So, I have fresh corp members who are new to the game and/or have never traveled (properly) through low-sec. I thought I’d write up a basic primer for how to move through low-sec. This is purely from a travel/hauling perspective. This isn’t a guide to operating in low-sec (i.e. missioning, mining, exploration, pvp, etc.). But it covers the basics of traveling in low-sec with an expectation of survival.
Lesson #1: Do Your Research
The star map is your friend. If you don’t know how to use the in-game map to find statistics, consult this EVElopedia page.
Your star map can display a wealth of statistics. Whenever you’re planning to move through low, you should set your course, but study your route before you ever undock. There are five things you want to check. First off, check the “Ships Destroyed in the Last Hour” statistic. Take a look at your route.
If one of the systems along your route has a lot of recent kills, the next statistic you should check is “Escape Pods Destroyed in the Last Hour”. If you see a corresponding spike in escape pod kills to go along with a spike in destroyed ships, it is very likely that there are active gate camps in that system. Especially if you’re traveling through a choke point system.
These are systems where ship traffic bottlenecks due to available routes. You’ll find some of the more dangerous choke points along routes to hubs. But other dangerous places for gatecamps are low-sec systems which connect to high-sec systems. Especially low-sec pipes between two high-sec points. Pirates will often camp these short routes looking to catch unwary travelers.
So, what to do if a system along your route has recent ship kills and recent pod kills? The short answer is don’t go through that system. Whether you need to route around (you can set your navigation settings with a system it should avoid—though I prefer using dotlan to plan my route), or if you can’t conveniently re-route, then just wait it out until the activity dies down.
So, what if systems on your planned route don’t show anything particularly significant as far as recent kills? Then it’s time to move on to the other stats you should check. “Jumps in the Last Hour” will give you intel on just how much traffic is moving through systems on your route. “Number of Pilots Currently Docked and Active” will give you an idea of just how many people are currently in those systems. And “Average Pilots in Space in the Last 30 Minutes” will give you feedback on how many ships have been buzzing around in those systems lately.
You should be able to use the combination of these statistics to identify potential trouble spots. Researching is a critical first step on your journey.
Ideally, you want to have an alt in an appropriate scout (here’s an Atron fit that will work) flying ahead of you. Especially if your research identified any spots that could be iffy.
Your scout can jump ahead of you and get eyes on the gates you’ll have to pass. Note: don’t lurk on an empty gate uncloaked in your scout. You may draw the very trouble you were looking to avoid down onto your main ship coming behind.
What if I don’t have access to a scout? If you can’t get scouting work with an alt or from a corp mate, then you’ll have to be diligent in your research and fit your ship properly in case trouble develops on a gate before you make it through.
Lesson #2: Fitting Your Ship
So there’s a few things you have to think about when you’re fitting for low-sec travel. First off, you have to fit differently than you would for high-sec. That’s super basic, and it almost goes without saying. But if you’re not familiar with low-sec, it’s not always entirely clear why your high-sec fit isn’t a good idea.
When you’re fitting for low-sec travel, the very first step is Warp Core Stabilizers (WCS). Now, again, this is purely for travel fits. Rule of thumb is two warp core stabilizers for +2 warp strength. Tech 1 versions are fine. Meta and T2 versions don’t give you better warp strength bonuses, they just have less of a targeting range penalty.
What you’re trying to beat with WCS are Warp Disruptors (-1 warp strength, 20,000km range; known as “points”) or Warp Scramblers (-2 warp strength, 10,000km range; known as “scrams”; fun fact: scrams will also shut down MWDs). A single -1 warp core strength effect from a point will prevent most ships from jumping.
What you’re trying to do with a travel fit is minimize your time on grid at the gate you just jumped through while maximizing your defense against being tackled. There are a few ways of going about this. If you do the first part properly, then two Warp Core Stabilizers for +2 warp strength is a good baseline defense against a couple of fast-locking tacklers with points.
The first part of this fitting equation, however, is keeping your time on grid (visible on hostile ships’ overviews) to an absolute minimum. There are basically two ways to do this: making your ship more agile or making it cloaky. The greater the agility of your ship, the faster it will align to your destination and warp off (bear in mind, due to the server tick, your warp out time is your align time rounded up to the next whole second—i.e. a 3.1 second align time ship and a 3.9 second align time ship will both warp out in 4 seconds).
Depending on the exact ship, fit, and pilot’s skills, a basic frigate is likely to have a warp out time of about 3-6 seconds. Anything over four is most likely going to be caught by a camp. Four second warp out is iffy, just depends on how on the ball the camp is and what they’re flying. Three seconds to warp is pretty decent (as long as you have WCS to fend off a fast point or two). For comparison, if I recall correctly, a shuttle has a 2-second warp out (but no defense against tackle).
However, for larger ships (e.g. industrials), you’re never going to make it agile enough to avoid a camp hitting you with enough points to overpower however many WCS you have on (only possible exception is a ship with a lot of of low-slots and a complete rack of WCS against a very small group with limited tackle—though doing that is rarely the best fitting strategy).
Enter the infamous MWD/Cloak trick. In my opinion, if you can fit a ship for the MWD/Cloak trick, then you should. It requires you to have Cloaking III and CPU Management IV so that you can use the Tech 2 cloak. Note: the MWD/Cloak trick will NOT work with the Tech 1 cloak.
The reason for that is that the Tech 1 cloak has a -90% velocity malus. The Tech 2 cloak only has a -75% velocity malus, which is essential for the “trick” part of the MWD/Cloak trick. When you are spooling up to warp, you have to get to 75% of your max velocity before you’ll warp. See the next section for how to perform the MWD/Cloak trick.
One last note on fitting for low. Your priority is getting off grid fast and defending against tackle attempts. But you also should equip as much of a tank as you can fit without negatively impacting the first two to any significant degree. This is to give you as much a buffer as possible if you need to crash the gate, but is also your only real defense against a smartbomb camp.
Lesson #3: MWD/Cloak Trick and Other Procedures for Getting off the Gate
When you are under gate cloak, choose a destination and “Align to” (NOT “Warp to”). Immediately activate your cloak and then immediately activate your MWD (you can activate modules after cloaking for a brief period, 1-2 sec). Right after, hit your MWD cloak again to make it pulse for only a single cycle before shutting off. As the MWD’s 10-second cycle is nearing its end, hit your cloak again to drop it and immediately “Warp to 0” your destination and you’ll warp off.
The reason this works is that with your MWD running for a single cycle, it boosts your speed high enough so that the -75% max velocity from the T2 cloak takes you down to a speed that’s over the 75% velocity threshold of your base speed. As the MWD cycle ends and the cloak drops, before your ship decelerates, for a moment you are traveling at a speed that is past that threshold and you warp off.
Note: the MWD side of the MWD/Cloak trick can be used on its own (cycling the MWD once and warping as it shuts off) to get nearly any ship into warp in 10 seconds. Though if your normal align and warp out speed is already less than 10 seconds, there’s no point.
The MWD/Cloak trick takes a bit of practice to get the timing down. One thing that’s easy to trip up is to be too quick on hitting cloak and mwd after aligning. Sometimes, the server tick hasn’t registered that you’ve broken gate cloak and it will prevent activation, which can mess up your timing. Practice a MWD/Cloak fit ship on (quiet) high-sec gates a few times until you feel you have it down.
The practical effect of the MWD/Cloak trick is that you come out of gate cloak and into your ship’s cloak, appearing on grid for maybe a second if it’s done right. Note: if they have instant-locking setups and get a lock on your ship before you get into cloak, you won’t be able to cloak and will be open to more tackle for at least 10 seconds, no doubt overpowering your fitted WCS. But if your timing is good, it shouldn’t be an issue. After your MWD has cycled and you drop cloak and warp out, you’ll be on grid for maybe another second before you’re off.
It’s easier for them to time locking you up on the second go around, and you’re more likely to catch a lock and a point. But 95% of the time, when done right, you’re not going to be on grid long enough for them to get the tackle.
They caught me! Now what? Oh, shit! No, just kidding. Though, at this point you’re most likely going to lose your ship. That sucks. Pretty much your only option now is to crash the gate. This means burning back to the gate you just came through as fast as possible (you’re going to have to cover at least 10km) You’ve got your MWD, but if they’ve got tackle on you, most likely you’ll have scrams on you which disable MWDs. Afterburners still work, but if you’re in an industrial, you’re likely not gonna go fast enough (even without the webs they’re going to have on you) to get back to the gate in time before they blow you up. Crashing the gate can save you if they don’t have a ton of dps on you or if someone messes up, so by all means do your best to escape.
If they’ve got you tackled and you’re going down fast, forget about your ship. It’s lost. Now you need to save your pod. Ideally, you should have an entire overview tab set up as warp out destinations: planets, moons, customs offices can all be options. Whichever you choose, choose it fast and spam-click “Warp to”. As your ship blows up and you end up in your pod, if you’re spam-clicking warp, you should escape. If you dither even a little bit though, your pod will be tackled and you’ll get podded.
Lesson #4: Eventually, You Will Lose Your Ship
So, you’ve lost your ship, maybe even your pod. Take a deep breath. It’s not the end of the world. One reason it’s not is because you’ve followed the Golden Rule of EVE: Don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose. (You did follow the Golden Rule, right?) A corollary of that rule is this: Don’t fly more ship than you need.
There are a few select instances when you should have modules that expensive on your ship. And making a low-sec travel fit is most definitely not one of them. You can assemble an effective fit for traveling in low-sec without going past, at most, Tech II items. Even then, you don’t necessarily always need to use Tech II mods in every slot. Fit responsibly.
Don’t haul hugely valuable amounts of cargo either. Don’t be that guy with 16 PLEX in his hold (don’t even do that in high-sec). If you fly with the expectation that your ship will get blown up, even to having a replacement ready to go, and you fit it responsibly and don’t get crazy with your cargo, no ship loss will break you.
These are just the basics. There are a variety of considerations and qualifications that this guide doesn’t get into. But, these are the fundamentals of traveling through low-sec. Research your route and scout, if possible. Fit properly. Practice the MWD/Cloak trick. Have a plan for when things go wrong. Follow the Golden Rule. Fly safe and happy hauling.