Monday, July 28, 2014

Lessons: The Fighting Bears

With Razor based in Vale near Geminate, I’ve taken to roaming through Geminate to find ratters and travelers, hoping to find a good fight in the process.  However, the pickings tend to be slim in the USTZ, since X.I.X. is mostly EU or earlier.

Those targets I do find tend to be of the smarter variety.  I know Forsaken Hubs are the way to go, and many times I’ve warped to one only to find it 90% complete, but no target plugging away at red crosses.  The residents of Geminate are smart ratters, staying aligned and dropping what they’re doing to warp a safe POS when local gets a +1.

But, your most precious discovery, as a roamer, is when you find residents who don’t just safe up, but who actually switch to a PvP ship and come after you for the affront of entering their space.  Your heart skips a beat to find a viable target interested in a fight where you expected nothing but ganks or blobs.

A few days ago, I found exactly this kind of group.  I followed the NPC kills on Dotlan and made my way to this system in my TD-fit Jaguar.  As I entered, I chose a Forsaken Hub off of dscan and warped to it, only to find the same pile of wrecks, but no one farming them anymore.  A quick dscan revealed both a Dominix and Ishtar at max range.  So, I started to make safes, which regularly checking dscan to see if I could get a beat on any other ratters.

As I did, I saw dscan change to include a Heron and Jaguar.  Then, as I cycled through my probes overview, I saw combat probes pop on scan.  My heart skipped a beat.  They wanted to fight!  I had found the elusive white whale in null-sec… carebears with teeth!

I was overjoyed, but managed to control it enough to warp to a planet, both to make it easier for them to find me and to protect my safes.  As I did, I kept dscanning, and saw the Isthar pop back on scan as I landed at a planet.  Changing overview tabs and narrowing the directional, I realized he was ratting, and had popped a good number of wrecks.  I assumed I had simply missed him the first time, and before the Heron could lock my position down, I warped to the Ishtar.

I’ve ratted in an Ishtar before, so I know they tend to heavily tank kinetic damage while leaving an EM hole in Guristas space, so I loaded faction EMP ammo as I was in warp.  Landing 60 off, I started to pick up transversal, expecting him to hit me with his sentry drones at range.  As I moved in closer, he still hadn’t seemed to notice me.  AFK Ishtar?

I waited until I was near scram range before I locked him – I didn’t want to alert him to my presence in case he played with sound turned on – and scrammed him.  I started plugging away.

Now, I know some of you are thinking, “Dur, this is obviously bait.”  You’d be the type who over-estimates the skill of people who rat against Guristas.  Ishtars in particular are very good at killing Guristas rats while paying only the slightest bit of attention, if that, and afk Ishtar ratting is most definitely a thing.  There are a lot of incompetent players out there.

And this totally wasn’t one of those players.  3-4 salvos in, I realized something was very wrong… my EMP wasn’t doing nearly as much damage as it should have been, so I started to bug out.  Then the scram and web hit.  Then the Gardes disappeared to be replaced by Geckos and an assortment of smaller drones.  Then the Jaguar and Dominix landed on grid.  Then I warped away in a pod.

It was a gamble, but it was a gamble that provided me with valuable information.  These guys were willing to fight, and they knew how to put a nice bait ship out there.  Well done!

Naturally, when confronted by a group of three pilots willing to fight, I had to take advantage of my find, so I quickly returned in a dual-ASB Harpy.  This time, when I entered system, the Jaguar warped to me and we started to brawl.  He had a web, but he continued to orbit at about optimal x 2, which was around 3,000 m, well within range of my blasters.  I suffered for range a little bit, but was still able to melt him without taking any armor damage.

Even in victory, this fight demonstrated a valuable lesson to any Jaguar pilot (and I fly Jaguars a lot).  When flying a Jaguar against a Harpy, always fly just inside your falloff.  Sure, it’ll take a while to finish him off, particularly if he has two ASBs, but eventually he’ll have to reload, at which point you’ll make serious headway.  If you can orbit him at 6500m and have a web and scram on him, he’ll have to change to null ammo, which puts you ahead in the dps war.  If he continues to out-tank you, you can bugger out better than he can.  Don’t ever fly within his Void fall-off, though… he’s a brawler and will destroy you, as I did to this pilot.

I collected the loot, tossed a “gf” in local, and started to explore the rest of the constellation as my ASBs reloaded.  I was exhilarated at this 1v1, and wanted more.  The rest of the constellation was behind my initial system, though, and was vacant, so I decided to go back to my initial system and push further through.

When I returned, I was confronted with two Jaguars sitting on the gate – my original combatant and another of the pilots who killed my Jaguar earlier.  Another fight!  Woo hoo!

But I realized I couldn’t take them both at the same time, so I tried to burn through the gate with my MWD overheated, hoping to split them on either side.

A second later, dual webs and scrams hit me, reducing my speed to about 30 m/s within 2 seconds after that.  I was still 7000 from the gate.  I fly a Harpy because it can take a lot of punishment, but I didn’t think I’d be able to make it.  I was able to endure the single Jaguar’s punishment during the last fight, so I figured I’d try to take one of them down before I popped.

That was a huge mistake.  They had a head start, having started shooting me first, and were doubling the damage as during the last fight.  My Harpy was also more durable than I thought… I made it back to the gate in plenty of time to jump through… but still had a 15 sec aggression timer when I popped.  I took 9,600 damage total (not EFT damage; actual, registered damage).  For a frigate, that’s quite a punishment.  I’m proud to say my ASBs were both used up and I was entirely out of cap.  That’s a good punishment.

I made a bit more sophisticated of a mistake in this situation.  There’s a fine line between adapting to changing circumstances on the field and second-guessing yourself.  When I saw the two Jaguars, I correctly realized I couldn’t tank both of them during a protracted fight and decided to jump the gate, hoping only one of them aggressed me on the close side. 

But part-way through the fight, I made the assumption I would die and changed my strategy, though nothing about the circumstances had changed.  I was still facing two Jaguars and they were still applying their webs and scrams on me.  Sure they were flying close to me – allowing me to apply my full DPS – in an attempt to maximize their DPS to take me down before I reached the gate.  But that doesn’t make up for the fact that I only really started applying that DPS late.  My decision of, “I’m dead, I might as well fight my way to the grave,” only served to render my initial strategy of “I’ll try to burn back to the gate” impossible.  I replaced a possibility with futility. 

That was a poor choice caused by the emotion of the situation.  It would have been better to die without firing a shot 2501 m from the gate than to squander that chance with a futile e-bushido effort of going down with guns blazing.  I really should have known better.

But despite dying, I threw a “gf” in local.  Sure, they came with multiple ships, but I can’t blame them… I was invading their space and interrupting their ratting, after all, and they knew I could take either of them (they were identically fit) solo.  Fair play to them.

So, a few days later, I returned with an alt.  My alt was flying a Sabre, and I was flying a Rapier.

Now, let me take a moment to reflect on my strategy here.  My plan was to jump my dual-ASB Sabre in first to see if I could trigger a response.  If only one guy came in to attack me, I’d solo him with the Sabre.  I felt I could do enough damage and tank well enough with my ASB to absorb his damage before I popped.  If, on the other hand, the brought two against me, I would do the same to them, and jump my Rapier in.  Sure, my Rapier can successfully kill three assault frigates – it doesn’t matter the variety – on its own, but that wasn’t my plan.  My plan was to find a fair fight or see their raise.

When I warped to their system, it was mysteriously empty, so I pushed ahead to the next system in the chain and waited on the gate.  This time, there were three in local, and it was only a matter of time before I saw a Taranis warping to the gate.  He waited for a while when he landed while I hugged the gate.  Once his friend, in an Enyo, came within dscan range, he aggressed, and I did the same.

Now, I wasn’t yet sure they would bring the Enyo into the fight as well, so I waited until he landed and aggressed before bringing in my Rapier.  As it turned out, my Sabre killed the Taranis on its own before the Enyo killed it, just as my Rapier locked and webbed the Enyo. 

Before my Sabre died, I popped up a bubble, intending to catch the Enyo until my Rapier could point it.  It, unfortunately, had the side effect of catching my pod, too, and I forgot to jump-clone to a blank clone.  That was a bad mistake costing 80 mil and putting me in the negative in the isk war.

Now alone on the field, my Rapier mopped up the Enyo and looted the field.  I didn’t pod them, letting one jump out and the other warp away.  With the fight over, the pilot who warped away came back in his bait Ishtar to fight my Rapier.  Knowing better than to engage a HAC in a Recon, I wisely elected not to take that fight… a Rapier is all about webs, and webbing an Ishtar is relatively useless (I think I need to write a “How to fly a Rapier” guide).

All in all, it was a serious of good fights that provided some important lessons.  Plus, it triggered some mental exercises and a search for a good frig-killing ship that can fight outnumbered.  I’ll be posting about that shortly.

As an addendum, these pilots I was fighting against embody the very best of null-sec (except for a bit of butt-hurt in local after the last fight, but hey, they brought 2v1 initially, so they can’t complain about me making it 2v2).  Out of both a desire not to scare them off with blobs of roamers and a desire to keep my activities somewhat secret, I’m not going to link killboards or mention the system, but I really do respect these guys for what they do.  Perhaps once Razor re-deploys, I’ll link names to honor them, but for now, I’ll just return to fight them again and again.


  1. Enjoyed reading this. Looking forward as to how this continues :)

  2. Careful drinking from the well too often. Our nullsec carebear corp used to do this with roamers. Fleet up in even number for a little break from mining and ratting. Unfortunately, the roamers kept coming back again and again not seeming to understand that we weren't there for their pvp pleasure. The corp decided from then all blob all the time to ruin their fun. No more attracting visitors to the home system.

  3. What is your general experience in solo pvp in 0.0. Is it worth it? Or are there to much gangs and blobs?

    1. That's really two different, unrelated questions. Yes, true solo PvP is definitely worth it, because it's the only way you can really improve. Any time you fly with anyone else, to some extend, your mistakes can be covered up by the others in your fleet. Only in solo roaming can you really suffer or thrive based on your actions, and that's how you learn.

      Will you be blobbed? Absolutely. Sometimes, you'll face only one or two people. Sometimes it'll be a whole blob. This is important too... you need to learn how to escape blobs and fight your way free. It can be frustrating, but so long as you learn something after each fight, you're in great shape.

      But yeah, there are plenty of fights to be had, even in vacant sov space.