Monday, August 3, 2015

Active Armor Tanking for the Shield Booster

I am a shield-tanker.  I admit this quite freely.  I love the Ancillary Shield Booster (or ASB, for the hip kids), particularly for solo roaming, and have had a lot of success with ASB Merlins, Harpies, Svipuls, Vagabonds, Stabber Fleet Issues… you name it.

Shield tanking, in general, benefits from three distinct advantages.  The first is, of course, the immediate application of shield reps.  The moment you activate the module (or more precisely, the moment the server receives and processes the command to hit the module), your shield realizes the benefit.  It’s a very easy decision process… need shield, receive shield, wait.

Shield tanking also produces a very satisfying psychological effect on your opponents.  There’s nothing more disheartening than to hope, for a moment, that you really ARE doing as much damage as it appears and you’re simply shredding your opponent, only to have your dreams and spirits crushed the ASB restores a significant percentage of shield in one burst.  I’ve had pilots primaries off of me once they saw that.

But the last key benefit of shield boosting over armor tanking is the ability to fit oversized boosters.  When we talk about ASB fits, we’re talking about oversized ones: frigates fitted with mediums, cruisers and above with XL.  Lost in the mix are small and large ASBs, which are utterly worthless in every application (bold statement, I know, but there it is).

And it’s that reason that I love shield boosting over armor boosting.  Armor repairers can’t be oversized.

That said, despite my preference for shield boosting, I recognize that one generally doesn’t have an option to armor vs. shield tank specific ships.  Allow me to share some of the mistakes I’ve made, in the hopes that you don’t do the same.

With a shield booster, it’s not possible to be cap stable without making serious sacrifices in another area.  Shield boosting fits into the general approach of shield ships – strike fast, maintain mobility, and dictate the terms of the engagement.  Active shield boosting helps you avoid the signature radius blooms associated with shield extenders, yet still maintain your mobility and allow you to endure some punishment.  When active shield boosting, your shield repper will fully drain in about 30 seconds and take a full minute to reload, so it benefits from combat approaches favoring quick strikes followed by repositioning or maneuvering.

The name of the active armor repping game is cap efficiency over the long haul, though.  Shield boosters provide more repping power in a short period of time, but armor repping allows you to endure longer without being capped out.  But this isn’t possible without some help, and not without trade-offs.

The “help” comes in the form of a cap booster – the largest you can fit.  This component is so critical to any active armor tank that I chuckle when people say, “armor repping resides in the low slots”.  Unlike ancillary shield boosters, ancillary armor repairers still use capacitor when cycling.  If you think this doesn’t make a big deal, I refer you to this Daredevil loss.  On paper, I had enough of an active tank to survive.  In reality, I capped out after only two or three cycles of my reppers (and yes, that loss did prompt me to start this article).

A cap booster would have kept me in the game far longer, and I may have came out on top.  And unlike ASBs, it’s possible for an enemy to shut down your active tank with a neut.  You must maintain the ability to boost your capacitor between your enemy’s neut cycle and your armor rep cycle.  Failing to do so can result in a significant delay on your reps.

Now, some of you will note that I flew with a dual-rep fit, and may ask whether the cap hunger of that setup is responsible for me capping out so quickly.  To you, I say, “Scoff!”  Dual reps are an absolute requirement if you intend on fighting anything your size or larger.  Because you can’t oversize your repper, you need more of them.

A frigate is capable of fitting a medium shield booster, whereas it cannot fit medium armor reppers.  Shield boosting can also fit multiple ASBs, whereas only one AAR can bit fit per ship.  Add in the fact that shield boost amplifiers (medium slow) increase boosting by 36%, whereas the armor “nano” rigs increase armor repping by only 15%.  The effect of these differences is so significant that a viable armor setup requires two armor repairers.

But these individual objections can be overcome with a best-practice setup… an AAR plus a class-appropriate repairer and a cap booster to keep feeding the setup power.  In this way, ships – particularly those with a bonus to repair amount per cycle – can field a very nasty tank indeed.  You can even augment your fit with one of the two “Nano” rigs to either reduce the cycle time or increase the repair amount (I’d go with the Auxiliary Nano Pump rig first, and add a Nanobot Accelerator rig if your cap setup can endure it).

Deviate from this setup at your own risk.  Removing one of the repairers dramatically limits your maximum repair, while skimping on the cap booster fatally cripples it, resulting in losses like the Daredevil above.

And that’s the problem with armor repping.  When you use an active rep fit, your enemies can make some obvious assumptions about your fit… assumptions they wouldn’t necessarily need to make if they were facing a shield boosting ship.  The “surprise” factor will have to rest in the utility mid-slots, a particular strength of armor ships.

But, when done well, a dual-armor fit can outlast your opponents as the mid ewar throws them for a loop.  And that’s quite a bit of fun!


  1. I am a shield man myself when it comes to flying solo or micro gang. You already stated many of the advantages in shield active tank vs armor active tank but you missed a critical one commonly used in low sec. Active shield booster fit ships benefit greatly from the crystal set implant! There is no equivalent for armor ships as the slave set is for buffer fits (which works well in mid sized fleets with logi ships).

    1. A good point. While using Crystal implants in null-sec is a dodgy prospect given the prominence of bubblers in gate camps (or would be, if anyone roamed/lived in null anymore...), it's much more viable in low-sec.

      Just be sure to warp to perches instead of directly to gates. Smartbombs hurt.

    2. A good point. While using Crystal implants in null-sec is a dodgy prospect given the prominence of bubblers in gate camps (or would be, if anyone roamed/lived in null anymore...), it's much more viable in low-sec.

      Just be sure to warp to perches instead of directly to gates. Smartbombs hurt.