Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I have seen the enemy...

...and it is me.

It is possible to make a profit in piracy. I did it--easily--back when I was flying around in the old Jousting Junebug (my Incursus), and even as I branched out into T1 cruisers. Even flying some pricier T2 ships, I've had spells where a string of good kills that dropped good loot salted with some good ransoms kept me in the gravy.

But those days appear to be gone for now. Warping into the holiday season, I look over my recent losses and just shake my head. Two stealth bombers, a recon ship, a heavy assault ship, and an interceptor--my last five losses have all been T2 ships, and not cheaply fit, either. (My Incursus loss doesn't count, as that was lost in the course of a Tusker corporate tournament.)

Taking a few minutes to reflect on my losses, I asked myself, "Jolo" (I call myself by my first name at times like this), "What can you learn from these losses?" I then proceeded to answer myself: "Well, it appears I am incapable of learning. Everyone one of those five ships was lost needlessly, due to noob mistakes. You should have learned better long ago."

The first Nemesis was lost after a good fight wherein the Tuskers held their own. As I surveyed the field after the battle, I noticed an enemy stealth bomber salvaging some of the wrecks. I thought I'd just warp in at range and let loose with a couple of salvos, protecting the wrecks for our team. Unfortunately, his wingman showed up in a Rifter, at far enough range to warp to a wreck near my position and jump all over me. I'd forgotten an early lesson: Don't go for cheap kills when the enemy is capable and on the alert.

Next, I lost my Arazu. Actually, our Tusker fleet had just come out of a small-gang fight pretty poorly, but I'd managed to cloak up and save my ship. Then I saw a stealth bomber out away from the herd..."Jolo" (I can call myself that), "Let's pick him off!" I warped near a wreck in his vicinity, lit him up, and like totally pwned him. But before I could warp away to safety, or even move far enough away to cloak up, an interceptor, well, intercepted me. So I killed the Manticore, but so what? It cost me an Arazu, and I didn't even get any of the loot. Once again, I'd forgotten...er, the same lesson: Don't go for cheap kills when the enemy is capable and on the alert.

I'd been able to pick up an Ishtar for a good price from a corpmate some time ago, and eventually I was able to fit it out and pay the insurance premium. So, a few days ago, I took her out on her maiden cruise. As I approached my third jump gate, I saw a Curse in the vicinity...and just as I jumped, the Curse landed on the same gate. Then, upon reaching the other side of the gate, I found a Rapier waiting for me. At first, I did the right thing--I sat there under the protection of jump cloak and thought about my options. I decided to go back for the gate rather than trying to get out before the Rapier could lock me.

It didn't look good; the Rapier webbed me, as I thought he would, and the Curse jumped on in to join the party. I didn't think I would make it to the gate in time, though if I did, both ships had aggressed me and would be unable to follow me through. In a moment of panic, I made my mistake: I launched my sentry drones, hoping to take one of my attackers down with me, or maybe even drive one off. Almost immediately, I reassessed things and realized I could make the gate in time--the Curse was hurting me with his energy neutralizers, but I had dual cap boosters and was managing my reppers fine. So without having ordered the drones to engage the enemy,I gave the command for the drones to return to the bay and kept straining for the gate. (I didn't really expect the sentry drones to keep up, but with all the stasis webifying going on it was worth a try.)

And--I did make it back to the gate in time! Sadly, however, the gatekeepers judged I had recently been performing acts of aggression and denied me passage. I lasted but a little longer, but soon died. Although I had carefully not returned fire on my foes, for the short time my sentry drones were deployed, they had followed their programming and opened fire on a ship attacking me. I had broken the rule: Do not deploy drones when you don't want to aggress. And it was a costly lesson not to learn.

I lost my next stealth bomber after a glorious battle in which the Tuskers lost a Maller and a Myrmidon but killed a Caracal, a Myrmidon, and a Harbinger. As the other team's cavalry arrived, I took a few parting shots and warped to safety...or so I thought. As soon as I entered warp, I stopped paying attention for a few seconds; and only when it was too late did I realize I was not cloaked and being tackled by a Rifter. I'm still not sure whether I forgot to cloak entirely (unlikely, I think), cloaked but was decloaked by a wreck as I warped off, cloaked but was decloaked upon landing on top of the Rifter (I'd warped to a planet in line with my direction back at the battle), or been followed by the Rifter who decloaked me as he dropped out of warp. At any rate, in most of those scenarios had I been paying attention I could have cloaked and/or warped to a safer position. A real fundamental rule of combat is: Keep paying attention. Check and double-check.

And finally, what is perhaps my most embarrassing loss. Our gang had successfully killed a cruiser, destroyer, and frigate while some bigger targets fled. While sitting at a safe spot, I received intel that one of our targets was approaching a jump gate leading to highsec. I warped to the gate and found my target in a destroyer. I tackled him, and watched in amazement as his destroyer ripped my fragile interceptor apart. It was not until looking over the killmail later (I'm so ashamed to write this) that I realized he'd ripped nothing apart; I'd foolishly warped my interceptor to a set of sentry guns while classified a global criminal. Rookie pirate rule: You can't speed-tank sentry guns.

To recap:
  • Don't go for cheap kills when the enemy is capable and on the alert.
  • Keep paying attention.
  • Do not deploy drones when you don't want to aggress.
  • You can't speed-tank sentry guns.
These are the sort of rules meant to be learned while flying T1 frigates. And I thought I'd learned them. But to all of you smack-talkers out there: You were probably right. More than 1,700 kills notwithstanding, I fail--there's no arguing with facts.

As I skulk through lowsec, looking over my shoulder and salvaging other people's kills, a new dream begins burning in my soul: to master these fundamental lessons and start losing ships by neglecting more advanced rules. If I ever get the ISK to afford a new ship, that is...