The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't.
-- Douglas Adams
I recently mentioned my lovely Space Brick™ of a Punisher. I thought I'd go ahead and talk a bit about some advice for flying it. You can either heed this advice, or realize that it's complete lunacy furnished by a failure at this game and do exactly the opposite. The choice is yours to make.
400mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plates I
Adaptive Nano Plating II
Damage Control II
Small Armor Repairer II
Warp Scrambler II
Cold-Gas I Arcjet Thrusters
150mm Light AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Fusion S
150mm Light AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Fusion S
150mm Light AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Fusion S
Small 'Knave' I Energy Drain
Small Ancillary Current Router I
Figured we'd just go ahead and get that part out of the way. Keep in mind that a load of Republic Fleet EMP S and Barrage S are necessary to keep in your cargo. If you want to add some Rigs, that's up to you. Armor Rigs will generally slow you down to a level I'm unhappy with, but your mileage may vary. You'll likely find other very similar fits anywhere that the Punisher is mentioned. Pretty standard stuff here. The low slots sport a hefty tank. Your mid slots are taken up by a warp scrambler and an afterburner. I will always recommend the AB on a Punisher simply because it can't be turned off by an opponents warp scrambler like the microwarp drive can, and you're not exactly quick even with it. Same goes to the scrambler, you'll be fighting in scram range anyway, it uses less capacitor than the warp disruptor, and if your opponent does have a MWD, you'll want that turned off. You'll notice at first glance that it's got AutoCannons in place of the ship bonused Small Energy Turrets. In case you've never seen that before, allow me to explain:
The bonuses that the Punisher hull receives are a 10% Bonus to Small Energy Turret Capacitor use and a 5% Bonus to Armor Resistance per level of the Amarr Frigate skill. The latter is far better than the former unfortunately. Capacitor will allow you to run a very respectable tank on the Punisher. The armor resistance bonus will only make this tank better. Theoretically, the Capacitor bonus would also help the tank, except for one small detail. The AutoCannons use no Cap at all. Why you would ever want to use Small Energy Turrets on your Punisher is beyond me. If you decide to go that route, I cannot help you. I spent 5 minutes with lasers on my Punisher before realizing it was complete rubbish and never fit them again.
Those of you with a more discerning eye, or that have already plugged the above fit into EFT may now be saying "You don't have the powergrid to fit all that. I call shenanigans!" and you'd be right. This is where my fit deviates from anything else I've seen out there and it's going to require you to plug in a 3% Powergrid implant into that pretty little head of yours. You may be concerned about losing your implants if you intend to PvP with this ship, but I'll address that concern in a future post. The reason you'll be needing this extra 3% PG implant is simple. The 400mm plate.
You have two options if you want to run the above fit without the extra PG. Option one is to drop the Nosferatu, option two is to reduce the Plate to 200mm. I wouldn't recommend either. The reason is simple really, it will completely remove one of two categories of ship that make for a viable target in a Punisher. Finding things to kill out there in a Tech I frigate will be hard enough, and you don't want to have to pass up either of them when it could be solved by investing an extra million isk into your ship.
First up, you have ships that are larger than you are. If you're a young little pilot trying for your first solo kill, you may be avoiding Cruisers and Battlecruisers like the plague, but you don't have to. Dropping the Nos will mean you won't have the staying power to hang around long enough to kill these ships. With it, you should be able to keep your armor repairer running and stay in the fight.
Second, and by a large margin the more common, target will be the infamous Rifter. There's already a wealth of knowledge out there concerning the proper tactics to use when flying one. You are not a Rifter. If you've chosen to fly a Punisher over the Rifter, then you, like me, clearly have something not quite right in your head. A great many resources can be found lauding the Rifter as the greatest of Tech I frigates. Those same people will usually rank the Punisher 3rd or even 4th on that list. Well, they're wrong. I'm here to tell you why.
There are generally two categories in which I classify Rifter fits and tactics. There's actually a third, but we can quickly dismiss it by saying that it won't work against this Punisher and is not long for this world. First off, the kiting Rifter.
This ship is fit almost identically to your own, with ACs in the highs, Plate, DC and SAR in the lows, and having an additional slot to fit a web in the mids, but the tactics it employs are completely different. It will web and scram you, then use it's superior speed and the impressive falloff bonus of it's Autocannons with Barrage ammo loaded to pick you apart at a range where you're not able to do anything about it. This might work too...if you were using different guns. Against something with Blasters this fight would be over before it starts, but since you'll also be using Autocannons you simply switch to Barrage yourself and trade blows, constantly trying to close the distance between your two ships to reduce transversal. What you have that the Rifter pilot does not, is a far more impressive ability to tank. While fighting in falloff it's important to note that you'll only be doing a fraction of the maximum damage of your weapons, while you're still able to tank at full capacity.
It's often remarked that the Rifter is superior to the Punisher because of it's ability to disengage from a fight. This is true. No pilot who knows what he's doing will die like this. He'll simply run away when he sees the fight start to go bad. It's your job to make him not see this until it's too late. With your 400mm plate, you've got a nice buffer against the Rifter's damage. I'd encourage you to run your armor repairer at a pace that makes it look like your opponent is winning. When you get to the point that both of your armor plates are starting to fail, simply turn on your SAR and watch as his structure melts away before he's able to react. I say simply, but of course it won't seem simple when you try it the first time. This is still by and large the most dangerous Rifter tactic you're going to face.
Less common than the above, this ship will be fit in a completely different manner. Using shield extenders in favor of a web and shield rigs to give this little guy a very impressive shield buffer. If you find yourself facing this ship, and you'll notice quickly when your own shields fail as his are still at 80%, it's time to switch to Fleet EMP ammo. The ten seconds you spend reloading will quickly seem worth it as his shields take a serious beating once you resume firing. The other important difference in this fit is that it doesn't use any Cap to run it's tank, and thus it puts it into an Energy Neutralizer fit into the remaining high slot. I can only assume that this is completely devastating against other Rifters, as they would shut down the SAR of their opponent very quickly. You are not a Rifter.
There are two reasons that this tactic won't work against the above fit, first being simply that the Punisher has a larger Capacitor than the Rifter. While the energy Neutralizer should spell your doom if you were relying on a SAR to keep you alive, the 400mm plate should do it's job at keeping you in the fight. The small amount of cap you have remaining will be enough to keep your Warp Scrambler on him because of your own Nosferatu. While he should be able to disengage, his lack of web will mean he won't be able to do it fast enough to matter. Once again, you're relying on your opponent to keep waiting for your active tank to give out, just long enough that you'll soon be picking over his wreck.
OMG What just happened?!?
A quick word on the previously mentioned third type of Rifter pilot, and thankfully the most common. This guy doesn't know what he's doing. He's either forgotten that you're not a larger ship and that he can't somehow "get under your guns" or he was hoping to fight a Laser fit Punisher and was counting on their poor tracking to keep him safe. You'll be able to tell this type by the way he just hits approach, or orbits at 500, and when you find such oddities as Phased Plasma, Sabot, Nuclear, or Hail loaded in his guns when you review the killmail. This fight will be over fast, and you could probably fall asleep at the keys as long as you remembered to turn on your guns first.
A broad category to be sure, but I'm quickly running long here and the 16 cruisers plus Battlecruisers would be a bit much for me to talk about individually. General pieces of advice include: Avoid "drone boats" such as the Vexor and Arbitrator. A Frigate killing fit Caracal will also ruin your day, but if he's got medium missiles you'll be fine. Everything else with turrets is going to be a long slow fight. Your armor repairer coupled with your Nosferatu should be able to keep you in the fight, but breaking through the other guys tank is generally a crap shoot. The simplest terms I could put it in is that the Punisher will allow you to kill any PvE fit Cruiser and many Battlecruisers, but any PvP savvy pod pilot worth his salt is going to have some means of dealing with pesky tackling frigates. That may be more drones than you can shake a stick at, small guns, or a medium energy neutralizer. Target selection is important here. The 3 month old character ratting in belts will be easy prey, the flashy red -10.0 sec status guy on the other hand...well, at least you were insured.
Aren't there other...?
What about the Incursus? What about the Merlin? What about the Tristan? What about the Kestrel? What about (my favorite ship)? OK, so there are other Frigates out there besides the Punisher and the Rifter. Why haven't I included them here? Honestly, I never see them. What I mean is, I see them on scan, but they're rarely the type to stick around for a fight. I've killed a Merlin before, but the fight was over before I really had enough time to learn anything from it.
By and large the most popular frigate to see in lowsec is the Rifter. There's a wealth of knowledge out there on how to fly and fit them for PvP. There's very little in the way of advice on how to properly do the same in a Punisher. While I certainly haven't been around for an insanely long time, the vast majority of my PvP experience has come facing off against a Rifter 1v1. I've won at least 4 times the number of fights that I've lost. Several of those that I've lost were before I had settled on the above fit, and the rest were before I figured out what tactics I should have been using with it. The most important thing I had to learn about flying the Punisher was this: You are not a Rifter. I can't stress that enough. Your primary goal in every fight will be to stay in close. You are a brawler in every sense of the word, and you've got a solid jaw and a mean right hook.
In closing, don't discount Tech I frigates as a viable and enjoyable source of PvP in EVE Online. They're cheap, can avoid most fights they don't want to get into, and still have a wide enough target selection that you'll have something to shoot at out there. Whether your chosen frigate is a Punisher or not, I'd encourage you to take it for a spin in lowsec if you've never done so before. There's no time like the present.