CCP Fozzie is continuing his 'rebalance everything' spree. After much speculation about changes to armor tanking, his thread has been posted. Let's dive right in.
The State of Armor Now
To start, we should contrast armor and shield tanking in Eve. Armor features lots of hitpoints (and receives the oversized passive as a result in the form of the 1600mm plate) and a slow, steady and efficient repair style. By contrast, shield tanking thematically favors bursty, rapid but inefficient repairs, and consequently has the oversized repair option in the form of the X-Large Shield Booster. In theory, armor tanks are in for the long haul, while shield tanks are sprinters. However, over the years, a few problems have arisen.
Problem number one with active armor tanking is that while its strength is not an outright liability in PvP, it's certainly not very favorable. With the relatively lengthy cycle and the rep coming on the end, armor tanking reacts poorly to sudden damage compared to the short cycle front-loaded rep offered by shield boosters. The difference was only exacerbated by the introduction of the Ancillary Shield Booster line of modules. Dual or triple repping strategies are the only real way for armor tanks to achieve any sort of on-demand burst, and carry the obvious downside of significant fitting and capacitor problems.
Problem number two is that armor tanking makes you slow. Plates add mass, adversely affecting both speed and agility. Rigs of all kinds further exacerbate the issue, conferring a penalty to the impulse velocity of any ship fitting them. It all combines to put armor fleets at a disadvantage for any movement at all (like pursuing or fleeing from hostiles and even just getting around), to say nothing of the invaluable ability to dictate range once actually in combat.
Problem three is fitting. Both armor and shield tanking setups can fit buffer modules to ships that they're "too small" for, which results in everything from medium shield extended Merlins to 1600mm plated Mallers and Vexors. That's definitely not the case when it comes to active tanking, however. It's entirely possible to fit a Medium ASB Merlin, but good luck doing an MAR fit Incursus. Particularly when combined with ASBs, this only furthers the advantages of local shield over local armor tanks.
Armor Rigs Updated formerly incorrect bonus on the Overcharger.
- New rig called the Nanobot Overcharger that increased the overheat bonus on your local armor reps by 100% (120% for T2). So with one of the T1 rigs overheating gives the rep 20% more rep amount and 30% faster rate of fire instead of the default 10% and 15% respectively. This effect is stacking penalized and gives no bonus when the reps are not overheated. Same calibration and build costs as a Aux Nano or Nanobot Acc rig. As of 1/22 Fozzie is pulling this rig until further notice. "I started off with an early mistake with this rig and we're not going to re-add it until its properly balanced."
- Change the penalty on all active armor rigs (Aux Nano Pump, Nanobot Accelerator, and the new Nanobot Overcharger) to increase the powergrid use of local armor reps by 10% instead of reducing ship velocity. Note this is increasing the PG use of the reps by 10% (or 5% at Armor Rigging V) not decreasing the total PG of the ship.
- Add a new skill to the game called Armor Upgrades. This skill reduces the mass penalty of all armor plates by 5% per level. (Int/Mem, rank 3, requires Mechanics 3) This skill affects all plates (including 1600mm) and is separate from the stat change listed below.
- Reduce the base mass penalty on all 800mm, 200mm and 50mm plates by 20%
Ancillary Armor Repairer
- Not the same mechanic as the ASB, please read to the end.
- Always uses the same cap as a normal (T1/T2/Named) Armor Repper
- When not loaded with a cap booster, has 3/4 the rep amount as a T1 Armor Repairer
- Loaded cap boosters triple rep amount (so reps 2.25x a T1 repairer when loaded)
- Uses nanite repair paste as a repair augmentor
- Repairers will hold 8 cycles worth of paste; smalles use 1 per cycle, mediums 5, and larges 10
- Same cycle time and fittings as T1 reps
- Same capacity, charge restrictions and reload time as an ASB, but the longer cycle time of armor reps means it goes longer between reloads
- Limited to one per ship
One point of miscellanea: The Incursus is having its rep bonus nerfed, lowered to 7.5% from 10% to bring it in line with its larger brothers. This is because it would otherwise be, in Fozzie's words, "wtfbbqop".
The Good, the Bad and the Missing
The good is short and sweet: Fozzie has addressed the primary downsides to active armor tanking in a single stroke. Furthermore, he offers armor tanks an option to retain their mobility and more clearly increases the distinction between active and passive tanks. Buffer tanks will fittingly remain slow and brick-like, whereas active fits will be fast, with the option for some decidedly potent tanks. To quote Grath on the forums, "Considering that a bonused hull will massively outrep a non bonused hull, AND that the newly redone gallent [sic] hulls are all agile as hell, AND wont be slowed by their armor parts now, I'd say that they're going to be an absolute terror to deal with."
The bad? Shield tanking retains the distinct advantage of unhampered mobility whether fielding a local tank or a buffer based remote rep tank. The mass reduction skill as well as tweaks to 800mm plates and 200mm plates (even Fozzie admits 50mm are pointless) help in that regard, but it's not perfect. However, that's an issue related to local vs remote repairing in general, not armor specifically. Needless to say, if CCP decides it's a problem, everyone eagerly awaits Fozzie's solution.
The missing? Further balance adjustments. "Problem three" remains, and could be addressed by either fitting tweaks or adjusting shield tanking as well. I'd favor the latter, and leave further tweaks (if necessary) for after adjustments to remote repairing. The limits on AARs hint at further tweaks to ASBs as well. With the way Fozzie has been working lately, he seems to have a private line on a meth dealer, so if such changes are in the pipeline I expect we'll see them before long! Sure to be coming is a pass on capital tanking: "I'm hoping to do a more focused pass on capital tanking at some future point with one of the goals being to make bonuses consistent between capital and non-capital reps (without breaking everything)".
Editor's Note: Updated with the latest from CCP Fozzie regarding cap boosters/nanite repair paste.