- Before you begin
- Movement — General
- Movement — Finding targets/engagements
- Movement — Advanced
- Movement — Deciding on your prey
- Engagements — General
- Engagements — Survival
- Engagements — Complications
- Enagements — Tactics
- Engagements — Advanced Tactics
You know what the Locust is? I know what you're thinking, but no, it's not a cookie. It's a cold hearted, uncatchable and unkillable (if RNG gods bless you) bastard. I'm saying this, but what's your reaction when you see one? You either try to get rid of it because it's an easy kill or you simply ignore it in favor of something more dangerous. In either case it gets underestimated.
That's exactly why it works; nobody expects a Locust to do a lot of damage. How can it do damage? Will it SRM or MG you to death or worse, tickle you? That statement is correct for most of the Locusts. I barely consider 1V, 1M, 3V, 3S as threats. The SRM Locusts lack the tonnage for ammo, the MG ones require too much face time to be survivable . . . and that leaves us with the 1E and 3M.
If you're thinking about MLs in these, think again. Yes you gain some long range firepower but the poor Locust with only maximum 7 true DHS just can not sustain these. I tried so hard to make the 1E work with 6-5xMLs, it just doesn't have the heat efficiency to pull it off. As soon as you're pressured to pump damage (a light on you, someone charging at you) you quickly hit the heat cap and either shutdown for a quick death or cook yourself with the override.
The answer I've found to the supreme Locust dominance is SPLs. They synergize incredibly well with them for the following reasons:
- Minimal face time. At 0.5 seconds, it's the shortest burning laser. 1E gets a 25% burn duration reduction to make that 0.375 seconds. With 6xSPLs that means you're dumping 24 damage in just 0.375 seconds. When you start your burn on target, what the target does doesn't matter at all. You don't need to hold the beam in them they instantly get zapped. It's a freaking UAC24 mounted on a Locust!
- Minimal heat. At only 3 heat, the SPLs are stupidly heat effective. 1E also gets a 25% heat reduction bonus.
- The range is not a problem. Seriously, when you're in a 170KPH Locust, you have all the means to get into range/sneak up on opponents and fight inside the optimal range.
So, you have your Locust built with SPLs, what next? Don't think you can just go out and rampage in your 1E, you need to make good habits first. To keep this short and preserve my sanity, I will only make small bulletpoints and touch upon important topics.
Here we go:
Before you begin
- Make sure you have some light experience. Don't jump straight into the Locust and expect to do well. Buy yourself a Light that forces you out of your comfort zone like the Spider and try to do well in it. It's not going to be as hard as piloting a Locust, but you'll still be challenged and develop the skills needed for the Locust.
- Have stable aim. Make sure your mouse is set up properly (sensitivity and such) so that you can actually fight without fighting controls. Your sensitivity shouldn't be so low that you feel uncomfortable torso twisting, but it also shouldn't be so high that you just can't stabilize your mouse on target.
- Knowledge about other 'Mechs, preferably from own experiences. You need to know how to take out a specific 'Mech as fast as possible. Jagers have big side torsos, the Summoner is very easy to leg and hard to take out with torso damage, the Jenner's CT is huge, The Raven has big side torsos, rear CT and legs. Knowledge is power. This is again, purely experience.
- Frontload that armor. I know it's hard to justify doing this in a light, but as you play more you'll understand why people do this. First, lights usually have great torso twist so you can always show the side with the most armor to your opponents, even when fleeing. Second, having a 20+ armor buffer on one side lets you survive the occasional high damage to your face. You may survive a stray AC20 or Gauss that could outright take you out if you had less armor. The only problem is the occasional shot to the back, but this only happens when you really screw up or the enemy simply gets lucky and catches you unaware.
Movement — General
- As a general rule of thumb, never ever stop. The Locust's survivability comes mainly from being so hard to aim at. Even a single full ML burn hurts a lot so you just can't afford to take full alphas. Always keep moving, even when nothing is happening.
- If you absolutely must stop and hold, wiggle back and forth. Just tap those W and S keys repeatedly. This will make a surprise attack unlikely to succeed.
- Never ever run straight at enemies. Never. When you negate the tangential velocity it becomes very easy to aim weapons at a Locust. Always try to have some tangential velocity relative to your targets (do the crab walk!). Bob and weave as much as possible.
- Do a snaking maneuver when crossing the open. Randomly change direction while traveling to your destination. This'll minimize that chance of taking random Gauss/LL hits.
- Be generally unpredictable by randomizing your movements. Throw in a sudden stop when you're under fire to throw off their aim. Use your insane acceleration/deceleration.
Movement — Finding targets/engagements
- Ideally, you're looking for isolated targets. In a 1E you can take down pretty much any 'Mech in 1v1. Look for 1v1's and avoid fighting 1vMany unless it's Many v Many (a brawl) where you go ignored. This is the core rule.
- The bigger your potential target, the better. Look for big juicy assaults with limited torso twists and small engines. The more your mobility contrasts with your target, the better the outcome will be.
- The start of the round is a great time to find targets, especially on maps with separated spawns like River City and Crimson. On maps that lend themselves to any form of NASCAR (River City, Frozen City, Forest Colony . . . ) immediately lurch for the trailing enemy spawn. More often than not, you'll find AFK players and stragglers that can be easily dealt with. Nobody wants to return from the front to cover for these people's mistakes so usually you can just 1v1 them until they die.
- If the enemy links up and forms a deathball before you can find something, don't push your luck. Don't try to force your way into the death ball. Fall back to your own deathball proximity and reinforce them by looking out for overextending 'Mechs and taking the occasional potshot.
Movement — Advanced
- Now, you're fast and you want to find targets as early as possible. Understandably you immediately lurch forward. This means you'll be most likely to be targeted first because you'll be the first one out there. I can't tell you how unfortunate to be targeted first. Naturally pretty much everyone on the enemy team will target you instantly before you disappear again. Now, whenever you pop-up again because you're already locked, the enemy will automatically lock you again. People naturally pay attention to what's in the target box, so this means you'll get more attention that the usual. LRM boats will lurm you and some of them will specifically come after you because you keep popping up on the radar. To avoid this, bring Radar Deprivation and use routes with a lot of cover so you stay visible only a short amount of time which will discourage people from locking you.
- Pay attention to the Radar Deprivation warnings. Whenever someone loses a lock on you, you will get a flashing yellow light in your cockpit and a short chirp sound. This is invaluable in knowing if your sneaking operation failed and the enemy knows about you. The more chirps you get when popping in and out of cover, the more attention you have. Sometimes I completely abort my flanking and play it safer when I have lots of chirps. Staying undetected is absolutely crucial when you're moving around. More attention means it's more likely that a Jenner or a Firestarter show up to ruin your day, maybe even a random streakboat. Early warning makes it easier for the enemies to ambush you, but Radar Deprivation warnings also tell you if you gave them any.
Movement — Deciding on your prey
- Prioritize bigger 'Mechs over smaller ones. As stated before they have trouble tracking Locusts and they also yield the best damage farm.
- As mentioned before, prioritize 'Mechs outside the enemy main group. Stragglers such as snipers, LRM boats usually don't pay much attention to the general flow of the battle and usually are left behind. These are your main preys.
- When you first find something to shoot at, think carefully before deciding to piss him off. Will he get any help? Can you really handle it in a Locust? If you're not sure of your Locust ninja skills, refrain from engaging these targets directly:
- 'Mechs with AC20 at short ranges
- Streakboats or generally 'Mechs with streaks
- Gauss 'Mechs. This is your biggest enemy due to the very fast and hard hitting projectile. Make sure you never stay in sights of Gauss 'Mechs. Especially dual Gauss.
- UAC5 boats. Especially 3-4xUAC5 'Mechs like a JM or a KGC. These are even worse than Gauss 'Mechs at closer ranges due to the sheer volume of fire. NEVER engage these guys directly.
- 'Mechs with a lot of pulse lasers. While you can be relatively safer, pulses do significantly more damage per burn time which hurts you more. When you see a BNC-3M with 6xMPL+2xLPL, know that he can one shot you in one alpha even if you're manuevering like crazy due to its sheer DPS. Take these 'Mechs very seriously.
- On that note, 'Mechs with high hardpoint density. Which means hardpoints bundled up together. Why? Most people will actually be leading you before shooting and that means their convergence will be messed up. However if their hardpoints are situated close together, they will still get a decent convergence. This is especially applicable to ballistic weapons. Take a look:
Left side, happy cookie. Right side, sad cookie.
- When you find a straggler trying to link up with their main group, immediately try to turn him around. Give him a tap. If he turns around, know that he can either handle you, or he's just inexperienced. If he keeps going know that guy is experienced and knows what's coming.
Turning back in these cases is usually a suicide and it's also the source of many "OMG TEAM YOU LEFT ME BEHIND" rages. The heavier the target who does this, the more grave the consequences for them. A Dire Wolf who turns back in River City is as good as dead while a DWF in trouble in Caustic might yield more defenders.
- Do not engage other lights, especially top dogs like the Jenners (hue hue!) or Firestarters. While you can if you want to, even if you come out on top you'll likely to be severely damaged in doing so. Only engage other lights if you think their pilots are much less experienced than you (ie the FS in my Locust Duke video). Ravens excluded. Most Ravens run long range poke builds and are absolutely helpless against an SPL Locust. Just make sure you don't hug Huginns.
Engagements — General
- There are two types of engagement styles:
- First, you go in and fight them completely exposed. You circle and maneuver around them while avoiding their guns and generally make it very hard for them to point their guns at you. Watch my latest Locust video for many examples of this.
- Second, you fight from cover. Using your acceleration bonuses and little SPL burn time, you keep popping up, dumping your alpha and getting back to cover. Repeating this over and over results in very good trades and a lot of damage. An example:
- Knowing when to utilize which is a matter of experience, but the rule of thumb is you fight from cover when you're facing many enemy 'Mechs at the same time while when you're in a 1v1 situation you utilize the first option to minimize exposure and risk. The reasoning simple with the first option you get to fire as often as your cooldowns permit and have the freedom of aim. In the second option you're safer, but you can't freely choose where to attack, you're limited by what your target shows you and sliding in and out of cover lowers your DPS.
- Be unpredictable. When you use a cover to shoot at something a few times and they understand it's you, they'll just train their guns at the spot you pop-up and just blast away when you peek again. If you feel like you're taking accurate fire, or you see someone looking directly at you every time you pop-out, then it's time to relocate. Get to another flank or slightly modify where you pop-out.
- Arty and airstrikes absolutely shred you, if not outright kill you. Floor it the moment you see the red smoke.
- Make sure the space behind you is clear when using cover. Trying to back up and unable to do it because there's a freaking Orion behind you is a recipe to a very salty death. Just find another spot if friendlies indicate they want to use that spot as well.
- The Locust, being a small and nimble 'Mech, is actually tougher than it looks. When piloted well, it's very hard to land hits on at close ranges. This is what separates the Locust from the other bigger and less mobile lights. You need to utilize its agility to its fullest to make the difference.
- Legwork is extremely important. You must be able to react to what your opponent is doing while keeping yourself from running into things and stopping. Work on mastering both your leg and mouse movements at the same time. Unfortunately there's no tips you can read to improve this, you must master this purely through experience.
- Take a look at your opponent's loadout and think of ways to outsmart them:
- Lasers can be dealt with by simply stutter-stepping and making sharp turns. At close ranges and at 170 KPH it's incredibly hard to hold them on a Locust.
- SRMs usually are not a problem unless you accidentally hug your target. SRM deaths are purely RNG since hit detection is still a bit wonky. Just make sure you leave some distance.
- Ballistics are the trickiest since the damage is delivered instantly. Timing is of essence here. You must time your dodges/stutter-steps/stops right at the last second so that the opponent will miss. If you know the cooldowns of each weapon you'll know when to evade.
- Bait your opponents into firing at you, especially when doing peeking. Step out just barely and let your opponent be alerted, stay still if you want to to make yourself even juicier, just before they dump their alpha immediately slide back and immediately out again. Now you can alpha at least two times while they recover. This is also a useful trick if you need to GTFO, but are pinned down. Bait your opponents into firing and make your escape while they're in cooldown.
- Even better, prevent your opponent from firing at all. When circling them, try to stay behind them while shooting. They can counter this by changing the rotation direction and twisting the other way. Though there's always a tell and you can anticipate this. Especially heavies and assaults are very vulnerable to this, but also 'Mechs missing arm actuators like Blackjacks and AC20 Centurions are also vulnerable. When you master this, it'll be extremely irritating for the opponents. Some people simply give up and try to run away.
Engagements — Complications
- More often that not, your presence will attract unwanted guests. This may simply be another light coming for your prey's help, it could be LRM rain (people LOVE lurming Locusts) or the whole enemy turning around.
- If it's another light get out of the reach of your prey immediately. Now, you can either try to escape (not very hard) or try to take on the other light. If you wish to engage, then lure the light to some place where you can 1v1. Not many lights can stand taking repeatedly 24 damage SPL hits, so more often than not they'll refuse chasing you.
- If it's the LRM rain you can either fight in the shade (hue hue!) or simply get out again. This is caused by your prey's target lock on you. Usually LRMs won't hurt you so much since they can't track Locusts well so if your target is low on health just finish him off. When your target is killed LRM boats will also lose lock, freeing you from the torment. Another evasive action would be to utilize your radar derp and keep breaking locks by getting behind your target or behind cover momentarily.
- If it's the whole enemy team, obviously get out of there immediately. Though in doing so you've also messed up the positioning of the enemy team and you still deserve a pat in the back!
- Hitting the heat cap is also a complication. SPL's don't heat up easily, but when they do you'll find that it's incredibly hard to keep engaging. Let me tell you, it's not worth overriding. The lights simply can't handle the override damage and especially a Locust is almost always killed instantly by it. It's better to stop shooting or simply disengaging. Shutting down is a big no-no and is an instant death. Avoid at all costs.
- Follow the other lights as much as possible. If an FS is going on an adventure at the flank, follow him immediately. People will rarely primary a Locust over another light.
- If the enemy is in a huge deathball, you have a few options. You can either "cool off" and hang out with the big guys, which means you take the corners and keep taking potshots until one side makes a move, or you can "big dick" it and try to sneak in from the flanks and hit them in the back. The second option is the most helpful for the team (it can distract the enemy by attracting 'Mechs from the front) and could be rewarding (backstabbing potential). It's also the option with the most risk and a horrible death.
- Bait your enemies! The Locust is an irresistible meal for many and they will even put themselves at risk to get it. Get their attention, make them think they can kill you easily and bring them to your team. Easier said than done, but when you practice it a few times you'll notice it works.
- If you're running away from a light, sometimes simply zooming away won't work especially if they're 150+ KPH lights. You'll have to confuse them to get rid of them. You can't pull this off on open maps, but on city maps or maps with a lot of cover like Canyon you can use your insane leg turn rate to take corners in quick successions. Sometimes they'll be able to guess where you went, but mostly they'll simply disengage. People hate playing the peekaboo unless they really want you dead.
- When engaging other lights it usually quickly devolves into a circle fight. Due to your speed advantage and high turning speed, you have the upper hand in these situations. You can literally tailgate them and they won't be able to shake you off unless they stop. Latch on to their backs and just don't let go. This especially drives Firestarters and Ravens crazy.
Engagements — Advanced Tactics
- There's a move I really love doing with the Locust. It's basically stutter-stepping or dancing in front of your opponent. You do this by coming to a complete stop, move as soon as/before he fires, move back and forth while he is firing, and come to a complete stop again when he's ready to fire again. Repeat until you kill him. If you can pull this off, you can simply stay almost stationary in front of your opponent while he desperately sprays what he has all around you. We're abusing the acceleration/deceleration bonuses here and the Locust is the only 'Mech that can pull this off.
- SPLs are godly, use them. 6xSPL on the 1E is a freaking UAC24.
- You can't get hit. Don't get hit.
- Abuse your speed and acceleration to survive.
- People underestimate you, take advantage of it.
- Find 1v1s.
I employ most of the techniques I outlined here in this video. Unfortunately I deleted my extra footage which could be used to make a true point for point demonstration video due to HDD space shortage. Nevertheless, this video is a good demonstration.
What I began as a "here's 5 simple tips for the Locust guys!" article again ballooned up to a monster guide. This is my particular style of gameplay but I think there are a lot of parts you can take and incorporate to your own style. I hope you enjoyed it!
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