Sunday, September 27, 2015

More new stuff - EM Rails, FAT, & Holdouts

Yeah, I can't keep up with all the new stuff coming out, but the EM rails came out a week late, so Kixeye can't either.  Doesn't make me feel better about it, but maybe Kixeye will take their own hint.


Sorry - that's not very hint-like. Nope, not sorry.

Anyway.  I'll go through:
- Supercharged EM Rails released in this week's Forsaken Mission
- Vassago's Prototype Hunter, Hydraulic Resistors, and the Cobra Scattergun released in the Forsaken Arena Tournament.
- Reaver Holdout Fleet prizes

Supercharged EM Rails 1-3:

This is a turret special that is awarded in Tiers 2 - 4 that gives ballistic turrets (Javelins, Harpoons, and Dead-Eye Ballista) a chance for high-damage critical hits.  The special is fairly power hungry (same as Depleted Uranium Shells 3), so let's see if the DPS increase is worth the power.

It looks like the DU Shells are more effective at increasing your DPS, so I wouldn't go refitting EM Rails over those.  Against lower evade targets, the DU shells would not look as good, because they add 40% accuracy to a weapon that is already at 100%.  However, I don't think too many basers come in with less than 50% evade, do they?  It is also interesting to note that the Level 1 & Level 2 EM Rails are basically junk - they do increase your DPS, but if you are power limited, they really aren't worth putting on.  But with OP7 giving lots more power and the two special slots available in a Level 6 turret, these may find a place eventually.

A few more thoughts - the refit time on these is less than 12 hours, so that isn't too bad (similar to DU Shells).  Also, the one case where the Critical Hit would be really nice is against incoming Neptunes with Siege Deflection.  The increased damage means that the Siege Deflection capability on those hulls would start to get seriously overwhelmed.

Vassago's Prototype Hunter:


For those of you who blew through the Caustic Warfare campaign to win 5 of the Prototype Hunter, enjoy your kick in the balls.  Now you'd rather build one of these (if you can come in the top 3 places in your bracket).  Although the total capacity on the blueprint shown to us gives 3 as the max capacity, only 1 hull blueprint will be given to the players in the top 3.

Vassago's version of the Prototype Hunter hull increases quite a few stats, but also gives a Subsonic Cavitator field effect with range of 60 that surfaces submarines.  Like the regular Prototype Hunter, this should prove to be a very effective weapon against the Scourge.


The stat increases affect some of the hull's best qualities, but you will suffer an extra 31 hours of build time.

Hydraulic Resistors:

The top three players in each bracket will also win this limited special, Hydraulic Resistors. Once you realize that these are just Speed System 5 with 1% extra weight and 15% Concussive Defense, you realize it's kind of a terrible name.  I don't have much more to say on this but that you should use this on your anti-Scourge ships if you get it.  If you win just one, you'll probably be best off putting it on a flagship or tank of some sort.  With a build time of 16 hours 37 minutes, it takes a little longer than Speed 5, but not too much more.

Cobra Scattergun:

This weapon is the first of a new type - the Scattergun.  It also is the first weapon we've had that does all Corrosive damage.  Also note that it can only be installed in hybrid or underwater (I misread this on initial release, must be a Hybrid slot) slots.  The top 50 players in each FAT bracket will win at least one of these.

This weapon is going to be difficult for me to analyze and compare, because it is a splash weapon, it has a new statistic "Multi-shot", and it also does the corrosive damage over time.

I am going to assume that the Multi shot is a sort of "simultaneous salvo" so the 5 shots are fired all at once, then the weapon has the quite long 12 second reload.  I really don't know if the splash effect means that shots that land wide will have reduced DoT damage as well as reduced direct damage.  As a point of reference, I'll compare this to Cryo Depth Charges:

The straight DPS doesn't look that great, but if the Corrosive time effect of 2400 DPS x 6 seconds is accurate, then that adds an average of 1200 DPS to the weapon, which dwarfs the direct damage.  That Damage over Time is probably lower based on spread effects.  Build time is not as long as a Cryo Depth Charge, but still long.

So I don't really know if I will recommend building this weapon right away, because I can't tell how effective it will be.  When no ships have any corrosive damage resistance, that is another factor in the Cobra's favor.  

I also don't know exactly where I would use it.  With its requirement of a Hybrid weapon slot, some of the applications that come to mind are:

  • Subs - unless you are using Charon Torpedoes, the Cobra will have a similar range to your other torpedoes.  (only Cudas or Reapers)
  • Hunter - 4 underwater slots, but probably will be shorter range than your missiles.
  • Interceptor V2-H - 4 hybrid slots, but this will be shorter range than missiles.  
  • Monarch - some players may be planning Sub Cav or other types of fields... I never know what weapons to put on a Monarch, and since these new Scatterguns don't have any specials available to affect them (and a Monarch has 2 hybrid slots), they will be just as effective on a Monarch as on any of your 'main' hulls.
So yeah, this one is a stumper.  Lots of players will be winning at least one of these, so maybe we'll see some effective uses over the next few weeks.

And the Holdout Fleets:


These made a one day appearance last week, and should come back again 9/28 - 9/30

changed:Tuesday at 10 am PDT to Wednesday at 9am PDT
(that's Tuesday 29 Sept at 1 PM US East Coast / 6 PM UK through Wed 30 Sept)

.  My anti-Reaver fleet took a fair amount of damage doing these, so I had better luck doing some using zombie Rhino/Mastodons, then using subs to finish off the last two large ships (Hades & Hulk).  Note that the Hulk can't hurt your underwater subs even if it sees you, but the Hades can, so get the Hades (missile ship on the right) first.

Beating a Holdout fleet results in a chance of a Limited blueprint drop.  You can't use Lucky Bastards to improve your chance.  Each of the prints from these Holdouts are an improved version of something we already have.  From what I'm finding and hearing, I think the chances of getting a print are about 1 in 3, with the majority of prizes being the Gale anti-mortar weapon.

Gale Defense System:

This is an improved version of the Hailstorm anti-mortar, with more range, shots, and accuracy.  Build time isn't too much longer than a Hailstorm, so use these instead of Hails if you get them.  However, I usually prefer speed to outrun mortars, and high accuracy Phalanx for UAV defense.

(Woops those are Phalanx weights - Hails weigh 480 / 240 / 120 tons)

Compound Defense System D6-A:

This is the one I would like the most - I use D5-X on many fleets (and have it at R15), so this is a nice upgrade with an extra 5% resistance for 2% armor weight, but with (only?) an extra 4.5 hours of build time.

Fallout Armor 4:

This adds an extra 5% against Explosive and Penetrating and 8% against Radioactive for 3% Armor Weight and 5 hours extra on the (already long) build time.  I never seem to find a good use for Fallout Armor - the loss of ballistic resistance is tough for me to swallow.  (SCX builds are the exception with only 3 specials.)

Agility System 4:

This adds an extra 7% Evade and 10% Stun/Slow Resistance for 3% Total Weight and 5 hours extra on the (already long) build time.  Cutting the stun time can be really useful - putting the basic Stun resistance at 60% matches the Shielded Electronics 3 special, and retrofit can improve that even more.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Caustic Warfare Campaign and Prizes

Kixeye has released a new time-limited campaign for us called Caustic Warfare.  It will be available for about 2 weeks.  the preview described Draconian vs. Scourge elements, and so I was hoping it would be playable like some of the Reaver vs. Drac elements, where you could hide in a corner and let them grind away at each other a bit... but that turned out not to be the case.  Anyway I'll go though the flow of the campaign and give a once-over for the prizes.

Like most of the other higher end campaigns, Caustic Warfare has three levels, where the first level has five battles to fight, then each successive level adds another battle.  The difference is that the total time allowed is reduced compared to other campaigns.  Only 4 hours are allowed for Level 1, 2 hours for Level 2, and 1 hour for Level 3.  Most other campaigns allow 12 hours / 6 hours / 1 hour.  Time isn't really an issue in terms of doing the Campaign even at the third run-through, but the lower time does make it less feasible to get any slow repair between missions.

Full breakdowns of the targets are at Dark Alliance in the following posts:  

Level 1:

Level 2:

Level 3:

This thread includes pictures of the layout:

A few YouTube vids are out as well if you'd like to see some playthoughs.

Overall, I think most players find that the campaign is difficult to do for free, but it is of generally lower difficulty than the Raid.  I found that the layout of the ships made it tricky to use my raid strategy with a Frosty tank + Zombie Rhino/Masts.  Quite often a Stonefish or even a Viperfish would get around me and fire on my fire support ships.

Don't forget to use a crew... Sea Serpents, Steelheads, or something offensive like Wolfpack are my favorite choices for the Scourge.

Each encounter is summarized below:

Mission 1:
This one consists of Draconian ships picking off a few wounded Scourge ships at the start.  Using a fleet that you don't use against the Scourge for this first encounter is probably a good plan - I used Crusaders.
Dracs: 3 Kodiak, 1 SCX, 2 V2-H
Scourge: 1 Goblin shark, 2 Viperfish (all heavily damaged)

Mission 2: 
In this one, you start out surrounded by two groups of Scourge, each with 2 Viperfish and one Goblin Shark.  
Scourge:  2 Goblin Shark, 4 Viperfish

Mission 3: 
The Scourge get their revenge and pick off a few Dracs to start.  The Daggertooths and Viperfish aren't too bad to deal with, but the Stonefish tend to get around you and get a few shots in.
Scourge:  1 Viperfish, 2 Daggertooth (slightly damaged), 2 Stonefish
Draconian: 2 V2-C, 1 SCX (all heavily damaged)

Mission 4: 
The Electric Eels make their appearance here.  I find them not too bad if you can engage them in isolation, but when the other Scourge are hitting you as well, they can really mess you up when they surface, stun you, and start firing their depth charges.  Definitely focus on the Eels.
Scourge:  2 Electric Eels, 6 Stonefish

Mission 5: 
You show up at a runied Drac installation.  The Scourge are a little beat up but still have their teeth.
Scourge:  2 Viperfish (damaged), 3 Daggertooth (damaged), 2 Stonefish

Mission 6: 
I hear Vegas is giving 200-1 odds on the Super Fortresses.. I still wouldn't take that bet.
Scourge:  4 Viperfish, 2 Goblin Shark, 2 Stonefish
Forsaken: 3 Superfortress (heavily damaged)

Mission 7: 
Some of the ships start inside the land area, so make sure you are not depending on torpedos only to hit the Stonefish.  You may be able to use the land to your advantage, try to keep them from getting too close.
Scourge:  3 Viperfish, 1 Daggerfish, 1 Goblin Shark, 1 Electric Eel, 2 Stonefish

So far, I've done this campaign for the first two prize packs.  On the second run-through (with an Uncommon Sea Serpents Crew), I used my CM Frosty / Crusaders for the first mission, my Grim Wrath/V2-H fleet for missions 2 - 4 (no repair between), then my CM Frosty / unarmored Rhinos for missions 5 and 6.  The only coin I needed was to fix my Frostburn after mission 5.  I had about 16 hours of repair built up when done, but this campaign will be available for another two weeks, so I don't feel a rush to get through it.

The Prizes:

Prize Pack #1: Strike Warheads

This combo weapon system increases damage for both missile and torpedo weapons.  Its obvious use is for builds that combine torpedos and missiles (V2-H or Hunters), but it is also pretty good compared to just Concussive Warheads (for Torps) or Enhanced Warhead (for Missiles) if you are willing to soak up the extra build time.  For a Missile-only fleet, I would prefer Interception System to get the speed boost.

Prize Pack #2: Charon Torpedo

This is NOT the same Charon Torpedo that the Scourge are using against us.  It has shorter range and does less damage.  But it is still a very effective choice for players to use, doing more than twice as much damage at a longer maximum range than the Assault Torpedo.  Its drawbacks are its lack of speed boost and its very long build time. 

The build time is obvious on the bubble chart:

One more point that you should be aware of... The Charon Torp is only 44 DPS/hTon.  Although it is clearly the hardest hitting torpedo, and sub builds are not usually weight limited anyway, the Charon's DPS/weight is not in the same neighborhood as the Blade Missile (237 DPS/hTon on a Rhino).  If you are looking at combo missile/torp builds, and you need to save some weight, these torps should be the first thing to drop.

The longer range of the Charon is very interesting, as many PvE targets are built around the previous range of 75 - 78 that most players had. Subs using Charon torpedoes might be able to freely prep targets that were not preppable before.  Of course the drawback is that building (or refitting) a sub fleet to take advantage of these torpedoes will be a long build time proposition with the day and a half build time for each torpedo.  (over 19 days for a Banshee build)

Prize Pack #3: Protoype Hunter 

With strong missile and torpedo buffs, as well as good speed and defense, this hull seems tailor-made to fight the Scourge.  It also is the first hull we've seen with the "Assault Deflection" statistic.  Assault Deflection works like built-in plate armor against any incoming damage from enemy ships.  After any resistance is applied, the deflection is subtracted.

To compare with some of the other prime Scourge-fighting ships out there, the Hunter looks pretty good, but not vastly superior.  The Rhino is certainly a great choice, and the very high Evade of the Frostburn is sometimes overlooked in comparison to its field & detection capability.  Even the V2-H R10 has some points worth considering.So overall, I don't think the Hunter is so great that all your other Anti-Scourge fleets should be put into storage. 

I'm seeing a lot of people posting builds like this:

(click on pic for Huggy's link)

I'm sure this build would really tear into the Scourge (and plenty of other targets too), but at 24 days each, you are really looking at a long shipyard commitment.  I haven't been a huge fan of the combination torpedo/missile ship builds, as torpedoes can be kind of slow and short range compared to missiles (and also less weight efficient).  But the Charon torpedoes will pack a big punch, and the tougher Scourge ships last long enough for the torpedoes to land.  Just remember those 4 torpedoes add 6 days to the build time all by themselves.

Since I'm fairly happy with where my Rhinos are going, I was thinking more of using a single Hunter as a Spotter/Tank.  With the Assault Deflection, good sonar, and good defenses, I'm thinking something like:

(click on pic for Huggy's link)

I didn't turn down the opportunity to use the new Blade missile, but I'm trying to focus on defense here, so I combined Reflective Coat with Shielded Electronics.  I would also have an Aegis behind this to provide some countermeasures - without that I'd want 1-2 Phalanx instead of Blades.  This ship is light - allowing it to be inserted into many fleets, and reasonably quick to build (under 2 weeks).  It should have enough armor to last through most Raid battles. A non-coiner might want more armor, to allow for a few encounters then some significant off-line repair time.  

By the way, I'm also thinking about a similar concept for a Neptune build, to take advantage of its Siege Deflection to tank against Strongholds.  I'll leave that build as an exercise for the reader (hint: leave your heavy weapon at home).

In fact, since this isn't a flagship hull, it might be worthwhile to build a few of these tank-builds, which would allow for rotating them through "tank" duty, then going offline for an extended time to repair them all.  I used that sort of strategy for the very first raid I won a top hull prize.  Of course, the ships I used were my old Peacemaker Floating Fortresses to tank for my new Siege Missile E armed Hammerheads.  And they were fighting targets that looked a lot like the Drac Base Artillery Platforms.  But I won my Strike Cruiser... and I was on my way.

Final thoughts:
It's a bit ironic that you need to fight the Scourge to get the best anti-Scourge weapons.  

If you don't yet have any good ships built to fight the Scourge, but you do have the blueprints for hulls like the Rhino, V2-H, or Frostburn, and some decent missile weapons like the Blade, Harrier, or even the Siege Missile Z, you should probably skip this campaign and keep focusing on a plan to use what you have.

If you already have a fleet that is good against the Scourge, you should be able to win this stuff without too much expense / trouble, but maybe you don't need it so much... and you should stick with what you have.

And if you have no fleets and no plan against the Scourge... I suspect this stuff is out of your reach at a reasonable cost.  (why are you still reading?)  A better plan might be to go after the V2-H and Siege Missile Z in the first Sea of Flames campaign, and then try to get the D53-D Disruption Missile from Tier 3 in the Weekly Mission.  As a starter, I put together this V2-H build for a player with "Tier 3" technology.  Once you win those, get building and get on the Retrofits where you can... I suspect the Scourge will be around for a while. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

New Forsaken Mission Prizes - Blade Missile, CM Loader 2 & 3, Dead-Eye Ballista

To start off with:
I'd like to revisit what I previously wrote about Kixeye game designer Raikan's raid strategy video.  For those of you that missed it, I panned it as showing some fundamental build mistakes, and showing a "strategy" that would require players to pay much more than most are willing to pay in order to win the raid prizes.  I think most players agreed with me and I stand by that analysis, but I did miss one important point:

I really appreciated the effort by Raikan and so should you.  

We NEED more information and engagement from that level of Kixeye.  That sort of information has the potential to be very useful to us, and if we can improve on that and even create a two-way flow of information with the designers, perhaps we can see real improvement in some of the players' major areas of concern.  So Raikan, I'm sorry that I blasted your video.

I've publicly asked to engage Kixeye directly, and that offer still stands.  I would be willing to host live guests on a BP Crib show, or conduct email/phone/webcam interviews and publish transcripts.  I would like to hear Kixeye's side of the story, and get their responses to the biggest concerns of the Battle Pirates player community.  I do not have any interest in using an interview to embarrass, surprise, or shame my guest, and would agree to reasonable conditions in order to make sure of that. 

Also on the last article...
Some readers pointed out a few errors in my spreadsheet. (thanks!) I've been correcting them as I've been made aware of them, and the latest version is embedded in the article.  I don't think any of the conclusions have changed.

One thing I didn't point out... one more important way you can get ready for the next raid is to focus your retrofits.  Bypass Missile retrofits are relatively cheap and very useful if you will be using Harriers or Disrupters.  The Missile Systems retrofit is also fairly cheap, and it affects Enhanced Warhead and Guided Missile System.  And as always, Evade Armor, Compound Engine Systems, Compound/Alloy Defense System, and Maneuverability/Radiation Systems are great retrofits for improving defense and speed.  Check out the specials / weapons that you are using on your ships and look to improve those specific items that you are using.

Now on to the new goodies...

Blade Missile

The Blade missile is on the Elite tier of the mission, and it is certainly an elite weapon.  The short story on this missile is that it is about as effective as a Siege Missile Z, but with more range and 1/3 the weight.  It also has more flak evasion.  It also is in the retrofit lab with Siege Missiles, so those of you who have already retrofitted those will find this missile doing even more damage.  

The Blade is the new DPS/hton champ of missiles... dethroning the Trident's very short stay on top.  When looking at straight DPS, is also matches or beats the Siege Missile Z, meaning that a 1 for 1 refit of the Blade over the Siege Missile Z is an upgrade.  When looking at the previous "good" missiles like the Harrier, you really needed about 2 - 3 Harriers to swap in for a Siege Z in order to upgrade your ship's overall damage output, but the Blade can be a straight refit that both saves weight AND upgrades damage.  With this new weapon, I have also updated the "bubble chart".

For those of you unfamiliar with this chart, it compares the various missile options, plotting range vs. DPS/100 tons.  Targets have 40% evade but no resistances.  The bubble size corresponds to build time / weight.  So larger bubbles correspond to weapons that will take longer to build when allocating a set amount of ship weight to missiles. 

The Blade definitely shows its superiority on this chart, but when comparing the bubble size to other missiles like the Harrier and the Siege Z, you can see that you are paying for that effectiveness in build time.  Also note that the Harrier would close that DPS gap a bit against real targets, since the Harrier has the Penetrative Bypass which the Blade does not.  You can see that comparison in my previous article where I compared effectiveness of various weapons against Scourge targets (and I have added the Blade to the sheet in that article).

Countermeasure Loaders 2 & 3

The combo special has been improved with the new Loaders, but you pay in build time for this capability.  The 20% reload bonus is always appreciated on any offensive ship, and then the 35% accuracy increase is pretty close to the 40% anti-missile increase available with Countermeasure Equipment. 

When I build Countermeasure ships, I generally load up on Anti-Missile, and depend on speed to outrun mortars, so I would generally stick with the Countermeasure Equipment with its higher accuracy and lower build time.  However, with newer hulls having 5 special slots (thus the space is there), players that are combining countermeasures with offensive weapons could really get a boost with the newer loaders... just watch out for the build time.  

Dead-Eye Ballista

The Dead-eye Ballista joins the Wendigo and the Dead-Eye Executioner in the pantheon of Limited Base turrets.  This prize will be awarded in the Elite Tier after all other Elite Prizes (except tokens) have been won, so no player will be able to win it this week (and we are all busy upgrading our Outposts, right?).  The DPS numbers for this turret are almost precisely the same as the Dead-Eye Executioner, and it also has similar range.  The special piercing capability will hurt stacked-up fleets.  (compared to the Penetrative Bypass of the Executioner which will hurt fleets with high Penetrative Resistance more.)  In the chart above, I also compared the D-E Ballista with DU Shells to the D-E Executioner with Smart Warheads - you can see that the Ballista gets more DPS than the Executioner with less power usage in that configuration (but you will need to have a Level 6 Turret).  Another interesting point is that although you get a range increase, the Dead-eye Ballista (without a special) is not a DPS upgrade from the less power-hungry Javelin with DU Shells.  So it may be a better strategy to upgrade the platform to Level 6 first before swapping the Javelin for the Ballista. 

A new Ballistic Base turret special (Supercharged EM Rails) was slated for release this week, but we have been told it is delayed.  Caught up players who do the Elite Tier twice this week will win both the CM Loader 3 and the Blade Missile. 

A lot of stuff was released at once this week.  I'll be going through the changes for Outpost 7 and the new Caustic Warfare campaign in later articles.  Just as a note - the Outpost 7 changes also come with 2 extra turrets available to build (which was not noted in the initial release).  In addition, the Tactical Lab now has Level 2 tactical installations available to research - this includes Fire Support, Combined Defense, and Hidden Cache.  So check all that out & get upgrading!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Wait till next month

Now that Ascension is over, I want to talk about two things:
- Why it was such a suck fest
- What to plan for going forward

What went wrong:
I'll share my thoughts, and try to be a little more detailed than "It was too hard"
  • As initially released, the only option for getting significant points was to do your own level-locked campaign.
The two biggest options for players who felt outclassed - getting help from other players, and doing an easier campaign for fewer bonus points were removed this raid.  Other options - hitting the start of a campaign & resetting, and grinding world map targets were made non-useful by the weighting of point awards towards the bonuses.  Non coiners really had no good options this raid.
  • The changes Kixeye made as the raid went on were positive for some, but also devalued the work (and coin) that other players had put in before those changes.
For a player who was able to deal with the raid as it was, seeing players who hit a single target & gave up earn 4 million points might not sit too well.  I think the players who put in a huge amount of effort (and coin) to hit those awful 55 targets and open their sector bar... only to see Kixeye release Vanguards to everyone... have an even more legitimate complaint.  And of course, many players grabbed a Scythe with their 4 million points, and then realized that they had no hull to mount a heavy weapon on. 

I don't understand how Kixeye could have been surprised at the player reaction to the point where they felt the need to make the changes.  They knew what they were putting out there, and one would think they tried it a few times to check how successful player would be.  The Siege Campaign strategy video by Raikan seemed like a good development, but the more I look at it, the more worried I am about Kixeye's level of understanding of their own game.

  1. Although non-functional, Raikan made the classic rookie mistake of mixing D4-E with D2-E.  Replacing that with 2 D3-E cuts build time and keeps your stats the same.  This shows a lack of understanding of the game's overall power curve.
  2. Having all components at "R16" invited claims that the demonstration had capabilities that no players have access to.  A follow up that their R16 was equal to R15 is fine, but even so, players at that level of tech would have few, if any, components at R15.
  3. Having the hull at R10 was not realistic given the timing of the V2-H R10 to the retrofit lab.  I started my V2-H with R6 not too long after its release, and reached R8 during the raid.  Having V2-H at R10 for this raid would be at least a 500 coin proposition.
  4. Strike Missile L is a waste of space against the Scourge.  I'll do the calculations below to prove it to you, but the game designers should know that without needing me to tell them.
Moving on from all of that... losing the fleet in the first combat and requiring 15 coins for repair, then going on to claim that 2-3 engagements per level are required, would result in at least 150 coins per campaign.  The siege campaign gave about 3.65M points on initial release... this is not a reasonable level of coin to points for most players.  24 Million points to get the hull + weapon would cost nearly 800 coins (let alone the Scythe, Harlock Aegis, tokens, or any catch-up prizes)..  Does Kixeye really think that's good for most players?  

Moving Forward:
There were a few options to do this raid...
  • Some players tried depth charges, some players tried rockets with Hydro Shells.
I didn't hear great things about depth charges for some reason... I wouldn't have expected them to do that poorly but perhaps they were just too slow and landed behind targets.  Rockets with Hydro shells have a significant problem - the Scourge has too much plate defense for explosives to be effective.
  • Some players used Arbalest or Launchers.
These did alright when the Scourge would surface.  Using a Subsonic Cavitator here would really speed that process... I'd prefer a Monarch for its low weight and ability to add defenses.  Some sort of underwater damage capability should be available to players who depend on this strategy since the Stonefish never surface.
  • Most players used missiles
I'm going to focus on missiles, since I think the majority of players who had success were using missile ships.  I'll compare the expected effectiveness of various missile types on V2-H, Mastodons, Proto-Masts, and the Rhino.  I used the resistances and evade of a surfaced Viperfish as my target for this sheet.

I put together a spreadsheet to compare, and made it interactive so you can run your own scenarios.  I calculated DPS/hton at close range, and then calculated straight DPS at various ranges, so you can see how the damage drops off when using remote targeting.  For Remote Targeting damage, I assumed that the missile will do 100% of its rated damage at its max range, then the damage is 60% of its rated damage at max remote targeting range, and then it is linear in between.  The 60% is taken from the data files.

That sheet is interactive, so feel free to play with your own ideas.  You can see that the Trident is the most weight efficient at doing damage (DPS/hton), but the Harrier isn't far behind.  The Siege Missile Z hits hardest when looking at straight DPS, but on the large ships with lots of weapon slots, the Harriers will still be a more efficient option.  One more interesting comparison is looking at the damage of the Harrier vs the Trident - in "normal" range the Trident hits harder, but once in remote targeting, the Trident's damage drops off more quickly so it falls a little bit behind the Harrier.

I just updated the sheet to include stats on the new Blade Missile from this Forsaken Mission.  The Blade looks like it could be the new "it" missile, and it even makes sense to refit in a 1 for 1 swap with Siege Z missiles.

One more important takeaway from this chart is the uselessness of the Strike, Achilles, and Assault Missiles.  Torrents are also an option in the dropdown - they are terrible against the Scourge too.  All of those missiles don't hit hard enough (per shot) to get through the plate defense with any significant damage.  (except maybe the Achilles, which takes too long to reload and is very inaccurate)

If you know what you are doing in Excel, you can download the sheet and change the weapon and hull options.
A few more thoughts on the prizes:
The Neptune has that heavy weapon slot we are all paying attention to.  I'm not impressed with the Scythe and Death Scythe heavy weapons - although they can hit hard, they take a while to land and do their damage.  I also have no idea how Kixeye could say "the Neptune is the perfect answer to the Scourge's aggression" on their splash screen.  It is a hull to use against land targets.  So wrong Kixeye.  It may be possible that more heavy weapons are coming... some may be better for anti-ship duty.

I'm more interested in the Siege Deflection stat on the Neptune.  I think the -600 against turrets could make it a great lead tank for hitting Strongholds in the weekly, and I may build one just for that.  (I declined to redeem any Scythe weapons).

The Trident has the intriguing dual mode with Countermeasures, but if you use SFB3 so that their weapon range is longer than their counter range, then the missile will fire first at any enemy in range before the counter-measure fires. With the damage-dealing capability of the Trident... I'm OK with that.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Ascension - One day in

Yeah... players are upset because this raid is hard.  I've got no magic bullets and I'll play the game in from of me... I've done a 35, a 55, 3 Siege campaigns and poked at the Elite a little bit.  I've spent a bit over 100 coins and I'm just about done.  I'll share what I've learned.


I tried a few things... I'll start with what didn't work.

My CM Frosty with V2-H (R7) was not as successful as I hoped - the problem was not the lack of Agility System, but instead it was just a lack of punch.  Stacking up also left me pretty vulnerable to some of their splash weapons. 

I also tried some drone distraction with a Monarch/Firebat ship - that didn't seem to help too much because the Scourge ships just seemed to carry on with their paths and ended up firing on me anyway.

Although the Antipode Launchers can do a lot of damage, I found they weren't very effective, especially against the smaller ships.  Flechettes launched while the target was underwater didn't seem to land even when it surfaced, and of course ones that land after the target dives also didn't land.  So the launchers had a very short window of effectiveness against these ships that dive & surface often.

My most effective strategy was one I've used during some old Reaver raids - Zombie Rhino/Mastodons with a Frostburn spotter.  My actual fleet was 1 ProtoMast with all Harrier missiles, 2 Mastodons with a mix of Siege Z and Strike B, 1 Rhino with 13 Harriers (and only Laser & SFB specials), and my trusty CM Frostburn, loaded with Phalanx and CM Equipment 3.  

Some thoughts for using this fleet effectively:
  • Use the Frosty to shield your zombies.  This is tough to do and takes some practice. 
  • Focus on one target at a time.  Kill it and move on.  Ten half dead ships will fire twice as many shots at you as five full health ships.
  • Get the Frosty's field onto your target.  This gives you a bypass effect that is a big advantage to your DPS (remember the article with the graph?).  An exception to this would be if you can keep a Goblin Shark at max range and you don't have countermeasures for their depth charges.
  • I found that a Wolfpack crew was very helpful.  Increasing the damage done kills your enemy faster, and keeps them from ganging up on you.  When you are driving well, a 14% damage increase cuts your damage taken in a target by more than 14%.  I would prioritize the "offensive" rogue crews over the defensive ones (Steelheads or Sea Serpents).
  • The Phalanx on my Frosty really helped cut damage from incoming missiles and depth charges. I still don't think the "CM ship" is a very popular configuration for them, but it really helps me out a lot.
So more detail on...
The Targets:
Many thanks to Dark Alliance, who is able to distill the data downloaded to our machines into information we can use.  Their detailed target breakdown for this raid is at:

If you don't know your Viperfish from your Daggertooth, check out:

World Map 35: 2 Goblin Sharks, 4 Viperfish.  
This target is worth only an insulting 322 points and will still deal out a fair amount of damage.

World Map 55: 5 Goblin Sharks, 6 Viperfish.  
It is worth about 40.5k points, and you will take a lot of damage getting those as well. 

I predict many sector bars will remain closed... these targets have just awful payouts considering their damage.

I'm only going to go into detail on the Siege Campaign here.

Siege 1: 4 Viperfish, 1 Goblin Shark 
These guys will come at you, but you can isolate and engage them one at a time.

Siege 2: 6 Viperfish, 2 Daggertooth
The ships in this target will organize into 2 circles - the inner circle has the 2 Daggertooths and 2 Viperfish, and the outer circle will be the remaining 4 Viperfish.  My recommendation is to pick off the outer ships first, then close in to get the Viperfish and finally each Daggertooth.  A lot was made of how the Daggertooth would fire EMP torps and run at a certain damage threshold - I didn't have too much trouble with that tactic because at that point they were in my Frosty field and a whole lot of missiles were in the air already, so they couldn't run very quickly and the in-air missiles would finish them off.

Siege 3: 5 Viperfish, 4 Goblin Sharks
These guys would all close in in a sort of line, and I would often find myself cornered and out of room to maneuver.  Possibly faster zombie ships would help me get to the outside of the formation, but I was often engaging many ships at once which is non-ideal.  I just tried to focus on my targets and protect the zombies while killing as many ships per run.  Usually I tried to kill the Viperfish first. 

Siege 4: 4 Viperfish, 1 Daggertooth, 3 Stonefish
The Viperfish and Daggertooth charge straight at you, and then when they start to circle it is tough to protect the zombies because they will circle in different directions. While you are worried about them, the Stonefish will be sneaking in and firing corrosive missiles at you.  I always focused on the Viperfish first (again), since they were most likely to sneak around and take out my zombies.  The Stonefish were the smallest threat due to my countermeasures.  When they were the final ships remaining, I would find them by looking for the missiles they launched, and just charge in to kill them relatively quick.  I never had a problem with them "deep diving".

Siege 5: 9 Viperfish, 6 Goblin Sharks
Sort of like Siege 3, but even more enemies.

This looks like a whole lot of ships, but most of them do not start out mobile.  There is a group of Viperfish and a Daggertooth that starts mobile, along with hidden Electric Eels and Stonefish that I think also start moving.  A lot of Goblin Sharks and Viperfish will start untriggered.

I think that this target might be best attacked by taking out the mobile visible targets, then being patient with the Eels & Stonefish, trying to take out as much as possible without triggering more enemies.  If you can take out all the mobile enemies, then you might be able to kill the immobile enemies with subs without triggering them.  It's just a theory though...

I saw a video posted (embedded below) of a player killing an Elite for 20 coins with a Frosty, Aegis, and 3 Rhinos. Even though he didn't "zombie" the rhinos, he illustrates a lot of the driving techniques I talked about in the strategy section (except getting the Frosty field on the enemy...) so it is worth watching.  Nice work VIPER_1!


Ship Detail:

I'm going to try to distill the info that was extracted at Unofficial BP Info into a more readable format.  Maybe with this data you can do a better job of trying to formulate your own strategies.  This data is all for the "A Tier" ships which you see in the Siege and Elite campaigns.  Strike and Recon campaigns likely have the weaker B or C tier versions.



I don't totally understand how the corrosive statistics translate into damage.  The 6 damage might be applied every interval, every second, or every hit.

With this data, you can start to understand why the offensive crews like Wolfpack are so helpful.  Let's look at what the math of firing Harriers on a Viperfish.  

The Harrier (on a generic ship) does 316 penetrative damage per hit, with 40% bypass.  

The surfaced Viperfish has 60% penetrative resistance with 108 damage reduction, which becomes 36% resistance and 64.8 damage reduction after bypass.

So the basic Harrier will do:
316 * (1 - 36%) - 64.8 = 137 damage per hit

If you put the Harrier on a Rhino with 20% built in penetrative damage boost, and use Interception System for another 45%, it becomes:
316 * (1+65%) * (1-36%) - 64.8 =  269 damage per hit
against the "plate-like" defenses, increases in damage are multiplied, so a 65% increase in damage results in damage doubling.

Critical hits from a Wolfpack rogue crew become:
316 * 2 * (1+65%) * (1-36%) - 64.8 =  603 damage per hit (more than double)

And if you get another 40% bypass by putting your Frosty's field over your target, your total bypass becomes 64%. 

So the Basic Harrier damage goes from 137 to....
316 * (1 - 21.6%) - 38.9 = 209 damage per hit 

And the Rhino Harrier damage goes from 269 to...
316 * (1+65%) * (1 - 21.6%) - 38.9 =  370 damage per hit (more than double)

Remember that if you are trying to somehow count missile hits against the ship's health, you'll have to cut all that damage in half.  The two articles I've written that really go into DPS calculations are at:


Final Thoughts:
This raid is very hard... no doubt about it.  Kixeye has tailored the difficulty to the players with the top end equipment, and so players that don't have it are really struggling.  This is a result of the power creep (or sprint / flood / whatever) that has been accelerating over the last year and a half... resulting in a larger and larger gap between top end players and everyone else.

The loss of campaign choice, co-op, and tilting the point balance towards completion bonuses has made it so that players who can't beat their level's campaign have no reasonable options to play this raid.  

That said... none of the tech I'm using is really very creative... I'm using my old "fire support" Mastodons and a partially done Rhino along with a Frostburn design I've been talking about (and using) for ages.  These are the sorts of ships that all players should have in their dock.

I've basically ended up following my own advice to players that can't blow through a raid... go for the weapon.  I've spent just about all the coin I'm willing to spend this raid (which is in my usual 100 - 200 range), and I've got enough points to get the Trident Missile and a couple of smaller build tokens.  As much as I like Harlock's Aegis, I'm not going to break my bank for it.  On last night's Battle Vortex show, Nash basically told players to sit this one out (skip to about 57:20).  I understand that perspective, but I've never had any presidential aspirations and I don't tell people what to do.  My advice is to not to freak out.  Don't spend more than you are willing to.  Missing a few prizes will not be the end of the world... or even your game.  Nash is absolutely right when he says that Kixeye will not learn a thing until their revenues plummet, so consider that as well.

Gaming is not a crime.  Have fun.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Ascension - What to ... do?

Before each raid, I usually try to post some sort of review of the prizes along with recommendations on which prizes to go after and which to avoid.  The information available to me (which is the same as the information available to you... Kixeye does me no favors) is not sufficient for me to evaluate the new Hull and Weapon prizes.  So I'll try to keep it short.

Thoughts on the raid:
We've seen some previews of the Scourge ships and weapons already - I described them in my last article

For advice, all I can say is that I think Speed, Evade, and Pinch Resist will be your friends.

Campaigns will not be co-op anymore - I think that's a bit of a double edged sword.  It's good because low level or "weak" players will not be begging for other players to do a campaign for them.  But it also denies players who are behind (perhaps they made a bad fleet build decision or took some time away from the game) a chance to catch up more easily.  Co-op play can be one of the most fun and engaging aspects of this game.  I think Kixeye could have restricted co-op without taking it away entirely.

Level-locked campaigns where most of the points are in the completion bonus will be the real bane of players who try to play for free (or cheap) - this will really restrict their options to grind out points.

On the Prizes:

Harlock's Aegis:

This upgraded version of the Aegis adds just about everything the original was missing... 

  • Speed to keep up with the latest ships
  • 4th special slot
  • Unreactive
  • More Evade, Armor Points, and Defense
It is flagship only, but the upgraded field and missile reload bonus might just make up for that.  For matching with Rhinos, Neptunes, or possibly any other fast ship, this is going to be a real help.

The build gets real long on this one though... 10 days, 22 hours, 27 minutes with officer.

Neptune Hull:
This hull has a new Heavy Weapon slot as one of its 12 slots, which is usable with the new "Heavy Weapon" type of weapon, which is currently just the Scythe (and the variant Death Scythe).  Kixeye's release notes are not sufficient to really decode how the new "Siege DPS" works.  We do know that it adds damage when the Neptune is firing against turrets or buildings, but it isn't clear how often/when that 1200 is added.  The 600 Siege Deflection is a bit more clear - I'm fairly sure it subtracts 600 from turret damage done (after all other resistances are applied).

Build time on this hull (via Kixeye's Shipyard Design mode) is 5 days 0 hours 48 minutes (with officer). This is average for hulls these days, but does not follow the downward trend we saw with the Artemis and Rhino (both shorter builds). 

It is unclear if this ship is better than the Rhino.  It is lacking Radioactive Defense and Underwater Detection, but it does have the Unreactive trait (how unreactive you may ask... who knows?).  For open water combat, the Rhino seems better, but against bases the new traits of the Neptune may push it ahead.  Of course, it's all about the weapons, so let's look at the "Heavy Weapons"...


This Heavy Weapon seems to deal a lot of damage, but its high salvo might be a disadvantage as it ranks up.  The Splash/Spread characteristic (instead of aimed accuracy makes it hard to compare exactly with the aimed missiles, but I'll fall back on my old Splash / (3/8 Spread) formula:

(ignore the Trident column for now... OK?)

I could be way off here, but the initial look at DPS seems like it is in the same neighborhood as our existing missiles.  Of course, as a splash weapon it will be much less useful against moving ships, and much more useful against clustered, slow or non-moving targets.   The high salvo will put this weapon at a disadvantage at higher ranks.  The big unknown is how the Neptune's DPS statistic interacts with the weapon's. If it only applies to the Heavy Weapon, then obviously that will be a big advantage.  But if the DPS also boosts the regular weapons in a similar fashion, then those might be even more advantageous to use.

Build time for this weapon again does not follow the downward trend, but instead seems quite long - at over 2.5 days.

Note that this weapon is a limited weapon, so each prize redemption allow you to build it ONCE.  You'll want at least three for a full fleet.

Death Scythe:

Still a limited Heavy Weapon, this one is only available from the new Scourge Vanguard target.It does lower Penetrative Damage, but adds the new corrosive damage.  The blueprint was revised from the initial release, where the "old" special ability for corrosive damage was described as doing 36 damage  (this didn't seem too bad, but could build up with a lot of hits).  The "new" description of the special ability is described as 8100 damage per second for 6 seconds.  This results in 48,600 damage points, which actually does 24,300 points of damage to armor that can't be resisted (who remembers that everything does half damage?  I was recently reminded of this when my 19,000 HP, 78% exp resist Enforcer got hit with 4 Daisy Cutter XLs and lived.)  So a single hit from this weapon should kill just about anything?  Not even worth analyzing.  I think we haven't seen the last of statistic clarifications on this weapon.

Build time for this one is even longer - 3 days 10 hours 44 minutes.

Trident Missile:

Apparently Kixeye had this extra weapon up their sleeve, and didn't think it would quite be ready for this raid.  I'm not sure if they released it based on the popular outcry that having only a limited heavy weapon and a couple high end hulls available this raid would be a real turn-off for many players.

Well. I like countermeasures, so I thought I would like this weapon off the bat.  But then I noticed its very limited range (55 base vs. 76 for newer missiles), and its single shot countermeasures.  So I started to think it was useless... but then I thought that Remote Targeting just might be its saving grace, and so maybe it is worth comparing.  The raw damage is quite large for such a light missile. On a Rhino (for example), 1 weapon slot could be used for a Harrier, and then the other 14 slots could be used for this Trident.  The Harrier would allow the Rhino to "self-spot" for its Tridents (remember all the Mastodon builds with a single Cutlass to extend the Siege Missile range?)... so I'm going to compare the Trident to the other missiles with a 60% damage multiplier for its remote targeting damage reduction.  I did document its "non-remote" range in the chart below:

(yeah, same chart as before)

Even with the maximum remote targeting damage reduction, the Trident has the best DPS/hton of any missile out there.  I wouldn't try to build a fleet with all Tridents - large amounts of incoming missiles might suppress your offense by forcing the Tridents to switch to Countermeasure mode.  As a countermeasure, 60% accuracy matches the Phalanx 3, but it does have only 1 salvo, so it may get overwhelmed.  But this is not a missile to overlook... you'll just have to use it intelligently.  Its build time is reasonable for its capability, and its weight matches the Harrier.  

I'll leave you with an updated bubble chart comparing build times with the DPS/hton & range statistics:

The huge build time of the Scythe and the huge damage/short range of the Trident (these are all unmodified statistics) really make this chart much less pretty...

The Scythe is helped on the chart by the fact it is a splash weapon, and is not affected by the target's evade (assumed to be 40% on this chart).  It would be hurt at higher ranks due to its salvo of 8.  Without a good understanding of the corrosive damage and the Neptune hull Siege DPS effects, this chart might not be the best comparison, but its all I have right now.  Hopefully I can get more detail on the DPS effects and update in the future.

Green / Yellow / Red prize eval:

My color coding for prizes is:
Green  Most players should want this prize.
Yellow  You may want to buy this prize if you have a plan for using it, but consider "green" prizes first.
Red  I'm not sure why this prize would be worth the points it costs.

Tier 5 (max 2)
Harlock's Aegis (35M each Limit 1 Max 1): This flagship-only upgrade to the Aegis corrects all of the original's shortcomings.

Neptune (15M): This ship might be great, but I don't understand it well enough to make it a "must get".  With a Death Scythe it might be a real killer though.


Scythe (3.75M each Limit 5 Max 5) : Based on the analysis I have, these are pretty lousy compared to our other options, but a better understanding of the new Siege DPS characteristic may change that.  I'm very concerned that it isn't worth its build time.

Tokens: Based on how much damage you take getting points, these may or may not be worthwhile redemptions.

Tier 4 (max 2):
Trident Missile (9M): This one is sort of conditionally green.  If you have a hull with remote targeting, then it will be awesome.  Otherwise its short range will be a real drawback.

Sonic Targeting 3 (4.5M): The long sonar range is unmatched, but the long build time isn't appreciated.

Zynth Armor D4-R (3.5M): This ship armor is eclipsed by D5-R, and isn't as useful as Evade right now... I think.

Compound Plate IV (4.5M): A good deal for armor points / ton, but its conventional damage reduction isn't all that useful very often.

Cryonic Depth Charge (5M): Unmatched damage, but a 3 day build time per weapon makes this unattractive to a lot of players.

Evade Upgrade (3M): With newer hulls getting more specials, the opportunities to use this special are expanding.

Kodiak (5M): A nice durable missile hull, but better ones are out there.

Mastodon (5.5M): With the new R5, and the combination of Remote Targeting with Tridents, I'd hit it if I didn't have Rhinos.

Tier 3 (max 3):
Mercury (1.6M): Although it may be easier to get from Hunt the Nemesis Campaign Pack #1, lower level players will want this quick building hull with nice retrofit options.

Hydrodynamic Shells 3 (1.8M): You may be tempted to try this with mortars or rockets to hit underwater Scourge targets.  I suspect that between their resistances and speed, you will be disappointed.

Assault Torpedos D63-B (2.5M): These are the best all-around torpedos out there now, but I do expect better ones available in a month or two... just a hunch.  If you need to build subs now.. get them.

Sonic Targeting 2 (2.3M): For these lower levels of Sonic Targeting, consider just using the regular Sonar Pod instead.

Poseidon Depth Charge 3 (2M): Possibly useful against the Scourge, these are still sort of short range (64) and potentially outrun.

Zynth Armor D4-V (1.5M): I'd just rather use armor slots for resistances.  I find D2-V more attractive when I'm desperate for speed anyway.

Tier 2 (max 3):
Hurricane (400k): I'd rather have a Monarch for drones, but the Hurricane might do alright.

Hydrodynamic Shells 2 (350k): If the HD Shells 3 is unsatisfactory, this will cause even less submerged damage.

Sonic Targeting 1 (400k): For these lower levels of Sonic Targeting, consider just using the regular Sonar Pod instead.

Poseidon Depth Charge 2 (100k): Possibly useful against the Scourge, these are still sort of short range (64) and potentially outrun.  However, compared to the level 3 PDC, these are way cheaper and a quicker build.  Possibly worth the risk to give them a try.

Strike System 2 (200k): Don't do it.  What is this even going to be useful for?

Zynth Armor D3-V (100k): I'd just rather use armor slots for resistances.  I find D2-V more attractive when I'm desperate for speed anyway. (yeah I'm copy-pasting.  It's late.)

Tier 1 (max 3):
Battlecruiser (60k): You must already have this hull... but get it if you don't.  You can do a lot with it.

Poseidon Depth Charge 1 (50k): Kinda small.  I think the PDC 2 is the "sweet spot" for this weapon class.

Zynth Armor D2-V (15k): I'd just rather use armor slots for resistances.... but if you need speed armor, this is the one to use.

Zynth Armor D1-M (40k): If you have an empty armor slot and want some resistances to fill it for little weight/time... here's your armor.

Hydrodynamic Shells 1 (50k): If the HD Shells 3 is unsatisfactory, this will cause even less submerged damage.  (yup... more copy/paste)

Interdictor (100k): Although these hulls used to be the basis of some very cool FvF and Sub Hunter fleets, they just aren't worth the build time any more. 

My final recommendations... If you can get the Harlock Aegis, get it.  I also think that the Trident may turn out to be very effective when used with Remote Targeting.  On the Neptune / Scythe combo, it is difficult to really recommend them at this point.  For myself, I'll take a pass on those two to keep focusing on my anti-Scourge & Rhino fleets.

Wow... this turned into a real long article even though I thought I didn't have much to say.  Good luck in the raid Pirates... and remember... GAMING IS NOT A CRIME!