If you're relatively new to MWO and are thinking of what 'Mech to elite first, then congratulations! This post has it all. The Hunchback chassis is no doubt the best chassis to begin with and to stick with, proven by the fact that this very post is the most viewed post under Battlemech Guides sub-forum, and the tons of helpful replies under it.
Hunckbacks are very cheap to purchase, arm and upgrade, and very comfortable to run. The different variants have covered almost all types of roles in the battlefield. You can learn all the basics you need to know with these sweethearts, and do some incredible damage when you mastered - or rather, Mastered - them.
However, like life, there's nothing perfect. Being a 50-toner means Hunchbacks should not be the "tank" on the front line, but more of a flanker and supporter role. Don't get me wrong, a flanker who knows what he/she's doing could easily top the damage chart. Don't be ashamed if you have to run - in fact you SHOULD be relocating very often, dodging from cover to cover, harassing busy enemies and picking off weakened ones. And don't be ashamed when you use friendly Assault 'mechs as cover - an Atlas with a nifty Hunchback orbiting around it could do miracle.
The significant feature of Hunchback is, of course, the massive Right Torso "hunch" on all variants save one. While the guns mounted in the hunch are around your head level, making shooting from cover very easy, you will soon realize your hunch will take a LOT of fire if you're not careful. The whole area hunch counts as Right Torso Front, so when building it you want to distribute more armor to RT Front than Rear. It also means loading an XL engine is a massive deathtrap. In combat, you should ALWAYS be twisting your torso around during your weapons' cooldown, shielding your RT with your LT to protect all those armaments packed inside. Building up this "right-hook" mentality will help go a long way even when you move on from HBK to many other Chassis.
Anyway, rules of thumb: stay mobile, keep low, don't wander off alone for long, and engage occupied enemies in priority. That should keep you going.
So without further ado let's get to the builds. Note that you need only three variants to Elite, and in my case they are 4H(later replaced by Grid Iron), 4P and 4SP, which will be focused on. 4G and 4J will be included too, and I will explain why those two are slightly less favorable than the other variants.
Hold on for a moment. If you're think of buying a 4G because those three ballistic hardpoints looks delicious, pro-tip: they aren't. You might want to look at 4H or Grid Iron instead.
Wait, you already bought one? Nevermind, let's go on! After all, it does have 5-degree extra torso pitch, a trait unique to 4G and Grid Iron.
Starter Build: STD200, 10DHS, Endo, 1xAC20(3ton), 2xMG(1ton), 3xML, AMS
If you're trying to utilize the three ballistic hardpoints, this is the only option I see fit. AC20 is without any doubt one of the strongest weapon in-game, and is the standard equipment of many larger 'Mechs, so it's a must-have. Machine Guns will do significant crit damage against exposed internals, great for crippling enemy weapons late-game. The three MLas are definitely a healthy thing to have, providing enough damage for finishing moves, and defense against Light 'Mechs.
Keep up with your main group, be conservative about when to engage. Mid-game chaotic brawling is your moment to shine, as your mighty shoulder cannon chew through the armor of larger foes who are busy engaging your bigger brothers.
However, I would very much consider this stock-engine build as a temporary solution, as firing MGs require you to constantly face toward a single direction, EXACTLY the opposite of what you should be doing to preserve your hunch. Running the stock STD200 engine also means you'll be quite a bit slower - and more awkward - than many of your comrades.
Which is why I STRONGLY recommend you switch to the Golden Formula of AC20 Hunchbacks as soon as you get enough C-Bill:
STD250, 10DHS(engine), Endo, FF-armor, 1xAC20(3ton), 3xML
Machine guns and AMS has been taken away to make space for the largest engine possible with AC20 (having AMS is good, but not on top of the priority list when you have the speed to dodge into cover). You'll easily find your rhythm with your arms/shoulder/head three groups of weapons.
Here is a video demonstration of the Golden Formula, courtesy of No Guts No Galaxy:
Hold on for a moment. If you're thinking of buying 4H because I just told you so, remember: there's always Grid Iron.
Starter build: STD200, 12DHS, Endo, 1xAC20(3ton), 5xML
Two of the 4G's ballistic hardpoints are replaced my waist-level energy hardpoints, which in my opinion makes them much easier to sync with the head-mounted energy hardpoint. The single ballistic hardpoint makes AC20 the obvious option, and five MLas will provide you with much steadier performance than a pair of MGs.
Your speed though, again, is your main drawback. Your lack of heavier armor is definitely not helping in this case, so when you have faith in your movement and heat management (upgrading your Pilot Tree definitely helps in that regard), do not hesitate to bring in the modified Golden Formula:
STD250, 10DHS(engine), Endo, FF-armor, 10DHS, 1xAC20(3ton), 2xML, 3xSL (courtesy of Ravennus).
An AC20 with this kind of speed is absolutely brutal, proven by all those AC20 Yen Lo Wangs out there...and this build has more firepower. The head-MLas is replaced with three SLas, trading range and a bit of leg armor for better weapon sync and damage output. Sometimes all you need is the little extra oomph to finishing someone off.
(Btw, do not be fooled by those who claim AC20 Blackjacks are so much better. They get so cocky with those two little Jumpjets they forget about their XL engines under the thin armor.)
Since this is the variant I do now own, I'll just put the most sensible build down here:
STD250, 10DHS(engine), Endo, FF-armor, 2xLRM10(4ton), 2xML, 3xSL, TAG, BAP (courtesy of Ewigan)
4J is the designated LRM boat in the Hunchback chassis. Two 10-silo missile hardpoints in the hunch, plus enough energy hardpoints to make a Catapult A1 burn in jealousy. The head-mounted TAG comes in handy when you shoot from cover, and the burst damage of rapid-firing twin LRM10s certainly won't go ignored. The Grid Iron patch brought the size of it's hunch down to merely more than a 4SP's hunches (THANK YOU PGI), and should you decide not to equip any missiles, your hunch will be removed completely, a trait unique to 4J and 4SP Hunchbacks. The energy hardpoints are, unfortunately, at waist level, but being a hunch-less Hunchback opens up some interesting possibilities.
I would personally stick to this loadout if I owned one. Artemis is a beautiful addition to any LRM launchers, and the extra speed is crucial for a small LRM boat. The XL engine may increase the risk of being cored by losing RT, but considering you'll lose almost all weapons when your RT is gone, it doesn't wouldn't much of a difference. You can also do it without Artemis and upgrade your RT lasers to MLas, and add more Double Heatsinks with some reduced armor here and there to increase your mid-range ability. Adjust to taste.
In short, when comes to LRM boating, 4J does not shine as much as Trebuchet, a whole chassis dedicated to LRM. However, if you don't feel like going into another chassis who's MUCH bigger in size and variants are not all well designed, then 4J should be your LRM companion.
Now, what used to be my main 'Mech, my Ghetto Delight, was STD260, 19DHS, 7xSL, 2xML, AMS. But since the engine cap has been raised, I realized I could take things up a notch:
STD275, 19DHS, Endo, 7xSL, 2xMPL
This thing is so much fun to run and deals ridiculous damage as a match goes. You're essentially carrying a point-blank effective, rapid-firing AC20 that does not require any ammo. It's an amazing harasser, a more than effective Light killer, a literally accurate "disarmer" that runs around the battlefield and shoots at everything that moves. The 19DHS ensures it would almost never overheats. Pretty much a no-brainer besides the basic rules regarding Hunchbacks.
However, if you feel like you've got a grip on how to manage heat, there's also the upgraded stock build:
STD275, 17DHS, Endo, 9xML
I used to shy away from nine Medium Lasers since overheating bothered me heavily. I NEVER regretted trying this out. The burst damage of nine MLas is absolutely ridiculous. It of course requires better trigger discipline and better aiming, but totally controllable. You could burn though an Atlas' rear armor in the matter of seconds, and headshot any overheated 'Mech with a single burst. Plus it has more range.
Oh, also, although it is unfortunately not captured by the clip above, it is entirely possible to one-shot a Light in the back who comes across and forgets to zigzag.
4SP arguably outclass 4J in every single way. One energy hardpoint short, 4SP has four energy hardpoints in the arms, immediately increasing their effectiveness against smaller targets by roughly 60%. Strip the STD250 engine from your AC20 Hunchback and stuff into this thing, and you'll have:
STD250, 14DHS, Endo, 2xSRM6(3ton), 5xML, AMS
This beefed-up stock build is the perfect beginner brawler. 4SP will teach you almost everything you need to know about close-quarter SRM combat, mostly regarding leading the shots and heat control. And if you miss, you have five MLas to keep the pressure on. 14 DHS may not be sufficient to handle constant firing of all the weapons, but the symmetric design of 4SP allows you to groups weapons and fire them in terms very easily (as demonstrated in the video below).
And if you're willing to sacrifice some anti-LRM capability and heat-efficiency for some extra speed:
STD275, 13DHS, Endo, 2xSRM6(3ton), 5xML
There're many ways for minor-tweaking on a 4SP: adjusting armor, take out the head laser and/or AMS to make space for Artemis (many consider it crucial to have in order to negate SRM6's spread). I would say after running with this 4SP for a long time without Artemis (which costs a fortune to upgrade), I could certainly live without it.
Oh, and don't forget, any build that works on 4J works on 4SP too.
HERO: Grid Iron
The bright-colored Hunchback Hero. Trading a ballistic hardpoint of 4G for a missile hardpoint in the LT, which, in my humbled opinion, is completely pointless. Trust me, just stick to the Golden Formula.
Wisdom: if it ain't broke, don't fix it
There we go, my revised Ultimate Hunchback Guide. There's no doubt Hunchbacks are perfect for new comers to get the grip of the game, and they also perform exceptionally well in the hands of experienced pilots. In fact my Hunchbacks remains my top-rated 'Mechs of all time, both in user experience and stats. Thanks again to NGNG for allowing me to include their 4G demo. You are all very welcomed, ladies.
[Incoming surprise in 3...2...1...]
WARNING: Dueling between friendlies is strongly not recommended. It affects your team's performance and WILL cost you C-Bills. (Also PGI can we have a 1v1 Solaris VII game mode?)
Yeah, I think that about sums up how to move your Hunchback in any situation.
Edited by Helmstif, 20 February 2014 - 12:18 AM.