Edit: I don't have time to fix this right now, so I'll just say that carriers spawning more than what's in their bays while out of combat has FINALLY been called an exploit by Cryptic, and when season 1 comes out that will be fixed.
How to Kill a Carrier 2nd Edition
What follows are some ideas on how to tackle a carrier. This is written from the perspective of a carrier pilot, me, along with some help from posts in this thread. This is the second version of this post (the first one wasn't as good).
Before continuing I highly suggest that you check out Matt_Dravis' very good PvP tips thread. This information will help you in all of your battles, not just against carriers. Read it. Learn it. Play all your games by it. Trust me, you'll be happy that you did.
WHAT MAKES A CARRIER SPECIAL?
The carrier is the largest and the slowest ship int he game. At T5 the slowest federation ship is 50% more maneuverable than the carrier, meaning that it's going to try to stay put and rely on you doing the same. It has 3 fore weapon slots, and 3 aft, is a science ship, and has 2 fighter bays.
In each of these bays it can have 4 To'Dju fighters which are fast and do moderate damage, 1 Bird of Prey which does fairly good damage, 4 siphon pods which can wreak havoc on your energy levels or 4 shield repair drones, which don't really do much at all.
When in combat it can only launch what is currently in the bays, and all fighter types have a non-shared cooldown. Tu'Dju, for instance, have a 1 minute cooldown while the BoPs have 3 minutes each. If not in combat the carrier can launch what is in its bays and then swap those in the bay out for other fighter types to launch. Because of this a carrier can, if it has the time to prepare, field 24 fighters. Once combat starts, though, that number will decrease making the carrier less and less effective.
Unless you're taking a beating from the fighters it's usually better to go after the carrier itself, because when it dies all of its fighters do, too.
Now onto some anti-carrier stuff.
#1 - CROWD CONTROL
Carriers aren't much different than cruisers in that they are big, move slowly, and are often used mainly as backup. One of the best things you can do is use crowd control on us Here as some ideas on what seems to work well
-Subnucleonic beam is as great against carriers as it is against anything else. Hit a carrier with this and they can do nothing, not even launch more ships. This leaves them wide open for attack which, without significant backup for the carrier, will likely kill them swiftly.
-Viral Matrix is another good one where we can do nothing at all. Not even move. Sure we can use a science team to clear it, but if they are on a cooldown for it then this will let you take the carrier down very fast.
-Jam Target Sensors allows you to disappear from their view, letting you kill them with impunity. Again, a science team will clear it, but if you notice that happening, then it's time for the Viral Matrix, as you can be assured that science team is on cooldown (unless the science team came from a teammate). I have a video of an escort that I fought the other day. He jammed my sensors, and by the time I had realized what he did he was behind me, my shields were down and I didn't have the time to pull myself out of it. He was FAST! (I will post when it's formatted correctly)
-Scramble Sensors can be pretty evil. It affects everyone in a sphere and that includes all of the fighters if they are close by. They will target each other, and you will make the carrier shoot at its own fleet. I almost never am able to clear this off of me for some reason, so I usually end up waiting it out. If the carrier is waiting it out, it's not shooting you or using abilities on allies.
-Tractor Repulsors can send us flying in a direction that kicks us out of the battle completely. I've been in a group that had 3 carriers, and one person shoved us completely apart. It took a very long time to get back into formation where we could help each other again.
#2 AREA OF EFFECT
The fighters tend to crowd around each other and are prime for an area of effect weapon.
-Tricobalt weapons will destroy all fighters nearby, and a high yield plasma will do the same, but both are easily seen and shot down. If you use these, you need to be careful how you do. Launch late, preferably as the fighters near you so that there is no time to shoot it down.
-Torpedo spread may do well here too. I haven't tested it, but as long as the torpedos explode near the fighters you should be able to take them out.
-Gravity well will keep all the fighters from moving in on you.
-The explosion of your warp core will also take out any fighters nearby, and possibly start a chain reaction of warp core explosions devastating the fleet.
#3 USE YOUR MANEUVERABILITY
Did you know that the slowest federation ship at T5 is 50% more maneuverable than the carrier? This will let you dictate the terms of the engagement. You can pull the faster klingon ships away from us and we won't be able to support them. Even a couple of kilometers can make a huge impact on what we can do.
Don't be afraid to get around to a weak spot, especially if you have other teammates shooting the carrier. They can't do anything to stop you, meaning that your focus fire will be that much more effective. Although carriers will tend to focus fire, too, they are just too slow to maneuver a stronger shield into position.
It can be really hard to target a carrier amidst its fleet, so how do you do it? There are a couple of things that you can do to make it easier. First is to surround us. Carriers can't split up their fighters so they will all go in one direction. A teammate on the opposite side of the carrier, then, can target, call it out, and then you can target their target.
The other, though you have to be real close to do it, is to zoom out as far as you can, and then position the camera so that the closest thing to your screen is the carrier itself. This has limited applications, but it can help in a pinch.
-Don't ram us unless you're a really big ship, and even then think twice. Carriers are the biggest and are more likely to survive it than you. I have a video that I will post soon of a ship ramming me and getting killed by it, while I survived well.
Just a small problem ... what do you do against 5 carriers?
5 feds vs. 5 kli carriers ... guess whos going to win?
I don't know, I've never been in a team that was all carriers. The most was 3, and that happened once. Most of what I said will still work, and since even your cruisers are more maneuverable than us you need to take advantage of that. Don't get too close to us, and then you can EASILY get away when needed. If you get within 5k, you're going to be hit with at least one tractor beam, so don't get that close. Stay to the side so that we can't us a speed buff to get closer to you, because we really can't. Staying to the side also means no subnucleonic beam, no viral, etc.
Let one person who's a good tank be the bait by getting just within 10k, then send everyone else, from another direction, after a single carrier. The tank can do some AoE on the mound of fighters heading their way, and since they are all going after the same target they will be in one big ball.
A group of 5 carriers working as a coordinated group is going to be a real tough nut to crack, no question about it. Then again, so is a group of 5 cruisers working as a coordinated group.
Just remember that absolutely everything that you can field at T5 is more maneuverable than the carrier, so use that to your advantage.
Yeah, I know, but I'd rather have a good match in PvP than listen to the complaints from people who just don't try. Now they have no excuse.
Originally Posted by Dekkameron
I try and cure myself with a science team if hit by a scramble, if that fails (or more likely end up using science team on a shield drone) i hit one of my RSPs
You can press F1 to target yourself. You never need to click on yourself.
Originally Posted by frellthat
Yeah, I love doing that. Carriers are purpose-built for having their sensors gloriously scrambled.
I have killed several of my own fighters before I realized that it would make me target them as well. Now if my sensors are scrambled and I can't get them back I tend to wait it out, only taking shots I'm absolutely sure about, because otherwise I may up shredding many of my minions.
Ok, since there's been sooooo much complaining about the carrier from people who clearly don't want to think up strategies to defeat it, here are some. Granted, I've only fought AS a carrier, not against, so these are things that make my game much harder:
4) Pick a squishy target. Raptors and BoPs go down fast to focus fire. Carriers don't. If you can, focus first on the ships that can go down easy, and not the big honking ones because they look like a big target. We don't shoot at cruisers first, neither should you shoot at cruisers or carriers first.
I encourage people to discuss and add to the above. We aren't superships. We just have a different way to damage you than other ships, and so you need to approach us differently in order to win.
Nonsense! Speaking as a BoP driver, you should always target the cruisers first. They are nice and big and slow. Us BoPs don't do any damage, so don't waste any time on us.