Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nerf Drake RAWR!! Wait... what?

This is a wormhole blog and I hate to start out with a prima facia non-wormhole post, but this does have bearing in WH space.

There has been an interesting conversation brewing on the scrapheap challenge forums I've been following for the last few days. I've even read a take in one of the various blogs I frequent. I find it fascinating that when confronted by hardship in the game, the first (and often final) knee-jerk reaction is to scream nerf, petition for said nerf, start troll hate mail, etc.

Let's get the record straight right now. I hate the fucking drake. Its like a fucking cockroach that just won't lay down and die. I swear if a doomsday weapon went off in every known and unknown corner of space only these ships would be left. Hell they even look like cockroaches. I swear, the Caldari people have no idea what “aesthetics” means.

But this time, I actually don't think its the Drake's fault.

And as painful as that is to admit, I did a bit of research to back it up. I set out to prove it needs a nerf and instead think I may have stumbled about the cause. Or at least one of the causes.

Its game mechanics. More specifically, its shield tanking.

Let me explain. First I set about in Eve HQ's fitting tool (I find it gives better numbers then EFT, although the test would work the same in EFT) to build two theoretical ships. In the Battlecruiser class, each race has what I generally refer to as its “tank” and its “gank” style cruiser. Some are obviously more popular then others. For example the Amarr have the Harbinger which is more “gank” and the Prophecy which is more “tank”. Those of you who don't know why I refer to these ships as such, check each ship's bonuses. The Harbinger gets bonuses to damage only, whereas the Prophecy gets a bonus to armor resist. Similarly, the Minmatar has the 'cane for “gank” and the Cyclone for “tank”.

I'm focusing on the Gallente battlecruisers here because I have the most experience with them. Interestingly enough, both the Gallente ships get tank style bonuses; a 7.5% increase in armor rep effectiveness/amount per level. However, most would argue that the Brutix is more of the “gank” and the Myrmidon is more “tank” due to slot layout.

My two theoretical ship builds were a Drake and a Myrmidon. Each was fit to their standard with T2 only and my goal was to maximize 5 areas of the ship: dps, tank, ehp, range, and cap stability. I realize they don't come with points, prop mods or the like. These are merely theoretical setups. Please don't flood my comments with how I fail at fitting ships.

The Drake I fitted for heavy missiles and passive shield tank. This afforded me all five of the target areas easily. The Myrmidon I fitted for an armor tank with drones and Arty's, as they don't use cap and the Myrmidon gets no bonus to any type of guns. First I'll list the fits, then run the number by you. This is all with level 5 fitting skills. The drake setup I'm going to list requires a simple 3% cpu implant, something you can get around by fitting lower requirement meta 4 mods if you so desired.


6x Heavy Missile Launcher II with Caldari Navy Scourge Heavy Missiles

3x Large Shield Extender II
2x Invulnerability Field II
1x Shield Recharger II

2x Ballistic Control System II
1x Damage Control II
1x Shield Power Relay

3x Medium Core Defense Field Purger I


6x 650 Artillery Cannon II with Tremor M ammo
1x Drone Link Augmentor

5x Cap Recharger II

2x Medium Armor Repairer II
1x Damage Control II
1x Armor Explosive Hardener II
2x Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II

3x Medium Auxiliary Nano Pump I

2x Ogre II
2x Hammerhead II
1x Hobgoblin II

Looking at each ship's numbers, its easy to see why people are jumping to conclusions about nerfing the Drake. With all level 5 skills, these two ships are hardly what I'd consider equal.

The Drake has 88,463 EHP. This can be bumped to over 100k when Field Extender Rigs are applied instead of the Purgers. The Drake's passive shield tank against Omni-Damage is 487.68, which is not bad by any stretch of the imagination. It has solid resists, 66% EM, 79% Kin, 72% Therm, and 83% Explosive. It can spew missiles just over 84km away for 2,870 points of alpha and 467.19 dps. Because nothing is draining the cap except the shield, its entirely stable at 69%.

Those are the type of number that make people love this ship. Considering that setup is less then 100 million isk, its easy to see why haters gonna hate.

On the flip side, the Myrmidon only has 41,883 EHP – less then half of the Drake's. This was because in order to get maximum tank to match the Drake, I couldn't afford to fit plate. Furthermore, because of the guns and armor reps, I don't have enough grid left to fit even 800mm tungsten plate. 1600mm plate can fit on the Myrmidon, but only at the cost of dps and tank, a trade off I wasn't willing to make. Even if I managed to somehow shoehorn in 800mm plate, its EHP would actually DECREASE due to replacing a resist mod. Armor resists are on par with the Drake's shield – 75% EM, 67.5% Kin, 67.5% Therm, and 76% Explosive. The dual armor reps can run indefinitely, bringing its tank vs Omni-Damage to 488.78 dps. With Tremor M ammo, Optimal is 43,470km with 21,875km falloff. That means the guns zero out at 87,220km which is slightly better then the Drake until you take into consideration falloff mechanics and how they actually work. At 80km where the Drake will pound you for its full 467 dps, the Myrmidon is in deep, deep falloff and only getting a small fraction of its dps from guns. Using the holy EFT warrior trinity of Ogres, Hammers and Hobbies (oh my!) the Myrmidon squeaks out only 391.12 dps, and that's only when your in optimal. Drone control limit is 80km, and seriously, have you ever seen ogres chug 80km away? And you thought you got eye bleed from missions. If you switched to sentries, the dps actually decreases to 346.40 with Guarde II as does the effective range, although the advantage of sentries is instant damage on target instead of the eye bleeding speed of the Ogres.

So what does this all mean?

Well the tl:dr version of all that is the Drake pretty much trumps every category. Lets review:

EHP: Advantage Drake
Tank and Resists: This one is closer but neither one tips the scales here, Tie
DPS: Both for alpha and dps, Advantage Drake
Range: Due to falloff mechanics, Advantage Drake
Cap: Since both are stable, we'll call this a tie

Looking at the numbers and comparing them, its easy to see why the masses are chanting “nerf Drake” or “buff Myrm” or whatever.

But I would actually hypothesize that it is not the Drake that needs the nerf. Its shield tanking.


  1. With the exception of the Battleship class, a ship can be fit with the “next” larger size up Shield extender mod for a paltry fitting sum. With level 5 fitting skills, a LSE II only costs 46 CPU and 123.75 powergrid, well within Cruiser and Battlecruiser standards. The armor equivalent, 1600 mm rolled tungsten, costs 28 cpu and a whopping 500 powergrid, 4 times the cost of the LSE II!
  2. And its not like the 800mm Armor plate is any better. It costs about half the cpu at 23 but the powergrid cost is 200!
  3. A LSE II will provide an additional 3281 hp to the shield. That 1600mm tungsten plate? 5250 hp to armor. Of course you pay for that extra in the form of 326.25 more powergrid, which on a battleship is easy to come up with but find most cruisers lacking unless fitting mods are used. It is worse for 800mm Armor. It only provides an extra 2625 hp at greater power cost then the LSE II.
  4. LSE II increases passive tank because of the way shield recharge mechanics work. Because you increase the number of total shield hit points but keep the shield recharge time the same, you increase passive tank. Ships fitting shield extenders are essentially double-dipping, improving total EHP all while increasing tank, something that armor can not match.

Of course, shield tank proponents are quick to point out the single disadvantage of shield tanking, signature radius. But is this as big a drawback as we are led to believe? The Drake I have fitted with 3 LSE II brings is signature radius up for sure. But considering they are “large” mods that should be more in line with “large” ships of the BS class, its not nearly enough. It takes 3 such mods to bump the Drakes sig radius to 406, which is 6 over the sig of a large turret. For comparison, an armor fitted Dominix has a sig radius of 420. Each LSE II only increases the sig radius by a mere 25, hardly a drawback when one considers they are fitting battleship class armor buffers to cruiser style ships. Armor tanks suffer a penalty too, one to speed when speed mods are used (mwd or ab). And in general, most people will point out the drawback to speed is greater then the enhanced sig radius.

By trying to maximize trans and keeping both ships at optimal + 1 falloff of a Dominix sporting Ion Blaster II with Antimatter, the Dominix only has a 53% chance to hit the 406 sig radius Drake. Which is exactly what one would expect, seeing how the sig radius of the Drake is larger then the turret and at optimal + 1 falloff you have 50% chance to hit. For comparison, consider the Zealot. When put in the exact same spot/speed of the Drake with same trans, you would expect a much lower chance to hit considering the Zealots tiny (in comparison) sig radius of 125. The real world answer however, is somewhat disappointing at 38%, a mere 15% less then the Drake. This of course is a theoretical number in this situation, but still telling nonetheless.

So what is the takeaway from all of this?

I don't like the Drake, granted, but to say it needs a nerf I feel is a bit premature. Besides, I have always applauded the ability for lower cost, lower skill solutions to dominant situations in the game. In this case, Drake fleets are being used as a counter to the prevalent armor HAC gangs. The main portion of tears seems to be coming from the pilots flying those expensive HACs; and the thought of all those tears makes any pirate salivate. My guess is they are pissed a ship costing less then 100 mil is a solid counter to their far more expensive ship, both in isk and training time. The interesting thing is the armor HAC gangs were a direct counter to sniper BS fleets. I wonder how long it will take someone to figure out the sniper BS fleet is the direct counter to the Drake fleet. And we go 'round the circle again....

My take on all of this is shield tanking seems to be a bit too powerful. It probably explains the dominance of the Tengu as a weapons/tanking platform as well. It needs to be brought more in line with armor tanking, but to do so CCP is going to have to change some fundamental items that provide a baseline for all ships tanking in the game.

Considering their focus on shit like walking in stations, they will most likely not get around to balancing this and instead just nerf the Drake cause its easier.

I do have some thoughts on how to bring shield tanking more in line with armor. My first suggestion would be to increase sig radius penalty. 25 is just not enough for a LSE. I don't know what the exact number is, but I'm sure a 5 to 10 increase would be sufficient. Next, increase powergrid cost for all shield extenders. This will bring them more in line with armor plates. Third, and most importantly, introduce a shield recharge penalty by a set percentage. The main reason shield tanking works so well is by fitting extenders you can simultaneously increase both EHP and passive tank. It also makes shield recharger mods mostly useless. By introducing a recharge penalty, you bring them more in line with armor plates, which add more HP but don't change the “tank”; in this case is the shield recharge rate. After these changes are made you can increase the hp bonus to shield for all extenders, or, if PG cost stay the same introduce a new class of extender, and XL version if you will for the battleship class.

Fucking Drakes.

EDIT:  I just realized I left this part out.  I originally did an armor tank comparison with the Drake vs the Prophecy, figuring the Amarr armor tank would make for a better comparison vs Caldari shield due to both ships getting resist bonuses to their respective tanks.  In short, it didn't go well.  The Drake blew it out of the water errr space without it even being close.  The Myrm was the closest comparison on those items I was looking at.  In fact, when I changed the Myrm fit around and added 3 LSE II and 2 Invulnerability Field II and Shield Power Relay II in the lows I had a Myrm that not only did the same damage as the armor tank version, but it had more effective hit points AND tanked over 900 dps.  After I got done I thought it was extremely strange that I could get a better tank out of a ship that got the opposite bonuses.  Its not the Drake... its shield tanking.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

One man's lone adventure in the dark.....

Okay so maybe not that dramatic.

Welcome to Sleepless in Space!

Here you will find posts dedicated to Eve Online.  I will attempt to hit this up weekly and fill it with information, how-to, and general knowledge about Eve and in particular, wormhole space.  Here you will find interesting tidbits about the state of the game as well as how to not get your ass shot off in a wormhole. 

Yes, I know, there are many of these blogs about.  I will do my best to talk about whatever is pressing, as well as offering hints and tips to living in WH space.  I also encourage you to hit me up via email or comments if there is something you'd like to see talked about here in Sleepless.