ESL One Cologne 2014 was the first time Valve had implemented a map randomizer at a Major, and they’ve been used at every Major that followed it. The random map draw was meant to add variety to the map pool of the majors, and it’s arguably been successful at that. Here’s how it works: after each team has picked and banned a map, the randomizer selects one of the three maps that remain to close out the series.
Before ESL One Cologne 2014, there were only five maps in Active Duty and the lack of diversity showed. With such a small pool of maps available, most teams settled for playing Inferno, and the map was played repeatedly. In addition to the map randomizer, Valve also introduced two brand new maps to the pool at ESL One Cologne 2014, forcing teams to play Overpass and Cobblestone.
Whether or not the random map draw should still be used at majors is a point of contention. Using a map randomizer is a good way to force teams to prepare for the unexpected, but the negatives of using it far outweigh the positives.
The original purpose of the random map draw was to add map variety to the majors. Along with the increased size of the map pool, map randomizers have been successful at varying up the maps played. Valve seem to believe that more variance in maps equates to more interest, at least as far as Majors are concerned.
The fact that teams have less control over the maps they play increases the potential for upsets. With the map draw, two teams may ends up playing a map neither are comfortable on. Or, the map draw may favor the underdog team with the smaller map pool. The randomizers work to level the playing field and create a greater possibility for Cinderella runs through tournaments.
With more upsets and a more level playing field, predictability of matches and tournaments becomes much more difficult. Knowing that the tournament favorite may end up on a bad map for them in a best-of series and lose makes it more exciting for a casual fan. The idea is that unpredictability of matches increases interest and enjoyment and can draw in more fans.
If everyone knows who is going to win, than why bother watching?
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The reality of the map randomizer is that it is terrible for the competitive integrity of CS:GO. The majors are considered world championships, and ideally, the best team in the world should win the event. Random map draws lower the quality of play to a point that is actively harmful to the game.
Teams with smaller map pools go unpunished, and the best teams, who have very deep map pools, aren’t rewarded for their excellence and mastery. Preparation and strategy should be beneficial to a team. An upset on a random map is not as valuable as a genuine upset after a real map veto process. That is why Fnatic winning the very first CSGO major over NiP was so incredible. It was a real upset and a real Cinderella story. Random maps lowers the value of real upsets to produce potentially cheap storylines.
If two teams get stuck on a random map that neither are comfortable on, it may end up being a very close 16-14 game. However, the level of play and quality of the game is extremely low. Two teams not knowing how to play a map results in very poor T-sides with little to no tactics. Both teams end up racking up CT-side rounds because they have no strategy prepared.
The playing field is leveled, but the outcome loses meaning as a result. Exit the Major early? Blame it on your bad luck with the map randomizer.