Howdy tube-men and welcome to our first Mech Overview, focusing in on the game stats of different mechs and their variants and how to best use them. Mechs are obviously the main draw of Battletech, and everyone will be strongly drawn to one mech or another, for one reason or another. That said, it is not always obvious how to best use a mech at first glance, and the designs or roles can sometimes be unintuitive. On top of that, for a lot of mechs they have variants that are considerably better than others, or that radically change the mech into a completely different role than it normally fills.
A quick aside before we begin, throughout this article and any future ones of its sort, I will generally use the term Chassis to refer to the mech, and Variant to refer to the specific versions of that mech. This is a common bit of vocabulary in Battletech community circles, but not everyone clung on to this game for dear life during the period where it mostly did not exist outside of a scattering of internet fiefdoms, so it feels unsafe to assume everyone knows what these terms mean.
The Mad Cat Chassis
The Mad Cat (or Timber Wolf if you too dream of dying by age 30) is the most iconic mech in all of Battletech, full stop. It has been on the banner for all of our Battletech articles for a reason, and its distinctive silhouette has become somewhat of an icon for the game on the whole. Aside from its smoking hot looks, there is a very good argument to be made for the Mad Cat being one of the best individual units on the tabletop, with a specific and terrifying blend of traits that make it punch so far above its weight that it is a higher BV than most assault mechs, and it can and will win fights with just about any other design in the game if you play to its strengths. One of the greatest strengths of the Mad Cat is its flexibility. It has a ground speed of 5/8, which makes it able to consistently build much higher hit mods than the 4/6 standard. It carries a pretty large amount of armor, comparable to some assault mechs. It has a large array of weaponry and the lighter nature of Clan Tech allows it to carry a variety of weapons to do well at all ranges and in all situations, and its raw damage output is only really matched by other clan mechs, and only really surpassed by some clan assault mechs. Having all of these traits, the decent speed, the good armor, and the excellent weapons, all on a single mech, mean that a Mad Cat is an incredibly safe pick, and it should have at least one advantage over any mech it comes up against. Against assault mechs it can out-maneuver them and prevent them from getting good shots, and anything lighter or faster than it it will usually outgun and out armor by a comical degree and it can just bully them to death.
That said, there are a few weaknesses to the Mad Cat. One of those is its expense. A Mad Cat Prime costs 2757 BV, while an Inner Sphere mech with a similar role, the Marauder 3D, is only 1470 BV, around half the price. While a Mad Cat Prime will basically always win a 1v1 with a Marauder 3D, a 1V2 is a lot more dubious and will require some decent piloting to pull off. This is a general problem that all Clan mechs have, but the Mad Cat is a particularly extreme example. The second major weakness of the Mad Cat is its XL engine. While Clan XL is a lot better than IS XL, as you need to lose both side torsos to die instead of just one, in practice it still makes you massively more vulnerable to engine crits, which sucks. The third weakness is that the Mad Cat also is mostly built for short 1v1 fights, and its various variants tend to be lacking either ammo or heat sinks. This allows it to carry more guns so that it can hopefully win fights quickly and withdraw to cool off or reload, but with the general balance of the Clans ensuring that they wail nearly always be outnumbered, there are plenty of situations where the Mad Cat cannot This can be worked around if you are good at riding your heat index and only firing ammo weapons on good shots, but it does make the mech a bit more finnicky to use than something like a Marauder or Catapult.
The Mad Cat is slightly different from most mechs, in that it is an Omni-Mech. While this means a whole lot of stuff in universe and is an awesome trait, in game it mostly manifests in each variant of the Mad Cat only changing the weapons and equipment, never the armor or speed. So Mad Cat variants tend to be less radically different to the base mech than with many other mechs, and we only need to go over the different equipment that each variant is carrying.
The Mad Cat has a few general categories of variant that all follow a similar theme in terms of equipment, and can be loosely grouped together. Those categories are Large Laser Mad Cats, which are all equipped with ER Large Lasers and generally resemble the Prime, ERPPC Mad Cats, which all carrying CERPPCs and resemble the A variant, Large Pulse Laser Mad Cats, which all carry one or more CLPL and have a slightly wider range in terms of layout than the previous two, and Oddballs, which are the three Mad Cat variants that don’t carry one of above weapons and tend to be more transformative of the unit’s role.
Large Laser Variants
So, for Large Laser variants they are all patterned off of the Prime variant for the Mad Cat, which is a phenomenally scary mech. It carries 2 ER Large Lasers, 2 LRM 20s, 2 ER Medium Lasers, 1 random Medium Pulse Laser, and 2 Machine Guns. This is more gun than the Stalker has, which is an honest to god assault mech. The Prime Mad Cat wants to use its speed to hang back at range to take advantage of the huge range of its weapons, but it is unbothered by things getting next to it due to the lack of a minimum range on any of its weapons. It does technically not have enough heat sinks to fire all of its weapons, but provided you bracket fire this is not a significant issue for this variant. For its BV its a pretty reasonable pick for just about anything you could need it for, and it is very flexible.
The C variant is very similar to the Prime, trading most of the backup weapons and downgrading the LRMs to LRM15s, and using the freed up tonnage to add a UAC-5. This is generally a bad trade, as AC5s of all kinds are pretty mediocre weapons. It also still overheats slightly firing all of its long range weapons, but has much worse bracketing due to the lack of backup weapons. This is for the most part worse than the prime, and is only 250 BV cheaper, so I would not recommend it.
The E variant carries 2 ER Large Lasers and 2 ATM-9s, and a light Tag for guided munitions. This is an interesting variant, as it can fire all of its weapons every turn, and the ATMs have 3 tons of ammo each, and each ton of ammo has different ranges and damage values. ATMs are very fun and well worth using, and this variant is an interesting change from the Prime. It does want to do a similar thing to the Prime where it hangs back and denies shots, but as the enemy closes in with it the ATMs do increasing amounts of damage, up to 27 per launcher at close range, which is quite scary, so the enemy both cannot ignore it at long range and also doesn’t really want to close in. Overall a good, flexible variant that is good in basically any situation, and it is only 2444 BV, so this one comes with a good recommendation.
The F variant is nearly identical to the Prime variant, it just trades the MPL and machine guns for an extra ER Medium Laser and some AP Gauss rifles, which basically just means it can kill infantry from longer away. Not a terrible upgrade, as the AP Gauss is one of the best ways to deal with conventional infantry. I would personally recommend this variant over the Prime, as it is only 30 BV more expensive and is considerably better against Infantry, and the AP Gauss has enough range to chip in against mechs as well.
The U variant is bizarre. It carries two Long Range Torpedo 15s, 2 ER Large Lasers, and 2 ER Micro Lasers, as well as some underwater maneuvering units. This is literally only good if you intend to drop into an ocean and fight there, or if you agreed to let someone use boats and want a mech to go fight the boats with.
The Z variant is basically an upgraded version of the E variant, carrying Improved ATM-9s and less heat sinks, as well as a pair of MPLs. This is an interesting variant but fewer heat sinks means that it can not fire its weapons as freely as the E. It is also considerably more expensive at 2923 BV, so I do not know if I would recommend this over the E. MPLs are very good, but this is one of the most expensive Mad Cats.
The Pryde variant is basically a Mad Cat prime with Jump Jets, though frustratingly not quite enough JJs to make the best use of its engine, only being able to jump 4 rather than 5, which robs it of a point of TMM that it should have. I would not recommend this, as there are better jumping Mad Cats.
ER PPC Variants
The ER PPC variants of the Mad Cat all are mostly variations on the A Variant. The A variant has 2 CERPPCs, 3 MPLs, an ER Small Laser, and a Streak SRM-6. It also has enough heat sinks to fire its weapons with impunity, which is excellent. Those CERPPCs are one of the scariest weapons in the game, and can do a frightening amount of damage. In addition, they do enough damage that if they roll the head when they determine the hit location, the mech they are shooting is instantly destroyed. Add this to the CERPPCs very long range and you have a horrifying weapon that can do horrifying things to anything it shoots at, and it can do it every turn. This mech wants to be doing the same thing as the prime, circling at long range and denying good shots to its enemy, but it also carries a pretty horrifying array of backup weapons and can easily run in close to finish off a mech it has punched holes in with its CERPPCs. Overall a very, very good variant for sniping, if slightly expensive at 2854 BV. All of the CERPPC variants are pricy due to the CERPPC being 400ish BV on its own.
The D Variant of the Mad Cat is one of my favorites, though it is not really that fantastic. Carrying the same 2 CERPPCs as the A variant, the D removes the MPLs and a huge portion of the heat sinks to increase the number of Streak SRM 6s to 4, though 2 of them fire backwards. It is a cheaper pair of ERPPCs compared to the A variant at only 2682 BV, but the A is a much, much better mech overall at the exact same role.
The M Variant is an odd duck. It carries the standard 2 CERPPCs, but trades all other weapons for a Large Pulse Laser, 4 LRM-5s, and a Heavy Flamer. This is a super, super weird mix of weapons, and it does not have nearly enough heat sinks to fire them all, even though the CERPPCs, LPL, and LRMs all have basically the same range brackets and all want to be shooting at the same targets at the same time, leading to this mech constantly overheating if it wants to use its weapons well. Overall not a great variant, and the A is much better at what this one is trying to do. Its slightly cheaper at 2741 but I still would recommend the A.
The N Variant is also super weird, carrying 2 CERPPCs, 2 MPLs, 2 LRM-15s, and 4 Machine Guns. It still does not carry enough heat sinks to fire all of its long range weapons at the same time, and generally suffers from the exact same issues as the M variant, but this one is slightly better at killing infantry. It is too expensive at 2862, and I would recommend the A variant.
The BLO variant is a pretty decent upgrade. It is similar to the A variant, but trades the MPLs and some heat sinks for an extra Streak SRM-6, a TAG for guiding friendly missiles, and a C3i computer, which is fantastic. C3i is a massively useful system, and lances built around it are quite strong. C3i on a mech with 2 CERPPCs is horrifying, as this mech could be 20 hexes away and still hit as if you were 2 hexes away from it because of C3. Very strong, though only better than the A if you intend to make use of the C3i system. It is also pretty cheap at 2611, which is the cheapest of the CERPPC Mad Cats, so this one comes with a pretty good recommend.
Large Pulse Laser Variants
The LPL variants have less in common with each other than the LL or CERPPC variants, and as such will need to be discussed a little more specifically. The first one is the Mad Cat B, which is one of my favorite mechs. It carries a Gauss Rifle, a LPL, a SPL, an LRM-10 with Artemis, and a SRM-4 with Artemis. This mech acts somewhat weirdly. Its Gauss Rifle and LPL are good at opening holes in enemy mechs, and the Gauss Rifle shares the same strength as the CERPPC while generating negligible heat, at the cost of more weight leading to less backup weapons. Clan LPLs are my favorite weapons in the entire game, as they have a pretty long range and their hit bonus makes them deadly accurate, which is a big deal in a game as swingy as Battletech. Overall this mech is another one in the “Circle and deny shots” camp of Mad Cats, not wanting to get close and actually having a minimum range on its Gauss Rifle, so it is best used as fire support. It is also very cheap at 2224, which is the cheapest Mad Cats overall, and that lets it fit into lists much easier.
The S variant is the first Mad Cat to really break from the Long Range mold that most Mad Cats fall into. It carries a LPL, 2 MPLs, an ER Small Laser, 4(!) SRM 6s, all facing forwards this time, and 2 Machine Guns. This mech wants to get in close and slap people around, with the LPL serving as its only long ranged weapon. 4(!) SRM 6s is a horrifying amount if you load them with Special Ammo. It can easily max out the 15 heat that you can inflict on another mech by using Inferno SRMs, possibly on a couple of mechs if it is lined up right. It also can jump 5 hexes, and is one of the cheapest Mad Cats in terms of BV. Most mechs of its size or large cannot get away from it and can be freely overheated or just blasted to death with SRMs, and anything smaller or faster will get deleted by the Pulse Lasers cutting through their hit bonuses. Overall a fantastic mech, and one I was not aware of before writing this article. I am likely going to start using it more. Its on the cheaper end of Mad Cats at 2462, which is an excellent price considering the sheer murder this thing can put out.
In a similar vein to the S, we have the TC. The TC variant carries 2 LPLs, 2 ER Medium Lasers, 1 ER Small Laser, and 2 Streak SRM-6s. This variant can also jump 5 hexes, and similarly is skewed towards short range, though its SRMs trade volume and special ammo for accuracy and preserving ammo, and its pair of LPLs are a credible threat at long range, even if it does want to get closer. This variant is quite good, and will give you consistent damage at all ranges. It does come at a pretty extreme price at 2903 though, and I would recommend the S over it as a jumping Mad Cat.
The Bounty Hunter Variant of the Mad Cat is a demonic force that haunts my nightmares. Carrying 2 LPLs, 4 MPLs, a Light Tag, an ECM, and a Probe, the secret sauce to this mech is its Targeting Computer. Each of those pulse lasers is hitting with a -3 bonus, which is horrifying to imagine and means that anything moving less than 10 hexes is getting hit as if it was standing still, and it is fairly easy to get literal auto-hits against slower mechs in this thing. It wants to get in close to rip and tear the guts of whatever is in front of it. It generally does consistent, steady damage at all times, as it has nearly enough heat sinks to fire everything, only building heat from its movement as it scuttles around. It is death on legs to light mechs and honestly for a mech designed to hunt and kill specific targets, that is perfect. This is one of the best Mad Cats. It is expensive at 2829, but it is well worth those points.
The Bounty Hunter 2 Variant is different, carrying 1 LPL, 2 ER Medium Lasers, 1 ER Small Laser, 2 AP Gauss, 3 Streak SRM-4s, and 3 SRM-4s. It still has the Tcomp for its non-missile weapons, but as it is not stacking hit mods the same way as the previous variant, it makes much worse use of it. The SRMs are interesting for crit seeking, but this mech lacks many can opener type weapons, only really having the LPL. It is also painfully short ranged, and overall is in my opinion mostly a downgrade from the Bounty Hunter 1 variant. It can do some interesting things with special ammo, but in my opinion that is not worth the massive loss in consistency. It is very slightly cheaper than the Bounty Hunter 1 at 2799 BV, but the trade off here is pretty miserable.
There are a few variants that don’t quite fit into the previous molds. The first of those is the H variant, which carries 2 Heavy Large Lasers, 2 LRM-20s with Artemis, and an ER Small Laser. This is an interesting mix of weapons, with the LRMs giving it good damage at long range, and the Heavy Lasers doing even more damage per shot than a CERPPC, but at the price of insane, extraordinary heat buildup. This mech has enough heat sinks to sink both of its lasers at the same time, but nothing else. It will build heat from its movement on a turn where it fires its lasers, but this is not a huge deal and overall this is an interestingly different variant. It wants to close in fast, fire its Heavy Lasers for a few turns, then back out of combat and fire its LRMs while it cools off. The H is middle of the pack in terms of price at 2627, and whether you want it or not comes down mostly to how much you like Heavy Lasers.
The T Variant is almost exactly the same as the H variant, it just trades its pair of Heavy Large Lasers for a pair of Improved Heavy Medium Lasers and a scattering of lighter laser weapons. This mech does more damage overall in close combat, but it will spread that damage out across most of the enemy mech, so its a matter of personal taste between this and the H. It is slightly more expensive than the H at 2714, but that is not a super large increase.
The W is a remarkably fun version of the Mad Cat, if likely not a fantastic one. It carries a UAC-20, 2 ER Medium Lasers, 1 ER Small Laser, and 2 Streak SRM-6s. This variant is built to send people to Kerensky in glorious close combat, and can punch gigantic holes in enemy mechs that it can then exploit to try and crit with its Streak SRMs and smaller lasers. It wants to run directly into the enemy and continue firing and running in circles until either it or all of the enemies are dead. Very fun and a big change from the general “Lasers and Missiles” vibe of most of the other Mad Cats. It is somewhat pricy for what you get at 2791, not quite enough to price it out of use but there are cheaper UAC-20s out there, but it is a pretty damn fast UAC-20, so it might still be worth it depending on the rest of your force.
Overall the Mad Cat is a fantastic Chassis, and there is a variant in this pile somewhere for just about anyone. I can highly recommend picking up one of the several products that contain a Mad Cat, and giving it a try if you haven’t. This is one of the rare cases of the iconic unit/character of a franchise living up to the hype, as the Mad Cat can take fights that seem suicidal and still come out the other side with a bit of good piloting. The best Mad Cats for my money are the A if you want to knock people’s heads off, the B if you want a budget Mad Cat and want to knock people’s heads off, the Bounty Hunter if you want to infight and murder things up close, the E for flexibility, the F for flexibility if you are worried about infantry, and the S if you want a Mad Cat that has jump jets. All Mad Cats are fun, those are in my opinion the best for the BV but any random Mad Cat is still better than not having a Mad Cat. Except the U, that one is very specific to boat fights.