As I continue to invest training time in basic skills, I am enjoying the growing confidence I feel in piloting ships I already know how to fly. The Thorax is a case in point: when I first flew it, I felt rather uncomfortable. Whatever advantage it gave me in terms of firepower, I felt insecure, as though a large target was painted on me. I still fly a new-pilot-fitted Thorax, with small neutron blasters and heavy armor. But now, with my cap skills and navigation skills and gunnery skills and drone skills and mechanic skills and electronic skills and other un-sexy skills all honed to a high degree, when flying a Thorax I feel a sense of calm assurance. While high-tech scout drones help make any Thorax a DPS machine, when flying solo the combination of Thorax + EWAR drones for jamming one's enemy is a winning one.
This confidence is reflected in my choice of ships to attack. I do not hesitate to attack any assault frigate, and have never lost a cruiser to one. I will engage any T1 cruiser. My confidence is not in final victory, to be sure, but rather in the probability that I will either prevail or escape--often bringing my EC drones with me.
A couple of days ago I spied a suitably inexperienced Myrmidon pilot ratting in Ouelletta. After being very sure of the other pilots in the system--for Ouelletta's reputation as a pirate fishing barrel is gaining luster as an anti-pirate fishing barrel--I set a course for his belt. In moments, my target was webbed and scrammed, and my work was begun. As I had hoped, he only managed to field four T1 drones against me; a competent Myrmidon pilot, with a full complement of T2 drones, would have run me off. Shrugging off the guns of his drones, I began slowly working through the battlecruiser's shields, armor, and structure. I made some inquiries along the lines of ransom, but true to form, my target's decision to fly a battlecruiser into lowsec for a little ratting coincided with the depletion of his financial resources.
A battlecruiser, however, has a lot of shields, armor, and structure to work through--even when piloted by a rookike; soon I was out of cap. Carefully husbanding my energy resources to keep the supremely-important point on my target, I eventually wore him down, at times firing just a single blaster, at times none at all.
Now don't be thinking any Thorax can kill any Myrmidon--I had quite a different experience earlier today. This time I warped to a Myrmidon at a belt in Hevrice; this time the Myrmidon was well-fit and well-flown. I was greeted by five T2 drones, none of which seemed to have any trouble tracking my Thorax and giving it what-for. Not long after getting into armor and seeing how useless my armor repairing was going to be, I started trying to warp away. Nope, scrammed. Still scrammed. Half armor, still scrammed. Quarter armor, still scrammed. Finally, as the last of my armor gave out, my Vespa EC-600's met with some success, and my warp drives engaged. Once it looked like I was getting away, I recalled my drones, and was gratified to see them all make it back snug in their bays before my Thorax got out of Dodge. I barely scratched this Myrmidon--seriously, he had more than 95% of his shields left when I fled--but I was glad to be flying a ship that could get away.
A drone boat like the Myrmidon is a formidable opponent to a Thorax with ECM drones, but gunboats don't have a weapons system independent of their targeting ability. For this reason I've been especially keen on finding a target such as a Hurricane; today, I got something almost as good--a Ferox. I first encountered the ship at a gate, where I pretended not to see him; as an outlaw, I'm fair game at gates, while the sentry guns would take his side should I shoot first. He didn't shoot me, so I pretended I wasn't hunting and warped through first. In the next system, I noted the Ferox's presence, and so in the next; I nosed around a little at the belts, but didn't see the Ferox make itself vulnerable.
Finally, I jumped into Murethand--and there the Ferox was, at the only asteroid belt in scan range! I sat on my hands, though, not touching the controls as a recon ship was at the gate; but as soon as it warped out of the system, I was warping to that belt. I tackled the Ferox and deployed my drones, but he got off a nice alpha strike against me, wiping out most of my shields in a single volley. I was committed, and all I could do was wait and see whether my ECM drones could shut him down long enough for me to do my dirty work. The pilot was not part of any combat organization I recognized, so I crossed my fingers, set a close orbit, and hoped for the best. Remembering my Myrmidon kill, I watched my cap closely, and turned off my stasis webifier once it was clear my target wasn't going to be running off.
In the end, I needn't have worried; I may have taken one more volley of damage, but it wasn't nearly as devastating, and I still had plenty of cap left when the Ferox exploded. As usual when I attack a battlecruiser with a small-blaster cruiser I had plenty of time to raise the subject of ransom; and as usual when I find a battlecruiser at an asteroid belt in lowsec, my target was broke. I locked the capsule and killed the pilot, sending him perhaps to a clone in a galaxy far, far away.
I'm still aiming to be a fully-specced heavy assault cruiser pilot, but that's not going to happen for 3-4 months at least. For now, I'm glad I went back and gave the cheap and effective Thorax-class cruiser another chance. And you! The guy waiting until you can fly a battlecruiser before you go to lowsec! I'm looking for you!