Monday, December 09, 2013

Whither The Rifter - Part 1 - The Rifter

On Friday I decried the disappearance of the Rifter, Punisher, and Tormentor from the the battlefields of low sec with the promise of looking at these ships in turn and giving some recommendations of improvements that could be made. That post caused several notable pilots to step forward and defend the Rifter and Punisher:
Miura Bull7:48 pm
Hmm, I'm not sure I'd agree on the Minnie and Amarr stuff. I fly the Rifter a lot, and I know of corpmates and friends who do, and they have discovered some pretty nice fits within the current meta. Punisher and Rifter are like hard mode now admittedly but that's cool, you'll get fights! Tormentor is a great ship now also.

Rixx Javix8:27 am
I agree with Miura on this one. I fly them all regularly and while each has its pluses and minuses, for once in Eve they are all out and about in space. On an average day I see more variety in space than at any other time before, it is pretty amazing tbh.

Druur Monakh8:32 pm
I haven't done much solo flying in the last months (or for that matter combat flying) (nor am I any good at either of it :) ), but I have a number of Tormentors staged to take out on frigate roams. It's not the best of frigates, but doesn't have any glaring weakness either. I think the same can still be said for the Rifter.

Stabs2:05 pm
I've had some luck soloing with Tormentors. I beat 2 Incursi once.
 So the Rifter and Tormentor still have fans! Excellent! I still find them lacking in the numbers I face in my rounds of low sec but I admittedly play less than most. And hey, the Punisher seems to have no quick serious defenders ;)

Regardless, I plan to go ahead and look at these three ships in detail starting with the famous Minmatar Rifter.

5% bonus to Small Projectile Turret damage
7.5% bonus to Small Projectile Turret tracking

Slots: 4/3/3 with 3 turret / 2 missile hardpoints, no drones
Equal starting shields and armour hitpoints and resistance distributions:

This ship is designed to be either shield or armour tanked based on the pilot's preferences. This flexibility is part of the problem; since it has neither shield nor armour tanking predilection, that means out of the gate it will have trouble matching the tanking abilities of the Incursus, Merlin, Breacher, or Punisher.

For damage it sports up to 4 weapons systems but only three of them on bonused hardpoints. If you ignore the missile launcher and make use of the largest of the small autocannons with Republic Fleet Phased Plasma ammo and a Gyrostablizer II in the lows, you get a peak theoretical DPS of 129. Meanwhile a Merlin with Light Ions and faction antimatter and a magstab gets 165 DPS, and an Incursus with Neutrons, Faction AM, and a Hybrid Collision Accelerator I rig gets 158 DPS. Throw in the drone on the latter and the Pyfa numbers hit 177 DPS. If we give the Rifter a rocket launcher to increase the damage it cane get almost up to 150 DPS.

To be fair, the Rifter's guns have a fall off range twice as far (6km to 3km) superior tracking for hitting fast targets and the ability to choose damage type to hit the target's resistance hole, and these are not insignificant advantages. Not to mention that the fourth high slot can be used with a utility module like a neutralizer to increase it attack profile that the Merlin and Incursus lack. But in fast paced frigate combat these advantages represent an advanced mode of flying when compared to its close ranged contemporaries, especially considering it lacks any tanking bonus AND does on average less DPS even with four weapon systems.

Let's look at its long range options with artillery.

With big 280mm Howitzer Artillery IIs and Republic Fleet Phased Plasma ammo and  Gyrostablizer II in the lows, we get a range of 7.5 km optimal and almost 11 km falloff and a DPS of 100. But more importantly, we have a Volley damage of 692. In contrast, the Merlin with 150mm Railgun IIs and faction AM gets 9 km optimal, 7.5 km falloff, 119 DPS but a volley of only 327.  So they fight in similar ranges and do comparable damage, but the Rifter has the big punch compared to the Merlin's constant pea shooting. Again, an experienced and good pilot could use that alpha strike to punch through the defenses of the opponent by timing his shots and watching the traversal velocities and ranges, but again its hard mode in small ship combat. (And the Thrasher does the alpha strike so much better.)

So to summarize, we have a ship that doesn't do the most damage or have the most tank, but is superior in damage type selection and tracking at short range or alpha strike at long range. In other words, a Frigate experience in hard mode.

My Suggestions:

I think a ship without a tanking bonus should shine a bit more at damage application. Not a lot, but enough to make it a little scarier. Maybe bump the damage bonus from 5% per level to 6%? Or 7.5%? The former would bump the on-paper autocannon DPS to 134 while the latter is more severe at 142 (with Rocket Launcher, hitting around 160). I'm leaning more towards the 6% bonus which would give the ship slightly more "ommph" while still not making it the king of frigates once more.

Tomorrow, the Tormentor.


  1. First off, any discussion of the state of the rifter should compare it not only to the other combat frigates, but also to the slasher.

    Second, I think the Rifter suffers from the comparative weakness of autocannons. To give you an idea, a Neutron Merlin shooting null actually outdoes a Rifter in terms of damage until you're at the edge of scram range. The Rifter's notionally superior range flexibility turns out to be rather hollow, since hybrid brawlers can bridge the gap with sheer damage. And hybrid brawlers have better tanks as well.

    This is a problem with the Rifter in many respects. On paper, it has a lot of advantages over other combat frigates, but they turn out to be non-existent in practice or so marginal that you can't really do anything with them.

  2. The rifter's main advantages used to be its speed and, as an extension of that, its range control and capability to disengage. Many of the other frigates, most notably the gallente frigates, were rebalanced with higher base speeds. Also, the attack frigates became quite viable. I think the most direct comparison to the rifter is not the slasher, but the atron. A neutron blaster atron is superior in nearly every way to an AC rifter. It's faster, does more damage, has comparable range and tracking, same slot layout, comparable tank, etc. Basically, the rifter is outclassed by the atron - a ship that's not even in the same class. The rifter is not bad at anything, but it's not good at anything either, and that's its greatest weakness.

  3. I'm in the middle of writing a thought experiment about the Rifter, and possible upgrades to it, over on my blog. I'd love to see your thoughts :) I'll have the last post up by the end of the week.


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