Last year, I excluded faction ships of all kinds from the list. This year, I'm going to include them in their own categories. But I'll still be excluding tournament ships this year. Without further ado...
- Assault Ship: Last year, I tentatively picked the Enyo. This year, I would be tempted to drop the "tentatively". The thing has just become a monster thanks to the hybrid buff. That said, the Caldari/Hawk has become unbeatable in a 1v1 thanks to ASBs. So if you want a fleet of AFs, Enyos. But if you're gonna bomb around low-sec looking for targets, the Hawk.
- Battle Cruiser: Last year, I chose the Hurricane but this year, it's not even in the top three. The new tier 3 BCs are so much better than the previously existing types. Which one of the four is the best is a topic for lots of argument, but for my money, the best of them is the Gallente/Talos. It's just so versatile and hard-hitting.
- Battleship: Last year, I chose the Tempest for versatility. With the changes to hybrid damage though, I'm gonna go with the Rokh this year. Its range, tank, and punch in the right fleet doctrines is tough to beat. It's also become much more viable in PvE, displacing the Raven in a lot of applications.
- Black Ops: No change. Amarr/Redeemer, for the DPS. They all still stink, though.
- Carrier: The Amarr/Archon has supplanted the Thanny for this position with the increasing importance of triage and pantheon carrier tactics.
- Command Ship: Still a tough category. It's definitely still an Amarr or Minmatar entry. Last year, I chose Minmatar/Sleipnir and it's hard to change my mind about it this year. It's a nasty little boat.
- Covert Ops: Remains Caldari/Buzzard for versatility. No change.
- Cruiser: Until December 4, Minmatar/Rupture holds this title. After December 4, I suspect it won't even be in the top five, but which ones will supplant it remain to be seen. If I had to guess, I'd say the Thorax will be the best one.
- Destroyer: Again, Minmatar/Thrasher holds this position until December 4. It's too early to say what it will be after, though.
- Dreadnought: Gallente/Moros. It isn't even a contest.
- EAF: I continue to admire the Amarr/Sentinel quite a lot. It proved its worth during Alliance Tournament X.
- Frigate: With the hybrid weapon changes and its awesome versatility, the Gallente/Incursus wrested this position from the Rifter. It might not hold it long after December 4, though. We'll see.
- HAC: This class of ship has been absolutely destroyed this year, so any choice I make is kind of irrelevant. Still, I think the Gallente/Ishtar has taken over this position thanks to the new Drone Damage mod.
- HIC: The Onyx won last year for versatility, but armor fleets have been so important this year that the Amarr/Devoter has slipped into the top spot.
- Interceptor: Most of them are damn good, but I remain a big fan of the Gallente/Taranis. The hybrid buff only made it better.
- Interdictor: The Minmatar/Sabre still holds this position, and by a wide margin.
- Logistics: All four ships in this class are now quite good, until they get supplanted in one way or another on December 4. Until then, the Minmatar/Scimitar remains the best of them.
- Marauder: With the introduction of XLASB tactics, the Minmatar/Vargur wrested this slot from the Amarr and doesn't show any signs of giving it up any time soon, even with the gentle nerf that's coming.
- Recon: This is always going to be the toughest choice for me. They're almost all great ships in their own ways. Still, the Caldari/Falcon remains the best of the eight in my opinion.
- Rookie Ship: This was the Gallente/Velator before that ship got some nice buffs. Still, the Caldari/Ibis is now a close second thanks to its "LOL ewar noobfleet" upgrade.
- Stealth Bomber: Still a close call between the Caldari/Manticore and the Minmatar/Hound. I continue to favor the Manti for versatility. That extra mid-slot is so useful.
- Strat Cruiser: Again, this remains the Caldari/Tengu for versatility. The HML nerf isn't going to hit them particularly hard, so it will probably keep the title after December 4.
- Super Carrier: I didn't choose a winner of this category last year. This year, I'm going with the Amarr/Aeon. It loses a slight bit of versatility and DPS compared to the Nyx but that's made up for by its enormous tank and supercap fleet role.
- Titan: I picked the Gallente/Erebus last year and I see no particular reason to change that opinion.
For faction ships:
- Faction Battleship: There are 13 faction battleships, and it's hard to pick a bad one. Every single one of them has a lot of fans. For my money though, the best in class is the Serpentis/Vindicator. There are few roles it can't be applied to, and it excels in most of them.
- Faction Cruiser: Last year, had I chosen one, I would have gone with the Angel/Cynabal. On reflection, I still think it's the best of them, though the Blood/Ashimmu and the Minmatar/Stabber Fleet Issue are both tied for a close second. The latter two ships do damn good jobs of supplanting a Recon and a HAC, respectively, for a fraction of the cost.
- Faction Frigate: Again, there's lots of good choices in this category, but the only one of them that actively scares me is the Serpentis/Daredevil. The hybrid buffs really helped this ship and the massive nerf the Dramiel got finished the job of putting the "devil" on top.
- Exhumer: No contest: the ORE/Mackinaw easily wrested this title from the Hulk this year.
- Freighter: Last year, I chose the Charon. This year though, the Fenrir gets the nod thanks to the increasing importance of Nomad implants.
- Industrial: Gallente/Iteron Mark V. No change. More space = better, or if you don't need the space, you can make the flying stick align and warp like a blockade runner.
- Transport: Gallente/Viator. Again, no change from last year. It holds up to 10000m3, aligns just as quick as the competition, and looks great. I understand the argument for the Prowler thanks to its class-leading second high slot. If you live in a wormhole, it's the best in class for your use. But if you don't, how often do you actually need that high?
Those are my choices for this year, though of course the frigate, destroyer, and cruiser categories are subject to change in about five weeks. But that'll be in next year's update. Most improved in 2012? Definitely the Gallente. That hybrid buff allowed them to take over three very competitive categories.