24 August 2014

42 Month Review

Starwalker had been flying much less and when he was out hunting he was finding New Eden a different place. There seemed to be fewer pilots around generally and those that were around tended to be in small gangs rather than solo. 

The good news about flying less was that Starwalker had become a lot less obsessed with checking Battleclinic ranking. The bad news about flying less was that it had become something of a self-reinforcing feedback loop: the less time he spent flying around New Eden the less time he wanted to spend flying. 

This was perhaps the dark side of having no specific goals. The beauty of New Eden was that he could easily decide on new goals and pursue them. The question was what goals, if any, would spark his interest again to spend more time in space and perhaps even require training new skills.

Starwalker had 70m skill points and his training regime was entirely optional (for frigates) and he was simply filling out level 5 skills such as compensation. In terms of dimishing returns these skills had very little value to him as a solo pilot. He had genolution and learning implants but he no longer used them and at one level that was simply a waste as those implants sat idly in the hangar.
Starwalker's main hangar was still at Covryn but he had now split a chunk of his ships, equipment and ammunition and relocated them to Gultratren. The intention was to give him another base of operations and to have more than just fitted ships at the secondary base. In short, he fiddled with ship fits too much to have pre-fitted ships just waiting in a hangar.

R1FTA already had a new CEO - Domino Vyse - after Gavin2505 had stepped down after a month. It was a shame that R1FTA had seen so many CEOs come and go after Miura Bull had stepped down.

15 August 2014

Fit for more Damage or more Tank

Fit for more damage or for more tank?

Starwalker had seen the question in many guises and it was a common question but not the right question, as the correct answer to that question was "it depends". Given any solo ship, it depended on what ships were fighting, how they were fit and the situation such as range and speed. Also, theoretical numbers for damage or tank (optimal and falloff damage, repair, resistance, boost...) from modules could be misleading as they were modified by skills and bonuses, and more importantly they needed to be applied.

Applied damage or actual repair might be less than the theoretical expectation for a host of reasons such as:
  • Actual DPS was reduced because of speed or range tracking limitations or the target's damage resistance profile
  • Active tank (repair or boost) might be overwhelmed by incoming damage and consequently the ship was destroyed quickly
  • Module (blasters, repairers...) operation might be halted because the capacitor had been drained 
  • And so on

Given the same target and situation, which would be the better fit either more damage or more tank? Again it depended - on the specifics. As a general rule for solo PvP Starwalker favoured damage over tank on the basis that he needed to kill the target and escape quickly before others arrived to kill him. The assumption was that he had enough tank to perform the gank. If not enough buffer tank or active tank then he had a way to mitigate the incoming damage via range, speed or tracking disruption. 

The ratio of gank to tank was determined primarily by the target's expected ability to apply their damage and the range (brawl, scram, point), with the idea that generally the fighting was at the ideal range for Starwalker. Asymmetric fights (kiter versus brawler) were determined by who could keep the fight at their ideal range. Symmetric fights (brawler versus brawler...) would be determined by who could apply their damage better and survive long enough to get the kill. 

Starwalker mainly flew frigates, fighting in brawler or scram range and his experience was that having a good tank relative to the damage was important. He had flown some ships fit entirely for gank (Merlin and Daredevil) with no real tank and whilst they did have the ability to overwhelm a target tank it didn't always happen - it depended on the target. 

As a general rule Starwalker considered:

  1. Target envelope of ships he wanted to fight/destroy
  2. Ship (traits and bonuses), tank (shield or armour, buffer or active) and weapon system (range) based on its ideal range to kill those targets - his preference was to target brawlers and scram range kiters
  3. Ship's strengths/bonuses, fit to complement those bonuses and (typically) enhance either the damage or tank

Using those general rules would tend to drive the fit and whilst Starwalker did work out his own fits he also used other people's fits. He would look at ships and fits that select Battleclinic top 1,000 pilots used, based on where they fought and how they were fit, especially low security space pilots like Miura Bull and Patrick Kasper. Those ships were an excellent exemplar or a template that he then used to "improve" them based on either experience or the desire for experimentation.

19 July 2014

R1FTA Director

R1DER had been going through a lot of change and yet another CEO had stepped down. One of the side-effects had been that Starwalker was "promoted" to director within R1FTA. This was thoroughly undeserved. Starwalker had always had a low profile within R1FTA, content to just get into a ship and head out into space - solo. He would participate in fleets but otherwise he had generally stayed in the background.

If Starwalker was so inclined he could now abscond with R1FTA assets and ISK, however, he was not so inclined and he already had a hangar full of ships and fittings and enough liquid ISK. More importantly what should he do differently as a director - if anything? The role was described as "administrative" only and the only real requirement was to be visible and perhaps occasionally have a quiet word with other pilots. That remit did not seem too onerous but time would tell. 

Strangely this had coincided with Starwalker spending less time in space and potentially considering a longer break. He had been flying around in New Eden and in R1FTA for over three years without a real break. As always, Starwalker had no real plan - just short term objectives and currently he did not even have that. Perhaps that in itself was a problem and he should do more than see what would happen next. Something to think about.

31 May 2014

39 Month Review

Starwalker had been in the space lanes of New Eden for more than 3 years, he still predominately flew frigates and was still in R1FTA. The only real difference was that whilst he did much the same thing R1FTA had changed around him. That change had started with two main catalysts:
  1. Miura Bull left R1FTA and then later started Screaming Hayabusa [SKRMR]. Many of the original pilots left R1FTA to join SKRMR
  2. R1FTA formed the R1DER alliance with Black Dragon Fighting Society [BDFS] being a feeder corporation and most recently formed a wormhole corporation - Operation Devil's Tattoo [THNGY]
Whilst change was inevitable it seemed that R1FTA was in decline and whether this was terminal or temporary remained to be seen. Starwalker was hopeful of a renaissance. On a more personal level he was pleased with progress - obtaining 1000 kills and getting into the top 5,000 pilots in Battleclinic:

However, whilst Starwalker had become obsessed with checking Battleclinic ranking that scrutiny had also highlighted that it was only a pale imitation of pilot skill. Starwalker had resolved to wean himself away from following his killboard ranking almost daily but he suspected it might be a difficult addiction to remove completely.

Now that training was more optional rather than essential Starwalker considered whether to move away from his +3 learning implants. The pair of genolutions in particular had reached around 40m each and as always it was an opportunity cost. The extra fitting was useful but not essential and in reality the min-maxing with +3 learning and skill implants only counted on very rare occasions. He might have felt differently with Snakes or Crystals but Starwalker did not fly with really expensive implants, links or boosters.

Starwalker still used Covryn as a main base with a large selection of ships, modules and ammunition but had only kept fitted ships at Gultratren and Adirain. Even then, he was considering stopping that because he regularly changed the ship that he flew and its fit. That change often resulted in ships at stations that were either the wrong ship or the wrong fit, at least based on what he preferred to fly at that time. The obvious downside was that any roam would have a long pod trip back to Covryn.

Despite being in New Eden for over three years Starwalker still did not have an ISK income source and relied totally on PLEX converted to ISK to buy ships, modules and ammunition. Equally, he had no inclination to go missioning or do production and simply wanted to go out and destroy other ships.

Starwalker still had no plan for the future and would simply just take each day as it came. The beauty of New Eden was that he could do that or choose to do something else, the choice was his and he liked that. Currently he enjoyed frigate combat in low-sec and occasionally null-sec and for now he would continue to do that.

25 May 2014

Pointless Killing Spree

Starwalker was in his novelty fit Merlin and on a killing spree. So far, only two ships (Kestrel and Tristan) had actually left before they were destroyed. A number of ships over the last two weeks had not escaped:
  1. Merlin - blaster fit
  2. Incursus - void ammunition has a tracking penalty. Starwalker had switched to only using Caldari Navy Antimatter (CNAM) even with a dual web when he had seen misses in the log. But after examining multiple logs it seemed that there was always up to two misses even with CNAM
  3. Slasher - dual tank but it did not help
  4. Incursus - null ammunition was used by Jake Soldette, this proved the incorrect choice as Starwalker was at point blank range with CNAM. If the Incursus could have established range control, perhaps around 5km then it would have been a good choice of ammunition against another blaster. Alternatively he anticipated a railgun fit Merlin and chose null as the right ammunition, if so, the blaster firing null will typically lose the DPS race against railgun in scram range. Starwalker had proven that to his own satisfaction many times previously with his blaster fits
  5. Breacher - Starwalker flew this Breacher (or very similar). It was good to see it destroyed as it had a good tank
  6. Incursus - dual repair Incursus, even better tank and probably the best T1 frigate tank
  7. Merlin - blaster fit
  8. Atron - railguns, very common on Atrons, especially with pilots like Crake Gatereau using them to great effect
  9. Incursus - dual repair again
  10. Merlin - an armour repair blaster, which had some surprise value. Starwalker had experimented with the fit too but had eventually returned to a shield tank
  11. Incursus - blaster fit
  12. Merlin - railgun fit. Starwalker had won this fight only just after taking a long time to get into point blank range. Afterburner not turned on and then not overheated contributed to a close fight with Starwalker's Merlin on fire but victorious
  13. Breacher - tracking disruptors are normally dangerous but not at point blank range and with no ability to increase transversal through speed or piloting
  14. Incursus - impressed by his attitude, Odd Sangsten wanted to learn and had done some research before asking questions. No doubt Starwalker would lose a ship to this pilot in future
  15. Talwar - a young pilot was always worth taking on as neither skills nor fit are likely to be very good
  16. Thrasher - same as above
  17. Probe - Starwalker still preyed on cyno-ships periodically
  18. Tormentor - good T1 frigate that was uncommon because it was under-rated 
  19. Incursus - the Incursus was working with the Hookbill with each one in a complex
  20. Caldari Navy Hookbill - the Hookbill came to the aid of the Incursus but fortunately it was quickly destroyed too. Sheer DPS and speed had converted a potential two on one to two successive one versus one fights
  21. Incursus - blaster fit using void
  22. Atron - unfit frigate
  23. Atron - blaster fit Atron taking on a blaster fit Merlin at point blank range is the triumph of hope over logic. Starwalker was not a new pilot and sported a -10 security rating. A more sensible tactic would have been to orbit at 5km with null, although in this case a dual web would have scuppered that plan
  24. Rifter - artillery fit, a sensible choice given the Rifter's fall-off bonus but the dual web ensured it was caught and it only had a damage control for a tank
  25. Merlin - MWD blaster fit. A reasonable fit at face value but the ion blasters should have been paired with a scrambler not a point. This frigate could chase frigate kiters but it needed to get close for the kill and most kiters would be faster, so a scrambler was essential to shutdown their MWD 
This selection of ships represented a particular engagement envelope - brawlers and scram range kiters, primarily in complexes. On at least two occasions Starwalker had managed to get the kill quickly and escape before the rest of the gang could establish a secondary point. This was a key advantage of firepower over tank, it was possible to kill the scout or tackle and disappear before the rest of the gang could change the outcome.

Firepower was good but no amount of firepower would help if the target was not in range. Consequently, Starwalker simply ignored obvious kiters such as Condors and Slicers sitting in a complex. His experience with afterburner frigates was that it was exceedingly difficult to slingshot a MWD frigate into scram range to shut down the MWD, often relying on a mistake. More often than not his brawler frigate would be destroyed before that happened.

Since this Merlin had no scrambler the MWD frigate would always enjoy a speed advantage.
It was possible that some of those ships that Starwalker had passed on by had been brawler fit but he did not like the odds of that. This was especially true when entering a complex to fight the target already there, which was what Starwalker was doing 99% of the time.

Whilst the pointless Merlin had its share of success it was not all one way, inevitably, the pointless Merlin had its share of losses such as
  • This Merlin was lost to a station hugging Tornado. Starwalker's Merlin was on fire after having just destroyed another Merlin and had returned to the station to repair. Between arriving at the dock and the delay to be docked his ship had been destroyed. Annoying but in reality just simply another hazard in New Eden
  • This Merlin had taken on an Incursus but had been destroyed when the Atron arrived to assist his corporation mate
  • This Merlin was caught by a Shadow Cartel gate camp
  • This Merlin went into the complex to take on a Federation Navy Comet. Unfortunately, it was a railgun kiter fighting at 18km. The Merlin stood no chance and the later arrival of the CTRL-Q gang mates made no material difference to the outcome
  • This Merlin started the fight against an Incursus but it was simply the tackle for the other frigates in The Bastards small gang
  • This Merlin was lost to a second Tormentor that did not arrive in time to save his mate also in a Tormentor but did arrive in time to establish a point and finish the job 
  • This Merlin was lost to the Important Internet Spaceship gang but not before killing the bait Merlin (kill #25)

18 May 2014

Thrasher - Destrucktor Kirijan

Starwalker was in his novelty fit Merlin and seeing what he could find in the space lanes of New Eden. This was a fit for low security space with the intention of finding close range brawlers or scram range kiters. It would have an exceedingly hard time against point range kiters and MWD fit frigates given the lack of a scrambler.

The directional scan indicated a Thrasher was in space but that was probably a little hard for the Merlin to beat. Thrashers and destroyers generally were designed to kill frigates and a T1 frigate might not last very long in a fight. Despite that, Starwalker waited in his Merlin at a small complex - daring the Thrasher to come in. It came in.

This Merlin was all about brute force and so Starwalker applied the two webs and came in very close to apply the DPS. The Thrasher wasted no time in returning fire and apparent that it was auto-cannon fitted. So both ships were in their optimal range and it was a simple race to destruction, a race to see who would be destroyed first.

However, it wasn't just auto-cannons that Destruktor Kirijan had in his box of Thrasher tricks - he also had an energy neutraliser and that took its toll. The Merlin's capacitor ran out as the Thrasher was in structure and Starwalker had to spam the blasters to keep firing as soon as some capacitor recharge was available. The problem was that the Thrasher was tearing away at last slivers of Merlin armour and starting on structure.

Both ships entered deep structure and trailing flames, Starwalker got the final blow with 12% structure remaining. It was a very good fight and very close. The Thrasher could have warped away at any time but that was an unlikely choice given the general expectation of a destroyer killing a T1 frigate. So the Thrasher stayed until the bitter end and paid for it with its destruction.

The Thrasher fit was very normal emphasising close range guns, with DPS enhanced by a gyrostabiliser, damage rig and close range ammunition. The tank was provided by a medium shield extender and shield rigs, and in short was a perfectly good fit to roam around in:

[Thrasher, Destruktor Kirijan's Thrasher]

Gyrostabilizer II
Damage Control II

Medium Shield Extender II
1MN Microwarpdrive II
Warp Scrambler II

200mm AutoCannon II,Hail S
200mm AutoCannon II,Hail S
200mm AutoCannon II,Hail S
200mm AutoCannon II,Hail S
200mm AutoCannon II,Hail S
200mm AutoCannon II,Hail S
200mm AutoCannon II,Hail S
Small Unstable Power Fluctuator I

Small Core Defense Field Extender I
Small Core Defense Field Extender I
Small Projectile Burst Aerator I

Unfortunately for Starwalker his victory was short-lived as Balthar Xerxes' Federation Navy Comet had unusually fit an ECM and that broke the Merlin's target lock after a short while. Without being able to shoot back the Merlin could do nothing else but wait until it was destroyed. Clearly Starwalker had waited in the complex too long, as who would expect an ECM module on a Comet, Balthar must have refit especially to fight the Merlin. 

11 May 2014

Pointless Merlin

Starwalker had spent a lot of flying time recently in a Breacher because many pilots were electing to fight in scram or point range and his favourite Merlin was best up close and personal. Brawlers were very vulnerable to kiters and everything hinged on whether they could get into range and stay in range.

As an alternative to close range brawling the Breacher, with its rocket weapons and drones, was a good ship but Starwalker liked sheer DPS and raw, brute force of the Merlin. With that in mind, he had gone back to the Merlin and had changed the EFT fit to catch scram range kiters.

A pointless Merlin:
  • The dual web would certainly establish range control in most close range situations and allow afterburning scram range targets to be caught and held
  • No scrambler would mean that the target could escape at any time as soon as it realised that it was not scrammed. It also meant that micro-warp-drives were not turned off, again allowing escape via simply overheating the MWD 
  • Neutron blasters, fit the best - fit neutrons. Other blasters (Ions and Gatling) would provide more fitting room but sacrifice some DPS and more importantly sacrifice some range. However, Ion blasters did provide a credible alternative and they removed the need for the small ancillary current router
  • Medium Ancillary Shield booster should be used with Navy Cap Booster 50 as that allowed 9 charges rather than 8 and consequently supplied one more repair cycle. This module, like the blasters, should always be overheated at the start of the fight. Close range frigate fights were usually finished before either of those modules burnt out
  • Shield rig selected was for thermal damage mitigation, due to the prevalence of Gallente drones and frigates but equally an EM rig could have been selected
  • Two magnetic field stabilisers brought the real pain, raising DPS with the neutrons and one damage rig from 158 to 223 and overheated that went up to 256 with level V skills. Serious firepower in a T1 frigate
This pointless Merlin had strengths and weaknesses like any ship in the rock, paper, scissor nature of combat in New Eden. Starwalker would take it out into the space lanes to see what would happen. He was confident that he would get some kills in this T1 monster DPS frigate, especially as this monster DPS was supplemented by a couple of +3% implants in slots 6 (hybrid damage) and 9 (rate of fire):

This Merlin was both a beautiful ship and deadly:

It had surprise factor - who would expect a T1 frigate to put out so much DPS before the fight started? There was bound to be a number of pilots that would "freeze" and not realise that they could escape before their ship was destroyed. Indeed Starwalker knew that was true - it had been proven in his pointless Daredevil.

28 April 2014

Started as 1v1

Starwalker had recently lost some ships after what had started as a 1v1 but had ended with 1v2 or more. It was both frustrating and normal, it was the nature of the beast in New Eden:
  • This Hawk had fallen victim to the combined forces of a Daredevil and Cambion
  • This Hawk had fallen victim to the combined forces of a Federation Navy Comet, Incursus and Stabber Fleet Issue
  • This Daredevil had fallen victim to the combined forces of an Enyo and Astero. The shame of this fight had been that Starwalker had switched to Null to fight the Enyo at range but when the Astero arrived he switched target but was so close that Null was the wrong choice. The Daredevil exploded just as the Astero was entering structure, with Caldari Navy Antimatter it would have been destroyed

These recent experiences had led Starwalker to question some fits that favoured tank as when being ganked the tank was not really the deciding factor. In those situations, what Starwalker wanted was to be able to kill at least one of the attacking gang before he went down. That required something like a Daredevil or Enyo or even a Merlin for a T1 frigate, something that could put out a tremendous amount of firepower quickly.

It was with that thought in mind that Starwalker had ventured into Syndicate with a Daredevil and when he ran into a Sabre. He knew that a Sabre was rarely alone but he decided to gank it fast. It worked, as the Sabre went into deep armour and then was destroyed before the de-cloaking Falcon got a lock.

Starwalker had reviewed his losses over the previous few months and had noticed that 80% of those losses were in situations where he had lost his ship to two or more attackers. Perhaps he had spent too long in Placid and it was time to contemplate a move to a different region. The problem with that idea was that his main base was at Covryn and it would be painful to move it, even so, something to think about.

23 April 2014

Two Ships Two Gate Camps

Sometimes Starwalker regretted being in space, especially when suffering losses from gate camps. If the gate campers knew what they were doing, were fitted appropriately with fast lock and high alpha, it was almost impossible to survive.

Starwalker waited, hoping to escape, and then decided to crash the gate immediately both times but it didn't work:
  1. This Daredevil in Black Rise didn't stand a chance. The Daredevil did have one claim to fame before it was destroyed - it caught this pod, without a scrambler. At 2.75 billion ISK that was an expensive pod loss for Maelgar
  2. This Hawk ran into a smaller camp in Metropolis but did not fare any better and even the pod was caught. The third ship (Legion) in the camp was too slow and didn't get onto the killmail, clearly it was not sensor boosted
Emerging from the clone vat in Covryn, Starwalker upgraded his clone and plugged in a new set of implants. He decided not to undock again as he was feeling a little jaded, perhaps it was time for a holiday.

12 April 2014

Vexor Vexes and Hexes

Starwalker was in space less than usual as his attention was being diverted elsewhere. However, he had recently got himself into a Vexor with the express intent of seeing how he could lose it. After three years in New Eden he had found many ways to lose ships and the Vexor was no exception.

The experiment with the Vexor started out well. He wanted to fly something in the cruiser class and the Vexor was a good ship with a good engagement envelope. That was put to the test when he scanned three frigates in a medium complex: Incursus, Kestrel and Hookbill.

He was soon engaged, with the Incursus and Kestrel in close and the Hookbill kiting from around 20km away. The fight had only just begun when another Incursus came in and a Maulus. Starwalker was liking the odds a little less now but he was committed and so the Kestrel was hammered into wreckage, followed shortly afterwards by the first Incursus.

The Maulus decided to beat retreat as soon as the second Incursus went down. The Hookbill was safely out of scram range and as soon as the Hobogoblins came its way it simply warped away. It had been a good fight and Starwalker was pleased with the outcome.

He was less pleased though being caught on a gate and being fired on by a small gang (Heretic, Dramiel and Taranis) and the rats on the gate. It was a vexed question - fight on the gate or crash it. Starwalker decided to crash the gate but he did not make it. The tank disappeared surprisingly quickly and he started the armour repairer far too late, although that would not have changed the outcome.

The life of that Vexor had been short and sweet and it also reinforced for Starwalker that he liked frigates the best. He had passed far too many single frigates in small complexes where he could not engage and that was far more disappointing and out-weighed the opportunity to engage a small gang solo.

Whilst he would not restrict the type of ships he flew it was still the frigate that held his love and attention. Cruisers and battleships were good for a change but not for his main choice of ship to fly.

31 March 2014

Last Sliver of Structure

Starwalker had been in two very close fights recently, fights that had ended with both combatants in deep structure. Most interesting had been the fight with a Thrasher, which as a Minmatar destroyer was designed to kill frigates.

The Thrasher had first been spotted near the Sun in Covryn and Starwalker had arrived there in an especially fit Breacher (tracking disruptor) to take it on. However, it was around 100km away and as the Breacher moved closer it simply warped away. So, disappointed, Starwalker returned to base and undocked in a Tristan instead to head out for a roam.

Jumping through to Iges and scanning from the gate nothing interesting appeared on scan but the same Thrasher pilot from earlier arrived in system. Starwalker warped to the sun at 100km and started to scan from the sun. He did not expect the Thrasher to arrive at the sun but was prepared just in case, then it suddenly appeared at close range.

Starwalker immediately went into action with lock, scram and web. The default orbit range was set to around 4km and from the incoming damage it was clear that the Thrasher was auto-cannon fitted. Starwalker increased the range as both ships tried to get the kill.

The damage dropped as Starwalker increased range to around 7.5km but it was still hurting badly and soon the Tristan was on fire. But the good news was that the Thrasher shields had gone and the race was on to see who would die first. Starwalker knew that he could have escaped as he had complete range control but he also wanted the kill.

It was very close as the ships slugged it out with the Tristan now reliant on its small ancillary armour repairer to work at 70% efficiency. It was going down to the wire as the Thrasher was trailing flames too. Starwalker's Tristan had just 3% structure left when the Thrasher exploded into a glorious fireball of destruction.

The fight had been incredibly close and there was no way to be sure when it was in progress who would win. Starwalker knew that it could have gone either way but he was very pleased to have got the kill. Killing a destroyer in a T1 frigate was always an unexpected pleasure.

24 March 2014

Do or Die and Escape

Starwalker had his fair share of deaths at the hands of a small gang but he was also starting to survive some of those engagements. Whilst his attitude towards a fight had previously been almost exclusively "do or die" he was now adding "escape" to the options.

He had scanned an Incursus at a complex and he warped in looking for the kill in his Breacher. The fight started normally enough with lock, scram, web and fire but he noticed that the Incursus had only applied a scram and nosferatu. More than that the incoming damage was very low, it seemed like the Incursus was simply tanking and waiting for his friends to arrive.

Suspicious, Starwalker set the directional scanner to around 1.4 AU by simply removing the last digit (7) from the scanner range and hit scan. Nothing on directional scanner immediately but Starwalker started to increase the range from the Incursus, which was easy with the applied web. This had the dual benefit of reducing the incoming damage and giving an easy escape option. A second hit of the directional scanner revealed a Republic Fleet Firetail and Merlin inbound.

That was too much to take on and Starwalker decided it was time to get out of Dodge fast and he overheated his afterburner to slip out of scram range. The two frigates entered and before they could establish a lock the Incursus' scram dropped and Starwalker was away. A quick subsequent check confirmed that the three frigates were working together.

16 March 2014

Nogusha in a Rail Incursus

Gallente frigates were a common sight in faction warfare space, the prime hunting ground for a fight. Spotting an Incursus in a complex was not unusual and it was even more common that it would be rail-gun fit rather than blaster fit.

Starwalker was in his Breacher and knew that taking on an Incursus would be a tough fight. When he warped in he found the pilot was Nogusha, a top ranked pilot in Screaming Haybusa and a former corporation mate in R1FTA. The fight hadn't started yet but it had just got harder, no rookie mistakes from this pilot.

Nogusha had selected his spot and the engagement began at his preferred range of around 7km. Starwalker had set a close orbit but he had no speed advantage to close the gap, even with an overheated afterburner. He launched everything at the Incursus, his Caldari Navy Nova rockets and his pair of Warrior IIs. The railguns were quickly forcing the Breacher to repair the incoming damage and his medium ancillary shield booster was doing a good job.

The Incursus too was suffering and its small ancillary armour repairer was clawing back the damage but not enough as the damage slowly worked its way towards the structure. The Breacher though had run out of capacitor charges and Starwalker had started his small ancillary armour repairer. The two ships went into structure together but the Incursus was belching more flames and the race to destruction ended with the Incursus exploding and the Breacher with 50% of its structure left.  

The Breacher was a flaming mess but it had survived. Good fights were exchanged and both pilots acknowledged that it was a tough fight and close.

9 March 2014

Three versus One

Starwalker was roaming around Metropolis in his Breacher when he scanned an Incursus in a complex. The Breacher arrived to find the Incursus waiting. Starwalker was using his favourite fit that was based on fitting both the Medium Ancillary Shield Booster as well as the Small Ancillary Armour Repairer.

The one recent change he had made was to change the shield rigs for another missile damage rig. General fitting wisdom decried dual tanks but on occasions it was a useful addition to the ship's defence. Starwalker had reached the point where he made up his own mind about a fit, he felt he had earned his stripes going through the levels of understanding:
  1. Copied a fit, not really understanding why that particular combination of modules were used, their strengths and weaknesses
  2. Fitted a ship with a general understanding of the ships and modules and fitting rules but not exploiting the ships strengths and/or mitigating weaknesses. Using general fitting rules such as
    • Fit modules to fight at a certain range (close, scram or point)
    • Fit weapons of all one type/range
    • Fit MWD and warp disruptor or afterburner and scrambler
    • Fit either an armour or shield tank
    • Use zero or one fitting module such as an Auxiliary Power Control or CPU Upgrade to enable a particular combat fit
  3. Fitted a ship understanding why the modules are selected or not selected, complementing the ship's bonuses and the purpose of the fit
Starwalker considered a dual tank justified on this ship and he was confident that he would destroy the Incursus. As he engaged though a Slasher and Rifter also landed at zero and he made an almost instant decision to switch targets as the Incursus had only just recently entered armour.

Whilst Starwalker had no reason to believe that this was a three versus one situation he assumed that it was and decided to kill the ships in an order of "kill-ability". It was a term he had heard when Kil2 and Kovorix had discussed the order of target selection:
  1. Slasher - as an attack frigate it would likely have the weakest tank and the Incursus would have the strongest tank
  2. Rifter - it would be next purely because the Incursus would be last
  3. Incursus - it was the most dangerous ship because it had a combination of good damage and a strong tank
It was always a hard decision to switch targets but Starwalker did and also tried to maintain range by heading towards the Slasher. It worked as the range from the Incursus increased to around 5km and the Rifter was about 7km away. The Slasher went down quickly and then the Rifter was targeted. The medium ancillary shield booster was overheated and working full time but was running low on charges. As the Rifter went down the shield booster ran out and Starwalker started the armour repairer and could finally focus on the Incursus.

Starwalker pulled range and the Incursus damage dropped dramatically, the armour repairer had saved the Breacher. The Incursus was toast.

It had been very satisfying and Starwalker was please with the fight and fighting three at the same time had been a really good experience. Sometimes the kill-board time on fights seemed like they were more than one versus one but targets simply arrived in quick succession. One example, this Executioner came into the complex where Starwalker was waiting and it was nearly dead as this Slasher arrived and it died as well.

2 March 2014

Benefit of Drones

Starwalker had a penchant for brawling frigates and liked to roam in low security space. The engagement envelope was somewhat limited - generally other brawling frigates. It was possible to catch bigger prey in a frigate such as a battleship but that was a rarity. Similarly, generally avoiding point range kiters (Slicer, Condor...) was advisable unless they could be caught such as at a warp-in point.

Usually Starwalker avoided the Griffin on the basis that being jammed permanently throughout a fight was no fun. However, drones changed the equation significantly because they would continue to fight irrespective of whether their mother ship was jammed. This became important when Starwalker's Tristan entered a complex and chased the Incursus that was there.

Within seconds of the fight starting a Griffin entered and Starwalker quickly locked it up and sent the drones after it - just before he was jammed. Luckily he had been fast enough, the drones were doing their work on the Griffin and Starwalker concentrated on trying to get out of range of the Incursus.

The drones were destroying the Griffin and for some reason it decided to stay and die rather than run, probably to help the Incursus get the kill but it did not work. The Griffin went down and with targeting restored the Tristan's blasters and drones went back to work on the Incursus. The Incursus exploded and the 2v1 was over.

Starwalker had been helped by the fact that the duo were newer players but what was satisfying was that tactically he had reacted quickly and with the right response. He had seen that the greatest danger was from the Griffin and that it needed to be neutralised immediately, he had then tried to keep as much range as possible from the Incursus to reduce the blaster damage.

Whilst drones could be easily destroyed the benefit of drones was that they:
  1. Would be able to continue to fight even if the mother ship was jammed
  2. Would operate over a significant range from the mother ship, in particular against point range kiters
    • Some point range kiters would fit their ship to achieve a speed of well over 4km/s to outrun the Hobgoblin IIs
    • Warrior IIs had lower damage but were significantly faster and could catch most point range kiters. Consequently, Starwalker carried 5 x Hobgoblin IIs and 3 x Warrior IIs
Starwalker fitted his Tristan for scram range fighting as when he ran into a kiting (MWD) Tristan fighting at point range he simply destroyed the drones. A few times now he had effectively chased off a Tristan because its offensive capability had been destroyed. Whilst those fights had not resulted in destroying the kiting Tristan the more important point was that Starwalker's brawler frigate had not been destroyed.

20 February 2014

36 Month Review

Today was the three year anniversary. Three years roaming around New Eden with the primary purpose of killing more times than being killed. It was working, Starwalker had killed over a thousand ships with more than six hundred solo. He was very proud of his "Lone Wolf" medal for five hundred solo kills.

What was even better than the Lone Wolf medal was the Torpedo medal for soloing a battleship in a T1 frigate. The reason it was special was because that type of kill was so rare. Starwalker enjoyed the kill and especially the above class kills and those opportunities did come as Starwalker predominately flew frigates.

He also liked the fact that he was a top ranked pilot.

Although Starwalker was a little more wily and made fewer mistakes they still happened frequently such as:
  • This Breacher was destroyed by a Thrasher at the station undock. The mistake was that Starwalker decided to redock and since he was only in low shield he did not repair that damage as he heard "docking request accepted". The next shot smashed through the remaining shield, armour and structure. Starwalker wondered whether the pod would dock automatically - it didn't
  • This Breacher was lost to an Incursus that applied no scramble but did apply a web, probably a double web given that the Breacher could not pull range from point blank. Starwalker had noticed immediately that no scramble was applied but left it loo long to try and warp out. By the time the command was given it was too late given align and warp time delay
Starwalker had over 60 million skill points and he had all of his core skills and was simply filling out gaps, primarily in drones and ship classes such as Interdictors and Heavy Assault Cruisers. He was not training for any particular ship and still had lots of gaps in specialist T2 ships, although he rarely flew anything like that. Training was consequently very relaxed and not especially focused on anything.

Starwalker still had three jump clones and had spread them to stations in Gultratren, Adirain and Ishomilken. Each station had roughly five fitted ships, four Breachers and one Hawk, along with assorted ammunition and consumables (capacitor booster charges and nanite paste). The main base was still in Covryn and that had the main stock of ships, equipment and ammunition. 

Overall Starwalker was enjoying his time in New Eden and he had been with R1FTA for most of that time, which was part of R1DER. He liked the regular small gang roams, although he rarely roamed in a gang outside of those regular roams. Even though he spent most of his time roaming solo he still liked being part of the corporation.

16 February 2014

Firetail in Double Trouble

Starwalker had fit the Republic Fleet Firetail with a gank and tank in mind and consequently had fitted it with a medium shield extender.

The Firetail had chased a Tristan in a complex, which had simply warped away as the Firetail closed in. That had meant that the Firetail was nearly 100km away from the warp in point when two Merlins entered.

The Merlins appeared to be fighting as one scrambled the other but as Starwalker approached to around 70km he could see that they were not firing at each other. Since they were also both hugging the warp-in point there was no chance to separate them. As he stopped and observed them one of the two Merlins warped away.

Decisions, decisions - was there enough time to kill the Merlin before his buddy returned? Starwalker decided to try it wishing that he had gotten a little closer than 70km. He burnt in and engaged the Merlin but the timing was terrible as the other Merlin came in very soon afterwards and with two webs applied he could not escape. The proud Firetail exploded into a million pieces of shrapnel.

A little while later Starwalker was back again in another Firetail and spied a Merlin in a another complex. He decided to go in and found the Merlin at point blank range but it was not alone, a Bantam decloaked around 18km away and then started to repair the Merlin. Starwalker had already engaged the Merlin and should have disengaged to kill the Bantam but instead he fruitlessly hammered at the Merlin and a second Firetail was destroyed.

Having suffered double trouble already in Ouelletta Starwalker ranged a little further in yet another Firetail and promptly lost it to a gate camp that was spread on both sides of the gate, he survived on one side but jumped back into more trouble on the other side and could not escape again. Starwalker returned to base in his pod and decided to relax in his quarters with his exotic dancers instead of returning to the space lanes of New Eden.

9 February 2014

Murphy's Law in New Eden

Murphy's Law was often stated as "Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong". The classic case for any pilot in New Eden was meeting the hard counter to whatever ship was being flown or being in the wrong type of ship for the available targets. Sometimes you just wanted to be in a different ship.

There are plenty of other Murphy effects such as:
  • Starting a module or at least believing that to be true and you notice later the module is not operational
  • Flying into an engagement with the right ammunition loaded for that target and on arrival finding that ship has left and another ship is there, for which the wrong ammunition is now loaded
  • Seeing a pilot in one ship and then realising a short while later that they have changed ships when you engage them. This Slasher died to a Rupture but Starwalker initially thought he was about to start fighting a Thrasher and he only noticed his mistake when the cruiser drones started to attack

Starwalker had his fair share of those experiences and was feeling like he wanted to be in a Slasher when he had met a Republic Fleet Firetail. He was actually chasing a Rifter but so was the Firetail and both hunters had landed together. Whilst it had turned out to be a very close fight his Breacher had been destroyed.

He had thought the same thing about being in a Slasher when taking on the Incursus in a Breacher but given that the Incursus pilot had backup in the form of a Malediction the outcome would have been the same in either case.

Sometimes Murphy was not in sight, it was simple stupidity such as when Starwalker was in a Slasher and had decided to take on a:
  • Hawk that was non-flashy sitting on the gate. The Hawk took the opportunity to take on the flashy Slasher and Starwalker could easily have simply jumped out of the danger zone. The Slasher was not well equipped to take on a Hawk but he just wanted to see what would happen; would the speed of the Slasher mitigate the damage from rockets? It would not; that result was entirely predictable and there had been no need to test it out for real
  • Kestrel that had chased Starwalker into a complex and his Slasher could easily have escaped by warping away immediately or outrunning the Kestrel. However, he wanted to see what would happen against the lower level of damage from the Kestrel, compared to the Hawk. Once it was clear that the speed and armour repairer were insufficient it was too late to run
Starwalker already knew that the Slasher tank was miniscule and that the fit used with the tracking disruptor was not effective against rocket, missile and drone ships. Completely unnecessarily he had also proven that for himself.

1 February 2014

Slasher Surprised by Railguns

The Slasher had been successful against a Thrasher and Retribution but Starwalker had not had it all his own way. He had seen a Republic Fleet Firetail and had mistaken it as artillery fit, worse he had not corrected that mistake as the close range damage came pouring in. The Slasher had very little buffer and was soon a simple space wreck.

It was not long before Starwalker was in another Slasher and not long after that when he saw an Incursus in a complex. The Slasher ammunition was changed to Republic Fleet Fusion, the tracking speed script loaded into the Tracking Disruptor and overheat for the small armour repairer and the auto-cannons. 

Ready, Starwalker entered the complex to find the Incursus waiting. Immediately he selected an orbit of 500m and applied the scramble, web, guns and disruptor. The Slasher tucked into a close orbit and the Incursus started to take damage.

At first the Slasher was orbiting and there was no incoming damage, so Starwalker assumed that he had guessed correctly that it was fitted with railguns. The Incursus entered armour but also repaired the damage. Whilst it had seemed to be going well to start with there was incoming damage and the distance between the frigates increased to just over 2km.

The Slasher was into armour and Starwalker assumed that the Incursus was getting some lucky hits in. He started the armour repairer going but the situation was deteriorating quickly as the armour was suddenly gone and the repairer was not keeping up with the damage. The Incursus was fitted with railguns and he was surprised at this range that those guns were hitting so well.

The problem for the Slasher was that it had virtually no buffer and as it dipped into structure it was soon unrecoverable and the Slasher exploded. Reciprocrat had clearly managed to reduce the transversal velocity. In retrospect Starwalker wondered - if he had overheated his afterburner whether that would have made a difference. He would not know from this encounter as it had already been lost but he would have to find out.

26 January 2014

Slasher Meets Retribution

The Slasher had proven itself against a destroyer but not yet against a T2 frigate, it was about to have its chance as the directional scanner revealed a Retribution in a complex. Starwalker had fought earlier against another Retribution piloted by Sheja Laval and had learnt a key lesson - do not overheat too early. Starwalker had overheated guns immediately and then later had to turn it off as the fight progressed.

As it was, Sheja was in deep trouble with his Retribution - it was caught and in 50% structure. But he had also called in a friend, who had arrived in a Harpy and Starwalker had no alternative but to escape quickly. It might have ended differently if he could have overheated and finished off that last bit of structure, in short, when the Retribution was in low armour was when he wanted to overheat guns.

The Slasher warped into the complex and the Retribution was there waiting. Starwalker immediately went for a close orbit of 500m and applied his scram, web and tracking disruptor, which was loaded with the tracking speed script. The Retribution got some good solid hits in early and the Slasher had to repair the armour damage but after that the incoming damage was easily managed.

The Retribution for its part was completely at the mercy of the Slasher, it could not escape and it could not hit back effectively. As the Retribution armour dropped to around 35% Starwalker overheated his guns and soon the T2 frigate was just another space wreck. The pilot, Mekaniker, exchanged a good fight and noted that his lasers had been burnt out. Whilst that was true, and it could be seen at 23:00:15, it would not have affected the outcome.

19 January 2014

Slasher Meets Thrasher

Starwalker had fitted up some Slashers with the intent of taking on turret based ships, especially above class ships like destroyers and T2 frigates. The master plan was put on hold whilst he dispatched this Burst. When he saw this Wreathe in Amamake he could not believe an industrial was really mining in the asteroid belt but he went in anyway. It was not bait, it really was mining or perhaps AFK as the pilot was podded too.

Back on the master plan, Arnstur seemed to have a Thrasher in a small complex - it would be a great test as Thrashers could put out a metric tonne of damage and had a reasonable tank for a destroyer. The question was would it be artillery or auto-cannon fit. Starwalker decided to load the tracking speed script as the fight might start in brawl range and there would be very little time to mitigate the damage. There would be more time if it was at artillery range to change to the optimal range script.

The Slasher warped in and the Thrasher was waiting at zero, it was the right choice of scripts to have loaded. Starwalker immediately set an orbit at 500m and applied his scram, web and tracking disruptor. The first Thrasher high damage shot came in and the Slasher dropped to 50% armour, another hit like that and the Slasher would be a wreck. He started the small armour repairer and saw that the afterburner had not started, he started it - again.

The range was ideal for the Slasher and the repairer started doing its magic of repairing the armour damage and just as the armour was fully repaired another high damage shot got in and took the Slasher into structure. The Slasher was on fire but the Thrasher was being hit by the Gatling guns and its shield was being stripped away. The overheated armour repairer had repaired the Slasher damage again and the shields were slowly regenerating - it was looking good.

The Slasher had the Thrasher locked in tight and it was going nowhere, the Gatling guns were now chipping away the armour and Starwalker was confident of the kill, assuming no one else came into the complex. The Thrasher was finished and exploded into a glorious fireball of destruction.

12 January 2014

Damage Mitigation by Tracking Disruption

Whilst Starwalker favoured firepower he was also aware that overwhelming firepower was difficult to achieve in a frigate and even the firepower kings needed to survive long enough to apply their damage to achieve victory. This had usually been interpreted as more gank or more tank.

This blaster fit Merlin could put out tremendous gank for a T1 frigate (non-pirate, non-faction) and was very useful for a direct no holds barred assault but was the epitome of a glass-cannon. Any ship that could survive the initial blast would probably win:

It was the usual trade-off to increase tank at the expense of firepower and a common (and effective) blaster brawler would trade some DPS for more tank:

The problem for any blaster brawler was that many fights were not brawls at point blank range and as the range increased the issues for the brawler multiplied. Catching kiters could be done tactically such as at warp-in points but there was an alternative. To change the propulsion module and so increasing the speed:

The MWD fit Merlin would potentially catch kiters like the Condor or Imperial Navy Slicer but would sacrifice range control to any afterburner fit frigate. The fact that fitting theory always resulted in some sort of compromise was part of the endless fascination of New Eden.

Starwalker decided to experiment with a new T1 frigate fit with damage mitigation as the key feature, a ship that relied on speed and a tracking disruptor. This would potentially work well against turret based ships but would die quickly to rocket, drone or missile ships. The key reason for looking at the fit was to be able to take on above class (turret based) ships.

The Slasher looked like an ideal candidate for the experiment. It was a fast attack frigate with four mid-slots to fit the holy trinity (propulsion, scram and web) and also had a fourth slot to fit the tracking disruptor.

The key idea was to find a turret based ship and orbit at 500m. The signature was tiny at 30m and the speed was well over 1400m/s - even webbed it would be hard to track; with a tracking disruptor applied it would be very hard to hit.
  • 125mm Gatling guns were chosen because the intent was to fight at 500m and these had the best tracking with a selectable projectile damage type
  • E5 Prototype Energy Vampire was to counter energy neutralisers and support the small armour repairer
  • 1MN Afterburner was to ensure that range control could be established even if webbed. Fitting a MWD would be possible and might be a better alternative for engaging kiters, however, the tank was tiny and the Slasher might not survive the approach to the target
  • J5b and X5 are to scram and web the target respectively
  • DDO Photometry Tracking Disruptor would be used to mitigate turret based damage; generally optimal range script for kiters (point and scram range) and blaster ships and tracking speed for laser and projectile scram and generally close range ships
  • Small Armour Repairer to repair damage from approach and from the occasional hits that make it through the speed and tracking disruption
  • Damage Control to keep the resistances as high as possible. Although fitting an armour plate was possible it would also decrease the speed
  • Rigs respectively increase speed, agility, firepower and tracking. One alternative might be to fit only damage rigs as the firepower of around 100DPS is hardly frightening, although it should be enough to get the job done
The Slashers and modules were bought and deposited in Gultratren. It was time to see how this ship would do in the wilds of Heimatar and Metropolis. The general idea was to find any turret based ship, especially above class, and avoid any rocket, missile or drone boat.

9 January 2014

Kestrel versus Miura Bull Incursus

Starwalker had joined the Black Rebel Rifter Club (R1FTA) because of Miura Bull and was disappointed when Miura left for new pastures. When Miura started a new corporation, the Screaming Hayabusa, Starwalker had briefly considered leaving R1FTA but had decided to stay where he was.

After nearly three years in New Eden Starwalker had never clashed with Miura Bull in combat, that changed when he warped into the complex chasing an Incursus - it was piloted by Miura Bull. The usual pleasantries were exchanged - lock, scramble and fire - and the fight was on.

Starwalker was in his experimental Kestrel fit that favoured tank and gave up range control, relying on the range of rockets to hit and an overheated afterburner to stay in scramble range. Whilst the tank was impressive it was still vulnerable to a well flown kiter - Radzak87 had maintained a range of 23km or so and simply worn down the tank, it had taken over 15,000 HP to destroy the Kestrel but the end was inevitable.

The Incursus was hitting extremely hard and the Kestrel's shield buffer tank was going down but in return the Caldari Navy Nova rockets were stripping away chunks of armour. The Kestrel suddenly bit deep into armour and Starwalker decided it was time to play his ace - the medium shield ancillary booster. It started repairing the shield damage but perhaps it had been started too late - the Incursus was now tearing at the Kestrel's structure.

However, the Incursus was also in deep trouble and despite the repair work it was going into structure too. The slugfest continued for another few seconds and then the extra shield repairs for the Kestrel tipped the balance as the Incursus exploded. Good fights were exchanged in local and Starwalker took his loot to station and to repair a badly damaged Kestrel that was spewing flames behind it.

A railgun Incursus was not a high damage frigate but the weakness of the Kestrel firepower is apparent from the graph where the rockets are averaging around 50 DPS, which is not much more than a kiter. The increased DPS from the Incursus corresponds to when Miura pulled range and the subsequent decrease was Starwalker overheating the afterburner to get closer.

Maintaining scramble range may also have been helped by Miura trying to stay in range to get a final volley through Kestrel structure.

The euphoria was short-lived as Starwalker decided that a Deimos, Cynabal and Republic Fleet Firetail must be fighting, he had seen the Firetail warp to the empty medium complex and no other pilots were in the same corporation and they had all arrived at different times. Unfortunately when the Kestrel landed there was just the Cynbal and Deimos... waiting. The Kestrel could not survive this type of cruiser abuse and it too was destroyed.