It’s only when I’m cheating death on the battlefield. The only time I feel truly alive.
After having achieved everything I could ever want with my primary build, Siberian Nuclear Winter, I reflected on whether there was anything about the build that I wish was different. I’m absolutely content with almost everything about it, except for one thing that can’t be done because I know it’s not the most optimal way to play Moze – piloting Iron Bear instead of summoning him to serve as a stationary AI mech turret.
That’s why after having concluded my primary build, I set out to create a secondary build specifically for the purpose of getting the most out of Bear while riding him. Is it as strong across all content as my primary build? Of course not! But is it fun to play with? Well that’s a question that can only ever be greeted with a subjective answer, mine being: hell yes!
So what does this mean then in terms of weapons, gear and skills? Well for starters, assuming you’re using anything like the weaponry in my primary build, you don’t really need to swap them out. If anything, it’s better to use the same weapons because they’re the best in their categories for dealing decent, consistent and reliable splash damage which is very much a focal part of this secondary build as well. So this build isn’t going to go into great depth or detail about specific guns for Moze.
When it comes to DPS while inside Iron Bear, the Blast Master still reigns supreme in the class mod domain, so long as Bear is rocking weapons that inflict splash damage. He also profits from the bonus points in Pull The Holy Pin and Vampyr just as much as Moze does. The Cloning Maddening Tracker is still the best grenade in the game for Bear as well as Moze, but in order for him to use it, you must find one that is anointed with a 20% chance of spawning while Bear sustains damage – this is the only means he has of utilising grenades and maintaining grenade DPS while Moze is piloting him. The majority of relics in the game don’t seem to benefit IB at all so it’s more for Moze’s sake that we’re sticking with the Victory Rush, the Last Stand prefix being super helpful when she’s vulnerable outside of her mech suit on cooldown. Last Stand relics are fantastic for Moze in an IB-focused build as the 40-second cooldown easily expires while you’re piloting Bear.
The only major change in gear compared to my primary build, is that the Big Boom Blaster shield is not reappearing in this secondary build. Instead, we’re running the Band of Sitorak with its super-low shield capacity but decent shield recharge delay and insanely fast recharge rate. By default, every iteration of this shield allows you to deal 22% bonus weapon damage when it’s depleted, and gives Moze 25% extra max health.
The absolute ‘god roll’ shield for this build, is one that doubles the max health bonus for 50%, and is anointed with 30% action skill cooldown per kill (which stacks btw) after exiting Iron Bear. Why, you might ask, are we totally ripping up the script where Moze is supposed to focus more on max shield capacity, and going in completely the opposite direction instead?
That’s because shields and extra shield capacity don’t really do anything for Iron Bear; it’s all about increasing his armour capacity and for that to happen, we need to buff Moze’s max health. At lvl 50, it’s actually possible to get Iron Bear’s max armour capacity to reach over 200,000! But that’s somewhat overkill and not really necessary. In fact, I’ve completed Maliwan Takedown solo with this build and with a less efficient IB-focused build than this one, both builds sporting less than 100k armour, which goes to show that maximising armour capacity is not something you have to go to excessive lengths for.
But if we’re now going in the opposite direction of less max shields and more max health for Moze, what are we going to do with the skill trees? Well for starters, Moze’s capstone skills do nothing for Iron Bear so we’re not aiming to explore the entire depth of any one skill tree in particular. I did a test run with an IB-focused build donning dual explosive Miniguns where it completed Maliwan Takedown. It was sufficient against fleshy and shielded enemies and solid in almost every other department, except for dealing with badasses and bosses with lengthy armour bars that needed serious depleting. This meant going back to the drawing board and figuring out a way to maintain the option of explosive Miniguns along with the Iron Bear damage skills from the Bottomless Mags skill tree, while incorporating Corrosive Sabot Round into the equation.
I think I’ve found a way to do just that and make Iron Bear a true force to be reckoned with. The skill build itself is one that should work all the time and not have you respec your points. It’s a great thing then that you don’t need to respec if you want to change hardpoints for Iron Bear. I present to you the weapons of choice and the four options that will work for different scenarios:
RAILGUN + CORROSIVE SABOT ROUND / MINIGUN + EXPLODING. BULLETS.
These weapons are some of the most fuel-efficient ones Iron Bear can be equipped with while dealing great damage throughout the course of an entire tank of fuel. They both also inflict splash damage and thus are boosted by any increases to splash damage.
OPTION A – DUAL MINIGUNS
Use this option if you’re fighting your way through areas where the vast majority of your enemies are made of flesh, wearing shields or both. In the average area, this will be the most commonly used weapon combo.
OPTION B – RAILGUN (RIGHT) + MINIGUN (LEFT)
Use this option if you need variety for certain areas but feel like you’ll run into more fleshy and/or shielded enemies than armoured ones.
OPTION C – MINIGUN (RIGHT) + RAILGUN (LEFT)
Use this option if variety is essential but expect to run into more armoured enemies than usual.
OPTION D – DUAL RAILGUNS
Use this option only in the event that there’s a LOT of armour you need to melt down, prime example being the fight against Wotan the Invincible. This will be the least common option by far.
Security Bear (1/1) – The higher Bear’s max armour capacity is, the more he’ll get out of this bubble shield and make it far less likely for him to be obliterated in the heat of battle.
Armored Infantry (5/5) – Does absolutely nothing for Bear, but we have to spend points to progress down this tree for that corrosive augment. May as well give Moze extra DPS.
Drowning in Brass (5/5) – While this skill seems straightforward for Moze, it’s a different story for Bear. The good news is that he does get the damage bonus from this skill and not only that but it’s Type B in his damage formula, meaning it’s multiplicative with every other source of Bear’s damage that is a part of this build. The bad news however is that Type B damage only boosts Bear’s left hardpoint; this is why Options B and C are listed because depending on what scenario you’re presented with, you’ll want one weapon to be dishing out the Type B bonus more than the other. Also, Bear won’t get the bonus damage from any pre-existing stacks if Moze accumulated them before summoning him.
Thin Red Line (2/3) – Nothing for Bear here, just simultaneously buffing the capacity of the Band of Sitorak and boosting the effectiveness of Vampyr when Moze needs it during Bear’s cooldown. Remember that Moze’s max health is being converted to max shield capacity with this skill, meaning that it’s officially not a max health reduction and thus no reduction in max armour capacity for Iron Bear.
Full Can of Whoop-Ass (1/1) – Again, Bear gets nothing from this and in most cases, it’s not even necessary in a build like this. But if there comes a rare moment where you need to eject yourself really early from Iron Bear for whatever reason, this skill will turbocharge your shield recharge and it won’t stop recharging if you take damage either.
Experimental Munitions (1/1) – Finally, another skill in the red tree Bear can profit from. Decent bonus damage for just a single skill point and it means we’ve spent enough points to get our hands on Corrosive Sabot Round at last.
Desperate Measures (3/3) - The level cap being at 53 allows us to claim this DPS skill. The card doesn’t state it with enough clarity, but Bear’s bonus damage also depends on how much health Moze is missing. Because 40% of her max health has been converted to shields, both Moze and Bear will always have a minimum of 20% bonus gun damage active no matter what. For Bear, this is ‘Type A’ in his damage formula so it applies to both hardpoints.
Cloud Of Lead (5/5) – The bonus fire damage on every fourth shot applies to Iron Bear too so it is a DPS buff albeit a marginal one at that.
Dakka Bear (1/1) – This doesn’t directly buff Bear, it’s more for Moze (or friends in coop sessions) to get extra use out of him. If you have the GR perk Topped Off, then manning the turret is fantastic for that because you don’t sustain any damage and it ensures Bear’s cooldown period goes by so much quicker.
Stoke The Embers (3/3) – The card clearly states that Iron Bear gets bonus fire damage from this as well as Moze and it’s no lie. Considering that our weapons of choice don’t deal incendiary damage at their base values, it’s a pleasant DPS buff to have.
Redistribution [2/1] – This one-point wonder does nothing directly for Bear but he can proc it for his owner with his own critical hits. It’s one of Moze’s very best skills out of the entire lot and plus we need to spend 10 points to progress to tier 3 and beyond. You can debate whether it’s worth having the bonus point from the COM, but 2/1 in this skill helps tremendously with Moze not having to reload and as long as she doesn’t reload for any reason while waiting during cooldown periods, then both herself and Bear get to keep the bonus splash damage intact. Think of it as one of those ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ type of skills for Moze and Iron Bear.
Scorching RPMs (5/5) – What a DPS buff this is for Bear! It’s a bit bizarre that the bonus fire rate only applies to his left hardpoint, but the direct damage increase for him is ‘Type A’ in his damage formula so it works on both arms. If that wasn’t enough, he also profits from the bonus crit damage which is multiplicative when combined with the default crit multiplier! With 15 points spent in the green tree, it means we can now make our Minigun fire explosive rounds.
Specialist Bear (1/1) – If you spend most of your time running Options B or C, you’re not going to get anything from this skill. But if you run Options A or D then not only does the damage bonus apply to both hardpoints, but it also occupies its own slot in Bear’s damage formula, meaning the 25% bonus is completely multiplicative! For one skill point, it’s well worth reserving the choice.
Fire In The Skag Den (3/5) – I’m aware the card specifically states that Moze is the recipient of this bonus fire damage, but Bear also receives it and with weapons that deal splash, this is a permanent DPS buff. But after having spent 31 skill points already, we only have 17 to put towards the Demolition Woman skill tree and maximising Iron Bear’s performance is the priority here, which is why we’re spreading out the points and this one gets three.
Deadlines (3/3) – Fuel drain is something that yields diminishing returns the more you boost it. Thankfully, this skill by itself is usually enough in terms of being conservative on fuel, but it’s a necessary skill in order to keep Bear going for longer. Especially if you’re using a Blast Master class mod and not one more focused on Iron Bear, then Deadlines becomes a skill you must max out.
Grizzled (3/5) – It works well enough in the primary build so three points here should be sufficient enough, more so if your shield has the recommended anointment bonus to combine forces with this skill. But it will still be tough during some cooldown periods due to piloting Iron Bear for longer. If your shield has the recommended anointment, it stacks with this skill and makes your life a hell of a lot easier.
Stainless Steel Bear (5/5) – More armour, more fuel capacity and more damage, what’s not to like? The bonus damage is ‘Type A’ in the formula so while it’s additive when combined with Scorching RPMs, at least the bonus applies to both of Bear’s hardpoints.
Pull The Holy Pin [2/3] – Seeing as Bear can toss out grenades with the right anointment, he can also profit from this skill. No points are spent here, it’s just the bonus from the class mod.
Auto Bear (1/1) – This skill does help to extract more performance from Iron Bear, but is mostly intended to help out Moze the moment she ejects herself from the cockpit. Because of this skill, you can man the Dakka Bear turret yourself in case you’ve got no decent cover nearby. If you’re concerned about Moze’s ability to adequately sustain herself when exiting Iron Bear, you can weaken enemies first while in the cockpit, then kill them while Bear is in AI sentry mode so you can easily proc Grizzled multiple times and get Bear back up and running again much sooner.
Vampyr [4/5] – For Moze and Iron Bear both, it’s their only sustain skill available to them. But maximising investment in it and chucking bonus points from the class mod on top means that all our explosives will repair Bear’s armour in critical situations. It’s critical that the last available points are put into this skill; Bear simply cannot survive more challenging content without it!
THE FINISHED ARTICLE
I think the four options previously mentioned further above are self-explanatory. In my experience, the Miniguns are more reliable when it comes to Vampyr. For that reason, I wouldn’t recommend running Option D unless the heavy armour target is the only thing still standing with no non-armour adds to be concerned about. And for those who didn’t know, double-tapping the jump key/button allows Bear to perform a double-jump which is very handy for dodging missiles and other heavy AoE attacks that come your way.
The only major QoL skill we had no choice but to omit due to lack of skill points, is Means of Destruction which would provide Moze with extra insurance in grenade supplies. But if you can solo Maliwan Takedown without it, then you can live without it in this build. Don’t forget that just because you’re sat deep inside a hulking mech suit, doesn’t mean you can’t interact with anything around you. You can open ammo crates, lockers, chests and you can also revive allies who are in FFYL. Especially in boss fights, it’s super-useful to hop around the arena while piloting Bear and open up all the crates so you have immediate access to health vials, grenades and ammo.
Some people will say that Mendel’s Multivitamin Shield is a better choice or any other shield that somehow yields more than 50% max health, but boosting Bear’s max armour for the sake of seeing how high in numbers it can go is not something that will make him invincible or close to it. It’s possible to have somewhere in the region of 100k to 150k and for Bear to suddenly be destroyed with just one or two heavy missiles because Bear has no gate mechanic of any kind to protect him like the vault hunters do with healthgating. To avoid that scenario, get used to double-jumping!
I think the Band of Sitorak is the best shield for an Iron Bear build not just because of the max health bonuses or the bonus weapon damage for Moze when it’s depleted, but because its recharge efficiency (or its super-fast recharge rate to be exact) is so damn good that you can proc and maintain the GR perk Topped Off more often. The capacity of the shield is so small that it’s either full or its depleted – it’s either turbocharged cooldown or bonus weapon damage to help land kills (and alternative cooldown bonuses) more easily. Everything about the shield ultimately does end up supporting Iron Bear in this build, whether directly or indirectly.
There’s only one more topic to cover before concluding this build and that’s extra weapons which have bizarre interactions with Iron Bear which some might deem to be exploits while others have no qualms using them. I myself don’t really use them and they’re in no way essential or necessary to make the build function or perform adequately. One which almost everyone knows by now is the Unforgiven pistol. If you are holding this legendary Jakobs pistol in your hand, the bonus critical damage works with Dakka Bear when you man the turret. A friend of yours can also enjoy this bonus if they are hopping on top of Bear, but you as the pilot must be holding the Unforgiven before entering Iron Bear for that to happen.
Lucky 7 is a part of my primary build anyway so it might feature here too. What some people probably don’t realise however is that the elemental roll appears to glitch out on almost anything that deals kinetic damage while you hold the revolver. For example, your kinetic grenades can deal shock damage instead, your melee damage becomes shock damage too, even DOT damage regardless of whatever element it was when it starts, ALL of it gets converted to shock damage. And yes, it also makes Dakka Bear rounds and any kinetic grenades spawned or source of DOT damage while inside Bear end up dealing shock damage instead.
Zheitsev’s Eruption is a COV assault rifle that has the unique effect of firing debuff projectiles at enemies when it overheats. Each projectile amounts to 20% bonus damage. You can fire the gun until it overheats and cancel the repair animation by swapping to another gun, before then summoning Iron Bear and enjoying up to 160% bonus damage.
Just for the record, I’m displaying this information so that people have the knowledge and options to do as they please. I myself am not personally advocating that everyone go out and use all these exploits; they’re purely optional in this build. But even without that, if you play smart and learn to switch between the different options when applicable, you and Iron Bear will get along just fine. Bear Troopers, assemble!