MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries Light Mech Tactics & AI Behaviors

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries Light Mech Tactics & AI Behaviors 1 -
MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries Light Mech Tactics & AI Behaviors 1 -

Light mech tactics for a scouting/recon player based on observed AI behavior in MechWarrior 5 standard game play.


Greetings fellow Mech Commanders!
This guide explains a light mech tactic play-style for the player as a result of observed enemy and friendly lance mate AI behavior, based on my MW5 experiences.
I developed this from around 100 hrs of game-play through the end game, where I continued to play in light mechs even during 400t 13-15 difficulty missions (my standard open map barrage lance is woefully underweight at 310t or so). Overall, I probably played a light mech over 80% of the time. (It got to the point I’d have to force myself into heavier mechs just to mix things up, because I got so used to the rush and excitement of whizzing around the battlefield at 130kph!).
I’d like to first give kudos to owen8964 for the great suggestion of re-publishing the original discussion thread as a MW5 tactics guide for others to try as another play-style alternative.


Before I begin though, here’s a quick history on why I started to do this. It wasn’t by design, but necessity. The early stages of the game for me were challenging to acquire funds, and I noticed that as the game progressed from all light and some medium mechs to more all-medium and some heavies, that the damage bills kept on wracking up… it felt like I was a mech commander of a slowly dying merc business! So I started to play more with my light mechs and let my lance have the heavier mechs because for one, the repair bill was cheaper on lights, and for another, I could race to the nav points faster, complete the objective, and race to the next or bug out to the drop ship and avoid unnecessary fighting (and extra damage bills). So around difficultly 3-5 I just honed light mech raiding and started to rack up on funds by focusing on demo and raid type of missions. My lance hardly took any damage because they were slower than me and forced to range everything, and I just raced ahead to complete the mission as fast as possible. The enemy at this level are mostly novices in their aim and couldn’t hit much. I just kept playing lights and adapting tactics to the harder mission difficulty and found it still was effective in late games as well. (I actually bagged my first Atlas, and soon after a King Crab, salvages in a Spider by taking out their legs).
Also, I’ve been playing BattleTech, MechCommander and Mech Warrior, table-top and computer games since the 1980’s, and MWO for the past several years. So I’ve had my fill of stomping around in heavier mechs. I don’t need MW5 to get my thrill of heavy destruction lol. Yet for MW5, staying alive in paper thin armor ended up more of a fun challenge for me while trying to maximize my business profit from reducing repair bills.


Everything I’m about to share is premised on the fact (not just a personal belief!) that light mechs are not merely a stepping stone progression on the way to heavier mechs.
Light Mechs are actually a vital role player in any lance team, company or larger organization, no matter the form of gameplay they’re used in. However, your lance AI will play all mechs in MW5 the same way no matter the tonnage, as the AI doesn’t know any better.
In such, it is only YOU, the player, that can successfully play a light mech in the role it was meant to be used in the BattleTech universe: as a scout, recon, forward observer, fast striking skirmisher, and as that annoying fly on the bottom of every heavier mech on the battlefield!
Since MW5 tactics are a response to encountered combat situations, it’s helpful to present the discussion of light mech tactics in relation to these observed AI enemy mech behaviors.
The verbiage through this guide is my own.

Enemy AI Type 1 “Normal Response Prioritization”

This AI behavior are the essentially the textbook responses observed during most regular missions. These mechs prioritize targeting/attacking more or less in this order, and will toggle between these cases as the combat situation warrants:
1) Target/shoot at the first thing in range
(If they have LOS and in range they will shoot at it)
2) Target/try to shoot at whatever is shooting them in the rear
(They will turn to try to shoot, but if can’t rotate/turn all the way, will still shoot and miss off to the side)
3) Target whatever is damaging it the most
(They put their attention on this target, usually your lance mate, but may not actually shoot if over-ridden/distracted by another priority like 2) above (usually the player hitting it from behind)
4) Target the Player
(Seemingly overrides 1 & 3 if it’s the player doing the shooting, no matter how small the damage is from the player)
An example how these priorities work: I end up getting targeted first always in the scout role because I make first contact some 700m ahead of my lance (case 1). As they try to shoot and follow me, I’m heading back to my lance, where my lancemates will have used my targeting to indirect LRM fire on whatever I had just targeted (without actually needing to order them to fire on my target). Before long, the enemy is targeting them as soon as they get into their LOS range because of the damage they’re taking from my lance (case 3). They then apparently target whichever lance mate is damaging them the most after that, (unless it’s the player shooting with a small laser, then they react to that; case 4). But as soon as I get behind them for a back side shot, they will immediately turn to protect their weak backside no matter how much damage they’re taking from the rest of my lance (case 2). If I fire from behind once and wait, they’ll try to turn toward me, but will turn back towards their front as soon as my lance hits them again from that side (case 2 then case 3).
Light Mech Tactics for Type 1 “Normal Response Prioritization”: Open Field Bait and Draw
– Putting this 1) response to good use involves scouting (Wild Weasel ring a bell to anyone?). You’ll want to be far ahead of your lance, but not out of range. Stay around 700m ahead of the rest of my lance (my all tote LRMs of some sort… enough distance to loop back when you need cover from a sudden swarm of VTOLs or enemy recon mechs, but safely within my lance’s LRM range at all times for immediate barrage response). When contact is made (mech, or heavy tank), immediately loop back towards your lance, which will lure the enemy with you as their target, but draws them closer toward the teeth of my lance’s firepower.
This is also good for drawing out sticky set piece assassination missions where the named target lances are usually in a good defensive position (fortification with extra tanks/turrets). You can make contact (may need to fire and hit them to follow), which will cause them to draw away from their defensive positions to chase you, while you move back towards your lance, (who should ideally be situated in more of an open field better LOS situation and not stuck in a valley). The enemy will get peppered en-route by your lance’s indirect LRM fire. You may have to double back to make target contact again from time to time for your lance to have something to shoot at. But remember, the AI of your lance will alpha strike indirect LRM fire really quickly from even your briefest target lock, so it doesn’t take much to get case 1 then 3 to happen. At this point, once the targeted mech is in the open and if he has his lance in tow, you can order concentrated fire on the main threat, and circle behind it to take distracting back side/leg shots. This causes the mech to cycle between case 2 and 3. Dropping the named target first usually is the best choice as it usually has the most firepower. After they’re gone, the rest of their lance will fall apart.
Light Mech Tactics for Type 1 “Normal Response Prioritization”: Backside Harassing
Noting case 3 (target whatever is damaging them the most), this means that once your lance is fully engaged in a fight, you can largely run past the enemy without firing, and they’ll ignore you completely because you’re not causing damage. If base raiding, go about your business destroying stuff. If doing Assassination missions or need to take our some nasty assaults to help your lance, then run behind the enemy to get position directly on their spine and start blasting the legs or back armor (depending if you want to try to salvage the mech or not). They’ll immediately try to turn to target you to protect their backside (case 2), but if you stay in their “blind spot”, won’t be able to (there’s a small golden angle directly behind their spine that they can’t torso twist and get their chest or arm weapons aimed at… stay in it and they’ll fire off to the side and never hit you. This is relative to their leg direction, so take notices of where their legs are pointed and shift slightly over to stay in this sweet spot). When they turn towards you, they partially expose their back to your lance on the other side of them, as they will usually then get hit their turned back, or just take damage. They then turn to face my lance under the 2) “someone hit me in my rear” case 2 or 3, which now exposes their back to you again. Hit them again in the back or legs, and once again they’ll start to turn towards you. Your lance hits them again, and the cycle repeats. They end up spending their time trying to turn and shoot, but the enemy AI consistently will turn and shoot before targeting every time, so they end up shooting off to the side at nothing, saving your lance from taking damage. They’ll drop from this tactic really quick, and it saves a lot of armor on the lance by not having the usual direct face off fight trading shot blasts fighting.
Of note, what they’ll never do (at least I haven’t noticed) is a typical MWO defensive move… the enemy won’t stop to reverse and turn to protect their backside. They always seem to want to torso twist or eventually turn around completely from moving forward, but as a faster light, you can maneuver to stay behind their spin faster than they can turn/twist.

Enemy AI Type 2 “Has an Obsessive-Compulsive Death Wish for the Player”

This never happens in regular missions, and only rarely in the campaign missions (the last few end game fights against the named enemies).
The enemy mech will ignore everything else on the battlefield and charge blazing straight for you, no matter where you are… they’re practically omnipotent, because even if you break LOS and your lance is damaging them, they’ll still be facing and aimed at you once you see them again around a corner.
The game knows where you are and they’re out to get you no matter what!
Light Mech Tactics for Type 2: Set Piece Encirclement
This fanatical behavior is useful to counter in a set piece defense, putting your lance ahead of you and scattered to the sides, so they’ll walk right past them trying to get to you, and end up surrounded, and destroyed before getting to you. They won’t even respond to your attacking lance because the enemy character is following a game-story response of intense player hatred or some such…. so only you the player matters!

Enemy AI Type 3 “Harassing Skirmisher”:

This AI behavior Is reserved for the lighter/faster mechs, and doesn’t happen every time, but is very noticeable when they’re doing it (if you’re watching it with popcorn in the middle of a fight…).
Enemies with this behavior attack briefly then run away and even try to disappear behind buildings or hills, to reappear and attack from another angle or behind. Seemingly designed to either force the lance to chase, or forget about them long enough that they get free backside shots when they do reappear. Lots of higher campaign missions use swarming light/medium mechs with this behavior, which can get annoying.
Light Mech Tactic for Type 3 “Harassing Skirmisher”: Pursuit
Yes, pursuit is actually a role! (despite seemingly only being referenced in the TT figurine box set “Pursuit Lance”!). The best thing to do if you notice the enemy doing this is just to take out their lights as fast as possible by chasing them down, which is best suited for you as the lance’s light mech. Because if you ignore them, they’ll eventually hound and distract your lance to death. I’ve noticed story-line missions with swarms of lights doing this, and my lance’s armor dropping because they’re too slow to respond, and at first I was preoccupied with other targets. I would re-run the mission and focus on pursuit against these swarmers with much greater success.
Players in Spiders and Cicadas can chase down most anything, and using leg shots with SRMs quickly will immobilize and destroy enemy lights. I prefer SRM lights over lasers because pin point leg shots on a skinny light leg is frustrating, and you end up missing a lot. Shot gun blasts of SRMs will hit every time once you get the hang of leading your shots. Don’t use stream SRMs, despite them having more damage because you’ll miss a lot with them as the enemy is running sideways.

Enemy AI Type 4 “Space Cadet”

This is probably a glitch behavior, and hardly observed or happens, but reminds me of playing MWO when a player is afk for the first 5 minutes of the fight, and doesn’t respond until something whacks them.
Sometimes (for whatever reasons) the enemy mech doesn’t move after being dropped in, and appears like a statue until you shoot it, then it gets “jolted back to life” to react by shooting back.
I’ve seen this only a couple times, but a similar behaviors is where the enemy actually was fighting, but then gets isolated and “stuck” somewhere on the map, and decides to not move out of their predicament, and just stands against a cliff or some such. Funny.
Light Tactic Type 4 “Space Cadet”: Nail the Stuffing Out of It!
‘Nuff said. Get your lance into position and let them go to work! If you’re on a kill X of Y mission and can’t find the last mech, check the enemy drop in spots and see if a mech is just standing there, or in cases of enemy LRM mechs, stuck near a cliff.

Light Tactics Overview

A few more rules of thumb for anyone thinking about trying the lance’s scout/recon role…
1) Never stop moving. The braking and acceleration is horrible compared to MWO, completely sluggish. The AI’s aim is pretty bad when you keep moving… it’s better when they’re Elites, but they still miss a lot against a fast-moving mech.
2) S-Turning in the blindside. If skirmishing with heavies & assaults, learn to turn a 180 sharply after shooting. After shooting a mechs legs/back from their backside (while you’re moving full speed of course ), immediately turn around to shoot them again going the other direction, then repeat. This keeps you in a tight angle on their backside, and won’t let you accidentally come too far to the side of them where they can twist and target you. Often you end up turning away from the side their torso is trying to twist toward to target you, causing them to have to twist back completely 180 to the other side. But by the time they get there, you’ve already turned again to their other side. (If you get seasick easily, this may not be the maneuver for you lol).
3) If you end up caught facing a powerful mech, say a prayer and jump over them. You’ll take some hits, but often they’ll miss while you jump, it’ll cause them to try to track you upwards while your lance just continues to blasts at them (if you don’t have JJ’s you can run a tight circle around them, but risk getting punched or taking that AC20 blast in the meantime). Turn around mid-air (twist and hit the F key) to land behind them facing their back. By the time you land, they’ve already turned their attention back toward your lance in front of them, due to their damage. Pew pew their back/legs to cause the case 2/3 twisting torso cycle, use S-turns if needed, and move on to the next.
4) Your priorities as the team’s Light should be:
– Spot the enemy, make contact & target something
– Lure the enemy back to your lance (if it’s a more than a single light mech)
– Clear out turrets/tanks as much as possible. This prevents your lance from wasting time, shots and ammo on them. When open map traveling, I usually run back to my lance though after making or hearing VTOL contact, because the higher difficulty missions have more gunships in their VTOL swarms and are dangerous to a single light caught alone in the open. During pitched battles, I try to take out all the pop up turrets and tanks first, so my lance doesn’t get distracted by them.
– Counter enemy lights during engaged battles, as these end up a big distraction for your lance to deal with. You want your lance’s firepower concentrated on the heavier mechs, not the little flies zooming around. Plus, you don’t want your lance getting turned around and whacked from behind trying to chase an enemy light. You can more easily chase, cripple, and destroy the legs of the lighter mechs than they can.
– Once a major battle is engaged, and all of this has been satisfied (reduced turrets, no lights etc), go ahead and start backstabbing the bigger mechs, when telling your lance to concentrate fire on it. This helps distract them while your lance tears it apart. If there’s a dedicated Archer or other LRM mech hanging in the distance lobbying LRMs, go over and introduce yourself to its back and start the S-turn dance of death with them inside their LRM range.
5) Urban Zones: If raiding or demo’ing in urban areas, run around corners a lot. Don’t stand still to destroy a building. Run and smear yourself into walls and the smaller buildings, but continually rounding corners makes it difficult for the enemy mechs to target you, and causes them to chase (but usually slower). Jump over walls and run along the outside too to cause the defenders to chase. Command your lance to take out the bigger mechs first, then you’ll be more safe. You can smash if there’s not a lot of turrets/tanks, otherwise clear those out first then smash, then bug out. Your lance is there to distract the defense and take damage, as you can smash faster and bug out rather than trying to eliminate all the defense first. Watch out though for new assault drops on the higher difficulty missions, and eliminate those threats first if needed.
6) Practice Avoidance. Zig-Zag run and recognize low spots and terrain on the map, including trees, and stay in those areas. Higher level missions have deadly elite turrets/tanks that can pop up all over and nail you. Just don’t run straight toward whatever is shooting you, circle around. If you notice it first and can destroy it fast, then do so. But if you hear lots of whizzing, or VTOL swarms incoming, then evade and run back to your lance. If being careful and progressing more slowly on harder maps, I’ll pick the target as they appear then, spin away to cover, so my lance will barrage it to death.
Trees really works well for defense too in MW5 (where mostly they’re just visual in MWO)… so every though trees are a hindrance to run through, they can help stop random firing shots your direction as well. You can sight of a tank, then JJ to pop up and shoot then drop back into tree cover. Same with walls and hills etc.
For mech battles (assassinations usually) where I just want to make contact for my lance, you can also hide behind terrain then JJ up enough to clear the obstacle to ping them… you’ll usually fall back down faster than the enemy can react, but you still get a target for your lance to shoot at. Usually, the named enemy will draw out, as well as soon as they contact you… so I never walk into the base of the assassination mechs… always draw them out if possible. Don’t do what the game set-up wants you to do and assault a defense position head on lol.
7) Be unorthodox. As a light, especially with JJs, don’t take the obvious route. The most direct way to get to a nav point are on the map once the mission first loads is usually riddled with turrets, tanks and enemy scout mechs, forts and other urban areas. The game map was design that you take the obvious route. Instead, try running down the map edges, and coming around your target areas from the off-sides. Jump onto mountains to make contact looking down on an area to recon.
The mission wasn’t meant to have an uninvited intruders sneaking around like this through a back door, so you can often dismantle a complicated mission this way and avoid a lot of headache.
8) Run Forest Run! Missions where you need to blow up certain buildings often fair better if you just run and gun as the light instead of waiting for your slower lance mates to pull up. I’ve successfully darted through urban areas, blow things up, then darted to the next with all the enemies trying to chase me, and made it out in one piece. Just be creative to get out of intense defensive situations… jump over walls or blast your own exit in one and get over the outside terrain to avoid incoming fire.
Also, if the mission involves bugging out to an exit, run there as fast as possible once the mission is over. There’s no need to try to save your lance by helping them fight their way out. Everyone’s fastest exit is for you to bug out at the exit circle to end the mission… that’s the biggest help!

Light Mech Recommendations

Regarding some thoughts on which lights to use, I generally tend towards fast SRM launchers for the ease of hitting legs and the escape/pursuit speed. Targeting legs with pin point weapons is otherwise a pain, but shot-gun blasts of SRMs works like a charm!
Jenner – good speed. this works really well early on for the basic two SRM hardpoints… blasting SRM like a shotgun (not the streaming ones) makes hitting legs really easy, especially on other lights). There’s a hero version that you can put 4xSRM4 one, making you a deadly leg breaker of even assault mechs. It’s far easier to take out two legs with a few SRM volleys than trying to peel off arms and front torso armor, or ever backside armor (takes more time to line up back torso hits than just whacking legs from all sides).
Cicada – faster than the Jenner, more armor and firepower, but no JJ’s. This mech is ok to use, but should be better, because I notice it seems “glitchy” in its movement, almost sticky compared to other light mechs. It doesn’t glide around like it should, something with its bouncing up/down animation when it’s running…. gets annoying once you notice it, feels like you’re a cat with a piece of tape stuck to your feet.
Spider – though less armor/firepower than the above two, its incredibly agile with the best sharp turn radius and torso twist speed. It seems to almost spin on its feet instead of turning, taking hardly any distance to turn 180. This is great for staying in a mech’s backside blind spots. There’s a hero version with 2xAMS, which makes up for it’s thin armor, and helps when spotting and avoiding incoming LRM fire. This variant is my personal favorite that I’ve been using this mech late game. The other two end up as back-ups for mult-mission sets.
PHX – though the Phoenix Hawk is a medium and not as fast mech, nor does it have SRM hardpoints, it performs well for demo base and raids due to it’s survivability and JJ’s and MG damage vs buildings (can walk through a building and twist and shoot another at the same time). I can wreck stuff and bug out to the next location, ignore the enemies, and still finish the mission in one piece (while my lance mates take most of the damage as they fight and follow along).
Remember, enemies won’t keep attacking you for long as soon as your lance gets in range and starts shooting things too, so you won’t be the target for long.
Any of these will greatly help minimizing damage when completing the mission by how quickly you can bug out. Lots of stuff spawns when you’re trying to get to the exit point, and zooming there fast vs. fighting your way out can greatly save on damage and component repair bills and losing beloved weapons.
Also, being fast and ahead of lance avoids the annoying “lance bumping” of slower lances, where your lance mates end up stopping, turning, and trying to keep formation with you all over the map, getting in your way and blocking your shots if you were in a slower 40-60 kph mech.

Thoughts on Lance Configurations

The scouting role begs for indirect LRM fire support, since you naturally end up as a forward observer for the lance by default.
So my lance all have LRMs if the mission involves walking all over a map. This is sound use of LRMs with your lance’s configuration, because your lance’s AI is actually really good at immediately responding to anything you target with LRM fire, even if it doesn’t have LOS itself. Only if I’m doing a defense/protect mission I’ll use heavier armor and all energy/ballistic, as shooting LRMs in close range or in an urban area you’re trying to protect is a waste.
An example of my single mission 400t set up is typically:
2x Atlas, both with LRM 20s and a longer main range ballistic weapon and some med range stuff. Max armor as they’ll take the beating for the lance.
Stalker, LRM boat with 2xLRM 20 and 2xLRM 10. I have 2 of these, mix of stream and ART and TAG just to see how they work, and to always have one ready for multi missions as the other is repaired.
The Stalker is really slow, which is actually a good thing when you get used to it, because that means it stays in the back at extreme range and hardly ever takes damage, and is forced to shoot it’s LRMs. A true support mech! Sometimes for fun, if it’s a single mission involving traversing an open map, I’ll use two Stalkers just to be funny and watch the down pour of LRMs.
Overall, that’s collectively about 100 damage total in LRM fire per each volley from my lance. If I target and draw out a heavy or assault mech, this means they’re being hit about 2-4+ times from LRM fire as they chase me, before they even can even start to engage my lance. Nothing lasts in the open field using draw tactic with this indirect fire lance set up.


I hope this helps in anyone reconsidering playing light mechs as a role throughout one’s career, and not just as a stepping stone towards heavier mechs. I’ve found it to be a vital and useful for lance tactics when playing as the scout/recon role, bringing a lot of interesting aspects to the game in hindsight. I hope you consider trying it out as a viable game-play option!

Written by Oddball

Here we come to an end for MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries Light Mech Tactics & AI Behaviors hope you enjoy it. If you think we forget something to include or we should make an update to the post let us know via comment, and we will fix it asap! Thanks and have a great day!

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