September 17, 2013

Pulse Lasers 101: Pew Pew Pew!


Lasers have often been derided by being nicknamed "flashlights" -- good for looking at pretty things, but useless at doing anything other than illuminating their target. While various recent improvements in laser-toting ships have made lasers more appealing to the general public, they still suffer from the same thing they have always toiled under: a complete lack of understanding of how to best take advantage of them.

In this post, we will be looking at the short range variety of lasers: pulse lasers.



To start with, let's see what they are good at, and what they suck at. Pulse lasers are a very "polar" weapon system, in that their benefits are amazing while their downsides are awful.

Pros

Long optimal range. Pulse lasers have the longest base optimal range of all the short range turrets. This means that, barring tracking problems, they will be applying damage much better than their counterparts.

Little to no ammo concerns. Lasers do not use conventional "ammo". Instead, they use "crystals" which modify their damage, range, and the capacitor usage. T1 crystals can be fired infinite times, while faction and T2 crystals crack after several thousand shots. Unless you're very good at not dying, running out of ammo will never be a concern. Also, you never have to stop firing to reload. How cool is that?

Instant ammo switch. Crystals are similar to "scripts" of other modules, in that they can be swapped out instantly. This allows for great flexibility to adapt to whatever you're currently shooting.

Shields get dunked. Lasers are prefect for taking down shield-tanked ships due to their damage type and good ranged damage application. 


Cons

Poor tracking, especially at short range. Pulse lasers have very poor tracking compared to blasters and autocannons. As such, they have trouble hitting things that move very quickly, or are very close up.

Very little falloff range. Once a target exits a pulse laser's optimal range, the damage very quickly drops from full to zero. Range management is critical for applying full damage.

Vulnerable to tracking disruptors. Tracking disruptors take advantage of both of the above weaknesses. The arrival of a ship equipped with a tracking disruptor is big trouble for someone equipped with pulse lasers.

Vulnerable to capacitor warfare. Lasers eat a ton of capacitor to fire, so an opponent with an energy neutralizer spells trouble.

No damage type selection. Lasers are stuck dealing EM and thermal damage. The ratio between how much of each is dealt can be modified by using different ammo, but lasers simply cannot deal kinetic or explosive damage. This means lasers are poor at dealing with armor ships, and nearly useless against T2 Minmatar ships.

Scorch




Scorch is the wind beneath pulse lasers' wings. It is a T2 ammo type that enormously boosts the weapon's effectiveness. Why? A huge range boost. 

When equipped with Scorch, a laser ship will not only handily out-range its competing weapon systems, but it will also be significantly better at applying damage, as it is still firing at optimal range. Scorch boosts pulse lasers almost to the range of long range weapons (notably artillery and beam lasers), while preserving most of the high tracking and damage of short range weapons. 

Plus, it makes the lasers purple. PURPLE!



Where do I start?

Punisher, or Coercer. These two ships are completely focused on being laser platforms, without much else involved, which makes them perfect for getting used to the odd way lasers work.

The most common mistake people make when flying a laser ship is orbiting the target. With a couple exceptions, you should never, ever, ever orbit your target. Tracking is based on the relative movement of your ships. This means that not only is it harder for you to hit a moving target, but it is also harder for you to hit when you are moving.

This does not mean you should stay still, though. Try to keep as close to your optimal range as possible. Propulsion modules (afterburners and microwarpdrives) are your friends, as are stasis webifiers and warp scramblers. One trick to use to improve tracking when you are having problems is to fly in a straight line away from your target. This forces them to "trail" behind you to catch up, which improves your damage and may mess up theirs. Inattentive pilots who always orbit their targets are particularly vulnerable to this treatment.


Now, some suggested fits... The Punisher is a very hardy frigate because of its armor resistance bonuses, and can be fit as an effective brawler like this. The Coercer is focused more on being a glass cannon with amazing damage application (hence its range and tracking bonuses). Try something like this. Stay near the edge of your optimal range, and let the flashlights illuminate the non-believers.


Where do I go from there?

Laser ships follow one of two philosophies: big, tanky bricks that roast things from relatively short range, and agile, flexible kiters that are infuriating to fight. The "brick" ships you can look forward to are:

  • Tormentor: Similar to the Punisher, but a bit more flexible and skill intensive.
  • Maller: Very sturdy crusier with great damage and tank, but trouble tracking things. Works best with friends.
  • Harbinger: Powerful battlecruiser that will shred anything that gets in its range. Unfortunately, it's a bit slow.
The kiters are a bit more finnicky to fly, and I recommend reading over my magical kiting guide before trying your hand at it. T2 pulse lasers with Scorch are required.
  • Executioner: Very fast short range frigate; commonly found at 7-8 km, laughing at its target.
  • Imperial Navy Slicer: A super-Executioner; more speed, tank, plus a huge range bonus; usually found at 20 km or so, laughing even harder at its target.
  • Retribution: A super-Punisher; yes, it kites, because it has a big range bonus which the Punisher misses; think of it as a very tanky, slower Slicer.
  • Omen: Can be used as a brawler or kiter. Usually preferred over the Maller due to its improved mobility and drone bay, despite the reduced tank.
I could mention the Apocalypse and Abaddon, but... I won't. Bigger is not always better, kids, especially when you don't know how to fly your ship.

Pew pew!

Get out there and try it out! Whether you're a completely new pilot, or someone reaching out to try something new, pulse lasers are always a fun and different experience. They're also great for parties.


Come to the dark side. You know you want to.

11 comments :

  1. that isnt how you fit a punisher bro... active tank and plate is gonna make the punisher even more ineffective than normal.

    A better starting point is the executioner or the tormentor as they aren't held back by 2 mid slots, granting them range control and utility.

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    1. Executioner and Tormentor are more difficult to fly, despite the 3 mid slots. Mismanaging range leads to quick death in both of them. The Tormentor also depends on its drones, which most newbies won't have. The Executioner, on the other hand, runs the risk of breaking its own tracking with its speed if you're not careful.

      The Punisher might not be the all-around best for an experienced player, but for a newbie getting started in laserboats, it's a good starting point.

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  2. Why would you recommend noobs to fly Punishers? Tormentor or even the Executioner is better in every meaningful way for solo PVP/learning PVP. Punisher's only tiny niche is being a durable platform for scramming in fleets, preferablly with logi support.

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    1. How are they better? Tormentor requires drones and is slower, while Executioner breaks its own tracking when not flown right. Both are good in some respects when flown right, but the Punisher's simplicity and hardiness are great for someone trying to get a grasp on basic pew pew.

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    2. 1. 3rd midslot. For a weapon system with terrible tracking, such as lasers, a web is essential.
      2. The extra speed means nothing when you are webbed and the opponent is not. Punisher has no range control.
      3. Tormentor has the same turret DPS as a Punisher. Drones are just extra on top of that.
      4. Extra tank means nothing when all you can do is watch every other frig fly circles around you and die a slow frustrating death.

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    3. 1. In most cases, an afterburner is a good replacement. MWD Punisher sucks for solo because of tracking, but AB does fine.

      2. Only a problem when opponent is both AB and web fit, in which case you probably picked a bad fight.

      3. Tormentor trades a high slot for that, making it very vulnerable to any frigate with a neut. It also has poorer cap regen.

      4. Sigh...

      When I prefaced my whole laser discussion with "they still suffer from the same thing they have always toiled under: a complete lack of understanding of how to best take advantage of them", I chose those words for a good reason. Pure laserboats (like the Punisher and Maller) often get a bad rap for being bricks that "watch every other frig fly circles around them and die a frustrating death".

      In my experience, it is less a problem with the ship sucking or being "niche", and more with the way it is being flown. The Punisher is not a Merlin, and it is not a Rifter. The Maller is not a Rupture. Use them in a way that maximizes their strengths instead of a way that sticks them into a generic "meta" role, and they will do great.

      In some cases it may mean "try to use them with at least 1-2 other people with you" or "don't fit a point" but that's fine. How boring would it be if the same cookie cutter template worked for every ship and weapon type?

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    4. I have to agree with Petrus in his remarks, the Punisher will provide a much better experience to most fledgeling pilots.

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  3. Punisher is a good choice for newbros imho since it is a bit more forgiving compared to other options, at least they won't pop so quick and will have more oppurtunities to learn smtg. Tormentor very skill heavy as mentioned but i still recommend them to players new to pvp business, that web and drones are underrated. Executioner is a mess unless as a pure tackler. Good article.

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  4. And I had a Floyd moment. That is one awesome pic :)

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  5. Great article. I really enjoyed the explanation of the weapon system. I will be looking around to see if you did this for projectiles. If not please do it! The ship section did seem a little weak.

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  6. Finally a good post on how to actually use the punisher!

    Good work mate

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