Sunday 25 September 2011

Threat Assessment - What Makes a Good Primary?

I've talked a lot recently about which ships make good or bad primary targets, so it's probably about time I explained why - what process do we go through to decide whether a particular ship should be taken down as a priority or left for later? We call this process Threat Assessment, and it can be broken down into two key questions: How much threat does a particular target present to me gang, and how quickly can I remove that threat.

Identifying Threats

First, let's talk about threat. There are a number of ways that an opposing ship can present a threat to your gang, but these generally fall into two broad categories; Direct Threat and Indirect Threat.

Direct Threat is a measure of how much damage a particular target can do to you and your gang. Broadly speaking, high dps ships generally present a strong direct threat while low dps ships do not. However, some ships might be more or less dangerous in different situations. For example if you're flying in a fast kiting gang, you would probably consider a long ranged damage dealer like a rail Naga to be more dangerous to you than a short ranged brawler like a Brutix, even though the Brutix has a higher damage output on paper. Similarly if you're flying in a frigate gang, you'll be more worried about ships which can effectively hit your small frigates (such as destroyers) than those which can't.

Indirect Threat (sometimes also called 'tactical threat') refers to ships which aren't necessarily a danger in themselves, but which inhibit your gang's ability to operate effectively. ECM is an excellent example of an indirect threat - while it presents no danger in of itself, jammed ships are unable to participate meaningfully in the fight. Other common indirect threats include logistics ships (preventing your gang from destroying your intended targets) and tacklers (reducing your ability to escape or manoeuvre effectively). Again, consider what has the most impact on your own gang - a Rapier is a huge threat to kiting gangs but not worth worrying about if you're brawling. Similarly logistics ships are only a significant threat if you don't have enough damage to break through their reps, after which they become far less important.

There's no strict method for evaluating how much threat a particular ship presents, but it's worth keeping these two concepts in mind when you're considering what an opposing gang is capable of. Apply your own judgement as an FC to determine which threats are most significant to you.

Prioritising Targets

A simple solution to target calling is just to go for the highest threat first, and then work your way down from there. While this would work, it's not the most effective way to go about it. Think of it like a race - if you can destroy their threatening ships faster than they can destroy yours, you win the fight. In order to do that, you need to consider how quickly you can take a particular threat off the field.

As an example, imagine an opposing gang consisting entirely of Drakes and Caracals. The Drakes do more damage, making them the bigger threat. However, Caracals are far more fragile - you could easily kill two Caracals in the time it takes to kill one Drake. In other words, you can reduce the opposing gang's damage output (their direct threat) much more quickly by targeting the Caracals first than you could by targeting the Drakes.

How quickly you can kill something isn't quite as simple as how much tank it has. Close targets make good primaries because you can begin applying damage immediately rather than wasting time getting into range. Similarly a target which is already tackled (particularly if they're scrammed and webbed) is usually a more reliable kill than one which can still escape - forcing a target to warp out is only as good as the time it takes for them to come back. Often in our roaming gangs we'll jump into a gate camp, and the first ship that someone calls tackle on become the first primary regardless of what it is, simply because it allows us to start firing immediately on a target which is already caught (obviously this relies to an extent on our gang members tackling sensible targets). Similarly in a highly mobile fight with ships kiting each other around, our primary choice will often be completely dictated by what is closest and what is tackled.

Remember that there are more methods of removing a ship from the fight than simply killing it. Electronic warfare can be a great method of taking a key ship out of the equation, whether that's damping down a logistics ships so it can't provide reps or setting ECM drones on a hostile recon to break their tackle. This allows you to suppress some threats while you focus your damage output on others.

The big advantage of EWAR is that (aside from ECM), the effect is instant and guaranteed. It also works at range, so offers a great way of dealing with targets that you're unable to catch. The main disadvantage is that you're limited by the number of EWAR modules that you have available - if you only have four damps (and assuming you need two to effectively take someone out of the fight), that means you can only suppress two ships at a given time. You also rely on that EWAR modules remaining present - if your EWAR ship gets jammed, damped, or destroyed, then whatever they were suppressing is immediately back in the fight.

Don't Worry, Be Happy
Calling the right targets is something that people worry about a lot, often without reason. This is an exact science, and there's really no such thing as an absolute 'right' or 'wrong' decision - it's really just a case of going with your gut and making an educated guess.

Your main priority as a target caller is to make sure everyone in your fleet knows who they should be shooting (and ideally, to make sure they're all shooting the same person). It's better to make the decision quickly and confidently - even if your choice isn't the best - than to spend too long trying to figure out the perfect strategy and leave part of your fleet confused about what they need to be doing. If in doubt, just pick the closest ship to you and then go from there.

Don't forget that you can change primary even if they aren't dead yet. Many new FCs will pick a target and stick to it, even when better targets present themselves or it becomes obvious that the current primary isn't going down any time soon. While you don't want to be switching primary all over the place without a good reason, try to pay attention to how the overall fight is progressing and don't be afraid to switch if a better opportunity appears or if your current one is going nowhere. That's particularly true when you're fighting a gang with logistics ships - a target which is already being repaired will be much harder to kill than one which isn't, and a fast target swap can often catch hostile logistics pilots unaware.


Let's finish off with a few examples. I'll make a post later this week explaining my own answers to each of these, but in the meantime I'd be interested to hear your own thoughts; In each situation, which ships would you go for first, which would you leave until later? Are there some ships you'd choose to suppress via EWAR or chase off while you kill the rest of their gang?

Example 1

You: 10 mixed t1 cruisers with frig support
Opponent: 3 drakes, 3 caracals, 1 raven, 1 blackbird

Example 2

You: 20 t2 frigates (mixed assault ships and inties)
Opponent: 3 zealots, 1 curse, 2 purifiers, 1 abaddon, 1 heretic

Example 3

You: 3 mid-range battleships (e.g. pulse abaddons or AC tempests), 1 arazu (point and damps)
Opponent: 4 hurricanes, 1 broadsword, 2 jaguars, 1 stiletto, 2 scimitars

Example 4

You: 5 kiting battlecruisers
Opponent: 2 megathrons, 2 vexors, 2 brutix, 2 enyos

You can read my answers here


  1. What I'd do, though I'm no FC.

    In 1: I'd jam as many caracals as possible (ECM drones) while running off the blackbird. I'd kill the caracals then BB, and disengage after that if odds were even or worse for me. If jamming isn't possible, focus down the caracals while chasing off the blackbird (2-3 AFs to occupy BB ecm)

    In 2: I'd burn the curse and heretic first (primary by range), then the zealots while sending 1 inty per for the bombers.

    In 3: jam the tacklers first (ECM drones), scimis if able, primary the canes. Broadsword would likely have a big tank, so I'd leave it alone until I started losing, in which case primary changes to that.

    In 4: kill enyos, then vexors if we can perma kite the brutixes. If not, brutixes then vexors. Megathrons last as they are too slow to catch a kiting BC that wants to escape.

  2. Example 1
    Frigs on the BB, Cruisers on the Caracals, all drones on BB. Enemy drones 2nd, Drakes 3rd, and Raven last.

    Example 2
    Curse primary, purifiers secondary (this one is harder for me because I don't know most Amarr ships off hand) and then I'd go for smallest tackled ships and work up the size chart.

    Example 3
    Drones (ECM) on scimi, DPS on canes. Rotate DPS to try and punch a scimi out of the fight. Tackle stays on the Canes as they will die once something screws up the logistics. Frigates next, HIC last.

    Example 4
    Depends on range. If brutix or mega's are in close the die first, otherwise Enyos are primary, Brutix secondary, Megathrons next, vexors last. Vexor drones might move up in priority depending on effectiveness.

  3. Example 1

    All Ewar on the drakes, pirmary the BB, Secondary the caracals, then send frigs on to the ravens and drakes drones to slow incoming dps while the cruisers go for the drakes. Raven last.

    Example 2

    Pull in as close to the zelots as I can and set Ewar on them if any, Primary the curse, but take out the intercepter if it alaows itself to get to close to the fleet. kill the bombers next to get rid of any TPs, then the zelots. abaddon last.

    Example 3

    Keep range and use arazu for tackle, all ewar on scimitars, and all drones on frigs startign with stileto, also get BS webs and newts on jags and stileto if posible. BS guns will primary the cains, switch damage to scimitars perioticaly if Ewar isent as effective as you would like to either force them to rep eachother or off the field temporarily.

    Example 4

    Start from smallest and go to largest, use your drones to take out their drones if the drones become a problem.

  4. (Note: I’ve done 0 FCing, so your feedback is appreciated)

    Example 1

    1 Warp off
    2 Avoid fight

    With an avg fit dps and buffer fit T1 cruiser gang my first instinct would be that the threat is equal to or greater than my gang (with facing atleast 4 flights of light drones, possible lt missle fit caracals as anti-frig support, and BB), especially if they control the terrain. Warp off and save my fleet would be my first course of action, have my fast frig tacklers set up some rolling safes, and then reassess.

    In going back in or if they don’t terrain advantage: Primary closest caracal 1, BB2, Caracal 2/3, Enemy Drones, focused fire on Raven, then drakes.

    Example 2

    1 curse primary, (or heretic, whichever is closest)
    2 then heretic (I need to control the terrain).
    3 Zealots come next.
    4 Then Purifiers (were low on my list given they are probably torp fit given the abaddon is there to tank battleships). Peel off 2-3 ships to go out of system to watch for back up. 5 Start nibbling at the Abaddon - Might leave the Abaddon as by this time they may have friends inbound, if my scouts say everything is clear we would work it until it pops.

    Example 3

    1 Scimitars x2, Arazu damps on hurricanes, webs and drones on frigs
    2 Hurricanes x4
    3 Broadsword
    4 frigs

    Example 4

    1 Enyo x2
    2 Vexor x2
    3 Brutix x2
    4 Megathron x2

  5. Example 1:
    Send a pair of fast frigs to chase the BB while my gang focusing Light Caracals to help my frigs, then HAM Caracals to drop the DPS, Drakes then Raven(with be using torps/cruises thus reduced damage to my fleet)

    Example 2:
    Curse, Heretic, Zealots, Purifiers, Abaddon.

    Example 3:
    Damp out the Scimi's, Focus the Canes(shield tanked canes have lighter tank then the Broadsword and easier to hit then the Frigs), Stiletto, Jags, Scimi's, Broadsword.

    Example 4:
    Enyos, Vexors, Brutix, Megas.

  6. Short answers:
    assign drones to fast tacklers send them for the blackbird rest start with the caracals go on with the drakes finally the raven
    scimis->broadsword->canes-> whats left
    enyos->brutixes->vexors-> megas

    The really long answer can be found in my blog :)

    I'm really really shameless in self adverting

  7. Where'dMyFleetGo?15 October 2011 at 19:27

    1: send cruisers after the caracals (they can be amazing anti-frigate platforms) and frigates after the BB. Frigates tie up drakes while cruisers take down raven from 8km+ range(could be smarbombing). Drop drakes at leisure.

    2: Knock out the heretic quickly, then the SB's. Get the curse off the field then collapse on the zealots. By then you should know whether the Abaddon is smartbombing. If not then whittle him down and be ready to snatch the curse if he's dumb enough to come back.

    3: Really shouldn't take that fight in the first place. But, if you jump into it I would hit the canes first because their shield resists are bad. Assign drones to anything with webs. With 2 scimi's you're kinda effed though.

    4: Enyo > brutix/vexor (depending on speed/prox of brutix) > mega


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