When people talk about 'speed tanking', they tend to lump together two concepts which are in fact, very much seperate:
- The ability to outrun your opponent's tracking speed.
- The ability to kite, disengage and control range.
To understand why people make this connection, we need to look back in history a little.
There was a time, dear readers, when these two concepts were almost one and the same. It was in this glorious age of 7km/s vagabonds that speed tanking (or 'Nano') was king. Before the Nano Nerf, a number of game mechanics were quite different to what we have in Eve now. Firstly, by combining various speed mods and implants with a microwarpdrive it was possible for many ships to achieve speeds which vastly outweighed the 500% signature radius which the mwd hits you with. These speeds often also allowed you to outrun missiles and drones entirely. On a ship fitted for the task, this actually made the mwd practical for evading fire (i.e. point 1 above).
Another important difference is that scramblers did not yet disable mwds, and while you were more vulnerable to webs your high speed meant that if you did get webbed you could often simply coast out of web range of your non-nanoed opponent long before your speed fell to his level. This made it fairly easy for any sufficiently fast mwd-equipped ship to control range of his opponent, and in most cases disengage at will (i.e. point 2). An afterburning ship on the other hand would quickly find himself webbed down to almost nothing by a mwding opponent.
The combination of these points meant that an mwd-equipped ship that was fit for speed could consistently achieve both 1 and 2, if needs be. It seems that this assumption is still kicking around since the nano nerf, but it is simply no longer the case.
Point 2 hasn't changed too much, you just have to be a little more clever about it. The fact that scrams now shut down microwarpdrives means that a mwd-equipped ship relying on its speed needs to be much more careful about straying into web (or more specifically now, scram) range - you can no longer be so confident about simply coasting out the other side. The lower overall speed achievable also means that pulling range or disengaging in this way is no longer quite so assured, and only the fastest ships can pull it off consistently.
Point 1 is where the big change is. With the exception of interceptors (which receive an awesome bonus reducing their sig radius penalty from using a mwd), most ships are no longer able to achieve a speed boost that significantly outweighs the microwarpdrive's sig radius penalty. This means that generally, a ship running a mwd is easier to hit, or in the very best cases only marginally harder to hit, than one without.
This really just highlights what this form of tanking was based on all along - not simply speed, but a combination of speed and signature radius.
Interestingly, it took the Eve community almost 2 years to fully realise the full implications of this (assuming we have indeed realised them now). This brings me on to the topic this article claims to be about - the afterburner.
Following this change, the afterburner became a viable tool for damage evasion. It didn't provide the kiting and disengaging benefit that the mwd enjoyed (although combined with a scram it did provide range control). However, it gave a fairly substantial boost to speed without a penalty to signature radius. Afterburners quickly started to show up on assault frigates, however I expect the main motivation was range control and being able to keep moving once you've been scrammed, rather than anything to do with sig radius. Few people considered fitting them to something larger - after all, who would want to do 500m/s in a cruiser?
The truth is though, if you want to evade someone's damage in this method the afterburner is actually the superior choice. If you don't believe me, let me introduce my case in point - the armourHAC gang.
ArmourHACs is one of the most popular gang types in 0.0 combat at the moment. Essentially, it involves mid-range HACs (or similar) with afterburners and stiff armour tanks, backed up by anything which can lower their sig radius (gang links and x-instinct boosters) and a healthy dose of logistics. Despite everything in gang travelling at a maximum speed of well under 1km/s, this is speed tanking (or more accurately, sig tanking) plain and simple.
It may seem vastly different to the insane speeds and nanofiber hulls of the Nano age, but the concepts behind it are largely the same. This component of speed tanking has changed, and many of us in Eve are only just starting to realise it. I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to seeing just how far people can take it!
In other news, thanks to everyone who gave feedback on my previous article. It was interesting to hear your take on it, and you can expect there to be a follow-up article in the not so distant future which explores the topic a little more.
Also, I'd like to give a shout out to follow Agony member Toterra at Scram Web! New players should check out his recent blog post on Improving Your PVP Experience (and I'm not at all biased... oh hey check out his point number 1!)
Until next time!