Every season of APEX features some changes in the tournament format and OGN is trying to find the sweet spot in order to make their scene as competitive and fair as possible. However, in season 3 they did some things wrong in their attempt which I hope they fix in the future, unless these changes were made in coordination with the teams and were requested by the players.
The first thing they did wrong was increasing the map pool, allowing every map to be picked. This was done in an attempt to fix the problematic randomly generated map pools of Season 1 and Season 2, where teams had to prepare for the teams randomly decided and sometimes a team was to play on a map that was never in their map pool before but it was in the other team’s. So, one of the two teams had prepared for that map beforehand, maybe even had played it, but the other had to prepare first time to play it on stage.
Allowing every map in the map pool to be picked solves the previous problem but creates a new one: having to practice every single map in the map pool takes up a lot of time and in some cases it creates lopsided matches where one team decimates the other. On the other hand, throwing “map curveballs” becomes too hard and patterns start to appear. Teams prepare for their opponents’ best maps and usually their own strong maps somehow end up being the same. So, it’s a matter of attrition, in the end.
The biggest problem with this kind of map selection process will be visible once more maps are added to the map pool and therefore it won’t be only impossible to prepare for, but at the same time it will end up being a problem because the loser chooses the next map and therefore some teams can devise special tactics to upset without actually having any real depth on a map.
The second thing OGN did wrong this season was although they increased the map pool, they still left Control randomized and not known before the match date to the teams. What this effectively did was that teams still had to practice all 4 Control maps for every match. In the previous seasons, this was the only gamemode that had all maps allowed in the map pool and the missing maps from the other gamemodes was a somewhat counterweight to that.
Excluding all the other unique things that Control has as a gamemode, there is one crucial difference practice-wise with all the other gamemodes. You have to practice each submap separately and because of the nature of this gamemode, it could take easily quite a long time to go through all submaps. You can’t cut any corners to your practice. In the other gamemodes, every time a team practices defence, they also practice attack and it’s quite easy to even copy strats your scrim partners use. Finally, as it has been stated multiple times in WinstonsLab’s articles, the first engagement in this gamemode is very important and can decide a lot of things, with stalling being another problem, as well. So, it’s not only to practice a specific approach on a submap, but to also practice specific counters.
If the Control map is known beforehand, at least both teams are focusing on creating strategies and counters for the specific three submaps, which promotes more depth in this, otherwise, team deathmatch gamemode.
The third mistake of OGN was to keep the Tiebreaker Control maps randomized. I, in all honesty, cannot understand why a tournament organizer thinks that having an RNG factor in the format helps with competitiveness.
The only argument that one can put forth is that randomization usually favors none of the two teams, but this is far from the truth. Especially, because each submap in Overwatch has unique characteristics and tactics. It’s not like there is a generic submap that is being utilized as a tiebreaker where the two teams are completely equal. Before anyone responds with the classic line “Teams should have practiced all the maps”, the argument isn’t only about practice but also about roster and hero pools. A team can secure the win on a KotH map having a hero pool and strategies that ignore one of the submaps because they focus on the other two. This, however, isn’t applicable when it’s a Bo1 and it’s the specific submap they are intentionally weaker on.
Competitions should have no RNG in their format, so as teams can work on all aspects beforehand and when the defeat/win comes, we know that it was only due to mistakes and clutch plays on the battlefield and not because of some randomization process not involving the teams.
Despite all these, it’s OGN’s tournament and from the very beginning they had their own idea about what a professional, Korean league should look like, so I don’t expect them to change things that create a more “interesting” outcome in their eyes. These are just my thoughts on how the APEX format could become more refined competitively helping teams to prepare in advance for all situations rather than waiting to see what happens when the time comes.