So, on the previous post, I explained a little about signing up for an Agony class. However, up to this point I really haven’t talked about how a class is run, and how it all works throughout the experience.
Agony classes are now split into two parts, a lecture, which lasts about 4 hours or so. The practical roam is on the next night which can go for 4 to 6 hours or longer depending on the action. This is different from the previous two classes I took, where the classes were bundled into one long night. It was much better this way, and also very amenable to the significant other (i.e. my wife) so I wasn’t out of commission for prime kid time (which can get quite busy with 3 kids around 7PM bedtime preparations). The class nights both kicked off at 23:59 eve time, which for me was about 8PM.
Another difference for this class was that the instructor was also our FC (fleet commander). I cannot say more good things about Caldak. He is an impressive FC with an extremely large amount of experience with spaceship combat in EvE Online. I had Caldak as FC with both my previous classes (BASIC and WOLFPACKS) so I knew what he was like already. However, both of my previous classes had a separate instructor, Dr. Oozy, who was equally well versed in the material.
Lecture: In this particular class, we weren’t treated like noobs anymore. We were expected to come to class with the experience of BASIC and WOLFPACKS training, plus any actual PVP experience we had managed to get in between the classes. Therefore, we didn’t have exact fitting guides for our ships (which were Cruiser hulls for this class). We had to bring the loadouts we thought were appropriate for our particular ships. The course materials hinted at this fact, but there really was not a lot of hand holding during class. We had some course materials provided for us, plus the previous two classes’ materials as well to review. I cannot stress enough how important the course materials are, and how detailed as well. It’s worth taking the courses just for the materials (although the roam is the best part).
Caldak went over fitting out ships for the particular bonuses, plus what the fleet had. By the end of the first night, we had learned how to evaluate ourselves and our fleet for the encounters we might face, and how our ships inter-relate to each other in combat situations. We went over different threats to the fleet, and about different concepts as they relate to how to use our ships during those threats. We went over things like active vs passive tanking, ammo selection, ship bonuses, module selection, and how to balance the fleet in terms of EWAR and in relation to the fleet concept that Agony uses (I don’t mention this concept in detail as it’s property of Agony, and they are the best at describing it). Suffice to say we went over everything that would give you an advantage in large fleet combat, including how to decide for yourself in your situation how to act and balance that with the FC’s orders.
Caldak presented in a question and answer format for most of the lecture, in an effort to involve the class in the presentation, and not make it such a one sided instructor led session. This format worked well for me, as the topics were explained in greater detail and I received a number of viewpoints from each question. He also presented a few target prioritization scenarios which I found interesting, as we were given a specific fleet composition of enemy targets and a fleet composition of our own fleet and he asked us to decide how to call targets based on what was provided. This was particularly valuable as I took away a few examples of ships that are the most dangerous and why in enemy fleets.
The final portion of the lecture night consisted of going over the fleet setups using Agony’s own fleet setup tool. With what I can only assume is custom software that someone at Agony developed, they were able to import each person’s fit and output a view of everyone’s loadout denoting what each person had in terms of critical modules, such as ewar (jammers, damps, etc.) plus shield repair modules, etc. It gave the FC the ability to look over the fleet as a whole and help balance out the fits in case specific modules were needed. This is a really cool feature of the class, and has been much improved with the new browser that was released with the Dominion expansion.
Bio breaks were given at reasonable intervals during the first night. We broke up after the fleet was balanced and were set to resume the next night at the same time.
Practical (Roam): The next night started out at the same time, and the first thing was to recheck the fleet setup tool and ensure that everyone’s fit was still valid. The FC then asked to undock and head out for low sec. Since we were in a low sec gateway system, it was only one jump to low sec space and then from there into 0.0.
One interesting thing to note was that as we were setting up to leave, TeaDaze (yes, that TeaDaze) ended up joining the fleet for the roam. It was very cool to hear his voice on vent after watching and listening to the Alliance tourney last year; he was commentator at last year’s event.
The fleet immediately went to warp and jumped into low sec. The FC was already spreading out his intel net using covops scouts and other intel groups. Interesting to note I was part of the first group to go into 0.0 as we arrived at the gate to null sec, and the FC called for my wing to go in. We jumped into a group on the gate and I lost my first ship. The fleet ended up stabilizing the situation, and there were only 3 of us that lost ships. I learned quickly that the Blackbird is a ship that is always marked as primary, as it is a jamming boat.
I headed back to the home station 3 jumps away and retrieved my next Blackbird (I brought 4 with me) and headed back out. The fleet was actually docked up and waiting nearby, and then we headed out again from there.
A few more systems, and some interesting FC work later we had some juicy targets. Caldak had sent a couple of wings out to surrounding systems in an attempt to drive targets to our main fleet. We ended up getting a smaller group of ships caught by our tackle, and we made short work of two Nighthawks. I was happy with the outcome, even with a loss of my own ship right off the bat. Bear in mind my ship was far less ISK than the two Nighthawks. There was a small incident with someone in class shooting wrecks and the instructor getting very upset with them, but other than that everyone in class was very coordinated and did what they needed to considering the size of the fleet. It was a testament to the FC’s ability to keep things organized.
We took some more time with coordination of fleet, and some more FC work, and by then for me it was getting quite late. So I decided to call it an evening. I found out later that the roam went on for many more hours after (which is typical of Caldak’s roams – they can be quite long), and some nifty targets were had.
All in all I had a good time, and it was great experience. I definitely support Agony in their classes, and I hope they keep doing them. I was very impressed with the professional classes and materials provided, and it was worth every single ISK. Will I take another one? I daresay I will. I’m hoping for Covops next, where I’ll actually be able to provide recon reports for another class.