Anthem combat tips: Primers, Detonators & combos explained

Have you ever wondered why some abilities wipe enemies out of existence while others feel like you’re just pitching pebbles? Anthem may not have the most complex combat system in the world but there’s definitely more to combat than meets the eye. Unfortunately, the game does a pretty awful job at explaining all this, so that’s where we come in!

Dealing damage

Damage dealing abilities in Anthem can be divided into three basic types:

  • Primers: Denoted by a filled circle within a circle (below, top left).
  • Detonators: Normally denoted by a 4 pointed shuriken type symbol (below, top right).
  • Other: Basically any other ability. These do more generally damage than either a Primer or a Detonator alone but can’t match the damage output of a good combo (below, bottom left and right).
An example of a Primer, Detonator and two other abilities. It’s worth noting that the Lightning Coil can detonate combos, but isn’t labelled as a Detonator in game.

We’ve explained the first two damage ability types in greater detail below.


Generally, Primers will do the least damage of the three types, as the focus of these is to apply a status affect to the target. Per the in-game Cortex, the four types of status effects are:

  • Fire: Sets enemies on fire. Causes them to burn and take additional damage over time.
  • Ice: Freezes enemies. Restricts their movement for the duration of the effect.
  • Electrical: Electrifies enemies and turns them into conduits that disperse arcs of electricity and shock nearby enemies.
  • Acid: Lowers enemy resistances and increases their damage vulnerability.

It’s important to note that shielded enemies can’t receive a status effect, so be sure to break that shield first before trying to get them primed. Once primed, the enemy will have a symbol appear over their head to show what status has been applied and will receive a visual effect too.


Now you can hit them with a Detonator to set off a combo for a massive amount of damage and trigger the combo effect specific to your Javelin.


Each of the four Javelins has a different combo effect, and each can be useful in different situations. If you’re fighting a legendary enemy for example then the large single target damage from the Ranger combo effect, but if you’re being swarmed by trash mobs then the Area of Effect explosion from the Colossus combo effect will be far more useful.

The Storm combo effect is good all-round, too, as it spreads the status effect to other nearby enemies, potentially setting them up for another combo. The Interceptor misses out here a bit, unfortunately, as its combo effect applies an aura to the Javelin based on the targets status effect – not particularly helpful for group play.

General tips and tricks

Combat’s a large part of the gameplay loop at present, so it’s best to master what we’ve covered above. If you’ve got that all down, here are some additional hints:

  • If you’re looking to get the most out of your kit, it’s generally a good idea to make sure you’ve got a primer and a detonator in your gear. This allows you to make sure you can set up combos for yourself for that chunky damage, while still allowing room for teamplay when your abilities are on cooldown.
  • If you’re playing with a coordinated team, it’s normally best to let the Storm and the Colossus do the majority of the combo damage. These two Javelins have great complimentary effects, and will allow you to wipe out large groups of enemies quickly. Rangers should focus on finding and taking down more powerful enemies such as Legendary ones, as their high single target damage dispatches them quickly.
  • Three out of the four Javelins have melee attacks that are detonators, with only the Ranger having a melee primer. This gives Ranger players some more flexibility, allowing them to pack a Detonator/Other combo rather than the standard Primer/Detonator
  • If you’re playing as the Storm Javelin, be sure to use a primer that inflicts the Ice status affect. This makes for excellent crowd control when you pull off a combo, and allows others to combo off your combo and wipe the enemies out.
  • If you’re running an Interceptor Javelin then it’s a good idea to use a Venom Bomb as a primer, as this can apply the Acid status effect. Once you trigger this combo you’ll gain the Acid Aura, and your mere presence will lower the resistance of the enemies around you.
  • If you’re running a Colossus, well… watch this video from YouTuber Arekkz:

And that’s it! Have you been lucky enough to dive into Anthem yet? If not, are you thinking about picking it up? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to let us know if there’s anything else you’d like explained.

Anthem is available now on Windows PC and Xbox One and launches 22 February on PS4.

About the author

Hamish Lindsay

Avid reader and general geek, justifying the time I spend playing games by writing about them. I try not to discriminate by genre, but I remember story more than gameplay. I’ve been playing League for longer than Akali and I’m still Silver. Fallout 3 and MGS3 may be the pinnacle of gaming.