Making it rain: or how I stopped worrying and learned to love LRM boats

"You get a NARC. He gets a NARC. Everybody gets a NARC!"
A few days ago, I was doing artillery— and airstrike—only matches in a quest to find out how much extra damage one gets from the use of these consumables (it was about 323, if you're wondering). Forbidden to use my main weapons, I was feeling pretty useless after spending my artillery and airstrike. That's why I started bringing a TAG, NARC and a UAV module in order to help my team indirectly. This worked out much better than I expected—so much that I played good two hour session with my dedicated NARC lights, cutting well into my sleep. You must be thinking "What the hell, how could playing MWO with minimal weapons be so fun? Isn't the whole purpose of this game to shoot stuff until it dies?" Well, it so happens that the act of getting someone killed is actually more fun than doing it yourself. Let me explain.

The life of an LRM boat

It can't be stressed enough.
In the public queue, LRM boats are a common sight, perhaps too common for some. How often do drop into a match where the first line of chat is "press R for LRM rain?" The number of LRM boats has been boosted by the LRM buffs in the recent months and perhaps by the previous Assault champion, which introduced a lot of people to this game by putting them in an LRM boat. Most of the time, these 'Mechs are frowned upon, seen as a waste of an Assault or Heavy spot and a generally "low skill" way to play this game. They're primaried early in order to keep the LRM rain to a minimum and are usually actively hunted by light packs. Though, when presented with a target-rich environment, even a single LRM boat can devastate entire teams by forcing them into cover, ready to be digested by your team.

Even so, they rarely get to use their full potential. Remember that "keep your locks!" chat line? It's just an expression of desperation in the tough world of LRM boats. Friendly locks are often erratic and don't last long enough for an effective barrage. The enemy team usually has multiple ECM 'Mechs covering their team or their position doesn't allow for good locks. This forces them to lock their own targets by exposing themselves, which results in rather fast deaths. In a perfect world, LRM boats are best utilized in cover, hidden from the enemy brawlers and snipers, with dedicated spotters and callers directing fire. Every moment spent with your LRM boats not firing is another moment they're being completely useless.

Another thing to consider is the previous buff to NARC. Right now, they're not destroyed after a laughable amount of damage to the host 'Mech. Best of all, they disable the ECM of 'Mechs they latch onto. They also last 20 seconds. The only way to get rid of their effects is to go under ECM umbrella. If you don't have an ECM 'Mech nearby or you [i]are[/i] the ECM 'Mech, your best hope is to dash for cover. Running away is barely effective, since NARC increases the tracking of LRMs by 50%, which makes them more maneuverable. Even in a light, you're not safe.

Making it rain

Step one: find an unsuspecting target (an annoying ERLL Raven, in this case).
Step two: watch it disintegrate. Video of the event

With these in mind, now you and your tiny ECM equipped NARC 'Mech come into play. You warn your team in chat about focusing fire on your NARCs and start looking for your first prey. You find an unsuspecting target and silently NARC him. When the missile icon pops up over the target box and a stream of friendly LRMs is on its way, you suddenly realize you are in control. Those missile boats work for you. They want quality locks and you want control. You complement each other and form the ultimate fire-support platform. The target panics and dashes for cover, removing an enemy from front line. Yesterday, I single-handedly boosted several LRM boats above 1000 damage and turned several stalemates into steamrolls for our team. In your "useless" non-combat 'Mech, you can make all the difference. Even if anyone is foolish enough to disturb your hunt, you just NARC them and watch them melt in front of your eyes.

A NARC beacon doesn't give a warning to its target and its rocket doesn't give off smoke, so it's really easy to be stealthy with it. Most of the pilots think it's a just lucky lock on them and slide back into cover, wait a few seconds and see that missiles are still hitting them. Then they look for a UAV and only after that do they realize it is a NARC. But by then it is too late and the damage is done. It's really fun to watch how people react to this rarely used gadget in MWO.

I can hear you saying "it sounds good, but spotter 'Mechs don't make any C-Bills!" That's not the case anymore since spotting and TAG/NARC bonuses were added. You will be getting both of these bonuses every time an LRM stream hits an enemy 'Mech. Throw in a decent amount of assists with your backup weapon and you should easily break 100k per match.


Make your presence known at round start. Let your team know that they have a dedicated spotter and tell them to focus on your NARCed targets. At round start, don't risk yourself unnecessarily. You will be needed as long as your LRM boats are up and running, so don't get overeager over a single target.

The rest is pretty straightforward. Be as sneaky as possible and don't forget that the act of NARCing is completely silent. At 750m, the range of a NARC beacon is perfect for long range tagging, but the slow projectile speed requires some getting used to. At 12 rounds per ton, you can't afford to waste more than a few. Only NARC completely stationary targets at range and the rest at close to medium ranges.

If there are multiple ECM 'Mechs present, your NARCs will be pretty useless. In these situations pop a UAV over the enemy main group and let your LRM boats focus ECM 'Mechs. Otherwise you will have to stalk the flanks of the enemy team to find 'Mechs out of ECM coverage. If everything fails, you will have to NARC all of the ECM 'Mechs and keep it that way until they are taken down by your LRM boats.

Target high-value targets early, especially poptarts and glass cannons like dual Gauss and AC40 'Mechs. Since they tend to rush ahead of their team to get clear shots, they are easier to target. A NARC also means a 20-second cover sentence for any mech, putting it out of combat. Use this to your advantage. My favorite tactic is to NARC an enemy, push them into cover and drop an artillery strike on them. This leaves them in a dilemma. Do they go out and get peppered by LRMs or do they stay and bear the artillery fire? Either way, they lose.


You will get thanked by your team a lot. It's really rare to get compliments in MWO and this is one of the few ways to get them regularly. It works both ways, though. You will also spark lengthy discussions ranging from your sexual orientation to how LRMs are no-skill weapons killing MWO.

Both ways indeed.


I have to stress this isn't a risk-free, works-every-time style of gameplay. Public matches are quite random when it comes to team compositions and naturally, sometimes you just don't get enough LRM tubes on your team to make a difference. That's why you need other consumables like artillery and airstrike to make up for your lack of firepower. You should also bring at least one back-up weapon to fend off attacks and kill that occasional weak 'Mech. NARCs still prove to be useful in these occasions since NARCed 'Mechs are always visible on friendly screens. It is a great way to track enemy movement.

Maps are a part of the public randomness as well. Some maps have little to no cover while others are rich with hiding opportunities. For example, NARCing is most effective on Caustic, since the teams are usually quite close, with zero cover from LRMs near the caldera. On the other hand, NARCing in Terra Therma is a nightmare because of the tall volcanic rocks all over the map. Still, if the LRM boat knows what it's doing, it can also position itself for better LRM trajectory.

The LRM pilot skill is also important. You heard it right, skill with LRM boats. Spotting and picking your NARCed 'Mechs through a sea of bad locks is the first quality they have to have. Some of them don't even know what a NARC icon means or simply won't trust somebody else's locks. Some will take a good 10 seconds to aim and lock onto your targets. Some of them will get themselves killed early by enemy fast-movers because they were too focused on your targets and so on. Most of them will keep wasting ammo on targets behind cover as well.

Still, all of this randomness only make this style of gameplay more addicting. Some games, your team will be dead before they have a chance to fire a single LRM. Some games, your NARCs will absolutely demolish the enemy.

But what about TAG?

I really dislike TAGs on light 'Mechs. They give away your position, require 100% time on target, force you to stay relatively still and lead to premature deaths by poptarts or dual gauss 'Mechs. NARCs in their current form are much, much better for a light spotter.


If you want to use a NARC, you basically have two options: Raven-3L and Commando-2D. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. The Raven has more armor, a godly turning radius, a higher mounted NARC launcher and can bring heavier back-up weapons, but its legs tend to combust spontaneously. The Commando has a much smaller profile and is easier to sneak up on people with. It also enjoys balanced hitboxes and has arms that tend to catch incoming fire. But it's hurt by its tonnage.

The following builds are what I'm currently running. Though whatever you do, don't forget to bring two tons of NARC ammo. If you want to be extra helpful (and risk not making C-Bills in the progress) you should also bring the artillery, airstrike and UAV modules with you.


It doesn't work with every map and it doesn't work with every team. Sooner or later though, you will finally get that game where you get to decide who lives and who dies. The chat will be filled with the tears of your enemy and compliments from your LRM boats. The scoreboard will show several LRM boats with ridiculous damage and a seemingly useless light under 100 damage. Yet, that light will be laughing his ass off, and will be craving for another match like this.

P.S. Try this with your friends—it will be even better.
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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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