This week marked the return of Lord Saladin to the Tower for the first time since the launch of The Taken King for Destiny. For the new players, Lord Saladin’s appearance means that the Iron Banner is live – and that PvP is a whole different ball game. On the surface, it might not seem like a big change – you only can play Control and it’s only 6v6. That really isn’t the big deal though – Iron Banner is one of only two Crucible modes where your Light score will actually matter. Going in with gear that isn’t powerful can absolutely mean you’re in for a long game. That matters more than ever and it isn’t because of anything specific that Bungie did with the power curve. It’s because this is is the first Post-2.0 Patch Iron Banner.
New players won’t really get why we talk so much about weapon balancing and meta game. They’ll never know the futility of fighting a team of Thorn/Last Word users, or going back further, Suros/Vex users. They only have a small taste of the power of shotguns – and won’t know the frustration of dealing with 15 ft. kill zones with them. They may even think that Titans have always been the go-to Crucible class and that Sunbreakers are just more of the same. I wish that was true. Veterans know all too well that Hunters and Warlocks used to have the Crucible in their grasp, with Thorn and Felwinter’s Lie reigning supreme. And it’s because of those memories that I’m having way more fun with Iron Banner this week than I did during House of Wolves.
Over the course of the last couple days, I really haven’t been killed by one specific gun noticeably more than any other. Sure a couple pop up frequently – Red Death, Hawkmoon, Hawksaw – but not in the frequency that Thorn and Last Word used to be there. I’ve even seen people using Fusion Rifles! That hasn’t been a sight in nearly a year. And that makes playing way more fun. Sure it sucks to get killed, but it’s nice to know that I’m not going into a fight already down a step because I don’t like Thorn. It means I can experiment with my loadout more than I ever did. In House of Wolves, if I played Iron Banner, I used Red Death, Party Crasher +1 and BTRD machine gun. That was pretty much it, no matter the map. My armor didn’t change either – the only Exotic I ever thought of using was The Armamentarium. This week alone I’ve used more weapons and armor set-ups than ever before. I’ve tried Red Death, my Imago Loop, Zhalo Supercell, Hereafter, Conspiracy Theory, In Times of Need, Truth, my Arc Edge and even Baron’s Ambition. Every weapon has gotten me kills, and gotten me killed – just like I want in a PvP environment. I want my thumbskill and decision making to matter more – and now they do. I can take a shot and pull into cover and not just tick my health away. Firefights are way more about tactics and accuracy than they were before. It’s the Iron Banner behaving the way it should.
My biggest issue though is that true power is still gated by a pretty serious obstacle. Yes it’s possible to break 300 Light with only matchmade activities, but you’re at the mercy of RNG. To really be going into Iron Banner at a Light Level of at least 300, you’re much better off having done the Raid a few times. Now for most Iron Banner players, that’s probably not that big a deal, but for newer players I can see it being a pretty serious barrier for performance. What I would really like to see is the Crucible rewards be closer to 300 light either during Iron Banner or right before. It shouldn’t be a guarantee or anything like that, but it would open up a way for PvP-centric players to get up to that 300 region. I do like the way that Iron Banner is shaping up though so far for Year Two – with Trials of Osiris coming up next, we might have a more defined meta after the weekend.