Small Gang Tier List — Part 2: Cruisers


Welcome to part two of the ship tier list series: cruisers. You can read Part 1 here. This is a look at the EVE small gang PvP metagame in different areas of space for cruisers.  A lot of the ships here are very similar in power and while one might be at a lower tier it can still get kills versus ships in higher levels. Fitting and piloting skills can shift ships to a higher or lower tier depending on how good you are.

So let’s start by explaining my rating system for this.

Cancer Tier: This ship is really strong and not only completely outclasses ships in the same group or role, but is also meta-defining and oppressive to ships in other roles which it doesn’t belong in.

Borderline: This ship is really strong although not in a completely oppressive way.

Tier 1: These ships are great, they are competitive and have plenty of options against other ships in the same grouping

Tier 2: These ships are good.

Tier 3: These ships are struggling a bit and could use a small push in the right direction, but still are perfectly flyable.

Trash Tier: These ships are bad and usually unflyable. Most of the problems come from bad slot design or being completely outclassed by a much better ship which performs almost identically. The ships to the left are stronger than the ones on the right.

Tech 1 Cruisers

Borderline: Vexor

Tier 1: Caracal, Thorax, Moa

Tier 2: Rupture, Maller, Omen, Arbitrator

Tier 3: Bellicose

Trash Tier: Stabber

Faction Cruisers

Cancer Tier: Orthrus, Gila

Borderline: Vexor Navy Issue

Tier 1: Vigilant, Phantasm, Omen Navy Issue, Augoror Navy Issue

Tier 2: Cynabal, Stratios, Ashimmu, Exequror Navy Issue, Scythe Fleet Issue

Tier 3: Caracal Navy Issue, Stabber Fleet Issue

Trash Tier: Osprey Navy Issue

Tech 2 Cruisers

Borderline: Ishtar

Tier 1: Deimos, Zealot, Cerberus

Tier 2: Vagabond, Sacrilege

Tier 3: Eagle, Muninn


Tech 1 Cruisers

These are probably the most popular ships in EVE at the moment. Cruisers are cheap and can dish out a decent amount of DPS while still being fast.

Vexor (Borderline): Super flexible, extreme DPS using drones. This ship is almost cancer tier. I have even seen some people running setups using Geckos for even higher DPS. It has the ability to fit a massive tank while still keeping much of its damage. Is also hard to tackle due to light drones and energy neutralizers.

Caracal (Tier 1): This one of the best T1 cruisers for kiting. Despite the weaknesses of rapid light missile launchers due to the reload time, they can still apply good damage providing efficient anti-tackle. Fit with HAMs, this ship can hit out to 30km with a decent amount of DPS due to its missile velocity bonus.

Thorax (Tier 1): Fast, tanky brawl ship or long range rail kiter. Both are really good and capable of dealing a lot of damage. Personally I prefer the rail fit due to the high speed and tracking bonus that the Thorax gets.

Moa (Tier 1): This is probably the best T1 brawler cruiser after the Vexor. Deals around 600 DPS while keeping all its tank. It gets even better with logistics in a small fleet.

Rupture (Tier 2): Despite being a medium autocannon platform, it still deals a decent amount of DPS and has an acceptable tank. I know artillery shield fits were popular a while back, but personally I think that projectiles are a weapon system you brawl with. Smaller things need to beware of dual web armor fits. The neut, dual webs and good tracking autocannons will make fast frigate kebab.

Maller (Tier 2) If you are looking at extreme tank this is the ship to look at. DPS and speed are rather horrible for most of the fits, the tank is the only thing keeping the Maller in this spot.

Omen (Tier 2): The Omen is a decent choice for kiters. It has some really big problems with capacitor and tank though. It gets an A+ for projection, but in general a Caracal or a Thorax are better. Still not to be underestimated however.

Arbitrator (Tier 2): This ship is very similar to the Vexor if you just look at the bonuses, but what makes the Vexor borderline and the Arbitrator Tier 2? For starters, it has much tighter fitting than the Vexor, being almost 300 PG behind on an all V character. I don’t really consider the TD bonus to be that great because of the low speed. It is still Tier 2 because drones are really good and high slot neuts are annoying. Looking weak and getting fights that way also carries some merit.

Bellicose (Tier 3): Technically this is a support cruiser but it has some DPS and speed. Most people fit these as big frigate traps, capable of killing frigs and nothing else. Unfortunately, the Vexor and Caracal can both do this while still being able to fight ships in their own class.

Stabber (Trash Tier): This ship is pretty much a big frigate, unable to fight anything else. It’s supposed to be some type of kiting ship but it doesn’t have the power grid to fit artillery or the range to kite with AC. Horrible DPS, horrible tank and pretty much outclassed by every single other cruiser. Sorry Chessur, it is not a good ship.


Faction Cruisers

Some of the strongest ships in EVE at the moment are in this class. The higher tiered ships here can easily take on multiple opponents or hit bigger ships.

Orthrus (Cancer Tier): This ship has everything a kiting ship wants. It is almost singlehandedly responsible for making rapid light missile launchers a top tier weapon system again after the changes. It is even faster than certain frigate fits and the bonus to point range allows you to counter-scram people coming close to you. The Orthrus is the best anti-tackle ship in the game and can still compete in the DPS and tackle department. Pretty much an Alliance Tournament ship.

Gila (Cancer Tier): Extreme DPS, tank and projection. While not as strong as the Orthrus, it is still more than capable of killing stuff. The DPS is more consistent and it doesn’t have any downtime due to reloading. It uses drones as primary weapon, so high slots are free for missile launchers or energy neutralizers, depending on what you want.

Vexor Navy Issue (Borderline): This ship doesn’t really use guns so you have insane fitting space left, allowing you to run a ton of energy neutralisers or an oversized propmod. The drone bay size isn’t that great though, so you must be careful to avoid losing drones. What’s really insane is Vexor Navy Issues using Geckos. These do the same DPS as heavy drones but track and move like the medium equivalents. CCPls hand out more Geckos…

Vigilant (Tier 1): This ship works as both a kite or a brawl ship, and both shield and armor fits are viable. It deals a ton of DPS if you choose to go brawling and the 90% web ensures that no one is getting away from you anytime soon.

Phantasm (Tier 1): This ship is strange to fly. It is a decent anti-tackle ship that can brawl without having to commit due to the afterburner speed bonus. It has really flexible range and does decent damage. Don’t underestimate small fleets using beams on this ship as well – tracking bonused lasers are really strong.

Omen Navy Issue (Tier 1): I think this is the best cost/performance anti-tackle ship in the game. While it needs a bit of piloting skill, it will reliably remove any frigates that stray within engagement range. Being capable of hitting over 40km with pulses while still dealing around 400 DPS helps a little too. What really makes this ship though is the speed. Hitting almost 4k m/s when heating is insane for a cruiser. One of the few cruisers that compete with the Orthrus in speed.

Augoror Navy Issue (Tier 1): Much slower than the Omen Navy Issue but dual utility high slots combined with the super strong tank make this a really capable brawler. Often underestimated or taken for max tank bait, you can definitely get some good fights with this ship.

Cynabal (Tier 2): I know many people might consider this ship weak and I guess it is true if you compare it to an Orthrus. The Cynabal is fun to fly though, having good speed with excellent projection for an autocannon ship. Everyone should try flying an artillery Cynabal as anti-tackle once because oneshotting frigates or destroyers approaching you is hilarious. The warp speed bonus is a nice thing to have although it is not as obvious as the one that Machariel gets because it is so fast already. Armor tanked fits have risen in popularity recently and they are actually decent.

Stratios (Tier 2): A high tanked drone boat with the added benefits of being cloaky and some random exploration bonuses. The reason this isn’t top tier is that it doesn’t get the drone speed and tracking bonus that the Vexor gets. It also has less drone bandwidth. The tank is really strong and the cloak makes this a decent ship for ambushing krabs.

Ashimmu (Tier 2): This is a hard ship to classify – it might be tier 2 or tier 3. It’s mostly used as long range web support for heavy armor fleets. I have flown a fit similar to a Omen Navy Issue as anti-tackle, and it works really well. The long range web will make sure frigs never reach your DPS core, and anything that somehow manages to get closer will get shredded by your lasers and instantly neuted out.

Exequror Navy Issue (Tier 2): Really mobile and somewhat underrated cruiser that deals good DPS. The blaster fits especially deal insane amounts of damage and rail fits are also nothing to laugh at.

Scythe Fleet Issue (Tier 2): Extreme speed is what makes the Scythe Fleet Issue shine. It can serve as both a heavy tackle ship for larger gangs just sit back and kill stuff with rapid lights. It is very flexible and as an example these are the fits I have saved in EFT: shield RLML, armor buffer autocannon, armor active autocannon, shield autocannon, heavy tackle, 100mn RLML. I don’t think any of the other navy cruisers are this flexible in what they can do.

Caracal Navy Issue (Tier 3): I don’t think this ship is that great for the cost. It is basically a Caracal that doesn’t have cap problems. It trades the range bonus in favour of an application bonus. For rapid lights this is nearly always a bad trade. It can work for Heavy Assault Missile fits and I think this is where the ship shines. It barely has more tank than a Caracal along with some serious fitting issues.

Stabber Fleet Issue (Tier 3): This ship is all about the tank. Don’t even try to run shield fits like some ghetto Vagabond – it won’t work. The DPS is horrible and application is even worse. The funniest thing I have seen is a Stabber Fleet Issue using small neutron blasters instead of medium autocannons, however, it probably applied more DPS with easier fittings…

Osprey Navy Issue (Trash Tier): I don’t know what CCP was thinking with this ship. It deals less damage than a normal Caracal due to the kinetic lock. I guess they thought that this would be a big Hookbill or something. The problem is that it has all these mids and can’t really use them all due to fitting problems. I guess it can serve as a frigate bait. Suitonia wrote a longer post going more in depth here.


Tech 2 Cruisers

These ships have strong capacitor, sensor strength and tank. However, they do require a pretty high SP investment.

Ishtar (Borderline): One of the nice things with the Ishtar at the small gang level is that you don’t tend to encounter a critical mass of them capable of oneshotting cruisers. That doesn’t mean that the ship isn’t strong. It has super high fittings and doesn’t really need guns. Heavy drones are likely to more popular now for smaller gangs, post-nerf.

Deimos (Tier 1): This ship can take a lot of punishment, tanking entire small fleets on occasion. That’s not all the Deimos can do though. Rail fits work and it’s very fast.

Zealot (Tier 1): I am split on whether the Omen Navy Issue or the Zealot is a better anti-tackle ship. The Zealot has more DPS, all of which comes from the guns. It doesn’t have cap problems and is somewhat resistant to EWAR. It is however more expensive, lacks the utility high and drones. I guess it is a personal choice, but both ships are great.

Cerberus (Tier 1): This ship has insane range making it a poor man’s choice over the Orthrus. It is nowhere close to being as good though. The bonuses don’t really work with RLMLs because of it being both kinetic damage locked and having a rate of fire bonus causing you to empty your clip faster. HAM fits are sweet because the Cerberus can then hit to over 90km. It lacks in speed so make sure you start the fight at long range and stay there.

Vagabond (Tier 2): This ship has recently changed from being one of the best kiting cruisers to being more of a brawler. I guess CCP realized that the speed power creep made autocannons pretty bad for kiting. This ship is borderline tier 3. I’m not a fan – it feels like all laser and rail ships can do the job better. You should still watch out because if you get scrammed by a Vagabond and his fleet is in warp range its game over.

Sacrilege (Tier 2): Favourite of top tier lowsec corps such as Balkan Express. It has insane tank so your guardian support wing can save you in a pinch. This ship synergizes to the extreme with logi, links and implants. It is a slow however and is pretty much locked to using HAMs.

Eagle (Tier 3): This ship gets really strong in 0.0 blobs but for smaller gangs it isn’t mobile enough to shine.

Muninn (Tier 3): This ship needs some desperate help. Moving the utility high to a mid slot would be one of the things that could help. Another option would be to swap the Optimal Range bonus to falloff since this synergizes better with projectiles in general and EMP/PP/Fusion ammo specifically.

Tags: cruiser, gorski, pvp

About the author

Gorski Car

Gorski Car was a CSM 9 member whose theorycrafting and knowledge of mechanics has had a key role in helping CCP adjust how we play EVE. He is an avid small gang PvPer with a background in lowsec, but flies in all areas of space, depending on his fancy.

  • Kaal Redrum

    I like this series Gorski, though I suspect it’s low sec biased in its views e.g. The Munnin, I’m told, has nullsec usage as an alpha platform *shrug*

    Otherwise, I’d only say two things:
    – Sacrilege is not ‘Tier2’, sure, it’s not ‘Cancer Tier’, it’s locked to HAMs, but that range bonus allows you to hit to heated/linked web range. Or in small gang solo, the spare mid and the utility high, is awesome in fleet ops. Ask any relevant Low sec pirate Corp, and their armor gangs will likely have Sacs – cap free, DMG selectable weapon system, in gangs the HAM application issue is minimized with all the mids being used for TPs and webs, along with a Med neut or RR in the spare high.

    – Fuck Drone boats, seriously. Vexor-VNI-Ishtar-Gila, every cruiser sub-class, the drone boats reign supreme. Why CCP insists on rewarding this is beyond me.

    • cancermeta

      Agreed, fuck drone boats. Drone boats are pretty much best-in-class across all the ship sizes. Drones need major nerfs sooner rather than later.

    • Do you even nano?

      The only time a Sac can get close enough to use hams/webs is if the enemy rams you. Any “relevent low sec pirate corp” that thinks these are good, think that only because they don’t have to fight any good nano gangs. Ships that are slow and have low range, either get kited to death, or you just leave. They have 0 control over the engagement.

      • lol

        your ‘good nano gang’ almost certainly won’t be able to get any kills. so more likely, one or two of you would get snagged and killed, and then either you run away, or the sacs just sit there tanking and jump out. also 45km jav hams.

  • Andy

    Fireline Muninns still work, it’s just they get crowded out by Ishtars and there aren’t really many popular highly-tankd missile gangs in 2015 so the combination of arty/Firewall isn’t useful.

    Still, comparing the Ishtar (even post nerf) against any other HAC it still utterly dominates, and even post-nerf it was capable of tearing that Nulli lokifleet to shreds.

    • Fatyn

      The title of the series says “Small Gang” tier list, so I’m not sure why you’re making points about fireline Muninns or Nulli loki fleets. Gorski isn’t lowsec biased, he is small gang biased – that’s his area of expertise, so that’s what he’s writing about.

  • SMT008

    Vagabond is tier 3 for sure. Why use it when everything works just so much better ?

    Imo it needs a complete revamp, not just a little wiggle here and there.

    T2 is specialized, Faction/Pirate is more versatile ? Then remove the Vagabonds’ utility high, give him a 5th medslot and some more fitting room.

    You get rid of the hard-to-fit neut and have much more utility with that medslot. Either you get a tracking comp, which helps with damage application issues (frees up a tracking enhancer for an additionnal gyrostab or a nano or whatever), you can get a defensive web, you could also fit for max tank and have a pretty cool 10MN AB scram tanky shield HAC, or go with a dual-prop that actually works.

    That way, you want the old Vagabond with that medium neut ? Get the Cynabal. You want a shield HAC with nice resists and badass guns ? Get the Vaga.

    I dream of that day when the Minmatar Shield HAC gets more medslots than an Harpy.

  • aldsfjdsalkjfhf

    they should just drop the autocannon kiting thing. drop a low for a 5th mid and trade the fallof bonus for tracking. fast brawlers make my dick hard.

    I don’t think the ‘flexibility’ on scythe fleet issue really means a whole lot. the fact that I could be flying any of 20 fits doesn’t actually do me any good. I think they should make it proper split weapons and do it well, or drop the turret bonus for something else (is it just me who sees autocannons as just a shit version of short range missiles).

  • Druik Arbosa

    Hey, I noticed you didn’t include the “support ” cruisers like you did with the support frigs (the sentinels, griffins and the like.

    As a habitual ewar pilot, I would like to know your opinions about them.

  • Bravemount

    About the Cerberus: I was surprised to see that it really can reach 98k range with HAMs. However, at that range you’re better off using HMLs (with caldari navy ammo) with 2 rigors instead of the range rigs. You’ll get even more range and almost twice the applied damage on frigates and still a decent chunk more on cruisers.

  • JZ909

    I think putting the Stabber in the “trash” tier is pretty harsh. Despite your claims to the contrary, it has plenty of range to kite with ACs. With an all level 5 character using barrage, its falloff with 220mm guns is over 26km without any mods to the ship. Give it 425s and an ambit extention (which is possible to fit with decent skills and a weak tank) and that goes up to 34km, which is well beyond traditional kiting range.

    That being said, it’s hard to compare it to other cruisers. It will consistently beat blaster boats if flown well (it just won’t get caught), but other than that, it is fairly weak against other cruisers. I think of it more as what destroyers should have been: Able to beat almost any frigate, and able to outrun anything it can’t beat.

    The ship could use some love in the cap department, but other than that, I think the ship is in a pretty good place, and I would hate for CCP to change it to be more like other cruisers.

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