EVE Evolved: New Ancillary Armor Repairers aren't up to the task

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EVE Online's Retribution 1.1 patch went live this week, overhauling armour tanking and rebalancing some ships that traditionally fit armour tanks. Last week I looked at why people usually choose passive buffer tanks for PvP over active tanks and how the Ancillary Shield Boosters changed all that by giving shield users a huge free burst tank that can often outperform a front-loaded buffer tank. The new Ancillary Armor Repairers look similarly amazing on paper with their ability to consume nanite repair paste to triple repair output, but how do they stack up against their shield-based counterparts?

Now that the patch is out and I've finally got my hands on the Ancillary Armor Repairers, I'm not sure they're any good. They're limited to one per ship even though most active armour tanking ships use dual or triple repairer setups, and they can run for only eight repair cycles before running out of paste. They're also only 68.75% more effective than tech 2 repairers and still require the same amount of capacitor. Ancillary Shield Boosters may provide a slightly smaller 63.33% repair boost over tech 2 boosters, but they can cycle at double the rate of Ancillary Armor Repairers and don't require any capacitor.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at what makes Ancillary Shield Boosters a strong contender in PvP and show that the new Ancillary Armor Repairers just aren't up to the task.

EVE Evolved side imageShield vs Armour:

Caldari and Minmatar ships are largely designed with shield tanking in mind, while Gallente and Amarr ships tend to focus on armour. While it's not necessary that both types of tanking be exactly equivalent, they do need to be balanced to avoid the risk of players being underpowered simply because they picked the "wrong" race of ships to train for. Passive shield tanked ships will typically have fewer effective hitpoints than an equivalent buffer-tanked armour ship, but shield tanks slowly recharge during a fight.

If you add the regenerated hitpoints to the ship's starting hitpoints, the total can potentially surpass the armour setup in a long fight. They're both different but balanced. The same disparity has similarly always existed between active shield and armour tanking, with shield tanks repairing damage much more quickly than armour setups at the cost of lower capacitor efficiency.

Armour repairers are typically run continuously for a slow but sustainable tank, and oversized shield boosters are activated manually to repair damage as required. The core design philosophy here is that shield boosters are limited more by available capacitor resources and armour repairers are limited more by their slow cycle times. Though they're both different in gameplay style, standard shield and armour tanking are arguably balanced and fulfill the same role. But can the same be said of the Ancillary Shield Boosters and Ancillary Armor Repairers? The setups below are very different to each other and aren't intended for direct comparison, but they do shed some light on that question.

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The Ancillary Shield Boosters took the shield design philosophy one step further by letting players temporarily suppress the shield booster's huge capacitor limitation. PvP shield tankers can now repair a huge amount of damage as it comes in for free, but only for seven to nine cycles until the cap booster charges run out. This is almost equivalent to starting the fight with extra hitpoints equal to nine cycles of your shield booster; you can rapidly replace a total of nine cycles worth of hitpoints at any time for free. Because it acts as a limited hitpoint pool that you can dip into for free as required, the ASB helps to fix the disparity between active tanking and front-loaded buffer tank setups.

Each overloaded ASB on the Dominix setup above will repair 9702 raw hitpoints before running out of charges, so the setup can rapidly repair its first 19404 shield damage during a fight for free. With resistances, this is an additional 51,537 free effective hitpoints, which we can add to the ship's base 51,299 for a total of 102,836 effective hitpoints. Assuming that you aren't killed before getting all nine ASB cycles out, this is essentially equivalent to a passive shield tank that starts with 102,836 EHP front-loaded at the start of the fight.

The ASB outperforms a comparative passive tank, which in this instance can only reach about 85,000 EHP without sacrificing damage or the utility of the warp disruptor. The ASB setup also has the bonus option of adding more hitpoints on top once the charges run out if you have capacitor to spare, and clever timing strategies like using one ASB flat-out while the other reloads can add extra charges and so extra effective hitpoints.

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The new Ancillary Armor Repairers were supposed to take that same design philosophy over to the world of armour tanking, but they clearly don't fulfill the same role of fixing the disparity between active and passive tanking. The shield Dominix can output its hitpoints in as little as 32.5 seconds, while the armour version requires 65. As game designer CCP Fozzie pointed out on a recent podcast, this means the paste will run out half as quickly as an ASB's cap charges. That's actually not a benefit, though; it's just a side-effect of the fact that it repairs at half the speed of an ASB. If you're taking enough damage to kill you within that 65 seconds, you won't get all eight cycles out before you die and will have wasted effective hitpoints.

Even if we were able to use two overloaded AARs in the setup above, it would repair a total of only 29,680 HP before running out of paste. Multiplied by this setup's very high resistances, that's 121,451 extra effective hitpoints on top of the ship's normal 63,302 for a total of 184,753 EHP. An equivalent passive tank can deliver a close ~170,000 EHP with higher damage and two extra mid slots for tackle gear, so the AAR isn't any better than a passive tank. The hitpoints from the repairer are also not even equivalent to the free front-loaded hitpoints in a buffer tank because they cost capacitor to acquire, and that usually means mid slots wasted on a capacitor injector or two.

EVE Evolved side imageWhat happened to the Nanobot Overcharger?

When CCP announced the AARs, it also revealed details of a new Nanobot Overcharger rig designed to work with them. The rig greatly increased the bonuses from overheating a repairer, which is a no-brainer for the Ancillary Armor Repairers as the paste doesn't last long enough to burn the repairer out in one go anyway. You're also guaranteed to have nanite repair paste on hand to repair heat damage, and AARs produce less heat than tech 2 repairers when overloaded. This rig was ultimately pulled from the expansion, and I can make an educated guess as to why.

A little-known fact about overloading armour repairers is that the repair amount bonus from overloading is stacking penalised with the bonus from Auxilary Nano Pump rigs, but the cycle time bonus isn't stacking penalised with Nanobot Injector rigs. If you use a nano pump rig, you get a bit less effectiveness out of overloading repairers, and if you use nanobots, you'll get a compounded effect. It's not enough to make a difference to most normal setups, but could become a big deal if you're multiplying the overloading bonus with a Nanobot Overcharger and trying to balance it with other rigs. This rig might go a long way to making AARs more competitive if it's implemented, but there's no indication of when that might happen.

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I can't help thinking that CCP has missed the mark with the Ancillary Armor Repairers. While the shield versions maintain an equivalence with passive buffer tanks, all you're really getting with an AAR is a 68.75% bonus on one repairer for eight cycles and a penalty of 77.78% thereafter. Ancillary Shield Boosters have a similar 63.33% boost over their tech 2 counterparts, but that's a free bonus as their special ability is that they don't require capacitor while loaded with charges, eliminating the need for capacitor injectors.

The obvious solution is to remove the capacitor usage from AARs while they're consuming nanite repair paste; this would make it essentially a free hitpoint pool equal to eight cycles of the repairer, establishing the same equivalence with buffer tank setups that the ASBs have. Personally, I'd like to see CCP get a little more creative than just copying the ASB mechanics. Perhaps the AAR could be turned into a replacement for dual repairers, repairing as much as two tech 2 repairers but with double the normal powergrid and CPU usage? This would essentially free up a low slot and some capacitor usage on dual repairer setups without allowing the addition of extra repairers to existing setups.

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.