It wasn’t even that long ago that I did a major revamp of Heidy and her ship the USS Cassini! And now here I am again. Over the past week or so, while doing Advanced Mirror Event runs, I have noticed that the damage output of Heidy’s traditional energy weapons (consisting of two tricked out Phaser DBBs plus an Omni Phaser boosted by three Fleet Spire Consoles, and the Kinetic Cutting Beam) lags far behind that of her exotic Science abilities. Granted, being a Science vessel with only six weapon slots, expecting energy weapon output to match super-charged science damage is unrealistic.
So what to do?
As I noted in that last post, I was already eyeing the possibility of turning the Cassini into a torpedo boat, and this just provided me with the incentive to get to work.
Let me tell ya, turning a fairly traditional beamboat into an exotic/torpedo boat takes quite a bit of effort, thought and money (Zen, Dil and EC) – and flying it is very, very different than loading up a Scimitar with beams and Vulnerability Locators, fire up the buffs and keep mashng the shoot button till I develop Carpal Tunnel. No, an exotic/torpedo boat needs a very specific strategy for it, because it’s trying to make two sets of powers (exotic and torpedoes) work together, and somehow ensuring both are equally strong.
She blinded me with SCIENCE!
I think most Science players will agree, the linchpin of an exotic build is Gravity Well. With a strong enough Gravity Well, I can draw all enemies into a nice, neat package and let loose on them. Subspace Vortex, Destabilizing Resonant Beams, AOE radiation… just pile it on! As you can imagine, torpedo spreads work really well with this tactic when I can theoretically unload into a group of enemies caught in a Well. The two core issues to tackle are (1) ensuring a high level of PartGen for Gravity Well damage, and decent ControlX to boost holding power, and (2) minimizing CD so I can use this, and other Science abilities, as often as possible.
An unfulfilled vocation drains the color from a man’s entire existence.
The second part to the Science/Exotic/Torpedo equation is DrainX. It’s difficult to excel at Exotic damage and DrainX at the same time, but I need to be at least passably good with the latter. Why? Because when my main damage comes from torpedoes, I need some way to get around shields. Tachyon Beams and Energy Siphons may be pointless on ships with lots of high damage energy weapons that can shred shields in seconds, but when backed by decent DrainX these two Science skills offer an alternative to bringing down shields.
Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!
As for the torpedoes themselves, because they have long individual reloading times and also share an additional global CD, minimizing reloads is absolutely crucial — Projectile Weapon Officers are your best friends on this boat. In addition, I take advantage of my already high PartGen, by using specialized torpedoes that are boosted by it; hence, crafted Particle-Emissions Plasma, Neutronic and the Gravimetric torpedoes are my main armaments. As for the rest of my gear, it’s a difficult balancing act. There are lots of consoles from a variety of sources that boost torpedo damage, or PartGen, or DrainX, or ControlX, in addition to shorten CD. At the same time, there are many set bonuses that definitely benefit this build — and getting set bonuses are a real challenge on a boat with only six weapon slots. This is also a build that requires paying special attention to which Doffs to slot, which traits to pick, and which Captain Specializations to use. Everything has a purpose on this build, and I can’t afford to be wasteful.
Test Flight: It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill.
After I completed the tweaks, I took the new boat out on a few test runs, just to get a feel of how to fly this thing and learn how to put theory into practice. Yeah, it was very different. This is one of those cases where someone can’t just copy and paste a build and expect it to magically work: you have to understand why each power is there, when it should be used, and how it fits in with your other powers. Flying this thing required different tactics, different planning, but it was FUN. Also, for someone who’s accustomed to having a lot of energy weapons, fighting with essentially just one single omni-directional beam felt really uncomfortable! And with minimal weapon power behind it, the beam doesn’t do much damage; it’s really there to target shield subsystems, and to deliver drain/plasma/radiation procs.
The real test was when my friend Novin invited me to test out the new build in a PvP match. Now, I have never done PvP… let alone in a brand new boat I just built, but Novin offered to just sit tight and let me shoot at him to test things out. See, he flies a very tanky Fleet Guardian Cruiser, and he has told me he was able to withstand the combined firepower of several PvP enemies for extended periods of time. Very generous offer, but I also wanted to see how survivable the new Cassini is, so I told him not to hold back. That’s the whole point of a test, right?
Well, I surprised us both. I managed to wreck his unsinkable cruiser seven times in a row, with fairly alarming speed. Sure, I cheated a little by swapping in Jam Sensors and Feedback Pulse, but one thing was obvious: it was really difficult for a traditional tank to counter all the Science-Magic thrown his way. His heavily armored cruiser can absorb a vast amount of energy damage and maintain sufficient shields to survive traditional torpedoes, but when his power and shields are being constantly drained, his ship is pinned in place, debuffed and his sensors blinded… that’s a very different situation.
Now, he did almost sink me a few times, bringing me all the way down to 0% hull at least twice. What happened? I think the Temporal Operative Spec ability “Continuity” kicked in. That is, I got a last minute automatic Hull Heal, an 8km teleport and I suspect a target lock break. You know what this is? It’s the ultimate ANTI-ALPHA-STRIKE device. It means no alpha-striker can take me down in a single pass, despite my weak sauce damage resistance and fragile hull.
Caveat: I know, I know. Continuity can only happen once every 3 minutes. So a second alpha-striker can easily take me down. Ahem.
All in all, this boat is now doing a ton more DPS than ever before. I remember at one point I said Heidy’s Science ship’s DPS lags behind everyone else, but now I suspect she tops my charts… with the caveat that it takes a lot more attention and effort to fly. With a proper team, I might even try to play more Advanced/Elite content!