tldr; Choosing a weapon system or two and skilling those up to T2 will lead to vast improvements in your combat efficiency.
So you’ve got this ninja thing down. You’ve learned what to steal and how to go about it with ruthless efficiency. Now it’s time to get your pew pew on. But what should you be shooting with? You’ve probably got a smidgen of combat skills already, but I’m not sure I’d commit to those railguns or heavy missiles as your ninja weapon of choice without thinking a few things through.
Make no mistake about it, we don’t really roll into fair fights as ninjas, or at least not very many of them. That may sound underhanded and dishonorable, but think about it, most of our encounters start off when some enraged mission runner attacks a relatively defenseless frigate with a ship-of-the-line battleship. No one in this little drama is really looking for nor expecting a fair fight. So as a ninja ganker, we view gank ships and the weapons they fit a bit differently than the larger PVP community.
Many ninjas, particularly those who’ve dabbled in PVE, begin their ganking career with missiles and it’s true, missiles do have numerous benefits. Since your primary target will be battleship hulls and the odd battlecruiser hull, your choices here are really the heavy assault missile (HAMs) and the torpedo. Forget about cruise and heavy missiles as they’re not really suited to ninja ganking (there are a few exceptions). Missiles benefit from selective damage type, provide good DPS, and need no capacitor to keep on firing should you face a neut. They are quite easy to train since the skill tree is not as demanding as say, T2 medium auto cannons. For exploiting a resist hole, it’s really hard to beat missiles. Additionally, when it comes to battleship-busting, or shooting at any large, nigh-motionless target, torpedoes are among the best weapon choice in the game.
With the good comes some bad, missiles are a bit slow to apply their DPS and faster hulls with small signatures can usually outrun or at least mitigate the incoming missile damage. Committing to missiles as a primary weapon will lock you into a few hulls; Drake, Raven, Sacrilege, Typhoon, Legion and Loki. So, if you’re not really enamored with those ships and Caldari ships on the whole, missiles probably aren’t going to be your cup of tea. Other more skill intensive ships apply here as well, but for your first year of ganking mission runners, those ships and their related hulls, will be what you’re working with. There’s nothing wrong with those ships, and in fact, the Torp Raven and Torp Typhoon are devastatingly effective. Many Missile boats will be limited in their ability to destroy enemy drones, which may be more of an issue for the smaller hulls mentioned above. While torpedoes produce staggering DPS numbers, they really only apply that DPS to “easy to hit” targets”. HAMs on the other hand produce only modest DPS when compared to some of the other systems available to you. For most of the PVP that ninjas participate in, missiles will really only come into their own with battle cruiser hulls and above. Other than the T3 hulls and the Sac, you’re probably going to struggle against mission ships with a missile-equipped cruiser hull.
A Word on Gunnery
There are basically 3 gun families in EVE; projectiles, lasers, and hybrids. Each family has a sniping gun and a face-melter. For what we do as ninjas, it’s the latter that we’ll use to battle the Mission Bear Scourge. It can be a fine thing to have some skill with the sniping weapons though, particularly if you see yourself doing any suicide ganking. The sniping weapons simply provide more volley damage while also applying DPS at range a bit more effectively. Gunnery support skills apply across these gun families, so the pilot who is deadly with auto cannons can add lasers with only a little effort, and still enjoy the skill points previously spent in support of your auto cannons.
The Minmatar weapon of choice, training these guns is a fine way to start off your ninja career. Auto cannons give you fair range, becoming excellent once you acquire T2 guns, good DPS, and the ability to swap to a particular damage type. Like missiles, they use no cap and thus, work well with cap warfare strategies. They are such outstanding PVP weapons that many “un-bonused ships”, can be fitted with ACs for superior DPS performance rather than its racial weapon. Auto cannons have a higher fall off range than other guns and can be used to gain advantage over blaster fit ships, or in a situation where one pilot can fit Barrage (the T2 AC ammo) and the other cannot. Many of the most dangerous (and infamous really) PVP ships in the game are AC boats. If you like the Rifter, Rupture, Dramiel, Hurricane, Loki and Sleipnir, you’ll surely want to train up T2 auto cannons.
Auto cannons do spend considerable amounts of ammo, a situation made even worse via RoF rigs or hardwirings. Given their popularity, kitting out a cargo hold full of the necessary ammo to do your “work” can be surprisingly expensive (pro tip; use republic fleet ammo for your PVP ships, incremental advantages are crucial). Although one can do fine with the thermal, explosive and EM varients of projectile ammo, the kinetic variety is a bit underwhelming and there are occasions where a more powerful kinetic option would be handy.
The Amarr specialty gun is greatly, and on some level unfairly, maligned by the l33t PVP crowd. For a ninja though, one could hardly ask for a more effective weapon since pulse lasers are so brutally effective at shredding shield tankers. Pulse Lasers offer excellent effective range due to the insta-swapping nature of crystals. On paper, only blasters exceed pulse lasers in DPS. In practice, you will likely find that they yield exceptional DPS, melting EM hole in shields at an alarming rate. The optimal range versus falloff dynamic for pulse lasers is actually the opposite of auto cannons with pulse lasers enjoying a substantial optimal and relatively miniscule falloff. This allows laser boats to fight at a bit more range than other ships, all while delivering substantial pain. A much-heralded benefit of lasers is the lack of ammo, but in practice, you’ll find yourself popping Scorch and Faction crystals from time to time. On the other hand, the standard crystals last indefinitely and to this end, it’s no surprise that the Amarr BS is the PoS buster of choice (usually the Armageddon).
Lasers in general are greedy weapons and you’ll find that managing your cap is a juggling act. Most Amarr ships have generous capacitors, but even then, a cap booster, CCC rigs, etc. are almost always going to be necessary to run your active mods. This also limits the amount of neuting that you can do to the enemy. Pulse lasers don’t really transition very well to the ships of other races and so, there are only a select number of laser boats that you’ll be limited to. In fact, these ships are often better suited for gang PVP work rather than ninja ganking, so you may find your choice of pew pew ships somewhat limiting. Pulse lasers are also a weapon system that gets better as it scales up in size. As a new, inexperienced ninja, you’re probably not going to be doing much work with them, until you get to the medium and large varieties. You’ll probably find that the better platforms for fitting lasers are quite pricey and there’s just not a Rifter or Rupture type hull (low cost T1 frig or cruiser gunboat) that is all that attractive. For example, the Bleeder Punisher is a fine T1 PVP frigate, but most pilots find that it performs at a much better rate when fit with ACs. Finally, and most obviously, lasers are limited to EM/Therm damage. This is greatly beneficial against most shield tankers, but it puts them at considerable disadvantage in some encounters, T2 Minmatar ships being the most obvious example.
These guys are the ultimate face-melter, swapping range for pure DPS. While they throw a lot of ammo, you don’t need to spend that much ISK when you gear up since you’ll probably only be using Caldari Navy Antimatter (and Null I guess when you get kited). While the kinetic/thermal combo isn’t the greatest in the world (unless you’re shooting Gurista) it’s a fine generic round that makes up for any drawback via superb DPS. The major benefit being that outside of Gurista mission spaces, few ships will plug their kinetic hole. Blasters work very well across a number of hull types, from frigates to battleships in both the Gallente and Caldari line. Though the auto cannon fit Dramiel gets all the press and raves, its the blaster-fit Daredevil that is likely the final word in frigate PVP hulls. Blasters are a blunt instrument and offer a simplicity often lacking in other weapon choices. Get in close, activate your scram and web, and then melt face. Many pilots find this approach particularly appealing.
Like lasers, blasters are capacitor-dependent, though less so than pulse lasers. Lacking the excellent range of pulse lasers, blaster boats can find themselves both kitted and possibly neuted out. In fact, that spectacular DPS that EFT tells you your blasters are capable of, is in practice, difficult to apply if you can’t hold really tight range. You’re probably going to be fitting a stasis webifier on most blaster fits since controlling range is of paramount importance.
There’s just no getting around the utility of drones in EVE combat. At some point, every combat pilot will need to acquire T2 drone skills at least through medium drones, possibly up to heavies if the Geddon or Phoon are attractive options as a gank ship for you (down the road of course). If you’re going to fly the Amarr recons or virtually any Gallente ships, drones are going to be at least your secondary weapon system. In truth, this is a very fine place to spend some of your skill points since almost every ship you fly in EVE will benefit from good drone skills.
There is a lot of information out there about which drones to use against which target. If you’ve read my previous article on resist holes, you’ll probably have plenty of success by simply matching the proper drone to the proper damage susceptibility. I get a lot of questions about my use of Amarr drones, but I shoot a lot, no I mean a LOT of Ravens and Drakes. Gallente drones (Hammerheads and Hobgobs) would be fine here as well, but I like throwing damage into 0% resist holes. Experience suggests that against Caldari mission runners and can flipping targets, it’s a brutally effective strategy. On the other hand, one could simplify things greatly by using Minmatar drones against armor tanks and Gallente drones for attacking shield tanks.
In addition to the advantage of damage type flexibility, drones can be swapped rapidly in most combat situations. This means that you can deploy the extremely effective Minmatar drones to combat and kill the enemy drones, switch to a more efficacious drone for the enemy shields, even swapping once again once your opponent hits armor. Keyboard shortcuts are your friend here.
Drones are not without their disadvantages. They put out very nominal DPS and they are the only “weapon system” that the enemy can take out with his own weapons (let’s not count Defender missiles). In many ways, drones are ammunition-free, but when you do have to replace them, they’re quite pricey.
Making your choices
In truth, I think the best weapon for new ninjas to train will be the one that fits hand in glove with that first gank ship. That’s probably a battlecruiser, but, with good skill, it could also be a cruiser hull. So, choose a ship that you think would be fun to fly and then, set about skilling the weapon systems to T2. My advice would have you aiming for the following battlecruisers:
Hurricane, Harbinger, Myrmidon, Brutix, Drake
And yes, I’d recommend them to new ninjas in that order.
For a set of Cruisers you might look to, here are some choices that new ninjas might consider:
Cynabal, Navy Issue Omen, Rupture, Phantasm, Ashimmu, Navy Vexor, Gila, Vigilant
In my humble opinion those first two far exceed the others, but all of these hulls are deadly to mission runners in the hands of a competent ninja. The faction hulls in that list are certainly pricey, but you should always be able to bail if things go South or should an enemy corpmate appear on grid. Remember, skilling the hulls up to level 3 at minimum (level 4 even better) is just as key as those T2 guns.
Now go make something explode for old Solomar.