MechWarrior Online

MechWarrior Online

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Tactics 101 Comics
By fat4eyes
A visual guide to basic and intermediate team tactics in Mechwarrior Online. Also: 2D sprites and terrible jokes!
 
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WELCOME PEOPLE OF STEAM
To the Mechwarrior Online Tactics 101 Comics!

This guide was originally[mwomercs.com] made by yours truly at the Mechwarrior Online forums. I've ported it to the Steam guides section so new players can have a visual guide to the basic team tactics used in Mechwarrior Online games. Remember you can use the Guide Index on the right to move to a section you want ------>

I've gathered up some of what I've learned over the past year and a half of playing MWO and put it in (I hope) an entertaining yet informative format. So without further ado, here's our cast of characters:




Other Languages
Here are versions of this guide translated into other languages:

French (by Coryphee): http://mwomercs.com/forums/topic/213470-la-strategie-de-groupe/

Spanish (by Odin in Valhalla): http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1128598692

Now on to the Basics!
THE BASICS
Strength in Numbers

If you learn only one thing from these comics let it be this:

MORE of us vs. LESS of them = MORE of them dead & LESS of us dead

This is the basis for almost all of the tactics in these comics (and in real life too). Always try to maneuver so there are more friendly guns firing at the enemy than there are firing back. At the very least, stay with your teammates as often as possible and shoot what they shoot.
Formation

The echelon formation[en.wikipedia.org] is probably the most flexible and useful formation in MWO. It gives your teammates room to maneuver and can quickly turn to face a threat from most directions. Just remember to keep your distance and not block your teammates.
Tailgating

If you play long enough this will happen to you. Give your teammate room to back up. It may save his life (and yours too).
Escort

Picking a mech to escort and helping it take down its targets increases both your lifespans, and your kills.
Shuffle

To come out on top against even odds, you must find a way to spread damage across the team. You do not want that friendly assault with 70 firepower to go down early. If you're close to death but still have significant firepower, move behind your teammates and give them supporting fire. If you still have lots of armor near the end of the game, go up to the front line and tank. Yes, this applies to 'support mechs' too.
Cornering

Take it slow when going around a corner. Try to take your enemies one at a time. If you're a lighter mech escorting an assault or heavy, let him take the first salvo and immediately follow up with your own while the enemy is on cooldown. The heavy you're escorting values you more for your added firepower than for your tanking ability.
Peeking

When you're peeking to shoot at an enemy, try to pick a location where the fewest number of enemy mechs can shoot back at you. If you use a location and get a lot of return fire, go find another location. DO NOT peek at the same location again hoping that the enemy won't be looking. A great man once said "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". Don't be insane.
Situational Awareness

Situational awareness is knowing what's happening around you and your mech. I usually don't have long explanations for a comic but I feel I need to for this one.

  • Newbie: Only knows about the target he's shooting at. He doesn't notice he's being shot from behind until he's dead.
  • Padawan: Does notice he's being shot in the back, but only after he's lost all his rear armor and is warned of critical central torso damage. He then turns around to look behind him but now opens his rear to his previous target. He tries to chase down the light, even though he is unlikely to catch it.
  • Jedi: Immediately notices he's being shot in the back. Goes into cover as he looks behind him. Sees that he was being shot by a light, and knowing that his mech can't catch it, just fires at the enemy from his position.
  • Jedi Master: Does everything the Jedi does. In addition, he also alerts his team so teammates that are better equipped to deal with the enemy light can do so.

Situational awareness is a pretty big topic. If you want to know more about it you can look at Asmudius Heng's[www.showme.com] excellent video.[www.showme.com]
Friendly Fire

If you don't want to accidentally get shot by your teammates, don't move in front of them when they're engaged with an enemy. Not only are you blocking your teammate's shots, you're exposing yourself to the enemy.
Advantage

When you have an advantage, USE IT.
Pushing

When your team decides to push, you must do it as a team. Charging forward one at a time will just get your team killed one by one. When you see one of your teammates pushing (especially if he's piloting an assault), go and support the push.
FLANKING
Flanking

Flanking is a classic maneuver for breaking up stalemates. The idea is to attack a small portion of the enemy with superior firepower from an unexpected direction. This allows you to defeat the enemy in detail[en.wikipedia.org].
Flanking Fail

Flanking is not a silver bullet. If it's detected early, the enemy can redeploy and destroy your flanking force with a superior force, and then defeat your main force afterwards. Move stealthily and get the jump on the enemy. If all else fails, return to the main force and wait for another opportunity.
Flanking Fail 2

Here's another way a flanking maneuver can fail. If the flankers take too long to get to the enemy, the enemy can push your main force and likely defeat it. Be fast and decisive when flanking.
Flanking Fail 3

Yet another way for a flanking maneuver to fail. If the flankers engage the enemy too early or too far from their main force, the entire enemy team can focus on and destroy them. Your main force will then be defeated by the enemy due to their numbers. When you flank, make sure that your main force is able to support you. And when you're in the main force, support your flankers when they engage.
Flanking Counterattack

Flanking is not just useful in the offense, but can be very effective in the defense as well. When your enemy is pushing, almost their entire attention directed forward. This makes them vulnerable to a counterattack on their flanks. This has to be done very quickly, before the enemy has taken out too many of your teammates. When you see the enemy pushing hard on your weak flank, don't see it as an automatic loss, but an opportunity to launch a flanking counterattack and regain the upper hand.
Breakout

When your team is surrounded, usually your best bet is to find where the enemy is weakest and push hard. The enemy will try to chase you and shoot your backs so some mechs will have to act as the rear guard[en.wikipedia.org]. These mechs must use every trick in the book, from arty strikes to good use of cover, to delay the enemy long enough for the rest of the team to break out. A breakout is a risky maneuver, but it's almost always a better option than staying surrounded.
Crossfire

A pilot's first instinct when taking fire from an unexpected direction is to take cover. You can use this to herd an enemy into a bad position by putting them in a crossfire. Go to a good piece of cover on the enemy's flank and fire at them at medium to long range. The enemy that is now taking fire from you will most likely go into cover and try to shoot at you. Your goal is to take the heat off your teammates on the front lines, and try to herd the enemy into a disorganized ball behind their cover. Your teammates will then use their advantage of position to defeat the enemy.
NASCAR!
NASCAR

What people call NASCAR is just a flanking maneuver where the entire team goes to flank. A good NASCAR involves the team moving together as a group, engaging small portions of the enemy with full force, and having some mechs act as the rear guard[en.wikipedia.org] to make sure the team's heavy hitters aren't shot in the back.

NASCAR usually happens in maps that have a central feature that has lots of cover with paths going around it. The classic NASCAR map is Caustic Valley (around the central caldera). It also happens often in Mining Collective (around the raised central platform) and HPG Manifold (around the satellite dish).
NASCAR Fail

This is the most common way a NASCAR maneuver fails. Everyone goes off at top speed, not caring where their teammates are. Because mechs have different top speeds, the team gets strung out and is defeated one by one by a more organized enemy. Slow assaults in particular get shafted, doomed to an embarrassing death by light mech when their teammates abandon them.
NASCAR Recovery

Sometimes a NASCAR that's going bad can be saved if the fast mechs can help out the team's tail before it's completely destroyed. In some maps (Caustic) this would require you to cross the center of the map to get there in time. Listen/read team chat, and watch your minimap.
CHOKEPOINTS
Chokepoint Defense

Chokepoints are great when you're defending. It's the terrain doing your job for you: maximizing your firepower while minimizing the enemy's.

The enemy going through a chokepoint is not an instant win though. Your team has to guard the chokepoint properly to take best advantage of it. (Long explanation incoming, tl/dr at the end)

  • If you guard it too close, your team won't have enough time to concentrate fire on their lead mechs until they close to a brawl. Once a brawl is joined, the advantage is lost and it comes down to individual skill and luck, not tactics.
  • If you guard it too far, the enemy won't take enough damage going out of the chokepoint because your shots will be less accurate or have less damage due to range.
  • You have to guard it so that most of the team's weapons are still effective, yet far enough away to have enough time to do damage. It's hard to put a definite number on this range because of the variation on loadouts, player aiming skills and the terrain just outside a chokepoint, but I've found for most PUG matches guarding from around 400m away seems to be a sweet spot (mostly out of range of srms and medium pulse lasers, but still in range for medium lasers).

tl/dr: Too close = brawl, too far = useless, just right = around 400m
Chokepoint Attack

Pushing through a guarded chokepoint is usually a bad idea. But if you HAVE to do it, you must do it as a team. Your goal is to get out of your disadvantaged position as quickly as possible, and minimize the amount of damage your team takes as you go out of the chokepoint.

Here's one way to do it (long explanation incoming, tl/dr at the end):
  • The entire team pushes hard out of the chokepoint, firing whenever they can and torso twisting to spread damage. EVERYONE must move, staying behind just gives the enemy an advantage.
  • Once out of the chokepoint, most of the mechs go for a flank of the enemy. This has 3 purposes: 1) Going for the enemy's flanks lessens the chance you'll be flanked on both sides as you come out, 2) it unbalances the enemy as they have to adjust their positions to deal with your push, and 3) moving sideways relative to the enemy makes it harder for them to aim for your central torso.
  • At the same time, a small distraction force of fast mechs go the other way and try to draw as much fire away from your main force as possible. The longer the distraction lasts, the better.
  • Once you've formed your battle line outside the chokepoint, the battle proceeds as normal.

Use anything that will reduce the enemy's advantage as you go out of the chokepoint. Use artillery and airstrikes to disrupt their formation. Blind-fire LRMs onto the enemy to make them go into cover. If you have many autocannons, use it to scare as many of the enemy's mechs as possible into torso twisting or getting into cover. Use anything at all that reduces the enemy's advantage as you push out.

And don't underestimate the fear factor of a big push as well. The bigger and more aggressive your push is, the better. I've seen chokepoint defenders scatter in disarray at the sight of 3 assaults followed by their entire team coming out of a chokepoint with all guns blazing.

tl/dr: EVERYONE pushes, most go towards a flank, fast mechs do a distraction on the other side, be as scary as possible.
Chokepoint Attack Fail

When your team is already pushing a chokepoint, getting cold feet and trying to get to cover will not only make your team lose the match, it will get you killed faster. The time it takes to go from full speed to full reverse is about 1-2 seconds, and that's enough time for 12 enemy mechs to kill you. When you're already pushing, your best hope for survival is to give the enemy more targets to shoot at (your teammates behind you), not getting into cover and blocking your teammates.

(This message has been paid for by the Old Terra Therma Widow's Society)
Chokepoint Reversal

Remember there are 2 sides to a chokepoint. Don't chase an enemy going through one if you don't know what's on the other side.
DECEPTION
Lure

If you're being chased by a lot of enemies, you can lure them into an ambush. Look for areas that limit their mobility, have little cover, and can be surrounded by multiple teammates. Conversely, be careful of chasing enemies into narrow passes overlooked by ridges on multiple sides. Examples of good ambush spots are the C3 and D4 canyons in Canyon Network, and the E6/E7 bowl-shaped valleys in Tourmaline Desert.

In actual games, ambushes are usually executed on the fly, without much preplanning. If you're the mech doing the luring and the enemy is nearing a good ambush spot, pop a UAV to let your teammates know the enemy is coming.
Feint

A feint is pretending to attack in one direction, but actually pushing in another direction. This allows you to surprise your enemy while they're dealing with the fake attack.

The fake attack force must be convincing enough for the enemy to commit their force to deal with them. They must also stay alive long enough to keep the enemy's attention while your main force does the actual attack. To defend against feints, always check the actual size of the enemy's attack before committing your entire force, or position yourself so that you can still handle attacks from other directions if an enemy attack turns out to be fake.

This tactic is useful when trying to get into areas with multiple well-defined entrances like the ground floor of HPG Manifold, or the Community Warfare maps.
Fake Basecap

When playing Assault, you can trick your enemy into splitting their forces by pretending to cap their base. Once their forces are split, your team can then use their numerical advantage to defeat your enemy. This is most effective when both teams are already engaged, to split the enemy's attention and give you an advantage.

To avoid falling for this trick, wait for a few seconds when you hear the "Base is being captured" message. Watch how fast your base's health is going down, you can guess how many enemy mechs are capping your base from that. Only go back to your base if you're fast enough to get there in time, or if you estimate your current combat will take a longer time to finish than losing your base. If you're an assault or heavy already in combat with the enemy, DO NOT RETURN TO BASE until you've finished your current fight.

A little tidbit: This tactic is one of the Thirty Six Strategems[en.wikipedia.org]. A good read in itself.
Delaying Action 1

A delaying action is when a weaker force attacks a more powerful force to slow them down. This can be useful in some situations, and this comic shows how a delaying action can be used to slow down enemy reinforcements. The goal of the delaying force here is to keep the reinforcements separated from the enemy team so the rest of the friendly team can win the current firefight. Once that fight is won, the entire team can then defeat the reinforcements.

If you're in the delaying force, remember you are there to slow down the enemy. Killing them is secondary. You have to stay alive as long as possible to keep them occupied long enough for the rest of the team to win the current fight. Be ready to move at a moments notice, always have an escape plan and don't get trapped by the enemy you are delaying. Fast moving light and medium mechs with medium to long range weapons are best at doing delaying actions. Their range and mobility allows them to avoid getting pulled into a brawl they can't win.
Delaying Action 2

Another use for a delaying action is to slow down an enemy team so your team can get to a strategically important location first. There are locations on some maps (usually ridges or hills) that give a big advantage to the team that is first able to hold it. Slowing down the enemy so your team controls the location first will improve your chance of victory.

Remember though, that your goal as the delaying force is to slow down the enemy, not kill them. You can't slow them down if you're dead. Stay alive as long as possible and keep the enemy guessing where they'll be hit next.
UAVs
UAV Placement

A UAV is a consumable (cost: 40k cbills) that allows your entire team to see all enemies in the UAV's sensor range. It has a sensor range of about 250m and hovers 150m above the battlefield for about 30-40s. They can't be detected on radar (except at close range), but can be spotted by eye and shot down. This combination of factors means that the best place to put a UAV is very close to to the enemy, so that it will have as many enemies in its sensor range as possible, while its vertical angle to the enemy so high that they won't be able to shoot it down.

The best place to put a UAV is just behind the enemy. This will allow it to detect as many enemies as possible while keeping it away from the enemy's sight. This is best done by a light mech with ECM to reduce the chance of detection. Knowing where the enemy is will enable your team to plan their attack, as well as allowing LRM-armed teammates to fire at the enemy without getting line of sight.

Another good use of a UAV is to warn your team of an incoming push. There's nothing better at getting your team's attention than 12 radar contacts suddenly appearing at 300m.

Conversely, it is also a good idea to pop a UAV just before getting into a brawl, particularly in an urban area. It gives your team an informational advantage and will help all your teammates make better targeting and movement decisions while brawling.
UAV Placement Fail

Though UAVs can't be detected on radar except at close range, they can still be spotted by eye and shot down. Do not deploy UAVs in full view of the enemy, you'll just be wasting 40k cbills.
LIGHTS
Squirrel

A classic distraction tactic. The essence of this tactic is to trick the enemy to use an excessive amount of force to try to take down a trivial threat. Once the enemy has become disorganized, use your main force to defeat them in detail.
Wolfpack

A wolfpack is a force of light mechs that run around the battlefield, preying on isolated mechs. Once they find one, they run circles around the mech, aiming for its rear for a quick takedown.

Never be alone, especially if the enemy has lights roaming around. Be wary of Arctic Cheetahs, Jenners and the Huggin Raven since they are the best at using this tactic. Try to learn the names of good light pilots; more likely than not they will run a wolfpack. There are only a few real good light pilots, and you WILL remember their names when they kill you.
Handling a Wolfpack

The best defense against wolfpacks is to be with your team. But if you do get jumped by a wolfpack when you're in a slow mech, here's what you can do:

1. Put your back against a wall to protect your rear armor.
2. Pop a UAV and call for help from your team.
3. Stay with your back against the wall and shoot at the enemies as they move past you. Keep your back protected.
4. Help your teammates drive off the lights when they arrive.
Screening

A screening force is a small number of fast, mobile mechs that act like a 'buffer' between your main force and the enemy. Their main tasks are to prevent the enemy from scouting your team, and to make sure that your main force is not surprised by enemy maneuvers. They go after enemy scouts, deal with enemy light forces on the flanks so that your heavies and assaults can concentrate on fighting the enemy's main body, and warn of enemy flanking maneuvers.

Fast lights and mediums are the best at screening work because of their speed. They can react quickly to enemy movements, and are fast enough to escape contact with a superior enemy force.

Screening is different from scouting in that screening forces usually stay near the main force. A screen's main task is to protect the main force from surprise, not to gather information on the enemy.
VIP ESCORT
VIP Screen

The 'textbook' way to escort the VIP is to set up your team as a screen between the VIP and the enemy. The goal is to make sure that the enemy is not able to shoot at the VIP because they're too busy shooting at and being shot by your team.

The distance of the screen from the VIP is crucial. If you set up your screen too close to the VIP, they enemy will just shoot past you and directly at the VIP. Too far, and the enemy's fast mechs can slip behind you and take on the VIP. From what I've seen, 300-400m seems to be a good distance, far enough away so the enemy's weapons aren't fully effective on the VIP, while still close enough to chase off any fast mechs that get past your screen. In large, wide open maps, however, this distance could be much greater and in that case it might be a good alternative to attack the enemy aggressively instead.
Aggressive Defense

Another way to defend the VIP is to aggressively go after the enemy when you know the location of their main force. This way, the enemy is kept at the maximum possible distance from the VIP.

This is best done if you have a significant advantage over your enemy (be it firepower, organization or position). It is also a good idea to have at least 1 mech stay near the VIP in case some of the enemy decide to go after your VIP.
VIP Misdirection

Yet another way to defend the VIP is to fight the enemy so far away from the VIP that they don't even see it. What they can't see, they can't kill. This is best done on very large maps like Polar Highlands, where it is possible to put a huge distance between the VIP and the main firefight. Be sure to have at least 1 mech escort the VIP, though, just in case.
Fail: Charging VIP

The VIP has lots of armor, but it does NOT have infinite armor. Three or four heavy and assault mechs can take down the VIP's central torso in about 15 seconds. Don't rely on the VIP's armor to keep it safe.
Fail: Forgotten VIP

An aggressive VIP defense can go bad if you lose track of the VIP. Try to have at least 1 mech watching the VIP to avoid these situations.
Radar Tower

Radar towers appear in escort mode. They are small static towers that provide 200m radius radar detection and ECM cover for the team that controls them. You can stand on them to capture them for your team and gain its benefits.

Being able to see when and where the enemy will peek out of cover AND jamming the enemy's sensors with ECM gives the controlling team a 1-2 second advantage when engaged in a poke battle. This means you can anticipate when and where the enemy will peek out, shoot, and then go back into cover before the enemy can take aim for return fire. This leads to you doing loads more damage to the enemy, and you winning the battle. The radar detection is also very useful for friendly LRMs.

Be very careful when fighting near enemy controlled radar towers and know that doing so means you are fighting with a disadvantage. Try to take control of as many radar towers you can and fight within their range, and avoid fighting in the range of enemy radar towers.
THE FINAL LESSON
Losing
(Animated gif, may take time to load)

Sometimes even if you make all the right tactical decisions, you still lose. Maybe the enemy gets lucky with a few early kills, or have a better loadout mix for the map. Maybe your enemies just aim and move better. Or maybe the enemy made even better tactical decisions than your team.

It happens. The most important thing is that you learn from the loss. Figure out what you and your team did wrong, what the enemy did right, and use what you've learned to do better next time. A loss is not truly a loss as long as you learn from it.
More Information
If you haven't already seen them, Kanajashi's video tutorials[mwomercs.com] are a great resource when you're starting out. His combat tutorial videos and the one on terrain and positioning in particular are great for learning the skills you'll need to pull off tactical maneuvers.

Asmudius Heng[www.showme.com] has a great set of videos on various MWO tactics. His video on firing lanes[www.showme.com] talks about the topic much better than I can in the comics.

Void Angel's thread Timidity is not a tactic[mwomercs.com] is a classic post on how aggression wins games.

627's MWO Maps - Tactical Review[mwomercs.com] gives a good overview on all of MWO's maps, and are a great resource for map-specific information and tactics.

The mech graphics used in the comics are taken from the assets of Megamek[megamek.info], a free unofficial turn-based Battletech online game.
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130 Comments
hobaophuc98 Apr 13 @ 8:18am 
that's radar sub is cute xD
Asmudius Heng Jan 3 @ 6:26am 
@fat4eyes This is amazing - i have been away from gaming and MWO for years now thanks for the links to those old videos i made i forgot i even did them back in the early days of MWO - This is a really awesome guide man :)
FireRabbit Nov 28, 2018 @ 11:46am 
Thanks for entertaining and educational guide, and for finalty letting those reds have their "first win of the day" in the end. :steamhappy:
Crowe-Xeph Aug 5, 2018 @ 2:12am 
This still makes me laugh, keep up the Great work
TiTan133 Jul 3, 2018 @ 3:20am 
Fam you are the mvp
Stellar May 8, 2018 @ 6:08pm 
This is amazing thank you.
Jay Apr 13, 2018 @ 10:26am 
ty for that!
fat4eyes  [author] Apr 8, 2018 @ 4:15am 
@Atomic Friendo By stripes do you mean the internal black lines? It's been a while but I may have edited the megamek images to turn all but the black lines into transparencies and then added the color in. Not completely sure about that though.
Atomic Friendo Apr 7, 2018 @ 11:04pm 
How were you able to get the stripes on the MegaMek Atlas? I can only get solid colors.
!-R4ptor-! Apr 2, 2018 @ 2:36am 
One of the best guides to any game on Steam MVP