By: Gergoran Moussou
Are you wondering what to do with those free skill points handed out recently by CCP or what to do with all those skill points you are racking up by killing NPCs? CCP recently referenced Eve University’s WIKI article on the “Magic 14” as a good place for these points. The Magic 14 is the foundation of any well-skilled character, though it will take a while to max them out, but since the free skill points can’t cover everything, it’s a good idea to have some pointers on how to prioritize those skills. While my specific examples discuss how skills would be prioritized on a character with Omega Clone status, the same core concepts apply to Alpha characters, that one should consider which skills provide benefit while flying one’s intended ships.
The first thing to consider is what you plan on doing with your character and what kind of ships you plan on flying for those activities. Regardless of activity, the optimal ships have basic requirements beyond the Magic 14. But the Magic 14 do form the foundational basis for piloting and surviving in New Eden.
For exploration, one of my primary ways to earn the ISK which I spend on ships to use in PVP, the main ship options beyond the basic T1 exploration frigates are T2 covert ops frigates and the Sisters of EVE line of ships, specifically the Astero and Stratios. To sit in the Sisters of EVE line, a character needs Amarr and Gallente skills for the relevant hull size, either frigate or cruiser (and cruiser requires Frigate III of the same empire anyway), so an exploration-focused character needs to mix the Magic 14 in with the basic prerequisites. Aside from better scanning probe strength at Covert Ops IV and V and faster scanning probe speed, the SOE ships either outperform or equal the T2 frigates in PVE exploration activities (while their difficulties in CPU make combat probing impractical). The biggest advantage is that they can engage in combat (many people can attest to the Astero being a capable J-Space hunter ship). While Covert Ops frigates do have weapon bonuses, I would never bother putting a rocket launcher on one of my Anathemas. It just doesn’t have enough durability for it to be worthwhile and an exploration fit already takes up two of the three high slots with the cloak and probe launcher. SOE ships solve both of these problems: Amarr hull skill and ample low slots provide good armor tank for durability and a substantial drone bay allows for combat engagements without spending high slots on weapons (with Gallente hull skill making these some of the most effective drone ships of their hull size). This combat bonus allows an explorer in a SOE ship to take on sites which a T1 or Covert Ops pilot would have to ignore, while also providing a chance at fighting back if unfriendly local players show up.
Because the SOE ships are armor-tanked, the priority skills from the Magic 14 for exploration are Mechanics and Hull Upgrades. Furthermore, their limited CPU means that CPU Management is the next one down. Because the only modules on a standard Astero fit which are likely to use a decent amount of capacitor are the propulsion and repair modules, an explorer does not need to prioritize the capacitor skills until later (with the Stratios’s additional high slots and bonus to energy turrets, which consume the most capacitor of any weapon type), but anyone who has ever run out of capacitor due to a long warp can attest to Warp Drive Operation being a useful skill. Furthermore, there are two other skills which an explorer absolutely needs: Cloaking IV allows equipping a module which is absolutely necessary when flying an exploration ship other than the T1 frigates, while Drones V allows the Astero to use its combat potential. Drones V is such a useful skill across so many ship types that it barely stops short of being as versatile and foundational as the Magic 14, but for ships which use drones as their primary weapon, it is absolutely essential (even for the Guristas line, while the limit of two makes it less important, enough support skills require Drones V that it is essential for those ships as well).
Similarly, combat pilots should consider what ships they plan on flying and how they plan on flying those ships in order to prioritize the Magic 14. Consider a doctrine ship like the E-Uni BLAP Caracal, the backbone of many high-sec mission fleets and ISK-positive QRF fleets defending against war targets. It is a buffer-tanked RLML Caracal, similar to many other corporations’ doctrines for the same ship. A skill plan specifically for this doctrine or a similar one does not generally need much training in capacitor skills because its modules aside from the propulsion module do not use much capacitor. However, if a doctrine uses the Caracal as a newbro ship for people who have not yet trained into the Cerberus, its Tech II counterpart, some Magic 14 skills which are fairly unimportant with the Caracal become essential. Alongside Capacitor Management and Energy Grid Upgrades, which are prerequisites for the Heavy Assault Cruisers skill, Hull Upgrades is essential for the Cerberus because of the Assault Damage Control modules, which drastically increase HACs’ durability if used properly.
One cautionary example about not prioritizing the Magic 14 enough is the mining alt that I recently deployed at E-Uni’s Amarr Mining Campus. In that character’s first mining operation, I had the skills to yield more ore than my main character, simultaneously flying an identical Procurer on the same moon belt, I had trained almost nothing but mining and industry skills on this character at that point and did not realize until I undocked the Procurer that I could not put its T1 shield tank modules online yet (a problem which I immediately adjusted my skillqueue to fix). This same problem repeated itself just over a week later when I undocked my first Industrial Command Ship, a Porpoise, and noticed that while I made sure to ask for Tech I shield tank from the AMC staff selling it to me this time, I forgot to train the Hull Upgrades skill at all, so I was unable to put my Reinforced Bulkheads II module online until the second or third time that I dropped off ore from that first moon extraction and it took a couple more days to make use of the Damage Control II in its other low slot.
A final consideration in prioritizing skills within the Magic 14 is that T2 ships are often much harder to fit, especially since they tend not to be worth the added expense over a T1 hull without T2 modules, which take up more fitting space than T1. The first ship that I ever trained specifically for was the Vengeance, the close-range-focused Amarr assault frigate. I put together a decent fit and bought the modules for it. While I set up a skill plan such that I could use all T2 modules before I trained the T2 ship skill, but when I first tried flying the ship, I noticed that I had neither the CPU nor the power grid to run all four Rocket Launcher II’s, so I needed to train the relevant skills up from IV to V.
In short, most people have some idea of what ships they want their characters to fly. While the Magic 14 are unique in that they benefit all ships, they do not benefit all ships equally. Therefore, while all skill plans should eventually cover the Magic 14, some skills deserve higher priority than others depending on the intended ships. While most of this is with regard to the hard attributes of the ship such as what kind of tanking and weapons it uses, softer aspects such as that an exploration ship is probably going to make frequent long warps are also important considerations.