Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Countermeasure Ships - To Be or Not to Be

A Preface: This post is a bit late... Since I started this blog, I've been posting every Monday morning.  I've had a work-related change (2 projects at once, including travel), and thus a lot less free time.  I did finish this post Sunday night, but I wasn't really happy with it, mostly because I didn't really come up with a definitive answer.  I let it sit for a day or two to see if I could come up with something better, but I didn't.  So here goes...

Today's post will cover Countermeasure Ships.  Right at the start, I am a proponent of countermeasure ships, but I've never done this sort of comparison.  My plan is to look at some fleets I have used, rebuild them without a dedicated CM ship, and compare their estimated effectiveness.  Keep in mind that a fleet with a CM ship can be effective, and a fleet without a CM ship can be effective - but by comparing similar fleets, we can decide what would be better to build.

I'll start out by describing what a usual Countermeasure ship looks like as part of a fleet.  The CM ship is usually the same hull as the rest of the fleet, or at least is speed-matched (triton hull with its defensive weapon range bonus is often matched up with other hulls as a CM ship).  It sacrifices offensive weapons and specials in order to mount the Countermeasure Special and as much Hail or Phalanx weaponry as possible.  In general, one weapon slot still holds an offensive weapon so that when clicking on a target, all ships in the fleet move to it together.  Ideally, that weapon has equal or longer range than the weapons mounted on the offensive ships, so that the countermeasure ship does not lead the fleet and tank all the incoming fire.  A Negotiator Mortar 1 has longer range than missile/mortar fleets, and is often a decent lightweight choice.  If using Launchers or UAVs, then mounting a single Launcher or UAV will usually be the ideal choice for a weapon on the CM ship.

MCX with Phalanx - for Weekly Missions and Drac Bases
I'll start with an MCX fleet that I use quite a bit.  It's a 4 ship fleet, and I can add a decoy Spectre.  I use this fleet for:

  • Forsaken Missions - after prepping the ships & 2 torp towers with Subs, this fleet (at R5) can do 55 Strongholds with 40 minutes repair time on average (no decoy).  Before Retrofit, it was 2 hours repair time.
  • Drac Bases - with good use of decoy, this fleet can solo a drac base in 2 hits (after the outside ships are prepped
  • Player Bases - Siege Missile MCX can't take high-end player bases anymore, but this fleet does well against player bases that are Javelin or Sentinel heavy, as long as the guard fleet isn't too good.
Build Link (with decoy):

The "Hitter"

The "Countermeasure"

Some Design notes on this fleet:
  • The single piece of Turn armor helps out with the lack of turning ability - I started out without it and decided I wanted just a little bump.
  • The Countermeasure ship above isn't a pure CM ship - I am taking advantage of Strike System to put a bit more offensive power onboard.  
  • Siege Missile F would also be a great choice here, giving the fleet more offensive power but sacrificing some speed.
  • Keeping Scrambler on the Countermeasure ship made the fleet too heavy, so the CM special replaced that instead of the armor special.
  • The armor was also lightened on the CM ship to make it all fit - one V armor is used so that it matches speed with the fleet to make up for the missing Siege V
My biggest gripe with this fleet is that when hitting a 55 stronghold, one volley of missiles is not quite enough to take out a gun - If I use a Wrecking Crew rogue (+14% building damage), that does it.  Retrofitting the Siege Missiles to R1 was not enough...  If I were to redesign it, I would want more hitting power.  

So if I redesign it without a Countermeasure ship, but try to keep similar weapons and specials, I would likely end up with something like:

http://www.dahippo.com/bp/ship/#!70J650V0S0V0V0C5H1V1A3D3K3K3D3K0J650V0S0V0V0C5H1V1A3D3K3K3D3K0J650V0S0V0V0C5H1V1A3D3K3K3D3K0J650V0S0V0V0C5H1V1A3D3K3K3D3K02U00000001D5Z00004B00000Y

The redesign - No CM Special

With the redesign, I had to lighten up the armor a little bit and also lighten the Phalanx to all Phalanx 2 instead of half Phalanx 2 & half Phalanx 3.  

One more twist - you could swap the Scrambler for Countermeasures on the redesigned fleet, and have have some weight for more armor.  The lack of evade will hurt against ballistics, but it's another option when you have the special to work with.
http://www.dahippo.com/bp/ship/#!70J650W0T0V0V2B5H1V1A193K3K3D3K0J650W0T0V0V2B5H1V1A193K3K3D3K0J650W0T0V0V2B5H1V1A3D3K3K3D3K0J650W0T0V0V2B5H1V1A3D3K3K3D3K02U00000001D5Z00004B00000Y

So lets compare some statistics between the fleets:
Fleet Comparison (no sub)With CM ShipWith RedesignSpread Out CM
Total Fleet Armor360103366037660
Building Damage Per Volley105481137611232
Phalanx Shots12@96%, 10@88%20@55%20@88%, 8@80%
Phalanx Hits (EV)20.3211.0024.00
MIssiles hitting from Volley of 20 (EV)1.449.02.4

The Countermeasure fleet has more armor, but the non-CM fleet has the extra siege Missile, giving about 8% more building damage (not quite the 14% I wanted).  The real benefit of the CM fleet is the accuracy on the Phalanx - when looking at an incoming volley of missiles that isn't large enough to overwhelm the number of shots, the non-CM ship will take 6x as many missile hits.  But the biggest surprise to me - the fleet with the CM special on each ship doesn't look too bad.  I think the lack of evade will really hurt against ballistics however.

What did we learn from all this?  Countermeasure ships work better because they have the countermeasure special (duh!).  Phalanx benefit quite a bit from CM because they only get one shot at an incoming missile, so accuracy is very important.  The tradeoff here is that the countermeasure ship has to give up the Guidance Scrambler special in order to use the CM special, hurting its survival time.  I didn't actually run the numbers here. Since the countermeasures aren't included in that calculator, so it wouldn't really be a fair comparison. One more option - give up the Armor special and keep Scrambler.  

DNX for Bases (Yeah, OK, old bases)
I never built this fleet, but I had the design laying around... My only current mortar fleet is SC R5, and it is constructed too similar to the MCX fleet so be a good example here... I want something with some Hailstorms.  This is a 2 DNX, 1 Triton base hitting fleet, using Siege Q and Shock B mortars.  It needs plenty of hailstorms, because it is SLOW.  Sure it's an old design, but I'm illustrating a point:


The "Hitter"

The "CM Triton"

And the redesign to 3 DNX:

With the redesign, I took off the Assault Mortar - the new fleet has more Siege Mortars, the Armor is unchanged, but the sacrifice comes in the Countermeasure capability.  To compare:

Fleet Comparison (no sub)With CM ShipWith Redesign
Total Fleet Armor3810038400
Building Damage Per Volley1949124600
Mortar Shells Per Volley3124
Phalanx Shots18@96%15@55%
Missiles hitting from Volley of 20 (EV)2.7211.75
Hailstorm Shots25@30%24@25%
Mortars landing from Volley of 20 (EV)12.5014.00

Other than the improved phalanx capability, which we saw in the last fleet, the only other advantage of the Countermeasure fleet is the additional shells fired, but that only occurs because it is forced to use smaller mortars - the Countermeasures don't help the hailstorms very much at all.  I think for most player bases (where the DNX would have a chance...), I would prefer the non-CM fleet.

Conclusion:
The most common argument against the countermeasure ship is that if you lose the ship, the fleet becomes helpless.  This is a valid argument, but the advantage of the countermeasure ship against PvE targets is fairly clear.  On a base fleet, where mortars are a concern, the advantage of the CM ship is not so much.  Like I said in the preface - I didn't come up with a good answer here, sometimes you want em, sometimes you don't.

Next Week: 
I don't think I'll be holding to a strict publishing schedule for quite a while.  I just saw that Kixeye put out new items for the Forsaken Mission - I'll do a DPS/ton analysis on the new cannon and I'll talk about the Lead Panels by Monday.