Friday, July 12, 2019

The Anatomy Of An Escape

With today's blackout of local in null sec, I thought I'd write about an experience I had over the weekend mining in low sec. I ran across a pilot who was obviously lost, as we all know cloaky Proteus only hang out in wormhole space. But sure enough, a Proteus decloaked 17 km from my Procurer. See ship, hit warp. Pretty simple, and the action only took a couple of seconds. But despite my tweet, I didn't just get lucky and run into a bad pilot. A little preparation helped create the opening tweet.

The first bit of planning involved my Procurer fit. I never fit my mining barges for maximum yield. I also don't set up for maximum tank, either. Ideally I'd manage to get a Procurer to align in 5 seconds, the same amount of time as the targeting delay for a ship (except stealth bombers) decloaking. But even with max skills and expensive implants, I don't think it's possible to get a Procurer to align and warp off in 5 seconds. So I use a different tactic.

So, instead of relying on fast align times, I try to minimize my total exposure time. With my skills, an implant, and a Mining Laser Upgrade II, I can mine up to 1044 m3 of ore per minute. I also fit a scanner to judge when to manually shut down the strip miners and start mining another rock. When the wastage time is taken into account, I probably fill up my ore hold in 13 minutes or so.

But what about exposure while in the belt itself? I can align and warp in 9 seconds, which is time enough for a Proteus to uncloak, lock, and point my Procurer. The secret to that is mining while aligned and fitting a Higgs Anchor rig.

Mining while aligned is an old practice that many new players fail to learn, since the technique isn't really suitable for mining frigates like the Venture. But in a mining barge, mining while aligned allows the alert miner to instantly warp away whenever a hostile (or neutral) ship appears on grid. With the size of grids in EVE Online today, a ship appears on grid before while the ship is in the slow-down phase of warp. For cloaky ships like tech 3 cruisers, the ships cannot attempt a lock for 5 seconds after decloaking. In either case, while aligned, a player has a few seconds to react and warp away to safety with one or two mouse clicks.

That leaves the period of changing alignment from one celestial to another as the real periods of vulnerability. That is where the Higgs Anchor Rig comes into play. The Higgs Anchor is a wonderful device that slows a ship's speed by 75% while increasing agility. In practice, that allows my max skills miner to cruise through a belt aligned to a celestial at a speed of just under 40 meters/second. In practice, I only need to make one course correction to stay within range of an asteroid or a group of asteroids. So during my 12-13 minutes of mining before I have to return to a station, in practical terms, I'm really only vulnerable for 9 seconds. Assuming, of course, I remain at my keyboard and pay attention to my surroundings.

In order to increase my safety, I make a lot of bookmarks in a system. Bookmarks are spots in space to which players can warp. Sometimes the belt I want to mine doesn't have a lot of natural spots that allow me to align properly. The longer I remain in a system, the more bookmarks I accumulate. I always make bookmarks around stations, jump gates, and asteroid belts. In addition, I'll spend the time making bookmarks on grid with the belt in order to line up with other celestial objects. One of the side effects is that sometimes I give off the appearance I am not mining while aligned when I'm aligned to a bookmark.

On Sunday, I was mining in a belt with two neutrals in local. One of the pilots I was not worried about; a character with 5.0 security standings who I had only ever seen fly industrial ships. The other was a local in a corporation with ownership in several structures in the constellation. I had seen him in the system a few times before and he had never bothered me.

I was dual-boxing, with Rosewalker in a Stratios at a bookmark observing the belt cloaked. Normally, the only time I uncloak and use the Stratios is when an NPC battleship shows up on grid. Sure enough, a battleship and two cruisers warped onto grid about 5 minutes into my mining session and began attacking Wandering Rose's Procurer. Due to the presence of the neutral with unknown intentions, I decided to leave Rosewalker cloaked and just use light drones from the Procurer to fight the NPCs.

At the time, I was aligned to a bookmark with no discernible celestial object at the end of my path. I don't know if my direction of movement made the neutral pilot overconfident, or if he just got too close to an asteroid. Or perhaps he used one of the NPC cruiser wrecks as a warp-in point and it was within the decloaking distance of 2.5 km. Whatever the case, out of nowhere appears a Proteus, the Gallente tech 3 strategic cruiser.

The reaction was automatic. I hovered my mouse over the bookmark symbol in space and hit warp. Since the bookmark was on grid, the Proteus pilot got the chance to watch me land on grid a long ways away. I then turned the Procurer around and warped to the station and docked up the Procurer.

I didn't think about the flight of tech 2 drones I left behind until afterwards. With eyes on the asteroid belt, I watched as the Proteus pilot scoop up my drones. I guess the situation was a win-win. I came away with my Procurer intact. The Proteus pilot received 5 Warrior IIs with an estimated value of 2 million ISK for his troubles.

The techniques for low sec should work in null sec. Well, except for using local as an intelligence tool. CCP has disabled that intelligence gathering method for a month, if not longer.

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