Escalation is a fascinating thing in Eve Online. It’s a potential weapon in every situation, even when not actually used. It can be used to harvest tears, win fights, and break the morale of an enemy. There are four kinds of combat escalation: subcapital, capital, and supercapital, and numerical. We spoke with a number of experienced FCs from around New Eden regarding these important tactical decisions.
First we will examine subcapital escalation. You’ve probably seen this quite commonly if you’re a combat-focused pilot. You’re losing or have lost a fight flying, let’s say, Moas. You really want to win this fight, so your FC calls a retreat and for everybody to reship into Eagles (pardon the obvious example, I’m in Brave). Hooray, you’ve won the fight because you escalated to a more advanced doctrine that is better equipped to win a fight. You’ll see this every day, in null and lowsec. This kind of escalation isn’t too hard to pull of with relatively well-skilled and prepared pilots.
Second, we have capital escalation. Some believe that it is necessary to escalate when the enemy needs to be taught a lesson, and need to be beaten in a chest-beating contest. This falls into using escalation to degrade enemy morale, which is a particularly potent use. Escalation into capitals may also be necessary when doing so will save a critical objective, such as a chokepoint or heavily populated system or an important moon.
In other cases, the question is a bit simpler: “Do I have enough DPS in my fleet to break enemy reps?”. If the answer is yes, 99% of the time escalation into capitals is unnecessary. If no, escalating into combat carriers or dreadnoughts may be needed. A second question is, “Does my enemy have enough DPS in their fleet to break my reps?” If the answer is yes, escalating into triage carriers may be needed to counter enemy DPS. In these situations, the objective isn’t necessarily the case, though it does determine whether it is worth the risk. Every escalation can potentially be out-escalated, and must be approached with caution.
As we look at supercapital escalation, the same principles apply. If a fleet cannot break enemy reps even when supported by capitals, the decision to call in the immense damage dealt by supercapitals may be an option. If your fleet cannot tank incoming damage, the huge tank and repair potential of supercarriers supported by more carriers can be your savior. Countering enemy supercapitals is based upon this – if your force cannot tank the damage dealt by fighter bombers and Titan doomsdays, the only way to counter them is bringing in your own supercapital force. Again, the stakes play into your escalation choices. A famous example of supercapital escalation is the Battle of B-R5RB, where the call to drop the CFC/RUS super fleet was made in part because all of Pandemic Legion’s war assets were inside the station – a huge, huge incentive to risk losing a supercapital engagement.
For escalating into supers or just capitals, you have to look very closely at your planning. Escalation should be as quick and effective as possible. If you plan on bringing in dreadnoughts to blap subcapitals or triaged carriers, you want to be able to bring in the dreads, complete the objective, and jump out in a single siege cycle. You need good intel and assuredness of outcome to escalate effectively. At times, you cannot plan, such as in the battles of B-R5RB and Asakai, but if you can, do so thoroughly.
Lastly, we look at numerical escalation. This is in my opinion the most fascinating kind of escalation. You don’t necessarily bring in supercapitals, capitals, or even a more advanced doctrine; you simply bring more people. You can ‘batphone’ others or bring in a reinforcement fleet from within your own group, making your force more effective and putting more pressure on the opponent. An example of numerical escalation is the Battle of Asakai, when both sides kept batphoning reinforcements, swelling numbers to previously unseen levels. Numerical escalation can also be a form of the other three escalations, when bringing in capitals or supercapitals is done with alts to swell numbers or when the reinforcements arriving are in more advanced ships than the forces already fighting, such as a Cerberus fleet coming to the aid of a Moa force.
One usually escalates to achieve an objective, be it victory in an engagement, the destruction of a ship (or the salvation of one), or simply getting more kills. Another use of escalation is simply the threat of escalation. HERO could have killed a few more Pandemic Legion Tempest Fleet Issues by bringing in dreadnoughts, but the ever-present threat of Pandemic Legion dropping supers and killing any capitals dropped kept them from doing so. The threat of the ‘I Win’ button being pushed ground at HERO morale and fighting spirit. The threat of escalation is central to fighting in the post-Phoebe New Eden; any group with capital superiority over an area has absolute control over that area. When Pandemic Legion moved their supercapitals and capitals to Catch to screw around with HERO or to Cache to flip the region back, they became the apex force in those areas.
The decision of when to escalate and when not to is one that every experienced FC will eventually need to face. Even if they don’t intend to make that choice, understanding what moves their opponent might make is critical. Whether or not it’s actually used, Escalation is a potent weapon to have in any arsenal.
TMC would like to thank Grath Telkin and Travis Keikira of Pandemic Legion, NegativeLight Light of Brave Collective, Raknor Bile of Black Legion, Lazarus Telraven of Goonswarm Federation, and StarFleetCommander of Triumvirate. for their insights and contributions.
This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by Siaka Stevens