Thursday, September 17, 2015

Lessons: Take the Bait

There are many different kinds of bait in Eve.

A lot of times, you see a situation that’s almost too good to be true – for instance, a veteran low-sec pirate in a corp that almost certainly has its own logistics team traveling gate-by-gate in a Megathron.  Sure, you may think you can tackle and whittle down that Megathron, and things are looking good when you get him into half-shield and he still hasn’t called in help.  So, you inch a bit closer to ensure you’re under his guns, and he hits you with dual webs and a scram as local fills up.

This isn’t an article about that kind of bait.  It’s obvious he wanted to be caught, and you should feel bad for falling for it (well, okay, only a little bad, as you were willing to fight and some pilots really do pilot around solo in exposed ships).

But on the other hand, a pilot who’s trying to bait you represents a pilot who thinks he’s in charge of the situation.  And as you know from reading this blog, thinking you know something is usually the first step in a great fall.  Sometimes, walking into a trap with either a firm exit strategy or a means of turning the tables on your opponent is worth the risk.

Would you like to know a secret about people who use the bait tactic?  They don’t like to play fair.  Now, that isn’t a smear on their character, but a simple fact.  You bait because you want to bring overwhelming force to destroy someone who would attack you.  Whether it’s done with a cyno or a fleet on the other side of a gate or in a station, the goal of the bait is to keep you engaged until you’re hit by more people than you can possibly survive.

But the other secret about bait is that the fleet supporting them tends to do a lot of waiting, so that makes them very eager when a fight is imminent.  Everyone in their fleet is going to come through that first bridge.  And they rarely have a backup force awaiting you.  They launch everything they have with that first wave, and have nothing else to call on if you counter-drop on them with your own fleet.

That’s what makes the counter-drop so powerful.  Rarely do bait pilots or FCs expect it, even though they themselves have a fleet on standby.  Sure, every capital FC is wary of a counter-drop, particularly if an enemy’s initial fleet seems understrength compared to what numbers they typically draw, but blops fleets and fleets that send in bait first tend to be built around surprise and the belief that they are too powerful for the enemy to willingly engage without a bit of subterfuge.  They’re the hunters, not the victims.

Or so they think, right up until they discover that the Myrmidon you use to attack their Megathron is a triple-tanked, high-resist beast that benefits highly for the reps in your fleet next door or on the other side of a wormhole.  By that point, with three or four of their members tackled and your fleet in-bound, they have a good long while to contemplate their mistake.

But counter-dropping isn’t the only time you should consider engaging the bait ship.  Even if you’re all by yourself and you can’t overpower the enemy, controlling your exit strategy can allow you to take the fight, even with the possibility that your opponent will call in reinforcements.  But, it relies upon being able to disengage when you need to.

Two days ago, I was doing my usual log-in activity of scanning down the signatures in Tamo, looking for wormholes  both to Deklein to extract my ratting loot and to hostile space to roam with Talvorian.

As I did, I ran a few quick dscans and discovered a venture in deep space, away from any asteroid belt.  At a safe, perhaps?  I quickly narrowed down the range and angle, then swapped my core probes for combat probes.

As I was scanning, I was surprised to see two signatures pop up in my results.  Two sigs in range, but only one ship on dscan.  Combat recon!  Picking one at random, I narrowed down the venture and warped to it in my Confessor.  I knew I’d have to act quickly if he was paying attention… with no way to keep him on grid, I’d have to blap him quickly.  I landed with overheated guns in sharpshooter mode, and quickly killed him.  To my surprise, I was able to get a lock on his pod too.  Only after I checked the loot did I see he was mining gas, afk.

I tend to be chatty, so I opened up a conversation.  He was very good-spirited about it and congratulated me on the scan-down.  Apparently, he was putting his kid to bed when I attacked.  I could certainly relate, so I gave him my respects for a) being willing to enter lowsec, and b) for taking it in stride.  I also gave him 10 mil to compensate him.  Sometimes, to restock the fish pond, I’ll do that.

Only afterwards , perhaps eight minutes later, did I remember the combat recon.  I swapped to a covops scanner, got the hit, and warped in at 100.  It was a Huginn orbiting a wormhole at a tight orbit.  I checked the pilot’s history on zkill and saw a fit that he had lost earlier in the month.  I plugged it into EFT and was not impressed by its stats.

My Confessor wouldn’t do very well against a Huginn, so I swapped to a ship I absolutely love.  He had dual webs… I’ll match that, good sir!  Out came my Rapier.  411 dps, a fairly decent tank, and dual webs to counter his.

Did I think this Huginn could be bait?  Of course I did.  What non-scanner ship sits on a WH like that?  I wouldn’t have taken the fight if it had taken place on a gate, but with a wormhole, I could always jump through if I got into too much trouble.  He had been sitting on my side of the WH for a good long while, so he probably didn’t have any polarization left, meaning he could following be through and back again if necessary.  Aggro doesn’t matter on a wormhole.

As I hit grid and my warp began to decelerate, I decloaked so my lock delay would be finished by the time I hit sub-light speeds.  Upon landing, I quickly settled into a tight orbit and dropped drones.  Point and both webs applied, I overheated my missiles – all within the first two seconds.

I got the jump on him from a damage application standpoint, starting my second missile cycle by the time he applied his first.  I approached him, but kept a close eye on my distance from the wormhole… straying slightly to make him think I wasn’t paying attention, but not so far that I couldn’t jump through if needed.

And sure enough, when he hit about 60% shield, two Caracals and a Jackdaw jumped through the wormhole and began approaching me.  Immediately, I recalled my drones and reapproached the hole.  He saw me and did the same.

Now, when I jumped through, the other side was clear, so I slowly began to reapproach.  Sure enough, after a couple seconds, the Huginn decloaked and we set in on each other again.  Then one of the Caracals followed.  Even with the Caracal damage, my shield and the Huginn’s were dropping at around the same level, but as I entered armor – very slightly ahead of him – I jumped through again.  On the other side, one of the Caracals and Jackdaw had wisely stayed on that side, so I cloaked up and warped off, no worse for the wear.

That fight wouldn’t have happened on a gate.  The risk of an aggression timer on a gate would have made it an idiotic fight for me to take.  But on the wormhole, I could jump through freely.  I figured the Huginn was bait, but I had a chance of being able to kill him.  With his fit, I knew I could take him 1v1, and if his fleet was a little delayed, I’d be able to finish him off before I had to jump through the hole.

But polarization fit into my calculations, as well.  Any backup would need to jump through the hole and – when I escaped through the hole, back again – to get on the killmail.  But I’d have only jumped through once, and could escape.  It was a classy, veteran move of the other Caracal pilot to remain on the Tamo side of the hole when I ducked in the first time.  Had he been a bit less experienced or more excitable, I’d have been able to trap them on their side of the hole as they waited out their aggro timer.  It didn’t happen that way because my opponents were on the ball.

Yet, even though it didn’t materialize that way and the fight resulted in no kills, the potential for it – on both sides – existed.  On my end, I could have panicked or not known the mechanics about wormholes, thinking I could jump through again and again.

I have no doubt that 1v1, I could have killed that Huginn with my Rapier (I’ve often though Huginns are fairly useless compared to Rapiers now-a-days).  A few more delays on their end, or an errant jump through again, could left that Huginn isolated and vulnerable.

And, into the space carved out by those possibilities, some exciting and engaging content poured in.  In this case, we both played it smart, and no one suffered for it.  That’s why I love Eve; it’s all about possibilities, and you never know what will happen until you try.  Sometimes, it pays to take the bait.


  1. Nice story. I believe counter baiting usually results in best fights/massacre. If I happen to have an overwhelming fleet I always make it sit on standby and only send similar sized fleet to fight the enemy in hopes they will scramble more forces. This can always backfire, but it's part of the fun. Good job on playing wormhole timers, like a pro :)

    1. Sometimes, I get it right. Just as often, I get all excited and forget about the differences in timers. That dopamine rush is the goal, but it can get in the way!

      A lot of folks prefer to complain about the blob, but you can't neutralize it until you accept the blob and learn to cope. Just yesterday, I was fighting a frigate in a LR drone Tristan when four of his friends showed up to help him. I pulled more range from the group, sent my drones on a Merlin, and nearly killed it (10% armor) before I warped out. Accept it, and the panic will end. Then you can look for opportunities to do damage and get a really great tale!

  2. All hail the mighty Rapier!! It remains, in my eyes, the single greatest because most versatile ship in the entire game. That being said, lets get on topic:

    I do not fight fair in Eve. At least I try not to. If I get drawn into a fair fight I have not done my homework, my eyes weren't in place or I miscalculated gravely. More often than not I am the one setting the bait, aiming to provide my Monkeys a rush, great killmails and get as many of them as possible back home in one piece.
    That being said, recent Jackdaw losses on my Killboard show it doesn't always work as planned. What I am trying to say: do not ever expect the enemy to behave like prey. Your plan of attack will fall apart at the first enemy contact. Plan for that, expect it, work with it. It's easy to forget that you're not the only one with a plan.

    Thank you Tal for illustrating that point. Great story