October 18, 2013

Blasters 101: Vaporizing The Competition

Last but not least of the turrets in this blog series, we have the awesome weapon system that is blasters. Hold on to your hats, since this post turned out to be fairly lengthy. Maybe get a snack first.

Blasters do damage. No, really. They are far above all other weapon systems in raw damage output, and have the best tracking out of all turrets. This makes them an excellent choice for a wide variety of situations, and makes them especially attractive to young pilots with few skill points.



However awesome they may be at melting ships though, they have their own downsides. Let's look at blasters' attributes in more detail:

Pros

Amazing damage. Nothing much more to be said here.

Great tracking. Well... in most cases. Small (frigate-sized) blasters are actually out-tracked by autocannons, but that's simply because the two main autocannon frigates (Slasher and Rifter) both have large tracking bonuses, while no blaster frigates have a tracking bonusCorrection: there are plenty of blaster frigates with tracking bonuses. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I typed that.

Ease of use. Blasters are a pretty no-nonsense weapon system. Get in range, fire. Like pulse lasers, you also only have to worry about two ammo types (one if you use T1 guns): Antimatter, and Null. Ed: well, and maybe Void. Read on to the ammo section for more.

Wide applicability. Even though they are technically preferred by the Gallente, blasters make an appearance on both Gallente and Caldari hulls. The optimal range bonus they get from some Caldari ships isn't particularly useful, but does not invalidate the usefulness of having a high-damage shield-tanked ship.

Let's joust!

Cons

Unforgiving fittings. Since the objective of blaster ships is to maximize damage output, you'd think that using the neutron (largest in the class) blasters is a no-brainer. However, they can be very hard to fit, and usually leave their ship lacking tank. Swapping down to electron or ion blasters helps, but it comes at a fairly high price in damage output.

Range. Range range range range range. Blasters have awful range. A day-one pilot cannot expect to hit past 3 km with frigate blasters (and at 50% miss rate, at that), while a perfectly-skilled pilot only pushes that out to 4 km. T2 blasters with Null ammo somewhat help with this, but they do it at the price of damage and tracking. Look for ships with range bonuses to mitigate this.

Difficult range control. Blaster ships tend to be helpless when caught by a ship with superior mobility. In addition, blasters are very vulnerable to optimal range disruption from tracking disruptors. There is no surer way to shut down a blaster ship than to lower its range to completely impossible levels.

Poor in large fleet fights. Large battles tend to spread themselves out over wide areas. Having to move close to every target in order to apply damage wastes a lot of valuable seconds that other weapon systems would be using to apply damage.


Electrons, ions, and neutrons, oh my!

Yes, yes, I keep talking about these different sizes of blasters, and it is extremely confusing. Luckily for you, the naming scheme is actually uniform throughout the ship classes: neutrons are larger than ions, which are larger than electrons. Need a better mnemonic? They're alphabetical!


So, where do I start?

If you like armor, the Incursus. If you like shields, the Merlin. If you just like overwhelming raw damage, the Catalyst. The Incursus and Merlin are both incredibly good brawlers. They both have a bonused to their tank and damage, and are straightforward to fly. The Catalyst doesn't really do tanking (and it's fairly flimsy for a destroyer because of that), but it does do damage that rivals that of some battlecruisers.

For the Incursus, try something like this fit to start with. Some notes about it, though:

  • It may be difficult to fit with low skills. Feel free to remove the armor plate or replace the magnetic field stabilizer with something easier to fit (like an adaptive nano plate)
  • Mind the range. Those might be neutron blasters, but they still don't go out that far.
  • Replace the armor repairer with an ancillary armor repairer if you can. The extra repair is worth it, and fights don't last nearly long enough for the regular armor repairer to overtake the AAR. More words on ancillary tanks in a later post.
  • Never ever forget the damage control. Gallente ships benefit more than most from it.

The Merlin brings to the table very similar features, but in a shield-tanked package. Try something like this. It's a little simpler to fly than the Incursus, due to the lack of active tank. This comes at slightly reduced damage, and higher signature radius (why would I care about that?).

Lastly, the Catalyst... Its fits are very straightforward. However, they tend to also be extremely tight. Luckily, being a destroyer, it gets both optimal and falloff range bonuses, which means that "downgrading" to smaller blasters isn't too big a tragedy. The fit I linked is a sample "optimal" tech-1 glass cannon Catalyst. One alternative that works especially well in fleets is not to use a scrambler/disruptor; just use a stasis webifier instead. Slowing down your targets helps both with people who kite your blasters, and with you getting in range fast to apply that awesome destroyer damage. Just be wary that, due to only having a damage control for tank, that Catalyst is significantly less suited to tanking than almost any other destroyer.



What next?

There are lots of great blaster-centric ships. These are usually either fast, tanky, or both, and their sole objective is to get in the enemy's face and shoot it off. Let's have a look:
  • Atron: Think of a faster, flimsier, and slightly longer range Incursus. Good fast tackle, but also works for solo combat.
  • Enyo/Ishkur: Both of the Gallente assault frigates work great with blasters, along with being very tough nuts to crack. The Enyo is more dedicated to blasters, while the Ishkur uses both blasters and drones.
  • Taranis: Combat interceptor that out-damages most assault frigates. Fairly thin-skinned, but very dangerous against larger ships, or when it's roaming around in a gang.
  • Thorax: Gallente attack cruiser. Very fast, outdamages some battlecruisers, and has a tracking bonus on top of that, making it very dangerous to anyone encountering it. Has to trade a bit of that damage for survivability (if you want it).
  • Moa: Caldari combat cruiser. Extremely tanky, plus sports high damage thanks to its bonused blasters. However, its mid slots have tackle, electronic warfare, and tank competing, and it only has three light drones, making it a non-optimal choice outside of a fleet. Very good, functional bait.
  • Deimos: A T2 super-Thorax. Slightly slower, but tankier, higher damage, and range-bonused. 
  • Brutix/Astarte: The Brutix and its command ship big brother, the Astarte, are the ultimate medium weapon battlecruisers. They're not the tankiest in their class (though the Astarte is not to be underestimated), but in exchange they can reach damage figures that compete with, and sometimes excel, those of battleships.
  • Talos: Essentially a discount Megathron battleship in a battlecruiser-sized package. The Talos has the exact same gun-toting capabilities of the Megathron, but like all attack battlecruisers, it has very weak tank. Unlike the other ABCs though, it features a flight of light drones, which makes it usable at much shorter ranges.


Quite the selection, yes? But wait, I'm not done! There is a selection of ships which are generally considered to be weapon-agnostic. That is, they have working fits with high slots featuring autocannons, missiles, energy neutralizers, nothing, and... you guessed it... blasters!
  • Tristan: The Gallente drone frigate can fit two guns, and it receives a tracking bonus for hybrids, but those fitting resources are often used for something else (like a tougher tank). It can use blasters to good effect to have great overall damage.
  • Vexor/Ishtar: The Tristan's cruiser-sized big brothers. These do more than enough damage just using their drones, but can further enhance it to awesome heights by fitting some (lightly bonused) blasters. 
  • Myrmidon/Prophecy: Yes, that's an Amarr ship there. These two battlecruisers receive no weapon bonuses, so they have a lot of options for what to fit in those high slots. Blasters are a common choice when aiming to maximize damage dealt.

So, since they're so good, can I fit blasters to everything?

No! While yes, your damage figures may be higher, you may be wasting the potential of a ship by slapping blasters on it. Alternatively, there is probably a good reason that blasters are not meant for it. Here are some examples of ships that make me weep bitter tears when I see them equipped with blasters:
  • Cormorant: When using blasters, the Cormorant's optimal range bonuses hardly get used, and it gets relegated to the role of being a slower, lower-damage Catalyst. Use railguns!
  • Ferox: Same deal, it just becomes a crappier Brutix. Railguns railguns railguns!
  • Naga: While it may do slightly more damage on paper than the Talos, it is slower, flimsier, lacks drones, and is missing the tracking bonus, making it overall a poorer choice at short range. Raaaaaailguuuuuuns!
  • Maller: fitting blasters does not gain that much damage, and loses lasers' immense range flexibility. Don't do it!
  • Rifter/Punisher: I think people just do this on purpose to tick me off. I hold personal grudges against anyone who does this.
Does this look like a %@#$ing blaster ship to you?!

Antimatter is king

When picking out ammo for your blaster ship, there is no T1 ammo that makes sense other than Antimatter Charges. All the others progressively do less damage, while increasing optimal range. Since blaster optimal range is very short, scaling it up with ammo is not worth it for  the amount of damage traded for it. It's the same deal as using autocannons with anything but EMP/Phased Plasma/Fusion.


Oh, and keep in mind: the Federation Navy and Caldari Navy variants of hybrid ammo are exactly identical. When buying either, make sure the other isn't cheaper first (unless you're racist, in which case you already know what to do).


If you  have T2 blasters, always make sure to bring a load of Null ammo as well. When you only have Antimatter on you, it is very easy to get kited, or to get shut down by a tracking disruptor. Null extends both optimal and falloff range to a point where you are no longer helpless.

Update: (because I have gotten a complaint about not including this) The last T2 blaster ammo type is Void. Like Conflagration and Hail, it penalizes tracking but increases damage. A lot. Void is generally useful when fighting above your ship class, or in other situations where you are confident you can avoid tracking problems. It also trades off a little bit of falloff range for a little bit of optimal range, meaning that it is easier to get into "point blank" range, but when leaving it the damage drops off much faster.

Moros is also a pretty cool blaster ship... but it's not really a frigate.

Anything else?

Nope! You made it through the wall of text. Or maybe you didn't, and are just looking for a summary here. Well, fine. TL;DR: Blasters are a high-risk, high-reward weapon system that involves running up to your target and shooting it in the face from within arm's reach. Their sound is also closest to "pew pew", so they have that going for them, too.

Tune in next time to hear me rant about drones. Or maybe missiles? I already wrote a sort of missile primer, but it's not quite as exhaustive as the posts in this series. What do you think?

11 comments :

  1. Love me some blasters. Cheers for the primer!

    ReplyDelete
  2. "...while no blaster frigates have a tracking bonus."

    The Tristan, Daredevil (indirectly through web bonus, 90% webs => 180% tracking), Comet, Enyo, Ares and Taranis would like to have a word with you.

    In fact, there's only half of the hybrid weapon based frigate hulls do not have a tracking bonus: Incursus, Ishkur, Atron, Merlin, Harpy and Raptor.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I completely forgot about the Comet, actually. I'll fix things up to include it and to be more accurate on tracking. Thanks!

      (I think I was asleep when I wrote that)

      Delete
  3. You made another huge boo boo: void ammo is extremely common nowadays since it was rebalanced. Especially for up-fighting ship classss.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did mention it, and it being useful when you can "are confident you can avoid tracking problems". I have seen too many people who don't know what they're doing lose fights because they used Void instead of Antimatter, so I do not want to especially encourage it. Some are especially bad, like losing a Harpy to a Slasher.

      Delete
    2. That's usually indicative of a non-tracking problem (ie scrammed MWD frigate vs AB TD and/or neuts), ie out-meta'd.

      Delete
    3. Eh, Void may be common, but that doesn't mean it's not fucking terrible for within class fights. People pretty consistently overestimate the tracking of small guns .At void ranges, angular velocity can get quite high, and it is quite easy to miss frigate sized targets when loading void, even with a web and when not TDed.

      Delete
    4. The initial post on the RSS feed didn't have your "Update" section for Void. ;) I didn't re-read when I came to comment.

      Delete
  4. I've been reading your blogs for a little bit and they've been quite helpful, so thanks for putting these out, I also just realized that a week ago we fought each other in minmatar space,got another lossmail for roby omanid. It was a good fight though :D

    ReplyDelete