I'm going to start with a very basic analogy to explain the direction from which I'm going to come at this topic. Imagine a car racing team. I'm going to keep this very very simple. To have a successful car racing team, you need a good car, a good engine, and a good pit crew. All three are important. But which is the most important of the three? If you think about it for a bit, I think you will agree that a good car is the most important. A professional race car driver can drive me into the ground... unless he is in a Volkswagen Bug and I am in a Mustang Cobra SVT. In that case, it doesn't matter how good he is, he's not going to catch me.
Now let's look at EVE tournament teams from that perspective. There are eight factors that I believe make for a good tournament team:
- Endurance (both in the tournament and in practice);
- teamwork (including a good FC);
- good piloting;
- execution of plans (discipline);
- comps or a good theory-crafter;
- tournament experience;
- meta-game skill (including practice partners); and,
- ISK (including logistics).
1. Comps or a good theory-crafter. It all starts here. If you don't have good comps, you have nothing! It doesn't matter if you have the best pilots in EVE. It doesn't matter if you practice 12 hours a day. It doesn't matter how much ISK you have. It doesn't matter how well your team flies together. If your comps are bad, you're not going to get very far at all. Lack of a good theory-crafter is why so many tournament teams are mediocre. Lack of a good theory-crafter is why the bar is set so high for new tournament teams.
Tyrrax Thorrk, not exactly a tournament newbie, was interviewed by CCP Guard as part of the close-out for the second NEO and he kind of bemoaned the fact that "it used to be you'd get some guys together, practice for a few hours a day, and you were in the semi-finals." Yeah, not so much any more. Today, you simply must understand the tourney metas. PL's whole team focuses on this every year now.
Now, if you don't have good comps or a good theory-crafter, that isn't necessarily the end of the world. We've seen a lot of EVE tournaments where teams realized what the meta was after the first weekend and quickly got up to speed on those metas and brought their own versions of them. We saw it in the second NEO: teams that didn't realize it from the start realized that double command ships were going to be a strong base for a comp and we saw teams bring various versions of it in the second weekend once they realized. I personally think double Eos or double Claymore were the most interesting versions of this, but we saw a lot of variations including double Damnation. That said, copying the metas of other people will get you into the semi-finals, but probably not much beyond that. To get farther, you're going to need...
2. Endurance (both in matches and in practice). This is the second most important. We saw this very clearly in the second NEO. Those teams that practiced the hardest got the farthest. This was clearly more important than pilot skill, clearly way more important than ISK or tournament experience. The importance of this factor increases every single tournament. You can take Duncan Tanner's "advice" and not take it seriously because this is just a game... but you'll lose if you do.
3. Teamwork. Again, we're seeing this factor become more and more important every single tournament. Those teams that work well together, split up responsibilities, have a good back bench with multiple FCs, and complement each other's skills do much better than those teams that have individually great pilots. Great individual pilots can pull off razzle-dazzle moves that create opportunities in a match, but teamwork is needed to exploit those opportunities. We see this every single tournament: team members that create opportunities that the team can't take advantage of. That often comes down to...
4. Execution and discipline. This is also more important than individual pilot skill. If you doubt it, go back and rewatch the matches between Warlords of the Deep and THINGY. Both teams often had great comps, both teams had great endurance, both teams had great teamwork. At which point it came down to which team executed. That team won.
5. Meta-game skill. This one is moving up the list and I believe in a tournament or two it will surpass execution. This was one of the big reasons for my post yesterday that raised so many hackles. This is defined as the ability and willingness to disrupt your opponent's practices for your own ends. At the highest level of tournament play, it's becoming a major factor in whether a team wins or not. Why is it higher than pilot skill? Because the meta-game includes finding and working with good practice partners. Doing this closes the holes in your comps and execution before you get taken to school in an actual tournament fight. Without a good practice partner in Exodus, there is simply no way WeHURT would have advanced as far as they did.
6. Good piloting. And here's good piloting, sixth on the list. It's important, sure. But it's not as important as the items above it. I firmly believe that a good tournament captain with good comps and a good practice partner could take a pile of relatively noobish pilots that were willing to put in the work and willing to follow orders really really far in the tournament. For instance, I personally believe this is proven every time The Reputation Cartel takes the field. Don't get me wrong: a lot of the Rep Cartel guys are great pilots, and a couple are stellar. But they often have a core of five or six relatively inexperienced pilots along too and this team is still competitive despite that.
The only reason good piloting is this high on the list is because skill points play a part, and that is a factor that good pilots have. They train the "tournament skills" and have the flying experience from using those skills in PvP that newer players will not. You can't use the double command ship meta without at least two Level 5 command ship pilots, for instance.
7. ISK. This one is slightly higher up the list for Alliance Tournaments, where "tourney ships" are on-and-off important. It's not a major factor yet (thankfully) but as best of threes and best of fives become more and more important in the tourney meta, expect to see this one climb up the list. If Rote Kapelle's run in AT11 hadn't been ended due to lack of endurance, it would have been ended due to lack of ISK. We were running out of money, ships, and implants toward the end there.
8. Tournament experience. It's important, but of the eight factors it's the least important. If it were more important, WeHURT wouldn't have made it to the top three in the second NEO.
So there's the list, in my order. You may begin arguing with me... now.