Let's start at the beginning, at corporal and master corporal. If you are already an absolutely pro at smoky, don't get firebird. This is because it is unlikely to suit you. After that, forget this thread. If you are not a pro at smoky, try getting firebird and see if it suits you. If it does, and you get lots of success with it, use it until you are starting to get rubbish with it, then switch weapons. Whatever the case, the most important thing is that you have to use a weapon that suits your gameplay at all times. Using a weapon you are useless at wielding is always a fail.
Now when you get firebird, don't use wasp with it. This might seem a slightly strange thing to say, as the speed of wasp enables you to get close enough to an enemy to shoot whilst hunter could be outpaced, but my reason is this: firebird's main strength is it's amount of damage and ability to beat anyone around you in rank in one-to-one close-range duels. But yet a firebird-wasp loses to a titan-twins in a one-to-one close-range duel. So, thus, firebird-wasp has a serious disadvantage in this aspect.
So instead, I would recommend playing with firebird-hunter and then play in smaller maps, such as farm, island, ping-pong, or play in death matches so you don't need to move very far when you respawn to find an enemy.
There is no absolute need to m1 your firebird as soon as possible, due to the fact it is barely better than m0 firebird: maybe spending that cash on an m1 hunter would be a better option, in my opinion, and then m1 your firebird a bit later.
When you m2 your firebird, keep using hunter or switch to dictator. Never consider getting titan for your firebird. You will just be way too slow. M2 Firebird is good enough to be respectable against higher ranks, so do not fear playing against the lower warrant officers that much. They will beat you, but you will get decent points per kill. However, make sure you work out who you can kill in a whole bar of your firebird, and then wait for those people (vikings, m3 titans, mammoths) to lose some health before going in and attacking them. It is extremely annoying to run out of consumption and your enemy is still alive.
At this point (staff sergeant-master sergeant) I would say that it wouldn't be a bad idea to get a secondary weapon to use in other maps from maps that suit firebird. Twins would be a popular choice, due to the fact that it is also best used on hunter, but if you are not good at using twins (like me) then do not use them, use railgun or smoky (preferably railgun as you could switch to m2/m3 railgun later on as your first choice weapon) instead. Both of those weapons are easily wielded on a hunter without fear, even though their gameplay is rather different to firebird.
And unless you are rolling in cash as a sergeant, m2 your firebird before you m2 your hunter or buy dictator. A weapon is more important than a tank, and although I know I said to m1 your hunter before m1 firebird above, that was due to the fact that m1 firebird is barely better than m0 firebird.
So... Dictator or m2 hunter? M2 Hunter is slightly more expensive, but has more health. Dictator is faster, but is a lot bigger, meaning it can be easily sniped off by railguns and smokys. I would recommend hunter, because I used that and it worked very well for me. But dictator would not be a foolish option.
Firebird m3 should be got immediately when becoming a first sergeant if you are planning to get it sometime. Try to get enough cash as a master sergeant to be able to afford it, and only after that spend on other things, such as paints. Certainly do not consider getting m0 isida ahead of m3 firebird, because isida is a far weaker weapon despite the healing features added on top.
At Firebird m3, you can easily play against higher ranks without fear if you have a good enough tank, but again, make sure you know who you cannot kill in your whole consumption (namely, mammoths, m2, and m3 vikings) and then on those people make sure they are weakened before attacking them.
When you get firebird m3, there a numerous options for what tank you will use. You can use your present m0 dictator or m2 hunter until sergeant-major where you will get hornet, you can m3 your hunter, you can m1 your dictator, or you could wait until Warrant Officer 1 until you get Viking. All of these are good options, but I would say that the m0 hornet option is the best, but only if you can use a tank with that amount of speed. M3 Hunter is a bit pricey, m0 viking is a long time to wait, and all m1s including dictator m1 are never worth it anyway as they are so similar in specs to their respective m0s.
After choosing your option, as long as you do not play in the huge maps or against extremely high ranks, you will be fine to play against almost anyone. I would recommend CTFs and TDMs in small maps, and DMs in medium-size maps.
But most importantly, Happy Firebirding!
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