Monday, November 11, 2013

What is Elite PvP?

“Oh, God, is this sov bloc scrub really gonna talk about elite PvP?”

Yes, yes he is.  Sharpen your spears, boys.

Elite PvP… you always think you’re elite, but everyone else can think of several reasons why you aren’t.  Ever since the tragedy in Doril during the live event, people have re-opened the discussion about elite PvP.  I’ve seen a couple reddit posts about this, too.  Is it possible to come to a consensus about what elite PvP is?  Probably not.  But I play Eve, so I’ve already shown a willingness for self-abuse.

First, realize this: I’m not talking about FCing.  I’m talking about individual tactical piloting skills of the average player, not the meta strategies of fleet commanders.  You can have an elite fleet commander leading a bunch of scrubs, and you can have a fleet of wonderful elite PvPers without any FC at all.  The two are not casually related.

I’m not an elite PvPer, but I strive to be.  I need to improve a whole lot and gain more experience in a wider variety of situations.  But what exactly am I striving for?

Characteristics of Elite PvP

1) You win or lose based primarily on your own actions.  To be an elite PvPer, you have to minimize the effects of luck as much as possible.  Whether you win or lose, it has to be based more on an action you took than pure chance (hit severity, for instance) or the mistakes of those you fight against.  That said, you can’t help it if your opponent makes a mistake.  But if he does, it should only shorten the engagement, not help you snatch victory from the hands of defeat.  Elite PvP requires you to use your judgment, your instincts, and your knowledge to achieve victory.  Being cunning or tricky is perfectly fine, so long as you were the cause of the deception.

2) You risk loss every time you fly.  When you enter an engagement, an elite PvPer must be facing a real risk.  Hunting those who cannot defend themselves isn’t elite PvP.  Sure, use those engagements to kill time, but don’t think it represents how awesome you are.  Only by putting yourself in situations in which you could very easily be destroyed can you claim elite PvP status.

3) You choose your engagements from both the “definitely” and “maybe” categories.  For any ship you fly, for any fleet size you fly in, there are certain engagements you rush towards, confident in victory.  These are the “definitely” fights.  There are others that would be suicidal, and no amount of skillful piloting could help you (ie. A solo Vagabond going against 3 Rapiers and 2 Curses).  These are the “never” engagements.  But in between are engagements that are highly uncertain, in which you could very well lose, but you think you have a chance of winning.  These are the “maybe” fights we all remember.  “I had him down to 15% structure when I popped”, or “I was on fire when I finally took him down.”  Elite PvPers have to routinely dip into this “maybe” category, or they’re not really elite; they’re just good and obliterating an outclassed enemy.

4) You know how to fly your ship.  Almost a consequence of the other requirements, you need to know how to fly your ship properly.  Armor-tanking a Cynabal, for instance, is absurd, and you can’t accomplish any of the other requirements if you don’t know how to fly.  Also in this category is exclusively using the “orbit” button to maintain range.

5) You can mitigate losses and extricate yourself from unfavorable situations.  In poker, a winning player is defined not by how much they win when they win, but by how much they lose when they lose.  Knowing when to cut bait is critical in Eve PvP.  Being able to take out a Crow and a Sabre is only impressive if the Vexor, Rapier, and Hurricane don’t kill your Vagabond.  This becomes particularly relevant when you fly more expensive ships.

6) You are willing to fight outnumbered.  To fight with superior numbers is safe.  If you want to be considered elite and gain the respect of your peers, you need to beat the odds.  Fighting outgunned is a sub-requirement of under here too.  Using gate gun mechanics to kill three black ops ships in a T1 ship is elite. (I remember this situation featured on a “loss of the day” post somewhere… my thanks to anyone who can find it for me).

7) You astound, surprise, or impress others.  What separates the “good” from the “elite” is the public opinion of one’s peers.  A good PvPer will take only engagements that he can win, know exactly which ships counter other ships, and know how to fly their ships.  An elite PvPer will amaze even other PvPers with his piloting skill.  Elite PvPers have to be so good that they find new ways of doing old tricks, or can manipulate their opponents into taking the actions they want.  In either case, those who observe these fights should stand amazed.

So, Bring It Home For Me

If you take a look at this list of characteristics, my first conclusion won’t really surprise you.  You can’t be an elite PvPer if you only fly in sov bloc fleets.  I’ll go one further… if you only fly in large fleets, you don’t even have bragging rights.  In large fleets where alpha damage eliminates targets, your kills don’t come from F1, they come from the Smite button.  For alliances, large fleets are about securing strategic objectives, not PvP.  For an alliance member, large fleets are about padding your killboard, not gaining skill.

Obviously, high-sec ganking isn’t elite PvP, either.  Sure, it takes coordination and planning, and you certainly face risk (from CONCORD), but you’re fighting someone who doesn’t have a chance to defend himself, and ganks tend to involve overwhelming force to alpha-strike your target.  Individual pilot skill doesn’t have much to do with it.  See target.  Lock target.  F1.  Wait for CONCORD to pop you.  Collect loot.  Laugh.

So what does that leave?  Small gang and solo roaming are the only places you’re going to find elite PvPers, and the only places they’re going to develop and emerge.  Even with off-grid boosters, these forms of PvP require precise control, with everyone knowing how to fly their ships and the situational awareness to make decisions.  Unless you’re at the top of the “blob” food chain, you’ll likely face larger gangs… how you conduct yourself in these situations goes into whether you are truly elite at PvP.

It should be no surprise that the best flying advice I’ve ever read came from an NPC null-sec alliance that frequently runs small fleets of 5-10 or so.

An elite PvPer doesn’t focus on kill/loss ratio, but rather the impressiveness of his fights, the number of enemy he takes down when he loses, and the escapes he makes from impossible situations.

How do you know you’ve reached elite PvP status?  When you’re willing to fly through any type of space confident that you can get kills and survive without the use of a covert ops cloak.  When you see an enemy gang and you ask yourself, “with the ship I’m in, how can I kill some of them,” then do it.  When you kill rattters specifically to trigger a 10-many defense fleet, then pick off a few of that defense fleet for fun.  When you look at fight recordings on YouTube and realize you’ve done better just this week.

In short, when you are feared.  Not your alliance, not your corporation.  You.

Friedrich Nietzsche said, “the devotion of the greatest is to encounter risk and danger, and play dice for death.”  He believed the only path to self-improvement was to throw oneself at dangers and either be improved by them or destroyed by them.  For immortal capsuleers, the benefit is clearer.  We can’t be destroyed, so the lessons we learn stay with us.

But that won’t happen if you seek safety.  Seek danger, and thus become fierce.


  1. That's a very rosy perspective on the term of "elite PvP". Sure, what you describe are all the good hallmarks of a great PvPer. I especially like that you point out taking fights that you might lose simply for the challenge, and k/d ratio (or KB efficiency) not being a primary concern.

    However, the term "elite PvP" or "pro PvP" has a certain stigma, as there are a number of people who see themselves as "elite" because they will only engage 3 or fewer T1 frigates with their 200k EHP T3 cruiser with two offgrid boosters, two logi alts, and a Falcon alt. Yeah, sure, they don't lose fights and can stand on that to chestbeat about how good they are, but they make everyone who is outwardly proud of their PvP accomplishments look like idiotic tryhards. This results in "elite PvP" or "pro PvP" often being denigrated as "super-pr0 1337 PvP" or similar.

    I'm not sure there is a name for the kind of PvP you're referring to, but everyone knows it when they see it. It's just when someone is "good"; when his opponents can honestly say "good fight and good job", and the end of a fight has the soundtrack of "We Are The Champions", and not "Another One Bites The Dust".

    Just my bittervet 0.02 ISK. Note: some exaggeration was used.

    1. I've seen elite pvp be used both as a pejorative and a compliment. I'm choosing to use it as something to aspire to, so as to educate newer players about what they should do.

  2. 6) You are willing to fight outnumbered.

    1. Yes! I saw that one, and stood in awe. The perfect blend of understanding mechanics and how to pilot your ship. That's exactly the type of damage I long to inflict.