Borderlands 3 might be all about collecting the universe’s foremost selection of more than one billion guns, but without the best character build to back it up, you might as well be packing a pea-shooter. Now that the game's been out for a little while some interesting character builds are beginning to develop.
Although Borderlands 3 is best played with a team of friends in co-op so you can construct a posse that covers each other’s strengths and weaknesses, your starting class still defines a lot of your experience, so it’s important to pick the best one for you.
Borderlands 3 is the latest entry into Gearbox Software’s OG looter-shooter series, and follows a brand-new set of vault hunters searching for a brand-new set of vaults. Judging by the lifespan of the evergreen Borderlands 2 - which got a new lease of life from the Commander Lilith DLC earlier this year - it has potential to be one of the biggest games of 2019, despite consistent controversy.
Like in the previous games, vanilla Borderlands 3 has four classes to choose from:
- Siren - Amara
- Gunner - Moze
- Operative - Zane
- Beastmaster - Fl4k
If you want to play around and create your own build before you play, Gearbox has released a fun tool on their official website where you can assign skill points to each character’s tree that appears in the final game.
Borderlands 3 Character Builds
The skill trees in Borderlands 3 can be split up into three parts (four if you’re Fl4k): Action Skills, Action Skill Augments, Passive Abilities, and Beastmaster Pets.
Each character has three skill trees, each with a different emphasis. You advance each skill tree by using Skill Points you gain every time you level up, and you can either plough all of your points into one specialized set, or spread them out between each.
Personally, I like to work towards a specific end-game Action Skill, then acquire any passive skills with universal utility, like gun damage buffs.
More and more Action Skills are unlocked as you progress with your character, with upgraded versions of your base skill appearing as you spend more Skill Points. So plan ahead and build towards what you like the look of.
Each character has different configurations of skills and abilities, so this is a major playstyle choice you’ll have to make when choosing a starting character class.
|Character Class||Action Skill slots||Augment slots||Special slots|
|Siren||1||1||Elemental Damage choice slot|
Do you like managing multiple skills and abilities that you can upgrade in different ways? Choose Operative.
Do you like having a choice of skills, but don’t want to worry about slotting in different Augments? Choose Gunner.
What about keeping it simple and choosing one powerful skill and one powerful augment that you use all the time? Choose Siren.
Or do you want a little pet helper that synergizes with the rest of your skillset? Choose Beastmaster.
Borderlands 3 Siren (Amara) Builds
- Mystical Assault
The Siren is the only class to feature in all three of the main series Borderlands games so far. Generally, they’re the space magic users of the group, using ethereal telekinetic abilities to manipulate and disadvantage their enemies.
However, in Borderlands 3 Amara boasts a bit more raw offensive prowess than Lilith or Maya have in previous games. Her Action Skills are based around zoning, either by dealing damage to everything within a specific space, or locking single or groups of baddies in place.
Mystical Assault’s headline Action Skill is Phasecast, where Amara sends out an Astral Projection of herself that deals damage to everything in its path. The augments and extra Action Skills in this tree are mostly to do with increasing the power of this move - having it heal Amara, phaselock enemies that are damaged by it in place, or have enemies defeated by it explode.
The Avatar passive at the end of the tree allows you effectively spam this ability more than once every 30 seconds, so this is the class to pick if you want a flashy special to be the cornerstone of your offensive strategy.
Mystical Assault also has some good utility passives that increase fire rate, reload speed, and weapon swap speed - the latter of which is critically important in Borderlands.
As well, this tree has the “Rush” stack mechanic, which builds up and gives Amara buffs over time.
This looks to be a strong and versatile choice to max out as part of your Siren build.
Brawl is a very strong tanking skill tree, which might be good for solo players who want to absorb damage and not rely on teammates for healing.
The Phaseslam starting Action Skill follows the Siren theme of impairing enemy movement by knocking them into the air. This can be later upgraded to confuse enemies into attacking their allies at the cost of reduced damage and a slower cooldown.
Brawl has a secondary focus on melee with passive abilities that buff its damage, increase your max health, and improve your shield capability when you get in close and take damage.
The Blitz passive, which lets you do a special melee strike while aiming down sights, pushes Amara even further in this direction. If you kill an enemy with this strike, it has no cooldown.
If you play up-close-and-personal, but like the idea of some mobility and elemental damage, this could be the tree for you. Make sure you grab important passives like Root to Rise, Clarity, Helping Hands, and Find Your Centre.
- Fist of the Elements
Fist of the Elements, on the other hand, is a bit of a mixture of the previous two. It involves giant fist-based Action Skills that lock enemies in place, but focuses on increasing gun as well as melee damage with its passives.
Personally, I think this makes it a good foil for one of the other trees. You can take the all-around decent passives that appear early on in the tree, but not bother with the more specific ones.
Also, fire damage tends to be good and you can change Amara’s damage element to that by investing in this tree.
As well, the Singularity generating augment can be used to further increase the zoning capabilities of better skills.
One fun build to try focuses on Amara's close-range melee potential and combines the Brawl and Fist of the Elements trees.
To run this build, max out your Brawl tree with the following Passives:
- 5 points in Root to Rise
- 3 points in Personal Space
- 3 points in Samsara
- 5 points in Helping Hands
- 3 points in Mindfulness
- 1 point in Find you Center
- 5 points in One with Nature
- 5 points in Jab Cross
- 1 point in Guardian Angel
- 1 point in Blitz
Then in Fist of the Elements, invest points in at least:
- 5 points in Anima
- 5 points in Tempest
- 1 point in Illuminated fist
Then equip Phaseslam, Revelation, and the default Shock element. This turns Amara into a up-close-and-personal brawler who can tank damage and deal huge amounts of shock to large groups of enemies.
Or if you want to focus on elemental damage as your speciality, you could try running the build shown off in this second video:
Borderlands 3 Gunner (Moze) Builds
- Demolition Woman
In her Action Skills slots, Moze has powerful mech weapons. In the Demolition Woman tree, that’s the V-35 Grenade Launcher.
Owing to that, this tree is very based around buffing splash damage, which makes it quite specialized but great for crowd control.
Once it’s been upgraded you can swap out the launcher Action Skill for a pod of exploding rockets that you can reload more quickly. If you want to dish out wide damage to a lot of enemies without a lot of utility, then this is your tree.
You can grab an augment that buffs direct hits if you want some single-target damage though.
- Shield of Retribution
The Shield of Retribution tree is best described as a support tank skillset, with access to a long-distance Railgun as well as the beastly melee-based Bear Fist.
Its passives are focussed on increasing Moze’s Iron Bear’s survivability with increased shields and resistances, but also refreshing her allies’ shields and boosting their gun damage.
Shield of Retribution isn’t really for solo players, as some of its skills effects will be wasted without allies, but the Bear Fist is hard to pass up.
- Bottomless Mags
Bottomless Mags provides support in a slightly different way: suppressing fire. The heat-based Minigun Action Skill allows you to pump out sustained pressure wherever you are.
This is probably the best tree to combine with another, because it has a lot of universally applicable passives that will be useful to any playstyle.
Things like Scrappy, Stoke the Embers, and Rushin’ Offensive are quality buffs, while Specialist Bear lets you equip two of your favourite Iron Bear weapons to boost its damage.
However, another of Moze's great strengths is splash damage. Run the following build to make the most of this and create an area-of-effect monster:
From Demolition Woman -
- 5 points in Fire in the Skag Den
- 3 points in Means of Destruction
- 5 points in Torgue Cross-Promotion
- 3 points in Pull the Holy Pin
- 5 points in Vampyr
- 3 points in Why can't I hold all of these grenades
- 1 point in To the Last
- 1 point in Short Fuse
Then from Shield of Retribution -
- 5 points in Selfless Vengeance
- 5 points in Armoured Infantry
- 5 points in Drowning in Brass
- 1 point in Experimental Munitions
Finally, double-equip the Vanquisher Rocket Pods and Hammerdown Protocol Augments. This Gunner build is exceptional for crowd control and makes the most of the Moze's explosive (best) attributes both solo and as part of a team.
Borderlands 3 Operative (Zane) Builds
- Doubled Agent
Zane probably has the most variability in his movesets because he can equip the most different Action Skills and augments. However, he only has one Action Skill per tree, so you’ll have to invest in multiple at the same time to utilize more than one.
The first is Digi-clone, which sends out a decoy to distract the enemy. You can upgrade this skill to heal Zane in a pinch or explode on expiry. This is probably best for personal survivability, and is very specialized, with many of the passives granting bonuses to his Clone as well.
With that being the case, it’s probably best to try and max out this tree if you’re going to use it, so you can get the full benefit of all the passives.
Rather than a digital clone, the Hitman tree sends out an automated drone that attacks enemies.
The difference with the previous tree though is that Hitman has an absolute ton of universally useful passives and “Kill Skills” that activate when he downs an enemy. These do things like increase his movement speed, gun damage, and reload speed, or give his weapons a life-leeching effect.
This makes it a great tree to combo with another.
- Under Cover
Under Cover is the most defensive of the three trees. Its headline ability is Barrier, which summons a shield that all of your team can hide behind or shoot through.
While this is most useful in multiplayer scenarios, it could also be good in solo to take the heat off your character if you’re getting mobbed.
The rest of the passives increase Zane’s survivability by doing useful things like increasing his maximum shields, topping up his health under certain conditions, or giving him buffs while he’s healthy.
If support and survivability is what’s required, then Under Cover is a strong choice.
To make the most of Zane's utility in any situation, try out this build that focuses on dealing as much damage as possible:
From Doubled Agent -
- Equip Digi-Clone, Schadenfreude, and Binary System
- 5 points in Snychonicity
- 5 points in Borrowed Time
- 5 points in Donnybrook
- 1 point in Fractal Frags
- 5 points in Duct Tape Mod
- 1 point in Quick Breather
- 1 point in Old-U
- 3 points in Supersonic Man
- 1 point in Boom. Enhance.
- 3 points in Trick of the Light
- 1 point in Double Barrel
From Hitman -
- Equip SNTNL, Bad Dose, and Static Field
- 5 points in Violent Speed
- 5 points from Violent Momentum
- 1 point in Drone Delivery
- 1 point in Death Follows Close
This move combines fast movement with good damage output, combing two useful action skills so you're equipped to be deadly whatever the fight calls for. Because of the abundance of Kill Skills, the more enemies you dispatch to more powerful you get. Combined with the mobility of this build, that allows you to build up a ton of momentum as the battle rages on - perfect for all the monster closets you waltz into in just about every area in Borderlands 3.
Alternatively, you can run the build shown off in this second video to play a support character who buffs your team's damage:
Borderlands 3 Beastmaster (Fl4k) Builds
Beastmaster is the most unique of the four classes since you have a choice of little deadly helpers to fight by your side.
You choose one pet, which is different for each tree, then build your set with an Action Skill and two augments.
The pet for the Stalker tree is Jabber, who has a pistol and buffs your movement speed.
This is a good tree for solo players since you can upgrade to a passive that lets your pet revive you during Fight For Your Life.
The rest of the tree is about getting healthy and staying there, with hefty amounts of health regeneration and buffs to gun damage and movement speed when you’re above half health.
Its headline Action Skill is cool too. Fade Away lets you turn invisible and fire off three critical hits. This is strong with high-damage, single-shot weapons like sniper rifles if that’s your style of choice.
The Hunter tree gives you a Spiderant Centurion that constantly regenerates your health as a pet, and has an interesting array of passives.
A lot of them are quite situational, like buffing you when you kill a badass or stronger enemy. But this is balanced by the strong Action Skills and augments which heavily buff your Action Skill - which shoots out Rakks at the enemy - and your pet.
If you want an eclectic playstyle that really shines in certain situations against particular enemies then this is the tree to invest in.
Finally, the Master tree rocks a Guard Skag pet that increases Fl4k’s base damage. However, this is probably the best tree to team up with one of the others because it has strong passives that you can access early on.
Ferocity and Persistence Hunter are very strong, as are He Bites and Psycho Head on a Stick.
If you want more control over your pet though, it might be worth checking out the Gamma Burst Action Skills which gives you greater control over its location, as well as powerful buffs via augments.
Because he has a pet helper to draw some of the heat, that makes Fl4k the natural sniper/long-range character. When you've got time to pick your spot, you want every shot to dish out the most damage. Here's a build that makes the most of idea:
From Stalker -
- Equip the Gunslinger Jabber pet, Until you are Dead, and Unblinking Eye
- 5 points in Furious Attack
- 4 points in Eager to Impress
- 5 points in Overclocked
- 3 points in Turn Tail and Run
- 3 points in The Fast and the Furryous
- 5 points in Hidden Machine
- 1 point in The Power Inside
From Master -
- 3 points in Persistence Hunter
- 2 points in Go for the Eyes
From Hunter -
- 5 points in Interplanetary Stalker
- 5 points in Ambush Predator
- 2 points in 2 F4ng
The Beastmaster is one of the coolest new addition to Borderlands 3 and the pet mechanic is sure to be popular. This build gives you a good mix of high damage, but also survivability as well - especially if you're playing solo.