This latest expansion for Path of Exile added in two new things to find in zones in the ambush league. Lockboxes full of a wide variety of valuable things and corrupt zones which are the only way to get the items to spawn the end boss and complete three of the t-shirt challenges. So obviously I want to find a lot of these things! I tried to search them out with my summoner but summoners walk slowly and have a hard time with just skipping packs of monsters. I don't have any real focus on attack speed, cast speed, or movement speed so I can't even really use movement skills to get around.
What I could do, however, is level a new character designed solely to cover ground quickly. Then I could run around through zones searching for map/gem/currency boxes and for corrupt zone spawns. Such a character would need to use a movement ability and focus heavily on using it more often by spamming attack speed or cast speed. They'd also need to be able to live while skipping through zones while also being able to kill the bosses of the corrupt zones. I decided to go with a melee build using leap slam to move around and double strike to actually kill things too tough for the leap slam.
I've been leveling up a duelist for this purpose the last few days in a group with Tom and Snuggles. Tom is spectral throw, Snuggles is fully aura focused, and we have so many buffs! I'm leveling a bunch of red support gems but I'm never quite sure which ones I should be using. Especially in this group, where spectral throw will kill all the dorks, I feel like my best use is burning down high health or high priority targets. Allies can't die totems, or necromancers, or bosses. My current setup is in a 4 link item and has multistrike, melee physical damage, and life gain on hit. I'm blood magic specced and definitely need to keep the life gain on hit as a survival tool, but I'm not so sure about the other two gems. Melee splash is an option as is added fire damage. I also could consider changing socket colours and busting in faster attacks. What do each of these actually do for me in general and for killing a specific target in particular?
Melee physical damage is 41% more physical damage. More is good because it's a straight up multiplier. Only affecting physical damage is less good since Tom's two auras add in a significant amount of magical damage. I feel like about 75% of my damage is physical, so melee physical damage is a straight ~31% damage boost.
Added fire damage takes 32% of your physical damage and adds it in as extra fire damage. This is a lot like more physical damage except it doesn't get amplified by hatred. So this is way worse than melee physical damage since it's a smaller number and it doesn't get as buffed. It missed out on a 1.32 multiplier from hatred, so it's probably around a straight ~18% damage boost.
Faster attacks is a 32% attack speed increase. I already have 38% attack speed increase from the skill tree and may well have ~25% more from haste aura if Snuggles runs that. Adding on another 32% increase would either be a 23% damage increase or a 20% damage increase. Extra attack speed has the added bonus of giving more life gained on hit with the added detriment of paying the life cost more frequently. Regardless these numbers slot this gem as being worse than melee physical damage and better than added fire damage.
Multistrike has four components. It gives 36% less damage, 99% more attack speed, 33% increased physical damage, and the attack gets executed three times in a row. That last part sounds like it triples the damage of the ability, but since I'm just going to keep using the ability over and over until the enemy is dead it doesn't actually matter when it comes to damage. I'll only pay the cost once and get the life gain on hit thrice which is definitely good, but it won't do triple damage. In fact because of the way the AI works I may well actually be doing only a third of the expected the damage. The reason for this is multistrike chooses random targets for the two extra attacks so I may end up hitting random dudes instead of the high priority target. In most cases this damage is going to be completely wasted since Tom's spectral throw will kill all the dorks anyway. Ignoring that for now though, against a single target, how does this gem amplify my damage? I already have 211% increased physical damage so the extra 33% from this gem is a 11% physical damage boost. With the prior assumption about damage split this is just a 8% boost. So the overall boost from this gem is .64*1.99*1.08= ~38%.
Melee splash is 33% increased physical damage, 16% less damage, but the attack becomes area of effect which does 61% damage to everything else. So the main target ends up losing 9% damage but everything beside it takes 66% damage. So if there's even one extra target this is by far the best gem so far. Assuming the damage done to the extra target matters, anyway. This means while soloing I expect I should always be using melee splash. (Added bonus: so much extra life gain on hit!) What about in a group where someone else will kill all the dorks?
I feel like my choice is between melee physical damage and melee splash. So I can either hit a single target for 131% damage or hit one guy for 91% damage and everyone else for 66% damage. Assuming I'm using multistrike here and there's one extra target I actually expect to hit the real target and the extra guy with one of the bonus strikes each. So in 3 attacks the main guy will take 262% damage with the extra guy taking 131%. Or the main guy will take 248% damage with the extra guy taking 223% damage. Give me 5 extra targets and swing 3 times so that they each expect an extra swing... Main guy takes 524% damage with each extra guy taking 131% damage or main guy takes 694% damage with each extra guy taking 619% damage.
Ok, this is really not looking like much of a choice. Unless I know there's not going to be adds (like on Warden, say) it really seems melee splash is winning out over melee physical damage. But this is because of the randomness involved in multistrike. What if I blaspheme and stop using that gem entirely? I want to burn out exactly one guy... What if I use just melee physical damage and faster attacks instead of multistrike and melee splash?
The first one is going to be an attack at 131% damage and 123% attack speed. The second one is going to be three attacks with 1+2/X hits on the main target and 2-2/X secondary hits on the main target. The main hits will do 63% damage and the secondary hits will do 46% damage and they'll come in with 199% attack speed. With just one target that works out to 125% damage from the second combo and 161% damage from the first one. With 3 targets the main guy will take 110% damage and each extra guy will take 99% damage for a total of 307% damage.
So it all comes down to the value of the damage to the extra guys. If it has even value then multistrike and melee splash reign supreme. If it has no value then I want to drop multistrike. I can imagine situations where that's true, but they're pretty rare. Pretty rare, but pretty important. So maybe it'd be worth being worse most of the time to be really optimal some of the time? In a group of 6 where I was the 'boss killer', for sure. But for this character who's end game is to search out more boxes? Multistrike is still king.