As a player new to EVE Online, you are beset by an overwhelming number of options, right off the bat. What should you do? What should you train? What ship should you fly? This last question is addressed in this guide.
Each of the four main races in EVE Online has set of six basic frigates. These initial frigates are called "tech one" to distinguish them from more advanced ships, called "tech two" and "faction" respectively. Each of them has a purpose in mind, though not all excel at their task. This guide will give you a good overview of these sets of frigates, and a strong basis for deciding what to fly during your first few weeks of playing.
What Frigates Excel At
Frigates are cheap. This is their most powerful virtue. As a new player, you will find yourself losing ships all the time. You may misjudge a tactical situation, hit the wrong button, or just get unlucky. In any case, it is no great expense to replace a frigate.
Each frigate fills an intended role, but not all frigates excel equally.
In PvP, frigates see heavy use as expendable "tacklers," ships that specialize in preventing other ships from escaping. Their great speed and maneuverability allow them to buzz past larger ships whose weapons cannot aim fast enough to keep up.
Frigates also see good use in faction warfare, a tumultuous area of EVE Online where players aligned with the four major races war with each other over sites in low-security space in exchange for rewards. The areas that are fought over will often only admit frigates or destroyers in, so frigates are de rigeur.
Finally, frigates are great at hit and run warfare because they can hit weak targets like industrials, then outrun any larger ships that chase them.
Frigates are not good at avoiding damage from other frigate-sized ships. Larger ships can be avoided, outrun, or have their weapons out-tracked, but not frigate-sized ships. Even worse are destroyers, a ship class whose members all possess eight high slots for fitting modules, with either seven or eight turret/launcher hardpoints to match. These ships chew up frigates and spit them out.
Another thing that is tricky about frigates is that their position and speed, relative to any attackers, can be incredibly important. This is something that new players might have trouble understanding, at first. For example: flying straight at a large ship that is attacking you will minimize any advantage granted by your small size. You need to move toward them but at an angle something more like 45 degrees, rather than directly at them. If you stop, you can be hit for full damage. If you move in a straight line relative to them, you can be hit for full damage. And full damage from a larger ship means instant death for most frigates.
Frigates have trouble doing enough damage to take out a battlecruiser or battleship, even en masse. A group of five or six frigates might be able to take out a ship like a harbinger, but against a ship with a stiff tank like a drake they will have no chance at all.
Crucifier: The Amarr frigate that specializes in electronic warfare, the crucifier possesses bonuses to both small turrets and tracking disruptors. On the one hand, tracking disruptors are pretty good at keeping larger ships from damaging frigates. At least, if the larger ships are using turrets rather than missiles or drones. Then again, you are probably better off flying something with a bit more speed or damage. Fun fact: the crucifier is the only tech one amarr frigate with three middle fitting slots.
Executioner: The fastest Amarr frigate available to new players, the executioner makes a good tackler, or a mission-runner during those missions where you need to cover a lot of ground in a hurry. The ship is a bit flawed, though, in that it only has two middle and high slots. This means that its main role is as a method to travel quickly through dangerous space, such as low-security space.
Inquisitor: A missile ship specialized in EM damage, the Inquisitor is a bit out of the way for most Amarr players, excepting those that may cross-train into Caldari later on. Best skip this ship, unless the rocket changes in the next patch somehow make it incredible.
Magnate: The magnate is the most recently introduced tech one frigate in EVE Online. For years, the Amarr had one less frigate-class vessel, until the Empyrean Age expansion introduced this, the Amarr probing vessel. It has the largest potential cargo capacity of any Amarr frigate, making it a good hauler for low-level missions, and a passable early-game salvager. The actual bonus is all right, as well, since it helps new players participate in hunting for exploration sites.
Punisher: Though not as maneuverable as most frigates, the punisher is the best option for new Amarr players looking to run missions. The bonus to armor resistances means that it is exceptionally well suited to repairing itself during combat, and the four low fitting slots make it leave plenty of room for capacitor modules or armor-resistance modules. A neat thing about the punisher is that it still shines as a frigate when equipped with a projectile weapons, despite this wasting one of the hull bonuses.
Tormentor: Tied with the Gallente navitas as the best mining frigate, the tormentor has good fitting for a frigate, and can pack a mining drone in addition to your mining lasers. Though mining is considered unprofitable compared to most other options, sometimes one needs to mine for missions or what have you. On such an occasion, a frigate-sized miner may be a better option if there are enemies about, as when your corporation is at war. And if you lose it, hey, you probably mine enough to pay for a new one every fifteen minutes.
Bantam: With a bonus to mining lasers, this guy is an economical way for Caldari newbies to try out the profession. It is also a good last-ditch way to make ISK if you are totally broke and do not have any friends to borrow from.
Condor: This ship has a high base speed, making it a good option for zooming through missions where you do not need to kill every bad guy, or for hurrying small items through dangerous areas of space. The bonuses to missiles are only so-so, but more than sufficient for most level one missions.
Griffin: The Caldari electronic warfare option, this guy is an all right option for a very new player to dabble in alternative combat roles. The ECM might not work every time, but it should be more than sufficient against other frigate-sized ships. Unfortunately, the griffin can have capacitor problems when fit with a microwarpdrive, so be careful about that.
Each race has a frigate for pretty much any task that a new player might want.
Kestrel: This missile-toting beauty is one of the best frigate mission runners because it chews through NPC hit points and can change missiles (and thus, damage types) according to what enemy it is facing. A pro choice for early mission runners.
Merlin: A tough hybrid turret user with bonuses to shield resistances, this guy has the slot layout and fitting space to pack a mean shield tank. It is a good option for low-level missions that deal a lot of damage, and occasionally finds a use in prolonged PvP against other frigates.
Atron: A speedy option, sure, but saddled with capacitor problems that make microwarpdrives unappealing. That means it's an all right boat for running through speed missions, but otherwise a bit blech. I sure wouldn't take it into low-security space.
Imicus: The imicus is my favorite mission-running frigate because it has the best drone bandwidth of any tech one frigate. Granted, that is only enough for three light drones, but those drones will aggro on their own once they get going, allowing you to go make yourself a sandwich or otherwise distract yourself while they do all the killing, for you. This is also the Gallente probing option, meaning it can be looking for exploration sites (perhaps for high-paying friends) at the same time it is running missions.
Incursus: A good all around ship, with a bonus to hybrid range and damage, plus a single drone. If you are a Gallente looking to actively work your way through missions, this guy can do it much faster than the imicus.
Maulus: The Gallente electronic warfare ship, unfairly saddled with using remote sensor dampeners, a long-nerfed module that lengthens the time it takes for enemies to lock targets or the maximum range that targets can be locked at. This kind of e-war is not much desired in PvP, and either the incursus or imicus are probably more desirable for running missions.
Navitas: This guy is pretty standard as far as mining frigates go. Useful for newbie Gallente looking to experiment with mining, or just moving stuff around in low-level courier missions.
Tristan: Though it potentially can inflict more damage than other Gallente options if the player using it is good at both missiles and hybrid turrets, most such players would rather fly something a bit farther along. It does have a fierce capacitor, though. Enough even for using two armor repair modules at once. You may find a use for this in some of the more dangerous low-level missions.
Burst: The minmatar mining frigate. Perhaps the worst tech one frigate in the game, because of an unhelpful slot layout, poor capacitor, and so forth. Skip it.
Probe: An excellent cargo ship for newbie Minmatar, this guy can carry a lot of stuff for courier missions or shopping trips. Like the other probing ships, it has a bonus to probe time, and like most of the others, it is also not very good at combat against NPCs or players.
Vigil: An excellent frigate with a well-rounded slot layout, a speed bonus, and a not very useful bonus to using target painters. Great for tackling in PvP, for running missions (though the rifter is probably better), for travel, and for salvaging. At this last, it may be the best tech one frigate option, because it can target paint to help out the person that is leaving behind the salvage.
Slasher: The same bonuses as the rifter, below, but far worse. The rifter has better weapons, a better slot layout, more armor and shield, and is generally superior. Don't fly the slasher, please.
Breacher: The breacer specializes in using missiles, and has a double bonus when using missiles that inflict explosive damage. Though rather mediocre as a mission runner now, it is likely that the upcoming changes to rockets will make this a more desirable boat for beating level one missions.
Rifter: Possibly the best frigate for tech one PvP, it is fast, dangerous, and well-rounded. In the hands of professional pilots it can destroy many tech two frigates, cruisers, and even battleships. Against frigate-sized NPCs, its tracking bonus and generally useful projectile weapons are a godsend. A fantastic ship.