Editor's Note: Once again Elise Randolph of Pandemic Legion brings us an excellent report on the fighting in Delve. Thanks, Elise!
The most storied region in the game made another notch in its figurative belt today, a mere two days after a fantastic brawl for the ages. Although Test did win the mid-week engagement in 1-SMEB, they did so by the skin of their teeth; the IHUB was saved, but the SBU’s were not destroyed and as such it was put back into reinforced. In the lead up to the fight – which was firmly into USTZ – Test emotions were running hot. Many were satisfied with the result, some were dejected that the win was not bigger, and some were flat-out considering it a loss. A fair few were banging the invasion wardrums, while others dismissed it as an excuse for fights. Regardless, the Test pilots all had one thing in common: pride. Not only were they reshipped and ready to fight for round two, but they were chomping at the bit for the opportunity to eclipse the massive 1200-man turnout.
Understanding that Test would have a massive showing, and satisfied with the skirmishes in the previous day, PL, NCdot, and Goons all were taking a “wait and see” approach. Test announced seven fleets: Rail Rokhs, Blaster Rokhs, AHACs, Slowcats, Bombers, Instacanes, and E-War/Tackle. Tribe announced Rail Rokhs as their fleet of choice. With half of the subcap fleets being BS heavy, PL/NCdot/CFC opted for an AHAC-style of fleet, complete with bombers. The game plan was to try and separate a fleet, wait for bombers to do their thing, and charge in if things are looking favorable. Essentially the same plan as the first 1-SMEB fight, but hey if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Not only was the strategy identitcal, but the ship choices were as well. PL in AHACs, NCdot in Lokis, and Goons in Tengus – about all in equal numbers (give or take).
Having to travel from another region to join the fight, and in Battleships no less, Tribe were once again the odd fleet out. However, while Lady Luck may have smiled on the PL intercept two days ago, today she turned the cold shoulder; as Tribe came into system and made a 20 au warp, PL bridged into system and…nothing. The Tribe fleet landed at gate, jumped through, and ran to the nearest station while PL ships struggled to materialize. The ~170 man Tribe Rokh fleet was destined to make it to the fight – though fate would prove to be a cruel mistress a bit later on.
Miffed at the miss, the PL fleet reset and tried to make another drop a few systems over. Tribe, however, were far too cautious and were content to play the waiting game. Unable to devote anymore time to the chase, PL were forced to let Tribe run free and focus on getting into 1-SMEB. The NCdot Loki fleet managed to make it into the system unharassed while Test were dealing with the logistical challenges of funneling seven fleets into one system. The Test Slowcat fleet again cyno’d into the system early as the cyno-jammer was cycled, and this time they were accompanied by some 20 Supercaps. While PL, NCdot, and CFC were content to play the 1-SMEB fight the same way, Test drastically changed up their strategy. The Slowcats, which were left paradoxically guarding the jammer for the duration of the first fight, were now released from bondage of the POS and shockingly were dispatched to kill an SBU. The Test subcapital fleets, instead of chasing NCdot to the Ihub, instead setup on another SBU – guarded by bubbles and positioned immaculately. The whole “killing SBUs” thing is a much more pragmatic and traditional approach to saving a system; Test were playing this one by the book. With three minutes to the Ihub coming out of reinforced, PL and Goons jumped into system to meet up with NCdot. As the timer ticked down, the three fleets warped to the I-hub and goaded the seven Test fleets to meet them.
Although Test had a near 3:1 numerical advantage in a jammed system with 130 Capitals (more than any single fleet had DPS ships), Test were resolved to keeping their cool. The Test fleets were covering two SBUs and were poised to win the DPS race; they simply refused to give into the PL/NC/Goon siren song at the IHUB and instead put the onus on PL/NC/Goon to come to them.
Challenge accepted. The unlikely triumvirate warped individually over to the Test sub-capital fleets, struggled for positioning, and then simply charged in. PL and NCdot were the first to go in and positioned themselves in such a way as to sandwich the Test Rokh and AHAC fleets. Shortly after the Goon Tengus came in and, having the sturdiest kinetic tank, charmed the Test Rokh fleet into focusing on them while all the fleets began to whittle down the sizeable Test AHAC fleet. The Rokhs failed to find their groove and were forced to reposition frequently. In a bold move, the Test Slowcat fleet appeared early on in the fighting to provide a sphere of 0wn, and draw some attention from the various bomber fleets. The Rokh fleets continued to move about gingerly, attempting to avoid bombers at every turn, maneuvering further and further away from their AHAC fleet which was taking the brunt of the storm. The triad of tech threes seized the small opportunity and cleared off the AHAC DPS as fast as possible. Test took the route of attrition and focused mostly on Logistics when they could – they did, after all, have the numbers to pull that maneuver off.
AHACs died, yet somehow they were steadily replaced and put back onto the front lines; Test had coyly redirected their JB network so NOL led directly to 1-SMEB. The hot AHAC-on-AHAC action continued, though whenever the Rokhs got within striking distance they were forced to MJD out of range and run from the looming bomber threat. The notable exception, however, was the gunshy Tribe Rokh fleet. After the near-miss early on in the fight, they were forced to show up fashionably late to the party. They chose a suboptimal time to enter grid; the AHACs were momentarily reforming and the Test Rokhs were darting on and off grid. As Tribe landed on grid everything converged on them. All three tech three fleets and two bomber fleets. The instant evisceration of the Tribe fleet did have one benefit – PL and NCdot were both stripped of the pivotal dictors that were helping to hold the Slowcat fleet in place. PL/NC/Goon rounded up some reinforcements, and all parties took this as an opportunity to catch their collective breaths. It was a very civil ceasefire, hilariously enough, and both sides took this opportunity to reship. As the PL/NC/Goon fleets got new dictors to keep the Slowcats pinned, they had already extracted to the safety of their POS.
The SBUs were destroyed, and although Goons stole a crucial SBU it would still mean an hour of waiting before the IHUB was vulnerable again. After four hours of fighting, nobody was willing to wait. Test probably assumed this, and with their Slowcat fleet now safe, had no reason to fight. There was one last ditch effort to draw out a fight, though, and that came in the form of the twenty Supercaps that were put on Cyno-jammer duty. The fleets converged on the Supers, but they were able to slowboat into the shields with relative ease. Although Goons had a sizeable Machariel armada in system, they had apparently fallen asleep. Alternatively they were watching Pitch Perfect together, one cannot be sure. Either way, they never made it out of the POS to bump the supers, and AHACs are lousy at bumping. The Test fleet did one final driveby and killed me before moonwalking out back to their POS.
With nothing left to draw out an engagement, the fight was effectively over. PL, NC, and Goons were able to extract to their systems while the 500 remaining Test in 1-SMEB picked up where they left off and shot some towers, fired some fireworks, and congratulated one another. SMEB was saved in a much more convincing fashion. The bold use of Slowcats and the unwillingness to deviate from strategy saw Test through on this one. At the same time, PL, NCdot, and Goons were able to go into a fight horribly outnumbered and come out the other side largely unscathed. Both sides were incredibly satisfied by the result; a rare win-win. The atmosphere in Test for the last SMEB fight was mixed, but this time it was downright jovial –and for good reason too. Test put nearly 1200 bodies into fleet for the second time in as many days, while incurring half the losses. The panicked invasion talk has dwindled and excitement is picking up. The invasion of Delve may be over, but the Thunderdome is just heating up.
- BRDoc: http://dog-net.org/brdoc/?brid=19315
- Raw video of the fight (mostly) from a Test perspective: http://www.twitch.tv/alamaurie/b/408342865 (courtesy of Tei Lin, send him ISK if you enjoyed it)
- Frustrated after PL were splitting fire on three different targets, I suggested we disband
- Grath took the focus of the Test POSes instead of penif. He was saved at the expense of killing half a Test Rokh fleet – proof that we still love him
- Toward the end of the fight, the PL logistics decided not to have me on watchlist and let me die like a scrub
- Shadoo was the calmest FC in the PL fleet