|Eve just keeps on getting more beautiful!|
All this power comes at a price however - assault frigs are substantially slower and less agile than other frigates, making them less proficient at evading camps and chasing down kiting opponents, although their natural survivability does help them get by on both of those fronts. This also means that assault frigates often sacrifice range control when fighting smaller, faster opponents - a small price to pay given the hurt that these things can put out!
As a solo platform, assault frigs have a very wide range of potential targets. They're able to take on just about any other frigate in a blow for blow confrontation with relative ease, although their lack of manoeuvrability can be exploited either to evade them or simply to fly circles around them while you fight on your own terms. They're also probably the only frigate class which can go head to head with the frigate's natural predator - the destroyer - without having a trick up their sleeve and still have a chance of coming out on top, however the outcome of that fight would be much less certain. In fact, a well piloted assault frig can even be a good match for larger ships such as cruisers and PVE-fit battlecruisers/battleships, making the class a very popular choice for lowsec piracy.
In gang, the assault frigs typically fill the role of 'chaser' tackle, using an MWD and scram to chase down and hold targets for the fleet. Assault frigs receive a lesser version of the MWD signature radius bonus found on interceptors - a fixed 50% reduction compared to the 75% reduction from interceptors 5 - which allows them to chase down targets under MWD without taking too much damage as they do so. Due to their significantly lower speed when compared to interceptors, assault frigs generally perform best when catching and holding targets in relatively close proximity rather than burning down snipers and providing warp-ins.
If assault frigs are the kings when it comes to frigate brawling, then the blaster enyo is the king of kings - no other assault frig even comes close to the amount of firepower that this red devil can dish out. To give you some rough numbers, a fairly typical enyo fit will do something in the range of 300-400 dps - a good hundred more than its closest competition in the class. With four turrets (plus a token drone) and a 10% per level damage bonus to hybrid turrets, it's not difficult to see why. The enyo's remaining bonuses serve to round out its damage dealing capabilities, with a tracking bonus enhancing the already strong tracking of its blasters and an optimal range bonus to ease the pain of their short range a little.
The enyo's 5/3/4 slot layout works very well for an offensively oriented blaster boat. The magical three mid slots allow the enyo to fit propulsion, scram, and web, although it's not too uncommon to see that web swapped for a cap booster to provide extra staying power against neuting ships and allow it to run its rep more frequently. The enyo's low slots tend to follow a fairly standard pattern of a single rep active armour tank supported by an explosive plating to fill the enyo's gaping resist hole and a damage control to make the most of its excellent structure HP (very nearly half of the enyo's HP is in structure), usually with a magstab in the fourth slot although a second rep or additional resist mod is also a possibility.
The enyo is far from the toughest assault frig, although it's definitely not fragile; even with the fairly minimal tank outlined above, you're looking at something in the region of 8k EHP. Aside from the fairly uncommon dual rep fit, the enyo's active tank isn't really designed to turn aside incoming damage completely - it's enough to keep the ship together when fighting under the guns of a larger opponent, but providing you can actually hit it you should be able to punch through the reps without too much of a problem (the question is whether it'll punch through you first)!
Thankfully for you, the enyo does have two related weaknesses which you're able to exploit as an opponent. The first of these is the one which it shares with just about every other blaster boat - range. With an optimal range bonus and the powergrid to fit neutrons quite comfortably, the enyo isn't as restricted by range as you might expect however - with null, you're looking at something in the region of 4.5+4.5km (optimal + falloff). In other words, you need to be out at the very extremity of scram range before you're reducing the enyo's damage output significantly, however anything you can do outside of 5km is a start. With the enyo's tracking bonus on top of the already excellent tracking of blasters, you're unlikely to mitigate any damage by getting in close and I don't recommend it unless you've got a tracking disruptor handy (speaking of which, one of those would come in really handy for fighting at range too).
The second disadvantage that the enyo faces is the achilles heel of the whole AF class - manoeuvrability - although it arguably suffers from it more than the rest due to its range requirements. With an afterburner, the enyo tops out at about 900m/s without heat, and takes a little over 6 seconds to get up to that speed - compared to around 1400m/s and 4 seconds on the afterburner taranis. This presents the enyo with some difficulty in getting into range in the first place, as well additional challenge when trying to slingshot a kiting opponent into web range. A MWD mitigates this a great deal, boosting the ship's top speed to around 2.4km/s; however in doing so it sacrifices some of its range dictation ability once it actually gets into scram range. The good news for the enyo pilot is that if they can get into range in the first place, they generally have the damage output to tear a frigate-sized opponent apart before they can pull range again. It definitely goes in the enyo's favour that most small ship solo PVP these days tends to happen inside scram range anyway, meaning in many cases you'll be doing the difficult work for them!
At this point you might be wondering why I haven't mentioned the rail enyo, particularly because the ship gets a bonus to optimal range. The short story here is that I don't really see them - I'm sure they exist, but I don't know anyone who flies one and I've no idea how well they perform in practice. My guess is that the enyo doesn't really have the speed and agility to reliably stay outside of scram range against most targets, and once you're in scram range anyway there's not really any advantage to using a kiting rail fit since you're already flying one of the best close range brawlers around. This is mainly just conjecture, so if you've used one and found it turns out differently let me know.
Your best bet for taking on the enyo is to use something able to fight outside of or on the cusp of scram/web range, ideally with a tracking disruptor and range control. This ship has excellent kinetic and thermal resists, so hit it with explosive if you can (even with a resistance plating it's still the lowest resist), or failing that EM. Your own tank should focus on thermal and kinetic, although I'd recommend you try to evade the enyo's damage rather than tank it if you have the option - resists will only help you so much against a ship that puts out as much damage as this one does.
Like the enyo the wolf is a very front-loaded ship, settling for a mediocre tank in exchange for excellent offensive capabilities. The wolf's four turret hardpoints are supported by two 5% per level damage bonuses along with further bonuses to tracking speed and accuracy falloff, both of which are critical to the ship's effectiveness.
With a 5/2/5 slot layout the wolf is clearly lacking in mid slots when compared to its t1 counterpart, however this is far less of a handicap than many people seem to assume. Thanks to its falloff bonus, the autocannon wolf has very strong damage projection for a close ranged ship with anything between 10 and 20km of falloff with barrage on a standard fit, with most falling somewhere in the middle of that range. In other words, it doesn't really matter if the wolf doesn't have range dictation on its side, it'll still hit you just fine. With its tracking bonus, getting up close and personal isn't likely to help you too much either. For a ship which initially seems quite polarised, the wolf proves surprisingly flexible.
There's actually quite a lot of variation in wolf fits, although most fall into one of three categories. Since the method for dealing with each of these is going to be slightly different, we'll review the three variants separately.
First off, we have the brawler wolf - these generally fly with an armour buffer tank (either 200mm or 400mm plates are common) supported by a single rep, essentially a beefed up version of the cookie cutter rifter tank. Brawler wolves can be either afterburner or MWD fit - the former attempts to claw back some of the range dictation that is loses by having no third mid slot, while the latter foregoes it with the logic that getting into scram range and/or having some limited kiting ability is more important, and that the ship's damage output is flexible enough that losing range dictation if you get scrammed doesn't really matter. Some fits go for more tank and less gank, dropping to lower calibre guns to fit a bigger plate, a nos, and extra hardeners. Others go for larger guns with extra damage and range mods, ending up somewhere between a traditional brawler and the kiting 'vagawolf' that I'll discuss further down. Whatever the specifics of the fit, the brawler wolf does exactly what it says on the tin and does it well - this is a powerful ship that'll project something in the region of 200-250dps of any flavour to just about anywhere inside web range and then a little further. However, it's important to remember that as a falloff-based weapon system its autocannons will put out less damage the further away you get - the wolf is unlikely to match its on-paper damage output at anything other than point blank.
The biggest weakness of the brawler wolf is probably its resist profile - the minmatar t2 resists go to EM and thermal, which doesn't really work well for an armour tank. If you're flying a laser boat you'll probably find the wolf an incredibly tough ship to break with its EM resist comfortably over 90%, however if you're able to select your damage type you'll find it a much softer target once you're hurling explosive or kinetic its way (most smart brawler wolves will plug their explosive hole making kinetic preferable, but both are still good choices). While the wolf's lack of range dictation is fairly irrelevant in terms of its own damage output, it does mean that you can generally choose a range that suits your needs and so ensure that you're hitting it too - you'll rarely be left in a situation where you're unable to respond.
The second category of wolf fit is popularly known as the 'vagawolf'. This is essentially an autocannon kiter, much like the vagabond from which it gets its name. Unlike the vagabond itself, the wolf can't really shield tank if it still wants to be able to tackle anything; most vagawolves settle for a fairly minimal armour tank of one or two slots, or in some cases just a damage control on the basis that they should be able to evade most damage simply by kiting. And kite they do - the vagawolf will invariably be fit with a MWD and long point, and will hit speeds ranging from 2.2km/s (with a 400mm plate) to 3km/s (with a damage control and a couple of speed mods) before overheat. The defining feature of the vagawolf fit however is in its tracking enhancers and/or ambit rigs - these push its falloff with barrage up to or even over 20km, allowing the vagawolf to engage anywhere within long point range. Since they generally operate in deep falloff, vagawolves will generally do less damage than an arty wolf would, however it's less vulnerable to being tackled; since the vagawolf still has a bit of tank and a close range weapon system, it remains a fearsome brawler in its own right - good enough to kill most things fast enough to catch it in the first place.
Since both the MWD and long point are cap intensive modules, the vagawolf can only keep both running for a limited time - a little over a minute is normal. If you can stay in the fight for that long you may find your opponent begins to have cap trouble, particularly if the wolf pilot recently came out of a long warp or had to MWD to get into the fight in the first place. This could mean their point drops, their MWD turns off, or both! Despite being a kiter, the vagawolf is not actually that fast nor is it especially agile - especially when it has a 400mm plate on it. If you have a MWD yourself there's a good chance that you can slingshot a vagawolf either into scram range or out of its point range, although as I mentioned earlier getting into scram range is only half the battle - this fit is still a strong brawler. If the wolf isn't plated then it'll be significantly harder to catch, but much easier to kill should you do so. Vagawolves don't tend to fit hardeners so explosive damage all the way for this one, and if you have the option (and know in advance that your opponent is fit in this way) you should tank against the same - kiting fits like this will generally load barrage as standard.
At the other end of the spectrum we have the arty wolf. This fit continues the trend of the vagawolf, but switches out its remaining tank for a full rack of arty - usually 280mms, although 250mms are not unusual. While you'd think arty would be a waste of this ship's falloff bonus, they are far from it - the falloff on arty is actually longer than it is on autocannons with barrage; you're simply adding an extra 8km of optimal range onto the front of it. As a result, the damage projection of the arty wolf is excellent - with a couple of tracking enhancers and an ambit rig (a fairly standard combination), you're looking at something like 10+29km with 280mms and close range ammo. The dps of an arty wolf is still just shy of 200 inside optimal (which it rarely is, but with that much falloff it's still likely to be upwards of 150 most of the time), and you can add to that an impressive volley damage in the region of 1300 per hit (or around 1000 with 250mms). The volley damage in particular makes the arty wolf great for taking out lightly tanked ships such as interceptors and other kiting frigs, where it can overwhelm them in the first couple of strikes before they really have chance to respond.
Much like the previous options, the arty wolf comes with disadvantages of its own. Like the vagawolf it only has enough capacitor to keep fighting for about a minute and a half without turning off its point or MWD - enough for a single frig vs frig engagement, but not enough to get through a more protracted fight comfortably. On top of that, the arty wolf really is fragile - most of the time it won't even have a damage control, meaning if you can catch it then it should die without too much resistance. It's worth noting that without a plate the arty wolf is generally faster and more agile than its autocannon counterpart, particularly the 250mm variant which actually has the option to fit some speed mods. It's still not a fast ship, with most pushing around 2.5km/s, but it's enough for most purposes. Again though, some well timed overheating should let you slingshot it either in or out, depending on your preference. Just don't underestimate the volley damage - if you need to get out, do it before you hit low armour or the chances are it's not going to happen!
The hawk is unusual in that it effectively has five bonuses, with a 10% per level bonus to kinetic missile damage along with a 5% rate of fire bonus both attached to the frigate skill. Providing it loads kinetic missiles, this gives the hawk an usually strong damage output for a missile boat (generally in the region of 150-200dps). Although on paper this is still fairly middle of the road for an assault frig, as a missile ship the hawk can reach its maximum dps quite consistently when fighting a webbed target. In addition to the damage bonuses, the hawk receives a bonus to missile velocity (that is, range) as well as its most defining feature - an active shield tanking bonus.
A shield rep bonus is slightly unusual for a caldari ship, with the harpy's shield resist bonus being more in keeping with the rest of the race's ships. However, the hawk couldn't be much better placed to exploit such a bonus - not only does it use a capless weapon system, but its 5/5/2 slot layout gives it an abundance of mid slots, avoiding the most common drawback of active shield tankers when compared to their armour counterparts.
The most common hawk fit you'll encounter is an active tanked rocket fit. There's quite a large degree of variation in the specifics - some will fit an oversized medium shield booster for a very impressive active tank, while others will go for a small booster sometimes combined with an invuln or medium shield extender to prolong the life of its tank. Since inferno, you might also encounter them with the new ancillary shield boosters, giving the ship an exceptionally strong tank for a relatively short duration. All of these combinations provide very strong active tanks, with a medium booster fit tanking something in the region of 150-200dps and a medium ancillary booster doing more again, albeit only for a short time until its charges run out. Depending on your ship, such a tank could significantly reduce the damage you're able to deal or even repel it entirely, making the active tanked hawk a very challenging opponent to face one-on-one in a comparable ship.
While the hawk's tanking ability is impressive, active shield tanks are very cap intensive - even with a nos and a cap booster running full time, a medium shield booster will consume more cap than the ship can provide. The hawk's fairly large cargo bay means that running out of charges shouldn't be a problem in a short fight - however since it already can't produce enough cap to keep the rep going, any pressure you can put on it via neuting is likely to translate directly into missed rep cycles. This is less true against a small booster and is irrelevant against an ancillary booster fit, however both of these can be overcome in other ways - a small booster is unlikely to tank all of your damage output, while an ASB will only be able to tank as long as cap charges remain in its shield booster - as little as 30 seconds for one booster, or a minute for a dual booster fit. If you can force an ASB hawk to keep its tank running without dying yourself in the process, you should have a window once its booster(s) go into their 60 second reload cycle.
Since its bonus is to rep amount rather than resists, the active tanked hawk isn't all that tough from a buffer standpoint - if you can break through its tank the ship should die relatively quickly. That's quite a big if of course, and will depend on your fit. Aside from that, aim to keep your speed as high as possible - most active tanked hawk fits will fit a web, but some won't - the faster you're moving, the less damage its rockets will put out and the more time you'll have to work through their tank. Staying outside of web range will reduce the damage you take substantially, although the chances are you'll still be hit - thanks to the hawk's range bonus it can reach out to around 15km with faction rockets, or 22km with javelin.
Despite the bonus, not all hawks are active tanked - some go for buffer instead, giving them moderate EHP for an assault frig and removing the need for a cap booster. This frees up a mid slot, which can be used for extra tank, EWAR, dual propulsion, or whatever else the pilot might need. For the most part these fits aren't really unusual, and don't present any greater challenge than the active tanked version. However, there's one clear exception that deserves its own mention.
If you've read my article on faction frigates, you'll probably remember the hookbill and its tendency to field dual webs. Suffice to say, the hookbill isn't the only one that can play that game - a dual web hawk follows much the same principle, except that it exchanges the hookbill's speed for more tank and greater firepower. Dual webs don't just give the hawk excellent range dictation capabilities; your lower speed also means that you're going to be taking the hawk's full damage output very consistently. Because of this, the dual web hawk is a very difficult ship to take on solo unless you have good range projection yourself, and even then it can be a challenge. It's worth noting however that while the hawk can web you out to 13km, it can only scram to around 11km - some hawk fits will use a long point to get around this, which means you can potentially still have a range dictation advantage despite the webs providing you have a MWD yourself. It may not be much consolation, but it's something.
Sometimes you'll encounter a hawk with light missiles rather than rockets. While the range bonus lets these hit out to an impressive 60km and still put out a reasonable 140 or so dps, they tend to be neither particularly fast nor especially well tanked - they're a danger if you can't close range on them, but if you can get a scram they're likely to be less challenging than most of the other kiting AFs. The light missile hawk is potentially more dangerous is a mixed gang, where it can put pressure on light tackle without having to actually chase them down in the first place.
Thanks to its caldari t2 resists the hawk is very tough against thermal and kinetic damage, however its base EM resist is absolute zero. Its fairly common for a hawk to fit one or even two anti-EM rigs to plug that hole, but even then it's usually still the best resist to hit. Avoid thermal at all costs - this ship is tanky enough as it is! The hawk's own damage type is selectable, but with a massive 50% bonus to kinetic damage they'd need a really good reason to use anything else - expect kinetic unless you're flying something where kinetic would obviously be a terrible choice (and even then, still don't be surprised if you encounter it).
If I had to pick one word to describe the vengeance, 'resilient' would have to be the one. This is a ship which you can throw up against just about anything, and it'll weather the storm. Like the hawk the vengeance is a rocket ship, with four launcher hardpoints and bonuses to damage and rate of fire (unlike the hawk, the vengeance's damage bonus is only 5% and is specific to rockets, however it isn't tied to any one damage type). The damage output of the vengeance is fairly low for an assault frig - somewhere between 120 and 150 is normal with faction rockets, or slightly more with rage.
The real strength of the vengeance comes from it's third and fourth bonuses, which go to armour resistance and capacitor regeneration rate. On top of the amarr t2 racial resists, the resist bonus leaves the vengeance with an enviable resist profile - even its weakest resist tends to sit at around 70-80%, giving the vengeance an excellent tank regardless of whether it goes for an active or buffer setup. The capacitor bonus compounds this - combined with capless weapons and a very strong base capacitor, the vengeance is able to run an active tank even while being neuted. While the hawk relies heavily on cap boosting to keep its tank running, a single rep vengeance can keep its tank running indefinitely (along with its afterburner, scram and web) without any nos or cap boosting at all - the fact that most vengeances fit a nos anyway just makes them even more resilient. As a result of this the vengeance is arguably the best assault frig for engaging larger ships, where attrition is the name of the game and some neuting is likely.
With a 5/3/4 slot layout the vengeance is unusually versatile for an amarr ship, able to fit propulsion, scram, and web to enhance its range control and rocket damage, or a cap booster in order to mount an even more powerful active tank - a single rep vengeance can already tank something in the region of 100-130dps without boosters and overheating, and a dual rep variant can easily tank double that (with armour gang links and all the trimmings, that number can be pushed to ludicrous levels that would look more at home on a much larger ship). Suffice to say, the vengeance is a tanking machine. It's not just active tanking that this ship does well - the vengeance can field a really impressive buffer tank too, although it lacks some of the versatility of the active fit and you don't really see them that much. Even the active vengeances tend to have more EHP than some of the other buffer tanked AFs thanks to the resist bonus and the hardeners they generally fit.
In some ways, the easiest vengeance fit to deal with is the cap boosted dual rep variant - despite its incredible tank, the lack of the web weakens its ability to apply rocket damage and combined with the vengeance's fairly low base speed this makes it relatively easy to pull range and disengage if you want to. This kind of fit is particularly dangerous to larger ships since it's essentially immune to neuting and doesn't really need a web anyway once it has you scrammed, but against a comparable ship it generally lacks control of the engagement and its tanking ability is in many cases overkill. The single rep fit is probably more challenging to fight in another small ship - the web increases its damage output against other frigates, as well as providing much needed range control to either prevent you from escaping, or to kite you if desired. Keeping your speed high should reduce the incoming damage, and depending on their fit (and your own) you may be able to simply punch through through the reps - if in doubt, overheat everything! Neuting may help you out a little, but unless you've got multiple medium neuts fitted it's unlikely that you'll ever shut off its tank completely. The vengeance's resist profile is fairly uniform, but the preference for damage types is generally thermal > EM > kinetic > explosive, while incoming damage could be of any flavour.
The ishkur is very similar to its close relative the enyo, with many of the same bonuses and a very similar slot layout of 4/3/4. The main difference is that rather than being a pure turret ship like the enyo, the ishkur features a mix of turrets and drones. The result of this is a less impressive brawler, but a more versatile ship on balance.
Like the enyo, the ishkur receives bonuses to hybrid damage (5% rather than the enyo's 10%) and optimal range, however with only three turret hardpoints it doesn't quite offer the same excessive damage output that its cousin does. That said, the ishkur's turret damage alone is still more than some of the other assault frigs! On top of those turrets the enyo is able to field a full flight of five light drones with a 10% per level HP bonus, and room for one more spare in the bay per level too. While the damage output from a flight of light drones isn't enough to close the gap with the enyo, this does give the ishkur a very solid damage output somewhere in the 230-280dps region when fit with blasters. The drones are also the main source of the ishkur's versatility - while blasters require you to be in quite a specific position in order to bring their full effect to bear, drones have no such problem.
Generally, the ishkur uses a very similar standard fit to the enyo. Most ishkurs are blaster fit, with propulsion, scram, web, and a single rep active armour tank. These fits can effectively be treated like a less ganky enyo, except that part of its damage is able to hit you at any range. This gives the ishkur the the option to kite if desired, although it will be relying on only a fraction of its overall damage output if it does (despite some assumptions that the ishkur is a drone boat first and foremost however, drones only account for around a third of the ship's damage output - the majority is still from its turrets). While most ishkurs field damage drones by default, you should be prepared for a flight of ECM drones in reserve. These can be particularly effective at jamming frigates, but thankfully they are relatively fragile - I highly recommend killing them if you see them launched.
While less common than blaster fits, it's not that unusual to encounter a rail ishkur. These might be AB/scram/web fit aiming to kite you as the edge of scram range, or they might be fit with long point and MWD with the intention of never coming that close in the first place. While the latter seems like a good idea at first glance, the rail ishkur suffers from the same problems as the enyo - it's not particularly fast or agile (2.6km/s under MWD is normal), and is limited in the targets it can actually keep range on successfully. In its favour however, a rail ishkur caught at close range still has its drones is less helpless than its turret-only counterpart, since it still has its drones (in fact if the ishkur has ECM drones, it might simply be able to jam you and pull range again).
If you have the choice, the easiest way to deal with a blaster ishkur is to hold it at range so that you're only dealing with the drones and some deep-falloff blaster fire, and either kill it from there if you can or deal with the drones first before you go into its optimal range to finish the job (this cuts down the amount of damage you're taking at any one time). If you get caught in blaster range in the first place then I suggest you just go straight for the ship itself, unless it launches ECM drones (since they tend to be much more fragile than damage drones, and will really screw you over if they get a few successful jams in a row). Obviously against a rail fit this is all simplified - you just want to get in as close as possible and then go to work - since it probably won't be able to hit you at that point, you're free to kill the drones first if you're at all concerned (just remember there will be two flights). As with the enyo, explosive damage is the way to go against the ishkur followed by EM, while kinetic and thermal should be avoided if possible. Aside from the possible ECM drones, expect the ishkur to field either either hobgoblins or warriors (or potentially a flight of each), while its turrets themselves will deal the usual mix of kinetic and thermal.
Like the rifter on which it's based, the jaguar is all about versatility. The jag is the fastest of the assault frigates - in fact it's the only assault frig with a higher base speed than its t1 counterpart, although its greater mass means that it's still slower when under afterburner or MWD. With a 4/4/4 slot layout, the jag can be fit in just about any way you choose. Like the wolf it gets two projectile damage bonuses and a tracking bonus, although it swaps the falloff bonus of its brother for a less useful optimal range bonus and gets one fewer turret to play with too. As a result, the jaguar has a fairly unimpressive damage output for an assault frig - generally falling somewhere in the 120-180dps range with autocannons.
With its four mid slots and strong base shield HP, the jaguar has a natural tendency towards shield tanking. This makes the most of the minmatar t2 racial resists to EM and thermal, giving the jag strong resists across the board. The standard jaguar fit features a medium shield extender backed up by propulsion, scram, and web, giving the jag a moderate to strong buffer tank while maintaining strong range control. It's not unusual to see a jag fit with an active tank, with either a regular or ancillary medium shield booster in place of the extender. While it doesn't have quite the same resilience as the hawk or vengeance, the jag can still tank enough to make quite a significant difference against the right opponent, particularly with boosters and heat.
While shield tanks make up the vast majority of fits, the jag can also be armour tanked much like the cookie cutter rifter fit. The extra low slot can be used to either make a fairly impressive dual rep fit or simply a beefed up version of the single rep/200mm plate tank found on the rifter, while the fourth mid slot generally houses a tracking disruptor, taking advantage of the jaguar's strong range dictation capability. Like the wolf, the armour tanked jag suffers on account of its large explosive/kinetic resist hole, and also has to contend with quite low base armour HP which makes any armour tank without a plate fairly easy to volley through.
Compared to the falloff bonus on the wolf, the jag's optimal range bonus actually does surprisingly little for artillery and arty jags tend to be quite rare. When you do see them, they tend to be edge-of-web-range kiters with an afterburner and web, rather than high speed/long range kiters like the arty wolf (although you do see some of both). This can be quite an effective way to take advantage of the jag's range dictation ability against other assault frigs, although being able to maintain range against smaller, faster ships is not guaranteed.
Where the jag really shines compared to its rivals is in gang - with a robust shield tank, good speed, and the ability to fit dual prop quite easily, the jag is great for chasing down fast targets while still having the damage output and tank to contribute to a small gang fight. Of all the assault frigs, the jag is perhaps the only one which I regularly encounter in mixed (non-frigate) gangs.
As a solo ship, the versatility of the jag is both a blessing and a curse. It's great for roaming around when you don't really know what you're going to encounter, since you generally won't have to pick your fights as carefully and can throw it around a little much like you can with the rifter - it doesn't have any glaring weaknesses, and there aren't many things that you can't try to fight with it. On the other hand, the jag is a bit of a jack of all trades - it doesn't really have any one area that it really shines in and that you can leverage to get an advantage in a fight.
With a shield tank, the jag has fairly uniform resists with a preference of kinetic > explosive > thermal > EM. With an armour tank kinetic and explosive remain by far the best damage types (which one in particular depending on whether the jag is fitting an explosive hardener, which it might do) and EM damage should be avoided unless you have no alternative.
While the hawk diverges from it's t1 counterpart quite significantly, the harpy remains very similar to the merlin hull upon which it is based. It gains a couple of high slots giving it a 5/4/3 slot layout with 4 turret hardpoints, and supplement's the merlin's bonuses to shield resists and hybrid turret damage with not one but two optimal range bonuses. While on the surface the substantial range boost suggests the harpy is intended to be a sniper (which to be fair it probably was), most harpies you'll encounter are likely to be blaster fit. This might seem like a bit of a waste of those optimal range bonuses, but they actually come in quite handy on a blaster fit too, giving the harpy an element of range flexibility which most ships using that weapon system lack.
With a shield resist bonus on top of its already strong base HP and t2 resists, the harpy has an excellent tank. The most common fit uses a buffer tank with a single medium shield extender (along with anti-EM rigs to plug the ships' massive EM hole) and tanks something in the region of 12k EHP, although tankier fits can reach anything up to around 17k by swapping the web for an invuln. You might also encounter active tanked fits of mixed active-buffer setups (for example a medium shield extender and an ancillary shield booster) - don't expect quite so fearsome a tank as the hawk's, but it isn't far off.
Offensively, the blaster harpy is very solid - it doesn't do as much damage as the enyo, but otherwise it out-guns all of the other AFs handily with a damage output generally falling somewhere in the 250-300dps range. Like other blaster ships, the harpy relies on being close and having an element of range control in order to deal damage, however thanks to its optimal range bonuses this is less of a problem than it is on other comparable ships - with neutron blasters the harpy gets a respectable 4+1.5km range with void, and should it encounter a kiting opponent that can be extended to an impressive 7+4.5km with null allowing the harpy to hit just about anywhere inside web/scram range for good damage.
Unlike the enyo, the harpy does not get a tracking bonus and while blaster tracking is naturally strong, it is possible to evade some of its damage simply by orbiting as close as possible. This is especially true if the harpy doesn't have a web as a result of fitting one of the alternative tanks mentioned above. The harpy has the lowest base speed of the assault frigs (however the amarr AFs are slower if they're plated or fitting armour rigs), topping out at around 850m/s with an afterburner or 2.2km/s with MWD. As with the enyo, this makes an afterburning harpy quite vulnerable to faster kiting ships, since it relies on getting into scram range in order to apply its damage. Surprisingly however, the harpy is actually one of the more agile AFs, second only to the jaguar (although as AFs, both are still much less agile than regular frigates).
Rail harpies do show up every now and then, and fall into two categories: Mid range rail harpies work much like your typical arty wolves and rail ishkurs, in that they generally use close range ammo and fight within point range. This is the kind of rail harpy that you're most likely to encounter solo, since it can actually tackle you. A fairly conservative rail harpy of this kind will hit out to around 15+6km with faction antimatter, and do fairly respectable damage while still being able to fit a decent tank if they choose to (many don't, for whatever reason). Since the harpy doesn't have a tracking bonus nor the ishkur's drones, it's unlikely to be able to do anything if you can get on top of it - a feat that's made easier by the harpy's relatively low speed.
The second variant is the long range sniping harpy - these fit for maximum range, with sensor boosters and long range ammo allowing them to hit to anywhere between 60 and 115km depending on the fit. Similar to a sniping cormorant, this impressive range comes at the expense of fairly low dps - usually only slightly over 100. Since the harpy pilot can't tackle you from that kind of range, this kind of fit is almost always only seen in a gang, and even then only rarely. Max range harpies like these generally fit very little or no tank, meaning if you can get them tackled they should present no real challenge.
Even more so than the hawk, the harpy has excellent thermal and kinetic resists and you should avoid using these damage types if you can help it. The caldari's natural EM hole isn't quite as significant as it was on the hawk due to the resist bonus, and despite one or two anti-EM rigs being fairly standard this is still usually the best damage type to go for. Failing that, explosive is your best bet. As a pure hybrid boat, the harpy's own damage output will be a mix of kinetic and thermal, and you should tank accordingly.
On the surface, the retribution is very similar to the wolf; it has the same 5/2/5 slot layout with 4 turrets, and very similar bonuses - damage, tracking speed and optimal range (the energy weapon equivalent to the wolf's falloff bonus). In place of the wolf's second damage bonus however, the retribution gets a reduction to cap use for it's turrets - this isn't really necessary since the retribution's base capacitor is actually even stronger than the vengeance's (before the vengeance's cap regen bonus that is), although it does make it easier to run an active tank so it's not entirely wasted.
While the retribution doesn't have quite the same on-paper damage as the its rival the wolf (typically between 150 and 200 dps) the excellent optimal range on pulse lasers means that this damage output doesn't degrade anything like as quickly at range - a typical retribution can get anything between 15 and 20km optimal with scorch. Combined with its tracking bonus, this makes it fairly difficult to evade the retribution's fire even though range control will usually be on your side. In addition to that, the other factor that the retribution has in its favour is tank - completely unfitted it has almost as much armour HP as the vengeance does with a plate on it, and it has nearly as much again in structure! Despite not having a resist bonus itself, the retribution's high base HP combined with its extra low slot means that it can actually mount a stronger buffer tank than the vengeance if the pilot chooses to do so.
That said, a maxed out buffer retribution doesn't tend to be the norm. This is partly because the retribution is not a particularly fast ship - it's faster than both of the caldari assault frigs until you slap a plate and armour rigs on it, but after that it tends to only just break 2km/s with MWD and around 750m/s with AB, and the 400mm plate required for going all out tank makes that even worse. A full tank also requires dropping to smaller guns and giving up damage mods, and since the retribution can't necessarily rely on range control to keep its opponents in the fight those tend to be quite important. Both of these considerations favour a more moderate tank - usually a mix of resists and rep, potentially with a 200mm plate for extra buffer. The result is a fairly solid brawler with good damage projection and still very nice EHP, supported by reps while capacitor allows (not all retribution fits can keep a rep running forever like the vengeance can, but with the support of a nos it'll get some serious use out of one at the very least). Its low speed and lack of range control are the retribution's biggest weaknesses as a brawler - not because it needs to be at a certain range to deal damage, but because it makes it more difficult to catch targets and prevent them from escaping, as well as allowing its opponent free reign when it comes to fighting at their desired range.
While less common than the brawling fit, some pilots like to fly the retribution as a kiting ship - kind of like a slower, tougher version of the imperial navy slicer. This could be anything from a pure kiter with minimal tank to something which is essentially the same as the brawling fit above, except fit with a long point and flown in a slightly different way. Much like the 'vagawolf' I mentioned earlier, the kiting retribution combines the good damage projection of the other kiting AFs with the strong EHP and tracking of a close range fit should it require them. Unlike the vagawolf the retribution doesn't need a plate to provide that EHP, giving it (quite surprisingly) an advantage in speed and agility over its minmatar counterpart, as well as in damage projection thanks to it flying in optimal rather than falloff. While it generally isn't cap stable with everything running, the retribution's strong capacitor allows it to keep kiting for longer too.
As with the vengeance, the retribution has fairly high resists across the board thanks to its amarr t2 racial resists. Specific hardeners or resist rigs seem to be less common on the retribution, so your preference will generally be thermal > EM > kinetic > explosive. Expect to take mainly EM damage from the retribution at range, or a mix of EM and thermal when fighting up close. While its strong cap regen makes it quite resistant to neuting, hitting it with sufficient neuting power (that is, multiple medium neuts) has the potential to shut down both its rep and its guns or at least to make its life more difficult - use it if you have the option.