Veteran: Squad Leader
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.
BLITZ: SHREDDER GRENADES
This blitz is used less for damage and more for it's 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 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 flexible tool, one you can and should abuse for every scenario.
- 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 a more powerful stagger that greatly affects 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 and also provides 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 a 10% team damage buff, better enabling the squad 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
- I'd recommend this only if you want extra damage for monstrosities, or you're looking to cover anti-armor elsewhere in your loadout.
- SURVIVALIST AURA > FIRE TEAM
- I'd recommend this only if you're running below T5+ difficulties, are in a premade that's good about managing ammo economy, and/or are with another Vet that can run Survivalist.
- BORN LEADER / INSPIRING PRESENCE > ANY
- IMO these two extra points in the bottom tree are your flex picks, which by default are some additional toughness regen to help keep you and your team topped off between fights. If you're with a premade that's good about not taking damage, these are less important to have.
- TALENTS TO CONSIDER
- Rending Strikes for a bit more armor penetration
- Competitive Urge & 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 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
Stat Priority: 80 Damage & Stopping Power
Dumpstat: Charge Rate
- The PG excels in far too many categories to really consider any other weapon in the current meta, boasting excellent damage, effective anti-armor, and insane cleave relative to it's extremely short draw speed.
- 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 on threats like crushers and mutants, but is completely unnecessary for a majority of the things you're shooting at.
- In case you're unaware, you will only overload the PG with charged shots. A non-charged shot will automatically vent at 100% heat.
- Manually venting via your special action key should be considered the 'reload-adjacent' function of the PG. With a high thermal resistance stat, you're able to fire ~8 shots before needing to manually vent.
- Manually venting to 0% heat will always tick five times (about ~3s), whether you're venting at 15% or 100% heat. An actual reload is about ~7s. Use VoC to buy yourself time for either in a pinch.
- Mk IIa Revolver | Surgical & Hand-Cannon | +Flak +Maniacs +Unyielding
Stat Priority: 80 Damage, Penetration, & Critical Bonus
- 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.
- With the Rending Strikes talent, a revolver with a high penetration stat and a minimum T3 Hand-Cannon reaches ~100% rending, allowing you to effectively deal with armored targets.
- 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
Stat Priority: 80 Damage & Collateral
- 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
Stat Priority: 80 Damage & Stopping Power
- 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
Stat Priority: 80 Damage & Stopping Power
- Dumpstat: Mobility
- 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.)
- Power Sword | Power Cycler & Supercharge/Slaughterer | +Flak +Unyielding
- Sapper Shovel | Decimator & Skullcrusher/Uncanny Strike | +Flak +Unarmored +Infested
- Assault Chainsword | Savage Sweep & Rampage | +Flak +Unarmored
- Combat Axe | Brutal Momentum & Headtaker | +Flak +Unyielding
- Devil's Claw | Savage Sweep & Rampage | +Flak +Unarmored
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:
- VoC will still replenish the Veteran's maximum toughness and the full +50 overheal even when completely empty.
- While this full replenish function is not applied to teammates, Born Leader should synergize with VoC/Duty and Honor, allowing you to heal more than +50 to a teammate if they're below their toughness maximum. In theory, the lower your own toughness before you shout, the more you're able to replenish to the team.
- I think the greatest advice I can give in regards to using this ability is to prevent damage, not replenish it. Use this to stagger enemies about to hurt your team or when pushing through thresholds into risky, open spaces.
- 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 keystone, Covering Fire, For the Emperor, and Redirect Fire are all the possible talents that allows a Veteran to provide their teammates with a damage buff, all of which can stack and are relatively easy to proc. The easiest and most reliable combo is to pop VoC and focus mark your desired target, granting a 42% dmg buff to the entire team on a single enemy (the ideal target being monstrosities!)
- Though a bit impractical, but if timed properly, you could even kill an unmarked enemy near a teammate to proc Covering Fire then combo the above, and with any lingering stacks from Redirect Fire, means someone can have upwards of a ~64% damage bonus on a monstrosity for a few seconds, making for a pretty funny if insane damage window.
- Always picking Fire Team over Survivalist can be a rookie mistake; extra damage is always nice, but being ammo efficient enough to deal with those tougher threats is far more important, especially in T5+ missions where they're spawning at a constant rate. Unless it dramatically helps with an important breakpoint, 9/10 you will want to pick Survivalist over other auras - 5% extra damage is dead in the water if you've no ammo to shoot with.
- 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 :)