Faction warfare in EVE Online is a component of the game which attracts people from across the experience spectrum. On one hand are the old veterans, those who have played the game for years, who may have done faction warfare for years, and who are very familiar with its tactics and nuances. On the other hand, however, are those players who are either new to EVE Online and managed to find their way into one of the militias, and those who may have played the game for a while, but who are very new to PvP in general, and faction warfare is complex PvP in particular. These people want to get more involved in the militia conflict and want to go out there and start losing ships, but they simply don’t really know what they’re doing. If you’re in that second group, if you’re ready to take that first step toward terrorizing the enemy militia, then this is for you.
In last week’s Final Frontier, we talked about how to get started in the militia, what faction warfare complexes are, and what they are for. For now the focus is solely on combat in and around militia complexes, particularly novice complexes; for solo pilots, these tend to be the most active type of complex for a number of reasons, and I am going to assume most of your plexing – or plex hunting – will be done solo, as it tends to be a solo activity. First, they only allow Tech 1 frigates in, which eliminates any worry of people showing up in a ship above your class. Secondly, when you’re roaming around alone, a ship which is hard to catch in gatecamps is a huge plus; frigates are notoriously difficult to snatch in most gatecamps. And lastly, Tech 1 frigates – or even many faction frigates – are very inexpensive, and they are a lot of fun. You need not fear burning too much ISK if you should have a run of bad luck.
The next matter of business would be to select a ship, and this is a topic which could spawn endless arguments, articles, and experiments; the hottest topic in EVE Online has always been ships and fits. The fact is, there are quite a few viable ships for use for this sort of thing. Regular old Tech 1 frigates that fill the role are the Breacher, Atron, Tristan, Merlin, Kestrel, Condor, Executioner, and Tormentor, to name the top level ones in my opinion. All four of the navy faction frigates are up to the task; the Imperial Navy Slicer, Federation Navy Comet, Caldari Navy Hookbill, and the Republic Fleet Firetail are all very strong and offer a lot of bang for your ISK. The pirate faction frigates are all workable, but the very best of the best are the Worm and Garmur. However, once we move into the realm of the pirate frigates, we are negating the low cost benefit of fighting in and around novice complexes, as the Garmur and Worm at the moment cost around 70 million ISK for the hull alone; great ships, but not when we’re new and learning. In my opinion, the various Navy frigates offer the best ratio of price to performance, but certain well flown basic frigates can challenge them at times, particularly the Tristan, which is very strong in the current environment. Now that we have a ship, let’s load it with all the ammo, nanite paste, and whatever else we think we might need and head out to the warzone. For now I will assume you have found a fit you like, or can ask corpmates/friends/militia mates for advice. Warm up your D-scanner and let’s do this.
The tactics you will use will vary, depending on whether you’re the ship in the plex or whether the hostile is the first one in. The first person inside the complex has an immense advantage due to the fact that they are quite free to choose the engagement’s starting distance. When a ship warps into a plex, they land more or less on top of the beacon; if the first ship inside is a brawler, and does best when they begin the fight inside scrambler range, they need only sit at 0 of the beacon. If the first ship in is a kiting sort, they can sit at a comfortable range from the beacon where they can safely get a point without risk of being warp scrambled, and thus having their Microwarp Drives disabled. The first person in can even move a ways into the complex, forcing the pursuer to cover some ground if they wish to give chase. This tactic in particular is valuable, as the first ship in can get a look at the would-be attacker’s weapons, can get an estimate of their fit by how fast they are going, and – most importantly – can kite them some distance away from the warp in, thus mitigating the ever present risk of the attacker’s friends coming to their aid. You cannot warp inside a faction warfare complex, so you can drag them as far from the beacon as they’re willing to chase – their friends must slowboat their way across all of that distance to engage you, should they be inbound.
The biggest danger when you are alone is, of course, that not everyone else is. It is important that new pilots understand that solo PvP does not mean an endless string of one vs one fights; solo means that you are alone, and that you play the hand(s) you are dealt as well as you are able. Now, the good news is that just because your opponents outnumber you does not mean all is lost. If you are the first one into the complex, you now have the option to either kite the bait off of the entrance a ways if they decide to send in bait, or to try and lure someone into making a mistake, and thus exposing themselves to attack, if the whole gang should decide to come at you at once. This is made infinitely easier if you are flying a ship which is capable of attacking beyond their range, such as a drone ship or one fitted with long range guns or missiles; however, high DPS brawler setups can also work in such situations, if you can manage to control the fight to be on your terms. If you can spread them out enough that you can have a short period of time alone with one of them, you can very often burn them down and either run off, or work to separate another from the pack, depending on circumstances.
Now, what if you are not the first one into the plex? Well, as always, it depends. If they are alone, of course, and you believe them to actually be alone, you have to weigh your options. If the first ship inside is a ship which is almost always fit for brawling, such as a Merlin or Atron, and you’re also in a brawler, well… heat all your mods, warp in, and see what happens. A frustrating amount of the time, the other person will either run away or will be some LP farmer fitted with Warp Core Stabilizers; such is the fun of EVE Online. However, if they’re not, you will have a good old-fashioned gunfight (or missile fight, whichever) and whoever wins keeps the plex. If they are in a ship which is usually setup for long-range kiting – say, like an Imperial Navy Slicer – and you are in a short range ship, then you have to make the decision of whether you believe you can get a scram on them or not. The good news in this scenario is that unless they are very good pilots – and many people in EVE Online are simply not – you can often either slingshot them into scram range or you can slip out of their point range and escape. If you are in the long range fit, and they’re in the brawler, well… it’s dicier. If you are scrambled on the warp in, you are done; a kiter without a way to kite is simply a loss. If you’re good at manually piloting, however, and quick on the draw, you can often accomplish it if you heat your MWD on the way in and then manually fly in whatever direction puts the most distance between them and you as soon as you can. They will take a second or two to target you, and usually that’s enough time to slip out of their scram range. Naturally, they will have preheated their tackle mods and MWD or afterburner, and will approach you the instant they can. It’s this very sort of thing that makes frigate combat in EVE Online so addictive and fun; you just never know for sure!
Sometimes however, you need not even go into the complex to find a fight. You can do many of the same tricks on grid with the acceleration gate into the complex as you can inside the complex itself. For example, if you kite someone off of the gate a ways, and engage them, their friends cannot warp directly to them; the best they can do is warp at a distance from the gate and hope they land somewhere near you. If they attempt to warp directly to their friend, they will find themselves simply warping to within 0 of the acceleration gate. Also, sometimes, sitting on an acceleration gate when there is an adversary inside can lure more people in – they might see both of your ships on their scanner, and assume that you’re both inside, fighting or, if together, waiting, and they’ll then risk warping to the gate to have a peek. And of course, you can always warp to the gate at range, to avoid having this exact same tactic used against you… however, you will be giving whoever is inside more time to respond to you in the bargain. If you warp to the gate at 10 km, and find that there are hostiles there already, don’t despair; simply target the gate and start clicking the “activate gate” button. Once you drop out of warp, you will immediately activate the gate, and will almost always be able to get away.
I hope that if you’ve made it this far, that you’ve found something of use in all of this. Now go out there and skulk around some plex gates, and of course, fly it like you stole it!Related: Column, EVE Online, MMO, PvP, Sandbox, The Final Frontier