Saturday, April 15, 2017

Espionage - the Tough Love edition

Well, there have been the usual set of complaints over the last month about how the new "skill" & "auto" hulls have been rolled out... 
Skill hull: Not enough time to build that fleet 
Auto hull: Very expensive for a non-top shelf hull

In my last article I described the Icebreaker as "rank" and wasn't sold on it. I think its performance in this raid has borne out my prediction - it is really only good in the 60s, not the 80s (note: using the "tier" terminology has gotten too confusing).

I managed to get 2 Monoliths completed with 74% rank for this raid too.  But my favorite fleet for doing this raid is... the Punisher / Harlock Citadel fleet I've been doing the FM with for the last year.  This is Kixeye's gift to us.  Anyone with a decent FM fleet should be able to blast through A sets on this raid and not spend any coin doing it.  There's lots of videos and information on the FB pages about how to do it, so I'm not going to repeat any of it here.  I like the Punisher even better than my Zelos tank - the slower speed of the Punisher is a better match for the Citadels, and it also makes it easier to stop in the right spot.

So here's the tough love part:  If you can't do this raid, you are not good at this game.  The universal piece of advice that just about every knowledgeable player agrees on is that you have to be able to do the FM to succeed in this game.  Do you know any players that are good base hitters, good at getting Uranium and Base Parts, but just can't crack that FM?  If you don't have a decent Pun / Cit fleet, or at least Novas with some sort of anti / tank spotter... what the hell have you been doing with your shipyard for the last year?  Don't tell me because your answer is wrong.

The most important thing to think about right now is that you need to come out of this raid cycle with a fleet that can do this raid cycle.  The Icebreaker & its weapon/special are kind of expensive at 40 million points for the second-rate hull, but think about getting a Harlock Citadel and Citadel build tokens ... OK?

I'm also going to talk Monoliths for the top tier players.  The main reason I didn't like the Monoliths I built is that the shells were too slow.  My build left off the High Velocity Rounds since I though the shells would fall fast enough with the built-in Projectile Speed.  I plan to fix that as I build out my Monolith fleet.  And what about the Gridiron?  Read on...

Obviously you need to stop out of range of the Coldsnap rocket turrets to succeed in this raid.  And obviously you need enough antis on your tank.  But beyond that, the real skill part of this raid, and the hardest part for me to figure out at the start, is how to protect your back line remote targeting ships.  Kixeye has been playing around with this idea for a while; there was a TLC a couple months back that also posed that challenge using by priority targeting on the turrets.  I expect (without any actual evidence) that as the raid difficulty gets ramped up over this cycle, we will see it get harder to protect your rear line.  It may come though the return of Priority Targeting on the Executioners, or through an increase in the splash & damage of the Arc Missiles.

This is interesting in light of the Gridiron Monolith field - it doesn't protect the Gridiron itself like we all were expecting, but it does protect the backline ships, and that MAY be what Kixeye was thinking when they designed it like that.  

As always, good luck in the raid & keep grinding.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ranking the Rank Icebreaker

There's some great videos out there on how to do this raid.   My favorite is Forsaken Cove's article on how to do the 107.  On the 100, I do a loop for the long range turrets, a loop for the short range ballistics, a loop for the big launcher, and then pick off the outer launchers.  I'm sure there's some videos out there from the last raid.

All that assumes a ranked Harlock Cannoneer fleet... without that, well-driven Cannoneers can hit lots of targets in the 70s before repairing (I collected nearly 50 million doing that on Thursday night), and many Ironclads can do targets in the 50s with instant repairs.

But I'm going to write this article about the Icebreaker.

First off, you need to understand Kixeye's raid structure for the foreseeable future.  It started with the Reaver Skirmish raid series, continued through this Scourge Siege raid series, and will continue with the upcoming garrison series.  Each of those raids had a Skill hull and a Blitz hull.  The Hellwraith and the Cannoneers are the skill hulls we've seen so far. The Tideseeker, Ironclad.and now the new Icebreaker are the Blitz hulls.  So far, we've seen well driven skill hulls can do high end targets with no damage, and Blitz hulls have had mixed results (although I suspect the damage output of a Tideseekers with Calamity was an unforeseen combo on Kixeye's part).  

So we need to think about the Icebreaker going forward.  Each player should be able to assess their own game.  On my part, I like the skill hulls, and have only built the Blitz hull with tokens.  This raid we've seen the order from last raid flipped, and now we have the Blitz hull available at a high point price, and we can expect the skill hull to come up in a TLC soon after the raid.

Since I like the skill hulls, I'm not really excited about the Icebreaker in general, and at approximately 2 week build times per ship, I'm not going to devote my shipyard to building a full fleet of those (and note they have a stacking bonus).  So I strongly considered not redeeming it this raid.  I did and I started on.  My plan is to build only one Icebreaker in the near term (see it below), and save as many tokens as I can out of this raid to be ready to build the upcoming skill hull ASAP.  

(Important Note: I've heard that the Charged Armors are not currently working.... hold on buying & installing those until we know more)

The only real non-obvious part on this build is the High Velocity Rounds.  Those give me building damage and help my rockets land quickly.  Other choices could be made to increase damage.  Agility 4 could easily be replaced with Guidance Scrambler 3 to save 5 hours of build time.

You also need to be concerned about what we don't know in the upcoming Garrison Raid targets.  I think the biggest question is whether you will want countermeasures.  The way most players are attacking FM Garrison targets right now, we have a tank hull with countermeasures and mortar hulls to deal damage.  But if you are blitzing with Icebreakers, anti-mortar defenses may not be needed, and whether or not anti-missile is useful will really depend on the target.  We might even see a return of countermeasure specialist ships with the Icebreaker (I was always a big fan).  

For that type of build, Frontline Countermeasures would replace the Garrison battery,  Evade Upgrade or Deflection Upgrade SA (limited component I didn't see a need for at the time) could replace the HVR.  Then I'd probably put 4 Gales or Hail D, 3 Phalanx 4, and keep one rocket.

So one more thing - let's talk about ranking these Icebreakers.  The new Siege Rocket has a one second reload, a +100% built in rocket reload bonus, and then a +10% stacking aura reload bonus (per ship).  So a solo Icebreaker gets a 110% reload bonus, and a full 5 ship fleet gets 150%.   The means the reload time for 1 ship is 0.48 seconds, and for 5 ships it is 0.4 seconds.  My long-time readers may remember when I demonstrated that the minimum reload time for any weapon is 0.2 seconds, and also may remember that rank bonuses are applied differently than hull/special/aura bonuses:
reload = base reload * (1 - rank bonus).  
(note that the additional 0.2 seconds per salvo shot isn't affected by this)

So any bonus that puts your reload under 0.2 seconds is wasted.  For the 5 ship fleet the math works out really easily 
0.2 = 0.4 * (1 - rank%) 
Any rank bonus above 50% is wasted on a 5 ship Icebreaker fleet.

For the 1 ship fleet - I broke out the calculator to determine that 
0.2 = 0.48 * (1 - rank%) 
Any rank bonus above 58% is wasted when you only have 1 Icebreaker.

I'll leave the other cases for the reader.  Also remember that if you use Cluster Warheads to increase your reload bonus further, you will just max out your fire rate at a lower rank.  Keep in mind that this applies to Icebreakers using the new Siege Rockets D100S only.  If using other weapons or other hulls, you will max out differently - remember Goresabers with Infernos maxed out at even lower ranks.  

Another case to consider is if you are using countermeasures.  Those will not max out their reload at any rank, so it may pay off to rank ships with CM all the way to legendary (another reason to concentrate those defenses on one ship).

Good luck in the raid - keep grinding!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Navigating Utopia's Big Ole Store

Well, if you buy into the whole consumerism thing and paradise is a huge shopping mall, then this next raid really will be Utopia for you.  

Since Kixeye was kind enough to post the prize list early, I'll try to make sense of this store and break things down. I'm NOT going to go with a full red/yellow/green breakdown... that's crazy.

I'm going to start with looking at it from my own point of view - a player who is pretty much caught up.  For players like that, the major priority will be to get set up for success in the next raid series (which will be Garrison).  Actually, that should be all players' priority.  As the game has moved towards a very predictable rotation of target types, you need to try to jump on to that hamster wheel so set yourself up for continued success.

So the first things to look at are the new equipment.  We don't have full blueprints, but we have some general ideas.

To get the new equipment, you first need to take the Empyrean generalist hull.  A valid question is - why do we need another generalist hull after the Zelos?  The answer is that the Empyrean is a remote targeting hull, so that you can build up the Zelos as a tank, and use Empyreans behind that to rain down fire.  With the new weapon and special being released for that hull (Advanced Imperial Mortar D100-Z and Advanced Trajectory Plotter) - the Empyrean will have remote targeting for mortars.  My hope is that in the spirit of true 'generalism', that hull will ALSO remote target for missiles, but right now only remote targeting stats for mortars are shown in the raid video.  (and a heavy weapon slot...) I also expect that new Imperial Mortar and Trajectory Plotter special will be relatively quick building and Generalist only (just like the previous Quake Cannon and Seismic Rounds released with the Zelos).  Players who are caught up are probably interested in taking the Empyrean only because they have to be.  I'm plenty happy with my Citadels for remote targeting of Mortars, and Rhinos for remote targeting of Missiles, and I don't think I'll be devoting shipyard time to that hull.  I've been quite happy with my decision to build no Zelos hulls so far.

Instead, I'll be devoting time to the specialized Garrison hulls - the first of which is the Icebreaker, which is described as the "Auto" hull.  This puts it in the same genre as the Ironclad and Tideseeker, which means it will be sort of a 'charge in and blow stuff up' kind of hull.  Released with the Icebreaker are the Siege Rockets D110-S and the Garrison Battery Mk-X.  These rockets and (likely) explosive-enhancing special should go with the Icebreaker.  Rockets haven't been really effective in this game since players were loading up Leviathans with Hydras and blitzing them into Sentinel missiles... but we will see how these look when we get the full blueprint.  Right now we have some hints from the video:

Rocket Range: +30%
Rocket Reload: +100%
Explosive Defense: +80%
Penetrative Defense: +80%
Field Resistance: +90%

Note the last rocket hull we've seen, the Goresaber, had +25% Rocket Range, +160% Rocket Reload, 50% Exp/Pen resist, and +67% Field Resistance.  

Range: 57
Damage: 6672
Splash: 20

The previous generation of rockets, Dragonfires, Lockdowns, and Coaxial Firestorms (who remembers they fire rockets in primary mode?) all had range of 68.  Old school Siege Rockets have the 57 range.  Dragonfires also have that 20 splash, although they are a low damage, fast firing rocket.  If our targets have any deflection, Dragonfires will be near useless.  


So to start off with, players who are 'keeping up' will need:
Empyrean: 15M
Icebreaker: 60M 
Siege Rocket D100-S: 20M
Garrison Battery Mk-X: 10M
Total (new stuff): 105M points

That's kind of a bare minimum, unless you want to take a 'high-risk' approach to this raid.  That would be to wait for the Specialist hull, which should be released in an upcoming TLC. Even so, you may also want the Rocket weapon and Explosive special.  You don't know how much time you'll have to do that TLC before VXP weekend (with a 6 day raid). I'll just suggest that the 'high-risk' approach is too high risk for me.

Then I looked down at the rest of the prize list and I saw a bunch of tokens I wanted:

11d 3h ship build tokens: 30.9M
4x Liberator 25k VXP tokens: 24M
4x Oppressor 25k VXP tokens: 24M
8x 2 day Structure build tokens: 32M
Total (tokens): 110.9M

I would prioritize the Ship Build tokens very highly so I can get at least 4 Icebreaker hulls complete before VXP weekend.  I also really want those Liberator VXP tokens... since I already armored those 2 of the 3 I've built (even the Prof makes mistakes sometimes).  The structure ones I could probably do without if the points get tight.

I also saw some limited items:  
First off are the new Charged Zynthonite C1-X and C1-M Armors.  These new armors add no repair time and have some stats released in the video:

Charged Zynth C1-X
Explosive Dmg Reduction: 10,000
Explosive Armor Pool: 170,000

Charged Zynth C1-M
Penetrating Dmg Reduction: 37,725
Penetrating Armor Pool: 700,000

From the scant description we have, these seem to work like some sort of 'pre-deflection' damage reduction, but I'm not going to attempt any detailed description or analysis until we hear more from Kixeye.  But with the reduction of M & X damage, they certainly seem like they will be useful in these Garrison targets (which do primarily M & X damage).  I suspect you'll want one of each of these armors on ships being built for Garrison targets.  This means I'm going to want at least 4 of each ... if not 8 - 10.  I also want to restock my Agility system IV and Hydraulic Resistors.  I'm less concerned about Gales (Hail D is at least... useful) and Cobras.

4x Charged Armor C1-X: 40M
4x Charged Armor C1-M: 40M
5x Agility System IV: 5M
5x Hydro Resistors: 7.5M
Total (Limited): 92.5M

So, even not going for everything... I really want a bit over 300 million points this raid.  and I think a lot of players will be in similar situations.  WOOF! 

So what else is out there?

If you are going the "generalist" route, you will probably want:

Empyrean Hull: 15M
Advanced Imperial Mortar D100-Z: 9M
Trajectory Plotter: 6M
up to 15x Zelos 1 day Build Tokens (refit one to M/X defense): up to 30M
1x Charged Armor C1-X: 10M
1x Charged Armor C1-M: 10M
11d 3h Ship Build Tokens: 30.9M
Total (generalist):  30M - 110.9M

Lower end players who can't go after those big ticket items should make sure they have some sort of Garrison fleet in order.  If you can't get those Generalist hulls, then the Citadel / Punisher combination are the next best thing.  Hopefully you've gotten the hulls from the low end FM tiers, but you should make sure you have the equipment you need for them too.  If you don't have a Punisher tank (WHY NOT???) or Citadel mortar chuckers built, Berzerker build tokens are available.  If you are in this category, I would plan your fleet / refits very carefully so you can take only the tokens you need.  Note that the ship specific build tokens are cheaper than the general build tokens.  Consider:

up to 11d 3h Ship Build Tokens: up to 30.9M
up to 10 Citadel 1 day build tokens: up to 15M
up to 10 Citadel 5000 VXP tokens: up to 10M
Berzerker Hull: 0.75M
up to 10 Berzerker 3 day build tokens: up to 15M
Judgement Mortar: 0.9M
or Pandemonium Mortar: 0.6M
Explosive System IV: 0.6M
or Combustion System 2: 0.6M
No total here - too situation specific

Lower end players who have been having trouble in this raid cycle need to get a Siege fleet in order.  The best plan here is Ironclads with Mausers - Cannoneers and Millenium Guns are too expensive.  If you haven't been able to do the TLCs to win Ironclad/Mauser, get them now.  High Velocity Rounds are worth the splurge (for mortar/garrison fleets too).    Take build & VXP tokens to get them done.

up to 11d 3h Ship Build Tokens: up to 30.9M
Ironclad: 1M
High Velocity Rounds: 5M
up to 20 Ironclad 1 day build tokens: up to 10M
up to 20 Ironclad 5000 VXP tokens: up to 6M
Mauser Cannon: 0.75M
Nuclear Accelerators: 0.5M
No total here - too situation specific

Lower end players who have been having trouble getting Uranium need a Skirmish fleet.  Hellwraiths or Tideseekers are the thing here, but since Hellwraiths are comparatively expensive in the store, I recommend the Tideseekers.  The Conflagration Scattergun that is most effective isn't in the store, and neither are the concussive cannons, so torpedoes are the next best idea.

up to 11d 3h Ship Build Tokens: up to 30.9M
Tideseeker: 0.5M
Fire Twister Torpedo: 2M
Sealed Fire Charge: 1M
No total here - too situation specific

Going after Megas needs an Assault fleet, basically Apollos.  Phalanx 4 are preferred as your anti-missile solution, since switchblades can get overwhelmed, but they aren't available.  If you don't have Phalanx, don't go all Switchblade, make sure to mix in some Blades to maintain offense.

up to 11d 3h Ship Build Tokens: up to 30.9M
Apollo: 3M
Blade: 0.6M
Switchblade Anti-Missile: 0.9M
Interception System: 0.3M
Counter Missile Extender: 0.6M
No total here - too situation specific

If you want to get into Base Hitting and PvP, the tier 5 Conqueror hulls can still smash a lot of bases (just not the best ones).  If you're starting from scratch, I'd recommend taking the Vendetta and at least one other hull type, so you can use 2 tanks and 3 remote targeting Vendettas. If forced to pick one tank, I'd probably go with the Spite, but Malice are decent too (if you equip with Radioactive Plate).  All the "PvP" components are pretty cheap, so make sure you have weapons and specials to complete whatever hull you grab.  

Vendetta: 1.5M
Spite: 2M
Malice: 1.5M

For Base Defense we have the Valiant and Vanquisher.  Pick one and make sure you can equip it. Avoid the Alpha Behemoth and Cesium Scarab - they are really underperforming in most situations.

Valiant: 2M
Vanquisher: 1.5M

Whether to get Turrets is an interesting question.  The latest generation of turrets like Gargoyle 3, Hyena, and Explosive D99-S are not available, and they really are a step up in capability from previous versions.  Cataclysm is available and worth getting. I expect more improved turrets will be available to round out the damage types, so unless you are desperate, I would focus on the 'better' Limited turrets in this store.  

Glacial Launcher: 2M 
Coldsnap Rocket: 2M 
Cataclysm: 4M

Ferox Fury will be a flagship for Fury hulls.  Without seeing it, it's tough to figure out if it will be desirable to build.  Right now, the only people I could see really wanting it at its 40M point price tag are those who have a full fleet of Furys but are missing out on the Tier 6 Conquerors.

Well, although there are a lot of good prizes available at good prices, the massive size of the store and the high prices on new equipment mean that a lot of players will be wanting a lot of points.  Remember it will be a 6 day raid and you should try to use all 6 days if you can.  Also remember Alliance points reset on Monday, and so you'll probably be hit.  Deal with it.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Quick tips on Homeland

I'm basically not writing scheduled articles anymore... sorry.  But I've got a few quick tips on the Homeland campaign that I can't pass up on sharing.

Overall my plan is to use my FM fleet for missions 1 - 4 & 6. I use a conqueror fleet for Missions 5 & 7 (obviously).

My FM fleet has been bolstered by the 12 days worth of Punisher build tokens.  I used those to convert 2 Punishers from Draconian Uranium Base focused Arbalest ships to more tanky ships I can use in the FM.  With just one well built Punisher tank I could just about do a full round of the FM without stopping to repair.  Two 6 day refits left me with 2 more Punisher tanks that aren't as good as the original but are still decent.  I burn through those weaker two tanks on the first four missions and then save my good tank for #6.

A Long Pinch XL doesn't hurt on some of those islands either.  I don't use rockets that often these days... but why not?

Bullseye Brigade can also help a lot, but I hesitate to recommend rare or legendary crews as the key for anything, since many players can't count on having a specific one of those.

For mission #6, the Dreadnaught X can really lay down a lot of mortars and really tear you up.  On my first runthrough it totally overwhelmed and destroyed my Countermeasure tank.  The trick I used the next time....  I ran to the Southwest as I was engaging the other ships, and I was able to retreat before that DNX did any damage.  Then I came in with Hellwraiths.  Although that ship has thermal, my Hells were able to outrun the shells no problem and sink that bastard (it doesn't have much health). 

For the bases, on #5 I used a Spite to spot for Vendettas.  After clearing the front turrets and the ship, I ran the Vendettas in behind - far enough back that they were not running into the fire pools.  As the Spite got in range of the dock, the Vendetta let off a might blast of mortars ad killed much of the center turrets.  My Spite took some damage on this.. but not too bad.

On base #7... Metatech or whomever that is made a big noob mistake in their base layout:

Yes, prep that right side.  After that you can prep those front four turrets as well without coming under too much fire.  Take your time because they have lots of health.

Since I have a Pride built with its specials and a couple Ruin Scatterguns, I was able to blast through this base with nothing more than instant repair on any of my ships... after I went around that first bend I took it slow with the Pride to hit each turret as I went, then brought up the Vendettas again to finish it off.  Without the Pride you'll be somewhat worse off, but look for something that can resist those Maxim guns.

I hope that helps you out with the Homeland campaign - you've got less than 2 days left to take some more shots at it.  If you miss out on the Liberator... well I think there will be more Tier 6 Conquerors coming, so you won't be left out forever.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Awakening - what to get

Awakening has started - and it's definitely a have or have-not kind of raid.  Cannoneers are working great. Ironclads were perhaps a bit oversold, and players with neither of those two ships are definitely in for a grind at best.

I'm not going to go into much detail on tips - there are a lot of videos with driving & build tips on YouTube.  

I will share with you my final Cannoneer build.

I refit my 3 Cannoneers with the 8th Millenium Gun and the High Velocity Rounds after getting enough points to grab that special and enough tokens to make the refit cheap.  After that refit, I can put a Creeping Death crew on, and go hit Tier 5 targets for the 40 minutes, earn 10-12 million points, and not have to repair during that time.  This is a case where the high repair time works in our favor.  I can hit a lot of targets, get a lot of points, and walk away to do something else while my fleet repairs for a few hours.  This makes for a very cheap raid (except the LTOs and refits). 

So in terms of what to get for this raid, it's clear that I've chosen the High Velocity Rounds over the UAV Overdrive special.  The fact that players can't get every new prize is a clear sign that Kixeye screwed up in how they released the tech for this raid.

In terms of what else to get... I think the next question on a player's mind would be 

If I don't have the Cannoneer already, should I take it?
Maybe.  Although there are only two raids of this style left, you could probably get two of these built before the next one, although you'll probably have to skimp on armor, and ranking might be an issue (more on that later).  One or two Cannoneers are still effective in Tier 5, although it takes longer.  Also remember this style target will probably be replacing the Draconian Mines after the three raids of this cycle are over, so you'll need to think about your future.

Should I take the Harlock's Cannoneer?
Maybe.  This is the question I've been thinking about for myself - I started a 4th Cannoneer already, and so I'll need to decide if I want to build the Harlock's version after that.  The only real flagship bonus is the +60% Ballistic Damage, and I'm doing pretty good with what I've got already.  I do expect the targets to increase in difficulty as this raid cycle goes on for two more iterations, so the extra firepower may be helpful.  A blank build of the Harlock will not be helpful because it is very difficult to keep a flagship out of trouble with the driving style needed in these targets, so a fully built and ranked ship will be needed.

Is the Millennium Gun good on ships other than the Cannoneer?
Yes.  Don't miss out on this weapon.  The Millennium and the Mauser are significantly more effective (from a DPS perspective) than previous ballistic weapons.  If you missed the Mauser, you really want the Millennium for any ballistic ship you are building.  Even players with Ironclads are liking the Millennium (over the Mauser). The exception is probably base hitting - with neither splash nor penetrating, I wouldn't choose the Millennium to put on the Malice for base hitting... there I'd go Mauser.  Of course with Level 9 walls... I think all Ballistics are pretty useless.

What is Harlock's Ironclad good for?
Meh. One obvious option is to lead Ironclads.  Another option might be is if you missed out on Ironclads and Cannoneers... just take this and build the one.  You could put Earthshakers or PACs on it... or if you get another 6 Million put the Millenium on it  (nope... it's locked behind the Cannoneer.  Everybody loves that).  However, I think I'd rather spend the 30 million on the whole ballistic tree, and build a nice Cannoneer instead of a low tech Harlock's Ironclad.

How about the Alpha Behemoth and the new Cesium Scarab UAV?
Maybe.  Without the UAV Overdrive special, I'm not super sold on this ship as a damage dealer, and the countermeasure capability is not unique to this hull.  If you already have the Millenium Gun, I wouldn't skip the UAV though.  It is clearly better than previous UAVs, and we will see if the rotating wheel of weapon love stays on UAVs for a bit longer to leave us a new UAV hull or other opportunities to use that weapon.

And how about the other stuff?

  • I always recommend build tokens if you are halfway decent at the raid.
  • Superhulls (Ghostcrawler, ProtoNemesis, Man-of-War, and Hellstar) are pretty much obsolete, and I wouldn't tie up my shipyard building one.
  • The Gamma Behemoth can be earned for just 4 million points - if you want an option for countermeasures in your base besides the Alpha Behemoth, here it is.
  • Vassago's Punisher got cheap, but probably isn't worth building.
  • On the lower tiers, I'd probably go Punisher, PAC, and Nuclear Accelerator if forced to choose.  Punisher is the original generalist hull even though Kixeye calls it a Siege class.

Is the VXP token LTO any good?
I'm kind of sick of the Limited Time Offers (LTOs).  The Millennium Gun ones were good deals, but now I'm looking at the VXP tokens.  I've got one Cannoneer left to build and maybe a Harlock.  (But I do need to keep in mind that the "Cannoneer" tokens won't work on the "Harlock's Cannoneer"

A Cannoneer needs 47,425 VXP to hit legendary.  So the 25000x4 offer for $29.99 will get two Cannoneers to Legendary.  The 5000x10 offer for $19.99 will get one there.

On a VXP weekend, a ship might get about 5000 VXP per hit (with a Salty Dog), and a Cannoneer will take 7 coin to repair, meaning it should take about 63 coin to get a Cannoneer to Legendary over that time.  This means that ranking through the token offer will cost about 2-3x more than ranking through the VXP weekend.  Sure those tokens may be a 90% reduction from coining the rank directly, but I think I'll skip this LTO.

Well, the first raid of a new cycle is generally pretty screwed up.  This one is no exception.  There were lots of problems with point awards in the first hours of the raid (some in players' favor, some not), that once more made it seem like Kixeye is doing ZERO testing.  Like the last raid cycle, this one seems to be sorting players into haves & have nots.  The campaigns are an effort to dull that a bit, but you can't get enough points through those to earn the needed tech.

The Reaver Skirmish cycle went through three iterations before getting it into the current format which players accepted.  I guess the burning question is - How many iterations is this Scourge Siege style going to go through?  After all, we're only getting three shots at it.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

And then there was the Ironclad...

We've got another new hull available for the next raid cycle - the Ironclad.

To win it, you need to beat the first round of the Iron Maiden TLC.  The second and third rounds give you equipment that helps you fit out the Ironclad - the Cannon System 4 and the Mauser Cannon.  I'm not going to go in depth on the stats of all of these... you can find that stuff on the Facebook pages and YouTube shows.  If you watch the Battle Pirates Crib show, you can see a chart with the DPS and DPS per ton numbers.

We've also seen the Tips and Tricks post, giving you a raid preview.  If you haven't read it, go here on the Forums and read it now.   I'm not going to summarize it here, but I'm going to assume you've read it.

There is a mechanic with platforms and land rising up out of the water as you approach, but that's not really what I'm going to focus on in this article.  The key point I'm going to focus on is the descriptions of the weapon ranges and of the driving techniques.  They describe Short Range & Long Range Ballistic Turrets and Short Range Radioactive Turrets as your main targets, along with a Very Long Range Tracking Radioactive turret and an EMP building.  The quote "the real test will be skating the razor's edge with your ships's range" is indicative that if you are using Cannoneers, you will need to drive an a way similar to the last raid (if you used subs).  Your weapons on the Cannoneers, with max possible range, will likely just barely outrange the Short Range turrets.  You'll need to drive alongside the turrets (instead of straight at them) to have the best chance of hitting them without being hit back.

Overall, it seems likely that the ranking of hull quality for the next raid (starting from best) will be:
1. Cannoneer
2. Ironclad
3. Centurion (with Harlock Centurion)
4. Centurion (without Harlock Centurion)
5. Punisher
6. Zelos

But there's an exception - if you had subs with 88 range torpedos in the last raid cycle, and you still couldn't do the raid successfully because you couldn't quite get your subs stacked up and in range without getting shot up... then you likely won't be able to use the Cannoneer successfully in this raid cycle either.

I'm not totally sure how effective the Punisher will be compared to the Centurion - it may depend on your Centurion retrofit level and how much splash vs. how much aimed damage we end up with.  For now I think they are in the same neighborhood, and I'll talk about why further down in this article.  For the rest of this article I'm going to talk about build strategies for each of your hull options, starting with the Cannoneer.

Zelos, especially with 94 range launchers, will probably be in big trouble as it will likely end up in range of the "short" range turrets but the launcher flechettes will take a while to land and build up a shockwave.

Cannoneer Build Strategy


I've been building up a 3 Cannoneer fleet for the upcoming raid.  My general plan was to build it with a mix of Arbalest and Earthshaker cannons, which is a mix I use successfully in Draconian Mines on my Punishers.  My specials were Nuclear Accelerator, Alloy CL-3, Agility System 4, Siege Battery 3 and Drum Reloader.  I planned to use a mix of D5-C and D5-R armor.

A couple things I learned from the Tips thread.  
1. I wanted all of my weapons (on the Cannoneer) to be 50 base range.  Anything shorter might be useless, or at least be more difficult to bring to bear.
2. I want more speed to keep me ahead of the tracking turret.
3. (not from the Tips thread, but Ren from TFC reminded me...) Siege Targeting will put out more DPS than the Drum Reloader because the building damage bonus compounds multiplicatively.

So after last night's BP Crib show I did a few refits with FM tokens, and changed my build to:
3 Arbalest, 3 PAC, 4 D35-S
Speed 5, Nuclear Accelerator, Alloy CL-3, Siege Battery 3 and Siege Targeting 3
3xD5-C Armor
(still not done yet, but that was the plan)

I ran this through some mines, and found that mixing the Arbalest & PAC wasn't useful - the PAC projectile speed is much slower and thus the PAC wasn't doing much damage because the Arbalest would kill the targets before the PAC landed.  

So I am planning another refit to pull off the PACs, add one more Arbalest, and end up here:

The S cannons are just for speed - I don't have enough weight margin to add another Arbalest or even a D-110.  I could fit a Crossbow 1, but I don't think it will be effective.

The emphasis on Ballistic resistance is for two reasons: one is that I will be using a HLNC to add Radioactive resistance, and two is that the Tips description sounds like the Long Range Ballistic Turret will be the one that will be least likely avoidable through driving.  I also like the bit of deflection and lower repair time of the C armor vs. the R.

I think the biggest risk with this build is the lack of Agility 4.  Adding it back would mean removing either Speed System 5 or Siege Targeting 3...  This choice will just have to wait until we see the raid targets.  We don't know how much aimed weaponry there will be and what the range of the EMP blast will be.  Another option would be to use Layered Armor 3 and Reflective Coat 3 (instead of the Alloy CL and (ST3 or SS5).  That option would better if there is more aimed weaponry, but I can stay outside the stun range.

Ironclad Build Strategy:
The biggest features of the Ironclad are the huge splash bonus (positive), and the low ballistic range bonus (negative).  This hull will have to come into range of the short range turrets and the EMP, but it has the high ballistic/radioactive resistance and 100% stun resistance to offset that a bit.  An Ironclad build should take advantage of the splash with the new special and cannon if possible.

First of all, since I plan to rely on the Cannoneer, but also plan to complete the TLC for 12 days of Ironclad tokens, I'm going to build this:

With the lower ballistic bonus range, Earthshakers at 47 vs. Mausers at 50 won't make much difference, but the lower build time helps me get close to my 12 day build time goal.  Other than Cannon System 4 being used to help my splash a bit more, the specials and armor choices are pretty similar to the Cannoneer.  If finishing this build, I would try to balance the Radioactive and Ballistic resistance, since this ship will be taking both types of damage.  I may play with the armor a bit - using more smaller R & C plates to fill my armor slots.

A full-up, high end build with all the goodies would look more like this:

Mausers (splash 7) are the weapon of choice here, but if you can't get to Prize Pack 3 of Iron Maiden, then PACs (splash 6) or Earthshakers (splash 7) are also decent choices that will benefit from the splash bonus.  If you need something REALLY fast... maybe even think about the D35-Z (half hour each)?

Centurion (Punisher) Build Strategy
Without the full range of the Cannoneer, and without the huge splash bonus of the Ironclad, I think older hulls may be in trouble.  I think for this hull class, speed is definitely needed, and PACs may be the best best - hope for the big boom.

Nothing else should be too new here if you've read the rest of this article.  I chose Cannon System 4 over Nuclear Accelerator because the lighter weight lets me add more weapons.  I don't think the +35% splash bonus will make much difference when applied to the 6 Splash of the PAC.  Note the Accuracy Bonus of Nuclear Accelerator won't help you at all.

If planning to use Centurions, you definitely want to try to get the retrofits and a Harlock Centurion.  Once you hit R5 on the Centurions in the Foundry, then build out the Harlock to run with your other ships, but until then, just build the Harlock with a single Hellstorm to get the Flagship bonus (differing speeds will be a disaster). 

You will need a fully upgraded dock to build a fleet with 5 of these, but let's talk about... 

The best flagship choice, the Omega Behemoth, will be unusable in the upcoming raid due to the PvE restrictions announced in the State of Game post.  The next best obvious choice is the Highlander Nuclear Cruiser, and it can be built with just a single countermeasure to give the Radioactive Resistance.  If you retrofit that hull to R5, its Flagship resistance bonus goes from 50% to 55%, which will cut your pre-deflection radioactive damage taken by an extra 10% (compared to R0 HLNC... trust me on the Kixeye math here.)

If using Centurions, the Harlock Centurion is an even better choice if you have that available.

But... especially with the Cannoneer, it seems like the Ballistic damage might be the emphasis, so are there other choices?

The only other one that looks potentially usable is... the Avenger.  Remember the Avenger?  It gives an effect like the Midnight Marauders, increasing speed, damage, and resistance as you take damage.  Use some caution though.... if you are using multiple Cannoneers or another ship where you depend on stacking up precisely, your ships will diverge as they take damage and their speed bonus changes.  It might be most effective with the Ironclad, but I probably wouldn't build an Avenger just for this raid cycle.

Don't forget to use crews!  Even uncommon crews (or their common versions) will help cut repair time.

For Uncommon crews, consider Steelheads for Radioactive and Ballistic defense, Creeping Death (or the common Wrecking Crew) for Building Damage, or Molotov Maidens for Splash (Ironclads only).  Midnight Marauders might help, but if you're relying on precision driving of Cannoneers... don't do it.  Sea Serpents may be useful if there is significant aimed damage, and especially so if you also skimped on evade (like I plan to).  Cannoneer, Ironclad, and Centurion are all Forsaken hulls, so they will get the 15% reload bonus from a Salty Dogs... but there's no VXP for doing damage in a Siege target, so think about that.

For Rare crews, Dead Eye Destroyers give you +15% critical hits, but the 19% building damage from a Creeping Death will likely be just as effective overall.

For Legendary crews, Demolition Squad will give Resistance and Building Damage.  Disciples of Skullduggery will give you more damage at the edge of splash, but I'm not sure that will be totally useful here (and definitely Ironclad only).

In closing, I know there has been a lot of uncertainty about the next raid's emphasis, and also a lot of frustration about the lack of weapons / specials "for" the Cannoneer.  I'm frustrated too, but if you think about how things used to be 6 months or a year ago... we would have even less advance information about a new raid format, and ZERO opportunity to build ships in advance.  You'd build whatever came out most recently and hope it works.  I'm not trying to be a Kixeye apologist here, but it seems like the dribble of info and equipment that they are letting out just makes us want yet more.  Yes, the communication should be better and a WIP or other roadmap would really have helped us out over the last month.  Kixeye tries (and doesn't always succeed) to tune the raid target damage to the equipment we have, so it might not matter in the end.  As always, I'll do the best I can with the information I have in front of me.

Huggy's link to all the builds in this article:!y3307I01V1V1V342U6A6P2F232323233737373737370ZZ07J01V1V00004D2U346P2FAKAKAKAKAKAKAKAKAKAK07J01V1V1V1W4D2U346P2F2M2M2M2M2M2M2M37373707401V1V1V1W1W4D2U346P2F2C2C2C2C2C2C2C2C2C37dC

Well, there's one week until the raid.  Use it wisely.