Roaming alone places a few basic, though critical needs on a pilot’s ship. In no particular order, a ship must have sufficient mid slots for a tackle kit, enough firepower to overwhelm opponents, enough repair or health modules to out last opponents, and the agility to choose an advantageous distance from a foe. While a mouthful, these principles are EVE PvP simplified, and not all ships match all of these requirements.
So, a pilot needs tackle, guns, endurance and a bit of speed to tie it all together. Simple enough, your basic Rifter exemplifies all these qualities, in a tight and wonderful duct taped package. The difficulty of undocking a Rifter to take on the world is while it is a masterfully crafted vessel, it has trouble engaging ships outside of its class. This means that while roaming, the Rifter pilot is required to avoid or ignore potential targets, not due to skill or ability, but by the limitations of the pilot’s ship. Not a good scenario.
This formula of ‘big fish eat little fish’ moves all the way up to battleships, which in the realm of what I’ll call fun solo PvP is the end and top of the line. There are however unique problems with battleships as solo PvP platforms. Trading maneuverability for power, they lack agility. Their sensor suite is more suited to targeting similar sized vessels, which equates to prey escaping merely due to lock times. Lone battleships are vulnerable to small craft, which are often able to either whittle down the battleship, or tackle it long enough for reinforcements to arrive. Battleships are also spendy pieces of equipment to be tossing around in arenas which can often end poorly for the pilot.
Taking a step back in ship sizes, the battlecruiser comes into the limelight. Returning to our basic requirements, most battlecruiser hulls pass by with high marks: good damage, defense, capacity for tackling equipment and modest agility. Everything the PvPer ordered. While several times more expensive to purchase than a cruiser, battlecruisers employ minimal extra equipment for greater effect. The battlecruiser uses medium sized modules, which are modest in skill point requirements, and should be ubiquitous around any pilot’s hanger. The price range of 20 to 30 million isk is an affordable sum for any pilot with the most humble money making operation.
As a combat platform, battlecruisers are able to maul opponents of their size and smaller that are unfortunate enough to be caught. Medium sized weaponry is able to track cruiser sized targets ably, while generous drone bays equate to frigates eating damage they just can’t take. Battlecruisers can be on par of battleships in terms of DPS, which is ideal for the solo pilot: kill the target before backup can be summoned. Large health reserves and a class wide affinity for tanking means the pilot will have time to apply that damage as well.
As much as combat is the goal, dream and aspiration of the solo pilot, retreating is a necessary tactic when odds aren’t favorable. This is where perhaps the true difference and reason to fly battlecruisers over battleships is displayed: battlecruisers are better able to flee than battleships. Since the Quantum Rise updates, battleships have become slower, while battlecruisers gained speed. This raw speed advantage is paired with better acceleration and agility, which with good ship durability means battlecruisers stand a decent chance of returning to a stargate to flee. Battleships in similar situations just aren’t speedy or agile enough to return to a stargate, especially if the enemy employs warp scrambler modules. (Disclaimer: I’m writing about lowsec here. In nullsec, unless it’s a very small and disorganized camp, either ship class will likely be destroyed. In all honesty, a well fit battleship would stand a better chance of escaping, but that’s another story.)
So, we end with the ideal ship class for the solo PvP pilot, the battlecruiser: cheap, effective hulls that get the job done. Does this mean the battlecruiser is the end all armament for pilot victory? Hell no, but it does set the bar for other vessels to be compared to in terms of versatility, effectiveness and efficient use of resources. It’s for these reasons I recommend to pilots that wish to try their hand at solo PvP the battlecruiser, as these ships will not let the pilot down. Rather, it’s the pilot’s skill that is measured.