Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Retribution Ship Balancing Review - Part 1

Retribution has arrived, and with it a fairly large chunk of my Know Your Enemy articles have become outdated. It's going to be a while before I can write the updated versions - while I can EFT warrior to my heart's content, until the meta has stabilized a little bit I can't really say for sure how they're all going to be fit (I can have a reasonable guess, but I've never been a fan of going off theory alone).

However, I can give you a quick run-down based on my initial observations. This post will cover the updated frigates and destroyers - expect cruisers to follow shortly.

Combat Frigates

Tristan - The long awaited drone frigate. It should make a decent brawler with blasters, but it's main strength is probably as a kiter with rails. Damage output isn't stellar, but it should be quite consistent. Not the easiest ship to fit (which is unusual for the new releases) and I'll be interested to see what the cookie cutter variant becomes. While its drones are tough and it can carry a couple of spares, it's vulnerable to having its main weapon system destroyed. Note that like the Ishkur, it gets a drone HP bonus (and in this case a tracking bonus too) but not a damage bonus.

Breacher - Similar performance to the existing Condor, but with a better active tank and a bit less speed. Decent flexible-range brawler with rockets and single or dual ASB, but won't be able to sustain a tank like the dual rep Incursus and while damage output is better than the other missile ships, it's not great. Light missile variant suffers from CPU constraints and the fact that part of its damage output is drone-based, but could be competitive.

- Again similar to the Condor, this time with more dps and range in exchange for speed. Best missile-only damage output of the missile frigs. Brawler variant is outclasses by the Breacher but will probably still see some use, and thanks to the range bonus you might see some rocket kiters using javelin too. Light missile fit is excellent - slower than the Condor but improved damage output and great range (about 60km, with enough default locking range to take advantage of it).

Summary: All three ships are fairly mediocre as brawlers, but share the same strengths of flexible damage with good projection. While I don't expect any of them will be as popular as the current Incursus/Merlin/Slasher, their introduction should mean interesting things for the balance of T1 frigate combat. Tracking disruptor setups will have to be more picky and will probably become slightly less common for solo frigates, while lack of speed or range control on a close range setup (for example on the dual rep Incursus) is going to be a more risky now that there are a larger number of ships able to exploit it.

Disruption (EWAR) Frigates

Crucifier - Improved over its predecessor in just about every way, this ship should become much more popular for fleet work. With the optimal range bonus, it can TD happily out past 100km and even an unskilled rookie should be able to reach out to about 60-70km. With its bonused TD(s) and 15m3 of drones (plus an impressive 30m3 spare) it actually has the potential to be a pretty effective solo ship too, sort of like a mini Arbitrator.

Maulus - Very similar to the Crucifier above, but without the range bonus. Still able to operate out to around 100km thanks to damps' long falloff and the Retribution buff to their optimal range (which only adds about 10km). Should become a more viable addition to fleets. Can field an even bigger 20m3 of drones (but with only 10m3 spare), and like the Crucifier it could end up as a niche solo ship (no, I'm not going crazy - with the increased bonus and a couple of EWAR strength rigs, a dual damp Maulus can damp a Thrasher down to 5km).

Vigil - Gets a similar treatment to the Crucifier, with a bigger painting bonus and more range. Able to operate at extreme ranges (seriously, you can get this thing painting at 200km) making it surprisingly survivable for an EWAR frig. Only gets one drone and doesn't get a bonus for its missiles, so don't expect this to have much solo utility.

Griffin - An extra mid slot means no longer to Griffin pilots have to feel awkward about not having a jammer for each race. Aside from that it hasn't really changed much - the ECM range nerf only knocks off about 5km, although the Griffin is definitely the shortest ranged of the EWAR frigs (don't worry, you're still jamming with a 60km optimal and have enough falloff to go outside that when needed. Oh, and they buffed the scan res and targeting range a bit.

Summary: Four strong offerings which should make newbie EWAR pilots a more valuable addition to fleets. The Griffin gets similar treatment to the Rifter - it got buffed, but larger buffs to everything else move it from being outstanding to just decent. Very interested to see how much the Crucifier and Maulus get taken up for solo PVP, you can expect to see me using them!

Support (Logistics) Frigates

Burst - Kind of like a baby Scimitar. Speed is good as you'd expect, and the slot layout and fitting work well for a high speed cap regen setup like you generally see on a Scimmy (although cap stability with a MWD is difficult, particularly with low skills). Fairly simple to fly, and takes advantage of the frigates' natural strengths. Quite fragile though, so potentially unforgiving.

Bantam - Aside from the slot layout, works more like a Scimitar than a Basilisk (no cap transfers). The regen version seems a bit weak - it's difficult to get any more tank on it than the Burst due to the cap requirement of invulns, and it's otherwise worse. With a cap booster it can actually be fairly nice - it gets to run an invuln, and can even use its second low slot for a speed mod to bring it closer to the Burst in mobility. It's not as tough as the Inquisitor however, and is probably best used at range.

Navitas - Unsurprisingly pretty similar to the Oneiros - fairly fast, decent armour tank with the option of going for cap regen or a cap booster. Can actually dual prop with a cap booster which is pretty nice. More flexible than the Inquisitor, but potentially more complicated to fly if you want to get the most out of it. Probably a fun ship for the more experienced pilot jumping into a logi frig.

Inquisitor - The slot layout feels like a Guardian, but like the Bantam it doesn't get the cap transfers of its bigger cousin. Can go regen or cap injected, either way it's able to fit a pretty nice tank compared to its counterparts with a 400mm plate. Slow though, as you might expect. Low speed and decent tank should make it the most forgiving of the logi frigs, a good one for newbies.

Summary: Not that much variation between these four, but enough that they each feel like they belong to their respective race. Moving away from the cap transfers was probably a good idea given the audience (players new to logistics ships). Toughness is about on par with the more fragile combat frigs (better than attack frigs), and the repping power is enough to be meaningful in a small scale fight (each frig reps about 200-300dps depending on the resists of the target).

Destroyers (Original)

Thrasher -  It's a tiny bit slower and a tiny bit tougher. To all intents and purposes it hasn't changed.

Catalyst - A small but needed buff to speed and agility makes is slightly easier for the Cat to chase down its prey. Buffed fitting room, capacitor, and structure HP sure don't hurt either. You lose your single drone (which you probably forgot you had), but more powergrid means bigger blasters (suicide gankers rejoice). All told it's the same ship as before - it's not an upgrade so much as a slight polish, but one that's appreciated nontheless.

Coercer - It was already a great ship, even if it couldn't tackle anything (nobody seems to believe me when I explain that a 300dps anti-frigate ship really doesn't need tackle as much as you think). The big change is an extra mid slot, giving it the ability to fit a point. Thanks to some additional fitting room (for bigger guns or fewer fitting mods), you don't really lose anything over the old version despite having one fewer low slot. An excellent ship for damage projection, and still one of my personal favourites. Expect kiting fits to remain the norm, but brawlers with a scram may be popular too thanks to the extra fitting room for tank.

Cormorant - I'll be honest, this one surprised me. Significantly buffed powergrid along with an extra low slot shunt the Cormorant up from clearly underpowered to very much competitive - in fact of the conventional destroyers it's second only to the Catalyst in terms of damage output. Gone are the days of dual web rail Cormorants, the ship we have now is essentially a slower Thrasher with blasters. Expect blaster fits with MSEs or MASBs, as well as a reasonable helping of traditional rail setups (now with extra dps).

Summary: A great example of balancing, each ship seems to have been given precisely what it needed. Thrashers are still strong (and I expect them to remain popular simply on account of their reputation) however the playing field is becoming much more level. These changes have largely been lost in the noise alongside the new destroyers (below), so now might be a great time to break out a Cormorant and take advantage of the fact that nobody realises how good it is yet.

Destroyers (New)

Corax - Best described as a really beefed up version of the new Kestrel. Should make a very strong brawler with rockets and a MASB, with its explosion velocity and range bonuses offsetting the penalty you'd usually get using T2 rage rockets against frigs. Damage output is lacking compared to the conventional destroyers, but that's no surprise on a missile ship - its still a good 200+ dps and it should be able to apply it very consistently. The light missile variant has generated more buzz, but I'm left a little underwhelmed; range is great and damage is decent (for light missiles), but the Corax itself is difficult to fit for it due to CPU limitations that the Kestrel and Condor narrowly avoid. The explosion velocity bonus definitely improves your damage against unwebbed frigates (which is still noticeably degraded despite being buffed as part of the patch), however it's worth noting that you'll still need target painters to deal your full damage against them.

Talwar - Losing a mid slot compared to the Corax means the Talwar needs to choose between a shield tank and a web (which it really needs to apply its full rocket damage, particularly because it doesn't have the Corax's explosion velocity bonus). Shield fits will still be common, but you'll probably find it's a less effective brawler than its Caldari cousin. Surprisingly, it actually does better in the light missile department (the opposite way round to the situation with the missile frigates). With one less mid slot to fill and an extra low for a co-processor, the Talwar is easier to fit and more likely to squeeze on a second BCS. Damage application is weaker without the Corax's bonus, but the Talwar's higher speed makes it a natural kiter. In addition to that, its signature radius bonus (which is identical to that of an interceptor) should make it considerably more survivable when flying at range in a gang situation - it still has the sig of a cruiser, but much better than having the sig of a battleship (which is what the Corax gets).

Algos - Perhaps the most anticipated of the new destroyers, the Algos is designed like a larger version of the new Tristan - lots of drones, and a tracking bonus to encourage rails. Probably the most interesting thing is its drone MWD speed bonus; to put that in context, warriors from a perfectly skilled Algos travel at almost 8km/s and valkyries do about 4km/s. It remains to be seen of course whether this helps it take out fast frigates - in my experience the problem was never the drones' MWD speed, but the way that they stop MWDing once they get into range. 35mbit/s of bandwidth of 60m3 of drone bay means most Algos fits will probably have a flight of warriors for anti-frigate duty, and a mix of lights and mediums for dps. Despite being designed ostensibly as a rail ship, the blaster Algos is competitive with the best of them - not quite a match for the Catalyst, but it comfortably out-damages all the rest. I expect we'll see plenty of those. The rail Algos is strong too of course, with potentially the best damage at range of all the destroyers (if you discount the drone travel time). Like the other kiting setups it's quite difficult to fit, so it's hard to say what they typical fit will look like.

Dragoon - This is probably the most interesting ship in the expansion, although I can't decide whether it's actually any good. It's sort of a mini Curse, except its bonus is just to the range of neuts not to the amount they drain. It can neut out to around 13km, which effectively means any close or mid ranged frigates are dead in the water within about 20 seconds (assuming 3 neuts, which looks to be what it's designed to carry). However since the bonus is only to range, the Dragoon isn't really that useful for neuting larger targets. It also doesn't have a spare mid for a cap booster unless you're using someone else to tackle, meaning its neuting power is constrained by its own capacitor (particularly if you're using cap heavy mods like pulse lasers, a MWD, or a warp disruptor). With 25mbit/s of drone bandwidth, the Dragoon's damage output is substantially lower than the Algos' (although if the Algos uses a flight of lights and isn't using blasters, it's about the same) - better than the Talwar/Corax, but less than that of the other destroyers. If you tank it too much the damage output seems to drop heavily, so I think we'll probably see them fairly fragile with plenty of drone damage mods, similar to the current Coercer. In all, I think the Dragoon will accomplish broadly the same thing as the other destroyers (slaughtering frigates), but just do it in a different way. Since it could really do with a cap booster to keep everything running, this is probably a ship which will shine much more in a small gang environment than it will solo.

Summary:  Four interesting ships, although the Talwar and Corax are a little similar. I'm very interested to see how these get used, particularly the drone ships which are really new territory. On the face of it I think the Algos takes the prize for best in class, although performance in the field remains to be seen.


  1. I think this part at the end of the first paragraph: (I can have a reasonable guess, I've never been a fan of going off theory alone) needs a ", but" to be a complete and proper sentence.

    Thanks for your opinions, seems they've gone a very good job in a pretty short timeframe. (which is good, as lots of balancing is still to come)

    1. I wasn't aware this was an english paper.

    2. To be fair, some of the stuff this blog may as well be!

      Thanks for the spot.

  2. Very good article.


  3. Been flying the Breacher so far and can't get enough of it. With the slight weakness of low raw damage output its speed and tank make it far greater than the Rifter, throw in its ability to vary its fit (asb and web, dual masb, asb and shield extender, rockets or missiles) just adds to the fun.

    I wait for your full review with bated breath.

    1. Agreed. Having flown Breachers, I can vouch for their performance. The 3/4/3 slot layout lent this ship flexibility. With one propulsion upgrade mod, it also has better range dictation capability than the Rifter. And it even does more damage than the Rifter and the Slasher, if using rockets at ranges below 10km. And even better, this DPS is constant and unaffected by tracking or falloff.


  4. Bantam - Aside from the slot layout, works more like a Scimitar than a Basilisk (no cap transfers). Difficult to get any more tank on it than the Burst due to the cap requirement of invulns, although you can do it if you go cap boosted. Probably the weakest of the set, but there's not much in it.

    Are you joking?
    [Bantam, New Setup 1]
    Damage Control II
    Nanofiber Internal Structure II

    Limited 1MN MicroWarpdrive I
    Small Electrochemical Capacitor Booster I, Navy Cap Booster 400
    Medium F-S9 Regolith Shield Induction
    Adaptive Invulnerability Field II

    Gistii C-Type Small Shield Transporter
    Gistii C-Type Small Shield Transporter
    Gistii C-Type Small Shield Transporter

    Small Ancillary Current Router I
    Small Core Defense Field Extender I
    Small Core Defense Field Extender I

    1. Maybe I was a bit too dismissive of it, I went though the logi frigs fairly quickly. I'll take another look at it.

  5. Won't the MWD bonus on the drone dessies cause the drones to overshoot their targets more often? I've seen this problem in the past. The drones only seem to have two speed settings: max speed with MWD on, and max speed with MWD off.

  6. Flew a Talwar properly for the first time yesterday.

    Survived everything, into low structure several times, nice ship when you have to bounce (gtfo) although the agility is surprisingly bad. Good range selection (out to 24km with Javelins and a range rig) but damage is pretty anaemic.

    Oh and you DO have to remember to keep the mwd on as much as possible which sort of goes against the grain. With the mwd on then even Vagabonds struggle to hit you - most of the damage I took was from Warriors. With the mwd off then you're just another dessie to kite and pop.

    I like the ship, don't like the agility or dps but its a nice small gang ship.



The Altruist is the Eve Online blog of Azual Skoll, PVP instructor and small gang PVPer.

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