It is I, the master of inflammatory titles here to bring you another TED talk on Gamma Burst, FL4K’s worst action skill.
Some of you may be thinking this is hyperbole or that I just don’t know what I’m talking about. To you, I say that I am fairly confident that I can convince by the end of this post that Gamma Burst is currently FL4K’s worst action skill, and possibly the worst action skill in the game.
Let’s get started.
What Is Gamma Burst
Gamma Burst is the action skill connected with FL4K’s Master skill tree. The Master skill tree is typically associated with being FL4K’s “pet” skill tree, although it also has substantial damage and survivability bonuses for FL4K themself. This tree contains the majority of FL4K’s pet damage, damage reduction, and a healthy slathering of bonus damage.
Gamma Burst teleports FL4K’s currently selected pet to the cursor location, irradiating it and increasing its size. It doesn’t gain any direct survivability upgrades, but Gamma Burst has the hidden effect of making it so your pet cannot drop below 1 HP while it is active, effectively making the pet immortal. It will also deal bonus elemental splash damage on melee attacks equal to 75% of its damage as radiation. To apply this effect, Gamma Burst forces all pets to use melee attacks during its duration. Any pet attack that is not melee will not deal the bonus radiation damage.
Gamma Burst has 4 augment skills. Atomic Aroma envelopes the pet in a radiation aura that deals constant damage in an AOE. This skills scales off of FL4K’s pet damage. Emphatic Rage increases FL4K’s bonus damage by 20% while Gamma Burst is active. Endurance is a stacking skills that increases the duration of Gamma Burst by up to 15 seconds and pet damage by up to 50%. Lastly, Burst Aid creates a healing aura at the cursor location, healing FL4K and their allies by 20% health per second.
What Does Gamma Burst Do?
From the effects of the skill noted above, a reasonable conclusion to come to would be that, at its core, Gamma Burst is a skill designed to buff your pet’s damage and survivability. It increases the pet’s damage through bonus radiation, Atomic Aroma, and Endurance while making the pet ignore death.
It also provides some utility to FL4K in the form of Burst Aid’s healing aura, which acts provides a supporting ability for teammates and pets. Emphatic Rage adds more bonus damage to the already impressive amount that the Master skill tree provides.
So, what are the issues that make Gamma Burst the worst action skill FL4K has?
The Taxman Cometh - Gamma Burst CANNOT COMPETE with any other action skill without the Red Fang
Gamma Burst is the only action skill in the game that has a gear tax associated with it. What do I mean by this? Gamma Burst is not worth using at all unless you have a Red Fang class mod, so it is mandatory to sacrifice a gear slot just to play the build.
Some may be saying “that isn’t necessary at all. You don’t need to use Red Fang to play Gamma Burst”. While it would be wonderful if that were true, it isn’t. Sure, it’s not as if you can’t activate Gamma Burst without a Red Fang equipped, you can still use the skill with other class mods. But what does Gamma Burst actually provide on its own?
Time for some comparisons.
Gamma Burst vs. Rakk and Fade Away
As mentioned before, a reasonable assumption to make about Gamma is that it is primarily meant to be a buff to the pets, and a buff for FL4K second. In contrast, Fade Away is a buff exclusively to FL4K’s weapons. Rakk Attack isn’t a buff, but its own damage dealing entity. Using this as our base, let’s compare what each respective action skill provides to FL4K.
- Fade Away
At base, with no other skills or augments, Fade Away provides an extra 200% additional crit damage to FL4K’s weapons, as well as a guarantee to activate any on crit effects like Jakobs ricochets or Good Juju’s effects.
Again, with no further investment than choosing the action skill, Fade Away provides any weapon with x3 damage.
- Rakk Attack
Rakk are a bit more difficult to quantify than Fade Away, since they are an attack rather than a buff. Since this thread is about Gamma though, the point of comparison I will use is the damage a cast of Rakk provides at base to the damage a Gamma Burst pet can provide at base.
Level 60 Rakk Attack does 6,161 damage and tosses out 2 Rakk at once for a total of 12,322
Level 60 pets in Gamma Burst deal 5,246 damage.
As seen here, Rakk at their weakest state will deal over double the damage that a pet in Gamma Burst will.
There are two potential counterpoints to this:
- One may make the argument that Rakk are an action skill on a cool down, and that it should do more damage.
To this I would argue that Gamma Burst is an action skill as well and should provide comparable DPS to at least Rakk Attack.
- One may also argue that since Rakk are an action skill, they have a cool down timer while the pets are always out. Thus, when accounting for the cool down, the pets will begin to out damage Rakk at a point.
This is unfortunately not true. While pets are always active, Rakk have a tremendously short cool down, even with the Headcount bug. It’s not uncommon to have a cool down of 5 or 6 seconds between charges. Rakk Attack also has a much better damage formula than Gamma Burst pets, providing far easier access to different multipliers. As a result, Rakk Attack will easily out damage Gamma pets with even minimal investment.
For example, let’s assume that we have 350% pet damage with the pets and Gamma Burst active. Versus shields, the skag would be doing 23,607 melee damage per hit. Meanwhile, with an average Red + Green build with no class mod a single Rakk will deal 17K and you can launch two of them at once. A single cast of Rakk with a non-specialized build on it’s weakest health type does the same damage as a completely maxed out pet. If we were to include class mods, such as the Cosmic Stalker or Deadeye, the difference would widen further.
The comparison is actually more grim when comparing against flesh. Scorcher spiderant with 350% pet damage would deal a little over 41K damage in Gamma Burst. Meanwhile, a single cast of Rakk Attack would deal about 120K per cast, triple the damage of Scorcher. Considering the fact you can cast Rakk at least twice in quick succession, and the cool down is often less than 6 seconds, you can permanently maintain damage source that is triple that of your pet.
As these comparisons should show, Gamma Burst loses tremendously to FL4K’s other action skills as a buff to its respective target and as a viable damage source on its own. Between pets, items, and Rakk, pets have the lowest starting damage, being out done even by most white rarity items. Gamma Burst also gives the smallest damage bonus compared to other action skills. Whereas Fade Away triples your gun damage, Gamma doesn’t even double the pet’s.
This is compounded by the lack of solid damage increasing augments for Gamma Burst. Fade Away has Unblinking Eye, which provides an additional 225% crit damage on top of the 200% the skill already gives you. Rakk Attack has Flock N Load, which doubles Rakk’s effectiveness and DPS, and Rakkcelerate, which also boosts the damage the skill can do, both in burst and DPS. What does Gamma Burst have? Atomic Aroma provides little additional pet damage unless you spec for splash damage, which costs a valuable stat roll on COM and in general has anti-synergy with Gamma Burst. Emphatic Rage provides a 20% bonus while the skill is active, but on FL4K this isn’t a large bonus at all, especially considering the implications that using Gamma has on the anointments you can take advantage of. Endurance provides the best value to the skill, but even it only adds another 50% pet damage at max. Taking all the other pet bonuses into consideration, Endurance only actually adds 14% damage with full pet bonuses which in context of double Rakk damage or triple crit damage really isn’t much.
In these comparisons, I’ve left out anointments. They are a tremendous factor when comparing most action skills, but for FL4K it actually doesn’t do Gamma any favors. It doesn’t play as well with ASE anointments as Rakk and Fade Away do, and the Gamma Burst specific anointment is outdone by uRad, which deals more damage but (surprise surprise) requires the Red Fang to perform well. Gamma Burst confers no specific advantages on its own.
Gamma Burst and FL4K
I think I’ve offered sufficient examples of how Gamma Burst fails as a pet damage buff, but I haven’t yet touched on the other portion of the skill, which is as a utility for FL4K. Gamma Burst’s two augments (Emphatic Rage and Burst Aid) as well as the existence of the Red Fang points to an alternate usage of the skill as a FL4K buff which just happens to utilize the pet as a vehicle for certain bonuses. In this alternate capacity, the skill still fails immensely.
As mentioned before, Emphatic Rage is a fairly small bonus in the context of FL4K builds. By using Gamma Burst, you lose access to ASE anointments, which on the whole provide far more than 20% damage. The other skills in the Master skill tree that provide bonus damage do not require you to use a skill that prevents you from taking advantage of the most powerful anointments. Even if we were to assume the usage of uRad or Consecutive Hits anointments, which work better with the duration of Gamma Burst than ASE, it doesn’t change the fact that the other action skills will generally enable you to do more damage than Gamma would anyway. In this light, the 20% bonus from Emphatic is a small token buff that doesn’t begin to make up for the amount of damage lost for taking Gamma Burst.
Burst Aid provides a substantial healing ability to FL4K, who is the only character to lack life steal. Given FL4K’s reputation for being squishy, Burst Aid should see more use. However, because the skill is a stationary aura that only forms at the location where you just teleported your pet, the skill ends up being useless or putting FL4K in more danger. There are two ways to use Burst Aid; either teleport the pet directly near you so that you can stay by the healing aura, in which case the utility of teleporting the pet to enemies is lost and you must now wait for the pet (with its incredibly low run speed) to engage enemies; or you can teleport the pet into the enemy camp, and your healing aura would be located in the middle of enemy gunfire. Because the aura is rather large, bright, and obstructive, staying near it to heal makes it difficult to see and shoot enemies.
This augment is also self defeating in many respects. Gamma Burst makes the pet immortal, so the healing function of this skill is pointless if the pet is frequently irradiated. As a team support skill, you will not encounter many areas of the game that allow or encourage your teammates to stay within a single spot to heal for even the minimum amount of time Gamma Burst is typically active. Lastly, the Red Fang class mod, which is a requirement to run a Gamma Burst build, draws enemy aggro to the pet while Gamma is active. As such, the area where you place the rift will be flooded with enemy fire, and you will need to wait for the pet to run far enough away from the aura that you can heal without worry. This is also not even accounting for the fact that there is a much simpler method of healing available that synergizes perfectly with Red Fang. He Bites, in combination with Who Rescued Who, provides you with a constant 2% health regen that doesn’t require staying in the same area for a heal.
IRS Collections - FL4K is indebted to Red Fang Enterprises
So Gamma Burst doesn’t buff the pets that well, and the bonuses it gives to FL4K are pretty pointless. Yet so many people swear by Gamma. Why? Obvious answer is obvious: the Red Fang class mod exists. It leverages the few strengths that Gamma Burst has to provide a powerful and unique play style to FL4K. By utilizing the pet’s immortality, Gamma Burst provides an indestructible tank that keeps nearly all enemy aggro off of you. The taunt that this class mod provides also makes stacking Frenzy easier, and basically makes Who Rescued Who a source of passive health regen. All’s well, right?
No. This is the exact sort of thing that people complained the Seein Dead class mod did to Zane. It took numerous weak skills, clunky interactions, and all around awkward design, and custom made a class mod to fix those issues. Problem is, that makes the COM an essential gear piece for any build utilizing this action skill.
Have you ever tried to play with Gamma Burst without a Red Fang? I did back November. I used a Bounty Hunter COM to try to boost Frenzy as much as possible and trigger my Hunter kill skills to maintain my DPS while buffing the pets. The build wasn’t terrible: I was able to get some decent damage out of my pets and my gun damage wasn’t horrible (it is FL4K after all), but where the build fell apart was SURVIVABILITY. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that I went down every 20 seconds or so. If I didn’t have Lick the Wounds, I would have never progressed at all. In fact, the primary reason I always specced Green+Blue for pet builds was specifically because I needed Lick the Wounds to survive with any Gamma Burst build.
Unlike Fade Away which turns you invisible, or Rakk Attack, which has gained numerous options for survivability since the game’s release, Gamma Burst has little to no way to mitigate the damage coming your way. Yes, you can leverage the pet’s immortality to take advantage of Hive Mind and Shared Spirit, but that strategy requires a 1HP build, the Emergency Response GR perk, and a high capacity shield. Since it removes health gate, any large single hit will instantly down you. Where FL4K’s MO is typically to avoid damage rather than tank through it, Gamma for some reason supposes that it provides enough tools for you to deal with incoming damage. It does not. The pet does not hold enemy aggro at all without taunts, the health regen aura requires you to stand still and make terrible use of the teleporting feature of the skill, and the damage you get for doing so (both the pet’s damage and your’s) is much lower than any other option FL4K has. The only way to salvage this skill is to equip a class mod that has no damage for FL4K whatsoever.
Without the Red Fang, Gamma Burst may as well not exist.
Why Does This Matter
This may not seem to be a big deal to some people. Red Fang has a game changing effect, and it’s wonderful addition to FL4K’s arsenal. I wouldn’t necessarily disagree, but when a certain effect becomes so ubiquitous with a certain play style that you see few if ANY builds over the course of 10 months use anything different, then that effect is simply too necessary to be confined to a mandatory skill slot.
Gamma Burst is weak in so many aspects, but because the Red Fang exists those weaknesses are overlooked. However, now you need to run with a Red Fang mod, obliterating any semblance of build diversity.
On top of that, the other possible uses for the skill will remain unexplored so long as we are content with the way Gamma Burst works now.
Does It Need to Change?
In my opinion, Gamma Burst is in desperate need of some changes. I think that, at launch, it’s use as a pet buff was much more solid. However, as we’ve uncovered more information about how pet damage works, and in light of the recent phase 2 buffs to certain pets that actually deal less damage while in Gamma Burst, this function may need to be revisited.
There are 3 main issues that I feel prevent Gamma Burst from being viable on its own merits.
- Survivability - without the Red Fang taunt, staying alive is very difficult.
- Damage - this is connected to survivability. Red Fang’s taunt provides an indirect DPS increase to Gamma Burst in the same way that Maya’s phaselock or Axton’s turret did: preventing enemies from shooting at you means you have more time to shoot at them. Lining up critical hits and landing them repeatably and safely is one of the most understated qualities of this build, and without taunts you lose this ability and with it massive damage potential. You can’t DPS if you’re dead.
- Utility - Gamma Burst just doesn’t provide anything to FL4K outside of Red Fang. Emphatic Rage is fairly weak and Burst Aid is borderline useless in many situations.
How Can This Be Changed?
At this point, I hope I’ve laid a solid foundation for what the issues with Gamma Burst are and the negative implications they have on game play. In this section I’ll go over some possible fixes that can address these issues and eliminate Red Fang dependency.
Gamma is supposed to be the pet action skill, but for everything you give up to run it, you still end up with a weak pet. Gamma Burst needs to provide more pet power to make the skill worthwhile on its own.
One way to do this would be for Gamma Burst to provide a base damage increase to the pets while active. This is actually how the Doppelganger’s capstone skill Promote the Ranks worked in Borderlands TPS. The Badass Jacks received a x2 damage buff, and dealt fire damage attacks on top of that leading to a total 3.5x damage bonus when a badass spawned. With this change, Gamma Burst would instantly make the pet deal 3.5x more damage, which is more in line with the bonus that Fade Away provides to guns.
Also, Gamma could use a much better augment for increasing pet damage. Atomic Aroma deals very low damage without investment in splash damage, yet Gamma Burst lowers the damage of any pet attack that deals splash damage while it is active. To simplify this skill and make it more powerful, it should scale with action skill damage instead. Scaling it this way would give the skill far more damage (you can get more Action skill damage than splash damage, and there are way more multipliers involved in action skill damage than pet damage), encourage the use of other COMs (A Cosmic Stalker would provide tremendous buffs to Atomic Aroma), and simplify gearing.
Lastly, the 75% radiation damage that pets deal in Gamma Burst should scale with Action Skill damage. Gamma Burst transforms the pet during the duration of the action skill providing a whole host of effects that are only active while it is active. Other summons such as Digi-Clone and IB gain increased damage from action skill damage, leaving Gamma pets as the only summon that does not benefit from this new stat at all. Gamma Burst needs to have it’s damage decoupled from pet damage only to provide the pet the level of damage it needs to be worth sacrificing so much for.
Survivability and Utility
Both of these are so interconnected that it doesn’t feel right to treat them separately. The Red Fang is so central to providing both of these things to FL4K that the only way to really give Gamma a leg to stand on is to move the Red Fang’s bonus into the skill tree and change the COM.
I think a good way to address this would be to utilize the augment slots. Emphatic Rage and Burst Aid are underwhelming in most cases. Tweaking these augments to provide more use to FL4K would be great way to improve Gamma Burst’s us to them.
Combine Atomic Aroma and Burst Aid into 1 augment
My first suggestion would be to combine Burst Aid and Atomic Aroma. It seems strange, but it does solve several issues with the augment. For starters, Atomic Aroma is much less visually obstructive than the current Burst Aid, making it easier to actually see enemies through it. Attaching the healing aura to the pet, given a sufficient increase in the size of it (Atomic Aroma would need to be at least Ambush Predator range if not more) would also make it easier to use. Finally, it would allow you to move the aura where you wish by using attack commands. This is not a perfect solution to the many issues this augment has, but an augment that provides AOE pet damage AND healing would be pretty cool, and would work better with the pace of Borderlands than a static sphere.
Buff Emphatic Rage
This is pretty simple. 20% bonus damage isn’t a lot for what you are giving up. This skills value should be doubled at the least, if not brought up to 50%. Emphatic Rage should provide an extremely noticeable increase in damage while Gamma Burst is active.
Add an augment that provides a taunt while Gamma Burst is active
If Atomic Aroma and Burst Aid were combined, that would leave us with an empty augment. I believe this slot should be an augment that provides the Red Fang’s taunt effect, exactly as it works with the Red Fang COM.
Tax Season’s Over
The end goal of this would be to have a Gamma Burst worth using on it’s own merits. The skill is quite nice with Red Fang, but I don’t know of any other class that has an action skill and the whole play style behind it locked behind a class mod.
Gamma Burst is insanely weak. I understand the cognitive dissonance involved with this statement since so many FL4K’s still don’t realize how awesome Gamma is with the Red Fang, but that is the issue! How many people tried out Gamma Burst without a Red Fang months ago, hated it, and haven’t used the skill since? It truly is a night and day difference between having a Red Fang and not, and it just isn’t worth even considering Gamma Burst if you don’t have the class mod.
This last month has seen a tremendous amount of changes in Borderlands. So many new builds are cropping up, and things that have been non-viable for ages are suddenly usable. It’s great that this is happening, but this sudden influx change has dulled people to the age old issues our class faces. As nice as the Red Fang is, it is not our action skill and we shouldn’t need it to run a Gamma Burst build. We need to call on Gearbox to make our Gamma great.