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Alpha Strike, Fire Power, and DPS Explained

What is Alpha Strike, Fire Power, and Damage Per Second?

This guide will explain the important difference between fire power and damage per second. There are a lot of misconceptions about these terms. Many people consider only one of many values or give them no thought at all. The truth, in my humble opinion, is that different weapons excel at different jobs. Somehow, all these three terms refer to the damage of a Mech. On the other hand, their importance is often distorted by players, and they are mixed up frequently. The following short explanations will shed some light on the confusion.


Alpha Strike

An Alpha Strike in Mechwarrior Online is the act of firing all your weapons at the same time. Since the matches in MWO favoured (and in part still favours) bursty builds, this term became very popular. If all weapons on a Mech are very similar, it makes sense to fire them in one huge Alpha Strike. Those builds play very boringly, but can be insanely effective. Popular examples include the Splat-Cat (Catapult stuffed with SRMs) or PPC boats.

Fire Power

This term is one of the stats shown in the in-game mechlab. The number is the theoretical maximum damage dealt by an Alpha Strike with his Mech. Theoretical, because there are several things you have to consider when analyzing this value: If the Mech was weapons with different effective ranges, you won’t be able to fire all of them at the same time. If the chassis has weapons with very different aiming mechanisms, then you probably won’t hit all your weapons on the same target in the same salvo (for example, Lasers need you to stay on target; a Gauss Rifle requires the pilot to lead but hit only one bullet). In addition, the fire power value does not take into consideration how heat efficient a build is or how much ammo is available for all weapons.
Fire Power alone does not make for a very good indicator of how good a build really is. However, if most weapons (or all of the most powerful ones) have similar ranges, than fire power can be an indicator of how bursty a build is. For random PUG games, it is nice to have at least some burst potential. Numbers will change with patches, but at the moment the following rough outline can help with judging these numbers:

  • 0-30  No relevant burst potential. Probably a lighter Mech with a very sane armament.
  • 30-50  Some burst potential. Many builds, which are not centered around powerful Alpha Strikes, will probably be in this range.
  • 50-60  Above the average firepower. Usually found on Heavy and Assault Mechs. A well placed hit will cause serious problems.
  • 60+  Insane burst potential. Splat-Cats, Assault SRM+AC/20 brawlers and outdated PPC boats fall into this category. One direct hit and you are toast!

Fire Power Explained

Damage Per Second (DPS) and Sustained DPS

Most people think that they understand what damage per second is and what exactly it means. In my experience as a gamer, this is only partially true...

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