Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Dark Arts: The Way of the Space Ninja

For any of you that are following the story of the Revolutionary Front, we have been focused increasingly on high security space for the interesting gameplay potential that it presents, as well as the isk that is to be made there. It's also a great place to train the newbros, with a wide variety of soft targets ripe for the plucking and a gentle learning curve.

"If the opponent feels no pain you may be forced to break bones..."
Many of our newest members had persisted in running low level missions and even (shudder) mining to make their iskies, so in an effort to both improve their income and break them of the carebear mentality I have been encouraging them to take up the Way of the Space Ninja. This is to say, haunting highsec mission hubs and scanning down bears running level 4s, then loot and/or salvage their wrecks, and if they should be so foolish as to aggress us, returning with a combat ship to hold them ransom or gank them. These pursuits require minimal skills, are fantastic ways for new players to become proficient with d-scan and combat probing, and are quite good income. A week old player who is running level 2 missions might be making 1-2 million isk per hour. When he takes up ninja-ing he can drastically improve that with a small investment in isk and SP.

A would-be ninja would be well advised to have some skills trained and ships ready before he goes to work. There are three basic ship types that he will be primarily concerned with as a solo ninja - the prober, the looter, and the tackler. You will find some discussion of these and sample fits below.

You will need a ship capable of fitting an expanded probe launcher, with Sisters Combat Scanner Probes, and Gravity Capacitor Upgrade rigs. I also like to put a cloaking device of some kind on mine, so that I can hang around in space probing people down when I have a suspect flag without worrying that somebody will hunt me down and pop me. You can fit the low and midslots how you like. You might want a codebreaker or an analyzer in case you have the opportunity to raid an exploration site, or you may want to fit a tank of some sort. The ideal ship for this is a Covert ops frigate, but today I'm talking about basics for newbies, so any T1 exploration frigate will be just fine. Here is an example:

[Probe, anal]
Nanofiber Internal Structure I
Nanofiber Internal Structure I
Nanofiber Internal Structure I

Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
[empty med slot]
[empty med slot]
[empty med slot]

Expanded Probe Launcher I, Core Scanner Probe I
Prototype Cloaking Device I
[empty high slot]

Small Gravity Capacitor Upgrade I
Small Gravity Capacitor Upgrade I
[empty rig slot]

The main thing here is to have a ship that is cheap, light and fast, with a reasonable cargohold. You will get shot at in this ship, so being able to maneuver on a hostile grid and get away without being killed is your top priority. The Vigil is a fine and classic option for this, but most any fast T1 frigate will do. You should have Salvagers in the highslots, Salvage Tackle and/or Cargohold Optimization rigs, and Expanded Cargoholds in the lowslots. I always recommend that the midslots carry a Passive Targeter and a Ship Scanner, because any time that you are in close contact with a mission runner you should be checking to see if he fits expensive modules that might make him a suitable target for ganking. You also want to dual prop with an MWD and an AB, as maximizing your ability to maneuver on grid is key to your survival and success. Here is a sample looting Vigil:

[Vigil, Thief]
Expanded Cargohold I
Damage Control I

Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
Experimental 1MN Afterburner I
Passive Targeter I
Ship Scanner I
[empty med slot]

Salvager I
Salvager I

Small Salvage Tackle I
Small Cargohold Optimization I
Small Cargohold Optimization I

The third ship that you want to have staged and ready is a tackle frigate. This is to take advantage of those times that the bear decides to shoot at you. As a very new player, you probably can't take the bear out solo if he is in a battleship and you are in a frigate, but you can come back and warp scramble him, and prevent him from leaving. Once he is in this position, he is in your power. He may have drones that can hurt you, so you want to shoot these down first, but after that it is unlikely that he can track you with his BS sized guns, so just orbit him close and keep him pinned down. Then, see if you can get him to pay you ransom to let him leave. If there are still rats on grid shooting at him, they will be making him sweat as well, and may even kill him while you hold point, enabling you to to loot his wreck. As your skills improve, it can be worthwhile to do this with an ECM ship, just to prevent him from targeting the rats and allow them to do the damage for you. Here is a basic ninja tackle fit:

[Slasher, ninja tackle]
Damage Control I
Micro Auxiliary Power Core I

Medium Azeotropic Ward Salubrity I
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
Balmer Series Tracking Disruptor I, Tracking Speed Disruption Script
Limited 1MN Afterburner I

125mm Light Gallium Machine Gun, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma S
125mm Light Gallium Machine Gun, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma S
125mm Light Gallium Machine Gun, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma S
E5 Prototype Energy Vampire

Small Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Small Anti-Thermal Screen Reinforcer I
Small Core Defense Field Extender I

Yow will need some basic skills to be able to probe effectively. The minimum that I would suggest would be the following:

  • Astrometrics 4 - will allow you to launch 7 probes, a nice number to use.
  • Astrometric Pinpointing 3 - Gives your probes greater accuracy.
  • Astrometric Rangefinding 4 - Improves probe strength.
  • Astrometric Acquisition 3 - Allows you to probe faster.

In addition, you will obviously want your basic skills to fit all of your ships and modules. You will need to be able to operate a MWD, AB, etc. If you want to salvage you will need to train Salvaging to 3 or 4 as well.

Find yourself a mission hub (Google is your friend). Go and check it out. you want to see at least 60-70 people in local at any given time to make sure you will have plenty of targets to choose from. Check the surrounding systems out too, missions tend be one jump away quite often. Ideally you want to have 2-3 contiguous systems with plenty of mission runners hanging around.

Once you have identified your hunting grounds, stage your ships. You will want to keep a looter and a tackler in each of your systems ready to go. Make sure that they are fitted and insured. Usually one prober is enough to work with, but if you are working several different mission clusters you may want to keep a prober in each one and jumpclone between them. The idea is that you go out in your prober and scan down the bears, and if the system is quiet you move on to the next one, and you always have a looter and tackler handy to take advantage of whatever you may find.

Finding those Fucking Bears
Here is the hard part. Not that hard actually, but it does take a bit of practice to get good at it. You know there are bears about, but they are off in their unaligned mission pockets, so what to do? You need to locate them.

The directional scanner is your handiest tool. Best to get comfortable with this now, because it will serve you well wherever you go in EVE. I'm not going to do a complete tutorial on d-scan here. (Try Youtube). Where ninjas are concerned with d-scan is using it to locate a mission pocket which contains both a mission runner, typically in a Battleship or a T3, and large wrecks. Noctes (Noctises) are also telltale clues. Once you have located your mission bear's general location with d-scan, it is time to drop your probes.

Combat Probes
If you are a new player, and you have never done your exploration tutorial missions, go and do them now. That will give you the basic idea of how to probe things down. The concept is the same if you are using Core Probes to find exploration sites or Combat Probes to find ships. You have already located the general area of your Bear, so narrow down the range to 2 AU or so, spread the probes out, and drop them in his general area on the map. If you don't find his ship siganature, widen the range and try again. Once you have the signature, narrow down the range and location until you have him at 100%. Then save the location.

This video explains combat probing technique far better than I can. It was made for the context of wormhole scouting, but is equally applicable for the ninja. If anything it is easier for us, because our targets are not concerned about being probed down, and usually oblivious to d-scan.

I have Him! WTF I do now?
If you are probing in a Covops, go and scout out the mission to see what is there. If you are in a T1 prober, don't worry about it. Dock up and switch to your Looter. Undock and warp to the bookmark you saved for the Bear. You may find a variety of things there - wrecks, Bears in Battleships/T3s, Noctes, red crosses, acceleration gates.

The most important things for you to do are to activate your damage control and keep moving at all times. Your looter is a dual prop ship, so when you are alone on grid or nobody is targeting you, you can use your MWD to flit around quickly. If the grid is more busy or hostile, switch to you AB so you will be harder to hit.

Now you are here, you have the choice to loot or salvage. Salvage is way less valuable, but you can do it without getting flagged as a suspect, so the bear can't shoot you without getting CONCORDed. However, this is boring, so go for the loot. Either way, go for the large wrecks.

Sometimes, you land in the mission and find the Bear or his friend cleaning up the wrecks in his Noctis. Do not be deterred by this! One of my corpies said it best:

"I write today to give you a tip about a certain ship which is close to the mission bear's heart : the Noctis. It is a ship dedicated to making looting and salvaging easy and fast for the bear - the bear just parks this beast somewhere central on the wreck field, and tractors the wrecks in from up to 70+km away, looting and salvaging them as they get close. many a bear has told stories in local about how the noctis is the ultimate ninja cock block - the ninja flies around and tries to salvage and loot wrecks, and as the ninja approaches a wreck, it is snatched away from them by the mighty noctis. then, the bears laugh heartily and toast each other with white wine spritzers sprinkled with ninja tears.

cool story bro.

Unfortunately for the bear, the noctis can be the well-trained and equipped ninja's best friend. Yes, if you try to grab wrecks in a field being worked by a noctis, it can be quite frustrating - the whole wreck field is in motion, and the bear always knows which wreck you're going for. However, that's obviously not how we roll. The smart ninja orbits the usually stationary Noctis at 1000m. As the bear pulls the wrecks in, the ninja just loots and salvages them as they come in range. Because you are orbiting at 1000, you are often in range if the wreck before the bear is, and can do a loot all and salvage by getting the jump on him. You need salvaging V, tech 2 salvagers (at least 2 or 3) and a couple salvage tackle rigs to pull this off (you basically have to get it in one cycle), but it is a sweet trick. it pretty much requires you to loot all, and be quick on the draw, but hey, we're ninjas, right?

Now the advantage is turned on its head - the bear doesn't know which wreck you're going for until you fire up your salvagers, and if you're running 2 or 3 at a time, you've got a great chance of grabbing just about everything. In this respect, you can think of the Noctis and the bear sitting in it as your personal wreck retriever - if the bear has a noctis, now you have a noctis too! as you can imagine, when the bear realizes that his rather pricey ship which was supposed to make looting and salvaging a breeze has turned into an 80mil isk way to fuck himself over, he can get a bit salty - so leave some extra cargo space for the tears. also, it is customary, but not required, to tip your mission bear for this service."
                                                                                               - Geyene

Holeysheeet! He's shooting at me! What do I do now, Bot?
Your first concern, should the bear decide to start shooting, is to save yourself. Keep your transversal up by making sure you are flying at an angle to you. In your frigate you are pretty hard to hit, so don't panic. Best to GTFO by warping off. Once you have gotten away safely, have a good hearty laugh, because that bear may have just made the worst mistake of his EVE career.
Never fuck with a ninja.

You now have a limited engagement timer, that allows you to legally attack the Bear without feeling the wrath of CONCORD for the next 2 minutes. This gives you enough time for you to batphone your friends, get into a combat ship, and go attack the bear. At the basic level this is the tackler we discussed above. At more advanced levels, you may be getting into a cruiser or battlecruiser, or any ship that can has the DPS to take him out, and calling your friends to assist with Logi support.

Go back in your combat ship, tackle the poor foolish scrub, and demand your ransom. He'll either pay you or he won't. Then, should you choose to do so and have the DPS to pull it off, wreck him and loot/salvage his ship. Even if you don't have enough DPS, don't be afraid to just hold him there and make him pay for you to let him go, or let the NPCs finish him off. A two day old noob in a tackle frigate can realistically get hundreds of millions of isk in ransoms or loot doing this, and you risk nothing but a 1 million isk tackle frigate - so be bold, be ruthless, and make things happen.

As with most forms of piracy, ninja-ing can be a bit hit-or-miss, but usually provides a fairly steady moderate income with the potential for jackpot ransoms or loot. A good mission pocket can get you easily 20-30 million in NPC loot drops for 30 minutes or so of work. The key is consistently finding good missions, and for that it is best to be mobile. If one mission hub is slow or dried up, move on to another. In this way you can usually haul in between 20-40 million isk/hour with only a couple of days investment in SP and a few million in ships. Compare this to a new player with equivalent skills running Level 2 missions making maybe like 2 million isk/hour.