In this guide, I will try to describe the Path of Exile end-game system – Atlas and maps in as much detail as possible. And although at first glance Atlas looks complicated and confusing, it is quite easy to learn and after studying the basic principles, you will be able to open access to the final bosses of the game after some time.
How to unlock Atlas?
Atlas and Maps will become available after completing the quest chain. Completing Act 10 opens Epilogue and the city of Oriath. There you will meet Officer Kirac. After a few simple quests, you will receive a Map Device and Tier 1 Map as a reward. Now you can clear maps and see your progress in Atlas (default “G”). After clearing a few maps, players will encounter Zana, the Master Cartographer. She is a key figure in Atlas-related questlines and unlocks missions. She also sells Maps, so be sure to check her item stock after every successful mission with her as it gets updated.
When you open the Atlas for the first time, you will notice that most of it is closed and divided into regions. While completing the maps, you can open it all, see all the maps and how they are connected to each other. The game has a large number (over 170) different maps, and there are even unique ones. In addition to the name, which indicates the layout and which boss you will meet, the maps have their own Tier. There are 16 in total, and they are divided into 3 categories:
- Low tier (1-5) “white” maps,
- Mid tier (6-10) “yellow” maps,
- Top tier (11-16) “red” maps.
All maps are tied to a specific Atlas Region. There are eight of them in the game:
- Glennach Cairns
- Haewark Hamlet
- Lex Ejoris
- Lex Proxima
- Lira Arthain
- New Vastir
- Tirn’s End
- Valdo’s Rest
Each region has its own Citadel – in the Atlas, it looks like a black circle with four multi-coloured sockets. You will open the first such Citadel when you first meet Zana on a map. It is very important to open all eight Citadels because by inserting a special item (Watchstone) into these sockets, you will open new maps in the region and increase their difficulty by raising the minimum Map Tier.
It’s not so safe to explore the Atlas – when you get to the outer regions, the Conquerors of the Atlas will appear. There are four of them:
- Al-Hezmin, the Hunter
- Veritania, the Redeemer
- Drox, the Warlord
- Baran, the Crusader
Baran will be the first person you encounter on the quest from Officer Kirac. Conqueror spreads influence over the region in which you found him, which will add 3 encounters with him, or rather with his minions. And the region will be painted in the colours of the Conqueror, so when you open the Atlas you will immediately notice it. The counter will be on the left side of the Atlas, and each mark indicates the number of maps that need to be cleared in that region to find out the location of this Conqueror. The markers have different colours, blue is the influenced monsters encoder, yellow is the number of maps that you have already cleared in this influenced region. After the third encounter, talk to Kirac and Zana will open portals to Conqueror’s Citadel. After you defeat him, you will receive a Watchstone and a good drop (if you’re lucky, of course).
This is a special type of Upgrade Item that can be pinned into the appropriate slot in Citadel. You will receive the first Watchstone in the Atlas questline for killing the Conquerors. Each region can have a maximum of 4 Watchstones at the same time. They have different colours:
- Cobalt Watchstone (blue)
- Crimson Watchstone (red)
- Golden Watchstone (yellow)
- Viridian Watchstone (green).
There is also Ivory Watchstone (white) – unique Watchstones that drop from Sirus, Awakener of Worlds (the main boss in the Atlas). Each Watchstone inserted into Citadel increases the minimum Map Tier and adds new maps to that region that were not previously visible.
The first four Conquerors can spawn in regions regardless of the number of Watchstones inserted into a Region’s Citadel. After that, they will spawn in regions that have the required number of socketed Watchstones – first one, then two, three, and finally all four socketed Watchstones. To understand how many socketed Watchstones are needed, you can either look at the current quests or hover over a region in the Atlas (on the left side of the Atlas or Citadel).
When you reach 20 Watchstones, Zana will open six portals to the final boss – Sirus, Awakener of Worlds. Fight him, and regardless of the result (of course, if you can’t kill him for a couple of portals, it’s better to call your friends for help), whether it’s a victory over him or closing all portals, a new cycle will start. Now every time you will meet the Conquerors one time. After killing all four, Zana will reopen the portals to Sirus, allowing him to be killed for valuable loot.
For every 4 Watchstones that are inserted into the Region’s Citadels, the Awakening Level (the number in the very center of the Atlas) will increase. This will increase the difficulty of maps, including the health level of Sirus, Awakener of Worlds. But it will also open up additional bonuses to loot and maps drop. Each Awakening Level adds the following:
- Unique Map Boss has 3% more Life
- +1% chance for an additional connected Map to drop from Unique Map Boss
- +0.5% chance for a Shaper Guardian Map to drop from Unique Map Boss (Tier 14+)
- +0.5% chance for an Elder Guardian Map to drop from Unique Map Boss (Tier 14+)
- +1% chance for an additional Unique Item to drop from Unique Map Boss
- +1% chance for additional Map Currency Item to drop from Unique Map Boss
- Increased chance per Awakening Level for the Conquerors of the Atlas to drop additional rewards
- 5% increased chance for Influenced Items to drop in Maps influenced by the Conquerors of the Atlas
Atlas Completion Bonus (Favourite Map)
Every time you complete a new map (kill the boss on it), it opens in the Atlas. In addition, for clearing the map, you can open additional rewards – Completion Bonus and Awakening Completion Bonus. To understand whether these bonuses have been received, it is enough to either hover over the map and press “Alt” or by the presence of the rim around this map in the Atlas (by hovering over the map you will see if you have received bonuses for completing it).
Completion Bonus adds a chance for a map to drop one tier higher, and if the chance is greater than 100, the map will automatically upgrade one tier higher. To receive this bonus, you must complete the map by fulfilling the special conditions:
- For “white” maps (tier 1-5) – map must be magic (blue) or higher rarity;
- For “yellow” maps (tier 6-10) – map must be rare (yellow) rarity;
- For “red” maps (tier 11-16) – map must be rare (yellow) rarity and corrupted (vaal orb).
As for the Awakening Completion Bonus, it is more difficult to get it. To do this, you have to clear this high tier map (starting with 14+) and the required amount of Awakening Level (from 1 to 8). To find out exactly what parameters are needed, hover over the map in the Atlas, and you will see the information you need. Awakening Completion Bonuses:
- 1% increased effect of Modifiers on non-unique Maps (per 6 Awakening Bonus)
- 1% chance to gain an Atlas Mission upon map completion (per 15 Awakening Bonus)
Map Drop Rules
It is very important to understand that maps do not drop randomly. There are special rules that affect which map falls and its tier level. However, you can buy any maps from other players or from Zana.
- You can only get maps that are cleaned/opened (the boss was killed on the map) and maps that are connected to it (dotted line).
Here’s an example: in order for me to get a map that I have not been on (blue circle), I need to clear the maps that are connected to it (green circles). If I clean maps that have nothing to do with it (red circle), then it will not drop out to me.
There are exceptions – mobs in Zana mission maps can drop random maps and Uber Labyrinth chests can drop any map. And of course, this does not apply to the maps of the first shooting range, they can fall even before the Atlas and maps are unlocked.
- Restrictions on tiers drop. When killing monsters on the map, you can get maps of the same tier range or lower (if these maps were cleaned/opened) from Normal (white) mobs. Magic and Rare (blue or yellow) monsters can drop maps one tier higher, and the Boss Map can drop maps two tiers higher than the current map tier. The Atlas Completion Bonus also affects the tier upgrade, provided that the new tier does not violate the rules described above.
Example: being on the fifth tier map, you may get maps from the first to the fifth tier. Magic and Rare mobs can drop maps from the 1st to the 6th tier, and from Boss from the 1st to the 7th. If you get a map of the 3rd tier, then having + 25% chance for a map to drop one tier higher (Atlas Completion Bonus), it can become the 4th tier. But if the map has already dropped out the 7th tier, then the Atlas Completion Bonus will not work and you will not receive 8th tier.
And one more thing, undiscovered maps will only drop +1 tier from the current map tier (i.e. only connected to it).
Atlas progression strategy
With the release of Conquerors of the Atlas (patch 3.9.0), a new expansion, new end-game bosses have appeared. And getting to them is not so easy, for this you need to properly research the Atlas, so that with the help of victories over four conquerors, you will be able to fight their leader – Sirus, Awakener of Worlds. The whole process can be divided into several stages, and we will describe each of them in detail.
1) Spawning and defeating Conquerors for the first time
After gaining access to the Map Device and unlocking the Atlas, your task will be to get to one of the four outer regions (located in the corners of the Atlas). As soon as you enter the map of one of these regions, Conqueror (Baran, the Crusader) will spawn. It is important to continue cleaning the maps in this region (3 encounters), as the victory over it will open up the possibility of other Conquerors spawning in the regions. By this time, you will already meet Zana and open access to Citadel in this region.
When you defeat Baran, insert the resulting Watchstone into Citadel in the inner region closest to the region where you met the Conqueror. Continue clearing maps to get to the next outer regions.
Now you need to find the rest of the Conquerors in the remaining outer regions and defeat them. Do not rush to insert the Watchstones received for killing them into the open Citadels, save them for now in the Atlas Stash (squares on the left side of the Atlas).
While you are looking for new Conquerors, open Citadels in all regions. To do this, you need to clear the map at least of the third tier and meet Zana, who will appear after killing the boss. Follow her to the portal and open access to Citadel.
Keep all the received maps. And don’t complete the maps that fell out in the region with an active Watchstone. We will need them later.
2) Upgrading Atlas with Watchstones
After you kill all four Conquerors for the first time, you will have 4 Watchstones. Now, in order to meet the Conqueror, you need to clear the map of the corresponding tier (4-9) in the region in which there is at least one socketed Watchstone. There are several options for how to use Watchstones.
Slow Atlas revealing
Insert Watchstone one at a time in the inner regions. By the time you deal with four Conquerors for the first time, you will have map tier 4-5 pool (possibly higher). If maps of the corresponding tier are available (the map tier in the Atlas is similar to the map tier in your bag) in regions with Watchstones, then clear them until you meet Conqueror again. After killing them, insert the Watchstone into the empty Citadel region. This will reveal a large number of medium tier maps (8-9). This will allow new maps to be unlocked in regions with two Watchstones. To do this, insert two Watchstones into the inner regions, and farm maps of tiers that correspond to the minimum tiers of maps in these regions (even if these maps do not fit the region).
How it works. If there are 8 Watchstones, one in each Citadel, then the Atlas will have maps from tier 4 to 9 (4-7 in the inner region and 7-9 in the outer). To have enough 8 and 9 tier maps, move the Watchstones to the inner regions, two per each. Now the outer regions have tiers 3 to 5, and the inner regions 8-10. This means that when you complete maps of 8 and 9 tiers, you will get maps of 8-10 tiers only from the inner regions, in which 2 Watchstones are socketed. This will spawn the next Conqueror cycle, which will require 2 Watchstones in the region.
Insert 3 Watchstones into two inner regions – one and two respectively. Now when you clean maps in a region with one Watchstone, the Conquerors will be encountered. Kill the first one and leave the Watchstone in the Atlas Stash. Keep the maps that will drop for the region with 2 Watchstones, they will be needed later. Repeat this with the remaining Conquerors for 8 Watchstones (3 socketed in Citadels and 5 in Atlas Stash). Now you change regions – remove Watchstone from the region where it was alone and insert 3 Watchstones into another inner region, which is next to where 2 Watchstones are left. Repeat everything the same way – clear the region with 2 Watchstones, stacking the maps that will drop out in the region with 3 Watchstones.
3) Defeating Conquerors in new regions
Now that you figured out how the Atlas works and how regions and map tiers change depending on the socketed Watchstones, you need to collect 16 Watchstones. This will start the final cycle, after which (killing all four Conquerors) and earning a total of 20 Watchstones, you can unlock the final boss.
If you are having difficulties with the fact that there are not enough maps in the regions in which the Conquerors can appear or to complete all encounters with him, there are several ways to get the necessary maps:
- The easiest one is to buy them from other players. The main thing is to know which tier range is needed (after all, it changes from the number of socketed Watchstones).
- Zana missions – completing them you can not only open new maps but also reset her map stock. True, her high-tier maps can be much more expensive than those you can buy from other players.
- Resocket Watchstones – Having a sufficient number of medium and high tier maps, you can remove all Watchstones and add them only to those regions in which you need maps. This works provided that the maps that you want to be drawn are already opened in the Atlas. Since the chance that a map will drop a similar tier range from the current one is quite high, and there are no other maps in the Atlas of such a tier range as in the region with socketed Watchstones, then you will get exactly the needed ones.
4) Unlocking access to Eye of the Storm – Sirus location
When you get 20 Watchstones, Zana and Kirac will have a final quest to kill Sirus. After this battle, regardless of the outcome, similar cycles will be repeated – you find and kill four Conquerors and Zana opens portals to Sirus. In total, you can get 32 Watchstones from the regions and reach Awakening Level 8. Killing Sirus, at this Awakening Level, is considered the most difficult encounter in the game at the moment.
We hope that this guide will help you figure out how the Atlas works or find answers to your questions. Remember that the chance of getting maps still depends on the randomness, so the help of your friends will definitely come in handy. May your maps be merciful!
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- December 3, 2020