I got my first taste of the pirate life back in the early 2010s playing EVE Online. When I first started, I was a stock-standard carebear who thought he knew everything about combat (after all, my faction-fitted Raven could handle any mission! How hard could PvP really be?!). I started by testing the waters in some lowsec pockets (small, one or two system areas of lowsec) where my poorly-conceived Vexor quickly got obliterated by an experienced pirate who mistook me for a ratter. I went back to the drawing board, fitting out a shield-regening Drake, which I was confident would prove invincible. It barely survived traveling through the third system.
Finally, after getting some advice from someone who actually knew what they were talking about, I put together a fast, agile interceptor and arrived in Molden Heath. Over the course of the next few months, that wretched hive of scum and villainy taught me everything about being a pirate. I found me first successes roaming the “Ring of Fire” as I learned to hunt targets, size them up and grab them (looking over my shoulder the whole time to avoid becoming prey myself).
I would eventually move on, but the lessons I learned traveled with me, even coming back in bright, nostalgic flashes as I opened EVE Echoes for the first time on my phone. I knew once I began pirating again that I would have to return to my old school yard and see if the Heath still lived up to its past self.
GEOGRAPHY - “The Wheel of Fire”
Molden Heath is a lowsec “transition” region - bridging the gap between the highsec-dominated Heimatar and Metropolis regions and the massive sprawl of nullsec space in Etherium Reach and the Great Wildlands. It’s gates and stations bear the distinct marks of Minmatar craftsmanship (i.e. they look like they were assembled from spare parts and duct tape).
The 28 lowsec systems in Molden Heath are arranged into a massive circle, affectionately dubbed the “Wheel of Fire,” connecting several dead-end cul-de-sacs that branch off like spokes from the central hub.
The systems that compose the Ring bring together a bizarre cross-section of pilots - miners and ratters eeking out a mean existence in the belts and anomalies, transport pilots making long-haul trips in and out of nullsec, and, of course, pirates flitting from system to system looking for prey. This hodgepodge of pilots of various interests and skill levels makes for a turbulent PvP environment where a wary pilots can make some genuinely spectacular kills... or get crushed in an instant.
In contrast, the dead-end systems in the “spokes” are frequently dominated by corporations that seek to claim the systems for themselves so they can mine and run anomalies in peace. These lowsec corp pilots are a fascinating breed - possessing some of the hard-earned scars of those living in lowsec, with the hearts of highsec carebears who just want to be left alone. Some of my most lucrative kills and humiliating defeats happened in systems like Hrober where one minute I might find a faction-fitted, 100mil isk Caracal, and the next minute find out run into a swarm of his friends in low-cost but effective PvP frigates.
PIRATING IN MOLDEN HEATH
Upon visiting my old stomping grounds in this new, mobile version of EVE I was delighted to find it much as I left it. Corps were already forming large, ill-protected mining fleets in the spokes, while the rings were filled with traffic to and from the Wildlands beyond Egbinger.
If you are looking to make your start in the Heath, I advise you to bring a fast-moving destroyer or cruiser that can quickly roam the Wheel systems. Molden Heath’s population is rural and widely-spread, so a ship that can move through anomalies or belts quickly will make it more likely that you fill find targets. A complete circuit around the Wheel will likely take at least an hour if you get every anomaly - by which time the system’s population will have changed and you can check it again. Roaming ‘round the Wheel is the quintessential Molden Heath experience - a Zen-like thing that can eat up an entire day if you let it.
Hunting the spokes is less like roaming the open road and more like robbing a bank - lucrative, but be careful to watch your rear view mirror as you make your escape. You are best off making a quick, strategic strike and retreating once the locals get wise to your activities. Once I make some good kills in a spoke, I leave it for a day or so to let them forget me before trying it again. Don’t underestimate those corps - they may be 90% carebear, but the 10% have skill and loads of money.
Molden Heath remains one of the best places for burgeoning pirates to learn their trade. While not as target-rich as systems closer to the central trade hubs, its lower traffic brings many pilots eager to make a home in lowsec... if they can avoid the occasional, clever hunter.
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