Published on: Jul 6, 2015 @ 21:17
For Crucible enthusiasts, the advantages of Sniper Rifles are manifold. Since their heyday in Bungie’s Halo series, Snipers have given players who are patient and precise an edge over opponents who simply rush into combat without thinking.
In Destiny, the combination of unrivaled accuracy, immediate lethality, and the ability to control the flow of play makes them a scary tool in the hands of an adept user.
Of course, all of this comes with arguably the greatest skill curve of any weapon in Destiny. A Sniper might as well be a giant paperweight when you can’t land your shots. To this end, most of us are probably better off with a Shotgun – and with the stupidly easy “point and kill” high-range variants readily available, taking the time to master a Sniper is a daunting task. Fortunately, Patrick Casey did a fantastic video breakdown with his own tips, and this article will attempt to expand on his thoughts.
The Best Sniper Rifle?
Sniper rifles are not created equally. The PvP metagame and balance changes have been kinder to some than to others. The short version is: medium-RoF, medium-Impact is the best. The reasons for this are a bit more complicated.
First, you have to consider TTK. Every Sniper Rifle, regardless of its Impact class, is a one-hit kill when scoring a headshot on an unshielded enemy. If your primary focus in the Crucible is 6v6 matches like Iron Banner or even everyday Control playlists, you’ll be a lot less concerned about encountering shielded Guardians. If you aren’t a pro, then you at least want to be sure that you can score a quick two-body-shot kill. With this said, certain Sniper Rifle variants begin to lose their appeal as we take into account more factors.
The first of these to ignore is the max RoF, lowest Impact class, which includes the Subtle Nudge DN7 and 20/20 AMR7. Both of these Snipers require three body shots to kill if you’re unable to score that precious headshot, which is simply unacceptable in a game mode in which Special Ammo is at a premium. Unless you’re a demigod who is frequently accused of aim-botting, or simply like to torture yourself, steer clear of these two. Fun fact: these low Impact variants can’t kill in 1 shot against The Ram!
The lower end of the “sweet spot” of RoF/Impact is the high-RoF, low-Impact Sniper, whose poster-child is the ubiquitous Praedyth’s Revenge. These Snipers are able to still fire extremely quickly, while still scoring that all-important two-shot kill when landing only body shots. As a result, they require more Stability if you’re pulling the trigger consecutively, and will appropriately punish anyone who can’t handle their kick. Eye of Sol, The Chosen, and the Amplified Geo-D6 all fit this bill. Unfortunately, while they have the appealing niche of having the quickest two-shot TTK, they can not kill a target with an overshield with a single headshot. For the Trials of Osiris, this is a considerable handicap, and would lead one to logically consider the next archetype…
The mid-RoF, mid-Impact class enlists a fairly small crew. These hit an important benchmark: being the first archetype of Sniper with a high enough Impact to one-shot a Guardian with an overshield. Of course, their RoF is slightly lower than that of the above, and they’re still unable to down Sunsingers and Bladedancers with a single headshot. To top it off, the Low-Grade Humility is the only new HoW weapon of this class that can be acquired and re-rolled, so your options a little limited. Dead Orbit’s Broken Truth must be won from RNG luck, and Patience and Time consumes an Exotic slot.
Patrick swears by the mid-low RoF, mid-high Impact class, and for good reason. It hits all the necessary thresholds, one-shotting an overshielded enemy with a well-placed crit, and being able to do the same to a recently resurrected Sunsinger or rampaging Bladedancer. If you’re bold enough to take on these dangerous challengers, then we have a few Snipers to recommend here. The PvE darling Icebreaker fits this bill, as well as the old standby Longbow Synthesis, Queen’s Wrath Her Benevolence, Vanguard LDR 5001, and Kellbreaker’s Shadow of Veils. While their kill time for body shots begins to lag considerably behind other Snipers, there is no better option for those who have taken the time to become a deadeye.
Finally, we have the two outliers remaining: Black Hammer and Efrideet’s Spear. Both of these Snipers do massive damage, often being able to finish off a Guardian who has lost the tiniest sliver of health by simply landing a body shot. This unfortunately comes at the cost of RoF, and most Guardians will have a chance to run away to safety by the time you train your scope on them for the killing blow. Efrideet’s, with its pitiful reserve ammunition, has been the culprit abusing the controversial Final Round to severely gimp the balance of Trials of Osiris and other competitive Crucible game modes. If you weren’t lucky enough to land this perk before the secret was out, you’re better off using almost any other Sniper Rifle.
Scoping Out the Competition
What’s a Sniper without a scope? You may already have a few go-to options here, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t give you our opinions on what will serve you best in the Crucible. We tend to abide by a couple principles: 1) Low-zoom beats out high-zoom every time, and 2) More stability is better. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to understand our reasoning with the following options:
In the first slot, you can get the Eagleeye, Sightsys, and Hawkeye. We find the Hawkeye the winner here, though by far not the best option for a Sniper Rifle. The mid-zoom scope and increased target acquisition are nice for a little more accuracy, providing you don’t mind having your FoV a little restricted.
In the second slot, you can choose between two Longview variants, and a Shortgaze scope. The lowest zoom Longview or Shortgaze work fine here. The former provides a little extra Stability and Range, while the latter has a quicker-than-normal ADS time with a nice low-zoom magnification, albeit with a hit to Stability. The boxy reticle frame could be appealing or a turn-off to you, depending your preferences.
In the third and final slot, you’ll receive one of two stellar scopes: the Tacsys and the Ambush. The Tacsys is a mid-zoom scope, but grants a hefty chunk of Stability, which can mean the difference between a good and great Sniper Rifle. It also has an appealing circular reticle frame that resembles that of the Icebreaker, so if you’re looking for a scope to ease you into PvP from your Icebreaker, this might be your favorite.
The Ambush is the choice of many of the best PvP Snipers in Destiny. It also provides increased Stability, as well as the lowest-zoom scope available, for peerless versatility and an unobstructed FoV. It is Patrick’s personal preference, and certainly the best or second best available scope.
We highly recommend you check out this analysis of how Aim Assistance functions for Sniper Rifles. It’s a comprehensive look at a mechanic that is widely misunderstood. We’ll simply say that Aim Assistance is a beneficial stat for a Sniper Rifle, providing a little extra “stick” once locked on to a target. The Eye of Sol, Her Benevolence, and Shadow of Veils have an appealing base amount of this stat, and this can be further enhanced with Hidden Hand.
Now, rather than listing every perk and our opinion of each, we’ll simply give you a rundown of the best available for each slot.
For your first option, the three best choices are Hidden Hand, Spray & Play, and Clown Cartridge. For those who are interested in using their Sniper as much as possible, Clown Cartridge is going to be the best choice. If you reload frequently, the occasional extra amount of ammo will keep you in the fight longer. Snipers prior to HoW could potentially roll it with Field Scout, and the result was an impressive extra two shots per magazine, occasionally. Spray & Play is great for those of us who aren’t as consummate a sniping force as Destiny’s elite PvP-ers. Your reload will be near instantaneous if you happen to empty the magazine and want to get back in the fight immediately. It also is a great choice in PvE, if you like your Sniper to have a little utility elsewhere. Hidden Hand grants an undisclosed amount of Aim Assistance, which you may or may not notice depending on your preferred scope and the base value of your particular Sniper.
In the second row, you’ll have to decide if you’re keen to buff a certain attribute of your base stats, or are looking to get an edge elsewhere. Perks like Snapshot, Single Point Sling, and Quickdraw offer boosts to engagement time that only Bladedancers using the appropriate perk can otherwise enjoy. Flared Magwell, Speed Reload, Hand-Laid Stock, and Injection Mold buff relevant stats like Reload Speed and Stability. Casket Mag is a heavy gamble; it’s a poor replacement for the sorely-missed Field Scout, taking Stability to depressing lows. If you’re using a high-RoF Sniper, you might find the kick of Casket Mag to be unmanageable, but the mag benefit is still there. Armor Piercing Rounds is not as potent as it once was, but can still penetrate through light cover for some rage-inducing kills.
For your third perk slot, the options aren’t too great. Your focus should be on landing some of the aforementioned perks. Here, Replenish, Grenadier, Performance Bonus, and Unflinching are worthy choices. Replenish and Performance Bonus offer sporadic chances to get some ammunition back, and Grenadier helps you actively recharge grenades if you throw them often. Unflinching is an interesting case. Many Guardians, including some of our readers, swear by its benefits – but Patrick is less credulous. In his testing, he’s found it to have minimal benefit at best, but we’ll hedge here and say that if you are certain you can notice a difference, it’s just as good a choice as any.
Special Note on Field Scout
If you still have a Sniper left over from your TDB days with Field Scout, do not get rid of it. As Field Scout is no longer available, it offers a huge edge over other Snipers. There’s simply no replacing the extra reserve ammunition and increased magazine size. Casket Mag doesn’t even come close. Field Scout is a game-changing perk with zero downside and is arguably one of the best perks available for a Sniper Rifle.
Once you’ve assembled your tool of destruction, it’s time to start playing! Unfortunately, there’s no magic way to become a good Sniper overnight. You have to practice, practice, practice. And then, when you go 2-12, and hurl your controller through your TV, you have to practice some more. Learn to become proficient at reading maps. The Crucible is a cramped experience, and not every map is ideal for Sniping. Get accustomed to learning spawns, finding choke points, and using your teammates to provide distraction and covering fire. You aren’t going to get any better if you’re constantly being flanked and dispatched before you have a chance to start shooting. A Sniper should be behind the front lines, be opportunistic, and exercise hit-and-run tactics. Once your game is evident, most Guardians aren’t going to line up and wait patiently to be dropped. You have to reposition and assert your dominance again.
If you’re having trouble aiming, try practicing limiting your scope movement to the horizontal axis. Learn to scope in so that you’re already aiming at head-level on your target. You can then fire a quick killshot by simply sweeping horizontally. If you don’t trust your right analog stick yet, strafing side-to-side is an excellent way to come out on top. You’ll simultaneously duck some damage while hopefully lining up your opponent’s head in time to pull the trigger. Twitch headshots are, of course, possible – and even commonplace with certain players – but trying to start here is a recipe for frustration.
Speaking of Twitch, don’t be put off by the streamers you see dominating; their experience and time dedicated to the game are what make them so good. If you stick to the basics, you’ll find that your comfort zone will rapidly expand. Patrick offers some sage advice for charting your progress: record yourself. Go back and watch videos of your own gameplay, and see where you’ve been excelling, and where you still need to improve. If you notice a trend of negatives, try to interrupt it in your next few games. This is the sort of dedication that will eventually make you a fine marksman.
Special Note on Sensitivity
If your reticle is carrying too far past your target, jerking around unnecessarily, or you’re playing on a big TV, you might need to lower your sensitivity. If it can’t keep up with your own movements, then you should consider raising it. Play around with it and find what works – but remember, you can’t make a judgment until you’ve gotten used to a new sensitivity, so be patient.
Your Favorite Sniper/Perks?
Everyone wants to be a good Sniper. It’s the ultimate expression of skill in the PvP universe. Sniper Rifles cut right to the chase, and separate the weak from the strong. To be rewarded by one, you have to be willing to take your lumps. Hopefully, this guide has given you enough tips to encourage your foray into sniping in the months to come. With the right gun, the right perks, and the right play, you’ll be well-equipped to handle the Trials of Osiris, and any challenges to come.
Did we miss anything? What’s your opinion on sniping, and do you have any favorite perks or builds? Or do you just want to rant against Final Round? Let us know in the comments!