MechWarrior Online's Open Beta launch has brought giant internet robots into computers across the world. In this article, we'll take a look at some of the most popular 'mech builds and what they mean for MWO.
Top of the Food Chain
Let's start out with a look at Assault 'Mechs, the heaviest armored and armed BattleMechs available. The undisputed assault king right now is the Founder Atlas D(F). My Merc Corp, cReddit, likes to call them 'DTFs'. A lot of the people who purchased the $60 founders pack chose the founders Atlas since they are the hardest to get for a new player. Therefore, you see them all over the place, almost as ubiquitously as the trial Awesome 8T. The DTF is a solid mech, requiring focused fire and time to take them down, but ignoring them in favor of their weaker allies can be lethal as well.
The Atlas DTF features two projectile slots in its RT, two missile hardpoints, and four energy weapon hardpoints. The single most popular loadout is AC-20, 4 medium pulse lasers (MPL), and a couple SRM-6s. This build gives a pretty solid punch at 200m with the MPLs and AC-20, and provides a 'shotgun blast' of SRM-6s if you get too close.
Other popular builds include multiple LRMs with 4 ML for range, and the famous 'Steel Jaguar Atlas,' which is a three Large Laser build that also sports a gauss rifle. The Steel Jaguar Atlas has incredible alpha and projection, and will become even more powerful when the DHS issues are resolved. The main disadvantage with the Steel Jaguar Atlas is that is tends to run pretty hot, so use that to your advantage. All in all, when you see this common Atlas on the field, there's only one safe place to be, and that's right behind it.
The newest Awesome variant, released Oct. 25th along with a buff to Awesome survivability, has resurrected something that hardened Beta veterans might remember: the Fast Awesome. The Awesome-9M features an incredible 77.8KPH top speed that becomes a breathtaking 85KPH with elite AWS mech experience. Referred to by cRedditors as the 'Rancor,' this setup can move as fast as a stock Dragon while wielding six energy slots and three SRM slots. The only catch is that the center torso contains two of these laser slots in addition to two missile slots, forcing the pilot to choose between maximum laser slots and a trio of SRMs.
I call them 'SRM' slots because of their unique design: the missile ports on the 9M only allow two missiles to pass through at a time. You could technically mount an LRM 20 onto the 9M, but it would fire 2 missiles at a time in 10 salvos, making it mostly ineffective. The AWS-9M shines with five medium lasers and two Streak SRM-2s, making it an assault 'mech that can move where it needs to, deal with Light 'mechs, and mount an amazing alpha strike. This BattleMech redeems the Awesome lineup, and is the reason a lot of people are saving up for an assault 'mech.
Let's Talk Cats
As a Redditor, this is of course one of my favorite subjects, even more so when we're talking about 65 ton death machines. No listing of MWO 'mechs would be complete without the Catapult, and in fact, the Catapult will probably be the single 'mech chassis that an MWO player will see most often. The Catapult has become a symbol of MechWarrior Online.
The most controversial and popular Cat build is the Catapult-K2. The K2 is the only 'mech in the game that can mount a dual gauss cannon setup right now, giving it a 30 damage alpha that costs zero heat. While considered 'cheesy' and 'non-canon' by many players, the 'Gausscat' was capable of incredible feats throughout Closed Beta, but has recently taken a bit of fire from the developers. Cockpit hitboxes have been 'tweaked' across MWO, most notably with the AWS cockpit shrinking considerably. Large 'mechs with smaller engines also now have to buy heat sinks, cutting a ton of ammo from the Gausscat. At the same time the Gauss projectile speed has been reduced slightly, enough to make those distance shots more difficult. These changes haven't rendered the Gausscat Inept, but have been a good way to bring them into line with other 'mechs. The Gausscat remains one of the most feared BattleMechs on the field.
Next up are Streakers, and not the "nothing but a trenchcoat" kind. The Streakcat is a Catapult-A1 that focuses on Streak SRM-2 boating. A large engine, high levels of armor and six SSRM-2s are a quite effective loadout. The missiles can be chain-fired for incredible levels of cockpit shake or fired simultaneously in salvos that will KO lights or strip armor in batches from the enemy center torso. Another popular streakcat build is 2 SRM6 and 4 SSRM-2s. This build sacrifices a bit of the anti-light power, runs a little hotter than the Six Streak and has to worry about 2 different types of ammo, but gets a much higher alpha damage and is more effective against Atlases. Woe to the Atlas that allows one of these Catapults behind it.
One thing to note is that PGI has announced a nerf to Streak SRM-2s by making the missiles sometimes lock onto something other than the center torso. This change will definitely affect streakcat effectiveness against assaults and heavies, possibly relegating this build to unusability. The level of power this variant will lose remains to be seen.
Finally, the Catapult-C1 is a common sight on the battlefield that will probably become even more popular. This variant, often termed 'Catzilla,' usually sports two LRM15s and 4 Medium Pulse lasers. While LRMs generally aren't very effective in organized play, they are quite powerful in pugstomp matches and can be useful to drive the enemy into cover in premade versus premade play. The main strength of the Catzilla is that it can apply damage from 1000m all the way to brawling range. Many enemies will see this Cat firing LRM's and will close within the minimum range, only to be met with heavy pulse laser damage.
This huge range of variety and power makes Catapults one of the most popular 'mechs to play in the game, especially when combined with the high power of long range missiles in pickup group matches.
Medium 'Mechs: midgets or monsters?
Continuing down the weight classes, we arrive at Medium 'mechs. The Centurion is worth a mention as it is quite popular. Looking at it objectively, the Centurion's weapon hardpoints are more spread out, and it is almost impossible to totally disable one like you can a hunchback. The 3 Streak Cent is probably the most viable build, but still cannot put out anything near the damage numbers on a hunchback. The Centurion's main strength is that it is a damage sponge that can tank an Atlas longer than most other 'mechs in the game in the hands of a skilled pilot. That said, the Hunchback is superior in almost every way, with the only real tradeoff being more fragility.
The main Hunch build is the Hunchback-4P, which is the laserboat hunchback. Toting six laser slots in its RT and one in the head and both arms, the Lunchback is a powerful 50-ton package of lasers, engines, and armor. Piloting one armed with seven medium lasers and two medium pulse lasers might feel like a disco, but the level of threat this mech packs is deadly to mechs of every weight class. In fact, seven medium lasers have a higher alpha than 2 gauss cannons.
Like most other hunchback variants, targeting the swollen right torso is probably the easiest way to take a lunchback out of the fight, especially considering that most Hunchbacks will run XL engines. "Focus fire on Hunch RT" is called for as often as "whack that Wang."
Size Doesn't Matter
Finally, the list is rounded out with the ubiquitous Jenner. The Jenner is the eyes and ears of a MechCommander, but also can make an effective skirmisher. Now that knockdowns have been removed, the threat level from Jenners and other lights has skyrocketed. As with the Atlas, the Founder's Jenner is quite popular with four laser slots and two missile slot. The most common founder's build is usually dubbed the 'Jennerceptor.' Four small lasers and 2 Streak SRM2s make the Jennerceptor one of the most effective dogfighting lights, and killing lights should be a Jenner's main goal. After all, if things aren't looking good, the Jenner has the speed to get away from any other weight class.
giant metal robots and explosions
While these builds will make up about 75% of the non-trial mechs you see, by no means is there a lack of variety. Tweaks like endosteel, dual heat sinks, mech experience and engine options result in a plethora of choices, as any MechWarrior game should have. The upcoming addition of ECM, Artemis missile guidance, and the Cataphract will only increase the options availible. MechWarriors around the globe eagerly wait to see if PGI will actually be able to release a patch on time.