Ice Breaker is a doozy of a map, as we started looking into a couple weeks ago. While it lacks the large scale action of Deep Hammer or Deep Freeze, and all their associated insanity, it can feature some of the most intense combat in the game. With tight corridors and a small map size, Ice Breaker is built for frequent battles between the 4 combatants. And with such a small number of players, unit choice can be a large factor in the outcome of combat. If you don’t know what you’re doing, and your opponent does, Ice Breaker can really seem unfair. Hence, this guide, designed to help players of any persuasion get the most mileage out of their arctic combat experience.
Units, Abilities and Combos
To me, the safest Liberation Front play is centered on area denial. The Shadow Revolution’s units tend to be faster and more maneuverable than those of the Liberation Front, and for the Shadow Revolution, it’s entirely possible to play a long game of keep-away with Liberation Front armies: always going where the LF forces just were, or aren’t yet, and capturing points while trying to avoid combat. As the Liberation Front, it’s usually a good idea to block off as many avenues as possible for the Shadow Revolution to exploit, or at least make capturing points a hassle. This isn’t the only way to play (I’ll cover an aggressive style I call the Death Push a little later) but is, as I mentioned, a way to play which exploits the strength of most Liberation Front compositions: defense.
Titans are a great all-purpose tool on this map: they have RPS against Heavy and Light, and their special ability is effective against Heavy vehicles and Structures. Pound for pound, they will take out Reapers and Slayers, perform favorably against Dreadfires, and will murder Ravagers, especially if the Ravager player didn’t spread them out well. They can take out Ravager Turrets, Slug Turrets… most threats will melt under concentrated Titan fire. So, why take anything but Titans? Well, Titans don’t do terribly well against large groups, say of Pathfinders, and with proper support, groups of units like Reaper/Dreadfire or even Stalkers can take down these expensive units. Also, keep in mind that Titans are highly vulnerable to Stealth units like Ravens and Predators (though honestly you’re unlikely to see these used too often). Titans tend to pair adequately (though not necessarily spectacularly) with most other Spartan units – Vulcans and Orions might be a good fit on this map.
Helios and Rolling Thunder is such a good combo on this map that I almost hesitate to suggest it. Helios are tough, and deal decent damage to 2 of the most common Shadow Revolution unit types: infantry, and Light vehicles. With the speed boost provided by Rolling Thunder, Helios gain 180 speed in Power to Engines mode and a respectable 120 in Power to Weapons mode. This means that most to all ground-based Shadow Revolution units will be hard-pressed to escape from or deal with this composition. Dreadfires and Ravens are the primary thing to look out for here, though the Phantom has some other ways to limit or hinder this comp, like Umbra Virus, Mechanical Collapse, and the Jamming Frequency Projector.
Orions are almost never a bad unit to take along, and truly pair well with almost any other Liberation Front unit. They have an ability, Crippling Shot, which slows units in an area by 80% for a short time. This can be game-changing, especially when paired with Shivas, Colossus, or when teaming with a Patriot ally who has brought along some Cyclops. They also help protect against Ravens, which can be devastating if your team is taken unprepared.
The Artillery Turret is, in my opinion, one of the better turrets on this map. They’re able to whittle away at the enemy’s base structures if you’ve managed to lock down a lane, or they can help protect your VP and RPs defensively. They’re cheap, so they can be rebuilt fairly painlessly, and when massed up (2 or more) their damage can be surprisingly decent. They can be protected with Cannon turrets, Helios Turrets, or by your units. They’re a solid choice and I think more reliable (especially on Ice Breaker) than Shiva turrets.
The Odin’s Eye is an often overlooked turret, especially on Ice Breaker. It doesn’t heal, it doesn’t do damage, and it doesn’t provide a shield. Its benefits are somewhat more ephemeral, and therefore it can be easily overlooked by the player who isn’t thinking ahead. Odin’s Eye can be invaluable, especially on a map with corridors like this one: place it in a lane, and you’re giving yourself time to respond if an enemy tries to sneak around behind you or capture an undefended point. Place near your forces to put a damper on hit and run or blitz (not the Elite Company) attacks. Place in front of Spartan turrets or your own artillery units to literally make your SR enemies spend more time in the fire. They also prevent stealth, which is always a plus, though in my experience stealth units are not very common on this map, aside from the occasional Shadowmaker/Slayer combo.
The Cyclops is a powerful but fragile unit, which if used wisely can be very hard to deal with, and can add a lot of utility to any Patriot composition on Ice Breaker. Coupled with slows, like the Odin’s Eye, Tiresias Field or the Spartan Orion with help from a teammate, the Cyclops’ Flame Bombardment ability is devastating to infantry, structures and even Light Vehicles. They complement Hydras, Gorgons and Mars tanks in this role. Cyclops/Mars/Odin’s eye can be a formidable defensive line. Just make sure to keep units like Furies away from your Cyclops! They’re very fragile.
Most Patriot Commander Abilities can have a place here – I know of no particularly effective combinations beyond taking at least 2 Tiresias Fields with a force containing Cyclops. Paeon’s Wrench, Isis Scrub and Asgardian Dome can potentially save you a lot of resources though.
Have backups! In Ice Breaker, more than most other maps, it's possible to get bad unit composition picks, especially right out of the gate. If you have a company of TItans and a company of Vulcans, and run into an opponent with Ravens, you'll likely be in a bad situation (depending on what your teammate might have on hand). Obviously, that's an extreme example, but keep in mind that it's generally very bad in Ice Breaker to get caught without a good, broad selection of counters and options available. Our Spartan Guide has some good, safe builds for you to consider.
Preventing Shadow Revolution Momentum – the Shadow Revolution forces tend to rely on keeping Liberation Front teams off balance: they want you to be unsure of where to place turrets, constantly casting Commander Abilities to get out of tough situations, or replacing expensive units like Colossi. More importantly, they want you and your teammate to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s an ideal situation for a Shadow Revolution team to make the Liberation Front team chase them around the map. This can reduce the impact of those heavy defensive turrets, break up a force, or make you spend money on abilities like Rolling Thunder or Paeon’s Wrench.
Playing the typical Liberation Front force, you’ll want to curtail all these shenanigans. One good way to do this is defensive turret placement. Putting a couple of Cannon turrets or an Odin’s eye on or near a point you’re trying to hold can really slow down even a Shadow Revolution force designed to kill structures and give you time to respond to an SR push on a point. Last time, we discussed a really good way to slow down Shadow Revolution momentum: holding the center, plus pushing into either the SR’s native Victory Point or Resource Point. This gives them free roam of only one lane, and allows you to defend your holdings fairly effectively.
Taking and Holding a Lane. Taking a lane in the first few seconds of a match can be much different than taking it later on. In the early game, the stakes for each side to claim territory and set up their plan for execution. For the Liberation Front, a strong victory in the early game can make for a very short match as they deny the Shadow Revolution a solid foundation on which to build their momentum, and since the LF can establish some very cost-effective defensive setups if given half a chance.
If you remember this figure from last time, those 2 circles represent prime real estate for turret farms consisting of Vejovis Centers, Odin’s Eyes, Cannon Turrets, Artillery Turrets and whatever else tickles your fancy. And while this might look like it leaves not only the bottom lane, but your natural Resource Point vulnerable, the Liberation Front force is able to push in almost any direction from the center of the map, making holding and recapture of points fairly easy. It can also form a good launching point for a Death Push (don’t worry, I’m getting to it).
Should you fail to achieve the above result, I’d recommend locking down a single lane, and preferably your natural victory point, as firmly as possible, and pushing out from there. Remember: the fewer directions you have to worry about attacks poking in from, the better a time you’ll have on this map. Spread your firepower out too much, or if you have too many objectives, the SR team will be at a solid advantage.
Upgrading Those UGVs. This is the part of the article where I remind you – saving money where possible is the safest way to play Ice Breaker. Hold on to at least 1 Resource Point, 2 if you can help it. So long as you’re gaining income and responding to Shadow Revolution threats, you’re doing all right. But losing both of your resource points is invariably a bad situation, and should be rectified quickly. Losing Victory Points and having your shield drop can be intimidating, but won’t directly lose you anything substantial if you’re able to discourage the SR team from pushing into your base area (for instance, with turrets). Holding one Resource Point and even pushing aggressively at the other can be a valid way to gain a resource advantage over your opponent. Given careful play and an emphasis on holding or contesting Resource Points, you should be able to eventually save up 1,000 Tactical Resources to upgrade those UGVs at least once. Use Commander Abilities sparingly.
The Death Push. It’s that time. This is an extremely aggressive tactic, but I’ve seen it work enough times to know that it can be effective. Here’s what you and your partner do: set up a defensive bulwark similar to what I’ve already described above. Use something like Helios, Colossus or Titans as a Spartan, and Hydras, Gorgons or even Ragnaroks as a Patriot. Then, once you’ve ensured that it’ll be difficult for your opponent to push into your defenses, go into their base. Kill a turret, push back. Kill some of their units. Just keep running in and doing damage and then pulling out. You’re forcing them to play on your terms. And this is a short-term strategy, so being sparing with your Commander Abilities isn’t necessary: feel free to Napalm your opponent to your heart’s content. If they’re caught off guard, it can be very costly to unseat you, and if you’re aggressive enough, it can win you the game. Obviously, this is a rush tactic verging on cheese, and coordinated opponents can beat it. But it’ll work against people who aren’t used to having a Liberation Front army parked at their front door.
The Liberation Front have a number of reliable tools available to them on Ice Breaker, and their play style lends itself to either aggressive (though risky!) or defensive play on this map. It's easy to force your opponents to play your way, and if you can lock down the map early, you'll be in a good position to take the game in the long run. Play defensively, play to your strengths, and don't forget to chase down Ravagers and other priority targets quickly!