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I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Lucky number 13

For weeks now, I've been asking the CCP devs organizing AT11 a pretty easy question: "will teams be allowed to field shield-tanking ships with 13 charges loaded into ASBs?"  It's one of those "easy" questions that gets me yelled at from time to time.  ;-)  Needless to say, it's not an easy question at all.  Well, CCP Fozzie has answered the question officially, and the answer is "yes".

Let me explain what this means, why it may be a big deal, then I'll get briefly into what I think about it.

When Ancillary Shield Boosters were first introduced, the volume of cap booster charges that they could hold was initially set such that 10 standard cap booster charges could be loaded, or 13 of the Navy charges.  Now in practice, there are only two ASBs that are worth a damn in 85% or more of situations: the Medium ASB for frigates and the XLASB for everything else.  And nobody sane was using non-Navy charges in the ASBs, so 13-charge XLASBs became the standard.  In particular, XLASB Sleipnirs became a thing for both tournament play and non-tournament play.  For tournament play, a trio of the following fit became pretty standard:

[Sleipnir, Tournament II]
Damage Control II
Gyrostabilizer II
Gyrostabilizer II
Gyrostabilizer II
Co-Processor II

Experimental 10MN Microwarpdrive I
Conjunctive Ladar ECCM Scanning Array I
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
X-Large Ancillary Shield Booster, Navy Cap Booster 400
Large Shield Extender II

220mm Vulcan AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP M
220mm Vulcan AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP M
220mm Vulcan AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP M
220mm Vulcan AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP M
220mm Vulcan AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP M
220mm Vulcan AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP M
220mm Vulcan AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP M
Siege Warfare Link - Shield Harmonizing II

Medium Anti-Kinetic Screen Reinforcer I
Medium Core Defense Field Extender I

Valkyrie II x4

This ship features great DPS, great speed, and a great all-around tank.  In tournament play, the standard tactic was to overload both the Invul and the ASB, pulsing the ASB to remain at around 60% shields, saving the last three to four charges to expend all at once to get as close to 100% shields as possible.  In small gang fights, on which the tournament is based around, this gave you about 70 seconds of life before the ASB ran out of charges, and allowed you to tank about 1700 DPS during this period without a Scimitar.  If your comp included a Scimi, you could tank 3200 DPS or more for that 70 seconds.  Given that a lot of tournament teams have no more than 5000 effective DPS total and a lot of teams (ECM-based, missile-based, AF-based) have less, this was a pretty big deal. 

It also resulted in AT10 tournament commentators having to say the phrase "he's fine right now, but when he runs out of charges, he's gonna die" approximately 600 times.  ;-)

This was because for those 70 seconds, you were pretty well invulnerable... then your shield buffer enhanced with that LSE and extra rig would give you another 40-45 seconds of additional life under the usual circumstances.  ASBs have a 60-second reload cycle.  That meant that if your opponents made a mistake in terms of applying their DPS and you could stretch that 40-45 seconds to 60 seconds, you'd get to hear the tournament commentators say "Uh oh, it looks like he's managed to live through his reload cycle!"  And the dance would start again.

It therefore became very tough to kill a ship with an XLASB being used properly and more importantly extended a lot of tournament matches.  In a tournament match, the two minutes a tough ship could live while running a 13-charge ASB is a long, long time.  While your opponents are trying to crack that ship, you can get a lot done.  ASB Sleipnirs were most common, but you also saw ASB battleships, ASB Cyclones, ASB Scimitars, and interestingly enough... ASB Oneiroses in armor comps.(1)  That last could only tank 700 DPS or so, but was wicked fast with a tiny sig and so in practice would nearly always live through those first 70 seconds if flown properly.

Anyway, if you're thinking or remembering this resulted in a lot of dull one-sided tourney matches, you're correct.

It also resulted in a lot of frustrated opponents because in a tournament match, that two minutes can seem like an eternity to keep DPS on one target trying to crack its tank.  Sometimes, the opposing team would make the worst mistake possible.  Their FC would say, "Guys, we're not breaking him, switch to..." and that would give the ASB ship all the respite it needed to get a reload cycle done.

So, after tournament time was over last year, CCP decided to reduce the number of charges an ASB could hold, to seven standard charges or nine Navy charges.  This reduced the initial time window of effective invulnerability from 70 seconds to 45-50 seconds.  And as a result, in the Syndicate Competitive League, we saw both a reduction in the number of ASB-based shield tanks and a reduction in the time window of effective invulnerability they gave the team using them.

But an interesting thing happened after the maximum volume of the ASBs were reduced... they weren't reduced for any of the ships that had them loaded when the change went live on Tranquility!  A lot of pilots with sharp eyes suddenly realized that they still had 13-charge ASBs.  If you unloaded or unfit them and then reloaded them, they'd reload to nine.  But if you were careful not to unload or unfit them, they retained all 13 charges.  And that's where we are today: there are an unknown number of ships out there in people's hangars across New Eden with 13 Navy charges loaded into ASBs of various sizes.

So now you understand why I started asking about these legacy 13-charge ASB ships almost immediately after I had the direct access to CCP devs afforded me by winning the CSM8 election.  I asked three or so times before the AT11 rules were even announced (in the hopes that I could get the answer put straight into the rules) and I've been asking very steadily every other week or so since the rules were announced... usually to the collected groans of the CCP tourney judges.  ;-)

So now we finally have an answer.  And if you have a ship of the right class with 13 charges loaded into an ASB, you suddenly own one of the most collectible and valuable ships in New Eden.  Particularly if it's a Scimitar, Oneiros, or Sleipnir.

My personal hope was that the AT11 rules would be set such that these ships would not be allowed, for a couple of reasons:
  • it's going to make the matches where these ships are used both less interesting and more one-sided; and,
  • it's going to give rich teams a big advantage over poor teams.
That said, I can understand why the rules were not set that way.  Having had a little bit of experience watching Fozzie checking ship fittings for illegalities during the SCLs, I can deduce that it's a not-inconsiderable, annoying process.  And that's with the relatively easy matter of just checking to see what modules are fitted to a ship.  The annoyance of checking the number of charges in those modules would be more annoying and fiddly still.  One little human error, and even if 13-charge ASBs had been forbidden it would have been easy for one to slip past.  So avoiding the issue entirely is both an easy choice and frankly, probably the one I would have ended up making were I in CCP's shoes.

But it's likely to have an impact on AT11 all the same.  Somewhere out there is a team with the financial wherewithal (or more simply, the stored prior year's tournament ships) to make a triple 13-charge Sleipnir comp a reality, or to field multiple 13-charge Scimitars or Oneiroses, and in so doing put the odds of advancing from round to round more firmly in their favor.  I'll remind you it was a triple-Sleipnir/Scimitar comp that won AT10 for Verge of Collapse last year, so this comp is definitely something to watch for in AT11.

Will this have an impact on the tournament results?  We'll know in a couple of months!

EDIT (2/July/2013): And now CCP Veritas has jumped into the fray, saying that just maybe 13-charge ASBs might or might not be allowed after all.  We'll have to wait more weeks to see.  Decisions are hard, yo.  ;-)

(1) It soon became clear last year that shield-tanked Onis could keep themselves alive much longer than the armor-tanked equivalent under the support of a few armor rep bots.  The shield version was faster, could rep more, and left the ships using their drones to keep the logistics alive able to use that valuable drone bandwidth for something else.


  1. Perhaps this is a really stupid n00b question of me, but it's a known value sitting in memory (or stored on a hard drive) in a computer. Checking numbers of charges and builds should be completely automated. Why in the HELL would it be a manual process? Like this makes absolutely no sense. My brain is full of fuck.

  2. Actually, it doesn't matter what Fozzie says, because as we all known, it doesn't matter what a Dev says. They will hold an investigation into how this happened, but don't worry, the results of the investigation will have no impact upon their decision to kick you from the tournament.

    1. Anger is the correct response to Spergs and Soundwaffle abusing their position to punish their virtual enemies. They are sad pathetic men who publicly admitted that the results of their investigation would have no impact upon their decision to ban Hydra and Outbreak from the tournament. Their inflated egos were bruised, so they manufactured a pretext to take revenge.

  3. From other games, when tournaments were introduced, we would apply our "fit" to the panel and they would create a copy. This would help in this regard to make sure certain anomalies such as this wouldn't exist.

    For instance, take your fit you outlined, and apply it the panel for tournament entry. The host, makes that ship, and hands it over.

    Remove legacy altogether imo.

  4. Tournament usually work on a "same rules for everyone" base. Possibly granting one party a 40% benefit is hilarious. Hilariously bad, I mean I'd say one may shrug off a 5% bonus, but 40%? I don't care how much work it is to sort this out, if they want a "proper" tournament they need to exercise the effort.

  5. The fact that applying such changes in Tranquility and not removing loaded charges/ammo/drones and placing them on the cargo hold has always been an odd decision in my view.

  6. They just might. If not, make sure if you HAVE one of the ships mentioned to contact the likes of PL or hydra. I'm sure as fuck regretting my WH sleip from local to buffer... I would've taken the payout any time.

  7. I will be curious to see if the armor version with paste, figures into fits for AT11.


  8. The simple and evil solution is that when an overstuffed ASB is activated in Jove space, it has a significant chance of blowing up the ship.

    The best part of this solution is that CCP doesn't have to actually implement it -- they just have to say they will. Since it can't be tested by players except in actual tournament conditions, teams are faced with a choice: Do they feel lucky?

    CCP Veritas: I know what you're thinking. "Did he actually patch the code or not?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all the excitement I kind of lost track of whether I committed the change. But being as that is an overstuffed XLASB, the most powerful module in the tournament, and could blow your ship right up, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

    1. You mean the Eve version of "The Corbomite Maneuver!"?

  9. Hand over ship for scrutineering. Scrutineer strips fitting, checks modules are allowed under tournament rules, returns stripped ship and legal modules back to the participant (confiscating the "illegal" stuff).

    You get your 13 charges and your ASB back, but there is no longer any problem of a ship carrying legacy rules into a high stakes fight.


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