I was a heavy HC user through the first two years of D2. 30k on Midnight Coup, 13k on Duke, 22k on Spare Rations.
I have not seriously used a hand cannon in greater than one year, and it makes me very sad.
I'm here today to talk with you about why and how Hand Cannons, arguably the signature weapon of the franchise, are no longer viable in PvE and haven't been since the launch of Shadowkeep.
I haven't seriously used a hand cannon since Shadowkeep has dropped. Sure, on occasion I run one for Unstoppable… not because I want to, and generally with Divinity plus LMG with the latter used as a primary. The HC is a device to handle Champions, nothing more. This is a travesty, but a lot of people don't understand why they feel so bad today. I'm here to change that.
This is the distance where damage begins to decrease. Most people only think of falloff in terms of this.
Falloff damage floor
This is a percent – relative to the optimal range damage – which is the lowest amount of damage a weapon will deal. 100% would be no falloff. 50% means the weapon damage decreases, but only to half of max even at infinite range. 33% means beyond falloff, the weapon will only do 1/3 the optimal amount. This is absolutely key, but underappreciated.
The amount of bonus damage from hitting an enemy crit spot versus body shot.
Compared to Forsaken, the global sandbox changes significantly harmed HCs
- Precision damage dramatically decreases (haha, Acolytes survive headshots now!)
- All damage perks nerfed (in combination with prior, ironically making damage perks hard required)
- Falloff distance decreases dramatically for all archetypes, and all archetypes are relatively uniform with Falloff beginning near 30m. This makes 150s by far the best remaining option.
- Range stat became trash – was S-tier, now barely does anything and people prefer to stack other stats.
That was bad enough, but there was another change – once which was arguably worse, and truly sealed the fate of Hand Cannons: The single most severe and problematic balance change made to HCs was changing the falloff damage floor to 33% from 50%!
This last point is why they feel so bad now. Beyond around 35 meters, Hand Cannons all hit like wet noodles. In contrast, virtually every other primary in the game has a damage floor of 50%, including SMGs and Sidearms. A stable SMG or Sidearm loses bullet magnetism but can still do solid damage at relatively high range because every shot that hits, is doing half the damage at 100m that it would have done at 10m.
This means HCs have virtually no niche. Out to the mid-20m range, SMGs will do more DPS because they're designed to. HCs technically do better from there into the mid-30m range – but then the SMGs actually win again for all ranges beyond, as the HC damage floor of 33% is so incredibly, unnecessarily aggressive.
Even beyond this, rapid firing weapons are able to better calibrate their damage to any enemy HP pool because each shot does less. It's the opposite of The Price is Right: the lowest amount of damage just above the enemy health pool is optimal.
- The falloff damage floor for HCs must be reverted to 50%. This simply must happen.
- HCs need differentiation in terms of effective range across archetypes. It sounds like this is already potentially coming, but won't matter if Bungie fails to fix no.1.
- HCs need the Range stat to be meaningful. Treating it like a trash stat versus pumping everything into Range should change the falloff range by a minimum of 20-25% (6-8+ meters).
- At base and at par with enemies: 150s should one tap everything up to Acolytes. 140s should be more forgiving below Light, and should one tap everything up to Legionnaires. 110s should have much higher effective range and should be very forgiving below Light and two tap Knights at Light.
Thanks for coming to my TED talk! Hopefully HCs are viable again in Beyond Light.
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