Welcome to the inaugural DREDDGUIDE! These are going to be occasional features here on the Diary, where I look to collect and distill what I’ve learned about a specific aspect of War Robots.
Today I’m going to be going over an uncommon platform I’ve been having a lot of enjoyment with, the Hydra Doc. I’d acquired a Doc in the most recent holiday event, and initially equipped it with Tulumbas. This is the most conventional loadout, and can be very effective with a high burst damage potential.
Nevertheless, I decided to try out a Hydra build, to see how that would perform on the battlefield. I’ve never been a fan of long-range weaponry, with brickfighting/knife-fighting being my preferred archetype, but at the same time I wanted to see what the Doc was capable of.
Obviously, not every weapon is suitable for the Quick Draw ability of the Wild Bunch, to switch between two different weapon pairings. Anyone running a quad-Magnum Jesse, for instance, is simply wasting their time. But what could the Doc do with a weapon on a longer reload time? I resolved to find out.
This guide represents the total of my experience with the subject matter. It is not meant to be a definitive guide, nor a guide to what Top Tier play looks like. I don’t run a Top Tier hangar, and often what does or doesn’t work at one level of the game, may be more or less effective at another.
Put another way, this is a suggested route based on collected experience- but your mileage may vary.
It is also in some ways a work in progress. The Hydra Doc occupies a current slot on my active hangar, and is likely to do so for some time to come. As I learn more, I may return here to edit or append further insights and guidance.
The Guide is divided into the following sections:
- The risks associated with the build
- The Doc itself
- The Hydras
- Strategy and tactics
- When to drop in the Hydra Doc– and when not to
- Map-specific commentary on each of the game’s six battlefields
So refresh your drink and strap in, it’s going to be a long one!
On first blush, the Hydra Doc resembles a camping platform. After all, you’re using guided munitions with a 600m range, so you don’t really have the same positional challenges as an Aphid user or Thunder wielder. You don’t need to get in close, and even getting into range is often fairly easy (though varies by map).
To effectively pilot a Hydra Doc, however, you’re going to need to resist any temptations towards immobility. Don’t stand at home plate and watch your hit sailing towards the left-field wall. You need to react the moment the bat connects with the ball. In many ways, this build requires the battlefield awareness of a Gepard pilot, but your ability to still feel effective while contributing little can camouflage your actual impact on the match.
The ability to effectively employ this build goes beyond just being able to pilot it. A proficient pilot will be aware of its strengths and weaknesses, and have a good understanding of when it’s appropriate to employ- and when it isn’t. The Hydra Doc is a conditional build, and no matter how good you are piloting it, if you deploy it at the wrong time you will be hurting your team. This Guide will cover all of these aspects.
Let’s start by discussing the mech itself. The Doc is a Medium bot, with two pairs of two Medium hardpoints. It uses the Quick Draw mechanic to be able to swap between the two, and the Quick Draw itself has a cooldown of 15 seconds. That often means you’ll be firing your first two weapons, cycling to the others with Quick Draw, and discharging them as well. Then you’ll need to wait for the reload/cooldown to do it all over again.
Physically, the Doc has two crucial defining characteristics: it is both agile, and fragile.
It is agile, in that it has a top speed that equals a low-level Stalker. This confers all sorts of advantages, such as the ability to get to cover quickly or to avoid Aphid fire. It also is at the heart of the Hydra Doc’s battlefield strategy.
However, it is also fragile. The Hydra Doc cannot long survive sustained, direct engagement with the enemy. In short, if you get caught, you’re as good as dead. The times you’ll be able to fight your way out of a direct confrontation are rare, so a good Doc pilot knows that distance and cover are essential allies. The Pixonic description for the Doc calls it a “weathered brawler,” but this is generous. The Doc is best employed either for ambush (Tulumbas Doc) or the role described in this guide (aggressive support).
This guide assumes you’re going to be running a four-set of Hydras. Hydras are a workshop weapon, costing 5,650 WSP. This means that a Hydra Doc is not a modest investment, but rather requires the dedication of substantial resources.
The Hydra is a guided missile weapon that requires target lock-on to fire. Each Hydra battery consists of six missiles, which do between 761 (Level 1) and 2174 (Level 12) points of damage per missile at time of writing.
This means that even at Level 12, if you were to connect with the full volley of twelve missiles (no guaranteed feat), you would be doing 26,088 points of damage. If you trigger Quick Draw immediately and connect with the second full volley, your damage is now 52,176. That’s substantial, but worth noting that won’t even kill a Level 4 Destrier. Your first pair of Hydras only need 12 seconds to reload, so you’ll actually be waiting for the Quick Draw cooldown more than the Hydra one. But that gives the Destrier plenty of time to make your life miserable.
What this means, in essence, is that if you’re looking to the Hydra Doc on a DPS basis, there are better options out there. If you look to do nothing more than be a damage add with the build, then you will be a liability and a hindrance. In order to be an effective pilot, you need to bring more to the table.
If you were to put them in order of priority, your objectives as a Hydra Doc pilot are as follows:
- Finish off the wounded
- Pressure beacons
This isn’t a strict hierarchy in the sense of, “If X then 1 else 2.” Your ability to be effective will depend on doing all three, sometimes simultaneously. But the priority order should reflect where your attention is spent.
Your primary objective is to finish off wounded enemies. You should constantly be cycling through the Reds on the battlefield, looking for those who might need just a little help to cross over into the afterlife. This is quite common. Sometimes a Red just dispatched one of your teammates, at great cost to themselves. Other times, they might have taken a pounding but retreated to cover. A crippled bot can be just as deadly as one at full strength, so your job is to find them and finish them off.
This is easily accomplished through use of the Target Lock feature. You’ll want to ensure that this is enabled (by default it’s set to off, but you can enable it in the Menu option in your main hangar screen). As you move across the battlefield, tapping the Target Lock will let you cycle through enemies. You also can swivel your perspective across the battlefield to locate any wounded.
Once you do so, you’ll want to move to range and engage. Try and take them out, but you also will want to balance pressure versus exposure. It’s not worth it to finish off a wounded foe if it pulls you into engagement range of multiple opponents. You should see yourself as an opportunist, not a relentless hunter. Never be afraid to call off the chase if you tilt the balance of risk against you. Remember, you are fragile!
Next, you’re going to want to make beacons a priority. This is where the speed of the Doc comes in handy. You should be able to move around the battlefield at will, subject of course to enemy pressure and contact. Always be looking out for undefended beacons. Since you’re running a loadout with a high effective range, where you are positionally on the battlefield can be quite fluid. You’ll need to use that to your advantage.
If you see an undefended beacon, start moving towards it while continuously scanning for wounded Reds. Remember, you’re not built for direct engagement, so you’ll struggle to capture a contested beacon. But you can certainly steal a few here and there, and even the act of moving towards one can often draw enemy attention. The Hydra Doc is perfectly happy to “kite” the enemy away from where they can do harm to your teammates.
If there are no wounded to finish off and you’re moving towards a beacon (which you almost always should be doing), then it’s time for general damage and harassment. Find an enemy that might be slightly wounded, or one engaged with your teammates, and start hammering them mercilessly. You should optimally be firing as often as possible, even if it’s at some distant, full-health enemy.
A brief word of caution. Perhaps no word is so tactically overused in the world of War Robots than “distraction.” While it’s true that drawing the attention of the enemy can often help your team, it’s also a very easy cover for poor play. A subpar player might still feel they accomplished something if they managed to “distract” their opponent (meaning they moved to engage and killed the poor player). It’s a good assumption to make that distraction is overrated in the judgment of most pilots.
That said, the Hydra Doc can be distracting. Don’t just hit the red button when firing a Hydra. Instead, fire the first missile manually, then hit the red button to discharge the remaining payload. This has the effect of staggering the individual missiles, and a player who gets hit twenty-four times in a row is often going to need to make a Wisdom Check to avoid fixating on you.
My suggestion is to do your job, and the let the enemy do what it will do. Don’t try and get clever with “distraction,” because it’s often not as effective as its advocates think.
Along with effective piloting, this is the other crucial factor that determines whether or not the Hydra Doc will be effective. Because the bot projects very little direct force, it is entirely unsuited for situations where the projection of direct force is needed.
This seems obvious, but we only need to look behind us at the campers to see those who choose to ignore this principle.
The role of the Hydra Doc can be likened to a closing pitcher in baseball. Your team is in a position of either ascendency or dominance, and you want to do what you can to see that that continues for the rest of the match.
Ultimately, there is no hard-and-fast rule about this. Rather, it comes down to your personal judgment. I generally like to see us ahead in the dominance bar, and even/ahead on beacons, but there are always exceptions. When we’re ahead on bots in a relatively even game, or when we may have broken the enemy line and are surging ahead are also times where the Hydra Doc’s support can be most effective.
This is precisely the time where being able to harry the enemy wounded and steal a neglected beacon can help lock in momentum and help ensure victory.
Conversely, when you’re behind on beacons and dominance is the worst time to bring in the Hydra Doc. Without the ability to project effective force on the battlefield, your inability to capture and hold contested beacons is brought to the fore.
Experience will ultimately be your best teacher as to when to introduce a Hydra Doc onto the battlefield. Pay close attention to your early matches with it. Did it tilt the balance of power on the battlefield? Did you lose, and feel that a different bot might have made the difference?
In my earliest matches with the Hydra Doc, I almost always ran it as the second bot. It was a shiny new toy, and I wanted to soak in as much experience as I could. There were times when it was clearly a tactical error to do so, and the more experienced I became with the bot, the better I could discern when it would be effective and when it would not.
Finally, developing this sensitivity to the battlefield situation will help you to know when to eject from the Hydra Doc and go with something else. There will be times where the Hydra Doc may have seemed like the right decision, but the tide of battle shifts to where it becomes a liability. Look for these moments and consider ejecting into a more suitable bot.
Developing this skill will help you to get the most from your Hydra Doc.
Finally, we’ll conclude on some thoughts on the various maps.
Few maps are quite so polarizing as this one, and it offers two very different play experiences to the Hydra Doc depending upon where you are. In the upper two-thirds of the map, you have very favorable terrain. Wide-open spaces ensure that you should be able to find the mark with most or all of your loadout as enemies try and cross the riverbed.
Your speed also makes you a viable option for the dam beacon in the upper-left, which because of its perceived distance is less often contested or defended. Because of the long range of your Hydra, you can make this run and often still maintain full battlefield effectiveness, depending on where the enemy units are.
The center beacon is also an excellent staging area. You have solid cover, can effectively deploy your Hydras, and are within easy pressuring distance of most of the other beacons. The cityscape on the bottom-third is less ideal, given that you risk losing some of your firepower to the tall building structures.
Dead City is perhaps my favorite map from a Hydra Doc perspective. It has a huge effective zone in the middle of the map, with plenty of low cover that offers attack protection while not being so tall it can impede your missiles.
The corridors on either side should be regarded with particular care. The dividing walls make it very difficult to connect with the enemy if they’re in one, unless you happen to have direct line of sight. Try to avoid firing on targets in the red-circled areas unless you have visual contact.
That said, the beacons at the end of each make great targets of opportunity. Most of the action on this map takes place around the center crater killzone. You have plenty of cover to make your way past the crater and sneak up on an unguarded beacon, then open fire on the enemy’s flank to harass and annoy.
Don’t overlook an opportunity to steal the center beacon towards the end of the match, when the crater may be uncontested as one side or the other gives chase.
Of all the maps, Canyon is perhaps the one where the ability to be fluid and react to changing battlefield conditions is the most important. If I drop into my Hydra Doc on Dead City, I know exactly what I need to do. On Canyon, it can vary widely.
The small black circles on the map interior represent hiding places. With much of the action often taking place around the central bridge area, places where you can drop fire and stay concealed from line of sight are at a premium.
Alternately, if you find the beacons are vulnerable, the outer periphery (marked with arrows) is always an option, especially because of your greater range compared to many weapons. Because of the large swathes of open space, however, you will often find that the enemy can be more responsive to this sort of maneuver, and move to engage accordingly.
Put another way, I’ve often found it fruitful to attempt to steal the remote beacons (in the upper left and lower right corners of the map), but I don’t expect to succeed nearly as often as I do on other maps.
As for the bridge, it’s often best avoided. In my Galahad, I often like to open by racing to the center and capping the beacon from under the bridge, then dogfighting with others who had the same idea. Not only does that close proximity spell doom for the Hydra Doc, but the bridge itself can act as a block to your missiles (as many an Aphid user can attest to). The good news is, the bridge makes for a great hunting ground for wounded enemies as a result of being contested.
Shenzhen shares a few characteristics in common with maps we’ve already looked at. Like Dead City, there’s a large, central killzone that tends to draw a lot of attention. Your time spent in there will either be rare, or very short-lived.
The upper and lower skyscraper areas are also tricky for your missiles to navigate, given that the surrounding skyscrapers are very tall. Even direct line of sight is no guarantee of your full payload being delivered, so navigate with caution.
The best places to ply your trade are in many of the areas overlooking the courtyard, where you can take advantage of cover while finding wounded opponents to focus on, not unlike the bridge in Canyon. It’s worth noting that this asymmetrical map poses a particular challenge on the left-most side.
Whereas on the right you have a large parking lot, which is well within range for hitting the courtyard. The large wavy roof of the Shenzhen Museum on the left is more difficult to work around. Furthermore, the channels in it that lead to the courtyard have low roofs, meaning you risk losing effectiveness with the Hydra unless you enter the courtyard proper (generally a bad idea).
Ironically, these same channels are happy hunting grounds for a Tulumbas Doc, offering a terrific vantage point and cover to duck behind.
Don’t be fooled by the single black circle here- you might as well draw one around the entire map. Power Plant is a rocketeer’s paradise. Loads of low cover that can protect you from direct fire while still leaving your enemies vulnerable to your Hydra, along with plenty of opportunities for beacon-grabbing.
Let’s talk about that latter part first. The beacon on the right next to the shipwreck is hassle to get to for any non-jumping bot. You have to go down a ramp, get to the beacon, then trudge all the way back up one of the ramps to get out. That makes it a place many players are hesitant to go after- much like the dam beacon in Springfield. As there, you have a good opportunity to pick up a beacon, while still having plenty of coverage to unload your Hydra.
The opposite beacon on the left, however, is red-circled due to its exposure. The beacon sits atop a small hill, which leaves you open to sniper fire from the inevitable campers on the overlooking ridges. The center power plant structure itself is also red-circled, since it’s the only real obstacle to your weapon.
There are a number of alleyways in power plant. You’ll want to pay close attention to your enemy when attacking them there, as they can hug the wall and avoid your Hydra fire. If you see their life bar not moving, they’ve taken cover and you might want to find a different target for your next volley.
Yamantau is a fun map for the mobile Hydra Doc. Much like other center-heavy maps like Shenzhen and Canyon, the middle of the map is a natural gravitational point for conflict. This presents both danger and opportunity. The middle beacon is a treacherous footing for the fragile Doc, as it will often be the subject of raids and artillery bombardments. However, beneath the center beacon’s elevated platform you have plenty of cover to launch volleys at your opponent while remaining difficult to hit.
It’s also worth noting that you can reach the center beacon platform with the Hydra at the far edges of each spawn zone (circled in black), but it’s not recommended to linger. Not only does that leave you stationary, but you’re also a sitting target for enemy snipers. Better to stay mobile.
The two halves of the base are connected by a pair of elevated walkways. The one on the right of the map is an open-air walkway, which favors the Hydra’s trajectory. While you won’t lose any missiles to the architecture, it does mean you’re open. There is some shielding present, but it doesn’t afford a great deal of protection (mainly from ground-level fire).
On the other hand, the covered walkway on the left is great for staying out of the line of fire, but it can be difficult to get the most from your weapons. Unless you’re on one of the perches that jut out over the central battlefield area, you’re likely going to lose some of your rockets to the ceiling. This is true even when you have a direct line of sight, such as an enemy further down the corridor.
Because of the layout of the map, beacon capping will be at a premium here. The beacon in the upper-right area of the map in particular is a fairly far hike that will leave you exposed to enemy mid-rangers and long-rangers. There are four pylons there that offer some cover, but taking that beacon is a dedicated affair. The corresponding beacon in the lower-left of the map can be even trickier, as it is a bit easier for the enemy to defend.
In short, the Guide to the Hydra Doc can be summed up as follows:
- Don’t camp. Always stay mobile.
- Constantly be scanning the Reds for the weak and injured, to finish them off
- If there’s no-one to finish off, find good candidates for additional damage (such as those in contact with your team)
- Use the speed of the Doc to try and pressure beacons. You usually cannot contest them directly, but you can grab unattended ones while keeping your Hydras working.
- Use the Hydra Doc like a closing pitcher. Bring it in when you want to preserve a lead or have momentum on your side.
- Don’t hesitate to drop the Hydra Doc if you need something that can take and hold ground objectives, as the build cannot effectively do this.
In conclusion, I hope you’ve enjoyed this comprehensive guide to what, for now at least, is a fairly niche bot. I’ve had loads of fun playing the Hydra Doc, especially now as I understand where and when it is most effective.
Please don’t hesitate to leave remarks in the comments below if you have opinions to share, or questions to ask.