DISCLAIMER: this guide and the linked Google doc are out of date. It was last updated in February 2020 and no testing/writing has been done since. Most of the information is probably still correct, but game mechanics underwent many changes in the meantime.
I wanted to do this a long time ago, finally came round to do it. I’ve just created a breakdown document that tries to be exhaustive, but in this post I’ll try to keep it a little shorter/clearer/more focussed. The formulas in that document may look overwhelming, they’re not actually meant to calculate exact numbers, rather to clarify what is “multiplicative”, what is “additive” with what, and what doesn’t work at all, to help making informed decisions.
Both that document and this guide focus mostly on Amara (since you’re probably playing Amara if you’re trying to do a melee build), although in this post I’ll first give general info for all VH’s. I will update this post if I do testing with other VH’s in the future. Corrections/questions are welcome.
last updated 28/02/2020
- General Notes
- Main Formulas
- Bonus Elemental Damage Anointments
- Minor Notes
Critical hit: Melee and Face-puncher attacks can not score critical hits. However, sticky bombs and “+50% bonus elemental damage after action skill end” anointments on shields/grenade mods can. When hitting a crit spot, the main damage from melee/FP does not crit, but the damage from sticky bomb/elemental bonus does.
Cryo: Frozen targets take × 3 damage from melee and Face-puncher attacks.
Melee Damage Anointments: Gun and shields can both have a “+100% melee damage after action skill end” or “+200% melee damage after Phaseslam” anointment. Two of the same type do not stack. Two items with the +100% one only give a total of +100%, two of the +200% one give a total of +200%. However, using one of each instead does add up to +300%.
MeleeDmg = BaseMeleeDmg × (1 + MeleeBonuses) × (1 + Mult1) + (1 × Mult2) × …
Base melee damage:
BaseMeleeDmg = 18 × 1.09level
At level 53, this is 18 × 1.0953 = 1733.3.
These are generally added together, for example:
MeleeBonuses = MeleeGuardRank + WeaponBladeBonus + FindYourCenter + ClassModMeleeBonus + ArtifactMeleeBonus + ShieldMeleeBonus + …
"Multiplicative" bonus examples:
- Amara’s Laid Bare skill
- Damage bonus from the It’s Piss grenade mod
- Damage bonus from the C-C-Combo Guardian reward
FpDmg = FpGunDmg × (1 + MeleeBonuses) × (1 + GunDmgBonuses) × (1 + Mult1) + (1 × Mult2) × …
The gun damage listed on the Face-puncher’s item card. By default, it’s the Base melee damage at the FP’s level spread across 7 pellets, but gun parts can modify this.
Melee bonuses: Same as melee
Gun damage bonuses:
Most (but not all) gun damage bonuses added together, for example:
GunDmgBonuses = GunDamageAnointment + Samsara + Jab Cross + …
Examples of gun damage bonuses that apply:
- “Weapon Damage” bonus on class mods
- Most of Amara’s gun damage skills like those mentioned in the formula, or Wrath and Dread
- Gun damage bonuses from Phasezerker stacks or from moving with a Spiritual Driver
Examples of gun damage bonuses that do not apply:
- “Shotgun Damage” bonus on class mods/artifacts
- Gun Damage Guardian Rank
- Amara’s Personal Space skill
- “On grenade thrown” damage anointment
It appears that all gun damage bonuses highlighted in red in this amazing document apply to the Face-puncher. I haven’t tried this with other VH’s, but it works for Amara and I assume it does for the other VH’s too.
"Multiplicative" bonuses: same as on melee, but also includes Amp Shields. Note that the Re-Router legendary amp shield is broken for shotguns, as the amp bonus is divided by number of pellets. The Re-Router’s amp damage bonus is only +17% on a x7 FP and only +8.5% on a “Redundant” x14 FP. A basic common rarity amp shield gives +20% on both.
Gun damage vs. melee damage anointments: A Face-puncher may come with a melee damage anointment or with a gun damage anointment. In the formula, the former is added to MeleeBonuses while the latter is added to GunDmgBonuses. Since the MeleeBonuses part usually contains hundreds of % already, adding another +100% will have a smaller impact than adding +100% to the GunDmgBonuses part.
- (1 + 275% + 100%) × (1 + 85%) = 879%
- (1 + 275%) × (1 + 85% + 100%) = 1069%
So, using a gun damage anointment is usually better for FP shots than using a melee damage anointment (however they don’t increase damage of actual melee strikes). The best anointment on a Face-puncher is +300% after Phaseslam.
Melee-related artifacts can be extremely powerful and make the Face-puncher very useful even for non-melee builds. The base damage used for the artifact’s calculation is generally all damage dealt by the melee/FP attack, i.e. the damage number popping up on the melee/FP hit. If Amara’s Infusion skill is used, damage dealt is the sum of both instances of damage.
Since frozen targets take × 3 melee/FP damage, base damage for all artifacts is multiplied by 3.
Gives 100% life steal from melee/FP attacks, not 75% as stated on the card. Thus, damage number popping up = HP healed. This is a LOT of healing, with some mediocre melee/FP damage you get full health on every hit. Knife Drain + Face-puncher is a great way for insta-heal with any build/VH.
Refills a percentage of the currently held weapons’ ammo. This is % of the entire ammo pool, not of the magazine or missing ammo. The Face-puncher refills this percentage on every pellet, so the entire shotgun ammo pool can be refilled with 1 or 2 shots.
Takes damage dealt by the attack, multiplies it by the percentage stated on the card, and applies it as elemental damage.
Same as the Stone, however with a smaller percentage and it switches elements every 5 seconds in the order fire - shock - corrosive - radiation - cryo.
Has a chance to attach a sticky bomb to an enemy hit that deals twice the damage of the melee/FP attack that caused it; they have a random element but can also be non-elemental. Sticky bombs can deal critical damage based on the weapon held while the bomb explodes. Thus, switch to an Unforgiven before crit spot explosions.
Damage of sticky bombs caused by FP pellets are each based on the damage dealt by its pellet.
This artifact has great damage potential, if used effectively it can deal millions of damage.
StickyBombDmg = DamageDealt × 2 × (1 + SplashDmgBonuses) × CritBonus × Element × (1 + Mult1) + (1 × Mult2) × …
Splash Damage Bonuses: Generally added together, for example:
SplashDmgBonuses = ArmsDeal + ClassModSplashDmgBonus + ArtifactAreaOfEffectDmgBonus + …
Critical Damage Bonus: explained here.
Element: Elemental multiplier (e.g. 175% fire vs. flesh) × the sum of other element bonuses, e.g.:
Element = ElementMult × (1 + Tempest + ArtifactBonus + ElementalProjector)
“Multiplicative” bonuses: Damage is increased again by bonuses like Laid Bare and C-C-Combo even though they already increased the bombs’ base damage before. Thus, Laid Bare is a great skill when using a White Elephant.
does two things:
- Deals 100% bonus shock damage to the target hit, following the usual bonus elemental damage rules.
- may shoot a chain lightning that strikes nearby targets. Sliding charges this up to increase chance, damage, maximum distance and target count of the lightning caused by the next melee/FP hit.
MeleeLightningDmg = DamageDealt × Charge × Element × (1 + Mult1) + (1 × Mult2) × …
Where Charge’s baseline is 25% and up to 300% if charged with slides. One full slide (at regular speed) charges it up to roughly 100%, 3-4 full slides will reach the 300% cap. The charge isn’t lost until the next melee/FP hit. Misses don’t remove it.
Sustainment: The 100% bonus shock damage on the first target doesn’t qualify for Sustainment life steal, but the lightning does:
LightningLifeSteal = DamageDealt × Charge × Sustainment% × HitCount
Lightnings cause bonus elemental damage from shield/grenade anointments and from Forceful Expression, but not from Infusion.
Face-puncher: sadly suffers a penalty. The way this worked a week ago was that basically only one of the pellets was charged and the others all had the basic 25%. The formula doesn’t work anymore today, I haven’t figured out how it works now and tbh I’m tired of redoing my research because Gearbox changed the mechanics again. The FP seems to deal even less damage now, so the general notion remains: The FP gets a much smaller damage boost from charging than true melee does.
Unleash the Dragon
Causes Fire DOT on every melee/Face-puncher (and slide/slam) hit. There is no bonus on impact, you get your regular melee/FP damage and then fire DOT starts. On melee strikes, damage per second is 80% of damage dealt:
MeleeDmg/s = DamageDealt × 0.8 × Element
On Face-puncher hits, sadly it is only 80% of the damage dealt by a single pellet:
FpDmg/s = PelletDamageDealt × 0.8 × Element
Bonus Elemental Damage Anointments
+50% bonus elemental damage after action skill end anointments from shields and grenade mods are triggered by melee/FP attacks, but bonus elemental anointments on weapons are not. They are based only on the attack’s BaseMeleeDmg / FpGunDmg and don’t count as melee attacks themselves. Since the main attack’s melee bonuses quickly amount to hundreds of %, bonus elemental damage tends to deal relatively low damage.
However, when triggered by a Face-puncher, they receive the same gun damage bonuses, and on top of that they can score critical hits (unlike the FP’s main damage).
Probably your choice of VH if you’re going for a melee build. I’ll address a few Amara-specific things here.
Find Your Center, Blitz, Illuminated Fist: the percentage bonuses are added in the MeleeBonuses part of the equations; all three together add up to +275%.
Blitz: does three things:
- When triggered (not on cooldown), multiplies Base Melee Damage (and thus, the entire melee damage) by × (75% + 1.5% × level), which is × 1.545 at level 53. Since Bonus Elemental Damage and Sustainment are based on Base Melee Damage, this is the only melee modifier that increases them.
- Adds +100% melee damage to the MeleeBonuses part of the equation, even on cooldown, exactly like Find Your Center.
- When triggered (not on cooldown), converts melee damage to Amara’s Action Skill Element, but its element is only switched after using an action skill with the new element. All elemental bonuses apply, including Tempest and the Elemental Projector artifact.
Blitz is not triggered by Face-puncher shots and doesn’t convert its damage to elemental damage, but the FP does receive the +100% bonus.
Adds +75% to the MeleeBonuses part of the equation and converts all melee damage to Amara’s Action Skill Element. Unlike Blitz, element is switched instantly after selecting it in the menu.
If another element is chosen in the skill menu but the action skill hasn’t been used, Blitz and Illuminated Fist will be on different elements. In this case, Blitz will override Illuminated Fist on Blitz strikes, but on cooldown Illuminated Fist takes over.
Illuminated Fist does not convert Face-puncher damage to elemental damage, but the FP does receive the +75% bonus.
Sustainment: When melee attacks are converted to elemental damage by Blitz or Illuminated Fist, they qualify for Sustainment life steal. However, Sustainment is based entirely on Base Damage and ignores all bonuses (except for the Blitz multiplier), it heals very little. Use a Knife Drain artifact instead.
- Melee Damage Guardian rank: I do not recommend spending points here. Adding another 15% to MeleeBonuses which already has hundreds of % does next to nothing. It has a greater relative impact on non-melee builds, but in that case you don’t really do any melee damage anyway. So this is a waste of points much better spent elsewhere (especially on gun damage).
- Overkill Guardian reward: does affect the Face-puncher, however since multi-pellet weapons suffer severe Overkill penalties, this doesn’t do a lot.
- Amara’s Infusion skill affects the Face-puncher, but Forceful Expression does not.
- A Face-puncher may come with a +15% life steal anointment, but this anointment doesn’t work with the FP.
- “Normal bullets” Mayhem modifiers affect all non-elemental damage, including melee.