Normally, when I’m engaging in PvP, I’m the pilot traveling from system to system, hunting for targets. Deciding what fights I want to take and hoping my target’s still there when I land. A lot of that happens in faction warfare plexes. Bring the aggressor, I tend to slide into a lot of situations that are marginal engagements at best. That’s how you end up losing some ships. But it’s great fun.
Normally, I’m a big proponent of the importance of aggression. If you take the first action, you force your opponent to react to a situation of your creation, not his. Many times, you can take the tempo of the fight and keep it the whole time. That is, if you’ve chosen your fights well and accurately understand your strengths and abilities.
But recently, I’ve started to explore – and really enjoy – the pleasure of being the target who other people choose. With my faction warfare alt, I’ve really enjoyed being the “victim”.
And I’m starting to see some advantages in giving up the initiative. Or, rather, understanding that one can set up the circumstances favorably before the first action is taken, stealing the tempo by good preparation.
Generally, when you warp into a faction warfare plex, you find one of three kinds of pilots sitting inside. The first are, of course, the farmers who fit warp core stabilizers. They may or may not be afk, but even if they are, it’s not possible to catch them. Your only hope is that they remain afk long enough for you to take them down quickly.
The second group are those pilots who are primarily interested in farming LP, but who don’t fit stabs and are watching dscan. If they’re particularly brave, they’ll wait in their plex right up until you slide into their plex, then warp out, as they were aligned correctly. These pilots may be infuriating because they escaped, but you can only be slightly angry, since they’re demonstrating sound judgment and countermeasures. You’re upset not that they’re cancer, but that they escaped.
Those first two groups are quite numerous in faction warfare. There are so many, in fact, that it’s quite easy for a hunting PvPer to get used to seeing his prey run away and become a little lazy and distracted, even when warping into someone’s plex. “He’s probably a farmer,” and “Watch, he’ll warp away once I land,” are thoughts that are sometimes too easy to resist.
But the third group will make you pay for that thinking. The third group is composed of pilots fit for PvP and are just hoping and praying someone warps in on them. They may be flying a common ship in an uncommon way, or maybe they’re just crazy.
The fun part of being a pilot in that third group is how easy it is to hide among all the members of the first two. No matter how skilled, hunters eventually get used to watching their prey escape from either sharp dscanning or stabs, and they start to expect it to happen. It might happen on the third target, or the tenth. But it will happen. And in those few seconds of surprise when he warps in on a pilot actually sitting at his optimal and targeting/sending drones/webbing and scramming him… there’s a brief moment of hesitation. Good pilots will recover quickly, and you have yourself a little fight. Bad pilots will make too many mistakes and won’t recover. In faction warfare frigate fights, the first five seconds usually determine the fight.
Hunting can be an awful lot of work, while being the hunted is actually quite soothing. Just relax, watch for enemy faction npcs, and dscan regularly to be aware of incoming enemies. If you see a target warp to within 0.1 au, you’ve got a contestant. Check his ship. If you think you can take him, get to your optimal and wait. If you can’t, start to align out, and become one of that second group. It’s better to be smart that brave, usually.
I’ve found a lot of pleasure in letting the hunters come to me. Having set myself up in the plex ahead of time, I can dictate the terms of the engagement. I can pre-lock the warp-in beacon to identify where he’s going to come in. I can have safe spots prepared off-grid to get out in an emergency. I can choose my engagement better than I can as a hunter, where I have to take whatever I find.
And, if no one tries to challenge me, I get a 350 mil payout after every 13-14 plexes I finish. Rarely do I go an entire plex without someone trying to attack me and giving me the opportunity for a fight.
While null-sec languishes amid too much space and not enough people wanting to contest it, low-sec is the place to go for a fight pretty much on-demand. As a FW pilot, it really is a win/win situation. I can be as aggressive as I want to be, and if no one seeks to attack me, I profit from the effort nonetheless.
There’s a great pleasure in that simplicity. And all it requires is patience. Not a bad trade-off, as trade-offs go.