Sometimes you lose…

SSC StoryheadI’m going to tell you two stories. They are stories of wormhole combat tactics. They happened on back to back days this week.

Yes, I’m aware that the old saying starts with “sometimes you win…” but bear with me. In this case, the loss came first. And understanding the loss will help you understand the win. So here’s the first story (and here is the second).

James Arget, one of our two CSM reps, has been spending so much time CSMing in the last few months that he is now space-poor. Politics, it seems, is good for the profile but bad for the ISKies.

This is important because James’ wallet is at the root of both stories.

Farming sites in Class 5-6 wormholes takes on a couple of flavors. There is farming in your own hole, which is pretty straightforward and can leverage multiple capitals. Warping capitals, spawns more Sleepers (6 for first dread, 8 for second dread, 6 for first carrier, 8 for second carrier), thus more wrecks and more loot. Most enemies won’t attack you farming your own hole because at max they can only bring three capitals to attack (a wormhole collapses after three capitals through it, max), while you can bring as many as you have capital pilots. And then there is farming in your static connection, which generally is done with subcaps, to save mass on the hole, but this means you can’t get the capital escalations, thus less money.

In SSC, our payout system dictates that farming our own hole means that all ISK goes in the corporate kitty for payouts a week later done in our lovely space-socialist claim system. Farming in the static, however, you keep what you make, minus 15% corp tax.

We scanned down our static chain, and found an exit to k-space only three systems out. It also was a prime system to leave a capital in, knowing we would likely be able to get it back in the next day.

I mentioned James was looking for money, right? And it’s nice having him back on comms and everyone needs a little cash, so a decent handful of us agreed to a little unconventional plan. We got greedy. We decided to take two capitals capitals into the static. This meant only one could get back, but we had a good k-space exit for the other, and it meant that we could get two of the four escalations, and we had the ships to handle two with some careful timing. The ISK would be nice.

With an Archon, a Moros, a handful of webbers and DPS ships, a salvager and a Falcon, we tore through the first two sites. A scout by training, with wormhole-built paranoia, I kept the live signature scan window up, and re-triggered it once every minute or so watching for new signatures. Then things got a bit messy for a couple minutes as we triggered the second escalation, and suddenly a Sabre appeared. We probably had four or more Sleeper frigates (which point and web) and 11-12 Sleeper battleships on grid – as much as we could handle.

That said, a Sabre isn’t a big deal for this fleet. His bubble went up, but it wasn’t cause for panic. We kept shooting the Sleepers, as they were a more present threat, and we didn’t see any ships on d-scan as he landed. The DPS group was dispatched to pick him off, which quickly happened. Quickly enough, in fact, that we didn’t notice his alliance. With nothing on d-scan, we ignored the bubble and turned back to farming. This was probably not a great idea, since the system was over 100 AU across.

Then: Thanatos. Moros.

Blood Union. Blood Union is a name that inspires dread among many wormhole corps. Generally we haven’t had problems with them, but this was not a usual situation. Blood Union is scary because they don’t do much other than logon traps to slaughter farming fleets. If you’re a roaming PVP gang, they’re not much to worry about. If you’re farmers away from home, they have your number. We still don’t know if they came through a new signature or were already logged off in system.

Check range, ready modules, ping for more pilots to fight them … wait, what? They were 300 Km out, nowhere near us.

Suddenly 16 more Sleeper battleships, for a total of somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-30 Sleeper battleships on grid. Their capitals warp off. The enemy is already gone, but we are well and truly fucked.

[ 2014.02.19 05:22:49 ] FPilot > SSC have a nice day!
[ 2014.02.19 05:23:31 ] FPilot > James Arget for SLEEPERS

The Sabre bubble disappears, and James calls a scatter. Most of the ships get off the field. But I’m pointed. The Moros is in siege, with about a minute left, and the Sleepers are pounding the crap out of him. He’s already at about 25% structure. I’m ordered to stay on field since I’m already pointed, along with another Loki, to web the Moros into warp.

30 seconds. Moros at 20% structure.

10 seconds. Moros at 15% structure.

The Moros pops out of siege in 10% structure and calls for webs, but the Sleeper frigates are too fast – they point him too. James re-triages the Archon in a vain attempt to save the Moros.

I explode.

Pilots answering the ping for help scramble Guardians from our home wormhole to try to save the capitals. The Moros pops, as does the last Loki left on field, before they even get to the hole.

25+ Sleeper battleships against a triaged Archon. It explodes while the Guardians are midwarp, and we lose a few of them for our trouble as well.

We got most of the blue loot out in a Zephyr.

At least, we thought, there won’t be any public killmails. Dictor bubbles don’t leave a mark any more, right?

Unless the pilot knows that and uses an ECM burst on landing. Which this one did.

It made the killboard. Ouch. Shortly after it made Reddit.

It wasn’t our finest hour.

It was however a good reminder about the risks of farming that way. I don’t think we’ll be taking capitals out the static for farming any time very soon.

So here’s the tactics lesson. Why did we get so screwed? To me, the biggest lesson here is one of speed being a critical factor in battle. We have a bad habit of waiting for conditions to be right for a great fight, or a great victory. We do the occasional trap but we’re more attuned to straight fights or massive ganks. Our traps are usually the opening gambit of a siege rather than a standalone incident. We will often wait for everyone to log on and form up and get ready before we take an offensive action. We’ll hold ships as things wind down so latecomers can whore on the kills.

In this case, Blood Union did the opposite. They saw an opportunity and exploited it rapidly. There were a maximum of four ships involved: A cloaky scout, the Sabre, and the two capitals. The scout provided a warpin. The Sabre dropped a bubble but his primary impact was leaving a public trace via the ECM burst of the slaughter he knew would follow. The capitals warped in where there was no chance of engagement, but where the Sleeper escalation waves would trigger. Their actions all happened start to finish in less than two minutes. And then they all disappeared back to whence they came.

Well played, Blood Union. Well played.

Remember that Dictor. It’ll be important in the next post.

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One Response to Sometimes you lose…

  1. They really are the boogeymen

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