[Guide] Melee / Face-puncher formulas and analysis

DISCLAIMER: this guide and the linked Google doc are out of date.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.

Original text:

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

Content:

  1. General Notes
  2. Main Formulas
  3. Artifacts
  4. Bonus Elemental Damage Anointments
  5. Amara
  6. Minor Notes

General 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%.

Main Formulas

Melee Damage:

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.

Melee bonuses:
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

Face-puncher Damage:

FpDmg = FpGunDmg × (1 + MeleeBonuses) × (1 + GunDmgBonuses) × (1 + Mult1) + (1 × Mult2) × …

FpGunDmg:
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.

Example:

  • (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.

Artifacts

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.

Knife Drain
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.

Cutpurse
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.

Cryo/Fire/etc. Stone
Takes damage dealt by the attack, multiplies it by the percentage stated on the card, and applies it as elemental damage.

Commander Planetoid
Same as the Stone, however with a smaller percentage and it switches elements every 5 seconds in the order fire - shock - corrosive - radiation - cryo.

White Elephant
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.

Static Charge
does two things:

  1. Deals 100% bonus shock damage to the target hit, following the usual bonus elemental damage rules.
  2. 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).

Amara

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Adds +100% melee damage to the MeleeBonuses part of the equation, even on cooldown, exactly like Find Your Center.
  3. 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.

Illuminated Fist:
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.

Minor Notes

  • 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.

Further reading:

Amara Melee Number Statistics
Melee Amara - Community Megathread

20 Likes

Dude, you made an amazing work here ! :astonished:
Thank you so much for bringing some light to my future “melee ranged” Amara :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

You should change it to Elemental Stone, cause it can be in every element.

Also you should add section for Static Charge artifact. It interacts very well with Face Puncher.

2 Likes

Maybe it coulb usefull to add a section with the Unleash the Dragon Artifact and how it interacts with the FP ?

1 Like

Fixed the Cryo Stone note, will try to address those other questions soon.

2 Likes

great work, will check this out when i make a comeback.

Update: added Static Charge and Unleash the Dragon

3 Likes

Just thought I’d put this here

2 Likes

My god that forceful expression facepuncher interaction is VERY upsetting.

Man Gearbox did whatever they could to try to make that gun bad.
I can see that if they just calculated everything on full melee damage dealt melee buillds would actually be good.
And amara would stand out with her melee bonuses but calculating everything off of base
removes any meaningful difference between using the same melee setup with any character.

This is absolutely excellent work, thanks for your diligence.

The only thing I can’t find is a formula for brawler ward, or any other roid shield.
I’ve been trying to figure that out since I saw this post.

https://www.reddit.com/r/borderlands3/comments/fy3r1f/melee_damage_bonuses_dont_work_how_they_seem/

All melee bonuses on shields are part of MeleeBonuses and thus additive with Find Your Center, guardian rank, weapon blade, melee anointment etc.

Maybe I just don’t understand what additive means, but I found some weird things with the brawler ward. Without skills it multiplies the base damage by the full on break bonus.

If you have a melee bonus, it does significantly less.
For the 300% brawler ward it takes a whole 100% out of the bonus.

Without skills it’s base x 4
with bonuses it’s base x 3 + base x bonuses.

Is that what it means to be additive?

“Additive” means that all bonuses are simply added together, so e.g. if you have +100% (Find Your Center), +75% (Illuminated Fist) and +300% (Brawler Ward), you’ll get a total bonus of +475%; so total damage will be 575%.

As opposed to “multiplicative”, which in this case would mean damage × 200% × 175% × 400% = 1400% total damage.

More on “additive” & “multiplicative” here.

oh ok, so what do you think about the numbers there is that a bug?

What numbers. I did some testing and all works as intended.
Base melee at 57 - 2447
With 300% Brawler Ward - 2447x(1+3) = 9787
FYC + Blitz + Illuminated Fist (shock) with Tempest - 2447x(1+1+1+0,75)x1,4x0,65 = 8349
Above with 2x FYC - 2447x(1+2+1+0,75)x1,4x0,65 = 11k
And with 300% Brawler Ward - 2447x(1+2+1+0,75+3)x1,4x0,65 = 17k

1 Like

Yeah they seem correct

yeah around 17k is what it should be based on calculating but instead. it came out as 11k 12k and 13k.

The numbers I was using were from the vid in my above post.

the issue I’m coming up on is that, using your formula, as soon as you have any melee damage bonus from either guardian ranks, skills, mods, anything the brawler ward formula stops being 2447x(1+3) and becomes 2447x(3).

I think it’s a bug, as if because all melee bonuses have to run off of base melee damage its reading it as if it already added base melee into the ward formula. reducing damage by a good amount.

I’ve posted numbers from a game and they are matching to the calculation.
Here is more of yesterday testing with more melee gear and AS set to fire.

My gear:
Breaker COM with +1 FYC and passive 50% melee
Brawler Ward 300% shield with 200% after Phaseslam

2447 * (1+2+1+0,75+0,5+3+2) * 1,3 * 1,75 = 57k in game

Then I added 80% Fire Stone with passive 31% melee

2447 * (1+2+1+0,75+0,5+0,31+3+2) * 1,3 * 1,75 * 1,8 = 105k in game

Then added Face Puncher with 300% weapon after Phaseslam (5/5 in Infusion) and damage output was over 350k for fire and 71k kinetic iirc, didn’t check the full calculation, but it only shows that everything works as intended.
Did you make your own tests? How it worked for you?

1 Like

I’m just looking at the video, and wondering if there’s in issue in how brawler ward is calculating its formula.

In the vid they have no points in any melee skill. THen use a mod with 56% melee, and class mod with 1 find your center, then another mod with find your center and a 56% bonus.

With a brawler ward with 300% increase in melee damage on break.
Like your math showed, base melee for level 57 is 2447. with the 300% increase you’d do 9787.

What I couldn’t understand was why having a melee bonus would change how brawler ward calculated. They should all be separate operations but when you add the melee bonus it goes from 2447x4 to, 2447x3) + 2447x.56

That’s not how it should calculate, the only reason that should happen is if everything was calculated at the same time via addition, and the only way for the code, system or whatever to parse the effect is to count the number of times the value for base melee damage appeared in the line.

Like 300% brawler ward = 4 instances of base melee damage. 2447 2447 2447 2447
but than you do the same with a melee bonus that works off of base melee and get.
Using the same hypothetical rule. 2447 2447 2447 2447xmelee bonus

There’s 4 values in the line but the full effect isn’t being applied.
Because 1 is missing.

Where? It doesn’t work like that. It’s just base * melee multipliers in this case 2447*(1+3+1+0,56). In the video they are using Breaker COM with +1 FYC and 56% passive melee, then the same COM but without a passive bonus (so damage is lowered from 13k to 12k) then Phasezerker COM without melee bonus so the output is 2447*(1+3). All works as intended.

Pretty much every bonus damage from skills and passives has diminishing returns if you add more of them, that includes weapon damage, melee, crits etc.

1 Like

yeah but it’s not.

fyc and 56% melee damage bonus is a 156% increase so base damage x 2.56. which was 6264. that amount should be added on top of the 300% increase from brawler ward which is base damage x 4. that should be 9788 +6264 to equal a total damage of 16k.

It’s being shortchanged on the brawler ward side.

why do you have a 0 in your formula?