Destiny Exotic Weapons – What Makes Them Truly Special

Destiny XurJust in case you were away from the internet on Friday, Xur finally broke down and sold the best weapon in Destiny again this past weekend – Gjallarhorn. He sold it one other time way back in week 2, when the vast majority of players either didn’t have enough coins to grab it, or didn’t know how amazing a weapon it is. Now that the pendulum has swung back the other way and a huge chunk of players were able to pick up at least one of the “Destiny Nuke” I think it’s a good day to talk a little bit about those Gold Colored weapons. They’re the most coveted weapons in the game, and for good reason.

The Exotic items in Destiny are the carrot on the end of the proverbial stick for most players. Not only do they break up the homogenized designs of the current stock of items looks, but they all feature unique upgrades that help justify their usage. Those unique perks are also why you’re only allowed to equip one weapon and one armor piece at a time. Any more and gameplay balance would be destroyed – and some would argue that it already is by certain items. And that’s why certain Exotics are valued so highly by players – we’ve been chasing Thorn, Gjallarhorn, The Last Word, Icebreaker, Red Death, Bad Juju, and Truth since Day One. These are those weapons that have pushed past balanced and are pretty much indisputably over powered.

Destiny Thorn

What makes these ones that much stronger is the design of their signature perks, when compared with their weapon class. Thorn has insane range and accuracy, well beyond most hand-cannons’ along with the powerful damage-over-time; The Last Word has incredible hip-fire power, and a full-auto rate-of-fire that few, if any hand-cannons can touch. Icebreaker takes special ammo completely out of the equation, allowing a much more conservative approach to just about any encounter. Red Death is pretty much the best answer to Thorn’s DoT in PvP play, and is just the best all around pulse rifle with a sweet spot in all stats. Bad Juju is the other style pulse rifle – fast rate of fire, full-auto fire, and you don’t have to worry about reloading it with its exotic perk. Add in that perk increases your super ability cooldown, and it works in both PvP and PvE. Gjallarhorn’s Wolfpack Rounds melt any boss encounter trivial by ensuring the maximum amount of damage possible; while Truth makes just about any shot a guarantee with aggressive tracking and proximity detonation, a combo that only appears on its exotic counterpart Gjallarhorn.

Destiny Invective Shotgun

There are other, less OP examples in the mix too. SUROS Regime has a health regenerating perk that no other auto-rifle can touch, along with stats that push it to the top of the weapon class. Vex Mythoclast, in addition to being a fusion rifle as a primary, functions like an auto-rifle much more so than a fusion rifle. The MIDA Multi-Tool is just what it says – a multi-tool – that is a great scout rifle, and makes you move faster in ways that can put this up there in the top level of PvP weapons. Invective does similar things to Icebreaker, just in a shotgun form. And it’s in these perks that we as a playerbase determine value and worth in our exotics.

That’s where the difficulty lies on Bungie’s side. They need to figure out a perk that is worthy of being called Exotic, without making it completely gamebreaking. It’s not a sure thing though. No Land Beyond could have been a pretty cool weapon – I think it’s a super design that’s killed by game mechanics: no ammo, and the exotic perk (bonus precision damage) is pretty lame. Hard Light is in a similar boat – it looks pretty spectacular compared with the rest of the auto-rifle group, at least until we see more Omolon guns. But with auto-rifles already weak, especially the max rate-of-fire, min impact variety, and an exotic perk that combines two low-level perks (Armor Piercing and Ricochet Rounds) into one mid-tier perk, there are plenty better options. Pocket Infinity should have been cool – a fusion rifle where the penalty for missing is removed by allowing a longer burst – is killed by a decreasing damage output and super low ammo count.

Super Good Advice

Then there are the exotics that have good value, but just can’t quite break into the top level. Super Good Advice has its uses – breaking detainment in the Vault of Glass and Quodron’s fight, along with shooting tons in PvP – but it’s just not worth using over other exotics, especially in the heavy slot. Thunderlord, while better in just about every regard, suffers from similar problems: Truth and Gjallarhorn are both better exotic choices. I do like that Thunderlord offers a great Arc heavy option, and for Arc Burn missions fits perfectly with Fatebringer/Praedyth’s Timepiece-Found Verdict builds. Plan C is easily the best pure fusion rifle in the game – an instant shot when switching to it is killer in PvE and PvP, but fusion rifles are weak right now, and I wouldn’t take it over others. Patience and Time fills a different role from Icebreaker, in that I think it’s a bit better in PvP with it’s lower recoil per shot, and giving you invisibility. You’ll note that I haven’t talked about Hawkmoon and Monte Carlo here – I play on the Xbox One, so I have no hands-on with them. In truth, the only vanilla exotic I’m missing is Hard Light, but my fireteam has it, so I’ve seen it in action.

As DLC has been added in to Destiny, we’ve gotten a grand total of six new exotics – three in each, although one is PlayStation exclusive still. The problem is none are really worth taking over older ones – it’s a problem that has plagued Destiny in all facets of the game. Dragon’s Breath is a pretty good DPS rocket launcher – especially with bosses that don’t move much thanks to the sunspots it produces with the exotic perk – but Gjallarhorn is better. Nechrochasm, the only arc exotic primary, is obtained through a long process of evolving a common weapon through the course of Dark Below content, all the way through Crota’s End. Unfortunately, it’s terrible. It’s a bullet hose auto-rifle, so that’s strike one; strike two is a low ammo count; and it strikes out with an exotic perk that could be cool – producing Cursed Thrall explosions on precision kills – but is unreliable in practice. Forth Horseman is a PS exclusive shotgun, and honestly seems pretty solid. The House of Wolves exotics suffer from a similar problem to Nechrochasm – they’re only obtained through the Exotic Cipher, which is only obtained sometimes from the level 35 Prison of Elders Skolas fight. On top of that – they aren’t anything spectacular. Lord of Wolves is probably the best pick – a shotgun that functions like a pulse rifle, hits like a truck, has lots of ammo, and has a perk that helps reduce companions cooldowns – but I tend to use it only when I’m messing around. Queensbreaker’s Bow is cool from a far; but in practice, it’s too slow, does too little damage, and just really doesn’t feel special. Dreg’s Promise is the exotic sidearm, and is pretty much the sidearm version of Hard Light – it looks cool, but it’s just not good.

So from a gameplay standpoint it’s easy to see why certain weapons are used and other are dismantled right away. But to me, the other side of the exotic weapons is the design of the weapons. Each one has a unique look and its own backstory. There’s more work and effort put into these guns than the vendor weapons found at the Tower. And that’s a side that really can’t be quantified. It’s easy to say why those top-tier weapons are there gameplay-wise. From that same standpoint, it’s easy to dismantle Pocket Infinity. But Pocket Infinity looks really cool, and you have to go through a pretty in-depth process to get it. To me, it’s a show-off piece, and points to one one thing I wish Destiny would put in the game. Bungie likes to downplay the RPG/MMO side of Destiny, but moving forward I think they really need to start embracing it. One thing that they could do that I think would go over great with the players is adding in some kind of social space that each player calls their own. Whether it’s a room on the Tower or actually making use of those jumpships we’ve got on the loading screen, either works. I would love some private social space where I can display my exotics, connect to the bounty board, maybe some day read those Grimoire cards. But that’s the beauty of Destiny as it exists now – it’s clearly going through some evolution, and that’s the most exciting thing as a fan.

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The Iron Banner – Or How to Find The Worst Parts of the Current Destiny Meta

Destiny Lord Saladin

Once again we’re back in Destiny – but this time we’re looking at what’s supposed to be an end-game activity: The Iron Banner. I’ve written about the Iron Banner a long time ago – way back during it’s first appearance. It pops up pretty much every other week these days – using the more updated settings they implemented months ago. This week is my first journey back into the Banner since I’ve come back to Destiny, and I am in for a long PvP week. Let’s talk about why.

First and foremost – the current meta is terrible. I’ve written about it, along with just about every Destiny streamer, blogger and YouTuber. The margin for error is basically nonexistent, and requires you to use certain specific weapons or archetypes. Normally, in the Crucible, you’ll see a few hold-outs – using weapons that don’t benefit from the current meta for a variety of reasons. My reasoning is that I don’t like contributing to the issues, so I refuse to use Thorn or Last Word; but I can’t turn down Red Death, because of the prevalence of those guns. Other may like using other weapons for challenges – especially streamers and YouTubers (AKA the No Land Beyond users). Because the normal Crucible doesn’t have level advantages enabled, the margin for error, as slim as it is, is a bit bigger. You can make a few more aggressive moves and still survive. Because it’s not considered an end-game activity, it also helps foster some experimentation. Try out different builds – armor, weapons, perks – in the Crucible and then apply them to Trials of Osiris. That doesn’t happen in Iron Banner.

Destiny Thorn

Iron Banner was considered an end-game event – it used to net you max level gear. Now the gear you buy will only get you to level 33, you’ll still have to Etheric Light your way to 34. The loot drops from completion are I believe higher tiered, but that’s relying on RNG – an unreliable method at best. But it still holds that air of end-game. You are encouraged, because of level advantages, to bring your strongest gear. And because of that, you’ll pretty much only see those absolute top-tier weapons. In a few hours of Iron Banner yesterday, I think I can count on one hand the number of people that weren’t using either Red Death, Thorn or Last Word. Add in that I was consistently the only Titan in the game – not only on my team, but in the game – and it’s really easy to see exactly what the current meta rewards. Warlocks and Hunters have always been the best PvP classes – Blink/shotgun basically ensures that remains the case. Even though most of us playing Iron Banner are already Level 34 with good gear, there’s still a desire to try to get those perfect rolled weapons. And that reinforces the Thorn/Last Word/Red Death primary weapon trinity. If you use anything else – with the exception being the other Top-Tier legendaries (Messenger) – you’re at a disadvantage.

Iron Banner, and the Crucible in general, is actually a lot of fun. Because Bungie has done such a great job of putting in the foundation with the action, PvP is a blast. When it works. Unfortunately, the current meta just doesn’t work. Even way back at launch – when Suros reigned supreme – the overall picture was a lot more even. And as a result, it was a bit more fun. I found myself having a lot more fun then than now. Now I have to play to counter very specific tactics/weapons; as opposed to using whatever I want to have fun. In truth, the only real reason that I’m even playing Iron Banner is for those Etheric Lights to buy – that way I can max out a few last pieces of gear before The Taken King makes it all obsolete.

House of Wolves Crucible Revisit – What’s Changed and What Hasn’t

DestinyEver since House of Wolves launched a couple weeks back, I’ve found myself playing more Crucible games than I ever did before. Part of that is the increased rewards for completing the matches; part is to play and learn the three new maps available to me. It has been a little eye-opening for me, since during my few month break from Destiny Bungie had put out a pretty substantial patch that hit a lot of the weapon types.

First thing that I noticed was the absence of auto rifles – in particular Suros Regime, which had been pretty ubiquitous early on in the Crucible. The 1.1 patch really hit auto rifles hard, reducing their effective ranges pretty much to the short side of mid-range. The problem with this is that scout rifles, pulse rifles and hand cannons all got range and/or accuracy buffs in that same patch. The general idea was to make each weapon better fit their intended role – but unfortunately it resulted in turning hand cannons into the best option. It’s most notable with the exotic hand cannons – Thorn and The Last Word – which you’ll of course notice if you play more than a couple games in the Crucible.

Destiny Crucible

Now, at face value, it really does seem like everyone online is using Thorn. And I’m not saying it isn’t overpowered – it has the perfect combination of perks that wind up just being overbearing for Crucible. With the upgrades for hand cannons that make them more reliable at range, putting Send It on a gun like Thorn is just asking for trouble; and it gets worse with Final Round and Mark of the Devourer added in for extra oomph. It’s a gun that I really do see some kind of nerf coming its way in the near future. But is it a magic bullet – the answer to all PvP questions? No way. If there’s one thing that the 1.1 and 1.2 patches did well, it’s make every weapon choice viable, more so than ever. With the possible exception of auto rifles in certain situations, just about every weapon choice is still pretty damn viable.

What matters more now than weapon selection is comfort. You have to like whatever weapon you pick – know it’s behaviors in and out. Once you have those nailed down, and you play within those parameters, you really will be fine. That really is the biggest change from the pre-House of Wolves/Dark Below Crucible. In the old days, weapon choice could trump player skill and teamwork. A team that ran Suros really could end up unstoppable. Now, player skill and teamwork matter so much more. Even against a team of all Thorns, a team that’s working together and not playing into Thorn’s strengths will come out on top.

Destiny Thorn

The whole seed for this post comes from reading the Destiny subreddit more regularly since House of Wolves launched. Especially while Trials of Osiris is active I have noticed a ton of posts complaining about Thorn. It’s strong sure, but there’s a lot of ways to beat it. Rush close range – a lot of Thorn players tend to get a little jumpy with their shots at close range; or hang back and snipe/scout rifle them. If you meet up with a good team that also runs Thorn, well that’s when you have to bust out the anti-Thorn: Red Death. Now that pulse rifles actually hold their one in PvP, Red Death is a beast – you get health back per burst with the unique perk. That alone makes it the anti-Thorn, basically negating the damage over time from Mark of the Devourer. Then you have the extra range from being a pulse rifle, and it’s the perfect answer to combat rampant Thorn use.

Things like that – weapons that balance each other out so perfectly, tactics that are evolving to counter other evolving tactics – that are making the Crucible more engaging than it ever was to me. There are still issues – some that are becoming more apparent as Trials seems to bring out some cheaters in the mix. But on the whole, Crucible is way more fun, and more rewarding then ever. House of Wolves has made PvP a viable option for end-game players, and should keep people invested until the fall when Year Two content begins.