Best Destiny 2 Trace Rifles: PVE and PVP Tier List ranking

by | Jun 7, 2021 | Weapons

Trace rifles have flown under the radar for too long.

Often considered second-tier in both PVE and PVP, Trace rifles are making a comeback, but not for the reasons one would imagine. Turns out, Trace rifles were suffering a great deal from a lack of mods, namely ammo scavenger and ammo finder mods.

But now that Bungie finally gave them proper mods and solved their limited ammo problem, Trace rifles are finally showing their full potential. Technically Special weapons, they behave more like souped-up Auto rifles. In the right hands, Trace rifles can challenge some of the best weapons in the entire game.

In this guide, we’ll cover all Exotic Trace rifles and rank them from best to worst.


Destiny 2 Trace Rifles Tier list

These are the different Tier levels used for this ranking:

  • S Tier – Best: Highest ranking weapon types.
  • A Tier – Strong: Very strong weapon types, but not on the same level as S Tier Choices.
  • B Tier – Average: Decent choices that can be lethal in the hands of a skilled player.
  • C Tier – Weak: The middle of the pack, somewhat mediocre.
  • D Tier – Worst: Lagging behind the competition, these don’t have much to offer.

The list starts with the S Tier and moves down from there. It also covers both PVE and PVP, with the “Excels in” column clearly identifying where each weapon shines.

Alert iconDamage numbers: In this guide, DPS refers to the average damage per second a weapon can inflict. You can read more about the methodology used here.

WeaponTierExcels inAverage DPSVerdictElementArchetypeRequirements
Destiny 2 Divinity art
Divinity
| Trace Rifle
Best

S

PVE7,182
Slot: Arc Energy | Ammo: Destiny 2 special ammo Special | Source: Raid

Exotic Perk: "Sustained damage with this weapon envelops the target in a field that weakens and Overload rounds disrupts them."

► Able to deal with Overload Champions and easily apply a huge debuff on everything, Divinity is a must in endgame PVE activities. It may relegate its user to a more "support" role, but it remains one of the most valuable weapons you can have, especially when facing challenging content, or against that have hard-to-hit crit spots.

By the way, Divinity is so efficient, coordinated teams even use it in Gambit and seasonal activities to effortlessly tear down through bosses.

Average DPS: 7,182 with Debuff and Penance active.
ArcExoticShadowkeep
Ruinous Effigy Destiny 2
Ruinous Effigy
| Exotic Trace Rifle
Strong

A

PVE-
Slot: Void Energy | Ammo: Destiny 2 special ammo Special | Source: Exotic Kiosk

Exotic Perk: "Final blows with this weapon collapse victims into Void Transmutation spheres. Transmutation spheres you create can be picked up and wielded as weapons by you or your allies."

► Ruinous Effigy is hands down the most unique and fun weapon ever released in Destiny 2. It won't be replacing any of the top PVE weapons, but it can be very effective at close range on Majors: Use it to cancel stomp mechanics, dunk, melee, and finish off with a sword.

On top of that, it currently benefits from the seasonal Energy Accelerant mod which allows it to do way too much damage (probably a bug by the way)!

Average DPS: 9,500 at Max charge with Catalyst.
VoidExoticShadowkeep
Destiny 2 Coldheart art
Coldheart
| Trace Rifle
Strong

A

PVE9,500
Slot: Arc Energy | Ammo: Destiny 2 special ammo Special | Source: Exotic Engram

Exotic Perk: "This weapon shoots a steady cold fusion-powered laser that does exponentially more damage the longer it remains on a target."

► Previously one of the best exotics in the game, Coldheart has always done a decent job at dealing sustained damage against Bosses, Majors, and Champions.

But with an improved ammo thanks to the return of ammo mods, Coldheart can be a decent DPS alternative.

Average DPS: 9,500 at Max charge with Catalyst.
ArcExoticFree-to-Play
Destiny 2 Prometheus Lens art
Prometheus Lens
| Trace Rifle
Strong

A

PVE + PVP4,618
Slot: Solar Energy | Ammo: Destiny 2 special ammo Special | Source: Exotic Engram

Exotic Perk: "Fires a Solar trace beam and generates a damaging heat field that grows while the weapon continues to fire. Kills with this weapon return a fraction of the ammo used."

► Prometheus Lens had its 15 minutes of fame when a bug allowed it to dominate the Crucible for an entire weekend. Other than that, the weapon has always been considered mediocre at best for PVE and PVP. But the mere addition of ammo mods has shown us that Prometheus Lens has a lot to offer.

It's great at ad clearing in PVE and can be viable in PVP if you know what you're doing. By the way, it can be an absolute beast in modes such as Momentum Control.

Average DPS: 9,500.
SolarExoticFree-to-Play
Destiny 2 Wavesplitter art
Wavesplitter
| Trace Rifle
Average

B

-8,961
Slot: Void Energy | Ammo: Destiny 2 special ammo Special | Source: Exotic Engram

Exotic Perk: "Laser damage has three power levels that oscillate while the trigger is held down. Collecting an Orb of Light grants a short period of maximum power."

► Wavesplitter can be a decent alternative for both PVP and PVE, but you'll be better off with any of the other Trace rifles on this list. In fact, this weapon could be much more useful, but a lack of a Catalyst holds it back.

Without a Catalyst, it cannot generate orbs of power by itself, which means you'll always have to rely on your team to generate them for you.

Average DPS: 8,961 with Orb Pickup.
VoidExoticFree-to-Play

Destiny 2 Trace Rifles: Are they Meta?

Unlike basically every other weapon type in the game, all Trace rifles are Exotics. This means there are very few of them, but on the other hand, they all have unique exotic perks that help them stand out from each other.

For this reason, it’s difficult to make general conclusions on whether Trace rifles are good for PVE or PVP. It really depends on the Exotic and the expected usage.

Destiny 2 Exotics wide

Still, when trying to compare Trace rifles with other weapon types, this is how they stand in PVE and PVP:

The current Special Weapons Meta for PVE

So how good are Trace rifles in PVE? This table summarizes how the several Special weapon types rank against each other in PVE:

FieldWeapon TypeTierRole ❘ Current State
Grenade LaunchersGrenade launcher weapon type Destiny 2
Grenade Launchers
Best

S

► Special ammo Grenade launchers used to be Top tier, but that was only because of the Mountaintop. Technically, the Mountaintop is still one of the best (if not THE best) special weapon for PVE.

Thing is, Mountaintop will be retired with Beyond Light and won't be viable for endgame content anymore. And as much as people keep saying Truthteller will replace it, no other grenade launcher will be nearly as good as the Mountaintop.
ShotgunsShotgun weapon type Destiny 2
Shotguns
Best

S

► Shotguns are in a great place right now, and that's mainly due to the buff to slug shotguns but also the many new shotguns recently released with great stats and insane damage-dealing perks such as Reconstruction, Vorpal weapon, one-two punch, etc.

Overall, shotguns are finally hitting that sweet spot between risk and reward. Slug shotguns, in particular, are among the best shotguns in the game.
Sniper RiflesSniper rifle weapon type Destiny 2
Sniper Rifles
Strong

A

► Up until Season of Dawn, snipers were the best PVE special weapons in the game. They were extremely lethal and safe to use in endgame content, as they allowed players to deal insane DPS from afar.

But Bungie decided to nerf them hard because they were "too safe", bringing them back to pre-Shadowkeep values. Except, they were buffed with Shadowkeep because they were too average...
Trace RiflesTrace rifle weapon type Destiny 2
Trace Rifles
Average

B

► Trace rifles don't have much going for them in PVP. They can deal respectable total damage, which can be useful on a boss. But in PVP, you wan't the opposite.

With insanely high TTKs (remember, high = bad), it can take forever to down an opponent, unless they're absolutely terrible and barely move at all, or you have excellent tracking. Generally speaking, Trace rifles take too long to do significant damage and most opponents will either hide or counter you with something that hits harder, such as a shotgun.
Fusion RiflesFusion rifle weapon type Destiny 2
Fusion Rifles
Average

B

► Fusion rifles were recipients of a significant nerf some time ago, making them technically weaker than before.

That said, fusion rifles deserve more love, because even if they were nerfed, they are still powerful. They are capable of dealing more damage than snipers while being safer to use (due to having more range) than shotguns.

The current Special Weapons Meta for PVP

What about PVP? This table summarizes how they rank against each other in PVP:

Weapon TypeTierRole ❘ Current State
Shotgun weapon type Destiny 2
Shotguns
Best

S

Shotguns are so strong right now, they have been officially identified as a problem. They are simply too dominant in the current sandbox.

Shotguns are extremely lethal, easy to use, and encourage players to use them even more than primary weapons. And as Destiny 2's maps are relatively crowded (they were conceived for 8 players only), close-quarters combat is heavily encouraged, thus allowing shotguns to shine.
Sniper rifle weapon type Destiny 2
Sniper Rifles
Strong

A

► Sniper rifles have always been a top choice for PVP. But unlike shotguns, they have a higher skill-ceiling. In other words, it's harder to master a sniper, but in the hands of a skilled player, there's nothing deadlier than a sniper rifle in the entire game.

Overall, snipers are in a weird place right now. Recent nerfs to their flinch and aim assist have made them harder to use, which lead to even more people using shotguns. But if you do cross paths with a sniper user, beware. If they are still using one, it's because they know how to use it...
Trace rifle weapon type Destiny 2
Trace Rifles
Strong

A

► If you try to use Trace Rifles as any other Special weapon, you'll be very disappointed. Shotguns, snipers, and even fusion rifles are meant to be one-hit-kill weapons. Trace rifles, on the other hand, are not. They are slow.

But if you try to use them as a primary weapon, you'll see their true potential. With enough ammo, they behave like souped-up auto rifles, reaching the TTK of some of the best primary weapons in the game.
Fusion rifle weapon type Destiny 2
Fusion Rifles
Average

B

► Fusion rifles have been struggling for a while. After their big range nerf a few seasons ago, mainly due to the infamous Erentil FR4, Fusion rifles have lagged behind shotguns and snipers.

Bungie is clearly trying to rectify the situation, offering a few minor buffs here in there. Fusion rifles still have a long way to go before becoming competitive again, but standouts such as Bastion or the newer PLUG.ONE can still dominate a lobby.
Grenade launcher weapon type Destiny 2
Grenade Launchers
Average

B

► The reign of Special ammo Grenade launchers came to an end the day the Mountaintop was retired. And the Crucible has been a happier place ever since. Jokes aside, Mountaintop was a real problem. It was too strong, downright broken, while the rest of its kind left a lot to be desired.

These days, special ammo grenade launchers have finally found some balance. Some of the latest breechloaded grenade launchers are very good on paper, but unlike Mountaintop, they require some skill to be lethal in the Crucible.

Best Destiny 2 PVE Trace Rifles

If you’re looking for a Trace rifle to bring to PVE, there are several options at your disposal. Basically, all Trace rifles bring something to the table:

  • Divinity: Best support PVE weapon in the entire game
  • Ruinous Effigy: Can deal massive DPS thanks to this season’s Energy Accelerant mod.
  • Coldheart: Good for sustained DPS against Champions and Majors
  • Prometheus Lens: Good for ad clearing.

Having said that, if you really have to choose, Divinity and Ruinous Effigy come on top:

 

Divinity Destiny 2

Divinity

Weapon Type: Trace Rifle Slot: ArcEnergy
Ammo: Destiny 2 special ammoSpecial Source: Raid

Able to create a crit spot on command, debuff any enemy, and stun Overload Champions, Divinity is without a doubt the best support weapon in the entire game. If you and your fireteam want to increase your chances to complete the most difficult endgame content in Destiny 2, bringing a Divinity will certainly help.

 

Ruinous Effigy Destiny 2

Ruinous Effigy

Weapon Type: Trace Rifle Slot: VoidEnergy
Ammo: Destiny 2 special ammoSpecial Source: Exotic Kiosk

Ruinous Effigy was celebrated as the most unique and fun weapon ever released in Destiny. And while that remains true, a few nerfs made an already modest PVE weapon (in terms of lethality and viability) even weaker. But the introduction of this Season’s Energy Accelerant mod gave Ruinous Effigy a second life.

The mod is probably bugged as it should not work on Ruinous Effigy, but for the moment it does and it drastically increases the damage of the heavy slam attack. So much so that, if you can pull it off, it does some of the highest DPS in the game.


Best Destiny 2 PVP Trace Rifles

First, let’s set the right expectations: Trace Rifles are finally viable and fun, but they cannot be considered a top PVP weapon in Destiny 2.

Having said that, if you commit to them, equip ammo finder and scavenger mods, and use it as a Primary weapon (like a souped-up Auto rifle), they can get the job done:

Alert iconTTK numbers: TTK, or time-to-kill, is particularly important in PVP, because the lowest the TTK, the faster you can kill your opponent. You can read all about it in our TTK guide.

Weapon Optimal TTK Average TTK
Coldheart 0.67s 0.93s
Wavesplitter 0.67s 0.93s
Prometheus Lens 0.73s 0.93s
Ruinous Effigy 0.73s 0.93s
Divinity 1.13s 1.80s

For the record, a 0,67 seconds TTK is extremely fast and matches the fastest Primary weapons in the entire game (the top sidearms and SMGs). Trace Rifles have better range too, but on the other hand, they use Special ammo, which means you’ll have to be much more careful with how you spend ammo.

Using a Trace rifle may seem like a gimmick, but these days, with the right ammo mods and the right mindset, you can have tons of fun with them.

This video from our friend Pattycakes shows you exactly how:


Trace Rifles sources: How to get them

The table above includes a column titled “Drops from  ❘ Requirements“.

Destiny 2 Exotic Engram

This section goes deeper and includes more detailed steps on how to acquire all the shotguns still viable in Destiny 2:

WeaponDrops fromRequires?How to get it?
DivinityRaidDestiny 2 Shadowkeep logo 3Some elite weapons can only be found in raids, either as part of an Exotic quest or as a random drop from the final boss.
Ruinous EffigyExotic KioskDestiny 2 Shadowkeep logo 3Many Exotics can be acquired via the Exotics Kiosk in the tower, officially called the Monument to Lost Lights. You can read all about it, including costs and requirements, here.
Coldheart, Prometheus Lens, WavesplitterExotic EngramDestiny 2 Free to Play logo 1Some Exotics can only randomly drop while playing the game or by acquiring Exotic engrams (most notably from the Season Pass or from Xur). Playing higher-difficulty activities will greatly increase your chances to find one (namely, Nightfall: The Ordeals).

Most of these sources are self-explanatory, but in doubt, you can always leave a comment below with your question or ask away on our Discord.


Ranking criteria & Methodology

For the record, as much as we tried to keep this list as objective as possible, it’s still based on our personal experience playing the PC version of the game.

About the DPS numbers

The DPS figures used for this Tier list come from the excellent Damage Chart Madness database from Reddit user IAMADragonAMAA.

As explained in that document:

Average DPS represents a weapons performance when emptying all of its reserves, with only full magazines. This factors in that the first magazine is already loaded, and you keep firing until the last mag is empty. Effectively, a combination of Burst DPS and Sustain DPS. The most accurate representation of a gun’s performance in most circumstances.

Bear in mind this number is done with luna/rally/fieldprep reload buffs

That document also includes Burst DPS and Sustained DPS in case you want to get into the nitty-gritty.

About the ranking

Finally, if you’re wondering what criteria was used to build this Tier list, these are the main factors I took into account:

  • Lethality: The higher the effective DPS and usability, the higher the ranking.
  • Consistency: Some weapons may not have the highest DPS numbers, but they are so consistent, they more than make up for their lower DPS numbers.
  • Ease of use: Similar to the point above, some weapons are very effective because they are easy to use and don’t require too much skill or setup. This is also rewarded with higher rankings.
  • PVE/PVP Performance: High lethality in either PVE or  PVP is equally valuable. However, a weapon that is good at both PVE and PVP should rank higher than one that is slightly better on only PVE or PVP.
  • Fun factor: Not the most important factor, but it also helps if the weapon is damn fun to shoot with!

If you strongly disagree with some of the rankings here, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. By the way, what is your personal favorite?

Let's keep the conversation going

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