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All Destiny 2 Season 21 Exotic Armor buffs and nerfs: Starfire Protocol, St0mp-EE5, and more

Guardians who were tuned to the details for Destiny 2‘s Season of the Deep already knew thorough changes to underperforming Exotics were on the way, but Bungie has finally broken them down in detail. These changes will rein in a few outliers, but focus largely on breathing some fresh life into some anemic contenders and diluting the stacking damage bonuses from (and the need for) Surge mods.

Warlocks’ Starfire Protocol is arguably the most famous casualty on the list, with Hunters’ St0mp-EE5 and Titans’ Dunemarchers also on the chopping block (though those saw a hit to improve PvP balance). A litany of underperforming Exotics will look different from their old versions, though, with room for some of them to shine.

Warlocks can find Sanguine Alchemy and Chromatic Fire more appealing, for instance, while some of the recent (and terribly underpowered) Titan Exotics will get a little bit of extra help, alongside a few barely used Hunter Exotics (in a sandbox where getting a Sealed Ahamkara Grasps only makes you wish you’d gotten their cooler sibling, Young Ahamkara’s Spine).

A myriad of these Exotics will also get “non-stacking bonuses,” which will override the bonuses from Surge mods (the post-Lightfall version of Font of Might). Though the single benefit from some Exotics is greater than using max-stacked Surge mods, the damage won’t build up with these mods.

Here are the buffs, nerfs, and changes to Exotic armor slated for Season of the Deep, Destiny 2‘s 21st season, based on official information. These changes will not alter the rest of the Exotic’s effects unless otherwise specified.


Starfire Protocol

  • Change: “Reduced the amount of energy gained per instance of damage from 20 percent to 2.5 percent. Empowered weapon kills now grant 20 percent grenade energy.”
    • Old effect: Weapon damage while in an Empowering Rift of Well of Radiance would grant 20 percent grenade energy. The change means players can still consistently get grenade energy when using it against lesser enemies, but will get far fewer extra grenade charges in boss fights.

The god-king of Solar builds for Warlocks, Starfire Protocol has risen to unparalleled prominence since season 17—and now, Bungie is taking its potential down heavily. Starfire’s dominance relied on the extra grenade charges from its unique effect, which would allow players to throw grenades almost nonstop when standing on a Well of Radiance. This gave Warlocks both a tremendous damage output and a highly efficient ammo economy.

The changes to Starfire mean to water down the potential to get grenade charges quickly through passive weapon damage (Witherhoard, Anarchy, or Wolfpack Rounds), “while also pushing it away from single-target damage dominance and more toward neutral play,” Bungie wrote.

Dawn Chorus 

  • Buff: “Daybreak projectiles’ damage bonus has been increased and no longer is reliant on the enemy being scorched.”
    • Base effect: “Your Daybreak projectiles cause targets to scorch on contact. Your Scorch effects deal more damage, and you gain a small amount of melee energy each time your Scorch effects damage a target.”

Sanguine Alchemy

Screenshot via Bungie

  • Change: “Standing in a Rift grants a non-stacking bonus to weapon damage matching your subclass damage type. This damage bonus is the equivalent of two Surge leg mods (17 percent in PvE and 4.5 percent in PvP).”
    • Base effect: “Weapon kills while standing in any rift pause the rift’s countdown, extending its duration. Further kills maintain and extend the length of the pause.”

Since Bungie mentioned the changes would “leave the rest of the Exotic’s benefits intact” unless otherwise specified, it’s likely the new effect will apply on top of the old one. This is a great boost to Sanguine’s utility, which was particularly lacking. These changes have the potential to make Sanguine a good neutral-game Exotic for Warlocks—one of the class’ weaknesses. And as a bonus, Sanguine can look really fashionable.

Chromatic Fire

  • Change: Precision final blows with Kinetic weapons have a bigger radius, deal more damage, and apply extra status effects based on your subclass: Weaken (Void), Scorch (Solar), Blind (Arc), Slow (Stasis), and Sever (Strand).
    • Base effect: “Precision final blows with your Kinetic weapon create an explosion in the element of your subclass.”

Chromatic Fire gets a welcome buff in season 21. Like other neutral Warlock Exotics, it can be wildly outclassed by a proper build, but Chromatic Fire might find some room to grow, especially in the post-Lightfall buildcrafting system.

Claws of Ahamkara

  • Change: Powered melee kills create an Orb of Power. Having Heavy-Handed equipped creates a bigger orb. Takedowns can only spawn one orb each.
    • Base effect: Grants an additional melee charge.

Ophidian Aspect

  • Nerf: Removed the extended melee range.
  • Dev Commentary: “The extended melee range created some strange situations where a player’s melee lunge would cause them to flicker in high latency scenarios. This Exotic still retains many strong neutral game benefits.”
    • Old effect: “Weapons ready and reload very quickly. Melee range is extended. Provides a small benefit to the airborne effectiveness stat of all weapons.”

Mantle of Battle Harmony

Image via Bungie

  • Change: Will grant a non-stacking tier-four damage bonus when you have your Super, which amounts to 25 percent in PvE and six percent in PvE. Doesn’t stack with Surge mods anymore, but “stacks with Empowering Rift and other similar damage bonuses.” Its duration is also longer: 10 seconds instead of six (PvE) and five seconds in PvP, up from three. This bonus only apply to weapons that match your subclass.
    • Old effect: “Takedowns with weapons that have a damage type matching your subclass element grant you Super energy. While your Super energy is full, you instead gain a temporary bonus to weapon damage of the type matching your subclass element.”

Promethium Spur 

  • Change: “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.”
    • Old effect: “Defeating combatants or Guardians while Daybreak is active creates a healing and empowering rift at their location. While standing in any Rift, Solar weapon final blows grant Rift energy. When your Rift energy is full, final blows consume your Rift energy and create a healing and empowering Rift at the target’s location.”

Vesper of Radius 

  • Change: “Your rifts emit an Arc shockwave every five 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.”
    • Base effect: “Rifts release an Arc shockwave when cast. Rift energy recharges faster when you are surrounded by enemies.”



  • Change: “Removed airborne effectiveness penalties. You only gain increased speed, slide distance, and improved jumping while your dodge energy is full.” 
    • Old effect: “Increases sprint speed and slide distance. Improves High Jump, Strafe Jump, and Triple Jump. The airborne effectiveness stat of all weapons receives a large penalty.”
  • Dev Commentary: “We want ST0MP-EE5 to have a strong fantasy, but permanent uptime for potent movement benefits that make targeting Hunters in PvP very difficult on controller ends up making it too automatic of a choice, even with the prior airborne effectiveness changes. We’re undoing that change, but tackling the uptime to try and make it so you can use it to ambush or escape from an engagement, but not both.”

Radiant Dance Machines 

  • New effect: “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.”
    • Old effect: “Activating your dodge ability while near targets allows you to dodge additional times for a short period.”
  • Dev Commentary: “Adding the time extension on kills allows this to pair extremely well with Marksman’s Dodge, the Reaper armor mod, and the new Powerful Attraction mod that allows you to collect Orbs of Power at a distance. During playtesting, players could have free dodges for long stretches, pulling down a large number of orbs. However, allowing it to continue granting free Suspending Slams made it a little too easy to create an infinite orb-generating machine without ever having to risk your own survival.”

Mask of Bakris 

Image via Bungie

  • Change: Will provide a tier-four non-stacking bonus similar to Surge mods, boosting its extra damage to 25 percent in PvE (up from 10) and dealing six percent more damage in PvP (up from zero). Doesn’t stack with Surge mods.
    • Old effect: “Replaces your Stasis subclass dodge ability with a longer range, faster-moving shift that partially cloaks you during use. After shifting, your Arc weapons deal increased damage to combatants for a short time, and you deal increased damage to all slowed or frozen combatants.”

Sealed Ahamkara Grasps 

  • New effect: Powered melee kills reload all your equipped weapons. Dealing melee damage grants you five seconds of increased movement speed and jump height.
    • Old effect: “Dealing melee damage reloads your currently equipped weapon. Provides a large benefit to the airborne effectiveness stat of all weapons for five seconds after dealing melee damage.”

Athrys’s Embrace 

Screenshot via Bungie

  • Buff: “Gain additional Strength while the Exotic’s Weighted Knife damage bonus is active.” 
    • Base effect: “Weighted Knife gains a second bounce. Rapid precision hits with your weapons grant Weighted Knife a significant damage bonus and the ability to stun unshielded combatants for a short time. Empowered Weighted Knife is strong against Unstoppable Champions.”


  • New effect: Fully drawn bows receive a damage bonus that deactivates a few seconds after a perfect draw.
  • Dev Commentary: “The original redesign allowed you to retain the damage bonus as long as you held the bow at full draw—which can be done indefinitely thanks to the existing Exotic functionality. However, this resulted in some overly passive play styles, where players felt like the optimal way to play was to move slowly at full draw, or hide behind cover indefinitely, before popping out to shoot. With a limited window on the damage bonus, bows still benefit from a significant bump in damage from holding the draw for a short time without bogging down the play experience.”
    • Base effect: Bows can hold their charge infinitely and gain a moderate increase to airborne effectiveness.

Raiju’s Harness

  • New effect: “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.”
    • Old effect: “Deactivate Arc Staff early. Guarding with Arc Staff consumes energy more slowly when not attacking, and guarding does not consume extra Super energy.”



Screenshot via Bungie

  • Nerf: “Reduced the range of the chain damage from 20m to 12m and PvP damage from 85 to 50.”
  • Dev Commentary: “This Exotic sees a lot of use in PvP and not much in PvE, and these changes embrace that. The range on the damage chain made it very easy to get killed by this Exotic without ever seeing the person killing you in PvP, so we reduced that range and tuned down the damage.”
    • Base effect: Boosts a Titan’s sprint speed. Sprinting creates a charge that chains to nearby enemies after landing a melee attack.

Khepri’s Horn 

  • Buff: The wave after using your Barricade will now apply Scorch to targets (which is presumably enhanced by Ember of Ashes).
  • Base effect: “Solar damage kills recharge your Barricade, which unleashes a blast of Solar energy when summoned.”

Eternal Warrior 

  • New effect: Rapid kills with Arc weapons grant you an escalating bonus to Arc weapon damage, similar to The Path of Burning Steps. This bonus can add up to tier four (25 percent in PvE and six percent in PvP), though it’s non-stacking with the same properties as Surge mods (which provide a smaller benefit). With maximum stacks, Arc kills refresh your damage boost. You also gain max stacks of damage at the end of your Fists of Havoc super.
  • Base effect: Casting Fists of Havoc grants you an overshield.

The Path of Burning Steps 

Image via Bungie

  • Change: Will use the non-stacking weapon damage bonuses from Surge mods, up to 25 percent extra damage in PvE and six percent in PvP. With the tier-four damage bonus, Solar kills refresh their duration. Being frozen grants you the tier-four buff.
    • Old effect: “Solar final blows periodically grant you an escalating bonus to weapon damage. You are harder to slow or freeze with Stasis, and when you break out, you take no damage from doing so, creating a burst of Solar energy around yourself.”

Second Chance

  • New effect: “Shield throw melee now weakens enemies. Stunning a Barrier Champion with your shield throw melee grants a single full melee charge.”
  • Base effect: Grants an extra charge of Shield Throw. Shield Throw also gains intrinsic Anti-Barrier functionalities.

Point-Contact Cannon Brace

  • New effect: “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 percent instead of extending their range.”
    • Base effect: Casts lightning strikes to enemies near you when you use your Thunderclap melee. Being Amplified increases the range of those thunder strikes. Defeating enemies with Thunderclap also grants melee energy.

No Backup Plans

Image via Bungie

  • Full rework: Shotguns deal extra damage when you have a Void overshield. Shotgun final blows restore your overshield. With a Void subclass equipped, defeating multiple enemies (or a powerful enemy) with a shotgun starts health regeneration and grants you a Void overshield, similar to a souped-up Echo of Leeching. Also provides a “moderate” buff to airborne effectiveness and reload speed of all shotguns.
  • Old effect: “When you have full Void melee energy, Shotgun final blows grant a Void overshield and consume your melee energy. Shotgun final blows also give you melee energy. Provides a moderate benefit to the airborne effectiveness stat of Shotguns.”


  • New effect: Blocking with a sword now gives you “significant damage reduction (50 percent in PvE, 10 percent in PvP).” Releasing block gives you two stacks of Restoration, which last longer based on how many shots you blocked.
  • Dev Commentary: “The original ‘heal on perfect guard’ mechanic was swapped out for damage reduction to improve ease of use. The previous version of perfect guard incentivized rapid blocking and releasing of the block to be most effective, which was unintuitive for most players and inaccessible to some. The change to damage reduction while blocking and Restoration after you stop blocking allows you to close to melee range even against powerful enemies and stay alive while delivering attacks thanks to the restoration. Conveniently, this also pairs very well with certain Exotic Swords (such as The Lament).”
    • Old effect: “Maximizes Guard stats on equipped Swords. Shots blocked immediately after guarding will heal you.”

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