My Inner Sphere deck for Community Warfare

This is a long, long article. Therefore I decided to include this small TOC to make it easier to jump where you last left off.
  1. Introduction
  2. Setting the priorities straight — The art of trading
  3. Deciding on the 'Mechs
  4. Finalized deck
  5. Demonstration

Introduction

Somebody has to clean up this mess
When we first switched to the Inner Sphere side, I was lost for a while. There are so many things you can do with the IS 'Mechs compared to the Clans and I just didn't know what I wanted to do! Do I make a ballistic deck and use the sweet sweet IS (U)AC5's? Do I go for IS laser vomits? Do I make sick brawler decks unleashing unbearable AC/SRM volleys? Do I make a combination of everything? Having decided my weapons, which 'Mechs do I bring? How about quirks? So many questions were in need of an answer and my unit only had a two week contract with the Steiner before the Tukayyid event.

Being riddled by these questions, I sought a safe harbor in order to make a start. I have been running IS Assaults with various pulse laser builds in the solo queue and have been doing extremely well with them. To the point when it was "business time", I was bringing my trusty Battlemasters/Banshees to fight against hordes of Dires, Timbers and Stormcrows. Therefore it made perfect sense to start out with these 'Mechs as the focal point of my decks.

Setting the priorities straight — The art of trading

Before I move on, I'd like to emphasize a key aspect in CW; trading. CW is a game of trading and if you're trading better then your opponents, then you're contributing well to the fight. If your team is outtrading your enemies, then you're winning. When you build your decks with trading in mind then you're setting yourself on the right path. The definition of trading in MWO is simply dealing more damage than you take. For example, the poptart was superior to everything because they completely shafted the trading aspect of the game, they were dealing crippling alphas while taking very little damage in return. Some 'Mechs are also notoriously bad because they just don't have the means to properly trade from cover. Such examples are the beloved Gargoyle and the Orion.

If we're thinking about making a good trader deck, what should we looking for? What 'Mechs should be use and which weapon systems? Let's try to decide:
  1. First, a good trader should have minimum face-time. Yes, IS ballistics are awesome but the ones with range (AC2, (U)AC5) force you to stare at your opponents, leaving you vulnerable to retaliation and possible to multiple opponents. Mass ballistics beat lasers in certain situations and maps but as a "self sufficient" deck, they're not a good option. Plus, ammo dependency really hurts in CW and most 'Mechs have to be discarded after they run out of ammo. Gauss is an exception as a sniping weapon though. 

    I'm completely ruling out LRMs outside 12-man decks with clearly defined roles for each person. LRM decks perform extremely poorly against decent opponents in CW and they're easily defeated. SRMs are actually very good trading weapons as they're fire and forget, but if the enemy refuses to close the range then you just have to sit there and hope they'll change their minds. On some maps they have to get close, but on some maps they can just turtle at range.

    Lasers on the other hand, are always useful. They're the bread and butter of the CW. They have no ammo dependency, good range and around one second of face time but even that is sometimes too long. The Clans have longer reaching lasers and a godly weapon known as "C-LPL" that works great at all ranges. Despite the range and damage advantage, Clan lasers burn longer and cost much more heat. Also considering there's a lack of Clan 'Mechs with high mounted laser hardpoints except the HBR (which is quite fragile) and the TBR-A (which is not common and paywalled), they require more exposure.

    IS lasers on the other hand are similar in the damage department and they burn much shorter, but they have range problems. The keyword here is "burn much shorter". That means significantly less time of exposure than Clan 'Mechs. On top these base stats, some 'Mechs also take these base stats and take them even further with quirks. On some 'Mechs you can get 20-25% less burn time for some lasers which is absolutely insane when taken advantage of. You can peek, get spotted and get shot on but still dump 40-50 alpha to a Clan 'Mech and just duck/twist when they're still in mid-burn.

  2. Second, we want high-mounted hardpoints. I can't stress how important this is for trading. With high-mounted hardpoints you can shoot what you see, while keeping 80-90% of your 'Mech in cover. Depending on the range (the longer the range, the less the hardpoint location matter), the enemy may not even be able to retaliate due to their weapons being low mounted. You can pull off 100% efficient trades while the enemy helplessly shoots the ground.

  3. Third, we want high torso-twist rates and acceleration/deceleration for defense against incoming fire. You might have the shortest burning lasers, but if they're mounted on a 'Mech that takes ages to twist you still won't get good trades. We want something that can pop-up and go back into cover swiftly and torso twist effortlessly. It should at least be able to twist >90° and should be able to pop-up and back down in cover during the cooldown of its main weapon.

So many demands! How do we achieve these? Well, not without sacrifices. Take a deep breath before moving on because I'm going to suggest something terrible.

Deciding on the 'Mechs

There are a few monstrous IS 'Mechs that fulfill the criteria above. In CW I started to classify my 'Mechs as "tankers" and "damage dealers". Tankers don't trade well, but they're extremely hard to bring down, frustrating and heating up the enemies in turn. Damage dealers specialize in dealing silly amounts of damage but they're not necessarily hard to bring down. For example the Thunderbolts are amazing tankers, but they have to expose themselves almost fully to do damage, making them mediocre traders. They do well in mass pushes where exposure is not a factor in the sea of 'Mechs, but as soon as the push bogs down and the trench-warfare begins, this is not a 'Mech you want to be in. The old 9S was the best of the both worlds, but it has since been nerfed after wild profileration.

I personally decided to bring 3 damage dealers and one tanker. In EVE Online there's an old saying that says "gank is better than tank", meaning after a certain threshold dealing more damage is more useful than having more protection. It's better to blow holes in your opponent than having a thick armor but less firepower. The same thinking is also valid in MWO and especially CW. When you can quickly and precisely core/disarm enemies and at least force them on to defensive, you automatically reduce the damage they're outputting, which let's you be more liberal with how much tank you bring.

Why one tanker though? Simple enough, it's sometimes necessary. I rarely get to use my tankers as the matches are usually won with the first three 'Mechs. Though, there are times when your teammates have spent their larger 'Mechs and are down to lights. In these situations you might want to switch to your tanker to soak damage for your teammates.

I can hear you saying "So, a full-gank fit with two STK-4N's and two Firestarters right?". Well, not quite. Laser Stalkers are extremely good traders, but they lack the mobility outlined above. They're sentenced to be sluggish due to the low-engine cap, meaning they can't quickly maneuver around the battlefield and react to fast-moving Clan 'Mechs. These 'Mechs are also known to be notoriously tanky due to their shape and hitboxes. Their blessing is also a curse though. Tiny T-Rex arms with massive 56 armor buffer are completely useless because the Stalker almost exclusively tanks with its side torsos. This means when you get competent opponents with good aim expect to be disarmed fairly easily. The Stalker's limited torso twist also means you have little chance of dictating what gets hit. It's a hard 'Mech to kill, but definitely an easy 'Mech to disarm.

I'm also not a fan of bringing lights to CW. My unit doesn't do light rushes/waves and without those uses the lights simply lack the range and the damage output compared to a well-rounded assault-heavy-medium deck. The RVN-2X comes close but that thing is just too fragile and people are slowly learning to prioritize them.

If you've been following my blog, you probably know what's coming. Let's look what I came up with:

Damage dealer candidates
  • BNC-3M: For me, this 'Mech is the best IS Assault you can bring to CW. It takes some care to
    spread damage (it's tends to get cored otherwise), but nothing outtrades this bad boy when outfitted with LPLs. Occupying the lower slots with SLs you can push the LPLs to the shoulders which gives you hillhumping potential akin to a Stalker. It gets some nice quirks with the 10% laser heat reduction and 10% laser duration reduction being the most important ones. With the SL's occupying the lower slots, you can have 5 lasers on your shoulders that can be outfitted by LPLs.

  • Using a big engine (even with an XL) and some getting used to, this 'Mech is also a tough nut to crack. You can dictate where you take damage very easily and twist at insane speeds for a 95 tonner assault. Its completely useless arms buffer tons of damage almost effortlessly and they're especially useful at catching surprise shots from unexpected angles.
    Big engines also allow you to cram a good amount of DHS into this, making it an extremely cool 'Mech to run. Unlike a Clan laser vomit that overheats after 2 alphas and has to back off, you can use your LPLs repeatedly for a long time.
  • BLR-1G: This is essentially a Stalker with gorilla arms, higher engine-cap and insane quirks.
    It gets every quirk the BNC-3M gets, but it adds insane ML quirks instead. It has 20% heat, duration and range quirks for the ML. These quirks transform the ML to an MPL that hits all the way to 353 meters. The extra range and less duration also makes your MLs synergize with LPLs in terms of duration and range as well, making it perfect for CW. 
    Its energy hardpoint locations are simply amazing if you ignore the arms (and you should). Two of the hardpoints are even located higher than the cockpit. This is simply an amazing hillhumper.
    Just like the BNC, the BLR can be made into a very heat-efficient and maneuverable killer with the use of bigger engines. I talked about this before, but with the use of big XL engines, its arms and side torsos start to tank significantly which helps its survivability a ton. Smaller engines makes torso twist unresponsive and it tends to get cored easily in the CT. So in a way, having a big XL actually helps it become a better tanker. However, limited torso twist seriously hurts this 'Mech in some situations (especially when tracking targets).
    The 3S can be considered as a more heat-efficient pulseboat alternative with better torso twist, but remember that your MPLs won't have the reach the quirked MLs have, which makes it a worse candidate for CW.
  • BJ-1X: If BNC-3M is Eddard Stark and "King in the North", the BJ-1X can be described as
    "Queen of the Inner Sphere, Star League and the Terra, Lord of the Periphery and the Inner Sphere, Master of the lasers and the destroyer of Clans". It's ML quirks in the 20% range transform this to a dirty hillhumper/peeker that hits extremely hard up to 350 meters. With the maximum engine it's also very fast and thanks to its balanced hitboxes and tiny profile, a fast BJ is very survivable in your typical Clan laser vomit shower.
    It can use 6 extremely high and 2 high mounted lasers and combined with the duration reductions and mobility, it's very easy to keep picking on opponents who have no chance of hitting you back. Both in CW and in the group/solo queue this thing rips apart anything in capable hands. Being a tiny and "harmless" Blackjack, it is also often ignored in favor of bigger and juicier teammates. Seriously nobody shoots a BJ next to a TDR and if someone does, know that that pilot knows what's up and must die first. It truly is a hidden treasure in the medium Class. Costing only 45 tons, it allows you to bring a beefier heavy/assault as well.
  • BJ-1DC: To be honest, I currently don't have this 'Mech (but I will by the time we switch to IS again) as I just didn't want another BJ with AC2 quirks. However my teammates use it a lot on longer ranged maps like Boreal instead of the 1X. It doesn't get godly quirks for its MLs, but it instead has global laser quirks in the 15% range. So 15% duration reduction and range, which makes it excellent for 3xERLL poking at extreme ranges. You can actually duke it out with ditty Clanners using C-ERLLs at range with this.
Tanker candidates
  • Thunderbolt: The obvious. I prefer the 5SS due to its damage potential, but 9SE is also a valid choice if you prefer more range. Don't expect much damage out of these, but you will do your team a service because these 'Mechs are a pain in the ass to take down.
  • Orion: It tanks better than the TDR, but it's less mobile and is easier disarmed. Don't let that discourage you though as these 'Mechs can bring a lot of pain at all ranges. I presonally prefer the V for ridiculous laser bonuses and the Protector for longer ranged poking.
Unfortunately these are the only options for tanking in the heavy bracket. The rest of the IS heavies have the tendency of dropping dead at first sight of trouble.

Finalized builds and the deck

At this point I can hear you saying "Stop teasing! Give us the good stuff already!". Remember me talking about taking a deep breath? Now do it again. Here we go!

First drop: BNC-3M (95t) or BLR-1G (85t)

The first drop sets the tone for the rest of the match and what better way to set the tone than bringing something that has the potential to single-handedly take out dozens of enemies? Here's what I use:



At first, I was very reluctant to bring XL Banshee's to the CW. Then I saw how some of my teammates were tanking their XL Banshees to sub 20% integrity regularly and I changed my mind. Some people like to play this with 5xLPLs and an XL380, but I opt for 4xLPLs and a bit of extra speed. What matters is bringing those shoulder LPLs. When you get into the rhythm of alternating the shoulder groups perfectly, you can output hundreds of damage in just a few seconds. The SLs serve to bump the LPLs to the shoulder hardpoints. I've had a few good laughs from the occasional SL kill though.

This 'Mech fulfills every single trading criteria outlined above. Try to hang-out near cover you can use to conceal your torso, use your lasers quickly and immediately twist while backing down into cover. Repeat this tens of times during a match and you'll find that the enemies start to drop pretty quickly. Unlike other assaults with similar tonnage, your 3M has the mobility to keep up with the team. If a push is called, you can be at the front and if it's time to GTFO, you can actually save your 95 tonner for the next wave instead of being left to fend for yourself.

A stable aim is incredibly important with this 'Mech. Remember that your LPLs output a lot of damage in a very short time. This means with a precise burn you can surgically disable your opponents. You should be always aiming for the weak parts of your opponents instead of just shooting in their general direction.

If you're uncomfortable with using an XL engine, you can use the STD build. Though I really don't recommend using a laser BNC with sub-360 engines. I feel like it really comes to life after some 360.


I'm sorry BNC lovers, but I love this thing even more than the LPL 3M. Despite the torso twist disadvantage, the 1G is simply godly when it comes to damage delivery. You can alpha 3xLPL+3xML combo 5 times for 220 damage before shutting down and due to the quirks this thing gets, they hit incredibly hard. Anything not torso twisting in time absolutely melts. You can dump your lasers in about 0.6 seconds and promptly twist away while the silly Clanners are still in mid-burn. It's simply a better precision cutting machine than the BNC.

You'll need to do some significant legwork to offset the limited torso twist angle. This means you need to anticipate where you'll need to shoot and preemptively turn your body towards there to allow for some torso twist range. It's very annoying to begin a burn only to mess up your aim because you reached the torso twist limit.

Again, if you must have a STD engine then check out this build. It trades an LPL for a bigger engine, bit it still hits pretty hard while having a 73KPH speed.

Second and third drop: BJ-1X (45t)

You read it right, second and third. This thing is so good that I went ahead and bought another one, my first non-reward duplicate 'Mech. I just can't describe you how good this is here. You either have to watch someone play it or do it yourself. Before using more superlatives, take a look at the build:


Do you see the DPS number there? Now, let's consider 20% less ML duration, 32% cooldown reduction (with the module) is not factored in there and you get the idea. You can alpha 6xML+2xMPL without ghost heat and considering you get 20% heat reduction for MLs which is already a very heat-efficient weapon at 4 heat per burn, you can just repeatedly dump 42 alphas over and over and over again until everything stops moving. It's simply amazing and I'm actually amazed that the 1X is being ignored so much in CW. I'd put it on par with the SCR if not better in terms of being "HOLY FUCK WHY WON'T THIS DIE", "OH GOD THAT ALPHA FUCKED ME UP" and "CAN'T RUN AWAY SOMEONE HE— NOT THE LEG YOU BASTARD!".

At 116KPH it's also very speedy. I especially love killing Stormcrows with these and I actually dubbed it "the Stormcrow killer". You can outrun them and beat them at their own game: speed tanking. It's so hard for laser-vomit SCR's to track your movements with those long-burning Clan lasers, while your MLs and MPLs rapidly tear them apart. Just avoid the Streakcrows as they will rapidly dismantle you. The speed also allows you to quickly reinforce pushes and make sure you have as little downtime as possible. 

I broke 2000 damage with a single one of these several times in CW. When left unattended, these things just tear everything up and surprisingly they are often ignored in favor of meatier opponents as I said above. Unlike the FS9 with its similar performance and quirks, the BJ is perfectly suited for trench warfare/trading. It has 8 high mounted hardpoints, 353m of ML range and it can just hillhump all day long. Just don't try to trade over your maximum range (I'd put it at 450-500m). 

So far, only one enemy team made it alive after me using two of these and I only had 2 of my teammates in a very puggy game that match. Buy it embrace it, but don't tell your friends about it. I'll seriously be very sad if PGI finds out about this. I'm not worrying much since nobody made it this far below the article. Right? Right?!

Last / optional / "Are we seriously losing?!" drop: TDR (65t) or an ON1 (75t)

If I'm reaching for the last option, I know something is seriously going wrong in the match. Honestly I rarely got to use my fourth 'Mechs and therefore I don't consider them being in any way optimal. These builds are still in the "silly" stage of experimentations. Still, there were a few occasions where me bringing a random Orion helped my team in light 'Mechs get some free shots.

I will only list the Orion builds here as every MechWarrior and their grandpa's/granny's are familiar with the TDR builds. If you think the Orion is the worst 'Mech in MWO ever, just take a TDR.


The V got my interest while I was pondering on a possible AC20+2xLPL build on my Protector. Then I saw the quirks on this one and I was just amazed. It gets 25% ballistic speed -25% laser duration bonuses. The possibility of an LPL with -25% less duration (only 0.5s!) got my mouth watering and this build ensued. 

It lacks range but by the time you're resorting to this 'Mech, the enemy is probably already coming at you anyway. This build is a "I'M IN YO FACE WHAT'CHU GUNNA DO ABOUT IT!?" type of build, perfect for close quarters. With 25% extra speed, the AC20 is very easy to aim and under 200m it can be used in conjunction with lasers without worrying about lead. The minimum face-time ensures that you leave little time for your enemies to target a component.

The downside is, if you lose your right torso you lose all of your bite. Experienced players know this and will actively try to disarm you. It's also slow and is essentially a "one-use" 'Mech. When you commit, you commit. No backsies. Just hope you make it through alive. One thing is certain, the Orion will keep your enemies busy for a long time.


I was checking out the Gauss+3xERLL build that has been circulating around for CW, but I found it to be sacrificing too much for my tastes. After a few rounds of experimentation, I landed on this. It's a mid-long range damage pumper with a little bit of everything. The best of all, it's fully redundant so you won't feel as crippled when you lose your ballistic side like the other Orions.

The quirks on the Orion are generalistic in a good way. It gets awesome laser quirks while getting mild buffs for ballistics and missiles as well. These quirks make it very heat efficient and far reaching. Especially with the ERLL you can have great punch at ranges rivaling C-ERLL. The UAC5+LPL combo gives it a good punch at close-mid ranges. It's especially useful at taking out big and juicy targets like assaults.

Demonstration

Luckily, the annotated CW video I made last week also featured this deck. The Orion saw no use but you can see how the first three drops were used.

Conclusion

With this article, you have the whole story about how I came up with this deck. I also talked about trading and the balance between speed/responsiveness/firepower/staying power. This deck is in no way meant to be "the deck"; it fits my playstyle, I do really well with it and I know why but your mileage may vary. I encourage you to do similar experimentation and I hope it gives you different ideas/inspiration for your own decks.

This has also been my longest article yet. I was thinking about releasing it in parts, but I really don't like the idea of chopping content in incoherent chunks just to make it seem like I have something everyday. If you find these walls of text intimidating let me know in the comments and I'll think of ways of writing them in easily digestible portions.
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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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