Last Updated: 10-June-2016

It’s just another mech with “cat” in the name, but which isn’t actually a cat. Just another disappointment.



The Cataphract was the first poptart in MWO, and singlehandedly revolutionized the way the game is played. Since the meta shifted towards laser vomit, the Cataphract has found itself in a bad spot, but it still exists as a solid machine and is worth learning.

The primary and iconic Cataphract variant is the CTF-3D – this is the only one with jumpjets and also comes with several ballistic and energy hardpoints. Next up we have the Ilya Muromets and CTF-4X, both of which are very much dakka variants with 3 and 4 ballistic hardpoints respectively, though several factors limit their usefulness. The Ilya is fun if you like the Cataphract, but it’s hardly a must-have. If you don’t want to shell out for the Ilya,  you should look at the CTF-0XP due to its tankiness and ECM. After those we have the traditionally solid CTF-1X which loads up on energy hardpoints (along with a single ballistic), and the CTF-2X which is easily the worst variant of the bunch.


Chassis-Wide Information


  • High energy mounts in side torsos – these can be very useful for jumping over cover or just hill peeking in general.
  • Jumpjets in the CTF-3D are terribly useful, and they are more-or-less the entire reason for the variant’s existence.
  • Slender side profile and chunky arms make it decent at shielding, though its front profile is very broad which works against it.



  • Low slung arm hardpoints and ballistic hardpoints in general hinder your ability to trade favorably.
  • Having the armor of a 70-tonner does not help when it comes to brawls or firing line strategies, coupled with easy-to-isolate hitboxes when you’re not shielding.


Generic Tips

  • There are very few things about the Cataphract that are generic to the chassis which can be advised on – they all have different features such as the CTF-3D’s jumpjets, the CTF-2X’s missiles, even radically different builds. If I’m going to give any generic tips about the Cataphract, it would have to be to focus hard on spreading damage. As I mentioned above, the mech functions above average at shielding thanks to it being relatively shallow (front to back) and its arms covering most of its bits. However, when you look at the Cataphract head-on, it is extraordinarily easy to isolate where to shoot to hit each individual component. This means that you need to choose when to get hit and when not to get hit more than most any other mech, make it a habit to shield when you’re in the open and only turn to fire after you get blasted in your less important side, and then shield again – if you have a build compatible with this strategy, that is.



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!



If you’re gonna buy the Cataphract, you’ve got to get this one. Offensively, it gets 5% ballistic cooldown, 20% laser duration, and 30% UAC jam chance reduction. It also gets 35% torso twist speed and about 25% extra structure across the board.

Build 1:

While it may not be impressive just looking at the numbers, a 35-point alpha from long range is nothing to scoff at, particularly when it all gets concentrated in one place. The issue is, even ER PPCs are a bit low in velocity, and the lack of quirks to make up for that really does hurt the build. If you find that the build is a bit hot for you, you might want to swap one or both of the ER PPCs down to regular ones.

There are a few ways to play a poptart CTF-3D and often you’ll want to do more than one of them in a game. The first method is the MWO iteration of jumpsniping – move behind cover roughly perpendicular to your target, jump to clear the cover, and fire your full alpha as you fall back down. The next method is more traditional OG poptarting – take advantage of your PPC shoulders as much as you can, jumping over a ridge or what have you just long enough to let loose the lightning before dropping back down. This sacrifices nearly half of your alpha, but is much less risky to return fire so is what you’ll want to use if you’re getting shot back at. The third method is very similar, but is done by peeking over a hill rather than jumping to clear it. It’s more controlled, but this can only be used in certain situations (such as when you have a hill to climb and peek over). Other methods include rotating on the enemy team to catch out their rear (which is the more recent BESM – big engine stomp meta – tactic) and corner peeking with your right side, which I covered more extensively in the Victor (Dragon Slayer) and Stalker (Misery) Master Guides. Of course there are more techniques and intricacies, but that would require a few pages to go over. To read those pages, check out the PPFLD guide.

Mech Modules: Radar Deprivation, Seismic Sensor

Weapon Modules: Gauss Cooldown, Gauss Range

Consumables: Cool Shot, Artillery Strike

Simple modification, losing heatsinks and the ER capabilities to get extra survivability.

This style rose from the introduction of the Gauss charge mechanic, but the UAC jam chance quirk has given it another reason to exist. It results in quite good DPS and decent PPFLD.

Weapon Modules: UAC/5 Cooldown, PPC Cooldown

It’s a powerful build, though the side torso gauss is incredibly dangerous. Play with care and shield hard. And if you’re feeling adventurous, add a PPC

Weapon Modules: Gauss Cooldown, Gauss Range

This is kind of a weird one, which used to make a lot of sense but just doesn’t anymore. The goal is to have a decently fast and tough jumpsniper with acceptable DPS, but it’s just puny by modern standards.

Weapon Modules: UAC/5 Cooldown, PPC Cooldown


Build 2:

This build is much more relevant than a poptart these days, offering high alpha damage at a decent range with great heat efficiency. The laser duration quirk is pretty incredible too, and all in all it’s a great package. It’s still pretty standard, and shouldn’t be anything you’re not used to already. You can also swap out the Larges for ERs if you like.

This build is all about hitting alpha strike after alpha strike, keeping the damage as concentrated on a target component as possible. Ideally, you want to bring all weapons to bear, and this can be accomplished by peeking over and to the right of cover. But sometimes you must compromise, and take shots which are exclusively hill-humps or corner-peeks. For more on this sort of build, check out the Gauss Vomit guide.

Mech Modules: Radar Deprivation, Seismic Sensor

Weapon Modules: Gauss Cooldown, Large Laser Range

Consumables: Cool Shot, Artillery Strike

This sacrifices alpha strike and range for much higher DPS at shorter range. It’s actually quite powerful, and still has the same hill-humping and corner-peeking capabilities. This can also be run with a STD engine, by dropping the pulses to regular Large Lasers.

Weapon Modules: UAC/5 Cooldown, Large Pulse Range

This sacrifices even more alpha and range, but gets quite a bit of speed out of the deal. It functions best almost down at brawling distances, but that’s alright. And it can also be done with a STD.

Weapon Modules: UAC/5 Cooldown, Med Laser Range

This is almost a brawler, with relatively short range weapons but very nice DPS and alpha. And the hill-hump is real.

Weapon Modules: AC/20 Cooldown, Large Pulse Range


Honorable Mentions:

None of these really (in my opinion) deserve their own section, but they’re worth playing around with and considering.

The variant isn’t meant for brawling, but it can still sort of do it. Jumpjets help.

Mech Modules: Radar Deprivation, Seismic Sensor

Weapon Modules: AC/20 Cooldown, Med Laser Range

Consumables: Cool Shot, Artillery Strike


The name was inspired by this scene in archer and it is entirely accurate. Back in the day this was the pinnacle of offensive power, but now it is dwarfed by mechs like the Kodiak, Dire Wolf, King Crab, etc. But it still holds a special place in my…whatever that thing is that pumps the black sludge through my body.

Mech Modules: Radar Deprivation, Seismic Sensor

Weapon Modules: Gauss Rifle Cooldown, PPC Range

Consumables: Cool Shot, Air Strike


Ilya Muromets

The Ilya was one of the first Hero mechs (the first useful one introduced after the Yen-Lo-Wang) and was the first mech to make dakka good with three ballistic hardpoints and plenty of tonnage. 10% ballistic cooldown, 25% ballistic range and velocity, and 15% energy cooldown all help it remain decent. It also does get 20% accel and turn rate, 30% decel, and about 25% structure across the board.

Build 1:

It’s all about the dakka. Plenty of ammo, significant backup weaponry, and did I mention dakka? The ammo should be enough for more situations, but you can of course drop lasers for extra ammo. Your speed helps you stay in the fight, and the DPS is pretty incredible. Low mounts and split hardpoints hold it back, but damn, the damagecan make it all worthwhile.

You kind of have to be out in the open in order to make use of your weaponry, which is a major problem for the Cataphract due to the low-mounted hardpoints when you compare it to the Jagermech. This makes it most effective when used as part of a firing line or in a medium-short range engagement. When you’re jammed, running hot, or generally just getting focused you want to start shielding, but as long as you’re doing more damage than you receive, you’ve got to keep staring down your target and drill them. But even when you’re staring someone down, keep moving – your cockpit shake is useless if they don’t have to move their reticle.

Mech Modules: Radar Deprivation, Seismic Sensor

Weapon Modules: UAC/5 Cooldown, Medium Laser Range

Consumables: Cool Shot, Artillery Strike

Well, Large Lasers are hardly the primary weapon system, but this is my pet favorite build that I made for the Ilya. You don’t have as much short-range power out of your secondary weapon as you do in the original, but your mid-range power is heavily amplified (and you can even use an ERLL too).

Weapon Modules: UAC/5 Cooldown, Large Laser Range

This isn’t exactly a radical re-imagination, but adding that one weapon system has a pretty considerable impact on how the build is played – a weird combination of PPFLD (pin-point front-loaded damage) and DPS.

Weapon Modules: AC/5 Cooldown, PPC Cooldown


Honorable Mentions:

As with the CTF-3D, there are more builds that deserve to be mentioned but don’t share any defining characteristics and aren’t each worth talking about at length.

This may be hilariously bad, but it’s still hilarious. Triple barreled shotguns ftw. And honestly it’s not even that bad anymore, it’s just not great either.

Mech Modules: Seismic Sensor, Radar Deprivation

Weapon Modules: LB10X Cooldown, LB10X Range (LOL)

Consumables: Artillery Strike, UAV

It suffers for speed and ammo, but at least the bullets stay in one piece! Or I guess 3 pieces.

Weapon Modules: AC/10 Cooldown, AC/10 Range


PGI killed it with the introduction of the “only 2 gauss at a time!” rule, but it’s still an important piece of history.

Mech Modules (In order of importance): Radar Deprivation, Seismic Sensor

Weapon Modules (In order of importance): Gauss Rifle Cooldown, Gauss Rifle Range

Consumables (In order of importance): Improved Air Strike, Improved UAV



And here we have the non-hero dakka Phract, which has been completely obsoleted by the Black Widow! It has a 10% boost to ballistic cooldown, 15% to range, and 20% to velocity. There’s also extra 40% turn rate, 45% torso twist speed, and about 50% bonus structure across the board.

Build 1:

It doesn’t have the same burst as a double-tapping Kilya…but it can rival the Dire Wolf for raw DPS if allowed to do its own thing. Low slung arms, fragility, sluggishness, sub-par convergence and ammo dependency all hold the mech back big time and prevent it from being a true force, but sometimes none of that matters compared to its raw power.

It’s extraordinarily difficult to play the CTF-4X well reliably as so much of its gameplay rely on the enemy deciding to shoot something else. This means your optimal environment is one with plenty of flat ground (so you don’t have any trouble getting your guns over obstacles) with plenty of friendly mechs and cover nearby so you can escape focus fire. Firing line scenarios are optimal, not to mention suppressive fire.

Mech Modules: Radar Deprivation, Seismic Sensor

Weapon Modules: AC/5 Cooldown, AC/5 Range

Consumables: Air Strike, Cool Shot

If you’re willing to sacrifice maneuverability and ammo and risk your weapons jamming, you might want to try this out. Much more burst potential, if RNGesus smiles upon you.

Weapon Modules: AC/5 Cooldown, UAC/5 Cooldown

This sacrifices a bit of ammo to get some CT lasers going. A lot of people may prefer this, but it’s up to you.

Weapon Modules: AC/5 Cooldown, Medium Laser Range


Honorable Mentions:

Once again, I’m left with a few half-baked builds that I want to talk about, but if you take a CTF-4X there’s nothing really worth taking that isn’t dakka.

There’s no good reason to choose this variant of this chassis for dual gauss…but then again, variety is the spice of life! Convergence sucks and ammo is subpar, but you get some backup weapons and the quirks aren’t half bad for it.

Mech Modules: Radar Deprivation, Seismic Sensor

Weapon Modules: Gauss Cooldown, Med Laser Range

Consumables: Air Strike, Cool Shot


Eh…I guess the DPS isn’t bad? It’s just so stupid  in terms of weapon groups that your best bet is to hold down alpha strike at short range.

Mech Modules: Seismic Sensor, Radar Deprivation

Weapon Modules: AC/10 Cooldown, Large Pulse Range

Consumables: Cool Shot, Artillery Strike



The newest Cataphract (well, the only one introduced in the last 2 years or so), the CTF-0XP serves as a tanky mid-short range fighter, with the added utility of ECM. It ges 15% extra ballistic range and velocity, 10% energy range, and 5% laser duration. It’s also helped by 15% to accel/decel and turn rate, 20% to torso twist speed, and about 50% extra structure across the board.

Build 1:

Though it may not be a great choice for the current meta, this mounts a similar build as the brawler CTF-3D, but with 2 of your high energy mounts moved to the arms, and with ECM instead of jumpjets. I also decided to forgo ferro on the main build – you lose out on quite a bit of maneuverability but the extra heatsinks are worth it in my opinion.

Your role sort of requires you to play around your max range, in order to get in as much damage as possible before actually closing on the enemy. This means poking at exposed or isolated enemies, but avoiding exposing yourself to the enemy. Once you get the chance to start engaging, you can commit hard.

Mech Modules: Radar Deprivation, Seismic Sensor

Weapon Modules: AC/20 Cooldown, Medium Laser Range

Consumables: Cool Shot, Air Strike

If you’re really feeling slow in that last build, and I don’t blame you, this can boost up your movement at the cost of a number of heatsinks. Focus on using your AC/20 over your meds, and it should be manageable.

I decided to go all out and sacrifice speed for MPLs instead of giving up a laser. Speed is your biggest weakness on this build, but offensively you’re a beast.

Weapon Modules: AC/20 Cooldown, Med Pulse Range

This is not so much of a brawler anymore, focusing on corner-peeking with your right side, with ECM to help you sneak around. If you’re having trouble with the need to go for short range, this could be the right build for you.

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


Build 2:

This build focuses on more of the medium range, with the potential to poke at long range as well (though usually this is not quite worth it as without your lasers you will get out-traded). A big advantage is that you don’t really have to worry about heat so much, and that can increase your DPS in the long run.

While the previous AC/20 build focuses on getting close (200 meters or less, preferably), this one would see you poking from around 400. It’s not long range, and it’s on the low end of medium range, but it still has the DPS and armor to keep up with all but the baddest (Timber) of heavies and mediums.

Mech Modules: Radar Deprivation, Seismic Sensor

Weapon Modules: Gauss Cooldown, Medium Laser Range

Consumables: Cool Shot, Air Strike

Thanks to that extra heat efficiency from using a Gauss Rifle over an AC/20, using MPLs is less draining on your heatsinks. This is definitely a brawlier build, but it means that your damage will be much more focused at the closer ranges.

Weapon Modules: Gauss Cooldown, MPL Range



And now we’ve arrived at the laserboat Cataphract…or at least what passes for a laserboat. It’s got 10% energy cooldown and heat gen, 15% laser duration, and 20% ballistic cooldown and velocity. On top of that, it has 45% accel/decel, 15% turn rate, and about 50% extra structure across the board.

Build 1:

Not only does this make great use of the quirks, it’s always been the classic build for the variant. Focusing on the upper edge of “short range” (300 meters or so), it is capable of skirmishing as well as diving head on into a brawl.

This plays almost exactly like the other “brawling” Cataphracts, with a couple main differences. First, you’re less maneuverable than them – you have a lower maximum speed and no jumpjets. This means you’re forced to stay closer to your force’s main body, if not within it. Second, you’re way more offensively powerful – not only with an extra laser, but with significantly improved quirks that lend you a significant amount of added DPS and precision.

Mech Modules: Radar Deprivation, Seismic Sensor

Weapon Modules: AC/20 Cooldown, Medium Laser Range

Consumables: Cool Shot, Air Strike

This sacrifices a medium laser to convert the rest to pulses.

Weapon Modules: AC/20 Cooldown, MPL Range


Build 2:

You’re less mobile and more fragile than most laser vomit mechs, with a small IS XL engine and no jumpjets. And your weapon loadout breaks ghost heat. But you have a couple of high mounts available (though only two of them) and a much lower beam duration and slightly higher range.

Corner and hill peek to be conservative, or expose yourself as part of a firing line or for a solid high-damage trade. You generally do want to fully expose just so that you can bring all your weapons to bear, but really there’s not much special to the mech. For more info on playing this sort of build, check out the Laser Vomit guide.

Mech Modules: Radar Deprivation, Seismic Sensor

Weapon Modules: Large Laser Range, Large Laser Cooldown

Consumables: Cool Shot, Air Strike

Side torso gauss isn’t a great idea with an XL engine, but it’s a fully asymmetric build so if the Gauss goes you’re done anyways. I maintain that this build is better on a CTF-3D, but the quirks definitely help make it work here too. This can also be run with a STD, but it faces the same issues.

Weapon Modules: Gauss Rifle Cooldown, Large Laser Range



Definitely the weirdest (and worst) of the bunch, but it is the best SRM brawling Cataphract by a significant margin. It has 15% ballistic and energy cooldown, 30% ballistic velocity, 20% missile cooldown, and 10% missile velocity. It’s also got 35% to accel/decel and torso twist speed, 20% turn rate, and about 50% extra structure across the board.

Build 1:

This is the only Cataphract with access to more than one missile hardpoint, and there’s very little else special about it. Brawling is the obvious choice. In fact, it’s a pretty good brawler, at least for a heavy mech, with considerable DPS and alpha. It lacks the utility from the CTF-3D’s jumpjets and range from the CTF-1X’s energy weapons and quirks, but gains a considerable amount of brute force.

This mech is capable of acting alone, but that’s not your best bet. You’ll want to hit the enemy’s flank as hard as you can when you get the chance, but you’ll have to wait for that chance and be constantly looking for it. Try to stay as fresh as you can until you get that chance, as there’s not much you can do outside of 300 meters and there’s a good chance that most of the fight will occur at that range. Some games you may be screwed by the map and your teammates and enemies may both have ranged configs, in which case you may be forced to act as a flanking medium, but that lack of reliability is the risk you run in a pure brawler.

Mech Modules: Seismic Sensor, Radar Deprivation

Weapon Modules: AC/20 Cooldown, SRM6 Cooldown

Consumables: Cool Shot, Artillery Strike

You lose a fair bit of maneuverability with this build, but you gain quite a bit of focused power, what with the tighter SRM4 spread and lower beam duration of the MPL. This is more of a front-line brawler due to its lower speed, and you may want to find an Atlas to hunker down next to.

Weapon Modules: AC/20 Cooldown, MPL 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. Seeing as how the Cataphract is about as generic as the Shadowhawk, this really isn’t necessary.

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. Really, the CTF-3D is the absolute best thanks to its jumpjets, but follow your heart on which one(s) to keep, what with how quirks are always changing who knows.


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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