EVE Mining - Tools of the Trade
by Darren "The General" Lee
So you have a thing for rocks. Considering that it's the first and quickest way to make some ISK (money) in the game, it's not surprising that many make it their passion while others move on as quickly as they can. In its basic form, mining in EVE can be a mind numbing process. It's interesting that those that enjoy mining are a devout group of EVE ship captains that are ultimately prey for those who like to hunt easy targets. Perhaps EVE miners have a fascination with numbers, or that its simply a necessary step in the building of a manufacturing empire. Bottom line, mining is a fundamental part of the game that has a potential for an interesting level of complexity and tactics.
The objective of this series is to cover the mechanics of the fine art of mining in EVE. I'll touch upon some of the trials and tribulations that I've encountered going through the process as a Galantie character. I've taken a distributed approach to exploring the different aspects of the game. My expertise in mining is not complete but after a year of play, it's fair to say that I've learned a few tricks.
All of the points made below are from the perspective of a solo miner. If you're a member of a thriving corporation that always travels in packs then most of the issues below will not apply. If you're like me and don't have time to support yet another demanding relationship in your life and simply want to fly around in space in your spare time then the info below might aid in the "fun" side of the experience.
There are two paths that a miner can pursue in terms of mining output - volume vs quality. In this article I'm going to outline the "quality" approach. Volume will be addressed in the next article in this series.
Volume (or the Low Road) involves mining barge ships produced by ORE that focus on grinding out huge volumes of ore at the expense of being a sitting duck. If your ore type goals include the need for shear volume then this might be the best method to pursue.
Typically a solo miner in a barge setup will spend most of their time in "safe space" that involves systems with a security rating that is higher or equal to 0.5 pursuing Veldspar, Scordite or Plagioclase. The distinction being that the player pirate threat is non existent and NPC threats are very limited in 0.5+ space. More on this later...
The High Road
Quality mining consists of venturing into low security space in search of the rarer ores that come with a better return but with a much higher risk. The ores and the system security levels are summarized in our Ore Mining Chart. A comparison of your local market prices for the minerals in this chart will quickly show you the risk vs reward aspect of EVE.
The risk is due to the NPC pirates showing up more often, in larger numbers and in larger ships. The ultimate threat is the player pirates who sweep the lower security systems in search of fatter NPC prey that ultimately include any miners they encounter.
How to suit up for
The key to your survival is accepting the fact that there's going to be some combat involved in mining low security space. The trick is to find the balance between maximum mining output versus the level of defense/firepower to deal with the bad guys. Depending on your basic tactics of choice, I would suggest the following:
1. Run, run and run (aka Ninja Mining)
The basic tactic of a pirate is to warp in on an unsuspecting miner and jam their warp drives. The key is to react quickly when they arrive and be in a position that there's enough time to fire up your warp drives to get the heck out of there.
- Always mine in a location that is as far away from the beacon location of an asteroid field. A simple way to know where the beacon is located is to simply warp into the asteroid field by selecting the field name from the navigation listing. Where you land is where most pirates will show up, give or take a 15km radius. The "triangle" icon can also be seen in space and your overview, if enabled for display.
Look for some interesting rocks that are as far away from the general beacon location as possible. The greater the distance between where they arrive and your mining operation will equal the time you have to warp out.
- Always configure at least one warp core stabilizer in a low slot of your ship. There are two types of warp jammers; +1 warp scramblers have 20km range, while the more powerful +2 warp scramblers are limited to 7.5km. All stabilizers are +1 so watch out for the 7.5km zone as the odds of getting jammed at that range increase.
Avoiding being warp jammed is the key to the run tactic.
- Keep an eye on the local chat dialogue box. A quick review of any new players' security level will tell you what their intentions are before they warp in on top of you. Negative rated players in system should put you in high alert which might make the difference when it's time to run. This also gives you something to do as your mining lasers grind away.
- The process of turning around a barge to jump to a safe place brings to mind the famous country song "Give me 40 archers and I'll turn this rig around". Simply point your ship in the direction you intent to flee will save precious seconds that might be the difference between life and death.
A typical flee destination is an in system space station or a warp gate. Both of these locations will have sentry guns that will protect you from anyone who fires on you first. If you get aggressive and initiate a conflict, be sure to flee to a neutral location such as another asteroid belt or a planet as the CONCORD sentry guys will consider you as the criminal and you'll loose your beloved mining ship in a matter of seconds.
2. Come here little girl, I have some candy for you.
The basic rules still apply but the first reaction isn't to simply run. With a properly setup cruiser, battle cruiser or destroyer there's an opportunity to fight back. Often the results will be the pirate running which can be very satisfying. If you're really lucky you'll send them away in a pod.
Often in 0.4, baby pirates will make their rounds cutting their teeth for the first time. This often involves them in an Interceptor class ship that makes for an interesting match up when a skilled miner has a few guns or drones to point at the unsuspecting pirate.
- Gallente ships favor drones which are the ideal way to deal with threats when most of your ship's turrets are dedicated to mining lasers. Specifically the Vexor and the Brutix have worked well for me. I dream of someday collecting rocks in a Dominix, the drone bay size alone is enough to make a miner squeal with glee.
The Vexor comes with a drone bonus that allows one extra drone to be deployed for each skill level trained. The size of the drone bay is also impressive allowing for deployment of backup drones as they're lost in battle. The Brutix isn't as drone focused but the about of shield and armor hit points gives a miner a sense of security that is rare in low security space.
- The use of Warp Jammers and Webifiers allows the miner to use the same tools that a pirate would use to keep their prey from fleeing. Imagine the reaction when a pirate realizes that they're out gunned and tries to run only to find that they're trapped and it's only a matter of time before the drones peck through their hull. This is a rare opportunity in EVE for a miner to enjoy a moment of true justice.
- One of the limitations of depending on drones as a primary source of protection is the size of a ship's drone bay. As drones are lost in battle, it's important to be able to replace the lost drones. If your ship has a small drone bay then it will only be a matter of time before the maximum number of deployed drones can't be maintained and the enemy will start to reach your ship and begin the process of quickly pounding through your ships defenses.
A solution to this problem is to deploy floating or abandoned drones. Fly out to an asteroid belt that you wish to mine and deploy as many drones as you can carry. Fly back to your station and reload the drone bay. When returning to the mining location, the abandoned drones can now be scooped into the drone bay as needed to refresh the supply of drones.
Be warned that everything abandoned in space has a time limit before they disappear. My last test ran for over two half hours but this seems to get tweaked on a regular basis. Keep your "reloading" drones close and scoop them to your drone bay as space allows, even when you already have a full squad deployed. There is also the chance that some else could get a hold of these free floating drones and worst come to worst, use them against you. Like everything in EVE, this tactic has it's pros and cons.
- The longer the range the better. In the case of the Brutix, two 250mm rail guns combined with five modulated deep core miners has proven to be a good mix. The rail guns allow for damage to an opponent at the 25km+ range that gives the miner a decent safety zone. If things get too close, the old run tactic can always work as a fall back plan. The key is to get the drones into the fight as soon as possible. NCP ships will often stop their advance on the player ship to deal with the drones. This can be timed to get the NCP to stop in an ideal range allowing the rail guns to have their maximum effect.
As always, skills will dramatically affect the outcome of either of these approaches. Everything from capacitor and shield recharging to the amount of time to lock a target or to fire up the warp drives will make the difference between success or failure. Be prepared to switch between both of these tactics at any moment. Most of all, don't forget to mark the side of your ship with each of the pirate encounters you survive.
Next will be "The Low Road" which will be more about maximum profit rather than slapping around the pirates.