For the purpose of making isk I run plexes with two characters, one in a scout/scan/tank tengu and the second in a maelstrom to do damage. I've been using this setup for a while and have made a pretty decent amount of isk off it, but have now finished pvp training on the alt on my damage dealer's account and have some time to invest in my carebear. I have long suspected that the damage dealer was the weak part of my pve setup, since the maelstrom was selected purely on the basis of what my damage dealer, a repurposed pvp character, could fly. My purpose with this post is to find a better pve ship, which I will then train for. No amarr ships can be evaluated because of their damage types, which is unfortunate.
When it comes to carebearing, two things are important: Income per unit of time, and effort. Finding a balance is important; the maze is the most profitable guristas plex, but with my ships and skills it takes a lot of effort. For this reason I don't run it. An example of low profit, low effort would be running plexes or anomalies in an ishtar, which requires practically no interaction with the game but takes forever. Belt mining is an example of low profit, high effort as you have to watch local every second, move to new roids, haul ore, etc. Personally I'm in a higher profit bracket with a somewhat low effort, running every guristas plex except the maze quickly (mostly) and easily.
In evaluating ships I have arrived at four values which will be most useful in evaluating a ship:
Some guristas battleships orbit at 52 km. The DPS the ship is calculated to do to one of these is the first field.
Some battleships orbit at 32 km. The second field is the DPS done to these ships.
Elite cruisers orbit at 17.5 km. The third field will only shows the EFT damage. For turrets this is very low because of tracking, though in practice there are tricks to reduce their angular velocity so that turrets can hit for near full damage. With a little luck, a maelstrom can kill an elite cruiser in 2 volleys.
Finally, there is price. This is a rough estimate of how much it would cost to buy and fit the ship.
DPS at to battleship at 52 KM: 630
DPS at to battleship at 32 KM: 620
DPS to elite cruiser: 117
Price: 150 million
This is the ship I'm using right now. It's pretty nice and I like the volley damage, but I'm hoping there is something better out there.
Similar ships which I have considered and rejected include: Arty+cruise tempest, arty+cruise typhoon, rokh, megathron and hyperion.
DPS to battleship at 52 KM: 673
DPS to battleship at 32 KM: 697
DPS to elite cruiser: 165
The dominix is interesting. With railguns in addition to sentry drones it does slightly more damage at range than the maelstrom. Using light drones instead of sentries it still does 551 dps, and it has slightly higher tracking as well. Unfortunately it has to be stationary to use sentry drones, and this adds a level of complexity above the maelstrom. In terms of hitting elite cruisers, the same tricks can be used.
Verdict: I'll pass. Does not represent a meaningful improvement over the maelstrom.
DPS to battleship at 52 KM: 728
DPS to battleship at 32 KM: 877
DPS to elite cruiser: 707
Price: 1000 million
The autocannon machariel does great damage at long range, and with autocannon tracking it will eat elite cruisers alive. There are two problems though, which are the price -- way too high for a ship without a real pve tank -- and ammo consumption. With a rate of fire around 4 times faster than an artillery fit ship, finding ammo (in tenal, where the market is dead) and having to go back to station to restock would become annoying. There's also the killboard issue if something unfortunate were to happen: People expect failfit ravens, but machariels are a whole different level of horrible.
Verdict: A major improvement over the maelstrom, but too exotic for pve use.
DPS to battleship at 52 KM: 787
DPS to battleship at 32 KM: 760
DPS to elite cruiser: 114
Improved peak dps but with the same tracking issues as the maelstrom plus the fail issues of the autocannon mach.
The vindicator is a similar ship which I considered and rejected.
Javelin torp raven:
DPS to battleship at 52 KM (javelin): 569
DPS to battleship at 32 KM (T1): 892
DPS to elite cruiser (T1): 392
Torpedo ravens do a whole lot of damage, but have very short range. I'm lazy and so absolutely will not chase pve targets around, but using javelin torpedoes combined with missile range rigs and good skills it is possibly to get the maximum torpedo range up above 52 km. Because target painters fall off at 45 km the damage at that range is actually slightly lower than the maelstrom, but relatively few guristas battleships actually orbit that far out. At close ranges the raven does significantly more damage than the maelstrom, as well as decent and much more consistent damage to elite cruisers.
In addition to the damage bonus missiles mean never having to worry about falloff or tracking, which represents a very significant decrease in the amount of effort involved in plexing. The downside is that smaller ships will be hit for less than maximum damage, though based on the DPS to elite cruiser EFT doesn't think this will be a major issue.
There is the challenge of getting javelin torps out to tenal, but the number which can be hauled back after taking loot to jita is practically limitless.
Verdict: Definitely worth looking into.
DPS to battleship at 52 KM (javelin): 697
DPS to battleship at 32 KM (rage): 1138
DPS to elite cruiser (javelin): 543
With a target painting bonus and 1/3 more base DPS, the golem does more damage at long range than the maelstrom, hilarious damage at close range and hits elite cruisers for nearly as much as the maelstrom's peak damage. It also represents a very significant improvement over the raven.
Verdict: I hate missiles with a burning passion and would never use them in subcapital combat, but principles are less important than money.
So, that's that. The golem is much better then every other ship I had even suspected might be worth checking. My plan was originally to test the torp raven first, but the difference in training time is only a week.
EDIT: Torp Rattlesnake:
DPS to battleship at 52 KM (javelin): 568
DPS to battleship at 32 KM (T1): 738
DPS to elite cruiser (T1): 585
By popular demand!
You'd think with the number of rattlesnake BPC I find that I would have at least bothered to check it, but I didn't. It looks pretty similar to a dominix that uses missiles, and I was surprised to learn that it has a torpedo range bonus.
Between the 52 and 32 km battleship ranges it averages the same DPS as the dominix. An interesting feature is that it does the most damage to elite cruisers of any ship other than the autocannon machariel, though this number does depend on switching out to heavy drones.
Verdict: Arguably superior to the dominix, but suffers the same issues as a result of reliance on drones. The golem is a superior damage dealer, which is what I am looking for and thus remains my choice.