Using Drones in PVP
Grouping of drones is one of the most important things you can do with your drones. This becomes more important the bigger your drone bay, and the more variation you have in the types of drone you carry. It means you can command all drones in the folder "as one" so you have to spend less time micro-managing your drones and have more time to concentrate on the other aspects of PVP.
Essentially you can create folders in your Drone window, just like you can for bookmarks. What you name them, and how you group them is up to you, but in general it makes sense to have "sets" of drones, i.e. if you are flying a Brutix and have 5 Warriors and 5 Hornet EC-300's, you might make 2 folders, one called "Warrior", the other called "ECM - Hornet".
The main exception to this rule is when you have an odd drone bay, or odd bandwidth limit. Take the Arazu as an example, it has a 40m³ drone bay and bandwidth of 40Mbit/sec. Thus, if you want to maximise your DPS for engaging larger ships, you might carry 3 mediums and 2 lights, of mixed damage type. So, you might have e.g. a Vespa, a Valkyrie, a Hammerhead, a Hornet and a Warrior. There is NO POINT in putting these all in folders named after their drone type, as it means you still have to micro-manage each drone. You might want to make two folders, one called "Light" and one called "Medium" so you can command the lights to chase Frigates and the Mediums to pound on Cruisers. Or - you might take the view of the writer that a ship like the Arazu is a support ship, and thus carry e.g. 5 Warriors to chase off interceptors, and 3 small armor rep drones.
Note that the folders don't auto-sort by name which can result in some rather goofy layouts. Also, I personally don't make folders called "Hornet EC-300", preferring to put "ECM" at the front as in my example, as I find the latter stands out more in the heat of battle . Again - each to their own!
The drone settings can be accessed by right clicking on the small triangle in the top left of the drone window.
Passive vs. Aggressive
This is a very important setting that determines how your drones behave when deployed. It is set by default to "Agressive" and for the purposes of PVP, should be left there. The only reason it should be "passive" is for PVE - if you don't want to agress a full room of NPC's. If you don't want your drones to aggress a target in PVP, then KEEP THEM IN YOUR BAY! The only time where you might not want to aggress would be at a station or gate, so you can go through or dock to escape. In both those scenarios you will want to act fast, so should not have your drones out.
Anyway, back to the important setting - "Agressive". What this mode of operation means is that the deployed drones will automatically aggress a target that agresses you. This is very important in the case of ECM ships, as it means that as long as you have your drones deployed BEFORE the opponent jams you, your drones will engage. By comparison, if you do not have your drones deployed, you will need to wait until the opponent loses jam, or another ship aggresses you before the drones will do anything. If they are set to passive, you will need to wait until you are not jammed, as you MUST target a ship and tell the drones to engage in that situation
"Assist" or "Guard" Mode
A very useful feature of drones is that they can be assigned to do things other than just fight on your behalf. They can also be set to "Assist" or "Guard" a friendly.
- Assist - this sends the drones to orbit around your chosen fleet-mate. The drones will then orbit your mate's ship until they agress an enemy ship, at which point the drones will engage that target. This tactic is very useful for camping gates (especially with small bubbles) where you will often have a light ship (e.g. Interceptor) sitting on the point in the bubble where a ship warping in will land. If you send drones to "Assist" said light ship, it means there is practically no delay in that pilot getting a lock, and your drones engaging the target. It also makes it harder for a Covert ship to get out of dodge, as the drone will de-cloak a ship within 2,000m. Thus you can sit at e.g. 50km away from the bubble landing point in a sniping Dominix, with your drones in position ready to support the tackler, while you can pound the enemy with guns at your optimal. The drawback of this setup is when a ship lands near you, as it means your drones have to travel back to you to be of help. It will also delay your withdrawal from the combat zone - as again you will have to either wait for your drones to return to you, or abandon them!
- Guard - this is similar in many ways to "Assist", except the drone will orbit your chosen fleet-mate until an enemy agresses him. At that time, the drones "Guarding" him will engage the aggressor.
The last "non-standard" use of Drones is to assign them to a fleet mate. This only works for FIGHTER DRONES! Essentially the drone is passed from your control, to the control of your nominated fleet-mate. The drone(s) assigned will follow the assignee round and do his bidding. He gains a "Drones" window in his overview from where he can control the drone(s) much in the same fashion as you would control your own drones from a normal ship. The Fighter drones will even warp from location to location with him, however, if the assignee leaves system by going through a gate or Cyno, the drone(s) will return to you.
There is a single key phrase here that is relevant in many ways, in many aspects of EVE: MIX DAMAGE TYPE!
What this means for a typical drone user is to try and spread your ship damage across multiple damage types. So, if you are flying a blaster fit Thorax for example, your gunnery damage will bring Thermal and Kinetic to the table. You want your drones to bring something else, so you might want to bring some Valkyries for Explosive, or Infiltrators for EM. You may even want a mix of the two! Similarly, if you are running an Arbitrator with a couple of Pulse Lasers then you might want to use some Hornets and a couple of Warriors.
Bear in mind however that the drone damage type changes along with advantages and disadvantages covered previously. So, if you want fast drones, you are stuck with Minmatar and Explosive damage. This is no bad thing, as many pilots do not bother filling the natural armor hole that many ships have to Explosive damage.
Drone Defence Tactics
I Am Attacked By Drones, What Do I Do?
There are two major strategies: kill the drones or ignore the drones and kill the ship.
In many cases when fighting against a non-drone ship (e.g. Drake, Raven), you are better off ignoring the drones and concentrate on killing the enemy. If he goes down or disengages, the drones will leave you alone. So, you should assess how much DPS is coming from the ship and how much is coming from the drones, and concentrate on the worst enemy.
However, when dealing with drone boats (or other ships relying mostly on drones, like an arazu -- "5 warrior IIs and one gun" setup), you better kill their drones. Each dead drone brings enemy's firepower down by 20%. Of course, a decent drone-boat will have spares.. but if you force the enemy to start micromanaging drones, you gain a huge advantage. The hostile might lose control of his range, gunnery, tanking... All to your benefit.
Drone Killing Techniques
- Use your own drones - preferrably T2 light drones. They will quickly and effectively destroy heavies and then turn on the enemy ship.
- Guns - but you'll need A LOT of tracking, so small blasters (or small pulse lasers, small autocannons) are preferred
- Missiles - but you'll need smaller missiles with smaller blast radius as drone signatures are really small
TIP: To help your guns/missiles, you can either WEB hostile drones, or PAINT them. Other EWAR is highly ineffective. ECM does not work on drones - they lock back instantly. Nosferatu/Neuting doesn't work either. Tracking disrupting drones is pretty pointless too, as they orbit so close.
- Smart bombs - despite the name, the most primitive weapon of all: just activate it, and anything inside range will take damage. Orbiting drones are always within range of even smallest bombs. If you are lucky and have enough bombs, you'll kill all drones before the enemy is able to call them off:
Table of number of activations to destroy a drone with smartbomb size vs. drone size
|Small Bomb||Medium Bomb||Large Bomb|
Look at the table. To kill a pack of T2 heavies with average owner's skills, you'll need between 6 and 9 activations of a large smart-bomb (or e.g. 2 cycle activations of a set of 5 bombs). But what damage type to use you ask? Look at the next table - which lists the types of damage, and their effectiveness (with 1 being most effective):
Generally speaking then, it's best to use Kinetic, and worst to use EM, with the Hornet being the exception to the rule. Please note this information refers specifically to light drones, but is broadly correct for all other drones.
Due to their high hull hitpoints, the Gallente drones have the highest effective hitpoints or EHP, and thus are the most resilient to smartbombing (and indeed any) drone defence. All light drones will be destroyed in 2 cycles of a single large smartbomb, except in the obscure case of light Gallente drones (Hobgoblins) running into EM smartbombs in which case it will take 3 cycles.
- Finally, to avoid drones, you can OUTRUN them - pretty easy for a smaller ship against larger drones
You should treat them as a stand-still small sniper ship. You can orbit them, spiral in closer, paint, kill. They won't run.
It is less likely that you will encounter sentry drones in small gang PVP. However, if you run into an Ishtar, the pilot will almost certainly have a set! If you happen to be in a small fast-tracking ship like a destroyer, feel free to pick them off while the biggies shoot it out against one another.