Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Resurrecting a cloaky smartbombing Proteus

I am no Shakspeare, but I do enjoy writing an occasional post about my adventures in wormhole space. Ok, occasional may be a generous word. Once in a blue moon is probably more fitting. Did you know blue moons come only about every two or three years? Yeah, just like my posts.

So the other day I was stalking my c3 wormhole with high-sec static. As you can imagine, I quite often get visited by explorers. As I mentioned, I made a strange fitting decision and fit a webifier instead of a sensor booster. Tengu is the only ship I sometimes need a webifier for. In all other cases, sensor booster is the smart choice as a few precious seconds gained in locking time can make all the difference between tackle and warp out. However, even with sensor booster, it's often hit or miss when trying to lock exploration frigates. I started thinking a little bit more about it. It would be best if I had no locking time at all. Why yes, I do speak about smartbombs. Cloaky smartbombing Proteus was not new, and actually quite prominent. Proteus and not other t3 as I have a soft spot for Gallente! Many people used it in k-space to smartbomb pods (maybe they still do?) while others used it in wormholes to kill those pesky exploration frigates. Some of my favourite wormhole blogs ran smartbombing "Protei". I, of course, speak about Bex and Trinkets friend. I hope you guys are doing well wherever you are!

Back to smartbombing Proteus. Several years ago, t3 changes killed the most common smartbommbing fits. I never thought much about it since. Until recently. Until I met a one pesky Astero. It all started the usual. I have all the sites prescanned and occasionally check d-scan to see if there's anything going on. I spot an Astero at one of the sites. I do my usual routine, warp to perch, get position and try to tackle. Of course the sisters' frigate escapes due to my long locking time, but instead of leaving the system he just goes back to the site. Again and again, like no fucks given about a Proteus trying to catch him. We do this dance maybe 5 more times until he finally gives up. The audacity of this pilot! I don't think my Proteus has ever been brushed away so lightly like a random shuttle passing through a high-sec gate.

I started looking around and found one interesting Reddit post with a smartbombing Proteus fit. I decided to give it a go. As I have some spare alts with few combat skills trained, I did a quick and dirty fit that I hastily put together.

Uploading: 76975 of 76975 bytes uploaded.

There are some fitting restrictions, but I just turn off the burst jammer for cpu and add a 5% power grid implant and I am all good to go. This bad buy does 280 dps, but there's just only one problem.

The capacitor lasts 15 seconds, which translates to 2 volleys. I am a bit sceptical a bit about how easy it will be to kill an Astero, but whatever. I park it in my home system and wait for a target to appear. 

It doesn't take too long and I do get an explorer visit me. The site is full of clutter and limited effective range of smartbombs makes it a challenge to get into a good position. But in the end I manage to align and time it right. I decloak and let off the smartbombs. Before I know it I hear repeat warnings of an empty capacitor, but my scrambler keeps the frigate in place. The Astero is in hull and I am out of juice to do anything. I barely get enough cap to keep a scrambler active and save enough spare juice to activate a smartbomb once in awhile. Man this is sad. The killing goes so slowly that I consider if I should bring my tackle Proteus and just get this over with. The frigate finally explodes.

While I do manage to kill the target, the whole ordeal did not go as I expected. First of all, the whole point of smartbombs is to kill a target before it has a chance to react. As I managed to lock and scram it, it kind of beat the whole point. The maths are clear that I can't kill an untanked Astero with 2 volleys and by the 3rd I get a lock anyways or the prey warps off. Anyways, I had to try it. I was kind of hoping to get any other ship than an Astero which the whole killing quick thing probably would have gone much more smoothly.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Never stick around

Not long after an Orca gank the system became unusually active. I notice some next-door neighbors getting busy shooting sleepers in my home.

Neighbors are from the connecting c4 as that's the wormhole I keep eyes on and get a glimpse of the Gnosis.

Well well well, what do you know. Same corp as the pilot's whose Orca I ganked. Just happened to decide to do some farming in my system. In a Hyperion. Yea, I don't buy it. I let my dear neighbors farm sleepers to their heart's content.

W-Space life continues

I continue to chill in my uninhabited c3. I want to move to another system, but decide to just stick around a little while longer. Since it has a high-sec static, I want to see if I can find a tourist doing some sleeper sites. As usual, if you stay long enough observing the system and wormholes you can see interesting things. Life goes on, ships fly around and I can't help but imagine stories in my head on what these people are up to. Sometimes I see small fleets ready for some pvp business.

Other times freebie battleships and industrials pass around.

There will also be situations where visiting farming fleets will clean out my home system to the last anomaly.

Good for these guys organizing a fleet to shoot some sleepers. Unfortunately, T1 cruisers don't really get me that excited. With my home system clear of anomaly sites, there's little chance of getting a tourist. I have to put more emphasis on looking at connecting systems. I jump into an active c2 connection. While d-scan shows wrecks, no ships are on sight. I do a blanked combat probe scan and detect 2 ship signatures. When I get in range I only see a Stratios. Another blanked scan reveals only one ship now. I guess whatever was going on I missed it. Well almost. For some reason Stratios is in the direction of the wrecks. Perhaps there was an attempted gank? It's a cosmic signature and not an anomaly, which means I have to scan it down to get a visual. I narrow down a precise location with a d-scan and do a quick sneaky scan. Hopefully, pilots don't check their d-scan too often. I get a hit! It's a data site and everything starts to make sense. The site is cleared of sleepers and Stratios is doing final hacking activities. Since it's a c2 I don't expect a very shiny ship clearing anomalies and decide to just go for the Stratios while I still have a chance.

Got him! Probably my Proteus could be enough to kill it, but I decide to bring my whole fleet. Not taking any chances since it's their home system. And besides, Stratios only need one neutralizer to make my Proteus harmless rather quick. The ship explodes. A cool 600mil pimped cruiser

I'll take it, thank you very much! I collect the loot, take it to high-sec and make a contract to ship to the nearest hub. While it's not much, the last thing I want is to become a loot pinata myself. Besides, I fully expect to lose my fleet so any ISK I get will contribute to a replacement!

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Good start is half the work

While a year ago my corp got evicted, it didn't take us long to resettle back into our home system. Unfortunately, it also didn't last and at the end of last year, the decision was taken to shut down the corp. This left an open question what I should do next? I was not ready to just jump to another corp and it so happened that I got quite big new responsibilities IRL - I became a dad. Finally, I am qualified to make all those terrible dad jokes. So I decided to take it easy, stay in the corp, focus on my newborn son, and just see how it all goes.

Fast forward six months and I decided to log back just to breathe in some of that imaginary (?) EVE universe smell and perhaps update my training queue which I guarantee has been expired at least within a couple of characters, but I couldn't be arsed to keep tabs on. For some reason I keep my accounts subbed, even if I don't actively play. The way I see it, it's my cigarette tax. Since I don't smoke, I get all that extra money to splurge.

Going back to basics

I decided that instead of sitting in stations I can sit in space. After all, I am the cloaky bastard and there's not much cloaking going on when docked. I update my ancient pyfa version and start brainstorming and can already feel the excitement of coming up with my new hunting fits. So far my tools of choice have been a Proteus and 3 Nestors. I think it's a solid group that is quite versatile. Proteus will still remain my signature heavy tackle ship and there's really no need for big changes of my current fit. I really would love an extra mid or low slot. I consider giving up the Interdiction Nullifier sub-system, but then I remember all those close calls I had when bubbled, and decide it's not worth the stress. In addition, Proteus brings solid 500 dps to the table, which is nothing to scoff at for a cloaky tackle ship.

The weak link, however, I believe is the Nestors. 3 Nestors with spider tank can really help me take on multiple targets and sleepers. It's proven and tested in most engagements I had. Nevertheless, I do recognize that DPS is actually the weak link and usually time is not on my side. Key of my strength is to catch victims unaware and kill them before they get a chance to reorganize and fight back with a proper fleet. Nestor's do roughly 600 dps each and that's with 2 drone damage mods. It's really low. Combined power of 3 Nestors and a Proteus is usually enough to crack most ships defenses, mostly thanks to heavy neutralizers, but it can be slow progress for very tanked ships like passive Rattlesnakes or Marauders. Speaking of Marauders, I found out that they received a buff and now basically do double DPS. They have been scary to take on before, but now I am really worried. Given how Marauders have 2-3 cap batteries fitted, I might not live long enough for a kill to happen. I might need to forgo taking on more than 1 Marauder at a time. If someone has suggestions on the best combo to withstand duo Marauder setup, feel free to suggest in the comments.

Back to DPS subject. I decided to do one key change and replace a Nestor with a Leshak. The Leshak fits quite well into my spider tank setup. It can fit 2 cap transfers and a repair module. I will lose tank overall, especially if one of the Nestors is focused, but I am close to doubling my overall DPS. Besides, if the Leshak is focused, I still get the full power of 2 Nestors repping power. This change just makes sense and I can't wait to test it in practice.

Lucky catch

Multiboxing spider tank setup with drone ships is really hard. I haven't done it in a long time. I am rusty as hell and I am sure I will fail at a lot of micromanaged stuff. So before I go to c4s I decide to camp a c3 with HS static. I might get a random battleship or a t3c as target practice.

As expected from a wormhole with HS static, I do get quite few explorers. I play around with an Astero which managed to escape, but still tries to do sites 5 times more despite me actively trying to get him. Decloaking the Proteus and waiting for a lock on a frigate is a painfully long time. I also realize there's no reason for me to fit a webifier instead of a sensor booster.  In a few days of me camping the system, I miss out on a lot of activities. Sites get cleared when I am logged off and evenings mostly result in just me sitting in an empty and clean system. Until now.

I get a c4 connection inhabited by Szescienna-Geometria. A small corp, not really a big of a threat, but history shows they can put a fleet together I could struggle fighting solo. The system is clean and I see a Venture with Prospect clearing the few gas sites that remain. History shows some rather expensive Rattlesnake losses and I consider of moving in, but decide against it. A gut feeling more than anything. System is rather small and it would be hard to log in to my ships without being noticed. Instead, I decide to remain in a c3 and instead park my scout on the c4 connection and go mind my business.

I hear an activation sound. A quick glimpse reveals a ship I haven't seen in a long time. An Orca! 

I panic. I did not expect an Orca! My brick Proteus is not aligned and I am not sure I can get into position for a tackle fast enough, despite speed picking up very slowly. Every second I delay is a second lost. I decide not to risk it and just stay put, but now my interest is piqued. I watch the Orca warp to a HS static and park my Proteus on watch duty.

While waiting I see a Praxis and a Gnosis do sleeper sites. Thankfully my fleet is logged in and off d-scan. I ponder if the ship will come back. What kind of goodies were inside? Is someone from neighbors next door moving stuff out? Was the Orca on a one-way trip? The questions we may never find answers to. Or will we? I hear a jump. The Orca appears. I keep my cool. I initiate warp first to 10 and set my Proteus on a 5km orbit. I do not want to reveal myself just yet. The plan is to let the Orca jump, initiate warp while I jump after. It should be enough time to approach him even if my position is bad and if Orca enters warp I won't need to wait for the cloak timer to expire or worse, search an empty space if he has cloak fitted. When I see the Orca is on the grid I pre-warp my fleet. The fat ship lands and jumps in. I wait an extra second for it to disappear and hopefully for a new system to render for the unsuspecting pilot before I go after him. I jump. The Orca is on the overview and only 14km off. I quickly burn and tackle. Meanwhile, the fleet lands, and I jump everyone in and start the party.

The big whale is surrounded and nowhere to go. I unleash everything I have and soon enough I see a beautiful explosion which I believe CCP has bumped the visuals up a notch since the last time I saw an Orca explode.

While cargo disappointedly has ore in it (wtf?) I am still very happy with the catch. There's always something special about catching the big whale ship. I am also pleased to see my new addition to the fleet - the Leshak did 50% of the damage like a boss. Since I am in a good mood I decide to chat up the pilot and see if I can find out more about this whole situation.

Pooz Gogiko took the loss well like a champ and did not seem to be bothered by it at all. It seems it was the first flight for this new ship and the trip probably did not end as the owner thought it would end. Kudos to him and let's hope that his next Orca flight will be as eventful as this one.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Evicted by Inner Hell

Once you get into your routine, it's hard to appreciate certain things. I've been around long enough to know you should never take things for granted in this game. You have to be prepared that certain things like your favorite ship, play style, or even your corp will change or disappear. Despite living in wormholes for most of my time, this week I have experienced something new. My corp got evicted by Inner Hell. While the risk of eviction was always known to me, the corps I have joined were always small-medium size focused on small gang PVP. Corps I've been apart of were always neutral, minded their business, and provided content when the opportunity arose. I took my home systems for granted as I always felt that to evict my corp would be more pain than it's worth. Well, Inner Hell was of another opinion. It felt that Epicentre Syndicate has accumulated enough wealth, got too comfortable and it was time to shake things up, by cleansing the system of any traces of player activity.

I take breaks in EVE. Sometimes, the breaks are quite long. Once you stop logging in, it becomes very difficult to force yourself to even open the client. Due to this, I often miss out on a lot of things happening such as big updates or drama and politics. My isolationist hunting playstyle did not help as it made it very easy to stay ignorant, ignore what was not impacting me directly, and just mind my own business. Therefore, the main reason I joined the corp was to be more engaged in EVE universe, relearn things I've forgotten and build friendships. After some discussions with corpmates I've learned that drama in wormholes was quite a big topic recently and a lot of evictions were going on. Of course, I refer to TDSIN and HK squabble. While Epicentre Syndicate was neutral, we did discuss the topic of eviction on numerous occasions, and mentally, at least some of us were always prepared to face the music.

On a personal level, all these eviction stories felt crazy and unreal. Being in wormholes, it always felt like being a part of a community. And while some corps hated each other, we still "got" one another. At the risk of sounding like a bittervet, one unwritten rule in wormholes was always respected. You don't evict active PVP corps. Not at least without a very good reason. The content was always hard to come by in w-space and make it emptier would do no good to anyone. It seemed like "old fashioned" approach went out of style and big cleansing was underway. So what does this have to do with us being evicted by Inner Hell? Probably not much, but I thought it would be interesting to mention. There is also a chance that due to other evictions ongoing, the list of whom to evict for Inner Hell became much shorter.

Inner Hell is famous for its playstyle which specializes in evictions. It's what they do and what they are good at. And we got to experience that first hand. While I dislike this playstyle, I do have to respect the commitment they put in. While we caught initial scanner checking out timers of our structures, the first iteration of hole control fleet caught us completely off guard. It all started with a miner gank. We thought it was a random encounter but quickly realized there was an eviction force present in our system.

The last stand

Epicentre Syndicate leadership was working around the clock to deal with a sudden crisis. It was clear that our corp alone won't have a chance to stand against the hostiles in the system and we would need help. But if you have been involved in wormhole warfare, you probably realize that it is extremely difficult to get help inside the system if you have no hole control. Even if there are volunteers to help the cause, it's useless without a way to get inside. We joke around that the only way we stand a chance is a frigate hole to our system since they can't be rolled and it's extremely hard to control the incoming traffic.

The very next day, Bob answers our prayers and blesses us with 2 frigate holes. The biggest evidence of Bob watching us if I ever saw one. Batphone goes out and soon we have over 100 pilots docked in our main Fortizar. Evening comes and I see the biggest fleet I have participated in wormhole space so far. We are ready to make a claim for the right to stay in this c4 system.

We start off well. We pick off some of t3s and force the enemy fleet to warp off and successfully defend the timer. As Inner Hell can't win the direct confrontation on a station, they warp around and we play a game of cat and mouse for a short while. 

While we could defend the timers of some of the stations, it was clear that this would be the battle of attrition if we kept it up. We could defend today, but what about tomorrow? Next week? Enemy fleet has fully committed to this invasion while people that came to our help took time from their schedules, burned to our system, and spent most of the day in it. It was unreasonable to expect and even ask them to stay longer than that. Therefore a decision was taken for the "final" battle. We would warp directly on the enemy fleet and brawl it out. We either incur big losses to the enemy that forces a regroup or go out in style. It's a win-win. We undock everything we can, align, and warp on the enemy. The big battle starts.

It all starts out great. We pop some good amount of t3s, Drakevacs, Ikitursas. However, as the battle drags on and we lose the majority of the fighters, it becomes noticeably harder to get kills. The fact that the fleet is fitted for long-range did not help shooting high-resist speed tanking ships. Especially after the enemy fleet picked off our webifiers, the damage output started to stagnate. It became clear that the fight was lost and we were just feeding kills, it was time to salvage what we could and bail.


Despite everything, the mood in the corp was on the upside. Everyone was feeling good for having a chance to organize a good fight and even inflict some moderate losses on our evictors. The zkillboard report shows 43 billion worth of ISK damage done and 93 billion lost.

With some random picks before and after, it's safe to assume we have done over 50 billion ISK damage. While it may not sound much in the grand scheme of things, we can say with confidence that Epicentre Syndicate members and allies gave their best to stand our ground with no regrets. It was time to go with our contingency plan - deny as many resources as possible, by self-destructing ships and logging off valuable assets on inactive characters.

We self-destructed, trashed, and evacuated assets that we could. Finally, it was time to say goodbye to our home. Even with victory at hand, Inner Hell diligently was watching the wormhole connections. To deny even a chance of catching our pods and shiny ships such as my scanning Proteus, most of the corp Yeeted out with Needlejack Filaments to null-sec and made our way to high-sec. In a way, it feels refreshing. We are no longer tied to our assets and are free to choose the next path. What does the future hold for Epicentre Syndicate and myself? Who knows, but we will make sure to use this opportunity and make the best of it.

Additional notes
1) Thanks to everyone who came to help to defend our home! Epicentre Syndicate members are very grateful and will not forget if some of you will be in a need.

Monday, April 20, 2020

A casual jump, uncasual day

Probably quite a few of us have encountered a ship in space, burning at full speed towards a no particular direction, but mostly outside the direction of any celestial. Usually, it's some speedy small ship with a cap stable fit and MWD on. It can be quite tricky to catch those because you need your own speedy, a much faster ship as, by the time you land on grid, you will have quite some distance to cover in order to catch up. Other times you will find a ship standing in space or slowly moving one direction. Next door to my home system I was watching a couple of guys going about their business. While I was hoping a good target will show up, instead, locals went quiet with one exception. For some reason, a Bifrost just warped to an offline tower and started slowboating.

It was a bit strange, as I was fairly certain locals knew they were not alone as next door was our, very active, home system with a mobilized fleet ganking a carrier a jump away.

Any self-respecting wormhole pilot always checks its surroundings and when you see an active corp next door you are extra cautious. However, it seems not everyone develops self-preservation instincts. Bifrost pilot just kept burning away, despite having a couple of stations to stay docked at. Having watched the pilot all this time, I decided enough was enough. To leave him like this would be going against the code of wormholes if there was such a thing. While Bifrost is not aligned to any particular celestial, I still manage to find a good bounce and interest him with my cloaky Proteus. For the record, my Proteus is 1600 plated and afterburner fit. It is slow. And I mean, really slow. To catch a moving target with it, even going to one direction, is a form of art. After bouncing off the celestial I slowburn perpendicularly towards the target until I am within scram range. Of course, I will not be satisfied with just the ship kill and warp in the Sabre to make sure I get the pod too, in case the pilot wakes up from screeching sound of hull alerts. The ship and the pod go down. Thanks to the "Egg Hunt" event, I net a cool 250mil from implants alone.

You will notice that fit has only two high-grade amulet implants. While I'm not the one to look a gifted horse in the mouth, I highly doubt he just happened to have 2 amulets plugged in. I suspect his "apm" was not high enough to pull everything out in time. In my opinion, pulling implants in combat is such a nonsense mechanic that I can't believe we still have to deal with it. Interestingly, shortly after the gank, I receive the following email.

I don't know about others, but in my experience, you want a gank to be over as quick as possible to avoid becoming ganked yourself. Therefore, in w-space, I'm not in the habit of asking for ransoms from my targets. I was surprised by the question itself as I can't imagine much of ransoming is happening in w-space overall. Besides, I can't scan a pod for implants. so I doubt I would have gotten an offer higher than the value of the Bifrost itself.

When a casual patrol becomes the highlight of the day

I won't lie. It's been a few days since I've been actively scanning and scouting, but apart mining Ventures and scanning Herons, I haven't seen any ships on d-scan. Meanwhile, my corpmates, report a casual RattlesnakeVargur or a Niddhogur. It is easy to be discouraged, but I know better. I know that Bob rewards the patient.

The chain is scanned and there doesn't seem to be much going on. I consider throwing a proposal of rolling the c4 static connection but decide to visit the scanned systems, just in case someone decided it was a good time to shoot sleepers. On these routine checks, you are usually on autopilot. It's like driving a car home from work and wondering how the hell you got here without the memory of driving. I jump, d-scan, launch combats for a blanket scan. If no ships appear, I jump to the next system. Rinse and repeat. I jump to the last system in the mapped chain. D-scan updates and I am met with a confusing result.

The hell is going on here? Random ships on scan, tons of hangar containers floating around? It takes a couple of seconds to come back to my senses. I adjust my poor sitting posture to be slightly less poor, put my eyes closer the directional scanner and make sure I am not imagining things. In the old days, this would be a control tower with a force field, a bubble and a bunch of secure containers. But those days are past and hangar containers littered usually means only one thing - someone just unanchored or destroyed a station. I warp to the Fortizar and find the containers as also the locals, busy warping forth and back. The routine looks like a pod warps to a container, boards the ship, warps back to the station, parks the ship and goes for the next. Ships are mostly t1, with some faction and t2 exceptions. I immediately send a ping and we form up a disposable Cyclone fleet. Suddenly a Thanaots undocks and warps to a container, presumably with an idea to scoop all the loot due to it's enormous cargo bay. A possible capital kill always get's everyone excited. We ping for Drake Navies who still did not leave home in a cyclone and bring a couple of Basilisks just in case. Who knows what locals will do trying to save their carrier.

While the fleet is halfway, I watch the carrier warp to a can, scoop the loot and warp back. I have missed my first chance to tackle it. Thankfully, the carrier does another roundtrip. I decide to act as you can never be sure there will be a third chance. I warp my trusty Proteus to a can, decloak and tackle the carrier.

I only need to keep it for several seconds until the first Sabre lands, followed by a fleet. While the locals helplessly watch through the safety of station windows, we bash the carrier into the scrap and send the pilot on his merry way via pod express. Speaking of pods, this one spared no expense and only flies his carriers in a style of high-grade amulet sets.

As with the Bifrost's pilot, TrippleX Ozzy also did not have enough apm to plug everything out. Still, thanks to the "Egg Hunt", over 800 mil of implants drop. Who am I to complain? While we continue to check out the cans and map the worthwhile loot, a report of a Leshak landing on a wormhole towards our home. The Leshak is promptly tackled, but he is not alone. More and more ships land on the grid. All of a sudden, we have a full-blown fight going on with a SECURITY SQUAD.

Oh man, there is only so much excitement at a time I can handle. Finally we come out on top and force the intruders away, while netting several nice Leshak kills. However, while we were busy battling out with the unexpected 3rd party, the locals did not waste any time and continued with hauling their stuff back to their station. That is until we came back. To be fair, locals did have a chance to buy us out and continue with their looting, but my proposal was met in silence.

Which left us no choice, but play loot pinata, by ejecting bunch of t1 ships and shooting everything in sight, while hauling the expensive stuff out to a convenient high-sec static. As per our corp rules, the content finder gets to keep all the loot. I can't say how much ISK this whole ordeal net me as I honestly lost track of it, but it certainly was not bad for an honest day's work. Bob be praised for these gifts.