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Master Blaster Equipment Review by David McCallum #701548

Nice piece, shame about the tonnage.

For most folks, that would about sum it up.

The thing is though that here at the Galaxy Gathering, we have always prided ourselves in looking beyond mere stats and costs and really searching to see if there is an actual place for any given piece of equipment in your line-ups before discarding it out of hand.

So, a cockpit piece only available to use currently by the Red Ant Class of mechs.

Cost is 20 Niodes plus loose change in Ferrite and Bioptics. You loose 4 dodge in order to give it a more stable firing platform, but in return you get a 66% chance of 3x, 2x, 1.6x, 1.5, and 1.3x damage multipliers.

Which stacks.

So, on average you would be looking at 3 of the 5 multipliers being active on any shot that this mech fires.

In real terms, your worst case average will be the bottom 3, which will give your shot a x 3.12 multiplier. A different set of 3 gives you an even higher multiplier. You may be luckier and get 4 or even all of them go off, or unlucky and its less.

But an average shot of at least a 3 x multiplier is not to be sneezed at.

Oh, and of course, add in 95% bonus if you are using lasers on a fully leveled Ant. And your weapon skill. And your 58% Honour guard bonus which you should have sorted.

That is an awful lot of damage.

Now a lack of precision is normally a no-no for a cockpit piece in my books, but since Red Ants have built in precision boosts as you work them up, there is wiggle room for you to include one of these. Two of them would be horrendous and most would consider it probably overkill. A X 18.72 guaranteed damage shot on top of any other bonuses and if you couple them with an Aviator 3.0 in the last cockpit slot, you would be looking at trample of 74% of a standard shot hitting the next rank in.

In a Red Ant fight with decently powered lasers, you should be taking out the front rank mech and disabling the one behind so it never gets to shoot back at you. Rinse and repeat as you advance through your targets. That’s a match winning cascade right there.

I am however drawn to the idea of 1 of these plus 2 x Aviator 3.0s to give a bit of a better chance at the bigger multipliers and a reasonable trample, thus taking up the 3 cockpit slots on a maxed out Ant. Its a bit more budget conscious but gives better accuracy to make sure your shot lands. It is also not going to slow them to a crawl due to speed penalties.

However, we are of course talking Red Ants, and it is the single most expensive piece of equipment you can buy for them in terms of Niodes. And it will ONLY (I’m stressing that fact) fit on a Red Ant; every other piece of kit you can strap on an Ant barring the Ultrasonic Whistle) can be swapped out onto a heavier unit.

I’m writing this and the more I examine the situation, the more torn I become.

Deep down inside, I am averse to spending Niodes on a Red Ant. Sure, I’ll keep a freebie and use it, but I won’t spend.

BUT…

(Yes, its a big but…)

I also know the from experience what a leveler the Red Ant is.

So before I give any kind of verdict or advice on whether you should buy any of these pieces, I’m going to jump sideways and talk about Red Ants in general for a bit.

I’m sure I’ve told this tale before, but we won a gold in “Rise of the Specialists” due to the Red Ant. We weren’t strong enough as a team to defend against Niode Heavy clans, so any of us who weren’t strong fielded Ants. This pulled all of the oppositions nasty mechs and expensive equipment and meant they had to fight on our terms, where the only real advantage was level or numbers. It helped that it was the first time it had been done because we caught more than a few pay players with no valid formation to use against us.

Ants are the one class where a pure crystal player can fight on even terms. In a war scenario, there is no reason why you shouldn’t at least be able to protect yourself to some degree with Ants if you find yourself constantly outclassed by similar level opponents.

And since I am a very definite advocate for the use of specialists, if Ants are your specialty, you should probably figure on spending some Niodes on them to make them better.

The good news is that they are really cheap compared to everything else.

A quick run down. A Red Ant that has been upgraded past all of its bonuses has 3 cockpit slots, 1 chassis and 3 shields. Cup Holders and Reinforced joints are a good starting point. Even though I love shields, I’ve always considered them a moot point on Ants because the weapon damage just overloads them at higher level.

However with the new speed boosts… let me draw you attention to the SLAB shield. +3 speed on them, so a full set is going to give you a good advantage over your opponents, bearing in mind Ants can’t mount external engines.

That’s not a bad setup, and you haven’t even spent any Crystal, let alone Niodes.

But since we are talking about a specialist formation that you are relying on to keep you safe in a war, you should really think about spending at least some on them. Thankfully equipment at this level doesn’t require the kind of outlay that you need on your main line to make it effective.

Lets have a quick look at chassis first, because you only need 1 of them. Probably the most useful are the Boxing Gloves with their trample shielding. It’s also a higher dodge than the Reinforced Joints and they tend to crop up in prize packs fairly often. Use them if you have them in the 2nd rank backwards.

Hip Actuators are nice if you have them in the front rank, as are Improvised Jump Jets. Just watch out for the kickback which while low could take your mech out if you get unlucky. Saying that, you can fit Jets on your whole front row for around what I would pay for a single chassis piece for a single 70 tonner.

The Mirror Image is also another item that keeps coming up as freebies, and if you decide to use one for the free shielding in your front line, I wouldn’t blame you.

Cockpit wise, Aviator 3.0 have trample and better precision. Better yet, they keep cropping up in prize packs so you don’t have to pay for them. Now bearing in mind we are looking at potentially leaving a slot free for a Master Blaster (or 2 if you want to go that way), I would only be looking at anything that doesn’t drop accuracy too much. That means FOF or Ultrasonic Whistle, but I wouldn’t really be inclined to pay for either.

Lets go back to shields for a minute. If I’m not looking at them for actual shielding, lets see if any give a better speed bonus. There are actually 2 candidates. First is the Glacis Alpha. 2 more speed than the SLAB and it would negate or mitigate the vulnerabilities you had from the SLABs. The other, to my mind lesser priority, is the SLAB Alpha. Still a 2 notch speed boost, but it only adjusts the bonuses and vulnerabilities you have.

Dropping something like a Viridel, Crabworth or Flamma in place of the last SLAB will not gain you speed, but would adjust and balance your shielding bonuses better. Not really necessary, but that’s just my opinion.

Oh, and if you have them, remember the Deflector Dish. it would mean giving up at least some speed, but for the 2nd rank back its an option, especially if you aren’t using Boxing Gloves in the chassis slot.

Quick summary time: You’ve got your Ants, you’ve rigged the with the Ferrite/Bioptic kit, you’ve dropped in your freebie Niode kit where applicable and then you’ve upgraded your front line (4 or 5 mechs?) with Jets for dodge and a pair of Niode shields to get your maximum speed bonus. At sale price, you’ve equipped your specialist formation for around 100 Niodes.

Let me tell you, that’s cheap. Very cheap indeed.

Then, and only then, would I say you should maybe consider potentially saving up and shelling out for Master Blasters on your front line. We talked about that cascade effect before, and since numbers count in an Ant match, disabling multiple mechs with a single shot gives you number advantage really quickly.

Weapon wise, go lasers and Projectile if you want the Trample, but Splash is always good to take out an adjacent mech and Ants have precious little Splash shielding options. Fork and Wide Fork are more of a gamble but if they do go off, your overcharge shot will definitely take out another mech, maybe even a whole line.

Now that’s a 10 ton specialty covered off.

But that isn’t the only place Red Ants get used. Limited tonnage formations like the 1200 make use of them as well to go between main lines. They are used as a cheap “spacer” mech; there to soak up trample damage from the line in front. An empty rank allows Trample to go to the next rank back, but a line with even a single mech in it will stop trample getting to the big boys behind it.

Now generally those spacer Ants get taken out in the first shot that hits them. But sometimes, just on the odd occasion, one will get a shot off. There are even legends told around the campfire of a Bunny spacer Ant that went rampage and a won the match…

Now people use 1200 or similar formations normally because they are again on a budget. They don’t have the levels for a massive formation, and they don’t have the Niodes to spend getting all of those big mechs kitted to the max.

But they can scrape enough to properly equip the dozen or so mechs needed for limited tonnage; through freebies and earnings, they can equip and condense the best they have into a smaller number of chassis.

And if they are smart, they will have kept some of the freebies or prizes they got for use on that spacer Ant, because while it getting off a chance to fire in battle is a gamblers long shot of the tallest order, it is still a valid part of their formation and a valid weapon in its own right.

Freebie Boxing Gloves and a Deflector Shield for Trample. Aviators from the bonus War pack for the precision. Now add the Niode shields for speed. Sale price and 6 circuit fights with 2 kills each is the cost of that.

Then save up for a Master Blaster or 2. Don’t bother with Trample; the enemy have spacer Ants of their own. Splash weapons, so you can do some serious damage or maybe even take another big mech out… Or since you gambled and got your shot off, let your wager ride with Fork or Wide Fork.

I’ll tell you one thing though.

I’d predict that for the next little while at least, the biggest hit prizes in Clan War divisions are going to go to Red Ants in quite a few cases…. and if you think about it, that alone would pay for itself.

Will I be buying any? No… I have other priorities.

But there are some of you that I think definitely should, and you can rest assured I will be extra vigilant at scouting if I come across you in a war…

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