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.

Apex Predators of the African Savanna Tier List

Africa has developed a reputation as one of the hardest servers in the history of Outside, and this is well-earned. There are a number of reasons why Africa is so difficult to play on, including harsh weather conditions and an abundance of rare diseases, but a large part of it is due to the ferocity of the competition you’ll face there. Today I’m going to look at those creatures that have managed not just to survive, but to rise to dominance in this harsh environment, and try to see what traits have enabled them to succeed where so many fail. My very first tier list already covered most of the iconic herbivores of Africa, so for this post I’m going to look at the server’s apex predators. Since we’re talking about the animals at the top of the food chain in the game’s most competitive area, the rankings will obviously be much more skewed towards the higher tiers than usual; most of the builds on this list rank A tier or higher, and none rank below C tier.

Ordinarily, I start my tier lists off with the worst members of a group and save the best for last, but today I’m going to have to do things a little differently. I’ll explain why further down, but for now I’m just going to say straight out that the S tier picks for African predators are the crocodile and the lion. I’m not going to spend too much time on the crocodile because I’ve already done a whole separate post on why crocodiles are OP. But just to recap, crocodiles have ratings ranging from high to maximum on every single base stat, on top of many overpowered special abilities, including unique organs on their snout that sense changes in water temperature, acidity and pressure to a degree unparalleled among vertebrates, medicinal blood that instantly kills almost any infection, and hyper-fast stomach acid secretion that enables them to fully digest their prey, including those parts useless to most other predators. There are a few crocodile builds in Africa, but by far the most iconic, as well as the most OP, is the Nile crocodile. The Nile crocodile is one of the largest, strongest and most widespread crocodile builds in the current game, second only to the saltwater crocodile. It’s an apex predator throughout its range and has winning matchups against all other competing apex predator builds, with only the lion being closely matched enough to even pose a threat. That said, competition with crocodiles isn’t a huge threat for most of the other builds on this list, because while Nile crocodiles are capable and lethal hunters even on land, they mostly prefer to stick to rivers and thereby avoid the others most of the time.

The same cannot be said for the lion. In order to understand the dominance of the African lion, it helps to first understand the guild it belongs to, the cats. Cats first debuted towards the end of the Eocene expansion about 35 million years ago, and went on to become probably the most globally successful carnivorous mammal guild ever seen in the game. For the most part, cat mains tend to go for the playstyle of a solo assassin targeting small vertebrates. Since cats are a subclass of carnivoran, and the basic carnivoran build already comes with sharp retractable claws on each foot and a crushing bite good for killing small animals, cats didn’t need to spend very many extra points on attacks to become excellent hunters. Instead, they spent most of their points on movement. Most carnivorans that spec into mobility tend to emphasize speed and stamina; cats differentiated themselves by keeping stamina low and spending more points on maximizing agility and flexibility. Cats have many features that give them a bonus on agility checks, including elastic cushioning discs between each vertebra which allow the spine to rotate up to 180 degrees; a shoulder blade that’s connected to the rest of the body only by muscle, not by bone, which makes it much easier for them to fit their heads through tight openings; and shock-absorbent paws to reduce the impact of landing on hard surfaces.

There are three main approaches you can take if you spec into a cat build. All of these approaches involve somewhat similar playstyles; all cats hunt by using stealth to get in close to a target, then trying to quickly catch the target with a burst of speed, overwhelming them with muscle power, and scoring a fatal critical hit with a bite attack. Smaller prey are eliminated with bites to the neck, while larger prey are suffocated with bites to the throat. The difference between the three approaches lies in the type of prey that the cat opts to hunt. The most common approach is to focus on attacking small vertebrates like mice, songbirds and lizards. There are many cats using this strategy successfully in the Africa server, including the serval, caracal and African wildcat, but I’m not going to be focusing on them in this post. Then there are the cats that focus on ambushing midweight high-mobility/low-defence ungulates like deer and antelope. This is the strategy used by most of the larger cats, including cougars, tigers, leopards, cheetahs and snow leopards. Lynx and jaguars also sometimes use this strategy, although they tend to prefer the first strategy where possible. I’ll come back to these cats later.

The lion is an outlier among the cats. Instead of going for either of the two aforementioned strategies, lions rose to dominance by being the undisputed best build in the game for countering large tanks. Lions will take all manner of prey if presented with the opportunity, but mostly they tend to focus on targets that are too massive and/or well-armoured for the server’s other predators to easily kill. The reason lions can make this risky strategy work where no other current build has been able to is because they’ve taken the baseline cat build and made two key adjustments. The first is to put lots of points into bulking up. Lions are the second biggest cat build in the current meta, surpassed only by the tiger. All cats are highly muscular and very strong compared to other similarly sized builds, and lions, being among the biggest, are also among the strongest. However, this alone would not be enough to account for their success. Tigers are even bigger and stronger than lions, and while they’re certainly high-tier and arguably top-tier on their servers, they tend to focus on midweight prey like deer and pigs, only rarely being able to take down huge tank builds like the gaur. What elevates the lion to top-tier status and above all other cats is their choice to ditch the solitary playstyle of all other cats and spec into pack hunting. A single lion already has enough strength to easily win fights with prey animals that pose a high risk to most other predators, like warthogs, but by hunting in groups, lions are able to regularly take down prey as large as giraffes and buffalo, something that no other predator on the server can claim.

Lion prides only score kills on about 30% of hunts, which is actually lower than many of their competitors. But this is misleading, because the builds that lions typically kill are larger and meatier and so worth much more XP than those targeted by the server’s other predators. Also, what they lose in successful hunts, they make up for by being masters of stealing kills from other builds. Lions have a tendency to pick fights with and regularly kill other predators, sometimes simply for the sake of reducing competition, but often in order to take their loot and consume the XP for themselves. In a fight over a carcass, lions will easily dominate over nearly every other predator on the server, and they may rely on stolen kills for over 30% of their diet depending on regional conditions. They even steal kills from crocodiles sometimes, although this particular matchup is highly risky for them. It’s because of this aggressive attitude towards competition that I feel the need to discuss the dominance of lions at the start of this post before getting into any of the lower-tier predators. Dealing with the threat from lions is one of the most important challenges any non-lion large predator in Africa has to deal with, so you can’t really understand why other predators rank where they do on the tier list without first understanding how overpowered lions are. Exerting such a centralizing influence on the meta easily puts lions on par with crocodiles among the S tiers of the Africa meta.

Besides the lion, there are two other large predators in Africa that make good use of pack-hunting strategies. These are the spotted hyena and the African wild dog. Both of these builds have a somewhat similar build design and playstyle, but they actually aren’t closely related. African wild dogs are a member of the dog guild. Hyenas are widely believed to be a subclass of dog, but they’re actually their own guild. Dogs first developed in the Eocene about 40 million years ago, and went on to become one of the flagship builds for the caniform branch of the carnivoran faction. Hyenas were created as an attempt by the feliform branch of the faction to copy the success of the canids; they originated in the Miocene and used to be common in Eurasia and North America, but have since completely fallen out of the meta everywhere except Africa.

Despite not being closely related, hyenas and dogs are optimized for similar hunting strategies. Both groups use similar strategies to cats when hunting prey smaller than themselves, but in fights with large animals, neither of them have the kind of flexibility required to jump onto targets and knock them down the way cats do. Instead, they both rely on their exceptional endurance; when on a hunt, they try to drag the chase out until the target is too weak and tired to resist their attacks. This can be an effective strategy, and both guilds have used it pretty successfully, but it does have its risks. The main issue is that if your target manages to disappear out of view, they can end the chase before you’ve had the chance to tire them out. This is why endurance hunting builds tend to be most effective in biomes like the African savannah, which are filled with wide open spaces. They tend not to function as well in biomes like dense forests, where possible hiding places are more abundant. Also, this strategy only makes sense if your target runs away when they spot you. You can usually rely on this happening when it comes to most common prey types, but it makes it difficult to take on builds with high intimidation resistance. These builds are more likely to stand their ground if attacked, or even counter-attack, rather than fleeing. Both canids and hyenas try to compensate for this by using team strategies to hunt large prey, since even a high-resolve player is more likely to flee if they have to take on multiple targets at once.

There are actually four hyena builds currently available in Africa, but most of them are pretty uninteresting mid-to-low-tier characters with very little in the way of unique advantages. When people talk about the success of hyenas, they’re almost always talking about the spotted hyena, which is the largest and most iconic of the hyena builds, and the only one that’s managed to attain actual relevance in the meta.

Out of all carnivoran builds, spotted hyenas have put the most points into sociality, unlocking levels of social behaviour and cooperative problem-solving skills more similar to simian primates than to other carnivorans. This degree of sociality is supported by one of the highest intelligence ratings among predators. Spotted hyenas are known for their strong innovative problem-solving capacities, which even surpass those of chimpanzees by some tests. While pack hunting has been important to their success, it wouldn’t be nearly as effective if they weren’t already impressive individually. Spotties actually rarely need to use team strategies to score kills; about ¾ of their hunts are taken solo, and single hyenas commonly take down animals up to three times their own size, like wildebeest. There’s really only one prey build hyenas rely on pack tactics to hunt, and that’s the zebra. A hyena can kill an adult zebra in a one-on-one, but attempting this is generally far too risky because zebras are themselves masters of group tactics and will team up to protect the most vulnerable members of the herd. Instead, when hunting zebras, hyenas will usually form parties of 10 to 25 players and keep careful track of the herd to watch for any zebras that get separated from the group.

One of the most hyped advantages of spotted hyenas is their bone-crushing bite. This is a valuable ability, but not for the reason you might think. Most large predators already have strong enough bites to kill most prey types; the main challenges you need to worry about when playing a large predator are catching targets and avoiding counter-attacks, and putting points into a stronger bite doesn’t really help with either. Rather, the primary benefit of speccing into a bone-crushing bite is that it makes you a more effective scavenger. Like lions, spotted hyenas get a sizable portion of their XP by stealing kills from smaller predators, including the other lower-tier hyenas. Hyenas aren’t quite as effective at stealing kills as lions; smaller or low-tier predators will generally roll over for them, but higher-ranking predators like leopards and African wild dogs have a decent chance to fight them off. But while hyenas may not be as good at stealing kills as lions, they make up for it by maximizing the value they get out of each carcass. For most players, if you want to get any use out of someone else’s kill, you have to make sure you get the other player away from it quickly, before they’ve had the chance to consume the valuable parts. This does not apply to hyenas, because they can access and consume downed players’ bone marrow, a highly valuable loot type which most other predators will never be able to get to no matter how much time they spend with the carcass. This advantage is compounded by hyenas having one of the strongest stomachs among mammalian carnivores, meaning they can not only get XP from the bone marrow of downed players, but can even digest the actual bones themselves. They’re not quite at crocodile levels — they still can’t digest hair or hooves — but they’re closer than most.

Spotted hyenas might not be the most powerful apex predator on the Africa server, but they’re one of the most versatile and arguably the most successful, with the widest range and the largest playerbase. There’s only one major weakness that keeps spotted hyenas from ranking alongside crocodiles and lions as a top-tier of Africa, and that’s their poor choice of reproductive system. Hyenas have one of the narrowest birth canals among mammals, which makes the spawning process extremely dangerous. About three fifths of hyena cubs suffocate while being born, and about a tenth of mothers suffer fatal injuries in the birthing process too.

As for the African wild dog, it is the largest dog in Africa, and the second largest dog build in the current meta after the wolf. It’s distinguished from other dogs primarily by its teeth, which are highly specialized for meat-eating, where most dogs go for more omnivorous dentition. In terms of matchups against prey, African wild dogs are probably the savannah’s best predator, as they are the only one to get a successful kill on more than half of their hunts. To a much greater degree than lions or hyenas, the success of the African wild dog is almost entirely attributable to their extraordinary use of pack tactics. As previously discussed, while lions and hyenas are known as pack hunters, they’re still formidable powerhouses individually. African wild dogs, on the other hand, rely on pack tactics for nearly all of their success and are almost never seen hunting solo. Their individual vulnerability is a pretty severe weakness and makes them one of the weaker builds among Africa’s top predators. In fights with the server’s other two pack-hunting predators, African wild dogs tend to lose badly. Lions completely steamroll them, not only stealing their kills but regularly outright killing them. Not only cubs but even fully-grown dogs are highly vulnerable to this. Spotted hyenas also frequently steal kills from the dogs, and wild dogs have trouble defending themselves against this except where they have a numbers advantage.

If you compare the overall success of Africa’s two main endurance-running builds, I think it’s obvious that the spotted hyena outranks the African wild dog, and probably every other dog build in the game too. I rate the spotted hyena in high A tier, and the African wild dog in low B tier.

Finally, let’s now look at the two non-lion large cats of the Africa server: the leopard and the cheetah. Even beyond their spotted coats, these two builds have a lot in common: both are cat builds that emphasize mobility and optimize for hunting medium-sized ungulates. Both have put lots of points into acute eyesight, which is their primary means of locating prey. Cheetahs particularly stand out for this, with the highest visual acuity rating among the carnivorans and one of the highest among non-primate mammals. And while both cheetahs and leopards would be quite powerful by the standards of a normal server, in Africa they have to deal with a number of predators that can easily overpower them, steal their kills, or kill them.

However, there are a few key differences. For one, leopards, like most cats, are most active at night so they’re harder for prey to spot, while cheetahs have switched to a primarily diurnal playstyle to minimize the risk of encountering lions or hyenas. Also, leopards tend to hunt solo like other cats, while cheetahs have been known to cooperate to take down large prey. But maybe the most important difference is that cheetahs are optimized almost entirely for ground mobility, with the highest running speed rating in the entire game owing to a light, streamlined, long-legged build good for short, explosive bursts and rapid changes in direction. Cheetahs are often described as lacking in stamina; this is true if you compare them to dogs or hyenas, but it should be noted that cheetahs actually have better endurance than most cats thanks to enlarged nasal passages, lungs and hearts. The cheetah’s speed plays a key role in its hunting success rate; around 40% of cheetah hunts end in a successful kill, one of the highest percentages among predators in the region. However, all of this comes at a severe cost to strength and arboreal mobility. Cheetahs have long, thin legs that are poorly suited to climbing, and their slender bodies are physically weaker than those of other big cats. Because of this weakness, cheetahs tend to lose out in a fight with any of the other top predators of the region, including the leopard. This is a problem because it makes them vulnerable to getting their kills stolen, but even more so because it makes it hard for them to defend their young. 95% of cheetah players die in tutorial, in large part because their cubs are frequent targets of lion and hyena attacks.

On the other hand, leopards aren’t as great at running as most other big cats, but have incredible strength and climbing ability. Granted, they’re still not bulky enough to win fights with most of the other top predators of the server, but they do get a few important benefits out of their climbing skills. While leopards, like cheetahs, are vulnerable to losing kills to larger predators, leopards can generally protect against this problem if they drag the carcass up a tree before other predators can find them. This is basically a guaranteed victory if trying to protect against hyenas or crocodiles, and mostly works against lions, although the latter can sometimes steal kills from leopards even in trees. Because of their extraordinary strength, they can use this technique to guard huge carcasses, even ones larger than themselves. The leopard’s climbing skills also make it the best counter to one of the top factions in the Africa server: monkeys. Monkeys are only rarely targeted by most of Africa’s large predators, because their cleverness and climbing skills are so useful for getting out of reach of ground-based predators. Leopards don’t have this problem, because they’re the only predator on the server that can follow monkeys into the trees and hunt them there. Leopards have made good use of this advantage; in fact, the reason monkeys developed their high intelligence in the first place may have been because of the pressure placed on them by leopard griefers.

Despite cheetahs having a higher success rate on hunts, I think the leopard is the clearly superior build. I rank cheetahs in C tier, and leopards in A tier.

Now I shouldn’t talk about how hard Africa is without acknowledging why exactly it’s so much harder than other servers and what that means for the future of the meta. Through much of the Cenozoic epoch, the difficulty level seen on the Africa server wasn’t much different than that seen across the rest of the map. That started to change around 3 million years ago, with the introduction of the single most overpowered build ever seen in the game. Humans first originated in Africa, but ironically, it was actually their spreading out of Africa that made its difficulty stand out. On every server except Africa, the introduction of humans led to a massive shift in the meta almost immediately, as human mains completely annihilated most of the deadliest large predators, along with most of the toughest tanks and many other builds. However, on the Africa server, the native top-tiers had watched as humans developed their then-best strategies and so were better able to adapt to the changing meta, at least enough to remain relevant. So while every other server saw humans near-totally eliminate and replace the builds that had previously been the most oppressive, in Africa, the previous dominant builds were able to stick around and continue making life more difficult for everyone else. Dealing with humans just became one extra massive challenge.

This is all changing now. As the human player-bases on different servers have become increasingly interconnected over the past few centuries, effective techniques developed by humans on one server now tend to rapidly spread across the map, and it’s next to impossible for players maining other builds to keep up with the accelerating power creep. As a result, many of the currently dominant builds in Africa are rapidly losing their grip on power due to being high-value targets for human griefers, including nearly all of the builds on this list. As in my post on large herbivores, I haven’t penalized builds for this in the tier list, because which large builds become common targets for human griefers and which ones don’t is more the result of factors internal to the human player base and luck rather than actual vulnerabilities in the build design of the targets. Nevertheless, it’s something that anyone looking to play in Africa should take into account.

The Marsupial Tier List

Marsupials have gotten kind of a bad rap among Outside fans, and this is not entirely unwarranted. Since the moment humans unlocked the Australia server, most marsupials have proven time and time again that they simply cannot compete with the best that Outside has to offer. Now obviously competing with humans is a near-impossible task for even the best builds, but marsupials also get destroyed by cats, dogs, foxes, rabbits, and seemingly just about any other placental mammal build that gets brought over to Australia, as well as some non-mammals like the cane toad. But that doesn’t mean that marsupial builds can’t work if done right. There are good options for people wanting to play a marsupial, you just have to be willing to look for them. So today, I’m going to look at some of the different marsupial builds and evaluate which ones work best and which ones deserve their bad reputation. As always, I won’t be able to go through all of the more than 300 marsupial builds, but I’ll stick to the ones I find most interesting.

Marsupials are the last remaining guild of metatherian-type mammal builds. Metatherians split off from other mammals during the Jurassic expansion around 90 million years ago, then became the top mammal guild in the Cretaceous meta, but they got nerfed hard in the K-T balance patch, which is why marsupials are now nearly nonexistent outside of the Australia and South America servers. The primary difference between marsupials and placental mammals is that marsupials start the game blind, furless and cold-blooded, and don’t get access to the mammal class’s signature abilities until after levelling up. Young marsupials spend the first few months of gameplay in their mother’s pouch, where they suckle milk continuously until they’re developed enough to start learning how to survive on their own. This might seem like a minor distinction, but it actually seriously limits the roles they can viably optimize for. In order to access the pouch, marsupial joeys need limbs that can be used both to grasp onto their mothers and to crawl, and this means things like fins, hooves, or wings are off-limits. As a result, marsupials show comparatively little variation in build designs compared to placentals; it’s hard to find marsupial builds with body plans that stand out as radically as things like the bat or whale do among placental mammals.

To put it bluntly, the overwhelming majority of marsupial builds are low-tier trash, primarily because of their lack of intelligence. Placental mammals typically have higher intelligence than marsupials due to the unique [Corpus Callosum] trait, a region in the brain that transfers information between the left and right hemispheres. While marsupials and monotremes do have nerve fiber networks connecting the two hemispheres, they’re smaller and less developed than in placentals, which is why you never see marsupials using high-level intelligence abilities like tool use or pack hunting. Placental small generalists, like raccoons and monkeys, are often able to get away with dumping some stats because their strong problem-solving abilities help them to work around their limitations. Their marsupial counterparts, which don’t have their high intelligence but still have similarly low stats in other areas, are just kind of awful. After humans found their way onto the Australia server, these marsupials had to compete with more intelligent placentals for the first time in millions of years, and the winner is pretty obvious. The placental invaders have already eliminated more than a tenth of the marsupial playerbase, and are likely to wipe out another fifth in the near future. On average, I would say marsupials rank in D tier, with a number falling into F tier but very few rising to C tier or higher. With that out of the way, let’s now take a look at the marsupial tier list.

At the bottom, we have the long-footed potoroo. This build is unusual not only among marsupials, but among all vertebrates, because it gets nearly all of its XP from fungi. Because of this, potoroos survive best in environments where the soil is constantly moist, otherwise it’s difficult for enough fungi to grow to sustain them year-round. Australia isn’t known for its moisture, so this makes them a poor fit for their server. Because their primary defence against predators is hiding in thick plants, they’re also very difficult to play in biomes without dense vegetation cover. Combine these limitations, and you end up with a build that has been unable to spread beyond a handful of small areas in southeastern Australia. Even in regions where they’ve managed to survive, long-footed potoroos are still garbage-tier due to their low stats and having no real defensive moves besides hiding under plants. Like most marsupials, long-footed potoroos have dropped even harder in viability following European colonization of Australia. Feral cats, dogs and red foxes absolutely body long-footed potoroos, and feral pigs also eat the truffles potoroos depend on, so potoroo mains can’t even boast access to exclusive loot anymore.

The koala has developed a memetic reputation as one of the worst characters in the history of Outside, so it probably won’t surprise anyone that it also ranks in F tier. Koala players are infamous for putting almost all of their evolution points into digesting eucalyptus leaves. Most players avoid eating eucalyptus leaves because they’re highly toxic and worth almost no XP, but eucalyptus trees are so fast-growing and resilient that they can easily take over large areas and block any other trees from growing there. As such, their introduction led to the creation of massive forests’ worth of potential uncontested loot for any player who invested enough points into poison resistance to eat their leaves safely, and koalas rose to the occasion.

Even if you can tank the poison damage from eating a eucalyptus leaf, though, it’s still worth almost no XP, so koalas don’t have the energy to do much besides eat and sleep. Now a lot of mammal players need to go to sleep regularly to stay in the game, but being asleep puts you in a dangerous position because it cripples your ability to remain aware of potential threats. As such, if you’re playing a low-DEF build in an environment fraught with risk, you’ll probably want to minimize the need for sleep, something koala players have totally failed at. Koala players sleep around 15 hours a day, meaning they spend most of the game in an enormously vulnerable state. Beyond that, relying on such low-valued loot means koalas can’t afford good stats or other special abilities besides their poison resistance. Koalas have some of the smallest brains among builds in their weight class, and their intelligence is notoriously low even by marsupial standards. They’re also quite sluggish climbers, which becomes a serious vulnerability when they try to flee from the increasingly common wildfires that Australia’s eucalyptus groves tend to attract. Their fighting abilities are nothing to brag about either, which is why hundreds of koala players get killed every year by dogs and pythons.

Koalas have undergone repeated nerfs in recent years, dropping their already low-tier ranking to one of the worst in the entire game. First was the introduction of koala retrovirus, which causes a debuff to the koala’s immune system called KIDS similar to AIDS in primates, and affects nearly every koala player in some regions. This then facilitated the spread of a chlamydia epidemic that killed much of the koala player base and nerfed the health and fertility of many of the survivors. Also, increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide have buffed the poison levels of eucalyptus trees while also making them worth even less XP than before. I honestly don’t understand why the devs feel the need to keep nerfing a build that was barely even playable to begin with, it’s kind of cruel honestly. It almost seems like they’re actively trying to force koala mains to quit the game.

Of the many strange builds on the Australia server, one of the weirdest is the marsupial mole. It’s also one of the most difficult to discuss and rank, because the player base is quite secretive, but I’ll do my best to explain how they work here. Marsupial moles split off from the rest of the marsupial guild fairly early on in their evolution, and have now become specialist predators of soft-bodied underground invertebrates. Marsupial moles are so specialized that they’ve had to give up many of the traits that other mammals depend on to maximize the amount of points they can put into moving through sand dunes. Their “eyes” are just small lenses with no pupils, and their “ears” are just holes covered by a thick fur coating, making them both blind and deaf. Their teeth have degenerated into tiny pegs useless for chewing anything harder than an earthworm. Their brains too are extremely simple and primitive, even by marsupial standards. All of these sacrifices serve to free up points which they’ve put into their bizarre limb structure.

Marsupial moles have two large, spade-shaped claws on their forefeet, which they use to excavate soil in front of them. Their hind feet are flat, with three small claws which they use to push soil behind them as they dig. Their gameplay consists primarily of “swimming” through soil searching for earthworms and insect larvae. Despite their strangeness, marsupial moles are actually an echo fighter for an obscure placental mammal build called the golden mole. The mole’s playstyle doesn’t require a whole lot of intelligence, so this is one case where the placental variant doesn’t have a huge advantage over its marsupial clone, although the placental version does have higher ground mobility.

Interesting though their signature ability is, I think it’s hard to argue that marsupial moles have found a particularly good strategy, or even rank above F tier. They’ve given up far too many hugely useful traits just to maximize access to loot types that aren’t even particularly valuable or exclusive. The only real benefit I can see to playing as one is that spending so much time underground reduces the risk of predation, but shying away from any remotely difficult competition is not a high-tier strategy. Besides, even this advantage is mitigated by the fact that they become totally defenceless and easy pickings for just about any large predator the instant they come to the surface. As we’ll see later, other marsupial builds use the strategy of burrowing for protection far more effectively without needing to make so many drastic sacrifices in the process. If you want to play as a small, off-meta mammal build and hunt soft-bodied invertebrates, check out the platypus. The platypus build plays a bit like an aquatic version of the marsupial mole, and shares some of the mole’s weaknesses, but platypus mains have managed to remain meta-relevant by investing in a variety of powerful abilities instead of just blowing all their points on digging. I’ve already got a whole separate post about the platypus, so check that out if you’re interested.

Last in F tier is the Tasmanian devil, but since I’ve already discussed why at great length in another post, I won’t go over it again. Instead, I’ll focus on a build that I think of as basically a direct upgrade to the devil: the spotted-tailed quoll. Like Tasmanian devils, spotted-tailed quolls are a rare marsupial optimized for hunting other small mammals. Also like Tasmanian devils, spotted-tailed quolls have an extremely strong bite, enough to kill animals five times larger than themselves. However, spotted-tailed quolls are faster than devils, and they’re also more versatile, because they can hunt in the trees as well as on the ground. While a quoll probably wouldn’t win in a 1v1 fight with a devil, the quoll’s movement advantages easily make it the better predator overall.

That said, don’t get the idea that the quoll is some kind of powerhouse. Quolls are weak on defence and tend to lose out in fights with the major non-marsupial predators of the region, like dingoes and wedge-tailed eagles. Also, like Tasmanian devils, quolls have more young per litter than they have nipples, so as many as ⅔ of players may die of starvation shortly after spawning. And like most marsupials, quolls have dropped hard in viability following the European colonisation of Australia because they can’t compete with the newly-introduced placentals. Red foxes and feral cats have had devastating effects on quolls, both by outcompeting them for the same prey sources and by killing the quolls directly. I rate quolls in D tier.

Also in D tier, we have the numbat. Numbats are often compared to a marsupial version of the anteater build, because they eat almost exclusively termites (not ants). To optimize for this diet, numbats have specced into a snout resembling an anteater’s, with a long, sticky tongue and tiny, near-vestigial teeth. Unlike the near-blind anteaters, though, numbats have also invested a decent amount of points into eyesight, unlocking the highest visual acuity rating of any marsupial. Unfortunately, numbats still aren’t great at the termite-hunting playstyle, because they’re just not strong enough. In fact, they don’t even have the arm strength to break into termite mounds, instead having to wait for termites to move out of their mounds into shallower and thinner pathways before they can attack. Since termites only do this in the daytime, numbats have had to switch from a nocturnal to a diurnal playstyle, hence the investment into eyesight. This comes at a pretty serious cost, though, because birds of prey are most active in daytime, as are monitor lizards, and being diurnal makes it much easier for them to find you — a serious risk for a build with a defence rating as low as the numbat has.

Numbats, too, have been nerfed hard in recent years with the placental invasion of Australia due to their absolutely abysmal matchup against foxes. Most of the marsupial declines following the placental invasion have been largely due to competition for food, but in the case of the numbat it’s entirely due to direct attacks. When red fox players found their way to the Australia server, they rapidly eliminated the vast majority of the numbat playerbase, leaving only a handful of scattered groups in Western Australia that learned to hide from the foxes in hollow logs.

Next in D tier, we have the honey possum. Honey possums are arboreal marsupials that live almost exclusively off of nectar. Specialist nectarivory is a popular strategy among bird, bat and insect mains, but the honey possum is the only land mammal that uses it. The honey possum functions somewhat like a mammal version of the hummingbird, with a similar long, pointed snout and protruding tongue for sipping nectar from flowers. As it turns out, though, there’s a good reason why most land mammals don’t spec into obligate nectarivory. Nectarivores need a constant, year-round supply of nectar to survive, but most flowers only produce nectar at certain times of year. Birds, bats and insects deal with this by flying to a different area when the flowers in one region stop producing. Since honey possums don’t have this option, they’re only viable in regions with a wide variety of nectar-producing flowers to choose from. This has greatly restricted their ability to expand their range, to the point that their player base is entirely clustered in a small portion of the southwest of Western Australia.

I’m mostly ignoring the omnivorous generalist marsupials in this post, since I’ve already explained why they’re almost all low-tier, but there are two that I think break from the mould enough to be worth talking about further. First off, the opossum. While similar in stat spread and playstyle to other marsupial omnivores, opossums — not to be confused with the Australian possums — are noteworthy for being the only major group of marsupials playing in the Americas. Opossums were introduced to the South America server in the Miocene expansion, and most of them still play there exclusively, though one subclass has spread into North America as well. This is important because it means they have a demonstrated ability to survive competition with placentals. As far as abilities go, opossums have spent most of their points on climbing and digestion to basically become the marsupial equivalent of a giant rat. Like rats, opossums have prehensile tails for hanging from trees and can eat just about anything without getting sick. Also like rats, and unlike most marsupials, opossums have adjusted well to the human takeover and may even be more viable in cities than in their normal habitats. One advantage opossums have over rats is near-total immunity to snake venom, which makes them one of the few animals able to safely hunt and eat pit vipers.

Good though all this is, opossums are nowhere near as viable as rats for two main reasons. For one, they’re still working with marsupial brains, which means they don’t have the problem-solving skills that have been so essential to the success of the rat. But also, while rats actually have some ability to flee from or to fight back against predators, opossums can only respond to threats with their signature ability, [Play Dead]. When opossums see a predator, they go catatonic and start emitting a repulsive odour like that of a corpse. This can be effective against predators like cats that prefer to target moving prey, but against predators like coyotes that aren’t picky about eating carrion, it’s worse than useless. It’s also worse than useless against non-predatory threats like oncoming cars. The move is automatically activated in response to any perceived attack, so opossum players can’t use it strategically and instead just have to desperately hope they don’t run into any predator with a taste for rotting flesh. Maybe it’s not surprising that opossum games tend to be over very quickly compared to other mammals in their weight class, in no small part due to predation. Opossums might rate above most omnivorous marsupials, but they have a ways to go before rising above D tier.

I don’t really think there are any good choices for people who want to play as a small omnivorous marsupial, but if you’re dead-set on doing so, the sugar glider is probably the least bad option available. This is an arboreal omnivore build that looks and plays almost exactly like a marsupial version of the flying squirrel. Like flying squirrels, sugar gliders have specced into the [Patagium] trait, giving them a skin membrane stretched between their limbs that picks up air currents so they can glide from tree to tree within the rainforest. This is primarily used to search for food, but it’s also great for fleeing arboreal predators. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword though, as sugar gliders can’t control their movements when they’re in the air, so they have no way to evade attacks from predatory birds. I don’t think this is the best ability, but it’s at least good enough to bump them up to C tier.

Despite having lost some habitat, sugar gliders have been mostly unharmed by the placental invasion of Australia and have even managed to expand their range a little. This is because their astoundingly high cuteness stat has made them popular as a support class for humans. In the 1800s, some sugar glider players were brought over to the island of Tasmania, where they’ve since escaped their captors, established a successful wild population and even become a threat to the survival of some native parrots. Like most small islands, Tasmania is a relatively low-difficulty server, so this isn’t as impressive as it would be if they had invaded a more competitive region, but it’s still an achievement. Sugar gliders have also developed a sizable player base in the United States, though so far they’ve only managed to survive there as pets for humans.

It seems the only way to remain viable as a marsupial in the current meta is to spec for the role of a bulky grazer, and one of the best examples of this is the wombat. This build is optimized for a burrowing herbivore playstyle, sort of like a marsupial version of the rabbit. Like rabbits, wombats have specced into large front teeth that continue to grow throughout their lives, which they use to gnaw tough vegetation and to dig burrows. Unlike rabbits, however, and also unlike most garbage-tier marsupials, wombats have put a ton of points into defence to become the premiere tank of the Australian outback meta. Wombat players have specced into cartilage-covered thick rear hides which give them a truly astonishing toughness, well beyond the average for their weight class. Wombats are basically mobile concrete blocks, strong enough to knock fully grown humans over like bowling pins and crush a red fox’s skull with a kick. However, like rabbits, their primary defence against predators is still to run to their burrows and hide, using their armoured rears to block the burrow entrance. They’re not as fast as rabbits, but they can still run fast enough to easily outspeed almost all of the few predators that could break through their armour.

Being a tank in a meta where anti-tank builds are almost nonexistent puts wombats in a strong position in the meta, but even they are struggling to compete with the placental invasion of Australia. While their tankiness makes them safe from many of the usual threats like foxes and cats, the dingo and the rabbit have still managed to cause problems for them. Dingoes are the more direct threat to wombats, since they’re the only predators in Australia that are both powerful enough to kill a wombat and fast enough to easily chase one down. Rabbit players have used a more indirect long-term strategy, breeding so fast that they overwhelm the ecosystem with sheer numbers and consume so much grass that there’s not enough left for competing small grazers like wombats to live off of.

But without a doubt, the best marsupial build in the current game is the kangaroo by a wide margin. Kangaroos in some ways can be considered as a marsupial version of the deer, as grazing herbivores that are optimized primarily for speed and are among the most common large animals on their server. Unlike deer, though, and also unlike any other large mammals besides humans, kangaroos have specced into bipedalism and often get around by hopping. This is actually an important advantage because high-speed hopping requires much less energy than high-speed running, so much so that kangaroos need only a negligible increase in their breathing rate to power an acceleration to maximum speed. Being able to travel at high speeds over long distances with only minimal energy expenditure has been critical to the success of kangaroos in the dry Australian outback, where travelling long distances to find food is often essential for survival. As an added bonus, the kangaroo’s powerful hind legs can deliver deadly kicks, strong enough to disembowel a fully-grown human. Aside from humans, kangaroos have no bad matchups on the server; there are no land predators in Australia able to match their speed nor their strength. The only non-human predators in Australia that regularly kill kangaroos are dingoes, and even there it usually takes a pack of dingoes to kill one kangaroo.

Unlike most marsupials, kangaroos have actually moved up in the meta as a result of the placental invasion. The first time humans invaded during prehistoric times, they killed off all of Australia’s large land predators and most of its large herbivores, leaving kangaroos with no competition and almost no threats aside from the introduced dingo. Later, when humans from Europe invaded, they started chopping down the server’s forests to create grassier areas which would be easier for large grazers to play on. The intended purpose of this was to make it easier to raise cows, horses and sheep, but it was a boon for kangaroos too. The only human-created problem kangaroos are facing is that — again, much like deer — they have a bad habit of freezing up when they get caught in headlights, making them highly vulnerable to car accidents. 90% of animal-car collisions in Australia involve a kangaroo. Yet even in spite of this weakness, kangaroos have adapted phenomenally well to the human-dominated meta. Their player base has been absolutely exploding recently, to the point that they’ve become a serious threat to the server’s stability, doing similar damage to that caused by invasive placental grazers like the rabbit. They’ve become such a menace that the server mods have resorted to controversial mass-bannings in order to keep them under control. I think the kangaroo occupies a position in the meta that’s pretty comparable to the elk, which as I’ve previously discussed is the best deer build in the game, and so I rank kangaroos alongside elk in high A tier.

The history of marsupials is a good illustration of how the definition of a high- or low-tier character can change with an evolving meta. At one point, marsupials ruled the global mammal meta, but now that they have to compete with placentals, weaknesses that were largely irrelevant before have become absolutely crippling and nearly all of them have now dropped to a mid- or low-tier placement, if they haven’t fallen out of the meta entirely. Yet kangaroos, for a long time only upper mid-tier, turned out to have just the right combination of stats and abilities to absolutely dominate the new meta, and have shot up to become one of the most successful large herbivores in the game. Perhaps in the future, the meta will shift again and marsupials will reclaim top-tier status… but I wouldn’t count on it.

The Most Overrated Builds in Outside

When you ask Outside players to name the top builds in the current meta, there are a few names that people tend to bring up. Most of them are pretty reasonable; humans, orcas, cockroaches, elephants, crocodiles, bears, big cats, hippos, sharks and cobras are all common answers, and with good reason. But there are some builds that are often thought of as extremely powerful that just don’t come anywhere near living up to the hype. So today, I’m going to try to dispel some of these inflated reputations by examining some of the most overrated builds in all of Outside. This list only includes builds which I haven’t yet covered, so while Tasmanian devils, rhinos and moose are undoubtedly highly overrated, I won’t be discussing either of them here. If you want to see an analysis of their problems, see my previous posts here, here and here.

Let’s start off with the piranha. Piranhas have a reputation among the Outside fanbase as ferocious predators that use zerg-rush strategies to take down opponents far out of their weight class. This is mostly nonsense. Piranha schooling does very little to help them with hunting; like most small fish, piranhas instead use team strategies mainly to increase awareness of threats from larger predators. This strategy can be effective for some builds, but for builds like the piranha which have no other defences, it’s pretty risky and in practice often just means you’re more likely to get noticed. Also, you have to be very careful when playing one because if food gets scarce, there’s a decent chance the rest of your school will decide to eat you. The reason for this misconception is that piranha herds sometimes seek out the bodies of large animals already dead or dying and take advantage of the easy XP, which other players mistake for them actually being able to kill these creatures.

Really, the only advantage piranhas have over your average bottom-tier small fish is their bite, which is one of the strongest among small vertebrates. Again, this doesn’t let them kill much larger animals, but it does let them eat hard foods that most fish wouldn’t be able to chew and makes them a more formidable predator of other small aquatic creatures. That said, since they have no real defence mechanism besides weak social abilities, and no noteworthy abilities besides their bite, all while playing in one of the most fiercely competitive regions the game has ever seen, I don’t see how I can place them any higher than D tier. If you’re looking for an aquatic predatory fish build to rule the Amazon River meta, I would suggest a bull shark. Alternatively, if you want to stick with a fully freshwater fish, definitely check out the electric eel. Like piranhas, electric eels are mostly reliant on one special ability, but unlike piranhas, their attack works great for both offence and defence and has basically no counterplay, making them a solid high-tier character.

Continuing with the Amazon Rainforest server, let’s talk about the poison dart frog. Frogs and other amphibians are widely recognized as one of the worst vertebrate builds in the game, and this is completely justified. The main reason why frogs suck so hard is because of [Permeable Skin], an ability which all amphibians need to spec into to be able to breathe on land. Unfortunately, it has the drawback of making them highly vulnerable to absorbing pollutants, pathogens and toxins in the surrounding environment. Even beyond that, frogs have generally abysmal stats, with their attack, defence, HP and intelligence ratings all being some of the lowest among vertebrates.

Poison dart frogs, however, are often hyped up as an exception to the general shittiness of amphibians. But are they really? Well… kind of. As the name suggests, the poison dart frog’s reputation comes mainly from having the strongest poison in the entire game. However, this isn’t as beneficial as it sounds. Unlike venom, poison isn’t really something you can use actively as a combat move, since you need to take damage in order to activate it, and frogs are too fragile to withstand the kind of hit that would be required for the poison to take effect. The only use of their poison is as a deterrent. As such, once you have a strong enough poison to scare off the largest predator in your region, speccing into even stronger poison doesn’t really do much. In fact, the real key to the poison dart frog’s strategy isn’t so much the poison itself as their bright colouration or [Aposematism], which reduces their stealth to one of the lowest levels in the game. Going out of your way to lower a key base stat might seem like an incredibly stupid idea, but it’s actually a highly effective way to deter predators, because intentionally nerfing your own build’s stealth signals that you don’t need to worry about being spotted, and that probably means nothing wants to eat you. As such, speccing into aposematic aesthetics is a way to let predators know that you’re the sort of thing nobody wants to eat.

Does this mean that poison dart frogs are a high-tier character? Well, not really. Sure, dart frogs are almost completely safe from predation, but that still doesn’t solve the other major problems with playing a frog. They’re still extremely sensitive to pollution, and consequently likely to die off en masse in response to even slight changes in their habitat conditions. Also, the dart frog’s poison provides no protection against the amphibian chytrid fungus, a recently introduced parasite build that’s been absolutely destroying a number of amphibian populations around the map since the 1980s, including dart frogs. Overall, poison dart frogs might not be as pathetic as most amphibian builds, but I think they’re low C tier at best. If you want to play a poisonous amphibian, I would instead suggest the cane toad, which has a comparatively modest poison, but compensates with higher investment into more traditional fighting abilities that also have the added bonus of making it less vulnerable to the elements. Mind you, even cane toads have been dropping in viability lately as more and more players have figured out ways around their defences, so maybe it’s best to just avoid playing amphibian entirely.

Before we leave the Amazon rainforest, there’s one more highly overrated build I want to talk about: the Brazilian wandering spider. The wandering spider gets its name from the fact that, unlike most spiders, it actively wanders the forest floor in search of prey rather than spinning a web and waiting for other animals to trap themselves. It’s often ranked as the best spider build in the game, but I’m not convinced. Like the poison dart frog, the reason for the wandering spider’s fame is its highly potent toxin. Almost all spiders spec into fangs with which to inject venom into their prey, and out of all spider builds, the wandering spider’s venom is the most potent. This fact leads many to think of the wandering spider as one of the most fearsome builds in the Amazon, capable of easily one-shotting anything from lizards to cattle, but the truth is a bit more complicated.

Yes, brazilian wandering spider venom is powerful enough to cause painful deaths to animals much, much larger than the spider itself, but all the venom in the world won’t get you anywhere if you don’t have a good way to inject it. Like most spiders, the wandering spider’s fangs are designed for biting insects and other small animals with low defence stats, which is fine when hunting their usual prey, but becomes a problem if they try to use it to defend themselves against much larger animals. Because of this issue, when wandering spider mains have to defend themselves against much larger animals, they usually rely on the move [Dry Bite]. This move involves giving your opponent a small bite just to scare them off, but not actually injecting any venom, or at least not enough to do any serious damage. Of the hundreds of human players bitten by wandering spiders between 1984 to 1996, only 2% of them even got enough venom to require medical attention. That said, while wandering spiders might not be as OP as they’re made out to be, the vanilla spider builds are already baseline B tier, so I think the wandering spider’s superior damage capability elevates them to low A tier, making them the best build on this list.

Moving away from the Amazon to another hardcore server, Australia, we find another highly overrated spider build: the Sydney funnel-web. Many game guides list this build as one of the most dangerous spiders in the game, alongside the wandering spider, but this is a little misleading. For most players, a funnel-web spider bite is actually no worse than any other spider bite. The reason the funnel-web has such a fearsome reputation is because it specs into a type of venom that deals bonus damage specifically against primates, including the #1 build in the game, humans. Humans are obviously too big to be eaten by any kind of spider, and there are no other wild primates in Australia, so in practice this bonus is pretty useless and funnel-webs are effectively just vanilla spiders. The biggest thing differentiating funnel-webs from other spiders is their aggression level; unlike wandering spiders, funnel-webs almost always deliver venom when biting, and frequently bite their target repeatedly. This difference in playstyle doesn’t seem to me to grant much of an advantage, though, so I rate them with most other spiders in B tier. In my view, the true best spider build is the jumping spider, which has the best mobility rating among spiders and is also the only spider that invests a decent amount of points into intelligence.

Given that Outside players have a reputation for being biased towards overrating large builds, it might seem surprising that most of the builds on this list are lightweights. The only decently sized build on this list is the cassowary, another Australian creature and the second largest bird build in the current game after the ostrich. Unfortunately, speccing into large size forces builds like the cassowary to give up [Flight], the main ability that has enabled bird players to become one of the highest-ranking groups in the meta. To compensate for this, cassowaries have specced into claws on their feet that give them a vicious slash attack, capable of seriously injuring or even killing dogs and people. The cassowary is widely considered to be one of the best bird builds in the game and one of the top-tiers of the Australia meta, with some players even considering it to be the current meta’s equivalent to the top-tier dinosaurs of the Mesozoic era. I see things a little differently, for a couple reasons.

First of all, like most birds, cassowaries have hollow bones, meaning they have less defence against blunt force attacks compared to similarly sized mammals. Second, cassowaries are part of the ratite faction, a group of birds noted for their abysmal intelligence. Out of all birds, large ratites like the ostrich, cassowary and emu show the least capacities for innovative problem-solving and other complex behaviours. As for their attacks, while their power is high, large ratites like the cassowary have a critical weakness in that they can’t kick backwards and so have no way to attack an opponent who comes at them from behind. When you consider all these flaws, it’s no wonder that cassowary mains in a number of areas have been ditching the build and switching to the newly introduced feral pig, a much more well-rounded generalist.

The main things cassowaries have going for them are their excellent speed and endurance ratings. Their hollow bones actually help them here, because they make room for a series of complex air sacs which allow them to breathe more efficiently than mammals, boosting their stamina level to one of the highest in the game. However, I don’t think this alone is enough to elevate them to top-tier status. I would rate cassowaries as low B tier, and that’s mainly due to Australian megafaunal niches not being especially competitive. If they played on a server where they had to compete more with other large animals, they would probably drop to D or F tier. Most of this analysis also applies to other large ratites. In my view, the true best bird build is the golden eagle, which has obtained attack and mobility ratings on par with the cassowary, but hasn’t needed to give up the very ability that makes the bird class worthwhile in the first place to compensate.

So far, all of the builds on this list have been from servers known for their intense competition, but I’d like to talk now about an overrated build that exists on just about every server: the tardigrade. Tardigrades, also known as water bears, are actually a huge guild containing over 900 builds, but I’m lumping them all together because they all have similar stats and abilities and they’re all hugely overrated.

The origins of the tardigrade faction are a mystery: the oldest surviving game logs showing any tardigrade activity are from the Cretaceous expansion, but analysis of the tardigrade’s source code has suggested that they were actually added much, much earlier, all the way back in the Cambrian. Tardigrades are among the smallest animal builds in all of Outside, at just over a millimeter when fully grown. How did such a tiny build survive for so long, spread around the map, and become one of the biggest memetic badasses in the game? Well, it’s all because of their [Cryptobiosis] ability. When tardigrades are faced with a hostile environment, they can wait out the danger by lowering their own metabolism to less than 0.01% of its normal rate and going into a dormant state. This is actually fairly common amongst microscopic animals, but tardigrades take it further than any other animal build. While in a cryptobiotic state, tardigrades can survive extreme cold, pressure, dehydration, and radiation, and even the vacuum of space. Memes about tardigrades often portray them as a top-tier tank with no counters, and many gaming journals have unofficially crowned the tardigrade “Outside’s most indestructible build”.

This all ignores a hugely important point. Yes, tardigrade cryptobiosis lets them survive conditions other builds couldn’t, but they’ve got one critical weakness that cryptobiosis can’t make up for: they’re really, really tiny. Playing any build insect-sized or smaller puts you at risk of getting swallowed whole by larger builds; playing tardigrade-sized builds means you’re likely to be regularly and easily killed by everything from spiders and insects to earthworms, crustaceans and even other tardigrades. The best small builds usually compensate for this weakness by speccing into high mobility to maximize their ability to dodge attacks, but not tardigrades, who move so sluggishly that they’re named after the Italian phrase for “slow walker”. Other high-tier small builds compensate for their low defence with investment into venom or other attacks that can deter most predators. Tardigrades, on the other hand, can only use two offensive moves: swallowing even smaller microbes whole, or stabbing other small animals or plants and sucking out their vital bodily fluids using their slender, tube-like mouths. Neither of these will do anything to an opponent larger than a microbe. In regular gameplay, tardigrades are mostly reliant on stealth: the very same traits that make them so easy to kill — small size and slow movement — also mean that you likely won’t notice them if you’re not paying careful attention, and they’ve basically banked on this as their only defence mechanism. As soon as they’re noticed by a larger predator, they’re dead meat.

Now in my prior discussion of possible life on Mars, I noted that microbe builds which spec into the [Extremophile] trait — that is, those which invest in abilities that help them survive in environments most players can’t — have been one of the most solid and reliable build types throughout Outside’s history, in spite of their invariably abysmal base stats. You might think this means tardigrades would also attain a high-tier spot despite their weaknesses, but you would be wrong, because tardigrades aren’t actually extremophiles! Yes, tardigrades can endure in servers with difficulty set to Extreme Mode for some time, but since they can only do it while in their dormant state, it’s not viable as a long-term strategy. The only way they can survive in these areas for any substantial length of time is if the server has to go back to a lower difficulty level within a few years. This puts them at a huge disadvantage compared to true extremophile microbes, which by definition can not only permanently endure but actually benefit from the very aspects of their environments that make it impossible for other builds to survive there.

In order to make sense of why tardigrade players chose to spec into such a bizarre stat spread, you have to understand the real reason why the tardigrade was added to the game in the first place. While not an extremophile, the tardigrade belongs to a related class of builds called [Pioneer Species] which function somewhat similarly to extremophiles and often share similar traits. The purpose of tardigrades and other pioneer species builds is to help create a healthy meta by being the first players to colonize newly available servers. Once the tardigrades in a new area have established a sizable playerbase, this draws the attention of players maining larger predators who are attracted by the easy XP that the tardigrades provide, allowing the organic development of a competitive meta. Furthermore, when the tardigrades die, their decomposing bodies release nutrients into the soil, making it easier for plants to start growing in the area. Tardigrades can also fill a similar purpose in rebuilding the meta after a server is devastated by a volcanic eruption, asteroid impact or other disaster. Optimizing for this playstyle likely made a lot of sense during the Cambrian explosion patch, when pretty much the entire land portion of the map was the sort of uncharted territory pioneer species are built for, but now, not so much.

The tardigrade does have a useful purpose, but it’s still not something I would ever recommend playing. Since they have pretty good matchups against most other microbes, I wouldn’t quite put them in bottom tier, but they’re so vulnerable to larger builds that I can’t see them going any higher than D tier.

If you want to play an animal that can survive in regions where nothing else can, check out the giant tube worm, a marine invertebrate which lives in super-hot hydrothermal vents on the floor of the Pacific Ocean. Alternatively, if you specifically want a microbe that can live in tough environments, then you should consider looking into the wide variety of extremophiles in the archaean faction.

To finish off this post, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before and evaluate a build in the [Plant] class. In general, animal mains tend to look down upon plant mains, dismissing them as casuals taking the laziest and most boring possible approach to gameplay, but the one plant that has somewhat managed to break out of this stereotype is the Venus flytrap. Flytraps are among the very few plants that rely on eating meat for essential nutrients, rather than absorbing them from the soil. They’ve specced into tiny hairs on their inner surfaces which alert them when an animal lands on them. When an insect, spider or other small animal comes and repeatedly touches these hairs, the flytrap’s leaves act as “jaws” which rapidly snap shut on the unsuspecting creature. As the target struggles to escape, it triggers the edges of the lobes of the leaf blade to come together into a tightly sealed trap in which the insect is digested. Because so many Outside guides are biased towards predators, the Venus flytrap has a much better reputation than most plant builds, but in reality it’s total trash.

Plant mains attempting to optimize for a predatory role are basically doomed to be low-tier for a few reasons. In general, the crucial stats for predator builds are attack power, for obvious reasons, and stealth, so your prey doesn’t notice you in time to escape. Most of the best predator builds supplement these stats with substantial investment into mobility, for chasing down fleeing prey, and intelligence, so they can better predict prey behaviour. On the other hand, the most important abilities when playing stationary builds like plants are strong defences and rapid reproduction. Venus flytraps have high ratings in none of these areas. They have a slow growth rate, no good defenses, and no stealth abilities. Like all plants, they also have intelligence and mobility ratings of zero. Even their power ratings are pretty abysmal, since their only means of attack is swallowing smaller animals whole. This means the only animals the flytrap can feasibly target are arthropods, which typically have low enough intelligence and defence stats that they’ll easily fall for the trap. Specializing in arthropods presents problems because, while they are easier to kill than larger animals, they’re also worth a lot less XP. Most large insectivores compensate for this by eating huge amounts of arthropods at once or over a short timespan — not flytraps, who need over a week just to digest one insect. The flytrap’s digestive system is so inefficient that they’ve specced into small holes in their trap for the specific purpose of allowing particularly small arthropods to escape unharmed, because these arthropods aren’t worth enough points to make up for the time and energy the flytrap would need to digest them.

Now you might be wondering, if Venus flytraps are so terrible at pretty much everything, how are they even still in the game? Well, the answer is that playing Venus flytrap opens up access to certain areas of the map where it’s difficult to play as a conventional plant. In most areas, flytraps are unplayable because their inefficient XP gain dooms them to getting outcompeted by plant builds that absorb all their nutrition from the soil. The only places where flytraps can grow are bogs where the soil is low in nitrogen and phosphorus, two essential nutrients which the flytrap gets from the insects it eats. Just having nutrient-poor soil by itself is not enough to make flytraps competitively viable, though. Even in such areas, there are still taller plants which, if left to grow unimpeded, will kill the flytraps by blocking their access to sunlight and preventing them from photosynthesizing. To avoid this, flytraps have to stick to areas that get hit regularly by [Wildfire] world events, which eliminate these taller plants and create ashen soil that gives flytrap seeds a boost to their growth rate.

Even here, there’s a massive flaw in the flytrap’s strategy. Fires only help flytrap players growing just outside the fire zone — the ones inside it get wiped out along with their competition. Since flytrap mains obviously can’t flee the fire when it comes, nor predict ahead of time where the fires will be when choosing where to grow, whether they benefit from the fires or just get killed is entirely a matter of blind luck. This doesn’t even get into the ways that the rise of humans has created even stricter restrictions on where flytraps can play, with agriculture, logging and road building making them unplayable in parts of their already-tiny original range. It’s no wonder that the player base is in freefall — in recent years, more than 90% of flytrap players have come to their senses and abandoned the build. In summary, the flytrap is a janky gimmick build that makes basically all the wrong choices and easily places in F tier.

If you want to play a deadly plant, try out the eucalyptus, a highly poisonous plant which grows rapidly and has learned to exploit wildfires to its own ends, even to the point of destroying human cities. Eucalyptus trees have a poor reputation due to their bad matchup against the notoriously garbage-tier koala, but once you get past that, they’re really very impressive plants.

In Outside as in many works of media, the fan discussion around a character often has a way of deviating from how well the character actually functions in the game. It’s important to be wary of falling for excessive hype around particular builds, which often has more to do with the build’s meme potential than how well-optimized it is. If you’re new to Outside and looking for a main, or even if you’re an old-timer looking to expand your horizons, I hope you find all this information useful in deciding where to turn your attention. Of course any of these builds can still succeed in the hands of a skilled enough player, so feel free to try them out if you want to test your abilities — just don’t go in expecting it to be easy.

Ranking the Presidents

In honour of the recent defeat of one of the most detestable figures in American history, I thought I’d share my thoughts on all 44 past Presidents and rank them from best to worst. My top and bottom few picks will be fairly conventional, but in-between there will be a fair few surprises.

  1. Abraham Lincoln. The obvious choice. Preserved the Union through its greatest crisis and brought the greatest evil in US history to an end. You can certainly criticize him for his due process violations and other actions that would have been considered tyrannical in peacetime, but under the circumstances, who could have done better? America’s greatest president and one of the greatest leaders in world history.
  2. George Washington. Another obvious choice. Mediated for 8 years a conflict between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans that could easily have torn apart the fledgling republic. Had to set an example for all future Presidents and, incredibly, made no major mistakes in doing so. True American hero.
  3. Franklin Roosevelt. Again, obvious choice. As John Steinbeck aptly put it in East of Eden: “a man who perhaps made many errors in performance but whose effective life was devoted to making men brave and dignified and good in a time when they were poor and frightened and when ugly forces were loose in the world to utilize their fears”. Played a critical role in winning WWII and provided jobs and relief to millions of Americans during the Great Depression. He made grave mistakes in the process; putting Japanese-Americans into internment camps is a black mark on his legacy, as is turning away Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. But who could have done better while dealing with not one but two unprecedented global crises?
  4. Theodore Roosevelt. The first President to really curb the unchecked power of big business in America. Not the one who passed the Sherman Antitrust Act, but the first to make breaking up monopolies a central part of his agenda. Also the first President to make preserving the environment a top priority, creating over 150 new national forests and quadrupling the amount of protected land in the US. Negotiated important peace agreements ending the Russo-Japanese War, as well as the first ever international treaty on wildlife conservation. Likely substantially delayed WWI through his skilled mediation of a territorial dispute between France and Germany. Great as all that is, he had a dark side that tends to be forgotten. The Roosevelt Corollary, Teddy’s extension to the Monroe Doctrine, declared the US government’s right to invade Latin American countries for the sake of fixing their economic problems, whether the people of those countries wanted the help or not. The resultant invasions were mostly disastrous failures which destabilized the invaded countries and helped to prop up brutal anti-American dictators in the region. Teddy also indulged in some shameful pandering to racists, most notably ordering the dishonourable discharge without trial of three black soldiers accused of murder based on woefully inadequate evidence. In the end, Teddy’s worldview was a fairly typical representation of the America of his day, for better and for worse, standing out only in his extraordinary political skill. Had he never been elected, whoever served instead would likely not have avoided the evil he did, they would just have pursued much the same agenda with less skill.
  5. Lyndon Johnson. A real conundrum here. Arguably the greatest President on domestic issues, probably the worst on foreign issues. The main driving force behind getting the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights through Congress — indisputably the greatest President on racial issues and arguably the greatest civil rights hero in American history. And, the Great Society was a hugely ambitious program that created a period of great hope for the US and lifted many out of poverty. But, of course, no discussion of his policies is complete without mentioning the unmitigated disaster that was his escalation of the Vietnam War. So was he good or bad? My knee-jerk reaction is to say that his actions in Vietnam are unforgivable, but on further reflection my respect for his domestic accomplishments wins out.
  6. Barack Obama. By far the best President of my lifetime. Slowly but surely pulled the US out of the Great Recession. Got the ACA through Congress, which for all its problems did expand healthcare coverage to many Americans who did not have it previously. Negotiated a deal with Iran to prevent them acquiring nuclear weapons which, while not ideal, was good enough to gain the approval of every major player that realistically could have been persuaded. Restored diplomatic relations with Cuba. Helped to lay the foundation for international cooperation on fighting climate change, even if it wasn’t anywhere near as central to his policy agenda as it should have been. Pushed ISIS out of nearly half its territory. On the downside, attempting a wishy-washy, sort-of-but-not-really going to war in Libya ended in chaos and it would probably have been better to stay out entirely. Threatening consequences for crossing the “red line” in Syria and then failing to follow up was also dumb. However, if Obama hadn’t been elected, I think it highly unlikely that the alternative candidates would have handled these situations any better. Taking troops out of Iraq seems unwise in retrospect but also almost inevitable; it’d be pretty tough to sell the American public maintaining indefinite troop presence in the country after the original justification for being there had proven to be a total sham.
  7. Jimmy Carter. The first real curveball here. Brokered peace between Israel and Egypt, a historic accomplishment. The most environmentalist President since Teddy Roosevelt. Began the process of moving the US away from its dependence on fossil fuels before the problem became unmanageable. Shifted American foreign policy priorities to place greater emphasis on stopping human rights violations, not only by Communist countries but also by US allies. Had he been a better orator and negotiator, he might have joined Lincoln, Washington and FDR on the list of truly great Presidents. Unfortunately, he lacked the persuasive power to create a lasting change in American politics like they did.
  8. John Adams. Set the precedent for peaceful transfer of power after losing an election. Worked out an honourable peace with France during the Quasi-War, at a time when his opponents were clamouring for an all-out war that would likely have killed America in its cradle. A very good president who has never gotten the credit he deserves.
  9. George HW Bush. Deserves much more credit than he gets for building and holding together a massive International coalition to swiftly liberate Kuwait from conquest by Saddam Hussein. Strengthened the Clean Air Act with amendments focused on curbing urban smog and acid rain. Didn’t have much to do with the fall of the USSR, but at least he didn’t do anything to provoke a return of hostilities. The question of whether he should have invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam is a complex one. It didn’t work out well when his son tried it, but then Bush I had a more competent team and would have had more international support, and might actually have been able to rebuild properly. In any case, Bush I was an all-around pretty good leader.
  10. James Monroe. Gets credit for the Missouri Compromise and the Monroe Doctrine, but didn’t really have much to do with either besides happening to be President at the time. Nevertheless he appointed a competent administration who kept things running smoothly through eight years of peace and prosperity. His policies towards Native Americans were appalling but really no worse than could realistically have been expected for the time period.
  11. Harry Truman. Desegregated the military. Was instrumental in founding the UN and NATO. The first head of state to recognize Israel. Rebuilt Japan with considerable success after the war. Kept South Korea independent against aggression from the North. But, there’s that atom bomb thing. This is a complicated topic that I won’t try to do full justice to, but suffice it to say that I don’t think the atom bombs were necessary to end the war nor were they justifiable. However, I do think the bombings very likely would have happened even without Truman coming into office. Still, they keep him out of the top 10.
  12. Benjamin Harrison. Passed the first antitrust legislation in American history. Created America’s national forests. Expanded the US Navy into a world-class fleet. On the downside, the Sherman Silver Purchase Act was a short-sighted policy that led to the rapid depletion of the Treasury’s silver supply, caused rapid deflation and contributed to the Panic of 1893, the worst depression in American history up to that point.
  13. Rutherford B. Hayes. Entered office seeking to protect the rights of freed blacks in the South while healing the wounds left over from the Civil War. His attempts at protecting freed blacks were unfortunately a complete failure, but it’s unlikely he could have done much more given the volatile political situation of the time. On the plus side, he helped stabilize the economy after the Panic of 1873, and he restored a sense of respectability to the office after a long period of rampant incompetence and corruption. At the time, he was regarded as a great president, and while that might be pushing it, I do think he was at least a good one.
  14. Bill Clinton. Balanced the budget and competently stewarded America through eight years of peace and prosperity while dealing with a hostile Congress. Persuaded Russia to withdraw from the Baltic Sea. Staved off economic collapse in Mexico. Stopped ethnic cleansing of Albanians in Serbia. A lot of liberals have turned on Clinton in recent years, and while the criticisms targeted at his personal conduct are mostly correct, the complaints levelled against his policies are mostly specious or overblown. But, as far as legitimate criticisms go, he did block efforts by the UN to do anything about the Rwandan Genocide, which even he admits was his greatest failing, and his attempt at healthcare reform led to nothing. Still I give him high marks overall.
  15. Chester A. Arthur. Implemented much-needed civil service reforms to replace the old cronyism with a relatively meritocratic system. Otherwise unremarkable.
  16. Millard Fillmore. Established trade with Japan, and prevented Hawaii from getting conquered by European empires. The Compromise of 1850 left just about everyone unsatisfied but almost certainly delayed the Civil War by a good deal. I know most rankings place him near the bottom, lumping him in with Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, but frankly I think he was alright.
  17. Zachary Taylor. Died in office before getting the chance to do anything.
  18. James A. Garfield. Ditto.
  19. William Henry Harrison. Ditto.
  20. John Quincy Adams. America’s most inconsequential President, not counting those who died early in their term. Had some good ideas but was too inept at politics to get anything through Congress. He and Harrison are basically dead tied, my ranking him lower is arbitrary.
  21. Warren G. Harding. An indecisive leader who lacked vision, but far from being one of America’s worst presidents as he is often ranked. Presided over one of the most corrupt administrations in American history. Spoke out against segregation, but with little effect. On the bright side, he pardoned many of the hundreds of peaceful protesters who had been taken as political prisoners under the previous administration.
  22. William Howard Taft. A less competent version of Theodore Roosevelt, for better and worse. Accelerated the breakup of monopolies and expanded national parks, but also continued intervention in Latin America.
  23. Grover Cleveland. An unabashed white supremacist and opponent of black voting rights. Started off trying to condemn anti-Chinese prejudice, then quickly gave up and started pushing legislation to limit Chinese immigration instead. Robbed Native Americans of much of what little land they had remaining with the Dawes Act. Totally failed to implement the economic reforms he attempted. Did nothing during the Panic of 1893. At least he was wise enough to resist attempts at imperialist expansion.
  24. Calvin Coolidge. Helped set the stage for the Great Depression with economic policies that worsened wealth disparities, initially disguised by residual growth from wartime spending and mobilization during WWI. Continued interventions in Latin America.
  25. Thomas Jefferson. Implemented one of the dumbest policies of all time, the Embargo Act of 1807, which crippled the American economy and exacerbated tensions with Britain that partly led to the War of 1812. Gets far too much credit for the Louisiana Purchase, which basically fell into his lap. Also gets too much credit for banning the slave trade, which was really a favour to US slaveowners — banning importation effectively increased the economic value of existing American slaves, and slaves reproduced fast enough to prevent any decline in their quantity. A great thinker but not a good leader.
  26. William McKinley. Led the US to a quick and decisive victory in the Spanish-American War, which was NOT his fault, and took a big step towards the US becoming a global superpower. But, then he annexed the Philippines and turned the US into an imperialist state. After the Filippinos revolted, McKinley led a bloody war to keep them occupied which caused tens of thousands of civilian deaths in atrocities not dissimilar from those which McKinley had condemned when done by the Spanish in Cuba.
  27. John Tyler. Peacefully resolved a border dispute with Canada and ended the Third Seminole War. However, he was largely out of touch with everyone except other slave-owning aristocrats. Shortly after taking power, Tyler alienated virtually everyone else in government, including his own cabinet members, and was able to do little policy-wise for the rest of his term. Also, he annexed Texas, which exacerbated tensions that led to the Mexican-American War.
  28. Martin van Buren. Got unfairly blamed for overseeing the Trail of Tears when there wasn’t anything he could legally have done to stop it by that point. But, he stood by during the Panic of 1837 and continued the Third Seminole War.
  29. James K. Polk. Started a completely unnecessary war of conquest in Mexico based on false pretences. Then allowed slavery to expand into the newly acquired territories. Threatened war with Britain over Oregon and got lucky that they were willing to compromise. Most rankings place Polk near the top, and I suppose that’s fair if you evaluate Presidents strictly in terms of whether their policies benefited the US. But I don’t believe the ends justified the means.
  30. John F. Kennedy. Nearly ended the world by authorizing and massively fucking up an unprovoked invasion of Cuba, then got hailed as a hero for cleaning up his own mess. Escalated American involvement in Vietnam to an all-out invasion, and first authorized the use of Agent Orange and napalm. Launched some ambitious domestic policy projects but was not skilled enough to get any of them through Congress. Resisted any substantive action on civil rights issues through most of his term. If I’m being honest, there’s a pretty good argument for placing Kennedy much lower on this list, but I’m being generous because he was showing signs of improvement before he died.
  31. Gerald Ford. Pardoned Richard Nixon, thereby vindicating Nixon’s “when the President does it, it’s not illegal” philosophy. In so doing, made enemies with most Congressmen of both parties and the American public. Failed to get anything done for the rest of his brief term.
  32. Dwight Eisenhower. Tried to keep racial issues out of the spotlight, and failed in much of what little he did do to try to alleviate them. Let others do the work of standing up to McCarthy. Failed to come to arms control agreements with the USSR. Overthrew democratically elected leaders through CIA-sponsored coups in Iran and Guatemala. Planned the catastrophic Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. Kept Ngo Dinh Diem’s illegitimate regime afloat out of anti-Buddhist prejudice, setting the stage for the Vietnam War quagmire. On the positive side, he created NASA, started the Interstate Highway System, negotiated an end to the Suez Crisis and ignored those in his party who wanted to undo the New Deal.
  33. Ulysses S. Grant. Tried to balance protecting the rights of freedmen while also easing tensions between North and South, and ultimately failed to do either. Managed to get some civil rights laws through Congress, but applied them inconsistently in a way that pissed off both sides. Also tried to ease tensions between white and Native Americans by housing Natives on reservations, but in practice the desolate pieces of land the Natives were given did little to nothing to improve their conditions. On top of all this, his administration was one of the most corrupt in US history.
  34. Ronald Reagan. Ran on a platform of tax cuts and budget cuts, then massively ballooned the military budget way beyond what his cuts to social programs could make up for, and eventually started raising taxes to compensate. Reversed Carter’s attempt at moving the US towards a more eco-friendly lifestyle by eliminating important environmental regulations and slashing funding for renewable energy. Refused to even publicly acknowledge the existence of AIDS until 1985, then prevented his Surgeon General from speaking out about it until 1986. Sabotaged attempts at mutual disarmament with his laughable Star Wars initiative, which the Soviets wrongly but reasonably assumed was preparation for a nuclear first strike. Sold chemical weapons materials to Saddam Hussein while Saddam was perpetrating a genocide against the Kurds to block Iran. Funded the murderous terrorist Contras in Nicaragua, and continued funding them even after Congress passed the Boland Amendment to block him. I could go on. Nevertheless, he did manage to build a rapport with Gorbachev that likely accelerated the end of the Cold War, which just barely keeps him out of the bottom 10.
  35. Richard Nixon. Implemented a foreign policy based on “Madman Theory” — basically, acting as insane as possible to terrify foreign leaders into giving into your demands. Continued the War in Vietnam until near the end of his second term, and expanding it by bombing Cambodia and Laos. The bombing campaign in Cambodia indirectly aided the rise of the Khmer Rouge, arguably the most brutal regime in world history. Dwelling on his policy mistakes is tempting but perhaps unfair, given that he was little worse than his predecessors in this regard. But, of course, there’s Watergate. The actual Watergate break-in itself is somewhat overblown — what really killed Nixon’s reputation was the extensive and unprecedented series of illegal activities exposed by the investigation into the break-in. Among these many acts included creating a secret police organization without Congressional authorization to hunt for dirt on opponents, funding his re-election committee through money-laundering schemes, and wiretapping the DNC offices at the Watergate hotel. For the lasting damage this corruption did to the American political system, Nixon ranks as one of America’s worst Presidents.
  36. Herbert Hoover. President during the start of the Great Depression. Treated the onset of the Depression as a brief downturn and took years to realize just how bad a situation he was in. Made matters worse by suffocating international trade with the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. Even after he realized the scale of the crisis, his new initiatives were largely ineffectual. I feel bad placing him so low, as much of his failure stemmed from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nevertheless, the fact remains that he failed America in its time of need.
  37. James Madison. Blundered his way into the War of 1812, which America survived more despite than because of his leadership. Like Jefferson, he did great things outside of the office but wasn’t cut out for the job.
  38. Woodrow Wilson. All the racism and egomania of Teddy Roosevelt with none of the political skill. Talked a good game about noble ideals but barely even tried to put his words into practice. Implemented an assault on civil liberties to drum up support for WWI, including outright making criticism of the government illegal, and kept these laws in place for years after the war was over. Continued his human rights abuses after the war by deporting thousands of radical leftists in the Palmer Raids. Criticized Roosevelt and Taft for interfering too much in Latin America, then proceeded to interfere even more and harder than any of them, launching 10 separate invasions of Mexico alone. This despite these invasions by then being widely recognized as dumb both in the US and in Latin America. Re-segregated the federal government after Roosevelt(!) had made appointing black people to high offices an accepted practice. Stoked the flames of white supremacy during a burst of racist violence during which, among other things, the KKK was reborn. Somehow shows up near the top of most rankings in spite of all this. 
  39. George W. Bush. Invading Iraq based on false pretences is probably the worst thing any US President has done and I do not say that lightly. The problem is not so much with invading Iraq in itself, which I actually think was defensible, but with the massive web of deception used to sell it to the public, which basically guaranteed that there would not be the political will to see the post-war rebuilding process through to completion. This failure was compounded by his administration’s incompetence and utter cluelessness about the society they were invading leading them to completely fuck up their attempts at nation building. Outside of that, Bush’s appointed FEMA head contributed to the grotesque incompetence that made Hurricane Katrina such a disaster, and Bush allowed serious human rights abuses by passing the Patriot Act and allowing “enhanced interrogation”. He also largely ignored the actual threat of North Korea’s development of nukes because he didn’t want to distract from the alleged WMDs in Iraq. The one redeeming feature of his presidency was his creation of PEPFAR, which saved a huge number of people in Sub-Saharan Africa from AIDS and keeps him out of the bottom 5.
  40. Andrew Jackson. Ordered the Trail of Tears, an ethnic cleansing campaign which killed thousands of Native Americans and was in blatant violation of a Supreme Court ruling. He probably didn’t actually say “Justice Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it!”, but he might as well have. This was actually one of many Indian removals under Jackson; Jackson actually negotiated generous removal treaties with many of the tribes — then looked the other way as his enforcers completely ignored the terms of these agreements. Jackson claimed these removals were a necessity to prevent conflict between white people and Natives, but also vocally promoted attempts to expand into the territories to which the Natives had been exiled, ensuring these issues would come up later anyway. Outside of that, Jackson exacerbated tensions with Mexico through inept attempts to annex Texas, likely caused the Panic of 1837 through bad economic policies, established a norm of blatant nepotism in appointing Cabinet positions, and appointed Roger Taney, the Supreme Court Justice who would later enshrine the legal principle that slaves could never become citizens even if they were freed. To his credit, he called for the extension of suffrage to non-landowners, but that was already implemented across most of the US long before he entered office and all he really did was ride the prevailing political winds. Absolutely horrible man.
  41. Andrew Johnson. The guy who took over after Lincoln was shot. Completely botched Reconstruction by quickly giving up any attempt to protect the newly-freed black Americans and settling into a routine of Southerner appeasement. Handed out huge numbers of pardons for Confederates, allowing most Confederate leaders to quickly regain power within the South, which they used to implement “black codes” forcing black people into becoming second-class citizens. To his credit, though, he appointed an actually competent Secretary of State who bought Alaska, forced Napoleon out of Mexico and eased relations with Britain. Still, when all this is weighed against his contribution to the enduring legacy of racism in America, the consensus view that he was one of its worst leaders is hard to argue with.
  42. Donald Trump. Where to even begin? Let’s see: he ruined the first ever global framework for fighting climate change by pulling out of the Paris Accords.  His and his administration’s grotesque incompetence and denial in the face of the COVID epidemic likely cost thousands of lives. His promotion of conspiracy theories regarding rampant election fraud is an unprecedented threat to democracy in America. He betrayed America’s Kurdish allies in Syria, leading to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. He made family separation standard practice when dealing with border-crossing families. He tried to start a competition of childish taunts with North Korea, then did a 180 after some negotiations that accomplished nothing of substance and confessed to being in love with Kim Jong-Un. And of course this list barely scratches the surface of what’s horrid about him. Good riddance. Many people will likely expect him to be at the bottom. I strongly considered putting him there, but on further consideration I must give him credit for his successes in the Middle East, destroying ISIS’s caliphate and mediating the normalization of relations between Israel and two Arab countries. True, these processes started under Obama and would likely have still happened had Trump lost the election, but nevertheless they are enough to disqualify him from being considered the worst ever.
  43. Franklin Pierce. Stuffed his cabinet with extreme slavery proponents. Repealed legislation banning slavery in Kansas and Nebraska, then fired Kansas governor Andrew Reeder for objecting. Tried to annex Cuba with empty threats and failed miserably. No wonder he failed at even getting nominated for re-election.
  44. James Buchanan. The American Neville Chamberlain. Tried to ease tensions during the lead-up to the Civil War by caving to slave-owners on every issue for his entire term. Even Stephen Douglas, one of slavery’s leading proponents, criticized Buchanan for not doing enough to appeal to anti-slavery voters. Buchanan also created a great deal of ill will between the US and Central America through his inept attempts at coercive diplomacy. Most historians call Buchanan the worst President ever and I am inclined to agree.

The Deer Tier List

When people think of the best builds in Outside, they tend to focus on those that are best at killing their opponents. This can be one indicator of a high-tier character, but it’s important to recognize that a powerful offense is not always necessary or even desirable depending on the playstyle you’re going for. If you’re playing a predator, then investing into strong attacks is absolutely crucial to securing a top-tier spot, since you need to attack other players to find food. However, if you’re playing a parasite, then you want your attacks on your host to do as little damage as possible, because your own survival depends on the continued existence of your host body. In-between these two extremes, there are herbivores. Many of the best herbivore builds do benefit from a strong offense, but it’s possible to succeed as a herbivore with low attack power provided you can find another way to ward off attacks from predator players. One way herbivore players can compensate for lack of fighting capacity is by minimaxing for mobility, so that predators have difficulty catching up to them to launch an attack. This strategy is not without its risks, but it’s nevertheless very popular and worthy of examination. The most iconic example of this strategy is the deer, a mammal build that’s hugely popular on almost every major land server. But is this a worthwhile strategy? And which types of deer do this best? Today I’m going to rank the different types of deer to determine which one makes best use of this strategy.

As usual, before we go into the deer tier list, I’d like to talk a bit about the strengths and weaknesses of the guild as a whole. As mentioned above, the best stat for deer is mobility. They’re very fast runners able to outspeed most predators in a chase, but there’s more to their high mobility than just speed. Deer are highly versatile in their movement, being capable of swimming for miles on end and jumping over obstacles up to 2 metres high on top of their sprinting ability. While deer can outrun predators over long distances if they need to, this is actually not the main use of their mobility. Instead, deer mains are more likely to use their mobility for short bursts during which they flee to dense cover where predators have difficulty following.

Besides their mobility, the one other major advantage of the deer build is its herding behaviour. I’ve talked before about how, in general, herding behaviour among herbivores is not as OP as its carnivorous counterpart because there is less incentive for a stable alliance. Since the deer build is designed for a flight-over-fight style of gameplay, deer mains won’t generally stick around to defend a weak herd member who gets attacked by a predator, instead abandoning them at the first sign of danger. However, herding behaviour does still confer important benefits because it buffs each herd member’s effective situational awareness. Rather than each individual deer needing to constantly be on the lookout for food and predators, deer mains can usually get a pretty good idea of both the dangers and the availability of loot in an area by paying attention to the behaviour of the rest of the herd. Clustering in herds can also be used for intimidation; however, this is usually a pretty unreliable strategy and is easily defeated by predators with good cognition and/or perception abilities. Overall, I would say herding behaviour is a good ability, but not a great one, and I would generally only recommend it as an added bonus for builds that are already at least somewhat viable to begin with.

Outside of these two advantages, deer are a fairly unremarkable build with mid-low base stats and no great special abilities. Their fighting ability isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s no better than typical for a mammal of their size, and their intelligence and stealth are nothing special either. Relying so much on mobility might seem like a risky gamble, and indeed playing deer can be dangerous. For one thing, deer tend to be among the main prey items for mid-weight predators like wolves and cougars in their regions. Larger predators like lions tend to go for meatier prey but can nevertheless be a serious threat. Diseases, natural disasters and car accidents can also pose serious risks to deer and take a heavy toll on herds. Staying in herds can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to dealing with these threats; the increased awareness of danger is an important boon, but it also facilitates the spread of diseases, and concentrating large portions of your player base in one area increases the chance of a mass die-off. That said, if minimaxing for mobility is a gamble, the success of the deer guild suggests that it’s one that’s paid off pretty well.

The first builds resembling deer debuted in the Eocene expansion, but true deer builds of the kind seen today first appeared during the Miocene, when some of these proto-deer traded away the tusks which they’d previously had in exchange for antlers. Deer diversified extensively and spread around the map through the Miocene and Pliocene, and have now become one of the biggest families in the artiodactyl faction, second only to cattle. They’re common on every major land server except Antarctica, and while most of them stick to the forest biomes, the deer build has been easily adapted to work in biomes ranging from grasslands, to mountains, to swamps and even to the tundra. As a guild, I would say deer around the bottom of B tier, but their variety is worth further examination. As usual, I won’t be able to go through all of the more than 40 deer builds, but I’ll focus on a few that I think are most interesting.

One more thing I want to talk about before going into the tier list is the [Antlers] trait. If I’m being honest, this trait seems like kind of a waste of points to me. Contrary to popular belief, deer antlers provide only marginal benefits for defending against predators, instead being primarily used during ritual combat between male deer for mates. In my opinion, deer would’ve been much better off speccing into horns like those of their African counterpart the antelope, which serve a similar function in attracting mates but can also deal serious damage to predators if they need to. Plus, horns have the benefit of lasting for the entire game once grown, whereas antlers need to be shed and re-grown annually. The flip-side of this is that antlers are less likely to deal damage to you when another player uses them against you in ritualized combat. However, even this has its risks as deer sometimes get their antlers stuck together during fights, which leads to a slow death from starvation as neither deer can reach down to eat.

In F tier, we have the pudú. This is the smallest deer build in the game, weighing no more than 13 kg, and consequently has the lowest defence and HP ratings. This makes it a target for a variety of predators, including foxes, cats and especially domestic dogs. You might think they would compensate for this by increasing investment into herd behaviour, but instead they’ve given it up entirely and become solitary, which makes them better at avoiding detection but also worse at seeing danger coming. It’s probably not surprising that the pudú build is in a precarious position in the meta, threatened by ongoing destruction of its forest habitat and competition with newly introduced herbivores like cattle and elk. While pudú do have the advantage of being one of the few deer builds with strong climbing abilities, I think it’s hard to deny that they’re a pretty terrible build overall.

In C tier, we have the water deer. Of all the current deer builds, this is the one that most resembles the earliest proto-deer, because it has retained its tusks instead of speccing into antlers. Water deer are optimized for playing by riversides, where they take advantage of the tall reeds and rushes to hide from predators. Water deer have a somewhat restricted range because their reliance on tall reeds makes it difficult for them to adapt to environmental changes. Confined to parts of East Asia up until the 1870s, water deer mains have recently been trying to branch out, as some players have relocated with the help of humans to Britain or France. However, none of these players have been able to get very far in the meta because they’re too specialized to spread much in these areas. In France, there are probably none of them left at all.

Also in C tier, we have the muntjac. Muntjacs are nearly as small as the pudú and have retained their tusks as their primary intimidation method, similar to the water deer, though they do have small antlers as well. What keeps muntjacs from being as low-tier as other small deer is their reproductive rate. While most deer, and in fact most hoofed mammals in general, have a specific mating season, muntjacs are fertile year-round. This advantage has propelled them to surprising success. They’re common throughout south Asia, and have rapidly become one of the most common deer in the UK too as well as establishing a successful invasive population in Japan. That said, since they’re not exactly impacting the meta much in these areas, I think of them more as a reliable mid-tier than as an overpowered invader.

In low B tier, we have two deer builds that are optimized for survival in harsh environments. First up is the white-lipped deer, which is optimized for mountain life. The Thorold’s deer has short legs and broad hooves, which give bonuses to mobility while mountain climbing. It can also breathe more easily at high altitudes because of its unusually large nasal cavities and its increased red blood cell count compared to other deer. Finally, Thorold’s deer has the thickest fur of any deer, giving it excellent cold resistance. These traits allow the Thorold’s deer to survive at elevations up to 5000 m above sea level.

Next in B tier, we have the reindeer, which is noteworthy for being the deer build best adapted to cold. The reindeer’s circulatory system is highly efficient at recycling heat to keep warm in cold weather, assisted by a specialized passage in the reindeer’s nose called the nasal countercurrent heat exchanger which warms air before it enters the lungs. Other adaptations reindeer have to the cold include [Detect Ultraviolet Light], an ability which is rare among mammals and which helps them see things which would otherwise blend in with the Arctic snow, and a support relationship with specialist gut bacteria that manufacture an enzyme called lichenase, making them the only large mammal able to get glucose from lichens. With the exception of some snails, this enzyme is not possessed by any other animal and lets reindeer survive for long periods eating almost exclusively lichens. Reindeer are generally safe from most predators in their biomes with the exception of the wolf, since they can easily outrun bears and are too big to be threatened by almost anything else in the region when fully grown. While reindeer have long been a highly successful build in Arctic and subarctic biomes, recent times have taken a heavy toll on their player base due to climate change as well as the spread of a parasite called the meningeal worm, which frequently causes lethal brain damage for reindeer and other large deer builds. I still think the reindeer is an above-average build for now, but as with most Arctic-adapted builds, don’t be surprised if their viability drops sharply in the near future. One other noteworthy thing about the reindeer is that a few thousand years ago, some reindeer players respecced their build to function as a livestock animal, and today the reindeer player base is about evenly split between those who’ve adopted this new playstyle and those who still stick to playing in the wild. I would be careful with this strategy, though, as while some humans use their support reindeer as a mount or for help carrying heavy objects over long distances, there’s also a decent chance they might just be trying to make you easier to kill for XP.

At the top of B tier, we have the moose. A lot of you were probably expecting this build to be ranked as the best deer, but I think they’re a little overrated. I actually already talked about the moose in my first ever tier list, but I’d like to go into a bit more depth. In my earlier post, I pointed out how moose are the largest and most powerful of all deer builds in the game, but have kept the excellent running and swimming abilities of the baseline deer build. However, I also pointed out their serious weakness of high vulnerability to vehicular collisions, a weakness which ends thousands of moose games annually. While all of this is true, I left out a few other important strengths and weaknesses. First off, moose have the best hearing of any deer owing to a unique modification of the antlers. The palmation of moose antlers allow them to act as a sort of funnel, collecting and amplifying sounds that would otherwise be too quiet to hear. Moose’s large size and thick fur also give them an excellent cold resistance, which makes them well-optimized for moderately snowy northern habitats. The flip side of this is that they’re much more sensitive to heat than most deer, a bad trait to have during the current global warming balance patch. During hot periods, moose have to keep cool by staying in the shade or going underwater. Also on the negative side, moose are one of the few deer builds without access to herding abilities. You might think their size and power would prevent this from being an issue, but the fact that moose are the primary prey for wolves in a number of areas calls this into question. Like reindeer, moose players have been on the decline lately, due to a mix of warming climates and the introduction of new parasite builds to their servers. But even so, they’re still doing pretty well compared to most undomesticated large herbivores, and I think I stand by my original high B-tier rating.

In A tier, we have the white-tailed deer. This build doesn’t stray very far from the vanilla deer build in terms of strategy, instead focusing on using its existing strengths to their fullest potential. The white-tailed deer is the fastest deer build in the entire game, as well as being among the most adaptable. While they mostly play in forests, they’re equally capable of thriving in open prairie or savanna woodland. White-tailed deer are among the most widespread undomesticated large mammals in the Americas, and they’re only becoming more common as their adaptability makes them better-suited than most herbivores to dealing with the effects of climate change. Outside of the Americas, white-tailed deer have successfully invaded New Zealand along with the Caribbean and many European countries. Now minimaxing for mobility does have its drawbacks: white-tailed deer are more vulnerable to predators compared to larger builds like the moose, being common prey for not only wolves but also cougars and jaguars. Their exceptional mobility means they can usually outrun predators in a chase, but they’re still vulnerable to ambushes, and wolves can sometimes tire them out on account of their superior endurance. Given this weakness, placing them ahead of the more powerful moose and reindeer might seem questionable, but actually, the northward spread of white-tailed deer has recently led them to encroach directly on the territory of moose and reindeer. The result of this competition has been a pretty unequivocal victory for the white-tailed deer, who have continued to increase while moose and reindeer have declined drastically wherever the white-tails have gone. I think this puts the white-tailed deer definitively in A tier.

Finally we come to the standout build in the deer guild, a build that basically combines all the strengths of the moose and white-tailed deer with none of their weaknesses: the elk. I should note that “elk” can actually refer to any of three distinct builds: the North American/Asian wapiti, the European red deer, and the moose. I’ve already talked about the moose, so I won’t be including it here, but I’m going to be lumping the other two together as “elk” here since they have such similar playstyles. The only important difference between them is that the wapiti is noticeably larger, but both of them are huge compared to most other deer, and anything powerful enough to take down a red deer will likely also be able to take down an elk. The elk is the second largest and most powerful deer build after the moose, and the largest deer build to travel in herds. However, elk are much faster than moose, and nearly as fast as the white-tailed deer. Elk also have a critical advantage over moose due to not being as specialized for cold environments. Like moose, elk have thick fur coats which let them survive easily in cold northern regions, but unlike moose, the elk’s coat is impermanent and they can shed it to deal with heat. As a result, like white-tailed deer, elk have no trouble spreading to new environments and often end up adjusting better than the builds actually designed to play there. In fact, the IUCN has placed the elk on its list of the 100 worst invasive builds in the game because of the way it’s outcompeted native herbivores like the huemul when introduced to South America. Being able to adjust so easily to an unfamiliar environment and even outcompete native builds is the hallmark of a high-tier character, and solidifies the elk’s status as the best deer build in the game. I don’t think they quite make it to S tier, since they still too often end up as prey for wolves and cougars, but they’ve definitely earned a spot in high A tier.

Deer are a good illustration of the complexity of assessing success in Outside. Because deer are so minimaxed, casual players are likely to think of them as a garbage-tier, and if you view the game primarily in terms of fighting, that’s a pretty fair assessment. Yet in spite of this, deer have managed to spread around the world and become some of the most common large land builds across a number of servers. Deer mains might not have reached top-tier status yet, but they’ve done pretty well for themselves and should not be lightly dismissed.

The Perks of Being A Raccoon | The Procyonid Tier List

In my posts about Outside so far, I’ve never gotten the chance to talk about my own main. So today I’m going to analyze the raccoon build and the advantages that led me to maining it, as well as the disadvantages that have held me and other raccoon mains back. But instead of discussing just the one build, I thought I’d also briefly rank the rest of the procyonid guild. I won’t be giving away any guild secrets, but I’ll try to do the best explanation I can while only talking about the info publicly available.

Compared to most of the guilds I’ve discussed in previous posts, procyonids are a relatively recent addition to Outside’s meta, only having been added to the game in the Miocene expansion around 20 million years ago. The first procyonid builds were created by a group of tropical mustelid players who didn’t like the stress and difficulty of playing a hunter, so they decided to switch to a more generalist playstyle. Since they no longer needed the blade-like carnassial teeth which mustelids and other carnivorans use to shear flesh, they took points out of this trait and reallocated them towards unlocking stronger climbing abilities, including the ability to rotate their ankles more than 180 degrees in order to climb down trees headfirst. Climbing abilities are great for small generalists because many of the game’s most valuable loot types, like bird eggs, fruits, and nuts, are most readily accessible in the treetops. Trees also provide procyonids with a vital refuge against many of their biggest threats. A number of the game’s deadliest predators, like crocodiles, canids and constrictors, either can’t climb trees at all or can’t do so well enough to hunt mobile prey in the arboreal zones. Felids and birds of prey are still threats to watch out for, though. Most procyonids have also specced into a nocturnal playstyle, which has been a common strategy for small generalist mammals ever since they first debuted way back in the Mesozoic. In earlier expansions, some procyonid mains specced into massive omnivorous tank builds similar to a bear, but nowadays they stick to playing smaller, stealthier generalist builds more akin to a rat or fox.

There are a few types of procyonids. Most of this post will be talking about raccoons, since they’re the most popular type as well as my main, but first I’d like to do a quick rundown on the other builds in the guild.

In F tier, we have nothing. There are no procyonid builds I would consider bottom tier because all of them stick too closely to the solid base design. There are no procyonid builds that completely waste the guild’s advantages, nor do any of them have crippling drawbacks rendering them useless in the meta. All of them are at least somewhat viable within their servers.

That said, some procyonids are still better than others. In D tier, we have the worst procyonid build in the current game, the pygmy raccoon. Pygmy raccoon players diverged from the main raccoon build after their home island, Cozumel, split off from the mainland of South America. Although they retain most of the common raccoon’s traits, they’ve specced into a much smaller build since the absence of native predators means they have less need for the benefits of larger size. They also aren’t as adaptable as raccoons due to their more restrictive diet. Even though pygmy raccoons can eat many of the same things regular raccoons eat, they rely mostly on hunting crabs and avoid playing in areas without a sizable crab playerbase. While pygmy raccoons are among the dominant predators of the northwest coast of Cozumel Island, the fact that they’re restricted to this tiny area puts them in a precarious position which prevents them from rising above their low-tier placement.

In C tier, we have the olingo. This is the only strictly arboreal procyonid and mostly eats fruit. It’s a pretty average build in most regards, but it does have the ability to spray noxious scents from its anus when threatened. The smallest procyonid build in the game, the olinguito, is a subclass of olingo. Beyond that, there’s not much noteworthy about them.

In B tier, we have the kinkajou. This build is pretty similar to the olingo, with much the same stats, but trades away the scent glands in exchange for larger size, a prehensile tail like a monkey, and a five-inch long extendable tongue for licking nectar from flowers. I consider the kinkajou to be an overall upgrade to the olingo, as demonstrated by its larger playerbase, wider range, and the fact that even juvenile kinkajous tend to easily dominate over full-grown olingos in areas where the two compete. Both of these classes are somewhat limited in versatility due to their dependence on tropical forests, which keeps them out of the top tiers.

Also in B tier we have the crab-eating raccoon. As the name suggests, this is the best procyonid for hunting crabs and other shellfish. Crab-eating raccoons are a bit smaller than actual raccoons, and have spent their evolution points on larger cheek teeth with broader, rounded cusps to help break through crab shells. This build is highly effective when playing in areas surrounding a river or lake, but its dependence on being near large bodies of freshwater prevents it from being as adaptable as the true raccoon build.

At the top of B tier, we have the ring-tailed cat. Despite its name and its retractable claws, this build is in fact a procyonid, not a cat. While all procyonids are omnivorous, ring-tailed cats are the closest to being pure carnivores, feeding mainly on small vertebrates during the winter and a mixture of insects and fruit the rest of the year. Much like actual cats, the ringtail can be used as a support by humans to eliminate rodent players who encroach on the human’s territory, but this strategy has fallen out of favour nowadays. When threatened, ringtails emit a noxious odor and make a high-pitched shriek to frighten away predators. In addition to their combat potential, ringtails have excellent dehydration resistance due to being able to survive for long periods on just the moisture from food. Like raccoons, ring-tailed cats are adaptable enough to thrive alongside humans in cities, having become a notorious pest in Austin, Texas.

In A tier, we have the coati. Coatis are one of the largest procyonids, reaching up to 10 kg. With their sharp teeth and claws, coatis can fight fiercely when they need to and may even be able to hunt relatively large animals like monkeys and pygmy deer. Their strong limbs and sharp claws also make them excellent diggers. The most unusual aspect of the coati is its long, flexible snout, similar to that of a pig, which gives it an excellent sense of smell and can be used to push small objects. Out of all the procyonids, coatis are the most cooperative, with coati teams participating in social behaviours such as grooming each other, nursing each other’s young and helping each other to keep watch for predators. That coatis are one of the highest-ranking procyonids is demonstrated by their wide range, which stretches from the southwestern US to Uruguay and includes a wide variety of habitats. The one weakness they have, compared to other procyonids, is that they’ve abandoned the nocturnal playstyle for a diurnal one. Not only can procyonids not see very well in the daytime, but this makes it harder to avoid humans since they don’t have the advantage of being most active when the humans are AFK. However, this seems to be a fairly minor problem as coatis do much better at adapting to human-created cities than any other procyonid besides the raccoon. Their sociality comes in handy here, as urban coatis will often form teams to gang up on unsuspecting humans and steal their loot.

But at the end of the day, there’s really only one build people think about when they talk about the success of procyonids. The raccoon is far and away the most popular, most iconic, most successful and overall best build in the procyonid guild, and for the rest of this post, I’m going to talk about why.

The trait which raccoons are probably best known for is having one of the highest intelligence ratings in the entire game. Raccoons have long been known for their instinctual cunning and curiosity, which grants them remarkable problem-solving abilities. This is reflected in their high neuron density: raccoons have a brain roughly the size of a cat’s, but with as many neurons as a large dog. This density is well above that of most mammals and on par with monkeys. Raccoons are so intelligent that they sometimes “fail” problem-solving tests by coming up with solutions that even the test’s designers couldn’t think of. I’ve talked before about how OP the combination of high intelligence and high dexterity is, so it’s worth noting that raccoons also have one of the best dexterity ratings. Unlike most carnivorans, raccoons have no webbing between their fingers. This lets them bring together their “pinky” and “thumb” across the middle of their palm, giving them an extraordinary ability to grasp and manipulate objects. This is part of why they are one of the most difficult builds for humans to hide loot from, as they can easily unscrew lids, open locks and untie knots to get at food. Raccoons don’t have fully opposable thumbs, so they can’t manipulate objects to quite the same degree as primates, but they come closer than almost any other animal.

One area where raccoons often get underestimated is in their mobility. In terms of raw speed, raccoons are only mediocre due to their short legs making it difficult for them to run quickly. But what they lack in speed, they make up for in versatility, having access to nearly every movement option available in the game. Like all procyonids, raccoons are excellent climbers. Their climbing skills are easily transferred from trees to man-made structures like buildings, a trait which comes in handy when exploring the city biome. One raccoon main in the Minnesota server even managed to scale a 25-story skyscraper. Raccoons are also good swimmers, and in fact they tend to hunt most effectively when in the water, which is why the areas with the largest raccoon playerbases tend to be near large bodies of water. Because so much of their apparent size comes from their thick fur coat, raccoons are nearly as good as cats at crawling through spaces seemingly smaller than themselves. Their low centre of gravity gives them an astonishing pushing strength for their weight class, letting them easily knock down obstacles many times their own size to access blocked-off areas. The upshot of this is that aside from deep underwater, there is almost nowhere you can hide loot where raccoon players can’t get to it. Their versatility in movement is matched by versatile feeding: the raccoon is one of the most omnivorous builds that the game has ever seen. While all procyonids are omnivores, most of them have a preference for certain loot types and have difficulty surviving in biomes where these types are inaccessible. Not so for raccoons, who are famous for their willingness and ability to eat pretty much anything you put in front of them. Raccoons are equally comfortable subsisting off of fish, insects, shellfish, eggs, fruit, nuts, or even garbage. This is one of many reasons why raccoons can live in just about any biome so long as there are structures they can climb.

Of course being able to get to loot is only useful if you have the skills to locate it. The raccoon’s intelligence is helpful here, but so are its strong senses. Raccoons can’t see very well, but they make up for it in other areas, particularly their sense of touch. Almost ¾  of the sensory area in a raccoon’s brain is devoted to touch, and their paws have nearly five times more sensory neurons than those of most mammals, making them so hyper-sensitive to tactile impulses that they can effectively see in the dark at short distances. Of course touch is somewhat limited in range, so to detect objects from a distance they rely more on their keen senses of smell and hearing.

As I’ve discussed before, small generalist players can often get away with using attack power as a dump stat, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be a significant advantage for those who spec into it. Raccoons are the largest of all current procyonid builds, and consequently the most powerful. Their claws and teeth are strong enough to kill a cat and severely maul a dog. They also have a fairly decent defence stat due to their dense fur, which offers protection against both bites and cold weather. It’s perhaps because of this well-rounded combat capacity that despite coexisting with bears, big cats, alligators, eagles, wolves and/or coyotes depending on the areas they play in, only a very small proportion of raccoon players in most regions get killed by predators.

In many respects, raccoons are one of the most successful mammal builds in the current meta. Originating in North American forests, raccoons have since found ways to thrive in mountains, marshes, and cities throughout North and Central America from Canada to Panama, then successfully invaded most of Europe as well as Japan, Russia, and Uzbekistan. And despite humans heavily hunting them in many areas, and even wiping them out in places like Barbados, the raccoon is one of the few midweight mammals that has actually become more common and widespread as humans have taken over the meta. Yet in spite of all this, a lot of individual raccoon players don’t seem to be benefiting from the build’s strengths. Raccoons have a maximum game time of 16 years, but the average raccoon player only manages to make it about 2 or 3 years. The main causes of these deaths are hunting and car accidents, while natural deaths are mainly due to distemper. Why such poor performance for a build with such a strong set of abilities?

I think the answer can be found by comparing the raccoon to another build which pursues a similar strategy in a way I would consider more effective. Monkeys are one of the most successful build types in the game, and most of the traits which allow them to be so successful are also present in raccoons. Raccoons share monkeys’ intelligence, dexterity, climbing ability and omnivory. Monkeys are faster on the ground and in the trees and have better eyesight than raccoons, but raccoons are better swimmers, better diggers, better fighters (at least by the standards of their weight class), and have a better sense of smell. If you just look at their individual abilities, you might think raccoons would be as good as monkeys if not better, but there’s one extremely important benefit monkeys have that raccoons don’t: heavy investment into social structure. Builds that rely on intelligence, almost by definition, have complex and hard-to-learn styles of gameplay, which is a barrier for new players. As a result, almost all intelligence-based builds rely to some extent on having veteran players teach the newbies the basics of gameplay. Raccoons do this a bit, as new players get to spend some time learning the basics from their mother, but it’s pretty minimal compared to other mammals. Monkeys go much further, living in large and complex social groups, so that when one player finds a useful technique, all the members of their team can benefit from it. Raccoons, being mostly solitary, don’t get this opportunity and are forced to come up with all their tricks themselves. This makes them a much riskier pick with a high skill ceiling but a low skill floor. Despite this limitation, I would still consider raccoons to be at the top of A tier, but if we invested more into sociality, I think we could easily make it to S tier.

The Looney Tunes Tier List

I’m trying something a bit unusual today. Typically, my posts discuss a group of builds which are all part of one guild or which all play somewhat similarly. But for this month’s post, I wanted to take on a group of unrelated builds with radically different playstyles that are nevertheless all still tied to a common theme. So today, I’m going to do a ranking of the animals featured in one of the game’s most famously bizarre fanfictions, Looney Tunes. This ranking does not take into account the abilities of the OCs within the fanfiction, but rather is based solely on the stats and abilities of the canon characters on which the fanfic’s characters are loosely based.

At the bottom of the tier list, we have the Tasmanian Devil. This might surprise you, as in the cartoons Taz is portrayed as a nigh-unstoppable destructive force able to oneshot almost any other build. In reality, the Tasmanian devil is easily one of the most overrated builds in the game. The main reason for this build’s inflated reputation is its overinvestment into the [Bite] attack. Tasmanian devils have huge teeth and jaws similar to those of hyenas, giving them a bite strong enough to crack bones and chew through metal cages. In fact, relative to their size, devils have the strongest bite force of any mammal. But strong attacks alone aren’t enough to get you to high-tier in Outside, and devils simply don’t have the right stats and abilities to make good use of their crushing bite. The Tasmanian devil has a low mobility rating for a carnivorous mammal, with little endurance and much lower top speed compared both to the region’s common herbivores like the wombat and to competing predators like the red fox and wedge-tailed eagle. Since devils can’t rely on their mobility to catch prey, they instead base their hunting strategy on stealth, but they have no particularly impressive stealth abilities besides a black fur coat which makes them difficult to see at night. To compensate for their inadequacies as hunters, Tasmanian devils tend to rely more on scavenging compared to other carnivorous mammals. This is not a great strategy for two reasons. First of all, carrion is less valuable than fresh meat, since typically a carcass has already been partially eaten by insects and bacteria by the time a scavenger finds it. The only vertebrates able to get by on scavenging alone are those which spec into [Soaring Flight] so as to travel long distances with minimal energy expenditure. Devils don’t have this ability, so they still need to hunt regularly in order to meet their XP requirements. Secondly, the devil’s massive jaw takes up so much of its head that there’s not much room left for a brain or eyes. Their low intelligence and poor eyesight mean they have difficulty distinguishing carrion from any other stationary object that carries the scent of a living thing. This leads them to frequently consume items like plastic bags which provide 0 XP. Not helping matters is the devil’s bizarre tutorial, which begins with one of the most pointlessly difficult challenges in the entire game. Devils can spawn in up to 40 new players at one time, but they only have four nipples. Since marsupial joeys need to start suckling milk for weeks on end to avoid starving to death, almost all of the newborns get spawn-killed.

What really solidifies the devils’ bottom-tier status is their unstable position as a species. Tasmanian devils used to be playable on the mainland section of the Australia server, but have since been banned for unknown reasons and are now limited to the Tasmania region. As I noted in my post on bats, any build locked to a single small island is generally not one I recommend, since all it takes is a single natural disaster or the introduction of a new predator to potentially render it unplayable. Tasmanian devils are in a particularly precarious position because their player base has an extremely low genetic diversity. Low genetic diversity makes it easier for diseases to spread through a population, a lesson devil players learned the hard way in 1996 with the discovery of a glitch called “devil facial tumour disease”, or DFTD for short. Because all Tasmanian devils are practically clones of one another, if cells from one devil end up in another devil, they will continue to act exactly as though they were still in their original body without triggering any immune response. This has allowed a deadly cancer to spread throughout the devil playerbase like wildfire in a way that would be impossible for almost any other build. DFTD is extremely contagious and almost always lethal, and has been known to eliminate devils from entire biomes in under two years. If a patch isn’t found soon, this glitch could well lead to devils getting removed from the game completely. To be fair, some devil players have started adapting to the cancer by putting points into better immune systems, which could raise their ranking in the meta, but for now they’re in F tier. If you like playing builds with strong bites, but don’t like going extinct, I would suggest trying out the wolverine, a build which basically has all of the advantages of the Tasmanian devil with none of the drawbacks.

The other, probably less surprising F tier is Foghorn Leghorn. There’s not a whole lot to talk about here besides the fact that chickens have low stats across the board. Their main abilities are their omnivorous diet and their gregarious nature, letting them warn each other of predators. While these are good traits, I don’t think they make up for the chicken’s low intelligence, pathetic mobility both when walking and when flying, and lack of any real combat ability. While chickens have managed to attain the largest player base of any bird build, that’s mostly due to humans farming them for XP, and I don’t think this reflects particularly well on their build design. If you’re looking for a social omnivore build that can fly, I would instead suggest checking out crows. Crows have even less combat power than chickens, but make up for it by having much higher intelligence and mobility, traits which have allowed them to become one of the most successful generalists in the game.

In D tier, we have the Roadrunner. This build is actually a variant of the cuckoo which specced into increased running speed at the cost of not being able to fly for more than a few seconds at a time. Contrary to their depiction in the cartoons, the roadrunner’s top speed is actually significantly lower than that of the coyote and many other predators, which is why they still need to rely on their weak flight ability to defend themselves. With average or lower ratings in all stats except mobility, the roadrunner is overall pretty weak, but it does have one significant advantage: it’s one of the few builds with a good matchup against the rattlesnake. The roadrunner’s speed and agility let it easily dodge rattlesnake bites. It then kills the snakes by picking them up with its beak and bashing them against the ground until they die.

Also in D tier we have the most iconic of the Looney Tunes, Bugs Bunny. In the cartoons, Bugs is portrayed as god-tier and easily wins nearly every matchup, but rabbits in canon are a lot less impressive. The rabbit is a build minimaxed for mobility, with well-developed musculature giving it great speed and agility, as well as strong claws good for digging so they can easily travel underground. The problem with this sort of minimaxing is that, without any strong combat moves, you end up being an easy target for any predator fast enough to chase you down or stealthy enough to take you by surprise before you can escape; this is why rabbits in many environments end up being the main prey item for predators like foxes, badgers and lynx. Besides mobility, the only good stat rabbits have is their spawn rate. Rabbit players are legendary for their quick reproduction, and not without good reason; a single female rabbit can spawn in up to 35 new players per year. However, this assumes the rabbits are breeding year-round, which they can’t do on most servers because it gets too cold in winter. Typically, a rabbit would be more likely to have about 1-10 young per year. Also, on most servers, this fast reproduction isn’t so much a huge asset as just a necessity to counteract their high chance of getting spawn-killed. The one exception to this is on the Australia server, where rabbits came over with humans at a time when the server had a shortage of large predators and quickly became one of the most dominant builds on the server. Their player base exploded so hard that they wreaked havoc on a number of ecosystems by overgrazing the native plants. Some humans attempted to get rid of the Australian rabbits in the ‘50s with an anti-rabbit bioweapon called [Myxomatosis], and this kept them down for a while, but by now most Australian rabbits have specced into immunity. However, even in Australia, I would be hesitant about playing rabbit, as the server has since seen the introduction of predators like the domestic cat and red fox which have little difficulty killing rabbits. Overall, it’s hard to deny that rabbits are a low-tier pick in the current meta.

Moving up to C tier, we have the Looney Tunes’ second biggest star, Daffy Duck. Ducks are noteworthy for being one of the few classes with access to all three of the [Fly], [Swim] and [Walk] movement options. Their strategy is based around switching between different terrain types when a predator tries to attack them in order to go wherever the predator can’t follow. There are a few problems with this strategy. First of all, it’s pretty restrictive in terms of which terrain you can play on. In order to use this strategy effectively, duck mains have to stay near bodies of water when on land and near the shore when in the water. More importantly, this is entirely dependent on their being able to detect an oncoming attack in time to escape to a different terrain type. Ducks have relatively weak senses for a bird and have much lower mobility than most of the relevant top predators regardless of what zone they’re in, so they aren’t especially difficult to catch in an ambush. If they get caught before they can change terrain, their lack of any strong offensive or defensive capacities means it’s basically Game Over. If you’re looking for a good all-terrain build, I would suggest instead playing a jaguar. Jaguars are far more mobile than ducks both on the ground and in the water, and have higher ratings on just about every stat. While they can’t fly, they compensate by being excellent climbers. Alternatively, if flight is a must, then definitely try out the seagull. Like ducks, seagulls can walk, swim and fly, but seagulls are much more viable due to being more intelligent and actually having the combat power to fight with other builds in their weight class.

Also in C tier, we have Wile E. Coyote. Coyotes are basically the vanilla option for people who want to play as a canid. Like most dog builds, they have excellent speed and endurance ratings, but otherwise their stats and abilities are pretty unremarkable. Also like most canids, coyotes sometimes form teams to take down prey too large for them to kill individually, but they don’t do this as often as the higher-ranking canids nor are their teams as well-coordinated. In competitions with other predator builds, coyotes tend to have favourable matchups over low- and mid-tiers like the bobcat, but have difficulty against high-tiers like wolverines, golden eagles and cougars. Wolves in particular absolutely body coyotes, to the point that coyotes have difficulty maintaining a large player base in any area where wolves compete with them for loot. As such, an average rating for the coyote seems fair. One neat perk coyotes do have, which sadly never comes up in the cartoons, is their ability to use badgers as a support class when hunting burrowing rodents like the prairie dog. Coyotes can easily kill prairie dogs above ground, but can’t follow them into their burrows, while badgers can easily kill prairie dogs in their burrows, but can’t run fast enough to catch them above ground. Some coyote and badger mains have dealt with these problems by forming a partnership. The badger goes into the prairie dog’s burrow to force them above ground, where they are caught by the coyote; or, the coyote attacks them while they’re above ground, and they retreat back into their burrow to be killed by the badger.

At the bottom of B tier we have Speedy Gonzales. I see the house mouse as basically an upgraded version of the rabbit. Like rabbits, mice have a minimaxed stat spread with very high mobility and fast spawn rates but very low ratings in most other areas. However, mice have some key advantages over rabbits. Firstly, mice have a much more varied diet, which lets them get a better XP yield per loot consumed. Rabbits live off a diet of grasses and weeds, foods so hard to digest that they have to regularly eat their own dung just to get enough nutrients to survive. Mice, on the other hand, can consume just about any loot type, with a special preference for grain and fruit. Mice are also much smaller than rabbits. You might think this would be a bad thing, since it lowers their already-poor defence rating, but it has the important advantages of making them both harder to detect and harder to strike at accurately. The mouse’s small size also lets them easily fit into tight spaces in order to find hidden loot drops or hide from predators. Like rabbits, mice are highly adaptable and easily become invasive when introduced to new environments. Also like rabbits, if there aren’t any predators to keep their numbers in check, their populations can explode until they become a devastating plague of Biblical proportions. Of course, mice and rabbits do still come with the same basic disadvantage: they have practically no combat ability. If they encounter a predator fast enough to catch them or stealthy enough to catch them off-guard, it’s Game Over. Cats, dogs, foxes, birds of prey, snakes, and even rats all regularly kill and eat mouse players. But in spite of all of these threats, mice have managed to become one of the most abundant mammal builds in the game, possibly even outnumbering humans, and I think this feat earns them a placement at least a bit above average. To be fair, this is made less impressive by the fact that the areas with the largest mouse playerbase tend to be small island servers with very few large predators, but still. That said, if you want to see a build that takes all the mouse’s advantages and pushes them to a whole new level, then I suggest looking into cockroaches, for reasons which I’ve already covered in another post.

In high B tier we have Pepe Le Pew. The skunk is a build that puts most of its points into a single ability: [Noxious Spray]. When threatened, skunks deter their attacker by spraying them with a foul-smelling liquid. This fluid is so noxious that, for the most part, only the most desperate or inexperienced of predator mains dare target them. Even top-tier fighters like the bear know not to mess with a skunk, and if they don’t, they’ll learn pretty quickly. The only animal with a good matchup against skunks, not counting humans with high-level weaponry, is the great horned owl. Owls have such a weak sense of smell that skunk spray doesn’t bother them, so if a skunk gets attacked by one, they’re forced to rely on their relatively weak teeth and claws to defend themselves. One particularly skilled great horned owl main was able to score 57 confirmed kills on skunks in a single playthrough. However, skunks do have a couple weaknesses that keep them out of top-tier. First of all, skunks have to be careful when spraying, because they only carry enough of their spray for five or six consecutive uses, and it takes about 10 days to recharge if they run out. Most predators can’t tell when a skunk has run out and so will avoid it anyway, but if they get attacked by a predator player who’s unfamiliar with the skunk’s abilities while they’re low on spray, they can get into trouble. This is mainly a problem in areas with a large domestic dog or cat playerbase, as dog and cat mains who spend their tutorial in human households generally don’t get the opportunity to learn why skunks are to be avoided. Secondly, the skunk’s spray is completely useless against one of the biggest threats to any small mammal in the current meta: cars. Skunks are extremely vulnerable to getting crushed when crossing roads due to their poor eyesight. Finally, skunks are held back from top-tier status by the brevity of their games. Skunks generally only live about 2-3 years, though they can make it up to 10 years in exceptional cases.

Tiering Marvin the Martian presents some difficulty, as there’s no proof anyone has ever actually played as a Martian, but based on the most plausible guesses as to what a real Martian build would be like, I’m going to speculatively place them in B tier. This might seem an odd decision, since any real Martian build would likely be an underground-dwelling microbe with extremely low intelligence, defence, attack, HP and mobility ratings. However, Mars is such a difficult server that even the hardiest of known builds would be nearly unplayable on it, so any build with high enough environmental resistances and low enough energy costs to play on Mars would basically have an entire planet to themselves where they can farm XP with no competition. Throughout the history of Outside, minimaxed extremophile microbes have been one of the most reliable build designs, so any microbe extremophilic enough to survive on Mars would likely be in a pretty solid position in the meta.

In A tier, we have Porky Pig. Pigs are a good example of how being pretty good at lots of things can sometimes be more valuable than being very good at any one thing. Pigs don’t top the rankings in any individual stat, but their combined stat total is one of the best in the game. In terms of intelligence, pigs aren’t quite on par with top-tiers like dolphins, elephants and parrots, but they’re nevertheless good problem-solvers able to quickly learn new tasks. Notably, pigs are one of the few animals smart enough to distinguish clean food from dirty food, and have been known to refuse to eat dirty food until they’ve cleaned it off in a river or other water source. Their combat abilities are nothing spectacular for a build their size, but their [Charge] and [Bite] attacks are still pretty formidable and capable of doing serious damage. One of their biggest advantages is their versatility in terms of the range of loot it can consume. Large endotherm builds require lots of food to sustain, so pigs benefit greatly from being able to eat almost any type of organic matter. Perhaps the biggest reason for pigs’ success is their snout, which acts somewhat like a miniature version of an elephant’s trunk. Like an elephant trunk, pigs’ snouts give them extraordinary senses of smell while also doubling as extremely powerful digging tools, capable of moving boulders and uprooting small trees. These perks synergize well with the pig’s omnivorous playstyle because they let pig players easily detect and dig up food sources hidden underground. Pigs can’t really use their snout to pick up or carry items, so it’s not quite as overpowered as a trunk, but it’s still pretty great.

Probably the pigs’ biggest weak area is their mediocre mobility. While most predators don’t have the combat power to reliably defeat a pig in a fight, the few that do tend to find pigs very easy and convenient targets due to their relatively low speed combined with their high XP yield. This is especially a problem in biomes with lots of soft terrain, like sandy deserts or regions that get covered by deep snow in winter, which leads to movement penalties for hooved animals like the pig. Wolves, tigers, leopards, and komodo dragons may all take pigs as one of their preferred prey items depending on their environment. Jaguars, bears and crocodiles usually prefer to take other prey, but they can all still kill a pig with little trouble if they need to. Even with this weakness, though, the pig’s high intelligence, versatile snout, well-rounded stat distribution and omnivorous diet make it one of the best generalists in the game. Time and again, pigs have been introduced to new servers by traveling alongside humans and then somehow escaping from their captors. Just about every time, they’ve quickly become so accustomed to the new environment that they’ve started outcompeting many of the builds that were actually designed to play there, from low-tiers like the now-extinct dodo bird to mid-tiers like the white-tailed deer and sometimes even top-tiers like the black bear.

Finally we come to the top-tier, Sylvester. Felines are one of the best predator types in the history of the game, and house cats are no exception. Like all cat builds, house cats are armed with an array of sharp claws on each foot and similarly sharp canine teeth to let them easily destroy small vertebrates. While they mostly reserve their attacks for tiny animals like mice and songbirds, they can take down larger quarry like rabbits and pigeons if need be. Once, a single feral cat main in New Zealand killed 102 bats in just one week. While they can’t match the attack power of their larger cousins like lions, tigers, and jaguars, they more than make up for it through their mobility, perception and adaptability. Mobility-wise, cats are not only very fast and agile, but also remarkably versatile in terms of their movement options. They are excellent climbers, able to reach the tops of tall trees with ease and even scale the sides of buildings. They also have one of the highest flexibility ratings in the game, which lets them crawl through spaces too tight for most animals their size to fit into. Cats have such great mobility that they’re one of the few classes able to get away with randomly attacking animals much larger than themselves.

As for perception, cats have very large eyes for their size with a roughly 65:1 ratio of rod cells to cone cells. As I discussed in my previous post on bats, this is great for detecting motion in low light, making cats highly effective at detecting fast-moving prey when hunting during the night. However, it’s not great for seeing far away, in fine detail or in colour, so cats have compensated for these deficiencies with all their other keen senses. Cats have one of the widest hearing ranges among mammals, from 48 Hz to 85 kHz, and can rotate their ears nearly 180 degrees to get the widest possible “view” of the sounds in their environment. Their sense of smell is also impressive; while it doesn’t have quite the same range as that of a dog, cats are actually even better than dogs at discerning between different smells. Most uniquely, cats have movable whiskers on each upper lip, on each cheek, above each eye, on the front paws, and on the back of the legs. These whiskers are covered in nerve endings which allow cats to feel objects and sense air currents precisely enough to create three-dimensional mental maps of their surroundings.
All of these stats and abilities make cats quite possibly the most formidable griefer of small vertebrates in the entire game. The domestic cat is one of the most popular of all carnivorous land mammal builds, with a sizable player base on all major land servers except Antarctica and in almost every biome type, even not counting those who’ve partnered up with a human. These cats have left behind them a trail of destruction unrivalled by any other build in the game’s history besides humans. Cat mains have rendered over 30 builds completely unplayable and have become one of the biggest threats to wildlife on servers ranging from the US to Australia, in some areas even surpassing habitat destruction. In spite of a few weaknesses, like short average lifespans, nearsightedness, and a low defence rating, I think the cat’s track record of success earns them a spot in S tier.

A Thought on Tyranny and Anarchy

Most people think anarchy is the extreme excess of chaos and tyranny is the extreme excess of order. I think this is backwards.

Tyranny is the extreme excess of chaos because everything is determined by the unpredictable whims of one person. Under a rational and benevolent tyrant, then you might get at least a facsimile of order, but under a bad ruler the fundamentally chaotic nature of tyranny reveals itself. For example, in 1987 the dictator of Burma made all existing bank notes illegitimate because he liked the number nine and wanted all bank notes to be multiples of that number. That’s the sort of chaos which can only happen under a tyrant.

Anarchy is the extreme excess of order because in order to maintain it, you have to constantly suppress the natural human instinct to seek power over others. Any unstructured human interaction is an opportunity for one person to try and assert power over another. To maintain a lasting state of nobody ruling over anybody else, everything must be very orderly.

Xenarthrans: an Illustration of the Potential — and Limitations — of Specialist Builds

Specialist builds have gotten kind of a bad rap among the Outside playerbase, and this is not entirely unwarranted. Speccing into specialist traits can severely limit your ability to spread across the gameworld, and leave your build vulnerable to becoming literally unplayable if an update makes its role more difficult. Many of the game’s most iconic specialist builds, like the panda and the koala, have plummeted in viability with the rise of humans to the point that they are now being phased out of the game. However, this doesn’t mean that specialist builds can’t be viable if done right. Today, I’m going to illustrate the good and bad aspects of specialization by discussing the xenarthran guild. All xenarthran builds are specialists, but which ones did specialization the right way? And where do they each rank on the tier list?

Xenarthrans first originated on the South America server during the Paleocene expansion, about 58 million years ago, as underground-dwelling specialist hunters of ants. They diversified and spread throughout the Cenozoic up until the end of the Pleistocene expansion, when almost all xenarthran builds in North America and most in South America were wiped out by an invasion of humans. Only three subclasses of xenarthran survived the invasion and remained playable into the present: the sloth, the anteater, and the armadillo. These builds may not seem to have much in common, but they actually share a number of important traits not seen in any other placental mammals. All xenarthran builds have specced into sharp claws and stiff spines strengthened by extra vertebral joints not seen in other mammals, traits which help maximize the amount of strength they can use when digging. Xenarthrans have all put very few points, if any, into biting. Strong teeth are unnecessary for chewing small insects, so xenarthrans have specced out of tooth enamel in favour of small peg-like molars, or in the case of anteaters, no teeth at all. Since there’s no sunlight underground, xenarthrans haven’t put many points into vision either. Xenarthrans see everything in monochrome, and in so little detail that their vision is basically useless. Instead, xenarthrans rely almost exclusively on their sense of smell. This is a major inconvenience for modern xenarthran players now that most of them have gone back to playing above ground; sloth, anteater and armadillo mains often make hilariously ineffectual moves like running directly into tree trunks or trying to hit an opponent more than a metre out of reach. Limiting your loot sources to underground insects also makes XP gain slow, so xenarthrans have kept their body temperatures to a low level — the lowest of any live-bearing mammal — in order to minimize the XP needed to maintain it. This has the unfortunate side effect of making it very difficult for xenarthrans to adapt to cold regions; this is why almost all of the xenarthran builds that managed to survive in Ice Age North America were megafauna, able to rely on their large size for insulation in spite of their slow metabolisms.

Let’s just get the obvious out of the way now: the sloth is not only the lowest-ranking of the three major xenarthran subclasses, but one of the lowest-ranking builds in the entire game, period. The primary problems with the sloth build come from how few of its points are spent on muscles. While most mammal players invest into enough muscle to cover about two fifths of their build, sloths only invested enough for about a quarter. What muscles they do have are primarily flexors, used to contract limbs, rather than extensors, which are used to straighten or extend limbs. This means sloth players are effectively incapable of pulling off any movement which relies on using straight or extended limbs to apply force, like punching, running, kicking, stabbing or even walking. As a result, sloths have the lowest speed rating of any mammal build as well as one of the lowest strength ratings. Combined with the aforementioned issue of their exceptionally weak teeth, this means sloths are basically doomed the instant they get attacked, since they can neither run from nor fight back against any of the predators in their area. Plus, competing builds such as monkeys can easily steal loot from sloths with no consequences. Occasionally, a skilled sloth main might be able to use bluff attacks to scare off a low-skill noob, but if they get attacked by an experienced player, they’re screwed.

The reason why sloths have such low stats is because they specialize in eating leaves. Leaves are a very low-value form of loot, and living off them makes it hard to gain enough points to support high power, mobility and intelligence stats. By itself, this isn’t a fatal flaw; many high-tier builds rely on eating large amounts of similarly poor XP sources. However, what these high-tier builds have in common is the ability to digest large amounts of food relatively rapidly. The same cannot be said for sloths, which have by far the slowest digestion process of any mammal build. Instead, they have to settle for consuming and digesting leaves in small amounts at a time, and this just isn’t enough to sustain a build with high base stats.

Since the sloths’ dietary strategy prevents them from being able to attain high mobility, power and/or intelligence stats, the only way sloths have been able to even remain playable is by minimaxing for stealth. The sloth’s sole defensive strategy is to end fights before they begin by blending into trees. Their slow motion actually helps them here, as it makes them harder for predators to see. Sloths also benefit from a support relationship with a green algae build that grows in their fur, altering its colour so that it resembles a leaf. However, even when it comes to stealth, the sloth doesn’t exactly excel. In order to grow this algae, sloths need to have huge numbers of support-class arthropods living inside their fur, which create a coating of dung that acts as fertilizer. Unfortunately, this same dung coating gives sloths an extremely potent odour and so risks giving away their position to any nearby predator that relies on smell over sight. Also, sloth players who pick the three-toed subclass have to come down from the treetops once a week to poop on the forest floor. Since their camouflage only works in the treetops, sloth players are completely helpless during this quest, and nearly half of them die attempting it.

The result of all this is that sloths are basically seen as a free win for just about any predator that can hunt in the treetops. Sloths are the single most common prey item for harpy eagles, which absolutely body them with ease, and are also one of the main arboreal prey items for jaguars. To be fair, most players on the Amazon server are at risk from harpy eagles and jaguars, but for sloths, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Cougars, ocelots, anacondas, and even coyotes can all kill a sloth with little difficulty if they manage to detect one. Sloths can even be killed by spectacled owls, a build less than a quarter of their size.

There are two main variants of sloth build in the current game: two-toed and three-toed. The two-toed variant is marginally higher-ranking, since it’s bigger, occasionally eats bits of fruit instead of relying solely on leaves, and doesn’t have to come down from the trees to defecate. Nevertheless, all sloth builds are clearly F tier.

With that out of the way, let’s move on to the oldest and most basic of the current xenarthran subclasses, the armadillo. The armadillo mostly sticks with the original xenarthran playstyle of hunting underground insects, but is distinguished from the baseline xenarthran build by its bone-plated armour shell covered in small, overlapping scales made of hardened keratin. This gives them one of the best defence ratings among lightweights, high enough to deflect shots from some revolvers. The armadillo’s shell not only helps block attacks from larger predators, but also enhances their resistance to insect bites and stings, to parasites, and to abrasions incurred while digging. In previous posts, I’ve been critical of builds like the millipede which sink most of their evolution points into one or two static defence techniques. In particular, I criticized the echidna for speccing into a protective coating on its back similar to that of the armadillo, since players with high (or even medium) strength and intelligence can easily counter this by flipping the echidna over to get at the soft belly. However, armadillo players have avoided the critical mistake of these other builds, because they do NOT use mobility as a dump stat. In spite of their short legs, armadillos can run decently fast when they need to. As a result, rather than needing to rely solely on their armour, armadillos merely need it to hold off an attack until they can get to a burrow or other safe location. The main use of their armour is to let them hide in areas where predators can’t follow them, such as in thorny bushes. This makes them much more well-rounded than the minimaxed builds I’ve given low ratings previously.

All that said, armadillos do have a few serious weaknesses. As with many small mammals, one of the armadillo’s biggest weaknesses is cars. Armadillos frequently cross roads in search of food or mates, and during this time they are highly vulnerable to collisions. Their tendency to jump when startled, which is useful for intimidating attacking predators, only increases their vulnerability to human vehicles. Armadillos are also highly sensitive to damage from climate. The armadillo’s stores of body fat are some of the smallest among mammals, which makes them poorly suited to dealing with periods of harsh cold or extended resource scarcity. Prolonged droughts can absolutely devastate an armadillo population. Lastly, armadillos are extremely vulnerable to infection by the Mycobacterium leprae parasite, which causes the [Leprosy] debuff. This debuff is most well-known for its effects in humans, but the way it works in armadillos is a bit different and considerably more dangerous. In addition to the skin lesions and muscle weakness associated with human lepers, leprous armadillos often suffer severe damage to their livers and kidneys, and their red blood cell counts may decline to dangerously low levels. Armadillo players are so weak to this parasite that in some regions, more than 60% of them are infected with it.

I would rank most armadillos around C tier. While they have by far the best defence and mobility ratings among xenarthrans, they still come with some serious issues that prevent them from ranking any higher than average. However, special mention needs to go to the three-banded armadillo. The three-banded armadillo is the best armadillo build in the current game because of its flexible shell. This enables its signature move of curling up into a ball when threatened, so that its coat of armour covers its entire body. Loosening its armour in this way also enables the three-banded armadillo to maintain an insulating layer of air between their shell and the rest of their body. This means they don’t lose heat or water as quickly as other armadillos and so can handle climates where other armadillos could not survive. If you’re planning on playing an armadillo, this is definitely the one I recommend. I rate it B tier. I don’t think armadillos go any higher than this, as there are still a number of predators with the mobility, power and resolve to beat them easily — a jaguar or harpy eagle would have little trouble defeating any type of armadillo. In fact, armadillos have become the main prey item for jaguars in some regions where larger prey items have become difficult to find.

Now let’s talk about the xenarthran class that has taken specialized insectivory to the extreme, the anteater. The anteater is one of the most specialized builds in the game, feeding exclusively on eusocial insect colonies. If you’re going to specialize in one loot source, this is one of the better options for a number of reasons. First of all, eusocial insects are one of the most popular build types on every major land server except Antarctica. As such, while most specialist builds are effectively locked to one particular biome type, specialist eusocial insect griefers are viable in just about any region except the ocean and the poles. Second, for their size, insects have a very dense concentration of nutrients. While a single ant or termite is too small to provide much XP, this same small size also means that an anteater can easily fit huge amounts of them in its mouth at one time, allowing them to gain points more quickly than they could manage by hunting individual animals. Thirdly, eusocial insects often gather in huge numbers in small spaces like beehives or termite mounds. This makes it easy to locate massive stores of them for the purposes of bulk-feeding. Eusocial insect colonies generally breed fast enough to quickly recoup losses from an attack, so once you’ve found a colony’s base of operations, you can keep coming back to it again and again for more easy XP. Finally, most players avoid attacking eusocial insect colonies because of the risk of getting bitten or stung. This makes attacking the colonies a difficult and high-risk project, but it also means that if you can pull it off, not many other players will compete with you for the loot. Anteater players are not the only ones who’ve taken advantage of this opportunity — a number of other builds have independently developed strategies based around feeding exclusively on eusocial insects, including the pangolin, aardvark, aardwolf, sloth bear, Zodarion spider, antlion, and echidna, the last of which I discussed in my post on monotremes. Still, the anteater is by far the most iconic example of this strategy.

The anteater build is more closely related to the sloth than to the armadillo, and like the sloth, it has a very low mobility rating; while anteaters can at least run in short bursts, they’re still on the slower side when it comes to mammals. However, anteaters have strong digging forearms and sharp claws used to tear into ant and termite mounds, giving them the highest intimidation and attack ratings among xenarthrans. This means that unlike the sloth or armadillo, anteaters can actually fight back if a predator attacks them. Anteaters also have a fairly good defense rating due to their thick fur, used to resist bites and stings from venomous ants as well as attacks from larger predators. Even so, ants and termites are very persistent when trying to defend their colony against an attacker, so it’s in anteater players’ best interest to leave the site of their attack quickly before the colony breaks through their defences. As a result, in order to be able to gain enough XP to sustain themselves, anteaters have specced into a long tongue coated in sticky saliva which they can flick over 150 times a minute, allowing them to lap up a huge amount of ants in a short amount of time.

There are three variants of anteater in the current meta: silky, tamandua and giant. The silky anteater is the lowest-ranking, as it’s the smallest of the three, and the only one which is restricted to arboreal zones. It also lacks the [Chitinase] and [Chitobiase] digestive enzymes, which means it can’t digest the exoskeletons of insects very well and so doesn’t get as much XP per loot consumed as other anteaters. Like the sloth, the silky anteater mainly compensates for its weaknesses by relying on visual camouflage, curling up into a ball to disguise itself as a seed pod. Unfortunately, this camouflage only works in silk cotton trees, so the silky anteater is only playable in forests where these trees are plentiful. Tamanduas are a bit better, and are basically the vanilla option for playing anteater. While they aren’t locked into the arboreal zone, they’re still slow and awkward on the ground and spend most of their time in the treetops. This has the benefit of letting them target beehives as well as ant and termite colonies. However, I think few players would dispute that if you’re playing anteater, the giant variant is the way to go.

As the name suggests, the giant anteater is the largest anteater build as well as the largest xenarthran build in the current game. As a result, it has the largest forearms and claws, making it by far the most formidable fighter class in the xenarthran guild; on rare occasions, giant anteater mains have even managed to kill human players who tried to hunt or capture them. Though a capable climber, the giant anteater is by far the least arboreal of anteaters, and so is the only anteater build playable outside of forest biomes; most giant anteater mains alternate their playthroughs between forests and open grasslands. While the giant anteater is one of the few xenarthran builds I would consider above-average, it’s still held back by the main weaknesses common to xenarthrans: low mobility and poor eyesight. These traits put the anteater at high risk from car accidents and wildfires, the latter being exacerbated by the high flammability rating of their fur. Their low perception also makes them easy to catch in an ambush, and their low mobility means that any predator with enough attack power to break through their fur coat can usually easily cripple or kill them before they’ve had time to rear their defences. As a result, the giant anteater frequently gets bodied by big cats; in some areas, more than ¾ of players killed by jaguars are giant anteaters. I would put the giant anteater in low B tier, the tamandua in C tier, and the silky anteater in D tier.

Xenarthrans are a good illustration both of the potential that specialist builds have, and of the limitations of that potential. On the one hand, if you pick your specs right, specializing for one form of loot will likely make you the best positioned for taking advantage of that particular form of loot; no build in the Amazon is better at eating ants than the giant anteater. On the other hand, restricting yourself so severely means gaining points is likely to take a very long time, and that’s going to cost you when it comes to your stats and abilities. Xenarthrans have some of the best specialist builds among mammals, and they’re certainly viable, but none of them are anywhere close to being top-tier. When you compare them to more generalist mammal groups, like rodents, cetaceans, primates or carnivorans, it’s hard to deny that even the best specialist build will never be as good as a well-designed generalist.