Thursday, August 14, 2014

Snowblind - early tips

As usual... a new raid format comes along, and it is HARD!!!

I'll try to give some advice, but with the underwhelming points and high repairs... I think there will be a lot of players that are unable or unwilling to do these campaigns.

Phase 1 Retrieve Data: These are fleets on the world map, numbered from 21 to 30 The ships are straightforward to take care of with any FvF fleet - most are armed with cryo launchers, so you don't have any defenses besides evade.  I haven't tried subs, but I didn't notice any sonar either.  Using fleets with good Evade, auto-ing these fleets will probably be a doable activity, even if the points are low.

Points per target range from 2k to 20k.  The general difficulty and points scale with the fleet number.

Phase 2 Snowblind Recon: You have 8 hours to complete these 5 targets, which is plenty of time - but you'll have to do more than one Recon campaign every 8 hours to get any significant amount of points.  The points from the 5 targets added up to 123,801 points on my first runthough, with a 750k bonus on completion.  

Recon Target #1:  FvF combat with 6 Interdictors.  Some are armed with cryo launchers and torpedoes, some are armed with missiles and torpedoes.  All the dics are fast and have Thermal Detection.  They close quickly and circle around you like Reavers.  

My best fleet for this target was a fleet with 2 Hellstrikes and 1 Microwave Dampener Arbiter.  (I tried an Engine Disruptor, hoping it would make my rockets more effective against the slowed targets, but it didn't work as well as the MD).  I tried to intelligently target the rockets so they would hit clusters, or target a lead ship so a trailing ship would be hit.

This target was worth 35,933 points, which was the highest payout target I found.

Recon Target #2: Stronghold-like target with 6 Interdictors, 2 Kodiaks, 4 ETD Torpedo turrets, 3 storage buildings and 2 groups of 2 Missile turrets.  The ships in this one sit still and trigger when you get to weapon range (UAV range).  They trigger in pairs, so I tried to engage as few at a time as I could.  

My Harlock Carrier fleet worked best against this target - the Interdictors have high evade, so launchers take a little while to kill them.  The other advantage of my carrier fleet is that since I have some Dragonfly UAVs mixed in, I could engage just one or two targets at a time, and once they were debuffed, they wouldn't do much damage.

The Kodiaks show up in this target - they fire missiles.  Between the debuff, evade, and a couple Phalanx, they didn't do much damage to me, but they also have countermeasures and take a while to kill with UAVs.

The Kodiaks and the missile turrets are the Priority targets.  I basically kept probing inward on the left side so that I would trigger two ships at a time and take them out separately.  Then I only had to deal with the single torpedo turret on the left side over the course of the battle.  

This target was worth 27,096 points to me, but I left 3 torpedo turrets.

Recon Target #3:  L-shaped Island with 3 groups of 2 Interdictors and 1 Kodiak.  Cryo turrets, missile turrets, rocket turrets, and coaxial turrets are protecting buildings on the island.  Some of the buildings and the missile turrets are the priority targets.  Cryo mines are also found in this target.

Here my Nuclear Cruiser fleet worked better than the carriers.  Pairs of turrets could be taken out in 2 shockwaves (using U launchers, the turret I targeted would just be destroyed as the second shockwave triggered, then any nearby turrets would also be destroyed by the second shockwave).  Long range weapons are a must, since you don't want any part of Drac rocket turrets.

I started this target from the left side, then sailed counter-clockwise around the bottom and ended in the inside of the "L".  This strategy meant that I didn't have to engage the top ship group.  This target only paid out around 22,849 points

On the cryo mines... detecting them doesn't do much good if you can't kill them, because they are placed in key locations that you will want to sail through.  They didn't seem like they did much damage, and I didn't really mind the slowdown from the ice field, so I think the best strategy is to ignore them.  The drac ships will also trigger mines if they hit them first.

The best option I found if you don't want to get hit by mines was a modification to the Countermeasure Mercury I showed in a previous article.  The build uses 1 D92-U Launcher (to maintain range), 1 Vortex M torpedo, 3 Phalanx 3, 1 Hail B (CM was already there), 3xD2E armor, Strike System 2 (so it wouldn't outrun my other ships), Sonar 3, and Countermeasure Equipment 3.  The ship would see mines at a range of 80 or so, and a single shot from the torpedo would trigger the mine.

Recon Target #4: This is a larger base, with torpedo towers, ships, cryo mines, and the same assortment of turrets as mentioned previously.  An additional ship in these targets is a Nuclear Cruiser with cryo launchers.  The NCs are weakly armored, so I targeted them first to sink them and make sure that they wouldn't build up an ice explosion.

The layout of this target makes it advantageous to focus on the priority targets.  On the left side there is a priority building protected by turrets, and on the right side there is a similar grouping.  Between those groups is a Priority Kodiak and an interdictor.  Torpedo turrets are located behind the targets - they can be avoided.  The torpedo turret to the right side can be taken out without being hit (from launcher range) if you go all the way to the right, then hug the building as you target it.

This target paid 19,969 points with the strategy I used.

Recon Target #5:  This is a yet larger base, with a center island and a u shaped channel going around - with the top of each side of the U guarded by a gate.  The Draconians have similar armament in this target as the previous.

I sail across the front, then entered and sailed around the U.  In this target, I would be sure to take out all the separate buildings to maximize points, instead of just focusing on priority targets, because in this case, there are a lot of non-priority buildings next to the priority ones.

I got 17,954 points from this target, but I did miss a couple buildings.

Overall Recon Campaign thoughts:
I'm not sure yet whether my Harlock Carriers or my Nuclear Cruisers are better for the last 3 targets - the nukes deal out damage faster, but the Dragonfly debuff really helps protect the carriers.  I have more experimentation to do.

The layout of these targets make them challenging - the Draconians (OK yes, Kixeye) have done a good job layering the defenses such that as you attack one target, you will come into range of other weapons behind it.

The point payout from individual targets is very poor, and the fact that it declines as the targets get harder is ridiculous.

Phase 3 Snowblind Siege:  You have 3 hours to complete these 7 targets.  The completion bonus for this campaign is 2,250k points.  If the campaign timer expires, you will IMMEDIATELY be kicked out of your battle, so if you only have a few minutes left, don't start the last target.

The first five targets in the Siege campaign have the same layout as the targets in the Recon campaign.  My damage was generally a bit higher, so I suspect the targets have more armor and possibly more weapons.  The first two targets gave me significantly more points than the same targets in the Recon campaign, but the next three were about the same.

Siege Target #1:  
Same target layout as Recon 1 - paid 62,691 points.

Siege Target #2:  
Same target layout as Recon 2 - paid 41,905 points.

Siege Target #3:  
Same target layout as Recon 3 - paid 22,440 points.

Siege Target #4:  
Same target layout as Recon 4 - paid 19,090 points.

Siege Target #5:  
Same target layout as Recon 5 - paid 17,954 points.

Siege Target #6:  
This target is a very large base - approximately Drac base sized.  Defenses include all of the types you've seen in previous targets. Like the previous bases, the defenses were well layered.  It generally had a series of "rooms" separated by gates.  I basically worked my way through counter clockwise and tried to isolate the targets as they came into range.  When I reached the back, I retreated and started again from the front and worked clockwise, mostly for time purposes.

One tip on this base is that some of the torpedo turrets are targetable behind walls (with launchers).  Take them out while they can't shoot you.

This target paid out 28,625 points for me.

Siege Target #7: 
This target is also a large base with rooms.  The priority targets are three groups of 3 Kodiaks, which are placed near Interdictors and torpedo towers.

Your starting point triggers 6 Interdictors firing Cryo launchers, and you also aren't far from 2 cryo turrets.  Aside from the harrowing start, this base can be taken much like the previous base.  Try to trigger just one group of ships at a time, and stay out of turret range while fighting them.  Many torpedos in this base can also be targeted from behind walls so look for those opportunities.  In addition, each of the groups of Kodiaks can be engaged without having to fight everything in the area.  Since the bonus points are so much higher than the target points, leaving behind anything you don't have to fight will work out for you.

The best strategy here may be to head toward one group of Kodiaks, then once it is destroyed, retreat and go for the next one.

This target was worth about 113,214 points for me.  One interesting note on the points:  I didn't follow my "engage one group of Kodiaks and retreat" advice, instead I hit two groups, and then retreated, and most of the ships in the area had been triggered.  All that was left behind was 2 of the base buildings and 4 turrets, so I decided they would be easy points and went after them.  After blowing up the 2 buildings and 4 turrets, I retreated and was awarded... ZERO POINTS.  Stick with the priority targets.

More on what to get:
With the actual points for prizes being released - there are a couple good deals I want to point out (OK at least one of these was brought up on the BV Facebook page):

At 50,000 the Hammerhead A is really cheap, and should be reachable for anyone.

At 550,000, the Strike Cruiser is a good deal - This hull has the standard "cruiser" configuration with 6 weapons, 3 specials, and 4 armor and 11 speed.  The Strike Cruiser is optimized for explosive weapons, but could be an OK platform for other weapons as well.  It is retrofittable too.  Before I built Hellstrikes, I used SCs armed with Siege B/Shock Q to take out center platforms in level 60 dredge fleets with about 4 hours repair.  A committed low level player should be able to get 550k points by hitting world map targets only.  

1,750,000 for the Barracuda seems decent, even though it has been eclipsed by the Nighthawk.

Tier 4 prices seem high... I looked at the 8,500,000 cost of the MCX, but I don't know how a player could get that many points unless they have AT LEAST MCX-class ships, in which case... earning the MCX may be redundant.  I may go for the Lightning Carrier at 9,500,000 points instead of the new items... I have a nice LC build in mind (see below).

Overall Strategy Thoughts:
  • EVADE is a very important characteristic for your fleets.  Almost all of the weapons I've seen in the campaign are evadable.  Phalanx help too.  
  • If you can't complete a campaign for the bonus, the points payout isn't worth it - stick to the world map and look for the higher numbered targets for the highest points.  If you have something that works really well against the first FvF campaign target - that MAY be worth it as well.
  • Siege or blitz drones might work as a distraction, but I haven't built those to try them out and see if they reduce the net repair needed.
  • I looked at possibilities to use a Spectre decoy, but so far, I haven't seen the combination of long range sonar + no underwater weapons needed to make a spectre decoy work, even with a prep.  The targets tend to be scattered thoughout the base - so it is tough to figure out an effective way to use a FvF, minesweeper, or torpedo specialist fleet to advantage.
  • I had a random thought that a fleet combining Dragonfly UAVs, Launchers, and some Hail/Phalanx might be pretty useful (in general, not just for this raid).  Maybe on a Lightning Carrier or a 3 ship Triton fleet, but I'll leave the Tritons as an exercise for the reader.!706000V0W2N0I2L5B4P1A1S4P4P4P4P06000V0W2N0I2L5B4P1A1S4P4P4P4P06000V0W2N0I2L5B4P1A1S4P4P4P4P06000V0W2N0I2L5B4P1A1S4P4P4P4P06000V0W2N0I2L5B4P1A1S4P4P4P4P

My overall impression - points payout is terrible.  A run-through of Phase 2 gave me 9.5 hours of repairs across 3 fleets (19 gold although I only needed to spend 6 to complete the campaign), and netted me about 874k points.  Phase 3 gave me a better points / gold ratio, with 20.5 hours of repair (41 gold) for about 2,575k points.  This is backwards from most raids, where even if the top targets (A Tier) are beatable, they deal out more damage per point.  (Of course when they were beatable with subs, that wasn't true either).

Strategies may improve over the course of the raid, but with my low opinion of the prizes combined with the high cost of this raid... I might not be doing too much.  Just remember, Kixeye does tend to reuse raid formats.  You may want to look at this raid as practice.  Try to find out what works best for you and what doesn't, and think about how you might be able to improve your fleets for next time.  

It's a shame the raid is so difficult - because I found the new content and targets to be fun.  Figuring out a strategy of how to work my fleet into a heavily defended target is something I like to do.  And we do play this game for fun, right?  I'd like to play this raid a lot, but between the "ladder" campaign system and the damage from each target, it might be expensive to do so.  

One possible change (are you listening Kixeye?):  Make the campaign completion bonus dependent on the time taken to do the campaign - so completing Siege within the 3 hour limit gives the 2.25 million point bonus, then completing it within six hours would give a 1 million point bonus, etc.  Then don't have the campaign reset for a 24 hour time period, just to let players who have to take it slow play through the campaigns and get the experience. 

The other thing I'd like to say is that the last few hulls brought out (Hellstrike through Nighthawk) have been very powerful compared to previous hulls.  So although I am underwhelmed with the Kodiak and the Achilles, I'm underwhelmed because they are of similar capability as the hulls and weapons out now.  So from that perspective, I'm pleased that this new content isn't upping the ante in terms of what is "needed" to stay "competitive".  (I'm using quotes because i don't necessarily agree with those terms anyway).  So if you can get the points, the Kodiak and the Achilles will be decent tools in your toolbag, but they aren't "game-changers".