Any player who is familiar with EVE has heard the adage, “Don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose.” It is the game’s unofficial motto, and a reminder of its core mechanic - when your ship blows up, its gone.
As a result, PvP is typically viewed as an isk-losing proposition. It is a luxury you spend your hard-earned money on, not a means to become wealthy. For the most part, this advice is correct - PvP is risky and virtually no pilot is going to make more isk/hour hunting other players than they would roaming around doing missions.
But... if you are careful and know where to look, it IS possible to make money as a pirate. True, it won’t be as much or as fast as your carebear corp mates sitting in Jita playing the market or running story missions, but if you fly well can make enough to keep it self-sustaining. In fact, I consider “making more money than you lose” to be the mark of a REAL pirate.
Recently I’ve been testing out fits for T5 cruisers for an upcoming article. This has involved a lot of roaming lowsec in... less than ideal fits (“How am I ALREADY out of cap?!”) finding enough fights to determine if each fit is, indeed viable (spoiler: most of them weren’t. Not even close). Despite the maddening inconsistency of the ships I was running, I managed in a morning to make over 30mil between a dozen kills. A fortune? No. But enough - MORE than enough - to pay for the next ship.
So, how do YOU make piracy a profession rather than a hobby? Here are my tips:
- Don’t Die - this should go without saying, but the #1 rule of making money as a pirate is to LOSE as little as possible. Know your limits, keep an eye out for danger, avoid stupid mistakes (watch that criminal timer...) and, most of all, have an exit strategy. You will find that almost ALL of my fits include a micro warp drive - this is why.
- Fly Cheap - No matter how careful you are, you will lose some ships. Every PvP ship has an unknown expiration date. Make sure you fly with only what you need. Rigs and expensive faction mods are great for improving your isk/hr running missions, but they rarely make the difference in a REAL fight.
- Know the Market - Yeah, I know. You didn’t become a pirate so you could spend your time trading. But if you’re going to make murder your day job, your money is going to come from looting corpses and fencing the proceeds. It pays to know what sells well and what doesn’t, and how to make the most trading your ill-gotten gains (hint - don’t sell for the default price). Right now, for instance, the market for medium-sized shield extenders and hardeners is through the roof, while the cost of mining lasers is going down. Knowing that helps me decide where to spend my time (anomalies, not belts at the moment).
- Know where to Find the Best Targets - There is a big difference in value between someone flying a Corax Trainer with all basic modules and a T5 Caracal loaded for bear with faction missiles and shield extenders. Unfortunately, most people won’t fly the pricey, expensive ship out where a pirate can get them... unless they are in a place they feel safe. As you roam, look for systems where a corp has decided to make a base. Dead end 0.1-0.3 systems that have 30+ pilots in them? Yeah, someone is putting down roots. The most valuable (and least wary) targets are those who think they are safe...
- Keep Moving - Last, don’t hang out in one system for too long. Effective piracy is a numbers game - the more systems, anomalies, and belts you go to, the more likely it is that you will get a jackpot. Every minute you stay in a system decreases your chance of catching someone unaware and increases your chance of becoming someone’s prey.