A lot has been written about the rifter since the frigate balancing last year - it's definitely not the dominant ship that it once was. But on the other hand, it's not totally useless yet either. I have hangers full of rifter hulls - a couple hundred of them spread across the worlds of Eve - and fly them quite often, if for no other reason than to use them up.
My alt in RvB flies merlins and I know what they can do - so my plan was to use barrage ammo for it's additional range and try to stay away from the fire spewing from the blasters. I set my orbit distance to 6,000 meters on the way to the plex and checked to be sure I had barrage loaded. I turned all the knobs up to 11.
I landed on the gate and jumped thorough. There was the merlin, just 3,000 meters away from me. I immediately hit the orbit button and activated the overheated afterburner to get some distance from him, targeted and hit all of the right buttons. He was scrammed, webbed, and taking damage from my autocannons and rocket launcher.
At first I was taking more damage than I was dealing (looking at the logs he hit for about 450 damage with one shot before I managed to gain some range). But I had an armor repairer on the rifter and always hope that my opponent is shield fit (to give me hope at times like this when I'm behind early in fights). Sometimes that hope is well placed, and sometimes not. In this case, I was right. The merlin was equipped with a Miura Bull Approved Medium Shield Extender(tm). So while I was behind on damage, I was still not in my main pool of defense (my armor) - while he already was losing his vital shield defense.
When I had my orbit established at a bit over 6km from the merlin I turned off the heat on everything but the guns and the rocket launcher. No need to burn up my equipment and lose by default (something I'm all too familiar with...).
The damage from the merlin slowed down to nothing. 7km is too far for his blasters to have any effect - but well in range for my autocannons with barrage ammo. While I was doing steady (not spectacular) damage, from his side of the fight came a steady, "Commander Sertan misses you completely".
The battle was won. I remembered to turn off the heat on the guns and rockets (to save them from burning up) when I started going quickly through his armor and soon Commander Sertan exploded in a fireball of death and destruction. I was only halfway through my shields and my armor was undented.
Afterwards we exchanged GFs in local and
[ 2013.02.18 05:38:58 ] Commander Sertan > if you would have landed closer, i think i would have had you
[ 2013.02.18 05:39:06 ] Commander Sertan > or at least it would have been a LOT closer
[ 2013.02.18 05:39:26 ] Jack Dancer > Definitely a lot closer.
[ 2013.02.18 05:39:59 ] Jack Dancer > Those blasters are vicious close in...
But this time I got lucky and didn't land close. This was a fight against a well fit merlin with a very capable pilot - but even the lowly rifter has a chance depending on circumstances.