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Destiny 2 power level guide, all caps and Powerful and Pinnacle gear sources explained

The best way to increase your Power level in Destiny 2’s Lightfall expansion and its seasons

Destiny 2 logo on a Lightfall-themed background Image: Bungie

Leveling your gear and increasing your Power level is an important part of Destiny 2, but it’s also very confusing.

This page breaks down everything you should know about increasing your Power level following the release of Lightfall — an expansion that increased the level cap and the requirements for various high-level activities, such as Nightfalls or raids.

Note: Bungie has not increased the power level since the release of Lightfall, although some of the Powerful sources have changed as of the late November rollout of Season of the Wish.


How Power level and gear drops work in Destiny 2

Power level in Destiny 2 is a numerical value that determines how much damage you take and deal to your foes — the higher the level, the more damage you deal and the less you receive. Outside of dictating how much damage you deal, know that activities in the game will have a set Power level and you’ll be more effective when you’re close to or exceeding that level.

Players and enemies each have a Power level and they get compared together. Your overall Power level comes from averaging the Power level of your gear, plus any additional levels from your seasonal artifact.

When it comes to gear, Destiny 2 staggers your progress with different Power level caps: the soft cap, the Powerful cap, and the Pinnacle cap. Each of those caps represents a point at which certain types of drops will no longer increase your Power level, and so you have to shift your priorities each week in order to continue increasing your level.

A Guardian shows off their fancy armor and high power level in Destiny 2 Image: Bungie via Polygon

Additionally, a seasonal artifact level is added on top of your gear's average Power level. This is how you are able to get to a higher level than the Pinnacle or Max cap. You gain artifact levels by playing throughout a season and gaining XP. However, unlike your gear level, your artifact level resets at the end of season. If you’re looking to gain XP fast, it’s best to farm bounties or Seasonal Challenges, as they provide some of the quickest and easiest XP in the game.


Max level caps in Destiny 2

There are three level caps in Destiny 2: the soft cap, the Powerful cap, and the Pinnacle cap. For Lightfall, those caps are:

  • Soft cap: 1750
  • Powerful cap: 1800
  • Pinnacle cap: 1810

We’ll break down each cap below.


How to reach the soft cap in Destiny 2

The soft cap for Destiny 2 is 1750. What does “soft cap” mean? It means that up until you reach 1750 Power level, pretty much anything and everything can give you a Power level increase. This can be blue drops from the ground or activity rewards; anything that drops for you will be a few Power above your current Power level. Once you reach the soft cap, you’ll no longer get blue drops.

The best way to reach the soft cap is to simply play the game, as regardless of activity, you’ll receive gear up to that Power level regularly.

Purple, gold and green Engrams in Destiny 2 Image: Bungie

If you want to get past the soft cap quickly, and you are just starting Lightfall, then it’s worth considering playing the Legendary campaign, which will give you fixed gear at 20 Power above the soft cap upon completion (1770). This is a challenge, however, especially for new players — so consider playing other activities instead while you familiarize yourself with the game.


How to reach the Powerful gear cap in Destiny 2

A look at Nimbus’ Challenge on Neomuna in Destiny 2 Image: Bungie via Polygon

The Powerful cap for Destiny 2 is 1800, meaning that between 1750 and 1800, the only way to increase your Power level is to get a reward from activities that grant Powerful or Pinnacle gear. All of these sources reset weekly.

Activities and sources with Powerful gear drops in Lightfall include:

  • Completing eight vendor bounties for Banshee-44 (+1 Power)
  • Weekly Nightfall challenge (+1 Power)
  • Complete three Strikes (+1 Power)
  • Three Crucible matches (+1 Power)
  • Three Crucible Labs matches (+1 Power)
  • Three Gambit matches (+1 Power)
  • Gambit, Vanguard, Crucible, and Banshee rank rewards (+1 Power)
  • Defeat combatants in Terminal Overload for Quinn on Neomuna (+1 Power)
  • Weekly reputation with Nimbus on Neomuna (+1 Power)
  • Complete three Deep Dives (+1 Power)
  • Complete three Defiant Battlegrounds (+1 Power)
  • Open reward chests from Season of the Witch (+1 Power)
  • Turn in eight Spirit of Riven bounties (+1 Power)
  • Clear four pathways in Riven’s Lair (+2 Power)
  • Give out five Commendations (+2 Power)
  • Three Dares of Eternity runs (+2 Power)
  • Prime and Exotic Engrams, which drop at random

If you are trying to be as optimal as possible — possibly for a day one raid — you’ll want to save all of your powerful rewards until after you get to 1800. Powerful loot drops are limited per week, so you don’t want to waste Powerful or Pinnacle drops when you can still get levels from unrestricted rewards.


How to reach the Pinnacle / Max Power cap in Destiny 2

A look at the Root of Nightmares panel on Neomuna in Destiny 2 Image: Bungie via Polygon

The Pinnacle cap for Destiny 2 is 1810, meaning that between 1800 and 1810, the only way to increase your Power level is to get Pinnacle rewards. Similar to Powerful rewards, if you are trying to maximize the effectiveness of the Pinnacle rewards, you won’t want to collect them until after you have reached Power 1800, as these loot drops are limited per week.

Activities with Pinnacle gear drops in Lightfall include:

  • Complete eight bounties for activity vendors: Lord Shaxx, Commander Zavala, and Drifter
  • 200,000 Nightfall score across the week
  • Weekly campaign mission on Neomuna with over 100,000 team score
  • Complete Partition mission while in possession of Polymorphic Shellcode
  • Complete the Exotic rotator mission twice
  • Crota’s End, the latest reprised raid
  • Warlord’s Ruin, the latest dungeon (releasing on Dec. 1)
  • Complete the Avalon Exotic mission
  • 250,000 score on Dares of Eternity
  • Iron Banner Challenges (when the event is active)
  • Final encounter of the raid and dungeon highlighted in the weekly rotation
  • Accumulate 100,000 points in The Coil

It’s worth mentioning that there’s no point in saving Pinnacles if you’re not going to reach 1800 on that character by the end of the week. We recommend just doing all Powerful rewards on a character first and then tackling Pinnacle activities.


When is the best time to open Engrams in Destiny 2?

Until you hit the Powerful cap, you should turn in Prime Engrams immediately after you pick them up. These are considered +1 Powerful rewards from when they drop, meaning their Power does not increase as your Power level does. If you continue to level up without turning the Prime Engram in, you’ll essentially waste it. If you’re struggling in the raid and you get a Prime Engram, it’s always worth taking a Tower break to decrypt it.

A stock image of Destiny 2’s purple legendary engrams Image: Bungie

Destiny 2 also uses a slot leveling system, meaning that gear drops per slot and is based on your current average Power level. A sticking point of this system is that some of your gear slots may fall behind. Your overall level could be 1725 while your Hunter’s Cloak could be stuck at 1720 and your helmet is at 1728.

To make the most of your Powerful and Pinnacle drops, try to keep your items within a few Power levels of each other, which can be done by collecting items that drop “at Power”. “At Power” means the gear drops at your current average Power level, which can help bring up some pieces that fall behind (bringing your Cloak up to 1725 and raising your overall average without using a weekly Powerful or Pinnacle reward drop). This can increase your overall Power level and make those Powerful and Pinnacles more impactful.

If you don’t even out your armor, a Pinnacle or Powerful might drop a +2 power helmet, which would be a waste since it’s already your best slot. Many playlist activities — Strikes, Gambit, Crucible — will drop items “at Power,” so keep an eye out for any gear that’s lagging behind.


How to reach the Pinnacle cap quickly in Destiny 2

For those looking to level as fast as possible — for a raid or other end-game activities — there are a few best practices to consider.

First, run the Legendary campaign and complete any and all activities to hit 1800 as quickly as possible.

Raid emblem for Destiny 2 Image: Bungie

If you have three Destiny classes, you might want to level one up faster than the others. You can actually play in a specific order to make this easier, as the last character you play in a week will almost always end up the highest of your three characters due to the fact that they can share weapons.

The best way to maximize your power is to use a snaking order. First, rank your characters in an order that you feel you want to focus on, where your top character is your main, and the last character is the one you play the least. If you play in order from favorite to least favorite, your least favorite will end up your most powerful by the end of your first week of grinding. The following week, you’ll want to reverse your order to ensure your main character ends up the most powerful in week two.

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