Monday, December 23, 2013

Lessons: At Least My Ship Was the Most Expensive?

“I was bored, and wanted to roam.”

It’s a compound sentence, with a very simple meaning, and when noteworthy it either leads to tremendous success or dismal failure.

This is a lesson about failure.

I took out a small fleet from our staging system in Doril on Friday night.  Having checked dotlan and seen some action in Immensea, we headed up there.  My prior experiences with the constellations in the northwest of the map were not very positive.  In each case, I was met with a massive blob that killed me, albeit after I was able to get some kills.

Now, that usually doesn’t bother me; if I’m traveling into their space, it’s only fair they muster everything they have to repel me.  Killing someone with 14 people on the killmail is hardly a demonstration of skill, but it does clear your space of the threat, and sometimes that’s the only objective.

On this occasion, I happened to be flying a Vagabond, with a Sabre, two interceptors, a Moa, and a Rapier in my fleet.  As we were entering GXK-7F, our interceptor scout reported two Taloses and a Stabber Fleet Issue on the GXK-7F gate.  After debating for a moment, I put the decision on whether we engaged to the rest of the fleet.  Everyone was up for it, so we warped.  The scout had to jump back through, so we didn’t have eyes on them for a few seconds.

I told the Rapier to put a web on each Talos, and put everyone on alert to watch broadcasts for which one we would primary.  The SFI, I figured, was likely to do minimal damage at first, but those Taloses would have to be taken out quickly.

When we landed, they had already warped off, despite our Rapier warping cloaked.  Suffice to say, I was very disappointed.  Two Taloses and a SFI versus two Intys, a Sabre, Moa, Rapier, and Vaga would have been an interesting fight.  We’d be light on DPS, they’d have been light on tackle and ewar.

We moved further into the constellation, expecting a fleet to form up to fight us as we did.  Our intys tried to find some ratters to catch, but the residents were on the ball and immediately safed up when we entered local.

Part way through, our Rapier had to go.  My first mistake was in not turning back once we lost those webs.

As we were heading back, we saw a fairly large interceptor gang in GXK-7F on the GXK-7F gate – our exit of that constellation.  Included within them was a Sabre, a Tengu, and a Vagabond.  I realized we would struggle to take down even those three ships with our combined DPS, so I warped us to a safe and decided to wait it out, but told everyone to align.  My hope was that part of the fleet would warp off, giving us a chance at a more balanced fight.  After all, a ship in system but not on grid does no DPS.

Seeing that their numbers were only increasing, I decided to take the first chance we had, before even a split fleet would be far too much for us.  When their interceptors warped off, I seized the opportunity and fleet warped us to the gate for an immediate jump.  Unsurprisingly, the Sabre and Vagabond followed us, but the Tengu held off at first.

We MWD-aligned for the out-gate, and I called the Sabre primary, but he quickly burned out of range.  The Vagabond maintained the initial point on me until the interceptors warped back to the gate, jumped, closed range, and gained tackle.

Let’s take a moment.  The Rubicon mechanics, of course, changed interceptor warp speeds.  I don’t think anyone can blame me up to this point; a fleet that was slowly growing split, and I took advantage of the opportunity to try to escape.  But with the new warp changes, those interceptors were able to get back into the fight within less than a minute after warping off.  Our fleet warped as slow as the Moa, so by the time we were aligning out of the Sabre’s bubble on the other side, the interceptors were already landing on gate.

My big mistake – and the lesson for this fight – rested in my target calling (irony of ironies).  Sure, going after the Sabre was a smart move, and switching to the Vagabond after that made sense, but as soon as those interceptors hit the field, I should have switched to them immediately.  After my jump, I spawned favorably, in line with my warp out, so they were between 0 and 26 km away.  I had my own energy neutralizer, a Sabre, and two interceptors on my side, so we could have bitten into the interceptors more than we did.  Sure, we probably couldn’t clear them all, but surely killing 3-4 was a possibility.  As it turned out, we only managed to take one out because of my ham-fisted target calling.  If I’d switched us earlier, we might have even cleared tackle on one or more of us.

But the real story about this fight was one of expectation.  I expected us to have the time to clear the Sabre off the field and burn away before that interceptor contingent returned.  Without the Sabre, we could have chased off the Vagabond with our combined DPS.  Quite simply, I had hope that we could fight our way to freedom.

Perhaps it would have been better to have no hope at all.  Had I warped into the entire fleet, I wouldn’t have wasted precious time shooting the Sabre or Vaga, instead going immediately after the interceptors to help balance the isk scale and enjoy the fight. 

If warping the interceptors off was a deliberate tactic, it was a brilliant one on the part of the enemy fleet.  It dangled a chance in front of me, only to snatch it away.  Perhaps I’m giving them too much credit, but if it was deliberate, it was a brilliant understanding of psychology in Eve, which I’ve discussed before.

Worth noting, though, we were able to escape with our Sabre and nearly all our pods, despite the fleet camping us in long after our aggression timers ended (the only pod we lost was from one pilot who spawns on the other side of the gate and couldn’t break free of the bubble before his ship popped).  Even after the welp, we extracted what we could by chasing off the enemy Sabre and keeping our poise when it came time to warp off.  We kept the “moment after welp” in mind by clearing the bubbles, not as much to free our ship as to free our pods.

So, to sum up, positives and negatives throughout.  Short of logging off in system (which I see as a cowardly way to do it), we were always going to die.  Had I shifted my expectation more quickly, though, we might have been able to take more with us.

If you were with the enemy fleet, please post below whether warping off your interceptors was a deliberate tactic to bait us into making a run for it, or if you were simply splitting those intys up to try to find us.  I really want to know!

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