Destiny 2 Perks: What Makes the Best PvE Weapons
Weapon perks are what define the guns in Destiny 2.
They give each gun an individual feel, character, and are the difference between jumping out of your seat when a special combination drops and rolling your eyes as you scrap another gun for materials.
Unfortunately perks can be overwhelming for new and veteran players alike, so we are going to break down which perks to look for in PvE (player versus environment) playlists.
Let’s dive into what Destiny 2 perks make the best PvE weapons and why!
A Brief History of Time to Kill
Before we dive into the best perks, let’s take a quick look at the history of weapons in Destiny 2. Upon the release of Destiny 2 in late 2017, weapons had set perks, dealt less damage, and killed targets slower, so every Better Devils hand cannon that would drop would have the exact same perks.
No matter where the hand cannon dropped from it would have the same perks and each drop would be identical. Every Better Devils was the same, there were no better Better Devils.
With Forsaken, random perk rolls came to Destiny 2 and still remain in the current game. Now, when a Better Devils drops it has a few potential perks in each of the 4 slots of the weapon. The first slot is the weapons sights which are seen when in ADS, the second is the weapon’s magazine, and the third and fourth slots are for unique weapon perks.
The image to the left shows all of the potential options for sights, magazines, and perks for a Better Devils. The last evolution of weapon perks is weapon crafting which recently came with The Witch Queen expansion. Most weapons in the game continue to drop with random perks, but some weapons are able to be crafted with select perks purchased with new currency introduced in The Witch Queen.
It is important to note that even crafted weapons have a perk pool for each slot, and you are unable to craft a weapon with any combination of perks in the game. As you can imagine, the viability of some weapons will be heavily dictated by the perks available in a gun’s respective perk pool.
Now that we got our history lesson out of the way let’s get into which perks to look for!
PvE Perks: A Tale of Two Concepts
When selecting perks for a weapon to be used in PvE, it mostly comes down to two concepts; damage and uptime. Damage is self explanatory, and refers to perks that increase a weapon’s damage based on activating the perk via some condition.
One example of a damage perk is Kill Clip which grants a 33% precision and 30% body shot damage increase for 5 seconds once the weapon is reloaded after a kill. Uptime is not quite as clear cut as damage, and can be described as the percentage of time in which the weapon can shoot.
Damage per second isn’t simply fire rate multiplied by damage because a weapon needs to be reloaded. Perks that affect uptime increase reload speed or circumvent reloading by replenishing ammo in the magazine based on certain conditions.
Examples of uptime perks are Outlaw, which adds 63 reload speed and a reload speed multiplier after a precision kill, and Subsistence, which replenishes 10-17% of the magazine immediately on kill.
Let’s Talk About Damage
Selecting perks isn’t as simple as having one damage and one uptime perk. It is important to think about the condition in which those perks are activated, and if that criteria can be met in the activity you are playing.
For example, the perk Surrounded adds 30% damage if there are 3 enemies within 8 meters of you.
When in the core strike playlist Surrounded is fantastic as you will be in this condition quite often, and your weapon will have a flat 30% damage increase most of the time. Now imagine activating Surrounded when performing a Grandmaster Nightfall.
Most enemies in this playlist will kill you with one melee attack, so sorry to break it to you, but if you are playing around activating Surrounded in a Grandmaster Nightfall you’ll spend most of the strike waiting for your teammates to revive you.
A perk such as One For All which gives a weapon a 35% damage increase for 5 seconds if 3 enemies are damaged within 3 seconds of one another is far more viable in a Grandmaster Nightfall.
This is because the perk can be activated from a safe distance and reactivated once the perk expires on the plethora of high health enemies that you’ll run into in difficult end-game content, resulting in the 35% damage bonus being active a significant amount of time.
The conditions in which an uptime perk is activated must be considered as well! Let’s analyze the perk Outlaw which we discussed earlier. Outlaw increases the reload speed stat by 63 and a 0.9 reload duration multiplier after a precision kill.
You may notice there are two different stats for Outlaw as a reload perk. The 63 stat value is added to your weapon’s reload speed and is capped at 100. The higher the reload speed stat is, the faster your gun will be reloaded.
The 0.9 multiplier works by multiplying this value with the total reload time, so the lower the number the faster the reload speed. If a weapon has a reload time of 3 seconds, a 0.9 multiplier will lower this to 2.7 seconds. It should also be noted that these multipliers stack. In most PvE activities outlaw is a top tier perk. But just like damage perks, let’s think about the conditions that make the perk active.
There are better options than Outlaw in light level capped activities with high health enemies such as a Grandmaster Nightfall. This is because most enemies will not be killed with a single magazine of a weapon. If a gun with Outlaw is used there will be many instances in which a full magazine is shot without a precision kill and the perk is not utilized.
A better option in that scenario would be Rapid Hit which builds up stacks for every precision hit up to 5 stacks; reload speed and stability are increased with each stack. This perk is much easier to get value out of in a playlist with high health enemies that are not killed with one magazine because the perk only requires precision hits, not kills.
Upon getting 5 stacks reload speed is increased by 54, nearly matching that of outlaw, but it is utilized far more. Another situation in which Rapid Hit is ideal over bread and butter uptime perks Outlaw and Feeding Frenzy is during boss damage. Outlaw and Feeding Frenzy depend on getting a kill to activate, and when in a damage phase of a raid boss you will be shooting at the same target to deal damage and will not activate these perks.
Meanwhile Rapid Hit is activated on precision hits, which are plentiful when shooting a boss and Rapid Hit stacks can be easily built up. This will lead to very fast reloads, an increase in your weapon uptime, and ultimately an increase in total damage during damage phases.
Don’t Forget About Magazines
Remember the magazines in the second column of our Better Devils we discussed earlier? Magazines do a little more than add a few points to range and stability stats, they can also affect reload speed and magazine size which can help our weapon’s uptime.
When selecting magazines look out for reload speed options such as Alloy Magazine which DO stack with our uptime perks mentioned earlier such as Kill Clip and Rapid Hit, as well as options that increase magazine size such as Appended Mag.
So Many Options, Which to Choose?
Now that we went over all of that information you’re probably wondering what perks you should be looking for. Below there are two tables with 5 top perks for damage and uptime.
The damage table is separated into two separate columns with the left column representing general play where red bar enemies with lower health will be common and the right column representing boss and champion damage. Perks with stars are explained in greater detail.
- Firing Line – This perk is ideal for boss damage during raids as it gives a flat 20% damage bonus and the perk will be easily activated due to players standing next to one another in a well of radiance during most boss damage encounters.
- Explosive Payload – Explosive head for bows and timed payload are subject to the same damage calculation as explosive payload, so these 3 perks are just as good on a primary weapon. The perk adds a flat 30% bonus damage and separates damage into two portions, one which will deal explosive body shot damage which does not benefit from the precision damage multiplier. Lastly the explosive damage is not subject to range falloff which typically lessens damage as the target is further away. Long story short, this set of perks is great for primary weapons, especially hand cannons which suffer more from range fall off.
- One-Two Punch – This one is a blast! Landing every pellet of a shotgun shot increases melee damage to bosses by 350%. It’s risky to use, but during boss encounters where you can safely apply damage up close it is a good option. The general technique of using the perk is to shoot the shotgun, then melee, and repeat. With certain classes and exotics the melee damage stacks with this perk resulting in extremely high bursts of damage.
Now for the uptime perks.
- Fourth Time’s The Charm – This is a coveted perk for sniper and scout rifles for high health target damage. If you hit 4 precision shots, 2 shots are automatically put into the magazine. If a sniper has 6 rounds in a magazine and this perk, 10 shots can be fired before a reload by activating this perk twice in one magazine.
- Auto-Loading Holster – It should be noted that there are now mods that perform the same effect as this perk, but the holster mods only exist for some weapon categories, most notably there is no holster mod for single shot grenade launchers nor rocket launchers.
- These two weapon types have extremely slow reload speeds and are good for damage. The strategy with this perk is to shoot the weapon with this perk, swap the weapon without reloading it to another DPS weapon such as a sniper, once the timer of this perk is hit, swap back to the weapon with this perk for a free reload. This can be made even more efficient if the sniper that is being swapped to is supplemented by a holster armor mod and chain swapping auto-reloaded weapons is performed.
Just My Type of Weapon
Just as guns have perk pools unique to them, weapon types have exclusive perks too. Aside from exclusive perks, some perks have better utility on certain weapon types due to the role they serve. For example rocket launchers are best for dealing quick burst damage to bosses and champions while submachine guns are best for quickly dispatching red bar enemies.
The chart below shows various weapon types and perks you should be looking out for. In general all Primary Weapons are most ideal with uptime perks that require enemy kills such as outlaw, feeding frenzy, and subsistence.
Rapid Hit is a great option as it gives great value when fighting higher health enemies and clearing red bar enemies. Overflow is another good option as it can greatly increase the magazine size, lessening the need to reload. The same goes for damage perks with rampage and multikill clip being ideal via activation from kills.
One for all is a great option as well if red bar enemies have a little extra health in higher difficulty activities and explosive payload for that flat out 15% damage bonus. Swashbuckler and Adrenaline Junkie are great options for melee and grenade builds as weapon damage is increased with weapon or melee/grenade kills. Special weapons have a little more dichotomy between them.
Fusion Rifles are a hybrid option that can be great for clearing ads yet can deal some decent boss damage. Boss damage damage and uptime perks are overflow, auto loading holster, and vorpal weapon. Red bar enemy slaying perks for fusion rifles are feeding frenzy, rampage, and swashbuckler.
Sniper Rifles are best for boss damage and have a few perks that involve precision hits to best maximize their damage. Rapid Hit, Fourth Time’s The Charm, and Triple Tap are great uptime perks revolving around precision hits from snipers, while Auto-Loading Holster is a great uptime option to reload the sniper while using a power weapon. Damage perks are dominated by Firing Line and Vorpal Weapon as they are great boss damage options. If a sniper has access to both, Firing Line is a better option as it adds a bonus 20% damage while Vorpal Weapon adds 15% for special weapons.
Shotguns can serve as boss damage dealers or ad clearing weapons. Shotguns have a few unique perks for damage and uptime that are mostly activated through melee attacks as you will be up close when utilizing shotguns. The uptime perk activated through melee is Grave Robber and is best for use while getting melee kills on lower health enemies. Auto-Loading Holster is the uptime perk better served for boss damage. Damage perks requiring a melee are One-Two Punch and Trench Barrel, while Disruption Break is best for dealing burst damage to champions and shielded enemies.
Trace Rifles do not have a row on the table as the options are through exotic weapons with Divinity being the best for boss damage to weaken the boss and Ager’s Scepter for red health bar enemies.
Heavy Weapons serve a similar role to Special Weapons as they are primarily for high health targets, but some types are good for clearing ads quickly.
Linear Fusion Rifles are very similar to snipers as they have the same role for dealing boss damage. The ideal perks line up with that of Sniper Rifles due to the similarity between the two.
Grenade Launchers are best for boss damage and their perks reflect as such. One damage perk to note is Spike Grenades. This is a magazine perk and is essential for boss damage as it increases the weapons damage upon direct impact which will be activated when shooting these weapons at bosses who have large hit boxes. Auto-Loading Holster is the must have perk for uptime as these weapons do not have access to other uptime perks. Aside from Spike Grenades, Grenade Launcher damage is best supplemented by Explosive Light, Vorpal Weapon or Full Court which increases damage the further the grenade travels.
Rocket Launchers are in the same category as Grenade Launchers in terms of uptime perks, as Auto-Loading Holster is the best option. There are quite a few options for damage perks though. Lasting Impression adds a delay to weapon damage but adds on an additional 20% damage. Explosive Light deals 25% bonus damage, but requires picking up an orb of light.
Vorpal Weapon only deals an extra 10%, making it the worst of the extra damage options. Lastly there is Cluster Bombs which can add up to 24% bonus damage, but require all of the extra clusters to hit. This perk is best for bosses that are stationary and have a center of mass close to the ground to maximize damage.
Swords are a decent option for damage to bosses that do not have a strong melee, champions, and mid tier enemies. Whirlwind Blade is the best option for damage as stacks can build the damage bonus to 30% and uptime perks that are best are Relentless Strikes and Tireless Blade which both refund ammo to the sword based on hits or kills respectively.
Lastly we have Machine Guns. These weapons are in an odd spot as they take up the Heavy Weapon slot, but are not a good option for boss damage. These weapons are better for ad clear and dealing with mid tier enemies. Because of this role ideal Machine Gun perks are similar to those of Primary Weapons.
Uptime perks are Subsistence, Overflow, Outlaw, and Auto-Loading Holster all of which are good for low health enemies with Auto-Loading Holster being a good option for all scenarios due to the slow reload time of the weapon type. Damage perks are Rampage, Kill Clip, and One For All due to limited options on the weapon type and their role of lower health enemy clearance.
Hopefully now you know which perks to keep an eye out for on your new weapon drops. When choosing a damage and uptime perk think about what type of enemies you’ll be facing with that weapon and how those two perks interact with one another.
Outlaw and Firing Line are two great perks, but they do not work well together as one is for headshot kills and the other is for dealing damage to a high health target. Meanwhile a combination like rampage and subsistence work great together because they have the same activation condition and for every kill you get a damage bonus plus some of the magazine refunded.
It is also important to remember that all weapons have a perk pool, so if you are looking for a particular perk combination your options may be limited. The “God Roll Finder” page on light.gg is a great resource to look for weapons that can have a perk combination you are looking for.
For example, there are only 3 pulse rifles in the game that can have both rampage and subsistence if that’s your desired weapon. So get perk hunting and ready to flex on your clanmates when you double their kills during a Nightfall strike with your new Darkest Before pulse rifle with Rampage and Subsistence!
Thanks for reading! For more articles, check our other Destiny 2 guides!