Leadership Update #58, 16/12/2018, “Knocked Out”
A week ago we launched a surprise assault on “Hard Knocks” within the wormhole system of J115405, otherwise known as “Rage”, our target to destroy the first Keepstar citadel to have been built – “Fort Knox” and it’s sister structure “Unassailable Wealth”. Incredibly we stand victorious with both Keepstars in ruins after a wave of mutilation at the hands of our fleets and that of our allies.
Much has already been written in public channels covering the aftermath, perspectives on politics and the inevitable numbers comparisons but little of the inception which set the scene for another chapter in Eve history. I hope through this post I can do justice to the team which made this all possible and share the effort, trials and risks therein.
First we need to go back to Syndicate in 2017…
3G Ravens and fighting the Supercap menace
Towards the end of our Syndicate campaign we were facing the full might of the Panfam coalition along with NC. Supercaps deployed on our doorstep in X-M2LR, effectively shutting down all combat capability save for guerilla tactics. It was here we evolved the Snatch doctrine from it’s first incarnation through a heavy snatch variant using blaster Talos into a long-range Raven setup for anti-cap duties.
Initial tests proved really effective but also highlighted how brittle the fleet was if it was caught. Hundreds of Ravens would be sacrificed as we fine-tuned the doctrine with Pando behind the wheel making improvements.
The next big test for 3G Ravens was for the 9-4 Keepstar owned by Pandemic Horde as we tried to stop their unanchoring process. Although we managed to reinforce the Keepstar under hostile fire, the fleet paid the iron price and was destroyed. If anything though, the possibility had been proven.
I’m a dreamer, I’m a dreamer, I’m a dream
Back in December 2017, Riven Avaren and Pandoralica were chewing the fat on coms and reflecting on the experiences of the 9-4 battle and the belief that it was possible to kill a Keepstar with the 3G Raven setup, but perhaps not in such a supercap heavy environment.
The discussion drifted onto Wormhole space and the Hard Knocks Keepstar which was widely acknowledged to be an impossible target to destroy. Maybe the Ravens would stand a chance but even if you could get in there, how would you deal with the Keepstar and what was expected to be cap-heavy HK fleet, already equipped to repel any possible attacker? Notwithstanding that HK would surely call in allies from the WH community and equip them from within. It seemed impossible that we could get in there with enough ordnance to win 3 successive battles on a Keepstar grid.
But Just Imagine…
So without love and a promised land…
Taking that previous conversation as a directional challenge, Riven Avaran set to work on the quiet and without any actual agreed plan of intent but maybe he could get the ball rolling enough to make this dream real. As a WH player himself, Riven had his own bolthole in w-space, known as “Valhalla” from where he started the journey of trying to find Rage.
Operating alone he started rage-rolling from within Valhalla, looking for J115405. Approx 496 rolls later (taking 19 days) he found Rage and inserted his prober within to have a peek about.
With his scout within Rage, next up was to start the job of getting some Ravens inserted to prove it was possible. Roping in fellow corpmate CrazzyElk, Riven ordered a batch of Charons and Ravens but without revealing the intended plan. CrazzyElk is the kinda guy who is used to weird stuff and obliged with little more than a raised eyebrow. Building the Charons and Ravens in Querious, CrazzyElk transported the freighters to highsec/lowsec depots where Riven waited to find connections back to Valhalla.
With 4 loaded Charons, Riven was ready for the first insertion and began rage-rolling (solo) again from within Valhalla. This time it took 700+ rolls over a period of 1.5 months to find a connection back into Rage. The approach was to insert 4 freighters at a time; having done the maths Riven was confident he could get in 3 Charons with the 4th collapsing the hole behind him.
Having found the connection into Rage, Riven warped his freighters to the WH, jumped his prober back into Valhalla and proceeded to jump the Charons in, closing the hole behind him and then safe logging. With his other scout on the inside within Rage, he probed his own freighters, bookmarked them and went to watch and check no-one had spotted him.
With the first Charons inserted, Riven enlisted the help of Dominic Solarus and Arisene Shi who they had shared w-time with in the past. Operating from within his own hole (Asylum), Dominic rolled over 1,000 times without seeing Rage.
Despite getting the first 4 Charons in, this process was agonising and would take far too long. Time to change tack…
How about a big, black limousine with diplomatic plates?
Riven elected to make the cannonball run from Valhalla across low-sec and wormhole routes to insert into Rage whenever he could also find a corresponding direct connection from within Rage to low-sec. And only at or near downtime. The first connection pair found with this method involved a 20-jump dash across low-sec/w-space with 4 unescorted freighters and a webber.
Critically, Riven completely forgot about the aggro timer from his webber and disaster almost struck as despite charging safely, he jumped into Rage with an aggro timer, sitting in space for 10+ minutes with active HK probers within Rage. Thankfully he wasn’t spotted and the freighters made it to the safety of downtime unsighted.
With 8 freighters inserted, it was time to scale up operations; Riven enlisted the help of Prometheos & Cadrean to help with funding, freighters and seeding Rage. Riven, Dominic and Arisene took centre stage with scanning and seeding while between them all they invested 600b in assets for the operation.
Dominic and Arisene both being USTZ spent the best part of the year staying up very late each night working on moving freighters into position and ready for insertion at DT for when Riven came online. Meanwhile CrazzyElk kept building more freighters and ships of all types to support the objective.
This process was often fraught with mishap and misfortune as after working all night to position freighters ready for insertion, the team found the WH would go EOL or a HK player would arrive and use the hole for their own logistics, forcing the team to rewind and try again on another day from another location.
The support team grew with additional members who had a shared history and friendship together, helping out with logistics including Daratoru, Puer, Gregory, Ossiffer, Goxer and Kenny Drein. With the arrival of Goxer and Kenny, logistics seeding stepped up a gear as together with CrazzyElk, the team started to use more JF’s to move assets into position as well as Titan portalling freighters directly onto WH entrances (on a few occasions).
11 months of painstaking seeding later and 46 Charons loaded with 750 Raven hulls, 800 support ships, fits, ammo, structures, and fuel were logged out within Rage, waiting for the night to fall.
Incredibly only 2 freighters had been lost during this period; one to an accidental duel invite and another to a high-sec suicide gank. In this latter example the team had 4 freighers moving through high-sec when they were all stopped by a suicide gank bump team which was preventing them from warping. Some quick thinking and a jump onto Goon coms and with some relief it turned out that it was a Goon team who promptly let the freighters into warp, save the last one which was being bumped by a hostile squad. The hostile suicide team arrived and proceeded to kill the last freigher although the Goonswarm pilots rescued the situation by bringing in DSTs and helping return the cargo to the freighter pilot (props to the Goon team for this help!).
On Sat 8th Dec we formed for a CTA (which we call very rarely) and assembled two full Stuka fleets under the command of Pandoralica and Dark Shines and a spillover fleet totalling ~ 550 INIT pilots. Across the universe our allies in Imperium formed 2 x full Jackdaw fleets and Snuff formed a Tengu fleet. Altogether we numbered close to 1,000 pilots for the initial assault.
With the exception of the INIT. Strat FC team (Sister Bliss, Pandoralica, Dark Shines & Bongalonga), Imperium FCs (Asher, Alice & Kendarr) and Snuff FCs (Hy Wanto Destroyer & Tau Ad) and the Logistics team, no-one had any insight as to what was about to happen next.
Taking separate wormhole chains, our fleets converged on Rage, immediately set up hole control to maintain and manage all entrances/exits and then started to kill anchored Hard Knocks towers on moon locations. As each HK tower died, our teams anchored and set about onlining INIT. structures.
With the first towers up, freighters started logging in, warping to the POS and depositing their cargo for the Logistics team to start assembling Ravens. With one Stuka fleet maintaining hole control, the other swapped to Ravens as they became available.
Once fully formed, Pandoralica set off with the Ravens to reinforce Fort Knocks, the first of the hostile Keepstars. Using higgs-anchored Exequrors the fleet mass-tanked the Keepstar doomsday to limit losses to disposable soaks.
Logistics teams kept fitting up ships, FCs and scouts made system and grid tacticals while the scanning team kept eyes on all chains in and out of Rage.
Cat out the bag, we were on edge as we knew HK allies were formed/forming and had started the process of rage-rolling to find a direct connection into Rage. If/when they got lucky with a connection, we knew the response time would have to be immediate or they would be in and able to disrupt our operations.
All eyes and ears were on HK and their allied fleets, keeping tabs as best we could on their readiness. At this stage it was pure speculation who else may come to their aid.
With the Keepstar reffed, our fleets reverted to hole control and swapping FCs and pilots on a roster as we were about to enter a marathon to maintain 24/7 control. The Imperium fleets needed to cycle out of Rage for the evening so we probed them an exit and thanked them for their help on the insertion.
With just INIT. and Snuff in Rage overnight, we were on tenterhooks should hostiles manage to gain entry (we may not be able to wrestle control back and the show could all be over). Overnight the team did an amazing job keeping hold control and prevented a number of attempts by small groups of HK and allies to get into Rage.
Waking up to day two, we still had hole control as duties changed over between probing teams and FCs. Throughout the day we were probing new chains and bringing in reinforcements from those who didn’t make the first op. Additionally we were asking everyone to bring their alts in with combat ships so they could reship when needed.
In early EU, hostiles made a breakthrough, with a ~200 man Lazerhawks-led fleet charging through a fresh direct and getting away before our fleet could react. With a sizeable hostile force now inside Rage, things were about to get tricky.
For the most part it was a quiet afternoon, with hostiles only undocking briefly to gank one of our doorstop carriers when our guard was down. Later that evening would prove a more decisive encounter as hostiles formed up and took control with a 200-man Muninn/Cerb fleet to safeguard a route in for another sizeable allied fleet.
Scrambling to respond and with the hostile reinforcement fleet spotted down the chain, we had little time to react. Additionally we understood Pandemic Horde [PH] had assembled over 300 pilots who were rushing to get in and aid HK.
We took the Stukas and Pandoralica formed some Ravens and we went to engage, as we couldn’t let another 450+ hostiles get into Rage. It was a bit hurried to flash form and engage, but we had no time to lose. Our Ravens warped in while the HK fleet was guarding the WH. The HK fleet then started chasing the Ravens around grid, warping in on them every time they [would] MJD. I brought in the Stukas at 200k and was getting my fleet to anchor up and prepare to engage. Pandoralica MJDd our Ravens and the HK fleet warped after them, just as we did a single MJD to close range.
We ended up 70k from the HK Muninns/Cerbs and had a split second choice to warp out or MJD again since we were in their optimal. I took the decision to MJD in front of them, pull a u-turn and bomb their anchor. As we started bombing, they re-entered warp and we paused to wait for MJD since a few of their fleet were being tackled and killed. A few stragglers from their fleet warped in so we paused a little more to kill those; before inexplicably the rest of their fleet warped into our bubble and within bomb range. We let off five waves of bombs as they started pulling range and caught about 50% of their fleet, wiping them and their pods. It was a risky manoeuvre, but we didn’t have time to waste.
The remainder of the HK/HAWKS fleet warped out. We frantically cleared bubbles off the new WH, warped in rolling Megathrons and suicide rolled-out a few Ravens to close the hole before their reinforcements could get in.
We were a little fortunate in the HK fleet warping into our bubble at almost optimal engagement range which took us by surprise. With that said, Stuka is easy to f*** up and I was more worried about accidentally manoeuvering into the path of our own bomb wave by accident than chasing the tail for more kills.
With the HK/HAWKS fleets crippled, we set up for the 2nd timer on Fort Knocks. Word came in that HK didn’t have reships for their pods that made it back to the Keepstar and their pilots were ordered to pod out and reform to start rage rolling again. Out intel suggested PH returned to base and stood down.
Fort Knocks was reinforced into final timer with no resistance.
A relatively calm progression towards the final timer of Fort Knocks as day three dawned and HK began self-destructing capital ships en masse and warping treasure laden ships to safespots or other structures and logging them out.
Our hole-control team remained vigilant throughout as we were taking no chances although in the end there was no further resistance of any kind. Chains out of Rage were controlled and steady streams of allies who wanted to participate on the final timer made their way in for the spectacle.
As our 3G Ravens danced around the grid with a steady stream of cruise missiles slamming into the HK keep, allied fleets warped in and registered their mark for a killmail that would go down in history.
When the final explosion lit up the sky, hundreds of containers filled the grid in a sphere to bring out the biggest loot Pinata which will probably never be exceeded. Our logistics team set to work to recover as much of their investment as possible before the field was declared a free-for-all. As it stands I believe we have recovered almost 600b of loot which will go to the team who invested all their personal ISK and time to make this possible. A big thank-you to our allies for their contributions and giving us first cut of the loot field, in addition to all the generous donations received which helped the guys and girls break even.
In the closing last few days as this micro-campaign into J115405 comes to a close we’ve been mopping up, killing the second Keepstar “Unassailable Wealth” and a host of other structures. In parallel we’ve been informed HK structures in bearholes all over w-space are on fire from other entities including Outlaws and there is no coordinated defence.
First and foremost the logistics team above should be congratulated for their incredible efforts, confidence and risk they took in setting up this event and to Pandoralica for running this mission and coordination. No-one really knew whether this would even be possible but they took a shot anyway.
Secondly I think the spirit that everyone in INIT. has taken to support this mission has been incredible. From a surprise CTA to a full week into w-space, everyone has been massively supportive, asking how they could help, bringing in supplies for fleets of their own volition.
There has also been no shortage of people stepping up to run hole-control fleets, probing and generally being helpful. I know I will likely miss some people out (apologies) but thanks to Dark Shines, Bongalonga, Ancientlexy, Tiger, Finchy, l2azorClear, Kubera and in particular Pearcy for running a lot of reinforcement and control fleets.
Also not forgetting a huge thanks to our allies and friends in Imperium and Snuff who brought in fleets to help support, without which we may likely not have been able to pull this off.
No matter what the media has to say, reality is that the outcome could easily have swung the other way had those hostile fleets (450+) been able to enter Rage on day 2 to rendezvous with the 250 HK/HAWKS already in system. Had that hole control been lost, I’m confident we would have seen a flood of other sympathetic entities coming to the aid of HK.
Right now, voices are asking what has HK done to deserve this; in the words of William Munny, “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”