Our AT run has come to an end with a 5/6th place finish, having lost only two matches against the eventual winners, Warlords of the Deep. Although we didn't place as well, and didn't take home any ships this year, I felt that we were actually a much stronger team this year.
In ATXII we were basically clueless in terms of theorycrafting, but managed to get deep into the tournament by getting good at executing a few drone-based comps. This year, our theorycrafting was much, much stronger, and we weren't really surprised by any of the comps we saw (apart from maybe PL's Moracha setup, that was pretty cool). In the end, we simply got beat by a team that was better than us.
And now for a recap of each match!
Match 1: Quebec United Legions
Quebec frankly doesn't have a strong tournament history, and eve-bet odds had them as 11:1 underdogs at one point, which I believe were the worst odds of any match in the entire tournament. Regardless, we still take every opponent 100% seriously and we decided to bring what we felt was one of our strongest all-around setups: dual Typhoon Fleets. It would eventually turn out to be an almost "meta-defining" comp once Warlords, Camel, and Exodus started running it frequently.
I flew a Typhoon Fleet in this match. I'd never flown a Typhoon Fleet in any practice before, but I was forced to do because Bemir, one of our usual BS pilots, wasn't available. Our team literally only had 15 active pilots during the tournament, so our bench wasn't very deep.
CCP was running on a very tight schedule on Day 1, and we had less than 1 minute after landing on grid before the match, which really threw us off. This is one benefit of having had >100 practice matches; we all basically knew what we had to do and we got it done, quickly nuking their logi and rolling to a win from there.
Match 2: Curatores Veritatis Alliance
I was pretty nervous about this match. CVA is regarded as a very solid mid-tier team, and frankly we had not been playing well in practices at all during the previous week so I felt that it was very possible that we could lose.
We didn't have a clear plan for what setup we wanted to bring. When the bans came in though, the Typhoon Fleets were open so we decided to bring the same thing again, with Blackbirds replaced with Confessors (for no reason in particular, just gut feeling that Confessors would be better).
I felt much better once we landed on grid and saw their comp. They only had frigate logi, and 720mm artillery Sleipnirs, which would never have been able to tank the incoming damage from two Typhoon Fleets. They also didn't have enough raw DPS to break our Oneiros easily. We played very well, and walked away with a 100-0 win.
After watching SirSqueebles stream after the match was over, we found it very amusing that the commentators confidently predicted that we'd lose.
Match 3: Warlords of the Deep
We stressed out over this match for the entire week. We knew we were underdogs, but felt that it was definitely possible for us to win. We had a few ideas for what we should run, many of which were taken off the table by their ban of Oneiros + Guardian. We felt we had two choices at this point: either bring the Sleipnir rush comp that we brought, or the RLML-based setup that we eventually ended up bringing against Afterlife and Shadow Cartel. In the end, we made the wrong choice and ended up in a pretty unfavorable matchup against a Sleipnir/Orthrus kiting setup.
Match 4: Out of Sight
Our potential opponents for this match were either Out of Sight or Rote Kappelle. We spent most of our time studying Rote...but imagine our surprise when Out of Sight pulled out a pretty big upset!
We wanted to bring our Typhoon Fleets again, but they were banned by our opponent. We decided to replace them with Machariels, and down-grade two of our Confessors to Heretics. The comp is slightly weaker with these changes, but it still pretty similar in a lot of ways. Despite what the commentators thought about Machariels, we were still confident that it would match up well with what Out of Sight had shown up to this point.
Out of sight brought a comp that was nearly identical to what they brought against Rote Kappelle. We were well-prepared for this, and had a pretty good understanding of how their ships were fit and what we needed to do to win. Since this was an elimination match, we played more cautiously than we needed to, but still eventually ended up with another 100-0 sweep once we broke through their Bhaalgorn.
Match 5: The Afterlife
Afterlife are a very strong team, and we spent a lot of time preparing for this one. We felt that our RLML setup matched up well against them, and that it was very strong considering the set of bans we had. We also believed that we needed to run something a bit different than what we had shown thus far, and everyone in our team (bar our logi pilot!) really liked our RLML comp.
What we didn't know was that Afterlife owned an Etana and were willing to use it.
We knew that we did not have the DPS to break their Battleships through reps, or the Etana's local tank. Fortunately, we had spent some time discussing what we would do if we were to match up against a Basilisk or Proteus tinker setup (which are both similar to the Etana comp, but a lot weaker), so we had a good strategic plan for what we needed to do.
We moved to the edge of the arena, and tried to land jams on the Etana. Once a jam landed, we'd try to nuke their tackle ships with rapid light missile spam. We lost a Maulus and our Kitsune, but fortunately we took down enough of their frigates to narrowly take the match on points. Really good fight, and lots of credit to Afterlife for having the balls to bring an Etana to the field.
Match 6: Tactical Narcotics Team
TNT had a great run in the tournament up to this point, but we had enough confidence in ourselves at this point where we felt that we could beat them with most of our comps. We brought our Typhoon Fleets yet again, and were amused to see that they brought their infamous "Mr. Magoo" RLML kiting setup again.
For those who didn't follow the tournament much, TNT's setup would literally anchor all of their ships on their FC, who would lead them around the arena. This was mocked by the AT commentators, but to be honest, it is probably more effective to do this than to try to have inexperienced pilots try to manually pilot their own ships poorly. To TNTs credit, they did win two matches by doing this!
TNT made two mistakes:
1. Their comp didn't have any links. This, combined with having all their ships anchor on their FC, made them pretty easy for our linked tackle ships to catch them.
2. They put a frigate-sized MWD on their Scimitar, which was promptly tackled and killed by us. Ooops!
We ended up taking the match handily, losing only a Vengeance.
Match 7: Shadow Cartel
Shadow Cartel were one of our main practice partners, and we knew each other's setups well. In addition, they're a very, very strong team year after year, so we knew this would be a serious challenge.
Shadow banned Oneiros + Guardian, which kind of screwed our plans up a bit. Our contingency for this scenario was to run our RLML setup again, which we felt would do well against them. Shadow Cartel had a tendency to run setups with a lot of bombers, which our RLML comp would do well against because:
1. RLMLs absolutely destroy bombers.
2. Bombers have nothing good to shoot at in our RLML setup, apart from the Claymore which can simply hide at the edge of the arena.
They brought a Basilisk + bomber turtle setup, which was one of the potential setups we had been expecting. We played very cautiously (which was correctly noted by the commentators), but eventually picked off their bombers, their Hyena, and their Basilisk to give us a win on points.
Match 8: Warlords of the Deep
Tuskers vs. Warlords grudge match incoming!
This was our 4th match of the day, and we had very little time to prepare after the Shadow Cartel match. Warlords banned armor logi against us again, which removed several of the comps we would have liked to run.
What was somewhat fortunate for us, was that we had spent the entire previous week of practice testing what we would do in case of an armor logi ban, and we had a pretty decent pool of comps to choose from. The comp we ended up bringing would have matched up ok against a lot of other shield comps, but did not match up particularly well against the Basilisk / Widow turtle comp that Warlords brought.
We tried our best, and eventually killed all of Warlords' bombers and tackle frigates (bar the Cambions), but the match was basically over once our first Barghest died. It was a great fight.