Mexico City has been the capital of Siege for the past four days, as the best players in the game have been gathered there to play at the first international Major since 2019. The teams have already produced many unforgettable moments, with the LATAM teams leading the charge once again.
But it is not just about the games now, but also the ones in the future. This time, unlike previous events, the upcoming season changes were revealed on the very first day of competition and we got a chance to ask the pros at the Major what they thought.
Aside from introducing another operator to the game, Osa, the new season,“Crystal Guard”, includes operator tweaks for IQ, Twitch, Finka, Iana, Mute, Fuze, and Sledge.
Although the changes were generally welcomed, the change to the SAS operator was the exception to the rule. In fact, the initial reaction from the wider community was largely anger and disappointment.
The reason? Sledge will lose his beloved SMG-11, leaving Amaru as the only attacker remaining with this gun equipped. But what impact will this change really have on the Rainbow Six Siege esports scene?
Over the last three days, we asked various pro players about this upcoming change and got results largely opposite to the community reaction.
Despite calling the change not needed, Thiago “xS3xyCake” Reis stated that players will “have to adapt” like they have with the changes to other operators.
Looking somewhat unhappy was Julio “Julio” Giacomelli, as he seemed anxious on the impact it would have on NiP: “Pino plays Sledge in our team and he uses a lot the SMG-11”. He also suggested that Sledge’s pick rate might go down and that a return to Buck may be on the horizon -- at least for his team.
But while it seems like two of the LATAM teams are at best lukewarm about the change, the NA players seem unfazed.
“Please, just don’t take his [Sledge’s] nades away”, said the TSM’s Matthew “Achieved” Solomon. “I understand why they did it and I agree with it.”
Meanwhile Alexander “Yeti” Lawson mentioned that “it is not a super strong nerf”, while Seth “supr” Hoffman explained that “it made sense for Sledge to lose the SMG.” Just like Achieved before, Pablo “Gryxr” Rebeil said that the operator will be “viable” as long as he keeps his nades.
Looks like losing the SMG-11 seems like a sacrifice that NA Pros are willing to make to keep his grenades.
It all comes down to that part of Sledge’s utility: if he ever loses his grenades, we could be talking of a nerf close to the one that Buck had in April 2020. So, on paper, Sledge’s importance will remain.
Buck’s last appearance with grenades at an international event had been SI 2020; with a pick-rate of 60%, the Canadian operator had been the fourth-most picked operator in attack, while Sledge was in 11th place. After the change, Buck’s role transitioned to the SAS operator who averaged a pick-rate of 65% in the regional competitions. In a meta where destruction was the most important thing, the grenades were the deciding factor.
Even now, Sledge’s pick-rate is higher at almost 80%. In the Mexico Major group stage, the SAS operator was the second-highest picked operator. If that was not enough, not one team has banned him in the competition just yet.
One thing is clear: players went for Sledge after Buck’s nerf because the SAS operator kept his frag grenades. Back then, both operators had the secondary gadget, which meant that the only difference was a choice in soft-destruction philosophy. So when Buck lost his grenades, Sledge was the obvious replacement.
In terms of balancing, after Sledge’s SMG-11 loss, he might be in a weaker spot to take close-range gunfights. That won’t be a problem for Buck’s Skeleton Key, though, which actually gives an advantage in certain such scenarios. That is something to keep in mind, but it might not be enough to leave Sledge behind.
Alongside Sledge, other operators such as Iana will also be losing some options. The Dutch operator has had a huge role in the esports scene. In the group stage of the Mexico Major, her pick rate had been 61%, which made her the third most-picked operator in the pool. Although she will initially lose an optic for each of her weapons -- the 2.0x scope from G630 and the 2.5x scope from the ARX200 -- this change will not lower the need for her. As such, seeing what happened to other operators recently, it would not be surprising to see Iana losing her grenades, especially now that Finka has recovered them.
But the Sledge change is the one that is coming up very soon. While it will likely not affect the reason professionals play Sledge, he will surely not be that useful in terms of gunfights and could make a difference in the smaller moments.