Thursday, July 17, 2014

Starting an Alt: Initial Skill Plan

Having started our PvP alt and begun training the first few skills needed to plug +4 implants in, you now have some decisions to make.  After all, by this point your skill queue is starting to wind down, and you need to start training the meat of your character.

To recap my assumptions for the previous article, I’m assuming:
  • That you are using four +4 implants as soon as possible after training Cybernetics (everything but Social Adaptation).
  • That this character is not your first character.
  • That you bought a PLEX to fund your new character’s skill book needs.  Ensuring that you don’t transfer isk between your main and your alt will open up a lot of awoxing, scamming, and espionage opportunities that wouldn’t be possible if your API shows sharing of isk between characters.
  • That you took my advice and have a firm goal in mind for this character.
  • That this character is intended as a PvP character.

“I Need an ETA on Those Reinforcements”

Training an alt takes time.  Skills train at the same speed for everyone with +4 implants plugged in.  I’m going to assume you didn’t go to the expense of buying a Cerebral Accelerator.  Sure, it gives you +9 to all attributes (and is additive to implants for any skill except Intelligence, since Intelligence implants use the same implant slot as the CA), but it only lasts 14 days.  For that time, you can gain about a 50% increase in training speed, but it’s rendered useless fairly quickly.  Gaining the equivalent of 7 days’ worth of skills really isn’t worth the huge cost (about 250 mil, last I checked).

But, you wouldn’t have started training an alt unless you had already identified a need for one, which means you need it NOW.  Time is the enemy.  You have a dream about how you’re going to use this alt, and you can already visualize how s/he’ll help you achieve your goals.

The simple fact is that to do exactly what you want this alt to do is going to take a couple years’ worth of training.  In our minds, we build our expectations around what is familiar.  In Eve, that means gauging the value of an alt based on the skills of our mains.  Your alt won’t have Sharpshooter 5, Large Blaster Specialization 4, or Heavy Drones 5 overnight, and as a result the overall damage, capabilities, speed, and tank of ships piloted by your alt will not be as good as when flying those ships with your main.

I mention this only to temper your expectations, not to disappoint you.  Training an alt for PvP is a long-term commitment taking years.  The skill plans are, consequently, long-term as well.

But, once you acknowledge that your alt won’t be independently capable for some time, the world starts to look a little better.  Your alt will be able to function, but not at the elite level you envision.  Keep that in mind.

Developing the Skill Plan: Core Skills

Some skills are so integral to the functioning of a character that they’re considered “core” skills.  These are non-negotiable for a PvP character.  You simply must have the, in order to maximize your combat ability.  These skills affect your ships’ CPU, powergrid, capacitor, armor, shields, and navigation speed.  CPU, powergrid, and capacitor can mean the difference between a fitting being viable and unusable. Armor and shield ships can mean the difference between winning a fight at 50% structure and losing. 

Though navigation seems initially unimportant, it may perhaps be the most important.  Even 100 m/s in speed under MWD can mean the difference between remaining out of web range and being reduced to a stand-still, or out-running the range of an enemy’s guns.  Navigation skills can mean the difference between reaching a fight on a gate 100 au away with your fleet and having to two-warp it, which results in you lagging behind both on the killboard and in cases where a quick escape is warranted.  Navigation skills are extremely important.

Every PvP character should have these skills in their long-term skill plan.

CPU Management 5
Electronics Upgrades 5
Energy Grid Upgrades 5
Power Grid Management 5
Capacitor Management 5
Capacitor Systems Operation 5
Electronic Warfare 4

Evasive Maneuvering 5
Fuel Conservation 5
High Speed Maneuvering 4
Warp Drive Operation 5
Navigation 5
Acceleration Control 4
Afterburner 5

Target Management 5
Advanced Target Management 4
Gravimetric Sensor Compensation 3
Ladar Sensor Compensation 3
Magnetometric Sensor Compensation 3
Radar Sensor Compensation 3
Long Range Targeting 5
Signature Analysis 5

Mechanics 5
Armor Layering 4
Hull Upgrades 5
Armor Resistance Phasing 4
EM Armor Compensation 4
Explosive Armor Compensation 4
Kinetic Armor Compensation 4
Thermic Armor Compensation 4

Tactical Shield Manipulation 4
Shield Upgrades 5
Shield Operation 5
Shield Management 5
Shield Compensation 5
Kinetic Shield Compensation 4
Explosive Shield Compensation 4
Thermic Shield Compensation 4
EM Shield Compensation 4

Drones 5
Drone Avionics 5
Drone Durability 4
Drone Interfacing 5
Drone Navigation 5
Drone Sharpshooting 5
Advanced Drone Avionics 4

Weapon Upgrades 5
Gunnery 5
Advanced Weapon Upgrades 5
Controlled Bursts 5
Motion Prediction 5
Rapid Firing 5
Sharpshooter 5
Surgical Strike 4

Trajectory Analysis 4
Missile Launcher Operation 5
Guided Missile Precision 4
Missile Bombardment 5
Missile Projection 4
Rapid Launch 5
Target Navigation Prediction 5
Warhead Upgrades 4

It’s worth noting that I ordered them for clarity, not priority.  When you train skills, you should do so with an eye to maximum utility.  Sure, having a character that has only level 5 skills seems cool, but it leaves you unable to actually do anything with that character for a long while.

Phase One: Everything to Three

Start training every skill on this list to level 3.  The way skills in Eve scale, it won’t take long, and it’ll allow you to bring your alt up to a somewhat functional level much faster than simply going 1-5 on every skill in sequence.  At this early phase, I wouldn’t bother with adjust your attributes… you want to save those remaps for later.  Just go down the list and get everything to 3 that you can.

You’ll notice that some of them can’t be trained to 3 without maxing some prerequisites.  That’s okay, skip it for now.  Your goal is to plug in and train to a basic level (anything less than 3 isn’t “basic”, it’s “remedial”, if you’re wondering).  This should take you a couple weeks.

Phase Two: Needed Prerequisites

Now, you should have quite a number of skills at three, and you’re starting to be able to function somewhat with your character – though not at the level you’d hope for.  All you should be left with are skills with prerequisites that require some of your Phase One skills to higher levels.  Go ahead and train those specific skills to the necessary levels to inject the remaining skills in your plan.  You should have a few skills that need to reach 4, and a handful that need level 5.  

That’s fine.  Your task here is to enable your character to walk around with all of these skills in his/her head, so you don’t have to find your way back to a trading or training hub to inject more skills.  Plus, the remaining skills in your plan that you haven’t yet injected are really important.  And if you’re going to train something to 5, it better be a prerequisite skill for one of these remaining skills.

Once you complete a prerequisite, immediately inject the skill that needed it so you don’t forget why, or even that, you trained it.  Get that newly unlocked skill to 3, just like in Phase One.

Phase Three: Training to Four and Five

You should now have a bunch of skills trained to 3, a few to 4, and a select handful to 5.  What to do next?  I bet you think I’m going to say, “Get everything to four!”  (Or, rather, you thought that until you just read this sentence).  There are a few reasons why that’s not a great idea.

First, not all skills train at the same speed.  You may have noticed that getting some of your skills to 3 took a bit longer than others… the complexity of the skill – and whether it has any prerequisites – affects the training length.  For that reason, it’s easier to train some basic skills to 5 than it is to get some more complex ones to 4.  Moreover, getting some of those skills to 5 is extremely important for fitting purposes or as prerequisites to additional skills you may want to train, including spaceship command, gunnery, and missile skills.  Why sit around waiting for something to train to 4 if you can get another daily-useful skill to 5 in the same time, which also unlocks other skills?

You can set your own priorities based on the roles you anticipate your character fulfilling, of course.  I prefer to maximize speed and fitting first… the other popular route is to maximize tank (shield, armor, and hull skills), but those skills are actually a trap.  In most cases, all having more HP does is cause you to die more slowly.  Navigation is far more important (it’s better to have less HP yet have the speed to stay out of range of the enemy’s guns), as are fitting skills (You get more HP out of training Advanced Weapon Upgrades 5 and having the powergrid to fit a Medium Shield Extender II than training Shield Compensation 5, Shield Upgrades 5, and Shield Management 5, but having to fly with a meta-4 version).

Train as you will, but it’s better to avoid the dog entirely than be tough enough to hold his snapping jaws a few inches from your throat.

Phase Four: Maxing Out the Rest

Only after you’ve secured your most important skills to 5 is it time to get serious about finishing off the rest.  Keep in mind I’m not suggesting you get everything to 5, but rather that you finish off the level specified in the plan.  The gunnery specialization skills don’t need to reach 5 for a very long time, unless you’re certain that your alt will fly only a very narrow role.

Just keep in mind that in Eve, getting a skill to level 4 generally offers 80% of the benefit of getting it to level 5.  Small Autocannon Specialization 5 takes you from an 8% bonus to a 10% bonus in damage… or from 108% to 110%.  That’s not typically worth the 10-day training time when your character has so much more to train for.

All tolled, this skill queue will, with proper implants and remap management, take about 380 days to complete.

The Big, Glaring Absence

You will note that I don’t include any specific weapon systems or ship skills in this queue.  Since my goal here is to establish a base set of PvP skills that would serve you well whichever way you take the character, it seemed appropriate not to digress into specific applications.  This skill plan will provide a base from which you can branch off in any direction you want.  Prefer brawling?  Add the light and medium drone skills and blasters.  Prefer long-range support?  Add artillery and missiles.  Or add Ewar skills to taste.


  1. Advanced target management V is pretty useless isn't it?
    Training to 3 allows you to target 10 targets, which is the most any ship allows without adding a specific module.

  2. You're right. I think I meant to have that at 4.

  3. Drone Sharpshooting Drone should probably be
    Drone Sharpshooting 4

    I know you didn't want to include specific weapon systems but Light Drone Operation 5 maybe should be an exception.

  4. I think you're misinformed about the Cerebral Accelerator, it uses booster slot four, not implant slot four, you will be able to use it with an intelligence implant.

  5. I see you are concerned about transferring money to an alt. Best way is just to jetcan t2 salvage. If questioned, the alt can claim to have salvaged something nice. HTH.

  6. Couldn't you just give the alt about half a plex and claim it was a 21 day trial deal?