Friday, 29 November 2013

ITS HOT DROP O'CLOCK: A Zealot battle report

This is a battle report for yesterday evening. I formed a Zealot fleet with Oneirous logistics support to trap a Muninn fleet returning home from an operation in the east of Curse.

As you might guess from the title, the fleet did not go as well as expected. More ~after the break~!

Background and fleet compositions

Yesterday evening I was roaming around Curse in my cov-ops alt looking for targets. I had noticed a system showing a high amount of players in-space on the in-game map and burned my cov-ops over there to see what was happening.

While the system was empty, I encountered a neutral Muninn fleet heading back to their staging system. They had 11 Muninns, 5 Scimitar logistics ships, 5 Scythe logistics ships and other support including an Arazu and Vulture. By my estimate they had just under 30 pilots.

I quickly formed a Zealot fleet intending to catch them in the pipe heading back to their staging system. After some frantic jabber pinging I cobbled together a fleet of  9 Zealots, 4 Oneirous, one heavy interdictor and one light interdictor. All-up, around 15 pilots.


Our Zealot fitting has already been discussed here:

Their Muninn fit is relatively standard. 720mm II Artillery cannons, 10mn micro-warpdrive, one shield extender. Overall it has a fragile tank, excellent mobility, excellent alpha (large amounts of immediate damage with a long delay before another shot), and poor tracking. The fit:

Finally, some EFT dps projections on ideal situations for each fleet. For the Muninns, kiting directly away (to minimise transversal) and the Zealots orbiting their anchor burning towards them at an angle (to maximise transversal). The Muninn v the Zealot:

The Zealot v the Muninn:

Note, these graphs are both using all level 5 skills for both ships.

The engagement

By the time we had formed up and got underway, the neutral Muninn fleet was very close to home. Fortunately we caught them just before they jumped into their staging system. They were in Jorund, we were on the Jorund gate in Doril.

They set up at their optimal (30-40km) off the Doril gate in Jorund, we sat at 0 on Jorund gate in Doril. Given that Doril can be accessed via two systems, Jorund and Utopia and both Jorund and Utopia can be accessed via another system called Hemin, they could have gone around our camp. This would have meant jumping back into Hemin, then going into Utopia and then Doril. To ensure this didn't happen I put eyes and our light interdictor on the Utopia gate in Doril.

The dispositions:

At the same time we were figuring out a way to jump into them and brawl. While they were locked out of their staging system, we still couldn't force them to engage. One of my scouts (in a cloaky ship) suggested that he would get 200km off the Doril gate in Jorund (the system the Muninns were in) and then we could warp to him at 100. He estimated this would put us on top of their logistics ships, which were further off the gate than the Muninns.

We were about to implement this when they all began burning for the Doril gate and looked set to jump into us. I ordered us to anchor, they jumped in and we started shooting ships. Cleverly they decloaked a Scythe first and let that take the brunt of our fire for around 5 seconds before the rest of the fleet decloaked. This ensured they could controlo our first primary target and they knew what to repair when the rest of their fleet decloaked. Have to remember to try that!

Their strategy worked and with their 10(!) logistics ships we couldn't kill the Scythe. Seeing they also had a Bellicose I then ordered primary on that. I primaried the Bellicose because it target paints. This increases a ships signature. In simple terms this increases the DPS of other ships shooting the painted target. We killed the Bellicose (who received no remote shield repairs despite their heavy logistics support(!)) and then we started shooting a Muninn.

At this point, a cyno went up on the gate and 50-man Goonswarm prophecy fleet jumped in. From the battle report this included 33 Prophecies and a mix of Oneirous and Exequror logistics. The Goonswarm Prophecy fleet is a drone-based doctrine which uses both sentry drones and medium drones.

Seeing that we had no chance of winning against these odds I burned us out of bubbles and warped us to our safe POS in Doril. We lost two Zealots, our heavy interdictor and an Oneirous. We killed one Muninn and a Bellicose.

Analysis and lessons learned

Evidently the neutral Muninn fleet's plan was to jump into us, get us to engage and then have the Prophecies hotdrop us. Perhaps I should have guessed something was up when they decided to jump into us after clearly not wanting to jump into us for the 10 minutes they were in Jorund. 

That said, this was not a terrible engagement for the Muninn fleet. They had more DPS ships than us (11 Muninns to 9 Zealots) they had 10 logistics ships to our 4, plus they had command links from their Vulture. They also outnumbered us by about 2 to 1. Still however they felt the need to hotdrop us.

On the other hand I can understand their thinking. The alliance flying the Muninns has been soundly beaten by my alliance's head FC multiple times when we have clashed. I think it would be fair to say that our pilots are, on average, better at PvP than their's and they also have much higher skill points. Another point to note is that a laser based doctrine like Zealots is very good against a shield artillery doctrine like Muninns at close range. The Muninns only have one shield extender and are relatively fragile. The Zealots by contrast have very large tanks and are difficult for the Muninn's artillery to track. As such, them jumping into us was a pretty terrible way to start a brawl. In light of this I can understand why they refused to fight us until the Prophecies were ready to go.

If we consider if they had jumped in without support, they would have been very close to us initially. I think they would have lost ships, probably a decent amount given their loss of the Belicose without it receiving repairs. The did however have micro-warpdrives whereas we only had afterburners. They could have quickly burned out of our range, starting to tank effectively with their considerable logistics support and then kited us. Critically (and they should have seen this), we had no webbing or scramming ships to stop them from pulling range once they jumped in.

That is all of course by-the-by however. The most important lesson here is that you shouldn't make the enemy's position so untenable (at least in their minds) that they will not fight you without having overwhelming odds.

What we should have done was camp their in-gate into Doril a little less obviously. There were two ways to do this. Firstly we could have camped the Utopia gate, instead of the Jorund gate. Remember they were in Jorund. This would have given them the impression we were hunting something in Utopia and not them, or alternatively they might have thought that we thought they were in Utopia. However we would have left the light interdictor cloaked on the Jorund gate. They would have thought their path home was clear and jumped into Doril. The dictor would have decloaked, we would have warped to the Jorund gate and brawled them.

An alternative strategy would have been to made a safe out of d-scan range of the Jorund gate (over 14AU?) and put the Zealot fleet there, aligned to the Jorund gate. Their scouts wouldn't see us on d-scan from the Jorund gate in Doril and might have assumed it was safe. Again, the light interdictor would have bubbled them and we would have warped to the edge of the bubble and brawled.

Regardless, we shouldn't have camped them in so obviously. Knowing my alliance's history with their's, the deployment of the two fleets, and seeing their behavior before they jumped into us, I should have realised that we were basically forcing them to hot drop us. 

Coincidentally, this is the first time one of the fleets I have been leading has been hotdropped. :soscary:

Despite losing a billion ISK in ships, everyone came away fairly satisfied and upbeat. We got hotdropped, I probably should have foreseen it, learn from it for next time.