Editor's Note: This is a full rewrite of the old Formations Guide to accurately reflect the 2020 metagame in GFL.
A vital part of creating an Echelon is determining the formation that the units are going to be arranged in.
Not all formations are created equally; we'll be listing some of the most common formations and explaining what they're used for. Unit layout is arguably even more important than tile buff coverage, and in many fights it's often worth giving up one or two tile buffs to put your units in a better formation.
Commanders will notice right away that these formations are pushed to the left side of the grid. This is important because T-Doll attack range will generally exceed that of most enemies, so keeping your units in the back rows generally buys you more time to shoot at the enemies (as you can kite your main tank forward in battle to extend your attack range anyway).
While being in the right column extends the Echelon’s targeting range, it also reduces the time before enemies will be able to aim and shoot at your frontline. When kiting to achieve the extended targeting range, the main tank can simply be move forward at the start of battle, then moved back when enemies close in.
For consistency, tile positions use numpad notation, i.e.:
Used for: ARSMG, RFHG, and specialty mixed echelons.
This formation is the most commonly used Echelon formation for ARSMG and RFHG echelons. The primary DPS units are placed in the backline, with the position 1 unit being generally out of danger as enemies typically are clustered near the top.
- The F formation allows for efficient buff distribution in most cases.
- Since enemy attack range is a circle and they approach from the right side, the position 5 T-Doll is usually targeted first, making this the main tank slot.
- This formation gives the main tank plenty of room to kite in the bottom-right side of the grid.
- Some enemies may get in range to attack the position 8 T-Doll, so an offtank should be placed there.
In general use scenarios, enemies can often be found distributed more towards the top and middle rows of the battle, so the F formation gives you an optimal mix of offense and defense by evenly spreading incoming fire between your maintank and offtank.
Used for: Corpse Dragging, MGSG
The sideways T formation sees usage primarily for MGSG echelons, where the main tank SG is capable of sustaining heavy enemy fire from all three rows.
- The T-Doll placed in position 6 will be targeted by almost every enemy, protecting the rest of the echelon.
- Convenient layout for optimal use of MG and SG buff tiles.
- Position 5 will be occupied by a HG that can buff the backline MGs.
- Rarely, a HG may be placed in position 8 or 2 if their tile buffs force it.
This formation is also used in certain corpse-dragging setups that want to funnel all incoming damage onto one unit, such as when using an SMG to tank 4-3E or when using M16A1 to tank 0-2.
Used for: ARSMG, RFHG
The B formation, so named for its appearance similar to the lowercase letter ‘b’, is almost congruent to the F formation - the primary difference being that the frontline off-tank is moved to the bottom row.
Due to the layering of enemies and their targeting AI, the position 7 DPS can be exposed to damage if the player does not properly kite their main tank!
The functionality is generally similar to the F formation:
- Enemy targeting more heavily pressures the Position 5 doll than in the F formation.
- Specific team setups may favor the B formation when the increased risk of taking enemy fire is acceptable in exchange for a better tile coverage.
- Kiting can feel awkward in battle, as more enemies are clustered towards the top and there’s a need to keep protecting position 7 by moving the main tank.
- Against enemies such as certain CT Ranking Gundams, B formation is sometimes forced to buy extra time.
As the F formation usually results in a more efficient distribution of buff tiles and damage, this formation is only recommended if you have a buff tile configuration that works with this particular set-up and against certain enemy compositions where you need this extra space at the top.
Used for: Gunboats, situational MGSG.
So named for the “Gunboat” compositions used to counter a very specific enemy, the Boat Formation aims to maximize tile coverage for situations that could be called DPS checks.
- A HG with proper tile coverage can buff the whole echelon.
- Creative Commanders can maximize certain formation tile bonuses.
- Common enemies that would walk through an exposed row often counter MGSG; in the event of guards or brutes, move a nearby T-Doll to block the row.
Not all of these enemy nodes work the same! The formation and kiting changes depending on which tiles get shot first.
Gunboat composition aside, this formation can be used for certain MGSG formations that would gain better tile coverage.
Tip: An HG may need to be moved during battle to cover the exposed row, or enemies may rush past and cause a loss!
Used for: SGMG echelons requiring 2SG.
Also known as the K Formation, this formation is optimized for SGMG echelons with two SGs instead of only one. Although the formation is patterned on the tiles of M500 and M590, placing one of the SGs in the center (instead of both corners) can be useful when tile buffs permit.
- The back row will be composed of MGs and HGs based on what the Echelon is designed for.
- This formation is only used for enemies that necessitate it (e.g. Judge, Core 8 Uhlans); otherwise the T formation is often superior .
This formation is also advantageous for stacking Armor/Combat Effectiveness. Although this serves almost no practical applications other than pushing a Support Echelon to the top of the list as of now, some content like Theater may call for 2SG Armor stacking due to scoring idiosyncrasies.
Not Generally Recommended
Uses: Niche top-end DPS minmaxing for very specific encounters.
Also colloquially known as the "holy cross" or "unholy cross", the cross formation is often a seemingly obvious result of optimizing tile buff bonuses. Unfortunately, there are multiple issues with this formation:
- The DPS units with be placed in Positions 8 and 2, and thus will be within the range of some ranged enemies and be exposed to frequent damage.
- The position 6 T-Doll must take the brunt of enemy fire and serve as the lone tank.
- There is almost no room to kite as your tank starts in the frontmost column and cannot move back without exposing DPS T-Dolls to damage.
Overall, this formation is not very effective in general use and therefore is not recommended. Only very experienced players trying to maximize DPS in specific scenarios like the Community Speedrun Events may find a use.
The C formation actually somewhat contrasts with the F and B formations in that its distribution of damage dealt to a Commander’s frontline can be lopsided to either the top or bottom tank depending on what enemy is being fought. This specific formation can be used for the ELIDs (zombies) and Smasher fights very late game, but is not something a new commander needs to concern themselves with.
- If the position 4 T-Doll is a DPS, they may still take damage from incoming fire.
- The distribution of tile buffs is typically uneven, and the coverage is usually suboptimal.
- This changes dramatically with the upcoming Isomer T-Dolls HS2000 and P22, whose tile buffs allow them to fit into this formation fairly easily.
This formation has very niche applications, but they are too specific to be covered by the umbrella of “General Use”. Therefore, the C-formation is not generally recommended.
Tip: There may be battles where Commanders are suggested to move into C formation after combat starts (such as combat vs. ELIDs/Smashers) - this is not the same as starting the battle in C formation.
Uses: Avoiding telegraphed AoE attacks from bosses
The X formation is both lacking in survivability and adequate tile coverage.
- Commanders may be tempted to use this formation with M950A and HK45’s buff tiles, but it spreads out the T-Dolls and ends up sacrificing more tile buffs than it gains as the other dolls will now be too far away from each other.
- While there will be dolls in positions 9 and 3, the position 5 Doll will be exposed to damage in general.
The X formation suffers from the same general issues as the C formation due the distribution of frontline dolls. Additionally, the enemy is able to reach and attack the frontline earlier than in the F formation. As such, putting your echelons in an X formation is not generally recommended.
There may be battles (particularly against bosses with AoE splash damage) where Commanders are suggested to move into X formation after combat starts - this is not the same as starting the battle in X formation.