In Defence of CarriersCapri Sun KraftFoods
I bought my first ever Archon in January 2014. That’s just a couple weeks before the famous B-R battle that ended the Halloween War and complaints about “unbreakable” Slowcat carriers. I unfortunately missed out on that part of the war, but happy in the knowledge of how useful this ship was, I didn’t mind at all. Carriers are good right?
As of today, June 2016, my cap alt is on 71 killmails in a carrier. 71, in 2 and a half years. About half of those kills are essentially just whoring too, sentries assigned to my main while I was out of triage. To give you an idea of how active I’ve been over that time period, my main which was barely over 10m SP when I bought that carrier, is just shy of 7,000 kills.
To put it mildly, carriers up until the Citadel expansion weren’t that great. They had a niche as a highly mobile and extremely tanky doctrine before Phoebe, but to pose them as a weapons platform is disingenuous. Fighters without the bonuses granted by a supercarrier hull were always pretty crap, and due to lacking any of the damage, speed, range or tracking bonuses of drone-focused subcap hulls, they couldn’t do a whole lot with standard drones either. Sentries worked well, but fully tank fit an Archon did less DPS with worse application than a post-nerf shield Ishtar. This is without even getting into the mobility issues you face fielding them against a competent enemy in nullsec (bubbles become a lot more scary when your maximum speed with an MWD is 120m/s).
project the power of your supercap fleet without actually fielding it
Slowcats were never about the DPS or really even the tank, what they did was allow you to project the power of your supercap fleet without actually fielding it.
Imagine yourself in the position of a PL FC in a major war. A friendly IHub is coming out of reinforce. To win the timer you need to get in there, fight off the enemy fleet(s), repair the IHub, then extract safely. You’re fighting a numerically superior enemy so you have to have some ace card up your sleeve.
- Triage? Nah they’ll have the DPS to kill it.
- Blap dreads? Nah they’re flying a T3 comp so they won’t apply effectively.
- Blingy doctrines? Could work but it’s a big gamble.
- Bombers? Would work but unfortunately it’s a Friday night and your bomber FC is at the club.
What about your supercap fleet? Well sure, a wing of Aeons would definitely tick all the boxes. You can tank the enemy fleet easily, you can kill them if they come close enough for you to throw fighters at them without losing too many, and you have remote reps to repair the IHub with (including shield refits if you need it). However it’s a lot of effort, there’s still the risk of people disconnecting and dying at a safe spot, and they could just waterboard you with ‘dictors, forcing you to sit there for hours after the IHub has been saved.
So we turn to Archons, they’ll tank the enemy fleet just fine, you can probably poke some kills in there too with drone assign (before it got removed), and you can repair the IHub. The difference being that they cost less than 1/10th the ISK, so losing them isn’t nearly as much of an issue, there’s less stress involved.
So this is where the shove comes in: What is the #1 counter to a Slowcat fleet?
What is the #1 counter to dreads?
You force the enemy into a Catch 22. They are then essentially always fighting your super fleet without you even logging it in. If they don’t drop dreads they’re facing a carrier fleet they can’t kill, if they do drop dreads they’re facing a super fleet they can’t kill. Equally the other way round if your supers ever get in trouble, you can jump the carriers on them and add tens of millions more EHP to the fleet and massively increase the rep power for (relatively) very little risk.
generation of EVE players who pretty much quit over spending hours in 10% TiDi
Now, if you’re thinking “man, that sounds cool and clever but I bet it’s really boring in practice”, You’re absolutely spot on. It’s unbelievably boring. There is an entire generation of EVE players who pretty much quit over spending hours in 10% TiDi in a carrier. But besides Triage (which happens to be one of the most fun things in the game) and AFK ratting, it’s literally the only thing carriers were good at: playing pawn for super fleets.
So CCP took away the reps. Put aside for a moment how you feel about that, and just consider where that leaves the carrier. It’s only useful PVP role was to rep supers, rep subs in triage or not die because it’s getting repped by the other carriers around it. All of those are now gone. It’s just a really fat, slow, expensive and anemic drone boat. It needed a new role and it got one: killing subcaps. It does that very well, and with a bare minimum price tag of 2B fitted with a full fighter bay of T1 fighters, it damn well should.
So what’s my point here? Why I am writing this? There’s an extremely vocal contingent of EVE players who’ve got hit pretty hard and fast by the point end of these changes, understandably they’re pretty upset about this. I’ve done enough kitey nano stuff to understand how annoying it must be to go from being totally safe so as long as you don’t make mistakes in your Snaked linked Orthrus, to getting hazed by Einherj’s burning 17km/sec at you from the same guy who’s ratting carrier you killed 2 weeks earlier. I totally get it. But there’s a much bigger picture that’s being ignored here.
CCP flipped the entire capital meta on its head with the changes
CCP flipped the entire capital meta on its head with the changes. For those of us calling the shots on dropping them it’s pretty close to a fresh start. No one’s really got them “worked out” there are strengths not yet “worked out” and ready to abuse, and there are weaknesses yet to be noticed. It’s going to take months if not years to get back to the level of familiarity we had pre-Citadel. You need to drop all notions you had before this patch of what any ship with a jump drive should or shouldn’t, can or can’t do.
So let’s take a look at some of the new upsides and downsides, and consider some fits that wouldn’t have worked before the patch, and some old fits that got sent to the dumpster.
The Small Gang Nidhoggur
Light fighters are fast. Really, really fast. Combine this with the Nidhoggur/Hel’s fighter speed bonus, and you can do some really crazy things. In TISHU as a smaller alliance that is pretty much always fighting significantly outnumbered, we’ve become a big fan of the small gang Nidhoggur as a way to deal with roaming gangs in our space. This isn’t the “sit on a Citadel and shoot in safety from 500km+ away” thing, it’s a fast, high DPS solo/small gang brawling ship with the local tank of a dual rep Hyperion, the travel speed of a battlecruiser, and the damage output of a couple Taloses. Price tag? ~3B + Fighters
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With the warp speed of a T1 cruiser, and the ability to cycle into warp in 15s with help from the AB, this is a seriously impressive ship. A couple of them can pretty much demolish any small gang. That said, it doesn’t come without cost, the ship is a little under 3 billion ISK before you load it up with fighters (current market rate for Nidhoggur hulls is ~1.7-2B). I personally used an Archon variant on the idea because I didn’t feel like cross training the Minmatar Carrier skillbook, but the idea is much the same. They’re a great way for a smaller local group to make mince of a larger roaming group. However, if that roaming group has a cohesive fleet comp, they can still easily kill one of these. The tank is only 2.4k DPS and even then only for a few minutes until it runs out of cap, so a 15-20 man group with some logi will easily take one of these down and you need to pick your engagements.
This fit represents a big shift away from how carriers are typically perceived. Historically they’ve always been a “grr no fun allowed” large fleet comp and that was reflected in the bonuses, but this thing is a fast, agile (relative) glass cannon that is designed to DPS tank a numerically superior enemy. Think of it as the big brother of the solo PVP Rattlesnake with a jump drive.
The defang Archon
I’ve taken this fit to it’s logical extreme and thus what’s actually used on the battlefield may differ somewhat, but you get the idea. Space Superiority fighters eat Light Fighters, Support Fighters and Heavy Fighters for lunch. It’s a fact that any group who has to fight super heavy groups is excited about, and a fact that any group who uses supers is terrified of. There have only been a couple of fights so far to really illustrate this, needless to say however, it is a powerful new tool in the arsenal of any smaller group trying to fight its way up the food chain.
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This thing can pop a full flight of Heavy Fighters in about 30 seconds, has more neut power than a Bhaalgorn (against other capitals), and enough tank to survive a doomsday. You’ll have to make some tough decisions on how you load out your fighter bay, but while in the past a group of hubris filled super pilots may have been able to ruin your day, this now a potential ace card in your back pocket you can use against them while frantically trying to batphone some bigger fish.
The Fleet Chimera
You can build an Archon which works under the same principles, but for the sake diversity and interesting fitting choices, I’m going to show the Chimera here.
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Something like this is the singularity to which any major group running shield comps is going to try and move to, so basically TEST and Stainrus.
If you can drop 50 of these on a fight, you will win the fight. It’s the ultimate “put up or shut up” card for an enemy. Either they escalate and drop their own supers/titans to counter, or you win the fight. Period. Depending on who you’re fighting too, there’s no reason you can’t have some of the SS fighters shown in the defang Archon fit either.
The main thing I’d like to point about all these fits is this: If you catch them off guard or badly position, they’ll die. It’s no longer like the days of old where one could simply light a cyno and bring in more carriers to rep, the repairs have to be coordinated by using measured numbers of FAXes that you WILL bleed in a large engagement. This means more content for everyone.
So what do I think about this patch? I think it’s great. Carriers are no longer a “no fun allowed” niche ship used to let richer players use their supers risk free. They are a useful, interesting and distinct, class of ships that now have their own role, and there’s a whole generation of EVE players that over the next few months are going to get their first experience of using capitals in combat, and unlike the generation just before mine that quit over playing pawn in B-R, they might just have fun doing it.