Mass extractors are buildings built on Mass deposits. They extract the Mass from the ground and make it usable by construction units. There are three extractors for every faction: Tech 1, Tech 2 and Tech 3 extractors. They are identical across the factions except for design.
Mass extractors can be built by engineers and command units. T1 engineers and un-upgraded ACUs can only build T1 extractors, but the extractors can themselves upgrade to higher tier. Higher tier constructors can build higher tier extractors. Their production can also be boosted by placing Mass storages around them. An extractor surrounded 4 Mass storages produces an extra 50% Mass. It should be noted it is just as expensive to upgrade an extractor, than to directly build one of a higher tier level. This means that it may be more efficient to directly build a higher tier mass extractor. However, this is largely based on the speed of construction, since an upgrading mass extractor will still provide mass, and the additional investment of the lower tier may pay for itself while it is upgrading. Power consumption can also be reduced by placing power generators around the extractor, but the benefits of this are minimal, and the operation is not recommended.
| Tech 3|
| Tech 3|
Costs* = Remember that surrounding an extractor costs 800 mass
Production* = Production when surrounded by 4 Mass Storages
As a general rule, the most economically efficient way of setting up Mass extractors is building as many T1 as possible, then, upgrading them all to T2. At this point, the optimal road is to surround your T2 Mass extractors with 4 Mass storages, and upgrading them to T3. Upgrading a T2 extractor to T3 without first surrounding it with storage it is not a wise choice, and failing to surround a T3 extractor is a bad mistake.
The sooner extractors are upgraded without compromising production, the more production can be gained. Consider pausing factory spam once you control the deposits around the map and have a production lead on your opponent. You should use reclaim to get mass and go up to T2 faster. 60 power/sec is needed, or three power generators. When construction storages, drag them over the extractor and shift click to queue them up, or use the template tab (and set a hotkey). This will make it easier to build your storages more quickly and sooner.
There are several myths regarding upgrades. Upgrades do not normally stop mass extraction. Even though an extractor can upgrade itself, it is recommended to assist the Mass extractor as much as possible to keep the transition time short. A bug in the game might prevent you from completely pausing a Mass extractor's upgrade. While Production is paused, resources may still be consumed.
It is for the above reasons that it is optimal to upgrade one at a time, while assisting it, and under no condition should you run out of Mass during this process. It is acceptable to pause the mass extractor upgrade to maintain the army, but a partial upgrade is a waste until completed.
Regardless of the process of building the upgrade, it is better to spend resources rather than waste them. If mass surplus is extremely high or storages are full, starting some extractor upgrades are a good way to make use up lots of the mass, while more build power (ie production buildings and engineers to spend the surplus) is constructed. The rate required for an extractor to self-upgrade is 10 mass/sec for T2, and about 25 mass/sec for T3. It is assumed that in this case the power has been taken care of. Using resources in this way will maintain an efficient economy.
The following table shows how long you have to wait to start making profits from an extractor. It also includes extractors surrounded by mass storages, and takes into account the production gain, rather than absolute production. Only mass costs are considered. Applies only to Forged Alliance. Table is ordered by repay time.
Obviously, the faster an extractor repays for itself, the better, proving the first paragraph of this section.
While this table shows that for maximum production, as soon as a T2 extractor is surrounded, it is efficient to upgrade it to T3 than surround another T2. In reality, available resources, unconsidered build time overheads, and other risks make this an unwise choice.
In the original Supreme Commander, Mass extractors are important especially in the beginning, but players can manage their economy with Mass fabricators too.
In Forged Alliance, Mass extractors gain much more importance because Mass fabricators were made much less effective. This effectively makes map control more important because turtling in a small base with fabricator economy is not possible. Also, Tech 3 Mass extractors were made much more efficient, productive and durable, to stress their importance.