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This article is about the tips and hints on selecting skills and building a character. For general skills info, see Skills.

See Also: Builds/Limited Use Skills

PAYDAY 2 introduced a far more complex skill system than the previous game, allowing players to add diversity and specializations, both on weapons and roles.

In order to perform well under different situations, the crew must adapt themselves to fulfill each map objective. The skills are basically oriented for two main scenarios, the "stealth" approach, where players attempt to complete objectives without being discovered; this approach is oriented in increasing concealment, decreasing detection rate, killing enemies without creating noise, hiding dead bodies, and detecting enemy positions. The other scenario, "loud" gameplay, comes when stealth has failed, or was not an option to begin with; this approach is oriented at increasing damage resistance, damage dealt, and overall weapon efficiency.

This page will offer common conceptions that players use in order to be effective and efficient at the task at hand.

Core skills and basic skillsEdit

Core skills are a group of skills that are commonly used amongst players. They are low tier skills that provide benefits to the individual player and their contribution to a crew that are disproportionate to their cost. One would need to spend only 16 points (available at level 14) on those skills, and they will not affect your ability to specialize most desired roles. Core skills can be learned at low levels, and is recommended to do so, as they will improve your effectiveness while playing with other players.

From the Mastermind skill tree:

  • Mastermind unlock (1 point) to be able to equip the Doctor bag.
  • Endurance (tier 1; 1 point for basic) to increase your stamina, allowing you to run for longer.

From the Enforcer skill tree:

  • Enforcer unlock (1 point) to be able to equip the Ammo bag.
  • Transporter Aced (tier 1; 1+3 points to ace) allows players to move faster while carrying bags and increases the distance players throw bags.
    • Throwing bags is often the most efficient way to move several bags at once, particularly when under fire from enemies.

From the Ghost skill tree:

  • Ghost unlock (1 point) to be able to equip the ECM Jammer.
  • Sprinter Aced (tier 1; 1+3 points to ace) increases sprinting speed and dodge chance while running, as well as faster stamina regeneration.
  • Fast Hands Aced (tier 2; 1+3 points to ace) to improve bag interaction speed, further accelerating bag-handling.

The following skills are advised when attempting to stealth heists. While they can benefit the player, they tend to have minimal or no effects during loud gameplay. Adding these skills to the core skill build requires a total of 32 skill points (available at level 28) and will allow a heister to handle most of the basic stealth heists alone if necessary.

From the Mastermind skill tree:

  • Cable Guy (tier 1; 1+3 points to ace) increases your supply of cable ties to 6, allowing you to take more hostages, its advantages are detailed on the Cable Ties page.
  • Control Freak (tier 2; 1 point for basic) allows you to keep civilians under control by creating noise.
    • Note that this skill is only of use on heists with four or fewer pager-carrying guards, however it may be useful to suppress and contain civilians if the heist goes loud.

From the Ghost skill tree:

  • Chameleon (tier 2; 1 point for basic) allows you to mark guards and cameras during casing, important to keep the entire team informed of their location.
  • Cleaner (tier 2; 1+3 points to ace) allows access to the body bag case asset as well as granting an extra body bag for removing dead guards or civilians.

From the Fugitive skill tree:

  • Hidden Blade (tier 1; 1+3 points to ace) increases concealment and lowers the noise range when killing guards or civilians.
  • Sixth Sense (tier 2; 1 point for basic) allows you to detect people around you, even through walls, useful when trying to remain unseen, or attempting to walk into small areas where enemies may be.

The following skills are highly recommended for loud gameplay. They are cheap, while giving significant benefits to the player's combat effectiveness. Adding these skills to the core skill build requires a total of 31 skill points (available at level 27) and will allow a heister to hold their own in most combat situations as well as make a significant contribution to bag-transporting objectives.

From the Mastermind skill tree:

  • Leadership (tier 2; 1 point for basic) increases stability with all weapons.

From the Technician skill tree:

  • Nerves of Steel (tier 1; 1 point for basic) you take 50% less damage while performing interactions such as reviving teammates, repairing drills, or picking up loot bags.
  • Rifleman (tier 1; 1 point for basic) should you rely on sniper rifles or assault rifles, this skill will makes snap-to-zoom much faster.
    • Especially powerful for players using controllers, as the snap-to-zoom triggers the auto-aim feature.
  • Note that players may wish to add two more points to the Technician tree and then unlock the basic version of Hardware Expert in order to better contribute to the numerous drilling objectives in PAYDAY 2.

From the Ghost skill tree:

  • Cleaner (tier 2; 1 point for basic) Increases damage dealt to all special units.
  • Shinobi (tier 3; 1 point for basic) Increases movement speed, which becomes significant while moving bags. See the Loot page for details.

From the Fugitive skill tree:

  • Thick Skin (skill) (tier 1; 1+3 points to ace) increases armor values of the early armor types as well as reducing camera shake when taking hits.
  • Run and Gun (tier 2; 1 point for basic) Increases movement speed, as above.

Hints for specific skill treesEdit

The Mastermind tree contains many of the most important skills for support roles including the most powerful team healing abilities, crowd control and asset-unlocking skills.

  • The various pistol skills (Leadership basic, Equilibrium, Gunslinger and Pistol Messiah) all complement each other excellently. Anyone opting for pistols build is advised to ace Nerves of Steel from the Technician tree.
    • The pistol bonuses available to Masterminds can make pistols exceptionally effective in the hands of a skilled and properly specced player.
  • Aced Combat Doctor (tier 4; 4+8 points) increases total healing available from 2 charges to 4, then 8 charges, advised for loud heists.
  • Aced Inspire (tier 6; 4+8 points) allows you to revive crew members instantly and from a distance, this is exceptionally useful for loud heists. Inspire also allows you to accelerate other players.
    • Given that players using Inspire should be reviving team-mates most often, it is recommended to complement this with Combat Medic and Painkillers.
  • Basic Dominator (tier 3; 1 point) is helpful if another crew member goes into custody, as you can intimidate enemies into surrendering and then trade them for your teammate.
    • The entire Dominator skill line (Dominator, Joker, Partner in Crime) can be very cost effective by giving extra firepower and a "disposable" team mate that can help fend off attacks. When compared to sentries, this tactic is superior due to being able to be re-used endlessly, as well as moving with the player.
  • Many skills in the Mastermind trees affect the entire crew. This includes Endurance Aced, Leadership Base and Aced, Spotter Aced and Control Freak Aced.
    • When playing with a stable crew, it is advised to discuss builds, as repeated team skills offer the same bonuses, should one or many heisters have the same team skill.
  • The presence of Kilmer on the Mastermind tree allows for quite effective assault rifle builds when complemented by the assault rifle skills in the lower tiers of the Technician tree.

The Enforcer skill tree offers some of the best combat skills and abilities, with specific focus on wearing heavy armor and wielding shotguns. The circular saw is also an important reason to consider investing heavily in the Enforcer tree.

  • Iron Man Aced (tier 6; 4+8 points) will make it far easier to handle shield enemies.
    • This can be especially useful when playing solo as the AI teammates will not coordinate flanking attacks on them.
  • Ammunition Specialist Aced (tier 4; 4+8 points) allows you to bring along a large amount of ammunition to a heist. For longer heists such as Rats Day 1 or Big Bank, this can be invaluable.
    • Ammunition Specialist works well with the OVE9000 as even with a single normal ammo bag, one will not have enough saw ammo to clear the vault on Bank Heist or trucks on the Transport missions, as well as the fact that saw does not replenish ammo from ammo drops.
  • When using the OVE9000 consider using Berserker as well. When having less than 25% health your ammo usage drastically decreases.
  • Berserker Aced efficiency greatly increases on the Death Wish difficulty where the lowered reviving health means it's active after being revived.
  • The Enforcer skills offer boosts to shotguns, with the left side of the tree from tier 3 onwards essentially dedicated to them. As shotguns can be equipped as both primary and secondary weapons, shotgun builds can be incredibly deadly and very durable.
  • Fully Loaded Aced can be rather expensive for the small upgrade it gives compared to the Walk-in-Closet perk. However, it's very effective for short range and low ammo weapons such as shotguns (Mosconi 12G and the Judge), high powered pistols (Deagle and Bronco .44) and mid-range assault rifles (AK.762 and AMR-16).
  • Stun Resistance can be useful for decreasing the effect of flashbangs, common on higher difficulties.

The Technician skill tree focuses on two deployabes (the sentry gun and the trip mine) while also offering abilities to help with the long drilling operations which are central to so many heists. These skills are complemented by a handful of useful combat skills.

  • The Sentry Gun can be incredibly helpful while playing solo, providing defence of key locations while the player moves to progress the mission objectives. Should one desire to keep using sentries, it is advised to upgrade it as quickly as possible given that the various upgrades offer a improvements over the basic version, at a high skill cost requirement.
  • Rather than the Sharpshooter Aced skill (25% stability bonus with rifles), consider the Leadership Aced skill from the Mastermind tree, which will improve stability with all weapons by 50% (75% with Pistols), for you and your crew, provided no one else on the team already possesses it.
    • Note that basic Sharpshooter applies not only to rifles, but also to most shotguns and pistols, making it a useful skill for numerous builds.
  • Hardware Expert Aced (tier 2; 1+3 points) will gain, at worst, a few seconds during a stealth heist and at best minutes during a drilling process while under fire in loud heists. Most notably, for Transport heists where multiple drills are used and the drills are exposed to many enemy firing positions, having a chance that at least one drill restart itself is invaluable.
  • Drill Sergeant, preferably Aced (tier 2; 1+3 points) will save time during drilling operations. In particular, when using thermal drills, close to two minutes are saved by the aced version of the skill.
    • Bear in mind with both drill skills that there is rarely need for multiple players in the same crew to have these skills.
  • Shaped Charge Aced (tier 5; 4+8 points) allows you to use trip mines to blow open doors and basic safes, making it faster to speedrun heists such as Nightclub and Ukrainian Job (up to Overkill difficulty) and Jewelry Store on Death Wish difficulty.
    • Due to the limited number of shaped charge locations on many heists as well as the huge tactical advantage of rapidly opening certain doors, it is best to co-ordinate the use of Shaped Charge builds with the rest of the crew.
  • The Technician tree only offers specific boosts to sniper rifles and assault rifles, however the skills available are relatively weak and a Technician loses relatively little in equipping any other weapon type.

The Ghost tree has no specific focuses in the manner of the previous trees, however contains most of the key skills for completing heists in stealth.

  • Shinobi Aced is the exact same as Hidden Blade Aced from the Fugitive tree, avoid picking up both!
  • Unlike the Mastermind's Control Freak and Spotter Asset unlocks, Cleaner (tier 2; 1 point) still has usage when multiple players use it in the form of a damage bonus against specials.
    • This skill synergises well with Winston Wolfe of the Fugitive tree, allowing you to carry up to 3 body bags at a single time, reducing the need to return for refills.
  • Chameleon Aced can be very useful when playing solo, making opponents engage allied AI, instead of the player.
  • Aced Lockpicking Expert (tier 5; 4+8 points) allows you to pick lower-level safes, which is both silent and much faster than drilling, even with upgrades. However, due to the limited use of non-Titan safes, especially on higher difficulty levels, the merits of this skill versus the Technician drill skills are debatable.
  • Camera Loop (tier 6; 4 points) has many applications, however the time required to set up a camera loop and the fact that it must be done while adjacent to the camera limits the value of the skill. With a crew, it allows co-ordinated movement through camera-protected areas without guards coming to investigate a broken camera and without being forced to use an ECM.
    • In general, heist level design makes the use of this skill relatively minimal, although it has certain applications for lockpicking or answering pagers in an area covered by a camera.
  • Aced ECM Specialist (tier 4; 4+8 points) will delay pager responses for the duration of the ECM jam. It opens up more possibilities - delaying the pager response is often a key part of an ECM rush strategy using the "cover" of multiple consecutive ECMs either to allow the entire heist to be completed or at least to allow the crew to take control of the entire map.
    • Note that the skill can be a handicap as guard corpses cannot be bagged until the pager is answered. Should guards die in front of cameras (during the jamming effect of the ECM), one will not be able to remove them in time after the jamming ends.
  • Silent Killer Aced (+30% damage with suppressed weapons) will allow some weapons to do more damage with a suppressor than other barrels or barrel extensions. Players with this skill should check which weapons benefit from this.
    • While The Professional is generally considered less useful, it can affect weapons which are otherwise difficult to improve with skills, such as SMGs and LMGs.
  • Only this skilltree boosts SMGs in the form of SMG Specialist. While the basic is helpful to SMG users, the value of the Aced version is questionable.

The Fugitive tree is something of a hybrid, providing benefits to low armor, low detection risk builds particularly when used on loud heists.

  • Hidden Blade Aced is the exact same as Shinobi Aced from the Ghost tree, avoid picking up both!
  • Thick Skin (tier 1; 1 point) decrease how much you flinch when being damaged; slighty worse than Enforcer's Tough Guy but far cheaper to unlock. The aced version increases armor on the various ballistic vests, offering no bonuses for the suit, flak jacket, CTV and ICTV.
  • Run and Gun Aced (tier 2; 1+3 points) allows for faster movement while aiming, often useful for score headshots while using close range weapons and aggressive short-range tactics.
  • Winstone Wolfe allows you to carry an additional body bag but does not provide one like Cleaner Aced. The use of this skill requires buying the Body Bag asset, or someone equipping the Body Bag Case equipment.
    • The Aced version greatly reduces cleaner costs, allowing one to take no hostages and kill everyone in the map, while still maintaining profits.
  • Quick Fix Aced (tier 3; 1+3 points) and Uppers Aced (tier 4; 4+8 points) can be very effective when soloing, as the AI team mates can be unreliable when it comes to reviving the player and thus the Mastermind's doctor bag down-reset is less useful.
  • Swan Song Aced (tier 4; 4+8 points) is very useful to go for cover in order to be easily revived, as a last resort to deal as much damage as possible when overrun, or to control the risks when shooting Bulldozers at point blank.
  • Low Blow Aced (tier 5; 4+8 points) has a good synergy with a stealth attempt-build, and can still fight on should the heist go loud.
  • Sneaky Bastard Aced (tier 5;4+8 points) allows the player to increase their dodge chance, which synergises with the two piece suit, making this skill itself and other fugitive skills more effective.
  • Trigger Happy (tier 5) synergises with the pistol skills of the Mastermind tree.

Specialized buildsEdit

Specialized builds focus on purchasing certain skills and weapon to perform a specific playstyle. Different builds can be used by different players in order to cover all tasks expected in a heist.

The "TechForcer", a porte-manteau of Technician and Enforcer is a hybrid of the two most directly combat-oriented trees in the game. An example can be found hereor with Infamy. This build is for a player that specializes in the loud part of the game. The main job of the TechForcer is to be able to soak up damage for his allies, and when the heist goes loud, be as effective as possible to finish the objectives and quickly escape. Usually, they will carry:

  • Trip Mines used as Shaped Charges to quickly open safes, or when the OVE9000 is not equipped, to open safes and doors. If there are no uses for Shaped Charges on a given heist, Ammo bags may be a better choice.
  • OVE9000 for maps with sawable objectives. Otherwise, recommended primaries are shotguns, LMGs and sniper rifles depending on the heist and the rest of the crew. 
  • Locomotive 12G or The Judge, with Shotgun CQBShotgun Impact and Overkill skills being recommended for maximum efficiency.
    • Should a high threat opponent appear, use the Overkill damage increase (by killing a weaker enemy) before engaging the stronger target.
  • ICTV, alongside the Bulletproof skill in order to maximize armor rating and recovery.

During stealth gameplay, this player is usually tasked with spotting guards using the Chameleon skill, or manning cameras. Due to the ICTV armor, the player usually has maximum detection rating, so he/she should be as far as possible from all guards and cameras.

During loud gameplay, the player should focus on killing enemies that are close. This way, he/she can conserve ammo, as well as picking up ammo dropped from enemies.

Note that ammo pick-ups will not replenish saw ammo, but will still collect them. To restore saw ammo, use Ammo Bags. For this reason, it should be the TechForcer's job to always buy the Ammo Asset for any heists.

The high shotgun damage, quick reload, and close ammo pick-ups will allow extensive fighting for this player, and the high armor means less necessity for cover.

The main downside for this build is the slow movement speed, and the majority of its effectiveness focused in the loud part of the heist.

Example here , or with Infamy. This build is for a player that specializes in assisting other players. The Saw Freak's job is to control all hostages in the map, while being able to deal damage at range and reviving teammates. Usually, he will carry;

  • Doctor bags to be the crew's primary source of healing.
  • OVE9000 for maps with sawable objectives or with many civilians. Any (loud) primary of choice in other maps. The skill Control Freak sees extensive use here, as the noise generated by a running saw keeps all civilians on the ground, and will reach further than even grenades, while consuming no ammo, should you just spin it in air.
  • Bronco or Deagle to reach the highest damage possible for combat, or good average stats for stealth.
  • ICTV or Heavy Ballistic vest in order to maintain survivability, particularly while reviving team-mates. 

During planning, this player should be the one who has Spotter and Control Freak aced, and is recommended to be the one who buys assets that other players cannot buy.

During stealth gameplay, this player should take the job of controlling all hostages in the map, as well as taking down guards and answering their pagers. This build is highly effective during Bank Heist, for the player alone can suppress all civilians in the map and maintain crowd-control for long periods, if not until completion of the heist.

During loud gameplay, they should focus on killing enemies that are further away, while always aiming for headshots. This player has an average ammo pool, but a very high damage output, meaning he/she should take down MFRs with only headshots. This build also concerns the fact that this player will usually be close to objectives like drills, and they should always focus on repairs, even without skills that aid with restarts. Finally, this player should try to secure a small, enclosed area (i.e. security rooms) to deploy Doctor bags, and prevent getting surprised by Cloakers.

Example here, or with Infamy. This build is for a player who prefers to run the heist in complete stealth. With all of the Ghost special tools, and the Mastermind Spotter, even if things go Loud, the player can contribute to the team. Usually, this player will carry;

  • ECM Jammers which should be primarily used to open security doors, or to snuff phones and pagers, preventing the heist from going loud.
  • A reasonably concealable primary weapon. The main goal is to keep detection risk under 30, and having at least one silenced weapon.
  • Deagle, Judge, or similar high powered secondary in case the heist goes loud.
  • Heavy Ballistic Vest; A light armor that allows for good mobility, while keeping detection risk under 30.

During the planning phase, this should be a player who has Spotter, Cleaner and Control Freak aced, thus covering any inadequacies of his other teammates.

During stealth gameplay, this player is usually tasked with the completion of most, if not all of the primary objectives. For this reason, it is best that this player is either the host of the game, or with controllable lag, so that synchronizations won't be an issue.

During loud gameplay, this player should focus on survival, hostage care, and providing flank attacks. Note that silenced guns have low threat, thus making covering fire ineffective, aim for headshots to make up for the frequently low ammo count of highly concealable weapons.

In many ways a variant of the TechForcer, the BattleTech is less focused on completing objectives and more on holding a defensive position in the face of prolonged police assaults. An example build can be found hereor with Infamy. This build is for a player who specializes in loud gameplay. The main job of the Battle Tech is to be able to soak up damage for his allies, and dealing with higher threat opponents. Usually, they will carry;

  • Sentry Gun to keep vital areas covered.
  • A Sniper rifle or GL40 Any weapon to deal with high threat targets.
  • Any given secondary, usually a backup weapon to deal with closer or low threat enemies.
  • An ICTV along the Bulletproof skill in order to maximize Armor rating.

During stealth gameplay, this player is usually tasked with spotting guards using the Chameleon skill, or manning cameras. Due to the ICTV armor, the player usually has maximum detection so he/she should be as far as possible from any guards and cameras.

During loud gameplay, this player should focus on the highest threat and most directly aggressive enemies. In general the target priority should be Bulldozers, Shields, Tasers and Cloakers in that order. To prevent ammo depletion, try to make as many headshots as possible and switch to the secondary weapon when about 50% primary ammunition remains, then scrounge the area for ammo pickups. Fully Loaded Aced helps maintaining ammo for the entire team, even if they rely exclusively on ammo pick-ups. Berserker is most effective when playing on Death Wish, the Thanathos will kill Bulldozers in a single body shot while the skill is active.

The key requirement of the Battle Tech is to be able to use the Sentry Gun effectively. Try to place it over obstacles, maximizing its field of view, or around corners and choke-points. It is for this reason that BattleTechs should prioritise Shields over many other threats in order to minimize ammo wastage.

Inspired by the heroes of the film of the same name, the Matrix build focuses on high-DPS output matched to high-speed movement and dodging incoming attacks. An example build can be found hereor with Infamy. This build is for a player who specializes in the loud part of the game. The main job of the Matrix is to remain alive, while taking down higher threat opponents. Usually, he will carry;

  • First Aid Kit which can be a powerful source of hitpoint recovery for the player and their crew.
  • Akimbo pistols offer medium combat performance along with high concealment, can deal average damage against targets, and higher damage against a single target.
  • The Judge with HE rounds can kill any bulldozer with few shots should they crit.
  • Two-Piece Suit allows a large dodge percentage, paired with a suitable perk deck.

During stealth gameplay, this player is usually tasked with completion of objectives. They have no significant aid in doing so, however his/her low detection allows for a Matrix player to assist or attempt to do the stealth part of heists.

During loud gameplay, the player should focus on eliminating enemies and covering. It is one of the best builds for a player to remain as support to its heavier crew, given that the player may sprint and revive others, as well as "charge up" and heal before attempting an revival. It is also one of the most common builds in Death Wish runs as dodge will fully negate any damage, while enemy damage output is high enough to strip most armor very quickly.

High difficulty stealth runs may require creating a build exclusively for stealth gameplay. An example build can be found here, or with infamy. This build is for a player that prefers playing alone, or playing only the stealth heists and would rather restart when stealth fails than to complete the heist. The player is able to complete all tasks on a stealth heist, and has no offensive skills. Usually, they will carry;

  • ECM Jammers to open security doors or prevent alarms and camera detection. The Body Bag Case may be of greater use on larger maps where returning to dead drop locations may be difficult and if leading cable-tied civilians to hiding places is difficult.
  • High concealment weapons with poor combat performance are acceptable as unsuspecting targets will be killed by any damage received. Good accuracy is very useful and a flashlight attachment may be useful in certain cases.
    • Some players prefer to have a high-damage weapon in order to quickly kill an enemy if they are detected. It is possible to carry a Deagle with an Asepsis suppressor while maintaining minimum detection risk, which will kill a security guard on Death Wish difficulty in a single body hit.
  • Two-Piece Suit : Maxmium concealment matched with maximum speed.

During stealth gameplay, this player is usually tasked with completion of objectives.

During loud gameplay, the heister can leave the heist and switch builds or vote for a restart. If the crew continue the heist, this player should focus on completing heist objectives and moving bags, allowing better equipped players to handle combat.

Gameplay • Heists • Skills • Weapons & Equipment • DLC
Gameplay • Heists • Skills • Weapons & Equipment • DLC

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