In my last article I discussed “Range” and the critical importance of speed in PvP. Today I will talk about three styles of tanking, and how they apply to PvP combat.
THREE TYPES OF TANKING
EVE presents pilots with three ways of keeping their ship from exploding: you can evade damage (speed tanking), repair damage (regenerative tanking), or you can just increase your resistance and hitpoints in the hopes of outliving your opponent (buffer tanking). Each has its advantages and its drawbacks.
The simplest way to handle incoming damage is just to not get hit in the first place! Thankfully, EVE provides us a way to do that - speed tanking. By increasing your velocity, you can make it difficult for turrets (cannons, lasers and railguns) to hit you, and reduce (but not eliminate) incoming damage from missiles.
The exact formulas for speed tanking are beyond the scope of a “Basics” article, but it is important to note a few things. First, evading turret fire is dependent on your “transverse velocity” - how quickly you move across the sky relative to your opponent - and your opponent’s tracking. Setting a course perpendicular to your target, increasing velocity, and moving closer to your opponent all improve your transverse velocity, while heading directly toward or away from your opponent (or allowing them to match your speed and heading) will drop it to zero and allow your opponent to hit you for full damage.
The advantage of speed tanking is that it can make you virtually immune to incoming damage. Past a certain speed, your opponents simply can’t land consistent shots. Additionally, speed has its advantages (as we discussed in the last article), so the same modules that allow you to speed tank can let you dictate range, catch fleeing targets and escape when outmatched.
Speed tanking does have its flaws, however. Maximizing its effectiveness requires a lot of skill, and it will almost always let some damage through. Additionally, speed tanking is most effective against single targets - the more opponents, the harder it is to plot a course that moves perpendicularly to all of them. As a result, it is almost always combined with one of the other two techniques as a failsafe.
This is usually the first style of tanking that players encounter. By fitting modules such as shield boosters and armor repairers pilots can spend capacitor energy in order to regain lost hitpoints. While there are superficial differences between shield and armor regen (shield booster consume more energy, but armor repairers heal at the end of their cycle, not the beginning), they are similar enough for our purposes.
It is important to note that regeneration benefits immensely from higher resistances. Each cycle, the booster or repairer heals a set amount of hitpoints. However, a ship with 50% resistances will effectively heal twice as much damage as a ship with 0%.
The advantage of regenerative tanking is that in can, if the ship is cap stable and incoming DPS low enough, heal an unlimited amount of damage. For this reason it is the gold standard for PvE pilots, since anomalies and encounters typically involve long slogs against low damage AI pirates.
This theoretical invulnerability comes at with some costs, however. Their biggest downside is that boosters and repairers consume immense amounts of cap. PvE ships often must fit rigs and capacitor batteries just make their regenerative modules cap stable. Running any other cap-hungry modules (afterburner, warp disruptor or especially a microwarp drive) is virtually incompatible with regenerative tanking.
Additionally, regenerative tanking is most effective when incoming DPS is less than or equal to the hitpoints healed. A setup that heals 100 effective HP per second can tank a ship that deals 99 DPS indefinitely, but a ship with 200 DPS will cut through the ship with minimal effort. As a result, regenerative tanking works best when the target’s damage potential is well known (as in PvE combat) or when your own ship is large enough compared to your opponent’s damage that you are likely to be able to tank it all (e.g. flying a battle cruiser or battleship) or at least prolong the combat enough for your regeneration to make a difference.
Buffer tanking simply seeks to maximize your ship’s effective hitpoints in an effort to outlast your opponent. Instead of cap-intensive boosters, a buffer tank relies upon shield extenders, armor plates and various resistance modules to build a wall between your fragile body and the vacuum of space.
As with regenerative tanking, it is important to maintain a balance between increasing resistances and raw hitpoints. A ship with 10,000 hitpoints and 0% cannot take as much damage as one with 5,000 hitpoints and 75% resistances. Luckily, EVE Echoes’ fitting screens makes testing fits easy - your defense score is your effective HP (Just make sure you take it out of the hanger and turn on your active modules to get accurate numbers). Additionally, make sure you take advantage of the active effects of typically-passive modules like armor plates and damage controls - they can do a lot to prolong your life.
Buffer tanking’s main advantage is its simplicity. It costs no cap, can’t be deactivated by enemy nosferatu or neutralizers... it just works. This allows you to focus your capacity and attention on other, more pressing matters. Because of this, I consider buffer tanking as the “default” PvP fitting - you rarely go wrong by filling your extra low slots with shield extenders, plates and damage control modules.
The downside, of course, is that once its gone, its gone. Additionally, one consequence of a buffer tank is that ANY amount of DPS - even a single frigate fighting a huge battleship - can eventually be fatal, if the enemy can keep you from escaping or destroying them.
WHICH IS THE RIGHT ONE?
Naturally, after reading all of that, you will naturally be asking “which tank is best?” The answer, predictably, depends upon the situation. However, I can give some general guidance for fitting your ship for PvP:
Frigates and destroyers tend to depend on speed tanking with as much buffer as they can muster. The role of these ships (fast tackle) and relatively low amounts of both cap and raw hitpoints prevent them from being able to get much use out of the other methods.
Once you get to cruisers, options begin to open up. Some (Caracals and Stabbers, for instance) can still depend upon speed tanking to avoid most damage. Others - particularly the tanker T6 cruisers such as the Maller or Moa - can get away with a pure buffer or even (in some situations) a regenerative tank.
By the time you get to battlecruisers and battleships, speed tanking has become a thing of the past. Such ships may still fit microwarp drives and afterburners in order to control range or escape, but they will do little to reduce the damage they take. Additionally, these ships begin to have such high capacitor pools and large amounts of hitpoints that any encounter they are in is bound to be a lengthy one, making regenerative tanking a more attractive option.
One parting thought. In PvE combat, the general rule is that Tank > Damage > Speed. In PvP, this order is reversed - Speed > Damage > Tank. As you design the tank for your PvP ship, bear in mind that it is invariably the least important aspect of your ship. A tough, slow turtle of a ship will accomplish little if it cannot catch its prey - or cannot get away when vastly outnumbered. Don’t overdo it!