Because this post kept getting longer and longer, I decided to split it in two. This is part one. Part two will be released when it’s ready(tm), hopefully tomorrow or on the weekend.
And the winner is… somebody who nobody seemed to have on their list. Me neither, but that’s not a surprise, seeing how I still know very little about powerhouse corps in EVE. So, congratulations Verge of Collapse!
With that out, let’s look at a couple of features. Warning: This will contain tactical theorizing by someone who doesn’t have any clue. As always, I will try to keep it accessible to people without much knowledge about EVE. This is on the one hand to keep it understandable for non-EVE-players, but also because my own knowledge is still limited.
The tournament started with preliminary group stages, where each team was allowed to bring up to 6 ships worth up to 50 points total. The points list was decided and published beforehand by CCP. The cheapest ships (T1 frigates) cost 2 points, up to 20 points for the most expensive (faction battleships). After the group stages, the top 50% of teams went into an intermediate group stage of 4 teams each, fighting round-robin team battles, with the top two teams from each group progressing to an elimination stage. In those two groups, the limits were doubled: up to 12 ships worth up to 100 points in total. The winner was decided by looking at who had killed more ship-points of the opposing team within 10 minutes (or until one team was eliminated, then the survivor was declared the winner, obviously).
One common feature of almost all setups was a dual-battle approach. Most teams brought a group of battleships or battlecruisers for the “big fight”, and a bunch of assault, electronic attack, or plain T1 frigates for a “support fight”. In addition, many teams brought one or two cruisers for logistics (“healing”) or various forms of “debuffing” (neuts, damps). A decisive win in one of these two could decide the battle. Winning the big-ship fight left the enemy with too little firepower to win; wiping out the enemy’s support ships allowed you to cripple the big ships and sway that fight in your favor. This could make for interesting battles, because several things happened at the same time.
There were, of course, exceptions to that rule. Especially during the last battles of the intermediate group stages, if out the outcome didn’t matter any more for qualification, teams brought a lot of “comedy setups”, These fights were actually fun to watch, because they brought some variety.
Other than that, it seemed to me as if there were three main setups that worked a bit like rock-paper-scissors with each other, and another one or two slightly less popular setups. These dominated the tournament, especially as it progressed.
The Minmatar Rush: Felt to me like the most popular setup. The backbone was a relatively large group of T1 and T2 Minmatar battlecruisers, Sleipnirs and Cyclones, specifically. Typically supported by a Scimitar for logistics and ASBs on each ship (more about ASBs in a minute). These can do a frighteningly large amount of damage while being quite resilient (especially the Sleipnirs with their higher innate T2 resists).
The Double/Triple Vindicators: Seemed to work like a great counter to the Rush. The Vindicators (or, as a replacement, sometimes the similar Kronos) are Gallente faction battleships that come with a bonus to webs. If anything comes into their web range, they can slow it down by 90%. This spells doom for the Minmatar battlecruisers, who rely on speed to evade damage from battleships. In addition, the Vindicators can tank an immense amount of damage, especially when supported by an Oneiros Logistics.
The Vargurs: It wasn’t a very popular setup overall, but by the virtue of HUN Reloaded, who went all the way into the final by bringing the same setup over and over again, it made this list. On paper, it looked like a very weird idea. The Vargurs are Marauders, a class of ships that is typically associated with PvE rather than PvP. However, this setup was very flexible, and maybe HUN also was lucky that they always seemed to bring the right counter to each battle. It makes a great counter to the Vindicators, because the Vargurs can stay out of range of the webs, and project a huge amount of damage on battleships. It could also work well against Minamatar Rush teams, provided the support frigates could pin down their enemies, and the Vargurs and their Scimitar Logistics weren’t sensor damped and therefore could project damage from range. HUN even survived an ECM team, which is all the more surprising seeing how ECM is typically the Marauders’ Achilles heel. They just happened to bring support with remote sensor boosters to counter the ECM in exactly the right fight. Honi soit qui mal y pense? I don’t know. The Vargurs finally met their demise in the final match at the hands of a Minmatar Rush team with heavy dampening fielded by Verge of Collapse.
ECM: Every now and then, teams fielded an ECM setup. This is typically very risky and chance-based. Since ECM only has a chance to jam the enemy ships, the fight can easily go either way, and typically ends in total destruction for one of the teams. If you manage to jam out most of the opponents ships until you can kill one or two, you can apply more and more jammers to fewer and fewer ships, which increases the chance that they stay jammed, which makes for a safe victory. If, on the other hands, the jams do not work in the beginning, it is easy to lose one or two of your (typically much weaker in both offense and defense) ECM ships, and the fights tips the other way: you have fewer and fewer jammers left to jam the other team, ships get jammed less often, you lose more ECM ships, and you’re downhill without a chance to recover. I still enjoyed these a lot, maybe because I’m a Caldari pilot myself, and ECM is Caldari territory (and also sadly one of the few setups you actually see many Caldari ships in).
Drone Boats: Also a rather rare setup, the drone teams benefit from two properties of drones. They can reach out quite far with their drones, and they are much less susceptible to ECM, because drones keep attacking their target even if you lose a ship lock due to jams. (They also can switch between light and heavy drone types, so they can kill frigates and battleships equally well, though that wasn’t that important in the tournament, with the drone boats bringing the heavy DPS and the frigates killing each other.) Their downside is the typically more fragile drone boats, and the fact that it seems to be hard to actually get the drones to do the on-paper damage during a real fight. Also the fact that drones typically have to travel to their target first to attack from close, so there is considerable downtime if you switch targets. These downsides resulted in drone teams not doing very well overall. Props for trying, though!