One of the most frequent questions I get from corp mates and fans of the site is “how do I find targets to hunt?” Often this is expressed as a complaint - that in the early days of the game targets were plentiful, but now “lowsec is empty,” “nullsec is dying” or even “piracy is dead.”
The good news is that piracy is not, in fact, dead. There is still plenty of action to be found in both nullsec and lowsec if you know where to look.
That phrase - “know where to look” - is the key. Many of us remember the first month of the game when it seemed every lowsec system came equipped with a inexperienced, poorly-fit Caracal pilot roaming the anomalies. Those days are, indeed, gone. Ratters and miners are now savvy to the tactics of pirates, and more selective about where they ply their trade. If we are going to continue hunting successfully, it will require more than effective ship fitting - we need to learn how our targets think and where they like to hide.
RULE 0: CAREBEARS WANT TO SURVIVE
The key to understanding our targets is to remember that they desperately want to survive - and that means, they want to avoid you. Miners and ratters are no match for combat pilots, and they know that. As a result, they spend as much or more time thinking of ways to stay out of your crosshairs as you do of thinking of ways to catch them.
This is Rule 0 because it informs everything about how our opponents operate. If you can get used to asking yourself “If I were a miner or ratter, how would I avoid getting attacked by pirates,” you will find yourself considerable more adept at finding them.
RULE 1: CAREBEARS LOVE LOW POPULATION REGIONS
The first and easiest way for target to avoid becoming our next meal is for them to choose systems that pirates and combat pilots have no reason to visit. This serves two purposes. The first, and most obvious, is that systems with fewer pirates naturally experience fewer attacks. The second - and equally important reason - is that the lower the traffic through a system, the easier it is for ratters and miners to spot hostiles in local and flee to safety.
So how do you find these low traffic systems? Well, for starters, highly populated regions close to major trade hubs like Jita or Amarr are out of the question. These regions are filled with mission runners, combat pilots flying to and from nullsec and countless others going about their lives in New Eden. I generally recommend hunting at least 20 jumps from Jita - more if possible.
RULE 2: CAREBEARS LOVE LOW TRAFFIC SYSTEMS
Once you’ve found a good region, how do you find the systems ratters and miners are most likely to set up shop? They are easy enough to spot on a map if you know where to look. To demonstrate, let’s examine the western quadrant of Arridia - one of my favorite regions for hunting in the past couple months.
In just this one quadrant, I count nearly 54 lowsec systems. 54 systems each with as many as 10 anomalies and a half dozen belts. If you went through and exhaustively searched each potential hiding spot you could easily hunt for hours and still only clear half of them. Fortunately, we can narrow this down a bit...
The systems marked yellow in the above picture are “highway” systems. These systems sit on the shortest routes between the regions surrounding Arridia. By definition, these systems will have the highest traffic, since anyone making their way through this region of space has to pass through them. Miners are ratters will rarely be found here - as mentioned above, these systems will simply not be or feel secure enough for them to make money in peace. (If this were nullsec, these would be great systems for a gate camp).
As I roam through Arridia, I will travel through these systems without stopping unless I see an obvious sign of activity - a miner warping from the gate to a belt, a system with only 2 anomalies, a scout anomaly, etc.
The eighteen systems marked red above are “dead end” systems - systems that are off the main highway. The only reason to enter these systems is because you have an encounter that spawned there, you plan to rat or mine or because you hope to hunt people who do. These are the systems I plot my course to and explore every nook and cranny of, because this is where miners and ratters tend to congregate.
Finally, notice the area marked in blue. This cluster of dead-end systems has only a single entrance, forming a little cul-de-sac. These larger constellations are often home to entire corporations of ratters and miners - well worth investigating (while staying alert for the corporation’s security forces).
RULE 3: CAREBEARS LOVE TO MAKE MONEY
Last but not least, a pirate should remember that his targets are out to make as much money as possible. That generally means that pilots will seek out the lowest security systems in their area, since those have the best bounties and the rarest minerals.
With this in mind, I start my roams through Arridia by heading to the dead-end systems with the lowest security rating, hurrying through the highway systems as quickly as possible and then heading to next lowest security dead-end system.
Following these rules, I rarely finish an hour of roaming without getting a least one kill - and I frequently am able to find multiple targets. By spending more time looking in the most likely spots - and avoiding time wasted looking in places targets avoid - you’ll fill your hold with loot and your hull with killmarks faster than ever.