The Frigate Menace

 

Hello friends. Gorski Car here to discuss assault frigates! This class of ships has been falling out of favor for some time now and was only just recently thrown a small bone when tactical destroyers were removed from small complexes in Factional Warfare. Apart from this, they are always outclassed by the tactical destroyers in all scenarios.

While some of them still have some small uses left, like the Harpy in the occasional nullsec fleet, they are a rare sight outside of Factional Warfare space. In this article I am going to propose some changes to this ship class which is in much need of some help.

The speed creep

In their current state assault frigates are on average 26% slower than T1 frigates. We can compare this to heavy assault cruisers who are on average only 3% slower than their T1 counterparts.

All speeds assuming microwarpdrive and all V skills

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Assume Microwarpdrive and all V skills

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In order to help close this gap a bit I propose an overall 10% speed buff across the board to all assault frigates. This would put assault frigates around interdictor speed and close the gap to T1 frigates to about 15% as opposed to 26%.

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I personally think this small boost is all that’s needed to make some assault frigates great again.

It is, however, not enough for an unfortunate few of them that are almost beyond help at the moment.

Role bonuses

All assault frigates have a role bonus reducing the signature of microwarpdrives by 50%. This bonus is not a bad one at all, but I feel like it’s not exactly what these ships need for some of their most common roles like heavy frigate tackle or close-range brawling. The current bonus is actually quite helpful at the time when you are spiraling in on your target to get into engagement range and under their guns, but it’s not really useful once you are within the reach of an enemy scram. At that point you can almost always count on being both counter webbed and scrammed, and then the bonus does nothing for you.

At the moment assault frigates can actually be beat by cleverly flown T1 frigates

This is one issue of assault frigates where I have seen a number of different suggestions over the times. The most popular among those are web resistance or an afterburner speed bonus. Certainly good and strong bonuses that would help the assault frigates hugely, but I wonder if they are not going to disrupt the balance of small-scale or solo PvP with frigates. At the moment assault frigates can actually be beat by cleverly flown T1 frigates and certainly by T1 destroyer pilots. Making them too powerful in certain ways could make that impossible.

I discussed this with my good friend Suitonia and we realized that currently every assault frigate has a utility high-slot that is very rarely used due to the tight fitting resources this ship class suffers from. So we figured why not give assault frigates a ~90% fitting reduction for energy nosferatus.

I am a big fan of this idea as it would help them to maintain tackle once the target is scram/webbed and such a bonus would not disrupt solo frigate PvP much since nosferatus can only drain cap if yours is lower. It also helps a lot against T1 cruisers or even bigger ships which have the ability to fit an energy neutralizer in the utility high-slot. Additionally it’s of course another button to click, and that’s always more fun than a passive bonus.

Another thing we discussed was to just provide a straight-up resistance to energy neutralizers instead, and I feel that could also somewhat work, but it would be less fun.

What I haven’t talked about with Suitonia is the possibility to add some sort of ECM/EWAR resistance. The heavy assault cruisers already have this to some degree with their high sensor strength. Assault frigates could very well use that too, but I don’t think it further helps them with their role, even if it would be somewhat useful in certain situations.

Let’s dig into more specifics regarding the different assault frigates!

Specific assault frigate suggestions

Amarr

The Amarr ships are usually heavily armor-tanked with low speeds, using lasers as primary weapons with drones and missiles as secondary ones.

Retribution

Retribution:

The Retribution is a laser based platform which currently sees most use as a slower but more tanky version of the Slicer. This is due to its high optimal range bonus coupled with the long range of either beams or Scorch on pulse lasers. It is also one of two assault frigates with only two mid slots, meaning it can’t actually bring much else than DPS to the field. This is why I feel the current Retribution with only 5 effective turrets is too weak to fulfil its only role.

The change for this could be to replace the tracking bonus with a 5% rate of fire bonus. This would however result in a 33% damage boost. That might be a bit too much for some people but they should remember that the Retribution doesn’t really have much else to bring to the table.

Another possibility could be to give it a small drone bay similar to the Tormentor. This would provide a bit more complexity to the ship in the first seconds of the fight, especially if flying a kiting-fit version where you have to maintain an initial orbit, point, activate all modules and launch drones. I could see how two or three drones definitely could help this ship.

I would also like to give it a boost to both speed and mass to indirectly make up for the loss of the tracking bonus.

Vengeance

Vengeance:

Overall I feel the Vengeance is actually quite a strong brawler, even if not very popular due to being outshined by the Hawk. It does however have some problems. For starters it has one of those capacitor regeneration bonuses that just feels unfun. I think that all bonuses should feel strong and powerful and complement the ship in fighting. This is a bonus that might as well be baked into the ship and no one would care. That would leave a slot open for another bonus.

I suggest replacing this with a 5% bonus to application of missiles (i.e. explosion radius and velocity). A raw DPS bonus would not be needed as this ship already hits quite hard and can select its damage type. A bonus to application would however help fits deciding to drop the web for a cap booster in order to dual rep.

Another thing I noticed is that the Vengeance is quite starved for CPU, having to fit a bunch of rocket launchers and a lot of low slots, so I would also suggest a tiny boost to base CPU.

Gallente

Like the Amarr, Gallente also favor armor tank, but with some additional hull tanking to boost it. Their ships are usually a very high in DPS, using close-range blasters or long-range rails with drones.

Enyo

Enyo:

I am actually a big fan of the high-DPS blaster Enyo fits that barely tank while doing as much damage as possible right in your face. The addition of the hull HP rigs did this ship a huge favour and it is actually in my opinion currently in a very good spot. It would probably not need further changes other than the speed boost and role bonuses suggested for all assault frigates.

Ishkur

Ishkur:

This ship… I do not even know where to begin with it. The bonuses it gets are all over the place and it seems to come from a time where 5 drones on a frigate was already considered overpowered, even if they don’t get a damage bonus. I do not know whether CCP intends this to be a blaster ship or a drone ship or just considers it a jack of all trades – master of none.

Let’s start with this bonus: 5 m^3 bonus to ship drone bay capacity per Assault Frigate level.

This just feels like a horrible bonus that is rarely used and built in on all other similar ships, yet the Ishkur gets to live with it as one of its bonuses. It’s like saying “Hey if you train assault frigates to max you get to bring an additional flight of drones”. Doesn’t exactly feel worth it does it? This bonus would be the first to go if I were to redesign this ship.

Next up is the 10% drone HP bonus. Yes, this is a bit confusing and I have had many players come to me and say “Hey the Ishkur is good, it gets a nice drone flight with damage bonuses!” and they are always surprised when I tell them no. The Ishkur does not actually get a damage bonus to its drones, but they can soak more damage themselves.

Apart from those two, this ship gets a 5% damage boost to hybrids and a 10% optimal range bonus. Both are hardly good bonuses and I would probably redesign this ship to focus way more on drones, using blasters more as a sidearm to kill damaged foes or other drones.

Suggestions here would be to replace the bonuses with: 10% drone damage/hp and 10% hybrid tracking for the Gallente Frigate skill and give 7.5% drone velocity and 10% drone tracking on the Assault Frigate skill. All of those at the same time might however be too strong, so I wouldn’t mind removing the bonus to drone hitpoints or look at reducing the tracking bonus.

Caldari

Combining heavy shield with decent damage using either hybrids or rockets, the Caldari have the two most powerful assault frigates. The Hawk is one of the strongest brawling frigates – especially in small FW plexes – and the Harpy shines as a long-range rail platform with high tank. With its dual range bonuses and high resistances it’s actually viable as a 0.0 doctrine ship.

I do not really think these ships need much help other then a small speed increase and additional role bonus that all other Assault frigates will get.

Minmatar

Minmatar are a race using fast ships that can be either armor or shield tank using projectile turrets as their main weapon, or in some rare cases missiles. In general Minmatar ships tend to be very flexible but unfortunately largely fell out of favour with the EVE playerbase recently, except the Svipul.

Wolf

Wolf:

This ship is the other assault frigate that has only two mid slots. It does, however, have quite high DPS with decent projection and tracking compared to the Retribution, and its selectable damage types make it quite usable. There are some decent useful artillery fits that work quite well if you are a high tier pilot, despite what a certain zkill guide tells you.

With that said they are not without problems. I would probably look at giving them a further speed boost and maybe consider increasing the tracking bonus to 10%.

Jaguar

Jaguar:

Now here, on the other hand, we have some proper shit. This ship is more confused than some of the moderators on the tweetfleet slack. It has a very strange slot layout without any focus. Ontop of that it lacks the fitting to actually use all those mids and low slots effectively. Its DPS is also really low with only 3 guns. The Jaguar’s one redeeming quality is its high speed. It can even fit somewhat of a decent tank if you choose to sacrifice all else.

I suggest reworking this ship entirely into something like a tiny version of the Claymore, skipping the projectile turrets all together and switch the focus solely on rockets with a secondary bonus to active shield boosters.

This change would also provide a nice progression from the Breacher.

The new bonuses would be 5% missile rate of fire and 7.5% shield boost per level of Minmatar Frigates and 5% missile damage plus 5% explosion velocity per level of Assault Frigate skill. This would give it more DPS than the Hawk for non-kinetic damage types but less for kinetic.

The whole slot layout also needs to be changed in order to give the ship 4 launcher slots and keeping the utility high. Ideally I would like to see the ship at a 5H 4M 3L layout.

IN CLOSING

Thanks to Suitonia for the awesome discussion regarding these ships. I hope CCP can find time to balance this long forgotten class of ships that is actually quite fun to fly and provides some extra firepower compared to their T1 counterparts.

 

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Tags: assault frigates, balance, Gorski Car

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.