After some more thought, I think that I was disappointed that there was no "mid-level" sub hull that can be built in a reasonably short time (Barracuda or Spectre). Lots of the low level prizes from the last few raids were sub-oriented, but the very few of the lower level players picking up those prizes would want commit to 2 months of building Reapers or Nighthawks.
In this weeks update, Kixeye has allowed 5 hulls to be increased to R10 in the Retrofit Lab. I'll look at each of the new enhancements, and give some opinions on what you could do with these improvements.
The uranium costs for these new retrofits is included in the Kixeye release notes. The Hellstrike R10 is 200,000 uranium, so you will need a fifth warehouse in order to be able to collect that much uranium. For other hulls, including hulls like the Goliath and Mercury that didn't previously need uranium to retrofit, some uranium is required, but not extreme amounts.
I'm starting with the Mercury because I like its retro best. The Mercury can be picked up through the "Hunt the Nemesis" campaign (kill Drac ships in open water). It was also available for 1 Million points in the Avalanche raid. This hull has recently been eclipsed by the Interceptor, which I believe fills the same niche, but better. However, for those players that have not earned many Draconian hulls, the Mercury is now a solid choice to build.
R6 adds sonar, which I don't trust too much any more anyway (subs with 50% cloak will still kill you before you see them), and R7 adds max weight. The new weight cap allows you to build 4 full weight hulls for Dock 10 (6,887), but doesn't make much difference for a player with Dock 11 (5 ship = 6,351 / 4 ship = 7,939). The hull builds quickly enough that a 4 ship Mercury fleet usually isn't needed anyway.
R8 is where things get really interesting - upping the combat speed to 15 puts the Mercury in the category of "really fast but not quite Stingray fast". R9 adds 60% missile damage, which will give your missiles a lot more punch. The 30% reload bonus combined with 60% damage bonus puts theoretical DPS equal to a hull with 108% reload bonus. Countermeasures, Salvo, Plate Armor, and Radioactive bonus damage means that in reality it isn't quite that good, but you're in the same neighborhood.
R10 adds Evade and Radioactive Defense, which are always appreciated.
Those last three enhancements will make a Siege Missile Z or Torrent-armed Mercury fairly deadly, and also fairly quick to build. Here's a build you could start with - depending on your dock level and what you have available, you might want to add heavier Armor or larger Phalanx.
With Dock 10, only 4 of these will fit in a fleet. I plan to build a 5th with Countermeasures to start. The Siege Zs could be replaced with Torrent 3, but I'd rather have the Siege. Some players also like to use the Countermeasure special instead of the Armor special. If trying to hit bases, more armor (and fewer missiles?) would probably be needed. Build time with Siege Z is only 5 days 6 hours per ship. Sure a V2H will be be better, but this fleet at R10 is done in half the time - and still carries almost 65% evade, 40% radioactive defense, and 60% missile defense. Also with 16 - 20 Siege Missiles in a fleet, and the combined 30% reload and 60% damage bonuses... these guys will be dealing out some HURT.
The Goliath used to be the top base defense ship, but has been eclipsed by Enforcers and Carriers in most bases. The Goliath's biggest weakness was its 2 special slots. When using ballistics, Hardened Barrel 3 was a must in order to allow it to match range with attackers. Then the player had to choose between Autoloader or an Armor special. Its low Evade is also a problem against Launchers.
Each of the new retrofit levels is valuable - R6 and R7 improve damage dealing, R8 improves the evade enough that focusing on an Evade build becomes viable. R9 gives the Radioactive defense needed against launchers, and R10 adds that 3rd special slot.
Previously, I never recommended Evade on a Goliath, since when starting so far in the hole, you could focus on it and still not have much of an evade score. But when starting at +10%, 7 evade armors give a respectable 47.9% evade score, and then GS3 (in that third special slot) would bump that up to 68.8%.
I would also advise that if using Chainguns, adding reload gives diminishing returns due to the high salvo. After getting the 70% reload from R6, using a special slot for defense instead of Autoloader may give better results.
I've earned Reapers, but never gotten the time to build them. They make very capable subs for anti-ship use, but their unique capability is to add a full load of Downpour or Deluge missiles for prep work. Those that have built them like them, but it still isn't very popular.
R6 through R8 and R10 all seem focused on improving the capability for using the underwater missiles - making the Reaper more able to withstand damage while under fire or improving the damage output. R9 gives more speed which is always nice for any mission.
For those that won them - the ECM Destroyer might be most useful for stealthing Reapers, to prevent them from being detected when they stop to fire.
I've heard Kixeye is really trying to encourage players to try the missile reapers, and these retros are tilted in that direction. I like the improvements, but Reapers will probably stay on my "would like to build but probably not top priority" list.
Very often (including last night), when I come across a drone-heavy base, I will bring out my Hellstrikes to teach them a lesson. Even with 6 Cerbs, they generally get through, since a player that is devoting their guard weight to drones hasn't got much else. Yeah they take a while to repair, but it's always fun.
The retrofits here are all good enhancements to the current Hellstrike capability, but maybe not totally earth (or base)-shattering.
Building Damage at R6 will also apply to walls, so that one might be my favorite for this hull. More speed at R8 is interesting too - although more speed is generally a good thing, a driver might need to be careful that their rockets are landing before running into drones.
The +20% rocket range at R9 is more than any other hull in the game, and gives a range of just under 71 for infernos. I like these retrofits and for players that use Hellstrikes occasionally, they might be worth doing... maybe even just R6 for 15,000 uranium (which I have started).
Update: R10 Hellstrikes also get a +30% armor ability buff which wasn't shown before the this week's update. I'll compare the R10 Hellstrike to the R5 Juggernaut X (and its +50% armor ability buff in a later article, and see if it changes my opinion on the Hellstrike.
And lastly the venerable Battlecruiser. It has been available in Tier 2 of the Forsaken Mission for quite a while, and also was very cheap in the Avalanche raid, so players of all levels should have this hull. My low level base won this hull on the very first Forsaken Mission, so I started building these with Cutlasses way before I could get Sea Wolves.
At R7 the additional accuracy is worth mentioning. The accuracy bump will help a lot for two different types of builds - Countermeasures and Launchers. Both of those weapons depend heavily on accuracy for their effectiveness, so a 40% improvement is big. The R9 increase in Max weight will also let this hull "bulk up" to hang with some higher-end fleets.
At R10, the BC gets thermal imaging, which means that this capability is now within every player's reach. With a range of 75, subs with Assault Torp B will need VERY careful driving in order to be able to avoid being seen while firing. R10 BCs could be viable sub hunters, or sub spotters in a base guard. Pairing a R10 BC as a spotter with Mercurys for additional punch might also be an option for an anti sub fleet, but be sure to protect the BC if trying that.
Consider this build at R7:
Speed System or Engine wouldn't be bad choices either, given the built-in accuracy bump. At R9 armor could be increased, or any of the other launcher types could be used to take advantage of the additional weight.
In particular, the enhanced Mercury and Goliath are real gifts from Kixeye for those players that aren't coining. These hulls get large enhancements at reasonable costs. I also noticed that the earlier retrofits for these hulls have had their resource costs reduced, which is nice for early players. A Siege Missile Z Mercury build can be just about ready for the next raid if you start now.
The Reaper has been enhanced for users of Deluge and Downpour missiles. Maybe we'll start seeing more of these. Maybe we won't. I noticed that Downpour Missiles came in second place in the Forsaken Mission prize voting, so maybe there is some desire out there.
The Hellstrike is improved, but I don't see a real step change in capability.
The Battlecruiser got better for specialized roles in Sub Spotting, Countermeasures, and Launchers. Thermal imaging is now in every player's reach. Remember that once you see the subs, you need a weapons that can kill them underwater (Torpedoes or Missiles with retargeting are best). Some players forget that, don't be forgetful.