September 11, 2013

Autocannons 101: There Are Never Enough Bullets

It is commonly said that "flying Minmatar ships is like riding a wheelchair down a staircase while wildly firing two Uzis and screaming." Artillery lacks the rate of fire for this to nearly apply to it, so it must be talking about autocannons instead.


Autocannons are the short range variant of projectile weaponry. Unlike Minmatar artillery, autocannons consume far more ammunition, and do not require immobile, bigger, or otherwise easy to hit targets. They are very easy to use, flexible, yet not lacking complexity. Let's look at some basics:

Pros

Very long falloff range. When comparing the falloff range of the various kinds of short range weapons, autocannons easily come out on top. This gives them a large engagement envelope; they will continue doing damage (albeit little) far past the range of comparable weapon systems.

"Magical" awesome ammo. As projectile weapons, autocannons get to take advantage of a variety of ammo types to best adapt to the current situation. 

No capacitor usage. This is especially important for short range weapons, as it means your damage will continue even if your capacitor is dry.

Very easy to fit. The powergrid and CPU draw of autocannons is very low. Some non-Minmatar ships actually even sometimes opt to equip autocannons as supplementary weapons because of this.

Republic Fleet Firetail

Cons


Very short optimal range. This means that autocannons will almost never do their full "paper" theoretical damage; it will always be reduced because of firing beyond the optimal range. Since long range autocannon ammo only bonuses optimal range (not falloff), using it gains almost no range while sacrificing a ton of damage. Never use medium/long range ammo in autocannons!

Low damage. Not only does autocannon theoretical damage get reduced by falloff, but it is also lower than that of blasters and pulse lasers to begin with.

Knowledge/luck dependent. In order to make up for the damage reductions from above, the pilot needs to be able to properly identify what the correct ammo is to use in the situation. If you pick wrong -- you're dead. Pick right, though, and the damage is great.


Barrage


A big selling point of autocannons is one of the ammo types only usable on T2 guns: Barrage. This ammo is the only projectile ammo type that bonuses falloff range (by a hefty bit). This means that autocannons can use it to stretch out their range even farther. 

Barrage is specialized ammo, though, so it has some downsides. While using it, your guns will track more poorly, and do less damage than shorter range ammo would. Barrage also only comes in a single damage profile: mainly explosive. This makes it a difficult sell against shield tanked ships, or Amarr T2 ships. Ironically, it's best suited to fight Minmatar T2 ships.

The Vagabond is well known for having falloff of 30-35 km or more for its autocannons.

Where do I start?

The Rifter! Or... the Slasher and Thrasher. 

Truth is, autocannons are used successfully on almost every Minmatar ship capable of fitting turrets, so you have a lot of options. The most straightforward one I've found (and the one which is apparently easiest to jump right into) is to just use the Thrasher with a fit like this one. The tracking and damage bonuses that the Thrasher provides to its guns are great for turning the rack of seven autocannons into a ship grinder. The fit is pretty straightforward: lots of guns, some tank, and a little bit of ability to hold things down via a warp scrambler and an energy neutralizer.

One small note, though. All frigate-sized autocannon-toting ships (Rifter, Slasher, Thrasher, Republic Fleet Firetail, Dramiel) have tracking bonuses for projectile weaponry. Very few larger ships have those kinds of bonuses. While frigate autocannons will almost always hit (a reason they deal with drones very well), larger ones may not. 

It's not pretty, but the Slasher means serious business.

What's next?

Practice, practice, practice. Because of their inherent lower damage, they tend to require more manual piloting, tricky tricks, and luck. Ammo takes a long time to swap (10 seconds), so the right choice is critical. During the fight, the large engagement envelope allows you to "fire and forget" the autocannons, producing the full-automatic "firing two Uzis while screaming" effect. This actually allows you to do more manual piloting and to pay more attention to what's going on, how to sabotage your opponent, and how to reduce incoming damage, rather than worrying about if your guns are hitting.

As you keep learning, try some of these autocannon setups. This is in no way an exhaustive list, as autocannons are extremely common.
  • Brawling Rifter/Slasher: Both of these ships are nimbler, more fragile, and do less damage than their same-class counterparts. However, the low fitting costs of autocannons and the balanced slot layouts allow both of them to bring unpredictable and highly tuned setups (think varying types of tank, electronic warfare, rockets, energy neutralizers, etc)
  • Brawling Thrasher: The Thrasher scales up very well with skills, and becomes a fast, flexible, high damage platform when equipped with autocannons. It can use either a shield tank for speed and damage, or an armor tank to have the extra utility mid slot.
  • Brawling Rupture: The Rupture is a very robust cruiser brawler, which brings a little bit of everything to the table. Can fare quite well both solo and in a gang.
  • Kiting Stabber: The Stabber, like the Vagabond from above, receives a large falloff range bonus. It is also extremely fast for a cruiser. This combination allows it to pull a lot of tricks, pecking away at its targets from range. T2 guns with Barrage are preferred, but it can sort of work with T1 weapons too.
  • Hurricane: Can be fit either as a bigger Rupture, or as a bigger, slower Stabber. The former (heavy armor tank, a lot of point blank damage) works better in my opinion, but a lot of people swear by the latter. 

Good fight!

There's a lot more that I could say about autocannons, but it would probably just devolve into lengthy ranting about weird fits and situations, so I'll stop here. Let me know if there is anything you would like me to address! Good luck out there, and may the ammo types be with you.



8 comments :

  1. Remember kids:

    Hail is fail
    If in doubt, whip Phased Plasma out

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    Replies
    1. Hail is just fine if you're in a frigate fighting armor cruisers ...

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    2. Hail is alright in some situations, only when its VERY clear that tracking is not a problem. But otherwise like that comment said, RF Phased Plasma is the way to go when in doubt :-)

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  2. I love this blog, keep up the great work!

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  3. The price of AC's II's is dropping like crazy atm too. Nice.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The price of AC's II's is dropping like crazy atm too. Nice.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Excellent post, will help a lot of people. Keep it up!

    ReplyDelete