Are autocannons, and hence, Minmatar, in a bad place, balancing wise?
The days of old where Minmatar was the choice du jour have been changed by the meta of the game moving on, and serial rebalancing passes aimed at fixing the other weapon systems. This perception is based on the olden days, before blasters got buffed (cheaper fittings, null), rails got buffed (better everything), beams got buffed (cheaper fittings) and pulses got buffed (optimal out the wazoo). Say, 2011 or so, and before.
The truth, now, especially in the cruiser and BC field, is that Minmatar are definitely a race you don’t want to fly. This even bleeds into the HAC and T3 scene, and excepting web lokis, Huginns and Rapiers having their own special traits, you have to go to Angel ships to really begin to pick up turret DPS and damage application competitive with your enemies.
The opinion of Winmatar is they are mutable, speedy, slippery kiting kings. True, Minmatar are – generally speaking – relatively fast compared to, say, Caldari. But they no longer rule over everything. Ishtars outpace nearly everything, Thoraxes and Deimos can run down most Minmatar ships, and the ones which are left – the Stabber, Slasher – have such abysmal DPS that you’d be better off going Gallente just on the off chance you’ll get a scram on the foes and facemelt them.
This is not restricted to Minmatar either – the HML is now by and large a weapon system even out of favour with ratters. Much easier and time and cost effective to train Gallente cruiser 5 and get into HACs (Ishtar) than get into Tengus for ratting. No one rats in Minmatar ships excepting the Vargur. No one.
This is a function of the weapons, not neccessarily the ship traits, which are in magnitude and type essentially similar to the other races' ship traits.
Medium AC’s are short range guns but, typically, are used for fighting deep in falloff by kiting outside of scram range. Medium Artillery has such atrocious tracking in anything but a real stern chase situation (in which case, everything hits fine) that it cannot reasonably be used for PVP, especially considering its cycle time is so long.
For alpha fleets, by which I of course mean Cynabal gangs or massed Ruppy fleets, arty of course reigns supreme, but is being swiftly overshadowed by Rail Thorax (Proteus) and Rail Moa (Eagle) gangs and fleets for kite-brawl situations due to higher DPS, faster ammo swapping (5s from AM to Spike, for instance) and better tracking.
The discussion of whether ACs and hence Minmatar are now the weapons in need of a buff revolve around whether capless, damage selectable guns can afford to have less paper and applied DPS than cap-hungry locked-type guns such as lasers. This then becomes an equation where on one side you have capacitor life of, for example the Pulse Omen, multiplied by DPS at any given range within 24km, versus cap life and DPS of the Rupture.
Using a reasonably common shield kiting fit for either, the Omen (442 DPS, 1m 40s cap) faces off against the Ruppy (423 DPS, 2m30s cap life). Nominally the Rupture wins on paper due to the extra 30s of capacitor life, which allows a stern chase to cap the Omen out and win right at the end of the fight – ie; the advantage of capless guns, and in this case, paper beats reality at ranges below about 10km, which is not generally a kiting situation.
However, take into account that the Omen is faster than the Rupture (2018 m/s versus 1693 m/s) and it is unlikely the Rupture will get into range until late in the battle to match the DPS of the Omen. This also ignores the fact that if the Omen is fighting in the Ruppy’s falloff, particularly in the range bracket of 15-20km, it can have up to 230DPS more than the Ruppy because its optimal goes all the way to 20.4km.
Therefore, given the fact the Omen matches the Rupture DPS in brawling range, is slower and can only ever catch the Omen after 1m 40s of fighting, it is clear that the Rupture is at a complete disadvantage, selectable damage or not. 30s of fighting in the 15-20km danger zone is enough to see the Rupture vaped. Also, the Omen is cap stable with its guns firing even at 0% capacitor, so it’s not like running its MWD forever actually turns its guns off.
Similarly, if you try to kite the average blaster Thorax these days, you might outrun him for a few seconds of free DPS but Null really sorts out most of his problems too. Typical shield blaster Thoraxes go 2200m/s meaning that with a stern chase from 25km it takes them at most 25s to catch a shield AC Rupture – during which time the Rupture averages 100 DPS more than the Thorax…and then gets scrammed and overhauled by the Thorax’s 700 DPS blasters.
The same holds true for a Moa, which the Ruppy would be attempting to kite, given it is marginally (100m/s) faster. However, the Moa can pack double or even triple the tank and hence isn’t going to be threatened immediately, and should hold it’s MWD for at least a minute of the engagement to let the Ruppy cap itself out first. If you put a Rail Moa up against a AC Rupture, the Rupture is in a world of hurt, with the Moa having double the tank and better DPS in the sweet spot for kiting, the 17-21km window.
There isn’t much of a benefit to having capless guns, given the Rupture only out-DPS’s blaster boats at kiting ranges, is slower than the Thorax meaning it will get caught and murdered, and cannot necessarily count on kitting the Moa before it runs out of capacitor and gets keel-hauled and vaped.
True, there is a large window open for skilled pilots to turn this analysis on its head, but the reality is that the Omen is the kiter of choice, followed by rail Thoraxes, Rail moas, blaster Thoraxes and then Blaster Moas.
The solution I believe is to increase the optimal of AC’s from 1.5km to 6km. Firstly, this actually differentiates their optimal from that of blasters. Secondly, this would give the Rupture a peak DPS in the 13km region and push a hump of higher DPS out from 13-23km, and the tail of the curve at 23km-30km would be quite a significant 150-250 DPS (half of this being drones). This would allow your Rupture to begin engagements at 30km and bank on the enemy overhauling it. By the time it gets run down into web range by the Thoraxes, it will be significant through the enemy’s tank and can turn around and fully engage in the 13km area of overheated webs, neuts, etc, to finish the engagement.
Alternatively, we need to look at speed and tank. Speed wise, the Rupture needs its speed to rise significantly into the 2200m/s realm to allow it to more effectively maintain a set range from its competitors. This is then a Stabber clone, a ship I haven’t talked about here because it can actually kite…for a few minutes till it caps out (depending on whether you have a small cap booster fit, which people generally don't). In fact, the only ship I can see working as a kiter is, ironically, the Bellicose, with HML and small cap booster fits allowing permakiting. You cannot achieve it in practise because the shield Thorax will run you down and does double your DPS within dissy range, so….whatevs.
Tank-wise it's arguable that making the Rupture a mini-Cyclone will not help it brawl in the 1-10km range. Even now an armour fit Ruppy will simply evaporate in front of a blaster boat (650 DPS Vexor, 700 DPS Moa, 750 DPS Thorax) and has such ppathetic DPS it can't really outcompete the Omen except with neuts, which become difficult to fit in the case of 1600 plate Ruptures. This also goes strictly against the current meta of mobility being king, and would see you trapped in a horribly slow, bloaty punching bag, at which point you fly the Maller anyway, or a bricked out Moa.
So, yes, there is a very strong argument that the Minmatar and ACs are distinctly sub-par at the moment both at brawling – a Gallente and now Caldari speciality thanks to 700 DPS Moa –and kiting. this even takes into account that typically, medium long range guns outside of the projectile world are now being used effectively for everything except raw alphafleet. In fact, the meta is so far in favour of anything but Minmatar, that it’s almost urgent to address this problem via a bit of a tweak.