Sunday, March 20, 2016

Lessons: Trusting Your Instincts

Rarely do I immediately have an interaction with a player and immediately drop what I’m doing to sit down and write an article. Normally, I mull it over for a time and think about things. I try for each of my articles to contain a lesson a reader can take out of it – either from me doing something right or, more often, me doing something wrong.

In this case, the lesson was so obvious that I had to share the tale.  So sit down, my friends, and hear the story of a chance encounter sure to rile some of you up, but worth the listening nonetheless.

This is a story of Talvorian Dex and Papusa, the Goonswarm FC and personality.

Having successfully gotten a carrier full of my solo and small gang ships in to Tamo from 6VDT, I was back in a big way, though most of my larger ships are still in null for want of a wormhole. Nonetheless, I went on a shopping spree and bought a half-dozen assorted cruisers and BCs.

The first of those was a Gila that would pull double duty between the Guristas Hunt sites and killing those trying to run the Guristas Hunt sites. And so, I was doing exactly that late Sunday night, when I came across Papusa enter Iitanmadan from the Daras gate in an Ishtar.

Now, I’ve been watching Goons come from Jita to Saranen through the Tamo area for weeks, so I figured he was probably restocking a ship on his own, without back-up. But, I had to do my due diligence, it being low-sec and all. Because of how my overview is set up, killrights take precedence over pirate status (below -5.0).  So I had to check info on him before I realized he was -8.7 and I could shoot him in lowsec without taking gate guns or going suspect.

For Papusa’s part, he warped off, and I began to chase him towards Saranen.  As I entered Nannaras, local suddenly spiked.  Ten, then fifteen.  I landed on the Karjataimon gate and immediately warped off as a Hurricane fleet uncloaked.  Bad timing – that fleet was on their way somewhere, and I just happened to land on it.  After a few minutes, the fleet had passed me by, and Papusa jumped back in through the same gate.

Here was my choice. Now, I know Papusa is a good FC, and has been a Goon forever. We were very close to Saranen; I hadn’t done the research into it, but my guess was it was within cyno range. Both from my time in the CFC and from the interactions I’ve seen, I have no reason to suspect they would ever honor a 1v1.

That said, I just had to give it a go, so I warped down from my perch onto the Karj gate at range and started peppering him with missiles.  I realigned to my perch and kept my distance in case he engaged; I wanted to keep range to make a discrete exit if necessary, and my RMLs didn’t require me to be too close.

Instead, he took the gate after my first missile struck.

Sighing, I warped off and started to make my way to my destination the “other” way around, through Tartoken.  I was headed to Saranen to buy some light missiles for my RMLs; at the time, I only had a small complement of Mjolnirs.

That’s right; I was headed to Goon staging to buy missiles because I didn’t have many in my hold.  What could go wrong? In truth, it wasn’t the worst idea I could have had. I had just seen a Goon fleet leave, so it’d be fair to say most of the active players were gone. What better time to head in?

Still in Karj, Papusa returned with another Goon in local in a Proteus. Now, I was starting to get a bit suspicious. Prudence took over, and I made my way to Tartoken. The Proteus followed. Then Papusa’s Ishtar. Hmm… it was starting to look like he wasn’t alone after all.

Nonetheless, in Tartoken, I landed on a station and burned to the other side of it. Papusa repeated the 1v1 offer, and to top it off, he invited me to his fleet.  Feeling a bit daring, I accepted.

I’ve fallen for a fleet trick before; they invite you, then before you know what’s going on they warp you to their fleet and kill you.  So my first move was to spam “Ctrl + Space” to stop my ship while I searched for the “Exempt from fleet warp” option. I completed that as Papusa landed on me. He had definitely warped directly to me, as I had burned to an awkward part of the station in line with nothing.

Then, he docked again.  This was getting odd.  So, I did the same, hoping to cap up quickly and emerge right next to him on the undock.  And, sure enough, when I undocked he was there in his Ishtar.  At this point, I still had my aggression timer, but our engagement time had ended.  He locked me, and I did the same as I started to pull range.

Again, I had a choice here… he knew I shot him with some Mjolnir missiles, but that was really all he knew about me and my fit. Being an FC, he knew how different ships were supposed to be flown and fit, so I have to imagine he has a better-than-average ability to deduce fits of ships he fights.

But… what can I say?  I don’t play the game to fly around, but to fight. So I launched Infiltrators and hit him with a cycle of my neut and my rapid lights.  Within three cycles, my drones and missiles had nearly taken down his shields when, all of a sudden…

He docked up again!

By this point, I had a pretty good idea of what he was doing. He wanted to test his tank against my weapons, and knew I could at least double down on EM damage. His tank was wanting, though, and he knew much about my ship. I was MWD and warp disruptor fit. I was trying to engage him outside of scram range, but within point range. I was keeping EM missiles loaded, least at the start of the fight, and my go-to drone was my Infiltrators. I knew his shield was weak and that he did not have Hyperspatial rigs fit (based on his warp speed), but that was all.  Was his shield weak because his resists were off, or was it because he was armor tanked?  I couldn’t be sure, but I’d take a guess that he was shield fit based on his agility in keeping apace with me as I was chasing him that first time. Or, at least, he was fit that way when we were warping. I couldn’t be sure what he had changed when he docked in Tartoken.

Plus, there was the ever-present concern of the blob. He is, after all, a long-time Goon, and that says something about you. You don’t mind using superior numbers. You tend to operate better in a fleet than solo. Mind you, all of that is fine; I’m not one to get frustrated at the blob. It’s part of the game, and you have to deal with it.

But when a Goon FC with deep knowledge of my fit still wants to fight me and appeared to travel with a Proteus… I’ve got to admit, this was looking pretty clearly like a setup.

So, instead, I continued to Saranen. On the Goon staging undock was a single Sin sitting there.  What an odd ship to be all by itself. It seemed almost as if it was waiting for something.  Hmm… what could that be?

As I undocked after replenishing my missiles and nanite paste, the Sin was gone, but Papusa was there, waiting about 10 km from me.  He locked and scrammed me, but I docked up again. Because he was -8.7, I didn’t have a suspect timer, which meant he would have taken station guns for scramming me.  I undocked again quickly and he was gone.  I may be willing to fight outnumbered, but fight on the CFC staging undock?  Err… I’m not suicidal.

I warped off again, landing on the Tartoken gate just as a Purifier did. On the Tartoken side, he locked and pointed me. He was a brave man, but of the same corp as Papusa, Hogyoku. I did still have mjolnir rapid lights fit, and the Purifier died very quickly.  Papusa jumped in just as my drones returned to my bay and I warped off again. The Proteus pilot was still in system, too, and made a brief appearance on my overview as I warped out (note the covert cyno on that Purifier… perhaps for the Sin on the undock?).

As far as I was concerned, though, the fight was over, and not the one with the Purifier. Rather, it was the fight with myself that I’d won.

I really like to engage people, and tend to fall for bait easily. It’s hard to pass up on an opportunity when you’ve put forth a lot of effort to fit your ship and start your roam. You want a fight, and it’s hard to repress that urge when the signs point to a trap.

In my case, geography made the difference. It’s one thing to fight a Goon on wrong side of the Jita/Saranen route when he’s likely to be by himself. It’s another to fight him when he knows your fit, has had two chances to dock up, and will only engage you on his undock. Or when he has a tackler and a Proteus in the same system. With a little digging, I found out that he had asked for help in alliance, and had no intention of honoring that 1v1 after all.

Too often, we get caught up and forget that the OODA loop – Observe, Orient, Decide, Act – is, in fact, a loop.  You need to return to the first one, Observe, and continually repeat the cycle. Between Iitanmadan and Tartoken, the situation had changed, I had more information available, and the conclusion shifted as a result.

Between the desire for a kill – particularly of a pilot of some renown – and his gentle insults and goading in local, it’s easy to give in to that urge. There’s a time to fight, and a time to wait. Hone your instincts with practice and experience, and trust them when they tell you something’s wrong.

In this particular case, being a hunter means you’re never stronger than at the beginning; every second represents time for your enemy to receive backup or prepare a trap for you. What would change between the first time I engaged him on the gate and the third time we met, when he engaged me on his undock?  Nearly everything, I’d wager, from his fit to his fleetmates to the cyno range. Had I been able to catch him in Tamo or Iitanmadan, I could have probably killed him. But missing that chance, my ability to get that kill was gone. It just took me some time to realize it.

All in all, though, it was a great night. I farmed a little salt from some local chat, killed the backup, avoided the loss and (potentially) a blops hotdrop, and frustrated the efforts of a Goon FC.

I love this game.


  1. Yeah, the fix was definitely on for that engagement. I'm personally not a fan of letting someone delay a fight (by docking/redocking, or leaving system and coming back etc.) because in my mind all they are doing is arranging backup and/or tweaking their fit to counter you. Give me the spur of the moment fight at a FW plex!

    1. I tend to agree. What really tipped the balance with me was that he asked for a 1v1 and fleeted me before he docked up in Tartoken and before he had very much info about how I was fit/flying. He later claimed he was PvE fit until he docked in Saranen at the end, but if that was so, why would he have fleeted me and warped to me in Tartoken?

      It's easy to fight someone whose comp is known to you. That's why your best kills usually come right when you breach someone's space. As time goes on, the chances of your targets springing a trap or fitting a hard-counter increase, and you've got to become more cautious.

    2. This story is so true :D "why would he have fleeted me and warped to me in Tartoken?" I was trying to get my alt on you... in the proteus to grab a point.... The only things i threw at you were point ships :D Was fun thought... You must remember it was like 3 am for me :D i was tired and dumb mistakes were made

    3. If that's really Papusa... 10/10 would do again!