I thought maybe content in the War Zone had reached its peak earlier this month. Snuffed Out and Shadow Cartel escalated from skirmishing to a full-blown POS war. Hundreds of billions of ISK were committed and lost, each battle seeming successively more bloody than the last. Cruis3r’s Cr3w aligned (roughly) on Snuff’s side, allowing the self-proclaimed “kings of lowsec” to field massive USTZ subcap fleets to complement their supers. The conflict lit the moons in Placid with the fiery glow of dozens of reinforced towers, each pillar of smoke a representing a pleasing sacrifice to the Gods of Eve. Death was constant and sweet, and I made the mistake of thinking there could be no more.
Then, a dark line of thunderheads formed to the North in an area of nullsec appropriately named Cloud Ring. Those of us living in Vlillrier were the first to see the storm clouds approaching. Black Legion, it seemed, was making a habit of rushing into lowsec in Machariel doctrines, coming to third party the battles erupting so frequently in Placid. Then, they came to fight Galmil and Project Mayhem in Ikoskio and again in Reitstato. Finally, the trickle of Black Legion fleets became a nightly downpour as August came to a close, and BL publicly declared a deployment to Lowsec. So once again, it seems the war has only just begun as we head into the fall where old and new players rush back into the game from lazy days spent outdoors.
Though the tectonic shift of Snuff moving into Vey and BL deploying hasn’t directly affected the forever war between Gallente and Caldari pilots, the pirate focus on the Placid region has effectively split the War Zone into two halves. In Placid, massive t3 fleets with triage support battle for the region’s moons, while their absence in Black Rise has led to both factions being able to use their own capital forces more freely.
Sujarento and Tama: Calmil Pushes and Loses a Home System
It was a quiet Thursday night by all accounts. Two members of my corp and I were roaming Southern Black Rise looking for targets in our favorite Tech 3 Destroyers and Assault Frigates. After dispatching a Caldari Harpy and Svipul on the Deven gate in Fliet, we decided to call it a night and head home through Tama and Sujarento. I scouted ahead into Suj while the others got repairs in a nearby station.
“Umm…so there’s three Thannies on scan in Sujarento. The f*ck?” I said (very professionally).
Suddenly, a gang of Snuff Navy Megathrons burst through the Tama gate and warped off to some unknown destination. We didn’t stick around to find out why Snuff was back in their old stomping grounds or why so many capitals were on scan, but I wondered for days afterwards what exactly I’d seen. As it turns out, I had witnessed the beginning and end of the first Caldari campaign to take a Gallente home system in months, possibly years.
Specifically, I saw (or saw the aftermath of) Calmil stocking a newly erected POS with assault doctrines using carriers during Rapid Withdrawal’s most active time zone. Seizing the opportunity presented, RDRAW swung into action, sending pilots to reinforce the tower and calling on Snuffbox and Sniggwaffe to help with the bash. Initially, members of CalSF tried to resist the onslaught but pulled back after heavy casualties and the loss of a Chimera. With the timer set, Calmil now had a time bomb on their hands. Either they would capture the system by Saturday at noon (Central time, US), win a POS defense in an enemy home system or face the much harder task of reshipping in another system.
Until that point, however, there was fighting to be done, and Calmil went at the plexes like a howling pack of demons from Dante’s Inferno. RDRAW responded in kind, and the two forces (RDRAW and Operation Meatshield) most practiced in plex warfare met in a clash that echoed across the War Zone. Unfortunately for RDRAW, OM was not alone. Backed by the full might of Calmil, the system’s contested level slowly began to rise with hundreds of ships on both sides going down in the opening hours of the campaign. By Friday afternoon, the contested level was nearing 40% with over 70 Calmil pilots in system to RDRAW’s 30-40. It seemed Calmil might actually make the POS timer irrelevant and rub salt in the wound of Galmil’s failed attack on Kehjari the previous month. But in the North, warriors were stirring.
Called to battle by urgent pings, pilots from Black Fox, Justified Chaos, Spiritus Draconis and Villore Accords formed a hasty HAC fleet and plunged into the pile of wrecks that had been Sujarento. After assessing the situation, the Bebop war machine groaned into action and for the next few hours it seemed there was a jump freighter on every station. With an even number of pilots in system, the battle became increasingly dependent on the logistics teams fitting up ships. Though the balance teetered back and forth resulting in over 3000 kills in under 48 hours, Galmil’s USTZ eventually began pushing the contested level down. By Saturday morning, the contested level was a mere 16% as both sides took a breath to prepare for the POS fight.
As the first numbers started to come in, Galmil commanders couldn’t believe what they’d managed to assemble. Even though it was fairly early in the day, over 80 battleships and their pilots were docked in Sujarento awaiting orders. On the other side, the numbers and ships were far smaller, but of course, the Lowsec pirates had yet to show their hand. Naturally, they didn’t disappoint with a Project Mayhem force arriving in Machariels and later, a Shadow Cartel gang in T3s. Galmil had some initial success against the Machs and Calmil’s Caracals but beat a hasty retreat when SC entered system. As it turned out, SC delivered the POS to Galmil by third partying, running off PM’s Machs and keeping Calmil balled up around their tower. Eventually, both pirate groups grew bored and left system, and Galmil quickly took down the tower.
This marked the end of the Sujarento campaign, and the beginning of the Gallente assault on Tama. For the next week, Bebop and RDRAW plexed Tama, putting it into a vulnerable state at around the time Xenuria lost his dreadnaught. Having exhausted much of their supply of ships in Sujarento, Operation Meatshield was unable to put up a firm resistance, while Galmil had already stocked the system next door during the Calmil offensive. Furthermore, OM received very little support from the other Calmil entities for reasons unknown. After losing the system, OM collapsed into Plexodus, a little-known mostly Russian alliance.
Overall though, it wasn’t a bad month for the Caldari. After losing Tama, they took several systems down the Anchauttes pipe along with Heydieles and Ladistier. Out of all these targets, Esessier and Eugales were the only systems that held thanks to a handful of GMVA and Bebop pilots. The captured systems went down with very little resistance, and as such don’t make for great news stories, while the systems that Galmil held involved a few excellent microgang fights followed by hours of rotating around a beacon.
Of course, that’s not to belittle the efforts of the pilots in those systems. Galmil brought Esessier back from a 99% contested rate, most of which was done without Bebop’s northernmost corporation Justified Chaos. Apparently, one of their pilots agreed to 1v1 for the system and lost, forcing JUSTK to withdraw. Fighting in these systems is a bit like Vietnam, though, in that Charlie (Calmil) rarely comes out of his hole (or POS or station in this case) unless he thinks he has a guaranteed victory, which is understandable given the small number of Calmil pilots who fly there.
The Arms Race Continues in the North or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Tempest Fleet Issue
Early in the year, a Crossing Zebras podcast described “the arms race in lowsec” as Galmil struggled to keep up with the local pirate groups in a mini-POS war against Snuff and Snigg. This trend has continued upward from Ishtars in January to Megathrons in the Spring to the current meta of arty Tempest Fleet Issues. Although later on the uptake, Calmil has done the same, and we’re seeing a definite increase in fleets composed of their favorite big ships, the Cerberus and the Scorpion Navy Issue. With Snuff’s move to Placid, both sides are now able to wield their heavies with a bit more confidence, not having to constantly look over their shoulder for the inevitable cyno-laden rookie ship.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the Asakai region. For the past month, SP-DR FC Wolfsdragoon has forced multiple fights by reinforcing pocos and POSes for weekend timers. The first one involved a 4-way (or three-way depending on who you ask) between Galmil, Calmil, Project Mayhem and Bastion (this is a video. BR here). The next week brought more of the same, but this time PM was unable to muster the same numbers and the battle went heavily in favor of Galmil.
For the last two weeks of the month, BL has joined the party with their armor t3 fleets. In one instance, Galmil managed to clear the field of both PM and BL while sustaining very little in the way of losses. This past weekend, however, PM’s Bhargest fleet kited the Galmil TFIs with some success until BL showed up and provided both lowsec groups with some much-needed green on their respective killboards. In 50% of these fights, capital ships made an appearance on one or both sides.
Although the two styles of fighting are completely different, the rush of watching billions of ISK erased from the game has a leg up on the attrition warfare of plex fighting in my opinion. The tactics and positioning involved are much more complex and the rewards proportionally greater. In the same vein, the dread of losing a shiny T3 or battleship is much greater as well, but for me, the game is all about the adrenaline rush, and putting an expensive ship in the field only heightens my anticipation of a good fight.
Black Legion Receives a Warm Lowsec Welcome
Welcome to the War Zone BL. We hope Elo lets you stay. By now you should have realized that you’re not facing the citizen armies of Nullsec. These are the wild lands. Call us scrubs all you’d like, but here we live and die with our swords in hand. There are no great wars, only the waxing and waning of an eternal conflict, whether it’s over moons or plexes. Each pilot has proven himself over and over in frigates and cruisers and battleships and caps. Of course, we have our own versions of care bears here. The stabbed noob farmer, and the mission-running stealth bomber, but our PvP pilots, and there are so many, have grown up or grown old in a culture of constant violence and perpetual chaos. If you find a fleet willing to fight your T3s or your Machs, underestimate them at your own peril. In other words, even the Fedos are deadly in lowsec.
So get ready to have some fun. Lowsec was built to entertain alliances like yours and given what little I know about you all, this should be a perfect fit.
Sentimental welcomes aside, BL has added yet another side to the POS war in Placid. As of right now, they are the only wild card in the area, though in general they seem to have taken a disliking to Snuff. Whatever effect they end up having, expect it to be massive as they have 600 more members than Snuff and SC combined. Although I assume they’re fully moved in, and I’ll admit to not being 100% certain of this, they seem unwilling to drop capital ships for whatever reason, something that may hamper their ability to deal with the larger pirate alliances.
Ps. I didn’t realize you guys would take me up on my offer so soon. The leaks on Reddit confirm that BL is a) not moved all the way in and b) having issues moving their supers because of that blonde girl from Friends. Since it appears they’re splitting up (see Reddit leaks), we may end up with several new pirate alliances/corps wreaking havoc in our area of space. Oh, and it’s spelled Vlillirier, but we just call it Vlill (Vih-lil).
This month in FW saw a failed Caldari push at a Gallente home system, followed quickly by a vengeful routing in Tama. Even so, the Caldari fought back by claiming several systems later in the month, and they appear to be much more healthy at this stage than when I came to FW in December.
Overall, there hasn’t been as much plex fighting and system flipping as there have been major encounters between Galmil and Calmil BS/T3 fleets over POSes in Black Rise. Meanwhile, Snuff and SC continue to escalate their age-old conflict in Placid with no clear winner (except for all the pilots involved getting a full portion of content).
Finally, BL has arrived in lowsec with a bang that sounds suspiciously similar to an arty Machariel. One more legion and we’ve got the set! Their plans remain a mystery, but I suspect they will become heavily involved in Placid and continue to third party on POS fights. Get those supers down here guys. They’re extremely hard to kill in our region of space, although I’m sure Snuff will give it their best try.
Somehow, lowsec continues to get more interesting, and if you’re here get strapped in because the next few months promise content on a legendary scale. Winter is coming.