Tactical, or Tech 3, Destroyers (T3Ds) were gradually introduced to the pilots of New Eden so their impact on lowsec PVP has been difficult to fully gauge. With the release of the Hecate, CCP has rounded out this new class of warship and enough time has passed to be able objectively look at the impact on our little corner of space: Faction Warfare. Given how prevalent T3Ds have been throughout Gallente/Caldari, I can say that the impact these new ships has had on Faction Warfare has been wide ranging, significant – and largely negative.
Flying a T3D feels fantastic, almost like a guilty pleasure. They are oppressive and terrifying machines that, when properly fit, don’t balk at the sight of a Cruiser or Assault Frigate, let alone gangs of T1 Frigs. This has had a negative impact on plex warfare given that they are capable of pushing out virtually any other class of ship in Smalls and Mediums. Apart from the limitations provided to plexes in the form of acceleration gates, fleet warfare in lowsec has significantly changed. T3D fleets are very powerful now and will only improve as FCs continue to iterate and tweak their theorycraft. This has led to their prevalence in everything from small gangs to larger fleets which has limited the choices players have in the ships they fly. Assault Frigates are largely the victims of this. Although one can still see Enyos and Harpies zipping around, many FCs have put down these elegant little ships in exchange for the raw power of Svipuls and Confessors. The problem is then further compounded when you examine how laughably inexpensive T3Ds even independent of their ridiculous insurance payout.
T3Ds are arguably overpowered just when examining their potential through theorycraft and combat effectiveness. I will leave this sort of analysis to FW.com’s fitting gurus. For now, I’ll look at the three strategic-level points I put forth in the preceding paragraph:
T3Ds Have Made Plex Warfare Less Fun and More Difficult for Newbros
The fact that a ship which can very often smash Cruisers is allowed into a Small is testament to how oppressive the presence of T3Ds have been to Faction Warfare, especially to newer players. For starters, the point of plexes is to group ships of similar power together so that players can chose the SP and ISK requirements of a prospective fight when plexing. Obviously, there are ways to completely ruin this system (i.e. flying a Worm into a Novice). But for the most part, there is a gradual escalation in ship power as you work your way up in plex size.
Since T3Ds are competitive in the T1 Cruiser class, they should feel right at home in Mediums although they are not the top of the food chain. I wouldn’t want to put T3Ds in a lurch by relegating them to Mediums and above. But on the other hand, in Smalls they are so overpowered and oppressive that the lesser of two evils here would be to put the onus on the T3D pilot to need to perform well in a Medium than to get free kills or uncontested LP in Smalls. Perhaps the solution is not as simple as disallowing T3Ds in Smalls. The answer may be somewhere in the middle where T3Ds are more expensive but slightly more powerful where they have a firmer home in Mediums, or they are nerfed a bit so they are not so powerful compared to other Small-eligible ships. All I can firmly say at this point is they are far too powerful for Smalls but not exactly powerful enough to feel fully at home in Mediums. Stuck in the middle, they are a bit awkward in small gang/solo plex warfare at the moment.
Looking at the situation another way, tech 3 Cruisers are not allowed into Mediums, presumably because they outclass their T1 equivalent substantially. Why then, would it be rational to allow T3Ds into smalls? This essentially eliminates the possibility of a lone or small gang of T1 Destroyers being able to stand their ground in many lowsec encounters.
Given that many new players do not have the SP or the ISK to regularly field T3Ds means, that a place like a Small plex, which is supposedly geared towards players in smaller ships, are basically forced to constantly run or sit exclusively in Novice plexes. This is not to say that T3Ds are SP-intensive or expensive for well-established players, in fact it’s quite the contrary. But because T3Ds are so ubiquitous, this limits the choices of players who do not want to fly T3Ds as they simply have no chance of competing in Smalls now in small group or solo settings.
T3Ds Are Oppressively Powerful and Choice-Limiting in Small Gangs
One of the most beautiful aspects of EVE is using knowledge, piloting skill, and some luck to defeat a ship that on paper should absolutely beat you. A Tracking Disruption Slasher tearing through a Rail Fit Catalyst, an Enyo tackling and getting under the guns of an arty-fit stabber. Good piloting can make for some impressive killmails, and it should. The wide margin of error and power of T3Ds makes this sort of thing very rare. Although you can have T1 Frigs and Cruisers defeat their T2 counterparts, this is a very tall order for T3Ds. Currently in small gang warfare, there are simply no T1 Destroyers currently in the game that have a reasonable chance of defeating any T3D even if the T1 pilot has a well-fit counter to their tech 3 opponent. Of course it makes sense that T3Ds should be able to best their tech 1 counterparts in most cases – but the gulf in power and capability between T1 and T3 destroyers is so significant and insurmountable that the situation has led to T3Ds not only oppressing destroyers, but other classes of ships as well. This oppression does not apply to every situation, however. As my colleague MP2008 noted in a previous article, T3Ds are ironically very inefficient when it comes to blob fleets typically seen in system sieges. Given that a large pack of Cormorants can alpha through a few Svipuls and easily win the ISK war, T3Ds are now either way too powerful for small gang warfare or not very useful for large fleet operations. Like the conundrum between Small and Medium plexes, T3Ds are in a weird “in between” state for small and large fleets.
This brings me to my next point about the strategic impact of T3Ds: Assault Frigates have been largely marginalized in favor of T3Ds. Given the additional versatility because of the mode system plus the price point for a fully fitted T3D, Assault Frigates have a difficult time competing. I realize now I’m speaking anecdotally, but the frequency of Assault Frigates in my part of lowsec has dropped to a very low number in favor to Svipuls and Confessors. One could argue that T3Ds are more popular now because they’re the latest cool thing. But if I’m sitting in Jita thinking about what I should ship home to fight with, it just doesn’t make sense to load up Harpys or Enyos when I have so many more options and so much more power in T3Ds.
The risk of flying T3Ds is also considerably less than flying a tech 3 Cruiser for several reasons – which lends to the conclusion that the price ratio between T1 and T3 Destoyers should at least be equal to if not more than the ratio for T1 and T3 Cruisers. I will discuss this in detail in the next section. For now, if one compares T3 Destroyers to Cruisers you will see that the T3 Destroyer has many advantages over Cruisers for far less money. From a skillpoints standpoint, T3Ds are far less skill intensive than tech 3 Cruisers as they do not have a set of sub systems needing training – just each races’ Tactical Destroyer skill. Put another way, players can achieve the maximum effect of all T3D modes by training just one skill. Furthermore, losing a T3D incurs no SP loss like its cruiser equivalent. So you have lots of power in a small package that has no downside potential for your character sheet. Additionally, T3Ds do not require the transport and docking/refitting required of subsystems like T3 Cruisers, the versatility of T3Ds is available with the click of a button and a short cool-down.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the new mechanic of switching ship modes “on-the-fly” is an awesome idea and I’m glad CCP implemented it. I’m just concerned that the impact such mechanic has on the power of T3Ds may not be properly weighed at least in the situation of Faction Warfare.
T3Ds Are Laughably Under-Priced
T3Ds are not CCP’s first foray into Tech 3 hulls, so we have some basis of comparison when looking at pricing. The argument could be made that T3Ds are even more powerful in combat than their Cruiser equivalent when looking at the base power of Tech 1 variants. But independent of hull capability, some very simple data analysis shows that T3Ds need to be brought in alignment with T3 Cruisers.
A few notes on the table above:
- It is very difficult to create a reliable “average cost to fit a ship” given on how many options one has. To compile this data I looked at killboards to get a feel for common fits and costs. I also used a combination of Osmium and Evepraisal (using Jita prices) to compile a list of the most common fits and their costs for each hull you see mentioned above.
- For both lossmails and common fittings, anything with Faction mods or something out of the ordinary was discounted from my data. T2 modules were as expensive as I would allow into the calculation.
- As you can see, this is not an intensely scientific study. The numbers can be pushed in either direction within reason. Even if you cherry pick results to support a conclusion in either direction, the massive gulf in price ratio I think is clear regardless of how you’d want to tweak the cost numbers.
- This table also leaves out Platinum Insurance’s cost impact on the price of T3Ds. I think if I included that data as well the average ratio would skew even further in favor of my conclusion. Anyone who has ever insured a Hecate and received a huge portion of their investment back in insurance knows what I’m talking about. Yes, you never get money back for the fittings. But even if you don’t get a single mod of loot back – you’re only using Small size modules so fittings can be as cheap as you can pretty much get with PVP ships.
I think the numbers speak fairly loudly. If you compare T3Ds to their Cruiser-class brethren, Tactical Destroyers are roughly half the price as Strategic Cruisers. Couple that with the fact that you outfit T3Ds with small sized modules and you have no skillpoint downside – why wouldn’t you fly Svipuls, Hecates, and the like any time you’re solo or in a small gang?
I Can Has Fix?
Despite the problems T3Ds may have created in Faction Warfare, I think fixing them on a strategic level really only boils down to one change: increase the materials required to manufacture T3Ds commensurate to about a doubling in price. This will bring these ships in line with both the ratio of expense to Cruisers and their tech 3 variants. Additionally, doubling the price of these ships will decrease their frequency and better represent the fantastic power they give pilots who undock them.
For what it’s worth, I think CCP believes that T3Ds need some tweaks and one can hardly blame them for wanting to make some changes. T3Ds represent a major new foray into game mechanics – it’s only natural that the developers would want to hone these mechanics as they see these ships operating “in the wild.” I have hope that their announcement of a Focus Group for Tactical Destroyers will net out changes that bring this new class of ship better in line with their formidable might.