Four Fights Worth Watching, Part One
The 4th Alliance Tournament has come to a close with an exciting round of elimination matches, but if you only watched the final 16 contests then you missed out on some exceptional examples of small conflict strategies. Caldari missile boats, and their wrecks, were available in plenty, but the tournament also gave the rest of the universe a small insight into the necessity of logistics, the aggregated power of a hundred small drones, and the brazen fury of a charging Thorax fleet plowing headlong into an incoming stream of heavy ordinance.
Day One of the tournament featured an all out Caldari battle as Cult of War (CoW) fielded eight Caracal class cruisers, with a pair of Blackbird class cruisers for electronic warfare support, against five Drake class battle cruisers and a single Blackbird for Chaos Incarnate (CI).
The perpetual night of space was made as bright as a terrestrial day on both sides of the conflict when the initial missile volleys found their way home. The Eve TV camera equipment shook as the CI Blackbird, primary target for CoW's Caracal batteries, went down quickly. Initial damage output from CI tore into multiple Caracals for minimal amounts of damage as they spread their attack, but they quickly concentrated fire and won back some of the support disadvantage by turning one CoW Blackbird into salvage. However, CI's losses had spread to include two of their Drakes as the battle cruisers continued to feel the pressure of volley after volley of heavy missiles.
After eliminating the second CoW Blackbird, CI found their remaining hopes pinned on the tank of their two remaining Drakes stacked against the damage output of the five remaining CoW missile cruisers. The Blackbirds were not the only ships packing electronic warfare modules and the Caracals took full advantage of their generous mid-slot arrangements to dampen the Drakes, forcing them into using Friend or Foe missiles and effectively removing part of the advantage they would otherwise have over the thin-hulled cruisers. But two Drakes can put out a ton of missiles and CoW soon found three ships going into armor nearly simultaneously.
The battle looked like it would be determined by missile flight time, with both sides taking constant damage and hulls continuing to be compromised until finally three Caracals loomed large over a single Drake. Faced with a considerable amount of damage output but largely unscathed to that point, the battle cruiser ripped into the CoW ships, taking all three of them into structure at the same time and sending CoW home with a loss as three more wrecks littered the arena.
While the Caldari missile swarm stratagem was played out often and with good success, Day Two proved that it was not the only path to victory.
Aunni Ti Tsuun Consortium (ATTC) fielded nine Caracals with a Blackbird for support against Interstellar Alcohol Conglomerate (IAC). IAC warped in with both a single Caracal and Drake, but their prime damage arrived in the form of six Arbitrator class cruisers, or more specifically their deadly payload of drones. Rounding out their package with a Celestis to help dampen potentially hazardous adversaries, IAC took an early advantage in the match. Within drone range from the onset, the ATTC Blackbird was the first to go as the tried and true strategy of eliminating EW ships first was put into action, and damage was also being evenly dealt across the Caracal line-up.
The same range that put them within striking distance for their drones also left the IAC fleet well within range of the Caracal, and the losses on both sides were evenly distributed as the missiles found their marks often and in large quantities. The damage output was constant, and for every ATTC Caracal downed, an IAC boat went with it until all that remained were a pair of Caracals facing off against the IAC Drake and a sole Arbitrator.
As the Drake tried desperately to close the range on the Caracals, they pounded the Arbitrator, keeping as far away as possible to avoid losing another ship as one of the slim cruisers was already damaged into structure. While they managed to break the Arbitrator tank and remove its drones from the equation, the delay allowed the Drake to close, lock and fire its own payload to clean out the closer of the pair. The remaining Caracal immediately started burning away to get enough range in hand to pummel the Drake from a safe distance, but the Drake continued to close, flying headlong into volley after volley of missiles until it finally reached its locking point and sent ATTC home with the loss.
The tournament started out with a thousand bangs, but it would only continue to get better. As the alliances were given the chance to scout their opponents, strategies were shifted and the battles grew more intense.