Rifles And You (Revisited)
Rifle+Handgun (RFHG) echelons are mainly used to fight armoured enemies, especially at night. Additionally, they can deal with backline-heavy enemy formations much better than ARSMG echelons, thanks to their innate backline targeting.
Rifles are damage dealers, as are ARs and MGs. They deliver continuous DPS, like ARs, but with a few significant differences:
- They target the enemy that is the furthest away (vs. closest enemy with ARs, or random with MGs)
- They can all equip armour piercing ammo; but they cannot equip PEQs
- Their tiles usually only synergize with HGs
- Their stat mix emphasises high firepower and accuracy over RoF, giving them better synergy with RoF buffing handguns
- Their movement speed is the lowest in the game, especially with a cape equipped, this makes them useless if you need to dodge AoEs (read: most boss fights)
Their skills fall in two broad and a few smaller sub categories:
- Self-buffing rifles buff their stats to make their regular attacks better
- Skill shot rifles trigger special attacks in addition to, or instead of, their regular, unbuffed attacks
- Plus a bunch of
Rifles underwent significant changes over the course of the game's development; in late 2019 EN received an update that made bamboo rifles (see below) a whole lot more useful; additionally, we will receive a second buff to AP with Isomer (raising the maximum ammo AP value from 120 to 180), in addition to a smaller one last year that buffed base AP from 10 to 15. Old guides are thus not necessarily applicable, and future patches might change the balancing again, so take all advice with a grain of salt.
These most often come as pure RoF buffing, or pure firepower buffing rifles, though some buff both. There is no clear advantage to either:
- RoF selfbuffers get off more shots, which makes them good at handling large amount of enemies, but right now suffer against heavily armoured enemies (until we get the AP ammo buff).
- FP selfbuffers don't get off many shots even when buffing their RoF, but are vital against heavily armoured enemies.
Which one you want depends on what kind of enemy formations you're facing. Both types tend to be reasonably good generalists when neither swarms nor heavy armour is an issue, and R93 manages to strike the balance and can be used in either role extremely well (…unlike Mk12, RIP).
However, both types will struggle against evasive enemies at night; even the ones that self-buff their accuracy cannot overcome the night debuff unless you bring several acc-buffing handguns and something like an Illumination or Fireworks fairy, and the rest will struggle even with all this help. For those fights, you want skill shot rifles – most skill shots ignore accuracy and always hit. An exception is Type 4, whose passive autohits some of her shots. YMMV if that's enough.
Speaking of night combat, a special case are night self-buffers. While their skills have high buffs at night, at day they're useless, and their extremely high ICD makes most of them awful at night as well. G43 is somewhat of an exception by virtue of having excellent stats for a 2* rifle, making her useful early in the game. Type 88 can also be useful, but only modded.
Skill Shot Rifles#
These underwent a lot of changes since EN's release. Starting out as borderline useless, changes in how their skills work, new rifles with even more different skills mechanics, and new enemy factions (especially Paradeus/White Faction) made them much more useful than before.
There's a few distinct categories:
- Bamboos are the Locked/Steady/Aimed/Interdiction Shot rifles plus a few uniques with identical mechanics: They launch a single attack that can neither miss nor crit after a relatively long cooldown+charge+aim period; you can skip the charge period to deliver the shots (slightly) faster at lower power.
- Others can fire multiple skill shots in the same activation period, main examples are M200 and Kar98k.
Bamboos notably had their skills reworked in late 2019 to add the charge mechanic. Before, they were borderline useless – their cooldown is so slow it's only really worth bothering in boss fights, but they're sitting ducks against boss skill attacks, so you need to buff them to the point that they can end the fight in one single salvo. On CN/KR/TW this was a good trade off, as those servers had to farm bosses for limited drops. EN never had to suffer through this and could farm everything off regular enemies, making bamboos useless – by the time you learned how to use bamboos correctly against a particular boss, you had the boss killed with ARSMG echelons five times over. This use (murdering bosses over and over again) is also where "bamboo" nickname comes from, both are improvised weapons that can do well, but you'd rather use something proper if you can.
All of this changed when the White Faction attacked… oh yeah, and the skills got reworked. Paradeus has a bunch of annoying enemies like
Dopplesodner Doppelsöldner Duplicarius GUNDAMS whose timing tends to be just right that a skill shot from Kar98k or a bamboo can end them before they become a threat. Since skill shots also cannot miss, they're also immensely useful against evasive armoured enemies at night. M200 takes the cake by getting off 6-7 skill shots in one activation period, which makes her close to an universalist.
As their main attraction is their skill shot, RoF buffs are more or less useless on them, they help with their regular attacks, but might leave their skill shots underpowered, which renders them useless. With some exceptions, their shots also don't crit, making the usual crit focused builds suboptimal as well.
This combined makes them somewhat niche – their base DPS isn't too impressive, even M200 lags somewhat behind the self-buffers against regular enemies –, but it's a niche that keeps cropping up regularly in current and upcoming content.
MICA has experimented a lot with rifle skills… usually unsuccessfully. A lot them have weird skills that sound like they could be useful, but in the end aren't. Exceptions:
- 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 – it mainly benefits skill shot rifles, giving bamboos better timings to knock out dangerous enemies, and giving M200 seven shots instead of six.
- 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 some white faction enemies. Quite a few of them are elites, however, and skill shot rifles will do better.
- Strawcano can be used like a regular self-buffer rifle, but you mostly have other options for that. She does synergize very well with Python however, turning the two into a powerful buffer combination to use with skill shotters (or Grape).
- YMMV whether QBU-88 and M82A1 count as bamboos or specialists; either way they're sometimes useful to hit enemies at convenient timings, but you'll likely have better options.
- IWS used to be mentioned in this category, but nowadays you're best off using her as a generic FP selfbuffer.
Handguns / Support#
Due to their synergy effects, you will mostly pair rifles with handguns:
- 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.
- Px4 Storm is a HG that multiplies crit damage by 1.5x by sacrificing crit rate. Conveniently, RFs have very high crit rate. And again, conveniently, a RF buffed by Five-seveN has 100% crit rate after both Px4 and 5-7's skills are active.
- Python is a HG that spreads buffs to units on her tile when she is buffed, and provides some FP buff by herself with her own skill. Generally you can treat her as usually better, sometimes worse, FP buffer.
- Strawcano can apply buffs to units on her tiles, including Python, who will then buff units on HER tiles, including Strawcano, which triggers Straw's buff more often… but Straw's own damage output is still only so-so. Can be worth it if all you need is a trash cleaning rifle to go with a skill shot rifle to handle the dangerous enemies.
- Sometimes, you need survivability rather than raw buffs:
- Accuracy debuffing handguns are the closest you get to handgun tanks for regular content, since they increase the survivability of your other handguns while giving decent-ish buffs to at least one of your rifles.
- Shield handguns are mostly useful to handle AoE attacks like gundams', but most of the time you're better off shooting the damn thing before it can launch its AoE.
- Really, "shoot it until it dies" is the superior tanking method 90% of the time, and most of the rest of the time, taunt fairy suffices.
- Other buff and utility HGs aren't often used; Acc buffs e.g. you mostly get for free from Calico and Px4, for crit there's no good substitute for 5-7, and utility pistols range from niche (stun) to utterly useless (flare).
RFHG echelons are quite stereotypical glass tanks – dishing out lots of damage, while not being able to handle taking much. This is fine for about 90%, if not more, of the fights you want rifles in, as you can typically make your echelons strong enough that you'll only take chip damage at worst.
There is some exceptions where no possible build can kill enemies fast enough (especially when underlevelled, or in theatre/ranking maps designed to be too beefy for this approach), but they're rare enough that it's worth tailoring specific echelons for them. Whether you want shotguns or SMGs for these few cases depends on the enemies in question, there's no generalist solution to this.
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 your M14 and pre-levelled Springfield, your pre-levelled SAA, 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 proper self-buffer echelon, Springfield falls off quickly. YMMV whether to go with a RoF/FP/Mixed echelon, build whichever you have the best rifles available for.
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 want 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.
- Combat simulator is not an absolute decider on what is good and what isn't. It does not simulate actual battle. In actual battle, there are more things such as breakpoints, kiting, enemy movement and enemy skills to account for.
3RF vs 2RF#
ARSMGs tend to use 3 ARs to 2 SMGS, but RFHGs tend to use 2 RF to 3 HGs. There are multiple reasons why people don't run 3RFs, ranging from minor nitpicks to unscalable walls. Starting from the weakest nitpick, we have:
- 3RF 2HG is much more expensive than 2RF 3HG.
- 3RF is much more prone to overkilling enemies. Many softer enemies (such as Jaegers) die in 1 hit from 2 RFs. 3 RFs don't give you an advantage on that.
- 3RFs don't consistently bring you to a better breakpoint: If you needed 2 attacks from both RFs to kill an enemy, you likely will still need 2 attacks from all 3 RFs to kill an enemy.
- HG tiles simply don't support 3RF. M950A, Five seven, Stechkin, Grizzly and SAA are the most staple buffers and none of them buff all 3 tiles behind them (57 becomes completely unusable). FP buffers would at least have K5 and Mk23, but you only have PPK, who's relatively weak ROF/FP buffer. At least you still have Px4.
- Most importantly, there isn't that many good RFs to go around. Unlike ARs where most of the 5*s are at least usable, at least half the RFs are bamboos that don't do well in general lineups and half of the other half are low rarity units that aren't M14.
Before the skill rework, the only notable exception was using both Canos plus either Kar 98k or M82A1, to handle White Faction fights. With the skill rework, this is obsolete now (one Cano buffing is enough, and usually you need neither), leaving us with about zero use cases for 3RF formations.
There's two obvious options, both have their advantages:
- Pure formations where both rifles buff the same stat:
- This makes it easy to ensure you're maximizing the stat you care about
- However, this can lead to both rifles shooting on the same frame, potentially ending up killing the same enemy and wasting a shot ("corpse whipping") – both with RoF selfbuffers (both at cap) and FP selfbuffers (since most of them have base RoFs close enough to fire on the same frame, and it wont change if they receive the same buffs)
- You need to actually have two good rifles with the same skill, which is difficult early on
- Mixed formations where one buffs RoF and the other FP
- You'll be getting off less shots overall, and less powerful shots to handle high-armour targets, but for many fights it's good enough
- Getting dissimilar RoF is trivial, reducing the risk of corpse whipping. But at the same time, the FP rifle's performance is very sensitive to targeting RNG, it's easy to waste her shots on overkilling almost dead enemies while leaving healthy ones to the weaker RoF rifle's shots
- This is much easier to set up, especially early on (M14+G43 are cheap and readily available)
YMMV which works out best for you. Usually, either will do, if you struggle with particular enemies, rebuild your echelon to handle their shtick.
Pure RoF Formation#
These mostly use one pure RoF buffer and one firepower buffer, plus one auxiliary handgun that ideally also buffs RoF for one of them.
Beware the handgun placement: Welrod is used to buff WA's RoF to the point that she doesn't shoot on the same frame as SVD. Swapping the two or replacing Welrod with Px4 is only recommended when corpse whipping won't be an issue.
Pure FP Formation#
If you don't have anything specific in mind, RoF buffs is the name of the game. Your fairy will be giving additional firepower buffs anyway, so for the common use case, you want RoF handguns to correct that deficit. As none of them will get close to cap, you're more flexible in your HG selections.
RoF overlap still needs to be kept in mind, but the easiest fix for this is to simply use M14, she's one of the best FP-selfbuffers and has by far the highest RoF and will end up firing on different frames in almost all pairings. IWS is a good alternative, her RoF debuff will lead to the same result with the opposite approach. (Editor's note: Insert horseshoe theory joke here.)
Depending on handgun availability, you probably want to swap Welrod for Px4 and Stechkin for 5-7. Dead enemies don't need tanking.
Mixed Self-Buffer Formations#
As you still don't want to exceed the RoF cap on your RoF rifle, your handgun selection is more restricted, while your rifle selection is wider. Typically, you'll want one RoF selfbuffer, plus handguns buffing whatever else you need. Px4 + 5-7
, solve for P is a common combo to max out your crit damage and give decent RoF buffs, for the last slot you're likely going to want a firepower buffer or some utility (shielder, e.g.).
Author: Chiaki Matsuda
Tags: Getting Started