ATXIV Power Ranking: The Top 8Apothne
ATXIV is nearly upon us, and with it the formation and reorganisation of alliances to participate. But who are the ones to watch this year? Who are most likely to make it through the gruelling double-elimination format to be proclaimed victors and win those incredible AT prize ships? Suitonia and I have sat down and mulled over who we think, from the data currently available, will be the strongest eight teams.
Now, I fully expect for there to be many disagreements with placings on this list, and am very interested to hear your arguments in the comments as to why I’m an idiot and OBVIOUSLY team X should be placed higher than team Y. As with my collaboration with MrHyde, Suitonia’s comments will be in Italics.
#1 Pandemic Legion
There are only two teams to have won the Alliance Tournament more than one time, Band of Brothers who won ATI through ATIII, and Pandemic Legion who have won five. That’s five of the last eight, with them only failing to be in the top four on one occasion in those eight years.
In the past few years, the only real consistent rivals to Pandemic Legion have been the HYDRA RELOADED/The Camel Empire/Warlords of the Deep crew. After the disappointing betrayal by their leadership last year, that group has splintered into multiple other organisations and many of them have stopped actively playing EVE Online altogether. A few, such as Bluemelon, Casper24 and Suitonia have ended up joining Pandemic Legion themselves. This means that they are either a) at least not actively working against PL’s victory chances this year or b) are on the PL team, bringing their piloting, execution and communication expertise to the PL ranks.
In contrast to their historic rivals in HYDRA RELOADED, Pandemic Legion are not an “execution team”, in that they do not focus on the extreme levels of piloting and perfectionism in performance. That’s not to say that PL don’t have some fantastic pilots or that it’s possible to get that far without it, but at the level of the game we are discussing it is not their strong suit. Instead, Pandemic Legion’s strength has been in in their covert intel acquisition and the depth of their line of excruciatingly precisely crafted setups. Shamis, the previous captain and founder of Pandemic Legion, is known for his ability to make use of the bans and out-draft the opposing team before they even got on field.
PL’s main opponents in the AT are usually themselves
It is said that PL’s main opponents in the AT are usually themselves. They get so wrapped up in theorycrafting and counter-comps that they out-meta themselves and overcommit to a counter that isn’t coming, for example bringing an all-Amarr jammer Scorpion versus a Minmatar/Caldari shield team. This is the danger with PLs strengths – they can backfire in the worst way.
From the perspective of fighting against PL, they are one of those alliances that are actually more scary off the field than on it, and that is not a disservice to their piloting ability because they certainly have great pilots. PL’s theorycrafting is often top-notch, with notable players like Gobbins and Black Horizon, among others, leading the charge and creating setups and team comps that define the AT meta for years to come, such as the Tinker composition. PL have also been great at gathering intelligence through spying on SISI practices, and other means, with a special shout-out to Raivi (now CCP Fozzie) that watched every notable HYDRA RELOADED practice in AT8 and completely changed how the HYDRA team would test for the alliance tournament for the remainder of the alliance’s history. With the meta changing quite drastically with the recent changes to energy transfers, discounted Blood Raider ships, ewar scripts, additional ships introduced such as navy ewar frigs, command destroyers etc. the possible meta is as undiscovered as it has been in a while and PL have arguably the best theorycrafting.
#2 The Tuskers Co.
The Tuskers are the new hot shit on the tournament scene. They had two amazing runs in ATs XII and XIII, and of the rest of the field are the only ones who are likely able to consistently contend with PL in an extended series. There are many teams who are strong enough to win a game off of anyone in the tournament, but in my opinion The Tuskers are the only ones from this who have proven that they have what it takes to push PL match for match. There is in fact a reasonable argument to give The Tuskers the #1 spot on this list. The Tuskers and PL have never actually met in the Alliance Tournament, and in #EVE_NT Collides The Tuskers beat PL 3-1 in the first round. I chose to still give the top spot to PL as PL have placed higher than them in the past two Alliance Tournaments, and many of the more experienced PL AT team did not take part in #EVE_NT Collides team after burning out on the AT itself.
There is in fact a reasonable argument to give The Tuskers the #1 spot on this list
Suleiman Shouaa is an exceptionally talented, intelligent and committed leader to a team of excellent pilots. They are a team stylistically similar to that of Camel and Hydra, and you can see that they were extraordinarily close to besting them at last year. They lost only to Warlords of the Deep in matches that were much closer than they appear, fielding semi-similar setups each time. I highly recommend watching these two games for a masterclass in tournament play. I’ll give a brief play-by-play of their first game as an example as it was one of the best of the tournament.
Both teams brought shield missile battleship cores, with Warlords of the Deep focusing on extreme control as is their signature with a pair of Widows and their flagship SNI. Bringing three cost-heavy battleships forced the Warlords to bring a more flimsy T1 support wing whereas the Tuskers could bring T3Ds and interdictors, both teams augmenting their damage with bombers as was the vogue last year. The Tuskers had intelligently banned out the Etana, as the Warlords team here is essentially an endgame strongest setup with the Etana replacing the Basilisk, and bringing those Cambions in as well makes it near impossible to beat without fielding your own flagship and AT prizeships. This is not Warlords holding back their stronger setups to hide them from PL, this is Warlords bringing everything they have and still being made to work hard to win.
The first thing to notice in this match is that both teams don’t rush in – this is the sign of a really excellent team that is patient, analyses the situation and pushes their opponents to make a mistake. The second thing to notice is where Warlords place their jams and damage. Jams go on the two Barghests, the Hyena and the Vigil, the damage and damage application components of the Tuskers team. Warlords are playing it safe, trying to avoid losing anything while they cautiously go after the Basilisk of the Tuskers team. After initially testing a Widow, the Tuskers go after the support wing of of Warlords, seeing that they cannot yet break the Warlords core and instead going for the support, first getting a Merlin kill then piling onto a Cambion. Suddenly dropping a ship and then having an AT prize ship be under fire is going to be incredibly stressful for any team, and even though it is slight, The Tuskers have an early lead at this point in the match.
As another Merlin gets blasted out of the sky, Warlords change tactics. Jams come off the Barghests and onto the Basilisk as they simultaneously go after a Jackdaw and battleship. Conventional EVE wisdom says to never split damage, but here they’re seriously stressing the Basilisk who is under heavy threat of being jammed, as well as having to ration out reps to two targets, not knowing if at any moment Warlords may shift it all onto one after he begins a rep cycle on the other target. A Barghest is well on the way down with a Jackdaw in structure barely holding on, then the Tuskers snag a Manticore kill which significantly reduces the incoming damage, reducing a little of the pressure on the Basi pilot while they still are threatening the two Cambions which have both been scrammed and webbed. The Tuskers here have a seven point lead, having killed three ships and lost none. Again, this is not a game-deciding lead, but they are implementing my favourite saying of the StarCraft caster Artosis; “When you are ahead, get more ahead”. Tuskers are pushing their marginal lead here, not going for the jugular but slowly trying to increase their advantage.
Maylin Li in the Basilisk steps up his piloting to godly level, keeping everything up while Warlords wait for the inevitable jam cycle to happen so they can kill either the Jackdaw or the Barghest which they have been hammering relentlessly for the last few minutes. Latronicus is doing an amazing job in under a ton of pressure. The Tuskers pick up the last of the bottom end of the Warlords team, twelve points to zero having killed nearly half of the Warlords ships.
Here however, is where the match begins to turn. Warlords in a last ditch effort go all-in with their jams on the Basilisk, taking them off the Hyena and Vigil which was helping to mitigate incoming damage, but at this point they are losing and need a risky play to get back in the game. The jams hit The Tuskers team hard and both the Jackdaw and Barghest drop almost instantly. The Tuskers are suddenly on the back foot, and what was a graceful fencing match has turned into a slugfest. The Tuskers know that if they lose any DPS they’ll never make it through the Basi reps, so they immediately put pressure on it while still forcing it to rep other targets, draining it of cap. However, the Basi is being fed cap from the battleships and with the DPS loss the Tuskers can’t break the tankier top half of the Warlords team. With the jams however, Warlords absolutely can kill Tuskers ships, killing the second Barghest to cement their victory and mopping up in the last minute of the match.
I really hope to see Pandemic Legion and The Tuskers finally play each other this year – they are well matched, at the top of the tournament scene and with #EVE_NT there is an excellent story behind it. I would in fact put money on us seeing a PL – Tuskers finals this year.
#3 League of Unaligned Master Pilots
While technically their first alliance tournament, LUMPY are made up from the German core of the successful Camel Empire team which claimed first place ATXII, second place in the New Eden Open II and second place ATXIII until disqualified. Notably, they have put the #1 contender Pandemic Legion into the loser’s bracket for the past 2 alliance tournaments. Are they PLs Kryptonite?
On Tranquility, LUMPY are amongst the best and most talented roaming nano gang pilots.
Camel were really damn good. LUMPY is a ton of ex-Camel guys and a few others. They will also be really damn good. I’m not sure what else I can say here.
#4 The Afterlife.
The Afterlife has displayed an amazing performance in both ATXII and ATXIII and are possibly going to get even stronger with their absorption of the Gorgon Empire which was also a top 16 team including tournament veteran FaffyWaffy. In ATXII they were put into the loser’s bracket on the first day by Pandemic Legion, but they were not deterred, they proceeded to fight all the way back, eliminating tournament favourites such as Exodus, Shadow Cartel and Triumvirate before finally falling to 2nd place Nulli Secunda.
Gorgon Empire themselves had previously absorbed Darkside, another excellent AT team, so as well as having their own talent they have gained a ton of old school knowledge and experience. The Afterlife could easily kill any of the teams in the 1-3 spots, so don’t think your Eve-Bet money is safely placed, wherever you put it.
#5 VYDRA Reloaded
This team a few Russian speaking members from the old HYDRA RELOADED, as well as the Method Synergy guys (worstplayerever/lussy lou/ibeast/NiKa NoIsEr) etc. who are known for their talented nano gangs and live streams, especially in the Russian community. A lot of the key talent from HYDRA RELOADED are missing here though, especially the Hydra leadership and players who had key roles, so this team could be a paper tiger. The Method Synergy guys do have ties to The Afterlife and Gorgon Empire, who were strong competitive teams, many of whom were a part of Dreamcasters who were in the Afterlife at the time.
Of the two, I think that LUMPY is the more consistent team since they have most of the key pieces from the Camel Empire team, but VYDRA does not, making them more of a wildcard. They certainly have the talent capable of going far, but a team packed full of the best and most talented PvPers does not always mean success in the Alliance Tournament.
If you want to see an expert dismantling of the TFI core that was popular last tournament, you should totally watch this video of VYDRA bending LUMPY over their knees and spanking them for some piloting errors.
Exodus have always been a strong AT team, though their performance has slowly diminished, especially when the TURN LEFT crew left to form The Camel Empire. However, this year Exodus. have made the pickup of Wilderness. which is Chessur and co., some of whom were previously members of HYDRA RELOADED/Warlords of the Deep. Not necessarily any of the main guys of the team, but the environment and experience gained from playing with them will certainly be valuable. In ATXIII, Exodus had an amazing match with Nulli Secunda (read HUN Reloaded) where a hero Griffin jams a Vindicator to save a Machariel in structure in the last few seconds, giving Exodus the win whereas otherwise they would have lost on points. You can watch that match here.
#7 FREE GATES COALITION
This is the group that previously ran the Nulli Secunda team for the past two years (getting them second place in ATXII), and before that were HUN Reloaded, an incredible team who could throw out the weirdest fleet comps that no-one expected confusing the most practiced teams, or equally run the same standard meta as everyone else but pilot it to a much finer degree.
#8 The R0NIN
The R0NIN have consistently been a top-16 team, getting second all the way back in ATIII to Band of Brothers, giving them access to a legendary Tribal Tempest. Each year since they put in a damn fine showing but just miss making it into the cool AT prize ships. If any team deserve a medal finish this year, it’s THE R0NIN.
Shadow Cartel – Would have made this list but for the swap in pilots within the Alliance focusing on the team. They may be just as strong but it is yet to be seen.
TEST Alliance Please Ignore – Despite the reputation of their alliance, they have gone from strength to strength and consistently do well, even being a team that pushes the meta on their own with their “distributed tinker”.
WE FORM VOLTA – This is essentially last year’s Triumvirate AT team, who also came second in the recent #EVE_NT Collides tournament.
The important thing to mention for this year’s AT is that the skill level at the top is much closer than it has been in years. Previously the HYDRA/PL domination was near-absolute, with the honourable mention of the Nulli/HUN team and the “newcomers” Camel joining that tier. With HYDRA/Camel breaking up and many of their core players leaving the game even, and PL as well losing its older crew over time, this year it is anyone’s game. It is entirely reasonable that any team listed above makes the semi-finals, with maybe the top four being solid picks to win the whole thing.
Hey girl, I’m just like the AT. You’re still going to be looking forward to it the 14th time.