27 October 2012

Merlin in Metropolis and Molden Heath

Starwalker had a Merlin that he was flying around Metropolis and Molden Heath in hopes of losing it. It was a strange thought but he had been spending a lot of time looking at frigates and fits and he had decided that he really wanted to be flying something else - a Slasher - but he hadn't yet moved some to a station.

The reason why he wanted to fly a Slasher was comparatively straightforward - he liked the idea of speed, selectable damage and neuting power. His Merlin, whilst good, was much slower could not neut and had a fixed damage type. However, he was in his Merlin and whilst he was roaming around he saw that the Rebels had a fleet going and so he joined them.

It seemed that his timing had been excellent as he then got onto this Prophecy kill almost immediately. Unfortunately, the Prophecy lived up to its reputation as bait and was not alone - soon his friends joined the fight and the Rebels had to bug out taking a few losses. Given those losses many of the Rebels had to return to Heild to reship and that seemed a good opportunity to disappear into the blackness again.

Whilst the fleet had been fun Starwalker soon found himself roaming around searching the blackness of space for targets again, when he came across a Slasher running a plex. It seemed a shame to just move on without trying to catch it and so Starwalker took his Merlin in. This time as he approached he decided to target early and had set his auto-target to one, avoiding all of the previous problems.

The Slasher seemed oblivious and soon was in the warm embrace of the Merlin's blasters. There was no damage coming back and Starwalker almost felt sorry for the defenceless ship... and then he blew it up. This was low-sec after all and that result was to be expected. Starwalker, collected the meagre loot and docked up after GCC, happy with the kill.

Another day, another kill - Starwalker was starting to enjoy this killing streak. He had moved to Heild and had waited at the 2/10 plex as that was always a good location for a fight and within seconds he was joined by yet another Slasher. Coincidentally, Peri Simone had only just posted a Slasher kill with his Jaguar and here was yet another one. Starwalker remembered the last real fight with a Slasher and he kept his Caldari Navy AntiMatter loaded.

The Slasher came in close and Starwalker's Merlin opened fire with the scramble and web applied. The incoming damage was pretty fierce and Starwalker started the ancillary shield booster. He was being neuted and tracking disrupted. Starwalker tried to reduce traversal as he saw his armour start to disappear.

The Slasher had started the fight with some armour damage but was clearly active shield tanked. Starwalker knew that this was now simply a question of whose shield booster finished first and whether the tracking disruption had blunted the Merlin's blasters sufficiently to allow the Slasher to get the kill first. Starwalker felt confident that at point blank range the Merlin would win, surely the fight would be over before the neut shut down his blasters and everything else.

Starwalker's armour was just about to give out and the capacitor was nearly gone but the Slasher was now into structure. The Slasher gave a last valiant gasp with its shield repair but then the Merlin must have had a wrecking shot as the shield and remaining structure disappeared and then the Slasher was suddenly gone. The combatants saluted each other with a good fight and Starwalker collected the loot.

Starwalker was happy with how the fight had gone but he also wondered whether he really wanted to fly the Slasher. He had bought them but the problem with coming across all these Slashers was that it had reduced Starwalker's desire to fly them himself. Yes, they were fast, yes they had 4 high and 4 mid slots, yes they could neut another frigate forever but they were just too damned common. In addition, he had killed Slashers in his Merlin more times than he had died to them, and in combat Starwalker needed any edge he could get.

21 October 2012

Problems in a Plex

Starwalker had been wandering around Placid for a while and had terrorised a few plexers but some of those ships had not even been armed, reducing the fun factor. Most of the time they simply ran away as soon as they were aware that they were not alone. On occasion, some waited until the last minute to warp away - a sort of FU.

The really clever ones would wait until they were engaged and fired on and then warp away courtesy of their warp stabilisers. The beauty of this last method meant that the aggressor had GCC and had to wait it out - the best FU, as the aggressor didn't even have a kill to show for the wait.

Of course, some plexers were acting as bait, waiting for an aggressor to arrive and that was the equivalent of waiting at the sun or the top belt for them. A chance to turn the tables where the hunter becomes the hunted, especially if the hunter has fit the ship specifically to catch plexers or overcome a single warp stabiliser.

Starwalker had killed this Incursus but there wasn't a huge satisfaction in it as it wasn't even armed and could not fight back. The problem was that these easy kills had lulled Starwalker into a false sense of security as he rarely ever encountered someone looking to kill the hunter. Indeed, he had modified his overview to show the NPCs as he was in more danger from them rather than the plexer.

It was with this overconfidence that Starwalker entered a plex and saw a Rifter 60km away. He started the burn towards it and decided that he would wait until the last moment to target it and use his scrambler first. There was no real reason to do that - just a different way of locking up the target and scrambling it, an experiment with a different method. The one notable difference being that targeting happened at the last moment or within 10km rather than 20km or 30km away.

The trouble was - it all went horribly wrong. The Rifter may have been looking for a fight but Starwalker wasn't 100% sure and as his Condor got close he got locked up by NPCs and his auto-target locked them back. This setting worked well in PvP but it was not so useful with NPCs in close proximity.

Unfortunately everything was in close proximity and just as Starwalker was targeting the Rifter with his scrambler the position of the ships changed in the overview and Starwalker had started to lock an NPC instead. These precious few seconds lost was not good. Worse the targeting had to be started again adding more seconds of delay.

The damage was coming in thick and fast and Starwalker set the ancillary shield boosters going. As the wasted seconds ticked by Starwalker had to waste some more time to select the Rifter to fire on. And by this stage the Condor was nearly running out of shields and the booster was running low but he opened fire anyway and started to neut the Rifter.

Starwalker realised that it was all too little too late, you simply could not waste 7-10 seconds in a 20-30 second fight and his Condor burst into flames whilst the Rifter was still in armour. Disappointed at his lack of dexterity and over-confidence Starwalker's pod streaked away to safety.

In retrospect, Starwalker should have:
  • Targeted the Rifter much earlier, there was no special reason to wait. This was especially important if NPCs were in the overview and close by
  • Recognised immediately that he was at a disadvantage with the targeting error and align out to get some distance and possibly escape as needed. Instead Starwalker had continued to orbit at 500m, which was unnecessary in a rocket ship and benefited the Rifter
  • Rifters with autocannons should have been engaged at around 5km anyway to reduce the effectiveness of their autocannons. He should not have been lazy and left the orbit set to 500m. He had 500m set to reduce ability for targets to run away but in reality that rarely ever happened once plexers had been engaged

14 October 2012

Flight of the Condor

Starwalker had not tried out the new Condor and Slasher yet but he had just fitted out a Condor for some flight time and experimentation. He liked the idea of the speed, strong capacitor and four mid and high slots. It would be interesting to see how it performed in the wild.

Starwalker undocked in Covryn and noticed an Incursus on scan. They were good combat frigates and it would be a real test to see how the Condor would do against one. The scan revealed that it was at the deadspace complex and Starwalker warped in.

The Incursus was more than 50km away but continued to stay in the area and so Starwalker burnt towards it in his Condor. It was likely to run away but even at just over 1.3km/s it seemed to take a long time to get there. It didn't run.

Starwalker engaged with his rockets and applied his scram, neutraliser and tracking disruptor and the dance started. It was soon apparent that the Incursus was active tanked and the Condor was struggling to break that tank. And so the dance went on and on with Starwalker reloading his rockets and having to turn off the overheat to avoid burn out.

And it went on and on. Starwalker wondered whether he would run out of ammunition before getting the kill and then suddenly the Incursus armour stripped away into structure and it was all over - the Incursus was now a wreck. The pilot said that he had hit the wrong button and the killmail would show that it had taken nearly 10k of damage. Starwalker was so surprised that it had finished that he missed the pod but at least he could still loot the wreck.

As he went to the wreck he saw a Tristan arrive over 100km away and considered whether he should go for it immediately. However, he needed to let his shields recharge and repair the heat damage to his rockets and neutraliser, and so he warped to a safe.

As the shields returned to full health Starwalker decided that he would not wait out GCC to repair the overheat damage and warped back in. The Tristan was now 300km away and so he burnt towards it. The Tristan wanted to fight and Starwalker set his orbit to 5km and went in with rockets blazing. The Tristan was weak and very soon it was struggling for survival.

Starwalker approached as the Tristan burst into flames to get the pod. The pod appeared and he quickly tried to lock it - he got it. This was the first time Starwalker had caught the pod in a long time and he savoured the kill and scooped the corpse into his cargohold, a grisly momento of the kill.

The maiden flight of the Condor had been good and resulted in two kills. Perhaps the targets were not that tough but frankly Starwalker didn't care. He was pleased to have the kills and to have got the pod. He liked the Condor's speed, neutralising capability and damage projection with rockets but he also wanted to try out the Slasher.

Starwalker now had very few fitted ships at stations and no Slashers. So the first task was to define the Slasher fit and then buy and get a couple of those ships and fittings to a station. The recent spike in PLEX prices had netted a cool 1.3 billion ISK for two PLEX and so Starwalker could buy a lot of fitted T1 frigates with that. 

12 October 2012

Merlin Tormented in Tama

Starwalker had been cruising around Placid in his Merlin and was not finding much trouble to get into. The closest time had been when a Tormentor had arrived on gate and Starwalker had orbited it for a couple of minutes but as it was not flashy Starwalker had to wait for it to fire first.
The Tormentor did not fire until Starwalker was about to jump out again and had moved just under 10km back to the gate. It then hit very hard and Starwalker was already into armour before he had even started his ancillary shield booster. He knew that if he re-engaged he would be destroyed before reaching blaster range so he calmly jumped out and then went to a station to repair.

Starwalker meandered around for a while longer and then decided to go somewhere where he was more or less guaranteed to find a fight - Tama. He headed over there and within seconds of arriving in system he was challenged by Rakaar to a duel. Rakaar was -10 and a top pilot but that had never stopped Starwalker before from accepting a duel and this time was no different - he accepted.
Rakaar had spotted Starwalker in his Merlin at the gate when he was in a Jaguar and so after he had issued a challenge he went to change ship. Starwalker knew that he had just given him two advantages:
  1. The opportunity for a top pilot to get an easy kill against a low ranked pilot
  2. The opportunity to select a ship that would be the perfect counter to a Merlin
Despite that Starwalker was unconcerned as losing a T1 frigate was no big deal and he wanted to see how he would do against Rakaar. The short answer was not very well.

Starwalker tried to be too clever with the ancillary shield booster by turning it on and then off to cycle just once. However, he had under-estimated just how much damage was coming in and he had to start the booster again almost immediately. But, it seemed that the fight was almost over before it had started, as his ship exploded with the Tormentor still in at least 40% of its armour.

The surprise at how quickly it had finished was why Starwalker then had his pod caught as usually he was aligned out and spamming warp when the end was near. Rakaar asked about implants but Starwalker declined any ransom and waited to be podded. For whatever reasons, Rakaar decided to let Starwalker's pod go and so he smiled thanks and returned to Covryn with implants intact.

In retrospect, Starwalker knew that he could have improved:
  1. Frigate fights are over too quick to worry about managing ancillary shield boosters and trying to get individual cycles rather than bursts
  2. Blasters required being close but Starwalker's range seemed to be around 3km and that was not close enough. He should have overheated his afterburner sooner
  3. Getting the pod out was a priority, aligning out in armour and then spamming warp should have started as soon as the armour started to give way to structure

6 October 2012

Battlecruiser Experience So Far

Starwalker had now flown Drakes for the last couple of months and his experience so far had been that five were killed in gate camps and one was killed in a fight. That was not a great record and certainly not one that he wanted to see repeated.

Starwalker's Drakes had died in gates camps in:
  • Syndicate - twice
  • Molden Heath - once
  • Great Wildlands - once
  • Placid - once
The trouble with dying in gate camps - it was simply just the loss of a ship with no real fight involved, which was both frustrating and disappointing. Battlecruisers fitted with T2 modules were around 90m ISK and the Drake insurance (9m ISK) payed out 45m ISK. Assault ships were around 40m ISK with a T2 module fit and with insurance (3m ISK) payed out 9m ISK. T1 frigates were typically around 10m ISK and insurance was negligible. So net losses for each ship type were around
  • Battecruisers - 54m ISK
  • Assault Ships - 34m ISK
  • T1 Frigates - 10m ISK

If Starwalker was going to lose a ship in a gate camp then losing a T1 frigate was far better than losing anything else but also some gate camps could not be bothered to kill the small fry and were looking for something bigger and shinier. Whilst Starwalker would still fly battlecruisers another reason to focus on T1 frigates was that Starwalker also wanted to try out the new frigate attack ships, especially the Slasher and Condor.

The key question for Starwalker was what he would replace his Drake losses with in terms of new battlecruisers. He was gravitating towards trying out the Hurricane as it was faster than the Drake and it could potentially deal better with frigates, whilst still putting up a good fight with same class ships.

He still had his strategic base with its small stockpile of battlecruisers so it was not a question of going to the market and buying more ships - yet. What was definitely true was that his wallet was better able to handle the losses from frigates rather than battlecruisers and in the end it always came down to - only fly what you can afford to lose.

So, Starwalker would probably spend more of his time in frigates and occasionally fly battlecruisers. In reality, he liked flying frigates more with their speed and agility and the losses hurt less, especially those from gate camps.

1 October 2012

Drake Bubbled in Syndicate

Starwalker had jumped from Gultratren to Covyrn to wander around Placid and Syndicate looking for a fight but he had not reckoned on being blobbed in a bubble. He had gone down a path in Syndicate that was effectively a dead end in his Drake and had started the return journey without having found anyone flying in space. Just because he hadn't seen anyone flying in space did not mean that he was alone though.

The joy of nullsec is that the local residents will have their communications operational and go for complete overkill at a gate. The Drake came back into a system and at the out gate found a Zealot 15km away. It had been very quiet but with six in local Starwalker wondered if it was simply bait. As he started to burn towards it a Jaguar arrived at the gate locking him and the Zealot started to fire.

Starwalker decided that this was bait, it was not going to end well and that there were probably more on their way, so he burnt back towards the gate and jumped. He thought he had been clever until he found that he had jumped into a bubble and many more ships. He wasn't sure if they were waiting for him or not and wondered if the Jaguar, which hadn't fired, would jump through and hopefully panic and drop cloak first.

However, the Jaguar was with this fleet and Starwalker knew that it was all over. He could not make it back to the other side and he was very unlikely to take anything down fast enough with this much firepower on the field. He burnt away from the majority of the ships and targeted the nearest ship a Rupture. It didn't matter, within seconds he was blown up. The pod quickly followed and he resurrected in Fensi - he had forgotten to reset his home station.

There was nothing in Fensi as it had all been moved to Gultratren, so he slow boated back to Covryn in his capsule and reset his home station. At least the next time he was podded he would wake up in the right station, one with implants and ships.