It is now a somewhat established tradition – roughly once a year, Valve will change the Active Duty map pool for the CS:GO majors (and in effect, many other tournaments who look to provide consistency) by replacing one map for another. In the past year, Valve have set a trend by reintroducing maps that had been previously retired from active duty and reworked – this strategy has various impacts on the pro scene.
In September of 2014, Valve removed de_train from the official competitive map pool in order to re-work it. It returned in December 2014 as part of the Operation: Vanguard update and in March 2015, it was added to the competitive map pool, replacing Nuke, a long-standing Counter-Strike map that was known for being heavily CT-sided.
Valve would take longer to rework Nuke than they had with Train, not revealing the new remake until February of 2016 to mixed reactions from both the community and professional players. Many disapproved of the balance changes that Valve had opted to make in their attempts to make the map less CT-sided, and the community in particular took issue with the poor optimisation, resulting in loss of FPS.
Whilst Train’s remake was generally well received by the community and pros, becoming a staple map in tournaments and online play, Nuke’s remake was met with a widespread negative response. Following the MLG Columbus 2016 major, Valve announced in April 2016 that they would be re-adding Nuke to the Active Duty map pool, replacing Inferno.
@olofmCS Indeed, nuke is currently the worst map in the pool, GJ Volvo.
— fnatic dennis (@fnaticdennis) 22 April 2016
This angered many as Inferno had long been one of the most popular maps in Counter-Strike. It was often played in competition so much that Valve decided to add a map randomiser for the majors in order to increase the variety of maps being played.
Until very recently, no professional teams picked the remake of Nuke on a regular basis. It wasn’t played much during ELeague, and when the ESL One Cologne 2016 major came around in early July – despite players having had at least two months to practice and get used to it – it was still played very irregularly.
During the group stage of ESL One Cologne 2016, out of the 20 opportunities for it to have been banned in the vetoing process, it was banned 17 times. In the quarter finals it was picked picked twice and banned twice, and in the semi finals it was picked once and removed once. Had the final gone to a 3rd map, Nuke would’ve been the decider thanks to the randomiser.
With Nuke being vetoed with such disdain during the pick ban phase of various tournaments, its mere existence wreaked havoc with team’s vetos and permabans. However since Cologne 2016, some teams such as Ninjas in Pyjamas and Virtus Pro have taken to playing Nuke on a regular basis, making it a very strong map for both teams.
This is not the first time a map has been introduced that the pros dislike. In 2014, Valve hastily added Cobblestone and Overpass to the Active Duty pool just before the ESL One Cologne 2014 major. Cobblestone in particular was a very unpopular map at the time with glaring balance issues, though many of these have since been fixed. Cobblestone’s imposition into the official map pool combined with the map randomiser were, without a doubt, two huge factors in Ninja In Pyjamas’ victory at Cologne in 2014.
Fast forward to October 2016, and Valve have now released their remake of Inferno to be able to be played by the community and pros alike in PUGS (pick up games). Following the recent Valve trend, what map will Inferno replace when it is added back into the official map pool?
In the context of official competitive play, a case could be made to remove Dust II from the active duty map pool in favour of Inferno. Generally (at least compared to other maps) there is very little room to create innovative strats, often leaving teams to rely purely on their aim and deathmatching capabilities in order to win games on them – many now dub Dust II as a sort of “Upset City”.
However the prospect of Dust II being removed is an unrealistic one, given that it is without a doubt the most popular map in the game, and even if it is unpopular with many pro players, the community still views Dust II as one of the best maps in the game. Balance wise it is probably the best map in the game, but it can be argued that watching it in tournament matches can be very tedious. Some have argued that Cobblestone could be removed, but it has recently received various tweaks, so its removal would be somewhat of a head scratcher.
Whichever map gets removed, it will have an effect on certain teams and their performance in both online and LAN tournaments. In letting both the community and the pros play the new remake of Inferno early on, Valve will hopefully make the re-inclusion of Inferno into professional play a smooth and popular one, especially compared to some of their recent attempts.