Monday, March 31, 2014

The Most Important Hull in the Game is....

Opening Business - Crossbows

First of all - sorry for the confusion on the Crossbow article.  Kixeye wasn't too clear on the description, and I made two sets of wrong assumptions and wrote almost two completely different different articles based on those.  I'm not writing a third, but here's my latest view on them:

How they work:
The Crossbow will fire on a target within its basic range (49 + any range bonuses), when the ship carrying it is stopped for 0.3 seconds.  When the shell hits something, whether it is the intended target, or another ship or a wall in the way, it will do its full rated damage against that target.  Then it will travel its Pierce Range (52), and continue to hit targets in a straight line, doing less damage (not sure how much less) against each successive target.

My evaluation:
Based on its damage, weight, and reload time, I cannot come up with a situation where this weapon would be particularly useful - against bases it will get too attenuated by walls to be able to crack a hole through in one shot.  If you have to stop for multiple shots - you'll get pounded.  Against ships its damage per weight against a single ship is very poor and its ability to hit multiple targets won't make up for it.  Oh yeah, the Crossbow 2 has about a 2 day build time.

Now I'm done with Crossbows.

The Poll Results  

I am writing this article about what I consider to be the most important hull in the game - but I also wanted to get your opinion.  I will have to grab the results a little sooner than I wanted to - I'll be unavailable to work on this blog over the weekend when the poll closes and this article posts, so these results are current as of Saturday morning.

You all seemed to think the Nuke Cruiser is the most important hull, getting 23% of the vote.  Hellstrike and MCX followed.  56% of voters picked those three hulls - which are good for base hits (seen an MCX R5 with launchers?), and also can be good for raids and missions. 

I was wondering about "Other" - the only other hull I could think of that I might have missed would be the Battlecruiser, which is the stepping stone hull for lower level players to be able to get better tech.  It also is a decent sub hunter at R5.

In 4th place, 12% of you chose the hull I'm going to write about - the Spectre. 

Spectre - the Most Important Hull In The Game

Playing the game as long as I have, I believe that base hitter hulls come and go.  I've seen Hydra Levis, Peacemaker FFs, Siege Missile HHs, Blitz Dreadnaughts, Strike Cruisers, DNX, MCX, Threshers, Hellstrikes, Nuke Cruisers, Atlas.... all come and go as the premier base hitter fleet.  

All of them can get in easier if you can use Spectres & take out the guard.  Defending a base against subs is straightforward, but a lot of bases don't do it.  If your base hitting fleet is sub-par, a spectre prep will let you hit a lot of bases you would normally have no chance with. 

For FvF - Stingrays and Interdictors are great.  But Specs can do a lot of damage too.

For Missions and Drac bases, a nice Spectre prep does wonders - these targets are much easier without the ships running around.

For Raids - everyone that used Specs + Crypt keepers (or even Specs without Crypt Keepers recently)

For Dredges - Battery Spectres are able to prep out the ships in the 5x & 6x series.  Taking out the center island after that is a straightforward exercise.

Base Defense is about the only place where Spectres aren't really helpful.  Although... I recently saw an alli mate of mine get his base fleet taken out because a target who was on-line swapped his guard fleet for Spectres at his entrance.   Not really a respect-gaining move, but effective.

In the Military, this type of fleet is known as a Force Multiplier.  So many "easy ways" to do raids, missions, bases, etc. involve spectre prep.  Spectres can make everything else you have more effective.  

Spectre Builds

I have two Spectre fleets that perform different roles - a Speed fleet & a Stealth fleet.  These were designed before B torps, and before retrofits.  I haven't refitted them for two reasons - they are still effective as-is, and if I refit them, I would be without their use for two weeks or so.I'll go through each build as is, and also explain how I'd update them to the latest tech. This should allow players with a wide range of tech options to be able to use the ideas here.  I also show a decoy build for use in Drac Bases or other targets.

Speed fleet

The speed fleet fills one basic role - prepping out guard ships.  In order to do so, it has to be able to stay underwater a long time, and it has to be as fast as possible to be able to penetrate a base's channel before it surfaces.  The build I use is:  

Battery and Engine as the specials are fairly obvious choices - the better turn with Speed System just isn't needed to make it down channels.  Unstable Core 3 could be used if you want the suicide boom.  Some Base Prep Spectre fleets use Reaver Scout Engine - with the range penalty, the fleet is very specialized and vulnerable to any anti-sub measures.  However those fast subs can sometimes get into bases where a Engine3 Spectre never could.

Assault Torpedo V is chosen for the speed bonus - Assault Torpedo B would be an upgrade if you have them.  

The Armor choice is a little up in the air - D3M is used to give some missile resistance, since those are the weapons that are most likely to reach the Spectre as it is intended to be used.  Using all V armor wouldn't be a terrible choice either. 

This build takes 5 days, 4.5 hours per sub, meaning you can have a full fleet of four in 3 weeks.  This is a great deal considering a decent base fleet is usually 8-10 weeks to build.

Tips on using this fleet:
- When hitting bases, you usually want to bring the Spectres as close as possible to the entrance without getting shot at, wait for the surfacing cycle, then make your channel run as soon as you dive.  Bringing the flagship first is a good way to find out exactly how close you can get.  If the first weapon to shoot at you is a halo, mortar, or similar weapon, you can even start your run before you descend. 
- Depending on the layout of the guards, when you make your run through the channel, you should be looking for a relatively safe area at the back of the base to travel to.  Don't rush to go after the guards.  Get out of range of the channel weapons like Cerbs.  If you keep moving in the back of a base, Mortars, Halos, and Brimstones will not land on you.  Javelins, Sentinels, and Vultures are your major worry.  Don't be afraid to take a little damage here - you can handle a few Sents & Javs.  After you dive again, start going after guards.
- Watch your fleet damage bar to see if you are really being hit or not.
- Don't get too greedy - you can return to the back of the base for another surface cycle, and get a second dive cycle's worth of damage.
- Don't be afraid to retreat & start over - you have 7 shots at this (the 8th being the actual hit)

You can prep Dredge Fleet guards with this fleet.  You'll take a few hits with no Rogue crew, or you can use the speed boost from Gearheads to get in & out with no damage.  B torp equipped ships sink their targets faster, so they can get away with no damage. If you are using V torps, and no rogue crew, spread your fleet on the way out to minimize splash damage, and be sure to hit the "whip" ship first.

Stealth fleet

The stealth fleet is for more general purpose FvF.  This can be used to sink many "anti-sub" fleets due to its stealthiness.  This is also my fleet for prepping Mission Strongholds and Drac Base fleets.  These days I'm finding it a little slow, and would really prefer the B torps.  

Cat Drive 3 gives this ship great stealth, and Speed System keeps it maneuverable.  With the additional turn gotten at R1 retrofit, Engine (or Unstable Core) also becomes more viable for an open water Spectre fleet, and gives you more speed.

Siege Torps give this ship maximum punch - it can sneak in close enough to use them. Use the C or X variants with additional damage.  With the Assault B torps, the damage difference is a lot lower, and refitting to those would be an upgrade from the Siege Torpedos, since the extra speed would make up for the reduced damage.

Two D2-S and one D2-V is the armor I've been using, and found I have enough stealth to get almost right under ships without sonar and still be undetected.

This fleet is a longer build at 9 days, 4 hrs per ship.  Another reason for using B torps would be to reduce build time to 4 days, 19 hours.

Tips for using this fleet:
- Good driving is key for beating anti-sub fleets - as they close in, splitting up the subs in 4 different directions is generally the best option. 
- Subs can be launched and used at 1% health.  This annoys your opponents, but keeps you in the game.  Just remember that full health subs usually beat no health subs.

Decoy Ship

This light, fast ship can be used with 4 ship fleets to hit Drac bases.  It stays detected and underwater - thus drawing fire away from your surface ships, but doesn't take damage while submerged.  It takes a little practice to get used to getting in and out of range for the surfacing cycle, but is well worth the effort.  Much like the speed fleet, it is built to stay underwater a long time, but I also want it as light as possible to allow as much weight as possible to be allocated to the surface ships doing the hitting.  It should be faster than the surface ships so it stays in front, but not so fast it runs away from them.

Reaver Scout engine, with no additional speed upgrades, gives the needed speed.  I wanted to have at least 21 speed, and this was the most weight-effective option. Battery gives me the maximum underwater time. 

The Vortex T torps are giving additional turn speed, to allow quicker turn & run maneuvers.  The number of torps can be tailored to match weight so it fits with your specific hitter fleet.  This ship isn't intended to do damage.

No armor is used because this ship should never take damage - you're using it wrong if it does.  Adding armor would just take weight away from the surface ships.

In Conclusion

If you don't have Spectres - I would recommend them as your first priority the next time they are offered.  They have been a useful hull for a very long time, and I expect that to continue.  Build time is very reasonable, and you can get a lot of gameplay out of them.  

Next Week: I plan to release the Survival Time Calculator for public use.  If you haven't seen its use in previous articles, check out 
for an idea of how it works.  The upcoming article will give you instructions and examples so you can use it for your own ship build optimization.