Path of Exile maps, or end-game maps, represent the main type of endgame content. When players complete the PoE storyline, at level 65-70, they gain access to maps and new areas to run. They can be placed in a map device (a world object) where they are consumed so that the players can access different instances (areas). Here players fight monsters on the way to the end where a unique boss in each map waits for them. 

In the 2.4 Path of Exile expansion, a new way of progressing through the map system was introduced – the Atlas. It is basically a collection of all the maps, divided into thematic zones, allowing for visualization of all maps, making it easier to understand which additional maps would drop in each of the areas.

Players can access the Atlas from various locations, but it is usually done from the player´s hideout.

While running the 157 maps available in the Atlas, players encounter the enemies they have already fought in the story, next to new mobs, as well as bosses.

Just like other items and equipment, PoE maps have different rarities (normal, rare, unique, and magic) as well as special affixes or mods. These increase their difficulty (number of mobs) but at the same time potential rewards they could yield (item rarity and quantity). 

So for example, magic maps might have one or two affixes, while rare maps can have up to 6 affixes.

Maps have qualities as well, with a maximum of 20%, just like other items in PoE. With each additional percent of quality, the IIQ and IIR of the map is also increased by 1%. Map´s quality can be upgraded with a Cartographer´s Chisel, a currency item, with the amount of given quality depending on the rarity of the map. So normal maps will get a 5% increase in quality, magic maps 2% and rare maps 1%.

PoE players can´t use maps until the Epilogue after Act 10 when they will be able to access the Templar Laboratory, after beating Act 10 Kitava. Afterwards, if the player obtains a personal map device from Zana (a Master Cartographer), he/she can use it in hideouts (special areas designed by players themselves). Maps can be open also by a map device in The Chamber of Sins Level 1 Act 7, but the device can be reused only by the players who have the access to the Templar Laboratory. 

There exist 16 tiers of maps, where a tier represents an area level, and the difficulty of a map ranges from low tier 1 (level 68-72 mobs), mid-tier 6 (level 77) to tier 16 maps (level 83 mobs). These tiers are separated into 3 groups each with a specific color, indicating the difficulty of the map – white for tiers 1-5, yellow for tiers 6-10 and red for tiers 11-16. The only way to get to a higher tier map is by running a connected map of lower tier – there is no jumping between maps!

In the main story of Path of Exile, only tier 1 maps drop, from monsters after Act 8. While progressing through the game and a certain map, maps of any tier equal or below the tier of the current map can drop. One tier higher maps can drop from magic and rare monsters, and in rare cases, bosses can drop two tier higher maps. Based on the Increased Item Quantity of the map, there is a chance to find other maps while running a certain map. 

Since higher tier maps are becoming harder to obtain, one of the bigger challenges of the game is moving from one group of tiers to another.

 Maps are rated by layout and bosses.

 Layout consists of 3 ratings:

• A – a layout that is consistent and which can be completely cleared, without any need of backtracking

• B – a layout that is open, with a few obstacles and paths that are short and well-connected

• C – also an open layout but with many obstacles and side paths which are long and in need of backtracking

Bosses are rated from 1 to 5:

1. trivial 

2. damage output is moderate but can be easily overcome

3.  occasional high damage output which could be fairly reasonably avoided 

4.  very dangerously high and consistent damage output which could be avoided fairly reasonably

5.  high and consistent damage output which is almost impossible to avoid, thus skipped by most players

Maps can be upgraded following a simple recipe – three maps of the same type (copies) can be sold to a vendor in exchange of one map that is one tier higher and which follows the map progression. This recipe can be used for shaped maps as well, all path of exile recipes can be found here.

Maps can also be modified, with up to 3 prefixes and suffixes. These change the properties of the map, making it more difficult and at the same time carrying an increased amount of dropped items. This in turn affects the map´s drop rate, increasing your chance at finding maps of higher levels.

There exist unidentified maps, which have a +30% quantity bonus, but no visible specific modifiers. They can be obtained by corrupting identified maps, through map drops or by selling 3 rare or magic maps of the same type.

Like any other item in Path of Exile, maps can be corrupted using a Vaal Orb. By doing this, map´s tier could be increased by one, during which its base type changes as well, carrying random affixes. Also, it could create a rare map carrying up to 8 random affixes. Moreover, the map could become unidentified, without any change in affixes and an increase in 30% of quantity bonus. But there could be no effect whatsoever, except the corrupted property. The last but not the least, in these maps there is a chance that the bosses could drop Sacrifice Vaal Fragments or Skill Gems.

Apart from map, there are also Map fragments, which used in a map device open portals to high level areas. Adding them to a map in a map device increases the map´s IIQ – 5% for Sacrifice fragments and 10% for Mortal. 

Special sets of these Sacrifice and Mortal fragments open portals to the Alluring Abyss and the Apex of Sacrifice, while a single Vaal fragment opens a random corrupted area, whose level depends on the used fragment. In order to open the portal to the Pale Court, Key fragments are necessary. The portal to the Shaper´s Realm is open with 4 Atlas fragments. 

With the 3.1 Path of Exile update a completely new content has been introduced, which is still being figured out by the players – Elder and Shaper ´influence´. These are two forces which are fighting over the control of the Atlas. There are maps which are controlled by either of the two, and the more the player runs one of them, their influence spreads. 

Path of Exile Map Shaping

What does map shaping in PoE means exactly? Shaping is what players do to increase map´s difficulty by 5 tiers, up to tier 10. PoE players usually shape their maps because they prefer playing certain maps or they want to develop a customized farming pattern. 

As we already know, maps drop while running them, and there is no way of knowing if those will be the ones we like or not. The easiest way to get a map which is one tier higher and with a layout that you prefer is to shape it. These preferences are individual and usually depend on which build the player is, since different builds are better at running different map layouts. One of the Path of Exile gaming aspects is figuring out which map layout suits your build the best, since this is how you can greatly boost your experience. 

People also shape maps to get divination cards, since they are items that drop only from maps. Every player chooses which divination cards, and therefore which maps specifically to shape, are worth farming for.

The way maps are shaped was changed with the 3.1 patch. Instead of completing specific maps to get a Shaper´s Orb, which do not drop anymore, now the players need to move the Elder onto a map of the tier they want to raise it up to. They would need to run the map and complete the map´s bonus objective. 

The Shaper´s Orb is now acquired after giving the Memory Fragment, that the map´s boss drops when he´s defeated, to Zana.

One of the drawbacks of shaping is that maps that are shaped are not connected to other maps, even though they are seemingly connected when looking at the Atlas. Unless they are already unlocked, higher tier maps will not drop no matter how many times a shaped map is run. This is why it is not recommended, if you are looking to progress through your Atlas, to shape the highest tier maps which you have currently unlocked. 

But this is also the biggest advantage of this new way of shaping. Once you have progressed through your Atlas the way you envisioned it, and you are not worried about the completion, you can choose which higher tier maps to shape.