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Destiny 2 guide: Trials of the Nine

Modes, maps, strategies and rewards

Destiny 2 Trials of the Nine
Ryan Gilliam (he/him) has worked at Polygon for nearly seven years. He primarily spends his time writing guides for massively popular games like Diablo 4 & Destiny 2.

Trials of the Nine is Destiny 2’s most competitive multiplayer mode. Every week, from Friday to Monday, the world’s best Crucible players group up to take each other on. The first win of the week grants you access to a special social space, the Third Spire, where emissaries of the Nine will grant you powerful items.

The first win also starts your score card. Winning three, five and seven matches will give you free rewards when heading back to the Spire. If you lose three times, your card becomes void and you start all over again. Extremely good players will be able to win seven games without dropping even one, granting them access to the Third Spire itself and exclusive rewards. This is called going “Flawless.”

Teams go up against each other in a 4v4 match, so you have to be sure that you have your best friends with you. Communication is key, so if you can’t hear one of your teammates, you are essentially playing without a teammate.

While you could luck out and get nothing but bad teams (or the unfortunate opposite — nothing but god-tier players), you are going to be battling against even teams more often than not. Being in communication and aware is 90 percent of what it takes to win. The other 10 is making sure that you can actually hit a shot.

Trials of the Nine game modes

Trials of the Nine has two game modes that cycle week to week. Countdown and Survival.


Players familiar with Counter Strike: Global Offensive will have no problem getting acclimated to Countdown. For those not in the know, players will spawn as offense or defense. Offensive players must plant and defend a bomb at one of two bomb sites on the map. After about 60 seconds, the bomb will go off and attack wins. Defenders need to stop that from happening. The kicker? Everyone only has one life.

Countdown strategies

The key to Countdown is identifying what your squad is good at. That may sound stupid, but it is the first step you need to take if you want to hit that seven win ticket. Do you play well from behind? Let the enemy plant and then retake the point. Are you aggressive? Rush the attackers or jump on the point as soon as possible. There are many styles. Learning yours is the easiest way to win.

On attack, you want to find a route that works for you. Learn the map of the week and find a couple easy ways to either point. Maybe you want to surprise your enemies by taking the long way, or try to rush and win the ensuing firefight. Either way, having a strategy for planting each point is important.

Learning when to plant what is also crucial. Do you really want to try the same strategy three times? Maybe they won’t expect it. Or maybe you can fake them out by trying something new. It’s a gigantic mind game where you have to outsmart the enemy before the round even begins. The other crucial aspect of attack is being flexible. If you see that they are protecting one site more than the other, change your plan. It is a lot easier to hold a bomb site than take it by force.

For Defenders, split up at the start and watch a point. We usually split up into teams of two, but if the other team seemed to favor one point over the other, we would go three and one. This is where communication needs to happen. When the Attackers come marching in, take the shots that you can, but never at the cost of death. Tell your team where the enemies are and have them move to your position or go for the flank.

If you have to back off to save your life, do it. Letting the enemy plant is not disastrous. In fact, it happens in most rounds regardless of who wins. Once the enemy plants, you need to make your move. Do you risk the five seconds it takes to defuse? Probably not unless you have a Titan Barricade or two ready to go. Clear the enemies and then defuse the bomb.

Regardless of the side you are on in Countdown, understanding when to be flexible and when to hold your ground can be tough. Inevitably in PvP, these matches can come down to shooting, but the team that moves better and smarter usually wins the match.


Survival is a much simpler game mode than Countdown, with strategies that are far less defined. This mode is essentially deathmatch that works on a ticket system. Each team starts out with eight lives. Each time a team member dies and respawns, the team loses a life from their pool of eight. Once they are down to zero, no member on that team can respawn if they die. The first team to wipe the other in four rounds wins.

The only time this will change is if the timer runs out. When that happens, the team with the most lives in reserve will win. If each team has the same number of lives, a capture point will drop onto the map, forcing teams to control one area. The first team to control the point wins.

The strategy to Survival is also very simple: Don’t die. Stay with your team whenever possible. Team shooting (a term for you and an ally shooting at the same target) is crucial in this mode, as you can’t really afford to trade kills. Stay together as a group and lock down an area of the map.

Communication is key. Rather than communicating on where you need to rotate, you have to tell your teammates where enemies are. A enemy divided (unless they have a Super) should not be able to conquer you. However, if nobody is watching for your enemies, you can get shot in the back.

To say that you shouldn’t move around in Survival would be foolish. You have to play a very balanced game of cat and mouse. Lock down an area when appropriate and launch into a hunt. Feeling out when to move and when to rush will be different for each team, and it may also change depending on the style of your enemies.

Because revives seem to be rotational, you must push into your enemies as you deplete their lives. Once you kill them, they will usually spawn as far away from you as possible, meaning that you can rush them if you are prepared. Once you have the advantage, push your enemy so that they can never fully regroup or recover. Keep making that happen and you will walk away the winner.

Trials of the Nine maps

Each week, Trials of the Nine will rotate maps. Only one map is playable each week.


This is a small map located in Unknown Space. The big thing to know about Eternity is this: scout rifles. Eternity has some incredibly long range sight lines, leading to a lot of moving forward and shooting at an angle.

If you want to get good at this map, you need to have a good long game. Get the MIDA Multi-Tool with our guide. Know it, learn it, love it. Other scout rifles or even the Vigilance Wing pulse rifle can work, but MIDA is going to be your best friend here.

The MIDA Multi-Tool is the best scout rifle for PvP in the game, much like it was in Destiny. It is stable, allows you to keep the radar up at all times, gives you a speed increase and staggers enemies easily. It’s built for PvP and it’s simple to acquire, so abuse its power to take down your enemies.

Eternity map strategies

If you are reckless on Eternity, you can get shot and killed instantly even when peeking around a corner. Stay safe, and let the enemy come to you. If they get away, move spots and watch again.

Watching an area is easy, but sneaking is hard. If you are attacking, try and move unpredictably, pushing in and around corners to outflank your enemy. If you are on defense, make sure to watch your flanks and communicate.

However, the best teams on Eternity tend to find a way to flank the less experienced players, surrounding them until they get swallowed up. The easiest place to do this is the center area of the map, a kind of three-way junction between the left, back and right sides of Eternity. If you can learn how to control this area, you can get almost anywhere in a very short amount of time.

Emperor’s Respite

This is a small map located on Calus’ Leviathan ship, the same that we fought through in the Leviathan raid. Emperor’s Respite is all about tight corridors and quick rotations.

The map has two paths that lead to two areas, with connecting halls between them: the Entry area, which is the map’s interior, and the Patio area, which is the map’s exterior.

Unlike Eternity or some of the other maps in Destiny 2, Emperor’s Respite has much shorter lines of sight. While the lane from the Patio to that Gazebo area is extremely long, there are lots of ways to get around and keep out of sight. All of this means that while the MIDA Multi-Tool is still good on this map, it isn’t the MIDA haven that Eternity is.

Instead, use a scout rifle with less zoom (like Nameless Midnight), a good auto rifle or even an SMG (the Trials of the Nine gun, the Adjudicator, is very good on this map). Essentially, Emperor's Respite is far less restrictive in terms of loadout.

Emperor’s Respite map strategies

Splitting up on Emperor’s Respite is a far more viable option than on some of the other maps in Destiny 2. The map is so intertwined that you can get almost anywhere within seconds, so rotations are very easy to make. However, this means that you must be cautious. You may think that you can take someone in a duel, but their ally could be only a second away.

The good news here is that the more coordinated team almost always wins. Emperor’s Respite is less about trickery, finding an area and holding it down, and more about pure rotations with good shooting.

If your team is able to flank quickly, you can win this map easily. If you are slow, the other team will easily swallow you. The radar here is key, as small corridors, tunnels and cliffs can help you flank quickly. Keep an eye on your radar and relay information back and forth between your allies to help everyone stay alive.

The Dead Cliffs

The Dead Cliffs is a map located in the EDZ. There are three major buildings here: Factory, Mill and Garage. The rest of the map provides close quarters with two long lanes that form an L.

While long engagements certainly do happen here, the Dead Cliffs map is actually more of a mid- to short-range map. The ground is also very uneven in most places, which allows you to escape under ledges and corners frequently. With that in mind, flanking and shooting as a team is the way kills happen here. If you can push an enemy into hiding, you should already have an ally ready to move in and finish them off.

If you are greedy on the Dead Cliffs, you will lose frequently. Know when you are beaten so you can back off and regroup. If you rotate as a team, move as a team and shoot as a team, you can make this very small map yours. However, if you split up, you will put yourself in a lot of extra danger.

The Dead Cliffs strategies

On the Dead Cliffs, focus all of your initial round energy on the Power ammo brick that spawns on Rubble, near the Garage. The team that spawns in the Mill will have an advantage over the team that spawns at Lockers. If you spawn Mill, rush and take the point, watching the corners for your enemies. If you spawn Lockers, watch Garage or flank through the Mill to reach your enemies.

Once the Power scuffle is over, you will need to adjust based on the momentum of the match. Does the other team have more lives than you? Stick together and move slow. Do you have more lives than them? Look for some motion on your tracker and rush them as a team.

Getting comfortable with the rhythm that this map forces is part of the learning experience. There is a constant push and pull where you must give up your ground only to retake it a moment later. Hop back and forth between one building and the other until the Power ammo comes back off cooldown. Then start the Power scuffle all over again.


Midtown is a small map located inside the Last City. There are three main areas to Midtown known as Market, Middle and Rugs. While small, Midtown is extremely dense. There are plenty of buildings and other vertical structures to keep the map feeling tall as well.

There is only one particularly long lane on this map so your loadout should be medium to short range. Pulse rifles do very well here, especially when paired with an auto rifle Energy weapon. For Power, think fusion rifles, shotguns or rockets. Aside from the approach to Market, the rest of Midtown is filled with corridors and alleys.

Midtown strategies

Dueling and team-shooting is very important on Midtown. Because of the map’s claustrophobic nature, you will be fighting enemies in doorways and close quarters all the time. Staying at your ally’s side is how you win here. If you spread out, even within the same arena, a wall or piece of cover could block your shot at an ally’s target.

The general theme of Midtown is simply team play. You should move everywhere you can as a squad. You should kill as a squad. You should watch points as a squad. In a game mode like Countdown, you don’t need to separate like in previous maps. Midtown is so small that rotations are almost instant. You can move between the two bomb points in a matter of seconds. Leaving someone alone to watch a point is just a great way to lose a teammate at the start of a round.

Midtown awards aggression. If you push and rotate as four members you can wipe an enemy team in less than a minute. It is rare that rounds get much time to breath on this map and most matches are sweaty throughout. If you match against a team who is more aggressive than you, you’ll just lose. Simple as that. But if you push them and outmatch their aggression Midtown could be a fast Flawless for you.

The Third Spire social space

After winning your first Trials of the Nine game, you will gain access to the Third Spire social space, a mysterious location in Unknown Space. Here, the Emissary of the Nine will grant you a variety of loot, depending on how well you perform in their Trial.

The first Emissary is located on the same level that you spawn in from. To reach her, simply walk forward from your landing zone until you reach a great chasm. You can turn in the tokens you earn from winning Trials matches here. Like any other reputation vendor, she will give you random loot after you give her about 20 tokens.

Once you have reached three wins without losing three on one character, you will be able to reach the first platform. Take the jump pad next to the first emissary to reach the second. Speak to her and she will offer you a free piece of Trials of the Nine gear.

After five wins without losing three, you will be able to take the jump pad next to the emissary on the first platform. This will swing you around the spire and land you on platform two. Speak to the Emissary to gain another piece of free loot.

After winning seven games without losing three, you will be able to jump off of the second platform’s jump pad and onto platform three. Here, the third Emissary will grant you a choice between one of three designated Trials weapons. These are static rewards but rotate each week.

Finally, if you are able to go flawless and win seven matches before dropping a single one, you will gain access to the Third Spire. From the third platform, jump up and onto the Spire. Look into the deep, swirling, purple pool and jump in. If you have been deemed worthy, you will slide through free of harm and land in a gigantic lake. The Emissary here is huge, and will offer you one Flawless armor piece, which looks slightly different than the normal Trials gear.

The next level of puzzles.

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