Dead Man's Hand: the Dramiel-Killers

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The Purpose: Since joining the UNI I’ve noticed that war targets love flying Dramiels against our frigates. Drams are expensive ships that take little skill to get kills in, so they’re quite popular. They’re also a pain to lose for their owners, as they are usually sporting blinged-out fits and the insurance payout is paltry for them (assuming they even bothered). This means that popping an enemy Dram is going to cost a war target anywhere from 100 million to 200 million ISK and massively swing any war in our favor. The problem with doing so is that a Dramiel (due to its massive speed and ludicrously low mass) can usually dictate where and when fights happen. The Thrasher counteracts that by simply locking and vaporizing the Dramiel before the pilot can actually utilize that speed to escape.


Requirements: To fly in this squadron you must simply fit an artillery Thrasher and shoot at Dramiels. For these tactics to work you normally need at least five Thrashers together. Less can still work if the war targets are slow or muddled, but 5+ is the recommended starting size for a Dead Man’s Hand squad. More is always better for Thrashers.


Ranks within squad: Aces and Eights will be designated by their fits and kills. Everyone starts an Eight and graduates to Ace when they 1) can fit T2 guns on their destroyer and 2) get a Dramiel kill. This is mainly just for fun and to encourage you to hurt Dramiels; there are no special medals, titles, or such associated with the rankings. Aces are also expected to train new Eights in how to fight Drams and to spread the knowledge through the ranks; ideally this will result in every UNI pilot being able to form a squad to wipe the floor with Dramiels with whoever is on without waiting for ILN/Aces/vets/etc.


Contents


FAQ

  • (Q) Why Thrashers? Can’t I fly any ship type/destroyer?
  • (A) Thrashers are the best and cheapest ship for hunting Dramiels due to their bonuses for small artillery in both damage and tracking (the second is quite important and easy to miss in EFT). Don’t worry; it takes only a few hours to skill into a Thrasher. This is a very low-skillpoint friendly ship and fit. There are other ships that can hunt the Dramiel as well, but none as newbie-friendly as a Thrasher.


  • (Q) Why Artillery?
  • (A) Artillery is the best weapon type for hunting Dramiels for new pilots due to their incredibly high alpha strike. A halfway decent Dram pilot will not stick around when a bunch of Thrashers show up, and even if you got tackle on it the Dram pilot is literally fast enough to escape multiple webs and get out of Dodge. Therefore you will get at most a single volley off at the Dram before he jets. Thus, we use artillery.


  • (Q) What about fitting bigger guns like 280s and above?
  • (A) We’ve had members try that and in the end the damage actually drops off substantially on anything other than a stationary target. Dramiels, by their nature, are not a stationary target. When you see Dramiel alpha-kills using bigger ships and guns it’s more due to perfect gunnery skills and years of knowledge and experience by the killing pilot.


  • (Q) What’s with the name of the squad?
  • (A) I’m a sucker for flavor. The “dead man's hand” is a two-pair poker hand, namely "aces and eights". This card combination gets its name from a legend that it was the five-card-draw hand held by Wild Bill Hickok, when he was murdered on August 2, 1876. The squad needed a name and I’m a fan of Old West legends. Use the names or not, all I care about is that you send hot lead through the hulls of our war targets!


  • (Q) Who are you to start this program?
  • (A) Absolutely no one, but I’m tired of seeing war targets camping our system with their expensive toys. I’m a bully when it comes to people deccing the UNI. I want to step on their toys; nay, I want to grind their toys underneath my hobnail boots. I invite you to hop up and down with me in cheap ships trouncing expensive ones!


DMH Basic Ship Fit

The standard fit of Dead Man’s Hand ships (EFT formatted):

[Thrasher, Dram Hunter (T1 cheap)]
Damage Control I
Gyrostabilizer I

1MN Monopropellant Enduring Afterburner
Tracking Computer I
Sensor Booster I, Scan Resolution

250mm Light Artillery Cannon I, EMP S
250mm Light Artillery Cannon I, EMP S
250mm Light Artillery Cannon I, EMP S
250mm Light Artillery Cannon I, EMP S
250mm Light Artillery Cannon I, EMP S
250mm Light Artillery Cannon I, EMP S
250mm Light Artillery Cannon I, EMP S
[empty high slot]

[empty rig slot]
[empty rig slot]
[empty rig slot]


General cost at Hek prices for the ship and all its fixings is only around 700,000 ISK. That’s right, a bunch of these sub-million ISK destroyers can obliterate a ship worth two hundred times as much! They’re also very easy to skill into; you can get the skills to fly this in about a day of training or less. Now obviously this thing isn’t going to solo a Dramiel, but the point is that when we get five of them, or fifty, or a hundred, a lot of things will simply melt in that first salvo. If you actually have good combat skills with the weapons above (it can all be upgraded to T2 or best named as skills and cash permit, and the last high can fit a rocket/missile launcher, neut/nos, etc.) the alpha gets better and better. But even a pilot with minimal skills can put out pain in this set-up; without any skills whatsoever in EFT the ship above does a 415 damage alpha! [i] Fitting explanation:[/i] I’ll go through each of them one at a time. The low slots are a Gyrostabilizer (for extra damage) and a Damage Control unit (every single PvP ship should have a suitcase; it’s just that useful). Why not double gyrostabs? The stacking penalties start, but more than that our aim during war in the UNI is to deny the enemy easy kills. This thing is already a flying coffin (Destroyers have a cruiser signature radius with a frigate’s health; to put it in simple terms it’s easy to hit and destroy), and the suitcase just makes sure the Dramiel target can’t alpha you back. The afterburners are there to keep you within range/move within range if you somehow find yourself out of position. The tracking computer both increases your effective range and makes you better able to nail the fast-moving Dram targets. The sensor booster with the scan resolution script loaded is to get that lock before the Dram pilot realizes he’s in danger and bugs out. With it running your lock-on time is only 2.5 seconds without skills dow to 2 seconds with better skills (which becomes even better when you can fit the T2 sensor booster; then your lock-on time with max skills is actually faster than a Dram’s align time). Even assuming the enemy has no lag that’s a tiny window for the Dram pilot’s brain to notify him that pain is incoming! The ammo for the artillery cannon is EMP due to most Dramiels being shield-tanked; EMP rips through the shields like a hot knife through butter. Keep in mind that some Dramiels armor tank (not very often, as it reduces their speed), and some fit to fill the resist hole in their shields, but in the end it’s a safe bet to fire EM damage at a Dram. We have had members experiment with different ammo-types for better tracking/damage, but EMP S (and its faction equivalent) continued to out-perform any other ammunition against standard Dramiels by a large margin.


All pilots are encouraged to fit their Thrashers with any and all upgrades to the modules listed above; it just makes the pain more intense on our targets. One thing to keep in mind however is that the wartime SOP must be adhered to at all times. This means no rigs and no faction mods; it’s T2 and below only. This policy is to make sure that even if your flying coffin does explode the war targets’ killboard doesn’t get padded. Although during peacetime lowsec roams rigs would be fine I still recommend flying without them; better to get used to the actual way your ship flies than rely on something you can’t use during a war.


Training Program

The following techniques are a standard outline of a training regimen designed to help new Eights get used to their Thrashers and the awesome power of the alpha. While this is not set in stone, it is a good start for any Ace training a new hand of Eights. First off, let me introduce you to your cardboard target: the Vigil.

Targeting Dummy Ship Fit

[Vigil, Cardboard Dramiel]
Micro Auxiliary Power Core I
Damage Control I
Overdrive Injector System I

1MN Microwarpdrive I
Medium Shield Extender I
Adaptive Invulnerability Field I

[Empty High Slot]
[Empty High Slot]
[Empty High Slot]



The training Ace should use this ship setup, or one like it, to replicate fighting against a Dram. This ship cost is relatively low, less than a million ISK, and is a close approximation to the speed, EHP, and MWD signature bloom of a Dramiel. It’s not exact by any means, but short of flying some very expensive targets it’s the next best thing and should give the squad some indication of just how slippery a Dram can be.


Training Exercises

  • Undock and Lock: Many of our war targets are fond of camping PTS and trying to pick off frigates that are undocking. So the first training exercise is to have all squad members practice undocking at the exact same time, activating their sensor booster, and locking the dummy target as fast as possible. The Vigil pilot should attempt to escape before being destroyed; while the target-dummy pilot knows its coming we have to assume our enemy will not be asleep at the keyboard and will respond just as quickly. If needed you can give a one-count (i.e. say “1 Mississippi” to yourself) before attempting to warp to simulate the fact this will be a surprise. Even so, fifty Thrashers undocking can actually alpha a Dram who pauses even a split second to assess the situation. We want to make them afraid to camp us. Even if we don’t kill the Dram we want to make sure the enemy knows they can’t show up to our home and loiter. And a fleet of Thrashers undocking and firing will do just that. It is very important that every member of the squad have their overview set up correctly and fight from the correct tab, both during war and during training (you do not want to try and alpha the station). Due to the fact the target dummy will be flown by a corpmate you’ll have to fight from a modified RvB tab to simulate this. The guide for doing so is: Red versus Blue overview setup. In addition to the steps outlined in the guide please uncheck every ship type other than frigates; we don't want to accidentally alpha a poor Unista missioning in the area! Erstur is a good system to practice this exercise in as it is relatively uninhabited and is right next to Aldrat. Note that this is the most important exercise to practice; most Dram pilots won’t be stupid enough to engage a fleet of mass Thrashers, and this is likely where we’ll get the most Dram kills on war targets.


  • Skirmish Warp-In: The only other time that Thrashers will catch a Dram with his pants down is if he accidentally lands on-grid too close without prior knowledge of the fleet. This does have the possibility of occurring, even with experienced pilots, so a good way to simulate this is to fight at a planet and have the Vigil target warp in from elsewhere in the system. Due to the mechanics of warping the target is actually invulnerable to locks for a couple of seconds once landing on grid, so this is difficult to pull off in reality. The Vigil pilot should experiment with different ‘war target reaction times’, but a two-second count is generally minimum before trying to warp off.


  • Gate camping: The most unlikely way to kill a Dram, but if the war target is having lag (say from loading the 50+ Thrashers on his overview) you might have a chance when he lands to lock and vaporize him. If he’s coming through from the other side you’ll have at most his align time (with perfect locking skills it’s possible to alpha him 0.1 seconds before he hits warp). Again, don’t expect kills at gates on Dramiels, but it’s better to take the shot than to let a chance pass to vaporize a war target.


The first two situations are the most likely for a Thrasher pilot to actually be able to engage and kill a Dramiel pilot who hasn’t been tackled by countless webs. This does not mean that it is the only time a Thrasher is good or will score a kill; in fact Agony reports using Thrasher-only fleets to alpha down tanked Drakes in mere seconds. Thrashers, especially en masse, are an excellent way to melt face on any ship type. But the focus of this squadron is catching and killing Drams. Dramiels are famous for getting out fast; our job is to make sure they do it in a pod or goo.


Useful skills and knowledge

While none of the below skills are required to fly in the Dead Man's Hand squads they all will prove useful. This is in addition to the normal fitting and support skills that all combat pilots would be advised to get (i.e. Engineering, Electronics, Hull Upgrades, Weapons Upgrades, etc.). In addition improving your Destroyers skill past the minimum will greatly improve your tracking and damage; however keep in mind all of this is absolutely optional and the Dead Man's Hand squads welcome folks who only train far enough to get the basic fittings and fly the ship. It's together where we're useful, and the more people participating the better the chance of destroying a Dramiel!

  • Signature Analysis (5% improved targeting speed per skill level)
  • Gunnery Skills (the full list and an excellent guide can be found on the wiki pages Gunnery Guide and Gunnery 101)


Undock times: A useful feature to know for anyone playing 'station games' or wanting to Alpha a Dram is your actual undock time. Due to lag and varying connection speeds the time between hitting the undock button and actually seeing space/being able to target can be quite significant between players. While no one can predict a sudden spike of lag you can get the hang of your own personal timer by practicing undocking a few times. I don't recommend an Eight undocking ahead of the count; if they've practiced enough an Ace can start their undocking slightly ahead of the count if they know for a fact their computer/connection takes longer. This is an advanced technique with a lot of personal responsibility to it (you don't want to be the guy that scares the prey too early) and should only be used by Aces. It is important for all pilots to know however that your ship doesn't actually appear in space to outside observers until you see space; don't be worried about the black screen during undocking, they can't see you either.


Meta-Gaming

This section is more about fragments of seconds than about actually flying the Thrashers, and should be taken with a huge grain of salt (call it a lick of salt). I like advantages; in a fight I’ll take every advantage I can and ask for more. In war UNI does the same. To that end I would suggest that everyone in a Dead Man’s Hand squad name their ship “Coffin Nail”. This serves two purposes. First of all anyone relying on ship names to call targets is going to stumble a little; ship type and ship name are identical, and he’ll have to call out targets using pilot names. Precious slices of seconds that can mean victory. The second reason for the name is that it reminds us of what we’re there for. When we’re flying, someone’s going to die. Destroyers are flying coffins (the Thrasher even looks like one!) and anyone going out with the intention of dogfighting in one is going to be sorely disappointed. This squad, and these ships, are all about gank; we are the nails in our enemy’s coffin. We lock, we fire, and the target disappears.



Credits

Thank you to all of the veterans who have helped me put this together, including but not limited to Glepp and Morty Bunny, CHC999, Azmodeus Valar, and Trigalisk/Trikael’s extra testing. Any suggestions/corrections please PM Babylon Black, and if I’ve gotten anything wrong it’s my fault not those who have tried to help me. The original thread that spawned many of these ideas can be found here, and I highly recommend reading it for those interested in curb-stomping Drams: http://forum.eveuniversity.org/viewtopic.php?f=44&t=36456

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