[Guide] Top Gunner - How to level up Moze & pilot Iron Bear (for beginners)

TOP GUNNER – A BEGINNER’S GUIDE ON HOW TO LEVEL UP MOZE & PILOT IRON BEAR

You’re right, Iceman. I am dangerous.


INTRODUCTION

I’m going to make the introduction of this post brief. Unlike all the other vault hunters, Moze only has one action skill, Iron Bear. But what makes Moze’s one action skill truly unique is that it operates and kills enemies without using her own weaponry; you can build towards it through just the skill trees alone and allow Bear to carry you through NVHM until you reach the level cap or unlock Mayhem mode. The advantage in this is that Moze’s progression from beginning to end game is arguably the least gear-dependent when compared to the other vault hunters.

So in this levelling guide, we’re taking the approach of making Moze’s life easier overall by placing our focus on Iron Bear. I will describe in detail the principles that truly make Iron Bear tick, what pieces of loot matter most, mention in detail level-by-level what options you have, which skills and hardpoints are recommended and which ones are best avoided either entirely or at least in the early stages of the game. There’s a wealth of information floating around the forums as well which will help you enormously in terms of pointing you in the right direction and I will be linking those threads and crediting the original authors at the end of this post.


IRON BEAR PRINCIPLES

There are four principles in being a Top Gunner, all going in descending order of key relevance, with the first being the most key principle of all and the fourth being the last priority and final area of focus. The four principles are:

  1. Increased Fuel-Efficiency

  2. Increased Cooldown Rate

  3. Increased Tanking Capabilities

  4. Increased Damage

INCREASED FUEL-EFFICENCY – Instead of this fancy term, people tend to refer to it as simply increasing Bear’s uptime. But that doesn’t tell the whole story because all four key principles have a helping hand in providing extra uptime in varying degrees. When it comes to piloting Iron Bear, we should refer to the utmost key principle that is fuel-efficiency because this is the one that contributes the most towards extra uptime above all others. There are three different ways in which we can make our fuel consumption more efficient:

  • Decrease fuel drain – Some of Bear’s hardpoints, particularly the heavier-hitting ones, can burn off a lot of fuel in a short amount of time. So decreasing fuel drain is very important in being able to use those hardpoints for longer. The tier 1 skill Deadlines is the only source in Moze’s skill trees that directly contributes to this. But both the Bear Trooper and Raging Bear legendary class mods also focus on diminishing fuel drain as part of their respective special effects. It must be noted however, that decreased fuel drain only occurs when using Bear’s weapons; it does not decrease the passive, standard rate of fuel consumption.

  • Increase fuel tank capacity – The more duration Iron Bear has, the more fuel he has available to burn. Stainless Steel Bear is Moze’s only skill that does this. However, the legendary Bear Trooper COM also adds a considerable 50% extra IB duration as one of its special effects. To have either extra fuel tank capacity or reduced fuel drain on its own is a great benefit, but combine both types of bonuses together and the net gain is greater than the sum of its parts, resulting in tremendously enhanced overall fuel-efficiency. Visually, the fuel metre depletes at a much slower rate.

  • Refuel – Nothing else in the entire game is capable of refilling Bear’s fuel tank except for killing enemies with the benefit of Deadlines. Even though you get diminishing returns with each kill, if you’ve already got fairly high fuel-efficiency, then the fuel metre is going to deplete so slowly that even a 6% refund on your fuel metre will aesthetically appear to be quite a sizeable amount. It’s not quite possible to keep Iron Bear going on forever similar to how Zane can do so with his action skills, but refuelling is not just a great way of topping up the fuel tank while piloting Iron Bear; it can also indirectly benefit the next key principle to increasing Bear’s total uptime.

INCREASED COOLDOWN RATE – This principle is about Moze doing her part to increase Bear’s uptime after she’s ejected herself from the cockpit; the less cooldown there is, the more Bear uptime there can be. When it comes to cooldown duration, Moze is lagging behind every other vault hunter with up to a maximum of 100 seconds left waiting for Iron Bear to be ready again. But fear not, there are numerous ways in which we can tackle this lengthy cooldown period:

  • Cooldown refund – This literally requires zero skill points and zero pieces of gear, and should always be used every time you pilot Iron Bear no matter what. You can simply hold down the ejector key/button long before Bear runs out of fuel, and your remaining action skill duration will be refunded proportionate to how much fuel was remaining in the tank. This is a critical function if you think Iron Bear’s armour is about to drop to zero: you will not be refunded with cooldown for whatever amount of fuel was remaining on the metre if Bear is destroyed, unless Moze ejects herself out of the cockpit before that happens!

  • Demolition Woman skills – This skill tree has Grizzled which is arguably Moze’s best tier 1 skill and does a lot to cut down the cooldown duration. There is also the tier 5 skill Explosive Punctuation but it is not as effective and its impact is greatly diminished when combined with other bonuses to help reduce cooldown duration.

  • Passive bonus – This is the ‘+X% Action Skill Cooldown Rate’ passive bonus which can be found on both class mods and artefacts. At the same level as each other, class mods provide bigger bonuses to cooldown rate than artefacts so you definitely want to find a mod that offers this bonus.

  • Anointments – This is something you won’t see until you approach end game. There is a generic anointment on shields (for all vault hunters) which boosts action skill cooldown rate for a short time after the action skill has finished, but it’s in the same boat as Explosive Punctuation for overall effectiveness. Moze however has an anointment unique to her where after exiting Iron Bear, each kill yields a bonus 30% CDR with its own lifespan of 10 seconds, meaning the bonuses can stack if you grab quick, multiple kills in brief succession. Although this anointment can appear on weapons too, it’s far better on a shield where any of your weapons can trigger it instead of just one or two. You can actually stack the same anointment (from the shield and a weapon together) for +60% CDR per kill for 10 seconds but in end game and particularly Mayhem mode, you’ll want an anointment that dishes out bonus damage in those inevitable moments when Bear is on cooldown.

  • Topped Off – I for one have not used this in a long time because I’m one of those people who plays without my Guardian Rank enabled, so it’s definitely possible to greatly reduce Bear’s cooldown duration without this Hunter perk in the background. But there’s no denying that it’s amazing and its description doesn’t really do itself justice. Whenever your shield is full, your action skill cooldown rate isn’t simply buffed by a low, random number: it’s turbocharged by a whopping +200% CDR!

INCREASED TANKING CAPABILITIES – Iron Bear can be described as a tank in all fairness but as a principle, tanking refers to increasing his capabilities to sustain damage, avoid heavy-hitting projectiles whenever possible and carry on the good fight. It’s all well and good wanting to fixate on damage like most other folks, but what good is dealing damage if Bear has too many chinks in his armour to reliably tank and stay in the battle? Remember, if Bear’s armour drops to zero, then Iron Bear’s potential uptime is cut dramatically short and Moze has to wait for the full cooldown duration before she can call Bear back into the fray. So it’s somewhat accurate to say that increasing Bear’s tanking capabilities is yet another means of increasing his uptime. And these are the ways in which that can be done:

  • Armour skills – Only Stainless Steel Bear directly increases Iron Bear’s max armour in Moze’s skill trees. But there is also Security Bear which takes Bear’s max armour and slaps on an additional 60% of it in the form of a bubble shield. The only skill that allows Bear to self-repair his armour is Vampyr which can be done with any form of splash damage and it’s an absolute must-have skill in end game and Mayhem gameplay.

  • Moze’s max health – Iron Bear’s max armour is also influenced by Moze’s max health. She does not have any skills that increase max health in her skill trees. But she can get max health increases as passive bonuses from class mods and artefacts, and some shields in the game can spawn with parts that boost a vault hunter’s max health by a certain percentage, depending on how many HEALTH parts it drops with. It can be as little as +10% or as high as +50%. There is also a shield anointment that boosts Moze’s max shields and health both by an extra 75% for 25 seconds after exiting Iron Bear. If you’re able to call Bear again within those 25 seconds, the bonus 75% max health will apply to his max armour, and the bonus lasts for the entire duration that Bear remains active. But it’s unlikely that you’ll always be able to do this, and the +30% CDR per kill anointment is superior.

  • Double-jump – A lesser-known trick is that Iron Bear has a double-jump feature. You simply tap the jump key/button twice in any direction you wish to go and he performs a quick, airborne dash in that direction. It’s a great way of increasing Bear’s general movement speed as it does not affect the fuel metre at all, but it’s also great for dodging a lot of enemy fire and staying in the battle for a lot longer. Because of this trick, simply stacking as much max armour as possible isn’t as essential as it once was perceived to be.

  • Melee stomp – Iron Bear can perform a stomp attack simply by hitting the melee key/button. The damage is nothing to speak of in end game Mayhem mode but in the earlier stages as you’re levelling up Moze, this does decent damage against trash mobs. Its main purpose is more utilitarian as the stomp radius can target enemies all around you and even stun them on occasion, making it incredibly useful against melee enemies trying to rush Bear.

  • Spatial awareness – Iron Bear’s hitbox is tall enough to collide with overhanging pieces of structure, meaning that he’s not able to pass through certain door frames or move through certain areas. This also explains why Moze is unable to call Bear; if it tells you there’s not enough space, it means either an enemy or a part of the map within your immediate proximity is stopping you. Bear can also damage himself with any splash hardpoints or augments if he’s too close to the targets, so this is another factor of spatial awareness.

INCREASED DAMAGE – Your priorities might no doubt change once you reach end game and Mayhem mode. But damage is the smallest priority of the lot when it comes to the earlier stages of your playthrough as Moze which is what this thread is focusing on primarily anyway. With all other key principles tended to first, your hardpoints will burn less fuel and you’ll have more fuel overall with which to fire more shots in total, if necessary. Now when you increase Iron Bear’s damage, it’s likely that you will need fewer shots than before with which to kill enemies, ergo even less fuel consumption. And the more enemies you kill at a faster and frequent rate, the more frequently you can refuel the tank. So even increased DPS can indirectly lead to increased Bear uptime! This is exactly how we can increase Iron Bear’s DPS:

  • Hardpoints and augments – Depending on the enemies or even the bosses you’re fighting, sometimes choosing the right hardpoints and augments makes enough of a difference by itself. For example, you could use dual Vanquisher Rocket Pods to kill Graveward if you so wanted. But you could do it a lot faster if you had dual Railguns with the Hell on Rails augment seeing as it’s a hardpoint that can inflict incendiary damage, on a boss weak against the incendiary element.

  • Skills – The majority of the skills that boost Iron Bear’s damage in some form, will state on their cards that they do, and all except one of them boost what is commonly referred to as ‘Type A’ damage in Iron Bear’s damage formula. The only two that don’t specify it yet do boost his DPS are Drowning in Brass and Phalanx Doctrine. These both happen to be skills that boost ‘Type B’ damage in his damage formula, but bear in mind that the bonus from the latter only applies to Bear’s left hardpoint. There will be a link in the Credits section to Bear’s damage formula at the end of this guide.

  • Action skill damage - You can only find this as a passive bonus on gear, but it’s the main passive bonus to look for when procuring gear for Iron Bear.

  • Splash damage – This damage type applies to Iron Bear’s damage formula. The only skill that can boost this is Torgue Cross-Promotion, but you can also get splash damage as a passive bonus on class mods, and there’s Area-of-Effect damage on artefacts which not only buffs splash damage (more than the class mod) but increases the splash damage radius at the same time.

  • Grenade anointment – By default, you can’t toss grenades while piloting Iron Bear and because this is during the first playthrough in NVHM, you’re unlikely to see this anointment until closer to end game. But when piloting Iron Bear and sustaining damage, there’s a 20% chance that a free grenade will spawn; the anointment does not take grenades from Moze’s own supply.

  • Grenade damage – Iron Bear can benefit from grenade damage as a passive bonus that can roll on class mods and artefacts, but it’s arguably the least important passive bonus to him because in order to profit from it, he either needs the grenade mod to be anointed with that 20% chance, or Moze must wear the legendary Mind Sweeper COM so that the passive bonus will boost the damage of the micro-grenades that can spawn from critical hits. Bear just cannot spam grenades on anywhere near the same scale as Moze can.

Overall, all you’ve got to realise with these principles is that Mayhem mode and the later levels multiply the health, shield and armour bars by 10 times or more. Even when you reach the level cap, Mayhem 10 takes the bars you see without Mayhem mode enabled, and multiplies those figures by 101! So trust me when I say: you do NOT need to fixate on extra damage for Iron Bear or even Moze herself as much as you think when in the earlier stages of your first playthrough. Just make sure that Moze can survive first and foremost. Funnily enough, increasing Bear uptime is one of the more effective ways of doing just that, as Moze herself is completely impervious to any source of damage as long as she is piloting Iron Bear!


GEAR

One of the factors that makes life as a Bear pilot so much simpler is that it doesn’t really matter what guns Moze has equipped or whether or not they’re anointed. Another factor is that most of the gear that benefits Iron Bear ages so well that you don’t always have to fret over making sure they match the level cap. Although one could argue that we should include grenades in this topic, that’s definitely something for end game after you’ve finished levelling up Moze. In Iron Bear builds for end game and Mayhem mode, it’s the gear Moze wears that makes the difference for Bear, and that’s something that you can see for yourself and apply in your NVHM run. Here are the three gear slots that matter most to Iron Bear, from top to bottom priority:

  1. Class Mod

  2. Artefact

  3. Shield

CLASS MOD – This is literally the only gear slot that has the potential for all its bonuses and special effects to be relevant to Iron Bear. We should mention passive bonuses mostly because they appear on both legendary and non-unique class mods. The ones to get for Iron Bear are action skill damage, action skill cooldown rate, max health and splash damage. Because this guide is for the first playthrough, you’re not going to have immediate access to something like the Raging Bear which is a Mayhem-exclusive drop. So we’ll be mentioning the more common class mods you’re likely to see:

  • Tank Gal – This class mod is your best non-unique one as a pilot who wants more time in the cockpit. The more points in Stainless Steel Bear the better, although extra points in Deadlines will boost refuelling significantly. And if that wasn’t good enough already, this COM also can give you +1 Some for the Road, giving you free licence to spam your favourite launchers as soon as you exit Iron Bear.

  • Commander – This is the same class mod as the one above except instead of SSB, you have Vampyr. It’s a great class mod, and it could be of real value to you in the earliest levels where it can provide you with points in Vampyr at a stage when you haven’t progressed far enough down the skill tree to invest in it with your own skill points.

  • Grenadier - For starters, a good version of this class mod is any that does not waste bonus points on Why Can’t I Carry All the Grenades which is one of the most pointless skills Moze has. For her and Iron Bear though, what makes this class mod a good option considering the specific levelling path we’ll be taking in this guide, is that it can boost Vampyr for sustain and Torgue Cross-Promotion which makes a contribution towards the splash damage multiplier for your splash hardpoints in the event that you’re not able to find any gear that offers splash/AOE damage via passive bonuses.

  • Marksman – If you just want straight-up extra DPS, this class mod has you covered. Do NOT neglect +1 Experimental Munitions; it’s worth more than a single point of Scorching RPMs and for Moze’s sake, being able to run with 2/1 Redistribution is a tremendous QoL enhancement. A drop with all 3 bonus skills is not only the best purple-rarity version but also the most common one.

  • Firewalker – Got a fleshy badass or boss that you want to make short work of? Keep an eye out for this class mod then as it’s the only non-unique one that offers bonus points for Stoke the Embers which makes an enormous difference against flesh.

  • Bear Trooper – This is a legendary class mod so it’s not likely that you’ll come across it in your first playthrough. But on the rare chance that RNG is kind and graces you with this world drop, you’re pretty much sorted for the rest of the playthrough! If you already have 3/3 Deadlines and somehow found a COM that cranks up SSB to 10/5, then you’ve achieved maximum fuel-efficiency for Iron Bear without question. Enjoy the ride!

ARTEFACT – If you don’t happen to know, when you look at a typical legendary artefact, they consist of prefixes and suffixes. The suffixes are what denote the core artefact itself and distinguish it from other legendary artefacts. But the prefixes can be applied to any legendary artefact that can drop with a prefix. An example of a prefix is Last Stand, Snowdrift, Elemental Projector, etc. Non-unique artefacts (ones that drop in white, green, blue and purple rarities) are solely the prefixes that you would see on most legendary artefacts. Purple-rarity ones though can drop with three slots for passive bonuses which is the same as most legendary artefacts.

There are no prefixes or suffixes from any artefacts that directly benefit Iron Bear, so the only things that we want from artefacts are passive bonuses to area-of-effect damage and max health. Action skill cooldown rate is an option but it would stack with diminishing returns when combined with other CDR buffs and the value is lower compared to what class mods offer at the same level. Grenade damage is also an option but again, Bear being able to use grenades is a point of consideration for end game. As a Moze player, you always want extra magazine size from your artefacts; the bonus is far superior to that of a class mod’s at the same level.

SHIELD – Anointments won’t be much of a factor until you reach end game and Mayhem mode so the only thing you need to look out for in your first playthrough is shield drops that provide bonus max health. The more max health the better. Luckily for Iron Bear, there is Mendel’s Multivitamin Shield which can be obtained from the Holy Spirits sidequest given by Brother Mendel himself and being on Athenas, this particular sidequest becomes available relatively early in the playthrough as well. But you MUST complete the optional objective of collecting ratch livers in order to be rewarded with the shield! It comes fixed with parts that yield +50% max health for Moze, thus having the knock-on effect of providing a lot more max armour for Bear.


LEVEL PROGRESSION

Before we start levelling up, I’m going to throw in a little disclaimer: you’re absolutely free to do as you please in your own game. If you want to experiment and satisfy your own curiosity then that’s your prerogative, you do you. It’s certainly possible to level up Moze without placing much or any focus on Iron Bear. This post is purely advice and tips for beginners who are new to Moze or are completely unsure as to how to approach her in the early playthrough, and wish to know how to optimally level her up and pilot Iron Bear in the process.

So in this guide, we’re starting off in the Demolition Woman skill tree in order to boost Iron Bear’s fuel-efficiency first and foremost, while unlocking one of his best hardpoints as soon as possible. We then shift our focus to the Shield of Retribution skill tree to unlock augments for the Railgun as it’s a great bossing weapon by default, but its variety of augments allows Bear to play with the heavier elements and also gain more mobbing power and extra means of splash damage. We return back to the DW tree to grab a couple more essential skills and augments, and then the end of the road is in sight with DPS buffs galore awaiting us in the Bottomless Mags skill tree.

Level 2 – Unlock Iron Bear, Minigun, V-35 Grenade Launcher and Railgun – It’s going to be a few levels before you unlock the first augment and a new hardpoint for Iron Bear so you may as well take the time to try out and get accustomed to what you have available right from the start. See which hardpoints you prefer, be it using a variety or doubling up on one particular choice.

  • Minigun is a solid choice to start off with. Good damage per bullet, solid fire rate and easy to land multiple critical hits. The damage is only kinetic but it will be some time before you run into enemies with armour bars so there’s no damage penalty to worry about. This is probably the best hardpoint to start off with until you unlock more hardpoints and augments elsewhere.

  • V-35 Grenade Launcher is decent but not the best hardpoint that the Demolition Woman skill tree has to offer. Having said that, there’s no harm in experimenting with it early on and seeing whether you develop a liking to it or not. If you were not to progress down the tree, this would be your only hardpoint that can inflict splash damage until you reach tier 4 in either of the other skill trees.

  • Railgun is very strong – a huge single blast with a lot of damage. But it is a single-shot burst-DPS weapon which is easy to miss your shots with and also needs to recharge after each shot, and it does drain Bear’s fuel tank considerably with no skills as of yet to increase fuel-efficiency. Although the damage is high enough in early game to not matter much, the shock damage means that the default Railgun will only deal 65% of its full damage against flesh and armour. Killing enemies and draining big shields will not be a problem whatsoever, but you will burn through your fuel quicker and be a lot more likely to endure longer cooldown periods as a consequence.

Levels 3 to 5 – +3 Deadlines - If we’re going to make Iron Bear the star of the show then our first order of business is to give him more stage time with added fuel-efficiency. The decreased fuel drain means you’ve got more fuel in the tank and thus more shots to fire, and the refunded fuel from kills helps to either keep Bear going for longer, or to top up the fuel tank as much as you can before exiting it early for shorter cooldown periods.

Levels 6 to 7 – +2 Grizzled, unlock Shaped Charge and Vanquisher Rocket Pod – Two points in this skill is nothing to write home about but it is a start and is arguably Moze’s best tier 1 skill overall regardless of how much or how little you intend on using Iron Bear. If you’re the impatient type, you have the option of maxing out this skill by the time you reach level 10. But because it’s still very early days and we’re playing under the easiest and most forgiving conditions the game could offer us, the level progression will proceed under the assumption that we will return to this skill later to top it up. Ignore Fire in the Skag Den; the bonus damage it offers is quite pitiful to say the least.

  • Shaped Charge is a QoL improvement for the V-35 no doubt. But it pales in comparison to the burst-DPS that the Vanquisher possesses. Quite a proportion of Moze players swear by this particular hardpoint and it’s not hard to see why when you take a look at the DPS it can unleash. For the amount of rockets it releases at such a rapid rate, it’s not that taxing on Bear’s fuel tank as it might appear at first glance. However, if you’re overly keen to fire off as many rockets in rapid succession as possible, you might find that you’ll spend a lot of time waiting on Bear to reload the pods. So try to manage your rate of fire to spare yourself that frustration.

Levels 7 to 12 – +5 Stainless Steel Bear, unlock Musical Chairs and Active Tracking – Extra armour, extra fuel tank capacity and extra IB damage all in the same skill, what’s not to love? Anything that boosts Iron Bear’s duration yields a bigger increase in fuel-efficiency than you’d expect when combined with decreases in fuel drain. And the damage bonus is classed as ‘Type A’ in Bear’s damage formula.

  • My honest recommendation: ignore both of the augments. The singularity effect from Musical Chairs isn’t bad for crowd control but not particularly strong by itself and requires you firing a lot of grenades to make use of the augment. And I recommend against Active Tracking because the tracking feature favours accuracy at the cost of limited DPS. But if you struggle to use the Vanquisher without an augment, you might find the tracking useful and it’s certainly helpful against very mobile or airborne targets.

Level 13 – +1 Auto Bear – In the end game meta, this is a key skill because it allows both Bear and Moze to be on the battlefield together instead of it just being one or the other, greatly increasing total DPS. Think of this skill not just as an extra 15 seconds of Iron Bear remaining operational, but as a flat 15-second reduction of the cooldown duration as well. The one thing to be wary of with Auto Bear is that the AI handles certain hardpoints well but not others, Vanquisher Rocket Pods without augments being one such example of the latter.

Level 14 – +1 Dakka Bear – If you so choose, you could actually pick this up at an earlier level if you’re in a coop playthrough with a friend or a group. In a solo playthrough however, it’s impossible to use this unless you have already acquired Auto Bear which is why it hasn’t been mentioned until now. Whoever is manning the turret is impervious to any damage until Bear is destroyed or self-destructs, and will also give themselves and Bear a damage bonus. This part is underrated in particular because if you have Guardian Rank enabled and have the perk Topped Off, you can man the turret and stay there as long as you can to ensure that your shield remains full and dramatically shorten your cooldown period.

Level 15 – +1 Security Bear – The shield recharge delay might be long enough to the point where you would have to seek shelter for the bubble shield to recharge, but it’s basically 60% of Bear’s max armour added on in the form of a shield.

Levels 16-19 – +4 Armored Infantry, unlock Hell on Rails and Bear Fist – This skill might be of benefit to only Moze and does nothing for Bear, but we’re spending the points in the Shield of Retribution skill tree now and early on so that we can unlock Railgun augments for the bosses that we’ll eventually fight. And in case you’re wondering, Selfless Vengeance does nothing for Bear either so we’re totally avoiding it.

  • Trust me, when you’re up against bosses with big bars of flesh, you’ll be glad that you unlocked Hell on Rails and can attach it to dual Railguns; it will make your life a hell of a lot easier! As for Bear Fist, easily Bear’s worst hardpoint overall. If you’ve got even the slightest curiosity about it, then get it out of your system immediately and run with it in the most forgiving stages of the game before you forever lose the opportunity. I will not describe in detail the augments that we unlock later on.

Levels 20 to 24 – +5 Drowning in Brass, unlock Capacitive Armature and Wild Swing – This is a great skill for Iron Bear because the gun damage buff for Moze also counts as ‘Type B’ in Bear’s damage formula and applies to both hardpoints. In other words, it’s multiplicative in relation to every other source of damage.

  • Imagine if Iron Bear was able to wield his own Brainstormer. Although the damage is the same as the default Railgun, the splinter effect makes Capacitive Armature obscenely powerful when mobbing and stripping multiple shields in a single shot. The mobbing power of this augment is well worth using as one of your main weapons, you just need to marshal it with as much added fuel-efficiency as you can muster.

Level 25 – +1 Experimental Munitions – This skill applies to Bear as well as Moze and on the end of a critical hit, this is decent incendiary damage to be fair and well worth the skill point.

Level 26 - +1 Armored Infantry – We’ve got one more Railgun augment to unlock and need to spend 4 more points at this juncture to do that. So we top up and max out this tier 1 skill for starters.

Levels 27 to 29 - +3 Thin Red Line and/or Vladof Ingenuity, unlock Corrosive Sabot Round and Close the Distance – We’ve now arrived at a complicated junction here. I have not decisively recommended where the next 3 points should go because this is very much a case of personal preference and also what type(s) of shields you lean towards.

Thin Red Line reserves a portion of Moze’s health and converts it into max shield capacity. This is a reservation, not a reduction thus this skill will NOT reduce Iron Bear’s max armour. Additionally, the tier 4 skill Desperate Measures which also applies bonus damage to Bear, functions entirely on how much missing health Moze has which fosters synergy with TRL. This skill is also good in the sense that it goes with the flow; Moze’s max health increases with each level so subsequently, the conversion into max shield capacity will keep up with the levels too. However, it’s Moze who is at risk here because maximum investment means sacrificing her health gate. Despite retaining health gate, even 2/3 investment isn’t so foolproof unless you’re wearing a legendary shield like the Big Boom Blaster or the Transformer. If you’re an avid fan of Pangolin shields which typically don’t have high capacity, then this skill would be a better choice.

Vladof Ingenuity is on the opposite end of the scale where it would make more sense if you were wearing Hyperion or even Anshin shields. In isolation, it’s not as risky as TRL and is arguably a more reliable and consistent skill in the earlier stages of the game. But unlike its tier 2 cousin, there’s no direct or indirect manner in which this skill contributes one iota to Iron Bear. Another thing you have to realise is that VI only takes into account the base shield capacity; it does not factor in any other max shield increase whatsoever. And just to clarify another skill that’s available at this stage, Full Can of Whoop-Ass is a brilliant skill when used in a strict Auto Bear build because the recharge isn’t broken even if Moze sustains damage. This is due to the skill itself lasting for 7 seconds as soon as it’s triggered. However, this guide is about piloting Iron Bear and Moze’s shield will eventually recharge while inside Bear anyway so we don’t need to waste a skill point here.

Another thing to ask yourself is this: what should you do if you plan on wearing Mendel’s Multivitamin Shield for the long haul if not the remainder of the entire playthrough? Because for all the reasons already stated, Vladof Ingenuity will be the better choice initially but as Moze continues to level up, Thin Red Line will be the only thing that’s providing it life-support. What you do here is totally up to you but with all things considered, my honest recommendation would be to go +1 TRL and +2 VI, whether you’re wearing the same shield or you end up changing shields later down the line. You might want to give +2 to the former and it might work out fine but at the very least, you should have one point in each skill.

  • By unlocking Corrosive Sabot Round, we’ve now got everything we ventured down the SoR skill tree for! The corrosive augment not only injects splash damage into the mix but you get to fire 3 shots before having to recharge, and it’s a lot more conservative on fuel consumption than the shock and incendiary versions. As it so happens, my favourite hardpoint combo for Iron Bear, whether it’s me at the controls or the AI, is to run dual Railguns with Capacitive Armature on the right and Corrosive Sabot Round on the left. It’s a deadly combination and has served me very well!

Levels 30 to 32 - +3 Grizzled – I did say we’d be coming back to top up and maximise this great tier 1 skill. The reduction in cooldown duration will now start to feel a lot more significant, assuming you didn’t already take the option to max out the skill earlier on.

Level 33 - +1 Torgue Cross-Promotion, unlock Lock and Speedload and Target Softening – One point is not much for this skill at all considering it’s Moze’s only skill that boosts splash damage. But you’ve got the option of adding more points to it in the next few levels.

  • Lock and Speedload is arguably the best augment for the V-35 yet at the same time, the heaviest one for fuel consumption. And Target Softening is really more of a support augment so that Bear’s AI can set Moze up with some bonus damage for her guns. Although it can be used while piloting Iron Bear to boost another more powerful hardpoint, in some cases you’re still significantly limiting Bear’s total DPS potential just by having it equipped.

Levels 34 to 38 - +5 Torgue Cross-Promotion and/or Vampyr, unlock Hammerdown Protocol – Because now we have a choice that includes V-35, Vanquisher or Corrosive Sabot Round, it’s a good time to go for Vampyr which is the last key skill for tanking capabilities when it comes to Iron Bear. How many points you spend in it is up to you, because it will largely be dependent on which hardpoints and augments you use.

My recommendation is this: go for +5 Vampyr if only one of your hardpoints/augments inflicts splash damage. The reason I say this is because the skill doesn’t care how much splash damage Bear inflicts, only that he’s inflicting instances of splash damage in the first place. With only one hardpoint contributing any form of splash damage, you’ll get more from having a form of reliable sustain, and it’s a key part of increasing Bear’s tanking capabilities. But if both your hardpoints/augments of choice are equipped to inflict splash damage, then I would opt for +3 Vampyr and +2 TCP when you reach level 38. You have both hardpoints providing sustain for Bear’s armour and you’ve got some more bonus splash damage to increase the splash multiplier in the damage formula.

  • Hammerdown Protocol offers a lot of damage which should be the default when you’re raining down nuclear warheads on your enemies. However, the nukes are not kind on Bear’s fuel and you have to wait for the reload before the next nuke can be fired. With fuel-efficiency being the augment’s biggest weakness, it might actually be a better option for Auto Bear. It depends on whether or not you’ve managed to accrue a fuel-efficient class mod for Iron Bear at this stage.

Levels 39 to 42 - +4 Cloud of Lead, unlock Let Off Some Steam and Salamander - Now that we’ve got all the essentials from the Demolition Woman and Shield of Retribution skill trees, we can turn our attention to Bottomless Mags. Cloud of Lead is like a quasi-increase to magazine size for Moze but the bonus incendiary shot also applies to Iron Bear and his arsenal. Matched Set is intended as a gear-specific tier 1 skill, something that you consider for end game builds if you love one manufacturer more than any other. It also offers zero benefit to Iron Bear so we’re moving past it.

  • Let Off Some Steam is a total upgrade for the default Minigun and you should definitely equip it if you’re still using the hardpoint at this stage of the game. There’s no doubt that Salamander is a better close-quarter option than Bear Fist, but neither its DPS nor its requirements for optimal performance really justify it as an equal or superior choice of hardpoint compared to everything else we’ve already unlocked. I also won’t bother talking about the flamethrower’s augments.

Level 43 - +1 Redistribution – It’s easily one of Moze’s top 5 skills and you should always get it even in the heaviest of end game Bear-focused builds. It does nothing for Bear himself, but his critical hits can proc the skill for Moze even when she’s in the cockpit.

Levels 44 to 46 - +3 Stoke the Embers – This tier 2 skill boosts the incendiary elemental multiplier so any skills that deal bonus incendiary damage will of course benefit. The biggest difference in DPS you’ll notice is when using the Railgun with the Hell on Rails augment.

Level 47 - +1 Cloud of Lead, unlock General Winter and Fuel Economy – One more point in CoL to top it up so that every fourth shot Moze and Bear fire will deal bonus incendiary damage.

  • General Winter is an interesting augment because it allows Iron Bear to slow down and freeze targets. In essence, it’s more of a support augment than a DPS one so you might prefer to use this with Bear’s AI. Having said that, it does reduce fuel drain by -40% per bullet fired and fuel is only relevant when you’re piloting Bear. If you’re still rocking a Minigun at this stage, give it a try.

Levels 48 to 52 - +5 Scorching RPMs, unlock Exploding. Bullets and Chemical Warfare – This is definitely one of the heaviest DPS skills for Moze and Bear both. The Iron Bear damage bonus is Type A in the formula and the bonus critical damage also works for Bear. Bizarrely though, the bonus fire rate only applies to Bear’s left hardpoint, just like the Type B damage skills. Rushin’ Offensive does nothing for Iron Bear.

  • Exploding. Bullets is pretty much the pinnacle of Minigun performance. The augment takes the classic, reliable hardpoint and allows it to do consistent splash damage. Because the fire rate is dramatically reduced, this has the flipside of making the hardpoint even more fuel-efficient than you’d expect. For total DPS, it’s not the de facto best option Iron Bear has but as a splash option, it’s one of the best choices if your game plan depends on landing critical hits galore.

Level 53 - +1 Specialist Bear – Oh boy, if you’re not dual-wielding the same hardpoint at this stage, you will be once you get a taste for this one-point wonder! What makes Specialist Bear so special is that it occupies its own slot in Bear’s damage formula so essentially, it’s a x1.6 multiplier relative to everything else. You can practically label it as Type C damage if you wanted to.

Levels 54 to 65 – This is totally your call now. The last skill points can go anywhere really. I will mention only the skills that either affect Iron Bear or ones that he can proc for Moze.

  • Fire in the Skag Den does not produce the insane Mayhem-scaling damage for Iron Bear like it does for Moze when she’s on-foot. In my opinion, it’s too weak to ever merit an investment of multiple skill points. But if your Moze often runs with weapons that are anointed with consecutive hits or you equip Bear with splash hardpoints 90% of the time, then a single skill point is a worthwhile investment.

  • Means of Destruction is a great skill for Moze no doubt but it’s not such a conventional choice in a Bear-focused build as one might assume. This is just like Redistribution; Bear’s splash damage can trigger the skill for Moze, but it does nothing for him. Also consider the fact that the 20% chance anointment for grenades during Iron Bear spawns free grenades; they are not consumed from Moze’s own stockpile. The more you can increase Bear uptime and decrease his cooldown, the less relevant this skill becomes in most Bear builds.

  • Torgue Cross-Promotion is a skill that enjoyed a recent buff which gives Moze players real food for thought despite its double-edged nature. It’s now the only skill Moze has which directly buffs splash damage, but it has a small chance of doubling the radius. This can be great for skills like Vampyr, but it can also damage Bear’s armour and send Moze straight into FFYL if you’re not careful. If you’re contemplating investing in this skill, be sure to stay safe and keep your distance. If you’re primarily running splash hardpoints, then your last skill points might be best spent on maxing out TCP. But if you’re using other hardpoints such as the Railgun and are frequently using all its augments, you won’t benefit so much from maxing out this skill.

  • Pull the Holy Pin is one of those skills that Iron Bear can use, but only if the grenade is anointed for him to use, or if Moze is wearing the Mind Sweeper class mod. Moze usually tosses grenades that release multiple explosions in a single toss so with that in mind, it’s wise in most cases to spend just one skill point here. Iron Bear can’t spam grenades like Moze can so I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of benefit to be had from maxing out the skill.

  • Vampyr is key no matter what, but it’s one to consider more carefully if your final Bear build only ends up using one splash hardpoint/augment. If that’s the case, you really ought to max out this skill as a priority, if you haven’t done so already.

  • Explosive Punctuation is a skill you do NOT want to waste points on! It adds extremely little when combined with other skills, passive bonuses or anointments that reduce cooldown, and it simply does not merit tier 5 billing for what little it gives in return. I say that even in the wake of Gearbox’s futile attempt to ‘buff’ the skill.

  • Desperate Measures is more Type A damage for Bear but as I mentioned before, his access to this skill’s bonus damage is based on Moze’s missing health. This means either investing in Thin Red Line or Moze wearing either a Front Loader shield or a Deathless artefact. If it’s a case of either choosing this skill or one like TCP for your last few points to find a home, I would only recommend DM if the Railgun is your favourite hardpoint and you frequently use all of its augments. But it would also require Moze to wear the Deathless relic to truly justify choosing the skill.

  • Phalanx Doctrine has to be considered a worthy option ever since the level cap was increased to level 65. Although it bizarrely only boosts the left hardpoint’s damage, each stack still lasts for 30 seconds and with Drowning in Brass in combination, you could easily rack up in the region of well over +100% Type B damage, if not beyond +200% for Bear’s left hardpoint in conventional gameplay scenarios!


END GAME

Whether you’ve just hit the level cap and/or have completed your first playthrough and are about to dip your toes into Mayhem mode, action skill damage scales according to your Mayhem levels. This means that unlike in the earliest days of the game’s life, Iron Bear still packs a mighty punch when it comes to Mayhem 10. Iron Bear is the best way to level up Moze and in end game, he’s capable of so much DPS that he’s arguably one of Moze’s best options for a more focused build.

For a long time, the Moze meta has always been to craft an ‘Infantry’ build – where Moze is constantly active and only entering/exiting Iron Bear for AI support and to proc anointments. There are also ‘Pilot’ builds which predominantly feature more of Iron Bear and there are ‘Hybrid’ builds where Moze and Bear each feature roughly 50:50. In my mind, pilot and hybrid builds are somewhat interchangeable in how they function because you always want to exit Bear earlier than usual and score some kills when Auto Bear is active so that the cooldown duration is over by the time the AI self-destructs. But no matter what, if you choose to make a build that focuses on Bear, then consider the following:

  • Moze’s three strongest class mods for DPS and most commonly-used legendary class mods in infantry builds, also happen to work with Iron Bear. The Blast Master offers up to +100% splash damage. The Green Monster (which requires DLC1 before you can equip it) can provide the same splash damage bonus via a hidden glitch which is explained and demonstrated more clearly in this video. And Bear can use the Mind Sweeper to score critical hits and spawn micro-grenades just like Moze can. But these class mods all boost (splash) DPS at the expense of fuel-efficiency. If you intend on piloting Iron Bear even for brief periods, the hybrid approach would be more ideal when using any one of these class mods.

  • Raging Bear is perceived by many to be the meta class mod for Bear-focused gameplay. It’s got a great selection of bonus skills; there is the option of SSB which is the best one overall, you can boost Bear’s refuelling with bonus points in Deadlines and Stoke the Embers can surprisingly contribute quite a bit towards the total DPS. However, one of its special effects is where you must land kills in order to continuously decrease Bear’s fuel drain and this creates two issues. The first one is the fact that you can tell on the skill’s card by boosting Deadlines with bonus points that fuel drain is a stat which yields diminishing returns the more you try to boost it. Out of all the things that contribute towards fuel-efficiency, it’s the one stat that is wasted effort if you over-emphasise it. And the second issue is the fact that to even enjoy these diminishing returns, you need to kill enemies which is not so problematic in normal mobbing situations, but it becomes an issue in boss encounters where there are little-to-no adds with which Bear can refuel. It’s a good class mod to go for if you want a build that covers that middle ground between a hybrid build and a pilot one and it’s certainly not lacking on damage. But if you want maximum fuel-efficiency, Bear Trooper is the clear benchmark by far.

  • DLC4 brought us a range of legendary class mods, one of which was the Flare for Moze to wear, but for Iron Bear to profit from. Whereas the other two legendary Bear-centric class mods focused on total fuel-efficiency or a balance of that plus damage, this class mod goes all out on DPS. With no bonus fuel-efficiency from the special effect, it’s a pilot class mod that is best used as if you’re playing a hybrid build; you want to get out of the cockpit when you’ve burnt through half the fuel tank.

  • The Deathless artefact is really the only legendary relic that can indirectly benefit Iron Bear so long as there’s some investment in Desperate Measures. Assuming there are no bonus points, the tier 4 skill will give Bear an extra 50% Type A damage as the artefact ‘reserves all but 1 health’ as it states on its card. Again, it’s a reservation, not a reduction, so it’s not going to reduce Bear’s max armour like the Loaded Dice artefact does. But the problem with wearing the Deathless in end game is that there’s no gate mechanic for shields like there is for health. Moze can literally have over 100K capacity shield and watch it get obliterated in one shot and sent into FFYL. That’s why it’s crucial that if you insist on using a Deathless artefact for that extra DPS, do everything that you can to increase Iron Bear’s fuel-efficiency and cooldown rate both to minimise the risk to Moze!

  • There are many shields, both unique and non-unique, that offer plenty of bonus max health (and max armour for Bear) that aren’t too hard to find. However, there is one legendary shield that touched down with DLC4 that blows all others out of the water - the Plus Ultra - thanks to the hidden bonus not mentioned on its card: +100% max health! You can also go further by finding one with a Multivitamin prefix for an extra 25% max health to top it off.

  • If I had to choose one or the other in terms of which is more important for a shield, I would have to choose the anointment of +30% CDR per kill over boosting max health. You can boost the latter with passive bonuses on class mods and artefacts but you don’t need to go overboard with it either. Getting as many quality increases to cooldown rate as you can get is arguably more vital for increasing overall Bear uptime. Whatever shield you use, make sure it’s anointed first, then look for another anointed one with max health parts.

  • You’re actually more likely to find legendary grenades that are anointed with 20% chance of spawning while Iron Bear takes damage than the best non-unique ones. In my honest opinion, the one grenade that makes the most sense to use while piloting Iron Bear is It’s Piss because it further emphasises the power of Bear’s hardpoints and the debuff results in a very noticeable DPS increase, with a default radius of 455 allowing for multiple enemies to be covered in urine quite easily. For more direct DPS, other legendary ones such as the Spring Epicenter and the Nagata are the best ones to look out for. If you ever come across them though, be sure to snap up the Cloning Maddening Tracker and the MIRV Cluster-F*ck EXPLODER grenade mods. All the mentioned DPS grenades are used more for their utility and effectiveness with Vampyr, but they’re also the best choices for damage too.

  • Weapon anointments now include incendiary novas that proc while an action skill is active. This one is the only one that functions as described when piloting Iron Bear and it’s incredibly potent on fleshy mobs. You don’t even need to worry about having any particular weapon, so long as the weapon in question has the anointment when you enter the cockpit. However, the 30% bonus CDR per kill requires that Moze is holding the weapon with that anointment while piloting Bear and after exiting him. But it can stack with the same anointment on shields.

  • If you want to know more about Iron Bear builds in end game, you can check out Metal Gear Bear which is my own Bear-focused build for Mayhem 10 gameplay and expands much further on the key principles and facts that are detailed in this guide.


CREDITS

  • @Aaron0000 is the author of this awesome compendium of detailed information regarding Iron Bear. If you want to know how to boost Bear’s maximum armour, how his hardpoints and augments compare to each other, what gear influences him, then this should really be your first stop for learning such information.

  • @twoPIZZA went through what I can only imagine to be an absolute painstaking process of conjuring up this guide on how to increase Iron Bear’s cooldown rate. If you’re confused about the concept of action skill cooldown and your attempt to reduce it is not working exactly like you thought it would in your head, then he provides pretty much all the answers you need on the topic. Do not skip this guide; maximising cooldown reduction is a key part of playing Iron Bear!

  • @Duk deserves credit for providing us with Iron Bear’s damage formula which shows you in exactly what order the DPS-boosting skills appear. This is very useful for figuring out the DPS of your favourite hardpoints and augments.

  • @sammantixbb is our resident Bear-buster who frequently gets up to all sorts of crazy and experimental shenanigans in matters regarding Iron Bear. The Bust-A-Bear thread is a highly informative and entertaining read, definitely go check it out!

  • @Prismatic is owed a huge thanks for proving feedback for this guide, and is also the author of a few guides for Moze which can be found via this community resources guide. Even if you think you know everything there is to know about Moze and Iron Bear, there’s no harm in being vigilant and absorbing all the information and experience of other Moze experts and veterans that has been imparted in these forums.

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Great guide, excited to see how good IB can get with the upcoming mayhem action skill scaling and AS artefact damage bonuses.

Fantastic guide! This is a very fun build for a fresh playthrough. Exactly what I needed while Mayhem is updated.

I have a question - when you say left hardpoint (for scorching RPM bonus), is that left in the skills screen when facing IB, or left hardpoint as in true left hand as in piloting him and pulling left trigger to fire weapon?

It’s the latter, as if the left hardpoint is your own left hand when you’re piloting him.

I’ve also edited the End Game section to reflect the new changes from the latest patch.

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I made a few adjustments to the main post to reflect the changes introduced with DLC4.

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Can you update this leveling guide for current game? This guide is amazing, I have recommended this all my Moze friends.

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This one is an updated Iron Bear Guide

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I had completely forgotten about this guide tbh, I made it well over a year ago. The game has been updated many times since so there’s a lot to add and edit. I might have to make small edits over time because I simply can’t spare enough time as of late to do it in one go, plus I don’t really play the game as much as I used to. I’ll post in this thread again if I ever do get round to fully updating it but as for when that will happen, can’t give any sort of time frame for now.

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