Heavy Gear Spotlight – Drake

About Heavy Gear Spotlight

drake-gear-strider-front

Code Name: Drake

Faction: South

Manufacturer: Avesta Group

Height: 9.7 meters

Weight: 47,500 kg


Baconradar’s Summary: A frighteningly powerful close range all-rounder

 

Strengths

  • 2 actions and an extremely well rounded arsenal of weapons capable of tackling any target

  • AR 10 at 5/3 with shield:1 makes the Drake the toughest gearstrider and effectively immune to many non-AP weapons

  • Brawler:2 and a HSG mean it’s the joint-best melee unit in the game

  • 3” silhouette means you can see over a lot of cover, establishing LoS and reducing it to partial

  • Variants are largely useful and well costed with one standout

  • The fast turret auto HFC is the rare auto weapon which is actually useful

Weaknesses

  • As an expensive single model it’s vulnerable to sensor jamming ECM attacks or haywire weapons

  • At 4/5 W/G it’s one of the slowest units in the game, which matters more than usual when melee is a strength

  • 3” silhouette compares badly with other heavy armour and makes it much harder to find cover or avoid lock

  • Lacks the versatility and board coverage of multiple cheaper models

  • Lacks specialisation – you’re paying for weapons and features that you can’t use every turn

Best Uses

  1. Assault: It is extremely obvious from the loadout and stats that the Drake is intended to be an assault unit. It combines crushing melee, AE, short range, and anti-infantry weapons in a heavily armoured package with the walker movement type. The only targets the Drake might really struggle in ousting from an objective is multiple agile gears with decent AR in cover (like Jaguars or Mambas), or another gearstrider. This role is emphasised even more by the fact the Drake has shield:1 – if you can keep your target in your front arc then that extra d6 makes a huge difference in keeping their MoS down. It also has a HFC with fast turret and auto which it will almost never need to use an action on, so it can keep for a free snap fire reaction each turn. The HFC is short range but has enough PEN to hurt gears attempting to BZ, PZ, or HG the Drake and is absolute death for any infantry trying to do the same. The Drake is happiest moving forward toward an objective/enemy formation (hopefully both) firing away with AE weapons or picking off single targets, benefitting from being able to pick from a wide toolbox and not having to worry too much about its own survivability.
  2. Tank Hunter: The stock Drake comes with two very high AP weapons; a special bazooka that I call the very heavy bazooka (VHBZ) which rocks PEN:10 and AP:5, and the HSG at PEN:8 AP:6. It also has the HFL which can deliver on average 2 points of damage past any armour without needing a MoS above 0. Let’s examine these options. Firstly the VHBZ, which has great stats on paper, but is actually somewhat underwhelming. The AP only matters on targets with AR:11+ and AP:5 is total overkill, since your MoS is incredibly unlikely to ever be that high. As with all bazookas this weapon is about getting as many d6 as possible on your attack, which means getting elevated, flanking a vehicle, or being braced. None of these things are likely with the Drake, which is slow, and huge, and not something your opponent will lose track of (this matters more than you’d think for flanking!). This is the same problem we’ve seen with the bazooka armed Grizzly and Cobra – huge but inaccurate weapons on models with a high TV per action ratio just aren’t that great. Next up is the HSG with reach:1 and brawler:2. Now this is a tank killer. While you are basically never going to get the flank bonus, most heavily armoured units are defenceless and will roll 1d6, while you’ll be rolling at least 3d6 (entering combat at top speed) and often 4d6. You can expect to see a MoS of 3 or 4 relatively often, even with the suboptimal piloting skill of 5+, and melee weapons are exempt from the ‘only fire once per turn’ rule, which means you can realistically cripple a tank the turn you come within range to charge it (9-11 inches away). This is an absolutely huge deal because a crippled tank is a guaranteed kill the next turn, since in melee it will automatically roll a 1 and it can’t reverse away at top speed. Here’s the question though – is the Drake actually a cost effective way to try and kill tanks? Well, yes and no. As a dedicated counter to tanks, no. As a unit capable of killing tanks but more generally useful, yes. The issue really boils down to this – the Drake is an expensive unit which is not extremely specialised and is a juicy target for the weapons that tanks and other heavy armour tend to pack. It isn’t agile, it can’t really use cover, and it’s no faster than the tank. The Drake needs to get close to win, whereas the tank does not. The tank isn’t that much more expensive, but it’s significantly harder to kill (AR 11+ is a big step up over 10) and it has an extra action for shooting up other stuff while it’s hunting/avoiding the Drake. For hunting tanks, exclusively, there are numerous better options. However the Drake does benefit from the fact it isn’t specialised because it can kill a tank, but it’s completely happy killing gears of any size, lighter vehicles, or even infantry. It can even do this while moving top speed towards the tank, thanks to having weapons that are just fine to fire at top speed – HRP, HFL, HSG, MABM. The Drake, I would argue, is a unit which is capable of giving you an answer to many types of question, while also posing a serious question for the opponent. If they have the wrong force composition they won’t be able to hurt the Drake, but there is no force composition they can have that the Drake won’t be able to hurt, even if it isn’t optimally cost effective.
  3. Central anchor: This is particularly true of the Command Drake variant, which I discuss below, but the Drake’s versatility, resilience, and sheer firepower make it an excellent centre of the line around which your other units can operate. The sheer toughness of the model, especially if you keep the enemy in your front arc, means you can rely on it turn by turn – unless it’s already taken a beating and is crippled, it’s unlikely the enemy will be able to kill it before it can act again. By keeping the Drake in the centre it can react to the largest variety of enemy units which suits its arsenal, and it is also much easier to support, particularly with ECM units. I would strongly advise keeping a Silverscale or Black Box Iguana near your Drake – expensive high armour units pair very well with ECM because it protects them from AP weapons (which are rarely AE and need MoS) and sensor jamming. Remember that sensor jamming rolls are basic opposed rolls which use the standard modifiers, but the defending target also gets to use terrain, cover, and ECM defence bubble modifiers. The Drake is unlikely to have cover and really needs that extra ECM defence to avoid haywire tokens. That said, the Drake can actually cope with being haywired better than a lot of models because your solid AE weapons (HRP, MABM) always get at least 1d6 against their targets – not ideal, but at least you can fall back on rolling against a load of targets at once to remain effective.

Variants

Hooded Drake: For +1 TV you swap the VHBZ for a MLC (link). Changing the primary weapon makes a pretty big difference here. As discussed above I’m not a huge fan of the VHBZ, primarily because it wants optimal range but at that point is competing with top speeding into melee. The linked MLC on the other hand gives the Drake something new – an accurate long range weapon to fire as it moves forward at combat speed. Link here, unlike on the RPs, is a pretty OK bonus because (due to good range and the advanced trait) you will almost always be rolling 2d6 and sometimes you might even flank something and get 3d6. The MLC is precise which is significant since those agile ECM gears are a threat to your Drake and it’s a much more reliable way of crippling or destroying them than the MABM. You do lose some of your ability to hurt heavy armour, but you still have that incredible melee to fall back on. Overall I think the variant is worth the cost and unless I know I’m up against heavy armour (especially an enemy gearstrider, where melee isn’t such an obvious win) I’d take it over the stock model.

As an aside, within optimal range the MLC gets another +1 gunnery because it’s advanced, getting it to 2+. Please don’t get over-excited about this. There is nothing magical about getting to 2+. For some reason players seem to think the jump from 3+ to 4+ is vastly more significant than the jump from 5+ to 4+, or 4+ to 3+. It isn’t, it’s only very slightly better than those jumps.

Blazing Drake: Super toasty! For +2 TV you swap your linked HRP for a HGL, your MABM for linked HAPR (fire:3), and your VHBZ for linked HRL. This follows the fine tradition of Southern incendiary variants being seriously tempting choices. The theme here is absolutely a focus on assault, with the HAPR and HGL both being shorter range than the weapons they replace. I prefer the HGL over the HRP even though it’s shorter range and smaller AE because it has blast, which is incredibly useful against gears in cover and gears with agile, both of which can be a problem for the Drake. The HAPR on the other hand I regard as about equal to the MABM – it struggles to hit infantry in cover (and the thing about infantry is that they’re almost always in cover) and you lose your long range/TD combo weapon. It’s honestly quite difficult to take advantage of AE:5 and fire:3 – ignoring infantry, your ideal target is a formations of gears, where the HRP would usually be better. This leaves the linked HRL as a replacement for the VHBZ. As discussed, I don’t mind losing the VHBZ, especially when I get a brutal midrange anti-gear weapon. With the HRL you’ll usually be rolling 3d6 at 3+ GUN, but you can also choose to roll 2d6 at 3+ against a single target when you’re going top speed, or against two targets (using split) when going combat speed. You’re going to land hits and at PEN:9 you’re going to kill and cripple gears reliably. I’m a fan of the Blazing Drake because I rate the HGL and the HRL highly and specialising makes sense, though I don’t think I’d automatically take it over the other variants. If you’re up against lots of gears rather than infantry or heavy armour, it’s a pretty terrifying assault unit.

Command Drake: Ah, now we’re talking. You get some seriously nice upgrades on this bad boy. For +0 TV you swap the VHBZ for the HRC, then you get +1 EW, an anti-missile system (AMS), SatUp:6+, and ECCM. So firstly, how awesome is having ECCM and AMS? The two main threats to your Drake are anti-armour weapons (the best of which are guided) and sensor jamming, and you now have rerolls against both! Not only that, but models within 6” of you have rerolls too. Suddenly your Drake has become a shield to other expensive strike or strider models like King Cobras, Hydras and the like, who have similar weaknesses. The +1 EW helps a little bit in sensor jamming defence too, especially if you have a friendly ECM defence helper. So given we get these extremely useful upgrades for +0 TV, there must be a disadvantage right? Well firstly there’s the fact this is a command variant, but that’s fine because the Drake fits multiple UA codes. Then there’s the swap of the VHBZ for the HRC. On paper this has to seem like a bit of a downgrade – generally RC and BZ of various weights cost about the same in TV, but in the South the BZ is usually a bit more expensive, and we’re talking about very heavy versus heavy here. Honestly though, I think the HRC is a better fit for the Drake, partly because I find the VHBZ a little underwhelming, mainly because the HRC synergises well with the Drake’s assault role and gives it an accurate weapon at close-midrange, which is helpful against agile gears. Something to remember about RCs is that like AE weapons they work pretty well while you’re going top speed, which is a stark contrast with the VHBZ. Overall I have to rate the Command Drake the best of the variants, a significant upgrade over stock, and generally one of the better unit choices in the game.

Anti-Gear upgrade: For +2TV you swap MABM for MRP (link). This is possibly the worst upgrade in the game. It should almost certainly cost 0 TV. Why is it so bad? Well firstly, every model which can take this upgrade already has a HRP (link), so the only time you’d use this is after you’ve already fired that, at which point it’s competing with the other weapons on the model, specifically the primary weapon of the Drake (linked MLC, VHBZ, linked HRL/HGL, or HRC). It is very unlikely that a linked MRP beats those other weapons, especially after you’ve already fired the HRP. Secondly, linked rocket packs are very rarely better than unlinked rocket packs, especially on a slow model like the Drake which very rarely want to brace and is essentially never going to be elevated, so we’re talking about using half the actions of a 28+ TV model on what amounts to an MRP. Thirdly, you lose the MABM which gives you the ability to interact with the South’s national advantage of TD:2, gives you a way to kill massed infantry, gives you a blast weapon against enemies in cover, is only 2 PEN lighter than the MRP, and has amazing range, which the Drake’s other weapons do not. Attempting to specialise is a good idea in HGB, but not at this price for this weapon.

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