Skirmishing is absolutely a kill-creating position. There are very few other roles in the fleet where you're so directly responsible for the gang's success (the obvious one being the FC). What's more you're usually acting alone, so when you get the gang a kill, it's you and you alone who created that kill. That's a pretty great thing to be able to say, don't you think?
We talked last time about the kind of ship you'll want for a skirmishing role. If you haven't read that post already, I recommend you do so before reading on. What I'd like to talk about now, is how you actually go about getting those kills.
What Not To Do
First of all (and I'm hopefully stating the obvious here), don't die. You can't create kills if you're dead. If you and your fellow skirmishers die, your gang will not only have a hard time catching targets, but it will probably also find itself lacking scouts - and we already talked about how important that is.
Obviously if you keep yourself completely out of harm's way, you're not likely to catch any targets either. The key really is knowing what you can and can't survive, and striking a balance between caution and aggression. Thankfully, the natural speed and survivability of a fleet interceptor makes this easier than it sounds - against single targets at least, you can usually go for a tackle and then easily disengage if you decide you're not going to be able to hold it.
Try to maintain a healthy level of scepticism about targets which look too good/too stupid to be true, especially if they're in something which could easily kill you. Never engage inside scram range unless you're fit for it, even against t1 frigates. Be very careful chasing fast targets like vagabonds, especially if you don't have a scram.
Be aware of your range to the target at all times. In particular, there are a few ranged which should start to ring alarm bells:
- Scrambler range - this is about 13km with overheat, or 9km without. If you get scrambled, there's very little you can do other than pray that someone kills your target before they can kill you. Unless you're sure your target doesn't have a warp scrambler, avoid getting into scram range unless you're fit to do it!
- Heavy Neut range - 25km. Battleships with heavy energy neutralisers can drain your capacitor completely in a single cycle. If they do that you can say goodbye to your mwd, and probably your point too. If you suspect your target might have one, avoid at all costs! Thankfully fleet interceptors can tackle out to 30km and beyond, so it's possible to tackle a battleship while stating outside heavy neut range.
- Your own tackle and/or locking range, whichever is lowest. Hopefully if you've fit your ship right, your locking range will be at least as long as your tackle range. Be careful about flying outside this range - this is especially easy to do against fast targets, who will often try to slingshot you out of range. Overheating your point against fast targets can really help on this one, assuming you have the locking range to take advantage of it.
The final thing to mention on this one is to keep in mind your distance from your gang when deciding whether you can hold a target. Even crossing a system can take a long time with a sizeable gang, so try to consider how long it will take your backup to arrive and don't bite off more than you can chew.
Know Yourself, Know Your Enemy
Get familiar with your ship and it's capabilities. Know how fast you go, and what range you need to set your orbit at to be at the range you actually want (in a typical skirmish inty, this will be at least a few km less than the range you actually want). Know how this changes when the target starts moving quickly, which they will.
It's also incredibly useful to know as much as possible about other ship types and their capablities. Knowing how fast things go, what range they typically hit at etc, will make tackling that target much easier.
These two are really important, and the only way to get them is experience. If you feel these are things you need to work, on I suggest you just get out there are start flying!
There are a number of skills (player skills that is, not character skills) which you'll find incredibly valuable as a skimisher.
The first of these is mastering your directional scanner. This is an incredibly useful tool that really deserves it's own post, so I'll leave the specifics for later. Practice narrowing down any ships which appear on scan to figure out their likely location - you can do this in a live-fire situation or just in hi-sec, the important thing is that you practice it until you can do it quickly. It helps to add things like planets, belts and POS control towers to your overview since these (along with gates, stations and of course unaligned safespots) are the most common locations for your target to be.
The second skill you should work on is manual flying. Don't worry, this is much less daunting than it sounds and anyone who has taken a PVP-Basic class with us will know it already (although doing it in an interceptor is a very different ball game!). The idea is to control your approach to targets by constantly flying towards them at an angle, rather than simply hitting orbit (obviously if your target is already around your orbit range this isn't necessary). This will let you maintain a reasonable amount of angular velocity, and so evade damage when approaching under fire. Again, this is easy to practice with a friend and really just falls under getting to know your ship.
As far as in-game skills go, there are a few I'd definitely recommend:
- Interceptors to IV or V - extra point range is incredibly useful, and at these levels the sig radius bonus starts to have a real effect too.
- Long range targeting to V - some inties have very low targeting range, and none of them all that much. To make the most of that extra point range, this is a really useful one to have.
- Acceleration control to V - a fairly long skill but a very useful one, this lets you pull the maximum speed out of your inty, getting onto targets quicker and evading more damage.
Awesome, I got one!
So you've found a target. Maybe you found him in a belt, or maybe you chased him through a gate - either way, you have him. You get your point on, and settle into a safe orbit (let's assume this one's a battleship, so somewhere outside of heavy neut range - 27km or so). Now what?
You'll need to let your gang know you have a target tackled - give them as much useful information about your location and situation as you can, but remember as with everything on voice comms you should keep things clear and concise. If you're lucky, your fleet was close by and they immediately enter system and warp in to you - success. However, don't be surprised if this isn't the case; maybe they were further away, or they might get into a fight on the way - just hold that target and update your FC if the situation changes. Remember, you're still a scout. Assuming you'll be here for a while, you're going to need to keep yourself alive!
The most obvious threat is drones. Most big ships will have them, and unless they have a death wish they will be sending them your way. Thankfully, inties are pretty fast - only light drones will have a chance of catching you, and of those only warrior IIs have enough speed to be much danger. Since drones like to turn off their mwd once they get into range, they will typically catch up, shoot and bit, and then drop back again, so even fast drones can be tanked for some time, especially if you're fitting a shield extender. Use your own guns to shoot at any drones which get close, and usually you will kill a flight of warriors before they kill you.
A more significant threat is reinforcements. Unless he's looking to fight you, the chances are your new friend started calling for help the moment you got him tackled. Watch local carefully for any changes, and assuming there's anyone but the two of you in local, keep hitting that directional scanner. If anything shows up there that you don't like, be ready to bug out if you have to.
You should also be aware of your surroundings. If there's scenery about (such as asteroid belts, or a station) a clever target will try to force you to fly into it. If this happens, your ship will all but stop and your taget may be able to kill you or escape. If this is a possibility, you may need to adjust your orbit range or fly manually to stay clear.
Eventually, with a bit of luck, your gang will turn up and start killing. At this point, your work is done. Once you're confident that someone else has the target well tackled, you should disengage and carry on skirmishing - start looking for the next target (or if reinforcements have arrived, get one of them tackled), position yourself at a useful location for intel (e.g. a stargate, or if in a populated system the station), or just continue along the route and look for the next kill. If you're fighting on a gate, you should deaggress and get ready to go through to the other side, in case your target tries to do the same.
That brings us to the end of this article. Hopefully, some of you feel inspired to go out and try this - I really recommend you do, it's some of the best fun I've had in eve. Even if you're more of the solo type, the skills you develop doing this will be incredibly useful to you.
Again, if anyone does give this a try let me know how it goes. What did you find useful, what did you find difficult? What juicy kills did you net for your gang? Enquiring minds want to know!
Until next time. o7