Aftermath: Alliance Tournament 2020


Almost four solid months of practicing, building and testing fleet comps, and thinking about the Alliance Open Tournament, A Band Apart lost two and won two. In the harsh reality of the Monday morning after Templis won the Tournament it doesn't seem to add up to much. In reality however, the experience was much more than just fighting in four matches would appear. And I think everyone on our team would agree - we had a blast.

This was my fifth Alliance Tournament. I have no idea what the record is, but according to the Eve-NT chart I've lost the fourth most amount of matches of anyone in the recent tournament.

And the 10th most wins by the way, but that's another chart. (Luckily you can only lose 2 matches per tournament!)

Thing is, these charts are a tad misleading. While I am always the team captain, I set up our team a little differently. In our previous four tournaments I was the team captain but we always had an FC that wasn't me. Originally our FC was Jose Zampano and then it was Devlin Shardo. I always found this set-up to be ideal. I worked on strategy, comps, ship fits (along with others) and when it came to match time, someone else FC'd the team. I have a healthy dose of honesty about my own abilities, and while I think I'm very good at in-game FC'ing small gangs in low sec - tournament match direction is another thing entirely.

This year Devlin was going to continue in that role and he did until about two weeks before the tournament was going to start. Without going into details, which aren't important, real life took a turn for him and he wasn't able to continue. Which was understandable. Real life is always more important. We even held an internal GoFundMe to raise some money to help him out. My Wife and I ran that and I'm happy to say we more than doubled our goal in just two days. 

As a result I had to accept the additional role of FC two weeks before the tournament started. Which is not a problem, but I would have liked to have had all the practice time to get warmed up to the idea. But that wasn't going to be. So I decided to dive right in and move on like nothing had happened. Our team was dedicated and we all pulled our boots up and forged ahead. It's easy to see in hindsight just how much this change impacted us in the long run, but leading up to the tournament start we all felt strongly about our chances.

Including me.

MATCH ONE - Lazerhawks

Just the week earlier in the Alliance Open Opens we had crushed Goonswarm using our double Paladin composition. In practice it was one of our more reliable comps. I made the decision to start the tournament with it for a couple of very important reasons. We had no idea what the opening meta would be, being the fourth match of the day was a detriment as we'd already be committed to our comp before any matches started. So we'd have no "heads up" like teams whose first matches happened later in the day.

The great thing about the Paladin comp is its flexibility and range. Of course Paladins without Bastion aren't super tanky, but they deliver impressive dps at upwards of 73k range. It is hard to hide from them. We felt very confident about our chances right up until the moment we landed in the arena.

One of the things you might not know if you've never flown in the AT before is the horrible realization that sometimes comes over you when you finally land on field and realize that you've already lost a match you have yet to fly in. All that build-up, preparation, anxiety, tension, unknown, teleporting, getting your mods right, filling up cargo, making sure every little detail is perfect - all gone in an instant. This has happened to me a few times in my experience in the AT, and this match was one of them. We were dead before we landed.

There was literally nothing we could do. The Rock, Paper, Scissors nature of the AT had caught us early. Three Rattlesnakes slaughtered us and was the perfect counter to our comp. It made such an impression that suddenly Rattlesnakes became the most banned ships of the day. No one wanted to face that. 

It made such an impression on us that it eventually ruined our chances of winning further down the road. I think we had PTSD.


I'm lumping Literally Triggered and No Vacancies together because we brought the same comp to both these matches - our Hype Train. Which in my opinion was the best comp of the entire tournament. In typical fashion commenters tended to give us a hard time for bringing it, just like they did the Paladin comp. But failed to do so when other teams brought the same comps later on in the day, teams like Tuskers (who used variations of both our Paladin and Hype comp) as an example. Funny it was ok when they did it. And yeah, that's a chip on my shoulder right there.

I can explain away all the crap about orbiting and mwd use - but the truth is that I freely admit to struggling a bit to both operate my machine and FC at the same time. Like I said before, I would have liked more practice beforehand. That is not an excuse or anything, just an explanation. Mistakes were made, mostly in being a tad slow to react like I normally would if someone else was FC'ing. Luckily the comp is very forgiving and my few mistakes never added up to anything. We still won both matches and moved on.

If you want to see how well the Hype Train works watch the No Vacancies match. That's a version of what would become the prevailing meta getting taken down.


Oh boy, how to explain this?

A couple of factors played against us in this match, all of which were our own issues. First of all we believed we couldn't bring the Hype Train again - not even the modified version which replaced a Vindicator for the Bhaalgorn. (Among other changes) Certainly Brave would be expecting that. One of the weaknesses of the Hype comp is range and Brave had shown in their matches a propensity of bringing triple BS shield comps. The greatest fear of the Hype Train.

And that Lazerhawks stampede preyed on our minds. Like I said, I think we all suffered from a bit of PTSD afterwards. So we started leaning into a Rattlesnake comp. And, being low sec pirates, we started wondering if it could work as an armor based composition. If we were going to face a shield BS comp, bringing an armor based variant would serve us well. It was even suggested that, maybe, perhaps, we might even consider dual-tanking these Rattlesnakes! The mere suggestion brought us all to fits of laughter, why that's the dumbest idea!

Yeah, you can see where this is headed. So we jumped onto SiSi and started testing these theories of ours. And, while you might laugh, it turns out that dual-tanked armor Rattles wreck shield based BS comps. I personally flew a single Rattle against three Bargs and killed one and a half of them before I died. More Rattles killed more BS. This crazy, dumb idea started to stick in our heads. It just might work. Heck, it probably would work.

Except Brave didn't bring any BS did they? A kinglsayer comp doesn't work when there are no kings to slay and when faced with smaller sig radius targets putting out about 4,500 dps? Well they just melt.

And once again, we were dead before we landed.

Sadly, the modified Hype Train comp I should have brought would have faired much better. Not entirely sure we would have won, but it would have been much closer.

Lessons learned.

Next time I'm FC'ing the entire time. From start to finish. I need to make at least one run at this thing the way I want before I stop trying. Winning the AT has been a goal of mine for a long time now and I want to do everything I can to help our team achieve that goal. Not just for me, but for them as well.

Having said that I think we need to practice a bit differently as well. We had great practice partners this year (and thanks to them all!) but I also think we need to practice other things outside of direct matches. Including FC practice for others beside myself. So that more people have the ability to take over once I explode in flames.

And we need to be more confident in what works best for us. A little more confidence and I think we could have gone a bit further in the tournament this year. There are other things that we've talked about amongst ourselves that I won't say aloud in public, but all in all our team is ready for another go. Everyone enjoyed themselves and had a great time working together.

I'm proud of our team. We handled adversity. We helped our friend. We tried different things, some worked and others really just didn't work at all. But we always had fun.

And really, when it comes right down to it, that is all that really matters.