Shady Kodachi's negative security status meant that a low-sec system was to be our duelling ground. After theorycrafting my ship loadouts in PyFA, I headed across high-sec to Dodixie under fire from the Gallente Faction police (they've got long memories, I have no idea what I did to upset them) to make the necessary purchases before Kirith's alt couriered everything to our chosen system of Aliette.
The stage was set for a best-of-five match, with a combat in each sub-capital ship class starting with frigates then destroyers, cruisers and if necessary battlecruisers and finally battleships.
Kirith was a busy man with pressing real-life commitments so his time was limited. I was already running behind schedule so I hastily threw my chosen Merlin loadout together, but disaster struck - there wasn't enough powergrid to online the afterburner. What?! Has PyFA lied to me? I knew I should've stuck with EFT.
However, in referring back to my planned loadout I saw my error - I'd forgotten to purchase the required powergrid-optimising "Squire" implant. Kirith graciously offered to offline a module to make things fair, but I declined. Instead I botched a sub-optimal fit together by installing a second Power Diagnostic System II instead. The loadout was as follows;
The Ship: Merlin, SSS Kanuck Killa
Rocket Launcher II x2
75mm Gatling Rail II, Javelin S
Small Unstable Power Fluctuator I
Medium F-S9 Regolith Shield Induction
Invulnerability Field II
Stasis Webifier II
Cold-Gas Arcjet Thrusters
Power Diagnostic System II
Small Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Small Core Defence Field Extender I
Small Ancillary Current Router I
*Squire PG2 implant required
Effective Hit Points:
Damage Output: 64.2hp per second/159hp per volley
Speed: 864m/s with Afterburner
Cost: 13m ISK approx
The Strategy: Rifter Killer
Given Kirith's skills were undoubtedly maxed out across the board he would have his choice of ships. His logical ship choice was a Rifter, generally considered the best T1 combat frigate.
The plan was to have a shield tank tough enough to withstand a close-range assault from autocannons whilst having the versatility to deal reasonable damage at any range under 10km; the Rifter would almost certainly have the speed advantage to dictate range, even when tackled (given that he'd be tackling right back). I didn't bother with a scrambler as warping away would forfeit the duel anyway. I took the decision to sacrifice some damage output in favour of the energy neutraliser in the hope that he would have an active tank I could undermine.
The Duel: Merlin vs. Rifter
As the battle was joined, I allowed myself a smile as I had predicted Kirith's ship and fit almost perfectly. My only concern now was whether my weakened tank would hold up to the ferocious assault of a face-ripping Rifter. We started slugging it out at point-blank range, orbiting tightly. I tore through his shield quickly (I'd loaded EM rockets in case he'd gone for high-damage gyrostabiliser/shield tank fit), but made the mistake of not switching to kinetic when it was clear he had an active armour tank.
Even so, I was looking comfortably on course for victory as his armour hit 50% whilst my buffer shield was well above that. I had him at 50% structure when my shields finally gave, but surely it was too late for him.
At this critical moment, my rockets ran out. In that long ten second reload period, everything changed. Somehow, Kirith found enough capacitor from somewhere to pulse his armour repairer whilst my armour melted and my unprotected hull was exposed and stripped. Against the run of play my Merlin exploded, leaving Kirith's smoking Rifter surprisingly victorious.
How did I lose? In hindsight, this fit was perfectly suited to killing Kirith's Rifter. The ship and the fit weren't at fault, just the pilot. I made the following mistakes:
- Forgetting the Squire PG-2 Implant forcing the replacement of the DCII with a PDUII cost me 1,256 EHP. I suspect Kirith had a lot less than that left at the end.
- I was using the worst possible damage type (EM) against an armour tanking ship. I should have exploited the likely kinetic hole.
- My combat brain is a headless epileptic chicken on speed. I was randomly overheating things without any clear strategy, just because I've heard it's the thing to do.
Watching Kirith's FRAPS footage of the combat shows how relaxed and in control he was throughout, even when defeat was a real possibility. His controlled heat and module management seems orderly and focused. All credit to Kirith, I believe his disciplined armour repairer management won the day for him.
In contrast, I wish I could show you the frantic face-chewing and random button-mashing that was occurring at my end. Actually, I don't.
To summarise; in my opinion the right pilot won, but the wrong ship.
SCORELINE: Canada 1-0 England
Next: Part Two - The Destroyer Duel