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Destiny: how to beat the Elder Cipher Exotic Weapon Bounty

How to get new Exotic weapons the Queenbreaker's Bow, Dreg's Promise and Lord of Wolves by running the higher-level Prison of Elders.

Queen Cipher

Destiny: how to beat the Elder Cipher Exotic Weapon Bounty

Before Destiny Expansion II: The House of Wolves landed on May 19, there was no mention of this mysterious new Exotic Weapon Bounty. But as the first survivors emerged from Variks’ Prison of Elders, Guardians began reporting an unusual gift received called the Elder Cipher. Owing to the nature of this cool (though in fact very straightforward) quest, several more days passed before more clues surfaced with the promise of three new Exotic weapons from The Fallen arsenal.

Finally, weeks later, Guardians have nailed exactly what is required to secure your very own Lord of Wolves (shotgun), Queenbreaker’s Bow (fusion rifle) and Dreg’s Promise (sidearm). We owe our clans and fireteams a debt of gratitude in bringing you this definitive explanation. Speeches aside, you’ll find this is all surprisingly simple though you will need a little patience and, indeed, time...

To the prison!

"Make sure to keep one Bounty slot unoccupied. Quite a few Guardians have been kicking themselves over that last little detail."

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: the Elder Cipher is a randomly generated drop. From here on in, though, things get much better. The Cipher is received after defeating final bosses in Prison of Elders level 34, or after frying Skolas in level 35. Among our regular group of Guardians, extending to 100 or so players, we’ve seen that it is fairly common; No Land Beyond common.

So, to be clear, you’re running level 34 and/or 35 to stand a chance of acquiring the Elder Cipher. Also, you must make sure to keep one Bounty slot unoccupied. Yeah, quite a few Guardians have been kicking themselves over that last little detail. Since, most weeks anyway, the level 34 PoE can be completed in around 40 mins, obviously we’re going to recommend repeating this over and over instead of agonising over Skolas who continues to be a mountain to climb for many. One more thing: you can only carry one Elder Cipher per character. As soon as you secure one, it’s time to see Variks.

In Variks’ own precious time...

Elder Cipher found!

To add drama, Variks takes what is apparently a broken Elder Cipher from you then demands that you return to the Prison of Elders to retrieve the Queen’s Cipher in order to fix it. The good news is that you can find this on level 32 and higher. The frustrating news is that it is only found in the big chest, which requires a Treasure Key to open, and not guaranteed to be there the first, second or even third time. For a lot of Guardians it is there first time, but just so you know that it can take a while and use up keys. So, don’t waste any more precious Treasure Keys on lower level chests.

By the way, Variks teases you with a choice of the three Exotic weapons at this stage but it doesn’t mean anything. He’s like grandparents that promise chocolate if you’re well behaved then forget after five minutes because they’re just old. Make your choice and forget about it. It’s not his fault.

Upon your triumphant return from a swift Prison of Elders run, Treasure Key miraculously exchanged for the Queen’s Cipher, Variks then asks you to wait while he gets the Elder Cipher fixed. In our case this took exactly one day – we logged in the next evening and Variks wanted to see us. In a lot of cases, however, Guardians are left waiting several days. The game isn’t broken. It’s just Variks.

Go earn your stripes


After receiving the fixed Elder Cipher back from Variks, your final task is to unlock it by defeating foes in the Arena; namely Bosses (regular ones in level 28) and Challenge Bosses (32 or higher). The point breakdown is as follows: level 28 final boss = 75, level 32 final boss = 200, level 34 final boss = 350, Skolas (Level 35) = 450 plus 75 for the preceding Pilot Servitor round. You need a total of 1000 points to unlock the Cipher. Again, depending on the weekly reset, it makes sense to run the level 34 Arena three times. A good fireteam will drop Gulrot, Kaliks, Urrox or Valus inside an hour. Qodron is a headache on any difficulty. With Skolas, you can be there all night when people are learning the ropes.

Claim your prize

Lord of Wolves shotgun

Upon maxing out the Elder Cipher it’s back to Variks to choose one of the three Exotic weapons, but which to choose first? It’s fair to say that none of them have set the Destiny newswires on fire in the same way that legendary crucible newcomers have been lauded far and wide. Each one, however, has a ton of charisma for use in non-crucial PvE scenarios and only Dreg’s Promise is considered to be objectively weak. The Lord of Wolves shotgun has solar damage, and fires in five-shot bursts similar to a pulse rifle. This burst fire allows for multiple kills against tightly packed weaker foes.


Our clear favourite is the Queenbreaker’s Bow fusion rifle, which looks identical to the Fallen Vandals’ Wire Rifles. It’s a sniper rifle that does require a fusion rifle charge, but the perks include hip-fire accuracy and Combat Sights for faster recharge. This makes it a curve-ball hybrid for taking into PvP, in addition to taking advantage of the arc burn in PvE missions.

Dreg Promise

Finally, Dreg’s Promise has been described to us as a gun for people who enjoy shooting and don’t mind missing. Specifically, this is talking about the final unlocked perk Shock Rounds that ricochet off surfaces in the general direction of the nearest target. On the plus side, Dreg’s Promise encourages more aggressive combat, which we definitely like since it adds flavour to over-familiar scenarios.

All things considered, the Elder Cipher weapons feel truly exotic which, for our money, makes them well worth the effort to acquire.

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