Alliance Tournament Histories: Pandemic Legion vs. Hydra Reloaded – Part TwoApothne
Hi again everyone. This time I would like to give a big shout out to Duncan Tanner, who very kindly let me barrage him with questions for a very, very long time and who has probably lengthened this series as a result by at least a good two parts. He has also looked over and sternly edited and corrected my many, many mistakes and misunderstandings, he is a treasure of the Tournament and wider EVE community. The quotes in this part are all from him.
Editor’s Note: This is part two of an ongoing series exploring the history of the Alliance Tournament. You can find part one here.
In part two we must take a brief step away from the alliance tournament itself and look more broadly at the state of the tournament scene, especially with regards to metagaming, spying and effectively all the team interactions that happen off of the field of battle. Many players will tell you that EVE these days is EVE on “easy” mode and CCP is protecting you from historically much worse metagaming and cruel playstyles. It is not untrue to say that there is some of that in the history of the Alliance Tournament as well.
A Brief Exploration of Metagaming
Top teams would commonly give second-tier teams, ones with a shot at killing their main rivals, comps they knew would likely knock their main opponents out of the tournament, or force them to reveal some more information, be that how they react to certain situations, banning strategies, or even force them to show more of the roster of team compositions.
“Sometimes we would use other teams as proxies against the other. Every team we faced we expected a potential PL influence. It was like a game within the game that everyone else played.”
It was like a game within the game that everyone else played
Another example of something far more stringent today is the running of “B-teams”. Running “B-teams” was far less explicitly outlawed and generally not considered as bad by the community, sharing theorycrafting (now explicitly outlawed) was also common. A prime example of this can be found in Duncan’s opening to his summary for ATIX which we just covered, PL was considering using Genos Occidere as a B-team back when Genos was in PL in 2011. Similarly, in ATIX Gobbins, now back in PL, and MrRive ran a PL B-Team under the old Goonswarm alliance ticker which was lost from the actual goons to PL, before more recently being given to Darius Johnson during his ten dollar bond experiment. You can hear the excitement of the team that beat them in this video, in their mind having effectively beaten AT juggernauts PL. It should be mentioned however that even though this was the same tournament as the HYDRA/Outbreak. fiasco, there was a difference in how each B-team was run. The PL B-team practiced with the main team but otherwise was ran entirely separately, different leadership, effectively a true second team. With HYDRA/Outbreak. the leadership and running of the teams were much more shared. As I’m a member of PL you may now be calling me a PL apologist, twisting the narrative in our favour, so I’ll just drop in the direct quote from Tanner himself:
“Not many people remember that PL also had a second team in AT9. AT9 had a qualifier stage before the main tournament that didn’t have full broadcasting coverage. Through spying, we saw that PL-B had two qualifier setups that they favoured and we gave their opponents hard counters. There’s a video of the match with the alliance that beat them getting pretty excited as they won.”
“PL’s second team was likely more kosher by today’s standards than the Hydra-Outbreak relationship was, although they were both within the AT9 rules. The PL B-team had experienced leadership in Gobbins and probably wouldn’t have needed help from the main team outside of testing. For Outbreak it was their first tournament and we were more integrated with them as they didn’t have any experience.”
AT8&9 were probably the height of shenanigans and straight out match-fixing, and it is wrong to believe that PL and HYDRA were the only ones having a crack at it. C02 and Boars attempted to match fix back in one of the group stages of this era but were countered by the match-fixing of Outbreak. and RAZOR so it was impossible for them to advance anyway. This led to their match being a 10 minute Conga as they were both screwed no matter the outcome of the match. Looking back now, Outbreak vs. HYDRA may just have been the final, most visible straw that broke the Camel’s back which led to CCPs intervention into a previously celebrated and very “EVE” part of the tournament scene. It probably didn’t help that CCP had pinged all of Tranquility to tune into the final match, which pushed the stream viewership up to around 15k for what should have been an amazing final display of skill and spaceship explosions but was instead a complete farce. You can see the reaction of Zara (Outbreak. Captain), Garmon and Shamis of CCPs pre-AT10, AT9 final fiasco reaction ruling here.
Outbreak vs. HYDRA may just have been the final, most visible straw that broke the Camel’s back which led to CCPs intervention
Speaking more broadly, B-Teams in any tournament scene is tricky business. Generally, if you have a social group who is very into the tournament and very competent, they will attract other pilots who are very interested. Having enough pilots to in-house test for the tournament means you have at least enough pilots to field two teams, which means that if you only focus on fielding your absolute best on match day, many people who put in a lot of time and effort will not get the opportunity to fly in the main tournament, even if they are far better than the average pilot from a lesser alliance. Where this gets tricky however is if those two teams collude to get an unfair advantage, effectively working as one team with two shots to win the tournament as we saw with Warlords of the Deep (read: HYDRA) and The Camel Empire in ATXIII.
The topic of tournament metagaming and rule-bending is a series in itself, so I’ll leave it at that (for now), but hopefully it provides some reasonable context for this time period in EVE Online and Tournament play.
Errata: CCP Fozzie (then Raivi, a member of the PL Tournament team) has shared with me his spying notes on Atlas and HYDRA from ATVIII, originally released on Scrapheap challenge in 2010. There are other docs with other notes, as he has a side business of selling them to other teams. This is merely a taste of the level of effort and dedication that goes into AT metagaming. Document here.
New Eden Open 1
The New Eden Open (NEO) ran for two tournaments, with the notable change from the Alliance tournament of a real cash prize. The total prize pool for the tournament was $10,000, with first place taking $6,000. To put that in perspective, League of Legends was only just starting to make its way as an eSport and the king of the eSports hill was arguably StarCraft 2. At the time, Premier SC2 tournament had prize pools of up to $100,000, with Tier 2 events topping out at CCPs offered $10,000. It was played just before Christmas 2012, putting it just after AT10.
In the first NEO neither the Hydra team or the PL team did particularly well or faced each other (the PL team, fatefully named “Y-” may have spent 350B on the tournament and not made it out of the first round), but it is worth noting as the beginning of CCPs push into the eSports realm. It was spearheaded by CCP Bro (ex-Tournament Lead) and CCP Loxy (video producer and ex-Head of EVE TV) who you might consider the spiritual ancestors of CCP Logibro as curators of the EVE tournament scene. You should absolutely check out CCP Loxy’s old youtube channel here (I am personally a big fan of CCP Loxy for being the guy who told me the first time I got invited to be an Alliance Tournament commentator). From my perspective, this attitude of pushing EVE Online as an eSport reached its height around the time of the NEOs and ATXI but was slowly being pulled back around ATXII, before the more recent push with what was to be hopefully a more eSport friendly title in EVE Valkyrie.
In what will shock absolutely no-one, the PvP tournament of Fanfest 2k13 ended with a PL v HYDRA finals, which in our timeline falls between SCL2 and SCL3 which we will get on to later. The recently minted Alliance CEO Elise Randolph headed up the Pandemic Legion team, with the serious Russian HaartSP running the HYDRA side under the name “The Expendables”. Though actually, it was more of a “non-PL tourney vet” side with two HYDRA members (the other being Kadesh), two Rote Kappelles (Bacchanalian and namamai) and Nik Domar who won the previous years tournament and ended up joining HYDRA. And because of course they did, PL submitted three teams to the preliminary rounds with one making it to the finals as we see here. I admit this is pushing the PL v HYDRA to the edge of definition, but we’ve pre-established that I will take any excuse to talk about EVE tournaments so just go with it. The two teams were ran by the PL/HYDRA leadership and had PL/HYDRA theorycrafters backing them so in my book, it counts!
This was the first Fanfest tournament to follow what we presently think of as tournament style, not capture the node or such auxiliary formats, but head-on spaceship combat. Similar to the format of the preliminary rounds for ATX, teams had 5 pilots and 50 points (effectively half a modern AT) to make their comps. Another interesting facet of this tournament in particular was that for all rounds up to the finals, everyone could walk around the players during and watch the games over their shoulder, which must have been fantastic but also lead to certain information usually kept secret being much more up for grabs. There was at least one incident where one team “happened” to have exactly the correct ECM fitted to face an all-Minmatar team.
Commentary by Shadoo, CCP Rise and Zastrow
PL bring a team theorycrafted at the previous night’s PL Dinner literally on the back of a napkin of a double Myrm, double Vexor team with an Exeq for reps with lots of utility jams and neuts. The Expendables have a Curse, two Gilas and a Maulus for support with Osprey reps. One or both of Tinkeng and Elise flew out of range of each other, either accidentally or forced due to the Maulus damps, meaning Tinkeng can’t rep Elise’s Myrmidon leading to an easy first blood for The Expendables team. However, PL have managed to Neut out and jam Bacchanalian’s Osprey so it can’t rep Nik Domar’s Gila which looks like it’s about to follow, but reps land at the last minute and keep it alive in structure while Tinkeng gets neuted, causing Tyrrax’s Myrmidon to follow Elise’s into space-dust. With two ships down to none, the first game is lost for PL.
Commentary by Shadoo, CCP Rise and Zastrow
PL “ >are PL” and bring a Tinker to the second game made from a Proteus with a Damnation, two Vexors and an Ishkur to the field, opposed by The Expendables’ repeat of Curse, two Gilas, Osprey and Maulus. PL start by shooting drones to mitigate incoming DPS, which would allow their Proteus to permatank their team for the rest of the match, but in between jam cycles the (not so) Expendable Curse neuts Tinkeng out and his Proteus is overwhelmed by the DPS of the rest of the team, knocking him out. This breaks the Tinker and makes the match go 2-0 in favour of The Expendables.
Each of the top 3 teams won a series of goodies from the RAZER sponsors, small trophies and, of course, some packs of Gull beer.
Originally, this part was going to include the SCL, but I may have entirely uncharacteristically been somewhat verbose and thus decided to subdivide further, giving the SCL its rightly deserved own part in the history of the PL/HYDRA rivalry.