In Borderlands 3, Guardian Rank is an end-game meta-progression system that allows you to earn permanent stat bonuses and unlock various perks. After hitting the max character level, all subsequent XP you earn goes towards increasing your Guardian Rank.
Reaching high Guardian Ranks takes a considerable amount of time and dedication. But the power rewards are very worthwhile, especially at the max Rank 9.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about leveling up your Guardian Rank to Rank 9 in Borderlands 3, including:
- An Overview of Guardian Rank
- Guardian Rank Perks
- Token Economy and Spending Guidelines
- Efficient XP Farming Methods
- Matchmaking Coop XP Grinding
- Vault Hunter-Specific Builds and Strategies
- Average Time to Reach Rank 9
- Is the Grind Worth It?
- Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s dive in and break down the path to attaining the peak of Guardian power!
An Overview of Guardian Rank
Guardian Rank becomes available after completing the main story campaign and hitting the max Vault Hunter level cap (level 50 at launch). After the cap, all excess XP you earn goes into Guardian Rank instead of regular character levels.
Each Guardian Rank you gain provides you with a Guardian Token to unlock Guardian Rank perks, plus 1% global bonuses to either Health, Shield, or Damage. At Rank 9, these bonuses reach 9% which is very impactful.
There are no hard caps on how high you can climb in Guardian Rank. But progression slows considerably after hitting Rank 9. It takes the same total XP to go from Rank 1 to 9 as it does from Rank 9 to 11!
So Rank 9 is considered the soft cap and provides the vast majority of benefits. Anything beyond that requires an immense grind for minimal gains.
Now let’s take a closer look at the perks and bonuses you can unlock on the journey to Rank 9!
Guardian Rank Perks
As you gain Guardian Ranks, you’ll earn Guardian Tokens that can be used to unlock perks in the Guardian Rank menu. There are 15 perks spread across 3 trees:
Enforcer Tree (Damage/Offense)
- Topped Off (Gain health regen after kill)
- Armored Infantry (Bonus shield regen and max shield)
- Overclocked (Lower action skill cooldown rate)
- Medic (Restore portion of health after killing a badass/boss)
- The Power Within (Bonus gun damage when at low health)
Survivor Tree (Survivability)
- Selfless Vengeance (Bonus damage after exit FFYL)
- Rise to the Occasion (FFYL time increased)
- Resilient (FFYL health regen and resistance to damage)
- Guardian Angel (Automatically revive allies)
- Not My Time (Gain Second Wind when health reaches 0)
Hunter Tree (Utility)
- Packin’ Light (Increased movement speed)
- Sweet Release (Chance to fire additional projectile)
- Perpetual Motion (Bonus damage when moving)
- Head Count (Action skill cooldown lowered when kill skill active)
- Fast Hands (Faster shield recharge delay)
These perks can provide a nice boost, especially unlocked early on during the climb to Rank 9. Most builds benefit from perks like Not My Time and Medic for survivability, and Sweet Release and Perpetual Motion for damage.
But it’s actually the raw stats you earn from each Rank that make the bulk of the difference, rather than the perks themselves.
Token Economy and Spending Guidelines
Each Guardian rank earns you 1 Guardian Token that can be invested into a perk. Tokens accumulate rapidly, so you likely won’t be able to afford every perk until hitting the Rank 9 soft cap.
Here are some tips on investing Tokens efficiently in the early ranks:
- Focus on unlocking 1-2 top perks in each tree first before diversifying
- Not My Time and Medic/Overclocked are strong early unlocks
- Don’t spend Tokens on incremental upgrades to perks you rarely benefit from
- Save some Tokens until later to buy perks that synergize with end-game gear
- Respecing perks gets very expensive, so choose carefully!
Once you’ve unlocked your core desired perks, the remaining Tokens are best saved until you finish the grind to Rank 9. That way you can invest them into perks that support your end-game build.
Efficient XP Farming Methods
Now let’s look at some of the best ways to farm large volumes of XP needed to reach the heights of Guardian Rank:
Slaughter Locations – Circles of Slaughter are designed for grinding XP quickly. Farm Slaughter Star in particular.
Boss Runs – Defeat bosses rapidly via save-quitting for XP bursts. Graveward, Gigamind, and Katagawa Jr are top options.
Proving Grounds – This Trial of Survival gives solid XP in short repeatable runs.
Mayhem Mode – Higher Mayhem levels provide big XP boosts from enemies. Push to at least Mayhem 6+.
XP Boosts – Use XP boosting gear like the Moxxi Endowment relic and Transformer shield.
Coop Play – Playing co-op gives a bonus to XP gains. Find a partner or group for maximum XP.
Story Missions – Replayable story content is a slower but steady source of XP.
Mix up these methods by working through the most efficient ones first before cycling to others when needed. Consistent grinding will steadily build up Guardian Rank.
Matchmaking Coop XP Grinding
Playing Borderlands 3 cooperatively online can give you up to a 50% XP boost compared to solo play. So forming a consistent group is ideal for rapidly gaining Guardian Ranks through XP grinding.
Here are some tips to find a good matchmade team online:
- Set your game privacy to Open to enable matchmaking
- Make a “Leveling” game and outline the grind plan
- Use voice chat to coordinate with teammates
- Take advantage of campaign replay and Fast Travel
- Chain boss farms and Slaughter runs together
- Select a dedicated loot farming location for drops
- Fill missing synergies and roles in your team comp
Having an organized, communicative team grinding in sync will maximize XP gains and make the journey to Rank 9 much faster. The social aspect also makes the grind more enjoyable.
Vault Hunter-Specific Builds and Strategies
Certain Vault Hunters are better suited than others to grinding massive amounts of Guardian Rank XP efficiently:
Moze the Gunner
Moze’s mech Iron Bear can destroy bosses and mobs quickly for rapid XP through its scaled damage. Spec into unlimited Fuel and Auto Bear for hands-free grinding. Use Short Fuse and Means of Destruction to quickly regenerate ammo and fuel.
Amara the Siren
Amara can mob groups of enemies rapidly with her Phasegrasp and spiritual driver class mod. Rush through Slaughters by phaselocking from enemy to enemy. Her damage over time abilities like Ties that Bind also chew through bosses.
FL4K the Beastmaster
FL4K can farm bosses extremely quickly by pairing high damage pets with megavore crit builds. Fade Away also demolishes single targets. Use Gamma Burst to keep pets up and dealing damage. FL4K excels at boss looping.
Zane the Operative
Zane’s clone and drone can deal damage around you non-stop, allowing you to focus on staying alive via lifesteal. The Seeing Dead mod gives huge kill skill and action skill uptime. Zane is great at boss farms.
Experiment to find what works best with your Vault Hunter! Their unique abilities all provide advantages for farming XP.
Average Time to Reach Rank 9
Given optimized farming methods and team coordination, reaching Guardian Rank 9 will take around 25-35 hours of total playtime on average.
This assumes fairly consistent grinding using bosses, Slaughters, Proving Grounds, and Mayhem XP bonuses. Playing solo or less optimized will increase the time investment.
Some may be able to blaze through to Rank 9 faster with 18-20 hours, while others may need 40-50 hours depending on skill and strategies. But 25-35 hours is a reasonable expectation if approaching the grind efficiently.
Just pace yourself by mixing up activities so it doesn’t feel like a chore. Before you know it, you’ll hit that max Rank 9!
Is the Grind Worth It?
Guardian Rank 9 gives you the following rewards:
- 9% global boosts to Health, Shield Capacity, and Damage
- Up to 15 perks unlocked
- Room to optimize your perk loadout
- High Guardian Rank for prestige and accomplishment
For most players who enjoy the end-game, the power rewards are well worth the time invested to reach Rank 9. The global stat bonuses in particular are extremely valuable.
Higher health, shields, and damage allow you to take on Mayhem 10+ difficulty much easier. And perks like Not My Time give you much needed survivability.
Unlocking all content and reaping the rewards of late-game progression is the heart of Borderlands 3. So push yourself to reach Rank 9 and enjoy dominating as a maxed out Vault Hunter!
Also read: Crown of Tempests exotic helmet in Destiny 2
Do Guardian Rank bonuses apply across all characters?
Yes, the bonuses are shared account-wide once unlocked. But perks must be purchased separately per character.
What is the max Guardian Rank you can reach?
There is no hard cap, but progression slows to a crawl after Rank 9. Rank 11 takes as long to reach as 1-9 combined.
Do Guardian Rank bonuses work in solo play only?
No, the bonuses are always active whether you play solo or in co-op.
Is there a way to respec Guardian Rank perks?
Yes, you can respec perks by spending Eridium at Crazy Earl’s machine, but it gets very expensive. Choose perks carefully!
Does Mayhem mode affect Guardian Rank XP gains?
Yes, higher Mayhem levels provide increased XP from kills, so enable at least Mayhem 6.
Is Guardian Rank shared if I have multiple characters?
Your overall Guardian Rank applies to all characters, but you must unlock perks for each one separately.
What is the fastest way to gain Guardian Ranks?
Using bosses and Circles of Slaughter in Mayhem 6+ mode with XP boosts and co-op.
Is Guardian Rank retroactive?
Unfortunately no – XP gained before unlocking Guardian Rank does not count.
And that’s everything you need to know to reach the coveted max Guardian Rank 9 in Borderlands 3! Follow this guide and you’ll be dominating as a true badass Vault Hunter in no time. Happy grinding!