Flying The Drake Battlecruiser In EVE Online
The Drake is one of the most interesting ships in EVE Online, because despite the relative ease with which it can be flown, it sees use in nearly every venue. Mission runners fly it. Solo gankers fly it. Fleet PVPers fly it. Small fleet PVPers fly it. It's a swell ship, and still versatile enough to surprise people. This article covers a basic overview of the Drake's capabilities, how it can be used, and some available fitting options. The example fitting given is one that would find use in small-fleet warfare such as fairly typical null-sec fleets, or a newer PVP corporation's roaming gank squad. I concentrate mainly on the PVP aspects in this article, though there is a large degree of crossover for running missions and NPCing.
The Drake is a battlecruiser, the size of ships between cruiser and battleship. It was added in the Revelations expansion, at a time when CCP was trying to add more versatility to ships, so that they would be less predictable. The Drake's bonus to shield resistances make it the most resilient battlecruiser of any race, and its seven launcher slots and kinetic missile damage bonus allow it to deal a respectable amount of damage without compromising that tenacity.
A Tough Nut To Crack
The Drake excels at tanking damage, and can customize its resistances to handle any race of NPC. Because it uses missiles, it can deal any kind of damage. The Drake is an excellent bait ship, able to take large amounts of damage in order to get attackers to engage, as a trap. The Drake can tank low-security sentry guns, and is thus a decent ganking ship for low-skill empire PVPers. The Drake uses missiles that are small enough to deal at least some damage to any ship, including fast-moving frigates and cruisers, including the kinds of ships likely to attack it while it is running missions. More than any other option, the Drake illustrates the versatility of Caldari ships.
High-Slots: Missile Launchers
- x7 Heavy Missile Launchers (Scourge Heavy Missile)
- x1 Salvager I
Heavies, as the Heavy Missile Launchers are often called, are the long-range missile launcher for cruiser-sized ships. It can hit out to about 60km under typical conditions, and with minimal skills trained.
Heavy Missile types and the damage they deal are as follows:
- Havoc - Explosive
- Scourge - Kinetic
- Thunderbolt - EM
- Widowmaker - Thermal
HAMS, as the Heavy Assault Launchers are usually abbreviated, are the short-range launcher option. They do more damage, but are limited to hitting out to about 13km under normal conditions, or perhaps 16km with advanced skills and tech two ammunition. Because Drakes are incredibly slow and most close-range targets engage outside of 15km, this usually presents a problem. Thus, HAMs are not recommended for a Drake unless the pilot knows that he will be engaging at very close range, such as on a station undock point. In fact, I would go so far as to say that tech one HAMs aren't worth using, period.
Heavy Assault Missile types and the damage they deal are as follows:
- Fulmination - Explosive
- Hellfire - Thermal
- Terror - Kinetic
- Torrent - EM
Because of the Drake's damage bonus with kinetic missiles and the general applicability of kinetic damage, those missiles should be used, barring special circumstances. The only circumstance under which it might be better to switch is if the target is expected to be particularly resilient against kinetic damage. This might occur if a target is aware that a Drake is going to engage him, and has had a chance to re-fit his modules accordingly. Another possibility is that a target might be set up to fight Gurista NPCs, who primarily deal kinetic damage. Against targets like these, it is usually better to switch to another damage type. Thermal is usually peoples' first choice for generally applicable damage because most ships have very low inherent resistance to it.
The Salvager I module is handy for picking up a little extra isk, no matter what the Drake is being used for.
Mid-Slots: Shield Tank
- x2 Large Shield Extender
- x2 Invulnerability Field I
- x1 10mn MicroWarpdrive I
- x1 Warp Disruptor I
As most pilots surely know, shields naturally regenerate at a slow pace. The rate at which shield regenerates is dependent on the maximum hit points of the shield. The higher the maximum hit points of the shield, the faster it will regenerate. This regeneration is called "passive" if there is no Shield Booster module in use. Because Drakes inherently have a tremendous number of hit points and very high resistances, these are the strengths that should be emphasized in fitting.
By increasing the maximum number of hit points with shield extenders, the passive shield regeneration is further increased. These extra shield hit points are also protected by the Drakes ferocious resistances. These resistances are boosted even more by the two Invulnerability Field modules. Between them, incoming damage is reduced by about half.
The Warp Disruptor is the point of the entire exercise. Anything that point settles on is going to be stuck there, unless it's faster than the Drake. Which is not too hard, for cruisers and under, but battlecruisers and battleships are going to be stuck, and stuck hard. The "MWD" is useful because without it, the Drake is slow as heck. With it, a decently skilled pilot can exceed 900 m/s. This is the only thing that the Drake's capacitor is used for, with this fitting, aside from very minute amounts used to power the Invulnerability Fields.
Upgrading to named and, depending on what skills you have trained, tech two modules, is par for the course, especially for the shield extenders.
For PVE or missions, swap out the Invulnerability Field modules for specific shield "hardeners" that protect against the specific kind of damage used by those NPCs. Hardeners are anything that increases damage resistance. Also swap out the warp disruptor for an additional hardener. This should make for a Drake that can do most level 3 missions without too much trouble.
The tech one shield hardeners that protect against the different damage types that they protect against are as follows:
- Ballistic Deflection Field: Kinetic.
- Explosion Dampening Field: Explosive.
- Invulnerability Field: All, but less protection.
- Photon Scattering Field: EM.
- Heat Dissipation Field: Thermal.
Low-Slots: Even More Tank (And A Little Damage)
- x1 Damage Control II
- x2 Power Diagnostic System II
- x1 Ballistic Control System I
The Damage Control module, or "DC," increases shield resistances by yet another 7.5%. This may seem like a trivial amount, especially if you have heard of the "stacking penalty" that affects modules when they offer a redundant bonus. However, Damage Control modules are not affected by the stacking penalty, and 7.5% is no joke, especially when the Drake already has such ferocious resistances. Note that a ship cannot fit more than one DC at a time.
In addition to the power grid bonus that makes fitting easier for pilots with few skill points, the Power Diagnostic System or "PDS" as it called, adds an 8.5 shield recharge rate bonus. These extra hit points take advantage of the Drake's wonderful resistances, adding even more to the overall tank.
The Ballistic Control System, or "BCS," is to improve missile damage a bit. The firepower won't be staggering, but fitting at least one damage-increasing module is a good idea.
The reason that I specifically insist on the tech two versions of the DC and PDS is that they only require level four skills in order to be used, the skills required are must-haves for any pilot, they are cheap modules as far as tech two goes, and they yield tremendous benefits.
- x5 Warrior I (drones)
- x3 Core Defence Field Extender I (rigs)
Warriors are the light drone of choice for most people, because they are fast enough to chew up frigate-sized ships. Use them on any small ships that are around, even if it's a different target than your missiles. Most frigate hull ships will have to leave pretty quickly if there is a flight of Warriors on them.
The shield rigs are amazingly cheap, and increase total shield hit points by 15%. As a side effect, they also increase passive shield regeneration by the same amount. As the finishing touch on a Drake, these make for a truly impressive tank.
[protip]EM Resist Rig: Because of the particularly low EM resistances of shields, it may be better to focus on that damage type than extending HP generally. Note that EM damage is probably the least-used damage type, finding use only by Amarr ships, a few odd ammo types, and the worst class drones in EVE. Most experience PVPers will know about this weakness and exploit it, if possible, so fitting an Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I rig is a good idea.[/protip]
[protip]ECM Drones: Hornet EC-300 drones are light drones that have a minute chance of jamming their target, instead of dealing damage. Because five of them may be fielded at a time, however, there is a decent chance that they will get at least one jam off. Though they do not deal damage, they can sometimes allow a larger ship to escape if it is only being Warp Disruptor-ed by a single ship. Once the "tackling" ship is jammed, the Drake can warp off, leaving the drones behind. It's a decent contingency for if things start to get screwy.[/protip]
The basic Drake tactic is to sit on a gate with some friends and wait for something to jump through. Once a target shows up, use the Warp Disruptor on it, and orbit it at 10km, using with the MWD as necessary to keep it in range. If things get hairy, warp out. If warping out is impossible, stop using offensive modules for sixty seconds, and jump through the gate. Note that if a ship has used an offensive module (including Warp Disruptors or having drones out that have been used to attack), it cannot jump through a gate or dock until about sixty seconds have passed since the last aggressive action was taken.
For moving gangs, Drakes make a great baiting scout. Stay one jump ahead of the gang until you encounter resistance, and let them shoot at you for a bit before using your Warp Disruptor on a target and telling your friends to jump in. With any luck, some of them will be caught on the gate, unable to jump through it for at least sixty seconds. Be sure to tell your friends what ship you have tackled, and what they should try and shoot first.
While doing any of this, you should be pelting big targets with missiles and small targets with drones. When possible, put yourself at risk before your teammates. Damage caused to you is damage your teammates don't have to take.
Synergy With Scimitars
Now that doomsdays are focused instead of area of effect based, remote-repairing fleets are the flavor of the month again. Fleets of Drakes with shield-repairing Scimitar logistics cruisers make for a powerful combination. If your corporation can field at least two Scimitars (so that they can repair each other), it is worth re-specializing an entire small corporation around flying Drakes in tandem. The Drakes tackle and focus fire to lay on the pain, while the Scimitars keep anybody from dying. Drakes have so many hit points that it is unlikely that they will die before the Scimitars can heal them.
The skills required for this are very basic, including Battlecruisers, which should be trained to IV as quickly as possible, Caldari Cruiser III, the skills required for the modules, and as good missile skills as possible. I recommend training at least the following missile support skills to III or IV: Missile Bombardment, Missile Projection, Rapid Launch, and Target Navigation Prediction. These skills will allow your missiles to shoot faster, go farther, and hit harder.
If Drakes (or Caldari in general) turn out to really be your thing, you ought to train your shield skills up as high as possible. Tech two shield hardeners make a huge difference, though their skill requirements can be a bit of a pain. Shield Management should be as high as possible, for the extra shield hit points. Shield Operation is another must-have, in order to increase the shield hit points' natural regeneration speed. Shield Upgrades may be necessary for fitting purposes, and level IV is required for Large Shield Extender IIs, which are a significant improvement over their tech one counterparts. Tactical Shield Manipulation is needed for the Invulnerability Fields, and training it to IV will allow for tech two version of that module.
Note that Shield Compensation does nothing for a Drake because it does not actively shield boost. Nor do any of the shield-based compensation skills (e.g. EM Shield Compensation) do anything, as it does not use any shield resistance amplifiers.
You may also consider training Heavy Missile Specialization in order to use tech two Heavy Missile Launchers.
Cost Versus Effectiveness
A Drake tends to cost about 29 mil for the hull, plus another 2-3 mil for the fittings, plus another 6 or 7 mil for the rigs. It costs 11.4 mil to insure with platinum insurance, and pays out 38 mil when destroyed at that level. Thus, fitting and insuring a Drake costs about 50 mil, and losing it pays 38 mil of it back, for a total hit of about 12 mil to your wallet. Not bad, at all, for players that are well established in EVE. Even if that's a bit pricey, you can always sell a PLEX. A single PLEX will keep you in Drakes for a long, long time.
So that's the Drake. Big piles of shield hit points with missiles to back it up. Go kill something! Don't forget to post your killmails on the Ten Ton Hammer forum so we now how awesome you are. Also, be sure to check out this article on buying and profiting from a Drake blueprint.