Battletech: Mech Overview: Mad Dog (Vulture), Vulture Mk III, and Vulture Mk IV

Howdy everyone and welcome to the reason Jack did the last couple of overviews. The Vulture/Mad Dog/Jim is one of the initial wave of Clan Omni-Mechs, and one of the most iconic, appearing in the gloriously cheesy opening cinematic of Mechwarrior 4 and generally being “that chicken walker Clan mech that isn’t a Mad Cat” for the last 30 years. It is generally seen as a B lister, a second best option, but I think that is unfair. There will be justice for my beautiful bird boy today. I am not biased. I don’t have a whole lance of Vultures painted up together to roam as a single, magnificent flock. You are biased. Biased against birds.

Mad Dog (Vulture). Credit: Rockfish
Mad Dog (Vulture). Credit: Rockfish

Mad Dog/Vulture Chassis and the Elusive Mk II

So, for whatever reason, there are a lot of Vultures. Like, not just configurations, there are 3 (Sorta 4, we will get to that) distinct mechs here. We will cover the Mk III and the Mk IV in their own sections below. The Mk II Vulture isn’t real, they just skipped it on accident and then backwards explained that Mk IIs were functionally identical to standard Vultures. So the Mk II is just an aesthetic change to the base Vulture chassis.

So what is the base Vulture like? It is a 60 ton heavy mech with pretty light armor, roughly comparable to a base model Griffin. It moves 5/8/0 by default and has a Clan XL engine, which isn’t at all a downside. I really strongly wish that the Vulture Chassis had thicker side torso armor, 16 points is a bit too thin for my taste, but most variants are set up for mid/long range combat so that should be enough armor to deal with most weapons. It isn’t as critically low on armor as a Loki (Unhallowed be thy name), but it is still firmly a second line mech. It is functionally an overgrown medium mech defensively, with the offensive stats of a standard Inner Sphere assault mech on most variants. So, lets start talking configurations.

Mad Dog/Vulture Variants

These mechs have all been reviewed based on a standard F through S scale, which you can find described on our landing page here (along with all of our other ‘mech reviews and our general methodology).

Vulture Prime

Coming in at a somewhat high 2351 BV, the Vulture Prime carries a weapon load of 2 large pulse lasers, 2 medium pulse lasers, and 2 LRM-20s. The LRM-20s only have one ton of ammo each, so you will run out pretty fast, but honestly 2 LPL and 2 MPL is a pretty good set of fallback weapons. This is a lot to pay for something so fragile, but it manages heat ok and has decent weapons, so it is far from the worst Clan heavy mech out there.

Rating: C-

Vulture A

Coming in at 1923 BV, the Vulture A carries 6 SRM-6s, an ER PPC, and an LBX/5 Autocannon. It has enough ammo for 10 rounds of fire, and manages heat decently well. The issue is that the Vulture really wants to stay at standoff ranges because of it’s low armor, and the SRMs really encourage you to get close here. You could run it as a PPC mech that occasionally can swat something that comes after it with SRMs, but that isn’t a very efficient use of BV seeing as a single Clan ER PPC on a standoff type mech usually runs around 1200 BV or so. Slightly awkward to use but not completely terrible. 30 SRMs is just a lot of SRM, if it gets a chance to use them it’ll do some scary stuff. I feel like I am being too kind to the Vulture here, but I have had my entire scale of Clan Mech quality readjusted by how horrifyingly bad the Loki is.

Rating: C-

Vulture B

Coming in at 2284 BV, the Vulture B carries 2 ER large lasers, 3 medium pulse lasers, an LRM-20 with Artemis IV, and 2 streak SRM-6s. This is actually a really good set of weapons, with pretty obvious bracket firing where you start out with the ERLLs at long range and then switch to the MPLs and LRM-20 at mid range, and drop the LRM for the streak SRMs at close range. This mech is just really well set up to bracket fire efficiently, with decent long range power and pretty awesome mid and close range firepower. 2284 is a lot of BV for something with Griffin level armor, but assuming you have anything more obviously threatening to distract your enemy with, the Vulture B will chip in some good damage.

Rating: C

Vulture C

The Vulture C costs 1892 BV and is dead simple. It carries 2 gauss rifles with 2 tons of ammo each. 16 shots is enough for 90% of games in my experiences, and this is a pretty efficient way of getting 2 gauss rifles on a 5/8/0 chassis actually. It holds up pretty well on the Thunder Hawk/Hellstar scale of Headchopper efficiency, and I should honestly use one more often. It is a bit vulnerable if something gets on top of it, but, as with the other Vultures we have covered so far, it is really more of a second line type mech. You want something bigger and scarier in front of it to draw fire away from it.

Rating: B-

Vulture D

The Vulture D will run you an expensive 2447 BV, and carries 2 ATM-12s, 2 ER medium lasers, 2 medium pulse lasers, and 2 ER small lasers for some reason. ATM 12s are incredibly efficient weapons and having 2 is pretty good, but spoilers for later, there is a much better mech with 2 ATM-12s you can run a Vulture miniature as. It isn’t terrible, but it is outmatched by another Vulture variant pretty hard and lacks much of a role as a result. It is pretty good if you are playing an era restricted game where this is your only 24 ATM Vulture option, but it lives in the shadow of a much better mech.

Rating: D+ overall, C+ in a Clan Invasion era restricted game

Vulture DD

The Double D, beyond making me think of jawbreakers, costs 1970 BV and carries 3 medium pulse lasers, an LRM 20 with Artemis IV, a streak SRM-6, and 2 LBX/2 ACs. This is just sort of mediocre at everything. It can touch people at any range and do ok damage, but it is just comparatively underwhelming when stacked up next to the huge range of way cooler Vulture variants. Its fine but not impressive.

Rating: C-

Vulture E

Costing 2031 BV, the Vulture E is possibly one of the worst mechs ever committed to paper due to the sheer dumbfuckery of it’s design. It carries 2 HAG/30s, a weapon I am already not super fond of, and nothing else. For 2031 BV, this seems sort of reasonable. You trade the 1 shot kill potential of the Vulture C for double the DPS, for a slightly higher cost. Seems good, I would actually almost want to use this mech and was tempted to call it one of the better HAG chassis out there, but then I had a second look at the sheet.

This fucking thing can only shoot 4 times. It only has 4 shots per gun. It shoots 4 times and then has nothing. No backup weapons, no melee weapons, nothing. It just… I have no words. It sucks so bad. Please god load ammo in your mechs.

Rating: F

Vulture F

Coming in at 2300 BV, the Vulture F is a considerably better HAG caddy. It carries 2 HAG 20s with 12 shots each, and 4 ER medium lasers as backup weapons. For 2300 BV this really isn’t that bad, too fragile but pretty decent damage. I dislike HAGs, but if you want HAGs, this is not the worst option. That would be the Vulture E.

Rating: C

Vulture G

Man do I have to talk about this one? Costing 2503 BV, the Vulture G carries an ER PPC, 3 ER medium pulse lasers, which are terrible, a streak LRM-15, and 2 streak SRM-6s. This is kinda bad, everything costs a ton, ER medium pulse lasers aren’t very good, streak LRM-15s are expensive, and the single ER PPC is doing a lot of heavy lifting. I would rather have a Vulture B basically 100% of the time.

Rating: D

Vulture H

Hey its the heavy laser variant that like every fucking omnimech has! Weighing in at 2097 BV, the Vulture H carries a large heavy laser, 3 medium heavy lasers, and 2 LRM-15s with Artemis IV. It isn’t good. This sucks. It costs a bunch for the same LRMs as a lot of inner sphere medium mechs, and has nothing to mitigate the to-hit penalty from the heavy lasers. Also, it is pretty fragile but the heavy lasers have to be very close to hit, so you either have a mediocre and overpriced LRM mech, or a fragile and overpriced heavy laser mech. Not a good set of options.

Rating: D-

Vulture I

Costing 2042 BV, the Vulture I carries 2 RAC/2s and an ER PPC. This isn’t very good. RACs are best used as the only weapon on a mech, as they can jam and if you want to unjam them you need to take a turn off from firing any weapons. The more weapons you have, the more of a waste it is every time you need to unjam the RAC. Mediocre but not completely irredeemable.

Rating: D

Vulture S

Costing way too goddam much at 2676 BV, the Vulture S carries 2 ER PPCs, jump jets to boost it to 5/8/5, 3 medium pulse lasers, and an active probe, for spice. It has enough heat sinks but it is so brittle for the cost. There are so many better ways to get Clan ER PPCs into a list for this price. The Loki MkII F has twice as many PPCs for a lower price with more armor. I just can’t recommend this mech, it isn’t good.

Rating: D-

Vulture T

Setting out to be the best LRM mech it can be, the Vulture T actually is pretty good, if far too expensive. Costing 2555 BV, it carries 2 ER large lasers, 2 ER medium lasers, and 2 LRM-20s with Artemis V and 2 tons of ammo each. Artemis V is awesome, it gives a -1 to hit bonus to your LRMs as well as an even better bonus to cluster hits than normal Artemis, +3 instead of +2. The T has more or less enough heat sinks, decent ammo, and good long range capacity. It is pretty fragile for the cost, but assuming you have other mechs to draw fire and be more obviously threatening, it can get work done. It is still too expensive to get a complete recommendation from me, but it isn’t a horrible use of BV.

Rating: B-

Vulture U

The Vulture U is an underwater combat variant. It is awesome if you want to fight underwater, and unusable if you don’t want to fight underwater. I give it a “Good for weirdos who want to fight on the ocean floor” out of 10.

Rating: It’s an underwater combat mech, if you want to do that it is good I guess? Shoot a Kraken with it or something.

Vulture V

The Vulture V costs 2182 BV and carries an Arrow IV artillery piece, 2 ER medium lasers, 2 medium pulse lasers, and an LRM-20. This is a really interesting mech. Arrow IV artillery is very good if used correctly, and the Vulture V has a lot of backup weapons and mobility compared to most Arrow IV pieces. If you are playing any sort of scenario where speed is a benefit and want to bring a pretty self sufficient artillery piece that can defend itself, this is a pretty decent choice. It is still pretty fragile for the cost, but, its an artillery piece, it should be nowhere near the enemy if you are using it right. It isn’t the most efficient way to shoot Arrow IVs at something and there are a lot of things I would rather have, but if you aren’t confident that you can keep flankers and light mechs off of your artillery, this is a good choice.

Rating: C-

Conclusion

Most of the stock Vulture variants are sorta mediocre. The bad armor hurts the mech pretty badly, and nothing really excites me here. So, lets see how they iterated on it with 2 whole ass other versions of the same mech.

Mad Dog (Vulture). Credit: Jack Hunter

Vulture Mk III Chassis

The Vulture Mk III is a very basic improvement on the base Vulture. It uses an Endo Steel structure to squeeze more weight out it’s 60 ton frame, and spends most of that weight on extra armor, going up to a very respectable 30 on the CT and 20 on the side torsos. That is effectively the only major change made to the design, but it is shocking how big of a deal that improved armor is. Vulture Mk IIIs last much longer in combat and can afford to get a lot closer to the enemy compared to base model Vultures.

Vulture Mk III Variants

Vulture Mk III Prime

Coming in at a very expensive 2729 BV, the Vulture Mk III prime has decided that actually it just wants to be 2 whole ass Vulture Primes. It carries 4 LRM-20s with one ton of ammo each, and 6 ER medium lasers. It really isn’t great that it only can shoot it’s LRMs 6 times, but it does have pretty decent backup weapons and isn’t the worst offender when it comes to the low ammo count Vultures, that would be the Vulture E. Overall it just costs too damn much, 80 LRMs is a fuckload but it would be way better served with some extra ammo and slightly fewer medium lasers.

Rating: D

Vulture Mk III A

Costing much less at 1880 BV, the Mk III A carries 2 medium pulse lasers, 2 UAC/5s, and 4 SRM-6s. It is a touch low on ammo, though not to the same level as the Prime, and is just a pretty cheap short-mid range generalist. I quite like this mech, mass SRMs are very strong, Clan Pulse is good, and the UAC/5s are perfectly fine if deeply underwhelming. Just a boring list-filler type mech, and that is a good thing to be.

Rating: B-

Vulture Mk III B

Wow this is a weird one. Coming in at too damn much/2572 BV, the Vulture Mk III B moves 5/8/4 for some fucking reason, because jumping 5 just wasn’t in the cards for reasons that cause me pain and confusion to think about. For weapons, it has 2 ER large lasers, 2 ER medium lasers, and 2 LRM-20s with 2 tons of ammo each. This is a perfectly fine set of weapons, but this is a lot to pay for them and that jump profile upsets me. It is probably about the same quality as a Vulture T, losing the Artemis V in exchange for more armor and jump jets, which is a good trade, but that movement profile just upsets me.

Rating: B- but I hate that movement profile so fucking much.

Vulture Mk III C

Costing 2299 BV, the Vulture Mk III C is one of the best tournament mechs in the game and singlehandedly forced me to cap the total amount of SRM tubes a single mech is allowed to have at the Tournaments that I organize. Fuck this mech. It has 4 micro pulse lasers and 8 fucking streak SRM-6s! This mech makes so many hit location rolls if it is able to get a good shot in that it is shockingly good at hitting the head and generating TACs. It doesn’t carry a lot of ammo but Streaks only fire when they hit, so you have more than enough ammo to kill whatever the hell you feel like. Words struggle to explain how miserable this mech is to play against, you sit there for ages as your opponent figures out where all 48 fucking SRMs hit, and then your pilot is unconscious/dead from head hits and TACs. Even if the Vulture Mk III C doesn’t hit the head, it still does 80-90 damage every time it fires and will obliterate anything that it sees. This is an S tier mech, it causes some very seriously unfun gameplay interactions and it should feel bad about itself.

Rating: S, fuck this thing, like seriously fuck this mech. Put it in the time out corner and make it think about what it did.

This motherfucker, run as the Vulture Mk III C, standing atop a mountain of dead pilots and claiming the Golden Urbie after trampling an entire tournament singlehandedly. You know who you are. Credit: Peri

Vulture Mk III D

The Vulture Mk III D is another RAC variant, this time with 2 RAC 5s and 2 medium pulse lasers. 2421 is too much BV for this, but it is a lot less bad than the Vulture I. The damage is fine, the durability is sorta fine, but there are some seriously premium mechs in the 2400 BV range and this doesn’t stack up next to those.

Rating: C-

Vulture Mk III BLO/Blessed Order

The BLO is a weird one. Costing 2397 BV, it carries a C3i computer, 4 LRM-15s, 3 ER medium lasers, an inner sphere grade light PPC for some fucking reason, and an ER small laser, also for some reason. This isn’t a bad fire support variant all things considered, but I would prefer something like a Thunder Hawk for this role. It can brawl decently well because Clan LRMs are decent brawling weapons, but it doesn’t really excite me. It does have that C3i suite, and it will be much, much better in a C3 network, but even then there are better C3i payoffs out there.

Rating: C-, B- in a C3i network.

Vulture Mk III Conclusion

The Vulture Mk III is a significant improvement over the base Vulture chassis, and has one of the single most powerful omnimech configs for 1v1 duels and tournament play. If the event you are going to hasn’t banned it out of the format, get yourself a Mk III C and be the reason it is banned going forwards.

Vulture Mk IV Chassis

The Vulture Mk IV is my favorite heavy clan Omni-Mech at the moment. It isn’t even close. I know I spent a lot of time talking up the Loki Mk II during it’s article, but the Vulture Mk IV is substantially better. For starters, it has more or less the same armor load as the Mk III, and is still 60 tons. The big difference is that that armor is upgraded from Ferro-Fibrous lame loser armor to the glorious, resplendent, badly undercosted Ferro-Lamellor. Ferro-Lam is disgustingly powerful, reducing all incoming damage by 20% while not costing significant BV or having any mechanical drawbacks. No boosted melee damage, no only effecting certain damage types, unconditional free 20% damage reduction.

EDIT: I initially got the rules wrong here. The effect is the same, but I used the wrong process. The way it gets that 20% damage reduction is that is specifically removes one point of damage out of every 5 points, with no minimum. So if you get hit by a Clan ER medium laser, which does 7 damage, it is reduced to 5 damage, because the first 5 damage is reduced by one, and the second group of 2 damage is also reduced by one. There is no minimum on this. An LBX pellet that does 1 point of damage is reduced to 0 damage and literally can’t hurt you. SRMs only do 1 point of damage each to a Ferro-Lam mech. Ferro-Lam singlehandedly makes this mech incredible, and the majority of variants are reasonably costed.

The Vulture Mk IV is a rugged, cheap, fast (5/8/0), multirole mech that can fit into any list. In addition, for those players more interested in building a fluffy list than a competitive one, every faction has access to it in the IlClan era. I have a Taurian list I like to run that has 3 of these fucking things. The Sea Foxes are mass producing them and selling them to anyone who can buy them, so literally every force you could ever build would be 100% justified in having one. The Lore™ says you can have a little Clan Bullshit, as a treat.

Variants

Vulture Mk IV Prime

Shockingly cheap at 2110 BV, the Vulture Mk IV Prime carries an ER PPC, 4 SRM-6s, an LBX 5, and 2 ER small pulse lasers. So hear me out, ER small pulse lasers are the only good ER pulse lasers. You lose 1 point of to hit bonus, only getting a -1 bonus, but you gain 2 damage, going up to 5 points of damage, the same as a basic inner sphere medium laser. They are also dirt cheap in BV terms, 10 BV cheaper than a basic medium laser. They really aren’t that bad, and they are the only ER pulse lasers I don’t think are bad. Which is deeply funny, because they are the only ER pulse lasers that don’t actually have a range bonus.

Anyway, back to the mech at hand, this is a pretty flexible loadout. You have decent long range damage with the PPC and LBX, and can switch over to having pretty substantial short ranged damage once you close in. It is a trooper, a multi-role mech that isn’t excellent at anything in particular but is more or less competent no matter what scenario you are playing or what role you need it to fill. A Mk IV Prime is very rarely a bad choice, though there are mechs that will out-compete it at any specific thing it is doing.

Rating: B

Vulture Mk IV A

Coming in at 2177 BV, the Vulture Mk IV A is a pretty good medium range dork. It carries an Ultra AC/10, a large pulse laser, 4 LRM-5s, and 2 ER small lasers. This is a really good spread of weapons once you are within 6 hexes, with decent capacity to smack things around out to 14 or so hexes. It manages it’s heat pretty decently, it does decent though not spectacular damage, it has that godly Ferro-Lam durability, and it can flip it’s arms to shoot anything that tries to flank it. This is a fantastic trooper, better than the Prime in my opinion because it is weighted more towards longer ranges, but it still absolutely murders things up close due to not having any minimum ranges. Genuine A tier mech, no notes.

Rating: A

Vulture Mk IV B

The most expensive of the Mk IVs, the Mk IV B comes in at 2649 BV and earns that BV. It carries an ER PPC, 2 streak LRM-15s, a medium pulse laser, and 2 ER small lasers. Streak LRMs are amazingly powerful when mounted in pairs or quads, with the Mk IV B being exceptionally good at forcing a PSR on anything that gets within 14 hexes of you. It only has one ton of ammo for each LRM, but because streak launchers only consume ammo on a hit, you are 100% guaranteed that all 8 shots will convert into damage, which is incredibly valuable. This is a very powerful fire support mech, competing with the Thunder Hawk and Hellstar and genuinely beating them in some situations, as it is much more mobile and, thanks to Ferro-Lam being total BS in our current BV 2.0 system, it is just as durable.

On a lot of maps a Hellstar or Thunder Hawk will get stuck and have to spend several turns making its way towards the fight, which might have ended before it gets there. The Mk IV B has nearly the same DPS, less 1 shotting power, nearly the same practical durability, and is significantly faster and more capable of managing rough ground. It will get to the fight before it’s competition and start effecting things earlier, and that more than makes up for the lack of headchopping in my opinion. A tier mech, no more notes.

Rating: A

Vulture Mk IV C

Coming in at 2584 BV, the Mk IV C is another mid-long range line mech, and it kinda rips. It carries a large improved heavy large laser, a gauss rifle, and 2 ER medium lasers. This is already a decent spread of weapons and it manages heat pretty well, but the best part is that it has a targeting computer. That -1 to hit bonus is a big deal and improves the mech substantially. It hits with 2 hard hitting mid-long range headchoppers and a pair of lighter but still high damage lasers, and is still 5/8/0 and durable as hell from all that Ferro-Lam. It once again compares favorably to the Thunder Hawk and Hellstar, it is faster, nearly as durable, and trades damage for accuracy. I love this mech, every single Vulture Mk IV is incredible.

Rating: A

Vulture Mk IV D

My beloved, the Vulture Mk IV D, also known as “that ATM asshole” and “that annoying piece of shit”, has singlehandedly traumatized the hell out of a few players in the local group. Costing 2346 BV, it has a very simple loadout. 2 ATM-12s with 3 tons of ammo, 2 medium improved heavy lasers, and 2 micro pulse lasers. Out of all the Vulture Mk IVs, this is the one I use most often. I have taken 3 of these to a 10k BV game before and it is good, it is so good. 5/8/0 speed means that it can close in on any assault mech and most heavy mechs, and ATMs are just Kerensky’s perfect weapon.

The best idea if you have 3 tons of ammo per ATM, like this mech does, is to load 2 tons of HE and one ton of ER ammo. That gives you something to fire at long range as you close in, and then you stick on top of some poor mech that can’t get away from you and fire HE until it kills you. Which it will have extreme trouble with, because you have Ferro-Lam and are reducing all incoming damage by 20% for free. An ATM-12 firing HE does up to 36 damage. This thing has 2 of them. 72 points of damage in 5 point clusters is a lot of fucking damage. Add on the paired improved heavy mediums and that is 92 points of damage once you get in close. It is a bit weak to anything that can run away from it, but god help any light mech that gets too close and gets hit by either of the ATM-12s. This mech is the great destroyer, one of the best duelists in the game and, if run in pairs, can probably take down any combination of short ranged mechs/brawlers that you can get for the same price. Ungodly damage, great durability, and good speed are, in fact, a great combination. This is good clan-tech. This is how you make a 2000+ BV mech work.

Rating: S-, not game warping but incredibly powerful

Vulture Mk IV Conclusion

Use the model as this. Use any Vulture models you have as a Mk IV, unless you are a terrorist and doing Mk III C things to people.

Conclusion

The Vulture family is an interesting contrast to the Loki family. The Loki is fucking miserable and has a good second version, but the Vulture was already decent and has 2 even better descendants. I would personally recommend you just run with the Mk IV if you are playing IlClan, it is readily available to everyone and absolutely fucking rips. If you don’t have access to it because of an era restriction or something, the base Vulture and Mk III won’t let you down, though they are a bit dull and backline-centric, with the exception of the Mk III C. Fuck that thing. Seriously, just play a game with it on either side of the table and get back to me with a comment about how that went. Miserable thing.