Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Lessons: Decloak Before You Approach

I was looking at a long day of very small play sessions, so I decided to wander through Cobalt Edge to look for miners in my Rapier.  I brought along two bubbles just in case, but beyond that, it was just little old me.  My plan was to hang around for a few hours in the afternoon, until the fish started to get used to my presence, then hit them in the evening.

I didn’t see much between Tenal and deep Cobalt Edge, though I did try to catch a couple miners and ratters on the way to 5HN-D6.  I have to give kudos to the residents for safing up quickly.  The one exception is a five-man mining gang that all warped as a unit, had sequential ship names, and remained absolutely silent for about ten minutes without reacting.  Likely a bot.

As I made my way though Cobalt Edge, one helpful neutral insulted my ship choice in local.  Pro tip guys…don’t ever talk in local.  If he remained silent, I’d have never known he was in space, or have confirmation that my presence and ship type had been reported in intel.  As it was, I knew to expect reinforcements to come streaming in any time I engaged a target, so bait ships wouldn’t work against me now.  If he’d have kept his mouth shut, I might have been looser with my target selection.

But eventually, I made my way to P-H5IY, where I found about a dozen mining barges and a few ratting ships – a Tengu, a Dominix, and an Abaddon.  I warped to the largest asteroid anom as two retrievers warped off, leaving one Mackinaw behind.  Thinking perhaps he was afk, I slow-boated into point range before decloaking.

That decloak lock timer is maddening, and just as I was about to lock him, he warped off.  Apparently, he was a second behind, but he was starting to align and warped when I presented myself.  Anything for the chance to complete his mining cycle, I suppose.

At this point, with all the targets safed up, I cloaked up and made some bookmarks that would let me quickly warp to any asteroid in the anom.  Local started to decline as – predictably – the miners went to nearby systems to ply their trade unmolested.

But I had forced them to do something out of the norm, and when people are forced out of their usual patterns (and usual bookmarks), and that breeds mistakes.  After about an hour, I came back and jumped into 1M7-RK, a dead-end system, and immediately hit the largest asteroid anom.

This time, a Retriever warped off as I landed but – surprisingly – warped back a few minutes later.  I didn’t wait to burn into range, but rather decloaked immediately and pointed the Machinaw in the belt.  As I came closer, I started to align to a safe – surely, help would arrive, right?  I got him into mid-armor when, much to my frustration, he warped off.  Stabilized.  I should have bumped him.

I did the same thing as before, but this time I anchored bubbles in line with the station at the belt and about 170 off in the station’s direction, just in case he warped back.  To my surprise, a Maller, came onto dscan. Surely, he wouldn’t warp by himself… oh, he did.

I warped down to my first bubble, which was apparently better-placed, and started kiting him, getting him to about 70% armor when I saw a Dominix enter dscan.  I kept my range, so I aligned off, recalled my drones, and warped away.  But, I was too far, and my drones didn’t make it back into my bay.

The Dominix landed in the bubble, as did a Rifter.  I hadn’t gotten my kills yet and had left my drones, but I did NOT want to leave my bubbles as well.  Warping to the second bubble, I made a bee-line to it, decloaked, unanchored it, and continued to burn through the other side.  The Rifter was alert, and warped to the second bubble.  He pointed me, but hadn’t fit a scram… regardless, I was out of scram range by the time he locked me, and I quickly double-webbed him and melted him as the Domi and Maller landed on the far side of the bubble.  With the Rifter down, I targeted the Maller, but I was down my drone damage.

And the Domi decided to drop Bouncer IIs.  By this point, I was 60 km off both ships, and quietly warped off to a safe and shut off my MWD.

Only I didn’t warp.  Not until the MWD completed its cycle and a half (yeah, the warp bug).  Ctrl+space, re-warp, and I was gone, but at 95% armor.

Down two bubbles, five drones, and 5% structure, my plan to stay in CE for a long while was thwarted, at the cost of a very cheap Rifter.  But I had taken on a larger gang and successfully killed one without losing my ship, so I’ll mark it as a win.  And, of course, content.

I have to give credit to cyberia 1981 and Cha Ching PLC.  They could have formed a 15-man gang with multiple bubblers for a single roaming neutral, but they didn’t, instead bringing a very reasonable ships to fight me.  They could have simply chased me off, but instead they were willing to engage without making it into a “big thing”.  You have my respect.  And with the cost of my lost bubbles and drones, you came out ahead in isk, and forced me to resupply back in Tenal.  Well done, mates.

What did I do wrong?  I should have gotten point immediately instead of hoping the first Machinaw was oblivious.  And I should have remembered to align only until my MWD shut off, then warp (to avoid the MWD warp bug) when facing the Dominix and Maller.  And I should have bumped the Retriever when he returned, but I was worried that he might scram me until a relief fleet arrived.

All in all, I’m very satisfied with the engagement.  But for a Domi, I’d have enjoyed fighting them all.  I look forward to the next engagement.

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