RvB: Tools of the Trade

In September of this year, Red vs. Blue will turn five years old. Over the summer I am writing a fortnightly series that will focus on something different about the place I chose to call my home in EVE. For this week’s column I look at the popular ships and fits, wartime doctrines and the general combat meta found in RvB.

Dawn of the Rifter alt

Back in September 2009 when RvB started up, it was quite busy with old players who just wanted a no-nonsense, fun-filled, and instant combat environment. They would roll around in whatever amazing machines took their fancy, and use them to bring considerable death and destruction upon their enemies. However, this was not just a playground for the vets, other players would create alts in RvB to get a feel for pvp, a starter drug if you will. The ship of choice for this horde of alt characters was the venerable Rifter. Even if a character started as an another race, they skilled into Minmatar solely for the Rifter. Every new member seemed to have a preferred fit, be it shield tanked with 125mm autos, or small armour rep, plate, tackle fit, and many more in between. This changed gradually though, as pilots realised that they were dying in droves – often to more Rifters! Eventually the recommended fits for RvB boiled down to just a few, and all of them seemed to have one thing in common: they were afterburner fit. When everyone and their dog would fit scrams, fitting an MWD became superfluous. From the slew of fits (around 40 popular fits in the first few months of RvB based on meticulous searching of the RvB killboards) that we started out with, this evolution narrowed it down to a couple: Mang-Rifter-fits As you can see, the resulting switch to AB’s allowed the typical RvB Rifter alt the chance to add more tank or gank to their ships. It helped them last longer in engagements or simply hit the enemy harder than they were being hit. This progression resulted in the Rifter holding the crown of “King of RvB” for over three years. In those three years Rifter pilots scored themselves nearly 50,000 final blows, and successfully shot their way on to over 300,000 killmails.

Survival of the fattest

The change to how the Rifter was fit was not the only way the RvB meta diverged from combat in the wider world of New Eden. At a time when the fleets of EVE were starting to bring more and more logistics to a fight, pilots in RvB decided that “lol logistics aren’t fun” and simply started fitting for more EHP. As a consequence the Rifter began to find itself challenged by upstart frigates like the Merlin or the Punisher (both of which rocked the autocannons more often than not), and torn from the skies by the small-gun-all-tank Maller. xBUprWr In fact, for a good year or more, Red Federation seemingly flew nothing but Mallers, brick tank Merlins and Drakes, while Blue Republic tried their damndest to counter these with whatever they found in their hangars. (In before some Elmo’s try and argue that point!) In early 2012 CCP advertised RvB on the EVE login screen, and our numbers ballooned by several orders of magnitude almost overnight. Fleet engagements went from 10 vs. 10 to 30+ vs. 30+, and fights just got bloodier with more kills per fight than ever before. Every new member that joined at that time would (if they asked) be told to fly the tankiest ships they could, just to stay in the fights as long as possible. The more mass a fleet had, the longer it could hold on field, and the greater their chance of beating the opposition.

The fat king is dead. Vive La Révolution!

During this period of bulking up on plates and protein shakes, CCP released the Retribution expansion, which brought massive changes to the T1 ship meta, changes which especially impacted on the day-to-day combat of RvB. The Rifter was brought low, Mallers actually started fitting medium lasers along with less tank, Merlins became an amazing rail platform, and even logistics found itself thrown into the mix alongside the more fun flavours of EWAR. As you can see from the graphs, following the Retribution changes no one race of ships came to be totally dominant. 1qgfwNh Tg3cbpD
Todays RvB combat meta still harks back to the days of “bring what you want, just get here and get into the fight”, it just sees every race represented now. With sniper, or “Longbow”, Cormorants running anti-frig duties, Vexors, Mallers and Ruptures form the weight of the average fleet, providing the dps to get the job done. Meanwhile, every flavour of frigate zooms around tackling anything and everything they can, or just kiting off on the periphery of the fight in honourable 1v1 combat. No ship is left behind. Except the Bantam. Fuck Bantams.

Indoctrinated a.k.a. “Drink the Purple Kool-Aid”

As I have mentioned a couple of times, RvB very much has a kitchen sink atmosphere when it comes to fights. No pilot is turned away, no ship is forbidden unless it’s an ECM hull, or the FC’s of a fight have sat down and decided to limit ship size or to brawl it out rather than kite each other around and around. When RvB finds itself the victim of third party aggression (or even when we become the bully and everyone forms to stop us!), everything that makes us ‘Us’, goes out the window. Specialist war target fleets will form up, consisting of pilots that like to hunt out in the world, or that are all expert kiters and operators of fast, deadly war machines like the Vagabond. The result is that our usual sort of war targets suffer greatly while the general population of RvB goes about it’s business. While “usual” RvB war targets are smaller groups that mostly camp market hubs, some are considerably larger and more organised, demanding a more complete solution. At these times, every member of RvB who is available will join a large anti-war target fleet, and follow their FC into battle. Once upon a time these would simply be comprised of the largest, hardest hitting ships people could field, and we would make it work through sheer weight of numbers. Over the years this has proved to be less than effective when we faced organised large scale fleets from entities such as EVE University and Brave Newbies however. In fighting them we realised that to do well we too would have to look outside our environs and copy how the “grown-ups” were doing it. And so RvB started using specific combat doctrines. As an FC who really pushed for the adoption of more uniform setups, my earliest recollection of getting RvB to use a doctrine was during our war with BNI back in May 2013. I had faced the BNI Talwar swarm a lot and thought we could do better. It was fun and gave our pilots a taste for unified setups, that they are yet to lose..

  Since then we have, through trial and error (usually thanks to RvB Ganked testing them first), found which existing doctrines across EVE work best in our situation, taking them to heart as is, or tweaking them to make them stupidly OP in a high sec combat environment. Sentry BS, AB rail cruisers, fake AHACs, and (more recently) massed rail Ferox’ have all become our go to setups. In fact in our latest (and currently ongoing) third party conflict RvB has demonstrated just how good mass numbers of Ferox can be, even when outnumbered and with logistics that fall foul of the crimewatch mechanics.

  Given the ships used in such doctrines, no RvB pilot is left behind when large fights loom. Everyone has their place; from the FC right on down to the day one newbie and their ship of choice. And you know what, they still choose the Rifter!
Tags: mangala, pvp, rvb

About the author

Mangala Solaris

Mangala Solaris has been playing EVE since 2006. In his time in EVE, he have been a missioner, a miner, a scammer, a trader & even a null bear, however over the past 4 years or so Mangala has been heavily involved in Red Versus Blue, and more recently has become one the key figures in the NPSI communities of EVE. Somehow in addition to all of this, he finds time to represent the players as a member of CSM 9.