Anthem: Understanding Combos, Primers, and their Detonators


Combos can be a tricky thing to understand for those just dipping their toes into the adventures Anthem has to offer. But fret not, we’re here to help you understand one of the single most important things to master during your stay in the world of Anthem – Combos.

One of the most important things about Anthem is knowing when and how to master the games Combos system. It’s the single most important thing within the games combat systems that affects not just your Javelin, but all those you will encounter.

To become successful in some of the games hardest moments, these combos will be the determining factor between success and that of failure. To help you understand how Primers and Detonators work, we’ve sat down and drawn up this little guide to help you get started.

Combos in Anthem are probably the single most important thing to master, at least in terms of successful combat. Since regular combat self is rather familiar – shooting guns, firing a few rockets here and there, charging in and punching an Outlaw in the face, it’s all familiar stuff – but much like Mass Effect, there’s something different to the game once you get the rhythm of combos down.


What are combos?

To get things started, Combos are your ability to combine specific types of equipment to the best of use. By doing this, you can prime enemies with an element of one sort or another, something similar to Mass Effect and its ability to use both Tech and Biotic abilities to combo together a massive and rather explosive boom that knocks your foes around.

The important part isn’t just that these Combos do massive damage to the immediate target, but rather, they can also help clear out waves of enemies once you learn what combos do what. Trust me. It’ll help a lot when things get serious in the end-game content. But, this is where the class of what Javelin you use also stands out from one another.

You’ll find that this system changes the game drastically and will help you build your Javelin to what you feel suits you best and is – at higher levels of play – what really gets those metaphorical juices flowing.


Infographic by FireDragon 04 | Anthem is copyrighted by Electronic Arts

What differentiates a Primer from a Detonator and those two from a Basic Attack?

For starters, you’ll find that there are three types of attacks in Anthem itself. You have Primer, Detonator, and Standard attacks. Each of them does a different effect on how you will damage an enemy minion. For instance, they might place a status effect on a target, making it so they take damage over time, freeze in place, or just simply do massive damage in a single spot.

However, each one, if used in a specific order, can cause a Combo to happen. This is where a Primer comes into play. As a Storm Javelin, you’ll find that Primers and Detonators are a default part of your kit. For Focus Seals, you’ll find your primers are extremely limited, using Frost Shards as your primary primer for Focus Seals while Blast Seals include the primers Ice Storm and Living Flame.

For Colossus, you’ll find that you have Heavy Assault Launchers such as Venom Spitter and the Flame Thrower as your primers; while Ordnance launchers such as Shock Coil serve as your detonator. While these are just two of the Javelin classes as examples, these abilities.

On the other hand, there are a plethora of Detonators you have at your disposal, which will deal massive damage when they trigger a Primer to do its job. That’s where you’ll turn to abilities such as the Siege Cannon modification for Heavy Assault Launcher for the Colossus or Burning Orb as a Focus Seal for the Storm Javelin.

While these sound super simple at first, you need to know, there are a couple of caveats to bear in mind when preparing to master the Combos system.


Pay Attention to the tooltips you will see on the screen

Here’s where things get a bit tricky with the combo system. Not every seal, heavy launcher, grenade, or special attack will Prime or Detonate a combo by any means. There are specific symbols on each of these equipment pieces that will tell you what they do. For example, Primers are highlighted with a circle-inside-a-circle type of symbol that identifies them as a primer.

Just as you might assume, Detonators are marked with a sideways Star, that indicates an explosion of some sort or another. While one also might assume that you can just slam on a Fire, Ice, Electric or Acid effect to set up a combo – that won’t always happen and it’s worth noting that it may be a waste of time unless you’re working with a squad to set up the perfect combo.

Due to this system, you need to know that it’s extremely important before we continue on. Unless you are the one that uses a Detonator on an enemy, you won’t get the Combo bonus effect towards your XP or your Ultimate charge. But it goes the other way as well. The primers effect on your target, once detonated, will need to be reprimed once its hit with a combo. You’ll find that you can do this the moment the status effect is no longer noted above their heads.

But there are Javelin specific Combo Bonuses that you need to be aware of. So let’s talk about that before we continue on.


Each Javelin has its very own Combo Bonus

Remember how I mentioned the other day in our guide titled “Things you need to know before starting Anthem” that each Javelin plays completely different? Well, this takes that tidbit to a whole other level. There’s a good reason why too.

Each Javelin will affect a Combo Bonus completely different from one or the other. For instance, the Ranger Javelin comes with the ability “Critical Target Damage” for its Como Bonus, which sees to it that the Ranger Javelin deals increased damage to a single target when a Combo happens.

On the other hand, The Colossus Javelin gets an “Area of Effect Explosion,” which sees to it that the Combo hits nearby enemies affected by the Colossus’ Combo. The Storm gets an “Area of Effect Spread,” which allows it to pass those elemental effects (something coming up in our Elemental Guide for Anthem) from the primary target to those around it.

Then there’s the Interceptor Javelin who gets “Aura,” which allows you the Aura effect that passes an elemental effect on the primary Combo target to the closest enemy to you. Now that that’s out of the way, it’s time to move on with our Combo guide.


Melee attacks can Prime or Detonator as well

Now, this is where combos get to be a lot of fun once you begin to master them. For the ranger, you have a primer, it’s electrical melee attack sets up a strong and massive blow to your opponent, allowing you to prep them for a massive shock to their system.

Since the Ranger Javelin is a single-target master, it’s best to consider having an Interceptor, Colossus, or Storm detonate your combo if there are numerous foes running about. Additionally, the Colossus and Storm both have Detonator melee attacks, allowing them to kit themselves out in Primer abilities depending on what they wish to accomplish.

Unfortunately, the Interceptor does not have a Detonator for their melee attack, making it so they can excel at their melee combos while using their abilities to trigger a Combo Bonus. Just remember, every Combo Bonus is quite different from one another and it will require you to prepare for Combo Bonuses with your squad with communication as a key talking point.

After all, in a single target fight, the Ranger and Interceptor will be your best bets for Combo Bonuses while the Colossus and Storm will excel in scenarios where hordes of enemies run amuck.


Due to the combo system, you’ll want more than a single build for your Javelins

One of the most important things I wish I’d thought of when I started was one I’d never have considered: Having multiple builds. I’ve had to opt for builds in solo-play in Freeplay while having another for both Stronghold and Quickplay matches.

In solo-play, my Storm, for example, is all about freezing groups of foes, dispatching them in a massive combo with Ice Storm and Glacial Freeze all at once only to generate a sizable explosion of ice. On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with building a Colossus with a build great for high single-target or area-of-effect damage.

On the other hand, having a second build for groups is even better. Say one of your friends only has Primers in their build and you have only said Detonators, it’ll balance out, allowing your group to work more cohesively when the difficulty bars are raised. But let me state this as well. Don’t be scared to run double Primers. With the Colossus, Storm, and Ranger all being able to offer a unique approach to Combo bonuses, consider changing up your Primers and Detonators based on the class you play.

Check out more of our Anthem guides today:

Anthem is now available for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

About the Writer:


Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.


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