The ten days since INN’s last Providence update have been extremely eventful, with an unexpected PL offensive coming just a few days before an even more unexpected public announcement from Provi-Bloc leadership. Prior to February 3, PL held sovereignty in seven of Provi’s 79 systems. A few days after that, though, they unleashed a convulsion of violence that changed the situation in Providence completely.
PL’s Theater-Wide Assault
On Tuesday, February 7, Pandemic Legion pilots descended on Providence en masse. Their target was the sovereignty structures in every system they could find. On that night alone, they successfully seized Territorial Control Units in seven systems, and Infrastructure Hubs in four others. This thrust gave them sovereignty in JEIV-E, a regional trade hub. From that position they were well positioned to interdict ratting and mining in adjacent systems, as well as interfere with transit between the high-sec Dital gate and the rest of Providence. The capture of JEIV-E also completed the encirclement of Yulai Federation’s XHQ-7V, isolating that system from the rest of YF-controlled space.
Pandemic Legion’s offensive caused other serious problems for the Provi-Bloc defense. The loss of IHubs caused combat sites to stop spawning in the affected systems, and the resulting cash flow restriction further complicated an already difficult situation. PL has been extremely vigilant in the protection of its assets as well; when this writer and a corporation-mate attempted to entosis a PL IHub a few days ago, the response from PL was immediate and overwhelming. PL pushed their advantage further, capturing the systems of D61A-G and SI-I89 on February 13, giving them sovereignty in ten systems.
Provi-Bloc Drops a Bomb
In the meantime, Provi-Bloc alliances were having mixed success in their resistance to PL’s aggression. Since the battle profiled in INN’s last article, Provi-Bloc had not attempted to engage PL in a stand-up fleet-level fight. Ratting was an impossibility in many systems, and mining would only increase the Activity Defense Multiplier, making the vulnerability windows shorter on the IHubs and TCUs that Provi-Bloc pilots were trying to recapture. There was nothing left to do…except fight.
Against this backdrop, Provi-Bloc leadership stunned not only the watching world, but also many in their own alliances, by publicly announcing a withdrawal of all non-combat assets from Providence. With the exception of PvP ships, or cheaply-fit PvE ships for the systems where ratting was still possible, pilots were ordered to remove all their ships to safety, either to a corporation-controlled high-sec structure or else to their alliance’s designated fallback point.
While all this was going on, the Upwell 2.0 patch released, and it brought no trace of the station changes that PL was presumably waiting for. Added to this, the Upwell 2.0 patch made significant changes to citadel defense. The shield reinforcement cycle can now be attacked at any time, making it easier than ever to destroy citadels. Additionally, inactive citadels in “low-power mode” experience a 33% reduction in their EHP, and skip the armor reinforcement cycle completely, making them exceptionally easy to destroy. While it is true that “Asset Safety” prevents ships in a destroyed citadel from being destroyed as well, the owner of the ships must pay 15% of the ship’s value – a potentially crippling blow to a pilot who has left a ratting carrier or some other valuable craft in a vulnerable station.
Confusion and Resolve
However, as often happens in the fog of war, the message was garbled over time. The nuanced phrase “withdrawal of non-combat assets” quickly morphed into “evacuation,” spurring rumors all over New Eden that Provi-Bloc were pulling out of null entirely and ceding the field to Pandemic Legion. As it happens, nothing could be further from the truth. The coalition-wide withdrawal notice explicitly ordered pilots to leave PvP ships in system, and to be working, in skills and ISK, toward more advanced PvP ships. The message from leadership is clear: the fight will go on.
However, the internal structure of Provi-Bloc is such that individual corps and alliances are given wide latitude to make their own decisions. As such, a few member corporations have indeed taken the opportunity to withdraw completely to safer grounds until the major fighting is over, and indeed, it would make sense for mining- and industry-focused corporations to do precisely that. Other corps and alliances are committed to staying and fighting, hence the tongue-in-cheek “So, I assume we’re ignoring the evac message, then?” uttered by one pilot upon receiving it in his in-game mail.
A representative quote came from Blade Sharpenter, a Yulai Federation FC who participates extensively in small gang and fleet PvP: “It’s pretty clear that Provi isn’t [fully] evacing, although it does make sense to move expensive non PvP stuff out. I don’t see why we would leave right now anyway. Provi hasn’t lost a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. At least I’m not leaving; the fights are still fun to me. I know a lot of people share my feelings about it.”
As Blade indicates, he is not alone. In some ways, life in Provi is continuing almost as normally as it ever has. PvP and mining fleets proceed on schedule; ships are still being built, bought, and flown; reds dock up whenever blues fly into a system, and vice versa. However, Provi-Bloc’s announcement is its first proclamation – and a very public one – that there might be a new status quo in Providence. Just as a previous generation thought that World War I would be “over by Christmas” only to be disappointed, so too the hope of PL looting the NPC stations and withdrawing quickly seems to be fading.
Serious questions remain to be answered. Will PL continue taking systems in Providence? If so, how long before the Imperium or another interested party steps in to halt their rival’s progress? How well can Provi-Bloc pilots continue to defend their systems if their ISK-generating ships are in low-sec or high-sec? Will PL pilots in Providence get bored and go elsewhere if the PvP action dries up? Will PL take advantage of the Upwell 2.0 mechanics to begin laying waste to citadels – or will Provi-Bloc do the same? And what will be the final outcome of Provi-Bloc’s withdrawal of non-combat assets?
INN is committed to keeping readers updated on the rapidly changing situation in Providence, so please check back regularly for updates.