After somewhat of a slump, things are starting to look good again - first of all my ISK efficiency. I didn't score some faction loot or a juicy ransom, but there has been more loot money than insurance payouts.
Speaking of targets - the belts somehow seem to see more visitors again. I don't know if it's coincidental, but they came back around the time Adirain got to see a little less of a certain nuisance: "Bundschuh" - former members of Chains of Chaos - often used to camp the stargates to highsec and has barely been seen outside of Adirain. I like to think that The Tuskers are at least one of the reasons they seek their tiresome business elsewhere. Either way, good riddance!
Better luck finding targets is one thing, but the one thing that really bugged me was my recent lack of concentration when engaging them. As you may have read in my previous update, arrogance and poor judgement led me to lose ships in some embarassing ways. I was flying ships I had become very familiar with every day, coming out on top rather often. As a result, I ignored very much possible "What if?" scenarios, didn't consider exit strategies or just made very avoidable mistakes during the combat routine.
Playing on high stakes didn't seem to work that well anymore - defeats in Taranises looked just as amateur as lost Incursuses. I had to think of something else to straighten up again.
To sum it up, flying an Incursus all the time felt mind numbing and flying a Taranis rather supports hybris than helping to get rid of it. I needed new ships, ships I was unfamiliar flying, ships I needed to get used to.
The obvious choice was the Rifter. I didn't want to go for the obvious choice. Rifters are too darn good anyway; I might have gone into fights saying "Whatevs, I got a Rifter, he's got nothing on me, Imma go Kirith on his ass" and then I would have died horribly once again.
What else then?
How about cruisers? Fighting in a Thorax is a heavy hitting fun frenzy each and every time, but when I roam in it, I miss the speed with which frigates cover several systems within a few minutes. Sitting and waiting makes me feel bored sooner than jumping between systems, boredom makes me do stupid things.
So, frigates... Competitive frigates other than Rifters. Merlin? Tristan? Ew, rockets. Punisher? Well, what else is there? Nothing is what, so Punisher it was.
Tailoring a fit I could be satisfied with proved to be really hard with this Amarr vessel. Even when I had found something that should work, I could immediately think of a dozen reasons why it absolutely won't and that failure will be imminent on the very maiden voyage. Perfect.
On the first few roams I was on the edge on each gate jump, on every new ship on scan and I was putting some serious strain on the onboard scanner. That familiar, almost embracing paranoia was back.
The first kill didn't involve a tough fight, but it was in Adirain - the "old" Bundschuh-infested Adirain. I was able to make haste with what you barely could call loot as one of their ships entered the belt. I'm not saying I wouldn't have checked my overview in time if I had been flying an Incursus, but who knows; maybe I was already paying better attention than in recent days.
Well, granted, not all the time...
As I was looking for a more serious test some days later, I scanned down two very young Rifter pilots in an asteroid belt. The strategy here would be to take them down quickly, so in I went and engage them with overheated guns I did. They in turn had me webbed and were fighting back. Good for them, but soon one of the Rifters exploded. They both didn't do much damage given their few days worth of training and inferior weapons, so his friend was soon to follow. Except he did do no such thing. My guns stopped firing. They were displayed with neat little red rings of death around them. Cue the profanities.
Alright, you don't get back on the horse right away. The loss was my own failure and no reason not to give the Punisher a real chance to finally prove itself.
Before a real opportunity arose however, some fellow pirates asked for assistance in taking down a Drake in Lisbaetanne. I agreed to add a bit more firepower to the three HellFleet Rifters. The Drake went down after a while without much problems. However, I realised that I needed more staying power. The Punisher doesn't exactly do a good job outrunning larger weaponry, so I had to go back to the drawing board and readjust my fit.
The easiest solution was of course an armour repair system. First all new lasers, now more complicated capacitor management - very well, one more good reason to pay attention.
And what can I say, the revisited package works like a charm. First to notice was Eviwyn, one of the participants of the Drake kill the day before. Finally I got her to attack me for once - always has been reluctant before when I was out in my Incursus. Weird. Anyway, it provided just the right challenge to get used to the new repair unit a bit. The fight also proved to me that with more practise, I'll be able to take on more expensively fitted Rifters, whose pilots may be prepared better.
Another nice engagement took place at the Hevrice stargate in Jovainnon, where a Merlin was so kind to attack me. Thank you, Sir, don't mind if I do.
All qualities of the Punisher became apparent during this fight: The Merlin's damage was negligible while I was able to cause serious damage beyond blaster range and the little damage his rockets could cause was patched up easily.
Bottom line, I like the Punisher so much that a Crusader will soon be on its way to Hevrice.
You obviously see a pattern here, but I've got just the thing to avoid the same trap of overconfidence and daily rut I got caught in before: I am currently training Minmatar Frigates V. Got to maintain variety some way, and we have already established above that there is no other choice in the frigates segment.
Plus - at least just once - I wanna go Kirith on their asses.