The Linebacker doesn't have a separate Inner Sphere name, but if it did, I think that Queue Jumper would be appropriate. It's big and fast and can just muscle its way around, where ever it wants to go. That makes for a rude person but a great omnimech.
I've mentioned in the past that a battlemech's engine cap or an omnimech's fixed engine size can be a good indicator of how powerful that mech can be. The Linebacker has an XL390. That's the same engine rating I use with most of my Cyclopses, except that it's got a lot less mass to push around in the Linebacker.
A natural concern--one that was expressed by many players, prior to the Linebacker's release--is that the large engine leaves little weight available for weapons and equipment. While (about) seventeen tons of pod space is sparce for a heavy mech, the speed gained in exchange more than sufficiently makes up the difference. The hardpoint configurations that the Linebacker's omnipods make available are well-suited to a chassis with less-than-average pod space. As I tinkered with this chassis in the mech lab, I came up with 38 builds that were at least worthy enough to save, and there's probably more builds and optimizations to be made.
When making your initial builds, it's important not to just slap on whichever pods have the most hardpoints. Unlike the Ryoken or Mad Cat, many of the Linebacker's pods come with quirks--usually durability quirks. The number and magnitude of the Linebacker's quirks are inversely proportional to the number of hardpoints in a given omnipod, so if you can get away with a single energy hardpoint in a side torso, then it behooves you to take an omnipod with only one energy hardpoint. If you need three hardpoints in that pod, then you're giving up quirk bonuses to get those hardpoints. (The highlighted builds don't necessarily account for this, so if you decide to use any of them, make sure to double-check that you select optimal omnipods.)
A discussion of the Linebacker's omnipods wouldn't be complete without mention of the fact that it has a hero variant, so some pods will be locked behind a pay wall. This turns out to not be as big a deal for the Linebacker as it is on some of the other omnimechs with hero variants. The two hero pods of note are the left arm, which is the only left arm with a ballistic hardpoint, and the right torso, which is the only triple-energy right torso. The Linebacker is poorly suited to ballistic weapons and has a right arm and two right torso options, if you want to experiment with ballistics. The hero right torso can give you a ninth energy hardpoint on a chassis that is otherwise capped at eight. How many energy weapons can you mount in a set of nine without developing catastrophic heat management problems? One, and we'll get to that.
Returning to the subject of crit space and weight, there's two factors to take note of, when developing Linebacker builds: First, you're probably going to use all of your tonnage before you fill all of your crit space, unless you fill that space with bulky items like heat sinks. Second, four of the five available heat sink slots in the engine are filled (and locked). As with the Nova, the Linebacker's fixed equipment drives us toward favoring the use of energy weapons, since making efficient use of the chassis involves mounting loads of heat sinks. The other side of that coin is that heavy ballistics, which generate less heat, are not as good a fit for the Linebacker (not that I didn't try to make a couple of ballistic builds work).
Finally, this is one of the first build threads for a Clan mech, where you'll see me entirely eschew the use of Targeting Computers. The Targeting Computer Mk. 1 used to be a bargain for its effects, until the last balance patch. Most people mount it for the tiny amount of additional beam range on laser weapons--a bonus which wasn't touched. No, the best and least-appreciated bonus that targeting computers provided was the bonus to critical chances on beam weapons. That bonus could cause ERSLs to behave a bit like machine guns, in that once they started cutting into unarmored components, you'd gut all of the equipment in there and maybe kick off an ammo explosion. Where that bonus used to start high and scale up slowly through the range of targeting computers, the bonus across the targeting computer line has been reduced, such that it is a linear increase from zero to the same maximum value on the TC7. I wouldn't necessarily go through all of my old builds and rip out all of the TC1's, but on a mech that doesn't have a lot of tonnage to spare, like the Linebacker, I also wouldn't just automatically throw a TC1 into the build, the way I used to.
Now, as with other omnimechs, I will not be splitting builds by variant, except to note the one that uses a hero omnipod. Instead, I'll be grouping the builds by the range at which they're built to fight.
Nope. You can use the Linebacker's speed to stay well away from combat and plink away with some kind of sniper build, but you'd be making a huge mistake. With a 65-ton chassis, you're going to have somewhere between 320 and 380 points of armor, and with that much armor, you need to spend at least some time at the front, taking shots that might otherwise finish off one of your teammates. At mid- or close-range, a dedicated sniper build will not be able to keep up with the damage output of the mechs that it has to fight, so for this reason alone, it's best to just shelve the sniper builds.
I will mention that there is a dual-PPC build for the Linebacker that is quite popular. The fact that this is the popular long-range build is kind of baffling. Yes, 104.5kph can keep the Linebacker at range, and yes, the Prime variant's omnipods offer some quirks to help this particular build. There are other mechs that are fast and quirked for PPCs or trade some speed for jump jets and offer dual-PPC builds, without sucking up sixty-five tons of drop weight.
Whether or not you agree that the Linebacker isn't best utilized for sniping on its own merits, you have to at least concede that the popular sniper build for the Linebacker is redundant. If you want to make best use of the Linebacker, you need a build that will complement its speed and durability. That means getting closer....
Shortly after buying my Linebackers, I took it as a challenge to make a decent ballistic build for the chassis. Given the recent balance changes (already addressed ad nauseum), it seemed like a reasonable time to run with a UAC2 build.
This build suffered from a lot of problems, some of which were quite surprising. The obvious problems are the small ammo load due to the small amount of available weight, and damage spread inherent to using a rapid-fire weapon at range. The big surprise was how hot the thing runs. Four ER medium lasers you expect to build up heat, but then you hope to cool off, while still being able to rapid fire the UACs. That's not what happens, though. The two UACs alone generate so much heat on their own that, unless you get a bad run of jams, they'll prevent the mech from cooling.
Well, if sucking through ammo and building up heat is a problem, then a pretty natural choice for a second stab at a ballistic Linebacker is to trade the UAC2s for a Gauss rifle. This build can actually be used in the way which the UAC build was intended to be used, firing everything until the mech needs to cool, and using just the Gauss rifle while heat dissipates. At first glance this build is decent, and you can get reasonable performance out of it on the battlefield, but I think it's doomed to mediocrity. Three to three-and-a-half tons of ammo is about all you can expect to spit out of one Gauss rifle in a good match, and that only deals 450 to 525 damage, leaving you with three ER medium lasers to deal another 550 damage, plus fifteen per missed Gauss shot, if you want to have a 1,000-damage game with this build. That's a lot of work to expect from those three lasers.
Let's bin the ballistics ideas, then, and look at a more traditional mid-to-long range build: large pulse and ER medium lasers. Enough time has been spent on this combination of weapons, so I'll only add that it works well on the Linebacker, owing to the four heat sinks in the engine and ample crit slots available in the side torsos for more heat sinks.
These standoff builds can be alright in the solo queue, but we've yet to efficiently utilize the mech's tonnage and crit space, and the above builds don't have much in the way of burst damage potential. I think we need to move in closer....
Do you want a big, mid-range alpha strike from weapons that leave enough weight left over to fill the chassis with heat sinks? ER medium lasers provide one way to achieve that. If you fire these lasers in two groups to avoid ghost heat, then you will deal a fifty-six damage punch over about 1.7 seconds of burn time.
There's several problems with that. The first and most obvious is that you'll be able to do that fifty-six damage punch twice, before you need to find creative ways to avoid overheating. The second is that 1.7 seconds of burn time is more than ample time for your target to twist and seek cover, mitigating the damage and the effectiveness of that damage. Both of these problems can be addressed by dropping two lasers and the right lower arm actuator to add two more heat sinks, but this brings your burst and sustained damage numbers into the same region as the large pulse-ER medium combination build above, meaning that you would have traded range for nothing.
This build (and a couple like it below) suffer from another problem, specific to my preferences and habits. Specifically, a majority of their weaponry is mounted on the left side of the mech. Because most of my other mechs force or allow concentrating weapons in the right side, I have an ingrained habit of shielding with my mech's left side. With these left-side concentrated builds, that habit results in me losing a majority of my weapons, when I should otherwise have lost a much smaller proportion of my firepower. It's a habit I could probably train myself out of, given sufficient time, but other build options make that unnecessary.
When I tested the eight medium laser build above, I did like the high-damage alpha strike. Recalling a successful Gladiator build, I decided to see if a smaller battery of medium pulse lasers would address some of the problems with the eight medium laser build. Indeed, it does address the beam duration problem, since all six medium pulses can be fired at once, for a burn time of 0.85 seconds, as opposed to the roughly 1.7 seconds. The heat is still substantial, and the heat sinks surrendered to make room for the heavier pulse lasers exacerbate the problem. Trading more lasers off for additional heat sinks is one way to deal with the heat, but four medium pulse lasers on their own is an underwhelming loadout for a heavy mech.
What if, instead of trading two medium pulse lasers off for heat sinks, you instead trade them off for some more heat efficient lasers. On this build, the medium pulse lasers occupy the hardpoints at or above eye-level, so that the mech retains its ability to poke at mid-range targets. When the lines get close and the late-game brawl begins, the small pulse lasers provide a source of sustained damage. This build isn't bad, and it should give you an idea of where we're going, if you haven't already figured it out.
Short and Knife-Fighting Ranges
Continuing to iterate on the previous build, the remaining medium pulse lasers can be swapped out for more small pulse lasers and heat sinks. This is where the heat problem gets turned upside-down. This build dissipates heat so quickly and generates it so slowly that there are hardly any realistic scenarios in which you reach your heat capacity. That's an indication that you've over-invested in heat sinks. The build isn't bad, and if you're brave enough to get close, it can produce some high-damage games for you, but there's room for improvement. When I was leveling my Linebackers, I set this build aside for a while, before further iterating on it, and we're going to do the same here.
The other direction I went with short-range builds was mixed energy-missile builds. Specifically, I looked at the D arm omnipods and thought that a couple of ASRM6 launchers would make a mean right hook to back up a battery of ER small lasers. Truth-be-told, I was underwhelmed by this build, though for quite a while, I couldn't put my finger on exactly what the problem was. These are weapon systems with which I'm comfortable, but I just wasn't putting up the damage numbers for which I'd hoped.
Now, you've probably already noticed something about that omnipod configuration that took me absolute ages to notice: The A right torso, in addition to two energy hardpoints, also has a missile hardpoint. At the cost of one small laser and a couple of heat sinks, the build can mount an additional ASRM6 launcher. This beefs up the burst damage enough to become a major threat in close-range combat, while being able to maintain high damage output at its heat threshold in prolonged engagements. We'll talk more about this build in a minute.
With the mixed energy-missile build sorted out, I wanted to come back to that small pulse build. Remember what I said about the catastrophic heat problems that come from mounting nine of any given energy weapon system and how that limits the utility of the hero right torso pod? Well, if you take the eight small pulse build and trade one heat sink for one more laser, the heat levels become just about perfect. At super close ranges, you can carve up one or two mechs like Thanksgiving turkeys, hit your heat threshold, back off for a couple of seconds to cool, and reengage to rack up more damage and kills. Your speed gets you in and out of combat at your leisure, your armor lets you stay in combat long enough to get your kills, and the mix of small pulse lasers and numerous heat sinks makes you easily as much of a threat as someone in the mixed ER small-SRM build above. It's brutal, if you're willing and able to hop the pay wall for that right torso omnipod.
A few maps--especially in Conquest mode--have traps. These are locations that look appealing at first glance, but result in part or all of your force being stuck on the wrong side of a bottleneck. The old version of Terra Therma had such a trap, which I have previously talked about. On HPG Relay, the trap is the basement, beneath the relay dish, which is where the central Theta cap point is in Conquest. Usually, if anything more than a couple fast lights on your team try to contest that point in the early game, then you will have lost.
You would think with HPG being such a popular and old map that people would realize how suicidal it is to corner your main force in the basement area, but I managed to land in a game with an assault lance that wanted to rush the basement. Making matters worse, a Warhawk decided to split off from the assault lance, not to take a dominant position on top of the relay, but to wander out of the relay area entirely and toward the hostile drop zone.
This display of tactical genius developed, while I was capping Kappa point on our side of the map, in the 5ERSL/3ASRM6 Linebacker. Being decidedly less suicidal than the assault lance, I made my way across the relay area via the middle tier, hoping to catch some stragglers coming through the E7 gate.
Nothing came out of the E7 gate, though. On top of that, our assault lance captured the Theta cap and emerged from the basement unopposed. The only person having any trouble at all was the Warhawk, who made it halfway out of the relay area, before calling for help, and nobody was dumb enough to go die with him.
Honestly, I'm not sure what path the enemy team took to get into the relay area or what they did when they arrived, because as the light lance and I began rotating back toward the center, on the D5/E5 line, we spotted a fresh Mauler moving as though it had doubled-back from the basement. As we commenced with the murder of this single, isolated assault mech, the closest thing you could call the main fight of the match developed around the D4/E5 corner.
As this fight developed and absorbed much of our team's assault lance, I spotted a Supernova firing into the scrum from a position near the E4 gate. I moved along the middle tier of the HPG relay to use the wall between the relay and the gate as cover against the Supernova. Along the way, I snuck in the kill shot against a Huntsman that was trying to jump down to the basement, away from the mech that had done most of the damage to him.
I dropped down to the lower level, myself, and charged the Supernova. He had backed himself into a corner, leaving himself without a way to get away from me. Dual-Gauss is pretty threatening, but at close range, it can't match the damage output of a decent SRM build. With a little help from a friendly Marauder IIC, the Supernova went down.
With a moment to breathe, the Marauder and I both noticed that the hostile team had captured Kappa. Figuring that Kappa couldn't have been in enemy hands for too long at that point, the Marauder and I both set off toward the point, in the hopes of catching the mech(s) that had stolen it.
A picture of what had happened was starting to form. The hostile assault lance had done almost exactly the opposite of what our assault lance had done: They split up, with most of their assault mechs making a run for the capture points near our team's drop zone and just the Mauler making a play for the basement. That meant that a couple of fast mechs--like a Linebacker and a Marauder IIC for example--could catch the assault mechs without support, while our main force, in the center of the map, would be able to overwhelm the rest of the enemy team with their raw tonnage.
And that's what we set out to do! The first thing we encountered was an LRM Trebuchet, which started hailing missiles on the Marauder. I kept the ridgeline to the northeast of Kappa between the Trebuchet and myself, until I was about ninety degrees off to his left. The two of us together quickly took the Trebuchet apart, leaving Kappa clear for us to recapture. The Marauder IIC departed from Kappa ahead of me, heading towards Sigma, while I topped up the capture bar, knowing I'd be able to catch up.
When I popped over the ridge south of Kappa, following after the Marauder, I saw him engaging an Executioner. I ran in, fully intending to engage the Executioner, but about 400 meters from that fight, I saw a King Crab rounding the corner of the wall in F3. I took a passing shot at the Executioner, and made a run for the King Crab. I knew the Marauder wouldn't last long against two other assault mechs, so I wanted to keep the odds a little more even by keeping the King Crab occupied.
On my approach, I targeted the King Crab, with a little dread about what the loadout could be. Three lasers tore off the last of my left torso's armor, while I was on my way in, and I was really worried that that would be followed up with a couple of AC20 shells or a barrage from a quartet of UAC5s. I twisted slightly to the left, hoping that my stronger right side would absorb any particularly heavy hits, but I didn't want to turn a full ninety degrees, since I needed that targeting information on the Crab.
And then the King Crab's loadout popped up: two ALRM20s, three medium lasers, and an AMS poking out of the top of its head like an oversized zit. Thank god he brought backup weapons, right? Those three medium lasers will definately ward off a brawling Linebacker!
Except, of course, this brawling Linebacker didn't give a damn about three medium lasers. I started ripping into his armor and then passed him to his left. Realizing that circling in this direction would leave my softened left side open to counterattack, I quickly reversed my direction of rotation, which allowed the King Crab to pull a little bit of range.
The Executioner managed to finish off the friendly Marauder IIC, while I had been firing my first volleys into the King Crab. This meant that when I got turned around, I had two hostile assault mechs staring back at me. Figuring that the Executioner would be well worn after dueling a similarly-sized assault mech, I fired a volley of missiles at its center torso, immediately killing it.
That left the King Crab and myself, locked in a duel, isolated from our respective teams. Given the speed of the Linebacker, there was no way for the King Crab to pull range, try as he might. That meant his LRMs were completely out of play, and since I was able to effectively shield with my relatively untouched right side, his medium lasers were not very effective. They became even less effective, when I pulled the Crab's right torso off, aided by an ammunition explosion.
As the ammo in the right torso cooked off, I held fire, expecting the Crab to die. The mech didn't die, though. Apparently, not only was it running a standard engine, but the pilot had also invested tonnage in CASE protection for his ammo bins. At this point, I got a little sadistic and decided that I wanted to pull the other wing off of this fly. I ripped off the Crab's left torso and gave the pilot a few more seconds to think about how awful his build was, before I finally mercy-killed the mech, bringing the match to an end.
Isolated mechs of any shape or size are the natural prey of the short-range Linebackers. If you have to tangle with one of these one-on-one, then it will have the mobility to control the range of engagement, the armor to absorb significant incoming fire, and the firepower to put down even the tankiest assault mechs. Catching out four isolated assault mechs, one at a time, was a best-case scenario for this mech, letting me rack up 1,185 damage in a single solo queue match.
Also, don't run LRM boats. I know I keep saying it, and I know the guilty parties aren't here to read this advice, but I just feel like I need to keep emphasizing it. LRMs, in their current state are worthless, and setting aside three tons of an assault mech's chassis for "backup weapons" will just result in you dying embarrassed.
At 104.5kph, the Linebacker is as fast as a mech its size can possibly be, and at 65 tons, it's the heaviest mech that can attain that speed. If you value mobility in a heavy mech, then it should be a pretty easy decision to add this chassis to your collection. The omnipods provide a variety of hardpoints that further ensure you should be able to come up with effective builds.
Ultimately, I decided to buy the hero variant with my last significant chunk of MC, not because the omnipods opened up a whole lot of new options (though the nine small pulse build is objectively better than the eight small pulse build) but because I foresee myself using this mech often enough that the 30% C-bill bonus will make a lot of money for me.
The subject of next month's content is in PGI's hands. If the skill tree is delayed, then I plan to revisit another Clan mech that I haven't touched in a while. If the skill tree does make the May 16th patch, then I'll compile my initial thoughts on how it functions and affects some select mechs.