CZ Minutes: AT Meta

As the EVE Online Alliance Tournament XII nears its climax it is already clear that the event has been one of the best to date. Although a few of the matches unavoidably turned into boring stalemates, we have been treated to some of the closest fights and most edge-of-your-seat, come from behind victories the tournament has ever seen. As always, and perhaps more than ever, AT has a very distinct and streamlined meta. Triple Gila, Eos, Heretic, Armageddon and Rattlesnake to name a few, along with the much debated, all-or-nothing tinkers. This uniform behaviour across teams may seem strange in a game with so many options, and one can’t help but wonder why it is so boiled down. Is the current EVE meta so clearly in favour of some ships so as to warrant this behaviour? If not that, then why? Are tinker comps an interesting addition to the mix or a detriment to the tournament? Apoth: So the meta has fallen into a couple distinct archetypes, but each team have their own spin on them, mixing and matching ideas, doing different flavours. We still get wildcard setups such as the one PL showed in their most recent match, but those are especially exciting because something totally different from the norm. While on the surface it may look repetitive, there’s actually a lot of variance and interesting decisions being made. Show me any match and I can tell you how it is unique from all the others. Tinkers themselves are very unfortunate that to the casual spectator they either slowly win or very quickly die, making for less of a viewing experience, but I urge those watching to look into the technical reasons for why certain ships were chosen to be part of the timer, fitting choices and all that jazz. Tinkers are probably some of the most intense matches we watch, but sadly we don’t get to see a lot of that intensity play out on our screens. Unlike my co-caster Bacc, I actually quite enjoy the Tinker matches because I like to see how each team does their tinker, how they might have to alter it with certain bans, how they deal with their lack of mobility etc etc etc. A great analogy would be StarCraft 2 which I casted for two years before switching to EVE; there are usually a small number of builds circulating the meta for each race, but from basics principles each pro player will favour emphasis on certain ideas over others, have a tendency to certain decisions, certain philosophies of play over others. If we compare Camel to Hydra for example, probably two of the most similar teams in terms of philosophy and compositions, we can still see key differences. Camel rely even more heavily on EWAR than Hydra do, and as such specifically ban marauders far more than Hydra because their EWAR immunity hurts them more. Tarek: I have quire some hopes for the finals weekend. Usually in AT there are a few fleet compositions that see wide use in the early stages, but the expert teams fervently begin to theorycraft behind the scenes to design counters. Some may even have a completely different setup ready that they keep as an ace up their sleeve. One of the things I miss a bit from AT is the aspect of the game that goes on hidden from the spectator’s view. A lot of the metas rely on very specific tactics that depend on highly specialized fits. I would love to have something like a post-tournament expose where the finalists explain how their fleets were utilized in practical terms, which implants they used, when and what they overheated for full effect and so on. I would think that no serious secrets could be exposed like that, after all, the next tournament will very likely result in a different meta anyway. HVAC: Honestly, at this point I’m just glad the ALL SENTRIES ALL THE TIME thing is gone. Now, if they could make it so gunboats were just as awesome as the rest of drones, that would be fun to watch. Cilvius: I think there are always going to be some fits and setups that the meta favors, and I am ok with that. As Apoth said, other games (like Starcraft 2) have a similar situation where each race has a few builds at most that fit into the current meta. I can understand a desire for more variety in the matchups and setups of teams but I think you will always run into a scenario where a few setups will dominate and most other “original” setups will fail. Oh Takashawa: It’s impossible to conflate the general EVE meta with the tournament. The environment is so different in the tourney that drawing comparisons between the two is rather difficult. As an example, shield doctrines for anything bigger than cruisers are basically non-viable in large-scale EVE these days because ISboxing and bombers are both so powerful (and CCP seems to have no problem with either of these things), yet shield setups built around battleships (i.e. Rattlesnakes) are incredibly viable in the tournament. I think there’s some overlap, to be sure – drones are hilariously good for something that wasn’t originally meant to be an equal-footing weapons system to turrets or launchers – but there are also some things that are better in the tournament than outside it. Rapid Missile Launchers are a prime example of this. Outside the tournament, the drawbacks to rapid launchers are severe and their application relatively limited, as fights are not time-limited and it can be more difficult to calculate when to reload. Furthermore, the burst damage which is the primary selling point of the rapid launchers isn’t necessarily sufficient in a world of multiple logistics, larger buffers, etc. Inside the tournament, on the other hand, we’ve seen widespread adoption of the rapid launchers as a way to provide high burst damage to push through peak tanks. With the limitations on logistics, the ability to burst to such a high damage output is particularly potent, and teams have used that to great effect this year. The power of rapid launchers in the meta isn’t due to their overwhelming popularity outside the tourney – it’s due to the unique attributes of the tourney environment which play to the rapid launchers’ strengths. As for tinkers… I’m conflicted. I agree entirely with commenters who suggest they’re boring to watch, because they are, but they’re also exceptionally challenging to plan and execute properly. I think the problem with tinkers is more of an example of the problem with EVE as an esport than with the setups themselves – specifically, that EVE is absurdly complicated. There’s so much that goes into planning and preparing, fitting, skilling, and getting ready for a match, as compared to other esports where teams bring nothing but experience to the table. It makes it harder to approach because the tinker is such a tournament-specific thing. If you look at Dota or League, there aren’t heroes that only get played competitively and no-one else ever plays ever. In the EVE tourney, there are. There are “real world” setups, to be sure – shield skirmish setups in particular tend to look a lot like small roaming gangs – but big-picture, the EVE meta doesn’t directly feed the tournament meta, and the tournament meta has its own distinct parts that simply don’t fit with the rest of EVE. Nobody’s got Marauder doctrines in EVE (yet), but we see them all over the place in the tourney. And that’s a good thing – it’s great to see the variety, and I think this year’s spectacle has been one of the best in recent memory. CCP’s production has left a lot to be desired, and falls far short of previous years’ shows, but the fights themselves have been great. Xander: As a keen amateur when it comes to the Eve tournament scene, I know what HVAC is saying when it comes to Sentries but man, it still feels like ‘Drones’ dominate the meta. So many Ishtars, Vexors/VNIs, Gilas and Worms. Fozzie is on record on CZ as saying he will never balance ships for Eve with the AT in mind (something I agree with), but as long as CCP does so, will drone setups always rule? Niden: I think the overwhelming presence of drones in AT meta is a detriment to the entertainment value – and let’s not beat around the bush, this is a spectator sport. Virtually the only thing you know about the drones is what the commentators tell you and if the camera happens to capture rep drones. Imagine watching an MMA fight that only shows half the cage or goes pans to the crowd as soon as the fighters hit the mat. No, EVE should never, ever, ever be balanced with AT in mind, but I believe some augmentations to the rule-set of AT should be done to make turret ships more viable on a wider scale outside of rush teams, for instance. Overall it is my (albeit, much like Xander, novice) belief that AT rules should break up or at least put the brakes on stagnating meta.  
Tags: ATXII, cz minutes, meta

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12 year EVE veteran, Snuffed Out scumbag, writer, graphic artist, producer, Editor-in-Chief of Crossing Zebras and the second most influential player in EVE, according to EVE Onion.