As with last year, the faction ships will be regarded separately from the others and I continue to exclude tournament ships and limited edition ships. Without further ado...
Standard ship classes:
- Assault Ship: No change from last year; the Gallente/Enyo takes it. It's fantastic in either shield or armor configurations, fast, tough, and hard-hitting. The Caldari/Hawk continues to be the bridesmaid in this category with some wonderful defensive fittings. The Gallente/Ishkur is also in the wings.
- Battle Cruiser: The Gallente/Talos continues to hold this category thanks to its massive damage and damage projection combined with versatile fitting options. There's a lot of ships nipping at the Talos's heels, though. This is probably the most competitive category right now.
- Battleship: Even before last year was over, the Gallente/Megathron pushed the Caldari/Rokh off this pedestal, but in my opinion was then itself pushed off the top spot by the Minmatar/Typhoon, with the Amarr/Armageddon as a reasonably close second. MJD + Cruise Missiles + the Typhoon's natural agility make it an enormously fun ship to fly, and it's about to become even more stupid-good with the release of Rapid Heavy Missile Launchers in a few weeks. The Geddon's versatility, meanwhile, grows on me more and more.
- Black Ops: No change. Amarr/Redeemer, for the DPS. I'll be happy when the rebalance train passes through this station, though.
- Carrier: The Amarr/Archon continues to hold this position handily.
- Command Ship: The Command Ship rebalance pretty firmly pushed the Minmatar/Sleipnir off this pedestal to be replaced by the nightmarishly good Gallente/Eos. The Eos's mix of strong tank, armor and skirmish links, and decent damage application even when link-fit vaulted it to the top tier of on-grid CSs.
- Covert Ops: This remains the Caldari/Buzzard for versatility, and the hacking sites only strengthened its hold on the position. No change.
- Cruiser: If Battle Cruisers aren't the most competitive category, this one is. There are so many lovely choices. Overall, my pick for this year is the Amarr/Omen. It's tough, versatile, hard-hitting, and great for both PvP and PvE. The Caldari/Caracal, Gallente/Thorax, and Minmatar/Stabber are all nearly as good in their own ways, though.
- Destroyer: The Minmatar/Talwar has shoved the Minmatar/Thrasher off the top spot and is currently holding off an attack from the Gallente/Algos... but only just. Both are very fine ships.
- Dreadnought: Gallente/Moros. Still no contest.
- EAF: It was the Amarr/Sentinel before Rubicon and will almost certainly continue to be the Amarr/Sentinel after Rubicon. Still, the Minmatar/Hyena is growing on me.
- Frigate: The Gallente/Incursus took this position after the hybrid buff and so far has kept it after last year's frigate rebalancing. Still, there's no lack of competition. These days, most frigates have strengths.
- HAC: The Gallente/Ishtar continues to hold the top spot after this year's HAC rebalance. There's almost nothing it's not good at.
- HIC: The Amarr/Devoter continues to hold the top spot.
- Interceptor: The Gallente/Taranis keeps this position for another three weeks or so. After Rubicon, there's no telling which one I'm going to like the most. There are soooo many interesting choices!
- Interdictor: Likewise, the Minmatar/Sabre keeps this position until November 19. After that, I'm sad to report that I think it's quite probable it will drop from 1st place to 4th. But it had a really long good run in the top spot.
- Logistics: All four ships in this class have struggled this year from competition from the T1 rep cruiser rebalance. Last year, I chose the Minmatar/Scimitar, but only by the tiniest margin. This year I think the Scythe is a good enough replacement for that one that the Gallente/Oneiros takes the top spot. Not only is it great with friends, but there's a terrific viable ASB fit for single-logi fleet applications.
- Marauder: The Minmatar/Vargur gets to keep this spot for a few more weeks. After that, who knows? This is the ship class I'll be watching most closely over the winter.
- Recon: For three years now, this has been the hardest category for me to judge. There are so many good choices and I'm biased about most of them. Still, I continue to think the Caldari/Falcon remains the best of the eight, though the new sensor strength skills weakened its hold. The Minmatar/Rapier is now a close second.
- Rookie Ship: The Gallente/Velator continues to hold this spot, with the Caldari/Ibis still a close second thanks to its "LOL ewar noobfleet" capability.
- Stealth Bomber: I'm looking forward to this rebalance. Until it comes, I continue to favor the Caldari/Manticore for versatility, followed by the Minmatar/Hound.
- Strat Cruiser: The hybrid buff, rail buff, and increasing importance of cloaky ratter hunters have caused the Gallente/Proteus to push the Caldari/Tengu off the top spot, though it's a very close thing. The Tengu continues to be the king of this class for PvE.
- Super Carrier: The Amarr/Aeon continues to hold the top spot in this category. Its enormous tank and important super-cap fleet roles are tough to beat.
- Titan: The Gallente/Erebus continues to hold this spot, in my opinion.
For faction ships, I'm going to split the categories in two this year for Empire and non-Empire factions:
- Empire Faction Battleship: There are eight of these, and the best one is the Amarr/Apocalypse Navy Issue. It's a terrific mix of tank, DPS, projection, and style.
- Non-Empire Faction Battleship: For my money, the best in class is the Guardian Angel/Vindicator. There are few roles it can't be applied to, and it excels in most of them.
- Faction Battle Cruiser: A new ship class since last year! Only four of these, but in my opinion the Gallente/Brutix Navy Issue is the best one.
- Empire Faction Cruiser: No contest, the Minmatar/Scythe Fleet Issue, and if you'd told me before 2013's rebalances that I was gonna pick a split-weapon ship in any category, I would have laughed. But this bad-ass little boat has made a believer out of me.
- Non-Empire Faction Cruiser: The Blood Raider/Ashimmu was my choice last year, but this year's rail buff has allowed the Guardian Angel/Vigilant to supplant it. But there's a white and red shadow on the horizon that's going to step to the top of the pedestal with both feet come November 19.
- Empire Faction Frigate: There's only four of these and I'd be hard-pressed to choose a ship that's bad. But overall I'd give a very slight edge to the Gallente/Federation Navy Comet. The "cop car" has a great mix of damage, speed, and versatility, even if it no longer has its police light.
- Non-Empire Faction Frigate: The Guardian Angel/Daredevil continues to be the one that scares me the most, though the Angel Cartel/Dramiel is catching back up thanks to some real innovations in high-end fittings this year. The other three continue to lag behind, and badly.
- Exhumer: No contest: the ORE/Mackinaw easily wrested this title from the Hulk last year and nothing's changed to alter that in 2013.
- Freighter: The Minmatar/Fenrir was last year's winner thanks to the increasing importance of "quick freighters" and Nomad implants. I think it's going to hold the title for another few months, then I think it's possible we'll see one of the others take it away as alignment speed becomes less important and warp speed becomes more so. I think we're going to see a lot of Ascendancy freighter pilots.
- Industrial: Gallente/Nereus. The former Iteron wrests this title from the current Iteron Mark V. The quick-aligning Nereus is fantastically adaptable and carries 5500m3 in a fitting that aligns in four seconds and tanks 26k EHP. Alternately, you can put together a quite viable combat fit!
- Transport: Gallente/Viator, with the Minmatar/Prowler as continuing runner-up. No change from last year. The Viator holds up to 10000m3, aligns just as quick as the competition, and looks great. The Prowler's additional high slot is important but has fewer use cases.
Those are my choices for now. But in a few weeks, we'll have new possibilities in the Interceptor, Electronic Attack Frigate, Interdictor, and Marauder categories. In addition, it's a good bet that there will be a new title holder in the faction cruiser category as well... But we'll see where things stand next year. Most improved race in 2013? Hard to say! But this year's losers are the Minmatar. They got bumped out of a couple of key categories, but at least they're still ahead of the Caldari.
Tomorrow, an extension of this post I hadn't thought of until this year.
So, what did I get wrong?