32 billion ISK worth of ships was destroyed in the systems of ED-L9T and I1Y-IU in the early morning hours of May 15th as Darkness. clashed with the Imperium’s “Reavers” Special Interest Group (SIG) and Pandemic Legion over the final timer for the ED-L9T station. As ED-L9T is a system many readers may be unfamiliar with, in the middle of a conflict of which many may be completely unaware, a little background seems in order:

ED-L9T is an important strategic point: A station system, with only a single intervening system, 3-FKCZ, between it and Efa, in low-sec Khanid. One jump past Efa is high-sec, and one jump further, the station system of Badivefi. This means that ED-L9T is a key system in holding the entry to Querious. In addition, ED- enjoys a central position in the LI-BA0 constellation, with direct connection to three of the other five systems in LI-BA0.

ED-L9T is also one of only two systems in the Region to remain in the hands of the Imperium.

During the Delve counteroffensive, the erstwhile CFC’s Reaver SIG deployed to Querious. Their activities focused on the constellations of LI-BA0 and YB7B-8, and over the course of the five weeks that followed, they would take the entirety of LI-BA0, and half of YB7B-8, as well as the central station system of 9CG6-H. Opposition from the owners – Northern Coalition (NCdot) and their renters, Northern Associates (NA) – was worn down and defeated. Stations were flipped, money-moons taken, and at one point, local NA renter corporations were even rumored to be paying Reavers their rent.

With the loss of their holdings in Delve, and NCdot’s withdrawal from the N3 Coalition and standings reset, Darkness. has moved to take much of what was once NCdot’s rental empire for themselves. As they have taken strategic positions within the region such as P-ZMZV for central staging capabilities, it must have also become clear that they would need to control the critical entry point from high-sec. But Darkness had just withdrawn from one war with the CFC/Imperium, and controlling the entry from Efa would mean facing them again.

Darkness began by fielding T3 fleets of Legions and Lokis, and enjoyed early success. Non-station systems, without IHUBs to generate timers, fell quickly. Station systems, however, were a different story.

During the first week, the stations in ED-, I1Y and 9CG6-H were saved, often with assistance from the Confederation of xXPIZZAXx. In at least one case, the Reavers’ Ishtars were all but used as sacrifices, with the fleet repeatedly warping in to engage the enemy T3s while their logistics had orders to focus their remote shield boosters on the station. Perhaps as a result, Darkness began to use dreadnoughts in their station assaults. In at least one case, Imperium forces attempted to take advantage of a pair of tackled supercarriers to delay the diverted Darkness subcapital fleet from an attack on the I1Y station while a single carrier attempted to ninja-triage the station’s shields. Darkness dreadnoughts cyno’d in, however, forcing the nidhoggur, which had luckily finished its triage cycle only moments before the cyno lit, to re-dock.

Later that same day, the 60M-TG station, the only station in the YB7B-8 constellation, exited what should have been a shield timer. Miscommunication had left the defenders unaware that the station’s armor had never been raised back above 50%, and Darkness allies Illuminati Confirmed (MYTH), who have been assisting in this campaign, were able to take the station and consolidate their hold on the constellation. Imperial forces managed to extract a docked dreadnought and carrier a few hours later, with MYTH dictors undocking just as the capitals jumped to safety.

The use of dreadnoughts would again give Darkness the advantage in ED-L9T the next night, as they pushed the ED-L9T station to into its armor reinforcement timer, setting up the battle on the May 14-15 overnight.

The engagement began similar to many of the prior fights: Darkness bridged into the system with subcapitals – in this case, a fleet of Tempest Fleet Issues and Apocalypse Navy Issues, supported by Lokis, Legions, and Proteii, with triage archons and armor Logistics and Support Cruisers. Imperial forces included the Reavers’ Ishtar fleet, as well as a Tengufleet and Harpyfleet from Deklein. As with earlier engagements, Darkness arrived well ahead of the timer, and the battle was joined while the station was still reinforced.

For much of the fight, the Ishtarfleet skirted the edges of the TFIs’ effective range, reducing casualties while coordinating fire with the rest of the Imperial forces. The Tengufleet was not so lucky, however, and lost a number of their logistics as the Scimitars found themselves caught between remaining under the Tempests’ guns, and leaving the Tengus without adequate repairs.

As the station exited reinforced mode, the defenders attempted to initiate repairs as best they could, but would likely have had little chance to save the station against the massed artillery fire of the TFIs. Additional Fleet Tempests, however, began to land on-grid, along with T3 cruisers, Archons, and Aeon, Nyx, and Wyvern supercarriers, culminating in the appearance of an Erebus-class titan.

Pandemic Legion had arrived.

PL swiftly asserted tactical dominance on the field, not only by destroying both Darkness Archons, but also by ensuring by their very presence that Darkness would not be dropping dreadnoughts on the station during the battle. As Darkness withdrew, taking heavy losses, PL and the Imperium forces gave chase, with the grid defense (and some well-earned looting) taken over by a frigate gang from Pandemic Horde.

Darkness’ fleet pulled back to the recently-taken station system of I1Y-IU, but a number of their ships were caught in Interdictor bubbles, far from the station undock, and destroyed, including a 2.27 billion ISK Nestor that had seemed to function in prior fights as a refit platform for the dreads and battleships if needed, as well as providing combat probes, target painters, and a heavily-tanked cyno if necessary.

As Darkness docked up, the defending forces pulled back to ED- to begin repairing the station. Basilisks began working on the shields while armor triage was provided by an Archon and a Nidhoggur, with additional repairs coming from heavy logistics bots launched from re-equipped Ishtars. Pandemic Legion, as well as the Imperial fleets from Deklein, withdrew to their own staging systems, and for a time, it seemed the Reavers would be able to fully repair the station unmolested.

Less than an hour after their retreat, however, Darkness once again reformed and bridged into ED-L9T, this time bringing Strategic Cruisers and dreadnoughts, and quickly resumed their assault on the station. Reavers forces were unable to kill more than one of the dreads, but the repair efforts had raised the armor above 50%, and the shields well over 25%. Darkness’s attack, rather than flipping the station, produced a shield timer, at the cost of another 3b ISK in losses.

The final tallies for each of the three phases of the engagement stand as follows:

Part 1 – ED-L9T: Imperium: 10.97b lost, Darkness: 9.14b, PL/PH: 78.46m.

Part 2 – I1Y-IU: Imperium: 176.8m, Darkness: 7.66b, PL: 56.12m

Part 3 – ED-L9T: Imperium: 666.18m, Darkness: 3.88b,

Totals: Imperium losses: 11.81b ISK. Darkness: 20.68b ISK. Pandemic Legion/Horde: 134.58m ISK

Overall total losses: 32.6 billion ISK.

A video of the battle has been made available as well.

EVE Online is a game of politics. Many people see this, and recognize it in the maneuverings between the large Blocs, or the struggles between two Alliances with long-standing feuds, or even in the 15th Attempted Coup within a single alliance. But EVE Online’s political aspect doesn’t end there – if anything, the high-profile political maneuvering is merely the icing on the cake.

In some ways, the real politics of EVE is all internal: keeping people active, keeping them motivated and keeping their morale high, so that they continue showing up for fleets. Fleet participation, the ability to field numbers and put warm bodies on the firing line, is what makes the political maneuvering at an Alliance or Coalition level possible.

This campaign has shown Darkness newly-motivated and active, especially in comparison to their retreat without contesting the loss of their holdings in Delve. As their pilots have lost skillpoints in T3 fleets, they have adjusted and shifted to Navy battleships. As their subcapitals have encountered difficulty in taking objectives, they have escalated to capitals.

At the same time, the Imperium’s Reaver SIG has shown a similar uptick in activity. Each night, the fleets defending against Darkness from within Querious have gotten larger. Assisting forces from Deklein remain an option. Reavers leadership has shown a willingness to call upon allies – even allies of convenience who have no qualms about picking offa few ‘friendly’ targets of opportunity once the larger battle has died down.

Sov war under Dominion Sovereignty is often a long, grinding process. But any of the experts on the current mechanics of sov warfare will acknowledge that the wars are not won in the grind. They are won and lost in moments, the moments when one side or the other finds itself tested by a crushing defeat. Then the line pilots, and the internal political skills of the leadership, are forced to face the question of whether or not they can summon the collective will to continue to show up, to continue the grind. Will the defeat be a stumbling block, or will it be the hammerblow that breaks their resolve and sends them reeling back to lick their wounds and recover their strength?

The invasion of Fountain, and the Delve counter-invasion, were hailed as ‘the last great sov war’ of Dominion sov. The ongoing fighting in Querious, while it will almost certainly not decide the long-term fate of the Region, likely represents one of the last true tests of Dominion sov’s ‘Will-to-Win’ aspects. With the full implementation of Entosis Warfare pushed back another month to July, will Darkness be able to maintain its momentum, or will leadership choose to consolidate their gains in other direction, completing the takeover of the remaining NCdot and NA systems in Querious in order to build additional morale and resources? Will the Reavers continue to increase their numbers daily, pulling more rabbits out of their collective hats to hold on to the strategic station in ED-L9T, or will they decide that they’ve harvested enough tears, pissed off NCdot, Kadeshi, and now Darkness enough for one deployment, and head home to fatten their wallets again?

The almost certain battle when ED-L9T I – Jacket Disbursement Station exits its current reinforcement cycle may well hinge upon the answers.

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