The same thing we do every night, Boat – try to take over Fade!
-Asher Elias, Asher and the Boat
Things happened to fall into place last night in just the right order so that I found myself sitting down at my desk with some free time in the evening just as Asher put up a ping for a Cerberus fleet. I hate it when I get to my computer and there are pings for fleets, but they are all stale and the fleets have long since undocked. And, having done the Clownshoe fleet earlier in the week, I was up for a combat fleet looking sail into harm’s way.
I even opted to join in my Cerberus rather than flying logi. I wanted to shoot something… and I like to get a couple kills on the board every month just to prove to my corp that I am still alive.
We would, of course, be heading to Fade, the focus of the war for the last couple of weeks. Despite the persistent Reddit propaganda about The Imperium not undocking, not fighting, and not contesting sovereignty, DOTLAN and zKillboard paint a different story.
(How the kills are counted and ranked is explained here.)
I think the biggest surprise there is finding my own alliance, TNT, on the list… that has to be ITAI, to corp CO2 wanted to kick and blacklist, doing some heavy lifting there… though I am bad and almost never fly specifically with my alliance, preferring to just take whatever fleet is leaving out of Saranen when I have the time. Anyway, back to the fleet.
It had been a while since I had been in an Asher fleet… no Reavers ops of late, just the war… and was surprised when he noted my absence of late. [Insert “Senpai noticed me joke here.] It has actually been difficult to find time for a fleet during the week of late, and next week will continue that trend.
Several fleets were going up, but the Cerberus doctrine probably fits me best as I have almost all the related skills for it trained up to level 5. Asher himself would be leading us in a new FC ship he was trying out which we were able to see once we got ourselves settled and undocked.
That is the Sansha’s Nation Phantasm, a pirate faction ship, wearing the Sansha Victory skin, making it a pretty rare site. I took an excessive number of screen shots of it while we were lolling around in various places. It is a pretty, and very pointy, ship.
Undocked, we headed to our ride north, stopping along the way just long enough to pop a MOA Drake that was acting as a bait for a gate camp and clearly wasn’t expecting a 100 ship Cerberus fleet to land on it. At that point I was “Op success!” because I was on the kill boards for May and could go back to flying logi next time.
We moved to our bridging titan and got ourselves in range before it sent us on our way.
Once dropped into the north end of Pure Blind, we headed for the usual location in Fade, the system of O1Y-ED. Along the way we got some instructions on how the fleet was going to work and what to do during certain circumstances. Key items on the list were to keep anchored up with your prop mod running and to align immediately to broadcasts when told.
Once at the destination we warped to a point off the station and let the festivities commence. As usual, numbers were against us, but the doctrine was designed to kite and keep foes at a distance until an opportunity presented itself. This meant quite a bit of aligning, warping, aligning again, warping again, anchoring up, maybe shooting a target or two, then aligning once more for another warp.
The fleet was an illustration of a number of things Asher has spoken about before, both on coms and on his podcast, about the nature of fleet ops and, especially, having the critical mass of firepower and being able to apply it correctly to a target to break its tank and kill it before it can start receiving enough repair reps to save it.
That last bit was key to our fleet last night, and we didn’t do very well.
In one of the first encounters we got within range of PL’s logi and were given a primary and a secondary to target and shoot. The idea is that you lock both, shoot the primary until it is dead, then shoot the secondary, which is then the primary.
We locked both up and as the missiles flew… it is always a bit unnerving with missile doctrines as you have to sit and wait until the missiles travel to the target and do their work before you can tell how things are going… it looked like we were going to drop the first logi. It was down to under a quarter armor… and then reps caught and its armor stabilized and started pushing back up.
We almost had it… and would have had it, except that it was clear that somebody had decided to shoot the secondary. So our damage, which looked to put kills within the realm of possibility, was split and neither target was destroyed. There was enough damage on our side… for the moment.
In addition to splitting fire we were, as a fleet, having some problems aligning.
Aligning is easy enough. It an align point is broadcast, you just right-click on the broadcast in the fleet window and select “Align to…” from the contextual menu. It the align point is a station or a gate or something else that might be in your overview… I have something of a lazy, probably shows too much standard overview I rely on… you can right click there or, if I remember right, just highlight it on the overview or in space as press the “A” key.
But, in combat, with lots of things going on, people were not keeping up. In a situation where you are kiting the enemy, being aligned can be a matter of survival. If you are aligned when the FC warps the fleet, you are on your way pretty much instantly. If you aren’t aligned you may find yourself hanging about in the face of a hostile fleet hungry for a kill after the rest of their prey just slipped off.
So it went, we would warp off as hostiles landed only to find that one or two people were not aligned, and the fleet would be a couple ships lighter. There was some talk of Darwin in action and survival of the fittest on coms, but with less ships, the amount of damage we could put out decreased, making kills harder to get. And so we kept bouncing around the system, or burning along at speed, kiting the enemy around while looking for an opening.
After a a stretch of this where we managed to knock off a couple of hostile Cerberuses that strayed away from their cover… but not enough to match our own losses… Asher took us to a gate and jumped us into K4YZ-Y to look for and advantage.
That actually took me by surprise. I usually keep a bounty on FCs I fly with regularly so that I immediately get a pop-up notification when they are blown up so I know that things might be going to hell shortly.
Fortunately we had a couple of alternate FCs along for the ride. Thomas Lear took over and began bouncing us around to shake off the enemy until they got bored and left, though rumor had it that the enemy was convinced that Oxygen was driving the fleet now.
We eventually ended up in a POS in system… somebody said it isn’t really an Asher fleet unless we spend some time hiding in a POS… waiting for things to die down so we could find a way back to Saranen. By this point, in addition to losing Asher, enough other ships had been peeled off that we lacked any hope of tank breaking critical mass when engaging the enemy fleet roaming the area. It was time to head home.
There was a bit more waiting, and then some dodging about to get away, but Thomas Lear got us through and to low sec and then back home to Saranen.
Not our most glorious fleet op. I couldn’t get a decent battle report for what we did, in part because other fleets were operating in the area, including a White Legion Muninn fleet. But it was another day in the war where we formed up to oppose our enemies and show that we will continue to resist.
One of the more interesting aspects of this op was a look at the kills we got. Less that two weeks ago, when I was out with Boat on that Cormorant fleet, we were really only seeing Pandemic Horde. Nobody else was showing up in Fade. Last night we saw fleets from Pandemic Legion and NCDot as well as a few other members of the Moneybadger Coalition. Fade is where the fights are happening for now.