29 July 2013

Stop Loss

It was one of those days, Starwalker could do no right and his ship losses reflected that sad fact. In the financial world there was the concept of a "stop loss", if a position (or bet) was going badly then to stop any further losses a stop loss was executed or the open position was closed.

It was a painful decision to close the position and take the loss as it meant that there was no hope for a recovery or to make a profit but more importantly it prevented a bad situation getting worse. It was a decision to put reality before hope and limit the loss.

Typically, Starwalker would remain docked as soon as he had lost three ships in a single day - to stop his losses. However, this time he decided to keep flying and the losses mounted:
  1. Amenophis I had lost his Tristan to Starwalker's Merlin and he had re-shipped to an Incursus. The implicit challenge was accepted and the repaired Merlin landed for a close range brawl. As the fight progressed Starwalker was surprised to be capped out as he was theoretically cap-stable and he was neither neuted nor was there another other ship on grid. With the capacitor dry the fight stopped and the Merlin exploded
  2. Starwalker re-shipped to a Coercer and undocked to find Mark Yanning in a Catalyst (again) at the undock. The Catalyst wasted no time and engaged, Starwalker responded in kind but fighting on station is rarely a good idea. Mark Yanning had brought friends this time - a Thrasher piloted by Sybian Silk Silk. As the Thrasher undocked and engaged it was inevitable that the Coercer would be destroyed and unfortunately he didn't take the Catalyst with him
  3. His second Coercer was undocked to find Sybian Silk Silk still on station but around 30km away. Starwalker could see Mark Yanning in local and so he simply warped off - just as Mark Yanning arrived in a Vexor. Unfortunately, that extra lease of life for the Coercer did not last long as he went in at range to a complex with a Wolf and Slasher. The arty Wolf engaged but was soon trying to escape and he was helped by the Slasher who established a scramble. Poor piloting had allowed the Wolf to escape and the Slasher to get a tackle, Starwalker switched target to the Slasher and inevitably the Wolf came back to help finish the kill and the Coercer soon became another space wreck
  4. Next a shiny new Enyo was taken into space and foolishly Starwalker decided to engage a Tristan that was setup to kite at the edge of point range. It was soon accompanied by a Kestrel with light missiles. The Enyo eventually succeeded with a slingshot on the Tristan but in the process it burnout its MWD. The scrambled Tristan started to go down but the Enyo had taken too much damage was still taking damage, and soon it was gone
  5. Not content with having lost four ships in quick succession Starwalker undocked in his Taranis and ran into the same kiting Tristan. Given that he had successfully got the slingshot earlier he thought he would try again, even though he was fit with an afterburner this time. It did not work after multiple attempts. Starwalker was low on armour and so he tried to run, and got to 34km away but the Tristan still had point, it was either very expensively fit by Gluecksbaerchi or linked. In desperation he tried to kill the drones but he was too slow and had waited too long to start on them - the Taranis became his fifth fireball of the night
  6. The Tormentor would hopefully do better than the Taranis, surely his "luck" was about to change. Sturgeon Rowe in his Tristan was also kiting at the edge of point range and after a couple of attempts to slingshot Starwalker gave up and started to work on the drones. It was then he realised how feeble the DPS was for the Tormentor and whilst it had a great tank its DPS was abysmal. It was far too low for Starwalker's taste and whilst he lamented the lack of firepower the Tormentor finally gave up its structure in disgust at this pilot's poor handling of the ship's merits
  7. This time would be different, Starwalker undocked in his third Coercer and chased a Talwar around. He eventually caught it in another complex but only because the Talwar wanted to be caught - he had another friend waiting there in an Algos. The Coercer did not last long after the trap was sprung
  8. Deterred but sure his luck was about to change Starwalker undocked in his final Coercer, in a triumph of stupidity over common sense or probability. The Coercer chased a Republic Fleet Firetail around and he had a sense of deja vu. The sinking feeling was cemented as he entered a complex and was engaged by both the Firetail and a Hawk. The Coercer was scrambled immediately and as soon as the Firetail thought it was in danger it scampered away to safety and let the Hawk finish the job
Starwalker returned to base in an Ibis and docked up. He had lost eight ships in one day, a new record that he would have preferred had not happened. He was disappointed but tomorrow would be another day.

24 July 2013

100 Kills and Top Ranked

Yesterday, Starwalker had passed a personal milestone of more than 100 kills in a month. On Monday, he had hit 90 kills when he had joined Patrick Kasper's themed "Firetail" roam, with a shield extender and MWD fit. The fleet had spotted another fleet of destroyers and assault frigates in a complex and whilst outgunned that was no reason to not engage.

The fleet warped in and the 2 Coercers, 2 Hawks and 3 Harpies were clustered around the warp-in point. The immediate action was to burn off to get some range and then regroup, from there the fleet flew up to get above the targets and to decide on the priorities: Coercers, Hawks and then Harpies. The rationale was simple: Coercer damage was extremely high and Hawks were easier to kill than Harpies.

The fleet, then swarmed in from above with the full knowledge that it was unlikely if anyone in their Republic Fleet Firetail would survive. The carnage began:
  1. Hereric Miz's Coercer had the dubious pleasure of being first and it soon exploded
  2. Patrick had called the next target but it was obvious that Khaos Hakomairos's as the remaining Coercer would be the next to die
  3. As the second Coercer went down Patrick had already called for the next target: Tujiko Noriko's Hawk and it too succumbed to the R1DER fleet. But the R1DER fleet was also getting smaller as the opposing fleet had gone to work on their targets too
  4. Patrick called the last Hawk as primary and to get out if possible. Tristan daCuhna found himself shipless and Starwalker warped away
Starwalker had been lucky, 9 R1DERS had entered and only he had left with his ship still intact - it had not even taken any fire. He had gotten lucky with the order of the opposing fleet's targeting, the timing of the destruction of the last Hawk and the fact that they had not spread points at the end.

Starwalker's luck continued last night as he headed back to Adirain in the same Firetail:
  • Crispy Orlenard in his Incursus had engaged hoping for the best but he exploded and was too slow escaping with his pod
  • Zenith Askold in his Firetail had the right fit to win the fight but had used the wrong tactics. He stayed in close when he could have used his range control and tracking disruptor to establish his superiority. Given that he stayed in close he was destroyed
  • Hasim Abdul in his Merlin was looking for a fight and the Firetail struggled in the brawl to overcome his shield tank. Finally, with his Firetail in deep armour the Merlin erupted into flames. But it wasn't over as a Condor and Tristan landed and before Starwalker could escape he was scrambled. Given no choice he opened fire on the Tristan on the basis that it was closer and represented the greater danger. The Tristan proved to be very weak and exploded quickly
  • What had started as a gank was now a 1v1 and Noxam Sherei decided he no longer liked the odds and ran away in his Condor. But Starwalker had the last laugh as a few minutes later the Condor was caught and destroyed, with Starwalker on the killmail
  • Starwalker did not want to out stay his welcome in Flosewin and decided to move on, especially as it was getting too busy with destroyers and assault frigates. In Aset Elmi Aihaken led him on a merry chase around the system and he wondered if he was being setup for a trap. Elmi decided to fight and Starwalker took some time getting through his shields whilst scanning local but the Tristan was destroyed - no one had come to his aid. Perhaps he had just wanted a little foreplay before getting down to business
  • Johannes DeRupescissa in his Slasher was doing well in the fight but when his shield buffer finally gave way he was decimated
  • Starwalker had no idea what Caladri Joans was doing in a complex in a Magnate and was surprised when it engaged. The Firetail's MWD came in very handy to catch it though and once caught the Magnate duly crumpled into wreckage
In the space of 30 minutes Starwalker had had 7 engagements and killed them all - most unusual and most productive. Those 7 kills had also contributed to his personal record of over 100 kills in a month. That record had been helped by recently having more time in space and he doubted if he would be so lucky in future.

Very satisfied with the events of the night Starwalker docked up in Adirain and awoke the next morning to find that he was Top Ranked in Battleclinic. Being Top Ranked might be only temporary but he would enjoy the moment whilst it lasted.

22 July 2013

Key Timers and Aggression

Starwalker had been enjoying the benefits of a higher security status than -5. In particular, this meant that he could wander around low-security star gates with minimal risk of being engaged, unless the aggressor was willing to tank the sentry gate guns. Very few aggressors did this as it was easier to simply wait for the next outlaw (flashy-red) pilot.

The trouble was that Starwalker enjoyed the kill and consequently his security status was back down to -5.4. It was only two weeks ago that it was -0.5. The good news was that pilots would be able to engage again without fear of repercussion from sentry guns at stations or star gates.

This very mechanic had tempted a Catalyst pilot when Starwalker (deliberately) undocked in his Coercer and slow boated towards it. Whilst Starwalker had wanted to tempt the Catalyst he had moved a little too close and the Catalyst had nearly succeeded in destroying his Coercer before it erupted into a fireball.

The bad news was that he would be very vulnerable to gate camps. Whilst his record over time of surviving a gate camp had improved considerably, he still lost ships. He had not yet taken out some of his shinier ships but the time would come. He would need to steel himself for the inevitable (and disappointing) loss of a shiny ship to a gate camp.

Whilst Starwalker contemplated these mechanics he decided to create a simple reminder of key timers for his life in low-sec space...
  • Session Change Timer (SCT) lasted for 10 seconds and applied in many situations, in particular
    • Jumping through a stargate, so could not jump back during SCT
    • Undocking, so could not redock during SCT
    • Joining fleet, so could not start another SCT like jumping whilst the SCT was active
  • Undock Invulnerability lasted for 30 seconds if no module was activated, movement initiated or target locked
    • Station campers could be avoided by stopping the ship and simply waiting for the SCT to complete to redock
  • Gate cloak lasted for 60 seconds after jumping through a stargate and the ship was invulnerable whilst the gate cloak was active
  • Weapons Timer (WT) lasted for 60 seconds after shooting (or using drones) or using any offensive module (scramble, web...) on another pilot. WT prevented jumping out of system or docking
  • Suspect Timer (ST) lasted for 15 minutes and allowed anyone to attack a suspect, including podding, without repercussion from Concord. ST was acquired by attacking another pilot, stealing from them or having a kill right activated
  • Kill Right was obtained by target pilot when they were attacked illegally i.e. attacker obtained a ST
  • Criminal Timer (CT) lasted for 15 minutes and was acquired by attacking a pilot's pod or assisting someone with a CT. If a CT was active in hi-sec space it prevented the pilot from warping or jumping and Concord destroyed the ship
  • Limited Engagement (LE) between pilots lasted for 5 minutes and was created by any pilot freely being able to attack another pilot with an active ST or CT, or the pilot was an Outlaw (-5 security status or lower). Once the LE was active both pilots could freely engage each other

17 July 2013

Taranis and Managing Range

Small blasters - a ferocious weapon system at close range, however, as soon as the range increased their effectiveness dropped dramatically. This meant that blaster fitted ships needed to have the speed to get into close range and to be able to stay there. That was the problem with this Taranis - it could not get into close range.

[Taranis, Dual Propulsion]

Damage Control II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Micro Auxiliary Power Core II

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

Light Neutron Blaster II, Void S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Void S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Void S
[empty high slot]

Small Hybrid Burst Aerator I
Small Hybrid Collision Accelerator I

Warrior II x2

This dual propulsion Taranis was originally fit for a themed fleet roam, with the micro-warp-drive to be able to get into range quickly and the afterburner to stay in range. The problem was that Starwalker was solo and he had engaged an Incursus with it just before the roam started. The issue was that he was webbed and held at range and with a speed of less than 400m/s he could not get into close range or outside of scram range.

The Incursus was fit with railguns (150mm) and peppered the Taranis with fire, in return the Taranis could only manage a feeble level of damage at the edge of scram range. It was not long before the light tank of the Taranis succumbed to the firepower of the rails. In fleet, the dual propulsion Taranis was fine as other ships could compensate for its range control weakness and during the roam this Caracal was on the victims.

On returning to base after the roam Starwalker refitted to the holy trinity of propulsion, scram and web, with the afterburner as the preferred method of propulsion, especially in low-sec:

[Taranis, ABSAAR]

Damage Control II
Micro Auxiliary Power Core I
Small Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste

1MN Afterburner II
Warp Scrambler II
Stasis Webifier II

Light Neutron Blaster II, Void S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Void S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Void S

Small Diminishing Power System Drain I

Small Hybrid Collision Accelerator I
Small Hybrid Burst Aerator I

Warrior II x2

This fit proved more successful in dictating range and this Merlin was kited at around 6km - 7km, being fired on with Null ammunition. It was eventually destroyed with the Taranis losing about 25% of its structure. However, the pilot, Drankha, clearly thought that he could do better next time and returned with a Tormentor.

Laser tracking is not as good as blaster tracking, so this time the Taranis orbited close at 500m using Void ammunition and whilst the Tormentor put up a good fight it too was destroyed. The Taranis was not unscathed, it left on fire after losing nearly 80% of its structure during the fight. It was a good fight and much closer than Starwalker expected.

15 July 2013

R1DER Roams

Starwalker had enjoyed the regular R1DER roams: Peri Simone's TESF (Target Everyone, Somebody Fire) and Patrick Kasper's Super serious roam of rules and regulations (name pending), which seemed to have resolved to being named the prosaic Monday Night Roam. Generally, the TESF roam was bring a frigate and the Monday Night Roam was themed around a particular ship or tactic such as Droneswarm. Both were great fun.

In addition to those two roams Patrick had started a regular suicide ganking roam and last Friday it was based out of Jufvitte. All of the ships (Catalysts and Thrashers) with fittings and ammunition were supplied and most importantly - scouts. It was a very successful night as various Hulks and Mackinaws were destroyed, along with an assortment of mining barges (Covetor, Retriever and Procurer). Mining ships destroyed tallied to over 3 billion ISK, not including the pods. Whilst Starwalker was keen to get pods too he was far too slow and only managed to get one pod kill the entire night: Sylcyon.

This podding was despite the fact that he had just made another attempt to raise his security status, primarily on the basis that his recently acquired shinier ships would not be very vulnerable to gate camps. He had also rationalised that occasionally farming the clone soldier tags for security status would not be that hard or boring. He started the Jufvitte suicide gank roam at -0.5 and was -3.4 at the end of the night, with the podding being particularly penalised by CONCORD. 

Starwalker had come to the conclusion that unless he reformed his character there was no chance he could keep his status above -5 for any protracted length of time. It was clear, going below -5 again was inevitable and so he would need to fly his shiny ships soon and lose them in fights or simply accept the risk that some of them would be destroyed to an inglorious gate camp.

11 July 2013

Surviving Gate Camps

There was a time that Starwalker was almost guaranteed to have his ship destroyed by a gate camp and he had lost various frigates and cruisers over time. His flashy red status or security status of lower than -5 meant that anyone could engage him in sight of sentry (gate or station) guns without any CONCORD repercussion. Brilliant for a gate camp - it could simply wait and pounce on the flashy pilot.

Long experience, including a more recent Daredevil, had burned in some lessons and he now seemed to be generally surviving the simpler or more ad-hoc gate camps. His general approach was:
  • On entry to a system with a gate camp or ships at the gate - hold cloak
    • Just because ships were on the star gate it was not always a gate camp. It could be a fleet waiting at a gate or ships about to jump through or warp away
  • Take time to check the type and position of the gate camp ships
    • Usually it would be 12km back to the star gate
    • One or more ships would be less than 20km away
  • After about twenty seconds align to the entry star gate and burn back, using overheated propulsion
    • One key reason to wait is to let the session timer expire to be able to jump back through the gate
  • If locked, turn on defensive modules (damage control, boosters or repairers...)
    • It might be a gate camp but they want a bigger or shinier ship.
    • If not locked, when at the gate, align to the out gate and warp away
  • Watch distance to gate and hit jump when less than 2.5km from it
The key decision - commit to return to the entry gate. On the occasions that Starwalker had attempted to make a run for it or to warp to the out gate or a nearby celestial - he had been caught. When he had been caught it generally seemed to be too late to try to burn back to gate. Those vital first few seconds mattered.

Even so, crashing the gate was not guaranteed to work, in particular:
  • Insta-locking ships with high alpha or simply a single volley destroying the ship
  • Stasis webifiers being applied very quickly and preventing the timely to return to the gate
  • Neutralisers removing the capacitor charge and completely disabling the ship
  • Ships on both sides of the star gate that are part of the same gate camp

Security status tags offered Starwalker an alternate approach to surviving a gate camp - raise his security status above -5. It was also a treadmill to maintain it above -5. However, Starwalker was contemplating it again as he now had another reason to want his security status above -5. He had recently bought shinier ships (Deimos, Stabber Fleet Issue, Megathron and Hyperion) and he did not want to lose them to gate camps. Losing them in a fight - no problem. Losing them to a gate camp - no fun.

7 July 2013

Use of Tactics

Starwalker was a proponent of brute force when it came to combat. It was not subtle, it was not devious and it was not crafty. It was typically a do or die approach, get in close and shoot - rely on firepower to solve any tactical problems. A key virtue was that it was simple to execute.

Given that propensity it was no surprise that Starwalker favoured blasters as a weapon system and flying the Merlin, which provided an excellent combination of tank and gank.
His 1v1 frigate fights tended to fall into one of the following categories:
  1. Close range brawl (1km - 3km) where the slugfest was to destruction. Typical brawlers were the blaster fit Merlin and Incursus
  2. Scram range kiting (7km - 9km) where the fight was decided by who had range control. The brawler needed to get into close range and the kiter needed to maintain scram range. Typical kiters were fitted with rockets, railguns, lasers, auto-cannons and artillery such as the Kestrel, Breacher and Tormentor
  3. Point range (16km - 24km) kiting where the fight was also decided by who had range control. As usual, the brawler needed to get into close range using a slingshot manoeuvre or a sharp interception turn. Typical point range kiters were fitted with light missiles, artillery or lasers such as the Condor and Imperial Navy Slicer

Each ship had the option of fitting a short or long range weapon system and the approach to selecting that system was a choice based on what range the pilot wanted to fight at. Consequently, range control was critical to a fight but a tactical advantage (or disadvantage) could come from the ship fit and its use of modules, for example:
  • Stasis webifiers to slow down the target for range control and application of damage (rockets)
  • Tracking disruption to reduce the optimal range or tracking speed of a turreted ship and so reducing incoming damage
  • Sensor dampeners to reduce the target lock range of a ship and potentially to break the lock
  • Energy neutralisers to drain the capacitor and consequently disable much of a ship's functions (propulsion, electronic warfare, blasters, lasers, active armour repairers, hardeners...). Not all modules would be affected such as rockets or auto-cannons
  • Electronic counter measures (ECM) such as drones (EC-300) or a ship (Griffin) that will remove a target lock and consequently prevent any offensive action being taken
Tactics then tended to revolve around range control and module management and losses could come from loss of range control, being over-powered by tank and gank, being tactically disadvantaged by one or more modules and human error.
Occasionally a pilot would use more sophisticated tactics and when Starwalker's Merlin found Cynthia Nezmor's Merlin in a deadspace complex he witnessed that use of tactics. Starwalker had described the tactic in Butterfly Effect on Ship Fit but he had not used it - when one of the two brawlers starts the fighting at range and then closes into close range when the target switches to ranged ammunition. In short, deliberately varying the range of the fight.
The fight started around 10km with modest incoming damage but Starwalker was pointed and despite trying to slingshot into close range the range was being maintained by Nezmor. Starwalker switched to Null ammunition and that was the cue for Nezmor to come in close and in the final seconds of the fight he destroyed Starwalker's Merlin whilst still having around 50% of his own structure left. Nezmor had made good use of tactics to vary the range of the fight and so tipped the odds of winning decisively in his favour.

1 July 2013

Losses and Lessons Learnt

Starwalker had been in New Eden for well over two years but still managed to lose ships in decidedly non-clever ways. He had lost the most ships in a single month - 27 - and the losses had seen the full range from good fight to good grief, what just happened. As always, he wanted to learn something from each loss to mend bad habits, improve situational awareness or more positively to respond to the target environment with updated ship fits or new tactics.

 Losses and lessons learnt:
  1. Overconfidence
    • Trying to catch fast (MWD) kiters with afterburner fit ships, especially a slow afterburner fit Enyo. Recognise limitations and act accordingly - the Retribution started 200km away and it was going over 4.5km/s. There was plenty of time to leave with the ship intact
    • Attacking a ship without really knowing what the ship could do. This Incursus was lost to a neuting Crucifier - those neutralisers were a complete surprise and the Incursus was totally disabled by it. The other two ships joining in for the kill did not tip the outcome of the fight, which was already lost
    • Attacking a ship knowing what it could do, that it was better and that it was likely to win. For example, taking on a Federation Navy Comet in an Incursus was being extremely hopeful and similarly, taking on this Algos in a Merlin. To tip the balance in favour of victory required some tactical surprise or situational advantage, neither were present in these cases
  2. Situational Assessment/Awareness
    • Checking local pilots in system was a good idea to see whether any pilots belong to the same corporation. This Incursus might have been more prepared for the Kestrel at a Deadspace complex to be joined by his partner - a Merlin. Better yet, it could have taken action such as flying away from the warp-in point. The additional time for the Merlin to arrive at the fight might have made a difference
    • Checking short scan for new arrivals to a fight would have potentially saved this Harpy that was winning a fight against a Jaguar but the arrival of re-inforcements tipped the balance towards destruction. Assessing the threat of new arrivals was critical to deciding next steps and when this Falcon arrived, Starwalker should have left with his Merlin immediately
    • Leaving a fight was a valid course of action such as when tank was too strong, such as a T1 frigate taking on a dual repairer Incursus. It makes sense to leave whilst the going was good, leaving in good time was critical to making that escape and this Merlin left it too late. The arrival of the second Incursus was simply to get on the killmail. This Moa was unable to effectively hit the two assault frigates attacking it at the star gate and should have simply de-aggressed and left. By the time that decision was taken it was too late
  3. Module mismanagement
    • Not checking when a finite resource has been used up. This Incursus needed its capacitor to be replenished to allow everything else to work, the capacitor ran dry even though there were two booster charges ready to go in the capacitor booster. Without the armour repairers working the ship was totally defenceless and consequently was unnecessarily destroyed by smart-bombing battleships
    • Overlooking the use of a module. This Merlin had a shield booster that was fully charged and ready to start work, except it was never used. Starwalker was so used to flying a shield extender fit Merlin that he had forgotten to start the medium ancillary shield booster

The good news for Starwalker was that he felt he was making fewer mistakes generally. He was sure that he would continue to make mistakes, especially when experimenting with new ships and fits but he would learn from that.