AT XIII should be announced in a few months—this article is a summary of my thoughts on how the rules need to be changed to make things more interesting for both the viewers, and the teams participating.
AT XI and AT XII
Both of the latest two Alliance Tournaments have basically used an identical ruleset and took place after all of the first pass ship balancing had been completed. This led to two very similar tournaments that were dominated by drone comps: Sentries in AT XI and mobile drones in AT XII. Damps were also heavily used to almost the exclusion of all other EWAR. The brawling meta from previous Alliance Tournaments, outside of a few blaster brawl comps, had almost totally disappeared, and non-marauder battleships were rare. Strong tinker setups emerged creating boring and static gameplay. Once CCP Soundwave left the Alliance Tournament team, the rules stopped being changed on a regular basis and point values of ships stayed fairly stagnant outside of rebalances and the addition of new ships.
Here is the current table of point values for Alliance tournament ship classes :
Let’s say, hypothetically, that I’m in charge of designing the rules for AT XIII. What would I do to make things interesting for the teams doing the theorycrafting and give the viewers a wider variety of ships to watch, instead of constant mirror matches?
Firstly, I would steal a fantastic idea from the recent Worlds Collide tournament and ban Tech II drones and faction drones. This hurts quite a lot of ships that have supplementary drones that add to their damage, but I feel this would, overall be a great change for the Alliance Tournament. It also lowers the ISK barrier of entry, as teams are not expected to field hundreds of expensive augmented drones in every single match to be competitive. Removing Tech II and faction drones will also remove the silly rule exceptions that some ships received in the above AT XII points list, such as the Ishtar and the Vexor Navy Issue, and mean you can balance more around the ship class, rather than around a few powerful ships. Let’s face it, drones are broken in an arena context, are extremely boring to watch, and make it really hard for a viewer to understand what is going on due to the “hands off” nature of the weapon system.
Secondly, I would just straight out ban circlejerk comps by restricting energy transfers to logistics ships, and by making it mandatory to field 12 people per team. Energy transfers being restricted means that there would be less scope for a setup that permanently tanks damage; the 12-man-rule means that if people still manage to construct a tinker without transfer, they would be forced to bring weak, killable ships due to point constraints.
Thirdly, I would bring in a set of rules to combat the strength of damps. Damps have dominated the last few alliance tournaments due to their incredible power on bonused hulls with command ship links. I would restrict the amount of damping ships you can have per class to one ship. This means that you could only bring one Maulus, one Keres, one Celestis, etc. per setup and would increase the power of banning damping ships. If you banned the Maulus and Keres for example, the enemy team could only bring one damping Celestis, or a 14 point recon, making things fairly balanced. There are a few other alternative ideas for reducing the power of damps in a tournament context that can also be used, such as restricting the use of scripts on bonused damping ships. This halves their damping power, and means that a ship isn’t totally disabled with a full rack of Maulus damps on it. Another idea is to create exceptions within the rules for damp ships and make taking them cost more points than their class equivalents. I personally don’t like this idea, as I feel that creating “special exceptions” for certain ships complicates the rules of the tournament, and is a slippery slope towards promoting a rule set that lists every ship as its own point value.
Another change I would make is to neuter marauders a bit. Having an EWAR immune battleship that has great projection and a massive active tank in an arena context is simply nonsense. I would ban the bastion module and value it around 18 points. I would also remove the restriction that you can only field one per tournament and make them subject to the same rules as any other ship. Even without bastion, marauders are fairly entertaining ships with an interesting MJD bonus that will still see some use.
Lastly, I would make some fairly significant changes to the point values of ships themselves, which I have listed below :
Tech I battleship—16
Heavy assault cruiser—12
Tech I logistics—8
Electronic attack frigate—5
Tech 1 EWAR frigate—4
Tech I exploration frigate—1
Let me explain the thinking behind a lot of these changes. Compared with the AT XII list, these ship point values go right from one to 19. Having done a lot of tournament theorycrafting, it is really frustrating having to ditch a promising looking comp because you have leftover points that you simply cannot use. Making a 12 man team mandatory would require a spread of ship point values, and that’s why I have done so here.
Another major change from the standard CCP ruleset is that I have made battlecruisers and battleships significantly cheaper. I have knocked a point off most battleship classes to make them more attractive to use as their current point values reflect a time where brawling was the dominant meta in EVE tournaments. Two potentially overpowered battleships in the Armageddon and the Dominix are significantly neutered by the Tech I drone restriction, but will still be a great value at 16 points. Battlecruisers basically saw no use in the last couple of ATs, other than the occasional Gnosis, Prophecy, or Myrmidon, which unsurprisingly are all drone boats that fitted warfare links at a cheaper cost than a command ship. With cruisers at 7 points and HACs at 12, battlecruisers will hold an interesting middle ground that will allow you to get a cheap tanky damage ship in your comp that also allows the use of warfare links. Navy battlecruisers are also super weak as a class and deserve a bit of a discount. Making them the same point value as HACs will give theorycrafters some interesting options at that price point.
Cruisers have been split into several distinct classes with their own point values. Pirate faction cruisers with their pseudo-recon bonuses have been reduced to 11 points to differentiate them from, arguably, the stronger HAC ship class. Navy cruisers are much weaker in power and have been split from pirate cruisers with their own point value. Having them at 12 in the original rules was kind of silly, and they basically never saw any use due to being in an overstaffed points bracket that was full of far more powerful ships. The Vexor Navy Issue will no longer drag down the class due to the Tech I drones rule. Nine points fairly reflects their power level, meaning you can get a Tech I cruiser upgrade for a few points, or a large upgrade to pirate faction for four points. Speaking of cruisers, I’ve made them slightly more expensive at seven points, as at six they were simply too cheap and brought far too many slots to a comp for that price point. Tactical destroyers are fair at six, especially with cruisers at seven, and should provide good value for teams that choose to field them. EAFs are a point cheaper with the restrictions on the Keres curbing damp power a bit.
Frigates have undergone few changes from the CCP rules. I put in exploration frigates at one point, meaning teams have interesting platforms for unbonused EWAR at a cheap price on a series of flimsy hulls. I also split navy frigates from the crowded four point bracket. and set them at three points to ensure they actually have a chance of getting used.
The Alliance Tournament is a lot of work for both the players that are participating and for CCP, but is honestly one of the most intense and rewarding experiences you can have in EVE Online. Keeping that experience fresh for players and for viewers by having a set of rules like I have suggested in this article will go a long way towards revitalising interest in EVE tournaments. I hope CCP takes note and chooses to incorporate some of the ideas presented to make it a much more interesting and exciting exhibition for all.
Thanks to Kadesh Priestess, Bluemelon, Wild things, and the rest of the Camel Warlords for being a sounding board and suggesting many of the ideas in this article.
Tags: alliance tournament, ATXIII, Bob Shaftoes