Destiny 2: Grandmaster Nightfalls Guide

An in-depth introduction to the “Grandmaster” difficulty in nightfall strikes, aimed at newer or returning players.


What are Grandmaster Nightfalls?

Grandmaster Nightfalls (henceforth abbreviated as “GMs”) are nightfall strikes at the highest difficulty level currently available in Destiny 2. They require a high power level to enter, feature many modifiers to add difficulty and are the only source of adept nightfall weapons.
For newer players, GMs can seem impossible or too much work to complete, but this guide will hopefully assist you in building an effective team, staying alive and conquering one of Destiny 2’s hardest challenges.

In order to enter GMs everyone in the fireteam needs to be a certain power level in order to start the mission. Head to: Director > Vanguard > Grandmaster nightfall to find out the minimum power level requirement.

The Loot
Let’s cover the most important thing first: the loot!
Killing all champions in a GM grants you “platinum” rewards. These can include:

  • Adept nightfall weapons (this is their only source)
    Adept nightfall weapons function similarly to their vanilla counterparts but they feature a few extra additions exclusive to completing Grandmaster difficulty:

    • They can use adept mods. Adept mods are powerful stat improvement mods with potential stat penalties when used.
    • Every weapon has an extra perk option in the third column called “Bottomless Grief”: “When you’re the last living member of your fireteam, each kill will refill your magazine. Also increases your magazine size by a considerable amount.”
    • Masterworking will increase every other stat by a very small amount.
    • They feature a unique weapon texture. This texture can be replaced with shaders.
  • Adept mods
    Please note that GMs will drop a considerable amount of adept mods but not all of them. Some are unlocked through Trials of Osiris only.
  • Ascendant Shards
  • Exotic Armour

You can also complete the “Conqueror” title and gild it by completing GMs. This title only requires you complete some objectives related to GMs only.

Grandmaster Modifiers

The main difficulty of GMs comes from their vast amount of modifiers. This part will briefly explain the most important modifiers to keep in mind when getting ready for a GM:

  • Join In Progress Disabled
    You are not allowed to join or rejoin a GM when it has been started. This does unfortunately mean if one of your fireteam members leaves the fireteam for whatever reason you’ll need to restart the GM from scratch in order for them to rejoin.
  • Locked Loadout
    You cannot change or edit your weapons, armour, mods, anything while in a GM. Make sure everyone is ready with their loadouts before starting a GM.
  • Extinguish
    If your entire fireteam is dead at any point, you’ll be booted back into orbit and you’ll need to restart the whole GM again. Prioritising survival over steamrolling enemies will help in GMs.
  • Limited Revives
    You can only revive fireteam members a certain amount of times. You start with 4 revives and can only get more by killing champions.
  • Champions: Mob
    More champions will appear in GMs in comparison to easier difficulties such as Heroic and Legend difficulties.
  • Match Game
    Enemy shields are highly resistant to unmatched elemental damage. In order to reliably take down enemy shields you’ll need to attack with the corresponding element that enemy has.
  • Extra Shields
    More enemies will have shields. This extends to enemies would might not have shields originally such as Harpies and Shanks.

GMs can also have some less harmful modifiers, check the GM before you launch to see if there are any surprises in the modifier lineup.

What to Expect In a Grandmaster

The modifiers explained above as well as the high power level requirement make for a challenging nightfall experience. This part should help you be aware of what to expect when you hop into a GM.

  • Enemies deal substantially more damage and have more health. Even basic enemies like Dregs and Goblins have increased health and damage. Coordination with your team is very helpful in quickly dispatching a group of enemies before they overwhelm you.
  • You can get killed in one shot by things that probably shouldn’t kill in one shot. Due to the large increase in enemy damage, it is easy to get killed in one shot by certain attacks. For example: Tracer Shanks, Psions with snipers and Vandals with snipers are all capable of killing guardians in one shot without certain protection mods and/or resilience levels. Killing these enemies first is a good idea to make sure you don’t get sniped while dealing with other enemies.
  • It’s (probably) going to be slower than a Master or Legend nightfall. With the constant threat of being booted back to orbit should everyone in your fireteam die as well as there being a large amount of modifiers in play, it is generally safer and more practical to focus on mid to long range combat at all times, with close range combat either being a last resort or a specialised tactic.
  • Running and gunning isn’t going to work well. An extension of the previous point, it is better to take GMs slowly and carefully instead of going in guns blazing. Relying on movement abilities in combat will usually lead to a quick death due to the good predictive aim enemies have.
  • Planning ahead is mandatory. Unlike other nightfall difficulties where you can pretty much run anything and still complete the mission fairly well, GMs require more specialised loadouts and playstyles, so discuss with your other fireteam members what they are bringing to the mission and coordinate your loadouts for optimal survival and killing potential.

Gear Recommendation and Team Composition

This part will help to give you some examples of practical gear to run in a GM as well as how a fireteam can be outfitted to efficiently take down specific enemies. The gear recommended is what I personally found useful as well as gear that my fireteam members usually run.
Please note that these are just my personal recommendations. If you have a loadout that works very well in GMs or other difficult content, it’s probably better to stick with that.

All Enemy Shield Types

Here are all the different shield types you will encounter in various GMs:
Exodus Crash: Arc and Void.
Lake of Shadows: Arc, Solar, Void.
Proving Ground: Solar and Void.
The Corrupted: Arc, Solar, Void.
The Devils Lair: Arc and Void.
The Hollowed Lair: Arc, Solar, Void.

It is strongly advised your fireteam is equipped with weapons or abilities matching all shield types available in the GM you are running.

Primary (Champion-Stunning) Weapons:

Primary weapons you bring to a GM largely depend on what champions are present in the mission as well as what champion mods you have available. All GMs feature a combination of Barrier, Overload and Unstoppable champions (sometimes all three types!), so it’s a good idea to make sure each person has at least one weapon dedicated to stunning a type of champion.
Check the seasonal artifact to see what champion mods are available and try to outfit your fireteam so that every champion type in the GM is covered by your whole team (at least one person on Barrier champions, at least one on Overload, etc). Some exotic weapons feature champion mods already built into them and they cannot take artifact champion mods on top of them, so it might be worth trying them out if you can’t (or don’t want to) use champion mods.

Due to fights being more long-range than other difficulties, weapon such as scout rifles, pulse rifles, bows and some hand cannons are good choices for most missions. Close-range weapons like sidearms, auto rifles, submachine guns and hand cannons can get some use as well but are not fit for all ranges.

Special Weapons

While your primary weapon deals with regular combat and stunning champions, your special weapon can be used for either quick dispatching enemies getting too close, taking out targets at long range, helping taking out champions, and more. Your special weapon slot is truly versatile.
As there are a handful of different special weapon types I will cover all of them individually here:

  • Shotguns
    In short, shotguns are a high-risk high-reward choice. Their range is too limited to be useful outside of melee range and many enemies can kill you with one melee attack or at least severely damage you. I do not recommend shotguns unless there is a useful artifact mod that requires them to be used.
  • Fusion Rifles
    Like shotguns, fusion rifles are high-risk high-reward weapons. Unlike shotguns however, fusion rifles do have more range than shotguns and do feature more versatility, as well as some pretty good damage with the right perks. They are definitely worth picking over shotguns but are certainly not best for every role. If you can deal with the charging time then they are solid picks.
  • Sniper Rifles
    A safe choice for most GMs, sniper rifles are your bread and butter for safe and reliable damage, assuming your aim is good. Sniper rifles are good for taking out that annoying enemy that’s harassing your fireteam, dealing good damage to champions from a safe distance, killing bosses, etc. If you can’t think of a good special weapon to use, a sniper rifle is probably your best option.
  • Handheld Grenade Launchers
    Grenade launchers are fun choices with surprisingly good utility. A grenade launcher with the “Blinding Grenades” perk is an incredibly good crowd control weapon, allowing you to suppress a large crowd of enemies while simultaneously dealing some good damage. Don’t fancy crowd control? Find a grenade launcher with the “Spike Grenades” and “Vorpal Weapon” perk and you’ve got an incredibly powerful weapon for dealing with bosses and champions. If you can deal with the learning curve of the grenade launcher, you’ll have a blast (pun intended).
Heavy Weapons

Your best choice for killing champions and bosses, or really ruining the day of that one Dreg, heavy weapons are your go-to weapons for important targets. Like with special weapons, I’ll cover all types individually:

  • Swords
    Swords are a risky choice but offer a good damage output against champions and some bosses. Swords can slice and dice anyone within melee range but are still risky to use due to the increased melee damage as mentioned earlier. If used in conjunction with artifact mods and with the right amount of safety, swords are a great choice.
  • Machine Guns
    Machine guns are great for mowing down groups of enemies or taking on multiple majors at the same time. Their lack of quick damage against champions and bosses makes them hard to recommend as an overall pick but they do have a role to fulfil. Having one fireteam member carry a machine gun for killing groups of enemies isn’t a bad idea.
  • Grenade Launchers
    Heavy grenade launchers are a weird weapon category for GMs. They don’t offer the same damage as something like a rocket launcher or linear fusion rifle yet they can’t match the crowd control capabilities of their special weapon counterparts or even machine guns. They can make quick work out of major enemies and can quickly kill a small group of enemies but I wouldn’t rely on them. Stick to other classes if you want more specialised killing power.
  • Rocket Launchers
    If you need something dead fast, rocket launchers are probably your best bet. Lacking the ammo capacity of other heavy weapon types, rocket launchers should be used sparingly against powerful enemies such as champions and bosses. Rocket launchers can also quickly clear a path with a well-placed rocket in a group of enemies. Definitely have at least one fireteam member using one.
  • Linear Fusion Rifles
    Essentially heavy sniper rifles, linear fusion rifles are safe choices for taking out powerful enemies. Linear fusion rifles with the right damage perks can be really good weapons for taking out bosses rather quickly, assuming your accuracy with them is really good. Definitely not for everyone but if you’d like to try a hard hitting sniper rifle, linear fusion rifles are a good choice.
Perks to Look Out For:

There are many good perks in Destiny 2 but some are exceptionally helpful in GMs. Here are some perks I recommend looking out for::

  • One For All
    Most damage perks require you to kill an enemy to get a damage boost that lasts a few seconds, but One For All allows you to get a great damage boost for 10 seconds without needing to kill a single enemy. Using this on special or heavy weapons isn’t recommended due to their limited ammo, but using this on primary weapons such as scout rifles can make them incredibly efficient killing machines.
  • Rapid Hit
    A great perk for speeding up reloads, Rapid Hit allows you reload your weapon quickly after scoring some precision hits, regardless if you kill an enemy or not. This perk is a great choice for keeping your weapon constantly reloaded regardless if you actually kill anything or not.
  • Vorpal Weapon
    Vorpal Weapon increases your weapon damage against bosses, vehicles and champions by 15%. This is a simply amazing perk, look out for this on heavy and special weapons.
  • Firing Line
    Firing Line increases your precision damage when near two or more allies, which is situational but should happen quite a few times when fighting with your fireteam. It’s not as reliable as Vorpal Weapon but does have a larger damage boost. Definitely use Firing Line if you all stick together.

Subclasses and Exotic Armour

Choosing the right subclass and exotic armour can turn an incredibly annoying GM into a much more tolerable experience. There are many good choices for subclass and exotic armour combinations. Here are some subclasses and exotic armour combinations I recommend for a majority of GMs:

  • Sentinel
    • Top-tree and Helm of Saint-14
      Ward of Dawn is a safe super that allows you to protect your whole fireteam while providing a strong damage boost. Helm of Saint-14 boosts Ward of Dawn, allowing it to blind enemies that walk inside it while simultaneously providing an overshield to guardians that pass through it. Definitely consider this combination if you need a safe space to hide or retreat to.
    • Middle-tree and Ursa Furiosa
      Banner Shield is an incredibly versatile super that allows you to either retreat, re-position or push your enemies while being protected by a huge shield that boosts your damage. Ursa Furiosa allows the guarding guardian to move faster and regenerate super energy when the super expires. This combination is almost mandatory in some of the hardest GMs.
  • Striker
    • Middle-tree and Cuirass of the Falling Star
      A great choice for dealing a huge amount of damage in a wide area, Thundercrash is a reliable choice for clearing a path or putting a huge dent in a boss or champion. Cuirass of the Falling Star will increase your damage with Thundercrash and grant an overshield when flying. Definitely try this out if you need to punch big holes in big enemies.
  • Sunbreaker
    • Bottom-tree and Phoenix Cradle
      Hammer of Sol is a great choice for quickly clearing groups of enemies from many different ranges. Phoenix Cradle improves the Sunspots you generate and allows you to boost the ability regeneration and weapon damage of allies that pass through them. This won’t be a great combination to rely on but it’s definitely a fun choice if you try it.
  • Behemoth
    Glacial Quake isn’t the best super for crowd control or dealing damage to tough targets but it gets the job done. The melee ability allows you to either smack an enemy with a good amount of damage or quickly fly behind cover, good for retreating. I don’t recommend this for GMs unless you really need Stasis or a way to retreat relatively quickly.
  • Nightstalker
    • Top-tree and Orpheus Rig
      Need to generate a lot of orbs of power while tethering a group of enemies? Shadowshot is your best choice. Shadowshot will boost your damage against all enemies and make them all take damage at the same time. Orpheus Rig will give you back some super energy for each enemy tethered. Running top-tree by itself is completely fine but Orpheus Rig can really help.
    • Bottom-tree and Omnioculus
      Bottom-tree is incredibly helpful for keeping your fireteam invisible while granting them increased stats via your smoke bomb melee ability. Omnioculus also grants yourself and allies damage resistance when invisible, gives you a second smoke bomb charge and grants melee energy when making allies invisible. This combination is very powerful, providing invisibility for the whole fireteam while also having a good super for boss damage or crowd control. If your fireteam is having trouble staying alive, definitely give this combination a try.
  • Arcstrider
    • Middle-tree and Raiju’s Harness
      Middle-tree allows you to deflect projectiles with your Arc Staff super, allowing you to safely get close to enemies to deliver some punishing blows. Raiju’s Harness removes the cost of super energy when guarding and allows you to deactivate your super early. Middle-tree is definitely risky to use effectively but it can be powerful in the right hands. Try it out sometime.
  • Gunslinger
    • Bottom-tree and Celestial Nighthawk
      Having a way to deal a huge amount of damage very quickly is very useful, Golden Gun will deliver. Celestial Nighthawk improves the high damage of Golden Gun ever further, putting an incredible amount of damage into a single shot. This is a super good combination for quickly taking out champions or putting a huge dent into bosses very fast. Definitely consider this combination.
  • Revenant
    Silence and Squall, as well as the other Stasis abilities available, are quite useful for slowing or stopping a wide array of enemies. Entire groups being frozen in an instant is nothing to sneeze at and definitely has a place in a well-equipped fireteam, definitely give this a try to see if it fits yours.
  • Voidwalker
    • Top-tree or bottom-tree and Skull of Dire Ahamkara
      Nova Bomb is a great option for effective destruction in a wide area. Both top-tree and bottom-tree are good choices with good abilities. Skull of Dire Ahamkara will make sure you get some super energy back upon killing enemies with Nova Bomb. A great combination for any fireteam, definitely try this out if you need some versatile explosives.
  • Stormcaller
    • Middle-tree and Geomag Stabilizers
      Chaos Reach is a pretty good super for taking out groups of tough enemies from a safe distance, the long reach of the super with its good damage is a good combination for some reliable damage. Geomag Stabilizers improve Chaos Reach, allowing its duration to be extended so long as you are constantly damaging targets with it. A safe combination to bring for some effective damage.
  • Dawnblade
    • Middle-tree and Phoenix Protocol
      Well of Radiance is simply a top-tier choice for every GM. Being able to have a fairly large space where your entire fireteam has rapid health regeneration and overshields is incredibly helpful, your fireteam is very hard to kill inside a Well of Radiance. Pheonix Protocol makes kills and assists made while you’re standing in your Well of Radiance return super energy. This is a great way to make sure you have another super charge ready to go anytime you need it. This is quite possibly the best combination you could bring into GMs, combine this with Ward of Dawn or Banner Shield for even more protection and your fireteam will be unstoppable.
  • Shadebinder
    Winter’s Wrath is a good super for freezing and stopping groups of enemies rather quickly, with the melee ability being good for instantly freezing an enemy that’s getting too close. The aspects available have great versatility for many situations and will be helpful for everyone in your fireteam.
“Aeon” Exotic Armour:

Aeon Safe, Aeon Swift and Aeon Soul are exotic gauntlets that are very helpful for teamwork, ammo generation and energy generation. One or two fireteam members using Aeon gauntlets are huge assets to the fireteam and can be crucial to fireteams that burn through their special and heavy ammo.
Aeon gauntlets can have one mod equipped out of three choices:

  • Sect of Force grants grenade and melee energy to your fireteam upon stunning a champion. Aeon users who do not have Force equipped also gain super energy.
  • Sect of Insight grants special ammo for finishing majors, heavy ammo for finishing champions or bosses. Aeon users who do not have Insight equipped also gain temporary weapon damage upon a finisher against a major, champion or boss.
  • Sect of Vigor grants an instant burst of healing to your fireteam upon you casting your super. Aeon users who do not have Vigor equipped also gain an overshield.

    Sect of Force and Insight are great choices for any fireteam that can really get use out of the energy and ammo regeneration. Sect of Vigor isn’t worth the exotic slot for healing and an overshield, use Force or Insight instead.


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