Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Firetail vs Drake

I was out on a typical low-sec solo roam in my Firetail when I saw a self-named Drake on d-scan.  He wasn't in line with any of the celestials or asteroid belts in the system, so I had my alt drop combat probes and quickly scanned him down.  He was at a data site with a Magnate.  This is very odd.  Although I could tell from local that both of them were in the same corp, there is still absolutely no reason at all for a Drake to be at a data site.  For him to also be in a self-named ship also shows that he probably has very limited PVP experience.  For these reasons, I didn't look at this fight as "a Firetail vs. a Drake".  That's a fight that's un-winnable for the Firetail.  I instead looked at it as a fight between me, and someone who probably doesn't know what he's doing.  That's a scenario that's potentially winnable no matter what ship I'm flying.  Without any hesitation I warped to the data site to engage.

After I landed, the magnate quickly died after only a few artillery volleys.  I pointed the Drake and set an orbit for 20 km in order to maximize my speed.  This is critical against missile-based ships, especially ones that are likely fit with either Heavy or Heavy Assault Missiles because they typically have trouble dealing damage to small targets.  It worked like a charm.  He began firing at me, but his missiles barely touched my shields.  After I shot down his drones, I was more or less able to perma-tank his DPS.

Unfortunately, I could tell that he was using a PvE fit with purger rigs, designed for maximum shield recharge rate.  There was no way I was going to be able to deal enough DPS to break his tank with just a frigate.  I spent the next few minutes asking for backup in the Tuskers intel channel, our Skype & Steam groups, and finally the Tuskers Public Channel.  Nobody's around.  A few people were logged on but were AFK. Not a big shock since I play in a pretty weird time zone.  The good news is that my shields were holding just fine, so I could afford to be patient.  On the other hand, I felt that I had at least consider the possibility that I would have to let him go with nothing to show for it.  After nearly 15 minutes into the fight, I decided to try to ransom his ship.  I invited him to our ransom channel:

[01:14:50] EVE System > Channel MOTD: Hello, one or more members of The Tuskers are prepared to destroy your vessel. Should you wish to pay a ransom to save your ship, please do the following immediately:

1. Turn off all modules (including guns, missile launchers, webbers, scrams, etc.) and recall all drones. Stop your ship.

2. From the time a ransom amount appears below, you will have 30 seconds to pay the amount specified. Right-click the picture of the pirate stating our demands and select "give money" to do this.

If you do not comply immediately, we will re-open fire on your vessel. If we get nervous for any reason we will re-open fire on your vessel.

[03:13:57] Iddo Cohaagen > o/ OldFool52
[03:14:17] Iddo Cohaagen > you've tanked your ship very nicely, I must say
[03:14:42] OldFool52 > thx
[03:14:55] Iddo Cohaagen > my pathetic firetail obviously can't break your tank
[03:15:29] Iddo Cohaagen > however, for the last 10 minutes I've been trying to get someone (anyone) to come out here to help me
[03:15:31] OldFool52 > stale mate so let us finish here and we'll be on our way
[03:15:48] Iddo Cohaagen > havne't succeeded yet, but I'm confident I will  eventually
[03:16:21] OldFool52 > i've got lots of ammo and you still can't break my tank
[03:16:46] Iddo Cohaagen > so, instead of waiting for that eventuality, why don't you pay a perfectly reasonable ransom of 25M isk and I will let you go
[03:16:57] OldFool52 > lol
[03:17:09] Iddo Cohaagen > oh no doubt you have lots of ammo
[03:17:13] Iddo Cohaagen > I'm very, very impressed
[03:17:26] OldFool52 > don't ransom especially when friends arrive
[03:17:37] Iddo Cohaagen > look, I'll get my alt out here and dual box this if I have to

This is an empty threat on my part as I have no suitable alts that I can log on.  Also, I again fail as a pirate.  I offered a lowball ransom partly because I had very little leverage at the time, and partly because I've still never managed to successfully ransom someone.  The deal was actually pretty good for him, since a fully-fit Battlecruiser will cost somewhere around 70M isk.  He was certainly right about one thing though: he had LOTS of missiles with him.  I really was struck by how much ammo he must have been carrying.  He'd been shooting me for almost 20 minutes straight, stopping only to reload.  He still wasn't able to break through my shields, thanks to the Firetail's natually high speed and small signature radius (and maybe Skirmish links had something to do with it too...heh..heh).

[03:18:32] Iddo Cohaagen > seriously, how much ammo DO you have?
[03:18:33] Iddo Cohaagen > god
[03:18:58] OldFool52 > plenty, beleive in carrying alot of ammo

As time progressed I was starting to give up on scoring the Drake kill.  The best I was hoping for was that some of his corp mates would come to his rescue and give me a decent fight.  At the very least the guy piloting the Magnate that I destroyed could have reshipped.  Alternatively, the guy could very well have gotten bored and decided to pay the ransom after all.  There were still plenty of good reasons to stick around, and I wasn't in any real danger.

Pretty soon though, I finally got a response in our public channel.  Redrector, a member of Snuff Box, was only 5 jumps away and was all too happy to help rid the universe of another purger-fit Drake.  He landed on grid with me in a Vexor within a couple minutes.  I was feeling pretty pleased with myself.  It may have taken half an hour, but perseverance really does pay off sometimes!

[03:28:12] Iddo Cohaagen > =)
[03:28:17] Iddo Cohaagen > can't wait to see how much [ammo] you have left

A few minutes later it was apparent that we STILL did not have enough DPS to break through his tank.  I may have only been dealing 120 dps with my kite-fit frigate, but he was using a mixed flight of drones, including two Ogre II's.  His DPS must have been at least 500, and probably closer to 600.  Now I see why Drakes are so popular for running missions.  Bad news for us.  Not only that, but the Drake had switched targets to Redrector's Vexor.  He was not able to signature-tank the missiles as well as me, and was soon forced to pull out of the Drake's missile range.

[03:33:40] Iddo Cohaagen > jesus man
[03:34:03] OldFool52 > you had better leave now
[03:35:39] OldFool52 > almost have his alt ship down

Unbelievable.  Not only did I have to batphone another corp to help me kill a damn Drake, but it's starting to look like failure is a real possibility.  Fortunately Redrector DID have another PVP alt that he could log on, and he was just as determined to finish this as I was.  His alt was on his way with a Vagabond.  I had been spamming short d-scan regularly up to now, fully expecting backup to arrive.  Right as I saw our Vagabond enter the system was when I saw another Drake appear on d-scan.  The timing could not have possibly been any better.  Red saw his backup coming too and immediately tackled the 2nd Drake.  Now that we had sufficient DPS on grid to break their shields, the fight was over very quickly.


Killmail for the first Drake.  Look at how many missiles he STILL has left!
Killmail for the second Drake

[03:37:10] OldFool52 > shit he has more help
[03:39:20] OldFool52 > real cheap
[03:40:39] EVE System > OldFool52 was kicked from the channel by Iddo Cohaagen
Reason: "None"
Thanks Drakes for one of the more interesting and memorable encounters I've had in a while, and thanks to Redrector for the backup!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Business Saturday: Thoughts on Hauling

My primary source of income has become running PI factory planets, which nets about 1.5B isk/month in income by using two PI alts.  In order to keep my planets running continuously, each character must be supplied with an 800,000 m3 load of PI commodities every 11 days.  That's 4 freighter runs every 11 days between Jita & my high-sec staging system.  Each trip would cost me 13.9M isk if I were to pay Red Frog to do this, which comes out to about 151M isk/month in hauling costs.

That was expensive enough to get my attention, and this is why I bought a Freighter so that I could do the hauling myself.  A freighter is required not only for the input materials (which have a huge volume), but also for the output commodities that are shipped to a trade hub for sale.  A T1 industrial is capable of doing this, but the value of the goods is high enough that it makes the likelihood of a suicide gank very high.  A freighter on the other hand has enough EHP to haul 1B isk worth of cargo without attracting attention from suicide gankers.

This ship is beautiful
I also always autopilot my freighter while I'm AFK.  Every time.  Because of the ridiculously slow align times and warp speed, manually jumping a freighter through 18 jumps is for masochists.  Anyone who says a freighter shouldn't ever be auto-piloted has never actually owned one.  You can also logically infer that auto-piloting a freighter that's carrying less than 1B isk in cargo is relatively low risk.  In terms of isk/hr, actively piloting a freighter while doing courier contracts is much worse than mining (using Red Frog's prices as a basis).  It also requires a more expensive ship than a mining barge, AND it requires that you put up at least hundreds of millions in collateral.  Why would anyone EVER take up hauling as a career under these conditions?

To get the answer, consider it in a different way.  Imagine that you could invest 1.2B isk in an asset that allows you to a few buttons and make 10-20M isk in 1-2 hours, completely passively.  This is actually pretty decent income for the effort & time required, and this is why hauling exists as a career.  Red Frog would NOT be charging such low prices if freighters couldn't be auto-piloted while AFK!  I guarantee you that the vast majority of their pilots are auto-piloting right now.

Red Frog also insures their own pilots from loss, and since it is impossible to enforce a rule against auto-piloting, they must have determined that the risk of a suicide gank is very low.  They make the risk so small by allowing a maximum collateral of 1B isk on all courier contracts, effectively preventing their ships from becoming loot pinatas.  Conclusion: if you value your time at all, you will haul your goods AFK, and you will not carry more than 1B in cargo.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The New Rifter

With Rubicon 1.3, the Rifter's tracking bonus was replaced with a falloff bonus.  This is widely regarded as a needed buff to this hull.  I have Minmatar Frigate V trained, but I've never flown a Rifter before; there's really been no reason to when there were other hulls that were clearly superior.  The old Rifter suffered from a few major problems:

1. Bad slot layout (3/3/3 + 1 utility high slot)
2. Low DPS
3. Good, but not "great" speed

In comparison, the Slasher has a great slot layout (4 mid slots!) and outstanding speed.  This means people mostly saw the Rifter as a worse version of a Slasher, and for the most part they were right.  Is that still true?  Is the Rifter relevant now?  Let's look at a standard cookie-cutter Rifter fit:

[Rifter, Rifter 1]
Damage Control II
Gyrostabilizer II
Small Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste

1MN Afterburner II
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator

200mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
200mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
200mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
5W Infectious Power System Malfunction

Small Auxiliary Nano Pump I
Small Projectile Burst Aerator I
Small Anti-Explosive Pump I

Deals 141 DPS cold at a range of 0.8+9 km
Speed is 1134 m/s (cold)

Let's compare this to the rail Incursus that I like so much:

[Incursus, Rail incursus (speed)]
Small Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
'Refuge' Adaptive Nano Plating I
Damage Control II

1MN Afterburner II
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator

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 Hybrid Burst Aerator I
Small Auxiliary Nano Pump I
Small Polycarbon Engine Housing I

Hobgoblin II x1

This gives 144 DPS, and 1191 m/s speed, both cold.  It's slightly faster than the Rifter, mainly because the Rifter has an armor resistance rig and the Incursus has its speed enhanced with a polycarbon rig.  Otherwise, the Rifter is a naturally faster hull, but not by much.  And therein lies the problem with the slot layout.  The extra low slot on the Incursus means I can partially plug resistance holes with a nano plating, and instead devote the rig slot to improving my speed.  The Rifter has no such option, and must devote rig slots towards improving resistances.

The Rail Incursus is a pure scram-kiting fit.  It's been suggested that the Rifter can now perform this role thanks to the new falloff bonus.  Lets look at an EFT comparison of the rail Incursus, compared with the Rifter.  I've included two curves on the Rifter here, one with short-range faction ammo loaded, and the other with Barrage:


At 7.5km, the Incursus smokes the Rifter in terms of DPS, and it has a better tank thanks to its armor rep bonus.  Hello loss-mail for the Rifter.  On the other hand, if the Rifter is able to start the fight at brawling range, it has a great chance of winning the fight due to its neutralizer and its ability to match the speed of the Incursus.  This capability is nothing new though, and the Slasher is still flat out better at executing this.

It's also been suggested that Artillery fits on the new Rifter have become more viable, thanks to the falloff bonus.  Here's an Arty fit I came up with:

[Rifter, Rifter 2]
Pseudoelectron Containment Field I
Small Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste
Gyrostabilizer II

1MN Afterburner II
Faint Warp Disruptor I
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator

250mm Light Artillery Cannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
250mm Light Artillery Cannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
250mm Light Artillery Cannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
[empty high slot]

Small Projectile Burst Aerator I
Small Projectile Ambit Extension I
Small Polycarbon Engine Housing I

Below is the DPS chart from EFT, with the Arty Rifter shown in green (The AC rifter with barrage loaded remains in blue for reference):


It turns out that DPS for both artillery and autocannons is roughly identical at the edge of scram range!  The key advantage of artillery is that it can hit out to the edge of point range, giving it a fighting chance against long-range MWD kiting ships, and allowing it to kite outside of overheated web range.  The rail Incursus also has this capability, and it actually beats the arty Rifter fit at point range in DPS if it switches to iridium ammo.  The advantage STILL lies with the Incursus.

My current favorite point+web kiting fit is currently the Atron, which I wrote about in an earlier blog post.  Below is a comparison between the Atron and the Artillery Rifter fit.  Considering that the Atron's speed is 1382 m/s and the Rifter's is 1259 m/s, and that both ships have the same signature radius, and I'll stick with the Atron.



My conclusion: I'd rather be flying a rail Atron or a rail Incursus than any Rifter fit.  However, I would probably now favor the AC Rifter over blaster ships, simply because it now has the option of scram-kiting certain ships that it can't outbrawl (even if it isn't very good at scram-kiting, it has better projection than blasters with null ammo).  The Rifter is also still a useful fleet tackler thanks to its small signature radius.  In terms of the rankings I did earlier this month, I would now rank the Rifter as slightly better than the Merlin.  This is a mild buff, but that's about it.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Skillz

My main, Iddo Cohaagen, now has 12.8 million skill points.  I've come a long way, and it's a good time to reflect upon what I'm now capable of doing.  Here are the major skills I've trained:

Gallente Frigate V
Minmatar Frigate V
Gallente Cruiser V
Caldari & Gallente Battlecruiser IV
T2 Small Hybrids & Projectiles
T2 Medium Hybrids
Assault Frigate IV, Interceptors IV
Fitting skills at V (except Advanced Weapon Upgrades IV)
Most key support skills (Navigation, Capacitor, etc) at IV

I can fly Gallente & Minmatar T1 frigates well, I can fly a Thorax & Celestis well and a Vexor at an "acceptable" level (still need those damn drone skills!), and I can field a Battlecruiser in a gang situation if the need arises.  Access to assault frigates & interceptors is also incredibly useful in a wide variety of situations.

Over the course of the next year, Iddo is going to become somewhat of a specialist on cruiser-sized hulls.  I am now training medium lasers, which will be followed immediately by Amarr Cruiser V.  I'm also going to grab Minmatar Destroyer V soon, because I want to play around with Thrashers a bit more.  The Tuskers are now flying Battlecruisers so infrequently that it doesn't really make too much sense to train any of the hull skills to V right now (and Battleships? Forget it).  The slow warp speed is really just painful.  Drone skills have been de-prioritized.  I really don't think it makes sense to max out Heavy & Sentry drones when there are so few ships that it will help (primarily the Ishtar, which I can't fly yet anyway).  I'm not sure that I'm even going to get Heavy Drones within the next year.

I have one re-map remaining, and a new one due to arrive at the end of July.  At some point, probably around 2 months from now, I'm going to need to remap to Int/Mem in order to polish off all my support skills, which will then be followed by a final remap to Per/Wil that will be more or less permanent.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Business Saturday: PI Factory Planets

I'm going to write a post on how my various ISK-making ventures are doing.  It's a part of the game that I'm really starting to enjoy.

Last month I wrote about my first experience with planetary interaction, which consisted of doing extraction and P2 commodity production in a C2 wormhole.  Unfortunately, I was effectively evicted by the owners of the POCOs in the system after they jacked up their tax rate.  So much for that idea!  The bright side is, my stay in the wormhole was going to be temporary.  I gained a lot of knowledge about PI in the meantime, and I soon made an observation, based on the prices of P1 and P2 commodities.  Here are the current Jita prices of Water, Electrolytes, and Coolant:

Water (P1, 0.38m3): 279.00 isk
Electrolytes (P1, 0.38m3): 392.99 isk
Coolant (P2, 1.5m3): 7,698.98 isk

One cycle in an Advanced Industry Facility takes 40 units of water and 40 units of electrolytes and produces 5 units of coolant in 1 hour. That's a profit of 11,615.35 isk per cycle.  With Command Center Upgrades IV, you can have 19 factories, and with 5 planets, you can make nearly 800 million isk in 30 days.  This is with a character that's a week old, and has less than half a million skill points!  For comparison, I was only on track to make 300 million isk per character per month when I was doing extraction.  Here's the setup on my planets:



I use an Epithal to load enough water & electrolytes to fill up the customs office.  Then I transfer as much as I can to the two launchpads (water on the left, electrolytes on the right).  I then do an expedited transfer from the two launchpads to the adjacent storage facilities.  I finally transfer the remaining materials from the customs office to the launchpads.  This trick with the expedited transfer allows me to load more input materials than would normally fit into a launchpad, and it means that I only need to interact with the customs offices every other day rather than every day.

There's nothing to it really, just load up 30 million isk worth of water and electrolytes, and pick up 42 million isk worth of coolant 60 hours later.  So why doesn't everyone do this?  First, I have access to corp-owned POCOs.  The numbers I listed are only feasible with 0% tax.  Second, logistics is more difficult.  800,000m3 of water & electrolytes will only supply 5 factory planets for 11 days.  That's a LOT of hauling, and this is one of the major reasons I decided to buy a Freighter recently.

You can probably tell that a freighter load of the P1 materials isn't exactly cheap either; I'm tying up almost 650M isk with each load, so this isn't an accessible income stream to broke newbies the way that extraction is.  Fortunately, a return of more than 33% of the investment in only 11 days is really excellent.  When I was station trading I was only making about 2-3% return per day on my invested capital, and it wasn't nearly as consistent or predictable.  Pretty much all my liquid isk is being invested into PI right now, so station trading has been put on hold.

I now have one character with 5 planets set up, and I'll be setting up a second character's planets over the course of the next week.  That's more than 1.5B/month of income if I'm able to keep all the planets going.  I'd like to buy a Jump Freighter (6.5B), a suitcase Carrier (1B + 1B for skill books), and a low-grade Snake clone (750M) in the future, so I really need to get to work on this!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Spare Modules: A Pirate's Best Friend

I was solo roaming when I spotted a relatively new player in a new-named Gnosis, running missions in Aeschee.  This is a pretty common sight, as Aeschee is a fairly active low-sec mission hub.

I quickly brought my probing alt into the system, and prayed that he wasn't knowledgeable enough in order to check his d-scan for combat probes.  He wasn't.  Good news for me.  I was in a Thorax, but at this point I had absolutely no doubt as to my ability to get the kill as long as I could tackle him.  He may have been in a ship that was a class above my own, but because of the age of his character, odds are that he was in a bad fit.  Add to this the fact that he had limited PVP experience, and I could probably have gotten the kill in an Incursus just as easily as a Thorax.

As I was warping to his mission, my only real concern was that I would land too far away from him to get point before he had time to warp away.  When I took the acceleration gate outside his mission, I landed almost right on top of him.  I could nearly taste the kill as I locked him up, landed my scram and web, and started blasting through his shields with hot void ammo.  Excitement was quickly replaced my disappointment when I watched him casually warp away. 

Warp core stabilizers, the scourge of my existence.  I've long since lost count of how many kills I've watched slip away because my target had multiple stabilizers fit on his ship.  I spent a few moments checking my map and deciding where I was going to next, when I noticed that his ship was still out in space, and I suspected that he was going to go back to finish his mission.  Enough is enough, I decided.  I am not giving up on a stabbed ship today.  I checked the market and found a couple T2 warp scramblers in a local station.  They were priced at more than double what I'd pay at Jita, but at this point I didn't care.  I bought two and refit my ship with three scrams.  Now he'd only be safe if every one of his low slots was fit with a stabilizer.

I only had to wait for a minute or two before I watched him land back at his mission on my alt.  When I warped back and landed all three scrams, he was all done: http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=107961.  Good thing he decided to fit a damage control unit!

This made me think: I typically only bring spare ammo and nanite in my cargo hold when I roam solo.  Why don't I bring a cheap T1 scrambler (or two) in my cargo hold so that I can quickly re-fit as needed?  I've certainly encountered enough situations where it would have been useful to have.  I'm also often frustrated that I can't gank mission running frigates or explorers as easily when I'm flying a cruiser, simply because the lock time is so much longer and they have much more time to escape.  In situations like these it's useful to carry a sensor booster with a scan resolution script.  

What other mods do you find useful?


Monday, March 3, 2014

Ranking the T1 Frigates for Solo PVP

A common question among new players is what type of ship & fit they should fly if they're just starting to try out solo or small gang pvp.  For gangs, it's a pretty easy answer: if there's a gang doctrine, you fly the ship the FC tells you.  If not, then pick your favorite ship and go with it.  Often your mere presence in the gang is much more valuable than having the "best" ship.

Solo is different.  Each race has two combat frigates and one attack frigate.  That's 12 ships in all, with tons of variations in fits among each.  In 1v1 battles, it is nigh impossible for CCP to balance all of these ships perfectly, so naturally some are going to be better than others.  Rather than rank all the ships individually, I've ordered them into five tiers (from best to worst).  This is based only off my experience soloing in low sec for the past 4 months.  Don't be mad if I think your favorite ship sucks, be happy that it's underrated!

Tier 1 (Best): Incursus, Breacher, Slasher, Condor
Tier 2: Tristan, Tormentor, Atron
Tier 3: Merlin, Kestrel
Tier 4: Executioner, Rifter
Tier 5 (Worst): Punisher

Tier 1 Ships

If you've read any of my other posts, then you know that I will extol the virtues of the rail Incursus to anybody who will listen.  The Incursus is also a great brawler, capable of dealing a ton of DPS, and the famous dual-rep fit is deadly against the right target.  Just a very versatile and effective hull.  The Rocket Breacher is a top-notch scram kiter, while Light Missile Breachers are great MWD-kiters, which have the mid slots to spare for a tracking disruptor.

The Slasher isn't very versatile (artillery fits just aren't viable because of low DPS, in my opinion).  However, autocannon fits with a neutralizer in the utility high slot are deadly against laser & hybrid ships.  Slashers are so fast that they simply cannot be scram-kited unless you have two webs.  They are the best at what they do, by a long shot.

The Condor is king of MWD kiting ships, and dual-TD/dual-damp fits are so effective that most people simply refuse to fight Condors.  A great ship, but you might have a problem getting fights.

Tier 2 Ships

I almost made the Tristan a Tier 1 ship, and with max drone skills (including drone interfacing V), it probably is.  The Tristan is ridiculously versatile, but it doesn't quite "excel" at anything.  It can't be as good a brawler as a Merlin, MWD fits aren't as good at kiting as Condors, and AB/rail fits aren't as good at scram-kiting as a rail Incursus or a Breacher.  Still, it is a great, great ship overall.

The Tormentor is the best option the Amarr have.  I mentioned in an earlier post that Tormentors are good scram kiters that can double as decent brawlers simply by switching ammo.  However, I'd rather be flying an Incursus in most situations.  Tormentors are fairly slow, and they have no means to deal with long-range kiting ships (max range of Scorch ammo is only about 12km).  The Tormentor also isn't particularly versatile.

The Atron on the other hand, works as either brawler or a longer-range kiting ship against many targets.  It's biggest weakness is its low EHP, which means that it will get out-brawled by ships like the Merlin or Incursus, and kiting fits will die fast against anything that can hit them. Overall, I prefer flying Atrons as kiters (described in an earlier post), but I've found that they aren't able to engage as broad a variety of targets as a good scram-kiting ship.  "Slasher-like" fits aren't particularly viable on this ship either, it simply doesn't have the capacitor or the slot layout to handle a neutralizer the way that a Slasher can.  Flying an Atron can make you aware of just how powerful having a fourth mid-slot can be.

Tier 3 Ships

The Merlin is ranked alone in this tier.  It has great DPS with blasters, excellent EHP, and it can scram-kite when fit with rails.  The biggest problem: Caldari ships are just SO DAMN SLOW.  In the current meta, soloing with a slow brawler just leads to a loss mail.  Just about anything, and I mean ANYTHING can kite you.  Every conventional Merlin fit I've tried just makes me wish that I was flying an Incursus instead.  The reason I keep Merlins in my hangar is that armor-tanked versions are deadly against the right target.  This opens up an extra mid slot for e-war modules.  I have a dual-web armor-tanked rail Merlin that I fly specifically to counter brawling Slashers, although it isn't much good against anything else.

The Kestrel is almost a missile version of the Merlin.  It shares a similar slot layout, hull bonuses, and slow speed.  In practice though, it flies more like a worse-version of the Breacher in a solo context.  The bonus it has to projection simply isn't as powerful as the Breacher's active shield tanking bonus, and rocket Kestrels aren't as good at scram-kiting as Breachers are.  The only reason the Kestrel isn't a tier 4 ship is that light missile kiting fits are actually quite effective, although it's not as good as a Condor in this role.

Tier 4 Ships

The Executioner is clearly below average.  Show me an Executioner fit, and I'll show you an Atron fit which is better.  Most people seem to agree with me, because I hardly ever seen an Executioner flown by someone who isn't plex farming.

The Rifter is just not very good either.  Artillery fits deal anemic DPS compared to small-railgun or pulse-laser fit scram kiters.  At best, brawling autocannon fits are just slower versions of the Slasher.  Fortunately, the Rifter is due for a major buff in an upcoming patch.  Its tracking bonus will be replaced by a falloff range bonus, which will help artillery fits significantly, and widen the engagement profile for AC fits (they'll be able to scram kite brawlers like the Merlin).  I believe this will elevate the Rifter to at least Tier 3, and certainly make it worth flying again.

Tier 5 Ships

The Punisher deserves to be in a class all by itself, because it really is just that bad.  What do you call a slow ship, without a web, that has no DPS projection beyond 12km?  A loss-mail waiting to happen.  Any ship even remotely capable of kiting can kite a Punisher, and any brawler can simply run away easily if he's losing.  Don't get me wrong, it's a good ship for a gang situation because it can have an excellent armor tank, but if you're soloing you're better off flying anything else.

You might notice that the Gallente & Minmatar ships are quite highly ranked, while the other races (especially Amarr) aren't doing so hot.  I really think that this is unfortunate, I'd love to see every race have a couple solid options.  I particularly feel for the newbie who starts off in a Punisher and repeatedly gets his ass handed to him, simply because he's flying such a bad ship.  The Caldari don't have things quite as bad, but they do suffer from having two frigates (The Condor & Hookbill) that are so good that many people simply won't fight them.