Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Descent Raid - Pre-Raid Tips & What to Get

Kixeye's raid briefing for the Descent raid is here: https://www.kixeye.com/forum/discussion/537170

Read it before you go on with this article... I don't want to re-explain stuff.

The older, poorly named (What Tricks?  I see no Tricks!), Kixeye Tips & Tricks thread is here: https://www.kixeye.com/forum/discussion/538575

My article on the new ship and mortar prizes is here: http://bpprof.blogspot.com/2015/04/descent-raid-prizes-novastorm-dantes.html 

One interesting note on the Dante's Novastorm.  From the raid briefing:
This limited flagship version of the Novastorm helps to enhance other ships by increasing mortar reload speeds and tactical field resistances to all other ships in its fleet. This ability is in addition to increasing its own speed through fire and ice fields.

The aura of the flagship provides the Tactical Field Resistance (Tactical Modules, Fire & Ice patch effects) and the Mortar Reload to all other ships in the fleet, but the fire & ice field speedup will affect the flagship only ("its own speed").  Thanks to the reader who pointed out that possibility (and weakness) if using a Dante to lead DNX.

A few points relating to Sector Influence from the raid briefing I think should be emphasized.

  • Only Assault Forces (world map targets) increase the Sector Influence bar.  Defeating an Assault Force will increase the Sector Influence bar of the sector they are in.  If you go and hit Assault Forces in other sectors, you are helping their influence bar, not yours.
  • Campaign Targets do not give points to the Sector Influence bar.  They give points and those points are affected by the unlockable point multiplier.  Campaigns will operate the same way as previous Reaver raids.

A few points relating to Assault Platform targets from the raid briefing I think should be emphasized (and I assume the uranium payouts will be higher than shown on the picture):
  • The Assault Platform is a 4 player co-op target with a timer.  Destroy it before the timer runs out or it will be reset.  If all players leave, it will be reset.  Level 60+ players may enter if there is a slot available.
  • You must do at least 5% damage to get any rewards.  No freeloaders.  No countermeasures-only either.
  • Uranium is gained by killing buildings and as a bonus payout when completed.
  • The Proto-Nemesis is available, but not guaranteed.  One Proto max per win.  There will be a worldwide notification when a player wins a Proto, so I guess we will get a feel for how frequent those drops will be.  Don't expect any very early, since the Assault Platform must be unlocked through Sector Influence.
  • Update: You will get no Raid Points from the Assault Platform target.   Thanks to a reader for pointing that one out.
Raid Meta-Strategy:

By meta-strategy, I am referring how to plan your raid, not how to attack specific targets.

Start with the world map targets.  Save the campaigns until the Sector Influence bar is high enough that the 15% multiplier is unlocked.  You'll probably get a feel by Day 2 on whether your sector's bar is moving quickly or not.  I would expect that Kixeye has scaled the bar such some sectors will not unlock the entire thing.

If you find those World targets really hard, wait.  Save the bulk of your play time, coining, and best Rogue Crews for the time after the point multipliers are unlocked.

Update: Since the Assault Platforms give no raid points, only worry about them if you want Uranium or a chance at the Proto-Nemesis.  It may be possible that you could skim a few sides of it to get some easy uranium - we will have to see.

Target Strategy:

The three S's to surviving Reaver Engagements are: 
  • Stand Off - Keep away from their ships with Ballistics, Depth Charges, and Rockets. 
  • Speed - See above, and escape fire pools.  Speed also helps you close the distance to platform weapons that outrange you.  You can also close on and kill single ships to prevent them from ganging up on you.
  • Spread Out - Avoid splash damage affecting your entire fleet.
For anti-ship engagements, I plan to use the same fleet as last time - Frostburn with Mastodons.  I may also try an Enforcer flag instead of the Frostburn. 

I expect the newest Arbalest-armed Crusader / SCX fleets to be successful as well.  The high projectile speed will really help to kill Reaver ships before they close in.  Missiles, Launchers, or UAVs kill the targets eventually, but take longer and you will usually see some return fire.  

Mortars or Rockets are generally useless against the fast Reaver ships. 

Subs or Zombie subs may be useful in some situations, but some experimentation is usually needed.  Sometimes targets could see you but not kill you underwater so watch for those opportunities too. (in the very brief sneak peek today, doing 43s with subs seemed promising)

For platform engagements, I may look to try the strategy that some players used in the Elite Target - use fast Hellhounds or Hellstrikes (I have Hellstrikes with Siege Battery) to run past the orbiting guard and destroy the turrets at the center.  I did this once last raid with good results.

For the large Assault Platforms, I expect the Co-op strategy to be similar to how Draconian Bases were approached when first introduced.  Players who had the most success worked together to clear an area and move on.  You don't want to charge in solo and get shot at from all sides. 

When looking at the Shroud, players will need to be careful and smart.  Although it will be tempting to charge in and kill the Shroud immediately, don't subject yourself to unnecessary fire while doing that.

So that's really just an example, and the path shown in this picture might not be a good idea due to other stuff you can't see, and if there's other stuff above it, go kill that (first) too. But the point is... don't go all LEEEEROOOOY JENKINS!!! and just charge in after any Shroud you see.

What to Get:

Tier 1

Battlecruiser: If you don't have this hull, get it.  It does show up in the weekly occasionally
Destroyer X:  These can be useful as instant repair ships.  Give them up to 400 armor, and they will be instant repair all the time.  I've heard of people squeezing a Blaze Thrower onto this hull.
Leviathan A, Floating Fortress A: These aren't hard to get from the campaigns, and they aren't super useful anyway, except possibly the FF-A R1 as a cargo hauler.
Frigate: It isn't the smallest ship you can build, and it isn't big enough to be useful for anything.
Unstable Core I, Speed System I, Reaver Chaingun I, Shredder Cannon I: You won't want to use any of these items next week, next month, or ever.

Tier 2
Sawfish: With a 2d 6h build time on the hull, and new powerful ballistics, newer players might want to give this one a look.
Zynthonite Armor D2-C:  With ballistics making a comeback, this armor is usable.
Super Fortress: Mostly useful as Cargo Haulers, also has 4 UAV capable weapon slots.
Poseidon Depth Charge II: Anti-sub weapon useful in special situations, like anti-Kraken.
Battlecruiser X:  Not bad, but I'd rather have some high-speed Sawfish.
Mako: Possibly players' least favorite hull ever, this hull isn't as bad as its reputation, but isn't really worth the 4.5 day build time.
Speed System II, Unstable Core II, Shredder Cannon II: You won't want to use any of these items next week, next month, or ever.

Tier 3
Barracuda: Remember when flashing text was the way to get attention?  Well I do.  For those without a prize sub, this should be your top priority, and pretend that I wrote BARRACUDA in bright flashing text.  Zombie subs are a strategy that has worked very well for free players for a long time.  Higher end players could consider these with Deluge missiles for base preps as well.  
Posiedon(?) Depth Charge III: Kixeye left off the definition if this would be the Posiedon or the Piranha. Either one is usable in the right situation.
Guardian: With the new mortars available, the Guardian may be useful in base defense, although range would be a problem.  This hull is getting an R10 soon, and +10% Mortar Range would bring these back into the base defense conversation, but who knows if that will happen.
Mauler, Mercury, Strike Cruiser X:  These are all good hulls for the player who can earn them, but better gotten from the first tier of campaigns.  12 hours + instant repair ships is enough to get any of these during a raid.  SCX + Arbalest is a great combo.
Missile Cruiser X: It pains me to say this, because I was such a fan of MCX for so long, but at this point in the game, the Mercury is a better value build for missile ships. (removed)
Vindicator:  Getting R10 soon.  It's tough to recommend this over other ballistic hulls without knowing what's coming for that retrofit.
Thresher: If you want a hull for rockets from this raid, Thresher is the one to grab.  But you really don't need a hull for rockets.
Unstable Core III:  I don't like ships designed to blow up, but some people do.
Missile Cruiser: (added to replace MCX) Not only is this hull available from the campaigns, it isn't as good as the alternative missile hulls.
Interdictor: For the 4 day hull build time, the basic Interdictor isn't particularly good at anything.  You'd rather have Vassago's from the campaign, or the Viper.
Siege Cannon D35-W, Crossbow III, Siege Rockets D95-S:  These weapons aren't the top tier ones you want to use.  Buildtime on the Crossbow is kind of outrageous, although maybe not totally out of line considering its weight.
Shredder Cannon III: Ugh.

Tier 4
Most of the hulls in Tier 4 are very good, look at what weapons you have available before you choose.
Speed System III: Most players have this, but you need it if you don't.
Pandemonium Mortar: It's very difficult to recommend against getting a new weapon.  If you think you might have a use for it, get it.
Nighthawk: These subs are probably the best FvF subs you can get, but the build time gets a lot longer than the Barracuda.
Reaper: Great with Deluge Missiles, even though the stealth is limited to 75% when attacking a player base, they can be useful against other targets as well.
Mastodon: The Proto-Mastodon from the Snowfall campaign is more desirable, but a lot of players have trouble with the Kraken.  Mastodons are great and you should get them  Torrents are usable as well as Siege Missile Z.
Interceptor V2-H, Kodiak: Great missile hulls, for players with Siege Missile Z.
Interceptor V2-C, Nuclear Cruiser: Great launcher hulls for players with Cryo Launchers. I would lean towards V2-C right now, but the Nuclear Cruiser is getting R10 soon, so who knows what that will bring.  Also consider V2-C if you're looking for something to mount throwers.
Enforcer: Still a powerhouse for base defense, Cryo Launchers are best to use, but any launcher will do.  As an alternate, if you can get the Arbalest, the Goliath with Arbalest will be very effective (if not more effective), and that weapon will be useful on more hulls.
Lightning Carrier: Not a very popular hull but could be effective with Locusts or Hornets when driven well.
Dreadnought X: Stretching to the Novastorm will be better, but the old DNX with new mortars will be effective against many targets... that aren't moving too fast.
Stingray: I would like to see some Arbalest-armed Stingrays, but not have to fight them.
Berserker: I'm not a big fan of these with their 150% repair modifier, but some players use these effectively... usually with mortars or launchers.
Vanguard: Don't win these and then say "I need a Vanguard build".  You need to have a plan for these before you take them.  Inferior to the Monarch if you won those.
Reaver Scout Engine, Javelin: Get this stuff from the campaign instead.
Zynthonite Armor D4-C:  A good tool for the toolkit, but you may want to prioritize hulls instead.

Tier 5
Novastorm: I think most players that can reach this hull know what they are in for.  These are not "do everything" ships.  You'll have to use them against the right targets to be satisfied.  
Dante’s Novastorm (limited max 5): If concerned about build time, this hull can juice up an old DNX fleet that gets refit with the new mortars.  Building one empty and using it to give Tac Field resistance and Mortar reload may also be a strategy for this hull.

Sector Store
Arbalest: This is a very powerful ballistic weapon.  Yes, you want it.  Any ballistic hull should be using these as their first choice.  Arbalest on Goliath are tearing up attackers.
Apocalypse Mortar: If you want to base your defense around mortars, these can be a lot of fun, and aren't too long to build give their power.  Be warned that the promised projectile speedup from Eruption Pyre does not work with these yet.
Magma Thrower: With longer range, I think the Blaze Throwers are more generally useful.
Infernal Core: I got blown up by some Infernal core ships in the arena a few times. 

(Added) Frostburn Interceptor: This is a hull that separates the top players from everyone else.  This should be a top priority for any player who thinks they could get there.  This versatile hull is key for dredges, sub spotting, top end base hitting, and probably many more things I've missed.  GET THE FROSTBURN!

There's a lot of choices, but to summarize, I would prioritize Arbalest and Barracuda for players who don't have a lot to work with.  After that, look at a hull that will work with the best weapons you own already, as the weapon choices in this raid are pretty thin.  The Frostburn can work well with missiles or launchers, and can even be useful with light weapons.

Good luck in Descent!