As a class, the tier 3 battlecruisers share a number of common attributes. They are all turret ships, able to fit 8 large (battleship sized) turrets apiece with no utility highs, no launcher hardpoints, and no drones (with the exception of the talos, which gets a small drone complement). This combined with the poor tracking of battleship sized guns makes tier 3 battlecruisers vulnerable when engaged by smaller ships at close range. The speed, agility and tanking capability of these ships are very close to those of the more offensively-oriented t1 cruisers such as the rupture or thorax (in fact, the tier 3 battlecruisers are all slightly faster than the tier 3 cruisers of their respective race). The signature radii of the tier 3 BCs are higher than that of a cruiser, but closer to a cruiser than a battlecruiser (for example the talos has a sig of 200m, compared to 140m for the thorax and 300m for the brutix).*
These attributes combine to make a ship which is very effective for small gang warfare, in particular when kiting or operating at mid to long range. They are especially useful for engaging larger targets which are not able to respond at battleship ranges (for example, regular battlecruisers). Due to their relative inflexibility and vulnerability to lighter ships, the tier 3 BCs are generally less popular for solo use than their lower tier cousins. Of course, there are exceptions.
*Note that not all attributes follow these patterns. The sensor strength, capacitor size and regen, and cargohold all scale as you would expect from a higher tier battlecruiser. Scan resolution, like signature radius, falls somewhere between cruisers and battlecruiers.
Unsurprisingly for a minmatar vessel, the tornado is the fastest of the tier 3 battlecruisers, capable of around 1.6km/s without speed mods. With an 8/5/4 slot layout, it takes after the cyclone as a natural shield tanker; capable of mounting a fairly substantial shield buffer tank, at least in tier 3 battlecruiser terms. Unlike the low slot heavy hurricane and rupture the tornado isn't able to go all out on the gyros and tracking enhancers, however thanks to its 8 large turrets and some offensively slanted bonuses, the range and damage output that it is capable of are very respectable; the tornado receives a 5% bonus to projectile turret rate of fire and 5% to projectile turret falloff (lower than the 7.5% usually given for this bonus, but significant nontheless).
With autocannons, the tornado has an effective range of about 40km (4+39) with close range ammunition and 60km (7+58) with barrage, along with a damage output roughly comparable to the tempest. While the tracking of its guns may be poor, its range combined with its high speed makes such a fit very well suited to kiting gangs where the angular velocity of pursuing opponents is typically low. This is a ship which can out-run anything with the potential to match its range and damage output, while being able to significantly out-dps anything capable of keeping pace. It is, however, particularly vulnerable to tacklers as we'll discuss later.
With artillery, the tornado rivals the arty maelstrom as king of alpha strike, with a volley damage of 10-11k using close range ammunition or 6k at sniping ranges using tremor. In order to fit high calibre artillery the arty 'nado typically sacrifices a slice of its tanking capability, although usually less so than some of its competitors. The ship's falloff bonus continues to deliver with either weapon system, particularly when fielding close range ammo; typical ranges are 35+71km for close range and 124+71km with tremor, although numbers may vary depending on the pilot's preference for range mods over damage and tank. While it's one of the shorter ranged 'sniper' tier 3s, the volley damage makes this a popular choice and it is definitely one to watch out for.
The biggest weaknesses of the tornado are those which almost all of the ships in its tier share - its fragility and lack of defence against close range targets. Its poor tank presents a difficulty when taking on anything which is able to return fire at its chosen range, while its lack of drones, webs, and neuts leaves it relatively helpless should a light ship get under its guns. The high speed and flexible range offered by this ship mean that prevention the best (and often only) cure, and the tornado pilot will typically take advantage of these to avoid evading both opposing damage dealers and close range tackle if the first place. Your best bet as an opponent is to exploit the ship's weaknesses, closing range in a lighter craft or preventing the tornado pilot from pulling away if you're able to field comparable firepower yourself. When sending tacklers after such a ship, ensure that they maintain high angular velocity during their approach to avoid being killed before they're able to reach tackle range.
Against a sniping tornado, these weaknesses should come as no surprise given that they are shared by almost every sniping ship in the game. Beware of its high volley damage, and keep some angular velocity whenever one is on the field. Bear in mind that due to the unique characteristics of tier 3 battlecruisers (and particularly the tornado), this ship has excellent agility when compared to other snipers of similar calibre and getting a drop on one is likely to be difficult.
As a t1 shield tanker, the tornado is generally weakest against thermal or EM damage (with a preference towards EM vs arty 'nados given that they often fit a powergrid rig in place of an EM rig, and thermal otherwise). The tornado's damage output could potentially be any flavour, although at longer ranges (both for autos with barrage and arty with tremor) their damage will be primarily explosive with some kinetic.
The oracle sits opposite the tornado as another strong mid range specialist. With an 8/3/6 slot layout this ship is heavily low slot biased, making it ostensibly an armour tanker. With an armour buffer tank the oracle is probably the toughest of the tier 3 battlecruisers, although it remains relatively fragile at around 40k EHP - a far cry from the amarrian tanking powerhouses of the prophecy and maller. While it remains faster than either of those ships, the armour oracle lags behind the other tier 3s at speeds of around 1.1km/s.
As you might have guessed from my reference to 'the armour oracle' rather than simply 'the oracle', there are also a substantial number of pilots who choose to shield tank them. While it only tanks around half of what the armour version does, the shield oracle is significantly faster (over 1.4km/s without any speed mods, or up to 1.8km/s with a couple of overdrives) and is able to use its large number of low slots to further enhance its damage output, range, and speed. Obviously in order to fit any real tank the shield oracle is completely unable to fit tackle or EWAR, making it exclusively a gang ship.
The oracle receives the same bonuses as the harbinger; 5% to energy turret damage along with 10% to their cap use. With pulse lasers its range and damage output are comparable to that of the autocannon tornado, however the higher optimal range of pulses gives it a much stronger real damage output at medium range. The armour variant can generally hit at around 50-60km with scorch (45+10 with no range mods), while the shield version is able to reach out even further (58+16 with two tracking enhancers). With close range ammo, the two fits are able to offer impressive damage outputs out to around 20-30km (15+10 and 19+16 respectively).
As with the tornado, the oracle also sees some use as a sniping platform, usually with a rack of tachyons. As with most tach fits, fitting is at a premium and a tachyon oracle is generally the least tanked of all the tier 3 sniper fits. It makes up for this shortcoming with excellent damage output (again in no small part due to its low slot count), putting out something in the range of 500dps at almost 200km (168+32). With close range ammo, a tach oracle is potentially able to out-damage even a shield tanked pulse oracle at medium ranges (it puts out over 800dps at 47+32km using a typical fit), although its slower tracking and far weaker tank makes it inadvisable for the job. Despite its strong damage output, the sniper oracle lacks the sheer range of the naga or the alpha of the tornado, making it slightly less popular in the role than these alternatives.
The oracle's biggest weakness is its lack of mid slots - the armour variant is very limited in terms of the mid slot modules that it's able to field, and its shield counterpart can field none at all unless it goes without a tank. Not only does this limit the oracle's ability to hold tackle or hit opponents at close range, but is also makes it difficult for it to fit a cap booster (especially so given that most common fits are quite tight on grid and cpu) - most oracle fits that I've encountered have not had one. On the other hand, with the oracle's bonus to weapon cap use combined with the role bonus that all tier 3 BCs (except for the tornado, for obvious reasons) get to the same, the oracle is less prone to capping itself out than it would be otherwise. Still, a few well applied neuts can cause this ship some serious problems.
Depending on the fit, the shield oracle is potentially one of the fastest tier 3 battlecruisers, and as such the same comments that applied to the tornado are true here - ensure tacklers maintain angular velocity, and try to get the ship locked down. The tank on the shield fit is one of the softest of any non-sniper tier 3, so once caught it should go down easily. The armour fit is significantly tougher, but also much slower and it should be easier to get on top of one. While there's a slim possibility of an armour oracle fitting a web, it is not standard practice to do so. It's worth noting that since the oracle can instantly switch between ammo types, the sniper oracle is probably more dangerous for an approaching tackler than the other tier 3s - this is because it can quickly switch to higher damage crystals (which don't have the tracking penalty of sniping crystals) once it identifies you as a threat.
Against a shield fit, the standard therm > EM preference applies although due to the weakness of its tank your own damage type will probably be less of a concern than simply getting it tackled in the first place. On an armour fit, specific hardeners tend to be uncommon due to a lack of cpu and the desire to save some low slots for damage mods, meaning that the usual explosive > kinetic preference holds true. Since it has no drones, the entire damage output of the oracle will be a mix of EM and thermal regardless of ammo type, with primarily EM at longer ranges (scorch or aurora crystals) and a roughly even split at close range.
Where the other tier 3 battlecruisers generally excel at range, the talos is built to fight up close and personal. Like the oracle it is low slot heavy, with an 8/4/5 layout all told - enough to tank in either armour or shield with reasonable effectiveness. In addition to its 8 turrets, the talos is the only tier 3 battlecruiser to field any drones, with a small allocation of 25m3 bay and bandwidth. The talos draws its bonuses from the king of blaster boats, the megathron - 5% to hybrid turret damage, and 7.5% to tracking. That second bonus is crucial, as we'll discuss in a moment.
As you'd expect from a blaster boat, the damage output of the talos is exceptional, putting out over 1000dps with a standard fit. It may not have the range of the previous two ships, but with large turrets blaster range is noticeably less restricting than it is with medium (4.5+13km with antimatter, or 13+18km with null). A shield fit can hit out even further (5.8+20 and 16+29 respectively, with two tracking enhancers). In addition to this, the talos is one of the faster tier 3s; with an armour tank it's still capable of around 1.3km/s, while with a shield tank it can almost match the tornado at 1.6km/s (or faster if it fits a speed mod). The combination of high speed and reasonably good range actually removes from the talos one of the main limitations associated with alternatives such as the brutix, in the latter ship's difficulty closing to blaster range.
Regardless of tanking methodology, the defences of the talos are fairly middle of the road for a tier 3 battlecruiser - something in the region of 30k EHP with a typical fit. The armour variant is usually slightly tougher (or at least has the potential to be), but the difference is small. The main factor which separates the two fits is what you do with the rest of the slots; a shield talos will naturally buff its damage output, range, and potentially speed (as well as being naturally faster on account of its lack of an armour tank). This makes the shield talos excellent for closing range and performing the same kind of hit and run warfare that the other tier 3 battlecruisers excel at, as well as (usually for a blaster ship) making it a proficient kiter. While it lacks the range of the oracle and tornado, the shield talos offers good speed and can deal strong damage anywhere inside point range, which is nothing to scoff at.
The armour talos doesn't get quite the same range, speed, or damage output (although the latter tends not to be too far off), however the mid slots that it gains are incredibly valuable. While there are many options, the obvious choice is dual webs (at least one is almost guaranteed). Combined with the talos' strong tracking, this makes the armour talos particularly good at engaging targets at close range - something with the other tier 3 battlecruiser are unusually weak at. Not only does this allow the talos to slow its opponents to a point where it can hit them easily, it also allows the talos pilot excellent range control, keeping opponents from getting too close or too far away.
With rails, the talos is really outperformed by the naga and so tends to be fairly uncommon; it offers the same damage output as the naga (excluding its drones, which it's generally unable to use at sniping ranges) but without the naga's impressive range (a typical sniper talos hits out to 168+49km with two tracking enhancers, compared to 224+39km on the naga with one TC). While the talos' tracking bonus remains useful, being an additional 60km away (as the naga would be able to) would have a similar effect, with the added bonus of additional safety. The talos does however remain a strong choice as a mid range sniper (i.e. anywhere inside the 150km warp range barrier) or for operating in a gang with arty tornados and tach oracles (both of which operate at similar ranges), in which case the talos' tracking bonus will give it a better chance of landing solid hits (it's worth noting that while the talos has significantly better tracking than the arty tornado, the tracking on beam lasers is already strong making its lead over the oracle much smaller). In all, the rail talos doesn't appear to be popular and when you do encounter one, you can afford to treat it in the same way as you would any of the other sniping tier 3s; it may be slightly harder to evade its tracking on the approach and it will have a flight of drones to contend with, but otherwise there's little change.
Regardless of fit, the blaster talos is the least vulnerable of the tier 3 battlecruisers when it comes to close range combat and as a result it's probably the most viable of the tier 3 BCs for solo PVP (and the most dangerous should you encounter one solo). Blasters already have the strongest tracking of any close range weapon system, and with the talos' tracking bonus that advantage is compounded (to put this into perspective, a neutron blaster talos has almost twice the tracking speed of an 800mm AC tornado). In addition to this, the talos' single flight of light drones (which could be either damage or ECM) gives it a realistic chance of escaping from a lone tackler which has got under its guns - something which is almost impossible for any of the other ships in this tier. Add to this the web(s) of the armour talos, and it's almost worthy of being called versatile!
While the talos may have handily evaded one of the main weaknesses of the other tier 3s (vulnerability to tacklers) as well as the key limitations of other blaster boats (range and speed), it still has its own achilles heel to contend with - while this ship may have the damage output of a megathron, it still only has the tank of a thorax. It's an incredible ship for finishing a fight quickly (one way or the other), but any opponent that it is able to hit is usually also able to return fire, and it doesn't have the tank to stand up to much punishment. Even the shield talos, while able to kite to an extent, does not enjoy the same ability to engage from a safe distance that the oracle and tornado do.
Given the above, your best choice of tactics when fighting a talos is probably going to depend quite heavily on the fit. Against a shield talos, you can afford to treat it in a similar way to the other tier 3 BCs - get a scram on it, and then try to get as close as possible to minimise its damage output (unless of course you're also fielding large guns, in which case you should keep angular velocity as low as possible since the talos will likely out-track you). Against an armour fit, things are likely to be more challenging - inside web range even a small ship is likely to be hit easily if the talos is wielding dual webs, unless you're afterburner fit and are able to get to point blank relatively quickly. Your best bet for avoiding its damage output is probably to maximise angular velocity while staying outside of web range, although how successful this will be is probably going to depend on a lot of factors and it is far from a flawless strategy.
Trying to out-range either talos fit as you would a conventional blaster ship probably isn't going to be an effective avoidance strategy unless you're able to fight (and keep tackle) from outside of conventional point range - even out at 24km the talos is able to deal over half of its maximum damage output. While pulling range outside 10km or so will likely force the talos pilot to switch to null (which means a small dps drop), you should also remember that the futher out you are, the easier time they will have tracking you. Tracking disruptors, if you have them, are likely to come in very useful.
In the end, the best way to deal with a talos might just be to go head to head with it using a superior tank and gank ship; while the talos' damage output is excellent, its relatively weak tank means that it's possible for a tougher ship to simply come out ahead in a dps race. Ideally you'll want something with flexible range and tracking to ensure that you're able to hit the talos consistently in any situation where it can do the same to you, and having the right damage types will help - neither talos fit has enough slots for its tank to really stay from the very basics, meaning thermal followed by EM for shield tankers and explosive followed by kinetic for the armour version. Aside from the drones (which will usually be explosive or thermal if they are damage drones at all), all of the talos' damage output will be thermal and kinetic (with more kinetic at close range, and more thermal at long range).
The naga is the ultimate sniper tier 3, and probably one of the best snipers in the game right now. Its 8/6/3 slot layout as well as its visual design gives it a strong resemblance to the rokh, and indeed it performs a very similar role in game. With a 5% bonus to hybrid turret damage and 10% to optimal range, the naga is able to match the range of the rokh while actually putting out more damage (the rokh gets a bonus to shield resists, rather than turret damage). In addition the naga's agility, while worse than that of the other tier 3s, makes it capable of getting out when the situation requires - something which for a large ship like the rokh can be a challenge.
Compared to the tach oracle, the rail naga generally has a slightly lower damage output, but exceptional range (224+39km on a typical fit). The sacrifice to achieve this, as with all tier 3s, is in survivability; a sniper naga operating at maximum range usually has very little tank. That said, when you're operating at the ranges that it does there's an argument to say that if you need to rely on your tank, something has already gone horribly wrong.
While it may not have the alpha strike of the arty tornado, the rail naga is a popular choice simply on account of its range, especially when you have a group of them. I know a number of inty pilots who have turned up at an on grid bookmark to scout a gate, only to be sniped by a group of nagas from almost 250km away!
In addition to the sniper option, the blaster naga has proven a popular competitor to the talos. In many ways the comparison between the two ships mirrors that between the blaster rokh and the mega; while the naga lacks the talos' drones and tracking bonus, it matches its turret damage on paper and has increased optimal range (6.8+13km with antimatter, or 19+18km with null). In addition, when it's not giving up space for sensor boosters and tracking computers the naga's mid slot bias allows it to mount a strong shield tank, making it one of the tougher tier 3 BCs (not that this is much of an achievement).
While the blaster talos appears in a range of fits, there's only really one common way to fit a blaster naga which makes it relatively predictable - it will always be shield tanked, and doesn't have the low slots to fit tracking enhancers or speed mods meaning that its range and speed are relatively constant. The only real question is whether it will save two mid slots for tackle and EWAR, or one; the latter obviously gives it a stronger tank, while the former allows it a small taste of the versatility that the talos enjoys - usually in the form of a single web. When fighting one of these solo in anything relatively small, the web is potentially a game changer - it will still have a much harder time hitting you than even a single web talos, but it gives it a better chance than either of the other two tier 3 BCs when fighting inside web range. There's no reason that you couldn't fit a blaster naga with a 2 slot shield tank (the same as a shield talos) and fit dual webs on it, however I haven't seen anyone do so yet - it's probably worth watching out for.
At just under 1.4km/s the naga is a little on the slow side - it has the lowest base speed or the tier 3s and no room for speed mods (other than rigs), however its faster than the oracle and slightly faster than the talos when those ships are armour tanked. While this speed is still fairly impressive for a battlecruiser and (along with its bonused range) is still sufficient to make the naga a proficient kiter, it tends to be less popular for this role than the other ships in its tier.
Compared to the armour talos, the close range naga generally presents slightly less of a threat - it lacks the drones and the tracking even if it's mounting webs, and so is easier to evade. Like most of the other tier 3 BCs, the best tactic to exploit this is usually to get close and under its guns, although be wary of webs; expect one, but be prepared for two if your fit really depends on angular velocity to survive (it's not all that uncommon for blaster naga pilots to fit no web at all and instead go for a sensor booster or something silly, but I prefer not to make recommendations based on the incompetence of others). Treat this ship like an armour talos with less tracking and no drones, and you probably won't go far wrong. Even more so than against the talos, out-ranging it is probably not going to be effective without a tracking disruptor or range-bonused tackle; with a range of 19+18km with null, this ship will put out almost full dps anywhere inside conventional point range.
On most fits that I've encountered, the naga's EM and thermal resists are roughly similar (EM is actually slightly lower despite most pilots fitting anti anti-EM rig - this is because the naga tends to fit two invulns, which stacking penalise against the resist rig and reduce its effect). However, if the naga pilot chooses to field a four slot shield tank it's possible that they may use an active EM hardener (maybe along with a thermal rig) - this would still leave thermal marginally as the best choice, followed by kinetic and then EM. As with the talos, the naga's damage output is going to be all thermal and kinetic, with more kinetic at close range and more thermal when using null.