Much like shield fleets, there are basic roles that a ship can fill. Unlike shield fleets, missile ships are scarce. Heavy Assault Missiles are not particularly effective against incursion rats, and as a result, the Sacrilege and HAM-equipped Legion are both shunned. There are few or no armor-tanking ships that are effective users of Heavy Missile Launchers or Cruise Missiles. As a result, an armor fleet will probably not have any "quick missile" or "slow missile" DPS ships. Everything will be based around short- and long-range turret DPS. That's the big advantage for armor fleets.
You still have the same needs for Logistics and some dedicated webbers. The former role will almost always be fulfilled by Guardians. The Oneiros is a rare sight in incursions. The latter role will be filled by the same ships that fulfill the role in shield fleets: Lokis, Vindicators, and Bhaalgorns. Happily, two of those ship types are natural armor-tankers. Less happily, all three ship types are expensive, so they'll be even more difficult to come by in an armor incursion fleet. The reason for this is most PvE pilots are shield-tankers. Armor tankers are rare in PvE. That's the big disadvantage to armor fleets. If you find a good Bhaalgorn pilot, cherish him or her!
As a result, the major roles in an armor-based fleet, sorted in rough order of preference and from "most likely to be picked up" to "least likely to be picked up", are:
- Logistics: Guardian with Logistics V skill, Guardian with Logistics IV skill, Oneiros.
- Dedicated webber: Bhaalgorn, Loki, Vindicator.
- Turret DPS: Legion, Armageddon Navy Issue, Absolution, Abaddon.
- Snipers: Armageddon Navy Issue, Paladin, Apocalypse.
Gallente pilots are no doubt noticing a distinct lack of green in that list. Hybrid weapons work no better in incursion sites than they do in PvP, and as a result, if an FC has a choice between a laser boat and a hybrid boat, they're going to choose the former every single time. Only with blasters can Gallente ships hope to match laser damage, and a slow heavily tanked incursion ship mated with short-range blasters will have less of a chance of being picked up. That is not to say that they are entirely absent. The occasional Proteus will be present, as will Megathron Navy Issues, both with somewhat longer-ranged Neutron Blaster IIs. But less expensive Gallente ships or those using T1 guns will unfortunately be shunned.
Fair warning: fitting an armor-tanking ship for incursions is hard!
Chances are, you knew this already. There are only a few good ways to tank a shield fitting ship. It's such a relatively simple process that a few rules of thumb will work for 85% or more of the shield ships out there. This is not the case with armor tanking, which is highly dependent on the strengths and weaknesses of each vessel and the skill of the pilot. For highly skilled armor tanking pilots, passive modules can be used, which both provide better omni-tanking and don't contribute to the capacitor issues most armor tanking ships have. Lesser-skilled pilots will often be forced into active armor hardeners, which are both damage type specific and can be costly in terms of cap.
If these factors weren't bad enough, there isn't an armor tanking ship out there that has enough low slots. While shield ships get the luxury of tanking in the mids and increasing damage and tracking in the lows, armor ships quite often have to get everything done in the low slots. Since most armor ships also heavily rely on cap for their weapons, this means they often can't even apply their mid slots to useful utility e-war, but instead have to devote them to Cap Rechargers.
And while shield ships can prop up borderline resists with Tech2 rigs, the same can't be said for armor ships, whose Tech2 armor rigs are prohibitively expensive. Even Tech1 versions aren't exactly cheap.
Still, there are basic fitting rules that will serve you well. Start this process in EFT first. Even more than shield ships, you're going to have to tune and tweak to find something that works.
Unlike shield ships, armor ships should start with damage output. How many damage mods is the correct number? About 80% of the time, the correct answer is "two." Devote two of your low slots to damage mods. Another low slot should immediately be given to a Damage Control II mod, no matter the type of ship that you're flying.
Stop there and fill in your weapons. Amarr ship pilots with good skills have a major advantage in the Tech2 Pulse Lasers available and their fantastic Scorch ammunition. If you are an Amarr pilot and you're not using Tech2 guns, you're going to have a very difficult time finding fleets. The damage off Scorch is impossible to beat with T1 guns. Still, do the best you can. Gallente pilots, as noted above, have it worse. Blasters have a very tough time hitting with good damage at the 24km range that will be needed for incursion fleets. Still, fill them in for now.
Start by putting three Tech1 Trimark Armor Pumps into your rig slots. You might not finish there, but start there. A big advantage that armor ships do have is that their rigs do not increase sig radius; every Trimark you fit might slow you down somewhat, but speed-tanking is not a big factor in incursions and each Trimark adds substantially to buffer.
Now, start filling in your resists. The first choice is usually to fit two Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane IIs. However, these are dependent on good Armor Compensation skills across the board, which increase passive tanking resistances. Your ultimate goal is identical to that of the shield ships: you must have 70% resistance across the board. Not 68%. Not 69%. 70%, minimum. And higher is better. If you have good armor-tanking skills, two EANMs will get you very close, and all you will need to do is add a single Energized Plating mod of the appropriate type to close a single resist hole, usually Explosive. However, many players just go ahead and add a third EANM instead (or see below under Advanced Fitting). You're also probably running short of low slots by now, and staring a bit helplessly at the fact that you aren't even close to cap stable yet.
Welcome to fitting armor ships. As I said, it isn't easy. Put five Hobgoblin IIs in your drone bay, if you have one.
Stop here and check your resistances, armor HP, and signature radius. Similar rules apply to armor ships that applied to shield ships. 70% minimum resists, across the board. If your signature radius is 160m or less, multiply your armor HP by two. If your battleship signature radius is 500m or more, or your cruiser signature radius is 210m or more, multiply your armor HP by 2/3. If, after this calculation, you have 15000 armor HP and 70% or higher resists across the board, you're off to a good start! If you haven't hit the buffer number yet, I hope you saved room for a 1600mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten plate. Now's the time to fit one.
Go to the next section when you have at least the minimum tank fitted.
Advanced Fitting and Bling
Now let's see if you can reclaim some low or rig slots.
If you're well over 15000 armor HP, start by nerfing your buffer. Remember those three Trimarks? Start removing them until your calculated armor HP falls to around 15000. Hopefully, this frees up a rig slot or two. You might even still have a low slot available. If you do, count yourself lucky! Advanced armor players might want to fill in with a resist rig, particularly if they're trying to hit a particular DPS number and want to save their low slots for that. If that's you, go ahead and do that now, then adjust your lows.
Time to start filling in mid slots. First things first: two Tracking Computers. Whether you're firing lasers or hybrids, chances are you're going to need a dual TC set up. Load the optimal range scripts and check your damage ranges. All your slots are probably pretty close to full at this point, so now's the time to check your damage output and range. Whatever your ship, you need to be able to hit for good damage at 24km range or so. "Good" for a cruiser or battle-cruiser is 500 DPS or more. "Good" for a turret battleship is 700 DPS or more. If you're falling seriously short, try to wedge in a third damage mod (or see below).
Have any slots left, low, mid, or rig? Next thing is to get as close to cap stable as you can. If you're there already, great! Go to the head of the class. If you're in a ship with one or more utility high slots, this is much less important. But ships with eight gun turrets need to solve this problem if they can. Abaddons and Megathrons, I'm looking at you in particular. While many armor fleets will have a spare cap transfer or two available, you shouldn't count on this unless you have to. You can always peel off cap mods later if your FC says you don't need them. For now, get on it.
You will benefit most from the Discharge Elutriation rig for your weapon type, which greatly reduces the cap need of those weapons. Even better, the Tech2 version of this rig is remarkably cheap, and training to be able to fit the Tech2 version will reduce the grid cost of your weapons. Yes, we've already reached the "pimp out your fit" portion of this part of the guide. ;-) Get either a Tech1 or Tech2 version of this, then fill in with Cap Recharger IIs. See how close you can get to cap stable. Being entirely cap stable is best. Being able to use all your mods for eight minutes or more is second-best. If you find yourself having to fit a Capacitor Power Relay, you're probably doing it wrong.
Abaddons are going to have particular problems with even getting close to cap stability. Very highly skilled pilots can nearly make it work, or close enough to manage their cap once in sites. Everyone else will have to consider getting an Apocalypse, or if you can afford it, an Apocalypse Navy Issue.
Chances are, you're also starting to have CPU issues, particularly if you're flying an Amarr ship. I like to joke that Amarr ships don't have the computer capacity to both navigate at warp drive and operate the ship's calculator at the same time. If this is the case, the quickest way to solve this problem is with faction damage mods, such as Imperial Navy Heat Sinks. These use less CPU than their Tech2 versions. You also need to start saving for Imperial Navy or equivalent EANMs as well. Not only do these also use less CPU than their Tech2 counterparts, but they provide greater resistance as well. Some players -- particularly in Legions -- can get away with just two of these and still provide an excellent tank. This will free up a low slot with which you can increase damage.
Another solution to the CPU issue are the more inexpensive dead-space Adaptive Nano Platings, which use no CPU at all. These can match a EANM2. The better dead-space ones can match the capabilities of a faction EANM, but are somewhat expensive. Still, if you're running close to the line on CPU, this can be a good choice.
Other armor ships will want to buy similar faction mods for similar reasons, though at least you may not be having critical CPU issues. You should also upgrade to Tech2 guns as soon as you possibly can. Many armor fleets will not consider you at all if you're not fitting these, for the reasons in the first section.
The remaining advice for armor ships is identical to that for shield ships, reproduced here for convenience:
Still not hitting the DPS numbers? Then change out for faction or Tech2 ammo. You will be making enough ISK that firing the more expensive ammo will be paid for by your profits. You should probably be using this ammo whether you can hit these numbers or not. The faster the fleet does DPS, the faster the site will be cleared, the faster you will make the ISK, and the more sites the fleet can run per hour. The expensive ammo is worth it, particularly if every ship in the fleet uses it.
If you have any mid slots left, fill them in with utility e-war. The most useful mods are Stasis Webifiers and Target Painters. Dedicated webber ships such as Lokis should be carrying at least two webbers... three if you can. Pull off other utility mods to make this happen. Some ships will also benefit from an afterburner in a mid slot, particularly Minmatar ships. If you have any low slots left, fill in with Tracking Enhancers or a third (or fourth) damage mod.
You may have one or two utility high slots left. If you're a cruiser, these can be Salvagers if you want to bring in a bit of extra money, or small/medium reppers if you want to help out the Logistics ships in a pinch. If you're a battleship, these slots should be filled with Large Energy Transfers... Tech2 if you can use them, 'Regard' Meta4 if you can't. There's two reasons for this: first, if one or more of your Logistics ships gets disconnected or otherwise disrupted, the battleships that can will be expected to be emergency cap transfer partners for the remaining logis. Second, many turret battleships are not quite cap stable but can become so if they trade cap back and forth with a partner. If that's you, plan on requesting a cap partner the moment you get into a fleet.
Fill in the rest of your drone bay. First, add a second flight of Hobgoblin IIs. As I said, drones get killed repeatedly and you'll need spares on hot standby. After that, if you can use them, add a flight of medium rep drones. Finally, if you can use them, add a flight of mining drones. Yes, really. One of the incursion sites may require a little mining, or you may be asked to launch the flight of mining drones and then abandon them for a faster ship to pick up and use.
Joining a Fleet
Read Steps 5 and 6 of Part 2 of my Incursion Guide for tips for this section. The notes below discuss where this information differs for armor ships as opposed to shield tankers.
First, the names of the public incursion channels are THE DITANIAN FLEET and BTL ARMOR. The latter is the armor equivalent to the BTL PUB shield channel and as of this writing, is not very much used. As a result, you'll likely want to visit TDF, which is the longer-running and more active channel. As with BTL PUB, you'll notice they list their focus constellation right in the MOTD. However, be advised that unlike BTL PUB, the leadership of TDF is a bit more... prickly... about running fleets outside the selected constellation. TDF's population is smaller and it is expected that you will assist them in their chosen constellation rather than striking out on your own.
TDF uses the same acronyms as BTL PUB, with one obvious exception: "AF" stands for Armor Fleet. Everything else is the same. You will be expected to link your fit, and not to spam it. You may receive suggestions on how to improve your fit, suggestions that you should take very seriously!
Even moreso than BTL, members of TDF are very experienced players. Armor tanking, as I mentioned above, is hard! Do not be afraid to ask for help, and do not be insulted if suggestions are made about your fit. These experienced players can both help you make your fit better, and those that become anti-social in TDF will be identified and asked to leave far more quickly than the somewhat more laid-back BTL channels. Remember: being in TDF is a privelige granted you by the owners of the channel, not a right.
By the same token, it will be expected that you pimp out your ship in pretty short order! Because of its smaller, more experienced population, you're going to be competing with a lot of higher-end ships in TDF. Tech2 guns will be quite common; it will be the rare ship that doesn't have them fitted. Faction mods will also be quite common. You can get away with cheaper ships for a while, but you're going to find your fleet options a lot more limited than in the shield fleet channel until you upgrade.
This concludes Part 3 of my Introduction to Incursions guide. Part 4 will focus on being a logistics pilot in an incursion fleet.
Link to Part 4.