Art by Cryo Huren
“When you cant defend forts in delve that is a clear sign you are losing.” — Redditor comment on PAPI’s recent activity in Delve.
Delve is burning.
In the two and a half weeks since the M2 breakout on Jan 27, PAPI has carried out a relentless scorched-earth campaign in the Imperium’s home region of Delve, torching more than 1.3 trillion ISK worth of Upwell structures across 11 constellations.
As experienced EVE players know, this level of widespread structure bashing is only possible when attackers have sustained battlefield dominance across the theater, since they must bring to bear entire fleets to burn through multiple layers of defense for each structure across multiple days. Simply put, the Imperium’s structure losses demonstrate who has day-to-day control over most of Delve: PAPI.
Given the Imperium’s long-held commitment to “Fortress Delve,” and the years they have spent preparing to defend against just this kind of onslaught, many PAPI line members have concluded (if their Reddit posts are to be believed) that they are winning this war–and handily.
Before we examine whether or not that conclusion is justified, let’s dig into some of the details of PAPI’s glassing of Delve since the M2 breakout.
In the last 19 days, excluding cyno jammers, PAPI has destroyed 74 Upwell structures in Delve with a total combined value of 1.34 trillion ISK (equivalent to roughly 15 titans). As the various charts below show, the majority of these structures (44) have been small–everything from Astrahus citadels to Ansiblex jump gates–with an average value of 2.9 billion ISK.
There have been, however, some notably large kills; two in particular by themselves make up a third of the total butcher’s bill: the 1-SMEB Keepstar (204 billion) and a Sotiyo with costly rigs that died February 13 in 236-XC (242 billion). And of the 1.34 trillion, more than 900 billion of the Imperium’s losses can be traced to just 10 structures, the two just named plus several faction Fortizars, several Sotiyos, and a couple of Tataras.
1.34 trillion ISK isn’t chump change, and evaluating the impact of these losses on the Imperium’s ability to wage war is difficult. But given that there are two Sotiyos and two Tataras in 1DQ1-A alone (not to mention dozens of faction Fortizars and five Keepstars) it is certain that the Imperium continues to possess a significant industrial capacity in Delve and can continue to produce everything it needs up to supercapitals and titans as long as it maintains stocks of resources. In addition, its ability to stage ships close to the front lines is certainly undiminished by PAPI’s structure-clearing activity.
Likely of greater impact than the structure losses themselves is the simple loss of secure space demonstrated by PAPI’s ability to run rampant across Delve. Loss of space brings loss of income and loss of direct access to raw materials. But unless PAPI intends to try and starve the Imperium out of 1DQ1-A, it is not clear what effect those losses could have on the longer-term military situation in Delve.
And this takes us to the question: Is PAPI winning the larger war? They clearly are projecting force with a free hand across the Imperium’s home region, but is their rampage in Delve pushing the Imperium closer to the moment when they might be forced to seek a settlement or offer some sort of surrender?
A consideration of the larger strategic situation shows a clear answer: No.
Imperium leadership has repeatedly made clear that their strategic focus is not on holding space in Delve (where in addition to bashing structures, PAPI has been making significant sov gains in recent weeks, in particular flipping most of the iHubs in the Imperium’s vaunted “Helm’s Deep”). Imperium leadership is focused on maintaining the hellcamp in M2, and this they continue to do with apparently undiminished vigilance. As recently as yesterday, more than 1,000 Imperium pilots formed in a matter of minutes as pings went out that PAPI might be attempting to stage a breakout.
Why would Imperium leadership go in this direction? Why after months of puffing up “Fortress Delve” and “Helm’s Deep” would they allow almost the entirety of their home region to become a floodplain and be glassed?
The answer is in the numbers.
In the last 19 days, PAPI has killed 1.34 trillion in structures; at the M2 breakout on Jan 27, the Imperium killed 2 trillion in dreads. Which is to say, in 19 days PAPI is two-thirds of the way to extracting the blood that the Imperium extracted in a single day. Just as the amount of ISK in structures standing in 1DQ dwarfs the amount PAPI has burned, so too the amount of ISK trapped in M2 dwarfs what PAPI has burned.
The Imperium calculates that to get that ISK trapped in M2 back, PAPI will have to pay a hefty price–at least as great a price as the Imperium stands to lose by letting much of Delve burn. The Imperium has already demonstrated they can force PAPI to pay a price in blood to get their supers back, and they, not unreasonably, calculate that by maintaining the hellcamp, they can force PAPI to do so again.
And if PAPI isn’t willing to pay that price, they stand to lose almost an order of magnitude more in ISK than they’ve glassed in the last 19 days. They could burn Delve for six months at the rate they’re going and not achieve parity.
PAPI has 130* titans trapped in M2 as well as an unknown number of supercarriers and other capitals. That’s almost 12 trillion ISK in titans alone. And perhaps more significantly, there are hundreds of pilots trapped there as well – highly skilled characters (in many instances likely mains) that are simply trapped, unable to login until PAPI stages another breakout.
All of that – the trapped ISK and those trapped pilots – translates into pressure on PAPI, a great deal more pressure than the Imperium feels from burnt structures, even if the value destroyed were triple what it has been.
Until PAPI can save the super fleet it has trapped in M2, they can’t claim to be winning the ISK war in Delve no matter how many structures they burn. And when and if they do extract, the blood price they are forced to pay may well counterbalance their months of structure bashing.
Watching your home burn isn’t pleasant, but dropping the M2 hellcamp to save a few trillion in Upwell structures would be precisely the wrong thing to do. PAPI’s in a deep hole in M2, and they shouldn’t think otherwise. The calculation the Imperium has made makes perfect sense.
For that reason – by the numbers – PAPI’s recent success burning GSF structures in Delve does not indicate progress towards ultimate victory.
* The number dropped to 129 Sunday as one of the trapped BRAVE titan pilots redeemed a ‘Silver Ticket’ and sold his titan to the Imperium.