It’s Hard Not To Hate Destiny’s Best PvP Gun

It’s Hard Not To Hate Destiny’s Best PvP Gun

If you’ve been competing in Destiny‘s intense new Trials of Osiris multiplayer event, you may have noticed something: Almost every player you go up against is using the same gun.

That gun is a weird-looking revolver called Thorn. If there are three players on a given Trials team, it’s a safe bet that at least two of those players will be holding Thorns. If you’re playing in this week’s Iron Banner PvP event or even just playing in regular old competitive Crucible matches, it’s much the same — the hissing “snick” of Thorn-fire echoes across every virtual battlefield.

Thorn is popular for a reason: It’s arguably — or maybe even inarguably — the most powerful PvP gun in the game.

Thorn is an exotic-level hand cannon, which is Destiny terminology for “a big pistol that you use as your primary gun.” It can only be obtained by working through an onerous, multi-stage bounty quest that requires a large time commitment and a lot of grinding and repetition. However, on the whole, Thorn is easier to get than most other exotic guns, because you don’t have to sit around waiting for it to drop. Once you obtain the bounty — which you’ll have an opportunity to do fairly regularly — you can actively go and get it. As a result, a whole lot of players have one.

At first glance, Thorn simply appears to be a decent hand cannon — it does a lot of damage per shot and has good accuracy perks. It’s also super cool-looking. But like all exotic weapons in Destiny, Thorn has a unique special ability — in this case, a perk called “Mark of the Devourer” that allows you to “sting” enemies you hit with your first shot, causing additional damage over a short period of time.

That ability, combined with Thorn’s good long-range accuracy and high damage, makes it a ridiculously useful gun for PvP combat. PvP in Destiny is all about managing your shields and health — if you can bring down an opponent’s shields without taking damage to your own, you can usually close for the kill and take them out before they can get you. Thorn not only knocks down an opponent’s shields, it delays their shield recharge and causes more damage over time, making it even easier to push up on them and finish them off.

If you get hit by Thorn — “I’m Thorned,” you’ll tell your teammates with urgent irritation — you’ll know it immediately. Your screen will begin to pulsate green, you’ll hear a loud crackling sound and watch in horror as your health bar slowly goes lower and lower. You’ll be stuck on the defensive for several precious seconds longer than you would be were you facing any other gun in the game, and you’ll be much more likely to die as a result of taking subsequent damage.

Look around any regular hub of Destiny conversation and you’ll see players voicing frustration not just with the gun, but with its ubiquity. Thorn debates have raged for months, but with the recently-released House of Wolves‘ newfound focus on PvP multiplayer, the conversation has picked up new momentum. The subject is often hotly debated, and there’s no consensus on how Bungie should best deal with Thorn, or whether any change is needed at all.

Some players argue — fairly — that an exotic gun is supposed to be game-changing, and that skilled players should have no trouble countering Thorn with other powerful exotics like Red Death (a rifle that heals you after you score a kill) and The Last Word (a hand cannon that allows you to unleash a hail of hip-fire bullets at close range). Furthermore, gear will never be a substitute for skill, and a skilled-enough player can wreck his or her opponents using whatever weapon they choose.

To my eye, any time a gun is as widely used as Thorn, the scales have probably tipped a bit too far in one direction. I’ve been playing a lot of competitive Crucible over the last couple of weeks, and the percentage of high-level players using Thorn is often comical. In Iron Banner, I’d estimate that more than half of the times I’m killed by a primary weapon, it’s Thorn. I’ve come to call Trials of Osiris the “Trials of Thornsiris,” because damn near everyone is using the gun. Many of my friends and clan-mates joke around about it, and even those who have a Thorn say they wish it’d be made a bit less powerful, if only because they’d like a reason to use some of their other weapons.

Early in Destiny‘s lifespan, the Crucible had a similar problem with auto-rifles. Most every player used an auto-rifle, and the Suros Regime exotic rifle ruled supreme. Match after match, it was wall-to-wall Suroses, until Bungie tweaked auto-rifles a number of times and made them, and the Suros in particular, much less effective. Many think that Bungie overcorrected for the problem, in fact. These days, auto rifles are rarely seen in PvP, and a player using Suros is an anomalous blast from the past.

Thorn, meanwhile, was actually buffed early this year. Its initial incarnation was more difficult to use, before Bungie increased the magazine size, sped up its reload and leveled out stability and handling. Some players think the answer to the current Thorn-flood is to return the gun to its pre-buff stats, though I could see that simply making Thorn-lovers angry. Better, perhaps, to simply re-buff a few other guns (I’d love to use my Suros again!) while slightly lowering some of Thorn’s stats, its range in particular. Thorn is a hand cannon, and it seems to me that it should work best as a mid-range gun. Lately, I find myself getting Thorned from across the map, which doesn’t seem quite right.

I don’t have access to Bungie’s stats on Thorn-usage over the last few months, and only they know the full extent of the gun’s powers and (over)use. Regarding a nerf, the consensus among many in the Destiny community is not if, but when and to what degree. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an update from Bungie about it in the coming days or weeks, particularly given the overall popularity of Trials of Osiris. But, as we all know by now, Bungie works in mysterious, often incommunicative ways.

In the meantime, I’m still kicking myself for ditching the Thorn bounty so many times in the past. I don’t care that it’s a headache to complete; the next time I have the option, I’ll drop everything and get it done. Thorn may be an annoying, overused gun, but I still totally want one.

Picture: ImpactPropsCA


  • All I ever see on the Bungie forums are PvP whiners complaining about how Thorn should be nerfed. They already did it once and it made the gun absolutely fucking useless for PvE. Then they realized they went a bit too far and rebuffed it. But it still sucks in PvE.

    It’s only a matter of time before all the bitching and moaning causes them to nerf it again. It really pisses me off because I worked hard to get my first Thorn and even harder to get my second (hunters don’t have void abilities).

    I die to Thorn a lot in PvP, it’s true. But I accept it because I also have the ability to deal death with it. The only people that complain about Thorn are those that aren’t good enough to get it themselves.

    • The only people that complain about Thorn are those that aren’t good enough to get it themselves.

      I have it, I don’t like to use it, it feels cheap, it is cheap. i feel it’s OP, I’ve voiced my opinion about that in the forums, you shouldn’t assume so much.

      You’ve given no counter-argument to say that Thorn isn’t ridiculously overpowered and it’s heavily used because it gives the worst player a massive boost over someone else. If a weapon is being used by the majority of players, there’s something wrong with the balance of the game.

      But it still sucks in PvE.

      PVE is very different to PVP.

    • I still think PvE and PvP effectiveness should be separate – just to be able to make weapons viable for PvE without breaking the PvP balance… and vice versa. I miss the days my vex felt like a pre-nerf auto-rifle, with its 60 round magazine and high accuracy… It was a tough choice whether to use that or Gjallarhorn, back in the day. PvE Thorn should definitely be buffed – its best PvE feature is its ability to make fallen ships glow bright green.

        • Rockets generally took out every red-bar enemy before they hit the ground, and thorn barely tickles majors, so I was left with a few options. Option A: take major captain’s shield down by a small amount while running for my life; option B: treat everyone in the near vicinity to a lightshow; option C: swap to useful but more boring weapon. We weren’t having any problems dealing with the enemies, so I opted for the lightshow. 😛

          • SUCH a good night last night with @liondrive – Got through Nightfall, then quickly smashed through a couple of outstanding HoW missions to unlock the Prison for my Titan. First run through I got 4th Horseman \o/

            Then TheUrbanPanther joined us, we went through again for his first Prison completion and he scored Suros Regime and a legendary hand cannon.

            L32 tonight…

          • I’m still so sorry / embarrassed about my friend, haha!
            Ethnic light… Fuuuuuuuuuuuu**…
            I can’t apologise enough, hahahaha!

            I’m going to have to bail on tonight to, unfortunately. I forgot I have plans already.
            I should be free tomorrow though 🙂

          • That’s cool. I’ve just decided to go to the pub.

            “Ethnic light” is one of the funniest things I’ve heard in ages. Must change party to friends only though…. 😀

    • The only people that complain about Thorn are those that aren’t good enough to get it themselves.
      I have Thorn, I use Thorn, I still complain about Thorn.
      The fact that it’s so prevalent should be enough to indicate that it is way too powerful. As it stands, well over 80% of PvP player will use Thorn in Iron Banner or Trials of Osiris, and those that aren’t are using Last Word, Hawkmoon, or the Vex Mythoclast. Some broken hand cannon balancing needs to be fixed.

      • This isn’t just a problem with Thorn though, it would be more accurate to say Hand Cannons are op in pvp right now. Got an enemy at a range that would make sense for a sniper or scout rifle? Not a problem just pull out what is essentially a Handgun with the strength of a Sniper rifle and make the enemy cry.

    • Funny, all I ever see on the forums are a bunch of clueless PvE players that whine every frigging time a PvP playerwants the game to be balanced.

  • No point arguing it in the forums. People who use Thorn religiously tell you to f**k off and get better. Unfortunately Thorn (and the other exotic handcannons which are equally as over powered compared to other weapons) makes a lot of unskilled players deadly in PVP. You have missed out one of the major boons of Thorn though. If you hit someone with it, you can see where they are as they’re taking the burn damage by following the damage numbers around corners and behind walls.

    I don’t feel the answer is to buff everything else, otherwise PVP will just turn into one shot fights. The most fun you have is when you can have a prolonged fight with someone, not when they take you out in 1 or 2 shots from across the map. Handcannons need a nerf. The Last Word has the range right for handcannons and Thorn and Hawkmoon should be brought in line with that. I’m sometimes being outsniped by Thorn from across the map and I’m using a scout rifle (Mida Multi Tool) and I’ve just taken their shield down.

    That said, skill will overcome a poor player using an OP weapon, and I will outscore those players regularly with a scout rifle. It’s unbearable though when you come across a team using the same weapon and half your team is dead the second you go around a corner. This is why Trials of Osiris was unbearable last week on a horrendous map to fight against a team of Thorns

    What I feel is the answer, along with nerfing handcannons a bit, is to make armour count for a lot more. Give different armour different stats to protect against different types of weapons. Load up on armour to protect you against handcannons or shotguns so you’re not dead before you know what happened. It’ll also provide more incentive for players to change their weapons more as people wear armour to cancel their choice of weapons out.

    • i think thats an interesting idea, which would go along the lines of the new “Ram” exotic helm which provides more armour. Armour which could also provide arc, void, solar shields would be an interesting mix as well. As for the thorn burn tracking, i feel that is definitely missed when people refer to the OPness of the thorn, many a time have enemies ducked behind walls or around corners to be at the mercy of a tracking grenade or a wide flank because i knew exactly where i was sitting.
      I’ve always been a prevalent AR user, my favourite being a rare “galahad-E”, which I then moved onto a legendary “up for anything”, with bonus accuracy perks, but it’s gotten to the stage that i cant use an AR because the dps just isnt cutting it anymore. The time it takes for “thorn” or even “hawkmoon” to land three shots id be lucky to have the enemies shield down and to finish them off means giving them an 80% chance of finishing me whether by DoT or lucky critical.
      I dont like having to use a gun that feels cheap but it is becoming the only way to compete, especially the lack of AR bounties in the iron banner this time around has made it even more prevalent for the use of such weapons. I know when i had a handcannon bounty i had it finished in a single game due to the “thorn”.
      Definitely the range is one big factor for the weapon, to be able to land a hit at a distance that surpasses most scout rifles and still have close to the same amount of damage, plus a burn that is always a constant amount at any distance, really makes it hard to beat.

  • In this weeks IB it’s just another Thorn-fest.. I have Thorn.. I don’t like Thorn.. but I get frustrated sometimes and use it. The only other weapon I seem to be able to come out on top with is Hawkmoon.

    • It shouldn’t be like that. I hate that it resorts to ‘Fuck it, I’m getting murdered. I’m switching to a gun that is better in every way but I don’t like it’. The worst thing about it is that I did the same thing. After four matches of losing and having a K/D of less than 0.8 (average K/D before the thornfest was about 1.5) I cracked the shits, left the lobby, transferred the gun from my vault, ascended it. Won 5 times in a row with a K/D of over 2…I feel very dirty and very cheap.

      That being said I’ve recently 365’d my Red Death which I much prefer using, and although Thorn cancels out it’s health perk (as does all bleed effects) I find myself either winning or trading most firefights. Obviously depending on who shoots first (I frequently call getting Han’d…Han Solo’d and so fourth). I think the reason being is because I can fire the three (sometimes two) shots required to kill the enemy before Thorn users manage to get that all important second hit. Strafe like a madman.

  • It’s a tough one. I’ve used it myself previously to great effect – I don’t anymore – but I can’t stand it being used on me. I say leave it as is. It’s one of those guns, to be honest. But there’s ways around it.

    If they’re headshotting you, then Thorn is really no better than any other hand cannon out there – if they’re not, just hide when you get hit, and wait for them to come to you. They always do. I like to hide around the nearest corner with a shotgun, and when they get greedy and come around the corner swooping in for the kill, bam.

    Other than that, just kill them first – something like The Last Word will put a Thorn user down faster than they can kill you – it fires much faster – you just have to make sure you hit you target.

  • If it gets nerfed any further it’ll be going back into my vault, to forever gather dust alongside my Suros, Necro, and No Land Beyond. As a purely PvE player who just wanted to fill out his collection, I was rather underwhelmed by it, considering the effort required – Hawkmoon beats it in terms of damage output, and Fatebringer and Word of Crota are better choices in general purely because you can equip a more useful exotic – Ice Breaker, Invective, 4th Horseman or Gjallarhorn – and if I want long range accuracy I’ll use a scout rifle – better magazine size, faster reload, better rate of fire.

    It’s a bit of fun on patrol missions as it one-shots most basic enemies, but for end-game content, it’s completely useless. Kinda like my Vex, which nowadays only gets pulled out when I need to do an overcharge bounty, then a minute and two loading screens later, gets set aside.

    • Wait up, is Fourth Horseman useful now?

      I got it first week and it suuuuuuuuuuucked except for the sound effect.

  • Yeah….it is everywhere in the crucible these days. Either that or The Last Word. Getting over that shiz. But, each their own. I still rock Red Death and own souls with it.

  • Two things:

    1. I vastly underestimated hand cannons since the beginning – Always stuck with Auto or Pulse Rifles, Pulse are fine at the moment but Auto’s have been overkilled to the point where their damage is so slow in PVP against a maxed out Legendary; low level hand cannons, fusion rifles and shotguns will still pick you off with ease.

    2. I had been sitting on the Thorn Quest for quite some time – i have had the opportunity to use it basically since launch have all 3 guns from the bounties at this point (invection – Super Good Advice – Thorn). – I might end up caving and conforming if it’s not nerfed and actually use it but I completely agree Hand Cannons basically out snipe snipers AND Scout Rifles which just doesn’t feel right but it is hilarious when you see the bright glimpse of a enemy sniper and you can scope in and shoot him twice in the head before he can even see you.

    • just to add, you’re missing “pocket infinity” and “bad juju” from the bounty exotics.

  • Meh, I suck at PvP, so everyone could be running around with rocks and I will still be instakilled.
    I don’t have Thorn but I love hand canons though, it’s a very satisfying feeling when you get a kill.

  • The point about seeing where they are when you hit them with poison is why I use it. I hate the gun with a passion. I would much rather see scout rifles or pulse rifles than non stop handguns. The reward from Iron Banner this week is an awesome scout rifle though, so hopefully that’s the way they plan on phasing out hand cannons, just make other guns more attractive in multiplayer.

    • I LOVE my legendary Scout Rifle! 😀
      Saterienne Rapier with perks that cause explosions AND near instant reload on headshot kills.
      Incredibly satisfying seeing that explosion then reloading in about a half second 😀
      There needs to be a good exotic Scout Rifle :\

  • As as pvp handcannon user, I’d say others are better. The dot is negligible and the lower impact on thorn means one more shot is needed for a kill over other cannons, even with the dot.
    Tis just flavour of the month.

  • Having to use a new tactic when facing a weapon isn’t that uncommon in crucible. However, because of the thorns unique ability you need to use a uncomfortable tactic of avoiding it at all costs. The only time that tactic should be used is when the enemy team gets heavy. A primary gun that has that much of a reeling effect on anyone facing it is a tad bit broken.

  • I don’t play Destiny PvP due to random generated stuff. I have done exotic bounties, but never the one to get Thorn. I got a Super Good Advice, two Bad Juju bounties and a Pocket Infinity. But, nothing for the Thorn bounty. How do you get that bounty?

    • its random, your best bet is to keep completing bounties and handing them in together. Apparently it cycles the same weapons together. Since day 1 i recieved the super good advice plus two others i cant remember and have only recently seen it again coupled with pocket infinity (another gun i have been chasing). Since my first exotic bounty the only combos i was getting were “bad juju”, “invective” and “thorn”. so it just comes down to when it decides to hand it to you.

  • Thorn is a little overused, but countering it isn’t too difficult.
    Weapons with high-calibre rounds really mess with Thorn users, as it knocks them around so they can’t get hits as easily.
    Couple that perk with say a Scout Rifle and you have a weapon that has better range and accuracy, and can disorient the enemy.

    Thorn does need a bit of a debuff though.
    I have one fully buffed to 365, but don’t ever use it because it feels incredibly lacklustre and cheap to use.
    I only buffed it to even the odds in ToO, but found myself doing better with Bad Juju anyway…

  • I think we should use this time to talk about why No Land Beyond needs to be buffed… 😛
    It’d be cool to make it so that every hit returns a round straight to the chamber, so no reloading.
    And get rid of the scope shine.
    It doesn’t even have a scope!

  • I’m gonna go ahead and say the problem is Destiny’s shitty hit-detection, and not the gun itself. The hitbox is probably twice the size of the character sprite, meaning long-range shots are super easy.

    Why is this an issue now? Thorn has been buffed for a long time.

  • In a weird way I actually like having overused weapons like thorn and vex in the game. It’s nice having something to blame when I die, other than my own ineptitude… For the record I have always used my Vanquisher, I found that the Auto Rifle nerf didn’t affect it too much. Still get consistent top score in most games.

  • I don’t have thorn, put in a lot of hours but don’t have it, and actually glad I don’t cus people who use that in the crucible, in my option r just cowards, no skill, just hacks,congrats u guys did the the bounty, lmfao, ur so great guys, I seen someone put a full clip(auto rifle) with 50% being crit shotsor damn near close and got killed with 3 shots from that bullshit gun and he had the drop on him, that bs needs to get fixed in the crucible real quick, no talent players

  • Unfortunately, Thorn is quite hard to accomplish due to the fact that you need to have at least 0.5K/D otherwise, you’ll end up with a useless bounty. Doesn’t help the fact that you also need to use Void weapons which is mostly Raid centric gear.

    I’ve tried the bounty and after 2 months of trying, got rid of it since I wasn’t a PvP person and it was on a hunter which was pretty much paddling up a river that’s rushing towards the ocean. All the PvP deaths I’ve encountered throughout that 2 month period? Yep, f*cking Thorn. I hate it not because of the fact the person is probably more or less skilled than I was but because it’s bloody cheap. That said, I did use Abyss Defiant in PvP and got some interesting messages…to say the least.

  • I sort of agree, I’m yet to face a competent Thorn or TLW user in the last few weeks. The type that expertly get the needed headshots without spamming the right trigger. I find it an adorable moment, especially with TLW users when they run at you, empty their entire clip but you’ve been moving slightly left the whole time. It’s a beautiful moment, there’s a silent ‘oh F***’ from the idiot as I calmly approach them while switching to a shotgun then proceed to waste them. Teabagging is a necessity, to point out how stupid these kinds are.

    Moral: most people who use these guns aren’t actually that good (more TLW than thorn) and are using a slightly OP weapon to compete. Stay calm, a weapon like JuJu with it’s impressive stability, damage and ROF will essentially stunlock them to death or wait for them to execute their scrub ploys. A thorn scrub is naturally compelled to run at you if you stay in cover while a TLW scrub will spam that trigger until they’re stuck in a just slow enough reload animation to be blown away.

    And always, these people deserve nothing less then a solid bagging, to remind them of their true status

  • THANK GOD someone mentioned it! Well done. Kirk Hamilton, all the complaining about suros regime just to have a pistol with scout rifle range containing poison that can kill you with 2 hits anywhere to dominate PvP!

  • The thorn isn’t a problem in my opinion, The Last Word would kill you just as fast, and in my opinion a better gun. Im a hunter and if I have to work so damn hard for a single gun then i should be able to use it. If you want to see broken play ANY other MMO in PvP and tell me what broken is. I dont think its the gun that’s broken it’s more a problem that auto rifles were nerfed and there is only so much variety in the guns you can get.

  • I agree with every point you make except one. The Last Word’s range stat is grossly misrepresented by Bungie and is as effective at long range as a scout rifle. I’ve been cross-mapped way too many times to believe the “shotgun-like” range stat Bungie has given TLW. It is my opinion TLW is actually broken in some way, which is not surprising given how often it is seen in PvP, especially now that Xûr has sold it like 6 times.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!