It’s no secret to anyone that Young Ahamkara’s Spine is good. But I think people are sleeping on just how good.
This exotic can turn both Top and Middle tree Gunslinger, the former of which is slightly below average, and the latter is currently bottom tier, into powerhouses that can stand up to Stasis.
I feel this Exotic, and more efficient builds surrounding it, are currently like Chaos Reach + Geomags was, until recently – overlooked and effective, and only some enthusiasts know it. I can’t find any usage data on this exotic, but I bet it’s pretty low (Particularly considering which other Hunter subclass has been the most popular).
Every single guide and build I’ve seen centered around Young Ahamkara’s Spine has featured a pretty consistent theme – boost your Discipline.
Not only is this the wrong thing to do, you should be purposefully tanking your Discipline, and prioritizing other stats. Let me explain. Here is your Grenade cooldown by Discipline level, in seconds:
- 10 – 93
- 20 – 85
- 30 – 82
- 40 – 68
- 50 – 59
- 60 – 51
- 70 – 45
- 80 – 41
- 90 – 37
- 100 – 32
Young Ahamkara’s Spine doesn’t grant you a flat amount of seconds when you strike with a Solar ability. It restores 33% of your Grenade energy. Not only does this mean higher Discipline levels make YAS perform worse, it’s making potential Gunslingers slower, frailer, and costing you precious time with a Golden Gun in your hands. Here is the same list, plus how many seconds you get back per Discipline level using YAS:
- 10 – 93 – 31
- 20 – 85 – 28
- 30 – 82 – 27
- 40 – 68 – 22
- 50 – 59 – 19
- 60 – 51 – 17
- 70 – 45 – 15
- 80 – 41 – 14
- 90 – 37 – 12
- 100 – 32 – 11
I, sitting at 28 Discipline, get 28 seconds back when YAS procs. If I were to have 100 Discipline, I would only get 11 seconds back.
What’s more, with Explosive Knife/Knive Trick, you can easily double-proc YAS, and get 66% of your Grenade cooldown back. When I, with 28 Disc, use Explosive Knife, I get 56 seconds shaved from my Tripmine; almost a full minute. If I had 100 Discipline, I would get 22. I get more than double the benefit.
I can use Gambler’s Dodge and do it again.
Why would I ever prioritize Discipline with this exotic? I have 81 Mobility, 61 Resilience, 81 Recovery, and 77 Intellect. My Tripmine and Explosive Knife cooldowns are entirely dictated by my 81 Mobility, not my Discipline or Strength.
I think this nuance of the Exotic is what opens it up to so much build opportunity. Except one of your mod slots will need to be taken by this bad boy:
Energy Converter – Turning sticks of dynamite into dragonfire
The benefit of this mod is… Meh. You need Supercharged to get a real benefit from it, and it’s extremely limited by only being usable below 50% Super energy. If you enjoy your Grenade stat, Energy Converter may not be for you. But a YAS user can turn this meh CWL mod into a viable one by turning the -10 Discipline penalty into a benefit.
Without Energy Converter, my Discipline would be 38. This means YAS would give me 27 seconds back on my Grenade instead of 28. Not a huge change, but it does mean Energy Converter is literally reducing my Grenade cooldown by 3 seconds, through YAS’s perk. If I could possibly get to 10 Discipline, I would – Energy Converter reducing you from 20 to 10 Disc would mean it’s reducing your Grenade cooldown by 9 seconds.
The occasional Super energy is a benefit. But it makes using Tripmines during Golden Gun a bit awkward, as it’ll consume your CWL stacks during your Super if you throw one when the duration is below 50% (And not even extend it’s duration, which would actually be helpful). That all being said, you will almost always have a Tripmine available after GG, since it’s shots activate YAS.
Either way, the point is clear – maximizing this Exotic allows you to gunfight with high-tier Mobility, Resilience, Recovery, and Intellect, while still getting the same amount of Grenades and Melees as if you had high-tier Discipline and Strength.
Optimizing YAS with Top Tree – Run, Gun, Yee, and Haw
I can hear a lot of you already. “If all of this is true, isn’t Middle tree Gunslinger the better route, since Knife Trick can hit 3 times and grant a full Grenade cooldown, while Explosive Knife can only hit twice and grant 66% of one?”
That’s a very specific question. But if you hit your Tripmine, Explosive Knife’s two hits will always grant you full energy back, and the situations where you can hit something with Knife Trick 3 times isn’t often.
Explosive Knife is a very underrated tool – it was better before they changed it to Proximity Explosive Knife, in my opinion (It didn’t use to self-damage – this was pain to get used to), but still as effective as before. In PvE, it strips shields extremely well, even non-Solar ones outside of Match Game content, and frequently multi-kills enemies. Both knife impact and knife explosion activate YAS, so it's important to prioritize hitting multiple foes. In PvP, it’s impact damage is SIGNIFICANTLY lower than it’s explosion damage, so don’t even worry about hitting the knife, just hit the boom. Seriously – Explosive Knife impact is 15 on body, 19 on crit, and 105 on explosion VS Guardians. Don’t worry about being totally precise. While hitting with the knife will grant an extra YAS proc, getting the one proc in PvP is enough, especially if your Tripmine explosions are hitting.
Because of the importance of using Explosive Knife to activate YAS, Gambler’s Dodge is going to be your choice with Top Tree. This is extremely synergistic – you don’t need Marksman’s Dodge anyway, or Outlaw, or any big reload boosts on any weapon – Chains of Woe grants you a baby Outlaw on any weapon, that can spread to your other weapons and your teammates. Make sure you use a Heavy that benefits from this reload boost, in lieu of a Sword, to maximize how often you can use Chains of Woe. Chains of Woe also stacks very effectively with reload boosting mods, if you wanna go that route.
Golden Gun is a very underrated tool, but even so, it probably sits as a solid B tier Super in both PvE and PvP, that turns into an A tier one with YAS equipped (And an S tier one with YAS AND Pyretic Embrace but that mod isn't here nowandImissit…). Versatility is the name of the game with GG. In PvE, you can either clear a room of enemies while filling it with Tripmines, or lay into a boss with all of your fire, using GG, Explosive Knife, and Tripmines in tandem to do high damage. This combo doesn’t do as much damage as Nighthawk, but it is extremely close, and allows GG a high amount of versatility since it can be used for either add clear or boss damage.
In PvP, GG let’s you draw down with all sorts of unkind folk, and is pretty satisfying to shut down enemy Super’s with. Generally, if I get two+ Guardian kills, or shut down a Super with my GG, I’m happy. Just remember to take advantage of GG procing YAS on your hits to lay secret Tripmines around the map. Cheeky, random Tripmine kills are still a thing with this exotic.
Way of the Outlaw is my favorite way to use YAS, and I believe is probably the most effective way. But it is not the only way.
Optimizing YAS with Middle Tree – Fill The World With Teeth
The flavor text on this exotic fits Way of a Thousand-Cuts far better than Way of the Outlaw.
Even though I said you won’t be triple-proccing YAS with Knife Trick in the last section, double-proccing with it is far easier and far more common, very akin to Explosive Knife, although less versatile. It awards greater precision with bonus damage, and because of the Playing With Fire perk, you can throw a lot of knives, filling the world with burning teeth as your fossilized familiar advises.
If you make full use of the Playing With Fire perk, Marksman’s Dodge is an excellent tool to replace Chains of Woe. This means your melee cooldown will be tied to your Strength instead of Mobility, and you could probably afford more investment. In a Top Tree build, I think Intellect would be the primary ability-stat focus instead of Discipline, but for Middle Tree, I think Strength is a better stat to focus (Which makes Energy Converter better – lower Intellect makes Energy Converter better for the same reason lower Disc makes YAS better, but we don’t need either Str or Disc for a Top Tree build, which allows Intellect focus there instead).
Blade Barrage is MUCH more user friendly than Golden Gun – you actually get damage resistance, you deal a huge amount of damage, it’s versatile in PvE just like GG in that it can be used for boss damage or add clear, AND it grants you a Tripmine charge 100% of the time if you manage to hit enough knives. So make sure to toss your dynamite before your blades. GG grants you more Tripmines and perhaps more damage potential than BB does, but BB is significantly more forgiving to use (Except the cases where you accidentally blow yourself up, of course).
In PvP, BB is probably worse than GG, but still usable when paired with YAS.
What will you name your dragon?
The Ahamkara on my shoulder is named Thunderjaw, because my exotics are Arc element and have the Powerful Friends mod socketed in for the +20 Mobility. Thunderjaw is the Powerful Friend.
Think about this post the next time you dust off those old bones. They're extremely effective when paired with the right stats, weapons, and mods. I favor Dead Man's Tale paired with Glacioclasm for both PvE and PvP, but this build could work with a wide variety of weaponry. Use it with Demolitionist weapons for instant reloads and higher boss damage. Pair it with auto-loading Rockets, so you can launch more explosives between the explosives your throwing. Because we use Energy Converter, any CWL mod you can think of can be thrown in here too (I'm waiting for Banshee to sell Reactive Pulse, and crying since it got stealth nerfed). Versatility is the name of the game here, folks, and your little dragon friend can go well with all kindsa stuff.
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