Scylla brings us a host of nerfs to ships being clamoured for attention from the balance team by the player base. The reaction has been mixed, but mostly positive. Let’s take a look at the specifics as they stand right now.
Read the dev forum post here.
Changes: Sentry Damage & HP reduced from a 10% bonus to a 5% bonus.
Everyone is talking about the fact that Ishtars are losing close to 18% of their DPS. This, to me, is not all that interesting a change. What once took 80 Ishtars now takes 100, or whatever fleet numbers your organisation uses. They’re still a great choice for structure bashing. The Bouncer nerf is a nice touch but doesn’t cause any major changes; you can still do okay volley and damage while running your fleet in the opposite direction.
Personally, the change I was expecting was a systematic breakup of drone bonuses. The Ishtar gets in a single bonus 5% to sentry tracking and optimal. Sure, it has two weapon systems (heavies & sentries), but the Apoc (one of the recently most popular battleships in Navy form) gets optimal and projection as its sum hull bonuses. I was expecting the Ishtar to lose either optimal or tracking (and as it’s Gallente, optimal) and have the old 7.5% bonus just to one of tracking or optimal. This way it would either snipe well, but have lots of trouble with application, or apply really well but need to force its opponent into range.
The HP change is what I think is going to push for more (already effective) tactics against the Ishtar blob. Smartbombing and regular bombing of drones are a strong way to defeat the Ishtar blob, even if not killing the ships outright, it makes them entirely ineffective. Hell, with this HP change it’s now more reasonable to go, “Okay, we can’t break the Ishtars because they’re 100k away and faster than us, let’s just get up some transversal and blap drones all day long”. In the heat of battle, a commonly forgotten tactic against the Ishtar is simply warping off to a perch and re-engaging from a different angle. Sentry drones are a tether; for all their raw speed and mobility, the sentry Ishtar is less mobile than a battleship fleet when it comes to fighting cross-system, or even over large grids.
Edit: Following the release of Mukk’s excellent article detailing more analysis on the nerf and how it will affect the groups that use it as a doctrine, I feel I may have misrepresented my opinion. I did not state that the nerf was inherently insufficient, or that you could simply magic more pilots out of the air. In the first paragraph my point is that the critical number of nerds use needs to get to the point you can undock with them and win the fight, as Mukk points out, is changed. The opinion I was trying to convey was that I thought it would be more interesting to see a change that affected how the Ishtar engaged stylistically.
Read the dev forum post here.
Changes: 7.5% reduction to rate of fire for medium railguns.
Again, not the change I was expecting. Railguns are popular on two types of hulls at the moment—the Proteus and Caldari ships with double optimal bonuses (or in the case of the Tengu, one large one). Being further away from your opponent reduces incoming DPS and inherently increases your ability to track. Combine that with hulls of incredible EHP for their class (i.e. Tengu, Eagle, Vulture), they are an automatic winner as a choice of fleet doctrine. The Proteus has a legendary tank and a great tracking bonus, though it’s the tank that make Rail-Proteus’ badass. The guns are merely good enough to get the job done. The dev blog specifically states that the hulls and the guns are intimately linked, but I’m surprised they approached it from this angle rather than the other.
Anyway, as to the actual change—I think that the “balanced” DPS output for a given ship with given guns isn’t actually one singular value, but more of a range of values that’s reasonable compared to other hulls using equivalent weapon systems with equivalent tiers. 455 DPS with Caldari Navy Antimatter for some ship and not one DPS higher or lower is arbitrary, and as long as it’s between say 430 and 480, it’s fine. This DPS change isn’t substantial enough to make any massive changes; the main result for larger null-warfare (where the rails are predominant) is whether the logis can now catch their buddy a gun cycle sooner, and thus save them. For the uninitiated, in null, generally speaking if the target has reps land, it lives. It’s all about the volley, or more specifically how much damage you can apply to your target before the reps land. This is one of the reasons scan res damps are so great; a few extra seconds locking is a few extra seconds the ship survives only on buffer.
For both this change and the Ishtar one, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. These changes modify how many of each ship you’ll need to do the same job. It doesn’t inherently add any new decisions or any new gameplay, other than possibly scaring people away from these hulls and maybe gaining more diversity that way. As I’ve mentioned here and in other articles, I would have liked to see changes that reduce how expansive these ships are across multiple situations and needs, making them really strong in a smaller area of engagements but significantly weaker elsewhere. Each doctrine idea in my mind should be amazing when engaging in the way for which it was designed. Individual piloting and decisions made by the FC should dictate which side gets to engage optimally. Having ships that project well with good damage and with good tank (or the ability to stay away from damage) is going to be useful across the board and easy to do. Making changes to force decisions upon players and FCs I think is where true balance and interesting doctrine choices will be found.
Defensive Subsystem Changes
Read the dev forum post here.
Changes: Legion & Proteus EHP bonus from 10% to 7.5%, Tengu from 10% to 5% (with some extra recharge). Legion, Proteus & Tengu gain a little EHP and the Loki loses some.
This is the change I have absolutely no qualms with. T3s have so much EHP, the standard way to fight them was to shoot everything else on grid first; shooting the T3s themselves would be an exercise in futility. Again, these changes aren’t going to wipe the way T3s are currently used off the map, just make them a less obvious choice and easier to deal with. I think that BL are on to a good thing with their arty Loki fleet which has actually received a little buff.
This is a good and very needed change.
Beyond the speculations I’ve already made, it’s not unwarranted to venture over the larger meta. Firstly, as with every pass of nerfs, some groups are going to over-react and abandon these hulls and doctrines as lost. Secondly, some groups will ignore the changes completely and just continue business as usual until someone finds something that they lose to consistently.
More broadly speaking, I think battleships are slowly making their way back into popularity, which makes me super happy. Phoebe jump changes mean you’re less likely to immediately get dicked on the capital e-peen of everyone in the game, with both the BS themselves and the triage support. Additionally, BSs will now apply damage to the T3s a little better and have more chances to kill them before reps land with the large EHP nerf. PL are using Tempest Fleet Issues regularly. We are also seeing Rattlesnakes and Domis that are ever-present in the background.
That said, there’s still a few obstacles to overcome for BSs to make a full comeback:
A bomber “nerf” or continued anti-bomber advancements. Currently the only way anyone fields BS, is where they have utility highs to firewall them off.
A change to missiles such that they cannot be firewalled anywhere nearly as easily.
Shield triage needs to not be garbage compared to their armour counterpart (see FI4)
The above is, of course primarily directed towards nullsec; in lowsec, battleships and triage are already swinging. Northern Faction Warfare space is awash with the likes of Snuff dropping Navy Megas, NApocs and their signature Machariel fleet unopposed, and for the first time in a long time, I’m seeing less affluent groups looking tentatively into their own first battleship doctrines.
Cruisers will still be king for now. I hope we can see at least some more variation with the Ishtar and T3 nerfs, but as I’ve mentioned above, they’re not the changes I think would cause gameplay shifts that are more…interesting.
Tags: apothne, nerfbat, Scylla
Apothne is a proud member of Sniggerdly and an experienced roaming FC. He is a Guest FC and Lecturer for EVE University and anyone who invites him to ramble on their comms for a few hours. He is currently one of the most active and experienced player commentators for EVE Tournaments, including hosting and casting AT XII-XV and all #EVE_NT leagues, as well as the Amarr Championships on stage at Fanfest 2016.