31 March 2013

Importance of Range Control

Starwalker had joined the Rebel fleet leaving from Adirain in a Taranis - as an experiment. He had been thinking about the importance of speed as seen with his Hookbill. The Taranis was a dual propulsion fit so that it could chase down targets with the MWD and maintain range control with the afterburner.

[Taranis, Dual Propulsion]
Pseudoelectron Containment Field I
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Micro Auxiliary Power Core II

1MN Afterburner II
Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I

Small Diminishing Power System Drain I
Light Neutron Blaster II,Null S
Light Neutron Blaster II,Null S
Light Neutron Blaster II,Null S

Small Ancillary Current Router I
Small Projectile Burst Aerator I

In short, the Taranis fulfilled the need for speed and during the fleet engagements Starwalker found that switching between MWD and afterburner was easy. The turn of speed was good in getting to the next target and the fleet successfully took down a: Caracal, Caracal and Drake playing games at a station.

The fleet continued on and Broady Dale was apparently suckered into trying to get a canister with 100m ISK at planet 9, instead he lost his Thorax and pod. In New Eden bet on stupid. Finally, the fleet engaged a small gang in a complex and claimed this Bantam and Kestrel and a little later this Hookbill. All in all, a very successful roam, in fact, the second most successful roam with 7 ships for no loss, all he had lost were his drones.

The next day Starwalker undocked his Taranis to head back to base. Along the way he noticed a Hookbill in a complex and he knew that getting into close range combat would be hard against a Hookbill but he decided to try it anyway. The Taranis was met at the warp in and was then pretty much held at 7km for the rest of the fight. Between the web and tracking disruptor the Taranis was doing hardly any worthwhile damage.

Starwalker would have released his drones if he still had them but all he could do was try to get into range by overheating his afternburner but each time he did the Hookbill pulled range again. The Taranis was slowly being whittled away by the incoming rocket damage as the Hookbill dominated the fight with range control.

Starwalker was learning a lesson, speed was key and helped with range control but it was not the only factor that determined who had range control. The dual propulsion Taranis had no counter web and so the relative speed advantage was with the Hookbill. Without range control, damage projection then became key and the Hookbill had tracking disrupted the Taranis blasters. This blunted any damage projection the blasters might have had.

Manual piloting and overheating the afterburner was the last resort and this helped temporarily to get closer and apply some damage but the Hookbill was always able to re-establish the 7km range. The Taranis was effectively helpless and inevitably was destroyed.

Starwalker had learnt a valuable less - speed did not guarantee range control. It helped but then so did a stasis webifier, tracking disruptor, sensor dampener and manual piloting. If Starwalker was unable to establish range control then he needed damage projection to either destroy the target or chase it away.

24 March 2013

Hookbill has the Speed

Starwalker had been flying around with his Caldari Navy Hookbill with a new appreciation for the benefits of speed in a brawler ship or at least a ship fighting in scrambler range. He was still waiting for an opportunity to confirm if he could reliably slingshot fast (MWD) kiters in an afterburner fit frigate, when he spied a Breacher on scan.

The Breacher as a Minmatar missile ship was usually fit with rockets so that probably would not be a test, until he noticed that the ship's speed was definitely indicating an MWD fit. Starwalker moved towards it and as the distance closed to less than 30km he overheated his afterburner. The intention was to try and take advantage of the Breacher overshooting its orbit range during the initial few seconds and establish a scram.

It either worked or was completely unnecessary as the distance closed to less than 10km. Starwalker wasn't sure which reason was correct but that did not stop him from engaging with his rockets. It was clear very soon that the Breacher was active shield tanked, taking advantage of its bonus and the amount the shields recovered looked like dual ancillary shield boosters.

Starwalker knew that the active tank would not last much more than 20 seconds and then the Breacher would be toast. The incoming damage was manageable and soon the Breacher was a spreading mass of debris. He tried to get the pod as well but it was away too quickly. Checking the Breacher fit revealed a MWD and scram, so Tarkathanas was always going to come in close and was really fit to catch Faction Warfare pilots, like this AFK Atron, with three warp core stabilisers.

The MWD and scrambler combination would always lose range control to an afterburner and scrambler combination and this range control gave an option for the pilot to leave the fight. That was exactly what Starwalker did when his Hookbill engaged a Jaguar 50km off the complex acceleration gate and it became 2 v 1.

The Hookbill easily established range control at around 7km, which would and did blunt the main damage from the 125mm autocannon fit Jaguar. However, the fight was still close as the shields for the both ships marched down to zero. It looked like Starwalker had the better of it when the Jaguar pilot, SUICIDAL Larsen, brought in a Blackbird or called in a fleet mate. Starwalker almost instantly lost his lock and so he aligned out, overheated his afterburner and escaped. It was good that the Hookbill had the speed to simply evade destruction in this trap.

22 March 2013

Fortune Favours the Brave - Sometimes

Starwalker was cruising around in his Tristan and whilst he had aspirations to change the fit for something faster he had not done so yet. He spied a Tormentor in a complex and decided that it was fair game. It was not long before he was on grid and engaged.

The sequence of engagement was still a little haphazard, after all this time, because Starwalker was still trying to optimise the first few seconds when warping into the complex. In short, Starwalker often seemed to give commands too early or too fast and some of them got lost. He had also varied his approach from mainly clicking to using shortcut keys and clicking to then back to clicking.
The engagement started immediately as the Tormentor was simply waiting and his trap had been sprung. A Griffin arrived on grid and before long the Tristan was jammed and then destroyed. Afterwards Starwalker realised that he had wasted a few precious seconds, he should have targeted the Griffin immediately and set his drones on it. The DPS was coming from the Tormentor but the Griffin simply stopped the fight. The advantage with drones was that they would continue to attack the Griffin even if the lock was lost.

The Tristan loss was soon followed by the loss of a Merlin during a fleet fight after a long roam. It was an EVE battle where the Rebels had brought knives (T1 frigates) but the opposing fleet brought guns (T2 frigates, cruisers and battle cruisers). Given that the Rebels didn't even have an advantage in numbers it was inevitable that their little T1 frigates would become the focus of a turkey shoot. The only compensation was that this Rupture, which was first on the scene, was destroyed.

Starwalker headed back to base in his pod. He didn't mind the loss of his ship that was the nature of the beast - fortune favoured the brave, sometimes. More importantly, he now had to consider what ship to fly next as he had no other ships in station.

So he decided to bring in to Gultratren a couple of Caldari Navy Hookbills. He had flown them before and liked them but he was also wondering if a ~1.2km/s frigate had a better chance of catching a kiter than a ~1km/s frigate. A Kestrel on scan seemed the perfect opportunity to see what would happen, except it was brawling fit.

Whilst that was a surprise, Starwalker did not hesistate to send the Kestrel to the afterlife and he would have done the same for the pilot except he got away. Maybe next time he would see if the Hookbill could slingshot a kiter into range.

16 March 2013

Too Much Time in Dock

Starwalker contemplated his flight time and was disappointed that he had spent so much time in dock. But from time to time he had to be docked to replenish his ISK, Starwalker enjoyed his lifestyle but it did not pay for itself. Recently, he had spent very little time in space and he was missing the opportunities to get into trouble in New Eden.

However, he now had the opportunity and without hesitation he undocked in his Tristan. He had considered changing his fit or flying a different ship but when he was docked all such plans were on hold. The Tristan was still a good ship and the fit was fine, so he scanned local looking for targets and noticed a Rifter, just as his communication channel signaled a Rebel fleet had been formed and were out and about only 13 jumps away.

That was an opportunity too good to miss. He would rendezvous with them but first things first, where was that Rifter - there was some killing to be done. It was at a complex and as Starwalker warped in the Rifter was ready for combat and immediately engaged. Starwalker was a little slow getting his drones out and before long he had his small armour repairer overheated as the Rifter pounded on the Tristan's hull with its autocannons.

The DPS race was truly on as the Rifter orbited at around 1km and the Tristan was dipping into structure. But the drones and the blasters were also wrecking havoc on the Rifter's shields and once they were gone the Rifter rapidly became a wreck. Starwalker exchanged a GF, scooped the loot, repaired the structural damage and joined up with the Rebels.

The fleet headed off with Peri Simone as the fleet commander and with Kane the Black and Groggolog acting as scouts. The fleet had the usual fun and games looking for targets, chasing ships around and waiting at the sun as an open invitation. Finally in Amamake the fleet engaged another small fleet and after killing a Daredevil and Osprey they bugged out.

It had been a good night, a solo kill and a couple of fleet kills. Starwalker headed back to dock happy with the roam. Back in station he sighed as he took off his Black Jacket, he had returned to dock and didn't know when he would be able to undock again. There was still so much he wanted to do and he had so little time in space - it was truly disappointing.

10 March 2013

Courage or Stupidity

Starwalker was roaming around in his Tristan and saw four T1 frigates in a medium complex and immediately recognised Semirande as he had only recently destroyed his Atron. The default assumption was that all four frigates were together and a quick check of local revealed a number of people in the same corporation as Semirande.

Starwalker thought it was very unlikely that he could take on four frigates at once but he also wondered if the four were perhaps actually doing the complex and if so there was a chance to engage just one or two. It would be a risky choice to go in as it was equally possible that they wanted to catch something entering the complex. Indeed retrospectively he saw that they had killed a Thorax only 15 minutes before.

Whether it was courage or stupidity Starwalker decided to give it a try - no guts no glory. He warped into the complex and was met by all four frigates as he entered, they were waiting for the chance to pounce. Starwalker went for the nearest ship, the Rifter, and launched his drones. However, momentum changed the relative positions and it ended up 7km away with the Merlin and Republic Fleet Firetail being closer.

The majority of damage was from the drones but this early targeting had the effect of splitting the Tristan firepower because the blasters were out of range. Worse, the drones did not all go after the Rifter and the log showed that they seemed to split their attention between the Rifter and Firetail. Normally Starwalker set the drones to focus fire to concentrate their fire but perhaps Starwalker had switched to the closer Merlin and Firetail.

In any case, the Tristan was taking a lot of damage and was not doing enough damage in return. Given that, it was inevitable that the Tristan would succumb quickly and it did so. There was an Incursus there as well but that must have been out of range when Starwalker arrived as only the other three frigates were on the killmail.

When Starwalker reconsidered the fight he realised that he should have thought about the fight before entering the complex. To decide what he would do if they were waiting for him. Given this was a trap, his only real chance was to overheat his afternurner and speed off away from the frigates rather than engage directly. That manoeuvre was not intended to run away but to split the enemy targets. If he was able to inflict heavy damage whilst avoiding as much incoming damage as possible then he had a chance. Brawling against the odds was not a winning tactic.

3 March 2013

Choice of Ship and Fit

Starwalker had been finding some fights and kills in faction warfare sites such as this Atron and Slasher. This cyno-ship was just unlucky in that Starwalker had attempted to kill it but he had been chased off by sentry fire. When he returned there was a Machariel standing guard so he quickly left again but the cyno-ship was killed by a Loki shortly afterwards.

However, more generally, Starwalker had recently either been chasing ships that were far too fast to be caught or had to escape when he was unable to get into scramble range. There was a third alternative and that was the kiter was driven off by factors such as incoming damage, stalemate or new entrants to the fight.

The key problem for Starwalker was that he was unable to get into scramble range when he was in an afterburner fit, brawling frigate and coming up against fast or MWD fit frigates like the Condor or Kestrel. They maintained point and range control of around 16km - 24km away. He had now tried many times to slingshot ships into scramble range (10km with overheat) and whether it was poor manual piloting or not the end result was the same he either had to escape or be destroyed.

The upperhand and therefore choice was always with the faster ship as they could either stay to the bitter end or leave if things started to look bad. Starwalker had recently fought against a Kestrel and whilst the drones from his Tristan had inflicted damage the Kestrel could simply decide to leave when it was in any danger, which is what it did. This escape option would always be open if Starwalker was unable to establish a long point (warp disruption) or scramble.

The fight with the Maulus had a similar outcome to the Kestrel in that the Hawk's Javelin missiles could chase it away but without a long point the faster Maulus would dictate how long the fight lasted. So damage projection was useful both offensively and defensively but to get the kill required warp disruption. Starwalker was enjoying the Tristan but he needed more speed.

To go faster, Starwalker needed to either fly faster afterburner ships or use a MWD fit, which would mean giving up range control against any afterburner fit frigate that got into scram range. Speed was not the only factor and key factors such as damage projection and tank needed to be combined into the choice of ship(s) and fit to fly.

It was a dilemma and no matter what ship (frigate) or fit was chosen there was always a counter that would destroy it or something that would be faster or have better damage projection and so on. The key for Starwalker was to select a ship and fit based on what he expected to encounter or fight against and also was prepared to fly and lose. It was about establishing relative superiority to the potential target, which was possible. What was not possible was one frigate and fit that could beat every other frigate in combat.

Starwalker's recent experience was that he was encountering a lot of fast ships and he did not know whether a ship going around 1.2km/s was any better at doing a slingshot than a ship going at around 1km/s. In short, he would either need to spend some time looking at fast afterburner ships like the Condor and Breacher or fitting a MWD to a combat frigate like the Merlin and Tristan. Those choices did not even include some of the other excellent frigates such as the Caldari Navy Hookbill or Hawk - so many choices...