I’ve always had a soft spot for damage over time builds in action RPGs, and I’ve had my eyes on the Assassin’s Needler Sniper Rifle. So naturally, I made a build that scales nothing but poison damage to apply massive DoTs. I’ve put a lot of effort into making sure each item is nearly as good as I can make it for scaling poisons and defenses. This build demolishes any mission difficulty 6 and below, it can do +10 levels as well, but you’ll need to switch to a single-target set up on your weapon swap to take down large enemies.
Poison, like the other 2 Damage over time types, deals 80% of your base damage every second for 3 seconds, stacking up to 5 times. If you want to learn more about how DoTs work in this game and how to scale them, check out my video all about damage overtime (here). The short version is: nothing from items or passives will scale DoTs unless it specifically mentions it.
Weapon & Skills
The Needler Sniper Rifle attacks rapidly and applies a ton of de-buffs, including our precious poison. A lot of this weapon’s skills also apply “Needler Toxin” that simply slows enemy movement speed by 1% per stack, and can be consumed by one of our skills for more crit chance and damage.
The left click “Short Burst” fires a 3 shot burst at rapid speeds, each shot applying poison, and needler toxin. and the poison is our main source of damage, short burst is a really easy way to spread it quickly. Once you get the three projectile doctrine, Short burst fires a total of 9 projectiles that can all shotgun to a single target if close enough, applying maximum poisons and any other on-hit effect like ordinatus armor shred, vulnerabilities, and health gain.
Note that this weapon doesn’t fire three projectiles by default, it usually only fires one unless you have a 6-piece doctrine that needs 3 red psalm codes. I don’t think the needler is good without that rare doctrine, feel free to level without it, but you’ll have a lot less damage and AOE. For that reason, this isn’t a very good starter build, but more of a second character once you get your first set up.
The right click “Shoot and Retreat” is basically the same as Short Burst, except it attacks much slower and moves you backwards. It’s alright for kiting, but it’s not nearly as effective as Short Burst. This skill has more base damage to make up for it’s lower attack speed, but we don’t scale physical damage so that doesn’t matter to us, we only really care about attack speed to stack poisons quickly.
“Sniper Shot” requires your character to stand still to aim at specific body parts, gaining more damage as time goes on. We never use this skill. We don’t scale physical damage so it barely even tickles enemies even with a full channel.
“Needle Blast” is the main skill of this build that shoots projectiles that splatter into large AOEs that apply poison, and hallucination giving enemeis a chance to miss attacks. Even with one projectile, the AOE of this skill is pretty good, but once you get three projectiles is becomes insane and even adds single-target potential since all three hits can shotgun one enemy. I have it at a 4.1 second cooldown, but it starts at around a 10 second cooldown. Its our goal to get this as low as possible while still above 4 seconds. This is because of an important perk, “Opportunist Stance” that gives skills with cooldowns between 4-10 seconds a 20% reduction every time you use the dodge move. This perk paired with the good old “Eradicative Protocols” point in the AOE passive tree let me spam Needle Blast much more often than I should be able to, sometimes instantly.
The Dodge Move is a fairly clunky mechanic, I highly suggest changing the base key bindings to make it feel better since this build spams it to move around. Turn on “Dodge to cursor”, and change the dodge forward keybind to a mouse button or anything easy to reach, and the dodge backward keybind to space. With this set up you can press dodge forward to dodge towards your cursor, and space bar to dodge behind your cursor which is great for dodging attacks.
The Normal Relic Enchant “559% Damage Bonus for DoT effects applied by skills with at least a 3 second cooldown” is so important. This is literally the biggest DoT boost in the entire game by far, and it effects our main skill “Needle Burst” that we’re able to spam from dodge rolls.
Remember when rolling enchantments, damage bonuses do not effect DoT unless they say they do. We get critical strength and chance because DoTs can scale off crits, and we need a lot of critical chance to make up for the 30% we lose from the split projectiles doctrine. We need two secondary enchantments for two very important effects, “100% Damage Bonus for Poison effects”, and more importantly “Supreme Cooldown Reduction for Needle Blast” to help us spam it.
In our second set we try to get another Normal Relic Needler Rifle with the exact same enchantments as our main hand. The only difference here is a different psalm code doctrine that is much more suitable for single-target. I’ll talk more about that in the final Sockets section.
I change the appearance in the crafting menu to make this weapon bright red so it’s obvious when I need to switch back to my main weapon that is much better for AOE clearing.
Eversor’s Shelter was basically made for this style of build that spams dodge rolls. We can get up to a 15% chance to trigger Thunderbolt of Authority whenever we roll. The thunderbolt’s damage is pretty low in high difficulty missions, but we have some other items that make it deal a bit more damage and give some defensive stats as well.
We roll pure defensive enchantments here, the assassin is really squishy by default, so we try to counter that with a ton of defensive enchants that we can afford to roll since we are only scaling poison.
I prefer the Stealth Armour skill to sneak around the map, but it’s really up to you, the other 2 options are great as well.
Our belt slot has a Relic Digital Weapons with the Relic enchant “Chance to cause bleeding on physical critical hit”, you’ll see why in our next item. We need digital weapons 30% crit chance to make up for the 30% lost from the split projectile doctrine.
Belt equipment is one of the many item types that can roll the “Damage bonus for poison effects” secondary enchant.
The Inoculator is a normal relic with the enchant “Damage Bonus for Poison against Bleeding enemies”, which is why we try to get the bleed chance on our belt item. We can get a lot of HP from enchantments on this item, but also try to roll Accuracy since it increases your base damage, which affects DoT. For Modules I went for 2 yellow Indomitine to get easy damage reduction that we really need.
The Neural Implant is the Normal Relic “Damage Bonus for poison effects”. We just try to stack as many enchantments like this as we can get.
The Eye Implant is the seasonal relic “Gaze of Doom” that adds a bit of damage to the Thunderbolt of Authority that we are activating often from dodge rolls. I try to get crit chance and strength here.
The Main Implant is another normal relic “Damage bonus for poison effects”. You can get accuracy on this for a damage increase, and resetting inoculator cooldown on kill is a really nice secondary enchant.
The Purity Seal is the seasonal relic “Harbinger of Refuge” to give us supreme all resist and damage reduction whenever we hit with the Thunderbolt, that can chain to 3 enemies. We really need defensive stats because the assassin is so squishy, so this plus the resists on enchants are a life saver.
The First Signum is the Archeotech relic “Add a vulnerability on critical hit”, just so we can get up to the cap of 10 quickly. The primary and secondary enchantments are all really important, we need to scale crits, cooldown reduction, vulnerabilities, and poison damage.
The Second Signum has a chance to apply a general vulnerability when we apply a debuff. We apply a ton of debuffs, and general vulnerabilties are just another way to scale our poison damage.
Whether you haven’t found some of the rarer items, or you’re not in the season of the void brethren, you might need to make some different gear choices.
The Ancient Armor of “Toxins” is the only armor that has a large poison bonus, and even gives us more chance to apply vulnerabilities and 4 accuracy. Having this armor on will net you a lot more damage, but a lot less defense compared to any other relic armor with 4 or 5 enchantments. Personally I think this leaves us far too squishy.
If you’re not able to get Eversor’s Shelter, I’d suggest the “Chance to avoid and reflect attacks” normal relic body armor, then stack health and damage resist on enchantments.
If you can’t get the “Gaze of Doom” Eye Implant, another option is the normal relic “Chance to double the duration of Poison effect”, or maybe even another “Apply a vulnerability on critical hit”
If you can’t get the “Harbinger of Refuge” Purity Seal, you could aim for an archeotech relic with “Invulnerability for 3 seconds when losing X% HP” since assassin’s hp pool is pretty low.
Perks & Attributes
Opportunist Stance is important to let us spam our Needle Blast skill that can apply huge poisons to a lot of enemies. Be careful not to get TOO MUCH cooldown reduction, we need the skill to be above 4 seconds for this to work.
Next is Enhanced Attrition, that sacrifices 50% of our non-DoT damage for a massive 150% and 3 second bonus to all DoTs. We are only scaling poison, so we don’t even care about the downside.
Lastly I have Nephrine Monger for an easy 20% dodge chance to help me reach cap. We barely ever use adrenaline, even when spamming dodge moves, so this is almost always maxed.
Get as many points into accuracy that you can afford. This increases your base damage, which directly increases DoTs. The 2nd and fourth milestone are really helpful to keep sustained with our fast attack speed.
I put the remaining points into Survival for a bit more HP and dodge. Originally I had everything into Accuracy, but I was fed up with my squishiness so decided to put some points here.
The Movement tree is usually what I spend points in first on most builds. We get a bunch of speed from the left side that makes leveling go by faster, and a bunch of cooldown reduction from the right side which is really important for this build to spam needle blast. The final point gives us even more cooldown reduction depending on how low our HP is, which is good because we aren’t using any energy shield.
The AOE Tree is really important for this build. Almost every point here is good for scaling our Needle Blast’s range, but the middle one is what we really care about. Eradicative protocols reduces the cooldown of AOE skills based on how many enemies they hit and kill. This potentially let’s us instantly reset the cooldown if we aim at a horde.
The Critical Hits Tree is necessary to make up for the 30% crit chance loss we get from the split projectiles doctrine. Most Importantly, Revenge guarantees that we will eventually crit even with 0 crit chance, and Berserker Rage gives us a little bit of sustain on crits. We don’t need the middle point because the damage bonus it gives does not affect DoTs.
Then we get almost everything the Damage over Time Tree. There’s a lot of good damage and duration bonuses to poisons here, but we don’t take the middle point because the damage bonus doesn’t actually affect DoTs, ironically.
Just 5 points in the Physical Attacks tree gets us an extra vulnerability on critical hit.
I get most points in the Defense Tree to help cap resists and damage reduction. That final point stops us from dying very often.
Just 3 points in the Ranged Combat gets us 30% reduced reload time, which is a great quality of life bonus.
I spent a few points in Suppression for damage reduction and DoT reduction in green suppression.
Then the final points are spent in the Health Tree to get the flat health bonuses. Vascular Pumps at the bottom might be worth taking for some extra suppression sustain.
Sockets & Doctrines
The Six-piece Doctrine that splits physical projectiles into three is really important, you might even say it’s build-enabling since the Needler Rifle is pretty bad without it. Each projectile can shot-gun, resulting in more poisons and more on-hit effects. We do lose 30% crit chance as a downside, so I have a Digital Weapons belt skill to make up for it, when I’d normally prefer a Personal Teleporter.
Our main weapon has the Poison Spreading 5-piece Doctrine that lets needle blast apply poisons to mostly every enemy on the screen. This is is our main AOE set-up that lets us quickly clear up trash mobs and leave none behind. The last socket has a Corpus Shard for Hp on hit since we attack so fast with Short Burst.
In our weapon swap we have a nearly identical Needler Rifle with the 5-piece “300% vulnerability effect on DoT effects” for a ton more single-target damage. The strategy is to apply a massive poison with Needle Blast, some vulnerabilities with Short Burst, then switch to your weapon swap for this vulnerability effectiveness to come into effect, and you’ll notice the damage increase right away. I changed my second weapon’s appearance to be bright red so I can easily tell when I need to switch back. The last socket has an Invictus Shard for even more damage.
The Inoculator has the 3-piece doctrine “10% of DoT damage is leeched as Suppression”, which is a really simple way for DoT builds to not worry about suppression. Like any leech effect, this becomes less effective in high level missions when we start dealing less than 90% damage, but even then, this is great for keeping up our suppression so we don’t get crowd controlled and killed.
The Main Implant and Belt have one Uncreator Psalm to scale vulnerabilities further, and crit damage shards to get the maximum damage over time bonus.