Spirit of the Season

I can't remember a lucky streak like the one I've been enjoying in the recent weeks. It sure didn't end with that mining Navy Megathron from my previous blog post.

Killing my first tier 3 battlecruiser on my own (in a fierce 2 on 1 battle, no less) is worth a mere sidenote next to other crazy and much more profitable engagements.

Two days ago I caught some talk about some Vargur running a mission in Jovainnon, while Taurean and I were busy a few jumps further out. Between scanning and pondering tactics, I bothered to ask what a Vargur was anyway. Once I was told it was a marauder class battleship, I suddenly became much less busy busy and made haste heading back.

By the time Taurean and I were in position, our tackler Konig was lamenting his cruel fate - apparently he got popped messing up his orbit someway. The next bits of intel informed our little fleet that the Vargur had docked and logged off.

However, the marauder had returned after our guys' first attempt to pin it down. I also learned that it had managed to escape after destroying a Lachesis of ours. Yikes.

To make sure it came back a third time and actually stay put, I suggested to bring my Stiletto and position it near the mission gate. I would then log off and wait for our scout's mark to log back in as soon as the Vargur was back on its way to the site.

Luckily, the Vargur pilot did indeed return and warp where we wanted him. Seconds later the marauder was pointed. With that out of the way, our next step was bringing in some boats that packed some punch. Why yes, we had quite the thorough organization going. Seriously though, the whole episode started off bad and just refused to get any better; I was starting to worry how we'd mess it up next.

I could persuade my fellow Tuskers to ransom the guy ("I'm spacepoor, remember?") and invited him to our ransom channel. He complied easily enough to stop shooting, so we could negotiate the terms in a civilised fashion. Another Tusker chimed in that he could bring a ship scanner, so we told our customer to please stand by for a moment.

As it turned out, the marauder had some pretty expensive gear fitted. We agreed to offer safe passage for 1.5 billion Internet Spaceship Kurrency. His counter offer consisted of one fully fitted Heavy Interdictor. We respectfully declined and proposed that he should eject from his ship, saving his pod and his assumed head full of implants.

His final rejection forced us to unleash a storm of DPS upon him. Yet somehow our Hurricane, Malediction, Wolf and Stiletto failed to make any sort of dent into his active shield tank. Worse, the Vargur forced our Hurricane off the field - despite two tracking disruptors on him. Why yes, we began to feel faintly foolish by all this.

With our pathetic little pool of less than effective ships, we pleaded for assistance in our intel channel (in retrospect, I should've just gone and get my Cruor, leaving Taurean to the tackling).

As soon as Tsubutai was done mocking us, he had the grace to jump clones and bring his Machariel into the fray. Shortly thereafter the Vargur exploded, which gave me the chance to lock the pod and see it warp off... I did have my point cycled, do you think I'm stupid? You're stupid!

At least things didn't end as badly as they started and we got roughly a billion ISK out of the wreck.

But wait, there is more!

Earlier today I was hauling some assets from Hulmate to Hevrice. I made the four jumps in my Stabber Fleet Issue, packed my stuff and was on my way home again soon enough. Back in Jovainnon, there was a neutral Harpy sitting on my in-gate. No point risking my cargo under sentry guns, so I engaged warp to Hevrice gate.

Interestingly, the Harpy had a lock on me right as I was done aligning and in warp. If it was ready to engage, I would happily oblige. The Harpy followed me eagerly and buzzed around me for a bit. Micro warp drive and rail guns, also interesting.

It was orbiting me at about 12km when it opened fire and put a warp scrambler on me. I casually flicked on my own overheated scrambler, webifier and afterburner and started to approach the assault ship. This expert maneuver I spontaneously dubbed "Osnap, son" was super effective.

The Loot Fairy, obviously struck by a festive mood, granted me all but one of the Harpy's faction modules. Merry Christmas.



I brought my Stabber Fleet Issue to Adirain, where two rookies in cruisers were merrily ratting together. They eventually ended up in a belt with an unaffiliated Thrasher. When I arrived at the belt, no one was shooting anyone. A peaceful scene, disrupted by me laying into the Omen. Both his Maller friend and the Thrasher had the sense to flee.

As I was looting the wreck, I noticed new locals and checked my scanner. It showed a Megathron Navy Issue. A second later, the thing fell right into my proverbial lap.

Okay, I thought, You can do this! This is why you got this boat! Get right under his guns, pray he doesn't have two neuts and focus down the drones first!

I hit orbit and pulled range. Wait, why was I pulling range? I checked and the button said 1500. I realized the new orbit storing must be bugged as I was drifting out of scram range. In the ten seconds it took me to re-establish point, I noticed hardly any incoming damage. [Looking at the footage, I never hit the orbit button and just over-shot in my excitement.]

Turned out he was completely helpless; i.e. not going anywhere, not doing any harm to me, losing armor damn fast. It was time to invite him for a chat. Doing so, I noticed the Thrasher nearby again, no new pilots in system. The Thrasher landed and attacked me.

I lazily assigned my drones to beat up the young destroyer pilot, ordering the Navy Mega pilot to cease fire if he wanted to save his ship.

No answer. New people entered the system, the Maller was on scan again. As good a time as any to finish this flying pinata. The Thrasher wasn't looking so good either, but kept firing heroically.

Pop went the Thrasher, pop went the pile of half a billion ISK.

I looked at the killmail.

Then I almost pulled a muscle bursting into laughter.


High Profile

Even as a director of The Tuskers, I'm sometimes baffled at how widely we are known. And I'm delighted that many people who have encountered or temporarily joined us speak so highly of our corporation and what we do.

Take this recent Crime & Punishment thread. I'm simply stumped at just how positively many people there speak of The Tuskers, considering that this particular discussion board isn't always the most civilized of places (to put it lightly).

Here's a direct quote from this very thread:
"That's probably because they spend most of their time active in-game rather than trying to convince everyone how pro they are (or crying about game mechanics) on the forums."
Well, I would consider this is pretty spot-on. We're not about blatantly shoving our killboard statistics in people's faces whereever we go. We're not about slandering our competition in regions we frequent. We're about doing what we do and we enjoy doing it well; preferrably to the point of excellence. People pick up on that eventually.

In the meantime, The Tusker Code is making sure that we're not putting them off. Chest beating, smack talking, scamming, lying - none of that has a place in our corp of - get this - pirates and warriors. Not saying none of that ever occurs, but the accused better has a very good explanation if it does.

The fact that The Tuskers are housing about half a dozen active bloggers generates further publicity. There are many tales of great victories; hardly boastful, often analytic and not rarely self-critical. Some terrible failures of ours regularly warrant an update as well. It's perfectionists writing about their craft and trade - admittedly for self-exposure and recognition, but done in style (at least I'm trying).

Recently it even seems like our level of exposure is gaining more momentum. Besides the thread staying on top of C&P for quite a while, I assume Taurean's and Suleiman's blogs are getting more and more readers. Rixx Javix over at the highly popular EVEOGANDA has given this snowball even more of a push, starting off his new series Know Your Lowsec Corps with The Tuskers. That's a lot of people who got to know us in one fell swoop.

So we do what we do, maintain a positive image and therefore have word of mouth working for us. But what makes sure The Tuskers aren't consistently, even occassionally picking up bad apples, who might set us back? The answer lies in our recruitment process.

First and foremost, the hoops applicants have to jump through are clearly laid out. Even if they miss one, they're encouraged to try again. Granted, I in particular can be a bit of a hard-ass if an application is significantly lacking in parts. But not even I slam the door shut immediately. Either way, our requirements rarely fail to filter out pilots who are a better fit for corps of different flavors.

All of the above makes me proud to be a Tusker and I'm happy to be a director as well, sometimes getting to be the first to welcome new great members into our ranks.

The one and only downside is that targets are becoming more and more wary as soon as they see our emblem in local. I for one can live with that, though. I'm even working on spreading our name, soon beyond blogging, too. You might want to stay tuned for that.


Fight Smart

As many aspiring space buccaneers learn rather soon after picking up The Business, piracy is feast or famine. Exhilarating fights, big ransom payments or shiny loot can be scarce. There may be several days between any of that which makes the life in lowsec so very worthwhile.

However risk averse and cost efficient I may usually fly, at some point I'm starving for a fight. This is where I disregard many of the things I've learned; like, say, not flinging my Rifter in front of any decently flown cruiser. Neutralizers, drones, many times the tank - any of that can easily deal with a frigate.

But screw that, I want to shoot stuff and that Bellicose is probably a clueless oaf anyway and oh cripes here come the Warriors shit shit not the webs, spiral out, repaaiir warp warp warp warp oh cool I'm out. What a clumsy chump.

With my hull patched up again, not even an hour later I spot another cruiser. Well, I've shot something, but hell, I still gotta make something explode! I can always disengage anyway, that Vexor got nothing on me.

Except a Vexor's drones are much more dangerous, and there's a lot of them. Not to mention a neutralizer and 1600mm of rolled tungsten. Long story short, I pop one drone and fail to keep enough distance. With no more cap, my Rifter is done for. At least some Pilgrim appreciates the point and gobbles up the Vexor soon thereafter.

So I contributed to a total of three explosions of various magnitude. I still don't know what I was thinking and wasn't all that pleased with my display of reckless idiocy. Always an effective reminder I should maybe go back to applying all of my skillset, that goes beyond "scan, warp at 0, orbit, shoot stuff". Fighting on my own terms, gathering intel, reading hands, watching local and all that good jazz.

And luckily, I got an opportunity to do just that. Twas a Dramiel, merrily ratting in Jovainnon without a care in the world; its pilot didn't seem to care much about me passing by. Dramiels can always run away anyway, right? Right.

After checking his combat record, I can safely assume that his Dramiel is rather specialized in running away. His disregard of whoever is in system may be almost warranted. With a micro warp drive, he's likely buzzing around far away from any initial warp-in.

I decide to put this disregard to the test. Once in my Harpy (proven by corp mate Tsubutai kill Dramiels rather reliably), I jump back into Jovainnon. I check the belts; the Dramiel pilot is still shooting rats. Warping to his belt would be pointless, I need to jump on top of him. Actually no, he needs to jump on top of me.

I check the belt that below his current one in the list for wrecks. There are none, so I warp there at 0. I ponder to move maybe 50km towards his current belt, but figure that if he's careless enough not to scan ahead, he's certainly careless enough to warp in at 0, too.

Watching, waiting, I see local increasing by one. It's another Tusker in a Taranis, who I quickly urge to look as harmless as possible and not to warp in on that Dramiel. Crisis averted, the friendly Taranis moves on. I'm amazed at how oblivious that Dramiel guy actually is, as he still hasn't moved.

Three wrecks now on scan towards his belt; shouldn't be too much longer. Some silly Serpentis cruiser is pestering me however and I decide to take care of it. Right this instant my overview informs me of the Dramiel warping in. I cycle all the tackling gear I've got and lo and behold, the Dramiel lands within 5km of my Harpy. Just according to keikaku*.

I barely get a lock on it in time. Not even ten volleys later it's dead. Thanks to my dear friends shock and awe, I'm able to point the pod as well. Unfortunately, my customer has no interest in my services and choses death by antimatter.

There, order restored. Let's hope that the next time I get bored I can pull myself together and stick with considering any engagement and preparing properly for it. Would save me the trouble of kicking myself.

* Capsuleer's note: "keikaku" means "plan".


"Go Lose Some Ships"

Many young capsuleers are eager for a life of combat, but rarely know how, where or when to get started. Some might join EVE University or take classes held by Agony Unleashed. Plenty seem to get discouraged before even their first trek to low sec, what with the hordes of seasoned pirates roaming New Eden's outback.

A few however are drawn to the outlaw lifestyle and are determined to set out on their own, mere weeks after acquiring their pilot license. Still, it's not a bad idea to ask for some guidance, which many experienced pilots gladly provide.

Besides recommendations for reading material, ships and fittings or good hunting grounds, their advice often revolves around one principle: "Go lose some ships and learn from your mistakes."

This just doesn't sit right with me.

It surely isn't the part about learning from mistakes. It's that you may not learn how to pick your fights from the start and how to engage on your own terms. "Go lose ships" sounds like you don't need to bother much about gathering intel, keeping an eye on your surroundings or to be brief: staying alive.

A rookie of two months flying a Rifter won't learn much from engaging my own Rifter. He can do everything right and will lose his ship regardless. It's likely that he does make a few mistakes, but none of them will ultimately affect the outcome.

The one mistake that cost him his ship may completely elude him. "Well, I guess I should've loaded Barrage instead." - no, you could've run from the guy with 30 times your experience, had you monitored local and bothered to check his combat record or even security status and corporation (besides, choice of ammo is not rarely a gamble in Rifter duels).

Pilots who go into combat without weighing the odds sufficiently lack survival skill. I don't see the benefit in neglecting that skill from your first day in low sec. Sure, losing a Rifter isn't a big deal; but when you move up to bigger and more expensive ships, you'll either keep dying needlessly or will have a hard time improving your chances of survival.

And instead of working on a whole set of stunted skills later on, more than a few pilots might instead start relying on a second source of income, dedicated scouts and/or other supporting ships. Or, like, Dramiels; those are pretty good and can always run away, right? Riiight.

So my advice boils down to this: Go kill some ships and stay alive. Avoid that veteran's frigate and move on. A few jumps ahead you might find a badly flown destroyer and get to score a kill. Fair chance you'll make mistakes doing so. Oh hey, you avoided dying, killed something and still got to identify some flaws - win, win, win.

Losing is a bad strategy, son. I hope this was helpful.



"Hm, I wonder if my Puni can take a Taranis."

Talk about famous last words.

Said Taranis was sitting at a planet, to which it had warped right before my nose in a rather provocative manner. The guy didn't even bother to ask formally for a duel - probably because he was sure I wouldn't bother myself and just jump out of the system.

Then again I knew this bloke, who goes by the name of Jonas Christifori. Not uncommon to see him around these parts looking for some 1v1. Given that I had fought him before, I couldn't hope for some dual propulsion Taranis or any sort of imbecilic piloting. Actually, this could turn out to become yet another pretty good fight against him.

At least I knew he had blasters fitted (and I made sure to check properly, unlike last time). I therefore assumed that he'd want to get close. Good. As counter-intuitive as it is (much like fighting a Taranis with a Punisher in the first place), my autocannons had to apply as much pressure as possible up close. My only advantage was being able to absorb much more damage than the Taranis over a short period of time.

Aligning to the planet, I went through the fight in my head once more: overheat everything, start the fight from a distance, get that repair unit running too soon rather than too late, squirm around for every inch that lowers our angular velocity and pray he doesn't have Null loaded.

So much for the plan to go down a bit less embarrassingly than otherwise. "Warp drive active."

I landed 10km off Jonas and immediately turned around while locking him, afterburner cranked up to 11. Some valuable hits neutralized his shields before the drones and shortly thereafter the interceptor caught up. Time for the tough part.

Poof went my own shields. Luckily, I was on the ball, activating my repair module before the first volley tore out a chunk of my armor. So some of the gaping holes got patched up again immediately. Jonas' armor didn't take it quite as well, which was to be expected and didn't matter as much. Digging through the hull itself would prove to be much more trouble.

Speaking of trouble: a webbed Punisher is painfully slow and has no webifier of its own. Nevertheless, I managed to escape the blasters' optimal range for some vital seconds every now and then. A simple orbiting course didn't do here. Good old manual flight was the name of the game - straight lines, tight angles without losing much more speed in the process.

While I was working on my opponent's structural integrity, my main layer of defense went through a constant decline itself. At least I didn't have to manage capacitor energy while making this brick house dance. Giving the nanobots a rest was out of the question anyway, no matter how much heat they were building up.

At some point I was wondering how I was still in this. We're talking about a Taranis fighting a Punisher here; unimpeded range control, much harder hitting, faster tracking turrets. Still, somehow things were as close as they could pretty much get.

My Punisher's hull was taking heavy blows now, softened by merely small patches of tungsten steel creeping back up here and there; only to be violently torn off yet again. The Taranis didn't fare much better, so I had no way of telling whose ship would remain in a few seconds.

A faint explosion notified me of my repair unit finally going bust - shortly followed by a considerably more prominent explosion. Good fight.

I'm thinking about retiring this Punisher. Then again, why should I keep a hero boat like this from tearing it up some more out there? That would just be criminal.


Rifter Fleet Issue

Last post I promised a few more after action reports, where I was flying my most recent Jaguar setup. While the Harbinger was great to test out how far the fitting could go, I didn't mind stumbling upon two frigate sized targets shortly thereafter.

The first one was a Federation Navy Comet flown by X Gallentius. I know from previous engagements that he is a capable combat pilot. The Comet being a great and very versatile ship is no secret either. Nevertheless, I was confident that there wouldn't be much risk in fighting him. Neither blasters nor railguns pose a serious threat when you are messing them up with a tracking disruptor.

Making myself comfortable on a quiet gate, X's Comet didn't take long to show up. I was a bit surprised after all, as he accelerated way beyond afterburner speed and proceeded to shoot me from more than 15km out. I tried to catch up to him with some twists and turns, running my overheated afterburner. As it turned out, there was no way I would be able to force him into web range.

Luckily, a tracking disruptor has an optimal range of over 40km. As soon as I loaded a range disrupting script, all I had to deal with were three small drones buzzing around me. Webbing them one by one, a few volleys of Barrage took good care of each. Soon X ran out of drones, but he didn't decide to close in in order to have his guns hit me again. Acknowledging the stalemate, his Comet warped off and we exchanged GFs.

Pleased with how my Jaguar would dominate more or less any Comet out there, I was on my way to dig up some more fights. A while later, an Ishkur showed itself not far from Hevrice. Another perfect test for the Rifter Fleet Issue.

Jaguars focussing on shield defences can have serious trouble with well equipped Ishkurs. Their superior speed can avoid a good chunk of an Ishkur's gunfire, but a fleet of five drones and a sturdy tank may still be enough to drive off a Jaguar.

Assuming a webifier on the Ishkur, I stayed with the range disrupting script and would make sure to keep a range of at least 5km. The Ishkur was waiting for me at a belt. Luckily, I didn't land right on top of it, but a good 10km off as intended. I also didn't mind to be greeted by Hobgoblin drones at all; the explosive damage dealt by Warriors would've hit right into my weakest armor resistances.

The fight commenced as planned, with me shooting the Ishkur from 5 or 6km, the Ishkur effectively shooting blanks and five Hobgoblins dishing out considerably more hurt. Despite my tracking disruptor, this was still not quite a cakewalk.

Since we kept stealing each other's capacitor energy, soon both of us were taking turns at patching ourselves up the tiniest bit. Then of all the modules that could have shut down, my webifier decided it was time to take a nap.

For a good five seconds I was dipping into a range where the Ishkur was glad to finally cause some damage of its own. By switching on my webifier again and praying that my already smoldering afterburner would hold up for just one more overheated cycle, I managed to pull some vital range again. Nevertheless, the ensueing race through hull had now turned way too close for comfort.

And let me tell you once more: Gallente hulls are tough. I wasn't entirely sure whether I would come up ahead or had been defeated. All that was left was staying on course, letting the guns do their business and maybe getting off one more repair cycle.

And apparently it did the trick. Whew.

Warrior drones would have definitely hosed me. Even if I hadn't made the mistake that briefly cost me my web, I'm not sure if I could win against the same Ishkur with Warriors.

That's okay, though. I know the Rifter Fleet Issue maybe isn't the pinacle of assault frigatery. But it's still awesome.



I love the Jaguar. You can probably tell by the fact that it adorns my banner (it's nuhda Riftah!).

But it's not just the looks - it's pretty much the most efficient ship I fly. Right now my Jaguars have killed 77 ships (including some pods), while only two of them have been shot down. They have never lost a single duel against another lone assault ship; granted, on rare occassions I had to flee the scene, but being able to do that is just one more reason to hop into a Jaguar.

It's not even like Thukker's finest frigate has a narrow set of what it can pull off. Currently I have four Jaguars in my hangar, each of them set up completely differently.

There is of course the rather standard fitting with one medium shield extender, an afterburner and full tackle (i.e. warp scrambler & stasis webifier). Unmatched speed in its class, respectable buffer, packs a punch from more or less anywhere within scram range and a cap neutralizer to top off things (and more importantly throw off active tanking frigates). All in all a well rounded setup that neatly falls in line with the Jaguar's design.

My second Jag has two shield extenders - endless buffer for a frigate sized ship, ludicrous passive shield recharge. Still fast, however it lacks the ability to web targets. I consider its target range not as wide, but it utterly dominates targets which can be a bit of a problem for the more standard setup. Bottom line, it may be a bit gimmicky, but not the kind of gimmicky that leaves huge holes in the fitting. After all, you have an eternity to disengage.

Another setup dedicates all midslots to holding down the target, sporting two webifiers. Its tank consists of a 400mm armor plate. Of course the plate makes it considerably more sluggish than the shield setups, but stuff in web range stays in web range. Outstanding range dictation, awesome resists against pesky laser kiters (i.e. once again plenty of time to squirm out of disruptor range or deagress).

The most recent fitting I came up with is an extension of my favourite Rifter setup: 200mm plate supported by a repair module, plus a nosferatu to keep the juice coming. On top of this, the Jaguar can add 200mm autocannons and a tracking disruptor, the latter of which is my new most favourite thing in the world right after small neutron blasters. Any sort of turret boat may find itself not even scratching it; medium guns sure don't.

Don't get me wrong; this "Super Rifter" doesn't dominate on all fronts. After all, there are still drones and missile boats out there. Nevertheless, it's a joy to fly and as flexible as a frigate can be. The three good fights I've had so far flying it back that up pretty firmly.

The first one was a Harbinger I picked up hanging out at a planet in Adirain. After a bit of gathering intel, it became apparent that the pilot was quite old but seemed inexperienced in combat. I decided to give it a shot and warped to the planet. The Harbinger sat about 100km off and warped to a dense cluster upon my arrival. I suspected that another planet was his destination once more - for some reason I can't remember I also knew he would warp there at 50km.

Giving chase, I landed right on top of him. Thus I settled into an orbit suited for the Barrage ammunition I had loaded and switched the script of my tracking disruptor to exclusively mess up the heavy pulse lasers' tracking.

As expected, the Harbinger put a neutralizer on me; I was hoping my nosferatu would allow me to maintain speed and tackle for the time being. Oddly enough but fortunately nonetheless, not a single drone came out to put any pressure on my tank.

Despite the nos, my Jaguar was eventually running out of capacitor energy. Crossing my fingers, I switched off the tracking disruptor and promptly received a few hurtful volleys. Nothing too serious, but still good reason to orbit more closely. I felt like Fusion was the ammo of choice anyways due to the Harbinger's big buffer.

Even webbed and without any tracking disruption, I was pleased to notice that the lasers kept missing every shot again. My cap still kept crumbling as well however. Inevitably, modules started shutting down at random, so I had to manually reactivate them one by one. My guns made it to the battlecruiser's hull, but I was doing pathetic damage from there on. This would take a while - a while of stressful monitoring and powering up essential modules.

In the end I made the mistake to reactivate my web before my scrambler again, effectively helping my aligned target into warp. At least the fellow acknowledged my display of awesomeness sufficiently (no really, go ask him, it was super awesome). Also, he admitted to have lost his drones during a prior gank to sentry guns.

I'm going to save the other two engagements for another post. Also very fun and intense stuff. I'll make sure to put it up soon.


I Drawed Sum Spaceship

Inspired by the good Sassy B, I decided to take a swing at making the Taranis look about 20 percent cooler.

I'm pleased with the result. Maybe I'll keep at it and make more. Sure beats spreadsheets, no? :D


60 Seconds

Another day out in the Taranis. No real targets safe for a Cyclone earlier, with which Valgore needed a hand. At some point during that fight, we suspected two Retributions to come to its help. In the end they were just passing by.

A while later in Ladistier, I see the Retributions lurking there again. These things can't pin down anything frigate-sized, but there's no point in engaging them. Their eight guns would grind my Taranis to a fine mist in a matter of seconds. Unless they're silly enough to have beam lasers fitted.

Positioning myself at the gate to Vifrevaert, I want to know if they're taking an interest in me. Indeed they do and I get to have a look at their guns before one of them completely rids me of my shields with a single volley. Yup, pulse lasers. Looks like a gate jump is in order.

Now safe and sound on the other side, I notice the other Retribution jumping right after me. However, I'm already on my way back to the gate and jump before my next layer of defence goes poof. His buddy left in Ladistier has no hope of catching my interceptor and I'm thusly out of there.

Let's recap: two red flashy and trigger happy Retributions on the hunt. They also didn't seem to care much about splitting up at a moment's notice. Intriguing.

To have the slightest chance of a shot at them, I decide to go get my Vengeance docked in Hevrice. Three jumps from home; they shouldn't move around too much before I'm back.

Heading for Ladistier again, it turns out they actually moved to Jovainnon, right next to Hevrice. Splendid, those guys really ache for something to fight. This should prove useful for my little stratagem to succeed. On a sidenote, traffic through Jovainnon is typically slow as well - little chance of interference by any third parties.

What I'm betting on is that they'll do exactly the same they've tried just moments ago. Chances of that have even increased, now that they would be able to tackle my ship on a gate in time.

Even better that they're not sitting at any of the stargates right now. This way they'll be all the more pressed to do things hastily; anything to not let me escape again.

Not long after I've positioned myself on top of Aeschee gate, they appear on overview, staggered ever so slightly. Perfect.

Everything just seems to fall into place now: the first Retribution to land immediately locks me and gets off a shot. I jump. Right after that, I hear just what I want to hear: the sound of the second Retribution following me into Aeschee.

As soon as possible, I align to another stargate, pretending to flee. The Retribution that chased me pops up right within web range. We lock each other simultaneously. There is no way a lone Retribution can kill my Vengeance. "Lone" as in "your friend is like totally stuck back in Jov, brah, u mad?"

Now one question remains: is one minute enough to down that thing? The best answer I can come up with right now is overheat everything. Might also be a good idea to orbit closely - yeah, let's do that; those lasers hurt more than they really need to.

Rocket after rocket slams into the Retribution with full force, which to my dismay doesn't seem all that impressed. Regardless, now that I'm able to punish the lasers' mediocre tracking, I'm winning the race to hull. I still have to worry about the race against time, though. Judging by the heat damage on my launchers, I estimate about 20 seconds remaining. Gonna be close, real close. Too close for comfort, that's for sure.

My prey formerly known as the hunter is now in deep structure, somehow still staying in one piece. Another volley hits the laser boat, chipping away another sliver of hull. A frustratingly small sliver. Will you die already?!

The Retribution is barely holding together - a flying, flaming sieve by now. The damn thing is almost as tough as my Vengeance.

Gate activation. Time's up.

Damn and blast. Nothing left to do but cheese it, which proves to be no problem at all.

Sigh. Given how close things turned out to be, I had given up on the loot not long into the fight. The lack of a really sweet kill however bums me out to no end. Hope that guy realized how lucky he was. Then again he bothered to fit a respectable tank, gotta give him that. Good fight.

Due to the tiniest lack of gank in this episode, I now have to reconsider the usefulness of an Enyo. And once I get one, I'll never find a single (or a clumsy pair of) Retribution(s) again. At least not before it dies to something actually cost effective.


Battlecoms III - Waiting Game

Zerrah:   He's not coming back, you know.
Jaxley: Oh, but he will.
Zerrah: He knows we're out here, he saw us. Why did we drop cloak in the first place?
Jaxley: Well, you know, having your brain wired to sensitive cloaking systems for maybe the third time ever, people shouting HULK ON SCAN! out of nowhere...
Zerrah: Whatever. It's gone now anyway.
Jaxley: If by "gone" you mean deaf, blind and guaranteed to show up at this exact spot once he fires up his systems again.
Zerrah: I dunno much about exhumers, but I'm pretty sure they could outlast a Nemesis as far as floating in space doing nothing goes.
Jaxley: Exhumers maybe, exhumer pilots not so much. You just gotta have faith in people's stupidity.
Zerrah: I'm sitting in a stealth bomber that's got blasters and rocket launchers welded onto it. I sure as hell am a believer.
Jaxley: I will have no such talk on my Ninja Tristan. You shall not dishonor its crew of proud space ninjas.
Zerrah: *Sigh*
Jaxley: Come on, sneaking up on those two rookie miners the other day was pretty cool.
Zerrah: And hilarious. But dishing out 20-something million ISK for a couple laughs?
Jaxley: Well worth it. Besides, this guy is about to pay us five times its value.
Zerrah: What guy? I don't see anyone.
Jaxley: Aren't you a delight today.
Zerrah: I just hate wasting time.
Jaxley: Ah but see: we're investing time.
Zerrah: Oooh so savvy!
Jaxley: Fine, be like that. You sure you wanna be a prober once we get you into a capsule?
Zerrah: If I want to get into a pod someday, I don't have much of a choice in the matter, do I?
Jaxley: Hmm. No.
Zerrah: Guess I'll have to make do th- Hang on, local +1. ID is Hulk pilot!
Jaxley: Awww yeeah! All crew to battle stations!
Zerrah: Hulk on overview, landing... 6 off!
Jaxley: Prepare to engage warp scrambler and lock target on my mark. Setting course for target. Dropping cloak - mark!
Zerrah: Point!
Jaxley: Engaging afterburner, establishing close orbit. All weapons open fire.
Zerrah: Target is taking steady damage, no drones so far.
Jaxley: Looks like no stabs either, excellent. Invite him to our ransom channel.
Zerrah: Roger... He rejected.
Jaxley: So rude. Let's keep shooting then.
Zerrah: Local still clear, target is taking armor damage.
Jaxley: Invite him again.
Zerrah: Another rejection. Hull breach detected on target.
Jaxley: Some people... All weapons cease fire. Transmit a message through local coms: "Last chance, buddy. 150 million ISK."
Zerrah: Message transmitted.
Jaxley: Let's give him a little while to reconsider.
Zerrah: 150 might be kinda steep though.
Jaxley: Well, he's supposed to make some effort and haggle. But I think this is as good as it's gonna get. Open fire, prepare to lock pod. Disengaging afterburner.
Zerrah: Target popped. Locking pod - gone.
Jaxley: Bummer. Approaching wreck, let's grab the remains.
Zerrah: Looks like his cloaking device survived; and a couple rubbish drones.
Jaxley: Meh, 'bout 6 mil. Alright, let's head back to get a salvager and clean up this mess.

I must admit, stalking space unseen and preying on easy but easily scared targets is way too much fun. Certainly spices up slow days where good fights are hard to come by.

I've had a number of other plain hilarious episodes while out in my Ninja Tristan (which goes by the name "Dunuh Dunuh Dunuh"). It really excels at catching other stealth bombers on jumpgates, pesky loot thieves and more bombers. I like how I can fit out almost two "proper" stealth bombers by now thanks to its shenanigans.

The next ship I buy is gonna be a fierce BATTAL HELIOS. Huzzah!


Rockets? On My Überceptor?

It's more likely than you think.

A group of crafty engineers fond of all things explosive had announced a breakthrough in rocket technology a few months ago. In fact, they were mere weeks away from sealing deals with all sorts of weapon manufacturers.

As someone who is at least equally fond of things going boom, I immediately sat down to study missile launchers and specifically rockets when I got wind of the press release. Before, I disregarded rockets completely. They just didn't pack enough of a punch and would lose even more of their already limited damage potential against small and fast ships - in other words, they were utterly useless, even on ships that were designed to utilize them.

Suddenly however, those ships were to receive a significant boost in firepower. Among them was the Malediction, an interceptor of Khanid design; full tackling capabilities, extended warp disruption range, highly durable armor.


The setup I had come up with would be able to pin down targets from 13 kilometers away, i.e. web them and shut down any sort of micro warp drive they might have. A top speed of 1.7km/s would furthermore assure that  any ship not flown by a true piloting wizard would have a great chance of ending up within my event horizon sooner or later. Well, ideally sooner - can't keep those midslots overheated forever.

Granted, the damage against a static ball of papier-mâché still wouldn't match a trifecta of blasters or pulse lasers. But pilots tend to stay on the move and fly ships that are made of slightly tougher materials. Rockets also provide any damage type you could wish for and deliver their damage much more steadily than turrets.

After looking at all the pretty numbers and graphs and comparing them with my practical experience, I was sure to have a serious contender on my hands. I could in fact barely wait for its delivery.

When it finally arrived, I would primarily roam in the Malediction for the next few days. I was eager to find out how well it actually fared against other combat interceptors. Luckily, I got to find out rather soon against one of those: a Crusader.

We met on a gate - not my favorite place to fight, especially when I encounter non-flashies, given how extremely important the first few seconds of any interceptor duel are. Regardless, I was pretty confident that I could take this one.

Crusaders tend to load Scorch, thus mainly deal EM damage; something the Malediction's armor easily deals with. For some reason that utterly eludes me, people also favor a micro warp drive on their Saders in place of an afterburner, yet still fit warp scramblers.

When I eventually dropped cloak, the pilot of the Crusader wasted little time and went straight for me. I however pulled off one of my personal pet peeves yet again and started to lock my target only after the first laser pulses had evaporated my shields (exhibit A why I loathe engagements against neutrals on gates or stations).

So my Malediction stumbled around a fair bit until it finally got a lock - with maybe two thirds of its armor left. However, now the nimble Crusader got to enjoy a pretty chill velocity of about 300m/s and a couple volleys of Caldari Navy Thorn Rockets to the face. A contest this was no more.

Considering my much-less-than-perfect performance, I was truly impressed and surprised how easy this fight had turned out to be. Even against a Crusader with an afterburner, my Malediction should still come out ahead.

A couple days after the Crusader kill, another interesting test subject showed up on my scanners; it was a Caldari Navy Hookbill, a rocket boat just as mine, but with a shield tank. Now you can fit a Hookbill in a way that would tear any Malediction to microscopic shreds. Still, there are plenty of ways to fit it badly, so I opted for probing the pilot's combat record.

Lo and behold, her most recent loss had been a Hookbill with the following mid slots: medium shield (duh), warp disruptor, micro warp drive, tracking disruptor (teehee), cap recharger ... ... Aw yiss, no web!

I swiftly made myself comfortable 50km from the local sun's warp-in. Soon thereafter, a wild Hookbill appeared and landed somewhat 70-ish kilometers from me.

The proper approach was crucial, but wouldn't require pinpoint-precise helmsmanship thanks to my extended warp scrambling range. I started moving towards the Hookbill at an angle, afterburner still off. The Hookbill did more or less the same from what I could see - apparently its pilot was just as aware of how important the initial maneuvers would be.

We closed in on each other like this for a while. With 40km between us, the Hookbill suddenly changed the angle of approach and its micro warp drive roared up. With my mids overheated, I had to immediately neutralize the new angle again and crank up my own propulsion systems.

The distance plummeted rapidly - too rapidly for the Hookbill to pull off another turn. Scrammed and webbed, we were now engaged in a fierce brawl. I still had to chew through a good amount of shields however.

As against the Crusader, I could still move freely, while my target was almost completely immobilized and had to deal with the full force of my rockets. My own speed consequently negated a great chunk of the Hookbill's damage. Finally its shields gave in and my armor was still in good shape, which sealed the deal. I'm fairly sure that three of the four useless, yet shiny mid slot modules exploded out of spite. Oh well.

Needless to say, I love the Malediction. Can't wait to throw it at a Taranis, king of Überceptors - I'm 50/50 on how that'll turn out, as long as it isn't dual propped (99/1 on that one).


In Command

As of yet I haven't really shown any intentions of calling fleet operations or taking command of any sort of roaming gangs. I prefer to basically start each day heading out on my own and see where things go from there; bouncing around between here and there and back again is just more comfortable when you don't have to report back every single blip on scan or every move you make.

Not that I don't enjoy flying besides my fellow corpmates - quite the contrary. But it's so much more convenient to have everyone spread out across many systems; this way we won't needlessly blob small prey and won't have to share some already meager loot. More importantly though, having eyes on more systems means a much higher chance for anyone to spot something juicy. This is when more or less everyone available happily joins forces.

Still, even in cases where we decided to gang up, I've hardly been the one who called the shots, filling more of a consulting role. However, I've recently gotten a taste of what commanding a small fleet is like:

It was either Causticum or Grohalmatar who reported a trio of frigates hanging around in Hevrice. They were apparently looking for a fight, as they kept sitting in top belt. I myself was a couple jumps out, so Grohal and Causticum decided not to waste much time and hurled their Rifters into the belt as well.

When I eventually arrived at the stargate to Hevrice, both of them had already succumbed to the Merlin pilot and his own two Rifter buddies. Naturally, we now had some order to restore. And since we asked nicely, our adversaries agreed to offer us the opportunity.

So I switched to a Rifter myself and the guys wanted me to take it from there. Uh, well... okay.

At my disposal were now three Rifters with Tuskers in them. So pretty much some of the best Rifters you could wish for in my opinion. Bear with me if I disregard the fact that two of them got ripped apart just before - this time we would take our time to come up with an actual battle plan.

The plan mainly focussed on taking out their assumingly tankiest ship first and as quickly as possible, i.e. the Merlin. Therefore I recommended we should all load phased plasma ammunition. While the Merlin was to be tackled by myself, the secondary target was to be called and tackled by Grohalmatar. We both had webifiers fitted, so Causticum's shield Rifter was left with pointing the third target initially. We would orbit around and focus our fire on them one by one.

So much for the plan. Now all there was left to do was to cause a total of three explosions. No more, no less.

Our three Rifters thusly set up at the top belt at 0, with our opponents within scanning range. Not much later all of them showed up on our overviews and landed 100km out. Before I got to decide whether or not to burn towards them, they warped off to the belt's planet. suspecting a pattern, I ordered to warp just there at 100km.

Just as Grohal, Causticum and I landed, the other frigate gang was on their way to the belt again. Alright, fine - I prefer to have targets which are likely to look for a fight come to me anyways. In conclusion, our fleet was staying put.

It took a while, but ultimately two Rifters and a Merlin appeared on overview once more. Though somehow they got the idea we were sitting at 0. No, this wouldn't do at all; they would have to make this last little trek to bridge the remaining gap.

And finally they started moving straight towards us. They didn't have their afterburners engaged. I wasn't sure what that was about, but it would give us an opportunity to gain a bit of an edge: the order was that once they were within 40km to us, we would burn straight for the Merlin and let it rain.

With 50km remaining between us, none of the targets appeared to become too separated from its wingmen; no need for us to adjust in any way.

I gave the go as soon as our opponents crossed the imaginary circle I had drawn around us.

This little maneuver worked to our favour - we delivered the first blows before they had to deal with a response. As a result, the Merlin went down effortlessly, right after Grohal called our secondary target. This allowed us to seamlessly switch our targets towards one of the two remaining Rifters.

In the meantime I noticed that I took a bit of damage - nice of the Rifter pilot to disregard the concept of focus fire. So far none of my fleet mates reported any sort of overwhelming damage.

While we were now making quick progress on the second explosion, I got to switch my webifier onto the soon-to-be third. Couldn't have anyone going anywhere at that point.

Causticum apparently had been the target of one Rifter and the Merlin, so he reported that his shields were on the verge of failing. In the end his ship however stayed in one piece and we had three wrecks at our hands with a pointed capsule to top things off.

On the basis of our opponents being formidable sports, the pod was set free. Not my first choice per se, but if two thirds of your fleet want to have it that way, I felt like I might as well oblige.

So in the end everything went as planned - pretty much a flawless victory, right?

Hmm... Not sure. Some variables may have fallen in place rather luckily: given the Merlin had railguns fitted, its damage output was low. Maybe should've saved it for last, but then again you never know how good its pilot is at keeping transversal low and/or breaking away to kite.
Also with proper focus fire on their part, we would almost certainly have lost one Rifter. Could be that I was leading the way during our initial charge, which might have confused one of them into attacking the closest target.

Given this or that, there were yet more imperfections I can ponder about. Don't know why some people claim that you won't learn anything from victorious engagements.

Bottom line, this episode feels reassuring as far as my capabilities to lead a small fleet of frigate-sized ships go. Shouldn't be too long until I'm going to call an assault frigate op.


Doing Business

I've done a write-up of a recent business encounter that scored us some nice booty.

You can read up on it on The Tuskers' new and improved Public Relations Desk. Hope you enjoy.

(Oh and I've done an additional piece depicting this episode.)