Incursions are the latest, and best source of PvE income in EVE Online. Still, the hardest thing about incursions is knowing how to get started. Incursions combine elements of PvE and PvP flying, and require somewhat specialized ships to do well. While there are incursion-specific in-game channels, they have etiquette and other knowledge that you'll be expected to know... and damned few teachers. So, if you're starting from square one, how do you get started?
The purpose to this guide is to help you take those first few steps into incursioning. You might decide you like it. You might decide it's not for you. But at least you'll start from a position of understanding how things work and why things are the way they are.
Incursions are not for beginner EVE players! They require expensive ships, good weapon and fitting skills, and a disciplined play style. Incursions often cost beginners ships that they can't afford to lose for these reasons. If you're just starting out, you're better served choosing a less-demanding PvE option. If you insist on running incursions anyway, then you'd better have understanding friends ready to look after you and keep things from going south.
When you decide to join an incursion, your first job is going to be to get into an incursion fleet. This involves getting into the appropriate incursion-specific channel and advertising yourself as available. That involves posting your ship fitting and the role you see that ship playing. As a result, your ship's strengths and weaknesses are going to be advertised for all -- your potential FC most of all -- to see. As a result...
Step 1: Investment
The first thing you're going to need to run incursions is an incursion-capable ship. Not any old ship in your hangar will do, and your PvE ships -- surprisingly -- will probably be the least effective of all. You can't just break out your L4 battleship here and call it good. Incursions reward a PvP-based fitting style, not a PvE-based one. For simplicity, the remainder of this guide is going to assume that you're going to use a shield-tanking ship. This is for two reasons: first, most pilots will be more familiar with shield-tanking, particularly for PvE. Second, there are more shield-tanking FCs running incursions in the official channels, so your chances of being picked up for an incursion fleet will be increased in a shield-tanking ship. Still, a lot of the advice in this guide applies to armor-tanking ships as well.
Getting picked up for an incursion fleet is going to be the focus here. You want to maximize your chances of an incursion FC picking you to be part of his or her fleet. Your ship or your fitting might be perfectly acceptable to you, but if it's not acceptable to the FC, you're going to be sitting there docked staring lovingly at your ship fitting instead of making ISKies. So, swallow your pride and fit for the good of the fleet, not for your own self-aggrandizement. This is the hardest lesson for a new incursioner to learn, so the faster you learn it, the better.
Your job in the investment phase is to set things up so that when you join the incursion channel and advertise yourself, you get picked for a fleet as quickly and efficiently as possible.
For the purposes of incursions, there are six basic "roles" that a ship can have. Some ships can fulfill more than one "role", either by refitting the ship or within the same fitting. Ships below are listed in rough order of preference. In order of preference, from "most likely to be picked up" to "least likely to be picked up", these roles are:
- Logistics: Basilisk with Logistics V skill, Scimitar with Logistics V skill, Basilisk with Logistics IV skill.
- Dedicated webber: Loki, Vindicator, Bhaalgorn.
- Turret DPS: Nightmare, Machariel, Sleipnir, Maelstrom.
- Quick missile DPS: Tengu, Nighthawk.
- Snipers: Nightmare, Maelstrom, Rokh, Raven Navy Issue.
- Slow missile DPS: Raven Navy Issue, Scorpion Navy Issue.
The ships listed are examples, and ideals of each role. From this list of ships, you will quickly surmise that there aren't a lot of inexpensive ships on it. And indeed -- in general -- the more ISK you spend on your incursion ship, the more likely it is that you're going to get picked up for a fleet. That's why Step 1 is called "Investment." Any means of making a lot of ISK in EVE starts with this initial investment of ISK to build from. As a rule, you should not think about getting into incursions unless you're willing to invest at least 500 million ISK in it. You can get into incursions with less, but you will not be picked for fleets as often. You'd better hope to make friends who will take pity on you in short order if you're not going to invest in this activity.
For instance, an inexpensive Hurricane is an example of "turret DPS", but if an FC has a choice between your Hurricane and a flock of Nightmares, Machariels, and Sleipnirs, guess who is going to get chosen and who is not?
One more thing: for many FCs, "turret DPS" only counts if that DPS can be applied at ranges of between 14 and 24 kilometers, the range a typical incursion rat orbits at. For this reason, many FCs eschew blaster-fit ships unless those ships are exceptionally quick. Vindicators get a pass because they are primarily webbers, but few other blaster ships will. If your blaster-fit Megathron is not getting picked up, this may be why.
Step 2: Basic Fitting
Nearly as important as investing in the right ship is fitting it properly. Again, this is going to be a question of merit and fitting the ship with the things the FC wants to see. If the FC has resigned himself to picking up a "Slow missile DPS" ship or two, he's going to look closely at the various Raven Navy Issues and he's going to pick the ones that are fit the best. Those with lesser fittings will not be picked up.
As I said before, your L4 mission battleship is not fit properly for incursions! Even in the short time that I've been running incursions myself, I cannot begin to tell you the number of forlorn CCC-fit battleships I've seen posted again and again, waiting in vain for an FC that never comes. The reason you're not getting picked up is because your L4 mission ship is not equipped to deal with incursions, it's going to get blown up, and you're going to blame the rest of us. We don't want that hassle, and neither does your FC. You either need to buy a second battleship specifically for incursions, or you need to take a leap of faith and completely refit your mission battleship for incursions.
Now, let's fit your incursion ship. We're going to be using EFT for this. If you're not familiar with EFT, then you're not ready for incursions. Since we're going to be shield-tanking, let's start with the mid slots. Ideally, have at least five of them (though a Megathron can squeak by with four). What's below are general principles intended for DPS ships; logistics ships have specific fittings for those ship classes and those should be used instead.
Start by fitting the following modules in the following order:
- Two @ Invulnerability Field II
- One @ Photon Scattering Field II
- One @ Large Shield Extender II
Stop here and check your resistances. You're aiming for 70% resists across the board. Not 68%. Not 69%. 70% minimum (and more is better). If you're far short of 70% at this point -- say, one or more resists at 63% or less -- fit a Damage Control II and check them again. If everything is above 63% at this point, fill in using rigs. Add a shield resistance rig with the approriate resist for each resist between 63.1% and 70%. Probably, you'll only need one, and probably, that one will be the Anti-Thermal Screen Reinforcer of the appropriate size. If you can afford and use the Tech2 version, use it! We'll talk more about pimping out your ship a bit in a couple of steps, but this is a good place to start.
If this still doesn't get all your resists above 70.0%, then you'll have to add either a third Invulnerability Field II or an active hardener of the appropriate type. Do that. Remember: 70% is the minimum; more is better! Once you get there, add a Core Defence Field Extender rig of the appropriate size and check two stats: your shield HP and your signature radius. If your signature radius is 150m or less, multiply your shield HP by two. If your battleship signature radius is 500m or more, or your cruiser signature radius is 200m or more, multiply your shield HP by 2/3. If, after this calculation, you have 10000 shield HP and 70% or higher resists across the board, congratulations! You're tanked properly for an incursion. If your shield HP is too low, you should add a second Core Defence Field Extender rig to make up the difference.
You will be tempted to add a second LSE2. Don't! LSEs increase your signature radius dramatically and are self-defeating. Much of the DPS in an incursion comes from torpedo-fit Sansha bombers. These torpedoes hit you harder and do more damage if your signature radius is bigger. Take two Tengu fittings. One has a 193m sig radius and 14000 shield HP. The other has 17000 shield HP, but a sig radius of 284m. Even though the second one seems better-tanked, in practice, its tank will be worse. Multiplying the shield HP of a overly large sig radius cruiser-size hull by 2/3 reflects this. The second Tengu actually only has 11300 effective shield HP. Sure, the second Tengu will still successfully tank an incursion, but it's wasting a mid-slot that can be applied to other purposes.
For this reason, stop at this point, and see if you can still meet the conditions above with two Core Defence Field Extenders and no Large Shield Extender II. If you can, this is the superior solution. CDFEs don't raise your sig radius nearly as much as LSE2s do. Alternately, you can also choose to pimp your ship out a bit using a Republic Fleet Large Shield Extender. The increase in sig radius provided by this faction module is smaller than that of the LSE2.
In general, your overall EHP as measured in EFT should be 50000 or more for a cruiser (those with a very small sig radius can get away with less), and 100,000 or more for a battleship (ditto). Still, the calculation above is the more correct one.
Step 3: Advanced Fitting
At this point, I'm going to assume that by the calculation above, you have at least 70% resists across the board and 10000 calculated shield HP. You may have consumed all of your rig slots and mid slots to get here. You may or may not have fit a Damage Control II. If you haven't done the latter, and you have lots of low slots, go ahead and add it! The shield resists it adds are not inconsiderable and adding a bit more resistance in this form is almost never a bad move. For the same reason, if you have lots and lots of mid slots (you're in a Scorpion Navy Issue, say), you can add an additional resistance mod to shore up your weakest resist a bit more, or add a third Invulnerability Field II to help them all. Ships with five or six mid slots should not do this, but ships with seven or eight can.
You may have consumed all your rig slots. If you did, fine. If you didn't, use your third rig slot to add an "indirect" damage mod. Laser boats, such as Nightmares, should add either the Energy Locus Coordinator, or the Energy Discharge Elutriation. Missile boats should add the Warhead Rigor Catalyst. Projectile or Hybrid boats should add similar rigs to assist with the tracking, energy use, or range of their weapons. While you could add a second CDFE and increase your buffer, as long as your tank meets the standard in Step 2, it's better for the fleet if you do more damage or do damage at longer range instead.
Fit your weapons next. If you're a DPS boat, this means short range turrets (but see the caution above about blasters). If you're a missile boat, this means long-range missiles. Short-range missiles don't work well against frigates, and those are going to be the bulk of your initial targets. If you have a drone bay, fill in some drones: a flight of Hobgoblin IIs to start. Bigger drones get eaten in incursion sites and you can't count on them.
Next, let's fill in your low slots. A minimum of two damage mods, please: Ballistic Control Systems, Gyrostabilizers, or the like. Three is better. If you're a cruiser or battle-cruiser, consider adding a single Tracking Enhancer II. Remember, you're going to be shooting at a lot of frigates. If you're a battleship, you're going to be happiest with three tracking mods total, either Tracking Enhancer IIs or Tracking Computers. Fill these in using whatever you have more of, low slots or mid slots. Battleships should save either one low for a Signal Amplifier II or a mid for a Sensor Booster II. This will decrease your lock time against these very same frigates.
Your slots are probably pretty close to full at this point, but now's the time to check your damage output and range. Whatever your ship, you need to be able to hit for good damage at 24km range or so. "Good" for a cruiser, battle-cruiser, or missile battleship is 500 DPS or more. "Good" for a turret battleship is 750 DPS or more. If you're not hitting at the right range, consider adding a Tracking Enhancer or Tracking Computer, or make your third rig one that increases your weapon range. If you're not doing enough DPS, add another damage mod or change the rig for one that adds DPS. We'll also be talking about faction damage mods in the next step.
Still not hitting these numbers? Then change out for faction or Tech2 ammo. You will be making enough ISK that firing the more expensive ammo will be paid for by your profits. You should probably be using this ammo whether you can hit these numbers or not. The faster the fleet does DPS, the faster the site will be cleared, the faster you will make the ISK, and the more sites the fleet can run per hour. The expensive ammo is worth it, particularly if every ship in the fleet uses it.
If you have any mid slots left, fill them in with utility e-war. The most useful mods are Stasis Webifiers and Target Painters. Dedicated webber ships such as Lokis should be carrying at least two webbers... three if you can. Pull off other utility mods to make this happen. Some ships will also benefit from an afterburner in a mid slot, particularly Minmatar ships. If you have any low slots left, fill in with Tracking Enhancers or a third (or fourth) damage mod.
You may have one or two utility high slots left. If you're a cruiser, these can be Salvagers if you want to bring in a bit of extra money, or small/medium reppers if you want to help out the Logistics ships in a pinch. If you're a battleship, these slots should be filled with Large Energy Transfers... Tech2 if you can use them, 'Regard' Meta4 if you can't. There's two reasons for this: first, if one or more of your Logistics ships gets disconnected or otherwise disrupted, the battleships that can will be expected to be emergency cap transfer partners for the remaining logis. Second, many turret battleships are not quite cap stable but can become so if they trade cap back and forth with a partner.
If you find yourself needing to add a "fitting mod" to make all this work, your skills are probably not up to par for running incursions. "Fitting mods" are Power Diagnostic Systems, Co-Processors, Reactor Control Systems, or the like. You're not adding shield boosters or more than one LSE2, and you have no need for power-hungry armor plates. Your power grid is therefore almost entirely devoted to your weapons. The bulk of your CPU will be going into your weapons and your damage mods, and as long as you have Weapon Upgrades V, this should not eat too much of your CPU, either. If you still find yourself running short of CPU, then you'll almost have to fit the faction damage mods, which use less.
Fill in the rest of your drone bay. First, add a second flight of Hobgoblin IIs. As I said, drones get killed repeatedly and you'll need spares on hot standby. After that, if you can use them, add a flight of medium rep drones. Finally, if you can use them, add a flight of mining drones. Yes, really. One of the incursion sites may require a little mining, or you may be asked to launch the flight of mining drones and then abandon them for a faster ship to pick up and use.
Tomorrow, I'll continue this guide by talking about where, how, and why you should "pimp out" your ship if you can, then talk about getting into the incursion channels and fleets themselves, and what will be expected of you once you're there.
Link to Part 2.