Editor's introduction to the first publishing of this guide. This is one of the most complex EVE player guides I've ever written on this blog, 5000 words into the theory of ship-fitting. As a result, it is probably sub-optimal in any number of areas. Be gentle, but please share your opinions on this guide, and thanks for reading it!
Fitting a ship for PvP in EVE Online is extremely challenging. Real life pilots have a saying: 90% of a good landing is set-up. In much the same way, your success or failure in PvP will often be decided long before the battle begins, by your choices when fitting your ship for PvP. And while there are specific guides for how to fit this or that ship for this or that purpose, there are few general guides to the theory of fitting a ship for PvP. That is the purpose to this guide.
This guide will try to cover the four basics to fitting a ship for PvP: deciding engagement range, your ship's role, your ship's tank, and the general basics of ship fitting once these things are decided. In this way, the guide describes a process by which you can consider the fitting of your ship logically so that every element of the ship's fitting supports every other element.
As with all of my PvP guides, the information in this document is general guide-lines aimed at the newer EVE player. It is fundamental, conservative information that will not apply in every scenario, but will provide a basic framework that you can build on. As you gain PvP experience, feel free to ignore or disregard material in this guide that is no longer useful to you. But until you reach this point, this guide will describe safe, conservative choices that will serve you well until you develop your own style.
No single factor will affect how you fit and fly your ship more than your intended engagement range. It's the most important thing to decide about how you want to fly your ship and therefore it's a decision that should be made early, if not first. Many ships in EVE -- particularly T2 ships -- are strongly encouraged into specific engagement ranges by the weapons or modules they can fit or by the bonuses of that class ship. There are four basic engagement ranges and they are as follows:
Brawling range. This range is defined as roughly the range of an overheated Stasis Webifier, about 12km or less. Brawling ships are typically characterized as very high tank, high resist, very high DPS ships. They often fit both Microwarpdrive and Afterburners for versatility and damage mitigation, and sometimes rely on a signature radius smaller than their target to avoid damage. Brawling is a signature tactic of Gallente ships, and ships using blasters or rockets as their primary weapon system. Typical of brawling ships is the Gallente Thorax. Capable of being either shield- or armor-tanked, it is an inexpensive, close range high DPS platform.
Kiting range. This range is defined as starting at the high end of brawling range, about 12km, and extending to roughly the range of an overheated Warp Disruptor, about 27km. Kiting ships generally rely on high speed and agility to mitigate damage and often have the best mix of speed, DPS, and tank of all EVE ships. Most PvP ships in EVE default to kiting range if the ship isn't specifically fit to another range. Kiting is a signature tactic of Minmatar ships, and ships using autocannons or heavy assault missiles as their primary weapon system. Typical of kiting ships is the Minmatar Vagabond. The "Vaga" can pick and choose its engagements, and typically operates just at the edge of point range waiting for the battle to either go its way or for an opportunity to slingshot away from any net thrown around it.
Skirmishing range. This range is defined as starting at the high end of kiting range, about 27km, and extending to about 70km. Skirmishing ships come in two flavors:
- those that sacrifice a bit of both DPS and tank for high speed, agility, and engagement range; or,
- those that make the opposite trade, forced to anchor to a relatively fixed point and take a good deal of punishment, but able to dish it out as well.
Sniper range. This range is defined as anything over about 70km or so. Much like skirmishing ships, snipers are either tough or agile but almost never both. They rely on good fitting and good tactics to inflict damage outside of the range of potential adversaries, and good fleet commander skills to place the gang at the proper range. Sniper ships go in and out of vogue as tactics and counter-tactics for them are developed in EVE Online. At the time of this writing (the release of Odyssey), they are in vogue but likely to go out of vogue very quickly with the new ease of scanning down their anchor points. Still, unusual tactics such as the use of Micro Jump Drives will likely continue to make sniping popular. Sniping is a signature tactic of Amarr ships, who can use both Beam Lasers, and occasionally even Pulse Lasers to attack at this range. Typical of sniping ships is the Amarr Oracle, which can strike targets hard at a range where their enemy may not even be able to lock them.
Notes about engagement range.
- Do not be fooled into thinking that each race is limited to one engagement range. Each race has ships and options for every engagement range. But the majority of each race's ships generally fall within their preferred engagement range.
- Typically, turret-based ships fitted for a given engagement range can strike targets at both their preferred engagement range and one engagement range closer. They will struggle or find it impossible to hit at longer ranges or shorter ranges. For instance, a blaster Talos (a skirmishing range ship) can easily strike targets at skirmishing range or kiting range, but won't do much damage at sniper range and won't be able to track its targets at brawling range.
- Missile-based ships fitted for a given engagement range can strike targets at their preferred engagement range and any range closer than that. For instance, a cruise missile Raven (a sniper range ship) can hit targets at all four ranges.
- Brawling ships (that can only engage at brawling range) are rewarded for this limitation by much higher-than-average damage. Missile ships (that can hit at three or even four ranges) are penalized for this benefit by their damage not being applied instantly; it takes time for missiles to reach their targets.
After choosing the engagement range (or if flying in a fleet, having in chosen for you), you must choose your ship's role. This is the second-most important characteristic your ship must have. Unlike engagement range or tank (below), a single ship can have multiple roles (and probably will, if you intend to fly solo or in an ultra-small gang). The role of the ship will often define what high slots are fit to it, and usually the non-tanking slots as well. There are six basic roles of a ship in PvP, as follows:
Primary damage. Applying damage is the most basic role of a PvP ship in EVE, and is the single role that must be fulfilled if the engagement is to be a success. Obviously a solo PvP ship must fulfill this role. Within a fleet, it is typical that two-thirds or more of the ships in the fleet be dedicated primary damage ships.
Tackler. Other than applying damage to the enemy, the main role that will almost certainly be necessary in a PvP engagement are tacklers, who are usually ships dedicated to this role. There are typically four types:
- frigate tacklers, using small fast ships to keep anything larger than themselves tackled;
- recon and T3 tacklers, who use devoted T2 or T3 ships with bonused modules to tackle their prey at skirmishing range;
- interdictors and heavy interdictors, that use two types of warp disruption bubbles to prevent enemy ships from escaping; and,
- heavy tacklers. This last sort can be any ship larger than a frigate with a heavy tank such as a heavy interdictor, a tanked cruiser, or battle cruiser.
Scout. The scout is exactly what it sounds like: someone whose role it is to find an enemy PvP ship or fleet and direct your fleet to their location. The scout's role can be (and most often is) combined with other roles, notably that of the tackler, but scouts can also operate completely independently. Screen ships (see below) also often make good scouts.
Logistics. Repair of friendly ships certainly isn't a required role, but it's a quite frequently-used one. It's becoming increasingly common as EVE's overall player base grows both "older" and more PvP-experienced. Logistics will typically operate at skirmishing range behind the main body of the fleet.
Electronic warfare. Also becoming increasingly common as EVE's PvPers become more savvy, even the solo PvPer will often dedicate a module or two on his ship to electronic warfare. At one time, this was almost exclusively the use of ECM jammers but in the last year or so the use of tracking disruptors and sensor dampeners has also steadily increased. Still, ECM jammers are by far the most popular type of e-war. Most electronic warfare ships operate almost exclusively at skirmishing range.
Screen. The screen role defines a ship whose primary purpose is to prevent tackle or enemy primary damage from falling on other ships in a fleet. As a result, this is a defensive role, though screen ships will also often sport heavy damage as well. Heavy assault cruisers used to be a popular primary damage platform but many of them are being repurposed as anti-tackle screen. Rapiers and Huginns are excellent screen ships, and the most popular Drake fit as of this writing is a screen platform.
Notes about role.
- As noted above, one ship can fulfill many roles and some do so very easily. A fleet of Zealots, for instance, can provide primary damage, heavy tackle, and screen. That is why Zealot fleets are popular. All you need to add is a bit of Logistics and your fleet is ready to deploy.
- There are a dozen other potential roles in a PvP fleet, but this guide is intended to cover the basics.
- It is important to consider the bonuses associated with your ship before you begin fitting it. While you need not be a slave to a ship's bonuses, for basic ship fitting it's a very good idea to stick with fittings that take advantage of the ship's bonuses.
The third-most important characteristic about fitting your ship will be the "tank" it possesses. When flying solo, you can choose any type of tank you like, of course. But when flying with a fleet, it is usually important that you match your ship's tank to the tank of the rest of the fleet. Even if your fleet is without logistics ships, a single armor-tanking ship in a shield-tanking fleet will struggle to keep up. There are six basic types of tanks for PvP ships, as follows:
Passive armor tank. This type of tank involves using between three and six of the ship's low slots, and two to three rig slots, to fit a thick, resistant wall of armor plate. Shields will fall rapidly but once into armor, the ship will "bleed" armor very slowly even if under extreme duress. The benefit of a passive armor tank is its extreme effective HP (EHP): passive armor tanks nearly always have the most EHP of any ship. But ships tanked this way are both slow and ponderous, and are easy for opponents to catch and avoid. Passive tank ships win their fights either by the presence of friendly logistics ships or through time: they hope to do more damage to the enemy than they have to take themselves.
Passive shield tank. This type of tank involves using between two and five of the ship's mid slots, and two to three rig slots, to fit a resistant heavy shield. Since shields generate naturally over time, it usually doesn't consume as many slots to tank ships this way as with armor. This is the primary benefit to a passive shield tank: it will eventually regenerate to 100% over time, which means a ship fit this way does not need to dock or use any type of charges to repair itself. Passive shield tank ships are also usually fairly fast and agile. However, they have a very high signature radius, meaning that they will take full or nearly full damage, usually from weapons of one size class higher than the ship itself.
Active shield tank. This type of tank involves putting into the mid slots several shield resistance modules, plus one or two shield booster modules, as well as two or three rig slots devoted to either further resistance or specialized rigs for increasing the effectiveness of or reducing the capacitor usage of shield boosters. Active tanks rarely have much buffer and as a result their EHP reported in-game or in a tool like EFT will be distressingly low. However, they will regenerate shields extremely rapidly, making such ships very frustrating to attack since the opposition will have less indication their attacks are doing any good. Active tanks have two types of regeneration modules: standard ones which use the ship's capacitor, and the "burst tank" module the Ancillary Shield Booster, which consumes Cap Booster charges in exchange for large increases in the ship's shields. Often, one of each is used. But eventually both capacitor and cap booster charges run out, and with it, the ship's life.
Active armor tank. This type of tank involves putting into the low slots several armor resistance modules, plus one to three armor booster modules, as well as (usually) all three rig slots devoted to either further resistance or specialized rigs for reducing the capacitor usage and increasing the effectiveness of armor boosters. Like a ship with an active shield tank, your in-game or EFT-reported EHP will be quite low. In addition, your regenerated armor as reported by EFT will also probably be quite low. It is for these reasons that active armor tanking is going through a bit of a nadir in EVE history with only a few ships (notably the Myrmidon and Hyperion) being able to do it very well at all. While listed here as a basic tank and while it will be covered in this guide, it is probably not a type of tank you want to work with unless you have good in-game and out-of-game skills. As with active shield tanking, usually a mix of standard Armor Repairers and the "burst tank" module the Ancillary Armor Repairer are used together.
Speed tank. This type of tank is most often used by small, fast ships operating at either brawling range or kiting range. It involves using only one or two shield-tanking modules for a minimal tank. Instead, damage is mitigated using extremely high speed to greatly mitigate damage from larger ships. Most frigates in EVE Online, for instance, can use this sort of tank very effectively against cruisers, battle cruisers, and battle ships. A tackle interceptor is most often fit with only a Damage Control and a meta Medium Shield Extender as its only tank. Alternately, electronic warfare ships quite often use a speed tank, avoiding damage by simply operating outside the normal range of their targets. If they are seriously threatened, they simply warp away.
No/minimal tank. There are a number of perfectly valid reasons for a ship to operate with a minimal tank or no tank at all. Most often this option is taken by sniper ships -- notably sniper Oracles and Tornadoes -- that devote every single mid slot to the ability to strike at range and every single low slow to projecting and enhancing damage done. Like the e-war ships in the previous section, they warp away if threatened. Electronic attack ships and stealth bombers are two other types of ships that will often go willingly into PvP with no tank at all, relying on other types of defenses to prevent damage. Enemy capital ships will often enter combat with no or minimal tank, relying on the sheer number of passive shield hit points that an enemy must burn through to harm them, refitting from nearby carriers when actually threatened.
Notes about tank.
- There is a seventh type of tank: dual-tanking. This involves attempting to fit modules associated with both an active shield tank AND an active armor tank on the same ship. This is not a basic type of tank and unless you are a very experienced EVE player (and probably operating in very special circumstances to boot), you should not attempt this type of tank. Sometimes, you'll see this type of tank being used by EVE experts in tournament play but unless you are an expert yourself, you should not attempt this.
- I'm serious: don't try to dual-tank your ship unless you really know what you're doing.
- When fitting a ship in the next section, ships with no/minimal tank will simply devote all of their lows to damage mods or other mods to enhance their role, and all of their mids to Sensor Boosters, Tracking Computers, and both a Microwarpdrive and an Afterburner.
Fitting the ship
Many people upon deciding on a new PvP ship start throwing modules onto it without thinking about the theory behind what they're fitting onto the ship or why. It is for this reason that there are so many bad PvP fits out there. Once you approach your ship from the standpoint of its engagement range, role, and tank, fitting the ship becomes much easier.
As you consider your engagement range, select weapons that are a good fit for this engagement range. Snipers want beam lasers, artillery cannons, railguns, or cruise missile launchers. Skirmishers want heavy missiles, medium artillery cannons, pulse lasers, and railguns (the latter perhaps with modules that improve tracking). The other engagement ranges work the same way. Keep your weapons consistent with the engagement range that you intend to operate in and as you start fitting the ship, try to use the most damaging weapons of the class that you've selected. You may have to downgrade them later (or may choose to downgrade them later so that everything will fit, or to improve tracking), but for now, if you're fitting blasters, try to fit neutron blasters, and so on.
Again, at the basic level, do not mix weapons and stick to weapons that go with your ship's bonuses. In addition, fit as many weapons as your ship has either missile or gun hard-points. Finally, do not mix weapons of the same type but of different "grades". For instance, do not mix 180mm and 220mm autocannons on the same ship. Different grade weapons will have different optimal ranges, fall-offs, tracking values, and even reload cycles and mixed grade guns cannot be grouped. There are sometimes perfectly valid reasons in PvP to go with weapons that don't match a ship's bonuses or fewer weapons than the maximum or weapons of mixed grades (many of these reasons will be covered in the advanced version of this guide), but at the basic level, if a ship has six gun hard-points, fill all six of them with guns of the exact same type and do not try to wedge on a missile launcher of any kind.
Now look at your ship's role. If your role is damage, you're probably already in good shape but start to consider tracking. If you are going to be shield tanking, by default you should be using two damage-increasing modules consistent with your weapons in the lows. You might end up with one, you might end up with three. But start with two. If you have more than four low slots and will be using guns, you'll probably want to fit at least one Tracking Enhancer module as well. If you are going to be armor tanking, by default you should have one damage-increasing module consistent with your weapons in the lows.
This also applies to electronic warfare jamming ships: if you are shield-tanking, fit two Signal Distortion Amplifiers. If you are armor-tanking, try to find room for one. This is generally a good rule of thumb for enhancing the damage or the other effects that your ship puts out.
Finally, armor-tanking gun-ships with lots of mid-slots should consider a Tracking Computer in one or perhaps two of them. "Double Tracking Computer" has been a mainstay of most Amarr battleships for quite a long time.
Nearly all PvP ships should give a single mid slot over to a propulsion module, something to increase your ship's speed. And nearly always, this should be a meta Microwarpdrive. There are perfectly valid reasons to use Afterburner ships in PvP but at the basic theoretical level, it's probably best to go ahead and stick with a MWD. The extra speed is worth this module's many down-sides. Afterburner applications will be covered in the advanced version of this guide.
Nearly all PvP ships should give a single mid slot to a tackle module of some type. For scout, primary damage, and screen ships this should nearly always be a long point, a Warp Disruptor module of some kind. Ships in a tackle role should usually fit a Warp Scrambler module of some kind. Ships in other roles can forgo tackle modules.
Next, consider your tank. First, at the basic level, fit a Damage Control unit of some kind. At more advanced levels you can consider removing this but at the basic level a "suitcase" is a must-have. As you learn PvP, you will be getting killed a lot and a DC will go a long way toward keeping you alive long enough that you can at least understand what's happening to you and give you a chance of learning from your mistakes. Without a DC, you'll be dying a lot without even realizing what's killed you.
As noted above, passive armor tanks use between three and six low slots. In order, fit the following:
- the heaviest armor plate your ship can fit consistent with its size and your guns; then,
- first one, then a second Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane, or if you do not have the CPU to do this, one and then a second Adaptive Nano Plating; then,
- look at your four resistances and "close" the one that is lowest with a single active armor hardener of the appropriate type; then,
- if you have an additional low slot, consider adding a second plate, particularly if you are flying a battleship.
Passive shield tanks operate in a very similar fashion but with one fewer mid-slot, using between two and five. In order, fit the following:
- either (preferably) a Large Shield Extender or (on frigates and destroyers) a Medium Shield Extender. Small Shield Extenders should never be used, on any ship; then,
- one Adaptive Invulerability Field; then,
- look at your four resistances and "close" the one that is lowest with a single active shield hardener of the appropriate type; then,
- a second Adaptive Invulnerability Field; then,
- if you have the power grid for it, a second Large Shield Extender.
Active armor tanks operate in a similar fashion, but generally replace the plates with Armor Repair Modules plus one Ancillary Armor Repair module of the appropriate size. Active shield tanks replace the Shield Extenders with one or perhaps two Shield Boosters, the first of which is usually an X-Large Ancillary Shield Booster or Medium Ancillary Shield Booster. Use caution if intending to fit a Large Ancillary Shield Booster. In most applications, it will not repair sufficient damage to be useful. The Small Ancillary Shield Booster should not be used on any ship.
At this point, you are possibly running out of power grid, CPU, or both. It is at this point that you begin to have to consider using "fitting mods." Fitting mods operate by closing the gaps in your fit to allow everything you want to use to fit on the ship. In general, you should try not to use fitting mods unless the fit absolutely demands it. The six most common fitting mods are:
- the Ancillary Current Router rig, or the Power Diagnostic System low slot module;
- the Co-Processor low-slot module, or the Processor Overcloking Unit rig; and,
- the Reactor Control Unit low slot module, or the Micro Auxiliary Power Core low slot module.
As you adjust the fit of your ship, do not be afraid to change some of the modules from tech2 to meta modules, usually meta4 modules. This most often applies to Shield Extenders, your Damage Control, your point or scram, and your Microwarpdrive if not already meta. These changes will give you back a couple of percent of power grid or CPU here and there and are often all that's needed to bring a fit into line if the fit is close. It is usually not a good idea to change your resistance modules for meta modules; they are less effective than tech2 modules.
Speed-tanking operates in a similar fashion, but reduces the maximum number of tanking modules available to one or two, usually focusing on shield. Most often, a Medium Shield Extender (often of the meta variety) and a Damage Control module are the two modules chosen. Alternately, other ships work well with two Large Shield Extenders and a Damage Control. In the general case, if you have only a few tanking modules on a ship, it is better to increase buffer with those that you do use unless you are also flying with a logistics ship, in which case you can replace one with a single module to increase your resists. As an example of this, the Talos has four mid slots. The most common shield-tanking Talos fit uses a 10MN Microwarpdrive, a Warp Disruptor, and two meta4 Large Shield Extenders. However, if a Logistics ship is in the gang, one of the LSEs can be (and usually is) replaced by an Adaptive Invulnerability Field to increase resists and make shield repairs more effective.
At this point, you may have a low slot or two free. You may have a mid slot or two free. And you may have a high slot or two free. High slots are the easiest. Refer to my Zen and the Art of Utility Highs to pick one that appeals to you. Still, for ships in a tackle role, a NOS is usually the best choice. For ships in all other roles, a neut is usually the best choice. A free low slot should be given to an additional damage module, an additional Tracking Enhancer, or (if you're running short of CPU), a Nanofiber Internal Structure. An additional mid slot should be given to an additional tackle mod (usually a Stasis Webifier), a Capacitor Booster, or some form of utility electronic warfare, usually a Sensor Dampener.
Inertia Stabilizers should not be fit on PvP ships under any circumstances. Sensor Boosters can be fit on PvP ships but should be fit only with a great deal of care and consideration. In a gang, this module will nearly always get you made fun of unless it is specifically required for sniping applications or the like.
Finally, modules that passively regenerate some aspect of your ship's operation should almost never be used in PvP. These include Cap Rechargers, Cap Power Relays, Shield Rechargers, and Shield Power Relays. While these modules are fine for PvE, the incoming damage or impacts to capacitor in PvP will generally be too strong for these modules to have much if any effect.
Finally and last, rig your ship using any remaining rig slots. In general at the basic level, passive shield tanking ships should use a full set of Core Defense Field Extender rigs. Passive armor ships should use a full set of Trimark Armor Pumps. This will increase the size of your ship's buffer and extend your life on the battle field. Active tanking ships use more specialized rigs. Active armor-tanking ships will use two Auxiliary Nano Pump rigs and one Nanobot Accelerator rig. Active shield-tanking ships will give one or two rig slots over to increasing shield resistances but may also use a Core Defense Operational Solidifier or (much more rarely) a Core Defense Capacitor Safeguard. Of course, if you have given over some rig slots to fitting rigs, you will have fewer rigs to devote to defense.
As with passive regeneration modules, do not use the Core Defense Field Purger rig in PvP at the basic level. While there are advanced level ships that can (and do) use this rig successfully in PvP, at the basic level you should stick with increasing buffer.
This concludes this guide into basic PvP ship fitting theory. As you examine ship fittings that you like, do think about how they fit into these theories. Considering ship fitting at the theoretical level will make you a much better EVE player. Rather than slavishly following the ship fitting advice of others, you will see possibilities for improving the ships that you fly, making them more adaptable, survivable, and successful.