Warning: this is a ridiculously long post. Those of you who have been waiting for it will understand when you see it. ;-)
Once you have a properly fit L4 mission ship, it'll be time to do some missions. Your best friend as you do this will be the EVE Survival Guide. Even the most experienced mission-runner keeps this website up at all times as a reference, particularly for lesser-known missions.
Below, I give very short overviews of all the most common L4 missions, with the solo mission-runner in mind. If you routinely do missions in groups (even if they are groups of your own alts), then these notes will be less useful. They're intended for the solo pilot. I rate each mission in three categories:
- Worth doing: Is the mission worth your time from an ISK/hour, bounty, or loot stand-point?
- Difficulty: How hard is the mission to solo? This is rated from "Very Easy" to "Easy" and "Moderate" to "Hard" and "Very Hard".
- Worth salvaging: Is it worth it, after you've completed the mission to dock, reship to a salvager, and return to the mission to loot and salvage?
For whether they are worth doing, many missions are tagged as either "Yes/Complete" or "Yes/Blitz". A "Yes/Complete" indicates that it is worth doing, including any and all bonus rooms, and worth salvaging. A "Yes" tag indicates less valuable missions that still should be completed for their full bounties but perhaps not salvaged. "Yes/Blitz" missions are worth doing if one follows the instructions on how to blitz the mission in the EVE Survival guide. And finally, missions tagged "No" should be Declined if possible (though you may receive two such missions in short order and have to do one of them anyway.
All difficulty ratings are given based on a pilot with moderate skills (20 million skill points or so) using a navy faction battleship, strategic cruiser, or command ship. If your skills are below this par or you are in a standard T1 battleship, increase the difficulty factor by one level each: a "Moderate" mission for someone with par skills in a Raven Navy Issue becomes "Hard" if you attempt it in a T1 Raven, "Very Hard" if you attempt it with low skills in a T1 Raven. If your skills are above this threshold or you are in a pirate faction battleship, reduce the difficulty factor by one level (total): an "Easy" mission becomes "Very Easy" if you are in a Nightmare or if you have 40 million skill points.
The difficulty rating for each mission assumes that you trade out active hardeners for ones appropriate to that mission's rats.
Many missions have variants for different pirate factions. The Blockade, for instance, can appear for any of the five pirate factions. The variations are treated the same unless there's some reason to treat them differently. Blood Raiders missions, for instance, tend to be more difficult than those for the other factions because Blood ships neut or NOS their targets, which makes active tanking much more difficult. Guristas missions tend to be worth salvaging less than for the other factions because Guristas salvage is not particularly valuable and their loot value tends to lag significantly behind the other factions.
Not every single L4 mission is covered below, but these are the 25 or so mission varieties that you'll become most accustomed to...
Worth doing: Yes. Difficulty: Easy. Worth salvaging: Yes.This mission is beloved for the large number of battleships it throws at you in small, easy-to-manage groups. Manage aggression carefully and you'll have no trouble at all. As a result, it is one of the highest-paying and yet easiest-to-complete L4s for a solo player. Angel salvage is some of the best there is, so it's worth coming back to salvage everything. Remember to shoot the silo in the fourth pocket for a 3% implant. The bonus room is nearly impossible to do without help or multiple accounts.
Worth doing: Yes. Difficulty: Moderate. Worth salvaging: Semi.There's some difference of opinion about this mission. On balance, the bounties in this one are worth 20 million ISK or so, regardless of which variety you get. However, it's an annoying and time-consuming 20 million, particularly in the Guristas version, which offers missile battleships sniping you for good damage at 100+ km range. Aggression management is important. As a result, tanking this one can be tricky for a soloist and it's really best done with a pair of ships. Recognizing this, a lot of people just blitz these, and they are remarkably easy to blitz.
Attack of the Drones.
Worth doing: Semi. Difficulty: Easy/Moderate. Worth salvaging: Semi.If you do any rogue drone mission, this is the one to do. However, whether you do rogue drone missions at all is going to depend on your interest in gathering drone alloy. Bounties from rogue drones are non-existent and the mission reward is sub-par to say the least. In terms of time expended, you will get your ISK out of this mission if you salvage it. Aggression management is very important in this mission.
Worth doing: Yes/Complete. Difficulty: Moderate/Hard. Worth salvaging: Yes.In terms of bounties, the various Blockade missions are some of the most profitable L4s there are. However, all of them are relatively difficult to complete solo, particularly the Blood version which neuts the player ship heavily. The Sansha version can also be difficult (owing to Tracking Disruptors) if it is attempted in a turret boat. The best way to complete this mission is with a friend, keeping in mind that each wave will aggro independently. This mission used to not be worth salvaging due to the time it takes; the Noctis with its long-range tractor beams, however, now makes it worth-while. Aggression management is critical in The Blockade.
Cargo Delivery, All.
Worth doing: Yes/Blitz. Difficulty: Moderate (if not blitzed). Worth salvaging: No.This is the ultimate blitz mission and there really isn't much point to doing these missions any other way. The bounties, loot, and salvage really aren't worth a soloist's time. My preferred method on this one is to go in in a cloaky frigate such as a fast bomber. You can MWD toward the can, and then cloak when the enemy ships appear. Slow-boat the rest of the way in, let the Warehouse decloak you, grab the Quafe, warp off.
Damsel in Distress.
Worth doing: Yes/Complete. Difficulty: Moderate. Worth salvaging: Yes.The bounties and salvage components off "Damsel" are no great shakes, but the loot component of this mission is why people do it. Every wreck will have loot, and much of that loot will be at least moderate (if not high) value. The mission itself is tricky in terms of aggression management, which is very important. The initial spawn will do some damage, and you might want to rebuild your tank some (letting Kruul plink away at you) before you shoot him back to trigger the first spawn of six battleships. After that, the rest of the mission is a downhill run. It's a good idea to keep your drones in as much as possible during this mission. They take damage from a variety of sources.
Duo of Death, All.
Worth doing: Yes. Difficulty: Easy. Worth salvaging: No.The initial minute or so of this mission will probably give you a pounding if you complete it solo as twin high-bounty battleships snipe at you, probably from beyond your effective range. The trick to this one is long range weapons linked to a Target Painter, web, or both to deal with the stasis drones this mission throws at you. Armor ships will therefore have the advantage in this mission.
Worth doing: Never. Difficulty: Hard. Worth salvaging: Yes.The fifth part of this mission is nearly impossible for a solo player, and the entire string comes with standings loss with the Gallente and Minmatar factions. It's the rare missioner that wants to have anything to do with this mission.
Worth doing: Yes/Complete. Difficulty: Moderate. Worth salvaging: Yes.This is arguably the overall best L4 mission there is: high bounties, relatively easy to complete solo, and with great loot. Aggression management is the only tricky part of this mission. If you play it correctly, you'll have plenty of time between waves to rebuild your tank and you'll rarely if ever have more than five rat battleships on the field shooting you. Once you learn how to manage aggression, you won't have any trouble with this one, and it's well worth docking up to bring in the salvage boat.
Worth doing: Yes/Complete. Difficulty: Moderate. Worth salvaging: No.Similar to the Angel Extravaganza, the Guristas version offers easy to manage smaller spawns of battleships separated into pockets. As with the Angel version, aggression management is important. The Guristas jamming is happily kept to a minimum, but the long-range missile weapons are a bit more annoying to counter. Guristas salvage is generally not worth coming back for, and surprisingly, the loot is often not worth it, either. The bonus room is much simpler than the Angel version and can be relatively easily done solo.
Worth doing: No. Difficulty: Easy. Worth salvaging: Semi.As with Attack of the Drones, this mission is only worth doing if you're interested in rogue drone alloys. Damage is very easy to manage, particularly in the first room. Still, the entire mission only drops about 20 million worth of alloys and you'll have to devote fairly significant time to getting them; the ships (and later wrecks) are not in the nice tight clumps that Attack of the Drones offers. Overall, probably not worth your time.
Intercept the Saboteurs, All.
Worth doing: Semi. Difficulty: Moderate. Worth salvaging: Semi.There is no easy way to blitz this mission, and the total mission bounties aren't all that impressive. Salvage is even less impressive, particularly for the Guristas version. Aggression management is important when running this one solo. A group of two to three battleships is ideal here and can wipe out this mission in a few minutes, making it worth-while. Solo, though, you'll have a slog. It's probably not worth wasting a precious "Decline" on, but it's a mission that will make you groan...
Massive Attack, All.
Worth doing: No. Difficulty: Easy. Worth salvaging: No.This one should really be a level 3 mission. That honestly tells you everything you need to know about it. Annoyingly, the rats are at very long range. As a result, if you do choose to do this mission, a fast battleship, a ultra-long-range battleship (Raven with a Sensor Booster, for instance), or a strategic cruiser are indicated.
Worth doing: Yes. Difficulty: Easy. Worth salvaging: No.You'll need a long-range boat to do this one, since virtually all of the rats come in at range. Either EM cruise missiles or Tachyon Beam Lasers will be your best friend. As a result of where the wrecks end up, salvaging this mission is time-consuming and annoying, but the bounties from 11 battleships make actually running the mission well worth your time.
Pirate Invasion, All.
Worth doing: Yes/Complete. Difficulty: Hard. Worth salvaging: Yes.This mission, with Worlds Collide, are the most difficult missions in terms of aggression management. Read the EVE Survival notes on it closely before attempting this mission. The Sansha version, in particular, can be tanked without too much difficulty as long as you're smart about aggression. Play it dumb, though, and you'll be facing 3000 or more incoming laser DPS, which can be hard to manage. ;-) Tanking and managing Pirate Invasion is a rite of passage for L4 soloists.
Recon, Part 1, All.
Worth doing: Yes/Complete. Difficulty: Easy/Hard. Worth salvaging: Yes.Recon is actually quite difficult to solo. The full group is seven or more high-end battleships, which in groups, aggressed independently, wouldn't be a problem. However, these battleships come in on a set timer. As a result, if you have to warp off and return, you may find that all groups have entered the field, making the mission much more difficult. The second room is equally difficult for the same reason. IF you attack Recon Part 1, you'll find lots of good salvage. However, a lot of players just blitz this mission with a shuttle or interceptor.
Recon, Part 2.
Worth doing: Yes/Blitz. Difficulty: Easy. Worth salvaging: No.Recon part 2 is best blitzed. You can attack it with a battleship, and if you do, you'll find it an easy mission to solo. However, the great distance that must be traversed in this mission is quite annoying even with a battleship with a prop mod. It's simpler to just blitz it in a shuttle or frigate with a MWD. However, be careful of the final spawn: it can and will scram and web you if you don't warp out immediately after triggering it.
Right Hand of Zazzmatazz.
Worth doing: Yes. Difficulty: Moderate. Worth salvaging: Semi.If this mission is handled properly, it's not particularly difficult. If you've tanked for mercenaries properly against kinetic and thermal, the battleships don't actually do all that much damage. If you kill them first, you'll let the mission's cruisers get close to you, and they'll really start to hurt with their more mixed damage. Take the cruisers out first instead and you'll have an easier time of it. As a result of this strategy, though, salvaging this mission probably isn't worth it.
Rogue Drone Harassment.
Worth doing: No. Difficulty: Moderate. Worth salvaging: No.This is the most annoying of the rogue drone missions, the "mother drone" mission. If you have a strong tank, you can just blast through her, then mop up "her children." This will allow you to apply all of your DPS, including heavier drones. If you do not, you'll have to keep your drones docked and go after each group independently with your main weapons. Overall, though, unless you're a completist or have no other choice, this mission is really a waste of time. There are very few drone battleships to loot.
Rogue Slave Trader / Down the Slavers.
Worth doing: Yes/Complete. Difficulty: Easy/Hard. Worth salvaging: Yes.The first part of this mission is ridiculously easy. The second part, however, is very difficult for a soloist. You'll need a strong EM/Thermal tank, and as a result, armor ships will have a much easier time with this than shield ships. There are different theories about what targets to take on first. I tend to focus on the battlecruiser rats, then the missile batteries. The frigates are very likely to scram you, so if you think you might have to warp off, make destroying them a priority. The close proximity of all the wrecks makes this one worth salvaging.
The Score, All.
Worth doing: No. Difficulty: Easy. Worth salvaging: No.The long distance between gates combined with the low bounty rats make this mission a good one to avoid unless you do it in a fast battleship or strategic cruiser.
Silence the Informant.
Worth doing: Semi. Difficulty: Moderate. Worth salvaging: Yes.This is a difficult mission to tank, and is actually best handled with a friend. The opening room alone puts out more than 800 DPS in the form of five very tough rogue drone battleships at long range. The second room is even tougher, and demands very close aggression management. It's all doable, but count on spending a lot of time with this one if you try it alone. The biggest annoyance is the split in damage, between the Thermal/Kinetic damage of the rogue drones in the first room and the EM/Thermal damage of the Mercenary Commander cruisers in the second room. Salvaging is annoying due to the great distance between wrecks, but the Merc cruisers all drop good loot. This mission is often your best chance of picking up 'Arbalest' Heavy Missile Launchers, which are quite lucrative.
Smuggler Interception, All.
Worth doing: Semi. Difficulty: Easy/Moderate. Worth salvaging: Semi.Aggression management is important in this one, with a lot of groups scattered over a fairly wide area (which makes later salvage probably not worth your time). If that wasn't bad enough, the mission also features long travel times between acceleration gates during the mission. That said, you can kill the rats as you travel and most soloists will find themselves pretty close to the gate by the time the last rats are falling. As long as you're smart with your aggression as you do this, this mission won't give you much trouble. Bounty in this one is middle of the road.
Spies, All (Angel Cartel Spies, Blood Raiders Spies, etc.).
Worth doing: Yes/Blitz. Difficulty: Easy. Worth salvaging: No.The various Spies missions (there are five varieties) are the bread-and-butter mission of the blitz set. Almost all of them feature three ship groups. And in almost all of them, all you need do is destroy the group of ships with "Spy" in their names and the ones in the immediate area with them, then warp out to complete the mission. Neither the bounties nor the salvage make doing anything else with these missions worth your time. Turn it in and move on to the next one.
Stop the Thief.
Worth doing: Yes. Difficulty: Moderate/Hard. Worth salvaging: Yes.This is a tricky mission. You'll warp in at close range to a single mercenary battleship with ten or so rats coming at you from both directions. The moment you destroy the battleship, you'll be surrounded by an additional 10-15 ships, all at their perfect optimal ranges. No fewer than 10 of the ships can potentially scram you, too. Most pilots warp into this mission at range and snipe the initial battleship, then kite the resulting spawns. If you do it this way, the mission is relatively easy (though with mixed incoming damage making it annoying). If you try to take on the whole mess at short range, you'll likely have much more difficulty.
Unauthorized Military Presence, All.
Worth doing: Yes. Difficulty: Easy. Worth salvaging: Semi.Long-range battleships will have no problems with these missions, the Raven Navy Issue in particular. Virtually all rats will be at long range and damage is very easy to manage. There will be an assortment of good wrecks when it's over, but their long range makes salvaging this one annoying.
Worth doing: Yes/Complete. Difficulty: Hard. Worth salvaging: Yes.This, like The Blockade, is another mission that really calls for you to have a friend. Still, skilled soloists can manage it, but will probably have difficulty with the Blood version due to the heavy neuting. Your ability to warp off from this mission might also be hampered by the many asteroids and large structures scattered around, so maintain situational awareness. Aggression is a bit difficult to manage because the groups in the first two rooms will all be very close to you, so if you do move around, keep that in mind. All those close-range wrecks, though, make salvaging a breeze.
Worlds Collide, All.
Worth doing: Yes/Complete. Difficulty: Hard. Worth salvaging: Semi.This mission, with Pirate Invasion, is the premiere aggression management mission. If you handle aggression smartly, it's not all that difficult. But if you make even one small mistake in your aggression management, this mission will murder you. In particular, drones should be kept in a passive mode. The number of rat battleships involved here means you should read the EVE Survival reports on this one carefully as you run it. This mission is also annoying because the entry room requires long-range weapons or a fast battleship whereas the follow-on rooms are better for short-range weapons.
And that completes my L4 Solo Missioner's Guide.(1) I hope it's been useful!
(1) For the time being. I might do a supplement on armor-tanking L4 missioning at some point. No promises, though, so don't ask. ;-)