(Editor's Note: While we did not intend to simply become a glorified RSS feed for Elise Randolph battle reports, they're simply too good to pass up. Enjoy!)
The venue for this mighty Delve brawl is the most storied system in the entire region: NOL-M9. How did the Test staging system come to being reinforced? Simply enough, Test decided not to fight for a 1-SMEB timer. 1-SMEB SBUs went up, and the Test response was an ill-fated 200 man bomber fleet. Bombers shooting SBUs is typically a bad sign, though this was the first time an alliance with no participation issues opted to go the bomber route. In previous 1-SMEB fights Test relied heavily on Slowcats so it is understandable that they were a bit gun shy since NCdot had moved part of their SC fleet into range. After nothing in 1-SMEB, Goons dropped SBUs in NOL to elicit some reaction. Saturday night, US prime, and Test couldn’t muster any sort of force in their own home system. At the end of the day, NOL was reinforced by 17 Supers guarded by 40 Muninns and a 70 man CFC Tengu fleet. Another timer for the timer throne.
The Test response to NOL being reinforced was one of surprise mixed with a little bit of panic. Although the system was SBU’d on a whim after a series of whiffed timers, the rhetoric of a “Delve Invasion” picked up steam. It did not help that the Eve servers were down due to a cyber attack for most of the post-NOL fallout; the idle hands quickly went to work posting various “doom and gloom” scenarios. After a few military updates and alliance Q&A’s, much of the panic was subdued and Test was motivated to fight for their space and prove they deserved it. There was a bit of a surprise as Test announced just before the op that they would be blue to Pizza, and that Elo Knight himself had joined Test on an alt and would be on field. This was a huge boon the Test since they had so often had their BS fleets decimated by bombers – of which Pizza were largely responsible. This lack of bombers saw a distinct change in the makeup of the Test defense fleet. Instead of AHACs providing the meatshield and tackle, Test opted instead to have a non-prop brick Blaster Rokh fleet supported by an MJD Rail Rokh fleet. The customary Test Slowcat fleet was dispatched to guard the jammer – honoring NCdot’s super fleet. The Tribe fleet decided to show up in AHACs, apparently missing the memo that Test would skip an AHAC fleet in favor of Rokhs. Either that or Tribe were simply out of Rokhs – it is a mystery.
NCdot, PL, and CFC formed in AHACs and Tengus – the same composition as the 1-SMEB fights. Again – if it ain’t broke. Before the fight started, however, PL spotted the 130 man Tribe AHAC fleet moving toward NOL. In the 1-SMEB fights, Tribe would always get dropped as they left HIX. Today was no exception; PL dropped out on Tribe as they landed on the gate and pursued into the next system. The Tribe AHAC fleet was awestruck and just flat-out decimated; 80 ships died, taking out a PL Zealot and Stabber on the way down. It was not pretty, but fortunately for NCdot and CFC it was quick – allowing PL to get back on a Titan ready to come into NOL before the timers expired. Round one went to PL, but round two was the main attraction.
Test had their Slowcat fleet guarding the jammer to make sure NCdot, PL, and CFC didn’t get any funny ideas. They then setup on the SBU on the PR- gate and waited for the triumvirate of T3s to jump in. CFC and PL decided to come in through the PR- gate, while NCdot positioned themselves behind the Test blockade in HM-. The three fleets jumped in simultaneously, held cloak, and prepared for battle. Typically jumping into a superior range fleet is deadly, however Test opted not to place any dictors, hictors, bubbles, or tackle of any sort on the gate. All the tackle was around the Test Rokhs to guard them from the threat of bombers. Clearly some bomber PTSD going on, but it allowed PL and CFC to jump in and immediately get to a perch. The three fleets converged on the Test support fleets and went to work. The CFC Tengus went after Test logistics while PL and NCdot AHACs went straight for anti-bomber ships and the meat of the fleet – Blaster Rokhs. About ten minutes into the fight the grid on the PR- gate broke separating the PL fleet from brawl. A few Test had wandered over to the broken grid, so PL took care of them in an effort to get back into the brawl. Meanwhile NCdot was taking the full force of the two Test Rokh fleets and beginning to show signs of wear. Disaster averted, PL returned to the field and let NCdot take a bit of range to recoup from the losses.
While this fight was going on, Test moved a large portion of their Slowcat fleet over to an SBU and began to attack it in order to save the system. NOL only has 3 gates, so one dead SBU equates to a saved system; Test had their sights set on saving their staging system more than anything else. PL, CFC, and NCdot had no intentions to take the system, or even threaten the jammer, so they happily stayed on grid with the Rokhs and dished out as much pain as they could. The CFC Tengus had absolutely wrecked the Test Logistics ships, putting the Test Rokhs in a precarious position. The Slowcat fleet still needed a bit of time to save the system, so instead of disengaging to reship Logi Test brought in 4 Triage Chimeras to keep up with reps. Since both PL and NCdot were using sensor damps on the Test Logi, the Triage were a huge bonus to reps. Rokhs were holding fine, so the Chimeras had to be taken care of. The brick Blaster Rokhs had a hard time keeping up with the more mobile T3 fleets, which were able to kite around the Rokh fleet to hit the Chimeras hard. The Blaster Rokhs made a bold decision to reposition themselves closer on the action, but they made this move without any anti-bomber ships – or even any bubbles. When they landed in their new spot – which in fairness was a much better position – they ate a full wave of bombs. Déjà vu all over again - Rokh fleet down to bombs. The MJD Rail Rokhs narrowly escaped doom, but luckily probe results kept them from being perched on by the PL AHAC fleet – a fleet that was kitted out with Scramblers.
Test were down, but not out. A Rokh fleet was still alive and although the Blaster Rokh fleet + Triage ate the proverbial dirt, they had bought enough time for the Test Slowcats to clear an SBU. NOL was saved, but the fight was not over. NCdot, CFC, and PL tried to figure out the best way to get in on some more of the action. The only way to elicit any sort of response, they decided, was to go to the jammer while the 100 or so Slowcats were still in harm’s way. Jammer ho! Guarded by ~20 Supers and another ~25 Slowcats, the fleets were curious to see if they had enough DPS to break the reps. Although the ~45 caps were in no trouble, the Slowcat and what remained of the Rokh fleet came back to save the jammer. When they landed on grid, however, the three fleets were each separated by 100km. Slowcats began to Slowboat to the jammer while Rokhs tried to clear the jammer. But the Eve server had its own idea. About 20% of the NOL population dropped, and of those 30% were experiencing a new form of bug. Ships that had crashed showed online, stayed online, and were physically unable to be relogged into. The ships became zombies, and there was no way for an opponent to know which ship was “Zombiefied”. While the T3 fleets perched and maneuver in and out of Slowcat drone range, the Zombie ships followed along without afterburning, unable to call for reps. This accounted for quite a few T3 losses, as well as a few Test Rokh losses. A few Test Supercaps also became Zombies, but since there was no way to know which they were relatively safe. I’m sure a few of the Zombie Supers had to change their pants, though.
With the system saved, and more and more ships falling victim to Zombification, Test had realized that they could simply Slowcat to victory. A bevy of zombie kills bolstered the Test morale, and the T3 fleets all called it a night and extracted. NOL was saved; ~170 Rokhs died along with a few Carriers, but an admirable ~35 T3s – Zombie or not – were exchanged. More importantly, Test proved to themselves and everyone watching that they were still able to shove 1100 warm bodies into a fleet. Although many Test still view the Delve invasion as ongoing, PL announced the return of their rapid deployment for the 4th and the rumor mill is that the two CFC squads will deploy back to VFK soon as well. A great final brawl in Delve – and oh so fitting that it was in NOL. Who knows what adventures Odyssey will bring, but it seems as though Delve will be rather insulated from a lot of the action. Test, perhaps, not so much - but that is by their own design.