The Nerf Bat of Charybdis

 
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.

The Ishtar

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.

Medium Railguns

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. tengu

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.

Speculation

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

About the author

Apothne

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.

  • Okay, I’m no great PVP master, so help me understand this argument: “What once took 80 Ishtars now takes 100.” So by that argument we can nerf the raw dps of any weapon or ship and it just doesn’t matter, because every organization has an infinite number of pilots ready to log in for any op needed? I would have thought that the low-numbers/high-skill approach of PL versus other opponents would have put a premium on each pilot’s contribution. I’ve heard this before, it just seems like such a nonsensical argument.

    • 0.0PVPER

      I agree with you. However I think the point may be more that Ishtar fleets can still be run in the same general way. The nerf doesn’t change the way they are flown, what you do with them, or make any other qualitative difference. It just changes the necessary quantity.

    • Messiah Complex

      The point (I think) is that a damage nerf is far less relevant than a nerf to damage application and projection would be. There are many groups out there that can, in fact, field enough Ishtars to offset the damage reduction, and the counters to those fleets will be no different than they were before the nerf. It’s the combination of the optimal range and tracking bonuses with the ability to sit well outside of the damage envelope of the opposing force that make the Ishtar such a force multiplier right now.

      • So you’re saying that today you’d just tell those other 20 pilots not to bother logging in just to give your opponent a fighting chance, but after the next release you’ll log in all your pilots? You wouldn’t take the advantage of the 7% more dps you’d get from logging in everyone you can rally? Seriously? Sure, I get that other nerfs would have been more interesting, I see how it doesn’t change the way they’re flown, but this casual “oh, we’ll just add more pilots to make up for it” still doesn’t make sense at all. Now if we were talking about T1 ships and the argument was that you’d move all your pilots up to a faction ship that is more expensive but just as valuable as the pre-nerf T1 ships then I could buy there. But this “just add more pilots” business is silly.

        • Messiah Complex

          Of course I’m not saying that. The point was that many groups already have enough Ishtar pilots to make the nerf inconsequential.

          • Can you explain what you mean by that then, using a real example? I’m still completely not getting what you could possibly mean.

    • FriendMan

      It is not a meaningless nerf, but a nerf only to the ishtar dps just means that fights take longer. It doesn’t make catching ishtars any easier or prevent them from applying damage at ridiculous ranges.

    • quesa

      As others have said, a simple and direct change to the damage output of drones doesn’t do much, in the long run. There is no choice of tool for the job, it merely pushes an entity to squeeze out a few more doctrine ships to overcome the nerf.

      However, a nerf to the application of said damage would change the decision making process of using {x} ship vs {y} or {z} ship. For example, if Sentries couldn’t effectively track cruisers then they would have to make an actual decision to use standard drones or another ship all together.

      Unfortunately, CCP has been using the ham-fisted approach to balancing lately and (a bit off topic) CCP seems to be systematically removing the incentive to fly bigger ships (capitals+).

  • Kamar Raimo

    “the sentry Ishtar is less mobile than a battleship fleet when it comes to fighting cross-system, or even over large grids.”

    “the sentry Ishtar is less mobile than a battleship fleet when it comes to fighting cross-system, or even over large grids.”

    I couldn’t agree more with those two statements in particular. On the whole I share a lot of the expressed thoughts here, the only thing I do not quite agree with is the nerf of T3 tank. Something that not only costs me lots of ISK but also skillpoints when it blows up should have decent survivability, and tank is actually not the problem with current T3 use.

    • Wat

      That would, in fact, be two instances of the same statment :B

      • Kamar Raimo

        Lol, yeah, totally missed that. That’s why they have people editing my writing here.

  • Interesting discussion, but when sov changes are announced, it might be a whole different game. If structure grinding for sov is dead (and it sounds like it is), the meta might shift significantly based on whatever the new rules are – and CCP might be waiting to “fix” bombers until that point as well.

    • flatterpillo

      I don’t see why that would be the case, no-one comes up a doctrine with sov in mind, they come up with doctrines designed to kill ships not structures =)

      • Timers and sov mechanics dictate everything for strategic conflict. They create the environment in which fleets need to be able to operate – shooting one another is “just” a by product of those rules.

        There are any number of ways CCP’s new system could influence the way fleets are put together, which may (or may not) impact how they want to / should balance bombers and battleships.

        • flatterpillo

          The environment won’t change due to sov changes, the environment is nullsec and bubbles/bombs will always be the distinctive environment of nullsec over say lowsec.

          Please include an example of how any new system could influence the way fleets are put together.

          • If you’re not imaginative enough to come up with even one example of how CCP completely re-writing sov mechanics /just might/ alter the strategy behind fleet composition, then nothing I can write in response will make for a productive conversation.

          • curly quote

            coelomate is right. Here’s why the sov mechanics matter: Imagine if nullsec sov mechanics became identical to faction warfare system ownership mechanics, with Novice/Small/Medium/Large plexes. Do you really think this wouldn’t change fleet composition? You’d need frigate, destroyer/AF, and t2 cruiser doctrines (and larger) to be competitive.

  • GrouchyOldGamer

    The Ishtars hasn’t been hurt that much, it’s still cheap and effective.