The best thing about Borderlands 3, aside from being able to shoot mobs of guardians, skags, and bandits, is that you can take character builds to the next level. The skill trees have been massively improved upon from older Borderlands titles, and with so many options to play around with, you can have endless fun trying out custom builds on your favourite characters.
In this guide, we'll focus on one of the most interesting storied characters, 'Zane the Operative', and his 'Barrier Build'. The community has complained before that his skills weren't working, and his damage was underperforming, but thanks to several patches and reworks, Zane's back in fighting form.
This Barrier Build will work best for you if you're a defensive player and are trained to use cover from other shooters. Borderlands is unique in that it rewards you for popping out of cover, guns blazing (except when it doesn't!) and includes a build for those of us who learned to shoot in other games, where cover was a thing we used to stay alive.
By building around the Barrier action skill and using the Undercover skill tree, you can be rewarded for hiding behind cover by a significant bump to damage output. Zane still won't be the most optimal to farm for legendary and anointed gear when playing solo, but does make a formidable tank and provides plenty of utility and support for team-based play.
Zane the Operative, Barrier Build
The Barrier action skill will be the cornerstone of this build and used to deploy a shield which will act as an excellent source of cover for you and your team. The shield has two benefits, that of blocking damage of enemies and also amplifying your team's own gun damage as you shoot through the shield. This build will offer ways of building upon those two benefits and enhancing their effects. There will also be some points put into the 'Double Agent' tree because a few of those skills are noteworthy in their ability to augment Zane's end game damage.
Tier 1, Zane’s Under Cover Build
Three points into 'Hearty Stock', and five points in 'Ready for Action', maxing both. Shield buffs are key in this build, so these two skills are essential. 'Hearty Stock' raises shield capacity by +30% and 'Ready for Action' does the tried and true Borderlands buff of raising the shield recharge rate while lowering the shield recharge delay.
Tier 2, Zane’s Under Cover Build
This tier unlocks the 'Charged Relay' skill augment, that buffs reload speed for allies as they walk through the barrier. It's best to choose this skill during your initial build but replace it later on.
Three points into 'Brain Freeze', to slow the enemies during critical hits, and five in 'Rise to the Occasion' to max it out and claim the massive +5.0 health regen during times of lower shields. When combined with augments from the next tier, Zane's health regen becomes massive.
Tier 3, Zane’s Under Cover Build
One point to claim 'Confidence Competence', an absolute game-changer, which will buff the bonus damage and accuracy based on the number of shields, up to 35% for gun damage and 33% for accuracy. There are two augments at this tier as well. 'Nanites' or 'Some Shite' can nearly double Zane's health regen when paired with 'Rising to the Occasion' from the previous tier. And All-Rounder will let you rest easy by defending your rear, literally, turning your shield into a dome that will finally cover your backside in the heat of battle.
Tier 4, Zane’s Under Cover Build
Five points into 'Best Served Cold' to max it out so that baddies you down will explode in a 'Cryo Nova' and do damage to enemies nearby. Put one point in 'Futility Belt', maxing out the passive that will help reduce elemental damage by turning damage into non-elemental damage on a kill, as this build is light on elemental resistance.
Tier 5, Zane’s Under Cover Build
Grab some cryo element weapons and then put one point to claim 'Calm, Cool, Collected', which will give you a boost by recharging your shields when you freeze a baddie. Put three points to max out 'Nerves of Steel', which awards bonuses to accuracy and handling that increase as you keep your shield full.
Tier 6, Zane’s Under Cover Build
One point to claim 'Distributed Denial', if and only if you have a complimentary mod like 'Stop Gap' that gives you the 5-second invincibility buff, or 'Whiskey Tango Foxtrot' that throws out sticky bombs when you're attacked, as you most certainly will be. Legendary shields like 'Re-Chargers' and 'Big Boom Blasters' will also make this gear-dependent ability shine. If you've not got the mods, skip this skill for now and pop the remaining skill points in the 'Double Agent' tree.
Zane the Operative, Double Agent
The rest of our remaining 20 points will go into Double Agent skills and, along with the Digi-Clone action skill, will give a much-needed boost to Zane's damage output.
Maxing this out with five points, along with an activated 'Digi-Clone' and barrier will increase gun damage by a whopping 40%.
This will keep your 'Action Skills' active for even longer and helps synchronicity stay at play. A 15% increase in the duration of 'Action Skills' is no small buff, and that's what a full stack of 'Borrowed Time' nets for Zane, so put five points into max it.
Fractal Frags & Duct Tape Mod
One point into 'Fractal Frags' and five more into 'Duct Tape Mod'. These combined will bump your grenade chance up to 50% and keep your enemies under fire with massive explosions.
This will start your shield recharging when swapped with 'Digi-Clone', to keep you alive during manic battles.
Pop the last three points into 'Supersonic Man' to be a little faster while 'Action Skills' are active.
Double Agent Skill Augments for Digi
'Digital Distribution' and 'Schadenfreude' are two excellent 'Digi-Clone' augments. 'Schadenfreude' will restore Zane's shield to an equal amount of the damage taken by Zane's Digi-Clone. 'Digital Distribution' will inflict a portion of Zane's damage onto his Digi-Clone. With these skills combined, Zane becomes a supreme tank that can survive the most brutal onslaughts.
Best Gun Brands to for Zane
Finally, a character build is not complete without the perfect guns to complement the skills. So here are our recommendations that perfectly suit Zane's skills and build.
COV is perfect for a tank build since it doesn't need to be reloaded. There is an overheat cool down, but you never have to worry about running out of bullets. This is especially useful when you're moving quickly or furiously switching back and forth with your clone and pressing the reload button is such a hassle. You don't want to be out of bullets when you switch in a tricky situation, and that's where COV comes in.
Atlas guns are known for their tracking rounds. So you could be essentially shooting in the air and all your rounds would find their target. The benefit of tracking rounds comes into play when you're switching with your clone but you find yourself in a disoriented position. It takes a few seconds before you can find your target again and those few seconds can be the deciding factor between a victory or a loss. The true edge of tracking rounds comes into play when you're dealing with a tough boss or find yourself in a tricky situation during a multiplayer match.