Gunslinger Throwing Knives – PvP Analysis

Hey everyone, Dukaness here with Part 2 of my mini viability series for the Gunslinger after the June update. Part 1 discussed the grenades, and the final article will cover modifiers. This episode is focused on Throwing Knives and their available modifiers.

Click here to read the Gunslinger grenade guide!

Throwing Knives

As I’m sure most of you know, Throwing Knives were nerfed in the June update. They did 158 damage to the head, which is now 142 damage. The 10% nerf, which accounts for 16 damage, is about half a bullet or less from a body shot with most hand cannons and scout rifles. I didn’t notice this change in my game to game gun fights except for here and there where I’d leave an enemy with a sliver of health. Since not a whole lot changed, the more interesting discussion is based around the modifiers you can apply to Throwing Knives. That’s the main focus today.

Circle of Life

The Methodology

Just as a warning, this section is very detailed. If you trust me or don’t care about my approach, you can save yourself some time reading by skipping ahead to “The Results” section below.

Circle of Life now reduces the cooldown of Golden Gun when you land precision Throwing Knife kills. To determine how effective this modifier is, we have to know exactly how much the cooldown is reduced by. To test this, I went into patrol with zero Intellect and timed how long it took to charge my super without killing anything. I know I could have just looked at the super timer on my character, but the Tier 5 time was proven to be inaccurate, so I wanted to calculate Tier 0 for myself just to be sure.

Without any kills at all, it took 5:30 for the super to charge, which is what the timer indicates. Next, I emptied my Golden Gun and let the timer run up again, this time killing one Acolyte with a precision Throwing Knife, without Circle of Life. The time was 5:28, so a precision Throwing Knife kill without Circle of Life on an Acolyte drops your super’s cooldown by 2 seconds. Lastly, I let the super rebuild again, this time landing a precision Throwing Knife kill with Circle of Life active. The super cooldown lasted 4:55. Therefore, a precision Throwing Knife kill on an Acolyte takes 35 seconds off of your super’s cooldown, 33 seconds of which is attributable to Circle of Life.

Now, you might be thinking “but Duke, what if a guardian in the Crucible has a different cooldown reduction than an Acolyte does?” To test this in Crucible, I’d have to set up a 3v3 match with 5 friends and waste everyone’s time repeating the same steps as before, or go into Classic Free-For-All with a friend, repeat the same test, but with the added challenge of not dying at all, as this would mess with the timer. I didn’t think it would work out, nor would I be able to trust the results even if it did. It is a good question though, so I did the next best thing. I ran a second test on the assumption that if different PvE enemies gave different cooldown reductions, I would have to test it in Crucible. I did the exact same thing with a Hallowed Knight that I did with an Acolyte. Since a Hallowed Knight is an ultra, the super cooldown from a kill is obviously greater.

Killing a Hallowed Knight with a precision Throwing Knife without Circle of Life resulted in a cooldown of 5:18, so a reduction of 12 seconds. When repeating the same process with Circle of Life active, the cooldown is 4:45. That makes Circle of Life responsible for 33 seconds of cooldown, again. Therefore, the cooldown reduction related to the Circle of Life modifier remained constant for both the Acolyte and Hallowed Knight kills.

The fact that Circle of Life is responsible for the same cooldown reduction for two very different enemies, combined with the fact that Bungie has historically kept Crucible and PvE consistent (for the most part), leads me to be pretty confident that a precision Throwing Knife kill in the Crucible will also net you a 33 second reduction to your super with Tier 0 Intellect. Otherwise, they would need to have coded a different reduction into the perk, which is absolutely possible, I just think it’s unlikely.

Since most Gunslingers run maximum Intellect, I repeated the same tests under Tier 5. When a Gunslinger runs Tier 5 Intellect, the timer says the cooldown will be 4:00. It’s actually 4:18, which is the issue I was referring to earlier. The Circle of Life results are the same, but also different.

Circle of Life is responsible for the same cooldown on an Acolyte and Hallowed Knight at Tier 5 Intellect, but that reduction is not the same as it is at Tier 0 Intellect. Both the Acolyte and Hallowed Knight reduce your cooldown by an additional 26 seconds on top of the reduction from simply getting a kill, as opposed to 33 seconds in Tier 0. I know I hit you guys with a lot of math in the last two minutes, so refer to the screenshot below that  I put together that summarizes the results in an easy way to understand.

The Results

Pay attention to Column E and Column I. With Tier 5 Intellect and the Circle of Life modifier, a precision Throwing Knife kill reduces your Golden Gun cooldown by 26 seconds more than if you did not have Circle of Life. The reduction is 33 seconds with 0 Intellect. As it turns out, the cooldown reduction is not a set amount of seconds, but actually works out to 10% of the entire cooldown reduction. So if you managed to land 2 precision Throwing Knife kills, you would cut your super cooldown by 20%.

Incendiary Blade

We’ll move onto the Incendiary Blade next. Bungie accidentally reduced the burn damage of this modifier from 5 ticks of 7 damage down to 5 ticks of 4 damage, but subsequently reversed this later on. Therefore, a Throwing Knife with the Incendiary Blade modifier will deal an additional 35 damage over time.

Knife Juggler

As always, the Knife Juggler modifier eliminates the cooldown when you use your Throwing Knife for a precision kill. Be aware however, in many circumstances, if you trade with your opponent in the Crucible, this modifier does not kick in. I believe this has something to do with the modifier not registering if your guardian is dead.

Detailed Modifier List

This is what an updated and slightly more detailed list of your Throwing Knife modifier choices are:

  • Circle of Life – reduces your Golden Gun cooldown by 10% for each precision Throwing Knife kill.
  • Incendiary Blade – deals an additional 35 burn damage over time.
  • Knife Juggler – resets the Throwing Knife cooldown after a precision kill (provided you are not dead when your opponent’s death registers).

What’s Best for 3v3?

Incendiary Blade is a good standard option for most players. A precision Throwing Knife with this modifier active deals 177 damage, including 35 damage over time. When combined with one bullet of almost any gun, this will kill an enemy with one throw. If you’re going to lose a gun fight because you got caught in a 1v2, tagging one guy with a Throwing Knife with Incendiary Blade doesn’t give a whole lot of added damage, but stalling his Recovery for a few seconds might help your team clean up the kills. This is why I like this modifier in 3v3 playlists, where every kill is critical.

Circle of Life vs Knife Juggler

I’m torn on the other two at the moment. In 6v6, you can get your super pretty frequently with Circle of Life, as long as you land your precision kills, so I think Circle of Life is a good pub stomping choice. I consider it to be high risk, high return. By that I mean, if you aren’t landing your Throwing Knives, you’re dying and waiting longer for your super. If you are landing them, you’re staying alive and building super at a very fast rate.

Everything is dependent on your proficiency with Throwing Knives. Someone less adept with Throwing Knives might prefer Knife Juggler, because if you miss it’s no big deal, but if you land one, you are rewarded with another Throwing Knife to keep using. I would never use Knife Juggler in 3v3, because you’ll rarely need 2 Throwing Knives in such a short period of time.


Incendiary Blade and Circle of Life is recommended in 3v3 playlists. I recommend Circle of Life and Knife Juggler in 6v6 playlists. I think skilled Throwing Knife users should stick to Circle of Life, and those less proficient are better off with Incendiary Blade or Knife Juggler. Like I said earlier, let me know how, why, and what playlist you will be using the Throwing Knife modifiers. I learn just as much from you guys as you learn from me. I hope this analysis shed some light and gave you a couple ideas. Good luck, my friends. Dukaness out.


My name is Luke Barron, but you can call me Duke. During the day, I'm a boring accountant. At night I create Destiny guides for my clan's YouTube channel & on weekends I help people get to the lighthouse through my stream. I take a lot of pride in helping people get better!