Mixed DPS DoctrinesMukk Barovian
When you find that you are going up against a mixed fleet it is generally an indicator that you are fighting unskilled newbies. Serious FCs take every member of their fleet and force them to fly a uniform doctrine. It’s a kind of discipline that pays off big in block wars. ‘Can I bring a Drake?’ ‘No. Screw your Drake. Fly something useful to the fleet. DPS are Tengus. Logi are Basilisks. We also take Huginns, Lachesis, Interceptors and Dictors.’ The fleet with the random Drakes in it will lose to the fleet filled with correctly fit Tengus. On the other hand, this is counterintuitive to guys who play in the microgang environment. The best companion for a Machariel is something like an Orthrus or a combat inty. After studying the problem recently, I began to wonder under what circumstances mixing DPS ships was a good idea, and how one should choose to mix their setups.
Now the most obvious difference between the random Drake and an Orthrus supporting a Machariel is that the Orthrus is filling a vital role that the Machariel cannot. The Machariel is going to struggle to hit an interceptor or an assault frigate. The Orthrus keeps the tackle off while the Machariel aims its hard hitting guns at bigger targets. The Drake does nothing so noble for the Tengu. It took a nerf to the face quite a ways back and now its defining characteristic is its degree of suck. (Less suck recently.) Given this example, it seems quite obvious that if you plan on mixing ships, you should choose excellent ships at whatever price point you want to work with. From the Machariel example we take the idea that ideal combinations are ships that complement each other’s’ abilities.
Cerberus and Tornados
During the Goon invasion of Providence I ran a RLML Cerberus fleet. The fleet shredded light tackle. It was very good at evading the very large blobs that defined that campaign. On the other hand, there were only ever so many light tacklers chasing us at a given time. An entire fleet of Cerberus was overkill.
What if I had put half the Cerberus pilots into something heavy hitting like Tornados? I would have been able to hammer bigger targets with tens of thousands of damage more in alpha strikes. Instead of watching heavily tanked ships catch reps I would have enjoyed the vaporization of large artillery. A fleet made up 50/50 of Cerberus and Tornados would have had a more rounded set of abilities than the one I employed. This is an important point. If all I was doing was warping in at 100 km and sniping something I would do better with 100% Tornados. The Cerberus are mostly useless in that scenario. If I try to wipe out a fleet of assault frigates I’m better off fielding 100% Cerberus. Tornados won’t begin to track. My mission was nowhere so simple. I was diving into the heart of an ongoing sov war heavily outgunned and outnumbered. I had to be ready for frigates, destroyers, HACs and battleships. When you know what you’re going to be fighting you can select the absolute best tool for the job. When you don’t, you want a set of tools that give you a well rounded ability to respond to the unknown.
This is probably why bloc warfare fleet doctrines do so well when they are exactly uniform. They know who they are going to fight. They know with a degree of certainty what options the enemy has at their disposal. In many cases one side has an alt watch the other side undock and prepare for combat. ‘Ships TBD. I’ll tell you when I know what we’re fighting.’ Whereas when you go roaming many times you honestly don’t know what you will encounter.
It is necessary to address the differences between the Cerberus and the Tornado. The Tornado goes 2.7 au/s and the Cerberus goes 3.3. Adapting a Tornado to a Cerberus fleet would probably require putting a warp speed rig on the Tornado. Additionally there is the Tornado’s mediocre tank to contend with, which might be a dealbreaker. After working the EFT numbers, I might have decided to pair the Cerberus with the Sleipnir, Eagle, or Muninn instead. In general, you want every ship in the fleet to have a similar mobility and EHP. A particularly slow ship either falls behind or drags the entire fleet. An overtanked ship is wasting resources on its EHP while the enemy shoots other thinner targets. An undertanked ship dies too quickly in the situations that the fleet would otherwise be fine in.
Legions and Proteus
Pandemic Legion occasionally mixes these two ships in our 10MN AB T3 fleets. In this case, the weapon systems have similar profiles, but each makes up for the weakness of the other. Lasers are EM/Therm locked. Railguns are Kin/Therm locked. It’s easy to tank specifically against a pair of resistances. By combining a laser ship and a rail boat we are able to fire a mix of EM/Kin/Therm. This is much harder for our opponents to game their resists against. In a way this is comparable to a single weapon system with nearly omni damage.
The downside to this mixing and matching is that the T2 resists of the Proteus and the Legion mismatch in such a way that our opponents can always shoot into a lower resistance value. Even if our opponents are damage locked, they can select the T3 that has lower resists against that particular damage. We end up in the frustrating situation where the baddies blow up one kind of T3 because they could more easily penetrate its resists.
This doesn’t just happen with mixing DPS ships. Imagine a hypothetical fleet of Oneiros and Zealots. A properly fit Zealot tends to have Kinetic as its lowest resist. An Oneiros has Em/Explosive tied for lowest. So if you’re Kinetic locked fire at the Zealot. If you’re EM locked, fire at the Oneiros. As a result of this I recommend that when you EFT ships, you spend less time looking that the EHP from omni damage, and more effort on getting the EHP on the lowest resist to an acceptable level. Yes you can run Zealots and Guardians, but sometimes you just have to go off race to get the right utility. For example long webs only come in the Minmatar flavor. Long points are backed by Gallente T2 resists.
Refit off Nestor – Fill two roles at once.
A Machariel sitting next to a Nestor is either a long range artillery boat with immense alpha, or a short range brawler with pretty good tracking. If you don’t want to spend a billion ISK on a Nestor, you can accomplish the same effect with a field refit from a mobile depot. Refitting appropriately makes you much more adapted to the situation at hand. It’s much harder for an opponent to hard-counter you. The flexibility is great for both fleets, and individual pilots. For example I like to run target painters in fleet fights, but they’re pretty useless in ganks when roaming. In that case I put a point on and join in the fun of being heavy tackle.
An interesting effect is that a ship’s value is higher if there are viable alternative fits that it could refit to. A Legion can comfortably sport either beam or pulse lasers. It does well with both weapon systems. By comparison, a rail Tengu doesn’t make a great blaster boat. It might just barely be able to refit into a missile boat. At the extreme a Vagabond can’t refit to artillery at all because of powergrid issues.
Newbies can’t fly that.
In Pandemic Legion we don’t make it easy on low skillpoint characters. If you can’t fly the main DPS ship you can be logi. If you can’t do logi you can be an interceptor. If you can’t fly an interceptor, why are you here instead of hanging out with Horde or Waffles? This works for us because we are a bunch of rich bittervets. We make sure that our sister/support organizations offer a home for people who aren’t there yet.
In general it is better to put a low skillpoint character into a T2 frigate than a T1 cruiser for a high end fleet. The T2 frigate could make a hero tackle. The T1 cruiser is just going to be a joke next to the T3 cruisers of the main line. This logic is fine for established groups, but it fails when you get to pure newbie outfits. Somebody has to fly the bigger ships even if they don’t have wonderful skills. Brave Newbies demonstrated a pretty good method by streamlining the training path. They went Moas -> Eagles -> Tengus. Remember if you follow that road, your fleet may have some shinies giving it some backbone, but it is going to have the weaknesses of the T1 cruisers you brought along. Also be prepared for hard counters. If you only have one doctrine people with more choice will adapt to beat it.
I prefer the Imperium’s Fuck You Fleet. They stick their newbies in cheap EWAR ships far away from the enemy fleet. This is particularly effective because many of the T1 EWAR ships are quite good, while requiring a low skillpoint investment. To deliver decent damage requires tons of skillpoints in weapon systems and support skills. With a T1 EWAR frigate you can take a veteran out of play with much more meagre means, which is of real value to the fleet.
Developing a mixed setup that works well together is not easy. However the advantages in the right situation seem clear. If one particular ship beats everything else in all situations CCP would nerf it. In a well balanced environment you are unlikely to be able to EFT a killer fit for a single ship that dominates the game. Even if you do, everyone will quickly copy you. You have to look to new strategies to get ahead in a world where everyone knows all the standard fits for every particular ship.