Hello, so many of you might know of builds similar to this but I am making this post anyway due to the amount of people I see complaining about how Zane is “unusable” or “unplayable”. I am very much aware of the amount of bugged skills and interactions he has currently, he is still very viable in endgame without being too gear dependent and without much stress outside of proper usage of his cooldowns and management of his health/shields. Borderlands 3 as a whole is much more forgiving than previous borderlands titles and only requires a bit of creativity to make all the characters more than just effective at endgame.
That all having been said, let’s get into how to use Zane effectively.
Let’s get straight into the meat of this build, the infinite action skill. This is going to be achieved by two very important skills in the Under Cover/Barrier tree. Those skills are Brain Freeze and Calm, Cool, Collected. Brain Freeze, when maxed out, will give you a 20% chance to apply cryo to whatever you hit with a crit. This cryo will apply to ANYTHING you CRIT. This includes bosses and anointeds, despite their immunity to cryo. However, most bosses will simply not show/ignore the cryo you apply to them but still ‘remember’ that you applied it to them, allowing it to stack up into what the game will consider a freeze but in reality will be nothing happening to the boss. This is important because it allows us to make use of Calm, Cool Collected. What this skill does is that it will immediately begin regenerating your shields when you freeze an enemy and your shields ARE NOT full. If they are full it will begin to regenerate your health if it isn’t already full. And if both are full, it’ll reset all of your cooldown timers/durations. Between these two skills, you can keep any two action skills up for an indefinite amount of time, as long as you have an enemy to apply brain freeze/cryo to.
Now that those two skills have been discussed, let’s talk about the rest of the skills I am going to recommend you pick up, starting in the Under Cover/Barrier tree.
-Ready For Action - 5 Points
You are going to want to put 5 points here as it will give you greatly improved shield recharge/delay, keeping your shields up whenever you do end up getting it. There is also nowhere else useful to put these 5 points to get further down the tree, as the shield capacity bonus is really weak and the action skill cooldown rate is entirely useless since we plan to keep our action skills up forever.
-Brain Freeze - 5 Points
To summarize the point in the above paragraph, this skill is 1 half of what will enable you to have indefinite cooldowns on Zane as it will apply cryo to ANYTHING you crit (including bosses and anointeds) which will proc Calm, Cool, Collected. It should also be noted that crits that are hit by your clone will also have a chance to apply cryo through brain freeze.
-Confident Competence - 1 Point
You are going to put 1 point here as your shields should always be up as long as you manage your position, clone placement, and enemy prioritization properly; doing that properly will give you an always on +20% gun damage and +33% accuracy.
-Stiff Upper Lip - 3 Points
These 3 points here will give you a +16% damage resistance(much more effective than damage reduction) to the previous damage type you last felt. These 3 points aren’t necessary to go here but are best spent here to get to the next tier.
-Rise To The Occasion - 4 Points
We are going to have to put a point somewhere to get further down the tree (and I personally put my 3 leftover points at the end here because the health regen is helpful for when I make a mistake) so I put the first point here. The health regen even when shields are full is still decent and with other healing skills we will discuss later it ensures your health is full so that we get full use out of Calm, Cool, Collected. If you feel the health regen isn’t needed then you can put these 4 points elsewhere.
-Really Expensive Jacket - 1 Point
This skill will halve the time all DOT effects have on you. Halving the time DOTs are on you really helps keep you from not just going down but keeping both your shields and health at full so that you continue to get the most out of Calm, Cool, Collected.
-Best Served Cold - 1 Point
The cryo novas going off will help to a degree freezing more enemies when mobbing, helping you to keep your cooldowns up. The extra damage provided by further points into this skill won’t help you much at all, so only putting one point here is the best bang for your buck.
-Futility Belt - 1 Point
This is a killskill that, when active, will convert all incoming damage to nonelemental damage and give you 15% damage resistance while the Futility Belt is active. This skill does work with the transformer (one of the shields we will discuss later) in that the transformer will still convert shock damage into shields for you.
-Calm, Cool, Collected - 1 Point
This skill is the other half of what will keep your action skills up indefinitely. Upon freezing an enemy, this skill will give you shield regen when your shields aren’t full, health regen when your shields are full but health isn’t, or it will reset your cooldown durations/timers when both your shields and health are full. As stated in the above paragraph, this skill will still proc when enough cryo from brain freeze is applied to even enemies immune to cryo. While those enemies may not visually freeze, anointeds will slowdown when brain freeze applies cryo, and bosses will remove the cryo effects immediately but “remember” they were still hit by it, allowing you to stack enough cryo applications to equal a freeze, activing Calm, Cool Collected.
Now to get to our second skill tree, the Doubled Agent/Clone tree.
-Synchronicity - 5 Points
Putting 5 points here will give you +20% gun damage for each action skill you have active. Since we are going to have 2 action skills up indefinitely, we are going to have an always on +40% gun damage.
-Donnybrook - 5 Points
Donnybrook is a killskill that will give you health regen of 2.5% missing health per sec and +15% gun damage. This skill is helpful for keeping your health full to ensure Calm, Cool, Collected is reseting your cooldown durations.
-Fractal Frags - 1 Point
You are going to want to put 1 point into fractal frags so that you can utilize grenades while mobbing. This gives you a 30% chance to throw a grenade upon a kill. Equip a quasar and you can constantly have quasars going out for free, bringing enemies together and stripping their shields for easy kills to chain into more quasars and into more easy kills and so on.
-Quick Breather - 1 Point
I put 1 point into Quick Breather to help keep my shields full in the event I make a mistake or a particularly annoying enemy spawns (such as a badass zealot with a laser laucher, which pierces the barrier). This skill automatically starts regenerating your shield whenever you swap places with your clone.
-Borrowed Time - 4 Points
I put 4 points here to get further down the tree because there isn’t anything else to make use of in the skills we can get. This will give you a bit more breathing room between freezes before your cooldowns runout, which can get troublesome moving between areas of a map when mobbing or to get through an invulnerability phase during Troy or the Rampager. The 4 points you put here can be put anywhere else in the tree you see fit, such as Duct Tape Mod, but I prefer the action skill duration provided by this skill.
-Pocket Full of Grendades - 1 Points
This skill may seem completely useless at first since while having 2 action skills picked you can’t throw grenades, but the skill Boom. Enhance. (further down this tree) will use up to 3 grenades you to give your clone huge boosts to damage, duration, etc.
-Supersonic Man - 3 Points
This skill will give +12% movement speed for each active action skill you have. Since we are going to have 2 actions always up, this is a nice, always on, +24% movement speed which greatly helps with controlling space and moving yourself to better positions.
-Like a Ghost - 3 Points
Like a Ghost will give you a small chance to ignore incoming bullets and a higher chance whenever you activate an action skill but only for a short time. The points put here can be put somewhere else, but are needed to get further down the tree.
-Boom. Enhance. - 1 Point
This skill will consume up to 3 grenades whenever you activate your clone to give it great improved stats, such as gun damage, accuracy, duration, etc. This and the capstone of this tree greatly improve the damage output and cryo capabilities of your clone.
-Double Barrel - 1 Point
Double Barrel will give you and your clone +20% gun damage whenever you swap places for a short period of time and will also spawn your clone with a copy of your currently held weapon. This skill is MASSIVE towards being able to freeze enemies as brain freeze also applies to crits achieved by your clone, so giving your clone a high firerate/high projectile weapon will enable the clone to activate brain freeze much more quickly and in higher volume, essentially keeping itself up for the entire fight.
For the Barrier:
This will turn the forward facing barrier into a barrier that covers you entirely, blocking all projectiles(not lasers) from hitting you. This greatly improves your capability of keeping your shields and health full. This won’t block any radiation clounds, acid/fire puddles, or lasers so you will still have to be mindful of those.
This augment will give you increased gun damage for a couple of seconds whenever the barrier takes damage. I only use this augment as both the speed and healing augments do NOT work when the barrier is picked up and if you are close enough to touch enemies with the barrier to shock them, you’re playing the game incorrectly. If you feel any of the other augments are more useful to you however feel free to use them.
For the Clone:
-Which One’s Real?
Which One’s Real will cause enemies to prioritize shooting the clone over you for 4 seconds after either spawning or swapping places with the clone. This is useful as when mobbing you are going to be positioning the clone to better pull aggro off of yourself and for the clone to land more crits to freeze more enemies. This also allows Quick Breather to be taken advantage of as the aggro relief will allow you to get your shield back to full capacity.
This augment will help you keep your shields up as when the clone takes damage, it will restore portions of your shield. This augment is not necessary and if you feel another augment can be better utilized feel free to use it and let me know of it so that I can try it for myself.
Now that we have covered the skills and augments, I’d like to discuss playstyle before we discuss gear. This build is meant to be used with a mix of caution and aggression, depending on what you are fighting and the circumstances of the fight. For general mobbing, it is best to position your clone where it can hit the most enemies without being at risk of being bursted down itself. Typically, you can position the clone right in the center of enemies and it won’t end up being killed before you have killed everyone/everything there. The only major exception to this is in the Slaughter Shaft, where it is better to position the clone on the highground around the railings to shootdown at the numerous amount of badasses that spawn. Other than that, when your barrier is active and kept up you want to be mindful of any heavies that spawn so that you don’t step into their elements and take shield damage, and of badasses zealots who mightve spawned with lauchers that shoot lasers that can pierce the barrier, hitting you. Anointed militants also have a laser attack that pierce the barrier, but this is easily dodgable by just breaking line of sight with him. After dealing with these enemies, you want to be as aggressive as possible scoring crits and finishing off enemies your clone has frozen. If you do happen to take damage and your cooldowns go down, or if your clone has been killed, you should seek cover until there are both ready to be redeployed. As for bosses, the simple ideas of dodging their attacks and keeping a relative safe distance still apply. But you want to keep your clone in a position to where it can crit the bosses(or mobs if they do end up spawning) and landing crits yourself as this will constantly reset your cooldown durations, keeping your barrier and clone up so that you and your clone deal more damage. If you have questions for any specific zones feel free to reply with them so that I can help you.
To preface this, I feel this build is pretty independent of needing specific gear. I have been able to use a variety of gear to relative successful degree, both for slapping graveward in seconds to defeating slaughter circles with no issues, but I will list the gear that I have been fond of the most here. It should also be noted that anything with multiple projectiles and a tight spread work exceptionally well with brainfreeze as each projectile will have a 20% chance of applying cryo.
-Crossroad - All Elements
The crossroad is a fantastic smg with a high projectile count for an smg of 4 for only 2 ammo consumption. This gun comes in all elements and is exceptional for apply cryo through brain freeze. This is a great gun for tossing on your clone as the burst is long enough that it will constantly fire bursts with seemingly no delay (unlike most other burst fire weapons you put on the clone).
-Cutsman - All Elements
The cutsman is a top tier smg with extremely high damage, multiple projectiles, penetration, and extremely high DOT damage. This smg works on any character and is fantastic for chunking down large enemies and bosses with no issues.
The Bekah is just as good if not better than its BL2 counterpart, Zane makes excellent use of the 3 unlisted projectiles and is good to pull out when the mayhem modifiers buff normal damage or AR damage
-The Dictator - Shock, Corrosive
The Dictator seems like a sort of dark horse legendary, in its alternate fire (bipod) it fires 7 projectiles at the same damage of the initial projectile for the cost of 1 ammo. It is a fantastic weapon to quickly pull out in bipod mode to eliminate the armor of any badass militant or zealot before swapping to a fire crossroad to finish them off. I am not sure if it comes in fire(the wiki claims it doesn’t) but even if it doesn’t, it’s still one of the best weapons to deal with shields and armor in this game.
The lovemachine is an honourable mention on this list as while it has lower DPS of the crossroad, it has high damage and good ammo consumption (the version I have is 490 x 2 for the cost of 1 ammo), relatively good accuracy and is better for dealing with large numbers of weaker mobs when conserving ammo is a concern.
The Transformer is a fantastic shield in this game as there are lots of enemies that deal shock damage to you and being immune to it grants you a big benefit when facing them. I am still experimenting with shields, but the transformer overall seems to be the winner for me.
-The Butcher - All elements
The butcher is what I use to obliterate any badass on most mayhem modifiers.
-Lyuda - All Elements
Excellent for beating down bosses in seconds on all characters, including Zane.
-Night Hawkin - Cryo
In Cryo, this gun has a chance to have either a x1 or a x3 multiplier. What causes this is unknown, and changes randomly. It is fantastic when it has the x3 multiplier though.
This grenade creates a singularity when thrown and then shoots out teslas that will shock and strip the shields of anything pulled into the singularity. At the time of posting, the ragdoll effect can get very wonky and throw enemies seemingly randomly in the air or to great distances, but it is still effective for relieving you of aggro and setting enemies up for quick clean up when mobbing.
This class mod comes with boosts to Brain Freeze 3 and Best Served Cold 2, the boost to Best Served Cold is entirely useless, but the boost to Brain Freeze is extremely useful. This is a purple classmod I have found and have been using since I’ve gotten it. Any comm which boosts Brain Freeze by 3 or more would be ideal but I haven’t found a legendary class mod that boosts brain freeze yet. If there is one then that is what I would use. Boosting brain freeze by 3 gives you a 32% chance of applying cryo upon crit, making it much easier to freeze enemies.
As far as relics go, having a variety of them that boosts different element damages and effects you desire is that you should go for. There isn’t anything specific needed for this build, but I would try and find a loaded dice to help you with farming, as this boosts droprates of everything in the world at the cost of 75% of your max health. I use this whenever I am trying to farm bosses for better gear.
This is just a list of the gear I use/found while using this build, there are definitely going to be other gear that will better increase the effectiveness of this build and I implore you to try this build for yourself and test gear you think would be fitting for this build and reply to this post with your findings.
In summary, I feel many people have overlooked the great potential Zane has and that in Borderlands 3, straight damage isn’t necessary for conquering this game. I completed the game 101% using this build, including all bosses, slaughter circles, and trials multiple times with varying mayhem modifiers. I encourage everyone who can to give this max level Zane build a chance and to let me know how it goes.
Thanks for reading my first build post, I might try to do more of these if people seem to like it. I hope this post was coherent enough for people to understand what I’ve said throughout it.