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Bastion Variants – A Solution to the Marauder Meta

It has been over two years since marauders were rebalanced in EVE Online and finally we are seeing groups adapting to it. Over the past year there has been an explosion in usage for each of the four marauders. Is someone in your space? Drop 5-10 Vargurs. Objective fight? Bring 250 Paladins. Doing literally anything else? A Golem or Kronos will do the job better than almost anything else.

To put this into perspective, Paladins have gone from kill about 50b ISK per month to 3-4t ISK per month – a 70x increase in usage! They are about as popular as Muninns and Ishtars in their prime years and I want to convince you today that this is absolutely not a good thing.


The Problem

Ever since the quiet disappearance of Team Talos, a team dedicated to regular balance updates, updates to address the balance have been somewhat sparse. We do, at least, have CCP Aurora who has been doing some great work lately in pushing for positive change (CCP Rise 2.0, anyone?). If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, though, you’ll know I want more frequent balance passes as the norm, not an exception.

The point of balancing ships and modules in a game like this is not in the search for the perfect balance. This train doesn’t have a destination; instead it keep going, updgrading and improving at each stop. What we want is to continuously improve and update ships to keep them fresh and interesting. Failing to do this results in two major problems:

  1. The meta becomes stale and innovation is nearly impossible when everything is figured out. There are few new ideas and outcomes can be predicted with ease given a few calculations.
  2. Clear outliers emerge from the pack with no competitor. Players are forced to either join them, die, or not bother undocking at all.

The patch in late 2022 addressed some of the former issues, especially around HACs. The latter issue is what we are facing right now with marauders, or more specifically, Paladins. They dominate every area of space in any size of conflict. If you have a problem, just throw some Paladins at it. If tracking is an issue or you need a shield hull, send in 5 Vargurs instead.

It is boring, it instantly turns fun fights into everyone warping off to dock up, and there are very very few counters. Do not mistake me in saying that ships cannot be strong. They can and should be strong but counters must exist.


So What Makes Marauders so OP?

At the heart of the problem lies the extremely short and non-committal 30 second bastion timer. Alongside that, we’re looking at incredible stats across the board with absolutely no equal. They’re simply the best option for any situation.

I know I’m fighting an uphill battle here because the majority of people who fly marauders love them. They do the most DPS of any subcap to the longest range with incredible tracking and the best possible tank. They are the best in every category except base velocity/agility so I can 100% understand the desire to fly one. 18 months ago I was the same, throwing my artillery Vargur into fights at 120km and giggling at the power of my artillery volleys.

For a moment, though, humour me and think about what these insanely powerful ships do to the meta. We’re going to step through different scenarios one by one and see how these incredibly cheap powerhouses shut down content.


Fun Roams and Small Fleets

I’ll be the first to confess that I am a terrible small gang pilot. 11 years of EVE doesn’t make me good at manual piloting and maintaining grid awareness. What I do know, however, is just how well an autocannon Vargur applies. Even an Orthrus maintaining a perfect 90Ėš orbit at max point range takes over 1,000 DPS. With barrage, that cheap Vargur can push 700 DPS out to 90km, too.

This is the kind of projection that really hurts groups who are just heading out for a fun fleet. You log on for a few hours after work and just want some fun fighting other groups out in low or in nullsec. It’s only a matter of time before some idiot ruins all the fun by swinging a Vargur onto grid.

Now consider that people tend to drop multiple of these Vargurs on grid at a time. Sure, a small fleet might survive with a few logi, but they’re never going to scratch the tank of a triple XLASB Vargur or five. Their only decision is to leave and nobody gets to have fun.

This is a common situation in nullsec and in wormhole space. Marauders are extremely cheap for what they do and can escape with the MJD if troubled. I’m not saying that these bastions of war should be taken down so easily. I am saying that their incredible projection, DPS, tank, and price makes them the ultimate answer to any small fleet in your space. After all, most players want the win and forcing hostiles off is a “win”.

Triple gyro Vargur vs Orthrus

Wormhole Brawls

In wormhole space we frequently have friendly brawls over no objective at all. We fight each other for fun unlike typical nullsec objective gameplay. These are often 30-50 man fleets on each side that squeeze through 2 or 3 bil mass wormhole to engage each other at some point between their respective home systems.

In the past year, a new meta has emerged thanks to Bolstered Bulkheads and Bastions of War. Typical wormhole space marauders have 650k EHP as a minimum and will put out over 2-2.5k DPS each. Often you will see 7 or more Paladins on one or both sides of the conflict. With a volley of 6,238 damage and RoF of 2.52 seconds, they can land three shots before reps even if the target broadcasts early. That’s 150k of damage onto almost any target from just 8 Paladins before we start seeing reps.

The result of this has been an arms race of more paladins and more nestors. Very few ships other than brick-tanked command ships can actually survive the insane damage that marauders put out. As someone who is known for trying to subvert the meta rather than simply join in with the crowd, I have finally met something that I cannot solve for. Most ships in EVE won’t last more than 10 seconds in front of them, and those which can survive simply cannot punch through 650k EHP before 40k EHP/s of reps lands to save it.

Armour Widows have started to gain more popularity for their powerful jams, but they are not designed for jamming hostile Paladins. Marauders, once bastioned, have incredible resistances to all kinds of EWAR, making most typical anti-battleship options useless. Even the obvious choice of tracking disruption falls flat against a 50% resistance.

The only solution is to bring your own marauders to the fight, but it is a sad, sad solution. In this meta, all we are left with is small piles of Paladins shooting each other for 5 minutes until logi dies and one side has to extract and go home. This, given more time, will kill variety in the wormhole brawling meta completely.


Pochven

CCP already kind of killed Pochven by neutering the site respawn time in an accidental bugfix that they double downed on. That said, we have an interesting case study here in how marauders slowly crept in and ate up the meta.

In the beginning, Flashpoint sites in Pochven were ran by Gila or Vedmak fleets. If you could catch them, you might have formed a Nighthawk fleet to head into the site and smash them. In response to Nighthawks (and other, heavier comps) we started to see the rise of Pochven’s old blingy battleship brawls. Notably, mixed Paladin/Leshak comps were already being used at this point by some groups. With the great amout of money being earned, groups could afford to use expensive Machariels or extremely blinged Nirvana Barghest fleets. Truly, though, the meta was open for anyone to theorycraft and enjoy.

However, everything changed when the fire nation Apex meta attacked. Before too long, groups such as Pandemic Horde staged from Pochven and killed off content in their own way with their Paladin+Scorpion fleets. This rise to power of the Paladin meta was greatly accelerated by the Bolstered Bulkheads patch. doubling the efficacy of plates and extenders.

What emerged from this meta in the end was the knowledge that Paladin blobs win the day no matter what. Why would you use flimsy low DPS pirate battleships when you could just fly Paladins yet again. Their projection, tank, and DPS mean you only have to sit still and press F1 to shoot a target.

Towards the end we saw more and more Paladins being used, homogenising the meta and paving the way for Ishtar fleets who just warp off and Paladins that nobody wants to fight. The meta died (and then CCP slamdunked it lol).


Nullsec Objective Gameplay

If you have the pilots to fly 700 Paladins which can project their damage out to grid, why would you fly anything else? Once again, they do the most DPS with the best tank and the best range plus some nice EWAR resistances and utility too. Having a cloud of Paladins on a grid controls a very large area around it unless someone is willing to drop an equal number of Paladins or a ludicrous amount of dreads/supers.

Even an FC choosing to commit a dread fleet to grid faces major problems against such a Paladin fleet. The Paladins are able to project (collectively) a 2.1 million damage volley grid-wide. Their bastion also only lasts for 30 seconds and their MJD cools down in 60 seconds should they choose to fit one. Additionally, they have a ludicrous battleship warp speed of 3.5AU/s. A prospective null FC will never be able to get their full cap fleet onto the marauder fleet to actually punish them for being stationary.

What we are seeing is marauders pushing other, more interesting ships out of the meta by their incredible stats. Over the past two years the wheels of industry have turned to make these once-prized ships into a relatively cheap everyday ship that sits in everyone’s hangar. Staple doctrines of yesteryear such as Machariels, Apoc Navies, and Ravens just don’t hold a candle to what a Paladin fleet can do.

Nullsec as a whole is vast and somewhat slow to adapt entirely to change (compared to smaller groups) so I don’t think we’re as close to killing the meta in null just yet. The signs are starting to show, however, and something needs to be done now rather than in two years time.


PvE

For as much as I’ve said about PvP marauders, you might be surprised that I don’t care all that much about PvE marauders in most situations. As it stands, marauders are your best option for nearly everything related to PvE which is kind of part of the original design intent. They are perfect for any high-level DED, for mission running, for C5 wormhole sites (and occasionally C6), and for fighting Triglavians.

This isn’t really a bad thing since PvE is always going to be a solved meta regardless of what you do. It all boils down to ISK per hour in the end and the means to get there don’t matter so much. The only gripe I have is that marauders are a bit too prevalent in wormhole space. I would have to blame the state of C5 sites for that, though. I still yearn for the old style of wormhole site which required four capitals to get the most ISK out of them.


The Cure to Marauders

The way that we balance marauders is not to slap then with a nerf bat and call it a day. We’ve already established that people love to fly their shiny T2 battleships. They must remain a part of the meta, yet with game design that clearly enables counterplay and counters to that counterplay. The levers we have to adjust are the following:

  • Marauder EHP and Bastion Resist/Rep Bonus
  • Bastion Activation Time
  • Bastion EWAR Resistance
  • Marauder DPS
  • Marauder Projection and Bastion Projection Multipliers
  • Marauder Fitting
  • Marauder Mobility – Bastion Cycle Time, Warp Speed, and MJDs
  • Marauder Mass (specifically a wormhole fix)

So how do we make marauders an interesting ship to fly and an interesting ship to fight against without annoying everyone who just trained marauders 5? It’s something that Stitch Kaneland and I have been discussing and we think we have quite the elegant solution: Bastion Variants.

Marauders on their own are strong hulls, but what really makes them powerful is that pesky Tech 1 Bastion Module. It gives the following incredible stat boosts to any marauder:

Tank (Resist)Shield: 1.3x
Armour: 1.3x
Hull: 1.3x
Tank (Active)Shield Boost: 2x
Armour Boost: 2x
DamageRate of Fire: 2x
ApplicationOptimal: 1.25x
Falloff: 1.25x
Missile Velocity: 1.25x
MobilitySpeed: 0%
MJD C/D: 60s
Bastion C/D: 30s
Ewar ResistTarget Paint: 1.5x
Sensor Damp: 1.5x
Weapon Disrupt: 1.5x
Sensor Strength: 2x
T1 Bastion Module – 2023

For perspective, this pushes a Heavy Armour Paladin from 510k to 692k EHP. It also increases damage from 1,236 to 2,472 DPS and Scorch range from 70+16 to 86+20km. What we propose instead is to introduce 4-5 new kinds of bastion, each manufactured by one of EVE’s empires for lore flavour. Each bastion would fit onto any marauder, but would provide a significantly different flavour of bastion.

Keep in mind that in this scenario, we dumpster the tech 1 stats massively as you would expect from any other T1 module.

Let’s take a very easy example of a tank bastion vs a DPS bastion. Now that T1 is only really for new pilots and cheap fits, you have a choice of your tanky Caldari Navy ‘Hardened’ Bastion Module vs the high damage Federation Navy ‘Charged’ Bastion modue. Their stats might now look a bit like the table below.

Notice how the choice stat of your bastion is actually improved over the currently existing module. This provides a way for you to specialise even more than you are now to get incredible DPS or tank depending on your needs. Importantly, though, it forces you to actually make a decision on which area(s) you want to excel in and where you can make sacrifices. You might pick a high-tank variant to outlast your opponent but get punished by a counter of the slow grind of neuts. You might pick a high DPS version to lay waste to the battlefield but find yourself outmatched unable to survive to the end of your bastion cycle.

Even though you are specializing with your bastion, your non-focused specialization is still being bonused, just not as much as your specialization. For example, the Tank bastion still receives 20% the RoF bonus of current bastion, but not the full 50%, just like the DPS bastion still receives a partial tank bonus.

Stitch, upon proofreading and making sure we mention this! šŸ˜€

Those sound like simplistic scenarios, but it gets much more complex and interesting once you start varying stats across 4-5 different bastion styles in different ways.

Working NameCURRENT T1Tech 1Hardened (Tank)Charged (Damage)
Race/LoreN/AAIRCaldariGallente
DescriptionThe current buffs provided by T1 BastionOnly small bonuses, for low-skilled playersHigh tank bastion with lower stats other placesHigh damage bastion with lower stats
Tank (Resist)Shield: 1.3x
Armour: 1.3x
Hull: 1.3x
Shield: 1.1x
Armour: 1.1x
Hull: 1.1x
Shield: 1.35x
Armour: 1.35x
Hull: 1.35x
Shield: 1.15x
Armour: 1.15x
Hull: 1.15x
Tank (Active)Shield Boost: 2x
Armour Boost: 2x
Shield Boost: 1.25x
Armour Boost: 1.25x
Shield Boost: 2.25x
Armour Boost: 2.25x
Shield Boost: 1.3x
Armour Boost: 1.3x
DamageRate of Fire: 2xRate of Fire: 1.3xRate of Fire: 1.45xRate of Fire: 2.25x
ApplicationOptimal: 1.25x
Falloff: 1.25x
Missile Velocity: 1.25x
Optimal: 1.08x
Falloff: 1.08x
Missile Velocity: 1.08x
Optimal: 1.1x
Falloff: 1.1x
Missile Velocity: 1.1x
Optimal: 1.1x
Falloff: 1.1x
Missile Velocity: 1.1x
MobilitySpeed: 0%
MJD C/D: 60s
Bastion C/D: 30s
Speed: 0%
MJD C/D: 60s
Bastion C/D: 60s
Speed: 0%
MJD C/D: 60s
Bastion C/D: 45s
Speed: 0%
MJD C/D: 60s
Bastion C/D: 45s
Ewar ResistTarget Paint: 1.5x
Sensor Damp: 1.5x
Weapon Disrupt: 1.5x
Sensor Strength: 2x
Target Paint: 1x
Sensor Damp: 1x
Weapon Disrupt: 1x
Sensor Strength: 1x
Target Paint: 1.15x
Sensor Damp: 1.15x
Weapon Disrupt: 1.15x
Sensor Strength: 1.3x
Target Paint: 1.15x
Sensor Damp: 1.15x
Weapon Disrupt: 1.15x
Sensor Strength: 1.3x
An example for understanding the concept of Bastion Variants

You might now be wondering how that looks on an actual ship. Here are a few Pyfa setups with tank and DPS bastions courtesy of Stitch. They’re interesting to look at, though do note in this screenshot that the tank bastion has Hail loaded, not Barrage. You can see how when going into battle you have to make the choice whether to fit for high tank and survival, for high DPS, or a hybrid which aims for something in the middle more similar to what we have today but a little worse.

We’ve also been chatting a little about if you were able to use up some more of those utility highs to fit multiple bastion variants for making a choice mid-fight. There are pros and cons to that but it’s super interesting and great food for thought.


Expanding The Idea

We can and have taken this idea a step further to consider what an actual implementation of Bastion Variants might look like in EVE. In reality the idea of dropping all stats in exchange for a single boosted stat is likely to be unappealing for those who are looking to keep marauders as a strong option. For what it’s worth, the original four we had were Tank, DPS, Quick, and Slow Bastions

Instead, we have a few ideas around creating characteristic types which represent a particular fighting style. Naturally, this has to come alongside hefty changes to most stats across the board. Specific stats are also something that people get hung up on quite easily so we’d likely do better to evoke the feeling of each bastion with ideas and a few ideas for particular stats.

In addition to these specific variants, EWAR resistance should be dropped across the board from 50% to 20%, and sensor strength from 2x to 1.5x. T1 would also be seeing significant reductions in stats across the board as in the original examples.

As a reminder, these modules can be used on any of the marauders and are not racially locked. They’re also by no means final!


Federation Navy Bastion – “Slow Fighter”

A Gallente Bastion would be the only Bastion to have high levels of tank and good damage. For these losses, it would see a reduction in range and the longest cycle time of either 75 or 90 seconds. Picking this “slow” style of Bastion provides immense power providing that you are willing to take that risk of not catching reps. It’s an excellent choice for someone with a strong self-tank outside of large fleet combat.

The main purpose for this existing is to ensure that PvE activities are not disrupted too much while also allowing both PvP and PvE pilots to fly their dream powerhouse of a battleship into battle. They’ll just have to do it at a bit of a closer range, with less EWAR resistance, and without taking reps as easily.

Republic Fleet Bastion – “Quick Brawler”

Suffering immensely on range and receiving no range bonus from its Bastion at all, the quick brawler style doesn’t aim to snipe from long range most of the time. Its tank is also middle of the pack and nothing to shout about. What it makes up for, however, is pure DPS on a super quick cycle time. This would be the only Bastion of the entire set to retain a 30 second timer.

Paladins utilising this variant would still be able to dip into Bastion to throw out heavy DPS on target at the cost of having a significant hit to their tank and range. In a marauder vs marauder battle, they lose out in raw stats to a more committal Bastion Variant.

Caldari Navy Bastion – “Sniper”

The Caldari in this hypothetical universe go for a sniper variant for their Bastion style. This module comes with no tank bonuses at all while having the highest damage alongside the quick brawler. It’s other unique feature is that of the longest range of any Bastion. With a decently high cycle time of approximately 60 seconds, it is punished by groups that are able to get on top of it to pierce the flimsy tank.

Since this variant shares the common feature of having reduced overall EWAR resistances, a well prepared opponent also has counterplay options of using weapon disruption against them.

Imperial Navy Bastion – “Slowcat”

This variant, developed by the Amarr, also features an extremely long range. Instead of DPS, though, it turtles its way to victory with a sturdy tank. Keeping up with the theme of turtling down wherever you are on grid, this Bastion shares the 75 or 90 second cycle time.

There is also potentially room on this particular Bastion to lift up the EWAR resist slightly to help really define that purpose. I could see this being used by larger groups who don’t need all the DPS, but could do with a very tanky sniper platform. Utilising close-range weapons might also be a very interesting play vs cruiser fleets to increase your DPS within the range you expect to fight.


The true benefit to making these changes is that it helps create more choice and put a positive spin on what would otherwise be a flat nerf. Simply dropping stats down is the easy and unpopular choice that game developers hate to make. It upsets people and doesn’t add anything fun to the game at all. By taking a more interesting route like this, however, we create fun, new gameplay that players want to engage with while also disrupting the problematic parts of the meta.

Furthermore, Bastion Variants leave room for balance levers to be adjusted without whacking every ship with the same nerf bat. It’s not something which needs to solve the problem entirely from day one. I hope that this at least gives you something to think about and consider.

Would Bastion Variants be a bad thing or do you think that they sound super fun to play around with? If you were to create archetypes for how marauders should be flown, what would you design? How would you changes affect every area of space?

Published inEVE Online

14 Comments

  1. Roxas Roxas

    Here my 2 cent murauders being good i never a bad this instead of nerfing em buff everything around them that how we should treat it when any thing is op just buff every thing else make everything viable is basically what im saying

    • That is the same effect as nerfing but with the downside of contributing to power creep. It’s a common thing in game design and one that really hurts games.

    • Baalzebub9285 Baalzebub9285

      I think one big problem is flying around in T1 is a death sentence. They’re way too slow in relation to the Navy variants in the cruiser class so I’d speed them up a bit. So increasing the effectiveness of those starter ships makes space more dangerous as chances of being overrun by a pack of howling newbros increases.

  2. Jsjsjd Jsjsjd

    Stfu

  3. Darvon Darvon

    Make the bastion variant effect different colors depending on the race fitted. This will allow for more counter plays once you see them on grid. In the same way identifying t3c shapes increases the skill ceiling, this should make it more interactive

  4. Virenex Virenex

    Thanks for the write-up. I like that it simultaneously increases tactical variety for marauder pilots and marauder hunters, without just nerfing marauders back into irrelevance.

    Most marauders I see are Triple XLASB Vargurs which are effectively immune to cap pressure, in addition to having the enormous tank, dps, and ewar resistance common to all marauders. It’s discouraging that the only counterplay is overwhelming brute force, which just becomes a contest between two stationary fleets to see who is willing to commit more ISK to the fight. At least HAC fights actually involve flying.

  5. LongDongSilvers LongDongSilvers

    This is pretty idiotic. Come off the crackpipe

    • Go fuck yourself

      • LongDongSilvers LongDongSilvers

        I am sadly ill-equipped to handle such a task.. You however….

        Jokes aside, thanks for proving my point. Glad you don’t work at CCP.

  6. Jdub Jdub

    Good ideas, but I’m not sure CCP is hearing them. Marauders are expensive for a sub cap ship, and are good at pretty much everything. Which means people will buy plex to get them. So… where is CCP’s incentive to change them? Because short term money is all CCP cares about these days.

  7. Melicien Tetro Melicien Tetro

    I love the ideas!
    One thing Iā€™d say from an implementation standpoint and possibly for gameplay fun, maybe scripts instead of entirely new modules? The risk during the reload time for extra flexibility, with perhaps the unscripted version being a slightly nerfed bastion/your AIR bastion?

  8. Bold Podiene Bold Podiene

    I’m glad to see you’re posting more often, your blog makes Eve more enjoyable for me.

  9. Galand Galand

    Love the idea, it’s a “fun” way to nerf.
    I would prefer keeping the same bonuses, but having half apply during bastion and half out.
    For example:

    Out of Bastion – tracking bonus and ewar resistance to clear tackle. No RoF.

    In Bastion: Tank and RoF. No tracking (the nanites prevent the tracking computers from working)

    This makes the marauders have to drop out of Bastion to apply to small ships and gives small gangs a chance to hold them.

    • That’s a really interesting way to do it!
      I would also be down for something like a high DPS low tracking and low DPS high tracking bastion setup šŸ˜€

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