edit: Mellka nerfs and reworks mean this guide is obsoleted. Read at your peril.
Click for the old, not-very-useful guide
This is the latest and most elaborate addition to the Mellka wisdom I’ve scattered across these forums. From now on, I’m going to start collecting everything in this topic, and will update this post (and the title) as I add further developments.
I want to keep this new guide to the point as much as possible. While ordinarily I would open with a whimsical spiel about how sexy, skillful, intelligent, sexy, cunning, agile, courageous, witty, and sexy Mellka is, I will instead jump right in to a no-nonsense guide to her sublime sexiness.
For reference, this is the data I’ve collected for all of Mellka’s potential damage sources. Feel free to use this in your own guides or wherever. Remember, your primary damage will often be affected by fall-off: there’s no point measuring fall-off intervals, as it’s a steady decrease. If you want to do the listed damage, stay close.
- 14 second cooldown.
- Spike is a melee-range attack with an immediate Area of Effect circle. The radius is enough to hit a minion wave, but is small enough you should treat it like a single target ability and ensure you're right on top of the person you're most interested in hitting.
- When used on an envenomed target, Spike will apply 4 seconds of Wound.
- Spike causes Mellka to fly upward a short distance (a little higher than a regular jump.)
- Note that Spike will only hit enemies around or beneath you. If an enemy is above you, they will not be affected.
Spike is your most versatile and useful ability. It has a low cooldown, applies your full suite of debuffs, and has great damage potential.
The mobility you gain from Spike can be used to escape, but it’s far more effective exploited offensively. Continue shooting from your new altitude, which will give you clearer access to many Battleborn’s critical spots (their silly little heads). Land behind or flanking them so as to force them to pin-point your location again. Jumping and spiking effectively works as a double jump, but is not a very efficient use of the skill.
Because Spike applies wound, slow, drops a damage pool, and envenoms, it is the perfect way to start any fight that you intend to end with the tragic-but-deserved death of your target. The slow makes it easier to land critical hits/Blade Launcher/Claw Lunge, and unwise targets may stand in the Parting Gift pool as they attempt to track your sudden vertical movement.
Spike is also your wave clear skill. In Battleborn, “wave clear” refers to eliminating the groups of minions that move between objectives on Incursion and Meltdown. Once enhanced with Parting Gift, Spike is among the best wave clearing skills in the game, due to the fact it combines three sources of damage: Spike itself, Venom, and Parting Gift pool damage. At only level 2, Spiking a wave with Parting Gift deals a massive 633.82 damage if you can keep the minions inside the pool for the full duration.
Ensure you Spike a minion wave when the lane is most congested - choose a moment when the wave is busy fighting your own minions, your team, or as a last ditch measure, yourself. Because Parting Gift reapplies venom continually over its five-second lifespan, you effectively will deal nine seconds of venom damage to any wave caught in the pool for its full duration. The more dispersed the minions, the more likely they are to move out of the pool, so the less effective Spike becomes as wave-clear.
Finally, Spike wave-clearing necessarily puts you in harms way, so be prepared to bounce back immediately with Air Stall or even Lunge out of lane altogether. It is very useful, but not essential, to soften a wave as you approach with a precisely-aimed Venom Canister.
Spike is effective as an opportunistic finisher. In particular, always use it on someone who has just been stunned - this ensures extra damage from Parting Gift. Anyone tangled amid the minion wave is also a fine target for an unexpected Spike.
- 15 second cooldown.
- Claw Lunge (referred to hereafter as simply Lunge) is a dash attack that damages a single target. When aimed upward, it provides extreme velocity and serves as one of the game's premiere escape moves. Lunge can score critical hits, but its hitbox makes this challenging. It also becomes ineffectual on poor connections: hit detection issues are common.
- Lunge deals extra damage (around 15%) to venomed targets.
Lunge is an essential and excellent part of Mellka’s overall kit, but this is almost entirely because of its use as an escape and repositioning tool. Lunge allows her to get to almost any point on the battlefield and escape from almost any engagement. This allows her to “dive” (that is, to go behind enemy frontlines, take out a target, and then safely escape.) Unfortunately, not a single Lunge helix synergizes with its common use as an escape, except possibly Action Reload and Feral Strike, neither of which are especially useful. Lunge helices also compete with far superior Spike helices at nearly every level. For this reason, as you level, Lunge will rapidly become an underperforming skill when used for anything other than an escape.
It is best kept on cooldown unless using it will absolutely confirm your kill.
- 52 second cooldown.
- Blade Launcher is Mellka's level 5 Ultimate Attack. It fires three precise blades from her bio-claw. If all three blades connect, the damage is extreme (on par with the game's most damaging ultimates, albeit on only a single target.) Each blade applies venom. Each blade can crit.
Blade Launcher is simple and deadly. It lacks the flash and flamboyance of the game’s other ultimates, but it serves Mellka very well. You can use it long range to snipe targets and finish runners, or close range for guaranteed burst damage. Following Spike with Blade Launcher is an extremely effective way to take down low-health targets. Do, however, strive to land all three blades. If in any given situation, you feel you would be lucky to land more than a single blade, consider firing a canister instead - you will still do decent damage and venom your target.
Helixes and Mutations
The best choice by far is Hobbling Spike. Not only is Lunge best kept in reserve for an escape, but Spike’s AE means that it can slow multiple targets. This keeps minion wave inside your Parting Gift pool for longer. Spike’s lower cooldown, multiple offensive benefits, and higher damage makes it a better combat tool, and more deserving of the added slow. Finally, Spike is far less likely to miss than Lunge, which suffers from questionable hit detection (at least on my poor connection.)
To compound its downsides, Hobbling Strike doesn’t even synergize well with some other potential Lunge helices. Tactical Withdrawal causes Mellka to bounce back, negating the point of the slow. Desperate Lunge only refunds cooldown upon a Lunge kill, which again makes it pointless to slow that target. The only Lunge helix that really synergizes with this one is Feral Strike, which at level 9 is far too little, far too late.
One of the easiest decisions in the game. Parting Gift enhances Spike into a powerful wave clear tool, in addition to significantly boosting its damage potential and providing another method of applying venom. It also ensures that you gain the maximum benefit from another recommended helix, Level 7’s Spike Burst.
Spike Vault removes Spike’s upward velocity and instead nudges Mellka awkwardly forward. This makes it dreadful for engaging: it either pushes you into your target, or it pushes you past them and ends with you facing away from them.
The final option, Altitude Sickness, provides a minor increase in elevation. It is as pointless as it sounds.
Air Stall causes Mellka to bounce backward when she quick melees. There is a three second cooldown, which is displayed visually on her aiming reticule after taking the skill. When mastered, Air Stall becomes one of her defining abilities: a strong mobility and escape tool that cannot be silenced, can be aimed in any direction, and can be used to double jump, extend Spike and Lunge, dodge attacks and flank enemies, and allow clearer shots. Frequent use of Air Stall, even simply when moving around lane, will make you a more erratic target and is an important art to master. Being unpredictable in battle will keep you alive.
As a small side-bonus, Air Stall also causes quick melee to deal +50% more damage. This does not apply to alt-melee attacks.
Frag Canister causes your canister to disintegrate, after flying a (very) short distance, and form six smaller canisters. Each canister deals 1/6th of the damage of the original canister and applies venom. While this makes it slightly easier to apply venom in a wider area, the loss of range and focused damage is far too high a price, especially when the default canister already has sufficient splash to envenom a minion wave. Choosing Frag Canister makes it impossible to canister snipe for the remainder of the game, and therefore should be avoided at all costs.
At this level, the choice is between gaining a great technique or losing a great technique, and therefore the choice is obvious: Air Stall, always.
This an unusual level for Mellka, insofar as every option is viable yet also entirely negligible. It’s both her most balanced level and her second-least meaningful (level 9 is still much, much worse.)
Blade Ejection adds a secondary effect to Claw Lunge: a small burst of damage that can still connect even if Lunge itself misses, and vice versa (it’s a short-range attack all of its own, initiated an instant after Lunge ends.) The damage is modest, but good relative to Lunge’s own low damage. What limits it from being a useful helix is the fact that Lunge itself is rarely useful as a combat skill. If you intend to use Lunge aggressively, by all means, take this helix.
The level 9 helix Finishing Blow (+15% damage to Lunge) does not apply to Blade Ejection damage.
Action Reload causes every Lunge to refill Mellka’s clip. Because this does not fire a canister, it at first seems like an inferior method of reload, robbing you of the extra venom damage; however, once Refined Canisters are unlocked at level 8, it can be useful to have a full clip available instantly after any Lunge. As this mutation synergizes reasonably with the use of Lunge as an escape, it is the safest pick.
Tactical Withdrawal alters Lunge so that, upon hitting an enemy, Mellka will bounce backward. This in theory makes it possible to use Lunge aggressively without exposing yourself to risk. In practice, using Lunge aggressively is always risky, because it puts your escape on cooldown. Aggressive users of Lunge are advised therefore to take Blade Ejection and use Air Stall to bounce out of melee range after striking.
This is another very straightforward level. Adrenaline Rush is woefully underpowered. It is possibly the worst regeneration helix in the game, providing an extremely low effect (+7 health per second for 4 seconds) and requiring two conditions (meleeing an envenomed target.) To make matters worse, Mellka rarely has a good reason to melee, so this benefit will not come often or naturally. You will end up taking more damage than you heal if you try to utilize this helix.
Venom Contagion is almost as unappealing. While it sounds exciting on paper - envenomed enemies explode when they die, and pass on the venom - the damage of the explosion is woeful: a mere 23 damage, which does not scale with level. This is comparable to a single tick of venom itself. The venom spreading effect is unfortunately also irrelevant, as it is rare you will envenom a target without already hitting its nearest neighbors: either via canister splash, a Parting Gift pool, or Refined Canisters.
As if to emphasize how awful the first two choices are, the third helix, Eldrid Rhythm, is exceptional if not outright mandatory. It allows Mellka to build up an impressive +300 max health by killing envenomed enemies: each one will provide +30 health, up to 10 stacks. Given Mellka’s low base health, this is a game changer and should never be skipped. It does, however, provide very little benefit in Capture (but is still probably better than the alternatives: go kill some Varelsi.)
As a side note, in all likelihood Mellka’s low base health is balanced around the assumption she will take Eldrid Rhythm, so again: do not neglect to take it.
Another level with only one real choice. Spike Burst is an exceptional helix, not only because 50% extra radius on Spike makes it much easier to hit moving and multiple targets, but because it also increases the size of the Parting Gift pool. This is a considerable boost to Mellka’s wave clear.
Desperate Lunge is an awful choice. If you kill a target with Lunge, half of the skill’s cooldown is returned. Lunge, however, is a low damage skill and, as mentioned many times, best reserved as an escape: therefore you will rarely, if ever, see any benefit to taking this helix. It is especially outrageous compared to the constant and pronounced benefit you would see from larger Parting Gift pools.
Unfortunately, the one-sided trend continues. Power Spike is excellent, providing a multiplicative +15% damage to both Spike and Parting Gift. This synergizes excellently with Spike Burst, which you will certainly have taken, and conveniently powers up Mellka’s wave clear just at the point in a game when minions are becoming stronger and require the extra damage to take down.
Second Wind reduces the cooldown on Spike by an amount equivalent to Mellka’s remaining percentage of health, up to a maximum of 40%. The most it can reduce Spike to is 9 seconds, and this requires Mellka to be at dangerously low health: under those circumstances, it’s almost always Lunge, not Spike, that you should have your finger on. In practice, you will not see the full benefit of this helix but rarely, whereas Power Spike is reliably fantastic.
Once again, a very straightforward level. Refined Canisters is, next to Parting Gift, Mellka’s most game-changing helix. The +10 clip increase is convenient, but the real benefit of this helix is that it allows you to apply venom simply by shooting targets. This massively increases Mellka’s lane presence, causes even stray bullets to be deadly, mitigates her ranged fall-off, and allows her to take down runners without risking her own safety. It plays to her strengths as an assassin, a skirmisher, and a wave clearer, gives her an edge over one of her toughest match-ups (Benedict), and will often see her rampage home to victory.
The alternatives would need to be exceptional to compete. They are not.
Potent Toxins increase venom duration by 4 seconds. This would be excellent in a world without Refined Canisters, but unfortunately, it is instead obsoleted entirely by the alternative. Refined Canisters effectively allows venom to be sustained on a target indefinitely, so long as you shoot it at least once every four seconds, so in practice it provides much more venom duration boost than Potent Toxins - and by taking the latter, you also sacrifice the +10 clip and are still forced to venom using canisters or Parting Gift.
Thrill of the Hunt provides Mellka with a +30% movement speed buff for 5 seconds every time she venoms a target. This means she will be very fast, most of the time, but at this late stage in the game, it isn’t speed that Mellka craves: it’s killing power, and she sacrifices a tremendous amount of that by taking this over Refined Canisters. In any case, Mellka is far better served using her mobility skills to navigate the map, and it is safer to take down runners with venom bullets than to pursue them fleetly on foot.
Two irrelevant helices emerge at the moment they’re least needed.
Feral Strike increase Mellka’s alternate melee attack speed by +20% for 8 seconds after every Lunge. At this point in the game, you have Refined Canisters - and everyone else is similarly deadly - so your incentive to melee is effectively nil.
Finishing Blow increases the damage of Lunge by a multiplicative +15%. Lunge is a low-damage skill and, at this late stage, will be more required than ever to be kept in check as an escape.
It is hard to recommend either ability. Feral Strike at least offers its benefit after using Lunge to escape, but it is rare that you will actually melee long enough to see the effect. Finishing Blow at least does not require you to melee, but you will not be lunging into many targets deliberately at this stage of the game. I suggest Finishing Blow simply because the damage increase is multiplicative with skill damage gear - though it does not increase the damage from Blade Ejection.
There is, again, only one viable helix at this level.
That helix is Bladestorm. This alters Blade Launcher so that, when a blade strikes any geometry (walls, ceilings, floors), it will bounce and home toward the nearest envenomed target. While this may sound like a helix that merely encourages poor aim, it actually allows you to make attacks that would be impossible otherwise, because the blades can bounce around corners. It is very common to see a blade turn 90 degrees and kill a runner that would otherwise have escaped.
Better yet, it synergizes excellently with Refined Canisters, which allow you to single out and tag your victim for the homing finisher. With this final piece in her arsenal, Mellka finally takes her place as one of the most fearsome assassins in the game.
Pool Shot misleadingly states that it causes the blades to “explode” - this is merely descriptive, and the blades continue to do only single target damage. If you miss, however, and strike the ground, then a Parting Gift pool is left behind. These are identical to the pools you can create via Spike, do not stack their damage, and are a waste of a good blade. Given the 52-second cooldown on Blade Launcher, it is absurd to use your ultimate to imitate the results of 15-second cooldown Spike.
All In is, in a tree of pointless helixes, the worst of them all. (Yes, worse even than Vaulting Spike and Altitude Sickness.) It causes Blade Launcher to fire a single triple-strength blade, rather than three separate blades. Any small benefit this could have offered is completely overturned, however, by the asinine fact that the ability retains the same casting time - Mellka holds out her claw for the same duration, but fires the combined blade when she ordinarily would have fired the third.
This means that All In makes it far more likely that Mellka will be knocked out of her ult or silenced; it also means that she places all her hopes in a single blade, which might be body blocked or simply miss, when ordinarily she would at least have three chances to apply damage. All In also means you are more likely to overkill your target, whereas the default triple blades can kill one target and be redirected to another. To conclude the farce, All In deals exactly the same damage as three regular shots of Blade Launcher. If the combined blade were more powerful, this choice would make some kind of sense. Instead, it’s a downgrade you’re expected to choose over having the only long-range homing ultimate in the game.
The only, and very difficult to realize, benefit to All In is that you can potentially score an extremely damaging single critical hit with it. On console, however, this is no small feat.
These are my recommended Mellka helix suggestions, regardless of game mode or gear.
Level 1: Hobbling Spike
Level 2: Parting Gift
Level 3: Air Stall
Level 4: Blade Ejection or Action Reload
Level 5: Eldrid Rhythm
Level 6: Spike Burst
Level 7: Power Spike
Level 8: Refined Canisters
Level 9: Feral Strike or Finishing Blow
Level 10: Bladestorm
Next update: Playstyle advice. To come later: choosing gear (until then, you can refer to my preliminary gear guide on this subforum for hints.)