2 January 2013

Tristan Tangles with Targets

The Tristan was still the ship of the moment but Starwalker was also training Medium Hybrid Turret V as he had realised recently that he could not fit a Heavy Ion (or Neutron) Blaster II without the blaster specialisation and he wanted that for some cruisers roams that he anticipated in 2013. As always, training was a never ending cycle but Starwalker had not quite decided yet on which (brawling) cruiser to fly first between the Thorax, Moa and Vexor. He had already decided that he would fly the Caracal as a good kiting cruiser, however, there would be plenty of time for cruisers later.

Starwalker checked his star map and set a roam looking for locations with a reasonable number of pilots active in the last thirty minutes and undocked in his Tristan. In this case, that trail went through Agoze, down to Ladistier and from there into Hulmate. Whilst roaming there had been many cruisers and battlecruiser around but he had found no frigates flying around until he entered Hulmate. There were three ships on d-scan a Thrasher, Incursus and Merlin - game on for his Tristan. Starwalker went to the sun and started scanning - he was hoping to find either of the frigates and to generally avoid the Thrasher, at least until he knew more about the Thrasher pilot.

The search suddenly became much easier as the Incursus and Merlin arrived at the sun nearly 150km away. They seemed to be together and Starwalker wasn't sure about taking them both on at the same time and wondered how he could split them. Again, they made it easy for him as one burnt towards him and the other seemed to be simply watching or perhaps waiting for a fleet warp in from 150km or more.

As the Merlin closed Starwalker approached to reduce the distance to around 120km or similar from the Incursus. That distance would avoid a fleet warp in and hopefully take sufficient time to cross that the fight became two 1v1 fights rather than a 2v1. The initial part of the plan was working and as the Merlin closed to 20km Starwalker launched his drones and hit 5km orbit button, to stay out of blaster range.

The Merlin was decimated as the drones went to work and the return fire at 5km was pitiful. Range control was maintained for the whole fight and the end was inevitable for the Merlin as it exploded. As usual, Starwalker went after the capsuleer and got lucky this time as he killed the pod too, and to top it all off a 300k ISK bounty arrived a little later in the post. Meanwhile, the Incursus had started to burn towards the fight but when he saw the Merlin destroyed he simply warped off, presumably thinking that discretion was the better part of valour. Starwalker was pleased with the kill and headed back to Covryn.

The return journey was also eventful as an Algos appeared on scan; the pilot was very young and the opportunity was too sweet to pass over. The Algos was ratting and the Tristan landed less than 10km away from it. Starwalker immediately established a lock and scram and started attacking with the drones. The Algos made a feeble attempt to fight back with his own drones but it went down very quickly and more importantly so did the pod. Starwalker scooped the loot and the second corpse of the day, more than a little pleased with himself, and continued on.

A few jumps later and there was a Breacher that appeared on scan and Starwalker went to the sun to scan it down - only to see it 100km away. He burnt towards it and engaged, knowing that it would be rocket fit and probably active shield tanked with its bonus to shield boosting, his only real concern was being kited at around 8km. The Breacher pilot realised his fear and maintained the range around 8km and the rockets came in striking shields and then the Tristan's armour. The small armour repairer was not keeping up as the armour was slowly peeled away.

Starwalker watched the Breacher's active shield repairing the incoming damage and it seemed to keep up easily with the incoming damage from the drones. So he decided to exit if he could. As he aligned out, keeping a close eye on range and watched it creep up and as he passed the edge of scramble range he hit warp. It was only then that he noticed that the Breacher was now in deep armour. Stop! Stay! But it was too late and the Tristan warped away, he had decided to leave too early and had not paid close enough attention to when the ancillary shield booster would go through a reload cycle. At that point the Breacher would effectively become defenceless. 

Starwalker warped back to the sun but the pilot gave a GF in local and had disappeared fast. He had seen the writing on the wall and given a lucky escape he did not want to actually lose his Breacher. Finally Starwalker docked up in Covyrn and deposited his two corpses into the hangar, very pleased with the day's events and only slightly disappointed with leaving too early with the Breacher. The events had also highlighted that:
  • Drones were easily lost to either fighting or simply pilot error and warping away and leaving them behind
  • Lost drones meant a significant loss of firepower for the Tristan
  • Practically, spare drones needed to be carried in the cargohold but they could only be put into the drone bay in station. That would work fairly easily in low-sec but be more problematic in NPC null-sec and almost impossible in alliance held null-sec
  • Drones (Hobgoblin IIs) were comparatively expensive at ~0.5m ISK each and that put the price of the loss of a Tristan as comparatively high for a T1 frigate (16m-20m ISK)
  • Single small armour repairer was not able to tank the incoming rocket damage and was only able to slow the march towards destruction. That tank would fare even worse against another high damage ship like the Merlin. To be effective it needed to be complemented with either additional resistance or buffer. Of the Gallente frigates only the Incursus had a ship repair bonus
  • The additional shield rigs had no discernible impact and Dischordant had recommended using damage rigs instead. Starwalker was inclined to agree
Unfortunately before the change to rigging could be made that trusty Tristan met its demise at the hands of a Cynabal. The Tristan seemed to be instantly locked after it decloaked and was destroyed seconds after it had jumped into system. The first round from the Cynabal's 425mm autocannons had taken it into structure and the next round had completed its ignominious end. Starwalker quickly warped his pod away as he did not wish to compound the loss with his rather expensive set of implants (~100m ISK).

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