Doubled Agent, Hitman, or Under Cover?
When you first start Borderlands 3, you're given the choice to play as one of four distinct Vault Hunters--Moze the gunner, Amara the Siren, FL4K the beastmaster, and Zane the operative. If sneaking around and teleporting throughout the battlefield as Zane is how you want to play, then read our guide below. It includes the pros and cons of the character's three distinct skill trees so you can craft the ideal build.
Zane has the ability to sacrifice using grenades to equip two action skills at once. If you choose to do this, you'll likely end up weaker in the early game. But don't worry, Zane possesses plenty of excellent first and second tier abilities across all three of his trees, so you'll have plenty to work with until you hit the mid-game and probably want to invest in two action skills and skill trees. We advise focusing a bit more on his Double Agent and Under Cover trees. Once you reach Eden-6, combat gets much harder and--without much in the way of survivability--Zane's going to need those later tier skills, such as the self revive skill Old-U, to boost his defense and chances of surviving.
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Zane's Doubled Agent tree is tied to his Digi-Clone action skill, which summons a holographic decoy that distracts and shoots at enemies and can also switch places with Zane. If you're going to play Borderlands 3 solo, this is one of the two trees you should invest in, as you can evolve Digi-Clone to take the brunt of most of the damage you take as well as rely on the second pair of hands for the bullet-sponge boss battles.
The first tier ability Synchronicity is a good early investment, increasing Zane's gun damage for every action skill active. With one skill on, that's pretty good. With two, it's phenomenal. Once you hit second tier, nearly every skill in the Doubled Agent tree is worth investing in. Boom, Enhance is the one exception. Some notable standouts are Quick Breather (Zane's shield immediately begins recharging when he swaps with his decoy), Old-U (Zane can get an instant second wind by swapping with his decoy), and Dopplebanger (the Digi-Clone can be recalled early in an explosion that deals massive splash damage).
The utility of the Digi-Clone ability cannot be undersold, as it's probably Zane's most useful action skill. You'll want to equip Digi-Clone and invest heavily into Doubled Agent if you decide to play as Zane. Think Borderlands 2's Zer0, but less ninja and more secret agent.
Though helpful early on in Borderlands 3's campaign, Zane's Hitman tree offers less worthwhile returns the further you invest in it. You shouldn't focus on this tree alone, especially if you're playing through the campaign solo. That said, the Hitman tree--which is tied to Zane's drone-summoning SNTNL action skill--does have a few useful perks, so it's worth putting a few points into it. Maybe just invest in this tree early and then leave its more advanced abilities for when you're going into the endgame content.
In the first tier, put points into both the Violent Speed and Violent Momentum abilities. The first increases Zane's movement speed after an action skill use, while the second increases gun damage the faster he's moving. If you're looking for more skills to put points into, then you can put some into second tier Cool Hand to increase reload speed whenever you kill an enemy. When paired with Violent Speed and Violent Momentum, it makes Zane a speed demon with a Jakobs revolver or bolt action rifle.
After that, however, the Hitman tree loses most of its luster. The remaining skills are tied to increasing the effectiveness of Zane's SNTNL drone, but none of them are exceptionally good. They're not nearly as good as the late-game skills found in the Doubled Agent tree and when you do hit the latter half of the campaign, you're going to want the perks found in the Under Cover skill tree a lot more. Like, a lot more.
The Under Cover tree contains most of Zane's defensive skills. None of them are terribly important early on but grow exponentially in effectiveness the further you progress the campaign. Remember how we said in the Doubled Agent section that there are two skill trees you want to invest in if you're playing with Zane solo? Well, this is the other one. Under Cover is tied to Zane's final action skill, Barrier, which erects a force field that can be picked up for additional defense while on the move or left on the ground to amplify all outgoing shots with increased attack power.
Early on, put points into Adrenaline to increase action skill cooldown so you can throw out your shield more often (as well as your Digi-Clone or SNTNL drone if you have those equipped). Hearty Stock increases Zane's maximum shield capacity and Ready For Action ensures his shield recharges faster. The Under Cover tree doesn't truly come into its own until the third tier though, when Nanites Or Some Shite provides health regeneration, increases reload speed, and supplies a faster shield recharge rate while near the Barrier. You also get All-Rounder, which changes the Barrier into a dome for protection from all sides.
That's most of what you need out of the tree. From there, start focusing points on the Doubled Agent tree and increasing the effectiveness of the Digi-Clone with it's more advanced perks. Together, the Digi-Clone and Barrier ability allow Zane to keep teleporting around the battlefield and dealing damage from all sides, relying on his force field to recover and increase his combat prowess. If you find yourself with excessive skill points, then go ahead and work towards a few of the late-game Under Cover abilities. Deterrence Field causes Zane's Barrier to shock enemies and Distributed Denial applies Zane's shield effects to the Barrier. If you have a nova or spike shield, then Distributed Denial can be paired with Deterrence Field to turn Zane's Barrier into an offensive tool. And remember, you can pick up said offensive tool and run at the enemies if they don't come to you.