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"Payday 2": A Guide to the Best Build for Beginners

With this guide, you'll hit my level much more quickly than I did.

With this guide, you'll hit my level much more quickly than I did.

What's the Best Build in Payday 2?

I had thought my heisting days were over, and I put aside my Payday 2 in favor of games like Kenshi and Kingdom Come: Deliverance. I'm pleasantly surprised, after having picked the P2 back up again, that the gameplay is still agreeably timeless and enjoyable. The only reason I had ever put the game down to begin with was that I struggled to find a good beginner's build that suited my playstyle.

If you haven't already, go pick yourself up a copy of Payday 2 for your preferred medium, and hopefully, I'll see you out there heisting with me!

Without further ado, let's get on to the beginner's build guide you came here for!

This build won't run properly without this perk deck.

This build won't run properly without this perk deck.

Select Armorer Perk Deck Immediately!

Arguably the most important feature of the game and the most crucial choice you could ever make is which perk deck you are going to level up and run. For this ultimate beginner's build, you are going to be required to select armorer and level it up to the very last card in the deck. This won't be an easy task, but as you get used to the playstyle of the build, you'll also begin to fill up each card with points faster and faster.

The reason you are choosing the armorer perk deck is that we want to ensure that you are as much of a tank, or damage sponge, as you can possibly be. With this deck, you'll be able to run the shotgun armorer build on One Down Death Sentence difficulty without much of a real worry.

This perk deck compliments the Enforcer skill tree perfectly, and the Enforcer skill tree should be your main focus before any other skill tree as you play and level up.

Enforcer is my favorite skill tree!

Enforcer is my favorite skill tree!

Necessary Shotgun Armorer Skills

Alright now, just as important as the armorer perk deck but perhaps less crucial of a decision, is leveling the Enforcer skill trees first. Personally, I always go this route because my style of play prefers to absorb damage and be a sort of clutch build that can save the entire team in dire situations. As such, I'm leveling the Tank tree before any others.

To begin with, you need to level all five of the lower-tier skills to their first rank in the Tank tree. After that, as per the picture of my skills, you'll want to Ace the Bullseye skill. This should have unlocked the top tier, and you'll want to Ace that skill as well so that you can gain access to the heavy tactical combine armor. Once you have all that, if you decided to go in order, we move on to the Shotgunner tree.

If I'm being wholly honest with you, you can totally disregard this skill tree if you'd like. The reason I list it is that going up this skill tree, as I have, allows you to hit hard and fast while also being that proverbial damage sponge. Often times going up this skill tree has me as the top player in every lobby I join.

If shotguns aren't for you, then I'd advise plugging those leftover skills into whatever tree supports your preferred weapons. The meta for this build would be running a machine gun primary and a pistol of your choice for taking out those pesky snipers. If you do go shotguns, however, move to the Ammo Specialist skill tree.

Any build can benefit greatly from Acing the first tier of the Ammo Specialist tree, and I never suggest going without it. You'll appreciate the extra ammo when you get caught in a pinch, and those few extra rounds are all that stand between your victory and a dozer barrel-stuffing you to death.

This skill layout is enough to see you succeed in every heist up to about Mayhem difficulty, but for anything higher, you're going to need some more defense and speed. This is where Ghost and Fugitive come into play, and luckily they are inexpensive.

Ghost and Fugitive: Only Two Points

For the Fugitive and Ghost skills, you only need to spend one point in each. Under Ghost, you'll want to pick up the first tier of Artful Dodger. All this is going to do is give you that extra stamina necessary to keep up in heists like Heat Street and get you across no man's land when your buddy is lying dead on the other side of the map.

Next, go and pick up the first skill in Brawler because there is nothing worse than getting downed by a melee hit that sucks up your entire health bar. This skill will see to it that those unavoidable sucker punches to the back of your dome do not put you down and out. For one point, you can't go wrong in negating that unfortunate and undesirable damage.

Now, if you are an inherently skillful player following this beginner's guide to a T, you should be able to take on heists at the Death Sentence difficulty without rage-quitting every time you get downed. Don't go thinking you can solo just yet, however, because you still need the Mastermind skills.

Converting cops to the side of lawful evil for your greater good is a must!

Converting cops to the side of lawful evil for your greater good is a must!

Mastermind Is Crucial for Single-Player and Multi-Player

Before you get excited over the sight of taking cops prisoner and forcing them to fight for you, you need to plug your points into the medic skill tree, just as I have presented them above. This is for one reason, and one reason only; if you do not take the skills I have listed here in the skill tree, then you are an absolutely worthless tank. Get your darn skills up to that Aced Inspire, and you'll be ready to solo Death Wish or take on Death Sentence difficulty in multiplayer.

As I'll explain later, these skills are invaluable to your success at higher difficulties, and you'll notice that those without them often cause heists to fail or get kicked from the lobby before they get the chance to ruin your run. Once you've done this mandatory step, you may then move on to the fan-favorite Controller tree.

Though not wholly necessary to success, the setup above for the Controller tree allows you the ability to take some attention off of you. Aside from increasing your survivability, this piece of the Mastermind tree will make soloing anything up to the Death Sentence difficulty much easier. Then placing that one point in sharpshooter is optional because all it does is increase your accuracy.

Once you've made it this far, you've probably already learned your style and deviated from this excellent beginner's guide; but for those of you still here, I want you to pour the rest of your hard-earned points into the Technician tree.

Though highly unnecessary, these skills will afford you extra playtime by shortening drill and saw times.

Though highly unnecessary, these skills will afford you extra playtime by shortening drill and saw times.

Unnecessary but Convenient Technician Skills

Within the Technician skill trees, we want Breacher and Oppressor to look the same. These are, arguably, unnecessary skills to take on, but you'll appreciate cutting down the timers on those pesky drill and saw mission objectives.

Equally, you are going to greatly appreciate the increase in stability and hip-fire accuracy if you're running the shotgun build that I highly suggest.

Let's move on to what your inventory should look like because all you need to do now is refine your style!

This is what your inventory should look like; don't forget your Doctor Bags!

This is what your inventory should look like; don't forget your Doctor Bags!

Inventory Overview

As you can see, the Akimbo Goliath 12G Shotguns are my primary, and the individual Goliath is my secondary. This is a calculated decision based solely on that Shotgunner skill tree I told you to place points into earlier. The amount of damage you can hammer out with these will have you taking on One Down Death Sentence heists with a smile on your face and only a slight bit of mess in your trousers from minor panic.

Optional, but necessary for my style, are the incendiary grenades you see in my grenade slot. I don't use any throwables except for incendiary grenades because incendiary grenades have a decent AoE and will help in stalling mobs you need to get away from. The amount you can carry is six, and trust me, those few extra throwables—as compared to three regular grenades—could be the difference between survival and failure.

The final crucial bit to this beginner's build would have to be your choice of equipment to bring along. As you can see above, I have chosen the doctor bags. Doctor bags will prove invaluable to you and your team, especially once you learn to strategically place them and direct your team to them in times of peril.

If you're like me, you like to play solo, and for solo players, we need to explore the AI crew members and their available customization so that your single-player games can be the best possible experience.

If you're playing singleplayer, then your AI crew members should look something like this!

If you're playing singleplayer, then your AI crew members should look something like this!

Life Is Easier With Strong Friends!

AI crew members, the way you equip them, and where you place them in a solo heist will spell the difference between a beginner's failure and payday. As such, you'll want to equip your crew as seen above in the picture guide. The way I have my AI equipped ensures that they can pack a punch but also take on more under-the-radar roles like emergency medic.

Ammo booster, shield piercing, and Inspire are the perk styles I use on my AI respectively.

My ammo-boosting AI ensures that I never have to stop running and gunning. The shield-piercing AI almost always guarantees that I don't have to worry about those pesky shields locking themselves into invulnerable corners and downing me while I try to jump-shot their heads. Then my Inspirer allows me to go down every once in a while without worrying about them trying to pick me up in the middle of a huge mob and dying right on top of me.

Per the boosters you choose, well, I'd say go with what makes you feel the most comfortable for your playstyle. For me, it is always about longevity and consistent output.

When choosing the weapons for your AI crew, I suggest the meta. Going with heavily upgraded machine guns will always be a safe bet, but it doesn't hurt to throw a minigun in there or even opt for a heavily upgraded semi-automatic sniper rifle. This is, really, just a player preference because your AI crew members fight harder and better than most players you'll encounter in multiplayer.

Now you have all the tools you need to be a successful heister in Payday 2, but to close out this invaluable beginner's guide I'd like to tell you how you should play the build itself.

How to Play the Shotgun Armorer Build

Needless to say, you won't be playing any stealth missions successfully with this build; but you don't need to worry about stealth unless you are achievement hunting. This build is the loudest and proudest of them all, and that is what you need to enter into every lobby knowing. Don't go into someone's stealth game and mess their run up just because you think you can get away with zero concealment and no suppressors.

Every lobby you join with this build needs to be loud, and as such, you need to play it like a loud build. This does not, I repeat, this does not mean you are an indestructible master of war. No, this build makes you a less-destructible master of guerrilla warfare tactics, and you need to keep in mind that hit-and-run tactics are your best friend. Staying alive is always better than failing the objective or getting put in custody.

When running this build, I want you to find yourself a nice little hiding spot on every heist, in every area, and learn when it is appropriate to run and gun. Equally important is learning when you need to hang off, let your entire team take a fall, and then clear the way for reviving and healing them. Your focus with this build is survival at all costs, and as such, you need to be tactically minded—know when to strike and when to observe.

Hanging in the back can seem like you're a burden to the team, but if you're playing right, no one will notice when you do because your actions often save the entire crew from custody. Payday 2 is quite interesting in that way, where survival is more important than completing your goals, and this build makes you a survival master.

Focus on finding those hiding spots that you can duck into and drop a doctor's bag, and never be afraid to hang back, taking potshots on enemies who would otherwise go unnoticed by your team. Survive, survive, and survive; because even as a tank/damage sponge, that is your only real job. You are not Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator. You are not Sylvester Stallone in Rambo.

You are a tank, and your job is to outlive your entire team so that your entire team can complete the objective together. If you play like the cautious tank, the way this beginner's guide tells you to, you'll find yourself climbing the ranks of Payday 2 quicker than your careless peers.

Good luck and good heisting, clown!