EVE Evolved: Fitting Gallente cruisers for PvP in Retribution

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In last week's article, I mentioned that one of my favourite parts of the Retribution expansion was the tech 1 cruiser revamp that buffed all of EVE Online's cruisers to the same rough power level. Before the update, cruisers were arranged in a tiered system that gave higher-tier ships extra stats and module slots. As a result, only a few cruisers were actually viable in PvP, and the others served very little purpose elsewhere in the game. The Caldari Caracal was too slow to tackle anyone, the Amarr Omen couldn't easily fit a rack of full-sized guns, and don't get me started on the state of the tech 1 remote repair cruisers.

Retribution abolished those tiers, buffing every underpowered cruiser up to the same level of power as the previous top-tier version. The Caracal got that speed it always needed, and the Omen got enough powergrid to fit a full rack of guns, but what really impressed me was what CCP did to the Vexor. With its extra module slots and the recent addition of drone damage amplifier modules, the Vexor has been transformed from a poor man's Thorax to an absolute monster that can stand toe-to-toe with battlecruisers. The Exequror and Celestis have been similarly buffed but are still specialised into logistics and electronic warfare roles.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I give new PvP ship setups for each of the Gallente tech 1 cruisers buffed in Retribution, including a setup that will make you think twice about engaging a lone Vexor.

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The Thorax has been one of the best cruisers in EVE for a long time, but even it got some love in Retribution with an additional mid slot and some stat tweaks. The Thorax is now very fast and has a massive tracking speed bonus for medium turrets to help it hit targets in blaster range more easily. The extra mid slot means you can either run a dual-web setup or fit both a warp disruptor for the initial point and a warp scrambler for shutting down the enemy's microwarpdrive and keeping him firmly in blaster range.

The setup above is a deadly tackler for solo or fleet combat, able to hit 719 DPS with the guns overloaded and with a top speed of a hair under three kilometres per second. It's like someone attached a shark to the end of a rocket, but with only 17k effective hitpoints, it'll die quickly in a fleet fight. A slower but tankier version of this setup can be built by swapping the rigs for three medium Trimark Armor Pump Is and the nanofiber for a second Magnetic Field Stabilizer II. I put together this new speedy version because it puts the thorax into a specialised role as a heavy tackler with high damage output.

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The Vexor always had teeth, but Retribution gave it claws and venom too. I've been using the setup above to bait people in highsec, and it's proven to be incredibly effective. It deals a ludicrous 864 DPS with thermal drones and overloaded guns and has just under 20k effective hitpoints, and the ECM jammers can really turn a fight in your favour. Your prey will be larger ships like battlecruisers that will think you're an easy kill, as a single jam throughout the fight will provide a massive advantage. You can even take on small groups of ships if you get a few good jams in.

Thermal drones will give the highest raw damage output, but explosive drones have better tracking speed and microwarpdrive speed. Two Berserker IIs will hit smaller targets much more easily than two Ogre IIs will. To maximise the Vexor's drone bandwidth, use two large drones, two mediums, and one small. This also leaves 50m3 of space in your drone bay for alternative drones; you could use this for ECM drones to escape from sticky situations or a flight of Valkyrie IIs or Warrior IIs to chase down smaller ships.

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The Exequror started life as a tanky cargo hauler and then tried its hand as an entry-level logistics ship for players who prefer to play support roles in PvP. It never really had the bonuses or stats to pull off either role, but now it's a competent remote repair support that plays much like its bigger brother the Oneiros. The Caldari and Amarr versions have been adapted to let them form capacitor chains, but the Gallente Exequror is a solo support machine. The setup above hasn't been battle-tested, but it can sustain three medium remote armour repairers indefinitely and repair targets up to 66km away.

The ship's high afterburner speed and newly reduced 80m signature radius will make it very difficult to hit unless it's slowed with stasis webs. You could swap the afterburner for a microwarpdrive to get some extra mobility, but you'd be extremely vulnerable to snipers, and tacklers would be able to shut your microwarpdrive down with a short-range warp scrambler. The sensor booster and ECCM module help protect against the effects of sensor dampeners and ECM jammers, as you're sure to be a high priority electronic warfare target.

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The Celestis is the Gallente electronic warfare cruiser, and as such, it gets a huge bonus to the effectiveness and range of Remote Sensor Dampeners. These have historically never been as effective as Caldari ECM jammers, which have a chance to forcibly break an enemy's target locks and prevent him from re-acquiring targets for 20 seconds. But with the increased bonuses from the Celestis, you can now reliably break target locks on far away enemy ships by reducing their maximum lock ranges. The old Celestis was far too fragile to be of much use in a cruiser gang, but the new setup above packs a respectable 34,672 effective hitpoints.

In a fleet, your job is to stay alive and sensor dampen any snipers or other electronic warfare ships to take them out of the fight. Remember that battleships will take around 10 seconds to re-aquire a lock after you break it, so a single sensor dampener can effectively block up to two sniper battleships from locking if you cycle between them. Using all four sensor boosters on a single target can also be as effective as target-jamming him, reducing lock range by around 90%. The setup above uses Hammerhead II drones for damage, but ECM drones will help you stay safe and perform your role as part of a fleet better.

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If you're flying the Vexor or Celestis setups above, remember that when someone loses target lock and doesn't have drones attacking you, they immediately disengage and can jump or dock again after 30 seconds. I found it helpful to manually activate the Vexor's jammers to give the enemy a chance to re-aggress you between jamming cycles. It's also handy because if one of your jammers is successful you can leave the other on standby in case the next jam fails or another enemy enters the fight. This is especially important if you're baiting people in empire by giving yourself a suspect flag, as anyone can join the fight and attack you.

The setups above are by no means the only ways to fit the revamped Gallente cruisers, but they should be effective at their given roles, and the stats you can pull out of them are impressive. They're designed for older players with access to Tech 2 modules, and some of them will require a 1% or 2% powergrid implant. Tech 1 cruisers are well and truly back on the menu with Retribution, providing extremely high performance for a relatively low hull cost. The Thorax is a bit faster and deadlier than it used to be, and you should definitely think twice before engaging a lone Vexor for an "easy kill."

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.
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