In the wake of my previous article on the battlecruiser tiericide, I got to play around with fittings more (this time with an updated EFT). I also had the chance to discuss the changes and look at the thoughts of other players who I find insightful. (No, I don't claim to know everything.) We've gotten some new information from Fozzie, as well, which came just before I finished writing this, forced me to rework about half of it, and means I don't get to look like a prophetic wizard by saying things about the Cyclone and Ferox before Fozzie did. Anyway, I stand by most of my previous assessments. There's a lot of good, and the bad (such as the Hurricane) actually isn't that bad. But I'll come back to those. I'd like to focus on the Harbinger first, because out of all the ships changed, it's the definitive loser.
Too Big For Your Britches
The biggest problem facing the Harbinger is fitting. It's nothing new. Take this fit, for example, on the current ship. It's how people might like to be able to fit for fleet work. It's not even close to fitting, though, so there are three options to get this thing to work. If you want to keep the guns and the plate, we drop two Trimarks for an ACR and a Processor Overclocking Unit and stick in a 3% CPU implant and so lose about 13k EHP in the process. We can downgrade the guns to Focused Medium Pulse Lasers, which is a loss of 58 DPS and 3+2.1km effective range. The loss of optimal alone is more than 10%, the lost falloff brings the total range loss to about 14%, and the DPS is about 13.5%. And did I mention that that still requires a 3% implant? Yeah. Getting this to fit without any mods or rigs, in fact, requires both downgrading the guns to FMLPs and dropping to an 800mm plate, a 12k EHP loss. And you'd better have perfect fitting skills too, as it comes to exactly 437.5/437.5 CPU.
That's all on the old Harbinger, but exactly nothing changes with the new one - the fact that you're fitting fewer guns is offset by the fact that you lost the CPU and PG that the gun was using.
Compare that to the Hurricane. If you want to fit it as a 1600mm plated AC brawler, you go overweight on grid. Like the Harbinger, it can drop a Trimark for an ACR; unlike the Harbinger, that's all that's required. You're done, it fits. Or you can downgrade the guns to 220mm ACs, which is a loss of about 5% damage and range. The ~14% loss the Harbinger takes by fitting smaller guns is most similar to the Hurricane dropping all the way to Dual 1800mm ACs... except that allows the Hurricane to not only keep its plate, but add something into the utility high. So needless to say, the Hurricane has a lot less to complain about.
Perversely, beam fit sniper Harbingers don't run into the same issues, so long as you don't expect a tank. That's typically the norm, though, and actually gives it an edge over the Hurricane and its ACR requirement to fit 720mm Arty.
The ability to fit a 1600mm plate - notionally a battleship sized module - is not at all uncommon for smaller ships. Both the Myrmidon and Prophecy can do it without a problem, and they're common sights on many HAC. Even T1 cruisers can fit them without much pain, which makes the Harbinger rather exceptionally bad. A tanked Vexor downgrades to Electron Blasters, while a Thorax does the same and adds an ACR. A Maller can run either AB, Heavy Pulses and a 1600mm with an ACR or skip the ACR and run Focused Medium Pulses with an MWD.
This one's pretty simple, really. To compensate for the removal of the 7th turret, CCP also took away 125 grid and 25 CPU, which meant, as we've shown, that all the fitting problems the current version have continue. Needless to say, though, it looks a lot better if we leave the fitting as is. All we need now is a 3% implant, which is more of an addition than a compromise. There are probably other approaches that CCP could take, but heck, why complicate things?
There is one other minor issue. The Harbinger and Prophecy both had their EHP slightly adjusted to better reinforce the idea of "mobile gunboat" versus "heavily armored brick", yet they also received tweaks to their mass and align time that leave the Harbinger slower than before. It's not a major change - the Harbinger is about 11m/s slower with an MWD now - but it is an odd choice, and I'm not alone in thinking that they got it backwards. That said, CCP is "working on" armor tanking, which may include the speed penalties one suffers from plates and armor rigs, and that'd make this much less of an issue.
Fortunately, a shortly after making his megapost, Fozzie commented on the problems, so hopefully we'll see some action on it soon.
Fozzie confirmed that Tier 3 BCs will be getting some changes when they're rebranded as Attack Battlecruisers, and a thread will be coming soon. My money is on mobility tweaks, as they're all considerably faster and more mobile than their smaller cousins, though I'd expect some of them get their defensive capabilities toned down as well. Fozzie also finally confirmed the timeline for the Destroyer and BC skill splits - Summer expansion 2013. If you've been living under a rock and missed that, details on the skill split can be found here.
I still like the Ferox. A lot of people are calling for a damage bonus, but I wholeheartedly disagree. Seven turrets and a damage bonus would certainly make it an excellent sniper (500 DPS at 38+29km with CN Antimatter) but also give it blaster damage output identical to the Brutix, with better range and tank. That might be too good. Conversely, six turrets with the damage bonus would still leave it a strong blaster ship (stronger than seven turrets with no bonus in fact) but still a mediocre sniper; 430 DPS at the same range as before, which leaves it rather worse off than an arty Hurricane. The better option for enabling the medium sniper role is probably to buff the rails instead, which seems to be just what Fozzie is thinking. "The issue of balance between long range fit Combat BCs and Tier 3 BCs is an important one. In the end the solution will likely revolve around making sniping with medium weapons and sniping with large weapons more distinct. I'm not expecting people to use RailFerox fleets in pvp after this point release, but while also keeping a strong BlasterFerox alive I want to put the ship in a place where it can benefit from any changes we make to both help medium rails specifically, and the balance between medium and large long-range weapons in general."
A lot of people are talking about the Brutix as well, with concerns on the same "why does it ALSO have a tank bonus" issue, or merely that active armor tanking sucks. Fozzie's post reveals commentary reveals that he's sympathetic to the tank bonus issue but would like to "wait a bit before switching the design around." Likewise, as was hinted at, CCP plans to do "something" about armor tanking. Fozzie says "I completely agree. ~Working on it~. However since we want to be very careful about what we promise and when that's all I can say at this exact moment."
I said in my initial writeup that I prefer the five launcher Cyclone to a notional six launcher, and I stand by that. Five launchers and two utility highs is flexible - add turrets, neuts, whatever. If you stick to a reasonable tank like a buffer fit or one LASB (instead of dual XLASB), you can even get two gank links on. A six launcher setup is less flexible and essentially becomes a worse Hurricane, or in Fozzie's mind, a Drake: "Creating effective balance between the Cyclone and the Drake is tricky business. We are aiming for a useful tradeoff between the ships, with the Cyclone significantly faster and more maneuverable and with two utility highs vs the Drake's extra missile damage, with the shield boost bonus vs resists." That's also the reason why the Drake has maintains the kinetic damage bonus instead of getting a regular damage or ROF bonus - better damage, less flexibility.
The Hurricane isn't as bad as I thought it was. I already looked at the pinch points an armor brawler runs into up above with the comparison to the Harbinger, but I haven't changed my mind in the past few paragraphs that the compromises the fit has to make are reasonable. The fitting problems suffered by the classic shield brawler basically goes away because it loses its utility high, and the 720mm "Instacane" still requires an ACR to fit but is otherwise functional. So it's not really a matter of the sky falling like I intially thought, and many others still think.