Saturday, April 15, 2017

Espionage - the Tough Love edition

Well, there have been the usual set of complaints over the last month about how the new "skill" & "auto" hulls have been rolled out... 
Skill hull: Not enough time to build that fleet 
Auto hull: Very expensive for a non-top shelf hull

In my last article I described the Icebreaker as "rank" and wasn't sold on it. I think its performance in this raid has borne out my prediction - it is really only good in the 60s, not the 80s (note: using the "tier" terminology has gotten too confusing).

I managed to get 2 Monoliths completed with 74% rank for this raid too.  But my favorite fleet for doing this raid is... the Punisher / Harlock Citadel fleet I've been doing the FM with for the last year.  This is Kixeye's gift to us.  Anyone with a decent FM fleet should be able to blast through A sets on this raid and not spend any coin doing it.  There's lots of videos and information on the FB pages about how to do it, so I'm not going to repeat any of it here.  I like the Punisher even better than my Zelos tank - the slower speed of the Punisher is a better match for the Citadels, and it also makes it easier to stop in the right spot.

So here's the tough love part:  If you can't do this raid, you are not good at this game.  The universal piece of advice that just about every knowledgeable player agrees on is that you have to be able to do the FM to succeed in this game.  Do you know any players that are good base hitters, good at getting Uranium and Base Parts, but just can't crack that FM?  If you don't have a decent Pun / Cit fleet, or at least Novas with some sort of anti / tank spotter... what the hell have you been doing with your shipyard for the last year?  Don't tell me because your answer is wrong.

The most important thing to think about right now is that you need to come out of this raid cycle with a fleet that can do this raid cycle.  The Icebreaker & its weapon/special are kind of expensive at 40 million points for the second-rate hull, but think about getting a Harlock Citadel and Citadel build tokens ... OK?

I'm also going to talk Monoliths for the top tier players.  The main reason I didn't like the Monoliths I built is that the shells were too slow.  My build left off the High Velocity Rounds since I though the shells would fall fast enough with the built-in Projectile Speed.  I plan to fix that as I build out my Monolith fleet.  And what about the Gridiron?  Read on...

Obviously you need to stop out of range of the Coldsnap rocket turrets to succeed in this raid.  And obviously you need enough antis on your tank.  But beyond that, the real skill part of this raid, and the hardest part for me to figure out at the start, is how to protect your back line remote targeting ships.  Kixeye has been playing around with this idea for a while; there was a TLC a couple months back that also posed that challenge using by priority targeting on the turrets.  I expect (without any actual evidence) that as the raid difficulty gets ramped up over this cycle, we will see it get harder to protect your rear line.  It may come though the return of Priority Targeting on the Executioners, or through an increase in the splash & damage of the Arc Missiles.

This is interesting in light of the Gridiron Monolith field - it doesn't protect the Gridiron itself like we all were expecting, but it does protect the backline ships, and that MAY be what Kixeye was thinking when they designed it like that.  

As always, good luck in the raid & keep grinding.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ranking the Rank Icebreaker

There's some great videos out there on how to do this raid.   My favorite is Forsaken Cove's article on how to do the 107.  On the 100, I do a loop for the long range turrets, a loop for the short range ballistics, a loop for the big launcher, and then pick off the outer launchers.  I'm sure there's some videos out there from the last raid.

All that assumes a ranked Harlock Cannoneer fleet... without that, well-driven Cannoneers can hit lots of targets in the 70s before repairing (I collected nearly 50 million doing that on Thursday night), and many Ironclads can do targets in the 50s with instant repairs.

But I'm going to write this article about the Icebreaker.

First off, you need to understand Kixeye's raid structure for the foreseeable future.  It started with the Reaver Skirmish raid series, continued through this Scourge Siege raid series, and will continue with the upcoming garrison series.  Each of those raids had a Skill hull and a Blitz hull.  The Hellwraith and the Cannoneers are the skill hulls we've seen so far. The Tideseeker, Ironclad.and now the new Icebreaker are the Blitz hulls.  So far, we've seen well driven skill hulls can do high end targets with no damage, and Blitz hulls have had mixed results (although I suspect the damage output of a Tideseekers with Calamity was an unforeseen combo on Kixeye's part).  

So we need to think about the Icebreaker going forward.  Each player should be able to assess their own game.  On my part, I like the skill hulls, and have only built the Blitz hull with tokens.  This raid we've seen the order from last raid flipped, and now we have the Blitz hull available at a high point price, and we can expect the skill hull to come up in a TLC soon after the raid.

Since I like the skill hulls, I'm not really excited about the Icebreaker in general, and at approximately 2 week build times per ship, I'm not going to devote my shipyard to building a full fleet of those (and note they have a stacking bonus).  So I strongly considered not redeeming it this raid.  I did and I started on.  My plan is to build only one Icebreaker in the near term (see it below), and save as many tokens as I can out of this raid to be ready to build the upcoming skill hull ASAP.  

(Important Note: I've heard that the Charged Armors are not currently working.... hold on buying & installing those until we know more)

The only real non-obvious part on this build is the High Velocity Rounds.  Those give me building damage and help my rockets land quickly.  Other choices could be made to increase damage.  Agility 4 could easily be replaced with Guidance Scrambler 3 to save 5 hours of build time.

You also need to be concerned about what we don't know in the upcoming Garrison Raid targets.  I think the biggest question is whether you will want countermeasures.  The way most players are attacking FM Garrison targets right now, we have a tank hull with countermeasures and mortar hulls to deal damage.  But if you are blitzing with Icebreakers, anti-mortar defenses may not be needed, and whether or not anti-missile is useful will really depend on the target.  We might even see a return of countermeasure specialist ships with the Icebreaker (I was always a big fan).  

For that type of build, Frontline Countermeasures would replace the Garrison battery,  Evade Upgrade or Deflection Upgrade SA (limited component I didn't see a need for at the time) could replace the HVR.  Then I'd probably put 4 Gales or Hail D, 3 Phalanx 4, and keep one rocket.

So one more thing - let's talk about ranking these Icebreakers.  The new Siege Rocket has a one second reload, a +100% built in rocket reload bonus, and then a +10% stacking aura reload bonus (per ship).  So a solo Icebreaker gets a 110% reload bonus, and a full 5 ship fleet gets 150%.   The means the reload time for 1 ship is 0.48 seconds, and for 5 ships it is 0.4 seconds.  My long-time readers may remember when I demonstrated that the minimum reload time for any weapon is 0.2 seconds, and also may remember that rank bonuses are applied differently than hull/special/aura bonuses:
reload = base reload * (1 - rank bonus).  
(note that the additional 0.2 seconds per salvo shot isn't affected by this)

So any bonus that puts your reload under 0.2 seconds is wasted.  For the 5 ship fleet the math works out really easily 
0.2 = 0.4 * (1 - rank%) 
Any rank bonus above 50% is wasted on a 5 ship Icebreaker fleet.

For the 1 ship fleet - I broke out the calculator to determine that 
0.2 = 0.48 * (1 - rank%) 
Any rank bonus above 58% is wasted when you only have 1 Icebreaker.

I'll leave the other cases for the reader.  Also remember that if you use Cluster Warheads to increase your reload bonus further, you will just max out your fire rate at a lower rank.  Keep in mind that this applies to Icebreakers using the new Siege Rockets D100S only.  If using other weapons or other hulls, you will max out differently - remember Goresabers with Infernos maxed out at even lower ranks.  

Another case to consider is if you are using countermeasures.  Those will not max out their reload at any rank, so it may pay off to rank ships with CM all the way to legendary (another reason to concentrate those defenses on one ship).

Good luck in the raid - keep grinding!