23 June 2009

I Once Was in a Tournament

I had left SG, and was living in The Forge. I hadn't been there long, and was trying to find my place. There was a monthly 1v1, all tech-1 cruiser tournament held in a low-sec system nearby. It hadn't been running long and didn't have many entrants. I have never been an ace combat pilot, and have always preffered EW, fire support, or logistics roles in combat over being a ship-of-the-line. I figured this would be a controlled environment where I could get a little better.

The rules were simply that every capsuleer provided a cruiser that did not have any advanced, tech 2 fittings. There would be a jet can marking the center of the field, and we were not to stray more than a number of kilometers from that. Withdrawing from the fight was surrendering. Ships would likely be lost, but pods were off limits.

I expected there to be a great many Thoraxes. I, however, can not pilot Gallente cruisers, nor do I have any training in hybrid railguns. I turned to the Minmatar variant on the Gallente Thorax, the Stabber.

The Stabber is clearly built from Thorax plans. The hulls have nearly the same silhouette. The Stabber is just Minmatar, and with that it is faster than a Thorax. Minmatar projectiles have a better range than Gallente turrets, too. These two advantages determined my strategy.

Thorax's are fast, and use their speed to get close to their prey. They are devastating lethal at close range, and they can deploy drones to quickly augment their offensive capabilities. Thorax's rely on aggression, and that aggression easily conceals any weakness.

Since this tournament set the field, there was no need for warp disruption. That freed up a mid-slot in everyone's fitting. I decided that I was going to use my superior speed to set the range, and I was going to remain outside of his lethal range, and outside of the range of statis webifiers. This gave me another free mid-slot. I fit my ship as though I was going to fight a Thorax, so everything was measured in that regard. The Hypothetical Thorax pilot likely would equip a webifier, so this gave me a mid-slot over him.

I fit my ship so it would be as fast as possible, with the best range I could get out of the full compliment of named autocannons. My defenses suffered, but there was no amount of tank that I could put on a Stabber that could withstand a Thorax at close range.

I knew this was a risk. What if my opponent wasn't in a Thorax? I considered the likely alternatives, the Vexor, the Caracal, and the Rupture (did the Amarrs even make a cruiser?). The Vexor and the Rupture would both present the same challenge. They would have better range than the Thorax, but they would both be slower. I would be able to set the range, and could either close to try and outpace their turrets or move further away in the hopes of out-ranging them.

The Caracal presented a real problem. The Caracal didn't care about my range, and the Caracal could fit an impressive tank. I wasn't sure how I was going to handle things if I encountered a Caracal.

All of that was moot. My first opponent was a Thorax.

We began nearly 20 Km apart. My target range was outside of 9 Km. As the duel began, he lit up his MWD and burned straight for me (this was before warp scramblers would disrupt a MWD). I fired up my own, swung my bow to port, and cut an oblique. In my head was Sabre Dance. As our range fell below 12 Km, I turned on the ACs.

He continued to try and approach me, and I continued to move in obliques around him, careful to keep my orbits outside of 9 Kms, and always trying to move our dance toward the "center of the ring". The fight continued for many many minutes. All the while, my ACs were constantly hissing shot at him, his rails silent. I had no idea if this tactic would work. I was expecting it to be a smashing success or a smashing failure. Instead, it was a smashing stalemate.

I was doing measurable damage, but it wasn't enough to over-come is active defenses. There was a time-limit imposed by the rules on our fight. If we exceeded that, the organizer would call our fight and determine a winner. I was afraid I'd lose a judge's decision. From the outside, it appeared as though I was avoiding a fight by constantly staying away from him. I felt I needed to do something to avoid going to a judge's decision.

I risked moving closer. I didn't want to get within webifier range, but I wanted to get a little closer so my own turrets would land their shots more often. I lurched closer. He took that moment, and lurched closer too. I quickly found myself too close.

His webifier found me, and trapped me. I had now lost my speed advantage, and he quickly fell on me. My ACs were constantly fighting back, but the weren't enough to destroy him before his rails tore my ship to pieces.

I was now floating in my pod in a sea of the debris that once was a nearly successful Stabber.

After the fight he told me that he was down to his last few cap boosters. He didn't think he'd be able to hold out for too much longer.

If only I had.

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