The 5 best Destiny 2 Exotic weapons to get free with Expansion Open Access before The Final Shape

Witherhoard (Image credit: Bungie)

Destiny 2's climactic The Final Shape DLC expansion is only about a month away from launch, and to help new and returning players prepare for it, developer Bungie has made nearly every big Destiny 2 DLC free to play. From now until June 3, you can play through all the content in 2019's Shadowkeep, 2020's Beyond Light, and 2022's The Witch Queen, along with all of Year 6's four seasons (Season 20-23), with "Expansion Open Access." This includes all their story missions, matchmade activities, Exotic quests/missions, raids, and more — and you'll get to keep all the gear you earn even after the free access period ends.

Another benefit of Expansion Open Access you may not be aware of is that since you technically own the above DLCs while it's active, you can head to the Monument to Lost Lights Exotic Archive at The Tower to obtain certain Exotic weapons from their expansion year that were originally unlocked from seasonal quests or reward tracks that have now been sunset. And while many of these weapons range from "terrible" to "just okay," a handful of them are extremely powerful and have a strong position in the Destiny 2 meta.

Each Exotic weapon at the Exotic Archive costs 1 Exotic Cipher, 1 Ascendant Shard, and 100,000 Glimmer to snag. You'll get Ascendant Shards from Rahool in The Tower (and various other sources) and Glimmer from general play, but Exotic Ciphers can only be earned by completing the weekly "Xenology" quest from Xûr, a vendor who shows up in a random location every weekend to sell Exotic gear (use this website to track him). There's also one available as a Rank 55 reward for XP progression on the free track of the current season pass; between it and the ones you can get during the remaining weekends between now and The Final Shape, you'll be able to acquire five Exotic Ciphers in total.

Five Exotic Ciphers mean five new Exotic weapons for your arsenal, and below, I've listed the five best ones from the Shadowkeep, Beyond Light, and The Witch Queen eras you should spend them on while Expansion Open Access is available. Note that the Exotics have been sorted in descending order from most to least useful, so if you find this article later on in May, get as many as you can starting from the top of the list and working your way down. Also, make sure you talk to Banshee-44 after acquiring each one to pick up the quest for their Exotic catalysts, as completing these enhances the weapons with additional perks and bonuses.


Without question, Witherhoard is the best Exotic you can get from all three of these expansion eras. (Image credit: Windows Central)

The Witherhoard Exotic grenade launcher has been an absolute monster in PvE ever since it was originally added back in Shadowkeep's Season of Arrivals, and still sees frequent use in many loadouts today. When fired at the ground, it creates a large circular pool of energy that does heavy damage-over-time (DOT) to any enemy that touches it, making it phenomenal for crowd control and ad clear. Direct hits with its projectiles inflict that DOT to the target while also dealing a chunk of impact damage as well, and when the target dies, it drops an energy pool at its location.

The catalyst for Witherhoard gives it a special trait called Silent Alarm that gives it a massive Handling stat buff while also enhancing it with the effects of Auto-Loading Holster — a perk that auto-reloads the weapon after a few seconds while it's stowed. This allows you to swap to other weapons and keep shooting while Witherhoard reloads passively then switch back when it's ready to fire, making the grenade launcher a strong pick for boss damage loadouts as well as ad clear-focused ones.

All in all, Witherhoard is simply incredible, and if there's one Exotic to get from the Exotic Archive during Expansion Open Access, it's this one. It's even solid in PvP, as direct hits with it are a guaranteed one-shot kill and you can use its energy pools to pressure players in Warlock rifts or behind Titan barricades.

Leviathan's Breath

Leviathan's Breath used to be terrible, but it's become a top boss DPS weapon recently. (Image credit: Windows Central)

The Leviathan's Breath, a unique heavy Bow from Shadowkeep's Season of the Undying, used to be one of the worst Exotics in all of Destiny 2. Thanks to a massive buff last year that gave it 30% more damage, the intrinsic ability to create volatile Void explosions, and a catalyst that adds Archer's Tempo to speed up the rate of fire, though, it's quickly become a meta DPS option for any boss with a crit you can hit consistently.

Notably, Leviathan's Breath also brings some Champion-specific utility to the table, as it's capable of stunning Unstoppable Champions with a fully charged arrow. This makes it a popular weapon in difficult Nightfall strikes, and it also occasionally sees some play against Unstoppable Champions in Master-level raids, too. Overall, an excellent weapon.

Ager's Scepter

Ager's Scepter is arguably the best Exotic weapon in the game for crowd control. (Image credit: Windows Central)

Whenever players need extremely effective crowd control, Ager's Scepter is often the  weapon many Guardians turn to. This Exotic Stasis Trace Rifle from Beyond Light's Season of the Lost freezes any foes near ones that you kill with it, making them sitting ducks for follow-up from you or your allies. It also refunds ammo to the magazine whenever you get kills, allowing you to shoot for much longer than you'd be able to with a regular Trace Rifle before reloading.

Notably, there's no cooldown on Ager's Scepter's Exotic effect, so it's possible to chain it over and over to the point where you're freezing and clearing out entire battlefields in seconds. That freezing effect is also influenced by the Aspects and Fragments you've chosen for your Stasis subclass, if you've unlocked it; this makes it a top pick for Stasis builds.

Where it really starts to take off, though, is with its catalyst that adds the Will Given Form perk. This trait gives Ager's Scepter an alternate firing mode that slowly drains a fully charged Super to overcharge the weapon's beam, improving its damage and giving it the ability to directly slow and then freeze the target you're shooting. It's not always worth trading your Super for this mode, but in certain builds — Stasis Warlock with the Mantle of Battle Harmony Exotic chest armor, for example — it can absolutely pop off.

Grand Overture

Grand Overture is another great Exotic heavy weapon, and is incredibly versatile. (Image credit: Windows Central)

Like Leviathan's Breath, Grand Overture is a unique Exotic heavy, but was considered pretty worthless when it was added in The Witch Queen's Season of the Risen. Also like Leviathan's Breath, a series of major buffs last year have transformed it into a very viable weapon. These days, it's a popular choice for burst DPS against bosses as well as for effectively clearing out tanky "yellow bar" ads, especially if the activity you're in has an Arc surge or Machine Gun overcharge active.

Grand Overture essentially functions like the weapons used by a Cabal Colossus. Its standard firing mode shoots slow, high-damage slug rounds that prepare up to 20 missiles on-hit, which you can then fire in an extremely fast burst by holding reload to switch to its alternate firing mode. 

Though its total damage over time is lower than other meta options, the burst damage its missiles are capable of is fantastic, making it a fan-favorite in boss encounters with short damage phases. The missiles also blow through groups of enemies easily, too — Grand Overture's catalyst enhances this ad clear capability by making the missiles blind enemies they hit and cause additional Arc explosions when they kill.

Ticuu's Divination

If you love Bows or they're overcharged for an activity, you'll love using Ticuu's Divination. (Image credit: Windows Central)

All of Destiny 2's primary Exotic Bows are awesome weapons, and the Ticuu's Divination from Beyond Light's Season of the Chosen is no exception. It features a "primer and detonator" mechanic that makes it very useful for ad clear, especially if you're in a situation where you're fighting a lot of Solar-shielded enemies.

To use the weapon properly, you'll first want to hipfire an arrow at a crowd of ads, which sends out multiple seeking projectiles that "prime" them with a Sacred Flame debuff. Then, aim down the sight and shoot a fully charged Causality Arrow at one of those targets to "detonate" them, causing a high-damage explosion that also detonates other Sacred Flame-affected foes within its area-of-effect.

The catalyst for Ticuu's Divination makes it even more powerful by buffing the damage of your "detonation" Causality Arrows, while also resetting any "primer" Sacred Flame debuffs on the field if you hit an enemy with a Causality Arrow. Ultimately, this is the least useful of the five weapons I'm recommending here, but it's still excellent and an amazing weapon to have on-hand whenever Bows are overcharged or have anti-Champion perks from the current Seasonal Artifact.

Get ready for The Final Shape, Guardian

(Image credit: Bungie)

All five of these Exotic weapons are amongst the best in Destiny 2's PvE meta, and while access to Shadowkeep, Beyond Light, and The Witch Queen are free, picking all of them up before June 3 should be a top priority for new and returning players alike. If you're reading this article shortly after publication, you'll be able to get enough Exotic Ciphers before Expansion Open Access ends to get them all; if you happen to read it much later in May, make sure you at least get Witherhoard and Leviathan's Breath.

To prep for The Final Shape, make sure you also play through all the campaign missions in Shadowkeep, Beyond Light, The Witch Queen, and Year 6's four seasons (go to the H.E.L.M. to get started with those) to catch up on Destiny 2's major story beats. Doing this will also unlock plenty of Exotic quests and missions for you to complete, giving you access to additional powerful and fun Exotic weapons like Xenophage, Deathbringer, Salvation's Grip, The Lament, Parasite, and Wish-Keeper.

The seasonal story quests will also take you into Year 6's seasonal activities, and notably, all four of these are dropping a single guaranteed Deepsight "red border" weapon daily from now until The Final Shape's release (you'll always get a red border for a weapon pattern you don't have). You need these to be able to get patterns for and craft Year 6's seasonal weapons — AKA, choose the perks you want once you level them up with kills or Enhancement Cores —  so make sure you're running one of each of them every day. The best of these weapons to focus on are Raconteur, Regnant, The Eremite, Semiotician, Scatter Signal, and Doomed Petitioner.

Don't forget to also check out Destiny 2: Into the Light, a free-to-play update that's added a special PvE horde mode called Onslaught, 12 excellent "BRAVE" weapons, reprised versions of The Whisper and Zero Hour Exotic missions, and more. Its Hall of Champions social space actually has a "Gift of the Thunder Gods" chest full of solid gear that'll bring you up to the current max Power Level of 1810, and Onslaught is worth grinding (check out the best Onslaught builds I've put together) since the BRAVE weapons will no doubt be meta in the new DLC.

Destiny 2 is one of the best Xbox games and best PC games for fans of multiplayer and looter shooters, and The Final Shape — the final expansion in the Light and Darkness Saga — looks to be the biggest DLC that Bungie's popular live service game has ever gotten. Notably, it's available to preorder now, and the PC version is on sale for a small discount.


Destiny 2: The Final Shape | $49.99 $41.99 at GMG (Steam)

The Final Shape is the last DLC in Destiny 2's decade-long Light and Darkness Saga, and between both Prismatic and the introduction of the Dread faction, might just end up being the biggest expansion in the franchise's history.

Also see: The Final Shape (Xbox) | The Final Shape + Annual Pass (PC) | The Final Shape + Annual Pass (Xbox)

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.