Welcome back. Here's a link to part one. As usual, much of this will be intuitive for experienced players, but I hope you'll all learn something valuable. This one's kind of a wall of text, so let's go right into it.
Stations, Basing, & Target Systems
Let's assume you have the characters and you can fly the ships. It's time to find targets.
Traditionally, miner ganking happens in ice belts. This is not because it's any more easy to kill them there than elsewhere - it's simply more convenient to find targets. Ice belts are relatively rare. Blue (Gallente) Ice, for instance, is only found in 17 systems in the whole of New Eden, and as such, they are packed full of miners fulfilling the market's need for Oxygen Isotopes. I have never seen an empty ice belt, even in the quietest hours of the day.
I recommend starting with ice belt ganking, in any case, because you're almost guaranteed to find a gankable target there. If there are 10 Mackinaws in a belt, at least one of them is going to be poorly or completely untanked. Additionally, so far as I'm aware, there are no ice systems with a security level above 0.7 (the importance of which I will explain shortly). Here's a useful target systems list from a very old copy of the Goonswarm wiki. Please disregard the awful and embarrassing "Jihadswarm" gimmick.
There's more to this than finding a system with lots of good targets, though. Let's take my current home, Foves, as an example.
An ice belt system is directly adjacent - Chelien, full of deliciously poorly fit Mackinaws and Retrievers. There are 3 ways to access it from Foves: straight through the Foves->Chelien gate, around through the very quiet system of Alles, or the slightly more popular system of Pulin. Even more advantageous, Pulin itself also connects to Misneden and Jaschercis, both ice belt systems, meaning 3 ice systems are within 2 jumps or less of my Foves base.
This raises the question: "Why don’t you just base in Pulin?" Just one jump from all three target systems, at first glance, it appears to be one of the most well-placed systems for Exhumer gankers in all of New Eden. Well, a few reasons. Most particularly, the station has a vertical undock. It spits you out straight down with no natural instas from celestials, and bookmarked instas are particularly hard to make as it is difficult to judge what is ‘straight down’ in EVE’s engine. (I'll discuss instas in particular in Part Three of this series.) Also, it’s easy for hostiles to camp you in, as there’s only one station in the system. Finally - and this is the clincher - there are no repair services. A wise ganker will be overheating his guns and looting his wrecks, meaning that some weapons could be repaired and reused half a dozen times or more before being lost to the whim of the loot drop. Without a repair service, you have extra work to do.
Another thought that might have crossed your mind: "Why don't you just base in Chelien, or whatever target system?" It's simpler in theory, but usually not worth it in practice. Yes, going through gates can be dangerous, but by waiting out your GCC timer in your ganking system, you'll scare away all the non-braindead targets. Don't base in systems you intend to gank in. It's best to spend as little time as possible in your target system(s) with DPS characters: jump in, kill, clear CONCORD, and get back home.
Also, please make a docking bookmark within your base station's docking perimeter. Occasionally the warp-to-dock function will land you a few thousand meters outside the actual docking radius, leaving your GCCed pod vulnerable for a few seconds as you slowboat towards home post-gank. Don't risk this.
One final factor to consider: if you intend to do this for a while, you'll need to get your gank ships and mods hauled from market to your base. An Orca suffices for this, but if you don't have access to one, public or Red Frog/PushX contracts with decent collateral will serve just as well. Being “near” a market hub of some size will make it easier to resupply and increase your likelihood of finding a good target. Shipping out a freighter-load of stuff is kind of a pain and not worth it for people who just want to casually try out ganking (as I suspect many people reading this guide are), so pace yourself.
In summary, for your base, you need to find a station that is a) preferably in a system with multiple other stations, b) has a natural celestial instawarp or easily-creatable bookmarked insta, c) is adjacent to or near one or more ice belt systems, and d) has repair services. This is not too difficult, really. Just have a look at a map and you'll find lots of candidates. In a pinch, with no opposition, you can discard most of these rules - but it's better to get things right from the start than to be forced to rebase.
CONCORD, Security, & Prepping the System
So: CONCORD. CCP's invulnerable, inescapable answer to suicide ganking. Much like real police, they may not stop the crime, but they sure will punish you for it. They show up shortly after a gank is begun, wait a few seconds to lock you, then point, neut, jam, and kill you. You cannot run away from them. Once you've gone criminal, your warp drive ceases to function, and loss of your gank ship is only a matter of time.
How much time? That depends on two things: whether CONCORD has already been spawned in system or not, (if so) whether CONCORD is within 150km or not, and the system's security level. System security, ranging from 1.0 to 0.5 in highsec, determines the speed of CONCORD's response to an unlawful attack. The lower the security, the slower the response. This is another reason to prefer ice belt systems. As previously mentioned, none have a security level above 0.7.
|System Security||Unprepped Response time|
This table is reasonably self-explanatory. The response times are approximate, but fairly accurate. The only thing I haven't yet explained is what 'prepped' means.
Every day - that is, every time Tranquility is brought back from downtime - CONCORD is purged from all systems. They'll spawn when a criminal act has triggered them (as usual), but because they're spawning and not travelling from elsewhere in system, they will arrive 5-6 seconds early. Here's a video I recorded in a 0.6 system to demonstrate:
Five or six seconds is a long time for a suicide ganker. It will very likely mean the difference between success or failure. 'Prepping the system' is making sure that CONCORD has spawned. Always prep CONCORD. This is a simple thing, prepping - just make sure a criminal act has occurred in the system. You can shoot whatever, as long as it's illegal. I recommend doing what I do in the video. Warp to a customs office in a rookie ship and shoot it. CONCORD will spawn and the system will be prepped.
Of course, none of this matters if CONCORD is spawned & waiting for you in your target grid. They'll simply jam you as soon as they lock your ship. This is why it's so important to make sure CONCORD is clear of your target before you begin your attack. By clear, I mean "beyond 150km distance." It takes CONCORD the same amount of time to reach you from 151 kilometers as it does from 70 AU. Similarly, you'll die just as quickly to a CONCORD spawn 149 km away as one right next to your target.
Create a CONCORD/Faction Police* highsec overview, or just hit Alt-Z with your spotter to see all brackets. In this way, you can make sure CONCORD is absent. If there's a spawn in your ganking belt, you can clear CONCORD by shooting a customs office in the same way that you would prep a system. This will pull the spawn to the customs office and away from the target area. If there are multiple CONCORD spawns in your target area, you'll need multiple concurrent unlawful acts to pull them away. (3 CONCORD spawns means you'll need three criminals, et cetera.)
I usually begin my ganking day by sending in a DPS character to shoot a Customs Office, bringing it back home to fit ships, then using my spotter to find a good target during the 15 minute criminal timer. So! Let's talk about spotting.
A belt full of miners. Which to destroy?**
When I speak of spotting, I speak of finding an appropriate target and ascertaining that it is killable (by using a passive targeter and ship scanner). It's fairly simple. The T2 mods are obviously preferable, but a fresh, day-old character can accomplish this task just as well.
We scan because there are plenty of unkillable targets out there, and wasting isk and time because you were lazy and/or overly optimistic sucks. Experienced gankers can do a quick scan and determine if a target is killable. You, a ganking newbie, cannot do that and will need to load up Pyfa or EVEfit to determine gankability. Spotting and scanning allows you to choose your targets and ensure success.
Now, the mechanics of scanning. This is something a lot of people screw up. You should only use your Ship Scanner while your Passive Targeter is actively cycling. This is your spotting character's procedure:
1. Close to within your locking range. Stay at the edge of this if possible. (Consider training Long Range Targeting on your spotter so that your target is less likely to suspect he’s being scanned.)
2. Click on the Passive Targeter module icon so that it is blinking and your cursor turns into a screen-wide crosshair. Do not conventionally lock your target.
3. Click on your target in space or on the overview while your Passive Targeter is blinking (pre-activated). As soon as you do this, you can hit the Ship Scanner, pre-activating it.
4. You will passively lock your target, and as soon as you achieve lock, the Ship Scanner will begin cycling. It will be quick, and you’ll get a pop-up window with some of the targeted ship’s fittings.
5. Repeat this. You can usually squeeze 2 or 3 Ship Scanner cycles into a Passive Targeter cycle, but if you’re new, you won’t be able to gauge the effectiveness of an enemy tank at a glance. Take your time. Plug it into EVEfit or Pyfa.
A further note: the ship scanner is often inaccurate. It doesn’t provide you with totally false information - it won’t say that there’s a Medium Shield Extender when there’s a Small, for instance. What it will do is list two Small Shield Extenders, or none. If you see three of an item listed, you can say there are at least two.
The remedy to this is repeated scannings. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples. Look, I recorded videos for you!
So there are the mechanics of the scan. I pay attention to the modules as they appear and plug them in to Pyfa. I do some more scanning after I end the recording to make sure I have it right. Here’s what I figure Ladidaa has fitted to his Mackinaw:
If it isn’t immediately apparent, this is a bad target. Ladidaa has sacrificed every mining module (excepting the Ice Harvesters themselves) in favor of tank. Adaptive Invulnerability Fields, a Medium Shield Extender for buffer, both Tech II, completed with shield rigs. The only thing this fit is missing is a Damage Control II. 32k EHP and no real resist holes. I move on, as it’s too expensive for me to kill this guy. He knows what he’s doing (or knows someone who does).
So I warp down to the bottom of the belt where comparative newbies tend to hang out, and what do you know:
Looks like the perfect target. (Please enjoy the spectacle of some idiot swearing revenge in local.) Here’s the Pyfa:
Hell yes. Absolutely no defense. Less than half the EHP of Ladidaa and crappy resists. You’ll find plenty of these types, easily killable with two or three decent Catalysts’ worth of DPS. If you’re new to ganking, cull one of these cattle first.
Here are some general rules, if you can’t be bothered to use an EVE fitting tool. Civilian Shield Boosters? Nuke that fucker. Ice Acceleration Rigs? Probably doomed. Items that makes me look for a more appropriate victim? Damage Control IIs and Medium Core Defence Field Extender rigs. Adaptive Invulns and Medium Shield Extenders are also a good sign that someone knows what they’re doing. Still, it takes these ingredients in combination to make for a truly tanky Mackinaw. I’ve seen Mackinaws with meta 0 Shield Boosters paired with Medium CDFEs. That’s not a whole lot of Field to Extend; they popped. An Adaptive Invuln on its own won’t save a Mackinaw either, as it has no buffer. Basically, plug shit into Pyfa/EVEfit until you have a feel for this sort of thing. There are plenty of completely untanked targets out there, so don’t risk a flub. Prey on the weak.
Another tip: keep your graphical effects turned on for your spotter. That Mackinaw hugging an Orca might be getting shield reps and you won’t be able to tell without them. Similarly, that Mackinaw with all the fancy shield hardeners might not actually have them turned on. Look for the glowy bloom (or lack thereof) on your target. Give Orcas near targets a scan, too. A weak fit could be made strong by shield links.
This is situational. Obviously, you need something for your DPS characters to warp to, and it should be close enough that they can engage as soon as they land. There are four basic methods: warping to a character in fleet sitting right next to your target ("at zero"), warping to a previously-made bookmark at zero (or 10), the aligned-at-10 method, and probing, which kind of sucks. Let's go through these methods.
The character-at-zero is the simplest and most common. Most miners are not paying attention, or if they are, it's once every ten minutes or so. Ice mining is the most AFK of AFK professions. 90% of the time, you can pick a target, then simply hit approach and wait until you've halted, nudging right up against the target at 100 meters or so. That's more than close enough. You can warp your DPS guys in right at zero, assuming the target doesn't 'wake up.'
Method two: bookmarks. This is really only necessary if you're solo ganking or doing the 'spotter fakeout' (which I'll discuss in my next article). Basically, you fly right up to the target, bookmark its location, then come back in a DPS ship - after trading the bookmark to your DPS character, if necessary. Again, not complicated, as long as your victim doesn't move.
Finally, the aligned-at-10. This will be a bit less intuitive for newbies. Let's say you have a target that you know is killable, but is also paying a reasonable amount of attention and is likely to flee if you approach for one of the previous two warp-in methods. Stealthily approach to somewhere around 10-20km, but try and keep the icon for your target fairly close to that of a celestial. An asteroid belt, a planet, whatever's convenient.
Here I've lined a Mackinaw up with a nearby Asteroid Field. (Remember to hit Alt-Z on your scout so you can see all brackets for this sort of thing.) I've also hit Keep At Range (10km) on the Mackinaw. By this method, a fleet member warping to me at 10 from that particular asteroid field can land right on top of my target without needing to decloak my spotter. Here's a video if you need to see exactly how this works.
Probing isn't really my area of expertise - I'm not very good at it, and it's reassuring to me to have eyes on my target right up to the moment I engage. Still, provided you can pick our your target's signature from all the others cluttering your results, it allows for a completely "blind" warp-in and so can be useful against the especially wary. Just make sure to have a looter/salvager on field.
This is the simplest part of the whole business. Get into the target system and warp to your warp-in, whether it be a character, a bookmark, or a probe result. While in warp, overheat and pre-activate your mods. Go ahead and activate your Sensor Booster as well, if you have one. Make sure your safety is off, too. When you land, make sure you're within optimal range (less than 3000 meters, for a Catalyst), immediately lock and open fire. Activate all mods, sit back, and cross your fingers.
It'll look something like that, or this. You may have enough time to snag a pod kill, you may not. As you can see here, you'll have only a few seconds to get the pod, if you have any time at all. Get out after CONCORD finishes you. Warp to a random planet, the sun, whatever - just not the station yet. You need to wait for your one minute aggression timer to count down. It keeps you from docking or using stargates. (It'll probably be at 20 seconds or less by the time you land at your planet/sun/whatever, but it's much better to wait it out than to warp to a busy station, realise you can't dock, and be podded.)
After the gank
As I was saying, get your pod(s) out, particularly if you have implants. Meanwhile, use your looter/salvager character (who should already be on the scene) to, well, loot and salvage. Get everything you legally can quickly - anyone can loot, salvage or destroy your own criminal wrecks - then have a look at what's left. Open up your target's wreck and see what has dropped. Is it valuable enough to be worth the risk of stealing and earning a criminal tag for 15 minutes? This is up to you. Don't get killed unnecessarily.
While the looting is happening, your pod(s) should be warping to the station nearest your gank, jumping into a rookie ship, and undocking. Hit yes on the 'You Are A Criminal!' pop-up, as you'll use that fact in a moment. If you used multiple DPS characters, they should undock simultaneously. This will 'pull' CONCORD from the scene of your gank and bring it to the station to destroy your rookie ships. Don't do anything after you undock except pre-select your outgate. By not taking any action, you'll retain your 30 seconds of undock invulnerability - your rookie ship will not be killed by the sentry guns or station police, so you'll live long enough for CONCORD to arrive. You will be unlockable to any other players, as well, until the invulnerability wears off and CONCORD pops you. Quickly warp off with your pods and head home. You've successfully reset the system for more ganks.
Here's a video of this whole procedure.
1. Ensure CONCORD is spawned and clear of the target area. (150km or further, preferably off-grid.)
2. Spot and scan a good, killable target.
3. Get a warp-in. Have a looter/salvager ready.
4. Do the deed. (The deed is murder.)
5. Loot wrecks. Salvage. Clear Concord. Reship. Repeat.
In Part Three, I'll discuss advanced tactics like Orca staging, going -10 and dealing with opposition.
*This is another Space Constable force you may have heard about. The Faction Police will start to matter once you've gone pirate (-3.5 or lower character security status, generally). I'll discuss dodging the popo in the next article.
**Obviously kill the RA Citizens and Ethereal Dawn guys because someone might yell at them for screwing up the killboards. Schadenfreude!