Path of Exile: War for the Atlas 3.1.0 Patch Notes

The War for the Atlas expansion for Path of Exile launches in roughly two days, on December 8th, but already you can check out the patch notes and think about the build you'll be running in the Abyss Challenge League. Some of the standout changes in this patch involve significant nerfs to life leech and the Mind over Matter Keystone. Personally, I'm not too keen on these changes - both of them reduce our survivability, and staying alive in the later stages of Path of Exile is no easy task. Still, the developers probably know what they're doing, especially considering this Development Manifesto where they outline the impending nerfs. An excerpt:

As developers, we're not afraid to nerf game elements that are too powerful and are harming Path of Exile. Unfortunately, patch notes are not the best way to communicate these nerfs, because their format and information density makes it hard to include sufficient explanation.

In today's manifesto, we have highlighted and explained most of the significant nerfs in 3.1.0. Of course, there are plenty of buffs in 3.1.0 as well, but we'll leave those as pleasant surprises in tomorrow's full patch notes.

Vaal Pact Keystone
Being able to leech instantly meant that many threats were completely mitigated by high-damage fast-hitting characters with minimal leech investment. Vaal Pact has been changed to no longer grant instant leech, but instead doubles your character's leech rate and maximum leech rate. This was one of the most heavily-requested nerfs in the history of Path of Exile.

The keystone is still powerful, but now really benefits from investment in leech.

Atziri's Acuity
Atziri's Acuity has been changed to instead grant Vaal Pact if you've performed a critical strike recently, giving it a slightly different use when compared with the Vaal Pact keystone. It now fills a different role to its previous one and acts as a way for you to avoid some of the downsides of the Vaal Pact Keystone

The Slayer
The Brutal Fervour Ascendancy Skill no longer grants Maximum Life Leech Rate. Hematophagy and Vitality Void now only grant +3% to Maximum Life Leech Rate (from +5%).

As a result of the changes to Vaal pact, other sources of leech were also examined. Brutal Fervour was identified as a problem, moreso after the changes to Vaal Pact, as it was the next-closest thing to instant leech. We didn't want to change what made the Slayer the Slayer, but were okay with it taking a small hit, given its dominance over the 3.0.0 ladders.

Mind over Matter
The mana bonuses granted by the passive skills behind this keystone have been reduced. The mana granted was very high, especially at lower levels. The keystone is currently at a power level where further mana investment is still worthwhile.

Vulnerability, Despair and Wither
Vulnerability is now a Strength gem, focused on Physical Damage, Bleed and Maim.

Despair is a new Intelligence gem that will replace existing copies of Vulnerability. It reduces Chaos Resistance, increases Damage over Time taken, and grants added Chaos Damage to hits against cursed enemies. (This gem isn't counted as one of the ten new ones in 3.1.0).

Wither now has a lower max stack limit (15, down from 20) and slightly lower damage taken effect per stack (6% per stack, down from 7%).

Wither increased Chaos Damage taken by enemies much more than was reasonable for an easily totemifiable non-damage skill. We've split some of its damage bonus off into the new Despair curse, taking this opportunity to realign Vulnerability as a Strength-based curse as was more appropriate for a physical-damage-improving effect. As mentioned previously, old copies of the Vulnerability gem will become Despair with the release of 3.1.0.

Witchfire Brew now applies Despair.

Dark Pact
Dark Pact cast using your life no longer has bonus radius, and the damage bonus has been reduced from 95% more damage with hits and ailments when using your life to 76% more damage.

Own-life-spending Dark Pact builds were dealing too much damage over too large an area, granting an already very defensive build very high clear speeds.

Barrage no longer has the additional projectile enchantment available in the Merciless Labyrinth. The equivalent Endgame Labyrinth enchantment now grants +1 additional Barrage Projectile (down from +2). Existing helmet enchantments are unmodified.

The additional projectile made this skill and enchantment combination the superior choice for bow/wand users. We want to ensure that there are several viable options for these characters.

And here are the major new features of the 3.1.0 patch:

Major Features
  • A mysterious entity, known only as The Elder, haunts the Atlas of Worlds, spreading decay and battling The Shaper for control. For more information about the War for the Atlas, check out
  • Added 32 new maps including two new Unique maps.
  • Added new boss fights with The Elder and his four Guardians.
  • Introduced Shaped and Elder items. These items can only be obtained in areas where the Shaper or the Elder holds influence, or by defeating the Shaper or Elder themselves. Shaped and Elder items can obtain mods not found elsewhere, as well as higher-tier versions of some existing mods.
  • Added a new quest: The Queen of the Sands. This quest can be obtained by talking to Petarus and Vanja in Act 9 after completing the prerequisite quest The Storm Blade. The Book of Skill quest reward for completing The Storm Blade has been moved to the Queen of the Sands. The Storm Blade now rewards players with their choice of several rare weapons.
  • Added 48 new Unique items.
  • Added 6 new Divination Cards designed by our supporters.
  • Added a new Dexterity/Intelligence Skill Gem - Unearth: Fires a projectile that will pierce through enemies to impact the ground at the targeted location, creating a Bone Archer corpse where it lands.
  • Added a new Dexterity Skill Gem - Cremation: A targeted corpse explodes, dealing area damage and turning into a volcanic geyser, which will repeatedly unleash projectiles sequentially over the surrounding area for a duration. The explosion of the corpse is not affected by modifiers to spell damage, and cannot be reflected.
  • Added a new Intelligence/Dexterity Skill Gem - Bodyswap: Your body explodes, dealing spell damage in an area around you, and a targeted corpse also explodes, dealing damage around it. Your body is recreated at the location of the corpse. The explosion of the corpse is not affected by modifiers to spell damage, and cannot be reflected. This spell cannot be repeated.
  • Added a new Dexterity/Intelligence Skill Gem - Volatile Dead: Corpses near the targeted location explode, dealing damage in a small area and creating an orb which moves towards nearby enemies before dealing spell damage in a larger area. The explosion of the corpse is not affected by modifiers to spell damage, and cannot be reflected.
  • Vulnerability has been split into two skill gems - Vulnerability and Despair. Vulnerability, a Strength Skill Gem, curses all targets in an area, causing them to take increased physical damage and increased physical damage over time. Attacks against cursed enemies have a chance to inflict bleeding and maim.
  • Despair, an Intelligence Skill Gem, curses all targets in an area, making them less resistant to chaos damage and causing them to take increased damage over time. Cursed enemies also take additional chaos damage when hit. Existing Vulnerability skill gems have become Despair.
  • Added a new Intelligence Support Gem - Storm Barrier Support: Creates a barrier around you while you channel a supported skill. The barrier reduces the physical and lightning damage you take from hits, and grants you a chance to gain a power charge when hit.
  • Added a new Dexterity Support Gem - Volley Support: Adds two projectiles to supported skills, and causes them to be fired from points to either side of you, in parallel. Projectiles Nova (found on Sire of Shards) will currently override the projectile source part of this support, however, this will change in a future patch.
  • Added a new Intelligence Support Gem - Spell Cascade Support: Supported area-targeting skills will also target an area in front of and behind your initial target.
  • Added a new Strength Support Gem - Ancestral Call Support: Supported single-target melee skills targets two additional nearby enemies.
  • Added a new Dexterity Support Gem - Mirage Archer Support: Hitting an enemy with a supported bow skill creates a Mirage Archer who continues to use that skill for a duration.
  • Added 3D art for: Malachai's Mark, Dialla's Malefaction, Dendrobate, Hiltless, Void Battery, Redblade Tramplers and Lightning Coil.
  • Added a new unique Strongbox designed by one of our supporters.
  • Added a new Rogue Exile based on the winner of the Best Dressed Exile competition.