Home > The Secret World > Experimenting with builds and decks

Experimenting with builds and decks

January 20, 2013

This post is about some of my experiences with the Chaos/Fist weapon combination in The Secret World. This is the first post about my build experiences; I start with Chaos/Fist since this is the weapon combination I have used most of the time when playing the game. Later posts will go into other experiments with other weapons. I do not make any claims to have any optimal builds; only writing down a bit about the process with which I ended up with the presented builds.

One of the key features of The Secret World is the ability to construct just almost any kind of combination of combat abilities, plus the option to switch between those. These combinations are referred to as builds or decks – the terminology of choice probably depends a bit on your background.

The limitations are that you can only have 7 active abilities and 7 passive abilities, plus the active abilities has to be from the two weapons that are equipped. And you have to earn ability points to buy the abilities you want. Other than that, you are free to make any combination.

Given the nature of the way you gain abilities, you buy them with ability points, there a game element that you have to change your build as you play. In some cases you may have to change it radically.  I love the flexibility of this system and I love tinkering with it; but at the same time I do not want to have to think about it all the time. So I am also happy to play a build that I like  without changing it.


But from time to time the game throws something at you that you struggle with and at that point may force you to think of a different approach – one of these would be to change your build. Others would be to get help from others, or skip whatever you are doing. But since this post is about builds, that is what I am going to talk about here.

When I initially started playing The Secret World in the beta weekends, I tried a few different weapon combination. The first one was chaos magic + fist weapon. At that point I had no thoughts about any builds or what may be optimal for the game play – these two just had a visual synergy. They looked similar, only one of them was physical damage and the other one magical.  Other weapon combinations did not click in the same way with me, so at launch I picked Chaos + Fist.

Back then I read Yokai’s excellent guide to build philosophy as well as Martin Bruusgard’s blog post about character development. I was certainly inspired to play around with builds by these – getting an idea about the philosophy was important.


However, when I initially started playing, I was not particularly systematic in build development. I just bought the skills as they became affordable for my two weapons of choice and just did a bit of trial and error. I did not think much about saving and documenting those early build attempts. In fact, the only record I have of the very first choices are my screenshots from the very early gameplay, like above.

For the most part this approach worked. After a little while I started to think a bit more about synergies and effects, as well as what kind of talismans I used. I decided to adjust my abilities as well as my weapon and talisman equipment to apply Weaken on the enemies, as well as add boost my Evade, so that enemies would hit me less. Also a mix of single target and Area of Effect abilities was put in.

At an early stage in Savage Coast that resulted in a build that I actually have a record of. The reason for that is that I used this build pretty much all the way from early Savage Coast to most of Blue Mountain and this was the build I used when I returned to the game in December, after my focus time on City of Heroes. The build uses was this:


Total: 62 AP

  1. Hand of Change (Chaos->Theory, 1 AP)
  2. Escalation (Chaos->Chance, 1 AP)
  3. Call for Eris (Chaos->Theory, 1 AP)
  4. Wild at Heart (Fist->Primal, 4 AP)
  5. Hog Wild (Fist->Feral, 1 AP)
  6. Illusion (Chaos->Chance, 2 AP)
  7. Go for the Throat (Elite, Fist->Feral, 7 AP)
  1. Intensity (Chaos->Chance, 1 AP)
  2. Paradigm Shift (Chaos->Theory, 2 AP)
  3. Predator (Fist->Feral, 4 AP)
  4. Gnosis (Chaos->Chance, 1 AP)
  5. Chaos Adept (Chaos->Theory, 4 AP)
  6.  Master of Illusions (Chaos->Chance, 3 AP)
  7. Probability (Elite, Chaos->Chance, 7 AP)

You can also look at the details through this link. The power Escalation was the key damage dealing power here – it affects multiple targets and it applies weakened when it hits. The other four bread&butter damage dealers (Hand of Change, Call for Eris, Wild at Heart, Hog Wild) were powers that I put there to have a mix of single target and AoE as well as a mix of chaos and fist abilities. Illusion was my save-my-behind power to use in a pinch, either to survive long enough to defeat the enemy, to flee or to use a healing drink. Go for the Throat was for interrupting enemies when they were about to do Something Really Bad.

For the passives, Predator and Chaos Adept were added to increase damage. Intensity and Paradigm Shift were added to take advantage of the Weakened state from Escalation to both protect me as well as increase chance to hit. Probability was added to take advantage of the increased hit rate as well as my Evade boosts to increase survival even more. Gnosis was also added to add some extra damage from the Weakened state and Master of Illusions to make my evades with Illusion even better.

This one served me well I think, for solo play.

When I finally decided to change the build I started to put more emphasis on damage output and and also considering damage subtypes. Burst is a subtype supported by both Chaos and Fist, so I picked such abilities with the hope that I may take advantage of that at some point – I did not see much immediate synergy with the amount of ability points I had available. I also reduced emphasis on the evades and wards to put more into damage output, which resulted in this build (also viewable from this link):


Total: 201 AP

  1. Deconstruct (Chaos->Teorama, 9 AP)
  2. Prey on the Weak (Fist->Feral, 3 AP)
  3. One-Two (Fist->The Wilderness, 16 AP)
  4. Four Horsemen (Chaos->Teorama, 16 AP)
  5. Go for the Throat (Elite, Fist->Feral, 7 AP)
  6. Amor Fati (Chaos->The Value of x, 12 AP)
  7. Illusion (Chaos->Chance, 2 AP)
  1. Follow Through (Fist->The Wilderness, 21 AP)
  2. Fixation (Chaos->Shell Game, 9 AP)
  3. Predator (Fist->Feral, 4 AP)
  4. Breakdown (Chaos->The Value of x, 9 AP)
  5. Chaos Adept (Chaos->Theory, 4 AP)
  6. Cutting Thoughts (Chaos->Teorama, 12 AP)
  7. Probability (Elite, Chaos->Chance, 7 AP)

In general I have not been looking for someone else’s build to use – however, I do look from time to time on other builds to look for names of abilities. If I see the name of an ability often enough I have a look what it actually does, if I am not already familiar with it.

Three abilities that got my attention this way were Adrenalise, Twist The Knife and Improved Bursts. The two latter were in weapons I had not put that much points in and the first one was an Elite that cost 50 AP. Step-by-step I changed the build slightly; with Adrenalise in the picture the damage got more focused on Fist Weapon – only a resource consumer for Chaos remained eventually. Since I had dropped the evades and ward and at this time also use more of talismans with higher attack rating to boost damage, I also added a self-heal for those slightly tricky moments. The result of this was this build below, which is pretty much what I use currently for solo Chaos/Fist play (see also this link):


Total: 612 AP

  1. Prey on the Weak (Fist->Feral, 3 AP)
  2. One-Two (Fist->The Wilderness, 16 AP)
  3. Four Horsemen (Chaos->Teorama, 16 AP)
  4. Bushwhack (Fist->The Outback, 34 AP)
  5. Go for the Throat (Elite, Fist->Feral, 7 AP)
  6. Amor Fati (Chaos->The Value of x, 12 AP)
  7. Turn the Tables (Green->Survivalism, 16 AP)
  1. Follow Through (Fist->The Wilderness, 21 AP)
  2. Doom (Blood->Possession, 12 AP)
  3. Predator (Fist->Feral, 4 AP)
  4. Improved Bursts (Assault Rifle->Squad Duty, 21 AP)
  5. Chaos Adept (Chaos->Theory, 4 AP)
  6. Twist the Knife (Blade->Wind through Grass, 12 AP)
  7. Adrenalise (Elite, Fist->The Outback, 50 AP)

This build was part of an effort to look for useful passives from other weapons – in this case the passives have been collected from 5 different weapons. During this process I also made an effort to increase penetration and hit rating attributes on talismans and wear more attack/damage focused talismans. I used Advanced Combat Tracker (ACT) to look at the result of using these different abilities – I was a bit surprised when I first started using this how much of the damage came from the fist abilities – more than I had expected. The results from these tests were also one reason that I did focus a bit more on first abilities for damage. However, it also depends on the type of enemy you face. Using the ACT also gave some insight into how different types of talismans affected damage and other things.

With this build it was also easier for me to get a good builder-consumer rhythm; it flowed better simply. Good as it is; for dungeon play I change this build a bit – Bushwack, Go for the Throat and Turn the Tables are dropped.  The first two because I do not want to include Impair effects; dungeon bosses tend to get immune against those if they are applied to often, so that gets reserved for the tank-type person(s). I might not need the self-heal if there are people that can heal the team.

Instead these have been replaced with other abilities to deal more damage (e.g. Do or Die), or to reduce hate towards me (e.g. Confuse).

There has been times when this build has not been that useful, for example some elemental golem fights in Scorched Earth. For these I ended up with a build like this (see also this link):


Total: 335 AP

  1. Run Rampant (Chaos->Building Blocks, 9 AP)
  2. Four Horsemen (Chaos->Teorama, 16 AP)
  3. Domino Effect (Elite, Chaos->Theory, 7 AP)
  4. Nurture (Fist->Primal, 1 AP)
  5. Surgical Steel (Fist->Warming Up, 9 AP)
  6. Pack Leader (Fist->Primal, 2 AP)
  7. Turn the Tables (Green->Survivalism, 16 AP)
  1. Chaos Adept (Chaos->Theory, 4 AP)
  2. Nurturing Gift (Fist->Primal, 1 AP)
  3. Lick Your Wounds (Fist->Primal, 1 AP)
  4. Improved Bursts (Assault Rifle->Squad Duty, 21 AP)
  5. Hot Iron (Fist->Warming Up, 12 AP)
  6. Twist the Knife (Blade->Wind through Grass, 12 AP)
  7. Out of the Woods (Elite, Fist->Primal, 7 AP)

The main idea here was to focus on magical damage, since the golems were resistant to physical damage, and to use more of a kiting approach, due to the environment and the abilities the golems used. Thus instead of Fist damage, I picked abilities from the healing side of Fist instead – which are pretty good ones. Domino Effect was quite useful here to interrupt and get a bit of breathing space in addition to dealing some damage on enemies as well.

This concludes my first post on build experiences; hopefully there has been something of interest here. I can also highly recommend the build tool that I linked to for the builds above, TSW Builder. It is a very nice tool I think and is quite helpful in finding synergies good combinations.

Categories: The Secret World
  1. January 21, 2013 at 16:03

    Yay! Thanks Sente! Now I’m going to scroll back up and READ the post. Thoughts may come later. 🙂

    • January 21, 2013 at 22:10

      More to come later – I realized the post started to grow a bit in size, plus it was getting late. Have to do a bit more another evening.

  2. Sylow
    January 25, 2013 at 17:54

    Interesting. Your builds in about any variation here are miles away from anything i use, they somehow contradict my “philosohpy” on builds. At the same time, if you do well in Egypt with them and they brought you through Blue Mountain, they can’t be too bad.

    So while i doubt i’ll ever run them, it’s nice to read how other people make their builds. I’m looking forward to the next post. 🙂

    • January 26, 2013 at 21:54

      I am glad to hear that, if it is quite different then it shows that there is at least some truth to the “play which way you like” statement Funcom refers to.
      At the same time I am also curious in which your philosophy is different – not in terms of specific abilities, but rather reasoning – which I assume is different.

  3. Sylow
    January 29, 2013 at 19:33

    On the “play whichever way you like”, that’s semi-true. “Whichever way” would mean that all builds, no matter how stupid, would be successful. And the game tends to weed out weak builds. But there clearly are different approaches on how to do things.

    Another strong limitation are some nightmare boss fights, which require very specific abilities to succeed, thus pushing you into a small selection of weapons for one or another fight. But that’s just a small part of the game.

    On the philosophy question, that’s hard to answer. It already starts with your gear being set up for damage and some defense, i guess, while mine usually replaces defense with healing capabilities. Even in the unlikely case that my chosen weapons don’t support healing abilities, i prefer healing passives to defensive passives. (Dungeons are a completely different thing here. ) I know that both ways work, but if i have no way to recover, i just feel uneasy, even if the recovering is a proc based on using some of my offensive abilities.

    Perhaps i find time to ponder this and answer in more detail, i didn’t give the difference that much thought, but just reading them i know that i would feel uneasy running either of those setups, no matter if they work or not.

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