March 29, 2012

What Is a PvP Fit?

When getting into combat against other capsuleers, a lot of newbies ask the simple question of "how do I fit a ship for PvP?". They are often answered with specific fits which, while often good, are not usually accompanied by reasoning of why that fit is more appropriate than the mission ship the newbie was using already. So... let's tackle that.
Get it?

How is inter-capsuleer combat different from missioning/ratting/etc?

Duration of combat. Capsuleer battles are short, violent, and visceral. Don't expect them to last more than a minute or so tops, especially if the battle is between few ships. As such, the fitting needs to keep this in mind.

No easy escape. Capsuleers can run away from fights that go sideways. Nobody likes their target getting away, so always maintain point on it -- whether from your ship, or that of a friend, or both. Personally, my opponent not fitting a point actually encourages me to warp away and mock him about his combat ineptitude. Don't be that person who forgets the point.

Range control. Keeping range or closing distance can be the difference between an easy-as-cake kill, and an embarrassing loss. As such, speed and agility are important, as is knowing how your guns/missiles work and at what ranges/speeds they do or don't.

I'm hunting wabbits. If you are going into combat with the awareness of your target and without a trick up your own sleeve, you are about to die. Treat it like you're a predator stalking prey. Prey that might have teeth.

Charlie Foxtrot. Nothing ever goes according to plan. Deal with it.

That's right.
So, what do I fit?

Tank. One of the most different things between encounters with capsuleers and non-capsuleers is how you handle the "not dying" part. Normally, because of the duration of (for example) cleaning out an asteroid belt of Angel Cartel ships, there is an emphasis on having an active tank (using one or more armor repairers or shield boosters) to survive the whole time. The strength of the active tank comes from the fact it can be kept active for a long time, generating a potentially infinite amount of hit points for your enemy to chew through.

That does not usually work against capsuleers. As mentioned before, capsuleer fights are very short. There's no sense having a shield booster that will give you a total boost of 500 HP throughout a fight, when you could fit a shield extender that gives you a flat 1000 HP. If it's a very long fight, the shield booster will eventually end up being better, but that is usually not the case. This is why a buffer tank is an easy go-to choice for fighting other podders. That means:

  • Armor plating
  • Armor resistance enhancers (energized plating, etc)
  • Shield extenders
  • Invulnerability fields
  • Damage control

And not:

  • Armor repairers
  • Shield boosters (or shield boost amplifiers, etc)
  • Shield rechargers (or shield power relays, etc)
UPDATE: With the introduction of ancillary armor repairers and shield boosters, I should mention that these are fine to use as an equivalent to a buffer tank. Their burst repair is high enough that they will keep you alive until they run out of charges.

Am I doing tank right?
Gank. Being able to not die is not the only thing important in a fight. You also need to be able to kill. Do not skimp on damage.

A big difference with capsuleer fights is that many of them happen up close. Remember those autocannons, blasters, pulse lasers, and rockets that you dumped in favor of longer range munitions for missioning? Time to go back to it, because it does more damage.

Of course, you can fight from range as well, but that requires even more range control. Figure out what range you are best at (or what range your opponent is worst at that you can still operate in), and try to maintain it in the fight. Of course, for that you will need...

Speed. Very few good combat ships sport no afterburner or microwarpdrive. Take your pick (or take both), but don't take none.

The afterburner gives you roughly a 2x speed boost, and uses relatively little capacitor. The microwarpdrive gives you a much greater speed boost (5x) but it also:

  • Consumes a lot of capacitor power
  • Gets shut off if someone activates a warp scrambler (not a warp disruptor) on you
  • Bloats your ship's signature radius, making it much easier to hit.
  • Can cause tracking problems for you because of the crazy speed.
If speed and agility is really important, don't hesitate to use Nanofiber Internal Structures or Overdrive Injector Systems.

"Did someone say speed?" -- Slicer
Tackle. The first step of combat is catching the target. Get a warp scrambler or a warp disruptor, depending on which one you need for the particular fight, and possibly a stasis webifier (to slow the enemy down).

If you're in a bigger fleet, your role as a newbie might actually be suicide tackle, which means that this part of your ship more important than your gank.

Suicide tackle Rifter, go!
So there you have it: basic combat fitting theory. Now that you know what sorts of stuff a combat ship should have equipped, get one, go forth and shoot things!

Disclaimer (OOC, @bittervets): The fitting advice here is meant for newbies who are just dipping into PvP. Electronic warfare, skirmish vs brawling, remote rep, active tanked PvP, and other such things are put in the backseat in favor of giving a clearer view to newbies. 

March 9, 2012

Fit a Damage Control Today!

Let me tell you about this neat module called the damage control.

Also known as "the briefcase" or DCU, it is an extremely important module for all your ships. In fact, repeat after me:
"I will always fit a Damage Control unless I have a very compelling good reason not to."
 Try it. Good. Now go practice it.

But why?

Good question. Let's look at what a Damage Control I does:

  • 7.5% shield resistance bonus to all damage types (12.5% with T2)
  • 10% armor resistance bonus to all damage types (15% with T2)
  • 50% hull resistance bonus to all damage types (60% with T2)
Now, you might be thinking to yourself:
"Hull tanking is useless, and an Invulnerability Field (25% T1, 30% T2) for shield tanking or an Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane (15% T1, 20% T2) is a far better use of my ship's precious CPU."
While that is true for strictly armor or shield tanking, there are many reasons why you should bring a briefcase over another resist module.

Stacking Penalty. You get less and less effectiveness out of redundant modules on your ship. By the time you fit a third EANM, it only gives you 11.4% bonus to resistances. The damage control modules do not take this penalty when combined with resist modules. That means that even though you get that little from a third EANM, you would still get 15 from a DCU. It's less vital for shield tanks as the bonus is smaller, but still nice to have a low slot tanking module for your shields.

Edit: As crazyike on Reddit points out, the DCU is also the only low slot module that raises shield resistances -- and without stacking penalty at that.

Prophecy - DCU Required
You Are Gallente. Or rather, flying a Gallente ship. I had a previous blog post about what tank is appropriate for what ship, and pointed out that on almost all Gallente ships, the default shield/armor/structure balance gives the highest buffer in structure. While structure tanking as a tactic in and of itself is silly, on Gallente ships the Damage Control boosts your durability by a LOT.

By default, an Incursus has 1.68k EHP. With a 200mm plate, it has 2.65k EHP, but you use up a bunch of your powergrid that would better go towards blasters. With a DCU II, it has 2.57k EHP -- not that much less. And if you want to be tanky and fit both, you get 3.71k EHP. Compare that with the 3.2k EHP you would get out of fitting a 200mm plate and an Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II.

That extra bit of tank helps you be that much more effective as you have less of a chance to instantly splat.

Hull tanking like a boss
Close Fights. It's the way our psyches work. If you get to the end of your tank (be it hitting armor when you are shield tanked, or hitting low armor when you are armor tanked), you make one last effort to win or escape. When you do not have a DCU fit, that effort is almost always simply futile -- you die much too fast.

Ever been in a fight that you lost by a hair? How would you like to have won that fight with 20% structure left? Fit a DCU.

When is it OK to not fit one?

Long answer? Very fast ships that can easily escape when the fight goes south often don't fit a DCU. The most popular fits for the Vagabond and Slicer do not include a DCU. Heavily shield tanked ships often also forgo a DCU for a Power Diagnostics System or for a Shield Power Relay. I'm looking at you, Drake pilots.

Short answer? If  you have to ask, then you  should fit one.

It's hot drop o'clock. Do you know where your DCU is?

Update: And for some practical proof...

... I give you my Jaguar:

21% structure integrity, getting away from a failed salvage operation. Had that DCU not been there, I would have been lacking a Jaguar. Fit your DCU today!

March 4, 2012

How Not To Be Dead (Lowsec Edition)

So, Rifterlings has just come under a war declaration from a corp called "dresi Corp". They claim the reason for doing so is wanting to eat our souls, and getting revenge on us for can-flipping their "sister mining corp" (which I am pretty sure we didn't do, but whatever). Anyway, as most people in the corp are newbies, I was going to write a corp email with instructions on how not to give the aggressors easy kills, but decided instead to  make this a public blog, for all you lowsec dwellers who want to not be caught dead.

There are several things you can do to not die. The first is...

Not Being Seen

Pretty self-explanatory. The easiest way to not be killed is to not log on or not undock. However, this is boring and there is not much I can do to explain it. So, on to...

Insta-warp Points

An insta-warp point (or an "insta" for short) is a bookmark located directly in front of the undock. They are useful for avoiding station-camps. But how?

Warping away requires two things:

  • Your ship is pointing in the right direction.
  • You are going at least at 75% of your max speed
.When you hit the "warp" button, your ship attempts to remedy both of these, and what results is a time in which you are "aligning". If you have a safe spot aligned right in front of you on the undock, then the first condition is already satisfied. Undocking launches you out at your max speed, so the second one is satisfied too. These being pre-satisfied result in... an insta-warp! This screws over anyone station camping you.

Unfortunately, instas require preparation in the form of actually going out and creating said bookmark. To do that, just undock in a fast ship during a safe time (not being station camped) and use a microwarpdrive to burn out 200+ km out, then make a bookmark. Make sure to test it a few times -- the angle of the undock varies. If the spot fails on even one of the tests, you need to re-make it or adjust it to ensure safety.

For those in Rifterlings who are reading this, insta bookmarks are provided in the corp bookmarks for popular stations we use. As we might well be now (or later) infiltrated by a spy, enemies could have copies of these bookmarks, so do not wholly rely on them. Make your personal ones for maximum safety.

Cloak-Microwarpdrive Trick

Just as instas are the solution to station camps, the cloak-MWD trick is the solution to gate camps. However, it can be countered if they have fast enough and skilled enough tacklers, plus it requires a T2 cloak. I have already written another blog post on that, though, so go read it instead. To supplement that post, have a video of someone from Morsus Mihi demonstrating this tactic:

Safe Spots

They can't kill you if they can't find you. A safe spot is a bookmark of a spot that is not at any warp-able spot in a solar system. You can make one by hitting the Create Bookmark button while you are in the middle of a warp. You can then warp to that bookmark and be really hard to find.

The only way that your would-be killers can catch you is by probing you down. Even that can be made extremely difficult for them if you continually warp between safe spots, making more safe spots as you go, and trashing old ones.

Alternatively, you could cloak and go get a snack for maximum infuriation!
Can't catch me now!

Flying a Rifter around is all fine and good when you can jump into any system with impunity, and even if you get killed by a camp, you only lose 500k ISK. However, fly anything that is not practically free and you start seeing the value of scouts. Sending someone ahead (even an alt) in a really cheap frigate is invaluable to the health of bigger ships. Interceptors also work really well, as they often cannot be easily killed by gate camps.

Listening to Your FC

When the guy leading your fleet says "align only" or "don't jump yet", he isn't saying it out of a desire for power or control (usually). He is saying it because if you did the alternative, something bad would happen. Targets could get away, or someone could lose their ship. Everyone might even lose their ship as the result. Everyone hates someone who doesn't follow orders.

Don't be the guy who makes your FC do that. Just don't.

Common Sense

There are a surprising amount of people who do not apply common sense to war situations. What does war mean? It means that there is a select group of people out there who want to kill you and can kill you absolutely anywhere with no CONCORD consequences. That means:

  • Watch local
  • No mining
  • No running around in industrials
  • Absolutely no feeling safe in hisec. Period.

The Bottom Line

They are paying for a chance for you to kill them. Take advantage of it by killing them, and by not dying yourself.