The Harbinger is an Amarr battlecruiser that dishes out major pain with its lasers, but is still friendly to newer players. It's easy for new pilots to fly without problems, and it doesn't take very long to train up the skills needed to use the hull and modules.
Amarr ships tend toward two general archetypes: taking a ton of damage without blinking, and pouring out lasery death. The harbinger falls into the latter category, and is in many ways the big brother of the Omen cruiser.
The harbinger is a good investment for new players because it can be used for running missions, PvP, or even mining. This guide focuses on the PvP applications of the harbinger, because new players often want to fly larger ships without spending hundreds of millions of ISK, and this is a great way to do that.
As usual, this guide focuses on using mostly tech one modules or cheap named modules in order to ensure that newer players have the skills needed to use the modules, and can foot the bill. My two concessions toward pricier items are justified, below.
Cheap As Sin
When you eventually lose it, hopefully after netting some killmails, the insurance payout will be 38.5mil, meaning that your total cost was somewhere around 17.5mil ISK. Assuming that you don't lose more than one a week, this should be pretty reasonable for even for very isk-poor players, so long as they are courage-rich.
A caveat: CCP has published their intention to fiddle with insurance costs and payouts. The exact costs and payouts will be changing over time according to market prices, but for a taste of what to expect I checked out the test server, where the cost and payout of insurance have both been decreased. Platinum insurance on the test server now costs ~8.4mil ISK, and the payout is ~28.1mil. If these values carry over to the main server, it will instead cost about 25mil ISK per harbinger loss. Ce la vie.
High Slots: Guns And A Neutralizer
- x7 Focused Afocal Pulse Maser I (Ammo: Ultraviolet M)
- x1 Medium Energy Neutralizer I
In my opinion, it is better for new players skilling up for a harbinger to work on their Gunnery support skills, than to embark on the months-long skill grind for tech two lasers. Because this article is intended for newer players, my recommended fitting will not use tech two lasers.
Unfortunately for Amarr pilots, there are some pricing issues with named medium lasers, which are the sort that harbinger pilots use. Named lasers, that is, the laser modules dropped by NPCs that are generally better than their tech one equivalents but worse than the tech two versions, are ridiculously expensive. However, they do more damage and are easier to fit with sub-par skills, making them indispensable to new players. The version listed above cost about 1.5mil, each, in Jita.
The ultraviolet m ammunition listed above it probably the best compromise between needing capacitor despite not having the greatest capacitor skills, and inflicting damage at a decent range. Keeping Microwave M for somewhat better range, and Multifrequency M for when you need to do as much damage as possible, are both good ideas. Remember, lasers change ammunition instantly, so optimizing your ammunition for the range that you are fighting at is critical.
The medium energy neutralizer is a way to screw with smaller ships that move too quickly for your guns to hit them. Even normal tech one frigates can manage this trick, but not if you zap their capacitor with a neutralizer, leaving them dead in the water, for your drones to kill or your lasers to hit.
Medium Slots: Gank Fit
- x1 10MN MicrowarpDrive I
- x1 J5 Prototype Warp Disruptor I
- x1 'Langour' Drive Disruptor I
- x1 Medium F-RX Prototype I Capacitor Boost (optional)
Don't let the fancy names fool you, these are cheap versions of very mundane modules. Namely the warp disruptor, medium capacitor booster, and stasis web. The named versions are somewhat easier to fit, which is essential for new players, and also give a very slight performance increase.
The idea here is that you need to microwarpdrive to get to optimal range and maintain that distance, and also to get back to a gate or out of an interdictor bubble if things get too hinky. Note that MWDs guzzle capacitor, so don't leave it on if it isn't needed.
The warp disruptor and stasis web are standard tackling gear to keep your targets from warping away or moving too quickly, assuming they're within range. Upgrading the warp disruptor to a tech two version will give a significant range advantage, while the tech two stasis web will make your target move even slower. Remember: the slower your target goes, the more damage your lasers will do.
[PROTIP] MicrowarpDrives reduce your total capacitor by a painful amount, which is especially terrible for the capacitor-hungry harbinger. Nevertheless, they are essential on almost all PvP ships, especially if you are in a fleet that is moving around rather than camping a single spot. A trick that a lot of players use is to right click and offline their MWD, mid-battle, in order to lose the capacitor penalty. Don't do this if there is any chance that you will need it again, later, because you won't be able to online it unless your capacitor is nearly at maximum. If you're in a prolonged fight, need the capacitor, and the MWD isn't essential, then it may be a good idea. [/PROTIP]
Low Slots: Passive Tank And Damage Boost Compromise
- x1 Damage Control II
- x2 Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane I
- x2 Heat Sink II
- x1 1600mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plate
Firstly, this setup is what I think is a good compromise for a pilot flying with a fleet of other new players. It has the damage control, energized adaptive nano membranes, and 1600mm plate combine to give the harbinger some survivability. Not enough to kill, say, a Drake, but enough to tank a fleet of tech one cruisers for long enough to kill some of them, or to keep a warp disruptor on a juicy target for long enough that help can arrive.
Secondly, the damage control, heat sink, and plate are all high end compared to the rest of our fittings. This is because the skills required for their use will probably need to be trained, anyway, in order to get everything to fit on the harbinger, and because the cost to effectiveness ration of those modules is excellent. Feel free to down-grade if you're really on a shoestring budget, though.
As an alternative to the above, you can disregard survivability in favor of pure damage, and swap out the tank modules for a third heat sink, or for some combination of Tracking Enhancers (to improve damage and range) RADAR Backup Arrays (to make you more resistant to ECM). If you forgo your tank entirely, you can fit a Reactor Control Unit I and upgrade your lasers to Heavy Beam Lasers (or a named version thereof), the heavier variety of medium pulse lasers. Only do this if you are confident that you will not be the first to be shot at, though, or you will need to buy your harbingers in bulk.
Drones and Rigs
- x5 Hammerhead I
Hammerheads do thermal damage, which is generally the hardest to tank against. If you know that you are going to be facing smaller ships, you may want to use Valkyries, which are the fastest medium drone.
If it were me, I'd slap three Medium Trimark Armor Pump I rigs on my harbinger, to give it a ton of extra armor hit points. They tend to cost around 3mil ISK, each. This is not that much, but consider that it's pure loss, whereas losing an un-rigged Harbinger will cost a bit over half as much. For me, it's worth the cost. For others, perhaps not.
Flying The Harbinger
This is blessedly simple. Turn on your microwarpdrive and orbit your target at 5km or so, or orbit a gate with friends, as applicable. Don't run your microwarpdrive more than necessary. If you are having capacitor problems, switch ammunitions to ultraviolet m, or wait a few seconds for your capacitor to get up around 35%, which is about when it recharges fastest.
As with all Amarr ships, capacitor is life. Watch out for ships that are likely to neutralize you, like Pilgrims or Curses. Also watch out for ships that have strong resistances against EM damage and a lot of speed to avoid your weapons. Ships like the Vagabond or even the Jaguar will probably be able to survive your damage for long enough to kill you.
Unlike the drake, I wouldn't go solo ganking in low-sec with this. The passive armor tank isn't going to hold up against the gate sentry guns well enough to make that worth the risk. On the other hand, if you can get a fleet of a few battlecruisers together with some friends, you are projecting real force as understood by null-sec corporations. A fleet of drakes is laughable to many nullsec corporations because, even though they are very tough, they are associated with non-PvP players and with not adding much in the way of damage output to fleets. But harbingers can put out enough damage to threaten battleships, and are a great way for new players to supplement a fleet's total damage output.
All right, so that's that. Remember to travel in groups, and best of luck.