Image by Empanada.
As part of INN’s look at the fighting over the X47L-Q Keepstar, we reached out to Asher Elias. Asher was the lead FC for the armor timer, and the man who made the critical decision to drop supercarriers into the middle of a hostile titan formation. Currently rated the Imperium’s 23rd Best FC, he hopes some day to make 22nd. Maybe Wednesday?
INN: These big fights are all about the planning and coordination. Mix multiple Supercap fleets with the problems of mass disconnects and endless warp tunnels how do you prioritize your decisions?
Asher Elias: You make your choices as best you can to minimize lag but part of the issue is that if you solely prioritize that you put yourself at a huge disadvantage. Ideally I wouldn’t bring any subs into the system for a fight like this but I need them to defend my in-cynos, kill bombers and ECM burst ships (mostly to reduce the lag they create) and to defend disconnected titans. As a defender you have the advantage of not having to worry about any lag because if the server does die you win the timer. Overall it’s a more important consideration as an attacker than as a defender.
INN: The defenders have multiple advantages in these fights. What do you see as the biggest obstacle you have to overcome as the aggressor?
AE: A lot of people don’t know this but the defender has an absolutely ridiculous advantage on the keepstar. Normally a doomsday aggros you for 6 minutes, meaning you can’t tether until six minutes has expired. But for some reason (I think probably because CCP doesn’t realize it’s the case) if you actually blow up the target with your doomsday you don’t get the 5 minute timer + 1 minute aggro, you can retether in less than a minute. We whiffed five doomsday vollies on Northern titans that tethered after we had activated our doomsdays on them and they retethered. This is by far the biggest advantage. You have only 50 seconds of game time to find out who in their fleet actually doomsdayed, get them locked up by all your titans in multiple fleets and then fire on them (doomsday take 10 seconds to spool up so if you spool up past 50 seconds you whiff). It’s such an incredible advantage to defending titans.
INN: One of those advantages is being tethered at the beginning and choosing who to target and who becomes vulnerable to the aggressor. Did this play a part in Goonswarm losing multiple titans before killing a hostile one? It did seem like you were catching up later in the fight. How do you feel this shaped the battle as it progressed?
AE: Defender always has the advantage of starting the fight at their ideal positioning and at the time of their choosing. We knew we’d eat several titan losses just by showing up to this fight.
INN: When initially jumping in the Imperium fleets targeted CO2, but later switched to Darkness targets. Was there a strategy behind whom you targeted?
AE: We intended to kill every Co2 titan but after Co2 realized we were primarying them they tethered their titans and stopped aggroing them. We switched to Darkness when Co2 cowarded out.
INN: Speaking of strategy, what were the thoughts behind dropping armor supercapitals at zero on the hostile titans and did it work as plan?
AE: We dropped the armour supers at zero because of [the shortened aggression/retether timer on doomsdays]. It was the only way to reliably secure tether control on them. It worked out pretty well at the start but it 100% telegraphs who your primaries will be and it limits you to whatever titan is in range of your super points. However it was really our only option to take this fight, if we sat at range and they had the option to doomsday and retether they could have just had whatever titans we had prelocked amongst our fleets not break tether and we would have whiffed so many doomsdays it would have been unreal. As it was the scrammed titans were always pre-repped and told to prepare their emergency hull energizers. Combining these two factors meant we knew it would be an uphill battle for us the entire fight.
INN: Was there any point(s) in the fight that made you nervous? How about high points?
AE: A few hours in we were significantly down on titans and hadn’t committed our supers yet. I knew when I called for supers to go at zero there was a definite chance it could fail. When you are doing this offensively you have no recourse if things go wrong, you are there till downtime. Hundreds, actually thousands, of people are trusting you to shepherd their supers and titans which represent many hundreds of hours of their work. If you fail them you have made all that time worthless. So yes, there were a lot of times I was nervous, if I wasn’t I wouldn’t be a good leader.
INN: Is there anything you would maybe do differently?
AE: There are adjustments you can always make but overall I was happy our strategy worked about nearly as well as it could. Given how many advantages the defenders have it was always going to be an uphill battle. The fact that we won the timer and came out with more titan kills really speaks more about the quality of the team I have working with me, from all the Imperium alliances, our recons and scouts, our GSOL guys, our FC team and everyone else. It’s much easier to make those hard choices when you have total trust in the quality of your team.
INN: Looking forward to the future, what are your predictions for the final timer?
AE: I will be very surprised if they show up to the final timer with a similarly constituted force. That would put them at significant risk and we’ve never seen this group ever take a risk. These are the people who regularly deploy to beat up on Provi-bloc or to dread bomb ratters. They are a coalition of necessity and geography. They were the people who sat back in the defender’s seat when we attacked from Hakonen and when we attacked the 9-4 keepstar, laughing at us for our “failures” and never taking the measure of what use we made of them. You have to remember that they had this exact same opportunity not a few weeks ago when we anchored the keepstar in 6RCQ, except the keepstar was not online and we would lose tether if it died. Our super force not yet fully deployed, and of course, it was the exact same distance we travelled to assault their fully online keepstar on an armour timer. These people have never taken any risk, they have always docked their faction titans, they sat back and listened to the war stories of the people who came before them and actually accomplished something and patted themselves on the back for having the same alliance on their name tag.