Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Effect of Wormhole links on PvP Meta

The previous post covered the differences between known space (or 'k-space') and wormhole space (or 'w-space'), and spent a little time looking at the differences between gates and wormhole links from a navigation perspective. This post is going to look at how the differences between k-space gates and w-space wormhole links affect combat.

Size and distance

K-space gates are of various different sizes, but all are significantly larger than wormholes. This may sound like an insignificant difference, but it has important ramifications. When ships jump through a gate or a wormhole link they appear at a semi-random range from it, typically a distance 10km or so on gates and 0-5km on wormhole links. The size of the gate also has an effect on this, as the distance from the gate is actually the distance from the outer boundary of the gate, not from it's centre. Taking an example radius of a gate as 2.5km, this means that if two ships appear on opposite sites of a gate that they both jump through, they could be as much as 25km apart.

In known space the large potential volume that a ship can appear in after jumping through a gate means that there is a high chance that a ship jumping through will not be within the magic 11km radius - the range at which a standard overheated warp scrambler or stasis webifier operates. Warp scramblers and stasis webifiers reduce the mobility of target ships; scrams shut off any active microwarp drive propulsion modules on a hostile ship, and stasis webifiers provide a blanket reduction in speed. For more information on microwarp drives, scramblers, speed and stasis webifiers, check out the Eve University Tackling 101 Guide

If two ships jump through a wormhole link together they will almost invariably be at very close range, less than ten kilometers or so, and any ship jumping through to a waiting opponent will be appearing within a known, very small volume of space. This means that it is relatively easy to pin down ships that are jumping through wormhole links and prevent them from moving to a longer range. Faster ships are webbed down and scrambled, never get a chance to escape from ships that are attempting to intercept them, and are forced into a close range brawl with any opponents.

Alongside the prevalence of cloaked ships in wormhole systems (the reasons for which will be investigated in a later post) the short range of engagement when fighting over a wormhole link result in fleet compositions that favour close range, heavily tanked, slow moving ships. Ships that rely on speed are generally unable to get away from hostiles that jump through with them or are waiting for them, and so "kiting" techniques are extremely rare in wormhole engagements.


Whenever a pilot engages in combat in K-space a sixty second aggression timer is started; while the timer is active they are unable to jump through a gate. This means that if a target aggresses against you, that target will be stuck in that system for, at minimum, the next sixty seconds. Wormhole links have no such limitation in place with regard to aggression timers, though they do have the same session change timer limitation; you cannot jump more than once every ten seconds, to give the EVE servers time to catch up with the changes.

While wormhole links don't care about the aggression state of pilots transiting them, they have their own timer - the polarization timer. This means that a given pilot cannot pass through the same wormhole link more twice in five minutes. Any attempt to do so will result in a failed jump and a status message how long it will be until the pilot can jump.

Link Timers:

Link TypeSession TimerAggression TimerPolarization Timer
Gate10 seconds60 secondsN/A
Wormhole Link10 secondsN/A5 minutes

The lack of an aggression timer means that there is no penalty to travel for engaging any ship that you happen across, and that the known-space technique of splitting targets using their aggression timers does not exist.

The polarization timer in W-space is another disincentive to using kiting techniques and ranged ships in wormhole space. In K-space pilots can re-approach and repeatedly jump through a link in order to try and get into a situation where they have more favorable positioning. Due to the polarization timer of wormhole links this is not an option, and you have to live with whatever positioning you have when you jump into a system.

The polarization timer also means that if two forces are facing off, one on each side of a wormhole link, the side that jumps in first (which I will term the 'attacker') will be at a significant disadvantage. Their opponents who are waiting for them can now disengage or split the attacking force relatively easily. If the defenders jump past the attackers and the attackers follow them, the attackers will now not be able to make any further jumps for several minutes, allowing the defenders the ability to jump back into their initial system and escape. The only consistent way that the attacking force can force an engagement is by splitting their group across both sides of a wormhole link, severely compromising the amount of firepower they can bring to bear.

There are a host of techniques for dealing with polarization timers, forcing fights around them, and splitting opponents using them. These will be dealt with in a future post; for the moment it is sufficient to know that there is a greater-than-usual advantage to the defending side when attackers jump into them through a wormhole link.

Mass Limitations

One of the more widely known aspects of wormhole combat is that it is affected by mass limitations on wormholes. That said, there are some subtleties that may escape the casual observer, and even the more well known aspects are probably worth revisiting.

K-space gates do not have any limitations on them other than capital ships not being able to use them. They can be used an infinite number of times, and they can jump ships of any mass from system to system.

Wormhole links are vastly different. Each type of wormhole link has two mass-related limits, one is a limit on the amount of mass that any given ship that attempts to jump through can have, the other is a limit on the total amount of mass that can jump through the wormhole before it collapses.

Limits on the maximum mass that can pass through in any given jump effectively limit the types of ships that can enter any wormhole system.

Wormhole ClassPer Jump Mass LimitHulls Allowed
Class 120MkgCruisers & Battlecruisers
Class 2-4300MkgCruisers, Battlecruiser, Battleships, Orcas
Class 5-61000MkgAll ship types other than Supercapitals

Limits on the total mass that can go through a wormhole link limit the size of fleets that can transit wormhole space. Total mass limits on wormhole links vary from a handful Mkg to several Gkg, and the mass limit of any given wormhole link can vary by up to 10% above or below the stated mass limit for the wormhole link type. Details about different wormhole link types can be found on this eve wiki page.

Because even the very largest wormhole links can only cope with 15 battleship jumps through and back, cruiser and battlecruiser hulls are much more frequently used for wormhole combat. Even when using fleets of smaller ships, protracted engagements with multiple jumps through wormhole links can result in collapsed wormholes, and that risk has to be taken into account when engaging targets through a wormhole link.

As a result of mass limitations, the goal of any wormhole space fleet is most often to have the most firepower, defense and electronic warfare that it can have by mass instead of the normal concern of by ISK value. In fact, due to the (relatively) high value of loot inside wormhole space system anomalies, ISK value of ships is of a secondary concern, and many pilots outfit their ships extremely expensively to get the most out of them that they possibly can. Combined with the close range brawling that characterizes engagements in wormhole space, most wormhole fleets are made out of well-fitted Tech 3 Strategic Cruisers (Proteus, Legion, Loki, Tengu) with logistics support.

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