This post is intended to be a guide of what I want in a scout when I'm leading a fleet.
While the fleet is roaming or moving to a specific destination, scouts are often asked to fly ahead of the fleet to find targets to fight or hostiles to avoid. This is often referred as being the "plus one" as in being one jump ahead of the fleet. As a general rule of thumb, try stay ahead of the fleet enough so that they have warning time to evade a heavier force while at the same time trying to avoid getting so far out ahead of the fleet that there is room for something to get in between you and the fleet, i.e. being +2 or 3 jumps out. Preferably, my scout should be on the out gate and see the main fleet jumping in via local chat before he jumps into the next system; that keeps a chain of eyes on the systems between scout and fleet while giving the fleet a whole gate to gate warp range to react appropriately.
When in a system I don't need constant updates on where you are warping to if you are looking to scan a plex or a gate. But if you are going to check out a system not on the current route please let me know.
When first entering a system, I like a concise report from the scout focusing on the closest things first and working outwards.
1) What's on grid?
2) Who's in Local chat? War targets, pirates, suspects, neutrals, friendlies broken down.
3) What's of interest on long scan?
And if you can get a scan from where you are to some plexes or gates in the system, warp to a point where you can scan them and report from there.
And for faction warfare systems:
4) Number of open plexes, and if in scan range, what's in them.
Remember, you can hold cloak while doing all three of those things so if you jump into a hostile or neutral fleet, hold cloak and get those scans and numbers. The goal is to give the FC a complete picture as possible, as if they were there with you, so that they can make a decision about how to proceed properly. Incomplete information can lead to bad situations.
Handy Hint: Don't be afraid to drag characters from local chat into fleet chat (I keep them side by side for this reason) so that the FC can see who it is in that ship you just found, especially corp and alliance. Very useful for "neutrals".
Handy Hint: If there is a hostile on grid with you, check local for his corp/alliance mates. Sometimes neutrals are neutrals, sometimes they are backup for the bait.
When trying to find a target ship or fleet in a system, you need to give lots of information so the FC can keep up on the situation. A running commentary is not out of place; "Warping to XYZ gate," "see three Ishtars on scan towards sun," "trying the ABC gate now," "I got a war target in a Moa on the ABC gate at zero, nothing on scan, and he's burning towards me."; these are examples of a good scout report. The FC knows that there is three Ishtars in space somewhere and that the Moa might be bait, but that the Ishtars are not nearby.
When you get on grid with the enemy, remember that your role is Scout first, tackle second. Try to stay alive so you can continue to be the eyes for the fleet. Don't go in and get a tackle and then scream on comms for help, it will arrive too late most of the time. Coordinate with the FC and they can be ready or even send in a backup to help you out. Most foes won't bolt at the sign of one extra in local if they are geared to fight, but a second point to allow you to run is often all that's needed to allow the fleet to get there.
Report ranges and directions. If you have a potential fight at a plex, let the FC know how many AU it is from the gate to the system where the fleet is. If a target is on grid with you, number of kilometers and direction towards a celestial can make for a possible bounce and drop on the target for tackle.
Once engaged in a fight, remember your goal is to stay alive. If the target gets away because you need to burn off, that's OK. There will be more fights, but you might be the last good scout.
Also, sometimes the FC will ask you to do something that puts you at risk, like jumping into a gate camp or trailing closely behind an enemy fleet. Although your goal is to stay alive, the reason we use scouts is because its less costly to lose a scout than it is to whelp the fleet. If you die while scouting, make sure you let the FC know and go reship.
Handy Hint: Watch out for squirrel chasing. A small gang of 5-7 frigates might like to chase every war target and pirate ship they see, but a larger heavier fleet is looking for a bigger fight. Try to focus and make sure you and the FC agree before chasing after every possible target.
Sometimes a fleet will require multiple scouts, especially when searching multiple systems for a target ship/fleet. When this happens you need to continue giving clear and concise reports but also including the system name and your name, i.e. report in third person. For example,
"Kirith jumping into Deven, three in local, two war targets and one pie, names linked in fleet chat. Nothing on scan, two plexes, a small and a novice, out of scan range."
Later on, if you find a target, you need to reiterate who and where you are. As a bad example:
"I have a moa jumping through, following!"
Even though the scout might have said "warping to Suj gate in Nagamenmen" a few seconds ago, the context might have been lost by the time the FC got the recent message. Instead:
"Kirith, in Nagamenmem, on the Sujarento gate with war target Moa who is jumping through to Suj. Following..."
Now the FC knows the context and location and can respond appropriately, whether its calling you back or sending reinforcements.
Handy Hint: If you need to get the attention of the FC and quiet everyone else, say "BREAK BREAK!" followed by your intel.
Tools of the Trade
There are a number of ships that can be used for scouting with their strengths and weaknesses.
Tech 1 Attack Frigates - Fast and cheap, these are common scouts in low sec as they are hard to catch at gates and cheap to replace and easy for new pilots to get into. Very fragile.
Tech 1 Disruption Frigates - The Maulus or Griffin especially use their e-war capabilities as their tank and tackle unsuspecting enemies for the fleet. Advanced tactics, don't try this at home ;)
Tech 2 Interceptors - Fast with better bonuses to tank, damage, and tackling, as well as that handy immune to bubbles thing for travelling in low sec. Still fragile and expensive.
Tech 2 Covert Ops / Stealth Bombers - Fast, agile, and can warp cloaked! Very handy for spying on the enemy fleet without them knowing you are there, so can get good warp ins for surprise tackle. On the downside they are super fragile once uncloaked and don't have bonuses for pointing things. Also, expensive in comparison to Tech 1 frigates as well.
Tech 2 Recon Cruiser - Warped while cloaked like the Covert Ops frigates but far more dangerous and tanky. Plus, the Gallente recons have bonuses to warp disruptor and scrambler ranges for the extra surprise tackles! However, super expensive compared to frigates and their durability becomes moot if you get stomped on by a fleet of enemy ships (even a handful of good Tech 1 frigates can ruin you).
Bait Scout - Dual role ships in which the scout is also the bait! Accomplished by heavily tanked cruisers or bigger, they scout just like normal but instead of tackling the enemy directly they let the enemy tackle them. Then throw a point and web on the most expensive things you can reach and call in the cavalry. Slower than other scouts and no defense for when you get in over your head. And more expensive than frigates.
Anything - Basically any ship can act as a scout as long as its expendable and the pilot knows how to report good intel.
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Leave comments for your hints and tricks for scouts.