Crunching the Numbers
By: George Argyropoulos
There are times this game throws me for a loop and I make some serious mistakes. The last Hunter article is proof positive that you can understand a whole lot in theory and still be surprised by real world applicability.
After seeing the targets in the Raid and getting some testing done (Huge shout out to Thor_1SP for the time, coin and testing!!!!!) I've narrowed down to a final build.
This is last test run we did, still having several variants in this fleet. I believe, IF the targets stay the same, the damage should get under 30 minutes easily with this final build. I'm hoping for some solid continuity in this target, or at the minimum, in the precision and continuity of design with regard to the mechanics and damage.
A lot of effort went into testing a lot of weird things on this build. With the disparity of results using different builds it was a little difficult to narrow down what was going on until we started watching auto runs and could watch all the mechanics unfold.
In this instance, we really can't talk about the build without talking about the target. We found some interesting things in the target and had to adapt our build to suit it. As I mentioned, there were many inconsistencies early on that didn't really clear up until we let everything just run. I believe that this was designed exactly for that approach which makes for a difficult time for player to unravel it as well as for the designer to design it, but it came out pretty slick. Kudos to Robot.
While I don't know for sure what is coded into the target, I can make some educated guesses. The first is the reasoning behind the evade. It may not be entirely needed if you are going to drive this fleet in the target. If, however, you are going to use it for its intended purpose, autoing the target, it is very much something you want to have. Having watched several videos, it seems that there are two torpedoes in the target. The first is a longer range one that doesn't do much if any damage to the Hunter fleet, the second one is more insidious. It is shorter range, seems to have lowered accuracy, however, when it hits, it HITS.
The next issue in this build that has caused much consternation from people viewing the fleet build is the lack of use of Charged X armor. It seems that the target is exceptionally fine tuned around a 5 hull Hunter build and this damage type is precision tuned to that. I had a friend ask me how exactly the charge drops so precipitously on his fleet equipped with Charged X but didn't quite grasp why mine without was suffering the same amount of damage from the explosive weapons. I want to explain that one a little and then we'll get to the build itself.
The charged X pool depletes because the charge is used up, but since a stack of 5 Hunters has such high resist, combined with the native stacking deflection of the hulls, the damage throughput is negligible at the end of the calculation. I.e., the charged armor wasn't needed on the hunter fleet.
Part of the issue that seems to be catching people is the way the order of operations work. Say each rocket did 100 damage. With a ship equipped with charged armor, the damage from the weapon is absorbed by the charged armor first. Before resistance, before splash reduction, before deflection, so the charged armor takes the full amount of the weapon damage. Let's say the full damage is low enough that it gets fully absorbed and passes its 1 damage through to the hull.
Now, if you have no charge, setting aside the splash damage reduction, resistances brings it down to say 3ish damage, then deflection completely negates it making it min pass through damage. If the min through damage is also valued at 1, the net result to the hull's health is the same, from either calculation, regardless of the use of charged armor. It looks like the target was specifically tuned with much precision to affect this result. It ended up essentially being a puzzle within a puzzle. Very slick Mr. Robot, very slick. I'm not sure if I want to smile about this or frown but I can still appreciate the box within the box theory.
Live Edit: One thing I did forget to mention,and was asked- many people observed that their X pool depleted and then they would take more damage in the target if they didn't retreat and re-charge. In looking at two builds just sent to me, both are much lower in the concussive resistance area than this build. I forgot to mention that the concussive damage in this target is also tuned very specifically. I found that any damage we received seemed to juuust get past the resist/deflection threshold so that the pool did not deplete precipitously, however, the hull did sustain damage. I'd love to further test some possible theories such as a random 'lead' ship and if that lead ship perhaps has a specific load out in either damage direction, but until such time as I can test further, the only pattern I see from the players expressing this concern, so far, has been a significant difference in concussive resistance.
Now we get to the meat and potatoes. This build is optimized to auto hit the target. That doesn't mean you can't drive it, but the way that the target was tuned for this hull... why wouldn't you auto?
I do have a confession to make. I am very torn about one special in particular. Not its choice in this particular build, but in using it with the looming threat of an escalation release coming out. Can I take a moment to rail against the whole idea of repeated escalations for a raid/chore fleet in general? To exacerbate the issue, players already are feeling the need to build both fleets.
(Don't dismiss this Kixeye. I understand your position, and the overall intent, but players perceptions are their reality. Your intent doesn't really matter as much as their perception - that's what drives them to play, not your intent or intended design. Sometimes the control slips, you just have to correct for it, and know when you should.)
When the escalation stuff comes out those players will feel like they have to refit TWO fleets. With one shipyard still. I'm sorry, but that is a bit asinine. I am not a fan. In fact I am solidly in the critic and detractor camp on this issue. There is enough in the game that this entire idea needs to get thrown out the window, particularly with a 3 month raid set-up wherein the release comes after the second raid. No. Just no. Stop it.
Finally, the build...
All Charged CT armor. I know this seems counter-intuitive given the large amount of explosive damage weapons that we face in the target, however, as I explained above, in a full fleet of Hunters, with the stacking bonus for the resistances, the Ablative special, and the concurrent stacking of Splash Reduction and Ship Deflection, it seems that Charged X armor is not needed for this particular target. It's a math thing. Maybe I can get Ren or Brian to explain it during a TFC show. I'm not sure if I'm explaining it wrong to people or what. I'm stumped as to how to further explain it.
This hasn't changed at all. Thankfully. Yet.
Houndstooth Depth Charge :
This is a given with the stats on the hull. With a native 75% concussive reload, a 175% concussive damage buff and a 20% splash buff, this is the weapon of choice (and design) for this hull and performed very well in the targets.
Anti-mortar Systems :
As many people know by now, I like overlapping and concurrent firing defense systems in many targets, this one is no exception. I use 2 different anti-morts to have overlapping coverage and reload so that the coverage is maximized. I take advantage of the different ranges, salvo counts as well as the different reload times of both antis so that (hopefullly) I maximize the amount of mortars I can destroy coming from the Gluts. They performed very well. I may migrate over to two Gale IIIs as it seemed that the Gluttony's mortars did not have flak evade which would mitigate the need for the overlapping some. Of note, I do have the Gale III in the front so it shoots first. It really does. I explained and illustrated the import of placement of weapons on a hull in the Apollo article last year.
Ablative Armor III :
Ablative Armor III is, at this time, the forerunner as an Armor special choice from what we have seen thus far. Given the heavy reliance of Charged CT armor, this is now a requirement.
Strike Warheads :
After reviewing the target and the specials, I came to the conclusion that the use of Strike Warheads was a hair better when the hulls were fully ranked. That last bit is rather important. The only caveat to this choice is that we do not know what the 'escalation' weapon will look like. If it is similar to the Manus wherein the reload time is significantly different, this option may not be the best one. For now, particularly when autoing the target, I want a higher one shot. This should mitigate in a small part the THORNs damage from those little pain in the ass subs. Additionally, even though the increase in damage is small, it adds up over the entirety of the fleet. I'm hoping that this will bring the overall damage down to under 30 min when autoing.
PBX Payload :
Given the Houndstooth, and how well Sealed Fire Charge worked on the Hellwraiths, this seemed an obvious choice. It still is after testing.
Speed System VI :
This ended up being the final choice for speed, maneuverability and for the evade bonus. I'm not 100% sold on this over Hydraulic Resistors, but it seemed to test out a hair better. Both of these are the current top choice given what we have seen in the targets. I'm not sure Hydro will benefit you enough for consideration given the (alleged) secondary torpedo in the target.
Explosive System IV :
I went with this over Combustion System II because I liked the reduction of spread as well as the increase of projectile speed. While the attack area is smaller than CSII, as you can see above the coverage efficiency and damage density heavily fall in favor for the use of ESIV over CSII.
Guidance Scrambler III :
As I found out, the hard way, these targets require a high evade. If you are driving and are very good at kiting the multiple targets, maybe not so much, however, if you are autoing or you let the subs get into the (alleged) secondary torpedo range, this could save you a lot of damage.
The full build can be found here.
So that's it. Sadly, I can't make this an Anatomy of Design article because of the damn escalation stuff. By the time those come out, we're probably going to be sorted. I miss writing the Anatomy series but Kix has effectively killed it. Ah well... time for more coffee. Again, huge shout out to Thor_1SP for the time, coin and testing! Thanks for the help!!
EDIT: Going into the December raid, I will be starting off the raid with the fleet looking like this (Current Fleet Build) and attempting to auto again as I did in this article. I have some tokens saved to see if a switch to ACP is beneficial enough to warrant the swap once the raid starts.