Here are a piece of warning: the only significant changes to Advent in 1.181 was the illuminator bug fix and the scout nerf. Together, these gimped the whole faction. The scout nerf overall returned the game to LRF dominance, meaning the disciple is no longer a viable "mass" unit, while the illuminator nerf knocked out Advent's only real alternative, leaving them with flak and carriers as their only realistic match for the other factions. You must be careful when applying these kinds of changes to Vasari, or we might get the same result.
Anyways, I'm going to split up into a few systemic issues (not specific issues) that must be addressed. These are not listed in any particular order:
TEC is Weak Late Game
This problem has been around for... basically ever. The TEC have always had a strong early game with the solid Javelis LRM and the Hoshiko Robotics Cruiser, but once you get into the really late game goodies they have no answer to abilities like Repulsion or Distortion Field. They're dependent on high-level capital ships, but they have no abilities to prevent focus fire (the Hoshiko will control this early-game, but later on it's completely insufficient).
The only redeeming feature of TEC late game is a killer economy, and if TEC is carrying an advantage from the early-game they can still fight effectively. However, if they're neck and neck with the opponent, they're effectively screwed because their fleet just isn't a match for the other factions late game.
In version 1.19, it's easy to dismiss TEC's issues entirely as a matter of Vasari being too strong, but TEC had the same problems in 1.181, it was just overshadowed by the illuminator issue. If you get rid of scramble, TEC is probably the strongest early-game faction, but the problem is once they get hoshikos on the field, they've pretty much reached their zenith and the rest of the game is about the other factions surpassing them.
What to do about it
TEC needs some more late game goodies, and stronger late game goodies. One of their problems is that they're the only faction which doesn't have a support cruiser with area of effect abilities (like the guardian or subverter), and this leaves them without anything that scales into the late game. We could definitely buff the Cielo, but that can only go so far and won't solve the problem overall. Perhaps the best solution is just to buff all their capital ships to make them more powerful. Currently, my opinion is that TEC has the weakest lineup of caps overall and between all of them it has only a single fleet support ability (Akkan's targeting uplink)
Advent is Weak Early Game
Advent took a triple-whammy in 1.19; they lost their illuminator, their scout/disciple opener was invalidated, and a wicked new opponent in the form of the Skirantra's Scramble Bombers reared its ugly head. Advent didn't stand a chance. If they can survive to get repulsion online and some high level capital ships, they're still a pretty tough faction later on, but that's the catch, surviving to that point.
What to do about it
I think the easiest way to restore Advent to grace is to revert the scout nerf. If we went back to 1.181 scouts, Advent could seriously suppress enemy LRF and safely run with disciples early until it can get a more varied fleet. Buffing the illuminator is definitely on the table, but I think that the LRF themselves are going to get closer scrutiny.
Vasari have Too Many Advantages
This goes beyond the simple scramble/assailant rush that's causing havoc. We all know that scramble needs to be nerfed, and that LRF are dominating the field currently, which greatly benefits their assailant unit. However, then you have phasic traps, phase stabilizers, an awesome capital ship lineup (not that they need it with the Skirantra as it is...), one of the most challenging starbases to take down, a solid late-game economy, and the best superweapon by a longshot. Oh, and let's not forget subverters or their nasty minelayer tactics or those devastating phase missiles. Or neutrals for that matter. I'm sure I haven't even listed all their major advantages, Vasari just have so many tricks up their sleeves.
It used to be that Vasari were considered a weak faction redeemed by all these special abilities. However, their gameplay has been steadily evolving and players have simply been getting better and better as Vasari. Part of this was because the top players all played the underdogs (the Vasari) and really developed their playstyle to a razor-sharp blade, but part of it was just the accumulation of strategies and tactics over time.
What to do about it
I have only one thing to say here: tread carefully. Vasari are literally a minefield, and I think if you pulled the wrong abilities in the wrong combination you'd seriously undermine their entire faction. Remember, aside from the ridiculous strength of 1.19 scramble and the current LRF-dominance, Vasari are very much about a synthesis of all their different abilities. You might gimp them by nerfing even a single one too hard.
Personally, I'd address scramble bombers and look at LRF in general, and only after evaluating how those changes panned out would I start tinkering with Vasari. I think the place to target is phase missiles, to try and bring skirmishers and enforcers into play, but as I said we need to tread carefully here.
LRF and Bombers
These guys are dominating in the current version, and it's not just Vasari. It seems only Advent (with essentially a gimped LRF) is doing anything else, and even then they still love their bombers. These unit types have several issues:
- Highest overall DPS in the game; no other unit types come close. Favourable damage type against virtually any unit imaginable.
- The LRF has incredible range and the bomber has incredible mobility; both features allow their respective unit to focus fire with impunity.
- Generally available early in the game. No more than 3 labs for either unit type.
- Both of these units are exceptional capital ship killers, and en-mass can make capital ships completely worthless.
- It's too difficult to counter these units compared to the ease with which you can counter fighters, light frigates, and even heavies. The only other unit type that's hard to counter is the flak, which is usually what you round your fleet out with...
What to do about them
I'm really at a loss here; there was a time when I'd favour just slapping them hard with the nerf stick, but this will probably just see heavies taking their place. Honestly, the big thing that needs to be addressed is how easily these guys can kill and at very least suppress capital ships by scaring them off. I want to see more capital ship presence on the front lines, but that won't happen so long as these units make it a death sentence.
Capital Ship Balance
Aside from the Skirantra, I personally do not believe that any capital ships are too strong in their current state, and most could actually use some improvement. I believe that the Halcyon should be our target for capital ship strength and versatility. The Halcyon has three powerful abilities that work well in any combination, and has a strong role both in the early and late-game. I'd like to see all capital ships aspire to such a role.
Part of this will mean a generic buff to bring up the combat abilities of other capital ships to match carriers. If bombers take a nerf, then not quite as much will be needed, but they should still get something. The other side of this will be buffing second and third-rate abilities to round out each capital ship. Currently, we have a whole list of 1-trick ponies that you pick for one and only one ability:
- Kol (flak burst)
- Radiance (detonate antimatter)
- Revelation (reverie)
- Vulkoras (siege platforms)
- Antorak (phase out hull)
Sure, you may use some of the secondary abilities on these guys on occasion (particularly if they're passive) but these capital ships are always chosen for those primary abilities I've listed. It may not seem like a long list, but that's one third of all capital ships in the game that suffer this issue, and all of them need some serious buffing to their secondary abilities to make them more versatile. And then there's a whole list of other sub-par abilities on other capital ships.
The fact that 1.181 was able to knock the Progen and Jarrasul out of their "always" spot for first pick gives me hope that we can actually get to the point at which virtually every capital ship is viable. I want to see some real versatility here and variety in choice.