Wednesday, December 14, 2016

My Favorite Solo PVP Ships/Fits for Null over the Past Year - Assault Frigs, E-WAR Frigs, and Navy Cruisers

This post is a bit late--it covers many ships I flew solo during the glorious days of the Querious fight club (RIP), pre-WWB, and shortly after. However, my past year (or two) of solo PVP in null has amounted to some of the most fun I've ever had in EVE or any game for that matter. Many of the ships I've flown over the past year in null sec for solo PVP are usually considered off-meta, if not out-right broken, such as assault frigates. My experiences with assault frigate solo PVP over the past year has been largely positive--they get a ton of fights and can hold their own against most comparable ship classes minus the pre-nerf Svipul.

On my quest to solo PVP in every non-industrial ship, this past year I finally tackled navy cruisers, assault frigates, and the new navy EWAR frigates. They each have their strengths and weaknesses in the current meta and in solo PVP in general, but navy cruisers are as close to the most versatile and affordable ships for solo PVP (and available for Alpha clones as well). I was lucky enough to find tons of navy cruiser versus navy cruiser 1v1s, such as this nail-bitter:

This was an amazing fight in a hull tanked ENI versus a Zarvox fit SFI, with a blue pill running (as confirmed by the pilot later). The main fit I like for the ENI is a dual medium armor rep, for the decent sustain potential. The plated version and the hull tank version lack sustain in a fight but do a ton of DPS. (Then again, against a blob, having some buffer plus 800+ DPS is exactly what you need to kill something before you die.) The SFI has range control against almost any ship in a 1v1, but at the very end of the fight I managed to pulse my MWD out from 10km and secure a few wrecking shots that ended up winning me the fight. Had the fight started and ended at better ranges for the SFI, a hull tanked ENI stands little chance!

Crispy means a job well-done
Overall, my scoreboard for navy cruisers includes some of my favorite fights in 5 years of EVE, and I am for sure not done flying these ships.

Navy Faction Cruisers (8/8):

Vexor Navy Issue vs. Exequror + Exequror RR Duo
vs. Cerberus
vs. Ishtar
vs. Hawk + Crow + Vexor + Svipul
Exequror Navy Issue vs. Scythe Fleet Issue

Augoror Navy Issue vs. Stabber Fleet Issue
vs. Caracal + Vexor + Onyx
Omen Navy Issue vs. Sabre
~~need more here!~~
Stabber Fleet Issue vs. Svipul + Hookbill

Scythe Fleet Issue vs. Stabber Fleet Issue
vs. Svipul

Caracal Navy Issue vs. Vexor Navy Issue

Osprey Navy Issue vs. Raven
vs. Jackdaw

at about middle age

Oh this Vexor. What a ship. What luck. I've flown the Vexor a few dozen times over the past two years but sometimes avoid it since it will scare away some fights. The average Svipul pilot, in my experience, will readily engage a rupture (and the latter, if fit right, will kill it) and other T1 cruisers, but not usually a Vexor, for instance. And there's few things I like more than killing Svipuls (pre-nerf and post-nerf still), so I hate to scare them off. The Vexor continues to be an incredible ship for solo PVP in both LS and NS, with a variety of possible fits, but because it is commonly viewed as a strong ship it can struggle to find decent fights. I had a few fits I wanted to try out in null sec specifically, so in between navy cruiser losses I flew some T1 versions.

This was a slightly uncommon Vexor fit as well, with dual medium armor reps instead of one plus an ancillary MAR, giving it slightly more sustain in longer fights. (It's EVE though: how often do you get a long drawn out 1v1 or 1v2-5 as opposed to a 1 versus blob where an ancillary rep might at least give you the time to kill something?) Yet this Vexor seemed unkillable even when I tried to kill it.

In addition to a few odd T3D kills, I agreed to a 1v1 against a Dramiel. I was surprised he wanted to fight my Vexor (and he was surprised I had neuts), so when I won I agreed to fight something bigger. He brought out a Vagabond (note: he was shooting Phased Plasma, which may seem like a mistake, but I had a tech 2 explosive rig that gave me the same explosive armor resist as thermal/kin). The quick math I did in my head suggested that if he is XLASB fit I will just barely be able to tank his gun DPS with both reps overheating, and somehow I ended up winning (and maybe what is more surprising is that I did not burn out my reps).

My playstyle when solo is that I can be a touch risk average when I first fly a ship or undock for a roam. Getting that "first kill" of the night is a big psychological barrier for me, and sometimes I feel like I'll never get another kill again when in the midst of a drought. I know if I bring out a ship 3 times and die to 3 consecutive blobs I'm going to be "tilted." So, in this case, having secured a few good kills in this Vexor I was ready to throw it at anything lockable.

In the next fight I roamed to F-I-N-K's former space in Querious and tackled a Skiff. A Skiff alone can match the light drone DPS of a Mrymidon, with the buffer of a battleship. To defend it comes two Caracals, and I decide to let the Skiff go just in hopes of winning a 1v2. As I'm fighting, a griffin lands but fails its ECM cycle--the kind of luck I rarely get! I can barely tank the damage of this one RLML and plus a HAM Caracal and I bleed into structure before killing the first one. The RLML one goes into reload and gives me a window to repair armor to full and kill it. Something strange then happened during the middle of this brawl: the Skiff comes back. It's drone DPS really hurts but the Caracals are dead and my drones are popping the Griffin. All said, Caracal + Caracal + Skiff + Griffin, not bad by my standards.

The final fight I have goes even better, and would probably be in my favorite 5 fights of all time. I roam to BX2- where Brave had a medium sized corp. They bring a pretty rough group consisting of some tackle, a Caracal, Cynabal, and an arty Mael, but at this point I will fight anything. I manage to pop the tackle Firetail, Caracal, and and Svipul at the sun, freeing me of tackle, but I am getting pounded by both an arty Mael 80km off and an arty Cynabal. I yolo into the Cynabal and get into a close orbit. My drones are dying which is bad news for this fit since it only uses light neutrons in the top rack, but somehow the Cynabal goes down too. I still get the shakes when PVPing and at this point my nerves are shot, but at the gate waiting for me is like the final boss for this Vexor, a Gila.

Such a close fight! Meanwhile my PVE alt was in system ready to do a relic site when I died - no poors!
This was the final fight of probably my best performing single ship in 5 years. I had already lost a ton of cap boosters and drones due to fighting a Cynabal while under arty Mael fire, leaving me with light drones and less than 10 cap boosters to fight this Gila. An impossible fight anyway, but I promised if they fought me at the sun I would not leave system until I died. I had the Gila in structure as you can see from the screenshot, but two things happened at the same time: fraps ran out of disk space, causing my computer to severely lag, and my damage control burned out, reducing my tank severely (and this was just before the passive DCU change--had I had the base 33% resist hull bonus this fight would have been even closer). With all my drones dead, no cap charges left, and just small turrets to fight the Gila, it was a battle against time before I died to the Gila's overwheling DPS. But damn what a fight and what a lucky ship that got me so many great fights! RIP Vexor.

During my time in Querious CCP released navy e-war frigates, a class that turned out to be some of my favorite ships at the level of the frigate menace, even for null sec solo PVP.

The Vigil Fleet Issue is probably my favorite frigate level ship at the moment. With rockets it can do over 200 DPS. Tank runs either a republic fleet MSE for buffer (the easy version of the ship to fly), or a split MASB/SAAR fit like its Breacher cousin. The former is easier to fly while the latter gives more sustain in 1v1 fights (as rare as they are) but the latter is also paper thin and requires better piloting.

Here are some highlights from flying them in null:

Maulus Navy Issue vs. Hawk

Griffin Navy Issue vs. Coercer

Vigil Fleet Issue vs. Republic Fleet Firetail
vs. Sabre
Crucifier Navy Issue vs. Vexor Navy Issue
vs. Taranis

Finally, there's assault frigates. By reddit "CCPLS" thread count alone they are surely the class players think are most in need of a balance pass, but I (mostly) disagree. The major problem with assault frigates was that T3Ds--and the Svipul in particular--did everything assault frigates did only 2x-3x better. However, flying assault frigates successfully simply required not fighting Svipuls! And flying them extremely well requires paying close attention to their tech 2 resist bonuses. Assault frigates are best when matched up with over-confident frigates and destroyers especially when they cannot avoid shooting into your tech 2 resist profile.

And now with the fantastic nerf to T3D versatility, assault frigates are an incredibly strong and under-rated class of ship that pack a lot of damage and a lot of tank--if being a bit too slow. (A 10% buff to assault frigate base speed, in my opinion, is the only balance change they need to be in an ideal but not OP place.)

Perhaps most importantly for solo PVP, assault frigates are widely seen as engageable (because widely seen as weak). This means they will often get tons of fights, and tons of fights you can easily win.

The "Blarpy" (a blaster fit MSE Harpy) got a hidden buff with the change to shield extenders and buff to faction MSEs, giving it a bit more tank along with its nice amount of DPS and making the Blarpy an ever more awesome ship to fly for go-crazy-brawling. It is a great ship to fly when, say, inebriated, as it requires only a few button clicks and a ton of (over)-confidence!

Harpy vs. Jackdaw
vs. Cynabal

The Ishkur is a rare ship in null sec, especially solo. With very low speed and no tank bonus it seems an easy target. Until it scrams you or puts its drones on you, and you realize you are an EM based ship like a Confessor and are completely screwed! The Ishkur is perfect for taking down over-confident kiting Confessors that get too close, or small frigate gangs that primarily shoot EM or Thermal.

Ishkur vs. Myrmidon

The Wolf is a perfect example of CCP's occasionally short-sighted balancing: The Svipul was released as essentially a Wolf that goes at least 50% faster, with at least 50% more damage, and at least 50-100% more tank, plus having a similar range. However, this does not mean the Wolf is a terrible ship, especially now that the Svipul is in a healthier place. The Wolf proved to be one of my favorite ships in Querious for solo PVP due to the fact that it was considered trash, and that its resist profile perfectly matched the NPC damage types in the region, making it great for killing unwary ratters, such as this VNI, as well as this VNI.

No one, to my knowledge, flew the Wolf more effectively during this time than the great solo PVPer Quinten Sarn, and I emulated some of his fits and tactics, such as his resist and sustain-heavy Wolf that is perfect for surprising the stock VNI ratters. However, I also flew the arty Wolf, an extremely rare sight in null sec, and it decent. Not good, but decent enough to win small skirmishes with frigates and destroyers.

Wolf vs. Atron + Kestrel + Corax
vs. Ishkur

I had good fights in all of the other assault frigates as well. They are a ship class that is off-meta but underestimated, and as a result they attract more fights than most other ship classes when flying solo.

Eve online is a game that is fundamentally balanced against solo play, and solo PVP in particular. Solo PVP in EVE Online is like trying to go solo in League of Legends--good luck defending all lanes, etc. Only the best--or, in my case, the most masochistic--can stomach it. And let's be honest: solo PVP in EVE is not somehow about being better than other players (though that certainly helps), but about a dedication to flying your own ship against all odds.

However, it is possible to fight the good fight (by sheer resilience), and that's what makes solo PVP in EVE so rewarding. You will die a lot, and you will struggle to find decent fights, but you will also get amazing fights where you win against all odds, 1 against 1 ship that out classes you, or 1 against 2, or one against 3, or one against 20 where you take out 5 before you die. After almost 6 years in game, it is still the most compelling reason I have to continue playing.