This article is the second in a series dealing with ways to trick yourself out for PVP, beyond simply using modules and skills.
EVE has a thousand and one ways to micro-manage success in combat. Combat Boosters are one such method, and among the most neglected, even by long-time players. Most casual players probably haven't even heard of them, and long-term players probably don't see the benefit as worth the cost. Hopefully, this article will inform the former and persuade the latter.
Tell Me About These "Combat Boosters"
Combat boosters are basically drugs that your pilot takes to gain a temporary benefit. Each flavor of combat booster offers a different bonus. There's one that gives a bonust to weapon tracking, one that gives a bonus to shield repair, and so forth. With all save the weakest boosters, there is the potential chance of suffering a side effect any time the booster is imbibed. This unreliability with regard to side effects scares a lot of advanced players away, more than anything else.
There are varying degrees of quality of each drug, with the "synth" line imparting a +3% bonus to their particular statistic, the standard with a +10% bonus (usually), and then the improved and strong versions offer even more powerful benefits. As the potency of the booster improves, so too does the chance of suffering a side-effect, and the intensity of a side-effect, should one occur.
All of the boosters except synth are illegal in high security space, meaning that there is a good chance they will be confiscated at any given gate, there, and the pilot found carrying them will be slapped with a fine and sec status hit. Within a system or station they will not cause a problem, as the customs police NPCs that scan for illegal goods are only found on gates.
Being under the effects of a booster is not illegal, so long as they are no un-consumed boosters in your cargo hold. Note also that this illegality means that they cannot be sold on contracts, though they can be sold on the market or used to fill "Want To Buy" contracts.
Boosters fit into "slots" in a manner similar to implants. If a booster of a particular slot is already active, another one cannot be used until the old booster wears off. The boosters sorted by slot are:
- Slot 1: Blue Pill, Exile, Mind Flood, and X-Instinct.
- Slot 2: Drop, Frentix, and Sooth Sayer.
- Slot 3: Crash.
Bonuses And Penalties
The boosters and their associated benefits are as follows:
- Blue Pill: increases shield boost amount, allowing a shield-boosting ship to sustain more damage.
- Crash: reduces explosion radius of missiles, allowing them to inflict more damage to smaller targets.
- Drop: improves tracking speed of turret weapons, allowing them to inflict more damage to smaller targets.
- Exile: increases armor repair amount, allowing an armor-repairing ship to sustain more damage.
- Frentix: increases the optimal range of turrets, allowing them to inflict more damage to farther-away targets.
- Mindflood: increases maximum capacitor amount, which also improves capacitor recharge as a side effect.
- Sooth Sayer: increases the falloff range of turrets, allowing them to inflict more damage to targets within falloff range, to farther distances.
- X-Instinct: reduces signature radius, decreasing the amount of damage that the ship will take from most weapons.
Drawbacks and Penalties
Each of these boosters may cause any of four potential side-effects, though skills may reduce the chance of this and also reduce the severity of these side effects. The precise drawbacks that can affect a pilot vary by booster type, as follows:
- Blue Pill: reduced shield hit points, reduced missile explosion velocity, reduced turret optimal range, reduced capacitor capacity.
- Crash: reduced shield boost amount, reduced armor hit points, reduced velocity, reduced missile explosion velocity.
- Drop: reduced shield hit points, reduced armor repair amount, reduced velocity, reduced turret falloff.
- Exile: reduced armor hit points, reduced explosive radius, reduced tracking speed, reduced capacitor capacity.
- Frentix: reduced shield boost amount, reduced armor hit points, reduced velocity, reduced turret tracking speed.
- Mindflood: reduced shield boost amount, reduced armor repair amount, reduced missile explosion radius, reduced turret optimal range.
- Sooth Sayer: reduced shield boost amount, reduced armor repair amount, reduced velocity, reduced turret optimal range.
- X-Instinct: reduced shield hit points, reduced armor hit points, reduced missile explosion velocity, reduced turret falloff.
The intensity of the drawback increases with the potency of drugs. I.e., an improved booster will have a higher chance of getting each drawback, and the drawback will be a larger penalty, than would a standard booster. Note that synth boosters do not have drawbacks, because they are the weakest variety.
You may notice that certain boosters don't offer much in the way of penalties for particular ships or ship fittings. For example, an Amarr battleship that relies on lasers and plates, rather than armor repairers, will find that none of the drawbacks of Drop matter too much.
Also note that, while it may seem counterintuitive to risk a chance of shield or armor hit points being reduced with the respective boosters, the math works out so that it is still in one's favor to use them. A ship that relies on repairing will almost always care less about maximum hit points than about how much is being repaired.
In order to actually use a booster, you will need to train Biology I. The higher this skill is, the longer a dose of a particular booster will last. The base duration of a booster is 30 minutes, with each level of biology trained raising that amount by six minutes. Because it is only a level 1 skill, you should probably train this skill to IV if you are going to use boosters at all. Note that this duration is also how long any potential drawbacks should occur.
There are two other skills relating to booster usage:
Nanite Control: reduces the amount of booster drawbacks by -5% per level. Note that this is from the total booster penalty, so if a booster would normally give a -10% to maximum velocity, having this trained to level 5 would make this a -7.5% penalty. This isn't an incredible skill, and it often sells for an inflated amount (upwards of 250mil as of this writing!) because they are not seeded by NPCs, but rather found in certain exploration sites. Nevertheless, if you are using improved or strong boosters it is a good investment, and it is a requirement for the rather more appealing Neurotoxin Recovery skill (see below). Note that you need to train Science to IV in order to train this.
Neurotoxin Recovery: Reduces the chance of suffering a drawback penalty by -5% per level. Pretty sweet, especially if you have also trained Nanite Control up a bunch. Note that you need to train Nanite Control I in order to train this skill.
Why Use Boosters
Unlike nearly every other bonus in EVE Online, booster bonuses are not reduced based on redundancy. For those of you unfamiliar with the minutiae of EVE, when two or more modules boost the same attribute, any beyond the first will offer diminishing returns. The second module offers only 87% of the bonus that the first module did, and so forth. This full bonus can be a pretty big deal, especially if you are already using tech two modules, implants, rigs, and other trappings of high-end PVP. Combat boosters allow you to be even better.
It has been remarked by a CCP developer that small percentages don't really make a difference in PVP compared to other factors. I would append that the accumulation of many small bonuses does make a difference. In order to get the best performance possible, combat boosters are necessary. If a pilot sees that a particular bonus is helpful, and wants to get some extra performance, boosters are the way to go. Drakes should be using blue pill. Sniping Apocalypses should be using Drop. Sacrileges should be using crash. Interceptors should be using X-Instinct.
The drawbacks aren't that intense, especially with the skills trained. And again, a well chosen booster/ship combination will not be likely to suffer a drawback that makes a real difference. Overall, the cost:benefit analysis is very positive for most ships.
But They Cost So Much
Not really. They are subject to inflation because they are a pain to transport in empire, and because the groups that specialize in their manufacture work hard to keep the price artificially high. The improved and strong versions are certainly overpriced, but mainly see use by rich as heck capital pilots, anyway.
If you are flying a tech two ship with rigs, implants, and all the other fittings, the price tag is going to be pretty high, anyway. Better to pay a small fraction of that total value to eke out a big chunk of additional performance from your ship. If you can afford it, use standard. If you can't, synth is dirt cheap for almost all kinds.
I hope this has cleared up the mystery surrounding combat boosters and helped new pilots understand yet another facet of high-end PVP. I eat them like candy, and if you can afford it, you should, too.