The Last Word
Bungie’s nerf to this monstrosity of a Hand Cannon has put it on a short leash. Make no mistake; this thing will still destroy you if you’re within reach. Most users will opt for Soft Ballistics over Aggressive Ballistics to restore some of TLW’s Range and Stability. This gun’s still got a fast TTK at close ranges; hipfired shots will still kill you outright with two headshots but now needs four hipfired bodyshots to finish the job.
COUNTER: Single jump if you find yourself close to the wielder of this weapon (Double or Triple also works if you're a Hunter). Jittery movements are the only way to throw off a Last Word's aim, and every class's single jump has the fastest acceleration - and thus can get you out of their sights for a brief moment. Using Lift or Glide will screw you, because the constant arc of motion is easily predicted by a TLW user.
Still the pride and joy of ranged Hand Cannon users, Hawkmoon is now in wide use with its arrival on Xbox systems and Xur’s recent hawking of the weapon. The triple proc of the gun’s lucky bullets no longer exists - eliminating its dreaded OHKO potential. The 2HKO still exists and will be the main reason opponents will be slinging this gun. In a given fight with a Hawkmoon user you're fairly likely to at least get hit with a single proc. Bungie’s clipped this bird’s wings with the nerfs to Hammer Forged along with Range and Accuracy on Hand Cannons in general. It’s not the long-distance terror it used to be but it’s still potent up to medium-long ranges.
COUNTER: Ranged engagements against a Hawkmoon will require an equally ranged weapon like a Pulse or Scout Rifle, or an Auto Rifle with high Range. Grenades that have a DoT effect or chase their targets tend to cause Hawkmoon users to flee or hide, giving a brief respite for you or your team to move through the area it was guarding. A Shotgun with high Range can put a Hawkmoon to rest in close ranges.
With Thorn no longer around to delay its Exotic perk, Red Death will likely be the Primary-of-choice this time around. This Pulse Rifle is a 2HKO to the head if all bullets land. Given the spread of Pulse Rifle bullets, however, 2HKOs will be infrequent against moving enemies. The terrifying part is that Red Death is still a 3HKO with bodyshots alone, and it starts charging the user's shields immediately after a kill.
COUNTER: Red Death will eat your lunch at mid range, frustrate you at long range, and be wholly ineffective at very close range. Use Scout and Sniper Rifles at a distance. If you got a Hawkmoon, aim for the head and pray for a lucky bullet. Beat it up close with a Shotgun or The Last Word.
The Warlock exclusive Scout Rifle is fairly mediocre at the start of a match. That is, until said Warlock builds up their Super – then the weapons gains considerable bonuses to handling, stability, and rate of fire so long as the wielder doesn’t use their Super. Basically it turns this Scout Rifle into a MIDA that hits harder. Because the Exotic perk comes with the catch of not using a Super, this will be a favorite of self-rez Sunsingers or will be equipped once a Warlock’s got a Super ready.
COUNTER: You’re probably not going to know a Tlaloc’s being used until you start getting hit by it. If you know one’s out, a Sniper Rifle or long ranged Scout Rifle can outdo this mid range gun. A 2HKO from a Hawkmoon works just as well.
Touch of Malice
The king of DPS in the new raid comes with a secret Full Auto perk on pick up. Those who have mastered the kick of this weapon use it like a Deadshot Luna in Crucible. Its Exotic perk imposes a dangerous game: the final round in the mag hits as hard as a Boolean Gemini shot for PVP and always regenerates but at the cost of about 3 to 5% health each time, depending on one’s Armor stat. Some will take the risk of getting shot at while draining their own health to abuse this last round for that extra damage.
COUNTER: ToM doesn’t cope well with getting teamshot or getting hit by a grenade sporting a DoT effect. If you run into someone exploiting ToM’s last round, humor the weapon and kill its user with a hard hitting Primary like Red Death, Hawkmoon, or TLW if they’re close enough.
The white whale of many a Guardian, this gun is Bungie’s desire to infuse the String of Curses perk and the soul of a Stormcaller into an AK-74. Rounds fired from the rifle often chain lightning to nearby targets and any double kills grant more Super energy along with restoring about 10 rounds back to the mag. The chain lightning has the reach of an Arcbolt Grenade and procs often enough that you respect the Zhalo for its lightning as you do the Hawkmoon for its lucky bullets.
COUNTER: This gun feeds on grouped up targets – the team that stays together will get fried together, especially in cramped corridors. Beat it at mid range or blast a Zhalo user with a surprise Shotgun.
Of all the Exotic Auto Rifles, this one has the highest Range possible with Send It equipped. Coupled that with its amazing Stability and you have a solid shooter of an Auto Rifle that can comfortably kill in mid range engagements. The Exotic perk won’t do melee lovers much good when Shotguns are still the favored Special – but this gun will be used for its stats, not its Exotic perk.
COUNTER: Primaries that pack a punch can outgun a Monte Carlo so long as they land their shots. If they’re close enough, a Shotgun to the face works too.
The Plink-Plink-Plink death machine has returned! It’s not the monster it used to be this time last year but it still remains one of the strongest Auto Rifles in the game. This Auto Rifle also holds sway over mid range firefights if the classic Focus Fire is chosen as the main Exotic Perk, granting Range just under a Monte Carlo. That bottom half of the magazine adds a touch more damage to each bullet as the magazine continues to empty out and will sometimes heal health upon a kill.
COUNTER: Red Death and Hawkmoon are the tried and true favorites for ending a Suros outside of close range. Monte Carlo will do the trick if you land most of your shots as headshots. TLW and Shotguns still work for close quarters.
Special ammo is still scarce in the Crucible, so strategies will continue to focus on utilizing high-risk, high-reward Specials. Fusion Rifles and Sidearms won’t be seen nearly as much as Shotguns or Sniper Rifles.
Many have struggled mightily to get Holliday’s piece and those that do have it can be found in the Crucible harrying those who still chase after it. This Shotgun behaves differently from your standard buckshot blaster as it fires a single slug instead – meaning it has zero spread and all damage will connect if the slug hits. It’s got a fast Rate of Fire and great base Range, is scarily accurate, and has nonexistent Recoil. This gun’s meant to score headshots and only gets better when it does by proccing extra handling, range, and precision damage upon headshot kills.
COUNTER: You must beat this atrocity at range to avoid taking a slug to the head. If a Chaperone is in play, spread out or suffer the embarrassment of being destroyed and added to a Trials highlight reel.
Felwinter’s Lie may be outdated but it’s got an almost immediate replacement in the pre-rolled Vanguard Shotgun earned from completing the Vanguard Nightfall quest. This particular Conspiracy comes with a 300 attack value, Rangefinder, Rifled Barrel, and Performance Bonus. Users of this boomstick will enjoy Felwinter-like performance and have a 25% chance for that previous shot they killed their opponents with to return to their reserves and conserve Special ammo. Stay within about ten feet of someone with one of these and you're as good as dead. Expect the Theory to be the favored Legendary Shotty of all Trials combatants until they get their hands on a Shotgun with an even better roll.
COUNTER: Shotgun vs Shotgun will usually end up in a draw - an effective counter if they're the last Guardian standing on their team, or if you have living teammates nearby to revive you. Usually though, you want to counter at range with a weapon bolstering a fast TTK, so Red Death or TLW will usually stop a Theory in its tracks.
Notes on Other Shotguns
Perks such as Rangefinder, Shot Package, and Barrel modifiers are still just as threatening even after the nerfs to Shotgun perks. Always be on the lookout for Shotguns with high range, Shot Package, Rangefinder, or Final Round - seeing Shot Package or Rangefinder means the opponent is more likely to ADS often, so rapid single jumps can possibly save your life if you're too close. Final Round can occasionally be a giveaway that your opponent will only keep one in the clip, so you can potentially exploit reload times to survive a close quarters engagement.
This Exotic Sniper Rifle may not hit hard enough to ensure revive kills, but its main draw is its stats. It’s got decent Stability and a high Aim Assistance to allow that reticule to stick to heads more easily. Its main perk blinds to nearby enemies a few seconds after getting a headshot kill and it procs about 70% of the time. The duration and range of the blinding effect is akin to a Flashbang Grenade. Those that are blinded will be vulnerable to enemy flankers lurking nearby.
COUNTER: Treat the Hereafter as you would any other Sniper Rifle and avoid engaging at range unless you have a ranged weapon of your own. Scout Rifles and Pulse Rifles are great for their ability to flinch a Sniper and throw off their aim if you’re lacking a Sniper Rifle. If one of your teammates goes down, leave the immediate area to avoid getting blinded and be ready for a flanker rushing in.
Final Round may be moot, but the threat lives on in randomly acquired Eirene RR4 Sniper Rifles. An Eirene sits in the mid-high Impact tier for Snipers and has a chance to roll Luck In The Chamber for one of its perks – which means it can kill in one bodyshot if the perk procs. While it is random and a foolish waste of ammo trying to proc it, there’s going to be some yahoo out there who’s willing to roll the dice to get those lucky bodyshots.
COUNTER: Inspect an Eirene in detail during the pregame screen. If they're rocking LitC, pick your sniping engagements carefully and stick to narrower areas rather than more open ones. A well placed chaser grenade will cause the Sniper to flee. You can also play cat-and-mouse with the Sniper while your teammates flank from the sides.
Notes on Other Snipers
Mid-high to high Impact Snipers such as the 1000-Yard Stare and Hunter exclusive Stillpiercer are the greatest danger for their ability to score revive kills on headshots, but really any kind of Sniper deserves some caution. Some Snipers, like Defiance of Yasmin or Weyloran’s March, have higher aim assist than other Snipers - meaning their headshot hitboxes are larger. Other Snipers, like Tao Hua Yuan or Extrasolar RR4, have super high fire rates and can kill quickly because of it. Distracting and flanking is usually the best way to counter a good Sniper.
Notes on Fusions
Only two Fusions with high Range, Impact, and tight spreads are currently available for purchase – The Vacancy and Hitchhiker RR4. A lucky roll on a Darkblade's Spite can fit into this category too. These will punish you at mid to short ranges, and in the right hands can be effective as a mid range alternative to a Shotgun or Sniper, so play cautiously when rounding corners if you see one is in play. The Telesto is worthy of a small mention. It doesn’t have that big a bite even if the delayed explosions cause more damage but it can be an effective hit-and-run weapon. If a Telesto is being used for this purpose, teamshot or corner the user but never chase them.
Notes on Sidearms
These aren’t terribly popular Special Weapons but they’re on the rise. They effectively serve as the “Oh shit!” panic button if you have an opponent bearing down on you. Sidearms have a reach beyond that of the best Shotguns and fire quickly enough that they can kill most Fusion Rifles before they fully charge. They're also capable of a TTK on par with that of TLW before the recent Weapon Tuning. The Sidearm sold by the Crucible is particularly nasty. Close range is where these guns shine so kill them from a distance or discharge your Shotgun if you’re close enough.
Heavy ammo spawns in one round per match, so both teams must make their drops count. Rocket Launchers and their instant-kills will still be the Heavy-of-choice, but Machine Guns can be effective if and only if all Rockets have been spent by the other team. Swords have been added to the mix and can be quite effective if guards and counterattacks are used properly. Current-gen users (PS4, XB1) will likely switch on their Exotic Heavy in the pre-round screen or during the Heavy drop countdown.
If you’re out in the open, you’re the mouse and Truth’s the hawk. Currently the only Exotic Launcher that tracks, its tracking is very aggressive, making the idea of ducking behind a corner even less effective.
COUNTER: Stay far away from Truth rockets, and make sure your team spreads out so the crazy blast radius doesn't net your opponent a multikill.
Other Rocket Launchers
The highly coveted perk Grenades and Horseshoes has had its proximity radius reduced by roughly 33% but is still fairly potent. With weapon reforging out of the picture, launchers with Tracking or Proximity Detonation will be hard to come by – randomly. Meanwhile, the Crucible handler and the Future War Cult are selling Launchers with G&H to those who can afford it. Enemy Titans wearing the Taikonaut are a worthy threat due to their helmet’s perk granting Tracking to all Rocket Launchers – their Launcher sporting G&H has suddenly become a “baby Truth”. However, any Legendary Rocket Launcher is more easily dodged than the genuine article.
COUNTER: Dodge, duck, dip, dive, and evade.
Swords In General
Properly timed guards with a sword can allow its users to tank rocket blasts and emerge unscathed. Holding a guard up consumes Heavy ammo though and blocking elemental damage the same type as the sword consumes a large amount of ammo. Anyone using a Sword has the camera looking over their shoulder which allows them to peek around corners without exposing themselves to see if there’s some sap nearby they can cleave in two.
COUNTER: If it’s the Heavy round and you see a blip on the radar hiding at the next corner, it’s a Sword wielder. Never rush a Sword that’s waiting for you. Either flank them or flush them out with a grenade. If a Sword’s running for you and they’re guarding against your attacks, either retreat to someplace where you can fight on your terms or set up an ambush. You must down them in one shot or you’ll feel their razor’s edge. If you got skills and a Sword of your own, duel them!
The only Exotic Sword to be concerned about is the one that launches single OHKO projectiles. The spinning razor blades emitted by this Sword can be aimed like a bullet and travel in a relatively straight line with a little bit of tracking if a target isn’t too far out of its way. The range on those projectiles can cause them to travel across entire maps.
COUNTER: Treat the projectiles as you would a typical G&H rocket since this will be the main use of a Bolt-Caster during the Heavy round. Other than that, Sword rules still apply. Remember that they can peek around corners like any other Sword to get a bead on you.