If the FC is the mind of the fleet, the scouts are its eyes. Undocking and moving a fleet in lowsec without scouts is akin to hunting with a blindfold, through a minefield. Here, movement is life, and eyes-on intelligence is survival and power. So you see, no matter how brilliant the FC or how powerful the comp, no gud fites will be had without a competent scout. Ironically, this task often falls to those who are least experienced in the fleet, commonly because they can’t fly or can’t afford the doctrine.
Roaming in lowsec is popular because it pays off. The thriving PVP culture means that if you’re looking for trouble you’re likely to get it. Scouts facilitate the ‘matchmaking’ in this scenario, it is their job to find and track enemy fleets so that the FC can choose what to engage and where. Obviously quite important right?
It may seem strange then that some FCs don’t even consider scouts as they form their fleets. Instead, the riffraff that can’t bring doctrine ships for some reason get sent out in frigates to find something to shoot, essentially wagering the success of fleet on their intel. A good FC will do this was well, but make sure they have a couple of designated scouts that are experienced and can be trusted to deliver solid intel.
As a newer player or inexperienced PVP pilot this is a great opportunity to learn scouting and get the hang of how fleets move in lowsec. It is also a lesson in communication and situational awareness, as well as learning to withstand the ire of an agitated FC, because it will happen. Successful scouts that find the gud fite are appreciated, but those that lose track of fleets, don’t report proper intel or have poor communication skills often end up at the receiving end of occasionally very hard language. Put on a helmet and learn from your mistakes – it happens to everyone.
The primary task of a roaming fleet scout is to seek potential enemies and track them. Once the scout finds a fleet that is of interest in size, composition and membership, they need to do three things without fail:
1) communicate the location, composition, allegiance (corp, alliance, coalition, militia, security status) and movement of the acquired fleet
2) move with the ‘enemy’ fleet and track them
Ideally, a roaming FC has “eyes” on all relevant fleets operating in the area and can maneuver their fleet into position to engage with an advantage, whilst avoiding opponents they cannot match.
Besides these tracking scouts, a fleet that is doing any kind of movement in lowsec should always have a “+1” scout. It is their job to stay one system ahead of where the fleet is going and report in the status of local and d-scan. This is probably the most basic form of scouting and a good way to start.
A gate camp without a scout is about as great an idea as downhill biking without a helmet. Here the scout sits on the other side of the gate from where the fleet is and keeps an eye on local and on D-scan for incoming targets or threats. Another function of the scout in this scenario is often that they “push” targets into the system where the gate camp awaits. Provided the target is legitimate (sentry guns are bad for your health), the scout tackles and fires, forcing them to either aggress back, at which point they can no longer use the gate and the fleet jumps in for the kill, or stresses them into making the jump.
For larger fleets attacking POCOs or POSes it is a very good idea to have a cloaky (and preferably neutral) scout on any onlined enemy titan within bridging range. The scout can then provide intel on the enemy fleet as it forms up on the titan, allowing the FC to make any adjustments necessary (such as switching out ECM jammers). Scouts in adjacent systems to where the structure assault is going on provide an early warning system for any potential enemy moving in via stargates.
Skills and tools
The numero uno most important skill ever for a scout to master is communication with discipline and knowledge, both in voice and using external tools. A scouts primary function is to collect data and transmit it as clearly and promptly as possible to fleet command. Having poor communication skills in that situation ranges from useless to downright dangerous for a fleet.
A scout should clearly and calmly be able to report certain fundamental information on voice comms no matter the situation. Being able to communicate in a prompt, understandable and reliable fashion on voice comms is key, text chat just doesn’t cut it. Scouts should take care only to report the relevant facts, cutting out as much ‘conversation’ as possible.
The first thing a newbie scout will forget when they jump into a hostile fleet is where they are. Always know where you are. Always. Start every report to fleet command with the location of the fleet you are reporting on. Besides keeping track of their current location, a good scout will use Dotlan to keep track of their surrounding area. Making sure to identify travel pipes and the home systems of known local entities.
The next thing green scouts often forget is numbers and ship types. Their reports tend to include “a lot” when asked how many, “umm… on the, umm” when asked where, and “oh shit, I’m down”. Thankfully, there are tools to help with this.
Instead of rambling on comms about ship types, the scout should use an external tool that allows them to paste D-scan results and produce nice and neat reports, such as the Directional Scan Analyser. This is often called a “Raynor” due to a legacy tool that is no longer operational.
If the scout is on field with the fleet they are tracking, they can use a screen capture tool to quickly provide overview information to the fleet, such as Clip2Net.
Although it has many advanced uses (and is probably my favorite external EVE tool), The Pirate’s Little Helper’s most fundamental feature allows the user to copy and paste local into it, upon which it provides a quick overview of who is in system along with some basic stats and information. This allows the scout to quickly take stock of the situation in a system and report it to fleet command. PLH has plenty of really useful features however, and I recommend taking some time to learn about them, especially if you also do a lot of solo and small gang roaming. Check out Hendrick Tallardar’s video guide to PLH here on Crossing Zebras.
Get me eyes
Scouts make fights happen in lowsec. They may not always get the appreciation they deserve, and will often get scolded when they fail, but it is one of the most rewarding gigs you can pull off with a cheap or cloaky frigate in lowsec. So don’t just be a scout, be a good scout. FCs with their heads on straight will value your skill like gold and turn to you to find the fights. A good fleet is nothing without a competent scout.
Tags: fleet, lowlife, lowsec, niden, pvp, scouting