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.


  1. Those "etc"s cover a *lot* of ground. You should be more specific about more teams you think are in each tier.

    That said, I agree with you.

    However, what you don't mention is that the gap between tier 1 and tier 2 is ENORMOUS and almost impossible to cross. Verge only won in a year when Hydra/Outbreak didn't get to compete. Other teams in that tier, other than Exodus, barely get a sniff at the top end, much less a chance of actually winning the thing. Tuskers might have a good shot next year if they don't exhaust themselves in the loser's bracket.

    1. People get pretty salty about being classified and besides I lack expertise on some of the teams. It's more a way to introduce the idea of tiering and show how someone who has started planning against AT opponents might go about thinking in terms of tiers.

      I think it's also very interesting to see the different components that make up a higher tier team and see what your side is lacking. Brave for instance has very high APM, a category topped by Camel and Warlords. For sides that are underperforming on APM this kind of deconstruction might help them analyse what the pieces are to lift them to a higher level.

      I'm not as pessimistic as you are. A team that comes 4th gets 6 prize ships. 6 prize ships is about what the top tier teams field in the whole thing. So 4th place or higher opens the possibility of matching a top tier team for resources if your prize allocation is re-invested rather than given out to team members.

    2. I don't agree with this. I actually think there's a bigger gap between tier 2 and tier 3 than tier 1 and tier 2, and that the gap between the tier 1 & 2 teams is slowly getting smaller (and could vanish completely at any time if a few exceptionally talented people like Kadesh or Dalikah ever decide to stop playing).

      On the other hand, the gap between the top 8-10 teams and everybody else is ridiculously huge. Take a look at every match that we (Tuskers), Shadow, Nulli, Exodus, etc played against a team outside of the top 8 and you'll see an extremely one-sided beat-down almost every time.

      Also, (in response to the OP) a Maulus has pretty easy SP requirements, but is not the easiest ship to pilot in an AT setting. Not even close!

  2. I wish the meta of AT encouraged excellent pilots to lift up other pilots, rather than congregate together and game the betting system to make ISK out of it, besides the prizes themselves.

    1. Actually the AT is full of excellent players helping others. The younger pilots on the Brave squad got tons of help advice and encouragement from the veterans and took their pvp to a new level. It's actually been a little hard for us to go back to regular Brave fleets.

    2. Kuddo's to all that stepped up that way. *This* is top tier behavior.

  3. I agree that there are tiers, but I only agree that there is one and then everyone else. The tournament favors teams that finish high each year, with prize ships and more. Which makes it easier for them the next year, both from a financial and recruiting standpoint. And then everyone else.

    To try and break everyone else into tiers is impossible because you have no idea what you are talking about, how could you know every team? Alliances come and go, players move around, new alliances pop up, it is impossible to keep track.

    This was our first year, we practiced our asses off against good solid teams on a regular basis and isk was not an issue. We had good, solid dedicated pilots that pvp daily. And even though we managed the highest scoring game of the first day, we still lost out in 2. But again, we knew it would be tough our first year.

    You have the teams that consistently win, and kudos to them, and then everyone else. That's my two cents worth.

    1. I think you need some method of understanding why some teams are stronger than you and to build on that what you need to do to close the gap, or even push ahead.

      It doesn't have to be Tiers but to comment on my alliance we showed a major miscalculation of the meta (our drones comp, underestimating ewar), piloting errors and inadequately developed game plans. (ie we left it to pilots to use their judgement, it would have been better to give them a brief). I learned a lot from watching other teams after we'd been eliminated.