Solo PvP

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Fighting in a fleet is lots of fun, and is, in many ways, the classic EVE experience.

However, fighting solo, or in a small "microgang" of 2 or 3 people can be just as fun, much easier to get set up, and develops all-round skills: flying solo, you must perform all the functions of a PvP fleet, and so it offers an intense education in all aspects of combat at once. Skills such as scouting, target calling and general fleet command all transfer well from solo/microgang PvP up to fleets. In EVE, many of the best fleet commanders started out flying solo or small-gang, and many of them still roam solo when not leading fleets.

Solo PvP is a vast topic exceeding the scope of a single wiki article, but this page covers some general principles and offers advice on one common starting-point for solo flying, small-ship PvP in lowsec space.

General principles

EVE Online is a massively multiplayer online game: most combat pilots fly in groups, and, outside of some Proving Grounds formats, no rule prevents other players from ganging up on you. Be prepared for solo PvP to be hard, and understand that sometimes a group will overwhelm you and even the most carefully-fitted and well-flown ship will die. On the plus side, this makes every kill that much more satisfying.

A key point to grasp for fitting your ship is that a solo PvP ship in any kind of space must perform all three of the key combat functions of a PvP fleet: damage-dealing, tanking, and control. You must also be your own scout and navigator so, wherever you fly, prepare to get acquainted with geographical and intel tools such as Dotlan and zKillboard.

A further point to grasp is that, despite the game's reputation, it is quite hard to force PvP on another player in EVE. While ambush attacks are possible, especially in Pochven and wormhole space, in much of the game alert use of Local chat and the directional scanner allows most players to see you coming. Your ship choice conditions the kind of fights you will find: you certainly can hunt in a relatively costly and highly-effective ship such as a Vedmak, but doing so guarantees that you will mostly fight the foolish, the unlucky, and those with serious backup hidden nearby. It can be worth exploring cheap options which can surprise enemies with counterintuitive fits.

Geography

Because different types of space play by different rules, pilots typically fit and prepare their ships for combat in a particular type. It is worth knowing the differences.

Lowsec

Bubbles and bombs cannot be used in lowsec, making it relatively safer space in which to move around. Since you do not need a MWD to burn out of bubbles, it is much safer to take an afterburner as your only propulsion module in lowsec than in other types of space. Since bubbles cannot be used to trap your pod after the loss of your ship, you have a higher chance of preserving your pod in lowsec than in more dangerous types of space.

Aggressing a pilot not flagged as a criminal, war target, or suspect in lowsec will cause a small loss of security status and will flag you yourself with a 15-minute suspect timer, letting others engage you. Podding someone will cause a significantly larger loss of security status. Security status can be regained by killing NPC pirates or by handing in criminal tags.

Aggressing a non-criminal, non-suspect pilot on-grid with a gate or a station will also draw down the wrath of the local sentry guns, which can be tanked by larger ships but present a serious threat to smaller ships.

Lowsec is also the location for Faction Warfare ("FW"). FW complexes have unique mechanics which allow you to limit the hull size and tech level (but not raw number) of ships engaging you, and you do not have to be involved in FW to take advantage of these mechanics.

Fighting other players is one of only a few reasons people go to lowsec, so you stand a high chance of finding combat there; on the other hand, you also stand a higher chance of finding well-prepared, experienced and well-equipped opponents.

Lowsec FW complex PvP is a traditional starting-point for new solo PvP players, though it has its drawbacks as well as its advantages.

Nullsec

In nullsec, there are no gate or station guns, and no security status implications from any kind of combat.

Bubbles can be used to trap people at gates or to suck targets out of warp. Since a MWD is necessary for most ships to get out of a bubble quickly, MWDs are much more commonly fitted for travel and combat in nullsec; this in turn makes many ships more vulnerable to warp scramblers, which can shut off a MWD but not an afterburner.

In nullsec, especially sovereign nullsec owned by players, there are far fewer NPC stations, and therefore fewer opportunities to dock up for safety or repairs.

There are more non-combat reasons to be in space in nullsec than in lowsec, so you are likely to find more targets in PvE ships or with limited combat preparation; on the other hand, you are likely to find fewer fights overall.

Pochven

Mechanically Pochven space is very like nullsec: bubbles and bombs can be used, and there are no security status implications to combat. However, cynos cannot be lit in Pochven, so hotdropping is not a danger.

Pochven, like wormhole space, has delayed Local chat, so you cannot easily tell who is in a system with you. Pochven has a fixed, mappable geography, but the systems are arranged in a triangle, and most systems only have two gates, so it is particularly good space for gate camps and player movements are relatively predictable. Filaments and relatively-reliable wormhole connections link Pochven to the rest of the game and make entry and exit surprisingly easy.

There are NPC stations in many Pochven systems, but you won't be able to use most of their services without good Triglavian standings.

Gangs of potentially-hostile NPCs roam each Pochven system. If they are hostile to you, they will engage you, and they are capable of destroying player ships. They will pod you if they can. It is possible to get positive standing with the EDENCOM and Triglavian NPCs in Pochven; the Drifters, Rogue Drones and Sleepers will always be hostile.

Wormhole space

Wormhole space has delayed Local chat, like Pochven. Also similarly to Pochven, wormholes have normal nullsec mechanics with bubbles and bombs, but with no cynos.

The geography of wormhole space is constantly shifting. Groups can manipulate their wormhole connections by "rolling" wormholes, something which is normally too much complex work for one solo PvP ship.

The delayed Local and shifting geography put a strong emphasis on d-scan, stealth and surprise, so combat ships in wormhole space lean towards those able to fit a covert ops cloak and warp while cloaked. Almost everything of interest in wormhole space must be probed down, and leaving from wormhole space often requires probing, so many ships fit at least a core probe launcher.

There are no NPC stations in wormhole space, except in Thera.

Lowsec FW complex combat

Much small-scale PvP happens in Faction Warfare ("FW") lowsec.

FW space contains FW Complexes (commonly known as "plexes", not to be confused with PLEX), which are effectively PvP arenas.

These appear on your overview and probe scanner window as beacons which all players can warp to with names such as “Gallente Novice Outpost” or “Caldari Large Installation”. All available plexes appear in the probe scanner window, but a plex only appears on the overview once someone has entered it.

The key factor to note is the "size" of the plex, indicated by the middle word in its name. Size tells you which hulls can enter the plex.

  • "Novice": T1 frigates only
  • "Small": T1/T2 frigates, T1/T2 destroyers (no T3 destroyers)
  • "Medium": all frigates and destroyers, T1/T2 cruisers (no T3 cruisers)
  • "Large": any ship

When you initially warp to any Novice, Small, or Medium plex, you will encounter an acceleration gate. The gate will only let appropriate ships warp into the plex itself. Large plexes have no gate and allow any ships in.

Plexes provide a fixed point for fights. The size limitations mean that you can, to some extent, control the fights you take: if you are in a Novice plex, you will not have to fight a T3 cruiser.

The gate limits ship sizes, but not numbers. You can still be overpowered by a gang of ships if you don't stay alert.

The beacon

When you activate the acceleration gate and “slide” into a Novice, Small or Medium plex, you arrive within 2.5 km of a "beacon" in space. This beacon should be visible on your overview as you land. If not, adjust your overview settings to display all brackets (items in space): the beacon's placement is key.

Any ship entering the plex will also next to this beacon; there is no way to warp in at range.

This mechanic means that once you are inside a plex, you know almost exactly where an enemy ship will enter. Likewise, when entering an occupied plex, the opponent(s) within will have positioned themselves knowing where you will appear. The occupant of the plex always has this tactical advantage in initial positioning.

Deadspace

FW plexes are deadspace. You cannot warp to a fleetmate who is over 150 km from you inside a FW plex. Nor can you warp to a wreck or to a tactical bookmark that is over 150 km away from you. A fleet mate who warps to you when you are inside a plex will land from warp outside the plex, at the acceleration gate.

As a result, it is sometimes possible to string out and separate a group within a plex.

D-scanning for fights

A lot of PvP happens before you land on grid, and revolves around picking fights and having tactics in place before you start. For this, you need intel.

The most basic form of intel you need is whether a plex contains a ship already, and if so, what kind. Or, if you are already inside, what ships are coming your way. The tool for this will be your Directional Scanner, or D-Scan.

The Wiki Directional Scanner Guide is already an excellent and detailed resource on using this tool and should be read in detail. For scanning use in and around plexes in particular:

  1. When scanning plexes from outside, keep your D-Scan set at a 5 degree angle, and max range, and hold down your D-Scan hotkey (by default “V”) then click on the plex within your overview to quickly and efficiently scan each one
  2. D-Scan will not tell you if a ship is actually inside a plex, or outside, next to the gate. If you see a ship on D-Scan which is too large for the plex, they are sat outside the gate, and may be trying to catch ships entering
  3. When inside a plex, set your D-Scan to 360 degrees, and 1AU range, and ensure you are scanning regularly to detect anyone landing on the acceleration gate who may be about to enter. Switch to a longer range now and then to check what is happening elsewhere.

Lowsec solo ships

Many ships can be used solo in lowsec, but this section covers some of the ones most likely to be open to new characters, and most likely to be encountered in FW complexes.

Base T1 frigates

Any player flying T1 frigates in lowsec should not expect to get many fights against similarly-fitted players, and should expect to also take challenging fights against faction/pirate or T1 destroyers, and prepare accordingly.

T1 fits which work effectively tend to be "surprising" fits designed to out-wit more expensive ships by presenting an unexpected tactical profile, such as a dual web Merlin or kiting Punisher.

Faction/pirate frigates

These are very common sights in lowsec: they are technically T1 hulls, and so can enter Novice complexes, but they are more powerful than base T1 frigates.

Faction frigates are a more expensive step up from base T1 frigates. While powerful, they can still be killed by a skilled base T1 frigate. The Federation Navy Comet is an especially popular option due to its excellent balance of low cost (and SP requirement) against high combat effectiveness. Other ships such as the Caldari Navy Hookbill and Imperial Navy Slicer are also effective at fighting a wide range of opponents.

Pirate frigates are substantially more expensive, but also have subtantial advantages versus almost all other frigate variants, and are some of the toughest opponents. Many, such as the Succubus or Daredevil are deliberately designed to "break" the typical rules of the solo PvP meta in some way. These are quite advanced ships, and new pilots should probably neither fly nor fight them without backup.

T1 destroyers

These can be thought of as larger frigates with poor range control due to their speed, but great DPS. They can be kited (or occasionally scram-kited, on which see below) by a skilled T1 frigate pilot, but they are also able to tear their way through almost any frigate (including pirate/faction hulls) if it's caught within their optimal range for long.

T1 destroyers can be excellent choices for newer pilots, as they are cheap, they insure well, they use small weapons, and they can fight a much wider range of opponents than T1 frigates.

T1 destroyers are more vulnerable than frigates to larger weapons, and will suffer if caught by larger ships outside the FW complex context, e.g. on a gate.

T1 cruisers

Lone T1 cruisers are relatively rare sights in lowsec plexes, and can be a magnet for other cruisers, or advanced ships such as pirate frigates and T3 destroyers looking to punch up.

The few cruisers encountered in lowsec are often fitted specifically to kill frigates pilots, and new pilots should exercise caution around them. In particular, cruisers such as the Vexor, Stabber, Bellicose, Caracal, and Arbitrator work very well against frigates if thoughtfully fitted, and should probably be avoided by smaller ships.

A T1 cruiser is not an overwhelmingly long train for a newer player, they insure reasonably well, unlike pirate/faction/T2 frigates, and they offer certain advantages to the new PvP pilot. In particular, everything happens more slowly in a cruiser, which gives you more time to observe and learn from the fight. On the other hand, they cannot enter Novice or Small complexes.

Assault frigates

T2 assault frigates ("AFs") can enter Small plexes, and combine the agility of a frigate with higher DPS and much stronger tanks; when fitted with an Assault Damage Control, they can become briefly invulnerable. They are an extremely difficult fight for any other frigate or T1 destroyer. Common solo AFs include the Hawk (with an extremely strong MASB shield tank), or the Retribution (often flown as a kiting ship, similar to a much tankier version of the Imperial Navy Slicer).

Basic frigate meta

Ships for PvP in general are grouped primarily by their preferred fighting range. All other things being equal, winning a PvP fight usually means ensuring that you are in your ideal range, and your opponent is not.

  • 0-5 km range - Brawlers
  • 5-10 km range - Scram Kiters
  • 10-20 km range - Kiters

In lowsec frigate PvP, as most fighting is in plexes where much of the engagement takes place around the fixed point of the beacon, MWDs are less commonly used than in other environments, as they can be immediately de-activated by a warp scrambler. While MWDs can be useful for kiters, the dominant propulsion module is the afterburner.

Brawlers

Brawlers use high damage, close range weapons, such as blasters or pulse lasers. They therefore rely on quickly getting into close range, and preventing opponents from pulling away.

When defending a plex, they will orbit the beacon very closely, and immediately try to warp-scramble and web any incoming ship.

When attacking a plex, they must swiftly close the range between them and the defending ship.

Since range is key, fast brawlers like the Atron or Federation Navy Comet are very useful due to their raw speed, and their damage bonuses. An alternative is a ship which can carry dual webs, such as the dual-web armour Kestrel or the Caldari Navy Hookbill. These are relatively slow ships in absolute terms, but the double web effect removes the speed advantage of almost any other ship, and allows you to dictate range despite being slower on paper.

Scram-kiters

An effective defence against a brawler is to fight from outside their optimal range, but still within warp scrambler and web range, normally between 7–9 km. This is called "scram-kiting". At this point, brawling damage from, for example, blasters will be minimal, but longer-reaching weapons such as beam lasers, pulse lasers with Scorch, railguns, or rockets can still hit for substantial damage.

Once again, this tactic relies on range control. When defending a plex you will likely orbit the beacon at your optimal range, but remember that a brawler could quickly close range if they have a notable speed advantage.

Likewise, when attacking a plex, if a brawler is waiting at the beacon you will need to pull range quickly, which requires range control. You must also tank the initial damage close-range long enough to pull distance.

For this reason, scram-kite ships often still fit for speed. Common scram-kiters include the Breacher, Tormentor, and Incursus. The dual-web Kestrel and Caldari Navy Hookbill noted earlier can also be equally effective as scram-kiters, because rockets can deal effective damage up to 9 km, while the dual webs maintain range control.

Kiters

The other key factor in the meta are long-range kiting ships. These will equip a warp disrupter to tackle at 20 km+ ranges, and use long range weapons. They are generally glass cannons, maximizing speed and damage over tank. As they cannot web an opponent at such long ranges, they usually rely on MWDs for a speed advantage. Since they are lightly tanked and a warp scrambler shuts down an MWD, they usually die fast if brought to close quarters.

A good kiting ship already inside a plex is very difficult to kill, as they will orbit the beacon well outside of scram range, and closing with them is challenging. A ship such as a Tormentor with beam lasers can switch to long range ammo to damage the kiting ship at range, but the kiting ship can avoid tackle and leave at will, so damage projection alone only forces a draw. The primary disadvantages of a kiting ship are that they are very poor at attacking a plex, as they are forced to arrive in a predictable place, and that they require smart, alert manual piloting.

Common kiting ships are the Condor, Imperial Navy Slicer, and Tristan.

Other approaches

Pilots can take other niche approaches to plex combat.

Capacitor warfare can render an opponent helpless, but requires a significant sacrifice of high slots, usually also a mid slot for a cap booster, can be negated using cap boosters and nosferatus, and does not shut down all weapons: projectile guns, drones, and missile launchers do not require cap to deal damage. Small energy neutralizers reach out for most of scram range, but lose their effectiveness at scram range's edge, making it possible—just—to scram-kite some neuting ships.

EWAR of various kinds can offer advantages. Tracking disruption, for example, can making kiting or scram-kiting easier by reducing an opponent's range, or can make fast brawling easier by reducing an opponent's tracking speed. The faction EWAR frigates, such as the Griffin Navy Issue and Vigil Fleet Issue are designed around EWAR tactics.

Frigates with two armour repairers in the lows and a capacitor booster in a mid slot can mount a formidable sustained active tank, often enough to outlast an opponent. Their weakness is a lack of speed and range control, so it's usually possible to leave a fight if you realise your opponent's dual-rep fitted, and it's also possible to kite such a ship and slowly wear it down.

Solo PvP beyond lowsec

Though lowsec FW complexes are a traditional starting-point, it's very possible to do solo PvP elsewhere, even as a newer player. Other types of space have their own advantages and disadvantages.

In nullsec, wormholes, and Pochven, you must contend with warp disruption bubbles. On the other hand, there are no gate or station guns and no security losses for combat. Moreover, since bubbles make podding more common in nullsec, solo/small-gang pilots in these areas only rarely fly with the kinds of expensive implants which some pilots use in lowsec. This difference goes some way towards levelling the playing field for newer players.

In wormhole space and Pochven, the delayed Local gives you a much better chance to surprise targets.

Bubble MWD meta

Bubbles are commonly used in nullsec. An MWD is much better for burning out of a bubble quickly than an AB. Therefore, most PvP ships in nullsec fit an MWD as a standard first propulsion module. Some fits use both an MWD and an AB ("dualprop"), and some smaller ships will fit an oversized AB, which can offer MWD-like speeds at the cost of agility ("overprop").

The proliferation of MWDs means that combat grids tend to be very fast-moving, especially for smaller ships of the sort newer players might fly—unless or until someone gets warp scrambled, at which point combat often becomes slower than in lowsec, as many ships have no AB and must travel at their basic sub-warp speed when scrambled.

It is possible to camp an anchored bubble solo, or (more rarely) to roam or camp solo in an interdictor or HIC.

K-space nullsec

In known-space nullsec, Local chat's member list will announce your presence whenever you enter a system. You therefore need either to move fast and surprise targets who are at a disadvantage—PvE ships and lone PvP ships who are hard- or soft-countered by your ship and fit—or take fights outnumbered and surprise enemies with your piloting skills and/or fit.

Often hunting a sovereign nullsec group's ratting or mining ships is a good way to draw a response. Responses are typically overwhelming, and you shouldn't feel bad about refusing to fight if this happens.

The grid outside the Encounter Surveillance System gate in any sovereign nullsec system is deadspace, and you can use this to try to split enemy gangs up and take individual ships out.

You can also try to use a fast ship to string a gang out on a normal grid: if one of their ships is isolated, but is less than 150 km away from the rest of its gang, they cannot warp to it. But remember that micro jump drives allow some ships to teleport exactly 100 km!

If you jump or warp into a gate camp with a bubble, you must quickly decide whether to crash down to the gate and try to get through, or burn at speed out of the bubble and warp off. If part of a gang aggresses on you on one side of a gate and you jump through, those ships which aggressed cannot follow for 1 minute; this mechanic can let you split up an overwhelming gang over the two sides of a gate and then engage half of them on one side.

In k-space nullsec, good map-reading with a resource such as Dotlan proves extremely useful. Look for recent NPC kills and NPC kills delta to locate ratters, look at ships-in-space and recent jumps data to find general player activity, and look at recent kills data to find recent combat. zKillboard has a page for each region in the game which can let you see recent kills with a 5- to 30-minute time-lag, and this can alert you to roaming gangs or recent fights.

You can use Needlejack filaments to get into nullsec, and to "reroll" your position in nullsec. Pochven filaments can let you extract back to low/highsec, as you can filament to Pochven and then either find a wormhole or wait 15 minutes and use a Pochven extraction or glorification filament. A ship with at least core probes, such as a T3C or a Stratios, can also use the j-space wormhole network to reposition.

Pochven and wormholes

Delayed Local is the most defining feature of Pochven and wormhole systems. This makes the intelligent use of d-scan key both to finding targets and to avoiding them. It helps to know as much as possible about the local geography, whether that's the immediately adjacent wormhole connections in a j-space system, or the immediately surrounding pipe in Pochven. Knowing in a wormhole system that a particular wormhole is mass-critical, or only lets frigates through, can be a precious tactical advantage; similarly, knowing in Pochven that you have a wormhole near Jita or that there is a surviving freeport in the next system can make a big difference. In Pochven, Dotlan remains useful as an intel source. J-space systems can be looked up on zKillboard using their j-code.

Stealth plays a greater role in PvP in these areas, and you can expect to see more T3Cs, recon ships, covops ships, and prototype cloaks on ships such as interdictors. Make sure you understand wormhole polarization mechanics and (in Pochven) the behaviour of local NPCs.

Solo in larger ships

Once you have grasped solo mechanics work for small ships, it is relatively straightforward to apply this knowledge to larger ships.

"Scram kiting" is very limited for ships cruiser-sized and up. Short-ranged medium and heavy guns always hit far enough to work anywhere inside scram range. Therefore in some ways the meta simplifies: there are only brawlers and kiters.

Any solo fit for a ship of cruiser size or above must have one or more defences against frigates and destroyers, which can close in and "fly under" medium or heavy turrets, and which can outrun or mitigate a lot of medium or heavy missile damage. Typical PvP frigate speeds can also trouble even light drones, which tend to spend most of their time chasing the frigate rather than shooting it.

Some typical anti-frigate tools include:

  • Neuts. Medium energy neutralizers cover most of scram range, and heavy neutralizers cover much of normal point range. Both devastate the capacitors of smaller ships.
  • Webs. Reaching out just beyond the edge of scram range, a web can cut a small ship's speed enough that bigger weapons might apply better. This works best when combined with a scram.
  • Rapid Light Missile Launchers. RLMLs fire a small weapon, which therefore applies well to small targets. They also have respectable burst DPS for hunting targets of any size. Their main drawback is their very long reload time.
  • Entropic Disintegrators. These have very high tracking for their size, combined with fierce DPS.

Kiting

While a pure kiting frigate wants to be faster than anything, a larger kiting ship generally wants to be able to kill anything that can catch it, and able to outrun or outrange anything that can kill it.

It's quite possible to get decent kiting performance out of T1 cruiser hulls: the Stabber and RLML Caracal can do well, for instance. RLML-armed Caracals have an easy time with damage application, but can't scale up to high brawling DPS as a kiting Stabber can. The Hurricane can just about kite effectively, and has more punch to deliver to whatever can catch up with it. Among more expensive ship options, the Omen Navy Issue, Osprey Navy Issue, Scythe Fleet Issue and Orthrus all make strong mid-size kiters. The Vedmak is an extremely strong kiter, with good options including overpropped 100MN fits; its only real drawback is that its fearsome reputation precedes it, and opponents will not underestimate one seen on d-scan.

Kiting battleships are rare, but it is technically possible to make some Minmatar battleship hulls surprisingly fast for their size.

The Sansha's Phantasm and Nightmare deserve special mention as their unique bonuses let them use afterburners like microwarpdrives, making them especially tricky and mobile.

Brawling

Brawling cruisers can be fun to fly and can rapidly dismantle most smaller- or even-sized targets they can land scram on. All four main races' cruisers can be fitted to brawl effectively, though the Vexor in particular deserves mention as a T2 blaster fit with a light tank can use overheating and its dual damage bonuses to reach around 900 DPS. However, with neither the option of fitting an MJD as larger hulls can, nor (most of the time) the mechanics of FW complexes to set up brawling starts to fights, brawling cruisers constantly face the challenge of landing scram in the first place in a world very fast-moving MWD fits. Consequently, it sometimes works best to use a suboptimal ship to play with people's expectations: a brawling HAM Bellicose, for instance, can catch enemies unawares.

Solo brawling is viable with battlecruisers and battleships. Typical fits use an MJD as an escape mechanism, and are designed to defy entire gangs of enemies with a huge tank and annihilate everything that gets into scram range, thereby keeping the MJD available for use. It's possible to use a big buffer tank, but a very powerful active tank can also work, making this viable for ships with active tank bonuses such as the Cyclone or the Maelstrom. With cap injection, three armour repairers and the appropriate drugs, a Myrmidon can shrug off an extraordinary amount of DPS (though its own offensive power will be limited). Truly dedicated brawl fits even sometimes risk fitting an MJD as the only propulsion module.

MJD-brawling fits can be countered by overwhelming them with small warp-scrambling ships in numbers, or by scrambling them from beyond normal range with a ship such as the Lachesis or a HIC, so as to shut down their MJD.