EVE Evolved: Fitting a brawler frigate for PvP

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EVE Online's PvP usually has more in common with a game of chess than a dogfight; it helps to have more pieces on the board than the other guys, and tactics usually play a more important role than the size or cost of your ship. You can't automatically win by bringing a gun to a knife fight in EVE, but you can win by being better with a knife than the other guy or by bringing a dozen knives and just flinging them all over the place. The lowly tech 1 frigate may not seem so ferocious on its own, but a hundred frigates can smash even capital ships to bits.

Despite the advantage of bringing more pilots to a fight, the frigate is also one of the best ships for soliciting solo PvP. Its superior speed and maneuverability will help you avoid groups of enemy ships and pursue individual targets. It's most common to find lone players in faction warfare areas and the borders of nullsec, and there are even dedicated wardec corps that will let you find solo PvP in highsec. Frigate duels can provide a fun and much more twitch-based style of combat than you'll find elsewhere in EVE, and a well-designed frigate can punch far above its own weight. The Rifter has always been the ship of choice for close-range frigate PvP, but Inferno 1.1 gave all four races an equivalent option.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I give close-range PvP setups for the Minmatar Rifter, Amarr Punisher, Gallente Incursus and Caldari Merlin that make full use of the Inferno 1.1 overhaul.

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The Merlin was originally intended to be a long-range railgun platform, but Inferno 1.1 repurposed the ship into a new role as a close-range brawler, giving it a 5% bonus to shield resistances and small hybrid turret damage per level of Caldari Frigate. The new Merlin has been buffed up to the same level as the Rifter as part of CCP's plan to replace tech 1 ship tiers with specialised role-based ship lines. The setup above deals extreme damage for a tech 1 frigate and has an insane but short-lived tank.

The Medium Ancillary Shield Booster can repair almost 25% of your shield every 3 seconds but has equally huge capacitor requirements. If it's loaded with cap booster charges, the module will consume a charge every time it's activated instead of draining your capacitor. The charge size doesn't matter as long as it's larger than the minimum size the module requires, so be sure to use the smallest size of charge that will work. In this case, load your booster up with Cap Booster 50s and you'll get 10 boosts out of it before you need to reload.

Use the microwarpdrive to close the gap between you and your target, and then switch it off while you orbit at point blank range. Keep the warp scrambler and stasis web on your target at all times, and manually pulse the shield booster to conserve its charges. Shield boosters take effect instantly when the button is pressed, so you can safely let your shields get below 75% before hitting the button to ensure none of the shield is wasted. Reloading the booster takes 60 seconds, so your target had better be dead by the time you run out of charges.

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I was initially wary of this setup because it uses both active and buffer tanking, but in practice it works out very well. You can get about another 1,400 effective hitpoints by trading the repairer for a Resistance Plating II but the repairer will outperform this in any fights lasting more than 34 seconds. For the fight to end sooner than this, you'd need to be taking 236 damage per second, so the repairer works out better in one-on-one situations or when tackling large prey that can only realistically damage you with drones.

This setup doesn't have the burst tank or damage output of the Merlin, but it has enough effective hitpoints to make the fight last. Get as close as you can to the target and maintain high transverse velocity to reduce incoming damage by making your ship difficult for the enemy's weapons to track. Your own weapons won't suffer as badly from this problem against high-speed opponents because Gatling Pulse Laser IIs have extremely high tracking speeds. The small nosferatu keeps the armour repairer fed with capacitor and provides enough energy to power the guns and warp scrambler if you're being energy neutralised.

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The humble Rifter was used as the template for the buffs delivered to the Merlin, Punisher and Incursus. The Rifter itself received only minor tweaks to its stats and fittings, so many of the old setups still work. The setup above is a shield buffer tanked speed demon designed to evade enemy fire by orbiting in close at 1.3km/second. It has fewer effective hitpoints than the Punisher setup above but should be taking less damage due to its much higher speed.

Overheating the afterburner when approaching a target will boost your speed up to 1.7km/second for the initial tackle, which is fast enough to catch up to destroyers and cruisers with microwarpdrives. This setup's natural shield regeneration peaks at 23 effective hitpoints per second, which isn't much but could make all the difference in a frigate duel or when you're being hounded by a pack of Warrior IIs. Swapping one of the Small Core Defense Field Extender I rigs for a Small Projectile Burst Aerator I will cut 569 effective hitpoints but adds another 12 DPS. Alternatively, you could add a rocket launcher to the empty high slot if you have a 2% CPU implant or greater.

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The Gallente Incursus has always been a popular little PvP frigate, but Inferno has turned it into an absolutely unrepentant PvP monster by adding a 10% armour repair bonus per level of the Gallente Frigate skill. The dual repairer setup above can run continuously until the ship's supply of Navy Cap Booster 200s runs dry, which would only happen after about seven minutes of combat if the ship isn't being neutralised. During that time, the ship can tank a whopping 165 damage per second, more than most frigates can deal.

The trick to this longevity is in the Navy Cap Booster 200s, which are small enough that you can fit two into a Small Capacitor Booster II, thus saving on reload time. While this setup doesn't have much of a buffer and could be taken out by a few lucky volleys from a destroyer, it can tank two full packs of Warrior IIs without breaking a sweat and deals enough damage to cut through a tanked tech 1 cruiser. As an added bonus, with max skills the setup above has exactly 1337 effective armour hitpoints. If that's not secret code for "most awesome ship in the game," I don't know what is.

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The setups above are intended for pilots at least six months old with level 5 fitting skills and access to tech 2 weapons. Some of the setups require a cheap 1% or 3% powergrid implant to fit, and all damage was calculated with navy issue ammo. If you don't quite have the skills trained to fly these beasts or you're just looking for a cheaper option, all of these setups can be adapted to use tech 1 fittings. They won't be as effective as the setups listed above but will be inexpensive tools for practicing frigate combat strategies.

Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to brendan@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.