All this data is potentially out of date, and should be taken with a truckload of salt
The Rifter is the workhorse of the Minmatar fleet and probably the toughest frigate in Eve. It's the ideal ship for the rookie PvP pilot to learn their trade in and hopefully this guide will go some way to getting you out in your Rifter and looking for targets.
This guide is based upon my own experiences in the Rifter after reading other guides and getting out there and giving it a go. I lost plenty of ships in the learning process but as I learnt more I killed more and lost less.
The main strengths of the Rifter for PvP are its speed and slot layout. The four high slots allow you to fit three turrets and have a utility slot for a launcher or some other module. The three medium slots allow you to fit a propulsion mod, warp jammer, and stasis webifier giving you speed and the ability to hold your target in place. Finally, the three low slots are ideal for an armour tank allowing quite a variety of fittings. We'll discuss these next.
- 1 Fitting Your Rifter
- 2 Target Selection
- 3 Tactics
- 4 Relevant Skills
- 5 Useful Reading Material
For solo PvP the best thing you can do with your ship is to fit an armour tank. If you want some general information about tanking in Eve then check out A Comprehensive New Player Guide to Tanking. Otherwise, let's get going.
Buffer vs Active Tank
There are two basic kinds of armour tank that you can fit. A buffer tank where you fit an over-sized armour plate and a damage control or an active tank where you fit a regular plate, armour repairer, and a resistance module. The advantage of a buffer tank is that it makes your tank completely capacitor independent. You have a very large plate that buffers your opponents damage while you attempt to overwhelm their defenses with your guns. The best thing about this is that there is no need to micromanage during combat. All you have to concentrate on is putting the maximum damage onto your opponent. This is, I'm sure you'll agree, a very Minmatar approach to combat.
The active tank differs from the passive tank in that you have to use up your capacitor to repair the incoming damage because your armour cannot take the same punishment as a buffer tank. This kind of tank does have its own advantages, too, especially against bigger targets. Because you are carrying a smaller plate your ship has less mass and therefore is faster and more agile playing to the strengths of the Rifter. This in turn should help you evade more of the enemy's fire, especially against cruiser-sized targets. The ability to repair your own armour also means that you don't need to dock up in order to be ready for a second fight or if there are multiple opponents in your engagement a buffer might not last long enough to beat both targets.
The other decision to make is between a microwarp drive that will let you close on your opponents quickly or an afterburner that will let you orbit them at speed.
Since the Quantum Rise expansion this has become a slightly more difficult choice. Previously most people would say that a microwarp drive was compulsory but the changes to the way that warp scramblers work has left things more open to debate. Warp scramblers now disable microwarp drives the second that they are engaged so if you fight within scrambler range, and you will, then you won't be able to use a microwarp drive. With your own scrambler and stasis webifier you'll be able to dictate the terms of the fight if you have an afterburner fitted but will have the counter effect of being slower to close down your target. I personally fit my ships with an afterburner these days but if you are mainly hunting ships fit for PvE rather than PvP then a microwarp drive may well still be the better choice simply because it allows you to close range quickly.
Don't forget that during combat a microwarp drive massively increases your signature radius and because you can't orbit at the maximum speed boost it gives you it will actually make you easier to hit rather than harder. This can be solved by turning off your MWD once you are within combat range and pulsing it when needed to maintain range or dodge drones.
Rocket Launchers and Nosferatus
If you're fitting a passive tank this isn't really a question. A rocket launcher is the only option available to you. For those interested in an active tank you can add a bit of longevity to your tank by fitting a nosferatu but this will be at the expensive of offensive power (gank). Personally I think like a Brutor and go with as many guns as possible so would fit a launcher in all cases. If I was feeling really cocksure I'd fit a gyrostabiliser instead of a damage control for extra punch but that might be a bit too gung ho.
If you do opt to go with a rocket launcher then I recommend that you also go with faction ammo, Caldari Navy probably being the best choice. It gives you a 10% damage advantage. The two types of missiles that I use are Phalanx for Gallente, Amarr, and Minmatar (except Bellicose and Stabber); and Gremlin for Caldari, Stabber, and Bellicose. The Phalanx missiles do great damage against armour's weaknesses while the Gremlin attacks the vulnerabilities of shield tanks. You could also consider carrying Foxfire to take on some Amarr T2 ships with but to be honest I'd avoid fighting them for now.
Warp Disruptor or Warp Scrambler?
I have always fit my frigates with warp scramblers. Because of the range of my guns I am going to be fighting inside scramble range and they have the advantage of offering two points of scramble strength to counter those pesky warp core stabilisers. Their other great strength and one that will appeal most to younger pilots is that they require less capacitor than warp disruptors. By using your microwarp drive to approach your target and hitting target at 10 km range you'll have no problem getting them scrambled. I don't think I've ever lost a target to the scrambler's range.
There's the added bonus that they shut down your targets microwarp drive denying them their speed tank if that's what they're using. Yes, I'm looking at you, Taranis.
Although the two example fits I have shown have microwarp drives fitted you can replace these with afterburners and actually have more capacitor and more room for fitting guns. As your skills improve you can also upgrade other components to their T2 counterparts as your wallet allows.
You can see that in the case of the passive tank there is no need to worry about your capacitor during the fight. In fact you can run your web, scrambler, and microwarp drive continually for more than three minutes with top skills. Realistically you won't be running your microwarp drive during the fight anyway. This is a tough little cookie with almost 6,000 effective hit points (i.e. hitpoints taking into account the resitances of your defense layers).
The active tank allows you to pack slightly bigger guns so you do more damage. It is also a bit quicker and more nimble than the passive version. The main difference is that you have fewer effective hit points so will have to pulse your armour repairer sometimes to keep your armour alive. You can only run this for 30s at a time, though, so its not much use against heavy volleys but will make a difference in a long fight where the damage is of a gentler variety.
So, you've bought a Rifter and fitted it up. Once you've insured it its time to head out and look for some targets. The great thing about the Rifter is that you have such a large range of potential victims. You can happily go head to head with any T1 frigate, a good selection of T1 cruisers, and even some T2 frigates.
All T1 frigates are more than beatable in a well-fitted Rifter. The main threats to you will be other Rifters and autocannon-fitted Punishers. Caldari and Gallente ships should crumble under your guns.
The Caldari Cormorant destroyer doesn't pose a threat to you so engage at will. Catalysts, the Gallente destroyer, are usually very poorly fit so you should feel free to engage. Other destroyers are probably good targets when fit with artillery style weapons for ratting. Get in nice and close and do your worst.
I've not said anything about more advanced targets, particularly interceptors. In 0.0 this make great targets for a Rifter because they will almost always underestimate you. However they require more advanced tactics than the usual spiral, orbit, kill that most pilots employ. Basically, you need to goad them into web range. The best ways to do this is to either sit there looking harmless and hope they get careless, pretend to run away and hope they warp to the next gate at zero where you can point and web 'em quickly, or burn away from them with your microwarp drive and if they give chase quickly hit approach and be ready with the webs.
This will take a fair bit of practice but a well fitted interceptor could be worth more than 60,000,000 ISK compared to the 8,000,000 or so for a fully T2 fit Rifter. You might even get lucky like I did once.
Kal'Kalagan a pilot for Veritas Immortalis has a lot of success using a passive tanked Rifter and variations of these tactics. Look at his kills and read the comments for advice on how he pulls them off. Be warned, even this expert has difficulty with the sheer damage potential of a Taranis so be cautious around them.
Thoraxes and Ruptures in particular should not be engaged. These ships are lethal. They tend to fit webbers and close range guns as well as having the ability to unleash a swarm of drones upon you. Vexors should be added to this list too. With good skills and experience you might be able to take on these ships when piloted by noobs but its probably best to stay away for now.
Watch out for close range destroyers. A well fitted autocannon Thrasher will make very short work of you.
At the end of the day the Rifter is a cheap disposable frigate so don't be put off trying something. The things you will learn will almost always outweigh the cost of losing your ship. Try not to keep making the same mistakes again, though.
The basic tactic of Rifter combat is to settle into a comfortable orbit around your opponent and smash them to bits while your armour plate absorbs the damage that they try and do you. There are basically two components to the tactics of frigate piloting. The first is to approach your target while keeping transversal high to avoid getting hit while you power towards him. The second is deciding what distance to orbit your target at for optimal effect.
The best way to approach a target is to spiral towards him. This way you don't run the risk of being taken out in just a couple of volleys. Instead you approach your opponent while also keeping transversal high. This means they shouldn't hit you.
You do this by manually piloting. Put the target ship in the centre of your screen then double click halfway towards the edge of the screen in any direction. This will have you moving at about a 45˚ angle relative to them. As the target drifts re-centre and repeat. Keep doing this until you are inside about 10 km of them. At this point you can hit orbit.
When approaching it is also best to operate your microwarp drive using pulses rather than operating it continuously. This will help you save precious capacitor and also hopefully prevent you overshooting your target and having to make a fast turn which will reduce your transversal and make you vulnerable to their guns.
The best way to practice these approaches is to find some rats in a high security belt and test it out on them. Once you can approach them without being hit you should be able to approach real targets in safety too. The more you practice the better you'll get and the more confident you'll be. This confidence will help you remain calm and give you the upper hand in the adrenaline filled fight that follows.
The range at which combat takes place is very important. Luckily us Minmatar have the advantage of fast, manoeuvrable ships that will let us dictate the range of a fight if we fly them sensibly. This couples with the fact that our projectile weapons have a range advantage over blasters and lasers. By using our falloff we can still do our opponents damage while they can't hit us at all. This is especially good with high tech ammo like Barrage that carries a falloff bonus.
So what does this mean for us in combat? Well, a top skilled Rifter pilot has an optimal range of 1.5 km and a falloff of 7.5 km (1.5 + 7.5) using 200 mm AutoCannon IIs and Barrage ammo. So at 8 km range you're doing about 42 DPS. This is only half the maximum but lets compare that to a Punisher and Tristan. A Punisher with maximum skills pilot using Medium Pulse Laser IIs and Multifrequency ammunition can hit to 3.8 + 2.5 km while an Incursus with Light Neutron Blaster IIs and Antimatter can hit for 1.1 + 4.7 km. So, by orbiting at range you can limit your opponents ability to do damage while still being able to hit them yourself. Of course, not everyone fits for close range combat so being at range could put you in danger if they're fit for long range fighting. Use your judgement.
Its obviously not quite this simple. Before you can use T2 guns then you don't have the advantage of Barrage's falloff. In these cases I advise that you get in as close as possible and pound them with EMP (Caldari), Phased Plasma (Amarr), or Fusion (Gallente and Minmatar). You'll get an extra damage bonus by using Republic Fleet versions of the T1 ammo but this is expensive so don't carry too much of it around.
Where does this leave us? Well, if you think the frigate that you are fighting is fit for close range combat (i.e. is fit for PvP) then load Barrage if you can and use your falloff to your advantage. If it is a missile ship or fit for long range fighting (i.e. PvE) then get in close and pound away with a nice high damage ammo.
The best ways to learn this are to just go out and try it and to practice against corp mates. I've only ever lost one frigate fight using the orbit at 500m and shoot them in the face approach and I've starting using the range tactic to pretty good effect too. I'd probably still recommend getting up close and personal against all frigates.
If you do decide to fight against a drone ship then be aware that if they are carrying webs the drones will kill you long before you kill them. There is, however, a way of getting around this. Orbit the target at a good range like 15-20 km. This will keep you out of his stasis webifiers and allow you to pick off his drones before closing in for the kill. This is more complicated than the normal tactic of just orbiting and firing so you will have to pay attention.
Target his drones and pulse your microwarp drive. The drones will initially be left behind and then will give chase lowering their transversal. This is called kiting. Shoot one of the drones as they close and pulse the microwarp drive again. Repeat until all the drones are dead.
The complications of this tactic arise from the fact that you are vulnerable to cruiser weapons every time you slow down between pulses and during the time you are fighting his drones your opponent will try and close down to web range on you. If you see their speed shoot up then stick in a pulse of your own microwarp drive. Your frigate's speed should allow you to easily keep distance on them but your capacitor is much smaller than theirs so if they bide their time they may well get you. Of course, younger pilots will be less adept at this so should be easier pickings. When shooting the drones prioritise the smaller ones first. The medium and large drones will have a hard time hitting you as long as you are not webbed but while kiting small drones, especially Warrior IIs can be lethal.
Like all these combat tactics, dealing with drones is best practised with corp mates before you try it in anger.
A Note On The Approach and Orbit Commands
After testing with a corp mate I have found the following: pressing the approach button will cause your ship to give chase and hence will minimise your transversal; pressing orbit will cause your ship to orbit so as to maximise transversal. The keep at range command will also minimise transversal so could result in you taking lots of damage if you use it for bugging out.
This seems like pretty trivial knowledge but it can help you out if you are having tracking issues (i.e. vs interceptors) or want to decrease their tracking (i.e. vs cruisers). Also, the closer you are, the harder it is for guns to track but don't let that worry you because that's another thing that autocannons are great for.
To fit the buffer tanked version of the Rifter you will need the following skills:
- Minmatar Frigate III
- Hull Upgrades IV
- Energy Management IV
- High Speed Maneuvering I
- Propulsion Jamming I
- Small Projectile Turret V
- Gunnery II
- Small Autocannon Specialization I
- Missile Launcher Operation I
- Rockets I
- Engineering IV
- Electronics V
- Weapon Upgrades III
The active tanking version also requires:
There are two main groups of skills that will improve your effectiveness in the Rifter. These are the gunnery and navigation skills. If you want to fly the active tanked version then capacitor skills will also prove to be important. I would recommend that you make it your aim to train the following skills up to at least level three, preferably level four. I didn't start to fly cruisers until I'd got all my gunnery skills to four and most of my navigation skills at least to three.
- Gunnery - increases the rate of fire 2% per level and needed for bigger guns
- Motion Prediction - 5% more tracking per level
- Rapid Firing - 4% increase to rate of fire
- Sharpshooter - 5% increase to optimal range
- Surgical Strike - 3% bonus to damage
- Trajectory Analysis - 5% bonus to falloff (see above)
- Minmatar Frigate - 5% bonus to damage and 7.5% tracking bonus
- Acceleration Control - 5% bonus to mircrowarp drive speed
- Evasive Maneuvering - 5% agility bonus, lets you maintain a faster, tighter orbit
- Navigation - 5% ship velocity bonus
If you want to use an active tank then the following will all help too:
- Energy Management - 5% more capacitor
- Energy Systems Operation - 5% reduction in capacitor recharge time
- Propulsion Jamming - 5% less capacitor need for scramblers and webs
- Repair Systems - 5% reduction in repair time, so you can repair faster but also need more capacitor
- High Speed Maneuvering - 5% microwarp drive capacitor use, so you can use it for longer
If you are using a rocket launcher then you will also benefit from working on some missile skills. Rockets don't add a huge amount of damage but those few DPS can mean the difference between winning and losing. They're not worth spending as much time on as gunnery skills but getting them to level 3 definitely won't hurt and getting Rockets to 5 will allow you to train for T2 rocket launchers and rockets giving even more damage.
- Missile Bombardment - 10% bonus to missile flight time (more range)
- Missile Projection - 10% bonus to missile speed (more range)
- Rapid Launch - 3% bonus to missile rate of fire (more DPS)
- Rockets - 5% bonus to rocket damage (more DPS)
These are all great skills to know and you should definitely have them before you move into bigger ships so now's the ideal time to get a head start.
Another fantastic skill for solo PvP is Thermodynamics. This will allow you to overheat your weapons, microwarp drive, tackle systems, and armour repairers to make you much more efficient in combat at the risk of damaging your weapons.