On March 10th, 2009, CCP released wormholes and four Tech 3 (T3) Strategic Cruisers in the Apocrypha expansion, including one hull for each of the major Empire factions: Legion, Loki, Proteus, and Tengu. Ever since their introduction, Strategic Cruisers have been an indispensable, and often expensive, tool of exploration and destruction. A loss of one will cost you a hit to your accumulated skill points, typically resulting in a three day re-training to a subsystem skill back to level V, which adds a considerable additional cost to an already pricey hull.
Equally reviled and celebrated, little has changed with T3 cruisers mechanically, although their effect on the meta-game was and remains enormous. In the four years they have been around, these ships transitioned from tools of the powerful few to a mainline ship of W-space corporations. In recent years, the hulls and subsystems have proliferated to the point where null-sec alliances will field them en masse, despite the average cost of 600 million for a T2-fit hull for each T3 cruiser.
The resources needed to supply New Eden’s insatiable desire for these versatile and powerful ships provide W-space with an almost limitless income stream. This raw economic power provides many capsuleers with the ability to fit Faction and Deadspace modules to extend the already significant capabilities of their T3s. Perfect skills, particularly when coupled with high grade pirate implants, put T3s into a separate league: a ship with a cruiser-sized signature radius coupled with a hitpoint pool that outstrips battleships. It is not uncommon for a capsuleer to spend well in excess of one billion ISK on fitting a single T3.
Like all things New Eden, not all ships are used purely as intended, and T3 cruisers are no exception. Originally marketed and sold to the playerbase as a hull that would perform many roles off of one platform, these ships are most often utilized by their owners for a single purpose, much like any T1 or T2 hull. Modules and subsystems are fit after purchase, and that’s often the way it stays until it explodes or is sold. Moreover, the inability to switch subsystems in a POS or Ship Maintenance Arrays has ironically left T3 pilots in W-space altogether unable to utilize the modular nature of their ships. Even the new “Space Yurt” will not allow for subsystem refitting, further rubbing salt in the wound. Even for someone living outside of W-space, the price of rigs and the inability to reuse them still limits that inherent utility. Not all subsystems are created equal, either, and some rarely get used at all.
THE FUTURE OF STRATEGIC CRUISERS
The ship iteration team at CCP hasn’t been particularly vocal on just how, or if, any changes will be implemented to T3s. The mention of any change to these ships will often send ripples of fear, ennui, and anger through the forums. CCP Ytterbium rocked the boat last year when he addressed the matter with the now-infamous “rabid dog” post.
Though Ytterium made this statement a year ago, his comments are still relevant today. Here is the original statement, which was a response from a thread making predictions about Navy Battlecruisers:
“This come once in a while. As some people mentioned before:
- Tier 2 Battlecruisers already are extremely versatile and popular. Introducing yet improved hulls based on them without looking at tech1 battlecruisers first is in direct contradiction with the tiericide initiative.
- We already have troubles having diverse, interesting hulls roles on this particular level. HACs, tech3 cruisers, battlecruisers and command ships currently are very close of each other on that field. Introducing a Navy Battlecruiser would aggravate the issue even further.
- What needs to be done before having Navy Battlecruisers, in no particular order:
- Have a look at tech1 cruisers and bring tiericide to their sorry little sad faces.
- Fix tech1 battlecruisers as a whole. Most tier1 BCs are not good enough, some tier2 are just too good. You know we know you know which ones we are talking about
- Make sure Command Ships have a viable role next to Battlecruisers (Nighthawk versus drake for example). Look at gang links. Eos. Eos. Eoseoseoseoseos.
- HACs, they need love too.
- Tech3 ships need to be put down, like a rabid dog drooling everywhere in the house, they are out of line. It doesn’t necessarily means nerfing them to oblivion and beyond, but making sure that each subsystem configuration has a use and they don’t overlap on other ships by making them different in role and purpose.
When that’s done, and if the need for it is true, righteous in the divine gospel of the ship balancing light, then let’s have Navy Battlecruisers, maybe. Pirate and new tech2 battlecruisers though are less of a problem if the roles aren’t overlapping. Hmmmm spiky bikini Sansha battlecruiser with lazors pewpewnomnomnomnom. But errrr drifting out of topic here, we’d need to make sure current Sansha ships are tiericidead before that happens – we’ve heard horror stories about the Succubus and Phantasm being left to rot for all eternity in station hangars. That is not right.”
Of note is that Navy Battlecruisers are now in-game, and Command ships were addressed, and the changes were received more or less positively by capsuleers. Strikingly, though, T3s have not directly been touched significantly, with the exception of an indirect nerf to the Active repair 10MN Microwarp PvE Tengu, and 100MN Afterburner “Cheater” Tengu, via the Heavy Missile Launcher nerf, a move which was also designed to dethrone the Drake as the 0.0 Swiss Army Knife. With the announcement of the new Sisters Of Eve ships, it appears that CCP is steadily chipping away at roles that, up until this point, have remained exclusively under the purview of Tech 3 cruisers. Primarily the role of cloaked heavy tackle, as only Tech 3’s, Force Recons, and Covert Ops frigates are capable of warping while cloaked. I’m not really going to get into that argument, as complaints about cloaky T3’s are becoming less damning as CCP released details about the Astero and Stratios. Both Sisters of Eve ships are capable of warping while cloaked and with the 5/5/5 slot layout and theoretical 700 DPS of the Stratios, it will likely become the most economical option for cloaky ganking.
I strongly suspect that after Marauders are finished, CCP will be rebalancing Tech 3’s. I’ve taken quite a bit of time grubbing around on killboards, asking friends for advice, and used some of my own personal fittings, in an effort to demonstrate how much these ships can accomplish, and to explain their uses without the hyperbole and emotional ranting of forum warriors. Some T3s are more versatile than others, and some are restricted by the design predilections of their race. When compared next to the specialized Tech 2 cruiser hulls, typically find themselves relegated to the role of attack cruisers. They make lousy logistics ships, and the Legion, Loki, and Proteus are only useful in a support role when using their EWAR and Cap Warfare subsystems.
I’m sure I’ll receive criticism on how these are fit, but the goal of this article is not to be a fitting guide. EFT and Pyfa are not perfect, so actual numbers and mileage may vary in game…
The question is: are these ships really the “rabid dogs” Ytterbium claims them to be?
THE LEGION: WE ARE MANY
The Amarrian Legion is probably the most affordable, and versatile of the Tech 3 cruisers. Below is a standard AHAC fitting for the Legion. While the Zealot and Navy Omen fit much better into the AHAC role, and for significantly less ISK, a full set of high-grade Slave implants gives this Legion an impressive 200K EHP and small 147 meter signature radius. With the addition of some turret hardwiring implants, you can pull off some additional damage. Upgrading the fittings further with Deadspace modules further boosts both damage and tank. The dual prop enables kiting, although the Legion, as with all Amarr ships, suffer from cap stability issues, making the microwarpdrive somewhat impractical. This ship is best run with Guardians to provide additional cap and tank as needed.
Another popular AHAC variant of the Legion is the HAM or Heavy Assault Missile Legion. Bear in mind that Rage HAM damage application on cruiser-sized signatures is roughly half what is stated in EFT. Heavy assault missiles are typically only good at shooting at battleship-sized or larger targets. Javelin HAM’s do far better on damage projection for similar sized targets and in most instances Faction ammo is the better all-around choice for both damage application and range. Dropping the Afterburner, and tacking on an additional Tech 1 meta 4 1600mm plate you get another 87k worth of tank. To keep the price down, I only fit one CNBCS.
Another popular fit is the Neut Legion, which sees quite a bit of use in W-space, as it has better buffer tank than a Curse or a Pilgrim, while being markedly cheaper and lighter on mass than a Bhaalgorn. With the Afterburner turned off, it is cap stable at 40%. If one were to substitute a Medium Diminishing Power System Drain in a couple of the neut slots, cap stability increases. They are often used in groups to take down carriers and neut out hostile Guardian cap chains. The idea is to get a warp in on your intended target as close to zero as possible, “shock neut” the target, leave one neut on the first logi target, and then as a group shock neut out another target. Wash, rinse, and repeat until all hostile logistics are capped out and their cap transfer chain is broken.
Overall, the Legion is not particularly popular as it doesn’t really shine in any one area, but this very trait is what makes me think that is quite possibly the most “balanced” of the T3s. It is also the easiest of the T3 cruisers to fly, from an economic standpoint. However, when lined up next to its main competitors in the AHAC department—the Zealot, Navy Omen, Deimos, Vagabond, and Vigilant— the suboptimal performance of the Legion is easy to see, particularly when considering cost. The Legion can do lots of different jobs, but none of them better than the Tech 2 specialized cruisers. If versatility was CCP’s “intended” vision for T3s, the Legion is undoubtedly closest to their intentions.
Next, let’s explore the Minmatar’s Loki.
THE UTILITARIAN LOKI
In keeping with the theme of brawling AHACs commonly seen in W-space, I present the Autocannon Loki. With long-range webs, this hull is often used in conjunction with a Proteus, Arazu, or Lachesis to provide long-range points to lock down hostiles at a distance, with a Guardian “Triforce” logistics chain trailing. One of the more expensive fits I will showcase here, this one comes in at a little over one billion, not counting implants. Though cap stable at 71% and sporting decent armor resists, the 200k tank is actually middle of the road for Tech 3’s. The real selling point is the 35km webs. Heated and with links, theoretically those webs will reach out much farther.
Here is an artillery modification of the previous fit. It doesn’t sport the full tank of the autocannon version, and requires a EG-603 powergrid implant to fit, which replaces the Slave Omega implant. The higher alpha strike of the Artillery favors support by long-range scram or points. The idea with this Loki is to safely engage well beyond the average point range of 20 to 24 KM. Accompanied by logistics, the lighter 126K tank can still be repped, but the thermal and kinetic resistance holes are difficult to patch without losing the Trimark IIs and a significant amount of overall EHP. Logistics pilots will complain about your squishiness, but the idea is to stay at range and not need logistics in the first place.
No critical examination would be complete without a look at another common W-space fit, often used to run anomalies and assist with a PvP tactic known as “dread blapping”. Typically four of these are used in conjunction with a triage carrier, and two dreadnoughts in order to cause “triple escalations”, where C5 and C6 anomalies are “escalated” by using capitals to spawn in additional waves of stronger and more valuable Sleeper Battleships.
The dual 1600 plates provide 300K buffer, while the 75% resists across the board are mandatory to keep from being “alpha’d” off the field by the three waves of escalated Sleepers. Fitting an MWD will require a set of Genolutions, but isn’t necessary. With a 10MN Afterburner, the whole fit works without any fitting implants at all, and you should not really need to move much in the first place, as you can web the battleship spawns quite easily from range. The autocannons can be subbed for Nosferatu to provide additional cap stability under neut pressure. Although I prefer autocannons as they help clear the field of sleeper frigates and cruisers, which saves time for the dread pilots.
When run as a web ship for dread blapping, typically done with Moros’, Naglfars, and Revelations, the 300K tank is extremely difficult to break with support from triage carriers.
Like all Minmatar ships, the Loki offers flexibility and can be tanked with either armor or shields, a fact which explains, in part, to their popularity among capsuleers. This one is configured for a cloaked gatecamp. Cap stable at 39%, with the MWD running, this fit is more than capable of solo kiting with its top speed of 1976m/s. This will rise to 2350m/s with a set of high grade Snake implants. At less than 700 million ISK, this Loki is far lighter on the wallet than its armor-tanked brethren. With some modifications, you can even squeeze a 10MN Afterburner for a dual-prop fit.
The Loki’s greatest strength largely lies in it’s ability to project Stasis Webifiers while maintaining solid DPS or high alpha. The long range points and scrams available from the Proteus and Gallente Recons, along with solid logistics from Guardians and Oneiros, cements the Loki’s place in the point/web/rep holy trinity of small gang and small fleet action. A handful of these ships in capable hands will create a 30 to 40km sphere of death around a wormhole or gate.
Compared with other Assault and Combat cruisers, including the Cynabal, Vagabond, Scythe Fleet Issue, Stabber Fleet Issue, and even the T1 Stabber, the Loki has plenty of competitors in the realm of fast, projectile-based kiting setups. And, because of the high cost of the Loki, they’re really best run in gangs or fleets.
In terms of raw tank and gank, nothing truly comes close to the next T3, the Proteus.
PROTEUS: KING OF THE ARMOR BRAWL
In the realm of ship-to-ship knife fights, the Proteus is easily the best equipped of the T3s. With a full set of Slaves and a couple turret implants, the Proteus can manage 1K damage per second at extreme close range. With overheating, the guns can put out over 1100 DPS with nearly 3K alpha. At just under 300K EHP, and with solid 75% resists across the board, it’s a monster. The ISK price tag is commensurate with performance, but its strengths make the Proteus a W-space mainstay, and forms the base upon which W-space PvP fleets are built.
Its primary weaknesses are susceptibility to Sensor Dampeners, and a reliance on kinetic damage inherited from the hybrid weapons platform. It’s not fast enough to kite, either, so the Proteus is dependent upon webs or good warp-ins to ambush properly, or get within its tiny range of damage projection. Once there, however, this ship will absolutely wreck just about anything.
Keeping in mind the recent buff to medium railguns, I played around with the above fit, and created a variation with 250mm Railgun 2’s. With the extra long point and a turret fall-off that line up within a couple kilometers, the traditional need for a Proteus to carry a MWD in order to close range is obviated. Every gang that incorporates a Proteus should already be bringing a Loki, Rapier, or Huginn for long webs, so that these plasma spitting monstrosities can pop enemy ships at high speeds. The railguns simply capitalize on the already known strengths of the Proteus: massive armor tank and monstrous hybrid DPS.
The next one is something of an odd-ball: a Proteus that utilizes drones and active repper over a massive buffer tank. Clearly, the best use would be for PvE exploration and running sites. The fit manages 776 DPS with Garde IIs, or 810 DPS with Ogre IIs, and can run its medium repper for a full minute and fifteen seconds. With the rep off, it is cap stable at 66% perma-running the 100MN Afterburner. Which lead me to ask, what if it was buffer fit?
Buffer fitting a Drone Proteus holds some potential as an alternative to the “Baltec” Megathron fit. With the smaller mass this could start seeing use in W-Space as a “Mini-Me” version of the Baltec Megathron. The Buffer Drone Proteus has 4 Garde 2’s, 145K tank, slightly better damage, 75% resists across the board, and much smaller sig. With the Ogre 2’s DPS edges just above 800. Oh, and it’s cheaper than a Baltec Megathron by about 50 million. The downside is a decrease in EHP and weapons range, and the fit suffers from tracking issues. But with four sentries, the DPS hardly about the railguns, anyway.
The Proteus does its traditional blaster-based job so well, I feel that in the minds of capsuleers that the hull gets pigeonholed into the role of close-ranged brawling. Its cumbersome armor tank doesn’t lend well to kiting. With a little time spent on EFT I was able to come up with both an active and buffer fit drone boat using the Proteus hull that delivers acceptable DPS and Tank for both PvP and PvE. Although, capsuleer perceptions being what they are, it’ll probably remain a niche fit relegated to site and mission running.
The Proteus is not exactly the pinnacle of versatility, but when this ship can manage these damage numbers on top of a beefy EHP and resist sandwich – one is not inclined to complain about the lack of viable shield load-outs.
And now for the antithesis to the Proteus… and possibly one of the most controversial Tech 3’s.
THE ALMIGHTY TENGU
The Tengu is so popular that the hull is nearly synonymous with the entire strategic cruiser class. Incredibly popular among mission runners and PvP pilots alike, the Tengu’s appeal is undoubtedly massive. Since the nerf to heavy missile launchers, the hull is not as monstrous as it once was, but the Tengu remains highly potent. The kiting 100MN “Cheater” Tengu is useful in both PvE and PvP, as, despite low DPS, it boasts excellent damage projection at range. In PvE, the point can be dropped in favor of additional hardeners, or a target painter. This version is cap stable at 62% with the AB running. But I highly recommend to anyone piloting this ship to not perma-run the AB, but to “pulse” it instead and kite via manual piloting.
With no implants fitted at all, this probably the most cost-efficient and versatile T3. This ship only gets better with hardwirings and additional faction fittings, like the Caldari Navy BCS. A set of Halo implants will reduce the sig radius to a tiny 153, while a set of Snakes will push the top speed to 2457m/s.
For those looking for a Tengu with more EHP and DPS, the logical choice is a HAMgu. Unlike the HAM Legion, the HAMgu is best strictly using Scourge missiles, due to a bonus to kinetic damage. Again this hull is very economical, and has a healthy shield buffer tank that works well when supported by Scimitars or Basilisk Tri-force logi chains. Like any ship that uses HAMs, they suffer from the ability to apply damage to similar sized targets, and are best shooting at bigger targets with Rage HAMs. Missile hardwirings will help DPS and damage application, but aren’t necessary.
The following is the only Rail Tengu fit that I have seen used as a 0.0 fleet doctrine. The “Railgu” has been used only recently in major fleet battles. Since the changes to medium railguns, actually fitting the Magnetic Infusion Basin is no longer laughable, or at least not as much as before. This ship is meant to be flown en masse in a fleet. It completely lacks point or webs, and must have tackle support in the form of interdictors or other T3s with webs and points. When coupled with fast moving Scimitars, Sabres, and Rapiers for bubbles and web, the only thing holding back the Railgu is tracking speed.
The Tengu is primarily shield-tanked, though an armor-tanked option exists, typically in the form of an ECMgu. While not as good at jamming as a Falcon, Rook, or even a Scorpion, it can be a useful addition to an armor gang. It’s very light on DPS, and the tank is thin– it barely breaks 100K EHP. The EG-603 is there to fit the light missle launchers, which are primarily used to clear drones or harass tackling frigates while the main payload of ECM jammers disrupts hostile logistics chains. Its usefulness as an ECM support ship has often been mocked and ridiculed as there are “obvious” better options available; however, Falcons and Rooks cannot field anywhere near 100k+ EHP. Even if it is far more brittle than the other heavily armor tanked T3s, the ECMgu fills a unique role.
The Tengu is not only popular, but versatile, and, despite the Caldari predilection to shield tanking, even offers a viable armor tanking option for PvP through the ECM subsystem. Granted, it’s not as powerful as a Falcon or Scorpion battleship. In W-space, it’s valuable because the hull can bring ECM in a low-mass package that can be brought along with armor gangs and not explode on contact when jumping into hostiles.
THE FUTURE OF MODULAR WARSHIPS
What CCP has in store for strategic cruisers is anyone’s guess. They are still entirely untouched and, by the scuttlebutt heard on the Eve-O forums, any drastic changes to these ships will make W-space denizens weep tears of blood. Looking at the capabilities of these ships, one can easily to see why.
I am willing to bet that the Tech 3 ships will be reined in, their massive buffer tanks weakened and the hulls pushed towards active tanking. Recent changes to other hulls seem to imply this direction, and I feel confident that CCP Fozzie and Ytterbium will do a “good job” at ironing things out.
By now you may have noticed that I left out cloaky, interdiction-nullified Tech 3s. These ships serve one purpose and one purpose only: stealthy ganking. They typically have much shallower DPS and EHP pools, and I did not feel that they would be a good example to showcase raw numbers. At the moment, the only other classes of ships that can warp cloaked are Covert Ops frigates and force recons; soon they’ll be joined by the Sisters of EVE ships in Rubicon. Currently, cloaky T3’s make the best heavy tackle for stealthy low-sec, 0.0, and W-space ganking. They won’t survive long under any kind of sustained fire, but they don’t have the paper thin tank of a Covops frigate or bomber. The previews of the new Sisters of Eve ships will put that kind of power in just about everyone’s hands without lengthy train times, expensive hull costs, and the risk of skillpoint loss. The arguments about cloaked Tech 3’s are typically a salty mixture of sour-grapes and forum whining.
What will truly require greater scrutiny is the possible impact any changes to T3s will have on the greater W-space community and economy. Completely rebalancing them to be substandard, modular versions of Tech 2 cruisers would destroy the usefulness of them utterly, and would likely have sweeping and largely negative effects on the W-space community.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written by Incindir Mauser, and originally appeared on TheMittani.com under his byline.)