[Guide] Optimizing Moze's Damage - Math without Numbers

Mayhem 4 requires a lot of damage from a build. Damage that I know many struggle to find. Some will venture to the Moze Damage calculation thread and see the following:

Gun Damage = Normal Hit x Weapon Type Multiplier x Splash x Elemental Multiplier x Critical Damage

Problem solved right? You now know how damage is calculated for Moze, lets all go home. Nice though that may be, for many I think the above is more confusing than helpful. I’m one of the weird ones round this forum that actually cares about the intricacy of the above, not many do. The real question most people have is:

how do I translate that formula into killing things quickly?

I want to tackle this question, but I don’t want to do so by drowning you in numbers. I want to explore the question of getting more damage by approaching guidelines for you to use when constructing a build. To some it might seem black magic when math wizards can eyeball 2 bonuses and know which is best for damage, I want to take a crack at building your intuition for knowing where the biggest damage is coming from.

Damage Modifiers

Unfortunately before we can start we do need to know a bit about the damage formula. Don’t worry about the maths, what you need to know is what type of damage the common bonuses are.

  • Normal Hit: All gun damage boosts in Shield of Retribution, click, click and the class mod roll “+% Weapon Damage.”
  • Weapon Type Multiplier: This is only the specific weapon type roles on class mods, such as “+% Pistol Damage.”
  • Splash: Anything that boosts splash or area of effect damage.
  • Elemental Multiplier: Stoke The Embers, Elemental Projector and any of the gear rolls such as “+incendiary damage.”

The Clichè

Everyone’s heard that multiplicative damage is the best damage right? It’s fairly common knowledge that splash damage is multiplicative, so therefore when we use an Ion Cannon we want to stack splash damage right?

So let’s experiment then. I’ll grab one of my best Ion Cannons and we’ll play a guessing game about which of the following class mods is going to do more damage:


For Blast Master I’ll let the Splash Boost charge to full, and for the Bloodletter I’ll reduce myself to 1hp with a Front Loader and Thin Red Line. I’m not going to spend any more skill points, so the class mods only get the skills they boost.

We’ll start simple, I won’t activate the annointment on the Ion Cannon. So, my dear reader, which class mod is going to win? My moneys on Blast Master.

Blast Master Produces:


And the Bloodletter produces:


So a round of applause for all who didn’t doubt themselves and stuck to Blast Master. So onto the formality of taking a shot with the annointment active. We’re all holding firm with Blast Master winning right?

The Blast Master with +125% Splash annoint:

668k!!! We’re over half a million damage with Blast master without a single skill point spent, which is insane! So what did Bloodletter manage?

728k!!! Madness, what Black Magic is this? All we did is add the same bonus and suddenly Blast Master is losing, but it was winning before? Ahh my dear reader, you’ve just seen the true intention behind saying multiplicative damage is better.

Let’s go back to the drawing board about where Blast Master went wrong and why adding a splash annoint doesn’t follow the rule of multiplicative damage being best.

What are Additive and Multiplicative Damage?

Before I talk of the Borderlands communities use of additive and multiplicative, lets see what the terms mean from a maths standpoint.

It may have occurred to you that additive sounds a lot like add. There’s a reason for that, the real meaning of two numbers being additive is that when put into a formula, we’ll add the numbers. I hope it’s simple to then make the leap that multiplicative means we’ll multiply the numbers.

So let’s try this in an example. If my first bonus is Purple, my second bonus is Blue and they are said to be additive, when we do the calculation it will appear as so:

Total = Purple + Blue

Now lets add a third variable Red and we’ll say this is multiplicative to our friends Purple and Blue. The calculation thus becomes:

Total = (Purple + Blue) x Red

Simple enough right? Well let’s up it another notch. A 4th variable Yellow is introduced and this is additive to Red.
Well hold on Prismatic, isn’t Red multiplicative?
Glad you caught that, yes Red is multiplicative to Purple and Blue, however that doesn’t stop it being additive to Yellow. Additive and Multiplicative are relative terms, they only make sense when comparing terms or groupings of terms. When I say Yellow is Additive to Red I make no mention of its relation to Purple and Blue. However as we know how Red interacts with Purple and Blue we can interpret how Yellow fits into our overall formula.

Total = (Purple + Blue) x (Red + Yellow)

If we return to Borderlands math, I hope that description just set alarm bells ringing in your head. Something should seem off about what I said earlier

Do you see any errors? Have I not been careful in my wording? If you’re not seeing it lets narrow it down further:

If you think about what I just said about the meaning of multiplicative, this shouldn’t make sense to you. How can Splash be multiplicative if I’m not comparing it to anything?

The answer is we as a community have gotten lazy, everyone used to compare things to Normal Hit, and in that context, yes Splash is multiplicative to Normal Hit. However, the information lost is that splash isn’t multiplicative to itself. So Blast Masters splash bonus and the 125% bonus splash boosts are not multiplicative to each other, they’re additive.

So why did Bloodletter win?

Lets look at the 2 coms we where using and breakdown the damage we where getting from them:



I didn’t stack Phalanx Doctrine, so we can ignore it. I did however have 1hp, so that’s 50% from Desperate Measures and the 25% weapon damage roll. These both fall under Normal Hit. I then have the 28% splash damage roll which predictably falls under splash.

In summary Bloodletter gave me:

  • 75% Normal Hit
  • 28% Splash

Blast Master


Again I have a 25% Weapon Damage roll that will fall under Normal Hit. I also have the full 100% bonus Splash from Blast Master.

In summary Blast Master gave me

  • 25% Normal Hit
  • 100% Splash

When broken down like this we see that Blast Master gave us bigger numbers, and predictably with nothing else applied it won.

So what changed when we added the 125% splash annointment?

Bloodletter became:

  • 75% Normal Hit
  • 153% Splash

Blast Master became:

  • 25% Normal Hit
  • 225% Splash

Blast Master still gives us bigger numbers, but notice how much more lopsided the damage is. The two numbers vary by 200%! The Bloodletter set up is not something I’d call balanced but the difference is far less severe with a difference of 78%.

Normal Hit is going to be multiplied by Splash, so we want the combinations that give us the highest numbers from multiplication. As a general rule you want two medium size buffs instead of one big and one small.

The Moral of the Story

If you’re debating between 2 buffs of approximately the same size then you’ll always get the biggest boost by choosing the buff that affects a category you’ve buffed the least.

You want to play a game of buffing each category in turn and keeping them relatively even. So a quick reminder on the main categories Moze has for buffing her damage.

  • Normal Hit: All gun damage boosts in Shield of Retribution, click, click and the class mod roll “+% Weapon Damage.”
  • Weapon Type Multiplier: This is only the specific weapon type roles on class mods, such as “+% Pistol Damage.”
  • Splash: Anything that boosts splash or area of effect damage.
  • Elemental Multiplier: Stoke The Embers, Elemental Projector and any of the gear rolls such as “+incendiary damage.”

We’ve just looked at an example using Normal Hit and Splash, however this applies to any of the four categories. If you’re already using an Elemental Projector, then +30% splash damage is far better than another 30% elemental damage.

Keeping variety among bonuses is the best thing you can do for your damage.

I’ve not included it here for simplicity but Critical Hit bonuses are actually a fifth category

Talking Strategies

So you’re now armed with the knowledge that keeping variety among your bonuses is the best thing you can do, now lets apply this to a few Moze builds.

I’ll start by saying any set up that consistently uses a single weapon type will always want a Weapon Type Multiplier role on their artifact. The bonus is about 30% and is multiplicative to everything else Moze can get. The exception to this is Tediore chucking builds as thrown weapons don’t get this bonus. All Moze’s class mods and build archetypes benefit pretty evenly from this bonus.

Elemental Multipliers are similarly universal in their usefulness to builds. These are the most powerful multipliers in the game as they apply to all elemental damage. If you have access to these modifiers they should be taken advantage of, however they are heavily restricted in Borderlands 3 and are thus often not the most efficient way to boost the general damage of your build.

Stoke the Embers is excellent for your fire arsenal, however for your other weapons the options are more limited. Elemental Projector is a great option as a boss and badass killer, but is high maintenance as to be used effectively requires self dotting. The stat rolls that come on gear like +shock damage are useful however they’re highly limited as the bonus is small at approximately half other damage bonuses and is also locked to one element. These are great for single element set ups, however the bonus isn’t big enough to prioritize over other more adaptable bonuses like mag size or more powerful like Weapon Type Multiplier bonuses.

I’m now going to talk about archetypes to what I believe are common builds people want to create. I’ll list any key features of the archetype, however I’m going to avoid skill discussion here. The exact specs of these builds are inconsequential as different specs within each archetype still tend to want the same types of damage. The modifiers I listed above still apply to these archetypes, they’re just not build specific so I’ve listed them above to avoid repeating myself.

When I talk about annointments or guns, remember there are always exceptions! I’ll list what I personally think is best for the most situations, but please, use your own discretion to recognize when something does not apply to your build.

*Be aware that if aware that the Moze splash anoint will lead to your shield not being full on exit, this makes using topped off more difficult. If really short Iron Bear cooldowns are a priority then you are better off avoiding Moze’s splash anoint in favour of either the general splash anoint or the 125% incendiary anoint.

Shield of Retribution

Defining Characteristics of Build Archetype:

  • Major Investment into Shield of Retribution.

Shield of Retribution as a reminder offers a lot of Normal Hit boosts. So, priority number 1 should be to get damage that is not Normal Hit. If you’re using splash weaponry then your first priority should be to get at least an AoE or Splash roll on your com or artifact. If you’re not using a splash weapon then really prioritize the Weapon Type Multiplier boosts. If you’re still lacking damage then Elemental Multipliers and boosts to critical hits are the next most economical approaches to improving damage.

Annointment wise if you can benefit from splash annointments they’re top prize. Otherwise bonus element annointments are solid options, in particular the 125% incendiary is excellent. The 100% damage on ASE is still a powerful annointment that shouldn’t be ignored, however it will suffer from diminishing returns as Shield of Retribution builds already stack a lot of Normal Hit. The 25% damage on Grenade throw is a nice damage boost at the beginning of battle but will suffer diminishing returns as you stack Drowning in Brass and Phalanx Doctrine.

Mind Sweeper

Defining characteristics of Build Archetype

  • Build invests in a Demolition Woman / Bottomless Mags spec.

If you want a mathematical breakdown of the Mind Sweeper, you can find one in my Gearology thread.

Mind Sweeper has multiple options for improving damage. Adding Normal Hit through Click, Click or the general Weapon Damage class mod role is a good option for improving the consistency of your damage. To achieve the crazier damage numbers you’ll want to use splash weapons and focus your attention on Splash and Elemental Multipliers. These multipliers affect both your gun damage and the damage of the micro nades that Mind Sweeper drops, essentially doubling the value of these boosts. This effect is often referred to as double dipping, you can think of the effect as getting the boost twice, but the second application is applied multiplicately.

The micro grenades also receive boosts from grenade damage, this is a good boost however due to not double dipping like Splash and Elemental Multipliers is less valuable. Normal Hit damage has a comparable affect on your first micro grenades damage, however Normal Hit will also affect your bullets, I’d thus prioritize Normal Hit over grenade damage as it will be a more consistent dps boost when mobbing.

When considering anointments, splash is always king for Mind Sweeper. Even in the case where you have rolls on both your artifact and com for splash and aoe. The nature of double dipping means the diminishing returns are not felt as badly, 18 seconds of 160% splash can do crazy things with Mind Sweeper. The standard 100 ASE damage annointment is also solid. The bonus element for next 2 mags is the most consistent damage boost but doesn’t have the same burst potential as the splash or 100 ASE annoints. Furthermore this anoint will not apply to micro nades.

Blast Master

Defining characteristics of Build Archetype

  • Primarily a Demolition Woman / Bottomless Mags spec

Blast Master is Moze’s com for breaking the rules. In the same way I said Shield of Retribution gives you all the Normal Hit you need, Blast Master gives you all the Splash you need. So our job is to go find everything else. Blast Master essentially halves the value of splash and aoe passives. All other bonuses are pretty much equal in their values.

Annointment wise you’ll always want either 100% ASE weapon damage or Moze’s splash anoint for a Blast Master spec like this. 100% is multiplicative to Blast Master’s Splash and is amazing for burst damage, the Moze splash anoint is big enough to not be crippled by diminishing returns of stacking with Blast Master and lasts 18 seconds to make up the damage difference. The general splash and extra element annointments each have pros and cons and on the whole are about equal, but lag behind the 100% ASE damage and Moze’s splash anoint.

Shield of Retribution Blast Master

Defining characteristics of Build Archetype

  • Investment into at least Drowning in Brass, this archetype applies especially to builds going as far as Tenacious Defense or Phalanx Doctrine.

I wanted to include this here as an example of a build that naturally has 2 stacked modifiers, namely Normal Hit and Splash. A build like this has among the highest damage floors for Moze. It also already specializes in Moze’s 2 favourite damage types. To improve DPS further critical damage and Elemental Modifiers are the best bets. Weapon Type Multiplier are as always extremely effective.

This archetype has the least preference for anointments. As it already heavily stacks Normal Hit and Splash neither is a clear favourite. 100% ASE will be better at the start of a fight, but after Drowning in Brass and Phalanx knock up a few stacks then Splash becomes the better choice. Moze’s splash will generally end up being the strongest. The next 2 mags 125% incendiary damage anoint is as always consistent but will not benefit from splash so isn’t necessarily a clear winner here. Take whichever of the 3 you get first and be happy, the differences aren’t worth the farming time.

The Odd Birds

Up to this point I’ve conveniently ignored 2 large areas of damage that Moze has access to. The first being bonus elements and the second being Short Fuse. I’ve delayed talk of these to the end as they they don’t play by the same rules.

Bonus Elements

I’m not going to discuss extra projectiles here, they’re only a consideration for a sub set of weapons. Most of which are not regular weapons on Moze.

Bonus elements are on the whole fairly simplistic. You can think of them as a second shot that you fire in the new element with a % of your guns damage. The bonus elements however will not receive splash boosts. A second smaller difference is that the grenade and shield anoints also don’t receive the Weapon Type Multiplier, whereas the rest do. Except Skag Den, but you’ll have to ask me about that one as I don’t plan to discuss it here.

So a visual reminder of how this looks

Bonus Element Damage = Normal Hit x Weapon Type Multiplier x Elemental Multiplier x Critical Damage

This part shouldn’t be too difficulty to grasp, however the comparison that is difficult is when we begin comparing it to Splash. Bonus elements and Splash work independently, they don’t benefit each other in any way. So inspite of being different modifiers they don’t follow the same trend of variety being the spice for death.

Splash and bonus elements have similar diminishing returns when stacked that we get from stacking multiple of the same bonus (like stacking Normal Hit for instance). Thus when comparing bonuses you can often consider bonus elements and splash the same category.

Splash is the more consistent modifier, you’ll always get the damage it states. Bonus elements are more a wild card, when you match them against the correct hp type they’re generally the strongest boosts you can get, however mismatching them can also significantly reduce your damage.

Short Fuse

Short Fuse is an oddly deceptive skill 20% chance to add 75% damage doesn’t sound very good for a capstone, and by itself it isn’t. Luckily for Moze we have means to the damage substantially. Short Fuse is based off the total damage that triggered it, so anything that boosts the actual bullet damage of your gun will boost Short Fuse.

This is all nice but is not why I call Short Fuse an odd bird. The wacky mechanics come with how Short Fuse boosts the damage that triggers it.

Short Fuse Damage = Trigger Damage x Splash x Iron Bear Damage

Short Fuse being boosted by Iron Bear Damage is weird. My recommendation is to just go with it, it’s another category of multiplicative damage you now have access to.

The splash boost however is far more interesting. This is the second time you’re gaining access to splash, the first was on the triggering bullet. This second application of the Splash multiplier adds a lot of value to splash boosts. When you have Short Fuse you should think of splash boosts as boosting 2 categories. As such you should think of them as bigger boosts than the card states. Short Fuse is a valid reason to favour boosting splash over spreading out your damage bonuses.

Wrap Up

Well, here we are. Hopefully by this point I’ve hammered into your head that diversifying boosts is the most efficient way to boost damage, and I’ve given you ideas on where to look for this multiplicative damage. The Bloodletter Ion Cannon example should be a shock to your system about why different boosts are better than bigger ones of the same type.

I’ve done my best to avoid throwing numbers around as I realize most don’t want to do math in their gaming down time. Feel free to ask if you want me to show any numbers, otherwise head over to my Intro to Borderlands Math if you want to see a more numbers intensive breakdown of multiplicative damage and how to compare bonuses.

You can also find a full breakdown of all the multipliers in this game in the General Breakdown of Borderlands Gun Damage


I want to say a massive thank you to @HurdyGurdy and @Mahtyo who both proofread multiple early drafts of this thread and gave me valuable feedback.


Greay write up, as always! :+1:

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one of my pet peeves is throwing around the “additive” and “multiplicative” without context, since the words express the relationship between things. And can give people the impression that gun damage is undesirable or something.

Also I’m curious why you reworded your bullet damage formula to just list Weapon Type Damage by itself instead of Special Multipliers. Since most characters do have special multipliers (FL4K is the best character to illustrate them with, but Moze has Target Softening for example). And class mod type bonuses should be additive to some of them

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You rock, i don’t even play Moze and read through this. It is great information.

I do have a few of questions -

  1. Where would Guardian points be added into this formula, at what point?
  2. Seems to me, as i have always suspected, it is better to have more normal damage before any modifiers, correct? Like i use a +25% weapon dam , +18% cirt, + 31% AR Dam mod on Zane?
  3. Have you ever or can you do something like this for Zane?
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This is a case where I believe Weapon Type Damage is more relevant to this discussion on Moze. The formula above is by no means complete, as I also don’t include guardian rank or amp damage. I prioritized including the bonuses that people are likely to be picking between.

I actually never double checked that target softening is a special multiplier, so again am hesitant to include it.

I have nearly zero knowledge on how Flaks damage works, I just know he has 2 big special modifiers. I know Amara’s Personal Space is additive to weapon type damage, but I’m unsure if there’s anything else.

They’re a category on their own and would be multiplicative to everything discussed here. For damage comparisons they’re equally effective in all set ups.

30% normal damage is as valuable as 30% splash damage. The difference is normal damage is generally easier to acquire so people take it for granted.

I’ve not been as technical in my time with Zane. In order to do this I’d first need to do the groundwork of working out the damage formula and actually analyzing Zane.

However that said if there’s enough interest in it I will look into creating either a Zane specific one or even just generalizing this for all 4 characters.

To expand on Zane, I also don’t think I could do as effective a write up. The archetypes I write about for Moze are not something I’d have the faintest clue about for Zane. From what I’ve seen of his meta it’s already pretty good about encouraging multiplicative boosts with things like barrier and ice breaker. Moze on the other hand has the 2 mammoth damage type boosts that so often I see people needlessly stacking.

Have you seen any of the work the discord has done on damage formulas? I pretty much lurk everywhere but I am not sure if there has been much math-nerd-cross-communication. The basic idea is that most of the multipliers in the game fall into two categories, if you saw the video demonite made on FL4K math they are what he called“V1” and “V2.” Almost all the skills that increase Damage as well as items that increase damage like Victory rush, Icebreaker, Piss, Eruption, etc fall into one of those two categories

I think some stuff on the sheet is still wrong (everyone here always says barrier amp is a multiplier for example), I have only really double-checked FL4K math. But Spy is good about correcting stuff and it’s usually being updated toward further accuracy

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I had not seen that, thank you I’ll take a look through it.

Based on this information, I have actually specing away from the DW tree when using the Best Master since it gives you the splash damage boost and points into the tree’s two most important utility skills. If I can afford the 8 points, I will go down to MoD, but that’s it.

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I wish I could get away from PtHP and MoD.


Whoa thanks a lot as one who struggles to get damage I understand better how this works. I have a question how annoitment like “the next 2 mags will have 50% elemental damage” stands compared to the 50% elemental on ase ? Are they different? Are they multiplier or added ?:thinking:

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I’d need to double check to be totally sure. However if memory serves if they’re the same element then they’re directly added.

Elemental damage annoints as a whole will follow all the same principles as additive bonuses do.

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This would be because they’re 50% of gun damage, right?

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Not quite. It’s because the bonuses don’t enhance each other. If I am dealing 100 damage as cryo because of an annoint and I add a radiation annoint the new annoint has no effect on my cryo annointment and also doesn’t benefit from it in any way.

Whereas If I have a normal hit boost and then add a splash, the splash boost will do more because it also boosts the normal hit bonus.

If you want I can show a bit of maths to demonstrate why these annoints follow similar principles to additive boosts.

My bad actually, I reread this:

I might have misunderstood what the question was. I thought the question was are the 2 different anointments in the same spot of the formula, being an elemental multiplier. And would they be multiplicative or addative I would have thought multiplicative to splash and addative to other elements.


I thought you meant it was additive to normal hit because it’s based on gun damage. Come to think of it, I don’t know if I understand that anointment that well as anytime I use it with blast master it’s weaker than the 120 splash anointment by a large margin… Might be my gear though.

You understood the question right.
Now let s see if I understood Prismatic answer well, basically the two annointments are additive

So is your formula something like that?

Gun Damage = Normal Hit x Weapon Type Multiplier x Splash x Elemental Multiplier x Critical Damage + elemental annointment dmg

elemental annointment dmg = half (50%) base gun damage X Splash X Elemental multiplier X crit dmg with no difference whether it is a magazine annointment or a time based one

That’s my current understanding, but as I said earlier I need to double check this. I’ve barely done any math with the bonus element annoints.

The difference I got when I looked at it was that the elemental grenade & shields anointments ignored weapon type damage on class mods. The elemental magazine anointment took it into account. Otherwise they seemed to be the same. They take your final damage before element matching and add half of it as a new element, which gets whatever specific penalties or bonuses the new one has. Also, the grenade/shield anointments apply to some things that are not actually “weapons” like rakk attack & grenades.


I believe grenades are counted as weapons; as they take that role in regards to artifact passives; grenadier (grenade), deadeye (pistol), greasy (smg), long range (sniper), hulking (heavy), …etc;
i haven’t found any relics that have more than 1 of either of these and ive seen quite a large amount so far

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Amazing thread. Thanks for making this. I can confirm, I’ve found Blastmaster to cause greater damage with a class mod that boosts SMG or Assault or Shotgun damage vs Splash Damage.

Mind Sweeper is interesting. You can go either way, IMO. The micro-nades are an explosion, therefor have splash damage. At the same time the micro-nades are spawned in quantity by normal bullets. I find Mind Sweeper to be most powerful with the following combination: fast firing splash damage weapons like the Kybs, a class mod that boosts your weapon type, an artifact that boosts AOE and Grenade Damage (incendiary damage too if all 3 exist), and anointments that boosts splash damage 100% ASE. Grenade that has either 25% weapon damage on weapon throw or 50% incendiary damage on ASE. Shield that drops 10% damage boost. This combo is insanely powerful. I have seen damage in the 100’s of millions on bosses when the grenades start to crit and proc off each other. Graveward can be taken down on M4 in 1 clip of the Kybs using the incendiary version with 100% splash damage on ASE applied.

Interesting take on the Bloodletter. I’ll have to give mine another shot that has +splash damage.

They aren’t very consistent with descriptions. For example Zane’s life-steal kill skill says “weapons” but they hotfixed it so that it does not work with grenades. meanwhile Amara’s lifesteal is supposed to work with elemental weapons and still works with grenades. Zane’s new Seeing Dead class mod says it trigger when you damage an enemy with a “weapon” but works with all sources of damage including your summons. shrug

I’m not 100% on the details of artifact rolls but i have heard there are some that are mutually exclusive. And grenade damage is mutually exclusive with the the weapon type damage rolls like you say.