PoE SSF Mode: A Guide to Racing
Path of Exile has started having regular races that last ten days to a month, long enough for players to fully establish their builds and brute force their way to 100. The competition is fierce, so you’ll want every advantage you can get. For groups, this will mean playing the normal trade league so they can pool their resources. But if you’re solo, like I am, you’ll want to start looking at Solo Self Found. Since you have to find everything yourself, most people avoid it making the competition a lot less stiff. I decided to go to SSF for the Incursion Flashback event and managed to be the fourth person to hit 100 in the whole league. So this is my Guide to Racing in the PoE SSF Mode!
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How do I start with PoE SSF?
The first thing you need to do when playing SSF, or any other league, is to decide on a build. When you decide on a build in SSF you have to keep in mind that you cannot rely on anything that you cannot expect to easily find. This means no builds based around rare uniques. Typically there are a handful of builds that are extremely strong without any necessary uniques. Sunder is a good example of a build that always works and requires nothing specific. I myself decided to use Arc Traps for this race, but I will be surprised if they aren’t changed soon, so do your research before choosing a build.
Once you’ve decided on a build, your next step is to book off the week. Seriously, if you want to compete for the top one or two spots, even just within your class, you’re going to need to play a lot. And I mean a lot. When I hit level 100 I checked the time since I created the character as well as the time played. It was ten days and one hour since I had created the character, and I had played for seven days and two hours. Was it healthy? No. Would I recommend it? No. Do you need to play anywhere near that much? No, but it does give you an idea of the hours required for first. I came fourth, the guy that came first beat me by about two days.
For more PoE, check this out: A PoE Atlas Guide to Minimize Feeling Overwhelmed in the End-Game
I picked a build, what next?
Play. Play until you fall asleep at your computer, wake up, and play some more. Once you get to maps – preferably with a Tabula Rasa that you’ve farmed from Blood Aqueducts – you’ll want to follow a specific pattern to completing your atlas. There are two ways to go about properly completing every layer of your atlas, an easy way, and a better way. Both come down to completing it in rings, progressing through the tiers slowly. The easy way is this: don’t do a single map from any tier until you have every map from that tier. This will allow you to target farm the map you need by running the map it is connected to over and over, without diluting your drop pool with other completed maps. The hard method is similar but jumps a bit more in order to give you more shots at the difficult to acquire maps. It would take several articles to explain just that method, so I’ll link you to a great video by Karvarousku.
Completing your atlas in this way is very important. There are some maps you can just ignore and get them through the 3:1 vendor recipe later, but there are a handful that cannot be attained this way, and those are the ones that you’ll simply never complete if you ignore them early. One way around this – a method I employed for some of the higher tiers – is to use Horizon orbs to attain the unattainable maps, if Horizon orbs are available. It’s a risky method that left a few people I know without some atlas completion for quite a while, but it worked for me and many others if you’re only missing a few maps.
Once you have your atlas completion strategy figured out and understood, there’s really only one effective way to push if you want to race. Shape your atlas for tier 11-15 maps. This means don’t complete any map at tier 11 or higher, and then shape a tier 6-10 map in order to only have one option for each tier 11+ map. The current favorite setup for these maps is Tier 11 Underground Sea, Tier 13 Armoury, Tier 14 either Estuary or Waste Pools (I chose Estuary), and Tier 15 Belfry. These are all great density maps with easy layouts. You may have noticed I skipped Tier 12, that is because there really isn’t a good shaped Tier 12 map. You have three options here. Don’t shape any Tier 12 map and get a lot more Underground Sea maps. Shape Ramparts and then vendor three of them for Armouries instead of running them. Or, what I did, shape Dunes for some easy experience but terrible map returns. Know which you’ll do beforehand.
What do I do after the setup?
Once your build is ready and your atlas is fully set up, there’s only one thing left to do: play a lot. Grinding to the top of a race is not easy, it will bore you and wear you out. Keep an eye on your experience per hour, and try to optimize your efficiency. The best trick that anyone can do is roll a bunch of maps at once, then keep a stack of them in your inventory. When you come out of a map, instantly open the map device, put the next map in, and activate it. In the couple seconds, it takes to activate, deposit all of your loot into a dump stash at the front of your inventory, then enter the new map. If you can get to a point where you’re entering the portal as it opens, you’ll be much faster than the average player.
The other big thing you have to do is adapt. You’re going to hit bumps along the road playing PoE SSF. Maybe you won’t find the cards for a Tabula and will have to decide to leave and make a five-link instead. Maybe you can’t find a good weapon to use. Maybe you can’t find a specific map but just have to move on to the next tier. Adapt to the issues and keep moving forward. Letting yourself get caught in the little things spells doom every time. Go in prepared, be ready to change things if you have to, and know you’re going to have to play a ton. And go get those demis!