[Updated Lv70 Build] Hellfire Athena -- Melting with DoTs & Maelstrom stacking made easy!

I don’t want to set the world on fire…

##Table of Contents

  1. The Build
  2. The Gear
  3. Build Explanation & Skills & Synergy
  4. Playstyle Tips
  5. The Videos & Showcase


Do you like setting sh*t on fire? Do you like being able to stack 200 maelstrom with a single kill? Would you like DoTs to do bulk of the work for you? Then this build is for you!

I initially created this build to make use of DoTs, which are pretty, but have always been pretty useless for the most part of BL2 and BL:TPS (which is a shame). The original build, while still great, was showing its age, so I am updating the build with new gears/combos/specs that may work even better for you.

The build shines even against the usual double Hyperion shotty-Rocket Launcher spamming-Storm COM build! Hellfire Athena provides:

  1. unusually high sustained stacks
  2. incredible crowd control abilities (DoTs can chain kill enemies without you even shooting at them)
  3. high shield regeneration rate
  4. great ammo efficiency, fast stacking, and very high DPS
  5. flexibility that scales all the way from general mobbing to hardest contents in the game (including lvl 9 mutator arena, raid boss, and Eclipse/EOS)

Thanks to @chuck80 for words of encouragement and @khimerakiller for the inspiration.

#The (updated) Build
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dat Maliwan skin is still pretty! Gameplay showcases are on the bottom of this post.

#The Gear
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###Gun slot 1: Thunderfire :zap:

This is a really interesting shock blaster that also has a small fire nova at the point of impact. It fires relatively slowly, but it packs a punch and boasts high shock DoT chance. In addition, hipfiring this weapon is super easy, due to the fire nova. This is going to be one of our two main weapons.

###Gun slot 2: Hellfire :fire:

This is the other star of the show. While it seems similar to a regular Maliwan SMG, it boasts 50% splash damage, higher DoT damage and ignite chance. The splash damage not only adds to the damage output, but it also has its own chance of igniting an enemy, nearly doubling ignite chance. This thing not only stacks fast, but is also the most consistent gun in the entire game when it comes to putting DoTs on enemies.

###Gun slot 3: Fridgia / Absolute Zero :snowflake:

The Dahl SMG fires two cryo bullets per shot (making it a reliable freeze tool), has an extremely fast fire rate and is effective at hipfiring. Use either to quickly freeze an enemy so that they stop shooting at you and enjoy the increased critical hit damage and explosive damage. With the COM, it deals enough damage to instantly vaporize mobs at higher stacks. This is especially true for the Absolute Zero, which deals so much damage so that you don’t even need explosive weapons to kill UBAs in lvl 9 mutator arena.

###Gun slot 4: Ravager / Flakker / Laser Disker :boom:

This is for the biggest and baddest of enemies who need to die instantly. Freeze them with your Fridgia, then hit them hard with the 3x increased explosive damage. The Laser Disker is nice for killing flying enemies with ease. Flakker is incredibly useful for boss fights, and Ravager is generally useful, especially against UBAs when you’re at 999 stacks and have unrelenting active. Word of warning: while chucking Laser Disker at 999 stacks on a frozen enemy is the most OP thing you will ever see, the reloads tend to pass through enemies, and when you have Elemental Barrage active, you might need to fire for extended period of time to actually consume ammo and be able to chuck.

###Shield: Shield of Ages / Black Hole

Black Hole sucks in enemies when it’s depleted, then releases a huge shock nova shortly afterwards. It really helps with survivability when your shield is broken, adds an extra layer of crowd control, and acts as an additional source of shock DoTs. If you manage to put a DoT on someone from the nova, then your shield goes back up, thanks to Conduit. The Shield of Ages is a staple for most Athena builds for a reason - it has unbelievably good synergy with Conduit. Athena has just one health regen skill if you’re not going into the melee tree, whereas she can regen shield like there’s no tomorrow. With the huge capacity, even few points in Conduit allows you to regen insane amounts of shield.

###Grenade: Quasar / Leech :zap:

The former releases child grenades on impact that seek and damage enemies. And when they damage enemies, you instantly gain your health back - no waiting for transfusion trails to reach you! The latter acts as both as a singularity grenade and a telsa grenade. Both are pretty good in terms of setting off shock DoTs, so when you throw them, you will get your shield back pretty quickly. Use the Leech if you’re using Black Hole, for maximum survivability. However, outside of the lvl 9 mutator arena, the standard Shield of Ages + Quasar combo works pretty well, and gives you crowd control ability in addition to making hipfiring incredibly easy.

###Class mod: Chronicler of Elpis

Most people, upon seeing my choice for the COM, would think: “Eww, Chronicler of Elpis? Why would anybody use that?” And it is true that this COM is definitely one of the worst COMs for Athena for most purposes. But this is the only COM that boosts both Overload and Unrelenting, both of which are key skills for this build, especially if you’re using HSGs. In addition, this COM gives me extra shield capacity, which is always welcomed, and hefty increase to Cryo damage and freeze chance, which increases the effectiveness of Fridgia and Absolute Zero. I’ve tried a lot of different COMs that boost either of these skills (but not both), and they just don’t work as well. If you do not have this COM, then Dragon or Rainbow Hologram are your next 2 best choices.

###Oz kit: Oxidizer :zap: in atmosphere, Duality :zap: in vacuum

The Oxidizer is another widely-hated piece of gear that turns out to work out very well for this build. The MASSIVE increase to ignite chance and the occasional fire nova really helps this build, especially in atmosphere. it really works well with both Hellfire and Thunderfire, and the latter gains a very high chance to set off both Shock and Fire DoTs. This Oz kit increases the number of DoTs you stack, reliably puts DoTs on enemies, and allows you to stack high, really fast. The Duality variant that increases Electrocute chance and Electrocute damage is helpful for stacking DoTs in vacuum, where you cannot set enemies on fire. The increased Electrocute chance allows the Thunderfire to act as the shock Hellfire, boasting high DoT damage and DoT chance. The shock slam element is desirable as it will allow you to regen your shield on demand by slamming down on enemies.

###Backpack gear:

Party Line :fire: : surprisingly damaging and proficient at lighting enemies on fire. It’s not as reliable as the Hellfire for DoTs, but because of the fireworks effect, you can literally be brain-dead and still hipfire this effectively.

Logan’s Gun :fire: : fills the same niche as the Party Line - a bit less reliable than Hellfire, but hella easy to hipfire. This may be the first time in Borderlands history that this gun is used legitimately for something other than rocket regens.

Longnail :fire: : surprisingly good for this build. While it’s not going to completely replace the Hellfire, it fills a similar role, from far away - start shooting enemies through their shields - which increases your chance to light them on fire - then finish off with a couple of crits. A word of warning: this thing kicks like a mule with high maelstrom stacks, so you might want to use this to start off your chain reaction of DoTs.

Hail :zap: : really great for vacuum environments. This thing has split projectiles (more DoTs), splash damage (even more DoTs), and moxxi healing. When you can control the arc, you will be zapping enemies left and right, in addition to doing a metric ton of damage!

Hyperion shottys / Company Man :zap: : it pains me to recommend this. Like the DPUH or Norfleet in BL2, I don’t think I need to say why one would use this (especially for raids), and why you should try using my recommended loadout above instead of using HSGs if you want any sort of build diversity. If you’re really using HSGs for mobbing … ಠ_ಠ … put these in slot 1 - light 'em up with the Hellfire, and finish them off with the HSGs.

Badaboom :fire: :zap: :biohazard: :boom: : another staple for raids, for a good reason. Stack some maelstrom, get a kill skill, then swap to the Badaboom to wipe bosses off the face of Elpis in seconds!

Asteroid Belt :boom: : this one’s a shield, but with an explosive twist - whenever you get attacked, there is a good chance that an explosive meteor will fly out to the enemy’s face! With such high maelstrom stacks, the meteors actually do respectable damage, and if you’re freezing enemies along the way, that’s free 3x damage! Actually really practical (and hella fun). Definitely try this out!

#The Skills/How this build works/Synergies
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This build is just packed with synergy, and let’s start off by listing the 2 main skills of this build: Overload and Unrelenting. Overload is the skill that really enables your DoTs to shine. Not only does it propagate your DoTs, but it also stacks maelstrom very quickly even though you might not be shooting and killing enemies a lot. This skill also synergizes very well with the Hellfire, as Hellfire’s 50% splash roughly increases overall DoT output by 2x, and when coupled with Oxidizer, the DoT damage becomes so massive that the gun+splash damage to DoT damage becomes really small, which is ideal for this skill as DoTs are more likely to kill an enemy than your bullet+splash. And once you’re at high enough stacks, you might find that the DoTs just keep spreading by itself like a wildfire that is kept unchecked, and that is because the propagating DoTs instantly graze mobs, which then spread to another enemy. This skill also synergizes very well with the Thunderfire in both air and vacuum maps. In maps with air, the Oxidizer really increases the DoT chance of your fire nova that Thunderfire has very high chance to proc both shock and fire DoTs. And when you kill an enemy with shock and fire DoT at the same time, you get double the maelstrom bonus stacks and the DoTs can propagate to two different enemies! In vacuum, the shock DoT chance becomes stupidly high that you will be just zapping enemies all across the map without even shooting at them, thanks to Overload. And of course, as you get lots of free stacks quickly from this skill, the fire nova of the gun gains massive damage, allowing you to chew through all sorts of enemies.

But wait, there’s more! You might have noticed that even though this is a DoT-centric build, I don’t have a dedicated shock weapon. That’s because of there are many, many sources of shock DoTs and they all work not just with Overload on spreading these shock DoTs, but also regens your shield via Conduit. So what are these sources of shock DoTs? Grenades. Hades’ Shackle. Smite. Prismatic Aegis + Wrath of the Goddess + Zeus’ Rage. Butt slams. Superconductor. There are so many sources of shock DoTs! This allows you flexibility in spreading DoTs, and allows you to keep spreading both fire and shock DoTs at the same time without worrying about swapping between a fire and a shock weapon.

But wait, there’s more! Overload really works really well with Hades’Shackle since Hades’ Shackle produces shock DoTs initially and then provides massive fire DoTs at termination, so you can easily gain lots of stacks and spread lots of DoTs by slamming down in front of many enemies, killing one of them, getting loads of free stacks, spreading both shock and fire DoTs, getting even more free stacks from DoTs propagating, and gaining all the stacks from the actual DoTs ticking! In a preview video I did, I was able to reach 300 stacks within 5 seconds of shooting and by killing merely 2 enemies with my gun. That is really powerful, and these skills, along with your DoTs, allow you to mob very effectively and gain very high stacks without you doing much.

But wait, there’s more! While Overload is perfect for killing tons of mobs in very short time and gaining lots of free stacks, the skill allows you to stack very high and procs another kill skill, Unrelenting. Using the high stacks and the kill buff you got from spreading all those DoTs, you can swap to a different gun, then just rain down MASSIVE DPS on a bigger enemy, such as UBAs. It is just ridiculous how well this works. High stacks, loads of DoTs, extremely high fire rate and DoT chance from Storm Weaving and Unrelenting allows you to really, absolutely wreck big baddies. Not to mention, with the high stacks you gained from Overload, you gain essentially infinitely big magazine size for 9 seconds.

But wait, there’s more! The next set of synergies comes from your Aspis. As you know, Aspis allows you to tank a lot of stuffs and heal up. But through the synergy of Ephodos, Vanguard, Prepare for Glory, Conduit and Superconductor, you gain immensive tanking ability, even more free stacks, and some major DPS boost. Prepare for Glory aggros enemies and increases damage output quite significantly for every enemy inflicted. But with Superconductor, your Aspis has a high chance to “strike nearby enemies”, meaning you get to zap whatever is shooting at you. Not only does this give you free stacks, but it increases damage by increasing stacks via shock DoT and stacks Prepare for Glory. Add Ephodos on top of that and you got some crazy DPS. I won’t have to tell you that with the kind of synergy Overload for mobbing, this DPS can come in very useful for taking down UBAs. So when you’re fighting UBAs, you will ideally have your shield up and have procced Overload on the mobs, and switched your weapon to get massive fire rate from Unrelenting and Storm Weaving and get massive damage boosts from Aspis-related skills that i just discussed on top of all this boost from DoT-related skills. But when you’re fighting UBAs, even though your Aspis might be tanking a lot of the damage for you, you are in greater danger because other enemies now get aggroed to you and shoot you, and UBAs often have barrage attacks that you can’t wholly take on with your shield. That’s where the Aspis synergy comes in handy. With Prepare for Glory and Superconductor, you get lots of shock DoTs from your shield zapping your attackers, and your Aspis absorbs a lot of damage. With Vanguard, the increased damage you take generates sizeable health, and with Conduit, the shock DoTs regenerate your health. In summary, when you have your Aspis up, you get massive DPS and health and shield regen!

Updated skills: after extensive testing, it turns out I don’t really like Prepare for Glory. I never have many stacks with it, and rather than boosting damage by a small amount directly, I would much rather stack Maelstrom higher (and thus gain more DPS and less ammo consumption) by investing into skills such as Return Fire. I originally had points in United Front, but I found that I didn’t need it at all when using the Shield of Ages, so I invested the remaining points into Return Fire for extra stacking.

Another big change is the addition of Flash Freeze. I find that 3 points on it is just perfect for freeze 'n smash. Any less, you risk losing stacks while you’re in the process of smashing. Any more, it’s a waste of points and potential stacks that you could’ve gained. Now, to make points for Flash Freeze, I took out a few points from Gathering Tempest, Conduit, and Hades’ Shackle. I found that I didn’t make much use out of Hades’ Shackle anyway (if you do, feel free to keep that in), and that I could make do with just 2 points in Conduit. While I would really like 5/5 on Gathering Tempest, I also want to be not broke as f***, and well, I can’t always get everything I want, so I had to make some sacrifices.

##Playstyle/General tips
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(The playstyle did not change at all, so there is nothing to update here)

So you can see from the above section how the build starts to come together and how every piece of gear and how every skill works together to massively increase stacking, DPS, crowd control (mobs being grazed with Overload), reduced ammo consumption, shield and health regen. But there is one caveat to this build, and it’s that the build is very kill-skill dependent (to be fair, most of Athena builds are kill skill dependent, but this one depends a lot on kill skills). So if you don’t follow these guidelines and be careful in how you play,

First, be mindful of the order in which you engage your enemies. As I explained in the Overload and Unrelenting synergy, you can wreck mobs with your DoTs, stack really high, gain kill skills, then engage the UBAs. If you try to reverse the order… well, good luck even stacking beyond 400. The flow of kills is important, and after a while, it will just feel natural to you, and that’s when this build begins to be really fun!

Second, save the Aspis for when you’re engaging the big guys. If you get low on health while killing trash mobs, throw a grenade or try to get shock DoTs on your enemies! With incredibly diverse sources of shock DoTs, you can stay alive pretty well when dealing with trash mobs. And when you need to bring out “the big guns”, propagate tons of DoT, get a kill skill, swap, then get your Aspis up to take advantage of every buff I mentioned in the first paragraph of this section.

Remember - the Aspis not only makes you tanky, but it also is a way of stacking maelstrom even faster.

As for the actual usage of the guns, feel free to switch up between Thunderfire and Hellfire as you feel like. Either of them can be the closer or the stacker depending on your needs, and keeping Storm Weaving up is more important than matching damage types. As you will see in the videos, I literally switch up between these two guns without a pattern, so just feel free to play as you’d like!

And last but not least, make liberal use of cryo. You have Chronicler of Elpis for a reason! If you’re being overwhelmed with enemies, freezing a few will mean less guns shooting at you! Not only that, but it also means you can get up close and stack even better, or maybe freeze then chain them all using your butt slam. Remember - enemies that are not moving are the best enemies!

#The Videos
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###Showcasing the updated build (everything below this is using the old build)

###Lvl 9 mutator arena run that perfectly shows off what this build is capable of, what not even Hyperion shottys can offer!

credit to @khimerakiller

###Fighting armored enemies in 1st part of Subconscious - shows extreme stacking and effectiveness even against armored enemies

###Fighting flesh enemies in 2nd part of Subconscious - shows Overload just eating through enemies without me shooting at them

###Cluster 00773 Pandora run - shows very good mobbing and stacking abilities

###Titan Robot Plant run w/ Felicity - uses an early build

###Mobbing on Stanton’s Liver - shows how well the build holds up even in vacuum

I specifically made this video for people who’d think: “hurr durr but you’re using Oxidizer! When you’re in vacuum, you’d get instantly rekt, right? …Right?” (the answer is no. I do just fine)

##Closing Remarks

Thank you for reading through this monstrosity of wall of text and videos. I hope you enjoyed the build (I do. A lot). If any of this sounds interesting, I highly encourage you to try this build yourself and tweak it to your liking. It is such an underrated, yet rewarding mix of synergy, gears, skill points, and playstyle.

With this build, I hope I showed that DoTs aren’t trash/gimmicks (throughout BL2 and TPS, I’ve always heard people say DoTs are useless - and it feels good to come up with a counter example), and that the Hellfire definitely doesn’t suck.

Also, I realize that I am using a lot of unpopular skills and gears in this build, so hopefully I pushed some of you to reconsider them!

Now you’re thinking with p̶o̶r̶t̶a̶l̶s̶ DoTs!


It’s nearly 5AM and I am going to sleep. So I hope you enjoyed this build and if you have any remarks or questions, reply to this comment and I will get back to you when I wake up!

Nice setup!
Ive used an Overload setup back on lv 50 with the Dragon COM, but without Unrelenting and Elemental Barrage. I was thinking about using the Hologram after, never thought about the Chronicler and adding EE and Unrelenting. Amazing work!

Thank you!

To be fair, I wasn’t the one who thought of using Chronicler of Elpis. I literally went to the wiki, looked at every single Athena COM, then used every single COM that boosts either Unrelenting or Overload.

Dragon and Rainbow Hologram COMs are other viable options, but during my testing, I felt like it just didn’t fit well with this build… like sometimes I’d go down too much, sometimes it wouldn’t stack fast enough, sometimes it wouldn’t do enough DPS, etc., whereas Chronicler of Elpis just… worked.

My playstyle was quite different, to be honest, as my second capstone was Blood Rush and my grenade the Quasar.
I had Flash Freeze to maintain the stacks, Blood Rush to move through packs and Mercurial to help a little with survivability.
But Im going to test the CoE if I get the chance. Again, nice work!

Yeah, this build is really, really unique, and doesn’t even go into Xiphos tree (but I found that I don’t end up using blood rush at all, so…) but stacking is an absolute breeze with all these DoTs and I gain survivability from all these interactions/synergy across my gear and skills that allows me to tank some surprising sh*t.

Just to clarify, the core of this build is not chronicler of elpis. It’s split between hellfire & Thunderfire and the skills Overload & Unrelenting.

Great job dude! :+1:

And since you’re making build guides now I thought I’d tell you that DLC legendary weapons can’t spawn with luneshine in case you didn’t know. I’m not suggesting you remake your vids or anything, just for future reference that’s all.

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S***, really? Not even from grinders? (definitely, luneshine doesn’t make much of a difference on Thunderfire, and the Laser Disker luneshine only affects chuck by 5%, but that’s still news to me)

And thanks!

I mean you can check the forums, but that’s what I’ve heard/read (and why no DLC legendary has luneshine in my vids).

You’re welcome, thanks for the shoutout.

Yeah, I’d have no idea because the majority of farming I did was EOS for that sweet, sweet glitch weapons and I do remember that none of the occasional legendaries dropped with luneshine but I thought it was just bad luck.

And you’re welcome about the shoutout - hell, I should even credit you as the other person who doesn’t hate Hellfire!

Another fun fact since it sounds like you don’t know this either… no legendary can drop from a boss w/ luneshine. You can only get a luneshine’d legendary by moonstone grinding it.

Yeah, didn’t really bother with moonstone grinding. If I got a gun, then I took it as my license to use sir gibbleton to perfect the parts unless if it’s one of those guns with fixed parts.

I think the best legendary I got from EOS was Flakker with perfect parts. Coincidentally, it’s the gun I used for the 2:51 Eclipse & EOS kill!

lol :joy:

Not that it matters but at least what I said was “Sir Gibbington”, you’re not wrong it just made me laugh and I wanted to share.

I found that euphemism funny :smiley:

Also, I just wish all the naysayers would see this and at least reconsider their set-in-stone opinions. I worked very hard for this build that is pretty much unlike anything else this forum has touched on and the least they could do is to admit that this setup works, that DoTs aren’t useless and that the controversial gears I used just works really well IF you know how to use it.

For instance, chronicler of Elpis. No one likes that COM. Not even me. But it just works in this situation and I even got another dude in the comments to reconsider his mind about CoE. Wish the others would do the same.

Oh, and if it’s not too much trouble, could you try out this exact setup for yourself? I could send you the save file but I mainly want to see how someone who is better at optimizing than me can bring the 999-stack stacking as shown in the short clip of lvl 9 Mutator and maintain it throughout the whole lvl 9 Mutator. I feel like that way I can get a much better showcase.

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I have a couple other projects I’m working on but once I’m done with those I might take a swing at it. If I do it, can I just send you the raw video file and you just upload it yourself and credit me at the beginning of the video or something? If I can’t do something like that just say.

Anything is fine. In fact, you can upload your own video if you have the time, so the videos are on your channel, not mine. Anyways, I’m glad you’re willing to take this on. Thanks!

Good on you you made a build with guns you love, you got nothing but my respect here.

I was looking at the Elpis and I loved the skills on it, shame the multiplicative cryo boost is somewhat wasted on Athena. It’s so good.

I would say the hologram is a match made for this build but I guess you don’t want your guns doing too much damage to better serve the dot gimmick.

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Yeah, the freeze buffs mean next to nothing at higher stacks of Maelstrom, but at least it helps you start off at low stacks.

I’ve already tried the Hologram extensively - just as khimera. I really tried to make the hologram work. I did. But the lack of unrelenting made that just flop at higher difficulty content like the lvl 9 mutator.

And I wouldn’t say DoT and Overload are gimmicks - they actually work. If you’ve seen the test videos, you can clearly see that it does nothing else can do.

…So I came up with another gear setup that uses is basically based on this but uses a couple of different gears.

I’m not sure how to organize it because it doesn’t quite fit into the structure I already laid out in the main post.

So would you like me to post an alternative layout/gear setup on the bottom of the post or would that be too long?

I must also note that this slightly different setup covers one of the weaknesses of this build and Athena builds in general.

First: sorry if my englisch is bad

Second: Good job, dude! I had this build in me mind few times ago. I was a little bit sad that Athena isnt so strong like Nisha and the Hellfire isnt such a beast like in BL1 or BL2. I too want use the elpis but i dont do it because…yeah…dont know…its cold…you know. Thx to you I see it can work. My Build is quite similar to yours. I have to change a few things. I play later…i will see.

And I love wall of text. Yes, really, I do. Cause you explain it very well.