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I focus almost exclusively on PvP, whether solo, small gang, or large bloc warfare. In the past, I've been a miner, mission runner, and faction warfare jockey. I'm particularly interested in helping high-sec players get into 0.0 combat.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

What We Learned: Razor vs. Nulli

Last night during USTZ prime, Razor and Nulli Secunda tussled in a low-risk, but high-engagement null-sec fight in Geminate that was actually not only an enjoyable experience for the pilots involved, but resulted in some interesting lessons for the participants.

Wait… did I just say a null-sec engagement between alliances in major coalitions was… enjoyable? 

Indeed, I did.  While this fight was a bit thin on story, every battle needs a context, and context is the realm of “the narrative”.

The Context

While FCON was fighting XIX in Geminate, the rest of the CFC was politely asked to remain out of the conflict so FCON could test themselves in a deployment by themselves.  But, once FCON decided to leave, Razor swooped in to Geminate to stir the hornet’s nest a little and have a little fun.  Our goals for the campaign were limited to generating fleet battles, both spontaneously and through planned structure shoots.  We don’t really have an interest in holding sov, but if we do take some, we’ll keep it.  However, the success of the deployment will be judged more by how our FCs, scouts, and logistics teams conduct themselves than by taking sov.  Quite honestly, we’re not interested in sov far from Tenal.

But, we weren’t the only ones to deploy to Geminate.  A number of entities are floating around the area, including XIX, of course, as well as Nulli Secunda and Triumvirate.  Despite what’s being reported, the “EuroGoons” were not deployed, but rather Razor as a whole alliance.

We faced some questions going into this deployment, stemming from some instability within the alliance itself and whether the loss of TGRAD and hirr would signal the end of our problems or the beginning of them.  Some people suspected we were on the brink of a failcascade.  I shared that – from an internal perspective – it didn’t feel as if we were failing, even after TGRAD left the alliance.  But the question remained nonetheless.

All four groups were officially independent of each other, but Nulli had been helping XIX quite frequently against our fleets.  But it still provided a great opportunity for us to see how each group would perform when put into a difficult spot.  In the EU time zone, we had some mixed success, ranging from moderate victories to bloody noses.

The big wildcard was going to be the USTZ.  How well would we perform, given the fact that we’re traditionally the weaker time-zone within the alliance, and tend to be carried along with decisions, doctrines, and deployments that much more heavily affect the EUTZ.

In addition to these questions, the Eve community has leveled a lot of criticism at individual CFC alliances, suggesting that they can’t operate on their own without Goonswarm providing logistics for us.  Given Razor’s desire to run this deployment by ourselves – and the new necessity of doing so since the rest of the CFC is in the deep south – the truth of these concerns would be tested.  While our ability to run a deployment is based more on adaptability and being able to cope with the natural shifts of a campaign, kill reports would no doubt be scrutinized by armchair sky marshals, too.

Indeed, the Geminate situation is unique in that the CFC’s and N3’s second most-powerful member alliances are positioned to lock horns – Razor and Nulli.  How they perform against each other will no doubt be scrutinized by everyone interested in a knock-down war between the CFC and N3.

The Battle Itself

Nulli reinforced a tower in Razor’s staging system as a means of provoking a fight, and the timer came up at 02:00 Eve time on Friday morning – right in the USTZ’s prime Thursday play time.  For the first time in a long while, Razor was able to take the defender’s prerogative and wait while the enemy formed up.  We formed our Ishtar fleet by default, and stuck with the choice when we learned the enemy was flying Typhoons.

It’s worth mentioning that our FC group consisted of Med Lacroix, one of our newer FCs who did a fantastic job of keeping everyone informed about the intel on the enemy fleet.  He gave us general information that preserved op sec, but he did so in a way that kept everyone aware that a fight would happen, and projected timeline for when.  As it turned out, Nulli took longer to form than we planned, so we were sitting around for a good half-hour.

But, one member of our FC team did let slip that “we’re not using caps”, followed by an effort to downplay this comment (I believe that effort was, “Maybe I’m just saying that so the spies don’t think we’ll use capitals,” but that’s kind of weak).  As both sides clearly recognized that their comms were compromised, this comment was no doubt reported back to Nulli’s leadership.  Worth noting, for later.

Once the tower came out of reinforce, we undocked and warped to the POS so our logi could begin repping it while our Ishtars set up a defensive picket (which is a fancy way of saying we moved around a lot so we didn’t get bombed).  A few minutes later, we saw the cyno in system.

Med had prepared the field perfectly, sending interceptors to burn multiple bounces around the POS and provided clear instruction to seed cloaked dictors throughout the area.  One, in particular, was given the heroic job of warping to the cyno ship and trying to bubble the incoming fleet while killing the cyno ship, if possible. 

He died gloriously, but managed to bubble the enemy fleet and delay the fight for another four minutes.  It provided no real value in this engagement – we were ready for them – but it was a good practice for future situations in which a couple minutes could mean the difference between successfully engaging two separate fleets or allowing them to combine for overwhelming force.

Nulli’s typhoons landed 340 off our fleet, which warped to one of our bounce spots.  Shortly after, the Nulli fleet landed at zero and we began to fight each other.  Our numbers were about even, at around 75 each.

Apparently, Nulli FC progodlegend’s overview was set up incorrectly, so no HACs appeared on his overview.  As a result, he started calling our support ships as primary.  Med Lacroix was in a Thorax serving as anchor, and was consequently taken down almost immediately.

Fortunately, we had four other FCs in the fleet to support Med in one of his first major fleet fights, so new Razor Troika member Troyd23 rose up and began to command the fleet.  We began to pull range, but we had multiple Sabres keeping bubbles on us while Nulli burned towards our drones.  Nulli had hidden some smartbombing Typhoons in among their cruise Typhoons, so they began cutting into our drones, while we ordered those same drones to start taking out the Sabres that were following our fleet.  We lost a few Ishtars, our FC’s Thorax, our secondary anchor’s Ishtar, and a Scimitar, while Nulli lost one Typhoon and four Sabres, a solid isk win for Nulli.

Regrouping, we docked up to gather more drones.  Meanwhile, one of our FCs coordinated with a nearby Bastion frigate fleet.  Meanwhile, Med probed the enemy down, and we undocked and warped back into the fight just as Nulli lit a cyno and brought in jumped in 8 Dreads and 2 Archons to finish off the tower and assist their fleet.  The Bastion's fleet came in and killed the cyno ship, stranding an additional dozen or so capitals on the other side, cut off from their fleet.

We landed on field at a good range thanks to Med's warpin, and the results of this fight were quite different.  We were at a better range, allowing our drones to last longer before being smartbombed off the field.  Typhoon after Typhoon started to go down, as our replenished dictors kept the capitals bubbled.  

Why did Nulli jump the capitals in just then?  After their first victory, it appeared as if they had won the field, so they were trying to claim the spoils by finishing off the tower.  Presumably, they underestimated us, thinking we would disengage after a relatively low number of losses.  None of the capitals were smartbomb fit to clear away the drones, and without the typhoons being close enough to quickly take down all our drones, they were vulnerable.

As I worked my way through our targets (drone assist is for wimps), I saw at least one Nulli capital escape by jumping out.  The rest weren't so lucky.  With the typhoons going down quickly, Nulli disengaged, leaving the capitals to their fate, and we set to work killing the capitals, starting with the Archons before finishing off the dreads.

In the end, the butcher’s bill was to the tune of 34B (though it should be said that this report doesn’t include some of the early Ishtar kills Nulli racked up).  Without the capital fleet losses, the losses were still around 10B, a decisive win nonetheless.  One of my corp mates, Alice Karjovic, posted a battle video showing the second, decisive engagement.

The tower remained standing, but it would be a giant pain in the ass to repair, so we simply destroyed it ourselves and started over.

What Does It NOT Mean?

Now, before talking about why this fight, in particular, was important to us, I should explain the conclusions that a person should not draw.  Narrative can spin in all kinds of direction, but I can already see some of the comments that would be quite unfair and inaccurate.

First off, this fight says nothing about FCON’s experience in Geminate.  FCON was fighting XIX, not Nulli, and so any comparisons between Razor and Nulli’s fight versus FCON and XIX’s fighting is just ridiculous.  The situations are extremely different.  It’s obvious, but it’s worth saying.

Secondly, Nulli conducted themselves well, and competently.  Despite the result being what it was, the only questionable call was in dropping capitals into the fight.  Their typhoon fleet was sneaky (smartbombing and cruise mixed together to take on a drone-based enemy fleet) and was well-piloted.  By no stretch was Nulli incompetent or unskilled.  They knew what they were doing and implemented their plan.  Our good warp-in, strong target calling, and coordination with our own reinforcements - smaller ships instead of bigger ones - won the day, instead of Nulli's mistakes losing it for them.

This also doesn’t mean that the CFC “pwned” N3.  This wasn’t a fight between the CFC and N3.  Sure, The Bastion came in near the end, but their involvement only accelerated the inevitable, it didn’t tip the scales.  Further, Nulli brought guns to a knife fight (Capitals to a subcap fight) anyways.  All in all, the forces were pretty even, and the deciding factor was the tactics, not blobbing or trickery.

This battle has no impact on the meta game, either.  Sovereignty wasn’t at stake, and it has no bearing on the state of inter-coalition politics.  Yet there are a number of soft conclusions you can draw from this fight.

What It All Means

That said, what impressed me during the fight was the clarity of command and the smoothness of transition as our FC and first anchor died, then our second anchor was primaried.  Our secondary FC stepped in smoothly and kept the fight going.  Those kinds of transitions can be difficult at times, but our team was well-prepared.  Part of that had to do with them all being a part of RP and being familiar with each other, but our scouts, our tacklers, and our Sabres all worked together well, and they represented nearly every corporation in the alliance.

Likewise, Twenty Questions conducted themselves very well, too.  As the newest corp, this is their first Razor campaign.  So far, I’ve seen only good things from them… the timing of their tower reinforcement, their communication with the alliance and FC team, and their piloting on the field was all very slick and professional.

As I mentioned earlier, Razor’s USTZ is viewed as weaker than the EUTZ, but my personal unbiased *cough, cough* opinion is that some of the best solo and small-gang PvPers operate within our time zone, and it’s in USTZ when RP really shines.  The departure of TGRAD raised legitimate questions about how large of an effective fleet Razor could raise in USTZ… I think those questions were successfully answered yesterday.  Size-wise, we topped at 90 members (though, as I said, actual fleet size at the time of engagement was about 75), which is higher than any time in the past several months.

Moreover, this fleet demonstrated the viability of the support model championed by our new military directors, who have placed a heavy emphasis on the scout team, training new FCs, and providing resources and structures to help fleets run smoothly.  Given that we had problems with core fleet roles being targeted and destroyed, it was a perfect test of the system recently put in place to ensure there’s always another FC ready to step up and take over.  And I’d say that succeeded.

I’m proud of the USTZ.  A lot of my beliefs about their ability were borne out by yesterday’s fight against a competent, well-led enemy.  I like being right.

Oh, and having a correctly set-up overview matters.


  1. This is sugar coated propaganda. The multiple FCs where confusing until we demanded a single FC and even then he had to demand battle comms from the others several times who then started using broadcast to call other targets, causing our DPS to spread. Nulli was right to jump their capitals in, they had won the fight. If it wasn’t for us bat phoning Bastion who cut off the rest of their reinforcements they would have keep the field. Then there is the whole issue of RP taking advantage of TWEN leadership not being on to approve the destruction of our tower that we just got done defending giving Nulli the Operation Successful anyways. While it was a fun fight, but operationally it was a total mess. We can’t improve as an alliance if we don’t look at the problems honestly.

    1. Certainly a different perspective, and you're entitled to your opinion. I've been pretty clear about the problems we have as an alliance. But, to my eyes, and from what I know about flying with these FCs over the past two and a half years, the multiple voices were due to our primary and backup target callers and our primary anchor being targeted and killed in rapid succession (almost as if someone knew who they were...). Other voices stepped in to take over, based on the pre-fleet plan. That doesn't strike me as disorganized, despite the multiple voices.

      The risk of having capitals on field long enough to repair the tower (it was almost destroyed) through shield, armor, and structure posed a greater downside than just blowing up a tower (at 250 mil at most in isk) and placing a new one. It's a tactic that most null alliances will do. If you have an issue with the tower destruction, by all means, talk to RP leadership. I'm sure they'll replace the tower at their own expense, if the alliance doesn't.

      Keep in mind, this whole deployment is about generating content that we can use to temper ourselves. The isk war is the only war in this instance. We have no long-term objectives or interests in this area.

    2. TWEN Pilot. Welcome to RZR.

      Could comms have been a little cleaner, sure but having been in multiple alliances and a lot of big fights that tends to happen when multiple FC's, anchors, target callers etc. get primaried off the field. Overall it was handled fairly well and we won the fight. Not to diminish the contribution of the bastion fleet as they did a wonderful job clearing Nulli's light tackle, but ishtars are what won the fight. Go ahead and ask one of our FC's from that fight if we lose without Bastion and see what they tell you. You also believe that Bastion "cut off Nulli's reinforcements" and I'm sorry to tell you they did no such thing. Nulli was using a bridging titan to bring new ships in at will, however, this was slowed down by the fact that their pods had to travel ~15 jumps to get back to their staging and reship while we were able to reship in system.

      As for your tower, do you guys really care about that? They are not expensive and we have a dozen replacements sitting in our hanger. Nulli doesn't even truly care about it, they just wanted a timer for a fun fight! Also, don't forget that the decision to shoot the tower for expediency came from a troika member (i.e. alliance leadership). Yes, he is also a member of RP but he is effectively THE alliance leadership for the USTZ.