5 Years On, Destiny 2’s Most Dangerous Foe is Still a Guy With a Shield

The Cabal Phalanx remains one of the most notorious enemies in the game.

Destiny 2 is a game filled with memorable and powerful foes. But amongst the wish-dragons, the time-traveling robots, the self- made gods, the most terrifying, the most enduring of all of these is the humble Cabal goon holding a shield. Other enemies fire searing plasma, leap into battle with blades and claws, or hinder you with the powers of Darkness. The Cabal Phalanx says nuts to all of that, bonks you on the head with his shield, and kills you instantly. He is the killer of solo flawless runs, the slayer of godslayers. But he doesn’t do it alone — he has the help of his friends, the Architects.

“Killed by the Architects” is the fate of many a Destiny 2 player who has failed to heed Sting’s prophetic advice and stood too close to a Phalanx. The term refers to a player death caused by physics effects, and originated in Halo 2. That game used the term “Guardians,” but since player characters in Destiny are called Guardians too, the term had to change. Thus, Architects — a term that conjures up old guys lecturing Keanu Reeves in The Matrix Reloaded.

As Guardians draw on the power of the Traveler, Cabal Phalanxes draw on the power of the Architects. No other enemy in the game more reliably triggers physics deaths. Sure, the occasional stomp from a boss can yeet players into walls, but the Phalanx seems able to exert this force directly downwards, squashing Guardians on the spot. The might of this enemy type is so well-known throughout the Destiny 2 community that there’s an entire subreddit dedicated to chronicling it: r/Phalanxed, which has over twelve thousand members.

Videos posted on r/Phalanxed depict Guardians being crushed into the ground, blasted into orbit, and otherwise mashed by the uncaring forces of physics across various game modes. The Cabal-focused Season of the Haunted has increased the frequency of these encounters, with Phalanxes turning Guardians into cartoon pancakes across the Derelict Leviathan. There’s even a bug I’ve encountered a few times affecting Cabal who are supposed to despawn during the Nightmare Containment activity which makes them completely immune to damage, thus creating an unkillable Super Phalanx. Forget the sins of your past — that’s the real Nightmare.

Cabal Phalanx Destiny 2

When I asked my Destiny 2 clanmates about their experiences with Cabal Phalanx-related deaths, they had plenty to share.

“Sometimes they don’t even have to swing at you,” says Lyro, a Destiny 2 player in my clan Ermahgerd Flermerngers. “There have been 6 or 7 times between Battlegrounds, Strikes, and Dungeons where they’ve simply turned around when I’m next to them and they shoulder checked me into next year.”

“I had a similar experience in Vow [of the Disciple] when a Taken Phalanx noticed me behind it, turned to face me, and I immediately died,” adds clanmate Erky. “It didn’t even swing the shield; just rotated. Dead. I was in the Castellum yesterday, 7 levels above the power level, 100 resilience. One shield swing, immediate death. Not knocked into a wall. Just dead.”

“Once,” another clanmate named Izzy tells me, “a Phalanx hit me into the ground so hard it killed both of us with the physics.”

Destiny 2‘s physics engine is notoriously glitchy, which clever players can sometimes exploit for fun tricks like sword skating and out-of-bounds exploration. Getting killed by the Architects, though, is probably most players’ main window into the game’s physics. It happens so much, in fact, that back when emblems were tied to specific stats, many players wanted once that tracked the number of times the Architects had gotten them.

For now, any sweeping change to Destiny 2‘s physics engine seems unlikely. It’s a quirk of the game’s age and technical limitations, one that players simply learn to deal with. And so, Cabal Phalanxes will likely continue flattening Guardians like so many anvils dropped in Looney Tunes cartoons well into the game’s future. After all, the power of Light and Darkness pales in comparison to the power of the Architects.