While frigates are fantastically cheap ships in which to learn the basics of PvP, their effectiveness on the battlefield is limited. Most tech 1 frigates struggle to deal anywhere near 100 damage per second, and if caught by enemy tacklers they die quickly. While the next step up is the destroyer class, I strongly advise PvP-oriented players to skip it and move straight on to cruisers. Although cruisers have less mobility than frigates and are easier for large ships to hit, they pack a big punch for a relatively low cost and can take a bit of a beating.
In this week's extra large EVE Evolved, I share effective and battle-tested setups for the Thorax, Vexor, Arbitrator, and Omen that new players can use with less than two weeks of skills trained. I also suggest skills to train and give a few tips for keeping costs down. If you're a fan of Minmatar or Caldari ships, tune in to next week's EVE Evolved for the continuation of this article.
The setups listed in this article assume that you've put at least a week of training into combat skills. You'll need Engineering IV and Electronics IV to fit them, and Drones V if you want to field a full fleet of five drones. As both Gallente and Amarr ships favour armour tanking buffer fits, get the Mechanic and Hull Upgrades skills up to level III.
For ships reliant on drones, train Scout Drone Operation III and Combat Drone Operation III for extra range and damage. The biggest benefit you'll get will be from Drone Interfacing, which gives a massive 20% bonus per level to drone damage. This is a high-rank skill that will take a long time to train, but it's definitely worth taking a day out to train it to level III.
To get the most out of the turrets' early skill levels, it's recommended that you train up Motion Prediction, Controlled Bursts, Rapid Firing, Sharpshooter, and Weapon Upgrades all to level III. These are all fast-training rank 2 skills and so getting them all to level III should only take a few days. You should also aim to train Medium Hybrid Turret III for the Thorax and Vexor, Medium Energy Turret III for the Omen and Energy Emissions Systems III for the Arbitrator.
Thorax is my personal favourite ship in the whole of EVE, and the buffer fit above was a staple of my corporation's faction warfare fleets for over a year. Although it can field a fleet of five medium drones, most of the Thorax's damage relies on getting close enough to scrape the paint off its target's hull. Use the microwarpdrive to approach your target, launch drones while approaching and activate the stasis web and warp scrambler once within 10km and 8km respectively.
Activate your guns once within 8km and close in to around 1-2km from the target. Deactivate your microwarpdrive as soon as you're close to the target, as it will drain your capacitor rapidly and increase your signature radius by 500%, making you incredibly easy to hit. Once next to the target, your job is to sit still and tear the enemy to pieces while absorbing any damage thrown at you.
Valkyrie I drones add explosive damage to your output, which will help if the enemy has high thermal and kinetic resistance. If your group has no dedicated ECM ships, consider using five Vespa EC-600 ECM drones instead. A fleet of thoraxes with ECM drones is incredibly effective, and the skills required to use them don't take very long to train. If your group has no one with a long range warp disruptor, also consider swapping the Fleeting Progressive Warp Scrambler I for a Warp Disruptor I.
Vexor is the Thorax's little brother, featuring a heavier reliance on drones than turrets and a permanent happy face. It's a versatile little ship that can be fit a number of different ways, from pure gank fits with neutron blasters to setups using energy vampires and even shield tanked fits. The setup above is essentially the same buffer-fit DPS fitting as the Thorax but with lower damage output, fewer hitpoints and a lower price tag. After factoring in insurance, a fully fit Vexor bought for a good price can cost just over one million ISK to lose.
The extremely low price of medium drone rigs makes them a great option for a throwaway PvP Vexor, but fitting them decreases your ship's maximum CPU. To make the above setup fit with two Medium Drone Speed Augmentor I rigs, you'll need to train Drones Rigging to level III. The Vexor's 100m3 drone bay makes it possible to carry two fleets of five medium drones, which can be used to carry five ECM drones and five damage drones. You can then swap between them mid fight as required. Other than that, this ship should be used the exact same way as the Thorax.
If you don't mind losing your ECM utility and expect to be facing larger targets like battlecruisers and battleships, it's possible to squeeze more damage out of the Vexor by using two Ogre Is, two Hammerhead Is and one Hobgoblin I. If you do this, try not to launch drones until you're almost on top of the target as Ogre Is are very slow. This leaves 25m3 in the drone bay, which is enough for a full flight of five light ECM drones or Warrior Is. Warriors are the fastest drones in the game and awesome for chasing down frigates.
Skip over to page 2 for battle-tested setups for the Amarr Arbitrator and Omen, tips on keeping the cost down and some valuable strategic lessons to apply on the battlefield.