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Warp Disruption Fields (Bubbles)
Warp Disruption Fields or more commonly known as "Bubbles" is a collective name for the different types of warp disruption field you can find in null sec, so named because they look a bit like soap bubbles in space. Their primary function is to prevent any ship inside them from entering warp and also can be used to drag ships out of warp.
Warp Disruption Fields are the most practical way to tackle a bulk of ships without resorting to having to bring many ships fitted with tackling modules (warp disruptors or warp scramblers). This particular use is what made bubbles a very effective tool and is also one of the primary requirements for a good or effective fleet composition. The only downside is that Warp Disruption Fields can only be used in nullsec and wormhole space.
Aside from the generic anchorable Warp Disruption Fields, there are also several ships which designed as a dedicated 'bubbler' ships, known as Interdictors and Heavy Interdictors. Players capable of piloting these ship classes are highly valued in most alliances, even to the extent that they may be given more privileges seeing the nature of their role as a mass tackler and/or capital ships tackler.
The term Warp Disruption Fields or Bubbles (the disruption field) usually refers to two things at once:
- The object that's generating the warp disruption field and
- The disruption field itself, which varies in size and lifetime
The disruption field is a sphere in form, objects such as ships, wrecks, structures or other space objects can be covered by it. The range of the disruption field is determined by the type of entity that's generating the field, some bubble types such as those generated by a Heavy Interdictor can also move around. There are several different types of bubbles, but all of them work the same way, regardless of the size and the way it is deployed. While bubbles are basically made to prevent ships from engaging their warp drive, there are also several mechanics that are worth mentioning:
Types of Bubbles
All bubbles work in the same way once deployed, but the three types of bubble are deployed somewhat differently:
Mobile Warp Disruptors
Mobility : Static Permanent Bubble
Ranges : 5 - 40km (10 - 80km in diameter)
Deployed by : any
Duration : permanent, until destroyed, unanchored or grid refresh
Mobile Warp Disruptors, also known as "anchored bubbles", can be dropped from any ship with the cargo space to carry one (they are quite bulky, but the smallest can be carried by most frigates). Once dropped they must be anchored before they are effective, a process that takes from 1 to 5 minutes. Anchorable bubbles are available in various sizes from Tech 1 small, which have a 5k radius, to Tech 2 large which are a whopping 40k in radius. Anchorable bubbles require varying levels in Propulsion Jamming and Anchoring to use, which is far less skill intensive than the other types of bubble. The main drawback of anchorable bubbles over other bubbles is the time taken to activate.
Warp Disrupt Probes
Mobility : Static Temporary Bubble
Ranges : 10-20km (20-40km in diameter)
Deployed by : Interdictors
Duration : 2 minutes*
Warp disrupt probes are dropped from Interdictors, a specialised type of destroyer (more on them later). An interdictor drops a warp disrupt probe from a specialised launcher, whereupon it immediately deploys on top of the interdictor to make a 10km or 20km radius bubble depending on the type of warp disrupt probe used. Warp disrupt probes lasts for a fixed 2 minutes with one exception; if an interdictor docks with a station on grid with their own warp disrupt probes, these probes are destroyed immediately.
Warp Disruption Field Generator
Mobility : Moving Bubble
Ranges : 16 - 24km (32 - 48km in diameter depending on skills and module type)
Deployed by : Heavy Interdictors
Duration : until deactivated or the ship's destroyed
These are bubbles that are projected from Heavy Interdictors using Warp Disruption Field Generators. The bubble is projected around the HIC with a varying size (around 20km) and will move with it.
Uses of bubbles
While the basic use for bubbles are to stop ships from warping out or using their jump drives, their practical functionality can further be divided into :
Tackling a Fleet
The basic use for bubbles, that is preventing ships from warping or jumping away. Usually used just by applying an interdiction field (a bubble) around the bulk of target hostile ship(s). This is a role almost exclusively filled by interdictors and heavy interdictors, since an enemy is unlikely to sit still while you anchor a bubble on top of them. Large fleets tend to move and fight as a pack while aligned to something, allowing an interdictor or heavy interdictor to move with them and continue to bubble ahead of them.
Drag / Sling / Stop Bubbles
Bubbles can be deployed either as 'drag' or 'sling' bubbles, where they are placed around 50k beyond the gate, and in line with a celestial to pull ships out of warp away from the gate if they warp directly from that celestial. Thus disorientating pilots who will have to turn the opposite direction to burn back to the gate. In the case of stop bubbles however, they are placed prior to the gate, which halts any ships in warp from the celestial before they reach the gate. Such a set up may also be effective since pilots that are caught will have to move through the bubble to get to the gate, thereby flying themselves deeper into the bubble. These roles are usually filled by anchorable bubbles, since precise positioning is important and they are usually set up for some time.
Another way to use bubbles is to deploy them on top of a gate or on a station undock to prevent ships jumping in or undocking from immediately warping off. This makes a gate camp much more effective, and allows catching agile and cloaky ships that are otherwise extremely slippery. Depending on the size of a gate you may need a very large bubble to cover all of the jump-in points. All types of bubbles can be used for this; anchorable bubbles can be much larger in size, while dictor and heavy interdictor bubbles can be deployed right on top of the gate for better coverage.
Interdictors and Heavy Interdictors have the advantage of being able to cloak, which anchorable bubbles do not. This can be used to catch a fleet by surprise with a bubble even when they use a scout to check ahead for them.
Bubbles can be used defensively to protect a friendly fleet. Interdictors can deploy "defensive bubbles" around a friendly fleet (but not on top of it) to protect it from snipers and bombers. Bubbles dotted around the grid the friendly fleet is on will make it more difficult for bomber wings and sniper groups to warp in on the fleet because they need to be careful not to warp in to a bubble. Bubbles deployed at around 30k from the fleet will prevent bombers from bombing from that direction by making it impossible for the bomber to warp away after its bomb run (which will almost always dissuade them from doing so). This is particularly useful to protect a fleet that is regrouping or waiting on a titan to bridge.
Splitting / Delaying Hostiles
Because interdictors can drop bubbles without aggressing, it is possible to delay a pursuing fleet by dropping a bubble on each gate just before jumping through. This won't prevent the interdictor or its fleet from jumping, but it will cause pursuers (provided they begin their warp from the other stargate after the bubble has gone up) to land 20k from the gate and have to burn to it, delaying them. A similar trick can be done by dropping a bubble on gates as you come through them, but this is not as good because it requires the interdictor to burn out of its own bubble, and if the enemy come through before the 'dictor makes the jump to the next system they can use the bubble to aggress it so it can't use the next stargate.
Bubbles can be dropped immediately after decloaking, so interdictors and heavy interdictors can sit cloaked near a gate an enemy fleet is expected to come through, wait for them to start warping off and then decloak and immediately bubble. Any stragglers will be caught by the bubble and isolated until their fleet lands at their destination and can warp back again.
Specialized Interdiction Ships
There are several ships dedicated to deploying bubbles. They are particularly useful because they provide a means of mass tackling ships on field.
Interdictors (aka 'Dictors, 'Dics or Light Interdictors) are T2 destroyers. They have a few things in common with destroyers, and one major difference. Like destroyers, they have a large number of high slots for weapons and a small number of mid and low slots, giving them high firepower but low tank. Interdictors are faster and more agile than T1 destroyers. The most important difference is that interdictors can fit Interdiction Sphere Launchers, which are specialised modules designed to drop Warp Disrupt Probes. Warp Disrupt Probes drop where the interdictor is and immediately deploy in to a 20km bubble. The interdictor can then move independently of the bubble and is free to warp off, cloak up or drop another one elsewhere. This makes interdictors quite maneuverable and flexible and helps make up for their lack of defences. Interdictors are still very vulnerable though, and will likely be primaried in most engagements because of the major threat they pose. Interdictors are usually shield tanked to improve maneuverability. Interdictors can only carry one sphere launcher, which carries 3 bubbles that can be dropped in quick succession, with a lengthy reload time.
Interdictors have high skill requirements to use. To sit in the ship you need racial destroyer V, Propulsion Jamming V, Science V, Graviton Physics I and Interdictors I. The Interdictors skill improves survivability through the MWD sig radius bonus, so level IV is recommended.
The 4 types of racial destroyer are: Heretic, Flycatcher, Eris and Sabre. They share broadly similar characteristics, but each has a different preferred weapon system and mid and low slot layout. The Sabre is by far the most popular, because of its speed and agility and its easy-to-fit weapon system (autocannons) leaving a lot of room for extra launchers, shields and secondary tackle.
Interdictors are almost exclusively used in null sec. It's not unheard of for a dictor to be used without a sphere launcher in low sec just as a T2 destroyer, but it's very rare due to the high cost for low benefit.
Since the Rubicon interdictor rebalance the split between "fleet" and "combat" interdictor fits is less stark than it used to be. Interdictors designed for pure fleet work tend to fit a cloak, the best shield tank they can and then for speed, with weapons coming a distant last. Interdictors can also be fit more for combat, with more weapons and less tank, and possibly armor tanked.
Heavy Interdictors (or HICs or Hictors) have a quite different style to light dictors. While the dictor flits around dropping bubbles and either cloaking up or warping off to stay out of trouble, the HIC sidles up to a supercapital, raises its bubble and sits there tanking damage like an immovable object. A HIC bubble is projected around the ship and moves with it. However prop mods don't work very well with a HIC bubble up, so it isn't especially fast as it does this. HICs have very heavy tanks designed to take punishment from whole fleets while they pin down supercapitals. While HICs are projecting their bubble they can't receive remote reps, so if you want to keep something constantly hictor bubbled you'll need a few hictors cycling their bubbles so they can be repped up by logistics. In addition to projecting a bubble around the HIC, the Warp Disruption Field Generator can be reconfigured with a script to become an infinite strength point, which is a targeted ability much like a warp disruptor, but that will overcome any number of warp core stabilisers. Crucially, it can be used on ships that are immune to normal warp disruptors such as supercapitals, and can be used in low sec. Due to dictor bubbles not working, a HIC using the focus script is the only ship that can tackle supercapitals in low sec.
Heavy Interdictors also have high skill requirements to use. To fly a HIC you need a racial cruiser V, Propulsion Jamming V, Science V, Graviton Physics IV, and Heavy Interdiction Cruisers IV is recommended for a good-sized bubble.
Heavy Interdictors have few variations in their fits. They tend to fit a prop mod, 2 warp disruption field generators and as heavy a tank as they can. The 4 types of HIC are the Devoter, Onyx, Phobos and Broadsword. The Devoter and Phobos armor tank while the Onyx and Broadsword shield tank. The armor HICs can have larger buffers due to the mechanics of armor plates, but the shield ships get the benefit of passive shield regeneration, which can add up to tens of thousands of EHP over a few minutes of taking fire.
HICs are usually used in null sec, and usually only in large fleets for tackling capitals and large enemy blobs. In small gang work a light interdictor is usually preferred. The main exception is for tackling supercapitals in low sec, and there is also a niche for them in well organised low sec gate camps for using their infinite point to tackle ships with a large number of warp core stabilizers.
Defending Against Bubbles
Bubble are hardly a threat on their own, but if a hostile ship is there waiting for someone to be caught in it then they are deadly, especially to pods and agile ships that would otherwise have a good chance of escaping in warp.
There are two basic ways you'll encounter bubbles - bubbles in the same system as you that you could warp in to, and bubbles you jump through a stargate in to.
Drag bubbles will only work if you're warping to it from the celestial they're placed to catch you from, so your first defence is to not warp directly from stargate to stargate, since this is by far the most common place to put them. If nothing else, bounce off a celestial and then warp to your destination stargate. All types of bubble show up on d-scan, as do interdictors and heavy interdictors if they're not cloaked, so another key tactic is to warp to a celestial or bookmark within d-scan range of your destination and scan it for bubbles. Stargates with no celestials in d-scan range can be problematic - if you suspect there is a bubble camp at a gate you can't d-scan then you can warp to the gate at low capacitor to try to get close enough to scan it without warping all the way to the gate.
Jumping or undocking in to a bubble is more problematic, since there's no way you can see what's on the other side until you're there. There's no good way to avoid these other than scouting and intel.
So, however it happened, you're now in a bubble. How do you get out of this mess? The first thing to note is that MWDs and MJDs work just fine in all types of bubble.
If you warped into a drag bubble then you'll be near the edge of it in the direction you warped from - how close to the edge depends on the mass of your ship. Light ships such as frigates will probably land just outside the bubble and be able to align and warp immediately. A heavier ship will be inside the bubble a varying distance and will need to burn out of it to warp.
If you jumped or undocked in to a bubble (or there's no bubble right now but you're staring at an interdictor), then the first thing you should do is take a breath and consider your options while you're invulnerable. If you jumped or undocked in to a competent camp and you're not in a cloaky or interceptor then by far your most likely way of surviving is to re-dock or crash the gate and jump back, since you're unlikely to be able to burn out of the bubble and warp before you're tackled. If you are in a cloaky then hold your gate cloak and have a look around and plan your route out of the bubble, avoiding any drones or jetcans placed to try to decloak you. Remember you have one cycle of your MWD after you cloak.
Bubbles don't prevent you from warping out through them provided you're not inside them, so if you burn out of a bubble on one side you can warp to a celestial on the other side, just be sure to give yourself enough space to align without drifting back inside the bubble, which will prevent you from warping again.
If giving this as a class:
This class gives information on bubbles, how they are deployed, what their effects are and how to deal with them. Interdiction 101 is an advanced tackling class, suitable for those that have completed Tackling 101 and have some practical experience tackling.
- Duration: 90 minutes
- Location: Docked up safely in a station.
- What are bubbles and what do they do?
- How they are deployed.
- Bubbling ships: How to fit and use them.
- Countering bubbles.
- Mumble registration and access - make sure you have Mumble sorted out and operational well before the class begins.
- Access to the Class.E-UNI in-game chat channel
Additional information: This class is primarily lecture, delivered in the Class.E-UNI channel in Mumble, followed by Q&A. There will be no practical exercises.