Catalyst set to dominate ALGS Pro League meta cover image

Catalyst set to dominate ALGS Pro League meta


Catalyst looks set to dominate the ALGS Pro League meta, but why is she so popular among Pro players at the moment?

The ALGS Pro League is back tomorrow, and the legend meta will look drastically different from the London playoffs. Catalyst is set to dominate the meta. But, why has there been such a big shift?
The Season 16 update made huge changes to the legend meta. A new class system was introduced, reworking several legends. Crucially for competitive Apex, which legends can reveal the next zone was totally changed. While that probably hasn't impacted any of your games so far, in the ALGS this is a big deal.
How is Catalyst useful for ALGS teams, who will be in the meta alongside her and how could the meta develop over the coming weeks?

Why will Catalyst dominate ALGS?

While there has been lots of experimentation with various legends in the build-up to the Pro League, one legend has clearly risen to the top of the pile. Catalyst. Almost a 100% pick rate at times in the lead-up, Catalyst is going to be a top pick this weekend. She has been more popular in North America than in EMEA.
An example of legend picks from NA scrims on Thursday
An example of legend picks from NA scrims on Thursday
But, why has she suddenly risen to popularity?
The top reason is undoubtedly the Controller class rework. Now, only Caustic, Wattson, Rampart and Catalyst can reveal the next zone. That means that ANY team who wants zone information is forced to pick one of these legends.

Wattson and Caustic lack edge utility

Wattson and Caustic have both been very high picks in ALGS at times, but what has prevented them from mass popularity is their inflexibility. Both legends only really excel inside of buildings or when holding clear defined space in zone. Neither have any real utility for open space fighting, hence why Caustic was often paired with Gibraltar because of his dome.
So, what do you do if you pick one of these legends and you don't get a ring console spawn? Or, if the zone is simply just miles away from your position and you cannot get a premium spot.
Catalyst Wall (image from Sweetdreams on Twitch)
Catalyst Wall (image from Sweetdreams on Twitch)
Catalyst has some strong abilities for playing zone. She can reinforce or replace doors, and her traps can be placed in front of doors to provide some deterrence to enemy teams. However, she has the best edge abilities of any of the Control class thanks to her Wall.
This Wall allows her to either move up aggressively or retreat defensively. Blocking line of sight either on a team you want to fight, or teams who are potentially trying to third party. It is also great for dividing buildings and isolating individual players.

Zone knowledge still crucial for edge teams

One of the most surprising things is how valuable edge teams find zone knowledge. You could easily assume that teams who don't want to play in zone won't really care where it is going. However, this is the first time in almost the games entire history that legends that can scan beacon aren't natural choices for aggressive fighting teams. Bloodhound, Seer, and Valkyrie are, or have been, excellent choices for edge teams over several seasons.
Apex Ring Console (Via Respawn)
Apex Ring Console (Via Respawn)
This means that edge teams are used to playing zone. The knowledge is always helpful, edge isn't just playing like you would in ranked. Aimlessly running around looking for fights. It's about taking powerful positions, controlling space, and clearing your back to fight your way in. If you don't have the general direction of the zone, working out your macro plan can be really difficult. Only a few teams have managed to find consistent success without a scan character, like Aurora in EMEA.

Catalyst forces another Seer meta

As is often the case in Apex, one legend can often force another legend into the meta. While Catalyst is a popular legend in competitive, Seer will be right there with her.
Pros and fans alike hoped that the recent Seer nerfs would see him slide out of the meta. He is not an enjoyable legend to play or watch for most players or viewers.
Sadly, his Ultimate is way too powerful to ever really be let go in its current form. When you are playing at the very top of an esport, the ability to get full scans on your opponents is crucial. Especially if the other team is also playing Seer and has scans on you.
But the Catalyst wall blocks scans right? Not quite. Catalysts wall does block some scans, but not Seer ult.
This means that Seer is a direct counter to the Catalyst wall. Expect to see plenty of fights resemble a Kovaaks scenario in the Pro League. Shooting 'Diamonds' through Catalyst walls is going to become a major feature of the next few weeks.

Seer also counters Bangalore

It isn't just Catalyst that is holding Seer firmly in the meta. Seer is also a strong combination with Bangalore, another legend that will be very popular this Split. Any form of scan combined with a Bangalore smoke is always going to be a lethal combination. Either to aggress and smoke up on your enemies or to counter an enemy smoke with a scan. Without a scan legend to combine with Bangalore, your success becomes almost entirely reliant on your ability to find Digital Threat Scopes. We are also unlikely to see much Bloodhound following the nerfs they received in Season 16.
Overall, while Seer clearly counters two popular legends, he offers a lot of power on his own. The ability to 'cancel' your opponent's heals, revives or even abilities is uniquely powerful at the top level. Unlike your average Apex game, the ability difference between a lot of these players is almost non-existent. What separates Gild and Verhulst is the smallest of margins in any given situation. To interrupt a heal can be a huge turning point in any engagement.

Bangalore and Catalyst form an unlikely combination

You might have assumed that with Catalyst coming into the meta, Bangalore might be on the way out. Teams have tended to only have one defensive legend by and large (with the exception of Gibraltar and Caustic meta). Yet, teams are finally starting to explore compositions without Valkyrie. First trialed by NRG, some teams have been experimenting with Bangalore, Seer, and Catalyst.
An ALGS observers nightmare, this combination is all about blocking vision and relying on Seer information to work through the clutter.
Bangalore has steadily worked her way into the meta over recent seasons. Once a total off-meta pick, Bangalore was a novelty back when ShivFPS was the only Bangalore worldwide. Throughout the first split of the Pro League, more and more teams swapped to Bangalore.
With the new class system, Bangalore is even more powerful. Digital Threat scopes are a total game changer for Bangalore teams, and the new Weapon Supply Bins give you several chances to get that powerful optic. Teams are even planning their rotates around these bins, which spawn randomly each game.

No return for Wraith or Wattson

There hasn't been much of a return for Wraith, and Wattson is once again relegated to an off-meta pick.
There was some hope that the improvement to Wraith's Portal would see her return to ALGS, but aside from some notable exceptions, she does not seem set to be particularly popular. Equally, Wattson seems to have been forced out of the meta by Catalyst too.
Her Pylon does not block the Catalyst wall, and teams simply seem to prefer having the flexibility of Catalyst over Wattson at this moment in time. Some teams will still use her, and she might see a rise in popularity on Worlds Edge if teams struggle with their shield economy. There tend to be a lot more teams in end zones when Pro League happens, in comparison to scrims. Wattson excels over Catalyst for super early rotation and leveling up evo shields.

Catalyst helps shift Valkyrie out of the meta in North America

Particularly in North America, but also in EMEA Valkyrie is waning in popularity. Seven of the eight most popular legend setups in EMEA and North America featured Valkyrie in Pro League split one.
She was as high as a 95%+ pick across multiple LAN events and has been a mainstay of several metas. Some people complained about Valkyrie, but she undoubtedly helped to support one of the most diverse LAN metas we have ever seen. That seems like it is being lost somewhat, and most teams will run 2 if not 3 of the same legends this split. Some have expressed frustration at this change, like TSM coach Raven.
Valkyrie hasn't really changed at all in terms of her ultimate ability. Teams are just using Bangalore and Catalyst to get around. The biggest change, again, came with the class system. Valkyrie cannot scan either Survey Beacons or Ring Consoles, teams are exploring life without her. When enough teams run Valk, everyone feels forced to pick her to keep up with rotation speed. If she does make a return, expect to see other teams feel the need to react to that.
Valkyrie (Image via Respawn)
Valkyrie (Image via Respawn)

Can Catalyst be good in Pro League, not just scrims?

In scrims, teams like the new Sentinels roster, have found difficulties with how aggressive other teams are.
This is a great example of the number one rule of Apex esports. Scrims are usually pretty unrepresentative. Teams are generally under less pressure because nothing is on the line, people contest more and push limits.
Of course, teams have to experiment. It is also logical that the pressure of ALGS can't truly be replicated and teams will never be quite as focused even if they try.
Legends like Wattson, and to some extent Valkyrie and Loba, potentially will be a lot more valuable in Pro League. How teams adapt to the first weekend will be telling, and we could see some pretty hefty shifts in pick rates after teams get a feel for the standard of gameplay this weekend.
Stay tuned to for more ALGS coverage and esports news.
Tom Bull
Tom Bull
Editor | Twitter @TAG_tom_apex
From the UK, Tom is an experienced semi-professional Apex Legends player having competed in the ALGS Challenger Circuit over multiple seasons. He is a specialist in the competitive scene, with deep knowledge of ALGS. He has worked on several notable tournament broadcasts, as both an observer and caster.