Saturday, July 3, 2021

Story Time

Let me tell you a story that has been overdue for quite some time. Sit back, relax, grab a drink and enjoy the ride.

From time to time when I visit high-sec I like to check the killboard for Mobile Tractor Unit (MTU) kills. There are always people around the high-sec who engage in MTU pvp. There are roughly 2 types of pilots that you will frequently see on the killboard with MTU kills. Pilots that only destroy MTUs and do nothing else, for whatever reason. And pilots that shoot MTUs to bait mission runners into shooting them, otherwise known as ninja salvaging. When I look at the killboard, I am first and foremost interested in the first type of pilots. Sometimes those pilots fly unreasonably expensive ships to shoot a deployed structure that doesn't shoot back. So once I am in high-sec I scan through the killboard to identify potential opportunities for a hunt outside w-space. While there are a lot of MTU kills happening in high-sec it is actually quite difficult to find someone using an expensive ship with consistent and frequent kills in an area that is not some ridiculous 50 jumps out.

After browsing through the killboard history a few days back, I do not manage to find any potential targets that would excite me. However, there were a couple of notable pilots that always kept catching my eye when looking at MTU kills. Those pilots were Captain544 and Burntime. Both pilots operated in different regions and were very active. However, there is one caveat: they belong to a ninja salvaging category of pilots that shoot MTU to bait the aggression from the mission runners. As someone who dabbles in ninja salvaging myself, I am not particularly excited about shooting my own kind. Nevertheless, I feel "ninja salvagers don't shoot each other" is more a code of a past than the present. Maybe it was never a code, to begin with, but all I know we used to have quite an active community that helped each other, shared stories, and laughs. Now, myself and maybe 1 or 2 other pilots are the most you will see sitting in the Ninja Dojo channel. I decided to bend my self-imposed rules and mark everyone not a part of the channel as a fair game.

The hunt, part 1

Now that I have the targets, it's time to begin the hunt. There is a lot you can tell about a pilot looking at his killboard. You can often read between the lines and build a profile. I realize that this will not be a simple matter of deploying an MTU, parking the cloaked Proteus, and killing the target once inevitably my MTU gets scanned at shot at. No. For one thing, both pilots like to fly Nergal as the main baiting ship, which is a frigate, and highly unlikely I will catch any of them unaware, lock and tackle in time. Furthermore, pilots are more interested in baiting mission runners than shooting unattended MTUs, which means I will actually have to do some roleplay and do missions as bait. Third, both pilots do have an active pvp history outside high-sec and are very likely to do a killboard check on me. While I have mostly wormhole kills, it might smell suspicious of me doing high-sec missions, which is one pve activity I have never done. No, for this I will need to be a little bit creative. Instead of using my main accounts, I decided to put my trader alts to work. I have been slowly training some pvp skills on them on the off chance I will need some additional utility beyond selling and buying items in trade hubs. And it seems the time has come.

As a Gallente fan to the end, my ship of choice. of course, is a Dominix. A frequently used battleship in mission runner circles. The fact that I don't even have skills for t2 drones will add an additional level of charm. As a ninja salvager myself, I would dive in without much thought to a clean killboard character with t1 drones shooting mission rats. I set up 2 traders to bait both pilots in their respective regions simultaneously. While pilots are operating in an area, their pattern is a little bit unpredictable so I need to cover as much ground as I can. I move to the mission hub of the area, add red standings to my targets and keep an eye on a local with the intention of starting my mission as soon as I see any of them. As watchlist no longer shows if the pilot is logged in or not (lol, ancient history) I have to keep an eye on killboard, local, and locator agents for the best chance of "accidentally meeting" them in the system.

It all starts with Burntime. I spot him in local first and immediately accept the first mission and get to work.


Ah, high-sec local, it's always lovely to see friendly social banters or scams. Some things will never change. It doesn't take very long and my Dominix catches the attention of "someone" as I spot combat probes on the short-range scanner.


Alright, here we go. I wait and wait, but nobody warps to me. Finally I see a Nergal pop on scan, just outside the accelerator gate.


Everything is going according to the plan so far. Now all I need is for him to warp in and shoot my MTU. I impatiently wait for the Nergal to show on the overview, but instead, he disappears from the d-scan altogether. It confuses me. Soon after a Vexor shows up, all flashy up in my face.


How disappointing. I am not about to waste my clean character and all that setup just to get a Vexor kill. Nergal is a ship I am after as it often tends to be pimped in order to kill more tanked mission runners. A Vexor, probably fully t2 fit doesn't excite me as much. I decide to warp off and try again in another mission. After all, not all is lost. I know he is using Nergal as the primary baiting ship, but he must be cautious of using it against drone battleships.

Unexpected guest

While on another mission I get an uninvited guest. A Praxis warps in.


What's the big idea here? Certainly can't be a ninja baiting with a battleship. That would be the first. He doesn't get flagged and just sits there. I finish killing the rats and continue to chill. He sits, I sit, we both sit. After quite a bit of sitting involved, I decided to finally break the silence.


I get an immediately obnoxious response. Clearly, the guy is in the system for the same reason I am, probably even the same target. I do my best not to break the act. I don't need anyone to be aware of my business. Despite obnoxious attitude, the guy doesn't seem to be able to put 2 and 2 together and come to the conclusion why would I be also sitting in the same, empty mission as if I was waiting for someone. Then again, I've seen a lot of strange mission runners so anything is possible. Logic doesn't always have its place in mission hubs.

After few more tries and still getting the Vexor visit me instead of a Nergal, I let my hands down and did not have many expectations from mr. Burntime. Perhaps I need to revisit in a somewhat smaller ship, but not in the mood now as my other target just became active.

The hunt, part 2

Captain544 is in the house.


He starts about his day and off goes to terrorize the surrounding systems while I warp to my first mission. I must say, it is not going as straightforward as I'd hoped. While I do see him flash in local, I can't seem to get mr. Captain544 give me a visit. Checking killboard I even see MTU kills, ship kills, yet I have to meet him in my mission. I would see probes in the system, but suddenly he would just warp to another system. While he did operate in the area, he would often be 3 jumps one system or another, away from the mission hub. Frantically using locators and warping around the systems I did my best to wiggle my tail in front of his face. Otherwise, what is the point of me doing a mission if Captain544 is not there to find me in it? I stick with my pattern and do some most serious mission running since I joined this game. I also avoid staying still in an empty mission to look more legit. Back and forth I work, as a slave in a mine digging in hopes of finding that precious diamond. My diamond being Captain544 flashy in my overview.


One thing my blog readers know about me is that I am patient. Once I set my eyes on something or someone I'll spend a lot of effort in trying my best to get it. It's the thrill of the hunt, there's nothing like it for me. Finally, my d-scan fills with promising results.



Here we go. Let's see if the story will take a different path than the one with Burntime. I will be damned, it does! Captain544 is straight to business kind of guy. He warps straight in and gets to work without delay, all flashy orbiting my Dominix.


I take my time to lock him and unleash everything I have. I have only one chance and I came prepared. I used my unallocated sp to finish t2 drone training, use drones to match his resist hole, added a heavy stasis grappler, heavy neutralizer, and small blasters as a cherry on the cake. The pain train, the anti-frigate killing machine was ready.


The fight was swift. Under heavy neut pressure and heavy tackle, Nergal did not have many options and soon gave in, despite putting up a reasonable fight, all things considered. I did one fitting mistake as I used MWD which was disabled and Nergal was slowly making distance with the risk of getting outside webifier range. However, drones did manage to do their work. I loot and shoot the wreck and the only thing that is left on the overview is Captain544's link Tengu alt angrily staring at me.


I was also happy with the killmail. While from value perspective zkillboard estimates 600mil, with few abyssal mods I believe it's not unreasonable to expect it to be closer to 800 or even 1bil. 



Regardless, it's not about the value of the kill, but the kill itself and, of course, the hunt. What makes this special to me is that Captain544 has an insane 95% killboard efficiency. His losses for 2021 you can count on your hands' fingers and unlike myself, he is a much more active pilot. Almost 3 months have passed and my alt is still a proud owner of his last loss and the only "expensive" loss for 2021, more so when it comes to high-sec. Honestly, this was one of the main drivers behind this hunt. It's mostly about the sentimental value.


The aftermath

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After the dust has settled we exchanged a few words.


To tell the truth, the outcome where I just threw my hands and went on my own merry way was very close. I was struggling in getting Captain544 to visit me in my mission. And while a story may look like all was quick, it took me almost a week to set everything up, stalk, wait and strike both for Burntime and Captain544. Of course, since I used my trader alts, I was free to use my main accounts for stalking wormholes as usual, but that is still an extra effort spent.


Captain544 mentioned his Tengu does have a ship scanner and I was lucky enough to have my fit concealed. Clean toon with no pvp history was the key aspect that made this bait successful. As anticipated in the beginning, my bet paid off of not using the main account.


Also, stars have aligned to me this fight. I realized I did not train thermodynamics and because I was MWD fit, if Captain544 kept scram and pulsed afterburner he could have escaped, especially when his Tengu with links landed shortly after. We exchange few extra words and part ways in a friendly manner.


Since our parting, it seems Captain544 continues to have tremendous success in high-sec with a replaced Nergal as also destroying ships in low-sec. I wish him well and to continue to be an inspiration for ninja salvagers around. Burntime has since also moved to low-sec and is enjoying active and successful pvp. As for me, due to my new parental responsibilities, I find myself a very limited time available to focus on EVE. In addition, with cloaking and interdiction nullification nerfs it looks like afk cloaky style of Cloaky Bastard might have come to an end. I have yet to decide what impact that will have on me. The future will tell.

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