The Third Strike: The Battle of 319-3D


Header art by Quendan Comari.

On Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020, the Imperium coalition successfully attacked and destroyed a Keepstar, the third such Keepstar to be destroyed in Delve within a week. The attackers consisted of the largest coalition ever to come together in New Eden, over 100 alliances, but they could not press their numerical advantage to successfully defend the Keepstar planted in 319-3D against a relentless Imperium attack, despite outnumbering the Imperium by over 1,000 pilots during the battle. 

About 14:30 UTC on Sunday, Pandemic Horde dropped the Keepstar, which they named Roll Initiative, prompting pilots from the Imperium to quickly undock ships and race to the grid, as the Keepstar’s anchoring timer started ticking from down from 15:00 minutes. If the timer had reached 00:00 the structure would become invulnerable to damage for 24 hours, and even when it became vulnerable again it would be much harder to destroy. According to Apple Pear, an Imperium FC, the PAPI drop was unannounced on their own comms: they were “Trying to sneak it by us and hoping we didn’t find out.” But Imperium scouts reported the drop and the battle was on. 

The First and Second Strikes

On Monday, Fraternity had dropped a Keepstar in FWST-8, another system within NPC Delve. During that fight, while the Imperium met its objective of destroying the structure, they also lost 929 billion ISK. 

The Imperium then killed a second Fraternity Keepstar the following day, again in FWST-8, this time spending 1.5 trillion-worth of ships to destroy it. The Imperium wanted to avoid repeating that cost-benefit scenario and so brought a new strategy to the table this time around.

Kocicek, an Imperium FC, noted, the “strategy was quite a bit different [in the 319 battle], but still used a lot of the lessons learned from Tuesday. The most obvious change was the use of the Ravens to apply DPS early to the Keepstar, starting the initial pause and doing about 50% of the Keepstar’s HP before the bad guys started arriving on grid.”

With the KS timer paused at 7:28 kocicek said “We maintained our dread strategy that we’ve been using for the last few Keepstars with a lot of good improvements to protect against their innovations. We also had quite a few other new tricks in play, but I’m not going to talk about them specifically.” At this stage of the fight tidi hit 10% and the rest of the battle slowed down considerably. The grind began. 

The Imperium brought damage with fleets of Ravens, Feroxes, and bombers. The PAPI coalition, led by Panfam, Fraternity, TEST, and Brave, brought defenders in the form of carriers, supercarriers, and a variety of subcaps, especially Harpies, Munnins, Nightmares, and Eagles. The Imperium bombers kept their runs going while also bringing damage from long range sniping ships, which warped in at different angles across the grid, making it difficult for the defenders to kill more than one at a time. 

As the fight progressed, the damage to the Keepstar was so consistently applied that the timer never restarted, unlike the fight in FWST where the timer ticked down on several occasions and came within three minutes of becoming invulnerable. In 319-3D, once the tidi was at 10%, the attackers took off about 5% of the KS’s health every 20 minutes. When an Imperium ship was destroyed, the player directed his pod toward the “pod-me-home-express,” a special Imperium unit whose job was to shoot the pods so that the player would respawn back to base where they could reship and return to battle very quickly. Imperium pilots also warped back to the battle solo or in very small groups and then landed on selected “perches” rather than warping to a large fleet. The technique required PAPI to go after the perches one by one with roaming bands of ships. As a result, the battle coverage showed the Keepstar almost completely surrounded by PAPI ships, with seemingly very few Imperium pilots in the mix. 

PAPI tried a few strategies to slow or stop the damage. They warped in Wyverns, though this technique did not slow the damage to the KS. They tried putting bubbles on the Imperium’s Fortizar rendezvous point, but the Imperium had multiple structures in the system to use for warp angles, so the bubble technique also soon proved ineffective. 

The cost of the battle was high, with losses almost exclusively on the Imperium side, though the costly Keepstar itself didn’t appear on the Battle Report. PAPI lost 233 ships for 25 billion ISK while the Imperium forces lost 2245 ships for a cost of 553 billion ISK. The Keepstar’s cost is estimated at around 180 billion ISK. 

The Third Strike

This battle lasted for five hours, far less time than Tuesday’s marathon engagement. The cost was also far less for the Imperium than the 1.5 trillion ISK lost during the second Keepstar battle. But this fight saw fewer combatants, with PAPI fielding 2921 pilots while the Imperium had 1619 pilots engaged. Although outnumbered, the Imperium faced better odds in this battle as they were only outnumbered by about 1,000 pilots. Kocicek, in reference to the reduced PAPI participation, noted “First it’s a new drop which means they weren’t pre-hurfing max formups for a full day in advance of the timer. Their members just weren’t prepared for it on a random Sunday afternoon. Our dudes were hyped for a fight as soon as they realized what was happening so they showed up in droves. The other part is that as a PAPI line member it’s tough to lose two major objectives in a row within 48 hours. Sure, your leadership is cheering ‘isk war’ but at the same time anyone who’s watching can see a distinct lack of forward progress.” Another Imperium FC, Apple Pear, also noted the drop in PAPI participation: “I think for our enemy it was a combination of getting burned out on these fights and it also was an unplanned op.” Killah Bee, FC for the Northern Coalition (NC), also confirms the op was unplanned. In response to whether the low PAPI turnout was a concern he said, “No. Our people were completely unaware. Goons were anticipating another drop.”

With the timer paused and the damage very consistent, the discussions on comms and in various Twitch streams turned to what constituted a “win” in this particular battle. The stated goal for the war is the complete extermination of the Goons. But individual battles have their own objectives. Imperium members saw the destruction of the Keepstar as a clear win. Moomin Amatin, Imperium line member, said, “Three times we have stood against overwhelming odds. There is still no enemy KS in Delve. PAPI wanted the old goons back and it seems that is exactly what they are getting.”  On the Talking in Stations livestream, thunderkitsune7, in reference to the number of ships being killed by PAPI, noted in chat, “You’re not killing goons. You’re killing ships.” 

During the fight, rumors abounded on comms and Twitch streams that PAPI would drop at least one additional Keepstar somewhere in NPC Delve, which would prompt another response. No such drop came, however, and the battle effectively ended with the fiery explosion of the Keepstar at 19:33 UTC, five hours after it was dropped. Fifteen minutes later, 3,300 combatants were still on grid, with each side staring each other down, but no escalation took place.

The Shape of the War

The last week’s events have fallen into a predictable pattern: PAPI drops a Keepstar in NPC Delve and the Imperium destroys it at a high cost in ships. As Brisc Rubal noted on the INN Twitch livestream, the overall Imperium strategy in these Keepstar battles is “a process that is a bit of an iteration on the old Raven doctrine . . . . We warp Ravens and Torpedos in, shoot things until we die. It’s ship intensive. But at the end of the day, the Imperium has a lot of ships, a lot of liquid ISK.”

For PAPI, the Anaconda technique seems to have given way to a war of attrition, hence the increased attention to the “ISK war.” Regarding the war of attrition, Killah Bee noted, “The ISK differential is big but that alone won’t win anyone the war.” In response to the idea that the Imperium may run out of funds sometime and therefore be unable to continue the war, The Mittani said, “Bring it, bitch.” 

In baseball, after the third strike you are out. But EVE isn’t baseball and win conditions may depend as much on human resources – morale, willpower and participation – as on material resources, ships, and strategy.

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  • mbox

    Eventually, winning the isk fights at the cost of 4-14 hour fights loses its appeal. For goons, it’s killing time between ratting, mining, and other quick access to isk a few jumps from the frontline. For PAPI it’s all about a quick victory so they can go back to making isk and hating the very alliances they’re stuck in this war with.

    October 14, 2020 at 7:13 AM
  • Elithiel en Gravonere

    I haven’t yet heard too many Goons whining about not having enough isk to last the war. The average Goon line member has around 50 billion isk in the bottom 40%. Even if they cannot afford a ship, there’s the free ship programme. We’ve actually had the opposite problem. Goons keep wanting to fly more expensive ships (will SV bring the Mach back?). People are lining up to drop their dreads and we’re having to carefully decide how much hardware to put on the field. When will the other side get the Goon mindset?

    October 14, 2020 at 7:25 AM
    • I have more than 23B personally for my war fighting effort. I fly subcaps and SRP is still going strong.

      October 14, 2020 at 1:47 PM
    • I mentioned on a few of the Reddit sperg threads about the 300b of dreads we lost attacking into Legacy space 6 or 8 weeks ago that “congrats, you’ve wiped out the net worth of one average imperium line member.”

      They didn’t believe it. I’m not sure they understand the depth of the wealth divide.

      I mean sure, to personally SRP a 300 bil loss I’d have to liquidate my assets and probably extract 30-40m sp from my titan or fax alt – but I could do it and still be in the fight.

      I’m easily below the median wealth in my corp. Don’t know about others.

      October 15, 2020 at 3:08 AM
      • I mean, I’ve barely played for the last several years (until this war kicked off), and when I play it’s almost exclusively to PvP (not exactly an activity known for its remunerative nature), and *even I* have just shy of 20b liquid on hand right now. If a dirt-poor PvP addict can do that, imagine what the average Imperium krab has stashed away.

        October 16, 2020 at 12:29 AM
  • Guilford Australis

    Three Keepstars annihilated by The Imperium within a week. Ah, now I understand what Vily meant by “a war of annihilation.”

    October 14, 2020 at 10:55 AM
  • Simon Chui

    One side has a thousand more people on the field than the other. The bigger side was trying to sneak around. The smaller side is winning objectives through sheer weight of numbers. If this was fiction, you’d laugh at how awfully ass-backward it is.

    October 14, 2020 at 11:22 AM
  • Moomin Amatin

    A solid write up of events. You should be thanked for your contribution to future books about great wars in New Eden. Do find better people for quotes though ;-).

    October 14, 2020 at 5:32 PM
  • highonpop

    “See you at 319 Station, Woooo Hooo”

    October 14, 2020 at 6:20 PM
    • Wilhelm Arcturus highonpop

      Those who remember that are few these days.

      October 14, 2020 at 6:45 PM
      • Falin Whalen Wilhelm Arcturus

        Pepperidge Farms remembers.

        October 15, 2020 at 2:41 AM
  • Yeah, you guys are so elite. Any day now PL leadership will be extending you a personal, gold-leafed invitation to their circlejerk treehouse.

    October 15, 2020 at 11:55 PM