Livestream Link (for those who would rather watch first before reading)
The Mantis C is a bit of a strange ship. Like its other Mantis breathren, this is a boarding ship based around using the Teleporter to kill enemy crew. Unlike the other two Mantis ships, this one starts with only a single one of the bugs on board. You begin with 1 Mantis, 1 Engi, and 1 Lanius for the starting crew, which strongly suggests that the Engi is supposed to pilot the craft while the other two go rough up the rebels. Unfortunately, the Mantis + Lanius boarding pair is an awkward mix, as the metallic life form will suck all of the air out of whatever room you happen to be fighting within. While that's great for suffocating enemy crew, it generally snuffs out your own Mantis too! The Mantis C comes prepared for this situation, however, with a level 2 Cloning Bay instead of the normal Medbay. You don't have to worry about your boarders dying on the other ship, although on the other hand you can't heal your attackers either. Expect to see a lot of reviving taking place in that Cloning Bay, complete with loss of crew experience.
The prize weapon on the Mantis C is the Teleporter unit itself. This is one of the very few ships with the 4 tile Teleporter (Mantis B and Crystal B are the only others), able to beam in double the normal group of marauders to the enemy ship. If you can get four Mantises via events or store hires, this ship becomes incredibly dangerous. The Mantis C is one of the most crew-dependent ships in the game, and loading up on more crew at stores can be a strong tactic. You need at least six lifeforms for optimal results, four to use the Teleporter and two to run piloting/engines on the Mantis C itself, and of course a seventh guy to charge the weapons faster is also pretty nice. It doesn't matter that much what race you find, just get more crew ASAP! The weapons on the Mantis C are designed to complement these boarding tactics, with a Lockdown Bomb and a Stun Bomb. The former duplicates the innate ability of the Crystal race, locking down enemy crew inside the room of use for about 10 seconds. The Stun Bomb does what the name implies, stunning everyone in the room hit for a very lengthy 15 seconds. Unfortunately this applies to your crew as well - the Stun Bomb doesn't distinguish! Of course, with good micro you may be able to get your attackers out of the room just before it hits, and having enemies stand in a room with an Oxygen-draining Lanius for 15 seconds isn't a bad way to deal damage either.
The tradeoff is that the Mantis C has no direct damage capabilities at all. You must use the Teleporter to achieve victory in the early going. There are also only three weapon slots on this ship, something that limits your flexibility in the lategame. I tend to avoid playing the three-slot ships (Engi and Mantis) because they annoy me with that limitation - except the Stealth ships, which are awesome. Mantis C is a poor man's gunship, and truly does need boarding to be effective. It's also quite weak in the early game, with no lasers at all and an awkward invading pair in the Mantis + Lanius. This is very much a lategame ship with excellent scaling, largely dependent on getting more crew. I rate it as fairly average overall, although if you're playing for a high score it can be a good option due to the Teleporter. Get some more Mantises, fill up all four slots on the Teleporter, and go break some heads.
The first battle of this run was a bit tricky. The enemy ship had a Mind Control system, which makes it a lot tougher to pull off the boarding tactics. I was actually lucky that it was the piloting Engi who was tagged first. The enemy ship also had a Heavy Laser and Minibeam for weapons, which wouldn't have been an issue except that this scrape took place in an asteroid field. The asteroids kept my shields popped for most of the battle, allowing those Heavy shots to deal some nasty damage. Fortunately there was no healing system on the enemy ship, and that meant that their crew had no way to recover in combat. I landed a nice Stun Bomb shot in the room with the Lanius and finished off the defenders shortly thereafter. Their ship was holding a nice prize on board:
The Burst Laser I isn't a flashy weapon, but it did give me a chance to deal direct damage. That could be very useful for dealing with those pesky Medbays and Cloning Bays. I put the new laser to use in the very next battle, shooting out the enemy weapon system while awaiting the crew kill. I actually screwed this up and took more damage than was necessary, with this second fight again taking place in an asteroid field. Another victory yielded another glittering prize:
Well now. Suddenly I had an excellent early game gunship setup without even trying. FTL can be awfully generous in its random ways sometimes. This was almost a bad thing, in the sense that I wouldn't get a great opportuinity to assess the Mantis C on its own merits. If I wanted to do so, I could upgrade my weapons a few levels and ride through the first three or four sectors with the Flak + Burst Laser combination. For the moment, I decided to focus on defensive upgrades to shields and engines instead. With solid weapons on hand, I wouldn't need to hoard scrap and pray to find something useful at a store.
The rest of Sector One was uneventful. I upgraded shields to level 4 and engines to level 3, taking little damage after that initial group of encounters fought inside asteroid fields. I hit a store at the beginning of the next sector, selling Mantis Pheromones and the Stun Bomb in exchange for a Drone Control + Defensive Drone combo and fixes to the hull. I'd say that was a rather nice upgrade there. The rest of the sector saw a combination of Flak usage and boarding with the Teleporter to secure crew kills against each enemy ship. Another store at the back end held Long Range Scanners, which prompted a "GG" comment in the chat. Still a long way to go, but I was feeling pretty good at this point.
The ships increased in difficulty very noticeably at the beginning of Sector Three. This was the first enemy ship that I encountered, sporting the dangerous combination of a Burst II Laser, Heavy Laser, two shield layers, and a Cloning Bay. I tried to use the Lockdown Bomb to seal off the Cloning Bay, but an Engi slipped inside just as the crystal walls were going up. That meant that I wasn't able to get a quick kill on the Cloning Bay system, and this battle would end up dragging out for a while. Eventually I would finally stop their reviving and take the victory, albeit after far too much effort. I wisely upgraded weapons to level 4 afterwards (which I should have done before the battle) and that would allow me to use Flak + Burst Laser for the upcoming fights. Without getting those lucky weapon drops, this would have been a whole lot harder. (Probably would have been forced to buy weapons instead of the Defensive drone, and that thing was doing work on this run. Lots of enemy missiles along the way.)
I hired a Human at a store in midsector, which was well worth doing since he came with engines experience. That was exactly what I most needed, and absolutely worth the 45 scrap cost. Then I found a third store (Engi Sector!) at the very end of the area, and invested 90 scrap into two more Humans to flesh out the crew. That's a move that you'll almost never see me doing. Still, I believe it was warranted here. Those two extra Humans took me up to a full boarding party of four (one Mantis and three Humans), with enough crew left over to run piloting, engines, and weapons. The ships with the four-tile Teleporters are among the most crew-dependent in all of FTL. They need more warm bodies to be used to maximum effectiveness. Humans work well enough for this purpose and they're cheap to boot. I would have purchased Mantises or Rockmen if they had been available for hire, but they weren't. With a full boarding party backed by lasers and flak to shoot out pesky enemy Medbays, now I was ready to rumble in earnest.
Danger came next in the form of a Slug ship which hacked our Cloning Bay in a pre-battle event. We would not be able to revive anyone who died here. There were also two Slugs that beamed over to the Mantis C as part of that same pre-battle event, which the crew dispatched with ease. I shot out the Cloning Bay on the other ship to prevent any of them from reviving. The prudent course here would have been relying on the guns to win the battle, not taking any risks with the disabled Cloning Bay. Instead, I assumed that my crew could kill the few remaining Slugs on the enemy ship without much trouble. To my surprise, there were still four of them over there!
That proved to be a major mistake. Instead of fighting 4 vs 2 or something like that, it was even numbers, plus some of my crew had already taken damage from the earlier melee combat. Once I realized the trouble that they were in, I had them race around the enemy ship from room to room, frantically waiting for the slow cooldown on the level 1 Teleporter to reset. Get out of there! Alas, I was too late and my Mantis died in mid-teleport. He actually crumbled into bug goo on the Mantis C's deck, not over on the Slug ship. Sheesh. That was a foolish mistake on my part, a completely unnecessary death for my best attacker. I would replace him with a Human soon enough, but the damage had been done. No more ferocious Mantis claws to join the attackers on my raiding party.
The rest of the sector was relatively uneventful. I found a Hull Laser I in the aftermath of a battle, which I kept in storage for the moment. I used the Lockdown Bomb once or twice to trap enemy Slugs in place and prevent them from going off to use their Medbays. I should mention that my boarders died over and over again in these assaults, with the Cloning Bay seeing lots of use. Battles tended to play out the same way, with the boarders slowly killing the enemy crew (often with all four of them dying, reviving, and coming back for a second round) while I targeted the Mantis C's weapons against either enemy weapons or their Medbay/Cloning Bay. The Mantis C took a steady amount of damage in this process, which was eliminated by hitting a constant stream of stores from sector to sector. I found a Mantis prisoner eventually, taking the ship to its maximum capacity of eight. It felt good to have a full crew.
By the beginning of Sector Six, low fuel had emerged as the biggest cause of concern. I jumped into the sector with my last unit of fuel, and then had to fight this battle (with the rebels trying to escape) just to avoid being stranded. I have no idea how the Mantis C could have been out of fuel; I was winning every battle via crew kills for the bonus rewards, and I had Long Range Scanners and was plotting a course for maximum encounters. Somehow it still wasn't enough. As I've written before, fuel can be heavily random in this game. I did get 3 fuel from winning this battle, and that was barely enough to keep the ship running. Even as I limped across the sector on minimum fuel, I found a sensor station for a full map reveal:
That was an absolute dream map. Encounters at every beacon on the path to the exit, plus another store to hit at the end where I could spend my scrap and heal up whatever damage was taken. Those beacons turned out to be full of auto scouts, and I fought six of them in a row en route to the exit. We've often joked about "why don't the rebels use nothing but auto scouts?" and on this occasion, it seemed like they were doing exactly that. I kept sending my Lanius over to the auto scouts to damage their weapon systems, not having Hacking on hand to ensure my lasers would hit. This was effective enough, if slow. The store in the corner didn't have Cloaking for sale, or much of anything else of interest. What a disappointment. I loaded up on more fuel (which was sitting at a grand total of 3 again despite fighting five consecutive battles) and healed as best I could.
Sector Seven was a Zoltan Sector with no other choices available. Not what you want to see when running a boarding gameplay setup. Fortunately there were two nebula patches to move through, and with Long Range Scanners I could hit the few battles that did exist. Scrap payouts were enormous in this sector for getting complete enemy crew kills, and I was raking in 60 scrap per victory. That's massive for Hard difficulty; I'm used to getting those 8 scrap rewards in the first sector after winning a difficult battle. This was almost overkill. A store in this sector did have Cloaking for sale, which made me feel enormously better about the chances to defeat the flagship. I'd passed up Hacking earlier in the hopes of landing Cloaking (which was a far better fit for this ship), and I was glad to see that decision work out. The chat also encouraged me to purchase the Backup DNA Bank and Zoltan Shield Bypass augments here. Normally I wouldn't get either one, but I had the extra scrap to purchase, so why the heck not. Might as well trick out the boarding party with extra goodies.
By the beginning of Sector Eight, I had all of the standard upgrades: level 8 shields, level 5 engines, damage buffering to the key systems, etc. There was little need to farm up more scrap in the last area, and I spotted a repair station right next to the Federation base. It made more sense to head straight there and take on the flagship immediately, in the hopes of hitting the repair station between phases for a quick hull patch up. I planned to use boarding tactics to win the first phase, forgoing the Burst Laser I and making use of the Lockdown Bomb instead. With proper use of that thing, I could kill off the rebels without giving them a chance to heal in their Medbay, and once they were all dead, the rest of the flagship duel would be a forgone conclusion.
That was the thought process, at least.
The flagship started out the battle by Hacking my Door system. While that's normally one of the least dangerous systems to hit, it would end up causing some major headaches here over the course of a long first phase. The inability to move crew around your own ship can be a real pain when people are dying and coming back to life in the Cloning Bay. Once the flagship's cloaking wore off, I teleported my raiding group into the Cloaking room of the rebel ship. Why that location? I was hoping that I could get some kills against the rebel crew and then hit their Door controls to allow my attacks to move freely through the ship. In retrospect I think that was a mistake, however. I likely would have done better by targeting the missile controls on the right side of the ship, hitting that room and the two-tile room next to it. I mean, what was the purpose of going for the rebel Door controls and then walking up to the missile room... rather than just beaming directly into the missile room? Not my best decision ever.
Anyway, things started out going well enough. I used the Lockdown Bomb to trap the rebels inside the flagship's Cloaking room, and I successfully killed all four of the initial enemy crew that walked into the room. Awesome! Now I just needed to do that one more time and this duel would be essentially over. All of my invading crew died immediately thereafter, of course, but that was no problem. They would simply come back to life again in the Cloning Bay. (I could have teleported them back, but what would be the point? I couldn't heal them. Might as well die and revive for the full health restoration.) This was when things started to take a turn for the worse. One of the flagship's missiles hit the Teleporter room just before I was about to send my four attackers over for the second round. They each took about 20 HP worth of damage, which would make it harder to secure crew kills in melee combat. Then the flagship managed to use its Cloaking unit about a tenth of a second *AFTER* I fired the Lockdown Bomb, dodging the thing completely. What rotten luck. All of my crew died a second time, losing combat experience in the process, this time without taking out any of the rebels, who simply retreated to their Medbay to heal. And with only Flak + Hull Laser on hand, I did not have strong enough weapons to penetrate the flagship's shielding, not with any reliability. I had to use the boarding strategy, no other options. Probably should have just gone with the normal laser setup and shot out the rebel Medbay, but too late for that now. Then on the third boarding attempt, I mistimed the use of the Lockdown Bomb, with the net result of the rebel crew surviving with 10 HP and 1 HP. None of them died. Again. Oh come on!
Well at least I could retreat to that repair station at the next beacon and patch up the damage taken after this phase was over...
You've got to be kidding me! That beacon to the north had been a repair station, and it was taken over by the rebels between turns. This was still very early in Sector Eight, and the odds of that particular beacon falling had been about 13%. What rotten luck. Now I had no way to repair the damage that the Mantis C was still taking, pinprick by pinprick, as this extremely long phase continued to drag out. Even with Cloaking and the Defensive drone, there's simply no way to avoid taking damage from the flagship's missiles if you don't have some method to eliminate them. I wasn't taking much at any one moment, but it was slowly adding up over time. Worse was when a missile hit the engine room and set it on fire, which I had trouble putting out due to the hacking against my Door controls. Then later the Cloaking room was also hit and set on fire, which again I couldn't vent due to those stupid Doors being hacked. Argh! This felt like I was being tortured to death by papercuts.
Meanwhile, the boarding party was slowly doing their thing. The fourth use of the Teleporter saw a correct use of the Lockdown Bomb, and I managed to secure two more rebel kills, for a total of six. Once again everyone died, but now the rebels were really running out of steam. The fifth invasion group finally got the job done, slicing through two more rebel crew with another timely Lockdown Bomb. After that, no one made any attempt to challenge my raiders, and we appeared to have full run of the ship. I headed straight for the missile room and took it out, but the damage had already been done:
The Mantis C was down to just 8 hull points remaining. That was over 20 damage taken against just the first phase of the flagship - the easiest phase! It was no consolation that my boarders easily took out the flagship's shields from this point, and I avoided any further damage to the Mantis C. I was embarassed by this performance (or "salty" as the kids like to say these days). Way too much damage taken here. I probably should have tried to shoot out the Medbay rather than go with this whole song and dance routine surrounding the Lockdown Bomb. My tactics honestly weren't that bad, just one really unfortunate Cloaking appearance from the flagship and one poorly timed use of the bomb, but the net result had been disaster. I couldn't believe how fast an easy victory had turned into a dire situation. With so much damage taken and without that repair station to fall back on, this was going to be a real challenge.
The second phase was... shockingly easy? The four-man raiding party beamed directly into the flagship's missile room and shield room, taking out first one and then the other. I never saw a single missile during this phase. With no crew to oppose my guys, they could easily walk from room to room and take out systems at will. It was very weird having no rebels to fight, no rebels to repair systems, and so on. The first volley of my guns took out the flagship shield room, and from there it was an easy victory. Even the first Boarding Drone getting past my Defensive drone was no problem. I simply suicided crew against the thing to keep it busy and revived them in the Cloning Bay. I used Cloaking to bypass the drone surge and took zero damage. Nice!
For the final phase, I would have to deal with the rebel Mind Control and their Zoltan Shield. Even with no rebel crew, you can't use the Teleporter until the Zoltan Shield is down. But wait, I bought that Zoltan Shield Bypass at the end of the previous sector - I could teleport over to the flagship immediately! That prudent purchase proved to be the difference in this run. Thanks, Livestream chat!
With my Engi pilot Mind Controlled for the moment, I went after the flagship's missile launcher and - cruically - the piloting system. The flagship actually gets much higher evade in the final phase, up from 15% in the first phase to roughly 30%. If I could eliminate the flagship's ability to dodge, I could kill the thing much faster with my guns, and that was what would allow me to reach victory before the Mantis C's hull was blown to pieces. I used Cloaking to avoid the first missile barrage (there would never be a second with my invaders at work), then got my Engi pilot back just in time to help avoid the laser superweapon. It did 2 damage, not that bad. By now my lasers were through the flagship's Zoltan Shield, and the boarders were hacking away at the flagship's shielding room. As it turns out, enemy systems die pretty fast when there are four people meleeing them at once! Cloaking dodged the second firing of the laser superweapon, and my attackers continued to smash the flagship's systems faster than its AI could repair them. With no shields, piloting, missiles, or Mind Control, the world's largest auto scout died a few seconds later:
All of the boarders died again, naturally, since they were still on the flagship when it exploded. Don't weep for them though, that's why the Mantis C has a Cloning Bay! They popped out of it a few seconds later and enjoyed a victory toast with the rest of the crew. (Well, their clones did anyway. Better off not thinking too closely about this... ) After all that drama in the first phase, the Mantis C took a grand total of 2 damage in the last two phases of the endgame boss. Again, I swear the overall strategy was a good one! Just not executed particularly well by me. This would have been a heck of a lot easier if I'd managed to find more than one Mantis, or if I'd kept the original one alive. Boarding with weak Humans is significantly harder.
This was my first victory with the Mantis C, and as expected the combination of a boarding ship and Long Range Scanners resulted in a relatively high score. I'm sure that I could have topped 6000 points if I'd farmed a bit more scrap in Sector Eight. Of course, if I'd taken a bit more damage in the process, that also would have resulted in a lost run. I don't like the Teleporter ships all that much in FTL, since they require so much micromanagement and take longer in real-world time to play. (Indeed, this run lasted almost 3.5 hours.) Mantis C falls squarely in the middle of the boarding ships in terms of overall strength. It doesn't have the soaring heights of Crystal B or Mantis B, and it's also far superior to the depths of Federation C. If you can get past the slow start, this is a solid ship. I was very fortunate here to land two good weapons at the outset, both of which I used clear to the end of the game. Without that good fortune, however, Mantis C can be rather challenging.
Once again, thanks for reading and/or watching. Hope you enjoyed this one.