(Author's note: As this is my first piece that is not news of some sort, I've decided to let down my hair a little. Those that might be offended by colourful language should harden the fuck up.)
This summer, CCP is going to be changing the requirements for capital ships, eliminating the racial battleship V requirement and adding a few other skills in to keep the total training time the same. In the case of the carrier, the skills added were already considered a necessity, so the training time is actually drastically reduced. So, for all you pilots that are going to be buying carriers when the change goes live (it’s still of great benefit to current carrier pilots as well), I present this handy guide. This is geared to carriers, as that’s what I fly and know best, but a lot of this will translate over to dreadnoughts.
The thing you need to know about capitals . . .
You - yes, you. I’m talking directly to you, Ms. New Cap Pilot. You have your shiny new ship that costs over a billion for the hull and two weeks to make. It’s pretty to look at while you spin it in the station (unless it’s a Nidhoggr) and you feel like you’ve hit the big time. I know; I was there. You’re probably tempted to undock and let it fly free in space, just to see the coolness. Don’t. The thing you need to know about capitals is that everyone wants to kill you.
See, capital killmails are cool. They stand out and are really fun to have on a killboard. The only thing more smug-inducing than a capital killmail is a supercapital killmail. Since only a handful of those happen a week, a capital killmail is as good as people are going to get most of the time. Are you still paying attention? I’m talking about you, the pilot that everyone is going to be trying to blow up.
So, when you undock your fancy new carrier: be paranoid. Be prepared. Double check everything. Fuel? Drones? Back up mods? Cyno in place? Is the fitting correct? In the right clone? The list goes on, you see. All of this is important to make sure that you do not wind up mentioned in an article on TheMittani.com.
So: as with all ships, there are the requirements to sit in a carrier, and then there are the skills that you should have to fit and fly one effectively. Most subcapital ships have recommended certificates that you should acquire. There are none for carriers (or any other capitals) because it’s assumed that at this point you will mostly know what the fuck you're doing. On the assumption that you don't, here’s a good skillset to have:
- Core Fitting Improved. Your fitting in many cases is going to be tight, in most cases requiring hardwiring for CPU. If you’re flying a carrier, Advanced Weapons Upgrades of any level is not required.
- Core Capacitor Elite. Capacitor is life for a carrier. Remember that it takes 72% capacitor to jump. The faster you can get to that, the more likely you are to live if something goes bad.
- Core Targeting Standard. Elite is much better, but it’s not crucial. If you are flying a triage carrier it matters quite a bit. If you are flying a sentry drone assist carrier, aka Das Uberboot or Slowcat, standard is more than fine.
- Core Navigation Improved. Evasive Maneuvering V takes about 2 seconds off align time, so get it as soon as you can. Carriers have a fat ass, though, and the difference between a 30 second align time and a 28 second align time is not that significant. If you dare to put nanos on your carrier, you deserve the ridicule that I am going to pour on you when you die.
- Core Integrity Elite. Carriers have lots of hit points in shield, armour, and structure. Adding 25% to numbers in excess of one hundred thousand is nothing to sneer at.
- Drone control Improved. Remember that a single frigate can tackle a carrier. Your main defense against subcaps is going to be your Hammerheads and Warriors, not your fighters. The better those work, the more likely you are to live.
- Combat Drone Control Improved. See above. You’re flying a carrier - drones are what you do. Support skills are vital. You’re going to be looking at four months solid of training drone skills for a carrier; just get used to the idea.
- Heavy Drone Control Standard. Your drones are important, but standard is more than enough for heavies. Get tech two sentries before tech two heavies.
- Specialist Drone Operator Standard. I’m writing a lot of words about drones here. You had better be paying attention. They’re important!
- Unit Leader Standard. Remember how many hitpoints that a carrier has? Well, adding 8% is more than most cruisers. Just form a fleet with your cyno alt (which I will cover later) and voila, instant hit points.
- Cloaking IV. The ability to fit a cloak for travel is useful if your midpoint is in a hostile system. Tech two cloaks are excellent and there is really no excuse not to have the skill to IV. It’s also handy if you mess up and decloak on accident.
- Cynosaural Field Theory III. Do I really have to explain why you should have this?
- Capital Ships III. Remember that huge fat ass the carrier has? This helps with align time, making you just slightly slower than the Titanic when it comes to turning around.
- Capital Energy Emission Systems III. IV is better, III is pretty much required. This also has the benefit of letting you fit tech two heavy neuts, of which you should have 5 in your carrier at all times and usually one fitted. You cannot be scrammed if they don’t have cap.
- Energy Pulse Weapons IV. You’re not going to fit a tech two module, you’re going to buy your 1+ billion ISK ship a faction module. Yes, the additional thirty million ISK is worth the extra 1.5km of range.
- Rigging skills. In general you should be able to fit capacitor rigs and then your tank rigs. The higher the skills here the better. If you’re a sentry drone carrier, drone rigs as well.
- Jump Drive Operation V. You’re going to have this to V with the new requirements. If you’re a current carrier pilot and you do not have this skill, get it now, before anything else. In the mean time, fly something else.
- Jump Drive Calibration III. Level III is going to be required with the changes, but go ahead at get it to IV. For a carrier, level V is not as important as it is for other capitals.
- Jump Fuel Conservation III. Level III is easily attainable. Level IV is better. It really depends on how much ISK you want to spend on fuel. If you’re just using it to rat in a backwater null sec system and not for operations, level III is fine.
- Biology III. Level III takes no time at all and you are going to want to use drugs. Carry drugs with you at all times. People should mistake you for a Serpentis rat with all the narcotics in your hold. The support skills, Nanite Control and Neurotoxin Recovery, are useful as well.
- Thermodynamics III. If you’re with other carriers in a fleet, you should be carrying spare modules of all your hardeners and most non-capital mods. (Capital mods are 4000m3 and you really can’t carry spares for all of those.) Being able to overheat when you’re getting shot at is a good thing. Being able to swap burned-out modules for fresh ones is better.
- Fighters IV. This is the whole reason for getting a carrier, right? Don’t lie, you’ve got the Top Gun Anthem queued up for the first time you use these babies in combat. The only skill that affects the DPS of fighters is the skill Fighters and there is no reason to not have it at IV, even if you’re a sentry carrier.
- Sentry Drone Interfacing IV. Oddly enough, this skill is not covered in the drone certificates. If you’re flying a sentry carrier, getting it to V should be a priority.
- Repair Drone Operation III. I really debated whether this skill was needed for carriers. It’s just a ten hour affair to get it to level III to use up to heavy repair bots, so go ahead and get it. Carry the drones too, since it’s better to have them and not need them than otherwise.
For armour tanked carriers: All armour reinforcement skills to IV. Capital Repair Systems to III.
For shield tanked carriers: Capital Shield Operation III. Tactical Shield Manipulation to IV. Shield reinforcement skills are not really needed as they no longer help active modules. You’re never going to fit a passive resist module to your carrier.
Capital Shield Emissions and Capital Remote Armour Repair Systems: Pick the correct one and get it to III at least. The main job of a carrier is to remote repair when they are not swarming things with drones. Even if you’re just using it to rat, train these skills. If the enemy tries to headshot your system, you can at least contribute something. (Assuming you don’t drop corp and run back to empire.)
Sensor compensation skills. Get the racial skill to III at least; Level IV is better.
Lastly, your racial carrier skill to IV. Each skill level gives you another drone, and drones are good. Each level also gives you some other really useful bonuses, and not taking the week and a half it takes to get to level IV is malpractice.
Better Buy +4s
“Gee”, you’re saying right now. Either that or, “Holy shit, that seems like a lot of training.” You’re correct, it is! Capital ships are not supposed to be flown by every scrub in the cluster; they’re meant to be a goal to work to. It's going to take you over a year of dedicated training to get the skills that you should have, and that is assuming that you've gone straight for the carrier and ignored everything else. These skills are designed to give you the maximum survivability in any combat situation you might find yourself in. Remember, when you undock everyone wants to kill you.