"Fury X as fast or faster."
[shows charts with aftermarket 980 Ti clearly 19-22% faster]
"But that's a Lightning."
[Guru3D's Lightning 980 Ti review show other, cheaper aftermarket 980 Tis almost every bit as fast at stock; additionally, TPU's own review shows said aftermarket models able to overclock just as high (or very close) as the Lightning, which itself still has a fair amount of headroom left:]Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
"But the Fury X still made gains"
[but if you look closely, you see the reference 980 Ti lost some ground versus the Titan X (potential variance in reference card throttling/boost speed) and notice that TPU removed Project Cars from their testing suite, which contributes to the Fury X's relative positioning.]
Conclusion: The OP's title and assertion are wrong. Reference 980 Tis at their low stock and throttling speeds are still pretty much matching the Fury X, but any aftermarket or overclocked model blows an OC Fury X out of the water for a marginal price increase or manual tweaking of like two sliders.
The G1 980 Ti is almost as aggressively clocked as the Lightning is and $669 there, which is about ~10% more than the cheapest Fury X, yet easily beats it by 15-20% at stock or when both are overclocked, has 50% more VRAM, has far superior DX11 CPU overhead management, and has the typical Nvidia-exclusive features. It's $20 more on Newegg, but there comes with a free game and a $20 rebate offer. Bang for buck wise, aftermarket 980 Tis are still the way to go in this price range. The MSI Gaming 980 Ti is similar in performance and also comes with a game, but is only $659 on Newegg:http://m.newegg.com/Product/index?itemnumber=N82E16814127889
AMD haven't recovered anything; the Fury X still doesn't properly compete with Nvidia's cut-down GM200 (which is cheaper to manufacture); not in performance, price, model variety, overclocking, VRAM, driver efficiency, manufacturing cost, or vendor-exclusive features. Regardless of whether a person overclocks or not, aftermarket 980 Tis are the superior choice in every metric.
If a CLC is necessary for some reason, the Hybrid 980 Ti is now $725 on Newegg, is still superior to the Fury X in bang for buck (a bit less than 20% more money for ~20% more performance and the other 980 Ti benefits), and comes with a free game still.Edited by Serandur - 11/1/15 at 1:38pm