Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thank you, Gentle Reader

My name is Ka Jolo and I'm addicted to the rapacious initiation of force against space-faring vessels. I admit that even rookie pilots in rookie ships hold an unfortunate fascination for me. But I have to admit that with time, it takes more and more of a fight to give me that adrenaline rush at the intensity I crave. Velators and Ibis's, of course, give me a quick fix. Navitas's and Imicus's are fine for a snack. But even poorly skilled pilots piloting poorly fitted cruisers don't really do it for me as much as a dyed-in-the-wool PvP'er who knows what he's doing. There's nothing like the thrill of being locked in combat with an Incursus or--worse--a Rifter, when it's clear the pilot knows what he's doing, when I'm unpleasantly surprised at his DPS or tank, when his tactics startle me and doubt raises its ugly head.

Yesterday a Rifter jumped in on me as I was scanning some belts. I've learned to fear Rifters and their barrages of relentless, never-miss missiles. At the same time, I've learned that if I can get in close, they melt before the awesome destructive force of my Incursus' T2 guns, ammo, and drone. Since the Rifter locked me while still 50 km. away, I got out quick; I pictured wave after wave of incoming missiles while my close-range blasters sat on idle, waiting--too long--for their chance. But then the pilot mentioned he'd just read this blog, and thought I had more fight in me. I directed him to read again about my experience with Rifters; he good-naturedly referred to the parts where I speak of ships running away from my blinking redness, and avowed his intention of not depriving me of the action I so crave. Eventually I was able to jump in right on top of him--and he warped away before I could lock my scrammer on him. That sums up good PvP--each pilot trying to pick the fight to his own advantage, in terms of opponent, range, and conditions.

Today after an hour or two of fruitless hunting, I again stumbled over my canny adversary. There are only three systems with asteroid belts in Onne, and I could tell from my jump-in point that the Rifter was not in any of those around planet VIII. Planet VII had two belts, and Planet VI had but one. Rather than scanning the Rifter down, I decided to take a chance and warped directly to the VI-1 belt. The scanning process can turn into a cat-and-mouse game; but if I was lucky and my foe was at VI-1, I might be able to catch him by surprise.

Alas, he saw me in the system and greeted me in a friendly fashion. (Many pirates are quite courteous, greeting one another and thanking one another for a good fight and good loot from one another's wrecks.) I tried a nonchalant wave ( o/ ) in response, hoping he still wouldn't be expecting me to warp in on top of him within seconds.... And indeed, it looked I would be warping in right on top of him, as VI-1 and the Rifter both came within scanning range at the same moment. When I dropped out of warp space, the Rifter was less than 4,000 meters away; I had the computer try to lock on to my target as I set a close orbit and launched my drone.

As close as I was, I wasn't close enough to power up my blasters yet. As the range closed to 3,500, then 3,000, inching closer to the 2,000 I would need to have a chance of hitting, and the 1,000 I wanted to be able to really unleash my full fury, his missiles started to shake my Incursus like I was some kind of dog toy. I sent my lone drone ahead to start in on my foe, but by the time I engaged my blasters my shields were simply gone, and I was beginning to take damage to my armor.

My confidence shaken, yet by no means in despair, I anxiously watched for the effect my guns would have on the fight. Happily, they seemed to be working quite well. His shields melted, even as huge chunks of my armor were being blasted away. Then his armor begin to shred, even as mine held on, stubbornly protecting my hull barrage after barrage in spite of the pounding it was taking. We both got past the others' armor and into ship structure at about the same time; vital life-giving gases were bleeding into vacuum, brief flashes of light marked where explosives met not only fuel but also oxygen, and I knew I'd won this one. Though late, my DPS had the momentum and the Rifter blew up in a beautiful fireball while I still had about 85% structural integrity. Much too close for comfort, though!

I wanted this guy to have a personal experience with me that he would not soon forget, so I watched for my chance and managed to lock down his capsule. As my drone and guns did their dirty work, the pilot--now a pod pilot in an extra sense of the word--offered to pay. I asked for just 5M, more than most of my victims will pay but probably significantly less than his implants were worth, seeing as how he'd brought up the subject of ransom--and asked him to hurry, as my computer reported several more pilots making an appearance in the local system, one of them flagged to me as a special danger. As I combed the Rifter's wreckage for a nice set of usable T2 modules, my computer flashed that 5M had been added to my account. I thanked my worthy foe once again for a good fight, and we went our separate ways.

Respect to you, pilot; if I'd been just one more kilometer farther when I dropped from warp, I doubt I would have made it. And thanks again for a class-A hit of the good stuff.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ka-ching!

After blowing several ransom opportunities, I finally got my first ransom payment today.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I jumped into the busy system and saw a Retriever at a belt within scan range of my gate. In fact, I was sure it was a trap; but most of the others in local were macro courier mission runners, and I was hungry and willing to take a chance. I saw a variety of T1 drones on scan, so decided I would have to take those out first. I landed near the mining barge, and just one burst of my microwarpdrive took me within range to immobilize my primary target with a stasis webifier and a warp prohibiter. I then targeted a couple of drones and turned all my guns and my own trusty Hobgoblin II onto them, one at a time. By the time I'd popped the last drone, I was down to about 40% armor myself--but the Retriever had nothing left to give.

With my guns and combat drone now trained on the Retriever, his shields and armor dropped fast. He opened a comms line with me, but communicated in Russian. Holding my fire with my victim at about 5% structure, I simply replied, "5M," he replied "OK," and within 15 seconds I had my money.

5M ISK is not a lot, but I checked the market and saw buy orders for 4M and one selling for almost 6M; with my luck, any T2 strip miners would be destroyed with the wreck. So I'm happy with how things played out, and I hope the barge pilot is pleased he was able to save his ship. Now, has anybody seen a lone Hulk crawling the belts anywhere?

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Economics of T1 Frigate Piracy

Is there money to be made attacking vessels with a T1 frigate? You betcha.

First, consider the cost of my typical Incursus. I buy and sell most stuff with buy and sell orders in order to get better prices than are usually going at market rates. Also, these figures don't factor in insurance, which would reduce my costs even more:

Incursus 90,000 ISK
3x Light Ion II Blasters 316,500
1mn Microwarpdrive 27,500
Faint Epsilon Warp Prohibitor 15,000
"Langour" Drive Disruptor 5,000
Micro Auxillary Power Core 45,000
200mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plate 45,000
Hobgoblin II 80,000
========
TOTAL 624,000 ISK

Now, the loot I manage to extract from the wreckage of my typical target is nowhere near this valuable. I can generally expect to sell whatever modules I may find for a couple of hundred thousand ISK. But then, I don't lose my frigate every time I attack a vessel on one of the belts, either. And there are enough vessels with T2 fittings or a special cargo that all my lost frigates have been paid for, many times over.

The typical mining barge, for example, drops at least one Strip Miner; even the T1 variant goes for over 1M ISK, and many barges fit T2's. It is not uncommon to kill a ship with some T2 modules, whether guns or shield boosters or some such; some T2 drones can be sold for over 1M ISK each. Finally, I have looted a packaged Covetor from cargo (18M), and had the pilot of a Thorax abandon his ship (6M) before I destroyed it, giving himself a better chance of escaping with his implants (he did).

So T1 frigate piracy: profitable. It remains to be seen whether I can continue to make money pirating in a cruiser. It doesn't look promising right now--I've lost 2 Thoraxes in as little as 3 minutes after fitting out the new vessel (jumped by an interceptor while scanning belts). Also, compared to my experience with frigates, in a Thorax I feel like I draw a lot more attention from the hungry pirates higher on the food chain. But I'm just starting out in cruisers; we'll see how it goes after I gain more experience and grow into the class more.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Fortune favors the daring!

...and so, apparently, does misfortune.

Yes, my reckless disregard for convention has racked me up some nice kills, including cruisers and even a battlecruiser. Experience has taught me that the element of surprise is a powerful weapon. I have learned that many pilots in lowsec are inept and inexperienced, new pilots in particular but often pilots who should know better.

But that disregard for convention has also got me killed. Yesterday, it got me killed three times in less than 24 hours--with no victories on my part to balance things out.

First, I spied a Rifter in one of the system asteroid belts. Now, Rifters are known as probably the best T1 solo PvP frigate, and this one, I could deduce, was being piloted by a pro. Still, I could always hope that by jumping him unexpectedly I would get the edge I'd need, right? So I jumped him. And he killed me.

Second, shortly after I left the space station a Vexor appeared. I checked my databases, and the pilot appeared to be brand new--only 5 days old. Knowing I was flashing red on his overview due to my outlaw status, I thought I'd try to entrap him into firing on me--giving me the right to shoot back, right under the station sentry guns. It was a long wait. Finally, he targeted me. To encourage him, I went into my tight orbit around his ship. Then his drones appeared (dang, he actually did have drones and was going to use them...gulp). Then he attacked. I was soon dead. For a five-day-old noob, he seemed to know what he was doing. How does a five-day-old noob end up in a Vexor (Gallente Frigate IV, Spaceship Command III, Gallente Cruiser II) that deploys 5 drones (Drones V) and T2 neutron blasters (Small Hybrid Turret V, Motion Prediction III, and Small Blaster Specialization)? How does he afford the Vexor, the guns, the drones? I checked again, only to confirm he was indeed just 5 days old. The rascal garnered himself the honor of being the first so far to pop my capsule, too, as lag attacked my computer. I lost four basic implants!

Finally, I managed to get the jump on a Caracal on one of the belts, ratting. I did my thing, he did his--and I died, leaving him with just 12.5% left in his structure. He chewed right through my shields, already damaged by some belt rats, but slowed down working through my armor; I on the other hand struggled to break his shield tank, then melted his armor away at a brisker pace. I could have escaped, as he wasn't scramming me, but I wanted to see if I could take him. Although he was inexperienced (he claims this was his first PvP), he had plenty of highsec mission experience, he didn't panic, he was appropriately fit, and he was in a cruiser. Respect to him.

She was looking kinda dumb with her finger and her thumb in the shape of an "L" on her forehead. --Smash Mouth

Thursday, November 8, 2007

I LOVE my Incursus!

I love my Incursus; she's just such a sweet little baby. Consider my solo kills while flying the trusty Jousting Junebug:

Caldari Shuttle
Velator

Alright, no surprises here. These ships are basically defenseless. Still, they're quick, and not always easy to pin down.

Bestower
Iteron Mark III
Retriever
Hulk (would have preferred to ransom this one)

These industrial ships and mining barges are preferred targets for pirates. I wanted to ransom that Hulk, but didn't realize there was a password on my ransom channel. He may not wanted to have cooperate, anyway, judging by the obscene names he was calling me as he fell apart. These sorts of ships are for hauling or mining, not fighting; still, they can field a full complement of combat drones, can be fit to tank well, etc. Certainly I've lost more than one ship to a mining barge acting as bait for stealth bombers and recon ships.

Imicus
Incursus (never been up against one fitted like mine, though, AFAIK)
Inquisitor
Tristan

Other T1 frigates have not posed much of a problem to me. I tried to jump a Punisher once that just sat there; after several minutes, I could see that he could dink me down to dead before I'd begin to make a dent in his tank, so I left. I'm glad he didn't have a scrambler fitted! I've tried to engage several Kestrels, Merlins, and Rifters, but until now they've managed to elude me.

Catalyst

Catalysts aren't tough ships, but these destroyers can bring to bear up to 8 fast-tracking frigate-eating guns. I've generally not hesitated to attack destroyers, counting on the element of surprise, but feel better if I can do it with a wingman.

Rupture
Stabber
Thorax
Vexor

Now we're talking cruisers. Nor are these the easiest prey among the cruiser class--on the contrary, they represent the most feared of the cruiser-class vessels. Rather, I was astonished to find pilots so new they could hardly be expected to use their ship effectively; they may have known how to steer a cruiser around, but I had little to worry from the T2 drones, tanks, and resists such vessels are known for. I didn't worry much about their guns, either, as I managed to get under the heavy guns such inexperienced pilots tend to fit.

Brutix

I engaged one of these battlecruisers earlier in my career, against an inexperienced pilot, and was handily defeated by his combination of guns, drones, and tank. Even T1 small guns, drones, and tank make this a ship to be feared by any T1 frigate. However, a few weeks later another Brutix jumped in on me (see earlier story), and as the pilot was still quite inexperienced I risked it--and won!

My cruiser and battlecruiser kills illustrate why the conventional wisdom is that one should "grow into" a ship before risking it in PvP combat. I, an inexperienced pilot, was still able to fly my simple frigate great advantage; while they, just as inexperienced, were unable to scratch the potential of the ships they helmed. I hope my victims did not also ignore the adage, "Don't fly a ship you can't afford to lose!"

(To see all my killmails, click here or on the link in the sidebar.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Stuck in Hevrice...

...what with all the targets milling about and cargo to loot.

First, I was happy to find an Imicus appear on my scanners at asteroid belt 4-1. He seemed to be mining, as two mining drones also showed on my screen. I'll take it! But as I warped in, the Imicus was 30km away and easily escaped before I could get him within range of my 7.5km warp scrambler. Dang. Back to the hunt, and off I warp...

...But wait, what about those drones? I direct my scanner back to the belt I just left, and sure enough the mining drones were left behind. So I turn around and head back. Doing a 360 as I approach the drones, I see another Incursus is now showing--and just then the Incursus warps into the belt I'm at! It's the Imicus pilot, back with a combat ship to defend his ore and reclaim his drones. We close with one another and go at it toe-to-toe, but it's soon clear my foe is inexperienced in PvP and my superior skills and fit win the field. After making sure he'll have to buy a new med clone, I loot his wreck, scoop up his drones, and bookmark his jetcan for good measure. Then it's off to a safespot.

Checking again, I see I am not globally flagged a criminal! The other guy must have acted against me before I acted against him. Cool! I head back to a planet to scan for more targets...unfortunately, all I see is a Brutix. Yikes. I head back to the station to unload my loot and make some repairs.

As I leave the station, I see my recent victim is back, this time in (I rub my eyes to be sure) an Iteron. No doubt he's just going to make a run for the station. I head to a planet to scan the belts.

Now things get interesting. Both the Iteron and the Brutix are at the site of my recent combat. Could the Iteron be back for the ore, with me still in the system? No doubt his friend in the Brutix is there for security. Still, I have bookmarked the jetcan, and they may have some distance to travel; I decide to warp in and check it out. As I cruise into the asteroid belt, the Brutix blips on my overview, then just as quickly blips off; he's left the Iteron alone--maybe even to go hunt me down!

I seize the day, and in moments the Iteron is dead (though this time the capsule escapes). No loot for me there--everything was destroyed in the explosion. Oh well. Then suddently--What's this?--the Brutix is back. I've established by now that this Brutix is a one-month-old pilot, but still. I'm only two months old myself, and I've been pwned by a new pilot in a Brutix before. Still, he's not doing anything, I don't see any drones, maybe I can test him out...MWD engaged, I plot a tight orbit around the Brutix and cross my fingers.

As I approach, I take some nasty salvos of railgun fire, but soon enough I'm under his guns, orbiting at under 1km, and not taking any more damage with 70% shields remaining. My three t2 Light Ion Blasters and humble t1 Hobgoblin drone begin to chip away at the Brutix's respectable tank. Apparently none of his drones are going to show up for this fight. By the time his shields are down it's obvious I have this guy; I invite him to my ransom channel. I demand 20M ISK and he readily agrees. (Just then two cruiser-class NPC's appear on the overview, so I know I have to keep things moving.)

About 15 seconds into the 30-second ransom window, my victim asks how to pay me. I direct him to the instructions in my ransom channel's MOTD, and tell him he has 15 seconds left. He asks me to stop shooting. Hey, this guy could have friends, and besides, I see one of the belt rats trying to target me. At the appropriate time, I tell him he's dead unless I see the money show in my account before then. He never does figure out how to pay me, and he dies. The belt rats are so pitiful in their DPS I go ahead and loot the Brutix wreck (shield tanking modules???), grab some ore from the jetcan, and head for my safe spot--with about 80% shields. Ha!

The Brutix pilot, after buying a new med clone, started chatting with me in my ransom channel. It turns out he was not with the Imicus/Incursus/Iteron pilot, but was hoping to jump him, then later came back hoping to jump me. He took things well, and was full of questions about piracy, ships, fittings, etc. I pointed him to some good sources of information and we went our way, friends. (Assuming friends will kill your battlecruiser, take your loot, then pop your capsule while they're at it.)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Revenge is sweet!

Not everyone enjoys being victimized by pirates; sometimes people fight back. Over the past few days I'd lost two frigates to pilots who laid traps for the likes of me. I would see a poor defenseless mining barge alone in an asteroid belt, warp to his location, then begin my attack. Things would start to go badly for me as a ship I hadn't seen would uncloak, target me, and start chewing me up.

Today as I scanned the asteroid belts in my favorite hunting grounds, I saw both of the pilots who got me in this way present, along with a pilot who had been the "bait." I called on some corp mates for backup, and we came up with a plan to turn the trap around.

My allies waited in their interceptors on the other side of a jump gate while I, having proved my susceptibility to such traps a couple of times already, pinpointed the location of the bait ship--today a juicy Hulk, a T2 mining barge. As I warped to his asteroid belts, my mates jumped into the solar system. I "tackled" the Hulk (I slowed him down with my stasis webifier and scrambled his warp drive so he couldn't get away) and opened fire, and sure enough a Nemesis appeared nearby, attacking me in turn. My mates arrived and attacked the Nemesis as my structure gave way, and I made a run for it in my capsule. As I fled, I saw an Arazu appear in the asteroid belt, the third member of the three-man trap. Attending to my comms from a safe spot, I watched with satisfaction as the Nemesis, Hulk, and Arazu were neatly despatched.

Including the Incursus I lost in this action the Nemesis and Arazu pilots had killed 3 of my frigates; factoring in insurance, I figure that cost me around 3 million ISK. My share of the booty today from our turning the trap around? 15 million ISK. Sweet.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Gah! A taste of my own medicine

Last night I ganked a T2 Hulk, hauling in millions of ISK in modules for my courtesy. Oh, how I savored that! Today, I got a taste of my own medicine.

I had some buy orders up in highsec space for supplies: several more Incursus frigates, some T2 guns, ammo, modules, etc. In addition to fitting more frigates for the day I'll need them, I am starting to gather the fittings for my next ship, the famed Thorax cruiser; so I had some T2 guns and fittings for some of those as well. On a friend's account, and using his Bestower, I loaded up a cargo-hold full of goodies and headed to my home system, a lowsec system just adjacent to highsec space.

Now, I'm used to zipping around lowsec without too many worries. In my frigate, I tend not to get caught at game camps and what not. Frigates are fast, and probably often deemed not worth tanking sentry guns for. Bestowers, on the other hand, are slow industrial ships. My complacency reared up its ugly head and bit me.

I got that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomache as soon as I jumped in to lowsec. Two Drakes were sitting a dozen kilometers away. Not good. Still, I was cloaked, and with any luck at all I'd be in warp before they could scram me. So I targeted my station (I could see home from here!), and by engaging my warp engines I dropped cloak. Heartbeats went by, and I was gratified to see my heads-up display indicating that warp engines had engaged. Then, sickeningly, I saw one of the Drakes targeting me...lock me...saw text informing me that I couldn't warp because my engines were scrambled. I knew right then that I was doomed.

So, Yes! I can dish it out. Just know that I can take it, too. I lost millions of ISK when my friend's Bestower went down (and I'll have to reimburse him for that). But I didn't whine, I didn't threaten, I went to my fate stoicly (if by "stoicly" one means frantically stabbing at the "dock" icon, hoping to save one's capsule). I maintained my dignity. No ransom was asked or offered (my cargo wasn't worth that much ISK).

It was gratifying to overhear in local, as I licked my wounds in the station, that my aggression-flagged attackers were themselves ganked, greedily picking over my cargo as they continued to take fire from the sentry guns. And so goes the circle of death in EVE space....

The last I saw of my wreck, there were still three Incursus frigates in the hold, too large for any of us to salvage.