It’s been almost a week since Destiny’s House of Wolves DLC launched and thus far the community has been consuming the content at a ravenous pace. Players are already racing through the new story missions, before jumping into one of two House of Wolves “endgame” experiences.
The first of those experiences, Prison of Elders, is a combat arena meant to challenge even the strongest of Destiny players. Essentially, it’s a horde mode equivalent constructed of 5 rounds (6 on the level 35 difficulty) with 3 waves per round. Players enter one of four rooms – each themed and populated after one of Destiny’s enemy types – and try to eliminate all opponents while completing specific objectives.
While Prison of Elders has proven somewhat easy on the lower difficulty levels, the higher-level combat arenas can be challenging. As a result, we’ve put together a helpful guide for how best to tackle the Prison of Elders at level 34 and level 35. Currently, this guide takes into account two of the bosses, and we will update it as more are unveiled.
As Bungie revealed during their Prison of Elders livestream, the level 28, 32, and 34 combat arenas will rotate every week, much like the Nightfall Strike. Additionally, the modifiers within each Prison of Elders arena will change week-to-week. So while one particular strategy may work because of a specific modifier – like strengthened shields, but no recharge – that will likely change after the Tuesday reset. Even so, there are still some tried and true methods to success in Destiny’s latest endgame content. And it all starts with knowing the objectives.
Prison of Elders: Objectives
1. Dismantle Mines
We’d recommend a Hunter use invisibility or a Titan use their ‘Defender’ Ward of Dawn bubble to dismantle each mine (done by standing within a certain boundary) without drawing too much attention. If that strategy doesn’t seem to be working, another way to approach the objective is to move as a group between mines. That way the mines will dismantle in seconds and the team won’t have to stay in the same spot for too long.
There’s also another ‘Dismantle Mines’ objective that is far easier, as it only requires the fireteam shoot the bombs rather than stand underneath. There are only a handful of spots the mines can spawn in each map, and for the most part players should be able to pick them off from afar with snipers. If one mine does appear out of reach, we recommend tagging it with a tracking rocket launcher and returning back to safety. The longer a player stands out in the open and focuses their fire away from the enemies, the greater change they will either get swarmed or killed.
2. Eliminate the Target
Eliminating the target can prove difficult, depending on a team’s loadout. If the fireteam happens to have strong, tracking rockets, however, these objectives shouldn’t be a problem. What players need to do is learn where the target spawns and then get within rocket distance of that door. The second the enemy appears, focus fire on them before escaping to one of the safe spots in each room.
For an added bit of flair, or if there’s a modifier that favors special weapons (shotguns, fusion rifles, etc.), a Titan can use their Helm of Saint-14 helmet and blinding Ward of Dawn ability to trap the target right outside the door. Focus fire on the target with shotguns and they should fall relatively fast.
Prison of Elders: Enemy Arenas
1. The Hive
The Hive Room in Prison of Elders is arguably the easiest, because the far left side of the map offers ample cover and room to maneuver. Fireteams should be able to pick off most enemies from a distance, without worrying about getting overrun. The thralls will obviously charge, but the Wizards and Hive Knights should keep a good distance away. On top of that, Urrox, the final Boss of the Urrox’s Rage Prison of Elders arena, will never get close enough to this safe spot to do too much damage, but more on him in a bit.
As long as players work from this area they should be fine, but if things do get difficult, standing above the door on the back left side of the map (upon entering) should block some enemy spawns. With the spawns blocked, the fireteam can focus on the Ogres that spawn in, before letting the rest of the Adds out.
Beating the Hive Boss: From this far left area players should be able to snipe the Hive boss with minimal trouble. He will typically spend the entire time out in the open and the only thing to worry about is incoming enemies. Alternate between sniping the Hive boss’ head and clearing Adds, and everything should be fine.
2. The Cabal
The safest spot in the Cabal room is at the very entrance. Using the mock corridor on the right of the entrance, players should be able to take cover against the front wall, and peak out to pick off any enemies when necessary.
For the most part, the Cabal won’t pose much of a challenge unless the enemies creep up on either side of the safe spot. If so, focus fire on that enemy and eliminate them quickly. Also be very careful of any Cabal round with the Arc Burn modifier, as the Psion’s wave blast can be extremely deadly.
Beating the Cabal Boss: For the Cabal boss fight, we recommend staging from the far left with the high wide cover. The way this cover is built makes it perfect for shooting the Cabal boss directly in the head, and players can move far enough away from the back wall that splash damage shouldn’t be too much of an issue. It’s important not to focus solely on the boss, though, as enemies will start to pile up. Alternate between clearing out the Cabal Adds and then focusing on the boss to ensure no enemies hop over the wall or creep in from the sides.
3. The Vex
Both the far left and the far right side of the Vex rooms will work as decent safe spots. On the far left, players have a greater vantage point of the Minotaurs spawning in the center of the map, but it’s a little more open. The far right offers more cover, but it’s possible to get overrun from that spot too.
After focusing on the Minotaurs it’s best to keep an eye out for any Hobgoblins, as their sniper shots can be very damaging at higher difficulty levels. They are also crack shots, so try to avoid staying out in the open for any length of time.
It’s a little harder to get around and hit/dismantle mines in the Vex map, but it’s not impossible. Players should also be careful if the ‘Grounded’ modifier is on, because taking extra damage can be really dangerous with the Hobgoblins sniping. They tend to be really accurate while players are in the air.
Beating the Vex Boss: Working from either the far left or far right, players should be able to hit the giant Vex boss’ weak point while working to clear adds. Think of it like the Atheon boss fight from Vault of Glass, without any of the complex mechanics. Just shoot the chest.
4. The Fallen
The Fallen area in Prison of Elders offers ample cover, but we prefer working from either the (surprise!) far left or far right sides. The far left has a spawn door near it and a ramp in front of it, so it’s possible to get surprised by newly spawning enemies or rushing Captains/Vandals. However, the high ground offers plenty of visibility to take out any Fallen enemies.
The far right doesn’t need to worry about surprise spawns, but the enemies can jump up to the ledge. Moreover, once an enemy is up there it becomes harder to work on taking them out and not getting hit from additional fire. Still, with two relatively safe spots, players have the option of running in circles around the map, drawing the Adds as they go. That way, if things get particularly intense on one side of the map, they can thin the herd from the other.
Beating the Fallen Boss: There isn’t much to worry about with the Fallen boss, which is a giant Servitor. It will spend plenty of time out in the open and all the fireteam needs do is shoot it in the precision point. That’s where the far left area comes most in handy since it should be easy to see the giant Servitor. Mostly the fight will be a case of time consumption, as the Fallen Prison of Elders boss has plenty of health.
Prison of Elders: The Main Bosses
Urrox is not much different from the vanilla Prison of Elders Hive boss, only with one caveat. At certain damage thresholds, the boss will trigger a timed debuff called Urrox’s Rage. While this debuff is active, players will take continuous fire damage as long as they are touching the ground. As a result, players will need to pick jump styles that increase airtime.
So, working from the far left and staying behind cover, players should jump and stay in the air for as long as they can. Then when they come back down, trigger the jump immediately again. We also recommend a Titan put down a Ward of Dawn with Blessing of Light to ensure the Urrox’s Rage damage is not too great.
Outside of those brief jumping moments, players should be able to pick off Urrox with minimal trouble. Take pot shots at his head from afar, ideally with the Black Hammer sniper rifle, and he should eventually fall.
Although there isn’t a new raid included with House of Wolves, the Skolas fight serves as a nice raid boss equivalent. It introduces new mechanics and forces the fireteam to work together to complete objectives while still doing damage.
The main concern starting out is not dying, especially if the Solar Burn modifier is on. Since Skolas’ Scorch Canon is a solar weapon it is an easy one hit key at level 35, depending on the proximity of the blast. The modifiers should change week to week, though, so while the Solar Burn is an issue currently, it likely won’t be soon.
While avoiding Skolas’ Scorch Cannon shots, players should head to the left or right of the map and look for a translucent white Servitor. This Servitor is “chained” to Skolas and prevents the players from doing meaningful damage to him. After the fireteam takes out one of these Servitors, there will be a 15-second period where they can do real damage to Skolas. Think of this like the ‘Time’s Vengeance’ portion of the Vault of Glass fight with Atheon; there’s a short amount of time in which to do as much damage as possible.
Eventually the link between Skolas and the Servitors will break and things get really interesting. For starters, one of the three fireteam members will be hit with a debuff called Devouring Essence. Whatever player is caught with the Devouring Essence will see a 30-second timer ticking down and once it hits zero they will die. However, any of the player’s two teammates can “grab” the Devouring Essence and the 30-second timer will start anew for them. The one caveat to that is once a player has the Essence absorbed off of them then they can’t take it back for a full 35 seconds, so two players can't simply pass it back and forth.
Because of that, the fireteam needs to ensure that all three members are alive, so they can continuously pass the Devouring Essence around, all the while trying to deal damage to Skolas and dealing with endlessly spawning enemies. If there is a Sunsinger Warlock in the party they can take the Essence for the full time and then respawn after dying, which makes things a little easier but still hectic. Needless to say communication is essential here, hence why Bungie did not offer matchmaking.
On top of all that, the Skolas boss fight also includes two waves of dismantling mines at random intervals. So, as they are dealing with Skolas, the enemies, and passing around the Devouring Essence, the fireteam will also need to run around the map dismantling mines. Once Skolas does fall all the enemies will de-spawn, but the mines won’t. So make sure to dismantle all 6 of them before breathing a sigh of relief. Without question, the boss fight can be challenging, but it’s certainly doable.
How to Beat Skolas Fast with Solar Burn: If the Solar Burn modifier does happen to be on, there is a strategy to taking out Skolas in about 40 seconds. The fireteam runs quickly to the left, a Defender Titan pops their bubble with the Weapons of Light buff, the team fires all of their Gjallarhorn rockets at Skolas, uses a heavy ammo synthesis when those are gone, and then shoots even more rockets. Ideally, Skolas should fall before the Essence needs to be passed around, and all that will be left is the mines.
Obviously this strategy isn’t going to be for everyone, as it requires Gjallarhorn and is not foolproof. But it does work. Watch a fireteam kill Skolas in 40 seconds for proof.
After downing Skolas players will once again gain access to the Prison of Elders treasure room, where they can spend their Treasure Key on the large chest. In it should be at least one Queen’s Wrath weapon or a piece of Prison of Elders gear, as well as some random, smaller goodies. There’s also a shader, ship, and emblem for the first time completing the level 35 combat arena.
Overall, Prison of Elders provides a worthy challenge to level 34 players, but not an insurmountable one. The tactics here certainly differ from those of a raid, in that Prison of Elders’ focus is mainly about holing up in safe spots and picking off enemies, but the feeling of accomplishment at the end is still present. There are also completely unknown combat arenas waiting to be swapped in with the Tuesday reset, so players have even more challenges (and rewards) to look forward to.
Prison of Elders: The Rewards
Speaking of those rewards, there are two specific drops that most players will be after. Sure, there are those Prison of Elders gear pieces and the Queen’s Wrath weapons, but the big-ticket items are the Elder Cypher and elemental primaries.
Much like the Trials of Osiris’ top tier rewards – the ones that come from the chest on Mercury – the Prison of Elders offers primaries with random elemental damage. However, unlike ToO, these primaries only drop immediately after beating Skolas. Players will know whether they got one based on if the name of the weapon has a ‘II’ at the end.
The Elder Cypher, on the other hand, can drop from the Treasure Room chest and offers the player access to one of three new House of Wolves exotic weapons: the Dreg’s Promise Sidearm, the Lord of Wolves Shotgun, or the Queenbreaker’s Bow Fusion Rifle. As far as we know, the Elder Cypher is the only way to get those weapons.
In addition to the chest drops, every first Prison of Elders level 35 completion for the week will give players 1 Etheric Light, 1 Armor Core, and 1 Weapon Core. The Etheric Light is used to level up gear to the new max attack or defense power, while the Cores can be traded in for either an armor piece or weapon that Variks the PoE vendor is selling. The level 32 and level 34 Prison of Elders also reward a core (weapon for 32 and armor for 34), and the level 34 gives an additional Etheric Light. Players can earn all of these drops once per week, guaranteed.
Have you beat Destiny's Prison of Elders on level 35? What strategies did you use? Let us know in the comments below!