[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.

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:


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.