Grim Dawn Best Masteries - What to Pick?

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A well placed hammer blow makes quick work of a Dranghoul

What masteries should you choose?

Grim Dawn is a modern APRG with classic elements that is commonly referred to as the spiritual successor to Diablo II. It was created by a small and focused development team with the needs of the player in mind.

As a result, a fantastic game came into being and took on a life of its own, fostering a community around itself and inspiring players to dedicate tools, databases, forums, and player-made league and PVP events to the game.

For newer players, the amount of choices you are given can be overwhelming at first, but do not stress over this, because Grim Dawn encourages you to make mistakes and experiment in order to learn. There are nine available masteries in Grim Dawn and you are able to choose two per character, combining them into a new class with its own unique name! There are thirty-six different combinations, so let’s go over the strengths of each of the nine base classes and why you would want to pick them.


A Soldier cleaves the head off of an undead and prepares to meet more with blade and shield

The Soldier is your classic fighter class, with the potential to be proficient with all weapon types and access to powerful passive buffs. Soldier combines well with any second class but will excel in builds utilizing abilities that scale with weapon damage and builds that are focused on defense and/or retaliation. This is a great beginner class because it has passive buffs that will keep you alive and is pretty straightforward in how it deals damage.

Soldier is good for:

  • Combining with masteries focused on physical, internal trauma, pierce or bleeding damage
  • Early leveling up because of abilities like Forcewave, Blitz, and Menhir’s Will 
  • Combining with masteries that have WPS (weapon pool skills), like the Nightblade’s Belgothian’s Shears, for example
  • Combining with masteries that have retaliation damage, because of Soldier abilities like Counter-Strike, which scales with retaliation damage
  • Adding powerful passives to make your build sturdier, like Menhir’s Will or Military Conditioning

Pick Soldier if…

  • You like to choose the warrior type class in RPGs
  • You prefer to use weapons rather than spells
  • Having gravitated towards tank classes in past games, you prefer a sturdy character

Soldier details:


A Demolitionist blasts the back of an unfortunate undead's skull out with his flintlock pistol

The Demolitionist prefers to employ pyrotechnics and destructive magic to dispatch their enemies. Although you can play demolitionist as a first mastery, I find that it works best as a supporting mastery, with many tools to support other builds. Demolitionists will combine well with any mastery utilizing fire, lightning, or chaos damage and have the versatility to choose between focusing on weapon-based skills or caster skills and excel in either.

Demolitionist is good for:

  • Supporting any build that focuses on chaos, fire, or lightning damage
  • Doing high amounts of damage while maintaining mobility with abilities like Mortar Trap or Blackwater Cocktail
  • Supporting builds that need resistance reduction with abilities like Blackwater Cocktail or Thermite Mine
  • Providing some powerful defensive buffs like Blast Shield or Vindictive Flame

Pick Demolitionist if…

  • You like to use fire magic or fire-based weapons
  • You like a mobile playstyle
  • You like throwing grenades, molotov cocktails, stun jacks, fragmentation bombs, flashbangs, planting mines, and firing mortars

Demolitionist details:


An Occultist raises a Hellhound and a Raven Familiar to defend him from approaching undead

The Occultist is a caster mastery that draws its power from the occult and the esoteric, specializing in chaos and vitality magic, poisons, bleeding effects, and summoning powerful companions to aid you in battle. Occultists are one of the most versatile masteries in Grim Dawn, with access to spells that combine well with any mastery. They can excel in any role and are a fine choice for a first mastery because of the powerful leveling skills that you can access early on.

Occultist is good for:

  • Supporting any other mastery in the game, due to universally powerful spells such as Blood of Dreeg or Curse of Frailty
  • Supporting builds that focus on chaos, vitality, poison, bleeding, elemental, or physical damage, primarily due to Curse of Frailty’s support for those damage types
  • Choosing as a first mastery to level up with because of strong damaging abilities such as Bloody Pox or Sigil of Consumption
  • Combining with other pet-oriented masteries due to skills like Summon Familiar or Summon Hellhound, as well as area of effect buffs like Blood of Dreeg.

Pick Occultist if…

  • You like playing warlock type characters in RPGs, favoring the use of dark magic
  • You are unsure what second class to pick
  • You want to level up efficiently

Occultist details:


A Nightblade decapitates and bisects Aetherial undead with grace and finesse

The Nightblade is like a rogue or thief mastery of Grim Dawn, favoring speed and dexterity while yielding high damage. Their skill tree has a lot of support for dual wielding weapons so most Nightblade builds lean towards using two weapons, yet there are plenty of viable builds using other weapons as well. The Nightblade excels at dealing single target damage and can combine with other classes to make some very effective boss killing characters.

Nightblade is good for:

  • Dealing high single target damage
  • Any build that dual-wields melee weapons
  • Combining with masteries that focus on cold, vitality, pierce, physical, poison, or bleeding damage
  • High mobility

Pick Nightblade if…

  • You tend to play rogue or thief type classes in RPGs
  • You like a fast playstyle with high damage
  • You like to feel like a ninja

Nightblade details:


An Arcanist flash freezes Arkovian undead before they can surround her

The Arcanist is the mage or wizard or Grim Dawn, preferring to employ elemental and aether magic in battle. The Arcanist skill tree has a lot of support for caster builds but is also capable of being part of some very strong melee builds. The Arcanist can deal out large amounts of damage and is not lacking in defensive skills either. This is a great starting mastery because it can function well as a single class and combines well with any other class.

Arcanist is good for:

  • Dealing high single target and area of effect damage
  • Early leveling because of useful skills like Panetti’s Replicating Missile or Callidor’s Tempest
  • Complimenting any build with universally powerful skills like Maiven’s Sphere of Protection or Mirror of Ereoctes
  • Being versatile in its ability to complement both caster and weapon damage focused classes

Pick Arcanist if…

  • You like to play a mage or a wizard in RPGs
  • You plan to a caster or a spell blade type character
  • You want to control stunning animations with devastating effects

Arcanist details:


A Shaman cleaves aether-corrupt undead in two with Primal Strike

The Shaman is a wielder of primal forces, capable of being a powerful caster, a brutal melee or ranged fighter, or a master of summoning minions to fight for them. As a Shaman, you have access to passives that greatly increase your survivability and abilities that can sustain you. The Shaman is another great mastery to start with because of its useful skills for early game and its potential to pair well with most classes.

Shaman is good for:

  • Early leveling up because of useful skills such as Primal Strike or Devouring Swarm
  • Playing two-handed weapon lightning or bleed builds, or caster builds that use cold/lightning or vitality damage due to heavy support for those archetypes in the Shaman skill tree
  • Having a lot of standing power from abilities such as Wendigo Totem, or Storm Totem
  • Combining with other pet-oriented masteries due to spells like Summon Briarthorn or Conjure Primal Spirit, as well as useful area of effect buffs like Mogdrogen’s Pact

Pick Shaman if…

  • You played a Shaman in WoW
  • You like harnessing elemental forces or sapping the life from your enemies
  • You enjoy flashy spells like Primal Strike
  • You want an easy time leveling up and access to some very strong mastery combinations

Shaman details:


An inquisitor makes short work of Udgenbog cannibals with elemental and arcane magic

The inquisitor is an agent of the Luminari Order, tasked with protecting the lands from threats of arcane or occult nature. Armed with an arsenal of powerful relics and spells, the Inquisitor excels with ranged weapons but is more than capable of being a melee threat if they so choose. The inquisitor in most cases is best taken as a second mastery to support a build, but they are perfectly capable of leveling up as a first mastery if you so choose.

Inquisitor is good for:

  • Pairing with almost any mastery due to its support for many different damage types, including but not limited to aether, chaos, elemental, physical, pierce, and internal trauma damage
  • Playing as a ranged class because of heavy support for that archetype in the skill tree
  • Yielding high damage from an offensively oriented skill tree

Pick Inquisitor if…

  • You like using magical relics to unleash devastating arcane or elemental forces at your enemies
  • You prefer an offensive playstyle
  • You enjoy playing a gunslinger type character

Inquisitor details:


A Necromancer imbues the dead with new life

The Necromancer is a wielder of forbidden and misunderstood magics, choosing to raise the dead to do their bidding and use life-sapping spells to overcome their enemies. The Necromancer skill tree is versatile and can fit into many roles, excelling at both caster and melee or gun builds. This is a great choice to start out with as your first mastery because of access to powerful sustaining spells and minions.

Necromancer is good for:

  • Early game leveling, utilizing abilities such as Drain Essence, Siphon Souls, Ravenous Earth, or Raise Skeletons
  • Pairing with masteries that specialize in cold, vitality, aether, physical or poison damage
  • Staying alive with sustaining spells and abilities
  • Making minion focused builds

Play Necromancer if…

  • You tend to play the necromancer character archetype in RPGs
  • You enjoy using life-draining spells or summoning an army of minions to fight for you
  • You want to play a sturdy class that can sustain itself

Necromancer details:


An Oathkeeper sears Korvan undead with radiant fire

The Oathkeeper is characterized by unbreakable loyalty to their Gods or chosen cause, choosing to express it with zealous fury. Excelling in but not limited to the use of a shield, the Oathkeeper is most akin to the Soldier, yet also very different. Oathkeeper is a fantastic starting mastery, arguably the best, because of its versatility, high mobility, sturdiness, and respectable damage output. It is no surprise that Oathkeeper is the favorite mastery of many.

Oathkeeper is good for:

  • Early game leveling up due to abilities like Vire’s Might or Aegis of Menhir 
  • Versatility in being able to be effective with any other class
  • Pairing with masteries that focus on physical, fire, poison, vitality, and lightning damage
  • Making retaliation damage builds due to abilities with RATA (retaliation added to attack) like Aegis of Menhir or Righteous Fervor as well as passive/toggle abilities that support retaliation damage

Pick Oathkeeper if:

  • You enjoy playing a sword and board character
  • You want to zoom across the map with a trail of fire behind you
  • You want an easy leveling experience and the option to pair well with any other mastery

Oathkeeper details:

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Hailing from the far-east Cape of Cods, I've spent my life traveling between fantastic worlds, observing villains, heroes, tragedy and triumph. Now I find myself here, eager to recount my stories.
Gamer Since: 2000
Favorite Genre: RPG
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