Monday, September 26, 2016

When stars align in your favor

Some people find pvp very thrilling. I don't argue with that. A lot of pvp engagements do bring a lot of excitement, but there's another part that I would argue is also not any lesser experience. It's the hunt itself.

It all started with me casually orbiting one of the wormholes until I heard a jump sound. I quickly focused the window and saw an Occator warp to a c1 which had a high-sec static. Not long after an Iteron does the same. I can only assume there's some sort of logistics going on. It's hard to ambush a deep transport ship all by myself, even with a pure tackle focused Proteus. I ping Trey about the recent find.
Zosius: c5 connection is doing logistics
Zosius: we could ambush them
Trey: Ok, Going to computer
One of the big advantages of having an extra guy stalking with me is an extra pair of eyes and a heavy interdictor which is perfect for these kind of opportunities. No amount of warp core stabilizers will help against a bubble. Trey logs in and we start working on a plan. First order of business is to put scouts in every system. I got eyes on c5 connection so Trey puts one scout in a c1 and another warps to a c5. But with our luck, his Astero lands on the wormhole when our targets jump from the other side. What a terrible coincidence. He jumps in as quickly as he can, but it's safe to assume we have been spotted. We don't know if the pilot managed to get the name, but at least they know they are not alone. However, hope is not all lost. There are plenty of Asteros flying around and scouting. It's a common sight and they don't look all that threatening. The transport ship continues on his path while we keep our scout in the c5.

I logged in my trading alt and found the Occator pilot was sitting at the station. I set a negative standing to the corp, filter my overview to filter out neutrals and orbit the station. It's my usual strategy to ship and cargo scan my target. Knowledge is key and I will know what's inside the ship and how it's fitted before engaging. Meanwhile, in our c4 a Falcon jumps in. It only confirms that our Astero has been spotted, but it also means that our targets don't plan to stop their logistics which is great news. We start the waiting game. The Occator does not move anywhere from Amarr station, but an Iteron now jumps to our system for a second run. We pretend the system is empty and let it pass. The Iteron has a different destination from one of Occator as I do not see him show up in the hub. Instead, Trey reports an activation and we see him come back. We hold our cloak. The t1 transport ship goes home and the Falcon follows. Our system is now clear once again.

We discuss what's the best ambush for the expected Occator. We decide to park it on a c1 exit. If the Occator manages to burn back, our Nestors can still follow it with a plate turned off. We want to avoid parking on a c5 due to higher risk of getting exposed. Once the heavy dictor is in position, the waiting begins. The Occator pilot takes it's time but finally undocks. I try to lock him up and scan the ship, but the guy warps to insta undock safe. That's unexpected. If fitted properly, there's no risk for the deep transport ship to be sniped off, but it's obvious they don't want strangers peeking in their cargohold. I make a snap judgement and warp to a next system on the way back to the wormhole. The plan is to scan him on the gate. I wait and wait and wait, but the Occator does not come. I know it's not the most fastest ship, but he should be here by now. I jump back, but the pilot is absent in local. Fucking autopilot showed me a different route. At least I hope that's the reason and the Occator is not going through some other way that we know nothing about.

The Falcon once again jumps to our system and warps to a c1 which probably means the Occator is on his way. We pray to Bob our dictor orbiting the wormhole does not get decloaked. We have the gank carefully planned to tiny detail. It's not just wait for the ship and kill it once it comes. Trey's fleet is in safe spot, but within d-scan range of both c1 and c5. Mine is out of range. We must be careful not to reveal our fleet too early. Once he jumps to our system, I will initiate warp with the Nestors, bubble will go up and then Trey will join me soon after. An activation in a c1 and the Occator appears. He is on his way to our c4. I decloak and align my Nestor fleet and as soon jump is confirmed I warp them in. Bubble goes up and we patiently wait for our prey to decloak. He waits until the very last moment, but finally the ship appears on the overview. We get to work. His waiting allowed us to set assist mode to our drones which made instant DPS possible. And while the Occator did his best to burn back and his Falcon alt to jam us out, they both went down very quick.

Both eager, we quickly burned to the industrial wreck to see what kind of loot was our prey carrying that he did not want anyone to see? The killboard value says the ship was worth 2.5 billion.

The hull itself is just over 200mil worth. So what was driving the value up?

Our target was transporting only a couple of items. Two skill injectors and a Vargur. Me and the loot fairy have had our fair share of differences, but sometimes not even her can overlook the effort and patience that goes into the hunt as this time she let us keep everything. As always, we are grateful to Bob for providing us such a great opportunity. Universe was aligned that time in our favor. I'm happy to inform, that Vargur and Injectors were safely moved back to the empire and sold at the market.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Things are not always as they seem

It's a sad thing when you find a juicy target, but know it's out of your reach. This is the reason I multibox 3 Nestors, but it doesn't mean I can take on anything I find. The locals in a c4 undocked a surprising ship - an Archon. Accompanied by two Rattlesnakes it warped to a site.

Trey is off for holidays so I am all alone. Even if he was here, I doubt we could take on an Archon with 2 Rattles. I will confess, I know jack shit about capitals anymore. I heard horror stories of fighters being able to track mere frigates now. Perhaps we could take it, but the fact remains, I will be alone for at least a week and there's no point in sitting here, watching without being able to do anything. I tease the locals by dropping combat probes, but in the end decide to leave.

It didn't take long to find another c4. Upon entering I spot a Rattlesnake on d-scan, which shortly disappears. I warp to station, but nobody's there. After waiting a good several minutes and doing blanket combat scans of the system I decide it was time to resolve the signatures. There are only a couple of them anyways, both c3 and c5 statics. Using my judgment, I check out the lower class wormhole first. This Rattlesnake clearly disappeared in space and I bet my left testicle he went to a c3 rather than a c5. And there he was, appeared with all glory on d-scan and sleeper wrecks. Not at an anomaly though. I pinpoint his position and scan him out in one quick sweep.

It was time to make my move. His home system is rather small, but the station is outside the wormhole range, so I should be able to park my Nestors without being noticed. Moreover, the Rattlesnake is over 30 AU away, so most likely I will pre-warp my fleet before engaging anyway. Especially with that bloody mobile depot on grid. But first, I will pre-warp my Proteus to a 200km position. In the old days, when grids were small, you couldn't use camera or see a ship at all if you were too far away. Now there is no reason to make 200km perch, but I decide to do it anyway. Old habits die hard. I warp at 100 to mobile depot to bounce, only to have sleepers aggro me. I instantly realize my cloak is off and I have no idea why. I'm sitting at 100 from the Rattlesnake, uncloaked. Should I bounce anyway and pretend I was never there? Nah, that won't work. I rather sit and wait for the Rattlesnake to make a move. As I thought, he aligns and warps back to his wormhole. I follow while at the same time warp the Nestor fleet from the other side. The Rattlesnake jumps and gets tackled.

The ship soon gets converted to a wreck.

Not too shabby. I'm not sure if this guy panic refitted to two warp core stabilizers or he was actually farming with them. In any case, it was not enough to avoid my Proteus. Once the deed is done, I warp back to safe. I'm in no rush to move. Later that day, locals assemble a wormhole rolling fleet, clearly prepared for the unwelcomed Proteus.

I watch the guys roll multiple static connections. I don't know what's the intention. Do they look for a pvp or for a new farming ground? Whatever they were looking for, after watching them roll wormholes for a few hours, I assume they haven't found it.

For the next several days, I stay put. I believe I am forgotten and things are back to normal. System is kept clean, but locals are willing to go next door for that juicy sleeper loot. Once again I spot a Rattlesnake leave the system. Once again I scan him out without getting noticed.

Once again I forget to cloak or get decloaked when warping at 100. And once again the Rattlesnake warps back home, gets followed by me and is met by Nestors on the other side, gets tackled and killed.

No warp core stabilizers this time, but with a few extract faction mods. I scoop the loot and take my leave. No reason to stay here longer than I have to. I move next door and just park my ships without expecting much to happen. But no, just barely after two hours pass, a Gila warps to an anomaly, completely oblivious to a present mtu and a mobile depot in the system.

The pilot is from the same alliance, but different corp. He is also a CEO. So I gank 2 Rattlesnakes from the same alliance and now I've got a Gila doing sites? Yea, right. I watch him casually orbit his mtu and shoot sleepers. I'm not gonna go for it. What are the odds this is not a bait? Just to be sure, I drop combat probes. If he is legit farming, he will warp back to the wormhole right away. If he is baiting, he will pretend like those probes don't exist. I warp out, launch probes and go back to observing. Nothing. No reaction whatsoever. This is an obvious bait or the guy is as ignorant as he can be. I decide to chat the guy up.

The Gila pilot seemed genuinely surprised. He closed my convo and warped to a planet, while disappearing from d-scan and combat probes. I was a bit puzzled on what was going on. System was big so I just assumed the guy bounced and went back to wormhole. However, in some minutes, he lands out of nowhere and jumps back out to his home system. I can't help but feel this guy was actually legit. Especially after checking corp's killboard, it didn't seem they could mount a decent enough fleet to kill me. Oh well, I still choose to live by philosophy: if it's too good to be true, it probably is. Might cost a kill or two, but I'm pretty sure more than not it will prevent expensive losses down the road.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Reflections of the wormhole stalking

It's been several days since I try to create a new post, but keep staring at a blank sheet. A huge respect goes to the bloggers like Talvorian Dex from Target Caller and writers in general that keep pumping out quality posts ever so frequently. I'm lucky if I have an interesting encounter to write about, but if it's a simple gank, it's really tough to pick up a pen. I often have to remind myself that I started blogging because of a wish to speak my mind and write about my adventures. I'm very happy to hear that some people enjoy reading about my encounters along the way, but once you feel the pressure to stick to the schedule, from a hobby it can become a chore real fast.

Sometimes I like to reflect on the progress I've done. I've been stalking wormholes for awhile now. 1.5 year ago my corp disbanded and I tried getting back to low-sec, though unsuccessfully. I then decided to play at my own pace and create a corp where I would focus purely in hunting wormhole site runners. I used to do those trips while being in corps, but now it had my full attention and "unlimited" time to do what I want and not worry about not being there for the corp. Fast forward to now and it's a good time to reflect on my journey.

As of the moment of writing, I have done 97 bil of damage. That's less than what a null pilot can do in one day in an escalated cap fight. Furthermore, that's almost all exclusively wormhole pve gank targets.

But more than total damage done, I like to view the ship kill count, which is - 312. The special thing about this number is that most of these ships were hunted, stalked and killed only by me. If we take out solo and pod kills, probably around 200 pilots had a pleasure of meeting my Dominix/Nestor fleet while doing sites at the wormhole.

So what's my take on the wormhole stalking experience so far? Well, I would not recommend to anyone apart old, bitter vets. I would recommend only to people that can play EVE in the background and can multibox as they probably have a real chance to fully enjoy this play style. If you fly a solo Stratios, you might need to miss out on some juicy targets. I always recommend playing with a corp. To be honest, that's about the only way to play EVE in an engaging way regardless of what space you are in. Even for a guy like me, that has been playing on his own for over a year, a partner joining my corp has improved playing experience, which brings us to the following story.

When things come around

There was a lack of action in our current system so me and my partner decided it's a good time to find a new home. Trey went ahead to scan the chain. Few jumps out he ended up in the wormhole that had an active connection with The Last Chancers home system. It's one of the most active pvp corps in w-space. When I usually see one of their pilots around, I try to be as invisible as possible and not do much scouting. Trey flies a cloaky nulified Legion, but in just a few minutes, d-scan reported activity. He was clearly spotted and The Last Chancers were quick to camp all the active connections. On the way back a Sabre with a few other ships were patiently awaiting for Legion's return. While it has a covert cloak, it's not exactly a fast aligning ship. If Sabre pilot is good, he can decloak and tackle before you can enter warp. My advice was to wait it out. It's better to be patient than risk a loss against a corp that can field fleets we have little chance beating.

As expected, the, eager to kill, enemies got bored and warped back home. I suggested to stick around for a little while longer to avoid any unexpected surprises. Neither of us were in rush. While chilling and occasionally checking d-scan, Trey reported a Megathron. He quickly found that our aggressive friends were rolling the wormhole. Unfortunately for them, calculus mistakes were made and the battleship ended up on the wrong side when wormhole collapsed. It caught us both by surprise. For sure these guys could roll a wormhole in their sleep. Luckily, huge grid allowed Trey to see where our lost friend warped. He was warmly greeted mid-way in our scanned chain by our Nestor fleet.

We killed his ship and sent back to the empire via pod express. The name carries a big weight in EVE. Since we knew who we were ambushing, we kept spamming d-scan until very end, expecting a large fleet land on us at any moment, but the space stayed empty as it almost always is.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Deceived by appearance

I was sitting on the wormhole when I heard an activation sound and saw a wild Scorpion appear.

Of course at the time I did not realize that. I saw a ship with a strange tail and automatically assumed it was a Rattlesnake. That damn ship has been burned to my retina by now and I completely forgot a ship like a Scorpion exists.

I watch it burn back to the wormhole and jump out. It's quite obvious the wormhole is being rolled. I set a close orbit with the Proteus, uncloak and align the Nestors and watch the clock. I patiently wait for 5 minute timer to pass. It's a very small time window to grab a rolling battleship. He must spawn far away from the wormhole and I must get a good bump if I want to prevent it from jumping back.  5 minutes passes, then 6 and then 7. I am getting nervous. I don't like to keep my Nestors exposed like that. You never know who else might be passing by, but my gut says I should soon see that Scorpion again. Finally, I hear a sound. Without waiting for the battleship to decloak, I warp in the fleet. Once the Scorpion decloaks, I tackle him and aim for a bump, but it isn't enough and the ship jumps back.

While I was waiting, I did the background check of the corp. It's fairly active, but it rarely has more than 5 people in a fleet. And even then, mostly it's cruiser sized fights. I am confident that my fleet was a big surprise and they won't have any fleet assembled capable to fight it. I decide to go after the Scorpion.

I lock the ship before it manages to warp. Scorpion being Scorpion, jams my Proteus, but not before I get the positive locks with the Nestors. I can really feel the experience in multiboxing paying off. As long it's a gank of 1-2 ships, it usually goes flawlessly. The Scorpion explodes and a pod warps away.

Besides just being a t1 battleship, it's a nice addition to my collection. Not sure if I have even killed one before since I started stalking.