Thoughts on the Removal of Historical Public Monuments

Two days ago, a statue of Thomas Jefferson was removed from the council chambers in New York City Hall, one of a number of public monuments to “problematic” historical figures that have recently been taken down. While pretty much all of these removals have been controversial, monuments to Jefferson have been among the most divisive. The general debate seems to be between those who argue that Jefferson’s statues should not be taken down because he did enough great things to balance out his ownership of slaves, and those who argue that they should be taken down because his treatment of his slaves was so abhorrent that nothing could balance it out. I think that both of these arguments are missing the point.

My problem with this discussion is that both sides of the argument proceed from the assumption that whether a monument should be taken down depends on whether the figure in question deserves to have a monument or not. That is to say, if historical figure X (in this case, Thomas Jefferson) was an overall bad person, then we should take down any monuments to him or her, but if they were merely a flawed but overall good person, we shouldn’t. As intuitive as this may seem, I don’t think it’s rationally justifiable. When you say that someone “deserves” something, the logical implication is that the thing will either help or hurt the person. But how could Thomas Jefferson, a man who’s been dead for centuries, be affected in any way by a monument being taken down in the present? It’s highly unlikely that he would care, and even if he would, it’s not like he’s ever going to find out about it. Anybody that he personally harmed is also dead, so you can’t argue that it’s providing closure for the victims, either.

It might sound like I’m making a blanket argument against removing historical monuments in general, but that’s not my position. If Germany had public monuments to Hitler, I’d be in favour of taking them down, and I’m also in favour of taking down statues to Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. But it’s not because those figures deserve it more than Jefferson. Rather, the point is to send a message to present-day white supremacists, one that says, “you are the losers of history, in a sense more fundamental than the simple fact of your having lost the war. Our society has rejected your barbaric and despicable belief system, and it is to our enduring shame that we ever took it seriously.”

I have no problem with this. However, using this reasoning implies a different standard from the one I suggested was the more common view, above. Rather than asking, “was X a bad person who deserve to have their statues taken down”, the appropriate question becomes, “is taking down this statue an effective way to send our message?” In the case of Davis and other Confederates, I think the answer is clearly “yes”; these people aren’t known for anything other than defending slavery, so I don’t see how a reasonable person could misunderstand the message being sent. On the other hand, I don’t think statues of Thomas Jefferson, or George Washington should be torn down. The intent might be to remind people of how bad slavery was, in practice it looks a lot like you’re sending the message that the existence of the United States was itself a mistake. For similar reasons, I wouldn’t be in favour of taking down monuments to Lincoln or Churchill, even though I know they both did some pretty terrible things.

This viewpoint doesn’t provide a clear example in every case; I’m unsure, for example, whether monuments to Christopher Columbus should be taken down by this logic, though my gut reaction is to say “yes”. Nevertheless, I think it provides a more reasonable basis for how to look at the issue than either of the currently prevailing viewpoints.

The Snake Tier List

[This is part of a series of posts about animals. To find other posts in this series, see here.]

Snakes occupy a weird position in Outside’s meta. On the one hand, the idea of a reptile build with no legs seems so glaringly flawed that you might be forgiven for considering them a joke build. On the other hand, snakes are one of the most feared predators in the game and have successfully colonized almost every major land server. So are they actually viable or not? Well, it’s a complicated question. Today, I’m going to go into the snake build and its many variants to explore how to make snakes work.

The origin of the snake class is a matter of some dispute. We know that the first snake builds were created by lizard mains who decided to spec out of having legs, probably during the Cretaceous expansion no later than 95 million years ago. Why they made this choice is not clear; some say it was so they could fit more easily through underground tunnels, while others say they were aiming to transition to an aquatic playstyle. In any case, by the end of the Cretaceous expansion, snake players had already developed most of the same basic forms that exist today. When the end-Cretaceous balance patch hit, many of the existing snake builds were banned, including all the large ones. However, by about 55 million years ago, snake players had almost fully recovered from the blow dealt by the patch and taken back most of their old niches, though they weren’t generally able to expand into new niches in the same way mammals and birds did. Today, snakes are one of the most popular carnivorous vertebrate builds and an established part of the meta on every land server except Antarctica, but are they any good? To find out, let’s take a look at the snake build’s stats and abilities.

Snake Build Analysis: Stats and Abilities

So if you look at the snake build, the first thing that might jump out at you is that they’ve lost several organs. Most snakes have only one functioning lung, and they don’t have external ear openings, but the big one is their aforementioned lack of the [Legs] attribute. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t unique to snakes; there are actually a number of unrelated legless lizard guilds in the current meta, but the snake guild is the largest of them by a huge margin. Giving up legs might seem like one of the worst decisions you could possibly make, but it does have some benefits. Having no legs makes it easier to fit through tight spaces, such as the burrows of potential prey, and creates a more streamlined body for better hydrodynamics when swimming. To compensate for their lack of legs, snakes have specced into scales on their bellies used to grip surfaces and pushing against them. Not being able to walk or run, they typically get around using a move called [Lateral Undulation], which involves waving left and right to create forward thrust from pushing contact points in the environment. I don’t particularly recommend using this approach, as it costs roughly the same amount of energy as running but without being anywhere near as fast. Overall, I’d still consider the loss of legs to be more of a drawback than a benefit, but it’s not as clear-cut as it might seem.

Snakes do have a few pretty impressive abilities to make up for their loss. For one thing, snakes make better use of the loot they consume than almost any other build, for a number of reasons. Snakes can’t chew, and have to swallow all their prey whole, which would ordinarily restrict them to eating items smaller than their heads. However, snakes have specced into flexible skulls and mobile jaws, which allow them to swallow prey much larger than would normally be possible. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t need to dislocate their jaws in order to do this. Rather, their lower jaws are divided into two segments that are not rigidly attached, and they additionally have numerous other skull joints that let them open their mouths wider than you would think would be possible from looking at them. Also, they can digest around 90% of their prey, including the skeleton — basically everything except hair, feathers and claws. There is a cost to this, though, as their digestive process costs a huge amount of energy, so much so that they generally have to stop all other activity while they’re digesting their food. While not a major issue for the largest snakes, this can pose a pretty serious risk for snakes small enough to be targeted by other predators.

Snakes also have some unique advantages relating to perception. They don’t have very good hearing thanks to their lack of external ears, and many of them don’t have great eyesight, so they mostly rely on their sense of smell to track prey. Snakes use their forked tongues to collect particles from the air, which are then passed to the vomeronasal organ to be smelt. Snakes can also sense ground vibrations using their undersides, and some species can sense infrared radiation too.

Lastly, some snakes have advantageous special abilities in terms of reproduction. Many snakes are capable of reproducing asexually if unable to find a mate. While not true of all snakes, it is more widespread among snakes than in any other vertebrate guild. Pythons, garter snakes, pit vipers, boa constrictors, anacondas, death adders and more have all been known to use this method. Also, while most snakes lay eggs like normal reptiles, a number have actually specced into the [Live Birth] ability, which I generally consider to be the superior method. For an explanation of why I, see my post on the platypus.

In my view, snakes generally don’t rank very highly in the meta. As cool as the abilities listed above may seem, I don’t see much about the baseline snake build that is good enough to make up for losing such useful attributes as legs and ears. I’d say that snakes average out around the upper end of D tier, but there are some snakes that I think improve on the baseline build enough to be considered actually high-tier. Which ones? Well, to answer that, let’s now go into the snake tier list. Since there are over 2900 snake builds in the current meta, I won’t be going over all of them, but I’ll try and cover the ones I find most interesting.

THE SNAKE TIER LIST

F Tier: Blind Snakes

So I’d say that probably the worst snake build would be the blind snake. Blind snakes are very small, underground-dwelling snakes that resemble earthworms, and the name comes from their eyes being covered with scales. Unlike most snakes, they don’t have flexible jaws to eat things bigger than their heads, so they’re mostly restricted to eating underground insects, particularly ants and termites. The worst subclass of blind snake would probably have to be the brahminy blind snake. While many snakes can reproduce asexually, the brahminy blind snake is the only species that relies on asexual reproduction exclusively. While having the ability to reproduce asexually can be advantageous in certain situations, relying on it exclusively is generally a bad idea for animal players; for an explanation of why, see my post on cockroaches.

F Tier: African egg-eating snakes

The colubrid guild, which contains around 250 builds, is the largest guild of snakes in the current game. Most of these builds are pretty low-tier, but easily the weakest are the African egg-eating snakes. There are a few snake subclasses that exclusively eat eggs, and African egg-eating snakes are the most specialized of them. In order to be able to fit huge eggs in their mouths, they’ve replaced their teeth with special egg-cracking protrusions on the inside edge of their spines. This has left them with absolutely no PvP ability whatsoever, completely incapable of hunting or defending themselves when attacked. The only reason they’re even still around is because they often confuse would-be attackers by mimicking the aesthetics and intimidation moves of other, higher-ranking snake builds like mambas and vipers.

D Tier: Hinged-teeth snakes

Also in D tier, I’m going to place another colubrid subclass, the hinged-teeth snakes. As their name suggests, hinged-teeth snakes have specced into hinged teeth. They use these to grasp and feed on hard-bodied prey, particularly lizards. Similar to the African egg-eaters mimicking mambas, hinged-teeth snakes don’t have venom, but many spec into patterns resembling those of a venomous coral snake. Mimicking a more dangerous snake, also called [Batesian mimicry], is a common intimidation tactic among snakes that don’t have their own venom, but I don’t think it’s a particularly good one. My problem with mimicry-based approaches is that you’re betting everything on your attacker knowing enough about the game to realize why they should be afraid of you, but also not knowing enough to realize why they actually shouldn’t be afraid of you. If you encounter a predator player who’s too inexperienced to know what venomous snakes look like, or bold enough to challenge one anyway, or perceptive enough to tell the difference between your build and the one you’re mimicking, you’re still going to be left without a good defence. Combine this with the fact that these designs often require massive sacrifices to your stealth, one of the most important stats when playing an ambush predator, and it’s hard for me to see this as anything other than a low-tier strategy. 

Hinged-teeth snakes do have one other defense mechanism besides their mimicry: [Pseudo-Autotomy]. Like [Autotomy], which I discussed in my tier list of mice and rats, this ability allows them to drop their tail if it gets grabbed by a predator. Unfortunately, unlike real autotomy, the [Pseudo-Autotomy] ability doesn’t allow you to regrow the body part that you drop, which makes this as much a liability as a perk. I don’t see this as a particularly viable build, and more broadly I’d say that any snake build which lacks both venom and constriction is going to rank around D or F tier. There’s just not much reason to play a snake if you’re not going to get access to either of these abilities.

C Tier: Flying snakes

In C tier, we have two more colubrids. The first is the flying snake. Although the flying snake is mildly venomous, its most noteworthy trait is its ability to use the move [Glide], unique among snakes. In past tier lists, I’ve tended to regard gliding as a mid-tier trait; while it can be a good way to flee arboreal predators and to save energy while travelling, it tends to be a high-risk strategy. Unlike actual flying builds, gliding builds usually can’t change direction in mid-air, which can easily screw them over if they get caught by a flying or high-jumping predator. Flying snakes are an improvement over your average gliding build, because they have greater endurance when gliding and can steer somewhat by undulating in mid-air. While these changes do make gliding more practical as a means of travel than it is for most other similar builds, I don’t think they’re enough to elevate the flying snake to being above average, as it’s still always going to be at a disadvantage in the air compared to builds that can actually fly.

C Tier: Tiger keelback

The other colubrid I’m going to place in C tier is the tiger keelback. While this snake is venomous, it has difficulty attacking large objects because its fangs are located in the back of its mouth. So instead, the keelback opts for a different defensive approach: it’s the only snake that has poison in addition to venom, which it gets from eating poisonous amphibians. I’ve spoken before about why using poison for defence is generally a mid-tier trait, and this snake is no exception.

B Tier: Constrictors

In B tier, I’m going to put most of the constrictors. This isn’t a specific build or subclass, but rather a broad term for any snake that specs into the [Constriction] ability. The two best and most iconic constrictor types are the boa and the python, the primary difference being that pythons generally lay eggs while boas generally give birth to live young. Both of these groups are also distinguished from other snakes by having two functioning lungs instead of only one. Many game guides treat constrictors and venomous snakes as two separate groups, but this is misleading; while boas and pythons are both non-venomous, both the colubrid and elapid guilds include a few venomous constrictor builds. The way constrictor snakes kill their prey goes like this: first, they strike at and grab onto a target. Then, depending on the target’s weight, they either pull the target into their coils or pull themselves up onto the target. Once they’ve got a steady grip on their target, they wrap one or two loops around the prey and squeeze tightly. Contrary to popular belief, the goal isn’t actually to break the target’s bones, nor is it to cause suffocation; rather, the point is to block the flow of blood to the vital organs, causing cardiac arrest. This kills the victim much quicker than suffocation would.

I would place constrictors, or at least the larger ones, as above-average, but not exceptional builds. They are much stronger than other snakes, and so tend to have much stronger matchup spreads within their weight classes; while most snakes are restricted to eating lizards, rodents and other such small animals, constrictors regularly eat prey up to the size of cats, and some of the largest may even eat animals up to the size of antelope. This allows them to grow much larger than other snakes; the longest pythons can even grow to lengths of over six meters — but therein lies the problem. Like most snakes, constrictors don’t have great mobility and tend to rely on stealth, but being so much larger than other snakes means they’re considerably less stealthy. Also, the fact that constrictors need to use their entire bodies to kill one target means they don’t have any good way to fight off multiple opponents at once and are easily countered by builds that are optimized for teamwork. Some players maining the Cuban subclass of boa have been trying to mend this weakness by speccing into coordinated, team-based hunting tactics of their own, and I could see constrictors rising higher on the tier list if more of them adopted this strategy. For now, though, they’re stuck in B tier.

B Tier: Rattlesnakes

Also in B tier, I’d put most of the viper guild, but particularly rattlesnakes. Vipers kill prey using a venom with two critical components: a hemotoxin, which is used to degrade the muscles of prey, and a tracking compound, which allows the viper to follow a bitten prey animal until it dies. Pit vipers, the group of vipers to which rattlesnakes belong, are distinguished by the heat-sensing pit organs between their eyes and nostrils. While their venom is a formidable weapon, vipers do have one major problem: a lack of effective defence against larger predators. Viper venom only kills prey gradually, hence the need for a tracking compound, but this means that if you try to use it as a defence against other animals, they’ll likely be able to kill you before it takes effect. The only way vipers can really defend themselves, besides hiding, is through intimidation and bluffing.

This is where the rattlesnake shines. Rattlesnakes have one of the best intimidation ratings among lightweight builds, thanks to the same ability that gives them their name: [Rattle]. Rattlesnakes have rattles on their tails which, when shaken, make loud vibrating noises that alert any nearby would-be threats to the rattlesnake’s presence. Few predators are bold enough to purposely go after a rattlesnake, so this is a pretty solid way to avoid getting attacked. That said, if they run into a predator who is bold enough to purposely challenge them, they still don’t have a great defence, so this is far from a perfect strategy. Be especially careful when playing rattlesnakes in areas with lots of humans, as the rattling can become a double-edged sword; humans who detect you may well kill you not in spite of, but specifically because you’ve alerted them to the danger you pose.

B Tier: Sea snakes

Last in B tier, we have sea snakes. As the name suggests, these are snakes that live in the sea for most or all of their lives. Many reptiles, as well as birds and mammals have tried to return to the water at some point in their evolution, but of the builds still playable in the current meta, only whales and manatees are as specialized for life underwater as sea snakes are. Their overall design is similar to an eel’s, with a laterally compressed body and a paddle-like tail at the end. With the exception of the sea krait, which only comes onto land to lay eggs, all sea snakes are unable to move on land and give birth to live young underwater, arguably making them the closest equivalent among living reptiles to the mosasaur build of the Cretaceous meta. In order to be able to remain aware of their underwater surroundings while coming up for air, sea snakes have specced into the ability to breathe through the top of their skin. Many sea snake players have also specced into light-sensitive tails, so that when they’re searching for prey in rock crevices or other narrow environments, they can tell whether or not their tail is visible to other predators.

I think that speccing for an aquatic playstyle makes a lot of sense for a snake build, as their greatest weakness — their lack of legs — is basically a non-issue underwater, if not an outright benefit. However, there is one big problem, which is the issues that being underwater causes with perception. Sea snakes can’t see underwater as well as other snakes can on land, which can pose difficulties when finding prey, especially since their hearing is just as weak as that of other snakes. Unlike most aquatic vertebrates, sea snakes have tried to mitigate this problem using their comparatively strong sense of smell, but even this is only strong enough to be good for detecting targets at close range — they still need to rely on their weak eyesight to get close to targets in the first place.

A Tier: Elapids

In A tier, we have the elapids, the best-known of which are the cobra and the mamba. Sea snakes are technically elapids too, but since I’ve already given them their own section, I’m going to be focusing on their land-based cousins here. Elapids are pretty similar to vipers, but with a few adjustments that make them a bit more effective. Instead of speccing into live birth like most vipers do, they’ve used their points to spec into a more powerful venom. Where vipers tend to rely on hemotoxins, elapids generally rely on a combination of hemotoxins and neurotoxins. These cocktails kill prey much faster than viper venom, which makes them much more convenient both for hunting and for self-defence. However, cobras and mambas rarely even need to use their venom for defence, because they can scare off attackers with an intimidation move nearly on par with the rattlesnake’s: [Hood Display]. When threatened, many elapids rear upwards, spread out their neck flaps to appear larger, and let out a terrifying hiss, which is enough to quickly deter most attackers. While this move is more commonly associated with the cobra, mambas can use it as well.

That said, all of these builds do have one critical flaw that keeps them out of S tier: they’re totally reliant on venom as their only means of dishing damage, and if their opponent has specced into resistance to their venom, there’s not much they can do besides try to trick the opponent with intimidation. Builds like the mongoose and honey badger, which are highly resistant to both venom and intimidation, can easily defeat any type of elapid unless there’s a significant size difference. And since snakes tend to be immune to their own venom, one of the biggest threats to an elapid is another, larger elapid; the king cobra, the largest elapid, is a serious threat to all the other cobras and vipers in its region. For this reason, if you’re going to play elapid, it’s generally best to go for one of the largest kinds, which would mean the king cobra if you’re going to play a cobra, or the black mamba if you want to play as a mamba.

There are a few elapids that have managed to get around this problem somewhat, and these are the spitting cobras. Spitting cobras have unlocked an advantage that’s not only unique among snakes, but rare among all animals: a ranged attack. While they can inject neurotoxins with a bite like other cobras, they tend to only do this on offense; when defending themselves, they instead spit venom into an attacker’s eyes, causing blindness. Eyes tend to be less protected than other parts of the body, both against physical damage and against toxins, so even builds that are normally venom-resistant still need to be very careful when attacking spitting cobras. Spitting cobras are the best elapids, and the best venomous snakes, but they aren’t the best snakes overall.

A Tier: Anacondas

To find the most optimal snake build in the current game, we have to turn back to the constrictors, of which the best is the anaconda. Anacondas are technically a subclass of boa, but they’ve made one critical change to the baseline boa build that elevates them to a higher tier: speccing into a semi-aquatic playstyle. Taking a page from the playbook of crocodiles, anacondas have eyes and noses on the tops of their heads so that they can still see and smell while submerged underwater, and they do most of their hunting while swimming. On land, the hugeness of the large constrictors makes them cumbersome, but in the water, they can still be stealthy and graceful in spite of their huge size. Because hunting underwater mitigates the costs of growing huge, anacondas have been able to grow even larger than other constrictor snakes. The largest anaconda — the green anaconda — is also the largest snake build available in the current game.

Anacondas have made a name for themselves as one the most feared predators in the Amazon Rainforest, which is pretty impressive considering that this is one of the most competitive regions in the game. With their incredible size and strength, anacondas will eat almost anything they can overpower, from large mammals like cattle and capybaras, to reptiles like turtles and caimans, and sometimes even other anacondas. Theoretically, they’d still face the problem of not being good at fighting teams of opponents, but good luck finding a team of players willing to take on an anaconda. I think having achieved such dominance in one of the game’s most difficult regions firmly places the anaconda as the highest-ranking snake in the game. That said, when compared to other apex predators of the region, I don’t think they quite stand out enough to qualify as a top-tier of the Amazon.

During the Paleocene expansion, there was a snake similar to the anaconda that did reach top-tier status; it was called the Titanoboa. This build was essentially an anaconda on steroids, growing even larger and speccing even further into the aquatic playstyle. However, the Titanoboa’s top-tier status was mostly the result of the meta still being in recovery from the extinction of the dinosaurs, leaving the game without any dominant faction. Even at the time, the Titanoboa’s huge size kept it from being viable as a land-based ambush predator, and so it had to switch to an aquatic fish-eating playstyle. Now that mammals have definitively established themselves as the new top faction, it’s unlikely that you’ll see any constrictor reaching that same level of dominance that Titanoboa once had. Some other reptiles have been able to do this, but the baseline snake build is just too weak to allow for that.

Even though I consider most snakes low-tier, I still think their existence is a great example of the variety that makes Outside such a fascinating game. Legs are so fundamental to the typical reptile playstyle that you might think dropping them would be suicidal for any reptile player, but instead it’s allowed snakes to develop into a wide variety of fascinating new forms. I think it’s this kind of unpredictability that has kept Outside the world’s most popular game for such a long time.

Elephants: Outside’s Best Tank

[This is part of a series of posts about animals. To find other posts in this series, see here.]

The first post I ever made about the Outside meta was a tier list of large herbivorous mammals. In that post, I ranked elephants at the top of the list, but I also made a note that the elephant build was “so amazing that it deserve[d] a post to itself”. It’s taken a while, but I think the time has finally come to make a full post explaining exactly why the elephant build is one of the best in the game.

Elephants are the last surviving remnant of a once-ubiquitous and diverse mammal guild  called the proboscideans. Like many of the major mammal guilds, proboscideans were first introduced in the Paleocene expansion during the early days of mammal dominance, but they started off as rabbit-sized, semi-aquatic creatures with none of the distinctive traits that elephants today are known for. However, they quickly started putting lots of points into increasing their size, and by the mid-Miocene, it was hard to find any proboscidean player who hadn’t reached megafauna status. The elephant proper was actually one of the later proboscidean builds, only having been introduced in the Pliocene expansion. But in the Pleistocene, the vast majority of mammals weighing over a ton were wiped out by the global human invasion, including almost all the proboscideans. Out of all the builds in the guild, only the elephants managed to survive. Today, the elephant is almost universally recognized as one of Outside’s best builds, but what is it about them that has made them so effective, and allowed them to outlast so many of the game’s other giants? To find out, let’s take a look at their stats and abilities.

ELEPHANT STATS

  • Power

So when looking at the elephant’s stat spread, one of the main things that jumps out is its power stat, the highest among land animals. Now obviously the biggest reason for this is their massive size. Elephants are the largest land animals in the current game by a considerable margin, and this alone is enough for them to easily defeat basically all of their competitors. Note that unlike most megafauna builds, whether in past expansions or in the current meta, elephants start off the game already huge, so even low-level elephant players are immune to attacks by all but a handful of predators. As an added bonus, elephants are strong enough that they can uproot large trees just by pushing them, which allows them to get at food sources otherwise only available to giraffes and arboreal builds.

On top of their size, elephants have one of the best weapon arsenals in the game attached to their faces, with their two tusks and their trunk. The trunk serves so many purposes that I’m just going to have to give it its own section, but the tusks are one of the most powerful impaling implements in the game, able to pierce the skin of even other huge tanks such as the rhino. The tusks also double as a digging tool for accessing food and water sources hidden underground.

  • Defence and HP

In addition to the elephants’ power, their HP stat is also the highest among land builds on account of their huge size. Their defence stat is also one of the highest, although it’s actually not as high as you might expect from looking at other African tanks. Whereas rhinos and hippos have both specced into an exceptionally thick coating of skin armour, elephants have relied on large size alone for defence, with skin proportionally no thicker than an average mammal. This choice works because they don’t really need armour, since they’re so unlikely to get attacked. Rhinos and hippos don’t really need protection from predators, but they still need armour in case another rhino or hippo tries to kill them in a dispute over mates or territory. Elephants, by contrast, are much less aggressive towards each other and generally won’t try to deal serious damage with each other in fights, so they get by fine defending themselves with just size.

  • Mobility

While the elephant’s mobility rating isn’t as strong as their other stats, it’s still pretty solid for such a huge animal. They’re too heavy to run, too heavy to jump, and too heavy to climb, but they can walk surprisingly fast and they can swim for long periods, and that’s basically all they really need. They don’t need to run from predators or chase down prey, and they’re strong enough to uproot trees to get at loot that would otherwise require climbing skills to access, so their lack of other movement options doesn’t really hinder them to any significant degree.

  • Intelligence

The elephant’s intelligence rating is one of the highest ever seen in the game, and might have been the highest if not for the existence of humans. This allows them to use tools, but I’ll talk more about that in the section on the trunk. In this section, I’m going to talk about the other major benefit of their intelligence: their social abilities.

Elephants, especially of the African subclass, have a heavily teamwork-based playstyle, existing in complex, well-structured social groups. This cooperation is important to their success for a number of reasons. First off, it’s important for protecting new players. While even newborn elephants are too big to be threatened by most predators, the young ones are still vulnerable to high-ranking pack-hunters like lions and hyenas. As such, it’s very helpful to have a herd of older elephants with them to frighten off would-be attackers. Secondly, working in teams means that elephant players can benefit from the accumulated knowledge of their entire guild rather than having to figure out everything for themselves. Because herd members can show each other the best tactics for dealing with particular environments, elephants are able to refine their strategies collectively in a way that other competing tanks can’t. This ability to share knowledge has been critical to maintaining their competitive edge over predators in recent years; while experienced lion mains have started getting better at hunting young elephants in recent years, veteran elephant mains have also been able to learn the best counter-strategies for protecting the young just as quickly.

Another important benefit of the elephants’ intelligence is their excellent long-term memory, famously one of the best in the game. One of the biggest challenges for elephants, and other large herbivores of the African savannah, is dealing with drought periods. Elephants’ exceptional memory gives them an unparalleled ability to keep track of all the best food and water sources in their area, including backup sources for when their usual sources dry up. Elephants are so good at finding ways to deal with resource scarcity that, despite the massive amounts of food and water they need to survive, they’ve actually managed to adapt to the Sahara Desert region, the largest expanse of barren desert in the entire game. They’ve adapted to this biome purely through behavioural changes, without needing to change their design specs at all. Their great memory also helps with forging social connections, as when one elephant helps out another, they can expect the other will remember who helped them and may take it into account if they ever meet again.

It might be because of their strong social instincts that the elephant playerbase generally maintains good relationships with most of the rest of the Africa meta. When they want to, elephants can absolutely devastate their competition; once, a few young elephants on one server decided to try and pick a fight with the rhinoceros playerbase, and they managed to kill thirty-six rhinos before stopping. However, most of the time, elephant players tend to avoid hurting other animals and will often even use their powers to help out other players, like the time eleven elephants in South Africa teamed up to free an antelope whom local humans had held captive. Even the elephants who went on the aforementioned killing spree eventually calmed down once the humans in the region brought some veteran bull elephant mains from outside the server to teach them how the build is supposed to be played.

OTHER ELEPHANT ABILITIES AND TRAITS

  • Trunk

Probably the most unique advantage elephants have is also one of their most powerful: the [Trunk] special ability. Almost all of their other major advantages are somehow related to this incredibly versatile tool. At the most basic level, the trunk functions as a giant nose, with room for an astounding number of olfactory receptors — more than any other known animal, in fact. Elephants have such an acute sense of smell that they can actually “count” things (or at least roughly estimate their quantity) just by smelling them, without needing to look at or touch them.  Having such a huge nose is also great for aquatic endurance. While almost all mammals can swim, most of them face a dilemma when doing so. If they don’t submerge themselves, then it’s difficult for them to see what’s going on underwater, but if they do, then they’ll have to keep coming up for air at regular intervals. The trunk eliminates this problem, because elephants can use it as a snorkel to allow them to keep breathing air while the rest of their body is submerged in deep water.

In addition to being a nose, the trunk also functions effectively as an extremely strong arm. It’s simultaneously one of the most powerful and one of the most dextrous tools for object manipulation ever seen in the game. The astounding array of muscles in an elephant’s trunk — more than humans have in their entire bodies — make it strong enough to lift a car or to kill a man with one blow, but also mean it can be controlled finely enough to pick up a tortilla chip without damaging it when handled carefully. This dexterity, combined with their aforementioned high intelligence, enables elephants to access one of the best abilities available in the game: [Tool Use]. For example, elephant players have been observed using sticks, twigs and other objects to scratch itches in difficult-to-reach places, to increase their reach when finding food, and to throw at unwanted intruders in their territory. In one instance, an elephant player was seen digging up a hole filled with water, then chewing some tree bark into a ball which was then used to cover the hole to prevent the water from evaporating. On some occasions, elephants have even been creative enough to use other animals as tools; for example, by picking up younger elephants and throwing them against fences in order to knock the barrier down and clear a path.

Another important function of the trunk is as a means of storage. By dilating their nostrils to make room and then inhaling with great force, elephants can store up to three gallons of water in their trunks at a time, and can suck it up at a rate of roughly one gallon per second. Being able to accumulate large quantities of food and water this quickly is hugely important for a build that requires as much energy to survive as elephants do.

  • Thermoregulation

As powerful as elephants are, they do have a few weaknesses that should be noted, most of which are a result of the drawbacks of large size.

First off, as I discussed in my post on thermoregulation, larger builds have a much harder time dissipating heat through their bodies, because the percentage of their volume that is in contact with the outside environment is smaller. This can be a good thing in environments such as the Arctic or the deep sea, but it’s a huge drawback in biomes like the African savannah, where one of the main challenges is dealing with extreme heat.

Elephants have a few traits that help them to deal with this challenge. Like most mammals weighing over a ton, they’ve dropped fur from their specs, since speccing into extra insulation would be not only unnecessary but counterproductive in their circumstances. They’ve also specced into massive ears — the largest in the entire game, in fact. In addition to being used for hearing, the ears can be used as a way of sending signals to other elephants, but more importantly, they serve an important purpose in helping to prevent the elephant from overheating. The ear flaps store a massive number of capillaries, which warm blood flows through. This helps to speed up heat dissipation, as the ears are thinner than the rest of the body and so lose heat faster.

However, these changes are not enough by themselves to eliminate the risk. Ultimately, the main way elephant players have of avoiding overheating is just being careful. By staying in shade, covering themselves with water and reducing their activity when it’s hot out, elephants are generally able to avoid death or serious injury from extreme heat.

  • Eating and Digestion

Now when talking about megafauna, Outside player guides will often say things like “getting bigger helps with combat, but you have to be careful because larger bodies require more food to maintain”; I’ve even said similar things on this very blog. And this isn’t wrong, but it’s also a bit of an oversimplification. The thing is, while getting bigger does increase the amount of nutrients you need to survive, this is counteracted up to a point by the fact that bigger bodies allow for bigger stomachs, which can store more food and water at once. This is important, because, as I discussed in my post about xenarthrans, digesting large amounts of food at once is a requirement to sustain high base stats if you’re going to rely on low-value sources like grasses and leaves. This is likely the main reason why elephants specced into such huge size to begin with.

To be clear, though, it should be noted that part of the reason why elephants need to digest such huge amounts of food at a time is because their digestive system is so inefficient. Many large herbivores that subsist on difficult-to-digest food compensate by speccing into the special ability [Ruminate], also known as [Chew Cud]. This ability separates the stomach into multiple compartments, so that the player can essentially digest food in one stomach compartment, regurgitate it, and then re-digest it in a separate stomach compartment to get at nutrients they might have missed the first time. Elephants don’t have this ability, so they’re stuck passing all food through the stomach just once. And since stomachs aren’t actually all that useful for breaking down cellulose, the elephant stomach mostly just functions as a place for food storage; the actual digestion happens mainly in the intestine, where symbiotic bacteria in the caecum break food down into useful forms. This method is called [Hindgut Fermentation]. This process is hugely inefficient, so much so that only about 35% of what an elephant eats even gets digested at all.

  • Other abilities

Elephants are so huge that when they move or make loud sounds, they create shockwaves that make vibrations in the ground. These vibrations are too small to be detected by most animals, but other elephants can sense them from a great distance. These infrasonic vibrations can be used by elephants as a means of communicating over long distances.

Finally, elephants are among the few mammals to have specced into the [Polyphyodont] trait. This means that their teeth grow throughout their lives, and are replaceable.

THE EFFECT OF ELEPHANTS ON THE META

Because elephant players are so dominant and consume so many resources, their existence in an area tends to reshape the meta around them. By uprooting trees and undergrowth to get at food, elephant herds can open up gaps in forest areas and make new grassland biomes. By digging up underground water sources, they create watering holes that become areas of interest for other players. The massive amount of plants they eat, combined with the long distances they travel in search of food and water, means that they are very good at dispersing seeds to help plant species spread. These are just a few of the many ways that elephants warp the meta around them.

THE FUTURE OF ELEPHANTS

Every now and then on Outside discussion forums, you’ll see players suggest that, were humans to be nerfed, elephants might be in a good position to take over their role because of their high intelligence and dextrous trunk. I don’t think this is particularly plausible, as tool use alone isn’t enough to make a civilization. If you really want to create human-level societies, you also need to abandon reliance on naturally occurring food sources and switch to cultivating your own food, an ability called [Agriculture]. Low-level agricultural techniques only produce enough food to support a relatively small human society; you need to start unlocking more advanced techniques to support the kind of huge global networks that humans have now. Trying this with elephants would be problematic, because the same amount of food which prehistoric humans needed to grow to support an entire hunter-gatherer tribe would only be able to feed one or two elephants. So if elephant mains wanted to become the next humans, they’d need to either shrink down massively — which would come with its own serious disadvantages — or somehow unlock advanced agricultural techniques without going through a phase of relying on more primitive ones first, which might not be practically achievable.

CONCLUSION

In summary, the elephant is one of the most powerful and well-rounded build designs in the game. Elephants absolutely dominate the meta on one of the game’s most difficult servers, being able to easily defeat all competing builds aside from humans while also showing impressive skill at dealing with resource scarcity. What few weaknesses they do have are largely mitigated by their high intelligence and sociality. Elephants are quite possibly the best herbivore builds ever seen in the game, and comfortably make it into S tier. The elephant is also my personal favourite build in the game, and I hope this post has helped you to gain an appreciation for how amazing they are.

Why Warm-Blooded Builds Rule The Meta

[This is part of a series of posts about animals. To find other posts in this series, see here.]

Intro

So if you’ve been following the developments in the Outside meta at any point over the past 250 million years or so, you’ve probably noticed that warm-blooded animals have been massively over-represented among the top builds. In the current meta, mammals and birds, the only two major guilds to have unlocked warm-bloodedness, are arguably the two highest-ranking major guilds in the game, and have been for over 60 million years. Before then, the meta was dominated by reptiles, but unlike modern reptiles, most of the ones that dominated the meta during this period were warm-blooded as well. In fact, if you look throughout the entire history of the game, you find that basically every faction that has specced into warm blood has managed to rise to a very high position in the meta. What’s going on here? Is warm blood so OP that it instantly elevates any faction to dominance? And if it is, why don’t more players spec into it? To answer these questions, today I’m going to take a look at the history of warm blood as well as its advantages and disadvantages.

Now before we start, it’s important to clarify what we mean by “warm-blooded” and “cold-blooded”, because these terms are somewhat ambiguous. There are two traits that people normally refer to when talking about “warm blood”: [Endothermy] and [Homeothermy]. Endothermy allows a player to power their activities by generating their own body heat, rather than relying on heat from the outside environment. Its opposite is [Ectothermy]. Homeothermy is a specific type of endothermy where a build maintains a stable body temperature regardless of outside conditions. It’s a subtle, but important distinction, because endotherm builds can also have the ability [Heterothermy], which means that they can alternate between regulating stable body temperature or allowing the environment to control it depending on their circumstances. Homeothermy is the more common kind of endothermy, while heterothermy is most often seen among smaller builds with high metabolisms, such as bats and hummingbirds. I’m here using “warm-blooded” to be synonymous with endothermy, encompassing both homeotherms and heterotherms. This is something of a misnomer, given that heterotherm builds might actually have very cold blood when they’re not generating their own body heat, but I’m going to do it anyway for convenience.

Part 1: How Warm-Blooded Builds Rose to the Top

How long warm-blooded builds have been around for is a matter of some dispute. The oldest build that some have credited with inventing warm-bloodedness was a dog-sized, lizard-like creature called the Ophiacodon. This build was introduced in the Late Carboniferous about 300 million years ago, so if it was warm-blooded, that would mean vertebrate players figured out endothermy-based strategies almost immediately after they figured out how to make large land builds. The more common belief is that warm-bloodedness was first unlocked at some point in the late Permian or early Triassic. Whatever the case, the Triassic was where warm-blooded builds really took control of the meta.

When the devs released the Triassic expansion, 250 million years ago, they started it off with the harshest balance patch in the history of the game, permanently deleting over 80% of all then-existing builds. The aftermath of this patch was a chaotic meta in which the remaining factions were trying out all kinds of bizarre strategies in an attempt to take over the top-tier spots left vacant by those that had been removed. The Permian expansion which immediately preceded it had been dominated mainly by the synapsid faction — the same faction that the aforementioned Ophiacodon came from — and the harsh balance patch had been partly intended to nerf them so that other factions would have more of a chance. For a while, it seemed like this had failed; despite the loss of most of their player base, the three remaining synapsid guilds still managed to hold on to dominance of the meta for quite a while. They were able to pull this off using a three-pronged strategy, with each of the three survivor factions optimizing for a different niche. Dicynodonts, particularly Lystrosaurus, focused on securing dominance of large herbivore niches, while therocephalians did the same for predatory niches. The third guild, the cynodonts, focused on diversifying into the widest possible variety of playstyles. Collectively, these groups managed to ensure that the synapsids retained their spot as the #1 class in the game for some time into the Triassic.

Eventually, after a few million years, another faction did emerge as serious competition and eventually overtook the synapsids: a new subclass of reptiles called the archosaurs. Archosaur mains achieved their success in part by noticing a pattern among the synapsids that had managed to make it through the balance patch: they had all specced into warm blood. The archosaurs concluded that in order to compete with the synapsids, they would have to invest into warm blood themselves. This development led to the start of an arms race which lasted throughout the Triassic expansion, ending with archosaurs replacing synapsids as the dominant land animals in just about every niche. The only synapsids that managed to survive this competition were some of the smaller cynodonts, which evolved into the first mammals. Of course, the mammals would eventually come to reclaim the synapsids’ former glory, but that’s a story for another time.

Archosaurs weren’t the only reptiles that got interested in warm-bloodedness during this period. At the same time that archosaurs and synapsids were fighting for dominance on land, a number of other reptile players started to get nostalgic for their fish days and tried returning to the water. At first, this was widely seen by the player community as an impractical long-shot strategy, since the reptiles’ inability to breathe underwater put them at a pretty obvious disadvantage compared to fish. However, it ended up paying off far better than anyone expected, as reptiles went on to dominate marine environments around the globe for the next few hundreds of millions of years. Part of the key to their success: warm-bloodedness. The two main groups of marine reptile to emerge in the Triassic expansion were the ichthyosaurs and the sauropterygians. Ichthyosaurs, which specced into warm-blooded builds pretty much immediately, quickly became the top aquatic predators and remained so throughout the Triassic expansion. Meanwhile, the sauropterygians tried throughout the Triassic to prove that traditional cold-blooded reptiles could work underwater as well, and while they did have some success, they remained in the shadow of ichthyosaurs for several million years. It was only a little over 200 million years ago, towards the end of the Triassic, that some sauropterygian mains finally decided to make a warm-blooded build of their own, which they called the plesiosaur. About 200 million years ago, the Triassic was brought to an end by another balance patch which heavily nerfed the sauropterygians and kick-started the new Jurassic expansion. But plesiosaurs managed to hold on, and by the middle of the Jurassic, they had managed to surpass ichthyosaurs as the highest-ranked marine predators in the game.

The replacement of ichthyosaurs by plesiosaurs as the ocean’s apex predators illustrates a general rule of Outside’s metagame: once warm-blooded animals become dominant in a given environment, the only thing that can dislodge them from their place is another warm-blooded animal. On land, warm-blooded therapsids took over most environments in the late Permian or early Triassic, before being replaced by warm-blooded early archosaurs. Then, these early archosaurs were themselves replaced as the dominant land animals by another group of warm-blooded archosaurs called the dinosaurs. Then the dinosaurs got nerfed into oblivion, only to be replaced by the last remaining group of warm-blooded synapsids, the mammals. Mammals remain the dominant land animals to this day. In the air, warm-blooded archosaurs called pterosaurs also became dominant in the Triassic, then were eventually replaced by another group of warm-blooded archosaurs called birds, which also continue to dominate today. In the sea, warm-blooded ichthyosaurs took over in the Triassic, then were replaced by warm-blooded plesiosaurs, and towards the end of the Cretaceous, another warm-blooded reptile called the mosasaur was beginning to surpass even the plesiosaurs. The end-Cretaceous balance patch took warm-blooded builds out of the ocean meta for a while, but mammal players soon put an end to that, and today the most dominant ocean builds are a group of warm-blooded mammals known as whales. So the general trend is clear: warm-blooded builds quickly end up taking over pretty much every biome they find their way into. But what is it about them that makes them so dominant? To find out, let’s take a look at the advantages of being warm-blooded.

Part 2: Why Warm-Bloodedness Is So Powerful

One of the biggest benefits of endothermy should be pretty apparent: it makes it a lot easier to be active in the cold. This is why, if you look at the Arctic and Antarctic servers — which are the coldest areas on the map — you find that cold-blooded builds are almost entirely absent. There are still important benefits to having high cold resistance in hot regions too, because different servers in Outside have different day/night cycles, and the overworld temperature in hot ones tends to drop sharply during the night. Even in servers like the Sahara Desert, which have a reputation for extreme heat, the nighttime temperatures can often fall into the negatives. Warm-blooded animals therefore often have a much wider window of opportunity in which to gain the points they need. For similar reasons, changes in seasons are often much easier to deal with for warm-blooded builds. Cold-blooded builds have to either avoid areas with cold winters, or spec into abilities that let them go AFK in winter, losing valuable time that could be used to gain more points and unlock new skills.

Another important benefit of endothermy is that it allows for more efficient use of oxygen for increased stamina. While cold-blooded builds have the benefit of using less energy when doing any given activity, the flip-side to this is that their oxygen meter reaches full capacity at a much lower level than similarly-sized endotherms, so they can’t usually maintain intense activity for any substantial period of time. On average, mammals can run at about half their maximum speed for sustained periods, whereas lizards get quickly exhausted if they exceed one tenth of their maximum speed. This is why, if you look at the most successful large cold-blooded builds, you notice that a lot of them have one thing in common: a play style based on ambushing targets and catching them in a grip. Because builds like the crocodile and anaconda can’t sustain any activity more intense than a slow walk for longer than about five minutes, they’ve had to develop a playstyle where they spend most of their time moving very slowly or just staying still, only moving quickly when a target gets close enough to trap with a single speedy movement. This might explain why warm-blooded builds saw such a massive burst in popularity following the Great Dying balance patch; this patch, among other things, lowered the oxygen level in the atmosphere to just 12%, giving a massive advantage to builds with more efficient respiration. This is probably also why the most successful large deep-diving builds, like plesiosaurs in the Mesozoic and whales today, have generally been warm-blooded, as this helps them to better store oxygen for use while underwater.

Another important effect of endothermy, and one I’ve discussed in the past, is the buff it grants to your resistance against disease. Of the millions of fungus builds available in the current meta, insects are vulnerable to infection by over fifty thousand of them, whereas only a few hundred are capable of infecting mammals, because the vast majority of fungi can’t grow in an environment as hot as the inside of a mammal’s body. You might think this would just incentivize pathogen players to spec into more heat resistance to counteract these effects and so end up backfiring. But actually, there’s a good reason why so few pathogen mains try something like this: animals fight off infections using their immune system, and almost all animals’ immune systems rely on a number of chemical processes that happen much faster at high temperatures. When cold-blooded animals get an infection, they usually try to seek out warmer areas so as to get their body temperature up to the optimal state for immune function. Endotherms don’t need to waste their time with this because they can just activate the [Fever] ability to adjust their own body temperatures to the optimal level for an immune function.

There’s one more hugely important advantage of warm-bloodedness that I want to talk about, and that’s that it makes it a lot easier to successfully complete the [Reproduction] questline. Vertebrates in the embryonic stage of development are extremely sensitive to changes in the surrounding temperature and can be totally destroyed by disruptions that an adult of the same build would barely notice. Consequently, it’s very important for vertebrate players to find some way to keep their new players at a roughly constant temperature until their games have fully loaded. Endothermy opens up a variety of ways to do this. In the case of mammals, this is done by locating the spawn point inside of a player to ensure that it stays at the same temperature. Bird players can achieve something similar by sitting on their eggs until they’re ready to hatch, using their own body heat to keep the eggs at an appropriate temperature. Cold-blooded animals do have ways of keeping their spawn points warm, but they’re less reliable than what endotherms can do.

Part 3: If Warm-Bloodedness Is So Great, Why Doesn’t Everyone Use It?

By now you might be wondering: if warm-bloodedness has so many advantages, and factions that spec into it almost always seem to rise to top-tier status, why do the vast majority of players decide not to spec into it? Well, the main reason is one I’ve already alluded to: maintaining a constant body temperature costs a ton of energy. If you compare the energy costs of basic functioning among cold-blooded vertebrates to warm-blooded ones, you find that the warm-blooded ones tend to use more energy while resting by a little over an order of magnitude. Mammals and birds typically have resting metabolic rates ranging from five to ten higher than cold-blooded reptiles of the same size. In addition to being the main reason why most players don’t spec into endothermy, this is probably also why the branch of archosaurs that became crocodilians made the choice, unique in the game’s history, to drop endothermy from their specs after unlocking it. For more information on this, see my post on why crocodiles are OP.

And in fact, this doesn’t even cover the whole costs, because in practice it’s not enough to just spend points on becoming warm-blooded. Outside’s physics engine uses a mechanic called thermal conduction, which means that when a hot item and a cold item are placed in close proximity, heat from the hot object will flow to the cold object until the two reach an equal temperature. So if you just spec into warm-bloodedness, but don’t spec into any other traits that counteract the heat flow, then you’ll just end up quickly losing the body heat you generate, defeating the entire purpose. That’s why, if you look at the factions that have specced into warm-bloodedness, you find they all have one thing in common: some sort of insulating substance covering their skin. Warm-blooded synapsids evolved fur, while dinosaurs evolved feathers, and pterosaurs had a mix of both. Generally, the only warm-blooded animals that forego such coverings are ones that spec deep into the [Megafauna] trait, like elephants, whales and many of the largest dinosaurs. This is because larger animals have a proportionately smaller percentage of their bodies in contact with the outside environment, and that means heat takes longer to travel between the two.

Another inherent risk of warm-bloodedness is that, especially in hot environments, it’s possible to put yourself at risk of overheating, so warm-blooded animals also need to spec into ways of dealing with this as well. One of the most effective ways to do this is to spec into the ability [Sweat], a move which allows you to cover your own skin in water, but this generally only works if you don’t have some sort of thick insulating covering blocking its flow, and as we just discussed, most endotherms do. It also drains your hydration meter, which means that if you use it too often, you may just be trading one danger for another. The more common approach is to rely on panting, using short, quick breaths to increase the evaporation of water across the moist surfaces of the tongue, mouth and lungs so as to cool the air spreading through the body. This can work, but you have to stop moving to use it effectively, so relying on it can be a handicap if your playstyle requires you to move for long periods at a time.

So to sum up: warm-bloodedness is one of the most expensive abilities ever seen in Outside, both because it costs a huge amount of points to maintain by itself and because you have to invest points in other traits like insulative coatings before you can do anything with it. Nevertheless, it is also one of the best bonuses available in the game and well worth the cost if you can figure out how to make it work. But before you go saving up all your points to unlock endothermy, there’s one more thing you should know: the choice between warm and cold blood doesn’t have to be either/or. It’s more of a spectrum. So to finish off this post, I’m going to talk a bit about the variety of abilities in the thermoregulation skill tree, in case you want to get some of the benefits of endothermy, but are unable or unwilling to pay the cost for the whole thing.

Part 4: A Fuller View Of The Thermoregulation Skill Tree

So at the baseline level, with no investment into thermoregulation, you get pure ectothermy; that is, you stay at the temperature of the environment at all times. Once you put a few points into thermoregulation, you can unlock [Facultative Endothermy]. This ability allows you to generate heat temporarily when needed. This is seen in some insects, like bumblebees, which can temporarily elevate their own body temperature above their surroundings by elevating their metabolism. It’s also seen in some reptiles, like the tegu, a type of lizard which periodically becomes endothermic during reproduction. There’s also [Regional Endothermy]. This ability lets you warm only specific parts of your body, leaving the rest at the temperature of your surroundings. This is most often seen among fish players, especially those playing predator builds. Tuna, billfish and some sharks all keep certain important body parts such as the brain and intestines at temperatures above the ambient. If you put enough points into increasing your size, then you can also unlock [Gigantothermy]. As discussed above, larger animals tend to lose heat more slowly, so an ectotherm build that specs into gigantism can end up having a body temperature that’s relatively close to constant despite still being technically ectothermic. This is why leatherback turtle mains are able to survive in freezing deep waters; being one of the largest reptile builds in the game means their body temperatures tend to be higher than would be expected for a reptile, though not as high as those of similarly sized mammals. Finally, if you do go all the way to full endothermy, you can still save a lot on costs if you also spec into the [Torpor] ability, which lets you temporarily stop producing heat and go dormant to save energy. Note that torpor only works for short periods, so if you want to be able to lay dormant for weeks on end, you’ll need to spec into [Hibernation] instead. Of course, the disadvantage here is that going dormant will reduce your ability to respond to threats; torpor at least allows you to wake up if hurt or startled, but hibernation does not. You’ll need to take this into account if you want to make good use of this ability. Overall, I would say that full endothermy is still the way to go if you can make it work, but if you can’t afford that, going part of the way can nevertheless give valuable advantages.


In Outside, as in any competitive game, it’s often tempting to assume that the best way to succeed is to copy whatever the winning team is doing. But it’s not always that simple. You might think that, since mammals and birds are currently in the lead because of endothermy, that every other guild should just spec into endothermy to compete with them. However, the fact is that mammals and birds are only able to bear the costs of endothermy thanks to unique combinations of secondary abilities that other guilds wouldn’t necessarily be able to replicate. It’s a good example of how seemingly obvious improvements often have hidden costs that aren’t easy to see ahead of time.

The Rat and Mouse Tier List

[This is part of a series of posts about animals. To find other posts in this series, see here.]

In the current meta of Outside, all manner of otherwise perfectly viable or even top-tier builds have been suddenly finding themselves on the verge of becoming completely unplayable thanks to human player activity. But in the midst of all this chaos, a few builds have actually managed to turn the sudden changes to their advantage. This is most obviously true of builds like dogs and cats that have specced directly into partnering with humans, but it’s also true of many small generalists that have found great success by following humans around and taking advantage of all the loot they leave behind. Among mammals, probably the best examples of this strategy are the mouse and the rat. I’ve already talked a bit about mice in a previous post, but I thought it might be a good idea to go a bit more in depth. Today, I’m going to do a tier list for mice and rats to see which subclasses make best use of these build’s playstyles.

Ordinarily, when I make a post about a particular group of animals, I try to talk a bit about the history of the class, explaining when they were introduced and how they rose to prominence. However, I can’t really do that here, because rats and mice are both technically not valid groups. “Rat” and “mouse” are both just loose terms for describing several unrelated groups of rodent builds that have independently developed similar build designs and strategies. So instead of discussing their history, I’m just going to go straight to discussing their stats and abilities. Rats and mice tend to be among the more basic, vanilla rodents, stressing fundamentals over unique special perks. Stat-wise, mice go for a pretty basic minimaxing approach. They’ve got high mobility, but abysmal power, defence and HP and a very short lifespan. Any attack they fail to dodge is likely to be a Game Over. They make up for their losses through their fast spawn rate; a single mouse can give birth to more than five litters a year, and with more than five mice in each litter. Rats tend to go for a more jack-of-all-trades approach. Their mobility stats and spawn rates are nearly as high as those of mice, but they’ve also invested a comparatively substantial amount into attack power. Because of their relatively high attack rating, they’re one of the few rodents able to function as predators of other vertebrates. In fact, rat mains often use their power to kill and eat mice as well as other weaker rodents. Rats are also larger than mice, which reduces their stealth, but also means they have better defence and HP, enough so that they can sometimes afford to take the risk of directly trying to fight off and intimidate larger predators rather than just running away or hiding. Rats also tend to spec more into intelligence, as we’ll see later.

As far as special abilities go, perhaps the most noteworthy advantage of both classes is their famous ability to eat almost anything. This is key to their skill at adapting to human-dominated environments; while they usually feed primarily on plants and small invertebrates, they can easily switch to eating trash humans leave behind without taking much of a health penalty. Another important ability they have is the fact that their incisor teeth grow constantly. This ability, which is actually shared by all rodents, is both a strength and a weakness. It lets them gnaw away at structures without risk, since they don’t need to worry if a tooth breaks off, but it also means that if they aren’t constantly finding things to gnaw on, their teeth can grow too big and end up hurting them.

As far as the tier list goes, I’d say that rats generally rank ahead of mice. Although mice are a bit better at avoiding predators, rats make up for this by being better able to defend themselves. Many predators that can easily kill other rodents will generally try to avoid fighting rats; even the house cat, one of the best anti-rodent builds in the entire game, doesn’t have a very good matchup against rats and will generally avoid fighting them where possible. While I don’t think they have a good enough matchup spread to qualify as truly OP, rats are still undeniably one of the most successful generalist builds in the entire game. They’re found in just about every land region and excel at adapting to changes in their environment. I would say rats generally rank around high B tier, while mice generally rank in low B tier. But what kinds of mice and rats are best? Let’s now look at the mouse and rat tier list. As usual, since there are several hundred mouse and rat builds, I won’t be able to look at all of them, but I’ll try to cover the most interesting ones.

So probably the worst rat builds are the Sulawesian shrew rat and the tweezer-beaked rat. These two builds are pretty much the same. They’re each restricted to a single island — the tweezer-beaked rat to the island of Luzon in the Philippines, and the shrew rat to Sulawesi in Indonesia — and they’re both specialist predators of soft-bodied invertebrates, particularly earthworms. One subclass of shrew rat is unique among rodents in that it has only two teeth and no molars. Both of these builds have thrown away the key advantages of the rat build, like adaptability and omnivory, in exchange for being able to play on easy mode servers with a large earthworm playerbase. I really see no reason to play as either when shrews already exist and fulfill basically the same role much more successfully. Given that even actual shrews are mid-tier at best, I think their inferior copies have to place in F tier.

In D tier, we have two rat builds that were created for and are exclusive to the Australia server. Unlike all of Australia’s other placental land mammals, rats and mice were not introduced by humans; instead, they started to colonize the server on their own around six million years ago, after some Asian rats drifted to Australia on floating plant matter. Since there weren’t any native placental land mammals, their main competition for generalist niches was from marsupials, which tend not to be as versatile as placentals. This allowed rat players in Australia to get away with a lot of janky strategies that wouldn’t have been possible elsewhere, though in most cases, not ones that have worked particularly well. One example of this is the greater stick-nest rat. Found mostly in dry savannah, this is one of the few purely herbivorous rat builds, eating mostly succulent leaves. As the name suggests, it’s a fairly large rat — about the size of a rabbit — that builds nests out of sticks. The nests form a kind of protective base, strong enough to repel just about any predator in the region.

Stick-nest rats got heavily nerfed in the 18th and 19th centuries after humans introduced rabbits and other placental grazers to Australia. The massive influx of new herbivores led to the destruction of huge portions of the server’s vegetation, making it much harder for the stick-nest rats to find sticks. Unable to form protective nests, greater stick-nest rats were completely eliminated from most of Australia by dogs, foxes and cats, and today they survive only on a handful of offshore islands. Their smaller relatives, the lesser stick-nest rats, were even more unfortunate and were removed from the game entirely. Remember, a defensive base is useful, but you can’t be hiding in your nest all the time. If you want to succeed in the meta, you need to be able to protect yourselves when you’re outside of the nest too.

The other Australian rat that I’m going to place in D tier is the rakali. Also known as the water rat, this build specced into webbed feet and adapted to the niche of a semi-aquatic predator in an attempt to make a rodent version of the otter build. Speccing into a semi-aquatic playstyle is actually a common choice for rat players, but the rakali is unusual in hunting largely fish and other aquatic vertebrates, whereas most other semiaquatic rats tend to preferentially hunt worms and arthropods. However, since rakalis are much smaller and weaker than even the smallest otters, they often get bodied by builds that a full-grown otter could easily fight off. Even the platypus, a build which is normally not a threat to anything larger than an insect, has occasionally been known to brutally slaughter water rats without even needing to use its venom. Despite their webbed feet, water rats also aren’t as well-adapted to swimming as otters. They actually get a movement penalty for being in water which reduces their maximum speed to less than half what it would be on land. To their credit, rakalis do have one major advantage over much of the rest of the server: a good matchup against cane toads. Most Australian predators have to avoid the cane toad because of its poison, but because of their high intelligence, the rats have figured out how to surgically remove the most valuable parts of cane toads while avoiding the poison glands. Overall, I can definitely see potential in the rakali’s strategy, but it has a ways to go before it can come anywhere near the viability of its carnivoran counterpart.

In C tier, we have the first two non-murid builds on this list. First up, the flying mouse. This is a mouse build that took a page from the flying squirrel’s playbook and specced into gliding abilities. As I’ve previously discussed when talking about the sugar glider, this is a decent defence against ground and arboreal predators but worse than useless against attacks from aerial builds, balancing out to C tier.

Next in C tier, we have another non-murid, the kangaroo rat. This build is found in arid areas of western North America, where it fills the niche of a burrowing seed-eater. The kangaroo rat has a few key adaptations that allow it to survive in some of the server’s harshest terrain. For one, kangaroo rats never need to drink. They can survive indefinitely off just the moisture from the plants they eat. Unusually among rodents, they also get around primarily by hopping on two legs like a kangaroo. As I noted in my marsupial tier list, this is an important advantage in dry regions because getting around via hopping enables you to traverse large distances in search of food with minimal energy expenditure.

Kangaroo rats spend most of their lives in burrows. When they come out to search for food at night, they quickly hoard as much plant matter as they can find and take what they don’t immediately eat back to their burrow. While it is impressive that kangaroo rats have managed to adapt to such harsh environments, I’m not sure this is the best strategy. My main issue with it is that all of the time they spend wandering in search of food is time they spend wide open to be attacked by predators. This is somewhat of a problem for most rats, and most rodents in general, but it’s particularly a problem in deserts because there is basically nowhere to hide unless they can make it back to their burrow in time. To deal with this, kangaroo rats have specced into a smaller build than most other rats as well as a brown fur coating that helps them blend into the sand. This all does make them harder to target accurately, but their smaller build also means they’re much less likely to be able to survive an attack that does manage to land. Overall, I think this playstyle is too risky for this build to earn a position any higher than average on the tier list.

At the bottom of B tier, we have the house mouse. This is probably the most popular mouse build in the current meta, as it’s one of the best builds for taking advantage of food left behind by humans. House mice tend to be highly successful wherever human settlements exist, to the point that they can become a devastating plague if left unchecked, but this has come at a cost. House mice are so dependent on support from humans that they can’t really function in wild biomes. When they try to survive in forests or other habitats away from human settlements, they tend to get bodied left and right by predators and outcompeted by other small generalists.

In mid-B tier, we have another desert-adapted build, the spiny mouse. This build is named for being covered in guard hairs similar to a hedgehog’s spines, and just like a hedgehog’s spines, these are used to boost their defence against predators. If that fails, they fall back on their secondary special ability, [Autotomy]. Unique among mammals, this ability allows the player to drop body parts if they get grabbed by a predator. Unlike most builds with this ability, though, it’s not limited to being grabbed in a specific area: every part of the mouse’s skin is designed to come off easily when grabbed and then quickly grow back. Now I’m not usually the biggest fan of autotomy as a defence, since it requires you to take damage in order to use it, even if you can heal. However, since spiny mice use it as a backup defence rather than relying on it, I’m not going to be too hard on them. Some spiny mice also have the ability to survive off of saltwater in areas where fresh water is too difficult to find.

Also in mid-B tier, we have one of the stranger rat builds, the maned rat. This build is unique among mammals in that it relies on poisons borrowed from another species to defend itself. Maned rats have a crest of spongy, absorbent hairs extending out of the tips of its heads, which they rub with bark from poison arrow trees to store the tree’s toxins for their own use. When threatened, the rat erects its mane and exposes the now-poisonous hairs to ward off attacks. In the past, I’ve been harsh on builds that rely on poison for defence, but I don’t want to give the idea that poison is an inherently bad defence; I just don’t think it’s something that you should rely on to the exclusion of all else. Given that rat players already have a fairly effective baseline build to begin with, I think spending their leftover evolution points on poison is a reasonable way to further deter predators.

At the top of B tier, we have the grasshopper mouse. This build is not a murid, but actually belongs to the guild with the second largest group of mice and rats, the cricetid guild. The grasshopper mouse is unusual among rodents in that it’s optimized specifically for griefing arthropod players. Grasshopper mice traded away some of the standard mouse build’s running speed in exchange for increased combat stats, with a particularly large investment into developing resistance to toxins, and are among the very few mice that can often be seen killing targets in their own weight class. Grasshopper mice use their venom resistance and high agility to grief arthropods that would be too dangerous for most mice to take on, like scorpions and centipedes. Grasshopper mice also have some of the highest intimidation stats among rodents thanks to their ear-piercing howls, which they use to scare intruders away from their territories. While this is probably the best mouse build in the current game, I still think its glass cannon status holds it back from a higher placement.

In A tier, we have the black rat. This build doesn’t have much in the way of special abilities compared to other builds on this list, but it’s risen to prominence in the meta by taking good advantage of the basic rat build’s strengths. Black rats originated on the India server, but have since spread throughout the world by stowing away aboard human ships. Black rats have little trouble adapting to almost any place they manage to find a way into because of their fast spawn rate, excellent climbing skills, and ability to consume nearly any type of loot. Their spread has had devastating effects on many casual island metas because they’ve been outcompeting and replacing less adaptable local builds. Even though black rat players only unlocked the New Zealand server a little over 150 years ago, they’ve become so good at griefing local birds there that even if every black rat player on the server was banned today, the meta would probably still take decades to recover from their reign of terror.

Black rats do have a few weaknesses that keep them out of top-tier, though, most notable among which is their sensitivity to temperature. Much like cockroaches, black rats can adapt to pretty much any environment as long as there’s warmth, but they don’t do very well at adapting to cold areas. They can survive in cold regions by taking advantage of the artificial warmth created by human-inhabited buildings, but this comes with its own risks, since humans are likely to try to kill any rat players they discover in their bases. As a pro-tip, if you want to avoid getting killed by humans when playing as a black rat, you might want to look for the Temple of Rats in the Indian town of Deshnoke. This temple was constructed by humans specifically to house black rats, which many in the region consider sacred. The temple’s current black rat player base is over fifteen thousand.

As great as the black rat is, there is an even better rat build out there, one so OP that even black rats struggle to compete with it: the brown rat. Brown rats originated on the China server. Like black rats, they’ve since spread around the world alongside humans, but the way they did it was a bit more complicated. While black rats, as well as house mice, basically just followed wherever human agricultural settlements started cropping up throughout history, brown rats didn’t really start to spread outside of Asia until humans started developing global trading networks in the 1500s.

The brown rat build is pretty similar to the black rat build, but about twice as big, and with a few other upgrades. First of all, brown rats have higher resistance to cold than black rats and tend to be the dominant rat species in areas too cold for black rats to easily survive. Secondly, brown rats are more comfortable with versatile movement options than black rats are. Black rats can use a variety of movement options, but mostly focus on running and climbing, while brown rats are equally comfortable running, climbing, swimming or burrowing. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, brown rats have probably the highest intelligence rating of any rodent. Brown rats are smart enough to develop a complex social structure and are famously great problem-solvers. They’ve even figured out how to use tools, an ability unique among rodents. So it’s no wonder that brown rats have an even more devastating impact on metas to which they get introduced than black rats do. The brown rat player base in Europe has even been awarded the title of most destructive invasive non-human mammal build on the server. In fact, despite the black rat getting a significant head start in following humans around, the brown rat has by now replaced the black rat as the dominant rat build across much of the map, especially in city biomes.

Now as with most rats, one of the major problems faced by brown rats in cities is the risk of drawing attacks from humans. However, some brown rat players actually have found a solution to this problem. Brown rat players who invest heavily into sociality can actually opt to play as pets for humans. This version of the brown rat, known as the fancy rat, is an unorthodox sort of support, in that its only benefit for humans is a morale bonus rather than fulfilling any greater function, but a surprisingly large number of human players have decided to incorporate them into their party anyway. Since this is more a matter of luck than actual good build design, I haven’t taken this into account when giving them their high ranking, but it’s an option that rat players should be aware of. Even without taking this into account, though, the brown rat is an excellent build that easily ranks at the top of A tier.

Now given how globally successful rats are, it might seem surprising that there are no rat builds in S tier. However, I think that even the best rats have a few key weaknesses that keep them from being S tier. For one thing, venomous snakes tend to be a hard counter to rats because their camouflage and reliance on killing prey with a single fast strike means that rat players often don’t see them coming in time to dodge their attacks. Birds of prey are also a pretty good counter to rats, since rats don’t really have much of a way to counter an attack from a flying opponent. So despite their impressive track record, I don’t think brown rats or any other type of rats quite reach the level of uncontested dominance that would be required to be S tier.

The Complete List of All “Animals as Video Game Characters” Posts

So I thought it would be a good idea to have a page with a list of all my guides to Outside, to make them a little easier to navigate for any players just discovering this site. Here’s the list. I’ll be updating it as I come out with new posts. All posts are listed in chronological order.

Giant herbivorous mammals

Crocodiles

Myriapods (centipedes, millipedes and relatives)

Bats

The platypus

Cockroaches

Xenarthrans (sloths, armadillos and anteaters)

Animals featured in Looney Tunes

Raccoons

Deer

The most overrated life forms

Marsupials

Apex predators of the African savannah

Tyrannosaurus rex

Obscure carnivorans (viverrids, euplerids, red pandas and mongooses)

Cephalopods (octopuses, squid and relatives)

Mice and rats

Warm-bloodedness

Elephants

Snakes

The Cephalopod Tier List: Explaining and Evaluating Some of Outside’s Weirdest High-Tier Characters

In all of my previous posts about Outside, I’ve mostly focused on vertebrate and arthropod builds. This is pretty typical of guides like this, and it’s not hard to see why. These two groups emerged at the top of the meta almost immediately after they were introduced 540 million years ago, and they’ve remained the two most dominant factions ever since. Not only that, they’re also generally the most interesting groups; whereas most of the major factions in Outside have a very simple playstyle that all the members stick to pretty closely, vertebrates and arthropods each have a huge variety of builds that differ radically in build design, stat spread, ability kit and overall gameplay. However, when it comes to the ocean meta, there’s one guild in the mollusc faction that has been able to compete on a nearly even footing with the best of these top two factions for millions of years, and has single-handedly elevated molluscs from a complete joke to the third highest-ranked faction in the game. I’m referring of course to the cephalopods, the guild that includes the squid, octopus and nautilus. This guild has some of the most bizarre, yet highly effective build designs out of all Outside’s high-tier characters. Seeing as this guild has been attracting a huge influx of new players in recent years, I thought it would be a good idea to make a guide explaining their unorthodox gameplay so that newcomers to the guild have an idea of what to expect. What stats and abilities have elevated cephalopods so far above the rest of the mollusc faction? And where do they rank on the tier list?

Cephalopods are one of the game’s oldest guilds. They first appeared in the Cambrian expansion, when some mollusc players decided to drop feet from their build and spec into tentacles instead. These players also specced into buoyant shells, which meant they could actually swim instead of just crawling on the sea floor like their snail and slug cousins. The meta of Outside was in something of a state of anarchy at this point, and players were trying all kinds of bizarre new strategies to try and take control of the chaos. Most of the weirder strategies faded out of the meta sooner or later, but cephalopods proved effective enough to stick around for quite a while. However, unlike certain other ancient guilds I’ve covered, cephalopods have updated their strategies significantly since their introduction in order to remain relevant. Early cephalopods relied on shells for defence, and for a few expansions, cephalopod players spent most of their evolution points on improving their shells. This started to become a problem during the Triassic expansion, when a number of the top marine predators started investing in shell-crushing attacks. To counter this, some cephalopods during the Jurassic expansion decided to drop the shell from their specs entirely. Counter-intuitively, this actually made them better at defending themselves against predators, because they could swim away more quickly when attacked without their shells weighing them down. It was around this time that cephalopods would develop their current forms and playstyles, becoming the first octopuses and squid, which have remained among the highest-ranked ocean predators ever since. Still, octopuses and squid didn’t become the primary cephalopods immediately; shelled cephalopods would continue to co-exist with the new builds until the K-T balance patch. While most famous for nerfing the giant reptiles that dominated the Cretaceous meta, this patch also banned nearly all shelled cephalopods, leaving the octopus and squid as basically the only viable options for players who wanted to keep the cephalopod guild alive.

Now before we can understand the cephalopods, it’s important first to understand the unique way that they execute their design specs. So as you probably know, the source code for all builds is stored in .DNA files. However, in order to run the source code for any build, the .DNA files must be converted into .RNA files; executing these .RNA files loads the proteins that carry out all the required functions. This process is not always completely reliable, though — every now and then, the .RNA file is altered after conversion and the proteins end up not being what the source code instructed. This alteration is created by programs called ADARs. Why the devs included this feature in the game is unclear, but in a normal build, ADARs operate fairly rarely and don’t have much of an effect on gameplay. In humans, for example, only about 3% of the build design ever gets lost or altered in this process, and it’s mostly restricted to commenting out unnecessary code. But in most cephalopods, RNA editing is the primary means of adapting to environmental changes. Where a typical mammal has no more than a few hundred .RNA files that can be edited by ADARs in their code, a typical cephalopod has over eighty thousand such files, mostly ones coding for the nervous system. This technique was a carefully guarded guild secret among cephalopod mains for a long time and was only publicly exposed a few years ago, so we don’t really know why they did this or what effects it has, but it appears to play a role in helping them adapt to temperature changes and is likely an important part of the reason for their success across such a wide range of oceanic biomes.

As far as stats go, cephalopods are probably best known for their intelligence. For the most part, investment into high intelligence is a strategy almost exclusively used by vertebrate players; even when an invertebrate build gets credited for its high intelligence, it usually has to come with the caveat that this is only relative to others in their guild, like in my post on cockroaches. Cephalopods are the one exception to this rule. Where most invertebrates have a small and simple nervous system consisting of no more than a million neurons or so at most, a typical cephalopod has over five hundred million neurons, on par with a small dog. Octopuses in particular are known for their excellent problem-solving abilities, as well as having some ability to use tools. In particular, they have been found carrying discarded coconut shells around with them as a kind of armour. Human players who’ve worked with octopuses in aquariums have even noted that the octopuses often seem aware of the difference between the aquarium and their natural environment in a way that fish and other marine invertebrates aren’t. Under-stimulated captive octopuses frequently manage to escape from captivity, and they even carefully time their escape attempts so as to avoid being seen by their captors. This puts cephalopod intelligence at by far the highest among invertebrates and even ahead of most vertebrates.

It’s worth noting here that cephalopods have specced into the [Decentralized Nervous System] ability. This means that, unlike in mammals and other vertebrate builds, a cephalopod’s neurons are not entirely controlled by a single brain. Instead, most of them are in their arms, to the point that each arm can think and move on its own for a period of the time when severed from the body. This might seem like a pointless and counterproductive ability, since a severed arm can’t eat or mate on its own and so won’t live for long anyway, and it means they aren’t always aware of their own movements and need to be looking at their own arms continually in order to properly perform complex tasks. However, it actually does have an important benefit as a deterrent for predators, serving a function similar to the [Poisonous Skin] ability seen in some other animals. If you eat a cephalopod’s arm, the arm might still fight back to avoid being swallowed, and if you’re not careful, it might get lodged in your throat and cause you to die of asphyxiation.

Now I don’t want to get too caught up in the hype here. Cephalopods still have a ways to go before they truly master intelligence-based gameplay. While being able to use tools is impressive, cephalopods only use a few fairly simple tool types and don’t display the same ability to innovate with a variety of tools in the same way as some high-intelligence amniote builds like the chimpanzee, crow or honey badger. Most cephalopods also do not have access to one of the best intelligence-based abilities in the game: social structure. So while their intelligence is the best among invertebrates, I don’t think they’re quite as impressive as even relatively modest vertebrate intelligence builds like the rat or crocodile, let alone the really exceptional ones like the elephant and dolphin. I think the main reason why they get so much attention is because, with the obvious exception of cetacean mains, there aren’t very many players in the open ocean meta that invest into intelligence to any significant degree. The oceanic meta is dominated by fish and invertebrates, two groups that tend to use intelligence as dump stats. If cephalopods had to compete in a land biome dominated by mammals and birds, they would probably seem a lot less impressive. To be fair, though, some octopus mains have been investing more into social structure lately, creating sites where octopuses can gather to socialize in relatively complex ways. If octopuses continue more down this path, I could definitely see their stature rising in the meta to the point of being really overpowered.

One area where cephalopods definitely do stand out above all others, though, is in their stealth stat, the best in the history of the game. Cephalopods have grouped their chromatophores — the cells that create skin colour — into a complex system of muscles and organs. By contracting and relaxing these muscles, they can change the colour of their skin at will, as well as its opacity and reflectivity. Besides letting them disguise themselves in nearly any environment, this has the side benefit of allowing cephalopods to unlock a unique combat move called [Passing Cloud]. Cephalopod players use this move to confuse and startle other players by creating waves of dark colouration across their bodies, which is highly effective against low-intelligence builds like crabs. But what makes cephalopods truly exceptional at disguising themselves is that they can not only change the colour of their skin, but also the shape and texture. They have small regions in their skin called [Papillae], where muscle fibers run in a pattern of concentric circles resembling a spider’s web. When these fibers contract, they pull the soft tissue of the papillae towards the centre, and because the tissue doesn’t compress easily, it ends up going upwards. By arranging the muscle fibers in different patterns, a cephalopod can turn its skin into all manner of three-dimensional shapes. This gives them an unparalleled ability to seamlessly blend into just about any environment, and, in some cases, to mimic the appearance of other animals for the purposes of luring in prey or scaring off predators. In a combat situation, most cephalopods can buff their stealth even further by using the move [Ink Jet]. Cephalopods have a gland that produces black ink, which they store in a sac underneath the digestive gland. When confronted by a predator, cephalopods can squirt out a jet of this ink. This temporarily blocks their opponent’s vision and olfaction, allowing them to get away unseen. This is particularly impressive because it’s one of the few moves in the game that prevents detection via smell as well as sight.

In addition to their remarkable intelligence and stealth, cephalopods also have fairly high ratings in attack and mobility. All cephalopod builds are predators, and since they often prey on crabs and other high-defence builds, they’ve had to invest a fair amount into attack power. While prehistoric cephalopods were once held back by their difficulty dealing with shell-crushing attacks, today cephalopods have gained enough points to spec into shell-crushing attacks of their own. First off, each of a cephalopod’s eight arms is covered in extremely strong suckers, allowing them to get a nearly unbreakable grip on their targets, and these are used to pull snails and other players out of their shells. If that fails, they can resort to their second line of attack. All cephalopods have sharp, hard beaks containing toothed tongues called radulas as well as venomous saliva. If they can’t pull an animal out of its shell, they can puncture it with the beak, or use the radula like a drill to poke holes in the shell. Once they’ve got a large enough exposed area, they use their venomous bite to paralyze or kill the target.

To optimize mobility, cephalopods have specced into a rare movement ability called [Jet Propulsion]. This ability allows them to push themselves in any direction by sucking water into their mantle and then ejecting it through a funnel in the direction opposite where they want to go. They can swim with their fins like other sea creatures too, but jet propulsion is faster. However, where cephalopods really stand out is not in their speed but in their flexibility — the highest in the entire game. Because cephalopods have limbs composed almost entirely of muscle, with no bones or other rigid tissues, they have an extraordinarily wide range of movement. Each of a cephalopod’s eight arms can bend, twist, elongate and shorten at any point along its length and in any direction, allowing for more than sixteen-and-a-half thousand types of arm deformation in total. Cephalopods are so flexible that even the largest octopuses can still compress themselves enough to fit through tiny holes, effectively limited only by the size of their beaks.

So by now you might be thinking all these abilities make octopuses and squid OP. However, they do have some important weaknesses that should be taken into account as well. First off, their high ratings in the four aforementioned areas are mitigated by their abysmal ratings in the two remaining base stats, defence and HP. Because their bodies have no hard tissue aside from their beaks, cephalopods have some of the worst resistance to attacks in the entire game. If they somehow get caught by a larger predator, it’s generally game over. They are particularly vulnerable to ambush attacks, since basically the only way they can survive an attack from a larger predator without taking serious damage is if they see the attacker coming in time to hide or flee.

While squid have basically no defensive options if they get grabbed by a predator, octopuses do have one: the special ability [Autotomy], which allows the player to sever one of their own arms in order to escape a predator’s grab. While this is better than nothing, relying on it as your primary line of defence has some pretty obvious drawbacks. For one thing, it’s only useful if your attacker grabs you by the arm, so you’re still screwed if you get grabbed by the head instead. Also, I probably shouldn’t have to point this out, but losing your arm is just generally not a good thing. Now to be fair, cephalopods have specced heavily into HP regeneration, so if they survive the attack, they’ll quickly get a new arm that’s just as good as the old one. However, this takes time, and losing an appendage that helps you to swim while you’re under attack and need to swim away quickly is a pretty risky play.

There are many predators in the ocean servers that prey on octopuses and squid, exploiting their low defences, but possibly the most challenging for them to deal with is the dolphin. Not only do dolphins have even higher intelligence than cephalopods, and high enough HP that a live cephalopod’s attacks are unlikely to seriously damage them, but they also rely primarily on echolocation to find targets, which is one of the few detection methods that cephalopods have no defence against. Also, because dolphins have such high intelligence, they usually come prepared for the choking hazard posed by cephalopod arms and will make sure to neutralize a cephalopod before eating it so its arms don’t fight back.

Besides their low defensive stats, cephalopods have another, less obvious weakness: they’re held back by their inefficient life cycle. When their game loads, cephalopods have to spend the first part of their tutorial as plankton. Note here that, contrary to popular belief, “plankton” is not actually a specific build or build type. Rather, plankton is a general term for any build that moves around by drifting along ocean currents. Although the plankton playstyle is a very common strategy among small marine builds, almost all of these builds are extremely weak garbage-tiers that basically act as free XP for all manner of predators, and baby cephalopods are no exception. The plankton stage in most cephalopod builds lasts for a few weeks, and the vast majority of players get a Game Over while still in this stage, never getting to the point where they can use all their broken abilities. To compensate for this, cephalopods need to lay up to 500,000 eggs at a time to remain competitive. However, even if everything goes right and a cephalopod player survives long enough to reach full power, they still have the [Semelparity] weakness, which means they die immediately after reproducing. As a result, cephalopods have pretty short lifespans, with their game times tending to last only around two or three years at most. While most fast-respawning invertebrates have similarly short lifespans, it’s particularly limiting for cephalopods because it means their high intelligence isn’t nearly as useful as it could be. Ordinarily, the members of a class that spec the most into intelligence will tend to also invest more than usual into a long lifespan, so that they can learn as many tactics as possible and then teach them to the next generation. If cephalopods specced into longer lifespans, at least long enough to protect their vulnerable offspring during the tutorial, I think they could become a truly oppressive force in the meta.

Now I’ve been lumping all cephalopods together for most of this post, and they are all fairly similar for the most part, but there are some important differences I should also acknowledge. There are three main subclasses of cephalopod in the current meta: the squid, the nautilus, and the octopus. The nautilus is basically a throwback build, a Mesozoic shelled cephalopod that for some reason was exempted from the end-Cretaceous ban on such designs and has remained playable up to the current expansion. For the hundreds of millions of years they’ve been around, nautilus mains have refused to change their playstyle to take advantage of all the powerful abilities available to cephalopods. While they do still have sharp beaks, they have no camouflage, no ink, no venom, and no advanced problem-solving abilities. Instead, they’ve continued to sink almost all their evolution points into defensive shells, making them essentially swimming snails. Just like snails, they basically have no options for dealing with any predators powerful enough or persistent enough to break through their shell, and this overspecialization makes them the only low-tier cephalopod in the current meta. I rate them D tier.

The other two subclasses, octopuses and squid, are mostly pretty similar, and pretty much everything I said about cephalopods above applies to both. However, there are some important distinctions. Firstly, while both have eight arms, squid have also specced into two extra tentacles for assistance with gripping prey. Second, squid tend to get around by swimming and do almost all of their hunting in the open ocean. Octopuses, while capable swimmers, prefer to stick to crawling where possible and hunt mostly prey on the sea floor. Octopuses can crawl on land too, although this is risky since they can’t survive out of the water for long. Also, many squid can glow in the dark, while octopuses can’t. I think octopuses rank slightly higher on the tier list due to their superior movement versatility, and since they’re not quite as bad at escaping grabs, but both are great builds. I would rate both octopuses and squid near the top of A tier.

Before I finish off, I’d like to take a look briefly at the variety of the over 800 cephalopod builds in the current meta. While I’m not going to do a full tier list for them, I would like to briefly recommend a few that I think stand out. For octopus players, I’ll start with the blue-ringed octopus, which is the octopus that has put the most points into venom. Most octopuses only have enough venom to paralyze or kill lightweight prey, but the blue-ringed octopus has a neurotoxin powerful enough to one-shot animals up to the size of grown humans. The other octopus that I want to recommend is the mimic octopus, the build that has elevated the octopus’s skill for confusing other players to an art form. While many players will try to scare off predators by mimicking another, more dangerous build, mimic octopuses are unique in that they can learn to imitate a wide variety of other builds. While they most commonly mimic flatfish, they can also mimic everything from lionfish and sea snakes to sponges and jellyfish, and they can carefully select which animal they mimic based on what other animal they’re trying to bait or scare off.

For squid players, my top recommendations would be the giant, colossal and flying squid. The giant and colossal squid are the two largest invertebrates in the entire game, weighing over half a ton. Ordinarily, I’d say that becoming huge is a bad idea when playing a stealth build, but colossal and giant squid play in the pitch-black deep sea, so this doesn’t really matter. Because of their size, giant and colossal squid are avoided by almost all predators when full-grown, except for the sperm whale. As an added bonus, they have the largest eyes in the entire game, for maximum ability to see in darkness. The colossal squid is the larger of the two builds, but it’s only available on the Antarctica server, while the giant squid can be accessed in any deep-sea biome. Be aware that despite their apparent similarities, these two builds have fairly different playstyles; giant squid actively hunt for kills, where colossal squid basically just float around and grab onto any fish that comes within their reach. The other squid build that I would recommend is the flying squid, which has the ability to jump out of the water and glide through air, similar to a flying fish. This is a risky move, since it leaves you open to attack by birds with no possible means of evasion, but it is faster and more energy-efficient than swimming over long distances. The biggest and best flying squid build is the Humboldt squid, which is also the only cephalopod that hunts in packs. I’d consider the Humboldt squid the best cephalopod build in the current game, and it’s no surprise that more and more players across the North America server have been abandoning their previous mains to play as one.
Usually, when recommending builds in particular guilds, I tend to praise those that take best advantage of the guild’s existing strengths, and look down on those that give these strengths up. So, for example, marsupials tend to be low-tier because they give up the high intelligence that is the main draw of the mammal class. But the success of the cephalopods is an interesting example of how sometimes, the best thing to do for players in less successful factions is to give up on their existing strategies entirely and completely reverse direction. Ordinarily, the biggest strength of mollusc builds tends to be their defensive armour, but most mollusc players invest so many points into their shells that they have almost nothing left over for things like offence, mobility and intelligence. Mollusc builds like the snail, clam and oyster can almost never evade any attack, nor launch a counter-attack, so they’re extremely vulnerable to any predator with high enough strength to break through their shell or high enough intelligence to craft shell-breaking tools and so are all low-tier trash. Meanwhile, the octopus and squid have given up on investment into defence almost completely, and in doing so, they’ve freed up enough evolution points to unlock one of the strongest sets of stats and abilities in the entire game, becoming the only high-tier molluscs in the current meta. Other players maining low-tier characters should really consider taking inspiration from them.

Announcing My Intention to Make a 250 Greatest Movies List

Someone on Reddit made a post around 2014 listing the 250 most acclaimed movies of all time, as measured by a combination of RottenTomatoes, IMDB, and Metacritic scores. I can’t find the original post right now, but I made a copy of the list when I first saw it and have since been going through it, deciding which ones do and don’t belong on the list. I plan to gradually find replacements for each of the ones I decided don’t belong. I’ll get around to explaining my reasoning in more detail eventually, but for now I’m just going to post the list here with the ones I think don’t belong crossed off. The ones with asterisks are the ones that I think come closest to actually belonging. [EDIT: Note that my choices here are not set in stone; I reserve the right to change my mind about the movies listed in-between now and the release of my full list.]

• 1. The Godfather

• 2. Seven Samurai

• 3. 12 Angry Men

• 4. Lawrence of Arabia

• 5. Modern Times

• 6. Dr. Strangelove

• 7. The Wizard of Oz

• 8. Metropolis

• 9. Rear Window

• 10. Boyhood

• 11. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

• 12. Schindler’s List

• 13. Spirited Away

• 14. Pulp Fiction

• 15. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

• 16. Pan’s Labyrinth

• 17. Citizen Kane

• 18. North By Northwest

• 19. Singin’ in the Rain

• 20. M

• 21. Gravity

• 22. Taxi Driver

• 23. Toy Story 3*

• 24. Ratatouille

• 25. Toy Story

• 26. Toy Story 2

• 27. Casablanca

• 28. Sunset Boulevard

• 29. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

• 30. The Third Man

• 31. The Gold Rush*

• 32. Ikiru

• 33. Wall-E

• 34. Apocalypse Now

• 35. 12 Years a Slave

• 36. Psycho

• 37. Vertigo

• 38. Grave of the Fireflies

• 39. Cool Hand Luke

• 40. The Maltese Falcon

• 41. Rebecca*

• 42. The Grapes of Wrath

• 43. Bicycle Thieves

• 44. The 400 Blows

• 45. Stalker

• 46. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

• 47. Goodfellas

• 48. L.A. Confidential

• 49. Amadeus

• 50. A Separation

• 51. It’s a Wonderful Life

• 52. La Haine

• 53. Yojimbo

• 54. Taare Zameen Par

• 55. Le Samourai

• 56. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

• 57. Star Wars: A New Hope

• 58. Raiders of the Lost Ark

• 59. Finding Nemo

• 60. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

• 61. On the Waterfront

• 62. The Godfather: Part II

• 63. Monty Python and the Holy Grail

• 64. Double Indemnity

• 65. It Happened One Night

• 66. La Dolce Vita

• 67. Saving Private Ryan

• 68. Up

• 69. Aliens*

• 70. The Social Network

• 71. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

• 72. Whiplash*

• 73. Gangs of Wasseypur

• 74. Annie Hall

• 75. Some Like it Hot

• 76. A Fistful of Dollars*

• 77. Paths of Glory

• 78. Roman Holiday

• 79. Strangers on a Train

• 80. The Hustler

• 81. 8 1/2

• 82. Les Diaboliques

• 83. The Hurt Locker

• 84. Raging Bull

• 85. Das Boot

• 86. Ran

• 87. Back to the Future

• 88. The Incredibles*

• 89. The Lives of Others

• 90. Chinatown

• 91. To Kill a Mockingbird

• 92. Dog Day Afternoon

• 93. The Dark Knight

• 94. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

• 95. The Pianist

• 96. Sideways

• 97. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

• 98. A Prophet

• 99. Gone With the Wind

• 100. For a Few Dollars More*

• 101. The Sting

• 102. The Great Dictator

• 103. The Bridge on the River Kwai

• 104. Mary and Max*

• 105. Barry Lyndon

• 106. Touch of Evil

• 107. The Big Sleep

• 108. The Truman Show

• 109. No Country for Old Men

• 110. Terminator

• 111. Alien

• 112. 2001: A Space Odyssey

• 113. Amour

• 114. Incendies

• 115. The Shawshank Redemption

• 116. Silence of the Lambs

• 117. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2

• 118. There Will Be Blood

• 119. Her

• 120. Once Upon a Time in the West

• 121. My Neighbour Totoro*

• 122. Airplane!

• 123. The Great Escape

• 124. The Apartment

• 125. Castle in the Sky

• 126. The General

• 127. The King’s Speech

• 128. The Seventh Seal

• 129. Persona

• 130. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

• 131. The Empire Strikes Back

• 132. The Departed

• 133. Zero Dark Thirty

• 134. The Queen (2006)

• 135. Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India*

• 136. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

• 137. Blade Runner

• 138. Fargo

• 139. Grand Budapest Hotel

• 140. Being John Malkovich

• 141. Beauty and the Beast (1991)

• 142. Inside Llewyn Davis*

• 143. The Best Years of Our Lives

• 144. The Bourne Ultimatum

• 145. Unforgiven

• 146. Brazil

• 147. Let the Right One In

• 148. Rocky*

• 149. Once Upon A Time In America

• 150. Network (1976)*

• 151. Papillon (1973)

• 152. In the Name of the Father

• 153. American Beauty

• 154. The Lion King (1994)

• 155. Million Dollar Baby

• 156. Jaws

• 157. The Wrestler

• 158. Stand By Me

• 159. The Elephant Man

• 160. Before Sunrise

• 161. Memento

• 162. City of God (2002)

• 163. The Princess Bride

• 164. Downfall*

• 165. Almost Famous

• 166. Amores Perros

• 167. Winter’s Bone

• 168. Monsters, Inc.

• 169. Full Metal Jacket

• 170. Cinema Paradiso

• 171. The Secret in Their Eyes

• 172. Dial M for Murder

• 173. A Wednesday!

• 174. Reservoir Dogs

• 175. Django Unchained

• 176. Trainspotting

• 177. How to Train Your Dragon

• 178. Central Station

• 179. Platoon

• 180. Gandhi

 • 181. Ben Hur (1959)

• 182. Monty Python’s Life of Brian

• 183. Hugo

• 184. The Usual Suspects

• 185. Princess Mononoke

• 186. The Hunt (2012)

• 187. 3 Idiots

• 188. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

• 189. Memories of Murder

• 190. The Dark Knight Rises

• 191. A Clockwork Orange

• 192. Hotel Rwanda

• 193. Infernal Affairs*

• 194. Good Will Hunting

• 195. Gone Girl

• 196. Groundhog Day

• 197. Howl’s Moving Castle

• 198. Mud

• 199. Inception

• 200. Guardians of the Galaxy

• 201. The Deer Hunter

• 202. The Matrix

• 203. X-Men: Days of Future Past

• 204. Rush (2013)

• 205. The Graduate

• 206. Rang de Basanti

• 207. Terminator 2: Judgment Day*

• 208. Die Hard

• 209. Heat

• 210. Elite Squad: The Enemy Within

• 211. The Avengers

• 212. 12 Monkeys

• 213. The Imitation Game

• 214. The Thing (1982)

• 215. Amélie

• 216. Jurassic Park

• 217. Forrest Gump

• 218. Inglourious Basterds*

• 219. Batman Begins

• 220. The Shining

• 221. Donnie Darko

• 222. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

• 223. Into the Wild

• 224. Oldboy (2003)

• 225. Prisoners (2013)

• 226. Warrior

• 227. Fight Club

• 228. Kill Bill : Vol 1

• 229. Casino

• 230. Wolf of Wall Street

• 231. Interstellar

• 232. Sin City

• 233. Gran Torino

• 234. Scarface (1983)

• 235. Se7en

• 236. American History X

• 237. The Sixth Sense

• 238. The Big Lebowski

• 239. Braveheart

• 240. Requiem for a Dream

• 241. A Beautiful Mind

• 242. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid*

• 243. The Prestige

• 244. The Green Mile

• 245. Gladiator

• 246. Life is Beautiful

• 247. Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels

• 248. Ip Man

• 249. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

• 250. Leon: The Professional

Carnivora: Exploring the Lesser-Known Members of One of the Game’s Most Iconic Guilds

The carnivoran guild is widely recognized as one of the top factions in the current meta, and with good reason. But some of the many builds in this class have gotten a lot more attention than others, and I think some of the ones that have gotten less could stand to get a bit more. Today, I’m going to do a tier list for the carnivoran guild, but I’m not going to include the most well-known carnivoran factions, like cats, dogs, bears and seals. I may end up doing posts on all of these topics, but if I tried to cover all the interesting carnivorans at once, this post would be way too long even for me. Instead, I’m going to look at the more obscure carnivorans to see which ones are justly ignored and which ones might actually be able to rival their more famous cousins. I’m also going to ignore procyonids, since I’ve already done a whole post on them. Even with this restriction, there are still too many builds for me to cover all of them, but I’ll stick to the most interesting ones.

Before I go into the rankings, let’s talk a bit about carnivorans as a whole. Carnivorans began around 42 million years ago, during the Eocene expansion. At the time of this expansion, it had only recently become clear that mammals were going to be the game’s new dominant class, replacing the giant reptiles that had been banned at the start of the previous expansion. This rise to dominance attracted a huge influx of new mammal players who pioneered a variety of guilds, including the carnivorans. The early Eocene carnivorans were small, weasel-like creatures that lived in the shadow of more powerful mammal predators such as the now-banned mesonychids and creodonts. However, carnivoran players quickly spread out into a variety of diverse strategies, and by the time the Miocene expansion rolled around just over 20 million years ago, they had already developed into most of their modern forms. Today, the carnivoran guild is one of the largest and highest-ranked guilds of predatory mammals, containing around 4% of the overall mammal playerbase, and including multiple apex predator builds on nearly every server as well as some of the game’s most successful generalists.

With so many players, it’s not surprising that you see a huge diversity of playstyles and strategies among carnivorans, but there is still a common thread uniting them. Nearly all carnivorans have large, thick, stress-resistant canine teeth and walk on all fours, but the main ability that unites them is the [Carnassial Teeth] trait. This means that the fourth upper premolar and the first lower molar have been modified into a pair of sharp blades that act like scissors to cut the flesh off of prey. This is a high-risk, high-reward strategy; high-reward, because it allows for more efficient consumption of meat-type loot, but high-risk, because if a carnivoran player breaks a carnassial tooth, they may be left unable to eat, leading to a slow and painful death. If carnivorans had specced into regenerating teeth, like crocodiles or sharks, this wouldn’t be a problem, but so far no carnivoran player has figured out how to make this work with their build. The carnassial is really just about the only thing identifying carnivorans as a single guild separate from other placental mammals; everything else about their playstyle is likely to change depending on the player — many of them don’t even spec into [Carnivory], making the “carnivoran” guild something of a misnomer.

Part of the reason why carnivorans are so different from each other is that almost as soon as the guild started getting big, the players split up into two branches: the caniforms, or the dog-like branch and the feliforms, or the cat-like branch. Feliforms joined the carnivore faction, while caniforms mostly decided to join the omnivore faction. Feliforms are also usually distinguished from caniforms by their retractable claws, though there are a few exceptions on both sides. Among the more iconic carnivorans, the feliform branch includes cats and hyenas, while the caniform branch includes dogs, bears, skunks, raccoons, mustelids, and seals. But what about the more obscure builds?

Now to be honest, I think pretty much all the viable caniform builds are in one of the more iconic clans. Probably the most interesting out of the lesser-known ones is the red panda. The red panda is one of the oldest and strangest of the caniform builds, and the last surviving relic of a carnivoran clan called the ailurids which first appeared in the Oligocene. Despite having no close living relatives, red pandas function a bit like an amalgamation of a number of more iconic carnivorans. Aesthetically, the red panda looks a bit like a cross between a raccoon and a red fox, but in terms of playstyle, it’s actually closer to the panda bear, hence their similar names. Red pandas play exclusively in temperate forests of the Himalayas, and just like panda bears, they live off a diet of mostly bamboo. Also like panda bears, red pandas have specced into a wrist bone extension similar to a thumb, which is used to grasp bamboo stalks. However, red pandas aren’t as large or powerful as panda bears, so they’ve had to find other ways to defend against predators. Much like raccoons, they’ve dealt with this problem by speccing into high arboreal mobility. Like raccoons, red pandas are excellent climbers and have specced into highly flexible ankles which it can rotate to control its descent when climbing down trees. Unlike raccoons, red pandas have also specced into retractable claws like a cat, which they use to grasp narrow branches.

Interesting though they are, I don’t see red pandas as particularly viable in the meta. Like panda bears, red pandas lack a specialized digestive system to go with their specialized diet, and so they need to compensate by eating many times more bamboo than herbivores just to get the same amount of XP. This means that red pandas don’t have energy to do much besides eat massive amounts of bamboo and sleep, and so aren’t particularly relevant in the meta. I actually used to main a red panda, but I’ve since switched to a raccoon, and I would recommend any other red panda mains reading this do the same.

Now then, onto the feliforms. Feliform builds are generally specced for the niche of arboreal or semi-arboreal ambush hunters. The two most iconic clans in the feliform guild are the cat and the hyena, both of which come in a wide variety of size ranges and have managed to attain apex predator status, but most other feliforms go for a small to medium-sized mesopredator niche. The most basic and unspecialized feliform subclass in the current meta is the viverrid. Viverrids can only partly retract their claws, and their carnassial teeth are underdeveloped compared to other feliforms. They’re also unusual among feliforms in being specced for an omnivore playstyle, rather than full-on carnivore.

The three main subclasses of viverrid are the genet, the civet, and the binturong. All three classes are primarily arboreal. The binturong has a bushy prehensile tail for climbing assistance, but has low agility and often has to descend to the ground when travelling between trees. Genets, on the other hand, have high agility and quick reflexes and are overall exceptional climbers, and are also the only viverrid subclass able to stand on their hind legs. Their long, slender bodies increase their mobility, but also reduce their HP. Civets are the jack-of-all-trades option, and in fact aren’t really a proper class at all, so much as just a broad term for any viverrid build other than a genet or binturong. I don’t see any of these three subclasses as particularly noteworthy, to be honest, and would rank viverrids in general around C tier. The one viverrid that might have an argument for going higher is the African civet, a civet variant which has specced into [Poison Resistance] and so can eat toxic invertebrates which most predators can’t. But other than that, I don’t see much that viverrids can do that other small mammals can’t do better.

On the other hand, one obscure feliform that I do think might be worth checking out is the fossa. Fossas are the largest build in the euplerid clan, a group of slender, cylindrically-shaped feliforms available exclusively on the Madagascar server. As I’ve discussed in the past, I don’t usually recommend builds that are locked to an island server, and for the most part, euplerids aren’t an exception. However, the fossa has a unique enough set of advantages that I think it has a strong argument for placing in high-tier despite the inherent vulnerability that comes with a small range. 

The fossa is Madagascar’s largest carnivorous mammal. It has a slender body and muscular limbs, optimized for strength and agility, which makes it somewhat resemble a shrunken-down mountain lion. Like raccoons and red pandas, fossas also have highly flexible ankles that enable them to climb trees head-first both ways. While fossas can hunt just about any vertebrate smaller than themselves, they’re most adept at hunting lemurs, which make up most of their diet. Fossas are Madagascar’s foremost predator of lemurs, and the only natural predator of the largest lemur builds, such as the indri. They’re probably the most successful carnivorous mammal on Madagascar, having attained undisputed dominant predator status (not counting humans) in every forest biome on the island. I would place fossas in low B tier, held back mostly by the fact that their restricted range is still a negative.

If you really want to take small non-cat feliform gameplay to the next level, though, mongooses are your answer. Mongooses are the closest living relatives of hyenas, and just like hyenas, they’re essentially a feliform imitation of a successful caniform build. However, where hyenas have tried to copy the success of dogs, mongooses take more after the mustelid branch of the caniform guild. Mongooses have long, thin, cylindrical bodies that look very similar to those of weasels, but they have a slightly lighter build that grants them superior speed and agility. In a fight, their excellent mobility lets them tire out competing builds through careful evasion strategies. However, the mongoose has also taken some traits from another mustelid: the honey badger. Like honey badgers, mongooses have specced into a remarkably high intimidation stat for their size; they’ve been known to scare off predators up to the size of lions using just bluff attacks. What mongooses are best known for, however, is another trait they have in common with honey badgers: their excellent matchup against venomous snakes. Mongooses have specced into a modification to their nicotinic acetylcholine receptors which makes it impossible for alpha-neurotoxin, the most common type of snake venom, to bind to them. This means that mongooses can hunt cobras and other venomous snakes with little risk.

Now, if I’m being honest, I don’t think mongooses are all that great in the Africa meta. They certainly do have some impressive abilities, but I can’t overlook their questionable approach to dealing with larger predators. Trying to intimidate larger predators instead of running away can work sometimes, but the downsides are pretty apparent. What makes the strategy so overpowered when honey badgers do it is that they combine it with heavy investment into defence, such that even the most powerful predators have a hard time actually seriously damaging them. The same cannot be said of mongooses; if they try to intimidate a large predator and fail, they can easily go down in one hit. Since they are very good at dodging attacks, and they are still very powerful within their weight class, I’d probably still give them a decent rating even in Africa, but where mongooses really shine is in the Americas. Originally restricted to Africa and Asia, mongooses have been introduced by humans to a number of more casual gameplay areas in the North and South America servers, where they’ve had devastating effects on local lightweight builds that were completely unprepared to deal with such a vicious predator. Numerous native builds have seen their player bases decline massively following the introduction of their mongooses, with some islands even seeing the local snake playerbase eliminated entirely. Mongooses in the Caribbean have even managed to cause difficulties for black rats, one of the most hardiest and most adaptable builds ever seen in the game. Now to be fair, the region’s rat playerbase did eventually recover, but this is still pretty impressive. It’s for their performance on islands more than for their success in their native servers that I place them in high A tier, kept out of S tier only by their low defensive stats..

When a guild becomes as iconic as the carnivorans have, it’s easy to assume you can get a good idea of their role in the meta just by casually paying attention to the way other players talk about them, and to an extent, that’s true. But even with the guilds that everyone knows, there’s still a lot of interesting stuff that you won’t find unless you really look. Even if you think you know the builds of choice for a particular guild, it’s still generally a good idea to properly research it before you decide what to play as, just in case there’s something you missed.

Tyrannosaurus rex: Just as OP as Everyone Says

I talk in most of my posts about the prehistoric origins of the guilds I discuss, but up until now, I’ve never done a full post focused on events from one of the previous expansions. Today I’m going to try my hand at it, and what better place to start than with the most hyped of all legacy builds, the Tyrannosaurus rex? T. rex has long had a reputation as one of the most OP builds in gaming history, but how did it get to be such a legend? And did it really live up to the hype?

Now before I start, it’s important to note that I’m taking a risk by talking about a build that’s been out of the game for so long, because the processes that Outside uses to track past player activity are notoriously glitchy and unreliable, which makes it difficult to say anything with confidence about how players behaved in past expansions. There’s a decent chance that much of what I write here will be disproven eventually. Nevertheless, I’ll try to the best of my ability to explain what we do know about the T. rex and what made it so broken.

Dinosaurs were first introduced to the game as bipedal predator builds about 230 million years ago, in the later portion of the Triassic expansion, but they didn’t become the dominant faction in the game until the Jurassic expansion dropped, about 30 million years later. During this expansion, dinosaur players in the sauropod guild put all their points into bulking up and became the largest land-based animal builds ever seen in the game, while other dinosaur players put points into a variety of innovative defensive strategies and started the ornithischian guild. Still others mostly stuck with the bipedal predator playstyle; this was the strategy used by the theropod guild, and they became the dominant predators in nearly every land biome in the game during this period. Around 170 million years ago, some of these theropod players decided to become the tyrannosaur clan, starting down the path that would lead to the development of the T. rex.

When first introduced, the tyrannosaur build was actually one of the smaller dinosaurs — roughly the size of a modern human — and was known for its long arms. The role of large, powerful land predator in the Jurassic was instead filled by other theropod builds, like the ceratosaur, megalosaur and allosaur. These builds were too powerful to compete with on raw strength, so tyrannosaur players had to find other ways to remain viable. Their solution was to focus on an area that most Mesozoic-era players neglected: the brain. While dinosaurs generally had mediocre intelligence stats on par with those of most modern-day reptiles, tyrannosaurs specced into larger and more sophisticated brains, giving them some of the best intelligence ever seen in the game up to that point. This intelligence was complimented by heavy investment into a strong sensory perception kit. Tyrannosaurs had extremely enlarged cochleas — bones in the inner ear that transform sound vibrations into messages registered by the brain — and olfactory bulbs, giving them both the best sense of smell among theropods and hyper-sensitive hearing great for picking up low-frequency sounds. They also had great eyesight, being able to see objects clearly up to six kilometres away and with visual acuity nearly four times that of a modern-day eagle.

Besides intelligence, the tyrannosaurs always had another key advantage over the rest of the dinosaur meta in mobility. I’m not talking about speed here; while the small early tyrannosaurs were quite fast, the larger ones like T. rex were nothing spectacular in this regard, not being able to run any faster than a modern-day elephant at most thanks to their size. However, what the large tyrannosaurs lacked in speed, they made up for in endurance and agility. Compared to other theropods, tyrannosaurs had shorter bodies and enlarged upper hips, providing space for increased hindlimb muscles that enabled them to turn more than twice as rapidly as other theropods of the same size. This wouldn’t be particularly impressive by the standards of modern-day predators, but in the Mesozoic meta, when megafauna players mostly used mobility as a dump stat, it got the job done very effectively. To maximize endurance, tyrannosaurs specced into compact bodies and long legs, which made them much more energy-efficient when walking than their competitors. This made them the best persistence hunters of the era.

The combination of high intelligence with keen senses and good mobility kept tyrannosaurs viable through the Jurassic and most of the Cretaceous meta. But it didn’t get them anywhere near game-breaking power. For that, they would have to wait until near the end of the Cretaceous expansion, about 90 million years ago, when the allosaur builds that were previously the dominant predators of North America suddenly started to disappear. This created an opportunity, and the tyrannosaur players, having saved up a lot of evolution points over the previous few millions of years, seized their chance. They invested as much as possible into increasing their size, and by the time the T. rex rolled around, 68 million years ago, they had become the most massive predators ever to walk the earth.

It wasn’t just the size that made the T. rex such a standout; it was also its [Bite] attack. The T. rex had the most powerful bite ever seen in a land animal, with a force equivalent to the weight of three small cars and more than double any predator in the meta today. Now when talking about hyenas in an earlier post, I said that the [Bone-Crushing Bite] ability is actually kind of overrated and is much more useful for efficient scavenging than for PvP. I stand by that assessment in the case of the hyena, but in the case of the T. rex, it’s not so simple. See, in the current meta, the most common large herbivore types tend to be builds like the zebra and antelope, which are optimized more for evasion than for defence. The bite force of a typical large predator is more than sufficient to kill these creatures if you can catch them, and speccing into an even stronger bite doesn’t make catching them any easier. However, in the Cretaceous meta, most large herbivore players specced into thick armour which allowed them to block all but the most damaging attacks. If you wanted to be an effective hunter in this era, it made sense to spec into as much raw power as possible, and having a bite strong enough to rip the head clean off a Triceratops player was more than sufficient to make the T. rex a standout.

With this set of abilities, T. rex established itself as probably the best build in one of the most fiercely competitive metas ever seen in the game. Some players will tell you that T. rex’s strength was used less for the purposes of hunting and more for stealing kills from smaller, weaker predators, but actually this is mostly a myth. Like nearly all carnivore players, T. rex mains were not above stealing kills when the opportunity presented itself, but it wasn’t really all that important a part of their playstyle. You might think this would be a peculiar strategy choice, since stealing carcasses from smaller, weaker predators is typically easier and safer than killing massive armoured tanks, but there’s a reason for it. The longer a carcass has been left out to rot, the less XP you get for consuming it, so scavenging remains other players leave behind is a much less energetically efficient feeding strategy than killing other players yourself and consuming them quickly. In the early levels, most tyrannosaur players did make frequent use of kill-stealing despite its relative inefficiency, but once a T. rex main reached max power, the enormous XP cost of their massive size and high stats made it essential to go for the most valuable loot available, and that meant hunting their own food as much as possible.

As powerful as the Tyrannosaurus rex was, it had one notorious weakness: its very small arms. The first tyrannosaurs started off with very large arms, but over time took more and more points out of their arms until they might as well have not had any. The question of why they made this choice and what purpose, if any, these small arms might have served, has inspired no end of speculation among fans; dataminers and former tyrannosaur mains have given all manner of contradictory answers to this question. Personally, I think they just took points out of the arms as needed so they could afford all their other broken abilities. If they hadn’t been banned, their arms might well have continued to shrink into nonexistence over the course of their evolution.

But even with this weakness, the T. rex was still undeniably S tier. To give you an idea: for the entire time that T. rexes were around, there were no other predators even close to their size in their biome. The second largest theropod in the environment, the Dakotaraptor, was about fifteen times smaller. Why was this? Well, dinosaurs, like most reptiles, laid eggs instead of giving birth to live young. That meant that unlike elephants, whales and most other modern-day megafauna builds, large dinosaurs had to start off small and grow to huge sizes as they levelled up. In order to get big as quickly as possible, low-level T. rex players had to eat a lot, and since they couldn’t hunt the biggest prey until they got huge, they had to hunt midweight prey until they reached full power. This meant that any other predator main who wanted to hunt medium-sized targets would have to compete with growing T. rexes, and nobody dared take that risk — or, if anyone did, they didn’t last long enough to leave a trace behind. Even when they hadn’t reached their final form, T. rex players were already so powerful that trying to challenge them was a total non-starter. To put this into perspective, in my tier list on the apex predators of Africa, I described lions as one of the most overpowered and meta-centralizing builds in the game because of how hard they dominate over other large predators in their environment. But if lions were as meta-centralizing as the T. rex, they would have forced all of the other builds on that list out of the game completely, leaving the honey badger as the second most powerful predator on the continent. This easily places the T. rex at the top of the Late Cretaceous tier list and among the best predator builds Outside has ever seen.

Sadly, the reign of the tyrant lizard king was not to last. As you probably know, just three million years after the T. rex became the highest-ranked build in the game, the devs responded to the growing centralization of the meta around a few top-tier builds by implementing a major balance patch and permanently banning all branches of the dinosaur faction except for some birds. But more than any other build in the history of the game, T. rex lived on in the hearts of fans long after it had disappeared. Any time you see a fanfiction or forum thread or meme paying tribute to the former glory of the dinosaur faction, T. rex is practically guaranteed to get at least a shout-out.


Given the enduring iconic status of the T. rex, it should come as no surprise that there has been a lot of discussion about the possibility of re-introducing the character as a playable class. Personally, I don’t think unbanning T. rex would be a good idea, as I don’t think the build would serve much of a purpose in the current meta. A T. rex in the present day would still have enough attack power to kill the present-day large herbivores — but it would have to catch them first, and I don’t think it has the right specs for the task. In the dinosaur era, most of the main large herbivore builds used speed as a dump stat, so T. rex only had to be moderately fast to hunt them. In the present day, however, nearly all of the common large herbivores would easily leave a T. rex in the dust in a chase. The only herbivore today which a T. rex would feasibly be able to chase down would be the elephant; however, elephants have a very high intelligence stat, far surpassing any herbivore from the Cretaceous meta, and T. rex players might struggle to deal with hunting targets smart enough to learn and employ a variety of defensive strategies rather than relying on simple basics. So while it might have been game-breaking in the Cretaceous meta, a T. rex brought back in the present-day meta would have very few good matchups, if any, and would probably be D tier at best. In any case, this is kind of a pointless discussion, since the devs have been pretty firm on not reintroducing banned builds no matter how much fans demand it. The only exception to this rule was a joke event where they re-introduced the banned Pyrenean ibex build, but only let one player use it at a time and then banned it again less than ten minutes after the first player’s game had finished loading. So even if a revived T. rex did have potential to succeed in the current meta, which I don’t think it does, I don’t think there’s any realistic chance of it happening.