As a looter shooter, it's no surprise that some of Destiny 2's best gear and experiences require you to get leveled up first. In this guide we'll show you how to get ready to take on tougher challenges like Nightfall strikes and the Leviathan raid without having to quit your job to free up time to grind. The most efficient route though to the endgame content can be confusing, but we'll be there along the way like your trusty Ghost to shine a light on the fastest path forward. Let's start with the story...
Sprinting through character levels 1-20
If you haven’t finished the campaign, do that first
Playing through the campaign at a natural pace will get you close to level 20, assuming you do a little planetary patrolling along the way. Alternatively, you can power through as fast as possible, only doing enough additional activity to ensure you hit the level required to unlock the next set of missions, and once you polish off Ghaul at the end of the story go to see Commander Zavala after you've chatter with the other Vanguard NPCS and he'll bump you to level 20. At this point you'll be able to equip all legendary and exotic gear, and the real grind begins.
Join a clan
Being part of a clan is a near necessity for the entirety of Destiny 2, especially if you want easy access to some of the best gear. If anyone in a fireteam consisting of at least two clan members finishes the Nightfall Strike, completes a raid, wins any crucible match, or gets a seven-ticket win in Trials of the Nine, then everyone gets a weekly legendary engram (one per account rather than character) as a reward for that activity. Further, for contributing your weekly allowance of experience to your clan, you get a luminous engram. These are important, because they'll always drop at a higher power level than your current average. As your clan levels up week by week, you’ll also hit tiers that unlock further reward buffs for everyday activities like completing public events or killing Cabal. Join a
cult clan ASAP.
Public events are the easiest way to hit level 20
But if you want to put the campaign on the backburner, public events are the way to go. They’re easy to access and their times stagger enough across a given zone so that you can likely warp from one to another. Completing them rewards EXP, a planetary token, and a random chance at items and engrams.
Heroic public events are even better
Public events all have unspoken conditions that, if met, transform the public event into a heroic public event. (See above for a guide to how to start them.) You’d likely wager that means a greater challenge and greater rewards, which is right on the money. More powerful enemies will spawn, and clearing them means more experience overall. I hung out on Nessus doing public events for an hour or two, starting at level 10 and ending at the cap. It made the rest of the campaign a breeze.
Recklessly buy gear with glimmer
Destiny 2’s trash currency, glimmer drops from every enemy you kill as well as most chests. You’re going to get a lot of the stuff and chances are you hit the cap quickly. So don’t sit on it, throw it at vendors for gear with even the smallest power level advantages over what you have. Legendary engrams spawn with a set power level based on your current level, so you’ll want to keep nudging your power level up, regardless of where you’re at between level 1 and 20.
Getting over the power level 265 speed bump
Vendors are your friends
Before you hit power level 265, leveling up is a simple matter of playing the game however you want and cashing in the tokens you earn at their respective vendors. Most vendors require 20 tokens to rank up, for which you'll earn a legendary engram that will drop at or above your current power level. Note that in Destiny 2, unlike the original, the game will check your inventory and vault to ascertain what the best power level you could currently reach is in order to determine the value of new items. Which is a relief, as it means you don't always have to worry about wearing your best gear.
Clean out region chests and do public events and patrols in tandem
While cleaning out an area’s region chests and with an active Fireteam Medallion, do public events and patrols as they crop up in your area—if they make sense. Stick to the patrol missions that require you to gather materials from killing a certain enemy around 10 times. Other patrols require you to go somewhere else to complete them.
After an hour of cleaning out Nessus’ region chests, doing patrols and public events all the while, I ended up with something like 70 tokens to turn into FailSafe. I wouldn’t advise blowing them all at once unless the vendor engrams are dropping at a power level higher or equal to your own. However, once you hit power level 265 you'll hit a hump.
Delay popping your luminous and exotic engrams for as long as possible
Whereas the power level of legendary engrams is soft capped, luminous and exotic engrams will always drop at or above your average level. This makes them all the more important while you're trying to level past 265 and beyond. That means you should aim to turn in your luminous engrams, and exotics from quest rewards, only once there are no other avenues for your character to level up that week. Doing so will give you maximum benefit in terms of your overall level.
Pop Fireteam Medallions
But now that we know how important exotics are to leveling, how, you may wonder, can you increase your chances of nabbing more of them? Well, as you earn bright engrams, you’ll also collect Bright Dust from redeeming them with Tess at the Eververse shop. You can spend this currency on Fireteam Medallions (at a rate of 50 Dust per Medallion), which are consumable items that increase experience gains and loot drop chances during public events, Crucible matches, and Strikes. Each Medallion lasts for four hours, applies to your entire fireteam, and appears you can stack the effect twice. If you find yourself thirsty for more Dust, you can dismantle spare legendary sparrows and legendary shaders you don't want. Starting with that awful Watermelon one.
Some events only grant you a milestone reward once a week for completion, but by running multiple characters you can drop off high power level items in your storage box and swap them to lower level characters to catch them up quickly. Once every character is in the same power level ballpark, it’s possible to run events like the Nightfall Strike or raid three times a week for multiple milestone rewards. You can't share armor between characters of different class, and nor can you infuse unwanted armor from one class into a piece on another, but weapons and mods can be shared freely.
This is particularly important when power leveling your second and third toons, because it means as soon as they hit level 20 you can shift over a bunch of your best weapons to instantly spike their overall level. However, note that there is a penalty for running multiple characters of the same main class. If you're determined to run a trio of Hunters you'll only be able to collect the weekly milestone rewards on one of them.
Craft mods like a prepper
Once you hit power level 280, you can start crafting mods. Chances are, you’ve accumulated a pile of rare (ie blue) mods by now and hopefully haven’t used them all on garbage gear. Hit up the gunsmith and craft every legendary mod you possibly can. These all require three of the same rare mod to create, so if you need another, drop some glimmer on generating a few mods at random—you might just get what you’re looking for.
Legendary mods are an easy booster because they all give whatever gear they’re slotted into +5 to their power level. Equip your best gear, slot legendary mods in wherever you can, but pay attention to what’s going where. If you’re trying to run a specific subclass, you’ll want to equip mods that buff it’s abilities. But if you can’t be as selective, don’t sweat it. More mods will come. The priority now is getting your power level as high as possible to make luminous engrams match. Using this method, I went from 280 to 287 in a matter of minutes.
The final grind
Okay, so you're running the raid, going flawless in Trials and doing all your other milestones. What now? Once your base power level is 300 across the board (ie without taking into account the +5 effect from any legendary mods), vendor engrams will begin dropping at 295-300 power. The number isn't random though, it's on a rota that changes every 30 minutes. Clever guardians have begun tracking which vendors have 300 power gear on offer via a crowdsourced website and spreadsheet. Simply save up all your tokens until that particular vendor has 300 stuff, then blow the lot.