The Division 2's best exotics and how you get them

Finding an exotic in The Division 2 is always a special moment. Unique endgame weapons that take a lot of effort to get your hands on, each exotic comes with its own set of talents that helps radically change your play style. Some are most definitely better than others, though, so knowing which exotics to dedicate your time to acquiring first is crucial if you don’t want to be left disappointed.

6. Pestilence LMG

I try to be positive about the Pestilence in The Division 2, mainly because it’s helped bring a bit more life to the Dark Zones by being exclusively dropped in them, but it’s just awful. It’s so awful that Ubisoft has acknowledged how awful it is, and it will be receiving a bit more attention to improve it alongside other, exotic-wide changes.

The idea is sound: the Plague of the Outcasts talent causes a killed enemy to release poison cloud that increases weapon damage against any other enemy caught in it by 200%, as well as receive the Pestilence debuff that halves any sort of healing from being applied to them, and causes instant death when an enemy would instead be placed into a downed state. When holstered, the Outcast Resilience talent will add 20% bonus armour whenever you’re burned, blinded or bleeding.

The problem with the Pestilence is it tries to combine crowd control elements with PvP, where taking down even one enemy is considered an achievement. AI enemies aren’t downed, making the second part of the Pestilence debuff entirely pointless in PvE modes. For it to be truly effective, you must kill a player, hope another is within range of the cloud, and then kill them too. That’s asking a lot for a weapon with a pitifully low damage output.

The Pestilence’s only redeeming quality is how easy it is to get. Running in the Dark Zone for a few hours can net you one, making it a great choice when dismantling for the exotic components needed to upgrade another weapon. Other than that, just don’t bother.

5. Sweet Dreams shotgun

Making any shotgun work in The Division 2 is tricky. Their high power is undone by their very short range, which means every other type of weapon tends to be preferable over them. They’re not completely impossible, and with the right build a shotgun can be a force to be reckoned with. The Sweet Dreams isn’t the shotgun to roll with, though.

The Sweet Dreams is tailored to point-blank play, which puts you in a very vulnerable position. The Sweet Dreams talent gives a 35% armour buff on hitting an enemy with a melee attack, and then killing them will apply a second lot of 35%. Melee attacks also give the enemy the Sandman debuff, which prevents any kind of healing. Finally, the Evasive talent reloads 1% your unholstered weapon’s magazine (or clip or shots or whatever the weapon uses) each time you dodge roll.

Sweet Dreams isn’t impossible to work with, especially in PvP once incoming rebalancing increases the time-to-kill for multiplayer combat, but it isn’t the most efficient or safe choice. Putting yourself in that much risk trying to melee attack an enemy before Dark Souls-style rolling away, when there are plenty of weapons that can deal similar or greater damage at a safe range, is silly. Not to mention AI enemies deal an absurd amount of melee damage at higher difficulty levels, so you’re risking a one-hit KO for little benefit.

4. Merciless rifle

Now we’re getting out of the “don’t even bother trying” zone and into “sure, maybe with the right kind of build” territory. The Merciless rifle (bog-standard rifle, not marksman or assault, which is a common point of confusion for those hunting it down) synergises incredibly well with the Demolitionist, although its idiosyncrasies do make it less efficient than some alternatives.

The Merciless is defined by a combination of two talents: Binary Trigger, which fires a second shot on the fire button being released, and Guerrilla Warfare, which alternate fires an explosive primer shot and its detonator. If you can apply up to five primers on an enemy before landing the detonator, a hefty chunk of explosive damage will be dealt to them. 

Its final talent, Brutality, applies to the other weapon in your loadout when Merciless is holstered, adding a 5% chance for that weapon to deal an extra 20% of damage as explosive damage. Run the Merciless with a high-capacity weapon like an SMG, Assault Rifle or LMG, and you’ll be causing explosions all over the place.

Merciless practically requires you to centre your entire build around it, but the benefits for doing so are huge. Combine the Demolitionist’s explosive-buffing perks with the China Light Industries Corporation brand set, which also adds 10% of explosive damage, and practice landing the maximum amount of primers on an enemy before detonating, and the explosive damage you can deal is massive. Add in an Overlord Armaments gear piece for extra rifle damage, and you’re laughing.

The reason Merciless isn’t higher on the list is that it’s such a weird weapon to use, and many players won’t gel with it. Getting used to the Binary Trigger can be tricky and remembering to intentionally miss every other shot to maximise the number of primers on an enemy goes completely against shooter muscle memory. It’s an entirely different way of playing the game, and it isn’t the most efficient way.

3. Nemesis marksman rifle

A brutal marksman rifle, the Nemesis rewards a patient and considered play style. 

Its primary talent is Counter-Sniper, which increases the amount of damage a shot will deal depending on how long the fire button is held (the gun is fired on release, kind of like half of the Merciless’ Binary Trigger). To help line up those lengthy shots, though, is the Nemesis talent itself, which marks an aimed-at enemy and tracks them through walls and cover. For every second they’re marked, they’ll take an extra 5% damage for up to 50%. 

The final talent is Preparation, which boosts your headshot damage on your other weapon as long as it’s scoped in. This is easily the weakest of the talents, as it does force you into using scopes on both of your weapons, although it’s not something to be sniffed at with a decent rifle.

The thing that’s holding the Nemesis back from true greatness is how much of a faff it is to acquire. If the whims of Massive and its random Invaded Stronghold rotation is kind to you, it could take at best three weeks of careful planning. If you’re unlucky, it could take well over a month. 

It’s also, like the Merciless, a weapon that entirely changes your play style, rather than augmenting your existing one like the higher-ranked exotics on this list. You have to be slow, patient and incredibly vulnerable to get the maximum effect, and you’re not going to be clearing weaker enemies as quickly as other builds.

Despite that, the Nemesis can deal a lot of damage in a single shot, making short work of elite and named enemies. It’s fantastic for bounties, where keeping track of enemies in the open world can be tricky, and it can be decent for PvP play too, provided you can stay alive long enough to charge a fully powered shot on a marked enemy. 

It’s a weird weapon that takes some practice and a lot of effort to get your hands on, but the benefits might just push it into being a worthwhile investment.

2. Liberty

Most people will overlook the Liberty in The Division 2, seeing as it’s the only exotic to fit in the sidearm slot. A small pistol that can be tough to acquire, its talents don’t seem like much at first. But it’s actually one of the most useful exotics for a PvP player, and definitely one you should consider as we eagerly anticipate The Division 2's first raid.

The Liberty’s talents are focused around electronics and weakpoints, putting the Black Tusk faction at a significant disadvantage when going up against it. The Liberty talent buffs your damage against weakpoints, turrets, drones, BIGDOGs, RC Cars and other electronics by +100%, and also highlights them for easily picking them out in the mess of a busy firefight. Combine with that Blind Justice, which makes the shot after destroying a weakpoint or electronic deal 500% extra damage, and adds +100% to your entire next magazine if it kills an enemy, and using the Liberty as an anti-electronics death machine is a very viable option.

The true star of the show, though, is Independence. I hadn’t realised the power of Independence when I first unlocked the Liberty, but it’s what has cemented it as the second best exotic. Independence works while the Liberty is holstered, and will reload 20% of your unholstered weapon’s magazine when you destroy an enemy weakpoint. It doesn’t sound like much, but with a bit of practice you can make an LMG or marksman rifle go a very long way, as well as keep your weapon loaded for just that pinch more time needed to take down a stronger enemy without having to reload. It’s such a malleable, multifaceted talent, yet also such a simple one that’s easy to work into many builds.

The Liberty’s main flaw is that the highlighting element of the Liberty talent becomes redundant once you’ve learned the enemies and their weakpoints. It’s an exotic for people getting to grips with the endgame and Black Tusk enemies, so it makes sense, but having a core part of the talent that you can memorise and never need to use again is a bit of a bummer.

1. Chatterbox

The Chatterbox P90 SMG is an absolute beast, when used right. Its two primary talents—Incessant Chatter that increases rate of fire by one percent for every shot landed, and Box Magazine that rewards killing an enemy with a buff that increases your ammo capacity by one for every shot landed for 10 seconds, and instantly reloads the Chatterbox on the next kill—allow it keep firing without ever having to stop to reload. It also works well with slower weapons by boosting their rate of fire through the Blabbermouth talent, making it complement almost any build.

It deals a decent amount of damage on its own, although there are still high-end SMGs that can outclass it in a stat-for-stat comparison. But if you combine it with gear and perks that boost SMG damage (like the first tier of the Sokolov Concern gear brand set, or the Demolitionist’s Spray and Pray perk), it gets even more powerful without needing you to dedicate an entire build to mitigating its few weaknesses, as is the case with some of the other exotics.

By being powerful in its own regard and fitting well into almost any other loadout rather than being the guiding force of a build, it’d be difficult to justify any other exotic in the top position over the Chatterbox. The biggest downside is that getting one is more involved than a lot of other exotics, relying on multiple layers of random chance, but once you’ve got it, all that faffing immediately becomes worth it.

Expect all of The Division 2's Exotics to change over time

Exotics in The Division 2 are in a weird place right now. Despite Ubisoft considering them more alternative ‘sidegrades’ than improvements over high-end gear, they still require an order of magnitude more effort to acquire. 

Incoming patches are aiming to fix this disparity by increasing the base damage of every exotic, but it’s not unreasonable to expect more sweeping changes to come a bit further down the line. It’s worth putting the effort into getting the exotics now, even if you’re not going to use them for quite a while. The Pestilence might be almost pointless at the moment, but who knows where it’ll be in a few months?