Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dragon Strike Campaign and prizes

The Dragon Strike campaign was released last week, and I haven't gotten around to reviewing it or the prizes until now.  This article took a while because I wanted to play through the campaign a couple times. The short story is that the prizes aren't super great, so I didn't feel the rush.  I thought the higher priority was to take a close look at the Cadmium armor... which I did.

This campaign is structured like other campaign sets, unlocking at level 55 and having three difficulty levels with increasing encounters and decreasing time at each level. The main differences from other campaigns are: 
  • The time allowed for each campaign is longer than other campaigns - 24 hours for Pack 1, 18 hour for Pack 2, and 12 hour for Mastery.
  • The third level (mastery) is a limited time campaign. It will be available until November 10th (Tuesday before the next raid).
Of course, the other big difference between the Dragon Strike and other campaigns is that some of the encounters (3, 5, & 7) are attacks on your base.

I have some tips for these campaign encounters:

Encounters 1 & 2 (FvF):
  • These aren't easy targets, so make sure you have a good FvF fleet to use that won't utilize the ships you depend on for base defense.
  • Scourge Torpedo subs can beat these pretty handily.  Even without those, I used my Spectres with Assault Torpedo B to prep all of the ships except the ones with thermal.  Just be smart about your flagship - make it dead, Phantom, or expendable because they will chase it (on encounter 1).
Encounter 4 (Drac Platform with guard ships):
  • Not a simple target either, but if you break it apart into sections (instead of just charging in) you can do it more easily.
  • Subs can also prep some ships in here, but you probably want to be careful about trying for the ones on the interior.
Encounter 6 (Drac "Base" with guard ships):
  • The initial entry has cryo mines, you can rim those and try to get some retargeting onto their turrets.
  • After opening the gates & clearing mines, the base might be sub preppable (Tiger Sharks & Banshees).  Tiger Sharks with their sonar can probably clear the mines themselves.
  • Watch out for the Ballista in this base - keep moving to make it useless.
  • Pinch something - either an Enforcer or the center turrets.
Encounters 3, 5, & 7 (Base Defense):
  • If you don't want to coin base repairs, plan your time so that you can wait the time between base repairs but still complete the campaign in time.  Leaving 8 hours for base repair (this allows turrets to be fixed), you can do the first two packs over that 8 hour period and you are allotted 18 - 24.  Hit #3 at the start, then #5 eight hours later.  If attempting the Mastery level with three base hits, you won't be able to let your turrets totally repair between each hit - you'll need to work with damaged turrets or do some coining.  I would suggest running the first two hits closer together, then making sure you are fully repaired for the final one.
  • After a successful base defense, you will get a 12 hour bubble.  Starting the base defense encounter will not pop an existing bubble.
  • Don't be afraid to drive your fleets.  Greta Spader won't send you any condescending messages.
  • Don't worry about sub defense in your guard fleet.  If you have a ship optimized for sub spotting, consider swapping it out for something with more punch.
  • Use an Aegis if you have it.  It can be tricky to use an Aegis in offline base defense, but when you can drive it to a spot, it is much easier to use.
  • The incoming ships were heavily distracted by firing at non-defensive buildings like resource generators and labs.
  • They also seemed to prioritize targeting guard ships over turrets, so a ship would often drive into pyroclasts or other short-range turrets to fire at guards.
  • Use a crew - Sea Serpents is very useful since the extra evade works against the missiles and launchers that the attackers are firing.
  • Keep your dock away from your entrance side of your base - the attackers seem to fire a few missiles with very long range when they warp into your base, and those few missiles really love docks somehow.
  • The Proto-Nemesis in #7 is most vulnerable to subs.
Just to diagram a few of these principles for you, I'll show my interior base layout:

(I actually recorded a video, but the file got corrupted.  Sorry!)

The Aegis isn't usually part of my guard fleet, but I have room for it since the Dock 12 upgrade (haven't messed with my guard yet).  I also use a Mastodon & Omega Behemoth instead of the Rhinos.  The Mastodon is a little more optimized for base defense with its longer range, but my Rhinos have more punch and I can drive the Rhinos to the spot I need them.  l also don't need the Omega since I don't need its sub spotting.  Again, the Rhino has more firepower.  When the battle starts, I drive the Aegis into a position to cover the Enforcer, and the Rhinos behind that to cover the Enforcer's fire circle.  If the Enforcer dies, I would drive the Aegis to cover the Harlock Carrier, and reposition the Rhinos to stay out of trouble.

One more update - at Mastery level, I used the layout above, but I swapped that carrier for a Grim Wrath (to get even more reload on my Rhinos), and used Steelheads crew.  The Proto went down without even killing my Enforcer.

And just as an aside, I'm not too thrilled with this design for OP7... I need to spend some more time laying out a new concept.

For an even more sneaky tactic, check out PriceIsWrong's video of the Elite campaign.  At one point, he shows how guard ships on the outside can be used to make the attackers circle back and forth in your channel.  You may be able to keep them under Apoc Mortar fire with this tactic, or even make them time out if you are skillful and patient enough.

And now on to the prizes....

Shockwave Plate:

Versions of this armor are available from prize packs 1 & 2.  This armor has a benefit of giving a flat damage reduction (like Plate armor or deflection) against launcher shockwaves (and nothing else).  comparing the damage reduction to the amount of damage from an Antipode shock (24k+), it seems pretty low, so for this to have a good effect even in its intended use, I would think you need to stack up a few of these plates.  With that configuration, you are losing your options for the defense bonuses from Zynthonite armor, which most ships depend on.  

Ignoring the usefulness (or non-usefulness) of the armor's special capability, the Shockwave Plate 2 has a decent build time for a "large" piece of armor, but the Shockwave Plate 1 does not.  The weight per armor point is the same as the other Forsaken Plate armors.

It is tough for me to come up with a ship configuration where this armor would be really useful - most PvE targets do not have enough massed launchers to get shockwaves against decently built player ships.  In base hitting, Enforcers do have a decent chance of getting a shockwave against incoming ships, but I'm not sure that I'd want to build a fleet or even a single tank ship to be so specialized.  

Ballista Turret:

The Ballista is available from Prize Pack 2.  Most of the players who went to build the Dead-Eye Ballista found out that the turret has a big weakness - The D-E Ballista fires at a spot like the Arbalest, so it has real trouble against moving fleets. I am pretty sure this turret does the same, but even so... Information from readers and the forums suggests that the Ballista turret is aimed, unlike the Dead-Eye.  Comparing this turret to the Javelin, we see only a mild DPS increase although it does have much better range.

The key to using this turret is finding a way to make it hit.  For example, placing a Ballista on the center island with my base layout I showed above would be pretty much useless.  Incoming attack fleets are not stopping anywhere for very long.  The only way I could think of to make the Ballista (or the Dead-Eye version) useful would be to layout the base so that it fires straight down a chute at incoming ships, so that they are moving toward the shot.  

Fundamentally, I don't think players that will be able to win this turret are really looking for another turret that has similar DPS to the turrets they already have, yet would require a base redesign to use effectively.

This turret has a nice range upgrade and a mild DPS upgrade from the Javelin.  I suppose it would be preferred to the Jav, but maybe not a priority to build.

Draconian Coaxial Turret:

This limited base defense turret is available at the Mastery Prize pack (1 per campaign with a limit of 5).  This is an improved version of the Coaxial turret we have had available for a while. The major differences are that the countermeasures have longer range and are area effect (like flak), and the gun fires more slowly with a heavier shot.

The DPS of the "gun mode" is improved compared to the previous Coax:

And the 4 shot flak is the only way the countermeasures are even remotely useful in today's game - the incoming volume of missiles from ships like Rhinos will easily overwhelm any sort of single shot countermeasures available to a player.

The problem with the countermeasures is that many players are using Blade Missiles with their 80% flak evade... so the flak mode will still only reduce the incoming volume of fire by 20% at best (unless you can layer a few of these).  It likely won't be enough to make enemies stop for very long.  But the other thing to consider is that the gun mode has a range of 96, so it might be able to get a few shots onto enemies that don't carefully stop at their missile weapon's max range (98.6 with Blade and SFB3 or GMS).  The Pyroclast has the potential to hit harder, but with a range of 90, it is easier for attackers to avoid.  For players that can earn it, I don't think this turret will be the key to stopping missile (or any fleets), but it will possibly be a benefit.  For example, it you look at my base picture up above, I might consider replacing the third Pyroclast in with one of these - it would cover the other two front Pyros and the Enforcer.

So overall, I think that Dragon Strike is a pretty cool concept, but the prizes are pretty meh.  Play it if you want.  Don't if you don't.

Friday, October 23, 2015

New FM Prizes - Cadmium Armor analysis

The Death From Below raid is over, and we have a new Forsaken Mission cycle and a new Campaign to try.  (Sorry guys, Dragon Strike stuff will have to wait for a later article)

Kixeye has changed the Forsaken Mission a bit - it is now easier to do the repeat run through because:

  • The three day timer is reset when you reset for the second run
  • Points for the second run are now the same as the first

Although I could previously do Elite tier twice coin-free, that meant that I was doing nothing in BP besides the Forsaken Mission for that three day period.  The timer reset allows players a bit more flexibility in their BP activities.  However, this change does not help the players that couldn't reach a particular tier at all.

Another change is that the number of prizes in the first three tiers has gone up quite a bit.  This might help players who are newer and trying to acquire tech, but only if those prizes are good.  I went through each tier and tried to determine how good the prizes were on each tier. For Tiers 1 & 2 I tried to "adjust" my rating based on how useful those prizes were for early players.  I'm sure some of you will disagree with my ratings, but I'm just trying to provide a rough idea.

Forsaken Mission Prize Ratings:

I suppose it really isn't a surprise that I find the higher tier items more useful.  Some things worth pointing out: 
  • Why is Radiation Suppressor on both Tier 2 & Tier 3?
  • Fusion Chargers are nice, but I like Interception System much better.
  • When I made these pictures, I thought that the larger Cadmium armors might have been useful.  I did the analysis below... and I should have made all the Cadmium red.
  • Tier 3 has a lot of really useful stuff, particularly the D53-D, Speed System 4, Reflective Coat 3, Pyroclast Turret, and Reaver Bulkhead.  A new player should be trying to get Tier 3 ASAP.
  • Tier 2 also has useful stuff for the newer player.  Just about everything that I marked green, except Firebat 2, is a high priority for a new player.
So the real question is - do we like all the extra items in the Forsaken Mission?  I have mixed feelings.  Many key items are in there, and hopefully will stay in there.  But a player's chances of getting the thing they want is lower because of the chaff.  It has been suggested that players be allowed to choose their prize, or be able to pay Uranium/Gold for a re-roll.  With more items in each tier, that suggestion looks better and better.  If charging Uranium for a re-roll, a reasonable pricing (in my opinion) would be to make each re-roll cost the amount of Uranium awarded in that tier.  

So let's look more in depth at the new prizes... you'll see that I already rated the Stealth Attack System 4 and the Gargoyle Depth Charge as Green, and the Cadmium Armor as Red/Yellow:

Stealth Attack System 4:

This special is equal to Concussion Warhead 3 and Nautilus Battery 3 combined into a single special slot.  This is exactly what I was hoping for when this item was teased in the October WIP.  The pleasant surprise on SAS 4 is that the build time for the special is just under 10 hours, where most combo specials can be 1.5 - 2 day builds.  Use of this special on subs is pretty much a benefit in all situations, except for a few considerations:

  • The retrofit of SAS is with Concussive Systems, but Nautilus Battery is in Stealth Systems.  If you have already retrofit Stealth Systems but not Concussive, then you will also have to complete the other retrofit in order to match your previous cloaking time.  Concussive is a "moderate" uranium cost for retrofit (4k/12k/24k), compared to Steath (8k/24k/48k).
  • The Concussive Damage bonus won't be so helpful if you are using Styx torpedos, since those do most of their damage as Corrosive. Otherwise, even if you are up against your weight limit, it will be worth it to use fewer torpedos to be able to add this special.
  • Don't use a Cloak Time special on Ghostcrawlers.
  • Strike Warheads does have a higher concussive damage bonus, but much more build time.  You won't be able to combine SAS 4 with Strike Warheads.
Gargoyle Depth Charge 2:
This is an improvement on the original Gargoyle Depth Charge turret, giving more range, more damage, and quicker reload.

This damage chart is a little bit of a spoiler, since I also included the Draconian Coaxial turret prize from Dragon Strike Elite.  The expected damage output from a Gargoyle 2 is twice that of a Gargoyle 1 (or a Pyroclastic Turret).  However, the short range when compared to a Pyroclast means that you probably want to keep those Pyroclasts as the basis of your front line defense, and only use Gargoyles where you want to provide sub defense (and don't forget your spotter).

Cadmium Armor:

Just as an aside, how is Cadmium Armor easier AND quicker to repair?  I understand how it is quicker, but does the repair button grow larger so it is easier to press?

Anyway, this armor was promised as a way to improve our repair times, and the short story on this armor is that armor points that are provided by Cadmium take half time to repair (2 points per second instead of 1 point per second).  However, that improved repair time is averaged over the total ship repair time, so you are never repairing damage twice as fast (even if you use 100% cadmium armor, your ship has built-in armor points). 

In Battle Pirates, you can't ever really tell if something is good on its own - you have to compare it against the alternatives.  In this case, the usual alternative to Cadmium armor would be Draconian Zynthonite Armor.  Evade armor is the popular alternative. 

On the forums, Doyen already worked out a comparison of a ship with Cadmium vs. a ship with all Evade.  His thread isn't openable for some mysterious reason... but I'll reproduce his analysis here: 

"A ship with 7000 base armor and 4 armor slots, using 4 armor plates with 750 armor each. (10000 total armor points) One has Evade armor for +28% Evade, the other has Cadmium." 

Other than a change in how I account for the stacking of the evade armor resulting in a slightly different evade number, the first two columns of the table below are the cases from Doyen's analysis.  I included other cases where I thought the Cadmium might be more beneficial, combining large Cadmium armors with small evade armors. 

And yes, the cases where I combined Cadmium Delta with D2-E result in slightly reduced repair times, but at a cost of additional weight & ship build time.  I'm going to take a closer look, but use my real Proto-Hunter build (still 7000 ship armor & 4 armor slots), include my actual retrofits, and look at whether it is worth modifying:

Baseline Ship (4xD2-E):
74.1% Evade, 63% Penetrative Defense, 5192 tons, 10,000 armor 14d 18h 42m build time

Revised Ship (2x D2-E, 2xCad-D):
68.6% Evade, 63.0% Penetrative Defense, 6039 tons, 13,000 armor 16d 19h 58m build time 

(I ignored assault deflection since we didn't choose a specific weapon type)

Nope!  Nope nope nope!  Why would I incur that extra build time & extra weight?

Since my Evade armor is at R15, it is more valuable than it was in the initial baseline analysis.  Also, when you are talking about just a couple percent benefit, rounding can be a big deal. My initial cut used the 69% Evade number shown in the in-game stat window, and I calculated a 1% benefit (the 68.6% came from Huggy's).  But even a 1% repair time benefit would not be worth the additional 2+ days of build time and extra 847 tons of weight.  I'm certainly not going to burn 2+ days of refit time and allocate weight that could be used for weapons to get a slim (at best) repair benefit or (even) more likely longer repairs.  

Also - note that the fact that the incoming damage is penetrative doesn't make a difference.  Revising the penetrative resist to zero does not change the percentage difference in repairs.  This means I don't have to do another analysis for incoming Charon Torps, where some damage is Concussive, and some damage is Corrosive... Evade works against all of it.

Just for fun, I also tried a Mercury R5 with 3 Siege Missiles, and compared adding Cadmium Alpha armor against 3xD2-E (as a build for a low level player).  The Cadmium builds added 2%, 4%, and 5% more expected repair time (respectively) with 1, 2, and 3 pieces of Cadmium Alpha armor.

The case where Cadmium might do better is against splash or fire pool damage, since your Evade armor won't help you avoid that damage.  But I would say that splash & firepools are mostly specific to the Reavers, and even against Reaver targets a large percentage of the incoming damage is still aimed.  But if insist on wanting to load up against that type of incoming damage, then armor that resists the incoming damage type will do better than Cadmium, for the same reasons Evade did best against aimed damage.

So is Cadmium Armor a Hoax?  Well.... I'm not going to use it.  I would also say that someone who states "Using Cadmium Armor will reduce your ships' repair times" will be incorrect.  Send them to this article.  And no, I'm not going to do a specific analysis for your ship... do your own.

So here's the last question - did the designers just choose a 50% damage reduction because it seemed like it might be a pretty good benefit?  Or did they do some kind of analysis that showed (what I did) that the armor was basically a wash?

Two possible suggestions on how to improve Cadmium:

1. Make it so that the Cadmium takes damage first and repairs last.  Ships that are lightly damaged (for less damage than their cadmium armor points) would then repair at double speed.


2. Make the Cadmium repair time reduction much larger. 80% to 95% should do it, but I don't have numbers to back that up.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Death from Below - One Day In

One thing I didn't say in my pre-raid article that I was thinking about: I was really hoping that the Scourge ships have the same statistics that they did in the Caustic Warfare campaign (reduced from the Ascension Raid).

They don't.

The day before the raid, Kixeye pushed a game update that modified many of the weapon reload times for Scourge weaponry.  This is detailed here:

I'll update the tables I posted a few articles ago, so you can see all the changes:
(orange is updates from Ascension to Caustic Warfare, red is updates from Caustic Warfare to Death from Below)

No ship updates.

Here's all the updates - most of the weapons have had their reload time reduced, and the accuracy of the Charon has been increased to overcome evade.  The next chart shows the effect of those changes to the weapon DPS output (CW refers to Caustic Warfare & DFB refers to Death From Below).

The 150% increase in Charon Torp damage means that those weapons are putting out 2.5x more damage.  Those are mounted on Viperfish, which is why those little buggers seem much more deadly than before.  Typhon is on many different Scourge ships, and the Manticore is on Stonefish.

So what does this really mean?  It seems like the corrosive is hurting a lot more than it did last time.  I suspect the reason is that the quicker fire rate of the Scourge weapons is resulting in the Corrosive damage stacking up more quickly.

Well Kixeye doesn't have to keep all the ships the same for every campaign/raid, but when they tweak stuff behind the scenes like this, it is tough for players to plan.  They didn't have to make the event as hard as they did.  

Remember that there is no resistance against corrosive damage.  The only way to reduce it is to not get hit in the first place.  Use evade.  I'll come back to this...

The Fleet:
I have been using the Prototype Hunter / 3 Rhino / Aegis fleet I showed in my "Prepping for Death From Below" article, and I generally like it.  My plan going in was to use the Hunter as a tank and run the rest as zombies.  However, I am not running them "full zombie" .. with the Aegis, I am tending to keep the ships a bit closer together than I was with my Frostburn/Rhino/Mast fleet I threw together for Ascension, so my support ships are taking a little bit more damage.  I'm still not repairing them fully, but trying to keep them with some health so they are more than one hit away from death.

With that fleet, I have run Siege Campaign once with no crew for about 16 coins repair (plus 10 more after completing), and then I put on a Grease Monkeys crew and ran through it 4 times for 10 coins each (repairing my Hunter for 2 coins after each fight).  I also did an Elite campaign under that same Grease Monkeys crew.  I found that the Elite didn't complete any faster than a Siege campaign because I had to hit it 4 times.  Elite cost me about twice as much as the Siege.  A player using a "balanced" fleet instead of a tank/support setup might have a better result in Elite.

Some players are reporting success with zombie fleets and even subs (in Elite, Siege, and Strike).  Zombie / instant fleets will take quite a bit of persistence - I like Mastodons or Rhinos best for Zombies since they can all spread out & support each other.   Against subs, Goblin Sharks have a 77 thermal range and Daggertooths have 90.  Obviously you'll need to plan your target choice... but if you have a surface fleet that is moderately effective, using a (zombie?) sub fleet to focus on the Viperfish, then using a surface fleet to finish the target could be a good strategy.

This video shows Nighthawks with Styx doing quite well in the first three phases of Siege:  In fact, even though he was detected by the Daggertooths, they didn't have anything that would damage him underwater so he was able to beat those too.

I think with the additional corrosive damage incoming, my favorite (non-Legendary) Rogue Crew for this raid will be Sea Serpents.  24% more evade will result in 24% less aimed damage, and that includes the sources of corrosive.

One more interesting (and related) point is that I didn't get stunned all that often.  It might be a better plan to use just a Guidance Scrambler (or Reflective Coat) special instead of the Agility System on fast fleets in order to maximize evade, which would help me much more often than the very rare occasion I was stunned.  I watched some of PriceIsWrong's Twitch video from the start of the raid - his ships have an Evade Upgrade instead of an Armor special to maximize Evade even more.

Besides the changes in Scourge weapon statistics, the actual layout of the fights is just about the same as Ascension in terms of numbers of ships and their layout (the order of Siege 2 & 3 are switched).  The Siege Campaign was worth a total of 3.65 million points for completion. See the "Ascension - One Day In" article for a rundown of the ships in each campaign encounter... I'm pretty sure it's still accurate.

World Map Targets:
I also tried one of each world map target - the Level 55 target had 6 Viperfish and 5 Goblin Sharks in it and paid about 275k points.  Although that is a much higher number than last time (was 40.5k points) that is still more ships and fewer points than the first encounter of the Siege campaign (4 Vipers, 1 Goblin for 300k points)... so if you are even thinking about hitting map targets, you might as well hit the campaign instead.  Those might be "Strike-difficulty" Scourge ships in the 55, but I took about the same overall damage as I did for the first Siege mission.

The Level 35 map target paid 5443 points for hitting 4 Viperfish and 2 Goblin Sharks (with reduced difficulty than the ones we see in Siege).  Lower level players should get more points from that.

More prizes have been added:
Kixeye has added in the limited components that were previously available from the Reaver Holdouts, then were going to be (but were not) available from the Drac Armadas to the "Tier 6" Limited Prize list.  There is a limit of 15 redemptions for each of these new components, and the ones you may have earned already should not count towards that.  It seems that they are making an effort to increase the prize list, but I still think they did not address the fundamental weakness of having no "stepping stone" prizes.  I'll go through these with the same red/yellow/green as the others:

Compound Armor D6-A (750k Limit 15): Since I like D5-X so much, this one was bound to be my favorite of these new limited components.  Good all around resistance without too much weight or build time penalty.

Agility System IV (1M): As I said earlier in this article, I am not quite as impressed with the utility of Agility System against the Scourge as I thought I would be. The build on this one is really long.

Fallout Armor IV (750k): I said it last time, the only hull I like Fallout with is the SCX.  I would like Fallout Armor better if it had Ballistic Resist instead of Explosive.

Gale Defense 1/2/3 (250k/500k/750k): These are a definite improvement from the Hailstorm anti-mortars, but with today's fast fleets, anti-mortar isn't a must-have (fleets to auto high-level strongholds excepted).  If you go for these, the smaller ones are more weight-efficient. 

Changes during the raid:
On the previous post, I said that one of the things I would be looking for during the raid would be "no changes mid-raid".  Well so far Kixeye has:

- Added the Wendigo to the prize list (OK, that was pre-raid start)
- Added the limited Reaver Holdout components to the prize list
- Reset the limited redeems of Scattergun & Tokens
- Changed the unbubble time on Vanguards (was Saturday & Sunday at 9 AM PDT, is Friday at 1pm PDT; Saturday at 9am PDT; and Sunday at 3pm PDT)
- Added Dredge fleet availability 

These changes all seem to be in the players' favor, but they really end up favoring some players over others (creating unfairness).  For example, players who chose to wait on redeeming tokens will not be able to redeem as many tokens as players who redeemed them early.  Players who planned to be ready for Vanguards at certain times just had their plans upended.

Kixeye... plan better and quit shifting the playing field on us.  You're being overly responsive to the point of just being twitchy.  We all need to calm down.

A few more thoughts on the prizes:
On the Kixeye forums in response to my last post, LostGuardian posted a Tiger Shark build using Assault Torpedo B, which worked out to an (approximate) 11 day build per sub.  That is actually a lot more reasonable than the 20+ day build time, and although you will miss the longer range of the Scourge Torpedos against those targets with Thermal range in the high 70s... a B Torp Tiger Shark might be effective against a lot of enemies - it will certainly deal out a lot of damage.

Also... don't rush into a Tiger Shark build.  Remember that Stealth Attack System 4 has been announced as a prize in the next round of Forsaken Missions.  I expect it will be on the Elite Tier. It is possible that the combo special will match the Battery 3 submerge bonus and give a good concussive damage bonus too, making SAS 4 the new special to use on subs instead of Nautilus Battery.

Many players have been asking me whether they should take the Buzzard.  First of all, because of its high salvo, the Buzzard will not be very effective against Scourge targets.  If you are thinking about it for general use, I still like the "new breed" of missiles better - their DPS/hton is around double the Buzzard.  Many players overlook the D53-D Disrupter missile, which has been available in the Forsaken Mission Tier 3.  Although the Harrier is lighter & builds faster, and the Blade hits much harder, the Disrupter is a good option for players who don't have either of those alternatives, and I recommend that missile over the Buzzard in most situations.

I took a second look at the Scattergun since I understand corrosive damage better.  If each of the 5 "pellets" does a full corrosive stack, and potentially does it to multiple targets, then you could expect that weapon to do a lot of damage.  I still don't think I can really run math on it, but I expect its damage output against a single target to be similar to a Charon torpedo.  A hull with Assault DPS (like a Tiger Shark) will really boost this weapon's initial punch since it has such a long reload.  (Someone in my alliance tried it and says he really likes it.)

Don't forget about the option of doing campaigns (at half repair) to catch up if you can't do the raid.  Going after the Mercury, V2-H, V2-C and SCX hulls are all good choices.

And some last parting shots, hopefully leaving some corrosive damage...

The new graphic design on the prize window is awful.... downright confusing for many.

Apparently, you tried to fix the leaderboards, since they are working better than in the previous few raids.  Did nobody really notice that they weren't showing the bonus points?

Good luck in the raid pirates... who knows what is coming next?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Death From Below - the Prizes & What to Get

Death from Below is starting soon - the first raid since the Ascension clusterf**k, and the first raid since Kixeye announced their new attitude.

So what would I want from this raid?
- A more player friendly format
- No changes mid-raid
- New prizes that have reasonable build times
- New prizes that are not overpowered
- A good selection of older items for other prize tiers

I'll come back to this list at the end of the article.

Some useful Kixeye Links:
Briefing/Prize list:

I'm not going to rehash the whole briefing on the format, so you should read that one at least.

Raid Format:
The raid format is similar to what we have been seeing lately, with the three level-locked campaigns and an Elite Campaign.  Co-op is back per player request.  The ability to hit lower level campaigns for lower points is not back.  If I had to pick one, I would pick the open campaigns over co-op, as I don't like the dependency that co-op can breed.  (Although true teamwork in campaigns can be really fun).

World map targets will also be available at levels 35 & 55.  The 35 will have reduced points for players above a certain (unknown?) level.  I don't expect the map targets will be very popular unless the points / difficulty ratio changes drastically from the previous raid. The only reason to hit them in Ascension was to open the Sector Bar. 

The sector bar is gone, and Vanguard targets will be available two times for hitting.  
Vanguard prizes will be:
  • Ghostcrawler
  • Hellstar
  • Death Scythe
  • Cobra Scattergun
New Prizes:

Tiger Shark Hull Prize

The main prize is a new submarine hull - the Tiger Shark.  Its real standout capability is the Assault DPS of 2400, which essentially increases the FvF damage of each mounted weapon by 240 DPS... which is a lot.  Kixeye tried to explain DPS a little better in a forum post. That, with a little more info gathered through testing, has allowed me to finally figure out how DPS affects your damage output.  I plan to work through a few examples in an upcoming article.

The sub compares pretty nicely to our existing submarine hulls.

With all the weapon, special, and armor slots, combined with the new heavier torpedos, we see the first time since the original Barracuda that we've had to worry about Max Weight on subs.  Its submerge time is the same as a Spectre, it doesn't have the crazy low Banshee map speed, and this hull also has decent defenses in case you get in a situation where you are trading fire.

In all, we have a very good sub hull with great FvF damage output. I think we were all hoping for shorter build time.

Styx Weapon Prize

The Styx Torpedo has the same long range as the Charon.  Although it does less Concussive damage, it also does a good amount of Corrosive damage.  

Like the other Scourge torpedo, it doesn't give you a speed boost, and with modern subs having 4 special slots & the availability of Speed System 4 or 5... I don't think the Turn Speed boost is that amazing.

The number to look at is the bonus damage of 1080, which corresponds to the (potential) corrosive damage per torpedo hit.  Once again, Kixeye has given us part of the story in a forum post, but using data from our good friends over at Dark Alliance, we can figure out the rest.  The Death Scythe does the following:

If we assume that the "dotdamage" is done every "dotinterval", then we can figure that each corrosive stack will do 6 / 0.2 = 30 (actual) damage every second.  Multiplied by 135 Max Stacks, that works out to 4050 damage per second.  Since damage displayed on blueprints is doubled, we get a max Damage over Time of 2x4050 = 8,100 which corresponds to the number on the blueprint.  The DoT duration of 6 seconds defines the duration of each stack's damage output, so we can also tell that the total blueprint damage of each corrosive stack is 30 actual DPS x 2 blueprint / actual x 6 seconds = 360 corrosive damage per stack.  The Styx has a x3 Supercharge on its corrosive, which means that it will do 360x3 = 1080 corrosive damage per hit.  But not always... if you hit the max stacks, then the corrosive will not build up any more, and that damage will be lost.  I like to think about the corrosive damage much like UAV damage.  Once that UAV or torpedo hits its target, it will do the damage... it will just take a while to do it.

So overall, the build time is terrible, but the range and damage output is great.  Also consider that the new Scourge torpedos have a much faster travel speed than previous torpedos, similar to the new breed of missiles.  

Ghostcrawler Limited Hull (Vanguard Drop)

We all wanted our own Kraken, right?  This beast never surfaces, has a HUGE damage output (476 Assault DPS per weapon and +100% concussive damage), has high speed and good defenses against anti-sub weaponry.  88 thermal range means that no subs will be able to sneak up on you.

The deep submerge is interesting - I would suggest you do NOT want to use a Battery on this hull, because you want to deep submerge as much as possible to get the stun effect when you surface.
Although Scourge torpedos are an obvious choice for this sub, using Assault Torpedo B can get you some ridiculously high combat speed as well (leaving the GhostCRAWLER name a real misnomer).  The drop rate on this is supposed to be very low, so good luck trying to get this... unless you plan to use at against me, in which case I really hope you don't get it.

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
Tiger Shark (12.5M): I do think this is a great sub hull, but with the build time looking like 80+ days for a fleet of 4 with modern torpedos, it seems like a luxury item for a lot of players.

Styx Torpedo (7M): With long range and high corrosive damage, this is a powerful weapon, but the build time is a real drawback.


Cobra Scattergun (1.1M each Limit 6): Players who have used this weapon seem to generally like it, but I'm going to go back to the build time again and suggest that it isn't for everybody.

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

Tier 4:
Wendigo (25M Limit 1 Max 1): Kixeye added in this limited base defense turret after the initial prize list was announced. With the slowing ice field this turret adds, base attacking fleets without a Frosty or Aegis are often in trouble. The range is a bit short, so you will need to consider placement pretty carefully.

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

Mastodon (5.5M): With the new long range R5 remote targeting and the new breed of missiles, I'd grab it if I didn't have Rhinos.

Buzzard Missile (5.5M): An upgrade from Torrents, and I'm not sure these have been available since they were a FAT prize, but with the high salvo, these are not effective against the Scourge, especially compared to the Blade, Harrier, and Disruptor.

Concussive Upgrade (3M): This one might be useful in some sub fleets, but with Stealth Attack System 4 coming in the next Forsaken Mission, you might prefer that.  This also is inferior to researchable Concussion Warhead, so it is only useful as a second damage upgrade.

Evade Upgrade (3M): Sometimes useful if you have enough special slots, but again this is inferior to the first evade upgrade from Agility, Reflective Coat, or Scrambler.

Zynthonite D4-R (3.5M): I'd rather use D5-R - I just don't see this as all that desirable for the build time, unless you really need the R shielding and you can't reach the FM Elite Tier. 

Tier 3:
Mercury (1.6M): A great hull with low build time for players who are working their way up the build tree.  Consider that this might be easier to get from the campaign (Hunt the Nemesis #1).

Shielded Electronics 3 (3M): Useful in many situations, especially a base guard.

Compound Panels E (2M): For the power usage, I find these to be really useful in my base defense when I don't want to load up against anything too specific.

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.

Poseidon Depth Charge 3 (2M): Possibly useful against the Scourge, these are still sort of short range (64) and potentially outrun. Maybe combine them with disrupter missiles?

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:
Compound Panels C (400k): If you are really limited on power or cant reach the ones on Tier 3, these aren't bad either.

Shielded Electronics 2 (500k): You'd rather lave the one on Tier 3, but grab it if this is the best you can do.

Interdictor (100k): Possibly a useful ship against underwater targets, but I think it isn't worth its build time anymore.  

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

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.

Zynth Armor D3-T (400k): Bleh.. do you really need turn speed?  Use a D3 with some evade or resist.

Tier 1:
Zynth Armor D2-S (100k): Best prize in the raid.  Many many players have been asking for this... don't miss it.  This one is so good, it feels like Kixeye will bring out something to make it obsolete next week.

Compound Panels A (50k): If you are really limited on power or cant reach the ones on Tier 2 or 3, these aren't bad.

Shielded Electronics 1 (150k): You'd rather have the one on Tier 2 or 3, but grab it if this is the best you can do.

Battlecruiser (60k): You probably have it already, but get it if you don't.

Hydrodynamic Shells 1 (50k): If the HD Shells 2 & 3 is unsatisfactory, this will cause even less submerged damage.

Poseidon Depth Charge 1 (40k): Possibly useful against the Scourge, these are still sort of short range (64) and potentially outrun.  I think the PDC 2 is sort of the sweet spot for this weapon.

To wrap up... How is Kixeye doing?

I'll go back to the list from the top of the article:

A more player friendly format
Co-op is good, but the lack of level flexibility isn't.

EDIT: It also looks like many of the NPC (Scourge) weapon reload times have been reduced from what we had during Caustic Warfare.  BOO KIXEYE!  Go here for details & I'll summarize in my "One day in" post.

No changes mid-raid
We will have to wait and see

New prizes that have reasonable build times

New prizes that are not overpowered
I'm not so sure on this - the Tiger Shark & the Styx look reasonable, but the Ghostcrawler is going to break something.  Try loading up on cloak armor & see what happens...

A good selection of older items for other prize tiers
D2-S almost makes this one "yellow" by itself, but not quite.  Adding the Wendigo gets it there, and I'm glad that Kixeye has heard and responded (a bit). I still think the prize list from end-to-end is pretty weak overall, and if you are still getting your anti-Scourge fleet in shape, sitting out this raid isn't going to be the worst thing ever.  The Mastodon is the most desirable hull in there, and there really isn't any desirable weapon to go after.

Although I may get the new hull & weapon (depending on difficulty), I plan to focus on tokens for this raid. We will have to see if the Scourge difficulty is the same as during Caustic Warfare (lower than the initial raid difficulty).  An interesting thing is that although co-op is available... when I look at the prize list, I'm not sure what "must-haves" I would want to help lower level players get... maybe Mastodons?

Good luck Pirates... Gaming is not a crime!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Prepping for Death From Below

Kixeye has announced the next raid will start on October 15, called Death From Below.  The Scourge will be returning.  Most of this article will talk about some of the ways you might want to think about preparing for them over the next two weeks.

Before I get into the guts of this article, I want to talk about some of the latest out of Kixeye.  Although player discontent has been simmering for a while, it seems the event that really spurred the Kixeye team into action is the announcement from the Battle Vortex Battle Pirates Arbiters that they had mostly stopped playing Battle Pirates seriously, and were looking for replacements.  Some of the Kix team met with the BV guys, and then they appeared on the subsequent show.  

It's a good watch (or listen... I listened last night while finishing off the FM), and you can find it here:

My most important takeaways from that show are as follows:
  • There has been a change of leadership in the Battle Pirates team - They didn't emphasize this, but I think it is important to note that the new (current) leadership are BP veterans who went to other projects for a while and have now returned.  Remember that the flood of content really got going around the beginning of 2014.  I don't know how that timing correlates with the previous shift, but I'm hopeful that the new (old) blood can rejuvenate the game.
  • Kixeye recognizes that the pace of new content must be slowed down - cancelling the FAT & Reaver Holdout return, and the delay of the Base Invasion campaign are all tangible steps that Kixeye has taken to slow things down.  We will need to see if this continues.
  • An effort will be made for longer term planning - More recently, I have recognized that a major problem with the game is lack of predictability in direction.  Although build times are a problem on their own, they are an even bigger problem when we can't be sure that the fleet we begin today will be useful in three months when it is complete.  
  • An effort will be made for better communication - The first step in this was made a while ago - long time players will remember that the monthly WIP was not always so regular and was not always so informative.  Much more recently, we also saw Raikan return to the forums and get involved in the discussion of the Base Invasion campaign.   It sounds like that was quite productive and helpful for both Kixeye & the players. After the disastrous video, I recognized that this type of communication needed to continue, and I'm glad it did.
Death To the Scourge!

After the Ascension raid, many of us found that our fleets were not up to the task.  What makes the Scourge difficult?
  • Subs - Many players might have had strong launcher or ballistic fleets, but those didn't do much good against the underwater targets.
  • Resistance - The Scourge have both high percentage and high plate resistances, along with increased submerged resistance (see my "Ascension - One day in" article for the numbers).  That combo resulted in low damage / high fire rate weapons like Strike & Torrent missiles being about as effective as spitballs.  This has been reduced somewhat for the Caustic Warfare campaign, and I'll get into more detail there.
  • Good Tactics - the Scourge AI is pretty good at closing in and surrounding you, making the Tank / Zombie strategy difficult to pull off effectively.  Stonefish in particular can really mess up your Zombies.  The Caustic Warfare campaign may have targets that are easier to kill, but many of the layouts are set up so that you are surrounded from the start.
What's changed?

Modified Scourge Stats

As always, I am dependent on the guys over at the BP Info blog for this data, and we are all thankful.  The changes are summarized in this post:

I'll show the updates in the same table format as I used during the Ascension Raid.  Updated stats are in orange:


The most important change is that all of the Scourge targets received a non-100% Submerged Defense statistic (like Reapers), so that non-underwater weapons can now do some damage.  For players that don't understand that statistic, Submerged Defense is the amount of defense a submerged sub gains against non-underwater weapons.  When its Submerged Defense is 100%, then it is immune to all damage except from underwater weapons like torpedoes, depth charges, or missiles with retargeting.  A ship with 50% submerged defense will still resist half the damage it would be taking while surfaced, but is still damaged underwater by weapons like Launchers or Arbalest.

You can also see reduced resistances on the Daggertooth and Stonefish, increased surface times on Viperfish & Goblin Shark, and the re-submerging of the Daggertooth.  Also, a change from my previous table is the removal of the Electric Eel's submerged bonus, but I think that was my error, not a Kixeye change.


The Typhon cannon (on Viperfish, Goblin Shark & Daggertooth) has reduced Reload & increased Damage, but it also has reduced Corrosive Damage, and a reduced maximum Corrosive Stack.  I don't understand the corrosive statistics well enough to advise whether that would result in a net increase or decrease of DPS.  It may depend on how much cannon fire you take, as the corrosive damage can't build up as much (so just a few shots may do more DPS than previously, but if you are under sustained fire you'd suffer less damage once the corrosive is done.)

The Manticore missile (on Stonefish) has reduced Damage, Corrosive Damage, and reduced Corrosive Stack.

Outpost 7 & Dock 12
With the release of OP7 and other base upgrades a few weeks ago, many players should be able to get Dock 12 done before this raid starts - my Level 7 outpost finished last night (I coined the last couple hours so it wouldn't finish while I was sleeping) and I was able to get my Dock started ... so I'll have about a week's time to experiment with heavier fleets.  I haven't done an article focusing on OP7 upgrades, but the Dock should be everybody's first upgrade after the Outpost is finished. After that I'll likely focus on getting the two additional base defense turrets in place by getting them to Level 4, then adding center island weapons, then continuing to upgrade turrets.  

The Shipyard 3 upgrade (as Pain suggested on the Battle Pirates Crib show) should wait until you really need the additional 9% Draconian component weight reduction - since it means that you will not be able to use the shipyard to build ships while it is upgrading.  You also might want to think about timing your shipyard upgrade to maximize the ability to use FM Structure Build tokens to speed that upgrade.  You should be able to use 3 days worth of tokens if you save a token from the previous mission, start the Shipyard, use the token, then do the current mission to Tier 3 twice and use those two additional tokens (you'll have to be caught up on Tier 3).
(Quick update - a reader mentioned in the comments that you can now save 2 Structure tokens, so you could try that too. Check it out!)

Some Anti-Scourge Fleet Strategies:

I think Rhinos & Hunters will be the "premium" hulls for fighting the Scourge for a while.  Certainly the Blade missile will be quite effective and some whales will be coining Hunters with Blades and doing quite well with them.  I just started the Hunter build shown in this fleet, and plan to pair it up with Rhinos and a fast Aegis.  (The Rhinos would also benefit from Blades, but I want to get my full fleet in place before refit.)  I want to use the Hunter as a tank and take advantage of the Assault Deflection stat.  

(my Rhinos aren't armored yet)

I like this Hunter build much better than the ones I see with Charon Torps - the B torps are there so it matches speed with my Rhinos.  
One more note on this build: I put D2E armor on the Hunter because I want the Evade.  Although there is plenty of room for heavier armor, we've seen (in the October WIP) that Cadmium Armor with reduced repair time is coming out soon.  When we know the stats I'll run some math on whether you'd rather have Cadmium for quicker repairs or more Evade for less damage, but for now I'll put some armor on there quickly and plan to refit later.  This is a concrete example of how getting more information from Kixeye can help us out.

V2-H with Disrupter Missiles
For players who don't quite have access to the best tech, but are getting to the Forsaken Mission Tier 3 regularly, don't overlook the Disrupter Missile.  The bypass capability is very important against Scourge.  I was talking to an alliance mate last night who was not aware how good the D53-D Disrupter missiles are (he didn't even realize he had it).  You won't be able to finish a fleet like this in 2 weeks, but refitting Strike (or even Torrent) missiles with Disrupters would be a quick enhancement that players can do between now & the raid.  Also make sure to have a few Phalanx for incoming missiles from Stonefish.  

That 10.5 day build is really sort of a starting point... for starters you could add heavier Armor or Agility System.  Using Missile System trades a little range for the accuracy, which is good against Scourge since they won't stay at Max range anyway.  The single Siege Missile Z is all that fits (weight wise).  One Siege Z will do more damage than one Disrupter, but it is better to fill all weapon slots since the Disrupters are more efficient.

Harriers are lighter and build faster than Disrupters, but do the same damage.  If you have Harriers use those with just a few Disrupters (for example - the build above could use 4 Harriers, 2 Siege Z, 1 Disrupter & 1 Phalanx 2)

Launcher or Ballistic Fleet with Spotter
For players that have a good launcher or ballistic fleet (think V2-C/Fusion Cruiser with D98-U or Crusader / R10 SCX with Arbalest), consider adding on a spotter.  I've heard players saying that launcher fleets in particular seem to be doing well in Caustic Warfare.

A Frostburn makes a great spotter, and giving it some Harrier missiles is a light way to add some punch to it.  But if you don't have a Frostburn, remember that Thermal is NOT needed to spot Scourge, so enhanced Sonar range is all you need in a spotter.  Although I don't recommend building a fleet of them, even an Interdictor (especially the limited Viper or Vassago versions) could make a good one-off spotter.

(I'm using a fair amount of Tier 4 tech on this one - tailor it to what you have)


Retrofit the components you are using.  

Since the last raid, I have gotten my Bypass Missiles up to R15, and am now working on Missile Systems (to enhance the accuracy bonus of Guided Missile System).  Note that I already have my Evade Armor, Compound Engine Systems, Compound Defense, and Siege Missiles up to R15, so players that are further behind might have other priorities, but the Bypass Missile & Missile Systems are relatively cheap options for the Uranium needed.  

Doing many different components to R5 might be the best option for those players who are Uranium-constrained.  Also keep working on the V2-H hull retrofits if you plan to use those as your main platform.

I'm hopeful we will start to see a shift out of Kixeye... I feel like all I have been able to do in this blog for a while is "review" the new tech, so I look forward to being able to slow down and offer a few more strategy articles like this one.  Get planning Pirates!