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"Grim Dawn": How to Make the Best Necromancer Build

A look at the Necromancer skill tree.

A look at the Necromancer skill tree.

A Comprehensive Necromancer Build Guide

One of my most popular articles is a Necromancer build guide for Grim Dawn. That’s why I’m creating another one for my readers. If you are looking for a more comprehensive guide, you have come to the right place.

Best Class Combinations

This section discusses class combinations and the skills they provide.

Cabalist: Necromancer + Occultist

Let’s start with the best class combination of Necromancer and Occultist. These classes offer the best skills for summoning pets. You can start combining their skills right away once you get both classes. Begin learning Raise Skeletons with Undead Legion, followed by Summon Familiar.

Then get Summon Blight Fiend and Summon Hellhound. You should also get Reap Spirit for more offensive. Once you get all the pets that can be summoned, it’s time to buff them up with the skills Master of Death and Manipulation from Bonds of Bysmiel. Call of the Grave is also a great active buff skill for the pets.

There are still a lot of good pet skills to learn here. But since you’ll only have a very limited number of skill points, it’s up to you on how to distribute them or which skills to learn. Below are your choices:

  • Will of the Crypt
  • Rotting Fumes
  • Blight Burst
  • Mend Flesh
  • Storm Spirit
  • Lightning Strike
  • Ember Claw
  • Hellfire
  • Infernal Breath
  • Soul Harvest

Now, if you’re tired of this pet build, you can choose a vitality-focused one. Recommended for Necromancer is Siphon Souls with Blood Boil for its ability to take some health. You can get Ravenous Earth with Decay and Foul Eruption for continuous damage. Then get Bone Harvest with Dread and Soul Harvest for solid offense.

Occultist also has a wide range of vitality damage skills to offer. It has the deadly Blood Pox with Wasting and Black Death. You may also modify it with Fevered Rage to make it more damaging, but with the consequence of making enemies berserk while they’re still alive. Doom Bolt is a great finisher as it deals massive damage. Then Sigil of Consumption with Destruction can convert damage to health, which is good for survivability.

When it comes to boosting the vitality damage, the Necromancer’s Harbinger of Souls works best. This skill can also convert damage to health. Then you can include Solael’s Witchfire with Second Rite for a buff.

Apostate: Necromancer + Inquisitor

Cold damage basically works best for Apostate. Bone Harvest, especially with Harvester of Death plus Dread and Soul Harvest, is the first choice here. Of course, this requires your character to use a two-handed melee weapon. Ill Omen also matches with this combo, and Necrotic Edge is a good passive skill.

For Inquisitor skills, Word of Pain with Word of Agony are great starting skills for low levels. These skills allow you to kill enemies fast. You can also add Death Sentence, but it’s optional. Rune of Haggard with Biting Cold and Chillsurge are good boss killers. The best passive is Deadly Aim. You could also add Word of Renewal with Vigor as a support skill. Word of Arms is a good option as well.

Reaper: Necromancer + Nightblade

Cold skills rule here as well. The difference in approach for Reaper is a bigger focus on melee skills due to the Nightblade class.

Your primary choices for dealing damage are the following:

  • Amarasta’s Blade Burst with Lethal Assault.
  • Ring of Steel with Ring of Frost.
  • Shadow Strike with Nightfall
  • Bone Harvest with Harvester of Death (If planning to use two-handed melee weapon), Dread, and Soul Harvest.
  • Blade Spirit

With this range of skills that deal damage, it’s up to you on how you’ll distribute skill points.

Some recommended passive skills are Merciless Repertoire, Anatomy of Murder, and Necrotic Edge.

If you’re going to dual-wield your melee weapon, Dual Blades and Execution is a great choice. As a reminder, these mentioned passive skills are not going to work on a two-handed weapon.

Spellbinder: Necromancer + Arcanist

Let’s talk first about aether damage. A melee build focuses on Callidor’s Tempest with Inferno; Wrath of Agrivix is optional. You could use Siphon Souls with Sear Souls to make the damage aether. A ranged build focuses on Albrecht’s Aether Ray with Disintegration. Drain Essence is good if you prefer survivability, but its damage is not as good as the other skills. A skill that works on any aether build is Devastation, but take note that it will only work if you equip a caster off-hand. On the other hand, you can also have Reap Spirit which also deals long-range aether damage.

Combining all the available toggled skills for this build will deal a lot of aether damage. You can get Spectral Binding at an early level and Reckless Power at a higher level. That’s not all; the passive skill Fabric of Reality is a good addition, and if you still have skill points to spare, get Inner Focus.

This is another combination that works well with cold damage. Star Pact will greatly increase your cold damage potential, making it great for all your cold skills. Some recommended cold skills are Olexra’s Flash Freeze with Absolute Zero, which can quickly wipe out enemies. Use Trozan’s Sky Shard with Frozen Core to deal massive damage.

For Necromancer skills, you have the usual Bone Harvest with Dread and Soul Harvest. Get Harvester of Death if you’re planning to use a two-handed weapon. You can also use Ill Omen for early-game killing and crowd control during the late game.

Death Knight: Necromancer + Soldier

Thanks to Soldier’s Squad Tactics from Field Command, any skill from Necromancer will benefit from this. So whatever build you’re planning to do with Death Knight, Squad Tactics will work.

Defiler: Necromancer + Demolitionist

It’s hard to make a strong build for Defiler because Necromancer and Demolitionist skills don’t match by default.

So how can you make a strong build for this?

The solution is in the items that can convert the element of your skills. So focus first on one class during early levels until you get items that can convert skill elements.

Ritualist: Necromancer + Shaman

Vitality is the dominant damage type for a Ritualist. Devouring Swarm is a good early skill since it can take out mobs really fast, allowing you to progress with ease. Storm Totem is a great skill for dealing continuous damage. Don’t forget to include Corrupted Storm modifier to convert the lightning damage to vitality. Combine it with Wendigo Totem with Blood Pact, which also heals your character. Of course, Necromancer has Bone Harvest with the usual Dread and Soul Harvest. Then use Siphon Souls with Blood Boil for damage and healing. Ravenous Earth with Decay and Foul Eruption can cause damage over time.

All of these vitality-dealing damage skills work best when you have Harbinger of Souls.

You can also make a pet-focused build. Start by creating a legion with Raise Skeletons with Undead Legion and Will of the Crypt. Next is Summon Briarthorn from Shaman, then Summon Blight Fiend from Necromancer. Call of the Grave is your usual pet burst, which is good for taking down strong foes.

For exclusive skills that increase your pet damage. I believe Primal Bond works better here than Master of Death for different damage types.

Since you only have a limited number of skill points, below are your other choices for a pet build:

  • Rotting Fume
  • Blight Burst
  • Reap Spirit
  • Soul Harvest
  • Ground Slam
  • Emboldening Presence
  • Conjure Primal Spirit

Oppressor: Necromancer + Oathkeeper

Necromancer is one of the good classes that can unleash the dark side of Oathkeeper (the other one is Occultist). To be exact, I’m pertaining to vitality damage. There are not many skills that Oathkeeper has to offer when it comes to dealing vitality damage. But its Summon Guardian of Empyrion, modified with Scion of Dreeg to make it deal vitality damage, is already enough. What makes the skill special is that it doesn’t rely on pet bonuses, so you can focus on a non-pet build while still having a strong pet by your side.

For Necromancer, the usual vitality skills that I recommend are Bone Harvest with Dread and Soul Harvest, Siphon Souls with Blood Boil, Ravenous Earth with Decay and Foul Eruption, and the ultimate Harbinger of Souls.


In this section, we’ll discuss the individual skills of the Necromancer to better understand its main individual purpose.

  • Raise Skeletons – Any pet build should have this first. Max the skill, then rush the Undead Legion after so that you’ll have an army of skeletons early. Of course, Will of the Crypt is also an important buff for your skeletons. The obvious weakness of this skill is that the Skeletal Warriors will die easily on higher difficulties. That’s why it’s important to boost your pet's defensive stats, such as health, armor, and all resistance.
  • Bone Harvest – I mentioned this skill a lot, including Dread and Soul Harvest in this article, because of its versatility when it comes to dealing damage types. To be exact, it can deal five types of damage (physical, pierce, cold, vitality, and vitality decay) and can buff four types of damage (cold, vitality, frostburn, and vitality decay).
  • Drain Essence – Honestly, I don’t find this skill damaging enough. But it’s good for survival since it lets you drain life from your enemies. Anyway, you can modify it with Gravechill to make the damage stronger at the cost of a smaller life drain.
  • Reaping Strike – This skill is for an aether or vitality-based build that relies on your basic attack.
  • Necrotic Edge – This skill is for a cold or vitality decay-based build that relies on your basic attack.
  • Ill Omen – During the early game, this skill can quickly kill enemies, but its damage potential is not good in the later game. But it can still weaken enemies and cause crowd control, so it’s not useless on higher difficulties.
  • Spectral Binding – This toggled ability is recommended for an aether or tank-based build. Spectral Wrath is optional if you have some extra skill points to spare.
  • Summon Blight Fiend – The big brother of your skeleton pets. The role of this pet is to tank damage via Rotting Fumes, which also deals damage. Blight Burst is also a good area of effect skill that deals damage and crowd control.
  • Call of the Grave – Provides massive buff to your pets, especially their damage.
  • Ravenous Earth – This is a great damage over time skill that also debuffs enemies. Adding Decay and Foul Eruption makes it more effective.
  • Siphon Souls – This ability can heal you when enemies are damaged by this skill. Blood Boil’s bonus is not that great, so it’s ok not to learn it unless you have some extra skill points. If your Necromancer focuses on aether damage, you can convert it with Sear Souls.
  • Mark of Torment – If you have some skill points to spare, Mark of Torment is not that bad.
  • Reap Spirit – This skill works whether you’re using a pet build or not. It deals good damage, but only for a single enemy. The damage type is aether and vitality decay, so it’s good for this build. If you have a pet-focused build, Reap Spirit also summons wraiths that scale with pet bonuses.
  • Harbringer of Souls – This is the ultimate toggled skill for a vitality-focused build due to its bonus stats. It also works with an aether-focused build.
  • Master of Death – This is Necromancer’s toggled skill for a pet-focused build.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 Arc Sosangyo