There is a well-written speedplexing HOWTO — which suggests you use an Incursus fit that is so optimized for the task, that it is not really capable of any other activity. The pilot using it needs to be always on their guard to avoid engagement, and usually will. Catching such a plexer is a challenge and constantly leaves combat pilots frustrated and annoyed. However, it is not impossible, and can, in fact, be done with a good degree of reliability, and I’m going to tell you how. If widely publicising that doesn’t cause some changes in Faction Warfare landscape, I guess we’re at CCPs mercy, again.
So, you are a faction warfare combat pilot who wishes to catch these pesky speedplexers, prevent their activity, and maybe get some killmails. The tactic described allows you to succeed in catching and subsequently killing the speedplexer about half the time, is fairly easy to perform, and comes with a very low chance of actually getting killed yourself. This is a thankless job, and the killmails are not terribly interesting, but can improve your killboard efficiency statistics, if you care about that sort of thing. The failfits sometimes seen, as well as loot from the richer speedplexers, will further improve your mood.
The essentials: You need to fly a stealth bomber, be able to use a Covert Ops Cloaking Device II, a scrambler and a web. The stealth bomber is the only hull that works for the purpose, because it is the cheapest and easiest to train ship that allows you to lock targets immediately after decloaking with no delay. While other options are available, they are far too expensive for the job. It is not essential to max out Covert Ops skill, I in it will do, though training Cloaking to IV will be required to use the essential cloak. If you have the other prerequisite skills, you can start doing it in a few days, training from scratch for this activity will require about a month.
Torpedoes, for which stealth bombers are made, are largely useless when you wish to catch a speedplexing frigate, which is why training for them or fitting them is not required. Instead, the fit is just as specialised as the ships you will be hunting:
[Nemesis, Plex Sneaker] Covert Ops Cloaking Device II 1MN Afterburner II Faint Epsilon Warp Scrambler I 2x Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I Damage Control II 200mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plates I
Any race’s stealth bomber can be used instead of the Nemesis, but Manticore and Nemesis will be easier to use than Hound and Purifier on account of the fit requiring four midslots to be as effective as you want — if you don’t have four midslots, you will need to sacrifice the afterburner, which makes it easier for the enemy to escape.1 It is not particularly relevant how you choose to fill your high slots beyond the cloaking device, since you cannot expect to use the weapon your ship has the bonus for anyway. It is wise, nevertheless, to fit some. Rockets, blasters, railguns, autocannons, artillery and even lasers have all been used with success, pick something you use on your preferred frigate fits. The essential idea behind this fit is that you use your friendly NPCs as the bulk of your actual DPS. Plate and damage control are there just in case you actually do get locked and shot at, and will improve your survival rate in case you decide to pick on a speedplexer that actually fits weapons, but you can alternatively fit for speed instead, which will help if your skills are lacking. T2 or different meta level modules can be used if so desired, and do not greatly alter the performance of this fit. Being cap stable with the fit you end up with is not essential, but will, obviously, make using it easier. Pick rigs to taste.
- Make sure you have an overview tab that shows Large Collidable Objects, you will need it.
- Find a friendly system in your Faction Warfare window where speedplexers might be encountered, and go there, taking appropriate precautions along the way.
- Check if any war targets are present in the system and if any plexes are open, move on if nobody’s around and you don’t feel like waiting. Ignore minor plexes — your stealth bomber won’t be able to enter those. All other sizes work, and gateless unrestricted plexes are best.
- Warp cloaked to a plex at 30km. Warping to 0 will decloak you immediately, which you want to avoid, since, if the speedplexer is inside the plex and watching his scanner, he will be alerted to your interest in him and run. The model of the acceleration gate is kind of wonky, and may actually decloak you if you happen to warp in from the direction it’s pointing into at closer than 30km. 20km is sufficient when you’re warping in from the back or side. This will also protect you from anyone waiting on the gate, whom you should obviously not engage.
- Set your scanner to 20000km 360 degrees and check if anyone’s inside. If there’s nobody inside, you have the option of going in unobserved, which is considerably easier and less chancy, but then you will have to wait for anyone to come to you, which can take quite a while. If you see the typical speedplexing ship — Incursus, Merlin or Rifter, that’s your preferred prey. Avoid engaging other kinds of targets or multiple targets until you have a good understanding of the tactic, though it does allow you to kill anything that relies on speed as it’s main tank. If you see any wrecks on scan, you may want to avoid engaging as well, as any NPCs missing will reduce your effective DPS.
- Approach the gate bracket — which is not in the center of the model, but in the middle of the gate’s wider end! — while cloaked, making sure to approach it directly from the top or side of the gate model. As you are 6-8km away, reduce your speed to about 80 m/s or less. When you are at 2500m, stop the ship. If you did it correctly, you should be within gate activation range, but still cloaked, as you only get decloaked by objects closer than 2000m. Activate the gate. Practice in a safer environment first until you’re confident of the maneuver, you’ll soon get the hang of it.
- The gate will warp you to the destination plex, hopefully, still cloaked. Unfortunately, the target for the warp is the normally invisible Large Collidable Object beacon. There is no way to affect where you end up,2 as the warp will always drop you into a randomly chosen point within 2500m of it. Any object closer than 2000m will decloak you, and that includes the beacon, so the probability of getting decloaked is slightly higher than 50%. If you got decloaked, and you see that the opponent’s ship has weapons fitted, the sensible choice is to run immediately and try again somewhere else, since your element of surprise is lost. If the opponent takes no notice of you, but you feel you can take him, you still have a chance, so run away from the beacon and immediately cloak when you can.
- If you didn’t get decloaked, switch to that overview tab that shows Large Collidable Objects and find the beacon on it. Use ‘Keep at range’ command to move away from it before you do anything else — that will guarantee that you don’t come too close to it again by accident as you position for attack.
- Observe the speedplexer. If the NPC spawns aren’t yet out in force, it’s best to wait. Otherwise, position yourself somewhere within web range and the optimal range of your guns from a point he will pass when orbiting. Try to pick a position that is close to a hovering cloud of NPCs, taking special care not to get decloaked by them.
- When the time is right, strike! Turn off cloak, start locking him, overheat3 and turn on your scrambler and both webs, orbit — it’s best if you can do all that before you have finished locking. Use afterburner as needed if he tries to run. He doesn’t have much time, though — once the speed is lost, your NPC friends will kill him in under a minute, whether you use your own guns or not. Turn on your damage control if he starts shooting at you, but you can leave it off otherwise.
- Be nice to your militia — stick around and run the button down once he’s dead, or call in someone willing to do that.
It feels kind of like creeping up on cats to pet them, and I can’t call the results very satisfying, but you might enjoy it more than I did.
There are a few great videos made by the practitioners of the tactic, which you might want to watch:
While the gentleman who posted this uses a boosting alt to improve his locking speed, this is not essential at all for the tactic to work, as long as your basic locking speed and reflexes don’t suck too much.
P.S. Damn, foiled again. After the Inferno 1.1 patch, bombers will insist on approaching the gate until they decloak before jumping through, even when they’re in jump range already, which seriously hinders this tactic. This is probably an unintended effect of the otherwise beneficial patch, but so is the whole speedplexing mess, which means we aren’t going to see this fixed anytime soon. Enjoy your farming.
You can get away with just one web if hard pressed, but I would recommend against it, at least in the beginning.↩
At least, the position relative to the gate when you start the warp seems to have no effect whatsoever. If you know of a sure way to avoid getting decloaked by the beacon, please enlighten me.↩
Overheating is not essential in this case, but helps.↩