Fleet Interceptor Tactics
What is a fleet interceptor?
There are two types of interceptors, fleet and combat, and each race has one of each. A fleet interceptor, as opposed to a combat interceptor, is the one that gets its bonuses to point range instead of firepower. Common for all interceptors, both combat and fleet, is that they get an 80% reduction in cap activation cost of points and scrams. They both warp fast, but fleet interceptors warp faster (13.5AU/s as opposed to 9AU/s). Both get a reduced MWD sig radius bloom and both are fast and agile, fleet interceptors in general a little faster, and the same goes for scan resolution.
The fleet interceptors are the Ares, Stiletto, Malediction and Raptor.
So, why should you fly an interceptor?
Well, first of all because they are fun fun fun. Fleet interceptors are also capable of filling a vital fleet role as a skirmisher and scout, while at the same time providing fast maneuverable tackle and on grid TAM anchors. FCs love good interceptor pilots, and finding and holding a target while the fleet takes 5 minutes to get there is a great feeling.
Interceptors are, compared to a lot of other ships, relatively newbie-friendly. Training enough skills to hop into one only takes a few weeks. However, as with all other things in eve, getting great skills takes a long time. Some skills are more important than others, and we will cover which here. Bear in mind that some skill requirements are slightly subjective, and lack of skill points can often be covered up by changing the fitting.
These skills are required to be able to fly and fit the interceptor, and can not be skipped.
- Interceptor IV (I recommend training to level IV right off the bat, as the bonus to point range is VERY important. In fact, I would probably not fly it until I had level IV)
- Racial frigate V
- Evasive maneuvering V
- Propulsion Jamming II (T2 point)
- High speed maneuvering III (Catalyzed Cold-Gas is better than T2 and cheap too)
These skills are recommended to be able to fit your interceptor properly and to be able to survive some incoming damage. Note, you don’t need level V to start flying one, but it will help you fly them better.
- Basic fitting/support skills V
- These skills provide enough powergrid and CPU to fit properly, and also allow important mods such as the Damage Control II. Don’t leave home without them.
- Hull upgrades, engineering, Electronics etc
- Navigation skills IV-V
- Speed is life, especially in a flimsy frigate with very little tank.
- Acceleration control
- Spaceship command
- High speed maneuvering IV
- Targeting and cap
- To point a target, you need to be able to lock them fast and at range, and to hold them, you must be cap stable. Cap skills are extremely important, but can be compensated by fitting a cap mod in the lows or mids.
- Signature analysis V
- Long range targeting V
- Energy management V
- Energy systems operation V
- I recommend fitting a medium shield extender on all fleet interceptors, to give you the increased survivability that your performance relies on. To be able to fit it, shield upgrades IV is important for most fleet inties.
- Shield Upgrades IV-V
- Having these two skills is a must for the all-important speed and targeting range rigs.
- Astronautics rigging III-IV
- Electronic superiority rigging I
- Thermodynamics IV-V
- Being able to overheat your point gives you 5-6 km extra point range. Need i say more? OK, overheating your MWD makes your Ares go 6.5km/s.
Flying your interceptor in a fleet
Flying a fleet interceptor is an independent role. It’s not for the timid, quiet or slow-witted. You need to think at least one step ahead of the fleet, and the best interceptor pilots anticipate the FCs moves before being told what to do. Caldak, one of our more experienced FCs considers CovOps his eyes and skirmishers his fingers, reaching out ahead of the fleet to grab and hold stuff for him. Be that finger!
To excel as a skirmisher, you must have a broad knowledge of fleet maneuvers and tactics. You must know when the fleet will need a TAM anchor, you must know when to go back through that gate and catch targets that will run, and you must know when to have a deep safe ready for the fleet. You must be able to go through a gate into an enemy camp, give a recon report and then get safe, either back through the gate, or by burning off, and you must know when to use either method.
As a skirmisher, you must feel at home in nullsec, and gate camps must not bother you. You need tactical bookmarks for all the gates, and you need to know when to warp to them and when you can go gate to gate. You must be able to find and assess targets for the fleet, and then hold them until help gets there. Often you will go into large fleets, singling out one target and holding it while under fire and then escaping to safety before they can kill you.
To be a good skirmisher, you must be able to relay information quickly and efficiently over voice comms, and you must not be afraid of speaking up. You must also know when not to speak and what information not to pass on to the FC in order reduce the information overload that faces all FCs.
To be truly great as a skirmisher, you must master both solo PvP and have experience as a fleet commander. Solo PvP teaches you how to move and find targets, while FC’ing teaches you what other FCs want from you and helps you anticipate the fleets movements.
On a channeled comms system like Teamspeak, the skirmishers need to be in command channel to be able to do their jobs properly.
There are two main roles for a fleet interceptor; Skirmish and fleet tackle.
- The skirmisher
- The interceptor in a skirmish role usually operates as +1, +2 or -1. This means you are either one or two systems ahead of or behind the fleet. If there are enough skirmishers, it’s often a good idea to have one or two in a free roaming role, tracking down side systems to look for targets and threats.
- As a skirmisher, you’ll be giving recon from the immediate systems surrounding the fleet, often searching through the systems to get an idea of location and composition of the targets.
- You will tackle targets of opportunity on the FCs order and sometimes on your own initiative. The best skirmishers know when to do which naturally. This is something that comes with experience.
- Skirmishers will be actively using the directional scanner and onboard scanner to look for ratters and getting the tackle on them.
- Skirmishers will often cooperate with covops to get gang-warped onto probed-down targets, referred to in Agony as “punting”.
- The Fleet tackler
- Most fleets will benefit from having one or two fleet interceptors staying with it to provide support. As a fleet tackler, you’ll usually provide the initial tackle / point in fleet fights, and when backup tackle has been called (good comms are vital), you move your point to a secondary or tertiary target. Sometimes it can be prudent to ignore the FCs calls of primary and secondary and move your point to that low-priority but expensive target like for instance a Command ship to ensure it won’t escape while the FC dismantles the rest of the fleet.
- A fleet tackler will often be called on to provide a TAM anchor for the fleet while it repositions, and skilled fleet commanders will often use multiple interceptors to bounce the fleet around the battlefield.
- A fleet tackler should be prepared to provide a rolling TAM when the fleet is in a safespot.
- When secondary tackle has been called on a sole target, the fleet tackler should be fast to disengage and reapproach, in case the target does the same to escape the fleet.
- When a tackle fails and the target warps off, fleet tacklers should be quick to pursue to get tackle at a celestial. This must be done with discretion, however, as it can sometimes be a trap and it’s the FCs call what the tackler should do.
- When a fleet goes through a gate and expects targets to follow and/or land, the fleet interceptor should get on the gate, ready to go through and follow escaping targets and also to land initial point on a target coming into the fleet.
Vital Game Mechanics
When you go through a gate, you end up 12-14km from the edge of the gate. This is not the same as the center of the gate or the gate icon. A gate is, regardless of its graphic, a sphere, and you will spawn 12-14km from the edge of that sphere.
There are gates of various sizes, depending on whether they are between two systems, constellations or regions, respectively increasing in size. A regional gate can have a diameter of about 30km while a system gate as little as 5. This is important to remember when attempting to tackle a target that comes through the gate. It’s impossible for an interceptor to be in point range of the entirety of spawn points of a regional or constellation gate, while a system gate can be covered quite easily.
Whenever you go through a gate you are, unless you move your ship, invulnerable for thirty seconds. You will also be cloaked for 60 seconds, but after the first thirty are up, you can get decloaked if something gets too close. This goes for targets too.
Please note that when approaching a gate at high speed, you can bounce off the gate and actually get outside jumprange again. This has killed many an unfortunate interceptor, and is increasingly common with increasing speed and lag. To combat this, spam the jump button when approaching, and I mean SPAM!
Session change timer
The session change timer is a 20 second delay to any new action that will trigger a session change. Typical such actions are:
- going through a gate
- joining/leaving fleet, changing position in fleet
- Clone jumping
This means you can not do more than one such action per twenty seconds, and after coming through a gate, you have to wait out your session change before reapproaching and going back through.
Fortunately, the game has a graphical representation of the session change timer in the top right corner, but this has to be enabled in general options.
This timer lasts 10 seconds and is a good indication of how much time you have to give recon when going through a gate into a hostile camp. In 10 seconds, the adept skirmisher should be able to assess the targets, formulate in his head what to say, and report it clearly over voice comms. You then have another 50 seconds of cloak in which to figure out how to gtfo.
Weapons timer (also known as Aggression timer)
Any aggressive act you perform will trigger a 60 second weapons timer (still commonly referred to as an aggression timer.) An aggressive act is defined as any action that has the potential of inflicting a negative effect on another entity in space. Any damage, ewar, weapon activation, cap warfare, drone aggression, AOE effect (ECM burst for instance) or similar will give you an aggression timer. Targeting, repairing and ship scanning does not cause weapons timers.
A target that aggresses you will go from having yellow brackets to having red brackets around it. If the target has launched drones and they “red-box” you, they are aggressed, and thus the owner as well.
Targeting, repairing or ship scanning only gives a yellow box.
When you get an weapons timer, you can not go through a stargate or dock in a station for 60 seconds. This is very important to understand, as it also applies to your target if it aggresses you. As a tackler holding a target on a gate, with the main fleet on the other side, it is vital to inform the fleet when the target aggresses, as that means the fleet has 60 seconds to come through and kill it before it can get back through.
A target that realizes it is in a bad spot, will often attempt to “de-aggress”. This means it will stop shooting and recall drones. You will see that previously red brackets change to yellow, and this is vital information to relay. It’s also the interceptors cue to do the same and re-approach the gate to be ready to follow through the gate, should the target survive long enough.
General tips on piloting your Interceptor
Oops I’m in a bad spot:
Very often when skirmishing, you will end up in a gatecamp after coming through a gate. You now have two choices: Burn off or reapproach. We’ll look both how to do it and when to choose what strategy.
- Reapproaching gate
- Quite often, especially when jumping into a large gatecamp with lots of ships, the safest bet is to reapproach the gate and go back out.
- The first thing you must do is wait out your session change timer while reporting intel. When your session change timer is done, select the gate and click approach. Immediately activate your MWD and damage control and start spamming your jump button. Do not agress or do anything else stupid, just spam jump.
- An often used trick is also to set destination to the gate you are reapproaching and then activating your autopilot after hitting approach+MWD. This will ensure you jump as soon as you get in range regardless of lag.
- Burning off:
- Identifying when it is safe to burn away from a gatecamp and when to reapproach can be tricky. Things to look for are:
- Lokis, Rapiers and Huginns - they web you down at 50km+
- Dramiels - They’re faster than you and will kill you
- Lots of other interceptors - can prevent you from warping
- If you deem it safe to burn off, first of all, you need to call in a recon report in case you go down. Second, identify where you are in relation to the gatecamps tacklers, and align your screen so you’ll be burning away from the tacklers.
- As soon as you’re ready, you need to do the following:
- Double click in the direction you want to go
- Overheat your MWD (should be hothey-linked)
- Activate your MWD
- Activate your DCII
- When you’ve started burning off and have gotten some range on them, you want to change your trajectory by 45 degrees, so you spiral away. If they have any snipers, this will prevent them from hitting you for max damage. If you’re being chased by a lot of tacklers, you might consider not to.
- Identifying when it is safe to burn away from a gatecamp and when to reapproach can be tricky. Things to look for are:
Positioning of interceptor on gate
Using an interceptor in a gatecamp to catch targets coming through is often done incorrectly. When roaming around solo in my frigates, i repeatedly see inty pilots making basic mistakes that let me get away when i shouldn’t.
First of all, interceptors should not be orbiting the gate, they should be sitting still at 0. This is because when orbiting, you will increase your align time when you need to decloak. A lot of inty pilots think it’s a good idea to orbit at 20km with their MWD on. This is wrong. An interceptor doing this at a gate will never be able to catch a frigate pilot that knows to hold cloak until the interceptor is at the opposite side of the gate, 40km away.
When sitting still, you should be ready to start cycling your MWD as soon as there is a gate fire, or as soon as a target appears on grid. If a sniping ship, say a Muninn, warps in at 100km or so, start moving at an angle to it immediately to not get oneshotted.
When there’s a gatefire and you’re expecting a target to come through, start cycling your MWD and pre-overheat your point.
Then hold down ctrl to lock your overview, and start spam-clicking below the lowest entry. This will ensure that as soon as the target decloaks, you start locking it, and once you start locking, release ctrl. If you now keep clicking, you’ll also power straight for it. When you start locking, activate your point, and unless it’s a cloaky, immediately hit orbit.
For those that were unaware, holding ctrl locks your overview and forces all new entries to appear at the bottom.
Decloaking CovOps in bubbles:
When a CovOps or recon comes through a gate, your only chance to decloak them is by working with a bubbler. Most of them align fast enough to get away unless they have to power out of a bubble. If the bubbler holds the bubble until they decloak, it will often stop them dead in their tracks as a lot of covops and recons will simply select “warp to” instead of aligning. When the bubble comes up, that will stop their ship, making the decloak a lot easier. Good covops pilots will never “warp to” like that when not alone in system, and will be much harder to catch.
- First of all, you need to be as close to the gate as you can get. And by that, i mean physically close to the gate, not just “at zero”.
- Second, activate your MWD as soon as the gate flashes. Then use the “ctrl+spam-click” technique, and you should start off in the direction of the cloaky as soon as it appears. However, as soon as it cloaks, your ship will stop. Therefore, you need to turn your screen and double click in space right next to the target before it vanishes to start your ship moving again. Oftentimes, you will see what direction it is powering, allowing you to move towards an intercept point, but this takes practice. Bad covops pilots will head directly away from the gate, making it easy for you.
- As soon as you get within 2km of the target, it will uncloak, letting you lock and point it.
- If other ships assign drones to you, it makes your job easier.
Approaching a target
Whenever you find a target and need to get closer to tackle it, be wary.
- If it’s a turret ship, NEVER EVER approach dead on (unless you’re really close and in point range in a few seconds). If it’s a missile ship, approach angle doesn’t matter. Speed does, however, so don’t slow down.
- When approaching a turret ship, especially snipers and evil stuff like Machariels, you have to use the spiral approach. This is covered in pvp basic, but very important nonetheless. I suggest you practice it before class, because we will have live-fire exercises.
- Just as important as spiraling in, is spiraling out when disengaging. Machariels can one shot an interceptor at 100km, so until you’re out of range, you want to keep that transversal up.
A couple of other important things to know is your targeting range and overheated point range.
- Targeting range: You want to start locking the target as far out as possible, and thus, you need to know how far out you can do it. Be aware that the overview and target box lag a little, so you can usually start locking at 5 or so km outside your lock range.
- Overheated point range: Always keep your point pre-overheated, so that you can start pointing as far away as possible. Take into account gang bonuses etc and activate your point when you’re at around 40km. Surprisingly often, it hits.
Tackling and holding a target
What orbit range to choose:
- Actual orbit distance vs preset: When you right-click the orbit button, you get a menu to set your standard orbit distance. This is very important, and you need to work out what your actual orbit distance will be in relation to what you enter. The game is very bad at taking your speed and agility into account when you’re orbiting, so for instance, if you preset 21000m, you might end up orbiting at 25000m.
- You also need to make sure you’re outside scram/web range. Don’t worry about points, but scrams and webs will kill you. For Rapiers, Huginns and Lokis, this is further than your point range, but for all other ships, with a faction web, bonuses and heat, max web range should be around 20km. Scrams the same, but beware of the Arazu and Lachesis.
- Just as important as being outside scram/web range, is being outside neut range. One hit from either a medium or heavy neut will empty your cap and deactivate both point and MWD, leaving you pretty useless. If the medium neut doesn’t drain your cap completely, it pushes you over your peak recharge, meaning you will cap out at some point.
- Max neut range for BS: 25.2 km
- Max neut range for BC / cruiser: 12.6 km
- You also need to be close enough to leave you with some wiggle room, so that you don’t lose point as soon as your target starts moving in some direction. As soon as your target starts moving, your orbit will be elliptical, not circular. When a target moves at around 1km/s in one direction, your orbit will get approx +/- 3km on either end. More if the target is faster. Your orbit needs to compensate for this, and sometimes, you just gotta fly manually.
- BS are slow, can orbit at 27km usually
- skilled pilots will shake you or get in neut range
- Fast BC/cruiser hulls: about 20km, beware of scram/web
- BS are slow, can orbit at 27km usually
- Another trick if your target is moving fast in a static direction and you keep going in and out of point range, is to overheat your point for the half of the orbit that puts you at max range. The cycle time on points usually lets you do this pretty well. Make sure you don’t burn it out, though.
To set your orbit range, right click the orbit button, and then select “set default orbit range” and enter your desired range in meters.
You then need to check what your actual orbit distance will be, for instance with a dropped can.
Whenever you start tackling something, chances are it won’t like it and will try to kill you with varying degrees of skill. To compensate for this and enable you to hold the target for as long as possible, the adept interceptor pilot is able to negate the incoming damage, and is also able to disengage and escape with just a sliver of structure left. If your hull isn’t on fire before you’re forced to disengage, you’re doing it wrong :)
- First of all, you need an overview set up for killing drones. Personally, I use a tab just for this, and have all non-friendly drones show up on it, without ships to clutter.
- As soon as the drones start chasing you, start locking them and shooting. Beware though, that the only really serious threat to an interceptor are Warrior IIs. Most ships use either Warriors or Hobgoblins, and if they’re Hobs, breathe easy, they will never catch you.
- If your target is a missile boat, or there are other missile boats shooting you, start activating you defender missiles. They will only work if you activate them when a missile is in the air and targeting you. Defenders do not protect your fleetmates. However, they will shoot down incoming missiles pretty efficiently, and unless your target ungroups them, they will usually not be able to hit you at all.
- If you’re starting to go down, you need to get away. A dead inty is no help to anyone, and the trick is to get away with as little hull remaining as possible, but this takes practice. For the beginning interceptor pilots, don’t worry too much about this, it’s better to live to tackle another day than to die needlessly.
- Deciding to bug out can be tricky. You need to get accustomed to your buffer, and you also need to evaluate the rate of incoming damage vs remaining buffer. This takes skill and practice.
- When you do decide to disengage, though, zoom in a bit and center your camera directly behind your ship. Look for a celestial that is dead ahead of your ship, in the direction it’s heading. Then double click in space next to it, select it, and as soon as you’re aligned, hit warp to.
- If you’re targeting a dangerous gunship, like a Machariel, you may want to spiral out to maintain transversal even while disengaging. A Machariel can one shot an interceptor at 100km, so be wary.
“Oh shit”-moments are pretty common when flying in nullsec, and especially in an interceptor, ahead of the fleet, so you need to be prepared. Two situations in particular are very important.
- First off, let’s consider “Oh shit, I’m landing at zero on this target”
- First of all, you should be prepared. If you’re warping after a ratter, don’t worry too much, they usually don’t have tackle. However, if you’re going gate to gate, and you see a frigate and a small warp disruptor bubble on scan dead ahead, you’re in trouble.
- Now, when you see this, you should pre-overheat your MWD and prepare yourself to get away. Center your screen to be right behind your interceptor, so that if you double-click in space, you will go straight forward.
- When you exit warp, you have a short period of invulnerability, aprox 3-5 seconds, that gets broken by any actions you take. Therefore make sure you’ve exited warp before you do anything.
- As soon as you see your speed dropping and you’ve exited warp, start spam clicking straight ahead and spam your MWD button, and keep spamming it after it activates. A common mistake made by inty pilots in this situation is to only hit MWD once. If a scram hits, it will turn it off, but often your inertia will carry you out of scram range very quickly. However, if you fail to reactivate it, this will not help you. Therefore, keep spamming that button.
- As soon as you’re safely out of scram and neut range, start locking and pointing the target, and if it’s viable, hit the orbit button and start holding it, waiting for your fleet to get there.
- Go through gate into huge gatecamp
- The other important one is “Oh shit, I just went through the gate into this monster huge gatecamp!” First of all, DON’T PANIC. Remember your training and follow these simple steps. You have 60 seconds to decide. Plenty of time.
- First of all, take a deep breath.
- Second, assess the enemy gang, numbers, composition, location and numbers in local. Take note of what alliance as well. This should take about 10-20 seconds for the experienced pilot.
- Then report your intel quickly on voice comms, and start thinking of getting safe.
- You have two options, burn back or burn off. Select your option and follow your training.
What targets to avoid
Some targets are very dangerous to take on in a fleet interceptor, and the presence of some should keep you from engaging altogether.
- First of all, stay away from T1 frigates and destroyers. There is usually little point in tackling them, and often, especially if they’re from a certain PvP focused nullsec corp, they’re hunting you. Combat interceptors with MWD speeds should mandate caution as well.
- Dramiels are a chapter for themselves, capable of speeds unrivaled by any ship in the game. The presence of a Dramiel in an enemy fleet should mandate extreme caution and will usually force you off he field after a short while.
- Vagabonds, Cynabals, Machariels, and to a certain extent, Hurricanes are very fast, and can be VERY dangerous to hold down. They move fast enough to force you into an orbit that will mean getting very close to neut range and that will reduce transversal so they can hit you with their guns. Hurricanes are doable, but the others should be avoided.
- Recon ships:
- Rapiers, Huginns, and web range fit Lokis will kill you if you get closer than 40km, so should be avoided at all costs.
- Falcon/rook will permajam you (jam strength bigger than your sensor strength)
- Arazu/Lachesis/Proteus can scram you at 20-40km range (27=faction+heat, 40km=faction+heat+links)
- Curse will neut you at 37.8km, Pilgrim is harmless
Interceptor fishing, how to not be a victim
T1 frigate with tank+scram+web = Fishing frig
- Lethal against inties if tackle lands
- Never warp to 0 when chasing, don’t engage on gates at 0