January 12, 2016

Contract: You May Not Realize It, but It Matters

I want to summarize and quote a post one of our FC's, Athen, made on the Mercenary Coalition forums earlier. It's a great example of how, as a mercenary, sometimes your actions have far reaching consequences that aren't immediately obvious. Sometimes, even if the killboard isn't lit up like a Christmas tree, the employer is still incredibly happy with results. Below I'm going to outline a situation that fits into that category.

During the EU timezone (I was at work, unfortunately), Mercenary Coalition formed up a large Machariel fleet. We formed to support allied forces who were hitting some timers in the likely event that CFC responded. A couple of things here, Athen mentioned it specifically in the summary he posted, and it's worth repeating; I'll quote him: "We really do have one of the best logistic wings out of all eve alliances." I won't spend too much on this, but it's absolutely true. I've mentioned time and again how much moving is involved with being a mercenary, and with an alliance this size Mercenary Coalition would absolutely fall apart if we didn't have our logistics group.

So, after the fleet was formed and bridged into place, Athen held the fleet a few jumps out in lowsec while our Blues began hitting the timers. Ideally, CFC would commit on the fleet that they knew about, hitting the towers, since we were still a secret. Sure enough, CFC bridged in ~200 T3s and came within two jumps of the target system, unfortunately we were scouted at this point and they decided to bail.

And that's pretty much it. That's all that happened if you look at it from the grunt's perspective who doesn't have the full picture. This is the perspective most of us in EVE have. Rarely do we get a peak at "5 skype convos and 4 in game convos + intel channels", as Athen puts it, which gives context. But since Athen has shed light on the rest of the situation, let's dig deeper.

First, it wasn't just us and the Blues hitting the timer that were involved. CFC had another 200 T3s in support ready to come in, but they were caught by NC. and rage camped in a tower in Venal before they could move. And even though CFC still had a total numbers advantage, having their support fleet crippled, coupled with our large fleet in support (our alliance alone comprised 33% of the combined Blue fleet), probably convinced them not to engage with their main fleet.

And that is exactly what we're paid to do right now: make targets not show up, make targets stay docked. Make them want to live somewhere else. Our employer couldn't be happier. He couldn't have imagined a better situation, even. Was it boring from a pilot's perspective? Sure, but to me, the best part about being a mercenary is seeing your contribution effect the overall game. Sometimes, you may not realize it but what you do matters a whole hell of a lot.
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January 10, 2016

Mercenary Coalition: Contract Start

Today officially marks the beginning of Mercenary Coalition's next contract. This is our first one of the new year after a nice holiday. This marks the ninth contract Mercenary Coalition has had since Noir. joined the alliance in August. For those of you counting, that's averages out to almost two contracts a month. In short, that's pretty good.

Of course, I can't talk about the current contract because of security (but I'll do a recap once it's all said and done, obviously!), but I also can't talk about it because I don't know too much! There was an alliance meeting on Teamspeak last week that explained the contract in some detail to attendees, but the meeting was not recorded and I was not able to attend. In addition, while there are usually very motivational contract announcements, there wasn't one this time . Intentionally, apparently.

I have to admit, I'm a little bummed by the lack of contract announcement. Maybe it's silly, and perhaps I'm just being cantankerous but I truly enjoy reading a well-written hype post that lets you know what you're going to be doing. It's also an incredibly useful tool for those of us who, like me, missed the one-time explanation meetnig and provides a great reference tool when you're a couple weeks in.

Nevertheless, I hvae the basic gist of this contract, which is essentially a Harrassment contract. Our employer is paying us to keep the residents constantly on their toes, kill what we can, and deny them any kills if at all possible. What this means in practice is that we'll be doing a lot of skirmishing, rarely - if ever - hard engaging, and spending a lot of time cloaked. Personally, I love this kind of contract.

Yesterday, technically the day before the contract started, I logged in and saw 23 people in Teamspeak and nothing happening, so I started getting a blomber fleet together to either BLOPs or hit some towers. There were a couple of towers that had already been scouted that looked juicy, so we began preparing for hitting a Gallente Small.

As we were getting ready to depart, I realized I had a business call in about 30 minutes, so I handed the fleet to Zeeba, one of our regular FCs. We bridged into the system and began hitting the tower. Zeeba had us align to the sun (remember guys, always align in bombers!). We hit the tower for a while, bringing it to ~75 shield, before a small Circle of Two response fleet began forming. They came to us on the tower and we cloaked and warped off.

Unfortunately, when you ask people to align towards the sun they often warp there, too. To make it worse, some pilots warped before cloaking, letting the Co2 fleet follow. Somehow they apparently managed to decloak a couple of guys and nab four kills and a pod.

Around this time my business call had not shown up, so Zeeba handed the fleet back over to me. We hung around in system cloaked up for a while until the Co2 fleet left system. We began hitting the tower again, this time everyone aligning out to their own celestials.

What followed was a series of dances with one another: MC hitting a tower, Co2 responding with a Crow, Ares, Vengeance, and Confessor, MC cloaking up and warping off, only to repeat.

The Confessor was a surprise, locking and hitting from 100km. With no point, we were able to avoid it easily enough. At one point, we had been warping around a bit and I had just moved the fleet back to a POS to begin the dance. Just a bit after we had landed, a Vengeance came as well. We were all still cloaked about 40km away from him, so he wasn't aware of our presence. Surprisingly, he was about 10km outside of the shields and was at a full stop. So, I ordered the fleet to approach cloaked and get point. I kind of screwed the pooch, decloaking myself before our points were in range, but it ended up not mattering. I ordered the fleet to decloak and light him up, and due to having no tank, the Vengeance went down before he could even align out. We nabbed his pod, too.

It had already become pretty clear that we weren't going to be able to take the tower down, so with that kill I decided to go ahead and get out while we were ahead. Well, at least before we got more behind.

Overall, nothing special. It's always fun to fly, and even more fun to FC - even a small, easy fleet like this. Next time, we'll bring a Rapier and Falcon and I'll be comfortable taking on their response fleet and hopefully finish the tower.


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January 9, 2016

Mercenary Coalition is in the Perfect Place

I have to admit, I've had a little to drink tonight. Nevertheless, something came up in Teamspeak that I thought would be worth talking about a little. As the title says, I truly believe Mercenary Coalition is in the perfect place in EVE right now.

Let me explain. A few years ago, I wrote about the Current State of Mercenaries in EVE. One of my all time most popular posts, I reference it a lot. This is partly because it was a very relevant post, and partly because it speaks to me a lot. Being a mercenary is obviously my favorite part of EVE and one that I associate with greatly. So why is MC so perfectly placed? I'll be happy to explain.

Content

For one, Mercenary Coalition is lacking nothing in content. We're always on deployment, which is good for a mercenary (up to a point - everyone needs a little down time). This means that employers are approaching us with ISK - and lots of it. This tells me that mercenaries are in demand in EVE, and the supply is definitely low. We're well positioned to accept these contacts due to the last year of work in building the alliance in terms of members. Now we have the pilots to take on large contracts that people are paying for.

I haven't done an in-depth dive into the amount of content that's been created due to recent Sovereign changes, but anectodely, there seems to be more activity in nullsec. As I mentioned before, a mercenary's true work is in null sec. If people are envious of owning their neighbors null sec system, there will always be a demand for mercenaries. 

Thus, it can be surmised - although not proven - that there is more content in EVE being generated than, say, in the last year and a half that makes mercenaries desirable.

Timing

Similarly, it's great timing for Mercnary Coalition to be making a comeback. With sovereignty changes and many other improvement in EVE, it's a great time to be a mercenary. Whenever large, major shake ups happen, corporations and alliances will call in backup. As I mentioned before, the last time this happened was when Dominion was released. Unfortunately, that died down drastically as people realized that you basically had to be part of a major nullsec alliance to make a difference. Hopefully that won't happen this time.

New Blood

This is an interesting one. One of the corporations in MC recruits heavily from EVE Uni. I've personally given lectures to EVE Uni, and we've put some focus on EUni in the past, before I was CEO of Noir. Academy. Yet, we've never seen any positive response. Yet, License to Kill [007] has seen great success from recruiting EUni pilots. There are quite a few reasons for this, but the point is that by drawing in new characters to the mercenary career, it actually gains us a net positive.

People often join a mercenary corporation alliance or corporation with idealistic dreams in their head for what being a mercenary is life. Often times, they're disappointed by reality. This isn't anything to be ashamed of and in Noir. we certainly don't hold any grudges against people who realise this lifestyle isn't for them. But, in practice, this isn't uncommon. However, by utilizing deep connections in an established new player organization, MC is adding members to the ranks at a fairly stable rate.

Without all of these things combined, it would be very difficult for MC to excel in EVE. But, luckily, it's actually a pretty good time to be a mercenary. Things have changed since I started, of course, and things will continue to change. But, as the old saying goes, adapt or die.

MC is adapting. MC is thriving.
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December 8, 2015

Contract Recap: Taking The Initiative

Immediately after our last contract, Going East, ended in a bust, we packed up and moved all over again. You may notice, those of you who read Golden Crusade quite a bit, that being a mercenary involves a lot of moving. It's definitely a lot of what we do and certainly one of the benefits to longer contracts - not having to move again so soon after deploying.

Nonetheless, we packed up and moved to from Scalding Pass to Curse even before we had time to settle in. It wasn't a bad move for me since our logistics team handled the bulk of the ships and I just moved a few quick jumps in my Redeemer.

Once in place, we began working on the objective: remove The Initiative and Initiative Mercenaries Towers in Curse. We didn't expect a huge resistance since The Initiative live in Tenal and were currently involved in the police action in Cloud Ring. We began the contract officially on November 30. Just six days later we had completed the contract.

The contract result was more strategic in nature than anything. Our employer was apparently very pleased with the results that our actions precipitated. There's nothing better than making the guy with the money happy.

I was only involved in one really fun fight. We were in a fleet of HAM Cerberus and RLML Caracals - not ideal together, actually. The engagement ranges are not super conducive. We were attacking one of The Initiative's towers in stealth bombers when a member came in to restront it. Assuming he wanted the timer to come out in the ideal time for The Initiative, we calculated that if we reinforced now, it wouldn't put us in the best position to finish it off. So we decided to kite the shield, leaving it at 30%. We planned to come back every so often and hit it again and make sure it stayed low without reinforcing it, causing the timer to come out at a more favorable time for us.

The Initiative responded by bringing out a Naga fleet with Basilisks to repair the tower.  As I mentioned, we shipped into Cerberus and Caracals. The plan was to get right on top of them and brawl since we knew they had 425mm Railguns on their Nagas. There turned out to be an issue with that plan; there was a Gorgon Tempest fleet roaming around that was causing a lot of issues for us, as we could have potentially been sandwiched between the two fleets, likely dying a horrible death.

Eventually we were able to move quickly enough to avoid worrying about Gorgon and get a warp in on the Nagas right on their tower, landing inside their fleet with every ship about 15km from us. We bubbled them up quickly, before they could warp - even though they were aligned - and chewed through them.

The rest of my time was spent on towers which isn't typically the stuff dreams are made of. But hey, getting to sit on comms and hang out with some really cool people is a special type of fun that only we EVE players probably appreciate.

Now we're spending a few weeks on R&R, earning some ISK and spending a lot of time away from the computer, I'm sure. After the holidays are over, we'll immediately set off on our next contract which is already bought and paid for.

I'm preparing an update to The Current State of Mercenaries in EVE, and while it may not be all sunshine and roses across the board, I have to say that the grass is pretty damn green from this side.
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December 5, 2015

Contract Recap: Going East Turned Into Going Bust



I wasn't sure if I wanted to do a contract recap for this one, because it's pretty short and not super interesting, in an explody kind of way. But, I think it's still a fairly interesting peek behind the curtain of being a mercenary, so perhaps a few of you may enjoy!

MC was contracted by Russians to defend Immensea from Drone Regions Federation. MC had contracted to this region once before in the past, before my time, and it turned into MC fighting TRI and SOLAR. Not an ideal place to be in! To avoid that situation, leadership spent some time making sure we were actually going to have allies in the area.

From a high level, our job was very simple:

  • Inflict maximum damage on DRF
  • Help retake lost systems
In practice, this means lots of roams, gate camps, and creating timers to keep DRF busy. It also meant augmenting allied fleets and taking the lead against strategic objectives. 

Unfortunately, it didn't pan out this way. Our logistics team pulled off a Herculean effort to move a staggering amount of supplies in record time - starting the day after our last contract ended. This was in preperation for the opening day of the contract on Sunday. As fate would have it, CCP and the internet had their own issues that day and laid waste to our plans. So, without a shotgun start, and because of poor timezone availability the next day (a work day, of course), a few things happened. I'll quote Seleene:

  • Red Alliance lost and did not recapture C-J6MT, their traditional ‘capitol’.
  • Since MC was contracted and began moving into position, RA lost another 16 systems.
  • RA lost a titan.
  • RA began throwing shade on their allies, tossing blame every which way.
A big chunk of that shade was cast at an alliance we had planned to co-ordinate closely with and, as a result, they decided they didn’t need the drama and are checking out.

Yet in all of this we had specifically negotiated a clause that stated our participation hinged on local support so we did not end up in an MC vs TRI, SOLAR and XIX situation similar to what happened the last time we came up here. With RA’s allies folding up their tents, that clause kicks in and, right at this moment, our current contract is null and void.

The silver lining is that the employer has asked us to remain in the area and explore other strategic options - some of which we've implemented as of a week ago. The entire premise of the larger contract was actually part of a much bigger vision and a long partnership, so while it was unfortunate things turned out this way, it was never intended to be a one off. We simply began on Step #2, as it were.

So there you have it. Going East didn't turn out quite like we expected - no one fired a single shot, technically. I suppose that makes this contract rare and unique in its own right, but between you and me, I hope we don't have many more of these!
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November 19, 2015

Mercenary Coalition Contract Recap: Ring of Fire

I blogged about this contract differently than I had any others. I didn't plan it, but what ended up happening was that I wrote more often about this contract than I usually would. Typically, I'd save everything for the contract recap, but that has its downsides. For starters, the information wouldn't be fresh on my mind any more. I would, however, have more of the overall story in mind when I was writing. Instead, I just wrote about what happened on a particular day, which ended up helping craft the story all by itself. I think I like this style.

Regardless, an official contract recap is in order.

After my last post, there really wasn't anything exciting that happened. Suddenly had all but given up. We took a few more towers and The Culture took the 1-3 station as intended. It was all very uneventful from our end, but that just means we did a hell of a job.

Needless to say our employer was very, very pleased.

And, well, that's it! That's the whole contract recap. Luckily, I do have a bit more information to share, although I can't go into too much detail at this point. One of the things you hope for as a mercenary is minimal downtime. Ideally, you'd go straight from one contract to the next without delay. This keeps the game exciting for us and gives us new challenges. Now, you do need some down time after a few back-to-back contracts, or you get burnt out. However, in reality it's quite that you'd have one contract directly after another. In practice, due to the way mercenaries work in EVE, it's more common to have to find your own content for a week or two between every contract.

Well not this time! Mercenary Coalition has already begun moving a very long way for a very big contract. This actually built off the success of our Ring of Fire contract. Had we done poorly there, we probably wouldn't have been offered this contract. That's the way it is, too: when you're doing well, you get more contracts. When you're doing poorly, you're offered less.

I haven't done one of these contracts in a long, long time (I'll link to the last contract recap I wrote where we performed this service in my next contract recap so as not to spoil anything), but it's going to be a blast. Well, it'll be a blast after the pain of moving is over. That's never fun thanks to Phoebe (but I promise I'm not complaining).

I'll also be dusting off some ships I haven't truly flown in over a year! That's always a special treat :)
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November 17, 2015

Ring of Fire Simmers Down

Yesterday was a big milestone for the Ring of Fire contract. Unfortunately it was also a very uneventful day. One of the hallmarks of a successful regional assault contract is when the target just gives up and stops trying. Like I say, it's uneventful - downright boring, in fact - but it gives me a certain measure of satisfaction to know that we've taken things to the extreme, that we never left the result of the contract a question. That's what people pay big money for.

I was happy that the "big day" happened on the weekend at least. No more watching from the sidelines while the alliance rakes in all the klls and has all the fun! And despite the fact that there weren't any kills, I did have fun.

The objective of the day was the station in 1-3HWZ. This station was called "No Not Believing in Station", a not-so-subtle reference to the alliance Noir. founded after leaving Suddenly Spaceships. Perhaps they did so as a Bat Signal of sorts to call us back home, the desparate attempt of a pre-teen to flirt by teasing. Whatever the reason, they apparently didn't want us to dock in that station, renaming it to Onae'Takku'Tree (a racist pronunciation of the system - real mature, these guys) when they realized they had no hope of defending it.

We had seen Suddenly lighting a lot of cynos in 1-3, but we were hoping they were bringing stuff *in*, not moving it out. Alas.

Speaking of no hope, I mentioned that no one from Suddenly Spaceships, The OSS, or Pyschotic Tendencies were to be found outside of *any* station. They clearly had the raw assets, they spent two days trying to move it all. But they weren't interested in losing any more of it, I guess.

In the hope that we *would* see some action, we formed in our Ishtars that proved to be quite effective before. We spent a while warping around, trying to locate any potential fleets and to keep any scouts on their toes with our true destination. Eventually we just sat in a POS while our entosis ships finished off the system and the station. There were a few times when we scrambled to support an entosis ship from a solo aggressor, but they didn't stick around.

And just like that, with nary a whimper, the station was taken. 

The rest of the night was spent shooting at towers. We, again, had no resistence. We'll continue shooting at towers until the contract is completed, but I have a feeling there is going to be far less resistence.

No one said being a mercenary was all adrenaline pumping action. Sorry to burst that bubble.
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