Best DPS Weapons in Destiny 2 Analyzed (2023)

The DPS meta in Destiny 2 is a complicated subject, but we'll try to condense some intense community testing in this guide.

Image via Bungie

The meta is constantly changing, and analyzing the best DPS weapons in Destiny 2 remains an important activity. As Bungie adds new weapons, adjusts its perk systems, and releases new bosses with different best-damage practices, knowing what works best is paramount. At one point, it was infinite grenade launchers; at another, it was a legendary Exotic Sniper Rifle. The community is nonetheless committed to discovering the most efficient, unrivaled damage-per-second cycles in the game.

The Best DPS Weapons in Destiny 2 Analyzed (2023)

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These are currently the best DPS weapons in Destiny 2 (2023):

  • Crafted Apex Predator Rocket Launcher (best with Bait and Switch).
  • Cold Comfort Rocket Launcher (with Bait and Switch, Envious Assassin, and the proper equipment).
  • Gjallarhorn Exotic Rocket Launcher (for the Pack Hunter buff or on its own because it’s awesome)
  • Witherhoard Exotic Grenade Launcher (no notes, just amazing).
  • Izanagi’s Burden Exotic Sniper Rifle (great for rotations but requires good aim).
  • Parasite Exotic Heavy Grenade Launcher (best with auto-reload abilities/equipment).
  • Grand Overture Exotic Machine Gun (mainly for bosses without weak spots).
  • Fourth Horseman Exotic Shotgun (provided you can get close).
  • Legend of Acrius Exotic Heavy Shotgun (up close for bosses like Ekthar in Ghosts of the Deep).
  • Conditional Finality Exotic Shotgun (also up close).
  • Tractor Cannon Exotic Heavy Shotgun (but only for the buff and when used in the right rotation).
  • Hothead Rocket Launcher (when paired with other Arc weapons and Surges).

If you’re looking for some incredibly detailed analyses of the best DPS weapons in Destiny 2, as well as the cycles needed to supplement the core damage dealers, a video series by YouTuber Aegis spans six entries (so far) and more than an hour to give you an answer.

The longest of them by a mile is their video on the best damage rotations. It’s a 42-minute dissertation on not only the best options but also testing methodology, a review and explanation of a massive testing spreadsheet, and a listing of 34 weapon and equipment combinations ranking best-to-worst rotations in the current meta (Season of the Deep).

The Best DPS Weapons in Destiny 2: Rocket Launchers

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To start, let’s get the elephant out of the room. The best DPS weapons in Destiny 2 are rocket launchers, especially if you want to do the most damage to almost any boss. The crafted Apex Predator from the Last Wish Raid is great for most situations. But the absolute best is the Cold Comfort Rocket Launcher from the Ghosts of the Deep Dungeon.

  • Apex is easier to get. You can farm the Kalli encounter for red border, and it comes with the Bait and Switch perk. When active, it provides a massive 35% damage bonus to every shot for 10 seconds.

Regardless of your choice of best DPS weapons, you’ll need to lean into every class’ ability to shorten or eliminate reloads, and you’ll need to use those to get the most out of any Rocket Launcher setup. There’s also the boss itself to consider. Atrax-1 in Deep Stone Crypt, for instance, requires a different strategy than Taniks in the same activity. If the boss is a considerable distance away, moves around a lot, or all but requires you use something with a better ammo economy than Rockets, you can substitute the following:

  • Thunderlord Exotic Machine Gun.
  • Cataclysmic Linear Fusion Rifle.
  • Levianthan’s Breath Exotic Heavy Bow.

Note that while these three guns are solid options, they don’t touch the Top 10 or so best DPS weapons you could pick. That’s underscored by damage-per-second requires a rotation between all three of your arms to optimize output in Destiny 2.

The Best DPS Weapon Rotations in Destiny 2

Screenshot by GameSkinny

The best DPS weapon rotations in Destiny 2 assume a few things. The time between damage instances must be as short as possible. This is achieved by switching weapons or using a class and/or Exotic ability to shorten or remove a reload animation. The best Destiny 2 DPS weapons include the following abilities and actions:

  • Auto Loading Holster from the Hunter class.
  • Reload Dodge paired with Radiant Machines (Exotic Leg Armor).
    • Even Rally Barricade can do in the absence of anything else.

I’ll list all 34 of the best rotations from Aegis with a brief note on how they operate. However, know that the best DPS weapons in Desinty2 all require Rocket Launchers and a Gjallarhorn for the Pack Hunter buff. There’s no downside to having the slightly lower value from the Gjally when five other Guardians more than make up for it with their own weapon buff damage.

Additionally, you’ll see a lot of Slug Shotguns and Witherhoards at the top of the list. Slugs have burst potential that Bungie has long tried to rein in. Witherhoard is ongoing damage over time, but like Anarchy, you almost don’t need anything to get the damage ticking away. Unlike Anarchy, Witherhoard doesn’t take up the Power weapon slot, letting Rockets and other choices shine through.

Best DPS Weapons Rotation List

Screenshot by GameSkinny

Here are all of Aegis’ best DPS weapon rotations in Destiny 2 (updated with his new testing for Season 22). If there’s more than one weapon listed, use them in the order they appear. Later weapons can fill in the time between shots of your primary. Unless noted, I’m also assuming you use your Super of choice before DPS starts (Well for Warlock, Thundercrash for Titan, and Blade Barrage for Hunter). I’ll also list the class and Exotics used in testing as the last entry, so your mileage may vary with different setups.

  • 34. Retrofit Escapade with Fourth Time’s the Charm and Target Lock, Gyrfalcon’s Hauberk Void Hunter chest (fair damage, but takes too long and is too costly).
  • 33. Heir Apparent Sixth Coyote Hunter chest (below average damage, too much ramp-up and downtime)
  • 32. Thunderlord, Sixth Coyote Hunter chest (same basic issue as Heir Apparent with a slightly higher damage threshold).
  • 31. Taipain-4fr, Izanagi’s Burden, Sixth Coyote (Taipan simply doesn’t have the damage output necessary, nor the sustaining power of other options on the list).
  • 30. Tractor Cannon and Two Vorpal Weapon Pellet Shotguns, Rain of Fire Warlock legs (fair enough, but not Slug/10, and best on bosses with harder-to-reach weak points).
  • 29. Witherhoard, your weapon of choice, Bait and Switch Cataclysmic, Sixth Coyote Hunter chest (better than Taipain with good ammo economy, but subpar damage in current meta).
  • 28. Two Vorpal Weapon Slug Shotguns — Fortissimo, Nessa’s Oblation — and Tractor Cannon (good, but requires buff uptime maintenance and proper execution).
  • 27. Sleeper Simulant, Sixth Coyote (a solid option hamstrung by bad ammo economy).
  • 26. Xenophage, Radiant Dance Machines Hunter legs (also good, also bad ammo economy).
  • 25. Whisper of the Worm, Star-eater Scales Hunter legs (Good all around, easy to use, but can’t breach mid-tier).
  • 24. Briar’s Contempt, Izanagi’s Burden (the best Linear option, but still not great).
  • 23. Two Vorpal Pellet Shotguns, Dragon’s Shadow Hunter chest (more effective than the Rain of Fire version thanks to increased weapon handling and therefore draw speed).
  • 22. Two Vorpal Slug Shotguns, Dragon’s Shadow Hunter chest (as Pellet, but better).
  • 21. Izanagi’s Burden, Heavy Grenade Launcher with Spike Grenades/Auto-Loading, Star-eater Scales (good, but Heavy GLs are still lower on the damage tier list than rockets).
  • 20. Two Slug Shotguns, Gjallarhorn, Rain of Fire (It’s Gjally. It’s good).
  • 19. Two-Tailed Fox with Catalyst, Radiant Dance Machines (Better than Gjally, but not as effective in group play as can’t give or receive buffs).
  • 18. Merciless, Radiant Dance Machines (good, especially for solo and low-man content, but falls off in larger teams).
  • 17. Leviathan’s Breath, Star-Eater Scales (solid and while reliant on precision shots, decent ammo economy and output).
  • 16. Legend of Acrius, Star-Eater Scales (only really usable in ultra-close-range, but mean when used correctly).
  • 15. Deathbringer Rocket Launcher with catalyst, Radiant Dance Machines (situational, but effective and incredibly satisfying).
  • 14. Malfeasance, IKELOS Shotgun, Apex Predator, Lucky Pants (surprisingly good but requires setup: light throwing knife kill to load the shotgun and activate Ember of Singing for another reload dodge).
  • 13. The Fourth Horseman, Radiant Dance Machines (more dakka).
  • 12. Izanagi’s Burden, two shots from the Sniper Rifle of your choice, Apex Predator, Dragon’s Shadow (great damage, and can exploit how Dragon Shadow moves the reload tick to the end of the dodge instead of the front, letting you start a manual reload of your rocket, dodge, and “spawn” the next rocket).
  • 11. Hothead, Fourth Horseman, Radiant Dance Machines (shoot all ten rockets, then all shotgun shots. Even more dakka).
  • 10. Cold Comfort with Bipod, Radiant Dance Machines. (Dump every rocket. That’s it. That’s the cycle).
  • 9. Witherhoard, Apex Predator with Demolitionist, Starfire Protocol Warlock chest (Yes, Starfire is still viable after the nerf).
  • 8. Witherhoard, Apex Predator with Demolitionist, Verity’s Brow Warlock helmet (Requires you stop to kill a mob with an energy weapon, but still better than Starfire).
  • 7. Izanagi’s Burden, Slug Shotgun, Apex Predator, Strand Warlock with Thread of Ascent and Ophidian Aspects (a twist on the classic, Thread of Ascent reloads with grenade use and Ophidian maximizes ready speed).
  • 6. Fourth Horseman, Grand Overture, Radiant Dance Machines (The most dakka with a fully loaded Grand Overture missile payload).
  • 5. Conditional Finality, a pellet shotgun, Apex Predator, Rain of Fire (Use Rain of Fire after the rocket to reload your other weapons).
  • 4. Two slug shotguns, Apex Predator, Strand Warlock with Thread of Ascent and Ophidian Aspects (the real classic that Thread of Ascent makes even better).
  • 3. Izanagi’s Burden, Slug Shotgun, Apex Predator with Slideways, Strand Warlock with Ophidian Aspects (Aegis notes this has very tight ability timings and dangerous sliding into teammates for the reload, so while good, not particularly practical).
  • 2. Witherhoard, a weapon to activate Bait and Switch, Apex Predator with Bait and Switch, Radiant Dance Machines (Activate Bait and Switch, then dump all the rockets you have. Not flashy, but very explode-y).
  • 1. Witherhoard, a weapon to activate Bait and Switch, Cold Comfort with Envious Assassin and Bait and Switch, Radiant Dance Machines (same drill. Use Witherhoard, activate Bait and Switch and dump your rockets).

Long story short, if you want the best DPS weapons in Destiny 2, you play Hunter with a very specific piece of Exotic Leg Armor. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this guide, you don’t need to play any particular class. However, you’ll probably lose a good chunk of damage. Ultimately, if your fireteam has a strategy that one or two-cycles most bosses, use that. Any of the guns or rotations on this list will do the job just fine. If you’re interested in our other coverage for Bungie’s epic game, we’ve got a complete fishing guide, how to unlock the Divinity Exotic Trace Rifle, and more in our D2 guides hub.

About the author

John Schutt

John Schutt has been playing games for almost 25 years, starting with Super Mario 64 and progressing to every genre under the sun. He spent almost 4 years writing for strategy and satire site TopTierTactics under the moniker Xiant, and somehow managed to find time to get an MFA in Creative Writing in between all the gaming. His specialty is action games, but his first love will always be the RPG. Oh, and his avatar is, was, and will always be a squirrel, a trend he's carried as long as he's had a Steam account, and for some time before that.