August 24, 2014

Contract Recap: Alliance Tournament XII

This weekend marked Noir. Mercenary Group's fifth Alliance Tournament appearance. We had previously participated in AT VII, VIII, AT X and AT XI (The past tournament links for AT VII and VIII only show the finals). Noir. has never had a very strong showing in this setting - something that doesn't really bother me personally. Iit's not how we operate on a day to day basis, and we're not large enough to dedicate massive amounts of time to practice like many organizations are able to do. In AT X we went 1:1 and in AT XI we went 0:2. This year was a little different, in some ways.

For Alliance Tournament XII, we were hired by a fan of the Declarations of War podcast that is run by Noir. (and an ex-Noir.!) members to participate in the tournament. We were given a lump sum of money to help fund our fleets - something we've never had the opportunity to do before. We also put most of our other contracts on hold for this period and focused almost exclusively on training for the tournament, another first for us. Generally we practice when we have time and that's not an ideal environment to get ready for the unique aspects of the tournament.

Each year that we participate in the Alliance Tournament we re-open a section of our forums to theory crafting. This year was no different except for the amount of work put into it; a lot more this year than in any of the previous years. We also trained heavily, scrimmaging against someone every weekend except for one from June all the way up to the tournament. We even brought in a few notable tournament veterans to give a couple of lectures. Without a doubt, this was our most prepared year yet.

Day One

Our first match was against SCUM., a really solid low sec corporation. We had done a lot of homework on SCUM. and decided to bring a set up that was a likely counter for their set up. Unfortunately for us, they brought something different. Despite setups that looked opposite on the surface, we each brought very similar set ups as far as our tactics went. We realized that we had the better DPS, but they had the advantage in control. We moved towards a mobile jump unit in an attempt to close the gap quickly so they couldn't apply damage if we tried moving in the slow way - something they would be better at than us. If we could get close, we would have a distinct advantage with the Vindicator webs. SCUM., realizing this, quickly moved away to their own mobile jump unit on the opposite side of the field. A standoff ensued in which neither team was willing to make the first jump in case it put us in a bad position - mobile jump units have been notoriously difficult to use properly in this Alliance Tournament. Also, we decided that, should we go into reverse TiDi, we'd have the advantage again with our high DPS. SCUM. eventually made the jump after the timer reached 0:00 and we followed suite. This was likely a poor choice in retrospect, to let them jump first, but in these moments it's very difficult to understand how things are going to play out - especially when time is sped up. There's simply no way to practice for that. In this setting, SCUM. was able to neutralize our support wing very quickly, making it difficult for our Vindicator to apply the damage it needed. What ships it did get a hold of with its webs, melted. You can see, using the chart function in the link below, where our damage spiked up where the Vindicator was getting in range of targets.

SCUM. played very well and ended up with a win.

Day Two

In our second match, we squared off against The Fearless Empire. I have to admit I don't know much about The Fearless Empire other than they operate in Caldari low security space. As an alliance we didn't have much intel on their set ups either, so we didn't know what to expect. They ended up bringing a 7 man tinker set up versus our 12 man shield fleet. This is what we were trying to avoid, in fact, as evidenced by the Tengu ban. Our shield fleet is one of the set ups that we performed very well with in the scrimmages and felt comfortable in, so we decided on it due to our lack of intel. It turned out to be a composition that left us at a disadvantage, but we wanted to try a few things to give us an edge. One option would have been to try and kite them, putting our drones out, but since the Kronos has a smartbomb, that would have killed too much of our DPS early while still taking a lot of fire from the Kronos. Our thought process here was to break that Proteus quickly by bumping it out of range, chewing through it, and then picking off the rest of the team.

Sure enough, the Proteus dies very quickly, but the Kronos was able to apply too much damage, hitting us at any range while we worked on the rest. We were able to chunk down a lot of their high EHP ships quickly, but without logistics, time wasn't on our side and unfortunately the ships just had so much EHP, even if we could have taken out one or two more ships earlier it's doubtful that we would have been able to chew through the Damnation and Prophecy, not to mention a Kronos in bastion mode. I really feel like our strategy was good. If I could change only one thing, I'd love to have had a logistics ship in that set up. It may have made all the difference. This fight was really all about EHP, and their team probably had twice ours. We were able to take out their flagship at least.

The Fearless Empire had a costly, but deserved victory. The ending stats show that we dealt 170,411 damage and took 173,794. For some reason, none of the normal sources for the battle reports show accurate ISK ratios that match CCP's, and our battle report show Thalesia's Kronos on our side due to smartbombs - so ignore the fact that it shows the Kronos on the wrong side (it doesn't skew any of the information anyway) for a clearer picture of the results.

In the end, we didn't perform as well as we would have liked or as well as our effort in preparation showed. I can tell you, from an insider's perspective, that although we're not happy with the results, we're pleased with our performances. If we continue to improve as much as we did in the build up to this year's tournament, I think we'll surprise quite a few people in the next tournament.