This mornings post is something I have been kicking around in my head for awhile. If you have read any of my blog over the last few years, you will already know that I am nigh obsessed with Destiny. I am not exactly sure what it is about this game that draws me to it so much, but I am smitten. One of the big problems however is that it can be more than a little obtuse for new players. There are so many things that you COULD be doing… that it is sometimes hard to identify what it is that you SHOULD be doing. One of the key goals in the game is the improving of your light level, which is for all intents and purposes exactly the same thing as the modern MMO concept of item level. Higher light level means you simply perform better, in having slightly better stats on your gear… as well as doing more damage. Your light level also dictates how well you will perform against the various levels of content in the game from Patrols, to Strikes, to Raids each with their own suggested light levels.
Now throughout Taken King I raided with then Axioma Clan and now Tequila Mockingbird, but with the release of Rise of Iron I simply haven’t been able to align my schedule to be available for raiding… given that for a lot of it I have been raiding in two other games. That did not however change my desire to keep improving and bumping my gear towards the currently light cap of 400. Over the break I managed to push my Titan main to 400 light, and my Warlock and Hunter are lagging slightly behind at 399 and 398 respectively. I managed to do this entirely through doing solo content with a few hours per sitting of time invested, and honestly… I did it mostly wrong. The problem with Destiny information is that most of it that you will find are either in insanely long and difficult to parse Reddit posts, or in a plethora of YouTube videos that you have to listen to a few times to really grok what they are saying. What doesn’t really help is that most of the “get to 400” information is targeted at folks who ground it up as soon as the game came out and are now trying to explain how it was that they got there. I have the benefit of having just reached 400 light on my Playstation Main… and am now slogging my way back there on my alternate Xbox One account.
New To Destiny
One of the problems with Destiny is that it is really bad at on-boarding new players. At this point there are likely two different categories of players that might be looking at this guide. Firstly they purchased the game at launch, played it… got frustrated and are now contemplating coming back. Second is that they never got into it… and want to get started but find all of the options for purchasing the game confusing. Regardless you are likely honestly wanting the Destiny Collection, which is a set that includes all content released to this point and will upgrade existing accounts to bring them current. Please note that you absolutely want to be current because honestly Destiny does not function nicely if you are not up to the latest version of the game. Largely speaking you are simply limited in what you can do… and this guide of sorts is going to focus on players you are caught up to the Rise of Iron release of the game. The other confusing thing is that long term Destiny players like myself tend to refer to things as years. So for the sake of clarification…
- Destiny Original Release
- Dark Below Expansion
- House of Wolves Expansion
- The Taken King Release
- The Rise of Iron Release
Now your first instinct is going to be that you need to play through all of the original content, then all of the Dark Below content, then all of the House of Wolves content, then the Taken King content, and finally end up with Rise of Iron. On this I am torn because I absolutely think it is worth playing through all of the content available, especially the two expansions from year one because they are going to give you bits of information that will help to fill in gaps in your knowledge as you do various strikes. However started at Year One and leveling your way slowly to Year Three is probably the least efficient way that you can be playing this game. From the standpoint of getting to 400 light… literally everything that happens in Year One is going to be of no long term use to you other than taking up space in your vault as a collectible.
The Infusion System
For the most part Year One was full of a lot of mistakes on how to make content that ages gracefully, and with Year Two they introduced the infusion system allowing you to essentially grow your weapons and armor with you by infusing items into them. Thankfully if you are coming into the game now, you also missed a completely frustrating grind that was the infusion calculation system because during most of Year Two this was an extremely lossy system. For example if you took a 300 light item and infused a 308 light item into it… you were likely going to end up with a 304 light item as a result. With an update in 2015 they shifted this so that infusion was a one for one increase… meaning if you took that same 300 light item and infused a 300 light item into it… you wound up with a 308 light item. However this only applies to items that dropped from Year 2 or Year 3 content… meaning everything from Year 1 will functionally be locked at the gear levels from that era.
Boosting to the Rescue
The other main problem with playing through content as it was designed is that your light levels are going to increase extremely slowly. Destiny is confusing in that it has physical levels… and light levels. When you finish the base game you will be sitting at around physical level 14… and completing both Dark Below and House of Wolves should be able to take you to level 20 without much issue. Taken King content opens at level 20… and takes you to physical level 40. However upon exiting the content you are going to be sitting somewhere around 180-200 light. The Rise of Iron content expects you to be at a minimum of 280 light level, which was the Year 2 floor for being completely outfitted in beginner Legendary gear. If we imagine that you are at 200 light, it is going to take an awful lot of grinding older content to get to 280 and again… that is largely going to be wasted time since the goal has moved on you and are looking at 400 light as the new target.
Buying either Rise of Iron or the Collection both give you a boost that you can use to take your character to level 40… and also outfit them in a full set of 280 blue gear, instantly giving you access to start the newest content. If you want to see the older content, I honestly at this point suggest going ahead and boosting and then just playing through it for the sake of seeing the story… knowing that the only thing of use that you are going to get out of it is some engrams. For the sake of speed and getting you on the path to 400 light fastest… I also suggest playing through the Rise of Iron story as soon as you reasonably can. I did it last night on my 280ish geared Xbox One character and had no real problem making it through the missions. That said… I play a lot of Destiny and there are a few places where the missions can be a little brutal like during the final fight of the opening Rise of Iron mission. However completing the Rise of Iron is going to outfit your character in a full set of 320 blue gear, putting you on a much better ground for starting the push to 400 light.
Another concept that you are going to need to learn is that the game rations how much light you can get from certain content. As a result I am going to give you some advice that is going to seem counter intuitive at first. Don’t decode Blue, Purple or god forbid Orange engrams while you are leveling. The temptation is going to be great to rush over to the Cryptarch and see what new and shiny loot you get… but that effort is going to be wasted for the most part until you are at least ready to begin the light push in proper. You are going to ultimately thank yourself later once you reach certain light plateaus that you have a much needed boost waiting for you in the bank. I am going to lay out the various light plateaus and then talk you through them.
- Blue (Rare) Engrams – These Max out at 365 light
- Purple (Lengendary) Engrams – These Max out at 385 light
- Faction Package Loot – These Max out at 390 light
- Orange (Exotic) Engrams – These Max out at 400 light with some caveats
- “End Game Activities” – Max out at 400 light
The general theory being that you hold all of your engrams until you are at least to the 320 light level that you exit Rise of Iron with. From there you decrypt your blues and do so in a slow and methodical faction. Light level is an average, and your engrams will decode to the same light or slightly higher than whatever your current light level happens to be. So that means as you decode them you want to be doing so as evenly as possible. So you might decode a helm… equip it, and then decode a chest piece… equip it… then a weapon… equip it. Essentially you are trying to stair step up your light as much as you can before decoding the next engram. When you hit 365 light in every slot… you start working on your purples and do the same stair stepping manor until you have everything sitting at 385. Then… you really do not touch your exotics until you have hit 390 loot off of faction packages. Finally and this one gets awkward quickly… you decode exotics until you reach around 399. There seems to be a bug in place where once you get past 399 you stop reliably getting upgrades from Exotics. Sure you can get 400s… but during my most recent slot I would say 80% or so of the exotics I decrypted sat at 399 light instead of going on up to 400 making it heartbreaking. I saved the remaining exotics for after I actually hit 400 to use as infusion fodder.
Bridging the Gaps
Quite simply put… there is no way you are going to have enough engrams to get you all of the way through the light leveling process. This is where all of the other activities come into play. I personally did a ton of bounties to help start getting me faction packages along the way. In the above image you see three types of bounties, the first row being the new Strike Bounties that will give you reputation with the Vanguard and your chosen faction that you should have joined by now… Dead Orbit/Future War Cult/New Monarchy. The middle row are the traditional Vanguard Packages that can be completed anywhere in the game and these give Vanguard and Faction reputation same as the strike bounties. The last row are the Crucible bounties that give you reputation with Lord Shax, but pay special attention to these because some of them require you to be a member of a fire team…. and while technically every group is a fire team… they mean one that you formed yourself. Here is an attempt at a list of the things that you can do to get past various light plateaus.
365 Light Barrier
- Blue (Rare) Engrams
- Siva Crisis Strike List
Side note during this grind… Siva Crisis Strike list also has the ability to drop Skeleton Keys used to open the Hoard Chests at the end of the strike. Once again hold these in reserve because you are going to need the light boost to hit 400 and each chest you open will reward you one Legendary and one Rare item up to 400 light. So start stockpiling keys now as you go through this process.
385 Light Barrier
- Purple (Legendary) Engrams
- Archon’s Forge event in Plaguelands Patrol Zone
- Heroic Siva Crisis Strike List
- Normal Mode Wrath of the Machine Raid
While this is a guide largely targeted at soloing your way to 400 light… I did include the raid content in the list because it also bridges the gap if that is something you have the opportunity to run easily.
390 Light Barrier
- Package Loot
- Vanguard – Tower
- Crucible – Tower
- Faction (Dead Orbit/Future War Cult/New Monarchy) – Tower
- Gunsmith – Tower
- Eris Morn – Tower
- Variks – Reef
- Petra Venj – Reef
Now of note… while you are getting to this point you are going to start getting package loot already. There is no real way to hold multiple packages in reserve, and you need to be watching your faction ranks manually because as far as I know when you gain a new rank… and have not collected the previous faction package it is lost. Now I have not experienced this personally, but it is the wisdom of the community that this is apparently a thing that can happen. This is especially important when you are grinding out a bunch of Crucible matches or Strikes in a row… because the faction goes quickly if you are not watching it.
400 Light Barrier
- Orange (Exotic) Engrams
- Archon’s Forge – Ghost and Artifact slots only
- Crucible Matches
- Strike Hoard Chests – Requires 1 Skeleton Key each
- Iron Banner – Monthly Crucible Event
- Nightfall Strike – Once Weekly Per Character
- Trials of Osiris – Serious Team vs Team Event
- Hard Mode Wrath of the Machine Raid
So something important of note… Rise of Iron came out in September and I am just now hitting the level 400 light cap. I am slow as hell and I did not do things in the most opportune fashion. I broke every single rule that I lined out in this guide, because I was not super focused on getting there as quickly as possible. However expect that each step in this ladder is probably going to take twice as long as the last step, with the last 10 points taking easily the longest if you don’t have access to something like the raid… or a team that can carry you to the tower each week in Trials of Osiris. Your absolute best bet is going to be something like the Iron Banner which has a really good drop rate for gear. The gotcha there however is that each month the Lady Efrideet (pictured above) only brings a few items to the tournament.
This past Iron Banner for example she brought Class Items, Helms, Fusion Rifles and Scout Rifles, so when you add to it the chance of an Artifact or Ghost Shell dropping which is always the case with Iron Banner that gives you six possible items you can get at the end of matches, out of the total 10 slots that you eventually need to raise your light. There are also four bounties that you can complete each time the event runs, and two reward gear drops, and the other two reward weapon drops… that can drop something that in the current months assortment of items. The absolute best case scenario is that you save these until the end of the week because they will reward you based on your current equipped light levels… and hopefully by the end of the tournament you will have bumped up your light a bit. There is also a catch up mechanic that makes gaining faction with the Iron Banner faster on your alts, so in theory I try and run multiple characters through at a time to get more than one set of these packages. However you are going to have to stomach the crucible, so if you are a strictly non-pvp player this might be a step too far for you.
The Missing Pieces
Ultimately whatever path you choose, there is likely going to be a point where you cannot get the drop you need to take you from 399 to 400. For me that item slot was my Heavy Weapon, and nothing I did seemed to be willing to drop one. I finally got it from decoding a Legendary engram, which of note… there is always a slight chance that Rares upgrade into Legendary and Legendary into Exotics. Hell yesterday I even managed to pull a 400 Mida Multitool off of a Rare Primary Engram… so that is also a thing, but just don’t bank on that actually happening. Where the Hoard Chests at the end of strikes come in handy is that each one of them has a chance of dropping a specific set of loot, with a loot table of generally only a couple of items per chest available. The below image is from an excellent reddit post where they took the time to format all of the information in which item drops from which Hoard chest in table form.
If you are interested in which specific drops come from which specific chest… then I suggest you check out this visual guide both of these I am simply referencing for the sake of space and my sanity rather than recreating in blog form. I have recently been chaining strikes in the effort to get an Imago Loop with a decent roll for example. Regardless you should be able to target specific strikes in spending those keys that I hope at this point you have stockpiled and get yourself the rest of the way to 400 in no time.
But What About Xur?
Honestly I largely left Xur off the initial list… because honestly you never know from week to week if he is going to bring something useful. When you take that can combine it with the fact that for the last two weeks Xur has not brought Three of Coins… it feels like his purpose is a bit up in the air at the moment. Previously Three of Coins was a bizarre stacking buff system that made it so that you had an increasing chance of getting an exotic engram to drop any time you killed an ultra, or completed a crucible match. Traditionally this was the thing that I saved my Strange Coins for… and popped one anytime I was chain running Crucible or Strike content. It has problems but it is a nice way of increasing the chance especially new players have of seeing interesting loot. As far as the items he brings, in Year 3 they are all 350 light level and I absolutely abused this fact on my Xbox One account to get a short term boost in light and also provide me with a decent weapon to finish content on. Each week Xur brings one weapon, one warlock armor, one hunter armor and one titan armor. The combination of things you can get however are like I said at the start totally random… and some of the exotic rolls are notoriously bad like bringing items with straight intellect or discipline rolls making it hard to balance your gear around that. They can of course be re-rolled using Glass Needles that he also sells, and recently he has started selling Exotic Shards making upgrading those Exotics lining your bank significantly easier. Essentially I check one of the many youtubers Xur videos Friday morning, or hit WhereIsXur.com to see what he is selling an determine if I care about it for the weekend. Traditionally speaking Saturday night after we recorded our Podcast I would pop over and liquidate my stock of Strange Coins into Three of Coins. He arrives in the wee hours of Friday morning, and disappears in the wee hours of Sunday morning, so you have a limited chance to get items from him, but it is definitely something worth checking out. I just wouldn’t count on actually getting something you needed from him.