The Under Cover Tree Is Kind Of A Mess In My Opinion

Since the release of DLC 1 and the Seein’ Dead Com I think it’s not a terribly controversial statement to say that the Hitman tree is Zane’s strongest. Of all the skills in that tree really only Cold Bore is not liked by the player base and skills like VM, Playing Dirty and Salvation are generally viewed as among Zane’s best. The tree also has a clear focus on kill skills.

The Double Agent tree is also pretty strong. Synchronicity, Donnybrook, Borrowed Time, Old U, Fractal Frags, Supersonic Man, Praemunitus, Pocketful of Grenades, Boom Enhance and Double Barrel are all pretty good.

At game launch the Under Cover tree was pretty much propped up by 1 killer skill: CCC. With Seein’ Dead presenting Good Misfortune as a viable alternative the vast majority of builds at this point only go as far as Confident Competence, and then it is mostly about All Rounder with Brain Freeze being seen as a nice side benefit. Tier 1 is just something you sort of have to get through for your invulnerability bubble.

Looking at this tree…it kind of never made a whole lot of sense in my opinion. It is heavily focused on survivability and skills like Hearty Stock, Ready for Action, Rise to the Occasion and Stiff Upper Lip might be like 3 out of 5 level skills on other characters but for Zane they all kind of feel like 2 out of 5 to me because they are all rendered kind of redundant by the barrier. Even at launch if you were going to go into this tree you were probably going to get CCC and 100% barrier uptime so they weren’t all that great. They weren’t completely useless because sometimes your barrier does go down and occasionally things get through the barrier (Ready for Action and Rise to the Occasion were useful for CCC back when that was a thing), but for large stretches of normal gameplay they didn’t do anything. Also Salvation pretty much covers the gaps. Generally for Zane DPS is a bigger issue than survivability.

All the defensive skills might be kind of fun to run in a Clone and Drone build but:

  1. Action skills don’t do much damage at the moment so the Drone is really only useful for anointments and Seein’ Dead procs.
  2. If you go really deep into Under Cover you won’t have enough points to unlock all the augments and abilities for the Clone and Drone. (And since Hitman is so good you’re probably going to pass up Double Barrel).
  3. You pass up a lot of DPS by dumping a lot of points into Undercover Agent which kind of makes Clone and Drone hard to play because you can’t kill things very quickly.

The only way the tree makes a lot of sense to me is if you were to spec into 2 augments other than All Rounder for the barrier…but who in the history of this game has ever done that?

Anyway, I’m not really sure what to do about all this, but this tree feels very unsatisfying to me at the moment.


The idea of the tree was pretty alright and in a way it works. The idea probably was that “defense is the best offense”, which is true and thanks to being unkillable you can just stand in front of your enemies at shoot at them non-stop. The issue is that the more the game gets numbercreeped the more damage output matters. And therewith it becomes pretty clear. A skill tree that basically gives no numerical damage increases does not work for the endgame. Normally you could say that Under Cover has multiple damage skills and augments, but 1. All augments that increase DPS in any way work only when you set down the barrier, which is antithetical to the games’ immense focus on mobility and 2. Confident Competence, which would be able to give you a sizeable damage buff, does not work with the best shield for Calm, Cool, Collected, the Rough Rider. So in that way you basically level up to level 23 and have still the same (relative) numerical damage modifiers as you had when you started the game at level 1. And that is a problem. If Nerves of Steal for example would work and gave a big buff to gun damage each second you aren’t taking damage, you could at least use that, but the tree doesn’t give you any of that.
And then there’s the Anointments, which are horrible for the Barrier. The Barrier needs something like “While your Barrier is active, gain +300% critical hit damage” or something like that, something that directly encourages the gameplay style of the Under Cover tree.

So the question now becomes: What can Gearbox do about it?
My idea is simple: Give us 1 or 2 big anointments that work while the Barrier is active and that increase our damage output. My not so creative ideas would be…

  • While Zane’s Barrier is active he gains +300% critical hit damage
  • While Zane’s Barrier is active he gains +200% weapon damage and +2% health regeneration

In addition to that and as so many on this forum already said they wanted: Make all augments the Barrier has work while it is held. I have to walk around with 1 active augment because I can’t take the visual pollution of Deterrence Field and can’t profit from the other augments anyway. Also, Redistribution sucks. Make it stackable for up to 10 times or make it at least a 30% weapon damage bonus. That when combined with all augments working while the Barrier is held would do wonders for the skill tree.

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Under Cover provides a lot of utility to a lot of builds honestly, if you branch away from what everyone tries to use. It is why I play Zane and don’t care about what seems perfect because there are ways to make things work. The Under Cover tree has a lot of uses. Futility Belt and pool party/floor is lava? NoS and high pellet count weapons? Distributed Denial and an epic power charge shield to stack damage? There is a lot of ways to pump DPS with the utility of a skill.

The ‘ASA/Action Skill End’ build I use now has 4/5 Ready for Action and 5/5 Adrenaline to constant trigger ASE.

It is still a thing,…

Clone is probably the most M10 ready Action Skill(for dmg) with double barrel. Or DD for charges.

Nerves of Steel, with Barrier and Barrier crit can one shot most enemies because of the tight group pellet clusters. It can make a maggie/scattergun a sniper rifle. This clip is prior M2.0, but should get an idea of how Nerves of Steel can be w/o DPS buff but Accuracy and crit instead:

Under Cover is awesome and I use most/some skills in it every build for one thing or another.

Adrenaline is easily the worst tier 1 skill for endgame. It doesn’t really do anything once you get the guardian rank perk Topped Off.

I would grab CCC if the skills on the way to get it were useful, but given that you always have to get like 5 to 10 points of very mediocre skills to grab it I don’t think it provides enough of a lift over just using Seein’ Dead with Good Misfortune to justify it.

Yes it is possible to make a build with CCC in it that can solo M10 content, but why should you? It will do less DPS than the “meta” builds out there right now and it doesn’t really play substantially different from them. You’re using mostly the same guns with mostly the same action skills and augments as the meta builds do.

Context of that quote was a hypothetical Clone/Drone build. Drone does no damage. Clone only does damage if you spec all the way down to DB, which is hard to justify if you spec heavy into Undercover because it means you pass up a lot of Hitman to do it.

I’ve tried Nerves of Steel. It’s difficult to maintain in content that is actually challenging (Athenas is probably the easiest map in the game). Any little nick you take screws with it. Additionally most of the guns that it works with have not scaled well to M10. You could maybe use it on a Monarch build, but again I don’t really believe it would be anywhere near as effective as just going to All Rounder and dumping the rest into Doubled Agent and Hitman.

It helps stack ASE and ASA together. It has its perks.

Because not every one likes to use the same builds?

Just your opinion there.

Just because you don’t use the skills does not make them worthless. They are extremely viable on M10.

It decreases the cooldown on the Clone by less than 1 second.

Speccing down to CCC doesn’t really play any differently than the other builds though. I mean, if you’re trying a Tediore build or a Clone/Drone build or something those builds play differently to the standard “meta”. CCC plays basically the same unless you drop the Seein’ Dead com (and really there’s no point in dropping Seein’ Dead unless you are doing a no Seein’ Dead challenge build).

I don’t really think it’s an opinion that NoS is hard to keep up to be honest. If someone posts a YouTube video where they solo the SS or march through the Anvil or Lectra City with NoS maxed out more that 50% of the time in combat on M10 I’ll be pretty impressed. I (and most other players) also won’t be able to replicate it in all likelihood so I don’t know that it will be all that relevant.

I mean, like I said maaaybe you could put it to good use with the Monarch, but even then I still feel like you’d be better off spending the points elsewhere. Also if you are using the Monarch it’s really easy to keep your action skills up with Seein’ Dead so you wouldn’t even get much out of CCC.

Monarch, Anarchy, Sandhawk,… tiggs boom,… a lot of guns use it well.
Edit: Boom Sickle still good too.

Seein Dead is not the only great Mod,… Executor still holds nice.

NoS can proc CCC on one hit most the time because of the crit grouping.

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There are two issues I have with Under Cover.

  1. Very few skills that add DPS.
  2. Redundancy/anti-synergy of defensive skills with the barrier and desirable skills/buffs elsewhere.

No doubt, CCC is a powerful skill. But what it accomplishes is helping the player maintain near-permanent uptime of the Barrier and whatever other AS is used.

If you’re carrying the barrier you aren’t taking projectile damage. You use mobility to avoid !melee attacks. And a point or two in Salvation and investment in Donnybrook give all the sustain you’ll ever need. CCC synergizes with Barrier by giving more frequent resets, more so than by helping maintain shields/health.

But that makes CDR buffs less useful, so it weakens the case for Adrenaline. Hearty Stock is anti-synergy with CCC because it makes it take longer for your shield to recharge if/when it gets depleted. However, I do really like RFA’s synergy with Confident Competence.

In tier 2, both SUL and RTTO are of very limited value if you’re achieving perma-Barrier. And they don’t much help you achieve it unless for some reason you decline Salvation. Brain Freeze is, of course, excellent, and Confident Competence is excellent.

Therefore, to reach tier 4 you have to spend 4 Points on skills that are frankly not very useful.

In tier 4, REJ is fine for a 1-pointer and does help you get shields back sooner if you walk through a shock pool or something, but anyone using a Projector would never take this skill. If you’re close to perma-Barrier, it means you’re not taking much damage, so the utility of both this skill and Futility Belt are reduced. BSC has crowd-control utility but more than 1 point there is useless.

So while I’ll take the 1 point in BSC as useful, that’s another 4 points doing almost nothing and we’ve only just reached tier 5.

That’s the problem: 8 points must be basically wasted on anti-synergistic defensive skills to get CCC.

That’s why the tree is a mess; arguably the best skill it offers has an enormous opportunity cost.


I think the tree would be more interesting if there were a compelling reason not to use All Rounder. If you didn’t have a 720 bubble then you could take damage from the sides or rear and the defensive skills would get more use.

What if:

  1. You actually got the full benefits from the other augments when the shield was picked up.
  2. Retaliation were buffed with increased duration and was allowed to stack (up to some max).
  3. Charged Relay were buffed to like 30% reload and 20% movement speed.

Then I could maybe see myself running Retaliation and either Nanites or Some ■■■■■ or Charged Relay. I’d still get protection from most incoming fire from the barrier and get a nice DPS boost from the other augments. Then the defensive skills would give me better protection against flanking shots.

Considering Zane’s DPS is pretty far below Flak and Amara I don’t think this would unbalance him.


As an aside I just tried NoS in the firing range with the Monarch and the Sandhawk and it didn’t appear to have any effect on their bullet pattern spread (it did help the Sickle though).

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What? lol

I mean, I don’t think that’s controversial. The only way Zane can put out damage similar to them is by sliding around with a Snowdrift which is feasible for some bosses but difficult to do in a lot of mobbing situations.

Sure its yellow cake, but no snowdrift, that is suicide. (and no that is not an x2,just PD, x2 is waste of ammo)

Yeah I can do that too. I spent 4 hours yesterday one shotting Traunt with a Plaguebearer trying to get a good Kaoson.

Doesn’t change my opinion. The game is more than Traunt and a YC.

It sure is, but don’t get why you think green tree is useless when it has a lot of utility, and you say Fl4k and Amara are better? In our groups I blow past most, just right behind an Amara though, no one touches her.

I didn’t say the tree was useless. I said I think it’s less satisfying than the other 2.

I also didn’t say Flak is “better”. I said he did more damage.

If you can one shot things like you said, it is pretty much what fl4k does and you should be able to be on par or out DPS them.

I can 1 shot Traunt with a shock launcher and some overkill.

But if I take Zane into the Slaughter Shaft with, I don’t know say a Stage Coach, (insert your favorite gun here) he’s not going to kill the enemies as quickly as a Flak would.

I may still have an easier time clearing the thing because of things like movement speed the barrier and health regen but Flak is probably going to kill things faster.

They are set up different. For Zane if you go high pellet count, your damage comes from Brain Freeze and groupings. Fl4ks go for crit ricochets. That is what makes NoS beautiful with a scattergun. You can get a similar effect with a headshot.

My current Zane is grenade/heavy/AOE/splash damage buffs, so grouping, bossing, don’t matter. Boom Sickle, Tiggsboom, Kaoson, Cake, Duc, Sprinkler, Bangstick, Plague, Craps.

For NoS I will run, weapon/pistol/shotgun/crit/OGT/speed, to pick up extra damage where it can. Monarch, Maggie, Craps, Scattergun, Dictator, Sickle, Tiggsboom, Skullsmasher, Clairvoyance(multi pellet version), Sandhawk.

Honestly, I’d consider Doubled Agent tree to be more of a mess, because at least four skills and the capstone are completely useless if you’re not running the Clone, and another four have diminished effects (granted, Donnybrook is still fantastic regardless) without.

Although some of the skills in Under Cover may seem anti-synergistic with the end goal of keeping the Barrier up indefinitely, even the best players mess up (and I guarantee you a lot of us certainly are the “the best,” as much as we want to think we are :yum: ) and those skills will save your skin if the Barrier happens to lapse for a little bit. Does the tree need more DPS skills though? Yeah, definitely. Here are a few of the changes I’d make myself:

  • Make Adrenaline a damage-boosting skill of some sort, so that way you have at least one Tier 1 skill that can be used with the Rough Rider. Maybe keeping with the secondary theme of the tree, give increased damage on frozen enemies?
  • I don’t know what the freeze chance is of the nova in Best Served Cold is, but I feel like it should definitely have an increased, if not guaranteed, freeze chance (even if that means increasing the cooldown).
  • Maybe have Futility Belt’s non-elemental resistance be doubled if your shield is up? Or maybe have it so where the kill skill effect only applies to health damage?
  • Nerves of Steel gives damage as well, and stacks last for a few seconds after you take damage. For a Tier 5 skill, it deserves better.
  • Instead of its current effect (which seems like it’d be useless with some shields? Dunno, never used it), Distributed Denial should boost the effects of the shields of you and your allies, AND boost the effects of Barrier augments. Speaking of…
  • Like others have said many times before, in this thread and others, make all Barrier augments work while holding it. Although Deterrence Field is fun and good for staggering enemies that get too close, it’d be amazing to get some extra gun damage with Redistribution.

That’s about it, I think.

The main problem with the Hitman skill tree and Zane as a concept in whole is he works COMPLETELY off of kill skills.

Zane is weak and fragile until he kills something. “See’in Red” was meant to fix this as an action skill but that itself as a capstone is even more flawed as then it means against bosses you either best kill them in a few seconds or you’re gimped for the rest of the fight.

What Gearbox should’ve done is replaced “See’in Red” with the “See’in Dead” class mod. This way people didn’t need a DLC just to play a character as intended.

Because as is it makes every other class mod Zane has absolute crap in comparison. Which is sad, because some of them seem very fun to use, but are impossible because Zane functions off of kill skills and See’in Dead actually makes a character like that possible. Without it, and the entire character falls apart.