Some Worries for Stockholm

The general thrill of the upcoming LAN that was so effervescent on Monday seems to have dwindled some in recent days, and its potential stressors are on the horizon. Some of these factors started to become apparent in today’s SOULZ tournament, a Japanese tournament that was composed of 50% Japanese teams and 50% high-profile Western teams like Reignite-South, Alliance, and ESA, to name a few. The tournament saw a light shone on a couple of major issues that I expect to be significant for a majority of teams when teams are finally on the server in Sweden. Namely, I expect the question of contested drops and of clashing team comp metas to be major talking points at and after LAN.

In the past week, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this NightRaven Twitter thread. I agree with his overarching point, that the Apex space lacks creative thinking, and I fully expect the ramifications of that communal mindset to be felt in Sweden. Over the course of the past two years, we have seen wildly different metas evolve in the three major regions, APAC-N, EMEA, and NA. APAC-N, for example, had a full Revenant meta in early/mid-2020, and EMEA shifted towards Crypto while NA shifted towards Bloodhound following the Recon legend buff in mid-2020. At time of writing, APAC-N has shifted to a largely Valk/Crypto/Wattson & Valk/Crypto/Gibby meta, with about 75% of teams running one or the other in the Week 6 matches that I watched. At the same time, EMEA has seen a large shift away from Gibby and towards Bangalore in recent weeks, especially on Storm Point, while NA has remained largely committed to the Gibby pick. Bang has seen a rise in NA, but almost exclusively as a supplement to the bubble boy, rarely as a replacement as we have seen elsewhere. Torrent, for example, was running Bang/Valk/Wattson in early Storm Point scrims, but quickly shifted back to Gibby over Wattson.

All of this is not to say that off-meta picks haven’t seen recent success. Team Empire has been running Wraith/Maggie/Caustic and just won EMEA Pro League. GMT has been doing well on World’s Edge while opting for no defensive Legend picks, going instead for a Wraith/Crypto/Valk comp. On my side of the pond, Furia had a very poor showing at the beginning of Pro League, sitting in 29th after four weeks. In Week 5, they shifted to Wattson on World’s Edge and a Bang/Bloodhound comp on Storm Point. They came second in their group in Week 5 and third in Week 6, putting in strong games on both maps and placing ahead of NA champs ESA both weeks.

The issue, as I see it, isn’t the overwhelming adherence to a strict meta, but the apparent unwillingness or incapability of teams to experiment with team comps. I understand that adherence to a strict meta can feel necessary when things like LAN placement or prize money is on the line, especially in an ecosystem like competitive Apex, where money is a struggle. It is rather the vocal opposition by a number of North American pros to attempted off-meta play. When teams opt for niche picks in scrims, they are often derided as trolling. Conversations about the APAC-N hard zone meta as one in which players can’t or don’t know how to fight are common.

This LAN should be an opportunity for teams to encounter playstyles and ideas that challenge their own and allow for innovation. My great worry for this LAN is that the opposite might occur, that following the LAN we see not a diversification within regions but instead a further rigidification. I hope I’m mistaken on this front.

The other major issue I’d like to talk about is the issue of drop spots. I’m going to be speaking about NA competitive specifically here, because it’s the scene I’m most familiar with and really argues my point for me.

For the past two years in NA, finals lobbies have been fairly static, or, at the very least, change has been glacial. Before Split 2, World’s Edge had been the only map in play for more than a year, and for two years finals lobbies seem to have been filled with the same teams month-to-month with, again, only very gradual change. What this has meant is that many teams have become very dedicated to a singular drop spot, and variable dropping is something of a lost art. G2 goes Thermal. Sentinels goes Sorting Factory/Lava Siphon. TSM goes East Frag. All of these statements have been true for two full years now. Upon a quick examination of the group seedings and Split 2 drop spots will show us a number of potential conflicts. FC Destroy, a hyperaggressive APAC-N team, and Cloud9 both land Climatizer, and have been seeded into the same group. Singularity, SSG, and Reply Totem all land Launch Pad on Storm Point, and have all been seeded into the same group.

The first glimpse we got of these potential conflicts came in the aforementioned SOULZ tournament yesterday. Cloud9 and FC Destroy fought in Games 4-6 at Climatizer, with C9 winning the Game 4. In Game 5, the two teams split the POI, and in Game 6 FC Destroy won the fight on the Climatizer/Epicenter bridge. Both are aggressive, fight-forward teams and I fully expect the contest to continue into LAN.

Contests are an expected part of large-scale international LANs. My concern here isn’t that NA is going to walk into this LAN not expecting to fight, but that they will lack preparation for when, inevitably, one or a few of them start losing. Commitment to drop spots and failure to have backup plans could be a major issue. (This is especially true of zone teams, for whom loot paths and subsequent quick rotates are very valuable.)

(Hodsic talks about the value of variable dropping in the first ten-ish minutes of this very old VOD review. His video came out only three months after the last international LAN, and at a time in the competitive scene when multi-stage domestic qualifiers and all of their attached headaches were still a major factor for top teams.)

Hopefully I’m wrong about these potential issues. I genuinely hope that I am, and that this LAN should be the celebration of the game that it ought to be.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

In gaming, competition is not the opposite of community

Revenue Stream and Benefits for THE NEXT WAR’S GENESIS NFT HOLDERS

Game mode #4: Rock the game with PvE Infinity Tower

Metaguild Releases Metabot 2.0

Scaling the DreamsVerse: Dreams Quest Raises Over $4 Million

How Tabletop Role Playing Games Taught Me To Appreciate Randomness

Play to Learn & Earn — University Scholarship Programs in the Mega World Alpha

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store