Universal axioms are rarely useful; in almost all cases (see what I did there...), the devil is in the details. Take, for instance, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." In certain cases, it just doesn't make sense to follow that advice. If you fail to kill a carrier with a single battleship, don't try again. Give up. It's foolish. Or if, say, you aren't willing to inject, repurpose, or buy a neutral jump freighter pilot, don't fly jump freighters.
Yet, that's not to say the axiom is wholly worthless, because there are a lot of situations where slight differences in details can make a world of difference. Sometimes, victory or defeat comes down to a slight fitting change here or there, or knowing more about the habits of your target. In many cases, even the experience of losing once provides critical information you can use the next time to turn the tables.
One of those situations happened to me this weekend. In between hunting Goonswarm supercaps as they moved and killing a couple carriers that wanted to commit insurance fraud, I made two quick whaling trips to a nearby ratting system. During the first one, I tried to jump two Vexor Navy Issues, but it didn't go as planned.
The second trip ended much differently as a direct result of the lessons I learned, though.
Generally speaking, I feel pretty good about the fit I'm using for my Stratios. While it's meant to take down Gurista-hardened ratting ships, it can hold its own against tackle and targets of opportunity, with a respectable 28k omni ehp. I've been flying with a capacitor emission systems implant instead of my usual CPU 603 one, and swapping the co-processor for the nanofiber doesn't harm the fit at all.
As I mentioned above, during my first roam I came across two Vexor Navy Issues orbiting an anomaly at range under MWD. A quick dscan revealed only ratting ships in range, so I slow-boated myself under cloak into the path of the orbit of the closest one. They were about 40-50 km away from each other, the Eve random number generator having calculated wildly different routes for each of them. I love that RNG sometimes...
Now, I wasn't too worried about surviving the two VNIs by themselves. After all, the drones they had out were Wasps, and I was heavily hardened against kinetic damage. Their best option would have been to abandon those drones and launch new ones, but no one ever does this. Even if they could, ratting boats typically don't carry off-type drones with them. Heavy drones travel slowly, and I'd have a good 20-30 seconds before I had to face their full dps. Given that my heavies do about 300-400 dps each volley, I only needed ten or so volleys to kill a VNI. The second VNI really wasn't a problem.
As I decloaked and targeted the first ship, I was pleased with the dps. I noticed the comforting drop as my neuts capped him out, and things were going well. As the VNI was starting to drop into hull, I took a look at my capacitor and decided not to go for the other one. So far, things were going well.
Then, tackle landed at about the same time that the first VNI popped, much faster than I expected. Given the length of time it'd take for a ship to undock and warp to the VNI, these two ratters were clearly in a standing fleet. Local had perhaps twenty pilots in it, and not all of them were asleep at the wheel, it seemed.
I was too slow with aligning out and got caught in a bad way. Because I have so many bookmarks, I experience a good 2-second lag when creating new ones, during which my screen freezes. If I minimize the folders holding my BMs, though, the lag when creating new bookmarks disappears completely. So, I had taken to flying with my folders closed. In this case, the extra time it took to right-click in space and navigate through my BM menus - rather than right clicking on the BM in People and Places - was just enough time for me to get caught. As you can tell, both from here and my jump freighter loss, I'm not good with right-click menu navigation.
With my capacitor almost dry and myself pointed, I didn't have the time to neut down my tackler and kill it before the rest of the cavalry arrived. I died very soon afterwards. A VNI for a Stratios... it wasn't a good trade.
As I made my way home in the pod of shame, I contemplated the fight. Was my fault in attacking multiple ships at once or hitting a target in a busy system? No... I've been successful in both situations in the past. Rather, my mistake was in underestimating the response of the Brave residents. I didn't expect them to react so quickly. I'm still used to the old residents of the north, who would only have backup when flying a carrier. Years of owning their space caused them to neglect standing fleets, but Brave are still new to their space, and are taking appropriate precautions to prevent whalers from having an easy time. A 20-pilot Brave system just isn't the same as a 20-pilot CFC system, it seems.
Now, that's a lesson I could apply. I wanted my revenge, both to get that second VNI and to prove to myself that I can still take down targets in a standing fleet.
So, as a dip in the alliance fleet action of this past week emerged, I took my Stratios back out in the same direction. This time, though, rather than passing through Brave space, I found a target much closer, in Pandemic Horde space just a couple jumps from our staging system.
As I entered local, I saw a number of ships on dscan: an Ishtar, Rattlesnake, and Vexor Navy Issue. Narrowing my range, I pinpointed the anomaly the VNI was running first, so I warped there. As best as I could tell, the Ishtar and rattler were POSed up safely. As I approached, a narrow dscan showed that the VNI was indeed at my destination, and was still there.
I landed about 45 km away from him. Just like before, the VNI was orbiting the center of the anomaly with an MWD on. And, just like the last roam, his orbit was bringing him close to my position. Following the trajectory, I started slowboating to intercept his orbit under cloak. And, just like the first roam, I decloaked as he traveled into my path, pointed, and began to neut him out.
The parallels were striking. As the VNI entered structure, a Crow landed and scrammed me. With the VNI melting quickly, I pulled my NOS and neuts and put them on the Crow instead. After burning too much capacitor during the last fight, I was more judicious with it this time around.
The VNI's armor lasted through two shield repair cycles, but my Praetor II's dutifully ate through him. The Crow still had me pointed, but he was within neut range, and I wasn't too worried about him. Once the VNI popped, I had already been draining the Crow for two cycles, and at some point I shut off his MWD, which he didn't reactivate. Unable to speed tank my heavy drones, he died in three volleys from my Praetor II's.
But before he did, a Hecate had landed and scrammed me. At this point, my shields were about half gone, and the Hecate pilot knew what he was doing. He charged me at full speed and landed not only a scram, but two webs, bringing me to a standstill. My drones, already close to me, melted his shields in one volley before he swapped to defensive mode to absorb my damage. My capacitor was low, but being scrammed, the only thing I needed to expend cap on were my neuts, my lone active hardener, and my warp disruptor.
Fortunately, the hardener was a kinetic one, and I had wisely fitted a nosferatu. My natural cap regen and the NOS brought my capacitor high enough that I could pulse one of my neuts, helping to drain him, albeit slowly.
Overheating my kinetic hardener, we each settled down for the slug-fest. He was no doubt overheating his guns, and my drones were hitting him hard. It was a race to the finish. His armor melted quickly, and then I ran into his hull tank, while he burned through first my shield, then my armor.
It was a close thing. Confronted by the risk of all my hard work falling to pieces, I hit dscan more than once, hoping it remained clear. And it did.
Skills surely matter in Eve, but never before did it matter so much. Had I not trained my shield skills, mechanics, or hull upgrades quite a high as I did, or if I hadn't maxed my drone skills, I don't think I would have pulled it through. But in the end, I managed to wear down the Hecate, too.
I had done it. Three kills, including both my original target and two relief ships, with the same ship that I'd lost a few days earlier. I resisted the temptation to grow timid or pass up on an opportunity.
In the end, the only difference was the size of local. While it was still full, it wasn't quite as full as the Brave system I had entered. The response was the same, the ratter's behavior the same, the response fleet arrived just as quickly. There just weren't as many of them. A few minutes later on the way home, I found out why; a Horde gang was chasing some corpmates a couple systems away. My timing was remarkably convenient.
When roaming, there are so many factors to consider when extracting lessons from the experience. The real secret lies in trial and error. I learned my lesson the hard way about the new residents in the north; they still have good standing fleet discipline, and a system under the new regime is a lot more responsive than it used to be under the old one.
I could have been wrong. It's possible that the real lesson was, "These newbie groups always have Falcons in standing fleets to respond to whalers." If that was the case, I'd likely be dead, jammed perpetually as the reinforcements killed me. The real devil of it's that you don't really know if you're right until you test it.
That's why PvP is hard work; you've got to make some assumptions and take some risks if you want to test your hypotheses. Only then can you really learn where that line is, and to what extent you can push the envelope.
You're not going to succeed the first time, and maybe not the second time either. But if you keep practicing, you'll learn where you're going wrong and slowly work through the possible fixes until you hit upon the answer.
Tenacity. That's the part that requires courage and will.