One of the things that's really aggravating about the pre-qualifiers rounds is that a lot of really good teams are going to be eliminated after only one bad match. One pilot that doesn't show up for the match, or one pilot that makes a mistake or misunderstands an order and bam, that team is out of the tournament. It's one reason I'd like to see the group stages moved earlier in the process and single-eliminations moved later.
As it is, teams that would make later stages of the AT better or at least more interesting, such as TEST Alliance, RAZOR, and Brick Squad have virtually no chance of advancing. Meanwhile, a lot of teams that got the celebrated 62.5 points out of their first match are probably going to finish with those 62.5 points after next week. Because of the way opponents are matched, all those 62.5 points bought them was a fight against another 62.5 point team. Last year, there were eleven teams that ended AT9 with 62.5 points.
I wouldn't give you five cents for the chances of either Verge of Collapse or Alpha Volley Union this week, for instance, and both teams scored maximum points last week. The same sort of thing will be happening in the loser's bracket. I think my old alliance-mates in LAWN will do just fine against Wormholes Holders... and it won't make a shred of difference since they didn't get any points last week.
That's the tyranny of this particular pre-qualifying system.
Still, there's some interesting match-ups in both the loser's bracket on Saturday and the winner's bracket on Sunday that will make for some good fights. Again, my predictions are in bold-face.
Day 3, July 7:
- 15:00 Curatores Veritatis Alliance vs Noir. Mercenary Group. This one could be a close match, but Noir seems to have really lost their mojo this year. From what I hear, their tourney captain was a no-show last week. Alekseyev Karrde's Basilisk fit was also entertainingly bad. CVA, meanwhile, brought a good set-up last week; they really only lost to poor execution.
- 15:40 RAZOR Alliance vs Dirt Nap Squad. Should be entertainingly one-sided. In fact, I dare say this will be the most one-sided match of the second weekend. Razor will be looking to murder DNS 50-0 and then will pray for a lot of low-scoring matches on Sunday. More on that in a bit.
- 16:20 SOLAR FLEET vs BricK sQuAD. Why Brick Squad felt the need to go with Taloses of all things -- a ship that unsurprisingly had a 27% survival rate last week -- is beyond me. Still, they're the better alliance at this kind of fight and they should win, particularly after the horrible show SOLAR put on against Dead Terrorists.
- 19:40 PERCUSSIVE PIZZA TIME DIPLOMACY vs ROMANIAN-LEGION. Battle of the capital letters. I think our opponents last week did pretty well, and we gave them just enough points that a convincing victory against the Romanians will allow them to advance into the group stages. As for ROMANIAN-LEGION, bringing four ships to a qualifying match was a bad idea last year. Still, this one should be a good fight.
Day 4, July 8:
- 15:00 Rote Kapelle vs Fluffeh Bunneh Murder Squad. We drew exactly the sort of opponent we wanted, and we should have a nice clean match because of it.
- 15:20 FEARLESS. vs Nulli Secunda. Nulli brought the second worst set-up that I saw last week and only managed to win because they faced the worst set-up last week. FEARLESS should have no trouble with them. But the kill reports should be very entertaining.
- 17:20 The G0dfathers vs THE R0NIN. Should be the most interesting fight of the second week-end. It's a pity because both of these teams should advance, so hopefully it will be fairly close. It certainly has the potential to be!
- 19:00 Against ALL Authorities vs Northern Coalition. Should be another really close fight. NCdot brought last week's most common set-up (2 @ Sleipnir, 1 @ Scimitar, 3 @ frigate) and executed really really well with it. -A- brought virtually the same set-up against a weaker team and had more trouble. So I think execution will win this one.
Some things to watch out for. First, there are a ton of teams coming into this weekend with zero points this year. The second week-end is traditionally about "Hail Mary" comps: comps using fewer than the allotted 50 points. I think we're going to see a lot of 40- and 42-point Hail Mary comps this weekend, particularly on Saturday. A 40-point comp that nonetheless wins 50-0 scores 72.5 points for the match and has a good chance of advancing into the group stage.
Saturday is the loser's bracket: everyone fighting Saturday lost last week. Sunday is the winner's bracket. Anyone who has two wins, regardless of points, advances to the group stage. As a result, anyone who loses Saturday is out of AT10, no matter how many points they get. Anyone who wins Sunday goes on to group, no matter how few points they get. Fights early on Saturday, though, are potentially effectively meaningless. They're between teams that each have zero points. As a result, expect to see a lot of those Hail Mary comps in the first six or eight or ten fights on Saturday. Those teams have to use them if they want any chance of advancing.
Saturday winners will be hoping for 50-0 wins. They'll then be hoping for 2-0 wins from the competitors on Sunday. The lower the point scores on Sunday, the better that is for Saturday teams. However, if we see lots and lots of explosions in close matches on Sunday -- and therefore, lots of points scored by both sides -- very few of the Saturday teams will advance to group.
I also think there's a pretty good chance we're going to see some "Screw you, have zero points" comps, particularly from the smaller under-dog teams. It might be very tempting for Verge of Collapse, Alpha Volley Union, Out of Sight, Babylon 5, or Dirt Nap Squad to bring in heavily-tanking, heavy e-war teams and in so doing try to limit their losses and keep their much higher-profile opponents from advancing. If you're Alpha Volley Union facing Pandemic Legion this weekend, the temptation to grief PL with a hugely defensive team might be hard to resist, particularly if one of PL's high-profile opponents offers a pay-off to do so...
Good luck to all of the competitors (except one) this weekend!