Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Fulfillment of a Dream, or The Beautiful Death

On this blog, I’ve written many times about the search for the good fight. In the real world, that same sentiment is shared by the dramatic character of the wandering warrior, searching for a beautiful death in service of a great cause. Whether this archetype is legit or not in the real world is up for debate. But in Eve – with our immortal capsuleers – it’s very much a thing.

At its core, what it means is that you wander through New Eden looking for that perfect fight in which you experience artful PvP. Win or lose isn’t the point; what you’re searching for is the opportunity to be part of true skill, and excellence of action.

It’s actually quite rare to witness the pure thing. Though, you can get diluted glimpses of it – the Vexor pilot who stayed to defend his mining friend I wrote about, for instance. The pure execution of a well-laid plan flawlessly enacted with exactly the minimum force and perfect situational awareness the opportunity requires… that perfect balance of necessity and power that results in an artful attack stays with you.

I experienced it last night, with an added twist because it involved a reader of mine, someone I’ve watched grow in ability for several months now.

One of my readers plays the character Jonathan Atruin. After reading articles for some time, he started posting comments some time ago. He attempted to join Repercussus when I knew him for only a short period of time, and was denied for fear he was a spy. Rather than take that to heart, he joined a corp that ended up throwing in with SpaceMonkey Alliance.

Rather than be content to sit on large fleets as a faceless “member”, he used his time in large fleets to learn the basics of fleet command by observing the FCs around him. He began leading fleets of his fellow monkeys, and shared the additional challenges of leading over simply participating. He pointed out the same things I learned – it’s even harder to FC than it is to solo roam, since you don’t only need to worry about your actions, but those of multiple other pilots who don’t have all the same opsec info you do.

He made mistakes, and lost some fleets, but his leadership appreciated the value of hard lessons, and continued to trust him to run fleets. He got better, and was promoted to increasingly complex, difficult, and expensive fleet doctrines. And he did well.

Prior to my time camping Fade with TISHU, Jonathan provided me with a singular, compelling positive perspective on SMA. (Incidentally, that perspective has become even more common as I watched pilots become better and smarter in space, and receptive to advice and lessons from an enemy. I witnessed bravery and honor among about as many pilots as those who demonstrated s a l t y tears and furious derision – and that’s a tremendous ratio.)

Jonathan vehemently defended SMA, pointing out that SMA brought many players into null-sec and had a healthy culture of nurturing their interest, ability, and education. He passionately argued for a view of an independent SMA that was more than just “goon pets”. His perspective led me to believe they could one day outgrow the desire for safety and develop the desire for greatness.

I chatted with him regularly and watched his PvP knowledge grow from “eager but limited” to “situational and adaptive”. We’d share fits and talk about how we’d use them, and he demonstrated an ability to multitask I found impressive.

In short, I’ve gotten to watch him become really good at PvP, and one day he’ll be better than I am (and that may have already happened, actually…). I don’t think it’s unfair to say that a small part of that is due to Target Caller (if I’m wrong, he’ll tell me so in the comments!). It’s been intensely satisfying having the opportunity to watch that transition, and gives purpose to this entire blog project I’ve undertaken.

I mention this all to provide context to something that happened last night.

After the Fortuna died to a gloriously obvious bait Loki I utterly failed to recognize as such, I fit up another Stratios and made my way back into Fade. I scored a couple kills, but the locals were actually quite quiet. Perhaps “quiet” is the wrong word. They were chatty in local, and during the course of our conversation, their passionate reactions shifted me from being a troll to actually offering up some legitimate advice and gifting one of them with a Scythe Fleet Issue under instruction that he roam solo until it died. But kills were hard to come by.

After about an hour of conversation in local, I moved along and only managed to go a couple jumps when I saw a Svipul sitting still 13 km away from the P-33 gate in DW-T2I. Local had only two pilots in it – pretty common for that particular system. One of them was Jonathan. The Svipul pilot was Kanaria Kaundur.

A quick dscan saw no movement, and P-33 had been clear of anyone near the gate. I’ve come across a lot of afk pilots who jumped into system and forgot to alt+tab back to move on to the next one. It’s really not that uncommon in Fade. But even moment I hesitated was another moment someone could jump in. Having flown Svipuls, I knew it couldn’t tank as well as, say, a Loki did, and I figured I could take it down before I ran into too much trouble.

So, I dove in to cap out the Svipul with my neuts as my EM drones started to bite into her. I locked and neuted the pilot as I launched my drones, and still she didn’t move. Things were looking good.

When the first damage notifications came in, though, I saw that I wasn’t doing nearly the damage I expected. That was my first clue something was wrong. Suddenly, the Svipul pilot came alive, locking and firing at me. The damage was too high – clearly EM ammo. Then I saw my range and realized I had drifted in TOO close.

Normally, this would be a close fight; the Svipul pilot was well-tanked and armed to attack my weakest resist – though I did fill my EM hole. But the moment that SVipul didn’t crumple quickly, I knew “something else” was coming. I kept looking for a cyno.

Instead, Jonathan Atruin decloaked in a Rapier just off me. The decloak locking delay seemed to pass in a flash, and then I was stuck – webbed in place. I tried to swap my damage to the Rapier – hoping he was poorly fit – but it was too late, and my replacement Stratios died.

As soon as I saved my pod, I congratulated him in local, and he introduced me to this girlfriend… the Svipul pilot. He had conceived of the perfect bait and circumstances to hunt me specifically. And, he did it with a Rapier fit I gave him in a previous conversation.

It was a masterful stroke. He set up a bait ship that I would actually fight, used a fit we had discussed earlier, and applied all of the patience and situational control he had gained over the past several years. This pilot who had started out with limited PvP knowledge had grown – before my eyes – into a masterful situational engineer. He exploited his knowledge of my fit, and paired it with what he knew about my personality – a lone Svipul seemingly afk? Of course I’m going to attack! He knew I’d be frustrated and opt for boldness rather than timidity.

And he brought only one other ship, the perfect one to lock me down. He didn’t blob, he didn’t bring something horribly overpowered. He used the minimum necessary force, and he hit his target perfectly.

I was able to witness excellence of the highest order, both in that situation and as the culmination of a long relationship. It was an honor to die to him.

Even a full day later, I’m still smiling about it. It represents everything good about this game. It ends a story of empowerment and personal growth that fulfills everything I would ever wish for any reader. You want to know what my endgame is?

Jonathan Atruin is my endgame. He became masterful. Who’s next?


  1. Can you explain why did you fit 3 kinetic resistors? EFT says 43 30 87 56 resist profile. Even if you expected to fight anti-Gurista ratters, that 30% thermic seemes weird.

    1. Most pilots who farm Guristas ratters use only kinetic damage. If I come across an Ishtar, Vexor Navy Issue, or Tengu, for instance, they have to either shoot me with the kinetic missiles/drones they're using to clear the rats, or take a 10-second reload/recall-relaunch drones. Most pilots will just use whatever they have out at the time. Hence: kinetic resist.

  2. Just FYI. Some will simply abandon drones and launch appropriate drones instead. And the other part, you attacked an advanced Minmatar ship with EM drones. ;)

    1. I know... could use a little work in that department!

  3. They were both in minmitar ships, your killmail shows 4x EC-600's... did you have another flight out or just lose the RNG war?

    1. I tend to forget all about EC drones. My instinct is always to fight. That's a weakness I need to overcome!

  4. Reading this makes me smile as well. I've gotten similar satisfaction from watching new players turn into seasoned veterans thanks in part to my guidance (albeit mostly PvE guidance - to each his own). Now I'm trying to grow as a PvPer down in Catch, and each post like this is both a reminder and a lesson that anything is possible if I take the time to learn it. Thanks Tal. Maybe I'm next? :)

  5. This made me smile. I always go for bait on the off chance that it isn't.

  6. Great job making me blush like a schoolgirl here Tal.

    In all seriousness though: Thank you for your guidance, advice and help over the last year! I stumbled onto Target Caller when I was playing for barely a month, googling "How to fly a Cynabal". And guess where that lead me?

    Reading your PvP advice soon wasn't enough and I started writing evemails, opening conversations and soon enough I was hanging out on Repercussus' TS, roaming Lonetrek and Black Rise with you and your Corpmates. The decision to deny my application into RP came as somewhat of a shock, but in hindsight I not only understand it, I'm also not unhappy about it.

    SMA has become my home in New Eden, and I count myself lucky to have found an alliance I feel so passionate about. And while Monkeys have taught me FCing and given me the chance to evolve in my own personal style a lot of the basics can be traced back to you Tal.
    Situational awareness, Knowledge of my enemies, picking your fights and most importantly: Patience. All of these are as important in FCing as they are in solo roaming. And your detailed analysis and meticulous breakdowns of PvP encounters helped me develop an awareness for all of them.

    It was a great pleasure killing you. I was about ready to go to bed when I saw your name pop up in our intel channels (it was almost 3 am in Germany), but the opportunity was just too good to pass up. I knew you'd be in another Stratios, and my solo Rapier had been gathering dust for too long (Incidentally the Rapier was my first T2 ship ever in the game, the decision to train into it as a solo PvP ship made after long discussions with you). Knowing you wouldn't agress a Rapier I enlisted Kanaria as bait and we burned to DW- to set up and wait for you. The rest you already detailed precisely, I stayed cloaked until Kanaria had you scrammed, then decloaked, pointed, doublewebbed and overheated my Launchers.

    It was a great fight, and the following discussion in local makes me happy we didn't actually get your pod (though of course I tried).

    I read a lot about Eve, both in terms of news and blogs, but the top of my bookmark Folder has been Target Caller for over a year now. I usually check if you wrote anything over my morning Coffee and more often than not I proceed to bug Friends and fellow Monkeys with the link to your newest post. Following Oscar Wilde’s philosophy of picking one’s enemies for their intellects I couldn’t have picked better than you Tal. Therefore at Fanfest 2017 the first round will be on me.