Part 7: Maelstrom
One of the more dramatic scenarios in Blitz tournament play is also one of the most challenging to follow in real time. The name of the Twister Cup itself points to the all-in brawl, the maelstrom of armor, the avalanche of power, that crashes and swirls when two full strength columns engage face-to-face. While not as common as some other features of gameplay, the Twister, or Maelstrom is relatively short and brutal. One definition of maelstrom summarizes this type of encounter perfectly:
a situation or state of confused movement or violent turmoil
The Maelstrom occurs as each team moves or arrives in a pack, either as a type of tankfist, or a closely grouped or roving spaced array, and the columns first make contact and then one or both sides initiate full convergence. After that moment of commitment, there is only one real option for a side to prevail: its either all-in, or go back the garage, do not pass GO, do not collect a win.
The Maelstrom is a full commitment brawl, and to avoid having nothing but smoking wreckage at the end to show for it a team must maximize the skills of the micro-brawl on a squad-wide level. Without rehashing the swath of twitch-centric skills required, the team that squeezes the most efficiency out of the hit point trade will likely emerge victorious. Individuals must focus fire on designated targets, avoid wasted shots, anticipate a switch of targets, be in position to maximize dpm via firing on the reload, harness adrenaline effectively, elicit bounces from return fire or catch shots on the tracks, and when near death tread the fine line of surviving and prolonging damage output as long as possible without functinally disengaging. The simplest fundamental objective at the team-wide level is be the first to eliminate an enemy gun(s) from the game, without trading one in return (i.e. not the queen-for-queen exchange of chess) thereby gaining an advantage in firepower that can be leveraged further to produce victory.
There doesn’t seem much point in attempting to break down examples of these encounters. In many regards its all rather simple: Two teams enter the arena. One team leaves.
However, there is so much complexity in each of these Twister-brawls that a wide range of tools would be required to dissect what actually occurs in each. For example: multiple replays from the perspective of each team, match stats from each player, frame-by-frame analysis to catch critical turning points (high/low rolls, bounces, tracking shots, ammo selection, or double-taps etc), mapping of individual movement, target selection choices, among numerous others.
In general terms, some of the key attributes of a Maelstrom include the following. It tends to be, by definition, highly localized with all the consequential events of the battle compressed into a very tight cordon of the map and in time. It is not uncommon for Twister brawls to occur in bowl shaped or curved terrain, such as the flag area on Canal, which can be devoid of hull-down positions for the more central vehicles until expired carcass begin to provide them. Tanks in the center tend to be wheeling and dealing, fully engaged in the rough and tumble. Ramming for tracking and damage can be as important as shooting. Vulnerable to cross-fire, they are often the first to die as their side and rear armor is typically exposed to multiple angles of fire. Maintaining movement can be essential to survival, assisting in bouncing shots through wiggling, along with ducking, dodging and weaving into what limited cover is available. Anything and everything is done to throw enemy fire off target, drag auto-aim into hard cover or obstacles, and cause target selection indecision for the opposition. Tanks on the periphery have advantages of being able to present their frontal armor, and will likely have firing lanes on a range of targets. They also have a narrower angle of gun traverse to acquire or switch targets and they can begin the brawl using peek-a-boom at the edges, conserving their health for the later phases of the fight.
From an observers perspective, the sheer randomness of the Maelstrom can be bewildering. It is perhaps amongst the least refined of all Blitz team-play strategies, and it’s certainly the least subtle. However, the full engagement Twister-brawl is the providence of the dark art of the unicum, and it will undoubtedly remain so. The Maelstrom is a natural extension of the Tankfist and the inevitable outcome when two full columns converge on an area of relatively open terrain, and in scenarios such as where a Tankfist breeches an Iron Zone or Spaced Array. As such Twister-brawls will continue to feature in tournament play. Indeed some teams will build considerable success by relying heavily on individual prowess and instantaneous cooperative decision making within this state of violent turmoil.