Atom Deathstroke here, for my next installment of the small gang PVP series. In this article, I’ll discuss how to assemble an effective gang generally, and how to fit for the Kiting meta specifically. .
When it comes to creating a small gang PVP composition there is no 1 answer to everything - there are many different playstyles for small gang PVP, each with its own philosophy. The one I want to go over, and the one I am most familiar with is the Kiting Meta.
Kiting is a strategy in which your gang remains out of reach of the enemy’s ability to capture (scram/web) or apply damage effectively to you. This style of PVP has several excellent advantages. Because kiting requires high speed, your ships can generally chase/catch most targets, and also, it allows you to evade targets just as easily. This really gives you a lot more control of the grid and can allow you to choose if and when to commit to a fight, whereas brawling an enemy forces you to stay on grid until you can escape scram/web.
So, what is the bare minimum needed to be effective for small gang PVP? The answer is pretty simple: You just need 1 ship. Something that can apply DPS, and tackle. (Sometimes you don’t even need to tackle) But flying solo (while fun), is never going to the friendship building, bond creating, social experience the small gang community has come to love. So with that, I’m going to share what I have been using as a rock-solid foundation for a small gang PVP composition.
Scouts and Dedicated Tackle
Like many of you are finding out now, hunting in low sec, and even 0.0 space with gate camps, interdiction bubbles, and insta-locking frigates, is becoming more and more dangerous. To counter this, there is no better ship than the interceptor, which many of you will have access to in the coming week.
Interceptors have immunity to interdiction bubbles, near instant alignment, they are incredibly fast on and off the grid (warp speed) they have bonuses to their tackle strength or range. Additionally, they all have a bonus to signature radius penalty allowing them to signature tank VERY well against turret based weapon systems and even missiles. Without hunting tools like the directional scanner, activity heat maps, or probe scanning, having the base 5.5AU warp speed allows your interceptor pilot to quickly warp around a system hunting for a target. This can be further increased with hyperspatial rigs, however there is a long debate about on grid vs off grid performance that you can benefit more with other rigs in its place. (you can discuss this with me on the Pirates’ Guide Discord)
Another category of ships that make ok dedicated tackle are the afterburner-bonused hulls like the atron, condor, executioner, slasher. They don’t have the sig bloom that MWD ships have, while still maintaining decent speeds which can allow for a decent signature tank against poor application weapon systems. They can also scram off MWD ships so long as you aren’t webbed. These ships are also very inexpensive and a great place to start leaning to tackle.
Mainline DPS ships will make up the bulk of your small gang. These ships are usually dual-role ships: while DPS is their primary focus, they should also be equipped to tackle. The dedicated tackle is there to scout and grab initial tackle, but because of their low EHP, the mainline DPS is your secondary tackle/hard tackle for the target in addition to supplying the DPS for the fight. . These ships usually consist of assault variant ships (Incursus, Punisher, Merlin, Talwar and Corax) as well as the faction cruisers many of you have come to love. (Stabber fleet issue, Omen Navy Issue, and Caracal Navy Issue)
WIth these 2 ships types alone, there are many many engagements to be had and won. But like anything else in EVE, there are always exceptions and picking your battles carefully is the key to putting the odds in your favor.
ADD ON THE EXTRAS
If you find yourself with more than 5 pilots in your small gang, or you need a little more “variety” there are some other ship types you can add to your composition which can GREATLY increase your offensive and defensive capabilities. Keep in mind though, that doing this could reduce your engageability. I’ll touch on this a little later.
Control is a VERY broad term small gang PVPers use and can apply to several ship classes. Control essentially means ships that have the ability to manage the enemy ship's offensive and defensive capabilities on grid. This could mean webbing ships to slow enemy tackle or help with damage application, dampening to delay logistic support, and tracking disruption to reduce damage to your front line ships. I’ll be dedicating an entire article to control ships at a later time. (My favorite role in small gang PVP) Some strong control ships in Echoes right now are the Griffin, Maulus, Crucifier, Vigil, Daredevil, cruor, as well as their cruisers counterparts)
Logi ships can be a HUGE force multiplier and can also allow your mainline ships to be more aggressive on grid since they can rely less on their active/passive tank and focus more on tackle/application. A good small gang Logi pilot is worth their weight in gold. Staying out of danger, staying within rep range of your fleet mates, and applying reps where needed requires a lot of practice, skill, and multitasking ability. There is no doubt in my mind that small gang Logi pilots have the toughest job on an active grid.
‘Dictor pilots are great for setting up mobile camps in enemy staging, and also great for holding, or slowing down enemy fleets both offensively and defensively. Generally though, interdictor pilots feed often as they are usually the first ones into a fight to hold or delay an enemy fleet. This is one of the main reasons people have interdictor alts. Nothing worse than landing on grid and dying in the first few moments of a fight with nothing to do afterwards. Most of the time, interdictors are fit for speed and stealth - Bubble, hide or get out.
Shield/Armor field ships and (hopefully soon) command links ships will play a role in your fleet by providing bonuses to your fleet mates. Often referred to as “backpacks” in the small gang community, these ships, while not super effective themselves, offer HUGE benefit to your fleet mates by increasing their survivability and with command links their overall performance on grid. Assuming that Echoes follows it’s big brother EVE Online, skirmish command links will be the links of choice for many small gang Inertia/nano pilots. Added speed, reduced sig, longer tackle range, can really make a huge difference when it’s a very cat and mouse game on grid.
Dual Role DPS/Control
This category will mostly be dominated by ships that have bonuses to application and range. When your fleet composition already has a good balance of tackle, having a dedicated DPS can really make taking out targets quickly a big benefit when more time on grid means more time for the enemy to counter. Some of the ships that would work well in this category would be the Sniper variant hulls. Talwar, Corax, Caracal, Stabber, as well as the Sniper battlecruisers, Oracle, Naga, Talos, and Tornado. They have great range, decent application, and mid slots for ewar modules to help the rest of your fleet with application(TP) or incoming damage reduction/application or anti logistics with TDs,GDs, Damps, and ECM
FINDING A BALANCE
Finding a balance is a VERY subjective topic. With 10 years playing in the EVE online universe, I can tell you that making a balanced fleet can be hard and you will rarely have the “perfect composition” for most engagements you will take.
When my group is forming for a fight, we generally try and keep our composition in a 25/25/50 setup meaning 25% dedicated tackle, 25% control, and 50% mainline DPS. This allows for our fleets to have roughly 50% of the fleet capable of tackling, which is important when holding targets on grid from escaping, and 25% of the fleet keeping the other 75% of the fleet alive. A real world example of this would be the following composition.
- Executioner Interceptor - Dedicated Tackle
- Talwar Assault - Primary DPS/Secondary Tackle
- Omen Navy Issue - Primary DPS/Secondary Tackle
- Crucifier - Control
A composition like this would be incredibly effective on grid. You have ships that can apply their damage from a decent range and accurately, you have defensive and offensive webs to control enemy ships from tackling you, you have defensive and offensive ewar to reduce enemy weapons damage and application, and you have a dedicated interceptor to screen or tackle targets. Not to mention all the ships in this composition have excellent speed.
This is something I see SO MANY small gang groups and large groups do. Dog piling, or overshipping is a great way to prevent a good fight from happening. Some of the biggest culprits of overshipping are the logistics pilots and Ewar pilots. Generally when fighting on a grid, having a single logi pilot like a Bantam II isn’t much to worry about - most people know a single logi pilot can’t offer that much assistance and also has to worry about himself and can be forced off the grid easily enough. On the other hand, showing up with 3 Scythes and a guardian ship, is a good way to signal “I’m not looking for a good fight”.
Another mistake groups make is having too much control. While a Maulus can be incredibly effective, it still only has 2 utility slots and also has very little EHP. Bringing out a Celestis or multiple ewar frigates also tells people “I'm not interested in making myself look engageable”. This is also another reason why I’m a big fan of putting EWAR on sniper ships. They aren’t as effective as EWAR bonused hulls, however you can hide the fact you have additional EWAR on the grid and look less threatening.
Thanks for taking the time to read this chapter in my small gang PVP series. Stay tuned for the next article where I’ll talk about ship fittings roles/bonuses, How to fit for kiting/nano/inertia, and theory crafting the right ship for your playstyle. If you have any questions, or would like to discuss small gang PVP, I can be found in the Pirates' Guide to the Galaxy Discord or in the Fwaming Dwagons Public Discord.
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