So you want to fly a carrier?Dunk Dinkle
You’ve been playing a while; you’ve seen videos of capital fights and have decided you want to get into the action with a carrier. A noble goal, to be sure, but a long path to walk. This article helps explain the path in a bit more detail than the typical “Just train into a …”. Before embarking on the journey to capital-level play, there are are few questions you need to ask yourself:
Am I willing and able to run a second account and client?
While it is possible in theory to use corp/alliance/friend cynos, it is a pain waiting for other people to do this for you. Plus, this is Eve Online, the game where the inevitable betrayal is a fact. You will need an account with one or more cyno alts available for your use, ideally with the ability to fly interceptors to get where you need a cyno unimpeded by gate camps and other unpleasantries. Beside the account itself, you will need to be able to run a second client on your computer smoothly, and both clients will need to be active simultaneously.
Do I have 2 to 3 billion ISK to spend on getting started in the carrier game, that I don’t need for other purposes?
The skill books to fly a carrier total over a billion just for one race. The Capital Ships skill book is about 400 million ISK, and each additional racial carrier skill book is a cool half-billion ISK. Toss in the various jump skillbooks and it all adds up. Once you start training to use fighters and capital level modules, the costs continue to rise. Carrier hulls aren’t generally available in highsec; but you can, on occasion find deals in Maila and Pakkonen. Even if you find a good deal where one is available, you can expect to spend 1 to 1.5 billion on the hull itself, depending on the market and whether it’s already rigged or not.
Capital modules, fighters, a full drone bay, fuel, and other necessary items can easily add up to another 0.5 to 1.5 billion ISK to get fitted out. Much depends on how ready you are to fully fit out your carrier. A full set of drones, including the various racial sentries, variations of combat & ECM drones, and repair bots of all types, can run you half a billion alone. And remember, capital modules are stupidly large at 4,000 m3 each, meaning you can’t haul them around in a travel interceptor. Fighter drones are 5,000 m3 each, and you need about 10 to start at a minimum. This is all just to get started; the ongoing jump fuel costs will regularly add up to tens of millions per jump.
Am I patient enough?
Skill training takes time. Finding and equipping a carrier takes time. Making sure you are ready for a jump and checking all intel beforehand also takes time. Can you wait quietly while the fleet spends an hour arranging a hotdrop? Are you okay with an operation being called off due to “intel” after you have waited over an hour to jump? An impulsive carrier pilot is a pilot that will lose their carrier in short order. If you can say yes to all the above, then let’s proceed. The choices carrier pilots make depend largely on what they want to do in-game, but there is a path, or progression if you will, that most of them follow.
Image by Titch-IX
Travel Carrier — A carrier has the unique ability to carry fitted ships via jump drive from system to system. With 1,000,000 m3 of space in the Ship Maintenance Hangar, a carrier can literally carry a fleet. Bigger ships obviously take more space, but a pilot can use a carrier to bring a deployment’s worth of ships with him or her to a new destination in relative safety. A carrier also has a 10,000 m3 Fleet Hangar that can be filled with a plethora of modules, ammo, and other items. Most carrier pilots want to sit in their carrier as soon as they can, regardless if they can fit any capital modules or launch a single fighter. So almost all carrier pilots start out using their new capital as a giant suitcase for moving items around from system to system. Since Phoebe and the jump drive changes, the range of jumps has made it much more painful to use a carrier this way. You can make jumps to cynos, but with the limited range of a new capital pilot, it can be drudgery having to move cynos and waiting out jump fatigue. However, carriers do have the ability to use gates, but I only recommend this in a well organized fleet of other capitals. On such a fleet, if you are unable to fit capital modules, you won’t be able to help others and will probably die. All carriers are the same when it comes to being a suitcase, so your choice of carrier depends on what you want to do next.
Ratting Carrier— The fabled ratting carrier has the potential to earn huge amounts of ISK in relative security, depending on the kind of space you live in. The core focus of a ratting carrier is your drone skills. You need to maximize the damage potential and strength of your drones. T2 drones are a must and you need to be able to launch fighters as well. The king of ratting carriers is the Thanatos, with its bonus to fighter damage. Ratting in a carrier is a good way to make ISK due to the ability of assigning fighters to other ships while the carrier stays in relative safety near a station or POS. Carriers are also key ships in wormholes; where stations don’t exist. Be very careful flying a Ratting Carrier as it is a prize that all roaming fleets are on the lookout for, and drool in anticipation of finding alone in an anomaly.
Structure Rep Carrier — If you are part of a larger group in nullsec or lowsec, there are multiple occasions when the repair of structures will be needed for a variety of purposes. If you are in one of these groups, you will likely be aware of these kind of events. If you are in a smaller group, it’s unlikely you’ll have reason to do this often, but it is a stepping stone toward combat carriers as you develop your capital level repping skills. The three main skills you need to train are Capital Capacitor Emissions Systems, Capital Shield Emission Systems, and Capital Remote Armor Repair Systems. These are the core skills to operate the capital level modules. You should have already maxed out your basic capacitor skills to V before you started into training for a carrier. Capital Remote Hull Repair Systems is a nice skill to have, but is generally unneeded due to the introduction of Hull Maintenance Bots. This phase is really a stepping stone to combat and triage carriers where you will need these skills all at IV, if not V. No one really stops here with their carrier training; I mainly bring it up as a role you can play when you are still training skills necessary to fly in combat situations. If you decide you want to dedicate yourself in this role, the Nidhoggur is your choice. The bonus to repair amounts makes this the most welcome carrier on structure rep-ops.
Combat Carrier — The current meta is mainly with ‘slowcat’ style carrier fleets where the capitals will ‘chain up’ to exchange cap, use drones to apply damage, and use remote repair on any fleet member under attack. An exceedingly powerful fleet doctrine, the combat carrier requires you to have good tanking, RR, and drone skills to participate. The two real choices for a combat carrier are the Archon or the Chimera. Each gets significant boosts to resistances to help survive combat with other capital level ships. The group you fly with will already have made a choice on whether to fly an Archon or a Chimera. Most groups fly Archons, but a good case can be made for Chimeras as well. Flying as a combat carrier pilot demands good skills in all areas, but primarily requires you to learn the commands and special actions that are needed by capital pilots, most of which sub-capital pilots don’t concern themselves with. And It’s not unusual for capital pilots to be in a different comms channel than the sub-cap pilots. As each group runs capital fleets slightly differently, the only way to really prepare is to ask for cap training from your alliance. You do not want to jump into a strat op fleet and be confused at what the FC is ordering – a single unprepared carrier pilot can put the entire fleet at risk.
Triage Carrier — The most skill intensive step for a carrier pilot is flying a triage carrier into combat. Some carrier pilots don’t even train into Triage since it’s such a specialised role. The Triage Module gives a carrier the ability to greatly increase the amount of repairs it can provide, but effectively isolates the triage pilot from any help from the rest of the fleet. The triage pilot is on their own when in ‘triage green’. Great skills in capacitor management and tanking are essential. A calm head to manage tanks, repairs, and fitting changes on the fly during a chaotic fight is required, and nothing about triage piloting is an easy task to master. Depending on the tank of your carrier, you will need to have skilled up Capital Shield Operations and/or Capital Repair Systems, since you will be self-repping for at least one triage cycle. Typically, Archons and Chimeras are the triage carriers of choice to support fleets, but it’s not unusual to see a Nidhoggur used in the role of ‘suicide triage’ in order to save a bigger ship due to the amount of reps it can apply before being destroyed.
So, if you still want to be a carrier pilot… As with most things in Eve, learning from people is much better than reading an article. Talk to your corp and alliance mates; get them to help guide your path. Many groups use Singularity (SiSi), the test server, to do initial carrier training for new pilots. No matter how much you read ahead of time, there is plenty more to learn from being in an actual fleet with experienced cap pilots.