Since moving from Domain to Molden Heath I have gone from fighting other new players to fighting pilots with many, many more skill points than I have. In some cases, the difference is more than an order of magnitude, and this puts me at an obvious disadvantage.
While I can never close that skill gap, I can, by focusing my efforts, close that gap in certain areas. However, this requires me to focus all my training on a specific ship over the next several months, and I need to consider my options carefully. If I choose a skill set that fits me, and the way I fight, then I stand a good chance of becoming a seriously dangerous pilot. If I choose a skill set that, however good it looks on paper, simply does not suit my play style, then I will have wasted months, and my pvp career will flounder.
So, no pressure.
In truth, the skill set that any given ship demands often overlaps greatly with the skill set demanded by one or more other ships. Thus, taking a more long term view, maxing out my skills for one ship will also leave me close to maxed out on other ships. These different ship groups, or “skill sets”, are worth considering individually.
The Traditional Set
This skill set is the classic Amarr skill set, with a focus on lasers, low slot tanking (ie, armor or speed), backed up by great capacitor and fitting skills. Pvp ships in this set include the Punisher, Crusader, Omen and Harbinger.
The Punisher is a straightforward brawler; easy to learn, if a little one dimensional. From a training perspective the low cost is a real plus, and if the ship is not quite “end game”, pilots can graduate easily from a Punisher to a number of other ships.
The Crusader is the fastest ship in the game, and a deadly interceptor. Despite using almost the same skill set as the Punisher, it flies very differently, relying on speed, rather than armor, to deny the enemy a kill. Like the Punisher, though, the premise of the Crusader is very straightforward; fly fast and carry big guns. Tried and tested, this is a solid step up from the Punisher if I want to stay focused on frigates.
The Omen, unlike the previous two ships, has a poor reputation. That reputation is largely down to the difficulty of actually fitting an Omen, but there are a number of experienced pilots that swear the Omen is the equal of the Rupture once your fitting skills are maxed out. Like the Crusader, the pvp Omen seems to be most successful when used with a mwd to kite and evade the enemy while abusing the range bonuses of Scorch. This is another very cost effective ship.
The Harbinger has an excellent reputation, but I have no desire to fly anything larger than a cruiser. Still, if that were to change, this set would flow easily into battle cruisers.
A wide range of ships. Clearly, the Traditional Skill Set encompases ships of every class and cost. This should mean the set ages well, and is easy to learn on with a selection of cheap hulls.
Lasers. Let’s be clear, when we say lasers, we really mean Scorch. Scorch is a beautiful, beautiful thing, and it is what makes these otherwise unremarkable ships very, very dangerous. Close range damage from a long way away.
Builds on pre-existing skills. I already have about 1 million skill points in gunnery (although half are in fitting skills that benefit missile launchers too), which means that I don’t have as far to go to max out this skill set as I would some other sets.
Simple tactics. The Amarr are not known for their subtlety, and the Traditional Set reflects that. Just turn the guns on and try to keep at your ideal range. If that doesn’t work, switch ammo. Sorted.
Lasers. Lasers require cap skills that other weapons do not, which adds to the time necessary to max out this skill set. They also deal predictable damage, and, lets face it, T2 crystals are not cheap to loose.
Lack of mid slots. Typically, ships in this set lack mid slots, which gives them limited ewar, and makes them a little one dimensional. Their one “trick” is either going to be a stupendous tank, or stupendous speed (both being generated from the low slots). This could get a little boring to fly. This is my biggest concern with this set.
The Ewar Set
This skill set focuses primarily on drones skills and ewar – typically tracking disruptors and capacitor warfare. Pvp ships in this set include the Arbitrator, Curse, Pilgrim and Sentinel. These ships are not huge dps machines, but they each try and take control of the fight and eliminate the enemy’s ability to respond. If successful, the kill becomes inevitable, despite the lower damage output.
The Arbitrator has an excellent reputation for solo pvp, and it is also quite cheap to fly. Probably the best learning platform in this set, it is very flexible to fit, and packs loads and loads of ewar. Of course, most Arbitrator fits are also quite slow, so there is a certain lack of “zoom factor”.
The Curse and Pilgrim are Arbitrator upgrades. These ships are very expensive, but have a ferocious pvp reputation. The Pilgrim is especially appealing, as the ability to hunt under the cover of a covops cloak is nearly unique. These ships are not for the novice, but a worthwhile goal for experienced and skilled pvp pilots.
The Sentinel is a frigate version of the Curse, and as such it is far more affordable. Still not for novices, it offers an intermediate between the Arbitrator and the T2 cruisers.
A decent range of ships. The set does not boast as many ships as the Traditonal Set, and it is largely focused on cruiser hulls. Equally, all of these ships are flown in a similar manner, and use the same tactics. That being said, there are definite “beginner” and “end game” ships, which allows for a decent progression.
Asymmetric warfare. The Traditional Set would pit my gunnery and tanking skills against my enemy’s gunnery and tanking skills. If mine are better, I will probably win, but if they are not, I will probably lose. The Ewar Set takes a different approach, trying to take control of the fight and negate the enemy’s skills. While requiring more pilot skills, it can compensate for lower character skills.
Builds on pre-existing skills. Thanks to my pve tangent, I have reasonable drone skills (about half a million skill points), which means that I will not take as long to max out this skill set as some others.
Very different approach. Although I like the sound of this type of combat, the truth is that I have no experience with it. If I commit to it, I am taking the risk that it just won’t suit me. On the other hand, by slowing down and controlling the fight I might actually be playing to my strengths.
Slow. None of these ships are known for their speed. While I have never wanted to be the fastest ship in the system, I do like a bit of zoom. I would be giving that up in exchange for other forms of control. This is perhaps my biggest concern when it comes to this set.
The Khanid Set
The Khanid Skill Set focuses on rockets and low slots. Pvp viable ships include the Malediction and the Vengeance, both of which are well regarded (since the rocket boost) pvp ships. The Sacrilege and Damnation also make an appearance, although they are generally less popular.
The Malediction seems to be a very forgiving ship, at least as far as interceptors go. With a cap-less weapon system and high resists, the Malediction is free to spend cap on armor repair, and does so efficiently. This means that while it is not as fast as the Crusader, it can cope with moderate damage, perhaps from drones or missiles. The extra long (nearly 30km before overheat) point also allows the pilot to regroup, moving out of range to consider his options, while still not allowing his enemy to escape.
The Vengeance, while slower and designed as a brawler, shares the Malediction’s abundance of extra cap, which again allows an effective active tank. While only a frigate, my understanding is that assault ships pack a cruiser size punch, which allows it to take on a wide range of targets.
The Sacrilege is the Vengeance’s big brother; a close range, thick skulled brawler that wins through absorbing damage (often with dual reps), rather than a high dps. An interesting ship, but the price tag associated with T2 cruisers also ensures that I would not be flying one any time soon.
Rockets. Rockets are the only close range weapon system that can compete with Scorch for range. They also ignore tracking, which makes them excellent in dog fights, and even give the pilot a strong answer to a frigate’s worst enemy: drones! They also use no cap, a point I have touched on above.
Slot layout. Khanid ships have a fantastic slot layout, allowing full tackle or some incorporated ewar. Thus, they have more tactical freedom than their Traditional Set counterparts (indeed, this is the reason that the Retribution is not even pvp viable).
Amarr resists. Despite having fewer low slots, the inbuilt resists of Khanid ships means that they don’t lose any ability to absorb damage. Indeed, for solo purposes the resists make an active tank much more efficient, and the cap-less weapon systems help even more.
They look awesome. This is not a point to be overlooked. While Amarr ships generally look good, if you are going to be staring at a single spaceship months, there is something to be said for making sure that it is one of the two most awesome looking spaceships in New Eden.
Narrow range of ships. While the two Khanid frigates have different roles, they are ultimately both frigates. I’m also not sure how much variety the cruiser actually offers, besides a larger tank. This is potentially a problem in the long term, although past experience has taught me that frigates are generally my favorite hull to fly.
Cost. This set does not offer a cheap ship to practice with, as the Khanid “theme” exists purely as a series of T2 ships. While the Malediction does offer a fair amount of “gtfo” and might be able to escape destruction the way my Punisher cannot, each loss will be a very expensive lesson. If pushed, the Inquisitor might make a serviceable training platform in the short term - while generally overlooked, I have encountered a number of pilots that have used it successfully.
Rockets. I would have to start from scratch with this weapon system. It would probably be worthwhile with the recent changes, but painful nevertheless. Rockets are also still a bit of an unknown at the moment, as many people still shun them because of their reputation. I suppose that an alternative would be to accept the loss of the damage bonus and stick with lasers, but that seems inelegant.
The financial and skill costs are my biggest concerns with this set.
Now, I am genuinely torn between these three different sets. Each one seems very cool, and I lean one way and then another as time goes by. Ultimately, though, I have to pick one for the medium term and stick with it.
Before I make a decision, though, I would like to hear what more experienced pilots have to say on the matter - perspective is a valuable commodity. So I have included a vote, below. While I won’t promise to be bound by the vote, I will find it very pursasive. When voting, don’t just vote for “the best”, vote for “the best for Taurean Eltanin”. You’ve read about my fights, you’ve seen how I think and react. Which set is most likely to bring me success and enjoyment?
Which skill set should I be trying to max out over the next 3-6 months?
Thanks for voting. I want as many opinions as possible, so please direct your friends here if you think they would be interested. If you have a blog, links are appreciated.
Finally, don’t be afraid to leave a comment. I’m looking for all the input I can get!