Killing 'Mechs Efficiently — Part III

We're picking up from where we left off last time. It's time to spill the weak points of the heavies!

Heavies

The Heavy class is without a doubt the most popular of them all. They can be as fast as mediums while packing more armor and considerably heavier weaponry which makes them the most "no fuss" class of them all. They're the Swiss knives of MWO arsenal.

However as the 'Mechs get heavier, their TTK also increases. Due to the increased armor stripping legs and arms become increasingly difficult while the torsos get enough armor to soak ridiculous amounts of damage at the hands of a good pilot. Therefore, knowing their weaknesses start playing a more important role than fighting against fragile mediums and lights, which honestly despite their weaknesses are always susceptible to easy legging and CT corings.

Dragon

Train.Wreck.
The Dragon is simply the train wreck of MWO 'Mechs. Being one of the iconic 'Mechs in the BattleTech universe, it was chosen by PGI to be one of the first 'Mechs present at the release of the closed beta. However, being iconic due to looks mostly means bad news for their MWO versions and oh boy PGI did get it wrong, so wrong.

The Dragon's problems are two fold. First, its size is absolutely gigantic for its tonnage. For a 'Mech that is only 60 tons and sits only 5 tons above the rather excellent 55 tonners, the jump in size is ridiculous. It eclipses most other heavies in both height and width, it's even comparable to some assaults (for example the Awesome, which has its own scaling problems). Though, it'd have been still mostly acceptable if its weaknesses ended there. As you may have noticed, the Dragon sports a massive nose. This gives it a massive profile from all directions and a huge amount of surface area which its poor 60 tonner armor (7.5 tons) has difficulty covering. As a result, this is one of the juiciest opponents you will encounter and it won't take much effort to bring a Dragon down.

As a side note, it might be surprising to hear, but the Dragon was never completely irrelevant in MWO. There has always been a healthy amount of players piloting this 'Mech. Some played it due to lore reasons but some also saw some good qualities in this thing. For example along with the Quickdraw, it's the fastest heavy in MWO. When equipped with an XL360 engine it can be very responsive as well, giving it the feeling of a medium 'Mech but with heavier weaponry. Some variants also have favorable hardpoints such as high mounted energies or ballistics. It can be effective, but it'll take a lot of blood, sweat and tears which also makes it the go-to "anti-crutch" 'Mech — a 'Mech you take just to find out how well you can do in it. 1N with its ridiculous ballistic quirks is now excluded from that category though.


Your typical Dragon pilot.

Anyway, let's try to kill it!
  • Right now the fastest way to get rid of a Dragon is not by focusing its nose, which gets a massive structure quirk, but focusing one of its side torsos. Almost 99% of the Dragons (Flames with AC20s will be STD) you'll meet will be equipped by XL engines so we'll use it to our advantage. To ensure maximum damage to STs, target the area where the nose fuses to the torso.
  • Shooting the CT is your second option. Frontally, the whole nose is CT but from the sides try to shoot the upper part of the nose for maximum damage. 
  • The rear CT hitbox is absolutely massive. Any damage you will do here will directly transfer to the CT. 
  • If you're fighting a 1N: The 1N with its 50% AC5 cooldown is a very dangerous opponent, but obviously it's nothing more than a glass cannon. If you come across one you'll have to handle it differently than the others. If it's shooting you, try to tear its right arm off to ensure you cut the incoming damage as fast as possible. You can also go for a side to take it out outright, but doing so you give it more time to damage you which may result in you dying (it does 10 damage every 0.6 seconds!). 

Quickdraw


The Quickdraw is a train wreck on a smaller scale. While the faults of the Dragon may be explained by the fact that PGI was inexperienced with 'Mech design and scaling at the beginning, the Quickdraw came so much later that I still don't understand why PGI designed it this way. Anyway, the Quickdraw is another badly scaled 'Mech. I think it suffices to say that it's considerably bigger than an 80 ton Zeus while being as tall as a Victor.

Not only that, but it also has a weird hitbox distribution. Its upper torso looks balanced, but its hips are completely CT which greatly enlarges its frontal CT surface area. The random damage these extra surfaces attract add up considerably during a match. Not only that, but it also has a weird "ST belt" that links up both side torsos. I am yet to discover the purpose of this, perhaps to balance the upper hitbox distribution. Though the biggest problem with its hitbox distribution is that the protruding central CT part is 100% CT hitbox. This means torso twisting is less effective as the CT will take damage no matter the angle. As someone with lots of QKD matches I can say that the QKDs hitboxes behave weirdly and just won't react like you want them to.
  • This is another "open buffet" 'Mech like the Dragon. As it's a huge 'Mech, focusing a torso component is only trivial. Though the fastest way to kill one is simply shooting the CT. The upper part of the torso is an ideal target as the head is big and completely covered with CT hitboxes. You can also shoot its hips if it insists on torso twisting as this area is unaffected by torso twisting.
  • Leg it. Seriously, this is one of the easiest 'Mechs to leg in MWO. Leg one and you take away its only defense, its ridiculous mobility. I actually try to leg one if I'm not in a hurry as it ensures it will die no matter what.
  • Caution, don't shoot the arms. They don't hold many hardpoints and they're designed as shields. 

Catapult


Surprise! The Catapult is another oversized 'Mech and it's known for its tendency to get straight out cored. Fortunately its variants favor long ranged builds that mostly keep it away from the heat of combat. 

Since they lack lower arm actuators these 'Mechs have to stare at their targets to do damage which means they have to expose their huge frontal CT hitboxes. The missile variants need to stare at their targets to keep locks. This means the Catapults are always at a disadvantage when trading. Also before saying "just shoot the CT you fools!", I want to point out that the STs are actually a valid target from a side angle. 
  • Shoot the CT you fools! Seriously from the front it's impossible to miss and will absolutely ruin a CPLs day. From the sides shoot the edges of the nose.
  • From a side angle and if I have a decent alpha, I try to go for the sides for a quick kill. Shooting the base of the torso will transfer the damage to STs and considering 99.99% of the CPLs out there run XL engines (why wouldn't they?) it mostly results in a fast kill.

Thunderbolt


Easy times end here. The Thunderbolt is an absolute horror to deal with. It's a well scaled and sturdy design with great hitboxes. Before the magical quirks were bestowed upon them, nobody cared about their tankiness but after PGI married great laser quirks with tankiness, these things are one of the most dangerous 'Mechs out there.

Why is this 'Mech so tanky though? First of all, it has no geometric flaws. No nose, no protruding parts that enlarge its surface area. Second, its hitboxes are amazing. The CT (where people aim at) is a narrow strip in the middle which is really hard to focus down. Against a moving and twisting TDR you keep spreading damage to the sides. Well, we shoot the sides then right? Wrong. Due to the big ST hitboxes and it being a laser boat with big heat reduction quirks, these things have enough spare tonnage to run around with STD engines and still do 80+KPH. It also has arms that shield its STs while twisting. It hardpoints are also redundant. Did I mention each ST gets a +15 structure bonus as well? Oh you blew up its left torso and got rid of 3xE hardpoints? Well too bad, it still has 4xE on the other side. The worst of all, once you work on it for 5 minutes and get rid of its STs you've only made it more tanky. Now it has huge dead STs shielding its narrow CT because dead components only transfer 50% of the damage they receive to the CT!

TL;DR: This is the biggest time waster of all the 'Mechs in MWO. It'll make you work for it and you need an immense amount of firepower to get rid of it.
  • Apart from trying to peel components off, I've been experimenting with targeting the CT directly lately with mild success. If its staring at you, with a stable aim you should be able to focus down its CT. From the rear the CT hitbox is much bigger and occupies the middle area.
  • You can try to leg it, but keep in mind that in total each leg has 90 hitpoints. Good luck getting rid of the legs before the TDR blows you to pieces. Not to mention by focusing its legs you're giving it a free ticket to stop twisting and target you freely.
  • Seriously, if you don't have a big alpha, don't bother with a TDR unless necessary. Focus down weaker targets and leave it to someone that can deal with it.

Jagermech


Jagermech is a strictly ranged support 'Mech and for a reason. It has amazing ballistic boating capability, but in turn it has to mount XL engines. By just taking a quick glance at the image above, you can see that this thing has massive STs. Therefore you really don't want to get too near an enemy which will exploit this weakness in an instant.

Again, this is a well scaled 'Mech but it's only trivial to take out due to its XL dilemma. Therefore I highly recommend you to dispose of any Jagermechs you encounter as fast as possible before they can dish out the terrible terrible damage they're capable of doing.
  • Pick a side torso, focus on it and profit. The JM will either disengage immediately or simply die. There's not much else to fighting it.
  • People with ridiculous builds (quad UAC5s, Dual Gauss etc) tend to shave off a lot of leg armor. It has big, chubby legs so I suggest tapping them to see if they're underarmored. It makes for hilarious and easy kills.

Cataphract

Note that I edited this image to reflect its current approximate hitboxes.
War Cataphract, huh yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, oh hoh, oh
I would call a Cataphract easy kill, but it's not a challenging one either. Its torso surface area is huge due to its width, which means it's almost in the "open buffet" category of the 60 tonners. Though, it tends to get cored in the CT more often that not. Coupled with its low mounted weaponry, this is usually a low to moderate threat on the battlefield. After the 3D got hit by massive poptart nerfs and the rest received silly quirks, these things are rarely seen on the battlefield.

  • Focus down the CT, it's the easiest and fastest way. Its hitboxes are similar to the TDRs, but the CT strip is considerably larger and the CTFs torso twist slowly.
  • You can go for the STs, but don't bother unless you're certain it's an XL build. Most CTFs mount STD engines these days. If you go for an ST for disarming, make sure you target the right torso where the ballistic hardpoint is housed.
  • If it's a Gaussphract, definitely go for the RT. It'll more than likely be an XL Gauss Phract and Gauss explosions make for spectacular kills.

Grasshopper


This is the Michael Jordan of the heavies. Armored, fast, mobile and they pack a good punch. Unlike the general sentiment that they are too big, they're actually scaled pretty well for their tonnage. As I pointed out in the review, the whole "it's huge" thing comes from the height of this thing. It is indeed one of the tallest 'Mechs in this game together with the Banshee. Though when you look at its limbs and torso you realize it's nothing but a case of this.

Unfortunately while being workable, the hitboxes are not very favorable. The front is dominated by the CT hitbox which is bad news because this is an energy boat which demands face time. I only shudder to think what if they gave this one the TDR treatment because just like the TDR, it can mount big STDs without a problem. It'd have been a 'Mech that could hold its own against the best Clan laser boats.
  • Shoot the CT. It's big and wide. Though if the GHR pilot is good, he'll give you a hard time by twisting and jumjetting at the same time and being annoying overall. When that happens, resist the temptation to dump damage immediately and wait until he exposes his CT again before firing. Two solid alphas to its CT from any 'Mech will ruin the GHR pilot's day.
  • Shoot the rear CT. It protrudes rearwards and is visible from a wide angle.

Orion


The Orion is tough. When a fresh Orion appears out of nowhere and starts dissassembling your 'Mech, you know you're in trouble. In one on one situations it's one of the most stubborn 'Mechs to die and a well built Orion will brawl the heck out of anything including its idol, the Atlas.

However, when was the last time you felt threatened by one? What?! You don't remember? As an Orion enthusiast, me neither. The thing is, the Orion requires impeccable positioning to get into favorable fights and in the current day's meta which favors mid-long range builds that usually means these things are peeled, stripped and crippled before they get into range. By telling you that, I also revealed its greatest weakness: it's mobility. Due to how fast it loses STs most Orions pack a STD engine in them with the STD300 being most common. With that engine it only manages about 71 KPH and a silly torso twist rate which means it just can't dictate the terms of combat like other heavies. Once it commits, it commits without a way to disengage.

Taking a look at the hitboxes, you will see that this pretty much has the TDRs tested and patented "You will not get my CT unless you peel my sides off" hitbox distribution. The CT strip is a bit larger, but then again you have more armor to compensate and on top of it, the overall width of the 'Mech is actually smaller than a TDR. So you're packing a lot of armor into a smaller volume which increases its tankiness. Unlike the TDR though, the 'Mech has a very large protruding CT. It's almost like a nose. The sides of this nose are completely ST, which means that even when slightly angled towards an opponent, the ST on that side soaks most of the damage. This creates a dilemma where if you torso twist, you risk of being disarmed by premature ST loss.
  • I suggest a quick disarmament by blowing off the RT first. Most Orions pack a ballistic there and with the B and the hardpoints in the arms gone, it'll be harmless. Afterwards you can switch to a more dangerous opponent or go for the CT to finish it off.
  • If the Orion is fast, definitely go for an XL check by targeting the STs. Especially the recently popular 3xERLL+Gauss build utilizes an XL engine.
  • Otherwise if you have a big alpha and if the Orion pilot is not twisting well, go for the CT for an easy kill. It's not hard to focus if the target is not twisting.

Mad Dog


"The 60 tonner with the firepower of a 100 tonner" is how I would describe this thing. Especially 6xSRM builds are absolutely devastating at close range with good amount of weapon redundancy. It's definitely bristling with firepower. The design is also very compact with a very narrow frontal profile and overall scaling but then you notice the nose and the good things end there.

This is essentially a mini-Dragon but on a much smaller scale. If you look at the hitboxes the frontal profile is very balanced but as soon as you get an angle, the profile is dominated by STs (just like the Orion) which gives this 'Mech its Achilles' Heel. See, the Clan XLs lets you lose one ST before dying. One more, and you're dead. It's so easy to remove STs from this thing that the clan XLs become almost a liability for it. Then again, good pilots turn this to their advantage by letting one side blow up and use that side as a massive shield. It's only a last resort attempt though.
  • Pick a side and work on it. Frontally, shoot the missile pods on the sides but from the sides you can also shoot the big nose. It's mostly covered by ST hitboxes. Repeat it for the other side. 
  • Don't bother shooting CT but if the MDD is staring at you, it might be an option if you don't want to go through two STs.

Hellbringer


This is a pretty tanky 'Mech for its tonnage. The frontal profile is dominated by STs and the CT becomes a very narrow strip near the middle which makes targeting difficult. It also responds very well to torso twisting. It's again, scaled well. A HBR won't go down without giving you a good fight, but it doesn't mean it's a particularly difficult 'Mech to deal with.

It's main weaknesses include having a very vulnerable LT, which houses the ECM and 3xE hardpoints. The RT is usually used for ballistics and especially the Gauss or it's left empty to be used as a shield side. A Gauss explosion here is not very hard to cause and will ruin the day of your opponent.
  • Get the LT first (shoot the big square). The loss of ECM and 3xE hardpoints will seriously cripple the Hellbringer. At this point your opponent is either completely disarmed with a head lasers, or left with what ballistic weapons he has in the RT which won't pose a grave threat (unless it's 2xUAC5s) Afterwards pop the other side torso and you're done. Don't bother directly coring this 'Mech.

Summoner


I'll be bold and claim that the Summoner is the tankiest Clan 'Mech. This slippery bastard is an absolute pest at good hands and will make your life a misery if it decides to kill you.

Interestingly, this 'Mech is rather chubby for its size and tonnage. It has huge limbs and a relatively flat and wide torso. It also has a protruding CT just like the Orion but not as big. Similarly the sides of this protruding part is also covered by ST hitboxes, so it responds to torso twisting just as well as the Orion. On the other hand this is an extremely mobile 'Mech with plenty of jump jets, a plethora of acceleration bonuses and even a slight speed boost. When it all comes together, I feel like its weaknesses work for it. In overall this is pretty much an Orion on steroids that jumps all over the place with a good amount of armor. I regularly tank this thing down to low 20%s and even tanked to 5-6% on several occasions.

Bro, do you even tank?
Though it's advantages are also its weaknesses when it comes to firepower. What little firepower this thing has is housed in those huge arms that tend to fall off at the slightest breeze. It's an easy 'Mech to disarm.
  • Shoot the legs if you're not in mortal danger. Its chubby legs get additional structure from quirks, but as I said they're chubby. They act like damage sponges and will soak most of the damage you throw at it. Without its mobility it won't tank as well.
  • Again, the CT is actually pretty large. If your opponent is not twisting much and is staring at you, just go center mass.
  • Go for a disarm first if your opponent was foolish enough to put every weapon in the arms.

Timber Wolf


The mighty Timber Wolf will form about 50% of the Clan heavies you will fight. PGI did a wonderful job modeling this thing and even though it looks very similar to the Catapult, it doesn't inherit its weaknesses.

The CT hitboxes are simply magnificent. Despite the 'Mech having a huge aircraft nose, this nose isn't huge in diameter. That allowed PGI to keep the CT hitbox in check unlike the CPL and the DRG. The sides though, are a different story. Now at 75 tons the sides have a lot of armor, but the nose structure fusing into a traditional humanoid shoulders inevitably causes some problems with the surface area. As a result, the TBR is prone to lose STs and they can be reliably targeted from any angle. Some TBR builds try to turn this into advantage by utilizing the left side as a shield side, because the RT is completely covered by the nose when looked at from the left.

A good TBR pilot won't let you peel you its sides easily by utilizing JJs and its amazing torso twist speed to absorb damage with other parts as well. Surprisingly arms also tend to tank well.
  • My method is simply taking a side torso off (LT is easier since most people shield the right side) and then concentrate on shooting the CT and the destroyed LT. Yes, you'll do 50% less damage shooting the destroyed LT but you will still do damage and will steadily drain its CT armor.
  • As always, some pilots don't even torso twist. In this case just get the CT.
  • Shooting the legs or the arms are not advisable unless you're in a monster DPS 'Mech. The TBR will kill you before you finish.
Next up, the heavies!
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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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