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!


Sunday 23 August 2015

Brave comms: AT match v Brothers in Arms [NSFW]

My highlight of our Alliance Tournament run was this excellently executed demolition of the Brothers in Arms tinker in our third game.

Thursday 20 August 2015

Alliance tournament: Captain's Report stardate 2015.08.20


What a week!

What a blast!

What a mindfuck!

Brave has now played two matches in the Alliance Tournament and we're a respectable one win, one loss.

And we're so pumped for the next weekend where we will play three matches, the first reasonably even, the next two against the odds.

So let me roll it back, last Captain's update was 5th August. We continued to work hard in practice and perform well against other teams. We knew we'd built a strong squad.

To give you an idea of how much work we've put in we use a points system to track practice. Either 1 or 2 points is awarded per practice session. The highest currently is 46 so that person has put in between 46 and 92 hours at practice. Several more are very close behind. Oh and the early practices weren't tracked so it's actually more than that.

At the other end our least practiced player has put in 2 hours but people around that level are considered almost unplayable because of the very organic and idiosyncratic way we FC. We sort of FC by committee but we know which info is for us and which isn't and when to just make our own decisions without listening to the others (but maybe tellling them). So it's very hard to come into cold, you need to know how we work to make sense of the babble. It's actually very effective for small gang - the person with the best perspective calls what needs to be done in a composition where we're all doing different things.

The first day of the tournament rolled round and we faced Easily Excited a competent tournament veteran who went 2 wins 2 losses last year. And we got slaughtered by bans. We'd underestimated the time needed to fit ships so our comps weren't ready - we were frantically fitting up an hour before the game. We had 2 armour comps and a tinker ready and they banned out guardian and oneiros. Oops!

Next our best Tengu logi pilot complained of being ddos-ed and announced he wouldn't be able to play. Holy crap.

We asked Tomiko to take the tengu and he was wonderful, allowing us to scrape through a very close match where the final whistle went 10 seconds before our opponent finally broke our ultra-tanky set-up. We all played well in this game but particularly Tomiko who had only practiced the ship two times with us and who flew the hardest ship in AT perfectly.

That put us on a high, but you know what they say about pride....

It comes before a fall and Sunday was a disaster. We played command ship juggling trying to work out our comps if Blue Ice, our main command ship pilot, was again unavailable because of internet problems. He came on by phone before the match and told us he couldn't get online so we had to work something out. We decided, under some time pressure, to use Shisuka who hadn't been able to practice with us because of work commitments but he did pretty well in an overall abyssmal performance.

I'm going to talk about my own performance. I was slow out of the blocks intially because I was really nervous about moving too early and getting a penalty so my dps arrived late on our primary target. I then bumped the target when I did get there, Approaching straight into him in a microwarping Vindi. That's a habit I have from frigate soloing where it doesn't matter, it matters a lot in battleship combat where you push the primary out of your colleagues' blaster range. Towards the end of the match I even burned out my top rack to set the seal on a terrible performance. In terms of FCing I insisted the support hang back early so we didn't feed cheap losses by support staying out of rep range but they stayed back too long because I never stated they should come in, leaving it to their own judgment. That caused the decision to come in to fall between the cracks as they were maybe waiting to be told and I was assuming they would seize the right moment. You know what they say about assumptions. In addition the Napoc was the wrong primary. We picked it because the Napocs started at 20 and the rest was at 50 but really we should have just thrown everything at the logi and offered the trade of logi ships if necessary. Cog's usually remarkably resilient in that logi when we all abandon him and we really needed the logi and scorpion dead asap.

Add to that the fact that several other usually excellent pilots also had stinkers and it's to the credit of the few who did pilot their ships properly that we made such a close-fought match of it.

Still at the end of the day we're Brave Newbies, we undocked and had a go and if we welped at least we tried.

And full credit to Phoebe Freeport Republic who played a superb game when it looked like they also fielded a comp that was a response to last minute calamities.

Monday we practiced but people were still really frustrated and it turned into a bitching session. Probably good to get it all out of people's systems.

Tuesday we practiced against a really good opponent and won three lost one. We piloted really well too.

Brave has found our mojo again, we have one more session before Saturday then we hope to bring a really strong game against Brothers in Arms.

If we win that one (and we're hoping too) we will most likely have a super tough match up against Ministry of Inappropriate Footwork captained by tournament expert Bei Artjay. It's another team we've practiced against and know well - that could be one of the best games of Sunday if we get there and if we play to our best.

If we survive our first two matches we play the loser of RONIN v Shadow Cartel. SC are another team we know from practice - they're a team we have beaten in practice but tbh they usually trounce us so if by some magic we make it that far we'll treat it like it's our final and throw everything at it.

Wish us luck, tune in to the CCP Stream this weekend and join Mumble where Extrems will be hosting a Brave AT party.

Brave's match times:

22nd STUDIO BROADCAST MATCH Brave v Brothers in Arms 1800

23rd STUDIO BROADCAST MATCH Brave (if we win) v Footwork or Drop the Hammer 1620

23rd STUDIO BROADCAST MATCH Brave (if we win) v loser of RONIN v Shadow Cartel 1920

If we somehow win all three clear your diaries for the weekend of 29th/30th where we could play as many as 11 matches (or as few as 1).

Lastly I want to talk about how accessible the Alliance Tournament is to people who are members of our alliance or who are thinking about joining.

When a mildir sent out his first mail everyone who said they wanted in got in and everyone who said they wanted to be captain (ie me) got captain. I did a second recruit and added a bunch more then a third recruit and added more people The only people who slipped through the cracks were people who expressed an interest but didn't really bother following it up when I was trying to get in touch with everyone.

We fielded players who mostly started playing in 2013 or 2014. At least two of the people who played on Sunday have under 20 million skill points - less than a year's worth. Our best logi pilot has 18 million skill points and is the first name on the teamsheet for most games (he can't fly a tengu though). If you are reading this now and are interested in the 2016 AT, AT XIV then plan your train so that you will be a really strong AT pilot - we're particularly likely to be short of command ship pilots who can kill things but ewar frigs, D3s, assault frigs and interceptors are all really useful.

Anyone in the alliance can be right at the heart of next year's AT team if you want to, a team we hope to see go further into the tournament than we are likely to (and we're planning to make the final weekend).

So if you want to be part of something amazing, if you want to put your pvp piloting skills under the microscope and learn to be a better player please think about joining the AT squad next time we recruit. In the meantime watch us this weekend (and inshallah the weekend after) and cheer until your cat thinks you've gone mad.

If you're not in Brave and are considering joining join channel Brave Newbies in game - at least 2 of my squad are usually in there working as BNI recruiters. Make sure you join us before May 2016 so that you're eligible to play in AT XIV!

Sunday 9 August 2015

What I'm playing

Eve Online

Eve Online is number one of course, with the Alliance Tournament starting next week. I think I've pushed my guys as far as they'll go (at least most of them).

We've developed the squad to a good place, not great as there's still a lot of annoying misplays, but that's perhaps being hyper-critical. We should at least not embarass the alliance in our first AT outing and build a solid foundation for next year.

I'm not doing much else in Eve except waiting and preparing for the AT.

Magic: Duels

Magic: Duels is the newest variation of Magic: Duels of the Planeswalkers, a slightly dumbed down version of Magic the Gathering. Unlike previous versions it's persistent and uses a Heartstone style free to play model and I have to say I'm loving it.

The free to play model is generous, so generous someone on reddit calculated you can grind the entire card set in 21 days. I wouldn't suggest doing that but I do recommend that you don't spend money if you're a reasonably competent Magic player. It's simply more fun opening the boosters which accrue at a generous rate if you have a poor card collection that gets significantly improved with new cards.

I started playing the Elves cards, Black and Green and my second booster had 3 elves in it. Awesome when things like that happen.

Magic: the Gathering Online

I'm also playing "big boys' Magic," MTGO. That seems to have absolutely slumped with regard to new players with the advent of the more generous Magic game.

It's going through an interesting transition. They've nixed the ability of extremely hardcore, extremely good players to farm everyone else for enough boosters to make a profit. The main difference is that instead of handing out boosters to the winners which can be sold for real money they will be handing out "player points" which can be used to enter more events. Naturally this has provoked howls of outrage from the more hardcore elements of the player base. It's great though for people struggling to break into the game.

Let me just explain that in more detail. MTGO is expensive unless you have an above average win rate. Since most people are average or close to it that means the above average are supported by the rest of us. If you have no job and can play all day and are really good you can achieve tremendous value from this. A 2 man events costs 2 "tix" (worth $2) to enter and currently pays 1 booster (costing $4 in the shop) to the winner. The daily event pays out more than the players put in as a sort of loss leader. The effect of this has been to concentrate both activity and rewards in the hands of ultra hardcore players who then flood the secondary market with their excess winnings, to such an extent that $4 boosters can be valued under $2 when resold to players because there's just so many of them being generated. However if they have value above $2 it's worth the hardcore high win rate people playing all day every day because they can generate real world income. I doubt many people consider this a full time job but for a college student living at home making $100 a week playing games all day would be pretty sweet.

It takes an enormous amount of casual players to support each such hardcore grinder. Essentially for him to make $100 a week there needs to be 20 casuals willing to lose $5 a week each.

However until the new system he won't get sellable boosters (mostly) he'll get player points, and there's no point spending every week grinding enough player points to enter events all day every day for 6 months.

Which means it will be easier to get opponents we can win against more often for everyone else.

I haven't done many of the events, I'm at about 50% win rate. I want to tune my skills and decks before I start seriously farming. I'm hoping the new system will help me with that. In any event I think it will probably take two years before I become a good Magic player because to be good you need to throughly know the card sets and the decks people netdeck.


The other game I'm playing super casually is Hearthstone, just doing dailies really. It's a good game but it feels eclipsed now by the new Magic: Duels for me.

Everquest 2

I tried Everquest 2, taking a Necromancer to level 10 or so on the new progression server. It was very fun but I really don't have time for 5 games at once. But a big thumbs up to Daybreak for breathing fresh life into this 2004 game.

Thursday 6 August 2015

Alliance tournament: Captain's Report stardate 2015.08.05

It's been a while since my last report but that's not for any lack of activity.

Our main preparation is practice. We aim for 8 practice sessions a week with 4 in EU time and 4 in US time. We've managed to hold these sessions most times although we've cancelled a few sessions due to sisi problems or due to low attendance. Our best attendance was 17, our worst 2, from a squad of about 30.

Practicing really helps as we've improved a lot from where we started. Boundary violations are rare, people are adjusting to small gang style.

In small gang, unlike in the big nullsec blob fleets, FCing is much looser, with multiple different people able to call instructions. For instance a battleship pilot might call that he needs something tackled for him. Each pilot has to continually assess the fight, the positions of the ships, manage a complicated array of active modules (and their overheating), and see who's in trouble while piloting his own ship (and not flying out of the arena).

I asked one of our newbros tonight to explain his piloting choices and decision making and he responded with a barrage of clever and innovative actions he had done in his frigate while making a big contribution to a game we won against a really strong practice partner (CVA). After he finished I was like wow -I don't understand everything you just said but I can tell that you really get it.

There's nothing better you can do in Eve to raise your game to the next level.

Tonight's session with CVA was pretty awesome in a number of ways. In one match we were behind on points until 2 seconds before the end when a ship exploded just as the end of the match was being counted down in Local. I'd been looking at my 85% burnt weapons trying to decide whether to squeeze out one more overheat cycle (in the end I decided not to). It's all about those constant little decision points.

Sid Meier said a good game is a series of interesting decisions.

Lots of admin stuff as people drop out, a wave of people got recruited in, finance, logistics, attendance tracking, aar analysis, theorycrafting. We're coming up fast on a thousand posts on our AT XIII subforums.

And soon everyone will be able to see what all this hard work has produced. Brave's first two matches are:

15.00 Sat 15th August: Brave Collective v Easily Excited.
15.00 Sun 16th August: Brave Collective v Clockwork Pineapple or Phoebe Freeport Republic

Watch us on Twitch!