Friday, November 30, 2012

Burning Bridges

I recently formed an alliance by the name of Sadistica Alliance. We formed with a corp we'd known for a while, and the idea was that I would finally be able to lead an alliance in the manner that I find appropriate. We got the alliance off the ground and have been busy making a name for ourselves in Aridia.

We've fought several groups over the last month, EVE Uni's Low Sec Camp, chief among them. Not because they're good, though they have killed us plenty of times, but because they're just as blood thirsty as we are. Two weeks ago Drunk & Disorderly and Lost Obsession, two notorious gallente faction warfare alliances moved into Aridia. They excel in tactics similar to Rooks & Kings, flying heavy armor tanks, usually faction battleships, and cyno'ing in triage carriers as a form of force multiplication. They also keep numerous capital alts on standby and, like most titan hugging alliances, will bridge onto anything their scouting Arazu can tackle.

They don't seem interested in good fights, merely in winning, which is a stance I can respect. Winning is something that everyone enjoys, even if victory was achieved by bridging in a horde of battleships on a 5 man BC gang.

Our encounters with DnD/FATE have raised an interesting, and often ignored edge case. There are NO counters to titan bridges in lowsec. That is, once a group has a titan, there is nothing you can do to keep them from bridging on top of anything.

Common Anti-Bridging Tactics
Now there are popular anti-bridge tactics, most commonly, popping the cyno. However many titan hugging corps and alliances bridge in heavy tank ships like vindicators or legions with cyno's fitted so that they can simply light a replacement cyno when their cloaky alt explodes. Another popular counter to popping the cyno is to jump a capital in first and light a replacement cyno with the capital itself. Due to the raw EHP of a capital ship there is very little you can do to kill a capital before the bridge fleet manages to click the "Jump through to [Cyno System]" button.

A second tactic is to scout out the hostile titan, and simply not do anything if they have a superior fleet waiting on it. While this does keep you from getting bridged on it, is equally boring for both sides.

Nullsec Anti-Bridging Tactics
Occasionally some fleet commanders will pile a bridge fleet on the edge of the POS shields to keep the titan safe. This is used as a means of keeping paranoid titan pilots from getting bumped around by blues. It also ensures that no one can bump the titan, thus making the whole fleet have to chase him to stay in bridge range. Should the bridge fleet you're trying to counter be doing this, it is possible to bomb the ships on the edge of the shields with stealth bombers.

This was carried out to great success during the CFC's war in Tenal and around 60 'welp canes' were destroyed. It was accomplished by warping a hictor to the titan's bridge fleet and bubbling up while the bombers decloaked and dropped bombs.  The bubble kept the fleet from simply bridging out, or warping away, and the POS shield, which is capable of stopping bomb damage inside it, was locked to the fleet resulting in their death. Had either of the hictor or the POS shield not been configured/deployed in this fashion, the fleet would've been able to evade the bombs. For this reason many bridge fleets stay in the POS shields. Bombing a hostile fleet bridge fleet is not a regularly deployable anti-bridging tactic due to the shields ability to stop incoming AOE damage.

Titan Bridging Counters
The only counter is to find the hostile titan POS and station a cloaked dictor on it during fleet operations. This dictor can then maneuver him/herself onto the side of the POS the hostile titan is sitting at and decloak then bubble the titan. As illustrated above, bubbles will prevent a hostile fleet from jumping through the titan bridge. The bridge itself can still be activated though. The dictor can then either burn out of his bubble and warp off, or burn and recloak. Regardless of the dictor's choice, the enemy fleet must now either reposition out of the bubble, smartbomb the warp disruption probe or wait for it to decay (2 minutes). This tactic forces the enemy to react in a way often unexpected by fleet commanders and because it forces a delay in the bridge, is an effective counter to bridging.

Cynosural System Jammers (Cyno Jammers) may also be considered a counter to titan bridging. However they're really more of an area denial weapon as they do not keep the fleet from bridging in, they simply force them to bridge in one jump out from their cyno jammed destination. They also have much wider positive and negative consequences for both the owners and invaders of any system they're deployed in.

Only two counters?
Yup, there are only two counters to titan bridging in EVE and both of those counters are currently unavailable in lowsec. This means that as the game stands today, there is no way to counter titan bridges in lowsec, they're the "I Win Button" of lowsec. Be it dropping in a fully fit faction battleship fleet as DnD/FATE enjoy, or slipping a damnation into system at some far off celestial, titan bridging is an immutable advantage that wealthy pilots and alliances enjoy in lowsec. I believe it is this immutability that has lead to the prevalence of titan bridging in lowsec.

Hey now! Cyno jammers are coming to Lowsec!
That they are.  However they do not appear to be included in the retribution patch notes :(. Should CCP go through with the changes listed in the forum post linked above, the cyno jammer will be able to function as a counter to titan bridges in the same manner as nullsec jammers for a limited duration. Unfortunately, they will only be available to faction warfare participants and not the general lowsec population.

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