Hunter Killers: Solo PVP in EVE OnlineNiden
Away from the shadows of titans, drone swarms spewn from carriers, and slow-grinding 17-hour battles with the fortunes of empires at stake. Far removed even from fleets, logistics support, and primary targets. Distant from chattering comms, idle banter in social channels, and requests for aid. In the dark places of the world hunter-killers prowl in focused solitude. With sharpened instincts they search for white-knuckled, jaw-clenching and shakes-inducing single combat where both victory and defeat are absolute.
In many ways solo PvP is its own world, quite distinct from the rest of New Eden. Those that willingly engage in it are of a different breed. Amongst those that try, only a select few will master it. They are the thrill-seekers of EVE – walking a proverbial tightrope over a hostile world without a safety net. Nowhere are they more common than in low security space.
Although I could fairly be described as adequate at going toe-to-toe in single combat, prudence demands the angle of a true expert. Throughout this piece you will be hearing from Sun Kashada, hands down the finest solo PvP pilot I have personally come across.
Alone in the dark
The expertise required to survive in the dog eat dog world of solo PvP is significantly different than the qualities prescribed to perform well in a fleet.
Flying alone in hostile territory can be a harrowing experience for those that are not accustomed to it. In a fleet the responsibility is chiefly held by the FC and there is safety in numbers.
There is room for error and there is help to be had when an individual stumbles. When flying solo the combatants split second decisions are the only orders and there is only one primary target. Mistakes of any significant weight routinely mean death, and the only companion is the enemy.
In a fleet, individual skillsets cover each other’s weak points whereby a competent entity is created by virtue of diversity. The lone PvP-er must thus singularly possess well rounded prowess and knowledge.
I asked Sun Kashada what motivates one to try this most difficult path in EVE.
SK: When engaging in fleet fights the impact of one pilot is often marginal. Granted, there are roles that do have a decent impact on the outcome of a fight but many of you might feel like the noble lemming. The FC sets the goal and you start running towards it, target and hit F1 when you’re told to.
In a 1v1 every action you take will decide the outcome of the battle, there is no one there to save your ass when something goes wrong. That’s why winning those engagements feels a lot more rewarding – especially when fighting uphill.
Dressed to kill
Most solo combat is performed in smaller ships, frigates predominantly. Cruisers also meet in single combat, but it is far more scarce. Bigger ships just aren’t well suited to fend for themselves as they are slow, draw attention to themselves and can easily be caught and countered.
Fitting for solo work is quite distinct from fitting for a fleet. A good solo ship is a specialist, jack-of-all-trades fits tend to fail. A good starting point when considering a new solo PvP fit is choosing what type of ships the fit is intended to fight or counter and what range it is optimized to engage at.
Sun Keshada had some choice words to say about fitting for solo pvp.
SK: When you fit for fleets you try to be in line with the rest of the fleet. Fit an afterburner instead of a MWD and be left behind unable to get to your target. In solo PvP you decide whether you take the fight or not and how the fight is initiated (to some extent), therefore you have a lot more options and strategies to choose from. I usually make make my solo fittings with a set of ships/fittings to counter in mind – as opposed to simply maximizing numbers.
Try to avoid standard fits and see what else you can do with those hulls. Even the inherent bonuses of a hull can be disregarded in several cases. Many people seem to just grab the top-rated loadout from battleclinic or simply fly the few cookie cutter fits that are known to perform well. Those fits are very predictable and usually can be countered easily.
Three stereotypes can be distinguished.
Brawler: The classic brawler is intended for brutal close quarters combat. This fit uses short range weapons and full tackle in the form of a warp scrambler and a stasis webifier to keep targets close. Brawlers are extremely efficient if they can get within range and manage to hold their target close. The choice of micro warp drive or afterburner can be tricky; an MWD will reach the target fast, but if the target has a warp core scrambler, a web and AB, they will be dictating the range – easily avoiding the optimal range.
Scam kiter: This fit relies on staying just inside the outer edge of warp scramble range, ~9 km, using an afterburner, scrambler and web. They are the perfect counter to MWD fit brawlers as they can keep the brawler at a comfortable range even when tackled. The weapons most effective at this range still pack a considerable punch. The main weakness of this fit is that they normally use AB for propulsion, making them susceptible to true kiters with MWD.
Kiter: The true kiter uses naturally agile hulls combined with MWD and nanofiber internal structure to stay just within warp disruptor range at ~24 km – avoiding most frigate borne weapons. It’s main weaknesses lies in that it has virtually no tank and is more or less dead in the water if it gets scrambled. A common tactic against this type of fitting is known as slingshotting, whereby a slower target will fly in one direction, abruptly stop and then burn back, hoping to apply tackle to the kiter.
These are only three very rough divisions. Naturally the variants out there are limitless and every day capsuleers are getting more creative with their fits.
Knowing the enemy
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War
No fit in the world will save a pilot from ignorance. A solid knowledge of ships and how they are typically fit and flown is a vital component of fighting solo. The well-informed pilot will know at a glance what ships their current fit is well equipped to take on and what they should avoid. There is no substitute for knowledge and experience, as attested by Sun when I asked him what skills he thought were essential for a successful solo PvP-er.
SK: Knowledge about the ships you encounter and their possible fittings. You can’t attain that by reading, so go out and make stuff explode – either your target or yourself. After each loss you try to figure out your enemies fitting strategy. Check the killboard for his fitting, then hit EFT or the fitting program of your choice to figure out a counter (or several). I’ve spent many hours in EFT and went as far as to play around with fittings for ships i couldn’t fly – just to see what those hulls are capable of.
Reading up will provide some basic information, but nothing beats hard experience. A stockpile of cheap frigates and a willingness to learn by trial and error is a good investment for any hopeful.
An absolutely vital component, that cannot be understated, is the ability to control range. It is the basis for maximising damage output, minimizing incoming damage and being able to disengage if the fight goes ill.
This is not simply a matter of ship fitting and automated orbit, holding range or approaching, but also of manual maneuvering. Understanding an opponent’s movements and manually countering them is the mark of a successful fighter. Apart from visually studying the movements of the enemy it is advantageous to use the overview to best effect. Data on speed, relative speed, transversal velocity and angular velocity, along witht the experience to understand that data at a glance is often the edge needed for victory.
Seeing is believing
A common shortcoming amongst those new to solo PvP is poor use of the directional scanner. Used right it is singularly the most essential means for getting the right fights and avoiding the wrong ones.
It is good practise to have a clean overview, only showing the data needed for the task at hand. When applied to the directional scanner it allows the user to quickly take stock of their surroundings and take action based on that information. This coupled with an understanding of d-scan ranges as compared to astronomical units (AU) makes the directional scanner one of the most important tools in a solo PvP-ers toolbox. You can find an in-depth guide of the d-scanner here.
The lay of the land
“There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.” Ernest Hemingway
A successful hunter knows his hunting ground. Being intimately familiar with the systems themselves, the gates that bind them together and the entities that that traffic them is a good supplement to the skills mentioned above.
Hunting in the same area over a period of time will grant knowledge of the potential targets that frequent it. It is worth noting early whom the most dangerous pilots are and developing an understanding of their modus operandi. Everyone has a weakness – it’s just matter of exploiting it at the right time, in the right place and with the right weapon at hand.
Creative use of saved locations can be immensely advantageous and lead to some spectacular kills. It is good practise to mark up gate pounce points, sniping spots, station undocks and the like.
Finding the good fight
Ultimately this is all to naught if no targets can be found. Arguably the Faction Warfare war zones are the best areas to hunt, and it is there the opportunity for single combat most often presents itself. I asked Sun to share his best tips on finding prey.
SK: Faction Warfare for one. The amount of pilots consistently roaming and plexing solo seems unmatched by any other area of New Eden.
There are several things you can do once you’re in the warzone: Roam around and look for people plexing or sit in a plex in a system with high traffic. Consider even a militia staging system (but beware of being blobbed).
The most important factor, however, is the ship you are flying yourself. A little Atron won’t be eager to engage your Daredevil, i.e. the less dangerous you look, the more engagements you get and there are several underrated ships that perform very well with the right fitting.
So it is not always a matter of aggressively looking for a fights. Attracting fights is a delicate art whereby the hunter attempts to hide his strengths, revealing them only when the fly is firmly stuck in the web.
The lone wolf
There are many avenues to enjoy in EVE. None, however, can compare to solo PvP when it comes to pure, adrenaline-filled, thrill. It’s the ‘all in’ of New Eden and the ultimate testing ground for the true PvP warrior.
Click here to see more Lowlife articles, don’t miss out!