Last Updated: 12-May-2016
This is a guide to the strategies commonly encountered in Invasion Mode, aimed at players who may not be familiar with them or teams looking for alternative ways to approach these matches. I am going to list the ones that are most commonly encountered in the queue, perhaps with tweaks that I think make them the best. I don’t feel that counter-attacks are strategically any different than the normal game modes, except that you can’t just cap rush, so I’ll mainly just be covering Attacking and Defending.
General Invasion Mode Tips
- You usually want to start with your slowest mech first, as it’s easier to convince the team to hold up for you on the initial set-up than it is on subsequent spawns.
- Save your fastest and sometimes longest range mechs for situations where you died before a fight resolved and can make it back in time. Fast mechs can help reinforce your team and help them do more damage before they go down and you make your escape. Long range mechs don’t fill this role as well on all maps, but on many you can get to a high point and give covering fire as your team either retreats or goes out in a blaze of glory.
- If your team has been mostly decimated with only a few people left in the middle, encourage them to die in said blaze of glory and respawn if they’re damaged, or pull out so your team can regroup if they’re healthy (this is mainly applicable to when you’re on attack). If you’ve got a slow mech in your dropship, such regroup times are the perfect opportunity to drop in it.
- If you’re heavily damaged and/or missing weapons, it can be useful to push out/in between waves so that you have a healthy mech when it matters most. This also lets you get some scouting information on where the enemy team is set up/pushing. And make sure you use your consumables while you do this to maximize utility!
- Play cautiously, not fearfully. A lot of people sit way back and sacrifice damage to keep their mech alive, and this is just wrong. As long as you’re winning trades, do as much damage as possible even if it means taking a bit extra. When you’re on your last mech, maybe then switch into survival mode.
- You can tell which map you’ll be dropping on by looking at the Red/Blue zones around the planet, and counting clockwise, they correspond to these maps – it repeats after you get to the 6th. If you have more than 4 mechs built out, you can use this to customize your drop deck for the map.
- Boreal Vault
- Sulfurous Rift
- Hellebore Springs
- Grim Portico
- Emerald Taiga
- Vitric Forge
If you’re running a typical medium-range drop deck, your best bet is to attack Alpha gate. A good method for this is to have your mechs climb the hill on the left, continuing forward while they shoot the generator, and then drop down off the front. This spreads damage among teammates pretty well and gets the gate open very fast. Then you can move in to the left (shooting all the while) and establish control over that side – just try not to get hung up in the low ground as you can get flanked hard from the high ground. Focus on taking those hills and moving to the base ramp instead.
If, on the other hand, you’re spamming ER Large Lasers and the like, you can set up on the Beta hill and shoot in to get some really nice early damage. You can even split mechs between both hills if you like to get a concave on them, but there’s less room on the Alpha hill. The drawback to this is that it’s a slower approach, which can lead to a timeout loss if you’re not careful. After you establish dominance in the initial trades, you can push into the main area and keep enemy heads down with your beams while you move up.
Beta gate also works well for brawling – the initial approach is a tad bit more vulnerable, but you have extra pathing options and once you get to the platform, there is more cover available.
If possible, try to pick long-range mechs to open up your defense with. These are the best for engaging before the gate even goes down, and if you position well you can remain at your maximum optimal for pretty much the whole match. Plus, there’s a good chance that the enemy will be long-range, in which case you’ll need the same to trade at all. Assaults work particularly well for this, as you won’t need to move much, but anything with cLPLs or maybe quirked IS Large Lasers should do fine. This is a double-edged sword, however – on the one hand, you’ll usually get favorable trades from this position and even get a kills advantage, but on the other hand you’ll delay their efforts to open the doors. This may sound good at first, but that will likely slow down the game, meaning less C-Bills per hour and if your faction is losing the fight on the planet, it delays you from starting up another game. But in most games, I would do it anyways because favorable trades are favorable trades. If, however, you are losing said trades, you and your team should stand down and hide, getting ready for the gates to open, and form a firing line on whichever gate the enemy seems to be focused on.
If possible, just don’t take a slow beefy mech at all. The lanes are way too long for it to be worth it, and the terrain isn’t exactly favorable to fatties once you get in the gate. If you do have a large mech, drop it first and just hope that it doesn’t hurt your team. Alpha is probably your best bet for a starting lane, as it has more cover to poke from than Gamma and has less turrety issues. Gamma’s not terrible either, but just don’t go Beta ever. Even in a light rush. No. In general, you just want to get inside Alpha (or Gamma), establish your foothold, and just destroy enemy mechs as they come over to you. Try to spread out as much as possible near the entrance to Alpha while maintaining cover so that everyone can peak out from a different angle and bewilder the bad guys. Eventually, you should be able to bottleneck their nearest spawn exit, and you can use that as an opportunity to start working on generators. Between waves, if either side isn’t working for you, feel free to switch to the other, and just try to keep the team together. If it looks like you’re losing out in the actual combat, then switch your priority to getting the generator down, and if you’re crushing them on kills then you can just ignore the generators for the most part and start spawn camping.
While attacking can be annoying due to the huge distance between attacker’s spawn and the gates, defending can be annoying due to the distance between the gates themselves; If your team is not coordinated enough to at least have some scouting information to share, knowing which gate to defend can be a nightmare. As such, you’ll want to stick to maneuverable heavies and mediums in your drop deck if possible, and maybe save your big mechs for the end if you have any. If you want to just turtle your base you can take a big beefy Assault, though this will usually mean you’ll show up to fights late (I don’t recommend straying too far from Omega until you know where most of the enemy force is). Your main move on defense will be to hold the enemy to the gate choke points if possible, which requires people posted up on the walls to call out which side the enemy is coming from and requires everyone else to react quickly. If the enemy pushes in with superior tonnage, you can flex back a bit (while still firing) and get some respawns in to crush their push, and if they come in with lights, well, try to leg as many as you can as you move to defend your generators. Just keep defending base, using your turrets and dropships for extra damage, and take out as many enemies as you can as fast as you can. If your mech gets super damaged or neutered, you can suiscout a lane to check if they’re coming there and eject if they come down a different lane.
If you get the chance to plan out a drop deck for this map, I recommend going with a couple of brawlers at least. The city fight involves a lot of congestion and short lanes which are perfect for those short-range high-damage mechs. The risk is that the enemy could take high ground and get free damage, but then you can just take out generators. Spawns may be far from the gate on this map, but there’s not much of a risk of your team engaging before you get there as the walls are pretty hard to shoot over. As for gate choice, I recommend Beta as it has cover right near the gate that you can jump to, and you have 3 pathing options after entering. For the most part, I recommend either spreading wide left and trading between the buildings or pushing straight through the buildings to the power station and controlling that area. However, pushing in to the right and down that path can be very rewarding if your drop deck is in a push style or if you’re focusing generators, and if the enemy is camping back there and you don’t want to push them, you can rotate back to the city. Remember that you have more flexibility than the defenders too, and don’t be afraid to pull back from an area if it’s stalemated and try somewhere else – this doesn’t always work as they’ll have to move less than you, but there’s no harm in trying. You can try switching gates, too, as a full push from the opposite side could really throw them off. It’s worth noting that this is probably the easiest map to focus on Omega, but that’s super boring.
You can generally set up a full-team (ish) firing line from the area between the gates on whichever gate they choose and decimate them as they enter, though it is likely that a few people will get scared and break off and/or die, or just never get in that position in the first place. This can also be risky if they’re going to light rush, so try to get a scout on their mechs before committing to this tactic. As such, you’ll want your first mech to be your most DPS-oriented one, maybe it’s Gauss Vomit or has cooldown quirks and lots of heat sinks. The open spots within the “city” area can also be nice in terms of keeping more friendly guns on target than the enemy team can return fire with. If they don’t go quite where you want them to, fall back to defend the generator and cover whatever angle they are coming from. Two semi-important things about playing this map on defense is that you can take long-range mechs and sit up on the ridge in front of your spawn for nice high-angle shots, but if the enemy is avoiding your fire you may want to stop doing that. Inversely, you can take brawlier mechs and set them up in the city lanes, as they force a lot of short-range 1v1s.
This is a map where there can be a good deal of back-and-forth before the gates go down, so taking a fast, long-range mech can definitely be a good opener. Indeed, using such a mech up on the crystals outside of Beta gate can provide valuable cover for your dudes if they push low ground, though usually you’re better off just pushing with them. I would recommend Beta gate as well for most teams, as it opens up a lot sooner than Alpha and has easier access to cover and mid-range setups. But if you’re running a shorter range comp and the enemy team is positioned aggressively, Alpha gate can work pretty well as it gets you in almost on top of them (well, technically below them, but you’re still close). Either way, your path is relatively unimpeded by turrets, so just coordinate fire on enemy mechs and it should be fine. One of the weaknesses to going Beta is that the enemy team can get a bit of a concave going on the ridge, so banking a hard right is usually your best bet to avoid that from coming into play too much, unless you can coordinate a jump up there to take the position away. Other than that, it ends up as a trading game usually, unless a team has a plan in place ahead of time.
You have a couple options on defense; you can either sit back in large mechs and wait for them to come through the gate, or you can post up aggressively to get early harass in. The first is safer, but the second is more fun! Unfortunately, that fun comes at the price of having generally worse positions available, and a brawl push through Alpha gate can cause real problems for an aggressive poke team. Usually you’re better off with a middle ground, having a couple people up near the generators to harass if they can or just shoot butts during the push, while the rest of the team positions for defense. Unless you’re doing the aggressive move with the generator position, you don’t need anything particularly maneuverable, just sit back in an area which gives you easy access to cover either gate’s path. You can sometimes get away with short-range strats on defense, but there are enough open areas to make this risky.
If you’ve got a slow mech, you might not have a great time on this map, as it is a looong walk to either gate. This is probably the most important map to not have a slow mech in your deck, actually. But since you’re usually safest making that trek with your first mech, I would recommend dropping your slowest mech first, whether it goes 50KPH or 80. After you figure out your mech, I recommend attacking Beta gate as it offers the most diverse cover and easy access to Omega. A small flank from Alpha can be brutally effective as well, but is almost never worth it due to the amount of time those mechs end up out of the fight and how vulnerable they are once they get discovered. Just focus on controlling the C3/C2 area until you can wrap around to D2 and start hitting objectives. The early ranges are almost all medium or long, but it closes in a fair bit, so you can drop down to shorter-range weapons like IS LPLs, though it rarely gets to actual brawling distance.
Slow mechs are decently safe for defending this map as long as they have good range. If the enemy attacks Beta, there are some spots in D2 that offer really nice lines for ERLL mechs down to beta gate, and E2 offers some similar cover, though it’s not as effective. Try to keep multiple angles on the attackers, you can easily control the C3 chokepoint, and more agile mechs can even get up on D3 for decent fire, though it can leave them somewhat vulnerable. This just leaves D2 open. Try to not get pinned against the wall – it may feel safe, but it is a very weak position and doesn’t let you control the battle at all. If it does get that bad, you’re better off spreading back over E3 and E2 and attacking them when they try to get objectives.
If the enemy goes after Alpha, you can keep them bottled up at the F3/F2 chokepoint – there are a few different spots around there with various altitudes and angles, and it’s not hard to win those trades. If you don’t win the trades, you can let them trickle through and hit them as they do, while backing up to D2 in a firing line if possible.
This map isn’t terribly mean to any speed bracket of mech so Assaults can be incredibly effective, but the extreme heat encourages more ballistic-centric builds. Each gate has their own advantages, but Beta is pretty simple and popular. You can go right on entering and continue down the D-line to open up a firing line, or cut left if you’re trying to brawl and they’re a bit close. The risk is that if you’re running mid-range builds and the enemy is brawling, you can get ambushed pretty hard. After that danger zone, you can control the map pretty well from the D3 jumping off point, moving up safely to make sure you don’t get flanked.
Alpha gate can be a good choice too, as it’s less prone to being ambushed. If you enter and the enemy is set up in front of you around F3, you can get good angles from the bridge and various corners, and you can use the elevated platform to break up sight lines. The ambush risk here is if they’re set up to the right, but as long as you have balls you can push a few mechs into F4 for good flanking angles to free up pressure on your mechs in the mouth. I feel like this side is more difficult to play, but superior if you can coordinate it.
While there are areas in E4 that you can shoot down into the enemy team if they go that way, you risk a flank and you may not even be able to get there in time. In general, I feel that starting off in F3 gives you more control over the O-Gens, and still lets you flex back to D3 to turtle. This map usually ends up being a corner-peek fight around those buildings anyways, so just try to get as much damage out as you can before assuming the position. Though, having a few mechs in F4 to cover various gaps between the E4 buildings can net some serious damage. In fact, this wide position is very effective if you’re trying to avoid a city-style engagement, though it does forfeit some control over an O-Gen so it has its downsides.