Officially, it’s been nearly a month since Bank was added into the competitive map pool, and the changes to Clubhouse and Coastline have been live since Sept. 7. Combined, the three maps that saw minor-to-minimal tweaks have been played 42 times across the top-flight regional leagues at the time of writing: Coastline and Clubhouse have been played 15 times apiece, and Bank 12 times.
The updates to these maps came in a similar vein, all three were widely or at least somewhat considered “stale”, there wasn’t much strategic innovation happening on them. All three maps were changed with this latent feeling of staleness in mind. So, after nearly a month’s worth of collective scrimmages and over 40 total plays between them, what’s changed?
Clubhouse has arguably seen the least amount of impactful changes, but it almost wasn’t so. Ultimately, the only main thing that changed was the Bar/Stock bomb site, but the two-panel wall between the upstairs Construction room and the Cash room was almost completely sealed off. Official Ubisoft correspondence labeled the sealing of the wall as a bug, but it was reverted to a simple one-panel wall instead of a two-panel.
Cowana Gaming believes that the changing of the two-panel Construction/Cash wall to a single panel is the more impactful change to the map, according to its analyst David "davil" Tóth. Davil explains that just the change of one reinforcement has made the entire upstairs of Clubhouse more “flexible” when it comes to defense.
“It gives you a bit more flexibility,” davil said. “One reinforcement can kind of make or break a strat [at this level]. Imagine making a strat for a Gym[/Bedroom] side extension, you need to get the Gym walls, the Jacuzzi walls, and you need to get the construction walls. Now one wall is done for you.”
Anything that allows the defenders more flexibility on one of the more stale maps in the pool is a welcome change, regardless of magnitude of impact, said davil. That sentiment is echoed by Drew “DrewSpark” Spark-Whitworth, an analyst for XSET. The map’s flexibility for defenders is mostly defined by the attacker bans and how the basement bomb sites play out -- for the top floor sites there isn’t much variance.
“There’s so much going on in the operator bans that give the defense the tools needed to make it [Clubhouse] a defense-sided map,” said DrewSpark. “Think about it this way: if there were no operator bans, I think Clubhouse would be one of the most attacker-sided maps in the game. You’d have all the tools you need.”
DrewSpark explains that the map’s meta is effectively defined by banning Maverick, Thatcher, or both, these two bans plus a few key hard breaching operator bans can tell you which way Clubhouse is more or less going to go.
While the changes to the map offer some variance, most say it’s still not enough to remain fresh…for now. Time will tell how the Bar/Stock site evolves, but you shouldn’t expect it to evolve instantly.
Bank is another map that’s been commonly described as “stale”, almost everything plays out the same way. The defensive strategy centers around the basement, with mostly the same operator lineups playing in mostly the same spots.
There are some changes that allow the defenders a bit more flexibility in some areas, but the main strategy for the map has remained nearly unchanged. The movement of the hatches gives defenders in the basement a bit more breathing room, but the act of taking the hatches is still necessary for every kind of basement attack.
“I would’ve rather seen Favela enter the competitive pool than have Bank again,” said Soniqs head coach Joe “Jobro” Reyes. Jobro explains that unlike Bank, Favela has actually gone under the developer’s knife and emerged with real, fundamental changes. He added that he would’ve also chosen Theme Park, Skyscraper, and Border over Bank, in that exact respective order.
Essentially, the existing formula for how teams do things hasn’t changed, but there are some minor new zigs and zags along the way. The overarching questions are pretty straightforward: has the map changed enough to be fresh, and is having these formulas inherently bad?
“[Bank] definitely needed some doctoring,” said DrewSpark. “There didn’t really have a full rotation of sites to work with, the way the basement was played was just not fun at all...the window play just kinda killed the map.”
DrewSpark added that he already enjoyed Bank’s routine, which arguably influences the way he sees the changes to the map.
Even though the changes are helping some, Bank is still playing like Bank, and re-learning the map is mostly like riding a bike: you don’t really forget the basics.
If you liked the way that old Bank plays, you’ll likely be partial towards new Bank on every level from casual to competitive. On the other hand, if you didn’t like old Bank, new Bank definitely isn’t changed enough for you. The strong Bank teams will remain strong. The weak Bank teams will remain weak. The sun rises in the east, it sets in the west.
Out of all the maps updated, Coastline inarguably changed the most. The window in VIP is now a two-panel reinforceable wall, and most of the angles from the roof have been cut off by the expansion of the hanging glass and wood structure. Those two changes alone have made defending the map in a traditional manner stronger, and it’s causing attacker lineups to become more traditional as well.
Before the changes, Coastline was a hard pivot away from most “Siege” maps. It was defined by aggression -- the small size of the map meant it was easier for attackers to set up crossfires from safety, lack of a hard breach meant more lethal utility -- and it forced the defenders into hyper-aggressive playstyles out of necessity. Better to go down fighting than going down huddled in a corner.
“You had to have a plan [on Coastline] before this, but it was mostly ‘how do we execute on the site’,” said davil. “It’s a different style of plan entirely.”
The changes to the map mean the attackers can’t cut off roamers as easily as they could before. This cause has the effect of freeing defenders up from being pigeonholed into “monkey” plays, a phrase commonly used for low-information, high-risk, high-reward plays. Now, the attackers are even forced to bring a hard breacher to Coastline.
“I love things that add interaction, that have some way to play around that feel fun for both sides,” said Jobro. “Coastline’s changes have the most fun interactions around them that make the map feel good at all levels.”
According to Jobro, the changes to the map almost guide the player towards the way they should be playing the map. More timid players used to gravitate towards playing exclusively on the roof, which was, for the most part, accidentally the correct play on old Coastline. Now that these free kill angles are bottled up, those same players are nudged towards a balcony instead. Not only is Coastline fundamentally better for competitive play; it’s better for casual play too.
So what, exactly, has changed? Have the minute changes made the maps more refreshing, or is the overall formula remaining the same making the maps still stale?
Overall, depending on who you talk to, Clubhouse and Bank are mostly the same. Coastline is significantly better, even if it does still follow more or less the same meta. The maps play the same way, there are some new twists and turns along the way, and whether those new elements are subjectively “better” largely depends on your opinion of the old maps.