The State of Special Weapons

Sniper Rifles

Perhaps simultaneously the most used and most hated special weapons in the current state of the Crucible, sniper rifles are in their Golden Age. With the majority of primary weapons suffering from either damage, range, or accuracy nerfs, snipers are free to run rampant in all modes, turning even the shortest hallways into sightlines filled with scope glares.

With 5 distinct damage profiles available for the discerning sniper to choose from, most people tend to focus on a few things: ability to snipe targets out of supers with one hit, ability to kill a recently revived player through their shield, and ability to quickly follow up with a second shot.

The highest damage profile is not present in any of the year 2 legendary snipers, and instead is represented by the Black Spindle. Despite it being able to do 181 damage to the body and 452 to the head, this archetype is not popular in PvP, due to the absurdly slow rate of fire. In PvE however, it’s another story, with Black Spindle being arguably the most useful special weapon for boss fights.

The high-impact archetype, characterized by the ever-present 1000-Yard Stare, Y-09 Longbow Synthesis, and LDR 5001, is perhaps the most used special sub-class in both PvP and PvE. Loved for their ability to revive snipe, and kill most shielded enemies out of their supers with a headshot, they do 417 damage to the head, and a still respectable 167 to the body. This allows for clean up kills on barely wounded enemies, as well as the ability to hit a body shot and switch to a primary to finish a target off.

Both the mid & low-impact sniper archetypes can not do enough damage to kill supered Guardians with shields, but they can still revive snipe. The mid impact sub-class has a damage profile of 334 per crit and 134 per body, while low-impact boasts 267 crits and 107 body shots. Doing less damage per bullet is a trade-off, with the upside coming from the ability to much more quickly fire a second bullet. Mid-impacts, probably best represented by the raid specific Defiance of Yasmin , can fire a second bullet only 0.67 seconds after the first, while low-impacts like the Glass Promontory can follow up in 0.53 seconds. In general, mid-impacts have impressively high base aim assist, while the low-impact models often sacrifice that high aim assist for the faster RoF.

Perks

Most competitive players look at the sights for their first indication of a good roll. Short range sights like the ShortGaze, LongView SLR10, Ambush, ViewTac, Faucon, and ATA Scout are all used in PvP and PvE alike, although some are more preferred than others. Secondary perk choices often include Quickdraw or Snapshot for the sniper who likes to increase their aim-down-sights speed, while Hand-laid Stock or Injection Mold are optimal for players will to sacrifice some range for increased stability.

The determined hardscoper will often choose Rifled Barrel over all else, giving them the ability to maintain maximum reticle stickiness out to longer distances, while narrowing the accuracy cone as well. Hidden Hand is always a good perk for any sniper, and most other perks that give back ammo, like Performance Bonus or Mulligan, are also useful.

Shotguns

Once the most feared weapon in PvP, the shotguns have gone through a series of refinements that have taken away a decent amount of their original bite. While certain perks are no longer available on most shotguns, like Kneepads and Shot Package, specific archetypes are still very dangerous in the right hands. In PvE, shotguns experienced a brief moment in the sun as they utterly dominated at close range, but they have since been brought back down to more reasonable standards. Depending on the enemy, shotguns can be an effective weapon for add control, although they lack the ability to safely engage most bosses.

Very high-impact shotguns seem to rule the day in high level competitive matches, where their ability to get a one hit kill at the longest possible distances is unmatched. Although the rate of fire can border on ludicrously slow for models like the Conspiracy Theory-D and Her Champion, others, like the Party Crasher +1, offer nearly the same hitting power but with a slightly faster follow up shot. These shotguns can be very potent in PvE as well, allowing a Guardian to kill even high level enemies with one close range blast.

In the high-impact archetype, we run into some of the most balanced shotguns in the game, including Two To The Morgue, Deidris’s Retort, and the Binary Dawn. Although they can’t quite reach out and touch you like the very high-impact shotguns, they combine a decent amount of stopping power with a passable RoF, enabling them to be significantly more forgiving than their more powerful brethren. Although not the best for high level play, a god-rolled weapon from this archetype can be competitive in good hands.

The mid-impact archetype is the awkward step-child of the shotgun class. Not quite powerful enough to kill in 10 pellets or less against full armor targets, but not quite fast enough to put out multiple shots in rapid succession, these shotguns struggle in the current meta. Well-rolled variants can be fun to use, and they aren’t completely out of place in PvE, but in general a higher-impact model would be preferable.

The low-impact subclass has done away with the heavy stopping power and high range of other shotguns, and instead decided to go all the way with RoF. The Burden of Proof XI or Stolen Will, perhaps two of the most common versions of this archetype, can fire two rounds to every one for the CT-D, showing you where they have the advantage. Although you won’t be hitting targets from as far away, they’re very good as engaging multiple enemies while up close and personal.

Perks

Most shotguns benefit from barrel perks that increase impact and range, like Linear Compensator, Accurized Ballistics, and Field Choke. Smooth Ballistics can also be used to boost range, but you won’t get the benefit of each pellet doing extra damage. On most shotguns, Aggressive Ballistics is inferior to these other options, due to it decreasing the range, but some models, like the PC+1, can actually still hit the range cap of 32, provided they have one of the next perks listed.

Rifled Barrel and Reinforced Barrel are the two perks you want to look for on every shotgun, and if you can combine those with one of the aforementioned barrel perks, and Rangefinder, you’ve got yourself a god-roll. If not, any other perk that increases range will be something to look for, as you always want to be pushing out that distance at which you can get a one-shot kill.

Sidearms

Some of the most criminally underused weapons in the game, sidearms have, for the most part, been overshadowed by the other special weapon classes. Despite not really serving a purpose in PvE, those weapons are actually quite useful in PvP, especially when paired with a long range primary like a scout rifle, pulse rifle, or even No Land Beyond. Even though the database doesn’t show this, there are actually three classifications of sidearms.

The first is the classic sidearm, seen in the Vestian Dynasty from year 1, and the Queen’s Choice from year 2. These sidearms are characterized by insanely high damage output: 63 per headshot and 50 per body. This means it only takes four shots to either the head or the body to kill, giving them a total time-to-kill of 0.60 seconds, which can compete with The Last Word at close range. Unfortunately, this archetype is also non-hitscan, which means the projectiles have travel time, similar to fusion rifles, but much faster. This isn’t the biggest deal, as one can learn to play with it in time, but it is extremely sensitive to connection issues, which can result in an infuriating number of missed shots.

The second archetype is the standard Hakke version, which thankfully is a hitscan weapon, but the trade-off is less damage per shot. These models do 55 per headshot, 44 per body shot, which allows them to maintain the 0.60 second critical shot TtK, but the body shot TtK drops to 0.80 seconds. These are probably the most popular sidearms in use today, with the New Monarchy and Vanguard vendors each selling a model, and Iron Banner offering one as a reward.

The last archetype is a strange mix. It does more damage, like the classic sidearms, hitting for 60 critical damage and 48 body, but it actually has a slower RoF than either of the previous classes, which gives it a critical TtK of 0.70 seconds, and a body shot TtK of 0.93 seconds. I personally don’t recommend this class as much, since the slower RoF can be a hindrance in desperate situations. Plus, out of the two options in this clas, only the Havoc Pigeon is hitscan, while the the Crow’s Eye is not.

Perks

A barrel perk that increases impact and range is usually helpful. If you aren’t offered the option of barrel perks, and instead are looking at sights, TrueSight and SureShot seem to be the two best, due to the boosts to aim assist. I also like any perk that boosts range, like Rangefinder or Hand Loaded. Perks like Battle Runner, Reactive Reload, and Crowd Control also have great synergy with the fast play style that comes with using a sidearm.

Fusion Rifles

One of the strongest weapon classes in the game in Vanilla Destiny, the fusions suffered through a long dark age, and have only recently begun to reemerge. In PvE they are also surprisingly fun, providing an interesting way to look at encounters that you won’t normally see through a sniper’s scope. In the current meta, there are several distinct trains of thought that deal with fusion rifles, and a specific archetype that fits neatly in each.

The very high-impact archetype is the first up for discussion today. People who play with these FRs favor long charge times and high impact on their weapons, hoping to kill opponents with four bolts out a the seven fired in a burst. The Dead Orbit vendor Hitchhiker is an example of this, as is the Darkblade’s Spite, which drops from the Sunless Cell strike. Midha’s Reckoning can find itself in this archetype thanks to some handle barrel perks that increase the impact, but those are the only three current representatives. These weapons generally have high base range, and low stability and aim assist.

Directly beneath them is the high-impact archetype, which includes the Thesan FR4 and The Vacancy models. Before the most recent FR buff, these fusions were kings of the court, due to their high base stability which allowed them to have very tight bolt spreads. Since the buff, people have begun to spread out and experiment with the different subclasses, but I still think these are some of the best all around FRs in the game. Coupled with a range increasing perk, this class has excellent stats in every category, or you can nearly max out the stability for an incredibly easy to control burst pattern. High base aim assist and a faster charge time than their very-high impact neighbors means these fusions come close to being the best of all worlds.

Next up is the mid-impact class of fusions, encompassing such Guardian favorites as Susanoo, Ashraven’s Flight, and Panta Rhei. Although these FRs don’t have the best stat combinations (all of them are basically in the above to below average groupings), they do offer some of the quickest 5 bolt kills in the game. This fact has caused something of an exodus from the higher-impact models to these, as players seek out the fastest charging fusions without wanting to sacrifice bolts to kill.

Now we come down to the low-impact subclass, which encompasses The Vortex, Long Far Gone, and Split Shifter Pro. Although these fusions have some of the fastest charge rates in the game, they’re also wildly inconsistent in killing max armor Guardians, and they have low range and mostly average stability. The Split Shifter Pro takes 6 bolts to kill a normal Guardian at 200hp, while the LFG and Vortex are right on the cusp, only being able to do exactly 200 damage with 5 bolts. Most people tend to stay away from these in competitive game modes, instead favoring them in more casual play. Telesto is also in this group, but because it’s the besto (meaning the bolts explode and push the damage for 5 bolts up to 210) I actually consider it a very fun weapon to use.

Perks

Look for aim assist increasing sights and Hidden Hand, but what else you use will be dependent on what you’re looking for in a fusion rifle. If you want to get the fastest charge rate out of you FR, Accelerated Coils is going to be your bread and butter (but make sure you aren’t at an impact level where it will increase your bolts needed to kill, as it does slightly decrease the damage per bolt). If you want to max range, then Rifled Barrel is what you need. Going for max stability? Braced Frame is where it’s at. All in all, I highly recommend perks which do not hurt either range or stability, as you want as much of each of those as possible. Perks like Hip Fire, Life Support, and Grenadier are also always useful.

Mercules904
Author of Massive Breakdowns, Crucible enthusiast, recovering re-roll addict.