Incursions throw some difficult challenges at players, with focus fire melting vulnerable targets, energy neutralisers and ECM disabling your support ships, and bomber frigates wreaking havoc on large hulls. In some encounters, Sansha's Nation will even use deployable remote repair platforms and other structures to its advantage and will call in random reinforcement waves if your group is too slow. With the right fleet composition and strategy, however, all of those challenges can be overcome with ease. It seems that what players need most right now is a solid guide to tackling incursions.
Over the next few editions of the EVE Evolved column, I'll be smashing my way through EVE's incursions to compile a comprehensive guide from the ground up. In this week's first part of the guide, we get the ball rolling with vital information on incursion fleet composition and tanking strategies. This part of the guide is aimed mainly at those interested in Vanguard-level sites, but the fleet setup and tanking strategies described are fundamental to all encounter sizes.
In this week's EVE Evolved, I tackle the fundamentals of incursion fleet design and tanking, which should be enough to help your group jump right into 10-man Vanguard encounters.
In the first few days following the Incursion expansion's final release, players experimented with a wide variety of tanking strategies in Sansha encounters. Homogenised fleets of damage-dealing ships, each with a single remote armour repairer or shield transfer, were an initially popular choice. This proved to be unreliable in pick-up groups, and the strategy was quickly superseded by the use of logistics ships.
When forming your fleet, you must decide whether it's going to be an armour-tanking or shield-tanking fleet. In the same way that it's a bad idea to fit both an armour and shield tank on one ship, it's generally unwise to both armour-tank and shield-tank in the same fleet. Splitting your logistics ships between shield and armour cuts down the maximum repair capability of the group when focused on any one player, which could prove to be a dangerous mistake if the Sansha bomber frigates decide to gang up on a single battleship.
Every ship in your gang should have at least 50,000 effective hitpoints, and battleships should aim to have significantly more as they'll be taking more damage from Sansha torpedoes. The EVE fitting window calculates effective hitpoints incorrectly, so the most accurate way to check your effective hitpoints is to enter your setup into EVE Fitting Tool. For every five pilots in your gang, one of them will need to be flying a specialised tech 2 logistics ship. The optimum group for 10-man Vanguard sites, for example, is two logistics ships and up to eight damage-dealers.
Setting up a logistics chain
Although the Scimitar and Oneiros are valuable logistics ships, their values to incursion fleets are greatly dwarfed by the Basilisk and Guardian. In addition to their huge bonuses to shield transporter or remote armour repair modules, both the Basilisk and Guardian have bonuses to energy transfer arrays. When fitted to either ship, a Large Energy Transfer Array II can output over five times the amount of capacitor it uses up.
With two or more Basilisks or Guardians in a fleet, they can target each other and constantly transfer capacitor back and forth to generate obscene amounts of energy. This frees up low, mid and rig slots normally used for generating capacitor, which can then be devoted to adding vital resistance and ECCM modules. This lets logistics pilots push over that comfortable 50,000 effective hitpoint mark and minimises disruptions to the logistics chain. Logistics pilots with perfect skills can use the energy received from one capacitor transfer array to power an entire setup of four or five shield transporters or remote armour repairers.
As not everyone has the Energy Emission Systems skill at level 5 and Sansha's minions love to throw a spanner in the works with some well-placed energy neutralising, all logistics ships should fit two Large Energy Transfer Array IIs and four large shield transporters or large remote armor repairers. If your fleet has only two logistics ships, they should pair up and activate both capacitor transfers on each other. In larger fleets, each pilot should pick two other logistics ships and activate one transfer array on each of them. This lessens the problems created when any one pilot is target-jammed, as each of the recipients of his capacitor should still be receiving one full transfer from another pilot.
While it's vital that your group has the right setup before heading into an incursion site, poor strategic execution or logistics can always make an encounter end in disaster. Organise the logistics ships' capacitor chain ahead of time to ensure that every logistics ship is being transferred capacitor by two others. If anyone in the logistics group gets target-jammed during the encounter, he should call out his name on voice chat and notify those he's sending capacitor to of the interruption in service. Those pilots may have no choice but to temporarily hold back on repairing until their capacitor supply has been re-established.
To avoid massive direct-hits from Sansha beams, all ships should be moving at all times. This is normally accomplished by designating one ship to be the fleet anchor -- a target around which all other fleet members will orbit. Pilots should set their orbit distances from the anchor pilot at between 5km and 15km. The direction of movement is largely inconsequential, but always moving at full speed will reduce incoming damage from Sansha torpedoes and make smaller targets like logistics ships much harder for Sansha beam weapons to hit.
Turret-based ships may want to forego orbiting and instead attempt to manually match the course of their target Sansha ship. This will reduce the enemy's relative angular velocity and so make it easier to hit. Turret-based battleships like the Rohk and Apocalypse may also need to remain completely stationary in order to successfully hit enemy ships. As battleships are slow and have a large signature radius, orbiting with them doesn't convey much of a defensive advantage anyway.
In this first part of the EVE Evolved guide to tackling Sansha incursions, I explained the basics of fleet composition and execution using the prevailing logistics ship strategy. This strategy has been proven to work extremely well in Scout, Vanguard and even Assault encounters without much modification. Stay tuned to the weekly EVE Evolved column for future incursion guides. Topics I have yet to cover include fleet commanding strategies, execution tips for logistics pilots, help with integrating snipers and ECM into your fleet, advice on merging fleets to tackle higher-level encounters, profiles on all the Sansha ships, and strategies for the final Sansha mothership battle. I'll also be writing a step-by-step guide to each and every incursion encounter, describing its completion conditions, any special tactics involved, additional ships required or recommended, and any relevant personal observations.
Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to email@example.com.