[Theory/Guide] Building Zane meta

Following HurdyGurdy 's excellent topic

Let’s redefine Zane layout. Or at least help newcomers.

This is NOT a build post, but a post to make a Meta build. You may find a skill is better than another, and someone else may like a skill you want to avoid at all costs. I will try to go a as comprehensive and including as possible, but some options are objectively counterproductive.

Any comment is welcome to improve the following.

  1) What is a Meta ?

  • Minimal exploits, minimal downsides
  • Viability and sustainability in all content
  • Perfected gear is better but not necessary

  2) Skills

Barrier provides amplified gun damage, both STNL and Clone provide added damage.
Depending on build, I will consider all 3 are viable at start. Assuming you use skills that throw grenades for you, equipping 2 action skills is a better option than equipping a grenade.

Most buffs are conditionnal. And most of those conditions are “Kill skills”, so we have 3 options:

  • use “Seeing’ dead” COM, that turns “kill skills” into “deal damage skills”.
    Probably the best option. But it drops only in DLC1.

  • kill 2 enemies every 15 seconds to keep up. That might be an issue in boss fights. That might also be an issue when there is only 1 badass left, the timer runs out, and you end up on cooldown.
    Not a good option.

  • abuse “Calm, cool, collected” and “Seeing’ red” skills to skip cooldowns and trigger at least 2 stacks of kill skills every 15 seconds. This third option is rather a Barrier/STNL build, as it leaves only 11 points for the Doubled agent tree, which is not enough to have “Boom. Enhance” and “Double barrel” skills on Clone, and obviously a letdown on Clone builds.

  Straight go-to skills.

Whatever build road we took, we want:

  • Synchronicity: 5/5 +40% gun damage, because we have 2 active action skills.
  • Violent Momentum: 5/5 +20% gun damage because we move.

and the following Kill skills:

  • Donnybrook: 5/5 +30% gun damage, and a bit health regen.
  • Violent speed: 5/5 more speed = more damage.
  • Death follows close: 1/1 +25% effect and +7s on kill skills.

As there is no better option on the sides, we want to reach “Playing dirty” and “Violent violence”, so let’s invest more in the Hitman tree:

  • Salvation: 1/5 Lifesteal as a kill skill, adds survivability.
  • Drone delivery: 1/1 Drone uses grenades.
  • Cool hands: 1+/5 Reload faster = more damage.
  • 1 spare point in either Cool hands or Cold Bore.
  • Playing Dirty: 1+/5 a chance for the next 5 shots to fire twice. 5/5 on Seeing’ Dead COM build.
  • Violent violence: 1+/5 more fire rate = kill faster.

Here we are: http://bl3skills.com/operative/#000000000000005052111110050050000000000

  The Seeing' Dead COM way

"Kill skills" are now "deal damage skills".

We want action skills to be active as much as possible:

  • Borrowed time: 1+/5 more action skill duration.
  • Good misfortune: 1+/3 more duration returned on damage.
  • Adrenaline: 1+/5 improved cooldown, just in case things go wrong (note that if you already unlocked Guardian Ranks, the “Topped off” perk is redundant with this skill, you would probably get more utility from Ready for action).

We use either Clone, which draws enemy attention, or Barrier, which protects our shield, so:

  • Brainfreeze: 1+/5 a frozen enemy can’t target or harm you.
    Using “Trick of light” or not, this is definitely helping.
  • Ready for action 1+/5: better shield recharge, to keep “Confident competence” up.
  • Confident Competence: 1/1 up to +35% gun damage depending on shield.
  • Supersonic man: 1+/3 up to +24% more speed = more damage.

Here we are: http://bl3skills.com/operative/#500500100000005052111141050550000010000
Enough points left to reach Double barrel, or spare around to max out damage if not using Clone.

  The Seeing' Red capstone skill way

But I want kill skills buffs anyway.

We want to reactivate action skills more often. “Borrowed time”, “Good misfortune”, and “Adrenaline” are made completely irrelevant by how “Calm, cool, collected” works, but “Confident Competence” is still there, so:

  • Ready for action 1+/5: better shield recharge. Hearty shock gives “only” up to +30% shield, which won’t make a big difference whent hit by a bullet. Full shield > bigger shield ?
  • Brainfreeze: 5/5 we need to freeze enemies.
  • Confident Competence: 1/1 up to +35% gun damage depending on shield.
  • Stiff upper lip: 3/3 +16% resistance. Full shield > bigger shield.
  • Rise to the occasion: 1+/5 because there’s nothing left.
  • Really expensive jacket: 1/1 -50% DoTs received. Nice.
  • 4 spare points. Best served cold can self-damage, and Futility belt is said to be somewhat bugged. Choose your poison.
  • Calm, cool, collected: 1/1 Goodbye Cooldowns.

We max out “Playing Dirty” and “Violent violence” to get:

  • Seeing’ red: 1/1 Now kill skills are Action skill activation buffs.

Here we are: http://bl3skills.com/operative/#005535110001005052111550150050000000000
1 spare point. Limited options. “Cool hands” is probably your best friend left.

You may skip "Calm, cool, collected", assuming you are lucky enough to find Artifact and/or COM that boosts cooldowns, thus reaching minimal downtime of action skills.
That’s up to 5 points in “Adrenaline” and at least 6 spare points for you to invest elsewhere.

But that means rather specific gear if the RNG gods are not on your side.

In such case, it may be tempting to skip also “Confident competence” and invest in “Trick of the light”, to go full Clone. Beware that TotL bonus is conditional, and wonky: you may get full +36% on first shot, then nothing, because you just got enemy aggro.

  But I have a great idea around Distributed denial capstone ...

We went so far into the green tree… Why not ?

Relying on "Seeing' red" capstone, we have to sacrifice “Donnybrook” to get to something like this:

That’s at least 24% less base damage, and there is no shield bonus which would outweight that.
Not a good option.

With Seeing' Dead COM, we have to sacrifice “Supersonic man” to get to something like this:

Adding a shield with damage bonus should have good returns.
Okay, maybe.

  Why not using Dopplebanger to trigger ASE annointments ?

You may have “+50% elemental damage for 10s on action skill end” anointment on shield and grenade.

  • To trigger this reliably, you would use the “Dopplebanger” skill modifier, thus using the Clone only to end it. Which means -20% damage from Synchronicity, as you loose 1 stack.
  • To slot Clone, you either loose Drone (automatic damage, fire rate, speed boost) or Barrier (AMP damage, various boosts). If already using Clone, you loose most possible benefits of Clone itself. Not sure how that translates into damage %.
  • You may have +15% speed annointment on shield full-time instead, and the situational grenade bonus can be there building for ASE or not.
  • To have Clone every 10s, you need either to build into “Calm, cool, collected”, or get cooldown bonuses on COM/Artifact. Both mean you sacrifice damage potential.

I’m not sure ASE bonus outweights the alternatives. Maybe a hardtime tester could confirm ?
Please ?

  3) Gear


Because we can’t throw aimed grenades, and that the Clone or Drone would throw them directly in our face at the worst moment, we will prefer auto-aiming tracking grenades, with limited range.


Without Barrier, we want to keep shields up for “Confident competence”. Something with reverb or self-refill is obviously needed. Effects on Back ham, Rico, Transformer, or Big boom blaster or similar would help.

With Barrier, we have less pressure about keeping shield up, and can go into damage-boosting shields. Current best is probably Old god. Some other side-effects like on Messy breakup can be interesting, but probably won’t go above. Keep in mind the Barrier shields your shield most of the time, so you don’t get deplete or empty effects often, and you may not rely much on “when damaged” effects.

With Distributed Denial Barrier, you may go to shields with fancy effects but without their drawbacks, like Void rift, Frozen heart, or Impaler. The deplete effect will occur once Barrier ends (Nb: beware that only “instant” effects can be triggered, you can’t have “when the shield is empty” effects, as the Barrier is not there anymore). That probably won’t be maxed out damage, but it’s fun.

  Class mod

Obviously, Seeing’ Dead, with as much points possible in “Playing dirty” and/or “Donnybrook”, for the relevant way.

Without Seeing' Dead COM,

  • Executor adds damage as a kill skill without drawbacks, so probably your best option.
    Better without “Good misfortune”, as “Calm, cool, collected” would negate most of this skill.
  • Antifreeze adds damage when sliding or airborne, and prevents slowdowns, which can also help. Better with “Violent momentum”, but the other skills on COM would boost your speed anyway, so that’s a guaranteed damage boost.
  • Infiltrator negates “Confident competence”, but gives bonus weapon damage and speed. Not sure this outweights 35% damage, as some testing posts talk about +20% damage.
  • Other COMs are even more conditionnal, or don’t add damage.


Icebreaker adds 40% damage on frozen enemies, and we took “Brainfreeze” in all ways, so that seems like a no-brainer.

Elemental projector adds 90% damage, assuming you are first damaged by an element matching the ones on your weapon(s). Less reliable than Icebreaker, but still good.

Pearl of ineffable Knowledge adds up to 90% damage, but is a DLC2 mission reward, and thus not easily farmable to get good rolls on stats.

Other current Artifacts don’t seem to have a real synergy with Zane, but you may try.


There are just too many options to detail everything here, and a shifting patch may change a lot about it, so just a few points:

  • Launchers and bipods slow us down, so unless their damage is really above average, there are probably better options.
  • We sustain through constant damage, so reload and/or charge times are against us when the weapon does not have innate kind of DoT. Once again, unless the weapon is really good, there are probably better options.
  • We need to crit for “Brainfreeze”, so low accuracy is also against us, unless the weapon has some kind of auto-crit mechanism in it.


By default, always prefer “on active action skill” effects, as we have almost 100% uptime in all builds, which is obviously better than any “for a few seconds” boost you could get. Be aware that “+100% Cryo damage” also triggers Icebreaker and is multiplicative, while “+200% damage” is “only” additive.

On “Calm, Cool, collected” builds, you may go to “on action skill end” effects, as these would proc often enough to get full benefit.

  Here we go

Thanks for reading and thanks also to all great forumers that wrote guides here.
Special thanks to Superfr34k for his feedback and advice.

If this thread does not answer your questions, take a look here:

[Edit 18/10] Topped off GR


First, you should mention the Guardian rank of Topped Off, which greatly impacts cooldown rates and makes adrenaline redundant. But without Topped Off, you’re going to be standing around waiting for your cooldown and this can end you due to the delays from one mob to another.

Second, the ASE’s were the absolutely best method of DPS before the Phase 2 buff of the AS’s. The AS’s were so under powered previously, they contributed barely anything to your damage output and ASE’s were almost a requirement along with the Sentinel Cryo anoint. It did take a bit more of a challenge because of the mechanics of summoning and then popping the Clone and the time delay before you can start unloading rainbows of death upon the enemies, but the DPS output was well worth it.

I have the deep feeling something has not been checked enough about Calm, Cool, Collected, Distributed Denial, and ASA shield anointments.

Any comment is welcome, I will probably have trouble gathering everything just for test purposes.

Things to test once more:

  • Nova berner (burn ! burn !)
  • Red suit (how to kill yourself super-reliably)
  • Void rift (with the electric field barrier modifier)
  • Faulty star (even more novas ?)
  • Frozen snowshoe (can I throw 2 snowballs ? maybe ?)
  • Messy breakup (because we never have enough drones)
  • Old god (as pure buff comparison)

While I applaud you for taking on the task of matching the Moze Meta Build. You are losing sight of how that guide worked. It focused on the most popular way of building Moze not necessarily the most effective. A complete Zane guide is different than a meta build Zane guide. I will make suggestions to improve the later. If you seek to create the former, I believe you should frame it differently.

Calm, cool, collected is not meta currently. It might become so depending on how COMs are rebalanced, but nothing touches Seeing Dead in popularity. At most it should have a short section explaining why it isn’t meta (along with Distributed Denial)


  • Playing Dirty could probably be downgraded from meta to priority pick. The reduced dividends with meta weapons like the Lightshow and Flipper means it isn’t critical to the meta build.
  • Ready for Action should be considered a Controversial pick. The Topped Off perk renders it impotent.
  • Under Cover Tier 4+ falls into a similar trap as Shield of Retribution. Anything past Confident Competence just isn’t meta.
  • Seeing’ Red might be downgraded from meta to priority pick. It’s a bossing tool that could be ignored given the power of Seeing Dead.
  • Need to cover the Doubled Agent skills.


  • Unlike Moze, Seeing Dead is the only COM for the meta today.
  • Mention of Infiltrator and Antifreeze should be made for the ability to reach 10/5 Violent Momentum
  • Pearl is not meta. The damage is additive with Violent Momentum. Conversely Icebreaker is multiplicative and Snowdrift is nearly multiplicative due to speed boosts.
  • Guns: Lightshow, Flipper, Monarch, Clone S-Tier weapons (Sandhawk, Gargoyle, Ember’s Purge), Hellwalker*
  • Grenades: Piss, Hex, CMT*


  • Sentinel Cryo (multiplicative buff)
  • Consecutive Hits (always available)
  • 300/90 (launchers)
  • Barrier Crit (fairly multiplicative if barrier is used probably not meta, but worth mentioning)
  • Grenade Throw
  • Sentinel Move Speed
  • Terror?


Thanks for these suggestions.

The opening post was written in July, before I could even play DLC3, and I did not update since - that’s why it does not include Lightshow and other weapons, nor weapons buffed since.

I don’t follow you on “priority/controversial” picks. Meta is not the most popular, but the most efficient. Seeing dead is indeed the most efficient COM, but never forget it is part of a DLC. Assuming some new BL3 player would come to this post and search, I feel bad telling him he has to buy DLC1 and unlock a guardian rank to be efficient.

I also heavily suspect the announced 4th skill trees would come with a rebalance, that’s why I don’t hurry in updating the opening post today, as most of it would probably have to be rewritten by 2 months.

Contrary to Moze, most skills are directly tied to the matching tree action skill. Of course, Double barrel is your best investment in a Clone build, but it’s absolutely useless in a Drone/Barrier build. I’m not sure at the moment if Clone/4th skill would become the new meta (which I would consider a complete fustercluck from Gearbox, it’s not fair to hide the best build behind a paywall).

Because most players embraced Clone+Drone builds as a staple (because Double barrel is great and +100 % Cryo anointment only works with STNL), and so that player testing lacks a bit around Barrier, I will probably focus on that in between. Maybe, probably, I’m on the wrong track, and Clone is absolute meta, giving twice the damage potency of Barrier+Drone. But I secretely hope we missed a loop and there is a place for no-Clone builds in the meta. Maybe we are all wrong and Clone+Barrier is the true meta. Why not (those theories would also prove that Gearbox designers and testers are not 100% lazy monkeys) ?

Thanks anyway. More soon.

Okay. Mixed first results.

Shields tested:

  • Messy breakup.
    The ASA anointment does seem to trigger second drone. Even combined with Executor COM (that makes your shield pop on ASA) and CCC skill, I did not manage to get more than 3 drones without clone. And the damage of MB drone is underwhelming. Meh.

  • Red suit.
    Even with an Atom balm artifact, the aura damage is disappointing. Being almost immune to Rad damage would be fine if the Barrier did not already block most of it. Meh.

  • Faulty star.
    The nova does not trigger so often, but when it does, it hurts. Nice.

Second thoughts on skills:

  • Nerves of steel is often overlooked, as not giving direct damage boost. It does greatly reduce the spread of bullets, and allows to aim very reliably at full speed. I can actually aim with a Monarch rather than shooting in a general direction.

  • Deterrence Field is probably one of the most dangerous tools in Zane’s arsenal. The Barrier damage itself is not so OP, but the stagger effect allows you to stop many more things than projectiles. It interrupts anointed enemies teleporting near you, pushes anointed militants taking their shield down, and it also interrupts Captain Traunt during his fire eruption move. The best defense seems to run directly into enemies.

it also destroys your eyes within 30 mins of gaming to the point of no return pog

I’ve been (ab)using Deterrence Field basically since launch. It’s such a great crowd control tool.