Friday, April 24, 2015

Ballistic Hull Comparison

I'm just gonna start off by promoting this thread right here:
Vote how you feel.

Tokens have been released.  You'll get your first chance to earn them (up to the equivalent of 2 days build time) in the "Reaver Removal" campaign this weekend, which should have the same content as the Let it Burn campaign.  I have a couple quick recommendations about how to use them.  Kixeye is giving an overview of how they work at:

  • The 1 hour tokens are worth 2 gold each, and 1 day tokens are worth 48 gold each.  All you coiners out there... don't overspend to obtain them.  Use your head.
  • Repair tokens are probably most useful during raids.   
  • For build/research tokens, save them until the end of a task (for example, use a 24 hour token when you have just over 24 hours left).  That way, you won't speed something up early, then find it completed in the middle of the night (or some other time) when you can't be on, so that some of the token's benefit ends up being wasted.
You also (maybe) just got 5 gold for completing an objective to be in an alliance.  I think the best use of this (for non-coiners) would be to repair your dock sometime when you log on and find out you've been hit... this allows you to play when you normally couldn't.  If you aren't in an alliance, and don't have an interest in being in one, start your own to get the gold, then leave the alliance.

Repair Specialists:
New repair specialists have been released, including some for limited hulls.  They are mostly in the "25% max" class of repair speed-up, which puts them with most of the mainline ships that have been released already. The time to research them is still effectively instant, but the resources have been increased, and most of the new ships do require uranium.  This isn't a surprise to me, and I hope it isn't to you.  This will force players to be a little more thoughtful about which repair specialists to take, and not just open all the ones they have available.  Again, I still think that these repair bonuses are relatively mild, and with just a couple exceptions... they do not change how a fleet can be designed or used.  Even with the Uranium costs, I think they are worth using on ships that are your "daily drivers".

So "What are the exceptions?" you may be thinking... they are the Battlecruiser and the (previously released) Battle Barge A/LCX.  

The Battle Barge A and LCX already have a 75% repair modifier, so they can be built with up to 800 armor (880 with repair officer) and be instant repair during raids.  As the modifier from the repair specialist increases, the amount of armor you can use on those hulls and keep them instant repair increases... up to 1200 armor can be used once they are Legendary rank (another 33% reduction).

The Battlecruiser is an even more interesting case... at 815 base health and a 100% repair modifier, it really isn't in the instant repair category - it takes just over 6 minutes per ship to repair during raids if you have an officer - so 1 minute per ship if you use the 5 minute speedup on each hull (not terrible, but tedious).  However, at Legendary rank, your repair modifier becomes 75%, which means that your repair time is instant if you have a repair officer, or just a few seconds if you don't.  With the great retrofits available to the BC, including a max weight increase to 5,040 tons at R9, there are some astounding options for instant repair Battlecruisers.  Here are a few ideas (leave off the armor if no officer):!70H6A0005010R1S174T4T4T4T0H6A0005010C0I5BAJAJAJAJ0H6A0005016A0I5BAGAGAGAG0ZZ0ZZdB

For the Assault Missile Z build, don't do it with non-Z assault missiles, they just aren't worth the build time.  Try Torrent 3 instead.  The Blaze Thrower build isn't too astounding... you could even get an additional thrower on a Seawolf.  I think the Bypass Cannon 3 build is the real star... at 4800 tons per ship, no way are you getting that kind of punch on anything else that can instant repair.

Ballistic Hull Comparison:
I am seeing a lot of questions about ballistic hull builds, including "Which hull should I use?" questions.  Two factors are pushing this:
  1. The new class of ballistic weapons with good range and damage output - Arbalest, Bypass Chainguns, Earthshaker Cannons, and D33-DR Disruptors
  2. The new and (newly R10) ballistic hulls - Crusader, Vindicator, SCX, and Dreadnaught
I'm going to try to build some ballistic fleets with a similar emphasis, and then compare their damage output and durability to see if we can learn which would be the most desirable.

I'll start with a stat comparison on the hulls:

StatisticCrusaderDread R10SCX R10Vindicator R10Stingray R10
Weapon Slots88677
Armor Slots44432
Special Slots44334
Max Weight13,02013,0208,3346,9256,250
Base Armor6,2215,2004,5161,7551,493
Combat Speed1311121517
Turn Speed1518253024
Ballistic Defense10%40%30%0%0%
Explosive Defense30%40%40%35%0%
Penetrative Defense50%30%20%20%30%
Concussive Defense0%0%0%0%0%
Radioactive Defense30%0%50%50%30%
Ballistic Accuracy0 - 50%0%0%0%40%
Ballistic Range40%40%40%30%20%
Ballistic Reload75%90%100%60%20%
Ballistic Damage50%50%50%33%0%
Slow Resist0%0%50%40%0%
Repair Modifier100%100%100%100%100%
Hull Build Time w/off4d 22h 42m5d 9h 36m5d 0h 48m5d 9h 36m5d 9h 36m
Total U needed0375,000350,000175,000200,000

The Vindicator R1-R5 Uranium costs have come down since the R10 was released.  I didn't have the "old" Dreadnaught costs handy to compare those.  I left off the Zoe Stingray - its stats are a little bit behind the R10 Stingray in a few areas (particularly max weight in these days of Dock 11), but does have the advantage of being winnable as-is from a campaign, so no raid prize points or Uranium are needed.

Right at the start, the Crusader looks really good, and for players looking at new builds with that hull available, it is really the obvious choice.

For a build concept, I'm going to use:
- Weapons: Arbalest and D33-DR cannons (shoot for 5-6 Disruptors and 12-15 Arbalest in the fleet).
- Specials: Speed System 3 and Nuclear Accelerators.  3 special hulls will get Fallout Armor, 4 Special hulls will get Radioactive Coating and D5X.
- Armor: Tune armor for fleet weight and to try to balance resistances and evade values.
- Weight: I'm going to use 4 ship (balanced) fleets for Crusader, Dreadnaught, and SCX (7939 tons), and 5 ship fleets for Vindicator and Stingray (6351 tons Vin, 6250 tons Ray).

I should probably explain a little more on the armor choices - although many players don't understand how "Kixeye math" works when combining multiple resistance values, the way I think of it is when you add a resistance/evade percentage, it will resist/evade that percent of whatever would have gotten through before.  

So if you at are 0% resist, adding 10% a resistance gives you 10% total resist - you block 10% of the 100% that would have gotten through.  

If you are already at 90% resist, adding a 10% resistance means that you are still blocking 10% of what would have gotten through... which was only 10% of the original damage, which means your resistance goes to 91%.  

Balancing the percentages means that you are trying to get the most benefit out of each piece of resistance that you add... if you don't know what damage types you will be facing.  Evade helps against multiple damage types, so this isn't strictly accurate when trying to balance evade... but I'm making builds just for comparison anyway.  You can tweak them how you like.

Also, the weapons I'm choosing have 1-2 salvo, so the rank effects on DPS will pretty much scale linearly... I'm going to run my calculations with 0% rank since (again) they are just for comparison only.  (nobody caught me on this one... as I say below, I will run the calculations with 45% rank bonus.  Reload bonuses will compound with rank, so the differences magnify as rank increases).

So here are the builds with some notes...  This Huggy's link shows all 5 hull options in a single fleet.!706G0131R1R121S6A5B6823232323512300000JIA1O1R1R1P1S6A5B6823232323512300000IUA1R1R1R1R2X1S6A23232323512305CA1R1R1R5B1S6A0051232323235104IA1R1R1S6A5B6823512323230000dB

Although I targeted 12-15 Arbalest and 5-6 DR cannons in the fleet, I decided to go with 5 Arbalest and 1 DR on the 4 ship fleets for the Crusader, Dreadnaught, and SCX (giving me 20 & 4) - I had the weight for it.  Another option would be to go 4/2 and use some heavier armor like a Reaver Bulkhead.  On the Vindicator and Stingray, I ended up with 4 Arbalest per ship, also giving me 20 Arbalest in the fleet.

On the Crusader, I used 2xD5E, a D2C and a D3C to make up for the (relatively low) built in Ballistic defense.  E or R armor could be considered instead of the C.

On the Dreadnaught, I used R panels instead of the C to make up for the complete lack of built in Radioactive defense.  Especially if fighting Reavers, the need for resistance against fields makes the R the best choice.

On the SCX, I went 4xD5E.  With one less special slot I had more weight to work with, so I wanted more armor points.  Even though the Ballistic defense of the SCX is low (because of the Fallout Armor), armor points protect against everything, and evade helps protect against ballistic damage. 

On the Vindicator, there was zero percent ballistic defense before armor, since the hull and Fallout armor came with none.  I wanted to use D5E since I had the weight to accommodate the armor points.  Using the D5X special instead of Fallout gave me ballistic defense and lower weight, allowing me to put 2 DR cannons on each ship instead of one.

On the Stingray, I also used 2xD5E to increase total armor points, instead of using C armor to increase resistances.  (swapping one D5E for a D3C would allow a 2nd DR cannon).

I'll compare the as-designed fleet stats & DPS in a chart.  I am assuming no component retrofits, no alliance bonus, and 45% rank bonus.  I considered doing zero rank bonus, but the rank does have an effect on the comparison - rank reload bonuses compound with the hull reload bonus, so that helps hulls with a higher built-in reload bonus more than hulls with a lower reload bonus.

For targets, I chose:

  • Buildings with no resistance
  • "Zero fleet" with no evade and no resistance
  • A Reaver hulk (from a level 60-type dredge): 13% explosive/ballistic resist, 21% missile resist, 43% radioactive resist, -144 Explosive, -104 Ballistic, -76 Missile
  • The Crusader build I used in this article

Statistic (per ship)4 ship Crusader4 Ship Dreadnaught R104 Ship SCX R105 Ship Vindicator R105 Ship Stingray R10
Fleet Build Time (w officer)87d 8h89d 15h97d 12h104d 22m100d 3h
Combat Speed23.419.823.427.030.6
Fleet Armor54,48450,40057,66447,02533,715
Ballistic Defense51%60%30%33%33%
Explosive Defense53%60%60%56%33%
Penetrative Defense67%53%60%46%53%
Concussive Defense0%0%0%0%0%
Radioactive Defense47%36%62%50%47%
Max Arbalest Range9595959085
Building DPS55,56160,32363,49848,55226,364
Basic Fleet DPS18,57920,12321,14919,63710,538
Dredge Hulk DPS13,28614,41715,17112,7327,096
Anti-Crusader DPS3,9594,2864,5035,0662,621

The Crusader didn't have any weak points, and its FvF performance will be helped by its concentrated fire ability (which I didn't account for in the DPS calculation).    

When I started this article, I was not expecting the SCX to look as good as it did.  I know a lot of players picked up the Arbalest in the last raid even though they were not able to get the Crusader when it was offered.  Getting the SCX from Snowfall Prize Pack 1, and devoting the uranium and retrofit lab time to get it to R10 can result in a very capable fleet.  Because the SCX R10 has the highest reload bonus of any of these hulls, higher rank will help its relative performance even more.

The Dreadnaught looks OK, but is held back a bit by its slow speed and relatively poor radioactive resist.  Building these from scratch is still not worthwhile after R10 retrofits, although a refit of existing, highly ranked dreads might be a quick way to get a decent fleet. 

The biggest surprise to me was the relative effectiveness of Vindicator R10.  Its high speed can make up for its shorter range, and its accuracy bonus really helps its performance against enemies with significant evade (like the Crusader target).  It is still a little weak in the armor, but with the R10 release, the Vindicator certainly seems like it is worth building for the players that don't have higher-end options.

The Stingray is looking fairly weak overall despite its high speed and evade.

Overall: I'm sure most of us have seen Arbalest Crusaders in action, and know how effective they are.  But there are other hull options out there which can be just as (if not more) effective.  I think this comparison is a great example of how having the best weapons is more important than having a specific hull.  I'm sure the question that I'll see after this article is... "So screw Crusaders, build SCX, right?"  There isn't an easy answer there - it depends on the player.  All I can say definitively is that I don't regret my Crusader build so far (I've got 2 no armor hulls in the water).  The Crusader doesn't need any Uranium to get to its listed performance... but also remember that the SCX Range bonus shows up at R5, and the Damage bonus shows up at R7.  R8 is speed, R9 is Radioactive Defense, and R10 is slow/stun resistance.  Even at R5 (100,000 total Uranium) the SCX will be a really nice ballistic hull.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Descent - One day in

Everybody's Sector bar is full now, right?  Well, maybe not.

One interesting update - Recon campaign is now levels 1 - 45 instead of 1 - 40.

I have a few good tips on this raid to share that are applicable for a range of player levels, so here goes:

World Map Targets

These targets are getting more attention than previous raids, since they are needed to increase the sector Influence bar far enough to unlock the point bonuses, sector store, and Assault Platforms.  

Unlike previous Reaver raids, there is no shortage of map targets of any size.  In fact (and someone at Kixeye will definitely roll their eyes at this one) I think there are too many targets, since it is often tough to find the target you want in the crowd - you have to click on each one.  It looks like we are starting to resolve itself and we are more likely to run into the issue where if a target is "overhunted", it will start to disappear.

I put them in two groups of difficulty: 23, 25, and 43 can all be done with instant repair ships.   (the 43 damage was increased a few hours into the raid.  I noticed this, and there is a fairly active thread about it on Kixeye Forums) The 45, 61, and 65 are significantly harder - I could really tell a difference in the durability of the scouts (for example).

23 Fleet target: 8,526 raid points, 10 sector points
4 drones, 1 scout.  

25 Platform target: 13,581 raid points, 15 sector points
2x3 Drones, 1 Scout, 1 Hades
Platforms with Mortars, Napalm, and Rockets

43 Fleet target: 69,089 raid points, 100 sector points
4 Drones, 2 Scouts, 1 Hulk
Spreading out is key on this one.

45 Fleet target: 116,098 raid points, 150 sector points
3 Scouts, 2 Hades 
These ships start out non-moving and only trigger when you get close to weapon range. They seem doable with stealthy Deluge Reapers, but the Scouts' thermal will detect you even at Deluge range.

61 Fleet target: 335,926 raid points, 400 sector points
Shroud Hulk with 2 Hades, 1 Scout
Platforms with long range Napalm, Mortars, Javelins, and Rockets

I figured out a good strategy on these.  One difficulty is that the Shroud ship sits very close to the platform, so you will take fire from the turrets when you approach it.  To deal with at, I added a pair of instant repair SW to my Frostburn / 2 Mastodon fleet.  I sent the SW after the Shroud to trigger it, while my main ships turned away.  Once the ships were dead, I used Hellstrikes with Siege Battery and a HLNC.

My total repair time between the 2 fleets was under an hour.

65 Fleet target: 556,881 raid points, 600 sector points
3 Hellhounds, 2 Hulks, 2 Scouts
This one didn't seem too difficult, but the ships are durable and deal out a lot of damage.  Try to deal with them singly and don't let them group up on you.

I'm hearing some rumors on Spectre decoys being effective here, so think about how that might work.

Recon Campaign
Sorry guys, I don't have a base low enough to try this one.  Instant repair fleets should be your best bet.

Strike Campaign
~500,000 raid points + 700,000 bonus, no sector points. 
I was able to completely beat this campaign with instant repair BB-A.  I could also run through it fairly quickly with Siege Missile Mercuries for 1-2 hours repair total.  If I used my Battlecruisers with high countermeasures against the Hulks, I could get the total repair well below 30 minutes.

Mission 1: 
3 Drones, 2 Scouts, 2 Hades
These ships won't move until you trigger a group.  Engage them singly as you can.

Mission 2:
3 Drones, 2 Scouts, 2 Hades
Same roster as last time, but they all start moving, so they will gang up on you.

Compared to world map targets, these first two missions are pretty good points for their difficulty, so if you have trouble with the rest of the campaign, you may still get points faster doing these first one or two missions then resetting than doing the map targets.  (but not sector points)

Mission 3:
3 Drones, 3 Scouts, 1 Hulk
The Drones come after you immediately, but the other ships must be triggered.  I like to move down and trigger the Scout on the lower right so I can engage them one at a time.  This Hulk (and the others in this campaign) have 4 Locust UAVs.   Some sort of Countermeasures is the best way to cut the large amount of damage those UAVs can do.  My R10 Battlecruiser fleet uses a Countermeasure ship that has over 100% accuracy with its Phalanx... the Hulk can't scratch it.

Mission 4:
2 Scouts, 2 Hades, 1 Hulk
Platform with Mortars, Rockets, and Napalm
You start out under mortar fire so get moving.  The Hulk doesn't move at all, but the Scouts and Hades will come after you.  Get those ships taken care of, then circle the platform to take out the remaining turrets and the Hulk.

Mission 5: 
3 Scouts, 1 Hulk
Platform with Mortars, Rockets, and Napalm
The three scouts are circling the platform on a fixed path.  The best way to deal with these is to sit still and let them drive by you - this keeps you out of thrower range.  After those are dealt with, you can circle the platform and kill the rest.  The Hulk will move once triggered.

When using instant repair fleets against Reavers, it is very important to keep your ships spread out.  If you don't, the death of any one ship will mean the death of your whole fleet.  I generally peel-off a sacrifice ship to accomplish this:

Siege Campaign
~1,672,000 raid points + 2,000,000 bonus

Mission 1: 
Trigger Group 1: 2 Scouts, 1 Hades
Trigger Group 2: 2 Scouts, 2 Hades

Mission 2: 
Trigger Group 1: 2x(2 Drones, 1 Scout), 1 Hellhound
Trigger Group 2: 1 Hellhound, 1 Scout, 1 Sapper

Mission 3: 
Trigger Group 1: 2 Hellhound, 1 Scout
Trigger Group 2: 2 Hellhound, 1 Scout, 1 Sapper

For each of these first three missions, you'll want to trigger one group and try to engage those targets one at a time before triggering the rest of the ships.

Mission 4: 
2 Scouts
Shroud with 1 Scout, 5 Drones
1 Hades
Platforms with Mortars, Rockets, long range Napalm

The first two scouts start active.  After that there are some turrets on the front walls that should be taken out.  The ships around the Shroud can be triggered and drawn out without having to engage the Shroud ship. After that I went around to the right, around, and up at the Shroud once the Hades and all nearby turrets were dead.  This Shroud ships packs a bunch of Locusts which killed off my Frostburn after it died, so I decided to retreat and come back with a HLNC and Hellstrike to take out the last Napalm turrets at the back.

Mission 5: 
3 Drones, 3 Scouts, 1 Hades

This one looks difficult, but the only part that was really tough was the Shroud ship.  No ships stay within the Shroud field - the 3 Drones charge you at the start, the 3 Scouts orbit the base, and the Hades moves in your direction to fire at you when a Scout is in range.  After taking out the ships with Frosty/Mast, I used a HLNC and Hellstrike to come through and take out all the turrets except the ones covered by the shroud.  I'm still experimenting on how best to kill the Shroud ship.  Subs and Hellstrikes didn't work too well.  My best combo was a Grimshine with countermeasures leading my 2 Mastodons.   I think the key to killing the Shroud with low damage is heavy Countermeasures to stop the UAVs.  The Javelin turrets near the Shroud are actually short range, so don't worry about them too much, but I'm also thinking about using a small Pinch on the Shroud (once I'm in range) then quickly redirecting fire to drop the turrets.

Total to do the campaign was 14 coins, which isn't bad at all compared to the last few raids. 

Elite Campaign
xxx raid points + 2,000,000 bonus points, no sector points.
3 Sapper, 1 Hulk (2 with Shroud)
"65-style" platforms with Rockets, Javelins, Long Range Napalm, and Mortars

Oh yeah... lots of fire.  This is similar to the Elite campaign in the previous raid, but more fire.  The best strategy for these last raid was to charge for the center with a mortar or rocket fleet, and then deal with the ships afterward.  I'm not so sure on that this time.... I think this time the center platform has many more rockets, and there sure was a lot of fire as I came down the chute.  Unfortunately those 4 outer ships are fairly durable too, but they dont start out near you. Possibly the best strategy would be to take out a few of the turrets up front, then wait for the ships to come around and engage them in that front area where you've taken out some turrets.  Countermeasures will be useful against the Dragonflys and Mortars on those ships.  After the ships are gone, then go around the outside to clear the outer walls, then approach the middle.

I can't give you a benchmark on what it took to do this target - I only tried it once, and that included starting with half-dead Hellstrikes, then repairing overnight before finishing it off.

I'm not going to get into the Assault Platforms in this article (neither sector I'm in has unlocked them yet).  Honestly I'm not too interested in trying to win the Proto-Nemesis.

I feel like the raid difficulty is lower than the last few Reaver raids.  I'm finding points/damage is better on the Siege / Strike campaigns than the world map targets, but every player might have a different result based on their own fleets and techniques.  For me, the 61 would give me about 200k points per coin, but the Siege campaign would be more like 350k points per coin.  Every player should be doing that calculation for themself, figuring out what works for them, and estimating what they can get based on their time/budget.  I have been hitting some map targets to try to help out the sector, but the focus of my raid will be campaigns.

Good luck Pirates! Feel free to share some additional tips in the comments.