Medium Missiles and You!


Today we’ll be discussing how missiles work, and how they apply damage. This is a relevant topic because of how some missile types completely overshadow others, despite dealing more DPS on paper. I have chosen the medium-sized category primarily because they are the most used. I will also talk a bit about how the current PvP metagame heavily affects missiles.

This will be very math heavy, but I will try my best to explain it as well as I can. There might also be some calculation errors, but the general ideas should get through.

Flares and Rigor Rigs

I will begin with the missile formula for medium sized missiles, and how Flares and Rigor rigs affect your damage.

Here is the formula:



source: eveuni wiki

We’ll split this formula up for clarity. To begin with, the formula multiplies your damage with the lowest value of all signature or speed related numbers. That multiplier maxes out at 1 to prevent missiles from actually doing more than their base damage. The first part with S/E is almost never going to be the lowest number unless your target is heavily tackled. It’s basically there to make sure that larger missiles do not apply full damage on smaller targets, even when heavily webbed. Taking Heavy missiles shooting a punisher with afterburner as example you have the following numbers:

S = 37  E = 105 Ve = 121,5 drf = 3,2 Vt = x

This gives us the following numbers into the formula: 37/105 < (37/105 * 121.5/x)^0,682. Now we can plot a graph to see what x needs to be for the above formula to be true. ss+(2015-04-10+at+11.12.41)

So basically as long as your afterburning punisher is moving above 187.319 m/s the formula will pick the second term instead of the first one.


It is here that calculations are made on what damage you are actually going to apply. This formula takes the sig radius of your target divided by the explosion radius of your missiles. You then multiply this with your explosion velocity divided by your target’s speed. This is then raised to the power of the natural logarithm of drf divided by 5.5.

Now, you might ask what is drf and why 5.5? Drf is the damage reduction factor of a missile. It’s a unique number that each type of missile ammo has. The number 5.5 is taken from the game files that EVE uses to calculate your damage. It is a constant, and can’t be affected by skills.

The damage reduction factor can be found both in EFT and online, but is not shown in game. Here is a list of all drf numbers the game currently uses:


Now for some examples of how this works, and why rigor rigs are way better than flares. For testing I will use a Caracal with RLML, HAM and HML. For simplicity’s sake, I will use an all V character with no implants and the Caracal will have four Ballistic Control Systems for maximum damage.

Here are the relevant stats for our calculations with the Caracal based on Caldari Navy ammo.



We need some targets to shoot as well, so let’s theorycraft with a number of different ships, both armor and shield tanked without links, to test a few scenarios.


For the shield tanked ships, I have dual Large Shield Extenders on all of them, and three Core Defense Field Extender rigs with a prop mod; for the armor tanked ships I went with three armor buffer rigs and one 1600mm plate. On the frigs, it’s a Medium Shield Extender for the Merlin and a 400mm plate on the Punisher.

Rapid Lights

We are going to start with calculations for rapid lights. This missile system is unique in that it shoots smaller ammo at a very high speed with long reload times. Because it is using small ammo, it will have a great damage application against smaller targets. Dealing with swarms of frigs is something that has made RLMLs one of the most popular missiles in EVE today.

So, just how good are rapid lights and how well do they apply?


These are the numbers you get by putting in the stats for rapid lights into the missile formula. As you can see, the first part of the formula is never used and in most cases you apply the full volley damage.



The problems here are afterburning frigates, but even when applying half your volley’s potential you will still kill frigs.

The rapid lights can actually apply very well on their own, so using flares or rigors with them are rare however, there are some cases where your rapid lights won’t apply damage—most of those involving linked frigs. I’ve gone ahead and have done some calculations anyway. The first column is a frig with a MWD, and second is with an afterburner.

Two Rigors


Three Rigors


Two Flares


Three Flares


As you can see, flares really only catch up to rigors when you have three of them. The effects aren’t as obvious here as you can see, since rapid lights have such a good application to start off with.

Heavy Assault Missiles

Heavy Assault Missiles, or HAMs, are a close-range heavy-hitting missile system doing a lot of DPS on paper, but how good is the application?




As you can see here, HAMs start to have a problem at cruiser levels, especially if your target is using an afterburner. Luckily, the HAM range means that you will be webbing your target most of the time, which helps with DPS, but links, TPs, webs etc. are a subject for another post.

So here is how the numbers change with different numbers of rigors and flares:

Two Rigors


Three Rigors


Two Flares


Three Flares


Heavy Missiles

Everyone is saying just how bad the state of heavy missiles is at the moment, and I have to agree. I know first-hand that the only time HMLs become useful today is when you hit critical mass, and can one-shot people with Caracals or something similar, and even then you get delayed DPS. CCP seems to think that heavy missiles are some kind of long range weapon, but bigger missiles lack the attributes for that application. Even webbed targets won’t suffer full DPS or something relatively close to it. There is also a difference between turret tracking—where you can get full damage hits even against smaller targets—and missiles, which will hit but barely scratch smaller targets. HMLs weren’t always that bad. Way back before the cruiser and frig tiericide, HMLs used to be king. Doctrines like Nano Drakes were considered fast and they applied damage decently, but then they received a 5% damage and 5% application nerf. That was bad enough, but still something you could work around. Then CCP decided to rebalance a lot of hulls, and the speed of most ships crept upwards. This meant that HMLs got even worse at applying damage.




Now are we running into the problem of application being so low that the target ship can often keep tanking on an active repper or even passive shield recharge. It’s also a bad weapon system due to EVE’s current PvP metagame. Fast MWD’ing cruisers and frigs are what everyone is running, and links have become standard from being something that only few people had. Since this is a long range system, you don’t really want to be close, and can’t use webs to increase your damage.

In the end, it comes down to EVE players wanting to be as flexible as possible, and counter the things that hurt kiting fleets—light tackle. Having a ship that does 20% damage or less to a frig is inferior to an RLML platform. Although it might do a little bit less damage against battleships, it still projects around 90% of its EFT DPS against smaller targets.

Let’s see how much application rigs will help your heavy missiles apply damage:

Two Rigors


Three Rigors


Two Flares


Three Flares


Summary and final thoughts

As you have seen, Rigors are always going to be better then Flare rigs because they provide a guaranteed damage increase. The only things flares have going for them, is the fact that they cost 50 less calibration to fit which might make them feasible in some instances. Heavy missiles are not really going to be used much with the PvP metagame and the proliferation of links these days. Being consistent with your damage is way better then being able to maybe deal more damage with a ton of target painters and webs.

I consider RLMLs and HMLs to be long range weapon systems, and as such nothing you would want to bring to a brawl. With kiting fleets, your standard way of dealing with an opposing force is to first wipe out or neutralize everything that can catch you. That means light tackle—such as frigs— need to be dealt with ASAP because they pose the biggest threat to your fleet. After that, when you have established speed superiority and can control and disengage from the fight freely, you go for the big ships. Having a system that only deals 20% to frigs then is unacceptable. I have no idea why CCP decided to nerf the HMLs way back, and those nerfs really should be reverted. The game has changed, and everything is becoming ever faster, which means even less missile damage.

Another thing one might argue is that rapid lights are too strong at the moment. I personally don’t think the problem lies with the rapid lights themselves. It’s more that they work so well with range bonuses and that the ammo they shoot—light missiles—have way too much range. Being able to hit at 90 km+ with rapid lights, like a Cerberus is able to do with ease, may be a bit too strong. Some people will argue that they make anti-frig support in a gang way too accessible. Even a Caracal or two can be pretty oppressive to frigs. The good thing is that rapid lights are not the only option for anti-frig platforms. Confessors, ONIs, long range webs and/or the new Jackdaw will just as easily handle light tackle, and I think that it’s good that EVE has multiple choices and ways to tackle a problem for your fleet.


Thanks to Suitonia and Kadesh Priestess from Hydra Reloaded for providing feedback to this article.


Tags: gorski, missiles, theorycrafting

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.

  • Euler

    Blergh… math. Great article


    The torpedo delivery pilots of WINGSPAN thank you for this information.

  • ummmm numbers

    Cruise missiles are in an even worse state but great to see some nice graph and stats porn

  • Zum

    Thanks for the detailed article!

  • AFK

    Yea, I’ll just stick to pressing F1.

  • Saint Michael’s Soul

    I think Conall Tara said it best by explaining missile damage application as “overlapping venn-diagrams of death”.

  • Midtown East

    Excellent analysis!

  • Freelancer117

    I do not understand how HAM’s are worse against frigates then HML’s

    Atm the base value of explosion velocity for ham’s are higher then hml’s,

    and the base value of explosion radius for ham’s are lower then hml’s.

    Meaning basically HAM’s are better then HML’s against frigates.

    This does not reflect in your figures, or the formula really needs to be improved: (HAM) (HML)

  • Swag Master

    Nice crunch on the numbers and very interesting article. There is also a video on how missiles work from EVEcopilot:

  • Hobgoblin

    It always seemed to me ccp always wanted to make caldari ships inferior hence the missile nerfs. I’m sure many will disagree with that but I am a 09 player and have flown all tech 1 and a lot of tech 2 for missions mostly and some pvp . And yeah replaced a raven with a missled up geddon cause the raven couldn’t run a tank well enough for worlds collide

  • Leo2014

    Great article by the way, I have referred others to this post in explaining why paper dps is very different from the real world of heavy missiles.