Veteran: Squad Leader
Build for Darktide
UPDATED FOR THE ANNIVERSARY PATCH! Might adjust some minor talents as I pick up the game again this winter break, though all key talents remain unchanged since patch #15.
Support Veteran build that provides you and your team with excellent crowd control options and a metric kark-ton of team buffs and coherency bonuses: toughness regen, ammo efficiency, and several sources of team dmg boosts, all while still allowing for enough personal damage to perform as the team's traditional backline. More than anything, this talent mixture allows a diligent Veteran to flex between frontline fights and high-threat management as necessary, enabling you to become the crux member of every auric-operative team.
- Access to the most team buffs compared to ever other class (dmg + regen)
- Excellent crowd control
- Team role flexible (frontline/backline)
- Melee/Ranged loadout flexible
- CD dependent (don't waste ability/grenades all at once)
- Positioning dependent (don't tunnel vision + don't rush/lag behind)
- Somewhat struggles without a dedicated frontliner (in full vet/psyker comps, you become the frontline)
BLITZ: SHREDDER GRENADES
This blitz is used less for damage and more for it's ~8m AoE bleeds and stagger, which if used properly, can create clutch openings or even prevent deaths and damage in high pressure fights. The closer to the initial blast's epicenter the higher the impact, which will face-to-floor everything but mutants and monstrosities. As such, the best practice is landing the shredder nearest the toughest targets in a horde (ragers, maulers, crushers, etc.) to maximize that crowd control potential.
- The shredder's three maximum capacity paired with the regen from Demolition Stockpile makes for some free and fairly consistent options of CC, with enough uptime to last you throughout a mission.
- The applied bleed stacks are effective for softening chaff and non-heavy armored targets, but will also synergize with any allied Ogryns and Zealots who utilize bleed talents for extra crit chance and toughness dmg reduction!
- Fill in the gaps for every fight - the blitz by itself is a wonderful filler in case of ability downtime or a general lack of hard CC options. It's ease of use, larger effective radius, and respectable damage makes it a tool to be used both offensively and defensively, and is something you can and should abuse for every fight.
- Make sure to read about the Shredder's bleed damage near the end of this guide if you want to make the most out of it!
ABILITY: VOICE OF COMMAND
A core defining ability for every support Veteran build, which staggers all enemies within 9m and instantly replenishes your toughness to full, even when it's completely spent. Similar to shredder grenades but without the harsh range falloff, and sporting stagger that can better affect mutants and monstrosities, a VoC shout will instantly floor and otherwise interrupt everything that threatens your team.
- Duty and Honor enables VoC to overheal toughness by +50 while additionally providing that bonus to your team, essentially converting the ability into a team 'heal' similar to Zealot's chorus relic.
- For the Emperor is another excellent modifier that grants the team a 10% damage buff, better enabling them to follow up on the opening you've just made.
- Use this reflexively and often - with a short 30s cooldown and further reduction earned from Tactical Awareness, it's the ultimate all-in-one tool to create space, replenish toughness, and buff team damage with very little downtime.
KEYSTONE: FOCUS TARGET
An amazing keystone that alters the Veteran's default tag function: any specialist/elite/boss enemies that you tag will now be marked by a golden outline and skull, as opposed to the default red. Not only does this help more visually challenged teammates prioritize these threats better alongside you, it applies a debuff which the entire team benefits from. Higher 'focus' stacks will apply a stronger debuff for even greater damage bonuses.
- The Focused Fire modifier increases your total focus stacks from 5 to 8, effectively increasing bonus dmg from 20% to 32%. This higher maximum is best applied against tougher targets like crushers and monstrosities, but isn't super necessary for most other threats.
- Securing a kill on a focused target will grant further coherency bonuses through Target Down (toughness and stamina regen) and Redirect Fire (base damage). So long as targets are being marked, even teammates can secure the kill for both bonuses to trigger, allowing for easy and consistent regen/dmg throughout a fight.
- Maintain focus marks on targets of high priority - the moment a focus mark is applied to another enemy, the previous target will instantly lose all stacks and the debuff. As such, there is a delicate balance between keeping a mark applied to the tankiest enemies so as to gain full damage benefits, and shifting it to those new and immediate threats that could potentially ruin a run. There are no wrong choices really, but the faster you decide what's most important in those moment to moment changes, the better this keystone will serve you.
- SHREDDER GRENADES > KRAK GRENADES
- Krak grenades have a reputation to be easier and more consistent for newer players than Shredders, which requires a bit of knowledge on bleed mechanics to show similar results. I can't fault people for preferring one over the other, but both have their uses, which really just comes down to consistent single-target damage vs. consistent AoE damage, respectively.
- I'd recommend loading Kraks only if you want extra damage for monstrosities, or you're looking to cover anti-armor options elsewhere in your loadout.
- SURVIVALIST > FIRE TEAM
- Survivalist is a priority pick for T5+ difficulties, where Special/Elite spawns are frequent enough to proc a very, very, very consistent ammo return - it's often the difference for an entire team never being too low on ammo.
- Fire Team should actually be considered a niche pick, as the 5% damage bonus is really only impactful if it helps push a breakpoint (i.e. the difference between an enemy being 1-shot or 2-shot), though there are plenty of other ways to do this over such a critical tradeoff.
- Really only consider this if you're practicing below T5+ difficulties, or you're grouping with another Vet that can cover Survivalist.
- CHARISMATIC > ANY
- A simple but important QoL change that increases your coherency radius from 8m to 12m. With as many coherency bonuses this build can provide, it's only polite to make spreading them to your team that much easier - otherwise, why play a support build at all?
- Optional if you prefer to be a bit selfish and spreading the bonuses isn't as important to your playstyle.
- RENDING STRIKES > ANY
- 10% Rending is essentially another free damage boost, but can be optional if it doesn't negatively affect any breakpoints and you're wanting more utility from the talent tree.
- Rending will stack with the Penetration stat found on some melee and ranged weapons.
- Rending TL;DR: will negate an equal value of enemy dmg resistance, and affects all enemy types.
- Ex: if you only deal 20% damage to Carapace, with 10% rending you now deal 30%
- Any rending added after reaching 100% penetration will continue to add damage, but at a reduced value. (source: patch 13 notes)
- COMPETITIVE URGE > ANY
- A conditional damage buff that has a fairly decent uptime in high density T5+ fights, much less so if practicing in lower difficulties.
- Though the damage is massive, some people might not like the rng of this talent, so it's fine to swap for something else more consistent.
- TARGET DOWN! > ANY
- Target Down will replenish 5-40% toughness/stamina, and can be a steady supply of regen if used properly in high density fights. That much regen can be invaluable for stubborn randoms who don't know how to dodge, but is a little less important for a premade team that can reliably defend themselves.
- TALENTS TO CONSIDER
- Longshot & Marksman for conditional damage buffs
- Grenade Tinkerer & Twinned Blast for better grenades
- Demolition Team & Field Improvisation for some grenade efficiency/utility
- Deadshot & Shock Trooper for crit chance and lasgun ammo efficiency
- Only In Death Does Duty End... if you really want the auto-revive function (it's wasted if you're with good players!)
First and foremost: Nothing wrong in using what you like.
Though this build lacks Executioner's Stance and additional precision damage from Marksman's Focus, there's enough damage talent picks and coverage from Focus Target to boost a majority of the Veteran's arsenal into relevancy.
- Mk II Plasma Gun | Blaze Away & Gets Hot | +Maniacs +Unyielding +Carapace
- The PG excels in far too many categories to consider most other weapons in the current meta, boasting excellent damage, effective anti-armor, and insane cleave relative to it's short draw speed. This is offset by the PG's unique heat management mechanic and an extremely long reload, which can understandably be off-putting to the uninitiated.
- The trick to using a PG effectively is firing non-charged shots almost exclusively, which minimizes ammo consumption and heat generation without much loss in DPS, if any; charged shots are good burst damage against threats like crushers and mutants, but is otherwise unnecessary for a majority of the things you're shooting at.
- Heat Management: Manually venting via the special action key should be considered the 'reload' adjacent function of the PG. Proper heat management with the PG's high capacity means you can keep shooting for long periods without needing to eat the long reload - as such, generally try to reload when in-between fights.
- Firing a charged shot above 100% heat will overload the PG, resulting in an explosion that damages nearby enemies while downing the Veteran with a wound (or killing them outright if on a single wound).
- Attempting to fire a non-charged shot above 100% will instead automatically vent 20% heat.
- Reloading the fuel cell itself is about a ~7s reload time without modifiers, and will vent all currently accumulated heat.
- You can actually sprint cancel parts of the animation to reduce that reload time if you're desperate or you're a sweat: first when the ammo counter vanishes, next when the cartridge makes a second 'click', and lastly when the ammo counter refreshes as full.
- Manually venting to 0% heat will always last five ticks (or ~3s total) whether you're venting from 15% heat or 100%.
- With a high ammo stat, you're able to fire upwards of 50 non-charged shots before needing to reload on empty.
- With a high thermal resistance stat, you're able to fire ~8 non-charged shots in quick succession before needing to manually vent.
- Mk IIa Revolver | Surgical & Hand-Cannon | +Flak +Maniacs +Unyielding
- A lightweight and easy-to-use meta option that requires almost zero talent investment to perform well, clearing most special/elite threats in 1 - 2 shots.
- The Rending Strikes talent can help a revolver with a high penetration stat and a minimum T3 Hand-Cannon reach ~100% rending, effectively bypassing the 'armor' of enemies like Crushers and Maulers.
- A good revolver is essentially a PG-lite, with comparable damage packed into a smaller magazine, better ammo efficiency, slightly less cleave, and most importantly a reload that doesn't take three business days to complete.
- Mk IIb Bolter | Pinning Fire & Surgical/Shattering Impact | +Maniacs +Unyielding +Carapace
- RIP the Bolter :(
- Currently far outclassed by the previously listed weapons, though whenever FS decides to buff this weapon I'm sure it'll find a home in this build.
- MG Ia, MG IV, MG XII Infantry Lasgun | Headhunter & Deadly Accurate | +Flak +Maniacs +Unyielding
- The tried and true workhorse that I'm sure every Veteran keeps a copy of in their inventory. Recent patches have balanced all variants to perform very similar to each other DPS-wise, so you can't go wrong with the classics if you're not looking for anything fancy.
- Mk II, Mk X Heavy Laspistol | Infernus & Reassuringly Accurate/Dumdum | +Flak +Maniacs
- If you really want to cosplay a commissar.
As above, choices for melee weapons are largely up to preference, though I'd still advise planning with specific goals in mind. (i.e. coverage for hordes, elites, etc.)
- Mk III Power Sword | Power Cycler & Slaughterer | +Flak +Unyielding +Carapace +Elite
Mk VII Power Sword | Power Cycler & Brutal Momentum | +Flak +Unyielding +Carapace +Elite
- Mk III with Slaughterer enables it's vanguard moveset to better handle hordes.
- Mk VII with Brutal Momentum becomes an effective Elite killer, especially with the push stab + L1 combo.
- Standard Issue Sapper Shovel | Decimator & Skullcrusher/Uncanny Strike | +Flak +Unarmored +Infested
Mk III, Mk VII Sapper Shovel | Uncanny Strike & Thrust/Decimator | +Flak +Unyielding +Carapace +Elite
- The Standard Issue's faster strikedown lights lends to better chaining of Decimator against hordes.
- Both variants come with a special activated attack that has extra penetration, which can benefit from both Uncanny Strike and Thrust to become an effective Elite killer.
- Mk IV, Mk XIIIg Assault Chainsword | Savage Sweep & Rampage | +Flak +Unarmored
- The Mk IV has mixed strikedown lights and vanguard heavies.
- The Mk XIIIg is the inverse, with mixed vanguard lights and heavy strikedowns.
- Mk IV, Mk XII Assault Chainaxe | Headtaker & Slaughterer | +Flak +Unyielding +Carapace +Elites
- The Mk IV uses vanguard heavies for hordes, and strikedown lights that bite through armor.
- The Mk XII has relentless lights for hordes, while it's heavy vertical strikedowns will rip through heads.
- Mk II Combat Axe | Brutal Momentum & Headtaker | +Flak +Unyielding
- Simple strikedowns coupled with innate penetration and Brutal Momentum makes for a weapon that can reliably break the heads of the toughest enemies.
- Mk IV Devil's Claw | Savage Sweep & Rampage | +Flak +Unarmored
- If you like parrying.
I'll preface this section by pointing out that I make the super unpopular decision of running +combat ability regen on my curios, simply per my preference. I mention this to stress that final part, as the defensive/utility picks of curios are much less beholden to any meta and should really just suit your particular needs and playstyle.
But if you're looking for nothing complicated, x3 Toughness or x2 Toughness & x1 Health are some common/optimal setups for a Veteran. Frontloading your Veteran with toughness will synergize with Close Order Drill and Iron Will, which will both provide even more dmg reduction to that larger toughness pool. Otherwise...
- Build for more Toughness if you have trouble with chip damage (i.e. horde melee and shooters).
- Build for more Health if you struggle defending against bigger attacks and/or take damage all at once (i.e. Snipers, Elites, Bosses).
- Honestly, just stop falling for the delayed Crusher/Mauler overheads 4head
- More Stamina will really only benefit Vets who might use the Deadshot talent, or maybe those few who want a few extra seconds of sprint time and block/shoves on the frontline.
- Wounds are like training wheels, especially if you're a newer player venturing into T5+ missions. As a Vet, you should never take more than one, and be sure to replace it once you're confident you can defend yourself proper!
- +Toughness/+Health as above.
- +Toughness Regeneration Speed only affects passive regen when in team coherency, but x3 of this perk can improve the speed by a ridiculous amount. As a Support with Charismatic's +50% aura radius, you stand to gain plenty of return from this perk by simply playing for your team.
- +Stamina Regeneration Speed should be self explanatory.
- +Sniper Resistance tends to be recommended a lot and is often cited as insurance against being one-shot, but I'd caution against keeping this as a permanent pick over other perks if you can learn to deal with them fast enough.
- +Gunner Resistance actually covers dreg/scab heavy gunners and Ogryn reapers, and is recommended due to their high density in T5+ missions. They can be a common enough threat to warrant holding these perks long term, but like Snipers, may be an optional pick if you're able to defend against them effectively and want perks that will see more consistent use.
General guide ends here.
Tips, tricks, and useful stat breakdowns for the big nerds below
- Shredders have three acting components in that single ~8m detonation: stagger, blast damage, and bleed.
- Both the shredder's stagger and blast damage have an effective range of ~5m, with major falloff around ~2m.
- The Shredder's bleeds have zero falloff range, and will inflict full damage/bleed application within the default max radius of ~8m.
- BLEED DAMAGE is not a simple additive value, and instead scales with higher bleed stacks (to a total of 16 bleed stacks).
- If that doesn't make sense, here is a simple example:
- A single Shredder applies 6 bleed stacks, totaling for 302 bleed damage.
- Two Shredders will apply 12 bleed stacks, totaling for 1442 bleed damage.
- (This isn't even considering the damage enhanced by Grenade Tinkerer btw)
- With the above in mind, Shredders can then be used in two ways:
- delaying between each detonation to make use of stagger animations, grounding tougher enemies for longer
- chaining them more closely to massively increase bleed damage, clearing any surrounding chaff while softening tougher targets. A lucky proc of Twinned Blast can do just the same!
- Another important note: bleeds have differing damage values on all armor types, but I won't get into that here. Instead, Ryken has more in-depth testing on Shredder damage values if you're that curious: https://youtu.be/lS_CmIQzYhc?si=g4266z1p9-Ue3_Ov&t=34
- Some info in the video, like Longshot affecting grenade damage, have since been patched. insofar as I know and from my own testing, the stagger, blast damage, and bleed values all function the same as was in patch 13. I'll update as I learn more/any changes come.
Voice of Command:
- It's worth reminding that while Duty and Honor and For the Emperor both function off of VoC, both are still coherency bonuses that can exceed the ability's default 9m radius, depending on if you've invested into Charismatic or not.
- VoC will still replenish the Veteran's maximum toughness and the full +50 overheal even when completely empty. Teammates will only receive a standard toughness heal of +50.
- This overheal can also stack with another Veteran's VoC and Zealot's Chorus Relic.
- This overheal alone is often enough to protect health from moderate forms of chip damage, such as the mutant body slam, the kaboom from a Bomber, or the initial pounce of a hound.
- With that in mind, the best practice when using this ability is preventing damage, not replenishing toughness after the fact. Shield teammates when they're about to take a hit or push through a threshold into risky open spaces, or better yet, stagger the enemies just before they can land the blow.
- A focus mark stays applied for ~25s (default tags only stick for ~10s). That's more than enough time to secure a kill on tougher elites, but also a generous window of bonus damage to inflict on monstrosities.
- Once a focus mark is applied, the focus target will always retain the highest focus stacks. (ex: if the first focus mark applies 8 focus stacks, then it cannot be overridden by any lower value, if say, you were to accidentally re-mark the target sooner than you wanted).
- Conversely, if you were to mark a target too early with low stacks, you are able to 'refresh' the mark to get that higher damage bonus. Note that applied focus stacks are not additive. (ex: the first focus mark applies 3 stacks, but is followed up with another 5 stacks. This does not suddenly yield 8 total stacks on the focus target, and will instead refresh with the higher 5 stack debuff.)
- If the above is looking a touch complicated, I wouldn't worry too much. In the grand scheme of things, this is really only important to remember for monstrosities, the one enemy type where you'll always want to maximize Focus Target's bonus damage.
- TL;DR if you want full bonus damage on an enemy, you must always apply at full stacks, period.
- The Redirect Fire modifier has a curious if not confusing disconnect from the normal behavior of the keystone, and does actually work as an additive buff, meaning that any kills that which reward stacks of Redirect Fire will refresh the duration and cumulatively reach the 8 total stack maximum.
- Aside from the lads and ladies in the official Darktide discord, a lot of the information I get to supplement my own buildcrafting comes from Ryken XIV and cashcrop on youtube, both of whom elaborate on more obscure details and generally offer useful breakdowns on all class features. I highly suggest giving them a follow if you're interested!
- Ryken: https://www.youtube.com/@rykenxiv
- cashcrop: https://www.youtube.com/@cashcrop_
final author note: I try to update my guides often as I earn better rolls and learn more about talents and breakpoints, and especially after patch specific changes, so stay tuned if you like. I had originally used this just for personal planning and quick reference, but thanks for upvoting the guide nonetheless. have fun gang :)