Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Getting a replacement Rattler

Day Eleven

The plan for today is to get a new Rattler in since the last one, well, it expired somewhat unexpected :)

I have a incoming C5, so before I check out my new static C4, I have a look at that. Hmm.. not much action, a lone tower and like 10 sigs to scan down. Better get to it, you never know, C5s get a lot of empire-K162s, maybe I get lucky and find a HS 2 jumps from Jita...

After a few minutes of scanning, I have found a EOL null sec and a EOL low sec, so I jump through the low sec to have a look. hmm.. Lamadent. 10j to Jita. Trough Rancer and Crielere... That's a possible route at least, I'm in a cloaky T3, it's early afternoon far from peek EU and US, and I'm feeling like a lucky punk. Lets go to Jita and build a Rattler! The WH might not be there when I going back, and I'm certainly not taking a Rattlesnake through Rancer, but having one ready in Jita is a good first step.

The trip there is uneventful, I buy a Rattler for 512M, rig it for 150M and get replacement mods for what did not drop. All T2 stuff, thankfully. This means that my systems crash cost me around 700M in assets and one night of plexing.

On the way back I learn something new about safe travel in low sec. I have stopped using frigs and shuttles for travelling in low sec since all it takes to ruin your day is a few smart bombs and a scout on the incoming gate. If you have implants it can get quite expensive as well. Of course you can warp to the outbound gate from an alternative angle, but that complicates things and makes the travel-time a lot longer. I prefer something that can warp cloaked, don't have to bother about bubbles in 0.0 and wont die to a few smart bombs. Hence my Tengu.

Now, warping cloaked is all well and good, forcing camps to rely on scouts on gates to know what and when something is coming. However, what you can do while warping from one gate to another in a system with a lot of folks in local and that are usually camped in one way or another (like Rancer!), is scan the gate you are warping to.

If you do that, and warping to the Crielere gate in Rancer, like I did, you will get a healthy heads up on what kind of camp they got waiting for you. So, for instance if you see, like I did, over 10 Rokhs on narrow scan on a gate you will be landing on, you can bet your faction scram that you will be landing right into a pipe-bomb. Which I did. What I for some reason did not do, was to act on the information in time. Seeing a smart-bombing gang on short, narrow scan, the right thing to do is probably to de-cloak and activate whatever hardeners you got. If I had, maybe I would not have had to dock and rep half my armour :)

As I flew my Tengu now they stripped all my 8k shields and half of the little armour I had. Way to close for comfort. Without hardeners and DC running my little Tengu only got 22k EHP with my standard scouting fit. With them running, it becomes over 30k. And if I had been really smart I would have used a travel-fit, sacrificing the tackle for more tank and a MWD for burning to gates. Then the EHP would have been the double.

Tengu, WH scout, refit for travel
51k EHP, 78/91/86/86
dual prop for burning back to gates when cloak/warp failed

High power
1x Covert Ops Cloaking Device II
5x Heavy Assault Missile Launcher II (one off-line to fit the MWD)
1x Sisters Expanded Probe Launcher

Medium power
1x Gistum C-Type 10MN Afterburner
1x Experimental 10MN Microwarpdrive I
1x EM Ward Amplifier II
1x Explosive Deflection Amplifier II
1x Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
1x Republic Fleet Large Shield Extender

Low power
1x Damage Control II
1x Power Diagnostic System II

Rig Slot
1x Medium Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer II
1x Medium Core Defense Field Extender II
1x Medium Warhead Rigor Catalyst I

Sub System
1x Tengu Defensive - Adaptive Shielding
1x Tengu Electronics - Emergent Locus Analyzer
1x Tengu Propulsion - Interdiction Nullifier
1x Tengu Offensive - Covert Reconfiguration
1x Tengu Engineering - Augmented Capacitor Reservoir

Well, you learn all the time, and there's always something to improve upon. That's Eve. Besides, if I had used a shuttle or frig for the Rancer-crossing, I would have lost my pod and would have to do it all over again. That would have been a real drag.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Rattler down!

Day Ten

I lost my first ship today. One of the Rattlers went down. No, the inhabitants did not log on and killed me while plexing, I make sure I'm in scan-range of the POS and they are usually not savvy enough to log off in something cloaky. No, neither did I lose it at a WH-camp, all holes I jump through are much to scouted for that to be likely. And no, I did not try anything really stupid, like doing Information Sanctum in a Wolf Rayet with only two Rattlers.

I had just started the third wave in a Frontier Barracks, which happens to have tree frigs that actually scram you, when something in my graphics card went belly up and the whole machine crashed. Never happened before. Real bad timing I must say. When I logged back on, I saw that Tashi was still in his Rattler but Ashi was flying a pod. Dammit!

Well, nothing to do more than to recover what I could and crawl back home with my tail between my legs. If I had one, that is.

I logged on a scout and checked the wreck out. Hmm.. the scramming frig-bastards was still there, and since I had lost half of my PVE-fleet, I had nothing to finish the site with. Which meant I had to hot-loot what dropped from the Rattler, somehow get Tashi back on, and out of the site.

Here goes nothing! Uncloaking a Buzzard in a C4 is usually not a bright idea, but Ashis Rattler had managed to drop all the faction-stuff (thanx Bob!) so it was 200M worth of loot in the wreck - well worth a try. I managed to loot almost all of it, and got away in half armour. Phew.

Now to getting Tashi back. Loggin on he would do the reverse-emergency warp back to the point where Ashis Rattler died, and surly get scrammed before he could get out. Depending on just how low into armour or even structure he was, it could be hard to actually kill the frigs before their two BS and four cruiser sleeper friends popped me.

Fortunately he was in perfect health, so I could just pop some warriors, kill the scramming frigs and get out. Half shields, but safe.

Now I had to get to empire and get a replacement Rattler in. But that's a project for tomorrow.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Closing C4 WHs, solo-style

Day Nine

Closing a new 2B wormhole is as easy as jumping an heavy (100MN prop mod on) Orca six times and a single heavy battleship two times through it. In most cases that closes the hole just fine. You want to make sure you have your ships on the right side when it does thou. And you don't want anyone else to interfere. The battleship can be considered a throw away ship, but it would hurt to lose the 800M Orca. Still, it needs to be done. Closing wormholes is the basis of any safe carebearing.

When I'm stalking people I use information from what ships they jump into, if they align, and most importantly, what I have seen them do before. If I have seen an Orca do a quick appearance on a WH its most likely a closing op going on. If they don't have multiple Orcas their polarization timer is my time to set something up till catch and kill the Orca. If they do it easy for me by announcing their plans way in advance, well, so much better.

This have made me formulate a quick and cloaky policy for my own doings. Always assume there is eyes watching you. You want as little information-leak to these eyes as possible. Just showing a piloted Orca will tell them a lot. And attract interest.

  • Never be uncloaked at your POS. The more you can get them to guess what ships you have, the better.
  • Never announce intent in advance. Don't jump into a BS + Orca and align to a WH.
  • Never be uncloaked if you can help it. If you warp to a zero on a WH you do so with the intent of jumping.
  • Make it quick. If you think the coast is clear, you have nothing to gain from lingering. Any extra time uncloaked is a chance for information-leaks, or worse.
  • The more time you can spend cloaked, scouting a WH out in advance, the better. The absence of you seeing somebody jump is not the same thing as "safe" but if you have not heard WH activation the last 20 min it's not very likely there's somebody else there. Unless you have drawn attention with juicy targets before of course.

Since I only have one Orca-pilot and I need to do three trips back and forth, I have two timers to wait out. This goes against the whole "be quick and cloaky" approach, but I try and come as close as possible.

Typically I scout the WH with a cloaky Tengu first. Check the inhabitants. What ships on scan? What pilots on? Any POS'es out of d-scan? The more activity, the more time I spend on the WH pre-scouting. Showing a cloaky Tengu also raises the bar for what "my side" fly. A cov ops is only a scout, a Tengu is a potential pvp-ship, even a cloaky one. I want anyone to think twice before warping anything to the WH that could potentially be dangerous for my closing ships.

First Orca jump is quick, just warp there, jump in, jump back, and then warp away and cloak up. Anyone not spamming d-scan should miss it completely. For anyone paying attention, it's good if they don't realise that's the first Orca-jump in a closing sequence. While I wait out the polarization timer, I stay on the other side in the Tengu. Checking for signs of new activity. Scan probes? Anything warping to the WH? Anythig jumping?

After exactly 5 min, I do the second Orca-jump. The less time I give people to react the better. If I see a set of combats probes go out after the first jump, this is no reason to hold back on the second, giving them even more time to figure out what's happening. After the second orca-trip I stay for a few minutes at the WH with the Tengu and then jump back home, and switch it out for a Scorpion. When both timers are out, I do the last Orca-jump together with the Scorp. The Scorp is then working as a scout, and bait. The idea is that if anyone jumps the gun on the Scorp I might get away with the Orca. I also have the mass on my side. Anyone that wants to kill me will have to do it while following me through, because I will close the WH on the way back with the Orca.

Unless I have reasons to believe there's nasty things lurking, I stay cloaked with the Orca on the WH while waiting out the polarization. That way, the Orca works as a scout while I switch from Tengu to Scorp for the last jump.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

My closing Scorpion fit

Day Eight

Same stuff as yesterday, check the static, decide if I want to bother with some plexing or not. Checking POSes. Scanning down WHs. Closing WHs.

Talking about closing, while explaining my plexing-routine I mentioned my closing Scorpion. Lets have a look at that one, shall we?

While fitting a closing battleship, you have a few options. Do you want to go for a pure defensive fit (warp core stabs) or do you want something that would have a chance of causing some trouble (ECM, neuts, etc...) to anyone that wanted to interfere with your doings?

A pure defensive fit would be focused on getting away, and fitted with both cloak and warp core stabs would not have a chance to lock anything in time for it to matter. It would take a bubble or two to catch it, but it would be useless in evacing the Orca from a closing that turned to hot to handle. And its really the Orca you don't want to lose, a closing BS should be considered collateral waiting to happen.

So I went for a compromise for my Scorp.
Scorp, 'WH-closer/escort' bastard

High power
1x Improved Cloaking Device II
1x Core Probe Launcher I
1x E500 Prototype Energy Vampire
2x Heavy Unstable Power Fluctuator I

Medium power
1x Sensor Booster II
1x ECM - Ion Field Projector II
2x ECM - Multispectral Jammer II
1x ECM - Spatial Destabilizer II
1x ECM - White Noise Generator II
1x Prototype 100MN Microwarpdrive I
1x ECM - Phase Inverter II

Low power
1x Damage Control II
2x 1600mm Reinforced Steel Plates II
1x Signal Distortion Amplifier II
1x Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II

Rig Slot
1x Large Particle Dispersion Augmentor I
2x Large Trimark Armor Pump I

5x Warrior II
5x Hammerhead II

The cloak make it terribly slow to lock stuff, but it gives it the ability to scout holes unseen for a longer period of time, and that's extremely valuable. In all other respects it's fit for messing with tackle while the Orca tries to break free.

A bubble and a web would of course spell doom, but if anyone had managed to get that to the WH without me spotting it, it had failed in its role as a scout anyhow.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

3 days away - security concerns

Day Seven

I have security concerns. I will be away for three days and a lot of my security is based on me being around to take proper measures if someone would actually go for the POS. Unlikely, but you never know.

I live out of a Medium Amarr tower with just a few defences. Enough to force a proper fleet, I don't want it so poorly defended so just any pair of Oracles could do a stront check. At the same time, I don't want to spend a lot of time hauling and anchoring/un-achoring defences when I move. I even had a small POS from the start since they are really quick to get up and running, but after some consideration and the fact that I would not actually be able to move the three billion in ships I have if the POS got reinforced (Don't have pilots for both Rattlers and the Orca for simultaneous logoffski) I went with a medium one.

The defences are just a few scramblers, a few ECM, a web, a neut, a few small lasers and one medium. Lowest resist is 25% (2 hardeners). Only thing that's anchored in the POS is a CHA and a SMA and I never leave anything floating, making the potential rewards for anyone killing it quite small.

But as I said, it's all based on me being around doing things during any eventual reinforcement timer. Now I would not be for three days, so should I put the rattlers in empire? Jumping them around is also a risk, and in this case I think it will be a bigger risk I lose them doing that than someone would manage to REO my POS during my short absence.

It's decided, the Rattlers stay.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Plexing my static C4

Day six

This is what I came to do. Plexing the sites in my static C4. Doing an estimate on how safe it would be, and how I could make it as safe as possible. Losing Rattlers would take a big bite out of my profits, obviously I want to be involved in as little ganking-the-stupid-carebear-in-his-faction-battleships-action as possible.

My routine have become something like this;

I log on, scanning out my own system. If there's any incoming wormholes that's not interesting (easy indy-kills, good quick route to empire etc..) they gets closed.

Then I turn my attention to the static C4. I jump through, check d-scan, check for statics and inhabitants (it's not right all of the time, but its a good input). I warp to any POS checking ships floating, and if it's empty of active pilots (as in not logged on) and have a decent amount of sites I can do, I elect it for some bearing. If not, I roll my static. Rinse and repeat.

First thing is to 'secure' the system. I scan down all the sigs, ignoring gas, data and relics, but pinning any wormholes I find. The important thing is to know what's in there. In w-space, intel is king. I don't want any open holes while plexing, so I quickly scout those, starting with any K162 if I can (don't want to open the static until last moment). With my faithful alt-brother flying an Orca that I bring into the static, I start closing the wormholes, including the static. Since I have to wait out the polarization timer, the time it takes to do this is actually not dependant on the number of WHs, it takes about the same time to close three holes as it takes to just roll the static.

So first two jumps through each hole goes with Orca + scouting Tengu. I prefer the Tengu over a cov ops because I think it scares any other carebear a bit more. It does not scream "scout" just as much, and it's a potential threat to other non-T3s. I want them to stay away. I just want to close the darn holes. For the last jump I switch the Tengu for a 'closing' Scorpion. I need the mass, and it could potentially save the Orca if somebody managed to get something in position to tackle it.

A digital egg-timer helps a lot.

When all wormholes are closed, I can be pretty sure the only open WH is the one from my system. If somebody rolls into the plexing system I will see it (hopefully) as a new sig on the scanner. No need to have a probe out any more. This is really the key to me being able to do the dual-rattler thing in the first place. Before the changes to the scanning, I occasionally solo'ed C4s using two chars with a Rattler/Basilisk-pair. The very reason for me choosing the Rattler over, for example, an Nightmare was that I had a high-slot over to fit the ubiquitous probe-launcher on the Rattler. No probe - no plexing. With the changes, all the Rattler pilots have to do is to watch for new sigs, which they can do without any probes. That two Rattlers kill sites twice as fast as a Rattler/Basilisk is really just a bonus.

So with a list of sigs scanned down and copied to a corp bulletin as later reference, and all WHs closed or rolled, I can switch the Orcas/Scorp for the Rattlers. When warping into the first site I have taken exactly 2 light Orcas and 2 light BSs through the WH (250 x 2 + 100 x 2 + 100 x 2 = 900M), so I'm just closing in on half-mass (it usually goes half when I jump the Rattlers back). This means I have plenty of mass if I wanted to take a break and park the Rattlers back home in Alpha and then come back.

I make a little fleet of my rattler-pilots and a third account scout that I keep in Alpha on the static C4 WH. Why? Because my rule is to know that there is no incoming WHs, that the static is new and not opened (because I rolled it and I have not seen any probes on scan since) and have scouts on any other incoming there is. And my home is an incoming WH. It's a big mistake to think that that somehow would be safer just because I live there. You never 'own' or 'control' a w-space system just because you have a POS there. In fact, last Orca we (R-NAT) lost, was just because we had failed to make sure to cover our six with a scout in our own system. Wont happen again. 'Home' is not safer than any other system. Failing to realise that will get you killed, sooner or later.

My alt in Alpha is really more ears then eyes. He got the WH zoomed in so I will hear any activation. The reason I keep him in Alpha and not in the plexing system (which would give me time to get info on anyone that just jumped) is that I regularly can check for new sigs (read potential k162) in Alpha, which is almost a perquisite for anyone finding their way into my plexing system. Normally you have your ears on the 'inside' so on the sound of activation you got time to do a info on the jumper before he re-cloaks. Again, info is key.

I tend to focus on the Frontier Barracks because they are so easy to do with just Bouncers. I'm lazy I guess.

One rattler pilot have a sige mindlink so I set that one as booster for some extra HP. I do squad-warps with my 'main', but basically just duplicate any action I do on both rattler-chars. I thought about putting a target-painter on the main, and just assisting the drones on the second rattler, and even if that does work, due to the cycle time of the TP, you end up losing a lot of time.

Land in a site. Lock up the primary, lock up the other Rattler, get drones out, start the double cap-bounce up, put on one of the shield transport, and start putting the hurt on the primary. I'm not a good enough multi-tasker to be able to do something else in the meantime, like reading a book or a blog, so it does not really matter that I have to click around some. I have to do something, could just as well micro-manage a bit.

Like this, each Frontier Barracks goes down in 10 min, and with my salvage-skills it takes pretty exactly 5 min to salvage each site. Usually I get around 100M from a FB and with 15 min/site that would translate to 400M/hour. However, this is excluding the half hour or more it took to find and secure the system in the first place. Not to mention the several days I've spent to get settled. Sometimes I have to discard several systems, and spend a lot of time rolling. It's decent ISK, but it would be much better if I lived in a C2/C4/HS just doing this when I found a good C4, not wasting time actively looking for it. I think this is hoe most C4s are getting plexed. And how many sites you do matters a lot, if you only do one site like this, the ISK/h would be terrible. If you do marathon plexing, killing 10-15 sites in one go, it's quite good. But then again, I play to have fun, not to optimize my income.

Two monitors make the process if not possible, so at least a lot easier.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

C4's - the deepest of w-space?

Day Five

Most would argue that C6 is the "deepest" you can get in w-space. And maybe it is. If you mean what it takes to live, defend, farm and pvp there I guess you could say that it's the hardest. Or at least where the stakes are the highest. But logically, and most definitely logistically, it's not the deepest. That would be a C4/C4 - no question.

Why? Well, C4s is unique in the sense that they will never connect to k-space. Ever. And if your static is also a C4 you have a guaranteed route to empire of 2 or more systems. If you also take into account that a static in a C4 is much harder to roll than a C5/C5 for example, and the fact that C4's more often than not just link to another C4 it is much more work to find empire from a C4/C4.

Today I had some new sites spawn, like gas and ore sites. I initiated them by starting a warp to each of them. I want to keep the system clean so I don't have to re-pin a lot of gas-sites each day. Of course, knowing what each sig represent is vital to any kind of operations in a w-space system. That piece of information gathering is something you just can't skip if you expect to live long and prosper.

I had discovered that one of my scanning alts had a clone that was way outdated. He needed to get to k-space to update it, ASAP. I found a C5 that led me to a C6 that had a static low sec, so that would work. Only possible problem was the C6 was the home system (or one of?) of The Last Chancers, a well known and active w-space alliance. They might have a lot of active eyes on things and even be rolling their static in a heartbeat, so if I wanted to get back the same way I needed to be careful and quick.

Not to many ships on scan in the C6, and when I jumped out to low sec I got the explanation. They where all out doing some shenanigans because they had a nice little 15 man T3 gang hanging on their static. And I was right in the middle of them! Yikes. But as I burned away from the WH, I could re-cloak safely. I started to look for a station where I could update my clone. I wanted to get back in as soon as possible.

When I got back to the TLC's low sec system they was still on the WH, but now they had a interceptor there. I guess they wanted to have a better chance of catching me when I got back. Or the ceptor was there for some totally different reason. It was not easy to know, but since I was the only extra one in local, they probably knew I was coming. Together with a bit of bad luck and a bubble on the other side of the WH it could potentially spell pod-kill for me. New clone or not, I preferred to live, so I just waited some.

Patience is another piece of the w-space puzzle that's really important, especially if you are solo. In this case, they got bored before me, the interceptor jumped back home, and a few minutes later I followed. Back home in a new clone I logged for the night.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A C4 carebears dilemma

Day Four

After wasting time scanning routes to reunite my chars yesterday, I finally get to do some C4 plexing. I had four Frontier Barracks, two Information Sanctums, some Command Posts and a few Integrated Terminus that I could do. The Frontier Barracks is the preferred ones because you can do them without even switching drones, if you manage to snipe the three frigs in the last wave before they get to close, it's Bouncers all the way. Easy. The Command Posts demand much more work. Initial wave is best handled with warriors or hammers, and the cruisers in the second Gardes. The Information Sanctums is as scary as they come in C4, the second wave is four battleships, and the trigger, the Sleepless Safeguard both scram and neut you while the Sleepless Defenders do quite good damage. There's no warping out from that one if you cant handle it. I will most likely not be doing them in my double-Rattler setup.

After have killed and salvaged all the sites except for the Information Sanctums, the value-approximation on my loot-tab in the CHA reads just over 800M. Not to shabby for one days work. It remains to be seen if I can find the same efficiency when doing the sites in my static C4.

The current fit I'm running with is the one that sort of became the corp standard for PVE in Reconfiguration Nation. The power lies in the range you get from the Sentries, to be able to reach out to 100km and touch stuff with 700dps is amazing. It's what make the fit so efficient. Even if switching drones is a bit of a hassle, you can, so you will always have a way of dealing with sleepers, no matter what range or size.

Rattlesnake, C4 plexer
High power
1x Large Shield Transporter II
1x Large S95a Partial Shield Transporter
2x Drone Link Augmentor II
2x Large 'Regard' Power Projector

Medium power
1x F-90 Positional Sensor Subroutines
2x Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
1x Gistum C-Type EM Ward Amplifier
3x Federation Navy Omnidirectional Tracking Link

Low power
1x Signal Amplifier II
4x Drone Damage Amplifier II
1x Pseudoelectron Containment Field I

Rig Slot
1x Large Egress Port Maximizer II
1x Large Anti-Thermal Screen Reinforcer II
1x Large Drone Control Range Augmentor I

1x Targeting Range Script

5x Warrior II
5x Hammerhead II
5x Garde II
5x Light Armor Maintenance Bot I
5x Bouncer II

You need a CPU implant to fit that.

Two of these can easily do any combat site in C4's with the exception of the Information Sanctums. They don't perma-tank all the spawns, but they kill them fast enough for it to not matter. Normally I just have to use one shield transport, which I lazily just put on each Rattler at the beginning of each site and then let run. Rarely do I need to micromanage the tank by adding a second repper.

The cap-bouncing is very effective (especially with good skills and the rig) and a good defence against the neuting. Double cap-bounce goes up first thing on warp-in and is not touched during the site.

If you got tree Rattlesnakes like this, you could most probably perma-tank any spawn in any C4 (including Wolf Rayets if you are feeling masochistic), but you would not need to because then you will have the dps to take down the spawns before they become a problem. In fact, with three ships the sleepers are dying so quick that things like lock-time, numbers of targets and focusing fire comes into effect.

So how much bling? By fitting cheap ass Rattlers you minimizing risk/reward ratio, but on the other hand you might end up losing a ship that you would not have lost if you had spent that extra on the tank.

Adding faction inv.fields would increase tanking enormously, both because of the extra resists, but also from the fact that you then get CPU to upgrade the shield transports to T2, which would increase the repping-power by 10%. But would it be worth it for me just to be able to do the Information Sanctums?