Header art by Redline XIII.
Fleets from the Imperium destroyed the first Keepstar ever to require a Quantum Core on Friday, Oct. 17, 2020. This Keepstar, located in 319-3D of NPC Delve, was the fourth such citadel destroyed by the Imperium since Oct. 5. Pandemic Horde (PH) dropped the KS, which anchored on Wednesday, Oct. 15, before Imperium forces could react quickly enough to attack it during the initial timer phase. That set up the onlining phase of vulnerability which began at 17:20 UTC the following day.
This historic Keepstar drop marked the first such citadel that required the insertion of a Quantum Core—a new mechanic recently instituted by CCP—to achieve full functionality during the onlining proces.
The contestants began to arrive before the actual KS again became vulnerable. PAPI landed fleets of Jackdaws, Eagles, and Rokhs, along with a mixed bag of Harpies, Crucifiers, and other ships. Soon they were joined by carriers, supers, and dreads.
The Battle Begins
The Imperium fleets landed on grid with about one minute to go before vulnerability; tidi was at 10% normal speed. The Keepstar became vulnerable and the Imperium began applying damage, but there was no timer ticking down. Without a Quantum Core installed, the KS did not start the process of onlining, though it was taking damage. In effect, the Imperium had some stress-free minutes to fire at the structure without considering the timer at all or worrying about meeting the minimum damage threshold.
The initial questions revolved around the insertion of the Quantum Core. Could it be done in tidi, and if so, how long would it take? When the Core was inserted, would it reset the damage percentage back to 100%? Could the Core even be inserted if the hull had already registered damage? As Bardghost Isu noted on INN’s Twitch stream of the event, “This is a whole new dynamic as to how we do Keepstars.”
The Imperium’s damage was taking effect and the structure’s hull was degraded. At 17:33 UTC the combatants numbered 4792 as the hull’s structure was at 97%, with still no Quantum Core installed.
PAPI forces used some new strategies than those seen in the previous three such KS battles in NPC Delve. According to Redline XIII, NC pilot and writer for the New Eden Post, “It looks like the tactics have evolved over the course of the Keepstar fights. At [the] first [KS fight], PAPI clumped up their ships and focused primarily on fighting groups of subcapitals. The second one, they realized that the Imperium had zero intention of fighting spaceships and [PAPI] focused more on bringing out ships that would just destroy the ones applying the most damage. The third one saw PAPI using different types of ships and being the least successful out of the four attempts. Finally, on the 4th Keepstar, PAPI brought proper ships for specific tasks, including fleets of interceptors. They’ve definitely evolved their strategy.”
Initially, the damage dealt by the Imperium was very steady. Until the core was installed, the KS would offer no tether protection to the surrounding PAPI ships, though none was needed as the Imperium ships fired at the KS almost exclusively. At the rate of damage, the fight looked like it would take about five hours until the KS exploded, similar in duration to the last fight in 319-3D.
The Imperium strategy was relatively simple: warp in fleets of ships, especially Ravens, to pre-assigned bookmarks, launch the available missiles at the KS, then attempt to align and warp away before being targeted and destroyed by PAPI. “The meat-grinder strategy,” said Bric Rubal on INN’s Twitch stream. The steady stream of ships became “fish in a barrel” for PAPI, since they were not being targeted themselves and could fire at the Imperium pilots without fear of reprisal.
EVE’s First XL Quantum Core Is Delivered
At 17:59 UTC, some 40 minutes after the battle began, the Quantum Core was installed and the timer countdown began and immediately paused at 14:55. The first XL Quantum Core installation had taken place and the structure was at 88% structure.
With that change, both sides began to take additional strategic measures, as moves and counter-moves began to affect the battle, albeit very slowly. Until about 45% structure, the rate of hull damage seemed consistent; but at that point it slowed considerably. Progodlegend, FC of TAPI, noted, “Overall, the tactical changes were interesting. Goons had a few good ones, but these battles go so slowly that we were able to theory craft a counter and import it all the way from Jita and bridge it in before the battle was over. At 80% we identified what was happening differently. I and two other PAPI FCs got in PYFA and determined the best counter, bought it from Jita, had 3 JF pilots bring it down, fit it, and bridged it in with 45% still left to go.”
The expected five-hour battle turned into a ten-hour endurance test. The Imperium occasionally brought in dreads to increase the DPS, which in turn caused PAPI to counter with titans. The damage between 21% and 11% slowed to a crawl and at one point the timer began to tick, from 14:55 to 6:55.
One event caused a stir in the otherwise slow grind. A fleet of NC Rokhs smartbombed a group of friendly PAPI Eagles, obliterating most of them.
The number of pilots in local fluctuated throughout the fight, with the highwater mark being 5200-5300 at 20:35 UTC. As the hull reached 11%, PAPI pilots began to slowly decrease in number, though the number of PAPI titans increased to at least 130+. Redline XIII noted, “Regarding the titans, they came in as needed this last time instead of being dropped in all at once. This signals to me that PAPI is trying to spread out their forces even more which could, unfortunately, lead to a pretty severe dreadbomb if not careful.”
The Final Tallies
The battle ended as the KS exploded at 03:00 UTC, Oct. 17. The fight had lasted 10 hours. Now, each side had time to tally their losses. For the PAPI side, they lost the KS itself, which doesn’t appear on the battle report. They also lost the Eagles in the friendly fire incident. The Imperium forces lost 1.2 trillion ISK, with 7497 ships “ammo-ed” into the objective. Regarding the overall war strategy, Redline XIII said, “As far as the battle strat, it’s pretty simple. [PAPI] wants a Keepstar in Delve and has enough Keepstars to continue this tactic for months (if they choose). It’s essentially like a pressing a button with “FEED” in shiny white letters that just beckons the Imperium to feed. And they do.”
Bric Rubal, INN commentator in Twitch, noted, “What wins wars is keeping the morale high for your group. Goons numbers are off the charts.”