Rainbow Six Siege’s new limited time “Road to Six Invitational” mode is winning the hearts of its players. In just a few days since the event kicked off, Siege’s subreddit has seen a nonstop barrage of positive feedback for the new pick/ban system usually reserved only for professional play, essentially operating as an informal test before the mode potentially rolls out sometime this year.
It might be hard to see how a few rule tweaks can change the game so drastically, but the star here is the pick/ban system, which was first introduced to the pros last year. At the beginning of the match, each team gets to ban one attacker and one defender. If you’re prepping a match on Coastline, nixing Blackbeard or Mira eliminates two operators who usually dominate. As a side effect, banning forces teams to adapt and try new team comps and not just roll with what’s popular or considered top of the meta. It’s a phase that allows teams to tamper with the existing power balance of any map.
Right now the most common bans seem to follow the same blueprint as the pros: target key information ops like Mira and Echo or breachers like Hibana and Thermite. I've also seen lots of Lion or Blitz removals—the former being an op permanently banned in Pro League for his overly-useful gadget and the latter a common companion of the “crouch/lean spam” exploit that Ubisoft is working to fix. But as players feel it out, I hope to see more diverse bans meant to compliment different styles of play.
The other big shakeup in the Road to S.I. mode is round rotation. Instead of rotating between attack and defense every round, the teams play three consecutive rounds before switching sides. If the game goes into overtime, rotation goes back to normal. This means by the time you play your first round on attack, you could already find yourself on match point. I have some mixed feelings about this one.
Playing consecutive rounds in the same role helps stay in the mindset of attack/defense better than constantly switching between the two. On defense, I can focus on minimizing unnecessary movement and holding angles. After the transition to attack, I can shift my focus to keeping a good attacking pace and listening for flanks. It’s a small thing, but I can already feel the benefits.
On the other hand, the new rotation has some disadvantages. If you lose all three of your attacks and go into defense one round away from defeat, you have less of a chance to prove your defense skills. Some map sites are widely considered better balanced for one role over another, so the random assignment of who plays what first can matter in a small way. The reason this rotation was first added to Pro League was more about viewership than the experience of players—Ubi rightly figured viewers can keep track of the players better when they aren’t constantly switching roles. Overall it’s worth having, but it might need some tweaks.
The S.I. playlist includes a few other parameters that mirror the Pro League model like a trimmed down map pool of seven, bomb mode only, and longer arming times for the defuser. These are a good fit for pro-level play, but I can take or leave them. I’m an advocate for almost every map being playable in Ranked despite some imbalance (not you, Favela and Plane), so dicing the map choice down even more just exacerbates existing map burnout.
Much of the community, myself included, are hopeful that Ubi is taking the positive feedback seriously and are planning to implement similar rules into the base Ranked mode. Comments from developers last year indicate that they’ve considered it before, but hopefully this event gives them the proof they need that these features make for a more interesting and competitive Siege. Since the playlist is only available during the four weekends leading up to the Six Invitational, I’m stuck playing vanilla Siege for now. It’s tough living in a post-pick/ban world, but I think I’ll survive.