Killing 'Mechs Efficiently — Part IV

It's time to finish the quadrilogy and tie it all up!

Assaults

The Assault. These 'Mechs are the embodiment of firepower and resilience in the BattleTech universe. Whenever one of these pop up, you know pain is coming. In MechWarrior though, not all of the Assaults are considered "dangerous". These things are slow and sluggish and require more than your average pilot skill level to do well in. A Dire backed up by with its team may rip the other team apart, but a Dire caught alone in the open ground is simply a damage farm opportunity. The best way to deal with these hulking beasts is to engage them with multiple 'Mechs and confuse their pilots. 

One thing to note is that you should avoid targeting limbs when playing against an Assault. Their arms and legs hold a ridiculous amount of armor and unless you see that they're horribly underarmored, it's a bad idea to waste your damage and heat on these. Though it's never a bad idea to tap the legs of an opponent armed with ridiculously heavy weaponry (6xLL Stalkers, LRM boats, 4xGauss Dires). I've personally witnessed assaults with 30 or so leg armor.

Awesome


We're starting out with another one of the "failed" 'Mechs of MWO, the Awesome. The poor Awesome never managed to find its place in any meta during its whole MWO career and is mostly piloted by pilots who just want some challenge (aside from the LRM boats). The main problem lies in its bad geometry. Whenever a forum thread about the AWS pops up, there's guaranteed to find a person using the term "it's a barn door". It is indeed a very wide 'Mech and even looks somehow fat. Its width makes it a great damage sponge and people will immediately focus the poor AWS whenever it pops up, knowing it's just an easy kill.

The current AWS hitboxes are somewhat side-heavy. That means the AWS tends to shed its side torsos under fire rather than getting straight out cored. This is probably because during the last hitbox pass, the side hitboxes were enlarged to cover the sides of the protruding CT part. Funnily enough, the AWS got quite a lot of extra CT structure during the quirkening, when it actually needed a huge boost to its side torsos. Therefore stripping its STs first is a very good way of disposing of this 'Mech.
  • Pick a side torso and blow it off, preferably the RT because the right arm usually houses quite a lot of weaponry while the left arm tends to be a shield arm. You'll see that the ST blows up pretty quickly. Afterwards just pump damage in its CT until it falls. Though beware, the extra structure in its CT and the side-heavy hitboxes will mean that it'll take a while to put it down.

Victor


The Victor (specifically the Dragon Slayer) once used to be the premiere meta 'Mech that everyone feared. It was highly mobile, with great torso twist, suitable hardpoints for meta, speed and the best of all, jump jets (with broken animations) that gave enabled it to tank a silly amount of damage. Then, something happened and the Victor completely disappeared from the game save for the rare champion sightings. What happened? Where did all the "Victor enthusiasts" with hundreds of hours in this thing go?

Well, see, PGI nerfed the poptarts. Jump jets, PPCs, ACs, and the Victor's mobility all got nerfed. With its meta compatibility gone, this 'Mech was revealed for what it is; a mediocre brawler with serous scaling issues. While it still has a very niche use as an XL Assault brawler, this 'Mech is so hilariously easy to deal with that only a few brave above average MechWarriors dare running this thing anymore.

Again, the VTR is oversized. It has big limbs, a tall profile and a wide torso, Its poor 80 tonner armor has problems covering these weaknesses and when PGI gave this 'Mech little to no quirks at all, its fate was sealed. Its frontal hitboxes are decent (except the wide CT area at the top) but its rear hitboxes are a total disaster. The whole rear is covered by the CT hitbox. It's not a good thing considering brawlers tend to get shot from all directions when in the thick of the battle.
  • Shoot the CT and aim for the part right below its head. It's hard to miss and you'll absolutely ruin a VTRs day doing this. Whenever you have the chance go for its rear for easy CT corings.
  • Shoot its legs! With those gigantic legs, the Victor is one of the easiest Assaults to leg.

Zeus


Now, the Zeus is an 80 tonner done right. Not only it's a very compact 'Mech with very few geometric weaknesses, it also gets tons (literally) of extra armor to boost its tankiness to legendary levels. The standard variants receive +17 armor in STs and +15 CT armor while the 5S receives 20 armor+10 structure in its CT while the sides get +13 armor and +7 structure. You don't get the significance of these numbers until you compare the end results with the 100 tonners; the Zeus is tankier than an Atlas or a Dire. It is the second most tankiest 'Mech in numbers behind the HGN-732B (with its whopping 149 CT armor) but considering the Zeus' compact design, we can say that it's probably the toughest nut to crack in this game.

The hitboxes are amazing as well. When you take a look at it, it's hard to find a weakness. The CT is a thin strip in the middle while the sides make for the bulk of the frontal profile. This is a great combination for brawly 'Mechs that run with STD engines because it ensures the side torsos will give up before the center.

Fortunately, the Zeus is a 'Mech that usually struggles to put out damage due to meager quirks and the hardpoint layout. The 6T and the 5S are the ones to look out for with that massive SRM arm but these 'Mechs are usually pretty battered before they throw themselves into a brawl. The reliance on STD engines also ensure these 'Mechs always remain somewhat sluggish.
  • Shoot the LT first. Aim right below the shoulder. This is important because by getting rid of its LT, you also get rid of 80% of its firepower (unless it's a 6T/5S), A stripped Zeus is not a big threat anymore can be ignored when in presence of bigger threats. Otherwise just keep shooting the head area to ensure maximum damage to the CT.
  • When dealing with a 6T/5S, you may want to remove that huge SRM arm first to cut the damage output considerably.

Stalker


The Stalker is another phallic iconic Battlemech. It's also a great design that comes with unique advantages and disadvantages. It's great design kept it relevant despite the balance and meta shifts over the years and it's a regular sight on the battlefield.

Its unique geometry also comes with unique hitboxes. The side profile of a Stalker is completely covered by ST hitboxes. This means that this is a 'Mech that punishes you for torso twisting and will shed its STs as soon as you take damage from the sides. On the other hand the CT is a very narrow strip in the middle, but it becomes larger towards the top and the bottom. The protected CT hitbox makes the Stalker a very annoying opponent; the destroyed sides become shields that reduce the incoming damage by 50% and it takes ages to put one down. However on the other hand it's very easy to disarm.
  • If you don't have a good angle (if it's not directly engaging you), just pop the sides first.
  • If you have a good angle from the front, shoot the top of the nose for maximum CT damage. It's possible to outright core Stalkers this way. If it starts twisting shoot the area between its legs to keep damaging its CT.
  • Most Stalkers run around with reduced leg armors and its legs are absolutely gigantic. You can try legging one.

Battlemaster


The Battlemaster is pretty much a flattened Stalker with arms. It's also more mobile and the hardpoints are similar. Being a humanoid 'Mech, the BLR is also much harder to disable than the Stalker but it's not a hard 'Mech to take down.

The biggest advantage the BLR has over the Stalker is its balanced torso hitboxes. It responds to torso twisting well but its CT hitbox is much more vulnerable. The gorilla arms help blocking a lot of damage while twisting compared to the tiny T-Rex arms of the Stalker though. Still, the CT strip is pretty wide and the sides of the protruding CT part are also counted as CT hitboxes so even while torso twisting, this 'Mech will take a good amount of CT damage. Unlike the Stalker though, the BLRs tend to move pretty fast and their speed will prevent most opponents from focusing components.
  • Focus the CT, it's the fastest way. A BLR has a huge CT surface area and even with twisting there's no way to protect it reliably. You should aim right below the cockpit where hitbox has the most width. Shoot between the legs if you don't have a good angle on the CT.
  • Most of the current popular BLR builds (especially 1G and 3S) utilize XL engines. If you have a good alpha you can go for an XL check.
  • The BLR's leg size rivals the Stalker's. Since most BLRs rely on mobility to spread damage, legging one means they'll be sitting ducks afterwards. Each leg has 108 health though.

Highlander


The Highlander is a beast. Both in the lore and in MWO, it's a very dangerous foe. It's a classical brawler on the paper but it can also be utilized in a ranged side-peeking configuration by utilizing its excellent right side hardpoints that lends itself well to AC/Gauss+Laser combinations. Most of the HGNs you encounter will be of this type. Once upon a time, the HGN sat at the absolute top of the food chain when the poptart meta was at its peak. It could do everything the Victor could do, but with a STD engine instead of an XL, giving it tremendous tanking potential by having a huge 300-400 damage buffer. Combined with very strong jump jets at the time, it was a ridiculous beast which outclassed the current Dire Wolf in many aspects.

Even though in the face of many nerfs now it's in a similar position as the Victor (a mediocre brawler), some recent buffs to PPC speed and Class I jump jets resulted in some resurgence. Especially the uparmored 732B (which is the most heavily armored assault in MWO right now) is quite popular. Its only problem is and has always been is its limited mobility and heat efficiency because of the low engine cap. Once a HGN hits its heat cap, its damage output is reduced dramatically. Here's to the hope that PGI will finally give the HGN what it deserves with the upcoming balance pass.

The Highlander doesn't suffer from geometry problems. It doesn't suffer much from scaling either —I'd even put it in the sparsely populated "well scaled" category. Its torso is wide with well defined hitboxes. The hitboxes are somewhat CT heavy and most deaths indeed occur from CT corings but it's nowhere near XL safe. The thing is, the width of the torso allows its opponents to focus down a component with ease. However this is a 'Mech that responds really well to torso twisting. Though due to the limited engine cap, the torso twisting is not exactly responsive and your opponents will exploit this to time their shots.

  • Take its right torso. The best place to aim for is the well defined rectangular weapon pod area. Most of its ranged and hard hitting weapons are on its right side (Heavy Metal excluded) and if you can take it down, the HGN will practically be useless. Whatever missile weapons the HGN is left with can afterwards be either evaded or safely tanked.

Banshee



This right here, is the single most scary IS Assault in my book. At 95 tons and ridiculously tall, it's a hulking behemoth that vaporizes everything with its furious gaze. Unlike its undergunned and overengined counterpart in BattleTech, it's blessed by an abundance of high mounted energy and ballistic hardpoints in MWO by based PGI. It can also mount really big engines rather comfortably which makes it a very responsive and mobile assault. Over time it become some kind of a mascot of my unit as well. We (and I) can't get enough of this thing.

The Banshee is again, well scaled and has no geometric flaws. It has gorilla arms that hold no weaponry (with exceptions) which give it a huge damage buffer. Its torso hitboxes leave something to be desired and especially the CT hitbox is quite big towards the middle, coincidentally where most people aim at. It's almost like PGI thought "Welp, this 'Mech is too good. Let's mess up its hitboxes a bit!". Fret not though, despite the obvious sabotage attempt (heh) the BNC still tanks beautifully mostly thanks to the big engines it mounts which gives it a responsive torso twist speed. The 3M especially is great with big alpha pulse laser builds that lends themselves well to "dump alpha-twist-dump alpha" style that makes this 'Mech shine. Even so, this is not a good face tanker and its survivability is closely tied with how much its pilot torso twists, which may not even be possible with some DPS builds (like 3xAC5 3E).

  • The easiest way to get rid of one is by working on that big fat CT hitbox in the middle. It's impossible to miss and will soak most of the incoming damage. Time your shots well and resist the urge to dump your alpha to its arms while its torso twisting.
  • On the other hand quite a few BNC builds utilize XL engines to take advantage of that sweet sweet mobility. If you think the BNC is moving faster than it should, you can also go for a quick XL check by shooting a side torso.
  • Just as a caution because I've seen many try this against me; never ever try to leg this thing in a 1v1 situation. It's impossible and you'll be shred to pieces before you're done.

King Crab

I want to believe
This weaponized saucer mounted on legs is the IS' answer to the mighty Dire Wolf; it's one of the so-called Clan busters. Whether it busts Clans or even its contemporary Dire Wolf is a whole another matter though. Despite the initial hype the upper part of the player base never really picked it up. It doesn't mean this is a bad 'Mech though. With an abundance of ballistics, energy and laser hardpoints this thing can rip anything to pieces in a matter of seconds when built correctly.

The KGC is unique in the sense that it possesses a very unique geometry in the MWO arsenal. It has a long, wide and flat torso. The Dire on the other hand is rectangular from all directions. This geometry gives the King Crab the least surface area of many Assaults when viewed from the front. At first I thought this property would make it the tankiest Assault ever in MWO. Oh boy I was wrong, so wrong. The thing is, you rarely face threats head-on in an assault. Most of the time you're being focused from multiple targets with a primary among them you're facing. The amount of surface area it presents on the sides is absolutely horrendous and the worst of all, in order to give it a crabby look, the arms are reaching towards the front which leaves the sides completely uncovered.

It does not fare well from the front either, despite its favorable profile. The problem is, PGI gave this 'Mech traditional well defined humanoid 'Mech hitboxes. This doesn't go well along with the width of its torso well and the result is a pretty squishy assault that relies on massive DPS rather than impenetrable armor. When a torso has a shape like this, I think it's better to go with Stalker or Timber Wolf style hitboxes where the STs are stretched into the central area to take some pressure off the CT. I'm getting ahead of myself though, let's go back to killing it rather than saving it.


A quick sketch of my dream KGC hitboxes
  • This is another "open buffet" 'Mech. You can shoot either CTs or the STs, they're equally easy to focus down.
  • That being said, I prefer to pop a side off first. It's much easier (especially if its twisting) and this ensures you remove DPS from this 'Mech as quick as possible. Half a KGC is barely a threat and can be dealt with much easier without the risk of it tearing your face off. Plus, the amount of XL King Crabs out there are outrageous. There's almost a 50-50 chance of getting an XL kill.

Atlas

The manliest of the manliest
The Atlas is the ultimate brawler in MWO. When something must absolutely be manhandled, you send in the Atlas to show them who's the boss It's big, it's tanky and at capable hands it can mow down an entire team in a brawl. Unfortunately, getting this 100 tonner into brawls is the problem. Even with the maximum engine it'll be stripped by the ~meta~ 'Mechs before it gets into position. Therefore you'll find most of the competent Atlases hiding and waiting in an ambush because once an Atlas commits, there's no turning back.

The Atlas is a big 'Mech, it's really huge. Fortunately it has great hitboxes for a brawler. The CT is a very thin strip in the middle while the STs make up most of the frontal profile. This ensures it tanks the hell out of anything with little effort. In most cases they'll refuse to die before they shed both of their side torsos first. It's because the tested and tried method of "just shoot the middle torso" doesn't work with this 'Mech. The damage is inevitably spread to the both sides.

With a very simple trick though, the Atlas can be dealt with with minimum hassle:
  • Shoot the head! The head is huge, visible from almost all angles and it's 100% CT hitbox except the tiny little left eye. 
  • You can try popping a side (people go for the RT default) but be aware, each torso holds a big punch. You can get rid of that AC20 but 3xASRM6'es are more than enough to ruin your day and vice versa.

Gargoyle


Mr. Gargles is the black swan of MWO. Most hate and despise it but some love it and make it work. With the recent addition of the 6xE hardpoint RA it has managed to elevate itself from being "worse than the Commando" to "this actually feels good" levels and became a laser powerhouse. It has pretty big flaws though. Anemic free tonnage and low mounted hardpoints make up the bulk of its problems.

The Gargoyle is surprisingly narrow for its tonnage. It's tall, but narrow. Combined with its high speed and responsive torso, it's actually hard to focus components on this thing when its steaming around. At a first glance its hitboxes are also balanced but as you encounter it more and especially play with it, you realize something. There's something horribly broken with the CT of this thing. It. Sucks. In. Everything.
  • You get the idea. Don't bother with the sides and just aim in the general direction of its CT and watch that CT turn red after the first alpha. Aim for its head for maximum damage application though. If the Gargoyle has not tucked its tail between legs and fleeing already, dump a few more alphas there and get rid of it. Just make sure you absorb its laser alphas well. These things may be fragile but they're in no way defenseless.
  • Its arms fall off rather easily. It has 90% of its firepower in its arms so this is obviously something you can use against it if you need to cut down incoming damage fast.

Warhawk


Whenever my team meets a Warhawk, it goes like this:

— Holy shit incoming Dire, everybody focus Delta!
— That's a Warhawk . . . 
— Oh nevermind then. Everybody focus the Nova!

Jokes aside, the Warhawk excels at doing one thing; being a mobile damage pumper. With its high speed and amazing heat efficiency it can quickly rack up damage but it's a very squishy 'Mech. The thing is, the Warhawk is as big as a Dire Wolf while being 15 tons lighter. It's scaling is out of whack and you definitely feel that fragility as you pilot this thing. Therefore its damage potential is balanced by its inability to persist on the battlefield. Coming with 20xDHS right out of the factory also takes its toll on this 'Mech. Its entire left torso is filled with DHS and building this 'Mech is like playing Tetris in the 'Mechlab.

It's a pity, because this 'Mech has amazing frontal hitboxes. The CT is again a very narrow strip in the middle while the sides dominate from all aspects. Unfortunately the massive surface area due to scaling means the ST armor just can't sustain the amount of damage it takes. The STs dominate the side profile completely and every bit of damage you'll take from this direction will be tanked by your ST and arm. Being known as a 'Mech that pops sides easily is also bad news for a 'Mech with clan XLs. Some people won't bother coring your CT but will go for your sides solely. However when a side pops, that side also becomes a huge damage shield because you can't see the CT or the other ST from the shield side. Warhawks utilizing this strategy are quite stubborn to go down but losing a side reduces their threat significantly.
  • Dealing with a WHK is an interesting matter. Taking out the LT means a big hit to heat efficiency and usually a loss of ballistic hardpoint on the left arm. Its laser arm is its right arm he'll be left with lasers but no DHS to cool them down. Taking out the RT means getting rid of its lasers but the RT/RA also stores most of its ammo so you cripple its ACs/SRMs. So whatever ST you pick, you're guaranteed to cause big problems for the WHK pilot.
  • If you want to go for the CT shoot above its head where the hitbox is the biggest.

Dire Wolf


One Assault to rule them all. When you see a Dire staring at you, you know you messed up. The Dire Wolf is the pinnacle of firepower in MWO. It can have up to 6 ballistic hardpoints and up to 15 energy hardpoints. It has 50.5 tons of free space with full armor and indeed people go wild with this thing. From laser/Gauss vomits to UAC monsters, this is a priority target whenever it pops up. Fortunately it sacrifices mobility for podspace and it's easy to overwhelm.

The Dire Wolf is slightly bigger than a Warhawk and its hitboxes are similar with one exception; it has a massive bullseye CT hitbox in the middle. Therefore unlike the Warhawk, it's very susceptible to fast CT corings especially since it's really bad at torso twisting. That doesn't mean the STs are safe though, they're visible and vulnerable from every angle, but the arms help a lot with tanking while twisting. 

Dealing with a Dire needs some caution:
  • There's no 'Mech that can trade efficiently with a well built Dire, keep this in mind.
  • The best way to engage one is making sure you're not its primary target. If it's looking at your direction it's best to avoid giving it a target and wait until it gets distracted by your teammates. 
  • If a teammate is engaging a Dire you immediately get out and shoot the Dire as well. Use every opportunity while the Dire is distracted to damage it.
  • Its CT should be your primary target whenever possible. Though if you don't have a good angle start working on an ST immediately. This is especially useful against experienced Dire pilots who attempt to twist while using JJs. Half a Dire may live longer but it's much better than dealing with a whole Dire.
  • Bait Dires into firing by faking a pop up (you get out of cover briefly and back in again while it's Gauss is charging and its lasers are firing) and then dump your alpha while it's on cooldown. This is also useful against UAC Dires because you can force jams doing this.

Conclusion

I didn't want this to be a simple "shoot here!" guide and I tried to cram in as much useful info as possible. I hope it was an enjoyable read and hopefully it helps you deal with your opponents in a more efficient and faster manner. It's also the longest series of articles I've ever made.

Lastly, I would like to thank Tamerlin again for his excellent work on hitbox localization.
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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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1 comments:

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