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Payday 2 builds: the best skills for flawless heists

Payday 2 builds

What are the best Payday 2 builds? If you want to be a Payday 2 heister, you will need a good one. Do you want to steal the crown jewels, break into top secret facilities, and build yourself a vault of dosh to make Scrooge McDuck’s gold dive look pathetic? You are going to need to know your stuff and bring the right gear along to each heist in that case. That is where we come in. 

We have put together a Payday 2 builds guide so you know what skills to bring on each heist. Whether you are going loud, with the biggest machine gun you can find, or stealthy – in and out of the vault before anyone notices a thing – the skills you take are crucial to having the most success, and getting the greatest rewards at the highest difficulties. 

To start things off though, it is crucial to go over a couple of things that new players often don’t pick up straight away. First up, it is free to change up your skills: there are no respec costs, so experimentation is key. If you know you are going into a heist where you will be lugging bags of cash around, change your skills to throw them further, or if you are going stealth but you know you cannot use ECM jammers, redistribute the points.

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Secondly, you can unlock multiple skill sets as you level up. In the skill tree menu, just click the button in the top right to change your current skill set – you can create a few sets to easily swap around without having to constantly remake them (and inevitably forget a key ingredient in your skills). Once you reach level 100, you will have loads of slots, so it might be a good idea to dedicate a few to these evergreen options.

The loud guns and heavy armour Payday 2 build – aka the Schwarzenegger

Payday 2 builds heavy

This is the simplest Payday 2 build, and very much made to work with pretty much anyone, on most heists. It is all about having the biggest guns and being able to take a lot of damage so most of your skill points will be put in the Enforcer tree. It should look something like this…

Mastermind:

  • No points used

Enforcer:

  • Shotgunner
    • Underdog – Ace
  • Tank
    • Resilience – Ace
    • Transporter – Basic
    • Bullseye – Ace
    • Shock and Awe – Basic
    • Iron Man – Ace
  • Ammo Specialist
    • Scavenger – Ace
    • Bulletstorm – Ace
    • Extra Lead – Ace
    • Fully Loaded – Ace

Technician:

  • Oppressor
    • Steady Grip – Ace
    • Fire Control – Ace
    • Surefire – Ace
    • Body Expertise – Ace

Ghost:

  • No points used

Fugitive:

  • Revenant
    • Nine Lives – Ace
    • Up You Go – Ace
    • Swan Song – Ace
    • Messiah – Basic

The stealth Payday 2 build – aka the Mission Impossible

Payday 2 builds stealth

With regards to stealth in Payday 2, and in real-life heisting (we assume), preparation is key. You need to know what you will be up against, what gadgets you will need, how many hostages you will be taking, and so on. The best heister will tailor their build towards what the heist requires, but this Payday 2 build covers almost everything you will need.

The Controller skills, for example, are for controlling civilians. You will be more intimidating and have more cable ties to take hostages. That said, not all heists have civilians to control – you can swap these out if there are only guards.

The Ammo Specialist skills might be quite contentious – the portable saw itself is not used in a lot of heists, can be extremely loud, and suffers from forcing your threat level up. But you can get a lot of extra cash in certain heists when you use it, such as the basic bank heist. With a mod, you can make it silent, too, so it can work well.

The Shinobi tree is the most obvious you will require for stealth. ECM jammers allow you to turn off cameras, open doors without keycards, and prevent pagers from going off once you have finished the tree. It enables a tactic called the ECM rush, too: in a team of four players, each with two ECM jammers, they can effectively prevent all alarms from activating for 80 seconds by sequentially placing their jammers. It doesn’t work in too many heists, but in certain heists, you can be in and out in about a minute by ECM rushing, killing guards, and preventing alarms from going off.

One thing to consider is how the game nullifies certain skills here at high difficulties. Eventually, you will come across Titan safes: these cannot be lockpicked, making the Nimble skill useless. Swap it out when you start coming up against these safes.

Mastermind:

  • Controller
    • Forced Friendship – Basic
    • Confident – Basic
    • Stockholm Syndrome – Basic
  • Sharpshooter
    • Stable Shot – Basic
    • Rifleman – Basic
    • High Value Target – Basic

Enforcer

  • Tank
    • Resilience – Basic
    • Transporter – Basic
  • Ammo Specialist
    • Scavenger – Basic
    • Portable Saw – Ace
    • Saw Massacre – Basic

Technician

  • Engineer
    • Third Law – Basic
    • Eco Sentry – Basic
    • Jack Of All Trades – Ace
  • Breacher
    • Hardware Expert – Ace
    • Drill Sawgeant – Ace
    • More Firepower – Ace
    • Kickstarter – Ace

Ghost

  • Shinobi
    • Chameleon – Ace
    • Cleaner – Ace
    • Sixth Sense – Ace
    • Nimble – Ace
    • ECM Overdrive – Ace
    • ECM Specialist – Ace
  • Artful Dodger
    • Duck and Cover – Basic
    • Parkour – Basic
    • Inner Pockets – Ace

Fugitive:

  • No points used

The team leader Payday 2 build – aka Hannibal

Payday 2 builds team leader

Your role as the team leader is to keep your fellow heisters alive with health top ups, make everyone beefier by controlling hostages, convert enemy cops to your side, and ensure nobody stays down for long.

The Medic skills chosen here enable you to use first aid kits, which are, generally, considered better than the doctor’s bag. Both have their uses, and the doctor’s bag plays a crucial role by resetting the number of times a player can be downed before they are instantly taken into custody, but first aid kits offer more healing and have the flexibility of not being locked to one location once used.

It is best to read through the Controller talents, because they are core to this Payday 2 build, as well as get to grips with how you can turn a cop into a hostage. By shouting at a cop (default key being F), you will sometimes cause them to surrender. Shout a couple more times after the cop’s animation finishes and they will cuff themselves, now a new hostage for you to take. They can still be killed, so try not to blow them up or accidentally shoot them on a reflex. You can then convert these hostages by interacting with them to gain a bit more firepower.

Mastermind:

  • Medic
    • Combat Medic – Ace
    • Quick Fix – Ace
    • Painkillers – Ace
    • Uppers – Ace
    • Inspire – Ace
  • Controller
    • Forced Friendship – Ace
    • Confident – Ace
    • Joker – Ace
    • Partners In Crime – Ace
    • Hostage Taker – Ace

Enforcer

  • Tank
    • Resilience – Basic
    • Transporter – Basic

Technician

  • No points used

Ghost

  • Artful Dodger
    • Duck And Cover – Basic
    • Parkour – Ace
    • Dire Need – Ace

Fugitive

  • Revenant
    • Nine Lives – Ace
    • Up You Go – Ace
    • Feign Death – Ace
    • Messiah – Ace

The speedy runner Payday 2 build – aka Slick

Payday 2 builds sprint

The alternative name for this build is Neo because it relies partly upon you dodging bullets. No, really, you will be dodging bullets with the Artful Dodger series of skills. We have paired it with the pistol and akimbo talents here as pistols help keep your detection rate down, but you can theoretically partner it with some of the shotguns too. We have also included the Ammo Specialist’s talents because it can be easy to burn through pistol ammo.

For gadgets, you also have a few options, we have gone for trip mines/shaped charges. As the fastest member of a team, you will be darting from objective to objective, and, often, you can blow open objectives without the need to drill them apart. You can, however, go for the sentry gun instead, and move those points to the Engineer tree, within the Technician section.

What differentiates this Payday 2 build in playstyle, and what makes it one of the harder builds to pull off, is the Unseen Strike skill. It is a costly skill, given that it is at the top of a tree, but gives you critical strike chance when you are not taking damage. It is hard to make the most use of this skill, as you have got to know your limits in terms of how to avoid damage while returning fire, and as soon as you are overwhelmed it loses a lot of its usefulness.It is a high-risk high-reward skill, then.

Mastermind

  • No points used

Enforcer

  • No points used

Technician

  • Breacher
    • Hardware Expert – Ace
    • Combat Engineering – Ace
    • Drill Sawgeant – Ace
    • More Firepower – Ace
    • Fire Trap – Ace

Ghost

  • Artful Dodger
    • Duck and Cover – Ace
    • Parkour – Ace
    • Inner Pockets – Ace
    • Sneaky Bastard – Ace
  • Silent Killer
    • Second Wind – Ace
    • Optical Illusions – Basic
    • Low Blow – Ace
    • High Value Target – Basic
    • Unseen Strike – Ace

Fugitive

  • Gunslinger
    • Equilibrium – Basic
    • Gun Nut – Basic
    • One Handed Talent – Ace
    • Desperado – Ace
    • Trigger Happy – Basic

The sniper Payday 2 build – aka Deadshot

Payday 2 builds sniper

This is a new one, as it was only recently added in a patch, the developers having now committed to making sniper rifles a more viable weapon in Payday 2. This comes down to the Graze skill – get a headshot, and enemies around your target will receive damage too, almost as if you had explosive .50 calibre rounds.

It means you will be able to clear groups well, and, crucially, makes you especially effective against Captain Winters. Sniper rifles pierce shields, so if you really want to be the person everyone relies on to kill Captain Winters when he spawns, taking a sniper rifle and Graze is one of the best ways to do it.

Due to your reliance on headshots, we have taken skills that make it easier to land headshots and that reward you for doing so, plus much of the ammo and ammo bag talents. Sniper rifles are not generally efficient when it comes to ammo, given the expectation to get at least one kill with every shot, and how the game will force you to waste a few on Bulldozers regularly. If you are confident, though, and allies bring a lot of ammo bags, it can be a good idea to take a secondary shotgun and the Shotgunner skills in the Enforcer section.

Mastermind

  • Sharpshooter
    • Stable Shot – Ace
    • Rifleman – Ace
    • Marksman – Ace
    • Ammo Efficiency – Ace
    • Aggressive Reload – Ace
    • Graze – Ace

Enforcer

  • Tank
    • Resilience – Ace
    • Transporter – Basic
    • Shock and Awe – Basic
    • Bullseye – Ace
  • Ammo Specialist
    • Scavenger – Ace
    • Bulletstorm – Ace
    • Extra Lead – Ace
    • Fully Loaded – Ace

Technician

  • Oppressor
    • Steady Grip – Ace

Ghost

  • No points used

Fugitive

  • Revenant
    • Nine Lives – Ace
    • Feign Death – Ace
    • Swan Song – Basic
    • Messiah – Basic
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