Destiny 2 Moving into high-level PvE, a guide (Season 13 update) By: Ciborium616


Season 13 Update: What’s New

  • · Extended GM advice

  • · More stasis thoughts

  • · Discussion of new exotic

  • · Season-specific mods

  • · Discussion of new Aeon exotic armor

  • · Short guide to Presage and Hawkmoon solo

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?

  1. 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.)

  2. Sublight challenges: master and grandmaster nightfalls, master nightmare hunts, solo lost sectors, master 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.

  3. 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, or soloing a dungeon or an exotic mission like the Hawkmoon or Presage encounters).

General Advice

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.

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); bottom tree with Omnioculus for group content (damage resist plus invis). (2) Bottom tree solar with Celestial Nighthawk for one-shot boss damage, mainly in raids. (3) Middle tree solar, or top-tree Arc, with Assassin’s Cowl for heal on 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. For some raid situations Thundercrash with Cuirass of the Falling Star is lots of fun for boss damage.

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.

Beyond Light 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 classes the Warlock super is the most useful in grandmaster content, because it allows for targeted crowd control.

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 immediate 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), Eye of Another World (for stasis).

In season 13, changes to the seasonal artifact mean that only arc subclasses have the ability to stun Overload champions with their grenades, which makes them slightly more viable than otherwise. But the absence of a mod that immediately returns grenade energy (as there was in Season 12) means that grenades in general are less powerful in GM nightfalls than they were last season.

Aeon Cult exotics: In season 13 these widely reviled armor pieces have been updated to allow for a new range of abilities. The main value of these is in giving your allies some kind of boost when you do something. These bonuses rely on the fact that each member of a three-person fireteam is running a different mod, with the following results:

Sect of Force boosts ally grenade and melee energy, and super energy, when you get rapid precision hits.

Sect of Insight boosts ally weapon damage, and drops ammo on finishers—Special ammo for finishing Elites, Heavy for finishing minibosses and bosses.

Sect of Vigor gives allies an overshield and a burst of healing when you cast your super.

We’ll see how viable these are in GM nightfall content (they’re useless for solo content, obviously). My main concern is that they keep you from running another piece of exotic armor—so you lose out on Phoenix Protocol or Orpheus Rigs or something else that might be more important.

That said the Sect of Insight mod is the only mod in season 13 that can force heavy ammo drops. (You can always get special ammo from the Special Finisher mod, though it will cost you super energy.) That means it may turn out to be critical for GM content, where a steady supply of heavy really makes life easier.

Armor Mods

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 since 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:

  1. Resistance mods (on chest armor) that reduce incoming damage

  2. Mods that stun or disrupt or otherwise affect champions (arms or class item)

  3. Raid-specific mods (final mod slot only, and only on raid armor)

  4. Charged with Light, Warmind Cell, and Elemental Well mods (fourth slot)

  5. Ammo Finder (helmet) and Ammo Scavenger (boots) mods.

  6. Season artifact modes that boost damage or add damage resistance.

  7. 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

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.

Because the energy resist mods (arc, solar, void) only go on chest armor pieces with the associated energy, as you build armor sets for high-end PvE (especially GMs) you will want to collect one of each energy in the chest slot.

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, but you really have to adjust depending on what you’re facing.

Anti-Champion Mods

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 13 these mods include smg, sword, and bow mods for Overload champions, pulse and hand cannon mods for Unstoppables, and scout and sniper mods for Barrier champions. One potentially interesting combination here involves the Disrupting Blade and Passive Guard mods, which combined can stun Overloads and create damage reduction. Combined with a Titan bubble, these mods worked very well in season 11 in some GM nightfalls. We haven’t had a chance to see how they work this season. That said the sniper anti-barrier mod, though expensive (6 points), is pretty fantastic and likely to be useful, since snipers are often useful in nightfalls.

Two other interesting season mods are Focusing Lens (increases damage of light abilities vs. mobs affected by stasis) and Sundering Glare (debuffs mods hit with precision hits from a distance). Combined, for instance, with Divinity (which guarantees precision hits, making it easy to proc Sundering Glare), Sundering Glare and Focusing Lens can produce significant increases in damage. In Gambit, for instance, the combination of these mods with a couple Titan thundercrash supers can melt the Primeval in seconds.

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:

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:

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:

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. (Also, please don’t shoot Warmind Cells if you have no mods on! It’s not useful and makes the people with mods on totally insane.)

Note that in the recent State of the Game message there was a hint that WCs will be nerfed.

Recommended Builds

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; 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.

Defensive Build

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 that combine CwL and WC:

Neutral, good for anything

  1. Taking Charge, Protective Light, Global Reach, Wrath of Rasputin, Fireteam Medic

  2. Taking Charge, Protective Light, Stacks on Stacks, Global Reach, Wrath of Rasputin

  3. Taking Charge, Protective Light, Reactive Pulse, Supercharged, Stacks on Stacks

  4. Global Reach, Wrath of Rasputin, Fireteam Medic, Warmind’s Protection, Cellular Suppression (this is the build I use most often in non-challenging content)


  1. Global Reach, Wrath of Rasputin, Rage of the Warmind, Fireteam Medic, Power of Rasputin

  2. Taking Charge, High-Energy Fire, Reactive Pulse, Supercharged, Lucent Blade (sword) or Argent Ordnance (Rockets) or Surprise Attack (sidearms)

  3. Fusion Rifle or Shotgun-focused build: Supercharged, Quick Charge, Heavy Handed, High-Energy Fire, Charged Up

  4. Grenade-focused build: Taking Charge, Firepower, Heal Thyself, Supercharged, Stacks on Stacks


  1. CwL+Warmind: Taking Charge, Protective Light, Global Reach, Wrath of Rasputin, Warmind’s Protection

  2. All CwL, max defense: Taking Charge, Protective Light, Reactive Pulse, Radiant Light, Charged Up

Elemental Well mods

These are new for season 13. The basic mechanic is that certain effects create elemental wells, which drop to the ground. Picking up these elemental wells grants 10% energy to your abilities—either only to your lowest charged ability (if the well does not match your subclass) or to all your abilities (if it does).

Elemental mods can be fun in low-level PvE. You can create them fairly often (with grenades, with Elemental Ordinance, with supers, with Elemental Light, with weapons that match your class, with Elemental Armaments) and then pick them up for damage buffs (10% with Font of Might) or temporary increased Intellect (+50 for 30 seconds with Font of Wisdom).

Unfortunately Elemental Wells are not especially viable in high-end PvE (like Grandmasters or solo content) mainly because of the requirement that they match your weapon damage and/or subclass. Since a great deal of high-end content involves Match Game, players in those situations will often run energy and power weapons that differ from their subclass. That makes EW mods nearly worthless.

Elemental Well mods do not work in PvP.

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