If you’re a DPS ship in a fleet fight, it’s really just luck-of-the-draw whether you’re alpha’d by the enemy or not. If you have a name at the beginning of the alphabet, you’re probably in more trouble than others. Your only option is to broadcast for shield or armor reps the moment the enemy begins locking you and pray you can catch them in time.
But what if you know you’re going to be a primary before the fight begins? If you’re flying a logistics cruiser, tackler, interdictor, or command ship, you’re also likely to be primary. Must you simply surrender to your inevitable death?
Absolutely not. But survival often means giving up on some kills or delaying your preferred fleet contribution. You really have three options: kamikaze, serve as bait, or evade.
The “kamikaze response is most often chosen by interdictors, who realize they’ll likely die the moment they bubble an enemy fleet. The only exception for dictors is when they bubble the enemy on a gate, immediately jumping through, then burning back to the other side and returning to the fight. However, kamikaze logi isn’t unheard of, either.
The other two options, though, require a little more skill and wisdom. Most pilots have expectations about how certain ships are fitted. A Vagabond, for instance, is often fitted with 425s and barrage ammo to operate on the edge of faction point range in a kiting capacity. Intentionally warping to an enemy at 100 and allowing tacklers to close distance on you is typically suicidal… unless you’re armor tanked with multiple faction webs and scrams (and no prop module) and a friendly fleet nearby. Being bait can turn the enemy’s typical reaction to seeing your ship on its head, luring them to their destruction (similarly, a Scimi can –sometimes- fulfill this role, depending on the gang size).
The other option is evasion. I don’t mean the “align and warp out of the fight permanently” escape option, though. Let me give you an example.
In RvB, I was flying a Jaguar in a fleet of T1 cruisers and frigates. I knew I was going to be primaried because I was a T2 ship, a less common sight in RvB fights. So when my fleet warped to 0 on the gate to engage the Blue gang, I didn’t engage. Rather, I waited unaggressed on the gate until a few ships targeted me; as the first damage came in, I jumped.
What did this accomplish? First, they wasted the time it took for them – Cruisers and frigates – to lock and engage an assault frigate Jaguar, only to see him jump through. That gave my gang enough time to destroy the first enemy ship and move onto the second. It was an early advantage that removed a tackler from the equation.
Secondly, it forced the enemy FC to switch to another primary. When I reburned to the gate and jumped back int othe fight, no one was expecting my return, so I was able to safely warp to a scout point, and then back in at range. I was able to pick my targets on the outskirts of the fight and apply my TD to targets of interest. It wasn’t until I had helped kill a dozen ships that someone noticed I was back on the field and engaged me. By that point, we had won the engagement, despite being outnumbered.
I’d call that a successful example of recognizing an enemy’s tactics, evading them, and returning to do some damage in the fight.
Yes, I missed out on a few kills when I jumped through, but while I gave up one or two – and only one round of my guns on each – the tactic paid sixfold dividends. I recognized the limitations of my situation and flew the best way I could.
Not a bad night’s work.