Throughout the duration of the PCL19 Spring Phase, we had the luxury of watching roughly 279 games play out over 84 sets. Our MSI console representatives emerged from the split victorious, but a majority of our PCL competitors are gearing up for relegations. With this in mind, we at Console Corner wanted to reflect on map presence over the course of the Spring Phase. By breaking down which maps were picked and banned the most, we can aim to gain strategic insight.
While we know which maps are frequently picked or banned, what exactly is ‘map presence’? For our purposes, map presence is defined as the total number of times any singular map was both picked and banned relative to the total number of sets played in spring. Considering 8 sets occur per week with the split containing 13 total (minus the BYE), the maximum amount of sets that could be played amounts to 96. However, across all the console divisions there were 12 set forfeitures resulting in just 84 sets. Now we can reflect on the post phase stats!
Browsing the console corner website, we can clearly see which maps are favourited and which are most hated. Stone Keep takes the title for most played across the Spring Phase with teams like Arial Arise, Cats on Mars, and Bustdown selecting it 7+ times apiece. On the flip side, we have our top 5 most banned which consist of large open maps like Fish Market, Timber Mill, & Warders Gate. Both Heating Up & Cyclone removed Fish Market from play 9 times each. The only maps to appear on both lists would be Brightmarsh & Jaguar Falls who share the honour.
As we discussed, overall map presence relies on total map picks and bans added together then divided by the number of sets over the course of the split (84). Two clear observations present themselves here: 1) Every map with the highest presence is also most picked, however, 2) Not every map that is reviled enough to be banned shared the honour. Now the question remains, why are these maps so prominent in the console league?
If we deconstruct aspects of the most picked maps, we’d find they share a lot of commonalities. For instance, each of the five maps is not very wide, with an exception being Jaguar Falls around the capture point. Otherwise, they filter into narrow passageways making zoning & watching lanes far simpler a task. Additionally, it enables most champions within the hitscan dominant meta to enact swift rotations.
Ironically, these congested yet numerous pathways also lend more prevalent console flanks (Lex, Koga, Talus) a number of avenues to harass backline DPS. The only distinct feature separating Splitstone Quarry from the pack would be its unique use of elevation. While each map has small sections that can be classified as, Splitstone has Quarry side, Lava side, 2nd Floor of each house, numerous bridges, etc. Our final identifying feature is simply familiarity. Each popular map is dated, with Splitstone being the “newest” amongst them, released July 26th, 2017.
Meanwhile, our most banned maps manage to teeter between two categories: 1) The absolute most played & most familiar (Brightmarsh & Jaguar Falls), and 2) Long maps that have a very wide capture point area with multiple elevations (Timber Mill, Fish Market, & Warders Gate). For the former, those maps are essentials to learn in the game. Every team plays both Brightmarsh & Jaguar falls, so it becomes a common strategy to try to ban at least one of them in order to force an opposing team into discomfort.
On the other hand – Fish, Timber, & Warders tend to be quite punishing if you lose the point fight. It’s far more damning knowing you have a greater physical distance to travel to the point, with greater odds of being zoned off or dismounted as a result. It also isn’t helpful that these maps possess numerous flank routes & elevations around the capture point, enabling a wide range of draft strategies or back line access which can be a death sentence to less initiated teams.
If we can safely assume maps with the highest presence correlate with professional player comfort & performance, then ideally the maps we hardly see may be a good point of focus for aspiring competitors. For better or worse – Ascension Peak, Shattered Dessert, and Frozen Guard have been noticeably absent from the PCL, primarily being banned out if considered at all. These three maps combined have been selected in only 15 sets out of the 84 that were played. Whether these factors amount to simply resenting more nuanced maps or a refusal to deviate from the norm is up to the imagination.
It’s critical to acknowledge one can’t fight fire with fire, and with map bans as limited as they are – there are strategic advantages to those willing to branch outward. For instance, it is theoretically possible to research your opponents’ most comfortable maps and ban them out on match day. This in conjunction with scrimming on underutilized maps can make your opposition uncomfortable while offering yourself the home field advantage. I find it necessary to emphasize this with the hopes of encouraging more flexibility come PCL19 Fall Phase, to promote more exciting sets for players & viewers alike.