ED/Contagion Trickster

BalorMage’s Essence Drain & Contagion Trickster


This low budget, league start, and hardcore viable build guide is designed for all players veteran and new. If you’re a seasoned player and just want the PoB link then scroll down past the videos. If you want a more detailed guide then read on!

Note for 3.11 This is still a very viable build. It is easier to level with spellslinger however we didn’t have time to update the levelling section with this information. Karv has a good guide to leveling with spellslinger on his youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHn-8wvkEBI


Day 1 Build Diary
Day 3 Build Diary


v4.0 – 19 June 2020

  • Updated PoB and trees for 3.11

v3.01 – 13 March 2020

  • No changes – 3.10 Ready

v3.0 – 13 December 2019


  • Advanced section in POB for CI version


  • Updated trees/guide/POB for 3.9 (Metamorph) league

v2.0 – 5 September 2019


  • Table of contents
  • Optional check boxes for picking up gems in leveling section
  • Advanced section


  • Updated for 3.8 (Blight) league
  • Removed +1 Chaos wand vendor recipe

v1.1 – 10 June 2019


  • Screenshots for all trees
  • Build diary videos
  • Skill gems (Flesh and Stone)


  • Formatting improvements

v1.0 – 8 June 2019

  • Guide Published


The written portion of this build guide is designed for new players who feel like they need some hand holding. As such some things that veteran players and experienced racers might do in the early levels have been left out as to not be too complicated. That being said, this should still be a smooth and quick leveling experience.

Path of Building

Not sure how to use Path of Building, or what it is? Engineering Eternity has a brilliant guide that you can check out here https://exiledguides.com/home/poe-tools/path-of-building/

Pastebin Import: https://pastebin.com/SpgHGfhZ

Passive Tree, Ascendancy & Pantheon

Level 90 Tree



Normal Lab: Swift Killer
Cruel Lab: Patient Reaper
Merciless Lab: Ghost Dance
Eternal Lab: Prolonged Pain

Pantheon Powers

Major – Soul of Arakaali
Upgrade all but focus on capturing the Queen of the Great Tangle

Minor – Soul of Shakari
Capture Terror of the Infinite Drifts

Gem Setup

Essence Drain: (In order of importance. If you only have a 5-link, leave out Energy Leech Support)
Essence DrainControlled Destruction SupportEfficacy SupportVoid Manipulation SupportSwift Affliction SupportEnergy Leech Support

ContagionIncreased Area of Effect SupportIntensify SupportFaster Casting Support

Flame DashFaster Casting Support

Allelopathy gloves for Blight:(leave out Void Manipulation if you’re using a Blight gem until you get Allelopathy)
Infused Channeling SupportEfficacy SupportControlled Destruction SupportVoid Manipulation Support

Malevolence Summon Skitterbots / Discipline

Gear, Flasks and Jewels


Allelopathy gloves are quite nice.

Chaos damage over time multiplier is the number one damage stat for your weapons.
This stat also appears on elder gloves and amulets.

The rest of your gear can be just rares with life and the resistances you need.


  • Seething/Bubbling Divine Life Flask of Dousing (to remove ignite)
  • Alchemist’s Quicksilver Flask of Adrenaline  (This is for speedy speed)
  • Jade Flask
  • Stibnite Flask
  • Quartz Flask

On these flasks, we will need to roll some affixes when we reach maps.  It doesn’t matter which of the last three flasks has which affix, as long as all three affixes are covered.  

  • Staunching, for bleed.
  • Warding, for curses.
  • Heat, for freeze.

This combination will mean you cannot bleed, be frozen, or be cursed while your flasks are active. This is very helpful and strong, especially with certain map modifiers.

*Note* The Quicksilver Flask could also have any of these suffixes initially if you are okay moving through maps a little more slowly. This is just the ideal setup; what’s really important is you have the Staunching, Heat, and Warding on utility flasks by the time you enter maps – in that order.


Primary jewel stats are:
Life, chaos damage over time, and any missing resists or attributes.

Secondary stats are:

  • Chaos Damage
  • Spell Damage
  • Damage over Time
  • Spell Damage while holding a Shield


There are some good general leveling guides that can be found here for specifics on how to get through the acts: https://exiledguides.com/home/beginner-guides/leveling-guides/ 

Screenshots of leveling skill trees are provided at the end of each act. These also serve as a rough indicator of the level you would expect to be at by the end of the act. If you find that you have lots of extra skill points, you can probably afford to move a bit faster and kill a bit less.

Got GemSourceQuest
BlightNessaEnemy at the Gate
Explosive TrapRewardEnemy at the Gate
ContagionNessaBreaking Some Eggs
Void ManipulationRewardThe Caged Brute
Frost BlinkRewardBreaking Some Eggs
Essence DrainNessaThe Siren’s Cadence
Infused ChannelingRewardMercy Mission
Arcane SurgeNessaMercy Mission
Flame DashRewardThe Siren’s Cadence

After killing Hillock, choose Explosive Trap as your quest reward. 

Check Tarkleigh for move speed boots (you can use the search function at the bottom right of the trade window with Ctrl+F and type move to search a vendor’s inventory – this will highlight anything with move speed).

Check Nessa and buy any wands she has with 2 blue and 1 green linked sockets. Make sure you pick up items with these links if they drop from monsters!  One piece can have 3 blue links if needed.

After completing the quest ‘ Breaking Some Eggs ’ return to town at the next waypoint and pick up Frost Blink or Dash as your quest reward, also buy Contagion from Nessa. This is when you should go to Tidal Island and fetch Nessa’s Medicine Chest for a Quicksilver Flask and Infused Channeling Support in ‘ Mercy Mission ’.

Do the passive point quest ‘The Dweller in the Deep’.

Once you’ve killed Brutus, select Flame Dash as your quest reward, then left click flame dash on your bar, and set it as “Always attack without moving” and buy Void Manipulation Support from Nessa.

You should now have a wand (or other piece of gear) with the following gems:
BlightInfused Channeling SupportVoid Manipulation Support

Complete the passive point quest ‘The Marooned Mariner (in the Ship Graveyard). Grab the waypoint in the Cavern of Wrath and head back to town to pick up Essence Drain as your reward. You can link this with Arcane Surge Support for now.

Blight and/or Contagion will be sufficient to clear most regular mobs (grey names at the top of screen). Throw in Essence Drain for extra damage on single-target tanky rare mobs (with yellow names) and bosses (with orange names). Head back to the Cavern of Wrath, kill Merveil and you’ve completed Act 1!

Skill tree at the end of Act 1
Summon SkitterbotsRewardIntruders in Black
Faster Casting SupportRewardSharp and Cruel
Controlled DestructionYeenaSharp and Cruel

In this build we kill all three bandits to get 2 passive points.

Once you’ve completed ‘Intruders in Black’ (in the Chamber of Sins) Gruest will reward you with Summon Skitterbots. This gem can go anywhere in your gear and does not need to be linked to anything. 

Once you complete the quest ‘Sharp and Cruel, choose Faster Casting Support as your reward. Link this to your Flame Dash gem. Purchase Controlled Destruction Support from Yeena – this will replace Arcane Surge Support in your Essence Drain links.
Our new Essence Drain links should look like this:

Essence DrainControlled Destruction Support

Go and kill the Vaal Oversoul and get ready for Act 3!

Skill tree at the end of Act 2
Void Manipulation Support Nessa (Act 1) The Caged Brute
MalevolenceReward (Act 3)Lost in Love
DespairClarissa (Act 3)Lost in Love

Once you complete ‘Lost in Love’ take Malevolence as your quest reward. While you’re at Clarissa, purchase Despair. From Lioneye’s Watch (the Act 1 town) buy another Void Manipulation Support from Nessa, and link it with Essence Drain.

What our gem links should look like at this point:

Wand or other (BBG):  BlightInfused Channeling SupportVoid Manipulation Support

Wand or other  (BBG): Essence DrainControlled Destruction SupportVoid Manipulation Support

Any piece with 2 linked blue sockets: Flame Dash Faster Casting Support

If/when you happen to have a 3-link available for Flame Dash, you can also link Arcane Surge Support (at a low gem level, so that it activates off a single cast of Flame Dash). This will provide extra cast speed, more spell damage, and mana regeneration for a short duration after using Flame Dash (though keep in mind not to dash into packs).note: this will stop working once we take eldritch battery, but that comes much later.

Anywhere (no links required): Malevolence, which will reserve 50% of your mana to give you extra damage over time. Also Despair and Summon Skitterbots.

Activate your Malevolence aura and use Blight as your skill to clear trash mobs. When you come across tougher single-target enemies, supplement your damage with Essence Drain. Don’t forget to cast Despair on bosses as well, as it will boost your damage significantly. This will now be our skill gem setup until we reach Act 9.

Skill tree at the end of Act 3

Nothing new here, continue with your current setup. One thing to note though is that Doedre Darktongue (one of the mini-bosses before Malachai) has a skill that causes her to consume curses she is affected by to buff herself. If you find that you’re struggling with her, simply don’t curse her.

At the end of Act 4, pick up Increased Area of Effect Support as your reward from the quest ‘The Eternal Nightmare. We’ll be using it later on, but you can just throw it into a spare socket to start leveling it for now.

Skill tree at the end of Act 4

The only thing to mention in this act is to start looking out for gear pieces that are 4-linked with the colours that we’ll need later on (in Act 9). These are:



NOTE: Pick up the Spreading Rot threshold jewel from the quest reward in this act. Take a jewel socket in your passive tree and put this in ASAP. We only need 1 of these jewels.

Skill tree at the end of Act 5
Efficacy Support x2LillyFallen from Grace

After you complete the quest ‘Fallen from Grace’ , Lilly sells all skill gems (apart from the few drop only gems).

Purchase 2x Efficacy Support, and place them in spare sockets in your unused weapon-swap slots to start leveling the gems. When they reach around level 5 or 6, swap one into your Essence Drain links instead of Controlled Destruction Support.

Skill tree at the end of Act 6

Nothing special to mention here, just a skill tree:

Skill tree at the end of Act 7

Note:  If you struggle with Doedre (who reappears after this again) don’t curse her. Doedre eats curses in order to super charge her own attacks. 

From here on make the following change WHEN, and ONLY WHEN you have found the right sockets for ED/Contagion.  (Minimum 3-link Contagion and 4-link ED)

Essence DrainEfficacy SupportControlled Destruction SupportVoid Manipulation Support

ContagionIncreased Area of Effect SupportIntensify SupportFaster Casting Support* (Faster Casting Support can be dropped if you only have a 3-link available.)

This is the earliest you can change from using Blight as your main damage source into ED/Contagion and have it feel good. You should cast Contagion first on any given pack, then launch one Essence Drain at the pack.   

Note: don’t drop your Blight links at this point, as you can use it to supplement your boss damage. You will find that you can just use Essence Drain and Contagion most of the time, but throw in some extra Blight on bosses or very tanky rare mobs.

Skill tree at the end of Act 8

You should go back and do any side bosses in part 2 that you may have missed or skipped. The extra passive points are super nice and you are now well over-leveled so it should be easier.

Skill tree at the end of Act 9

A 5-linked Essence Drain will be able to carry you well into red maps with these links:

Essence DrainEfficacy SupportControlled Destruction SupportVoid Manipulation SupportSwift Affliction Support

The ideal 6th link is Empower Support, but until you have one of at least level 3 we can use Energy Shield Leech Support as a 6th link.

If you wish to farm a Tabula Rasa, the Blood Aqueducts at the beginning of Act 9 is a great place to get Humility cards and experience. Going back there at this stage can be a good idea if you want that Tabula Rasa.

Seeing as the 6th link will eventually be Empower Support, I suggest you purchase a level 1 Empower Support(or find one) and begin leveling it as soon as possible. It’s not really worth using until it is level 3 (you’ll be around level 92 by the time this happens)

Skill tree at the end of Act 10
End Game Tree


When you acquire enough currency/gear, you can do a decent sized respec into the CI variant of this build. This will provide you with a decent amount of extra effective life (in the form of energy shield) and a decent amount more damage. It’s important to note that for the current content we know about this level of power isn’t needed at all, and this build functions as is though all content to and including uber elder. However, with the new boss’s this league and new boss tackiness, I have included the CI version in the path of building with an example gearset as to how that would look.