Build crafting in Destiny 2 has gone from non-existent at launch to now being so complex that some players are afraid to even touch it. Which is a shame, because the two main mod systems—'Charged with Light' and 'Warmind Cells'—enable perks that are super fun and powerful to play with. Unfortunately, the game doesn't do a great job of explaining how either system works, and because the mods were released in previous seasons, they can be annoying to get hold of now. Make sure to check the Gunsmith at the Tower daily to see which mods he's selling and buy any you don't have.
With the right mods, it's actually incredibly easy to create a 'Charged with Light' build that will work in every PvE situation, and therefore require no tweaking between activities. The build below has been my go-to for over 1,000 hours now, and works across all subclasses and with a wide variety of weapons. My emphasis is on high utility effects rather than just raw damage, but this build will absolutely help you slay bosses, control swarms of mobs and keep you alive in the toughest encounters. I'm super confident it will work for you.
How Charged with Light works
These are 'combat mods', which means they slot into the rightmost socket of your armor. There are essentially two types of Charged with Light mod: 1) Mods that enable you (and sometimes your allies) to become charged—these all have green icons. 2) Mods that spend the charges on proccing a particular effect. Also note that some mods have an elemental affinity, which means you'll need to slot them into an armor piece of the corresponding element—ie Arc goes into Arc.
Some mods will alter the number of charges you have, but don't worry about those for now. Trust me that this set-up will have you charged up like a kid with his finger in a wall socket.
Energy cost: 3
Elemental affinity: None
Description: "Become Charged with Light by picking up Orbs of Power."
This is what we'll be using to get charged, because Orbs are incredibly easy to create with multikills from Masterworked weapons. In solo play, running all masterworked weapons will see the floor littered with Orbs, and in group play you'll also benefit from the Orbs your allies create. At the very least your primary should be masterworked, unless it's an exotic with no catalyst, in which case consider swapping to whichever mod generates charges based on kills with that weapon. (For example, if you're running the hand cannon Hawkmoon you would choose the Precision Charge mod.) Side note: I strongly recommend running either Recuperation or Better Already armor mods on your boots, as these will provide healing whenever you collect an Orb.
Stacks on Stacks
Energy cost: 4
Elemental affinity: Void
Description: "Gain an extra stack of Charged with Light for every stack you gain."
Stat Penalty: -10 Recovery
Stacks on Stacks is vital in any build which spends a lot of charges, which ours does, because it grants two charges for every Orb we pick up. It's hard to overstate what a difference this makes to keeping you charged at all times. You'll be in the thick of the fighting, triggering your other mods in quick succession, but then immediately replenishing your charges thanks to Stacks on Stacks and the amount of Orbs we're generating. It might seem tempting to go for mods like Charged Up or Supercharged which enable you to hold more charges in total, but Stacks on Stacks is a workhorse and way better in most builds.
Energy cost: 3
Elemental affinity: Arc
Description: "While Charged with Light, when you take damage while surrounded by enemies you emit a burst of damaging arc energy, consuming one stack of Charged with Light."
Secondary perk: "Gain a powerful overshield while performing your finisher."
Here's the first of our pay-off mods, and it's a monster. Players tend to sleep on Reactive Pulse, partly because it originally had a different name and didn't do what the description said. Whoops! It actually works in multiple ways: When you take damage your guardian will emit an explosive blast of Arc energy that does substantial damage. Not enough that it's going to worry bosses, but as you can see from the gif above it clears swarms of adds just fine. Essentially you become a walking grenade that functions as both an offensive and defensive tool. Reactive Pulse is so good that once you take it off you'll feel the absence immediately. As with certain other Arc affinity mods, it also comes with a secondary perk which will be active provided you have another Arc-affinity mod socketed somewhere else in your build, including in the same piece of armour. In this case it grants an overshield when performing finishers. Overshields are good.
Energy cost: 2
Elemental affinity: Void
Description: "While Charged with Light, you gain significant damage resistance against combatants when your shields are destroyed. This effect consumes all stacks of Charged with Light. The more stacks consumed, the longer the damage resistance lasts."
Stat penalty: -10 Strength
What's better than dying? Not dying. Protective Light is one of the most powerful defensive perks in Destiny 2. After your shield breaks, you receive a 50% reduction to all incoming damage. The effect is very noticeable, and usually gives you time to scramble to safety. On-screen you'll see a message that reads 'Sheltered by the Void' with a timer that corresponds to 5 seconds for each stack of Charged with Light you had previously. Obviously, this mod shines most in hard content, so you could swap it out for another damage boosting effect—but I like to keep it on most of the time. After all, once you're dead you're DPS drops to zero.
Energy cost: 4
Elemental affinity: Arc
Description: "While Charged with Light, dealing damage with a Sword gives you bonus Sword damage for 5 seconds, consuming one stack of Charged with Light."
Secondary perk: "Greatly increases the charge rate for your equipped Swords."
This is the only mod in our build which is loadout dependent, and as such can be considered a flex spot and swapped for something else. Lucent Blade boosts the damage of swords by a whopping 35%, and as discussed previously, swords are nutty in Destiny 2 right now. Post-nerf, the Falling Guillotine is still a monster when it comes to DPS and the 'spin-to-win' heavy attack is incredibly good when you're getting swamped. Then of course there's The Lament, the exotic sword which deals unrivalled burst damage. (Here's how to get it.)
The way Lucent Blade works makes it perfect for optimising damage phases. The buff is applied when you start dealing damage with a sword while charged—you'll see an on-screen message that says 'Keened' and a timer that lasts five seconds. Provided you have another Arc mod slotted—which we do: Reactive Pulse—you'll also get the secondary effect of faster charging heavy attacks. Again, crucial for doing max DPS.
The reason I like a sword so much in this build, aside from the damage, is that Reactive Pulse and Protective Light enable you to play very aggressively. Also, if you're using a masterworked sword, like a Falling Guillotine or Black Talon with the exotic catalyst, it's very easy to create more Orbs via multikills, and thereby keep the chain of Charged with Light rolling.
If you'd prefer to use something like Xenophage, One Thousand Voices or a legendary heavy weapon, then I'd probably swap Lucent Blade for the Powerful Friends mod, which grants +20 Mobility and also charges your teammates with light. Other mods I would consider would be Heal Thyself or Firepower for grenade-centric builds, or Heavy Handed if you're focused on powered melees and running a shotgun or fusion rifle. As I said, it's a flex spot, so play around.
There is one more mod which merits serious consideration: High-Energy Fire. It grants a flat 20% buff to weapon damage while Charged with Light, which is obviously very good—especially in hard content. The reason I don't use it in this build is that each kill consumes a charge. That means it chews through charges very fast, often on trash mobs, and your other mods like Protective Light and Reactive Pulse will proc much less often. Therefore you really have to build around just High Energy Fire, using all your other slots to generate and store as many charges as possible.
For a High-Energy Fire build I would run Taking Charge, another weapon-based charge generating mod, Stacks on Stacks, and Charged Up for an extra charge.
Let me know how you get on with my Charged with Light build. Next week I'll have a Warmind Cell one which enables you to nuke entire rooms while healing yourself at the same time. See you then!