A Path to Dominance: Test Alliance Please Ignore

JMoravia 2019-03-26

A collaboration between Guilford Australis, J Moravia, Major Sniper (art), and Paramemetic

Few people would dispute that New Eden’s current leader in military and economic strength is Goonswarm Federation, but how could another group take that crown?  In the series A Path to Dominance, INN examines some of the major corporations and alliances in New Eden, giving an overview of their history and giving several ideas for things they can start doing, stop doing, or do differently if they want to achieve galactic dominance in the manner that Goonswarm presently enjoys.

Test Alliance Please Ignore—Who Are They?

With nearly 16,000 members, Test Alliance Please Ignore (TEST) is the third-largest alliance in the game, behind only Goonswarm Federation and Pandemic Horde. TEST accounts for nearly half the members of Legacy Coalition, making them what might be called “first among equals” in Legacy; they also control much of southern nullsec, with significant holdings in Esoteria, Feythabolis, and Paragon Soul, and a scattering of systems in Catch and Immensea. TEST’s immediate neighbors are Goonswarm Federation to the west and Fraternity (at least for now) to the east. TEST allies Legion of xXDeathXx, RAZOR, Siberian Squads, Red Alliance, and other primarily Russian alliances recently formed a new coalition in the eastern region of Tenerifis in hopes of expanding into Fraternity’s current territory. A non-invasion pact between Legacy Coalition (including the new Red Menace Coalition) and Fraternity’s broader entity Winter Coalition will expire on March 22, leaving both sides anticipating the next phase of their rivalry.

Around the Map in 40 Months

After its founding in 2010 from a Reddit community spawning the in-game corporation Dreddit, TEST eventually came to hold sovereignty in much of the galactic west area that is currently held by The Initiative, including portions of Cloud Ring and Fountain. However, complicated relations between TEST, Goonswarm, and the original Northern Coalition led to unpredictable friction during this time, eventually leading to 2013’s Battle of 6VDT-H. In that battle, which at the time was the largest in the history of the game, Goonswarm’s coalition (CFC) took control of TEST’s staging system.

The loss nearly broke TEST, causing it to drop from 13,000 members to just 3,500, which led to the loss of all its sovereignty. The rebuilding process took a long time, but by December of 2015, under the leadership of Montolio and with significant contributions from strategist and Fleet Commander Sapporo Jones, TEST held sovereignty in 29 systems – still a far cry from the 100 they had held before 6VDT – but were well on the way to recovering from their losses. By that time they had also rebounded to nearly 5000 members. Since that time, the alliance has experienced meteoric growth, more than tripling its membership and taking sov across much of the galactic south, as well as establishing its position as the largest member of Legacy Coalition, the second largest coalition in the game (behind only The Imperium).

During the period of recovery from approximately 2015 to late 2017, TEST developed a complicated relationship with Circle of Two (Co2) following that alliance’s defection from the CFC during 2016’s Casino War. Following its loss of holdings in Tribute and departure from the CFC, Co2 became neighbors and allies of TEST in the Vale of the Silent region. Following the end of the Casino War, TEST assisted Co2 in a short, futile defense of their remaining territory against Pandemic Legion and allies (PanFam).

In the end, both alliances withdrew, and headed south. Another short campaign ensued in January 2017. This one established Legacy Coalition in former Stainwagon space ranging from Catch through Immensea.

The T-Rex Stomps Ever Onward…

Relations between Co2 and TEST deteriorated quickly from this point, leading TEST to reset their turbulent one-time ally. Co2 eventually returned to the north to assist Guardians of the Galaxy, while TEST re-established diplomatic ties with Goonswarm’s reformed coalition, the Imperium. TEST and the Imperium currently maintain a friendly rivalry ranging from collaboration against PanFam to challenging each other’s capabilities, with any given day in southern New Eden equally likely to see the alliances brawling in each other’s staging systems or allying to dunk invading supercapitals.

TEST spent much of 2018 embroiled in difficult fights against multiple enemies, including attempts by Fraternity to punish them for aggression directed toward the Chinese alliance—a campaign that ended in failure for Fraternity. In late spring, TEST and the rest of Legacy Coalition pushed Pandemic Legion (PL) back out of territory that PL had previously taken in Providence. Riding this string of successes and strengthened by months of combat experience, TEST and Legacy teamed up with the Imperium to form Imperial Legacy, a powerful federation that promptly laid waste to Northern Coalition, Pandemic Horde, Pandemic Legion, DARKNESS, and a variety of other enemies in a war that lasted nearly the entire summer of 2018. A few weeks after the war ended, TEST deployed the first-ever high-sec Keepstar, in an effort to break up Pandemic Horde’s trade monopoly over the system of Perimeter, next door to Jita. That decision has led to an ongoing campaign against Horde, centered mostly in the low-sec system of Oijanen, a campaign which has seen some major setbacks for TEST.

TEST Military Director Progodlegend also stirred controversy by posting a “manifesto” concerning game balance on Reddit, which became controversial for both its content and the forum in which Progodlegend decided to air his message to CCP. Progodlegend appeared with The Mittani, dabigredboat, and Hy Wanto Destroyer on February 2nd’s The Meta Show to strike a more measured tone and reassure the EVE community that his apparent hostility to the ascendancy of supercapital force does not mean that he opposes the current capital meta—merely that he thinks the role of subcapitals has become superfluous in sovereignty war.

Looking Ahead

In spite of recent mixed results and controversy, TEST is arguably stronger than it has ever been. Achieving Goonswarm’s level of dominance, however, will be a tall order. What does TEST need to start doing, or stop doing, or do differently in order to take their galactic influence to the next level?

Paramemetic: Unify Messaging

Hailing from Reddit, TEST was once a powerhouse of propaganda and culture. As it’s expanded its membership, however, its signalling has become diluted. While some parts of Legacy, such as Brave, have flourished under the cultural guidance of TEST leadership, others seem to fall behind.

What makes an alliance or corporation “TEST?” Is mere membership enough? Does one become a member of TEST just by making the right political arrangements? And if so is TEST’s culture little more than a nod to Reddit and some backroom handshakes? These are questions that, if addressed, could lead to a surge in membership.

As the North bleeds corporations and continually loses the culture war, TEST stands to grow. But why should any corporation join TEST instead of the Imperium? For most, I suspect it’s exactly because TEST isn’t the Imperium, and represents the lesser of two evils to corporations who have spent the last year getting walked on by the Imperium. But surely TEST is more than the Imperium Lite. I think with a coherent, unified propaganda and messaging platform, TEST could define itself and surge to new heights.

Guilford Australis: Embrace the Capital Meta

TEST’s rapid growth over the past three years, coupled with frequent moves and diplomatic realignment, leaves a sense of uncertainty about the alliance’s actual strength and capabilities. Numbers alone should indicate TEST wields formidable power. Its strategic partnership with former members of the Drone Regions Federation (DRF), Razor, and other old, high-skillpoint alliances broadcasts a position of strength. Indeed, Legacy Coalition holds enormous territory in the southeast and is virtually unchallenged aside from Fraternity’s largely ineffectual skirmishes along Legacy’s northern borders. Even Pandemic Legion and allies Winter Coalition and Holy Rental Empire (which consists, in large part, of PL sycophants Skill Urself and We Form V0lta) failed to achieve any lasting influence in the region during their temporarily successful but ultimately humiliating campaign to prevent Legacy from anchoring a nearly meaningless Keepstar in UALX-3. (Legacy successfully anchored a second Keepstar upon the proverbial ashes of the first shortly after the initial fight). The UALX-3 battle also illustrates TEST’s willingness to collaborate with the Imperium in situations involving PanFam. It is hard to imagine this arrangement changing significantly with PanFam and TEST/Imperium neatly polarized at the northern and southern ends of nullsec.

The greatest weakness of Legacy Coalition and TEST in particular is its dependence on shield capitals and supercapitals in an era in which such platforms are heavily penalized by the meta. Indeed, reliance on shield doctrines across both subcapital and capital fleets is unique to TEST among the nullsec superpowers. During the brief time when one of my former alliances joined Legacy Coalition (in early 2018), I was surprised to see how many mainline doctrines were formed around shield-tanked Minmatar and faction hulls. More recently, I have flown many sorties into TEST territory in Paragon Soul and Esoteria with Imperium fleets, and we are frequently countered by TEST’s supercapital response fleet led by Hels, Ragnaroks, and similar shield builds. It has even been speculated that TEST’s recent failures to challenge Pandemic Horde and allies in Oijanen, which even Progodlegend acknowledged are largely attributable to poor planning, may have been exacerbated by the slapdash capital fleet deployed for the campaign, which included a smattering of armor capitals among a core of shield Dreadnoughts and Carriers.

Many factors contributed to TEST’s decision to embrace shield capitals. The alliance announced its transition to shield doctrines in 2013 following the loss of all sovereignty and most of its members. Alliance planners publicly stated that this was the best time for major changes, since TEST was already forced to rebuild everything from its home territory to its membership and culture. In the linked Reddit “threadnought,” TEST admitted having only five supercapitals across the entire alliance after the loss of 6VDT-H, some of which may even have been on unsubscribed accounts. The alliance decided to take advantage of several recent nerfs targeting armor capitals to invest in what appeared to be an emerging golden age of shield capital dominance. Remember, this was all prior to the introduction of capital energy neutralizers, which stripped shield caps/supers of their ability to maintain an indomitable active tank—a significant factor in TEST’s calculations. Added to all of this, TEST historically has occupied regions where the faction pirates dropped shield modules rather than armor. All of this shaped TEST’s commitment to the shield doctrines they have maintained to this day.

In retrospect, TEST may have overplayed its hand. While it is true that shield caps/supers are tougher than armor doctrines on paper, the advantage is slight and it is almost entirely negated by pressure from capital energy neuts. A handful of Dreadnoughts can neut out an active-tanked Wyvern in a minute or two, reducing it from 35M EHP to 10M. A fleet of Dreadnoughts and Carriers with long-range X-Type neuts can bring a supercap force to its knees by denying it the ability to tank effectively. It was not evident for several years how well TEST had adapted to this new aspect of capital warfare, since the alliance spent that time quietly growing its capabilities while showing reluctance to deploy capitals outside its own territory. Indeed, we are still waiting to see TEST’s full capital strength since—as TEST will point out—they were countered in Oijanen by a Titan armada and we have few other examples of them going head-to-head with conventional armor forces. I already see evidence, however, that TEST’s commitment to shield capitals and supers is a long-term vulnerability. Although it would require a considerable investment of time and resources, TEST may have little choice other than to shift its policies away from merely accommodating armor caps/supers and toward encouraging them.

J Moravia: Maximize Use of Space

TEST has slightly less than half as many members as Goonswarm Federation, and they’re spread across three main regions of Esoteria, Feythabolis, and Paragon Soul. GSF is primarily concentrated in one region, Delve, with some holdings in Querious and significant recent acquisitions in Period Basis. My estimates (methodology available upon request, but I don’t want to bore anyone here) indicate that TEST slightly outperforms GSF when it comes to ratting income per capita, but is way behind when it comes to mining income. Esoteria is roughly as productive as I’d expect it to be, but Feythabolis generates a mere 6% of Delve’s mining income, and Paragon Soul’s is just 2% – barely more than a rounding error. I believe that the corporations of TEST are costing themselves money by relying more on ratting than mining to fill their wallets.

Why do I say that? Ratting only makes money for one player, and it only makes the corporation or alliance money one time, in the form of taxes on the person who earns the bounties. However, mining earns money for the alliance multiple times over. When a player mines spodumain and sells it on the market, the alliance makes money on market fees. If some industry tycoon buys that ore and refines it, there are taxes on the refining process. When the industry tycoon uses the refined ore to build something, the alliance makes even more money in facility taxes. And when the tycoon sells her finished product on the market, the alliance makes money yet again on market fees. That one piece of spodumain earns ISK for the alliance a minimum of four different times, and it also potentially earns ISK for two different players, the one who did the mining and the one who buys the ore for industry purposes and sells his creations.

There are a number of ways that alliances can increase their mining output. One is to form regular “locust fleets,” in which Rorquals and mining barges systematically strip all the asteroids in a given system and then move to the next. (This practice is not without its own risks, however.) Another is to institute a buyback system where people can sell ore quickly and easily wherever they happen to mine it. This would be especially useful in the more distant parts of Paragon Soul. Alternately, the alliance can set up a shipping network, where jump-freighter pilots can earn ISK or paps for hauling a certain amount of ore to a trade hub. There are also more playful approaches, such as a regular weekend competition where the player who contracts the most amount of ore to the buyback service earns an ISK reward over and above the value of the ore. (The prizes can also be broken out by type of ore, so there can be a winner for the most spodumain, the most gneiss, the most ochre, and so on.) The specific measures are up to the corporation or alliance, and it’s possible TEST, or a few of their constituent corporations, are already doing some of these things. It’s also possible—even probable—that TEST may end up spending a substantial amount of ISK to get these programs off the ground on an alliance-wide level. 

However, it’s crucial to remember that any investment in production will pay for itself many times over and in many different ways. Goonswarm is notorious for krabbing in every possible way; TEST will have to match that dedication in order to unseat GSF as the galaxy’s dominant power. They already hold their own with GSF in terms of ratting income; mining is where they will have to pick up the slack.

What do you think, readers? What are some things that TEST needs to start doing, stop doing, or do differently in order to be the most dominant power in New Eden?

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Comments

  • Lugburz

    test are really bad dude, thats why they keep blueing goons whenever faced off with someone even slightly coherrent. Bad ingame and bad FOR the game.

    If they want to dominate, they need to stop being bad and actually take fights outnumbered; and i dont mean with horde….

    What do you do in test btw?

    March 27, 2019 at 12:03 am
    • phuzz Lugburz

      Bad ingame and bad FOR the game

      So the modern equivalent of “Not just ruining the game, ruining your game” then? 😉

      March 27, 2019 at 9:38 am
    • Guilford Australis Lugburz

      In response to your question – none of the authors are in TEST. This is part of a series published by INN to explore ways each of EVE’s major alliances can achieve its full potential. These articles feature both historical and editorial content. We reach out to alliance leaders and line members for the historical background, but the editorial portions are simply the opinions of the authors.

      March 27, 2019 at 12:23 pm
  • Didn’t Montolio left (turbo pissed off) like way before 6VDT? When i left (prior to Test’s retirement to FW) Booda was in charge. No idea what happened after that though.

    March 28, 2019 at 5:33 am
  • Lord Benz

    Dude you really need to stop getting your info about history from guys that werent playing at the time or just generally dont know wtf theyre talking about. Montolio was long gone before the CFC ever invaded Test’s holdings in Fountain. He had a huge hand in the hostilities between Test/CFC and absolutely nothing to do with TEST’s recovery.

    March 29, 2019 at 1:44 am