30 June 2012

Merlin Meets Incursus at Sun

Starwalker now had his new neo-console in both desktop and laptop form but it had been a pain resetting everything yet again. Over time Starwalker had focused on a few things that were needed in his overview and tended to use one setting most of the time when solo:
  • Sun - place to cruise in system and look for targets as well as to be easily found
  • Ships - for obvious reasons
  • Wrecks - never an issue in solo or small gang fights to show wrecks for looting
  • Corpses - like to collect the odd corpse to add to the collection
  • NPC - useful when going to a belt to see what is there and not be surprised
  • Stargates - to travel between systems easily
  • Deadspace complexes - might be targets around
  • Beacons - great temptation to kill cyno-ships
Drones and fleet were relegated to a separate tabs but Starwalker was ambivalent about drones and sometimes set them with everything else in the main solo settings. Starwalker had a tab for scanning that showed player owned structures but since he rarely went to a POS and it seemed somewhat redundant.

It was whilst Starwalker was enjoying the delights of setting up his overview that an Incursus arrived at the sun, around 50km away. The pilot, Yip Mei, did not engage but simply warped away again. The pilot was new so perhaps discretion had been the better part of valour? At least that might have been the case until the Incursus warped in again around 35km away.

Starwalker turned his Merlin and burnt towards Yip Mei for the second time but around 30km away it simply warped away again. Starwalker was puzzled as to what this pilot was doing but he decided to forget it and returned to completing the setup of his overview - until the Incursus arrived for the third time.

Wondering if the fight would be on this time - Starwalker started to burn towards the Incursus yet again and as the distance closed to less than 20km he started to target it. The distance closed to less than 10km and he applied the web and scram - it was on. The Merlin's guns were already overheated and spewed the void ammunition.

The Incursus was now in point blank range and it was taking a terrible beating, its armour was being ripped away and exposing structure even before the Merlin's shield was removed. It was inevitable that the Incursus would explode before the Merlin and it shattered under the heavy onslaught.

Starwalker collected the loot as Yip Mei initiated a conversation and asked for some tips. Good attitude. Yip Mei had known that he was unlikely to win but he had engaged anyway and then after the fight he had looked to learn some lessons. Whilst Starwalker felt that he was not really good enough to offer tips he probably knew a little more by virtue of having been in New Eden for over a year now and could pass on some of that knowledge.

In the ensuing conversation there were the usual comments such as flying only what you could afford to lose, to keep fighting, to use the right ammunition and gain skills for T2 tanks and overheating. The additional item that Starwalker considered extra useful was to check the log file for hits and misses, with turrets tracking was really important and Yip had used void but would probably have done a little better with faction ammunition.

29 June 2012

Fitting a Merlin

Starwalker was out of T1 frigates and had decided that he needed some more whilst his training for Covert Ops V and Drones continued. He looked at the options for a new Merlin and considered four fits:
  1. Shield Buffer
  2. Ancillary Shield Booster
  3. Armour Buffer
  4. Gank
The obvious option was to use the medium shield extender with light neutron blasters, as a fairly standard Merlin buffer tanked ship. With level V skills this particular configuration offered 196 DPS along with 8,019 EHP:

Whilst it was a fairly standard option Starwalker was looking for something a little different. He had tended to use buffer tanks for simplicity but wondered if going for an active tank might be good for a change. Given that, may be this was an opportunity to look at the new module - ancillary shield booster. 

The ancillary shield booster option had only become available recently and it seemed an attractive option for active shield tanking. Using the over-sized medium booster provided 146 shield hit-points but it took 60 seconds to reload, consequently it seemed sensible to fit two to allow alternate use. The advantage of using this module over the standard shield booster was that it did not use the ship's capacitor. This ship configuration put out 177 DPS and had an active defense of 209.

However, for something a little different, Starwalker considered whether it might be a surprise for a combatant to run into an armour tanked Merlin:

If the target ship was using EM ammunition then it would be running into 70% resists and the most reinforced section of the tank with it 200mm plate. That seemed like a lot of fun and potentially a nice surprise that offered 196 DPS and 5,233 EHP.

There was also the glass cannon option that appealed to Starwalker too as this could rain down 249 DPS and still have an effective EHP of 3,750. It seemed a little too extreme to have only magnetic field stabilizers in the lows and damage rigs for 280 DPS and 2,298 EHP. It was also unclear what the final DPS result would be after stacking penalties were applied.

Starwalker knew that there was no "best" option as each fit would be better under some circumstances and worse under others and encounters were far too random to always be in the right ship at the right time. The important thing was what would be fun to fly next - decisions, decisions, decisions.

27 June 2012

Small Bases Again

Starwalker had setup a strategic main base in Hek with his brother Starstepper, who did all the buying and moving of ships and equipment. Since it was Starstepper that spent all his time hauling stuff between locations it was important for that base to be in a central spot with easy access to other locations.

Hek was the chosen strategic location but with Starwalker based in Ishomilken temporarily it was a bit of a pain for Starstepper to move stuff that far away and then return again. The Mammoth was hardly the fastest of ships even if it was good at moving large loads.

It seemed the sensible alternative was to have another strategic location to base out of that was a much shorter journey. This second base could either remain totally liquid (ISK only, no equipment) or buy or bring some equipment from the first base. The advantage of remaining liquid was clear - easy to move on again. The advantage of having equipment in base was convenience for fitting a new ship and also using buy orders rather than paying the higher offer prices.

The disadvantage of having equipment in base was that eventually there was a lot of miscellaneous items lying around that simply collected dust - just in case it was needed later. One other consideration was that with ISK inflation (or market manipulation) equipment purchased, especially ships, might gain in value over time. In short, it was better to have the ISK held as equipment as either it could be used or sold at a potential profit. This had been the case with the Drake purchases and similarly with the Crow.

However, generally, Starwalker had given up on station trading and so all equipment had been bought with the intent to use it. Starwalker had no strong preference and each method offered its attractions.The simplest way to decide whether to remain liquid at a second base was to not make an immediate decision but to let time tell the answer.

26 June 2012

Perils of Stupidity

Starwalker had been planet-side for a couple of weeks and had missed the excitement of the war declaration with Eve University, although he had contributed to the war effort with ISK. He found his trusty little Merlin still docked with the burn marks from its last dance with death. It was good to be back.


Undocking in the Merlin Starwalker slipped into the black of space looking for his next fight. He wandered over to Eugales and then down to Agoze and Ouelletta. The controls seemed sluggish and he made a mental note to have the ship serviced when it was docked, perhaps the last fight had left more than a few burn marks.

A cynosaural beacon suddenly appeared on scan and the temptation to go and blast it was too much, Starwalker warped in to zero and found a Condor along with an Archon. Starwalker decided to engage immediately and overheated his blasters but forgot to get his damage control unit cycling. The Condor went down fast but without any protection from the sentry guns the Merlin was having new holes added to its hull.

Starwalker had aligned out quickly but it was too late, with the next shot the Merlin exploded just before it could warp to safety. If the DCU had been cycling Starwalker knew that he would have survived as his blaster boat put out some horrendous DPS but as a glass canon it was very vulnerable to being shattered. These were the perils of stupidity - it could result in silly losses.

It was not all bad as Starwalker knew that the ship was lost, it was only a question of when but clearly it would be better to lose it in a fight than to stupidity. However, he did remember that Lhorenzho had commented that shooting cyno ships was dicey in T1 frigates as sentries could easily spoil the getaway. That was not the lesson here, the lesson here was to turn on the tank before engaging the cyno ship. Since sentry guns could easily destroy a frigate - speed was of the essence. 

Starwalker also needed some more T1 frigates as that was his last one in station. Before making that new purchase it was also worth considering whether his next Merlin should use a more standard shield extender fit or perhaps try a new module - an ancillary shield booster. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

16 June 2012

Merlin and Rifter Dance of Death 2

Starwalker was still basking in the satisfaction of having just killed an Incursus and was collecting the loot when the same Cynabal pilot, WRAITH DEMON challenged Starwalker to a frigate duel. Naturally, he accepted.

Starwalker waited at the sun and wondered whether it was a good idea to fight again immediately given that he had the loot from the last kill in his cargo hold. However, in reality that hardly mattered as losing the ship was more important than the loot and losing the ship was not that important.

WRAITH DEMON arrived in a Rifter and Starwalker started to burn towards him, however, around 30km away the Rifter warped away. Confused, Starwalker asked him why he had gone and the reply was that he had been hit by station guns from his GCC and wanted to repair. So Starwalker waited but wondered if this was part of a trick.

Soon, the Rifter was back again and Starwalker engaged in the usual sequence to lock, web, scramble and fire. He had set keep at distance to around 1km or point blank range. It seemed the Rifter was also fit for a brawl and the dance of death began.

As the two frigates whirled around each other it was not looking good for the Merlin as its shields started to evaporate. The Rifter shields hardly seemed to be moving at all and Starwalker briefly wondered whether it might be getting repairs from elsewhere. However, he was committed and this was now do or die.

The Merlin shields started blaring the low shield warning and Starwalker thought it was looking bad but then the Rifter shields started to crumble and suddenly the Rifter was losing its shield fast. The Merlin's armour was being ripped away and it received its first dent to its structure but now the Rifter was also in armour. Suddenly it was over and for a moment Starwalker didn't know whether he had exploded or WRAITH DEMON.

The Rifter was gone. Starwalker was elated, he was in 50% structure but he had won, he saw the pod and went for it but again was too slow and it got away. However, Starwalker was ecstatic with the second kill and collected another lot of loot from the wreckage. He returned to base very happy and looking forward to his next flight but he knew that he woud be docked for a couple of weeks for some planetside holiday.

15 June 2012

Merlin and Incursus Dance of Death 1

Starwalker was cruising around in his Merlin without a care in the universe. He had seen a few ships on scan but nothing that he could reasonably take on in his little frigate. As usual, he was burning around near the sun and scanning for targets when an Incursus on the scan was suddenly at the sun.

Starwalker turned towards the Incursus that was around 150km away and started to burn towards it. Long before they were within engagement range a Cynabal arrived on the scene. The Incursus disappeared and Starwalker did the same by warping away to a plex at a random distance that just happened to be reasonably aligned. However, he knew that he needed to move again as he would not be safe there.

It was just as well that Starwalker was already moving again to a random location as the Cynabal pilot had luckily guessed the distance from the plex and landed within 10km but before he could even lock the Merlin, Starwalker was away again. Starwalker still wanted to fight the Incursus and so he warped back to the sun, hoping that the Incursus would do the same

Clearly the Incursus pilot, Vigorous Pounding, also wanted to fight as he too arrived there shortly afterwards. The distance closed and Starwalker checked the scan for the Cynabal but whilst it was on scan it was not at the sun. So, with the range now less than 25km away from the Incursus he went into engagement mode with lock, web, scramble and fire.

The Merlin was built to brawl and the distance closed to point blank. The dance of death around the Incursus was short and furious with the void ammunition tearing through the Incursus defences. The return fire was inflicting minimal damage and it was not long before the Incursus was a mangled heap of debris.

It was clear from the killmail that the railgun fit with a single repair module would not stand up well to a close range brawling fight. This was reflected in the ease with which the Merlin had dispatched the Incursus, with more than 60% shield remaining after the fight.

10 June 2012

Merlin found in Plex

Starwalker had located another Merlin in a minor plex and decided to investigate further in his own Merlin. There was nothing at the acceleration gate and so Starwalker went in to find the Merlin around 50km away engaging the local NPCs.

It seemed unlikely that the Merlin would hang around now that it was in danger from a real pilot but Starwalker started burning towards it fully expecting to see it warp away. At 35km away he started to wonder if it would warp away or was it too busy with the NPCs, so he delayed targeting to avoid alerting the target to his presence.

At around 20km away Starwalker started to target the Merlin and overheat his modules in preparation for the battle. It seemed incredible that the pilot had not noticed or maybe he wanted to fight. In any case, the distance closed and with lock and scramble applied the blasters started to do their thing.

Some return fire from Sekhmete Udan had a modest effect but nothing that was worrying and Starwalker watched the distance close to 1km with his web applied. The target Merlin was melting fast and it was clear that unless a miracle happened it would go down. No miracle, it went down. Starwalker tried to collect the pod too but was too slow, having forgotten to approach the exploding ship to get the pod and apply a scramble immediately, however, he did collect the rather modest loot and moved on.

The target was not a top pilot, his ship was not fit that well and in the end it was an easy fight, however, none of that mattered - it was another solo kill. Starwalker had used a blaster fit and liked the DPS, the Merlin was now faster than before the recent ship upgrade and it had four mid slots that gave it a lot of fitting flexibility. Indeed it would now give the ubiquitous Rifter a run for its money as the favourite T1 frigate.

The Merlin was a nice ship to be flying around whilst Starwalker's training was continuing for drone and various other skills.

9 June 2012

Rebel Roam from Eugales

Kaeda Maxwell had setup another roam from Eugales with the plan being - there was no plan. Starwalker just happened to be going to Eugales and hadn't realised that the roam would start from there until he was in system with a number of other Rebels.

When he knew that a roam was about to start he joined the fleet - it would be rude not to. These were alway casual, no pressure, style roams where the fleet was looking for a fight and if they returned to base in a pod - well that happened. DIAF (Die In A Fire) was an accepted part of a Rebel roam.

Peri Simone performed admirably as the +1 (system ahead) scout and had scanned a Condor and Coercer to a minor plex. The Condor was sitting at the Acceleration Gate and went down very quickly and so Peri went into the plex and soon called point on the Coercer. Kaeda had sent Vincent R'yleh in to establish a secondary point and soon everyone was warping towards the plex. Unfortunately too late as the Coercer went down very quickly.

The fleet moved on and soon found itself in a flash battle with a Stabber, Vengeance and Daredevil and for whatever reasons it went badly. The initial target was the Vengeance and then it was changed to the Daredevil but before any kills were obtained the fleet was destroyed: Peri Simone, Akiyo XI, sus4, Rah Melkon, Starwalker Shikkoken, Vincent R'lyeh, Kaeda Maxwell and Vladimir McSquizzle.

Undeterred the fleet reformed and continued onwards and before long it was challenged to a fight by a Thrasher, Wolf, Dramiel and Punisher. The Rebel fleet warped in to find the gang 100km away and as the Rebels burnt towards them the enemy fleet decided to run.

Starwalker had to return to base for ship maintenance but the rest of the fleet continued on to Hevrice looking for a fight with the Tuskers. Looking at the killboard - they found it.

8 June 2012

Merlin Runs Into Gang

Starwalker had rebooted his console and was using a new operating system or more accurately he had returned to his original operating system. The consequence was the same - that all of his client settings were gone.

He had first noticed it in station when inventory windows, local and and so on were not set. It was obvious that in space the display would also need to be reset and so Starwalker undocked in a Merlin to do that.

Rather than hang around station and possible trouble Starwalker decided to warp to the sun at a random distance as he would also be looking for a fight when he was ready. Unfortunately, he was not ready when he came out of warp to find a small gang of four ships just 13km away.

It was a real surprise as Starwalker rarely found anything already at the sun - he was engaged almost immediately by the Caracal, Incursus and two Rifters. He returned fire at the nearest ship, the Incursus, but didn't notice immediately the dialogue that came up that requested confirmation of firing orders.

The Merlin's structure buckled under the combined fire and it was going to end very soon but Starwalker decided it was more important to confirm that he did not wish to confirm his firing orders every time and so set that first. He died secure in the knowledge that this ship loss was the result of stupidity and laziness.

Why not just go to a safe first and then to the sun or even just scan the sun beforehand to confirm that nothing was there? Sometimes, Starwalker despaired that he would ever learn something meaningful from previous losses and apply that knowledge CONTINUOUSLY. It was not that long ago that he had lost a Cormorant at the sun.

5 June 2012

Drone Skills

Starwalker was training his drone skills for battlecruisers as he had previously focused on frigate skills and had not needed any drone skills for Caldari or Minimatar frigates. He had purchased the following skills and was now training Drones V:

Drone Skill
Drones (1x)
Ability to use drones with one drone added per level
Drone Interfacing (5x)
Improved damage by 20% per level
Drone Sharpshooting (1x)
Increases optimal range by 5% per level
Drone Durability (5x)
Increases overall hit points by 5% per level
Drone Navigation (1x)
Increases velocity by 5% per level
Combat Drone Operation (2x)
Increases Light/Medium Drone damage by 5% per level
Scout Drone Operation (x1)
Increases base (20km) operational range by 5km per level
Electronic Warfare Drone Interfacing (5x)
Increases range of EWar drones by 3km per level
Gallente Drone Specialisation (5x)
Increases damage of Hammerhead II by 2% per level
Minmatar Drone Specialisation (5x)
Increases damage of Warrior II by 2% per level

Whilst it would be possible to launch T1 drones without the skill bonuses, it seemed more sensible to at least get to a skill level to field a base Warrior II drone. Starwalker expected to need to fight off frigates or tacklers and a Warrior II drone set would be helpful for that task.

3 June 2012

Hawk Down

Starwalker had lost a Crow and was now in a Hawk instead. He was experimenting with the widening choices for solo combat. He had added the micro-warpdrive for speed but was concerned that it was the wrong choice for low-sec. However, the dual webs should help a lot with establishing range control.

Starwalker soon found a Vengeance and Stabber on scan whilst cruising near the sun and started to look for them. However, the Vengeance was also looking for a fight and arrived at the sun a mere 50km away. Starwalker engaged.

The approach went smoothly and the lock, web and scramble were applied at 9km, with the rockets firing. But then the distance closed to around 1km. Whilst the range of the Vengeance made no difference to its rocket damage it was too close for what Starwalker was trying to achieve from a range control perspective. 

However, with the micro-warpdrive shutdown the Hawk was unable to gain any distance even though the dual web was applied. Experiment failed. In retrospect, simply using some math may have been better - looking at afterburner speeds before and after being webbed and the speed of a frigate

The incoming damage was soon eating through the Hawk's shield tank but the rocket's return fire was making comparatively slow progress and the Vengeance was clearly winning. To seal the deal a Stabber arrived and fired on Starwalker. It was over.

Starwalker returned to base and removed the micro-warpdrive from his other Hawk. The range dictation with the dual web was simply insufficient without an afterburner to ensure a higher relative speed.