It's time to talk about the Cyclops in earnest. I've written a lot in the notes thread, so I'll skip the usual preamble and get into the builds.
Nearly every build that I highlight below has a giant XL engine mounted. The high engine cap is what sets the Cyclops apart from the other 90-ton Inner Sphere mechs. If you want a slower, more heavily armed assault mech, then you're better off with a Mauler. Honestly, though, being able to reposition quickly makes your weapons more valuable than their sheer quantity, so if you're looking at getting your first IS assault mech, then I'd recommend getting the Cyclops and whacking a huge engine into it.
Okay, how huge? When I was dealing with the Cyclops as a hypothetical, I built just about everything with an XL400. Many of those builds have seen that engine size reduced to an XL390. That downgrade minimally impacts twist speed, leaves you with a top speed over 75kph with speed tweak, and frees up 3.5 tons for additional equipment, which I generally had the crit space to utilize. Close-range brawler builds generally kept the XL400, because every bit of twist and run speed matters.
Most of the time, I run multiple builds on a given chassis variant before settling in on or returning to a build that proved itself. This mech is the exception. I've run exactly one build on this variant. The twenty-two SRM tubes form your main punch, while the AC10 helps focus your damage on a single component and gives you an option if the fight stalemates beyond the range of your SRMs. You might consider dropping half a ton of AC10 ammo, since you get so many rounds-per-ton, to pick up another half-ton of SRM ammo or armor. Don't go looking for more heat sinks, because if you've overheated, you should already have killed at least two mechs, without stopping to breathe in between.
When considering other possible builds, my first thought was to swap the AC10 out for large pulse lasers. This gives you more mid-range firepower, but it trades too much. You've got to downgrade the engine on a brawler build and give up ammo for your primary weapon system, all in the service of adding a bunch of heat sinks that are still insufficient to make the build run as cool as its AC10-toting counterpart. Keep the big gun and the big engine.
What about a bigger gun? This build operates on a lot of the same principles of the AC10-SRM build, but provides a more focused punch by way of downgrading the SRMs in favor of upgrading the autocannon. The problem with a torso-mounted AC20 is that it is incompatible with an XL engine, meaning that you need to find weight for a big standard engine. If you must run a standard engine build, this one saves much of the XL build's firepower, but you're giving up quite a bit of top speed and making it more difficult to shield a weakened torso section.
Six energy hardpoints are the party-piece of the 10z, so let's fill them with large lasers. A word of caution: I secretly wanted this one to fail, because the six-ER-large Mad Cats of MechWarrior 4 were so aggressively boring that I'm still annoyed by their existence. That said, this build runs too hot, and when you do get close to your heat cap, you don't have a cooler weapon system to act as a fall-back option. Dropping a single laser gives you weight for more heat sinks, but you only have crit space available for one more. Ultimately, upgrading the engine to an XL400 (with its extra internal heat sink slot) can get the build up to twenty-one heat sinks, but it still runs hot and doesn't feel like it has sufficient punch for a mech of this size.
The other option opened up by the six energy hardpoints is to strip off one of the arms and side-stack your weaponry. I settled in on a combination of Gauss and large lasers that works well at mid- to long-range. That screenshot in the notes thread of a 1,000 damage game was this build on Alpine Peaks. ER large lasers might serve the build better, but I find myself frequently getting close enough to do full or nearly full damage with the large lasers, and the reduced beam duration allows me to twist away from return fire sooner. Incidentally, you will want to twist away from return fire. The Gauss rifle exploding the moment the right torso's armor is stripped has been a persistent problem with this build.
Actually, Gauss explosions became such a problem at one point that I redesigned the mech to replace the Gauss rifle. While a UAC5 won't explode, and I padded the ammo with enough other stuff to avoid it exploding, this build still winds up being squishier than the Gauss build. If you're rapid-firing the UAC5, then you have to continuously face your target, and ripple-firing four large lasers to avoid ghost heat requires quite a bit of face time, even if you'd like to twist away from incoming fire. Ultimately, I went back to the Gauss build.
So.... Make a Splatplops. Job done.
Okay, fine, I'll do more than the dead-obvious murdermech. Since a lot of solo queue matches will stalemate at mid-range, sacrificing an SRM launcher for a couple of large lasers can reduce the feast-or-famine nature of an otherwise really short-range build. The problem with this is that firing off the SRMs and large lasers together at close range will cause the mech to run too hot, and it gives up too much ammo to just lean on the SRMs exclusively at short ranges.
On the subject of heat, instead of using those energy hardpoints to extend your effective range, you can instead consider using flamers to improve your close-range performance. This build won't give up as much firepower, and it retains both more ammo and the XL400 engine from the pure SRM build, but now you've got the ability to hamstring any target that you're able to isolate by locking them at 90% heat, until they succumb to your missiles (or they take a last-ditch shot and overheat). It's a fun bit of utility to add, but you are doubling-down on being a short-range fighter.
Alternatively, you could embrace ranged combat. This is another hot-running mech, so don't plan on rapid-firing both the LRMs and large lasers. Instead, you'll want to ripple fire your LRM5s (three launchers, then two) to avoid ghost heat, until you've opened your target's center torso armor, and then you can use the large lasers to push additional damage for a quick kill. In addition to trigger discipline, you've got to remember that you're an assault mech with a lot of armor. Take your turns near the front to tank damage for the team, and rotate back, when you get too heavily focused or when your armor begins to wear thin. Your weapons will perform best within about 400-500 meters, so you shouldn't be way in the back, disconnected from the engagement anyway.
You wouldn't think it, but this variant has been a shocking pain in the ass. How could it be? It's a fast assault mech with ECM. This should be the easiest mech in the world to make effective, so why has my mechbay text file ballooned with twenty-five CYC-11p builds, with almost no astrisks to denote standouts?
Well let's start here. By the time I started building out my CYC-11p, I had the brainwave that the long-range builds should probably run an XL390, since min-maxing mobility wasn't strictly necessary. I ran this build for several matches without noticing the problem. That problem is that this mech runs too cold. You can rapid-fire the autocannons and lasers together, and even without the UAC5 jamming, and you just won't get your heat off the bottom of the scale. That means that I've over-invested tonnage in heat sinks, and that means I can free up weight to further optimize the build. From this configuration, I found that I was able to comfortably drop three heat sinks.
What to do with three tons then? Well, you can add two medium lasers and up-armor the left arm. Except you generally are fighting beyond the maximum range of medium lasers, so that's replacing three wasted tons with a different three wasted tons. Likewise for flamers. Likewise for additional ammo. If you strip ammo and more heat sinks for another large laser, then you wind up with a mech that runs too hot to rely on the lasers and is too short on ammo to rely on the autocannons and is both too hot and too short on ammo to use both in any reasonable combination. There's not enough weight or crit space to add missile launchers, and the CYC-11adc does ballistic-missile combinations better anyway. A Gauss-large laser build seemed appealing for a minute, but the CYC-10z does that build better, since it can side-stack the lasers and isn't wasting a ballistic hardpoint. AUGH!
Let's try something completely different, then. Old meta anyone? Seriously, if you could mount even a single jump jet, this would have dominated the battlefield in 2013. It's still pretty reasonable now, being able to deal thirty damage at 540 meters, but a standard AC5's rate of fire leaves you pretty toothless against targets that get too close for your PPCs.
Really, the allure of the UAC5+AC5 combination was too much for me to resist, and so I revisited it one more time. I realized that by tweaking the ammo load and dropping the prescribed three heat sinks, I could mount the XL400. It works beautifully. This build runs cool--but not too cold--and can put out an impressive amount of damage at mid/long ranges over a long burst. It's a little face-tanky, since you rely on rapid-firing your autocannons to deal most of your damage, but the combination of your mobility and ECM will typically give you plenty of time to deal damage, before you're noticed.
There's two variants that I have not taken into combat yet. The first is the hero mech, Sleipnir (CYC-S), and the second is the CYC-11a. I'm too broke to afford the hero at the moment, and the CYC-11a is something of a one-trick pony. Nevertheless, here's a couple of ideas worth considering, if you pick up these variants for yourself.
Starting with the hero, a pretty common swap is to drop the stock Gauss rifles in favor of four UAC5s. The trouble with this build is that it is painfully slow, since you need to run a standard engine to leave crit space in the side torsos for the UACs and you need a lot of weight free for the cannons and you need even more weight available for the necessary ammunition. A superior alternative is to run two UAC5s and two regular AC5s. This frees up the crit space necessary to mount an XL380, which then frees up the weight to carry 1,350 damage worth of ammo. I don't get why this build isn't more common.
Now, the CYC-S has more options available, given its combination of ballistic and energy hardpoints, but the CYC-11a is really a one-trick pony. You've got three ballistic hardpoints in one side torso, and if you don't use all three, then there are other variants that will do what you're doing with the CYC-11a and do it better. How do you use all three of those ballistic hardpoints, then? Well, you mount AC2s. The real question is, what do you mount with your AC2s?
One option is large lasers. Given the range that the AC2s are capable of firing at, you might consider using ER large lasers, but like with the LRM build for the CYC-10q, you need to be prepared to tank some damage for the rest of the team, so the regular large lasers encourage you to rotate forward from time to time.
Alternatively, you can double-down on explosives and couple your AC2s with LRMs. I'm a little nervous about how much ammo this mech stores in its everywhere, such that even my critpadding efforts seem a touch insufficient, but LRM5s and AC2s are pretty rapid-fire weapons, so it should be ideally able to blech most of that ammo out, before your armor gets opened up.
Should I buy the Sleipnir and/or run the CYC-11a, I'll amend this thread to let you know what works and what didn't, but for now, those are ideas for which you'll have to be the guinea pig.
See the Cyclops Notes thread.
Assault mechs don't need to be slow, and they don't benefit from being slow. I had a set of Battlemasters some time back that I kept trying to run with small, standard engines, and they didn't work. They were usually out of position, and when I got in close, I didn't have the nimbleness to roll damage or get back to cover, when I got focused. It was a frustrating experience, that regularly resulted in me dying, while dealing half the damage I would have in a medium mech.
The Cyclops is heavier than the Battlemaster, but because I'm fully utilizing its high engine cap, I'm not facing the same frustration in the Cyclops that I did with the Battlemaster. Truthfully, the frustration was my own fault, because the Battlemaster also has a 400 engine cap; I just wasn't using it.
Actually, the Cyclops is in a nice sweet spot. It's really easy to make builds that fully utilize all of the mech's resources. Browse back through the builds and see how few free crit slots there are. The builds fully utilize the engine cap. They fully utilize the tonnage. They fully utilize the crit space. I didn't run into any wierd scenarios, where I had to drop endo-steel internals or add ferro-fibrous armor because there was some imbalance in tonnage or crit space. The CYC-11p was the only one that gave me any real trouble, and that was only because I momentarily overlooked the fact that it could mount an even bigger engine.
The Cyclops is a great chassis, if you're just getting into assault mechs, or if you enjoy the Battlemaster but are tired of being stuck almost exclusively with energy-missile loadouts.
A cult classic goes online! Futuristic warfare in 100 tonne death machines where the screams of your enemies can't be heard over the sounds of explosions!
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