The following article was submitted by Venix, the 2nd in command of the Phoebe Freeport Republic Alliance Tournament team.
I would like to say thank you to all of the pilots on our team. Without the hard work and dedication from you guys we would not have been able to compete in the tournament. Our crew was very small totaling only thirteen pilots. This meant that we were unable to do any internal practices with super-secret compositions or fittings. No matter what we came up with, we had to test it versus another team or risk not testing it at all. Our main practice partner this year was A Band Apart (ABA). We started practising with ABA long before they were drawn from the hat to enter the tournament. When we first began, practices were a bit one sided as we typically beat ABA pretty bad; however, as the months went on the tables almost completely turned around, and ABA beat us way more than we beat them. I would like to thank ABA for showing us our flaws and making us a better team in the end.
Earlier in the year, the majority of the PFR team was involved in the EvE_NT Fight Club series. This ran from January to April, so during that time we were focused on 5v5 matches and not the AT. After the conclusion of Fight Club, we took a short break for about a week or so and then started up 12v12 practices with various teams on SiSi. As you can imagine, 12v12 is very difficult to do when you only have thirteen people on the team. If just two people were busy, then we would have to run undermanned setups or have alts in the mix. Several times we had to fly twelve characters with only ten pilots. We regularly began borrowing ABA members to fly alongside of us on the team in order to be competitive in practice. As months went by without any word from CCP on when or even if the tournament would take place, people's spirits began to get a bit low. ?Are we wasting our time preparing for something that may not even happen?? Was a question I heard often.
Finally, CCP announced that there would in fact be a tournament, and the rules had changed to favour a smaller team. The 12v12 format was reduced to a 10v10 format! Ship point values were also changed, so that meant that our spreadsheet of craziness had to be completely redone and all comps would need to be changed. Cyric's and myself are the only two people who ever have access to the sheet for security reasons, so we both had a lot of work to do with the updates.
As practices continued and we went to more open practices on both SiSi and the Thunderdome test server we started to realise that teams were rarely beating us and our comps were even starting to be copied by a few teams. This information encouraged the idea that PFR was not going to be a pushover team by any means, and we would have a real shot at placing well in the tournament. This confidence followed us all the way into the first match of the tournament verses 404 Alliance Not Found.
Day 1 - Match #1: 404 Alliance Not Found
This match was one that we honestly were not at all worried about. Based on the information that CCP provided on the forums, 404 was not even registered on Thunderdome, so our assumption was that they would be a very under practiced team without a great deal of knowledge concerning the meta. Cyric's and I spoke a great deal about what comps we would like to bring for each of the predicted first three teams we would face, what bans we would decide, and how we would proceed after each match. We decided that to be conservative against 404 as we did not perceive them as a threat. Revealing a key setup this early in the tournament was something that we did not want to do. The decision was made to fly a standard Typhoon Fleet Issue comp with basic T3D support. As we were moved into Jove space it was easy to tell by people's voices that our nerves were beginning to kick in. Still, we remained confident in our upcoming victory. After all, we were expecting to get to the top 16 without any issues and maybe even make it as far as top 8 while still in the winner's bracket.
The message to warp to the arena came into local and the team proceeded to warp to 50km. As we started to land on grid Cyric's? first words were ?Bhaalgorn'they brought the f**king bhaalgorn.? At this point I realized that not only had we greatly underestimated what 404 knew about the meta, we were also not in an aggressive enough comp to rush in and force their hand. We knew what a flagship Bhaalgorn could do as we had one also. This was not going to be an easy match. After a minute or so of debate we changed our plan to a, you guessed it, very conservative one. We chose to wait for the other team to come in and split their tackle from their damage ships.
As the match started we realized that it was going to become a posturing game. We made the call to move in slowly with high transversal. As we began moving in 404 also started moving in. We shot one of their TFI's right away and it looked to be breaking pretty well. What we didn't know at the time was that 404 had accidently neuted their own logistics ship. Once that neuting stopped the TFI was repaired all the way and we found ourselves in a horrible position. The 404 Bhaalgorn was on top of everyone and our Onerios was quickly going down. Hesitation had gotten the best of us this time, and the price was very costly: dropping down into the loser's bracket on Day 1.
While that match was plagued with little mistakes, the largest one came from the very top. Cyric's and I had decided to play it safe with every aspect. We came with a safe setup, we never committed to killing a ship or screening, and we let the enemy control the match. Cyric's was particularly distraught by what had happened and wrote this, ?Bad calling and general disorientation on my part sealed the loss on the 1st match of the AT.? He later told me he rage quit and went for a walk to think over everything, feeling he had let everyone down. The team was shaken up to say the least. We were supposed to be a top 16 team, yet we did not even perform well in the first match. At least I got to MJD out of the arena at the end which Chessur said was quite ?Legit.?
At this point the team basically vanished off of coms and the salt mines of reddit began to overflow with joy. Our day in the spotlight was not a very positive one.
Day 2 - Match #2: Quebec United Legions (and now the losers bracket)
Now that we had screwed up match 1, we had to face the possibility of being kicked out of the tournament with every fight. Day 2 had the potential of three matches with 2 of them being within an hour of each other. Not only had we not prepared for this, we did not have the supplies either. Our alliance wallet was virtually non-existent after buying webs for the flagship, so everything had to be purchased on an ?as needed? basis. Alts were used to courier modules in at the last second, and our fits sometimes had to be changed due to a lack of market availability.
The team moral going into match 2 was extremely low. After all, if we lost the match, then we were out of the tournament without so much as a skin to show for all of our efforts. Behind the scenes Cyric's and I were tossing ideas back and forth for a while. We eventually decided to stick to our original plan and bring a rather standard Typhoon Fleet Issue with ECM comp. Most teams during practice were unable to counter the comp, so we knew that it was a strong one. Even though the DPS was a bit lower than we would have liked, the overall control of the field was exactly what we wanted this time. After being moved to Jove space and warping to the arena we noticed the worst possible scenario for warp ins. Quebec was on the opposite beacon, and two-thirds of our ECM could not lock at that distance. Quebec had also decided to field a Machariel team. While the Machariel is not a great tournament ship, it is a great ship to kill smaller targets at long range. Cyric's first thought was, ?ffs, there goes my Griffins down the drain.? Being the Blackbird pilot I knew that I would end up the primary, and those Machs would apply damage very well if I could not get them jammed. Our strategy ended up falling back to a more conservative one due to the positioning. No one was happy to hear the call of 'stay back and let them come in,? but we could not risk losing the Griffins so early into the match. Both teams stayed back for what seemed like forever. We tested the tank of the Machs and it seemed to get repped fine, we tested the support and they seemed to get repped fine. Finally, I made the call to shoot the Onerios in order to force some sort of action. It turned out that the Quebec Onerios was a buffer only fit. This meant that not only had we forced them to commit, we had also forced them to do it as their logistic ship was going to die. Quebec started to come in and our support began to screen as necessary and keep our Onerios safely away from them. Quebec was constantly swapping between the ECM ships and Dmw882 (our Onerios Pilot) was basically a hero keeping up two Griffins and my Blackbird.
While not a very convincing win, we managed to pull a 40-0 victory over Quebec. What ended up being way more important than the win was the confidence that it gave the team so that we could continue on. Spirits were high and our next match was only two hours away.
Day 2 - Match #3: Feign Disorder
Since we knew that we would fight Feign if we beat Quebec, Cyric's and I came up with a plan to force their hand a little bit. Feign won their first match with a Minmatar rush style comp with heavy interdictor support. They then lost their second match with an original looking Amarr Navy comp. We planned our bans accordingly (Guardian/Onerios) in order to encourage Feign to once again bring their winning Minmatar comp. Our thought process here was that Feign would not be fond of the armor comp due to its loss, thus why would they bring it with t1 logi, but they would be quite comfortable with the rush comp due to its previous victory. Feign did us a great favor, and brought exactly what we wanted them to. Our comp was a dual Barghest core with light missile support and Hounds for additional DPS at the start. As we landed on the grid we noticed that the warp ins were not ideal for our initial plan of ?murder the logistics,? so we had to adapt, and we had to do it quickly. The final call to shoot the Sleipnir was made during the final countdown before the match began. We knew that we could kill one as we had done it several times in practice before, but if Feign pulled back too much they might be able to delay our Barghests long enough for a reload of the Rapid Heavies. We also made the call for our Svipuls to tackle the Broadswords right away or else our Scimitar may have been tackled, for the Jackdaws to clear the Kitsune, and to use ECM drones. From what we are told by Feign those drones were worth their weight in Gold Magnates as they were constantly jamming their tackle or logistics. With no smartbombs on the field, there was very little that Feign could do except watch the drones continue to land jams.
The first Sleipnir went down very quickly, not as quickly as we hoped, but fast enough to show Feign that the fight was not going to go their way. The second Sleipnir went down shortly after the first, and by that time the Kitsune was down as well. Our positioning was very commanding, and Feign's only real damage left was coming from two very controlled Broadswords. The feeling on coms could not have been a more positive one as we were finally able to secure a decisive win. More than five minutes remained in the match with only a Scimitar to worry about. The call of ?loot the field? was made and damage was pulled from the Scimitar while we all exchanged pleasantries in Jove local. We also got our awesome slogan from Suitonia, ?Phoebe Freeport Republic proving that they can wreck other alliances more than their own.?
Our weekend had gone from horrible to magnificent in what seemed like the blink of an eye, but it was not over yet. With only minutes to prepare for our next match the PFR team and captains had to go into overdrive.
Day 2 - Match #4: Solar Fleet
With less than an hour from the previous match, and only ten pilots online all day, we were all riding the adrenalin train from our previous wins. We honestly did not think that Solar Fleet was going to beat Shadow Cartel, so we had not prepared for them or this match. I quickly made notes about what Solar banned, what they flew, and what others banned against them so that Cyric's would be able to submit our bans which were quickly approaching. All that we were able to come up with on such short notice was that we did not want to fly against a high DPS blaster comp. With our last win being so dominate, the decision to bring out the flagship was discussed. To be honest it was not our strongest comp, but we needed to control Solar in some way that was not simply missile spam. We wanted them to be afraid when they warped onto the field and that flagship Bhaalgorn tends to give most teams the jitters.
As we warped into the arena my heart sank. Solar was super far away and brought high DPS Rattlesnakes with Rapid Light missile support. We came up with our initial plan to try and slow boat into their fleet. As the match started our Blackbirds, including mine, were immediately locked up and Sadic was killed within seconds. Half of our jams were off the field and we were now down five points. I called for reps way before I was shot in order to prevent the same from happening to me. Cyric's was piloting the flagship and decided that we needed to pressure Solar hard and fast; he dove straight into the enemy fleet. At this point the match has barley started and we were bleeding ships quickly. Our Onerios pulled back while the flagship and tackle was burning in. That is not something that you want to see happen! Solar clearly caught onto this mistake and capitalized by throwing all of their damage onto our flagship. The Bhaalgorn was not long for this world, so we focused our attention on the Solar Scimitar which died pretty quickly to our two Astartes. Our next primary was the Cerberus. As Cyric's was entering structure he managed to lock down the Cerberus. Both the Cerb and the Bhaalgorn, our glorious flagship, exploded at about the same time. Each team at this point has very little left. Solar had both of their Rattlesnakes, Vulture, and a Vigil while we had our Astartes, Onerios, a Svipul, a Curor, and my Blackbird. I pulled up the stream in order to see how we were doing and I gasped. The points were tied! We had to kill something, and everyone needed to stay alive! I called one of the Rattlesnakes as primary while Solar called my Blackbird primary. Our Astartes shot, and shot, and shot, and shot, but the snake was going down so slowly. I was still managing to get jams on all of the remaining ships, but the incoming damage from the sentry drones are stressing our Onerios out. As the primary snake dipped into armor our Astarte with the armor resist link overheated his guns and burned out the command link. Without the additional resists my Blackbird could not tank the incoming fire. I would not say that I was a hero of any kind because it was Dmw882 that was repairing me, but my Blackbird sure ended up doing quite well for a t1 cruiser. The Blackbird died with 126,562 damage taken.
As the timer expired and the match was over our coms erupted with joy. As we were moved back to our staging system a faint voice on coms says, ?hey guys, I did not have the power grid implant in, and I just noticed that my 1600mm plate on the Onerios was offline during the entire match (At least his prop mod was full sized, inside joke). We had won the match, and we were on our way to the second weekend after all. Now only one team stood in our way from achieving a top 16 finish?oh great, it's one of the tournament favorites, LUMPY.
[Cyric's words of wisdom, ?For the new guys doing AT, if the Quebec match wasn't a hint, this one should be. Always test the tank on the enemy Logi!!?]
Day 3 - Match #5: League of Unaligned Master Pilots
Lumpy, Lumpy, Lumpy. Oh man did you guys make us work for it. With a week to prepare for our fifth match, Cyric's and I took to the spreadsheet with a shiny new ?LUMPY? tab. In this tab we threw in every bit of information that we could possibly need about them.
Bans: With so much time to think about the match?we likely thought about it too much. I would have dreams about bans going bad, or bringing the wrong comp, or various other things. Worrying about it would be an understatement for sure. Winning this match would be the validation that we so badly needed. A win would secure our top 16 spot for next year, and to beat LUMPY would finally get all of the haters off of our backs. No one thought that we would beat them. Our EvE-Bet odds were almost 10-1 the majority of the time. We knew that we had to do something different, and we had to do it well. WasaQC, the Exodus Team Captain, and I managed to get a couple of practices in before the AT started. Flying against Exodus really makes you understand the difference between Top Tier Teams and everyone else. Their execution is beautiful and their comps are very original. Our decision was to take a comp from the Exodus list, one that they flew against us weeks before the tournament and one that they were murdering everyone with during the first weekend: Bhaalgorn with four Navy Battlecruisers. Our flagship was dead, so we had to settle for a T2 fit Bhaalgorn. It was risky to say the least. Our practice time in the comp was very little, but our pilots are very good.
Our bans may have looked simple, but essentially we banned LUMPY out of their two winning comps. We wanted them to either bring something new, or fight us with their losing comp: Three Typhoons. The bans worked out in our favor, so we prepared for war. Moving into Jove space this time was different. Coms were much more quiet than normal, and I got the impression that the team in general was much more calm. Everyone knew the plan, we knew what to expect, and we were prepared. The call to warp to the arena was broadcast in local.
As we landed onto the field our eyes lit up with happiness. Just like with Feign, LUMPY brought the comp that we wanted to fight. I knew in my heart that it was not a sure win, but if we were going to lose, they were going to get a bloody nose. The countdown started and we went over final assignments. 3, 2, 1, gogogo!!! Immediately we get the Hyena and Cruor locked up. BAM, the Hyena is down. We put all of the damage on the cruor, but the reps started to land. We spend a bit too long on the cruor and it tackles our Onerios which ends up going down. Primary switched to the bombers and they are killed. Cyric's keeps the Bhaalgorn on Planet 6's Exequror and basically keeps him out of the fight. We also swarmed ECM drones onto him in order to keep him shut down. The bombers on both sides end up dead, our DPS starts to go down, LUMPY DPS starts to go down, and then we get stuck. Just enough reps are leaking out of Planet 6 that we cannot kill the Typhoon.
Ships are dying, three minutes are left in the match, and it is tied at 63-63. We begin losing our Hurricane Fleet Issue, and the fight looks like it is over for us. At 1:52 left in the match it is a 2v2, Bhaalgorn/Hyena vs Fleet Phoon/EOS. Everyone on coms in doing what we can to give information to the two remaining pilots?and then it happens. With only seventeen seconds left in the match Cyric's manages to kill the Fleet Typhoon and secure the match win. Coms go completely nuts. Our voices sound like air horns with laughter and cheering all over. A Band Apart jumps onto our coms as well and joins in on the celebration. We did it, we beat LUMPY. We made it to the top 16.
I would also like to add that while no one on team noticed that it happened, Sadic managed to get off a hero bomb which killed ALL of the LUMPY logistic drones. If not for that bomb, we would not have won the match.
Day 5 - Match #6: A Band Apart (Our Practice buddies)
So we expected to fight ABA, but we expected them during our third match in the winner's bracket. ABA knew us, and we knew them. We flew together so much that even individual piloting became predictable for both teams. In order to overcome this, Cyric's and I made a plan two weeks before the AT started up. Our plan was to use a comp that Tuskers fielded against us in practice. We modified it only slightly to use the T1 logistic cruiser as bait while still having some repping power, and we swapped Claymores for Sleipnirs. Our only internal tests were in preparation for this match many weeks before it actually happened. The tests were done to see how quickly an Astarte or Armageddon could be killed under the 5000+ DPS that the comp puts out. Two Scorpion Navy, two Sleipnirs, five bombers, and a Scythe. It may seem odd on paper, but the application of damage is so high and so instant that even under fully heated reps from a logistic and a self-repair the primary target gets erased from the arena.
Our original bans were the Scimitar and Basilisk, but our knowledge of ABA's newly gained comfort with the four battlecruiser comp meant that we had to change our plans. We instead banned the Guardian and Onerios in order to force our friends into one of their two strongest shield comps. Like Feign and LUMPY before them, ABA brought the comp that we wanted to see: Minmatar Rush. Jose, the ABA Team Captain, gave us a great greeting in local when we warped to the arena of, ?You F**kers.? He knew that we had hard countered, and their odds of overcoming were not very high. Cyric's? notes read, 'sorry friends. It was a mean comp to bring against you.?
I would like to again say thank you to A Band Apart. I wish that we did not have to knock you guys out, but hey, yall are top 16 also, so we will see you next year! Fly dangerously until then my friends!
Day 5 - Match #7: THE R0NIN
Man oh man. This match was hyped pretty highly as people were finally starting to side with us. R0NIN have been around for a long time, and their AT history is not one to be scoffed at. We made the mistake of underestimating teams early in the tournament, but we did not do that this time. After a thorough investigation of their comps and tactics the decision was made to ban out what we thought was their strongest setup. R0NIN flew their Bhaalgorn/Vindicator comp multiple times, and honestly we did not want to go up against it. We decided to go with Vindicator and Blackbird bans. R0NIN was obviously scared of the four battlecruiser comp so they banned Bhaalgorn and Harbinger Navy. We never considered bringing that comp, so the bans did not change our plans.
Our strategy was to logi dunk before the match, but like many matches before, the warp in locations did not favor this tactic. R0NIN also decided to bring some ECM anyway, so their Kitsunes became our primary targets. Seeing both team's setups side by side made us very confident that we had the win. We knew what ships we could kill quickly, and the order that we needed to kill them in. Had that plan worked out at all, then the match would not have been as close as it ended up. After the first Kitsune of R0NIN went down we basically screwed the pooch. Rapids were not landing in sync, some ships were shooting the wrong damage types, our communication ended up all over the place, and well before the match was over I became super frustrated. Havak II managed to sneak around the back and kill the remaining Kitsune which cleared any ECM off the field other than drones. The next primary was a purifier that was way out of position from his team and easily killed. Then things got really bad.
Half the team in reload while the other half is splitting damage between two Svipuls. These Svipuls needed to die quickly because one was on top of our Scimitar which eventually lead to a Typhoon Fleet getting a grappler onto it as well. Huge mistakes on our part for not clearing that support so much sooner. At 5:33 our Scimitar gets alpha'd though structure. The timing of his ASB gets his shields back up, but the damage has been done. Our disorganized missile spam has failed to kill a target or confuse the R0NIN Guardian enough, and now we are out of reps. I feel like it was our destiny to give the stream viewers a close match. We finally kill the Svipuls and then we make the call to kill the Guardian. This Guardian just will not go down. We have the whole team shooting it and it just will not die. Why you may ask? Well since half the team was shooting explosive damage at it, he was able to rep though the damage. We end up losing both Barghests while trying to kill the Guardian. With 1:58 left in the match we are down 44-57. We have no more big DPS ships and we had to focus light missiles onto a Typhoon Fleet Issue. BOOM, the phoon dies and we are up 63-57. Thankfully R0NIN left our bomber alive who did almost half of the damage to that TFI. Less than 60 seconds are left in the match and I make the call for everyone to shoot DPS drones in order to save our remaining ships. 3, 2, 1, 0. We did it again?by 6 points this time. Could we make these matches any more stressful?
I think that I lost years off of my life during that match. I had the privilege of flying a links only Drake during the match. This meant that I had no damage, no tank, and one set of light ECM drones. The fight ends up happening outside of my lock range, so the only way I know what is going on is by switching on the stream to see where ships are positioned. Cyric's was dead, so he was trying to make calls from his pod. Basically we had two people trying to call targets from ships that could not interact. Thank you to THE R0NIN for adding additional gray hair to my beard. Silver must be my color!
Day 6 - Match #8: Exodus
Well we did it; we made it to the final weekend through the loser's bracket. Even if it was by the skin of our teeth, we still did it. Six days to plan for the Exodus match. Wasa and I talked throughout the week knowing that we would be in the arena fighting each other soon. I am sure that I was much more stressed than he was. In our practice with Exodus we only ever managed to win one match, so we knew that a standard comp was not going to work. Cyric's and I planned the bans to hopefully keep them out of the four battlecruiser comp and into their three battleship comp. In hindsight, we should have never tried to fight that comp, but that was our plan and it seemed like a great idea at the time. Exodus liked to ban armor logistics, so we went with a Bhaalgorn and Onyx ban. I would tell you why we banned the Onyx, but I would rather keep people curious, hehe. Cyric's came up with the comp that we flew during the match. The idea behind it was to have many higher EHP ships to shoot, thus Exodus would not be able to kill off our DPS quickly. We knew that the setup would bleed ships as soon as the T1 logistics went down, but we did not know about Exodus? super clever MJD tactics.
As the match started we treated it similar to the LUMPY match. We locked up the Hyena and Cruor and erased them both in a matter of seconds. We lost our Exequror in trade due to a bit of a bad call with the prop mod, but it was always going to go down first. We proceeded to go for a Barghest, but Exodus and their MJD's proved to be too much for our slow Navy Battlecruisers. We managed to kill the Exodus Augoror and a Purifier, but that was all we could catch at that point. The rest of the Exodus team had split into four different directions each 100km from the next closest. The Final score was 24-100. GF Exodus!
I am glad that we at least gave those Top Tier guys a scare! Everyone knew it was a long shot to beat them, and by that point we were in the Top 8 and happy to go home having won six matches in the loser's bracket.
- Venix: The Alliance Tournament is a lot of work! We basically, in one form or another, practiced for a full year for the tournament, and I think that we could still do more for next year. It would be really nice to have a full team of 20 so that we could do internals, but in end, I would not trade these guys for the world.
- Cyric's: Losers bracket was hard work, especially day 2 with 3 matches and I'd rather not go down there again that soon. :p Really proud on the work of my pilots and their dedication to the AT. They improved so much and made me rarely actually need to "FC" during the matches since everyone knew what to do, when to adjust, call switches, etc. Can't wait to see what we are able to do next year.
To all the haters, keep bringing the salt.
To all our friends and partners, thank you so much for everything these past months. And in particular to ABA <3 you guys.
Thank you to everyone who practiced with us, and a special thank you to our team. You guys are the best!