When fitting a ship, one of the most common questions is a variation on “How am I going to keep this ship alive?” Any activity that requires you to undock will eventually result in your ship getting shot at by something. The ability of a ship to resist and repair damage is commonly referred to as tanking. For this issue of The Drafting Table, we are going to take an overview of how hitpoints work in EVE, different types of tanking along with their benefits and drawbacks, and well as some example fittings.
THE THREE HITPOINT POOLS, RESISTANCES, EFFECTIVE HITPOINTS, AND NEGATED DPS
Ships in EVE have their hitpoints divided up into three distinct pools: Shields, Armor, and Hull. These represent different aspects of a given ship’s defensive systems and structure. The first layer damaged is shields, followed by armor, and lastly hull. When the hull hitpoints are reduced to zero, the ship is destroyed. Each ship will have different base values. Outside of a specific type of shield tanking, the base values don’t have a great impact on what types of tanks are viable on a given hull. The base values are improved by modules that add a fixed value to the hitpoint pool of a given type. There are also modules that improve the base values by a given percentage, but they are not common, as they ether provide fewer hitpoints than the flat value modules or the slot would improve the tank more effectively by increasing resists. The most common exception is rigs.
The second major component of hit points is resists. Resists nullify a portion of incoming damage based on the type of damage, be it Electromagnetic, Explosive, Kinetic or Thermal. Resists are expressed as a percentage representative of the amount they reduce incoming damage of that type by. If you know what sort of damage your target will be doing, you can push the resists of that damage type incredibly high. For some high-level PvE content, it is not abnormal to see resists of over 90% in the primary damage type of the site. Both shield and armor have innate resistance holes, Electromagnetic and Explosive respectively, where they have low or no default resists on tech 1 hulls. Resists are improved by using hardeners that can increase one or all of the resists. The Damage Control mod is unique in that the resists bonus it provides covers shield, armor, and hull. Due to this, Damage Controls should not be omitted without good reason.
Effective Hitpoints (EHP) relates the raw hit points to the resistance to a given type or types of damage. By dividing the raw hitpoint pool by the difference between one and the percent expressed as a decimal of a given resist or combination of resists, you can determine how much damage of a given type or types is going to be necessary to remove the raw hitpoints. This gives a good point of comparison between various ships as to which will be harder to remove from the field given a fixed amount of damage. EHP is commonly calculated with a omni incoming damage profile. This assumes that all damage will be equal amounts of the four types. Any common fitting program can adjust this profile, but unless the exact incoming profile is known, such as for high-end PvE content, it is of limited use.
The last aspect of defenses is the negated DPS value. This represents the amount of damage per second that the ship is capable of repairing without losing additional hit points. If a hostile ship cannot deal enough damage to overcome this value, the ship being attacked will be able to survive as long as it can keep the negated DPS value up. This value is composed from up to four different values, one for Armor and Hull and two for Shield. Each type of hitpoints has a value restored by active modules such as armor repairers. Shields also have a small innate negated DPS value regardless of the ship.
ACTIVE VS BUFFER TANKS
Most tanks in EVE can be categorized into two types: Active and Buffer. Shield tanks have a unique variant of Buffer tank called Passive. Which type of tank is best depends on the intended use of the ship, likely opponents, and pilot skill. All types of tanking do best in a PvP setting with a balanced resist profile granted by general and type-specific hardeners against incoming damage. Tanks for PvE ships can be tailored to the damage type of the rats they are fighting.
Active tanks use modules that restore a given amount of hitpoints at the cost of capacitor. Active tanks are rated by the amount of DPS they can negate without losing hitpoints from the pool. These modules differ slightly between Shield and Armor/Hull. Shield hitpoints are applied at the beginning of a cycle while Armor and Hull hitpoints are applied at the end. It is common for active tanks have a low EHP, so given a significantly large initial strike they can be destroyed before their reps have a chance to take effect. Because of this, active tanks are most commonly found on ships meant to operate solo or in a small gang where logistics ships are not present. Active tanks require some practice to become comfortable with their function, but in experienced hands are quite powerful.
Buffer tanks use modules that add to the raw HP of the ship to increase the minimum amount of damage necessary to destroy the ship. Buffer tanks are rated by their EHP. Unlike active tanks, there is no module to restore lost hitpoints throughout the engagement. The module for buffer tanking come with a drawback that differs between shield, armor, and hull. Shield modules increase the signature radius of your ship, making it easier to scan down and hit. Armor modules add mass, which makes your ship slower and less agile. Hull modules reduce cargo capacity, so your ship can carry less ammunition and other charges. Buffer tanks are used in solo and small gang work because they are typically less mechanically intensive to operate compared to active tanks. This gives the pilot more ability to focus on other aspects of combat. Buffer tanks are also the de-facto tank for fleet work of all sizes due to synergy with dedicated logistics ships. When you have logistics ships along, you want your fleet to have as much EHP as possible so Logi has ample time to land repairs on the ship being shot by a hostile fleet.
Shields are also capable of a unique form of tanking known as Passive. Shields have a natural regeneration rate to their hitpoints, so given enough time, the shields will return from no hitpoints to full hitpoints. The rate at which this happens peaks at around 40% of the shield’s max capacity. It is possible to set up a ship to maximize its shield regen rate so that in the peak values it is capable of holding off a large amount of incoming DPS without losing any additional hitpoints. This has benefits and drawbacks common to both buffer and active tanks. Like active tanks, passive tanks restore hitpoints so you do not need to seek out repairs between fights. They also do not have large amounts of EHP, so are susceptible to being alphaed out of peak regen range. Like buffer tanks, passive tanks are quite simple to manage as they do not require active hitpoint restoration mods. Passive tanks also have increased sig radius that make them much easier to hit.
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR TANK TYPE
Typically, the races have a preference to using armor or shield tanks. Amarr and Gallente ships tend to armor, while Caldari tends to shield. Minmatar ships are generally flexible, but tend shield on ships with tanking bonuses. Gallente ships can also hull tank well. A greater influence is slot layout. It is really hard to shield tank ships with few mid slots and difficult to armor tank ships with few lows. It’s not impossible to do so, but if you are limited on the type of tank you can use best to either Shield or Armor, you might want to check and see if a different ship with a slot layout that is better for that sort of tank will work for your purpose.
The second consideration is bonuses. Some ships such as the Claymore or Hyperion have bonuses to active tanking modules, granting them the ability to restore large amounts of hitpoints quickly. Likewise, ships can also come with a bonus to resists, the Rokh and Maller are two examples. Ships with resist bonuses can have huge amounts of EHP, buying their pilots plenty of time to remove hostiles from the grid. Hull bonuses can be quite powerful, but are not strictly necessary to have a powerful tank.
Last is the likely damage output of your opponent. Considering the type of damage your opponent will do in comparison to the natural resists hole and peak of your tank type can help make the tank stronger overall. For example, shield tanked ships are going to be at an inherent disadvantage fighting ships that deal primarily Electromagnetic damage. If you know your opponent is using an Electromagnetic system like energy weapons, the natural resists of an armor based tank are going to help you more than those of a shield tank. For PvE purposes this can allow for very high resists against incoming rat damage that makes the tank super effective. For PvP, it allows for more negated DPS and buffer.
The defensive systems of ships in EVE are a complex animal, and can be very confusing for new players. It is an aspect of the game filled with a fantastic amount of variation and room to explore. What works for one person may not always work best for another, so I encourage you to get out and explore what different ships can do to resist incoming damage. On the next page, you will find a list of the different types of tanking along with commonly used mods and an example fit. Have any feedback for future theory issues? Let me know in the comments.
A note for experienced players: I have intentionally omitted speed and signature tanking from this explanation. This is due to the additional complexity behind the operation of such tanks from a pilot skill perspective. Also, they are not present in the game UI in such a way to tie them to tanking for a newer player. Both speed and signature tanking are commonly used as augments for active or buffer tanks to make them last longer by reducing incoming damage. Rather than talk about them here, I feel they are better discussed in regards to combat maneuvering.
Here I have listed the various types of tanking along with useful mods and an example fit. The example fits have not been tested and are provided for illustrating how a given tank looks. Click the pictures for links to the EFT Block
ACTIVE SHIELD TANKS
Active Shield tanks use Shield Boosters to restore large amounts of shield hitpoints. They are commonly bonused on Minmatar hulls. This is a common type of tank in PvE ships as it does not sacrifice damage mods in low slots. An example of a good active shield ship is the Malestrom.
Useful Mods: Shield Boosters, Shield Boost Amplifiers, Active Shield Hardeners. Core Defence Field Operational Solidifiers, Core Defence Field Capacitor Safeguards.
ACTIVE ARMOR TANKS
Active Armor tanks use Armor Repairers to restore large amounts of armor hitpoints. They are most commonly bonused on Gallente hulls. This is a common PvP tank as you are not sacrificing mid slots for tackle and application mods. An example of a good active armor ship is the Deimos.
Useful Mods: Armor Repairers, Energized Adaptive Nano Membranes, Active Armor Hardeners, Reactive Armor Hardener, Auxiliary Nano Pumps, Nanobot Accelerators.
ACTIVE HULL TANKS
More of a gimmick tank then a practical one. This is not a common form of tanking and is not for inexperienced pilots. An active hull Hecate is shown below.
PASSIVE SHIELD TANKS
Passive Shield Tanks focus on maximizing the regen rate of the shield to restore hitpoints at a fast rate. This is a common PvE fitting for Caldari ships and other ships with high native resists against the rat damage type. A good example of a Passive tanked ship is the Drake.
Useful Mods: Shield Extenders, Adaptive Invulnerability Fields, Shield Resistance Amplifiers, Shield Power Relays, Damage Control, Core Defence Field Purgers
BUFFER SHIELD TANKS
Buffer Shield Tanks focus on getting as much EPH out of the shields as possible. This is common to Caldari hulls and large fleet ships based on Shields. Buffer fits can also function as limited passive tanks due to the regen rate of the shield being affected by its total hitpoints. The drawback to this tank type is a large signature radius, making the ship easier to hit. A Caldari Navy Hookbill is provided as an example.
Useful Mods: Shield Extenders, Active Shield Hardeners, Damage Control, Core Defence Field Extenders, Anti-[Damage Type] Screen Reinforcers.
BUFFER ARMOR TANKS
Buffer Armor Tanks focus on getting as much EHP out of the armor as possible. This is most common to Amarr hulls, but many Gallente and Minmatar ships can be tanked this way. This is one of the most common types of tank for fleets to be built around. The drawback to this type of tanking is a large increase in mass and inertia, which affects ship’s agility and top speed. An example Apocalypse fit is below.
Useful Mods: Armor Plates, Active Armor Hardeners, Energized Adaptive Nano Membranes, Damage Control, Trimark Armor Pumps, Anti-[Damage Type] Pumps.
BUFFER HULL TANKS
Buffer Hull Tanks focus on getting as much EHP out of the hull as possible. This form of tank is mainly used for two purposes. First is making Freighters or Jump Freighters harder to kill, meaning a ganker needs to commit more resources to destroy the target. Second is as a baiting measure. By having the majority of your tank be in hull, it will take a hostile force more time to kill you after blowing away your shields and armor, so they might overcommit because they believe you are going down very fast. This allows time for your friends to trap the hostiles and kill them. Gallente ships typically have a large base hull, and are common platforms for this. The downside is a decrease in cargo capacity. A ship that commonly fits this sort of tank is a Brutix Navy Issue.
Useful Mods: Damage Control, Reinforced Bulkheads, Transverse Bulkheads