The most basic – and often most ignored – aspect of survival in null-sec is being able to successfully navigate it. Most people who spent their entire Eve lives in high-sec, or even low-sec, may think it’s simply a matter of traveling from gate to gate in a fast frigate, running from anything that they can’t handle. But bubbles change the dynamic in null-sec.
There are two things you need to know about them. First, if you’re inside one, you can’t warp until you escape its range. If someone puts a bubble up around a gate as you jump in, you either need to burn back to the gate and jump through again, or burn out of the bubble before warping.
Second, if they are positioned close to and in line with your destination, they can drag you off-course when you exit warp. What do I mean? Let’s say you’re warping from Gate A to Gate B. Evil Pirate has put a bubble 100km away from Gate B in the direction of Gate A. If you warp to Gate B at 0 from Gate A, you’ll actually stop right inside the bubble – 100km away from the safety of the other side of the gate (called a stop bubble). The same mechanic works if you position the bubble in line with Gate A, but on the other side of Gate B (drag bubble).
Expect your enemy to use bubbles. Most fleets have at least one interdictor, and often many mobile bubbles in the cargo holds of otherwise innocent-looking DPS ships. In many cases, they’ll even drop cargo containers near the front of the bubble to decloak any ships caught. Covops cloaks won’t save you.
So, how do you avoid them? How do you survive solo travel in null-sec?
First, you need to choose the right ship. Any gate can have a gate camp with a bubbler on the other side. In these cases, your ship has to be able to survive the 11km or so you’ll have to travel to burn back to the gate and jump through. Most gate camp fleets have a couple dedicated tacklers. At least one or two of them will point you on the bubbled side, and won’t be able to jump through with you when you reach the gate again. You’ll likely be followed through by the remainder – usually one or two additional tacklers. If your ship is fit in such a way that you can kill this tackler, you can survive.
But the best way to survive bubbles is to avoid them altogether. For that, you need to be smart. When you travel, if you see any neutrals/reds in system, do not warp directly from gate to gate. During your first trip through a system, you’ll have no choice but to warp to a celestial first – a planet, a moon, an asteroid belt, a cosmic signature, even the sun if you have no other choice (the sun is a common warp-to, so many PvPers will default to looking for a ship at the sun). When you warp to these, don’t warp at 0 or 100 km… warp at some range in between. When you’re in warp, make a safe bookmark in the middle of nowhere (open People and Places, click on “Add Bookmark”).
That brings me to the next point… bookmarks are your friend. Any time I deploy anywhere in New Eden, the purpose of my first solo roam is to make scout points off all the gates I may be traveling through. I never warp directly to a gate, I always warp to my bookmarks. During my first trip, I’ll warp to every gate at 100, then burn off in a random direction – in line with no celestials – until I’m about 250-300 off the gate, and bookmark that scout spot. That way, I can warp to it at 100km from any direction and still be at a distance to warp to the gate. These scout points let me land on grid, but safely away from any gate camps or bubbles.
I cannot stress scout bookmarks enough. Just yesterday, I was roaming through a null-sec wormhole to drone space in my armor-fit Stabber Fleet Issue (double web, point). In system were 5 neuts. Luckily, I had been there before, and had a scout point off my out-gate. I warped to the bookmark and avoided four Daredevils. I probably could have taken at least one or two with my 220mm ACs and double webs, but I didn’t know what else was on the other side of the gate (the hostiles lived in that space), so I avoided the engagement. I wouldn’t have had the option if I’d have warped right to the gate.
Bouncing off celestials and using bookmarks can avoid most bubbles, but not all of them. Some constellation and regional gates are far out of line with the rest of the solar system, and can’t be “warped around”. In these cases, there’s one last option: burning capacitor.
This trick is easy. When you engage your warp drive, your capacitor immediately drops by the amount needed to complete the warp – even if you have to accelerate before warping. If you then cancel your warp before entering warp, that cap energy is still gone. By warping and stopping multiple times, you can bleed out your capacitor until you no longer have enough to warp all the way to the distant gate. On this last warp, let it kick you into warp, then hit stop (Ctrl + space). Your warp won’t get you all the way there, but with some practice, you can get within dscan range (14 AU) so you can see what’s on the gate.
I have one overview tab I use exclusively for scanner probes and warp bubbles. I normally scna for ships first, then switch to my bubble/probe overview and scan for those. If it’s clear, I’ll finish my warp and jump through. Many times, I’ve used this cap-burning trick to get within range to scan and detect a bubbled gate camp, and avoid it.
If you see a neutral in system, always assume he’s in a Sabre, or is sitting on a bubble in-line with both your gate and the nearest planet. No neutral is safe. If you get used to these tricks, you can successfully navigate past any bubbles without being the next fish caught in the net.
It seems cumbersome and slow at first, but remember: this is not high-sec. CONCORD will not save you, and there are no gate guns. You’re on your own here. Fly like it.