The Querious Conquest: A Look Back

2015-06-09

The Querious Conquest may be over. With the fall of strategic station system ED-L9T to Darkness and their allies within the Guardians of the Galaxy Coalition, all of Eastern Querious is now within the Guardians’ grasp. While two Constellations bordering Delve are still in the hands of Confederation of xXPIZZAXx’s Elite Space Coalition, Darkness may be content with the space they have successfully taken in the past four months. If so, a glance at the map of Querious reveals why: maintaining the borders at the constellations of A-Z7C9 and MPJW-6 limits the number of exposed border systems with Delve to two. By comparison, taking the remaining two constellations, 3B-IWE and 4QZ-2M, would leave five systems directly adjacent to enemy territory, and two constellations effectively cut off from direct access. As the conflict winds to a possible close, it seems a good point to look back to its beginnings, and the winding route that both Darkness, and Querious, took to reach this point.

Prelude to War

In mid-March, Darkness lived in Delve, most notably holding the strategic staging system of ZXB-VC. Next door lay Y-2ANO, and behind that, Fountain, held by CFC member alliance Fatal Ascension. Y-2, though, was not owned by FA, but was rather held by Goonswarm Federation as the far end of the jump bridge network that had once stretched from the far edges of Tribute and Branch, around the western edge of the map and down as far as Querious.

Querious, in March, was the territory of Northern Coalition (NCdot), and their renter alliance Northern Associates (NA). Northern Coalition and Darkness were allies in the N3 Coalition, sharing the revenue from NA’s lands. At the time, NA’s expansive holdings represented the largest rental alliance in EVE history, with an equally large income.

Prosperity, however, can often bring boredom, and one week before EVE Fanfest 2015, the situation came to a head. On March 13th, Northern Coalition and nomadic/mercenary alliance Black Legion (BL) declared mutual +5 standings, and deployed to Hophib in the low security region of Aridia, on the border of Fountain. In response, the CFC deployed to Fountain on March 17th, staging out of both 4-EP12 in eastern Fountain, and TEG-SD in the west, in order to better defend both the Aridia and Delve approaches. Two days later, the CFC’s Reavers Special Interest Group (SIG) moved further, slipping a sub-capital convoy through Delve into the Blood Raider system of 319-3D.

The St. Patrick’s Day War

For the next three weeks, the two largest coalitions in the game skirmished over the border systems of Fountain, while the Reavers, working with Pizza under mercenary contract, began striking at the N3 backfield, focusing primarily on the infrastructure and moon mining towers in Kadeshi space.

On the morning of April 8th, that changed with the fall of ZXB, forcing Darkness and Kadeshi from their staging system. In short order, the front collapsed. The day before the attack on ZXB, a leaked pastebin from Darkness alliance leader Sort Dragon had surfaced, bluntly assessing the alliance’s situation and promising that Darkness would continue to seek to hold sovereignty, even if driven from Delve. Shortly after the loss of their staging system, the Kadeshi released an alliance update of their own, praising their pilots’ heroic but doomed efforts, and announcing a move to 1-SMEB, a staging system at the far end of Delve, on the edge of Aridia, where their fleets would have better positioning to defend all of Delve. Over the next week, CFC forces were also on the move, smashing through two constellations in central Delve, and then, to the surprise of many, redeploying themselves to the lowsec system of Sakht, in Aridia.

Right next door to 1-SMEB.

As the CFC’s main fleet swiftly established operational supremacy over 1-SMEB and central Delve, the Reavers redeployed as well, to Querious. A previous deployment had seen them staging out of nearby high security space in the Khanid region, and with this move, they returned to a staging system with reliable—and familiar—logistics.

On April 14th, one week after the fall of ZXB, NCdot announced they would be abandoning Querious, withdrawing from their coalition, and resetting their standings with their own renter alliance. Nor would any help come from Delve, as the CFC’s capital fleets continued to grind the region down unopposed. Northern Associates, and the renters in Querious, were on their own.

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THE REAVING OF QUERIOUS (WELL, PARTS OF IT)

Four days after NCdot announced their withdrawal, and after a week of attacking towers and harrassing renters, the Reavers took their first systems in Querious. 9-HM04 fell at 06:27 on the morning of April 18th, followed six hours later by VT-G2P. A SIG that was formed with the intention of burning systems to the ground now suddenly found itself in possession of two. And they would not be the last. Three days later, the Reavers claimed ED-L9T and its station. The next day, another station, two more systems.

Local Northern Associates renters, abandoned by the landlords who should have defended them, offered to pay their rents to the Reavers instead. Local money moons were towered, and the precious moon goo used to generate profits to finance the Reavers’ war machine. By May 3rd, as the newly-rechristened Imperium’s main fleets celebrated the end of the Delve campaign and began to convoy home to the north, the Reavers controlled nine systems, with another, 3-FKCZ, in the hands of an allied local pirate group.

The Querious Conquest

May 3rd also marks the date when Darkness took over the central staging system of Querious, P-ZMZV from NCdot. The next day, the Reaver-held station in Z-UZZN fell, with Darkness’ Territorial Claim Unit (TCU) onlining the early morning hours of May 5th. With that, the campaign began, pitting the 5,000-members of the nascent Guardians of the Galaxy Coalition, against an expeditionary force of Reavers less than ten percent of their size.

Initial progress was swift. Though there were a few delays as the Reavers mounted stiff defenses over a number of station timers, within two weeks, the Imperial pilots’ gains had been almost completely eradicated. On May 17th, the station system of U-HYZN was lost, and only one system remained to obstruct the Guardians’ hold on all of Querious: ED-L9T.

ED-L9T: The Capital Boneyard

Fighting over ED-L9T began almost a week earlier, with Darkness pushing the station through shield and armor timers to a final timer on May 15th. As the battle over the timer erupted, Darkness brought in dreadnoughts in order to overwhelm the Reavers’ logistics capabilities. This tactic had served them well in prior engagements, with the Imperial forces unable to reliably escalate in order to control the field. Once the Guardians’ capitals had entered their siege cycles, however, an additional cyno brought Pandemic Legion capitals and supercapitals onto the field. PL’s arrival, and the subsequent immediate demise of the attacking capital ships, secured the station timer, and saved the system.

With their backs against the wall, the Reavers’ defense continued to stiffen over the following weeks. Word of the fighting encouraged other members of the SIG to deploy from Deklein, and Imperial FCs began bringing fleets to each successive timer. Again and again, Darkness and their allies besieged the system. Their pilots sacrificed countless skillpoints losing Strategic Cruisers. Some lost as many as three of the Tech 3 ships in a single week. Reaver Ishtars fell in droves, and attacking capital ships died with every station assault. On the eve of the final station timer on June 6th, the total butcher’s bill for the campaign stood at just over 160 billion ISK.

That number was about to rise.

The early morning hours of June 6th saw what was undeniably the largest and bloodiest battle of the campaign. Both sides formed early and brought in as many allies as possible. The numbers lay clear the story of a Coalition determined to win at all costs, and defenders willing to commit every resource they had to try to endure one more time:

  • Over 1500 pilots.
  • 28 Dreadnoughts destroyed.
  • 10 Carriers lost.
  • 110 Strategic Cruisers killed.
  • 81 Logistics and Support Cruisers destroyed.

The total destruction in one night, over 200 billion ISK, stands head and shoulders above the combined total for the rest of the campaign, and exceeds the total losses incurred in the fall of ZXB. Though there was an initial delay as the station flipped to Spacemonkey’s Alliance control, this left the TCU vulnerable, and the Guardians of the Galaxy brought as much weight to bare as they could muster in order to destroy it. Once the TCU died, it was only a matter of being able to online TCUs of their own.

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The day after the battle, TMC was able to sit down with Darkness alliance leader Sort Dragon for a rare interview:

TMC: I know you normally don’t do interviews, so I’d like to start off by thanking you for agreeing to talk with us today. You’ve taken the ED-L9T station, and with it, the system. This win has been a long time coming. How does it feel?

Sort Dragon: Ok well on a personal level out of game I have a horrible headache but I am full of immense pride for my guys and the coalition we put together up until now and our ability to actually win the timer with as much heat on us is great.

TMC: Last night, your pilots flew Legions and Lokis, and that’s been your most common fleet comp for the campaign. Along the way, a lot of those T3s have died. Has there been a lot of grumbling about the skill point losses?

Sort Dragon: Um I wouldn’t know as i haven’t seen any so far. This would be by far the most t3’s we have ever lost, we counter this generally by making our fits work with lvl 4 skills so as to give a stop gap between lvl 4 and 5. Some may grumble after tonight if they reships and lost 2 t3’s but most people who fly t3’s have a higher level of sp and have no problem spending 4 days to go back to 5.

TMC: Makes sense. You’ve also fielded a number of Tempest Fleet Issue (TFI) fleets at times. What were the factors that led to one fleet being called or the other?

Sort Dragon: TFI’s are used for the extreme long range fights that we have against Ishtars or other kiting ships. The high alpha helps to burst through reps where the Loki and Legion may not have the ability to do it. we stopped using the TFI’s lately due to the fights not calling for it and the extensive work by the reavers with tracking disruptors.

TMC: There were some early setbacks in this campaign, station timers in a number of systems that were saved against your T3 fleets. Did those early stumbling blocks influence the decision to add triage carriers to the mix?

Sort Dragon: Yes and no. Yes due to the stupid alpha of the Ishtars and CCP’s inability to deal with them as a ship but at the same time it was about our guys and our fcs getting used to using triage and dreads. I did not want our group to be afraid to drop them. I also wanted them to fly with me to know when to drop them and when not to drop them. Plus we also had a chance to train more triage pilots to fly with experienced triage FC’s and pilots.

TMC: So it was an opportunity to learn, and get the coalition more used to using capitals during subcap fleets. On at least one occasion, we saw an Erebus jump into the fighting in order to doomsday a Reaver dreadnought. Was that also part of the learning process, or more of an unplanned event?

Sort Dragon: That fucking op. God I nearly died. Vigi was supposed to jump in yes. But he was supposed to jump in 40km above the station. This being the way that he could DD the dread and then warp out. Unfortunately he jumped to the wrong cyno and landed on the undock. All the fcs on command were just saying oh shit he is going to die, and to be fair he got stupidly lucky. We have a lot of very experienced titan pilots but this was a dumb mistake that nearly cost us a titan, thank god it didn’t.

TMC: Well, Goons are renowned for their inability to hold tackle on hostile titans, aren’t they?

Sort Dragon: Yes and no, I mean the issue was a lot of the dictors bubbled and docked forcing the bubbles to drop immediately. At the same time though it is really hard to keep dictors alive against 70 t3’s and focused fire so i do not hold much against the dictors. However it may not be known but the titans initial warp out went to a planet at 0. when he landed a dictor landed at 90km off him. he managed to rewarp in time to a friendly tower.

TMC: Last night you had an Erebus in system as well, but it stayed out of the fighting. Was that the same Erebus?

Sort Dragon: Actually it was me on Sort in the erebus. Before the fight we switched my avatar for that erebus as i had max leadership skills giving people a 37.5% bonus to every ship in fleets armor. This allowed us to tank a lot more damage than other fights.

TMC: Were those bonuses going to both the dreads and the subcaps, or did you have the split the dreads off into a separate fleet?

Sort Dragon: We had dreads in a secondary fleet initially as we had too many subcaps to allow our dreads to be in fleet. This did hurt the dreads a little but at the same time it was a bad call for me not to just bring all dreads in at once. Instead I only brought in Dark[ness] dreads and so our dps application on the station was much less.

TMC: One common comment I’ve heard is that very few people on the Imperial side expected the fight to be quite so large. Laz told his fleet it was going to be a two hour op. You started forming up fleets and moving them in the night before. Were you expecting the fight to be as large as it was, and to take as long as it did?

Sort Dragon: Um well yes due simply to the fact is a sov final timer. On the flipside though we and a lot of others asked for a boosted system and its a real amazing fact that CCP did not buff the system resulting in horrible TIDI. In a free running system I think we would have had a much better chance of winning the fight sooner however there is no way of knowing for sure.

TMC: As an additional part of the prep for last night’s fight, you were able to tower virtually every moon in the system in the weeks leading up to this final battle. Did it surprise you that the Imperium’s team didn’t beat you to that?

Sort Dragon: Yea I mean important systems like that need to be moon held if they have limited moons like that. HED-GP is a perfect example if you lose all 6 moons in that system the system will fall. But all the info I had from Imperial Reavers members was that they were doing this for content and fun so I can understand them not wanting to tower all the moons. From our end it was about the objective and taking it however we could.

TMC: Speaking of the objective, when the station flipped to SMA, what was the reaction from within your leadership?

Sort Dragon: Hilarity but relief. It could have been a lot worse. We were still able to shoot the TCU because of it going to SMA. If it had of flipped back to Goons I probably would have rage quit to be fair.

TMC: SMA was actually reporting that the station had bugged out, and they were unable to reset permissions because the final blow had been simultaneous between SMA and CONDI.

Sort Dragon: I don’t know anything about it but what I do know is it took a very long time to reset

TMC: BRAVE brought a wing of ECM bursting frigates last night. Did they have much effect on your ability to maintain target locks for damage and logi?

Sort Dragon: Yep. It was horrible and they are super overpowered. It is important to know that Brave had accepted a contract from me the night before but on the start of the fight decided to about face and work with the Imperium which is annoying but such is Eve.

TMC: Throughout the campaign, we’ve seen the fights get progressively larger, both in terms of fleet size and the number of allies involved. One of the allies that have been in this the longest with you is Illuminati Confirmed. As a result, they’ve received a constellation in eastern Querious. How is the relationship between Darkness and MYTH? And as a long-time player in the nullsec sov game, what are your impressions of them?

Sort Dragon: They are good dudes. They are relatively new in the scale of the game but they have proven strong and loyal which is hard to come by. They are allies and members of our coalition.

TMC: Overall, do think this campaign has been a good experience for Darkness as an alliance, and for the new coalition?

Sort Dragon: Yea I mean we never expected to fill a fleet this soon into building this coalition up but we had 300 people last night and that is impressive in itself. Dark throughout the night had 160 which is amazing given the hard last 3 months we have had.

TMC: Last night’s total casualties exceeded the cost of the CFC’s push into ZXB. If someone had told you back in early April that that would be the case, would you have believed it?

Sort Dragon: Um no because ofcourse at one stage I was worried about darkness’s future and the ability to keep my alliance together but the ceo’s and the members stood by me and this is what became of it. So i have them to thank the most for what we acomplished last night

TMC: Anything you’d like to say to the Reavers pilots you’ve faced over the course of the campaign?

Sort Dragon: It is nice to see you guys come out of the shadows of the silly ‘we don’t exist’ memes. You guys should have props for the ability you guys as a group have and the work you put in to get where you are. You will have my respect forever for that.

Sort Dragon: Also please go home :p

If the fall of ED-L9T does mark the end of Querious Conquest, then this conflict between the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Imperium will have cost over 360 billion ISK, and seen the destruction of over 200 Strategic Cruisers, 30 dreadnoughts, 12 carriers, and 237 Heavy Assault Cruisers.

This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by Arrendis.

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