Elemental damage is a generic term covering supplemental non-physical damage. A weapon with elemental damage has a chance to add extra damage of an elemental type to the target every time it fires. This effect does not change the base bullet damage of a weapon.
Elemental damage comes in five different varieties:
- Incendiary: Incendiary is a relatively weak element initially, but has the benefit of being able to set enemies on fire, for substantial damage over time. The initial burst can hit other enemies near the primary target, setting them on fire as well. This works great against all "fleshy" opponents, which are the majority of all enemies in the game, but has the largest penalty for any element against shields, the most common addition to flesh enemies. It is less effective against armored enemies, and quite ineffective against heavily shielded enemies.
- Corrosive: Corrosive is much like incendiary: weak initially, but has substantial damage over time and can hit nearby enemies in the initial burst. An enemy taking damage over time from corrosion will suffer bonus damage from any subsequent attacks. Corrosive damage is best used against armored enemies such as Crimson Lance mercenaries (but excluding Lance Chemical Troopers), the frontal plates of an Alpha Skag, or any vehicle or turret. It is less effective against flesh or any shielded enemy. Corrosive damage over time persists for longer than fire or shock. It can also spread between adjoining enemies.
- Shock: Shock will deplete an enemy's shield much more quickly than a normal bullet. Shock damage may also electrocute an enemy to deal damage over time. While it is extremely effective against shields it does slightly less damage to flesh. While loading screen tips state that this effect has a chance to stun the enemy, this effect is very brief. Shock effects tend to deal large amounts of damage in short amounts of time, where corrosive and incendiary damage is less powerful but sustains longer.
- Explosive: Explosive damage is excellent for dealing high amounts of damage immediately to the target and nearby enemies. It is the only element type that will not deal damage over time, and will not deal as much damage as an Incendiary weapon of the same level, but sacrifices that power to do all of its damage immediately. Explosive damage has an immediate area of effect and explosions can hit multiple nearby enemies at once, albeit quickly in one relatively large portion of damage.
|Tier Four||Combustion||Fulgurating||Pestilent||Erupting||Tech = 16 (4.3)|
|Tier Three||Burning||Lightning||Vitriolic||Detonating||Tech = 12 (3.3)|
|Tier Two||Incendiary||Static||Caustic||Blast||Tech = 6 (2.3)|
|Tier One||Flaming||Shock||Corrosive||Exploding||Tech = 1 (1.3)|
Note: on some weapons, elemental multiplier and prefix may not match due to different tech requirements for the prefixes and multipliers.
- Main article: Status Effects#Elemental Damage Over Time
Incendiary, Shock and Corrosive attacks have a chance to trigger a status effect, inflicting further elemental damage over a period of time after the initial attack. Explosive attacks do not inflict damage over time, delivering all of their damage in the initial attack.
Area of Effect
All elemental weapons can do splash damage that affects any targets in that area. Largest possible area of effect size is directly proportional to elemental multiplier seen on weapon infocard. Each elemental multiplier has roughly 3 times larger area of effect than the previous one.
Triggering elemental effects or Proc
An elemental weapon actually usually shoots normal bullets, that are exactly the same as that of a normal gun. However, sometimes they trigger an elemental effect, or "proc" (short for "programmed random occurrence"). When this happens in addition to the bullet damage, the elemental effect and damage is added. These procs can trigger with varying intensities, from x1 to x4, as seen on weapon infocards. Different weapons have different proc chances for each of these elemental multipliers.
Every gun has a Tech Pool. This pool constantly recharges when it is not full. Every proc has a specific tech pool cost, with bigger procs consuming larger amounts from the tech pool. Once the pool is empty, the weapon cannot proc until this pool has recharged a sufficient amount, unless the weapon has a proc that costs 0 tech pool.
The size of tech pool depends on the overall quality of the weapon, which will give it a tech level, and the elemental multiplier, which is based on tech level. The size of the tech pool is equal to the tech level times 4*. Lilith's Spark skill can provide a slight further bonus.
*Tech Level not to be confused with Tech Tier or Tech Multiplier
The speed at which this pool refills is 4 points per second for all weapons, but mods and some of Lilith's skills can affect this rate of regeneration. Weapons do not regenerate tech pool when not being held.
As stated in the beginning of this article, some elements are more effective than others on certain targets. This comes from a simple coefficient formula:
For example, an incendiary proc will deal 120% damage to flesh, but only 50% damage to shields.
Matching Elements to Enemies
Skags - Vulnerable to incendiary, with the heavily armored Alphas susceptible to corrosion. Spitter and Elder Skags are naturally resistant to corrosion, however.
Spiderants - Resistant to all elements. Corrosive damage will degrade their armor from the front, and smaller varieties will succumb to critical hits on their abdomen via explosive blast attacks.
Scythids - Resistant to all elements.
Bandits - If the enemy has a shield, a shock weapon can quickly deplete its charge. If an enemy is unshielded or once the shield is depleted, an incendiary weapon is the most effective elemental damage. Explosive works well either way.
Guardians - Vulnerable to shock, due to their strong shields and low health.
Crimson Lance - Vulnerable to corrosive damage due to their heavy armor. Corrosion proceeds more efficiently once shields are down. Corrosion resistant varieties are susceptible to incineration or electrocution. Resistant to explosive blast.
Zombies - Vulnerable to explosive and incendiary damage. Zombies take no damage over time from corrosion. Beware that shock heals certain powerful varieties (Tankenstein/Loot Goon).
Claptraps - Vulnerable to shock due to their metallic construction. Many other mechanical re-creations fought during the Robolution, however, will preserve their original elemental weaknesses.
Extra Elemental Damage Effect
Whenever a weapon procs, a certain amount of elemental damage is added based on the current element's damage multiplier:
When calculating the damage an elemental weapon will do, one first takes the base damage of the weapon and multiplies it by the appropriate Element Damage Multiplier from the above table, and then multiplies the result by the appropriate Weapon Proc Multiplier from the tables below. That result is added on top of the weapon's base damage to get the total damage.
Essentially, [Total Damage] = [Weapon Base Damage] + ([WBD] * [EDM] * [WPM])
- if a 100 damage x1 incendiary repeater procs x1, this will add a 1x incendiary damage multiplier (60%), dealing an extra 60 damage.
- If a 100 damage x3 explosive sniper rifle procs x3, this will add a 1.5x explosive damage multiplier (150%) dealing an extra 225 damage.
Different weapons react differently to Elemental effects. It is important to understand how they work, in order to choose a good elemental weapon, as Elemental weapons can be far less effective than normal weapons if used improperly.
|Proc chance (%)||N/A (100*)||100|
|Tech Pool cost||N/A (0*)||32||44||56|
|Weapon Proc Multiplier||N/A (1*)||1||1.5||2|
Notes: Sniper rifles will always proc at the highest level the tech pool permits. Explosive sniper rifles will always proc at least x1.
|Proc chance (%)||100||40||20||15|
|Tech Pool cost||0||20|
|Weapon Proc Multiplier||1||1||1.5||2|
Notes: x1 elemental revolver is almost equal to x2. Revolvers will always proc (at least) x1.
|Proc chance (%)||25||10||10||15|
|Tech Pool cost||20|
|Weapon Proc Multiplier||1|
Notes: The damage is determined every shot and not for each individual pellet. All pellets will proc together. All procs have same damage multiplier and cost, but higher elemental multipliers will allow larger AoEs and proc more often.
|Proc chance (%)||25||10||10||20|
|Tech Pool cost||12||14||16||24|
|Weapon Proc Multiplier||1|
Notes: All procs have same damage multiplier, higher elemental multiplier will allow larger AoEs and proc more often.
|Proc chance (%)||30||15||15||10 (5*)|
|Tech Pool cost||4||4||5||5|
|Weapon Proc Multiplier||1|
Notes: Low tech pool costs ensure frequent procs. All procs have same damage multiplier, higher elemental multiplier will allow larger AoEs and proc more often. Shock repeaters actually only have 5% chance to proc at level 4.
|Proc chance (%)||70||20||20||40|
|Tech Pool cost||20||16||12||30|
|Weapon Proc multiplier||1||1 (1.5)||1.5|
Notes: Combat rifles, especially support machine guns, often run out of tech pool due to high proc rates. Explosive combat rifles proc harder at x3 than other elements.
Rocket Launchers are a special case. They will always have x4 elemental multiplier with 100% proc chance, 0 tech pool cost and damage multiplier of 1. Non-elemental Rocket Launchers deal Explosive damage.
Legendary and unique elemental weapons shouldn't be judged with this data since they may have their own, more powerful elemental effects. Generally speaking, elemental effects are strongest on sniper rifles, revolvers and rocket launchers. High elemental multiplier on a weapon's infocard only guarantees a high tech pool and larger area of effects. It doesn't necessarily mean higher damage or more procs.
Brightly colored barrels scattered around the landscape also apply elemental damage, each color corresponding to a certain element type.
- Blue - Shock
- Green - Corrosive
- Red - Incendiary
- Yellow - Explosive
When damaged (whether by flying bullets, nearby explosions, or Lilith's various destructive auras), the barrels will detonate to deal the elemental damage form associated with that color. The blue, green and red barrels are capable of applying a damage-over-time elemental effect in addition to the initial damage from the blast. Explosive yellow barrels will simply deal a one-off blast damage.
As stated in the beginning of this article, some elements are more effective than others on certain targets. Elemental damage is multiplied following a simple coefficient formula:
|Damage Type||Impact Flesh||Impact Armor||Impact Shield|
|None (regular ammo)||1||0.8||1|
For example, incendiary weapons deal 150% damage against flesh, but only 75% damage to shields.
The coefficients are different when playing True Vault Hunter Mode:
|Damage Type||Impact Flesh||Impact Armor||Impact Shield|
|None (regular ammo)||1||0.8||1|
* - Explosive rocket launchers have damage coefficient of 1 against all three target types, including shield.
The elemental damage coefficient multiplies the adjusted weapon damage following the formula below:
Final Damage = (Base + Skills + BA Rank + Class Mod + Relic) * (Gun Base) * (Elemental multiplier)
Badass rank bonus "Elemental Effect Damage" does not affect the damage of a bullet, or the elemental damage coefficients as it adjusts only the Elemental Damage over Time Status Effects.
Explosive Damage Exclusivity
In Borderlands 2, explosive damage is largely exclusive to Torgue-manufactured products. However, several other manufacturers feature weapons that deal explosive damage in some manner. They include:
- Assault Rifles that use Torgue barrels (Bandit, Dahl, Jakobs, and Vladof)
- Rocket Launchers (Bandit, Tediore, and Vladof)
- Cobra sniper rifle
- Tediore non-elemental weapons (when reload-thrown)
- Bouncing Bonny, Bouncing Betty, Jumpin Bitty, and Jumpin Biddy grenades
- Grenades and Gurnades
- Murrv, Mrvur, and Muvr grenades
- Kiss of Death grenade
- Singularity Grenades
- Transfusion Grenades
- The Cradle shield (when depleted and discarded)
Targets afflicted with Slag take double damage from any non-Slag attack. All other elemental target affinities still apply. For example, a slagged unshielded flesh target will suffer a net 3.5 damage multiplier, i.e. twice 1.75, from incendiary attacks in True Vault Hunter Mode.
In Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode, targets afflicted with Slag take triple damage from non-Slag attacks, and 150% damage from further Slag attacks.
Elemental Damage Over Time Status Effects
All non-Explosive elemental weapons have a chance to trigger a damage over time effect.
On every hit there is a fixed probability that a damage over time effect will trigger, i.e. the weapon "procs." Proc chance can be modified by skills and the Badass Rank bonus "elemental effect chance." Such bonuses multiply the base proc chance. E.g. Maya's skill Flicker grants +30% elemental effect chance at rank 5, so a weapon with a 12.5% proc chance increases to 16.25%.
All damage over time procs are independent, and several can be happening at once, or even be applied at once. If the applications are staggered, there will be more numbers flying off of the target. If the applications are simultaneous, the damage will combine into a single number on each tick.
Shotgun rounds check for damage over time with each pellet that hits the target.
Once the status effect has been triggered, it will damage the target three times per second (with the first tick being 1/3 of a second after the original weapon damage) equal to 1/3 of the elemental damage listed on the weapon card, modified by a small, effectively random amount (±5%). This damage is multiplied based on its target as all elemental damage is, and is also increased by certain skills and the Badass Rank bonus "Elemental Effect Damage." The damage done is visualized with damage popups that appear once in 0.33 seconds.
The duration of elemental status effect depends on the element:
|Element Type||Damage Ticks||Duration|
Bonus Elemental Damage
Some Maliwan weapons list "Deals Bonus Elemental Damage" as an effect. These weapons deal an additional portion of elemental damage as splash damage around the bullet impact. The splash damage equals 50% of the weapon card damage for sniper rifles and Plasma Casters, and 80% for pistols; it is multiplied as normal for the element type, but is not further multiplied by critical hits or badass rank "elemental effect damage." Amp shield damage only applies on direct hits, and not this splash damage. However, the splash damage can trigger an elemental damage over time effect independently of the main bullet, resulting in double DoT triggers on some shots. This effect is especially useful on slag-snipers as the elemental explosion is guaranteed to slag the target even on a non-direct hit, as opposed to non-Maliwan sniper rifles that need to hit the target in addition to having only a reduced chance of applying the slag effect.
Rocket launchers with "Deals Bonus Elemental Damage" are a special case. Whereas normal rocket launchers simply deal their weapon card damage as splash damage in a certain radius, DBED rocket launchers have two separate splash ranges. The smaller splash range deals 50% of the weapon card damage, and the larger splash range deals 25% of the weapon card damage. These stack, however, so anything within the smaller range is also hit by the larger range, resulting in a total of 75% weapon card damage on close hits. As with pistols and sniper rifles, these two damage effects can trigger the damage over time effect independently.
Like in Borderlands 2, in Borderlands 3 elemental bonuses and penalties apply to all damage dealt, affecting gun damage, grenade damage, melee damage and status effect damage. For example, in normal mode an incendiary weapon's gun damage and status effect damage are all multiplied by ×1.5 against flesh targets and by ×0.7 against shielded targets.
Elemental damage multipliers are different in normal mode and True Vault Hunter Mode (TVHM), the latter generally increasing bonuses and penalties. In Mayhem Mode, the TVHM modifiers apply, no matter if Mayhem Mode is launched in Normal or TVHM.
Firing an elemental weapon into standing water or liquid will create a brief damaging hazard. While this is intuitive for shock weapons, it also works with any other element. This means that the character can have an elemental status effect applied to themselves if they step in the affected area.