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With the recent, and obvious, use of ASBs in the Tenth Alliance Tournament, the question has come up as to whether Ancillary Shield Boosters are overpowered.  Here are some recent posts:

Simply put, the answer to this question is “No.”  It is not a “eh, it might be, but not really” type of no.  It is a “if you think the ASB is overpowered, go back and learn to play Eve” type of “No.”  It’s pretty close to “Ah HELL NO!” and “B*tch, Please.”  It’s a response that may tick people off, but eh.

The Arguments – First: The Tournament

So far the vast majority of these arguments seem to run around the belief that if everyone in the Alliance Tourney used it, it must be overpowered.  This argument gets made every year, depending on what ships did well.  It is an unfortunate and weak argument that, in my opinion, disrespects the players who got to fight in the tourney.. as if their skills and planning didn’t cause them to win.  While we did see plenty of ASB ships in the Tourney, we also saw a lot of them die too.  They weren’t the silver bullet.. and victory for the final game was attributed to.. you guessed it.. the Anci… nope, the Sentinels and their Tracking Disruption.

Another fact that seems to escape people’s notice is that the ships that would do best are mainly Minmatar ships, the ships that classically (and practically) were designed to be “jack-of-all-trades”, or as CCP calls it, “versatile” in regards to tank.  Anyone.. and I mean ANYONE who has been in Eve any length of time knows that being “versatile” means “bad”.  Yes, Minmatar ships can tank both armor and shields.. but they also have at least one less corresponding slot when compared to ships of the same class, or are gimped with less shields or armor.  So let us look at all the ships that could obviously benefit from the new Ancillary Shield Boosters, shall we?

  • Vargur – Minmatar Marauder Class ship.  Currently priced at around 600 to 800mil isk, possibly more.  As with all Marauder classes, the Vargur has extremely low sensor strength, being Minmatar therefore making it the most suspectible to ECM.  In addition, because the Vargur relies on Autocannons as its primary weapon, combat range is almost always in fall0ut, providing less damage than other Marauders.
  • Maelstrom – Tier 3 Minmatar Battleship Class.  Currently priced at around 160 to 220 mil isk, depending on configuration.  The Maelstrom is a shield tanking battleship that was, only a couple years ago, allowed to come back into fleet PVP because it could mount eight 1400mm turrets.  It has no shield resistances and less raw shield HP than the Caldari Rokh and only 500 HP more shield than the Gallente Hyperion, an armor tanker.
  • Sleipnir – Minmatar Tech 2 Field Command Ship.  Very expensive shield boosting ship, able to arm itself with seven medium turrets, usually autocannons.  Tech 2 Resists give it decent staying power on the field.
  • Claymore – Minmatar Tech 2 Fleet Command Ship.  Useful for providing speed based fleet bonuses.
  • Cyclone – Minmatar Tier 1 Battlecruiser – Rarely seen in PVP due to split weapon system and weak tank. 
  • Hawk – Caldari Tech 2 Assault Frigate – Rarely seen outside of FW PVP because of role issues.

So, there are a total of six ships, amoung the hundreds in Eve Online, that could really optimize the ASB.  Six.  Understand, that for all intents and purposes, because of the ship bonuses of 7.5% per level on all the Minmatar ships, that the Cyclone tanks just as well as the Maelstrom.  Which now puts it on par with the Prophecy and the Drake.  You know, two other battlecruisers that aren’t considered overpowered, yet have Battleship level tanks.  Conversely, that also means that the Sleipnir and the Claymore now tank as well as the Amarrian and the Caldari Command Ships too.  Well.. not quite to be sure.  You see, the ASB has one severe weakness.  It doesn’t buffer damage.  Which means, that it would take considerably fewer ships to alpha an ASB Cyclone or ASB Maelstrom off of the field.

Let me say that again.

An ASB ship, because it has NO additional buffer, can be easily destroyed by alpha strikes from smaller fleets.  Ships that use ASBs have NO defense against alpha strikes.  None.  Zero.  Nada.  The tanking ability, even if it could boost a million HP, can be easily circumvented by a small Alpha Strike fleet.  On top of that, the ships that get bonuses have less shield HP to begin with.  This fact alone almost makes the “overpowered” argument utterly moot.  The ASB module IS a small fleet ONLY module.  Fast damage and coordinated damage from attackers also can overwhelm or out-cycle an ASB.  Those are factors that the old buffer-style tanks are immune to.  To be truthful, the ASB is still UNDERPOWERED next to buffer tanks as it cannot protect as well for as long against larger numbers.  In addition, any NON-boosted ship would have to use a Shield Boost Amplifer just to get a comparible defense.. which would bring their own ship down to the same level as the lower Minmatar standard anyways because you would use up an extra midslot.

So.. why all the ASB Cyclones and Sleipnirs in the Tournament?  Because the tournament was set up for small gang PVP.  Minmatar shield boosting ships with their speed and good short range weaponary (autocannons), were practically tailorsuited to this event.  Had the fleets gone up to 20 or even as little as 15, ASBs probably would not have been seen so prominently and more focus would have been put into buffer tanks and the sacrifices they endure.

The Arguments – Second: ASB versus Faction Shield Boosters

The second argument that I’ve seen is that it boosts are too powerful because they boost far above even Meta 15 shield boosters.  Course, the people who agree with that argument seem to have forgotten the very simple fact that Shield Boosters are NEVER used in PVP because of how poorly they perform in comparison to Buffer tanks.  That argument is really a false one because in reality, it supports the fact that Shield Boosters needed to be changed, especially since even the best X-Large shield booster does not perform well in nearly all forms of PVP combat.  The real question is “Does this module make Active Shield Tanking viable next to the old standby of buffer tanking”.  Sadly, they also have forgotten about the clutch argument where normal shield boosters don’t have to “reload”.. for sixty seconds.

The Arguments – Third: Dual-ASB Setups

The third argument is in regards to Dual-ASB configurations.  Those configurations were banned from the Tournament, so naturally this argument has the most actual weight.  It is also something I will need to test further.  But I still find it highly suspect that they would be any more overpowered than say a dual-AR setup like used on some Hurricanes or even the Triple-AR setup used on some Myrmidons.  The main reason for that belief is two-fold.  The first being that the ASB has high CPU requirements. One X-Large ASB requires a CPU mod just to fit it, and a fair weapon setup, on a Cyclone.  True, two Large ASBs would be easier and could support each other during reloads, but even together they don’t boost the same as one X-Large booster.  The only ships that could even mount a reasonable Dual ASB PVP setups are the Vargur and the Maelstrom.  Both ships were stuck with close range configurations, both of which would be in real trouble STILL if they got neuted (Minmatar ships typically have the lowest capacitors in their class), and both are still limited by their cargo bay as to how many charges they can use. 

Actual Testing

So as I wrote earlier here: https://2ndanomalyfromtheleft.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/ancillary-shield-boosters-still-need-a-lot-of-work/ and here: https://2ndanomalyfromtheleft.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/asb-cyclone-version-1-and-version-2-pvp-ready/ that I went out and testing various X-Large ASB Cyclone configurations against the popular Hurricane.  I did that for several reasons.  The first being that the Cyclone, Sleipnir, Claymore, Vargur, and Maelstrom all have the exact same shield boosting bonus.  Which means, that when you don’t include resists, their ability to tank is exactly the same.  The second was that it was very likely that an ASB Cyclone pilot would run into a Hurricane in PVP combat, because Hurricanes are just that good (see my pre-ASB article on Cyclones: https://2ndanomalyfromtheleft.wordpress.com/2010/04/02/wrangling-in-the-cyclone/).  The third reason was that the Cyclone is well-known for being a “less-than-ideal” PVP ship, so if the new ASBs would have any true value at all, it would have to make ships like the Cyclone viable once again for PVP.  The fourth reason was that you can fit an X-Large ASB onto a Cyclone and still have a reasonable PVP combat setup.

Remember, the ONLY reason why I won against a Hurricane was that:

  • I was using Navy 400 charges.  Even normal 400 charges, while giving me the same boost, would have ran out too early for me to survive.
  • I had no tackle installed, so all my midslots were used for the tank.
  • I have Perfect skills in Autocannons and Great skills in Missle systems
  • It was a 1vs1 PVP fight, and not a fleet fight.

I lost all the battles where I used Navy 800 charges.  I lost all the battles where I installed tackle.  It probably would have been a zero-sum win/loss if Corelin had used Assault Missiles instead of Neutralizers.  Of all the ships that should have been, nay, WOULD have been overpowered, the Cyclone would have been it.  And in the final tally, it wasn’t.  It simply wasn’t overpowered in actual use.

Here are the actual specifications for X-Large Ancillary Shield Boosters (the ones everyone is bothered about):

  • Powergrid: 500MW – (Tech 2 X-Large Shield Booster uses 550MW)
  • CPU: 200 tf  – (Tech 2 X-Large Shield Booster uses 230 tf)
  • Activation Cost: 940  – (Tech 2 X-Large Shield Booster uses 400)
  • Shield Boost Amount: 980 – (Tech 2 X-Large Shield Booster gives 600)
  • Activation Time: 4 seconds – (Tech 2 X-Large Shield Booster has 5s activation time)
  • Reload Time: 60 seconds – (Tech 2 X-Large Shield Booster has no reload time)

So, in practical application, the Ancillary Shield Booster, using Navy 400 Cap Charges (which cost about 500k isk per use, which gives you a total of 13 boosts before you have to reload), gives a 60% boost to shields above what can be had by the Standard X-Large Tech 2 Shield booster.  It is 20% faster discharge of shields as well.  But after the ASB runs out of charges, it will pull from the capacitor.  However, if you stop the ASB during this time or you run out of capacitor, it will automatically go into an uninterruptible reload state for the next sixty seconds.

In the end, the Ancillary Shield Boosters are not overpowered by any stretch of the imagination and allows for active tanking to be a reasonable choice in SOME pvp instances.  It is easier to fit and is initially resistant to neutralizing effects, which are significant improvements over the old Shield Booster.  However, it requires better cap management, more interaction, and more expense (a typical 1vs1 fight will have you discharging all your Navy 400 charges so that expense alone will range from 3.9mil to 6.5mil isk).  The question about whether they are overpowered has been answered by a resounding “No”, by the most truest of tests.. practical application.  The real question is, how WELL do they stack up against buffer tanks, and will this new module allow for a wider variety of fleet options other than “n+1”?

Now, it is possible that I somehow missed a legitimate argument about how overpowered the ASBs are, so if I did, please leave it in the comments below.