Designing an Apollo to Auto 91 Mega Hulls
By: George Argyropoulos
In the past may players, including myself, were hesitant to share builds. This mentality has changed - a little. You still will rarely see me share a Baser fleet (one to hit bases with) beyond just a 'vanilla' build. however, with the necessity of the chores in the game I think it behooves the community to share the builds that mitigate the time investment of the chore items in the game allowing for more 'actual' play time. In addition to this, these fleets will help bring players up to speed.
The builds I provide typically will be tested builds. They are not always going to be 'the best', but that is not the goal of this exercise. I want players to understand the thought process behind selections and combinations so that they can come up with either their own designs OR be able to adapt the builds to the tech they have available. I understand completely that not all players have the same 'tech-depth' that I am lucky enough to have. That said, let's begin.
Much of what goes into a build is the understanding of the interaction of your selection of weapons and specials as well as the understanding of the mechanics of the game and target with regard to these interactions. You want to maximize your rewards for the goals of which you want to achieve.
While there are several things we could discuss about design, in this article I am going to use my Apollo build and go through some of the BASIC thought process behind them. The following is the build and a breakdown of the items and reasons for their selections. The build can be found here. Please note on the last two Apollos there is an additional Phalanx 4 added to each. In testing I have found when autoing the 91 Mega Hull target that this helps mitigate the occasional fire field.
1. The Blade missile selection and placement
Placement is key in this instance as the weapon speed is the same as the Switchblades, thus, in most instances, they will lead the barrage of missiles from this hull. (As Dean Manson pointed out - this isn't an issue in this build as the Switchblades have the same Flak evasion %, but a good mechanic to know and take advantage of.) This is a very unknown and subtle mechanic that most everyone overlooks. The result of taking advantage of this very mechanic is that the enemy wastes counter-measure shots at my missiles that have flak evasion first. This allows for some counter-measures missing and wasting their shots while maintaining a higher overall dps for my fleet. You can see the Blades leading the Switchblades in the picture below.
2. Phalanx 4
You will also note in the picture above, that while the Phalanxes are firing, the Switchblades stay in missile mode. The Phalanxes have a longer range than the Switchblades' countermeasure ability. This means that you can take advantage of a game mechanic itself - how the missile counter measure mechanic actually works. Since the Phalanx has a longer range, and you can only fire at each missile one time, using the Phalanx countermeasure allows the Switchblades to stay in missile mode sice the incoming missiles have already been fired at. This in turn allows you to maintain a higher damage output because the Switchblades do not come out of missile mode to deal with incoming missiles. With careful driving, you can keep the switchblades firing in missile mode constantly.
Note: Using Switchblades comes with a cost at times. I believe there is a glitch in the game causing ALL Switchblades to go into CM mode when even just one does. While Switchblades have a better DPS (damage per second) over standard Blades, it comes at the cost of possibly switching out of missile mode in some circumstances. I tried to allay this problem by adding those additional Phalanxes on the last two Apollos in order to gain consistency when autoing a 91 Mega Hull.
3. Switchblades over Blades
This is a choice in which there are advantages and disadvantages, and in some ways has grow controversial in the all-important and heated forum arguments. (And of course, giving Liam hell about his build.)
The Good: The Switchblade has more one-shot damage and better DPS than the Blades. As noted above, in a bad situation, it can also switch over to anti-missile mode in their entirety and cause problems. This is where good design mitigates a weakness.
The Bad: The Switchblade can switch over to anti-missile mode, and when it does, they ALL do (currently), not just the ones that shoot at a missile. Is this a glitch? As previously mentioned, I think so, but it is 'working as intended' as there has been no fix or mention forthcoming from Kixeye.
This build, as it currently sits is pretty good for lazy pirates. It can in fact auto the 91 Mega hulls very well for acceptable damage. If there is enough interest I can make another video, however, back in July 2016 when I was first starting to test this build with only 3 Apollos, this was the result on auto. With the recent spate of claims of increased damage in the targets I will have to try them again and compare, however... I am a lazy pirate and typically auto these things while I engage in other aspects of the game.
4. Complementary Specials
This is where a build can fall apart on you. Each special is chosen as a balancing act. These three are rather easy because of either their percentage attributes and/or their space saving nature because of the duality of their purpose. In reviewing these choices, I hope the reasoning behind them is apparent. If not, please ask.
5. Target Applicability
The ability to adapt a build to a change in meta OR design towards specific targets or goals is imperative for success. There are limited times now in which you want an all-around build like an Arblest Punisher fleet. With the change in the overall game design you now generally want to have something built more towards a specific meta or target, such as these Apollos for the 91 Mega Hulls (and Legion Assault Force targets). The choice of Reactive Armor III reflects the nature of this build to be towards the LAF/Mega Hull meta and targets.
Another aspect that seems to be overlooked by many players is the significant advantages that can be gained by using crews for subtle advantages. Most are aware of the huge gains one acquires with the use of a Grease Monkey for example, however, take a peek at the crew I use constantly when autoing the 91 Mega Hulls:
Hopefully this helps some people understand the basics of the theories and goals we contemplate when designing a ship or a fleet. Likewise, I hope this also helps people understand the layers that are looked at when starting or applying this process. The mechanics of the game can easily be overlooked, and sometimes in one of these mechanics you can find you some very peculiar, but very effective builds that give you a comfortable advantage in attaining your goals.