This is the first of a series of 7 in which I provide a few sample builds for each Freelancer and some discussion of why I chose those. This is not meant to be a full or comprehensive guide (though I do write those as well), but just some general notes for those looking to play a new lancer and wondering what builds to try.
Note that not all lancers get the same depth of discussion here — there’s more for the ones I have more to say about, whether that’s because I play them more and know more about them or because their mods are less clear-cut.
I’ll be referring to the mods by their NAMES (or abbreviated names if it’s clear what it references), so if you don’t know what they do or don’t know the name of the effect you want, check out this post for more info. Parentheses is how many mod points it costs. In general, loadouts are listed / ranked in order of preference — that is, when in doubt, go with what’s listed at #1 or maybe #2.
- Breach (2) – Frag (3) – Launcher (1) – Engagement (1) – Massive (3)
- Capacitor (1) – Nova Nade (2) – Fire Everything (3) – Engagement (1) – Massive (3)
- Breach (2) – Frag (3) – Ocular / Finish (2) – Nothing (0) – Massive (3)
- Breach (2) – Medic (2) – Finish (2) – Engagement (1) – Massive (3)
I take Massive Payload on ultimate in every build (Blackburn has a great ultimate, so you want it to be as powerful as possible! Having a third square lets you cover a lot more), and I take Engagement Range whenever possible – having increased options for your dash, at only 1 point, is far better than the other dash options (unless you can somehow spare 3 points for Crack Shot, which you can’t).
#1 is probably one of the most standard loadouts. Breach is basically 2 free damage since you’re often in cover or next to a wall anyway. Frag Out is very nice for being able to position flexibly – Grenade goes over walls and ignores cover, so you really want it available as often as possible. Launcher Module lets you attack from long range and catch someone by surprise, and is basically what’s left over with your last point. It’s perfectly fine to run other variants, though. For example, you could drop Engagement Range to pick up Ocular Implants or Finish the Fight (this is build #3).
#2 is actually my go-to. It’s a heavy energy build designed to get multiple ultimates, as that is one of Blackburn’s best abilities. I recommend using Echo Boost after your stim for best results – and your highest energy, unless you have a 3+ target hit lined up, is a standard line attack. 12 base energy, +3 from Capacitor equals 15, +7 from Energized equals 22. 22 on two consecutive turns if you Echo Boost (plus dealing 40 damage isn’t too shabby either) and you’ll have your ultimate in no time. The energy gain is very important, so I recommend hitting targets that you don’t think will dash to reliably land the attack. Note that you still get full energy if the target is behind cover.
#3 – similar to #1. You lose Engagement Range, but Ocular Implants is actually quite good for boosting damage against a cover target. You would normally think you don’t want to stim if your attack isn’t dealing much damage, but with Ocular Implants it’s actually a lot of added damage. (If you’d deal 34, Stim (might) gives +8. If you’d deal 17, i.e. enemy has cover, Stim gives +4. If you’d deal 17 but have Ocular Implants, Stim gives +13.) Finish the Fight is also pretty decent. I was surprised – I always thought it was trash. But healing 10 hit points (as a free action no less) is pretty significant.
#4 – doubles down on the Finish the Fight concept and lets you heal yourself or allies with a grenade. This is actually surprisingly useful and I consider “Medic Blackburn” viable enough to list.
Recommended Catalysts: Second Wind, Fade, Echo Boost.
I like Second Wind as a sustain option on Blackburn, who is likely to take some damage. Fade is my preferred dash catalyst on most lancers. Echo Boost is good with Stim, and mandatory in the Energy build.
- Smash and Grab (3) — Ensnare (3) — Mending (1) — Nothing (0) — Assault (3)
- Long Arm / Five-Finger (2) — Ensnare (3) — Mending (1) — Kickbacks (1) — Assault (3)
- Smash and Grab (3) — Nothing (0) — Smoke Machine (2) — Invis Thing (2) — Assault (3)
Feel free to replace Ensnare with Intrusion Protocol if you want the damage and flexibility in placement over the Root. However, I do think the Root is extremely good. In fact, I’ve barely listed any pages here because I think the mods for Celeste are pretty clear-cut. Edit 7-29-18 — as Mending Mists has been nerfed, I like Build #3 now.
Mending Mists is really a must — at 1 point only, it provides ~~10~~ 6 healing each turn for 2 turns. You often want to be in the smoke anyway, as it hides you. Between this and Celeste’s ability to grab power-ups (such as healing power-ups), you can really sustain quite well!
Assault and Battery on the ultimate I think is very good. One game I dropped it for the range upgrade (Second Story Job — which I don’t think is terrible) and immediately had to use a mighted ultimate on targets in cover that would have been in range anyway. So much for that.
And as I said, I think Root on the trap is very good. It lets you kite melee easily — can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched an Asana lose an entire turn being stuck in the trap unable to hit me while I pound her.
I think the most interesting choice is what to take on 1. I’m currently playing with Smash and Grab, which gives +6 if you’re grabbing a powerup. Not bad. Long Arm isn’t bad either — having the 180 degree variance is nice, although I find I rarely need it. The base is…120? It’s a lot. Usually enough. I haven’t tried Five-Finger discount, but I could see it being good, especially where you need damage on an enemy who is behind a power-up and your attack is blocked by the powerup. Actually…that’d be +12, wouldn’t it? Second grappler hits enemy instead of nothing (34 over 22). Or even a full +22 if the grapplers are split. That’s huge. I’m definitely trying that out.
Recommended Catalysts: Second Wind, Fade, Your Choice.
I like Second Wind as a sustain option on Celeste, as she may get low, then take a turn or two off to go grab heal powerups, second wind, and have her smoke bombs for a ton of sustain. You don’t need Might or Regenergy as much because you can grab those powerups. Fade is my preferred dash catalyst on most lancers. I think there’s some argument for any of the blast phase catalysts — Adrenaline vs. teams with knockbacks or roots, Chronosurge is just handy in general, Probe is just good in general, and Echo Boost isn’t bad because you’re likely to have a few buffs during the game from powerups you steal.
- Killing Field (3) — Dance (2) — On the Chase (2) — Rapid (1) — Art of Murder (2)
- Focused (2) — Dance (2) — On the Chase (2) — Point Blank (2) — Art of Murder (2)
- Wide Barrel (2) — Dance (2) — Block ‘n’ Load (2) — Rapid (1) — Killing Spree (3)
Disclaimer: I don’t play a lot of Elle, so take this one with a grain of salt. But I can tell you that Dance of Death is extremely good; it gives a third charge of dash for only 2 points and you pass up some frankly unremarkable alternatives.
As for the rest, I think On the Chase is quite good on your Overcharge, as you are sprinting that turn anyway and it can let you cover a huge amount of ground and reposition yourself. Block ‘n’ Load is good as well; 15 shields isn’t bad in a pinch — and I think it synergizes better with Killing Spree, if that’s what you want to take on your ult, as the Overcharge turn after your ult isn’t a sprint turn after all so the haste isn’t as valuable.
I’ve heard various opinions on Killing Field vs. Focused vs. Wide Barrel on 1, and they all have some merits. Elle’s strength is hitting multiple targets with her main attack, so Focused kind of flies in the face of that, but it helps if you need to 1v1 someone or otherwise focus a single target — so it gives flexibility. Wide Barrel helps you hit multiple targets from far away. And Killing Field is quite good if you’re up close. I’d make the choice between those two depending on how you like to play, and what you’re against.
I don’t really care about the Lurker Drone mods, but you probably set it in a hallway of some kind so there isn’t really cover to worry about anyway, so Rapid Deployment and Point Blank are really the only ones that make sense to me.
I think Art of Murder on ult is quite good, cover damage reduction matters a lot when you’re dealing huge damage with your ult (might + overcharge), but I think Killing Spree is also viable.
Recommended Catalysts: Might, Regroup, Adrenaline.
Second Wind isn’t as good on Elle as on many others, as if you have a random turn where you need to move, you can often Overcharge with that so as to do something productive. But you can’t Overcharge and Second Wind at the same time. She has a high damage ultimate if you have Overcharge active, so Might is quite good. I don’t usually take Regroup but I like it on Elle for two reasons: first, she can flank or go in quite deep with her movement on an Overcharge turn and may need to get out later. And second, her roll is a very effective short-range dash but she has no real long-range dash abilities (and is therefore vulnerable to CC, AoE, and people sitting on her) and Regroup helps to get a lot of distance in a pinch. Adrenaline is good because her ult knocks her back, but you may not want to get knocked back! If you don’t, you can Adrenaline. It’s also quite good on an Overcharge turn where you need to cover a lot of ground and don’t want to get held up by a slow, root or knockback.
- Kaboom (2) – Energy (2) – Blast Force (2) – Extra Fuel (2) – Artillery (2)
- Kaboom (2) – Bomb and Run (1) – Got Your Name (3) – Extra Fuel (2) – Artillery (2)
- Mighty Mines (3) – Long Fuse (2) – Blast Force (2) – Nothing (0) – Minefield (3)
- Kaboom (2) – Phospho (3) – Bigger Bang (1) – Extra Fuel (2) – Artillery (2)
#1 is my go-to build. 4 additional damage on primary bomb is very significant. Energy on mines is just a nice perk but helps you get a possible 2nd ultimate, whereas it is extremely difficult without this mod. I consider Extra Fuel and Artillery Barrage basically mandatory to allow you to play as safe as you need.
#2 – Same as #1, but you can take Bomb and Run on Splort – two turns of haste is actually quite good. Put the extra point into Big Bang because none of the other mods are particularly flexible.
#3 is a mine-focused build. Between the extra damage on Mighty Mines, the increased duration of Long Fuse (Energy Mines also a good option), the Blast Force (so you can knock someone into your Splort) and the Minefield on ultimate, you can deal quite a lot of damage, especially with the ultimate. You don’t have great defensive tools without Extra Fuel on dash, and your ultimate is fairly short ranged without Artillery Barrage, so you need to play smart to make this build work. I’ve seen it be fairly devastating in the right hands, but I don’t run it often myself.
#4 is simply the Phospho Mine build that I use if I want Reveal (which can be nice even against non-invisible enemies). I recommend this build against Nix (the increased max range on Bigger Bang doesn’t hurt either), or against PuP – if you put mines at a choke point, you can really mess with his opener.
Recommended Catalysts: Might, Fade / Regroup, Your Choice
I like Might for Gremo’s ult. It’s hard to pick up Might powerups while playing safe, and the ult does a huge amount of damage. Fade is still my go-to, but I could see Regroup being good in certain situations. Your call on blast phase — Probe, Chronosurge and Adrenaline all probably have merits against certain teams.