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How to get ready for Destiny: Rise of Iron’s Wrath of the Machine raid

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Get that Light up, Guardian

Destiny: Rise of Iron three Guardians Bungie/Activision

The Rise of Iron expansion for Destiny dropped on Tuesday, and the expansion’s endgame raid, Wrath of the Machine, opens up this Friday, Sept. 23, at 10 a.m. PT. The first week’s lockout will reset on Sept. 27, so the opportunity will be gone if you haven’t cleared the raid by then. You’ll fall behind the most elite players.

Bungie’s marketing will still tell you that your Guardian is a legend even if you don’t clear the raid. But you’ll know it isn’t true.

Here’s how to get raid-ready.

Get your Light up

As always, Light is the stat that dictates everything that matters about your character in Destiny.

It determines how much damage your weapons do. It determines how much defense your armor offers. It dictates how many cooldown-reducing stat points you can get. And, if an activity has a higher Light level than your Guardian, your damage in that activity is reduced by about 3 percent for each point you find yourself below the recommended level.

The Light system had a major overhaul for the release of The Taken King, but Bungie didn’t change it this year. So, if you played The Taken King, you know how this works. If not, you may want to check out the explainer in last year’s guide.

The short version, however, is that you need to get your Light up to compete in endgame activities.

Here are the targets you’ll need to hit in Rise of Iron:

  • For the basic strike playlist, you need a Light level of 320. You should be well above this by the time you finish the Rise of Iron campaign.
  • You need a Light level of 350 for the heroic strike playlist and the daily heroic story mission.
  • For the weekly Nightfall strike, you need a Light level of 360.
  • The raid also starts at 360 Light. Enemies in the later fights of a raid typically have a higher Light level than those in the earlier fights, so you’ll want to get your Light as high as possible before tackling this.
  • If you’re a PvP player, and you enjoy Iron Banner or Trials of Osiris, you need to get your Light level as high as possible, because you will encounter players with the highest possible Light in those activities, and any deficit will put you at a disadvantage.

The new path to gear

In Destiny, the Light level of the drops you get is dictated by the quality of the gear you have, up to a cap that defines the maximum quality of gear a certain activity can provide.

That means that if you are Light level 350, and you’re doing an activity that can drop gear up to 365, the drops you will get will be between 351 and 354. If you do the same activity again when you’ve upgraded your gear to 354, you’ll probably get items with up to around 357 or 358 Light. You will continue to get incremental upgrades from repeating that activity until you hit 365 Light, which is the cap for that exercise.

After that, you’ll continue to get gear at 365 Light, but you’ll need to find an activity with a higher cap to raise your Light level further.

The path to raid-readiness was pretty simple at the launch of The Taken King: The cap at the expansion’s release for all activities outside the raid was 300 Light, and the maximum Light level of an item decoded from a blue, or rare-quality, engram was also 300. That meant that the most efficient way to get blue engrams was also the most efficient way to raise your Light to 300. The most efficient activity turned out to be grinding the basic strike playlist.

This year, things are a little more complicated. Blue engrams now decode to items with a maximum Light of 340. If you were playing The Taken King, you probably started Rise of Iron at close to 335 Light and, if you play through the new story campaign, you’ll get 340 Light gear for most of your slots as mission rewards.

That means blue engrams will not get you to the endgame this year — in fact, they’re obsolete as soon as you finish Rise of Iron’s campaign.

How to get from 340 to 350 Light

Last year, since the loot from basic strikes could get you all the way up to the pre-raid cap, there was no reason to bother with heroic strikes, which are harder and take longer. This year, the rewards make heroic strikes worthwhile. But before you can tackle them, you have to get to the recommended 350 Light.

You can plausibly just do the heroic strikes at 340 Light if you’re a very talented player with a good fireteam, but your damage will be reduced by about 30 percent. If you and some friends are up to the challenge, you may want to try it. Finding a random fireteam would likely end in disaster, however.

Destiny: Rise of Iron screenshots

Aside from that, the way you’re probably going to get to 350 is by decrypting Legendary/purple-quality engrams and Exotic/yellow-quality engrams. Exotic engrams have a chance to drop from bosses and major enemies when you use the Three of Coins consumables you can buy from Xur with the Strange Coin currency.

Legendary engrams can drop from any enemy, but are a lot rarer than blue engrams. They also have a fairly high chance — maybe one in three — to drop from strike bosses and public events.

Exotic engrams can decrypt into gear with Light as high as the current cap, which is 385 at the launch of Rise of Iron. Legendary engrams in Rise of Iron can decrypt into gear with up to 365 Light. However, the quality of the gear you get from engrams is dictated by the quality of the gear you’re wearing. If your gear is at 340 Light, your legendary and exotic engrams will decrypt in the 341 to 344 range.

So before you start decrypting, you’ll want to try to boost your Light a bit so your results will be better. There are several ways to do this.

  1. Vendors associated with the Vanguard, the Crucible and various Tower factions have updated inventory, and are selling legendary-quality gear with 350 Light. If you have a stash of Legendary Marks left over from The Taken King, you can spend them on some new gear. The ghost shell from the Vanguard is a good item to start with, because there are no legendary engrams for ghost shells, so it can be hard to raise the Light for your shell.
  2. When you finish the Rise of Iron campaign, Tyra Kar, the Cryptarch at the new Iron Temple social area, will give you a quest called “Champion of the Light,” which assigns you to perform “noble deeds” in the Plaguelands patrol zone. Basically, this means “do some bounties.” When you finish the quest, she’ll give you a 350 Light artifact.
  3. Shiro in the Iron Temple and Variks in the Reef will give you a 350 Light class item in exchange for a Legendary class item engram and some glimmer. If your Light level is low, this exchange is better than decrypting your engram, because your engram will decrypt into a class item well below 350 Light.
  4. When you finish the Rise of Iron campaign, you’ll get a quest at the Iron Temple called “Echoes of the Past.” This awards the newly updated Year 3 Gjallarhorn, which you get at 350 Light. Do this immediately.

Once you’ve got this stuff, you’ll just need to get 15-20 legendary engrams from strikes or Plaguelands patrols to raise your Light to 350.

Grind from 350 to 365 in heroic strikes

Okay, this is slightly confusing: Blue engrams decrypt to a maximum Light level of 340. However, strike bosses each drop two blue-quality items.

In the basic strike playlist, these items will usually have a very low Light level — often below 300. However, in heroic strikes, these blue items drop at up to 365. That means these blue boss drops in heroic strikes are basically the same as legendary engrams, which makes heroic strikes by far the most efficient activity for progressing between Light levels 350 and 365.

A word of caution: Heroic strikes are the hardest content for which Destiny provides random matchmaking, and they are difficult enough that a random teammate playing poorly may render your group unable to complete the strike. If you can, find a fireteam to play with on a matchmaking site like DestinyLFG or The100.io.

It wouldn’t be Destiny without cheese

Destiny players are notorious for finding shortcuts around the game’s mechanics, and the community has figured out a way that can yield more heroic strike blue drops than farming strikes the regular way. But your fireteam has to coordinate well enough to execute it.

Heroic strikes come with random combat modifiers that change every week. One kind of modifier is an elemental “burn,” which amplifies all damage of a certain element, coming from both players and enemies.

This is a lot of fun, because it makes weapons deal crazy amounts of damage, but it can also allow enemies to kill you nearly instantly. More importantly, the enhanced damage from elemental burns can make it possible to kill enemies who aren’t normally supposed to die.

Omnigul, the boss of the Will of Crota strike, is one such enemy. She appears throughout the strike to taunt your fireteam and summon waves of Hive enemies before retreating to her boss room.

At least, that’s what she’s supposed to do. However, the Taken King expansion added the Nightstalker subclass for Hunters, and their tether Super ability can hold Omnigul in place. With an elemental burn on, you can just melt her. The week of Rise of Iron’s release, heroic strikes are modified with arc burn, so the trick for now is to shred Omnigul with Boltcaster exotic swords while blasting her with Stormcaller lightning supers. It’s probably possible to do something similar when solar burn is active, using solar swords, Celestial Nighthawk Hunter supers, or Gjallarhorns.

When Omnigul dies before she retreats to her room, she drops loot, but killing her doesn’t trigger the end of the strike, so you can kill her and then wipe out your fireteam to reset the encounter and do it again — over and over again. Players have actually been killing Omnigul this way for the past year, in order to farm optimized rolls for the randomized perks on her strike-specific pulse rifle, the Grasp of Malok.

If you can kill her consistently in her hallway, you can shave hours off the process of gearing from 350 to 365. But you only get a few seconds to kill her before she breaks loose of the tether, and many of the enemies in the room spray arc damage at you, including Hive wizards and boomer knights. If your timing or positioning are off, someone will die, and you won’t have enough damage to kill her before she escapes.

If your fireteam can’t execute this tactic consistently, you won’t end up saving much time. But if you’re good, the loot is there for the taking.

Gearing beyond 365

Faction packages and exotic engrams can award gear up to the cap, 385 Light, and in Rise of Iron, faction packages are easier to get than ever before.

Patrol missions in the new Plaguelands zone award 50 Vanguard reputation, and 55 if you’re wearing a class item that increases your reputation gains. This is five times the reputation that you get for patrols in existing zones, and Plaguelands patrols are actually a more efficient source of Vanguard reputation than bounties or strike playlists.

You also get half of the reputation you earn for Vanguard as reputation for your Tower faction, so you get three packages for every 5,000 reputation you earn, or every 90 bounties you complete.

That sounds like a lot, but the Plaguelands is pretty small and the patrols shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes each.

Because faction packages continue to give you Light increases until 385, while legendary engrams and strike rewards cap out at 365, you may want to forgo redeeming the faction packages you earn while playing until you are at 365 Light.

Strike bosses also now sometimes drop Skeleton Keys, which open a chest that spawns at the end of the strike and contains strike-specific loot. The loot from these chests drops with Light levels up to 385, but the keys are quite rare. Grinding bounties for faction packages may be a more reliable way to get loot above 365 than grinding strikes for Skeleton Keys.

If you want to raid, 360 Light is your goal

So, to reiterate:

The recommended level for the raid is 360 Light. You start out at 340 when you finish the campaign. To get to 360, you should:

  1. Buy a 350 Light ghost shell, and maybe a piece of armor, with Legendary Marks.
  2. Earn a 350 Light artifact and exotic Gjallarhorn rocket launcher through quests at the Iron Temple.
  3. Find legendary engrams while patrolling the Plaguelands or running strikes. Decode these to get gear and raise your Light to 350.
  4. Farm heroic strikes for the blue items that drop from bosses. These can give you up to 365 Light. If you’re up to the challenge, you can save some time by “cheesing” Omnigul in the Will of Crota strike.
  5. Now you’re raid-ready, but you can also continue to raise your Light outside the raid with faction packages, exotic engrams and strike-specific loot.

Best of luck with leveling, and best of luck with the raid!