Hard Times with Athena in UVHM

Background: I’ve gone through UVHM (at max level) with every other character and never had much of a problem. In earlier threads elsewhere I did relate some fears I had about the way Athena “wants” to be played, and it seems those fears were justified. I’m getting destroyed. Utterly eviscerated. It’s embarrassing.

First thing to note before anyone chimes in is that it’s not a gear problem. I’ve got everything a gladiator could want, including Bullpups. I wish the issue was sub-par gear, but it definitely isn’t.

Which means I have to be doing something very, very wrong. I’ve tried out roughly ten different builds, some more melee focused, others more Ceraunic Storm focused, and nothing I do helps in the slightest.

What tends to happen is this:

I go into a fight, put up my aspis, chuck some shock grenades to get Maelstrom going, and start trying to kill things. But once I start shooting, I immediately notice that my guns all feel like nerf toys. Sometimes it takes me three full clips from a Hellfire to down a Badass. So, exasperated, I just chuck more grenades and try to get more Maelstrom.

Before that can have any salutary effect, however, and despite the fact that I’m trying to protect myself by wearing a Bulwark or a Grounded shield, I go down. I always go down. It’s as certain as an eastern sunrise. I don’t even know how I go down half of the time. I’d estimate I go into FFYL at least once every fight, sometimes up to four or five times. I’ve tried to rectify this with shock leeches, but the healing isn’t enough. The Aspis healing skill definitely isn’t enough.

I strongly suspect that 30-40% of the time I’m getting downed by my own grenades, similar to the way I began by downing my Zero with his own kunai. But that’s a problem I don’t know how to address. A lower level grenade? How low is low enough but not too low? Plus, I don’t see most people on YouTube with Athena builds using low level grenades. How do you avoid downing yourself if Athena isn’t made for ranged combat? I’m not sniping or hitting anyone from afar with a Hellfire or a Torrent or a Bullpup. I’ve got to get in and mix it up. Right? Or Nah?

And that’s what’s brought me to despair with Athena. The combat loop is: do very little damage, waste tons of ammo, go down, get up, do less damage, go down, get up, get my Aspis back up finally, spend two more clips - win?

It’s not one deficit that’s got me scratching my head, it’s a deficit in everything - she doesn’t do enough damage, and she’s made of glass. A glass pea-shooter.

What’s even stranger about this is that I waltzed through NVHM and TVHM with her.

I really don’t know what to do with builds anymore, as I feel like I’ve tried everything. What I suppose I’m asking for here is a recommendation on how to play with Athena. Where is this great survivability everyone keeps talking about? Where is this amazing dps? I don’t notice any serviceable damage from her until I get north of around 300 maelstrom stacks, and that doesn’t happen often, and when it does the stacks decay very fast.

(I said before I used Maelstrom, discussing Athena with others here in another thread, that I hated the skill a priori because it reminded me too much of Critical Ascension, which I also despise, and, whether as self-fulfulling prophecy or not, I am indeed having similar difficulties with it. Frankly, I just don’t like it. With Jack and others I can mindlessly stack; don’t even have to think about it. With Athena, I feel like I’m always micro-managing her. It’s not fun always thinking, “Oh, I need another grenade here to keep my Maelstrom up; oh, wait, I need to swap weapons for Storm Weaving; ah, hold on, need to melee a dude for some bleeding… etc.” It’s stressful and inward looking, so much so that most of the time I can’t even focus on fighting. I’m mainly fighting Athena and her need for constant stacking and weird crap like swapping weapons. And she doesn’t exactly swap fast either, not without one of those other context dependent skills to buff it.)

(That was a long parenthesis. Sorry.)

Essentially, my hands are in the air and I’m ready to listen and learn.

I’m out of ideas. I would tell you what build I’m using if I were using a single build, but I’ve run with, as noted, about ten builds, none of them with success.

What I can tell you is I do not want a melee build and I want nothing to do with anything that relies on Storm Weaving, which is the skill I hate most in all of TPS. One of Bahroo’s builds relies on Storm Weaving synergies - that didn’t go well for me.

Of course, it could be that Athena is simply anathema to my instinctive play-style. This is certainly true to some extent, since I do not like the visual distraction of the Aspis and really do not like not being able to ADS with it up. Every instinct I have tells me to throw the Aspis as soon as I put it up, just to get it off my screen and let me aim with my guns. I don’t actually do that, but I’m fighting the urge constantly. Still, I want to try my best to adapt to the extent that I can.

Glad to see that you finally came around to try out TPS :slightly_smiling_face:

I don‘t know if this holds up in late game because I restarted at around Lv. 58/ Felicity to get to max level first (still have to finish UVHM) but what I can tell you that worked for me pretty flawlessly was this.

You want to get a Fridgia, the level doesn‘t matter because it will freeze everything easily. In TPS frozen enemies take way more damage from both melee and explosive damage!

Then you want to get yourself a 88 Fragnum.

If you absolutely don‘t want melee and or elemental stuff just go with the following I put in bold, it‘s not so smooth but should still work more than enough.

What I did is engage enemies by jumping and shooting to trigger the thunderbolt skill, this gives you an easy start in building stacks around 25 irrc, then throw Storm Fronts or was it Quasars? Whichever has the dozen lighning arcs effect. Now put up your Aspis and spray as many enemies as you can with the Fridgia , it also helps to stand in the line of fire from the enemy with the largest damage output so that the Aspis can absorb the most damage that it will inflict once thrown, now swap to the Fragnum and close the distance with Bloodrush then unload the Fragnum point blank, have the skill that has a chance to not consume ammo after weapon swapping for a few extra shots! Now repeat the melee Fragnum part with the other frozen enemies.

This should melt pretty much anything.

Also even enemies that can‘t be frozen solid, like Iwajira, still suffer the damage bonus if their animations are slowed from the cryo effect!

For Mahlstrom stacks there is also the Thunderfire which deals shock damage and creates fire novas for easy double Mahlstrom stacks.

BTW my offer to post my build still stands, I can upload it tomorrow if you want.

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Good to see you, man!

Of course - post your build! Pronto!

I have tried out the Fridgia in the past few hours and it’s doing well. I like the way you described the combat loop - that’s what I’m looking for. I feel like I’m just not “doing Athena right.”

So in my latest session I got up to Felicity and I’ve done slightly better by adding a Vibra-Pulse. I absolutely hate relying on Moxxi weapons to survive - it tells me I suck (unless raiding, where it can be a necessity) - but there’s no gainsaying the improvement in survivability. It’s also a GREAT Maelstrom weapon. I like it far more than the Thinderfire even without the Moxxi effect. I can’t say why. I tried the Thunderfire when I was playing with Bahroo’s build (it’s the centerpiece of his load out), and I just didn’t get anything remarkable out of it.

I think one thing that has me baffled is how Cryo works on Athena. I’m running with a Cel Gladiator for now - it has the best buffs of the legendary COMs - but I’d rather run with a Vanquisher because of the elemental buffs. Sucks. Anyway, does Cryo stack Maelstrom?

I’ll post what I’m running with here and explain why I’ve chosen the skills I have (it’s not arbitrary, believe me):

My goal is to maximize “ordinary” damage - meaning damage with her action skill, with guns, and with grenades - and to stay away from melee and Storm Weaving reliance. Melee just never did much for me even when I maxed it out, so I don’t even go into Rend. I’m quite happy with that decision, though it would be sort of nice to have Blood Rush just for the mobility. Whatever.

So: Invictus is for shield damage; Ephodos for movement and gun damage; Hold the Line for more shield; Vanguard for minimal survivability (even though, in my opinion, it sucks ass); Prismatic Aegis for shield buff; Clear! because I spend more time in FFYL than I do fighting; return fire for minimal tankiness and shield buffs; and Wrath because awesome.

Gun Kata for gun damage; Clarity of Purpose to get the 6/5; Omega-Senshu because awesome; Mercurial for movement and minimal tankiness (though I don’t notice any damage resistance at all).

Storm Weaving because I have to; Maelstrom because I have to; Conduit for nominal survivability (though I don’t notice any effect, again); Gathering Tempest for DPS; Smite for Maelstrom; Zeus’s Rage for Maelstrom and extra shield damage; Superconductor for Maelstrom; and Hades’ Shackles because it was the best use of my last point I could see.

I avoid Elemental Barrage like the plague, and I avoid Ubrelenting because I abhor buffs like that being so unreliable and wearing off after half a second. I don’t care that the stats will be a bit more ordinary otherwise; I just want them to be predictable and not tied to me micro-managing my Maelstrom (I’ve been keeping an eye on it and I rarely get above 300 stacks no matter how many quasars or storm fronts I chuck; and if I do it is only very briefly).

I’d like to get United Front but can’t. And that’s that.

My load out right now is a glitched Consummate Provacateur, which IMO is better than the Hellfire; a Vibra-Pulse; a Shock Enforceable Bullpup; and a Corrosive Ferocious Shredifier (only a massive bullet hose corrosive weapon has allowed me to output the damage necessary to kill flying ships and turrets and what not; corrosive Torrent is too weak, as is the Venom; corrosive Snider is too slow, thus too weak).

Are there any other lasers that are really good on Athena aside from the Thunderfire and Vibra Pulse? Absolute Zero? Rosie? Should I emphasize Cryo in my lasers when not using the Vibra Pulse?

As you can see I’m trying to find a way to work Cryo into the load out but I don’t quite know how to do it.

What exactly resists Cryo in this game? I’ve never been able to figure it out.

Another question: are bosses like the Bosun and Felicity, who seem to be “armored,” weak to corrosive? I certainly used corrosive on Bosun, but I’m not sure that was the best choice. I keep that Shredifier on me at all times because those things that ARE weak to corrosive tend to be the most deadly, and they show up at the worst possible times (flying things, turrets, big freaking robot suits, etc.).

Another issue I’m having is shields. DOTs are freaking wrecking me. I use an inflammable Supernova but then get downed by a shock DOT. I switch to a grounded Black Hole and get downed by a fire DOT. I don’t like the Black Hole on Athena anyway; i want to be farther away from enemies, not close. Is there a better Grounded shield for her?

The Prismatic Bulwark, even at 95%, isn’t doing much when half the enemies have rocket launchers and ultimate harasses healthgate me with Flakkers (or what seem like Flakkers).

This is ridiculously hard. I just want to be competent, really, and not go into FFYL every time I get into a fight.

Finally, the OZ kit. I tried the Eddie, which is usually awesome, but it did nothing for my Athena. So I went with the Systems Purge because it at least does shock damage. Dunno. I’m winging it here.

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This is what I have on Athena:

Celestial Gladiator COM, longbow Quasar, Shield of the Ages, and mixture of shock/corrosive for fights in the Cortex.

Not optimized, nor min-maxed, but I like it and it seems to work. Much Aspis, slams, double jumps, etc.

Light blue bar: shock weapon
Yellow bar: corrosive weapon
Red bar: fire weapon

Cyro makes a useful all-rounder, and in TPS it works like slag.

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Sweet I’ll give it a go. I was wondering about the Shield of Ages. Gonna try it out shortly. Thanks for the input, as always.

EDIT: wow. that’s a really interesting build. It has the look prima facie of something close to what I’m seeking. I like how spread out it is. I’ll get to it as soon as I get back to Concordia. Thanks again.

I too hate kill skills and such but don‘t underestimate Unrelanting! Especially if you can get into a loop where you always have the Fridgia equipped as a debuff tool after which you switch to the Fragnum and then just quickly swap 2 times to get back to the Fridgia! I wish I could just upload a old MP4 video here, there you could see that even without any Mahlstrom stacks you can easily get like 10 free shots with fast firing weapons like the Bullpup/Company Man etc. together with a Leg. Gladiator with + fire rate ■■■■ gets pretty crazy!

The grenade was a Tesla, this alone will easily get you hundreds of Mahlstrom stacks! Also keep jumping + firing shortly before the cooldown of Smite ends, to keep them up. On average I had 300-700 without much effort.

You probably won‘t have a Company Man because it was an exclusive bonus for people who bought the Tales from the Borderlands season pass, this is now unobtainable as far as I am aware but a Bullpup will do just fine.

For the same reasons you can also completely ignore the Naught, it was just for my preference, I went for a Adaptive Shield with the highest balance between elemental resistance and +max health. I almost exclusively used a green lv. 70 adaptive shield with 32% elemental resistance and around +16000HP all the time.

If you have any questions because my text is in German or otherwise, I will gladly help you out :smiley:

Edit: Oh also IVF chugging is an option too, especially on those frozen enemies :grin:

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I’ve got Company Men and a Naught shield; I just read some people say Bullpups were better, though I don’t know why. I had no idea a Naught was an option on Athena (I use it on Claptrap to great effect).

I will try your build; I only resist it partially because I dislike slow firing Torgue weapons (same reason I never use the DPUH in BL2 unless I absolutely must).

But that aside - you’re saying I should use Fridgia as a debuff weapon?

Ugh. I just hate Storm Weaving to no end. I HATE hAtE HaTe being forced to switch weapons to get buffs. Words cannot capture how much I hate it. Is there no way to get away from Storm Weaving to do adequate damage outside of melee?

I am using a Quasar, which is a super Tesla, so I should be seeing those kinds of stacks, but I just don’t (unless they’re disappearing so fast I don’t notice them getting that high). Every time I look it’s between 150-350 (max). And that’s with about three quasars out there dealing damage.

I want to use the Storm Front but I can’t because I always kill myself with it. It’s much easier to avoid the grenade blast with a single Tesla/Quasar.

I’m going to try out VH’s and your builds later on and see if I notice any improvement to either damage or survivability. Either one would be an advance on my current state.

The Shredifier is doing work on Athena though. Absolute bullet hose but it’s the only gun I have that almost melts enemies.

Finally - I see you use the Absolute Zero. Is that a better choice than the Rosie? I suppose it makes sense when you’re getting free shots, but I’m not sure how much I’m going to be able to work with Storm Weaving stuff. I don’t underestimate it, believe me; I just despise it.

Like I said I just prefer the endless shield recharge especially with Athena‘s hiding behind the Aspis and The Presequels mobility. A Adaptive shield is just as good or like @VaultHunter101 noted the Shield of Ages.

I don‘t recall if I did anything special but Mahlstrom stacks decay the faster the more you have. I hit 999 several times while fighting the Empyreal Sentinal but they pretty much vanish in an instant, sitting at 350 is normal.

As said you will get a pretty good fire rate if it is high enough, making even the Fragnum fire with only the smallest delay, sadly this only works with Storm Weaving but it already works without Mahlstrom stacks!

That is also why I have the Company Man, with Elemental Barrage + Storm Weaving and the bonus from the CG you will empty 1/3 of your max shotgun ammo in seconds!

I just have the Absolute Null equipped because I got it through the BL3 Vault Insider programm and have never used it before, usually there is an IVF, for chugging equipped here.

Let me see maybe I can somehow upload a video somewhere.

Edit: Yes, the Fridgia is just for freezing enemies.

Does this work?


Please just ignore my miserable filming, this is from way back in 2015, thanks :upside_down_face:

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It works and I see what you mean. I will try it out and gather whether it helps me.

My problem isn’t really not having enough in the magazine, though; it’s that I can’t do enough damage once I enter a fight to stop myself from going down in under ten seconds. Seriously, Athena seems to have basically no survivability. I’m in Veins of Helios; I enter a room and throw some quasars; put up the aspsis; a few pricks fire at me from above and behind; shield breaks, catch a dot, down.

I can’t even switch to my Vibra Pulse fast enough to regenerate some health through the dot.

If there’s any kind of mob, with enemies spaced out over the map, I simply don’t understand how Athena survives. Every time I enter a map like that I’m forced to cheese my way to health gate with a Moxxi weapon, and if I fail I go down.

I had none of these problems with any of the five other VHs, even Aurelia, who is usually considered to be the glass cannon. With Jack I almost never went down. Half the time with Athena I don’t even understand what’s downing me.

How on earth do people consider her a tank? I’ve never seen anyone go down faster, not even Zero. Sure, the Aspis covers her front, but there’s half of her that’s not covered, and in basically any mobbing situation that half will be rocket launchered, Torgued, and tasered to smithereens. It’s kind of infuriating.

I’m going to try the shield of ages next for this reason. I’ll lose the nova on my Supernova which has saved me a few times, but if it adds even a little bit more survivability it will be a lot. Gonna try the Naught too and see if that helps. I’ll worry about the damage stuff later. I can’t keep going down every five minutes.

If I can find a way to stay up a bit a longer with Athena, I think I might be able to do better in combat, tautologous as that sounds.

But I’m going to try your suggestion regardless. Who knows, it might jar something loose and unlock something in me I didn’t know was there.

I found that at the higher levels having a build that had Rend, You’ve Got Red On You, and Bloodrush frmo the Xiphos tree were key to debuffing enemies and doing damage quickly while my Aespis was charging up.

This was my max level build last I played with Athena. Gear wise I mainly used Splitter Lazers, Baby Makers to avoid having to think about reloading, and as with the above, Company Men are definitely great. Bullpups are easy to come by though. The Kala from Deadlift being Immune to Shock is extremely useful, as are System Purge Oz Kits in the shock and Cryo variety.

I generally start a skirmish by with Shield up, and use Blood Rush to get in a few quick melees to get them bleeding, then I start shooting and dashing as it recharges, and by the time my Aespis is charged or the time is exhausted and it auto launches the enemies are weakened, dusted, and exploding when the Aespis hits them. It gets a bit messy and is very frenetic, but there’s not much flexibility. I either have to play conservative and do as much damage from range without the benefit of her Action Skill, or play very aggressively.

If I needed to choose between bloodlust and you’ve got red on you, which is the better skill?

I’m of course disconcerted by my Athena’s frailty, but given that I only use bleed situationally, I can’t see 4% per second being all that valuable, especially when I just use the bleed for the gun buff in Tear (that’s the main reason I spec into rend). Meaning: I generally kill someone I’ve bled right after I rend them.

Is YGROY actually good? I tried Mercurial before and didn’t even notice I had it, so I’m not going there. I have 6/5 in Clarity, which is plenty. So it’s between BL, YGROY, and Fury of the Arena (which I can’t see myself benefitting much by). Of course, I could just spend those 5 points in United Front if it’s better than BL.

What say you?

EDIT: you know what, according to the skill analysis, all of the skills I’m choosing between suck. I think I’m going to try putting those five points into unrelenting and see how I like that. I’ve gone down far enough to get Blood Rush again; I’ll try to integrate it more into my play style without dying every five seconds. Getting Tear and thus all those other buffs once I kill a bleeder should up my dps, and with Unrelenting my fire rate and swap speed should be aces. We’ll see.

EDIT 2: Shield of Ages is working much better than the shields I was using. I’m still getting downed, but less quickly and less frequently. Solid choice.

EDIT 3: substituted Anarchists for the Maliwan SMGs I was using and it’s night and day. I just feel more cozy with an Anarchist on hand. I can aim better too when my Aspis isn’t up.

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Haven’t played recently, but here is my 2 cents. I use a build something like this after getting all stuff on 70

Weapons: E-gun (for fun), Vibra-pulse (for the chain lightning effect), Excalibastard (for melee and sniping), Absolute Zero (this rocks on Athena)
Shield: bulwark,
Grenade: Data Scrubber (cause I am lazy to look for grenades)
Cel gladiator and eddie
What I like with this that it combines all of Athena’s strengths which is sadly not ADS heavy, so the playstyle varies on my mood. Basically Shield up → Absolute zero shot → Blood Rush → more shots → Blood rush to kill (target harder enemies first), sometimes I go down but if you have left squishes up you can get up easily. Haven’t tested this much on the Mutator Arena in all other places it worked

And sadly Athena is much better when microed

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Ok so the idea here is to freeze them, then bleed them?

Shoot once to Activate gun kata, then blood rush will mostly deal with the annoying shield part, then freeze, then kill.

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Got it - and just so I know, can you bleed enemies when they’re frozen? I was trying to do that earlier and I wasn’t sure if it was actually working.

Haven’t seen anything that prevents it, but most enemies die too fast to notice :slight_smile:

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Happy to know I’m not the only one who finds the Vibra useful (indispensable for me). It just has such good synergy with Athena and Maelstrom.

I will have to man up and try the data scrubber. I have one but I’ve never used it. Never had a reason to. I do now, though…. Benefits of playing with a squishy toon!

You have to be careful with that, it flies slowly. Killed myself with it many times. A storm front/quasar might be better.

Duly noted. I’m just going to test drive it. Thanks for the suggestion though. It’s all been helpful.