I hated the Dragon. I hated the Rapier. I even hated the Excalibur. Oh, and, I hate the Vampire.
I hated them because they were supposed to be the "ultimate fighter" of that game. I love ships that require a good strategy, and have specific advantages and disadvantages. My favorite two ships of all time are the Raptor and the Panther. Next would be the Arrow, followed by the Ferret. I kick ass in all four of those ships, and for very specific purposes: I have a technique for each one.
Raptor (in the wc1 engine): unload full guns into the nose of that damned dralthi and fly past him. Pick a new target and dogfight him, then turn around and plant another volley up that first dralthis nose when he gets his confidence back.
Panther: Use the yaw rate to your advantage. Go easy on the trigger, preferring to make sure your well-aimed bursts connect. Bugs die fast that way.
Arrow: Use its speed and maneuverability to get behind a slower ship and ruin his shit. Use the autoslide if neccessary to maintain distance from rear turrets. Keep your guns on him, but know when your straffing run needs to end.
Ferret (in the wc2 engine): Same as a Raptor, but making damn sure to avoid their front guns. Those mass drivers kick a lot of ass.