Friday 25 December 2015

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, have a good one!

Might to out hunting drunk people in a svipul gang later!

Sunday 13 December 2015

The Imperium's options

I opened a bit of a can of worms with my previous post about a wholesale Goons resetting of the rest of their coalition. I want to explain it further.

The Imperium leadership has a range of options about where it wants to go in the future. I believe, like any good management team, they prepare for a range of different possibilities and attempt to position themselves to cope with change.

Change will either be a result of policies implemented by the Imperium leadership or a result of factors beyond their control reshaping the geopolitical nature of the Eve universe.

The latest installment of #Endieleaks, posted on reddit yesterday, gives us some insight into Goon leadership (I'm using "Goon leadership" synonymously with "Imperium leadership" as I don't think what the other alliances want has any effect on policy).

[22/11/2015 22:07:58] Endie H: the imperium's membership are the recipients of broadcasts, just like a cable tv audience in a town with a monopoly
[22/11/2015 22:08:05] Endie H: the point of the imperium is to grow that audience
[22/11/2015 22:09:13] Endie H: the only way that the TMC Media business can grow and become more valuable is to increase the number of recipients of each broadcast, so that they can say to the producers of H1Z1 or War Thunder: "pay us x and we will get you eyeballs on your adverts in broadcasts to a community of y thousand"
[22/11/2015 22:09:31] Endie H: So they cannot take any real risks that might lead to the loss of significant numbers of eyeballs
[22/11/2015 22:09:45] Dave / Xander: I have to say from a purely spiteful position, what has happened with this kickstarter is fucking hysterical
[22/11/2015 22:09:52] Endie H: they don't kick underperforming corps for loooong periods, and when they do all line members are invited to join
[22/11/2015 22:10:20] Endie H: allies are not kicked, but folded into existing allies of new structures like the bastion
[22/11/2015 22:10:32] Endie H: karmafleet is a successful play for reddit-sourced ad views

Clearly there are factions and for some time the "Endie faction" has been fighting and gradually losing a rearguard action against "the Sion faction."

So, allowing this to be more or less accurate, (it's always worth taking such "leaks" with a grain of salt) that gives us two of the Goon policy options:

1) collect eyeballs. The goal here is to collect as many members as possible with a secondary goal of not completely killing interest in the game.

2) What Endie calls "taking real risks" which is I believe is more or less what I described in my last blog post, the Great Reset.

3) Leaving Eve. At one point during Monoclegate 3 years ago The Mittani threatened that if CCP did not get the game back on track he would take his people and leave, going to an alternative game. I think this is an ongoing simmering possibility but even The Mittani, who seems somewhat deluded at times, must be aware that a huge amount of "his people" wouldn't go with him. In fact if the failed kickstarter is anything to go by it may be that there's a humiliatingly small number of people in the Imperium who are actually there out of personal loyalty to the leader.

4) Something else.

Clearly option 1) is the current choice of the Imperium leadership and that won't change any time soon. It would pretty much need a clearout of the current leadership who have a highly vested interest as they are - if Endie's comments in the leaked pastebin is true - currently living off venture capital cash raised on the promise of TMC and Mittani Media future business success.

Wilhelm correctly pointed out a couple of factors that are outside Imperium control that might make sticking with option 1) seem like the correct choice at the moment. Let's look at external factors:

1) CCP. Changes to the game are already hurting the Imperium and may well hurt it more in 2016. Fozziesov, Aegis sov, encourages balkanisation, the game is simply more fun if you can clling to your turf and shoot your neighbours. The Imperium has resisted this while trying to find what Endie describes as no risk fun - the Provi campaign, Cloud Ring campaign, the Viceroy thing. All of these seem to be either brief or low impact, the game is just not really designed to be entertaining for a massive superpower nullsec empire. On top of that 2016 promises a capital revamp which may cause tectonic shifts in the balance of power, a shift towards higher ship losses in battles, indestructible stations being phased out for destructible citadels, and perhaps a new type of space, some think "Jove space," accessed via the player made stargates which is likely to be a conquest game and a game to which pre-existing titan fleets can't be brought. (Otherwise how sucky would it be for CCP Seagull to have to go on stage and announce "hey guys here's the reveal for our great project, three years work, but sorry Goons already won.")

2) Voltron, or as my blogging colleague Gamerchick42 so delightfully calls it, Super Epic Cat Robots.
This is the possibility that outside enemies in Eve will band together to tear The Imperium down. It's always a possibility in such games. If people are actually trying to win a conquest-based game then it's natural for people to gang up on the strongest, this is standard gameplay in board games like Risk or Diplomacy.

While half of nullsec are in The Imperium and the other half are spread out across multiple squabbling balkanised groups there's no possibility that a Voltron could emerge capable of wiping The Imperium off the map but it is a possibility if they do the Great Reset. (Actually in my opinion Goons would win that war, a desperate backs to the wall struggle for survival against a numerically superior but poorly coordinated mega-coalition which is why I think they should do the Great Reset).

3) Line member choices. From the perspective of Goon leadership this is an externality. The danger here is that line members get really bored. This could lead to them simply leaving the game, it could lead to grass roots movements to replace leadership. I think we're a long way off from a popular revolution, not least because the type of people needed (like Talvorian) solve their problem with dull Imperium gameplay by leaving and playing with someone else. Historically revolutions have needed some leader types to kickstart them, Lenin for example was a minor member of the Russian aristocracy who lead what was a workers and peasants revolution in Russia. So a perfect storm of a disgruntled former leader like Endie or Suas plus massive popular support could eventually tear The Imperium apart but I think we're miles off that.

4) Hostile infiltration. This is a play, like the Goons own famous example where they recruited a rogue BoB director to disband their arch-enemies, where someone gets into leadership and times some game mechanics driven disruption at the perfect moment to destroy the coalition. The key to this is that it has to be performed when the target is already under the hammer which is just not going to happen while the Imperium retains its nullsec dominance. It may be fear of this which is another factor in not choosing the Great Reset route since if they did the Great Reset, and enemies formed Voltron and they were losing and then they got Hargothed they'd be in real trouble. It's likely that some Grr Goons people have sleeper agents already in place in damaging positions leading fleets and fueling towers while waiting for Order 66. However this really isn't a threat unless other factors are already in place that have put the alliance into crisis.

5) Dissent from below. Another possibility is that partner alliances in The Imperium such as Razor or SMA break off. There's an interesting dynamic here. Because the Great Reset is a possibility or a smaller reset as happened with MOA, OSS and Raging Ducks, it is really sensible for a small alliance like SMA to develop its own independent capabilities. However them building up their own FCs is a threat to Goon dominance of the coalition. So alliances can either go what seems to be the TNT route (sorry Wilhelm) of being completely dependent and if they get reset they're fucked or go the INIT route where the coalition and its SIGs are almost afterthoughts and the main gameplay is on alliance ops. Not only that but there's a similar tension between alliances and their member corps where a corp thrives if it can function independently but comes under pressure not to do so. In SMA for example outstanding FCs and leaders may be required to join the alliance executor corp rather than being allowed to stay in their original corp if they want to participate at the top level. In my opinion, except for INIT, no member of the alliance is anywhere near capable of breaking off and being a strong independent corp who don't need no coalition and of course Goons are actively seeking to perpetuate this by poaching talent.

So there you have it, a complicated and difficult position for Goon leadership. Their decision-making is not helped by the fact that they show considerable cognitive dissonance. However clinging to the perceived safety of the mega-blob is poisonous, a long slow death that will inevitably come from a position as the purveyors of monetised boredom, a stance that puts them on a collision course with CCP who have a strong interest in making the game interesting.

So I really hope that the current leadership decides to go for the Great Reset, possibly timing it to support the new kickstarter for the Fountain War book in March, because I honestly believe it's the Golden Path, the hard choice that leads to a truly great future via an epic adventure.

Sunday 6 December 2015

Nullsec: The Great Reset

I'd like to explore the political and military implications of a reset within The Imperium, Eve's utterly dominant nullsec alliance. I won't explore the process by which such a reset might happen other than to say it will happen if Goon leadership (I'm pretty sure the lesser partners can't unilaterally secede) want it to happen and that I believe it is one option among many that they are thinking about.

Currently the Imperium comprises 42,738 players which is 43.19% of the population of players in nullsec coalitions. This proportion is growing, I remember it being 41% when I looked a few weeks ago. The next biggest is Stainwagon coalition at 13%.

If the 16,209 Goonswarm Federation, the Goon alliance, split off they would comprise about 16% of nullsec players, still larger than any non-Imperium coalition and would be surrounded by their former partners, comprising about 27% of nullsec players.

They could choose to retain some alliances in a much smaller coalition, effectively they can pick a size between 16% and 43% and be that size since it's unlikely any alliance spared the reset would then independently decide to leave. |They'd instead be grateful that they dodged a bullet.

A reset would not necessarily need to be a messy reset. Removal of the reset alliances from blue standings and from integration within Goon services doesn't preclude there being loose arrangements in case of some massive PL led bogeyman coalition, doesn't preclude infrastructure non-aggression deals. The status of former coalition partners could vary, eg Goons could have friendly neutrality with SMA with conflict limited to roaming fleets while persecuting FCON in Branch and burning them out of their space.

Any reset would have to consider recruitment. With no recruitment controls it's likely that everyone in a reset alliance would simply jump ship and join Karmafleet or some other easy way in to The Imperium. However it would be very useful to poach certain high performing individuals and the SIG system could be used to identify people who are worth picking up.

So early warning signs of a reset might include notable non-Goon players in Imperium sigs like Reavers and Eurogoons being encouraged to join a Goon alliance. Or lifelines could be thrown out to these selected people by SIG leaders like Asher and Mr Vee at the moment that Order 66 is issued.

Here's a list of Imperium alliance in order from the most likely to be purged to the least likely.

FCON - long has had an uneasy relationship with Goons including a principled stance against high sec ganking. Largely non-English speaking Europeans so perhaps not TMC readers.

Executive Outcomes - small almost dead alliance.

RAZOR alliance - one of the old leaders of the NC, the coalition that used to own the space before Goons. Have never been entirely comfortable in the CFC and often get assigned shitty border duty jobs - in the 2013 Fountain War they were assigned to stay home in Tenal.

The Initiative - highly independent alliance driven into the CFC by default due to the breakup of the HBC. They've always seemed to be keeping one foot out of the door anyway. For much of this year they have lived on the other side of the universe from the rest of the Coalition.

Space Monkeys Alliance - once had a well deserved reputation for being pvp averse carebears they were turned around and now are pretty effective and developing an ability to operate independently. They were fighting PH and Waffles and Brave with J4LP before the rest of the coalition dogpiled in and holding their own. Recruited massively this year to become one of the largest alliances in the game (maybe preparing in case they have to live independently?)

Circle of Two - Serbian led alliance with a reputation for being ballsy. Not very integrated into the Goon mythology. Would make excellent opponents, the ability to attack people like this is why they might do a reset.

Lawn - laid back alliance with a reputation for being nice fluffy people. Probably would not handle being thrown to the wolves well.

TNT - small alliance heavily co-dependent on Goons. They've been integrated for so long they don't seem to have done anything as an alliance for years.

The Bastion - set up as a way to collect refugees from collapsing CFC alliances when Li3 and Gents collapsed. The Mittani is alliance exec and controls their assets, Sion directs their broad policy. This could form the equivalent of Tribe to Goon's Test, an alliance that is kept around after a reset.

Resetting some or all of these alliances would give Goons an immediate and challenging sov war as well as potentially a huge influx of members (even with recruitment closed people would use vouches or contacts to try to join Goons). Some of these alliances might be able to hold their space (perhaps SMA), some are likely to simply relocate (eg INIT). We would then see a Goon war of conquest taking much of the same space that the Imperium owns now but exclusively as Goon space.

How would the reset campaign go?

First priority I think would be securing the route to high sec through Fade and Pure Blind. This means conquering space currently held by SMA as well as shoring up space currently used by Section 8 renters.

Next I think they'd burn FCON out of Branch. It's too dangerous to leave an independent and hostile FCON at the back of Deklein and it's premier space. Plus I really don't think Goons like FCON much and vice versa.

Tribute Vale and Tenal could be left to former partners and to serve as nearby frenemys to raid and spar with. These regions could see wars of their own which Goons could third party or join in late.

Would it be fun?

Burning FCON out of Branch, spectacularly revealing in grand speeches evidence of plots and treason and of course the chance for the rest of us to poke around in the resulting mess and blow up spaceships.

And the Goons would still be unbeatably secure with their enormous super fleet, their unsurpassed diplomatic espionage and organisational skills and well developed defensive set up.

And best of all we'd see genuine titan battles as regular events as the titan revamp comes in.

I really do think it's the adventure nullsec is waiting for.

Wednesday 2 December 2015

It seems I like Waffles

2 years after the Waffles super-catchy theme song first started bouncing round my head I have joined the Sniggwaffe alliance, known informally as Waffles. This is a feeder corp for highly regarded pvp corp Sniggerdly, a corp in Pandemic Legion.

So apart from their taste in jingles, what am I going for here?

Well I want to become a better pvper. Part of that is being in a culture where people are critical  of mistakes and offer constructive criticism from a position of expertise.

Next I like tournament gameplay very much and PL have one of the best teams. Super hard of course to actually break into the team but if you don't set your sights high you won't achieve very much.

I like the range of pvp right from cheap newbie frigate roams to titan battles. (I haven't figured out the logistics of financing a titan yet so that's another mountain to climb).

I want to become a better FC. I had an awesome moment in the old HBC when Sort Dragon got stalled in a battle and suddenly a cyno went up and to our opponent's horror green luminescent doomsday beams lit up the battlefield. Sort has many flaws but he's a supremely confident and capable FC. I've never even flown a capital ship in anger so I'm a long way off calling in a strike from the mightiest supercapitals but having seen other people do it I know it's something I would like to experience.

I want to get involved in tournament meta, helping to expand and promote tournament play to a wider group of participants than the highly selective Alliance Tournament, Eve_NT and similar events.

I want to get more involved in and develop my understanding of pvp theorycraft.

I want to travel to lots of interesting parts of the universe, meet the locals  and shoot them.

I quite like the idea of shooting my old coalition mates, and before that bitter enemies, in The Imperium. Sorry Wilhelm! Grrr Goons and all that. (Although as Gevlon astutely points out, PL leadership is comprised of canny politicians who tend never to burn bridges).

So despite having played for six years already, I feel that I'm at the bottom of a huge learning cliff, quite possibly one I will never succeed in climbing. In fact even getting through Waffles would be a massive achievement, it's only around 30% who make it through.

And in a game where many players have become bitter or bored, that's absolutely the best place to be.

Monday 30 November 2015

The Imperium unveiled

It's been an interesting last few weeks in the Eve meta game.

Hot on the heels of Eve Vegas, Mittani Media  announced a new project, a book about the Test-CFC Fountain War of 2013. This initially met widespread acclaim from a range of science fiction and gaming celebrities. Even the leader of Test alliance, Sapporo Jones, supported the project.

The project then received a Kickstarter page which was, frankly, tacky.

Then /r/eve started to rail against the project. There was much to point at. It was clearly a vanity project for the then CFC, now the Imperium's, famously narcissistic leader, The Mittani. It was likely to slant towards the CFC side even if it tried not to be biased and with the Goons publishing the book many in the community didn't trust it not to be biased. It was garishly and greedily monetarised.

People brought up The Mittani's past sins and the dull state of nullsec, with the concern that the bloated coalition is being kept bloated against the good of the game so that its members can be monetised, the captive audience kept captive by a policy of deliberate stagnation. The case was, perhaps, not helped by an insurge of Imperium Eve players posting for their first time or after long absences about how much the Eve reddit community should support the book, a community which the day before they hadn't particularly been a part of. Jabber pings were leaked amidst allegations of "brigading."

The project faltered. After a healthy first 24 hours people supporting the kickstarter dried up almost completely.

More scandals emerged. Endie and Xander has a conversation which accidentally fell into public hands where Endie spoke of RMT. Due to diligent journalism by Gevlon it now looks as though that was faked at least in part, with Endie perhaps playing the famously leaky Xander to reach his audience indirectly. Nonetheless there have been genuine rifts within The Imperium and the current direction - for real world profit - is not universally supported.

Possibly the greatest embarrassment has been to the leadership of Goons concerning their relationship with author Jeff Edwards. Mr Edwards is an enthusiastic author, well respected in the literary community with admirers like household name Clive Cussler, and a distinguished former US Navy officer who consults for the Department of Defence. I imagine that in recruiting him, Mittens and the others bigged up Eve. It's a unique game where great empires clash in high stakes conflicts that can destroy hundreds of thousands of dollars of virtual assets. It's an emergent dynamic economy that is studied by academics who draw parallels to real life, etc etc.

Then Mr Edwards met some very civilised and charming people at Eve Vegas and developed more enthusiasm for the project.

Then he met /r/eve and discovered hundreds of jibbering monkeys hurling poo at him.

For Mittens and his friends it must have been as if a young man meets a charming young woman, a refined and distinguished person with impeccable manners and taste, nervously brings her home to meet the family hoping they won't show him up, leaves her alone for 5 minutes then finds her outside in the back garden where his hick cousin has his zipper down and is proudly showing her his genital warts. An earth open up and swallow me moment.

This used to happen with roleplaying games back in the 80s. For a while they became in some circles very pretentious. So some young man would try to impress a non-gamer girl with a description of a kind of immersive interactive unscripted improvisational theatre then when she actually got to meet other gamers they'd say things like "watch me stick my d20 up my nose."

The Mittani is not, it seems, inclined to handle disappointment meekly. He gave an emotional and angry speech to "His People" and led them forth to.... well, not much as his intended opponents, Pandemic Horde, melted away under the masterful misdirection of Gobbins, who has cheekily taken to calling them "The Emporium."

The vast armada invaded Cloud Ring and pushed from there into low sec. In low sec they conquered a number of money moons.

Then last night a group of players naively arranged a charity event, involving sacrificing a titan only to have it obliterated by a massive Imperium force.

Well you didn't really think they were nice guys, did you?

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Eve: My farewell to Brave

Hey Brave.

I'm going to move on with my Eve career. This isn't some drama about someone being mean to me, I've loved my time in Brave.

In fact the story is that I've stayed so long.

In January some friends suggested I join them in Brave as my attempt to start up a corp in The Bastion failed, I just couldn't recruit people.

I joined but they promptly burned out.

Well no worries, my friend Smog890 is still here, I'll just hang in his corp. Smog promptly goes and gets a second job and, facing a 70 hour working week decides to cut Eve.

Well no worries, some old friends from Test have made a corp here - I should be fine in J3B.

And not only was I fine but I found myself Captain of our AT team.

But the exit from Fountain happened and J3B decided to move on so I had to find a new home.

Well no worries, after a brief crash landing in BNI, I joined Kite Co, a corp where many of my Tourney friends were based.

And then they left last month.

I love Brave, I've had a wonderful time here, thank you so much for taking me in and trusting me to take charge of some awesome things like fleets and AT etc. I've had a blast flying with you.

My long term plans are towards elite pvp, particularly an alliance with a more experienced AT team. Maybe explore some of this empire-building stuff, I like the idea of my own personal space fortress.

Something Lychton said once: people leave Brave but some part of them is always brave. I hope that will be true of me and in any event I'll always be happy to chat.

There's one unfinished piece of business, CCP still haven't issued the ship skin prizes we won in the AT. Nancy, just contact me on Skype or in-game when those show up please.

7o guys

Sunday 25 October 2015

MTGO: Lions, jackals and wildebeest

The classic nineteenth century view of the African savannah was this:

The lordly lion, King of the Beasts, makes a kill on a hapless wildebeest. Jackals, vultures and hyenas slope towards the feasting big cat and watch from a safe distance until he's done and it's safe from them to wrangle over the leftovers.

But that's not usually how it works.

You see lions are both powerful and lazy and quite often jackals or hyenas will make a kill, the lion will smell it, saunter over and - because the other animals won't fuck with a lion - settle down for a nice lunch, the smaller predators watching from a safe distance until the big cat is done.

Magic players were categorised in a classic Mark Rosewater article into 3 types: Timmy, Johnny and Spike. For this analysis we're looking at Spikes. Lions are the competent successful Spikes and Jackals are the Spikes who are just starting out or who have simply plateaued where they're doing all they can to optimise but just aren't that good.

Magic is a hugely successful competitive game. It's a zero sum game, in fact worse than zero sum because the house takes a cut. In order for someone to have a 64% win rate like me there needs on average to be someone who's happy with a 36% win rate or two people happy with 43% win rates.

The game has appeal though to other types of player than the min/maxing optimiser and that's what keeps it successful, those people and the enjoyment they get from the game are so important to its success.

If Magic were only for optimisers it would enter a death spiral of the worst players leaving because they have terrible win rate and subsidise everyone else, then the next worst tranch of players becoming the new bads because the pool quality went up and the players they used to feast on all left, etc.

So unless Magic enters a death spiral (which it's certainly not doing now, it's growing) there will always be Timmys and Johnnys, the wildebeest for the game's predators to feast on.

An inferior predator like a starting out Spike or an African jackal needs to hunt the prey without having top predators in the vicinity.

A Jackal needs to ask what do Lions like?

Lions like good EV and fast turnover. The Standard Contructed Daily tournaments offer good payout, have the payout slanted to the top so it particularly favours winners over losers and are 4 games. The 8 player Single Elimination format probably beats Leagues for these players. A 70% win rate player makes $4.16 from an 8 player Single Elimination event or $4.59 from a League. On average he will play 2.16 games per Single Elimination event, he will always play the full 5 games in a League. So for this player he makes about the same profit in under half the time.

2 player matches are so flexible that anyone might play them and I've read that the good players will play these while simultaneously playing the more significant events. But they may be wildebeest country, I'm not sure.

So that's my surface impression, my educated guess, about how the event demographics work and where it might be easiest to break into the daunting world of competitive online Magic.

Go gentle, there be Lions out there!

Saturday 24 October 2015

MTGO: a look at PP gain from league play

I'm interested in whether I can grind Constructed and keep the boosters or the tix gained from them. This means hitting a win rate where the EV of the player points alone is enough to go infinite and the other stuff you win is just gravy.

Using Goatbot's handy calculator at my current win rate of 64% I would average 88.27 Play points per game, comfortable enough to pay an 80 PP entry fee to start another game.

62% win rate returns 84.86 PP.

60% win rate returns 81.3 PP

59% win rate returns 79.39 PP

So it's about 59.4% win rate to cover entry fees and keep infinite while cashing out the boosters for tix which I can use to grow my collection.

It's early days yet and my current 64% rate may flatter me. I still make a lot of awful newbie mistakes. The other day I decided to trade my 2/2 for his 2/2 attacked then cast a spell that buffs a creature to make it stronger. However I cast it on the wrong creature. I was a little surprised when his guy confidently munched mine!

So leagues feel like the right place. Normally for a player with over 50% win rate the EV encourages that player to play different events. Even more so when one considers that a league is always the full 5 games so it's lesser payout and more time-consuming.

But that's exactly why I want to stick with leagues for a bit. It's good for me to play lots of games, it's good for me to learn and to get past the stage of making silly mistakes.

I also suspect that Leagues are Wildebeest country. I'll explain that term in my next blog post.

Friday 23 October 2015

MTGO: a look at the new Devoid mechanic in Battle for Zendikar

Magic: The Gathering's new expansion has brought several interesting game mechanics into the mix including the brand new Devoid mechanic. Actually in some ways it's not new at all as "Devoid" simply means devoid of colour, colorless in game terms, and that's a trait that has been a property of artifacts and land since the start of Magic. And that in turn leads to other interesting mechanic opportunities as lands, awakened lands, morphs, artifact creatures and items are all subject  to interactions with the new cards.

In addition some of the Devoid cards have a secondary mechanic system going: the Ingest/Process system. The way this works is that Processors can apply powerful effects by moving a card from the exile pile into the graveyard pile. However normally the exile pile is empty. That's where the Ingest mechanic comes in, a special ability on some creatures that moves the top card of an opponent's library into exile. This has the appealing and probably accidental side-effect of causing distress in an opponent when a vital card is consumed. (Actually it all averages out in that end, the Ingest is just as likely to bring a key card to the top by clearing trash out of the way).

Let's start by looking at each colour's Devoid spells. (By the way you won't be able to search them out by colour on the Gatherer database as quite properly they're not tagged with any colour). If you want to see the cards while reading this just use the search term "Devoid."

Black: Black has lots of Ingest creatures although they lack the evasion of the Blue Ingest creatures.  It's worth mentioning how good the humble Sludge Crawler is at getting though as it comes down on turn 1 and threatens to pump, perhaps without actually needing to.

Ingest/exile creatures:

Culling Drone B1 - averageDominator Drone B2 - average
Fathom Feeder BU - ridiculously good.
Sire of Stagnation BU4 Very strong.
Sludge Crawler B - really effective

Spells that exile a card.

Complete Disregard B2 Strong
Grave Birthing B2 Useful cantrip. +1 scion.
Grip of Desolation BB4 ridiculously good.
Trangress the Mind B1 average

Processor/consumer creatures 

Mind Raker B3 Average
Ulamog's Nullifer BU2 Excellent
Wasteland Strangler B2 Very strong

Other Devoid creatures.

Brood Butcher BG3  Very strong
Catacomb Sifter BG1 Strong
Dust Stalker BR2 Decent aggro creature, can be used as a Dash creature.
Forerunner of Slaughter BR - Strong aggro creature, can Haste your whole team as they come in. 
Silent Skimmer B3 Strong
Skitterskin B3 Decent aggro creature.
Smothering Abomination BB2 Strong, requires sacrifice creatures.

Devoid spells

Swarm Surge B2 bit of a win more card imo.

Blue. Has the best Ingest tech.

Ingest/exile creatures:

Benthic Infiltrator U2 - outstanding for Ingest decks, probably the best Ingest creature.
Fathom Feeder BU - ridiculously good.
Mist Intruder U1 - decent Ingest creature.
Ruination Guide U2 - Very strong, anthem for colorless creatures (+1,+0)
Salvage Drone U - Weak.
Sire of Stagnation BU4 Very strong.

Spells that exile a card.

Brutal Expulsion UR2 - Very strong, worth noting that this can bounce your own processor creatures so they can be dropped again to apply the effect a second time. (It even feeds you the exiled card you'll need).
Horribly Awry U1 - mediocre counter spell that exiles.
Spell Shrivel U2 - average counterspell.

Processor/consumer creatures 

Cryptic Cruiser U3 - Decent. Process to tap.
Murk Strider U3 - Strong. Process to bounce a creature.
Oracle of Dust U4 - Decent. Process to loot.
Ulamog's Nullifer BU2 Excellent. Flash flier, process to counterspell.
Ulamog's Reclaimer U4 - Strong, regrows an instant or sorcery spell.

Other Devoid creatures.

Drowner of Hope U5 - Decent. +2 scions, consumes scions.
Eldrazi Skyspawner U2 - Strong. +1 scion.
Herald of Kozilek UR1 - Strong. Reduces cost of all colorless spells by one colorless mana.
Incubator Drone U3 - average. +1 scion.
Tide Drifter U1 - decent, anthem to colorless +0,+1.

Devoid spells

Adverse conditions U3 - Average +1 scion.

Green. Green Devoid tech is more often built around the Sacrifice a Scion mechanic than the Ingest/Process mechanic and is a strong colour to include if you want plenty of bodies to sacrifice.

Processor/consumer creatures 

Void Attendant G2 Strong. Pumps out scions.

Other Devoid creatures.

Blisterpod G. Decent. 1 scion.
Brood Butcher BG3  Very strong. Eats scions, starts with one.
Brood Monitor GG4 Strong. 3 Scions.
Catacomb Sifter BG1 Strong. 1 Scion
Eyeless Watcher G3 Decent. 2 Scions.

Devoid spells

Call the Scions. G2. Decent. 2 scions
Unnatural Aggression G2. Average.


From Beyond G3 - Excellent, gets bonus points for the HP Lovecraft reference. Pumps out scions.


Ingest/exile creatures:

Vile Aggregate R2 - Excellent.

Spells that exile a card.

Brutal Expulsion UR2 - Very strong, worth noting that this can bounce your own processor creatures so they can be dropped again to apply the effect a second time. (It even feeds you the exiled card you'll need).
Crumble to Dust R3 - Strong in the Standard meta against some decks. Probably unplayable in Limited.
Touch of the Void. R2 - Decent.

Consumer spell

Processor Assault R1 - decent if you can count on early Ingest.

Other Devoid creatures.

Barrage Tyrant R4 - Strong. Eats creatures.
Dust Stalker BR2 Decent aggro creature, can be used as a Dash creature.
Forerunner of Slaughter BR - Strong aggro creature, can Haste your whole team as they come in.
Herald of Kozilek UR1 - Strong. Reduces cost of all colorless spells by one colorless mana.
Kozilek's Sentinel R1 - Decent.
Nettle Drone R2 - Strong
Vestige of Emrakul R3 - Average.

Devoid spells

Serpentine Spike RR5 Very strong in Limited, possibly a bit too conditional in Constructed.
Turn Against R4 Strong.


Molten Nursery R2 Seems weak although someone's bound to come up with an abusive deck in Contructed. 


Doesn't get this mechanic!

Colorless (ie no colored mana in casting cost).

Ingest/exile creatures:

Bane of Bala Ged 7 - Very strong
Oblivion Sower 6 - Very strong
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger 10 - Complete bomb, you won't lack for processor fuel if he gets to attack.

Spells that exile a card.

Aligned Hedron Network 4 - possibly unplayable unless you build around it.
Scour from existence. 7 - average.
Titan's Presence 3 - Decent in colorless decks, otherwise unplayable.

Processor creatures

Blight Herder 5 - Strong, +3 scions.
Ruin Processor 7 - Decent
Ulamog's Despoiler 6 - Strong if it gets to process.

Other Devoid creatures.

Conduit of Ruin 6 Strong in ramp strategy.
Deathless Behemoth 6 Consumes scions

Devoid spells

Gruesome Slaughter 6 Needs to be built around, otherwise seems weak.


Spawning Bed 0 - Strong. Sac for+3 scions.

Archtypes summary 

There are 3 main archtypes associated with the Devoid cards. These don't necessarily synergise with each other, for example spewing out Scions won't necessarily help with an Ingest/Processor strategy.

The Colorless strategies.

Many of the new cards synergise with Colorless spells and creatures. These also synergise with artifact creatures and awakened lands.  In Limited note that there is some hate built in for this archtype. There are two artifacts that punish colorless creatures in BFZ. Neither are especially popular but that may change as the meta swings towards the more common use of colorless strategies. I had quite an interesting play in a Sealed match. I ran my 2/2 out with the arrows attached and my opponent blocked with his 2/3. I then moved the arrows to another creature and pinged for 1 damage.

None of the set reviews I've watched had much time for the arrows but pinging has a long tradition in MtG and combos well with some mechanics like -2/-2 or First Strike.

 There's also one artifact creature, a 1/1 flier that's an afterthought of a land draw spell but which becomes a capable aerial threat when Ruination Guide is about. In Standard the cards should synergise in interesting ways, particularly Origins which had a Thopter theme for its Blue Red cards.

The Scion strategies.

A number of cards in the set feed off Eldrazi scions or produce them. The scions themselves are useful comboing well with When a creature dies effects or anthems etc. In Standard Grim Haruspex is a card which is popular with scion swarming decks. The ramp effect of the Scions shouldn't be discounted, a Turn 4 Grip of Desolation could destroy a player who's struggling to get his mana base online. It's very useful for smoothing your curve so if you don't have a Turn 3 play you could get your turn 4 play down by saccing a Scion. In Limited they probably work best if conserved to enable top end spells or powerful turns where multiple spells are cast. They also enable reactive play so if you were almost tapped out but had one Blue up you could Spell Shrivel for two scions or just threaten it.

The Ingest/Processor strategies.

In Limited this is a difficult strategy to Draft and a fortunate strategy to find in your Sealed Pool. You absolutely need both parts of the combo and most of the cards are weak without that. You don't want to be casting 3/3s for 4 mana if you can't activate their special abilities nor do you want to heavily Ingest your opponent's Library if you lack cards that can apply punch. DarkestMage has uploaded footage of his PTQ win which was pretty awesome and relied heavily on a pair of Ulamog's Nullifiers plus several other Ingest/Processor synergies.

In Standard this strategy is very much complicated by the existence of older cards that use the exile mechanic. Annafenza in particular is an amazing Ingest engine. Players will self ingest - in my Atarka Red deck I have Abbots and Delve which fill the exiled pile up very nicely. In fact there's an interesting minigame around Delve versus Ingest/Process. The person using Delve can choose whether to flood his exiled pile which then opens the opportunity for the Processor player to punish him. So good decisions are needed on whether to expose yourself to this. For instance if there are no cards in my graveyard then I cast Become Immense the opponent can counter it with Ulamog's Nullifier using cards that I just paid the casting cost with (I think that's how it works anyway). These complex interactions are the heart of Magic.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

MTGO: my first competitive League

So I decided to start out by playing in one of MTGO's recently added features - a competitive league.

It cost 80 play points to enter but even if you get zero wins they give you 10 back so I'm only risking 70 PP, equivalent to $7.

Match 1

My first game was against this guy: Janez_Veliki, a Magic player with a good track record and also an interest in Chess. His record was absolutely dominant 18 months ago, a really serious player. Yikes.

Game 1 he dropped a Warden of the First Tree and beautifully pumped it at exactly the right times, my attack petered out by about turn 7 leaving me with no cards or boards and him with an 8/8 trampling lifelink creature.

Game 2 I blew a Titan's Strength and a Zurgo Bellstriker killing his Warden but that left him open enough for me to pull out a win. My single Goblin Heelcutter did valuable work that game.

Game 3 I established a strong board and got him down to low life before foolishly forgetting his Shambling Vent. It's a land that can suddenly turn into a lifelinking creature. Worst of all for a rookie it hides amongst his lands presenting an apparently clean board. It killed one of my creatures and got him 2 life back but luckily I was able to kill him next turn with Atarka's Command.

I ended up taking the match 2-1 after losing the first game. This was against a genuinely good player, a strong chess player too according to google. Very pleased with that.  

Match 2

Next I played Escarate, I think a rather newer player. He had a strong but slightly off meta deck, red aggro with lots of tokens rather than instant buffs.

Game 1 I flooded, got murdered.

Game 2 I won a close game.

Game 3 He utterly dominated. Then, with himself on 16 life and me on 5 life he used an Exquisite Firecraft spell to take me to 1 life instead of removing my only creature. Tapped out all lands all creatures, he passed the turn. I'm guessing he hasn't seen the Atarka Red deck much. My 1/2 Monastery Swiftspear rushed over as an 9/10 double striker and won me the game from nowhere.

I won this match 2-1 due to an opponent error.

I must admit it was a bit of a relief to play an opponent who wasn't perfect. I was getting the impression that all competitive MTGO players are years old veterans who own all the cards and who never make mistakes. Don't get me wrong, Escarate is a decent player, he's just human and not super-optimised.

This is such a scary format to start out in.

Match 3

I played against Gamsbart, another newish seeming player with an off-meta deck. 

Game 1: He started pretty scary with an early Hangarback Walker. I again used 2 cards to kill 1 early threat, again to good result. Without the Hangarback I ran over him.

Game 2: I had 1 land so I mulliganed, got no land so I mulliganed again, got no land so I mulled down to 4. We then had a rather pathetic game where my opponent got stuck on 2 land while I beat him slowly do death with tiny creatures. Reviewing it I think I was too keen to trade, I should have kept things back for the big finish. Ho hum, got there somehow.

Another win, I'm 3-0 so far. I have earned enough prize to pay for another League entry already which is nice - a win or two in my last 2 games would put me well into the black.

Match 4

I played against JDDA3D, possibly another newish player, no results on the Google search. He played the same deck as me, Atarka Red, resulting in 2 very close games.

Game 1: I got a bit flooded and he out-resourced me, winning with a classic Atarka Red burst.

Game 2: I misplayed. A very tight game, I was one mana or one spell in the graveyard short of a Titan's Strength - Become Immense - Double Strike combo. I also had a Wild strike in hand and it occurs to me I should have cast it just to add a Delve card. I'm still learning the subtleties, or not so subtleties of this deck - blow everything except the killer combo seems like a fine way to play. On viewing the replay I realised I missed lethal, I could have used 1 mana to Wild Strike him for 2 damage, then the card would have been in the graveyard to pay for my delve spell. 2 damage would have been enough.

A loss, now I'm down to a more realistic 3-1 for the series. One match to go and I'm at least break even whatever happens.

Match 5

Played against a really good player called seriocomic. Google turned nothing up. His deck was Azban modified for the meta with the inclusion of counterspells. Key disruption of the pump spells and the use of solid creatures like Siege Rhino and Mantis Rider overpowered me.

Game 1: Hammered.

Game 2: I managed to set up my win condition but he used 2 counterspells to deny me.


I still have some way to go learning the finer points of the incredibly complex interplay. I'm definitely playing the right deck as it's consistently brutal against anything not built to contain it. 3-2 is a fine result for my first competitive MTGO tournament and won me free entry into the next tournament.

Had the cards come out a little differently there was no one I faced who I couldn't have beaten. The deck is basically fine. At some point I may invest a little as I'm not quite running the netdeck version (3 cards different).

As for my opponents I feel there were 2 experienced players with very strong decks, one other newbie with a netdeck and 2 newish players with sub-par decks. So not totally offputting, there are people around I should beat more times than not.

Monday 19 October 2015

MTGO: An EV based approach to starting competitively

A new set has come out for Magic: The Gathering and it's very fun and very interesting. With this set coming in and older cards rotating out I'm now at the point where every Magic card in the Standard ruleset was introduced while or slightly before I started playing in December. So I finally really know the cards well.

So I'm looking to play competitive Standard format Magic Online and I'm trying to strategise my best approach.

Goatbots do an Expected Value calculator. This tool allows you to determine how much value you'll get back at specific win rates for different formats.

Let's start by looking at 50% win rate.

The first thing that really stands out is that Limited is much more expensive than Contructed. Currently the cheapest Limited format is Khans Draft which will lose you on average $2.55 per go while Standard 2 player only loses you 25c per go.

Another way to look at it is by cost not per tournament but per match. We're seeing this as us needing to experience an amount of games to become practiced enough to be competitive. The best pick on this approach is playing a League which loses us 14c per game.

To play Constructed we will need a deck. To consistently win in Constructed we need a really good deck. The best decks are listed on sites like MtgGoldfish. Currently one of the best decks is Atarka Red which is also significantly cheaper than the other top decks and this is the one I decided to make. If you chose to netdeck you miss out on one of the more fun part of the game - constructing clever synergies but for a new player it's almost guaranteed to be more effective than coming up with your own strategies.

Magic is very good at showing you cards that inspire good ideas for decks. You see "this card gives all your Elves +1/+1" and your mind naturally goes towards thinking about an Elf deck. These synergies feel powerful and you get a sense of ownership of the idea, of personal cleverness. In truth every Magic player who saw that card had pretty much the same idea and the deck you're so proud to have created will have been tested by hundreds of people in dozens of variations and it isn't ruling the metagame.

So except for the top professionals we get to pick one: own our deck idea or decent win rate.

Atarka Red is a very quick somewhat gimmicky deck. You get some fast creature damage in then pump - preferably when your opponent is tapped out - for an explosive finisher. On a Prowess creature like Abbot of Keral Keep the pump cards Become Immense and Temur Battle Rage take it from a 2/1 to a 10/9 Double Strike trampler which is a straight kill on a clear board or more commonly a kill through a blocker against an opponent who has already lost some life.

Once we get to the stage where we have positive EV then a fast aggro deck like this particularly pays off as it allows us to churn through games very fast.

Let's now review the pieces we need to put together to be an effective competitive MTGO player.

- some natural aptitude for this type of puzzle-solving.
- knowledge of the current card set and meta.
- an expensive deck. (Subbing in less powerful commons for high impact rares will lower your win rate).
- experience.

So I've pretty much blown out my reserves putting together this deck and subsidised it by selling off most of the valuable cards I don't need (like an Ugin). My natural aptitude is what it is, by definition it's not something any of us can alter. The rest comes from experience, learning and understanding the plays and counterplays as one practices against other decks in the meta and decks that come from out of left field and do unexpected things.

The strength of Atarka Red is that it's so brutal it flat out beats decks that can't contain it. That is, if my opponent is focused on building his own strategy rather than removing my creatures or otherwise breaking my game flow I'm likely to win. It kills so fast left undisrupted and can cope with several removal spells and still go on for a win depending on the draws.

For Standard format the 8 player Swiss listed on Goatbot EV isn't an option so my choices are:
Standard Daily Swiss
Standard Single Elimination
Standard League

The Daily Swiss concentrates its payouts at the top. You play 4 matches and you get a ton of prizes for winning all 4, a good payout for winning 3 and nothing for winning 2, 1 or 0. This makes it a very punishing format for new players. This format actually is the first to become EV positive with rising win rate. At 52% win rate currently you are net positive. However that is heavily skewed towards the top end so 52% win rate with high variance is great but consistently scoring 2 wins - 2 losses is terrible even if it's around 50%.

The Single Elimination is much more accessible. Win one match and you win enough Play Points to enter another one. Win more than one and you get substantial rewards though nowhere near what a Daily winner gets. Even if you're really bad you will sometimes get a payout simply because your opponent got awful draws.

The Standard 2 player is the worst EV of the Constructed formats for good players but the best for bad players. Even if you never win (0% win rate) you still get some rewards in this format.

Standard League has the lowest EV loss per game which makes it a good choice at the gaining experience stage of our MTGO careers.

Now let's talk about rewards. I have a slightly different valuation on some of the rewards to the Goatbot calculator.

Play Points are valued at 0.10 which I agree with and forms a good base line. If you're a very good player you may find you win more Play Points than you could possibly spend at which point the value of these is zero until you run out and find yourself needing to build them up again. For a rookie you can always spend your Play Points. If you start to build up more than you spend grinding optimal formats like 2 players Standard then you can splash them on some events that are fun but really bad EV like Limited events and prerelease events. Only a pretty advanced player will not have a 0.10c value on a Play Point. In fact for a newbie I'd say Play Points are the best type of prize since you can just use them with no hassle trying to sell something to another player or bot.

Boosters are sellable to the bots for close to list price. At this stage in a set's life the value of boosters may be going down as people win more than they open. This was a terrible problem before Play Points were introduced a couple of months ago with some 4.00 boosters sinking to under 2.00 on the secondary market because of flooding caused by how much players won as prizes. It's very unlikely the current set will ever sink down to that level but in theory it could happen if not many people want to play Limited and the 8 or 16 man Constructed tournaments are paying out a lot of packs.

QPs are valued at 0 and I think they're worth a bit more than that. 15 QPs gives you a free entry into a MOCS season preliminary tournament where you probably won't win anything but it could be pretty exciting. You need 5 wins from 6 games to get into the next stage, there's no prizes except a Promo card in this tournament.

35 QPs or getting 5 or 6 wins in a Prelim puts you into a MOCS Final where there's very big payouts for the top 32 and even an invitation to professional tour for the first place winner.

QPs are worth nothing if under 15 are collected during the qualifying month, are worth a little to a new player, mostly for the fun of being in a higher level tournament if you have 15-34 and are definitely worthwhile if you have 35+ since a rookie could get lucky and finish in the top 32 or better.

Opened cards form part of the EV from Limited events and I suspect they're overvalued. You should be able to sell your premium cards but a junk card might be listed at 0.01c but no one will ever buy it off you.

I currently have 80 Play Points and 15 Event tickets so I'm going to try out some events and see how I get on. Hopefully I'll be able to keep going for some time before I run out of currency to enter events, maybe I'll even hit the magic number where I win more than the events cost.

Thursday 1 October 2015

TV: Orphan Black

I try to stick to MMO discussion here but I wanted to mention this particularly fine TV show.

Orphan Black is a dark funny contemporary sci fi show about human cloning. Because of the weirdness of the TV industry I've found a lot of people haven't heard of it as it's not particularly well promoted, especially in the USA.

It's a first class TV series, on a par with Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones.

Season 1 and 2 are currently available on UK Netflix.

Season 3 is available for about a month on the BBC iplayer.

If you have access it's definitely one to catch if you like TV drama shows.

Here's a trailer:

Thursday 24 September 2015

My first day in Faction Warfare with Brave.

With much love and fond farewells I left Kite Co yesterday and joined Peaceful.....erm..... Feely Wotsits or whatever our new FW standings grinder corp is called (seriously the most forgettable name ever).

Yomato licked us into shape then handed the reins over to me and I took us offensive plexing. Oplexing is 65% about fighting and 35% about ticking over the timers to win capture points, the captures provide a nice stream of passive income when what we're actually doing is chatting and d scanning for customers.

I did a couple of hours last night with a gang that varied from about 2 to 6 active pilots. Each fight has a fair chance someone will die so we based out of Oshaima which has a good route to nearby Jita, is right near a load of very hot gallente systems has a market stocked by RvB who live there (as do our FW trailblazers, Kill Them With Kindness) and has the plus point that the police aren't constantly threatening to kill us.

We had a very good fight where we killed a jackdaw, thorax and something else and later an exciting assault on TMC streamer Lazarus Telraven where we all died heroically. We actually got his Thorax to half hull but being a dishonorabu goon he just had to batphone PL and was saved by Elise in a Vexor.

Today I soloed for a few hours while pretending to half ass some work and discovered I've become very rusty at frigate pvp in the plexes. There's a specific sequence you have to do as a brawler when a kiter comes in on you: preheat, set tackle mods flashy, approach, lock and I used to have it down pat but I messed it up this afternoon and lost 3 fights to kitey tristans. I cheered myself up by winning one against a Punisher though.

Then other people in the corp came alive and we got a gang going again. The place is so content mad I actually looked for quieter systems so we could secure a few lp before I welped us.

Our first action was a fight against a t1 hauler which was brutally beating up poor Yomato. Turns out he's not very good at fitting Hookbills as even with 3 of us dirty blobbing it it was still able to murderise him. Never come between a Badger and its goo!

We took a brave fight in Onatoh, we knew they were slightly outmuscling us but it's better to fight than to keep running off until you're sure. (interesting discussion btw on Asher's podcast about how no one in nullsec wants to have an even fight any more so it's not all roses there like some people are saying). We killed a thorax and nearly got another one before we all died. - 4 frigs, welp #1

We did some plexing, made some LP then took on another fight, this time against some posh faction frigs. We got a slicer for a few cheap frigs and a hookbill. Welp #2

We carried on exploring the zone and oplexing as the evening started getting busier and busier. CalMil took the crucial system of Heydelieles someone told me so it was a real ants nest around this corner of the zone with the Frogs knowing that we're poised to knock over the next lily leaf. It puts adding points to the silver control bar into perspective knowing that corps like Aideron Robotics could lose their home with us doing a bit to help that along.

We hooked up with a CalMil fleet trying to take a plex in Fliet with expensive ships. As we were in cheapass brawlers it made sense for us to sit on the beacon looking for scrams while the rich kids swagged about in their garmurs etc.

Gallente tried to pick us off with cormorants but we were too good and all of us made it past a camp they put on the novice plex. Gallente couldn't allow us to capture this so they reshipped into incursus, navitas and... wait, what's this???... a griffin. Caldari supremacy tacitly acknowledged!

in they came and meat shield did what meat shield does. We scrammed and killed a logi frig, then another, then that was it for me, turns out being in a ship that fights at 1000m does not a long life guarantee in frig brawls.

The others clung on and brawled a bit more with line fleet members very competently managing the fight until we died. Dunno what happened to our Caldari friends after we died - probably warped off and polished their killboards. Ho hum, the life of a peasant in a Merlin.

So that was #welp3 but each welp was a useful assault on an enemy that we inflicted pain to everytime.

All told I've spent about 8 hours of the last 24 doing FW and had really good fun. Of the 10 Merlins I brought down 8 are dead but I've got 7 kills and am the corp's top killer!

If other people in Brave want to be early adopters too come join us. And as for everyone else we'll see you in a couple of weeks when you can fly your Merlins and meatshield for us as we all swag around in our posh new Caldari Navy Hookbills. (Don't worry, you'll get enough LP for a Hookbill soon enough).

For people not in Brave join channel Brave Newbies and ask about the faction war corp, erm, Peaceful something something.

And for people who are frogs, watch out, the Newbies are coming!

Saturday 19 September 2015

AAR: BRAVE Frigate Tournament, winner's perspective 2015/09/18

Mikal has decided to organise a regular frigate tournament and the first of them started last night.

I won with a rail Tristan fit. The tournament limits drones to Tech 1 only but even with T1 Drones the Tristan is still a very strong ship.

I designed my fit to be a little deceptive. While it applies from range reasonably effectively peak damage is from quite close (probably 9km using Antimatter is my best distance after taking tracking issues into account).

I played the Tristan by using a simple beginning of Keep at Range 30km and peppering them with Spike (30 dps). From there I'd assess whether they were comfortable with long range in which case I would move in, web them and switch to antimatter or Javelin high damage ammo or if they couldn't hit me at that range just sit there plinking away.

Here's my fit:

[Tristan, Tourney]

Damage Control II
Small Armor Repairer II
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II

5MN Quad LiF Restrained Microwarpdrive
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator
Small Capacitor Booster II, Navy Cap Booster 400

150mm Railgun II, Spike S
150mm Railgun II, Spike S
[empty high slot]

Small Ancillary Current Router I
Small Processor Overclocking Unit I
Small Auxiliary Nano Pump I

Hobgoblin I x5

My first game was super close. I played Jozzer. He used a rail Incursus which was doing decent damage at 30km while laughing at my pitiful rail dps. I decided to rush in which led to a nasty close range brawl where we both overheated everything and just hoped. He blew up just seconds before I would have, giving me a win in very low structure.

Here's the bracket. Note that there's a mistake. After my match with Kal Nour his name was put forward but in fact he wasn't able to stay around for our game so I got a win in my second match by default and the name Kal Nour should read Callduron for round 3 onwards.

My next game was against Dsching who I consider to be a very strong player. It was Tristan v Tristan. I think however he misjudged his fit. He was running 2 armour reppers and a neut with no cap modules or rigs. I just don't think that can work. (By contrast I was running just one repper and still had a cap booster). I did my trademark plinking from 30km which forced him to send in his drones then I rushed in for a kill, keeping a little out of his optimal blaster range and got a pretty safe kill.

My next opinion was minion Kanjus who brought a very respectable light missile Kestrel. I moved to 30km to test how he played and BLAM: I got slammed halfway through my shields in the first volley. However missiles do the same dps close as they do far and with him having only an afterburner I had total range control. I moved in close, webbed him, used Javelin high damage close range ammo and overheated everything for another win, albeit not as comfortable as I would have liked. In fact I got the pvp shakes quite badly in this from the adrenalin rush and was physically shaking a lot. Really good fight, Minion.

And that was the end of the winner's bracket, I was the last remaining person with no losses yet. And so I watched a brutally competitive losers' bracket play out to decide who I would play in the final. I had the security blanket of knowing that if I played the final and lost it would go to a rematch between the same two finalists because of the double elimination rule - I couldn't be eliminated by a single loss, not even in the final.

The losers' bracket was superb with great skill being shown and a really diverse meta. Breachers, Executioners, Merlins, all kinds of ships in addition to the popular Tristans. The outstanding player was maydNNN who flew a very fast light missile Breacher. He faced quite a few opponents with drones and was simply too quick and skilful to even get touched by the lumbering T1 light drones. He won several matches by taking no damage and scoring some light damage on his opponent and getting the referee decision. He attracted some enthusiastic German support and went on to represent a strong German contingent of participants in the final against me.

Germany may be the land of crystal spun castles but sadly the final was no fairy story. I chased in to my opponent doing some light damage with spike as I approached and setting drones on him. Crucially I got a web on him which stopped him from doing his trademark kiting. However he scrammed me and was able to pull away using his mwd and got out of web range. I was a little slow reacting and he got to a good distance for him with the potential to apply very well from distance. Then he boundary violated ending what was turning into a close fought match, with possibly his advantage.

We were both pretty tired it being 2.30 am my time and 3.30 am his time. He had also had a long intense journey through the losers' bracket which I had been spared. So really I think I won by attrition.

Veteran tournament player that I am a win's a win and I'll happily take it. I won a Dramiel, free entry to the next tourney. In addition a prize had been donated of a fit up Cerberus but the player who got it decided to give it to the tourney winner so I got that as well.

Thanks to everyone who took part and to Mikal for organising it.

I hope a lot more people decide to give it a go next time, it's definitely worth 5 million isk to enter, amazing fun.

Wednesday 9 September 2015

How could Eve build up tournament play - the mini-leagues plan

I've been bitten by the tournament bug as have a lot of the players who tried tournament play for the first time in AT XIII. I'd love to play more as would members of my squad but the next tournament is a year off so instead we have nothing to do. Most AT squads simply disband at this stage.

For tournaments, for e-sport, to become a more significant part of Eve two things need to happen. Tournament play needs to be year round and it needs to be trivially accessible even to quite casual players.

Here's my proposal: the Eve Mini-Leagues.

Any alliance can enter one team and no more. Most AT rules apply such as the rules on collusion. When teams enter they are initially assigned a league based on order of entry. League size is up for discussion but we'll say 8 to start with. It probably should be a multiple of 4 so that a league can easily be used as the basis for knockout tournaments, notably the AT itself. League duration is a calendar month.

So month 1 and we get 21 alliances sign up. That's enough for 2 leagues of 8 with a waiting list of 5 teams. Each team has 7 possible matches to play over a month period - they don't have to play all of them but only get points from results. Say League 1 sees its weakest team only play 3 matches, losing 2 and winning 1. That team gets relegated to League 2 and the weakest team from League 2 gets relegated to the bottom of the waiting list with whoever's been on the waiting list longest taking their place.

If 7 matches a month seems too much we could do leagues of 4 which would also have the beneficial effect of reducing the waiting list. The problem with this is that it might make the top league just PL, Warlords Camel and whoever is about to get relegated.

A match is considered "played" if it conforms to tournament rules (based on latest AT rules), is not interrupted by a third party and a youtube link of the action is provided. I'm thinking that matches should be streamed or at least frapped because we want this to attract a viewer base and build a viewer base for the AT.

The unscannable zones added to sisi for the benefit of AT teams should be perfectly adequate to allow teams to play matches when hostile third parties are trying to screw them up.

The beneficial effects of this minileague system will be as follows:

- year round tournament gameplay which adds to the sandbox, the options to choose from for players.

- adds spice to alliance rivalries

- newbie and casual friendly as these are low stakes tournaments which can be infinitely extended to accomodate every alliance that wants in.

- a wonderful opportunity for streamers and people who make Eve content.

- the chance for Eve presenters and commentators to improve. The presentation of AT XIII was good but there's no question that it could be better and I think it would be if there were constant iteration and feedback throughout the year.

- an opportunity for Eve organisations like Eve Bet to gain publicity and traffic by sponsoring prizes.

- the building of an enthusiastic dedicated interesting following for Eve Sports.

I'm thinking this could be hooked in with current out of tournament gameplay like the player tournaments arranged at Eve events. Maybe at Eve Vegas PL might arrange to play a league match v Camel and that would be part of the event, with some of the team members playing in person at the event, hooking up with colleagues who can't attend. It might also fit with Eve-NT if the rules allowed for smaller sides format to be a legal way to play matches. (Or maybe the leagues could be 5-a-side, it's not a dealbreaker).

Is this a huge undertaking?

Not at all. People already scrim on sisi or run in-house tournaments, it's really just a formalisation of stuff players already do. The big change is that there's a competitive element to it and that matches will be streamed, broadcast and commentated on. (As a matter of fact we recorded our practice scrims when Brave prepared for AT XIII and those videos are very entertaining to watch).

We don't need much from CCP although we'd like this to become a supported element of the game, just as gas mining or high sec ganking is.

Success would be driven by how many people get involved but in my opinion there's a huge hunger for the tournament playstyle, that hunger is highest - pardoxically - at the end of the AT when no one really does any tournament stuff.

Benefits for Eve

E Sports are a hobby and like any hobby they are part of people's lives. You can't really have Eve Sport as a hobby when it's only on 3 weeks a year. If you could watch tournament play all year round then people would get into it and stay into it as their appreciation and understanding of small nuances of piloting skill grows.

People like watching gaming streams so they can improve. With good commentary streamed or youtube league matches would show off the skills of some of the best players in the game, all pushing each other to excel by competing.

It adds stickiness to Eve Online as a whole as alliances and pilots work out grudges on the grid and trigger new vendettas.

People like the soccer world cup because they can relate to it. At one time Pele was a scruffy kid kicking a can around the street. Set up tournaments so that anyone can try it and the people that tried it are more receptive and enthusiastic about the main event because they can picture themselves in the finals making the critical plays. The AT will be a much bigger deal if we become a tournament-playing community instead of leaving it as a once-a-year perk for a handful of elite players.

People will be drawn into Eve because of the Eve Sports buzz.

New players can be steered towards socialisation, risk and fun by the addition of a new Opportunity - join an alliance and play a league match for them.

Constant iteration on the tournament "little things" that would over time create a much better project.

An Eve sport element to the game that is integrated into regular production instead of being something that staff have to come in on their weekends to make work. Because work would happen throughout the year there would be a lot less "crunch" during the three weeks of the actual AT for CCP staff.

Potentially the leagues could provide a qualification system for the AT that generates a better and more conpetitive strucure than simply drawing competitors out of a hat. (I think it really hurt Eve Sports that alliances like Goons - the largest alliance in the game - had no stake in this year's AT because they got unlucky in the random draw).

Wednesday 2 September 2015

Brave strikes back

From Capri's address to Black Legion we learn that one of the most divisive moments was when Elo formed a CTA fleet to retake Y-2ANO. We learn from the Soundcloud (Capri's @ 10.50) that this CTA ended disastrously and caused deep and divisive drama after Elo arranged it then failed to show up to his own op.

Apparently this mayhem was the result of the actions of a single mischievious interceptor pilot.


I think that's the first alliance I've killed, pity it doesn't show up on my killboard.

Monday 31 August 2015

Alliance Tournament - what tier is your alliance?

AT commentator Chessur stirred some controversy this weekend when he referred to a team as "lower tier."

He quite often comes out with things that sound rather arrogant and trigger people but I think his notion of tiers is spot on.

Eve's finest.

Here's my take on the tiers in the current Tournament community:

Top tier: PL, Camel, Warlords of the Deep (Hydra).

At this tier the teams have probably the best pilots in terms of execution and skillful piloting. Every pilot has a job to do and is expert at it - for instance a guy who flies assault frigates will do the same general thing, like screening, match after match. These teams are ludicrously rich (Elise mentioned that the PL AT fund stands at 7 trillion isk) and generally put in more work than anyone else. They are also aspirational - when Gentleman's Agreement alliance closed down their best pilot and team captain, Bluemelon, was picked up by Warlords. There's a continuous drift of outstanding players from lower tier teams into these alliances. These teams invent most of the setups everyone else uses, they define the meta.

Second tier: Nulli, Shadow Cartel, Tuskers, Exodus, etc

We had the pleasure of scrimming with Shadow Cartel as part of our tournament preparations and they really felt different class. Teams at this level are dedicated AT veterans with a genuine chance to upset one of the big boys. They may occasionally field AT prize ships. In AT X Verge of Collapse, a second tier team, won the tournament outright - the core of that side though is now with Triumvirate.

At this level there are no bad pilots in the teams and they perform consistently against lower tier opposition.

Pilot quality is what puts an AT squad into this tier. For instance take The Tuskers. Last year the guy in their Maulus, arguably the easiest ship to fly with the lowest skill point requirements was Iddo Cohagen. It's also low points value. This player has his own youtube channel and blog, where you can see that he's an outstanding pvper. To have someone this good in your most minor ship shows how strong this team is on all 12 places. That's what makes a team Tier 2.

Third tier: Test, Brave, KICK, Easily Excited, etc

Lacking the money and the pilots of the higher tier teams teams at this tier put in a lot of work to make the best of what's available to us. A lot of us practice in the Test open scrims on sisi - spying is a much lower concern because our setups and piloting maneouvres are usually generic rather than being anything ahead of the game. Teams at this level usually take a set up from a previous tournament, adapt it based on game changes since and maybe invent a set up or two, following obvious game changes like the missile buff and the introduction of T3 Destroyers. Skill points can be a big issue at this level - when we decided to field bombers we had several people frantically training up Torpedos IV (not the advanced skill, the specialisation, just the basic skill) so they wouldn't be totally underpowered. In general teams of this tier will put forth solid effective comps and our piloting will be inconsistent but sometimes very competent, showing the practice we've put in.

Fourth tier: Brothers in Arms, etc.

I don't want to point fingers at too many teams from this tier. In general this tier is the teams that haven't really prepared for the AT or for some reason can't. When we were matched against Brothers in Arms I did some research on them and drew 2 conclusions - they simply don't have enough people to play most effective comps and they were very inexpert at building tinkers. At the time I looked into them they only had 10 active pvpers including alts and all their AT pilots from their first two matches. They had fielded pretty poor tinker teams in both their matches somehow eeking out a win against an awful Waffles tinker. That's another example of a team beating a side from the tier above, imo, as Waffles despite being poor in the AT are actually a solid tournament side with a lot of experience who had put in a lot of work. (We scrimmed with them a few times on sisi). I feel that Brothers in Arms didn't know how to build a tinker as a tinker is built around a tengu permarunning an unloaded ASB while being flooded with cap by teammates, they used a cap regenerating tengu with minimal support from small cap transfers elsewhere in the team. It's a set up that simply can't produce enough tank.

Characteristics of a fourth tier team are - not enough pilots, using a setup that's unconventional and worse than standard set ups. Generally they're not prepared. After all the AT is open to anyone wanting to spend 5 plex and play a match or two so there will be teams in the tournament who just rock up on the day and give it a go.

The highest achieving fourth tier team was REVOLUTION. They had a great run even though they only used 9 pilots in their five matches and brought set-ups that were just random battleships with no logi. It says a lot about the individual skill of the players that they did well without any evidence that they had prepared for the AT. They beat Forsaken Federation (tier 4 imo), got annihilated by RONIN (tier 2), then beat a terribly disorganised Razor side (Tier 3 but having a nightmare day - it's believed they forgot to bring ammo) and then pulled out a genuinely excellent win against Northern Coalition. (tier 3) before getting beaten by Phoebe Freeport (Tier 3).


I think this is quite an interesting analysis. A lot of it is based on very subjective response - it just felt different to me when my scrim partner turned out to be Shadow Cartel than say Test.

I think it also points to the possibility that the difference between Tier 1 and Tier 2 is mostly resources and the difference between Tier 2 and Tier 3 is mostly pilot ability.

I think also it shows in detail why Chessur is justified in talking about "lower tier" teams.

Sunday 30 August 2015

Alliance tournament: Captain's Report stardate 2015.08.30

The Alliance Tournament finished on a high note with a superb day's matches culminating in a great final series that saw Warlords of the Deep worthy champions.

For Brave it's been a run to be proud of. We put in a lot of work on sisi, the Test server, with our practice partners. I'd particularly like to thank Test, PFR, CVA, Shadow Cartel, Ministry of Inappropriate Footwork, NC., Affirmative, Explicit, Waffles and Pandemic Horde for scrimming with us and making us feel very welcome. Most of these teams as well as us made it into the second weekend and three of them made it to the third weekend which shows how useful this form of preparation is for AT sides.

We finished up on Day 4 with 2 wins and 2 losses. Pretty respectable start for a first time team. Of the first timers I think only PFR and REVOLUTION went further than us.

Our first match was a squeaked out win with our tinker holding together for the full 10 minutes while squeezing in a Heretic kill. This beat Easily Excited a pretty competent AT team who themselves finished 2-2. Our inexperience showed - we had to play tinker because we had underestimated the time needed to fit up our ships and only had three comps ready and two of those were taken out by our opponent's oneiros/guardian ban.

Our next match was another disorganised one as we had to shuffle around command ship pilots at the last minute. In the confusion, despite agreeing we'd run the Sensor Integrity link to reduce ECM we forgot to put it on the command ship and got brutally punished for it by PFR's Scorpion. It was still a very close and thrilling match that could have gone either way for seven and a half minutes. We wished our practice partner, PFR, well while quietly kicking ourselves for lots of silly execution errors that caused the game to slip away.

In the second weekend our first match was against a rather little known alliance called Brothers in Arms. After researching them I became convinced they simply didn't have enough pilots to run anything but tinker. I banned tengu and loki forcing them into an inferior armour tinker and we produced an exceptionally fine performance with a somewhat gimmicky ultra high dps comp. Props to Yuri for coordinating a thrilling bombing run.

Bombers! Go go go!

Our next match was against another practice partner: the Ministry of Inappropriate Footwork. We had become convinced in discussion that teams weren't prepared for sentry drone comps which while nerfed from their pedestal of 2014 were still performing well in practice. "We've out-manouevred the meta," I smugly announced to the team as I handed out ships. Pride comes before a fall and our inexperience showed as we failed to realise that jams from the 2 blackbirds were causing our application to completely fail. We got hammered and reaction from outside was that drones were a terrible choice. I'm still not convinced that drones were a terrible choice - it was more our lack of understanding of the pieces we needed in place that let us down - jams on our frigates killed us. In any event our opponents brought a strong comp and executed perfectly, I think we may have been trying to be a little too clever. In a cruel twist of irony the Footwork captain told me afterwards that they only brought the Blackbirds because I banned out Svipuls. Doh! Too clever by half.

We've out-manoeuvred the meta!

I had three goals running Brave's AT squad.

1) Kelnon had asked me to put up a good performance even though we weren't expected to win a game. We surpassed this goal.

2) In addition I wanted to try to dispel the notion that AT is some elite thing for super high skill point players. We had a number of very young pilots - in fact the majority of our players started in 2013 or 2014.

3) I wanted to lay a foundation for future Brave AT entrances. We have most of our funding intact (we lost almost all of two comps plus we used a set of +3% implants/mindlinks every match). Cornak will in due course announce how much we have left. We have a solid core of institutional knowledge including an AT corp on sisi which has been the subject of many good-natured coups. This corp has our corp fittings and corp hangars full of practice versions of our AT ships. We have very animated AT forums, currently kindly hosted by KiteCo. And we have a lot of people with a deep understanding of how to prepare for a tournament.

And with that I'd like to announce that I'm stepping down as Captain. I've had an absolute blast running the AT squad and it's been wonderful playing so intensely with such a capable group of pilots. It was a ton of work though and I think next time I'd rather focus on my personal performance (which I wasn't very happy with) than have to worry about a hundred things at once.

I'd still like to allocate the prizes we won this time as agreed with my then boss, Kelnon. I intend to distribute our 20 skins and our plex prizes among the squad members who put the most effort into making us a success.

I'd very much recommend doing this to anyone who feels ready to step up. It's a tough demanding job that's thoroughly rewarding and fulfilling. It's probably more fun than anything I've ever done in gaming (and I played my first video game in the mid-70s). We'll put a post up in the SIGs section of the Brave forums for people who might be interested.

Newbie-herder wanted.

There's more than the Alliance Tournament. Test host their sisi scrims most of the year round although I believe they take a short break just now. CCP Logibro has announced an Amarr succession solo pvp tournament which this SIG could be of great assistance in helping Brave members practice and theorycraft. There's also player-run events like Eve_NT and so on so while it's a seasonal SIG and for much of the year there may not be a great deal going on I think it's best it keeps ticking over rather than shutting it down then having to start from scratch next June. Anyway all of that will be up to the next management team, not me.

Thanks to everyone in Brave who has taken an interest, come to a practice, donated isk or helped us in other ways. The AT SIG is a great credit to Brave and a source of new player interest and I hope we continue to have Tournament gameplay as an open and inclusive option that our members can choose to do.

See you on sisi!