There are far too many “Newbie PVP” guides, some of them FW-centric and some of them just for the general “gudfites” – some of them good some of them bad. However, most of them stop at a certain level of specificity when the critical moment of PVP takes place: the actual fight. A good PVP guide will tell the uninitiated space warrior “In this ship you want to orbit and keep him in your optimal.” Yes, that’s great, but time and efficiency are of the essence. How do I orbit him? What range do I orbit? What is the quickest way to establish this orbit? How do I lay out my screen and hotkeys to optimize my ability to react to a constantly changing, complex situation?
In my quest for the most ergonomic, efficient, and streamlined method of commanding my ships, I polled different fighters throughout lowsec to learn about their method of pew-pewing to the death. What follows is my procedure for fighting in a very specific, but common situation: a brawling frigate in a Novice Plex.
Most folks learn early in their PVP careers that local chat and D-scan are pretty much your only true defense against a blob or unwinnable fight (and even then they hardly work 100% of the time). For the purposes of this article, I will assume the reader knows to constantly be checking D-scan and local as they sit alone in their Novice Plex. What I’m interested in is dissecting the exact violent choreography of events that take place immediately after you are not so alone in your Novice Plex.
Also, I hope for most it goes without saying that if you take this sort of advice in a rocket-fit Condor or kite Slicer you will die… like, immediately. Remember, tanky brawlers only for this!
Speaking of tanky brawlers, let’s talk a little about what sort of ships I have in mind when I talk about brawling combat. Anyone who checks my killboard will know I have a soft spot for the dual-rep Incursus but you can easily follow this same advice in any blaster Atron, MASB Merlin, brawling Breacher, armor tanked/neuting Tristan, or pretty much anything that starts with “hull-tanked.” The list could continue for ages – but if you can fit a tank and your optimal is looking pretty short, what follows is for you.
Catching the Kiter
I like to cast a deep scan net when I am solo plexing, just to see all the potential threats within my 14.3AU range of vision. So if a Novice-friendly frigate enters long scan that may be headed for my plex, the first thing I need to decide is the “type” of fight I can expect. For instance, certain types of ships dictate that there’s a pretty good chance he’s in a kiting fit. If you’re lucky it will be an obviously kitey ship like a Slicer or Condor. If the hull is versatile like a Tristan or, to a much lesser extent, a Kestrel, you may want to think about looking up a killboard or two of some of the pilots in local to get an idea of what sort of ships they typically fly. (Time permitting on this, of course, but it does help to have zKill or Eve-Kill up and handy outside your EVE client for quick research.)
A wise PVPer once told me that a huge percentage of why you win a fight is you decided to take a fight against a ship you had a reasonable chance of beating. This, for instance, is why many people think the Tristan is such a great frig – and it is. You could fight a super-fast kiter or a slow AB neuter every time you exchange red boxes with a Tristan, making predicting how the fight will go extremely difficult until it’s pretty much too late.
But I digress…
When you see your kitey enemy on short scan and you decide to take the fight your number one priority is to scram and, if you have one, web the enemy so they can’t get out of your damage projection range. Load your overview to be Enemies Only so there aren’t any wrecks, rats, planets, etc. crowding the grid. Don’t have an overview that only shows enemies and nothing else? I highly recommend you set one up. Its usefulness goes way beyond plexing. But more on that in a subsequent article. (You can also request one from your Militia chat. They can be implemented just by a link in chat.)
Next make sure that you drop drones, if you have any. Get that little bit of micromanagement out of the way before you have a flashy grid forcing you to issue dozens of commands in a short time span. (Press F once you have locked a target to engage drones.)
So now you need to maximize your chances of getting into scram/web range before the enemy can turn on his MWD and burn out of your tackle/damage envelope. To do this, sit behind the warp-in beacon (as in, the warp in beacon is between you and the timer) and, as soon as he lands on grid, hold down the Q button and repeatedly click his name on the grid to make sure you’re approaching. Make sure your prop is on and your scram is heated… once you’re sure you’re approaching hold down CTRL and spam click him on grid until you’re starting to lock. When the lock starts you have a split second to pre-activate your scram to make sure your scram activates ASAP.
So why do this? I’m betting that when my kitey enemy lands on grid he will look at where I am and burn in the opposite direction. By beginning to pick up speed directly at my target instead of doing sitting still or orbiting the beacon, I maximize my momentum in the direction of my target (and likely in the direction he’s going to run). If your range and timing are right you will nab him with your scram before he can gather too much MWD-powered speed. In this case you can start hammering him with all your DPS.
If you missed the timing or were late to respond for any reason, you may lose scram if he gets enough initial speed from the partial cycle of his MWD before he was scrammed. You’re not screwed, however, don’t worry. When he left your tackle range he was only coasting away with residual speed – i.e. he’s still decelerating when you lose scram. Since you already have plenty of speed heading towards him he should enter back into your scram range momentarily after sliding out (and be spamming the button for your overheated scram module until he does). Newer enemies may not realize they have a split second to reactivate their MWD and kite away when they initially coast out of range – but for experienced pilots who are hoping for that to happen, make sure you are prepared for this scenario and look to reactivate your scram even if you lose it initially.
Slug It Out
At this point you’re no more than 10 seconds into the fight and it’s likely meaningful amounts of DPS have yet to been exchanged. If you’re brawler and tank fit, you absolutely should win the fight. (Unless you’re fighting a Worm, in which case, WHY ARE YOU FIGHTING A WORM?!)
You will have superior DPS or at least way more survivability than your enemy. His main lifeline, speed and range, are now very nearly eliminated. This does not mean that the fight is over, however. The enemy still has a few potential tricks to escape or even turn the tables on you. But more on that later.
For now, you’ll want to change your Approach (Q) command to an Orbit (W) command (make sure as a brawler you’re set to 500 meters for a default range as this is where most frigate blasters and auto-cannons have their sweet spot). As you close the distance and begin to establish an orbit around the target, make sure you’ve overheated your primary method of DPS and sicked your drones on him. Although you’ve set your orbit to 500 meters, you’ll find that you almost never orbit at the number you command your ship to establish. This is due to a number of factors we won’t discuss here, but it does bring up an important piloting skill to develop: speed control. For pilots in an Afterburner-fit ship, establishing a tight orbit is not terribly difficult because the maximum speed at which your ship will travel isn’t high enough for you to slingshot yourself out of your own tackle range. For MWD ships, this threat is very real.
For the super newbros, allow me to explain what I mean by “slingshotting myself.” If you’re full speed approaching a target that has far less speed than you, it is very common to fly (albeit unintentionally) right by your target and even out of point range due to excess velocity. This is because firstly because the Approach command in EVE is not “intelligent” in the sense that it will not anticipate your ship reaching its destination and slow down your ship automatically to comfortably arrive at the range you chose. If you issue an Approach command, your ship will travel at maximum speed up to the point of reaching your target at 0. This means even though you’re at 0 to your target, you’re still traveling super fast – and your ship cannot stop on a dime! Secondly, as a corollary to this stopping on a dime concept, your ship is not agile enough to stop and turn around to reestablish the proper range or orbit, etc. before it far overshoots its destination. This normally means inexperienced pilots will scram/web a target, fly way past it, lose all tackle, and then pretty much have to start over again. Try to issue the Orbit at 500m command to a belt rat with your MWD on and see how long it takes to establish any sort of orbit where you can apply tackle, let alone blaster DPS.
To avoid shooting yourself in the proverbial foot with this slingshot problem, I like to manually command my ship to decelerate to around my ship’s maximum speed with my prop mod deactivated a moment or two after I scram my target. This will still allow me to close on him (and hopefully end up on top of him) without significantly going past him with excess speed. If I’m able to close within around 1000m of the enemy as my speed reaches my ship’s natural maximum speed, I immediately turn off my MWD and click Orbit at 500m. At this point you’re already at brawling range and your enemy shouldn’t be able to get away. Orbiting with your MWD on will only serve to bloom your signature radius and make it hard for anyone to apply damage.
Now this all may sound easy, but it takes a lot of practice and, frankly, watching your ships explode before your speed management is good enough to reliably tackle a pilot waiting for the moment you fly by them with way too much speed. (Practice on belt rats.)
Another point to consider: Depending on how well you can track him and tank him, you may want to either approach and blast away point blank or orbit. The advantage to orbit is of course damage mitigation if you can keep your transversal above his ability to apply maximum DPS to you. In some cases, however, the damage you’re mitigating does not outweigh the decrease in DPS application you’ll suffer from orbiting a target with a ninja-like signature radius. If I’m in an active rep ship that can definitely tank the DPS of my enemy in the short term, I like to close with them as much as possible and apply the maximum amount of damage over the shortest period of time. As a brawler, you should win in that equation most of the time. Also bear in mind that missile boats, which are common kiters, do not obey any sort of tracking equations (although target velocity does matter but this is perhaps too detailed for the scope of this article).