Destroyer Fleet Types
In PVP-BASIC, we had everyone fit long range guns with close range ammo. We wanted the students to concentrate more on the concepts of distributed EWAR, speed tanking, and basic situational awareness within a fight than the ins and outs of various kinds of weapons.
In particular, we taught you about the dangers stealth bombers and smartbombing battleships present to frigate fleets and how to avoid them. Although stealth bombers and smartbombing battleships remain dangerous to Destroyers, we are better able to survive those bombing runs due to our generally higher hitpoints in comparison to Frigates.
As the Destroyer has a larger sig radius than that of a Frigate, larger opponent ships can target lock us somewhat faster, opponent turrets are better able to track our ships, and missiles are a bit more effective against us.
In most fights, our immense DPS will melt our targets faster than they can successfully threaten us, but our dependence upon DPS as a primary source of fight success means that attrition is the greatest danger to our fleet. While losing a third of a Frigate fleet doesn't mean the fight is over as we are able to continue mitigating incoming damage through extensive distributed EWAR, sig and speed tanking; losing a third of a Destroyer fleet can change the balance of the fight significantly because we are not able to mitigate incoming damage quite as effectively as Frigates with their small size and speed.
For these reasons, range control is vitally important to the survival of a Destroyer fleet. Controlling the range of a fight is done in a variety of ways, ranging from how the fleet sets up a fight, warps into a fight, what side of a gate a fight is taken at, flybys, and, of course, how the fleet fits its ships.
Below, we explore the general fleet doctrines commonly used in Destroyer gangs (and other hull size gangs for that matter). Note that these are just general descriptions of these common fleet doctrines, the number of specific doctrines within these common groupings is practically countless and beyond the scope of this article and our PVP-WOLFPACKS class.
Short Range: Brawlers, HSSR
Short range Destroyer gangs fight up-close-and-personal, warping in at zero on their targets and blapping fast and hard.
These gangs are typically set up with blasters, autocannons, and/or rockets. For blasters, ions generally strike a good balance between all the requirements; the electron blaster damage is just too weak and uses too much ammunition, while the fitting requirements and low tracking of the neutron blaster make it difficult to justify.
Autocannons tend to have a bit more flexibility in this respect due to their generous falloff and low fitting requirements on all calibers.
Of course, another option for short range fleets is having several pilots fit some small nosferatus and/or energy neutralizers. Individually, these modules can barely scratch the surface of the cap of even a cruiser, but several pilots combined can cause serious damage to the opponent's capacitor.
The primary advantage of short-range Destroyer gangs is their devastating DPS.
Blasters and autocannons dish out much more damage than their longer range cousins. At the same time these guns have a limited range, getting a 6km range is near impossible without precision tech 2 ammo and excellent skills. However, their hitting power can not be ignored by the competent light ship fleet commander, and once you see the ungodly damage that a close orbiting Destroyer puts out with ion blasters, you will want to have one in your fleet all the time.
A secondary advantage of short-range Destroyer gangs is the fact that you are putting out your maximum damage at ranges that are often well inside the ability of your target's turrets tracking.
As these gangs fight well inside scram/web range, they usually have no difficulty holding down their targets.
The primary disadvantage of short-range Destroyer gangs is the fact that virtually all fighting takes place in scram/web range of the target. While this is good when you are the one holding down the target, it is not so good when you are trying to evade the target.
A secondary disadvantage - one that many forget about in the heat of the battle - is travel time during a fight. It is worth remembering that the larger your fleet, the more quickly targets will die. Eventually there comes a tipping point where the increased time spent travelling between targets during a fight outweighs the higher DPS of short range guns - remember, the time one of your pilots spends traveling from target to target in a fight is time that pilot is essentially out of the fight.
Also remember this when you are fighting a short-range destroyer gang - spread your gang out as much as you can while remaining in effective range, and you reduce that gang's effectiveness because so many of their pilots will have to chase you down to dish out damage, enabling your fleet to pick them off.
Individual pilots should keep in mind that depending on their angular velocity as they orbit the target, their own tracking may become an issue.
Medium Range: "Wolfpack," HSMR
The mid-range Destroyer gang is a very different beast from the short range Destroyer gang. Typically we will fit long ranged guns with short or medium ranged ammo (as we did in BASIC) however the hull's bonuses make such a setup far more versatile than on a frigate. By carrying longer ranged ammunition we can further increase the versatility of this ship class, able to switch between engagement ranges of 10km to 30+km on the fly. Railguns, Artillery, and Light Missiles are the weapons of choice.
The mid-range setup provides several distinct advantages over the short-ranged variant:
Firstly, the longer range combined with the ability to switch between different ranges at will reduces travel time and allows the mid-range Destroyer to begin applying its DPS earlier, as well as allowing it to engage targets which might evade the guns of the closer-range setups.
Secondly, mid-range Destroyers really take advantage of the Destroyer's massive alpha strike. This is especially true of the Minmatar Thrasher, which is able to put out up to 1600 damage in a single volley with artillery. As fleet size increases, alpha strike becomes increasingly valuable, with the fleet able to destroy lighter targets in a single volley.
The ability to fight at ranges outside of our opponent's scram/web range reduces attrition in the fleet, allowing more of our pilots to survive longer during the fight, and increasing the ability of those taking damage to bounce out of the fight to break target lock.
These advantages combine to make the mid-range Destroyer incredibly effective in medium to large gangs, where these advantages begin to outweigh the higher DPS of the short-range setups against all but the toughest targets. Due to the size of most PVP-WOLFPACKS fleets, mid-range setups are most commonly used.
The range advantage of this setup is also our primary disadvantage. Our wider orbit gives us a lower angular velocity than a close-range setup. We are typically fighting inside warp disruptor range, which means our opponents can trap some of us. The odds are fairly high that we are also fighting within the optimal range of our opponent's turrets.
We mitigate this disadvantage as much as we can through the use of our Hydra-style distributed EWAR and strategic fleet movement, which will be demonstrated during the practical portions of your class.
Long Range: HSLR, Sniping, Kiting
Long range Destroyers, especially the Cormorant, fit out to attack at ranges greater than 50km. With some ingenuity, the Cormorant can be fit to hit at ranges in excess of 90km!
Fitting and flying a sniper Destroyer gang is a very specialized tactic that is outside the scope of the PVP-WOLFPACKS class and this article. For more information, see the FLYBYS class (note that the Flybys class is currently not in regular operation, however your instructors will be happy to discuss the tactic with you during class breaks if you're interested).