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Each of Borderlands 2’s four classes has a variety of awesome abilities and upgrades, but a recent poll on this website indicated that most of you are spending time with Zero during your first playthrough. You’ve made a good choice, as the robotic assassin is a bonafide bad***. He was my first choice as well, and I turned him into a melee monster by the end of the game. Read on for some tips on how you can do the same.
Skill Tree Management
Like the other classes, Zero has three skill trees that you can funnel your skill points into. If you want to focus on close-range attacks, you can completely ignore the Sniping tree on the left. In the middle is the Cunning tree, which does offer some melee bonuses. You’ll find the Counter Strike upgrade right off the bat, which gives you a chance to deal massive melee damage after you get hit. If you choose to go any further on the Cunning tree, go for Ambush. This skill allows you to deal increased damage from behind, which will come in handy once you start getting fancy with Deception. Only put a few points into Counter Strike and Ambush at first, because you’ll want to get most of your upgrades from the Bloodshed tree.
Focus On Bloodshed
Even though Bloodshed focuses on melee attacks, there are a few upgrades that you can ignore if you want to be as efficient as possible with Zero’s sword. If you see the image above, you’ll see an example of an ideal late-game skill tree. Killing Blow and Iron Hand are both extremely useful, allowing you to deal up to 500% melee damage to enemies with low health and boosting your overall melee damage, respectively.
In the second tier, you can basically ignore Grim and Be Like Water. They’re both useful, but aren’t directly related to Zero’s sword attack strength. Get back to them later once you fill out the tree, but pour your points into the top tier at first.
As soon as you unlock the third tier, throw a point into Execute. This game-changer is one of the most important parts of Zero’s entire skill tree. With it, you can dash forward and slash at an enemy that’s under your crosshairs. This special melee attack deals a silly amount of damage, and you can even dash into the air to attack flying enemies. You can imagine how awesome it feels to disappear and then fly through the air to destroy a Buzzard craft with your sword.
Move on to Backstab after that, which lets you deal extra damage when attacking from behind an enemy. Again, this will come into play once we discuss Deception strategy. Once you’ve put enough into Backstab, the fourth tier opens up. Resurgence is the only option here, and it rewards Zero with health for attacking with his sword. In conjunction with Zero’s now-crazy melee abilities, it’s great at keeping you alive in tough situations. Keep on moving down the line to the Like the Wind ability, which grants you extra melee (and gun) damage while you’re moving.
After you’ve spent enough points on the Bloodshed tree, you’ll unlock Zero’s deadly Many Must Fall ability. With this activated, Zero will deploy another hologram if he kills an enemy while in Deception. If you make good use of your time, you can use this to string together multiple decoys. Few experiences in Borderlands 2 feel as great as taking out an entire squad of enemies with your sword without any of them ever seeing you.
Be Smart With Deception
Even if you never use Deception, Zero will be a melee force to be reckoned with if you spend points as I described above. However, utilizing the assassin’s primary ability is the most important tip in this article. The longer you wait to attack after deploying your decoy, the more damage you’ll deal (as long as the attack connects before the five-second timer runs out). Zero can deal up to 650% melee damage if he times a slash correctly, and this is in addition to the crazy stat bonuses you can gain from the Bloodshed tree.
Let’s say you head into an area with several standard Hyperion robots and one constructor. Use Deception, and then sneak around to the back of the constructor. Wait until the last second, and then dash forward with the melee button. Timed correctly, you can deal damage in the thousands and immediately stop the flow of Hyperion reinforcements.
For maximum effect, always use this strategy on the biggest threat whenever you enter a battle. Make sure to attack from the back as well, as that adds yet another damage bonus to your attack. If you follow these tips and focus on the Bloodshed tree, Zero can easily turn into Pandora’s deadliest character.