Best Helldivers 2 stratagems: Tier list, for bugs, Automatons, solo, and early game

Helldivers 2 gameplay
(Image credit: PlayStation Studios)

While your standard weapons and grenades will get you through most standard combat encounters in Helldivers 2, you'll run into plenty of situations that require heavier firepower or specific types of utility. To get it, you'll need to call in special types of ordnance called stratagems. Available stratagems include powerful support weapons, autonomous sentry turrets, airstrikes from close air support fighters, and more, and each player in your squad can bring along four of them to use throughout every mission (unless there's one of those annoying operation modifiers limiting your selection to three).

Unlocking stratagems is simple; all you have to do is earn Requisitions by finishing missions and then spend them on the stratagems you want in the Ship Management menu while you're on your destroyer. However, choosing the right ones to unlock can be tough, as there's nearly 50 of them, and some are much better — or worse — than others. And if you or your allies don't have the right stratagems to deal with the threats you're facing, you're in for a bad time.

I've put roughly 200 hours into Helldivers 2 since it launched last month, and have taken all of these stratagems (including the new Exosuit mechs) into battle alongside top weapons many, many times. As a result, I've got a good grasp on which ones are the best and which ones should generally be avoided, and I've used that information to put together a tier list below (now updated with new rankings following the game's latest balance patches). Beneath it, you'll find sections that go over my favorite stratagem picks for battles against the Terminid bugs and Automaton bots, as well as some recommendations for solo and early game players. 

Helldivers 2 stratagems ranked: Tier list

My tier list of all 48 of Helldivers 2's stratagems, now updated following the release of several balance updates. (Image credit: Windows Central / TierMaker)

There are a whopping 48 different stratagems in Helldivers 2, including a wide variety of support weapons, artillery barrages, orbital strikes, air support call-ins, defensive sentry turrets, and more. The vast majority of them are viable in a number of different scenarios, but some are often the best options available — and some are also very underwhelming, and aren't worth unlocking or using. It's also worth noting that since the game's launch, several of these have gotten balance adjustments that have made them stronger or weaker than they were before. Some stratagems have also gotten more useful after changes were made to enemies as well; for example, both the Expendable Anti-Tank and Recoilless Rifle rose in viability after a recent nerf to Charger head health made it possible to one-shot them with rocket launcher headshots.

To help you decide which ones you should focus on getting first and which ones you should ignore or avoid, I've ranked each and every stratagem in a tier list you can view in the image above or in the table below. I largely chose their placements based on my own experiences since I've unlocked and tested every stratagem in the game now, though the opinions of the community have influenced the list as well.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
SRailgun, Grenade Launcher, Orbital Railcannon Strike, Orbital Laser, Eagle Airstrike, Eagle 500kg Bomb, Autocannon Sentry, EMS Mortar Sentry, Shield Generator Pack
AAutocannon, Expendable Anti-Tank, Recoilless Rifle, Orbital Gatling Barrage, Orbital 380mm HE Barrage, Eagle Cluster Bomb, Eagle 110mm Rocket Pods, Gatling Sentry, Supply Pack, Guard Dog "Rover"
BFlamethrower, Laser Cannon, Stalwart, EXO-45 Patriot Exosuit, Orbital Precision Strike, Orbital 120mm HE Barrage, Mortar Sentry, Incendiary Mines, Shield Generator Relay
CSpear, Anti-Materiel Rifle, Machine Gun, Orbital Walking Barrage, Orbital EMS Strike, Eagle Napalm Strike, Rocket Sentry, Anti-Personnel Minefield
DArc Thrower, Orbital Gas Strike, Orbital Airburst Strike, HMG Emplacement, Tesla Tower, Jump Pack, Guard Dog
FOrbital Smoke Strike, Eagle Smoke Strike, Eagle Strafing Run, Machine Gun Sentry, Ballistic Shield Backpack

Note that while I believe you'll generally find the most success by using the stratagems in high tiers like S or A, I also strongly encourage you to try out the other stratagems yourself and see if they mesh well with your chosen playstyle. I'm not a fan of the Jump Pack and put it in D-tier since I don't think it's that useful, for instance, but there are Helldivers who swear by it and say its ability to quickly get you on high ground you wouldn't be able to reach otherwise can be a difference maker.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some of the stratagems in mid-tiers like B are actually some of the strongest ones you can take into missions with specific objectives or enemy types. For example, thanks to some recent DPS buffs, the Flamethrower has quickly become one of my favorite support weapons to use in levels where I'm facing off against Terminid bugs. However, its lack of range makes it a poor choice against the Automatons, which is why it's in B tier.

Best Helldivers 2 support weapons

The Railgun in Helldivers 2, which is widely considered to be the best support weapon. (Image credit: Windows Central)

Arguably the most important Helldivers 2 stratagems are support weapons, which are what you'll be using when there are either too many foes on the battlefield and you can't deal with them effectively with your regular weapons, or when the threats you're up against are thickly armored. Here are my favorites:

  • Railgun: Without question, the Railgun is the best support weapon in the game right now, even after the recent nerfs that reduced its damage against thick armor a bit and made its armor penetration much worse in "Safe Mode."  When switched to "Unsafe" — make sure you don't overcharge it for over three seconds, or you'll blow yourself up — charged shots with it can one-shot Hulks and significantly wound Chargers and Bile Titans with headshots. Useful for one-shotting other medium-armor units like Devastators and Hive Guards, too, and doesn't take up a backpack slot despite the stellar ammo economy. The only drawback is that it requires being very accurate, as it has zero area-of-effect and the projectile size is very small.
  • Grenade Launcher: A great support weapon against both Terminids and Automatons. Can be used to quickly spam down a crowd of infantry units, including medium-armored targets like Scout Striders, Devastators, and Hive Guards. Can clear a dropship of the reinforcements it's carrying before it even drops them, too. Useless against heavily armored enemies unless you can hit their weak spot, though — and even then, the damage is underwhelming. Definitely an S-tier weapon to bring along as long as crew's got sufficient anti-armor options.
  • Autocannon: The best alternative to the Railgun in most situations. Though its ammo pack takes up your backpack slot and it doesn't have the one-shot potential of the Railgun, it reloads quite quickly, and its explosive rounds don't require you to be as precise. Also deals more damage than the Railgun against weak points specifically weak to explosives, such as glowing Automaton heatsinks or big sacs on large Terminids.
  • Expendable Anti-Tank: You can call a pair of these expendable rocket launchers down every 70 seconds, and while they don't typically insta-kill heavy units like Hulks, they excel at blowing off their limbs/armor plating and exposing them to small arms fire. Notably, these are now capable of one-shotting Chargers with headshots (and can two-shot Bile Titans, too). You can also use them to one-shot Automaton dropships by hitting one of their engines, which the Railgun and Autocannon can't do. Unlockable very early in the game.
  • Recoilless Rifle: A strong alternative to the Expendable Anti-Tank. It functions the same and does about the same damage, too, but the difference is that you get one rocket launcher with an ammo backpack instead of expendable launchers you can spam frequently. Reloads very slowly, but if a teammate wears the backpack, they can reload the weapon for you rapidly. This enables you to fire off tons of rockets in quick succession.
  • Laser Cannon: One of Helldivers 2's worst support weapons was propelled into viability when the Laser Cannon got some large damage and armor penetration buffs in a recent patch. It's still not as powerful as the other options listed here, but the fact it doesn't require ammo (provided you're careful and don't let it overheat) makes it a nice  and consistent anti-infantry pick.

Best Helldivers 2 Orbital stratagems

Despite only having three uses per mission and a long cooldown, the Orbital Laser is S-tier thanks to its incredible power. (Image credit: Windows Central)

Some of the most versatile stratagems in Helldivers 2 are its orbital strikes. These are best used to eliminate specific targets or to call in heavy artillery against large fortifications or groups of enemy units. Below, I've listed what I consider to be the best of them.

  • Orbital Laser: This ridiculously powerful laser only has three uses per mission and has a lengthy five-minute cooldown, but can be used to sear dozens of enemy units or multiple heavily-armored enemies and structures to a crisp. The flames it leaves behind can do damage-over-time, too, and the laser won't even hurt your allies unless they come into direct contact with it.
  • Orbital Railcannon Strike: The sole purpose of this stratagem is to insta-kill a big threat like a Hulk, Tank, Charger, or Bile Titan. It has unlimited uses, and despite its 210-second cooldown, it's great to have on hand in higher difficulties.
  • Orbital Gatling Barrage: This is the perfect orbital strike for taking out a swarm of bugs or Automatons. Though the gatling rounds don't damage buildings, they make quick work of infantry units and have an exceptionally low cooldown and call-in time.
  • Orbital 380mm HE Barrage: The big guns. Rather imprecise, but less so after a recent buff tightened its spread — also, ridiculously powerful. I like calling it into large bases and watching the fireworks as it blows (almost) everything inside to smithereens, but it comes in handy when you start getting overwhelmed in high-difficulty missions too. Just make sure to throw it far away from you and your squadmates.
  • Orbital Precision Strike: The best stratagem to use if you want a structure like a bug nest or bot fabricator destroyed quickly. Its fairly low cooldown and call-in time also make it an excellent option for softening up clumps of enemy troops. 
  • Orbital 120mm HE Barrage: Essentially a smaller and weaker version of the 380mm barrage that has a smaller radius and a shorter cooldown. A good alternative if you want to trade some explosive power for safer and more precise artillery strikes.

Best Helldivers 2 Eagle/Hangar stratagems

Without a doubt, the Eagle Airstrike is the best multipurpose stratagem in the game. (Image credit: Windows Central)

Hangar stratagems — also often referred to as "Eagle" stratagems since that's the name of the close air support aircraft that flies them in for you — are similar to Orbital ones in that they're typically called in to either destroy structures or wipe out threats bearing down on you. They're different, though, in that the Eagle pilot eventually has to return to your ship to rearm after a few uses, which begins a cooldown that lasts for two minutes and 30 seconds.

  • Eagle Airstrike: One of the first Eagle strikes you can get, and also the best in the game. Can be used twice before rearming, and carpet bombs the area perpendicular to where you threw the beacon from with explosives capable of destroying all but the heaviest of units as well as bug nests and bot fabricators. 
  • Eagle 500kg Bomb: The nuke. Can one-shot most bosses as long as they're close to where it lands, and also eviscerates regular units near it, too. Can only be used once before the pilot has to rearm, but with the Expanded Weapons Bay ship module upgrade, you'll get two uses.
  • Eagle Cluster Bomb: An amazing anti-infantry alternative to the Airstrike. Doesn't damage structures, but effectively wipes out any unarmored enemies caught in its path. The radius is huge, so be mindful of where you're throwing it and warn your teammates if necessary.
  • Eagle 110mm Rocket Pods: These low-yield explosives hit armored targets very hard, though they don't always one-shot big targets (but can; they seem a little inconsistent). Their minimal area-of-effect makes them an excellent choice if you need something that's precise and won't blow up your squadmates.
  • Eagle Napalm Airstrike: A situational airstrike that's most effective against hordes of Terminids, but solid against approaching Automatons as well. Instead of dealing raw damage, this instead creates a wall of flame that cuts approaching enemies off and forces them to either find another way to you or run through the fire and take extreme damage. 
  • Eagle Smoke Strike: Creates a huge wall of smoke that blocks enemy sightlines, cancelling their aggro and confusing them. This is rarely a good pick, but depending on the situation, it can buy your team some extremely valuable time to resupply and/or retreat.

Best Helldivers 2 Sentry/Fortification stratagems

As long as it isn't thickly armored, the Gatling Sentry can rip pretty much anything to shreds. (Image credit: Windows Central)

If you're defending a position or want to back up an attack with some supportive fire, bring along some of the best Sentry or Fortification stratagems. These will protect you by either cutting enemies down outright or by crowd controlling them, and one can even be used to create a large energy shield for your team to stand in.

  • EMS Mortar Sentry: Amazing against Automatons, and good against bugs, too. Instead of damaging enemies, this turret shoots EMS mortars that stunlock and slow them for several seconds instead. This halts their momentum and makes them easy to pick off.
  • Autocannon Sentry: This heavy sentry is slow to turn and won't shoot anything directly next to it, but give it the space and angle it needs, and it'll blast even the heaviest units to pieces. Effective against both infantry and armor, and has enough ammo to last quite a while.
  • Gatling Sentry: The best sentry for anti-infantry damage. Can't damage heavies, but can easily mow down just about anything else — including any teammates who get in its way. Try and put it on high ground and choose an angle where it won't be behind allies to ensure that doesn't happen.
  • Mortar Sentry: An excellent sentry, but only when you actually position yourself properly and use it in the right context. It rains powerful mortars down on enemies, but if those enemies are near you or allies, some teamkilling is bound to happen. This makes them a poor choice against Terminids since their rush tactics mean they'll be on your tail constantly, but against Automatrons or in defense-style missions where you can stop the bugs from ever actually getting in your face, they're definitely worth bringing.
  • Incendiary Mines: These mines explode and spread flame when an enemy walks over them, making them a very effective area denial tool. Best used against the bugs, but a solid pick in any mission.
  • Shield Generator Relay: This fortification is pretty bad for Terminids, but it's perfect for robots. It brings up a durable shield your entire team can stand in for protection from ranged attacks while firing out of it, making it very useful when you're completing objectives or extracting.

Best Helldivers 2 Backpack stratagems

The Supply Pack allows you to keep you and your team fully stocked on ammo frequently, making it a must-have stratagem for many teams. (Image credit: Windows Central)

Some stratagems can be worn on your character's backpack slot, and will provide helpful support to either you or your teammates when used. Note that you won't be able to use them while also carrying an ammo backpack for a support weapon.

  • Shield Generator Pack: Even post-nerf, this backpack's personal energy shield is, without question, S tier. It works against both melee and ranged attacks and is thus useful against both bugs and bots, but it's especially helpful against the Automatons since it negates tons of the chip damage you'd normally take when fighting them. It also negates slowdown effects, which you'll have to deal with constantly on high-difficulty bug missions. Make no mistake, this will save your life.
  • Supply Pack: Another very useful backpack, though your team only needs one of them. It can be used to dispense ammo and stims to allies, or to yourself if need be. You can then refill the backpack by picking up the crates from Resupply call-ins.
  • "Guard Dog" Rover: This version of the Guard Dog backpack drone uses a laser rifle to constantly beam down enemies approaching you. Stellar against the bugs, and solid against robots. Much better than the standard Guard Dog, as it has significantly better uptime.
  • Jump Pack: You can use this to get a burst of vertical movement and fly onto pieces of high ground you couldn't get to otherwise. Very situational and not worth using in my opinion, but some swear by it.
  • "Guard Dog": I vehemently dislike the normal Guard Dog, which suffers from having extremely low uptime compared to the "Rover" variant. The assault rifle it uses doesn't even seem to do better damage, so it's essentially worse in every way.
  • Ballistic Shield Backpack: Use this and you'll deploy a tanky ballistic shield you can fire around with your sidearm. Blocks way more damage than the personal energy shield does, but forces you to use your secondary (unless you're using the Defender or Knight primary, as they're SMGs) and doesn't hold up against heavier, more explosive attacks. Ultimately, not worth using.

Best Helldivers 2 early game stratagems

The Machine Gun and Stalwart are both exceptional in the early game, as they're very effective against groups of unarmored infantry. (Image credit: Windows Central)

Many of the best stratagems can't be unlocked until you've leveled up quite a bit and have earned lots of Requisition currency. These ones, though, are available very early on and aren't terribly expensive to unlock, but are also still pretty powerful.

  • Machine Gun: Arguably the best support weapon until you reach Challenging difficulty. You get access to it right away, and it's ideal when facing lots of unarmored units.
  • Stalwart: An alternative to the standard Machine Gun with less power, but better handling, ammo economy, and a faster reload speed. Despite having lower armor penetration, the extra ammo makes it better than the Machine Gun above Challenging where the number of enemy units increases rather drastically.
  • Expendable Anti-Tank: The ability to call down two powerful rocket launchers every 70 seconds is the perfect early game solution to the armored enemies you'll face on difficulty Challenging and above.
  • Orbital Precision Strike: Another one you don't have to unlock, and since it's good against clumps of enemies as well as individual structures, it stands tall as one of the best stratagems in the game.
  • Orbital Gatling Barrage: Available very early, this is another excellent Orbital call-in that reliably decimates large groups of infantry.
  • Eagle Airstrike: The reliable explosive power of the Eagle Airstrike carpet bomb is unlockable very early, too. Ultimately, you won't find a more useful multipurpose stratagem in the game.
  • Gatling Sentry: I'd skip over the Machine Gun Sentry and go straight for this one, as it's essentially a direct upgrade. It remains a top-tier pick from the start of the game to endgame-level missions.
  • Supply Pack: Another S-tier item you can get very quickly after your first few levels. Use this to give your allies ammo when they need it, and they'll love you.

Best Helldivers 2 stratagems for solo play

If you're dropping in without any allies to back you up, you'll want to use the following stratagems. (Image credit: PlayStation Studios)

Dropping into the battlefield on your own? Consider taking the following stratagems in your loadout, as while they're amazing in a team, they're especially valuable while playing solo.

  • Railgun: It's the best support weapon in team play, and it's also the best when you're alone since it gives you room for a Shield Generator Pack, has plenty of ammo, and is quick to reload. At high difficulties, you'll need this to take out big threats like Hulks, Chargers, and Bile Titans.
  • Autocannon: You can opt for the Autocannon if you'd prefer something that demands less precision for taking out big enemies, and it's also stronger than the Railgun against things like Automaton Tanks, base cannons, and mortar artillery objectives. However, to reload it you'll need the included ammo backpack, and that means no personal shield.
  • Orbital Railcannon Strike: Though it has a long cooldown, the fact there's no limit to how many times you can use it makes the Orbital Railcannon Strike my favorite of the game's two "heavy hitter" Orbitals to use solo. You can mitigate the cooldown by playing stealthily to avoid patrols and having to fight heavy enemies, which you should be doing anyway when you're on your own.
  • Eagle Airstrike: Unsurprisingly, the best multipurpose Eagle call-in is also the best one to use in solo missions. Whether you need to take out a group of threatening enemies or blow bug nests/bot fabricators to pieces, it'll get the job done perfectly, and it has a solid overall uptime too.
  • Autocannon Sentry: If you find yourself in a big fight, having a versatile Autocannon Sentry at your side can be a life-saver. Just make sure you position it well and stay out of its line of fire (climbing and proning on top of the turret itself is a safe way to do this).
  • Shield Generator Pack: When it's just you against every enemy on the map, the Shield Generator Pack's personal energy shield is a godsend. It will save you from lots of heavy hits that might have one-shot you otherwise, and when your Reinforcements are as limited as they are in solo runs, that's big value.

Best Helldivers 2 stratagems for bugs

When fighting the Terminid bugs, consider using these stratagems in your loadout. (Image credit: PlayStation Studios)

The bugs of the Terminid faction fight you by constantly trying to rush you down and get in your face, so you'll want to choose stratagems that are effective at fighting those tactics. Here's what I recommend using:

  • Railgun: Capable of severely wounding Chargers and Bile Titans with headshots, as well as one-shotting medium-armored bugs like Hive Guards, Brood Commanders, and Bile Spewers. Just make sure you're on Unsafe Mode.
  • Expendable Anti-Tank: Now that this kills Chargers with a single rocket to the head, it's become an instant S tier option against bugs specifically. Puts Bile Titans in the dirt with two rockets to their faces, too.
  • Orbital Laser: Amazing against everything, including bug hordes. Throw it down and you'll toast them all. It'll destroy nearby bug nests, too.
  • Orbital Gatling Barrage: The perfect answer to a swarm of smaller, unarmored bugs. Will rip them apart very quickly and efficiently. Also great when used to contain a bug breach.
  • Orbital EMS Strike: Throw this at any bug breaches that open to significantly reduce the threat they pose. It'll slow all the Terminids as they come out, making them easy to kill (or making it easy for your team to run away).
  • Eagle Airstrike: Ol' reliable. Great at clearing a big group of bugs, and also an amazing tool to quickly blow up several holes in a large nest.
  • Eagle Cluster Bomb: Use this when you want to delete a big swarm headed your way. The only Terminids it won't obliterate are Chargers or Bile Titans.
  • Gatling Sentry: The Gatling Sentry is fantastic against both Terminids and Automatons, but it's especially powerful against the former since they don't have as many armored units.

Best Helldivers 2 stratagems for Automatons

This last set of stratagems is particularly effective against the militaristic Automatons. (Image credit: PlayStation Studios)

In stark contrast to the Terminids, the Automaton robots fight more like a traditional military and have fewer, but more armored units that can effectively fight you from longer ranges. Here are the stratagems that have worked best against them in my experience:

  • Railgun: When in "Unsafe" mode, the Railgun can one-shot Hulks — as well as the vast majority of other armored Automaton units — with charged shots to their head or rear weak point. This makes it an S-tier pick against the bots, especially in higher difficulties.
  • Autocannon: Use this when you want something that's also effective against Automaton Tanks and the weak spots on fortifications like base cannons or anti-air turret objectives, as the Railgun is not.
  • Orbital Laser: Call one of these down and it'll cut through even the heaviest units used by the Automatons. It'll also quickly destroy the structures in their bases, and can even destroy entire heavy bases all on its own at times.
  • Orbital Precision Strike: Use this to take out fabricators, and also consider using it to destroy Automaton bunkers and machine gun nests if they're giving you trouble.
  • Eagle Airstrike: This carpet bomb is great for quick clears on small and medium outposts, and can also wipe a platoon of armored infantry units off the map.
  • EMS Mortar Sentry: Stops advancing Automatons in their tracks, including big units like Hulks. This freezes them in place and makes picking them off easy, which is invaluable in tense situations. Make sure you throw it a good distance away from the front line.
  • Mortar Sentry: Bombards the robots as they push towards you, or can alternatively be used to lob explosives at their own fortifications. Very powerful, but try not to get close to the bots or else you might get blown up by one of your own mortars.
  • Shield Generator Pack: The energy shield will absorb a lot of the random laser fire that would chip your health down if you didn't have it, reducing the amount of stims you'll have to use and ensuring you'll have some ready when you really need them.

Helldivers 2 is available now for $39.99 on both PS5 and PC, and so far, it's one of the best PC games of the year. Notably, the game also supports cross-platform play between PS5 and PC.

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Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.