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Thoughts of the Moment

Posted: Fri Jan 19, 2018 7:52 am
by BlueFlames
So I've been slowly redeveloping the itch for mech violence. (It's like a rash.... I'd see a dermatologist, but I don't have health insurance that will cover that at my age.) I'm not ready for a proper return to MWO yet, but I've got a free mech coming in March that will fill a hole in my Clan CW drop deck, so that's going to have me back in the game.

That gives me time to do my homework and rebuild mechs, based on the 3067 tech and balance changes that have been implemented over the past several months. As I pick through the numbers and update my builds, I'll post preliminary thoughts and builds in this thread.

Tonight's thoughts:

Laser Duration

It looks like about half of the Clan beam arsenal is utterly unusable. I avoid laser weapons with a beam duration over one full second, unless it's really good on other metrics, in which case, if some combination of skills and quirks gets the duration under 1.1 seconds, I might just take it. That's ER large lasers out, ER medium lasers out, and all the heavy lasers gone. (HSLs barely squeek in with skills, so I might try a silly 12HSL Nova at some point.)

On this metric, Inner Sphere lasers are still pretty amazing, across the board. ER large lasers used to be the only IS lasers with a beam duration too long for my taste, but they had that duration trimmed just enough to make them pretty reasonable. In fact, combined with the regular large laser's beam duration increase to match the ERLL's new duration, there's little reason to take LLs over ERLLs.

Small-class lasers got a huge damage nerf a while back, but I'm going to want to play with those in the testing grounds at least, before drawing any exceedingly harsh conclusions.


With ERSLs in the Inner Sphere inventory, I wanted to see if I could make an IS equivalent of a Nova. Well, there's no IS medium mechs with double-digit numbers of energy hardpoints, so I pretty quickly abandoned that plan and went looking at an old standby among energy-based IS mechs.

The GHR-5P used to be the go-to variant, with four hardpoints in the upper half of the torso. At the time, its quirks were roughly on-par with the other Grasshopper variants, so the high-mounted hardpoints just made the GHR-5P plainly superior.

That's changed significantly. The durability quirks have been pared back significantly, while most of the other variants had their structure quirks switched to armor. That makes the GHR-5P less attractive for laser vomit or medium pulse builds that operate at medium and close ranges. The high mounts, combined with the five percent energy range quirk, mean that the GHR-5P is still a prime candidate for a quad-ERLL build. This can be an especially good build for first-wave defense on CW maps, on maps that let you snipe over the gates.

If you only need two high-mounts, the GHR-5H is a better option than the 5P, owing to its heat quirk, and for close-range builds, the GHR-5N has the right mix of hardpoints and quirks.

Speaking of, Rak's 8MPL GHR-5N build is impervious to improvement. I fiddled with that thing for two hours tonight, and the best I could do was shave armor for a third jump jet. Is that really a worthwhile trade? Reeeeally? Pilot's preference. I thought that Light Ferro armor might fill in crits and open up some meaningful tonnage. It does free up about a ton, but there's nothing I want to swap out to open crits to use that extra ton. If you've already got an XL340 engine, the GHR-5N gives you a really good cheap-and-cheerful build.

Next Time

I don't know.... I'm trying to stay positive, so probably PPCs, but this thread is going to be about whatever whim strikes me, when the whim strikes me.

Re: Thoughts of the Moment

Posted: Sat Jan 20, 2018 3:38 am
by BlueFlames
Tonight's thoughts:

New Tech (in general)

This stuff is.....not good. That's actually not terribly surprising.

In tabletop BattleTech, the tech that the Inner Sphere recovered/developed from 3060 to 3067 served the gameplay purpose of bringing the IS power level up to a level closer to that of the Clans. (Even outnumbered twelve to five, Clan mechs could pretty reliably stomp pre-3060 IS mechs in tabletop.) In MWO, there were loads of balance adjustments to establish some kind of parity between 3050's-era IS and Clan tech.

That means that new tech only exists to fill in niches, and they're really narrow niches. In a lot of cases, they're so narrow that they don't exist. For example, show me a build that uses a micro laser that isn't better with ER small lasers instead. Good luck.

There are some exceptions. Heavy PPCs give your energy-based IS mechs an equivalent to the Gauss rifle. IS ER lasers are pretty good. I want to check the spread on AT missiles before I pass judgement on them, but that close-range damage might just be amazing. I'll probably dig into more specifics another time.

IS Energy-Based Mediums

Let's start with a classic: The Blackjack 1X has long had a popular 6ML+2MPL build. It's good, but I never fell in love with this build. At close range, the 0.9 second beam duration is a little long, and hill-humping is not the most viable strategy at 270 meters.

The new IS beam weapons let you specialize this Blackjack variant. For close range, you can trade range for shorter beam duration by mixing medium pulse lasers with ER small lasers. Alternatively, you can swap regular medium lasers for ER medium lasers to get an extra ninety meters of optimal range. Given the relative frailty of 45-ton mechs, I'm inclined to take the longer-range option, but both are worth testing.

Moving on, I reeeeeallly wanted to make a dual-heavy-PPC medium mech. Can you imagine a pop-tarting, 90+kph mech that hits volleys that hits as hard as a dual-Gauss assault? Yeah, I couldn't quite get there. I did get close, though. I probably won't run this build, since that build will likely run super-hot, and Sparky is better suited for pulse lasers, but it does demonstrate the kinds of sacrifices necessary to get two HPPCs onto a medium chassis.

My last stab at the mech lab for the night was to see what I could do with a Wolverine with light ferro armor, instead of endo steel internals. I'm not sold on the build. Light ferro is pretty nice on some heavier chassis or combined with endo steel on lighter chassis, but for the Wolverine, I had to give up a lot of armor to switch to standard internals. I'd also greatly prefer a large pulse laser to the SNPPC, even though it works in the same range bracket as the medium pulse lasers. Still, look at all those heat sinks!

Next Time...

Stuff! And things! My prognostication abilities are clearly lacking, even when I'm in full control of the events I'm predicting.

Re: Thoughts of the Moment

Posted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 5:16 am
by BlueFlames
Tonight's Thoughts:


It's still unworkable dog shit...

IS Ballistics (on the HBK-4G)

...because most of these are dog shit. Seriously, let's go down the list and address why IS ballistics are bad either specifically for the HBK-4G or just in general.

• UAC10/20: Long jam times. If you've got a mech with a big jam chance quirk and have unlocked both UAC jam duration nodes in the skill maze, then they're worth trying, but the HBK-4G has no such quirk.

• UAC2/5: Much as I'd love to have a beastly 3UAC2 or 2UAC5 Dakkaback, you're either going to be stuck under-gunned or lacking ammo. Also, it's not a good mech for face-tanking.

• RAC2/5: I'm going to give these a chance in the testing grounds, before passing judgement, but unless the DPS is utterly nutter-butters, it's another weapon system hampered by the necessity to have a staring contest with your target.

• MGs: Nope. A cluster of three MGs will be an inadequate supplement to whatever energy-based build you might try to shoehorn into the HBK-4G's three energy hardpoints.

• LBXs: Nope. You're still better off slinging slugs from a regular autocannon than shot from an LBX autocannon.

That's not to say all hope is lost. A Gauss rifle HBK-4G build works a bit better now, since you can supplement the rifle with ER medium lasers. AC20 builds are also less bad, since you can use a light engine instead of a standard engine (but a light 275 is still four tons heavier than an XL275). Neither of these builds are going to light your pants on fire, though.

The HBK-4P is still the go-to Hunchback variant, especially in an environment like this, where energy weapons are greatly superior to nearly every ballistic and missile weapon system. There might be something to be done with the HBK-4H too, which trades the 4G's excess ballistic hardpoints for a couple of extra energy hardpoints in the torso. I just wanted to find a purpose for my Founder's mech. :(

Next Time...

I've no idea. I should probably work on some Clan mechs, since a seventy-ton Clan omnimech is the whole reason I plan on (attempting to) get back into MWO in March. If that's the direction I go, then--spoiler warning--expect a lot of medium pulse laser builds.

Re: Thoughts of the Moment

Posted: Fri Feb 02, 2018 7:53 am
by BlueFlames
Tonight's Thoughts

A 240t Clan Dropdeck

When I first started dropping in community warfare matches, I did not have any Clan mechs heavier than a Loki. That meant that when I was dropping on the Clan side, the deck was either two Lokis and two Ryokens or a Loki, a Linebacker, and two Ryokens. Anything other combination of what I had left me under-tonned. When I got my Marauder IIs mastered, that opened up a few new combinations, but I didn't like front-loading my deck to that degree.

What I really wanted was a Loki/Linebacker, a Ryoken, a Nova, and a seventy-ton omnimech that wasn't trash. Up until recently, the Thor was the only seventy-ton Clan mech at all, and it's always needed lots of quirks to elevate it to mere adequacy. Now, there's the Nova Cat, but it's got a locked 280-rated engine, which makes it too slow for its size (at least for a Clan mech).

The real contender for a worthy seventy-ton Clan omnimech is coming in March in the form of the Sun Spider. I'm getting one for free, because I logged in and played one match on December 27th. (I think PGI was hoping that this incentive would cause people to stick around for more than one match, but I was having none of that.) I'm pretty sure I can make a decent triple-PPC build with twenty-seven heat sinks, similar to my MAD-IIC in a smaller package. Whatever build I put on it, though, the seventy-ton chassis will open up some good options for drop deck composition.

Ryokens & Linebackers

In the January patch, PGI further reduced the maximum range of Clan medium pulse lasers. Their damage output at close-to-medium range has always been the appeal of MPLs anyway, so knocking down the maximum range, without touching the optimal range, doesn't really factor into what builds should feature them. It's rather like adding half a second to the cooldown on ERPPCs, when their effective rate of fire is always limited by heat.

That means that this Ryoken build continues to endure. It's about the only Ryoken build I have that I still have any interest in running. I had a UAC20+3ERML build that died to increased jam durations and increased beam durations. The 5ASRM6 build was a good brawler, until Artemis got hit by the nerf stick.

Looking to the Linebacker, then, transplanting the above build is the first, obvious option. I don't care for this one, though, mostly because it's *so* similar to the Ryoken build, save for being down a heat sink. With less tonnage, I prefer some variation of the 4MPL+4ERSL build. That will make better use of the chassis' crit space, before running up against the weight limit. You'll need to get marginally closer to do full damage with all of your weapons, but the Linebacker provides the speed and armor to do just that.

I'm also kicking around a couple of mixed ATM+ERSL builds, but I won't commit to those, until I've had a chance to see what the spread on ATM salvos are like. If they cluster like ASRM6s or ASRM4s used to, then they're going to be absolutely brutal in that 120m - 270m sweet spot. If they spread like LRMs, though, then my Clan builds are going to be a lot of MPLs, ERSLs, PPCs, and Gauss rifles to the exclusion of basically anything else.

Next Time...

I'll probably go back to more IS stuff. There's only so much to be done with the handful of Clan weapons that haven't been rendered trash. Maybe I'll share some more general thoughts on balancing, instead of looking at specific mechs or builds. We'll see.

Re: Thoughts of the Moment

Posted: Fri Feb 02, 2018 11:09 pm
by BlueFlames
Tonight's thoughts...

Equal Parts Naughty and Stupid

Light Gauss rifles had their rate of fire increased in the January patch. Though their per-shot damage is still half that of a normal Gauss rifle, they're able to deal more damage over time from longer range, if you can keep your head up. That gave me the cheeky idea to try to cram a pair of light Gauss rifles into a medium mech.

This resulted in three awful builds.

None of them carry enough ammo, and both the Enforcer and Blackjack have to give up an absurd amount of armor to free up enough tonnage for the rifles. If you're going to double up on Gauss, you really need a heavy chassis.

The Cyclops Runt

Back when I originally featured the Cyclops, one of the variants was rather lacking for options. The CYC-11A has three ballistic hardpoints in the right torso and fewer missile and energy hardpoints than any other variant. That left it with triple-AC2 build that was kind of unimpressive for an assault mech.

Well, new tech can turn that triple-AC2 build into a triple-UAC2 build. UAC2s still have super-short jam durations, which means that you should be able to maintain a pretty steady rate of fire. It should at least be worth a try, this time out.

Next Time...

I'll probably take a stab at some more Clan builds. Lokis and something else in all likelihood.

Re: Thoughts of the Moment

Posted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 10:41 pm
by BlueFlames
Tonight's thoughts...

The Sun Spider

You know those mechs that come out that are so good they kind of ruin the balance of the game for a while? The Ryoken, the Arctic Cheetah, and the Kodiak spring to mind as notable examples. Balance was humming along as well as it ever does in MWO, and then one of these came along and just blew it all up. Laser vomit on the Ryoken made a fast medium mech hit like something twenty tons heavier. A 6SPL Arctic Cheetah could sneak about undetected and carve up an assault lance. The 4UAC10 Kodiak was such a powerful and generalized build that it may as well have been an "I win" button.

I think the Sun Spider might wind up being another one of these mechs.

I mentioned earlier that I could probably closely replicate my 3ERPPC MAD-IIC build on it. While I like that build, it comes with a learning curve, and it's never an immediately obvious build, so people tend to overlook it. I've been wondering what else the Sun Spider could do, though.

Well, pull up a Thor, and strip it of weapons (and maybe pull off the arm armor as well). The Sun Spider is the same size chassis and has the same XL350 engine with four locked heat sinks. It doesn't have the Thor's five jump jets (adding five tons of pod space and five crit slots) and does come with endo-steel structure (adding 3.5 tons of pod space and subtracting seven crit slots). The net loss of two crit slots is pretty minimal, compared to the gain of 8.5 tons for weapons and equipment.

What can you do with 29.5 to 32.0 tons of pod space? Well, dual-Gauss and quad-UAC2s sprang right to my mind. Looking at the concept art, all of the torso hardpoints are going to be mounted right around the cockpit, potentially making the Sun Spider a mean hill-peeker. The SNS-A will have two ballistic hardpoints in each side torso omnipod. The dual-Gauss build will have eight-ish tons left for ammo and maybe a couple of lasers in the also-high arms. Four UAC2s leaves twelve tons for ammo and additional weapons.

I expect that PGI will nerf Gauss rifles and UAC2s, around the time of the C-bill release of the Sun Spider. Stripping this mech of whatever quirks it debuts with and hammering its acceleration into the ground isn't going to be enough to contain this beast. At least, that's my sense of it, right now.

Next Time...

I really need to work on some Loki builds. I've got a decent close-range build, but the Loki is a bit squishy for brawling, and medium-/long-range builds are generally better for community warfare, which is the whole point of this exercise anyway.

Re: Thoughts of the Moment

Posted: Wed Feb 14, 2018 4:20 am
by BlueFlames
Tonight's thoughts...

The Loki Puzzle

Another Loki variant came out not-too-long ago, the HBR-P. The P right torso omnipod provides two energy hardpoints at about the same level as the three energy hardpoints on the HBR-Prime left torso. That brings the Loki up to a potential maximum of nine energy hardpoints, and gives you an opportunity to stack energy weaponry on the right side of the mech, and gives you the ability to hill peak with five or six weapons, and, and, and...

Buuuuut, it's got standard armor and internal structure, leaving you with loads of crit slots and little tonnage. The Loki also has big, squishy side torso hit boxes, making it frail in a brawl. It's tough to make a long-range build, since a pair of PPCs or large pulse lasers eats up almost half of your available tonnage, even with an aggressive armor shave.

Well, let's start dead simple: seven medium pulse lasers. I slapped this together and hesitated on whether or not I wanted to save it. I was concerned that its damage output would compare unfavorably to a 6MPL Ryoken, despite being ten tons heavier. While it looks a lot emptier, the Loki has more heat sinks and at least looks like it should be able to sustain higher damage output, at least until a torso gets blown off.

In that same close range bracket, you can mix in ERSLs along with the MPLs to gain some additional heat efficiency and spare weight for more heat sinks. I haven't done a lot of tinkering with this build yet, so there might be a better balance of MPLs versus ERSLs versus zillions of heat sinks, but as a proof-of-concept, the numbers look better for 3MPL+6ERSL with twenty-seven heat sinks than they do for the 7MPL build with twenty-three heat sinks.

But those are squishy builds being shoved into brawling range, so let's pull things back a bit. Well, instead of pairing MPLs with ERSLs, you can pair MPLs with LPLs. The burn and total cycle times are pretty similar, making the two systems work well together against targets in range of both, while the large pulse lasers give the mech some significant reach.

For even more reach, the LPLs can be dropped in favor of ERPPCs. I dropped the MPLs in favor of ERSLs to free up weight for additional heat sinks. I'm not super-sold on running a relatively short-range weapon alongside a really long-range weapon, but the Loki can't quite fit three PPCs with enough heat sinks to make them functional, and with only two PPCs, it carries too many heat sinks. Maybe two PPCs and a huge targeting computer is another way to go? I guess there's room for more tinkering on this one....

ER small lasers are also an attractive pairing for large pulse lasers in a similar way to MPLs, so if you're actively playing right now, you could try hybridizing the two previous builds. (If you don't, I probably will later on down the line.)

Next time...

I will wander wherever my whims shall take me. I've got a pretty good stable of builds highlighted in this thread, so my posting will probably slow down a bit, until March 20, when I actually dive back into the game to test some of this nonsense.

Re: Thoughts of the Moment

Posted: Thu Feb 15, 2018 8:31 am
by BlueFlames
Tonight's thoughts...

It's actually the morning.

Why am I starting one of these at 2:00am?


Spread on ASRM4 launchers is now roughly comparable to what the spread used to be on ASRM6 launchers, meaning that there's still potentially a use for missile hardpoints! Of course, you can't just do a one-for-one swap of ASRM6s for ASRM4s, since you're giving up some of your single-shot punch. SRMs now either need some additional weaponry to supplement them, or they need to be the supplement to another weapon system.

My first bit of tinkering was with the Vulture, which I don't even own. The heat numbers hint at another problem that swapping an ASRM6 build over to ASRM4s: SRM6 launchers belch out more missiles per unit heat than SRM4 launchers. Switching a 6ASRM6 Vulture to 6ASRM4+6ERSL, you're not just adding heat with the lasers, but with the different launchers as well.

Remember the 6MPL Ryoken? Well, if you swap some MPLs for ERSLs, then you can free up tonnage for some SRM launchers. It's a build worth taking out for a spin, though I'm wondering if the extra damage output is going to be entirely in the form of missiles spreading outside of the component at which you're actually aiming.

Next time...

<censored> me, I don't know! It's 2:30am, and I'm going to bed.

Re: Thoughts of the Moment

Posted: Sat Mar 17, 2018 7:55 am
by BlueFlames
Tonight's thoughts...

This unreadable word salad is from the patch notes:
Clan Double Heat Sink Design Notes: Due to the reduced Critical locations on Clan Double Heatsinks, we have seen a heavy amount of loadouts in the heavy and assault class' lean on heatsink boating as an easy way to supplement the heavy amount of firepower that the Clans can often acquire for minimal tonnage through certain weapon selections. We do not wish to separate the capabilities of heat sinks to the detriment of those clan 'Mechs that occupy the lighter half of their roster which are often restricted more by Tonnage, and not critical space, or those loadouts that rely on heavier payloads such as ballistic or missile weapons. But we do want to target a change that provides heatsink boating loadouts with a bit more natural give and take by making mass heatsink stacking more venerable to attrition through critical hits.
I don't even care about the change they're highlighting. I just wish PGI could express anything in a way that didn't make them come across as drooling morons. I'd be surprised if Paul or Russ ever managed a successful handshake without all of their hair and teeth inexplicably falling out. For as frustrating as MWO can be, the worst part is that it requires some level of interaction with its developers, even if it's just reading the patch notes.

Anyway, I'll be back in the game again on Tuesday, as promised, though given that I'm already this salty, I might not be back for long.

Re: Thoughts of the Moment

Posted: Tue Mar 20, 2018 7:08 am
by BlueFlames
Can we just look at this....


King hill-poker gets a ballistic cooldown quirk for its Gauss rifles. I don't even care that it's going to be one of those silly 8/8 omnipod set quirks, because all that matters is that you've got a ballistic hardpoint in each side torso with the stock pods. Two Gauss rifles with a heavy investment in the cooldown nodes in the skill maze and an extra 10% cooldown quirk is going to have little trouble spitting out eight tons (1,200 damage worth) of ammo in a match.

They gave this variant away too. It's going to be the only mech you see this month, and it's never going to completely go away, unless there's some ludicrously extensive balance changes.

Re: Thoughts of the Moment

Posted: Wed May 30, 2018 3:45 pm
by BlueFlames
Tonight's thoughts...

Wolverines and the Agility Tree
BlueFlames wrote:I found the missing mobility quirks. They didn't get rolled into the base mobility stats of the mechs they were originally on. They got rolled into the base mobility stats of the Wolverine.

Since the engine desync, the Wolverine has been really nimble. Like, I don't care how high your mouse sensitivity is, the Wolverine will torso twist faster than you can move your mouse. The yaw range on its torso twist is so high that you have to take care not to accidentally present your back to incoming fire. Its acceleration, deceleration, and turning characteristics are all pretty impressive as well. Maybe it doesn't need my normal, thirty-six node investment in the mobility tree.

Poking around in the offline skill maze, I was able to trim ten nodes from the agility tree, without giving up the speed tweak nodes at the bottom. (Engine upgrades are a huge weight investment, so speed tweak helps free up weight in your build for weapons and heat sinks.)

Where do you reinvest those skill points, then? My first thought was to hunt cool run nodes in the ops tree. That proved to be a waste of time, since ten nodes in the ops tree will only unlock three cool run nodes, with most of the rest of that investment going to waste. Ten nodes in the durability tree came up with about six percent bonus armor and ten percent bonus structure, for a total of about six to ten bonus hitpoints to each section of the mech.

How about the firepower tree? That's not necessarily a bad idea, except that my normal firepower investment is forty-three nodes. If you're running that skill path on a laser-based WVR-6K (and you are, because all of the other Wolverines are in a bad spot right now), there's not much else you could possibly want. There's six cooldown nodes, but those would be something of a waste, since your real rate of fire is going to be limited by your heat. Nothing else applies to lasers.

This endeavor was looking pretty grim, at this point in my thought process. For all of PGI's waffling about player choice and tactical depth and [buzzword] [buzzword], is there really only one optimal skill path for energy-based mechs, such that even mechs that are excessively mobile should stick with the mobility tree?





But if you put a gun to my head and told me to do something different, I guess you could take radar deprivation. If you've got full seismic sensor (and you should), then full radar deprivation takes an additional seven nodes in the sensor tree. Two more nodes buys advanced zoom, which is something of a waste, unless you're running ER large lasers and consistently taking shots from beyond six hundred meters. The last node I took was the quick ignition node at the top of the ops tree, because.....<censored> it, because I had one more node to activate.

So there you go: You can make a sneaky Wolverine because they're already ridiculously nimble.