In the early hours of March 13, less than a week after abandoning the M2 hellcamp and within hours of the fall of Big Disco’s Keepstar, the Imperium struck back against PAPI’s conquest of Delve. For the for first time in many weeks, the Imperium fully contested an offensive sov timer in their home region, fielding multiple fleets to take an IHUB in the Karmafleet constellation of SG-CTQ, reinforce three more, and win the ISK battle (37.2 billion lost to 68.6 billion killed). The Imperium took the IHUB in PS-94K, a Keepstar system, and in so doing stopped the clock on PAPI’s ability to place a cyno jammer in that system and bash the Keepstar unopposed.
The fight was kicked off by Imperium hackers attacking the nodes for the PS-94K iHub. “GSFOE [the Imperium’s dedicated entosis SIG] formed to do the node contest for the PS-94K IHUB,” Imperium Cerb fleet FC Dave Archer said. “When hostiles showed to have weak numbers, Mike Flood formed Muninns to buy time for the hackers. I then returned to 1DQ to form Cerbs to go in and assist the Muninns.”
The Imperium fully committed, fielding five fleets: Muninns under Mike Flood, Cerbs under Dave Archer, Jackdaws under Gnomagin Dallocort, Tornados under Aritzia, and Hackers under Agent Culson. “We were poking around the edges with a small fleet, and TEST formed Muninns,” said an unnamed Imperium coordinator. “So we committed, and it escalated from there. We started with like 80 Muninns each.” As the fight developed, the Imperium fleets were well coordinated in their tactics. “Tornados were the top damage across the board, Muninns stood and brawled, Cerbs sniped logi out from under the hostiles, and Jacks/Tornados tore shit up in every system they could get to,” said the Imperium coordinator.
“It was a wicked fun fight,” said Muninn FC Mike Flood. “Hostiles came in with an even sized Munnin fleet to fight my fleet on one of the nodes. My fleet was able to reship faster and continue fighting pretty quick,” he said. Apart from the Munnin brawl, PAPI appeared hesitant to take fights, which may have cost them the night. “Outside of the main engagements with their HAC fleets, they where extremely risk averse,” said Imperium Jackdaw FC Gnomagin Dallocort. “Their Jackdaw fleet [ran] from ours while outnumbering us. If they had just engaged they could have won the objective as at one point they had reached 92% of winning the hack.”
Multiple Imperium FC’s commented that they are able to engage PAPI and win even when outnumbered; this in turn may explain PAPI’s reputation for not engaging without a massive numbers advantage. “Fleets like these probably explain PAPIs thing about not fighting without a heavy numbers advantage,” said Mike Flood. Dave Archer agreed. “They are getting beaten by hostiles that a lot of the time they are outnumbering.” The unidentified Imperium coordinator was more direct: “Their numbers have been, to put it bluntly, terrible for the last week. They’re very obviously having some fleet fatigue. Forming up 400 dudes to killmail whore on Sotiyo #584 is gonna mean people stop showing up occasionally.”
One additional factor in PAPI’s failure to bring overwhelming numbers may have been a conflicting IHUB timer in TEST’s capital system in Esoteria, D-PNP9. “The second they disengaged TEST went running to Esoteria to prevent them losing the IHUB in D-P,” said Dave Archer.
This is the first major engagement the Imperium has taken since freeing its forces form the M2 hellcamp, a factor that may have influenced the Imperium’s ability to contest the fight. “Not having to worry about M2 is helping as we no longer have to think about what they will do in M2 if we commit,” Dave Archer said. “It opens a lot of doors for us to operate more freely.” In addition, the Imperium’s recent focus on members being more than simple simple line pilots (learning to “press F2”) has meant both more hacking and more support ships on the field. “The F2 revolution is increasing turnout in a lot of secondary roles—GSFOE being chief among them,” said Dave Archer. “In the short time since it was announced everything from entosis to booshing hostile fleets has seen a massive uptick, and it really shows,” he said.
Dave Archer said that booshing in particular (the practice of teleporting groups of ships with a Command Destroyer’s Micro Jump Field Generator, which can be used offensively against enemy fleets to disrupt their positioning) played a large role in last night’s fight. “There were several times that groups of hostiles were booshed off allowing us to start picking off those groups while they are away from the rest of the fleet,” he said. Archer’s Cerbs got the killmail of the night, killing Legacy leader Vily’s FAX which was providing logi support for PAPI’s subcaps.
It is too early to tell whether this Imperium victory is a one-off or if it could presage a larger set of reversals for PAPI in Delve. When PAPI fully forms, they have shown the ability to win sov fights simply by having a massive numbers advantage, as when they took the M2 IHUB at the beginning of February. But with Imperium forces released from the M2 hellcamp, with Imperium line members expanding the ways in which they commit, and with the Imperium having nothing to lose, it may be that PAPI has more hurdles to cross before they fully pacify Delve than their uninterrupted progress in recent weeks would have indicated. “This was a great example of how IHUB football could go every night,” said Imperium hacker FC Agent Culson. “TEST getting trapped in Delve is the best thing that could have happened. So many bookmarks. So many staging points.”
In any case, given PAPI’s demonstrated preference to kill Keepstar’s under the protection of a cyno jammer, last night’s win in PS-94K has likely added weeks of life to the Keepstar in that system. If PAPI wants to kill all Delve Keepstars outside of 1DQ before mounting their assault on that system—a scenario Pandemic Horde leader Gobbins seemed to confirm in a leaked statement on Discord—then defeats last night may extend the war for months. And given their losses at home, it is unclear if Legacy has that much time.