September 24, 2013

Beam Lasers 101: Space Light Shows

Have you ever seen any mid-combat pictures that look like this?

Yeah, those are beam lasers. They are decidedly the most fabulous weapon system.

On top of making for spectacular-looking space shootouts, beam lasers are quite useful as a long range damage delivery system. Whenever the range of pulse lasers with Scorch is not sufficient, it's time to bring out the beams. Let's look at some of their characteristics:


Great tracking (relatively). Beam lasers have much better tracking than railguns and artillery, the competitors in the "long range turret" section. 

Great DPS. Not only do they track better than railguns and artillery, but beam lasers also do more raw damage. It is comparable to that of autocannons or pulse lasers!

Decent alpha. While they are not quite artillery, beam lasers still fire fairly slowly, and as a result, do their damage in respectably-sized lumps.

Incredible range flexibility. The long optimal range of beam lasers synergizes very well with the rainbow of available laser crystals and the instant switching of laser crystals. Beam lasers can always pick the appropriate crystal for the range their target is at in order to maximize damage.

Taste the rainbow!


Cap usage. Beam lasers are extremely capacitor-hungry. You have to consider your capacitor seriously whenever you plan a beam laser fit.

Fitting requirements. Beam lasers are also a pain and a half to fit. Be prepared to make significant sacrifices to use them.

Limited damage types. All lasers do some combination of EM and thermal damage. As crystals increase in range, though, the proportion shifts heavily toward EM. This means that beam lasers are quite poor against armor tanks.

Competition with Scorch. The long range of pulse lasers using Scorch usually encroaches on the operational range of beam lasers. Usually it comes down to a difference in damage and tracking, but there are some times when it is really just pointless to use beams instead of pulses with Scorch.

Where do I start?

There is no better way to jump into beam lasers than the Coercer. It is decently fast, which lets it do all sorts of tricks with its long range lasers. It also has a tracking bonus, which helps with the "I'm missing all my shots" learning curve.

Try this fit. Here's how an optimal engagement with a short range ship can go. Refer to my kiting guide for the basics of how/why this works.

  1. Load Ultraviolet/Standard/Infrared crystals to start off, depending on your skills.You want about 20 km range.
  2. Get point and start firing at 20 km. 
  3. Have your microwarpdrive on and burn in a straight line away from your target as soon as he decides to fight you. This forces him to chase you, and gives you more time to do damage to him while he's not doing anything to you.
  4. When he gets to 10 km, swap to Multifrequency crystals to maximize damage. Overheat.
  5. If you get scrammed/webbed, continue drifting in the same direction. It will still help your tracking.
  6. Boom! Either he's dead by now, or you're in a brawl with a heavily damaged ship. You probably have a tracking disadvantage, but with some luck, you'll still win.
The fit can be upgraded by switching to Small Focused Beam Lasers, or by fitting T2 guns. Unfortunately it is quite difficult to do so unless you have good fitting skills, but in my opinion it is wholly worth it.

So far as tactics go, something like this works on most beam laser platforms. There are some exceptions (such as AHAC Zealot fleets), but they are advanced enough that they do not belong in a "101" level post.

What's next?

There are a variety of beam-capable ships. Let's take a look at some of them. Some might seem similar to the pulse laser list, but that is simply because pulse laser kiters also usually make great beam laser ships.
  • Retribution, Imperial Navy Slicer: Frigate sized pew-pew boats. Pulse lasers usually make the most sense if you plan to stay within point range (24 km), but outside that they are still great when using beam lasers.
  • Omen, Omen Navy Issue: Fast cruisers with good beam damage and good support from drones. like the Retribution and Slicer, they both work well with pulses and beams (especially the Navy Omen). 
  • Harbinger: I do not have personal experience with the beam Harbinger, but it seems that with proper support (in a fleet), it can become an incredibly powerful, if slow and fat, laser platform. Its damage from 20-30 km rivals that of point blank blasters.
  • Zealot: Amazing long range laser platform. Somewhat slower than the other Omen-type ships, and lacking drones, but it projects damage very, very well. Fly with care; it has no way to deal with frigates that catch it.
  • Oracle: In my experience, the perfect platform for battleship size beams. Fast, with lots of damage. I would only recommend it to experienced pilots, though. It requires a lot of manual piloting to do well.
Also, the Oracle is vertical. That's right.

Beam Laser Peculiarities

Yeah, beam lasers are a little bit weird.

Cruiser-sized Beam Lasers do more damage than Crusier-sized Pulse lasers. Yup. This is only the case with the cruiser variants. Frigate and battleship still lasers follow the "shorter range is more damage" pattern, though.

Quad Light Beam Lasers, a type of cruiser beam lasers, do not deserve their "beam" denomination. They have higher damage, shorter range, and comparable tracking to cruiser pulse lasers. Try them on a brawling cruiser! They're fun!

Pew pew!

That's about it. Go light up the sky!

Oh, and a reminder of something that you really need to know: never mix crystal types. It might make for sweet looking beams, but just don't do it. Why? Glad you asked.


  1. Interesting read. I've always tended to rather uncritically go for pulses I'll have to rethink some of my fits.

    In low sec we see quite a lot of Tormentors and Punishers. Tormentors were rather underpowered in the first step of the frigate revamp but got a subsequent buff that makes them quite strong. I'll have to look into doing a beam T1 fit as we do low sec pvp corp in the FW plexes one day a week in my corp.

    1. Tormentors and Punishers have trouble using beams due to their tracking and the speed of frigates. I have only really had beam laser success when using 10MN afterburners.

      I might have missed something though, so try it out! Let me know if you find anything interesting. Or come kill me with it. That works too.

    2. 10MN Punisher with Beams? Mind sharing a fit, I can only seem to find an art punisher with 10MN ab. I think it sounds awesome.

    3. Try this: My crystal selection would be Gleam, Multifrequency, Standard, and some sort of longer range ammo. The damage is a little anemic, and I'm not super happy to have to use a web instead of a point (but it's necessary to "push" people off you). Still, I nearly 1v2'ed two T2-fit Merlins with it. It probably works better in a gang.

    4. I should say, though, if you plan to stay within 10-11 km, using Small Focused Pulse Lasers is plain better. Just food for thought.

  2. Aside from tachyons, I don't see any reason to use beam lasers over pulse lasers. Scorch is just too good, with many times the tracking of beams, which does make a HUGE difference.

    1. That's why I listed "competition with Scorch" as a downside. When you're within 17-20 km for frigates, 25-30 for cruisers, and 40ish for battleships (60-70 for Apocalypse), Scorch is there to say "hi". However, to hit outside of those ranges on any of those ships, you need beams.

      Additionally, medium beams do more damage than medium pulses, and at longer ranges, assuming you can make them track. They are not as "fire and forget" as Scorch by any measure, but they do have their own niche -- especially after their recent rebalance.

      Once I'm done with a write-up of this sort for all weapons, I probably should write a sort of sum-up post about how to actually take all this info and decide what is most appropriate for any given situation.

      Thanks for the input, though! It really does do well to know that due to Scorch, there are times when beams are simply not useful, a situation that doesn't really happen with other short/long range weapon system pairs.

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