Sunday, September 28, 2008

Don't "Count" on it

Note: The following account concerns some of my encounters with Count MonteCarlo, a pilot who has since been accused of being a corp scammer. I was not at all pleased to hear of what he and Feline Ferocity allegedly did to their Ministry of Destruction corpmates. While I can't help but recognize his combat prowess, I no longer feel that New Eden needs more pilots like him.

"We have a target at a belt. He is at belt II-1. All pilots stand by; on my order, jump in and proceed immediately to asteroid belt II-1, or warp directly to me. Ready...Jump! Jump! Jump! And warp immediately to belt II-1!" I warped to II-1 ahead of my fleet; by the time our target registered the spike in local, with any luck at all I would be tackling him.

I've written about many fights, but this one is special. It took place in Ouelletta, a lowsec system adjacent to highsec space, a frequent stop for miners and ratters curious about the riches of lowsec--and therefore a frequent stop for pirates who prey on unfortunate young miners and ratters. So nothing special there. I was flying a Crow, scouting for a fleet of Tusker pilots flying an Ishkur, a Taranis, a Rupture, a Stabber, and a Hurricane; well, actually, that's special--it was the biggest Tusker fleet I've yet flown with--but that's not what really made this fight special to me. What really makes this fight a Big Deal is the pilot we were up against.

His name is Count MonteCarlo. The Count and I have a history. I knew him first as a killboard-whore-of-a-corpmate, when I flew with the Ministry of Destruction; rarely were we flying in the same area at the same time, but I was impressed with the sheer number of kills this guy could rack up. Consider official MOD reports for week 30, for example, or week week 31 of this year; I mean seriously--over 50 kills in a single week? (I notice by the way that although my killmails remain, the name Ka Jolo has been expunged from all awards and top pilot reports on the Ministry of Destruction killboard. I haven't seen that before from other corporations from which I've resigned.)

But it has been as a rival that I've come to respect Count MonteCarlo best. I have the unfortunate habit of consistently underestimating him. Consider: my Crow vs. his Claw; my Crow vs. his Rupture--and then again, because I had my orbit set wrong the first time; and finally, my Taranis against his Thrasher. It seems every time I think I can beat him--I'm wrong; I'd lost every single engagement against MonteCarlo. Nor am I the only Tusker to suffer loss at his hands--by my count, this single pilot had 13 Tusker kills coming into tonight's engagement. The Count accomplishes what many pirates try unsuccessfully to do: he gets fights because he's underestimated, and in getting those fights he gets kills.

You can imagine, then, what kind of thoughts filled my head as my Crow warped to his position at asteroid belt II-1 in Ouelletta. Excitement: Could I be on the verge of my first victory against The Count? Fear: Was this a trap? Had I just underestimated him again? Was I leading my fleet to certain doom? Anticipation: This was going to be fun!

I dropped out of warp, and the fight was on. We locked one another, and I hurried to activate my microwarpdrive to hit my chosen orbit at top speed. Before I even launched my first missiles, all of my shields were depleted and most of my armor was worthless. I think I knew right then that it would be up to my corpmates to successfully prosecute this fight, if indeed we were to succeed. In fact, I immediately entered a destination for my escape capsule--and by the time I had my destination selected, I was already in that capsule; I felt glad to escape. As I warped away, Count MonteCarlo held the field.

My senses contracted, and only my hearing registered; I strained to hear radio reports from my mates.

"He's here! He's looting Jolo's wreck!"

"I don't have a point on him!"

"I'm trying to get in range; he's fast!"

"Does anybody have a point on him?" I asked, desperate.

"Burn Mac does."

"I do," some other pilot reported.

"We're getting him down," yet another Tusker assured me.

"I lost my point!"

"I lost target! He got out of range!"

"Point!"

"We got him!"

"Get his pod!"

"He got out!"

Heart pounding, I smiled as a sense of peace swept over me. It may have taken six Tuskers and the loss of my Crow, but we had killed Count MonteCarlo and his dreaded Thrasher! (What, you were expecting some other ship?) Somehow, it felt like a victory.

Within 60 minutes of our engagement, The Count had destroyed two more ships--including another Tusker. Sigh.

Will I underestimate Count MonteCarlo again? Probably. Will I ever get on the good side of a killmail against him again? I sure hope so. But I have to admire his kind of combat pilot. New Eden needs more like him.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

What a year may bring forth

It's been a little over a year now since I mustered out of the Caldari Special Ops and returned to my ancestral home in the Saisio system, only to find my family killed and my home a smoking ruin. On September 15 of last year, I vowed to devote my energies to disrupting the smooth operations of business and government, throwing violence and plunder in their faces until perchance someone might wake up and make New Eden once again safe for peaceful families such as were the Achura inventors.

After an unexpected interlude educating myself to fly the ships of my chosen line, I set out looking for trouble. Almost exactly a year ago--on September 28--trouble caught me looking. Undeterred, I persisted in my evil intentions, and within the week I made my first unsanctioned kill. Since then, I've neither looked back nor wavered in my resolve.

I ingratiated myself into covert gangs of grizzled veterans, at various times over the past year flying under the banner of the Sanguine Legion, the Black Rabbits, and the Ministry of Destruction--notorious names one and all. I soaked up arcane knowledge--tricks of the infernal trade--learning from masters the setting of traps and ambushes, the basics of dogfighting, how to engage and how to evade; and all the while, my soul has soaked up the blood of innocents (and the not-too-innocent). You may not have heard of me in those days, O reader, but I began making a name for myself. Recently, my own stubborn independence and purpose led me to strike out from those old gangs, gathering some few mates around me, leader of a band of promising young like-minded brigands. They call us the Tuskers. (Apply here.)

And now, though I am far from the most feared pirate in space, though there are many whose tungsten steel and weapons systems and engines and numbers render them safe from anything I can bring, there are few who are as committed as I to death and destruction, as merciless, as cold. But how effective? As I pondered what this year has brought forth, I pored over my ledgers and official reports of my many engagements to see what I could learn. For now, I stare at a page of numbers. What to make of them?

Financially, I have little to show. Although I've looted modules from my victims' wrecks, and those modules have brought me hundreds and hundreds of millions of ISK on the markets, the risks of my chosen profession mean I myself have left over a billion ISKs worth of wreckage drifting in space. Thankfully, my investments in the markets have fared better, keeping me always with ships in the hangar.

As of this writing, records indicate I have made 858 kills and suffered 140 losses. BattleClinic currently ranks me number 4,688 in space, and finds each of my kills weightier than each of my losses, giving me an adjusted success ratio of 408% (11:1). I'm pretty sure I don't follow that math. After spending hours trying to make sense of all the statistics, I finally decided to tabulate only the action reports where I and just one other pilot are recorded; this doesn't correspond neatly to 1-on-1 solo engagements, as one might think, but it's as close as I can get.

Early in my career, I specialized in flying frigates of the Incursus class. While not generally considered the best combat frigate in space, I have found the Incursus reliable and deadly, and I still keep one or two in my hangar, and I still take them out now and then to execute my deadly business. In an Incursus have a kill-loss record against other low-tech frigates of 70-4. I'm 10-0 against rookie ships and shuttles, 28-0 vs. destroyers, 10-1 vs. mining and industrial ships, and 22-12 against low-tech cruisers. Ships I've not fared so well against include battlecruisers (2-4), an interceptor (0-1), stealth bombers (0-3), and battleships (0-2). Overall I'm 142-27 in an Incursus; 87 of those kills I followed up by also killing the poor pilot's capsule.

After flying nothing but an Incursus for six weeks, I started experimenting with cruisers. At that early stage in my skill development, I liked the Vexor best; compared with an Incursus, a Vexor seemed to have a beast of a tank and great offensive capability. My most glorious battle to date remains the one from last December where, less than three months after mustering out of the Caldari military, I defeated four ships in my Vexor--including an assault frigate and an inteceptor. I compiled a 20-5 solo combat record in my Vexor: 2-0 vs. rookie ships and shuttles, 1-0 vs. frigates, 3-0 vs. destroyers, 3-0 vs. miners and industrial ships, 7-1 vs. cruisers, 2-0 vs. assault frigates, 1-1 vs. interceptors, 1-2 vs. battlecruisers, and 0-1 vs. heavy assault ships. Six of my 20 victims lost their capsules to my drones soon after ejecting. I didn't find Vexors particularly feasible from an economic standpoint, however, and have rarely flown them since checking them out.

Apparently I got caught once flying an Imicus, a ship I generally use for hauling loot around in lowsec; so let me say here that I am 0-1 vs. assault frigates when flying an Imicus.

I continued to prefer Incursus frigates in general over a cruiser, up until around February. At that point I received my Interceptor pilot rating, and mastered the Taranis-class Gallente interceptor. I racked up a 113-13 kill-loss record in a Taranis, and further locked on to 86 fleeing capsules to drop the pilots back into their clones. Against frigates, 46-0; 2-0 against rookie ships and shuttles; 23-1 vs. destroyers; 30-9 vs. cruisers; 8-0 vs. miners and industrial ships; 1-0 vs. assault frigates; 2-1 vs. battlecruisers; 1-1 vs. interceptors; and 0-1 against stealth bombers. Those are some nice ratios, but when I lose a Taranis, that's a lot of ISK out the airlock!

Dissatisfied actually with the Taranis interceptor as an interceptor, I flew it more like a super-Incursus, and gained the skill to pilot the Crow class interceptor. I like the Crow, but use it more in gangs, so don't have much of a solo record to go by. That combat record is 18-7, plus 9 capsules killed. 2-0 against rookie ships and shuttles, 11-1 against frigates, 4-0 vs. destroyers, 1-2 vs. cruisers, 0-1 against interceptors, 0-1 vs. battlecruisers, 0-1 vs. heavy assault ships, and 0-1 against force recon ships. The Crow's low DPS, while admirable for an interceptor, just isn't enough to support a real impressive solo record. I believe I probably lost ISK when flying solo in Crows.

By May, my support skills were approaching respectable, and I re-discovered cruisers, this time favoring the famed Thorax class of Gallente cruiser. For many purposes, a Thorax remains my ship of choice today; it's inexpensive and deadly. My "solo" combat record with a Thorax is a delightful 127-13, with 58 of my victims waking up in their clone vats. That's broken down to 33-0 against frigates, 21-0 against destroyers, 22-0 against mining ships and industrials, 39-1 against cruisers, 5-0 against assault frigates, 6-7 vs. battlecruisers, 0-2 vs. heavy assault ships, 0-1 vs. force recon vessels, and 0-2 against battleships. With that kind of record, it's easy to see why the Thorax is my meat-and-potatoes warship.

During the course of these 486 fights--420 kills 66 and losses--I managed to follow my kills with capsule kills 246 times...while only losing my own capsule 3 times!

Again, let me point out that those 486 fights do not reflect all my combat experience. They don't include the times when I didn't manage to tackle my target, or the times when I myself managed to slip away, or the times when we engaged but reached an impasse and had to break things off. They don't reflect the kills I got together with my mates in the Sanguine Legion or the Black Rabits or the Ministry of Destruction, or with alliance partners in the Guristas Associates or the Southern Cross Alliance or the Greater BoB Community, or with partners of convenience and opportunity. They don't show my losses where I was ganked by more than one opponent or a whole blob of them, they don't show my loss in a dishonored 1 vs. 1.

Yeah, it's been quite a year.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fearless. No, clueless.

Alerted to the presence of a juicy target by a fellow Tusker, I entered the system's coordinates into my navigation computer but kept manual control of my Thorax as I began negotiating the seven jump gates between us. Just as I was only one system out from my target, I jumped into the middle of a serious fleet camping the gate I had just come through.

I didn't panic. A quick glance informed me the fleet included a Rapier and a Crow; my odds of simply warping on were low. Instead, I set the gate I had just jumped through as my next destination, then waited for a few moments to let my jump timer reset. Taking a deep breath, I issued the command to approach the gate, followed quickly by commands to engage the microwarpdrive and activate damage control systems. To jump as soon as I hit jump range, I engaged my autopilot. My cruiser turned slowly to the gate, then picked up some crucial speed as it returned to the gate. Then my foes had me locked; my shields evaporated, and I activated my meager armor repair system as large chunks were bitten out of my armor. My speed slowed some, then slowed even more, as electronic warfare modules targeted my propulsion systems. But it was too late for my attackers; by the time I reached jump range, I still had half my armor.

Jumping through the gate, it was too soon for celebration. Competent gate campers would have ships waiting to tackle me on the other side. With elation, I realized my gate campers were heavier on numbers than competence; the other side of the gate was clear! I quickly warped away from danger to a safe spot I had previously recorded in space.

Smugly, I turned to my comms console and gave a rundown on my brief encounter to my fellow Tuskers. Then activity on my proximity overview caught the corner of my eye.

What was this? The entire gate camp was at my position! Wait--I had warped back to the gate! Now it was panic time. I realized, too late, that my autopilot was still engaged--and my ultimate destination still took my ship through that gate. To fix my destiny, the autopilot had jumped to a "safe" 17 kilometers from the gate--way too far to just jump right through. In desparation, I spit out orders to warp to someplace else--anyplace else. Not in time. The commands were still in my mouth as I was locked and tackled. Time to think about my escape pod, and denying my foes the bounty still riding on my head.

Some would say that warping 17 km. off a heavily camped gate is fearless. Those who know better call it clueless.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Killmail denied! Dignity also denied.

Getting low on supplies, I messaged my hauler partner a shopping list and contracted a large amount of loot to him. He picked up the loot, set it for sale in a regional market hub, purchased my requirements in Jita, and dropped my cargo off in lowsec. This all required multiple trips for him, and he noticed a pirate camping the Hevrice gate from highsec--a lone Zealot. My partner reported that the pirate was observed on at least one occasion to incur sentry fire.

Fitting out a shiny new Thorax in one of the manners I favor, I confirmed that the pirate was still in the system. Remembering how I'd once killed a Drake all by myself in an interceptor (with the help of sentry guns), I got excited about the opportunity to solo-kill a Zealot. I loaded the Thorax with high-tech ammo and ECM drones, lovingly painted the name "Pork Belly" on her hull, did a quick check of all systems, put in an order for insurance, and I was out of that station as fast as I could, bumping Bestowers out of my way as I did so.

"Set a course for the jumpgate to Raneilles!" I ordered. Part of me wondered if I should take a more cautious approach, but it's a part of me I ignore often. And often, as in this instance, to my detriment.

As the yet-unproven ship Pork Belly dropped out of warp, my overview filled with data on multiple bogeys. Faction battleships, interceptors (camping a highsec gate?), battlecruisers--I was facing a formidable fleet. With a nod to a certain part of me, recently ignored, I quickly barked, "Run away! Run away!"

"Our warp engines are being disrupted, Captain."

I cursed. There was no way I was going to let my incompetence result in a kill for this gravy-sucking fleet. "Jump into Raneilles! We'll take our chances that the authorities there aren't just waiting at the gate!"

We were out of the frying pan, and into another frying pan. The Gallente police were, in fact, sitting on the other side of the gate. We received their broadcast, warning us that our presence in the system was not to be tolerated, as they waited for the temporary cloaking of the jump gate to disengage. "Set Hevrice as our next destination! Approach the gate! All ahead full! Engage microwarpdrive engines! Engage autopilot!" I had seconds to try to save the ill-fated Pork Belly, and everyone knew it.

Our seconds didn't add up. Our speed dropped to a crawl as the police cast a stasis webifying field on us, and our shields and armor took a pounding. It was clear we weren't going to make it back to the pirate fleet on the other side of the gate. I ordered the crew to their escape pods, then followed suit, dogging the hatch just as the short-lived Pork Belly disintegrated.

I did next what any self-respecting pirate Captain does after losing a ship in highsec (almost always due to incompetence): I called up the report of my ship's loss, and turned to the section listing the opponents credited with the kill. To my satisfaction, only Gallente police were listed. Since none of the pirates were listed (and I know at least one of them engaged me with a warp scrambler), I was not required to submit a report to my corporation.

Yay?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Not yet satisfied? Read more!

A lot of you enjoy reading Your Money or Your Life, but it is a sad yet true fact that an average of 23.99 hours each day remains after reading any new content on this site. In response to demands for "moar yarr," and in efforts to introduce even more readers to my own take on the space lanes, this blog has recently been added to the EVE-Online Blog Pack.

Now, you can more easily find and read 25 other blogs, ranging from stories to news with plenty of advice and drama thrown in for good measure. Thanks to CrazyKinux for all his work in creating and maintaining the blog pack. My thanks also go to Mynxee for brokering my inclusion in the list. I don't know about you, but for me blogs and websites related to EVE-Online are pure value-added.

One last thing: if you don't mind, could you please go afk in your battlecruiser 100km off a planet while you do your reading? I'd appreciate it.

Monday, September 1, 2008

gf

That's what I transmit on the local public frequencies whenever I finish a fight--win, lose, or draw. "Gf" is the abbreviation for "good fight," a courtesy real PvP pilots extend to one another, grateful for the opportunity to actually fight. "Gf," I say. How I wish it were true.

Most of the time, when I say "gf," what I really want to say is, "You stupid idiot. What were you doing at an asteroid belt in pirate-infested space? And what the heck were you doing with one laser, one railgun, one blaster, and one artillery piece on that ship you were ratting with? I mean, thanks for letting me get the kill and all, but seriously, you should have owned me in a beautiful ship like that! Fit for shield and armor tanking? Bah! Well, thanks at least for the loot."

Other times, my "gf" takes the place of an inner, "Ouch! Can't a pirate travel from one system to the next without having 3 battleships, 2 command ships, 3 recon ships, 4 heavy assault cruisers, 2 cruisers, and 2 interceptors pounding him to death? Well, at least when I post this loss mail nobody's gonna tell me I could have lived."

But sometimes--just sometimes, that "gf" is heartfelt and genuine--win, lose, or draw. When I kill that assault frigate by the skin of my teeth, venting gases and trailing odd bits of smoking armor--now that was a fight! Or when I'm speeding away in my escape capsule, my mind racing as I think of a half-dozen things I might have done different, I know I was just in a fight! Or what happened a short while ago...

Joc and I started out to get a small gang going, but one thing led to another and we found ourselves a few jumps from home, he in a covert ops ship for scanning down a ship at a safe spot, me in the platerax I often solo in. As luck would have it, Joc spied a Covetor-class mining barge that appeared to be at a safespot! But as he approached the ship under cloak, one of the Covetor's drones made a lucky turn and disrupted Joc's cloak; Joc appeared on the overview, and the Covetor pilot was spooked. The Covetor ran to a safe spot, then warped from point to point in space. Joc made a valiant effort to pin the Covetor down, but the pilot was too savvy to let that happen. Eventually he docked up and came out in a Myrmidon, a battlecruiser class not to be taken lightly.

Joc and I were even more eager to engage a battlecruiser. If the Myrmidon pilot is not experienced in PvP, it is very possible for a Thorax with ECM drones to beat him in straight combat. To our glee, after a few frustrating minutes, Joc was able to tackle the Myrmidon. I warped in, and the fight was on. After adding my own scram point to Joc's, I unleashed my Vespa EC-600's, hoping to jam the Myrmidon so he couldn't target me or my drones.

About those drones: the Myrmidon had five high-tech scout drones out, and they didn't need him to target me to know I was a bad guy. Because of the generous tank a Myrmidon can have, I determined to take out his offensive capability first, before attacking the battlecruiser itself. I was able to pop a few drones before the remainder were recalled; so I turned my guns on the Myrmi. Then 5 fresh drones appeared, and I went back to them. After several minutes of this, I was hurting. Joc held the Myrmidon down while I kept trying to warp out, hoping for a few moments to repair my armor before jumping back into the fray. There were some tense moments for me, as my foe had disrupted my warp engines, but soon enough my trusty ECM drones broke his lock and I was free. Unfortunately, with me out of the picture the Myrmidon turned to Joc, and we soon realized we would have to let the battlecruiser go.

It was a good effort on our part, but our opponent was competent, experienced, and prepared. He did what a Myrmidon should do in such a situation. When I kill Myrmidons from the con of a T1 cruiser, it's because the Myrmidon pilot is only proficient in controlling low-tech drones, or he doesn't have backup drones in his bays, or he can't field more than 3 or 4 at a time. Perhaps he has all the right gear, but in his inexperience he freezes and doesn't know what to do. Well, not this guy; he made one mistake--getting tackled in the first place--but that's about all. We were unable to kill our target, but he was also unable to kill us. It was, in other words, a Good Fight.

So, to Tak nTar, I say it again: "gf!"