Season 12 Update: What’s New
· Updated mods section to reflect new mod structure
· A few updated thoughts on Stasis classes
· Significant update to Warmind Cell section, including information on Seventh Seraph weapons
· New recommendations for defensive and offensive mod loadouts
· Recommendations updated for Season 12 mods
· Weapons recommendations
Part 2 of this guide is here: https://www.reddit.com/r/DestinyTheGame/comments/k5fzne/moving_into_highlevel_pve_guide_for_beginners/
Before We Get Started
Why you should trust me
I’ve got a few hundred raid completions, including flawless completions of the post-year 1 raids, and I’ve soloed each of the dungeons flawlessly as well. But also: I’m not an amazing player; I’d say I’m above average but I am nowhere near as talented as some of the people whose videos you can watch online, or indeed who are in my clan. I am someone who has to work hard to get good and who makes up for a lack of talent with stubbornness and a willingness to learn from my mistakes.
So this advice is not for the amazing D2 player. It’s for someone who’s just starting to move into raiding or is thinking about working on raid triumphs, or soloing a dungeon for the first time, or maybe dreaming of earning the Conqueror title. My main goal is to help you become a better teammate—to know what weapons, mods, and armor you need in different situations, and to learn how to use them. Hopefully I’ll answer your basic questions and give you a starting point from which you can learn more.
What do I mean by high-level PvE content?
- Raids: multi-encounter structures that require team coordination and adaptation to/knowledge of various raid-specific mechanics (ball throwing, buff swapping, tethering, cranium charging, etc.)
- Sublight challenges: master and grandmaster nightfalls, master nightmare hunts, solo 1280 lost sectors, 1280 empire hunts, or any new content where players are likely to be 0-25 light levels below the enemies they face. This content includes raids and dungeons in their initial season of being offered.
- Solo challenges: attempts to accomplish 1 and 2 by yourself or with a suboptimal team (like doing a raid with three people instead of six).
As you begin to push into more challenging content, one lesson is key: dying is not good. That’s kind of a strange lesson to have to learn, but the reality is that Destiny does not punish you much for dying in ordinary content. That makes it easy to develop habits that will serve you poorly in raids and other situations, where dying can lead to a cascading series of mishaps that will cause a wipe or an extinguish mechanic. So one of your main goals as you start playing in these situations is to try to get better at not dying.
The other thing to begin to learn—and which the game does not really force you to learn—is how to make weapons, armor, and ability builds that synergize both internally, in relation to your own character, and externally, in relation to your teammates and the environment. Understanding, for instance, not only your role in a given raid encounter but the roles of your teammates, and knowing what classes or weapons they’re running so that you can communicate with them about what to do next, are both critical to becoming a stronger team player. And understanding how your armor and weapons, your mods and class abilities, all interact is critical to your being able to maximize your impact as a solo player.
All this advice is focused on building up the basic sets of gear that will help you through difficult PvE content. I have probably forgotten many things, and of course you can always do things with an off-meta or weird loadout, either because you’re a masochist or because you want to challenge yourself. What’s below focuses on the basics.
Part 1: Armor and Armor Mods
In general a good PvE build will be a fully masterworked set of armor with high recovery and discipline or intellect. (Resilience sounds good but has only a very small impact on PvE combat.) For raids you might end up using melee abilities, but for sublight content you will mostly be fighting at range, and meleeing only in a panic. Grenades have a wide variety of important uses (hence discipline), and supers (and super energy) are also always useful (hence intellect), so spec into one of those if you can. In general armor stats matter much less in PvE than PvP; your armor mods will almost certainly not be focused on other things, which we’ll discuss in a second.
For now it’s worth noting that high-end PvE content tends to feature a pretty limited set of class and subclass options, along with a certain number of key exotic armor pieces.
Hunters: (1) Top or bottom tree void, with Orpheus Rigs (especially top tree) or Sixth Coyote or Wormhusk Crown (the last two for solo especially). (2) Bottom tree solar with Celestial Nighthawk for one-shot boss damage, mainly in raids. (3) Middle tree solar with Assassin’s Cowl for heal on knife melee, for solo content. (4) Stasis, especially for solo content where the grenades and debuffs help with champions.
Titans: (1) Top tree void, for the bubble, along with the Helm of Saint-14 (in some circumstances), or (2) middle tree void, for the barrier, with Ursa Furiosas for orb generation. In some situations, particularly when using Xenophage, Titans will run with Actium War Rigs for the reload benefit.
Warlocks: (1) Top tree void with Contraverse Hold gauntlets for frequent charged grenade use, or (2) Bottom tree void with Nezarec’s Sin, for a devour-focused build especially useful for soloing content (in which case you would want to be running a void energy weapon). (3) Much more often, middle tree solar with either Phoenix Protocol for super regen or Lunafaction Boots for reload benefit, for almost any content involving groups. (4) Middle tree arc with Geomag Stabilizers for some high-end content like grandmaster nightfalls.
Season 12 has added stasis subclasses to all three groups. One of the huge advantages of all stasis supers is that they allow for significant crowd control—for slowing and stunning enemies to take them temporarily or permanently out of the fight. This is true for supers, melees, and grenades. Of the three stasis classes I find the Warlock and Titans supers a bit weak for high-end content, but the grenades and melees to be very strong (especially when paired with the correct seasonal mods).
Note that the most common subclasses for group content are the ones that boost the entire team (Titan bubble, Warlock well), protect the entire team (Titan barrier), make allies invisible (Hunter smoke grenade on bottom tree), or control/manage and debuff enemies (Hunter tether, the stasis classes). Solo players tend to focus intensely on survival abilities—the Warlock devour, the Hunter invis, or the healing melees of top tree void Titan, bottom tree arc Titan, or top tree Arc hunter.
The other thing to say is that roaming supers—arc Hunter, solar or arc Titan, top and bottom arc Warlock, middle void Warlock—are generally not good in high-end PvE, especially if you’re sublight. They simply don’t deal enough damage quickly enough to be viable. This kind of content emphasizes one-shot supers like Celestial/Golden Gun or Nova Bomb for damage, and supers like the well or Titan barrier/bubbles, for protection.
Must-have exotic armor: Hunter: Orpheus Rigs and Celestial Nighthawk (for group play), Sixth Coyote (solo). Titan: Helm of Saint-14, Ursa Furiosa, Actium War Rig (group), Synthoceps (solo). Warlock: Phoenix Protocol, Lunfaction Boots, and Contraverse Hold (group or solo), Nezarec’s Sin (solo). Of the new Season 12 armor exotics, three have some utility here: Icefall Mantle, which can allow a Titan to tank a single champion (at 10-15 light levels below, at 25 this becomes quite hard); Necrotic Grips, good for Warlocks doing low-level add clear in raids, and Precious Scars, the Titan helmet that gives an overshield when rezzing—very useful in grandmaster nightfalls where a rez can often be a deathtrap.
In season 12, changes to the seasonal artifact mean that only solar and stasis subclasses have the ability to stun Overload champions with their grenades; this means that those classes have suddenly become more viable (and void less dominant) for high-end PvE work. More on that later.
The key difference between high-level PvE content and ordinary content or PvP content is the importance of armor mods. Where PvP builds tend to focus on statistics like Recovery or Mobility, PvE armor tends to focus on damage resistance.
The Destiny mod system is unfortunately pretty bewildering. There are many many choices and it’s not clear how much any of them matters. So let me cover a few things—all of these now updated for Season 12.
The first mod slot
This mod slot allows you to boost your character’s basic stats. For group PvE content, you’ll want to focus on Recovery (which affects how quickly your health begins to regen when you’re not being hit), Intellect (which increases super regen speed), and Discipline (for grenades). For solo content that relies heavily on a single ability to survive—like the Hunter’s dodge, which regens faster with high Mobility, or the Titan’s healing void melee, which regens faster with high Strength—you will want to focus on those things specifically.
In the previous seasons this mod slot could be used for resistance mods, which are central to many PvE builds. But that has all gone away with Season 12, which means that this slot is less interesting, and less important, than it used to be.
Legacy, Combat, and Raid mod slots
These should be focused on one or more of the following goals, in order of importance:
- Resistance mods (on chest armor) that reduce incoming damage
- Mods that stun or disrupt or otherwise affect champions (arms or class item)
- Raid-specific mods (final mod slot only, and only on raid armor)
- Charged with Light and Warmind Cell mods (fourth slot)
- Ammo Finder (helmet) and Ammo Scavenger (boots) mods.
- For grandmaster nightfalls in particular, finisher mods (mainly Special Finisher) that go on your class item and allow you to trade super energy for special ammo drops.
Resistance mods come in four types: energy, melee, sniper, and concussive dampener. They all go on your chest armor. Melee reduces any damage done within 5m (does not have to be melee damage) by 25%. Sniper does the same for damage done from 29m or farther. Concussive reduces splash damage from grenades/boomers. These mods stack, with the second mod getting you to 40% damage resistance. The same goes for the energy resist mods.
Since you only have two slots, you will probably want to change them depending on the activity. For Gambit or really any content where you’re at or above the appropriate power level, melee/concussive or melee/melee is quite strong, since you’ll probably be mixing it up with mobs on the regular. For grandmaster nightfalls and other sublight content, sniper/concussive is a good place to start.
These mods come in two types: weapon-specific mods, which go on your arms, and grenade or melee mods, which go on your class item. These mods come from the seasonal artifact and therefore change each season (which is why I have to update this guide).
Most high-end content will have two kinds of champions, so you’ll want to go into encounters making sure that you or your fireteam can stun, disrupt, or stagger the appropriate champions with the appropriate weapons.
For season 12 these mods are: Unstoppable Schwarzschild Condenser (2-Cost, Class Item), which allows Void melees to stagger Unstoppables, and Thermal Overload (2-Cost, Class Item), which allows solar and stasis grenades to disrupt Overload champions.
Another very useful champion mod in season 12 is Surge Eater, which restores your grenade whenever you stagger or disrupt a champion. You can combine this with Thermal Overload to stun Overload champions and immediately get your grenade back, allowing you to stun them again as soon as that’s possible.
In general I would say that the most obvious/basic combo this season is Surge Eater/Thermal Overload… the melee mods are going to be hard to use because it’s going to be hard to get close enough to champions (in sublight content) to actually land a melee hit. The same is true for the Unstoppable Shotgun mod, which is also very highly priced at 7 energy.
Raid and Other Activity-Specific Mods (5th slot)
These include mods that affect Last Wish, Garden of Salvation, and the Deep Stone Crypt, as well as Nightmare Hunts on the moon. For Last Wish Taken Barrier and Taken Armaments are both incredibly useful; for GoS you really only need Enhanced Relay Defender.
For Nightmare Hunts I find that only the Nightmare Breaker mods really come in handy; the others not so much. You can read more about them here: https://www.reddit.com/r/DestinyTheGame/comments/dkpssk/breakdown_of_the_nightmare_mods_banisher_breaker/.
In Year 2 and Year 3 armor, these mods go in the fourth slot. Year 4 (Beyond Light) armor has a fifth dedicated slot for these mods, which frees up the fourth slot for other things.
Early analysis of the DSC mods suggests that for most six-person content they are not really worthwhile. See here: https://www.reddit.com/r/DestinyTheGame/comments/k2mi9s/quick_look_at_the_dsc_raid_mods_minus_suppressor/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=ios_app&utm_name=iossmf
Charged with Light Mods
The CwL system works as follows: certain mods (colored in green) give you stacks of CwL, up to a maximum of two stacks. Other mods (yellow) spend those stacks. And a third set of mods (white) changes the number of stacks you get or can have (increases your stack maximum, up to five, or gives you two stacks instead of one each time you get a stack).
The basic system is this: (1) Get CwL (2) Spend CwL. The easiest way to get CwL is to use the Taking Charge mod, which gives you charges for picking up a light orb. Combined with a masterworked weapon that drops orbs on fast kills, you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll spend most of the time CwL. You can also get charges from mods that give charges on weapon damage (kills with a certain weapon give you charges) or action triggers (breaking a shield, doing a finisher). For Season 12, Abyssal Charge, in the sixth row of the artifact, will give you CwL for void melee final blows.
So now you have charges. How should you spend them? One option is to look for damage resistance or damage buffs. The best damage resist mod is Protective Light, an absolutely crucial choice that gives you 50% damage resistance when an enemy breaks your shield. I use it almost all the time. Useful damage boost mods include High-Energy Fire (generic 20% damage buff till you kill an enemy), Lucent Blade (for swords), and Surprise Attack (for sidearms).
Other CwL mods will give you chances to drop special ammo, return grenade or melee energy, heal you on grenade kills, and more.
For lower-level PvE content I tend to use damage mods like Lucent Blade or Surprise Attack. For scarier content I’m almost always on Protective Light.
If you have room for mods that increase your stacks, Stacks on Stacks (gives two stacks for each one you earn), Charged Up (increases total stacks by one), and Superpowered (increases total stacks by two) are all useful here.
TL:DR: if you do nothing else use Taking Charge (green) and Protective Light (yellow), and get more fancy once you understand more.
Warmind Cell mods
Like Charged with Light, this system involves creating an opportunity to affect the gameworld (by making a Warmind Cell), and then using that opportunity (the Cell) in a certain way. You create a cell by getting a kill using a Seraph weapon (which now are world drops; Ikelos 1.2 weapons also count as Seraph Weapons). Once the cell exists you can either pick it up or shoot it. Shooting it causes it to explode, and a number of WC mods increase the range of that explosion or add effects to it. Picking up the cell will allow you to throw or, or will (with a Warmind’s Light mod) Charge you with Light, or have some other effect.
Here are the Seraph weapons currently available. Names include “Seventh Seraph” except where noted:
Kinetic: auto rifle, hand cannon
Energy: smg (Seraph and Ikelos), sniper (Ikelos), sidearm, shotgun (Seraph and Ikelos)
Heavy: machine gun
When I’m playing I’ll tend to run an auto/shotgun/Xenophage loadout for max solar explosion damage, unless I’m running a void Warlock, in which case I use the sidearm (void) with Nezarec’s sin. For some explosion-oriented content I’ll run the hand cannon, Jotunn, and the machine gun.
The most basic way to use these cells is to create them and then shoot them. A mod like Global Reach will then give your cell explosions far greater range and effect. But you can also combine numbers of mods to create some pretty cool synergistic builds, as you see here:
You can find a guide to all the Warmind Cell mods here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Kqaf2MdmUm1Ll6jCh-Rt0k6j2-nYCwf5lbbRLtXyr7M/edit#
But here are the basics: Solar mods generally affect cell explosion damage; Void mods create buff and debuff effects that do not rely on exploding the cells; and Arc mods create effects upon mod pickup.
The key to Warmind Cell is to understand that cells, once created, belong to everyone. Effects from shooting or picking up the cells are pegged to the person who picks them up or shoots them. So if Person A has Rage of the Warmind on and shoots a cell created by Person B, who does not have it on, then the explosion will be affected by Rage of the Warmind. And if Person B has Warmind’s Protection on, they will get 50% damage protection from mobs standing near a cell created by Person A—even if Person A does not have that mod on.
What this means that an entire fireteam of 6 people can coordinate Warmind Cell mods to create synergistic effects. I describe some of those below.
Add-clear Explosion Fun Build
Global Reach (1 neutral), Wrath of Rasputin (1 solar), Rage of the Warmind (5 solar), Incinerating Light (3 Solar), Reactive Pulse (CwL, 3 Arc). Ideally paired with a weapon that causes solar splash damage (Ace of Spaces, Sunshot, Jotunn, Xenophage, Martyr’s Retribution; the Warlock exotic chest Chromatic Fire also causes explosions on kinetic precision kills) and/or a solar subclass.
This build involves creating cells and then using the explosions from the cells to create more cells, killing everything within 30m (that’s the range of the explosion, Rage of the Warmind doubles that). Wrath of Rasputin creates more cells from solar splash so you’ll be making cells from your non-Seraph weapons and your class abilities (if you’re running a solar class).
Incinerating Light charges you with light when you kill three or more things with a cell explosion, and the Reactive Pulse mod creates a 30m Arc explosion when you take damage while surrounded—essentially destroying red-bar enemies all around you.
This is a build for content where you’re higher or even in power level with your enemies; it’s super fun. In a perfect world it turns your character into the walking center of a series of explosions, and feels awesome.
Global Reach (1 neutral), Wrath of Rasputin (1 solar), Taking Charge (CwL, 3 neutral), Protective Light (CwL, 2 void), Warmind’s Protection (2 void).
This build has a number of variations depending on whether you’re running a solar class and/or coordinating with a team. A maximum defensive build swaps out Wrath of Rasputin for Cellular Suppression (2 void); you generate fewer cells but the cells you make help more, since shooting cells when you have CS on will send out a stunning pulse that will stun red-bar enemies for 10 seconds. Warmind’s Protection gives you a 50% damage buff against enemies near a cell.
If you have a full fireteam with multiple people using Warmind builds you can coordinate some of these buffs (making sure a couple people have Cellular Suppression on, for instance, or having someone else run Grasp of the Warmind (3 void), which allows you to pick cells up and move them to better places.
Here's a list of some fun builds for you:
Neutral, good for anything
Taking Charge, Protective Light, Global Reach, Wrath of Rasputin, Fireteam Medic
Taking Charge, Protective Light, Stacks on Stacks, Global Reach, Wrath of Rasputin
Taking Charge, Protective Light, Reactive Pulse, Supercharged, Stacks on Stacks
Global Reach, Wrath of Rasputin, Fireteam Medic, Warmind’s Protection, Cellular Suppression (this is the build I use most often in non-challenging content)
Global Reach, Wrath of Rasputin, Rage of the Warmind, Fireteam Medic, Power of Rasputin
Taking Charge, High-Energy Fire, Reactive Pulse, Supercharged, Lucent Blade (sword) or Argent Ordnance (Rockets) or Surprise Attack (sidearms)
Fusion Rifle or Shotgun-focused build: Supercharged, Quick Charge, Heavy Handed, High-Energy Fire, Charged Up
Grenade-focused build: Taking Charge, Firepower, Heal Thyself, Supercharged, Stacks on Stacks
Taking Charge, Protective Light, Global Reach, Wrath of Rasputin, Warmind’s Protection
Taking Charge, Protective Light, Reactive Pulse, Global Reach, Warmind’s Protection
Part 2 of this guide, on weapons and the current metas, is here: https://www.reddit.com/r/DestinyTheGame/comments/k5fzne/moving_into_highlevel_pve_guide_for_beginners/
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