Players have been breaking Destiny 2 for nearly as long as Bungie has been making it, but the latest wave of destruction is in a league of its own. Within 48 hours, beginning February 26, players discovered unique and independent ways to completely bulldoze or circumvent the hardest PvE and PvP content in the game, farming mountains of top-tier loot in the process. We've seen some legendary cheese in this franchise – enemies yeeted to space, raid mechanics straight-up turned off, and some bosses literally brought to their knees. But Destiny has never seen methods this widespread, impactful, and successful, let alone all of them occurring simultaneously.
12 Guardians are better than six
We'll start with the PvE side of the game, since it's the one more players are familiar with and this cheese is still doable in-game at the time of writing. (If you're reading this after March 16, 2021, the date Bungie plans on issuing a patch fix, you'll have to make do with highlight reels). For several months, every now and then, someone on the Destiny Reddit would share a clip of them queueing into a six-player Nightfall Strike or some other accident that led to an over-capacity activity. Well, on February 26, players circulated a way to deliberately and reliably put way too many Guardians into several activities, including raids, Strikes, dungeons, and patrol zones. To get a feel for how this worked, I spoke to Destiny YouTuber Scrub, whose explanatory video helped the glitch hit critical mass.
"I learned of it the day I uploaded the video, February 26," he says. "I uploaded the video at like 6pm, and I learned of it at like noon that day. My friend told me about the glitch. He invited me to this [Discord] server, and there were two [voice channels] with 12 people in each one, so I was like, 'Oh, this is serious.' They've got it going, they've got screen shares, they've got 12 people in the [Garden of Salvation raid]."
"Before then, however, it's been investigated," Scrub says, explaining that players have been looking into ways to load extra players into Destiny 2 content for some time now. "A guy named Drift accidentally did it a few months ago, like Season of the Dawn, in a Nightfall. That day, February 26, they figured out how to do it consistently, and it ended up working with everything."
Scrub's channel is now full of wacky challenges using 12-player teams. He and his clan managed to overcrowd basically everything in the game. "All three raids, every single Strike, all three dungeons, Harbinger, Presage," he explains. "The iffy thing is patrol. You can get nine [players] in patrol, but not 12; I believe [my clanmates] said 12 either doesn't work or it crashes you."
For how powerful it is, this glitch is remarkably simple to pull off. All you have to do is have one fireteam join another as that team queues into an activity – right when the timer hits two seconds, in Scrub's experience. To pull it off consistently, Scrub also advises designating which person on team one will launch the activity, and which person on team two will try to join team one. Both of these people should be promoted to the leader of their fireteam after joining it, but they shouldn't make the fireteam themselves. "That's how we got it to work 100%," Scrub says.
Game-breaking, but not server-breaking
Scrub and his clan pulled this glitch off dozens of times, and to their surprise, the game basically worked every time. The extra players tanked the frame rate and caused more than a few error codes – which is a big part of why 12-man content just isn't a thing in Destiny 2 – but the activities' actual mechanics were unaffected. From the roles in the Deep Stone Crypt to the runic plates in the Last Wish, Destiny 2 was somehow trucking along under the hood even with 12 people in an instance. Everyone received loot correctly in raids, for instance, and bosses – who admirably showed up to work in the face of 12 Guardians – all behaved as you'd expect.
Of course, with anywhere from two to four times the usual number of players, every encounter was a pushover. "I'd say the most noticeable change was the Garden bosses," Scrub says. "With all the nerfs we've gotten over the past year, the two Garden bosses have gotten harder to one-phase, but with 12 players, it goes right back to an easy one-phase. That's a big difference. The other big change is Master Nightfalls. You don't even have to think."
This highlights one of the less obvious upsides of this glitch: now is the best time in recorded history to learn to raid. It doesn't matter how experienced you are with the game; if you're in a team of 12, you can do absolutely nothing and the raid will still carry on normally. It'd be like an up-and-coming athlete having seats in the middle of the court at the NBA. As long as you don't mess with the players, you can just sit back and learn as much as possible.
Scrub's favorite encounter to run with 12 people was the final Taniks fight in the Deep Stone Crypt – "being able to watch the health bar drain with just about anything was really satisfying" – but he also experimented with some weirder challenges.
"My favorite was when we did a Colony one," he says, referring to the Exotic grenade launcher Colony. "There's been a bug with it for a while where you walk up to an enemy and hug it, and it'll do damage even if they're immune. We tried that with Taniks to see if we could kill him before the damage phase, but the problem was that there's also a bug where if you fire at an enemy, it has a chance to kill your teammates. So with 12 of us doing that, 12 of us died very fast."
This is it, baby – peak cheese. We've got 12 players in a six-player activity using one bug to bypass boss immunity while dodging another bug that's compounded by the fact that there are 12 players in a six-player activity. We've already hit a new peak, and yet we're only halfway through the weekend.
Show your cravings at the emblem casino
While teams of 12 were liquefying bosses in raids, teams of three were gambling their way to flawless loot in Trials of Osiris at the so-called emblem casino. Trials' flawless chest is meant to be an exclusive, hard-fought reward, but players used a loophole to farm piles of pinnacle-grade Trials loot, including coveted Adept weapons with extra stats and special mods. See, Bungie recently changed the rules around rejoining in-progress Trials matches, and players worked out a way to exploit this in record time for some easy gear. It started in the game's Chinese community, but with a wave of the old VPN, players from other regions could join in too – and some most assuredly did.
The method was brilliantly simple, though it only worked on PC due to its reliance on Steam. Two fireteam members would put on the same Hakke-brand emblem to show their participation in the scheme, like flashing an innocuous tattoo to enter some secret underworld. The third member would wear a normal emblem to show that they're the messenger of the group. Whenever two teams of Hakke players queued into each other in Trials, their messengers would connect over Steam and essentially roll a dice using the "/random 1-10" command via friend chat. Whoever rolls the higher number gets the win in Trials.
This is where the changes to rejoining matches come into play. If you won the dice roll, your team would hop off their burner characters – the ones they queued with – and jump back in on characters with Trials cards they were actually progressing. First, the two Hakke members, then the messenger to preserve the lobby. Once everyone rejoined with their real characters, the team that lost the dice roll would leave the match and force a forfeit, letting the high-roller take the round without firing a shot. By repeatedly swapping characters and resetting their burner Trials cards, players could use this method to reach the flawless-exclusive Lighthouse and hoover up pinnacle loot without any risk or effort. Voila, easy-breezy win-trading.
Destiny 2: The Witch Queen has been delayed to early 2022 as part of a new release schedule that Bungie plans to continue through 2024 with a mystery DLC that will conclude the game's "Light and Darkness" saga.
Naturally, this led to some strange Trials stats for the weekend. To find out just how strange, I spoke to Vlad and Mark of Destiny Trials Report, a PvP-tracking tooltip that monitors weapon and player trends. "The number of players dropped, but the number of flawless players increased considerably," Mark says of the fabled weekend. "We were also tweeted at by some members of the community. At first, we had no idea what was going on. The red flag was the percentage of players going flawless. At first, we thought something was wrong with our data, so Vlad looked into that quite extensively.
"We couldn't find anything, so it seemed to be correct, so I just brushed it off as a lot more people paying someone to play on their character for the flawless reward that week. On Saturday morning in the second weekend, I looked into the data a bit more and found that a huge chunk of those players had no kills or barely any kills at all. At that point, I still didn't know about the emblem trade but tweeted out the stats."
This method started to gain ground the weekend of February 20, but it only entered the public eye around February 27 – in part thanks to videos like this summary from YouTuber Lunarated. It became such a popular and effective way to farm loot that Bungie canceled Trials for the weekend on February 28, but not before tens of thousands of players bagged an easy flawless.
One hell of a turnout
The Steam data on Destiny Trials Report shows a whopping 40,075 flawless players for the weekend of February 20 – a 96% jump over the previous weekend – with 5.6 million weapon kills logged. That's around 140 kills per flawless player. Compare that to the truncated run recorded on February 27: 26,014 flawless players, with a scant 1.5 million weapon kills, suggests roughly 58 kills per player. The second week saw fewer flawless players overall but even fewer kills, so if Trials hadn't been shut down on February 28, these numbers would be even more skewed. You just can't lose at the emblem casino.
I absolutely love that the Hakke method (https://t.co/8AQRlOZNO3) exists, here's why:Think about what is required for such a system to work: a bunch of people trusting each other who come up with an ingenious and fair system to earn more loot with the community as a whole.1/2February 28, 2021
"What sets this method apart is that you barely need any preparation: you can use regular matchmaking and you don't need to match a specific team," Mark continues. "You queue as you would normally, make your intentions known with the emblems, and if you match a team that is also in on it you randomly select the team that progresses towards their goal. If you 'lose,' no harm done, you can infinitely try again. As long as there are enough people using the method, it just takes time to go flawless."
"I think the state of Trials of Osiris, in general, contributes to a lot more people wanting to win-trade," they add. "At the moment, it's very unforgiving for less skilled players, and Bungie is already planning an overhaul of the rewards system. When combined with cheaters, DDOSers, and the not-fun mechanics of Stasis and sword peeking that are currently in the game, it simply results in a game mode that isn't fun – but still has unique rewards. From what I've seen as a response from the Chinese community, this was created as a protest to the current state of the game mode – I've heard people mention that cheating is way worse there. They genuinely saw it as a way to 'have fun' in Trials again, making sure that the community gets their loot."
In the weeks since Trials was disabled due to the emblem casino, Bungie has promised to remove three-peeking from PvP, redouble its security team to more aggressively track down cheaters and cheat providers, improve the Trials matchmaking experience by attracting more players through better loot, and investigate ways for solo players to participate. Everyone, most of all Bungie, knows that Trials is not OK – and you'd be hard-pressed to find more damning evidence than an underground gambling ring forged from desperation and impatience.
Trials will resume on March 12 now that Bungie's apparently fixed this particular loophole, and the 12-player fireteam glitch will be patched ahead of the release of Grandmaster Nightfalls on March 16. But February 26 and February 27, 2021, will live in infamy for seasons and years to come – as a testament to how far Destiny 2 players will go for loot and likely as a reference for cheese still to come. Here's hoping that at least one of these great exploits is immortalized through an in-game emblem like the one for the beloved Prometheus Lens laser show. Scrub suggested an emblem showing 12 Guardians in a clown car, and I think that'd be a fitting tribute for this clown fiesta.