A previous TMC article described the coming of command destroyers (CD) as ‘The finger of God’. Now one month on from the patch release I would like to take a look at some of the situations I have seen CDs used in and the tactical changes they are bringing to the field of battle.
New ship classes are never automatically added to your overview. Veterans of many patches and new ship releases will know this but some new players will have found out the hard way. Thus before getting excited about what a command destroyer can do for or against you it is important to know where they are. Once added to your appropriate tabs it will be much easier to get within six km of a friendly CD, apply reps to them as logi and understand why you suddenly appear to have moved 100km from your previous position without you having touched anything.
In my limited one month’s experience it appears the ability of CDs to jump entities around the field is of much greater interest than the ships’ ability to support links and for that reason that is the part of the ships’ role I will be focusing on. In all areas of space having the ability to move components of your enemies’ fleet around is a powerful tool. The ‘finger of God’ article gave a fictional example of a fleet’s logi support being jumped away from friendly ships and into range of hostile guns. In the month since the December patch release that fiction has become a stark reality, the horror of which is only slightly reduced by logi module changes in the same release. With the fall-off changes applied to remote repair modules logi ships appear to now anchor closer to the remainder of their fleet to ensure they provide maximum value reps for longer. While anchoring still creates a tempting target for any CD pilot the lower optimum range of reps means logi ships are relatively closer to friendly fire support than they would have been previously.
The greatest offensive success I have seen from CDs is when there use has not been immediately obvious, CDs within the bulk of a fleet are likely going to be alphed off the field or scrammed into being unable to jump away enemy ships; however warping in the same CDs from off grid bookmarks to land within the enemy fleet composition is a whole different ball game. To counter this tactic I have seen fleets deploying fast tackle escorts to protect potentially vulnerable wings of their fleet in order to provide a timely scram if an enemy CD warps in amongst them. I find this a fascinating individual role within the larger fleet dynamic, the smaller ships having to maintain a practical useful distance relative to their larger, slower fleet mates without making themselves an easy target for enemy alpha strikes removing them from the field.
Logi ships are by no means the only ships that have been targeted by CDs. A similar use against long range sniping setups or just ships using long range ammo is to jump these ships out of their optimum range and into yours, or into a range completely incompatible with their weapon / ammo setup. A CD should have no trouble surviving in the middle of a doctrine dps group, their drones and tackle support are busy being applied to the enemy and it is unlikely they will be able to apply effective dps with their long range ammo loaded guns before they are jumped.
Another interesting tactic I have seen using CDs is based more around the fear of their ability to jump ships out of position than actually doing it. A couple of CDs warped on grid and the enemy FC’s reaction was to bunch his fleet up on himself as primary anchor in order to reduce the effect of a jump splitting his fleet up. Unknown to him, this was exactly what the CDs had hoped to accomplish creating one large blob allowing the rest of the pilots in their fleet to commence their bombing runs.
In engagements where both fleets have a CD as part of their composition it adds another layer of strategy to the combat. The first FC to jump their fleet into a position more advantageous to their setup than that of their opponent becomes the aggressor. This forces the enemy to either accept a fight from a weaker position or use their CD in a defensive manner to re-establish distance. Almost like a chess match the fight from this point develops a tempo of the aggressor having their CD ready to use again before their opponents and thus able to dictate the engagement.
In order not to always have to rely upon CDs for offensive and defensive positioning warp points on grid are even more important than ever. Either provided by small fast ships burning away from the main fleet, bookmarks being created, jet can jettisons or even wrecks from earlier engagements, the side with greater on-grid mobility is quickly able to overturn the tempo of the fight and go from the defensive to the offensive. Countering this depends upon having an FC who understands the wide spectrum of tactics CDs bring to the field, whether that means ordering dps to destroy wrecks to prevent easy warp-ins or noticing that the position of interdiction bubbles, jet cans or interceptors, while currently harmless to the fleet, can be quickly repositioned from a seemingly random arrangement to a deadly trap.
Similar mental adjustments need to be made in other areas of the game as well. In faction warfare space, when inside a gated plex a common tactic is to drag the fight away from the warp in point due to the fact reinforcements are forced to warp in at a fixed point. By employing a CD reinforcements have an opportunity to get into the fight by quickly being dragged from the warp in point towards the enemy. When creating bookmarks for perching on star gates to ensure safe passage I have always used 200km as my default distance probably because I like the roundness of the number. Whatever my underlying reasons this is no longer as safe a distance as it once was as a chained CD jump would place a fleet on top of my bookmark with relative ease. Less rounded bookmark numbers need to be created in the future to ensure I make it as hard as possible to be jumped on top of by gate camps using CDs to close down safe perches. Conversely a gate camp could now setup 100km from a gate allowing them to jump down with a CD if a favourable opponent landed or came through the gate, while setting up their own fleet in a position which is harder to engage unless the opposing fleet had a CD of their own.
In a more defensive role CDs provide a unique opportunity to drag entosis ships out of entosis range, thus nullifying their effort all within a time window of 9 seconds (plus however long it takes to close within 6km). While not a definitive counter, the use of CDs in this role effectively reduces the on grid combat grid for fighting an entosis ship to 150km, anything outside of this and the entosis pilot risks being jumped out of range of the node and their cycle having been wasted. As leaving entosis range does not automatically end the entosis link’s cycle, this forces the entosis ship to suffer the negative effects on their ship without making any progress upon the node. Deploying CDs in such a manner allows a potentially smaller force to harass a stronger opponent by forcing them to commit support reinforcements to multiple nodes simultaneously to combat one enemy ship.
Just in the month since release CDs have become invaluable as a first wave quick capital ship defence. They are unable to jump capital ships which makes them perfect for removing bubbles and interdictors from stricken capital ships. They also have the ability to jump heavy interdictors out of targeted point range. Being destroyer sized they have the ability to warp quickly, giving capital pilots who are unfortunate enough to be tackled by a roaming small gang a hope of rescue before a more organised assault can be mounted.
Finally I am slightly sad that they cannot be used in high sec as it would have added a nice mechanic to freighter / miner bumping but that once more might be influenced by my recent loss of a freighter in high sec!
In conclusion, I feel command destroyers are yet one more continued step along the path CCP is trying to guide EVE down. Having increased the scope of New Eden with the jump fatigue changes they have progressed to increasing the role of individual pilots and the impact individuals can have within the game. First they planned to tweak fleet warp mechanics, forcing individuals to make decisions and understand their environment rather than just blindly following squad commands. Now with command destroyers, once again greater individuality within the group is being pushed for. It is no longer as safe to anchor a group of players around one individual as this creates enticing blobs of ships just crying out for a command destroyer to come and toy with them.
With the introduction of this ship class combat in EVE is moving further away from ‘everyone in fleet A shoot at pilot X in fleet B’. Smaller individual combats develop within the larger battle with the role of negating specific ships within the enemy fleet being given to more pilots . While interdictors keep ships from getting away, capacitor warfare reduces enemy logi capability, fast tackle provides scouting and warp ins, command destroyers have the ability to impact on each of those subsets of ships; jumping any one of an enemy fleet’s component parts out of effective range could swing the tide of any battle. This might lead to some people feeling command destroyers are overpowered, that the inclusion of one ship class should not be able to change the dynamics of so many fleet compositions. In my opinion these ships are a welcome addition to any fleet, hopefully bringing both more people to fights and ensuring that the individual efforts of people in those fleets can have a more profound impact on the outcome.