Memories of a Mercenary – ATXVII

When CCP announced the return of the Alliance Tournament (AT), a lot of people where disappointed. Not by the fact New Edens greatest tournament would see a return, which many had not dared to hope for. But most had expected something different from the teased Youtube-announcement.
Had CCP failed to read the room? Maybe. Or maybe it had been just the right time to get the news out so everyone willing was able to begin preparations. And let me tell you: A big chunk of the PvP crowd was euphoric about the news. The number of teams signing up for it and trying to get in through the feeder tournament is proof of the excitement this sparked.

AT XVII Announcement Trailer

The hype caught onto me as well, when I red about the newly introduced Mercenary Rule. This addition would allow up to ten capsuleers to join a team of an alliance, which they are not part of, for the duration of the tournament.
I’m not the kind of person who likes to swap corp-tags often. And my current corporation, Red Branch [TWIGS], was in no alliance nor would we found one to compete in the AT. This mercenary rule allowed for motivated individuals to come forth and sign up for an alliance, as long as they weren’t part of one that was already competing. Without that rule, I probably would have never flown in Jove space.

It’s Happening!

I was only tempted at first. Flying in the AT. This would be a dream to come true. Should I try to get on a team? Am I up for that challenge? No idea. But it was not so long ago that I only dreamed about doing small gang pvp either. COVID was still in full swing in my part of the world. Stepping out the door and meeting people still involved that risk. But this was also the perfect excuse to go full nerd-mode. If not now, when then?

My former CEO, TIn Beren #DearLeader, #boomercringe, #hashtag, and his team had made it far up the list in the previously held Anger Games tournament. Thus their team captain Damassys Kadesh had received direct invitation for the Alliance Tournament.

its happening and u are in

Tin

I expressed my interest to get on the team and was so lucky to be let in on the fun. I even dropped my roles in Red Branch early – just in case if I had to switch corporations on short notice. At the end, we had all ten mercenary slots filled and where good to go.

Thunderdome Boot Camp

We picked up practices seriously after the feeder rounds where over and tried to get about two or three session in every week. Organizing a partner to skirmish with was not always easy and some teams proved to be a bit unreliable to work with. Eve Online is a game of many time zones after all. Big shout out to all our training partners that we had the privilege to practice with.

Halfway through the training it became apparent that one of our core comps would involve a Magus for links. One of my absolute favorite ships to fly. In the current nullsec meta, it is not viable to bring often. So I literally jumped on the opportunity to fly it and adjusted my skill plan on Tranquility accordingly.

We did not record exactly how many practices we did in the two months between August and September, but according to the pings in Discord, it must have been around 28 with an average of 2-3 hours per training session. Often followed by a discussion about fittings and a bunch of theory crafting.

The Wrecking Bhaal

This was the title we gave one of our comps we wanted to use in the tournament: The name giving Bhaalgorn accompanied by Augoror Navy Issues built the core ships and gave it some golden Amarr vibes. Local Is Primary is enlisted on the Amarrian side of faction warfare after all. In that comp my beloved Magus was responsible to provide links to mainly our logistics cruiser as well as screening off eventual tackle trying to pin it down. The other comp we showed was built around our Nightmare-Flagship (which should survive the tournament) accompanied by three command ships, some Jackdaws as support-killers, some fast and light tackle with a duo of T2 logistics frigates to keep everything as alive as possible. For op-sec reasons, I won’t got into our other comps. After all we might want to use them in coming tournaments.

The Wrecking Bhaal lined up and ready to warp into the arena.

Refining Fits

Late at night, after our last practice, we sat together in coms and stared at graphs which TIn produced in Pyfa. We compared a last minute idea that might give us the edge against what our practice partners had shown us the days before and against which we struggled to come out on top. Or, to be more precise, the others in the team did that.
Meanwhile I was busy with creating something you might call a “Morale Post”. More on that later.

One Last Ping

The last ping went out to everyone to make the final preparations on Tranquility. The time was neigh for some serious pixel-spaceship violence.

Unallocated Skill Points

A few hours before the first match my 5 million unallocated skill points, gathered through Abyssal Arenas and login events, found their home in some level V armor and skirmish link skills. After that, I still had about 800.000 SP left on the last weekend which went straight into Logistics Frigates V as it became clear we would field our Flagship comp with T2 logistic “fridgi” frigates.

DAY ONE

Two months of training, theory crafting and research came to the test in our very first match against Literally Triggered. The bans got submitted. And everyone got ready in their ships. AT veterans often say the first match is the most unsecure, since you go up against an opponent you know very little about. And you can hardly tell what kind of comp they might bring. Luckily for us LTRIG had shown a lot of their piloting during the Alliance Opens, which had taken place after the feeders tournament. So we had a rather good idea of what we might face and planned accordingly. Time to get that ‘Morale Post’ out and everyone into a fighting mood.

Morale Post

We knew the protocol from previous refereed matches on Thunderdome, but it still was something different to be teleported out of a TiDi-ridden Jita on Tranquility. Every loss here was a real one. Every ship destroyed would as well become minted into a blockchain, lol.
Now this was it. This was a piece of my personal history. Let’s not mess this up!

[VOD OF THE MATCH]

Okay, we won that one, and pretty solid too. Phew.
But now we had a problem.

DAY TWO

The problem was almost zero information about our next opponent: HYDRA RELOADED. Spying on Thunderdome was a big No-No if you don’t want to get banned from the whole tournament. And since HYDRA and VYDRA almost exclusively trained with each other, we ended up simply guessing what they might, or might not bring.
In their first match against Wormhole Society, HYDRA brought their version of what we called a DPS Meme: A core of three Abaddons, three Oracles and some cheap support. The goal of such a line up is to just overwhelm the opponent with raw damage and kill core ships before a reaction can happen.

At this stage in the tournament it also seemed to be a question of respect for the opposing team. Our opponent decided on an armor-tanked Sansha’s composition that smartly used the plenty of midslots for tons of utility. It looked like a great setup to go into a rather blind fight that could be either missiles or turrets. No matter what you end up against, you have either a potent afterburner or a tracking disruptor to counter incoming damage to a certain degree.

The write-up from HYDRAs perspective that goes further into details.

[VOD OF THE MATCH]

I did not get to fly in this match since we changed our composition due to bans which lead to the decision to not bring command destroyers.


The Week Between

We had three more practices scheduled between the first and second weekend. Pretty much all of them left us with an optimistic feeling. In retrospect this was the time it became very clear that we had become an actual team. Everyone had their ship, their place on the grid and a role to play. We had figured out our strategies and identified personal mistakes to avoid and stay alive as long as possible.


DAY THREE

The second Saturday of the AT had three matches for us in store. At this stage, every opponent was a serious one. There would hardly be an easy fights happening today.

Our flagship, piloted by Xiaoyi Tsuruomo;

The first one was against a group gathered around Baltrom that flew under the name of HIDDEN LEAF VILLAGE NINJA AssAssIn SQUAD eSports. You can imagine the commentators reaction to this name. Despite the name, they were an opponent to be reckoned with.

We decided to field our Flaship-Nightmare comp with a twist: Instead of Sleipnirs, we brought Vultures. Those had the big advantage of range and tank. In fact so tanky that most captains would consider twice to make the call to shoot them. The second point was paint. Each Vultures had a target painter to make sure our blinged out Nightmare would hit like the truck it was.

On the grid, an armor-heavy drone composition met our shield tanked fleet. We ended up kiting with Vultures. In retrospect, pretty funny that this worked at all. The biggest challenge for me flying a 10MN Kirin was to stay out of the neut-range of the Armageddon while also staying close enough to effectively apply reps. But we pulled it off.

[VOD OF THE MATCH]


Match two of the day was against Deepwater Hooligans. To be completely honest, I know almost nothing about them. But they brought their previously shown comp with triple Apocalypse Navy Issues supported by a Blackbird, Thalias for logistics and Magi for links with another Hyena our support would need to avoid like the plague. We brought the Flagship/Vulture comp again. It worked and we only lost a single Jackdaw.

[VOD OF THE MATCH]


The final match of the day was against DarkSide. An afaik mostly Russian(?) group that I know for preying on Nullbloc-FCs with sniping Nagas. Instead of Apocalypse Navy Issues, this team brought three Paladins to the grid. We were so lucky to be able to field Sleipnirs, and so we brought our original Flaship-comp. Over a slow start we lost some Jackdaws to the Amarrian laser ships, but in the end took the victory by kiting the slower opponent and dismantling their support before we started to work on the battleships.

[VOD OF THE MATCH]

The Flagship-Nightmare warping alongside a Jackdaw and my Scalpel.

With that, we made it already much further than we could have initially hoped for. What a run! Everyone was pretty happy with our first time performance as a mostly mercenary team. Well, I admit some of us had flown together before in Strix Ridens. But fighting in an arena is something very different compared to open nullsec.

Personal highlight: Getting kudos from commentator Miz for my fridgi-piloting;

Tomorrow we would need to face the winners of the last big tournament, the Alliance Open: Templis CALSF had dropped in the losers bracket on the first weekend. And they had seemed to have trouble to get as far as they did. Did they put up a show? We were definetly cautios, but also dared to be a bit optimistic that we could beat what they had fielded so far.

DAY FOUR

Damasyss Kadesh hat to set his alarm clock for this day. Our match started at 15:00 UTC, which meant he had to get up at 05:00 of his local time to be there before bans would be submitted. Ooof.
The early hour however did not limit his ability to lead and so we met Templis CALSF on schedule. We also called everyone to log in early to avoid eventual complications with time dialiation that was caused on the previous weekend due to a mass protest in Jita. Players were shooting the monument beside the station again. Luckily we had sorted all logistical tasks in the days before and were not affected by the slow reacting market.

We had decided to bring our Flagship-Nightmare again with TIn and me in Scalpels instead of Kirins to reduce the potential impact of ECM from our opponent. But instead of turret based command ships we decided to take the gamble and bring Claymores instead. It proved to be the right call against our opponents Flag-Barghest, who got supported by a Dominix and three Ishtars.

It was an amazing fight and Striker Eriker in the Raptor managed to scram the Templis Flagship in the last moment before it could deny the killmail and loot by jumping itself out of the arena. This match was also the first time I got blown up. Neuts and drones are a deadly combination for a Fridgi.

[VOD OF THE MATCH]

Convo between Templis CALSF and Local Is Primary team captains after the match.

Our next opponent were WAFFLES, who had previously won against Templis CALSF and also kicked out Boundry Experts. WAFFLES had put up a surprising show in the tournament as well. We decided to bring the Wrecking Bhaal again and not risk our Flagship. But the best part about it was that I could fly my Magus again. :)

[VOD OF THE MATCH]


Amazingly this put us into place four of the whole tournament. Holy cow. I have to admit that we had not planned to get that far at all. We were not prepared too well to go into a potential best-of-three. So, the outcome of the match against VYDRA RELOLDED was almost welcome to us. We simply would not have been prepared well enough and also had lost quite some concentration after being on it for the prolongued time.

As last one alive, aria Yatolila decided to MJD the Vindicator out of the arena to not needlessly prolong a lost match.

We lost this one with a variation of our Wrecking Bhaal comp. Instead of the banned Blood Raider battleship, we switched to a Vindicator. But VYDRA solidly out-kited us in their long range missile comp. We managed to catch and destroy their Scimitar, but did lose too many ships in the process. It might have played out differently if they hadn’t target banned Scalpels and Kirins to prevent us from bringing our Flagship-Comp. But without T2 logistic frigates, we didn’t want to field it. Maybe we should have gone for the armor-version of it after all…

[VOD OF THE MATCH]

Final Results

Anyhow. The results for our 10/10 mercenary team was absolutely amazing. For half of our ~twenty people strong team this had been the first Alliance Tournament of their entire career.

  • Placed 4th.
    • Prices are 12 special edition frigates and 12 special editions cruisers.
  • Won 6 out of 8 matches
  • Defeated previous tournament champions, Templis CALSF
  • Killed and looted three Flagships over a total of eight matches
    After disassembling our own flagship we had enough ISK in the hangar to payout everyone who put money into our pot and will likely have a decent amount of ISK left over after we sold the remaining modules.

Thanks. Everyone.

Although the existence as a video game and e-sports enthusiast is not the worst during a global pandemic, I’m glad it’s over and I can have my weekends back.

It was a hell of a ride and I’m super glad to have had the opportunity to make this experience.

Thanks. Everyone.

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