They wouldn’t even lift a finger to save their own grandmothers from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal without orders signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public inquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters.
For those that read the last post, you can probably already guess what this one is going to contain. Today we'll be examining the Caldari race as a whole and how their various combat ships fit together. I'll again be pointing you to The Altruist for discussion of the ships themselves as I try to focus more on the the order which the ships are likely to fall on a new pilots training path.
While the Amarr focused heavily on a single weapon and tanking philosophy throughout their ships, with only the Tech 2 ships ever really diverging from that path, the Caldari have their ships more evenly balanced across three potential paths than any other Race with bonuses to both Missiles, Hybrids, and Electronic Warfare. Shield tanking is the order of the day, with the majority of Caldari ships gaining a Resistance Bonus for shields and only one gaining a Shield Boost bonus.
The defining weapon system for the Caldari are Missile Launchers. Unlike the Amarr Khanid ships, Caldari ships receive bonuses to both the short range and long range variants of the launchers, but lose some degree of versatility in damage types by either receiving only a Kinetic Damage increase, or a reduced damage increase for the other three damage types(The exceptions to this rule being the Raven & Rook). With these bonuses, it's easy to see why the Caldari are a favorite of the Mission Runner in EVE; long range combined with the simplicity of only a single damage type to use and the often hands off approach to passive Shield Tanking, but the Caldari are not to be underestimated in PvP. Especially in groups, the fact that a Caldari ship is rarely out of place to do its full damage to any ship on the field can be used to devastating effect.
Step 1. Frigates
Both the Merlin and the Kestrel make a viable choice for a fledgling Caldari combat pilot. The Merlin is the tankier of the two, receiving both more base HP as well as a 5% Shield Resists per level of the Caldari Frigate skill, and makes it the obvious choice for the basis of the Caldari Assault Frigates, but has a split weapon system (Able to fit 2 Turrets and 2 Missiles) and receives only a bonus to Hybrid Optimal Range. The Kestrel on the other hand is more of a glass cannnon, receiving 4 damage bonused Missile Hardpoints (More Damage Bonused Weapons than any other T1 Frigate), but is also quite fragile.
Step 2. Elite Frigates or Cruisers
After training Caldari Frigate V you're rewarded with your choice of either Assault Ship, Interceptor, or Stealth Bomber. The Hawk is a bit of an odd duck in the Caldari line, being the only ship to receive a bonus to active Shield Boosters, which are usually left to Minmatar ships, but it still receives the very Caldari bonuses of Kinetic damage and Missile Velocity to increase its missile range. The Crow is the Caldari Combat Interceptor, trading its bonus to Warp Disruptor range for a Missile Velocity bonus that allows it to fight at a range usually outside of another Frigates abilities to fight back.
The Caldari are at somewhat of an advantage when training for a Stealth Bomber as they're more likely to have already trained the related Missile Support skills, meaning the training time away from other ships is only likely to be for the ship itself and its cloak. The Manticore like all Stealth Bombers in EVE is the very definition of a glass cannon. No other ships have a DPS to EHP ratio even approaching them. This can make flying a Stealth Bomber an extremely dangerous proposition in small gang combat, as you're unlikely to be ignored and, once someone starts shooting you, go down very quickly. While all Bombers are fairly similar, receiving bonuses that only differ in Damage Type and either the 4/4/2 or 4/3/3 slot layout of the Caldari/Gallente or Amarr/Minmatar Bombers respectively, there is one area in which the Manticore stands above all else.
With their combined Flight Time and Missile Velocity bonuses any of the Stealth Bombers can hit out to 60km with Navy Torps or 80km with the right Rigs. Something very important happens at these ranges, with Drone Control range topping out at 60km without additional Rigs or Modules. Where the other Bombers lose out to the Manticore is in their Locking Range; 68km for the Hound, 75km for the Purifier, 81km for the Nemesis and 87km for the Manticore. While the Hound and Purifier can potentially boost these ranges with the use of a Signal Amplifier in a Lowslot, they've basically ended up right where the Manticore started, but with one less Midslot. Those Midslots for E-War like a Sensor Dampener can mean the difference in surviving an engagement or being locked and volleyed by an HML Drake. Finally, the Nemesis, while having an identical slot layout and generous enough locking distance, has 26 less CPU turning fitting into somewhat of a problem and often needing to sacrifice some degree of performance in exchange for the arguable advantage of doing Thermal Damage.
The final ship in the Frigate category is the Caldari Navy Hookbill. Recently dethroned by the Assault Frigate changes to the Hawk, it had long been notorious for its 5 midslots allowing it to fit Dual Webs for unparalleled range dictation. While the Hawk is now capable of doing the same with more Gank and Tank, the Hookbill is still significantly faster, about 500m/s faster, which is nothing to sneeze at.
The Caracal is the Caldari Missile Cruiser, receiving a bonus to Kinetic damage and Missile Velocity. Like all Caldari Missile ships, it has impressive range and consistent damage allowing it to excel in groups where its superior range allows it to project damage across the battlefield. With Heavy Missile Launchers it's usually able to hit out to its maximum targeting range of 70km. Assault Missile Launcher fits are also popular, and pose a significant threat to frigate-sized targets which is just what AMLs were made for.
Step 3. Elite Cruisers or Battlecruiser
With Caldari Cruiser V the choices for a missile user branch to either the Onyx, the Caldari Heavy Interdictor, or the Cerberus, the Caldari Heavy Assault Ship. Where both ships excel is the same category Caldari Missile Ships have been dominating so far, namely that of Range. Unfortunately for the Onyx, a HIC that can hit out to 100km (Well outside the range it can use its signature Warp Disruption Field Generator) is rarely called for and the Cerberus is often overshadowed by its less expensive cousin the Drake.
The Caracal Navy Issue's relationship with the Cerberus in many ways mirrors the Hookbill's comparison to that of the Hawk. The Cerberus provides a ship with more tank and gank than a similarly fit Navy Caracal, but the Navy ship wins out on speed. The degree to which the ships differ has narrowed somewhat however, while the difference in training time and price tag between the ships has widened favoring the Caracal Navy Issue on both fronts.
Probably the single greatest draw to the Caldari Missile line of ships is the Drake Battlecruiser. Receiving a bonus to Shield Reistance and Kinetic Missile Damage, the Drake is also the first ship able to fit a full compliment of 5 Light Drones for the Caldari pilot. The ship represents an excellent training goal for a new pilot in EVE, the reason really being a convergence of three different factors that aren't all immediately obvious.
First off, the Skill Point investment for Missile Launchers is a bit different than that of Turrets. While Tech II Medium turrets require the user to be proficient in the Tech II Small turrets of the same type, the same is not true for Heavy (Or Heavy Assault) Missile Launchers which only require Standard Missiles be trained to III before training the Heavy Missiles skill. This can allow a new player to gain a significant time advantage for those not interested in flying smaller ships.
The second factor that makes the Drake a good choice for new pilots has less to do with SP and more to do with the way Missile Damage works compared to Turrets. Since Missiles don't rely on factors like tracking or Optimal/Falloff range calculations to do damage, there are a lot less nuances a new player needs to be keeping track of during a fight. While a Turret-based Battlecruiser pilot will need to concern themselves with factors such as Angular Velocity and Range-to-Target, making their placement on the battlefield of far more concern, a Drake pilot is less often steered wrong by a simple mantra of "If I can lock it, I can hurt it." Additionally, the Drake receiving a bonus only to Kinetic Damage means, more often than not, that a Drake pilot won't go wrong by simply loading a single damage type, which further alleviates the need to be familiar with the opponent ship's resistance profiles and which ammo type is best at any given time.
The final factor has to do with the enemy more than the Drake itself and stems from the way target calling is prioritized within EVE. The (extremely) simplistic explanation being that targets are called based on the ratio of their threat vs the time it takes to remove them from the field. The Drake has a notorious reputation for being very hard to kill, often sporting EHP numbers seen on a Battleship, while not doing an awful lot of damage. This makes the Drake a terrible ship to call as the primary target when in a mixed gang, which is something that a newer player can really benefit from. First, it means the Drake pilot has to worry less about not getting themselves killed and can focus on other things during a fight. Second, even if the Drake pilot turns out to be on the losing side of the engagement, it means the new player gets to experience a lot of the fight. Whereas a similar player (In regard to SP) sitting in a Hurricane may be assessed as being a very high threat (Even if that isn't true due to a combination of less player knowledge and lower than expected support skills) and destroyed quickly, the Drake is often left for last allowing a New Player more time to learn something from the fight, to mention nothing of the fun to be had watching ships explode.
As a final word on the Drake, while I've focused mostly on how the ship can perform for a low skilled character/player, it's not to say the ship doesn't perform well once SP and player knowledge has caught up. The Drake makes for an excellent PvP platform and is often underestimated simply because so many new players fly them making it a good choice even for veteran pilots.
Step 4. Elite Battlecruisers or Battleships
The Nighthawk is an underused ship in EVE. It's relationship with the Drake is similar to many of the Field Command Ships with their own Race's Battlecruisers. The Nighthawk is simply better than the Drake; more EHP, better resists, does more damage, has more cap...it also costs more than six Drakes put together. This is the reason you don't see many Field Command Ships in EVE, but is further exacerbated by how well the Drake performs already, making the gap between the performance of the two ships rarely worth the price tag as you're unlikely to find yourself in six engagements the Nighthawk survives in which a Drake would not.
The Raven is everything you'd expect from a Caldari Battleship. It's able to sport a strong shield tank with its plenty of Midslots and already impressive amount of Shield HP and Torpedoes can do Battleship sized damage...to a Battleship sized target. As is the case with anything firing Torps, you need to be firing at another Battleship or a MWD Cruiser/Battlecruiser to be doing much damage. You'd have trouble killing an AB fit Frigate if not for the 75m Drone bay so now would be a good time to invest in some Drone skills unless the ship's potential to generate some very embarrassing killmails interests you.
Presenting an almost identical number of Ships to choose from, the secondary line of Caldari ships is chosen on the more subjective basis of their popularity rather than the purely reduced number of ship choices seen amongst the Amarr. The ships here receive bonuses to Hybrid turrets and Shield resistances. What separates them from the Gallente Hybrid users (besides the Shield thing, obviously) is that they are far more likely to have Optimal Range bonuses and thus Railguns become a more popular choice for long-range sniping. It's worth noting that recent balancing of Hybrid turrets mean that potential changes to both the popularity of these ships and any fittings they've traditionally used has yet to play out.
Of interest, if only from a game design perspective, is that the Caldari often have difficulty with the fitting requirements of Hybrid weapons when looked at alongside the Gallente. It's a problem that stems from the races' distinct tanking styles with Shields typically favoring heavy CPU use over Powergrid compared to Armor tanking; Caldari ships typically have outstanding CPU, but often lack the Grid to effectively fit Hybrid weapons. To illustrate the point, a Heavy Missile Launcher II has a ratio of 1:1.9 CPU to Powergrid requirement and Heavy Assault Missiles Launchers are only slightly higher at 1:2.52 while Medium Tech 2 Railguns are at 1:2.24, 1:4.49 and 1:4.95.
Step 1. Frigates
The Merlin appears for the second time on this list, owing to its split weapon system. The difference being that this time the ship's bonus to Hybrid turret optimal is a bit more meaningful. Unfortunately for the new Caldari Hybrid user, it's also the only choice, which means there's no real choice involved at all.
Step 2. Elite Frigates or Cruisers
Thankfully our options begin to open up a bit here, with Tech II ships such as the Harpy, a Caldari Assault Frigate, or the Raptor, the Caldari Fleet Interceptor. The Harpy actually receives an Optimal Range bonus twice, once for the Caldari Frigate Skill and again for the Assault Ship Skill, which can often translate into a Damage bonus as it allows the ship to fit close range ammo and still hit at impressive ranges (20km optimal with Rails and Antimatter, or 7km optimal with Blasters and Null). The Raptor, to put it nicely, is a bit lacking.
As is common across most ship classes, the Caldari Fleet Interceptor has the lowest Powergrid output of any ship in its class. This is particularly crippling for a ship in which a MicroWarpdrive alone consumes roughly 50% of its power, which leaves the ship struggling to fit anything resembling a decent tank or weapons. The Raptor is also in the unfortunate position of using Hybrid weapons, leaving it open to comparison with what is arguably "The King of Interceptors," the Taranis. A comparison in which it can't hope to win with the same CPU and ~25% less Powergrid.
If you decide bigger is better, the Moa is your choice for a Cruiser sized Hybrid platform. The 6/4/4 slot layout makes the ship rather versatile, and there are a number of different ways to fit and fly it. For a player skilling into the Moa, decisions will need to be made on whether to pursue close range Blaster Specialization or long range Railgun Specialization skills. While not its most impressive feature, the ship also sports a 15m drone bay providing the first opportunity for a new Caldari player to utilize Drones in combat.
While there's nothing particularly wrong with the Moa, there's nothing particularly right about it either. In the Caldari tradition, the real time for the ship to excel is when it has brought friends along. When used as bait, the ship can't manage the Battleship sized numbers of the Maller, but with its Resistance bonus it's easily on par with most Battlecruisers, however it also doesn't have the same reputation for being used as bait that the Maller brings along. Another option for the Moa pilot is as a long range sniper, easily reaching out to touch someone at 100km with Spike Ammo, a feat not matched by any other T1 Cruiser. While it can't do much alone at that range, it can compliment the DPS of any gang it's in while using range to keep itself safe, or join in with a Sniper Fleet that would normally require much higher skills to be of use.
Step 3. Elite Cruisers or Battlecruisers
Unfortunately, training Caldari Cruiser V won't open a lot of options for a pilot interested in Hybrids. The Eagle, a Caldari Heavy Assault Ship, is effectively just an enhanced version of the Moa; now offering a potential 200km Optimal Range thanks to receiving the same Double Range Bonus as the Harpy. If you didn't spend much time focusing on Drone Skills in the Moa, don't feel bad as the Eagle doesn't have a drone bay, not that it would be able to use them at those ranges anyway. While the Caldari technically have a Recon that receives a Hybrid Damage bonus, the skills required to utilize the ship properly aren't found along this path and as such, will be discussed later.
The other option with medium Hybrids trained is to train the Battlecruiser skill, allowing use of the Ferox. Able to field both Rail and Blaster fits, the Ferox may be overshadowed by the Drake, but it makes a good ship for a new player for one of the same reasons the Drake did; no one assumes it's dangerous. Able to get 500-600 DPS with Blasters and a full flight of Light Drones and 60k-70k EHP depending on fittings the Ferox can be quite deadly, as long as it can get into range. Unlike the Brutix (A Gallente Battlecruiser with a Hybrid Weapon bonus) the Ferox doesn't receive a damage bonus, but it does receive an Optimal Range bonus easing some of the frustration from Blaster's short ranges or making Rails viable.
Step 4. Elite Battlecruisers or Battleships
Training Battelcruiser V, Logistics IV, and the Command Ships skill gets you the Vulture. If you're looking to boost a large fleet from the comfort of a safespot, this is the ship for you. If you actually want to be on grid with the fight, then I'd look elsewhere. Currently overshadowed by how well T3 Cruisers can Fleet Boost and how common the Tengu is, but the ship can fit 7 Warfare Links, which is something the Tengu can't match.
Focusing towards Large Hybrids and the Caldari Battleship skill gets you the Rokh. The ship follows naturally on the Harpy>Moa>Ferox progression, receiving the same bonuses to Shield Resistance and Hybrid Optimal Range making it an excellent Rail Sniping platform or a deadly Blaster Ship. The ship also sports the largest drone bay of any of the Caldari Hybrid ships, able to field a full flight of Medium Drones.
The Naga is the newly released Tier 3 Battlecruiser for the Caldari, requiring the training of Large Hybrids, but not the Battleship skill, it represents a midway point of training between Battlecruisers and Battleships. Still receiving an Optimal Range bonus, but swapping the familiar Shield Resistance bonus for a Damage bonus it is, like all the Tier 3 Battlecruisers, all gank with very little tank.
The third option for a Caldari pilot is one of Electronic Warfare. Unlike the other races in EVE, the Caldari do not receive two different E-War types, instead focusing on just one. That may sound like a disadvantage, until you realize just how powerful ECM is in EVE. When starting to write this post, part of me jokingly considered placing Electronic Warfare specialization as the Caldari's Primary path in EVE. In fact, if you removed the Drake, I've probably seen more ships in PvP below this point in the post than above it.
Step 1. Frigates
The Griffin receives a 15% bonus to ECM Jam Strength and a 10% Reduction in Capacitor need for ECM Modules (Important as the modules are one size fits all, but the Griffin only has a Frigate-sized Capacitor). I have seen a few people use the ship for solo Frigate PvP (It can jam a Rifter 2/3 of the time with a single Multispectral Jammer), but it's all luck based. The more common role for a new Griffin pilot is as gang support. In many situations a single jam cycle against an opponent landing during a fight is more valuable than the DPS they could contribute in any other T1 Frigate.
Step 2. Elite Frigates or Cruisers
Training Caldari Frigate V opens up the Tech II version of the Griffin; the Kitsune. Increasing its Jam Strength bonus to 20% and adding on a 10% ECM Optimal Range bonus and 5% Capacitor bonus per level, the Kitsune is simply a more effective yet more expensive Griffin able to field more ECM with its additional Midslot and extra 25% jam strength.
The other option for the young ECM pilot is the Blackbird. Receiving the same 15% Jam Strength bonus of all the T1 Caldari E-War ships, it also adds on a 10% per level bonus to Optimal and Falloff for its ECM Jammers, which is something none of the T2 ships get. With Rigs or Signal Distortion Amplifiers in its lows, the ship can easily project ECM to its healthy max targeting range of 90km+ allowing it to increase its own survivability in a fight. Unlike the E-War Frigates, the Blackbird's six Midslots can allow it to field some ECM along with standard tackle mods for solo work. But let's not kid ourselves too much, the Blackbird is, first and foremost, a gang support ship...and any gang will be happy to have one along.
Step 3. Elite Cruisers or Battleships
Before we get to the ships themselves, allow me to address the somewhat odd option of either T2 Cruiser or Battleship. Normally, a Battleship requires Large Weapon skills and represents a significant investment in time beyond that of a race's T2 Cruiser lineup. But in this case, let's say you've been flying the Blackbird for a while with Caldari Cruiser trained to IV and are considering your options for the next step in ECM. A T2 Cruiser will require training the Cruiser skill to V, roughly a 3 week investment, followed by training Recon Ships to IV or V (I'd really recommend V, as the major defense of a Falcon or Rook is its ECM and the Jam Strength bonus is attached to the Recon skill. Additionally for the Falcon, or any of the Force Recon ships, the difference between level IV and V is the difference between the Covert Ops Cloak requiring 100 or 0 CPU, which can seriously limit your fitting potential) taking another 70 days or so to train. Alternatively, you can immediately begin training the Caldari Battleships skill, and getting it to level V will take about 30 days. Since it's unlikely anyone was asking you to bring your Scorpion along for the 150 DPS it could offer, Weapon skills aren't going to be nearly as important as they would be in another Battleship. There's also the question of ISK to consider, with the Scorpion costing less than the price of either of the Recons and actually being insurable, it's cheaper to lose by a large margin. The real question you have to ask yourself to decide is which ship type is going to be more valuable to the group you plan on flying it with and go from there. Now back to the ships.
The Falcon and Rook are the Caldari Recons. The first receives a bonus to Hybrid weapons while the second receives one to Missiles, but to be honest, the damage they do with their weapons is usually of secondary concern to the 30% (you read that right) per level increase in ECM Jammer strength they both receive. When it comes to force multipliers in EVE, no other ships can so quickly and with such absoluteness render enemy ships useless on the field. Deciding between the two ships is again a matter of what would be most useful to the gang you're flying with. The Falcon is usually more of an asset to larger gangs, where its Cloaking allows it to pull double duty as a Scout and its ability to hide its presence through use of its Cloak allows the gang its flying in to conceal some of their numbers. The Rook can provide the same ECM strength of the Falcon, but with bonuses to both Rate of Fire and Missile Velocity it proves more of an asset to smaller gangs which need the extra DPS to be effective.
The Scorpion is a bit of an oddity. It's the only Tech I Battleship with a bonus to Electronic Warfare and no bonuses to any weapons or tank. Of course, with a 15% bonus to ECM strength and a 20% bonus to ECM range, ECM really is both its strongest weapon and strongest tank. Usually of greater benefit to larger gangs that already have Battleships present as to not slow them down with its Battleship sized align time, the Scorpion will be a welcome addition to most gangs. It does have a 75m Drone Bay, by far the largest seen by a Caldari E-War ship, so training some additional drone skills would never be time wasted either.
Hopefully this shed some light on the possible training paths for a pilot new to the Caldari race. As always, feedback is welcome. Coming up next will be the options available for Gallente. Until next time.