Destiny 2 Solo Nightfall Guide

[prestige-complete]

(Last updated: 2018/03/27)

Destiny 2 was released in 2017 by Bungie to much acclaim and much griping. The game features numerous activities for solo players as well as groups of players, and in some cases the group activities can be played as challenging solo activities.

"Strikes" are activities for a group of three players. "Nightfall" strikes, which change every week, add additional challenges and a scoring system. "Prestige" Nightfall strikes have configurable difficulty settings, and prevent you from switching equipment during the mission. Soloing normal and Prestige Nightfall strikes is possible but difficult, providing a challenge for players who are looking for ways to push themselves.

I've created detailed guides for each strike, focused on solo completion. The rest of this page includes some information common to all Nightfall strikes.

The Lake of Shadows strike is a Playstation exclusive, and has not appeared in the Nightfall rotation.

For these guides to be of value you should have a solid understanding of the game and have completed the strikes in fireteams a few times. These are best when combined with a video, so several are linked for each strike.

These guides were developed for the original Nightfall system, which had a time limit. Prestige Nightfalls had tougher enemies and a shorter time limit. Patch 1.1.3, released 27-Feb-2018, removed the timer, added scoring, and made some other changes (see TWAB from Feb 8 for details). I summarized my thoughts about how the changes affect solo play here.

It appears that modifiers like Prism and Momentum have been removed. There are indications that they may return one day, so related sections remain but are now shown in grey text. Some of it is still relevant for other PvE content, notably Heroic Adventures.

I also have a page with information on soloing Heroic Adventures.

Standard Loadout

NOTE: this section may be out of date. The 1.1.4 patch made a number of changes to weapons. This section will be updated eventually -- I'm currently taking a break from Destiny 2.

As of February 2018, the recommended weapons for solo PvE play are:

Better Devils hits hard up close, and the Explosive Payload perk allows it to do solid damage at a distance. (For nearly all weapons, impact damage falls off after a certain distance, but explosive damage is constant.) The best configuration is FastDraw HCS and Flared Magwell. For a hand cannon, the slight boost in Handling beats the slight boost in Stability from SteadyHand HCS. The range boost from SureShot HCS isn't useful and comes at a high price. Flared Magwell gives you 10 shots instead of the 13 you get with Extended Mags, but significantly improves the reload speed, and provides a small Stability boost. You can get Better Devils as a drop from the Crucible or Lord Shaxx -- I've had it drop four times in 15 hours of Quickplay.

Manannan SR4 also has the Explosive Payload perk, making it exceptional at long range. Since you'll be using this to knock off the shields of nearby enemies, the short zoom and improved handling of Candle PS are usually preferred. For extensive long-range sniping the range/zoom boost for Impulse MS3 can be beneficial. Alloy Magazine gives you a faster reload on an empty magazine and better handling than Steady Rounds, but the latter may make it easier to double-tap crits on small targets (e.g. Hobgoblins). The weapon also comes with the Lightweight Frame perk that slightly boosts your movement speed, so you'll want to pull this out when running between encounters. This weapon can be obtained as a random drop from the Gunsmith.

Curtain Call features the Cluster Bomb perk, which does damage beyond the initial impact. It can be configured for increased blast radius, with Volatile Launch and Black Powder, or maximum velocity, with Hard Launch and High-Velocity Rounds. You normally want to be configured for velocity to reduce the opportunity for the boss to dodge, but for some strikes where you use it to clear adds you'll want the bigger blast radius. In some cases the handling improvement from Countermass is more desirable. Black Powder adversely affects both velocity and reload speed, so it's not normally used. Note that changes to the velocity and blast radius do not affect single-target damage or cluster bomb spread. The weapon can be obtained from Commander Zavala, in exchange for Vanguard tokens.

Wardcliff Coil exotic is a beast. It does an incredible amount of damage, killing in one shot things that can eat two rockets and keep moving. Because it emits a stream of mini-rockets, you can focus fire on a single target or distribute it among several. You have to be close to your target, though, and if you get too close the back-blast can easily kill you. For most strikes you want a long-range rocket launcher, but for some (e.g. Savathun's Song) the big burst of damage is important. (As of right now, switching from Wardcliff Coil to another rocket launcher leaves you with nearly a full magazine -- the "Warcliff Coil Ammo Gift" -- so for non-Prestige Nightfall runs you can safely switch at the boss.) The Coil will reload automatically if you pick up heavy ammo while it's equipped, so if you kill an orange-bar enemy with it you can reload on the run by picking up the ammo drop.

Masterwork weapons were introduced in patch 1.1.1 (week 15, 11-Dec-2017). You want your kinetic and energy weapons to be masterworks. The improvements to weapon stats are very slight, but the ability to create orbs can be significant. Many areas will have you killing a lot of low-level enemies, which means you'll be creating bucketloads of orbs. Opinions vary on which perks are the best, but it's hard to go wrong with Reload Speed. A masterwork rocket launcher is handy but less important.

Alternatives

The Nameless Midnight scout rifle is a popular option for the kinetic slot. It has the same Explosive Payload perk as Better Devils, making it an exceptional long-range weapon. It lacks the up-close punch of Better Devils, so it's best paired with an energy hand cannon, though some people like to use dual scout rifles for certain strikes. It can be obtained from Commander Zavala, in exchange for Vanguard tokens.

The Sunshot exotic hand cannon is an excellent choice for the energy slot. It hits hard and makes enemies explode, damaging nearby hostiles, which is frequently useful in strikes (e.g. War Beast or Thrall swarms).

The Sins of the Past rocket launcher offers much better handling than Curtain Call, has a huge blast radius, and the Auto-Loading Holster perk reloads the weapon when you're using something else. However, the velocity and reload speed are inferior to Curtain Call, making it more likely to miss against a mobile boss or distant target, and it's slower to fire multiple rockets unless you're a Titan with Rally Barricade. Sins of the Past is also much harder to obtain than Curtain Call unless you spend a lot of time in the raid.

Weapon Evaluation

I ran a quick test with various weapons on 6-Feb-2018 (week 23), shooting an unshielded Loyalist Legionary at the start of the level 300 Leviathan raid. I fired at point-blank range, to the head and body. For each entry I recorded the raw damage per shot, then multiplied it by rounds per minute, and divided by 60 to get burst damage per second. ("Burst" because it ignores things like reload.) Weapons with explosive rounds show two values.

Name (Type) Rnds/min Crit dmg Crit BDPS Body dmg Body BDPS
Better Devils (Kinetic HC) 140 476 + 560 2417 280 + 560 1960
The Old Fashioned (Kinetic HC) 140 756 1764 560 1307
Sunshot (Energy HC) 150 448 + 448 2240 224 + 448 1680
Nameless Midnight (Kinetic SR) 180 277 + 308 1755 154 + 308 1386
Purpose (Kinetic SR) 200 263 + 263 1753 132 + 263 1316
MIDA Multi-Tool (Kinetic SR) 200 394 1313 263 877
Manannan SR4 (Energy SR) 200 236 + 236 1573 118 + 236 1180
Conspirator (Energy SR) 200 354 1180 236 787
Ghost Primus (Kinetic AR) 600 163 1630 125 1250
Origin Story (Kinetic AR) 450 213 1597 170 1275
Uriel's Gift (Energy AR) 450 191 1432 153 1147
Last Hope (Energy SA) 491 258 2111 199 1628

There's more to a weapon than burst DPS against unshielded targets at point-blank range, but this gives you a basic idea of what each can do. You'll notice that the Explosive Payload damage is constant, regardless of range or hit location, which means (for example) that Better Devils outperforms MIDA at moderately long range when shooting Loyalist Legionaries.

Weapons like Sunshot and Conspirator cause explosions when hostiles are killed, increasing their effectiveness when used on tight groups.

Weapon Element Tuning

Enemy shields will emit an AoE explosion if you drop them with a matching element. It's useful to tune your energy weapon to an element that matches the shields of frequently-appearing enemies. For example, if you expect to be fighting a void-shielded Minotaur surrounded by three arc-shielded Harpies, you would prefer arc.

These effects are magnified by the Prism modifier. It's usually a good idea to have your heavy weapon be a different element from your class abilities, so that you don't find yourself in a situation where you need to do big damage but have to wait for the prism to rotate. Your energy weapon should be set to the third element.

If you don't want to fiddle with it, just select arc for energy weapons (to match shielded Vex Harpies, Fallen Captains, and Hive Knights), and void for power weapons. Change them up if it seems to matter.

Of course, if you're a Voidwalker with Nezarec's Sin, you should default to using void for energy and power weapons.

Armor

For most strikes you want Survivalist armor, with 3 or 4 points in Resilience and the rest in Recovery. You can have zero points in Mobility, since it has no impact on your sprint speed.

If the strike has Momentum as a modifier, you may want to switch to Heavy armor and maximize your Resilience stat. Recovery has no effect on how long you have to sprint before healing starts. It does cause the the health bar to fill faster, so it's not worthless, but most of the time the additional health points will be more useful. The exception would be a strike like Savathûn's Song, where you frequently rely on Momentum to heal you through a stream of damage.

If the strike has Attrition as a modifier, you get a slight advantage from Recovery (e.g. 13 vs. 14 seconds for unboosted healing to start).

In terms of armor mods, you will benefit from cooldown reductions, reload speed on your hand cannon, and perhaps power weapon handling or a Recovery boost. There's not much need to tune these for a specific strike, so just use whatever you would for any other PvE content.

Masterwork armor was added in patch 1.1.2 (week 22, 30-Jan-2018). It increases your damage resistance while your super is active by 5% per piece (was 3% until patch 1.1.3). It's not essential but it's not a bad thing to have. When creating masterwork armor from cores, start with the pieces that are unlikely to be substituted for an exotic. For example, Titans often use a head or chest exotic, so you'd start with arms.

Sparrow

You want a sparrow with the "takes less time to summon" feature. It turns out that "less time" means "instantly", which can be a life-saver in some situations.

Your sparrow can dodge left and right, a fact that is not at all obvious to PC players. Double-tapping A/D will execute the dodge. This is important to know because dodging an instant before impact after a long fall appears to negate the fall damage. Dodging does not provide immunity to other types of damage, e.g. if you dodge through a laser you'll still get hurt.

You can also control which side of the sparrow you jump off of by holding A/D when hitting spacebar.

Class Abilities and Exotics

Each class has three sub-classes, and each sub-class has two ability trees. In most cases, one tree will be focused on melee or group play, neither of which are important when soloing -- very few enemies die in one melee hit in a Nightfall strike. Pick something that best suits your play style. If you don't yet have an opinion, here are some recommendations.

For each class I list some useful exotics. Note that some exotics are subclass-specific, while others are subclass-neutral.

If a specific sub-class or exotic is especially useful in a given strike, the guide for that strike will call it out.

Titan

The Striker Titan is the best overall class for soloing a Nightfall. The barricades allow you to create defensive positions or fire rocket barrages, and Pulse grenades remain awesome. Sunbreaker is a viable alternative, especially in Torrent with the Hallowfire Heart, and the pyrotechnics make it entertaining.

Default exotic: Mask of the Quiet One. It recharges your melee, grenade, and barricade when you take damage.

Striker
Code of the Earthshaker (top). This gives you dual Pulse grenades and shoulder slam, which can do AoE melee damage (and save you if you're about to miss a jump). Code of the Juggernaut (bottom) is more melee-focused. The damage from your ground-pound falls off rapidly with distance, and is unaffected by the height at which you initiate it. (In theory the lingering effects from Terminal Velocity might be affected, but I'm seeing inconsistent behavior with those.) Punches may do more damage to single targets than slams, but this seems to vary (e.g. Leviathan Loyalist Centurions are very punchable, but Hungering Ogre punch damage varies a bit).
  • An Insurmountable Skullfort instantly recharges your shoulder charge if you kill what you hit. Wear this if you will be facing Thralls or War Beasts.
  • Crest of Alpha Lupi causes your barricade to emit a small healing pulse. Useful for Torrent strikes, where you can raise a barricade every few seconds.
Sunbreaker
Code of the Siegebreaker (bottom), sometimes. Solar ability kills restore health , which is very helpful in Torrent. You get ten hammers that leave burning Sunspots, but if you move away from the Sunspots for more than a few seconds your super duration will be reduced. Code of the Fire-Forged (top tree) gives you six hammers. The shoulder charge (Hammer Strike) can apply a debuff that boosts all damage to the target by 50%, and the embers from Vulcan's Rage can inflict a lot of damage on nearby targets, so it can be better vs. bosses that you can punch.
  • Hallowfire Heart increases the recharge rate of solar abilities while your super is fully charged. With Torrent, you will be able to spam Thermite grenades rapidly so long as you don't use your super.
Sentinel
Code of the Aggressor (bottom). Shield bash has a disorienting AoE, and killing groups with grenades reduces the cooldown on grenades. Code of the Protector (top) is more useful for group play.
  • Mask of the Quiet One also grants health regeneration on void ability kills, making it slightly more useful for Sentinel.

Warlock

Warlocks are decent for solo play, especially in strikes with modifiers that limit your ability to heal (you should generally be configured for healing rifts). The Warlock supers are slower to deliver damage than Titan supers, with the exception of Nova Bomb, which is quick but also less damaging. Stormcaller has clear advantages for Torrent, while Voidwalker seems designed to counteract Attrition.

Default exotic: Eye of Another World. It improves the regeneration speed of your melee, grenade, and rift. The automatic reload provided by Transversive Steps can be useful for Prism, since you will be periodically switching away from your energy weapon mid-fight.

Stormcaller
Attunement of Conduction (top). Powerful melee, extended grenade damage, and your super lasts twice as long if your grenade and melee abilities are charged up when you pop it. (You can throw a grenade during the super with no reduction in time.) Attunement of the Elements (bottom) is more useful in groups than solo.
Dawnblade
Attunement of Flame (bottom). Everlasting Fire can keep the super going for a very long time, so long as you keep getting kills. Attunement of Sky (top) lets you shoot while gliding, which is generally not a good idea when you're the sole attraction.
Voidwalker
Attunement of Hunger (bottom). The Devour ability changes the way you play, allowing the Warlock to tank large numbers of enemies while rapidly recharging grenades. Attunement of Chaos (top) lets you throw overcharged grenades, which are somewhat useful, and makes Nova Bomb move slowly but track enemies. Handy for certain boss fights.

Hunter

Lacking the Titan's barricades, Warlock's healing, and suffering from an excess of Mobility, Hunters are often the most difficult class to use for a solo run. The preferred class is Arcstrider or Gunslinger, though there are cases where Nightstalker is amazing.

Default exotic: Foetracer. Deals more damage to marked low-health enemies, providing a small DPS boost. You will rarely use this, however, as each sub-class has a potent exotic.

Arcstrider
Way of the Wind (bottom). You get an AoE disorientation effect from melee, and recharge rate boosts when critically wounded. Way of the Warrior is more tuned for melee.
  • Raiden Flux. Quick successive attacks increase the damage output and duration of your super. It lasts a long time, does an impressive amount of damage.
Gunslinger
Way of the Sharpshooter (bottom). Landing precision shots charges your super, and landing precision shots with your super boosts your super. Great for killing bosses and high-health mini-bosses like Hungering Ogres. Way of the Outlaw (top) isn't as useful vs. bosses.
  • Celestial Nighthawk. You get one shot that does massive damage. Make sure you land a precision shot. For some strikes (e.g. A Garden World) this is a game-changer. If you don't have this exotic helmet, you should probably use a different subclass.
Nightstalker
Way of the Pathfinder (bottom). Your Vortex grenades last twice as long, you can directly damage the boss with Shadowshot, and smoke bomb can let you run through areas invisibly. Way of the Trapper (top) is good for killing clusters of mobs, and gives you an exploding throwing knife, but isn't as good vs. the boss.
  • Graviton Forfeit (with Pathfinder). If you're doing a stealth run, this will let you be invisible for about eight seconds, and use your smoke bombs more often. Works best with the Torrent modifier, which allows you to apply stealth continuously.
  • Orpheus Rig (with Trapper). If you snare a large group, your super will recharge instantly. Very helpful for Thralls and War Beasts.

Grenades

As a general rule, Pulse and Vortex grenades are preferred, because they do periodic pulses of damage after the initial impact. They are excellent for tough enemies that stay in place, or swarms of enemies that pass through a narrow area (like War Beasts and Thralls). Pulse grenades were nerfed a bit in patch 1.1.0 (5-Dec-2017), but they're still the most effective option for solo strikes.

The burning effects from Thermite grenades can be similarly effective, but it takes a period of adjustment to get used to throwing them. These should always land in front of the target to ensure that the hostile will be standing in a burning patch, and will continue to take damage if they move toward you.

If these aren't available to your class, try Arcbolt, Solar, Tripmine, or Voidwall.

This post lists the damage done by grenades vs. the dogs in the Leviathan raid. The actual damage done may be affected by subclass, exotics, and whether the target moves. (The chart is also somewhat stale, as it was compiled before the significant changes in the 1.1.0 patch.)

General Strike Info

Every Nightfall has two modifiers. One affects damage output or healing, the other affects the mission timer. Each modifier combination comes with a unique configuration of hostiles, e.g. the increased firepower available in Torrent is generally balanced with a larger number of bad guys.

Momentum: you won't heal unless you move quickly. You can sprint for 2.2 seconds, fall a long distance, or drive a sparrow. Your Recovery stat has no effect on how long it takes for healing to start, and only a minor impact on how quickly your health bar refills, so it may be beneficial to tune for Resilience instead. Sprint enhancers reduce the initial delay, but not by much: a Hunter with Keen Scout, MIDA, and Stomp-EE5 started healing after 2.1 seconds.
Attrition: healing takes 13-14 seconds to start, and takes longer to finish. Enemies occasionally drop healing orbs that restore you to full health and reduce the cooldown on your super.
Torrent: cooldowns for grenades, melee, class abilities, and supers are significantly reduced, to the point where you don't really need guns.
Prism: at any given time, one element's damage is doubled, while the other two do half damage. This post has a table with some experimental data. The elements rotate every 31 seconds, from arc to solar to void (alphabetical order for English speakers). This affects the damage you do with energy weapons, power weapons, grenades, elementally-charged melee, and supers. Incoming damage is not affected.

Timewarp: Anomalies: glowing blue objects are scattered throughout the strike. Shoot them to gain 30 seconds each.
Timewarp: Killing Time: killing red-bar enemies grants +2 seconds, killing orange-bar enemies grants +7 seconds. You don't have to land the killing blow, but enemies killed exclusively by other hostiles don't grant you any time. This tends to be the most difficult modifier, as there are many sections where a solo player can barely break even by killing things.
Timewarp: Rings: you literally jump through hoops to add +30 seconds. The rings appear for a limited time, so if you die while jumping through them you will effective lose up to five minutes.
Timewarp: Zero Hour: you have a set amount of time, and no way to increase it.

Strikes will not play out exactly the same way every time. The composition and placement of enemy groups is generally constant, but the position of some units and environmental items (like exploding barrels) can vary. Boss fights seem to be rigidly defined.

Your characters keep whatever ammo they had from previous activities during the current session. If they were low or out of ammo, they're guaranteed to start with a partial magazine. One trick for starting with a full magazine is to find a planet with a pending public event and activate Rally the Flag before launching the strike. If you just want power ammo, you can use the "Wardcliff Coil ammo gift" to get a full magazine quickly: switch to Wardcliff Coil while in orbit, start the strike, switch to your power weapon of choice, return to orbit, start the strike.

Why Do Solo Strikes?

A few reasons why you should be trying to finish Nightfall strikes solo:

All of these things translate into you being more effective and more valuable in group settings. Ever been the last guardian standing in a Heroic strike? You'll now feel right at home.

Does Strategy Matter?

You can learn a lot from watching videos of expert players, but if you don't know the ins and outs it just looks like they're running around killing everything. You might not realize that they're standing in a very specific place, or killing things in a certain order, or that the fancy running-jumping-spinning-shooting maneuver is more than just showing off. The point of these guides is to call out the places where doing certain things will help you succeed.

For example, in the opening of The Pyramidion, standing in the right place will keep one set of enemies from advancing on your position. A small shift in position will likely get you killed. If you've only played with a full fireteam you might not even realize that those enemies don't have to be killed to open the door. As another example, using the right number of rockets at each phase of the Inverted Spire boss can make a huge difference.

Every second counts on a solo run. In my first half dozen successful completions, only three finished with more than 30 seconds remaining. Two had less than 10 seconds on the clock. Sometimes small improvements can let you eke out a victory even after some big mistakes.

You can find solo-run videos of every Nightfall on YouTube. These are typically labeled by week. Week 1 began Tuesday September 6, 2017. Curse of Osiris launched Tuesday December 5, 2017, at the start of week 14. Esoterickk's Nightfall playlist (links to Prestige runs collected on Reddit) covers all of them.

How to Improve

This takes time and patience. You will fail many times before you succeed. If you watch the expert players you will see them throwing grenades and aiming down their sights at places where enemies are about to appear... repetition and foreknowledge gives them an edge. They developed this by playing these strikes over and over, until the hard things became easy.

I strongly recommend that you record each run. For PC players, Nvidia's ShadowPlay software, which is included with all of their video cards, is easy to use and adds very little overhead. This can help you in a few ways.

First, if you screw something up, you may not understand why in the heat of the moment. For example, in the opening to the Pyramidion I would jump off my sparrow, throw a grenade, and fire a rocket. The grenade missed, and I didn't know why until I reviewed the recording and saw that I was rushing to line up the rocket shot before the grenade had actually left my hand.

Second, it can help you identify areas where you're getting bogged down. Compare your time through a particular section with that of the expert players. If it's taking you twice as long, that's something to focus on.

And, of course, when you complete the mission, you can post it on the web. And even if you don't, you might get a fun "blooper reel" out of your less successful moments.

Normal or Prestige?

Prestige enemies are tougher, but the strike is otherwise identical. If your light level is below the recommended minimum (currently 330), things will be substantially more difficult. Your weapon damage is capped once you reach the recommended minimum, so having a higher level doesn't actually help.

The most significant change is to the mission timer, which will be reduced by 4 or 5 minutes. If you find yourself finishing normal Nightfalls within the Prestige time limit, you can try the Prestige version. I wouldn't recommend trying it until you can finish the normal strike with significant time to spare, because when the mission ends early you're denied the opportunity to practice different strategies on the boss.

These guides are intended to work for both normal and Prestige modes. In some cases there is a significant benefit to switching power weapons, which isn't possible in Prestige. Both approaches will be described. If you want to try Prestige, make sure you can succeed in normal mode without changing your equipment during the strike.

Game Patches

A summary of changes that impacted solo runs.

Version Date (week) Content
1.0.0 6-Sep-2017 (week 1) Game launched on PS4/XB1.
(1.0.5) 24-Oct-2017 (week 8) Game launched on PC.
1.1.0 5-Dec-2017 (week 14) Curse of Osiris expansion released. Significant changes to grenades, notably Pulse grenade damage got reduced and dual-grenade recharge times got increased. Many other tweaks to weapons and exotics.
1.1.1.1 12-Dec-2017 (week 15) Masterwork weapons introduced.
1.1.2 30-Jan-2018 (week 22) Masterwork armor introduced.
1.1.3 27-Feb-2018 (week 26) Nightfall strike scoring introduced, replacing fail timers. Masterwork armor damage reduction increased.
1.1.4 27-Mar-2018 (week 30) Player speed increased. Many changes to weapon damage.

Copyright 2018 Andy McFadden. All Rights Reserved.