Small Gang Tier List—Part 1: Frigates


Strong, effectively flown frigates are the backbone of any PvP’ing small gang. This is a look at what I think the EVE small gang PvP metagame is in different areas of space. I’ll show you a decent small gang PvP tier list, where most of the ships are very similar in power. And while a ship might be at a lower tier, it can still get kills against people in higher tiered ships. Effective fitting and piloting skills can make that happen.

An explanation of my rating system:

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 to which it doesn’t belong.

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 though they could use a small push in the right direction, they’re 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 are grouped from left to right by strength (stronger to weaker).

Tech 1 Frigates

Borderline: Tristan

Tier 1: Breacher, Tormentor, Merlin, Incursus, Kestrel, Atron, Heron

Tier 2: Condor, Executioner

Tier 3: Slasher, Rifter

Trash Tier: Punisher

Faction Frigates

Cancer Tier: Worm

Borderline: Daredevil, Garmur

Tier 1: Succubus, Astero, Hookbill, Slicer

Tier 2: Comet, Dramiel, Cruor, Firetail

T2 Frigates

Tier 1: Hawk, Enyo, Harpy, Retribution, Taranis, Crusader, Stiletto, Malediction

Tier 2: Vengeance, Ishkur, Wolf, Raptor, Ares

Tier 3: Claw, Crow

Trash Tier: Jaguar

Support Frigates

Cancer Tier: Keres

Borderline: Sentinel, Maulus

Tier 1: Hyena, Kitsune, Griffin

Tier 2: Crucifier, Vigil



Tier 1 Frigates

The baseline frigs that everyone in EVE probably has flown at some point.

Tristan (Borderline): The ship itself is very versatile, and you can do everything from kite to brawl with multiple fits for those purposes. The drones on this ship allow it to attack at any range, and is resistant to EWAR.

Breacher (Tier 1): The tank bonus on this ship along with rockets and drones makes this a ship you really needs to watch out for.

Tormentor (Tier 1): A super strong scram kiter that also rocks a really strong tank. This ship carries drones to help it do damage. Both beam and pulse fits are good and popular for this one.

Merlin, Kestrel, Incursus (Tier 1): I rate these ships all about the same. All three are strong, tanky brawlers, but have some faults that makes them a bit weaker than the first three ships—either speed, fitting or range.

Atron (Tier 1): A super-fast small frig capable of tanking some damage. Surprisingly deals a lot of damage, and is able to serve as throwaway fast tackle or to counter kite frigs. It’s not uncommon to see one of these take a Slicer out.

Heron (Tier 1): While this ship has a limited engagement profile and is only good in 1v1 situations, it still gets the job done. Five mid slots allow you to have full range control in fights and run a strong EWAR side as well. Not to be underestimated, this ship can kill destroyers and AFs with the right target. Range control wins 1v1s.

Condor (Tier 2): One of my favourite ships for kiting. It’s cheap, has long range, good speed, and a decent tank. It is also able to run some unbonused EWAR such as a tracking disruptor to help it further. The reason I didn’t put it at Tier 1 though, is because the damage is minimal and it has problems with fitting. Another problem is it’s kinetic damage locked.

Executioner (Tier 2): This ship is actually quite good. While the damage isn’t that great, it has great flexibility with lasers. The cap is incredible and it’s fast. On the other hand, its apparent problems are it’s not that great at fighting the more brawly frigates in a straight up fight, and it has a somewhat limited engagement profile.

Slasher (Tier 3): This is a decent ship but doesn’t project damage very well. There are some fits using EWAR and you might be able to take a win vs. some frigs, but it’s generally subpar.

Rifter (Tier 3): I don’t really like this ship anymore. It used to be one of the strongest frigs in EVE, but now it really pays for its sins. The falloff bonus doesn’t do much and your damage is still pretty trash. At least it looks cool.

Punisher (Trash Tier): Two mid slots really doesn’t cut it, especially when the ship itself is very slow and badly projects damage.


Faction Frigates

This class offers some very strong ships that are able to kill most T1 frigs easily. They do come with a higher price tag and skillpoint requirements.

Worm (Cancer Tier): I don’t know where to begin with this ship. The bonuses are out of this world: Shield resistance, massive drone damage and missile damage. This ship normally kites using it’s super strong drones, and unlike say, the Slicer that dies when it gets tackled, the Worm still wins. Is somewhat easily able to go for bigger targets as well.

Garmur (Borderline): A really strong kite ship with a bonused point and scram that gives it a huge margin of error, and it’s hard to fuck up with that super-long defensive scram. It has decent DPS and long range. Somewhat balanced by being an ignorant magnet, attracting people who press orbit and go afk in their “Sensor Booster Garmur” fit.

Daredevil (Borderline): A extremely strong brawler with an incredible web bonus. You can do both rail and blaster setups, and your target will not move after that web is on. This allows rail fits to kite perfectly and blaster ships to get in range versus everything. The DPS is also no laughing matter, with blaster fits capable of hitting as high as 420 DPS.

Succubus (Tier 1): This might come as a surprise here, but in my opinion, it’s a really strong ship. Being able to disengage versus most targets, using that powered afterburner, and also being able to deal around 200 DPS out to scram range is useful.

Astero (Tier 1): This is the frigate that I have the least experience with, but in general it flies like a dual rep Incursus with an added web. It also has the benefit of being covops cloak capable, and uses drones as its main weapon. It usually runs a superior active tank and your targets will have problems breaking you. The DPS is a little weak, though

Hookbill (Tier 1): Mid slots for days. I think that the Hookbill is really strong at the moment. DPS isn’t the greatest, but you can have so much dishonorable shit in the mid slots. This ship can be seen running light missiles with damps or scram kite with tracking disruptors and dual webs. And when you’ve figured out which version it is, it’s already too late.

Slicer (Tier 1): A top-tier kiting ship that deals a ton of DPS up to, and around long point range with pulses. It’s somewhat hurt by being one of the most skill intensive frigates you can fly, where a single mistake will mean that you die, and die fast.

Comet (Tier 2): Drones, blasters, a massive tank, and a ton of DPS—what more could you want? Works really well as both a scram kiter, MWD brawler, or just pure brawl. It also has the best skin in the game. Almost wanted to put this at Tier 1, but it tends to get kited pretty easily.

Dramiel (Tier 2): This ship has started to redeem itself a bit, with more and more people running armor setups, and enjoying perfect range control. They’re really hard to hold down and kill. I have to admit they are in a great spot, though the DPS is a bit lacking, and they are not top-tier like they used to be.

Firetail (Tier 2): The Firetail has some fits that are decent, and is mostly used as a scram kiter for combat or as a super fast throwaway tackle (although I would use an Atron for that).

Cruor (Tier 2): I don’t know where to begin with the Cruor. It could have been Tier 1, but the fittings aren’t really there, and the bonuses are all over the place. They don’t really synergize all that well. Kiters beware, because a Cruor will still fuck up your day by webbing you from 20km. There are some niche fits using dual reps fueled by dual nosferatu that also are a bit cool. But in the end, I wish you would get something more for the money.


T2 Frigates

This category is often overlooked, especially assault frigates, which have fallen out of favour after the introduction of Tactical destroyers. Regardless, we still have some really strong ships in this category:

Hawk (Tier 1): This ship has an incredible tank able to outlast most frigates. On top of that, it has a some really nice rocket DPS and a good slot layout with many mid slots.

Enyo (Tier 1): High DPS, high speed, and good tank especially after CCP introduced structure rigs into the game. A ship to be afraid of.

Harpy (Tier 1): The range on this ship with rails is absolutely remarkable, while also keeping a good buffer up. When abusing double range bonuses on the ship, it can out-range any other frigate in the game.

Retribution (Tier 1): This ship can be fit similarly as a Slicer with some more tank but less speed. Actually, a surprisingly satisfying ship, and not something to be underestimated.

Taranis (Tier 1): A fast and fun ship to fly. Able to deal out a lot of DPS for an interceptor and it’s super fast. Tank might be low, but ancillary repairers and structure rigs help. Mostly fit with dual propulsion modules, allowing fast escape or better range control in 0.0.

Crusader (Tier 1): Does a lot of DPS and is really fast. It’s very good at countering the Garmur, but has some fitting issues.

Stiletto and Malediction (Tier 1) These two are the strongest interceptors for catching stuff and providing tackle in fleets. Definitely Tier 1 material.

Vengeance (Tier 2): Like the Hawk, the Vengeance has an incredible amount of tank, sometimes even more than the Hawk. It does, however lack speed and the projection bonus, and is easily kited.

Ishkur (Tier 2): Very versatile assault frig. It does not get a drone damage bonus however, but it still has full flight of small drones alongside decent tank and speed.

Wolf (Tier 2) This ship was hit hard by the TE nerf, making artillery fits even weaker. Another problem here is its two mid slots, but don’t underestimate it—the Wolf has great projection and a strong buffer.

Raptor (Tier 2): Basically a shield Taranis that can scram kite decently. It doesn’t have nearly enough tank though, especially when you take the transverse bulkhead rigs into consideration.

Ares (Tier 2) A very agile fleet interceptor that sadly, doesn’t have as much tank as the Stiletto and Malediction. But it is still useful.

Claw (Tier 3): I don’t know what CCP was thinking with this ship. The damage output is horrible, and on top of that, you only have two mids. The fitting doesn’t allow for any decent tank. On the other hand, the sig is really low, so you can get under people’s guns easily. At least PL are somewhat successful with artillery Claws, but then again, anything can get a kill when you have 500 of them. It needs some small buffs—maybe a falloff bonus.

Crow (Tier 3) This ship used to be a Tier 1 ship, but the changes made hurt it really hard. It can no longer deal the damage it used to, and the fitting is really tight now.

Jaguar (Trash tier): The Svipul is basically this ship, but far, far superior. It has a useless optimal bonus and only three guns. It needs a falloff bonus instead of an optimal one and a fourth gun.  This is something I would never fly.


Support Frigates

These ships can often swing the battle in your favour or help combat bigger ships.

Keres (Cancer Tier): The king of support ships for smaller gangs. It provides both EWAR support and can tackle stuff. The Keres can easily disable one or two high priority targets, all while being very fast, and very hard to kill. A super strong force multiplier that will win fights.

Sentinel (Borderline): There is a saying: You should never attack a Sentinel solo. It will neut you out instantly, and then force you down using tracking disruptors. On top of that, the ship has a decent drone bay and tank. Beating a Sentinel often requires a specialized fit, else you tend to die fast. The ship is at its strongest versus one to three ships. The biggest weakness here is missiles—especially rapid lights.

Maulus (Borderline): This ship can do some of the same damage as a Keres. It is up in this tier though, because of how strong damps are at the moment, and how cheap this ship is. With smaller gangs, you often take a Keres though, since it is a bit more versatile.

Hyena (Tier 1): Another strong support ship. While the TP bonus is often ignored, it’s actually pretty good with some gangs. What most people use it for though, is the extremely long-range webs helping to separate and keep targets away from your fleet. The ship is also agile and fast—catching it will be hard.

Kitsune (Tier 1): Does the same job as the Keres, but unlike the Keres we have a chance-based mechanic at work here—where damps don’t miss, but jams can. The tank is also horrible. The operating range of this ship is incredible. (Maybe its only saving grace?)

Griffin (Tier 1): Cheap, annoying and cost effective. Swarms of Griffins are usually avoided like the plague. This ship, like the Kitsune, is very fragile.

Crucifier (Tier 2): I don’t know how much I like tracking disruptors as EWAR. This ship doesn’t have the neut bonus that makes the Sentinel so great, and it will die quickly to most things. I know you can run some dishonor 1v1 fits with this ship and win.

Vigil (Tier 2): Super long range and good support platform for adding target painters, which is one of the most underrated EWAR modules in the game. But for smaller gangs you need versatile ships, and the Hyena has a web bonus that will help you apply damage.

Final notes

I know many of you are not going to agree with this list and will probably feel that much is wrong on so many points because of the type of game EVE is. What fit you’re running and how good you are at piloting your ship are far more important than what “tier” your ship is in. I tried to be very generous with the tier rankings; remember, Tier 2 means that a ship is good. So go fly your frigs, and have much exciting pew!  

Tags: frigates, gorski

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.