Wednesday, 25 January 2012
Assault Frigs - First Impressions
First of all, I think the changes were actually very good - I was initially worried that the ships would be overpowered, but I've gradually warmed to them and actually think they've hit a good level. Not only that, but the biggest buffs have hit what were previously the weaker ships (retri, enyo, etc) while the strongest ones (ishkur, jag, etc) haven't actually benefited as much. I'd say the playing field among the eight AFs is now much more level than it used to be.
Fixed 50% reduction to MWD signature radius penalty
I don't expect this change to really affect the AF as a solo ship all that much (I definitely don't think it will trigger all AFs to start fitting MWDs), however it will make it easier for the existing MWD AFs to kite or chase down targets while under fire. In particular, MWD-fit AFs will be a bigger threat to larger kiting ships which would previously have been able to just burn away and tear down the pursuing AF thanks to its bloated signature radius.
The main effect of this should be an increased use of AFs in gangs, which I think was the intention. I don't think it will give them any real role in larger fleets, but in smaller gangs where you want a chaser tackle with a bit more dps and staying power than a combat inty, the AF may be your ship of choice (particularly the faster AFs such as the jaguar and enyo). The tradeoff of course, and the reason why these ships aren't really going to tread on the toes of the combat inty too much, is speed - even the fastest AFs are significantly slower than the slowest combat inties and faction frigs, meaning there's a viable choice to be made as to which ship class you choose for the job.
As a class, speed is the main weakness of Assault Frigs, regardless of whether they are MWD or AB fit. Typically most AFs will do less than 1km/s under AB, or somewhere in the low 2000s under MWD, with a few outliers. These are ships which will likely brawl down almost any other frig that tries to go toe to toe with them, but which will struggle to dictate engagements and may be relatively easier to kite by their faster cousins. I wouldn't be surprised if solo faction frig/combat inty tactics start to move even further towards the kiting end in order to take advantage of this.
7.5% bonus to small energy turret tracking speed, +1 mid slot, +15 CPU, +200 armour HP
The retribution finally got its second mid slot, which is a massive buff - this was already a very tough and relatively ganky ship, but its lack of tackle made it almost unheardof in PVP. Since it isn't going to be fitting a web, the tracking bonus should also strengthen the retri as a close range brawler, although with its range bonus this ship is far from limited to brawling - think of it like a miniature zealot.
Aside from that, the retri probably won't change all that much - it'll be slightly tougher, able to tackle things, but otherwise the same as before. It's big weakness is likely to be its speed - a 400mm plated retri struggles to reach 2km/s under MWD, and is the slowest AF by some margin. Then again, it has the range to compensate.
5% bonus to missile launcher rate of fire, +1 high slot, +10 CPU
The vengeance has long been considered a ship which tanks brilliantly, but offers a lacklustre damage output. With the addition of a rate of fire bonus, this is really no longer the case - the vengeance now puts out as much dps as the jaguar (assuming the two ships fit a similar number of damage mods), and given that it's missile based this damage output is likely to be more consistent too! The crucible vengeance is definitely a ship to watch out for.
The new utility high slot allows it to fit a nos, which is going to be a real boon to active tanked vengeances and should make it easier for them to engage opponents with neuts. Speaking of neuts, a purely buffer tanked vengeance can use this new slot for a neut, allowing it to make use of its naturally strong cap regen to break opposing active tankers, while its capless weapons carry on regardless.
5% bonus to shield resistances, +1 low slot, +200 shield HP, +10 CPU
The harpy benefitted heavily from the AF boost. With a shield resist buff along with an additional chunk of HP, this is now a very tough ship. The extra low slot allows the harpy pilot to boost either their range or damage output, both of which would be beneficial regardless of whether the pilot is using a rail or blaster fit. Blaster harpy pilots may alternatively use it to increase their speed, or possibly to provide the extra powergrid for use by its mid or high slots.
Whatever the choice, the HP and resist buffs alone mean that the blaster harpy is going to be a very solid brawler. It's still limited by its relatively low speed, but fighting one of these inside blaster range is going to be a challenge.
5% bonus to missile launcher rate of fire, +1 mid slot, +10 CPU
Like the vengeance, the hawk receives a rate of fire bonus which pushes its damage output up to very impressive levels for a rocket ship (remember that the hawk already had its damage bonus increased from 5% to 10%, meaning this ship now technically receives three bonuses to damage output)! A typical hawk fit after this change will be putting out between 150 and 200 dps with faction rockets.
With 5 mid slots, I expect many hawk pilots will start trying to emulate the success of the hookbill - fitting dual webs for ultimate range control, and also maximising rocket damage (which is largely based on the speed of your opponent). The hawk is significantly slower than the hookbill, but it's tougher and has a higher damage output. Dual webs doesn't really leave room for a cap booster, so I expect most dual web hawks will opt for a buffer tank instead, or a small shield booster fueled by a nos.
Active tanked hawks will gain from the extra mid too, allowing them to fit a web alongside propulsion, scram, and shield and cap boosters (thus improving rocket damage and range control), or alternatively to boost their active tanks via a hardener or shield boost amp (assuming they can find the cpu to do so - the additional 10 they have received here is far from sufficient by itself).
5% hybrid damage bonus changed to 10% hybrid damage bonus, +1 mid slot, +10 CPU
The enyo is definitely one of the big winners from the AF buff - while it hasn't changed the ship much, the third mid slot removes the enyo's biggest weakness; where previously the inability to fit a web had made the enyo relatively easy to out-range, it is now fully capable of keeping its targets just where it wants them. Not only that, but the additional damage bonus means that the enyo goes from having one of the best damage outputs for an AF, to having the best damage output hands down, pushing close to 300dps without too much of a problem.
While it's one of the faster AFs and also received a small speed buff as part of the original Crucible patch, the AB enyo is still a little slow. Since closing range is fairly essential to a blaster ship, I expect to see a higher proportion of enyos mounting MWDs than the other AFs, especially since it is no longer retiring entirely on its propulsion mod to control range. Combined with the hybrid buff and the recent trend for 'going green', this is definitely a ship to watch!
10% bonus to drone hitpoints, +1 low slot
The ishkur's buff has been fairly conservative, which is understandable given that this was already considered to be one of the most powerful frigates in the game. Since it doesn't gain any cpu or grid, the likelihood is that the standard ishkur fit will not change substantially and the new low slot will be used to buff its tank slightly (an adaptive nano plating is the obvious choice). Combined with the drone HP bonus, this means that the new ishkur will be noticeably tougher, but otherwise quite similar to the way it was before.
7.5% bonus to small projectile turret tracking speed, +1 low slot, +200 shield HP, +10 CPU
The low slot on the jaguar opens up a lot of options. The most obvious one is simply a dps or range boost, using the new slot combined with the extra CPU to squeeze on a tracking enhancer or gyro which wouldn't fit before. I expect most shield jags will go down this route.
However, I expect we'll see an increasing number of armour jags too - something which has been relatively uncommon so far. While its base HP and resists make it a natural shield tanker, the jag can now field a substantial armour tank and its mid slot count can be put to excellent work housing additional webs and tracking disruptors. Alternatively, the armour jag can afford to mount a cap booster without having to give up any part of its 'holy trinity' of propulsion, scram and web - this may mean that active tanked jags (including dual rep jags) become a popular choice for solo PVP.*
The tracking bonus will increase the jag's damage output at close range, although honestly this was much less of a problem for the jag before than it was for the wolf. The jag will also arguably gain the most from the new MWD sig radius bonus, due to its relatively high speed making it a popular MWD tackler.
*I was playing around last night with a dual rep, dual propulsion jaguar fit. It tanks surprisingly well and still has the versatility you'd expect from a dual prop jaguar, which is great. I'm not completely sold yet, but it's an interesting fit nontheless.
7.5% bonus to small projectile turret tracking speed, +1 low slot, +200 armour HP, +10 CPU
The big news here is the tracking speed bonus - previously this had been quite a significant drawback to the wolf as a brawling ship; while otherwise very strong for the role, the wolf's poor tracking and lack of a web made it relatively easy for ships without these drawbacks (such as its t1 variant the rifter) to get under its guns and nullify a large proportion of its damage. Now, that's going to be significantly harder to do.
In addition that that, the wolf's extra low slot and boosted armour HP are likely to make brawling fits noticeably tougher, although the extra slot might instead be used to buff its already strong damage output. It still has the explosive hole to contend with, but otherwise the wolf should now prove a relatively solid armour tanker. Kiting 'vaga' wolves aren't as likely to use the extra slot for tanking, and here the benefit is probably going to be in the form of either additional damage output, range, or speed (the last being something that the kiting wolf generally lacks).
The Altruist is the Eve Online blog of Azual Skoll, PVP instructor and small gang PVPer.
All original content on this blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Click the icon below for more information.