If you checked out the race to world’s first completion of the new Deep Stone Crypt raid, you probably noticed a lot of players with truly unbelievable power levels. Less than two weeks after the release of Beyond Light, many players have managed to grind all the way to the game’s hard cap of 1250. Combined with their artifact level, some players are already at 1270-1280, and ready to tackle the game’s hardest content.
Between soft caps, hard caps, powerful engrams, pinnacle engrams, and artifact power, it can be difficult to wrap your mind around Destiny 2’s complex system for leveling up. This guide will outline the process by which you can level a character the fastest way possible by efficiently completing and claiming powerful rewards, as well as the activities that are the fastest and easiest to complete. For a full list of powerful and pinnacle rewards, check out this guide.
Soft Cap, Hard Cap, and Pinnacle Cap
In season 12, aka Season of the Hunt, there are three max-levels you will hit, at which point the activities you need to do to keep increasing your power will change. They are:
- Soft Cap: 1200
- Hard Cap: 1250
- Pinnacle Cap: 1260
While under the soft cap, virtually every piece of gear you pick up will be an upgrade. You can complete any activity in the game, and you’ll continue to grow in power with the gear you pick up.
Once you reach the soft cap of 1200, your option for powering up will become a bit more limited. Powerful and Pinnacle Engrams will decrypt at higher power than your average (but not necessarily an upgrade, more on that later) but your typical blue item drops will not. You will also receive upgrades from Prime Engrams and upgrades through the new +1 playlist system, which will be described further in the hard cap section.
As soon as you reach the hard cap, your only source of upgrades will be Pinnacle Engrams and the occasional one-time exotic quest.
Reaching The 1200 Softcap
The soft cap is the easy part — everything you do will reward you with an upgrade. Playing the Beyond Light campaign (after you play the New Light campaign) is a great way to work towards that soft cap. You’ll receive big jumps in power throughout the story that should get you fairly close to 1200 by the end of it.
If getting to 1200 as fast as possible is your top priority, skip the campaign and head to the Moon. After grabbing all the bounties from Eris, fast travel to Sorrows Harbor and then mount up and ride to Hellmouth. Here you are looking for any of these 4 things:
- Public Event
- Group of three powerful Ogres
- Powerful Hive Knight
- Powerful Vex Minotaur
You won’t find all of these on every run, but they can all be found around the small Hellmouth area. Killing the Ogres and the Knight will spawn a chest while the Minotaur (across from the public event area) will spawn an invisible jumping platform puzzle that you can collect from twice if you quickly leave the area and return before it despawns. Once you’ve done a lap of the area, simply return to orbit and travel back to Sorrows Harbor to repeat the Hellmouth run.
This is one of the fastest ways to reach 1200. Alternatively, you can pick a short Lost Sector like Widow’s Walk on the EDZ and just run it over and over until you reach 1200. The most important thing during this time is to make sure you don’t finish any powerful or pinnacle rewards.
Reaching The 1250 Hard Cap
Once you reach 1200, you need to start being very careful about which activities you do if you want to reach the hard cap as fast as possible. The worst thing you can do is claim all of your Powerful and Pinnacle awards right away, as you’ll end up getting a lot of doubles and weak Powerfuls. Before we get into the methods, here’s the breakdown for Powerful and Pinnacle Engrams:
- Powerful Engram: +3 power
- Prime Engram: +3 power
- Exotic Engram: +3 power
- Valor, Infamy, Glory Rank Up: +3 power
- Exotic Quests and Ritual Weapons: +3
- Pinnacle: +6 power (until hard cap then +1)
Keep in mind that these upgrades are based on your average power level, not the level for each slot. In order to keep track of your highest level item in each slot, you can use the Destiny Item Manager website.
DIM is an incredibly versatile tool that can help you in all sorts of ways, but for the purpose of power leveling, you want to look at your inventory screen. At the top, you’ll see your current banner and power level. Below that, you’ll see your highest possible power level between all the gear you own. Hover over the gear power level and you’ll get a full breakdown of every slot.
Power level is an average of all of your gear. In order to raise your power level, you need to increase your average to a level higher than your current. In this example, my character is 1246. The 6/8 represents how many points above 1246 I am. If I can reach +8 above 1246, I’ll upgrade to 1247.
This is where the breakdown comes in handy. Here you can see that four of my pieces are at 1246, the power weapon, helmet, and class item are higher, and the gauntlets are below. I need two more points to get to 1247, and I have a couple of ways to do that.
The gauntlets are going to be the easiest to raise. I can either claim gauntlets from my season pass track (which will always be at your average) or I can run a Wrathborn hunt for gauntlets. If neither of those options are available, I’d probably do public events on Europa so I can farm Hereafter Pieces while I look for the gauntlets to drop. Any activity you choose will eventually give you the gauntlets.
Once I get the gauntlets, I’ll be at 7/8. Now I just need to run playlist activities until one of my 1246 slots lands a +1. In Beyond Light, Bungie added playlist activities that drop +1 power level items. If I ran strikes until either my legs, chest, kinetic, energy, or gauntlets dropped at 1247, my average would be raised to 1247.
This is a good example of a time when you should not take a powerful. However, let’s say I didn’t have a 1250 power weapon and the number was actually 2/8. I could still get the gauntlets and raise it to 3/8, but finding the other five points in playlist activities would take a lot of time and luck. In this case, it would be much more efficient to claim a powerful reward.
In general, you only want to claim a powerful if it will not push you to the next level. If you only need 1/8 or 2/8, there’s usually a pretty good way to get there. If there is a lot of disparity in your gear level you can probably “catch up” your lower gear simply by doing playlist activities until an at-level item drops. On the other hand, if all your gear is around the same level and you’re only at less than 5/8, taking a powerful is probably the best option.
The next thing to consider is which powerful gear to take. Generally speaking, the more even your individual item levels are, the better it is to take a higher-level reward like a Tier 3 or a Pinnacle. This is because it will boost your around +6 points, so if you’re only 1/8, a +6 will get you very close to raising your level simply by farming playlist activities for +1 drops. On the other hand, if you’re gear is split more unevenly with a few that are really ahead (+2 or +3) then a powerful is a better option. You should only need a small boost to get your to the next level, and there’s also a chance that the upgrade will land in the slot that’s already ahead, you don’t want to waste a Pinnacle like that.
Ultimately, min-maxing your upgrades comes down to using your Powerful and Pinnacle upgrades as efficiently as possible and never claiming one when you can easily raise your power to the next level with playlist farming. On the week that you think you might make it to 1250, do not take any of your Pinnacle rewards.
Reaching The 1260 Pinnacle Cap
Once every slot is filled with a 1250 item, your only source of upgrades will be Pinnacle Engrams. This is a very slow grind that will take many weeks as there are only so many Pinnacle Rewards you can claim. Every Pinnacle Engram will raise one item by +1, as long as it doesn’t roll in a slot that is already above your average. There are seven weekly Pinnacle Engrams, not including the four that come from Iron Banner and the one you can get for reaching Legend Glory rank. If all of your rolls were perfect it would still take 11 weeks to reach that max level.
This grind is meant for the most dedicated players, so be patient and hope for lucky rolls on your pinnacle rewards.
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Eric Switzer is the Livestream News Editor for TheGamer as well as the lead for VR and Tech. He has written about comics and film for Bloody Disgusting and VFXwire. He is a graduate of University of Missouri – Columbia and Vancouver Film School. Eric loves board games, fan conventions, new technology, and his sweet sweet kitties Bruce and Babs. Favorite games include Destiny 2, Kingdom Hearts, Super Metroid, and Prey…but mostly Prey. His favorite Pokémon is Umbreon.
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