As announced during the Year 5 invitational, there's tons of awesome stuff coming up this year and next, but let's start with looking at what's coming this season that could impact PL in the near future.
I'm not going to recap everything in the patch notes so for those of you that haven't read it, here are the patch notes themselves.
First up, even though they won't be available in PL till next season, the 2 new ops, Iana and Oryx.
Oryx wraps a couple of things that had been implemented in various ways in the past from Operation Chimera (breaking through soft walls) and Ember Rise (going up hatches) into a single interesting high mobility operator. Oryx's ability to run through soft walls and take 10 damage is unlikely to be a huge game changer vs something like Vigil with impact nades. The running ability does have some utility in countering Montagne, but at high level play you will have someone playing behind Monty who will just shoot Oryx before he can get his gun up.
His real usefulness at high level play is his ability to climb hatches. He will likely not see much play on 2 floor maps, but 3 floor maps with well placed hatches can really benefit from his ability to retake areas of the map to flank behind attackers. This is especially true when the hatches allow him to quickly go from the basement to the top floor. For example the hatches in open admin and janitor allow Oryx to quickly climb up 2 floors. Like many defensive operators, he's only likely to be played for specific rare sites/strats. Definitely a fun operator to play in Casual/Ranked though!
In terms of his loadout he doesn't get great weapons. The SPAS 12 isn't a very good shotgun and an MP5 without an acog is just ok (just ask Mute). One thing he does have working for him however is the bulletproof cam which can allow him to monitor an area for safety of retaking map control late via hatches. He does also get a Baliff secondary which allows him to open soft hatches if going with the MP5 instead of the SPAS.
Iana on the other hand could definitely see some Pro level play. The main reason being the high value of intel and gaining it without risk, usually via drones. Normal drones do have some advantages (jumping mute jammers, driving under wood barricades), but the main advantage of Iana's ability is being a rechargable drone, sidestepping the usual drone economy. It also doesn't hurt that at high level play you have to react quickly and the hologram is likely to be shot frequently, giving positions away. The upside for defenders is the ability to mute jam it and the inability to tell where you're being shot from if its to the side or behind.
Weapon and gadget wise Iana gets some pretty solid choices. You can choose between Nomad's ARX w/ bonus vertical grip, or Ash's G36C (which a lot more people use now). Secondary guns unfortunately you get no choice on, all that's available is a single 9mm pistol. Secondary gadget choices are between smoke and frags similar to Dokkaebi (who now lost frags for stuns). In theory you can use your hologram to spot defenders to nade them or possibly use the smoke for cover then run the hologram through it to check the other side.
Overall, Iana will likely see some high level play. With the tight attacker gadget economy you will have to sacrifice something to gain the additional intel, but you will at least get the frags.
According to the schedule revealed we shouldn't expect new maps for a while, but rather reworks to existing maps. Oregon overall seems to be improved with a lot more space and familiar layout. Hard to say at the moment if it holds up to competitive play, but there's a strong possibility if it does that it could replace a more stale map in the PL map pool.
Quality of Life changes
Both the barricade debris and drone spawn changes will benefit all levels of competition. There's a lot of issues with client sided debris even in PL and obviously spawn peeks will be affected, at least making sure both attackers and defenders see the same thing.
The ability to stay on drone after prep phase and spawning your drone where you will spawn are both changes that will be used. Pros can choose 1 location to spawn their drone then before prep phase ends, switch their spawn location and continue droning based on intel. One of the nice details of the "stay on drone" setting is the option for "Semi-automatic". With semi-auto you only get kicked off drone if you aren't on your own drone, like when it's dead or you just switch to a teammates. This can allow you to put your drone into position, switch to watch team mates drones and then be auto kicked off when prep ends if you want.
Quite a few operators received tweaks in this patch. The big one being a huge nerf to Lesion. Not being able to see the Gu mine icon indicator unless within 8m and line of sight means a lot of lost intel unless you're in sound range. Generally anytime you'd be in line of sight of the Gu it is already useless for information. This will greatly reduce Lesion's viability at Pro level. The no initial damage, tick rate damage buff and no damage while dbno aren't likely to affect PL much outside of edge cases and Monty.
The changes to Twitch's shock drones will likely benefit high level Twitch players to a small extent as they usually use the drone a bit more for droning and during that time the tases will regenerate. The reduction of the cooldown between shots also makes taking out Maestro's evil eyes more efficient. The reduction in damage will only impact rare situations when trying to finish off low health players who aren't dbno yet. Combined with the recoil nerf to the F2, I don't think Twitch will see more or less play in PL.
Castle getting the super shorty shotgun won't increase his pick rate, but it will increase his usefulness at high level play where he's already picked often. Most importantly you won't need impact nades when not impact tricking, allowing you to bring a bulletproof camera for extra intel.
Warden getting a revamp to how recharging works on his smart glasses will make him much more viable in PL, but not to the point that his pick rate will greatly increase. He will be more efficient in situations where he's already effective like Bank server stairs or to counter smoke plants. Unfortunately his weapons are still a little too lackluster.
Improved barricade destruction for DMRs sounds like a small thing, but will definitely help with Dokkaebi play as she is the only one forced to play with a DMR. Before the change it took a ridiculous amount of shots to simply open a window and forced players to use their secondary gun to do it. Now it takes about 7 shots. As a side effect, she can now open soft hatches with the same amount of shots! Unfortunately Dokkaebi losing frags means she may be played a bit less in PL which means Echo will still need banning.
Speaking of frags, Dokkaebi was the only one to lose them, and 3 operators (Nokk, Ying and Mav) gained them. Maverick is the one who will benefit by far the most as he actually sees play and can make his own holes in hard walls to throw nades through! This will buff an already strong operator as he will be a 3 speed hard breacher with a great gun and nades. Overall though the increase in nades will encourage Wamai play as he's now available and will also help counter the resource advantage defenders are currently at.
The vector damage buff from 21 to 23 isn't a huge deal, especially as Mira is often banned. It will however influence Goyo players deciding between the TCSG and vector, which mostly Latam favoring the vector. 2 damage may not sound like a lot, but with the insane fire rate that's 2 damage times a whole lotta bullets!
Lastly the changes to explosions to be more "shrapnel based" is an interesting one. It's meant to better deal with obstacles to explosions, but hard to say precisely how it influence things like nading players from below. I did however verify that it doesn't change Monty not blocking C4 explosions for players behind him sadly.
- Oryx will mostly be useful on 3+ floor maps with great hatch flanks
- Iana will be great for gaining intel, especially w/ frags
- Oregon seems to have promise, but needs some time to replace a map
- Barricade debris and drone prep/spawn changes will benefit PL
- Lesion is basically dead now
- Twitch is mostly just weaker now, but not too bad
- Castle is definitely more useful and we'll see more bp cams
- Warden is definitely better, but won't see a huge pick rate increase
- Dokkaebi will have a better time with barricades/hatches, but no frags
- Maverick is gonna be even stronger, open surprise nade holes!
- Goyo players might consider switching to the vector
- Monty still can't block explosions for teammates sadly