A quick guide to all four Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel skill trees


A gladiator, an enforcer, a lawbringer, and a fragtrap walk into a bar…

In case you have not yet heard, the full, interactive skill trees for all four of the Vault Hunters in the upcoming Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel have been released for public consumption.

Some of the mathematics governing the skill trees has been tweaked for the Pre-Sequel, so in contrast withBorderlands 2, these new Vault Hunterswill be able to reach the end of two of their three skill trees before hitting the initial level cap of 50.

Most people looking forward to the title had already decided on which character to main, but now we can all make more educated decisions. In my case, I am sure I will eventually play them all. So after reading every skill carefully, imagining how it will all play out on the battlefield, and spending far too much time tweaking skill points, I have come up with proposed builds for how I expect to play each of the new characters.

Athena the Gladiator

Athena the Gladiator

Action Skill: Kinetic Aspis. Press F to raise your Aspis and absorb all frontal damage. The Aspis can store a finite amount of absorbed damage as energy, based on your level. The Aspis is thrown at the end of the active duration, or if you press F again. The Aspis creates an explosion upon impact, dealing base damage plus double the stored energy, before returning to you.

Skill tree: PhalanxFocus:Defense for Athena and teamNotable skills:

  • Prismatic Aegis: The Aspis now stores the elemental damage type of absorbed damage. Multiple elemental damage types can be stored and all stored damage types are dealth by the Aspis when thrown.
  • Clear!: When thrown, the Aspis’ explosion grants Second Wind to friends within range. In addition, you gain a Damage Bonus while in Fight For Your Life.
  • Wrath of the Goddess: The Aspis will ricochet to up to four additional enemies, each taking less damage than the last. The Aspis will return to you after it hits the final enemy.

Skill tree: XiphosFocus: Melee damageNotable skills:

  • Rend: Your melee attacks cause enemies to bleed, inflicting damage over time. The damage is increased against higher Health targets, and the damage also benefits from your Melee Damage bonuses.
  • Epicenter: Slam Alteration Skill. When you Slam you now create a singularity, pulling nearby enemies closer and dealing damage to them.
  • Blood Rush: Melee Override Skill. Press V to dash toward an enemy and strike them with Xiphos with increased Melee Damage. This ability has a cooldown. If this attack applies a Bleed to a target that isn’t Bleeding, or kills a target, the cooldown is immediately reset. Perform a regular melee attack when Blood Rush is on cooldown.

Skill tree: Ceraunic StormFocus: Incendiary and shock elemental damageNotable skills:

  • Maelstrom: Dealing Incendiary or Shock damage causes you to gain stacks of Maelstrom. All Elemental Damage dealt is increased for each stack of Maelstrom. Stacks will decay over time, and this rate of decay increases as you accumulate more stacks.
  • Smite: When you are airborne, shooting an enemy will Smite them, causing Incendiary and Shock Damage in a small area. Smite damage increases as you accumulate more stacks of Maelstrom. This ability has a cooldown.
  • Zeus’ Rage: When you throw the Aspis, a devastating Fire and Lightning Storm will spawn at the target location, doing area damage for several seconds. The damage of the storm increases based on the amount of damage absorbed by the Aspis.
  • Hades’ Shackles: Slamming links you to nearby enemies with a Shock Tether for a short duration, electrocuting them. The tether is broken if you lose line of sight to the target. Any enemies still tethered at the end of the duration, or who die while tethered, release an Incendiary Nova, and you gain bonus Maelstrom stacks for each enemy affected. This ability has a cooldown.

My planned build (click for interactive version):

Athena the Gladiator skill tree guide

I plan to play Athena when I play cooperatively, and this build is all about supporting teammates, at the cost of a lot of skills that would increase Athena’s damage output. Vanguard and United Front help to keep teammates’ health and shields up, and Hold the Line supplements those by increasing the duration of those effects. Given the usefulness of instantly reviving teammates (especially for raid bosses or other high-level content), Clear! is a must-have skill for team play.

One point in Prepare for Glory brings aggro to Athena, making sure the Aspis is charged fully for the secondary abilities like Zeus’ Rage. With the shock damage from Smite, Superconductor, and Hades’ Shackles, Athena can take down enemy shields quickly, allowing teammates to specialize in incendiary or corrosive to wear away at flesh or armor.

Wilhelm the Enforcer

Wilhelm the Enforcer

Action Skill: Wolf and Saint. Press F to summon Wolf and Saint, your trusty combat drones. Wolf will roam and attack enemies, while Saint will stay close to you and replenish your Health. Saint has a protective shield, but Wolf can be damaged by enemies. Press and hold F to recall Wolf and Saint and have some of your Cooldown refunded.

Skill tree: Hunter-KillerFocus: Wolf’s damage outputNotable skills:

  • Laser Guided: When you activate Wolf and Saint, or press F while they are active, Saint will Paint the target under your reticle. Wolf will focus attacks on the currently Painted target, and the target will receive increased Damage from all sources. If a target is killed while Painted, time will be added to Wolf and Saint’s Duration.
  • Kill Switch: Wolf Ability. Whenever Wolf is recalled, runs out of Health, or expires, it will dive bomb enemies with explosive effect!
  • Omega Strike: Wolf Ability. Wolf periodically launches a deadly missile strike against its targets.

Skill tree: Cyber CommandoFocus: General abilities augmented through cyberneticsNotable skills:

  • Power Fist: Cyborg Augmentation: Arm. Melee Override. Press V to perform an explosive punch with extended range. This ability has a cooldown.
  • Shock Absorbers: Cyborg Augmentation: Legs. You can shoot while Sprinting. While doing so, you gain bonus Gun Damage, and suffer no accuracy penalties.
  • Vengeance Cannon: Cyborg Augmentation: Weapon. Whenever your Shield becomes depleted, you activate your shoulder-mounted Vengeance Cannon. The Vengeance Cannon fires Incendiary Laser Blasts in tandem with your equipped weapon and lasts for a short period of time. Your Shield must fully recharge between activations.

Skill tree: DreadnoughtFocus: Saint’s protection abilitiesNotable skills:

  • Termination Protocols: Fight For Your Life is replaced by Termination Protocols. During Termination Protocols you can walk at a reduced speed, fire your weapons, and you constantly shock nearby enemies. If the timer runs out, your power core goes critical, releasing a Nuclear Explosion.
  • Zero Hour: Saint Ability. When Saint is recalled or expires, he explodes, deploying a Healing Zone underneath you. You and your friends Regenerate Health while standing in the zone.
  • Overcharge: Saint Ability. Immediately after being summoned, Saint will release an Energy Wave that will Overcharge you and any nearby friends for a short duration. Overcharged players gain increased Movement Speed, Fire Rate, Reload Speed, and Ammo Regeneration.

My planned build (click for interactive version):

Wilhelm the Enforcer skill tree guide

Wilhelm’s drones Wolf and Saint make him an ideal solo play candidate, so this build maximizes the abilities of the Surveyor bots. Fire Support, Venom Bolts, Kill Switch, and Omega Strike all increase Wolf’s offensive capability, while Energize, Zero Hour, and Overcharge improve Saint’s healing and shield buffs.

Fortify, Man and Machine, and Scramble all help to ensure Wolf stays alive to keep fighting. Laser Guided, Auxiliary Tanks, and Rapid Reinforcement extend the amount of time that Wolf and Saint are active, and decrease the amount of time waiting for them to recharge.

Nisha the Lawbringer

Nisha the Lawbringer

Action Skill: Showdown. Press F to activate Showdown, causing you to Automatically Aim at enemies and gain increased Gun Damage, Fire Rate, Reload Speed, Accuracy, and Bullet Speed with all gun types. Holding Mouse-2 and flicking Mouse in a direction allows you to quickly cycle to another target. Sniper Rifles and Rocket Launchers do not receive the damage bonus.

Skill tree: Law & OrderFocus: Gaining strength as damage is takenNotable skills:

  • Order: Every time you take 15% of your maximum health in damage you gain a stack of Order. Based on your number of Order stacks, you have a chance to instantly heal double the damage taken. Order stacks are quickly lost when outside combat.
  • Rough Rider: Slam Augment. Your Slam attack’s damage is increased by 25%. Dealing damage with Slam grants you five Order stacks per enemy damaged. This skill also raises your Order Stack Cap by five.
  • Discipline: Upon reaching 10 Order stacks, your Shields are restored to full. Also, while at 10 or more Order stacks you gain improved Melee Damage, Gun Damage, and Shield Recharge Delay for each Order stack. This skill also raises your Order Stack Cap by five.
  • Blood of the Guilty: When you or an ally kills an enemy, you gain a stack of Order and have 5% of your health restored. This skill also raises your Order Stack Cap by five.
  • Thunder Crackdown: Melee Override. Your Melee Attack causes a large cone-shaped Shock Burst, dealing increased damage for each Order stack. This skill also raises your Order Stack Cap by five.

Skill tree: Fan the HammerFocus: Increased non-elemental damage and Showdown abilityNotable skills:

  • Short Fused: Kill Skill. After killing an enemy, all your shots deal bonus Explosive Damage for a short time. The closer the enemy is to you, the higher the damage.
  • Pickpocket: Your Melee Attack steals up to six bullets from your enemy and instantly loads them into your current gun’s magazine. There is a cooldown for this skill. Does not work with Rocket Launcher ammo.
  • One for Each of Ya: When using a Pistol, you get an exact copy of that gun in your offhand. While using Ironsights, you shoot with your main hand only.

Skill tree: RiflewomanFocus: Shooting from the hipNotable skills:

  • Fistful of Bullets: Increases your Magazine Size with all gun types by three.
  • Impatience: Killing an enemy grants you a stack of Impatience, increasing your Reload Speed by 20% for each stack. All stacks are lost after reloading. Stacks up to 21 times.
  • The Unforgiven: During Showdown all shots that hit enemies ricochet toward other nearby enemies, dealing 10% weapon damage per hit. Also, showdown ending triggers an Explosion on all enemies who have been shot by you.

My planned build (click for interactive version):

Nisha the Lawbringer skill tree guide

Showdown looks great for dealing a ton of damage in a short period of time, and with Nisha’s cowgirl aesthetic and One For Each of Ya skill, I picture her wielding Jakobs pistols (high damage, no elements, quick reload) almost exclusively. This build plays to that idea with a lot of straight gun damage increases like Magnificent Six, High Noon, Quick Shot, Crack Shot and Tombstone.

Interestingly, some of the single-point skills are neglected here. Fistful of Bullets is left out because it works against the synergy between Magnificent Six and pistols. Impatience is not used because One for Each of Ya encourages use of pistols, and most pistols (Jakobs revolvers in particular) would not benefit much from it. Four points are allotted to Bona Fide Grit as the only health recovery skill outside the Law & Order skill tree, but if Nisha is paired up with an Athena, Wilhelm, or Claptrap with group-healing abilities, those points could easily go into Saddle Up for additional speed and gun damage.

Claptrap the Fragtrap

Claptrap the Fragtrap

Action Skill: VaultHunter.EXE. Press F to run your VaultHunter.EXE program. It will analyze the situation, determine which Vault Hunter would do the best job, and then load an ACTION PACKAGE allowing Claptrap to fight in that manner for a short period of time. It also gives you Full Health and Health Regeneration. VaultHunter.EXE is still in beta and its definition of “Vault Hunter” is questionable at best. Warning: VaultHunter.EXE is currently classified as malware. Your allies may be affected.

Skill tree: BoomtrapFocus: Explosive damageNotable skills:

  • Second Wind (by Tediore): When you enter Fight For Your Life, throw a digistructed copy of yourself which explodes like a grenade, and you continually emit Explosive Novas.
  • I Am Rubber, You Are Glue: Kill Skill. Whenever you kill an enemy, bullets have a chance to reflect off you and towards enemies for a short time. Also, unlocks ACTION PACKAGE Torgue Fiesta. Torgue Fiesta: Whoops! Drop a large amount of grenades that damage enemies and friendlies.
  • Livin’ Near the Edge: Increases Fire Rate and Reload Speed. The lower your health and shields, the greater the bonus. Also, unlocks ACTION PACKAGE Pirate Ship Mode. Pirate Ship Mode: Turn into an AWESOME PIRATE SHIP! With CANNONS!

Skill tree: I Love You Guys!Focus: Healing and increasing stats for all teammatesNotable skills:

  • Kick Him While He’s Down: While in Fight For Your Life, you draw aggro from nearby enemies. Also, unlocks ACTION PACKAGE Clap-in-the-Box. Clap-in-the-Box: Digistruct a giant bomb that hurts everything around it when it explodes.
  • You’re… GOING TO LOVE ME!!: Killing an enemy creates a Friendship Nova centered on the enemy, Healing you and your friends in the radius. Allies who are low on health are healed for more. Also, unlocks ACTION PACKAGE Gun Wizard. Gun Wizard: You and all allies gain drastically increased fire rate and reload speed.
  • It’s a Trap… Card: When your Shield becomes depleted, you release a Mega-Nova centered on yourself that heals you and your friends, but hurts enemies. Targets low on health are healed for more. Your Shield must fully recharge between Mega-Novas.
  • HIGH FIVES GUYS: Hold V to request a High Five from your friends! A successful High Five increases your and your awesome friend’s Gun Damage, Fire Rate, and grants Health Regeneration. Woo! If you don’t have any friends, or they leave you hangin’, gain increased Gun Damage and Health Regeneration for a few seconds, because screw you guys!

Skill tree: Fragmented FragtrapFocus: Unpredictability?Notable skills:

  • All the Guns: Gun Subroutines. You randomly pick a Subroutine focused on a gun type, making you more effective with that gun type, but less effective with all others. Upon selecting a Subroutine you gain 100 Frag Stacks, which decrease over time. When you run out of Frag Stacks, your Subroutine will be replaced with a new one.
  • Safety First: Defensive Subroutines. You randomly pick a Subroutine focused on either Health or Shields, which grants increased Capacity and Regeneration for the chosen attribute. The catch? You deal reduced damage with all gun types. Upon selecting a Subroutine you gain 100 Frag Stacks, which decrease over time. When you run out of Frag Stacks, your Subroutine will be replaced with a new one.
  • Rope-a-Derp: Melee Subroutine. You randomly pick a melee-focused Subroutine, which grants you a massive melee damage bonus but reduces your damage with guns.
  • Tripleclocked: Multiplies the Bonuses and Penalties of the current Subroutine by up to three. The fewer Frag Stacks you have, the greater the multiplier. Defensive Subroutines always receive Triple Capacity regardless of stacks. Also, unlocks ACTION PACKAGE One Shot Wonder. One Shot Wonder: Every shot empties all bullets from your clip.
  • Element of Surprise: Elemental Subroutines. You randomly pick a Subroutine that Increases Damage with a chosen element, but Decreases Damage with all other elements. Upon depleting your shield, filling your shield, or entering Fight For Your Life, you release a Nova of the chosen element.
  • Rainbow Coolant: Whenever you initial a new Subroutine you emit a Rainbow Nova. The Nova consists of all elements, humongous in size, and makes your team super happy. Also, unlocks ACTION PACKAGE Laser Inferno. Laser Inferno: Shoot lasers in all directions at nearby enemies.

My planned build (click for interactive version):

Claptrap the Fragtrap skill tree guide

Hmm. I will admit, I had some trouble deciding what to do here. Though some of the skills in the Fragmented Fragtrap tree sound pretty great, the Subroutine idea that the tree is based on sounds really difficult to optimize, especially in a multiplayer game where pausing to rearrange equipment loadouts in the middle of battle is not an option.

Most of the skills in the I Love You Guys! tree were chosen to best benefit the team as a whole. In particular, Through Thick and Thin works well to allow teammates access to more reliable Action Skills more quickly, but requires Claptrap to use his own Action Skill. To supplement that, all of the additional ACTION PACKAGES from both the Boomtrap and I Love You Guys! trees are unlocked. Even with this build, Claptrap is a wildcard, but he can at least explode a lot of people and really buff up teammates.

So these are my initial reactions are to the full skill trees, but of course, the mark of a well-designed skill tree is its adaptability to different play styles. I built Athena to play a support role, Wilhelm to let his drones do all the work, Nisha to deal as much gun damage as possible, and Claptrap to make his teammates more awesome and not get too much in the way. Feel free to share your builds with what you would do differently.