How not to Suck in the Alliance TournamentApothne
So you’re a first-time team and you’ve found a spare 2500 nuPLEX to sign up to the qualifiers to this year’s AT? Congrats! Welcome to the EVE-Sports or E-whatever-the-hell-you-want-to-call-it scene. You may have heard that if you don’t have a trillion ISK and a cache of AT prize ships that you’re wasting your time, but let me tell you, you absolutely won’t.
The Alliance Tournament is a fantastic opportunity to work on a group project with a small group of your closest spaceship buddies. If you’re doing it right, you’ll have had enough fun and would have generated enough anecdotes for it to have been worth it before you are even on field for your first match. If you want to really try to make a deep run, or just put in the effort to see how far you can get, I have some advice for you as to how you might approach this gargantuan task.
Remember, I’m just a desk-jockey so you may have to take some of my advice with a grain of salt, but thankfully the wonderful Mawderator, ex-Exodus Team Captain, ATXIV Commentator and member of The Tuskers Co. has agreed to lend a hand and make sure I’m not giving out bad advice.
M: If you’re one of the teams that either bought in or made it through the feeders, every match series win earns you 10 limited edition Serpentis skins. If the last three years of limited edition skins are any indication, you’re looking at 20-25 billion isk per win! Having fun and getting experience is all well and good, but at the end of the day it’s satisfying to have something to show for even a single win. These days, for your time and effort, it’s very worth it.
Do your Homework
One of the things that amazes me each year is how new teams sometimes roll the same comps other new teams ran the year before and got rolled over in. The fits for standard ships like Oneiros, Sleipnirs or Scimitars are sometimes absolute garbage. Fits and comps do change slightly from year to year with rule changes, module rebalancing and the like, but previous tournaments are a treasure trove of excellent spaceship fits made by nerds for the highest levels of tournament play. Look at the killboards for Jove space: How do PL/Tuskers fit their logis? How does it change depending on the style of comp they are running? How much tank do they tend to put on their tackle or their battleships? Which links are the most important? What comps did they run? Why did they work so well? Are they viable next year?
M: Trying to create and design team compositions and the individual ship fittings that fit into your composition, like most things in EVE has a steep learning curve. Learning how to do so successfully is the hallmark of a solid Alliance Tournament theorycrafter. Having said that, don’t try to recreate the wheel on your very first go. There’s a wealth of pre-existing knowledge to tap into if you look for it.
At the very, very least, barring any crazy rule changes *coughs* if you want to make it past your first few games you need to be aware of the core archetypes of the previous year. You should practice with them and against them until you have a solid understanding how they work, what their strengths and weaknesses are and try to figure out the decision making process that went into building the team.
If you design a new comp and it can’t beat any of the previous year’s comps then you should go back to the drawing board.
I am not saying that it is wrong to come up with your own fits and team designs, far from it. If you ONLY know how to run those comps, all the other competent teams do too and will have also had a year to take them apart and put them back together again. So what are we gaining from this apart from an insight into team design? Well, for starters it gives you a baseline of what your homebrewed teams need to be able to beat. If you design a new comp for your team and it can’t beat any of the previous year’s comps (modified for new rules, etc), then you should probably go back to the drawing board.
Going beyond the last year’s tournament, you can look at the rules changes, if they revert to previous rules and look at the meta way back when to see if you can find anything relevant. This year ETs and T2 mobile combat drones are back on the menus, so it’s probably a good idea to go back and look at AT12 and 13 or even further back to see what was being done in that age. When it comes to looking at rebalancing and module changes, you need to figure out what role each ship is doing, if it can still perform in that role or if a new ship has come along or been rebalanced to the point where it can do that job better for the points cost.
The crux of what I’m saying here is that there is over a decade of experience and knowledge available to you via killboards, youtube videos and media pieces which will fast-track your learning to catch up with those who have been at it for that decade. Free intel should not be ignored.
The Alliance Tournament is a huge time sink. There is no easy way around it. Not only are you giving away four weekends of your summer (five if you’re in the feeder rounds) off the bat (assuming you make it that far), you will be testing comps and scrimming with other teams multiple evenings per week. And that’s only if you’re a pilot. If you are theorycrafting, running logistics (a surprisingly time-consuming part of being on a team), spying or heaven forbid captaining the whole thing, add a big fat multiplier on how much time it’s going to such out of your life. Last weekend on Talking in Stations during the shoutout section Lucas Quaan, co-Captain of the PL team made his shout out a tongue in cheek one to his friends and family who he would see again in September. Which partially joking, it’s also grounded in some truth. If EVE is a second job, the AT is a third where you have to pull double shifts on the regular.
If EVE is a second job, the AT is a third where you have to pull double shifts on the regular
I am not trying to talk you out of it here, just that you should put serious thought into when you set aside time to do all the tasks you want to do, and whether you have enough people in your alliance who are also willing to set aside that much time for this goal. When will you practice? When do you need to decide your flagship by? Is Logibro waiting on you for something?
M: In the past, testing and practice was much more difficult, and having to watch over your shoulder for spies was a very real concern. Thankfully the Thunderdome testing server and TEST open practice sessions have made scheduling scrims significantly easier and much more secure. I wish I had the resources available to me now a couple years ago. It’s very possible to have a relatively casual, enjoyable tournament run and be successful. Having said that, more casual teams typically don’t make deep tournament runs. By the time CCP and the player commentators are casting the matches, you’re seeing the results of teams that practice regularly and have put forth the effort to show why they’ve earned their place, and possibly an invite to the upcoming Alliance Tournament in 2018 if they place in the top 16.
Communication, Teamwork & Morale
Good fleet comms extent from TQ play to Tournament play, only it’s not just being quiet for the FC. Each moving part of your team needs its own commander, between the support wing tackling down your primaries, the anti support clearing screening tackle off your big guns and your EWAR focusing their disruptors where they’re needed most. Each member of the team needs to be heard when they call tackle or when they’re being shot at, and be able to hear what’s going on with everyone else. Comms need to be crisp, concise and clear above all else and your team members should be at a point where they can recognise each other by voice, which tends to be more of a process for the larger groups in the tournament.
No-one can afford to be afraid to key up the instant they have something important to say, and contribute to the group tactical awareness of the state of the field. Further, each member of the team needs to know how the whole team functions relative to what role their ship fills, unlike just turning up to be a F1 monkey in a TQ fleet. Even the same hulls with the same fittings can occupy slightly different roles between each match, so each member having a working understanding of the tournament meta and team design is incredibly important.
the same hulls with the same fittings can occupy different roles between each match
M: One of the major advantages that Camel Empire and Exodus both had is that we regularly roamed in small gangs on Tranquility. Many of the roles we flew on match day and the solid communication we had in place were extensions of what we were already doing, just adapted for the tournament format. Having players who understand not just their role, but the roles of everyone else on their roster is invaluable. If they can do that while also being able to communicate well, you can take that to the bank. This is something that’s a common theme in traditional sports and nearly every eSport title.
With such a time-heavy commitment, morale is important to the tournament as it is in a long sovereignty campaign. Just look at the level of tilt on the Pandemic Legion team after the server issues of last year’s final and how they performed in the last match compared to how they had been doing beforehand. Even before the tournament, keeping your pilots enthusiastic and turning up to practices can become a snowballing catastrophe if it’s not nipped in the bud. If you grind your team too hard, or have too few showing up for a few practices in a row, some may start skipping practices because “we probably won’t get enough anyway”, which will only exacerbate your problem.
M: Being able to gauge the commitment levels of not only yourself as a Captain, but the members of your team is vital to a healthy tournament run. Just as major bloc FCs tend to burn out after a long campaign, you and your roster can burn out if you push too hard. If your players aren’t as invested as you, or have different expectations, there will be conflict. This was a factor that nearly caused my AT11 team to self destruct.
Burnout is not only limited to younger teams either, each year the PL team burns out after the tournament and usually completely fail in their attempts to participate in #EVE_NT tournaments to anywhere near the standard you might expect of them given their AT pedigree.
M: On behalf of my wallet for the New Eden Open cash winnings as well as my EVE_NT battleship skins, thank you.
Team Awareness & The Bans
The final piece of advice I have for you is for when you are looking at your upcoming matches. I am going to assume you have done your due diligence, of looking at how your bracket is likely to turn out, looking at the flagship choice and tournament history of your opponents, but you should also have a realistic view of your power level versus your opponent’s and choose your team comp appropriately.
Against a lesser team, choosing an established, safe, archetype and winning through piloting is often a strong choice, When going up against a team much stronger than yourself, fielding something more all-in or “cheesy” may be what’s required to give you an advantage. Do you need to spend bans on AT ships? Is it worthwhile banning support ships for their flagship team? Is it worth risking your flagship this match, feeling that you need it to win or would you better to save it for later?
you should also have a realistic view of your power level versus your opponent’s
All of these decisions will take place for every match you face and I cannot put enough emphasis on how important the banning phase is for your success. It is a rare and supremely valuable commodity for Team Captains to be able to out-ban their opponents. It is almost as important to out-ban in the AT as it is to out-draft in MOBAs like LoL or DotA, especially if you don’t have a deep roster of comps to pull on.
M: For the most part, your bans should target ships you’re afraid of fighting. If you don’t want to ever see ECM, banning the Blackbird and Kitsune are solid picks. Don’t overthink your bans, you can be your own worst enemy in this stage. Have a plan for your banning strategy going into each match.
Hopefully, I haven’t scared you too much with all of this article, but instead fortified your resolve and further inspired you to give your all for the AT this year, if you are participating on a team, or if you are a spectator hopefully given you a new insight into the rigors of being part of an AT run, such that you might appreciate each team on match day all the more, even if they fail to achieve victory.