I was roaming through Syndicate nullsec yesterday in my cheap anti-frigate ferox (incidentally this was the very same ferox which Child gave me in my recent post about risk, which had so far refused to die*). The fight took place in PVH, the new HQ of my former corpmates Agony Unleashed, as well as another group called When Hippos Attack who were my opponents in this fight. Local was at around 10, with only a couple of Agony and the rest from Hippos. I could see a rifter, claw and crow on scan with the system's only station, and briefly a pilgrim too. I knew that I could kill the frigates quickly, but the pilgrim would leave me dead in the water and I didn't know what reinforcements they might have in the station either. To get the fight I wanted, I would need to split the frigates off from their backup.
The first thing I did was warp to an on-grid bookmark off the station - in order to split this group up I needed them to chase me, and that meant they had to see where I warped. I found the crow on grid, with the other two on short range scan - good enough. I waited for the crow to start burning for me (which lets me know that they've seen me and want to fight), before warping off towards ZVN - the furthest gate from the station and a 50au warp. Due to the faster warp speed of interceptors and frigates, they will cover a long warp much more quickly than a larger ship. This maximises the amount of time that I have to fight them before backup arrives.
Landing on the ZVN gate, I started spamming my directional scanner to see whether anything had taken the bait. Sure enough, I see crow, claw, rifer... and two taranises on scan. As they land on me, I have to make a decision - do I fight here or jump? I can probably still take the whole gang, but the two taranises make things more difficult. I also have to be careful not to give the game away - right now they see me as the target, and that's a great place to be because it keeps them overconfident. If I turn around and start shooting them too soon, that's going to set off alarm bells if they are paying attention.
I decide to jump, but wait for some of them to tackle me first - that will give them an aggression timer, meaning they can't follow me through the gate. Soon enough the rifter tackles me - a smart move on their part, keeping all of their more powerful dps ships free to follow me through. I jump anyway, and immediately start re-approaching the gate; I do this partly because it's consistent with someone who's trying to escape (and will encourage them to dive into scram range to stop me escaping), but also because it gives me the opportunity to split the gang again depending on what aggresses me. As it happens both taranises aggress, making it an easy choice.
I jump again, and let the rifter tackle me. He goes down quickly, with the claw and crow coming through just as he pops. The crow is long point fit and doesn't come into web range, but the claw does and I kill him next. The two taranises finish their aggression timers as the claw dies, and jump in to join the fight - I start killing one, and the other warps off when he realises the fight isn't going to go their way.
At this point the crow still has me pointed, but his damage output is very low and thanks to the way that the gang was split up I still have most of my shields left. Since the crow is being careful and staying well out of web range, I decide to just approach the gate and wait out my aggression timer. I'm feeling fairly confident, but it turns out the fight isn't over - hostile backup is inbound.
With about 20 seconds left on my aggro timer two hurricanes appear on scan, followed by two more as the first pair land. One cane jumps through just before my timer completes, leaving me trapped with tackle on both sides. I jump immediately, hoping that I'll come through the gate in a decent position to escape. What I'm looking for here is:
- To be far enough from the hostile ship(s) that I can potentially burn out of their tackle range.
- To come through on a side of the gate that has at least at least one celestial in that direction, so that I can burn away from the gate and warp to something without having to turn around.
Unfortunately I come through in a bad position - the hurricane is well inside point range and I don't have anything to warp off to. However nothing else has come through yet, and last I saw there were no scram/web tacklers left with this gang meaning I can try again. The hurricane tackles me as expected, and I burn back to the gate and jump. Doing this on the far side is a little more difficult - they still don't have any fast scram/web tacklers to prevent me getting back to the gate, but with three hurricanes there's plenty of dps on the field. I overheat my MWD and successfully make it back, but I'm in low shields.
This time I'm in luck - I'm a little over 20km from the hurricane and there's a stargate aligned directly away from it. I know that the cane has a long point and is probably quite a bit faster than me, so technically it should be able to tackle and hold me. However, the cane pilot is unlikely to overheat his MWD for the first cycle - he'll probably expect me to burn back to the gate again rather than away from it. With my MWD overheated I'm about as fast as a shield cane, and since I won't show up on his screen until I've already decloaked and started moving I'll have a slight head start in terms of acceleration. I do exactly that, overheating immediately and burning away towards a celestial - the cane gets a point on me, but I slip just outside 24km and see the warp disruptor icon disappear from my overview. I hit warp, and I'm away.
There are probably things that I could have done better in this fight - for example if I'd taken the fight when the taranises aggressed I might have been able to kill 3 interceptors rather than 2 interceptors and a rifter (or 4 interceptors if I'd gone for the crow first before the pilot realised I was a threat and pulled range). Then again, if I'd been on that side of the gate I wouldn't have seen their backup coming in - even if you can't physically escape, being in a position where you can see incoming backup before they're on top of you is always useful. Either way, I was happy with the outcome and I think it makes a fairly good demonstration of some of the tactical decisions that you might make when taking on a larger gang. Next time, I'll see if I can remember to turn on FRAPS!
* Sadly, another fight later in the day saw the hero ferox finally die. I've since upgraded it to a slightly tankier, gankier fit which I've already had some great success with.