I was looking through my killboard, trying to work out which fights I'd be writing about over the course of the week, when something struck me. My last 'combat' loss was from mid January; I lost a Gila during a Tusker fleet action.
Although I have lost three ships since then, one was due to getting a bad warp-in on a cyno and bouncing my bomber off a POS, one was a pve loss, and one was getting my hauler ganked on a fuel run.
So, if it's been a month an a half since my last combat loss, am I playing it too safe? I like to think I've been pushing the boundaries of what my Astero can do, but am I really going to try and say that I'm so good that I don't actually lose ships in combat for months at a time?
This concerned me. While I have no problem with opportunistic kills - see the number of Ventures that I have taken down recently - I'm not terribly interested in becoming that guy who only takes the easy fights, beating down on noobs or under shipped targets in order to pad my killboard.
So my goal was to find a fight that would really push me. A fight that I probably couldn't win, but that wasn't necessarily complete suicide.
My first attempt was a 2v1 with an Algos and a Maller camping a FW 'plex together. I figured that if I could take down the Algos fast enough, I'd be able to grind down the Maller afterwards. However, their buddy in a Dragoon joined them while we were maneuvering, and he pushed the fight right into the 'complete suicide' category, so I bailed.
But a few systems later I saw the Vexor, sitting at a 'plex.
Now, the Vexor, like any drone ship, is a real menace to frigates, because they will typically have a flight or two of light drones that have no problem applying dps to small targets. But if I could grind through his drones before exploding, then I could possibly turn things around. So I took the fight.
The fight started much as I anticipated. Landed on him at zero in the 'plex (the Vexor is a brawler), and dropped into a 3km orbit, opening fire with Conflag, and locking up his drones so that I could set my Acolytes on them. I dropped some synth Exile, knowing I'd need it, and focused on the drones.
I was two drones into his first flight when he started neuting me. Now, I've been neuted before, and I can handle it as long as I don't need to perma-run my repairer. Because he was applying damage so well, though, my repairer was working hard, and my cap dropped to zero pretty quick.
I made the decision to bail out. The longer I waited, the less ehp I would have, and I knew I'd take some damage on the way out because I'd no longer be under his guns. So I overheated my afterburner, and aligned to the sun.
Unfortunately, my afterburner kept switching off because I had no cap. So I alternated my prop mod with my repairer, trying to keep my hull intact long enough to clear his scram.
It didn't work.
I hate losing ships, but it's typically the losses that teach you the most. This one was no exception. For reference, this is the Vexor I was fighting, as the pilot lost it shortly after our fight.
Let's start with the good stuff. I went into the fight with a plan, and it wasn't a bad plan, considering that this was a fight that most frigates would be advised to avoid in the first place. I did get under his guns, and I was killing his drones pretty fast.
And... that's about it. After that, it all went sideways. To be blunt, I let the neut, which I had not expected, completely throw me. While being decisive is good - getting out sooner rather than later - that doesn't mean that every decision you make is a good one.
Here, the main issue is that by focusing on the neut I completely missed the double webs! I was never going to get away from that Vexor with my prop mod being shut down constantly. I almost certainly would have lasted longer by staying in a tight orbit, or even better, tightening my orbit to compensate for the second web.
I should have managed my cap better, too. Seeing no active tank, I could have turned off my laser to save cap. While the laser eventually turned itself off, it should have been a choice I made, rather than something that happened because I had lost control of the fight.
I also stopped attacking his drones as I tried to escape. I was taking them down, so why not at least force him to keep launching new ones? Who knows, I might have killed enough to make a difference.
And finally, WHY THE HELL DIDN'T I USE THE ECM DRONES THAT I'VE BEEN LUGGING AROUND WITH ME FOR MONTHS?
Yeah, I'm pretty mad at myself for that one. Having decided to try and escape, why didn't I try to use the drones I carried specifically for that purpose?
The answer to that last question is very simply that I've not built up the habit of using them, so when the stress came, I didn't reach for the correct solution. When the stress hits, we fall back on our ingrained habits. That's why the military trains simple tasks over, and over, and over again. That's why you get the same safety lecture every time you get on an aircraft. Because that's the only way most of us can perform those tasks under stress.
And if I'm not going to remember to use ECM drones under stress, I might as well carry something more useful. The first thing I did after buying my new Astero was ditch the ECM in favour of Hornets. This gives me another set of durable drones, and a third damage type. So far, I've been very pleased with the change.
I also want to take another look at my fit. Everyone and their dog seems to fit a neut these days. While I'm better able to deal with it than most, if I intend to focus on above class targets, I need to see if I can handle it any better than I am now, short of a cap booster.
So there are two questions that this fight has me asking myself. First, can I get a similar level of tank and dps while fitting a nos? Second, are there changes I can make to my current fit that would make me more resistant to neuting without impacting my performance too severely? Expect posts on those questions at some point.
Oh, and for anyone still reading this far into the post, feel free to let me know if the 'wrap around text' beside the picture is a better or worse format than just having the picture and then the text underneath. I've also used a slightly different font alignment.