Citadel Capital Rebalance: 6 months in Review

So the Citadel patch was a pretty huge change to how capitals work. The removal of remote reps on super(carriers) and introduction of FAXes are pretty obvious, but there's a lot more to it. Some things have went out the window, some new things have been introduced. Overall I'd say it's a buff, but mainly it's served to give them a clear role that they haven't partly since Phoebe, mostly since Aegis. Considering CCP's goal with this patch was to give them a role in a post-POS, post-Dominion world I'd say they've succeeded for the most part. This is a pretty number-heavy post, just remember they're not for comparing old to new, but inform the creation of new strategies that weren't previously possible.

You'll likely notice I'm only addressing armor caps, don't worry I'll address that towards the end.

The Old Meta

Let's just take a quick look back at the old meta and why things needed to change. Firstly, let's note the capabilities of each class.

Carriers

  • Strong buffer tank (1.5-3m EHP)
  • Remote reps
  • High resists
  • Launch 10 regular subcap drones (1 extra drone per level of racial carrier)
  • Fighters existed, but were often outclassed by sentries for a fraction of the cost and were effectively impossible to defang due to the enormous drone bay
  • Highly anemic DPS for their cost (545 dps tank fit with Garde II's, 1000 dps with fighters)
  • Cost: ~2B ISK

Dreadnoughts

Supercarriers

  • Enormous buffer tank (26-42m EHP)
  • Remote reps
  • High anti-capital damage output (Aeon = 5.6k dps tank fit)
  • Average anti-subcapital damage output (Aeon = 2k dps tank fit)
  • Incredible resist profiles: (90.6% Explosive resist on the Aeon, 95% average with heat)
  • Cost: ~30B

Titans

  • Enormous buffer tank (35-45m EHP)
  • 3m damage single target Doomsday
  • High anti-capital damage output (10-11k DPS tank fit)
  • Signature penalty left them completely incapable of applying meaningful DPS to subcapitals
  • Cost: ~90B

To understand the escalation path, you need to understand the 2 main conflict drivers: POSes and Dominion Station/IHUB timers. Let's assume Team 1 is dread heavy and Team 2 is supercap heavy. Note the careful distinction in language, "supers" = supercarriers, "supercaps" = supercarriers and titans. They didn't go hand in hand, titans had their own role.

POS:

  • Team 1 drops dreads to rf pos
  • Team 2 responds with a subcap fleet (which the dreads can't shoot) to take control of the grid
  • Team 2 escalates with supers at range to kill the tackled caps

or

  • Team 2 drops a small number of dreads to rf pos
  • Team 1 responds by dropping an even larger number of dreads on Team 2's smaller group
  • Team 2 escalates with supers at range

This video is a good example of the first scenario.

Station/IHUB:

  • Team 1 drops a small number of dreads to rf station
  • Team 2 escalates with supers to kill the dreads and rep it
  • Team 1 responds by dropping the rest of their dreads on a bumped supercap
  • Team 2 responds by dropping titans to clear those dreads quickly

or

  • Team 2 drops carriers to rf the station
  • Team 1 drops dreads to kill the slowcats
  • Team 2 escalates with supercaps to kill the dreads

That's a pretty gross simplification and makes a hideous amount of assumptions, but I'm just giving it as food for thought. The point is this:

  • Good Subcaps beat cheap Subcaps
  • Carriers beat Good Subcaps
  • Dreads beat Carriers
  • Supercaps beat Dreads
  • Supers stalemate with other Supers
  • Titans break the stalemate
  • N+1 Titans beat N Titans
  • Anything beats unsupported Titans
  • Fuck loads of Dreads beat small numbers of Supercaps at 0
  • Small numbers of Supercaps beat Fuck loads of dreads at range

I still feel like Escalation Theory is the best video in both tone and content of that full supercapital escalation. It's well worth a watch. It was a pretty complicated multi-hour fight, but essentially what you're watching is the first station/ihub scenario I described from "supers jump in to kill dreads" bit.

Seem complicated? Yeah, a bit. That's why it took years for the meta to settle. It's also highly dependent on who you're fighting, spy intel, and how big their balls are. The basic gist is Supers always won the objective if they got to dictate the engagement, but dreads could go hugely ISK positive if used in the right way. Think of it like dropping Thrashers on RLML Caracals. Unless there's a huge numbers difference you won't win, but you can do a lot of damage.

Citadels/Aegis Sov

Here's where things suck for the old meta. As you'll notice, pretty much everything there starts with "drop [capital] to shoot [structure] with tons of HP". Under the new system none of those apply. Aegis sov nodes just take a single frigate to Entosis, and Citadels don't require caps because of the damage cap mechanic. Both systems work fine without the need for capitals. Therefore the only role for capitals now is to shoot other spaceships. That means they all have to be able to shoot subcaps.

New Damage Stats

So let's play with them in that context. For clarification on fighters, I'm using all Amarr and splitting the difference on the missile/torp ability. Dreads are T2 gun all 5's. Super is Nyx, Carriers and new Thanatos vs old Archon, Titan is Avatar. These are all using realistic and practical fits that one alliance or another is currently running.

ShipOld Subcap DPSNew Subcap DPSOld Capital DPSNew Capital DPS
Carrier5501212 (2003)10001600
Dread03500120009000
Supercarrier25004147 (4761)70006072 (11821)
Titan03415565411384

Also remember those are the on-paper numbers. The application is much better too now. Here's the signature resolution/explosion radius of the weapon systems. Remember too that titans had a flat debuff on them that if the target they were shooting had a sig of below 2000m, the applied damage would take a 90% reduction on top of the tracking formula. Meaning that even with perfect hits and both ships going 0m/s, that 5.6k DPS titan could only ever apply 565 DPS.

SystemOld SigNew SigOld ExpVel/TrackingNew ExpVel/Tracking
XL Guns2000100000.0050.0481
HAW Guns-400-1.88
Fighters10003500.37150 m/s
SR Fibos2250300060 m/s40 m/s
LR Fibos-330-110 m/s

To be clear if you're unfamiliar with this, HAW's have about ~20% worse tracking than their standard battleship cousin, and Long-range Heavy Fighters have almost exactly the same application stats as a Cruise Missile with support skills at 4. While the new fighters are cool, LR Fibos are the meat of anti-subcap damage output in a super these days. They have an MJD ability instead of an MWD so there's a lot of cool things you can do with them. If you were paying attention to the M-O fight were PL and NC boated fighters over 1,000 km to the Keepstar, that's what they were doing. Any subcap fleet that dared to go within 60km of that fighter blob would have evaporated and their range was long enough to sit safely outside PDS range.

Just on the note of AOE doomsdays, they kinda suck. Playtesting by various groups shows that they're just not that great. BFG's are too short to use effectively, Lances take too long, and Lances also have a tiny radius with a 20s spoolup that's easy to avoid in pretty much anything besides a propless battleship.

Okay so that's a lot of numbers, let's draw some short conclusions we can fit into our head during a fight:

  • Carrier DPS has tripled
  • Dread blapping is dead, but they can apply reliably to anything if fit correctly
  • Supercarrier anti-subcap DPS has tripled
  • 1 titan = ~7 faction battleships

Tanking

So first off, tank isn't nearly as much of a consideration as it was before. For 2 totally different reasons on regular caps and supercaps.

Regular caps are simple: this module exists.

Previously you could mince all day about varying levels of bling, Slaves vs no Slaves, etc. Today you just put this module on your ship and it's a 22 second "fuck you" button of invincibility. Consider this, if you have 30 Faxes in your fleet and they all fire them when they start getting shot, it will take at least 11 minutes to kill them all. Sure in theory you can switch when they hit it, but in practice no fleet is going to be on the ball enough to do that reliably in a situation where shooting at 30 FAXes is a thing you will be doing.

Equally if you drop 40 dreads on a group of supercaps (with the t1 variant which runs for 18 seconds), it would take 12 minutes to kill all of them if they activate in sequence. You're still going to die, but they give you a minimum period of time to do what you can. Think of them as speed bumps for killmails. This video is a good example of it being used to great effect on dreads.

On supercaps, things are a little more complicated. You've got to think of it from the perspective of the attacker. So say there's a supercap fleet running around and you jump on them. What happens if you shoot say, an Erebus. It'll tank. Avatar? It'll tank. Nyx? It'll tank. The reason why is simple, while resist profiles are down due to plates, the overall rep ability has increased enormously FAXes.

Supers pre-patch were typically fit 2/2. That is, 2 RR's, 2 Transfers. A Concord Capital Remote Rep used to repair 341.7 hp/sec, however a regular T1 rep on an Apostle now reps 1,673 hp/sec, plus you have 3 of them instead of 2. In other words, 6 Apostles now have the same remote rep power as 44 Aeons used to. Because of this, it's quite practical to flood in reinforcements, and the enemy have to shoot them.

In this way, your logi becomes your tank. Even if they do finally burn through all your Apostles, they better hope they have enough dreads left at the end to burn through at least 30m EHP any super is going to have assuming they don't have links. Don't get me wrong sitting on grid in a titan with a bunch of dreads and no reps is scary, but 30m EHP is still a lot of hitpoints to chew through.

This aspect of tanking is something few groups in the game have really got their head round yet.


Anyway, let's start drawing some conclusions and predictions.

Carrier Fleets

So when the full patch notes hit and we got down to EFTing and trying to get our head round this in TISHU, I said carriers were dead and everyone should sell them. Then about a month later I was turned around on it and I've been hype for them ever since. For a long time the logic was always bring a subcap fleet to support your capital fleet, but I don't feel that's true anymore. I think for single point objective, pure cap fleet are the future. Assuming you have the intel to avoid an enormous dread bomb, there isn't really a lot that can kill a 100+ man fleet with a 2:1 ratio of carriers to FAXes. A buffer FAX gets like 2m EHP which is a lot to burn through even with a maxed 250 man subcap fleet, meanwhile you've got 1.8m EHP Thanatoses capable of applying 2,000 dps fairly effectively to a target. In other words, every carrier is worth 4 or 5 battleships in DPS with a whole lot more alpha on command.

The only fight I've seen thus far where this has been tested as I'm describing it was the one over the Vey Keepstar a few weeks ago. A couple thousand in local and both goons and the low sec folks were failing to kill much. PL/NC didn't want to jump in with supercaps because it was horrific tidi and they would just run away anyway, so EE were told to put their carrier fleet on field. It ended up being about 40 carriers, 10 supers and 1 random Avatar. This km is a good example. You can see based on the damage taken he was clearly receiving a ton of reps, but even in huge tidi where the fighter UI is super buggy they just burned through it. While there is supers on the mail, you can see that they aren't doing much more DPS than the carriers since the supercarrier bonus to regular fighters is only 25% (50% on the Nyx). You can flick through the losses, they're pretty much all like that.

Groups like PL and NC don't have much incentive to go down this route since they already have supercaps that do the exact same thing better, but I think there's a solid opening for some of the less capital heavy groups to start investing in this. Think like most low sec groups, TESTCO, GOTG, etc. Remember the stats we were looking at above, a Thanatos now does about 80% the subcap DPS that an Aeon did pre-patch, so a lower tier group dropping 50 carriers in a big fight is going to achieve just the same thing as PL dropping 40 Aeons into a fight pre-patch.

It's going to be a lot of fun working out how to use these, but they're very accessible, easy to build, easy to replace and still reasonably cheap to SRP. Assuming a hull cost of 1.15B, the Thanatos fit I've been comparing with here costs under 2B including T1 fighters (which my numbers are also based on).

Given the state of Rorqual mining and training, I expect we'll be seeing this a lot over the next year or so.

Shield Sucks

Anyway who reads the TEST forum has likely seen the tomes I've written on the topic arguing with Vily about it, but "holy shit I have no cap" is a reaction pretty much anyone who's been in a supercap fight in the last 6 months will have had. Between AOE DDs, halved DD timers, Capital neuts, NSAs, Capital prop mods, increased RR cap use, and of course the removal of cap chaining, Capacitor is at a huge premium in any capital engagement now.

For this reason, shield sucks. Their FAXes suck because you need multiple cap boosters to keep feeding the reps, and everything else sucks because you can't get an effective passive tank with shield. Players new to this have an amusing habit of popping up every so often and saying "Hey shield is amazing! They get more EHP and can do more DPS". Now by all means, the 18k DPS a Ragnarok is capable of pumping out while sporting over 50m EHP is pretty incredible, but in practice it just doesn't work because hey cap booster, minus EHP. Hardeners turn off, 5m EHP.

For evidence of how this works in practice, just watch the video from the D-W dreadbomb. Obviously the video is sped up, but just count the number of gun cycles these things are dying to. If you take that whole dropped fleet and replace it with passive tanked armor ships (the Revenant for a Vendetta), well the faction super still dies but takes much longer. The first titan probably dies too, but everything after that is going to live. For comparison, that's about 35 dreads killing 4 supers and 3 titans, compared to the 2 titans that should have died in the earlier Okagaiken video against almost 90 dreads. (I say "should" because the latter 2 titans to die were shit fit Ragnaroks with no shield reps on field. One having only a T2 armor tank, the other having no armor tank at all). Another video is this one of an NC Avatar pov from SH1. He has active hardeners in the video, but you can just see the state of his cap even with very little being fired. Any neut pressure at all would be knocking those hardeners offline with serious difficulty getting them back on again.

If you're a budding capital FC looking to push your alliance into the future, I emplore you not to bother wasting anyone's time with shield. Or do, I'd love the killmails.

Dreads are a bit one dimensional

I mean this in the sense that dreads don't really seem to have a role besides just dropping a lot of them on unsuspecting supercaps. POS's will be gone, Citadels aren't a good use case for them, and HAW dreads are too easily countered/taken down and generally just outclassed by a carrier capable of doing exactly the same thing while still being able to receive reps.

FAXes are OP in wormholes

Ninazu's specifically. I know this is a little out there since I'm talking mostly about k-space balance, but having dived into wormholes a few months ago I've not really met anyone who disagrees with this sentiment. The basic premise is that high-end WH brawls are based largely around cap pressure which capital cap boosters totally negate. A Ninazu can sit there with 4 heavy cap boosters and a battery for neut resist, and just eat a booster every time he needs to cycle a module despite sitting at zero cap. I don't know that there's any good solution to it right now that wouldn't be special-casing.


Conclusions

We've had over half a year now to work out these changes and we're slowly getting there, however there's still a long road ahead. With the prices of minerals likely to plummet in the next few months due to Rorqual changes and Azbels making caps cheaper than ever to build en masse, it's a really interesting time to be using caps.

As bigger and - for lack of a better term - "less elite" groups start to realise they can afford to use and lose them (mainly just getting the idea in their head that it's just another ship), we're going to see a lot of complaints about overpoweredness come out of the woodwork. I'd just ask that you keep an open mind and let the meta work itself out before asking CCP to change anything.