Destiny 2’s Starfire Warlocks mourn as top exotics are nerfed

Destiny 2 Warlocks say goodbye to Starfire Protocol as Bungie nerfs Exotic armour in the space FPS game, with Hunter ST0MP-EE5 among the other casualties.

Destiny 2 season 21 Exotic changes - a Warlock wearing Starfire Protocol, an Exotic chestpiece hit with heavy nerfs in the latest Bungie patch notes

Destiny 2 Warlocks are waving goodbye to Starfire Protocol as the iconic gear piece, long among the best Destiny 2 Exotics, feels the full force of Bungie’s nerf hammer. In a hefty update that’s also hitting some other fan favourites such as the Hunter’s ST0MP-EE5, the FPS game is being heavily shaken up – but it’s good news for some Destiny 2 gear that’s had new life breathed into it.

A wave of Exotic armour rebalancing is set for Destiny 2 season 21, titled Season of the Deep. Bungie states two primary goals for this update: “Identify underused armour pieces and revamp them to increase their appeal, and tune down outlier armour pieces that are probably too powerful.” There’s a few notable nerfs among the pack, but a couple in particular stand out as real painful adjustments.

Starfire Protocol has stood for a long time as a hallmark of the best Destiny 2 Warlock builds. Its ability to rapidly regenerate your Fusion Grenades and effectively spam them near-infinitely has, by Bungie’s own admission, “been strong for a long time, ever since Solar 3.0 dropped.” That’s about to change dramatically, as each instance of damage will now grant just 2.5% grenade energy, down massively from 20%. Empowered weapon kills will grant 20% energy, so there’ll still be use against groups, but it’s a killer nerf regardless.

Hunters are left feeling a little sad, too, as their mobility-boosting ST0MP-EE5s have also been struck by the update. Bungie says its “permanent uptime for potent movement benefits” made it too automatic a choice. It’ll now only apply those benefits when your dodge energy is full, although the recent airborne effectiveness penalties have been removed to compensate. It’s still a change that hurts, though; ST0MP-EE5 makes Hunter feel so much smoother and losing that is going to feel rather jarring to players who have become accustomed to it.

Titans don’t escape the nerfs either. The Path of Burning Steps now uses the non-stacking weapon damage bonuses used by Surge mods. While this can offer a slightly larger bonus than just running three Surge mods, it’s going to be much tougher to justify using your Exotic armour slot on Path following this update.

Destiny 2 Exotic changes - Mara Sov, Queen of the Reef

It’s not all bad news, however. Chromatic Fire now not only deploys a bigger, more damaging explosion upon precision Kinetic kills, but also applies a respective status effect (blind for Arc, scorch for Solar, slow for Stasis, sever for Strand, and weaken for Void) to enemies damaged by it. That’ll make it a high candidate for any Warlocks abandoning Starfire to pick up instead, especially when paired with weapons such as Wish-Ender.

Titan’s Stronghold also looks quite nice – rather than healing upon perfect blocks, which encourages a rather spammy on/off use of the guard, you’ll now get 50% damage reduction in PvE and 10% in PvP when blocking with a Sword. After you stop blocking, your restoration is doubled for a duration determined by the number of shots blocked, making it much easier to use and close distance safely for your melee attacks.

Destiny 2 season 21 Exotic armor changes

Here are all the changes to Exotic armor in Destiny 2 season 21:


  • Sealed Ahamkara Grasps: This Exotic will now reload the magazine of all of your weapons when you defeat a target with your powered melee, and for 5 seconds after dealing melee damage you gain increased movement speed and jump height.
  • Athrys’s Embrace: Gain additional strength while the Exotic’s Weighted Knife damage bonus is active.
  • Oathkeeper: When fully drawn, Bows gain a bonus to damage against combatants that increases as you hold the draw but deactivates after a few seconds.
  • Raiju’s Harness: When deactivating your Arc Staff Super, you create a blinding explosion that temporarily increases your Arc weapon damage. However, blocking with Whirlwind Guard will no longer consume energy more slowly.
  • Radiant Dance Machines: Kills while your free dodge is active extend the duration of free dodging. No longer deactivates when you get too far away from enemies. Deactivates after using Suspending Slam.
  • ST0MP-EE5: Removed airborne effectiveness penalties. You only gain increased speed, slide distance, and improved jumping while your dodge energy is full.
  • Mask of Bakris: Changed to use a tier-4 non-stacking weapon damage bonus (which behaves the same as the non-stacking damage bonuses provided by Surge mods). Damage bonus increased in PvE from 10% to 25%, and now grants a 6% bonus to weapon damage in PvP. No longer stacks with Surge leg armor mods, but provides a larger bonus than can be achieved with 3 such mods equipped.

Destiny 2 Exotic changes - a Guardian using Strand


  • Point-Contact Cannon Brace: Lightning strikes now jolt targets. Increased PvE damage per lightning bolt from 50 to 200. Being amplified now increases the damage of the lightning strikes by 50% instead of extending their range.
  • No Backup Plans: This is a complete rework, replacing the old functionality entirely. Now provides a moderate benefit to the airborne effectiveness and reload speed of Shotguns. While you have a Void overshield, Shotguns deal additional damage and Shotgun final blows refresh your overshield. While using a Void subclass, rapid Shotgun final blows or defeating a powerful enemy with a Shotgun grants you a Void overshield and kicks off your health regeneration.
  • Second Chance: Shield throw melee now weakens enemies. Stunning a Barrier Champion with your shield throw melee grants a single full melee charge.
  • Stronghold: Replaced the healing from blocking shots precisely with significant damage reduction (50% in PvE, 10% in PvP) while blocking with a Sword. When you stop blocking, gain restoration x2, with a duration that increases based on the number of shots you blocked.
  • Eternal Warrior: Rapid takedowns with an Arc weapon grant an escalating bonus to Arc weapon damage, using the same non-stacking damage bonuses used by Surge mods. This can go all the way up to the tier-4 damage bonus, granting a damage bonus of 25% in PvE and 6% in PvP, providing a larger bonus than can be achieved with three Surge mods equipped. While at the tier-4 damage bonus, Arc kills refresh the bonus’s duration. After your Fist of Havoc Super ends, you gain the tier-4 damage bonus.
  • Khepri’s Horn: The Solar damage wave now scorches targets.
  • The Path of Burning Steps: Changed to use the non-stacking weapon damage bonuses used by Surge mods. This can go all the way up to the tier-4 damage bonus, granting a damage bonus of 25% in PvE and 6% in PvP, providing a larger bonus than can be achieved with three Surge mods equipped. While at the tier-4 damage bonus, Solar kills refresh the bonus’s duration. Becoming encased immediately grants you the tier-4 damage bonus.
  • Dunemarchers: Reduced the range of the chain damage from 20m to 12m and PvP damage from 85 to 50.

Destiny 2 Exotic changes - Ikora Rey, the Warlock Vanguard


  • Vesper of Radius: Your rifts emit an Arc shockwave every 5 seconds that deals damage (200 in PvE and 70 in PvP). Enemies defeated by these shockwaves explode for an additional 100 damage and, if you have an Arc subclass equipped, also blind nearby enemies.
  • Chromatic Fire: Increased the radius and damage of the explosion created by precision Kinetic takedowns. The explosion also applies a status effect to targets damaged by it, depending on which subclass you have equipped: blind (Arc), scorch (Solar), slow (Stasis), sever (Strand), weaken (Void).
  • Dawn Chorus: Daybreak projectile’s damage bonus has been increased and no longer is reliant on the enemy being scorched.
  • Sanguine Alchemy: Standing in a rift grants a non-stacking bonus to weapon damage matching your subclass damage type. This damage bonus is the equivalent of 2 Surge leg mods (17% PvE and 4.5% PvP).
  • Claws of Ahamkara: Powered melee kills create an Orb of Power. When Heavy Handed mods are equipped, increases the potency of the orb spawned (no more than 1 orb can be spawned per enemy takedown).
  • Mantle of Battle Harmony: Weapon bonus damage changed to tier-4 when Super is fully charged, increasing damage bonus in PvE from 20% to 25% and reducing the damage bonus from 15% to 6% in PvP. No longer stacks with Surge leg armor mods, but provides a larger bonus than can be achieved with three such mods equipped. Damage bonus only applies to weapons that match your subclass damage type, and now stacks with Empowering Rift and other similar damage bonuses. Extended base duration of this bonus from 6 seconds to 10 seconds (PvE) and 3 seconds to 5 seconds (PvP).
  • Ophidian Aspect: Removed the extended melee range.
  • Promethium Spur: Grants Rift energy for any Solar weapon takedown, with more energy granted for Solar weapon takedowns while standing in a rift. Also, you now have to be standing in a rift when you get a final blow for the Exotic to consume your class ability energy and create a rift at the target’s location.
  • Starfire Protocol: Reduced the amount of energy gained per instance of damage from 20% to 2.5%. Empowered weapon kills now grant 20% grenade energy.

Bungie says it will continue to watch “the data and your feedback carefully, and may make additional tuning changes accordingly.” It says to expect further such tuning in future seasons, but for now you’ll want to revise your Destiny 2 builds in accordance with the above adjustments once season 21 begins.

Note also that a Destiny 2 season pass price increase is coming. For the time being, check in with the current Destiny 2 Lost Sector and make sure to grab this week’s Destiny 2 Nightfall weapon so that you’re as geared-up as possible ahead of Season of the Deep.