What kind of doofus names a mech Sun Spider and only gives it two legs?
I've been hyping up the Sun Spider for a little while now, and it's largely living up to expectations. It has very large side torso hitboxes and only tiny arms with which to shield the sides, so it can feel a little easy to pick apart, like the Vulture. Still, it's an omnimech with good ballistic hardpoint options, all mounted near-cockpit level and a good engine for its size. With current ballistics balance favoring long-range weapons, that squishiness should be less of an issue.
Also, the massiveness of the side torsos comes at the expense of the size of the center torso. I've honestly been considering shaving an extra half of armor off the front center torso to add ammo on some of the builds with marginal ammo loads. I'm holding off on that, though, since it's possible that the hitboxes may be altered in a near-future patch. If memory serves, the Kodiak went in the opposite direction, where its entire front face was center torso hitbox on release, and there were a couple of iterations to make the side torso hitboxes large enough to be relevant. Just because the mech is out doesn't mean that its design is final.
On with the builds!
One build I was really looking forward to trying out was three ERPPCs with twenty-seven heat sinks. I have a Marauder IIC that runs three ERPPCs and thirty heat sinks. Losing three heat sinks would have been significant, but not necessarily fatal and potentially worthwhile, for fitting the build into a smaller package.
I ran into a problem: The fixed armor and structure slots are strategically placed to reduce heat sink shennanigans. The trouble spots are only having a single empty slot in the center torso, each leg, and an odd number of open slots in each arm. This limits the PPC build to twenty-five heat sinks, which is too few, and a ton to spare for a single-crit item that will be of little to no practical use. This development deeply saddened me.
The Other Early Ideas
I went dual-Gauss next. Those thirty-damage hits at 600+ meters are super satisfying, but the reload time. Oh my god, the reload time has gotten so long on Gauss rifles, and when you add the charge time on top of that, the cycle time is just too long to lean exclusively on Gauss rifles as your only offensive capability.
That sent the pendulum swinging clear to the opposite end of the spectrum with four UAC2s. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this went poorly. The requirement to stare down your target is a dangerous requirement, when you've got big side torsos to be picked off. It wouldn't be so so bad, if the damage output was high enough to force your opponent to back down, rather than engage you in the staring contest, but even with UAC2's short jam times allowing you to double-tap frequently, the damage output just isn't sufficient.
Just like there are some lasers where, with all the laser duration nodes activated, they just sneak into being usable, Clan UAC5s just sneak into the realm of usability with both of the UAC jam duration nodes activated in the skill maze. After a little iteration, I came to a build that swapped the four UAC2s for three UAC5s. Eight tons of ammo is a good amount, if you have both magazine capacity nodes open, otherwise you will want to swap out or downgrade the targeting computer for another ton of ammo.
What's the deal with that targeting computer anyway? Well, I wanted to critpad my ammo bins--at least the ones in the arm--and adding heat sinks to a build that runs as cool as this one does was frankly silly. With two additional heat sinks, even a steady (and lucky) string of double-taps would barely move the needle on the heat gauge. The targeting computer offers a small boost to the autocannons' crit chance when hitting unarmored components. It's a really marginal benefit, but the alternatives are more ammo or more heat sinks, both of which would be entirely superfluous.
Truthfully, even with just the locked fourteen heat sinks in the engine, three UAC5s underutilize the mech's heat capacity. What can we add in place of one of the autocannons to use that heat gauge and enhance the capability of the mech? After a bit of waffling, I swapped one of the UAC5s for an ERPPC.
This winds up being a really nice combination of weapons. The pure-UAC builds require keeping your head up and your guns on target to deal significant damage. A PPC and a double-UAC5 double-tap is a reasonable bit of damage, if you can only poke up for a moment before having to take cover again. If you can keep your head up, the burst DPS you can achieve, prior to reaching your heat capacity, is identical to the triple-UAC5 build, and it still takes a while to reach your heat cap with this loadout--though you can get there in a reasonably long engagement.
Right now, the SNS-C and SNS-D omnipods are locked behind the mech pack paywall, but will become available for C-bills a few months down the line. The interesting bit to note is the SNS-D left torso. That torso pod lacks weapon hardpoints, but has an ECM hardpoint, and since I typically invest a bit in the sensor branch of the skill maze, it's not a huge cost for me to make ECM a useful bit of kit. That said, I've mocked up ECM builds with three UAC5s and two UAC5s with a PPC. Because of the ECM module eating up a ton that might otherwise be used for ammo, it's more critical to remember to unlock the magazine capacity nodes in the skill maze with these builds.
Skill Maze Paths
In my big post on the skill maze, I presented a couple of kind of standard skill maze paths for typical mechs. Mechs that run too cold are atypical. That means that in the weapons tree, I tend to go hunting for cooldown nodes instead of heat generation nodes, and in fact, I was quite vigilantly avoiding heat gen nodes with this mech, since they'd be an almost total waste.
For the non-ECM maze path, I actually ran out of useful stuff to grab in the weapons tree. I picked up a torso yaw node in the agility tree that I usually leave out because, what the hell else was I going to do with a spare node? The highlights are all the cooldown nodes, both magazine capacity nodes, both jam duration nodes, and three projectile velocity nodes out of five.
The ECM version of this maze path requires freeing up five nodes in order to open a path to both of the enhanced ECM nodes in the sensor tree. I opted to drop the extra torso yaw node from the agility tree, two of the projectile velocity nodes, and a single cooldown node along with the heat gen node behind which it was gated.
I'm still sad that I couldn't get the triple-PPC build to fit on the Sun Spider, but that's hardly a damning flaw. This is the seventy-ton Clan mech to get if you need one for your dropdeck, and it's a solid pick, even if you're just looking for another mech to drop in solo queue matches. With endo and ferro and very little fixed equipment, you've got plenty of available weight to run ballistics builds that other Clan mechs often forego in favor of clusters of energy weapons. You can't go wrong with those high mounts, either.
Don't be fooled by the whiners who can't figure out how to make a mech work with a skiny center torso. Keep an eye on the patch notes nonetheless (if you can tolerate the poor writing). If the hitboxes get adjusted to widen the center torso, then you won't want to start enthusiastically pulling armor from the CT. If it's radio-silence on the issue for a month or two, then you will probably be safe shaving half a ton for some extra UAC ammo.