[Guide] Soul Sap analysis

It’s been a while, time for a new analysis. Today it’s Soul Sap, the life steal action skill augment from Amara’s Mystical Assault (blue) tree. It seems straightforward enough but it’s got a lot of intricacies and the in-game description is – surprise, surprise – inaccurate.

Now Amara’s most popular life steal skill is Sustainment, but sadly that’s a tier 5 skill in the red tree. If you want to spend a lot of points in the other trees, it may be out of reach. That’s where Soul Sap comes in because it’s a tier 2 augment in the blue tree, so easily accessible for all builds that aren’t exclusively red+green (e.g. I’m currently running a Phasecast/Avatar build that also uses Personal Space, that alone prohibits Sustainment).

That’s not to say it’s simply a worse alternative, it can heal a lot very quickly on its own. Another great characteristic is that it’s the only augment that comes without any penalty to action skill damage or cooldown. However it does have a few quirks.


1. What qualifies for life steal
2. What it does
3. What each action skill does

What qualifies for life steal

First, let’s take a look at the description:

A portion of all damage dealt by Amara’s Action Skill is returned to her or a nearby ally as health.
Life Steal: 30% of Skill damage dealt

A very important thing here is the notion “all damage dealt by Amara’s action skill”. This is not true. In fact, only damage dealt to an enemy’s base HP bar qualifies for Soul Sap life steal – unlike Sustainment which doesn’t care what you hit.

So if it’s a pure flesh enemy, a pure shield enemy, or a pure armor enemy, Soul Sap will always steal life. However if you only damage the shield of a health+shield enemy, this doesn’t work. You will receive a life orb but it will only heal 1 HP. If you’re hitting the armor of an Eridian with shield+armor, you’re not healed either. Only when the armor is gone and you hurt their shield (their base HP bar), you will be healed. If you’re fighting a three-bar bandit, damage to shield and armor won’t heal you, only damage to their health.

This means that you should always look out for enemies that don’t have a second or third HP bar active. Soul Sap’s Achilles Heel is that if there’s no enemy around with only one HP bar left, it can’t heal you.

What if one hit breaks their shield and does some damage to their health?
In this case, only the part that damages the health bar heals you. The damage against their shield is ignored – so you’ll get a reduced amount of life steal.

What if the enemy has very little health left?
Like Sustainment (and unlike transfusion grenades), Soul Sap ignores how much HP the enemy had left. For example, if they’ve got only 10 HP left but your attack deals 5000 damage, life steal will be based on those 5000 damage.

What it does

Soul Sap takes the actual damage dealt (as opposed to Sustainment) with an action skill and spawns a life orb that seeks out players and heals them for 30% of that. The Ascendant skill raises this to 50%, so if you’ve got that, just replace “30%” with “50%” for the rest of this guide.

LifeSteal = DamageDealt × 30%

Where, again, DamageDealt is only damage dealt against the enemy’s base HP bar, not against shields or armor on top of that.

Status effects/DOT such as burning caused by the action skill attack are ignored for life steal.

Does it matter which element I use?
Yes. Unlike Sustainment (which ignores elemental multipliers), Soul Sap life steal is always based on the actual damage dealt to an enemy. Thus, elemental matches/mismatches always affect the outcome.

What if I hit multiple enemies, e.g. with Phaseslam or Phasecast?
Damage dealt to every enemy counts, each enemy will spawn its own health orb.

Does it work with Phasegrasp/Ties That Bind/etc?
Yes, but in its own unique way. See the next section where I go through all the individual action skills:

What each action skill does


  • Phaseslam: no surprises.
  • Fracture: no surprises.
  • Downfall: this is broken. Downfall shoots a beam with about 1000 damage per second (lvl 50) below you before the slam. This damage is divided by 3 to hit enemies at 3 ticks per second, so each tick does something in the ballpark of 300 damage. Only the first hit to any enemy causes life steal, so it will be based on those puny 300 damage. The slam will not trigger life steal if the enemy has been hit by the beam already. So forget Soul Sap when using Downfall.

Mystical Assault

  • Phasecast: no surprises.
  • Deliverance: the homing projectiles do not cause life steal.
  • Reverberation: same as Phasecast, only that damage to several enemies hit by one attack is increased. Life steal is scaled accordingly. A glitch sometimes causes Reverberation to deal more damage than it’s supposed to, also increasing life steal.
  • Tandava: no surprises. Since it’s explosive, it is affected by splash/area-of-effect bonuses like Arm(s) Deal, again life steal is increased accordingly.

Fist of the Elements

Phasegrasp and its variants do work with Soul Sap, but in their own unique way. Phasegrasping alone (without dealing damage to the enemy) will not cause life steal. Instead, all damage dealt to a grasped enemy will spawn health orbs on grasp end, with a 70% reduction:

PhaseGraspLifeSteal = DamageDealt × 30% × 0.3
(replace 30% with 50% if you’ve got Ascendant – Phasegrasp’s × 0.3 remains)

If you shoot the enemy several times, when grasp ends and the enemy is released, an orb is spawned for every hit. Phasegrasp has a lot of life steal potential, however with the disadvantage that it’s delayed quite a bit unless you kill the grasped enemy.

  • Phasegrasp: as described above.
  • The Eternal Fist: same.
  • Ties That Bind: this one’s a little odd:
    • case A: only one enemy around, no linked enemies: same as Phasegrasp
    • case B: enemies linked: what it does now is that every attack will instantly spawn a health orb with full Soul Sap life steal (without the ×0.3 multiplier). On grasp end, another orb will spawn just like with regular Phasegrasp, with the ×0.3 multiplier. This means in the end you’ll get two health orbs from every hit, adding up to ×1.3.
      However, if you hit one of the linked enemies instead of the grasped one, you will get the instant ×1 orb, but not the ×0.3 orb on release, so a total life steal of ×1.
      How many enemies are linked does not affect any of this. If 2 enemies are linked or 4 is irrelevant.
  • Fist Over Matter: similar to TTB: damage dealt by the fists instantly spawns a health orb with full life steal (no ×0.3 modifier) – however only the first hit on any enemy does this. Consecutive fist hits on the same enemy will not spawn more orbs. Other attacks on the grasped enemy will again spawn life orbs with the ×0.3 modifier on grasp end.

I’m using this with my melee build so good to know it won’t heal me every time.

A satisfying read! Thanks. Are there any known skill bugs in red or blue for Amara? I’d love to move some points if something is proper broken;

Thanks for the analysis! I knew something was weird with Phasecast on shields. Thanks for clearing that up!

So this is why I was dying all the time every time I tried to use soulsap in m4, “WHY DID I NOT HEAL *********!!!” that was working perfectly while levelling up, figures with all the shield and armor in m4
Thanks for the explanation

Thank you for this guide, it’s been very helpful. I was wondering why Soul Sap seemed so unreliable at times.

well that explains why soul sap ties that bind, can sometimes be as good as having a knife drain artifact. at least for the duration.


I noticed today that the effect you describe on Soul Sap with TTB has changed. Even with ONE enemy alone, it spawns healing orbs immediately on every hit. I’ve tested it now pretty throughly. Skags are my favorite graspable test dummies: grasping a feral skag and shooting him with a Kaoson (for example) will proc a healing orb immediately, another on the sticky exploding.

I’m off to test on shielded enemies now, though I didn’t notice specifically that changing.

EDIT: It still does not steal from any bar except the last, so that is unchanged. And with indiscriminate, it’s annoyingly hard to get lonely enemies who still have shields to test on. :slight_smile:

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