MRBC and competitive MWO impressions

I've never been a fan of the competitive side of MWO. For me it went against everything that made this game fun. An adherence to a strict meta, standardized builds, rigid tactics and a "play to win" mentality rather than "play for fun" mentality. For a long time I kept my distance from competitive scene.

This changed at the beginning of the Summer though. With the admittance of a few competitive minded players to BMMU (which had been strictly about casual MWO until then) and encouragement from other units, we started looking into getting our feet wet in the competitive scene. It started out with some RHOD 4v4s with a narrow selection of interested players but we ended up signing up for MRBC with our full roster. That's when I started playing.

First of all I should tell you about how MRBC works (to my knowledge). Basically you have some teams placed in different divisions (from A to E) and where your team ends up depends upon how much competitive experience you've got and the overall skill level of your team. For example our newcomer unit ended up in the B division of the EU league together with TCAF, 228EU , 9STS; all very respectable teams.

What makes MRBC really interesting though are the restrictions for each map. Each week you play a match with 5 different drops against an enemy team. For each drop, there are special restrictions your team must adhere to when building and dropdeck and playing. For example these are the restrictions of the last match we played:

Caustic Valley 
Required force composition: 4 Lights, 4 Mediums
Strikes: No strikes allowed
Restrictions: Maximum 2 of any chassis, 2 ECM required minimum 
Viridian Bog  
Required force composition: 2 Lights, 4 Mediums, 2 Heavies
Strikes: no strikes allowed
Restrictions: Maximum 1 of any chassis, maximum 2 duplicate chassis allowed  
Crimson Strait 
Drop 3 ­ Commander Assassination (company level)
Required force composition: 1 Zeus, 3 Mediums, 4 Heavies
Strikes: No strikes allowed
Restrictions: Maximum 2 of any chassis, no second Zeus allowed  
River City 
Required force composition: 2 Lights, 2 Mediums, 2 Heavies, 2 Assaults
Strikes: Air & artillery strikes allowed
Restrictions: maximum 1 of each chassis, duplicated chassis NOT allowed  
Tourmaline Desert 
Required force composition: 2 Lights, 2 Heavies, 4 Assaults
Strikes: Air & artillery strikes allowed
Restrictions: Maximum 1 of each chassis, maximum 1 duplicate chassis allowed
Note: Only 3 Clan 'Mechs are allowed per match and no duplicates. (tells you about the state of IS-Clan balance in MWO)
As you can see, you can't just take 4 Timber Wolves and 4 Cheetahs and go to town on the enemy team. Usually you can barely bring 2-3 decent Clan 'Mechs with the rest being a selection from IS. These rules actually make matches potentially very fun because the restrictions promote dropdeck variety and creativity (in theory). Indeed one of the most fun part of these competitive matches is just sitting down and crafting a dropdeck with your friends and try to account for what the enemy might bring.

The matches play a bit tenser than your usual group queue matches (at least for us) since there's some internet points and reputation on the line, but I found the atmosphere to be not too different. It might also be because BMMU traditionally doesn't run any drop commanders, so we don't have anyone barking orders in our ears. Most of our players are very experienced and when the necessary info is relayed (enemy doing X, going to Y position) our whole team organically adjusts to the situation. It might be weird for some, but it worked beautifully so far. Brawly matches are so far the most enjoyable ones rather than the long, drawn out ones. When you have 16 organized players clashing into each other it really is a test of communication, movement, personal skill and drop decks. We've pulled off some amazing maneuvers impossible in the group queue against our enemies. Such as split pushes with distractions. It's really a good experience when everything works and both teams are willing to risk something to have fun.

Unfortunately, some teams care about winning more than having fun in the process (aka "I only have fun when I win" syndrome). This, combined with the way MRBC is set up (Skirmish game mode) results in extremely boring and drawn out matches. Sometimes matches end in a draw without a single shot fired for 15 minutes because both teams are unwilling to risk a loss. It appears that scrims are when people play to have fun and try different things, but official MRBC matches are all serious business with no fun allowed. It was such a drastic change of pace for me.

So how does an average "play to win" MRBC match play then? First, if the map doesn't let you to force a brawl (Frozen City, Caustic, sometimes Crimson) then you take the longest ranged deck you can. Preferably filled with nothing but ERLL and Gauss builds with occasional few mid-range DPS 'Mechs "just in case". Then you find a remote place on each map, surrounded by vast and empty space so the enemy will have to walk into your fireline before they can get their shots off. You proceed to sit there for the entire match and hope the enemy makes a move. The chances are the enemy is doing the same thing on the other side of the map. Since the gamemode is Skirmish and there's absolutely no reason to move, it makes more sense to wait as long as possible and hope that the enemy team gets bored enough to make a stupid move so you can get the kill lead. Then either the match ends in a draw with both teams unwilling to move or the enemy pushes and (mostly likely) loses.

We, being naive and hopeful newcomers hoping to have fun, brought brawly deck after brawly deck in the beginning against teams doing this. In doing so, we made matches way harder than they should have been by pushing against teams. It's funny how an extremely brawly map like HPG can also be one of the best maps fit to long-range decks (hint, terrain outside the walls). It's so frustrating to have an enemy team just refusing to move or engage and are willing to sit 15 minutes in a remote place on a map just to get a draw or perhaps if the other team is foolish enough, a win. This, right from the first map. Let me tell you, it's not a good impression of the competitive scene. Is this the best it can offer?

Welcome to the competitive scene
Eventually lessons were learned and we started doing this as well. and It netted us a few straight wins. We're still usually the "aggressive team" but return tactics in kind when needed. That's when I realized I this is not what I wanted at all. I really don't give a damn about winning matches, I want to have fun. If BMMU wins the EU B division like this, it doesn't mean much to me. It's disrespectful of your enemies and of yourself, because you're trying to win by boring them to death. It's the old EVE null-sec fights all over again.

Funnily enough, the solution to this seems to be also very simple. On the campiest maps (well most of them), switch the game mode to conquest and only allow capping of the middle objective. The team with the most tickets at the end of a round wins the match. Kills are irrelevant. There, suddenly you created an area of interest on the map and force movement since there's actually an objective to fight for. I'm sure MRBC admins are also aware of this issue (it's not hard to notice) but they somehow chose not to act. The end result is that pretty much every match is a drawn out stand off.


Perhaps this is just a glimpse of the competitive scene has to offer (compared to the past), but it seems like this is what it's stuck with at the moment. I voiced my discontent a few times but was told "This is MRBC, get used to it" by the others. Apparently this is what the majority wants. Maybe I was right before, if "win at all costs" is not your mentality, perhaps the competitive scene is best avoided.

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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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