Pros comment on state of Ancient
What do players and coaches think about the newest addition to the map pool?
Ancient's addition to the competitive map pool was received surprisingly well. Usually averse to change, the professional circuit took in the spiritual successor to Aztec quite swiftly, with over 200 matches recorded on Ancient since Valve replaced Train with it.
When looking at what the best teams are playing, Ancient doesn't lag behind the pack much. Out of 497 maps played between top 30 squads in June and July, Ancient represents 9.86% (49 maps) while Vertigo, Nuke, and Inferno are in the 12-14% range.
With an acceptable sample size provided, it is time to take a look at the map and what it offers.
Has the meta on Ancient stabilized? What parts of the maps aren't working well? How does it compare to other maps in the pool? These are some of the questions we asked players and coaches of top teams in order to get insight on the map, as well as open up the discussion about what might need to change.
Vladislav "nafany" Gorshkov, Casper "cadiaN" Møller, Hampus "hampus" Poser, Max "MiGHTYMAX" Heath, and Andrey "B1ad3" Gorodenskiy took time out of their tournament break to talk about the freshest map in the pool.
Has Ancient been figured out?
The current meta on Ancient is focused around B, with map control of Ramp and Cheetah proving to be crucial to the development of rounds, similarly to Inferno's Banana. But is this approach to the map here to stay? Pros aren't in agreement on it.
MiGHTYMAX, the in-game leader of Endpoint, who are one of the most seasoned teams on the map, says that the early development of Ancient was interesting but that things are reaching a plateau. "I think now that everyone has shown their ideas, and with little change to the map, the meta has cemented itself with teams just taking each other's ideas and combining them together," he comments. Meanwhile, B1ad3 says the meta is settled "around 70%" but notes that unavoidable changes to the map from Valve will force teams to rethink their approach on it soon.
The Brit and the Ukrainian agree that teams are currently using their knowledge of other maps and applying the same concepts to Ancient, but B1ad3 stresses that this approach won't "show you the full potential" of a new map. "We need some time to experience and examine as many scenarios on the map as possible, especially mid-round," he concludes.
Out of the players we talked to, hampus has the most recorded matches on the map, playing Ancient nine times and having a 5W-4L record. At the start of June, the young in-game leader stated that just going B was a viable tactic, but he has revised his stance on the map since.
"I think people figured out how to play the CT side better overall, which makes it harder to go B," hampus says, adding that Mid information is proving to be key for both sides. "There is for sure a lot more to discover on the map. I don't think we are anywhere near the full potential. When we played it in Cologne we came up with new things during the game." nafany is in the same boat, saying that "it will be the same with Ancient as with Vertigo," as teams need at least half a year for a specific meta to form. "At the moment, the game on this map is not perfect for all teams," the Russian IGL says.
cadiaN, the IGL and AWPer of Heroic who boasts a 1.33 rating from four maps played on Ancient, believes that there are still many tactical details that can be added or adjusted by competitors. "I noticed there are many different approaches throughout Cologne. There are still a lot of teams who, to my understanding, aren't approaching the map the way I would."
Issues with A site and utility
In terms of what is problematic with Ancient, the pros identified two issues: needing too much utility as Terrorists and the lack of cover on the A bombsite. The notion that the offensive side probably needs some help is backed by the stats — Ancient is currently the most CT-sided map of 2021, slightly eclipsing the map it replaced, Train.
"I think one of the main issues is the number of grenades it takes to gain map control as a Terrorist," cadiaN explains his view. "Also, CTs with full utility can block Mid and B in a way where if you want to gain fast control of those areas you will take a lot of utility damage. So I am not sure how to work around it, but it feels like that if you want to run a proper default, you can't afford to lose anyone if you want to be able to execute late round."
"There are too many areas on the map that you need to spend too much utility on", nafany agrees, adding that he isn't sure how to make the map better but believes that it is possible. "I liked what Valve did with Vertigo, so everything is in their hands."
MiGHTYMAX is of the opinion that in its current state, Ancient is an "average" map in the pool. "It's a refreshing change to the map pool, but I feel like there are still quite a lot of issues with the map, particularly ambient noises, skyboxes, and overpowered CT positions, that I think should be addressed.
"At the moment most of the map control you would need to gain on the T side is pretty high-risk, and the utility usage required is incredibly high. So when you pair quite a linear map control path due to skyboxes with difficult to clear/overpowered CT positions, it can get quite frustrating.
"Not every map needs to be completely balanced, but I think more options should be available to the T side," the in-game leader concludes.
"Yeah, the A site is just bad," hampus began, almost as if he had heard B1ad3's thoughts. "Even if you get the site you can't plant the bomb in a non-spammable position — there is no cover at all. Some more cover in the planting area on A [would be great]. But overall, I like the map. Perhaps there are some small changes needed on the B site, but all in all, I like it."
B1ad3 is on the other side of that argument, though. "The map is still too large for competitive play and it will force you to gamble more than usual", he says, comparing it to Overpass. "CT and T utility management as well as T rotations are very challenging."
IGLing, AWPing, and entrying on Ancient
We also asked players what they think about their own role on the map, with cadiaN giving us insight on AWPing. "I think there are still strong areas where you can use the AWP, and for a dynamic AWP you can move to any position." The key is to not be too passive and search for opportunities "because the execute-heavy teams will block you hard," the Dane thinks. "You need to be kind of proactive, just like any other map. I think it's fairly fun to AWP on it, especially as CT."
nafany spoke from the perspective of an aggressive player, saying that Ancient is a "map more about lurkers" who find the backstabs and gaps in the rotations, comparing the map to Mirage in that sense. "There is no way to make a lot of space for your team, in my opinion."
In terms of calling on Ancient, MiGHTYMAX says it is not vastly different. "I applied different concepts from other maps like Inferno to Ancient so you don't have to create many new understandings to parts of the map, as they play pretty similarly," and again stressed that he would "like there to be more options available to the T sides to make it more enjoyable to call."
What to do with the map pool?
Does Ancient fit the map pool, and are there options to change for the better?
"Primarily, CSGO is a tactical game and I think we need more complex and balanced maps in the map pool." B1ad3 claims, pointing to Tuscan and Cache as maps that could fit in, and noting Train as a very tactical one, as well. "The best time for the change is at the end of the season, before vacation starts."
nafany backs B1ad3's picks but wouldn't remove any map. "In my opinion, it would be cool if we had nine maps in the map pool. I really like Cache and Tuscan, so it would be nice to have them in a map pool." MiGHTYMAX isn't sure that increasing the map pool would work, but is open to seeing new maps added from the casual game mode like Ancient was. "At the same time as saying that, I’m not sure how it could work with the current maps. Would a seasonal map pool be viable? Not sure."
hampus notes Cobblestone as his favorite from back in the day, and wouldn't mind Dust2 being removed in favor of it. However, cadiaN points out that players are often in favor of removing whatever map they aren't doing well on, "which doesn’t really allow for a nuanced discussion."
"I think adding maps should happen more frequently and that there should be more rotation. There are issues with every map, basically, but also great strengths, so why not have Cobblestone or Train involved again soon? Or Tuscan, for example?
"I mean… If Ancient can work in the map pool, a map no one would have thought of before the announcement, I think basically any map can work," the Heroic IGL points out, before realizing he might have gone too far: "Don't get too crazy, Valve, — and please inform yourself with us as well!"