up to A8 on a 4 link with ease. The fact that it’s a very budget friendly skill that does a lot of damage is what makes it one of the best leveling spells.
Scourge Arrow – a very strong DoT based spell that does a lot of damage — especially single target. It works really well on it’s own but when you pair Scourge Arrow with Toxic Rain it makes a deadly combo because you can spam both pretty easily and have an answer to both single target and AoE damage.
Righteous Fire – hasn’t been quite meta lately but it’s still a very strong choice, now more than ever. Because of the various ways to get % life regeneration you can pretty much run RF from around level 30-40 without any problems and it can carry you with ease. The best part about RF builds is that life=damage, meaning you can be extremely tanky and still do high amounts of damage.
Caustic Arrow – incredible DoT based bow leveling skill, when I’m leveling a bow character such as a Ranger I almost always take Caustic Arrow because it scales really well with levels and the weapon doesn’t matter (although a high attack speed bow is preferred).
Ancestral Warchief – if you enjoy playing totem builds, Ancestral Warchief is the skill for you. It can work both as a main skill or just a “support” for when you need extra single target damage. Hasn’t been very meta lately because there are a lot of more fun choices.
Consecrated Path – came out in the last PoE expansion, very solid melee skill choice. Has nice single target damage and AoE clear but it requires high investments to be on par with other skills.
Toxic Rain – strong AoE DoT spell, what it sometimes lacks in single target damage it makes back with it’s great area clear and exceptional slow. Even if you run a spell like CA or SA it’s great to have the Toxic Rain’s slow (if you’ve got high attack speed to stack the slow quick enough).
Volatile Dead – with some investments, IMO it’s the strongest skill in the game. You can play two variants of it, one is pathfinder (which costs a lot but can make you immune to damage while your flasks are up) or Juggernaut (a more budget friendly solution). I ran a Juggernaut Poet’s pen Volatile Dead, Unearth, Bodyswap build back in Delve HC and it’s an absolute beast. With only a couple of exalts invested, the build can rush you to 300+ delves with ease, kill red Elder and survive pretty much anything that doesn’t one shot you for 8000 health. If you’ve got 3-10 Exalts to spend, I really recommend giving VD a try, especially if you’re playing on a hardcore league/server.
Summon Skeletons – has gotten a major buff, few leagues ago the only reason “skeletons” were used in a Summoner build was because of Vaal summon skeletons which is an excellent skill to have even if you can’t link it to any support gems. Nowadays, skeleton summoner builds are pretty good.
Summon Spectres – bread an butter of summoner builds. Summon Spectres is an extremely powerful gem choice for both league starters and end-game builds. A Spectre Summoner that also utilizes Zombies can smash any boss in PoE (Shaper, Elder) on a budget.
Raise Zombie – usually the tank summons for summoners, they are more than viable in the sense of dealing damage as well, Zombiemancers are extremely cheap to build and they are more than enough to reach the end-game. Zombie summoner builds are based on Mon’ Tregul’s Grasp and The Baron Helmet uniques, the goal is to scale as much strength as possible because The Baron buffs your minions depending on your strength. By getting a lot of strength your character becomes incredibly tanky which is great for hardcore leagues. This build can be ran on a tight budget but if you’re rich there are some great options to consider such as Astramentis and 6L Geofri’s Sanctuary, Shaper’s Touch…
Blade Flurry – a stable skill that has many variants of builds out there from low budget to crazy expensive ones. Blade Flurry Elementalist with heralds is really fun to play, especially when your Herald of Ice starts to annihilate half of the map with the chain reactions an Inplusa can provide you with.
Blast Rain – strong single target bow skill, mainly used in conjuction with Split Arrow or any other AoE based bow spells. Blast Rain can do well as a primary skill too but it will lack clear speed.
Cyclone – not quite popular anymore because not many enjoy the Cyclone “spin to win” playstyle. Cyclone offers great single target damage and it performs very nicely in Delves because you can stack life gained on hit and survive in the dark for long periods of time.
Tornado Shot – the preferred bow skill for any ranged characters — especially those that can afford to invest in a good bow. Tornado Shot is an extremely powerful skill when you have a + projectile helmet enchant and a high DPS bow. It’s also a really good MF (magic find) kill if you prefer to run things such as Volcano maps to farm Kaom’s Heart cards.
Detonate Dead – exceptional variant to Volatile Dead, Detonate Dead does huge amounts of damage but the problem with it is that you have to aim and plan where your opponent will be. With that under consideration, DD is a great skill versus static bosses (such as Atziri, Elder…). Detonate Dead is especially a great choice if you are playing a Volatile Dead build and you want to do a reflect map or Atziri (reflect phase — VD balls auto aim, they can insta rip you on the mirror clone). Since Detonate Dead damage can’t be reflected, it makes an awesome alternative to VD if you plan on doing the “complete UNIDENTIFIED map challenges).
Earthquake – bread and butter skill of the Juggernaut Uber Lab Izaro farmers. Paired with Juggernaut’s survivability, this spell performs really well because you can just facetank most bosses and smash them to death. Clear speed with Earthquake is great as well, leap slam – hit a pack – leap slam – rinse and repeat.
Lightning Spire Trap – an alternative to Arc Trap/Mine builds, clears really well and it packs a punch. Vaal Lightning Spire Trap is very useful to have as a support skill because of it’s ability to shock enemies which increases your and your allies’ overall damage output.
Sunder – alternative to Earthquake, Sunder got nerfed a little bit in the latest patch but it’s still one of the strongest melee skills in the game. Sunder is a really strong choice for leveling melee characters.
Ice Golem – strongest Golem type for single target damage, can burst Uber Elder and farm Uber Izaro easily because of the high golem DPS and the high survivability of golem based builds.
Flame Golem – strongest Golem type for AoE clear, Flame Golems have been popular for a few leagues now, ever since the addition of Primordial Jewels.
Arctic Breath – reworked in 3.5 (Betrayal 3.5 Skill Revamp), Arctic Breath deals DoT cold damage that spreads and chills enemies in an AoE. Very strong cold skill and it’s quite fun to play. Pretty much a cold version of Caustic Arrow (with some improvements).
Lightning Arrow – LA is a very strong skill that was popular a couple of years ago. It still offers high damage and lots of flashy effects!
Reave – very popular melee skill that can be seen in block builds. Has great single target and clear speed, on top of that Vaal Reave is just so good! Not a very good starter skill though because it relies on a lot of things to be able to maximize it’s efficiency and damage.
Ball Lightning – very strong single target skill that scales incredibly with critical builds. Can be an AoE clear spell as well but it’s usually preferred for it’s high single target damage.
Skill Combo (Blight, Contagion, Essence Drain) – the reason this is a “skill combo” is because in most cases Blight and Contagion are useless without Essence Drain. With that in mind, CI Occultist ED builds are absolute beasts because with minimal gear investments this skill combo shreds bosses and can off-screen monsters with ease.
Firestorm – often known for being a great leveling spell, Firestorm has potential to be an end-game primary skill as well. Firestorm does great AoE damage and Single target is pretty nuts as well. If you enjoy playing Firestorm and you’re on a budget, don’t be afraid to make a build around it!
Kinetic Blast – even though KB was nerfed in the previous patches, it still performs really well for Blood Aquaducts speed MF farming.
Freezing Pulse – incredible cold skill, can be self cast or used in conjuction with totems. It decimates pretty much everything on a tight budget. If you decide to invest a lot, go crit and you’ll be permafreezing most bosses. There are lots of Freezing Pulse Totem builds that are viable for end-game bosses such as Shaper, Elder, Atziri and Izaro and it performs well in Syndicate matchups too.
Scorching Ray – featured in a lot of builds, Scorching Ray can be played in various ways. Be it self cast or cast while channeling, Scorching Ray has great potential and can do pretty much all content in the game (with a solid build). If you have a lot of Exalts to spend, check out the Scorching Ray 20k ES builds, you won’t be disappointed.
Spark – not very active in Betrayal League even though it is a great skill for many players. Spark scales very well and it’s often used in magic finder low life CI builds (these tend to be expensive). Personally, if you enjoy lightning spells I’d pick Arc over Spark.
Double Strike – good melee skill that is able to do deathless Shaper runs with a solid gear set, keep in mind that you can also utilize Vaal Double Strike.
Lightning Trap – very strong skill choice if you enjoy the trapper playstyle. Lightning Traps are really strong, especially if you want to do bossing on a budget.
Barrage – most popular single target skill for bow builds and wanders. It does okay damage with low investment but when you do pour exalts into your setup this thing annihilates anything in its way. The reason why it’s under tier A is because it takes a lot of currency to really make Barrage shine.
Summon Raging Spirits – SRS in short, the SRS A.I. was always wonky and after the SRS nerf they have lost all of their popularity and aren’t really picked in summoner builds over Spectres/Zombies/Skeletons or even Golems.
Bladefall – not quite popular even though it’s still a strong choice. It used to be great for Bladefall Poison Trappers but nowadays not so much. There hasn’t been many Bladefall builds but overall it’s a pretty fun skill and it’s great at clearing monsters and leveling.
Burning Arrow – very unique skill that is often shadowed over by Elemental Hit. Most magic-finder rangers I’ve seen like to run Burning Arrow (beware a good setup costs a lot).
Cleave – strong melee skill, it’s a good choice for single target damage.
Fire Trap – incredible leveling skill for beginners and experts alike, Fire Trap in a +1 one-shots most monsters and grants you a fast leveling experience. Fire Trap can effectively be played into end-game but it takes some investments and a +2 staff is preferred.
Frenzy – most of the time used only for Frenzy Charge generation. When scaled properly it can do good single target damage — though it lacks a lot in the clear speed aspect.
Frost Blades – incredible skill for mid-range melee characters. In a proper setup it shines but there are often better options.
Shattering Steel – a very good Spectral Throw alternative that came out in PoE 3.5 expansion. Shattering Steel offers good end-game potential and it can carry you to red maps with a bit of an investment.
Lightning Golem – they were used for single target damage before the buff to Ice Golems, if you want to do bossing focus on Ice Golems instead.
Spectral Throw – the only really viable build is elemental buzzsaw, though Spectral Throw hasn’t been very popular lately and IMO Shattering Steel has more potential than ST.
Dark Pact – relatively new skill that is utilized via Summons Skeletons or your own life, building around Totems can also work and provide you with a solid mid to end game character.
Smite – popular melee skill from the Delve expansion. Does a lot of damage and grants you lightning damage. High DPS potential in mid-range budget builds.
Fireball – strong skill choice — although unexplored. Not many builds these days are based around Fireball but if you want to try it out, you wont be disappointed.
Flameblast – the king of low budget leveling setups of past PoE Leagues. Pop Flameblast on Totems and you’ll have an easy leveling experience. Elementalist Flameblast builds are a great choice for any new player.
Ice Spear – reworked in 3.5, not a good self-cast skill but it shines in CoC (cast on crit) builds. Very strong spell with a lot of potential for investments.
Incinerate – fire skill that has been getting stronger lately. Especially good in life builds but CI Incinerate builds are a thing as well. Incinerate Totem builds are a thing of the past but they might be still viable.
Magma Orb – Mathil made a pretty strong Magma Orb last league (on SC), it did tones of damage but the setup itself costs quite a bit and Magma Orb is not very hardcore friendly.
Storm Call – not a popular skill. It is pretty solid though, can carry you to yellow tier maps with ease but after that Storm Call lacks a lot of single target damage to be viable.
Dual Strike – okay melee skill, not quite meta and there are better options but it offers high single target damage with decent AoE clear (with Ancestral Call).
Animate Weapon – this summoner skill is more than viable for content up to yellow maps but other than that it doesn’t perform very well. Animated Weapons die off quickly and it’s a nuisance to spawn a few every time you enter a map.
Frost Bomb – not a very good spell on it’s own. It is great for leveling up to level 20 (one-shots most packs) and it’s a great utility spell to have because of the – cold resistance which is useful for Ice builds.
Sweep – high melee damage, both single target and area clear are solid. Hasn’t been very meta lately though.
Lancing Steel – a still relatively new skill (introduced in 3.5). So far it seems like a solid skill in terms of damage, but time will tell.
Ethereal Knives – Ethereal Knives is a skill with a lot of potential that is shadowed by it’s high gear requirements. In order to play an effective EK build you often need to be MoM, Crit and have a lot of other expensive gear options.
Split Arrow – great skill for both elemental and physical damage bow characters. With enough investment it can be a great map clear spell (beware it sucks at single target so you’ll need a 2nd skill for bosses).
Flamethrower Trap – haven’t seen this one in a long time. It’s solid for leveling though.
Ice Shot – a very balanced and interesting skill that can have interesting elemental conversions done. Overall a fun skill but takes a lot of uniques to be useful.
Lacerate – good melee skill, there are better alternatives though.
Lightning Strike – was buffed a while ago, still a very mediocre mid-range skill.
Rain of Arrows – high DPS potential overshadowed by the clunky mechanics and high mana costs. Full cold conversion RoA builds are pretty nice though, especially with the Elder unique Bow.
Shrapnel Shot – balanced bow skill, not much to it.
Dominating Blow – what began as a meme skill, it is now quite viable. Facebreaker Dominating Blow builds are a thing — and lots of fun! Solid league starter as well.
Flame Totem – not very good because there are lots of better alternatives (totem-wise).
Ice Crash – faster, ice variant of Earthquake (sort of), works well in high attack speed builds and it’s usually quite good for leveling.
Shield Charge – mostly used as a movement skill. Can be a damage skill in a build though.
Shockwave Totem – isn’t a favorite among totem players because of it’s high mana costs. Now that you can have 4+ totems out on the field it might be a good idea to try it out.
Static Strike – reworked and still pretty bad. It’s okay for white and some yellow maps but requires investment.
Tectonic Slam – gained a slight change in the 3.5 patch, still nothing special.
Discharge – very fun and interesting skill that is often hard to pull off (especially on Hardcore leagues) because it requires certain uniques which are expensive.
Fire Nova Mine – solid mine skill, very good for leveling.
Flame Surge – used to be popular for a bit, nowadays there are better option to Flame Surge.
Frostbolt – reworked and reworked, still mediocre at most. Has interesting interaction with Ice Nova but not really viable after yellow maps.
Ice Nova – reworked to the point where it went from being useless to balanced. Isn’t very good unless you’re crit, and if you’re crit IMO Shock Nova is better.
Orb of Storms – can’t really be used as a standalone skill, useful for gaining power charges or just applying curses via curse on hit.
Storm Burst – strong lightning skill but is nothing compared to Arc and Spark…
All of these skills in the C tier are pretty much useless unless you invest a huge amount of currency into your character. Would not attempt playing any of these on Hardcore and not even as a league starter on Softcore. Wont comment any of them one by one because they’re mostly the same in terms of viability and costs to be even remotely useful.
Bear Trap, Explosive Arrow (Quill nerfed), Explosive Trap, Flicker Strike, Freeze Mine, Ice Trap, Puncture, Seismic Trap, Siege Balista, Spectral Shield Throw, Viper Strike, Wild Strike, Ancestral Protector, Glacial Hammer, Ground Slam, Heavy Strike, Searing Bond, Vigilant Strike, Conversion Trap, Lightning Tendrils, Power Siphon, Shock Nova, Siphoning Trap, Infernal Blow,