[Guide] The Badass Jackass- Optimizing the Pet build

Hello Everybody,
Before going any further, I would just like to say that I don’t believe myself to be an expert Borderlands player by any means, nor do I believe my way of doing this is best way. There are doubtlessly other players who play this build and have a better understanding than I do. However, what I’ve seen around various forums throughout the internet is that there are quite a few people who don’t seem to understand Jack’s capabilities as a pet class or dismiss it outright. My hope with this thread is share a bit of the knowledge I’ve come across while playing with this character and discussing it with others, and share some of the tips and observations that I’ve come across . Hopefully this will clear up some misunderstandings, and perhaps bring an old flavor of the month back to light.

Thanks to @Hoyle4 for his many suggestions throughout the months!


Jack has a lot of good things going for him. He’s very well balanced, yet also one of the most powerful characters in the Borderlands franchise. He can get insane damage, fire rate, and reload speed. He can turn any gun into a Hyperion with super crit and infinite ammo. He can use his kill skills passively for Pete’s sake!

But one thing that has been unfortunately forgotten by many is his wonderful Digi-clones, and just how much ass they tear when you let them live! Promote the Ranks is an awesome capstone that turns his normally wimpy clones into badasses that deal 2X the damage of his normal pets (this is without taking elemental multipliers into account. On flesh it will be 3.5X, and on armor it will be about 1.2X or so); it’s what makes Jack the best pet class in Borderlands in my opinion. It’s unfortunately been knocked down a few pegs due to the way Expendable Assets works, as well as the mechanics of Leadership. However, Badass Jacks are not some niche, nonviable playstyle. Nor are they simply another lackey you toss out an airlock to get your on kill buffs. They are extremely effective from level 26 to level 70. When built right, they are capable of hitting some of the highest damage numbers you can hit in TPS, however they are also more than capable of holding their own without a dedicated build.

This is a build, or rather, a rough outline of the build, that lets you exploit them to their fullest potential. A variant of this build has been tested at level 70 Eclipse/EOS and every other boss in the game. It is raid viable.

I stopped at level 47 because that is the bare minimum investment required to have a solid Badass Jack build. What you do with the rest of the points is entirely up to you. From this outline you could form a variety of fully fleshed out builds, some examples of which I’ll post later. This is a pretty common level 70 variant. http://thepresequel.com/Jack/55015100005010551004104101550015005001

The basic 3 skills you need for this build are Bolster, Take Their Freedom, and Promote the Ranks (duh).

  1. Bolster- This will be your largest and most consistent damage buff. It’s Money is Power for your pets. It may seem counter-intuitive to a lot of people because normally movement is life in FPS games. However, badass Jacks serve as a source of cover and a source of damage, so as long as you place them in the right spot, movement won’t be necessary at all.
  2. Take Their Freedom- The amount of time your action skill is active in total is irrelevant. The thing that matters the most is how long you can keep a particular Badass Jack alive, since they are the ones that will benefit the most from Bolster. This skill is the only skill that can keep your Jacks out past their natural lifespan, pushing them past the damage barrier that their constantly depleting life bar imposes on them.
  3. Promote the Ranks- This nearly quadruples your Jack’s damage, changes their base attack to fire damage, and gives them a powerful Digi-missile barrage that destroys enemies. It also increases their health, thereby increasing their natural lifespan by about 6 seconds for a total of 20 seconds before they die. This build doesn’t work without this skill at all.

All other skills are up for debate, though there are some that work better with certain gear or play style choices. Though some of the skills may look a little strange, I promise that there is a method to this madness.

Why spec into…
Collaborate- Isn’t this build about keeping your Badass Jacks alive?
Absolutely. However, if and when they do die you’re kind of boned if you don’t get another Badass Jack spawn (or rather, you have to pick up a lot of the slack to cover for your weaker base pets). This is especially true during boss fights like the Sentinel and Eclipse/EOS, where your Jacks can be killed by missiles or by you being flung 50ft in the air by a ground pound. Collaborate ensures that when they do die, you at least get something for it.

Why not spec into………
Diversify- Why would you not take the shotgun laser? Chuck will kill you!
Because as awesome as laser shotguns are for Timmy, they can mess up his Badass Jack’s damage if you’re not careful. Diversify takes the base damage of a normal Jack from about 52000 to about 57000 when all the projectiles hit. On a Badass Jack the gap grows even wider. However, the problem with Diversify is that it, like most shotguns, has poor accuracy at range. If every mob comes right up to your Jack’s face and gets blasted by the lasers then it’s great, but most of the time there will still be some stragglers who stay really far away, and then the laser will miss and the Jack’s damage will drop considerably forcing you to move and sacrifice your Bolster damage to deal with them. If you have a way to reliably get most enemies in front of your Jacks then go ahead, otherwise it doesn’t make so much of a difference with short range enemies that you’ll really miss it.

Teamwork-This is such a great healing skill!
It is, but it requires Jacks dying a lot to get the greatest mileage out of it. A badass dying now and then is inevitable, but I don’t like taking too many skills that require my Jacks dying to be effective. Besides, Persistence will cover your healing during cooldowns when you’re vulnerable and Take Their Freedom + the agro draw of the Jacks will keep you alive while they’re out, so Teamwork isn’t needed for healing. Unless you happen to be in a boss fight like Eclipse/EOS where the Jacks will die often, in which case it’s a sound investment.


I’ve read a lot of posts from people saying that Hero of This Story (HoTS) and Greater Good (GG) work against each other, or who seem to have a mindset that you must choose one or the other.

That is entirely incorrect. They actually synergize extremely well together. The survivability buffs in HoTS are complimented further by similar boosts in GG, while the relative lack of damage skills in HoTS is supplemented by the kill skills. The only skills that don’t work at all or don’t work nearly as well without killing your Jacks constantly are Optimism, Teamwork, Collaborate, and Commitment. Of these, Optimism doesn’t have as much value outside of lowering the Jack’s health to make killing them easier. Since we don’t want to do that, the loss of this skill doesn’t affect us. Teamwork can be substituted by Persistence, Commitment is not going to be missed since the stack timer sucks, and Collaborate is something we can live with since it at least helps when we need to run around to kill off our normal Jacks.

Leadership, despite some people’s assumptions, is actually critical for pet builds. It makes it so that when your non-badass Jacks die, your badasses get a longer duration.

Besides that, HoTS has little to no synergy with FE outside of grenade builds. The tree offers nothing for the pets, has only 1 survivability skill (which is kind of meh imo), and doesn’t have that many base damage boosts outside of Money is Power and the Jakobs sponsorship. The loss of Potential and Leadership severely handicaps what you can do. The build could still work if you didn’t have Leadership, but it would be like playing Axton without Longbow; clunky, awkward, and not at all optimal.

The basic synergies are:
Best Foot Forward + Leadership- the basic combo for any doppelganger build.
Bolster+Take Their Freedom-this combo keeps your Jacks alive longer to stack up bolster and decimate your enemies. Also gives you a nice survivability boost.
Lean on Me + Accountability- two potent fire rate increases whose bonuses shrink upon taking damage.
Resolute + Delegation- one skill redistributes damage to your Jacks, the other grants damage resistance for subsequent hits. The two of these together make for some impressive tanking feats.
Hero Pose + Persistence + Winning- Both Hero Pose and Persistence give increased shield capacity, which works greatly with Winning’s large % based shield restore.

Play style tips

For the most part, there are really only a few things in my experience that you need to know to be an awesome pet master. It all comes down to 2 factors:

  1. Distance- you have to know how far you can move before your badasses despawn. It’s about from the entrance of cluster overlook (where the bandits spawn) to in between the first and second huts inside.
    When you know this distance, you can maneuver inside of it more effectively, using cover to your advantage or getting better angles on your enemies.
  2. Space- you have to know what kind of space you’re in. The space you’re in will dictate where you will deploy your Jacks. In open areas I’ve found it most effective to deploy my Jacks in the middle of mobs to prevent them from going into cover, or by a wall to force enemies to approach me from one direction. In indoor areas, I deploy them by doorways and entrances to force in enemies into tight groups that are easier to deal with. High ground is always preferable. Knowing where to deploy your tur….I mean Jacks will make enemy movement more predictable and generally increase your Jack’s DPS.

Outside of those 2 things, the most important advice that will make your life much easier would be to fight from behind your Jacks! This ensures that you aren’t blocking their shots and it ensures that enemies will target your Jacks instead of you. You also don’t want to move too far too often. Lastly, always aim for crits! Enemies will either be completely still or gathered on your Jacks, making them easy targets.

Pet Build COMs

To maximize the effectiveness of your pet, you need the right COM. Depending on your playstlye, certain COMs will do better for you than others. Preferably, if you’re going for the baddest clone you can get, you’ll want to use COMs that boost his basic pet skills (Bolster and TTF).For builds that will be less reliant on the badasses, COMs boosting skills such as; Lean on Me, Resolute, Persistence or Delegation may be better. There are a lot of COMs to choose from, so I’ll just go over a few.

Chronicler of Elpis-The CoE is actually among the best COMs for a hybrid pet Jack build because it boosts Lean on Me and Company Man. Lean on Me is the closest thing to a multiplicative bonus for the Jacks, having a 63% chance to deal an extra 40% damage as corrosion (on flesh enemies). The buff to Company Man is great for pet builds because it encourages the use of Hyperion weapons (which are great to run with pets builds as they are incredibly accurate and do good damage, making it easier to fight from behind your Jacks) and buffs accuracy and critical hit damage, 2 stats that are a massive help to your damage output.

VIP/Protagonist- There is a lot of rage to be had over these 2 COMs since they are basically the same dang thing. The difference is one boosts Hero Pose and the other boosts Persistence. Otherwise their passive +max health is almost the same, and the only other difference is a paltry amount of flat health regen versus a tiny shield capacity increase. Yea….:unamused:
Still, these are the only COMs that boost Bolster and both also boost TTF, which are 2 of the 3 basic skills to make a murder-tastic pet build! All in all, though the passives suck tremendously, these are the best COMs if you want the most powerful Jacks you can make.

These are also excellent COMs for co-op play. Combined with Jack’s Supply and Demand skill, these COMs can provide your allies with passive (though not particulary impressive on its own) health regen.

######**note-Of the 2, I personally prefer the VIP, as I find the boost to Persistence will help far more when your Jacks are on cooldown than the shield stats from Hero Pose. Still, these are so similar that you could go with either one if you wanted.

Eridian Vanquisher- With boosts to max health and shield recharge rate, the EV has decent passive stats. Its on card buff to TTF allows you keep your Badass Jacks out for long periods, and the buffs to Integrity and Just Compensation give you ways to get damage without relying on kill skills. For those who want effective Badass Jacks with higher damage for themselves than the Protagonist/VIP mods, this is a good choice.

Role Model- This COM has a terrible passive stat (only around +10,000 max health at level 70), however the skills it buffs are amazing. Lean on Me is the closest thing to a multiplicative boost for the Jacks; however it also buffs your fire rate by up to 77%, which is a pretty crazy passive boost. On top of that, it boosts Resolute, which gives you AND your Badass Jacks up to 77% damage whenever you get hit, along with 34% damage resistance. To top it all off it boosts Persistence to keep you nice and healthy during cooldowns. When all is said and done, this has the potential to increase your own DPS by 140% while cranking up your survivability and your pet’s damage as well. The top tier choice for hybrid specs IMO.

Antagonist- Offering a solid passive stat, huge shield regen, and a hefty damage mitigation, the Antagonist offers two things no other Pet COM does; decreased cool down rate and massive defensive boosts whether your Jacks are out or not. However, this COM is not exactly kosher to the theme of keeping your Badass Jacks alive, with its only damage boost for you or your Jacks being in the form of Collaborate. While the defensive potential of this COM is top-notch, it is a bit much for most mobbing scenarios and is best used as a substitute for VIP/Protagonist COMs when doing content that requires frequent movement (such as the Holodome) or places where you can be overwhelmed with damage (i.e. the Mutator Arena).
######** note-I don’t like recommending specific COMs, because that is a function of your build. However, with the Antagonist, I would strongly suggest not using an Accented Antagonist(+6 Collaborate) or a purple variant. This COM is for tanking, so the buff to collaborate is just taking points away from your shield regen or damage mitigation.


The most important piece of gear for dedicated pet builds, apart from the COM, is the shield. It will determine how much offensive or defensive potential your Jacks have. Three types of shields tend to favor pet builds.

  1. :facepunch: Roid shields
    For pet builds focused on maximizing the damage of Badass Jacks, these shields offer the greatest damage potential. Their Digi-missile barrage and the attack they do from their Right wrist laser gets roid damage. The math behind it is funky, because they can go from doing 400,000 to more than 20X that amount. The highest I’ve seen from them so far is 33 million, and that was with only 3 or 4 seconds worth of Bolster (so 60-80%increased damage).
  2. Nova shields- These work best in hybrid builds where the Jacks dying are not as much of a concern. Hybrid pet builds with Optimism love cryo nova shields, as it boosts the optimism nova, and Badass Jacks deal more damage with the optimism nova than non-badass Jacks. The Black Hole works wonders for crowd control and getting many enemies into Integrity range at once.
  3. Spike Shields- These have a similar function to nova shields, but they don’t require shield depletion to apply their status effect. They also work very well with Winning, providing a consistent stream of spikes. These work better for hybrid builds that rely on Bolster, or “meatshield Jack” builds that have your badasses soak up damage for you.

Aside from shields, no other piece of gear affects the damage of the Jacks in any way from what I’ve tested so far.

Sample Builds.

There are a variety of specs you can mold the core build around. Here are some examples;

A) Super Badass Jackass

A slightly tweaked variant of the build I used to take down Eclipse/EOS. This build is designed entirely around the Badass Jacks and getting the strongest clones you can.


  • The amount of damage your Jacks do with even 5 seconds of Bolster is so great that you can still afford to move around for better positioning.
  • With TTF so high, it’s possible to keep a Jack out for an extra 10 seconds or more, which translates into an extra 200% damage by the time they die!
  • Cooldowns are less burdensome with Persistence giving over 50% shield capacity and potent health regen.


  • The damage is a bit anemic without Badass Jacks.
  • Poor passive stats and no weapon damage increases in the skill buffs.
  • Not the greatest build in the holodome.

B) Comrade Jack with more comrades!

A CoE spec that goes down to PtR. It operates as a hybrid build that gives the Jacks enough damage to be useful with the quasi multiplicative buff from LoM and Bolster, but mostly uses them as meat shields to stack accountability and abuse LoM’s fire rate buff for high DPS.


  • Having the Badass Jacks can make Accountability easier to stack in solo.
  • All of the COM boosts fit in with pet builds to a T (with the exception of Optimism. I’ll pretend it doesn’t exist on this COM :dukewhistle:) with minimal changes from the original build.


  • Less mobile than the original variant.
  • While being a good hybrid spec, it doesn’t make the Jacks as powerful as other builds.
  • The loss of Teamwork may be a turn off for some.

C) Role Model Hybrid Spec.

A simple, no frills tanking hybrid build that works in any situation. Whether your Badass Jacks are out, you’re trying to shake off those useless wimps who follow you around, or you don’t have any friends at all with you, this build gives you adequate survivability and damage no matter the occasion.


  • Gives both you and your Jacks equal perks while also giving you the freedom to play with any strategy you need in an encounter, whether it be killing your Jacks, letting them stack Bolster, or recalling them for Persistence.


  • Getting hit will always drop your DPS by a bit, and taking hard hits to your health massively lowers your DPS.


Thanks for reading those who made it down this far (I am REALLY sorry this came out so long, I trimmed a lot of fat out). Hopefully this has been helpful to you all. There isn’t as much info out there on pet builds since the old forums went down, but hopefully this cleared up some misconceptions on how pet Jacks work or has given you some ideas on how you can build one yourself.


Thx for the flag, solid presentation

Haven’t fully evaluated the build(s) but I have a couple notes.

I would mention Blue ProtagaVIPs, I hardly think Persistence or Hero is VITAL to the overall build and can be easily replaced with Lean or Res for the purpose of getting to capstone.

There are Shields like the belt and Maliwan spikes that also boost damage technically. Idk if it’s worth mentioning so its up 2 u.

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I’ve tried the Asteroid belt before. It wasn’t particularly impressive, but I didn’t have a great one, and a decent shield that does 100k damage on its own is pretty good.

I’ll get around to editing this more tomorrow. I’m feeling really groggy right now and need to stay away from the computer for a bit.

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If you wouldn’t mind, could you tell me more about your Antagonist set up? I’d like to have a better idea of how it works so I can give it a better description.

Also, spike shields are in. They work a bit better for builds that rely on Bolster than Nova shields.

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Primarily my antagonist setup isn’t a pet build (as it relies on heavy Delegation and the com boosts collaborate, not necessarily too kosher in the mindset of keeping badass Jack’s alive) but it can be suited to a pet build playstyle, where you use a blue cliche antagonist you’re moreso using the Jacks as bullet sponges with big shields (I use SOAs) that can heal themselvesi as they do non-trivial damage. It’s fairly low damage, and is more focused on tankiness, but it’s really good at what it does.

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I’ll try playing around with it over the next few days. I’d really like to find a way to make it work, since it is the only COM with a cool down reduction (which definitely helps). I have some ideas in mind for how I can make it more pet focused.

About the VIP/Protagonist COMs, I halfway agree with you. For the protagonist, I can see it, but not for the VIP.

The difference between a blue Protagonist and a purple one is +20% shield stats (at 5 points) vs. an extra 2-4% dps and 2.5-5% more health on kill for the Jacks.

The difference between a blue and purple VIP is 40% shield capacity and 10% health regen when you’re most vulnerable vs. 2-4% dps and 2.5-5% more health on kill for the Jacks.

It seems like a small gain to give up that big a boost during your cool down.
Edit: Although now that I think about it, its not like you can’t use transfusions…

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You do have several options to not die with AS down without relying on Persistence. Firstly you could just use a defensive shield, defensive grenades or whatnot and kill trash mobs and live off kill skills like winning and TTF (which are even more effective with said shields), but It seems you have come to that conclusion already.

I’d like to see where you’d take an Antagonist build with Pet Jacks, other than meat shields, I haven’t looked too far into the implications associated with delegation and whether or not they proc offensive shields but it’s worth a shot.

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With the VIP/Protagonist? Those COMs boost the Jack’s damage the most and are the best COMs to abuse roid damage with. I guess you could take defensive shield for mobs and change to a roid shield for bosses, but I don’t know, it feels strange be using either of those COMs with a defensive shield.

As for the Antagonist, I just had a neat idea. It’ll take a few days to get everything I need and report back though.

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Hey boom, how well do Jacks play with Amp Shields? Do they get Amp?

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I don’t believe they do. I could retest, but last I tried, it didn’t work.

BTW, tried the Antagonist. In a "Darth Timothy spec it worked out alright, so I imagine it would work well as a celestial doppelganger replacement. In close range melee builds (especially ones using novas or the rerouter), the damage reduction and shield recharge worked well. I’m still trying to pin down exactly how it’ll fit, but I think there might be a place for it.

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I changed the recommendation for the VIP/Protagonist from purple to blue. Jack has good synergy with the only 2 moxxi weapons in the game, and he has unlimited transfusions and good health regen, so you can live with the 3rd skill boost.

Also, changed the description of the Antagonist. Tried to find a way to make it work for mobbing, but it didn’t do it for me during mobbing runs. It really shined on bosses, especially when I needed a burst heal. I would call out my Jacks, immediately recall them for TTF, and have them back in 5 seconds. You could also use it to ensure you always have badasses available. Even if it’s not the greatest COM for keeping Jacks alive, I think that that kind of utility is invaluable.

Also, restested the AMP damage on Jacks. Doesn’t work. Also, just for ■■■■■ and giggles, tested Tranquility kits, bomber, and BAR as well. None increased their damage at all.

Much to my dismay, Supply and Demand didn’t seem to give my Jacks any noticeable regen at 5/5. I’ll try it again at 10/5 and low health to see if it actually does give them health regen.

Also going to try melee+crit duality kits, elemental duality kits, and things like the oxidizer and moonlight saga.

EDIT: Oxidizer doesn’t work, so I doubt moonlight saga or or dualities will either. Still gonna try though.

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What’s your rec for a Blue COM? Bolster Boost or TTF boost? also as long as we’re no longer considering the third skill whose passive is better?

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Definitely TTF. The life they get will be more important in the long run than the increased damage and max health.

As for the passives, it depends. The health regen on the VIP, terrible though it may be, is still useful when stacked with Supply and Demand, or when playing Coop with characters who can play medic (maniacal laughter claptrap for example).

In general though, I’d say the protagonist. Its more shield to regen with Winning, and less situational.

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Some nice little tidbits;

My original calculations about the added damage of Badass Jacks was wrong. They do about 3.5X damage (from 52129 to 185k) of normal Jacks.

Also, the Badass Jack’s max health might be around the 2mil mark w/out Bolster or any health alterations from shields or any other gear (2462500 was the exact number I got).
To test, I used this spec http://thepresequel.com/Jack/50505105000015050015005001000000000000
waited for the normal Jack to die, took the number my Badass gained back (197K) and multiplied it by 12.5.

Normal Jacks, using the same method, have 1725000 health.

If this was a faulty method please let me know. Otherwise, I think I need to update the OP.

###Kind of Big Deal
I don’t know about other transfusions (I tried the leech and normal transfusions and they didn’t seem to do this), but the transfusion trails from the Kiss Of Death DO heal your Jacks.
The downside is its only for 6000 health, and since they have 2 million w/out bolster and regen almost 200k at 5/5 TTF, the healing for the Jacks is effectively worthless :cry:.

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I’m just going to number check you, if you don’t mind…

Is this with or without the fire on flesh multiplier?

Why did you multiply it by 12.5? With your spec you should have multiplied it by 8.

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No problem. I need someone to check my math here. Its not my strong suit.

The 185k was with the multiplier, the 52129 was not. [quote=“khimerakiller, post:15, topic:1178359”]
Why did you multiply it by 12.5? With your spec you should have multiplied it by 8.
Because that’s the amount of health they get back from TTF. Why would I multiply by 8?

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So the actual difference in damage should be around ~2x not 3.5x, so approx. +100% Damage Boost from Normal Jacks seems like to be the more correct number.

Also considering 12.5% Of their Health is 1/8th of 100%, you’d multiplty the healed number by 8., so their correct max health would be approximately 1.5 Million.

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Ah, now I get you both.
I’ll edit that in the OP.

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100% / 12.5% = 8

If I by 197 oranges with 12.5 cents and I want to see how many orange I can buy with a dollar I won’t multiply 197 oranges by 12.5 cents. I would instead find how much money I had left and divide it by 12.5 cents. Then I would multiply it by 197 and then add the original 197.

TL;DR Just ask again if you’re confused.

To late I already wrote it. :stuck_out_tongue:

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Math never was my strong suit, so I’ll take your word for it. And I’ll refrain from putting too many numbers in the OP, lest they be incorrect. You don’t even want to know how much my head is hurting trying to figure out how Bolster works…

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