Rifles And You
Rifle/Handgun echelons are mainly used to fight armoured enemies, especially at night; though they can be occasionally useful for other enemies as well, you'll mostly leave those to AR/SMG echelons.
While they deliver continuous DPS, like ARs, they don't have any synergy with proper tanking units. That limits their survivability without them, and their effectiveness when mixed with them. That means in practice, rifles are special snowflakes, and are mostly categorized by their skills:
RoF buffing Rifles#
RoF focused RFs like G43, SVD and WA-2000 self-buff their RoF, sometimes easily to RoF cap. That makes them excellent against swarms of armoured low-/medium-HP enemies, which is still the bulk of the enemies you're going to face on EN in the near future. However, as we're getting enemies like Hydras, you might want to start looking into FP-focused rifles instead. YMMV.
Back to our RoF rifles: Buffing their RoF is still useful (you can never have enough bullets in the air), but it's easy to hit or exceed RoF cap with too many buffs, which not only wastes buff slots, but can also waste shots: If both rifles shoots on the same frame and hit the same target, they can overkill and one shot can go to waste. As such, you'll mostly deploy them with a mix of +RoF and +DMG HGs.
Never put SVD at the top. Some guides recommend that, because they do not understand game mechanics: By doing that, both rifles have the same effective rate of fire, shooting on the same frame. That means they target the same enemy, even if a single shot would kill it, wasting your damage. Additionally, this layout has just plain higher DPS, even without overkilling issues.
Damage buffing Rifles#
Damage focused RFs are rifles with a +DMG skill that lasts for several seconds (Lee-Enfield, M14); this allows them to reliably punch through armour too tough for AP ammo alone (like Hydras with their fucking bullshit 199 armour). You normally combine them with +RoF skill HGs to make up for their abysmal base RoF, since damage buffs can be easily provided by fairies. Depending on who you're facing, different setups (more damage, more crit, …) can be useful, but for general purpose uses, you'll want something like this:
G28 or SRS can replace M14 (though you really want M14mod), and if you have her, 5-7 can take Stechkin's slot for even better buffs. Px4 also synergizes nicely with 5-7, giving you even higher damage output at the cost of making your units more squishy. (Taunt fairy, anyone?)
Bamboos / Nukes#
Their skills take a long time to charge up, but when they're finally done playing drama queen and you pop everyone's skill at the same time, they deliver damage in the five (or six) digits range to your target – hopefully a boss, otherwise you might just have wasted 30'000 damage on a dinergate and will get raped. It sounds like a massive hassle because it is – but most boss mechanics are tied to HP thresholds, and if you drop the boss in a single attack, you can just skip over most of them.
This was/is much more relevant to CNKR than to EN, because those poor fucks are forced to farm event bosses for limited drops, while EN usually gets to chill and just grind trash instead. Still, if you'd prefer not to learn boss mechanics and rather skip them, you have some options, depending on which dolls you have and which boss you want to get rid of:
- A big bamboo (ideally NTW-20/M99/DSR) takes 17 (15 charge+2 aim) seconds to punch a boss with absurd damage values. That tends to be overkill, but a few bosses will need that much dakka.
- A small bamboo (Springfield and Mosin-Nagant, with their unique equips) takes only about 11.5 (10+1.5) seconds, for a lower base damage output of about half that of a big bambo; Mosin's MOD3 will (eventually) bring them closer to big bamboo damage values, but they still can't quite match it. Unlike other bamboos, Springfield and Mosin have decent damage output outside their skill if they have their unique equips, and can be used as second-line general purpose rifles as well.
- TAC-50 is almost a small bamboo, but with subtly different timings that prevent her from being mixed with other small bamboos. Uniquely, her skill can crit, which can lead to obscene damage values and allow her to solo every boss in the game… if you bring 5* fairies and handguns EN doesn't have yet. But even without, she can handle a lot of bosses.
Alternative rifles exist for both small and big bamboo formations (see links), but since they're extremely niche formations to begin with, you might as well wait until you have the proper line-up. Additionally, depending on the boss you face, fairies might be required to hit the damage threshold you need.
Never mix different kinds of bamboo rifles: Since bamboo skills need to pop at the same time (to avoid boss mechanics to cut in, possibly with temporary invulnerability), mixing dolls with different aim times results in wasting one of your two shots.
Given these constraints, it's hard to make a recommendation which bamboo is more useful. TAC50 can be the best, if you have the requisite setup, Springfield/Mosin are the best allrounders, but need you to farm unique equips (and enhancing them is 3x as expensive as regular gear), and DSR+M99+NTW are both the easiest to set up for high damage output, yet the most expensive to raise, and the most difficult to keep alive thanks to their high cooldown.
HGs used here are any that has a +DMG skill and tiles. Mk23, Contender, Grizzly, K5, SAA, etc. are all useful; though given the loooong skill cooldown you'll likely want to have Welrod to increase your chances of surviving long enough… whether or not you can afford to without losing out too many damage buffs depends on who you're fighting. Unsurprisingly, there's no generic Bamboo echelon template to copy, you have to tailor it towards whatever boss you're facing.
(Technically, CZ-75 can be used together with 4 +DMG HGs as a bonsai bamboo to deal 10k damage after 6 seconds, but that's only useful for some veeeery specific fights.)
MICA has experimented a lot with rifle skills… usually unsuccessfully. A lof them have weird skills that sound like they could be useful, but in the end aren't. Exceptions:
- IWS: Austrians never disappoint when it comes to being fucking lunatics (see also, AUG), and IWS is no exception. She's weird, in that she has a massive damage boost skill, almost (but not quite) high enough to put her into bamboo territory, but it's active for several seconds, letting her fire several shots – not too many though, since her skill also drops her RoF. She can't reliably fulfil the "skip boss mechanics" part of a bamboo no matter how many buffs you throw on her, so instead, you pump her full of +RoF skills to get off as many shots as you can while her skill is active.
- As such, her favoured combination is 5-7, Stechkin, Calico (for RoF buffs), and Welrod as buff-tank. Substitute the former with the best RoF buffers you can find, and the latter with Makarov if necessary.
- Technically, you can also slot her into a generic FP rifle echelon, but it's honestly a waste. You'll end up with a much lower RoF, which can be dangerously low and lead to your units getting damaged by stragglers slipping through between shots. YMMV.
- Grapecano and Strawberrycano are rifles that buff other rifles. Unlike with the AR-buffing ARs, this is relatively niche and doesn't come up often. Grape also has a ridiculous self-buff that lets her deal 45x damage against non-boss/elite enemies, which is handy (but not necessary) for hydras, and other enemies later on.
- Grapecano can be slotted into any FP rifle echelon with no issues, if you do want to use her. There's no Grape-specific build for general use, only for stuff like core farming.
- M200 is the direct antithesis to IWS, with her fixed firing rate she doesn't care about RoF buffs (but the Carcanos' cooldown buff works!), which makes her rather awkward to use with EN's enemy formations. Later on, her ability to ignore evasion will make her invaluable for certain enemy formations.
- Kar98k is good for making her sing the Trizonesien song to remind her that she's an abject failure and lost two World Wars in a row.
Due to their synergy effects, you will mostly pair rifles with handguns:
- While no handguns are real tanks, Welrod and Makarov are the closest you'll get. They debuff enemy accuracy (stacking with each other, too!), greatly increasing the survivability of your team, while at the same time giving very useful buffs. Usually you'll want Welrod for her better tile layout and higher HP, but both work, and sometimes you might want (or need) to bring both. PPK sometimes gets thrown in with them, but she's not even a kinda-tank like these two – while she has high evasion, she has no offensive debuff, and low HP, and is more an "in case of emergency, break meido" facetank to keep damage from your DPS for a second or two.
- M1911's smoke grenade and M9's stun grenade would make them the closest you get to real tanks… if only their buffs and stats weren't so craptastic. If you really need a tank, bring a taunt fairy.
- Since the debuffers are so eeeh, they're the first to get replaced by specialized buffers like Px4 if you have her. If you do need to tank, use a taunt fairy.
- RoF buffers and DMG buffers are easy – HGs with a skill that buff either attribute. Different RF setups want a different mix of either, see above, just take the dolls with the highest respective buff you can find in your armoury.
- Other buff and utility HGs aren't often used; Acc buffs e.g. are mostly pointless on rifles (Calico's usually are enough), crit you get for free from HGs buffing other stats (5-7 especially), and utility pistols range from niche (stun) to utterly useless (flare).
- Because French gonna French, Ribeyrolles can buff RFs with her skill (but not her tiles!). Most of the time she sucks at it, due to the lack of tile buffs, but it's occasionally useful.
You'll notice that there's no mention of real tanks like SMGs or shotguns. Rifles have virtually no synergy with either of them, which greatly reduces your echelons' efficiency when mixing with them. Ideally, between a taunt fairy, HG kiting, and some enemy debuffs courtesy of Welrod, your rifle echelons shouldn't be getting into a situation where S(M)Gs are necessary, at least as far as EN is concerned, and as long as they are levelled. If you want to level your RFHG echelon without dragging, adding a tank is a valid option (Dorothy especially, as she does have some synergy at least), but in normal operations, another buffing HG should deliver better results – dead enemies don't need to be tanked.
This will slowly change over the course of future events; CN/KR do field RF+SG echelons sometimes. We'll worry about that when it's relevant for EN.
If you're early in the game and just need an echelon that can clear the first 2-3 chapters of night combat, you honestly don't need to worry much about synergy – grab M14 and G43, at least one hand gun, and as many SMGs as you need to let them survive.
Once you're at the point where you have at least 1-2 maxed out echelons and can take time to focus on leveling proper line-ups, your first priority should be either a proper RoF rifle echelon or a proper FP rifle one, as those are the most versatile. RoF rifles are still better for trash clearing, but FP rifles will become more important as we keep getting higher armour enemies like hydras.
Example formations for both are up in their respective sections; to determine which of your available handgun+RF combos give the best results, plug them into the combat simulator, and look at the relevant stats:
- Bamboos want to maximize skill damage on the rifles
- Damage and RoF focused rifle echelons wants to maximize DPS; keep an eye on the RoF and Crit% stats of your rifles to make sure you don't overbuff:
- Crit% caps at 100%, unsurprisingly – but Px4's skill and Jill's Bleeding Jane will need crit rates in excess of 100% to work.
- RoF effectively caps out at 116, but you ideally want to keep your rifles at different timings ("Frames" stat) so they don't shoot at the same frame and overkill the same target.
- IWS wants maximized effective RoF ("Frames" stat, the lower the better) primarily and damage secondarily. M200 meanwhile has a fixed firing rate under her skill and wants just damage.
There isn't much to this echelon, to be honest: Just pile up as many RoF boosters as you can find. If you don't have 5-7 (the ferret), Astra and PPK will both work as replacements – Astra will give higher RoF, PPK gives higher damage, either will work.
The layout of this echelon – more defensive C shape or regular F shape – is situational; F layout will usually work fine, but sometimes the better damage balance of the C layout can help (hydras e.g. are better farmed with that).
Author: Chiaki Matsuda
Tags: First Steps