Sunday, 10 April 2011

Drakeswarm!

What began as an april fools joke, escalated into a roam which has decimated a... well some ships.

Last night, myself and a group of intrepid Agony alumni formed up in our trusty drakes (or dreaks if you prefer) and took to the skies of new eden to wreak havoc in the name of the missile gods.

This post is intended as both an AAR of the gang, and an exploration of the tactics involved in running a kiting battlecruiser gang.


The AAR

Our gang formed up in Jita about 30 strong with a mix of drakes and arty hurricanes. Unfortunately other than Esbear in his arazu (and a couple more guys who joined in later) most of the other Agony guys were busy killing carriers and dying in a fire, so we were fairly light on some of the key support ships. Thankfully our alumni didn't disappoint and eventually volunteered a couple of scimitars, a pair of dictors and an interceptor. We were ready to roll!

We got off to a slow start, getting hotdropped by a couple of Stain Empire triage carriers and accompanying BS gang not far into lowsec. We initially tried to pick off some of the ships in their bait gang before getting out, but once the carriers showed up it was a no-go so we were forced to bail, losing a couple of drakes in the process.

Once our casualties had reshipped and returned, we burned quickly through Etherium Reach and into Great Wildlands. We received a report of a roughly 8-12 man battlecruiser camp in B-VIP9, and sent forth a bait group of 5 drakes and a couple of inties to take the fight with the main gang holding a few systems out to avoid enemy intel. In hindsight this was too cautious, as despite apparently lacking eyes on our main gang our bait group was more than the campers wanted to engage, and all warped off to safety.

Moving down towards the other empire entrnce in 7Q-8Z2, our scouts reported a Waterboard gang set up on the 8YC-AN gate. This gang was a little more organised and a similar composition to ours, with about 20 ships to our 25. While we had the numbers advantage, the opposing gang had three scimitars to our two, plus a falcon and rapier both of which we lacked.

Again, we sent forth our courageous bait group followed swiftly by the rest of our gang. Unexpectly however, the Waterboard gang came through into 8YC as our bait group began to land on the 7Q- gate. I ordered them to hold aggression as the rest of the fleet landed. One of our bait group reported that the enemy falcon had started to jam them, so I ordered the gang through hoping to use the aggression timer to take their ecm out of the fight.

The Waterboard gang made the smart move and waited out their aggression timers before following, giving us time to burn a short distance off the gate and set the stage for the fight we wanted. As our gang hit 40km from the gate their first ships started coming through, and I called a power align to the sun as we stated to light up their arazu. Their scimitar reps help strong, so we tried switched over to one of the hostile scimitars before switching again to one of their battlecruisers, with no success.

With hostile reps continuing to hold, we switched fire to their tacklers who were closing on our gang, who swiftly became the first casualties of the fight. Our fleet continued powering away, and the opposing gang dutifully followed, allowing themselves to be spread out in the process and more importantly, pulled out of range of their scimitar reps. At this point I switched to calling targets by range as the front-runners began to leave rep range of one or more of the hostile scimitars, claiming a hurricane, drake, arazu and falcon for our trouble. With their tackle and ecm capability gone and their numbers swiftly dropping, the remains of the hostile gang bugged out, and the drakeswarm held the field. Unfortunately I completely forgot about the cloaked dictor I'd left on the gate, and as a result a number of ships managed to warp off who we probably could have killed too - lesson learned. The only losses on our side were a harbinger and hurricane who were webbed down and tackled early on.

The rest of the gang proceeded fairly uneventfully, with a couple more ganks but no real fights. We lost a few targets who managed to burn out of range from our gang, since we were pretty lacking on scrams and webs. The only major mistake of the night came as we passed close to HED-GP and as expected, were chased by a AAA fleet after dodging their bait ships a few moments earlier. It was at this point (now just past midnight and about 6 hours into the roam) that I managed to warp myself instead of the gang - leading to a few more losses.

All in all I had great fun. I'm really starting to like kiting battlecruisers as a gang type, and I was really impressed by how well we held together considering for many of our pilots this was the first time flying in a particular role. Big thanks to Safran and Razires for skirmishing, Esbear for playing XO and providing very reliable tackle in the arazu, Crazy and Hjerre for flying (and buying) scimitars at such late notice, and Saelyre and Manic for flying their dictors - sorry I didn't make more use of you!

Tactical Analysis

While a lot of people use drake-based gangs, the concept we were using here is something of a halfway house between sniper hacs and hssr (high speed, short range) battlecruisers. The ships of choice are shield tanked battlecruisers fit with a mwd and capable of engaging out to around 70km (for this gang I originally specified 30+, but I'm now convinced the longer range makes a huge difference). That makes the best ships for this gang drakes and artillery hurricanes. The idea is to kite a hostile gang and spread them out, drawing them away from key support ships and killing anything that gets close - in other words, exactly what happened during the Waterboard fight.

Agony tried a similar tactic some time ago centred around long ranged hacs, but this tactic struggled due to the need to keep range and the tendency of people not to burn out after a sniping hac gang. The battlecruisers solve this by remaining effective at close range (mainly thanks to a much bigger tank) and because people generally feel they will be able to catch a battlecruiser that's 50km away where they don't expect to catch a much faster hac that's already 100km away.

To make this gang really work, I think you need to make good use of your support ships. A couple of logistics ships make a really big difference (with scimitars being the obvious choice), and tackle recons like arazus/lachesises and rapiers/huginns are essential. We lost a number of targets which were simply able to burn away, that a webbing huginn would have prevented that easily. A second arazu would also have taken a lot of the pressure of our solo arazu pilot, and enabled us to keep more targets tackled as they started to disengage. Rooks/falcons or heavy neut curses (able to neut out to 70km? yes please!) would also have been valuable additions. Finally, making good use of dictors to split up and pin down the enemy gang is something I really should have focused on more, and definitely something to think about next time.

The nice thing about this kind of gang is that it's fairly flexible, and works on just about any scale. We've used them as gangs of 15, or gangs of 50 with great effectiveness. They also let you potentially take on much larger gangs than your own (the totals there are a mit messed up due to a lot of the NC guys appearing on both sides - friendly gang was around 50). This gang type is especially good against close-range battlecruisers, who will happily chase you down (without a huge speed advantage) in the knowledge that if they can pin you down, they can probably kill you.

For completeness, it's worth noting that this gang type is not effective against mid-range battleships such as abaddons, which can easily put out more hurt than you at comparible ranges. It's also not very good at killing things under heavy logistics support, since your dps output isn't usually enough to break through reps. Falcons and ecm drones on hostile logis can help, but don't expect to take on gangs with 10+ guardians unless you can get them very spread out.

Thanks to everyone who came, and I'll definitely be running another of these in the not too distant future. I'm also really interested in hearing some feedback from the guys who came on the roam - how did you feel it went, what do you think of the tactic, what could I have done better (or worse!) as the FC etc? Until next time o/

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The Altruist is the Eve Online blog of Azual Skoll, PVP instructor and small gang PVPer.

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