In the last article we began looking at t1 cruisers, covering both the minmatar and gallente lines. This post will continue where that one left off, by looking at the caldari and amarr equivalents.
|You have no idea how long it took me to get this screenshot!|
With a 5% bonus per level to armour resists, plenty of powergrid, and a heavily biased slot layout of 6/3/6 the maller was born to armour tank. A 1600mm plate fits easily on this ship, and with trimarks and a handful of resist mods, you're looking at a HP buffer more commonly associated with battlecruisers than a t1 cruiser. In fact you can even go further by squeezing 2 1600mm plates onto this ship, albeit at the expense of fitting anything larger than frigate-sized guns.
In terms of damage output, the maller is among the weakest of the 'combat' cruisers. This ship doesn't receive a damage bonus, and while it fields 5 turret slots it has no drone bay whatsoever, and limited cpu with which to fit damage mods. A lot of maller plots opt to fit autocannons for a similar reason to the punisher (lower fitting requirements allowing more tank, and no dependency on cap), however pulse mallers are still viable (and offer sightly better range and dps than their autocannon counterparts).
As one redditor pointed out after my last article, 'the maller is always bait, every time'. While there are exceptions, mallers are indeed very commonly employed as bait thanks to their excellent tank. A maller sitting alone on a stargate screams 'bait' almost as much as a drake. The best way to figure out if the maller you're planning to engage is baiting or not is to use the look at function to see which guns it's fitting: small guns means dual plates and almost definite bait (it's fairly useless for anything else with this kind of fit), while medium autos means a stiff tank and medium lasers usually means a more moderate tank (both of which could still be bait, but progressively less likely as the tank gets weaker). Of course, you often don't get the chance to do this before a fight, so I recommend simply employing caution when engaging any solitary maller pilot.
The maller's lack of drones makes it fairly vulnerable to frigate-sized opponents if you're able to get close, however despite it's low mid slot count fitting a web on a maller is fairly common, so you may struggle to evade all of its damage (however, trying to kill a maller with a solo frigate will probably take a while)! The maller does have a spare high slot so be prepared for neuting, however pulse mallers in particular usually don't have the powergrid for a medium neut. In general, frigate pilots should be more wary when engaging autocannon maller than a pulse maller, both because of their faster tracking and the increased likelihood of a medium neut.
Engaging a maller in another cruiser can be quite challenging despite its low damage output - both pulses and autocannons have fairly flexible range, and the maller's stiff tank is enough to weather the storm while is slowly tears you down. Be prepared for a long, drawn out fight (and as a result, be ready for potential backup even if the maller wasn't originally baiting). A tracking disruptor will serve you well in this fight, since the maller has no source of dps other than its turrets, as will neuting against a pulse maller (although the ship's base cap is relatively strong).
In gang fights, a maller is a very poor choice of primary - this ship is a relatively low threat, and will take a long time to kill. The maller is also relatively slow, and should be easy to evade. In terms of damage types explosive and kinetic are usually your best choices, although all of the maller's resists are likely to be fairly high.
In keeping with the other caldari hybrid boats like the merlin and cormorant, the moa receives a 10% per level bonus to optimal range, rather than to turret damage. It also receives a tanking bonus like the maller, in this case to shield resists. With a 6/4/4 slot layout and 5 turrets the moa is fairly flexible, although it's fitting room is quite restricted and a small drone bay (15m3) combined with the lack of a a damage bonus means that the moa's dps output is relatively low (although still generally higher than the maller).
There are really two ways to fit and fly this ship. The obvious choice is to take advantage of the moa's range bonus along with the impressive optimal range of rails, and fit it as a sniper. The moa can potentially hit out to over 120km with spike and 250m rails - making the moa the only turret based t1 cruiser capable of fighting at the same range as t2 sniper HACs. However, the damage it's able to put out at this range is less impressive and a decent fit is surprisingly difficult to put together. Due to the powegrid useage of high calibre rails, a full sniping moa isn't able to fit much of a tank if any at all - a fact that makes the ship's tanking bonus look a little odd (not that tank is really necessary at sniping ranges - at that point the name of the game is not to be in your opponent's range at all).
A solitary sniping moa doesn't really put out enough damage to be a threat, since it has no way of tackling you and even the most fragile ships can generally warp out before they're destroyed. That said if you're otherwise engaged or if the moa has friends, it may be more of a concern. You should treat a sniping moa as you would any sniper - avoid sitting still if you're flying a fragile ship, and be prepared to warp off if you're taking significant damage. If you (or a gang mate) has probes or an exceptionally fast ship, you may be able to get a drop onto the sniper, in which case it goes without saying they're likely to go down very easily. Bear in mind that since most snipers operate at over 100km but still less than the 150km minimum warping distance, you may need to warp off (ideally to an on-grid bookmark) or burn away from the sniper to increase range before you'll be able to warp to your tackler or probe result. That said, most snipers will fight aligned, and will warp off if they feel threatened. Pay attention to their align and/or warp direction if they do - you may have a chance to catch them when they land.
The second option is to fit the moa as a close range brawler, either with blasters or (less often) with autocannons. With only 4 mid slots (at least 2 of which will probably be taken up by propulsion and tackle), the moa can't really mount a tank in the same league as the maller. That said, a moa with a 2 slot shield tank is still significantly tougher than other shield tanked cruisers like the gank rupture or caracal (only the blackbird is able to field a stronger tank). In all, a tanked moa is likely to have similar hp to a (non-resist bonused) 1600mm plated cruiser, although with obvious advantages in terms of speed, agility, and a moderate amount of passive regen. In terms of damage output, a blaster moa is less threatening than its rival blaster ship thorax (roughly on par with an armour rupture), and is more vulnerable to frigate-sized opponents since it's less likely to fit a web and has only a handful of drones at its disposal. However, the moa does have something that the thorax lacks - a spare high slot which might potentially be used for a neut (the moa's relatively weak powergrid makes this far from guaranteed however).
The optimal range bonus on the moa makes it more difficult to simply evade its damage by holding at range than is true against other blaster ships - with ion blasters and null the moa can still hit for reasonable damage out to around 13km (roughly maximum overheated scram/web range), and with autos it can reach out a little further. In a small ship, you'll almost always be better off getting close and under its guns. When taking on a moa in another cruiser, that's less clear cut - there's still some merit in pulling range (and thus forcing the moa pilot to switch to lower damaging null ammo in order to hit you, since antimatter damage starts to drop off rapidly outside 5km or so), providing you're not causing yourself the same problem. Blaster moas are also fairly cap dependent and one or two medium neuts can cause it a problem in a protracted fight, especially if you can force the moa pilot to run their MWD early in the fight. Watch your overview to see if the moa is using more than one mid slot item (e.g. both a scram and web) - if that's the case, their tank is likely to be relatively soft compared to another brawling cruiser and you'll probably find you can simply out-tank and out-dps them.
One additional (but rare) option for the moa is to ignore the shield bonus and fit it with an armour tank, allowing the moa pilot to make full use of its mid slots for tackle and EWAR. While this generally makes the moa much less effective offensively (fitting a 1600mm plate in particular pretty much mandates dropping down to small guns), however this does make the moa a very effective frigate killer. Again, the look at function can come in handy here - if you spot a moa with small guns, expect something along these lines.
As with any other t1 shield tanker, EM and thermal are your best bets for damage type.
On the surface, the omen seems quite similar to the maller - both laser boats with 5 turrets, and almost the same slot layouts (5/3/5 on the omen compared to 6/3/6 on the maller). That's about where the similarity ends, however.
Where the maller's damage output is weak, the omen's is significantly stronger - with a 5% per level damage bonus (something of a rarity among amarr t1 ships) and a small flight of 3 light drones to back it up. While on paper its damage is just shy of that of a rupture, the ability of pulse lasers to hit out to 20km while still being in optimal (and thus still dealing their maximum dps) makes the omen's damage output very consistent.
Where the omen falls down is its tank - both its powergrid and cpu are noticeably lower than on the maller, which makes a strong tank difficult to fit even before you consider that it lacks the maller's tanking bonus too. A moderate armour or shield tank is possible, however either way you can expect the omen to be one of the more fragile combat cruisers.
Because of its soft tank, the omen is generally not difficult to beat in a slugfest - most cruisers and t2 frigates should be able to come out on top in a close range brawl. Lightly tanked frigates may want to clear off the omen's drones (it only has three of them, so this shouldn't be too difficult), and beware of the potential for a web on an armour tanked omen. This ship has no spare high slots, so neuts are very unlikely.
Considering it's an amarr ship, the omen is actually quite fast - a shield tanked omen can do anything from 1500m/s to just shy of 2km/s before overheat, which while far from the 2.5-3km/s of the stabber is still fairly impressive for a cruiser. This makes the omen surprisingly dangerous as a kiting ship - while it lacks the stabber's speed, it has a far higher damage output (especially considering targets are already in the omen's optimal range when against the stabber they would still be in deep falloff)! In a frigate, be wary when chasing down an omen at range and try to close the last 20km quickly to minimise the time you're in optimal with low angular velocity (but obviously, don't burn straight towards them...)
The caracal is the most common of the caldari cruisers that you'll encounter PVP, partly due to it being a stepping stone on the skillplan to the drake. However, the two are quite different ships. As a counterpoint to the hybrid moa, the caracal is a missile ship - sporting a mid slot heavy 5/5/2 slot layout with 5 launchers. Like the moa, the caracal is built for range with a 10% per level bonus to missile along with the kinetic damage bonus featured on most caldari missile ships. The interesting thing about the caracal's missile bonuses however is that they apply to all missiles - not just heavy and heavy assault missiles as with the drake.
Most caracals will either fit heavy launchers, or (light) assault launchers; heavy assaults are very difficult to fit on this ship for a relatively small damage increase over HMLs, and I don't think I've ever seen one using them.
With heavy launchers, the caracal is probably the strongest cruiser at range - only the sentry vexor has comparable damage output, albeit with much less flexibility. This is mainly down to the effectiveness of heavy missile launchers - with its range bonus the caracal is able to put missiles out to around 125km with good skills, and since (unlike turrets) it doesn't need to switch to a lower damage ammo type in order to do so, its damage at that range is far stronger than that of a ship like the moa. Additionally, the HML caracal doesn't need to worry about tracking at close range, meaning it remains effective even when caught up close (although its damage and tank are poor compared to cruisers built to operate at these ranges).
While the caracal has plenty of mid slots for tank, the powergrid consumption of HMLs combined with the ship's low base powergrid means that they usually end up fairly fragile, with 1 LSE and perhaps an invuln. What they do have plenty of is mid slots and cpu, so it's fairly common to see caracals with additional EWAR in their mids - sensor damps are particularly popular when flying in a gang. Since it relies on range to evade damage, HMLs caracals are a poor choice of solo ship - you're much more likely to see them as part of a gang or engaged in PvE. If you can a HML caracal up close, they will usually die quite easily to a cruiser or t2 frig. However given the ranges available, a smart caracal pilot is likely to have warped off long before you're able to tackle them - as with the moa, probes, bookmarks, and fast tacklers are your best friends in such a case.
If you see a caracal solo, they're more likely to be fitting light assault launchers than heavies. This has a couple of advantages: Firstly, it frees up a large chunk of powergrid that can potentially be used for tank. Secondly, the fact that light missiles are a frigate-class weapon system makes the AML caracal particularly effective against frigates (don't forget that the caracal's range and damage bonuses still apply to light missiles)!
The general fit of an AML caracal varies - some will fit for tank and make the most of the caracal's range bonus to provide flexibility (even with AMLs, the caracal can still hit out to around 60km if needs be). Alternatively, some solo caracal pilots use those mid slots to boost their frigate-killing potential, much like the fishing celestis described in my last article. This means fitting one or two webs along with a scram (and sometimes an afterburner rather than a MWD) to maximise the caracal's range dictation ability. While this leaves only one or two slots for a shield tank, the combination of a frigate-class weapon system (with the potential to use t2 precision missiles if necessary) and heavy webbing completely nullifies the speed and signature radius tank that most frigates rely on when engaging a larger ship. The result, usually, is a dead frigate.
In general, beware engaging a solo caracal in a smaller ship - even a HML caracal can be quite dangerous to frigates, and an AML one is simply deadly. If you do engage one, try to keep your speed as high as possible - against heavy missiles this will reduce the incoming damage substantially, and it may also help against light missiles providing you aren't webbed. The caracal is able to field a token two drones, however these can be easily cleared and don't present that much of a threat. If you're flying another cruiser, a caracal tends to be a much less dangerous opponent - it can either have cruiser level dps with heavies, or cruiser level tank with AMLs, but not both. If you're unable to get close of course, that could not matter - the caracal isn't particularly fast, but it isn't slow either. Additionally, an AML caracal with webs is likely to dictate range against you once inside scram range - a potential problem for blaster ships. When engaging a HML caracal, be careful you don't take too much damage when trying to burn into range - sometimes with a lightly tanked ship, the damage you take during the approach is enough to turn the fight against you. As with the moa, EM and thermal are almost always your best bets for damage.
In gang, caracals make a good primary target if you find one close in - AML caracals present a significant threat to your tacklers, and HML caracals are squishy targets up close - by taking them down before they can pull range you're saving yourself a potential annoyance later in the fight.
Despite being nominally an EWAR ship, the arbitrator is considered by some to be the strongest amarr combat cruiser. Like the vexor, it receives a 10% per level bonus to drone damage/hitpoints/mining yield. This is backed up by a substantial drone capacity (at 150m3 it has a larger bay than the vexor, although it only has bandwidth to use 50m3 at a time compared to the vexor's 75m3 - a common pattern with amarr drone boats when compared to their gallente counterparts). Additionally, the arbitrator gets a bonus to tracking disruptors - a very effective EWAR type, as well as a popular module for 1v1 fights. Finally, it has more mid slots than the other amarr cruisers, with a 4/4/4 slot layout (albeit with only 2 turrets and 1 launcher hardpoint, none of which receive bonuses).
Usually, arbitrators will field an armour tank and put their mid slots to use for EWAR and tackle. Since it doesn't rely on grid-intensive weapons for damage, the arbitrator is free to fit a very substantial tank, with a 1600mm plate being common, as are active tanked fits (usually supported by cap boosting in the mids) for solo PVP. Alternatively, some arbitrator pilots will opt for a shield tank - something the arby can pull off quite well. While the shield arby is still generally more fragile than its armour counterpart, the low slots it frees up can be used to significantly increase the ship's speed (on top of the increase gained by removing the armour tank in the first place).
The high slots on the arbitrator are usually either home to a handful of small guns (leaving enough grid for a tough armour tank), or more often than not filled with neuts and nos in a similar way to the ship's t2 counterparts the curse and pilgrim (although the arby doesn't receive any bonus to these modules). While this generally leaves the arbitrator lacking in dps compared to its close relative the vexor, the additional ewar and potential neuting power can make it a very dangerous opponent (note that the arby isn't actually any better an neuting than the vexor - in fact the vexor has one more high slot as well as slightly more cap and grid. However I don't think I've ever seen a vexor set up this way, whereas on the arby it's very common).
As with the vexor, the arbitrator is a very dangerous ship to engage in a frigate. In fact, it's potentially even more dangerous than a vexor due to its 4th mid slot (which lets thed arbitrator pilot fit dual webs if frigate killing is their game) and the vulnerability of frigates to neuting. Active tanked frigates especially are probably better steering clear of the arbitrator unless they have either a cap booster or a burning desire to get rid of their ship.
Against a cruiser, the arbitrator's neuting power is less of a problem - an armour tanked arby especially has trouble fitting more than one, maybe two medium neuts. Here, your bigger concern will probably be its tracking disruptor(s) if it's packing them - hitting from outside web range will probably be surprisingly difficult with an optimal range track on you, and inside web range you may find a tracking speed script causes almost as much of an issue. This is much more of a problem if the arby pilot is able to orbit you up close and maintain high angular velocity (for example if they have AB/scram/web and you don't). Your best plan when soloing an arby is usually to get fairly close (so you can hit even when optimal range tracked), and try to minimise your angular velocity to negate the effect of any tracking disruption - having a relatively fast ship as well as a web of your own will make this a lot easier. Even if the arby isn't fielding tracking, low angular velocity is still a good idea - it won't really affect the damage you receive (since it's all drone based), however it will maximise your own. Of course if you're in a missile ship, it's your lucky day - you can disregard this advice completely!
Against a shield tanked arbitrator, much the same applies except you probably won't have to worry about tracking disruptors or webs. What you will have to worry about instead is catching them, since with a few speed mods the shield arby is a pretty fast ship! Unlike a turret ship, there's no danger in burning straight towards a kiting arby - your priority should just be to close the range and apply your dps as quickly as possible. Once tackled, it should be an easier fight than against an armour tanker - the tank will be a bit softer, and without the tackle and ewar their ability to control the fight is significantly reduced. What you may find they do have is more medium neuts, thanks to the additional powergrid freed up by the shield tank, so beware if your ship is particularly cap-intensive.
In any situation, it's rarely worth shooting the arbi's drones - it has enough room for 3 full flights of medium drones or 6 flights of lights! Also note that the range of small neuts (which make up the majority of a neut arbi's cap warfare ability) is only 6km - if you can fight outside that, you'll save yourself some pain. As you'd expect, explosive or kinetic damage is usually your best bet against an armour arbi, while thermal or EM is preferable against a shield tanker.
You'll notice I haven't really mentioned the arbitrator as a dedicated EWAR ship. That's mainly because I rarely ever see people use it as one, and also because there's relatively little difference between a tracking disrupting arby and a conventional one, other than having a couple of extra tracking disruptors in the mid slots. If you do suspect an arby of being a dedicated TD platform, it's probably a good idea to primary it if your gang is heavy on turret ships. However, expect it to be fairly well tanked for an EWAR ship.
When it comes to electronic warfare, the blackbird rules the roost. While the other races' EWAR ships tend to just be pseudo-combat ships with an EWAR bonus, the blackbird does one thing (and does it well). With a heavily biased 4/6/2 slot layout, the blackbird has the highest mid slot count of any cruiser. It also receives two bonused to ECM modules - a 15% bonus to strength and a 10% bonus to range (unlike tracks, damps and paints, ECM is one of those modules that really relies on a ship's strength bonus to make it effective - hence why the 15% bonus is so much higher than the 5% bonus for other races' EWAR).
The range bonus on the blackbird is particularly valuable, since it's something that its t2 counterparts actually lack. A typical blackbird is able to jam out to around 150km - only the scorpion (caldari EWAR battleship) can jam at longer ranges. Like most ships operating at these ranges, blackbird's generally focus on out-ranging their opponents and not getting tackled, rather than actually fitting a substantial tank. While the blackbird's plentiful mid slots would allow it to field a very strong shield tank if it wanted too, blackbird pilots are rarely so keen to sacrifice slots which could potentially be used for additional jammers. Most blackbirds will fit either a solitary 1600mm plate or a 1 or 2 slot shield tank, if anything at all. The result is that if you're able to catch a blackbird and not be jammed, they generally die easily. That first bit is the hard part.
I'm going to focus here on blackbirds as a gang ship, since that covers 99% of their useage. In general, you can expect blackbirds to warp in at maximum range once a fight is underway, and start jamming key ships. If threatened, they will generally warp to another spot on grid (if they have bookmarks), or warp off and return. If you have probes available, this will make the situation much less tenable for the blackbird pilot (although as I mentioned with the sniping moa, you'll need to make sure you have tacklers at least 150km from the target in order to warp them - either by having them warp to a bookmark or burn away from the blackbird. Alternatively, a fast ship like an inty can be used to put pressure on the blackbird pilot - a blackbird can easily permajam a frigate, so actually tackling it is little threat unless all of its jammers are committed (in which case you'll have up to 20 seconds to get a secondary tackler up there). However, if you can get just a frigate out to the blackbird (or if it's too close to warp, get your frigate on the far side of it) your gang can simply warp up to the frigate pilot at will - regardless of whether your frigate is jammed. Because of this, most blackbird pilots will be forced to warp off when that frigate burns out to them - if they don't, they will probably die.
Obviously when you encounter a blackbird in gang, you should almost always primary it if its in range. Even if you can't keep it tackled, you'll probably force them to warp off, or even burn through their relatively fragile tank before they are able to do so.
It's worth noting that while uncommon, blackbirds can be fit for a very strong shield tank if they forego their ewar entirely - in fact, they have the potential to fit the toughest shield tank of any t1 cruiser thanks to their huge number of mid slots. This, along with their reputation for being exactly the opposite, makes blackbirds very effective as bait ships (or in a similar way, as a 'bait' primary target when in gang, tracking you into primarying the blackbird while their more fragile ships go about killing you). Neither tactic is especially common, but be suspicious of lone blackbirds doing baity things, and if you primary a blackbird in a gang and it simply isn't dying (and also doesn't seem to be jamming anybody), this could well be the reason.
Finally, it's possible to fit a blackbird to be an effective solo ship in a similar way to the solo griffin - namely with a scram and web, blasters, and enough jam to keep its target permanently helpless (usually with a little bit of shield tank just in case). These are pretty rare - I can only think of one pilot I know who flies one, however they can be a fairly deadly surprise for their unsuspecting opponent!
The augoror is a slightly odd ship. Like the exequror it's a t1 variant of one of the armour tanking logistics ships (in this case the incredibly popular guardian), however the bonus that the augoror retains is the cap transfer bonus - something which is largely useless by itself. What the auguror does receive is a very hefty armour bonus - 10% per level to armour HP (in terms of raw EHP this is an even more powerful bonus than the maller's resist bonus, and is shared with some of the tankiest subcapital ships in the game such as the damnation and proteus).
While this along with a decent 4/2/5 slot layout sounds like it would make the auguror the perfect bait ship, I have some bad news - its powergrid is terrible! The augoror can still field a fairly impressive armour tank (and not having the reputation of the maller has its bonuses), but otherwise it's simply not as effective. With only 2 mid slots and no damage bonus, the augoror falls into the same category I placed the scythe in last week - you can just about fit one to do a job ok (baiting, that is), but it just can't really do anything that the maller doesn't do better.
If you do encounter an augoror in combat, it's fairly likely to be bait - since it doesn't get a mining or cargo bonus like the other t1 logistics ships, it doesn't really get used for anything else. Be wary if you engage one acting suspiciously, although with its low mid slot count it's unlikely to hold you very effectively if you do decide to bug out.
After a general pattern of the t1 logistics ships being fairly ineffective, you'd be forgiven for thinking the same of the osprey. Indeed, many people only know this ship as a disposable shield repper used to top up your POS forcefield after a fight. The good news is, it's capable of much more!
The osprey receives bonuses to remote shield repair (AKA shield transporters) as well as a bonus to mining yield. As a remote repair ship, the osprey is capable but unimpressive. As with the exequror its repair amount is far weaker than its t2 counterpart - about the equivalent to a single t1 cruiser's damage output. Because of this it rarely gets used for repairing in combat. However, let's take a look at the osprey as a combat ship:
With a 4/4/3 slot layout, the osprey is fairly flexible and has the mid slots to mount plenty of tackle. While its grid is fairly weak, it does have just enough room to squeeze on a 1600mm plate and an afterburner without fitting mods, for a moderate tank. Finally, it offers 3 turret hardpoints and room for 4 light drones - the largest compliment of a caldari t1 cruiser. While neither of these have a damage bonus (and with a plate, there's no room left for medium guns), this offers enough dps to cause a potential problem for an adventurous frigate.
Finally, this brings me to the osprey's most useful attribute - it's 20% per level mining bonus. Thanks to this bonus, anyone who sees an osprey in a belt will generally assume it's mining (a reasonable assumption, given that osreys are often used for this purpose and rarely for combat). What they won't expect when they warp in to engage that miner is to be scrammed, webbed, tracking disrupted, and ultimately relieved of their ship.
In common practice, this kind of osprey fit is rare. Most times when you engage an osprey, it will probably be a miner and it will probably die. However, it's worth bearing in mind, particularly if the pilot is a known PVPer. Even against a genuine mining osprey, a very new frigate pilot should probably watch out for its flight of light drones, although these should pose little problem for a well skilled pilot without the accompanying tackle and tank on the part of the osprey pilot. In a cruiser, even a combat osprey is much less of a danger, although there's always the potential (as with any ship encountered alone in a belt) of it being bait!