And it all falls apart.
A few weeks ago, I listed Merciless as a "canary in the coal mine": in this case, an indicator to watch on whether a smaller, not-quite-supercap-using, not-quite-interested-in-sov alliance could be successful holding sov. Rote Kapelle, who tried taking sov in Delve back in April, was another potential example. The threshold here is an alliance of 500 pilots or so. You would think that would be a big enough group that holding a constellation and maybe even a station or two wouldn't be outside the realm of possibility.
Remember: this is exactly the direction that CCP is desperate to take null-sec sov. This is the future state that they want. They want smaller alliances holding smaller blocs of space, and fighting it out with their nearby neighbors. They're expressly trying to kill off sov-holding blobs, or so they say. They've been saying nasty things about treaties lately, which means that they're also probably not thrilled with the renter/pet idea.
As a result, Merciless is exactly the sort of alliance that CCP should be cheering on: smaller, tougher, with a tighter focus and doctrine, willing to group up with allies to attack blobs, but not at all interested in being part of a blob themselves. So what happened?
Merciless reset their blues... and it quickly fell apart. Garst and other Merciless members report on Failheap that two of his largest corps weren't interested in resetting their "ex-allies" and instead, joined them. Two other corps left apparently due to personality issues. Merciless is now back down to under 200 members. NCdot now holds sov in the systems previously held by them.
Meanwhile, how is NC Reloaded doing these days? Let's check, shall we?
Oh look. Tenal (majority holder, Raiden.) and Geminate (majority holders, Red Alliance and SOLAR FLEET) have more Military Index 5 systems in them than they did during the last months of the NC's hold on those regions. Every system in the NK-AOZ constellation in Geminate is Military Index 5. Tribute (majority holder, NCdot) is a bit behind, but the 52-JKU constellation is coming along nicely. Having a giant list of blues and ratting all day long are only bad things when other people do it, I guess.
It will be interesting and amusing to continue to watch Merciless, though. Will they begin attacking NC Reloaded as they previously attacked the NC?
But for now, the canary is dead. If CCP does want to make it possible for smaller alliances to take and hold sov, they've got a lot of work to do. 1000 people and a large super-cap fleet remains the standard you're going to need in your alliance if you want to consider taking and holding sov on your own merit.