Tournament #3 Finals!

HMS GT UPS vs. Kill that UPS

Best of 5 Series

April 6-7 2024

The final matchup of Tournament #3!  Who will win to stake their claim as one of the all-time great competitive fleets of Pirates CSG?



Kill that UPS

Game 1:

Game 2:

Game 3:

Game 4:

Last game of the Tournament #3 Finals - T3 over!

The end of the last game!

The final, completed bracket!  In between each matchup are the scores by game; the higher fleet of each matchup has their score first (bottom fleet is second score) regardless of who went first. For the Finals, the scores underneath each fleet are the games that fleet won.

Tournament #3 bracket, final completed version. Pirates CSG competitive play

Congratulations to HMS GT UPS on a massive tournament victory!  They were a dominant fleet from start to finish, going 7-2 overall and scoring double digit gold in every game except one.  They have earned their place amongst the most competitive fleets in Pirates CSG history.  The combination of UPS strategy with the HMS Grand Temple’s fighting prowess is a devastating combo.

Here is my post-tournament summary.  It includes the goals I had when planning the tournament back in January 2024, as well as the lessons learned and some of the things I noticed.


Are anti-UPS fleets good enough to upend the meta?  Not quite, they’re not as good against power UPS fleets.

If so, can they win tournaments overall even against some non-UPS foes?  Kill that UPS did beat 2 non-UPS fleets, so it is a very competitive fleet. Just couldn’t beat HMS GT UPS.  HMS GT’s durability and firepower proved too much even for a Mycron-powered Angelica.

Determine value of going first (which should equal a worse HI selection): Player 1 had an overall record of 12-11 in this tournament (full stats by fleet at the bottom of this post).  Nearly 50/50 and somewhat inconclusive, but overall it seems that it’s a tossup that could go either way.  There are really easy ways to get around a bad HI location, such as Hidden Cove and whirlpools.

How much does the island/terrain meta affect results?  The terrain meta probably matters more, at least when one fleet wants very little terrain (especially no whirlpools) and the other fleet wants a lot of terrain. Island placement meta matters less with so many Hidden Coves and often lots of whirlpools around. Overall, I was a bit surprised by how little the island placement meta seemed to matter.  It can be very inconsequential if either player wants islands at minimum distance (3L apart), since then even if the other player tries to place each of their randomly selected islands 6L away from the (already-most-distant) island, the “close” player can just place their next island diagonally in between the ones 6L apart, essentially nullifying the 6L distance placement.  If the “far” player gets to place the last island and pick it as the HI of Player 1, this can just incentivize P1 to vote for at least 2 terrain placed per player, which they can use to place a whirlpool next to their (likely/obvious) potential HI location and at least one other whirlpool near the wild islands for easy and quick access to treasure. They could also vote for a lot of terrain, and just place whirlpools near every island so that P2 has no way to ensure they’ll have to sail a large distance to reach an island.

Are either of those previous elements (going first, and island/terrain meta) as or more important than the luck of the treasure distribution? I don’t think so, treasure distribution is probably the most important factor of the three.  Many games were essentially determined by the random distribution of 4 coins per wild island.  Some games were lost because of the distribution (finding a devastating UT that kills essential crew on a flagship), and some were easily won because of the distribution (such as a treasure-based fleet finding no negatives, and instead two 6’s that can win the game 16-0 if both get +2’d).  The “positive vs. negative UT war” was a major factor as the tournament went on, as it became a “luck fest” of whether or not a high-powered treasure runner or UPS flagship would find a negative with or without a “wipe UT” such as the Kharmic Idol or Pirata Codex.  The treasure distribution war probably affected some games even more than the actual fleets involved.  A bad first island can spell doom, but if you go first and can wipe the map of negatives with something like Maps of Alexandria + Kharmic Idol, it becomes free reign on the whole map.


Play-in round: Fleet that went first won each game. Hidden Cove makes island meta less relevant because you can just teleport a full 6L.

First matchup: Anti-UPS+UPS fleet is too scattered. Neither the anti-UPS or the UPS portion of the fleet can be fully optimized due to the build total restrictions, and both strategies suffer for it (this proved even more true as the tournament went on, as the all-in “anti” nature of Kill that UPS proved quite successful). Best to just go all-in on the UPS strategy or a full-scale counter to it.

Forts were less competitive than I thought they would be. There were hardly any fort plays. In T2 there were less combat-capable fleets, so forts held more sway over endgames. Don’t always want to put treasure back on an island. T2 had a lot of fleets that either wanted to extend the game, “lock” up treasure with a fort, or knew the opposing fleet would have a lot of trouble destroying Paradis de la Mer (sometimes all of the above).  T3 had more capable gunships and hybrids – with double actions nearly omnipresent for HMS GT, Angelica, Black Swan, Roanoke and Neptune’s Hoard, there was little incentive to build a fort knowing that it would likely get destroyed. I’d say forts can still be very competitive and useful, but it depends more on the fleets involved and if there’s a gunship in play capable of destroying a fort in a single turn (thus preventing any return fire from the fort, and making the newly-wild-again gold available very quickly after construction).

Tournament felt less tactical than T2 – more luck, less fort plays/etc. Consequence of extreme UT distribution/abuse, and possibly because I’m the only player (vs. playing against Xerecs in T1 and T2). I think I did great not “accidentally” having bias with any fleets or sides, though it may have affected the island meta slightly. However, it’s kind of obvious that a Player 2 is gunning to put your HI far away when they place the last island 6L from any other island and then seed it with reefs/etc.  It felt less tactical partly because a lot of games seemed to be decided on luck elements – a great or horrible first island explored, a fleet always getting their terrain roll during the Setup phase, or sometimes some bad cannon luck.  Heck, the Finals matchup would almost certainly have included Altar Abuse instead of Kill that UPS if the Isle of Fire hadn’t gone off and eliminated the Altar of the Loa in the rubber match Game 4 of their semifinals matchup.  I don’t think Altar Abuse would have beaten HMS GT UPS, but when an entire series can come down to a single 50/50 d6 roll, it starts to make playing the games between certain fleets feel more pointless.  In the case of KtU vs. a treasure fleet, it often just comes down to treasure distribution luck – if the KtU negative UT’s mess up the enemy flagship, they can win by a low score. But if they don’t, it can be hard for them to come back since the opponent can usually rack up a bunch of gold quickly (and then win even if they’re eliminated if they’re ahead by enough).  It felt like a tournament of extremes – killer fleets, extreme treasure contributions by nearly every fleet in every game, and some shutouts and lopsided scores.  T2 was quite different, though we didn’t play by standard rules nearly as much (eventually using a default island+terrain setup every game to save setup time).  T2 had more high-scoring tactical treasure games, which was partly a function of having less high-power hybrids and more Hai Peng or Banshee’s Cry flagships. For example, the “Final Four” of T2 had 3/4 fleets of what I would call “extreme treasure fleets”, whereas T3’s Final Four had 3/4 fleets containing a double-action gunship/hybrid with at least 4 masts.

Kill that UPS has a big weakness in basically deferring the initiative. They’d almost prefer going second, but that opens the door to a UPS fleet getting a ton of gold in rounds 1+2. If they go first and explore with Hyena, she might get trashed by their own negative UT’s. Even if she doesn’t, she might find a positive UT like Pirate Globe that then informs the enemy treasure fleet exactly where to go on their half of round 1, leaving the door open for the treasure fleet to get gold fast before Angelica can intervene on round 2.  Towards the end, it dawned on me that KtU winning would feel a bit odd – it’s simply a killer fleet. That fleet winning would do away with “gold wins the game” to some extent. It didn’t affect how I played the Finals, though HMS GT UPS did get some luck with the treasure distribution and terrain rolls.  For all the complaints about UPS being OP, at least those fleets win games by completing the primary objective – get the most gold.  I think fleets like KtU winning tournaments would encourage more deathmatch-style fleets and wonky extreme fleets, where it’s just genocide via blitzing and negative UT auto-includes. I think it illustrates that Wizkids did a great job creating a tactical and balanced treasure game – though there’s a lot of OP or broken pieces in the meta, it can still be very fun and strategic.

Anti-UPS fleets need more than a double-action dragon to combat the “UPS gunships” like HMS GT, Zeus, etc.  Ships with 6+ masts can take a full-scale attack from Angelica and either walk away to continue getting gold for their fleet, or return fire with 2+ masts (usually doubled via a second action), which can be enough to cripple or kill the dragon.  Even in Finals games where CJS was killed, HMS GT UPS was able to stay in the game and nearly went 4-0 overall in the series.  I have a feeling KtU vs. UPS 5 (with the Zeus) would go similarly – Zeus would always be able to return fire with considerable force even if Angelica goes 4/4, and can kill the dragon in a counterattack a good percentage of the time as soon as the dragon starts missing a shot or two.  If Angelica only gets 1 hit, the game is pretty much as good as over.  Maybe there’s a better hybrid/etc setup than Hyena+crew for the last 16 points of KtU, but it’s hard to get enough damage accumulated on a powerful UPS foe to sway the tide.  It relies on the island setup and arguably the UPS player being slightly dumb, but KtU could theoretically put 7 shots on a “power-UPS” ship if Hyena got Hidden Cove’d to the same island (HC instead of her explorer+oarsman), with Angelica still getting Mycron for a shoot action after flying into range.

Superlatives and Stats

Biggest upsets: I did not expect Universal Pirate Swan to go out in Round 1. They crushed Altar Abuse 20-0 in their first game, but didn’t win again.  I will admit that I didn’t expect Kill that UPS to reach the Finals, given their gauntlet of impressive foes going back to the play-in round.  I thought AP’s 4 would really put them to the test, but KtU still won the series 2-1.  Once they reached the semis I knew they had a decent shot at winning the tournament.  KtU did have a somewhat rough road to the Finals, losing a game in each of their 3 series on the way there (2-1 in each series for 6-3 overall through the semis), and almost getting knocked out by a lucky Altar Abuse fleet.

Biggest surprises: For a very luck-based fleet centered around a single UT, Altar Abuse came incredibly close to making the Finals. Overall I’d say the right side of the bracket contained more surprises than the left side. Going into the tournament, I think I was somewhat expecting to see Universal Pirate Swan vs. AP’s 4 in the semifinals (the opposite of what happened). I thought the island meta and Player 1 vs. Player 2 stuff would matter a bit more, but it was pretty much upended by the terrain meta and treasure distribution.  I was surprised by the lack of fort plays, though for reasons stated above it makes sense that fleets didn’t want to risk them very often.  There were more plays to end games quickly via elimination or suicide than there were plays to intentionally extend the game via fort building.

Check out some fun stats for Tournament #3! These count the pre-tournament play-in matchup between KtU and UPS 4.1, but they don’t count the Game 2 semifinals botch between KtU and Altar Abuse.

Stats for Tournament #3

Bolded stats represent the leader in that category (very fun for me to do, similar to baseball stats with league leaders). We see that P1 had a slight advantage over P2, but it was essentially negligible.  In the Finals, P1 was 0-4, so if a Game 5 had been played there, it might even be 50-50 odds of winning going first vs. going second.  HMS GT UPS proved their mettle in so many ways. They went 5-1 without the initiative. They naturally have the highest winning percentage of the tournament, by far the most gold collected, and the highest gold score per game at 15.1 treasure per game.  They scored double-digit gold in all but one of their nine games, including scoring 11 or more gold in all four games against Kill that UPS, a fleet that usually limits how much gold an enemy can collect in most games. For example, KtU opponents only scored double digit gold in 2/9 games going into the Finals. KtU held AP’s 4 to just 6 gold per game, UPS 4.1 to 6.7 gold per game, and Altar Abuse to 7.7 gold per game.  Comparatively, HMS GT UPS averaged 16.8 gold per game against Kill that UPS, barely losing in their only loss of the Finals.  KtU essentially dragged down average gold scores per fleet in every series it played in, except against HMS GT UPS.  HMS GT UPS winning the tournament also proves how P1 vs. P2 doesn’t matter as much – they were P2 in 6/9 games, presumably getting a worse HI location each of those games.

KtU was the leader in games played and even tied for the lead in wins, mostly due to the fleet getting an extra series via the play-in matchup and due to their inability to sweep any series.  In fact, if not for the lack of a Finals Game 5, KtU nearly played the maximum amount of games available to play for a fleet involved in the tournament (going to a deciding game in each series prior to the Finals).  Understandably, their gold per game number (5.8) is pitifully low for a successful fleet, given their killer nature and elimination fleet strategy.  However, it does look even more pathetic when compared to some of the crazy high-scoring fleets involved in T2.  In the T2 semifinals, UPS 2 managed to score a ridiculous 84 gold over the course of 2 games, more than KtU accumulated in 13 games of T3!

Saccing Treasure Traders had a strong showing, coming in second in gold per game and finishing as one of the only fleets with a winning record.  Universal Pirate Swan will likely be seen again in 2024, but as for the American Pirates, I’ll probably try out more of the AP’s 3/5/6 variants before defaulting to AP’s 4.  The Anti-UPS+UPS and Turn 1 Victory fleets were swept, with major flaws evident in both fleets. As stated previously, Anti-UPS+UPS is too scattered to be wholly effective at either being a UPS fleet or a UPS counter (an increase to 50 or 60 points might make it competitive at those build totals), while T1V was flawed from its creation, as I didn’t know that you couldn’t trade home positive UT’s worth gold with CJS until after the bracket was finalized and the tournament had begun.  UPS 4.1 exemplified what will probably happen when any “old-school” UPS fleet faces Kill that UPS – a treasure win when going first, but likely elimination or a very low gold score otherwise (or if encountering nasty UT’s at their first island).  For that reason, I might not bother playing fleets like UPS 2 or Hai Peng Fort Frenzy against KtU, because I think it would come down to the luck of being Player 1 and the treasure distribution.

The average gold/game number of 19 is in total (436/23), with the average close score being 10-9, 11-8, etc. Overall the scores were a bit lower than I expected, but T2 set an oddly high bar and was quite different due to the fleet strategies compared to T3’s more offensive and UT-based nature.

More T3 stats

This was a fun little exercise – seeing which fleets are better at holding the opposition to a low score. Technically it would be AP’s 4, but that’s not saying much when it’s against a low-scoring fleet like KtU.  Rounding up their scores, we see that KtU had an average per-game deficit of losing 10-6. XD  They can’t care about the stats though, they’re happy with their 7-6 overall record.

No surprise that the champion had the highest score of any game, though Universal Pirate Swan had an impressive debut.  Altar Abuse and Treasure Traders showed their competitive prowess, and I could see them winning some tournaments, especially with the right luck or if it was slightly more casual.

I forgot to mention this in the videos, but one of the typical ocean sizes was 37″ wide, 43″ long.  So for a game where at least one fleet (or especially both) wants islands 6L apart, you’d want a playing surface bigger than the suggested minimum default of 36″x36″.

What’s Next?

This won’t be the end of my competitive Pirates CSG games in 2024, though there won’t be a ton more.  I have a handful of matchups in mind for the next few months, including the inevitable “winner clash” of HMS GT UPS against the winner of T2 (UPS 2).  There is a new challenger!  Can HMS GT UPS continue to climb the ranks and be crowned the best Wizkids Pirates fleet of all time?  Stay tuned to find out!

Thanks for reading and watching, and let me know if you get some Pirates CSG games of your own going!

Questions of the Day: What’s your favorite fleet that participated in T3?
Which fleet do you think would win in a “maximum fairness” simulation of 100+ games per matchup? (with an even distribution of luck in terms of player 1, terrain, treasure distribution, etc.)

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