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Minmatar Wolf, taken from Eve Online website

One of my favorite ships in the game is the Wolf.  It’s a Minmatar Assault Ship that lives in the shadow of its more popular brother, the Jaguar.  Nonetheless, it is still considered one of the top assault frigates in game and I personally favor it for it’s slot arrangment.  In fact, flying this ship landed me one of my most favorite and challenging kills.. a Navy Omen that was supported by a Stabber.

The overall reasoning of Assault Frigates was to make a frigate class ship that was deadlier and better protected than their Tech 1 brothers.  The plan certainly looked cool, and if you look at fittings, it seems rather like they decided to make these ships suited toward a Afterburner + Scrambler combo.  On paper this makes sense, because an interceptor could make the initial tackle, then the Assault frigates would come in, and using higher defenses and afterburner speed, couple with a 2 point scrambler, could make short work of enemy targets quickly.  This idea was still central to their reasoning when they made changes to Disruptors and Scramblers, which enabled Scramblers to shut down microwarp drives.  All in all, it was to be the perfect pirate ship.

But, while the idea certainly did sound cool, when placed into the game, the reality was very, very different.  Initially, Assault Frigates, weren’t all that great.  In fact, they turned out to be just more expensive targets, sometimes not even as good as the Tech 1 ships they were modeled from.  Later, some upgrades were made to the ships, as well as the scrambler change, but this still left a significant problem.

That problem is Role.  For Assault Frigates, even now, whatever role they try to occupy something else does it just as good or better and does it cheaper.  In their introduction, the Assault Frigate’s DPS wasn’t much better than a standard Tech 1’s, but the AF hull cost 40 to 50x more.  Later, after some improvements were made, the Assault Frigate still ran into Role problems.  While the DPS increased and the tanking improved, it still wasn’t as good as a much cheaper, better tanked, and better armed Cruiser.  If you try to outfit one for speed, you’ll find that AB fit Assault Frigates do not gain the speed necessary for quick takedowns, and Microwarp Drive fitted Assault Frigates give up precious slots, powergrid, and CPU and are unable to maintain either a good tank or good weaponry and the Tech 2 Interceptors, which are cheaper, are faster and have better speed bonuses.

This problem is certainly one that the Wolf also has to deal with.  The Wolf is perceived as the “long-range” variant.. which is why it was only given two midslots as well as the typical Tech 2 Minmatar shield resists.  However, the Wolf was also conceived before the change to Minmatar artillery and so the Wolf’s CPU and Powergrid can’t really support the 280mm with out at least two fitting mods, or without having any sort of tank.  This presents a problem, because the most ideal ammo for this, Quake (as well as all the other short range ammo), puts you well into disruptor range, and within easy range of all medium weapons.  Longer range ammo, such as Tremor, might get you farther, but certainly not to a safe range against ships larger than frigates.

The Wolf’s slot setup, though, allows it to be useful at close range.  Brandishing five high slots, four of which can be used for Turrets, this will give you quite a bit of DPS.  The four lowslots allow for you to armor tank the Wolf rather well, and allows for you to have the basic minimum of tackle and speed modules.  But, let’s first look at the factors that should concern you:

  • 5% Bonus to Small Projectile Turret Damage per Minmatar Frigate Level.
  • 5% Bonus to Small Projectile Turret Damage per Assault Ships Level.
  • 10% Bonus to Small Projectile Falloff Range per Assault Ships Level.
  • 7.5% Bonus to Small Projectile Tracking per Assault Ships Level.
  • 329 m/s Velocity (Standard Rifter runs at 353 m/s)
  • 3.456 inertia (standard Rifter runs at 3.19)
  • Armor Hitpoints: 703 (standard Rifter runs at 351)
  • Signature Radius: 33 (standard Rifter flies with 35)
  • Scan Resolution: 700mm (versus Standard Rifter with 660mm)

After you look at these features, you’ll notice that while the Wolf is slower than a standard Rifter, it carries double the armor, is more agile, has more weapon hardpoints, smaller targetting signature, does more damage, and has faster lock-on times.

But it isn’t without it’s flaws, two of which are readily apparent when trying to fit the ship out:

  • 10% Explosive, 25% Kinetic armor resists
  • 2 mid slots

The problem with the armor resists is that, even with four low slots, you are going to have to choose to either protect against kinetic damage, a damage type that three of the four races utilize on a regular basis, or to build up your abyssmial explosive resist, that are only used rarely outside of Minmatar.  The midslots are another issue.  Prior to the recent update the need to have at least one for a propulsion mod, you were pretty much stuck with doing a MWD/24km or AB/9km Scram combo.  The MWD/24km Disruptor combo, while more effective in fleets, really cuts back on your tanking options, as well as reduces your capacitor, and that removed the option of speed tanking to mitigate some of the incoming damage.  On the other hand, the AB/Scram combo, while ideal in close range combat, it limited when trying to get the initial tackle.  This can be countered, especially since an AB can still propel the Wolf between 800 and 1000 m/s, by managing to be closer to the target somehow.  Still, the acceleration is slower than an MWD, and the range you need to be at is much closer… which means less targets captured.

However, with the recent change to the Wolf, it is now possible to run a pretty decent MWD/Scram configuration.. in fact, I think this will become a predominant configuration because passive configurations can run all their modules and be totally cap stable, and even the active tanked versions can pulse their reppers enough for it to be useful.

All in all though, I still love flying the Wolf.  However, unlike most pilots, I chose to step away from the traditional approaches to this ship.  Small ships like the Wolf do allow for what I call Active-Passive (or “AP”) tanking.  It isn’t a new concept to Eve, but usually only a rare few ships have both the powergrid and CPU combined with good overall characteristics that make this even remotely viable.  The Wolf is one of those ships.  Being in combat with an AP configuration means that you have to be mindful of your power usage.  When you start taking armor damage, pulse (Run for one cycle, wait.. run for another cycle early in the fight) your small repairers so that you aren’t trying to use the repper to compensate for damage taking when you are almost dead.  Small NOSes are very nice for thise because they cycle at double the rate as their larger versions, so you get more cap sooner.

Past Heavy Combat PVP Build

The build below I used successfully against a Navy Omen.  This particular Wolf configuration is benefitted by the fact that the difference between 125mm ACs and 200mm ACs really isn’t all that much.  I used a similar version (using Meta 4 repair modules against a Retribution later, and while I did lose, he survived with only about 10% hull.. and many of his modules had nearly been burnt out.  At the time, I had no thermodynamic skills.. or else I would have come out the winner.

High Slots:
4x 125mm Tech 2 ACs w/Barrage or RF EMP
1x Small ‘Knave’ Energy Drain

Mid Slots:
1x Cold-Gas Arcjet Thrusters
1x Named Meta 4 Scrambler

Low Slots:
1x 400mm Rolled Tungsten Plate
1x Small A-Type Centii Armor Repairer
1x Damage Control II
1x Adaptive Nano Membrane II

Rigs:
Small Anti-Explosive Pump I
Small Auxiliary Nano Pump I

If you had a Powergrid implant, you can even stretch things enough to get a better neutralizer.  The Wolf in particular seems to blend the best of having the Neut+AB+Scram configuration because you have significant powergrid resources at your disposal.  This is compounded by having a sizeable tank, that you can repair during the fight, when it is convienent.  If you wish to have more firepower, you can drop the tank to a 200mm plate, and then you have the ability to upgrade both the guns to 200mm and the neut to the Tech 2 version (which is much cheaper than the meta 4 for sale).

New 0.0 PVP build

This configuration was sort of a hybrid test using a MWD/Scram set up.  With the new changes made to the Wolf, this is a fairly decent solo fit.. so long as your enemy doesn’t have a Neut.

High Slots:
4x 200mm Tech 2 ACs w/Barrage or RF EMP
1x Small Diminishing Power System I

Mid Slots:
1x 1MN Tech 2 MicrowarpDrive
1x Named Meta 4 Scrambler

Low Slots:
1x 200mm Rolled Tungsten Plate
1x Small A-Type Centii Armor Repairer
1x Damage Control II
1x Adaptive Nano Plating II
1x N-Type Adaptive Nano Membrane

Rigs:
Small Anti-Explosive Pump I
Small Auxiliary Nano Pump I

This configuration had a bit of play to it, but in the shown configuration has about 10k EHP, 175 DPS, and can maintain 88% cap while operating all modules but the armor repairer. One option to this configuration that you could do would be removing the Damage Control II and replacing it with a Tech 2 Gyrostabilizer.  This would give you some additional DPS. Downgrading the N-Type to another Tech 2 Adaptive Nano will allow you to upgrade to the 24km Disruptor.  With both of these fits, you can remove the armor repper and that would free up some powergrid and some CPU, allowing you better weapon options.  The downside to that is that you won’t be as self-sufficient, particularly if things go south and you need to get repaired.

AB PVP Variant

The Afterburner variant is good for the typical low-sec pirate pilot, as with all modules active, it can hold out for almost 3 minutes.

High Slots:
4x 200mm Tech 2 ACs w/Barrage or RF EMP
1x Small Tech 2 Nosferatu

Mid Slots:
1x 1MN Tech 2 Afterburner
1x Named Meta 4 Scrambler

Low Slots:
1x 200mm Rolled Tungsten Plate
1x Small Tech 2 Armor Repairer
1x Damage Control II
1x Adaptive Nano Plating II
1x Tech 2 Gyrostabilizer

Rigs:
Small Anti-Explosive Pump I
Small Auxiliary Nano Pump I

This configuration produces a little over 9k EHP, a steady afterburner speed of 860 m/s, and producing approximately 187 DPS.

In Conclusion

While the Wolf doesn’t necessarily get the title of “Best” Assault frigate, it certainly isn’t a ship that should be discounted.  CCP has recently put some possible upgrades to the Wolf (as well as the other Assault Frigates) that would improve their usability.. potentially making them deadlier than Tech 1 Cruisers, like the Rupture or Thorax.  What got changed for the Wolf was an additional low slot, as well as +10 CPU and +200 armor.  The fourth bonus, a 7.5% Tracking Speed bonus was added too.  What also is of interest is the 50% reduction in Signature penalty when using a MWD for the entire class.  One of the more surprising things was that, prior to the change, a 400mm plate Wolf had a significant increase in defense.. but now, the difference between a 400mm and 200mm variants are minor.. so minor that the mass problems tip it in favor of going back to the 200mm plate versions.  In fact, 400mm Afterburner versions had LESS defense than 200mm Afterburner versions due to the loss of a crucial low slot for a Micro Auxiliary Power Core.  For the Wolf, these were huge changes, and will make even passively tanked Wolfs viable against a whole array of prey.

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