Last night, after a good bit of PVE in C2 relic and data sites (125M ISK in 1.25 hours = better than listening to incursion bears) we rolled the holes, and I was tasked with investigating the X877.
Upon jumping in to J163217, I saw a Drake and a Magnate on scan, who then disappeared. Two forcefields, C247 and P060 statics. Logically there was only one explanation, since the Drake could not possibly be soloing C4 content aside from ore or gas and there were no sleeper wrecks on scan - he was in his statics, ratting.
Having probed the hole out, we had C247 (EOL), P060 (EOL), K162 to C2 or C3, and a K162 to C5. The key here is the new nebulae which make it difficult to distinguish C2's from C3's sometimes.
We found the Magnate and the Drake through the K162 to C3 (J132525) in a relic. Tackled the Drake with my Astero, hero tanking it until backup point arrived. We then noticed a Rattlesnake on scan for a couple of seconds. When it didn't come to help the Drake (who died) we surmised the Rattlesnake was collapsing a hole. We went to ground and began searching for it's entrance; the Magnate got bubbled and ganked in the intervening C3 system.
We found the Rattler's connection, to a C5, when it was mass reduced. We reshipped the Sac to a Stratios and began signing on alts, ets. I moved a cloaky Loki up to the C5 with the Stratios, and began reshipping the Astero into an Execquror. not ideal, because of the Loki's active shield tank, but better than nothing. Another guy turned up in an Arazu, and we kept the non-cloaky DPS Prot back in J163217.
The Rattler (we presume) came back in a Caracal to scope out the sitrep in J132525. he sat on the hole, then jumped home. He came back in 5 minutes for another gecko at the hole, no doubt wondering if his Rattlesnake was safe enough coming to have a gander. We jumped him then, pushing the Stratios, Devoter and Loki through into the C5 after him. He spawned just outside the Devoter's bubble and GTFO'd.
I found the POS, and we saw the locals reship into 2 Rattlesnakes, Caracal. The Caracal and a Rattler warped to the hole and we pounced, and began the shoosting. We had a fifth guy sing in about this time and begin moving down the chain in his Onyx, beating our Execquror reships to the C5 hole. He jumped the onyx in, without bubbling up to preserve mass, and our Devoter - beaten up by Geckos, jumped out, again without bubbles up, and the hole collapsed.
Here things began to get a bit crazy. No logi, 5 ships, only one active tanked. The only active tanked ship was my Loki, and we had only 2 ships with probes in a MM267 static C5. Plus did I mention this was a C5 Black Hole? Uber missile Rattlers, and uber Geckos.
Nevertheless, we began the shoosting, cleaning up the Caracal and his pod, and beginning to chew on the Geckos. Our Stratios got beaten down almost instantly, I presume due to MWDing and blowing his sig up so the Geckos could actually track him.
As the minutes of shooting ticked by, it was becoming apparent that the Geckos and sentries of the Rattlesnakes were....fairly weak, as long as you were not blowing up your sig. However, the same was true of all the drones; we had a lot of problems landing blows on the Geckos with any drones. Black Holes may have changed but they were still up to their old tricks, making drones go so fast they orbited outside their optimals, or went so fast they couldn't orbit, or go so fast they couldn't track. Likewise, my Loki's autocannons were having problems tracking the sentries, which made drone control a PITA.
We began to bleed ships eventually, though, due to erosion of oour buffer tanks and the Rattlers deployed depots and refit stabs; one got out in half armour before we could blap it's depot. The Rattler refit at the POS and came back, neut fit with a dissy. This was enough for our HIC pilot to get caught, with low capacitor (infinipoint + 3 active hardeners + MWD ftw) and was unable to coast out of dissy range in time.
However, our Stratios ppilot had been put on 'find the exit' duty and came back with a D792 to highsec. I kept my Loki on field, tackling the Rattlesnakes as best I could (cap injector ftw) and tanking the drones as best i could, as our buffer ships went out to highsec and repaired. Pity, though, as it was maire, Solitude, so no batphone coverage and 28 jumps of low and null back home. Sadly, also, our Stratios pilot had to log off, so we lost 600 DPS of our own.
Nevertheless, we brought our ships back in and hung around, with Arazu long point keeping the Rattlers on field until they deployed a Drake. We waited for him to stray 30km away from his Rattler friends and their neuts (the only real threat to the Loki and it's Pith C-type LSB), and we went in for the kill. Stalemated, we went out to Maire, and called it even.
So, we lost an Onyx. But with 3 Rattlesnakes and a Drake on the lossmail, that's not a bad way to die. Content was created - the engagement lasted a good 15 minutes from go to whoa.
Learning outcomes? If we were to pitch into that battle again, better mass management from the HICs, to keep the connection up for more pile-ins. Not bringing two HICs - there's far and away enough tackle from one HIC. Thirdly, we're now investigating hybrid buffer-active tanked HICs. Better positioning of the HIC, too; being caught flat-footed at 0m on the Rattlesnake was it's downfall.
In the end, the old doctrine of the Black Hole is still as strong as ever. The missile buffs are nice, but effectively just counteract the problems vs faster opponents, resulting in net nothing. This then devolves back to tracking buffed AB or dualprop fits with damps, webs and TP's.