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As my regular readers may have noticed, most of the guides I write focus on solo PvP. The reason is simple - as a pirate (not to mention a busy Dad and teacher IRL), that's usually what I have time for. When I'm flying solo, I don't have to do any elaborate scheduling, nor do I have to worry about getting my team mates killed when I screw up (yes it does happen - I'll be talking more about that later). If I had to team up every time I roamed, I doubt I've have a tenth of the kills that I do.
But whether you are a dedicated loner or are an extravert who can't get dressed in the morning without a dozen friends, it pays to understand how to fly with a fleet - and how to suit up for one. Once you go from a squadron of one to having a wingman - or two, or ten - it almost always pays to have a plan and customize your fits to fly as a unit.
Like in every cooperative human endeavor, the key to good fleet composition is specialization. While blobs of identically-fit frigates might work in some cases, an efficient and effective fleet assigns each member a distinct role that fits the mission the fleet intends to accomplish.
In this article, I'm going to breakdown some of the major roles that see use in small-medium PvP squadrons (no more than about a dozen pilots) and suggest ship classes that might be used in each. While my bias is toward hunting parties (this is the Pirate's Guide, after all), these roles are also applicable to most other forms of PvP combat.
Suggested Ships: Interceptors, Assault Frigates, Stealth Bombers, Ventures
One of the most important roles in any hunting fleet, the main job of the Light Tackle is to find a target, chase it down, warp disrupt it and call in the rest of the fleet to finish the job. Light Tackle should be fast enough to keep up with whatever targets you are hunting (or be able to sneak up on them with a cloak), load as many disruptors as possible to be sure of locking the target down and tough enough to survive until the cavalry arrives. If the ship can align swiftly and has a high warp speed, all the better - that way it can search for targets more efficiently (and escape when things go south).
Frigates are a natural choice for Light Tackle, and virtually any frigate with a microwarp drive and some disruptors can be outfitted to do the job in a pinch. However, certain classes of frigate really excel at the role. Tech IV Interceptors, as the fastest ships in the game, are ideally suited to the role. T7 Assault frigates - with their bonuses to damage controls and reduced microwarp drive signature radius - sacrifice a bit of speed for some extra durability which can come in handy against tough targets or when the fleet is spread across multiple systems.
Stealth bombers can fulfill the role as well, though instead of catching the target with speed they use stealth. Ventures are also used in some cases - they have excellent lock speed and enough midslots - but they obviously tend to be fragile.
When fitting a ship for Light Tackle, be willing to sacrifice everything (DPS, durability, stasis webs) in order to be sure of nailing down the target for the fleet. Your job isn't to kill the target, tank the target long term or even web the target - your fleet mates will arrive soon to do that for you. Just make sure you can catch it and hold it long enough for the fleet to arrive and take over so you can warp to safety.
Suggested Ships: Talwar / Corax (Sniper or Assault), Stabber Fleet, Caracal Navy
The job of the Heavy Tackle is to take over for the Light Tackle and completely pin the target down - disruptors AND webbifiers - so that the fleet can tear it apart. Like the Light Tackle, these ships need some speed to keep up with their targets and run them down if they get loose. They also need to be durable - skimping on EHP is fine for ships that only need to survive the 20 seconds it takes the fleet to warp to zero, Heavy Tackle should be able to last the entire fight, even if multiple targets need to be taken down. While less critical than speed and durability, these ships can often significantly contribute to fleet DPS - especially in small squadrons.
The Caracal Navy Issue and Stabber Fleet Issue are ideal for this role. Faster than destroyers and with plenty of midslots for both disruptors and webbifiers, these ships have the right mix of speed and tank to be effective Heavy Tackle. The Corax and Talwar lines also excel in this role, thanks to their impressive bonus to stasis webbifer range - especially the Sniper versions with their three midslots. While the Gallente and Amarr versions of these destroyers and cruisers can serve as well, the speed bonuses of the cruisers and webbifier bonuses of the destroyers really the Caldari and Minmatar ships shine in this role.
Observant readers may have realized that many of these ships have been featured on this blog before. The reason is simple - Heavy Tackle ships tend to make great solo PvP ships. They have the speed and midslots needed to catch your prey, combined with the DPS and tank to outlast them. Fit your Heavy Tackle like a pirate and it should do well.
Suggested Ships: Tanky T6 Cruisers (Maller, Moa, Rupture,Thorax) or Battlecruisers with short-ranged weapons
Brawlers are close-range DPS specialists. They take advantage of the high-damage output of short-ranged weapon types to crack the tank of their target while their speedier teammates pin them down. While vulnerable on their own due to their limited range and often slow speed, Brawlers excel in short fleets where Light and Heavy Tackle allow them to make the most of their pants-soiling damage potential.
Because brawlers operate at point-blank ranges, they must expect heavy fire. As such, these ships are often heavily buffer tanked, with EHP that soars into the tens of thousands. Additionally, many fit damage-boosting modules that can allow their already-formidable DPS to be cranked to 11 for short periods, reducing every tough opponents to confused pod-dwellers with alacrity. Midslots are typically devoted to a mix of disruptors (can NEVER have enough in a fleet), webbifiers and energy neutralizers (to more quickly break the tank of particularly stubborn victims). Finally, most will fit an afterburner or microwarp drive to ensure they can get to their optimal range as quickly as possible.
One useful application of a brawler is as a bait ship. Sitting in an anomaly, a Maller or Ferox can easily be mistaken for an innocent ratter while its allies sit one system over, waiting at the gate ready to jump in. When attacked, the brawler suddenly activates its webbifiers and holds the target down while its hefty tank helps it to survive until its allies arrive.
Suggested Ships: Sniper Destroyers, Cruisers & Battlecruisers with Long-Range Weaponry
Fire Support ships specialize in one thing - long-ranged damage. Unlike Tacklers and Brawlers, which have to get close to do their respective jobs, these ships aim to stay far from disruptor range - in fact, out of the enemies' weapon range if at all possible. By doing so, Fire Support ships can forego the heavy tanks that Brawlers depend upon and instead fill their low slots with damage and weapon range modules. In addition to serving as a form of protection, the range of a Fire Support ship also allows it to quickly cycle from one target to the next - often without having to move at all.
A variety of ships can fill this role. Sniper Destroyers and (some day) Cruisers are designed for this, with a special mode that allows them to extend their reach. But a dedicated sniper-class ship is hardly required - virtually any Cruiser or Battlecruiser can do the job if properly fitted and rigged to maximize their damage and range.
Interestingly, this is one role at which the meta-favored missile and drone boats are actually inferior. In PvP - when every volley counts and ten seconds is an eternity - the long flight time of missiles and the fragility of drones really favors turret ships which can hit instantly and without risking any material.
Suggested Ships: Logistics Cruisers & Guardians
The ultimate fleet-friendly vessels, Guardians and Logistics ships are the powerful force multipliers that can dramatically improve the survivability of their fleet. The presence of logistics ships on the opposing side is almost always a grim omen which good commanders will note with caution.
That said, Logistics ships have some limitations. They really only make sense in medium to large fleet compositions - in small squads, you'll almost always be better off bringing more DPS or another tackler. They are also expensive and have a high skill threshold.
Their biggest limitation, however, is that they require considerable pre-planning and coordination to be fully effective. A logistics ship isn't just something you "show up" to a roam in. An remote-armor-repping Exequror is wasted on a fleet of Caracals, and any logistics operations depends on the fleet staying in range and not, say, auto-targeting and shooting their own tender ship.
If you intend to employ Logistics ships in your fleet composition, make sure you train with them. Do some missions or anomalies before facing the enemy so that you can be confident that your fleet will be able to make full use of their impressive abilities.