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:  http://www.thedarkalliance.org/forum/threads/654-2015-October-14th-Update

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.

Campaigns:
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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39T84KTpN7w&feature=youtu.be  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?