Destiny Optimal Build for Nightfall and Raids

Destiny Optimal Build for Nightfall and Raids by cgmcnama

Optimizing 1st Character for Nightfalls/Raids


The purpose of this strategy is to maximize your equipment options right when you hit level 20. This will help you complete Iron Banner, Nightfalls, Raids, and other objectives as early as possible. This will not be your final loadout but open up paths to end game equipment. It is using the same amount of resources as other players but in a more strategic manner to emphasize a late game power spike at Level 20.


I really liked challenging myself and playing on low levels versus bosses. I make self rules like: only using equipment enemies dropped or never using rewards/engrams. I didn’t think much of it until I hit Level 8 (the Beta cap) and had amazing gear! This is because the game rewards are usually tied to level. By saving my rewards until the end, I received a massive power spike at the level cap which helped me for farming better items and special events where gear mattered. (Iron Banner). This short guide is aimed at helping you reach a similar power spike at Level 20 when you want to do Quests, Iron Banners, Nightfalls, and Raids.


I tend to shade towards the extreme in games like this but you should be fine if do just one thing: Save blue engrams or rarer until Level 20 . Your Vault can store items between characters and holds up to 20 weapons, 20 armor, and 20 items. Dismantle excess items and keep only 2-3 items per category on your person that you want. The rest is space for engrams. A brief over view of engrams are (in order of rarity):

  • White Encoded Engram (Basic): Usually no upgrades. Decrypt these as they aren’t going to be of much value at Level 20.
  • Green Encrypted Engram (Uncommon): Common with a few upgrades like scope, damage, and maybe something else. I would at least keep these early in your Vault until you have better ones to cash in. Especially if you have the Pre-order Bonus where you get the Vanguard Armory (basic weapons and armor set at Level 10). I’m probably going to cash them in around Level 15 to help smooth out my power spike. I don’t think they will be too valuable at Level 20 and should supplement the rare engrams you are saving.
  • Blue Decoherent Engram (Rare): At the very least, if you are following this strategy, you should keep these Engrams. We didn’t see too many of these in the Beta but basically more upgrade options and you start to use more then just Glimmer (currency) to upgrade.
  • Purple Legendary Engram (Legendary): Contrary to logic, Exotic is better then legendary. Legendary is the reward for a lot of in game quests/missions. They start having unique perks.
  • Yellow Exotic Engram (Exotic): They have more upgrade slots and abilities on them but they might not always be the best. For instance, Warlock seems to heavily favor Hand Cannons and Fusion Rifles but I really love the Assault Rifles so that is a wasted perk for me.

While the engram typically correlates to the corresponding gear rarity it is not always true. Sometimes when you disenchant a uncommon (green) it will give you an upgraded rare (blue) item. I assume this is also possible with the other engrams.


  • Difficulty – Play on your desired difficulty level but the XP payoffs usually aren’t worth it on Hard unless you are running with a Fireteam. It just takes so much longer when you do it solo and doesn’t result in more item drops. Additionally, only a small amount of enemies (those past the Restricted Zones) are affected by this buff and the rest are worth the same XP regardless.
  • Leveling Up – Leveling up shouldn’t be that difficult to do. While Beta was able to level up faster the Dev’s have stated that it isn’t meant to be challenging to hit Level 20. The game essentially starts at 20 because it is actually a soft cap that can be exceeded with gear. All you need to know is that it shouldn’t be that hard to reach Level 20.
  • Events – Throughout the single player there will be event rewards for beating a level. You can see the reward on the level screen so as a rule of thumb, take common (white) items and all else is up to you. Personally, I am not taking uncommon weapons because I want more options at Level 20. Examples of Event rewards are:
    • Level 1-1 – Normal breastplate and weapon from your class leader and gunsmith. Not tied to level. Also Spaceship (which you didn’t need to re-launch to Earth. Weird)
    • Level 1-3 You can choose between 3 pieces of normal armor for from respective class leader. Tied to level.
    • Level 1-5 – Normal Heavy weapon. Tied to level.
    • Level 2-1 – The Moon! Uncommon Special weapon tied to level.
  • Golden Chests – Golden chests appear to be set rewards sometimes tied to level and sometimes irrelevant. For instance, getting 5/5 chests on Earth unlocks a faster speeder. Unlocking 2/5 chests on the moon gives you a Jade Rabbit Player Banner. (Earth contained an common class Gauntlet, Baron RS/2a (common), Basic class armor, (Psi Tempous III (Uncommon))[], S-22 Class Specific Sparrow. The Moon contained (Nox Cantor III (Uncommon))[] and a Jade Rabbit Banner.) Personally, I’m not hunting Golden Chests until I am at least level 15 for the power spike but more likely level 20 as they are one time rewards and not worth the risk to me. I’ll probably hunt them down when I am farming “Motes of Light” to help me exceed the soft cap of 20.
  • Cryptarach: This is the person you trade engrams for items. When you reach certain levels he leaves a package for you in the Post Office. You used to be able to exploit this in the Beta but I imagine this was one of the things patched. Ultimately, you aren’t losing anything from saving Engrams as you will cash them in at 20 for the same effect. The one consideration you might make is if you see blue or better engrams offered for sale. People dumped all their Glimmer (currency) on green engrams in the Beta but that was because there was nothing else to spend them on. I’m holding on to me Glimmer until I see the full release or at least blue engrams.
  • Materials: We still don’t know what materials are used to upgrade weapons and what are quest specific. Outside of Glimmer, I would hesitate to use any materials to upgrade your weapons until Level 20. If following this strategy, this would only apply to rare or higher items you loot or are rewarded with after missions. Keep in mind that for Exotic & Legendary pieces there are usually 3 separate upgrades ,that require different materials , to max its defense or attack.
  • When to Cash Engrams – If you notice you are running out of space for Engrams and want to cash it in at an ideal time the short answer is level 15. Prior to Level 10 you won’t need the gear and you won’t have a full vault. At Level 10, if you pre-ordered, you have the Level 10 Vanguard Armory which is a full uncommon (green) loadout. This will carry you to at least Level 15 where you might want some more items and Vault space. If you hit some bad drops and you are struggling you can still feel fre to cash them in.
  • Bounties – After you hit Level 6 you can start accepting Bounties. You can hold up to 5 but only 3 PvE bounties are issued per day. (or technically every 18 hours I believe) If you complete them, you can prolong cashing them in until level 20 (or after you have weapons to level up) as they give A LOT of experience to your gear when you redeem them. Ideally you would have 3-5 completed bounties ready at Level 20 when you cash your engrams but don’t refrain from taking new quests just so you have 5 completed quests when you hit 20.

My Initial Endgame Build

Ultimately I decided to go with Warlock because when I reach Raid bosses at level 25+ I will be one shotted regardless of Titan armor or not. I love the Hunter for PvP but the lack of AOE bothers me for early Raids. Their Vortex is just so strong damage wise and it can be added to their Grenades and Super Nova for extraordinary damage.

My build emphasizes persistent damage over time for grenades and Nova Bombs. Additionally, skill usages and kills reduce cooldowns allowing me to use them more. Skill trees are focused on toughness as I figure blink will be agile enough for me. Gear doesn’t have stats listed on DestinyDB (RNG element) so any legendary armor is the same right now. However, I will try to max Light (higher levels), Intelligence (Lower Super cooldown), Discipline (Lower Grenade cooldown), and Strength (Lower Melee cooldown), in that order.NOTE:* You can only equip one exotic weapon and piece of gear)

This weapon layout also gives me all elemental types. Arc (Heavy), Solar (Special), and Void (Primary/Abilities) but are my ownpersonal choices. There is some RNG on some weapons but I think selecting a few good ones to aim for is more productive then going in blind. Head on over to DestinyDB to compare weapons yourself or some weapon overviews by type…

Other Weapons To Consider (Videos by MTashED)

Primary Special Weapons Heavy Weapons Exceptions
Hand Cannon Shotgun Machine Gun Primary Shotgun
Auto Rifle Fusion Rifle Rocket Launcher Primary Fusion Rifle
Pulse Rifle Sniper
Scout Rifle

Raid Strategy

You’re not going to get that information here as it as this thread is to focus on prepping for early runs. A separate guide, after launch will be needed to outline a definitive strategy like composition, loadouts, etc. In the meantime, I think Datto does a pretty good job outlining Raids (with WoW examples). as well as endgame content that we know of so far. I think Raids will ultimately come down to grinding through mobs and figuring out the “puzzle” or “trick” in order to progress. Nightfalls will be the damage reduction penalty when enemies are higher then you and random enemy bonuses the players need to figure out.

TLDR; This strategy emphasizes a late game power spike and helps with early Raids and Nightfalls. Selectively hold your rewards (especially engrams) until level 20 to optimize your loot. Plan end game loadouts to collect while farming “Motes of Light”

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One Response to “Destiny Optimal Build for Nightfall and Raids”

  1. Plan C is a special weapon. So your guide here is a little confusing. Fusion Rifle =/= Heavy weapon. I have the Plan C. Its in my special slot as we speak.

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