Thursday, 8 November 2012

Day 142 : Gardes! Gardes!

Time today to launch into another attempt to do level 4 missions. I'd been flying around earlier completing the third set of career missions as a cheap and cheerful standings gain. I completed them all in an Atron and it was simple. I wish I had another set, I could complete them in a Velator. Full of this false confidence I picked up a level 4 mission and quickly prepped my Space Potato, the good ship "The Big Lebowski", for flight.

Mods : Check
Guns : Check
Ammo : Check
Sobriety : Amber warning light.... hmmm. Looks like the alcohol levels are low. Fuck it. I'll top up in flight.
Balls to toast 100 millions worth of ship on PVE content : Check (note : metaphorical ball checking)
Drones : Ch...  Shit.

I have an addiction to blueprints. After the first Dominix level 4 mission experiment and the ensuing conversations in the comments I became convinced that Sentry drones were the business. I had mental images of the Dominix sitting in the centre of these static drones, running its reppers and toasting everything apocalyptically automatically. These dreams were enough to justify purchasing the BPO for each type of Sentry drone. Quite a lot of cash but not the worst justification for buying a blueprint I ever had. I ran off 5 of each type and promptly left them somewhere that wasn't the drone hold of my Dominix. 

If you aren't a noob then you might want to look away now.

After picking them up I looked at the mission run down on eve-survival, noted that the required damage was EM or Thermal and stocked up with a range of Gallente drones, including the sentries called Gardes. Along with assuming that sentry drones were some PVE panacea I blindly assumed that all sentry drones were roughly equivalent bar the racial damage. It turns out that nothing could be further from the truth. 

NameDamage TypeDamage ModifierTrackingOptimalFalloffMain Defence
Bouncer IExplosive1.40.0140km35kmShield
Curator IEM1.30.0235km20kmArmour
Garde IThermal1.60.0320km10kmArmour
Warden IKinetic1.20.0150km25kmShield

The rest of the stats are pretty much the same, hopefully. Not sure why I've included the Main Defence since I've not worked out whether or not they'll pick up any mitigation from my skills.

Firstly look at the tracking. Its low. It's even worse if you realise my noob fit Space Potato doesn't have any Omnidirectional Tracking links fitted since I swap out drone types for enemy types. Basically without modding you are looking at tracking enough to take out BC/BS equivalents, maybe cruisers. Frigates are going to slip under your tracking and eat you alive, like mosquitoes on a fat bloke sun bathing.

Secondly look at range, particularly the Garde range. So much for always having a blaster at your side. Damn Gallente and their blaster addiction. Once you glance at the stats it's easy to see where the various sentry drone roles are and that there are cases where you aren't going to be able to use them at all. It boils down to simple range/target speed trade offs and keeping your fingers crossed that that particular damage type isn't heavily resisted.

I was lucky that I realised this within a minute of deploying Gardes which by then had commenced to do absolutely zero damage. I started to shout for them. Nothing. I started to shout at them. Still nothing. I named them for characters in the book "Guards! Guards!". Nothing, nowt, zip, sweet FA. Luckily the faithful Space Potato (that ship is getting renamed) laughed off the damage. I could have read the book "Guards! Guards!" while the ship sat there. Drones getting out gunned by my shoddy Large Hybrid Turret III skills. The shame. I realised my error and unshipped some "spritely" Ogres, later swapping those out for Hammerheads which were a lot less dull to fly around and could still handle the content.

Later a situation arose where my sentries would actually be handy. Dropped into the right situation they are indeed pretty devastating. I can imagine that the longer range sentries would have been amazing in my first level 4 mission where I had BC and BS maintaining 30-60k ranges. I am sort of glad I didn't have them, it might have been too easy and so, too boring. I'll stick with a mix of drones and fly heavy drones when I am unsure. At least I don't have to go running after them to pick them up.

So it looks as if Sentries aren't the be all and end all of slow boat PVE clearance. In the end I am just glad I figured it out and got another lesson about pre-flight prep. Read, Know, Then Go. From my response to flying Ogres around I am glad sentry drones don't fit all roles. It looks like my boredom threshold can't cope with minimal interaction mission running, neither can it cope with the headache of shepherding NPC enemies around strategically placed sentries and then having to go back to collect said sentries.

I went on with the level 4 missions since it turned out to be a chain of 5. I was bored by the end of the fourth which I found you could decline and get a courier job in place of it to still complete the chain. I make that six level 4's completed now. So far the most entertaining has been the first which I've described elsewhere and the third here which involved blowing up drone mines. Each time you gunned one down they'd explode, damaging everything in a wide radius and then spit out four cruiser level drones. I knew about the explosion so I didn't lose any small drones and later in the mission it was a laugh just to start filling the area with drones and seeing how many I could take on. I ran out of mines.

Back to level 3 missions for a while I think, I've forgotten when my next storyline is turning up and I don't want to be handed some low sec level 4 that isn't completed by shouting "come on in and gank me!" in Local.


  1. I fly a dominix on lvl4 missions too. I carry some gardes, but like you I found they don't work so well on small ships. I'd never examined the tracking table to realize why.

    Another reason not to use sentries is that when flying in company, you generally all want to move together to the next gate. Seems rude to hold everyone else up whilst you wait for the sentries.

    Finally, I think the ogres are pretty good. Sure they aren't fast, which is a problem if I you see them start to take damage. I only deploy them with targets closer than 20km or for structures post fight.

  2. Sentry drones are akin to large-size turrets. They are less effective against orbiting sub-battleship targets, although they'll alpha most frigates and even some cruisers with good skills as they burn in. So don't expect them to work against close-orbiting frigates without webs and target painters.

    That being said, get either T2 sentry drones or T2 heavy drones as soon as possible. In my experience, heavy drones are too slow even with the appropriate drone mods to be efficient against distant targets. Garde IIs, backed by two omni links, will murder most things within 45km or so. And PvE with sentries is very boring, although you do have to pay attention, since they'll die fast if aggroed.

  3. Anon above is right. Sentries have a sig and it's 400. Same as large rails/blasters. The t2 versions are really a step up too, so if you are interested, get into them ASAP.

    Omni's make a world of difference too - +30% optimal and tracking for the federation navy version which is currently going at about 80mil per iirc.

    If tracking is the concern, then the navy sentries are better. They're quite a bit tougher too, though they do less damage than the T2s.

  4. 2x Omni II + 2x Drone Damage Amp II + full flight of Garde II or Bouncer II drones = rats dying very quickly. But make sure you have flights of Warrior IIs and Hobby IIs as you'll need them if the drones get under your guns. Heavy / Sentry Drones are BS level weapons, and track accordingly.

    Mostly, you'll find you don't need curators or wardens. Warden and bouncer range is comparable, but bouncers do more damage. And you can usually do just fine switching directly from bouncers to gardes - there's not really a meaningful gap for curators to fill.

    For a slightly more entertaining take on drone tactics, try a gila or ishkur: deploy garde IIs, fly in wide circles, watch as the chasing fleet gets picked apart by the drones.

  5. I'm glad to read you don't like Sentries. I sometimes feel the rest of Eve swears by them but I always find them mediocre.

    I use Ogres very heavily. I've invested in the Drone Navigation, Drone Sharpshooting skills to counter the dead time between targets and in Drone Durability to give the poor buggers a better chance to limp back in half structure and undock just before they pop when a fresh wave of rats spawn.

    There's also a module that speeds up your drones. With a Drone Navigation Computer II and Drone Navigation V Ogres do reasonably well.

    Of course it'll all go south when Retribution hits and the change to NPC AI comes in that makes them switch targets more.

    1. Yeah, dreading the AI upgrade. At least I've practised with controlling mobile drones beforehand and swapping sets in and out for combat reasons.

      As with all the advice above I still need to boost my skills some more, particularly Heavy Drones and Interfacing V, but I've been scared into a redirection of the skill plan. I'm aiming for Destroyers V and BattleCruiser V for all races before the skills go racial next year (at first I thought it was happening on the 4th, but apparently not). Just knowing that I'll be saving 80 to 100 days future training makes it a must to avoid this noob tax.

    2. If you continue to use Sentries past the AI change, I think that by adding remote reppers you can mitigate most of the disadvantages.

      Additionally, one of the other advantages of Sentries over mobile drones are the Sentry Damage rigs. There are no rigs to improve non-sentry drone damage.

      (though, personally, I don't use sentries as I feel it wastes time I could be using to move to the next gate)

  6. As some have already said, try two flights of sentries (Gardes and either Bouncer or Warden for long range). Wardens are much better against anything Serpentis due to having kin damage (their vulnerability). Using Bouncers in Gallente space is usually a bad idea, as most enemies will have their highest resistance in exp.
    You should *always* use at least one, preferably two omidirectional tracking links, T2 if skills allow it (1.25 tracking and range multiplier instead of 1.2). This will boost range so far that the limiting factor becomes your Domis puny targeting range (70-something km). If enemies start of far away, Wardens will kill one frig per volley (if you don't mind micromanaging, you can split them into two groups, still one-shotting most small things). Once stuff is in close Gardes can still hit orbiting cruisers at about 6-8 km (probably just a bit further out with your skills). They don't have to travel to their targets and you can generally leave them to do their thing while you make a coffee.

    Running missions with Sentries isn't necessarily much fun, but it requires only a bit of attention and is quite efficient.