After a week spent visiting Bre and Berke in the wormhole, I’m a little glad to stow Zecora back in my main hangar and pull out Radagast for another turn through some enemy complex assaults. This time, I decide to follow a new route that I’d spotted reviewing New Eden maps while up in the wormhole — a series of jumps that will bring me into what feels like the back door into the Caldari/Gallente warzone; closer to the the system of Tama than Old Man’s Star, where I usually start things off.
My impression that I’m sneaking in through a less-used entrance is borne out by the level of activity I see in the systems I pass through — it’s definitely quieter, especially as I move into the clusters of systems equidistant from any safe harbor.
Since there’s no one around, let along anyone interested in a fight, I kill some time (and Caldari grunts) capturing minor complexes as I move from system to system. I finish off three in three different systems, then jump and start work on a fourth before I finally spot a war target entering the system.
This is one of those times when I’m glad for the way the complexes are restricted based on the size of the ships trying to enter. Thanks to that, any ship (well most ships) that ridiculously overmatch me will be unable to get in through the door, so to speak. Also, if I pay attention to the scanner, I should have ample time to see what an opponent might be bringing to the fight, and decide how I want to handle it.
The new pilot shows up pretty quickly, and it seems he’s flying a Kestrel. Like the Merlin, the Kestrel is a Caldari design, one that strongly adheres to the traditional Caldari “our missiles will blot out the sun” philosophy, unlike the turret-based Merlin. Fit with light missile launchers (as it usually is), the Kestrel can zip around out at ranges where most frigates can’t hope to return fire, doing moderate to weak damage that nevertheless can get to you damn near anywhere on the field. Their downside is they are basically made from balsa wood and extra thick grocer’s paper.
I think over my options and reload my guns with tech2 “Spike” ammo. Although the damage on the high velocity, long range ammo is far less than the heavier short-range options, it’s the best option I have for the beginning of this fight, as it will let me hit the Kestrel from almost as far away as it can hit me — something I’m hoping the other pilot doesn’t expect.
Now I just have to see if he’s going to come in and play.
Finally, he decides to take the plunge, and drops into the complex about 65 kilometers away. I turn and start to fly away from him like a good little scared rabbit, hoping he’ll pursue, and he does. Thanks to the way I have the ship configured, I can lock his ship almost out to 60 kilometers, but I let him get closer, only pulsing my afterburner to make sure I don’t pull away from him. Once he’s inside 45 kilometers, I lock and start shooting, even though I’m outside the effective range of my guns — I want him to see him hitting him for very little damage at the outset, to increase the odds that he’ll discount my damage as a credible threat at this range. For him to reliably get missiles on me, he’ll be inside 35 to 30 kilometers, and at that point, the Spike ammo should shine.
Everything pretty much falls into place, the only serious mistake I make being to leave my ancillary shield booster running instead of pulsing it intermittently. Regardless, my opponent doesn’t seem to mind that my shield isn’t moving, and continues to work on me. I burn straight away from him, watching his shields, and when they drop to just above 30% — the point where a Kestrel pilot might seriously consider leaving — I stop firing.
Like the pirate Merlin pilot from a few fights ago, the Kestrel pilot is trying to orbit me, and has thrown himself into a long elliptical, since I’m basically as fast or a bit faster than he is. As I shut down my guns, I reverse my path 180 degrees, overheat my afterburner to close range, ready my warp scrambler and web, and reload short range ammo in my guns — a process that takes about 5 seconds.
That’s almost exactly how long it takes me to get into range, since his ship has been thrown into a slingshot straight at me, thanks to that elliptical.
The Kestrel’s autopilot – no doubt still trying to hold an orbit of 30+ kilometers, has thrown the ship around and is trying to pull away from me as I close in, but when the web lands, all chance of that goes out the window. I slide into an orbit of my own, resume firing, and convert the missile ship to a fiery explosion in four volleys.
This time, I manage to keep my ship from coming to a dead stop afterwards, too, so I can be taught!
The pilot tosses me a quick if somewhat half-hearted salute over the local comms as he warps his pod away to the nearest gate, and I have my second 1v1 victory behind me.