Guide: Darkform Melee Summoner

The summoner is the last class where i haven’t gotten a workable non meta build going- so i have started one and yesterday he got his final restat and is rocking good.

First i wanted to make a gun summoner but it would mainly look like my gunvoker (probably even stronger) so i went for a melee oriented summoner.

He uses Witch Doctor to keep him and his few minions alive while being in the midst of the battle and he is designed to do notable melee dmg and not that it only feels like he is doing the dmg while actually the minions are doing all of the work (which would be the more easy and probably the stronger route). Of course the Shadow Minions do a lot as does the nova but it is a matter of balancing melee and minion dmg to a level that feels satisfying.

I settled for this skilltree for quite a while now:

It is the Summoner his phase Elemenatal and 4 ranged Elementals and the Witch Doctor. I didnt go for a +1 Helmet as a concession to the summoners ability to do melee dmg because the melee dmg is highly dependant on stats and a +1 Helmet would cost alot of Willpower and takes up an augment slot and is also extremely hard to get more so in combination with additional needed augs.

Gameplaywise he is nearly allways in the frontline spamming his basic attack and the Dark offering Whirwind which looks cool and does alot of aoe dmg. The phase elemental supports him by phasing enemies so that he can do more melee dmg. The shadow Minions do their thing and the ranged eles help with flyers.
Elemental nova is a further dmg boost and thins out the area so that there is less running around to kill low hp mobs. It also helps alot against flyers. Speaking of flyers, they are not as bad as one would think for a melee character as the Dark Offering Whirlwind has quite a high reaching hitbox.
He is also the fastest char i ever had with Blink nearly max, alot of movement speed through Acc and Sprint 4. And that is also an important point because while levelling he feels slow at times which is bad for melee typed characters. The point in blood link is optional. The WD will die now and then as we have not much room for minion health and armor, so this heal comes in handy at time.
WD can be boosted by using a cast weapon set with +3 WD but i am too lazy for that.

Leveling him is pretty much going gunvoker for the whole Normal playthrough as you dont put points into the skilltree for a long time. Even when you get Darkform first you dont use it as it is awfully slow since you spare most of your stats. When you get your first shadow minions you can start to use Darkform but it wont feel that op in the beginning. You can still level quickly through normal by using hive shards and doing ancient bloods as soon as you have the Witch Doctor. I was able to to ABs as early as level 12 and that boosted me alot.

Now how does it work and how does he get damage:
The melee summoner scales his own dmg over strength which gives him 2% dmg per point and accuracy which makes his attacks faster, increases critdamage and makes him also move faster.
So wherever possible points should go into these 2 stats. And he needs alot of stats to make him good, which in turn means he needs alot of stat augs on gear and that also means he needs alot of stamina while also some minion damage augs. This is where you have to balance minion dmg against melee dmg - the augs.

If you suit him in a Feral Abyss Set with no augs he will feel super tanky but a bit zdps in Catas (especially against the tanky bosses). He will get everything down but it takes a while. Not as bad as a guardian but not really a beast. But when you start building up strength and acc it gets better and better.

Another word on stats, with the Feral Set and the Ripshards he uses, you will need to put points into Willpower, the only stat that is not relevant for dmg or survival and where he has no use otherwise, so the few the better but you will have to invest here to be able to wear the gear. Also points have to be spend on stamina too for the gear or the stat augs that you will be aiming for. Will and Stam do nothing for damage so should be invested with care and be allways on the limit. Whatever affix costs Strength or Accu is good since you will have alot of them but getting a questionable affix which costs Stam or Will should be avoided.

So to the gear:

He will obviously wear most of the Abyss feral pieces for the Crit chance stats.

  • Dark Visage is absolutely necessary for the Crit Damage boost.
  • Dark Heart provides alot of stats
  • Nighstriders are super usefull for mobility which is necesary for a melee char or he will feel clunky
  • Helion Hasp mandatory for the Minion dmg boost
    -The rest of the set is not mandatory. If you find legendary feral pieces with godly stats like strength, acc and Minion dmg you can use these. For exanmple Pit Pauldrons have a hefty Acc stat on them but you might find ferals which outclass them.

Trinket should be a fulcrum scale with increase dmg/Strength/elemental damage/crit AND minion damage.

For weapon it all comes down to Black angels. They are just too good. They have melee speed, high inherent crit and critdam, alot of stamina and other usefull stuff like Blink. They are hard to come by and i only have one 2slot atm. So good Ripshards/Coreslashers are an option.
Bloodshards are for pussies -lol. No there can be good ones but they will lack the 250% inherent Critdam and 5% crit.

Modslots should be filled with Strength relics which exist with an additional elemental dmg affix that often doesnt cost alot of will. These are good as elemental dmg is a dmg multiplier of its own and you dont have many sources for that. But also secondary Critaffixes. Strength and Stamina/Will afixes are good too as the additional Will/Stam can be converted into strength/acc by using an attribute retrainer and restat everything.

Having said that it should be clear by now that ANY stat you get anywhere is good. So perks and achievements are all stat related (better start identifying items soon to get the +8 Willpower achievement - it is a drag).

If you have these, then comes the hard part and that is getting the right augs on them.
The perfect 3 augs would be (unordered):

  • Minion Damage
  • +AA
  • Strength/Acc

I only have one item that has these and that are my legendary feral gloves. Auging is costly and can be depressing at times. So i went to get at least 1 relevant aug on each item first. And build up from there. Atm my char has 2 of these on most items. I am sitting at 280 strength, 225 Accu and 220 Strength and Will with around 270% Minion damage at Rank 35. At 200 Acc and 220 Strength you start seeing some melting on the Cata Bosses but you will most likely fail at Morax as he is THE dps test boss.
At my current stats i can do him. But you have to take in mind that you are mega tanky and have huge aoe aswell - you will probably never be the single dps king. But you have alot of other advantages.

In rifts you can jump in headlessly no matter what, Ancient bloods can be done very early on and only in St Pauls ABs you need to take some care at the entrance, then the rest is full throttle melee. I can fully tank Mollochs groundpound and get him down with him only spawning healers once. I can melee down Sydonai NM and all Abyss Bosses. He can also just run through Catas searching for stuff without dying. He is super efficient at finding Dessi because of his speed. He is not indestructable though as the WD is sometimes a lazy bitch or has the wrong priorities with his healing. But if you play it save there is no need to die.

Also a word on the currently available items. Through the different patches we have a mix of items with different stat feeds. I tried to build him as legit as possible, so no acc feed foci or elemental mods with strength feed.

A few gameplay videos will follow. Have fun:


hey, thx for the guide, will try it :slightly_smiling_face:
(waiting for video :upside_down_face: )

Here are the first two videos. I got another one of a Sydonai NM run but my weekly free limit is currently reached. Also the quality is not top notch- somewhere in the process i lose quality and i dont know where.

The first one is just a short one of a Rift Closing because after that i got disconnected. I uploaded it anyways because in the beginning it shows my current gear:

The second is a Talox run with older Gear (no 3 slot BA and only 240 strength) but buffs were active, so a bit scuffed to judge:


cool, thx for videos!
just finished normal, now it seems most of damage deals by shadows, is it the same on your lvl?
interesting does shadows have some base damage or it scales from focus weapons)

Thats normal, was the same with me. Now all minions together do a little bit less than half of my DPS.
It comes when you get more stats and your gear gets crit. I have like 280% Minion dmg atm.

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Dropping by this thread, too, to commend your work. Your guides have been improving steadily over time, and the alternative builds you choose to focus on are the ones that seem to need the most testing.
That said,

This, sir, is why I appreciate your work. This is what really makes this valuable from a testing perspective.


This build pretty much can be used 100% with 1.5. He actually got buffed by the melee attack speed buff, the WD changes and the buffs to Dark Offering- giving more options to apply sfx.

In the original post there’s a link to the skill planner and the WD has 7 points set into Hand of Nostrum.

Where would you allocate those spare skill points since that Skill got removed? Elemental Nova or Blink for shorter CD? Or maybe down into Brom’s Curse for survivability? Venom Armor?

Do you even skill Witch Doctor at all or rather the Warper or Carnagor?

So many possibilities. :wink:

I would probably go either more points in WD because it is annyoing when he dies mid figth or Elemental Nova to compensate the cd nerf.

Discovered London 2038 a few weeks ago and decided to hop back in. Found your build guide and decided to try it out since I’ve never really played a Summoner before. Love the build and am totally enjoying the gameplay!

I just got in to NM and have some questions. Should I farm anywhere/ anyone specific for the gear? Or is the CH going to be my best bet for gearing?

Thanks again for the awesome build guide!

The gear the melee summoner uses in the endgame drops primarily in the parliament area. For legendary feral gear the Cata bosses have a higher drop chance and the uniques drop from the Abyss bosses.