24 August 2014

42 Month Review

Starwalker had been flying much less and when he was out hunting he was finding New Eden a different place. There seemed to be fewer pilots around generally and those that were around tended to be in small gangs rather than solo. 

The good news about flying less was that Starwalker had become a lot less obsessed with checking Battleclinic ranking. The bad news about flying less was that it had become something of a self-reinforcing feedback loop: the less time he spent flying around New Eden the less time he wanted to spend flying. 

This was perhaps the dark side of having no specific goals. The beauty of New Eden was that he could easily decide on new goals and pursue them. The question was what goals, if any, would spark his interest again to spend more time in space and perhaps even require training new skills.

Starwalker had 70m skill points and his training regime was entirely optional (for frigates) and he was simply filling out level 5 skills such as compensation. In terms of dimishing returns these skills had very little value to him as a solo pilot. He had genolution and learning implants but he no longer used them and at one level that was simply a waste as those implants sat idly in the hangar.
Starwalker's main hangar was still at Covryn but he had now split a chunk of his ships, equipment and ammunition and relocated them to Gultratren. The intention was to give him another base of operations and to have more than just fitted ships at the secondary base. In short, he fiddled with ship fits too much to have pre-fitted ships just waiting in a hangar.

R1FTA already had a new CEO - Domino Vyse - after Gavin2505 had stepped down after a month. It was a shame that R1FTA had seen so many CEOs come and go after Miura Bull had stepped down.

15 August 2014

Fit for more Damage or more Tank

Fit for more damage or for more tank?

Starwalker had seen the question in many guises and it was a common question but not the right question, as the correct answer to that question was "it depends". Given any solo ship, it depended on what ships were fighting, how they were fit and the situation such as range and speed. Also, theoretical numbers for damage or tank (optimal and falloff damage, repair, resistance, boost...) from modules could be misleading as they were modified by skills and bonuses, and more importantly they needed to be applied.

Applied damage or actual repair might be less than the theoretical expectation for a host of reasons such as:
  • Actual DPS was reduced because of speed or range tracking limitations or the target's damage resistance profile
  • Active tank (repair or boost) might be overwhelmed by incoming damage and consequently the ship was destroyed quickly
  • Module (blasters, repairers...) operation might be halted because the capacitor had been drained 
  • And so on

Given the same target and situation, which would be the better fit either more damage or more tank? Again it depended - on the specifics. As a general rule for solo PvP Starwalker favoured damage over tank on the basis that he needed to kill the target and escape quickly before others arrived to kill him. The assumption was that he had enough tank to perform the gank. If not enough buffer tank or active tank then he had a way to mitigate the incoming damage via range, speed or tracking disruption. 

The ratio of gank to tank was determined primarily by the target's expected ability to apply their damage and the range (brawl, scram, point), with the idea that generally the fighting was at the ideal range for Starwalker. Asymmetric fights (kiter versus brawler) were determined by who could keep the fight at their ideal range. Symmetric fights (brawler versus brawler...) would be determined by who could apply their damage better and survive long enough to get the kill. 

Starwalker mainly flew frigates, fighting in brawler or scram range and his experience was that having a good tank relative to the damage was important. He had flown some ships fit entirely for gank (Merlin and Daredevil) with no real tank and whilst they did have the ability to overwhelm a target tank it didn't always happen - it depended on the target. 

As a general rule Starwalker considered:

  1. Target envelope of ships he wanted to fight/destroy
  2. Ship (traits and bonuses), tank (shield or armour, buffer or active) and weapon system (range) based on its ideal range to kill those targets - his preference was to target brawlers and scram range kiters
  3. Ship's strengths/bonuses, fit to complement those bonuses and (typically) enhance either the damage or tank

Using those general rules would tend to drive the fit and whilst Starwalker did work out his own fits he also used other people's fits. He would look at ships and fits that select Battleclinic top 1,000 pilots used, based on where they fought and how they were fit, especially low security space pilots like Miura Bull and Patrick Kasper. Those ships were an excellent exemplar or a template that he then used to "improve" them based on either experience or the desire for experimentation.

19 July 2014

R1FTA Director

R1DER had been going through a lot of change and yet another CEO had stepped down. One of the side-effects had been that Starwalker was "promoted" to director within R1FTA. This was thoroughly undeserved. Starwalker had always had a low profile within R1FTA, content to just get into a ship and head out into space - solo. He would participate in fleets but otherwise he had generally stayed in the background.

If Starwalker was so inclined he could now abscond with R1FTA assets and ISK, however, he was not so inclined and he already had a hangar full of ships and fittings and enough liquid ISK. More importantly what should he do differently as a director - if anything? The role was described as "administrative" only and the only real requirement was to be visible and perhaps occasionally have a quiet word with other pilots. That remit did not seem too onerous but time would tell. 

Strangely this had coincided with Starwalker spending less time in space and potentially considering a longer break. He had been flying around in New Eden and in R1FTA for over three years without a real break. As always, Starwalker had no real plan - just short term objectives and currently he did not even have that. Perhaps that in itself was a problem and he should do more than see what would happen next. Something to think about.

31 May 2014

39 Month Review

Starwalker had been in the space lanes of New Eden for more than 3 years, he still predominately flew frigates and was still in R1FTA. The only real difference was that whilst he did much the same thing R1FTA had changed around him. That change had started with two main catalysts:
  1. Miura Bull left R1FTA and then later started Screaming Hayabusa [SKRMR]. Many of the original pilots left R1FTA to join SKRMR
  2. R1FTA formed the R1DER alliance with Black Dragon Fighting Society [BDFS] being a feeder corporation and most recently formed a wormhole corporation - Operation Devil's Tattoo [THNGY]
Whilst change was inevitable it seemed that R1FTA was in decline and whether this was terminal or temporary remained to be seen. Starwalker was hopeful of a renaissance. On a more personal level he was pleased with progress - obtaining 1000 kills and getting into the top 5,000 pilots in Battleclinic:

However, whilst Starwalker had become obsessed with checking Battleclinic ranking that scrutiny had also highlighted that it was only a pale imitation of pilot skill. Starwalker had resolved to wean himself away from following his killboard ranking almost daily but he suspected it might be a difficult addiction to remove completely.

Now that training was more optional rather than essential Starwalker considered whether to move away from his +3 learning implants. The pair of genolutions in particular had reached around 40m each and as always it was an opportunity cost. The extra fitting was useful but not essential and in reality the min-maxing with +3 learning and skill implants only counted on very rare occasions. He might have felt differently with Snakes or Crystals but Starwalker did not fly with really expensive implants, links or boosters.

Starwalker still used Covryn as a main base with a large selection of ships, modules and ammunition but had only kept fitted ships at Gultratren and Adirain. Even then, he was considering stopping that because he regularly changed the ship that he flew and its fit. That change often resulted in ships at stations that were either the wrong ship or the wrong fit, at least based on what he preferred to fly at that time. The obvious downside was that any roam would have a long pod trip back to Covryn.

Despite being in New Eden for over three years Starwalker still did not have an ISK income source and relied totally on PLEX converted to ISK to buy ships, modules and ammunition. Equally, he had no inclination to go missioning or do production and simply wanted to go out and destroy other ships.

Starwalker still had no plan for the future and would simply just take each day as it came. The beauty of New Eden was that he could do that or choose to do something else, the choice was his and he liked that. Currently he enjoyed frigate combat in low-sec and occasionally null-sec and for now he would continue to do that.

25 May 2014

Pointless Killing Spree

Starwalker was in his novelty fit Merlin and on a killing spree. So far, only two ships (Kestrel and Tristan) had actually left before they were destroyed. A number of ships over the last two weeks had not escaped:
  1. Merlin - blaster fit
  2. Incursus - void ammunition has a tracking penalty. Starwalker had switched to only using Caldari Navy Antimatter (CNAM) even with a dual web when he had seen misses in the log. But after examining multiple logs it seemed that there was always up to two misses even with CNAM
  3. Slasher - dual tank but it did not help
  4. Incursus - null ammunition was used by Jake Soldette, this proved the incorrect choice as Starwalker was at point blank range with CNAM. If the Incursus could have established range control, perhaps around 5km then it would have been a good choice of ammunition against another blaster. Alternatively he anticipated a railgun fit Merlin and chose null as the right ammunition, if so, the blaster firing null will typically lose the DPS race against railgun in scram range. Starwalker had proven that to his own satisfaction many times previously with his blaster fits
  5. Breacher - Starwalker flew this Breacher (or very similar). It was good to see it destroyed as it had a good tank
  6. Incursus - dual repair Incursus, even better tank and probably the best T1 frigate tank
  7. Merlin - blaster fit
  8. Atron - railguns, very common on Atrons, especially with pilots like Crake Gatereau using them to great effect
  9. Incursus - dual repair again
  10. Merlin - an armour repair blaster, which had some surprise value. Starwalker had experimented with the fit too but had eventually returned to a shield tank
  11. Incursus - blaster fit
  12. Merlin - railgun fit. Starwalker had won this fight only just after taking a long time to get into point blank range. Afterburner not turned on and then not overheated contributed to a close fight with Starwalker's Merlin on fire but victorious
  13. Breacher - tracking disruptors are normally dangerous but not at point blank range and with no ability to increase transversal through speed or piloting
  14. Incursus - impressed by his attitude, Odd Sangsten wanted to learn and had done some research before asking questions. No doubt Starwalker would lose a ship to this pilot in future
  15. Talwar - a young pilot was always worth taking on as neither skills nor fit are likely to be very good
  16. Thrasher - same as above
  17. Probe - Starwalker still preyed on cyno-ships periodically
  18. Tormentor - good T1 frigate that was uncommon because it was under-rated 
  19. Incursus - the Incursus was working with the Hookbill with each one in a complex
  20. Caldari Navy Hookbill - the Hookbill came to the aid of the Incursus but fortunately it was quickly destroyed too. Sheer DPS and speed had converted a potential two on one to two successive one versus one fights
  21. Incursus - blaster fit using void
  22. Atron - unfit frigate
  23. Atron - blaster fit Atron taking on a blaster fit Merlin at point blank range is the triumph of hope over logic. Starwalker was not a new pilot and sported a -10 security rating. A more sensible tactic would have been to orbit at 5km with null, although in this case a dual web would have scuppered that plan
  24. Rifter - artillery fit, a sensible choice given the Rifter's fall-off bonus but the dual web ensured it was caught and it only had a damage control for a tank
  25. Merlin - MWD blaster fit. A reasonable fit at face value but the ion blasters should have been paired with a scrambler not a point. This frigate could chase frigate kiters but it needed to get close for the kill and most kiters would be faster, so a scrambler was essential to shutdown their MWD 
This selection of ships represented a particular engagement envelope - brawlers and scram range kiters, primarily in complexes. On at least two occasions Starwalker had managed to get the kill quickly and escape before the rest of the gang could establish a secondary point. This was a key advantage of firepower over tank, it was possible to kill the scout or tackle and disappear before the rest of the gang could change the outcome.

Firepower was good but no amount of firepower would help if the target was not in range. Consequently, Starwalker simply ignored obvious kiters such as Condors and Slicers sitting in a complex. His experience with afterburner frigates was that it was exceedingly difficult to slingshot a MWD frigate into scram range to shut down the MWD, often relying on a mistake. More often than not his brawler frigate would be destroyed before that happened.

Since this Merlin had no scrambler the MWD frigate would always enjoy a speed advantage.
It was possible that some of those ships that Starwalker had passed on by had been brawler fit but he did not like the odds of that. This was especially true when entering a complex to fight the target already there, which was what Starwalker was doing 99% of the time.

Whilst the pointless Merlin had its share of success it was not all one way, inevitably, the pointless Merlin had its share of losses such as
  • This Merlin was lost to a station hugging Tornado. Starwalker's Merlin was on fire after having just destroyed another Merlin and had returned to the station to repair. Between arriving at the dock and the delay to be docked his ship had been destroyed. Annoying but in reality just simply another hazard in New Eden
  • This Merlin had taken on an Incursus but had been destroyed when the Atron arrived to assist his corporation mate
  • This Merlin was caught by a Shadow Cartel gate camp
  • This Merlin went into the complex to take on a Federation Navy Comet. Unfortunately, it was a railgun kiter fighting at 18km. The Merlin stood no chance and the later arrival of the CTRL-Q gang mates made no material difference to the outcome
  • This Merlin started the fight against an Incursus but it was simply the tackle for the other frigates in The Bastards small gang
  • This Merlin was lost to a second Tormentor that did not arrive in time to save his mate also in a Tormentor but did arrive in time to establish a point and finish the job 
  • This Merlin was lost to the Important Internet Spaceship gang but not before killing the bait Merlin (kill #25)

18 May 2014

Thrasher - Destrucktor Kirijan

Starwalker was in his novelty fit Merlin and seeing what he could find in the space lanes of New Eden. This was a fit for low security space with the intention of finding close range brawlers or scram range kiters. It would have an exceedingly hard time against point range kiters and MWD fit frigates given the lack of a scrambler.

The directional scan indicated a Thrasher was in space but that was probably a little hard for the Merlin to beat. Thrashers and destroyers generally were designed to kill frigates and a T1 frigate might not last very long in a fight. Despite that, Starwalker waited in his Merlin at a small complex - daring the Thrasher to come in. It came in.

This Merlin was all about brute force and so Starwalker applied the two webs and came in very close to apply the DPS. The Thrasher wasted no time in returning fire and apparent that it was auto-cannon fitted. So both ships were in their optimal range and it was a simple race to destruction, a race to see who would be destroyed first.

However, it wasn't just auto-cannons that Destruktor Kirijan had in his box of Thrasher tricks - he also had an energy neutraliser and that took its toll. The Merlin's capacitor ran out as the Thrasher was in structure and Starwalker had to spam the blasters to keep firing as soon as some capacitor recharge was available. The problem was that the Thrasher was tearing away at last slivers of Merlin armour and starting on structure.

Both ships entered deep structure and trailing flames, Starwalker got the final blow with 12% structure remaining. It was a very good fight and very close. The Thrasher could have warped away at any time but that was an unlikely choice given the general expectation of a destroyer killing a T1 frigate. So the Thrasher stayed until the bitter end and paid for it with its destruction.

The Thrasher fit was very normal emphasising close range guns, with DPS enhanced by a gyrostabiliser, damage rig and close range ammunition. The tank was provided by a medium shield extender and shield rigs, and in short was a perfectly good fit to roam around in:

[Thrasher, Destruktor Kirijan's Thrasher]

Gyrostabilizer II
Damage Control II

Medium Shield Extender II
1MN Microwarpdrive II
Warp Scrambler II

200mm AutoCannon II,Hail S
200mm AutoCannon II,Hail S
200mm AutoCannon II,Hail S
200mm AutoCannon II,Hail S
200mm AutoCannon II,Hail S
200mm AutoCannon II,Hail S
200mm AutoCannon II,Hail S
Small Unstable Power Fluctuator I

Small Core Defense Field Extender I
Small Core Defense Field Extender I
Small Projectile Burst Aerator I

Unfortunately for Starwalker his victory was short-lived as Balthar Xerxes' Federation Navy Comet had unusually fit an ECM and that broke the Merlin's target lock after a short while. Without being able to shoot back the Merlin could do nothing else but wait until it was destroyed. Clearly Starwalker had waited in the complex too long, as who would expect an ECM module on a Comet, Balthar must have refit especially to fight the Merlin. 

11 May 2014

Pointless Merlin

Starwalker had spent a lot of flying time recently in a Breacher because many pilots were electing to fight in scram or point range and his favourite Merlin was best up close and personal. Brawlers were very vulnerable to kiters and everything hinged on whether they could get into range and stay in range.

As an alternative to close range brawling the Breacher, with its rocket weapons and drones, was a good ship but Starwalker liked sheer DPS and raw, brute force of the Merlin. With that in mind, he had gone back to the Merlin and had changed the EFT fit to catch scram range kiters.

A pointless Merlin:
  • The dual web would certainly establish range control in most close range situations and allow afterburning scram range targets to be caught and held
  • No scrambler would mean that the target could escape at any time as soon as it realised that it was not scrammed. It also meant that micro-warp-drives were not turned off, again allowing escape via simply overheating the MWD 
  • Neutron blasters, fit the best - fit neutrons. Other blasters (Ions and Gatling) would provide more fitting room but sacrifice some DPS and more importantly sacrifice some range. However, Ion blasters did provide a credible alternative and they removed the need for the small ancillary current router
  • Medium Ancillary Shield booster should be used with Navy Cap Booster 50 as that allowed 9 charges rather than 8 and consequently supplied one more repair cycle. This module, like the blasters, should always be overheated at the start of the fight. Close range frigate fights were usually finished before either of those modules burnt out
  • Shield rig selected was for thermal damage mitigation, due to the prevalence of Gallente drones and frigates but equally an EM rig could have been selected
  • Two magnetic field stabilisers brought the real pain, raising DPS with the neutrons and one damage rig from 158 to 223 and overheated that went up to 256 with level V skills. Serious firepower in a T1 frigate
This pointless Merlin had strengths and weaknesses like any ship in the rock, paper, scissor nature of combat in New Eden. Starwalker would take it out into the space lanes to see what would happen. He was confident that he would get some kills in this T1 monster DPS frigate, especially as this monster DPS was supplemented by a couple of +3% implants in slots 6 (hybrid damage) and 9 (rate of fire):

This Merlin was both a beautiful ship and deadly:

It had surprise factor - who would expect a T1 frigate to put out so much DPS before the fight started? There was bound to be a number of pilots that would "freeze" and not realise that they could escape before their ship was destroyed. Indeed Starwalker knew that was true - it had been proven in his pointless Daredevil.

28 April 2014

Started as 1v1

Starwalker had recently lost some ships after what had started as a 1v1 but had ended with 1v2 or more. It was both frustrating and normal, it was the nature of the beast in New Eden:
  • This Hawk had fallen victim to the combined forces of a Daredevil and Cambion
  • This Hawk had fallen victim to the combined forces of a Federation Navy Comet, Incursus and Stabber Fleet Issue
  • This Daredevil had fallen victim to the combined forces of an Enyo and Astero. The shame of this fight had been that Starwalker had switched to Null to fight the Enyo at range but when the Astero arrived he switched target but was so close that Null was the wrong choice. The Daredevil exploded just as the Astero was entering structure, with Caldari Navy Antimatter it would have been destroyed

These recent experiences had led Starwalker to question some fits that favoured tank as when being ganked the tank was not really the deciding factor. In those situations, what Starwalker wanted was to be able to kill at least one of the attacking gang before he went down. That required something like a Daredevil or Enyo or even a Merlin for a T1 frigate, something that could put out a tremendous amount of firepower quickly.

It was with that thought in mind that Starwalker had ventured into Syndicate with a Daredevil and when he ran into a Sabre. He knew that a Sabre was rarely alone but he decided to gank it fast. It worked, as the Sabre went into deep armour and then was destroyed before the de-cloaking Falcon got a lock.

Starwalker had reviewed his losses over the previous few months and had noticed that 80% of those losses were in situations where he had lost his ship to two or more attackers. Perhaps he had spent too long in Placid and it was time to contemplate a move to a different region. The problem with that idea was that his main base was at Covryn and it would be painful to move it, even so, something to think about.

23 April 2014

Two Ships Two Gate Camps

Sometimes Starwalker regretted being in space, especially when suffering losses from gate camps. If the gate campers knew what they were doing, were fitted appropriately with fast lock and high alpha, it was almost impossible to survive.

Starwalker waited, hoping to escape, and then decided to crash the gate immediately both times but it didn't work:
  1. This Daredevil in Black Rise didn't stand a chance. The Daredevil did have one claim to fame before it was destroyed - it caught this pod, without a scrambler. At 2.75 billion ISK that was an expensive pod loss for Maelgar
  2. This Hawk ran into a smaller camp in Metropolis but did not fare any better and even the pod was caught. The third ship (Legion) in the camp was too slow and didn't get onto the killmail, clearly it was not sensor boosted
Emerging from the clone vat in Covryn, Starwalker upgraded his clone and plugged in a new set of implants. He decided not to undock again as he was feeling a little jaded, perhaps it was time for a holiday.

12 April 2014

Vexor Vexes and Hexes

Starwalker was in space less than usual as his attention was being diverted elsewhere. However, he had recently got himself into a Vexor with the express intent of seeing how he could lose it. After three years in New Eden he had found many ways to lose ships and the Vexor was no exception.

The experiment with the Vexor started out well. He wanted to fly something in the cruiser class and the Vexor was a good ship with a good engagement envelope. That was put to the test when he scanned three frigates in a medium complex: Incursus, Kestrel and Hookbill.

He was soon engaged, with the Incursus and Kestrel in close and the Hookbill kiting from around 20km away. The fight had only just begun when another Incursus came in and a Maulus. Starwalker was liking the odds a little less now but he was committed and so the Kestrel was hammered into wreckage, followed shortly afterwards by the first Incursus.

The Maulus decided to beat retreat as soon as the second Incursus went down. The Hookbill was safely out of scram range and as soon as the Hobogoblins came its way it simply warped away. It had been a good fight and Starwalker was pleased with the outcome.

He was less pleased though being caught on a gate and being fired on by a small gang (Heretic, Dramiel and Taranis) and the rats on the gate. It was a vexed question - fight on the gate or crash it. Starwalker decided to crash the gate but he did not make it. The tank disappeared surprisingly quickly and he started the armour repairer far too late, although that would not have changed the outcome.

The life of that Vexor had been short and sweet and it also reinforced for Starwalker that he liked frigates the best. He had passed far too many single frigates in small complexes where he could not engage and that was far more disappointing and out-weighed the opportunity to engage a small gang solo.

Whilst he would not restrict the type of ships he flew it was still the frigate that held his love and attention. Cruisers and battleships were good for a change but not for his main choice of ship to fly.