Reviewing the 2.0 Exotic Changes

Published on: Jul 21, 2015 @ 06:21

We’ve given you our take on what the changes slated for each weapon class mean for the future of Destiny, and now it’s time to look at the second half of the highly polarizing 2.0 notes.

Again, Bungie’s list isn’t finalized, but you can bet that they will definitely be moving forward with most (if not all) of their intended fixes. With Bungie’s goals in mind, here are our opinions on their proposed changes.

Special Note on Stat Buffs: Bungie will be retroactively reducing the potency of stat-specific buffs like Perfect Balance and Hammer Forged. Many of their Exotics and several Legendaries still come standard with these unequivocally positive perks, and to effect balance between three eras of perks, Bungie has seen fit to even out the benefits somewhat. This also means that the HoW trade-off-style equivalents, such as Smallbore, will be more aggressively tuned to offer a big buff at the cost of a big nerf.

Hard Light

Everyone in Destiny wants to love Hard Light. It has a great design and interesting set of both visual and audio effects to punch up its Exotic status. However, it’s been a pathetic pea-shooter since Auto Rifles were nerfed, and could have been scarcely been considered serviceable before then. Bungie wants to re-incentivize its use in the Crucible and PvE, and will be further increasing its base Stability, the number of times its projectiles can bounce, and removing damage falloff for those projectiles.


The importance of these buffs depends on the correct interpretation of the wording Bungie uses. No damage fall off is a potent and totally new idea for an Exotic perk that would be right at home on a stable Auto Rifle, but it’s difficult to tell if Bungie means in their update language. They could either be referring to “projectiles” as all bullets, whether they ricochet or not; or simply those that do bounce off of something.

While no one would debate that a bullet is indeed a projectile, it remains to be seen if “Hard Light projectiles” truly means all shots fired. Regardless, the 80 Stability will be a nice improvement, though they could stand to fix the erratic recoil pattern as well. Hard Light, when coupled with the changes to Auto Rifles as a class, looks like it may be the perfect representation of what Bungie’s new “Auto Rifle” should be.

Outlook: Good/Excellent


About time! Bungie made all the right moves in setting up the quest for the Necrochasm, increasing hype for the Hive-based weapon by forcing Guardians to endure a series of challenges to bring it to its full potential. Then, they went and spoiled it all by doing something stupid like…releasing a completely underwhelming, untested weapon. Its joke-status is in jeopardy with these announced changes, though. Base Stability is being increased by 50%, Magazine Size will receive a heretofore unspecified increase, and its Exotic “Cursebringer’” will now proc on every headshot, causing more damaging and larger explosions.


Unlike Hard Light, there’s not much up in the air here. While the Magazine buff could be minimal, it’s the Stability and Cursebringer changes that may really make Necrochasm a winner. Of course, it’s difficult to proc Cursebringer without a damage buff to ensure Necrochasm can really bring the pain, so again the Auto Rifle changes look promising.

necrochasm exotic buff review

Still, this weapon is going to be for those who want to cause chaos in close-quarters, as the nerf to Auto Rifle range is going to remove any chance it had of handling anything at range. Overall, Necrochasm seems likely to finally become the weapon that those who fought Crota deserved – just in time for everyone to stop playing Crota’s End.

Outlook: Excellent

The Last Word

Stripping away the pretense, Bungie immediately acknowledges that The Last Word has the fastest TTK of any weapon in the Crucible. Because of this, their goal was to give it enough drawbacks that it would only be rewarding in very skilled hands. In its current state, it’s working well beyond its intended range profile. The Last Word will have its base Range cut in half, its Stability reduced by 1/3rd, ADS accuracy reduced, and the bona fide not-a-feature precision damage bug finally fixed. In exchange, precision damage and accuracy from the hip will scale upwards with prolonged fire.


The Last Word certainly needed a nerf, but it sure looks like Bungie may risk ‘pulling a Mythoclast’ here. The proposed changes to Hand Cannons will doubtless apply to TLW as it is, and when coupled with the extensive re-balancing proposed, may reduce its effectiveness to a point at which it can only be deadly from very close. This is perhaps less devastating than it would have been if Shotguns – or Shot Package, anyway – were not receiving similar nerfs, but still is harsh. Of course, Bungie has playtested their baby and is obviously satisfied enough with the results, so it may be the case that we can’t judge until we can see it in action. Until then, we remain neutral.

Outlook: Fair


The deadly DoT-dealing Thorn is getting nerf’d – sort of. While Bungie freely admits that Thorn is “hotly contended” for its peerless lethality at range, they concede that they want to leave it as a compelling option for what it is designed to do. Thus, they are reducing the base damage on Thorn’s DoT to roughly 1/3rd of what it is currently, while simultaneously allowing it to stack up to 5 times on a single target.


Thorn needed to be knocked down a peg, and the fact that it hasn’t been humiliated in the stocks is a good sign that the pendulum is not going to swing too far in the other direction. Thorn will lose the capacity to kill in two headshots, and quite possibly will no longer be lethal with three body shots. In exchange, players can still prevent recovery and tag their opponents, which will doubtless keep Thorn as a fiercely competitive option.

Send It will lose a fair chunk of its base Range benefit, and the HC changes will also keep Thorn at its intended optimal distance. Whether or not the nerf goes far enough remains to be seen, but we are optimistic.

Outlook: Good


Holtzmann’s favorite hand cannon, soon coming to Xbox, will no longer be possible to one-shot an enemy in the Crucible by simultaneously proc’ing both Aces and Luck in the Chamber. 2 bullets will be reintroduced to the mag when Holding Aces is unlocked, to combat the Hand Cannon changes, and Luck in the Chamber’s bonus damage will be reduced by 3%.


Honestly, Hawkmoon doesn’t appear to be much worse for the wear. Much like Thorn, it won’t be nearly as devastating without Hammer Forged granting as much range, and the hit to ADS accuracy that Hand Cannons will have to suffer.

hawkmoon exotic nerf review

However, it may end up with less rounds in its overall mag, while still being at 10+, which will increase the frequency at which its bonus damage is applied. While LitC will do 3% less damage, which may be significant for a certain TTK scenario, Hawkmoon will offer the same infuriating thrills it does currently – just at a more intimate distance.

Outlook: Good

Ice Breaker

“Finally!” shouts no one in particular… This sniper rifle, the once uncontested ruler of PvE, is receiving a nerf that no one asked for or saw coming. Bungie apparently has had it with Guardians camping around and dispatching their enemies while waiting for a Sniper to slowly refill its own ammo, and rather than sitting us all down for a meaningful conversation about what it means to be a real Guardian, is taking it out on Ice Breaker instead. Ice breaker will see its shot regeneration time increased by more than 50%, to 8 seconds from 5.


Honestly, we feel this nerf is almost completely unnecessary. Ice Breaker, while debatably overpowered in Vanilla Destiny, has fallen out of fashion as stronger Snipers and better strategies have emerged for tackling Destiny’s tough stuff. Now, in anticipation for the exodus from Black Hammer, Ice Breaker is being turned into the real Patience and Time. Those who use it are not going to stop camping near the back, they’re just going to have to wait a few seconds longer for our shots to return. And we still can’t pick up Special Ammo.

We’ve all done it. Hunker down in the back of the map with your lunch box, picnic table, a sci-fi paperback, and Ice Breaker. Kill all the enemies, wait for more to show up, kill those ones too, put a few shots on the boss, make a sandwich, finish the strike, and then collect your reward-that-isn’t-Hawkmoon and move on.

The only problem is that this isn’t an issue that’s specific to the Ice Breaker or the Black Hammer or any other PvE-centric weapon that’s about to get tweaked. This is just how a lot of Destiny’s PvE content is played. A lot of scenarios see Guardians running to the furthest edge out of harm’s way and emptying shots into bullet-sponge enemies. Ice Breaker and others like it are just an effective way of dealing with the way that some of Destiny is designed. Simply put, the best way to handle most PvE boss encounters is to stay at a distance and empty bullets into the boss – that’s what needs to change.

Outlook: Poor

No Land Beyond

A PvP weapon first and foremost, Bungie isn’t really looking to change No Land Beyond’s role. However, they are buffing its overall handling speed, and buffing the Master to last longer and do more precision damage.


Bungie states that it “doesn’t really hold up in PvE” and well, it’s still not going to. Most Snipers can empty their clip in the time it takes the No Land Beyond to fire two shots. With horrid reserve ammunition and the handicap of consuming an Exotic slot, no one is going to use NLB in PvE come September. However, this buff does make using this weapon in PvP slightly easier. Cue the montages!

Outlook: Fair

Lord of Wolves

A weapon that hasn’t even been out long enough to complain about is seeing a considerable buff. Bungie wants players to group hug when they can, and are thus tripling the Recovery bonus offered by the Lord of Wolves.


Recovery is the best PvE stat out there, and the Lord of Wolves offering such an insane bonus really is appealing for group play. However, the range is startlingly small, and there is no indication that this will also be increased.

lord of wolves exotic buff review

In the end, when you can afford to all be grouped up, the Lord of Wolves is going to keep you alive, no doubt. In every other situation, this buff is moot.

Outlook: Good

Black Hammer

Bungie must have been cut off in traffic by a Solar Sniper, because not only is Icebreaker being further handicapped, but the Black Hammer is having its primary utility almost completely eliminated. Now, instead of both instantly reloading and not consuming reserve ammunition, it will simply instantly reload, removing 3 shots from your reserves. However, the reserve ammunition is being increased to 15 to “compensate”


A deeply frustrating change that borders on victim-blaming, the Black Hammer nerf is Bungie’s way of saying “We don’t like how you’re handling our content.” While it’s understandable that Bungie finds the notion of its players sitting in safety and relentlessly pulling the trigger until a boss dies disappointing, it is equally disappointing that they elect to remove another handy PvE tool in lieu of patching encounters to disincentivize its use.

So long as there are bullet-sponges that need to be killed again and again, there will be a need for Black Hammer. It’s not all bad, as you can still probably put ~18 rounds on target in quick succession, but the real Exotic of Crota’s End has been made that much more boring.

Outlook: Poor


It’s the end of an era, and we’ll keep it brief. The unholy amount of damage it can dish out will be gimped by an uncertain amount, as the cumulative damage from Wolfpack Rounds will be reduced. The initial base Impact and Blast Radius will remain unchanged.


It’s a very mixed bag, especially without knowing exactly how much the damage reduction is. The reasons for the nerf are ostensibly noble: LFG groups were discriminating based on whether or not a player had been rewarded a weapon by RNG fortune, and the weapon had become the “only answer to getting through tough encounters,” which Bungie saw as antithetical to the creativity Destiny should inspire.

gjallarhorn exotic nerf review

However, it would be naïve to assume this is the only reason. Gjallarhorn is simply too strong, and Bungie very much has a vested interest in limiting its devastation to preserve the difficulty of their content. Unfortunately, this means that overleveled content will be even more a battle of attrition, without the unparalleled ability of Gjallarhorn and its Wolfpack rounds to remove the most onerous bullet sponges.

Of course, we can’t say with certainty that the nerf will be so drastic as to really alter the metagame this much, but the writing is on the wall. For better or for worse, Bungie is one-by-one targeting the “ideal loadout” weapons and bringing them back down to Earth. Now, is it still going to be the most powerful rocket launcher? Probably.

Outlook: Fair

Final Notes

In addition to the changes stat-specific perks we mentioned earlier, Bungie has stated that they will be – yes – reducing starting base stat values. This is to foster the impression that your weapons are “growing” with you as you level them. It’s an admirable aim, but feels counter-intuitive as a retroactive patch; we’ve already got our go-to’s, thank you very much, and there’s very little current incentive to level new weapons.

Finally, you will only have to unlock the first perk in the middle column in order to have access to all three. This is a small change, but assuming that it won’t also be counter-balanced by an increased XP requirement, it is a welcome one from a grind perspective.

Your Thoughts?

Well, there you have it. Bungie has answered the call of weapon re-balancing, and it’s all (or mostly) on the table. Now that it’s all laid out before us, what do you think of these changes?

We know a lot of you are disappointed, but do you think the majority of the updates will promote variety and be an overall net gain for Destiny? Keep in mind that there’s going to be tons of new Exotics to come with The Taken King, so you might soon forget all about the changes while playing with your new toys.

Let us know what your favorite changes are and what you think was unnecessary! For more balance(d) discussion, check out our latest podcast:

I'm aWrySharK, your resident Exotic guru and lover of all things min/max. At PlanetDestiny, my perfectionism is no longer simply a matter of form over function.