Saturday, May 10, 2014

Merlin Revisited

I used to fly Merlins very often when I first started PvPing.  Small hybrids were the first weapon system I trained into T2, and the bonus to shield resistance made them very attractive for use in the E-Uni frigate gangs that I frequented.  I slowly began to phase them out when I trained Gallente Frigate V, and when I learned how easy it is to kite a blaster Merlin and basically stopped using them altogether for several months.  I still don't think that a Merlin is a very strong ship for the kind of solo PvP I mostly do: it's a rather slow ship and its conventional rail variant is inferior to the Incursus.  In fact, I usually look upon a Merlin as an easy win.

I've recently finished training Caldari Frigate V, and I'm now taking another look at the Merlin.  There is one role in particular the Merlin excels at: counter-fitting for specific targets.  The idea here is armor-tank the Merlin, and use its mid slots for unconventional e-war mods that allow you to beat targets that you otherwise can't.  The first example is the perfect counter to Slashers:

[Merlin, Dual Web Rail Merlin]
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Damage Control II
Small Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste 
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator
1MN Afterburner II 
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S 
Small Auxiliary Nano Pump I
Small Hybrid Burst Aerator I
Small Polycarbon Engine Housing I

A Slasher usually looks at a Merlin as an easy target since they have a huge advantage in speed.  Against a blaster Merlin, a Slasher can either orbit at 5km and neut out the Merlin, or an armor variant can simply apply an optimal-range tracking disruptor and then scram-kite with Barrage ammo.  A conventional rail Merlin (with only a single web) is an even easier target: the Slasher uses its speed advantage to establish a tight orbit where it can't be hit, then can neut, run a tracking-scripted TD, and brawl down the Merlin using faction EM ammo.  Easy win.

The Slashers speed advantage and its ability to dictate range is completely negated by fitting the Merlin with two webs, and this completely turns the fight around.  Now the Merlin can scram-kite the Slasher outside of its neut range and use its rail guns to apply superior DPS.  If the Slasher has a TD, then the Merlin simply switches to thorium or iridium ammo, and still has better DPS than the Slasher at this range.  

The next version is a TD Merlin:

[Merlin, TD rail merlin]
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Small Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste
Damage Control II 
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator
DDO Photometry Tracking Disruptor I, Optimal Range Disruption Script
1MN Afterburner II 
150mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
150mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
150mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S 
Small Hybrid Burst Aerator I
Small Auxiliary Nano Pump I
Small Polycarbon Engine Housing I

With a polycarbon rig, this Merlin moves at 1100 m/s, which is not outstanding, but its faster than a Tormentor, a Punisher, a plated Incursus and a dual-rep Incursus.  There is literally almost no way this ship could lose to any of these ships aside from pilot error.  Its simple: kite at the edge of scram range, apply an optimal range TD, and plink away with railguns while avoiding any incoming DPS.  

In fact the TD Merlin is an interesting fit against any turret ship: A rail Incursus or a rail Atron fitted for speed and projection will probably have to disengage, and a Slicer would have to come within scram range in order to apply DPS with Scorch.  I think I'll fit a few of this up now...


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