Combat in Eve is a very strange affair. Mechanically, it seems similar to other MMOs: you click an action button, then you click a target. The interface seems bare and confusing, and you can find yourself fighting blind if your overview is not set up properly. Today, however, we will look beyond the mechanics, and dig a little deeper into the intricacies and nuances of fighting in space.
Let’s think of terrain as items in space that are not players or NPC ships, that we warp to; these objects lend themselves to strategic and tactical decisions.
Where I live in lowsec, in faction warfare space, the majority of fights happen in plexes.
- Plexes are found in the war zone and are gated areas of space.
- The gates limit entry based on the size of the plex. The limiting factor here is the hull size.
- There are NPCs inside the plex, and based on whether you are hostile or friendly to the local controlling faction, the NPC will either attack you or your opponents.
Let’s take a look inside and see what it actually looks like.
The picture above was taken immediately after I came out of warp. Notice my distance to the beacon – 4,105m. All ships that can enter this plex will land within 5,000m of that beacon. Our next set of choices will hinge on this certainty.
So far, we have identified our battlefield and its spacing mechanics. Let’s now use this information to build a ship.
When I design fits I always begin with a concept. I first seek to understand the problem in front of me, before I start digging into my tool box. I have found doing it the other way around has had a negative effect on my kill board.
As a solo pvper, I live by these words, “I only need to win by 1% hull.” Especially in the solo realm, you simply must favor gank over tank. Let’s be honest, you can’t always tank your way into a win when you go solo. Often your inability to quickly finish your opponent will give them an opportunity to call in friends nearby.
With that in mind, let’s develop the concept for a high-damage brawler. Even though kiting ships are more often favored than brawlers, our ability to position and potentially catch targets near the plex beacon gives us an opportunity to fulfill our plans.
So, this is my high-damage brawler Atron fit. It offers a few advantages:
- At 191 DPS cold, this ship is definitely in the top damage tier for a tech 1 frigate.
- Having the trifecta of afterburner, web, and warp scrambler will allow us to hold down single targets, and have a better chance of getting within optimal range to apply damage well.
- Along with bringing huge damage potential, its base speed is also a top contender in its class. This is key when facing straight-line kiters that can apply damage well regardless of transversal velocity.
- It’s cheap, and easy to skill into.
- It’s flimsy. With only two module slots dedicated to tank, you can get overwhelmed very quickly if you engage a bad match-up.
- With only an afterburner for propulsion, you run the risk of being kited if you fail to apply your warp scrambler and web in time.
- You are susceptible to capacitor warfare, since you need cap to activate your blasters.
- You are locked to only applying heat and kinetic damage. It will be challenging to quickly burn down ships with naturally high resistance to these damage types.
So, we know the field and we’ve chosen what to bring. Time to fight!
This fight started with me inside a novice offensive plex. I made sure I killed the NPC quickly, and maintained a 750m orbit around the beacon to make sure I have a good chance of catching opponents.
I caught the enemy tristan on directional scan within 400,000km from my position. This is important, in that a short d-scan range can eliminate a lot of false positives, by focusing only on the distance from the acceleration gate to the plex itself.
The Tristan entered the plex. Even before he completely came out of warp, I was already approaching him with an overheated middle rack, to ensure that I could reach him with my warp scrambler and web. As soon as he came out of warp invulnerability, he was tackled, and well within my optimal range. My blasters simply outpaced the damage of his drones, so it was a straightforward engagement.
Let’s go over some things that could have happened.
- If I’d been in the middle of killing the NPC, I could have been out of position from the beacon. This could then very easily have turned into a Tristan kiting an Atron to death.
- Although drone-kiting Tristan fits are very popular, they are versatile enough to be used as a tanky drone boat with energy neutralizers. If my opponent had used this fit on his Tristan, it would have been an easy win for him. I would have quickly lost my capacitor, leaving me unable to apply damage.
- He could have been bait for a gang – and once he had me pointed, the rest of his friends could have entered the plex and finished the job with little effort.
Although I won this time, let’s not waste this opportunity. Let’s use the data we gathered from the fight to have a better understanding of the types of opponents that we may face in the future.
For the purpose of this demonstration, I put together the same fit my opponent used. Let’s compare the two ships and their weapons more closely.
That’s a lot of numbers, so let’s focus on some key points of comparison.
- Micro warp drive vs Afterburner – the choice of which propulsion module to use is so important that your entire fight strategy hinges on which module you have fitted. Do you want the speed to kite your enemy well beyond the range of their weapons, or do you want the speed to catch up and apply tackle? If I’m using a MWD and I get warp scrambled, will I still be able to apply damage to my enemy and mitigate the damage applied to me? Personally, I prefer to use afterburners when I fly solo, just to be able to rely on the speed I’ve invested in. However, if I go with this strategy, I must use the terrain to ensure that I will be within range of my enemy very quickly, or have them land on top of me – much like the plex fight we just saw.
- Passive shield buffer vs active armor repairers – this mostly depends on the slot layout and defensive bonuses of the ships in question. Using our demonstration, both the tristan and atron are viable as either armor or shield tanks; it’s all a matter of how the fit as a whole comes together. Passive tanks are generally a safer choice when it comes to pvp, since you will be less vulnerable to capacitor warfare. Active armor tanking, especially with the ancillary armor repairer, is a strong choice, but it limits your staying power if your weapon needs capacitor to operate. As an active tank user, you need to be able to overcome your enemy quickly.
- Turrets vs drones – although the Atron has more raw DPS, it has significantly lower effective range than the Tristan’s drones. Think of drones as flying turrets; they share characteristics with turrets but have the added bonus of being mobile, making the Tristan a natural kiter, its range limited only by the ship’s drone control range.
This was a classic coin toss. The fight really could have gone either way; on paper, each ship had the ability to destroy the other. In the end, it came down to simply having more checks in the box – and from the moment my opponent first appeared on d-scan, it was all over in less than 20 seconds.
I had one very clear advantage over my opponent: I had the initiative. Although the Tristan started the fight by entering my plex, this allowed me to control how the fight started. The certainty that any opponent would come out of warp near the beacon allowed me to position myself where my web and scram would be well within range. I was able to impose the engagement range on my opponent and trap him within range of my blasters.
Numbers for damage, tank, and speed are just that – numbers. At the end of the day, it all comes down to how you use your understanding of how these numbers interact with each other. Ship statistics will give you a good idea of how your ship should perform, but when it comes to pulling the trigger, you need to be able to control the engagement and limit your enemy’s effectiveness.
The road to competence in EVE combat is long and challenging. It takes practice, and a good working knowledge of the subtleties that will give you the edge over your opponents. In EVE, nobody wins every fight – and as a new player, it will take a while before you’re able to smoothly and confidently apply your understanding of tactical choices to your advantage in the heat of battle. No matter. Try again, fail again; fail better – and keep chasing that first kill, that next kill, and the confidence and competence that will make combat not only an unparalleled thrill, but a joy.