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The upcoming Harvest expansion for Path of Exile is set to go live on June 19, 2020. Among all the other changes and improvements, the expansion will introduce a number of new Brand skills while also adjusting the ones currently in the game. This announcement goes over some of the changes.
This trailer shows them off:
More on that:
In Path of Exile: Harvest, we're introducing several new Brand skills and one Brand support gem. We've also reworked existing Brands and reviewed how their mechanics work. Today's news covers what changes to expect and provides a preview of the new Brand gems.
Changes to Brands
Brands were first introduced many leagues ago with Storm Brand and Armageddon Brand. Brands are all cast on a location and attach to nearby enemies, repeatedly activating to perform their unique effect. They detach if the enemy dies, ready to jump to another target.
We've finally added some new Brand skills: Arcanist Brand, Penance Brand and Wintertide Brand. These come alongside new options for how you can build and play Brands, like the new Swiftbrand Support. These additions introduce a more aggressive, active play style.
Arcanist Brand is a new Brand skill that also supports any triggerable spell linked with it. Each time the Brand activates, it triggers a supported spell, allowing you to build your own Brand setup, potentially even triggering multiple different spells in succession.
As Brand mechanics naturally have great clearing capacity, the supported skills have less area, projectile range and chain range. Triggered spells have a damage penalty, to balance their ability to activate multiple times. The triggered spells also deal more damage to the branded enemy.
Projectiles will hit the branded enemy, but will aim at another nearby enemy each activation, so they often take advantage of Pierce, Chain and Fork effects.
Arcanist Brand has a shorter duration than other Brands, so isn't something you'd use on any build to passively trigger effects, but when building for Brands it can be very powerful. Like other Brands, Cast Speed affects activation rate, so it benefits from most spellcaster investment.
Penance Brand builds up energy on the branded target with each activation, though at first the activations don't deal any damage. Each activation also spreads energy to another enemy, and then that enemy can then spread it to another uncharged enemy the next activation, and so on. This means that with repeat activations it can rapidly spread through a group of enemies, energizing them all.
When the Brand is removed (for example, by its duration expiring, it being recalled, the target dying or being replaced), all of the energy is released. This releases an explosion around each enemy dealing physical damage with a portion converted to lightning. The more energy the enemy had on it, the greater the damage and area. You can pick and choose which mechanics to focus on to detonate your Penance Brands.
If the branded enemy becomes fully energised, they'll start pulsing damage around them, so reaching full charge won't waste any damage.
You can shorten the duration of the Brand to have them automatically go off after a brief time, or use Brand Recall to force detonations when you detach the Brand.
Wintertide Brand applies Cold Damage over time to the branded enemy and chills them. Each activation, the Brand's damage effect becomes more intense on that enemy.
When the Brand is removed (such as when its duration expires, it is recalled, the target dies or the Brand is replaced), the damage over time effect is released in an area. This affects both the branded enemy (if they're still alive) and all other enemies around them. This means that if the damage effect has grown in intensity through many activations, it could apply a very potent damage over time effect in an area.
Unlike other Brands, Wintertide Brand has a base limit of two Brands per target. With the Runebinder keystone you could apply three Wintertide Brands to a single target for massive cold damage over time. This means that your character's build will be quite different from other cold damage over time skills, but the duration based nature of Brands means you can easily cast a cold skill like Vortex, Cold Snap or Arctic Breath in between refreshing your Brand effect.
The Swiftbrand Support greatly lowers the active and inactive duration of a Brand, but increases its activation rate. For a single Brand being cast once, it's not as good as other supports, but if you're rapidly placing many Brands, it's a huge damage increase. You can play a much more aggressive Brand playstyle with this support.
It also works very well with Penance Brand to rapidly detonate, as well as Armageddon Brand to make the most of its short cast time.
Brand Recall and Brand Mechanic Adjustments
Brand Recall still instantly moves your Brands to you and activates them, but no longer refreshes the Brand's duration. It now consumes mana based on the Brands recalled. This prevents Brands benefiting heavily from the Archmage Support without the same mana upkeep the Support usually requires.
We generally feel that if a common build has ongoing damage with very little input, it should deal below average damage or require massive investment. Certain Brand builds that instantly refreshed Brand duration indefinitely provided too much power for their opportunity cost. Rather than lowering the damage of these builds, we've changed the mechanics that let the build be played passively. The cooldown of Brand Recall has been lengthened, but we've also provided new avenues of investment so that you can still bring it down to a similar length.
As a small change to remove some more of the potential passivity of Brands, Brands now return to their original or recalled location when dropped by monsters, rather than the dropped monster's location. This puts a greater focus on Brand Attachment Range, and prevents the Brand from disappearing into the distance while killing monsters you've yet to see.
Furthermore, there’s also this detailed FAQ dedicated to the Harvest expansion.