Hello folks. I’m Alikchi, and I’m here to teach you how to kill Exhumers in Empire.
There have been several guides and videos like mine before - notably Warr Akini’s and Marc Scaurus' for Hulkageddon, and Gorn Arming's pre-Crucible “Ganking Guide” on the Goonswarm forums - but I hope this will provide a more full explanation of the kind of work you need to do. Also, I've yet to find a solid piece that takes into account the Inferno 1.2 patch’s buffs to exhumer and barge HP, among other recent changes.
Practically no one (apart from James315's New Order) is ganking miners regularly these days - freighters are au courant - so the ignorant and incompetent are out in droves. It’s a great time to blow up folks who think that CCP’s buffs have made them safe. In the Void Catalyst, you have a cheap, disposable tool that absolutely vomits out DPS. Use it.
Hopefully this guide will help you find fun in this silly game. A lot of it will be intuitive common sense for older players, but suicide ganking needs new blood. After rambling well beyond the TMC word limit, I've decided to split it into three loose parts: preparations & necessities, ganking itself, and advanced tactics. Feel free to comment if you have questions. I'll do my best to answer.
MINER GANKING: A LONG-WINDED INTRODUCTION
The past year hasn't seen much change in the tactics of the gank, but the targets themselves have become rather trickier. Before Inferno 1.2, the range of targets and their tankability was wider. A Hulk or Mackinaw could be anything from laughable to nigh-unkillable. Now, essentially every Hulk is base-weak and every Mackinaw is base-strong. The variance is narrower. Any miner with a few brain cells to rub together and a reasonable fit can make it completely cost-ineffective to gank them. In the old days, you could take out a poorly-fit Mackinaw with a single 500+DPS Catalyst, break even on loot and salvage, and then make a profit from the Hulkageddon Goonswarm bounties. It was a real profession for a glorious few months. Today, you'll be very lucky to break even. This is no longer a profession: it is sport for those with disposable isk and free time. The ganker can still break even, but he or she will have to be talented, thorough, and yes, a bit lucky. Newbies can still participate, but only in numbers - no more solo ganking with a 300 DPS catalyst.
That word "sport" may have made you snort. What's the sport in it? It's like hunting cows, right? Well, sometimes. Even the bright miners usually aren't paying attention. But then, if you shoot a cow, it won't rage out in local... or put a bounty on your head... or fruitlessly try to stop you for hours. There is a visceral emotional satisfaction here that sets it apart from the technical pleasure of a well-executed gank. If "tears" (ugh) are your thing, this could be the diversion for you.
So: that's why this stuff is fun. Maybe you find burning 30 jumps for some PVP a little tedious. Maybe you’re just too lazy to learn how to be Kil2. You might really enjoy making the ignorant and incompetent pay for their mistakes. Maybe you just like explosions and juicy podkills. The tactical details could appeal to you: getting a perfect warp-in, dodging and outwitting your opposition, snatching kills from under anti-gankers’ noses and making a profit, too. That's my motivation.
Suicide ganking is also more fun than mining, but then, what isn't? Still. I know which end of the gun I prefer to be on. Maybe you do, too.
The three roles I define here can be fairly loose. If you're not a pirate (ie, the Faction Police don't bother you), you can always spot your targets with your DPS character, bookmark them, and then come back in a gank ship. That’s one-character ganking, although you won’t be able to loot or salvage (unless nobody gets to your wrecks for the full 15 minute GCC). With the right character, you can combine the spotter and looter/salvager roles, too. This is quite necessary if you're multiboxing 3 accounts, as I do: two -10.0 Catalyst gankers and one neutral guy who does everything else. Economize your effort!
The Spotter: Your eyes in the sky. A spotter is simply a character than can fit a Passive Targeter and a Ship Scanner and look relatively innocuous while doing so. You might as well fit the tech II versions of these modules, as they only require Targeting II and Electronics II, and the cycle times do make a difference. A rookie ship, a frigate, whatever you have at hand with two midslots and a decent scan resolution should be enough. Try to blend in at least a little, if you can. No Catalyst spotters, please - you’ll scare all the game away. An Iteron or other similar T1 hauler is a good choice, but really, not many folks are paying attention in ice belts, and you can get away with a lot. I’ll discuss the actual mechanics of spotting & scanning in the next article.
The DPS: The man with the gun. This character (or, more likely, these characters) should be able to fly a high-DPS Catalyst; the fittings will be discussed below, but even a ‘baby’ character just a few days old can add a potentially critical ~220 DPS. Fit up your Cat and pay close attention to the DPS you push out. To kill an untanked Mackinaw, ~1000 combined DPS across all aggressing characters should be your minimum in a 0.7 system. The more firepower, the greater the margin of error, the better - so a character with good gunnery skills is always a boon. Also, train Thermodynamics. Overheating is absolutely essential. Two reasonably talented pilots flying ~500 DPS Cats is enough for plenty of kills, but a few extra seconds before CONCORD arrives can give you a window to snag a pod.
DPS characters will lose security status quickly, particularly if you kill pods, so you may want to consider rolling fresh alts for this. Do note that rolling fresh alts and then disposing of them to replace with new ones is not something CCP looks upon lightly, though.
The Warpin/Looter/Salvager: This is a character that can provide warpins, loot wrecks, and salvage. Most of the time, this isn’t exactly complicated. Miners - particularly ice miners - are almost always AFK, with ridiculously long cycles and ore holds that take nearly an hour to fill up. You can just hit approach, scan them to make sure they’re an appropriate target, and sit right at 0 for your DPS fleet members to warp to you and nuke him. Methods requiring more finesse for dealing with alert miners & opposition will be discussed later. All you need to worry about right now is having 150m3 or more of cargo space, not being too terribly slow, and fitting a Salvager II (or T1 Salvager with Salvage Tackle rigs.) If you’re working with a big gang, consider bringing a Noctis for added utility.
If possible, this character should not be in the same corporation or alliance as your ganker(s). Only the totally AFK will fail to react when, say, an INIT Heron flies right up to their Mackinaw, and the belt already has a sprinkling of mysterious INIT Catalyst wrecks. Still, as always, this is an optional rule, because being totally AFK is wonderfully common!
Ships & Fits
All Hail the Cat: Ever since Crucible’s destroyer changes, the Catalyst has had the best cost to potential DPS ratio in the game. With great skills, implants, and overheating, you’ll peak out at around 700 DPS per 15 million isk Cat. You don’t need a huge amount of SP, though - two or three 500 DPS Cats is fine, and three or four relatively crappy (~300-400 DPS) ones will get most jobs done. The New Order goes in with a swarm of T1-fit Cats. This ship is the perfect tool for cheap ganking. The other three original destroyers are great too, but they lag 100 DPS or more behind the Cat.
Here’s the ship you should aspire to. It’s a T2-gunned Cat with sensor booster, scan resolution script, and warp scrambler. For those without T2 small blasters, here's a T1/meta geared version. Start with a full rack of Ion blasters and then squeeze in as many Neutrons as your skills can take. Use Void ammo for T2 guns and Caldari Navy Antimatter for the T1s. If you’re worried about jams (from the Faction Police or player opposition) you can drop the sensor booster for a Magnetometric ECCM, but in doing so you’ll likely sacrifice your ability to lock and kill a pod in time. Use your discretion, but remember: if you're not yet a pirate, and thus don't have faction police following you everywhere, you won't need the ECCM unless you're facing human opposition. CONCORD jams never miss. Don't waste the slot.
Other DPS Possibilities: Not putting out enough damage? You can upship, of course. Gallente blaster ships are simply the best at this, which means Thorax, Vexor, Brutix and Talos. As you advance up this chain, though, your cost-efficiency tends to weaken. It’s always better (and cheaper) to go in with say, 3 Catalysts instead of a Catalyst and a Brutix. Similarly, you should choose two Brutix over one Talos - it’ll be both less expensive and more powerful.
There’s one case here where the Cat can be matched. What if you have one DPS character with great skills, but no friends or alts to help you out?
The Vexor might be the ship for you. With excellent blaster and drone skills, you can nearly match the cost/DPS ratio of paired T2 Cats, and the extra midslots add versatility for ECCM or Target Painters. Above is a decent fit for solo ganking.
Utility: I’m folding all the non-DPS ships and fits into this subheading, as they’re comparatively simple. A spotter could look like this, or sneaky like this, or even just this. Your spotter/scanner ship needs just two things: a passive targeter and a ship scanner. Add enough cargo space to loot 3 or 4 ships and a Salvager II, and you’ve got your warpin/looter/salvager role taken care of as well. I say Salvager II because Exhumers are T2 ships and often drop juicy salvage. I’m thinking particularly of Intact Armor Plates, which sell for 15-20 mil. An individual Exhumer can drop up to three plates, potentially paying for your gank all on its own. So yes, make sure you can pull in T2 Salvage. It’s great.
As I mentioned earlier, if you have a reasonably skilled character, you can combine the non-DPS roles. I have an alt that can fly a Hound, fitted like this, and an Orca for lugging things around. The Stealth Bomber is perfect. It can passively target and scan, it can provide warpins cloaked or uncloaked, it can easily burn new instas and perches. The cargo hold is large enough to scoop all the loot, and three Salvager IIs fill out the highslots nicely. Just look out for angry counter-gankers in Thrashers.
There's a trade-off here; you can bring in a fancy stealth bomber to give you invisible warpins, but when that Hound decloaks and starts salvaging and looting, everyone paying attention will know who my spotter is and will warp away when they think they're being scouted. Conversely, something like a T1 hauler may be slow and unable to cloak, but it's cheaper, has a fatter cargo hold and just might blend in at an asteroid or ice belt. It's your call. In my experience, the speed and cloak of the Covops/stealth bomber option is very much worth it, as most miners are only barely paying attention, if at all, and you'll appreciate being able to move and scout rapidly. If you absolutely must ghillie suit around, that Procurer I linked earlier is a lovely alternative.
In Part Two, I will discuss the mechanics of the gank itself - selecting your base of operations, prepping the target system, CONCORD and security status, getting warpins, applying DPS, looting & salvaging, and resetting for your next gank. I hope you’ll join me.