The weekend of August 11 and 12 saw thirty-six matches in Alliance Tournament XVI, the most intense of any weekend this year. These matches cut the number of competitors down from 24 to the final three. Even with this whittling down of competitors, though, there was plenty of action, suspense and exploding ships to satisfy everyone watching.
The First Day
The weekend kicked off with the first two bouts of loser’s bracket matches. The initial eight matches cut the second weekend’s lowers bracket in half, with the following teams being knocked out of the contest:
A Band Apart.
These teams did well to make it to the third weekend, but ultimately could not push far enough to make it into this year’s top 16 alliances. Their position within the top 32 alliances of the tournament will see them awarded 2500 PLEX for their efforts. This does mean, however, that these teams will not automatically be eligible for a place in next year’s Alliance Tournament, meaning that they will have to either buy their way in through the PLEX silent auction or fight their way through the feeder rounds.
As an interesting aside, only seven of last year’s top sixteen have found themselves placing that highly again. A couple of names to note for having been knocked out just slightly too early to equal their previous positions are The Initiative, who were something of a dark horse last year with their logistics frigate mastery and played well again this year. Additionally, Pandemic Legion have not achieved a top sixteen finish for the first time in a number of years, and have slipped from top three in AT XIII to only being in the top 24 in AT XVI. I look forward to seeing if these teams can pull their way back into the limelight again next year, and sincerely hope that Pandemic Legion can halt their apparent decline.
The next round of matches saw Immediate Destruction, Fraternity, Of Sound Mind, and Test Alliance Please Ignore cut from the tournament. As we’ve already mentioned, the top sixteen alliances are awarded automatic entry into the next Alliance Tournament, and so we will likely see these teams return in force next year. Teams are also granted a prize of 5000 PLEX for reaching this stage.
The winner’s bracket of Saturday was a more relaxed affair, with fairly strong wins from VYDRA RELOLDED, Northern Coalition., and HYDRA RELOADED. The fourth match between Bright Side of Death and CAStabouts was a tense match initially, with only one ship going down in the first half of the match. However, the CAStabouts team couldn’t pull back from their initial loss, and from that point BSoD just rolled over their opponents.
Following those matches, the focus returned to the losers of the most recent matches. In this set, Templis CALSF defeated SAMURAI SOUL’D OUT, while Triumvirate continued their surprising run of success by beating skill urself. The Tuskers Co. once again demonstrated why they have been AT champions by annihilating the ‘Barcode alliance’ and only losing a single ship. Finally, V0LTA dominated CAStabouts in a 100-0 victory.
The Second Day
Sunday’s match sets were some of the most grueling of the tournament, as we saw the first of the multiple match sets. These ‘best of’ rounds provide only half an hour between each match, meaning that captains must be on the ball right from the get-go with bans and team composition choices. Firstly, though, two teams were knocked out in a pair of loser’s bracket matches.
Triumvirate contested Templis CALSF initially, in a match that took some time to really get going – both teams spent a good chunk of time probing for weakness, and this match saw the first loss occur with only three minutes left on the match. This concluded with Triumvirate winning on points, killing four ships and losing none.
The second bout was The Tuskers Co. versus We Form V0LTA, with a much faster-paced match here. Tuskers took first blood after 90 seconds, killing a Magus but then losing a Vindicator almost immediately afterwards. Tuskers used their opening though, removing V0LTA’s Pontifex, Kitsune and Vindicator in quick succession. This sustained damage proved to be fatal, with the match all but decided in Tusker’s favour by the four minute mark and V0LTA being mopped up very quickly after this.
Swift Victory, Rare Ships
The first set of the winner’s bracket best-of-three matches were both decided after only two matches, with VYDRA beating NCdot and HYDRA defeating Bright Side of Death and knocking both defeated reams into the ever-dwindling losers bracket. Curiously, HYDRA and VYDRA unveiled a new team setup for their first rounds – both teams used exactly the same comp, fielding a Leshak supported by a Damnation and Absolution, an Oneiros, Vedmak, four bombers, and the Victor.
This is notable not just because the teams brought precisely the same ships (after all, they are famous for being practice partners), but also because this is the first tournament performance of the Victor. Awarded as the prize cruiser for Alliance Tournament XV, the Victor is a modified Serpentis Recon ship, and at max skills boasts a 50% webifier strength bonus alongside a 100% webifier range bonus. This allows a T2 stasis webifier (the best available for cruisers in the AT) to reach 90% effectiveness at a range of 20 kilometres before any enhancing skirmish command bursts. Put simply, this ship has the ability to control a huge amount of space and cripple the maneuverability of anything that enters that space, and both teams used that to great effect in their matches.
Following these showings, the final two single-match loser’s bracket matches took place, with The Tuskers Co. facing Northern Coalition, and Triumvirate matched against Bright Side of Death.
Northern Coalition employed a hugely effective neut composition against the Tuskers, controlling them into the ground and successfully killing a Vangel, the prize ship from the Ninth Alliance Tournament. The Vangel is an Amarrian Heavy Assault Cruiser with bonuses to neutralizer and Nosferatu modules. This Vangel was the first to die since 2012, and it’s appearance and use is almost solely down to the balance pass on assault ships that occurred earlier this year.
Bright Side of Death then lost to Triumvirate – BSoD took an early lead, trading a Keres for a Falcon, but then lost the rest of their support ships due to a bad call focusing on a 10MN afterburning Thalia for the majority of the match. This call sealed BSoD’s fate, and the match finished up with Triumvirate triumphing, killing the entire opposing team and only losing that Falcon early on.
Back to Regular Ships
The last matches of the day were back to the best-of-three format, With last year’s Grand Finalists HYDRA and VYDRA coming into competition again, and then Triumvirate engaging Northern Coalition in the knockout loser’s bracket. Both of these sets are worth watching if you haven’t seen them already.
The match set between Hydra and Vydra was a curious affair. The first match saw Vydra fielding their Chameleon-centric ECM comp against an old-school ‘Minmatar Rush’ team, and the ECM simply broke Hydra apart one ship at a time. This knocked some sense into Hydra, though, and they came back with a vengeance. Hydra broke out their own Chameleon ECM team, using it to the same fantastic effect as Vydra had previously and also managing to kill the second Vangel of the day. Then in the third match of the series Hydra broke out yet another AT ship, a Rabisu, using that in concert with a Leshak and an Absolution to confidently punch through Vydra’s top-heavy battleship team. The series ended Hydra 2-1 Vydra, putting Hydra directly through to the Grand Final on August 18.
Meanwhile, Triumvirate and NCdot both came out of the gates swinging, both fielding a flagship Leshak neut comp in the first match. This match went back and forth, with Tri taking first blood killing a Thalia, but trading that for an Ashimmu – this match gave Triumvirate an early lead in the set with a win on points. The second match saw almost a mirror between the two teams, using a Bhaalgorn/Leshak core supported by either a Vindicator or a Navy Megathron and logi frigates. Tri took a lead just at the halfway point of the match killing the NCdot Vindicator and Vedmak. Triumvirate quite successfully knocked Northern Coalition out of the tournament with a clean two-nil set and cementing Northern Coalition in the fourth-place spot for AT XVI, the same position as they managed last year. As a result, NCdot will come away from this tournament with three of each prize frigate and cruiser, along with all the other prizes they have garnered.
As ever in the Alliance Tournament, there are expensive fights, with some huge losses for certain teams. The most painful losses are of course the limited edition Alliance Tournament prize ships, of which there are only ever 50 of each at most on Tranquility, but we should not overlook the significant wallet damage that can be caused to some teams through the loss of a flagship battleship.
Over the course of the third weekend, we saw two Vangels be vaporised, taking the total number of prize ships to be killed this AT to three. These Vangels were piloted by Tusker’s Hoodie Mafia and Vydra’s Nika Noiser, both pilots who are hugely respected within the EVE Online tournament scene. This ships, both estimated to be worth 100 billion ISK on zkillboard, are probably valued closer to 150 or 200 billion ISK. This is in part due to their new capabilities with the ADC, but also because these ships were issued seven years ago now, and in that time a number of pilots who owned these ships have either won EVE or found their accounts restricted for various reasons, making them much rarer than the zkill lossboard would suggest at first glance.
There were also some huge spends on flagships that were lost over the third weekend. Pandemic Legion lost a hugely blinged Leshak in their last fight against Barcode Alliance, complete with a Cormack’s Damage Control – for those who may not track the ins and outs of officer modules, this is one of the most expensive purples in the entire game, and has a price tag of nearly 50 billion ISK on its own. Additional officer mods included the Sensor Booster, which is critical to keep the Leshak outputting that monstrous damage, as well as a Chelm’s smartbomb, giving them a drone-killing range of more than 10 kilometers.
Other expensive flag Leshaks belonged to Test Alliance Please Ignore and Barcode Alliance. TEST dropped more than 20 billion ISK on their flagship, including a large officer smartbomb, an officer Damage Control, and an officer Sensor Booster. Barcode had a much more reasonably-priced flagship, at only nine-and-a-quarter-billion ISK, though they opted for a pair of officer smartbombs in those high slots. Additionally, TEST and Barcode both used an abyssal-mutated micro-warp drive, and Barcode also supplemented their flagship with an abyssal armour repairer. These mutaplasmid-rolled modules are impossible to value currently due to the way in which killmails are generated, but given the RNG aspect of the modules, these could have been very expensive to acquire and use.
So Who Wins?
There’s not a clear favourite to win the tournament outright just yet. The final three teams are Triumvirate, VYDRA, and HYDRA, with the latter having secured an at-worst finish of second place. Before HYDRA can fight to secure their position, though, Triumvirate and VYDRA will have an intense best-of-three fight to determine who will go on to challenge HYDRA for the top spot, and who must be satisfied with third place.
Triumvirate have been a dark horse outsider this year, with their last tournament appearance being two years ago. Indeed, their Alliance Tournament XIV performance was less than stellar as well, having only won a single match in 2016. To have improved so much shows that there may be more to Triumvirate than meets the eye this year, and they may have the ability to reach the Grand Final.
To make it there, though, Tri will have to defeat VYDRA, a team that has gone from strength to strength since AT XIV, going so far as to win 2017’s Alliance Tournament. This is a team that has looked dominant for the entirety of these last few weeks, as well as having access to a cache of powerful AT prize ships for use when they need. This team will be a very tough nut for Tri to crack, and should they achieve it they will then need to crack those powerful teams comps once again fighting HYDRA to achieve that top prize.
Regardless of how far Triumvirate can push themselves this year, though, one thing is for certain – the final matches of Alliance Tournament Sixteen will be explosive and fantastic viewing. Tune in from 1500 EVE on the CCP Twitch channel to find out who has the strength to go all the way.