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Mass Effect 3 Legendary Edition

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Best James Builds

Matt Chard

This page will show you some of the best builds for your squad mate, James Vega in Mass Effect 3 Legendary Edition. Here, you’ll find details on the best abilities to pick, the best weapons to equip, and the best Outfit to wear.

James Vega Overview

James Vega is a Lieutenant in the Alliance, whilst he is escorting Shepard during the intro of Mass Effect 3, the Reapers attack, which leads to him helping you, after that, he joins your squad from that point onwards. He is a no-nonsense marine who often puts aside his emotional wellbeing to deal with the mission. Throughout Mass Effect 3, Shepard and James can develop a mentor-mentee relationship. He has troubles remembering names, and often gives people nicknames to help him cope with it.

When do you get James

James is one of the first squad mates you’ll get in Mass Effect 3, and he’ll be available during the Prologue.

Explosive Burst Build

This build revolves around maxing out James’s Incendiary Ammo, and Carnage. The Incendiary Ammo upgrade Explosive Burst is one of the strongest upgrades in the game, which is for this reason we build around it. Carnage is great against armor but it works great in tandem with Explosive Burst and will create fire explosions when the two combine. James is more like the ‘tank’ of the squad, with a lot of his passives and powers giving him high survivability. We max out Frag Grenade to add another detonator to his arsenal, and finally, we max out his passive skill line to increase his Health, Shields and Power.

Power Upgrade Path
Incendiary Ammo Damage > Headshots > Explosive Burst
Frag Grenade Radius > Max Grenades > Shield Overload
Carnage Radius > Recharge Speed > Damage
Fortification Leave at Level 3
Arms Master Weapon Damage > Power Damage > Fortification


This section will go into more detail on why the Powers are chosen for this particular build.

Incendiary Ammo

Incendiary Ammo is the bread and butter of this build. By taking the final upgrade path, Explosive Burst, and using it with a high fire rate weapon, it’ll decimate anything it comes into contact with. Explosive Burst ignites enemies with an intermittent explosion that covers the radius of 2.50 meters for 100 damage. By using a high fire rate weapon, you’ll get increased chance of this effect happening.

Frag Grenade

Frag Grenade will explode on impact dealing major damage (up to 600 damage) to all enemies near it, this makes it a strong power without any upgrades. We mainly max this out to synergize with Carnage and Incendiary Ammo to detonate fire explosions. We take the shield upgrade, so we can deal damage to shields with them, which helps out the squad.


Carnage produces a vicious blast which does great damage to armor to all enemies near the impact radius. Like the other powers, we max this to synergize with the rest of the build, what’s great about Carnage is it can both prime and detonate fire explosions.


Fortification is a great defensive tool that is especially great for a melee/shotgun build. We leave this at level 3 because we get more than enough survivability from Arms Master, and it doesn’t fit this particular build.

Arms Master

Arms Master is James’s passive skill line which’ll increase his Health, Shields, Weapon Damage, Melee and Power Damage by a considerable amount, especially the final upgrade, which will give him a Health and Shield bonus of an extra 40%.

Best Outfit

In Mass Effect 3, each outfit gives squad mates different bonuses. For Ashley, choose his default Outfit or From Ashes Outfit to increase his Weapon Damage a further 25%.

Best Weapons

This section will talk about what weapons are best for this particular build. Although James is great with a Shotgun, Assault Rifles work better with Incendiary Ammo.

Assault Rifle

Weapon Base Damage Clip Size Reserve Ammunition Capacity Rate of Fire Accuracy
M-76 Revenant Low 60 320 High High Low

The M-76 Revenant can be found during the mission Priority: The Citadel II, inside the C-Sec locker room’s bathroom. The bathroom is on the left side of the room with the activated fire sprinklers. It is also purchasable from Kassa Fabrication post-mission if it was missed.

This weapon is mainly taken for its large clip size and high fire rate, which makes it great for hitting multiple enemies with Incendiary Ammo.


Weapon Base Damage Clip Size Reserve Ammunition Capacity Rate of Fire Accuracy
Cerberus Harrier Medium 20 80 Medium Low Very High

It doesn’t get much better than the Cerberus Harrier, which can be purchased from the Spectre Requisitions terminal in the Citadel Embassies for 150,000 credits. It does great damage with pinpoint accuracy, the only reason it’s not first choice is its low fire rate.


Although this build recommends Assault Rifles, if you want to go for a shotgun instead, it doesn’t get much better than the M-11 Wraith.

Weapon Base Damage Clip Size Reserve Ammunition Capacity Rate of Fire Accuracy
M-11 Wraith High 2 18 Low Low Low

The M-11 Wraith can be purchased from the Spectre Requisitions terminal in the Citadel Embassies for 75,000 credits.

What makes the M-11 Wraith so strong is its high damage, with 2 shells per clip. The M-300 Claymore is a better shotgun if you are using it for Shepard because you can reload-cancel, but as James can’t do that, the Wraith ends up with higher DPS.


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Guide Information

  • Publisher
    Electronic Arts
  • Platforms,
    PC, PS3, Wii U, XB 360
  • Genre
    Action RPG, Third-person shooter
  • Guide Release
    14 May 2021
  • Last Updated
    15 June 2022
    Version History
  • Guide Author
    Andrew Mills, Claire Farnworth

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For years, a lone soldier has told tales of the Reapers, of their return, of these sentient machines reaching out across the vastness of space, to harvest all sentient life. But the warnings were all for nothing. Until now. The Reapers have at last come to Earth and these warnings can no longer be ignored. You are Commander Shepard, the first human spectre and elite soldier of the Alliance, tasked with uniting the galaxy in the fight to stop the Reapers destroying everything you hold dear. In your hands lies the fate of the entire Milky Way but luckily, this time, you are no longer alone.

  • All side missions completed containing the included DLC.
  • Find every single weapon mod tucked away in the game.
  • In-depth look at the major choices and consequences of each.
  • Full details on all possible Romances.
  • Class builds to get the most out of your chosen class.
  • All Biotic Combos and Tech Bursts explained.
  • Details on every Power.
  • Builds for all squad mates.
  • Trophy/Achievement guide.

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