Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lessons Learned from AT9

I love the alliance tournament. I love it for the very simple reason that to me it is small gang PVP perfected. And before you say NOOOOOOO, think about it. The concept is simple. A small group of ten or less pilots taking on another small group of ten or less pilots in more or less a realistic setup of ships one might actually see in the game. Granted, it isn't something that you would see in 0.0 space, but in wormholes its pretty much par for the course. And while the individual ship setups might changes, the concept is still the same. Bring as much power to blow up the other guy.

That being said I don't watch the AT9 with interest in who is going to win. That was settled a long time ago in backroom dealing. It is the fleet setups I study and try to learn as much as I can. After all, this style of combat is what we see in wormholes often, so it is important to see what works and what doesn't. So what did I learn this year?

1. Gallente are terrible

They aren't just terrible. They are actually worse then that. Did anyone see a Gallente setup win a real match? Cause I didn't. In fact the only time I saw them win was when Outbreak realized who paid the bills and stopped shooting so we could all suffer the next 5 minutes watching something we already knew.... Laedy is a badass. And not taking anything away from her badassness, but even Prom himself couldn't have turned that loss around in one Vindicator. Please. Hydra I'm glad you took revenge on the tournament and took not only the first place finish but the second place as well, but please don't insult my intelligence next time. By the way, mad props on engineering that tournament from start to finish.

Where was I? Oh yeah, terrible Gallente ships. Seriously anyone could guess who was going to lose just by looking at the fleet setups. Oh, that team brought Domi's.... they lose. I hope CCP was paying attention. Considering Rushmatar won the majority of the time, Amarr and Caldari split and Gallente lost like... well all of the time, I think some nerfs and/or buffs are sorely needed. There was nothing that had FULL FAIL AHEAD written all over it right from the start then some pilots in Gallente ships.

I would say that next year we won't be seeing any Gallente ships in winning fleets (real fights Hydra) unless CCP makes some changes. However, I just know I'm going to see them fielded again next year by noob teams or in comedy setups.

2. Bombers in stealth

Considering the bomber was the flavor of the year in AT8, there seemed to be a severe lack of them this year. I dunno if they just fell out of favor or if CCP increased their cost. Regardless, the tri- or dual bomber setup that was popular last year was all but gone this year. And I found that interesting considering the sheer increase in the Rushmatar setups that seemingly all the winning teams were fielding. I would think a couple of well piloted bombers could make all the difference against those teams.

The amusing thing was the lesson learned in AT8 was “Don't MWD into bombs.” It seems no one got to put that one into practice this year. Maybe next year.

3. Battleships are bad

As in really bad. Pretty much no battleship fielding teams won any real matches. The only exception to this rule was the Machariel. And I think that one was only a win because it was part Winmatar and it can field Projectiles. CCP needs to do some creative thinking here. Maybe decrease the cost of battleships to make them more appealing. Or allow faction mods on battleships only. Currently, there is nothing a battleship can do that can't be done by something in the cruiser line just as efficiently and at less point cost.

4. Projectiles are king

Projectiles almost take over top spot in my weapons-systems-I-think-are-entirely-overpowered list. I still think the Medium long-range missile system still holds the edge considering the wtf range and wtf damage for that range, but projectiles are a close second. Consider:

  • Hybrid weapons are terrible (rails slightly less so) and use cap at slightly worse tracking
  • Lasers do less damage at way more cap and worse tracking.
  • Projectiles have the top tracking of any turret based weapon.
  • Projectiles don't use cap at all meaning they can continue to fire when the ship is drained.
  • Projectiles can switch damage types as easily as missiles.
  • Projectiles have long range thanks to insane falloff distance.

Wait, top tracking of any turret based weapon? Even more so then blasters? You bet. Check the numbers. Dual 180 ACII track at 0.139 and its blaster comparison the Heavy Electron Blaster tracks at 0.12 rad/sec. It is a similar comparison along the weapon line. 200mm guns vs Ions? 0.121 vs 0.11 rad/sec. Ever popular 425mm vs Neutrons? Advantage projectiles, 0.1056 vs 0.1 rad/sec although it is closer comparison then the previous two pairs.

There just aren't any weaknesses in its game. Projectiles have long been a favorite for PVP warfare and its no wonder that the only ship type that gives them bonuses (Winmatar) are popular in not just PVP but in the tournament as well. CCP and Team BFF (are you paying attention?) this is called a balance problem. While I don't mind abusing projectile weapons like everyone else, I would like to see CCP do something to bring balance back to the force. If nothing else it would bring a bit more variety to not just the tournament but to all PVP. I don't know what that nerf would be, maybe the worst tracking of all turrets based weapons? They start using a miniscule amount of cap? Less falloff?

Or maybe instead of a flat out nerf how about a buff? Allow other race ships to get bonuses to projectiles. Or change current ship weapon bonuses to generic damage/tracking increases to all TURRET based weapons. I've been calling for weapon systems to cross races for some time now. Isn't it time for the little things? I'm looking at you team BFF, the only team in EVE that still makes sense.

5. Minmatar = I win

Okay, maybe not guaranteed. But pretty damn close. After all, the other team could be fielding Winmatar as well. Of all the Minmatar setups, the Rushmatar setup was far and away the most popular and battle-tested. We can all pretty much recite it by now. Three Sleipnirs, a Claymore, a Huginn, a Simitar, three Sabres and a Thrasher. Yawn. It varied a bit here and there, but that was pretty much the main setup.

It revolves around a decent shield buffer setup and a stupid amount of damage. When two decent Rushmatar setups went head to head, it was pretty much a bloody, brutal death match that was mercifully over quickly for the loser and those of us watching. In a lot of the matches it seemed like the Huginn was a key piece. The ability to reach out and lock a ship down in webs allowing the faster Minmatar ships to catch up and tee off was a turning point in most matches. It insured most matches would not be kiting affairs that are real snooze-fests.

The other key piece was the Sleipnir. Almost always fielded in threes, this vicious command ship brought serious pain and usually lasted long enough to do some great damage before popping. With Scimitar support the three Sleipners were nothing short of fire-breathing damage dealing machines that were virtually unstoppable on the field.

Show some of those on order for me in the wormhole.

6. I Curse you

It was interesting to see the Curse in here and there among some of the setups. The Curse in general is a Minmatar ship of doom when properly fitted. The problem is, most aren't. With 6 mid slots, most PVP setups have the Curse rocking a shield tank, opposite of their natural Amarr bonus to armor tanking. AT9 setups were similar, as I saw the Curse in shield tanking teams. The Curse gets two very important bonuses, the first being longer range on neuts and vamps, and the other being a often unused bonus to tracking disruptors.

With 6 slots, there is only room for so much. So standard Curse fittings use 2 LSE, MWD, Point, Invul Field, and EM shield harder or maybe 1 tracking disruptor.

One tracking disruptor just isn't going to get it done against a Minnie boat. In order to put a serious damp in their dps you need 2, preferably scripted in order to make a dent. Problem is, two tracking disruptors put a serious dent in the shield tank. Now I assume the ships in the Alliance Tournament don't use points with the exception of scrams to shut down MWD's, but even dropping the point for a second tracking disruptor yields a Curse with a subpar tank, and in the real world of PVP you need a point.

Sure shield tanking the curse gives you more EHP and speed, but let's be honest here. More HP's at less resists usually equals in just as dead just as quickly, and most Minnie ships fitted for speed are going to catch you anyway. So those advantages are moot, especially in group fighting. Instead, neuts and tracking disruptors will tear any ship up other then a missile boat which is the traditional Curse weakness. And while projectile wielding Minmatar ships are immune to the neuting effects of a Curse, they are effected by bonused tracking disruptors.

But armor tanking ships are SLOW. Yep. Running the numbers we find the Curse with 800mm plate, resist mods and a MWD will chug along at around 1200 m/s. The same Curse shield tanked? Around 1300 m/s, slight more if nano fit. In gang work, its not enough to kite the entire team. And if you are the unlucky SOB to get primaried at the start of the fight, you're usually dead no matter what tank you are using. So why would you NOT use all the bonuses to the maximum?

Armor tanked curses use the naturally high Amarr bonuses to armor. With a few resist mods and 800mm plate, it doesn't have the EHP of the shield tanking version, but it has better resists that make your logistic pilot happy. Dropping the useless shield tank from the mids allows you to fit twin tracking disruptors, cap booster, point, mwd and a final slot free for a sensor booster/third tracking disruptor or maybe even an AB for dual prop.

It will be interesting to see what happens next year.

7. Almost rule changes

I wish CCP would have let the “Pick one ship the opponent is fielding and it can't take the field” rule fly. There would be so many more interesting matchups due to that rule, along with some interesting deception and counter-deception techniques.

Looking ahead, hopefully prior to the next Alliance Tournament CCP really comes up with something to shake things up. I think the banhammer rule would be awesome, but also I hope they figure out some way to make battleships more useful. Because currently the AT is getting a bit stale. Clearly CCP isn't going to do anything about the balance issue among ships, and I'm getting tired of seeing Rushmatar. Unfortunately for those of use watching the tournament, the setup that wins will not be altered unless CCP actually does something about it.

I guess my interest in next years Alliance Tournament will be based on less of what CCP says and more of what they do.  


  1. Interesting factoid no.1

    A ship fitting tachyon IIs will have better tracking than a Megathron with 425mm IIs.

    Yes, this means that a Gallente ship that has a bonus to tracking is actually worse off than an Amarr ship without it.

    We shan't even get into the horror that is the anemic DPS of rails.

  2. While I can't deny that hybrids could do with some love, I don't think your assessment of projectiles vs lasers is exactly right. Taking pulses and autos as the main example, pulses have both higher base damage and noteably higher real damage (due to fighting in optimal rather than falloff) when compared to autocannons.

    The gap is closed significantly by the fact that minmatar ships generally have more damage bonuses then their amarr equivalents - but that's a property of the ships rather than the weapon system. Note that amarr ships that do receive damage bonuses (e.g. the abaddon) handily outdamage their minmatar cousins.

    That said, I think the reason minmatar are the most popular race in the tourney (and indeed in PVP in general) has little to do with damage - it's speed and range flexibility. This makes them both difficult to counter and effective at countering multiple gang types - they can both chase down kiters and evade a slower, closer ranged rush team like gallente or amarr.

  3. "2. Bombers in stealth
    goes nicely with:

    "3. Battleships are bad
    Currently, there is nothing a battleship can do that can't be done by something in the cruiser line just as efficiently and at less point cost."

    once everybody and their mother saw that:"bs sux!!!!!!, nobody is bringing them.......", why would they bring bombers that are paper thin against anything cruiser sized, and with lousy bs sized torps to match.

    they would have need to be perfect bomber pilots to survive the cruiser swarm +the small tackle in at9, and the teams that did bring bombers, didn't got much dps(use) out of them. besides that everything else in your post is spot on.