The Good - Pirate Epic Arc Fun :)
If you haven't already tried the pirate epic arcs, then you really should. For once CCP actually implemented the feature intelligently. I am not going to bore you with the details of the missions, for that check out here and here for excellent guides.
First and foremost, these missions are actually fun. The mission text is better then the usual level 4 mission. The multiple choices make them feel a little less scripted. I really have to give CCP credit for making it so that you can do these Angel/Guristas missions using your empire faction standings. the rewards for the missions, especially the Angel Sound one, are very good. Between the two major item rewards, bounties and nice mission rewards, each arc should net in the neighborhood of 300 million isk for a few hours work. Personally I felt the missions themselves could be a bit harder, both my Jaguar and my Dramiel were able to make short work of the targets.
However what makes the missions challenging, and fun, is that they involve running around some very busy regions of 0.0 NPC space. I had to dodge three gate-camps, one of which was well run, in order to compete both arcs. The Angel mission, being in Curse, runs through some near perma-camped systems. The Guristas missions in Venal were not so heavily camped, but times change and space that is one-day empty can have a 200 man gate-camp the next day.
In addition to the gate-camps the locals are definitely interested in scanning you down and hunting you to extinction. While doting the Guristas arc, Sister's Combat Probes were seen a couple of times. Fortunately I was able to complete the mission before being dropped upon.
The biggest downside to the pirate arc missions is that you can only run them once every 3 months. This, plus there are only two arcs, one for the Angels and one for the Guristas. If they had another arc for each of the pirate factions that would have provided a lot more play-time. Unfortunatly CCP tends to forget about features as soon as they go live, so these two are probably all the arcs that we will see :(
While I did the Angel Sound Arc in a dual-prop Jaguar, I found that the following Dramiel to be pretty much a perfect ship for doing these. It is a little expensive (especially with the faction bling) but at less than 1/3 the rewards for the mission, a good investment:
[Dramiel, Mission Dram]
Damage Control II
Nanofiber Internal Structure II
Gistii B-Type 1MN Afterburner
Medium F-S9 Regolith Shield Induction
Gistii B-Type Small Shield Booster
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
200mm AutoCannon II, EMP S
200mm AutoCannon II, EMP S
Rocket Launcher II, Gremlin Rocket
Small Ancillary Current Router I
Small Projectile Collision Accelerator I
Small Low Friction Nozzle Joints I
Hobgoblin II x3
Hobgoblin II x1
The Bad - Empire Level 4 Mission Running
It seems that throughout my entire EVE career Level 4 mission running has been the most loved by empire/hated by everyone else activity. In short, Level 4 missions are what EVE would be if it was a single player game. You are given a seemingly impossible task (take out 10 enemy BS + 40 support ships solo) and, through skill or just general personal brilliance, you succeed. Of course it does not really take much skill beyond finding Eve Survival. Thanks to lousy circa 2004 NPC AI, and a near total lack of variation in missions, it is surprisingly easy to take out an entire enemy fleet solo. Rather the challenge seems to be maximizing the ISK/hour ratio.
The missions are not without their challenges. I remember fondly managing the cap and shields of my Maelstrom keeping both in the Max recharge range to successfully tank Angel Extravaganza. Since the missions are invariably one vs a whole army, this can lead to certain challenges. However what frustrates me is the repetition. Over the last month these are the Level 4 missions that I have done:
The Assault - 3 times
The Modus Headhunters - 4 times
Recon (1,2,3) - 5 times
Angel Extravaganza - 4 times
Damsel in Distress - 7 times
Stop the Thief - 4 times
Pirate Invasion - 2 times
Smuggler Interception - 5 times
Massive Attack - 2 times
The Score - 1 times
Cargo Delivery - 4 times
Rigth Hand of Zazzmatazz - 2 times
Intercept the Saboteurs - 3 times
Duo of Death - 2 times
So what to do?
The solution for Toterra, amazingly enough, is to just have it all. Toterra is now running missions in 0.0. Thanks to the pirate arcs providing a 37% boost to faction standings, I could access level 2 Guristas agents, which allowed me to quickly grind up in a day or two so that I could run Level 4 missions. Not bad :). Additionally, the missions are much more profitable thanks to their LP. I am no expert on the mechanics of LP reward sizes but where I was usually getting 5000 minmattar LP per level 4 mission, I am now getting 10,000 Guristas LP per level 4 mission. Multiply this by the far more lucrative LP store (Crystal Implants anyone) and the money is actually quite nice. I can avoid doing missions for empire factions easily enough and still make over 50 million ISK/hour.
But what makes it really good is that the missions are actually interesting. Not in the sense that the missions themselves are interesting, but because this is 0.0 other players are a distinct worry. Instead of lumbering along in a Maelstrom, I am racing around in an Ishkur, Daredevil or a Dramiel. Yes, these ships can do many level 4 missions. Just watch out for webs and sister probes.