Destiny is a numbers-driven game, and no number is more important for Guardians than their light level. As the months fly by and Bungie continues to release new Destiny content — like September’s Rise of Iron — maxing out your light level to prepare for the new endgame gets more and more confusing. Here’s how to get above 365 in Destiny and get yourself ready to destroy Aksis, Archon Prime in the latest raid, “Wrath of the Machine.”
First you need to understand how light level works. If you’re a veteran player or already get it, skip ahead, or scroll further down if you’re looking specifically for ghost shells and artifacts.
How light level works in Destiny: Rise of Iron
Your Guardian’s light level is a weighted average of the light level from your equipped gear, including weapons, armor, class item, artifact, and ghost shell. Your Guardian’s base level, which goes up to 40, isn’t really all that important, even though it’s the number that other players see out in the world (that’s just a weird design choice by Bungie). Being level 40 simply allows you to equip gear with the highest light level, increasing your Guardian’s light level in turn. Most gear you obtain will drop either at or just above your current level, which can make raising your light level a gradual process at best.
The base light level for Rise of Iron, the current Destiny expansion, is 350. That’s the light level of all the gear you can easily buy from vendors in Destiny’s social spaces, such as the Tower and Iron Temple. If you haven’t reached 350 yet, do everything you can to earn legendary marks — such as the daily featured crucible and story missions, and public events in patrol zones — and buy all the vendor gear you can.
The grind really starts once your Guardian’s light level reaches 350, although it’s still relatively forgiving. The most straightforward path from there is to play strike missions from the heroic SIVA crisis strikes playlist and pick up the items the boss of each strike drops, which will almost always be above your current level. Many other activities will grant you gear from light level 350 to 365. It’s once you hit light level 365 that you’ll inevitably hit a wall and the real grind begins.
How to get above 365 light
Aksis, the final boss of the new “Wrath of the Machine” raid has a recommended light level of 380. It’s definitely possible to defeat it at a lower level, but the closer you can get, the easier your life will be.
Unfortunately, post-365 gear is not easy to come by. Once you actually hit light level 365, there are only a few activities and strategies in Destiny that will guarantee loot above that level.
Some methods are fairly traditional:
- Raiding — Even if you can’t beat the raid’s final encounter(s) yet, completing even the early phases of “Wrath of the Machine” is likely to provide some guns and armor above 365. Being raid loot, some pretty cool stuff tends to drop, and there are plenty of chances in the raid to get random exotic drops, which also tend to go above 365.
- Nightfall — The weekly “Nightfall” strike has traditionally been Destiny‘s most rewarding activity short of running raids. It’s seen some ups and downs — the phase where it liked to give out low-level ghost shells was particularly dark — but with Rise of Iron‘s release, the Nightfall strike is a great source for gear above 365. Bring some friends and be prepared for a challenge.
- Exotic engrams — If you’re a new player, you’ll be forgiven for not knowing exotic engrams exist. To get them, you need to use strange coins to buy an item called “Three of Coins” from Xur, the vendor who shows up in a random location every Friday and stays until Saturday night. Buy a lot and use one ToC before every crucible match and every strike or raid boss you kill, and before no time you’ll be swimming in exotic engrams that will give you great high-level gear when decrypted.
- Faction packages — Most things you do in Destiny give you reputation (which is different from experience or light level). Rep increases your rank with various factions. Crucible and vanguard rank up with a variety of activities, but you’ll need to choose either New Monarchy, Dead Orbit, and Future War Cult by speaking with the corresponding vendor in the Tower. Rep for other factions, such as House of Judgment, Queen’s Wrath, and Crota’s Bane, can only be earned in a few specific activities. Regardless of how you do it, ranking up any of these factions grants you a package guaranteed to have some high-level gear.
- Shaxx’s weekly bounty — The 2015 expansion, The Taken King, introduced weekly crucible (competitive multiplayer) bounties from Lord Shaxs, a character who resides in the Tower. Rise of Iron pares that down to just one weekly bounty. Talk to Shaxx to obtain it, complete all the steps, and turn it in to obtain a high-level item.
Other methods of getting gear that will push your light level above 365 are more surprising, even for veteran Guardians:
- Archon’s Forge — The Taken King introduced a patrol activity called the “Court of Oryx,” where you could gather with strangers to defeat bosses of varying difficulty. Rise has a new version called “Archon’s Forge,” located in the new Plaguelands patrol area on Earth. Although it could use a few designs tweaks from Bungie — like letting players carry more than one SIVA offering at a time, come on — Archon’s Forge has one advantage over the Court of Oryx — completing fights there can reward certain high-level gear. Class items such as hunter cloaks, warlock wristbands, and titan towels seem to be most common. If you want to know more about it, we have a guide to help you succeed in Archon’s Forge, as well.
- Skeleton Keys — For a while now in Destiny, strike bosses have been capable of dropping weapons and armor that are exclusive to that strike, like the Treads Upon Stars scout rifle in the Shield Brothers strike, or the fantastic Imago Loop handcannon which drops in the “Undying Mind” or “Echo Chamber” missions. That system changes some with Rise of Iron, though. Strike bosses can now drop skeleton keys, which you can use to open a special new chest at the end of almost any strike, rewarding that strike’s specific exclusive loot (at very high levels, no less).
- Crucible drops — This is probably the most surprising source for post-365 gear, because, traditionally, the items that can drop when you complete crucible matches haven’t been very rewarding. That changed with Rise of Iron. Weapons and class items that drop on the post-match rewards screen can now appear at levels all the way up to (and beyond) the current level cap of 385, providing a really great motivation to get into the fray.
Find better ghost shells and artifacts
Even with all this knowledge, many players will struggle to get both a ghost shell and an artifact that’s above 365 light. The good news is that there are actually a few sources for these items.
Here are a few known sources for ghost shells with a light level of more than 365:
- Faction packages — You might not believe it, but it is possible to obtain high-level ghost shells from faction packages, including New Monarchy, Dead Orbit, Future War Cult, crucible, and vanguard. Just don’t expect them to drop very often.
- Nightfall — In the past, the Nightfall rewarded players with so many useless ghost shells it became something of a meme within the community. These days, however, getting a high-level ghost shell from the Nightfall is considered lucky. Times change.
- The raid — A special, raid-exclusive ghost shell can drop from just one point in “Wrath of the Machine:” the second-to-last encounter/first phase of the final boss. Sadly, they aren’t guaranteed to drop, so even that requires some luck.
And this is where to find artifacts above 365 light level:
- Crota’s Bane packages — This is a weird and unexpected source, but ranking up the Crota’s Bane faction with Eris Morn in the Tower grants a package that has a chance to contain a high-level artifact. The easiest way to do so is to hang around in the Court of Oryx on the Dreadnaught, completing encounters and doing the bounties that drop into your inventory while you’re there.
- Skeleton key chests — It can be tempting to use your skeleton keys as soon as you get them, perhaps to get a sweet Imago Loop (which is totally worth it). But it may be wise to save skeleton keys for when your artifact starts really lagging behind the rest of your gear. Skeleton key chests in strikes have a good chance of granting high-level artifacts, so if your artifact is around five or more levels lower than your Guardian’s light level, you’ll be happy to have one.
- The raid — In addition to high-level ghost shells (and everything else), “Wrath of the Machine” can drop artifacts that hover around light level 365 during various encounters, including the Siege Engine (aka Death Zamboni) and the first phase of the final boss.
There may be more sources for the highest level gear in Destiny: Rise of Iron, and more will emerge with the return of Iron Banner, Trials of Osiris, and raid hard modes and challenges. We’ll update this guide to keep you in the loop.
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