Tips for Combat

Ok folks, it's time for a change of pace - I'd like to git gud at combat.
I've got to 25% Master by largely picking when to get interdicted and facetanking inferior opposition.

I'd like some suggestions about what ships, builds, and tactics to use to get better.

Rules of the game:
- I use a HOTAS so use of FA Off and Fixed Kinetics needs to be limited.
- I will not ever do PowerPlay, so no PP modules.
- I have full access to all the engineering that matters.
- PvE focused.

Where should I start?
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Rule one! An all gimbled loadout is for noobs, so at least 1 fixed weapon of choice.
I know I need the practice, so on my larger multi-purpose ships I usually have a mix.
At least one larger fixed weapon for practice, gimballed MCs for when the shields are down, and turret long-range beams for constant dps.

I guess I'm really looking at using small and medium ships, where facetanking won't be any good, and I'll need a more focused hardpoint selection.
i would start with a Vulture then, with a thermalvent beam and a focused PA or a dualshot screeningshell fragcannon.
and then work your way down to smaller ships like viper and such.
For starters either do bounty hunting in a policed RES or looking for wanted targets at a non-compromised nav beacon. Start with a small ship you already own to get comfortable. Shoot at wanted enemies the armed forces are already engaged with. When you think you're ready, start taking the first shot at small to medium wanted ships and let the cops help you deal with them.

Depending on money and ability your first combat-only ship could be an Eagle, Viper III, iCourier or even a Vulture. Thermal modded Bi-Weave shields are a must, supported by resistance augemented boosters. Maybe one chaff; point defense if you lose shield often. DD5 the thrusters (ships with class 2 and 3 thrusters can use Felicity's special Enhanced Performance ones). Put some heavy duty HRPs into the lower optional slots; if you have spare slots and enough power left, invest in guardian shield boosters. Depending on money, upgrade and engineer the bulkheads. Overcharged PP as needed, charge enhanced PD. Weapons: Most comfortable for beginners is a combo of gimballed lasers and kinetics. For lasers, take either efficient beams (thermal vent) or long range pulses (maybe one with scrambled spectrum). These go in the smaller slot(s). The bigger hardpoints will be occupied by overcharged multicannons (one with corrosive, the others auto-loader).

Set your power priorities correctly. Anything essential for getting away gets priority one, anything not in use with hardpoints deployed gets the lowest priority, everything else goes in between. Pre-plot a route to a nearby system, preferably one with an interstellar factors contact, for when things go awry. Use your small ship's superior speed and maneuverability to get into enemies' blind spots. If under heavy fire or when shields go down, boost away, regenerate and reassess. Never forget to set your pips depending on the situation.
The best way to start is in an Eagle or a Viper III. You want something quick, agile, and cheap - but not with heavy shields. The smaller shields will mean that when you make a mistake, you know about it, and it forces you to recognize that and correct. Big shields, when starting, just encourage bad habits.

Similarly, I wouldn't out to much of an emphasis on Engineering. It's not a make-or-break, just do what you're comfortable with.

I'd also second the "fixed weapon /gimbal weapon" loadout suggestion. You'll want to practice with fixed. I'd suggest gimaballed hitscan and fixed projecticles. That way you can focus more on lining up your projectile shots while still mostly doing damage.

Start out with a more "bursty" fixed too, cannons are easier to learn fixed than multis, since you need less time on target to get the damage in.

Set your loadout so that when your fixed is on target, your gimabls can still fire. Usually this means fixed on top and gimbals on bottom. When you're leading to hit with your fixed, your gimbals will be on target too. I did a LOT of combat back in the day in a Viper with 2x fixed c1 cannons and 2x gimballed c2 pulses.

As far as flying, most everything I'd say is covered by Vindicator Jones's excellent videos. He has a "learning combat" series I highly recommend. The short of it is "choose your engagements, initiate when it's most advantageous, try to stay out of the line of fire, use directional thrusters".

o7 Good luck out there, CMDR.
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Oh, and dynamically adjusting pips is a must. I have one of the hat switches on my HOTAS set with a pip macro: Down gives a balanced 2-2-2 (which I basically never use), left sets me at 4-1-1, up is 1-4-1, and right is 1-1-4.

Move pips frequently and based on what's happening. Pips in a full-capacitor system you're not actively using are wasted pips.
There are three tenets to combat that I follow. This applies to ALL ships. No matter how big and slow it is, the way you play the ship is exactly the same. Larger ships are just a bigger sidewinder.

1: Avoid damage as much as possible.
2: Mitigate damage as much as possible.
3: Eliminate sources of damage as fast as possible.

These are not listed in an order of priority but serve as three rules you should follow under most contexts. A small breakdown of the three is as follows.

Avoiding damage is obvious. You want to always be out of the enemy's firing arc as much as possible. With boosting (and you should be boosting), you can easily position to the side of most enemies, even for a very brief second.

Mitigating damage. This one is most detailed but it boils down to pip management. A big ship cannot fully evade smaller ships. They're going to have to take damage at some point. If you get hit with a railgun, your first instinct should be to throw all pips to shield if you can see your enemy and aren't actively evading them. With NPCs, they're almost certain to nail the next shot against you. 4 pips to shields gives you ~68% damage resistance, *multiplicative* on top of your base resistances (engineered or otherwise.) Likewise, if you're trying to boost around an enemy to get out of damage, you might have to throw a pip to shielding to sponge up an incoming Plasma Accelerator shot, but only for a second to absorb the damage before turning the rest of the pips to engine to recharge your boost and increase your maneuverability again. In short, you have to be throwing around your pips constantly, because active pip management is what makes the combat boring and hard into an actually engaging exercise of skill and management.

Eliminating or removing sources of damage should be obvious. Say you're flying a vulture. You have two large hardpoints, say two burst lasers. You see a wing composed of an eagle and a gunship. Which do you take out first?

If you said Gunship, you're wrong. If you remember the tenets of earlier, you should be avoiding as much damage as possible while mitigating it as much as possible. That means kiting the gunship. But you cannot kite more than one ship at a time. Even if you perfectly kite the gunship, that eagle is going to wear down your vulture's shields, and your vulture's dual bursts are going to have a hard time breaking through the hull of the gunship, even if you target the powerplant.

The correct answer is the eagle, because with Tenet 2 (Mitigating damage) you should have enough damage to burst down the eagle while throwing some pips to shield to reduce the gunship's incredible firepower for a brief moment. After the eagle is down, you can easily kite the gunship and circle around it and eventually snipe its powerplant with the burst lasers.

Something unstated but should be obvious is that your angle of attack against enemy hull is extremely important. Hitting an enemy from the front means they have a much smaller profile and will take much less damage. Multicannons seem to have a chance to be deflected if striking from a bad angle. However, shooting perpendicular to your enemy hull seems to increase damage. I believe it's because the angle of attack allows for more hits on target AND because it simply makes sense for FDev to have this level of detail given how inconsistent damage is against hull at times. That and it literally just makes sense, because it's why armor on modern military vehicles is angled, so as to deflect the energy of any incoming blow. This just coincides with the avoiding damage and mitigating damage, because if you're outside your enemy's firing arc, you should be facing them at an exposed angle where they'll be exposed to significant damage.

As an example video, this is a solo wing assassinate (pre 3.1) demonstrating two of the tenets. Using a thrustmaster X.

Here I'm avoiding as much damage as possible (the wing assassinate target) because the main mission target has engineered weapons. However, the 5 expert ranked allies do not have engineering and no absolute damage nor railguns (save for one security force) so my shields can take most of the damage. This brings me to the mitigation aspect where I am actively managing my pips to maneuver around my target as fast as possible while dedicating 4 pips to shielding when absorbing the wing's constant firepower. Here I am ignoring the "eliminate sources of damage as fast as possible" because it's simply faster to kill the big ship than to focus on all 5 wing ships while absorbing damage from each and every one, which includes the mission target. Hence, why it loops back around to tenet 1: avoiding as much damage as possible.

Tl;dr, just play actively and don't sit in front of an enemy and hold down the trigger. What's your natural response to suddenly having an Anaconda turn the guns onto your federal assault ship? It should be get out out of the bloody way. All this "tenet" nonsense I'm rambling about is literally nothing more than the result of me just naturally playing the game. There really wasn't any rhyme or reason to why or how I played, but this is about as on paper as it gets.

Your alternative is to buy an Anaconda, put multicannons on it, and hold down the trigger with no maneuvering with all the Shield Boosters and SCBs you can afford to put on it. But that's not fun.
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Cobra mkIII

2X med PA G5 efficient TLB & Dispersal (can't touch this!)
2X sm rails G? long range or sturdy SuperPen & FeedbackCas

Fast, agile, and hard to hit.

Jump into a high rez and practice on targets already under fire.
FDL G5 engineered

2 long range fixed beams on top - I think I actually have Efficient beams on at present, but long range on the fixed should work better as you probably would only fire those when not firing the gimballed weapons.

2 gimballed beams on the side

Huge gimballed MC

Kill everything

Fixed beams are reasonably easy to use if you aren't yet adept with fixed weapons.
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I recommend cannons or plasmas to practice fixed weapons. I fly exclusively FAOff as well, so staying on target with a fixed laser or multi cannon is pretty difficult, however, sweeping the target and pressing the fire button at the right time to get a hard hit with a single shot weapon is not to bad at first, and gets pretty easy with a little practice.
One bit of advice I would like to offer is: Scan and recognize the Rank and Wing size of every target before you fire on any ship. As you get into a flow, while in combat, it is easy to just go around shooting at anything that resolves as Wanted, but you need to control your exposure to risk.

Others have mentioned starting in small ships and working your way up to larger ships. That is good advice, but I think you should really have a look at an Alliance Chieftain. The aChief is an all around great ship. It is relatively inexpensive, has great combat flexibility, excellent weapon placement , and can accommodate any style of build.

P.S. Set up a key-bind for cycling through your targets Sub-systems in reverse. Each time you select a larger target, use that key five or six time to set it's PP as your target. Destroying a PP doesn't outright cripple an NPC anymore, but PP sniping still reduces the TtK.

Fly crazy Commander. o7
Subscribed! .. and if the quality tips continue to pour in I'll probably sticky this somewhere in "Best of Forum".

In the meantime, if you go to my thread and find the bit entitled "Some nice tips on combat flight techniques (circle-strafing, etc)", you'll find some pretty good info including a few decent combat tutorial videos.
...I have one of the hat switches on my HOTAS set with a pip macro: Down gives a balanced 2-2-2 (which I basically never use), left sets me at 4-1-1, up is 1-4-1, and right is 1-1-4...
May I ask if that's an X52 by any chance? I tried this with my X52 Pro but to no avail :S
Have your "Get the hell out of Dodge" procedure well rehearsed, so when things go badly wrong, you don't need to think about it, you just go.
Get yourself an interdictor. Go along to an anarchy system. Pick on the easiest and softest targets going. The good thing about practising your interdictions is that you are also practising the avoidance of interdictions
May I ask if that's an X52 by any chance? I tried this with my X52 Pro but to no avail :S
I have a Thrustmaster T16000M now, but I used to have an X52 and had the same thing configured. I don't remember how to do it in their software anymore, but I know you can set a macro. You just need to start each macro with a "reset pips to 2-2-2" input so you have a common starting point.
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