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Jin’talks: Battlecruisers & The September Rebalance

January 15, 2016

Hi, I’m Jin’taan! Thanks for reading my article. I’m an FC within ProviBloc!

So, I’ve been asked a few times now what my opinions were on the Battlecruiser changes, referring to the changes made in September. These changes gave some light agility buffs, a few fitting changes, and across the board introduction of new role bonuses to the class which aided with their projection or application.

Now, I won’t go into detail with regards to any specific hull in this article, though if people want me to I have no problem doing so at a later date. What I want to talk about is a slightly more broad and predominantly theoretical topic that addresses how I see the game’s nullsec PvP ecosystem, and how these changes have helped shape it up in an overall more positive way.

Battlecruisers are, at their core, relatively simple ships. They are cheap, scaled up cruisers, with bigger tanks and bigger damage, at the cost of some amount of agility and speed. In theory, this simply makes them the stepping stone between battleships and cruisers. However, in practice, they hit the sweet spot of being the best of both worlds. They have enough EHP not to be able to be shredded into oblivion when the numbers reach above 20, and have good enough DPS to be at the very least a threat to any ship in the game that isn’t a Tech 3 cruiser. However, they do this without being imbalanced on a strategic level, with good, number efficient counters in bombers, and simple hard counters in Armour BS’ doctrines, as they lack the speed and sig tank of HAC’s or Tech 3’s to escape the larger weapons.

This forces them into being skirmish or roaming ships, but even here, they are simply the measuring stick by which other fleet comps are measured and considered good. They don’t have the speed and range of Orthruses/Cerbs, nor the heavy hitting DPS/Tank of the sadly rarer Armour HACs such as the Sacrilege.

What they have is much less tangible. They have ease of use. To a new pilot, a Ferox or a Hurricane is a simple ship. They don’t have to kite or do any particularly fancy manual piloting to minimise transversal, their cap is strong. All they have to do is – as the saying goes – anchor up and press F1. And to someone new to FCing, they are an attractive doctrine to fly, probably ranking just underneath ‘lolfrigfleet’ in the sheer numbers of fleets I see being run by newer, or less known FCs. I am relatively certain that this is due simply to their ease of availability, lack of e-war to manage, and being able to engage most enemies with some chance of success. It allows new FC’s and new PvP pilots to simply concentrate on the very, very basics of EvE PvP, the proverbial ‘Anchor up and press F1’.

This is not a bad thing.

It might be tempting to deride the people who want to experience that level of PvP, not dealing with E-War spreading, or managing one’s transversal or target selection. But that’s because (I assume if you’re reading this) you have been playing the game for at least 6 months. You’ve taken part in those fleets before, you know how they go. You’ve forgotten how terrifying it is to see your overview filled with reds, even when you’re blobbing, or how happy you are when you get that big battle report and get to see your name on it, with a few billion in enemies down.

Battlecruisers are the foundation of the PvP ecosystem. They teach people who are just trying it out on a quiet night just how fun the game can be, and that everything they’ve heard about it being hard and dangerous isn’t quite true. It allows rookie FCs to get their eye and experience the shakes I still get to this day when I tell my fleet to jump and hold cloak because there’s a shitload of reds on the other side. And they do that by being simple, but effective.

In fact, it’s my firm belief that the reason the Ishtar meta was so ‘cancerous’ is because they were incredibly good at killing battlecruisers. They out ranged, out DPSed and outran them with no noticeable trade off in speed. And, whilst Vexors were good, they lacked any real tank or ‘engage’ potential to compensate for mistakes. This left the barrier of entry for PvP at a high place, with smaller groups requiring an FC with the confidence to bring out 200m+ ISK ships for any fight that the opponents weren’t intentionally low-balling power wise. This left the lowest chain of the ecosystem unfilled, and led to it being either getting hit with a slightly larger ball of Ishtars or system after system of boredom.

The battlecruiser changes in September just gave them a little nudge to help them keep up with the speed creep of the game and continue to fill that role, but crucially, without buffing their speed to the point that it became a huge part of the class. Had their speed been buffed more, we would have seen them become more skill (and SP, because of cap and nav skills mattering more) dependant. Instead, they simply became better at doing what they’ve always done, being slow, beefy cruiser killers. I do worry that introducing the role bonus will lead to more ‘Projection creep’ but CCP has been remarkably good at keeping that form of unbalance in check over the years.

In short, I like the changes, and think they have really nailed the power:cost and power:effort ratios within the battlecruiser class down. There are a few ugly ducklings, but there always are in any EvE ship class, as they’re designed with niche-r uses in mind that sometimes don’t reach fruition until years later when the prevailing meta allows them to exist (See: The Eagle, Logi Legions, Hull Tanking Unironically).

But more than that, this is a prime example of the iteration that I’d love to see more of from CCP. They looked at the previous changes they’d made to rebalance the class, then came back and looked to see what they could do to make it fit the original intentions, but without over-buffing anything in particular.