Kazon Raider and the Dual Cannon Conundrum

I bought a couple of Kazon Raiders on the exchange for what amounted to chump change. You can buy these for less than two million EC. Now there is a good reason that these Kazon ships are so cheap. They kinda suck. I know that is harsh, but they really do. I bought one for Admiral Sager and another that is still boxed up. Admiral Sager is my strongest toon and he was able to get the Kazon to fight effectively but it was a laborious exercise.

I am not sure why, but the ship’s claimed base turn rate of 19 dps seems a bit generous. I constantly felt that I was not turning as sharp as a raider should. This is entirely anecdotal evidence but the Breen Plesh Brek is equally rated for turn rate and I never felt that ship was inadequate.

The Kazon ship is not the sexiest ship in STO to be sure. It is upgradable to T5-U and that makes it advantageous to the Mirror Universe ships that are cheaper on the exchange but not upgradable. Mirror ships would otherwise be better ships.

If you want a Raider class ship and you are not a Klingon, The Breen Plesh Brek is just way better and you can get one from Q absolutely free at the Winter Event in December. I’ll admit that I did not equip the Kazon Raider with my best stuff but it was all Mark XII rare and very rare gear. I did also upgrade the ship to T5-U.

kazonpleshbrekThis comparison between the Breen and Kazon ships should make the choice easy. Please note the Kazon is listed as an “escort” but it is a raider and does get the raider flanking ability as does the Breen raider.

The Breen ship is just better in every way. More hull, an extra console, stronger shields, four universal chairs instead of three, it’s faster and has better inertia and it even comes with a special console. Oh wait! The Kazon ship has more crew. BFD!

All of that said the raider class can be fun to play. Even though I felt the Kazon ships 19 dps turn rate was exaggerated it is still more nimble than any other cheap escort you’ll find on the exchange. If an engineer or science player is looking to have a little fun with a shifty little sports car-like ship, the Kazon Raider could be a fun toy.

While I was flying that Kazon and getting it up to tier IV mastery I came across the Dual Cannon Conundrum. I have glossed over this topic in the past but it still gnaws at me a bit occasionally. Now I will start by saying some players are such good pilots that they may not see my point on dual cannon weapons but I’ll venture to guess that many less amazing pilots might agree.

For the purpose of this discussion all references will be made to common grade mark XII weapons. The standard single cannon weapon does a base damage of 212 damage per second (dps). Single cannon weapons do 159 damage per volley (dpv) and reach the 212 dps by firing more than once per second. Single cannon weapons drain power by 10 points when firing in conjunction with other weapons.  A dual cannon weapon can be acquired in two types, dual cannon and dual heavy cannon. Both of these types have the same base of 256 dps. The standard dual cannon fires similar to the single cannon weapon with a 192 dpv and firing more than once per second to achieve the 256 dps figure. The dual heavy cannon fires more slowly and does a “heavy” damage per volley of 384 but takes twice as long to refire and thus achieves the same dps of 256. Dual cannon weapons drain power by 12 points when firing in conjunction with other weapons.

The conundrum is this: A single cannon weapon has a targeting arc of 180 degrees. This represents a huge area in which the weapon can maintain a target lock and thus maintain firing and damage. The dual cannon weapons of either variety offer a very narrow 45 degree targeting arc. This is only one-fourth of the area. Of course these dual cannon weapons are designed for ships with hard turning ability, but still I find that keeping a ships in the 45 degree firing arc is very difficult especially after eliminating the first target and seeking a second. Thus the actual dps of these dual cannon weapons in practice is less since they spend a lot of time without a target.

I have always felt that the base damage rating on the dual cannon weapons should be much higher and that they should have a heavier drain on the weapons power subsystem to compensate. For example dual cannon weapons ought to have a base somewhere between 296-324 dps with a power drain of 14 or 15 when firing other weapons. This would create the classic attack run burst of dps with power becoming well-drained by the time the target is either overrun or out of the targeting arc. By the time the ship turns about for another run the weapon power would be back to full. This would compensate for the huge gaping time hole in which the weapons cannot fire because the target is outside the 45 degree arc. The additional power drain would keep the weapons from being overly powerful by limiting the amount of time they can hit at full damage.

Another idea that I would love to see would be tactical BOFF or captain abilities, preferably a Pilot BOFF ability whereby the ship matches the speed and trajectory of the targeted ship. This would allow for a ship with dual cannons to maintain target lock while following an enemy ship by perfectly matching its speed and turning for a brief period of say 8-10 seconds. There of course would be some limitation based on the ship; for example a big, slow cruiser would not be able to maintain the follow against a BOP for more than a couple of seconds, but the BOFF ability would attempt to match to the best of the ship’s physical ability. The ability could grant a brief 20% turn and speed boost as needed to keep the target directly in front of the ship. This would not be an ability for a cruiser anyway but more for escorts and raiders. The ability could be countered if the enemy used a science jamming BOFF abilty or a battle cloaking manuever. You hear that Cryptic? This is a good plan ;)

I fly my Andorian Kumari with the wing cannons which are a 45 degree arc and 3 single cannons and that ship does significantly more damage in PVE and story missions than it does with dual cannons. It is not even close in fact. I can clear out an entire 4-5 ship wave of patrol ships within the first few seconds with that Kumari with the single cannon set up and with the duals it takes triple the time. This is due to the wide 180 degree arc. Once the first target is down the next target is four times more likely to still be in the firing arc of the weapons. In PVP where there is a lot of one on one dogfights, the duals would be better. I suck at PVP piloting though, so for me the dual cannons are not strong enough to offset the huge targeting disadvantage. I do fly a few ships with all dual cannons including a few BOPs, but usually I have one dual cannon and two single cannons or all singles.

So there is the dual cannon conundrum. How have you overcome this issue and do you think dual cannons are a little under-powered?

Flying the Mercury Class

pilot-mercury-1As you all are likely aware, Cryptic released a new line-up of starships last week. They call these new ships “Pilot”. They are available in three varieties for each faction for a total on nine new ships.

The name pilot is derived from the pilot specialization that was one of the original specializations launched with Delta Rising. These new T6 ships are also equipped with hybrid BOFF stations Commander Tactical/Pilot and Lieutenant Science/Pilot. The pilot BOFFs are trained the same way as Intelligence and Command BOFFs with a training manual you craft after achieving ten ranks in the pilot specialization or buy on the exchange. I must say, one of the very best changes Cryptic ever made to this game was the current BOFF system. My original character, Admiral Sager has 24 BOFFs. Back in the day you couldn’t easily swap out skills so I had a BOFF for every scenario. Now you can have a set of 8-10 BOFFs with a wide variety of abilities that you simply switch on the fly anywhere.

kdfOK back to the ships. I decided after several days of deliberation to buy just one ship. I think the Romulan version is probably the best over all ship since it is the only one with a battle cloak. The Klingon ship is undoubtedly the best looking. It quite literally looks like it was ejected from Hell because the Devil was afraid of it ;) But unfortunately it is equipped with a near useless standard cloak. The Feddie version has no cloak at all.

I bought the Tactical Pilot Escort for my Starfleet toons. I did it because I get the most mileage out of that choice. I have 11 characters of which 7 are either Federation or Romulan with a Starfleet allegiance. Honestly if Cryptic offered a 3 for 2 mix and match I would have gotten three ships one for each faction. In the end I will likely end up with three ships but I will take my time with it.

So a quick overview. Each faction gets three ships and they are basically all very similar. Each of the three ships is identical except for Consoles and BOFF seating. It is very similar to the Andorian Kumari series of ships in terms of the subtlety of the differences. Each ship has a slightly different design. They are designed to lean towards Tactical, Science or Engineering. These are escort ships, so don’t expect anything more than an escort in terms of survivability. The difference is this:

pilot

Among the three Starfleet Pilot ships I thought the engineering version was the most interesting looking. I chose the Tactical ship because I felt that a speedy ship like this needed enough abilities on tactical to always have attack buffs activated. Being able to manuever quickly is fine unless you have no attack buffs ready, then what’s the point? You don’t want to be all lined up for badass attack run with your tac BOFFs on cooldown. This is very important if using a Pilot specialist. Larger slower ships don’t need as much tactical because once they make an attack run it takes a while to get back into position to make another, by which time the cooldown has reset. These Pilot ships are the fastest turning Federation or Romulan ships ever made. For the KDF only the BOPs are quicker on the corner. A Starfleet character will only have access to one ship in the game that is faster and turns sharper and that is the Risian Corvette which has 21 dps base turn and 0.25 impulse modifier

rodshipI have tested the ship with two of my toons thus far. Both are Tactical Starfleet caps. First is Admiral Sager, he is by far my most advanced character having achieved a great deal of abilities and such. Next is my newest toon, Delta Recruit, K’Rod a Klingon Starfleet Admiral at level 55. For K’Rod I don’t have any Pilot BOFFs, I set the ship up like a normal escort. Admiral Sager loaded up the two Pilot seats with Pilot BOFFs. I noticed that K’Rod was dealing more damage and it came down to having more tactical abilities active, more often. I swapped out the Lt. Commander Subspace Boom Pilot ability for another instance of Scatter Volley and Admiral Sager was in business. I do like the Subspace Boom ability but I found my self on attack runs with weak sauce cannon fire too often.

rod-boff krod-boffOne of the cool things about these ships is the special Pilot manuevers available. They work just like the roll ability on the ground. A double tap on any direction key performs a manuever that gives a temporary immunity to damage and causes the enemy to lose target lock. These recharge reasonably fast so they are quite useful. Cryptic allows the double tap feature to be turned off and a mouse click on a HUD directional pad can be used instead, or a hot key setup. I’ll admit that I do occasionally double tap on accident.

I believe that the Romulan ships will benefit greatly from this ability. Imagine performing the manuever then using the battle cloak immediately after. The temporary immunity of 2 seconds keeps you from suffering the death by cloak problem when the shields drop during the cloaking.

OK so the Starfleet Mercury Class is the tactical leaning ship and I have run a number of the Iconian PVE queues as well as a bunch of Romulan Patrols to build up mastery levels. Admiral Sager is working on the fifth level of mastery so I can try out the ship trait that auto fires a micro torpedo every few seconds that you keep a ship in the 90 degree forward arc. The ship performs very well. It is surprisingly resilient largely due to the manuever ability that gets you out of trouble. The tactical version of the ships regardless of faction have the same special console which is a missile launcher that requires no target. It is kind of similar to the Ferrengi Swarm Missiles, but maybe better. I did not set these ships up with all my best stuff so the fact that I avoid death flying them is pretty cool.

The Romulan and Starfleet versions have a hull strength that lies between Raider and Escort, so it is somewhat fragile. The KDF versions offer 8% more hull. The Starfleet ship’s only advantage is a shield modifier boost of about 8%; 1.05 vs the Rommy and KDF at 0.97. My take on it was this: If you really like the battle cloak, the Romulan version is the only one that offers it and combined with the Pilot maneuvering it can be very useful. If the battle cloak isn’t your thing then the Starfleet version offers the shield perk that will definitely help. If you want hull resiliency the KDF version is the only one offering a decent hull strength that compares to other Raptors.

The comparison to other tactical ships is hard to avoid so I prepped a chart taking some of the hottest Feddie and Cross-faction escorts to task. Against the Fleet versions of Tactical Escort Retrofit T5-U, Patrol Escort T5-U, and T6 Intel Phantom along with the Andorian Kumari T5-U, and just for fun the Jem’Hadar Strike Ship. I am comparing the Fleet versions because they are available and cost about the same, all is fair in love and war…ships.

pilotcomp

I still think the Patrol Escort has the most badass rear flank attack in the game! The Andorian Kumari has the most hard-hitting frontal assault in the game. I still wipe stuff out with that Kumari faster and more efficiently than any other ship I have flown. I recently set up Admiral Sager’s Fleet Phantom with a mix of Omega and Romulan gear and that ship is extremely well-balanced now, honestly it is probably the best all round escort I have. The Pilot Mercury is a lot of fun to fly and it is more than capable in combat. Don’t let the weak hull frighten you, the Pilot manuevers recharge quickly and definitely help to fend off attacker’s damage. This ship fights like it has fleet grade hull strength.

Admiral Sager set his up with two of the three pieces of the Special Set obtained by playing the featured Iconian mission. He will pickup the third piece tonight. The set is pretty tough. The torpedos are the first transphasic torpedo I have used that is really effective. I like this ship enough that I intend to equip it with some serious gear. Currently I have the Hirogen Trap console in the engineering section. It is a fun ploy but not as useful as a Fleet neutronium or Dyson defense console. I am trying to decide which reputation space set to use, Omega Assimilated maybe? Or I could just go all fleet with it. I’ll decide here eventually.

The analysis for this Pilot Mercury Class is that this is a fun ship that should provide nearly as much fighting strength and perhaps more than other ships in your arsenal. It is a worthy ship.