Path of Exile’s most powerful item will be easier to get in Ultimatum

The iconic Headhunter will drop for more players

As players start to become more familiar with specific builds and “meta” items of Path of Exile, they are bound to come across one item mentioned a ton: Headhunter.

And, realistically, a bunch of flasks and Watcher’s Eye. But you don’t wear those, so they don’t count. Personally, I’ve never owned a Headhunter because it’s always too expensive. Plus, I don’t really play builds that utilize its unique mechanic very well. But I still want one really bad. If anything, just to say I’ve had one before.

In Path of Exile‘s upcoming expansion, Ultimatum, Grinding Gear Games is adding Headhunter to the default drop pool, meaning it can drop at any time while playing. So why is this belt so sought after? And how much could this update change its availability?

Why is Headhunter so good?

There’s a reason why almost half of the high-level builds have a Headhunter equipped by the end of the league. Headhunter has some nice stats (flat life, Dexterity, and Strength are great on so many builds), but it’s really that last modifier that makes this an item sought after by all: “When you Kill a Rare monster, you gain its Modifiers for 20 seconds.

As most ARPG players can attest to, Rare monsters often carry with them multiple mods to make them harder. Things like increased resistances, speed, charges (frenzy, power, endurance), etc., can all be inherited by the player for 20 seconds. Keep in mind, in Path of Exile, 20 seconds is a long time. Plenty of things last for just a few seconds like flasks, Vaal skills, and modifiers with the “recently” descriptor. Headhunter mods begin to stack up pretty quickly, especially considering the snowball effect of piling more and more mods onto a build already built for speeding through a map.

Here’s a great video from YouTuber SeanyC that does a great job explaining (and showing) how powerful Headhunter is:

Why is Headhunter so valuable?

This comes down essentially to the basic economic principle of supply and demand. Headhunter was introduced early on in Path of Exile‘s life during the “Nemesis” league. At the time, the league was for the Hardcore players only so it didn’t quite garner a huge following other than “wow that looks nuts!” (Hardcore leagues are those in which if characters die, they are removed from the league.) Needless to say, it continued to gain popularity as more and more people got their hands on it in future leagues.

Thing is, the only real way, until Ultimatum league, to gain a Headhunter was to use a type of currency called Ancient Orbs. These are pretty rare (though less so in the recent Ritual League thanks to Harbinger Atlas Passives) and will turn a unique into another unique of the same type. Problem is, Ancient Orbs can only turn another belt into a Headhunter if two requirements are met: the belt must have the same (or higher) item level, and the map the player is in must be tagged with the “Nemesis” mod. The only way to do this is to use the map device to add a Nemesis influence to a map. 

So players will get the Nemesis influence onto a map (using Harvest, most likely), enter the map, and keep using Ancient Orbs on other unique belts and hoping for the best. Here’s a quick video example of someone who is incredibly lucky, getting it in only six attempts. The chances are extremely low, and there are just so, so many videos of people mindlessly applying Ancient Orbs to belts and accidentally “rolling over” a Headhunter. So here’s a timestamped video of that happening for fun.

There are other ways to acquire a Headhunter, like farming the Divination cards for it, but this is the traditional route. Between the absolute power of the unique modification and the incredible rarity, Headhunter is often worth more currency than most players will see over the course of many leagues, let alone a single league. Here’s the price history for the current league, Ritual (listed in Chaos Orb price):

What are the Headhunter changes in Ultimatum League?

While we don’t know the specifics yet (and may never outside of community experiments), Grinding Gear Games just announced that a handful of powerful uniques, including Headhunter, are being added to the “core drop pool,” which means they can drop from any enemy at any time. Is the chance to drop less than 0.5%? Probably! But it’s still a huge increase to the incredible amount of gatekeeping that Path of Exile normally has around the famous belt.

Even if the chance to drop is a small iota of a half of a quarter of a percentage per killed enemy, there are still billions of monsters killed at an alarming rate in Path of Exile. As players enter the end game of running maps, their builds become relentless killing machines, sometimes clearing an entire map in a matter of two to three minutes.

This change is bound to expand the number of available Headhunters on the market. Again, just using basic economic principles of supply and demand, the price of Headhunter should go down pretty steadily over the course of the league.

Is Headhunter being nerfed to compensate?

Nope! Chris Wilson, lead developer at Grinding Gear Games, spoke with popular Path of Exile streamer ZiggyD about this topic, actually. His exact words were “Headhunter stays great” and that “we’re not nerfing [Headhunter], it’s gonna stay awesome.” However, it is now harder to get from sources other than the core drop pool. Chris explicitly mentions that it will take more Ancient Orbs to get one, as an example.

A Headhunter has become such an iconic piece of gear in the Path of Exile community, and to nerf it would upset a whole lot of people (not that Grinding Gear Games is a stranger to upsetting the community).

But what’s to happen to the drop rate of the Divination cards? As it stands, farming eight “The Doctor” cards is a very long process (unless you’re one of the ultra-gamers at the top), and can include farming enough “Patient” cards to earn enough “Nurse” cards to start earning “Doctor” cards. This hierarchy of cards is considered a deterministic, or reliable, way to get a Headhunter, and I’d imagine these drop rates are also nerfed as a part of the “other sources” that Chris mentioned in the Q&A.

You can watch the talk in the Twitch VOD here, timestamped to the bit about Headhunter.

What should I do if I get a Headhunter?

Equip it! Well, probably. Not every build is instantly made amazing by equipping a Headhunter. Your build still needs survivability (something that is usually provided by the belt slot) and the ability to clear very quickly. Cyclone builds that Cast on Crit (CoC) are very popular with Headhunter, since they never have to stop moving.

You can also try and sell the Headhunter, though again, it’s impossible to know what the prices will be like now that it’s in the core drop pool. If the other sources of acquiring it are nerfed, will it balance out and remain the same, super expensive price? Maybe nerfing the more deterministic ways of getting it will actually dissuade people from farming the Divination cards and result in even fewer Headhunters on the market, driving the price up! Only time will tell!

Even if it is more common, I will always pine to see that multi-skull art in my stash…

Patrick Hancock
During the day, he teaches high school kids about history. At night he kicks their butts in competitive games like Rocket League, Dota 2, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike. Disclosure: I've personally backed Double Fine Adventure, Wasteland 2, Dead State, SPORTSFRIENDS, Torment: Tides of Numera, STRAFE, and The Binding of Isaac: Four Souls. I have previously written for AbleGamers.com and continue to support them whenever possible (like HumbleBundle).