My recollection of how Path of Exile worked back when I used to play is that the sphere grid was full of critical damage related nodes and taking them all was the way to do the most damage. I also remember that unless you had ridiculously good gear you couldn't really afford to spend so many sphere levels on crit without getting yourself killed. So it was 'right' to spec into crit if you were rich and/or awesome but otherwise all the critical damage nodes were a trap. There is one node in the tree that removes your chance to crit entirely but guarantees you hit with every attack. If you aren't getting any crit nodes that one was a pretty big damage boost and it had the added bonus that you got to skip accuracy nodes and gear. So you could really focus all your gear on staying alive (with some damage and attack speed thrown in) and completely ignore a lot of the potential damage stats.
This most recent expansion gave everyone more health and nerfed the defensive nodes in the tree. My hope is that this made it so taking damage based nodes was no longer as much of a trap and I decided my first character would just kind of take things that looked good and hope that all worked out. I've made it to act 2 of the 3rd difficulty without much trouble so far and my gear is pretty sketchy so I'd have to say at least for now it seems to be working out fine. I went and picked up the evasion related defensive stuff near the ranger start and then grabbed things that looked good including a bunch of mana on kill and some of the life nodes I could reach. I also ended up taking a lot of crit nodes since a lot of the rebuilt ranger area had crit stuff thrown in with bow damage.
I've probably only got another 25 skill points to spend by the time I hit 75 (if this character lasts that long) and I'm close to all kinds of interesting nodes. Do I want more crit chance? Crit multiplier? Attack speed? Physical damage? Projectile damage? A 6th frenzy charge? More life? Movement speed? Mana? My primary spell does a lot of cold damage, do I want elemental damage? I'm near the shadow start and there's a pretty spicy cold damage and freeze chance node... How does that feel?
A lot of these things are things I've ignored in the past since I always either took the no miss/no crit node or I threw traps or I stood around and watched my zombies attack things. To make things more complicated all of these different sources of more damage interact multiplicatively with each other so how good one is depends on how much of the other ones I have. I can't just take the one with the bigger numbers because I don't know that it'll have the biggest end result to my damage done. (Ok, I could just take the one with the bigger numbers but I won't be happy to do that at all. I want to take the best one!)
The solution, of course, is to make a note of all my current values and build a spreadsheet so I can see what the impact of any given boost will be for my current setup!
*3 hours later*
Man, I'd forgotten just how complicated a lot of the mechanics are in this game. (Your chance to crit is based on your chance to hit unlike in simpler games like World of Warcraft, for example.) And how hard it is to find real numbers for monster stats. But I plugged it all together into a spreadsheet that seemed to be returning reasonable values compared to my character sheet, so I have something to work from. I'm apparently already at 90% chance to hit and it's capped at 95% so I'm pretty close to that cap as it is. I randomly picked up 3 nodes that had 20% accuracy rating each on them and I have a lot of dex to give a good accuracy base. But even without those 3 nodes I'd still be rocking an 85% chance to hit. And to get all the way to the 95% cap I'd need to add on an extra 170% accuracy rating. WHAT? I can get a little more than a 5% damage boost out of 9 extra nodes? And that's assuming I could even find 9 more 20% accuracy nodes. This feels stupid!
At least, I assume I can do better than that with other things? I want to look at what is a reasonable value for each stat for a single node and see what kind of damage boost it would bring...
Using 25% as the 'typical' value for crit multiplier is a little like cheating since there's never any clusters of crit multiplier just lying around. 25% is actually the value of an end node of a micro cluster that starts with 2 25% crit chance nodes. And it looks like those are actually ok but not great value for me? But the multiplier is so over the top good it might be worth taking those 3 nodes anyway. I find it interesting that the 6th frenzy charge is such a reasonable thing, but isn't awesome. I can remember a character last time around that basically just ran around to pick up all the frenzy charges... She wasn't very good. I wonder if it was really worth grabbing the 2 extra ones I already picked up. And if it will be worth taking an extra one from the bandits? Depending on how often I actually use frenzy it's probably a good idea. I'm a little surprised at how good the elemental damage nodes look. Not the 8% ones... But I'm near a node that's 20% elemental damage, 20% crit chance, and 20 int and it looks pretty amazing.
I also found it interesting that the cold penetration gem I have linked to my ice shot is worth 11.4% and 17.7% damage on the two ice shot columns. The faster projectiles also linked in? 5.1% and 4.6%. Cold penetration really looks like a good choice, though for a mana cost multiplier of 1.5 it better look good!
Accuracy nodes certainly look pretty terrible. And given that I'm already at 90% chance to hit I'm starting to question my curse choice. Knocking 42% off the enemy evasion sounded good, and I like life/mana on hit, but poacher's mark doesn't feel very good anymore. Maybe I should look into getting an assassin's mark gem at some point... Or maybe something defensive like enfeeble or temporal chains?