Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Thoraxes to Catch: A battle report

Yesterday I lead a fleet of four Thoraxes, one Scythe and a Crow on a roam to Against All Authorities' staging system in Catch, F4R2.

What I came away with were some insights into the Rubicon PvP meta-game. Find them after the break!

The Roam

The fleet was originally formed to fight a Norther Coalition. Cynabal gang in F4R2. Their gang consisted of 12 Cynabals, 5 logistics ships and other assorted support. Probably around 30 pilots. Added to this was numerous small CFC gangs and a tech 1 cruiser conglomeration from other N3 entities. In short, everyone who was PvPing in Catch last night seemed to be in F4R2!

From the start my fleet was quite undersized as another FC had a roaming fleet out at the time which had the bulk of our active pilots. Regardless, we were flying tech 1 cruisers (low risk) so I decided to head out anyway. The fit we were using is extensively discussed here:

I've posted other fittings of allies and enemies towards the end of the post. 

On the way to F4R2 my scout reported some interceptors on one of our out-gates with a large number of bubbles on the gate. Knowing that my Thoraxes couldn't engage these frigates I decided to just warp to the gate, micro-warpdrive through the bubbles and ignore them. What my scout didn't report was that they also had assault frigates. There was between 10 and 15 frigates. I'll discuss this further in the "lessons learned" section but I wouldn't have warped directly to the gate if I had known about the assault frigates.

Regardless, our Scythe got immediately scrammed when we landed in the bubbles and we had no choice to just burn for the gate and continue. Engaging their assault frigates/interceptors would most likely have not saved our (one) Scythe and we would have been all agressed and in bubbles.

A few jumps later we arrived in F4R2 and started poking around. Unfortunately my scout was not an experienced interceptor pilot and I had lost my cov-ops alt to insta-locking interceptors on a gate. I.e. I FCing with relatively little intel.

We found the Cynabals on the ZXIC gate with bubbles up. I warped us to a perch on that gate and watched as the Cynabals and their multiple interceptors started burning at as. At around 70km off I warped us off and bookmarked that spot. My intention was to come back there at a 100 and just start stringing them out, hoping to pick off stragglers.

Somehow however one of my Thoraxes managed to cap out (!) on the warp off. Anyway, they found the separated Thorax at a planet and tackled it. We landed on that grid a few seconds later and while I wanted to save the Thorax they already had multiple tackle ships on grid supported by two Scimitars. Given two Scimitars can repair around 2000 shield HP per second we couldn't do anything and I warped the remaining Thoraxes out.

So -1 Scythe, -1 Thorax. No kills. Roam not going so well!

Fortunately, Against All Authorities ("-A-") then undocked a 30-40 man Tengu fleet fitted with Railguns, supported by Scimitars and tackle, intending to chase the Cynabals off. Seeing this, I warped us to the Station where the Tengus were undocking and looked to follow them around. Obviously we were friendly with the Tengu fleet.

After what seemed like an age, the Tengu fleet warped to the ZXIC gate where the Cynabal gang was. For some inexplicable reason however they warped at 100 and proceeded to try and snipe the Cynabals. I had no idea why they did this because the Cynabals just began jumping through. I had warped our Thoraxes to the gate and ordered free fire on the Cynabals. We got no kills however as they just jumped out. I don't know what the Tengu FC was thinking. He had 20+ Tengus (which have massive shield tanks) plus 8-10 Scimitars. He could have easily destroyed that Cynabal gang, hence my irritation that he let them slip away by warping at 100 to the gate!

Once the Cynabals jumped into ZXIC, the Tengus started burning for the gate (i.e. 100km!) to follow them. I had us wait on the gate until the Tengus got there. Once the Tengus were on the ZXIC gate and jumping through I ordered us also to jump through in the hope of sneaking onto some killmails.

Upon loading in ZXIC, the Cynabals had begun burning off the gate towards the sun. The Tengus began to decloak and engage them. I ordered my Thoraxes to decloak and start to align to a Celestial that would take us toward the Cynabals with our MWDs on. This would allow a Thorax to warp off if he started getting shot. I also asked our interceptor pilot to get tackle on the closest Cynabal. 

While shooting the Cynabal that was tackled, the rest of the Cynabal fleet warped off and the Tengus quickly followed. We proceeded to kill the tackled Cynabal (I got the killing blow!) and then followed the Tengu fleet to another gate in ZXIC.

When we arrived at the gate it appeared that we had missed a brief engagement between the Tengus and Cynabals. There were some stragglers from the Cynabal fleet still on the gate, including a Hugin. I assumed the Tengus and the Cynabals had jumped into the next system but I wasn't sure. I ordered tackle on the Hugin and we started burning at him to get a quick kill. At this stage we were between 100km from the gate.  As we were shooting their Hugin, the Cynabal gang started jumping back in and began burning at us to save it. I ordered us to align to a Celestial and continue applying DPS. It was pretty close as to whether we were going to actually kill him before we had to warp off to avoid getting tackled. Fortunately we killed the Hugin while a hostile Stilleto was still about 50km from us and I quickly warped us off.

Awwww yeaaa, outnano-ing the nano gang!

We then warped to the Station but didn't dock, waiting to see where the Cynabals would go. Fortunately they began jumping out so I ordered us back to F4R2 intending to get home.

Unfortunately however the frigate gang that had killed our Scythe earlier was still camping the short route home. The other two routes were 18 and 23 jumps respectively. I offered my pilots the option of taking a long way home or just docking up and podding back to our staging system. We all decided to pod and so that was the end of the roam. Our staging system is about 6 jumps from the station where the Thoraxes were docked so its really not a big deal to go and collect them when its quiet.

For those unfamiliar with the region, here is an edited image from Dotlan illustrating key parts of the Roam:

Lessons learned

Try to get the best intel you can from what you have. We did not have to lose that Scythe at the beginning of the roam. I should have confirmed what was actually on the gate from our interceptor pilot and not gone anywhere until I knew.

Regardless, I'll explain the significance of the frigate gate camp having assault frigates. Assault frigates will usually have warp scramblers. The gate was bubbled from all directions meaning it was impossible to warp at 0 to avoid the bubbles. Assault frigates can fit warp scramblers as they have a bigger tank to survive staying in scramble range (~10km). By contrast, interceptors will fit warp disruptors so they don't have to get so close. Of course a warp disruptor only stops warping, not MWDing. As such, if they had only had interceptors, we could have just burned through their bubbles, tanked their marginal DPS and jumped out.

So why didn't we just fight them? Well they had 10-15 pilots to our 6. Further, while we might have been able to apply damage to the assault frigates, we definitely could not have done anything about the interceptors. Our railguns could not track them and they simply would have out-run our drones.

This scenario illustrates why having multiple logistics ships is critical in the current small-gang PvP meta. Frigates have relatively low-dps, especially those with long range guns. For example, an interceptor wouldn't deal more than 150dps and an assault frigate with long range guns wouldn't deal more than 200. With short range weapons an assault frigate will probably exceed 300 DPS but not 400. One Scythe will rep about 750 HP/s. When you factor in resists, one tech 1 logistics ships can probably out-repair around 4-5 frigates.

Of course, we only had 1 logistics ship so they could simply destroy it and prevent any shield repairing.

Could we have brought more than one logistics ship? Yes but we only had 6 pilots. Of those we definitely needed 1 tackle ship. So that leaves 5. Maybe we should have roamed with 2 logistics and 3 Thoraxes but for kiting, 4 Thoraxes and 1 Scythe seemed better. Certainly, after losing one Thorax we woudn't have killed that Hugin with one fewer Thorax before their tackle reached us. Hard decisions.

Thinking about it now, one thing we could have tried was putting all our jamming drones on the scrambling assault frigate to try and free our Scythe. However that would have left us all aggressed and it was not a certain chance to jam. They also had multiple assault frigates so who knows whether we could have actually jammed all the scramblers. 

Perhaps the best lesson here is that cruiser gangs of less than 9 pilots are not a great idea in Rubicon. You need at least two logistics, plus tackle and then enough DPS ships to kill things. We probably should have just roamed in Crows (interceptors) rather than Thoraxes. While we wouldn't have had the DPS to kill that Hugin, we also wouldn't have lost two cruisers during the Roam and we wouldn't have had to leave our Thoraxes in F4R2.

Another quick comment on interceptor fleets. They are not as overpowered as some are describing. This is because they have such little DPS that again, a few tech 1 logistics ships can out-repair their entire fleet. Sure you can roam around killing stragglers and very small gangs, but any fleet with a few logistics ships is untouchable.


I promised earlier to link some fittings so here they are. The NC. Cynabal fit (per the killmail):

And, the -A- railgun Tengu:

Again, words cannot describe how stupid it was to warp that Tengu fleet at 100km from the Cynabal gang. Their Tengus have 150,000 EHP. ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND. OH AND BY THE WAY YOUR SCIMITARS REPAIR 8,000-1,000 HP/S. ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

/rant off.

For my next post I'm going to think about a new Cruiser doctrine to take on the new frigate-heavy Rubicon PvP meta.

Oh, please leave a comment if you enjoyed the post!

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