**Data gathering is ongoing.
**Old data has been replaced with new data to reflect increased gear scores.


This guide will cover everything you need to know about leveling efficiently in the Underground. The guide is based on data collected from over 100 Operations using every difficulty setting. Varying party sizes and directive choices have been analyzed to find the best settings to meet your goals in the Underground.

XP needed for Ranking Up in the Underground

One of the most important findings about leveling up in the underground is the exponential rate at which XP increases. Leveling may seem fast for the first 10-15 levels but it will slow down quickly and you will want to increase your leveling efficiency to rank up more quickly. Here is a chart to illustrate the exponential XP requirements per level:

This reduced speed in leveling will mean that Underground Caches will be much harder to come by as you Rank up. Before you rush to opening all of your easily earned caches you should consider saving them up until you are a higher Gear Score. You want to be at least 225 Gear Score when you open your caches but this 225 Gear Score is not dependent on the items you have equipped but rather all of the items that you own (including items in your stash). Here is some cache opening data:

At 225 Gear Score the items found in Underground Caches are better

These results indicate that you should save up those Underground Caches until you are at least 225 Gear Score for guaranteed 268 gear and 229 weapons.

Choosing the Most Efficient Settings for Underground Operations


Choosing the proper difficulty level does depend on your Gear Score. Initial data showed that Normal Mode yielded much faster clear times than Hard and Challenging. At low Gear Score, it is still most efficient to run normal mode operations. As higher Gear Scores were obtained, the data showed good improvements in the clear times of Hard and Challenge mode while the clear times of normal mode did not see improvement. Heroic data was added for comparison.

Difficulty XP Average Clear Time XP per Min
Normal 500 4:55 102
Hard 750 6:28 116
Challenge 1000 15:18 65
Heroic 2275 24:17 94
Challenge/Heroic mode times do not include failures

In terms of leveling efficiency you will want to compare the experience of multi-phase Operations in combination with multiple directives to determine exactly how these clear times vary with difficulty level. The chart below is based on the assumption that clear times would not change significantly with the use of the two easiest directives. From this data it is apparent that Hard is the most efficient difficulty setting.

Difficulty XP (per Phase) XP per Min
Normal (1 Phase + 2 Directives) 650 132
Hard (2 Phase + 2 Directives) 1300 201
Challenging (2 Phase + 2 Directives) 1625 106
Heroic (2 Phase + 2 Directives) 2275 94
Assuming that clear times do not change when using directives, or that clear times scale proportionally

From the table above you can conclude that for Heroic and Challenge to be viable for efficiency purposes, their XP reward would need to roughly double. This double in XP would also not even consider the reduced efficiency from failed runs. A 30% failure rate in Heroic missions would mean that the XP would need to roughly triple for the risk to justify the reward.

Challenge and Heroic difficulty times do not include failures

Above is a chart with average clear times for each operation type in each difficulty setting. Run times are very consistent in terms of their clear speed relative to one another but the data shows an exponential increase in clear time as difficulty increases and there is a substantial difference between Hard and Challenge difficulty. Heroic runs were completed with 2 directives active but this is unlikely to have increased these run times significantly since Heroic runs are already slow and methodical.

Some Operations Are Faster than Others

Operations are supposed to be selected randomly but it appears that they are actually selected pseudo-randomly which means that you are unlikely to get the same Operation twice in a row. This can be used to your advantage on high difficulty settings by strategically cancelling longer missions in favor of faster missions. It has limited benefit for multi-phase operations, but some may find it useful.

Operation Clear Speed
Target of Opportunity 4:33
Supply Depot 5:18
Surgical Strike 5:59
Missing Patrol 6:24
Recover the Report 7:06
Critical infrastructure 9:26
Average clear speeds for Hard Operations

You can see in the table above that you can complete two Target of Opportunity Operations in the same amount of time as one Critical Infrastructure Operation for the same exact rewards. This data is from Hard operations and the difference is even greater at higher difficulty levels.

Can you gain XP faster by playing with friends or by playing solo?

Underground Operations are designed to scale with the number of players in your party. This means that if you go in solo your enemies should have lower health (or there should be fewer enemies) than if you went in with a full squad of 4 players. The goal here was to determine how effectively they achieved balance in tuning these Operations to Scale with the number of players. The theory should be that more players make runs go faster because abilities synergize well (Pulse / Sentry's Call ). Here is the data to compare Normal mode operations and Hard Mode Operations by Party Size:

Average clear time decrease as party size increases

The results here show that it is more efficient to level up when playing with a larger party size. The difference between playing solo and playing with a group of 4 is approximately a 15% difference. You will definitely level faster playing with others, but solo players may feel good knowing that the inefficiency is not substantial. Data was not taken above Hard difficult with less than 4 players since the risk of failure is too great and the data would not be valuable for the majority of players.

Party Size and Difficulty Data Combined and Analyzed for Efficiency

As mentioned before, Challenge and Heroic should only be completed with a party of 4 to reduce the risk of failure so this data is not included here. The chart below allows you to see the trends which have already been discussed. Efficiency increases with party size and peaks at Hard difficulty. This data is extrapolated for 2 Phases and 2 Directives and assumes that run times do not change significantly with the addition of the two easiest directives (Fog of War + Waste Not Want Not ).

Failures are not considered in Heroic and Challenge data so their realistic efficiency is actually lower

How should you choose your Directives?

Choosing your directives will depend on you end game goals. A hardcore player may want to save all of their directives for Heroic Operations so that they guarantee themselves 268 Gear Set items. A player who is not interested in Heroic Operations will want to use their directives on Hard Operations (2+ phases) since this will increase their XP gain which will earn them Underground Caches faster. Intel (the currency needed for directives) is easy to earn so only the most hardcore players will want to save it up. Similar to HVT operations you can have other party members use their intel if you ever run out.

Once you have decided to use directives you must choose which ones to use. The negative aspects of using certain directives can be reduced by setting up your team with certain abilities which counter their effects. An obvious counter to the Fog of War Directive (removes your radar) is using the Pulse ability which allows you to see enemies through walls. The table below shows you the abilities you can use to counteract each directive. Unfortunately, the Mad Skills directive is difficult to counter and the average player should be avoid using it at all costs (unless you want a real challenge).

Directive How to Counter Level of Difficulty
Fog of War Pulse Easiest
Waste Not Want Not Support Station (Ammo Cache) |
Special Forces Support Station (Immunizer) |
Sickness First Aid + Support Station |
Mad Skills Triage + Coolheaded Hardest
Directives ranked in order of difficulty level

How many directives should you use at one time?

Stacking multiple directives at a time gives you bonus XP and also loot rewards. Since directives scale based on percentages, using a directive in harder difficulty earns you more XP because 10% of 1000 is more than 10% of 500. Here is a table which shows you the benefits:

Number of Directives XP Bonus XP Bonus (cumulative) Reward
1 +10% 10% High-End Gear
2 +20% 30% Weapon
3 +14% 44% Gear Set
4 +26% 70% Gear Set + Weapon
5 +30% 100% 2x Gear Set + Weapon
Rewards for completing Underground Operations with Directives

The important thing to note here is that a large jump in XP occurs when using 2 directives. While you are below level 25 this means that using 2 directives (Fog of War + Waste Not Want Not ) is most efficient for XP. After you reach level 25 you unlock Special Forces which is very easy to counter by using Support Station (Immunizer) . This will allow you to use 3 directives (Fog of War + Waste Not Want Not + Special Forces ) which award you a Gear Set item as a completion reward. You should never use directives one at a time and you should not exceed using 3 directives at time. The 4 directive XP is good but the weapon is likely not worth it since they drop frequently.

Number of Directives
0 1 2 3 4 5
1 Phase Normal 500 550 650 720 850 1000
Hard 750 825 975 1080 1275 1500
Challenge 1000 1100 1300 1440 1700 2000
2 Phase Hard 2000 2200 2600 2880 3400 4000
Challenge 2500 2750 3250 3600 4250 5000
Heroic 3500 3850 4550 5040 5950 7000
3 Phase Hard 3000 3300 3900 4320 5100 6000
Challenge 4000 4400 5200 5760 6800 8000
Heroic 6000 6600 7800 8640 10200 12000
XP table for Underground Operations with multiple directives

When you divide the XP reward by the number of phases you can get a chart for “XP per Phase” (see chart below). This is the true XP table that you should use. The most interesting thing about this is that: Hard (2 Phase) = Hard (3 Phase) = Challenge (1 Phase)

Number of Directives
0 1 2 3 4 5
Normal 1 Phase 500 550 650 720 850 1000
Hard 1 Phase 750 825 975 1080 1275 1500
2 Phase 1000 1100 1300 1440 1700 2000
3 Phase 1000 1100 1300 1440 1700 2000
Challenge 1 Phase 1000 1100 1300 1440 1700 2000
2 Phase 1250 1375 1625 1800 2125 2500
3 Phase 1333 1467 1377 1920 2267 2667
Heroic 2 Phase 1750 1925 2275 2520 2975 3500
3 Phase 2000 2200 2600 2880 3400 4000
Normalized XP “per phase” – the true XP table

This means that there is no XP benefit at all for doing Hard (3 Phase) compared to Hard (2 Phase) except for the lack of an additional loading screen. A developer commented that you have a chance to get Challenge level loot from Hard (3 Phase) but it is only a chance, and the loot is probably not needed. In the same sense, instead of Challenging (1 Phase) you can do Hard (2 phase) for the same amount of XP but in a much shorter clear time and with a lower risk of failure.

Closing Remarks

The purpose of this guide is to provide “averages” for leveling efficiency rather than “best case scenario” or “my fastest clear time ever”. Some of you may have better times and that is expected to vary based on the skill of your group, the gear of your group, the coordination of your group, and the specific operation.

A very important point to make about Challenge/Heroic difficulty is that there is a possibility (depending on the skill of your group) that you may fail the operation. You may also experience setbacks from having players die in inconvenient locations which forces you to clear multiple groups of enemies without a full squad alive. These situations are uniquely associated with higher difficulty content and should be evaluated at a personal level to determine your true efficiency. Failures were excluded from this data since it will vary highly depending upon your skill level.

The averages were calculated by using averages times from each operation individually first. For example, if there were 5 runs for Target of Opportunity (Normal) then those 5 runs were averaged to get the average clear time of Target of Opportunity (Normal). This was done for each other Operation at this difficulty. This allowed each operation to weigh equally when determining the average for Normal Mode Operations. This removed errors from getting a large string of “east/fast” operations in a row. For example, if there were 8 Target of Opportunity runs out of a data set of 10 Normal mode runs then the data would be primarily representing Target of Opportunity clear speed rather than the average Normal mode clear speed and this would be erroneous.

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