Welcome back to the final overlong part of my ganking guide! Here's Part One and Part Two. This one is a grab-bag of useful tactics and tricks, primarily useful for regular gankers. As always, I'll be happy to answer any questions in the comments.
Instas and Perches
In the first two parts of this guide, I mentioned perches and spent a little bit more time on instas. In brief, an insta is a bookmark that, when you exit a station, you're already aligned to, and can thus 'instantly' warp to. This means you cannot be camped into station. A "natural insta" is a celestial (planet, asteroid belt, sun, whatever) that fulfills the same purpose. Typically, instas are made by simply undocking and activating your MWD on a fast ship, getting out to 200km or so, and bookmarking. I do this with my spotter, then trade the bookmarks to my outlaw characters. Make sure to test it out: you should be able to undock and warp to the insta with zero align time.
Earlier I said that it's difficult to make instas from stations with vertical undocks. This is wrong! Helpful commentators 'leet bookmarks' and 'Gizznitt Malikite' explain:
leet: If you turn on your tactical overlay, it's simple to get yourself on a perfect vertical below the station. What I do first is make a temporary bookmark around 200km below the station on a perfect vertical. Then I dock up and warp to the bookmark, spamming the max speed button and mwd-ing as normal to make a set of bookmarks at varying distances.
Gizznitt: Turn on your tactical overlay and click on the station. A vertical "anchor line" will appear from the center of the station straight down... and easily identifies where you need to place your ship to be "directly below station". Just power several thousand kms, move to where the anchor line intersects your horizontal plane, and you have a perfect insta-undock!
The "perch" is a term I've borrowed from stealth bombing. For our purposes, it's a bookmark near an ice belt that is on grid but more than 150km from every ice chunk. If your spotter has one, you can warp to it, and from it easily warp to any location in the belt. (Ice chunks are warpable objects.) Do this once and you'll never have to burn 100km to scan your next Mackinaw.
Perches can be useful for your gankers, too. See 'Moving Targets' below.
Depending on the size of your gang, whether you're multiboxing or not, and just how much ganking you want to do, you're likely to be putting together many, many gank ships. Two tips: one, save your "gank" fitting and use it to auto-fit your ships; this should be obvious. You'll still have to drag ammo into your guns and load a Scan Resolution script into your Sensor Booster (if you have one). Two, take advantage of the new Inventory tools and create a filter - something like this for instance. An item filter will ameliorate your need to scroll through all the stuff you're likely to loot and salvage. These are little things, yes, but convenience matters.
Multiple Clients & ISBoxer
ISBoxer is great, legal multiboxing software. It lets someone like Warr Akini fly 12 Catalysts at once with perfect synchronicity and solo-gank Orcas. Mouse movements and commands are duplicated across clients at will. But you have to pay for it - $50/year subscription! - and it's more than a little complicated. You’ll be digging through your EVE data files trying to make sure your interfaces and overviews are perfectly aligned across accounts, for example. It’s worth it if you’re ganking with four or more characters simultaneously. If you’re not, it probably isn’t. I’ve found that it’s perfectly possible to run 3 accounts on one monitor without ISboxer and successfully gank exhumers. One spotter/looter/hauler, two Catalyst DPS. I don’t even bother with alt-tab: you have enough time to click from window to window. Still, if you have the cash to afford it and the time to master it, go for it. You can apply for a free 7-day trial here.
If you've read this far, I assume you have a basic understanding of character security status mechanics. In order to enter highsec space without being attacked by the faction police, your security status must be greater than the following values:
- -2.00 for access to 1.0 security level systems
- -2.50 for access to 0.9 security level systems
- -3.00 for access to 0.8 security level systems
- -3.50 for access to 0.7 security level systems
- -4.00 for access to 0.6 security level systems
- -4.50 for access to 0.5 security level systems
- -5.0 or less can be attacked by anyone, anywhere.
-3.5 is probably the key number for most gankers, as 0.7 systems and below are where you want to be. At that point, if you hang around in space, the faction police will show up and eventually start aggressing you. Don't worry, you have plenty of time to finish a gank, although the popo sometimes land a jam. They web before they point and shoot, so if you're lazy but enter warp just in time, you can get away, but it's best to simply keep moving. A good exhumer ganker is only sitting still when he or she is shooting something.
The key takeaway here: You can continue ganking as usual when you reach -10. Some small amount of discipline and speed is required, a few tweaks here and there, but there's nothing keeping you from absolutely murdering your personal sec status and continuing to wreak havoc. Frankly, you should be careful even if your sec status is great, as every suicide gank generates a killright that can be activated at any time.
Remember, killing a pod will give you roughly the same security status hit as killing six ships. If you're concerned about character sec, don't do it. Grinding up security status is seriously painful for anyone without access to good nullsec anomalies.
Yes, there is opposition! If you gank a lot, someone will usually notice and start working against you.
For the -10, there are basically three places an enemy can stop you: at your station undock, at gates, and in the belt. For those of you who still retain your security status, you're only vulnerable in the belt and during your return to base. The enemy only has a narrow window to defeat your gank. An outlaw is vulnerable at all times.
Much of this will seem like common sense to experienced PVPers. That's fine. This is designed to be a complete guide for newbies, vets, and people who are just bad (yours truly).
Hostiles On The Undock
Getting out of your base and into space should be no danger at all, if you're properly prepared. Ideally, you’ll have picked a station with natural instas, and if not, you'll have created one. In extreme cases - remote sensor boosted interceptors and no way to make an insta, etc - just trade your gank ship over to a different, non-outlaw character and move it to a different station - maybe even a different system - then contract it to your ganker. Have your ganker undock in a pod (pods align and enter warp instantly), warp to a random celestial to confuse the enemy, and then dock up in your new station, accept contract and board your ship. Undock while your opposition is still scrambling to figure out which station or system you’re basing out of now. In this way you can break any camp.
Hostiles At The Gate
So, what will a determined enemy do next? Probably try to stop you at the gate, assuming you are ganking in a different system than your base. Let's say you've jumped through the gate and a hostile follows you through, or worse, is waiting for you there. It might not even be a "hostile", just some capsuleer passing through with a point fitted.
This is by far the trickiest scenario. The Catalyst doesn't align particularly quickly. You probably don't have enough time to burn back to the gate before you die - a Destroyer with no Afterburner or MWD is painfully slow. You don't have enough ammo to defend yourself. The faction police will eventually kill a pirate hanging around on grid, even if the human enemy applies zero DPS. If you're pointed, you're probably screwed.
It comes down to chance: whether EVE has capriciously dumped you within pointing range of the hostile(s), whether they have a scram or disruptor fitted, whether or not you happen to be randomly aligned towards a lucky celestial. As always in these situations, take a second. Think. Hold your cloak, check for good celestials, and do things properly.
The lesson here is to always scout your in-gate(s). I know, it's another tedious step, but if you have opposition, it is absolutely necessary. if you can take a different gate into your target system, do so; if you can't, find another target system, or temporarily base within the target system.
Hostiles in the Belt
Maybe the enemy has identified your scout, maybe not, but they're sitting there, waiting for you in the target belt. Take this situation: hostiles have two Tornadoes and an interceptor waiting in your ice field. Your scout has a good target chosen, but you’ve had to decloak to scan it. The enemy is at perches, ready to warp to a good range from your Catalysts when they land and alpha them. What can you do?
Well, a few things. First, you can simply check the asteroid (non-ice) belts. You’ll often find solo Hulks or Mackinaws there, and if you’re using a cloaked spotter, the hostiles will just assume you’re still in the ice belt. Spot and kill your target as usual.
Say there are no viable targets in any of the belts. What then? Well, if you’ve followed my advice, you’ll have a few nearby systems with ice fields full of targets to choose from, and you’ll be able to simply move on. This is a great way to deal with opposition generally, by the way. As the Imperial Japanese Army said, you aren't retreating, you're performing a retrograde maneuver.
What if you can't or won't back off? Give your enemies' ships a discreet scan - they might be untanked. It's perfectly possible to kill a T3 BC with the same tactics and DPS you'd use on a Mackinaw. This is very satisfying. Alternately, consider their location and composition. If hostiles are poorly positioned or have weak damage/bad tracking, they will likely be unable to stop you. Remember: a gank is over in 20 seconds at most. You may have paper-thin HP, but in that time, they have to notice, close to range, lock you, and damage you. By then, you're likely to already have been killed by CONCORD.
The Spotter Fake-Out
Alert opposition will be able to pick out your spotter and/or looter. If they're smart, they'll know that where these characters are is likely where the gank will be. Use this! Have your scout spot and bookmark a target in another belt or system, trade the bookmark to your gankers, then go back to your original belt/system. Opposition will assume that you're set up for a gank there and act accordingly. In the meantime, your gankers can warp to the real target by bookmark and safely destroy it, assuming it hasn't moved (miners tend not to). Within an ice belt, you can do this very effectively by picking a target about 100km away from your 'fakeout' target. Your opposition sets up around the fakeout, and when your gankers warp in, they're too close to warp but too far to burn. By the time they warp to a celestial/perch and to the real gank site, you're done.
So You Fucked Up
Suicide ganking can go wrong in plenty of ways, especially under hostile pressure, but remember: you're suicide ganking. You've given up on this flying gun of a spaceship already. If you lose something, take it easy, don't be bothered. Your victims are losing a lot more.
A Note On Implants
If you have no opposition, use them. For Catalysts, the Small Hybrid Turret implants in particular are very useful, and if you have the cash, the standard rate of fire and damage implants are good too. Consider plugging in a cheap signature analysis implant to improve your lock time - this is quite handy for getting pod kills. I know one prolific ganker who uses a full set of Spur implants to improve his resistance to Faction Police jams. Be warned, though: if you do this regularly enough, you will get opposition, whether it’s just a lone thrasher on a gate or a corporation full of angry miners. Once you have folks hunting you, implants are not worth it, as you will eventually get sloppy and lose a pod. I run without implants because a) my guys do enough DPS as-is and b) I am bad at EVE and lose pods semi-regularly to anti-gankers.
Basically, be careful, especially if you're multiboxing. If you're just a DPS guy working in a group, you'll almost never lose a pod.
A typical defense by canny miners is to orbit. This was not common before Inferno 1.2's addition of ore holds and the end of jetcan mining, but nowadays, your typical Mackinaw can often be spotted orbiting an ice shard. This makes it difficult to get a good warp-in, for obvious reasons. By the time your gankers arrive from the gate, the target will have moved thousands of meters away and will be well out of Void optimal.
There's an easy way to deal with this. Trade your gankers copies of your spotter's belt perch. Also, fit one of your gankers with a web instead of a scram. Orbiters are almost always AFK in my experience. It's perfectly fine to decloak and approach with your spotter. Wait until you're snug just behind your target, following it in its orbit. Have your gankers enter system normally, then warp (squad warp preferable) to the perch. When you land, warp to your alt, who should still be tailing your target. This brings your travel time down to just a few seconds, and at 50-100m/s, your target won't have gone far. Make sure to approach and use your web, just to be sure. Here's a video.
There are still plenty of mining bots out there. They're harder to detect, as Inferno 1.2 made it possible to ice-mine without interaction for 50 minutes at a time, but you'll know them by how they react to you. Vast fleets of Mackinaws that enter warp the instant a pilot with poor assigned standings enters the system. Miners automatically warping out when an unknown ship enters a user-defined distance, usually 5km. Some that constantly d-scan, warping out when a typical gank ship type appears within a million kilometers. You can't prove these things, of course, but you'll start to guess when you see the 'coincidences' pile up.
The trick here is to keep the bot from warping out, and to do that, you need to bump it. It's not necessary to bump it very far - exhumers have a long enough align time, and this will screw up your warp-in anyways. Just give it a nudge when your gankers enter system or get near the asteroid belt, whatever triggers the bot. Hopefully, by the time you land, the bot will still be re-aligning and you can gank as usual.
This is situational, but you don't have to be some bloodthirsty asshole to enjoy a good gank. My old staging & ganking system, Ardallabier, is just about half-blue to me personally because I've been around so long and kept it chill with the locals. I hang out in their mining defense channels and gank the interlopers. It seems dumb, but if you're going to haunt somewhere, you'll find that ice systems are full of people who basically never leave and have thus formed a kind of community. Identify the regulars, be civil, treat your enemies like sparring partners and you'll be able to winnow out the good targets from the people who pay attention. Don't prey on newbies, help them. XN.YM and all that.
In short, shut up and be efficient. If a miner checks his screen every five minutes, and sees nothing in local because you've said nothing and sees no wrecks or CONCORD because you've salvaged and cleared them, he'll go right back to whatever he was doing.
Of course, if ganking is just a one-time or occasional thing for you, feel free to shit up local something fierce and burn down everything in sight. Still, I've found it useful.
Tips & Tactics for Miners
Yes, yes, this is self-defeating, but I feel compelled to do a little service here. I'll keep it brief.
Fit a tank. No, a tank is not a single Civilian Shield Booster. Not even four of them will suffice! If you want to survive a typical suicide gank, you need to compromise between defense and mining efficiency. This is hard to do, I understand, because mining sucks and ganking is so rare. But losing your 200mil ship because you weren't willing to sacrifice 10-15% of yield sucks more.
Not willing to fit a tank? Then to protect your investment, you need to be paying attention all the time, and even that is no guarantee. You need to set all conceivable ganking corps & alliances to low standings and watch local like a hawk. (This does not guarantee safety.) You need to watch space around you for craft behaving suspiciously. (This, too, does not guarantee safety.) Orbit, so it's harder for gankers to get a warp-in on you. Pay attention to your surroundings. None of this guarantees safety. You can never be truly safe; this is EVE.
On the other hand, nobody's going to actually spend the isk necessary to kill a Procurer or Skiff, unless they have grander goals in mind. (Think economic terrorism, or maybe a juicy Hulkageddon prize.) Still, if you go out of your way to provoke attack, you might get one. Keep your head down. Undock a combat ship and the ganker takes that as a challenge - and there's nothing more satisfying than a clean gank under a defender's guns.
In the end, there are two still very viable ways to 'safely' AFK mine: in a Skiff (too tanky to kill) or in a Retriever (too cheap to be worth killing). But people tend to be complacent or greedy or alt-tabbed, and who can blame them? Mining is boring. Enter the ganker.
Some Kind of Conclusion
There's more I could say here - dealing with hostile ECM, the Orca pirate base, et cetera - but it's highly situational and I've already talked too much. If you're intimidated, chin up; this really isn't that hard once you learn the rules. Give ganking a shot. Get ready to soak in a lot of 100,000 isk novelty bounties.