T1 cruisers are then next true 'all rounder' class after t1 frigates, and thanks to their very reasonable price tag they offer a good next step for those looking to move towards larger-ship PVP. As with t1 frigates, some of these ships are obviously designed for combat, while others are not - that isn't to say they can't be used for it of course! In fact, you can often get a real advantage by PVPing in one of the less popular t1 cruisers, since PVPers typically associate them with newbies who don't know what they're doing. With a decent fit and a bit of common sense, you can prove them oh so wrong!
Due to the number of ships within the cruiser class, this article will be published in two halves. This first half will cover both minmatar and gallente ships, while caldari and amarr cruisers will follow.
Cruisers as a class are very different to frigates - before we look at each of them in detail let's look at the broader differences. First of all, cruisers are significantly slower and less agile than frigates, and as a result they will mostly field MWDs rather than afterburners. This (along with their far larger signature radius) makes damage evasion less practical, and so most cruisers focus instead on strong buffer tanks for survival (a typical cruiser fit will have 20-30k effective HP, although significantly stronger tanks are possible in some cases). In terms of damage output, cruisers significantly outperform frigates in both damage and range, although their larger guns are much less effective against smaller targets if those targets are able to get in close. Cruisers are also the first ships for which drones become commonplace, and these form the cruiser's primary weapon system against small targets.
While the rupture is neither the gankiest nor the tankiest of cruisers, it is an exceptionally strong all-rounder. While it only receives 4 turret slots for its primary weapon system, its double damage bonus brings this largely in line with its counterparts. The rupture also sports a moderate drone bay and bandwidth of 30 - enough for a full flight of light drones with a single spare (or 4 lights plus 1 medium, which is also common). The rupture is also one of the fastest t1 cruisers - an attribute which proves very useful when it comes to kiting or range dictation.
While the rupture's 6/3/5 slot layout would suggest it makes a natural armour tanker, this is not always the case. Indeed, the armour tanking rupture is very popular, and thanks to the low powergrid requirement of lower-calibre autocannons it's capable of fielding a 1600mm plate for a very substantial buffer (especially if augmented using trimark rigs, although the cost of these makes them less common than they would be otherwise).
An increasingly common alternative to the armour tanked rupture is to take after its large cousin the hurricane, fitting a fairly minimal shield tank (usually a single large extender and rigs) and making use of the generous low slot allocation to beef up the ship's damage output and range via gyrostabilizers and tracking enhancers. This kind of fit also frees up a substantial amount of powergrid, allowing the rupture pilot to fit higher calibre guns and make more liberal use of its spare high slots (such as medium neuts or heavy launchers), further increasing its potential damage output. While the benefit of increased damage is fairly obvious, it's the increased range and speed (from not fitting an armour tank) that forms the real benefit here - a shield tanked rupture is very fast for a cruiser, and can easily apply damage out to 20-30km with barrage. This combination makes it an excellent kiter and very flexible, although it sacrifices the substantial staying power of the armour fit to achieve it.
When fighting a rupture, determining its fit should be a priority - you can then choose your tactics and ammo accordingly. The easiest method for doing so is to use the look at function and try to identify the guns it's fitting - 425mm autocannons are an almost definite sign of a shield kiting fit (as are artillery, although they tend to be rare), while dual 180mms are most commonly found on a heavily tanked 1600mm plate fit. 220mm autocannons could mean either. The other possibility (albeit one featuring quite a bit of guess work) is to look at the ship's speed - an armour tanked rupture is unlikely to hit more than 1200m/s under MWD, while a shield tanker with good skills can exceed 1500m/s.
If the rupture is fitting a shield tank, they're likely to attempt to kite you unless they know they can beat you in a dps war - these ships are fairly fragile, and the rupture pilot is likely to know this. Chasing a kiting rupture in a fragile ship is an easy way to get killed, be careful and try to draw them close first unless you have a substantial speed advantage. If you can catch one close, you should be able to get under its guns in a frigate or simply out-tank/out-dps it in another cruiser. Do to its low mid slot count, a shield rupture isn't able to fit a web and in order to kite effectively they will often field warp disruptors rather than scrambers - this means that if you're able to land a scram on the rupture, they're unlikely to be able to pull range. The big danger for a frigate (other than being kited and killed before you're able to get close) comes from the rupture's spare high slots - a shield rupture can easily fit at least one medium neut, possibly two, and these will drain a frigate dry in just a few seconds. A nosferatu and good cap management is essential when fighting a rupture with neuts in a lighter ship. You should also beware of shield ruptures when flying a longer ranged kiting ship such as a HML caracal - this is a very fast cruiser, and if you're lightly tanked it will burn you down quickly.
If the rupture is armour tanked, it's likely to prove a very difficult fight for frigates and cruisers alike. While its damage output is likely to be quite a bit lower than the shield variant, it has a number of things that the shield rupture lacks - a web, a scram (usually, sometimes they will still fit a long point instead), and a hefty tank. Despite being slower than the shield rupture, the addition of a web and scram make the armour rupture strong in the range dictation department. The web will prove especially problematic for frigates, especially since dual 180mm autocannons have the best tracking of the cruiser sized weapon systems already. The good news is that with the grid consumption of a 1600mm plate, most armour ruptures will not be able to field medium neuts. A couple of small neuts is still a common choice, as are a couple of frigate class missile launchers, but these are generally easier to deal with. It's worth noting that the armour rupture has a significantly shorter operational range than the shield variant, with damage dropping off significantly outside 10-15km. If you're able to hold range in a longer ranged ship (easier said than done thanks to the rupture's speed), you should be able to avoid most of the rupture's damage and wear it down.
The thorax is quite similar to the rupture - it has a similar slot layout (5/3/5, but with 5 single bonused turrets rather than 4 double bonused) and a larger drone bandwidth of 50 - enough for a flight of medium drones or two flights of light. As you'd guess, this makes the thorax an excellent ship in terms of damage output, and you wouldn't be wrong!
As with the rupture, the thorax is commonly found with both armour and shield tanking variants. The armour tanked thorax is generally less impressive than the equivalent rupture fit - blasters aren't as flexible as autocannons when it comes to fitting, and while fitting a 1600mm plate is possible it requires at least one powergrid-enhancing mod to do so, as well as fielding electron blasters which are generally eschewed on account of their short range. A lighter tanked fit with an 800mm plate is more popular, and while this does mean a weaker tank it's nothing to shrug at. Shield tanked thoraxes are also fairly popular - similar to the rupture this entails a weaker tank (although compared to the 800mm fit this difference is fairly small), in exchange for improved damage, speed, and range. It's with a shield tank that the thorax's dps output really shines - in fact, it exceeds that of some battlecruisers! The increased speed of a shield tank also assists the thorax pilot with closing range (essential for blaster ships), although it means sacrificing the web which would have helped it stay there.
As with most blaster ships, range is a very significant factor when fighting a thorax (since they will almost always be blaster fit). With ions (the most common weapon choice) and null, the thorax hit quite easily out to around 10km (or potentially a longer if shield tanked with tracking enhancers), or around 8km with electrons. If you're able to hold outside these ranges (or even better outside of web range entirely), you should be able to evade most of its damage. Don't discount the drones however, they still provide a fairly significant damage contribution. Alternatively in a frigate, you may be better off getting in close under the thorax's guns - especially if it's shield tanked since it won't be fielding a web. If you choose to attempt this, it may be worth killing the drone first, since they are likely to provide the majority of the thoraxes damage output in this scenario. If you're not able to out-range or out-track the thorax, a strong tank and a good damage output will be your best defence - you'll probably need it!
In gang, the thorax usually makes an excellent primary due to its large damage output, relatively soft tank, and the fact that it's usually already very close (meaning your whole gang will be able to apply damage to it quickly). Of course, most thorax pilots will realise this too - don't be surprised if you encounter a super-tanked 'bait' thorax specifically for this reason.
The stabber is an unusual cruiser, in fact it actually has a lot in common with frigates. Firstly it's fast, and I mean fast - a MWDing stabber is easily capable of over 2.5-3km/s, which far exceeds the speed of a shield rupture and is even faster than many assault frigates! Secondly, the stabber's slot layout is very weak for a cruiser - 6/3/3, with 4 turrets and a single damage bonus (the stabber's second bonus is to ship velocity!). With only a single drone, this means that the stabber's damage output generally isn't much stronger than a frigate either!
Stabbers generally shield tank to take advantage of their natural speed (so EM or thermal are generally good bets), although armour tanked stabbers for solo PVP are not that unusual. In neither case is the stabber likely to have a tank comparable to what you'd find on a rupture - it's still tougher than a frigate, but in any up-close fight the stabber has very little staying power.
Where this ship does shine is kiting; with its afterburner overheated the stabber can often out-run a chasing frigate, and with the flexible range of barrage combined with the high signature radius and low angular velocity of its MWDing target, the stabber's damage output is enough to cause a significant problem for a lightly tanked tackler. In a tougher ship such as an assault frigate however, it should be fairly easy to peel off and disengage before the stabber is able to take you down.
Against a cruiser sized target or greater, the stabber isn't really that much of a threat - it doesn't have the tank and gank of the other cruisers, and it doesn't have the range to wear you down from a distance (the stabber doesn't have the grid to effectively field artillery or 425mm autos, nor the slots to increase its range on par with the rupture). While it may share many of its attributes with frigates, it doesn't get their low signature radius - catch a stabber at close range, and medium guns will hit it just fine.
While the thorax is ostensibly the gallente's top tier combat cruiser (the vexor has fewer slots, weaker cpu and grid, and is substantially cheaper to build), the vexor is a very strong alternative. The vexor sports a 5/3/4 slot layout with 4 damage bonused turrets, however its greatest strength lies in its drone bay 100m3 of space with 75m3 of bandwidth, and a 10% per level bonus to both drone damage and drone HP (and incidentally to mining yield too, but we can ignore that). Thanks to the size of their drone bay, vexors are able to carry drones for any occasion, with both mediums and lights (as well as occasionally a flight of ecm drones) being popular choices. For engaging larger ships, the vexor can also wield the max-damage combination of 2 heavy, 2 medium and 1 light with room in the bay for a spare flight of light drones.
While the vexor doesn't receive anything like the powergrid of the thorax, the fact that the majority of its damage output comes from drones means that the vexor is able to sacrifice its turrets to augment its tank. This means that despite appearances, the vexor actually has an easier time fitting that magic 1600mm plate than the thorax does, simply by dropping to frigate-class guns for a small loss in dps. Additionally, since it doesn't need those low slots for damage mods the vexor is able to fit plenty of armour resist mods to back up that plate - this makes the armour vexor a very tough beast.
However, for those who miss the gankiness of the thorax, the vexor is more than happy to oblige! With the same single LSE shield tank, the vexor is able to field a full rack of ion blasters and stack its low slots with magstabs. The result - an even higher damage output than the thorax (assuming the 2/2/1 drone combination mentioned above), making the vexor potentially the highest damaging cruiser in the game. Not only that, but half of that damage output is able to function at whatever range it desires! Not too shabby! Admittedly heavy drones are going to be useless against frigates, but there the spare flight of damage-bonused warriors is perfectly capable of doing the job.
When it comes to fighting a vexor, your choices will depend heavily on what you're flying. In another cruiser, expect a tough fight - the armour vexor has one of the best combined gank/tanks of any cruiser, along with all the trimmings - scram, web, flexible range and often even a (small) neut or nos to top it off. If the vexor is fielding a mixed combo with heavy drones, you may fair well by holding it at range and killing the drones - the HP bonused drones will likely take a long time to kill, but that combination uses up the majority of the vexor's drone bay and once they're gone it will only have a single set of lights - much less dangerous to your cruiser. If you're fast, you may be able to kite its heavies, which may help. If the vexor is fielding light or medium drones, you're probably better going for the ship itself - it's going to have plenty more drones after those, and the dps drop is not going to be as significant as losing a max-damage flight. Don't discount the vexor's blasters - even frigate calibre weapons will add a fairly respectable chunk of damage. Against a shield vexor, you have two options - try to stick close to maximum web range and evade most of its turret dps (but still face the drones), or simply try to maximise your dps and take advantage of its weak tank to burn it down as quickly as possible. Either is a valid option, although the latter is decidedly more risky unless you're pretty tanky yourself.
If you're in a frigate, the best advice I can give you regarding fighting a vexor solo is this - DON'T! This ship is one of the best frigate killers in the game, and damage bonused light drones will eat you very quickly. If you're in a tough ship and the vexor pilot is fairly new, you may be in with a reasonable chance. In this situation, the only drones worth killing are light drones (although the vexor may have multiple fights of them, so killing them may be in vain). If the vexor pilot launches medium or heavy drones against your frigate (whether by choice or because you killed their lights), their damage output is likely to be much worse thanks to your low signature radius.
Vexors can also be used in gang as snipers, with 3 sentry drones providing their ranged damage. These offer one of the strongest long-ranged damage outputs of any cruiser, and are capable of hitting out past 100km with bouncer IIs. However, its useful to note that sentry drones cannot move, and if you can force the vexor to warp off and leave their drones behind, you've just deprived them of their main damage source even if they return. When chasing down a sentry vexor, remember that range and tracking is determined in relation to the drones, not the ship - the two may not necessarily be in the same place! In general, sentry vexors are not usually solo ships, however since the ship can potentially be in tackle range while the drones snipe from a distance, it isn't unheardof!
The gallente's electronic warfare cruiser comes in the form of the celestis. As with the maulus, the celestis receives a bonus to the effectiveness of remote sensor dampeners. A 4/5/3 slot layout leaves plenty of room for electronic warfare, and with 3 damage bonused turrets and 40m3 of drone bandwidth, the celestis is a capable combat platform in its own right (if you remember back to my t1 frigates article, much the same thing was said of the maulus).
As a damping platform, the celstis is very capable - it doesn't receive a larger bonus than the maulus, but it does have two extra mid slots and a greater locking range (which given the nature of range-scripted damping, can prove very useful). The utility of damps compared to the more useful tracking disruptors and ECM is debatable, however they are far from useless.
In terms of tank, the celestis can quite easily field either a shield or armour tank; the former would obviously mean giving up some of those potential ewar slots, while the latter might mean compromising damage output - perhaps by fitting small guns to squeeze on a 1600mm plate. Both are fairly popular, although given that the celestis' mid slots and ewar bonus are its main advantage over alternatives like the vexor, an armour tank is the more common choice.
Outside of its damping role, the celestis also sees quite a bit of use as a frigate-fisher. As with the helios, 5 mid slots allow the celestis pilot to fit scram, dual webs, and a tracking disruptor - enough to bring almost any frigate to a standstill as well as hampering its damage output. Backed up with small turrets and a flight of light drones (with spares), this kind of celestis fit has made quick work of many an over-confident dramiel pilot. The celestis' reputation as an ewar ship makes them excellent for attracting those looking for an easy kill.
Engaging a celestis can either be fairly easy or relatively difficult depending on whether the ship is fit for damping or solo combat (although if you see a celestis by itself, the latter is more common). The main threat that a combat celestis presents is to frigates and destroyers - most combat cruisers and larger should be capable of beating a celestis one on one, although it should definitely not be underestimated! The celestis can field enough tank and gank to present a real danger to a poorly fit or rookie cruiser pilot, and they can even outmatch a kiting fit cruiser if they can catch one at close range. If engaging a combat celestis in a frigate, do what you can to evade its blaster range and kill the drones (this may of course be futile if the celestis is dual web fit!) While the celestis is likely to carry a few spare drone, it won't have an entire second flight and the drones will pop far more easily than those from a vexor. Beware of tracking disruption, which may make hitting those drones next to impossible!
Whether you bother primarying a celestis in gang really depends on how vulnerable your gang is to damping. Given that a single celestis could potentially field four damps, it could potentially cause some major problems when employed against the right gang. In general, ewar celestises concentrate less on tank than their combat counterparts, and if you're able to tackle it you may find it dies relatively easily.
The bellicose is the minmatar electronic warfare offering, with a bonus to target painting. While the target painting bonus can be useful in support of battleships or missile gangs, a dedicated target painting ship is rarely called for and so the bellicose sees relatively little use in this regard.
In terms of fitting, the bellicose is similar to the celestis but exchanges a mid slot for a second utility high, for a 5/4/3 layout with 3 bonused turrets and the same 40m3 of drone bandwidth. The bellicose's cpu and powergrid are fairly weak, which makes filling those high slots with cruiser class weapons quite a struggle unless the bellicose pilot foregos any real tank. As with the celestis of course, the bellicose can opt to downgrade some or all of its weapons systems to frigate class weapons in order to fit a fairly substantial armour tank.
As a fishing ship, the bellicose remains fairly similar to the celestis albeit with a lower damage output and one less mid slot for ewar or tackle. However, it does have a second spare high slot meaning it can fit a couple of small neuts - not game changing, but potentially enough to cause problems for an active tanked opponent. Thanks to its reputation for being one of the more useless cruisers, the bellicose is even better than the celestis at drawing in over-confident frigate pilots looking for that cruiser kill.
Fighting a bellicose is broadly similar to fighting a celestis. If they're actually fit for target painting they should be an easy kill, but a combat fit requires some caution. The bellicose's weapons will put out less damage (with drones often contributing the majority of its dps), and it generally presents less of a threat to other cruisers than the celestis does (although it remains a dangerous ship against a solo frigate).
In gang, a target painting bellicose can generally be ignores in favour of more threatening targets. They're generally not too heavily tanked and will go down fairly quickly, however the threat they present is usually relatively minor so I'd suggest prioritising damage dealers or other ewar ships over this one.
The exequror is the t1 armour repair vessel, although its capacity in this regard is far less notable than its t2 cousins the oneiros and guardian. This ship receives a fixed 500% bonus to range on remote armour repairers, and a 10% per level bonus to their capacitor consumption (as well as a bonus to cargo capacity, which can be useful for carrying cap booster charges).
In practice, exequrors are rarely seen - their repair capability is about equivalent to the dps output of a single t1 cruiser, and about a third of what the oneiros is capable of. It's also far less cap stable, and generally requires cap boosters to keep itself running (less of a problem given the ship's enhanced cargo bay).
While the exequror's 4/4/3 slot layout might suggest it works better with a shield tank, as an armour logistics ship (which in general means working with other armour logistics ships) the oneiros will almost definitely be armour tanked. Due to the grid requirement of its remote reps, a logistics exequror will generally struggle to fit a substantial tank, and if primaried you should find it melts relatively easily. That said, the relatively weak repping power of the exequror means most small gangs should simply be able to punch through the reps of one or two of these ships and focus on the opposing dps ships instead if they so choose.
One almost completely overlooked aspect of the exequror is its 4 turret hardpoints. Combined with a 40m3 drone bay, this means that an exequror with small guns and light drones will actually outdamage a celestis with the same combination, although it loses a mid slot and its spare high slot compared to the celestis. Despite a relatively weak powergrid, the exequror can still fit a reasonable armour tank with a 1600mm plate along with such a setup. I've never seen this done using an exequror in practice, but with people slowly catching on to the combat celestis, it's probably only a matter of time!
If the bellicose is an underused ship, the sycthe is completely unheardof! I've never to date seen one in PVP, and rarely seen one outside of it either. The scythe sports a typical minmatar slot layout with low and mid slots exchanged for utility highs, giving it 5/3/3 with 3 turrets, 2 launchers, 1 drone, and no weapon bonuses! The bonuses on the scythe are to mining lasers (the only purpose for which I've seen a scythe used), and tracking links - a rarely used mod which is essentially a remote version of the tracking computer - useful, but generally not worth a dedicated ship.
Having never seen a scythe in PVP, I resorted to EFT to figure out whether a combat fit was even viable. The answer - not really. You can just about put one together by fitting it in a similar way to the stabber (but with one less turret), however the result is far from appealing - it has neither the mid slots (or speed/dps) to be an effective anti-frigate machine nor the tank and gank to be any kind of threat to another cruiser.
In general, if you see a scythe in PVP it's unlikely to pose much of a threat to anything. It may of course be bait for a waiting gang - remember that if a target looks too good to be true, it often is!