Episode 22: The Dawning, Sparrow Stats & Mechanics Explained (plus a Spreadsheet!)
There’s something special about this time of year.
Maybe it’s the roar of the crowd filling the air with magic as they cheer on the season’s big names, or the violent thrill of visceral joy that runs down a racer’s spine at watching another go careening toward certain death. Or maybe it’s heady scent of exhaust fumes and flaming engines wafting through the air, acrid and dizzying. It might even be the screams of alien pedestrians, unaware of the planned proceedings, scrambling to clear the track and mount some kind of defense before being run down.
Whatever it is that draws you to the League this year, there’s something about SRL that holds a special place in the hearts of all Guardians of The Last City. But enough fluff. You’re here to learn about the barely-stable mechanical steeds that will bear you to victory, and occasionally to catastrophic death.
Let’s get down to nuts and bolts, shall we?
Legendary Sparrow Breakdown
Almost every Guardian will choose to compete on a Legendary Sparrow because they are faster, more durable, and have superior abilities - Common and Uncommon Sparrows can’t Strafe, and even Rare Sparrows don’t have the Speed or Durability to match up. Beyond that, while all Sparrows have the Boost Perk, some Legendary Sparrows have Perks you can’t get on lesser machines, and you want those perks. Let’s break it down now: all Legendary Sparrows fall into one of three Classes.
Classic Sparrows include all Rare and Upgraded Rare Sparrows, the EV-34 Vector Infinite from the Refer A Friend Quest, the EV-40 Snowscream from the original SRL Quests, and the S-34 Ravensteel from the Year 1 Reward Package. Rare Sparrows are a bit slower and weaker, but all of the Legendary Sparrows in this class share the following stats except one:
Speed: 160 | Boost: 40 | Durability: 55
The one exception is the EV-40 Snowscream, which has Boost of 35, making it likely the worst Legendary Sparrow available for SRL. In addition to these stats, Classic Sparrows are defined by the following perks, which make them highly maneuverable.
Quick BrakeUse to brake and corner more aggressively.
Strafe ThrustersUse or and or for quick lateral movements.
Quick Brake puts your Sparrow into a highly maneuverable hover mode that lets you angle around corners nimbly. These Sparrows are great for running through indoor areas in Strikes when you’re looking to skip unnecessary fights, and their middle of the road stats make them decent but not great racers, too.
The second class of Sparrows discovered by Guardians, there are only two available Raid Sparrows in Destiny: The S-13 "Graverobber" from Crota’s End and the XV0 “Timebreaker” from Vault of Glass. Also in the database at various points, but never available that I know of are the F11 "Scavenger" from the Reef (unknown source), and the SV7 "Morrow's Gait" and SV7 "War Runner", apparently intended to drop from Trials of Osiris. These Sparrows have a very different Stat Spread from all others, and it’s really too bad we don’t have more of them to choose from.
Speed: 150 | Boost: 60 | Durability: 60
In PVE, this higher Boost can make a huge difference when navigating around the map, and that combined with their unique perks makes them the perfect choice for zooming around wide open Patrol zones and skipping past firefights in a number of strikes. Also very nice is the above average Durability, allowing you to bounce off walls and obstacles and keep on trucking. Now to the perks:
OverdriveHold to reach greater speeds, at some risk to your general well being.Strafe ThrustersUse or and or for quick lateral movements.
Overdrive is the perk that defines these Sparrows, and makes them truly special. The intended functionality is that you can hold down your second Trigger to engage Overdrive and briefly reach much higher speeds than normal. While you’re doing this, the tail light on your Sparrow, normally Green, will slowly change to Yellow and then Red. As it turns Red, you’ll start to hear a telltale beeping sound, and if you don’t let off the Overdrive, your Sparrow literally rips itself apart and explodes.
But there is another way.
Fun with Overdrive, or How to Properly Super Boost for Fun and Profit
By holding down Boost and pumping the Overdrive trigger at measured intervals, you can maintain and even exceed your normal Overdrive speed without destroying your Sparrow. It’s a bit like firing a Hand Cannon - you have to pace yourself. I find that slowly and steadily pumping the trigger works well, and staying aware of your tail light will keep you from risking exparrowsion. With some experimentation it’s very easy to get the hang of, and lots of fun!
Unfortunately (?), SRL caps all Sparrows at the same top speed, making Overdrive far less valuable than you might think at first glance. The high boost and rapid straight-line acceleration can still be extremely valuable for getting to top speed faster than your opponents, but the trade-off is that you can’t do tricks to refuel your Strafe Thrusters. Beyond that, these Sparrows just aren’t quite as maneuverable as their Classic and Trick competitors, so you have to really know the maps and position yourself well to take full advantage of them.
The bottom-line is that they make incredible racers, but require a skilled hand and considerable map knowledge to take full advantage.
Trick Sparrows were first introduced in Crota’s End, when the EV-30 Tumbler was given away as an incentive to purchase Crota’s End prior to January 15th (the source of no small consternation on Reddit and the Forums, at the time). It was unique for a long time, but has since expanded to become the largest class of Sparrows by far - e’erbody got tricks these days.
Aside from the Tumbler, other Trick Sparrows include: the EV-35 Arcrunner, EV-36 Solscout, EV-37 Voidstreak, EV-38 Laurelbearer, EV-39 Lumos, EV-43 Lightrunner, and EV-41 Momentum Master from the first Sparrow Racing League, the EV-42 Nightsteed, SR-0 Swiftriver, SR-1 Swiftriver, and Velumbra from various Quests, the Iron Gjallarwing from the Rise of Iron Preorder, and the S-35 Jealousy and Lost Broom from this year’s Festival of the Lost.
Continuing on, from various Vendor Packages you can also get Arecibo Answer, Days of Wind, Eternally Assured Destruction, Flamecourser, S-35 Aeon Glow, S-38 Regal Bearing, S-39 Autumn Glow, and the S-40 Iron Revelry. Additionally, the S-39 Lightrider also showed up in the database, appearing to be a Crucible Sparrow, but is not available that I know of. Finally, I also see the EV-31 Nightbird, EV-32 Snowblind, and EV-33 Dragonrider showing up in the database, and I know for sure the Nightbird is a reward from The Dawning record book, so we can guess that all three will be available soon.
Whew! I did mention there were a lot of them, right? All but five of these Trick Sparrows have the following stats:
Speed: 160 | Boost: 35 | Durability: 55
More on the exceptions in a bit. First, let’s take a look at their perks:
DestabilizersUse while airborne to release roll stabilizers, and to roll.
Strafe ThrustersUse or and or for quick lateral movements.
Although they lack the quick turns of Classic Sparrows, the Destabilizers do allow considerable maneuverability and this class is also much better at taking turns than the Raid Sparrows. The most important thing, though, is that having Destabilizers means they can do Tricks!
Indeed, as the section header suggests, they are the only Sparrows capable of doing Tricks, which in SRL means they’re able to refuel their Strafe Thrusters much faster and more consistently than other Sparrows that must rely only on hitting Boost Gates for fuel. The science is a bit sketchy (maybe Ghost converts applause into hydrogen, or whatever these things run on), but the end result is that they have a huge edge in maneuverability, making them the natural choice for racers of all stripes.
Get Tricky With It
How do you perform tricks, you ask? Easy! There are two ways:
Directional Pad Tricks
- DPad Up: No Hands
- DPad Down: Superman
- DPad Right: Right Can-Can
- DPad Left: Left Can-Can
These are easy to pull off and should be your go-to option when you're trying to win.
Trick Alternative: Right Trigger Rolls
By holding down the Right Trigger and manipulating your left joystick, you can roll in any direction, including diagonal, performing a variety of flips. You probably already know this, but be careful not to lose control. It’s easier than you think!
The Best Racing Sparrow(s)
Trick Sparrows seem to have a natural advantage in SRL thanks to "living for the applause", but they also have slightly lower boost than Classic Sparrows and much lower Boost than Raid Sparrows, muddying the decision making.
First, let's look at the best of the Trick Sparrows. I mentioned earlier than there are some Trick Sparrows that have different stats - most notably the SR-0 Swiftriver and SR-1 Swiftriver, two versions of the same Legendary Sparrow obtainable through the questlines "Make the Vanguard Smile" and "A Nod from Cayde", which you can start by talking to Amanda Holliday in the Hangar. The quests are explained in detail on Google, so I'll just give you the stats:
SR-0 Swiftriver, EV-31 Nightbird, EV-32 Snowblind, and EV-33 Dragonrider:
Speed: 150 | Boost: 35 | Durability: 50
These four are clear losers due to their lower Durability, but the SR-0 just needs to be upgraded to become this:
Speed: 160 | Boost: 40 | Durability: 55
Suddenly it's the best Trick Sparrow in the game: the SR-1 Swiftriver.
How much difference does that 5 points of boost make? Well, all Sparrows have the same top speed in SRL (the reason that Overdrive isn’t an instant win), but higher boost means you can get off the starting line faster and get back up to speed faster after slowing, turning, or crashing. That small edge can add up over the course of a race to carry you to victory.
With any luck, new Sparrows matching the SR-0 indicate that the SR-1 will be getting some good-looking competition for the top spot this year. But do these stats make this the best Racing Sparrow in the game?
On Redirect: In Favor of Pure Speed
/u/Trey_Mendus raises this point of contention: while Trick Sparrows will be most Guardians' vehicle of choice because they can refuel, the ridonkulous boost of the Raid Sparrows actually resulted in them earning the best times on last year's Tracks (which are returning). That said, and as he admits, having success with them takes a lot of practice. You need to know the maps, know the turns, be in the right position, and probably have a bit of luck on your side. It's the age-old argument of this game: raw effectiveness versus ease of use defines the meta.
Raid Sparrows can hit top speed faster, and thus complete the race sooner, but minimal Strafe power punishes mistakes. Classic Sparrows are incredibly easy to maneuver, but lack the high boost and endless strafe of the other archetypes. Trick Sparrows are the easiest to maneuver at speed since they can strafe all race long, but take longer to reach top speed (longer than Raid Sparrows, at least). Which is really "best"?
You'll have to make up your own mind.
Facts for Speedrunners
/u/Fro99ywo99y1knows what he's on about when it comes to the fastest Sparrows, and has shared some data for the benefit of all. He assures me that the Raid Sparrows hold the world records for Mars and Venus, and I believe him. For the curious, here are the times to beat:
On the Important of Strafe Thrusters (and Fuel for Them)
Thanks to /u/juttoo for suggesting I add this in! I should not have assumed newer players would understand the incredible value of refueling your strafe thrusters with every jump.
So you should already know that the left and right bumpers on your controller activate your Strafe Thrusters, bumping your Sparrow quickly a short distance in either direction (you can also do this with joystick clicks, but ugh, why?). This is SUPER useful in SRL for two main reasons.
- Sharp Turns at Speed: You can Strafe into a turn to cut your radius sharply as you round a corner, allowing you to maintain speed while turning on a dime. Conversely, you can also strafe the opposite direction to widen your turn radius when needed, which leads us to the second reason to strafe:
- Course Corrections: Strafing is the perfect tool for making small, quick course corrections to hit boost gates, dodge obstacles (or other Sparrows), hit jumps, shouldering opposing racers off cliffs or into walls, and any number of more rare situations in which a small shift to either side is advantageous.
In short, you do NOT want to run out of Strafe Thruster fuel unless you're not making mistakes.
*Note: Thanks to /u/APineappleR for reminding me that Boost Gates do replenish some fuel as well, so if you're hitting those consistently, you'll be able to strafe and boost on any Sparrow, to some degree.
Sparrows aren't a terribly complicated subject, but they are the subject of debate nonetheless. Hopefully this makes the whole thing really simple for everybody and helps out those looking to collect specific legendary Sparrows. Again, I will update the spreadsheet and post after new Sparrows become available, so check back later if that's what you're after.