If you have ever wondered why Krieg the Psycho, from the hybrid role playing game / shooter Borderlands 2, wears a breathing mask, look no further than the Hellborn skill tree. This particular skill focuses on entirely on burning everyone and everything, including Krieg himself. The tactics for playing a Hellborn version of the Psycho are very simple. 1) Get a weapon that ignites enemies. 2) Use it all the time. If you enjoy fire or burning then the following guide will help you navigate this path to choose the best skills and create a powerful Hellborn character.
Burn, Baby, Burn (A-) – Burn, Baby, Burn gives you a modest increase to burn damage and a much higher increase while you are on fire. It also gives you a chance to ignite yourself whenever you ignite an enemy. Increased damage is always a plus, but be wary about putting too many points into this early. Until you increase your ignition chance, it won’t help much and lighting yourself on fire is a dangerous proposition when you have no defense against burning. You will eventually want to max this skill out, but only put 2 or 3 points into it at most until you get some skills and equipment that protect you from fire.
Fuel the Fire (A+) – While this won’t increase your damage directly, it does greatly increase your chance of igniting enemies. It also gives you a chance to ignite yourself when you do, but that is an acceptable return. You can max this out early if you want or split points with Burn, Baby, Burn, but even splitting points, this skill should be your priority.
Numbed Nerves (A+) – Numbed Nerves decreases the damage you take from all sources while you are on fire. This is a must-have skill and you should start putting points into as soon as it is available and continue putting points into it until you have maxed it out.
Pain is Power (B) – Depending on your play style, this is potentially an A+ skill, but others will find it somewhat lackluster. Pain is Power increases your damage with all guns except sniper rifles and further increases that damage while you are burning. But, it also decreases your critical hit damage of all weapons. If you like using sniper rifles or tend to make head shots, this trade off is mediocre. If you are more of a fire and forget player, this is a great deal.
Elemental Elation (A) – With Elemental Elation, whenever enemies are taking elemental status effect damage that you dealt, you gain stacks of elemental elation. You can have up to 20 stacks, gaining a fire rate and clip size bonus for each stack. Furthermore, the stacks don’t decay while you are on fire. There are simply no downsides to this skill and it has the added bonus of working with weapons that deal electrical, corrosive, or slag damage.
Delusional Damage (B-) – Eventually Delusional Damage is a required skill for any Hellborn build, but you should avoid it at first. The “benefit” of the skill is that any elemental status effect can cause you to ignite yourself. Later in the game when you need to start switching weapons to deal with specific foes, this will be critical, but until then, and especially until you have maxed out Elemental Empathy, it is more of a hindrance than a benefit.
Fire Fiend (B-) – Fire Fiend is another skill with questionable benefits when you first get it. It gives you a chance to ignite enemies with melee attacks, but except for your Buzz Axe Rampage you aren’t likely to be making melee attacks and since that is often used when you are desperate, the fact that you might light yourself on fire can actually be bad. This skill also increases your weapon accuracy and reload speed while you are on fire, but until you have gotten all the defensive abilities in this skill set, you still tend to spend a reasonable amount of time not on fire. Like many other skills in this set, you will max it out, but you should probably hold off at first.
Flame Flare (D) – Flame Flare has two benefits, but neither one is particularly great. First, it increases the duration of burn effects on you. Second, it gives you a chance to reignite enemies a few seconds after initial ignition. The problem with these benefits is that you don’t really need them. You are probably lighting yourself on fire regularly enough that extending the time only really hurts you after all the enemies are dead and similarly, you are probably attacking enough that your enemies will never need to be reignited, assuming they even live that long. It simply is a poor choice with corner case benefits.
Hellfire Halitosis (C) – Hellfire Halitosis replaces your melee attack with a short burst fire spray that ignites enemies. It can be useful when getting swarmed, but doesn’t particularly increase your ability to ignite enemies, especially if you have points in Fire Fiend. It only costs one skill point at most, so if you like the conceptual idea of breathing fire, feel free to splurge.
Elemental Empathy (A+) – The moment you get your 21st skill point, put it into this skill and keep putting points into it until it is maxed out. This skill is literally a life saver. You heal a percentage of all elemental damage your enemies receive. Once you have maxed out this skill, you are safe to max out all of those previous skills that were risky or had questionable benefits.
Raving Retribution (B+) – There are no downsides to Raving Retribution, but it isn’t that great of an ultimate skill either. While you are on fire, you will attack enemies with fireballs when they deal you damage. This fireball attack only gets released once per second. It is nice extra damage, but doesn’t help much when you are in trouble and isn’t exactly necessary when you aren’t. Still, it looks awesome and speeds up fights, so you should pick it up eventually. Just make sure you have maxed out all the A rated skills first and maybe even some of the B rated skills.
Recommended Weapons – In addition to skill selection, a key part to making this skill tree work is weapon selection. To start, you absolutely need the best burning weapon you can find. Eventually you will want a weapon of each of the other elemental damage types as well. Additionally, get an Adaptable shield. These shields will reduce damage from the last element that hurt you. With this setup, you should be able to take on just about any enemy in Borderlands 2.