Zane's 4th skill tree: Thoughts and impressions

Yesterday Zane’s 4th Skilltree that will be added as part of the “Designer’s Cut” DLC was revealed. The tree is named “The Professional” and focuses of scoring critical hits and quickly regaining your action skill. It is probably not overstatement to say that this will shake up the Zane meta more than basically any other addition to the game so far, probably even including the Seein’ Dead class mod. However, as they say, not all skills are created equal and there’s some that don’t seem to fit in or just feel undertuned. I wanna quickly go over all of them, share my thoughts on them and if I think there’s issues that need adressing.

Starting with:

MNTIS SHOULDER CANON
Action skill.
Describtion: “Zane equips a Shoulder Mounted Canon. Pressing F or G causes Zane to fire his canon at his crosshairs and consume one charge. Max Charges: 3, Cooldown: 12 Seconds”

Now, this action skill for Zane is quite remarkable, not as much because of what it does on its own, but because of the type of action skill this gives Zane access to. Not unlike Fl4ks Rakk Attack, this is very spammable, allowing Zane to easily benefit from ASE and ASS anointments for the first time. This means that various bonus elements might end up replacing the near omnipresent SNTL 100% Cryo anoint, at least in certain builds. What’s more, this action skill also diminishes the need for a Seein’ Dead class mod because it makes it possible for Zane to get almost permanent kill skill uptime from Seein’ Red. Granted, Seein’ Dead will still be the best in slot because it provides additional kill skill efficiency, but it won’t be quite as obligatory and likely help open up a slot for COMs like the Executor and possibly even the Hustler (don’t get me wrong, the Hustler is still hot garbage, but Zane gets a lot of crit effects in this tree). I won’t really go over the augments in detail, but I will say that the fact that the one augment that changes his action skill element to cryo (from shock) might actually be ruined by the fact it has a damage penalty.
The canon damage itself is nothing to write home about however, it doesn’t get splash damage and the shot damage seemed pretty average, but you can fire it when aiming down sights, shooting your main gun or reloading and it can hit crits and benefits from most crit boosts, which is nice (unless that gets changed before release, the best way to increase MNTIS damage appears to be to hold an Unforgiven and aim for crits).

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into the skills themselves.

Man of Focus
Skill describtion: “Activating an Action Skill grants Zane increased Accuracy and Handling for a short time. This effect stacks.”
Per Rank: +7.0 % Accuracy and +7.4% Handling. Max Stacks: 10. Skill duration: 12 seconds. 5 Ranks.

Well… To be honest, this skill is a bit whatever. It’s one of the better Accuracy and Handling boosts in the game, but it’s still just accuracy and handling. It’s probably gonna have some use in certain builds, but not in that many of them. I think it’s quite alright.

Renegade
Skill describtion: “After scoring a Critical Hit, Zane regenerates Health for a short period of time”
Per Rank: Up to 0.5% of Max Health/Second. Duration: 12 Seconds. 3 Ranks.

It’s meh. I’d say this is a skill you might mostly spec into when leveling up your character because it’s a very easy source of healing. It’s nice that unlike Donnybrook the healing value is based on max health instead of missing health, but the percentage really isn’t that great and ultimately you won’t be using it in a late game build either way because Salvation is all the healing you’ll ever need.

DÉJÁ VU (I have been in this place before…)
Skill describtion: “Whenever Zane kills an enemy with a Critical Hit, there’s a Chance for 1 ammo to be added to his magazine.”
Per Rank: Chance to add ammo: 9%. 5 Ranks.

This seems kind of nice at first, but is honestly quite undertuned. Like Seein’ Dirty it’s a skill that starts having diminishing returns the more points you put into it because the effect itself doesn’t get stronger. The issue I have with this skill is that the amount of ammo you get back just doesn’t seem worth it. It honestly feels like a skill sink more than anything else. I mean, compared to to Fl4k’s Leave no Trace, another Tier 1 skill that also refunds ammo, Leave No Tracer has a higher chance to proc per rank and very importantly it doesn’t require you to get a kill, making the amount of ammo you can get back from a single enemy considerably higher. I could see this skill have some use with specific Guns like the Hellwalker or the Skullmasher, but the only reason why I would pick it up is because the others stuff in tier 1 is equally useless and ammo regen is at least something Zane doesn’t normally have in his kit.
I feel like the way this skill should have been balanced would have been to make it a 3 Rank skill and increase not only the chance, but also the amount of ammo by 1 for each rank, but I guess that might not work out in terms of points to put into this tree (maybe if they were to buff Renegade to a 5 Rank skill? It could use slightly better healing anyways).
If Déjá Vu is to stay a 5 Rank skill at all cost, I’d make one of two possible changes. 1: Lower the activation chance but allow it to fully refill the Magazine if it triggers. 2: Add a kill skill that grants Zane slow ammo regeneration (and I’d say don’t make it based on his mag size. Just make it that after a kill, Zane regens 0.2 ammo per second and rank for the next 5 seconds, meaning he gets 1-5 extra ammo from a kill depending on how many points you spend).

Whilst the Professional tree is one of the stronger ones in the game, it also has one of the worst first tiers, rivalling only Zane’s own Under Cover Tree. And before you say that Tier 1 skills are supposed to be weak: That’s just not the case. Some of the best skills in the game are tier 1 (like Zane’s Violent Momentum, Moze’s Fire in the Skag Den or Fl4k’s Interplanetary Stalker).

On to the next tier:

Headsman’s Hand
Skill describtion: “Kill Skill. Zane gets increased Critical Hit damage. This effect stacks twice”
Per Rank: 4% Critical Hit damage. Duration: 8 Seconds. 5 Ranks.

This is where it starts to get really good. Zane previously didn’t have any personal crit boosts and he benefits from them a lot because he gets tons of gun damage from his blue tree. Picking up all 5 ranks of this skill is pretty much a must if you are going down the purple tree.

Tunnel Vision
Skill describtion: “While moving, Zane gains increased Accuracy and Handling. The quicker Zane moves, the greater the bonus.”
Per Rank: Accuracy up to 10% and Handling up to 11% at Default walking speed. Ranks: 3.

This honestly seems like a bit of a meme skill. I could see it having some use when running around at high speeds with a multi-projectile gun like the Lightshow but you will probably want to skip this skill, just because, again, it’s just accuracy and handling.

Commitment
Skill Describtion: Kill Skill. Zane gets increased Gun Damage and Action Skill Cooldown Rate.
Per Rank: Gun Damage +4%, Cooldown Rate +4%.

This skill is kind of odd in that the describtion really doesn’t tell you how this skill works properly. To sum it up: This skill stacks, with each stack decaying after a short period of time. There doesn’t seem to be a hard cap for stacks, but just like with other stacking skills in the past (i.e. Zer0’s Critical Ascensi0n), you eventually reach a point where you can’t build your stacks faster than they decay. This skill is honestly quite solid. It’s only Gun damage which isn’t great on Zane, but you can get up to a pretty insane amount of stacks very quickly (the max I have seen on a Stream Yesterday was over 50) using a Seein’ Dead, so the Gun Damage starts to become somewhat meaningful again, just because of the shere amount you get. Action Skill Cooldown Rate generally doesn’t scale well, but again, the raw numbers are high enough to make it worth your while. This allows Zane to be really spammy with his shoulder canon which is kinda neat.

We’re in tier 3 now:

Fugitive
Skill describtion: “Zane can sprint and shoot at the same time.”

Not much to say about it. Great skill and something Zane should have had right from the start. The Run&Gun character now gets to gun whilst running. Might allow you to sacrifice a point or two in Violent Speed or Supersonic Man and still get the full Violent Momentum boost you are used to, or could be used to bring Zane’s gun damage to the absolute max.

Tier 4:

Domino Effect
Skill describtion: “Whenever Zane scores a Critical Hit he gains increased Fire Rate and Reload Speed for a short time. If he scores a Critical Hit with his Action Skill, this effect is doubled.”
Per Rank: +4% Reload Speed, +3% Fire Rate. Duration 8 Seconds. Ranks: 5.

Seems like a really solid skill. The boosts themselves are substantial enough to be worth it and out of Zane’s 4 action skills, 3 are able to crit, meaning it shouldn’t be too difficult to get the max effect.

The Art of War
Skill Describtion: “After Activating an Action Skill or an Action Skill Ability, Zane’s next shot fired from his weapon deals Increased Damage. This effect stacks.”
Per Rank: Gun damage +3%. Max Stacks: 10. Ranks: 5.

Honestly, this skill is garbage. Don’t take it. It looks neat on paper, but even in an ideal situation you could only get 150% bonus Gun damage for a single shot which is not all that much on Zane, because again, Violent Momentum (and also Commitment) has it outclassed. You don’t need this skill to get down to the Capstone and if you have leftover points, you will effectively get more damage from putting them into Cold Bore. Kind of a shame, honestly. This would have been a great skill for Fl4k’s Hunter Tree because Fl4k benefits a lot more from Gun damage and is much better at optimizing the damage of an individual shot. Also, in case you are wondering, Action Skill Ability is referring to things like swapping your Clone, having your SNTL target someone or even just picking up your barrier.

Onto Tier 5

Sheer Will
Skill Describtion: “Zane gains increased Action Skill Cooldown Rate. Scoring a Critical Hit increases this effect. This effect stacks.”
Per Rank: Cooldown Rate: +5%. Additional Bonus Cooldown after crit: +2.5%. Duration 8 Seconds. Max Stacks: 15. Ranks 3.

This skill sounds impressive but isn’t as big of a deal as you might think. Action Skill Cooldown Rate doesn’t scale too well and starts having diminishing returns. Plus, basically all cooldown rate skills are outclassed by the Guardian Rank Topped Off which grants a whopping 200% Cooldown Rate when your shields are full (for the sake of comparison, Sheer Will gets you up to a Max of 127.5%, though it might be able to surpass Topped Off if it can be boosted to 5 points using class mods). Not the best skill but certainly not horrible. Probably a decent skill to invest into if you need to put another point somewhere to get to the capstone.

Eraser
Skill describtion: “Zane’s Critical Hits pierce through enemies with all weapons, dealing increased Damage for every enemy pierced.”
Per Rank: +40% Bonus damage per enemy pierced. Ranks: 3.

WILL. IT. B0RE? The answer is yes, kind of. It has some significant differences to Zer0’s B0re, even though it works in a simular manner.
1: Zane’s Eraser only triggers on critical hits, thus being a lot more limited. This also means that you are probably not going to get the upside of not having to worry about Bullet Deflection because chances are you’re not gonna crit something that deflects.
2: Zane gets slightly higher bonus damage at the price of having to spend more points.
3: Zane gets this effect on all weapons (at least according to the describtion), which should include rocket launchers where Zer0 only got it on actual bullets. Might have some fun interactions with the ION canon.
4: Sadly, Zane doesn’t seem to have the extremely satisfying b0re sound effect that made getting a perfect b0re on a boss so ear-rapey.
5: Eraser obviously doesn’t have the additional effect of highlighting enemy crit spots, but that’s really not a big deal.
Overall, I don’t think Eraser is gonna be quite as impactful as B0re was, among other things since bosses don’t seem to have those broken overlapping hitboxes (otherwise Amara would be using Indiscriminate to one-shot stuff instead of TTB), but it still appears to be a perfectly useful skill that I would recommend you pick up over Sheer Will if you want the Capstone.

The Capstone:

Our Man Flynt
Skill Describtion: “When aiming down sights, Zane’s weapons deal Bonus Damage and automatically apply their status effect when scoring a Critical Hit.”
Bonus damage: 25% of damage dealt.

This is good. Like, really good. 25% damage might not seem like a big deal, particularily after dismissing all those big gun damage boosts previously, but the important part here is: 25% of damage dealt. This is a multiplicative boost. This doesn’t just increase a small part of the damage calculation, it actually boosts all of it. The secondary effect is also interesting and I’ve heard that it might allow Cryo weapons to insta-freeze, though I haven’t seen it myself in the streams I watched yesterday. It’s probably neat to have on weapons like the Kratakoa or the Breath of the Dying that normally have a 0% status effect chance.

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b0re was not as impactful as people make it out to be i was just rappily designed segmented hitboxes that made it over glorified. b0res main quality was never the damage but col of having no bullet deflection during mobbing you hardly ever line up 3 enemies most likely two and it is no biggie for already a canon character.

generally not a fan of talking about zane in general discussion threads but tl;dr seein dead breaks this tree due to gathering unimaginable stacks on certain commitment skilllul. i will have my say when i actually have a damn tree in my game. but god i hate hearing about b0re and thankfully erase being more timmid version can not multi pierce targets like wotan and scourge or anathema

Hrm. This tree sounds like it might make Zane enjoyable to play.

Fair enough, actually. Gonna move it over to the Zane category.

This isn’t strictly-related to the fourth tree itself, but it’s something that’s absent from a lot of the theorycrafting around it. I fully expect the existing trees to get a significant balance shake-up. I’m expecting this for all VHs to some degree or another, but we also have a verbal commitment from Gearbox r.e. Zane (following the last hotfix).

They’re looking at Zane, and have changed lined up. Changes that predate the announcement of the fourth tree, and were mentioned in a hotfix thread (i.e. not in paywalled DLC content).

It’ll be interesting to see where he gets to, by the time of the November patch. I don’t know whether or not to expect a hotfix next week - I’m assuming not (week before patch is usually for them to focus on patch delivery). Which means a lot of this I’m waffling about is riding on the 10th of November.

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Zane was definitely the one that benefited the most from the new tree addition DLC.
Being able to use ASE in borderlands 3 is still important.
I hate anointing, but as long as it’s not gone, I want to be on the side of the victors.

Possible, but at least in the test build that the Borderlands partner streamers got to try the other day, there weren’t any Zane changes outside the new tree itself whereas other characters did get changed (Fl4k for instance had their Dominance capstone reworked).

My guess is that we are likely not going to get anything significant (other than maybe some light class mod changes) until the 4th Skilltrees have been out for at least a week to see how they affect the character on a large scale.

It sure wasn’t the craziest thing in the game, but for a single point you got a good amount of utility and an occasional chance to completely delete something you were aiming at.

This is increasingly speculative but I see this as more evidence they’re working on Zane.

The streamer build specifically will not be the latest internal build, or likely even the build sent for certification (as we’re within the 2-week window for that). Streamer builds are normally publisher-approved, which means they’ll be going through 2K (from Gearbox ofc). The build was mainly to showcase the 4th trees themselves, and could’ve been packaged at any point in the last month (or more). Basically you want a stable-enough build that will showcase well, the last stable build isn’t necessarily the one from the night or even week before. Depends how long their sprint cycles are (assuming some kind of AGILE workflow. Might not necessarily be the case, but given the hotfix cadence, I believe they are doing some kind of AGILE or SCRUM work).

Failing that, I do definitely expect more updates to Zane (above and beyond other VHs) as Gearbox have already indicated. It’d be very poor form (and unprecedented, even, for the cynics) to state this in a hotfix update and then deliver on it with DLC-walled content. If that’s actually what’s going to happen, not even I would stand in the way of the tsunami of reactions they’d get :stuck_out_tongue:

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I sure hope so, considering some of the stuff in the streamer build didn’t work all that well (for instance, Moze’s new Iron Cub didn’t actually get Mayhem Scaling).

Oh, of course. I didn’t mean to say they’d deliver the fixes only through his 4th skill tree, my point was that some of the changes they might do could have some unwanted interactions with his new skills which is why I think we aren’t going to get any major changes to Zane’s skills until they have his 4th tree finalized.

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I was pretty bummed about this. I, for one, hope they put some really specific changes into Zane’s green tree.

Tier 1 - Hearty Stock - change completely so instead of each point giving max shield, each point gives +X% cryo damage and +X% cryo efficiency.

Tier 5 - Nerves of Steel - now stacks are built from each enemy frozen, rather than based on shield. Lost upon death. Accuracy and handling bonuses remain with the addition of a new damage against frozen targets bonus. A built in Ice Breaker artifact.

Tier 6 - Distributed Denial - rework it so it works with far more shield effects OR shields no longer resist Zane’s cryo damage.

With just those changes Zane would become pretty great with cryo and none of them would buff his already high gun damage so the tree is multiplicative with everything else.

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I’ll be quite concerned if Commitment keeps the ability to stack infinitely. From the description, I’m guessing it’s not supposed to since it doesn’t say anything about stacking while Moze’s Phalanx Doctrine specifically says “There is no stack limit.” If Commitment still stacks infinitely on launch then people will still be locked into Seein Dead.

So, limit the stacks (hopefully stack twice) and then buff green tree, blue capstone and then further buff the COMs. I’d rather have all the trees and COMs viable than certain combinations be super powerful without much scope beyond that.

Edit: Speaking of buffing the green tree, how cool would it be if freezing foes could trigger kill skills? Heh, cool.

Not neccessarily. It also doesn’t give a fixed duration which to me means that the skill describtion properly was a bit incomplete. But if it wasn’t supposed to stack at all, I don’t think we would get an actual stack counter in the UI.

Man I did want a skill like this in the new tree.

I’ll say instead of copying the shield’s effect, copy the bonuses. Like 17% movement speed while depleted, it’s 34% while depleted or 50% melee on full with stinger shield, get to 100% melee only while shield is full.

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How would that work on shields which don’t provide additional stats?

Won’t offer a bonus, but you’d know to spend skill points or not. Now this skill doesn’t ofer you much. Nova on shield break and/or full? Not enough. But 2x300% melee and 2x25% gun damage on roid Ward shield break worth spending points in green tree

4th tree looks interesting and will surely create many new synergies. I mainly appreciate focus on precise shooting which is my favorite playstyle.

Shoulder cannon turns Seein’ Red into actually useful skill which is nice. And brings new powerful kill skills because why not. Then we’ve got running skills because why not. More synergies with the blue tree are needed right?

And more action skill cooldown rate to help us forget that green tree even exists. Cap stone is nice for precise shooting but again make Brain Freeze kind of pointless.

But Deja Vu is definitelly undertuned skill. You need to crit kill for the chance to return 1 ammo to magazine? I can’t see it good even for heavy weapons or snipers. I would remove one conditon or make it at least guarteed.

Renegade looks a bit weak as well.

Overall I like the skill tree. It fills quite a few gaps. It provides dps boost for Zane himself to compete with the clone. However focus seems to be more on big accurate hits rather than the fire rate.

Now the big question is what is going to happen with the green tree and the Barrier…

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Just wait until you see the ultimate Masterwork Crossbow Zane build…

Maybe. I don’t know what’s on your mind but I would still apreciate skill to be more relyable for other builds as well. There are two conditions for a chance to get 1. That doesn’t sounds great to me.

Yeah, I was mostly memeing.

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