Leveling your gear and increasing your Power level is an important part of Destiny 2, and is one of the most confusing.
This page breaks down everything you should know about increasing your Power level following the release of Lightfall — an expansion that increases the level cap and the requirements for various high-level activities, such as Nightfalls or raids.
How Power level and gear drops work
Power level in Destiny 2 is a numerical value that determines how much damage you take and deal to your foes — where the higher the level, the more damage you deal and the less you receive. Outside of damage dealing, 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 — something this guide can help you out with.
Additionally, a seasonal artifact level is added to 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 level by playing throughout a season and gain XP and it resets at the end of season. If you’re looking to gain XP fast, it is best to farm bounties 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.
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 familiarise yourself with the game.
How to reach the Powerful gear cap in Destiny 2
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 which grant Powerful or Pinnacle gear.
Activities and sources with Powerful gear drops known so far in Lightfall include:
- Completing eight vendor bounties: Gambit, Vanguard, Crucible, and Banshee (+1 Power)
- Weekly Nightfall challenge (+1 Power)
- Gambit, Vanguard, Crucible, and Banshee rank rewards (+1 Power)
- Three Dares of Eternity runs (+2 Power)
- Prime and Exotic Engrams which drop at random (Power value TBC)
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
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 known so far in Lightfall include:
- Hawthorne (clan vendor) rewards and bounties (+1 Power)
- Three Crucible matches (+1 Power)
- Three Gambit matches (+1 Power)
- Three Vanguard Strikes while matching the weekly elemental singe (+1 Power)
- Latest raid, The Root of Nightmares (available starting 3/10/23 at reset) (+2 Power)
- Latest dungeon, Spire of the Watcher (+2 Power)
- 100,000 Nightfall score (+2 Power)
- 250,000 score on Dares of Eternity (+2 Power)
- Iron Banner Challenges (when the event is active) (+2 Power)
- Final encounter in raid and dungeon highlighted in weekly rotation (Power value TBC)
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.
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 in the stratosphere 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
If you are not looking to min-max your Power level, just play through the game and have fun. But for those looking to level as fast as possible — for the raid or other end-game activities — there are a few best practices to consider.
If you are going for a day-one completion of the new raid in Lightfall, the recommended Power level is estimated to be 1780. To achieve this, you can just run the Legendary campaign and climb up to those Power levels over the course of the first few weeks. Compared to past raids, this should be similar to The Witch Queen which had a relatively easy Power level grind compared to the others.
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.
If you are aiming to play the raid on day one, or just trying to maximize your main character’s Power level, the best way to do this 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 your least played. For example, the order I want to play the new Lightfall raid for my characters is going Warlock, Titan, Hunter; in week one, you’ll want to play your characters in that ranked order, getting the character over 1750 (ideally by beating the Legendary campaign) and then completing every Powerful and Pinnacle activity before moving on to the next character.
So for me, I’d start on my main (Warlock), move to my second character (Titan), and then finally my third (Hunter). In week two, I’ll want to reverse that order, playing on my third character (Hunter) at the beginning of the week before ending with my main (Warlock). This should result in my Warlock having the highest power level out of my three characters.