Mordecai's Skill Tree [In Progress]

A short guide to Mordecai’s skill tree.
I’m not the Mord player like I am the Roland player so the better Mords may need to correct me on a thing or two. I’ve finished 3 Mordecais with emphasis and neglect in each branch of the tree, so I’m going to share what I learned from those games.
If you’re looking for a bunch of numbers then that’s what the wiki is for.

Sniper: Long Range

Synergy: Sniper, lol

Tier 1
Focus doesn’t seem like much, as accuracy buffs work on diminishing returns (anyone using a Sniper Mod with the +accuracy line will tell you they won’t notice a difference), but it’s actually one of Mordecai’s strongest buffs. It improves accuracy at rest, worst accuracy, speed of accuracy recovery, and of course helps keep sniper rifles steady, especially at lower levels of proficiency. Because this boosts just about every aspect of keeping a gun straight, instead of only one value, it is a must on every Mordecai. Especially Sniper Mordecai - Caliber can wait.
Caliber increases damage dealt by sniper rifles. Simple. If you’re running the Sniper Class Mod, this is a strong option, but due to the massive critical damage you deal it’s not a priority. Put one point in early to get the class mod’s boost, sort out other priority skills, then max this later to prepare for the health pools of end-game enemies so you can keep one-shotting.

Tier 2
Smirk is mostly useless, since it’s so easy to overlevel in Borderlands already. If you’re good at keeping in level before playthrough 2 ends it can be less useless, but if you’re playing solo I’d still say it’s effectively useless. At Level 69 its only remaining effect is boosting the speed of gaining proficiencies, but of course not for weapons incapable of crits (Rocket Launchers and some Eridians), which arguably are most difficult for Mordecai to level. Once you have all desired crit-capable proficiencies this becomes a 100% dead skill.
Killer is love. Killer is life. A heavy DPS boost for your weapons during kill sprees, especially when running Assassin. Always take this after Focus. Come on it’s 8% damage and 6% reload per point! It applies to all weapons, even rocket launchers, carnage shotguns, and eridian weapons.

Tier 3
Loaded lets you double the number of rounds your snipers can fire before reload. On a dedicated one-shot sniper this is useless early because you only need one bullet for most enemies anyway, and Killer trivialises reloads. Crit-driller snipers who use semi-automatic S&S/Hyperion/Dahl rifles will find this much more useful than I do, so it’s much more useful to max this early with that style. At Level 69 it’s much more valuable to have regardless of style, as enemies are considerably tougher. Strangely this is boosted by the pistol-focused Gunslinger class mod, but some players like myself can take advantage of this. Gunslingers usually run ammo regen and are used to firing constantly without care. Being able to shoot more with a sniper without stopping to reload keeps things feeling famliar; maybe it’s just me but taking Loaded instead of Carrion Call worked on my Gunslinger.
Carrion Call is a must on just about every Mordecai, except Gunslingers because they don’t need Bloodwing’s help. This applies on every single bullet fired, meaning the Skullmasher is Mordecai’s sniper of choice. One full hit from a Skullmasher with this skill will reset Bloodwing’s cooldown entirely. More Bloodwing means more heals, more aerial impacts, and more damage (explosive) or debuffs (corrosive). 3/5 is enough, so don’t worry about it getting in the way of your build. Remember you can reset Bloodwing pre-emptively while he’s still out on the field for an immediate re-release.

Trespass
Depending on how you’re playing this could be the best or worst to take.
Yes it lets you one-shot Guardians and trivialises Mr. Shank, but they’re not common encounters so it shouldn’t really influence the decision on how much of this you want.
Snipers will love this, because more skipped shields means more enemies will be one-shot.
Gunslingers will love this, because who wouldn’t want their mashers to skip shields?
Elemental Mordecai doesn’t like this! Elemental effects do not trespass, so for example, shooting someone with a Volcano will ignore the shield and tick fire damage on their shield for reduced damage, instead of the bullet popping the shield and letting the fire tick for full effect on their health. One point in Trespass is still nice to get a lucky snipe but it’s not worth taking more.
One important thing to note is enemies do not ‘flinch on hit’ while their shields are up, so unusual Mordecai builds with fully automatic weapons will have a lot of trouble and just get shot to pieces by unwavering enemies. I wouldn’t recommend it for those builds.

Rogue: Bloodwing

Synergy: Hunter

Tier 1
Swift Strike doubles Bloodwing’s damage and makes him go from target to target even faster. This means more health returned with Out For Blood and much higher DPS with Bird of Prey. Max this on every build.
Swipe should only ever have one point and no more in it, and only if running Scavenger. It tends to just scatter money everywhere and make a mess, in a game where it’s too easy to overcap money and even bug it in to negative. In co-op it’s a lot more useful, dropping health and ammo more often when players need them. Yeah sure in the 1st playthrough Swipe can be powerful at accelerating your cash, but its usefulness declines very very rapidly as you gain levels, so I’d say it is the worst Rogue skill.

Tier 2
Fast Hands makes you reload faster, but proficiencies also make you reload faster and to greater effect. It’s strong in the 1st playthrough but diminishes in usefulness later on, being completely overshadowed by your proficiencies. Nice if you can spare the points, and worth it when running Survivor, but I wouldn’t recommend it otherwise.
Out For Blood is Mordecai’s key survival skill that should always be taken. Combined with 5/5 Bird of Prey you can throw Bloodwing out in advance and call him back at just the right time when you need a heal. Except on the funny but sad occasions when Bloodwing gets stuck this will keep you alive through just about everything, Crawmerax included. It’s important to note that Bloodwing needs to deal damage, so Explosive Wing is required for many bosses (Crawmerax included, due to his minions’ various resistances). Elemental-resistant bosses will take 0 damage from Elemental Bloodwing variants, while Explosive Wing always deals damage.

Tier 3
Aerial Impact has varying usefulness depending on the way you’re playing and building. On crit-focused and sniper builds it’s extremely useful for enemies that get too close, so you can aim better for those headshots and suffer less twitch from them shooting you back. On Bloodwing Hunter/Ranger builds it’s a core skill because you’re putting all your chips on Bloodwing. However I am unsure if overcapping this improves the chance to daze higher level enemies or if it remains the same as at 5/5. If running the Hunter Class mod only I’d take the safe option of 2/5 +3 (you want the +4 in Swift Strike for maximum damage, so 1/5 +4 is undesirable).
Ransack is one of the best skills in the game… when you’re high level. The average quality of loot dropped is directly tied to Mordecai’s level, so taking this early won’t really be that much use, especially since often it procs money or ammo drops. A Level 69 Mordecai will be able to generate Crawmerax-quality loot regularly, with Dr. Ned’s DLC being a prime Ransack location due to the high volume of squishy enemies that can easily be mowed down. Be warned that overcapping this is useless (100% for one piece of loot does not get better), so if running Scavenger the ideal spec is 1/5 +4 for 100%.

Bird of Prey
Combined with Swift Strike and Out For Blood this is an amazingly useful investment.
I would not recommend ever going lower than 3/5. Sure it doesn’t affect 1v1 situations with bosses, but those are few and far between - mobs and Crawmerax are the greatest threats and they are where Bird of Prey will shine brightest.
With 5/5 it is easy to release Bloodwing at the start of an encounter, play fully aggressively, then when shields go down and health begins to fall, call him back to get a heal just after you fall below the health gate, then take cover for your shields to recharge. With 1/5 this pre-emptive release just isn’t possible - he’ll always come back before you need him, so you have to release him closer to when you think you’ll need the heal, but then he’ll come back too late and you end up in FFYL anyway.
I was amazed at just how much I was losing out when playing this at 1/5, and that is what makes me say to take no less than 3/5.

Gunslinger: Close Combat

Synergy: Gunslinger, lol

Tier 1
Deadly is a global increase to all critical hits, and it is understated (technically). You actually gain 15% per point, but it only applies to the base damage. The math is something to do with a crit against a bandit making it a 6% increase in total damage, but it’s awkward to think about it that way. You’re increasing your damage by 15% per point if you’re a good shot, just think of it that way - isn’t that awesome?! Take on almost every build.
Gun Crazy gives you a chance to do double damage with pistols & revolvers, also taking in to account multiple projectiles, so your masher can fire 14 projectiles! This is broken as hell on any Gunslinger or even a Hunter toting pistols around, but when starting up a new game it’s not actually the best choice. Unless your only weapons are pistols/revolvers then it will be far more beneficial to take Deadly first and Gun Crazy later. Revolvers gib enemies so easily in playthrough one, so doing double damage to something that’s already dead to single damage… it’s wasted. Gun Crazy is best taken immediately after you’ve reached the end of your first branch of choice.

Tier 2
Lethal Strike at 5/5 absolutely breaks your melee in playthrough 1, and makes it a powerful option at Level 69 against most non-Knoxx enemies. It is a far better option than Riotous Remedy and is loved by many, myself included, but should you always just take it when you get there? No.
Riotous Remedy is a slow passive heal that is only active during killing sprees, and will always do something, even if it’s very little and makes kittens cry at how weak it is. If you’re not making any use of your melee attack, don’t keep a jagged (+150% Melee Tediore/Torgue/Jakobs/Atlas/Dahl) shotgun handy, and don’t plan to, then Lethal Strike will do absolutely nothing for you at all. I love me some shanking, but not everyone does it. The best options is to take Gun Crazy + Deadly, but if you’re playing Sniper and don’t want any melee for enemies that get close then it looks like you’re taking Deadly + Remedy. I’d still recommend shanking enemies that get close if you’re a sniper, just give it a go. =P

Tier 3

Relentless

Ok, here’s my thoughts/critique:

-Focus: Not actually all that strong by end game, thanks to most weapon profs giving a whopping +153% to accuracy, but it’s a very good skill for early levels, and often one I take first because it’s at its comparative best early on. The reason it’s a staple in most endgame builds is that unless you’re making significant use of snipers, Caliber isn’t all that useful, so Focus becomes a necessary (and still useful) stepping stone to getting to Killer which is perhaps the best tier 2 skill in the entire game (Brick’s Revenge is comparable).
-Killer: I can scarcely overstate how good this skill is: +8% weapon damage and +6% reload speed on-kill per point? Ridiculous! Note that because it’s weapon damage this will work even with rocket launchers and carnage shotguns.
-Loaded is really great at all levels, the increased mag size means less reloading, which means more time shooting, while Mordecai does have good reload speed buffs available from the tree, mag size is never a bad stat to have, and +20% per skill point is a ton even if it’s only for sniper rifles. It’s especially nice with 3-shot semi-auto snipers.
-Carrion Call is only good if you plan to mostly use sniper rifles, otherwise Predator is probably more accessible and better suited to your build. Carrion Call is honestly a bit crazy good, with the bonus points from a Sniper com 1-shot with a Skullmasher=Blood is off cooldown even without points in Predator (so full 28 second CD), so Carrion Call can be your 3/5 skill or even just get 1 point and still be pretty effective, especially since it works while Bloodwing is out and about).

It’s more to do with Focus boosting accmax and accmin, and recovery speed, that goes beyond what you get from proficiencies. I tend to run around with a Firehawk a lot, which would usually be really awkward to hipfire without it. It’s not Metal Storm 0 Recoil Perfect but the improvement is still nice.

I think I should amend Loaded to sniper styles though. I know you love your Hyperion for drilling crits, while I prefer to put everything in to a single bullet. I’ll also amend Carrion Call to say it’s probably better as a 3/5 like you said.

Oh and yeah Killer needs more love. Such a good skill. =D

Thanks FL.

I rarely ever hipfire, maybe this is why I’ve been unimpressed by Focus at high levels.

Also Killer is multiplicative with Relentless (iirc) making it even better.

Just wondering, what if these skill guides were in the “ranked” format that the BL2/TPS ones have? I know BL1’s mechanics aren’t as complex but I honestly enjoy that format a lot more.

Hmm, I could use colour coding to keep the text tidy; I already convey what’s awesome and what’s not and describe why so there doesn’t need to be more text in there.

I’ll go back to Roland’s one and see if I can sort some ranks.

Update: No colour edit options. Way too much hassle figuring it out when these are already heavy.
Player isn’t spoiled for choice and a lot of skills can be conditional in usefulness (such as Aerial Impact) so I don’t really think it’s worth anyway TBH.
I mean I could rank Gun Crazy super high but for a Sniper it’s 100% useless.

It allows you to give more attention to each skill, and it’s easier for readers to single out skills.

Also if you do give ranks, OFB, Relentless and Gun Crazy should all be outstanding at the very least (imo).

The BL2/TPS skill guides often say “Outstanding for snipers” for a skill like Critical Ascension etc. so trying to give overall ratings isn’t a problem.

Relentless is hardly useful on a one-shot crit build that already kills things without Kill Skills and takes time to aim for every perfect shot.
Gun Crazy is absolutely useless to a Sniper.

Conditional conditional. I don’t like this simplification.

Replying to edit.
I already say that stuff in the details.
What the hell are you even asking for then.

Relentless has the potential to be the most powerful skill in the game; it’s the Money Shot of BL1. No you may not need it most of the time but its power certainly is noticeable. Zer0 may not need B0re all the time (and often times it isn’t even available) but it’s one of his most powerful skills and is rated outstanding for a reason. Ditto with Relentless. Even on less aggressive builds it’s still amazing, especially with snipers since their proficiency doesn’t increase damage.

As said earlier, GC is outstanding for pistols, so for that you would way “Outstanding for pistols” if you were going to do it that way. Of course it’s useless for non-pistol builds, so you would address that in the skill’s writeup.

The format that the BL2/TPS skill guides use is a lot easier to the eye, that’s why I’m advocating for it.

I started replying before you made the edits, hence why I kept going on.

This isn’t meant to be a ‘skim over it and know what’s ranked what’. It’s meant to be a ‘what’s a detailed view of how these skills behave in the game to someone who has tested their various strengths and weaknesses’.

Relentless did nothing for my Sniper. I already one-shot everything.
Killer shot when I already one-shot something… what does it do? Make a meat fountain instead of a beheading I guess?

Have you even read the skill guides over at the BL2/TPS subforums? They go into far more detail than what this one does (no offense). They give a rating and they go in depth on each skill.

Relentless gives you more power against bosses and other enemies who can’t necessarily be one-shot normally. It’s like with Critical Ascension: you don’t really need it while mobbing but against more powerful enemies it really makes a difference.

Conditional conditional conditional conditional conditional.
Not wasting my time doing it, it’s like I’m already wasting enough time replying to you about it.

Knock this condescension off or we wont have a guide.

When I say I won’t do something I don’t want to be pressured in to doing it anyway. Please.

I didn’t mean to pressure you; I was just reacting to your criticism of the skill guides for BL2 and TPS. Sorry about that.

Don’t worry about it, I’m also sorry for my sharp responses - internet with a lot of caffeine (Kappa).
It’s really difficult getting the perspective of a simple ranking system when I’ve done various skill distributions and seen too many grey areas. You know I considered it strongly when I went looking for at least a colour code system, so it is a good general idea.

Critique for Rogue and Gunslinger trees:

Rogue:
Swift Strike isn’t really mandatory, but there’s little reason not to take it. Only time I don’t is if I have few points to spare for Rogue tree (full DPS Mordecai build for example), and would rather get what utility I can with the remaining points. Then I’d 5/5 Swipe (it does more than give money, if you’re low on health it will cause insta-healths to drop, and similarly for ammo pickups for ammo pools that are low, which is nice if you’re specializing in one weapon type), max Fast Hands, and then 3/5 Aerial Impact or Ransack as desired (or possibly 5/5 one and 3/5 the other if I have the points).

Fast Hands is really a great all round skill, works with every gun you have, only downside is that you already get +102% reload speed from profs for most weapon types end game at max prof (snipers are a notable exception, gaining only +34%; 1/3 of the bonus it has to fire rate), so it’s power is lower than numbers would imply.

Out For Blood is excellent, not strictly necessary either, but it’s Mordecai best defensive skill by a large margin since the healing scales with damage dealt, it has excellent synergy with both Swift Strike and Bird of Prey, this also means that needs to pay attention to what the enemies you are fighting are resistant to in order to ensure reliable healing. The healing can potentially vastly exceed your health pool, which means that you don’t always need to spend the full 5 points there, often if you have 5/5 Bird of Prey, 3/5 is enough to get full health from Bloodwing returning after carrying out all of his attacks.

Having greater than 5/5 Aerial Impact should afaik, increase the chance to Daze a higher level enemy (e.g. level 70 SuperBad enemy), but tbh I’ve never carefully tested it. As for Ransack, I’m almost positive that the actual chance to drop an item is far lower than stated, many times with my on-kills active and 5/5 Ransack I’ve killed enemies to see them drop nothing whatsoever. So my suspicion is that the real chance is much lower, and hence running greater than 5/5 is recommended.

Side note for Bird of Prey entry: Borderlands 1 doesn’t have health gating.

Gunslinger tree:
Deadly is less useful on weapons that have weapon critical hit damage bonuses (the larger this bonus, the less of a proportional increase Deadly with give on your critical hits), it’s 15% of what a non-crit would deal that’s added for each point in Deadly, so snipers don’t really gain a lot but a repeater pistol gets quite a lot out of this skill. Still usually worth it even on Sniper mord because it’s accessible and you’ll have the points, just not a priority (fill in the good stuff in the Sniper tree first).

Gun Crazy not only works with revolvers but Repeater Pistols and Machine Pistols as well, and for those even in PT1 it’s great to have. It’s also a fully mulitplicative DPS steroid, stacking multiplicatively with every other DPS steroid Mord has (and he has lots).

Lethal Strike is awesome, interesting tidbit about it: Math is weird for crits, it introduces additional dice rolls that determine whether or not additional damage is added but the word ‘critical’ won’t appear (so you might find yourself saying, “What that was totally a crit” and despite the lack of the word and yet in reality it really was a crit). Moreover, if you land all those rolls the total damage is completely ridiculous (read: 1-shotting Badasses territory).

Riotous Remedy is unfortunately extremely weak, but it IS better than nothing.

Predator is recommended for the majority of Mord builds, only Sniper focused Mord builds should ignore it (since Carrion Call is much better for those builds), notably a +4 Predator Ranger com allows for a 1 second Bloodwing cooldown.

Hair Trigger is small but welcome buff to pistol mag size and fire rate. Notably the tooltip lies about the fire rate buff it’s actually slightly better (+5%/pt. for +25% at 5/5 vrs. claimed +4%/pt. for +20%).

Relentless is honestly probably the single strongest character skill in the entire game. Not only is it an 8%/pt. Fire rate buff on-kill (tooltip is honest for once!) it also gives your shots a 25% chance to be Killer Shots and deal +20% Bullet Damage per point (so +100% at 5/5, +180% at 9/5 via +4 from Gunslinger com). This an all or nothing effect, that is, a masher will either have all 7 pellets (14 pellets if Gun Crazy also happened) deal increased damage or none of them will. Since this is bullet damage, only the +1% per point from Trespass stacks additively with this, all other damage buffs including profs, Caliber, and Killer will stack multiplicatively with Killer Shot effect. The Killer Shot effect is also on-kill btw.