It can often be challenging to find ships in space. They could be at a "safe spot", or in a mission eight gates deep, or at a perch above a station, in a POS (why are those still around?), or cloaked up somewhere. Each of those options has a direct counter, something you can do to actively try and discover the enemy ship and remove it. There is one place however that is increasingly becoming what I'm going to refer to as the "Untouchable Zone". What is this mysterious place and how do you counter it?
First, let me explain where the Untouchable Zone is. In low sec we have these faction plex things that come in a wide variety of sizes, from Novice, Small, Medium, Large, and Open. Each one only allows ships of certain sizes into them. Which is all well and good. But what about outside of them? As most pilots quickly discover you can warp to a plex at a certain distance and yet land closer than you intended. If you warp at 100 you typically land at about 75k. That's because the plex pulls you in. Before the recent changes we always warped at 10, in order to land at zero. Warping at zero would get you entangled in the plex gate. That is one mechanic of faction plex. But there is yet another mechanic. You can't warp to anyone who is outside the plex. So if your buddy has someone tackled at 87k from the gate and you warp to him, you will land at zero on the gate. And, if you land at zero and your buddy is now fighting at 165k from you, you can't warp to him. You have to burn out, or bounce, in order to help him. You can't warp directly to anyone on grid of the plex gate.
(Note - This is also true inside the plex as well, just FYI)
This mechanic is even weirder when it comes to open plex. Open plex do not have a gate, as the name implies they are "open" to space. So it's just a button with some FW thingies and a couple of red dots in the center. However the same rules as above still apply. The plex pulls you in and you can't warp to anything once on grid of the plex.
Now that we've reviewed the basics of FW plexes in Low Sec, let's take a look at how this system has created an Untouchable Zone for certain types of game play.
Let's imagine an arty fit Machariel that is sitting about 250k from the center of an open plex. You can see the Mach on d-scan and decide to warp over and see what he is doing. You warp in at 100 and land at about 75k from the center. The Mach is now above you at about 175k or so. What can you do? If you burn out to catch him he'll have 175k of space to shoot at you and if you are lucky enough to survive that gauntlet, no one on your team can warp to you in order to help. They all have to burn out as well. If you drop a bookmark, it is useless. You can't light a cyno on grid of a plex either. You can probe the ship, but again, warping to it only pulls you into the plex.
That distance of 150 and out from outside a faction plex might be one of the safest places to be in all of low sec space. The Untouchable Zone.
Now I'm not complaining about this. This is game mechanics. And we frequently kill ships in the Untouchable Zone. It's challenging but not impossible. Understanding and dealing with game mechanics is the lifeblood of us pirates. It is what it is.
Having said that I do believe this is a weird little glitch in the mechanics that has produced unexpected results. Right now, in our home system, we've seen a pilot sitting in the Untouchable Zone in a Phoenix. He shoots anyone who tries to burn out to him and if you get close enough he simply warps away. I don't expect that is the kind of game play anyone could have imagined would result from this mechanic.
We will eventually catch and kill this Phoenix. Just like Elliot Ness, we always get our man.
In the meantime we can just chalk this up to yet another weird quirk of Eve Online.