Saturday, January 25, 2014

New Hunting Grounds

Not all regions in low sec space in EVE are equal, and where you are based will have a dramatic impact on the kind of fights you will find.  I spent the initial portion of my low-sec life at the Eve-Uni low-sec campus in Placid (Uphallant) followed by a month in Metropolis/Heimatar (stationed in Bosboger).  Since then, I've been based out of the Tuskers home system in Verge Vendor.  Every one of these locations is within Faction Warfare (FW) space.  This is a pretty good part of space to start your PvP career because FW space is fairly active, most combat takes place between frigates, and it's not too difficult to find a solo fight.  I'm also more of a fan of stalking and ganking targets rather than engaging in consensual fights at FW plexes.  I've also just finished training Gallente Cruiser V, and I've been itching to fly bigger ships and take on bigger targets.

While exploring a bit on Dotlan's maps, it struck me that there are vast areas of non-FW low-sec space out there that I have yet to visit.  I set out with the idea of hunting mission runners and belt ratters who are farming clone soldier tags.  I also have about 2 billion isk worth of purchases planned in the next month, so I figured that this would give me the opportunity to collect tags myself if there were no fights to be had.  Clone Soldier Recruiter and Clone Soldier Transporter tags, which are found in 0.1 and 0.2 security systems, are both selling for 25-30 million isk each (the other tags are selling for much less, and aren't worth farming). 

Large clusters of 0.1 and 0.2 systems are in Genesis, Solitude, and Aridia, so I put together a shield Vexor and set out and made the 30-odd jumps away from Verge Vendor.  The trip out to Genesis was uneventful, everyone I saw in the local systems was either an explorer or was docked.  This was about to change.  Bear in mind, when I left I had absolutely no idea who the locals in these regions were, and no clue what type of ships/gangs I might run across.  I quickly came to realize that I had been taking my knowledge of the local systems around Hevrice for granted.

There are several 0.2 security systems out towards the Eve Gate.  This appears to be the home of the Strictly Unprofessional alliance, but for they most part, they were all docked up and didn't appear to be active.  I'd collected several tags, and was moving closer to New Eden when I noticed that a Hurricane was belt ratting in the system with me.  A quick search of his killboard revealed that he was experienced in PvP and knew how to properly fit his ship.  I wouldn't be winning this fight, and he didn't seem to be particularly interested in me, so I left him alone and moved on.

I jumped into a system called (no joke) Dead End, which is exactly what its name suggests: a dead-end system with no stations.  I picked up another clone soldier tag, but in the meantime the Hurricane had roused several of his corp mates, and they started camping the gate.  Their gang consisted of three Hurricanes, a Sacrilege, and a Stratios.  The Stratios released combat probes. Unfortunately, with 150m worth of clone soldier tags in my cargo hold, my Vexor was no longer a cheap throwaway ship.  This would easily be my most expensive loss ever if I couldn't get myself out of this.  I spent the next 10-15 minutes bouncing around the system hoping that they would get bored and go away if they were unable to scan me.  No dice.  

I was going to have to bust my way through.  I warped to the gate, and waited for the Hurricane to engage me before I jumped through (this was a mistake on his part).  Another Hurricane and the Sacrilege were on the other side, but I was prepared for this because my cov-ops alt had eyes on them.  As an aside, training a cov-ops alt on the 2nd account has proven to be incredibly useful.  Dual-boxing with two accounts when solo roaming is so useful that I can hardly imagine not doing it now.  They pointed me, but they either didn't have webs, or they weren't able to get within web range.  My ship was faster than theirs, so I was able to burn away and warp off.  If they'd had an Interceptor or a Rapier in their gang, then I wouldn't have had a chance of escaping.  This was a new experience for me, and it was the biggest rush I've had in a while.  I don't think I'll be returning unless I can at least field a Battlecruiser.

My experience in Solitude was very different.  This was occupied by the Requiem Eternal alliance, who mostly seemed to be oblivious to my presence and any potential threats.  I made quick work of a Maller in a belt:  He then opened a conversation, and politely offered to buy the loot from his wreck back from me.  Does it get any better than that?  It did when I found a Naga running a mission, and quickly scanned him down and killed his ship and his pod:

My stay here was pretty brief because I wanted to haul my loot back to Hevrice, but I definitely think that it's worth returning.

I hope to explore even more regions in the future, and I can see how valuable it is to scout an area and know the locals before settling into an area in low sec.  You might run into an alliance who are willing to scramble together a Battlecruiser gang to chase down a lone Vexor, or you might find lots of good ganking opportunities.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Psychological Aspects of PvP

When someone has made a decision that they are willing to fight, then they are much more likely to take the fight under conditions that are unfavorable for them.  For example, if you ever see someone at a faction warfare complex who is not part of a militia, then you're looking at someone who is willing to fight.  Unfortunately, simply warping after him into the plex automatically puts me at a disadvantage, because I'm allowing my opponent to dictate range at the start of the fight.  I would much rather have our positions be reversed, such that he is warping into a complex after me.

I encounter this situation very, very often, and there is a simple solution: I warp outside of his plex (to allow him to see me on short d-scan), hesitate for a few moments, then I warp to an empty plex which is within d-scan range of him, and wait.  They come after me with a stunning level of frequency, even though they must know that they are putting themselves at a disadvantage by doing this.

I think that they must be falling into psychological trap: by sitting at a plex in the first place, they have demonstrated that they've seen me on d-scan flying a ship that they're willing to engage and made a conscious decision to fight.  That decision was probably made (at least in part) based on their advantageous position.  When they see me land outside of their plex, that's when the excitement starts.  The plan is coming to fruition, and they are eager for the fight to start.  This is replaced by disappointment, or perhaps confusion when I disappear from short d-scan.  If they're like me though, they'll start checking long d-scan again, see that I'm still in the system, and quickly pin-point me at a different plex.  The excitement is back.  Maybe there's a chance the fight will happen after all!  They warp to the plex, and the fight instead begins on my terms.  If their original decision to engage was based on their advantage of being inside the plex, then this is quickly forgotten.

I understand the thought process, because I've been on the exact opposite side of it too.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Enter the Atron

The frigates I tend to fly are pretty one-dimensional.  They nearly all fit an afterburner, scrambler, web, and small railguns, and are fit with the intention of scram-kiting.  This is starting to make me very predictable to anyone who is sharp enough to look up my killboard, and lately I've felt a need to mix things up.

The Atron is a ship that I've been trying to like for a while, but I haven't had as much success with it as the other Gallente frigate hulls.  As a scram kiter, it doesn't gain much from its speed, agility, or falloff bonus and overall it performs worse than an Incursus because of its low EHP.  It can be a pretty good brawler because it can have surprisingly high DPS with Neutron blasters, it has the speed to get close to scram kiting ships, and the falloff bonus to the hull gives it decent range with Null ammo loaded.

Instead, I've been trying something different.  Here is the fit:

[Atron, Skirmish]
Pseudoelectron Containment Field I
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Small Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste

1MN Afterburner II
Faint Warp Disruptor I
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator

150mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Plutonium Charge S
150mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Plutonium Charge S
150mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Plutonium Charge S
[empty high slot]

Small Ancillary Current Router I
Small Hybrid Locus Coordinator I
Small Hybrid Collision Accelerator I

DPS = 119 (140 overheated)
Range = 13 km + 11 km
Speed = 1382 m/s (1811 m/s overheated)
EHP = 2459 + 76 ehp/sec

The objective is to kite targets at a range of about 14km, and to use an over-heated web to help dictate range against anything which tries to get close.  Loading Plutonium ammo helps to push the optimal range of the guns to this range.  This is a very tight fit, and there really isn't much cpu or power grid to spare here (Advanced Weapon Upgrades V is required).  Past experience has shown me that the 150mm railguns are really essential for this ship, so there isn't much of a way to make the fitting simpler, aside from using implants.

Let's look at the pros and cons of this fit vs. a generic scram kiter:
Pro: Capable of kiting at longer range.  There are several ships which can project DPS out to the edge of scram range, but are helpless against targets that are 14km away.
Con: Optimizing the fit for improved optimal range and speed means that you have to make significant sacrifices to tank and dps
Con: The warp disruptor does not shut off the target's MWD, leaving it very vulnerable to brawlers which fit an MWD and a web.

Against specific targets, this Atron can really shine.  Small pulse lasers with Scorch crystals cannot hit beyond ~12 km (exception: Retribution & Coercer).  As another example, Catalysts & Enyos can deal solid DPS out to the edge of scram range with Null ammo, which causes problems for scram kiting frigates.  They cannot reach out to 14km, leaving them relatively helpless against the Atron.  This ship annihilates just about any brawler that is fit with an afterburner.  Unfortunately, it is extremely vulnerable against other targets.  A brawler fit with both an MWD and a web is capable of closing in and keeping range.  Even destroyers with an MWD and a web are faster, such as an armor Thrasher with autocannons.  Also, any other ship which can project damage out to 15km can make pretty quick work of this ship.  While a blaster Catalyst is an easy target, a rail Catalyst can blast this out of the sky in a few volleys.

Ultimately, I think the cons out-weigh the pros on this ship. Compared to an Incursus, engagement profile is much more limited, and I've found that I'm losing much more often when I fly these.  However this ship is just plain fun to fly, and Atrons don't look too scary to most people, so I'm going to keep a few of them in my hangar in case the right target appears near my home system.

One thing that's important to note: the vulnerability to MWD-fit brawlers can be eliminated if you can fit a second web.  This is why the Firetail can be so effective, and why I'm going to cross-train into Minmatar frigates next:

[Republic Fleet Firetail, Dual Web Kite]
Small Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste
Damage Control II
Gyrostabilizer II

1MN Afterburner II
Warp Disruptor II
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator

280mm Howitzer Artillery II, Republic Fleet EMP S
280mm Howitzer Artillery II, Republic Fleet EMP S
[empty high slot]

Small Projectile Burst Aerator I
Small Projectile Ambit Extension I
Small Polycarbon Engine Housing I