"In my experience nullsec changes some CareBears. They become a different breed than their high-sec cousins. Tougher. More efficient. More wily. More ruthless. Far richer. The best of them will become the great merchant princes of New Eden. And PVPers will work for them. "
Once upon a time in Fountain, the combined forces of the Deklein Coalition and the old Northern Coalition (not the alliance of the same name) laid low the remains of SirMolle's by then moribund Delve-based empire. Both coalitions were viewed by the elite PvP alliances of the day as compilations of carebear alliances whose sole military asset was the ability to bring overwhelming numbers to a fight in order to offset their lack of actual fleet PvP skills. Thus, BOB/IT Alliance's devastating defeat at 6VDT-H in Querious and the alliance's subsequent collapse was perceived by many in nullsec as a bunch of Carebears from up North kicking over a storied nullsec power practically synonymous with the game of Eve itself.
Panic ensued. The forums erupted with dire predictions: Soon NC and Deklein would control all of nullsec. All nullsec alliances would be forced to set each other blue. Sov wars would become a thing of the past. Titans would be fitted for mining. Delve would be turned into a theme park. Group hugs would become mandatory.
Oh, the humanity.
Galvanized by the carebear threat, supercapital-intensive alliances born out of the IT Alliance collapse allied themselves with the Drone Russian Federation (DRF), adding their considerable firepower to DRF and Pandemic Legion operations against Northern Coalition space. Forced to respond to significant attacks on many fronts, the Northern Coalition either could not or would not respond with its usual application of overwhelming force. Further, the invaders employed their supercapitals more effectively and, having supercapital inventory reserves with which to replace losses, more aggressively. In short order, the NC supercapital fleets ceased to deploy at all.
Without a supercapital umbrella, the NC and Deklein conventional fleets (at that time Deklein had little or no supercapital capacity of their own and relied on the NC for supercapital support), however large, were ineffective against the invaders' combined conventional/supercapital fleets. The NC defense collapsed. and its space was quickly overrun. The Northern Coalition was no more, and the Deklein Coalition, left in the midst of enemies and sans supercapital support, appeared humbled. The carebear threat to nullsec was ended and the IT Alliance veterans had their revenge for the debacle at 6VDT-H.
Or so it seemed.
As the Northern Coalition collapsed, many of the orphaned corporations and individual capsuleers found refuge with long-time friends and allies in the Deklein Coalition. In today's CFC (Deklein coalition's name was shifting to this around the time of the IT Alliance/NC collapse) most alliances count former NC pilots and corporations among their members. As of this writing, Razor Alliance, the sole survivor of the four primary NC alliances, is a member of the CFC. Despite pronouncements to the contrary by DRF leadership following their victory over the Northern Coalition's nullsec bears, said bears had not been booted from nullsec. They merely changed the name-plate on the door. And the CFC, though in peril, remained.
As the new lords of the North settled into their recently conquered space it became evident that only three nullsec powers remained that represented plausible threats to the new order. The Southern Coalition (SoCo), who had taken advantage of the DRF's occupation in the North to regain Teneferis (lost the year prior to White Noise and Red Alliance), Deklein Coalition (by then re-dubbed CFC) and the once and future wild-card Pandemic Legion. Of these, the only genuine shooting war that erupted was between elements of the DRF and SoCo. While the opening rounds of the conflict had the tang of the 2010 White Noise/PL/Initiative invasion of -A- space, the war lost energy as Summer waned and the Incarna war between CCP and its player base heated up.
CFC, meanwhile, played for time while it assembled a supercapital fleet by making a separate peace with the lords of the North; going so far as to publicly entertain the notion of a larger DRF/CFC hegemony that would control roughly eighty percent of player owned nullsec and the resources therein. PL maintained a low profile during this time, staying well off the DRF's radar and occupying themselves with occasional fights in Delve and hot dropping pirate gangs in lowsec.
The Autumn of 2011 may go down as the dullest in Eve's history from a SOV warfare perspective. CCP had capitulated to player demands and were preparing significant "ships in space" upgrades to the Eve along with time dialation (TiDi) to reduce lag during large fleet battles and the much anticipated Winter Supercapital Nerf. While waiting to assess the impact of these changes, nullsec seemed locked like a fly in amber into the status quo. Wars were limited and little in the way of territory changed hands by force of arms. Most fleet combat occurred in Delve and Querious, which had become something of a no-mans land; a place the nullsec powers could go to find fleet fights without threatening each others' established sovereignty.
I've written elsewhere as to what happened next: As the year turned, internal squabbles within the DRF as a whole and within the individual alliances allowed the CFC and Pandemic Legion to overwhelm White Noise, Red Alliance and Raiden Alliance in Branch while Solar Fleet committed fratricide against their fellow DRF alliance Legion of Death, effectively ending the DRF as a coherent power block. After consolidating those gains, the CFC struck again, this time driving SoCo forces from Delve and the remains of Red Alliance from Querious and putting the two regions under the control of CFC stalwart Test Alliance Please Ignore.
What is most interesting about the CFC campaigns in Branch and Delve is how quickly and effectively they were executed. It can be argued that, on a pilot to pilot basis, the alliances recently displaced by CFC were the better PvPers and that CFC merely "brought the blob" and overwhelmed their opponents with sheer numbers. However, it is widely acknowledged that the CFC pilots are well led in the field and that that the CFC headquarters staff are disciplined and organized; leveraging the coalition's financial, logistical and numeric advantages in order to bring overwhelming force to bear against its enemies.
The paradigm, it seems, has shifted again. Fighting well is no longer enough. Elite PvP alliances must now look to their internal organizations if they wish to play the great game in nullsec. Regardless of their PvP skills, effective managers and administrators are as valuable in nullsec as the best FCs and are likely more rare. Superior organizations with solid financials, minimal internal friction and clear lines of command and control are essential. Funding and administering wars has become every bit as essential as fighting them.
Until recently, successful nullsec alliances could simply be bands of brothers out in the dark beyond, living the warrior code. Now they must be an enterprise; We Be Warriors, inc.
The carebears have won. The merchant princes are in control. And the PvPers work for them.