Imperium Last Stand 2.0: Comparing 1DQ to Saranen


Header Art by Cryo Huren

Ooh, the second time is so much better, baby.


Note: This is part two in a three-part examination of what’s at stake in 1DQ1-A. Part one can be found here.

In the summer of 2016, the Imperium was at the end of the line. The rest of EVE had combined in the Casino War to overrun their territory, and they found themselves in the last extremity – homeless and hellcamped in the lowsec system of Saranen.

Now five years later, as PAPI’s War nears its final act, the Imperium finds itself on the threshold of a similar condition. Most of its home has been taken, and their day-to-day life increasingly approaches a state of being hellcamped in the Imperial throne system of 1DQ1-A. The parallels between that time and this lead to an obvious question: Which situation was worse for the Imperium; Saranen or 1DQ1-A? Is the Imperium closer to its end now in 1DQ than it was in Saranen?

Basic Mechanics: 1DQ vs Saranen

The primary difference between 1DQ1-A and Saranen is that 1DQ is in nullsec and Saranen is in lowsec. This means there are key differences in the basic game mechanics that govern the two systems. The result is a significantly different strategic and tactical landscape between the two situations for both attacker and defender.

The table below summarizes the most significant of the mechanical differences, when comparing the Imperium in 1DQ today with the Imperium in Saranen in 2016.

1DQ1-A (2021)Saranen (2016)
Cyno Jammers PossibleYesNo
Imperium Based in:CitadelsNPC Station
Imperium Supers able to DockYesNo
Imperium Station(s) can be DestroyedYesNo
Tether Available to ImperiumYesNo
Imperium Station(s) able to ShootYesNo
Imperium Supers Staged in SystemYesNo

Key mechanical differences between the Imperium defensive holdout in 1DQ1-A vs Saranen

The sum total of these differences is to put both attacking and defending supercapital fleets firmly in the middle of the strategic and tactical landscape in 1DQ1-A in a way that they were not in Saranen.

In Saranen, the Imperium Supers weren’t in system, and there were no strategic assets (Citadels or Supercapital ships) for MBC Supers to kill. In 1DQ1-A, the Imperium Supers are in system and the system itself is packed with strategic assets (both Citadels and the Imperium Super fleet itself) which PAPI can only kill with its own Supercapital fleet.

Saranen was simply a last-ditch safehouse for the Imperium, a hidey hole in which to keep ships alive while the Imperium figured out what do next. 1DQ1-A is much more: it is a power-projection platform that if not neutralized can be used to launch extreme violence against Imperium enemies in Delve should the PAPI pressure ever subside.

“Saranen was very much a waystation where we figured out what to do in the future,” said Goonswarm Federation Fleet Commander Asher Elias. “When we moved to Saranen the war was effectively over, especially after the CO2 backstab. Whereas 1DQ is a system with 5 Keepstars and more Forts than I could count on all my digits.”

The end result is that 1DQ1-A is a fully-armed and operational battle station for the Imperium – an Imperium Death Star – in a way that Saranen simply was not.

For the Defenders: Defensive Death Star 1DQ

For the Imperium, defending a position of strength in 1DQ1-A seems much better than holding out for raw survival in Saranen. “I would argue that the current situation is much better than Saranen,” says Brisc Rubal, CSM 15 member and Co-Host of INN’s Meta Show. Asher Elias agrees, suggesting that “Right now the situation is much more favourable.”

The difference, according to Brisc, doesn’t just come down to firepower, but also flexibility and finance.

“The collapse of the Imperium in the Casino War went much faster. This time, we’ve traded space for time, and we’ve managed to harden our home space to make it much harder for us to be contained […] We have unprecedented ways of moving ships around and projecting power outside of the 1DQ constellation, and the nerfs to mining and ratting have made it more lucrative to do that in other areas anyway.”

Ultimately what those differences add up to is a fundamental difference in perception. “The most important thing, though, is that it doesn’t feel like we’re under siege,” according to Brisc.

An aerial view of the ruins of the Castle of Topoľčany in West Slovakia shows the three layers of fortress defense in depth: 1) the outer bailey wall, 2) the taller inner bailey wall, and 3) the square tower of the keep itself. (Image credit: Wiki commons)

The “hardening of space” Brisc refers to is fundamental to how the Imperium sees ‘Fortress Delve.’

“If we use the ‘fortress Delve’ analogy, Delve [proper] was the outer wall and bailey of the castle,” says Goonswarm Federation Fitting Director Arrendis. “[The] O-EIMK [constellation] is the inner bailey, with 1DQ as the Keep itself. Right now, PAPI has taken the outer bailey, and they’re trying to find a way to break into the inner bailey (ie: pop a single IHUB that will let them start the dominoes on the rest of the constellation), and eventually attempt to contest the 1DQ IHUB [itself].”

For the Attackers: Super Trap 1DQ

If the Imperium sees their position in 1DQ1-A as more advantageous than Saranen, it might be expected that PAPI would prefer to face a Saranen-type situation.

In fact, that is not the case; PAPI leadership prefers to be facing 1DQ1-A. The reason is simple; supercapital forces are on the table in 1DQ, and PAPI has a decisive opportunity that the MBC never had – the opportunity to break the Imperium’s Supercapital backbone.

“The situation is obviously more favorable now,” says PAPI Military Director Progodlegend. “In Saranen, the MBC couldn’t neutralize the Imperium’s entire Super fleet unless they fought. This time we can.” PAPI’s opportunity to neutralize the Imperium Super fleet is rooted in the fact that there are Keepstars in 1DQ1-A, and the Imperium Super fleet is docked in those Keepstars.

If PAPI is able to destroy those Keepstars, any remaining Imperium Supercapitals will be automatically transported to the Irmalin system (via the asset safety mechanic) and deposited in a known NPC station. There, they will essentially be trapped. If they undock from that station they will not have tether, and they will not be able to redock (because Supercapitals cannot dock in NPC stations). Exposed and defenseless on the station undock, they will potentially be easy pickings for any hunters dedicated enough to keep continuous watch.

“All of the best lowsec hunters in the game will watch for anything undocking from that station,” says Progodlegend. “Without any structures to jump to undocking will be pretty impossible.”

The Imperium Supercapital fleet defending Big Disco’s Palace in M2-XFE. The Imperium has a long history of winning major Supercapital engagements, and neutralizing Imperium Titans and Supercarriers is an important objective for any group seeking to break the Imperium. (Image credit: Maximus Brutalior)

The Key Difference

For PAPI, the ability to permanently contain the Imperium Supercapital fleet is the key difference that makes 1DQ preferable to Saranen from the attacker point of view.

“There was never a threat that we could trap the Imperium Super fleet forever in 2016,” says Progodlegend. “That was never going to happen no matter how long we hellcamped Saranen. Being able to do that now changes everything. . . . We started this war with the goal of putting the Imperium Super fleet in a grave or in the Irmalin station, and now it’s getting close to being reality. So this was kind of always the dream.”

While the Imperium acknowledges the risk of losing their structures in 1DQ and having their Supers asset saftied, they are not as troubled by that possible outcome as PAPI’s eagerness might suggest.

“It all comes down to what you consider to be valuable and what you think is at stake,” says Brisc Rubal. “In the end, they can destroy all of the structures in 1DQ, but the vast majority of our stuff would end up in asset safety. So the chances they can actually destroy most of the things we own is low.” According to Brisc, if the assets themselves cannot be destroyed, the only hope PAPI can have of permanent victory is destroying the Imperium’s will to fight. “The real issue is if they’ll damage our cohesiveness and that the Imperium as a coalition will fall apart,” he says. “That’s really what they want to see, and that would be only real way that we could truly lose this war. Fortunately, despite what the bads have been trying, they haven’t been able to crush our spirit.”

Goonswarm FC Director Jay Amazingness (who successfully extricated the Imperium Super fleet from the North in the aftermath of Saranen) points out that the stamina challenge applies to PAPI as well, even in the event PAPI were to win in 1DQ1-A.

“[It] all comes down to stamina,” he says, “If we get pushed back to lowsec with our Supers – a 1DQ fight failed or whatever – what would they do? PAPI would stay blue and stay in Delve? Until we attempted to move which we could do at any time? There would be no time pressure on us to do so since the ships are 100% safe in a station. That’s where it comes down to stamina.” Essentially Jay doesn’t think an asset safety trap in Irmalin would be as tight as PAPI thinks it would be.

Brisc Rubal agrees. “There will be plenty of options that we can use to get the supers out. The chance of it being an M2 kind of situation is unlikely.” He adds, “that all presupposes that they’ll be able to destroy 1DQ, which is unlikely.”

1DQ1-A: The Mega Fight that Saranen Wasn’t

Therein lies the ultimate difference between 1DQ and Saranen: 1DQ1-A must see a mega-fight that Saranen never saw.

This year’s attackers must invade and destroy 1DQ1-A to win the war, and they will need to bring their Supers to do it. As a result, 1DQ is shaping up to be the site of a potentially unprecedented Supercapital confrontation. The key question, then, is will PAPI actually break the Imperium Death Star in 1DQ1-A and kill all five Keepstars? Will they force the remaining Imperium supercap fleet into asset safety in Irmalin?

CCP made this tabulation of the costliest battles in EVE history after M2. An extended invasion of 1DQ1-A would likely dwarf any of these numbers. (Image source: CCP)

PAPI’s Perspective

Progodlegend believes PAPI is ready for the challenge, especially having gained the benefit of hard lessons from their lopsided defeat in M2-XFE.

“There is a risk of losing of course,” he says, “but we’re on offense so we can control that at any point by just choosing to blueball a timer. The good thing about M2-X is that we got the hubris mistake out of the way without losing the war, so now that the hubris is gone we can approach this the correct way.”

When asked to elaborate on the lessons PAPI learned from M2, he focused on the level of discipline and focus it brought to the coalition war effort. “Before M2-X we were getting really complacent and lazy, and so we took a battle we didn’t need to take and paid the price for it. We compounded like 5-10 different errors in a three-day course, all based on complacency. M2-X was the reality check we needed to stop fucking around. . . . We started acting more like a coalition, started taking subcap fights more seriously, started giving a shit about the day to day harassment, stopped trying to hold our old space and new space simultaneously, knowing that we can just retake any of that old space after the war if we even still want it.”

It is undeniable that since M2-XFE, PAPI has enforced an entirely new level of discipline in its approach to Keepstar fights, carefully ensuring IHUB ownership, cyno jammer deployment, and orchestration of its fleet movements. The end result has been 30 dead Imperium Keepstars, and the Doom Clock counts down closer and closer to zero.

However, none of those Keepstars were contested by the Imperium. 1DQ1-A most certainly will be. In fact, it’s shaping up to potentially be the greatest mega fight in the history of EVE.

The Mittani’s Take

The Mittani has stated repeatedly week after week in coalition fireside chats that the Imperium will fight to the last man in 1DQ1-A, and that he looks forward to any potential PAPI attack, believing they will be unable and unwilling to pay the cost in blood necessary to take the system. Asher Elias echoes that sentiment. “To siege 1DQ they’ll have to pay a cost I’m not sure they’re willing to pay and which they certainly can’t replace.”

The cost of replacements will be a significant part of calculations on both sides. Ongoing CCP changes to EVE’s industry systems have raised the material cost of Titans and Supercarriers dramatically, and it will certainly be impossible to replace Supercapital losses for anything close to the cost at which they were originally built. Based on the scope of the forces involved, the defensive preparations on the field, and a comparison to previous Supercapital confrontations, it seems likely that both sides stand to lose hundreds of Titans. Perhaps many hundreds. “Our enemies have a real serious question to answer,” says Brisc Rubal. “Do they want to take the risk of losing significant numbers to try to push through into 1DQ multiple times, knowing that we’re going to pull out all the stops for all of those fights?”

PAPI has known since the beginning that their war carried risks. They clearly said as much in the original war declaration: “We all may die in a ball of fire or we may engage in the greatest of victories imaginable.”. Ten months in and on the doorstep of 1DQ1-A, nothing has really changed in that regard. So how would Progodlegend characterize the risk for PAPI in attacking 1DQ?

“Not nearly as high as not attacking it,” he said.

Up Next: Previewing the 1DQ Mega Fight

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  • Guilford Australis

    (1). Given PAPI’s performance against The Imperium’s supercapitals in the past, all this breezy talk from PGL assuming that victory in 1DQ is all but accomplished is really quite amusing. Gobbins, PGL’s patron, protector, and sine qua non for the continued existence of TEST and Legacy, has already said PAPI does not plan to use supercapitals in 1DQ. How exactly does PGL count on destroying five Keepstars without supers in a system where The Imperium already has all its supers pre-staged?

    (2). Does anyone in EVE – literally anyone – actually believe TEST would spearhead a permanent camp in Irmalin? These are people who can’t even fight their own wars. PanFam has dragged them around like a field-dressed deer carcass for nearly a year. Unless PanFam decides to live forever in Aridia lowsec, they won’t be around to organize this camp on behalf of PGL and Vily.

    (3). No camp is permanent, and no camp is inescapable. How does the idiot who ended up with his entire fleet hellcamped for two months in M2- but then later successfully extracted it imagine that hellcamps cannot be escaped?

    April 30, 2021 at 12:44 PM
    • kwnyupstate . Guilford Australis

      Well said. Subcaps vs Massive Titan/super fleet = PAPI smashed.

      April 30, 2021 at 7:21 PM
    • It’s just not realistic to attack the system where Goons are storing almost the entirety of their superfleet. The second PAPI starts forming supers and moving in to drop cynos Goons supers hit the undock button and they’re essentially all ready to blap the first arrivals then decimate everything that tries to jump in after the servers start buckling. PAPI probably wouldn’t win a fair fight with their track record but they have absolutely no chance in a real fight because the servers can’t even handle the Goon superfleet on its own.

      May 1, 2021 at 3:41 AM
    • And goons know that they can bubble wrap theirs citadels to prevent subcaps to be effective.

      May 1, 2021 at 9:30 AM
  • phuzz

    I think, in the end it’s going to come down to moral/will to fight and it looks to me like the Imperium has a couple of advantages there.
    Firstly, their backs are against the wall. They don’t have any home regions to retreat to, or rental empires to check up on.
    Secondly, all their enemies are outside pissing in, they don’t have to worry about possible backstabs from other goons. PAPI on the other hand is made up of a bunch of different alliances, not all of whom get on. Even if they mostly trust each other, they’re still going to have to keep an eye on their current allies. There might not be a proper back stab, but I’m sure there’s some competition to avoid being used as cannon fodder. Would (for example) a TEST fleet fight to the last man if they could run and leave PH to face the enemy?

    April 30, 2021 at 4:14 PM
    • William Doe phuzz

      I remember the wishful thinking of the PAPI cheerleaders during the start of the war over in reddit where they thought INIT was going to leave the Imperium (Not sure exactly if this was before or after Fountain fell for the first time in the war). Those morons were wishing that so hard and it fell flat on it’s face which I found hilarious.

      If anything, it projects the insecurities of the PAPI propagandists and line members of how tenuous their weak alliance truly is. Legacy’s lost a lot of people and alliances, FRT is starting or eager to destroy AoM, PanFam members in the past were frankly sick of TEST’s inepitutude and knuckle dragging for the war that PanFam themselves basically had to start running military operations. The list goes on. The blue donut will crumble fairly quickly when PAPI realizes they can’t crack 1DQ and will lose so many ships due to it.

      April 30, 2021 at 11:12 PM
      • Malcanis William Doe

        They somehow forgot that we have despised NCPL for longer than goons ever have and that Legacy tried to backstab INIT specifically well before they tried it on the Imperium as a whole.

        Papi is the coalition of everyone we hate in EVE support of everything we despise in EVE. Even if goons stopped fighting them, we’d never trust or work with any of them in anything approaching their current form and leadership with the possible exception of FRT. And FRT don’t seem to be our biggest fans, so that’s kind of moot.

        May 1, 2021 at 10:53 AM
        • William Doe Malcanis

          It is interesting to me how basically the closest of the big bloc null alliances left that may be the closest to at least settle a NIP/NAP with the Imperium one day ends up being FRT of all people. PanFam has been an enemy lasting for many years, TEST and Legacy as a whole has shown their true colors.

          May 1, 2021 at 11:50 PM
  • Bronze Condor

    It’s great, with how much fortifying Imperium is doing in 1DQ, once PAPI lightens up, they’ll have the perfect staging point to launch a massive counter campaign to take back what they lost.

    April 30, 2021 at 5:21 PM
  • kwnyupstate .

    If Imperium will use all those titans and supers and PAPI has stated they don’t want to (are afraid I say) then PAPI has no chance of winning.

    April 30, 2021 at 7:20 PM
  • Deni'z von Meanace

    How much is that critical for goons to cynojam the system during the assault?

    April 30, 2021 at 10:53 PM