Apex Legends hosted its biggest event of the year this weekend, as the ALGS Championship took place in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was arguably the biggest event in the esport’s history, as it was only the second ALGS competition to take place in-person, and had the highest prize pool of the competition so far.
The culmination of Year 2 of Apex esports was the first ALGS tournament that fans could attend in-person, too, and the crowds added a sense of spectacle that so many have been missing during the pandemic. Thousands more watched at home, with the game peaking at over half a million viewers on Twitch between the official broadcast, B-streams, and watch parties. It was the esports event of the summer so far.
Apex Legends esports has a different meta to the regular game. Players in the battle royale tend to favour aggressive characters, whereas the esport has a more defensive and careful nature due to the amount of money on the line. Despite the fact that esports players are abandoning Gibby, the safest Legend, Valkyrie was used by nearly every team at the weekend thanks to her free rotations as she Skyward Dives her team to god spots across the map.
The ALGS doesn’t usually affect the pick rates in the regular game. However, after the Championship, Valkyrie use has soared by 8.15 percent according to unofficial source Apex Legends Tracker, making her the most picked Legend in ranked matches. While Seer was already seeing a resurgence, the likes of Jacob ‘HisWattson’ McMillin increased his popularity further. He’s currently up nearly 25 percent on his pre-Championship pick rates, and is the ninth most popular Legend in ranked play.
However, looking back at the ALGS Championship in 2021, a similar thing happened with Octane, whose pick rates in ranked games rose by approximately 25 percent after being the third most picked Legend across NA and EMEA regions in the tournament. I am just eyeballing a year-old graph for this data, though, so bear in mind that it’s not as scientific as it might look. However, it’s clear that Octane’s usage rose during the 2021 Championship – in which he was widely used – and the opposite was true of Valkyrie.
The latter fact seems to refute the hypothesis that seeing a Legend in Apex esports makes players more likely to use them in game, but it’s important to look at the context. Valkyrie was released less than a month before the tournament, so despite being the fifth most picked Legend in the NA and EMEA regions for the Championship, she was still on the natural downward trajectory that all Legends see during the month after their release. When a new character enters the game, everyone flocks to them, then slowly abandons them for their main as they grow bored. It’s only after a couple of months that they settle to an accurate pick rate. Valkyrie was still in this turbulent post-release period when the Championship took place, so she is an outlier and can be discounted.
Valkyrie’s ascension to the top of the pile in ranked games should come as no surprise; she has no fewer than three Passive abilities while some Legends barely have one (sorry Pathfinder). Her redeployment options are the best in the game when used defensively or offensively, and 98 percent of ALGS teams using her simply pointed out how broken her kit is to anyone watching. As for Seer, he was already rising thanks to HisWattson and Phillip ‘ImperialHal’ Dosen’s battle to be the number one ranked Apex Predator in the last split. A strong showing at the ALGS Championship emphasised that his abilities are strong enough to be used effectively.
EA sees the ALGS as another way of marketing Apex Legends – why else do you think you can buy pro teams’ banners in the store at the moment? – and this data shows that their plan is working. Players are mimicking their favourite players in their own matches, and the ALGS team compositions are making their way to ranked, although it's hard to tell which is sweatier.
From a player perspective, though, this is the fun of a game that is equal parts hero shooter and battle royale. You want to try to copy the rotations that Hal calls as Valkyrie? You want to ape like HisWattson? You can. The ALGS Championship was an incredible spectacle, made even greater by the live crowd, and we all want a piece of the action. What’s wrong with that?
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