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:
- Bamboo/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 digits to your target – if you brought along Contender, that's guaranteed to be a boss (if present), 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.
- A big bamboo (ideally NTW-20/M99) takes 17 (15 charge+2 aim) seconds to punch a boss with hopefully 35k base damage. 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 20k – that's still enough to clock out a lot of bosses; and Mosin's MOD3 will (eventually) bring them to 25k base damage, making them even more flexible.
- Alternative rifles exist for both 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; Contender especially is irreplaceable. Additionally, fairies will be extremely helpful down the road, as they can give significant damage boosts.
- This goes doubly if you only have one of each small/big bamboo – 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.
- HGs used here (apart from Contender) are any that has a +DMG skill and tiles. Mk23, Grizzly, SAA, PPK, or in a pinch Nagant-Revolver are all useful.
- (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.)
- Damage focused RFs are rifles with a +DMG skill that lasts for several seconds (Lee-Enfield, M14; Grapecano has weird pasta magic that later lets it fill a similar role); 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, but the odd DMG buff to pad out your echelon won't hurt. Either way, they're best used against small to medium sized formations of high HP/armour enemies.
- 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 the bulk of the enemies you're going to face. So RoF rifles are your safest bet for a general purpose rifle echelon.
- Buffing their RoF is still useful, 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 +DMG HGs.
- And then there's 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.
- 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. 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.
- 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 pointless on rifles, crit you get for free from HGs buffing other stats, 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.
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 a RoF rifle echelon, as it's the most versatile one.
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
- IWS wants maximized effective RoF ("Frames" stat, the lower the better) primarily and damage secondarily.
Example formation: RoF echelon#
Since there seems to be quite some confusion about this, the recommended layout is:
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.
(Until the October 2018 update, it had lower theoretical DPS, since effective RoF was capped at 108, but it still had more DPS in practice, due to said overkilling issues.)
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 with Calico on top and Welrod centre – is debatable; 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