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Comprehensive Guide on How to Play as a Gunslinger in Destiny: The Taken King

Why play a Gunslinger?

The tagline for the Gunslinger is, “A Lone Wolf who lives for the perfect shot.” That sums up this class perfectly. The Gunslinger is all about carefully picking your engagements, getting in good shots, and quickly backing out of bad fights in order to live to fight another day.

With Celestial Nighthawk making the transition from Y1 to Y2, Gunslinger retains its role as the best single-target damage dealer in the game in PVE. Additionally, the combination of Chain of Woe and Gunslinger's Trance help make Gunslinger an add-clearing machine in most PVE scenarios.

On the PVP side, Gunslinger received significant buffs to Golden Gun and Young Ahamkara's Spine. Combine that with nerfs to the two reigning top-tier PVP subclasses and their PVP exotics, and the Gunslinger can realistically go toe-to-toe with any subclass in the game. Read on to see how to best take advantage of this juggernaut of a class.

Grenades

  • Incendiary Grenade: An explosive grenade that can catch enemies on fire and cause additional damage over time (DoT).
  • Swarm Grenade: Detonates on impact, then releases several smaller drones that will seek out and damage nearby enemies for a short amount of time.
  • Tripmine Grenade: A “sticky” grenade that can be stuck to walls, floors, ceilings, or players. It does a maximum of 194 damage when stuck to walls, floors, or ceilings. Usually a one-hit-kill when stuck to players. However, most subclasses will survive the sticky while in their super or protected by an overshield.
Many people shyed away from Gunslinger in Y1 due in large part to the fact that its grenades and melee were considered lackluster. This has changed in a big way in Y2.

In 2.0, incendiary grenade got a major buff. Its secondary effect (burn damage) distance was increased to 8 meters, its fuse time was reduced, and its base detonation and damage was significantly increased. A properly placed incendiary grenade can now OHK most guardians in the crucible.

With the nerf to arc bolt that 2.0 brought, the incendiary grenade is now arguably the second best grenade in the game behind Sunsinger's firebolt grenade. And even then, the firebolt grenade requires two additional perks to give it better killing potential than the vanilla incendiary grenade. The incendiary grenade is an absolutely solid choice in both PVE and PVP.

Tripmines, on the other hand, made it into Y2 largely unchanged. However, some minor changes to the metagame have resulted in a major "shadow buff" to Tripmines.

In 2.0, Bungie made a significant change to the Recovery stat. Recovery time on the low end of the stat range is increased by 1 second and reduced on the high end by 2 seconds. It now means that a guardian with a max recovery build will have his shields fully recovered before a minimum recovery build we even begin to start charging again. This is a huge change in how the Recovery stat works, and its compelled some of the better players to shift more towards high-recovery builds.

As for what that means to Gunslinger: with these players shifting towards high-recovery builds, there are now many more low-armor builds in crucible than their were prior to 2.0. This is a shadow buff to tripmines as tripmines now kill far more consistently in Y2 than they did at the end of Y1.

And that's not even taking into account the major (MAJOR!) buff to Young Ahamkara's Spine... something I'll get into a bit later. Just know for now that tripmines are much, much better than they were in Y1. Realistically speaking, incendiary grenades and tripmines are the second and third best grenades in the game, respectively.

As for swarm grenades: Well...don’t use swarm grenades unless you’re just trolling people. They’re terrible.

Double Jump
  • Better Control: Allows you to quickly change directions mid-air on your second jump
  • Triple Jump: Gives you three jumps, but with far less control than you’d get with Better Control
  • Higher Jump: A double jump that lets you jump higher than the other two jumps
Better control is the second best jump in the game behind Blink. Use it the same way most people use Blink. Two quick jumps backward allows you to quickly escape slide-shotgunners and blink-shotgunners. While jumping away, you can usually pump a few shots into them and/or throwing knife them for an easy kill. Against better players, you have to be more creative with your jump patterns.

Offensively, you can double jump over doorways to catch people trying to slide-shotgun into a room. Defensively, you can also use double jump to alter your escape path while fleeing.

Some Guardians may argue that triple jump is relatively useless by comparison, as you could just run Bones of Eao with better control and get a much better version of triple jump anyway. However, for those who knows the importance of triple jump, they will surely ask you to reconsider this thought.

The new crucible maps have a lot more verticality than they did in Y1, and expert use of triple jump definitely yields some interesting attack possibilities that some guardians really considered using it. If you have a controller that allows you to jump and aim at the same time, you should definitely consider triple jump as your primary jump as it allows you to more easily attack from vertical space.

As for higher jump: Well, there's no real use for it in the crucible. Triple jump gives you roughly the same level of verticality as you get from higher jump, but gives you more lateral movement options as well.

Golden Gun
  • Deadeye: Significantly increases the accuracy of golden gun. It’s basically Hidden Hand for your Golden Gun
  • Combustion: Causes enemies killed by Golden Gun to explode. It’s basically Firefly for your Golden Gun with the potential to OHK
  • Gunfighter: Reduces the timer on your Golden Gun by 30s
This is probably one of the mostly hotly debated perk trees in the game. Many people swear by Combustion since it has the potential for easy multi-kills, especially in Control. Others swear by Deadeye since it basically guarantees the kill if you shoot anywhere near another player’s body.

This one largely comes down to user preference. most guardians don't like combustion since 90%+ of their Golden Gun kills come against players who aren’t grouped up, especially now that many moved on to Skirmish as their primary game type. They usually run Gunfighter. Thirty seconds doesn’t seem like much, but in Trials it is often the difference between me getting my Golden Gun up by the second round versus the third or later. The only problem with running Gunfighter, especially in 6s, is that you'll often get your super up at around the 10:30 mark, leaving you only an additional 90 seconds to regain your super if you choose to use it prior to the first heavy round. You can generally opt for using Golden Gun early if your solo queuing unless your up against a tough team. In sweaties it doesn't really matter since most sweaties ban the use of heavy ammo anyway. In those cases, you can pop Golden Gun early and often.

If you’re playing it safe, or your aim is sometimes a bit shaky, Deadeye is probably the best overall choice here. It’s the most consistently good choice under most conditions, but far less so if you already have good aim. You could also make a very good argument for running Deadeye over Gunfighter in Trials, since Trials is the one place more than any other that you absolutely want that guaranteed kill.

Melee
  • Circle of Life: Killing an enemy with the Throwing Knife while the Golden Gun is active will extend the duration of the Golden Gun. Adds +2 armor.
  • Incendiary Blade: Adds a burning effect to targets hit with throwing knife
  • Knife Juggler: Throwing knife kills with a headshot automatically refill melee
While knife juggler sounds cool on paper, incendiary blade is probably the best choice here. You typically won’t be killing that many guys with throwing knives anyway, and far less than half of those will be headshot kills. Unless you’re a pro, knife juggler will only get you about one extra melee charge per game.

Throwing knives is the most effective counter to shotgun rushers in the game. However, most of the better players in Trials run snipers, so it may be worth switching over to Circle of Life during Trials to get the extra armor boost.

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  • Scavenger: Reduces cooldown of your grenade and throwing knife after picking up ammo
  • Keyhole: Golden Gun overpenetrates and can damage multiple targets
  • Gunslinger’s Trance: Increases weapon stability after precision kills
Scavenger all day every day. Bungie made a ninja buff to this perk in 2.0. In Y1, it was simply the least bad out of a row of pretty bad perks, but in Y2 it is actually a genuinely good perk for PVP. If you equip Young Ahamara's Spine and Gambler's Dagger, you can hold up to two tripmine grenades and two throwing knives at the same time. With Scavenger reducing your cooldown on each, it is very unlikely that you won't have at least one tripmine grenade and/or throwing knife equipped at the same time.

Keyhole, by comparison is absolutely terrible. It's a dumb luck perk that almost never procs in PVP and is only minimally useful in PVE.

Gunslinger's Trance is an amazing perk for PVE but its absolutely garbage tier for PVP. It only procs on precision kills and the average number of precision kills per game across all players is probably less than 3.Go to Destiny Tracker enter your PSN ID/Gamertag and click on "Crucible." Scroll down to "Weapon Types Used." Add up the numbers under "Precision P/G." Some 90% of the player base will have less than 5 precision kills per game. The other 10% are aimbots who don't need this perk because they are already hitting an absurdly high % of headshots.

Gunslinger's Trance is a trash perk for PVP. End of story.

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  • Chain of Woe: Increases weapon reload speed after precision kills.
  • Over the Horizon: Increases the range of your Golden Gun. Adds +2 to Recovery stat.
  • Gambler’s Dagger: Gives you two knives.
Chain of Woe is useless in PVP for all the same reasons Gunslinger’s Trance is. If you wear proper gloves and always reload behind cover – both of which you should already be doing anyway -- then there is no point in taking this perk. It's an S-tier perk in PVE though. No good reason not to take it there.

Over the Horizon is OK. When paired with Deadeye, it basically guarantees your Golden Gun will OHK from anywhere on the map. The added recovery boost is also nice. It’s probably the safest choice here for most players. Even more so with the changes to how the Recovery stat works in 2.0

Armor/Recovery/Agility

Note: The argument over which is better, Armor vs. Recovery, is largely philosophical.

You can always spec for maximum agility and recovery. In crucible, there are really only two types of engagements: good ones and bad ones. A good engagement is a 1v1 (or 2v1, 3v1, etc.) where you land the first shot on your enemy from an unexpected position. Every other kind of engagement is a bad engagement. Having max agility allows you to better position yourself for good engagements and more quickly disengage from bad ones. Having high recovery decreases your downtime between engagements, allowing you to fight (and kill) more often. For Hunters, having high armor allows you to survive most engagements for an additional .1 second. If that tenth of a second matters that much to you, then you should probably be picking better engagements.

Some people will counter with the fact that tripmines will OHK a low armor build, which is true. It’s also incredibly rare. You will only get killed by a tripmine once every 10 – 15 games. It’s just not worth giving up the added versatility that comes from max agility/recovery to avoid one extra death every 10 to 15 games or so.

Something else to consider: If you're a 1.5 kd player or better, that already means that you're winning the overwhelming majority of your gunfights. Low armor vs high armor probably isn't making much of a difference in the gunfights you win, and almost certainly isn't making a difference in the gunfights you lose. In this case you're almost certainly better off running max-recovery and taking on more gunfights.

Of course, all of this goes out the window if you're proficient with Red Death. If you win the bulk of your gunfights with Red Death, then you can ignore the Recovery stat altogether.

Gear Basics

Always gear for max Intellect as Golden Gun is the one thing that separates you from the other classes. The best Gunslingers average 1.5 to 2.5 GG kills per game. Golden Gun is arguably the best super in the game behind Hammer of Sol, so you'll want to use it as much as possible. With Gunslinger, it’s basically Intellect >>> everything else. You can also run maxed intellect and discipline if you always look for “increased super energy from grenade kills” on my helms.

For perks, you want increased grenade throw distance, faster melee attack, increased super energy from grenade kills, and faster reload speed with (insert weapon of choice).

Notable Exotics

Hunter exotics got a major shakeup in Y2. Most of the better exotics from Y1 got left behind, but the one that came forward into Y2 is an absolute game-changer.

S-Tier:

Young Ahamkara's Spine (PVP and PVE): Do you even tripmine, bro? In 2.0, Bungie increased the duration of tripmines and added a second grenade charge for tripmines. While YAS barely got mention in my Y1 guide, it is now the go-to exotic for Gunslinger's. Combine it with a helm that gives you bonus super energy for grenade kills (another 2.0 fix) and Gambler's Dagger and you've got a dual tripmine wielding, dual knife throwing, ultra fast super charging champion. In the right hands and with a properly specced build, YAS makes a serious case for being the best PVP exotic in the game.

Celestial Nighthawk (PVE only): Gives you the ability to one-shot any major and kick Oryx right in the nuts during the King's Fall raid. What more could you ask for? Oh yeah, bonus super energy on every kill. Good. Cuz we got that, too.

A-Tier:

Crest of Alpha Lupi: The only A-tier exotic from my old guide that made the transition to Y2. Good for regular 3v3s, great for Trials, and added orb generation in any mode.

Achlyophage Symbiote (Y1 PVP playlists only): Four Golden Gun shots plus a couple of solid perks on this helm. It may be one of the best PVP exotics in the game for 6v6 playlists.

Lucky Raspberry (Y1 PVP playlists only): Always spawn with grenade energy. This has been my go-to Crucible exotic since Xur first sold it way back when. While the grenade energy is nice, the real benefit of this piece is the fact that it’s an all-Intellect roll. While you may get may shots per super use with Achlyophage Symbiote, on average most people will probably get more supers per game with this exotic than the Symbiote.

Bones of Eao (Y1 PVP playlists and Kings Fall Raid): With Bones of Eao and better control, your Gunslinger will be the most agile Guardian in the Crucible. It completely changes the way you approach some engagements, allowing to close distance and create it nearly as fast as Blink, but with more control. This combo is especially deadly with The Last Word and a control style that allows you to jump and aim at the same time. Of course, it also makes the jumping sections of the King's Fall raid trivial for hunters.

Honorable Mention

Radiant Dance Machines: With both MIDA and RDMs left behind in Y1, these have been reduced to novelty exotics. No reason to hold on to them for now, but who knows how they'll be re-tooled and brought back for the second half of Y2.

Knucklehead Radar: Keeps your radar active while aiming down the sights on primary weapons.

Weapon Suggestions

Bungie really did us a solid with the Hunter exclusive weapons. Ace of Spades, especially when used with Young Ahamkara's Spine (which comes with hand cannon loader by default) is an absolute monter in PVE and the Stillpiercer is amongst the best snipers in the game. You can comfortably run those two weapons for over 95% of the PVE content in the game.

On the PVP side of things, use whatever weapons you're most comfortable with. The only thing to add here is to look out for weapons with the Army of One perk. While most people consider it a garbage tier perk in PVP, the extra bonus to grenades and melee (especially while running the dual grenades/knives build) can often help you grab an extra kill or two each game.

versus the Other Hunter Subclasses

Versus Bladedancer: While it was undoubtedly the superior PVP class in the game throughout Y1, Bladedancer has been brought low by the nerfs to arc bolt, blink, and melee aim assist. Quickdraw is still the single-best PVP perk in the game, but outside of that Bladedancer no longer offers massive benefits over Gunslinger. Invis is still great in PVE and Blink is still great in PVP, but it seems as though many of the better players have moved on to Nightstalker.

Versus Nightstalker: Most agree that Nightstalker is better than Gunslinger in neutral games but that's not the case most of the time. Much of the talk around Gunslinger's having terrible neutral game is a holdover from Y1, when Gunslingers actually did have terrible neutral game. But in 2.0, the meta has shifted in ways that greatly benefit Gunslingers.  The first is the buff to Young Ahamkara's Spine and the Recovery stat. This guide mentioned earlier about how the change to Recovery benefits Gunslingers since many more players are now running min-armor builds. Many players who would have safely scampered past your tripmines in the past are now dying to them, and dying a lot.  The other major change is the elimination of Shot Package and the nerf to Rangefinder. This means that shotgun rushers have to get much closer and or hang out inside of melee range a lot longer in order to secure a kill. This makes these players prime candidates for taking a knife to the face. You don't know what you're talking about Thug! Fuck man, Shadestep... so boss. And smoke bombs! Good players don't die to tripmines, etc., etc." But, no one can deny that Nightstalker is a great character, however, the PVP community as a whole severely underestimates the quality of Gunslinger's Neutral game.

Honorable Mention (Vs Sunbreakers): Golden Gun is far and away the best counter to the juggernaut of a super that is Hammer of Sol. Shadow Shot won't one-shot a Sunbreaker in Hammer of Sol, and it takes some time after the tether hits before it neutralizes the super. Golden Gun, on the other hand, will one-shot any Hammer of Sol titan that has already taken damage or runs a low armor build. On the occasions where it takes two shots to kill him, a good Golden Gunner can often get the second shot off in the time it takes the titan to react or the Shadow Shot would take to neutralize the titan. In a matchup of super v. super.