So in the last post I told you about a fleet we took out that had one of the nastiest tactics in w-space used against it – the unexpected Sleeper capital escalation. I mentioned an Interdictor (in that case a Sabre) dropping a bubble. I also mentioned the enemy disappearing so we never actually got a PVP fight beyond that Sabre. We’ll return to the Interdictor in a moment.
Before I tell you the wormhole tactics lesson(s) for the day, I have to tell you another story. I’ll try to make it brief. As a noob, I came into the game with the vision of being a smuggler. I wanted a blockade runner as my ultimate ship, and imagined making loads of ISK smuggling questionable goods through harrowing spots for sale on the black market.
Then I learned that isn’t how EVE works. But I was still fascinated by cloaks. So while other people were focusing on combat ships or industry or trading or missions, my first T2 ship was a CovOps – a Cheetah that I still fly today, named Wraith, a name long-term readers of this blog will recognize. That’s about the time I joined EVE University.
In EVE University at the time, there were many, many rules about who could undock and fly around solo and who could not (these rules have been somewhat loosened since my time there and now it sounds like are a bit more reasonable). The one big exception to this rule was cloaky scouts. I was one of the first handful of “certified scouts” and, blissfully uncaring about the killboard, I was happy to run around finding targets. It was in this role that I met many of my favorite fleet commanders, a handful of which (including James Arget) I still fly with today.
As a scout for the Uni, the FC I flew with most was a guy named Kaykwok. Kayk had his quirks, but he had a great killer instinct, and knew how to use a scout not only out of system, but in system. One of his favorite tactics was to line up the UniBlob(TM) on one side of a gang of kiting pirates and have a cloaked scout come in behind them. Usually the kiters were a much smaller, but better-skilled and better-shipped group. And Kayk liked nothing better than the satisfaction of warping the fleet smack into them and watching the “pack of puppies” devour the enemy. This tactic works quite well in k-space, with fast ships kiting and attacking kiters. I spent a lot of time being that warp-in guy.
So back to the main story.
Still fresh from the capital losses of the night before, we were not excited about taking more capitals out, but we were even poorer than the night before, and poor James had lost an Archon. This time, however, I was out scouting down the chain. In my own ISK-making ventures, I had been bottled up due to a couple of war decs, and had loads of excess stock that needed to get out to Jita to pay for PVP ships. But James and a few others took subcaps out to run sites in a magnetar in our static. At this point, it will help a bit to have a partial map (click to enlarge). The designators aren’t the actual ones we used that night but will suffice for this illustration.
The high-sec was terrible for markets, so I actually bothered to scan the nullsec. Most people see any k-space system as an “exit”, so often they don’t get scanned for other additional chains. But it’s occasionally worth it. In this case, I had some luck extending the chain through null, and then through a second null.
I listened to the farming chatter on comms as I kept scanning down the chain. As I landed on one of the wormholes in my unarmed Cheetah, I was surprised to find a SkyFighters (another wormhole PVP corp) combat ship waiting for me as I landed. Luckily I wasn’t close enough to be decloaked. But I let the farmers know we had activity in the chain. Still, so far away, it wasn’t much of a concern. I also found a (terrible) lowsec exit. Now the map looked like this (again click to enlarge).
A few minutes later… “Flycatcher! Bubble, get out.” Ah, there’s the Interdictor. Tonight, there is no hesitation in calling the bail-out of the site. But how the hell did SkyFighters cover that distance so quickly, and without me seeing anything on d-scan while I sit right on their route?
“It’s Redcoat, guys.” Oh boy. So now we have three PVP corps in the chain. And suddenly their d-scans report a massive Red Coat fleet. “They’re blocking the way back to F1.”
I pull up Dotlan and start throwing k-space system names into system and am amazed by what I find (click to enlarge).
Oh, now this should be entertaining. There are only four jumps through k-space to link the ends of the chain. “Guys, L1 is only 4 jumps from H1. You have a back route but watch out for SkyFighters in the chain too.”
The guys in F2 send a ping for reinforcements as they try to escape. I scout out the gate in L1 to keep an eye for stragglers coming the highsec route. Somewhere in the chaos, the Red Coats grab James and blow him up. Clearly, it’s not his week. But he manages to get back to “R” and grab his beloved Bhaalgorn for another round. Most of the group, in fact, makes it back to “F1″ and on to the hole by our home system.
On comms, it has turned from casual chatter to full-on battle comms. We now have enough to outnumber them. The T3 fleet goes through the wormhole, along with a lone triage Archon. The Red Coats in their own T3 fleet circled like wolves at 50-75 Km off the hole, knowing they didn’t have enough ships for an in-your-face brawl.
They darted in and back out, kiting.
Now, for those of you unfamiliar with wormhole combat, this is very weird. Wormholes are by nature a very brawly environment. The ships of choice are all armor-tanked T3 ships (we even armor tank the Tengus). They’re heavy and slow, and almost always fit for point-blank range. This is because when you jump through a wormhole, unlike in k-space (where you are 15 Km from the gate) you will generally be 1K-4K off the hole. This means you are easy to tackle – in fact most often you’ll be in a HIC bubble. So tank up and brawl up; the Guardians and the Tengus are the weak links. Archon carriers and Moros dreadnaughts will always stay within jump range of the hole if they go through; you don’t want to lose a cap to a collapsed hole.
So they manage a bit of success kiting us, but we soon realize that we’re in a stalemate.
If you appreciate foreshadowing, maybe you know what’s coming next. Here’s the video of the fight – if you haven’t figured it out, watch what happens around 2:30 and see if you can guess. Still haven’t? Then check out 4:00-4:30. By 7:30, it’s all over but the slaughter of the rearguard.
So what happened? Here’s today’s lesson in tactics: Doing the unexpected is good. Here’s how:
1) The Interdictor trick is even better than it used to be. The warp speed changes have made DICs much more nasty from a trap perspective. A T3 fleet can warp out before a different T3 fleet lands. A DIC can get there before you can escape. The farm fleet guys basically agreed that the only reason more of them didn’t die in the site at the beginning was that the DIC came in a little too soon ahead of the main Red Coat fleet, so they were able to get away.
2) Don’t ever assume they’re trapped (or: Scan All The Things). Neither Red Coat nor SkyFighters had any idea that we had a loop of systems that could be used to get past either one of them. Luckily SkyFighters didn’t find us coming our direction until the battle was over, but because we knew the whole chain we used to both to reroute the retreat as well as to bring in additional eyes.
3) Don’t always play by w-space (or k-space) rules. So here’s what happened behind the scenes of that video. The Red Coats kited, which as I mention is weird enough. With a less-disciplined group, they could have killed a lot. For our part, I came back up the chain in my Cheetah, hoping to get back to the home system and grab a combat ship to get in on the action. But with the fight live on the hole, I was asking for problems. So instead, I warped in at 70 Km. For four and a half very long minutes, I slowboated, cloaked, out to a range of 150 Km from the hole, as in-line as I could be with the Red Coat fleet. Thank god they stuck around, I was mostly panicking that they’d get bored and go home – but Local can sometimes work wonders keeping people around. At 2:30 in the video above, what happens is that Blitz adds me to his Watch List, and at around 4:00 I hit 150 Km and the fleet warps to me at 100. And as simple as that, the big brawling fleet lands less than 15 Km from the enemy Guardians with a Bhaalgorn, an Armageddon and two neut Legions. In w-space, that just isn’t what’s done. When the unthinkable happens and the Archon short-warps out too, it’s all over for the Red Coats.
Good fight, RCC, good fight.
Sometimes, you win.
PS I’m pleased to say that fleets have done much better running the static the last few days and have failed to get ganked while making nice piles of ISK. Also, if you know anyone who has a Fraps or comms recording of Red Coat that night, I’d love to hear it.