In the land of Mechwarrior Online, weight-matching is more imagined than a reality, and with no tonnage limit in the foreseeable future, an under-tonned mech in its class is going to struggle to find footing. The 45 ton Blackjack is one of those mechs. In the same class as the 50 ton Centurion, Hunchback, and Trebuchet, and with the 40 ton Cicada nipping at its heels, the Blackjack stands in a curious limbo between speed and armament. Critics will note that the mech lacks the offensive punch and staying power of its larger cousins. The BJ-1X can hit a top speed of 118kph, but if you’re looking for a fast moving medium, it pales in comparison to the swift Cicada that can max out the speed scale at 151.47kph. Too slow to chase a light, and too weak to put the hurt on heavier mechs, it begs the question if there’s a good place for the Blackjack in the current metagame for MWO. Let’s find out.
Of the three available variants of the Blackjack, the BJ-1X stands out as the most viable of the bunch. Normally, I would try to spread out the love, but with the ability to equip an XL295 engine when the BJ-1 and BJ-3 each max out at XL235, the 1X has an insurmountable advantage. The only thing worse than being a weakly-armed medium is being a slow weakly-armed medium. With their slower top speed the BJ-1, BJ-1DC, and BJ-3 can be hunted down by fast moving heavies, and can’t get away fast enough from assaults who can reach out and PPC them.
The Problem of Ballistics
The Blackjack would be a great swift medium on which to mount a couple of light autocannons. Unfortunately, MWO is desperately short on viable light ballistics options. When I’ve seen BJ-1s in the field, those ballistics slots are usually filled with machine guns, or ignored entirely as the mechwarrior does his best to build around the four energy points on the mech. Presumably the goal there is to XP the mech out in order to move back to the BJ-1X.
It’s possible to put an AC5 or AC10 into the mech, but why would you want to? There’s no conceivable advantage to go down this road when you could just load up on lasers and keep moving. Just for argument’s sake, here’s the best build I could find for the BJ-1 that utilized the ballistics slot(s) in a non-comedy build. Use at your own risk.
Weapons: 1 AC5, 4 Medium Lasers
Running the mech, it’s a mess. The 4 medium lasers are fine for what they are, but with the AC5 and all the running/twisting you’re going to be doing, the DPS is just not acceptable. You're probably sick of hearing it, but this is a shoddy loadout for a mech that needs every advantage just to be considered viable.
Weapons: 8 Medium Lasers
The Laserjack 1X build is the closest thing to an optimal build for the 45 ton Blackjack. The 40 damage alpha is very attractive, and players who are adept at heat management can stay in the fight for some decent damage. The major drawback, of course, is heat. At ten seconds into a fight the raw damage for the Laserjack is 115. By 20 seconds, it’s only 155. That’s a drop from an initial 11.5 damage per second down to 7.75 at the 20 second mark.
Laserjack DC (BJ-1DC)
Weapons: 6 Medium Lasers
Running six Medium Lasers on the BJ-1DC isn’t an atrocious idea except that what that's trying to accomplish is better done on the BJ-1X with a better engine. If you’re determined to make it work, the Laserjack DC is a capable medium brawler with an average 7.5 DPS over 20 seconds at up to 270 meters. Getting up behind a medium or assault mech in this build can ruin their day pretty quickly. However, that high reward comes with plenty of risk. Taking greedy shots or being lazy with heat management will get you killed quickly and frequently.
Weapons: 2 ER PPC
The Lightningjack takes advantage of the BJ-1X’s speed to play the mobile medium sniper, quickly moving from position to position taking shots whenever possible. Heat is an issue, but with frequent displacement and careful heat management, the Lightningjack can produce significant amounts of damage. The alpha damage of 20 gives the mech a solid pinpoint punch, and the DPS remains fairly consistent over time.
Comedy Terrible Build: FlapJack (BJ-1)
Weapons: 1 Gauss Rifle, 4 Medium Lasers
I found this build on the MWO forums. Its creator claimed to have had a lot of luck with it. While the 35 damage alpha looks good at first glance, it requires being in short and medium range with your target. Unlike AC builds that rely upon a single heavy weapon to output damage, using a Gauss Rifle in the arm of the Blackjack in MWO is like strapping a bomb to the side of the mech. The arms of the Blackjack are frequently clipped in a brawl, and when the Gauss Rifle inevitably explodes, it will often cripple or even destroy the mech by blowing through the XL engine. So if running around strapped to a bomb that can only harm yourself is your thing, go wild.
The future of the Blackjack depends on how PGI deals with weight matching and the oft hinted at mech traits. If dropship mode includes max tonnage rules for the team, the Blackjack could go from an also-ran medium without a clear purpose to a valuable way to pick up five tons in place of a Centurion, Hunchback, or Trebuchet. In the current state of affairs, Blackjacks are simply not able to compete with the other mediums. Time will tell if PGI can find the Blackjack a suitable role in the metagame of MWO.