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Path of Exile guide: Which is the best class?

You have six — eventually seven — classes to choose from

Class select screen Path of Exile Image: Grinding Gear Games via Polygon

One of the first choices you make in Path of Exile is which class you’d like to play. There are six classes available from the start of the game, and one more you unlock during the campaign.

Before you pick your class, think about the fantasy role you want to fulfill. You can sling spells, shoot arrows, or bash a zombie’s head in with a hammer as any class — but some classes excel in one area over the others. Having an idea of which of those three playstyles you’d like to excel at will help your class selection process.

The benefits of each class

Marauder skill class
The opening area of the Marauder skill tree
Image: Grind Gear Games via Polygon

Each of the six classes in Path of Exile has a stat associated with them. A Marauder, for example, starts with higher Strength than other classes, meaning he deals more physical damage to enemies and is harder to kill. Dexterity is about speed, accuracy, and evasion. Intelligence offers improved critical attacks and a larger energy shield — which protects the more fragile caster classes.

Here is the breakdown of which stat or stats each class excels at:

Duelist (Dexterity and Strength)

The Duelist specializes in swords or axes. He uses a mix of Dexterity and Strength attacks to avoid damage and hit hard. His early skills allow him to choose between attack speed or raw damage.

Marauder (Strength)

The Marauder is tough to kill and deals heavy damage with mace-like weapons. He has access to powerful two-handed melee skills and defensive skills near his staring location on the Passive Skill Tree.

Ranger (Dexterity)

The Ranger does all her damage with bows, and is all about attacking fast from a safe distance. She can invest in attack speed and evasion early in the game.

Shadow (Dexterity and Intelligence)

The Shadow uses daggers or claws to fight with weapon or magic abilities. He can invest in Chaos magic and attack speed early in the game.

Templar (Intelligence and Strength)

The Templar uses big sticks to either bludgeon his foes or attack them with spells. He can invest in magic and physical defense skills early in the game.

Witch (Intelligence)

The Witch battles with wands or scepters. She deals high spell damage with critical attacks, and can invest early in minion and spell skills.

After you play through the campaign and rescue the Scion, you will gain access to the seventh class in Path of Exile:

Scion (Dexterity, Intelligence, and Strength)

The Scion’s stats are completely even and she starts in the middle of the Passive Skill Tree. She’s essentially a blank slate for you to create any build you choose. Because of her even stats, she’s a difficult class to pick up

Other than your stats, your class choice determines where you start on the daunting Passive Skill Tree.

Path of Exile skill tree
The very daunting Path of Exile Passive Skill Tree
Image: Grinding Gear Games via the Path of Exile gamepedia

The Passive Skill Tree offers bonuses for your character. Each time you level up, you have an opportunity to select a new skill node and grow your tree. The class you choose determines your starting node — you cannot change where you start after you’ve picked your class.

But you can completely change your path and hit another class’s Passive Skill Tree area. A Templar can reach a Marauder’s passive area and claim their skills, but the Templar will spend far more points getting to the Marauder area than the Marauder does.

The exception is the Scion, which starts in the middle of the tree and can branch off to any of the class trees fairly quickly.

Any class can use any ability in the game. But some of the advanced classes make certain types of abilities more powerful.

Ascendancy classes

Path of Exile advanced classes
Here are each of the character classes, with their three Ascendancy options under them
Image: Path of Exile gamepedia

After Act 3, players can unlock access to The Labyrinth, a random dungeon that unlocks the ability to advance one’s class and move into a specialty. All classes have three Ascendancy classes to choose from — except for the Scion, who only has one:

Each class has its own Ascendancy tree, which you can only invest a few points into. These trees offer major playstyle bonuses, like increasing all elemental damage, minion damage, or totem damage.

If you’re planning on playing into the late game and know you want a minion build, you should probably choose the Witch for the Necromancy Ascendancy class, for example. It’s important you consider what your desired class can become through Ascendancy before you choose.

Which class is easiest to play?

The Templar Path of Exile
The Templar is hard to kill, making him one of the best beginner choices
Image: Grinding Gear Games via Polygon

A class’s base stats determine their ease of use in Path of Exile, not which abilities they use. The Ranger and Witch are safe classes, and their starting stats help you deal a lot of damage from far away. But as a trade off, you’ll die very quickly if an enemy gets close to you. They’re great classes to start on, but only if you’re confident in your ability to kite enemies (moving constantly, and briefly stopping to attack).

Classes that start with a lot of Strength — the Marauder, Templar, and Duelist — have to fight enemies in close quarters during the early game. But despite being closer to the danger, they’re more survivable than the ranged characters above.

For beginners, we recommend: the Marauder for melee damage or the Templar for melee and magic, since they’re both hard classes to kill.

The class you choose should be more about the character you identify with most. If you feel stuck and worried about stats, just pick the class that looks the coolest. No matter which one you choose — even if you have a tough early game — you’ll eventually do just fine.