Beyond learning game mechanics, beyond knowing how to fit your ships, skilling up your skills, practicing your d-scan - beyond all of those important steps lies a secret realm of PvP success in Eve Online. A magical place where you can control the environment and manipulate the outcome of fights in your favor. And while Eve is always unpredictable and ready to rip your heart out, once you master this fine art, she will at least start to make sense.
This is the single most important skill to learn as a PvPer in Eve. The secret art of Target Selection.
In preparation for this post, and in leu of my 2,000th loss in Eve back on October 19th, I started flying a strict regime of excellent target selection. I stopped my usual "attack anything" approach and began picking my fights more carefully. I haven't lost a fight since. I've exploded 41 ships, 11 Pods, and the Mobile Tractor Unit of a Raven we caught in a Mission. Yes, some of those fights were easy, but 22 of them were solo. And those included Comets, Dramiels, Cormorants, Kestrels, and an Algos. All with a T1 Frigate, except for 1 kill with a Hurricane, 2 with a Daredevil, and that Raven kill in which I used a Raven. (I enjoy bringing the same ship to kill the same ship, it's fun!)
I did this to prove that I could do it anytime I wanted, but I also did it to prove how easy it is. And no, I won't be flying this way forever. But after the insanity surrounding that last milestone, I figured it was time to control myself for a bit and see what happened. Just a friendly reminder that it can be done.
There are a lot of ships in Eve. Add to that the constantly changing environments, situations, and scenarios that present themselves to the pilot hunting for good fights. It is complicated. And no matter if you are flying solo, in a gang, or in a large 200 person fleet, picking your fights can be challenging. I'm not going to tell you it is easy. I have 216m skill points and I've been doing this for over eleven years. But I am going to tell you that target selection is critical to PvP success in Eve. It is the most critical aspect of that play-style. Bar none.
So here are some pointers on how to improve your target selection skills in Eve:
1) Know Your Ship
Whatever you happen to be flying and no matter how horrible the fit, you can have success at PvP if you pick the right targets to engage. What is your ship capable of doing? What are its strengths and weaknesses? If you are flying a blaster frigate then seriously avoid mwd fitted kiting ships. Unless you can dictate starting ranges and get that all important scram landed. Can you? How fast does your ship lock? How do you position yourself to land that scram? What are the odds you'll be successful? Can you tank the incoming damage long enough to survive? Does the other ship have a neut, do you have cap boosters?
Like I said, it can get complicated. But by learning your ship's capabilities you are also learning the enemies. The more you know the more things start to make sense.
If you are just starting out and flying a crappy fitted Frigate then find other young players just starting out who are also flying crappy Frigates to fight. Don't attack a ten year old player flying a Wolf. That will end badly.
2) Know Your Environment
Get to know your neighborhood and the constantly changing ebb and flow of pilots, corporations and fleets that prowl the space lanes around you. What are their tactics, how do they fly, what kinds of ships, do they blob, or do they fly solo? The more attention you pay the better prepared you will be. I've told players who join Stay Frosty and are learning PvP for the first time to take a few days and just fly around NOT looking for fights. Just fly around and watch local. Get to know it. Make bookmarks. Learn the location of things, how they work. Is that person marked Orange a scout? How soon after the Eve University scout enter local does the 40 man gang behind him land?
It is impossible to eliminate chance from the equation. All ships are built to eventually die. This is why you only fly what you can afford to lose, which is lesson Number One in Eve. But you can do more than you might think to alleviate the random.
It has been said that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. No matter the validity of that statement, the truth is it does take practice. You can watch tutorials, read posts like this one, or hang out on Twitch, but nothing can replace undocking and trying your hand at it.
So fit up a ship and get out there! Just be careful about the targets you engage and before long you'll be engaging them all.