"I think we have different value systems." —Arthur
"Well mine's better." —Ford
Well, I'm right out of my comfort zone now. Suddenly I find myself zipping around in Interceptors for the past month instead of the nice and sturdy Space Bricks I've grown accustomed to. Feeling that a nice change of pace is good for the soul, join me as a take a look at what I've learned flying the Malediction.
Speed is a funny thing. In the world outside of internet spaceships, I drive a Ford Mustang. By all accounts, people tell me it's fast. The dozen or so Police Officers who have stopped me for a chat while driving it would seem to agree. I've often been told I'm a quick thinker and a fast talker. The dozen or so warnings and zero speeding tickets I've received would also seem to agree. Back in the world of internet spaceships, my Mustang is only capable of speeds around 67m/s. CONCORD certainly wouldn't be writing me any internet spaceship speeding tickets for that. Maybe that crazy old man was on to something.
I've spent most of my time flying what would be considered a slow ship in EVE. Stopping to think about it, my Space Brick of a Punisher still had a cruising speed of around Mach II. That doesn't seem slow when compared to most terrestrial modes of transportation, but in EVE Online, was considered quite sluggish. To compare, I've been flying a Malediction with a top speed around 2,800m/s. This has made it seem quite fast coming from other, much slower Amarr ships. On the other hand, there are ships out there other than the Amarr ships I've been flying.
Four paragraphs in and this brings me to my first point regarding the Malediction. While it's certainly not slow, it's not the fastest ship out there either. To put it in perspective, other Interceptor pilots are reaching cruising speeds of around 5,000m/s. So it's clearly being outran by other ships in its class, while keeping pace with ships like a Kiting Vagabond. While the Vagabond isn't considered slow at these speeds, it's also a Heavy Assault Ship and doesn't have to worry nearly as much when a flight of Hobgoblin II's are dispatched its way. It's worth noting that I don't fit the Malediction for pure speed, however, as I don't feel that this would play to its strengths. While much faster than other ships I've been flying, the Malediction still lets its Amarr heritage shine through by being significantly slower than the other Interceptors.
Truly the Malediction is a lousy Interceptor, but not just because of its decreased speed. One of the bonuses the Malediction receives is a 5% bonus to Warp Scrambler and Warp Disruptor range per level of the Interceptors skill, which is a bonus common to all Fleet Interceptors. "Great," I thought when I first read that, "I'll be able to hold point for my gang while outside of the enemies Disruptor range still allowing me to GTFO if things go bad."
"Hold on a minute," CCP replied, "have you bothered to check the Malediction's maximum locking range?" And I'm foiled again it would seem. I'd like to have a word with whomever decided to give the Amarr's Fleet Interceptor a Disruptor Range Bonus and a base Maximum Targeting Range of 22.5km. While it's true that the Long Range Targeting skill will allow you to target a ship out to 28km, I still feel like I'm wasting a perfectly good ship bonus when an overheated Warp Disruptor II can reach out and touch someone at 36km on a Malediction. Start tossing on fancy Faction Disruptors and you're looking at a point out to 45km, all completely useless without severely limiting your ship with the use of a Sensor Booster or Signal Amplifiers.
Since we've established that everything is relative, let's compare this with some other ships in its class. The Amarr's Combat Interceptor, the Crusader, gets a Base Targeting Range of 20km, but its Tracking Speed bonus clearly demonstrating the intent of flying up close and personal, under the guns of larger ships. The other race's Fleet Interceptors have Base Targeting Ranges of 25km each, while the Combat Interceptors have 30km, 20km, and 17.5km ranges for the Caldari, Gallente and Minmatar respectively. So while the Amarr Crusader finds itself middle of the road in this respect, the Malediction is left behind all other Fleet Interceptors and even one Combat Interceptor, the Caldari Crow, in this aspect.
Although Interceptors aren't really designed with DPS in mind, it's also interesting to note that all three of the other Fleet Interceptors are capable of actually hitting something out to their Disruptor ranges. Small Artillery has a range of 27+11 with Tremor, Small Railguns has 49+7.5/32+7.5 with Spike for the Raptor/Ares, and the Caldari Crow, even though it's a Combat Interceptor has no trouble hitting targets at 60km. Had the Amarr Fleet Interceptor instead used Small Beam Lasers, it could be hitting in Optimal at 40km with Aurora, and yet Rockets can only hit out to 15km with Javelin Rockets. I'm really not sure what CCP was thinking in this design choice and if anyone could point me towards a reason the Malediction came out this way from a game balance perspective I would love to hear it.
Now that we're all on the same page with the shortfalls of the Malediction as an Interceptor, let me say that none of these things make it a bad ship. In fact, there are a number of tasks at which the Malediction can really excel. So let's scale back the soul-crushing negativity for a moment and look at the good points. I've been using two very different fits, blatantly stolen from pilots with more experience than myself. I'm sure they won't mind, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all that.
First up is a fit taken from a fellow member of The Blood Money Cartel that I've mostly been using for gang work. Using Rigs designed to increase the range of my Javelin Rockets, it can hit out to 20km with max skills. While my own skills limit it to 17.5km, that's still well outside of scram range and lets me slowly chip away at other frigates while staying outside of their weapon range. Anything bigger than a frigate, and I can happily cruise around at max disruptor range waiting for backup to arrive.
The secret to that longevity lies in a Small Capacitor Booster in a midslot, allowing me to run not only my point and MWD, but a Small Armor Repairer II as long as Cap Booster charges remain in my hold. While most Interceptors are regarded as having a "Paper-thin" tank, this Malediction has a respectable 4k EHP with the help of a Damage Control and Adaptive Nano Plate and the ability to permanently repair 50 incoming damage-per-second. Suddenly a flight of Hobgoblins won't seem so menacing when you're outrunning your opponent's tracking and able to repair what little damage the drones do every time their pulsing MWD catches them up to you. Of course, if I was just outrunning the drones in the first place, I wouldn't need that armor repairer, right? Well, not always.
A perfect example of when all the speed in the world won't save you occurred during my first outing with this ship in a gang. Our Covops scout having located a Hurricane, Drake, Rifter and Dramiel in a plex together, the command was given to jump into system and make best speed to them to apply points before they had time to respond to the local spike.
The Malediction's quick align speeds coupled with 13.5 AU warp speed meant I was first in and the enemy was quick to open fire once I had their Cane pointed. While it is true that a faster ship would have meant less damage incoming, I'd challenge anyone to try to keep up transversal against three ships while maintaining a point on one of them with a dozen light drones nipping at your heels. The Dramiel pilot even had the nerve to run up and put a scram on me, allowing my ship to feel the brunt of the Drake's missile volleys. Once our ships arrived on grid, he was kind enough to drop his point to save his own ship as their Hurricane exploded and I warped away admiring my own ship's structure fire. Most Interceptors would explode from being looked at too hard from a Battlecruiser's Alpha, but my Malediction was happy to stay in the fight long enough for us to get a kill and still warp away.
Speaking of impressive tanks, let's move on to another fit, kindly poached from fellow blogger Jaxley. His post has had me flying with an Afterburner and buffer tank when solo. Now, I have a sneaking suspicion that Jaxley used to fly a Rifter. In fact, with an identical slot layout, if you replace the three Rocket Launchers for three 200mm Autocannons, you'd have a pretty standard armor buffer fit for a Rifter. That being the case, and the Rifter being the de facto yardstick by which Frigate Piracy is measured, let's look at how they compare.
First up, is the aforementioned tank. Thanks to having both better base resistances and armor hp, as well as the Malediction's 5% Armor Resistance Bonus per level of Amarr Frigate (Amarr Frigate V is also a required skill to fly one, making the wording of the bonus seem a bit odd) this translates into a Malediction having around 40% more EHP than the Rifter. Another aspect of their tank, their overall speed, also has the Malediction coming out ahead. With both fitting a 200mm plate and Afterburner, the Malediction manages to be 25% faster.
Next up is a look at their Gank, with the Rifter able to put out 20% more damage with RF Fusion in EFT...but wait! This is one of those things that EFT Warriors are mocked for, when they spend too much time crunching numbers and forget about how those numbers are applied in the actual game. Having already mentioned that the Malediction is the faster of the two, it will be the one largely setting the engagement range. Since Rockets don't rely on tracking for their damage, the Malediction gets to apply its full damage at 9km on a Webbed Rifter, while the Rifter can only return 2/3 of its max damage while in falloff, leaving the Malediction doing 20% more damage. The other bit of offence coming in the form of an Energy Neutralizer in the remaining highslot, the Malediction also wins out having, like most Amarr ships, a significantly larger Capacitor.
Maybe it's a bit unfair for me to compare the Malediction to the Tech I Rifter, but if you're wanting examples of it tearing up other Interceptors take a look at Jaxley's post linked above. I haven't had the opportunity to engage any Interceptors in mine. The closest I've been coming have been Dramiels, which I wisely run away from as they tend to be faster, have more DPS and more EHP...all while costing ten times as much.
To summarize, the Malediction isn't what I thought it was going to be. I assumed it would excel at the role of a Fleet Interceptor, and provide something that could safely tackle prey for gangs to engage. What it's proven to be better for is barely surviving engagements against multiple ships while my gang engages and getting up close and personal for 1v1 engagements against other Frigates in dogfights. Oddly enough, most of the successful Crusader fits I see are of the "Paper-thin" variety, doing 5km/s and relying on Scorch to fight outside of Web Range. It seems the two ships got a bit confused when it came to the Fleet vs. Combat question.