Possibly the most balanced overall class of weapons in the game, each archetype has its own distinct purpose and optimal usage.
High impact scouts like the Cocytus SR4, Hand of Judgment, and Badger CCL are the riskiest, but most rewarding archetype in the game. While consistent critical shots grant one of the fastest PvP times-to-kill in the game (0.80 seconds with 3 crit shots), missing one or two shots will generally guarantee a death, as the body shot TtK drops to 1.60 seconds, and marks these weapons as some of the least forgiving primary options.
The mid impact archetype, made famous the God-rolled Hung Jury SR4, are not as competitive, but significantly easier to use. While their time-to-kill leans to the slow side, at 1.00 seconds, they only require 2 critical shots, and 2 body shots to kill. They’re easy to use, fantastic learner guns for anyone wanting to get into scouts, and probably the best all around archetype to use in PvE.
Next up, the “MIDA” archetype, of which MIDA Multi-Tool is the only representative. Finding a nice middle ground between the high and mid impact weapons, it requires 3 crit shots and 1 body to achieve the optimal TtK of 0.90 seconds, something made easier by the tremendous base aim assist value. Possibly one of the best guns in the current PvP meta, it’s highly recommended that anyone who is looking to make the jump to high level play give it a shot.
The lowest impact is characterized by four weapons: Touch of Malice, SUROS DIS-47, The Inward Lamp, and the NL Shadow 701X. Although they aren’t the strongest weapons in PvP, with a TtK of 0.93 seconds (4 crit and 1 body), their high magazine sizes and fast rate of fire tend to lend them nicely to PvE, especially when working on add cleanup or boss DPS. Certain builds can be viable in PvP, however, and I’ll talk about those below.
High and mid impact models benefit strongly from aim assist boosting sights, like Torch, Red Dot-OAS, and TrueSight IS, as well as at least one stability perk. I prefer Hand-laid Stock, due to most scouts coming with an abundance of excess range, but Perfect Balance and Smallbore are also fantastic options, when applicable. In PvP, Hidden Hand, Zen Moment, Life Support and Third Eye are all good to watch out for, while in PvE, Firefly and Triple Tap can combine for a perfect roll.
The lowest impact class differs significantly, in that Full Auto is one of the most sought after perks, combined with other stability enhancing measures. Full Auto allows a Guardian to maintain maximum RoF, while treating the gun as something akin to a high impact auto rifle with focus fire that does more damage at longer ranges.
Once the kings of the Crucible jungle, the auto rifles have been relegated to a mostly backseat role, as hand cannons, scouts, and pulse rifles have surged past them in competitive settings. Overall high times-to-kill, coupled with the necessity of staying within line-of-sight of the target for the duration of an engagement, seems to have pushed the majority of Guardians away from these weapons.
The high impact class, which used to have the ability to kill low armor guardians in 0.80 seconds, has had it’s damage cut back to the point where it finds itself bordering on useless in most situations. 0.93 seconds for an optimal time-to-kill is not enticing anyone, especially considering that damage drop off makes it unlikely you’ll be able to hit that anywhere outside of close range.
The mid impact class fares a little better, boasting a slightly faster time-to-kill of 0.90 seconds, much improved stability, and larger magazine sizes, but the damage drop off remains an issue. They aren’t the best weapons for close range, but they’re incapable of killing quickly enough outside of it, so they remain second tier in PvP.
The low impact subclass has seen a series of nerfs that have gradually decreased their previous dominance. Sitting at an optimal TtK of 0.86 seconds, it’s nearly impossible to hit the required 13 critical shots and 1 body shot to achieve that. As such most people rely on the insanely fast body shot TtK of 1.07 seconds, among the lowest in the game for that category. These weapons, including the Arminius-D, Doctrine of Passingg, and Soulstealer’s Claw, also deluge opponents with a massive amount of flinch, making it very difficult to counter them head-to-head with precision weapons like scouts and pulse rifles.
Almost all auto rifles benefit from the same choices: An aim assist increasing sight (SC Holo, Red-Dot OAS, etc), Counterbalance to make the recoil vertical and easier to control, and either Braced Frame or Smallbore for that extra bit of bonus stability. As for PvE, you’re best bet is to probably go with the Zhalo Supercell, or nothing at all. Auto rifles are not really very strong in that arena right now.
After the downfall or the auto rifles came the rise of the pulses, but it was short-lived. Blanket nerfs to stability and damage output left all but two of the archetypes in the dust, waiting to become useful again.
High impact pulse rifles still maintain the ability to kill in two bursts in rare scenarios, but the difficulty in pulling it off means it’s impossible to rely on.
Mid impact pulses were hit perhaps hardest of all, losing the ability to kill even the lowest armored guardian in two bursts, and pushing their optimal time-to-kill up to 1.00 seconds, out of the competitive range. With no redeeming qualities, they’re mostly neglected in PvP.
The low impact class houses the ever popular Hawksaw/PDX-45 family of pulse rifles, which are currently among the strongest primary weapons in the game, both in PvP and PvE. A rapid RoF, high aim assist, and great stability combine to make these weapons a force be reckoned with on all battlefields. The vendor currently sells a version of Hawksaw that is considered by most to be nearly a perfect roll, and you’d be hardpressed to do better than Bad Juju in PvE.
That last archetype has only one legendary representative: Grasp of Malok. With the fastest TtK of the usable pulse rifles, it fires almost as quickly as an auto rifle, but with superior range. One of the most difficult guns to acquire with a great roll, it’s been highly sought after for months, and remains in my personal list of top five best weapons for the Crucible.
Most pulse rifles benefit from boosts to stability and range, and one should try to avoid increasing one at the cost of another. Smallbore, Perfect Balance, and Braced Frame all have their places here, along with the ever popular Counterbalance, used to remove the annoying sideways kick from a burst pattern. Other perks, like Headseeker, are exclusive to pulse rifles, and provide bonus damage to crit shots that follow a body shot in a burst. Aim assist boosting sights are always a good option for this class of weapon, as are sights that increase stability, like Red Dot-ORES and Red Dot-ORS1.
With the exception of the two most hated exotics in the game, for the longest time, these weapons were criminally under utilized. Then, before people even realized how good they could be, they were preemptively nerfed. Accuracy issues now abound, couple with an aggressive damage drop off system that rewards those bullets that don’t disappear at long range with far less than optimal damage values.
While the exotics are the least dominant they’ve ever been, and the legendaries are somewhat neutered, they’ve still somehow managed to worm their way into the competitive meta, and are very popular in both PvP and PvE. A large part of this is due to the high amount of damage per shot, but a secondary reason stems from the fact that, unlike most other weapons in the game, hand cannons are somewhat accurate in the air. This plays very nicely into the verticality aspect of Destiny’s gameplay, and enables a change-up from the most common engagement styles. The three archetypes are relatively balanced, both among themselves, and overall stat-wise.
The high impact subclass is very much a risk/reward archetype, just like with the high impact scouts. You have the possibility of killing low armor Guardians with two headshots in 0.50 seconds, but full armor opponents will take a third shot, bringing the TtK up to 1.00 seconds.
The mid impact archetype is by far the most popular currently, seeing as they tend to have the best base range (a stat which is widely believed to help combat the issue of bullets disappearing at longer distances), and they only require 1 critical shot and 2 body shots to kill in their optimal time of 0.87 seconds.
The low impact archetype has a faster optimal TtK of 0.80 seconds, but requires a 2 headshots and a body shot to kill, and are generally only usable at shorter distances.
Damage increasing perks like Crowd Control and Final Round work best or the high impact class, the only example of which is the Judith-D. This is so that you can more reliably kill Guardians in 2 shots, regardless of armor level. Mid impact hand cannons tend to need Rangefinder, and another range boosting perk to reach their full potential, while a third perk like Icarus and Hidden Hand can help to boost already high levels of in-air accuracy and aim assist.
Low impact hand cannons can be used to mimic a mid impact model by adding range stats, but I tend to focus more on stability, in order to benefit close range engagements. SureShot IS and TrueSight IS are considered the two best sights for all HCs, as they both boost aim assist, while simultaneously providing benefits to stability and handling.