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Published July 25, 2013

As a part of the changes coming in Odyssey 1.1, CCP has announced that they are adjusting all medium long-range (LR) weapons. This change coincides with the long-awaited HAC rebalance, and the two changes are intended to complement each other. Since the introduction of the attack battlecruiser, medium long-range weapons have not found much use as a viable weapon platform.

At first glance, the anemic DPS of medium LR platforms has been corrected. A rail Thorax used to max out at around 317 DPS; now it can put out 533. However, when CCP giveth, CCP also taketh away. Medium gun tracking has been slightly nerfed to compensate for the damage increase. This nerf is a bone of contention in the forum thread, and was a focus of CSM discussions when the change was put in front of us.

Here's how the buff actually shakes out in graph form. Below are contour plots, with sections representing different percentage changes in damage given a certain transversal speed (in km/s) and distance. To make these plots, I assumed that the guns were firing their close range ammo (Antimatter, EMP, and Multifrequency) and had no tracking enhancements other than all V skills. The target is an afterburning Thorax with a max speed of 0.85 km/s and a sig radius of 120, just under the guns' 125.

new guns vs old guns

From left to right are rails, artillery, and beams, compared versus their previous versions. The dark area is a 0% increase or nerf, the light purple is a <5% buff, the next-lightest area is a 5-15% buff, and the lightest area is a 15+% buff (the middle one, artillery, only has a <15% buff overall). Medium railguns received the largest bonus, with a good sized region in which they're 15% better than previously. Medium artillery received the smallest buff, which is fair given that they saw some limited use before the change. Beams fall somewhere in between.

While anemic DPS has always been a problem for the guns, they also face an overlap with tech II short range weapons, blaster Taloses, and attack battlecruisers wielding either long range weapons (Naga, Tornado) or short-range ones (pulse Oracles). 

Point Range Kiting

Point range skirmishing consists of fighting at ranges between about 20 and 40 km, with the sweet spot right between 20 and 30. Right now, you can best do this in an MWD Talos loading Null ammo. Pulse Zealots also operate in this range, although they have less kite than the MWDing Talos. Medium long-range weapons hold some promise for this area as a low-SP entry point or as a cheap counter to Talwar blobs whose sig would frustrate a large-gunned attack BC.

Here's a mid-SP Thorax fit designed for skirmishing in that range. It's a tight fit - with Ali's skills (AWU IV, reasonable support), it still requires Genolutions, an EG-602 and a MACR. After the buff, it will do 314 DPS without drones when hitting full-on (swapping to tech II weapons increases this, but also pushes it into AWU V territory).

[Thorax, noob skirmy]

Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Damage Control II
Tracking Enhancer II
Tracking Enhancer II

Experimental 10MN Microwarpdrive I
Warp Disruptor II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Large F-S9 Regolith Shield Induction

250mm Prototype Gauss Gun, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge M
250mm Prototype Gauss Gun, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge M
250mm Prototype Gauss Gun, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge M
250mm Prototype Gauss Gun, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge M
250mm Prototype Gauss Gun, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge M

Medium Anti-Thermal Screen Reinforcer I
Medium Ancillary Current Router I
Medium Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I

Warrior II x5

Genolution Core Augmentation CA-1
Genolution Core Augmentation CA-2
Inherent Implants 'Squire' Engineering EG-602

Here's its DPS (in contour and in "EFT" form for transversal ~= half of target max velocity) applied to three potential targets: a Guardian in an AHAC gang, a Talwar, and itself. 

Left to right: DPS vs. Guardian, Talwar, and skirmish Thorax.

On all three targets it performs acceptably, with the medium railgun buff helping the Thorax most right where it wants to apply damage. Compared to Zealots, the skirmish Thorax fares poorly, though. The extra SP and isk investment nets you roughly a 2x performance increase over the t1 option. However, the skirmish Thorax performs about as well as a Talos against both low-sig targets at a fraction of the price and skill points:

EFT style DPS graphs for the Thorax (blue) and pulse Zealot (red). The pulse Zealot wins.

The same graphs, this time for the Talos. A rail Thorax is a much stronger competitor for the Talos at small sigs.

The return of LRHACs?

Swap the tracking bonus for a range bonus like the ones on the Zealot, Muninn, or Eagle and you get a ship that can go reasonably fast, tank reasonably well, and apply damage at range even to rather small targets. Their niche is threatened by the attack battlecruisers, most notably the pulse Oracle. The Oracle's tank is not bad and despite Scorch tracking reduction, pulses are still "short range" weapons.

Comparing just the Eagle to the pulse Oracle, there are upsides and downsides. At reasonably far range and moderate transversal, you're applying a good deal more damage due to the superior signature resolution.

Obviously, this advantage disappears if your target is a large thing or not moving very fast. For DPS on large and/or stationary things, nothing will beat an Oracle setup. Is the performance tradeoff worth it? That depends on the applications, and several others have made more intelligent comments on the fate of post-rebalance HACs.

We'll see where the doctrines shake out; for now, this is a much-needed buff to a long-neglected weapons system. Maybe we can get missiles sometime too?

Ali Aras
CSM8 Vice-Secretary, @ali_of_space, TMC editor. I play EVE, LoL, and miscellaneous other games.

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