The Sack of Providence

by Harvey Skywarker, CEO of Higher Than Everest Corporation — 

Comrades hello. My name is Harvey Skywarker, CEO of Higher Than Everest [P3AK] a corporation within Pandemic Legion. I am best described as ‘about as charismatic as a bowl of Golden Grahams’.

This is my story, from the perspective of a Pandemic Legion pilot, of the Sack of Providence, the eviction of CVA/ProviBloc and the eventual Legacy counter-invasion to steal the spoils of war.

IMMENSEA PLEASED TO BE HERE

My personal story starts in Immensea. I had recently decommissioned my alliance The-Culture, sending corps their separate ways. I had secured a trial period for P3AK within Pandemic Legion [-10], aka PL. At this time PL was staged in Curse on the catch border, with the aim of getting fights from Legacy Coalition and their premier alliance Test Alliance Please Ignore [TEST], aka TAPI. In coordination with PL leadership, we deployed to the Domain/Providence border system of Assah and signed up for ‘The Legion.’

Our new alliance laid out the objectives for the eventual campaign: we would engage and threaten the longtime owners of the region of Providence, CVA, and their coalition of other alliances known as ‘ProviBloc.’ At this time ProviBloc could form large fleets in the hundreds of characters, and also had access to dreadnaughts and carriers in large fights, which they could use to good effect. This was a deviation from ProviBloc’s tradition of banning carrier ratting and not using capitals in PVP fleet warfare. An event that was a precursor to PL’s redeployment was a large engagement in which ProviBloc baited PL’s Dreadnaught fleet into the open arms of TAPI’s fledgling Supercarrier and Titan fleet. We were caught unawares and our ‘dread bomb’ was wiped out to the last doomed siege engine. ProviBloc was thus seen to be strong enough to contest our advance while providing fleets for PL to fight.

It was assumed that Legacy would be invited to come and help ProviBloc repel the invaders, with the promise of more dread bombs for TAPI to use their supercapitals against. From the PL perspective, drawing Legacy out of their direct capital sphere of influence in Catch would mean either FC fatigue from constant forward pre-staging or using sub-capital fleets unsupported by capitals, which would then be vulnerable to our own fleets. Whatever happened, we knew – at least on paper – it would be a challenge. At the time there was still a vague ‘some time in summer’ date for the much-talked-about station/outpost migration patch that happened on June 5th. It was following these carrots the led the PL pack mule trotting into Providence at the beginning of January 2018.

Pandemic Legion’s long-term ally NCdot agreed to help with the campaign, as it was thought ProviBloc’s fleet sizes, coupled with a sub-cap fleet from Legacy, would be too many dudes for PL to take alone. Staging in Misaba, the lowsec entrance system to southern Providence, NCdot formed sister fleets ready to help us in any citadel fight timer that we thought ProviBloc would form big and call allies for.

Our first move was to place many medium-sized citadels into the northern half of providence with NCdot doing the same in the south. With multiple citadels onlining in quick succession, the defenders opted to focus on one citadel and cede the rest to PL. ProviBloc formed a strong fleet and used their carrier fighters at range to destroy the first citadel, but game mechanics are such that citadel spam is very effective, so several other staging Astrahauses and Raitarus were onlined.

It was time to start applying more pressure. I deployed my corporation forward from PL’s alliance staging in Assah into the junction system of 4B-NQN. This system was positioned between ProviBloc’s staging in F-YH5B and the twin constellations near Providence’s high sec entrance (see: Dital). ProviBloc is a coalition of alliances, and each alliance had been allocated a constellation to call home and tasked with its upkeep. Because of the way Aegis-Sov works, coalition partners are unable to assist in entosising to defend friendly space. This left the constituent parts of ProviBloc vulnerable to being cut off and isolated from support.

Our primary strategy was to break off the weaker alliances in ProviBloc and bring their fleet numbers down to something more manageable, as at the outset we couldn’t form big enough to contest them on their own citadel grids with a conventional brawling doctrine. We used Boosh Ravens/Rokhs to take on both Provi and Legacy fleets that were initially called to assist on single point objectives, namely citadel timers.  ProviBloc quickly countered with long-range dreads and carrier born fighters. In the area where we knew Legacy could not assist, we went to work. Setting a goal of creating two good EUTZ I-hub timers per day, then following up to kill at least one of those, my team of entosis and small gang PvPers set about lopping off the weaker parts from CVA’s bulky frame.

Yulai Federation, for example, lived in the P6N8-J constellation. We set about removing their I-hubs, yet in response, ProviBloc failed to muster the full strength that we’d seen them form for timers that were pre-planned in advanced elsewhere. When they formed a Ferox fleet, we would counter form in Assah and drop on them for a fight.  If they tried to use interceptor fleets, we smart-bombed them on occasion and more often used heavy entosis that could tank the ceptors just long enough to cycle down and catch reps from FAXes. In the early stages of these operations, every FAX we dropped was a gauntlet thrown down for CVA to step up and escalate. They did not escalate, however, and I don’t blame them. We were almost always ready to escalate to dreads, and with the numbers they got on day-to-day fleets, they would have stood no chance in my opinion. While on a max-hyped CTA ‘bring a friend to fleet day’ form up, ProviBloc could at the very least match us, on the daily fleets that were required to defend space under entosis attack, their numbers were not high enough to take us on, especially with NCdot waiting on standby for a brawl.

That’s not to say we remained at full strength throughout the campaign. We, too, drew fewer numbers day-to-day as the large fleet battles dwindled and all that remained was small gang warfare, entosis, and the odd flash form to dunk a stray ProviBloc fleet. One such stray fleet tried to go for a roam out into Immensea, for example.  We followed them and eventually caught up, and Mukk used his experimental doctrines to send them back to Provi, GF.

Fundamentally, Provibloc was struggling with the entosis mechanics.  They needed a presence in the space and some old-fashioned PvP-centric dudes who know how to small gang. In small-gang tactics, most were simply out classed, with a notable exception being Deaduck (the ONI pilot that baited Doom’s Rorqual and has since joined Goons ). We rubbed our hands together with glee when in a State-of-the-Alliance speech to ProviBloc, Jin’Taan of CVA, their most successful FC (at the time) essentially said (and I am paraphrasing) “[w]e will focus our defense at our staging citadel timers, which should all be timed for Saturday EU Prime, when Legacy will be able to assist us. We won’t form for every Sov timer that PL are creating.”  This was an underestimate of PL’s willingness to entosis, and ignored the two-fold significance of I-hubs.  There are two clear advantages to killing an I-hub.  First, the strategic index drops to zero, which breaks any jump bridges, cyno jammers and stops supercapital construction. Second and perhaps, more important, it removes the respawning anomalies linked to military upgrades. With no anoms to rat in, keeping the ADM up via ratting becomes much harder. Finally, and, most importantly of all, if you joined a krabbing alliance and can’t krab because there are no anoms, you probably leave or don’t log in. The decision to not put maximum effort into defending I-hubs left the satellite constellations vulnerable, isolated and easy pickings. After all, most null-sec residents live in their havens, not in their citadels.

AN I-HUB A DAY, KEEPS THE ADMS AWAY

We spent the following few months killing I-hubs daily and milking kills. Attempts were made by all the various Provibloc groups to utilize Griffin spam to jam our entosis ships, and Deaduck would bring out his long-range Jackdaws to try and kill our entosis teams. Generally, each ProviBloc alliance attempted to defend their space independently.  This was primarily against P3AK and the few dudes from other PL corps who enjoyed a bit of small gang and who had started to hang out with us. Christened “The Peaky Blinders,” PL’s small gang and entosis enthusiasts from various corps had a field day, hazing Griffins and fearful tiny Ferox fleets alike. We found the bulk of our entosis operations could be taken care of by 5-15 real people, and by keeping it small scale we guaranteed some form of resistance and of course the dank frags that go along with that. Apocalypse Now, one of these somewhat abandoned alliances in ProviBloc, proved to be capable of forming up the strongest single alliance defensive attempts aside from CVA. For their 50 man Ferox fleets, we even had to resort to using ‘The Black Fleet,’ our fleet of ten Navy Apocs with that black skin from an event ages ago.

Soon, the patterns were set. In EUTZ, I-hubs fell and once the ADMs had lowered naturally, the stations were claimed and even eventually TCUs were killed. In USTZ, Rorquals were dropped on anything that moved, I-hubs were still killed but we had less drive to entosis, so a certain amount of pushback when we called for those ops was felt. In Southern Provi, with NCdot staged in neighboring Misaba, the will to entosis was also thin on the ground.  While some I-hubs were killed and maybe even a few stations claimed for NCdot, with lower-tier FC’s being given the menial task of Sov warfare, the ProviBloc defenders were doing well. Notable alliances that resisted well were Care Factor, Coalition Hispania and often CVA, who would leave timers in the north that were being run by PL’s Peaky Blinders in favour of going against NCdot in the southern theatre.

Eventually, NCdot re-deployed elsewhere, and at about that same time we had finished in the north, so we were free to bring our tools to bare. I re-deployed my corp forward to G7AQ-7 with a few honorary Blinders from other PL corps coming along for the frags. From here we finished off the last of the I-hubs which, because Care Factor’s vulnerability window was set to USTZ, required a strong showing from PL’s USTZ. Waiting for ADMs to drop and then coming in for the stations as always, we noted dwindling help from Legacy as PL’s Rokh fleets began clearing citadels from Provi north. With the loss of Jin’Taan from CVA’s ranks, CVA and what remained of her allies could no longer form a fleet large enough to take PL on at any level, and the decision was finally made to headshot the ProviBloc staging Fortizar in F-Y and end the campaign.

WHERE IS TAPI?

With CVA evicted and her coalition cut in half, PL turned once again to ask ”where is TAPI?”  Can Legacy provide us with conflict? At this time, PL’s ‘Operation Market Garden’ was launched and a “Fort Too Far” was anchored. With I-hubs cleared and strat indexes nuked, we were free to anchor citadels wherever we liked in Providence and even along the border zone with Catch, where some Apocalypse Now sov had overlapped. So where was TAPI? The answer to our question was TAPI had been going northeast to assist the DRF against TRI and the Winter Coalition. Each time they traveled for a timer in Immensea or Insmother they would have to take a gate into Curse with their capitals. Learning this, we wanted to get in range of this traveling route, and so a Fortizar was anchored in T-RPFU.  The neighbouring system to T-RPFU was in direct range of TAPI’s staging Keepstar and the vulnerable Catch/Curse 0SHT-A gate.

A FORT TOO FAR

This Fortizar got a strong reaction. It made TAPI very nervous that we had encroached into jump range of Catch. Next door in D-GTMI, PL had been bridging off an Athanor mining an R64 moon. Legacy reinforced it, and the stage was set for a showdown. Although I wasn’t at the fight that ensued, I’ll arrogantly draw my own conclusions. TAPI had their fledgling super and titan fleet at this fight. I call it “fledgling” because they came south the previous year specifically to build it and it had yet to have its logistics backbone truly tested. PL’s broad strategy going into this matchup was to rely on boldness while anticipating TAPI would make mistakes or blink at the last minute and chicken out. TAPI, to their credit, did neither.  A joint PL/NCdot Dread bomb was dropped into the fight with the intention of killing as many supers and titans as possible. In response, TAPI pulled the trigger and went all in.  As a result, only one TAPI titan succumbed to the Dreadnaughts before enough FAXes were fielded to tank the incoming DPS, and they were able to do that long enough time to kill all the PL/NCdot Dreads. TAPI’s supercapital fleet had finally come of age.  In today’s meta, we all know that Dread bombs don’t beat Super/Titan fleets with sizable FAX support. At the same time, we also know you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take (thanks nan).

In the aftermath of this fight, some things changed.  First, TAPI and Legacy finally realized that they could handle PLNC in the south, and they didn’t need to fear a dread bomb as long as they followed their training. This new found confidence gave them the wherewithal to destroy PL’s ‘Fort Too Far’ staging in T-R, which was dispatched without resistance. The final timer for T-R fell on the same weekend as Fanfest in Iceland, where many of PL’s leaders and FCs had gone. Second, it was at this event, that CCP announced that the mythical station/outpost migration to Faction Fortizars finally was going to happen and a date was set: June 5th.

Talk of the next campaign for PL had started as soon as the D-G dust had settled and the power shift occurred. Within FC circles and leadership chats, it was agreed that after Fanfest we would go and do something else, even if that meant CVA rose from the ashes and took back the Sov and stations. We couldn’t contest a single point objective with Legacy now, and we had killed ProviBloc to the point of them being unable or unwilling to provide content for our alliance. The station patch announcement made us rethink that, obviously.  With the patch date revealed to be just over a month away, it was a no-brainer decision to delay any new campaign to stay and try and hold them for a month. I was confident that despite the ADM’s all being 1, we could hold back the erosion of our station claims and finish claiming the last few stations still in Care Factor and Coalition Hispania control before the cutoff.

By the time Legacy announced its deployment to Providence only one single station was not under the PL banner – thanks to RKMACARTHUR and Coalicion Hispania (well done). Alas with the changes to entosis mechanics made around the same time that allowed remote repairs to sub-caps with a link running, capital umbrellas became relevant in Sov warfare once again. And Legacy moved theirs over our heads and made it rain FAXes.

From my perspective, this was going to be tough to resist, but we knew it would mean lots of ships in space, which for a small gang PvPer means many kills. To adjust to the new meta, I had to adapt all our entosis alts and the ships available to them. No longer could we use heavy entosis with FAXes to save them, and no longer could I use FAXes for reps with ‘The Black Fleet’.  We changed to Bifrosts for entosis alts and made a slippery, purpose-built fit. Much like the long-range Rapiers of the previous meta, these could run a node in a hostile area and burn for freedom when Legacy went after them. I knew that the big FC’s of TAPI would not be interested in, nor available to run, the necessary number of fleets every day to first claim, and then hold the 70+ stations that were up for grabs. I figured that as lower tier fleet commanders took up the slack and other Legacy coalition member alliances stepped in to claim stuff, we would get opportunities to steal a timer back or just dunk a small gang. I was proven right at least in one regard, as much delegation was handed down and various Legacy fleets under newer FCs were sent out to claim stations and win timers. The Peaky Blinders went out to meet them. Early PL victories included beating the DV/Tickle AUTZ Ferox and Gila fleets with our own Ferox/BNI fleet, and many exciting chases in which one Legacy alliance or other would come out to play and inevitably run away. At the same time, I was proven wrong that the fatigue effect of ‘endless fleets but no fleet fight’ would wear down Legacy’s resolve to commit to the endless entosis battles.  Unlike a typical fight that has no end in sight, the fixed date of June 5th gave a solid finishing line to any endurance slog and made it easier to bear. The Legacy campaign also proved they had some depth with their FC’s, as even the newer ones still pulled good numbers.

The most relentless TAPI FC had to be Farmstink. On many occasions one or two of us would go out and start to either entosis or chase a Legacy noobie gang around and Farmstink would be the guy to form up a bucket load of ceptors and come sit in local with us, forcing us to dock up, while in some cases the full 1.5 hours of regen passed by.  I have to give him respect for that – I would never put my boys through that, but it got the job. All the while, single point objectives were bringing out massive numbers for Legacy, culminating in the destruction of PL’s 9UY Fortizar and, eventually, our Assah fort. Hedliner, PL’s highest ranking Fleet Commander, pushed back nightly against the overwhelming numbers the Legacy alliances brought to bear. Fozzieclaw fleets took their pints of blood, but with TAPI’s interceptor fleets in theatre, we were unable to complete entosis nodes, which was the focus of the fighting.

With all entosis conflicts, adaptation is the key to victory and as we adapted so did TAPI. Whenever we went after one of the smaller fleets from TAPI’s allies, more fleets were called for. The initial Jackdaw or Ferox gang would ‘get safe’ and await the TAPI X-Wing interceptors and capital support. I don’t blame them honestly – almost every time they ran for safety, it was the right call. At the same time, we got our fair share of ego boosting engagements with lopsided number disparity, so that was great. But numbers matter, and without being able to go head-to-head in brawling doctrines because we remained under Legacy’s super cap umbrella, for alliance-wide fleets we were forced to downscale to Claws, then Jackdaws and ultimately search elsewhere for things to do. As the meta for the latest entosis iteration gets thrashed out in the months to come, I hope we will see the reintroduction of capital escalations into Sov warfare.

Time passed and we lost station after station. By the time we got to patch day. Legacy owned all but one station in Providence, 9UY4-H. This was a significant station, because it was built by Ushra’Khan and was fought over by them and CVA for many years in Eve’s dark history.  Guess who owned it on patch day?  None other than Ushra’Khan, the closest thing to CVA’s all-time arch nemesis.  How fitting. On the Talking in Stations podcast many months ago, PL’s leader, Elise Randolph, mentioned how he would like to gift that 9UY station and with it the everlasting monument to Ushra’Khan, and it seems someone was listening. Thanks to a deal struck between Brave and Ushra’Khan, the station was owned by UK on patch day and the monument has been secured for all time, in Ushra’Khan’s name.

Personally, I hope to see some further conflict in Providence as small low sec groups make plays for a bit of Sov or just to mess with those that want some of the scraps. The state of Providence when all the stations are gone will set a precedent for future campaigns. No longer will you need to actually want to take someone’s Sov to muster up the will for a full-scale invasion. In the years since Aegis-Sov, everyone has had almost all they need in regards to Sov null space. Invading your enemy without intending to take and hold was deemed a wasted endeavour as the defenders could always just wait until you leave and reclaim their space and, more importantly, their stations. That has all changed, and in the future, the need to defend your space against marauders instead of only against settlers will be key.  These changes may finally open up new avenues and create new narratives that see great empires rise and fall as before, but this time with regions full of infrastructure being wiped clean, back to nothing but empty space and SCORCHED EARTH.

Thank you for reading and don’t fly safe out there!

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  1. June 11, 2018

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