? What does the Cicada say? ?

As if that noise could ever be reproduced by a human. Fuck, just thinking about it gave me the heebie jeebies.



The Cicada was one of the first Mediums to be released in this game – maybe even the first to be released after the original 8 mechs – and oh boy was I excited. A mech that could play at game-breaking light mech speeds with all this extra HP and guns and ECM? Sign me up! Since we actually got our hands on it, though, it has been the most consistently average mech in the game. Occasionally it has seen play in comp, but usually it serves as an awkward mid-point between a light and a medium. The result is generally a not-great-but-still-ok chassis, and one of the most balanced ones in the game (though in my opinion, it’s not the exciting HBK-IIC or Rifleman balance, but a more boring version).

The one variant of Cicada which has always been the most used is easily the CDA-3M; its hardpoints aren’t the best, but the ECM works wonders and the quirks aren’t bad either. Next up is the CDA-2A, which serves as a nasty laser skirmisher and is the most combat-effective variant to be sure. After that, there’s a pretty tight race between the CDA-2B and CDA-3F. While the CDA-2B is more powerful, the higher mounts and jumpjets of the CDA-3F make me lean a bit towards that (though I don’t believe it is for sale yet in-game…). The X-5 comes up after those; it can make a pretty effective brawler, but it compromises a bit too much to get to that point and it just doesn’t seem to work with the chassis. Which leaves the CDA-3C for last.


Chassis-Wide Information


  • It’s fast – the fastest medium currently in the game. But when you have it going that fast (which you kind of have to due to its squishiness), it can’t carry a whole lot of firepower. This kind of does turn the mech into more of a light mech than a medium, but c’est la vie.
  • Pretty gnarly quirks, yo. I feel that the quirks are exceptionally well done on this chassis, and bring it into pretty much perfect balance without making it OP. But with that said, the quirks are pretty friggin’ good, and they’re kinda needed because the rest of the things about the mech aren’t so great.



  • It’s big and has bad hitboxes. Overall, it’s a pretty damn squishy mech if you play it as anything but a light, and even then it’s too easy to hit to be on par with light mechs for tankiness, and it doesn’t even (usually) have high mounts or anything special.
  • You have to choose between guns and speed, and speed pretty much always has to win. Meaning that you’ll always be weaker than a real medium.


Generic Tips

  • Don’t get shot if you don’t have to. This is a pretty “duh” kind of thing, but really this thing can’t take hits. Don’t worry about taking sorta roundabout routes to get in position if it means you’ll get good free shots, because you’re generally fast enough to do so. I mean, don’t go all the way around the map to hit 1 mech or anything dumb like that, but you can afford to go a bit out of your way with most of these builds.
  • Remember to play as a light mech if you’re in any of the super-fast, short-range, low-alpha kinda builds. This thing is a medium mech in name only, and there are very few mechs that can pull off even going sub-130 for a reason. Get in there, wolfpack it up, do whatever you do in a light.



If you’re not familiar with my Inner Sphere Master Guides, each pretty much follows the same formula. Each variant gets its own section; within that section I try to include at least two main builds, each with a few variations on the core principle (if applicable).

Each build has one paragraph about the build itself – going over anything I feel is relevant to understanding it such as quirks, tonnage issues, how it fits the meta, my general feeling about it…just whatever. And then there’s a paragraph about using the build, going over tactics, tips, and whatever I feel is relevant to that, including links to L2P guides, on occasion.

I may miss a build that you like, or my builds may differ slightly from what you find works best for you because our philosophies may differ – I strongly encourage that you experiment for yourself to see what works best for you.

The modules are listed in order of which one is most important and the consumables I’ve listed are the ones that are generally the best, but while leveling the mech you may want to swap the less important consumable out for a UAV. That is, if you can afford to use consumables at all (they aren’t necessary, just nice, and if you’re low on C-Bills they’re not necessarily worth it).

On with it!



The perennial favorite, the CDA-3M comes with one ballistic, 4 energy, and ECM! It is one of the most positively-quirked ECM mechs in the game overall – offensively, it gets 20% to ballistic cooldown & velocity and 30% UAC jam chance, and its energy weapons get 5% heat gen, 10% range, and 15% cooldown. Then there’s 40% accel/decel, 25% turn rate, and 20% torso twist speed.

Build 1:

So I bag on how important it is to use a massive engine, and this is the build I open with. Get your shit together, GMan. Anyways, this thing can get away with it because it has ECM, and because it has (decently) long range. The same things which make this the “best” Cicada build.

This is one of the mechs where your goal in the match is to be as annoying as possible. Reposition whenever you get shot back at or get hot, shoot whenever you can, and try to pick on specific people as much as possible so as to not draw the ire of the entire enemy team. Or if these things aren’t an option, stay on overwatch for your team while always looking for a way to get angles. I know that ECM is a very valuable thing to cover your teammates with, but…the point of this mech is not be near the team at all.

Mech Modules: Seismic Sensor, Sensor Range

Weapon Modules: Large Laser Range, Large Laser Cooldown

Consumables: Cool Shot, Artillery Strike

This is the first build I used for the CDA-3M, and it is still kinda decent today. It’s got the speed and some range and…roughly the bare minimum for damage…eh. It’s not bad at all, but it’s not the best neither.

Weapon Modules: Medium Laser Range, Large Laser Range

This is a take on the Laser Vomit suggested by Myags, gets a good bit of extra oomph, but does lose quite a bit of speed in the process.

Weapon Modules: Medium Laser Range, Large Pulse Range

This is the classic competitive Cicada, popularized by Blackstone Knights (hence the term BSKada). It is potentially more annoying than the previous build, but in the current meta it is a bit less effective (though if it had some crazy PPC velocity quirks I’d dig it hard).

Weapon Modules: PPC Range, PPC Cooldown


Build 2:

I dunno about you guys, but when I hear Cicada my mind does not jump to dakka. But thanks to the 30% UAC jam chance and some pretty sweet ballistic quirks on top of that, it does it pretty goodly. And if you ever need to actually kill an enemy mech, you’ve got some lasers! I don’t think that the dakka fits really well with the variant because it doesn’t use the ECM or speed well, but it’s still quite good.

In a lot of ways, this still plays like the flanking build, but you can’t quite afford to hit and run in the same style. Rather, you’ll want to set yourself up in a nice comfortable spot, kick your fight up, and spam the shit out of that trigger until you get a kill. Ideally, you’ll be able to get into a position that hits some butts, but if need be you can just focus on DPS’ing a target fast. This build is also a bit less optimized for functioning independently of a team, so while you don’t want to be near the center of your formation, you can stay a bit closer. And remember to use your lasers whenever possible – one shot from those is worth 4 from your UACs. Well, maybe a bit less, depending. And if you jam, scram.

Mech Modules: Seismic Sensor, Target Info Gathering

Weapon Modules: UAC/5 Cooldown, Medium Laser Range

Consumables: Cool Shot, Air Strike

It’s kind of silly, but you can do it. You can also sacrifice some speed or ammo to get ECM.

Weapon Modules: UAC/5 Cooldown, ERPPC Cooldown



This is the most combat-effective variant, thanks in large part to its 6 energy hardpoints, and also to its quirks! Its offensive quirks are 5% to energy cooldown and heat gen, 10% to range, and 15% to duration (with 5% extra for Medium Lasers). Defensively, it gets about 25% extra structure (which is the lowest of all the Cicadas), but for movement it gets 40% accel/decel, 20% turn and torso twist rate, and an extra 18° of torso twist angle.

Build 1:

This is a big “duh” build. Fits the quirks, hardpoints, meta, etc. Hell it’s just an upscalled JR7-F in many ways, with extra heatsinks and no jumpjets. But while I’d rather have a JR7-F personally, it can do some work with the 30-point alpha and it keeps the concentrated DPS up pretty hard.

This plays almost exactly like a light mech, Stay mobile, get burns whenever possible, and be a general nuisance, etc. But it has a couple features not shared by the other lights. First off…it has way more offensive power – more heatsinks, more range, better duration, just everything is better than can be done on pretty much any light. But second off…it’s huge and it goes down fast. Most lights are successful because they’re hard to take out, or maybe they just don’t get focused. But the Cicada is an easy mech to put down, and it’s much more noticeable, so you’ll get focused a lot more. This forces you to play a bit safer, but you can kind of afford to do that thanks to your awesome range and duration quirks.

Mech Modules: Radar Deprivation, Seismic Sensor

Weapon Modules: Medium Laser Range, Medium Laser Cooldown

Consumables: Cool Shot, Air Strike

This has much more potential at longer range, and the high mounts are always welcome. But it’s hot and it’s slow, so…there’s that.

Weapon Modules: Medium Laser Range, Large Laser Range

And this is a full-on laser poker, like the CDA-3M but with slightly better quirks and slightly less ECM. The Small Laser does mean that you have 2 high-mounted Larges instead of just 1, though.

Weapon Modules: Large Laser Range, Large Laser Cooldown

I feel like this build kinda misses the point of the CDA-2A to be honest, but it does have a really nice alpha with ridiculously low duration…it’s strong, but not the best.

Weapon Modules: Med Pulse Range, Med Pulse Cooldown



The CDA-3F is the latest variant, coming in with jumpjets and high mounts and all sorts of excellent things. For quirks, it has 20% to energy cooldown and 10% to heat gen and laser duration. Then there’s the (sorta) 50% boost to structure, and for agility it has 20% accel/decel and torso twist speed, 15% turn rate, and an extra 18° of torso twist angle.

Build 1:

It’s not the best, and it’s not the worst, but it’s okay. You may notice that this is the same as a CDA-3M build, but it works better on that variant thanks to slightly better quirks and ECM. Jumpjets are great, but they ain’t cloaking technology. The big thing this one has going for it is the high mounts, something it shares with the CDA-2A actually. But the jumpjets do make this variant better at it than the CDA-2A, by a teeny bit.

Again, we’re looking at a pretty similar playstyle to the previous flanky mid-range mechs, but with extra emphasis on hill-humping and pseudo-poptarting. This is probably the most vulnerable variant when it comes to things like light fights, as it just doesn’t have the damage or speed it would need, but you don’t need to spread as much from your team to be effective in it. All of the flanking comments on other variants still apply for the most part, but you can be really cautious with your peeks in this one.

Mech Modules: Radar Deprivation, Seismic Sensor

Weapon Modules: Large Laser Range, Large Laser Cooldown

Consumables: Cool Shot, Air Strike

Lots more speed but a fair bit less range. Mostly the same, I’d say the builds are roughly on par.

Weapon Modules: Medium Laser Range, Large Laser Range

Less range, speed and heat efficiency, but now we got some of that damage that we were craving so badly.

Weapon Modules: Medium Laser Range, Large Pulse Range

Oh now that’s sexy right there. It’ll get hot as hell, but…poptarting is fun. Kinda wish they’d put some velocity quirks on it (it does have an ERPPC stock…)

Weapon Modules: PPC Range, Medium Laser Range

Not worth going into much detail really, but if you’re looking for a shorter-range version…

Weapon Modules: Med Pulse Range, Large Pulse Cooldown



This’ll be your third variant if you didn’t get the Loyalty Cicada; don’t be too broken up though, they’re basically on par. Its quirks are pretty wild – 20% energy cooldown with an extra 5% to Medium Pulse Lasers, and 20% energy heat gen. That goes with the 50% defensive structure across the board, 50% accel/decel, 35% turn rate and 25% torso twist speed.

Build 1:

I mean…again, duh. This build is pretty sweet in a brawl and it lets you do a lot of damage quickly and precisely. Like if the FS9-S got turned up to 11. Problem is, it has no jumpjets, and it’s almost 20 KPH slower than a FS9-S…which is a pretty big deal, as it turns out. As such, you generally won’t last long enough in a brawl to do a lot of damage, regardless of how quickly you do it.

Again, you’ll be playing this like a light mech most of the time. Run around scouting and shooting anything you can, and if you see a wolf pack, join right in! The CDA-2B does excel at picking off isolated mechs, particularly if it has friends, but avoid actually trading if at all possible. You’re better off working on an enemy’s flank, preferably if they’re distracted, and putting out max DPS until you get too hot to continue.

Mech Modules: Radar Deprivation, Seismic Sensor, Target Info Gathering

Weapon Modules: Med Pulse Range, Med Pulse Cooldown

Consumables: Cool Shot, Air Strike

It is quite a bit hotter, but at least you’ll live a bit longer and get into position more easily.

Eh, it’s alright and all. Not sure if I would recommend it over the others, though.

Weapon Modules: Medium Laser Range, Large Laser Range


Build 2:

I feel like I’ve gone over this build enough on the other ones that I don’t need to get super into it here. The big things making this one unique is the high-DPS from the cooldown & heat gen quirks and the prospect of having two of your guns in your arm. I’ll let you figure out the rest on your own.

Mech Modules: Radar Deprivation, Seismic Sensor, Sensor Range

Weapon Modules: Large Laser Range, Large Laser Cooldown

Consumables: Cool Shot, Air Strike



This is the hero, and I still think it’s beautiful even without its 35% energy range quirk. Not the best, though. But it does still have 25% to missile cooldown and 10% velocity, along with 10% energy range and cooldown and 15% heat gen. On top of that, we’ve got the 50% structure boost and 30% to accel/decel, turn rate and torso twist rate.

Build 1:

There’s just not enough tonnage! It’s too slow and I need more lasers and gah, there’s just so much I want out of the quirks that I can’t afford. It’s still a decent light-mech-style brawler, though. No Oxide, to be sure, but it has some beams to back up some really brutal SRMs.

The CDA-2B was a bit lacking in the brawl, and the X-5 shares a lot of its weaknesses…but it is way more brutal if it gets going. In the earlier bits of the game, you’ll still want to focus on scouting and wolfpacking and picking off targets and all that good stuff, but as soon as you get the chance, you can dive in and tear shit up, but if you got focused and/or hot, you might want to dart out for a bit. The DPS is crazy and if you play it right, you can actually run out of ammo. So, good luck with that!

Mech Modules: Radar Deprivation, Seismic Sensor

Weapon Modules: SRM4 Cooldown, Med Pulse Range

Consumables: Cool Shot, Artillery Strike

If you’re not afraid to get really up close and personal, this could put out some serious nasty DPS.

Weapon Modules: SRM4 Cooldown, Small Pulse Range


Build 2:

Yup – you can do that build on this one, too. Nothing particularly special about it…but it’s an option if you’re not enjoying the brawl.

Mech Modules: Radar Deprivation, Seismic Sensor

Weapon Modules: Large Laser Range, Large Laser Cooldown

Consumables: Cool Shot, Air Strike



There’s no reason to get this variant. But if you insist…it does have 50% ERPPC heat gen and velocity (with a 25% generic component to the heat gen), 25% ballistic cooldown and velocity, and 20% energy cooldown. It’s got the 50% extra structure, 70% accel/decel, 20% torso twist speed, and 18° of addition torso twist angle.


For the most part, it’s a worse version of the CDA-3M’s build. Plays pretty much the same way, but with less DPS and no ECM. It’s not horrible, but it’s not even that great on the CDA-3M so…buyer beware ‘n all that.

Mech Modules: Radar Deprivation, Seismic Sensor, Sensor Range

Weapon Modules: AC/5 Cooldown, ER PPC Cooldown

Consumables: Cool Shot, Air Strike

If you don’t like damage, and gotta go fast.

Weapon Modules: ER PPC Cooldown, ER PPC Range


Weapon Modules: Gauss Cooldown, ER PPC Cooldown

Uhh…at least it has armor?

Weapon Modules: Gauss Cooldown, ER Large Cooldown


Build 2:

Dakka dakka, Dakka dakka dak’ka dakka dakka, dakka dakka dakka dakka dakka dakka dakka? (I mean, I know it’s not great, but do you have a better idea?)

Mech Modules: Radar Deprivation, Seismic Sensor, Sensor Range

Weapon Modules: AC/2 Range

Consumables: Cool Shot, Air Strike


Build 3:


Mech Modules: Radar Deprivation, Seismic Sensor, Hill Climb

Weapon Modules: AC/20 Cooldown, AC/20 Range

Consumables: Cool Shot, Air Strike

Oh god it’s even worse

Weapon Modules: Gauss Cooldown, Gauss Range


Pilot Skills

I’ve figured that this is the best skill order for pretty much any mech, and so I’m just going to customize it for mechs that have to emphasize unusual pilot skills.

Basics: Cool Run – Heat Containment – Hard Brake – Kinetic Burst – Twist Speed – Twist X – Anchor Turn – Arm Reflex

Elites: Speed Tweak – Fast Fire – Quick Ignition – Pinpoint

Then just master it. I’m only sticking with the CDA-3M and CDA-2A, but the CDA-3F could be up your alley.


And that’s that. I hope you enjoy your mech, let me know if you have any questions, and as always glhf

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