Welcome to the fifth issue of The Drafting Table. This time we are going to look at one of my favorite ships to fly during the middle of the war, a solo hunting Astero.
The inspiration for this fit come from Jester’s Trek, a blog formerly published by Ripard Teg. In one post, he talked about an Astero fit he used for solo hunting PvE ships. I was getting a little bit of cabin fever cooped up in the Saranen 5-9 station and the fit looked like a good starting point to get out and do more active stuff rather than spinning ships. I had taken out and lost a Stratios prior to this and the Astero presented a more economical option. Seeing as the original intent of the fit was to kill ratters, it would fit in well with the effort we were being directed towards at the time; making Pandemic Horde’s life a living hell. I geared up to hunt the easiest and most abundant prey, the ratting Catalyst and the Venture.
The Astero is a Sisters of EVE frigate with a bundle of very interesting bonuses. Because the Astero is classed as a pirate frigate, it draws bonuses from two frigate skills. From Amarr Frigates, it gets a bonus of 4% to all Armor resists per level. From Gallente Frigates, it gets a bonus of 10% to drone hitpoints. The innate hull bonuses also add significant value. The Astero can fit a Covert Ops cloaking device, meaning it can warp around cloaked. Additionally, it has a 100% reduction in the CPU required for cloaking devices and the reactivation delay is reduced to 15 seconds. The Astero also get bonuses to exploration-focused activities and modules, but those are not applicable here.
High Slots (2, Two Turret Hardpoints): The two high slots make for very limited choices. One is taken up by a Covert Ops Cloaking Device. This allows the ship to warp around cloaked, a major boost to its hunting capabilities. The second slot is taken up by a Dual Light Pulse Laser II. I wanted to focus on cranking out as much Electromagnetic DPS as possible, and this offered the best combination of application and range flexibility.
Mid Slots (4) : Here I focused on controlling range, keeping tackle, and managing my capacitor. The first slot is taken up by a 5MN TY-8 Compact Microwarp Drive. The ships I was hunting were all Afterburner fit in the standard mass produced variants, so the MWD alone would be enough to control range. Next, I included both a Warp Scrambler II and an Initiated Compact Warp Disruptor. I included both due to the innate bonus of +2 Warp Core Stability on the Venture. This means you need at least three points of Warp Disruption to tackle a Venture. Scams provide 2 points, and a Disruptor provides 1, giving the ship enough to keep a Venture pinned. Against Catalysts, the Disruptor would be good enough. Last is a Small Capacitor Booster II. Because of the hungry nature of an MWD and long point running at the same time, I wanted to ensure that I could quickly revitalize my capacitor if the need arose.
Low Slots (4): The low slots are very bread and butter. First is a Damage Control to help boost the overall resist profile. Next is an Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane to further enhance the armor resists. The third slot is taken up by a Coreli A-Type Small Armor Repairer. This is to give the ship a limited ability to engage in prolonged combat with something that engages it. Last is a Drone Damage Amplifier to increase the amount of damage done by the drones.
Rigs (3): Two of the rig slots are quite standard, while the third is quite interesting. First we have a Small Anti-Explosive Pump I to bring the explosive resist in line with the rest of the profile. Second is an Auxiliary Nano Pump II to increase the amount of armor repaired. Last, we have a Targeting Systems Stabilizer II. This reduces the delay in targeting after decloaking to just over five seconds, which narrows the window that the target has to react before getting pointed.
Drones (75m3, 25Mbit Bandwidth): The drone loadout is very straight forward. Due to the innate Electromagnetic hole, Acolyte IIs are the preferred choice for dealing with the smaller shield tanked rating ships. Check this against likely fits. I carried two flights of Acolytes and a single flight of ECM-300s. If you plan on staying out in space for a long period of time, carry spare drones in your cargo hold along with a Depot to replenish.
Bling: Beyond the listed deadspace module, there are two places I would focus on adding faction/deadspace mods to improve the performance of the fit. First is the MWD, as the reduced cap usage and additional speed are quite useful in keeping the ship alive. Second is the Warp Disruptor. Against non-Venture targets, you only need one point of warp disruption to keep them pinned to the field unless they have a Warp Core Stabilizer fit. It’s not common to run into ratting ships with a WCS, so planning to use only a single Warp Disruptor is ok. I would recommend the options with lower CPU requirements than the Compact, but the very long range models will work with a CPU implant.
Implants: The implants that will help this fit work best all have to do with increasing the on-grid speed, as being able to rapidly disengage is tantamount to surviving if you bite off more than you can chew. First on the block is the ubiquitous friend of kiting fits everywhere, the Snake set. To take full advantage of Snakes, you need both Cybernetics V and quite a large amount of ISK relative to the ship. If you can afford to do so, it’s a worthwhile upgrade. The AC-60X, which provide an increase in the velocity bonus from your MWD is a great choice as it will help you go faster. The EM-70X line helps improve the agility of the ship, which is helpful in maneuvering in a crowded environment like a belt. To improve the capacitor use of your MWD, the HS-90X line is a good choice. Lastly, Zor’s Custom Navigation Hyper-Link will provide a large boost to speed.
As mentioned above, I tailored this fit to hunting the standard Pandemic Horde ratting Catalyst. That fit is geared to get close to NPC ships and hammer them with blasters. The fit is equipped with an afterburner to mitigate incoming damage and resistance mods against the rat damage types. The local Serpentis rats deal a combination of Kinetic and Thermal damage so attacking those two types would be poor. The Catalysts used here are shield tanked, so have a large Electromagnetic hole in the resist profile. Knowing such ahead of time, I chose to use Acolytes. You should select the drone that deals the damage type of the lowest native resist of the tank being used. Make note of what damage the rats are doing so you do not shoot into something the ratting ships are tanking against.
Once in hostile space, you should be looking for targets. This can be done either through blitzing systems or hanging out long enough to allow the locals to get use to your presence. Ships without big tanks like destroyers or industrials should be your primary targets. Common T1 ratting cruisers can also be considered, but require more caution. Anything larger than a Battlecruiser or a T2 ratting ship like an Ishtar should be avoided unless working with friends. Take the opportunity to make a few safe spots before engaging.
Engaging a target is mechanically simple. Approach the target cloaked or position yourself where there path will cross yours. Once the target ship is inside your warp disruption envelope, decloak and begin orbiting at the default distance immediately less than your range with MWD on and launch your drones. Attempt to lock the target repeatedly so the process begins as soon as the decloak delay passed. Once locked, activate warp disruptor, gun, and ensure your drones engage. Continue until the target dies or help arrives. At this point, aline out with your MWD on to pull range while recalling your drones. By the time your drones return, you should be able to enter warp instantly and cloak up. If you are in danger of getting tackled, just warp off and leave your drones. If this causes you to run out of drones, reload in your safe via a depo.
I successfully managed to kill quite a few Catalysts and a couple of Ventures with this fit. However, all but one of the Ventures lead to the ship dying as I did not have the flexibility of disengaging from range. Overall it proved to be a very fun ship to fly and helped teach me a lot about flying faster ships in EVE.
Changes after testing
Given that this fit had greater success as a kitting ship rather than a Venture-killing brawler, I’ve modified the fit to focus more on that. Because it is no longer needed if Ventures are off the target list, the scram can be dropped. In its place, I would put a Drone Navigation Computer. This will decrease the time on grid where your drones are not dealing any damage. Additionally, I moved to decrease the cost and fitting overhead of the tank, as it was not effective when fighting outnumbered. This resulted in the Armor Repairer becoming a standard T2, and the EANM becoming a faction Adaptive Nano Plating. I also downgraded the Auxiliary Nano Pump to T1, as the additional cost of the T2 is hard to justify. This combination of changes also frees up enough CPU to upgrade the warp disruptor to the T2 variant for an additional 4km range. Lastly, due to the increase in range, the Dual Light Pulse Laser would no longer be sufficient, so I would substitute a Dual Light Beam Laser in its place. All of these changes should keep the lethality high against light PvE ships while increasing survivability via improved disengagement possibilities.
I hope this inspires some of you to get out and provide unexpected content to your local PvE pilots. Feel free to shoot me a comment here or in-game if you do something really cool with this fit or have a modification you want to share.