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My Shadow Trickster has now hit level 75, running a five-supported scorching ray skill in a Tabula Rasa. I am now able to ~comfortably get bonus completion on tier 7 maps, but I'm starting to be a bit short in the health department on magic maps at tier 8 and up.

The problem is that, while I know where the player trading interface is, I don't really have a good reference point for what mods, armour, evasion or resistance I should be getting. The build I'm following has a Path of Building file sporting an 8 exulted orbs Belly of the Beast Full Wyrmscale, which is, uh, a bit out of my reach.

So, how do I pick a suitable upgrade from the player market? Do I need a six link? How much bonus health should I go for? Do I go for broke immediately, or try and big some sort of minimum viable upgrade?

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  • The answer depends on the build you are using. Unless you are seasoned player I recommend you to look for existing one, those are "profiled" by many players and have balanced synergies of items, contributing either into dmg or survivability. Tabula Rasa lack stats (chest armor has the most), there are plenty of unique chests, surely bis items are expensive, but you will be surprised how much less matter 6th link given having a correct bonus or just raw stats. You will suffer disregards of gear if you choose (or worse, making own) wrong build.
    – user135338
    Jul 17 '18 at 14:25
  • "The build I'm following" - you forgot to add the link. Belly of the Beast is real cheap, I've made 6 links (played as trapper myself in this league) way earlier I reached yellow maps. Hint: buy first belly (with good stats) and make 5 links (5 sockets).. then another and try to get 6 there.
    – user135338
    Jul 17 '18 at 14:31
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TL;DR

Replace Tabula Rasa with a 5-link you can afford. Look for resistances, +health or +%energy shield and a % increase to your secondary defenses depending on your build and check which support gem hurts the least to lose in terms of dps or survivability.

Try stuff. If you don't like the armor just sell it again.

Detailed answer

I know that it feels weird to lose a gem in a setup if one is used to level with a Tabula Rasa but at a certain point in the game dropping a gem slot for additional defense is definitely worth it (you won't deal damage if you're dead).

So depending on how tight your budget is, I'd suggest looking for a decent body armor with 5 links. The body armor is usually your most defensive item in a build so while having a TR is good offensively and for quality of life, your survivability suffers from it which is noticeable in later stages of the game.

Now for stats you should look for: It usually depends on your build. Are you life based with evasion or armor? Both? Are you a low-life energy shield build? A CI build?

Here's the general priority for buying a chest armor:

  1. +% elemental resistance (if not capped)
  2. Main surival resource (+max life/energy shield)
  3. +% increase of secondary defense (armor/evasion)

Now please note that while your chest armor shouldn't be your primary source of elemental resistances, you should ALWAYS cap out on all elemental resistances (75% by default). You can also reach the cap by using potions and since you should be spamming those at that stage of the game it should have a 100% uptime.

The cool thing in PoE: There is no such thing as soulbound items. If you aren't happy with the performance or the playstyle with a newly bought item you can just put it back on the market and sell it for about the same price (usually a minor loss though). This means you can spend your "fortune" without major risks.

Keeping some of your currency is still a good idea though since it allows for flipping and buying other items you may want which brings you closer to your end-game goal (6-link Belly in your case).

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In addition to Jutschge's answer: there are a lot of player facing the same issues at this level. So you should be able to find rather generically good defensive armors that would fit a lot of build on poe.trade, because there are a lot circulating among players.
The search engine is your friend there: I'd put minimum requirements on sockets and maximum on price. And then try combinations of defensive stats you lack (without ranges) to have a better idea of market pricing and eventually narrow down to what will suit you.

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A Tabula Rasa has no stats at all (unless its corrupted), so any armor will be an upgrade except for losing dps due to less links. Since you're not struggling to output damage and dealing with survival instead, it should be fine to trade down on dps for defenses.

You have several armor options depending on resources and equipment used in your build:

  1. Buy an inferior Belly of the Beast, and 5L it: Prices for uniques are drastically different depending on the roll - Belly can be bought for around 2c, or the cost of a single vendor chaos recipe. The gamble is how many jewelers & fuse it will take to turn it into a 5 link.

  2. Buy random 6 link with the socket combo you want: Cheapest ones start at 10c and up because everyone knows that 6 linked armor other than Tabula is quite hard to find.

  3. Get a cheap unique that supports a skill in your build, e.g. The Covenant has in-built Blood Magic. This could allow you to get away with targeting 4L which is far easier to craft, or just buy for cheap.

  4. You can also look into whether using armor with resistances allows you to swap out a piece elsewhere for a damage boost, so that your overall dps stays similar with less links. e.g. using Pyre in place of a resists ring.

Another option is to work on your jewels and find ones with more flat +life. This will be amplified by all your current bonuses to life from passives, and be even more effective once you get a Belly later.

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