Header Art by Cryo Huren
Ooh, the second time is so much better, baby.Shalamar
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 Possible||Yes||No|
|Imperium Based in:||Citadels||NPC Station|
|Imperium Supers able to Dock||Yes||No|
|Imperium Station(s) can be Destroyed||Yes||No|
|Tether Available to Imperium||Yes||No|
|Imperium Station(s) able to Shoot||Yes||No|
|Imperium Supers Staged in System||Yes||No|
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.
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 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?
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