Today’s guest article comes from Scott Newton, a writer, gamer, and all-around likeable dude. His piece details the importance and intricacies of the first and last 10% of your Black Flag multiplayer matches.
The ‘Brackets’ (the opening and closing minute of a game) comprise 20% of your ten minute session. Few players appreciate how vital these minutes can be. Played well, the brackets frequently determine your ultimate outcome. Here’s why.
The opening minute
When the session starts you generally receive one pursuer and, importantly, both your abilities are primed. It’s a level playing field, of course, but countless players squander opportunities in this frenetic opening stanza. If you think of the map as a dartboard then you’re going to spawn within the outer ring (comfortably inside the perimeter but nowhere near the bullseye). Neither your target, nor you pursuer are likely to spawn in your quarter of the map. Hence, players will start funnelling toward the centre of the map like so many spokes converging on a hub. You’re going to want to have your spanner ready for this cluster#$*&!
It won’t be long before you come across your pursuer, your target, or both. There are a lot of points on offer so you’d best have some. By the way, the ‘First Blood’ bonus, a measly 50 points, is bait – you’re NOT interested (Ubi are practically trolling/trawling you with it – you want larger fish).
In the first 15-30 seconds of a game everyone is looking to assert themselves and this means there’s a lot of players operating with tunnel vision; they have eyes for their target but are often more lax about their pursuer. Don’t fall into this trap. It’s crucial to be on the lookout for your pursuer at this time; you have two abilities and hopefully a knife after all. So pop on that Disguise, loose that Decoy or whatever you like but you’re looking to avert an early death.
If your ruse fails, and your pursuer has you pegged, consider your knife (you didn’t bring a gun or dart because they won’t help you here and you’re forgoing the first blood bonus). So you still have the chance of a knife stun or perhaps your assailant might fall victim to their own pursuer (who may even be your target).
Having seen off your pursuer (who may have netted you stun points), you’ll now have a nifty little window to stalk your target in peace (a rare thing). You’re looking to maximise your kill score. You’ll often find good opportunities for a hidden or chain bonus in this stanza. If you keep your cool here, you can find yourself hovering around 1000 points, not bad for half a minutes work. If you encounter your target during your opening gambit and smoothly steal their soul, there is a very high chance your pursuer will be in the immediate vicinity.
Have counter measures at hand. If all goes to plan you have quickly asserted a lead and will be assigned more pursuers. You have more control of the game now which means your pursuers are likely to draw your targets toward you. The longer you hold first place, the more pursuers you are likely to receive. To survive and thrive in an environment with several pursuers you should switch to a set that is weighted toward defence or at least a balanced set (one offensive skill, one defensive skill and knives). When I say switch sets, I mean when convenient – like after your next death or depending on your sense of ethics, during play by using your ‘back’ and ‘A’ or ‘select and ‘X’ button (depending on console).
The final minute
The way you play the final minute will greatly depend on your position in the game. If you are holding a strong lead, you’ll want to consolidate and add to it when possible. If you have three or more pursuers (very likely) you’re going to want a highly defensive set that may include Morph (crafted for max duplicates), Decoy/Bodyguard, or perhaps an IED (improvised explosive device) of your choice plus Knives or Disruption (crafted for time and disturbance respectively). You need to maximize the lure and stun opportunities here, as they’ll likely add up to more than your average contract (which you might just jag as well).
If you’re coming second, and are more than 2000 points behind, there is no shame in consolidating your podium (this goes for third too). After all, to win, you’re going to need at least two great kills and you’ll probably have to counter at least that many pursuers and hope that first place has remained static, which is pretty unlikely; they’re first for a reason. If you never say die, that’s cool, you can win but you have to be smart.
There are many, many ways you can go in the last minute. Here’s just a couple of ideas to get you started: A ‘Poison set’ (or ‘Hemlock set’ as I like to call it) comprising Disguise in slot one followed by Poison in slot two and a Poison Dart crafted for 300 points can net a crazy score if you can get the dart and the hidden poison off in the closing moments (good chance for chains here too). If you’re playing Deathmatch consider Disguise or Decoy (crafted for 300 pt. lure) in slot one, Tripwire Bomb in slot two and Disruption (crafted for duration primarily).
Find a bench in the middle of the map and stick your Tripwire Bomb in front of it and then sit down. You’re going to want to know who’s in first because they are your Disruption target. If you’re lucky first place will pass through and you can fuck up a good chunk of their last minute (their death is likely and you will definitely arrest their scoring ability). You need to hold the bench as long as possible in the hope that your target will saunter by and you can triple your kill score. The trip is there to protect your seat (if a pursuer sets it off stun them and sit straight back down). If your target hovers elsewhere (like a goddamn roof) the Decoy can provide cover as you migrate toward them, perhaps confusing them and opening up a grab opportunity. The Decoy may simply help you hold your original bench for longer. These are just a couple of ideas. The point I’m making is to be proactive in this part of the game, rather than reactive.
If it’s a very close match and there are only a few hundred points between first and fourth consider a Poison Dart (crafted for 300 points) a Decoy (crafted for 300 points) and a Disguise for good measure. Many players (even good ones) can lose their mojo in the closing moments as they scramble for points so you’d be surprised how often the Decoy works at this time. If your Dart and the Decoy work it means you’ll likely have netted 800 pts (because you got the free stun post Decoy, right) and hopefully one last juicy kill to finish. Hello 1200+ points. Your mad dash to the summit might just have paid off. Call this particular set ‘End Game’ if you like.
Other things to keep in mind include your ‘Score x2’ bonus (the best loss bonus in the game, hard to imagine why you’d choose anything else in FFA). If you’ve been getting dealt a black run of cards and this bonus is active or likely to activate as you enter the last minute it makes sense to try and capitalize on it. With Score x2, a perfect approach hidden kill will net you 1800 pts – goodbye competition! It is also worth noting that the kill streak, ‘Animus Hack’ can be devastating towards the end of a game (particularly in Deathmatch) but in truth, few players are good enough to activate it so for most it would be a low percentage play. It’s far easier to use ‘Revelation’ throughout your session. It cannot be overstated how handy it is to know who your pursuers are in the final moments and if ‘Revelation’ is active you’re going to stand a lot better chance of staying alive.
So bear the brackets in mind your pirate just might stumble upon greater fortune.