Breathing life into the medium class

Hard times for the old trusty
I picked up the Wolverines last week to practice JJ SRM brawling as the SRMs receive their long-awaited fixes, last of which is coming next week. I admit I'm guilty of ignoring the Wolvy for a long time, thinking it was just another "generic" missile/energy mech, which we have plenty of in the medium bracket at the moment. Even worse, it's the ugliest looking mech in MWO in my eyes. Though as I played more, I realized this mech is superior to everything I owned for this role, with very few weaknesses. I was using a Treb-7M in this role before and the WVR-7K just blows it out of the water in pretty much every aspect. This led to me realize how "disruptive" the Phoenix mediums were for the medium bracket, which spawned this article in the end.

Let me begin by asking a question. If you had to choose an AC20 brawler medium today, which one would you bring? Would you bring a Hunchback with its gigantic hunch? Would you bring a Trebuchet-7K which is essentially a walking CT? Would you bring a YLW with its huge arm? I think we all know the answer, if you wanted a "proper" AC20 medium, you would bring a Shadowhawk. Not only you get rid of the obvious hitbox disadvantages like a hunch or a big arm, but you also get the added benefit of more armor, high mounted weaponry, better mobility with jumpjets and better overall hitboxes. You only lose slight torso mobility like turning radius and torso twist speed, but those are negligible compared to the overwhelming advantages.

The same is true for other roles as well. LRM boating, brawling, sniping and pretty much every other role has been taken over by the 55 tonners, with majority of them going to Phoenix mechs save for a few specific cases where Kintaros come ahead. This is indeed the case in public(and competitive) play, where you see lots of Phoenix mechs and less and less of other 50 tonners. I will keep the Cicada and Blackjack out of this argument as I believe they are filling special roles and doing a great job at them.

Why is this the case though, is it simply because they're 55 tonners? More armor and more tonnage for weapons, or is there something else that swayed all these players to Phoenix mechs? To get a bearing, lets' take a look at what these mechs have in common:
  • A decent amount of jumpjets
  • No obvious hitbox/geometry flaws, extremely tanky(less in the case of SHD)
  • High mounted hardpoints
  • High number if of hardpoints(6 for Griffin, 7 for Wolvy and Shadowhawk)
  • High engine cap

Basically, these mechs exhibit the most sought out perks in MWO without suffering from the most common disadvantages. Thanks to their numerous hardpoints and high engine cap, they can be outfitted for various roles, capable of switching from light hunter 100+ KPH builds to slow but extremely hard hitting builds. This plays for the whole "medium" philosophy as well.

The Shadowhawk is definitely the most flexible of them all, and thanks to numerious variants it can be played as ballistic support, LRM boat, poptart, JJ brawler, streak light hunter and probably a few more I'm missing. In my eyes, with the advantages I listed above, it instantly makes the Hunchbacks, Trebuchets, Centurions and even most of the Kintaros obsolete. If I include the Wolverine and Griffin which excel at energy/missile builds, the situation looks even grimmer for those mechs.

I ask again, why is this the case? Is it because PGI made these mechs intentionally OP? I think the reason is Hunchbacks, Centurions, Trebuchets and Kintaros are when all things considered, mediocre mechs. Yes, before Phoenix mechs arrived, these mechs had variants that filled specific roles and pretty much all of them were viable. Though most of these mechs suffered from severe drawbacks, ranging from hardpoint placement to severe hitbox and scaling problems. They were played not because they were doing a good job in these roles, but because there was simply no other option rather than going up to heavies or down to lights. Shadowhawks, Griffins and Wolverines on the other hand, are not only be able to fill these roles, but they are also great at these. The developers probably realized that the medium class lacked "workhorses" and avoided making the same mistakes with the new mediums. I think this is also why all the Saber mechs were mediums, they wanted to revitalize the medium class with an injection of several 55 ton mechs.

Before I end this article, I want to show you how disruptive these mechs have been in the medium class. Here's a selection of mechs that I'd bring for a role before Phoenix mechs arrived:

Big AC/Small AC brawler/support: HBK-4G, 4H, YLW, TBT-7K, (BJ-1 support only)
SRM brawler: KTO-18-19-20,TBT-7M, CN9-A-D, HBK-4SP
Laser boat/brawler: HBK-4P, CN9-AL, TBT-5J, Blackjacks
LRM boat: HBK-4J, CN9-A, Trebuchets, Kintaros
Poptart: JJ Blackjacks, Trebs but both are terrible options
Balanced builds(E+M+B): CN9-D-A
Light wannabe: Cicadas

and after:

Big AC/Small AC brawler: Shadowhawks, (and maybe a WVR-6R)
SRM brawler: SHD-2D2-2D, Griffins, Wolverines(except 6K)
Laser boat/brawler: SHD-2K, HBK-4P, Blackjacks, WVR-6R, GRF-1S
LRM boat: SHD-2D2, Griffins, Wolverines(except 6K), Kintaros
Poptart: Shadowhawks
Balanced builds(E+M+B): Shadowhawks, WVR-6K
Light wannabe: Cicadas

All things considered, this was a good thing for the medium class. The 50 tonners are mostly relegated to very niche or fun roles, while the Phoenix mechs take the leading role. The mediums are in a strong position with the new Phoenix mechs and can hold their own against heavily armed opponents. I've been seeing a lot more mediums on the battlefield ever since the Sabers unlocked for C-Bills which makes for more exciting and mobile matches.

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About Rak

I'm an engineer who likes to write extremely long articles about games that border simulation and mainstream.
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