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: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6t-al4itDq4

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: http://www.thedarkalliance.org/forum/threads/608-2015-September-16-Update

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

Ships:


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.

Weapons:


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:

Hunter/Rhino
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)

Retrofits:

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!