The Dirty Third
The call goes out across CFC-wide channels and the message is clear.
I am a member of Razor alliance at the time, and the call to burn as many fleets as we can from Tenal in a mad dash to try to salvage the train wreck that would become The Battle of Asakai is made without question. The first fleet fills up with 250 members quickly, ships of the line, burly Rokh’s slowly taking off to join the second full fleet of more agile Drakes and Nagas. This was serious business, we had supers on field, the TIDI was already timing folks out, two fleets alone would simply not do. Enter the Dirty Third.
The formation of the Razor Alliance Third Assault Fleet must have been smiled on by the very gods of war. We came together in an ugly collection of battlecruisers that had missed the first fleets, a smattering of logi and almost thirty frigate-sized skirmishers, fast tackle interceptors and assault frigates. I myself opted for a brawling Harpy kit out with tackle modules, a microwarp drive and light neutron blasters. This fit was more affectionately known as the Blarpy. It was heavy tackle meant to get in quick, latch on close, and pummel support into wrecks with heavy dps, and live to do it all again. If you are familiar with my work at all, you’ll realize that this style of flying suits me just fine.
Because we were smaller, we picked up the pace a lot faster than the two main fleets. We moved quicker through the CFC’s now defunct but ingenious jump bridge network. We were by no means the first group into the destination system, and as we burned the battle was slogging away ever so slowly in time dilation (TiDi). Without getting too technical, TiDi essentially slows the game time down to a crawl in a heavily stressed system and subsequently slows several of the surrounding systems which inhabit the same server node. The server would do this mainly so that it could correctly receive and compute all the commands that players were generating while they flooded into the specific system. As TiDi percentage goes up, the amount of real time it takes for the game to compute a second of data goes up as well. Meaning that at maximum TiDi, you are essentially playing in hardened molasses, and the bigger your ship is, the slower it, and consequently its gunfire is. Sounds miserable doesn’t it?
Not so fast folks, there’s a snag in that train of thought. Our fleet isn’t in heavy ships, we’re agile, we’re fast locking, we cycle weapons quickly, and can change direction with quicker response. Though it might take us longer to lock up targets than normal, it is nothing compared to the decades of time it will take anything bigger than a cruiser to get that simple job done against our small ships. We understand this clearly as we begin reaching the surrounding systems and our fleet manages to move even faster in comparison with the first two fleets. Calls go out saying just how grim the situation in the target system has become. Pilots are disconnecting while jumping into Asakai. Several entrances are camped. Inside, the fight is already not going well for CFC forces.
Not only do we arrive for the fight, we have a plan. We don’t care about the supers, and reports have already come in of what loading the destruction on the main battle’s grid looks like. It’s carnage and it’s too much for a lot of computers. We wouldn’t be able to do much against the groups on field without assistance from the main fleets, so we opt to skirmish. We send the interceptors out to the various belts and planets with a simple agenda: find us a fight.
Our interceptor pilots do not shirk from their duty. Large supercapital fights like this always draw ‘tourists’ looking to get a potshot off on a titan, opting to deliver a single volley at what they can and depart to a quiet spot in system to plot a route out of the warzone. The inexperienced panic and warp to celestials, as do pilots on the main field of combat looking to escape grizzly ends. How fortunate it is to have more than a handful of quick-locking frigates with bonuses to tackle modules on hand to detain these mooching freeloaders and cowardly deserters. Others with similar goals are ranging the outside of the fight as well, small gangs of tackle looking to scavenge. They are woefully unaware that we’ve brought a few battlecruisers and logistics along on our rampage, and will never realize their murderous intent.
Our fleet works with precision as tacklers call out catches, heavy tackle immobilizes and tears down the initial defense, and the big guns land to dole out killing blows. Wrecks pile up under our assault, littering asteroid belts, planetary orbits and even Asakai’s star. We are elated to discover not one, but two Moros attempting to escape the battle safely. Their executions are swift, without help from triage, and our numbers swell as cheers of victory are sounded on our comms. Despite the carnage that was overwhelming our brethren on the main field of battle, who were swarmed by more than they could effectively fight against, our ragtag team had managed to control the immediate vicinity. In the face of soul-crushing lag and TiDi, we had managed a small amount of victory. In our success we named the fleet “The Dirty Third” and created two taglines which essentially summed up our experience.
“We may not go down in history, but we will go down on your sister.”
“I was there… and it was craptacular”
Living and Dying in ¾ Time
As the season for epic war draws near and forces begin to settle down for brawling in earnest, we all gear up for the potential for TiDi fights. As a new pilot advocate, I’d like to take the time to point out that you don’t have to be a raucous heavy assault cruiser pilot or able to jump into the fray with a dreadnought to participate. There is a true artform to living the life on the edge of the fight, catching skirmishes and targets of opportunity, in fact I’d almost be willing to wager that these are some of the best bits of PVP you can come across in EVE, completely spontaneous and typically violent in the extreme, you may find yourself on your own trying to keep a target nailed down for your fleet to land on or conversely trying to stay alive long enough for your fleet to finish up the target they were on before you got caught. Organic battles such as the one in Asakai draw pilots like a magnet. Titans may be king once TiDi hits, but the humble frigate pilot becomes the crown prince.
The sweet spot in TiDi is typically considered to be from when 70-40% of the action is slowed, but the game is not unresponsive. Small ships shine in this supernatural bullet time, retaining much of their mobility. This makes it significantly easier to manually pilot through the battle and dispatch enemies before broadcasts can be effectively relayed. Assault frigates greatly benefit from their relatively hefty tanks and reduction in micro warp drive signature bloom penalty; making them difficult to lock, track and kill without efficient support.
While on main grid, small vessels can be put to use knocking out the very support that threatens their survivability, and a concerted attack by small signature, fast-locking and durable ships have proven to be deadly to enemy EWAR support. Harpy Fleets routinely wind up on the wrong end of death delivered from afar, and formidably tanked frigates like the Hawk can take a lot of punishment while delivering body blows to targets while being up close and personal. To put it mildly, with the advent of T1 balancing, frigate-sized logistic ships, command destroyers, and the T3 Destroyer meta, there is no time like the present to give TiDi fights a chance as a smaller ship pilot. The comparatively low cost and increased effectiveness of smaller vessels (thanks to balance passes) make skirmish fleets an effective support tool for large fleet compositions.
Top Gun Tactics: Permission to Buzz the Tower
This all sounds great, so how do you actually snag a few kills and a great story of your very own? Fear not. I’m more than willing to give pilots a few ideas that will either pan out like a charm or end up in a death with fire, screaming, and explosions. Go big or go home, am I right?
With the introduction of Command Destroyers and their AOE micro jump drive capabilities, small gang warfare now has the ability to dramatically change the face of an existing fleet fight. Spearfishing is the attempt by multiple MJD destroyers to jump directly into and immediately out of an ongoing fleet battle, “kidnapping” unprepared targets and separating them from the main fleet and logistics support. This renders most victims unprepared, and if executed with creativity, can be used to great effect. Applications include disrupting support, breaking logistics superiority, whisking drones and fighters out of range from intended targets, and shattering unprepared fleets. This single tactic is likely to be the biggest addition to large-scale warfare we’ll see in the wars that appear to be brewing.
Hit and Run:
An old standby, FCs operating with cloaky support arrange warp in positions that leave their fleet at optimal range in line with a point to which fleet members can in turn, and warp out as soon as they locked up. Typically relying on heavy alpha from long-range weapons, a proper hit and run engagement is hard to catch, and if executed with precision, can devastate unprepared forces by destroying support vessels and lending an impressive assist to frontline DPS fleets. FCs can run this fleet from the safety of a cloaked vessel, arranging warp ins and calling targets while relying on squad leaders to handle proper lineups.
With the advent of MJD destroyers and the ever-present threat of stealth bombers in null, it pays to have a solid defense. Having a handful of Assault Frigates that can hit effectively with some reach and can also provide defensive warp scrambling on friendly forces could be a solid deterrent to Spearfishing. Additionally, point defense groups can provide options against bombing runs by destroying the offending bombers before their bombs land on friendlies, eliminating both the bomb damage and the threat of additional runs by the the wrecked pilot.
Skirmishing is all about scouting and confronting smaller engagements outside the main field of combat as described in the first section. Searching for disconnected enemy pilots, harassing off-grid links, and defending entries into the fight with camps can all fall under the purview of the skirmish fleet. Quick responses and the ability to hold onto a fight your fleet would want to take is pivotal, so tacklers are key. It’s important for skirmish FCs to have an idea of where the big fight really is and to keep an eye on incoming directional scan to prevent retaliatory attacks from stronger fleet compositions.
These are far from the only methods in which small craft can profoundly influence large scale battles, but should give players ideas as to ways they can contribute in such engagements. EVE’s scope can often lead us to forget the unsung heroes of legendary battles like Asakai, but that doesn’t mean you can’t contribute. You may not always be successful, but as Hunter S. Thompson once wrote, “No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride…and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well…maybe chalk it off to forced conscious expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten.”
This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by Roland Cassidy.