Midway through Operation Steel Wave, GGRecon analyses the impact Melusi will have on the competitive Rainbow Six: Siege meta.
With the release of the most recent season of Rainbow Six: Siege (R6:S) Operation Steel Wave (Y5S2), came two new operators, Ace, the Search-and-Rescue expert who is also handy with the best weapon in the game round-for-round, and Melusi, the protector of wildlife, hunter of poachers and all-round badass. Ace's gadget brings a whole new hard breach into the mix - and a well-balanced one at that. His gadget, similarly to Hibana's, allows him to deploy at range by throwing it, and opens the affected wall slowly enough to be easily Bandit, Kaid or impact-tricked, or even just outright shot out.
Melusi's gadget, however, is a whole different story.
A large, deployable proximity alarm that emits a notable droning tone upon contact with an enemy, the gadget also emits a slowdown effect on any operators that are within its range. This slowdown is comparable to Clashes CCE Shield when fired, just without the dealing of electric shock damage. Whilst on paper, it may sound balanced - in practice, it tends to be a little more difficult to overcome than the description alludes to. Bulletproof and anchorable to both floors and walls, the gadget is vulnerable to melee (which requires a brave soul to push through the slowdown and audio cues to attempt to disable it) and is also vulnerable to grenades of all kinds, as well as explosive and concussion gadgets. If the meta of Siege were different, and the myriad of strong defensive options was less broad and expansive, the gadget could be possibly be considered balanced. However, we are now over 50 operators deep into the game and firmly entrenched in the 20-second meta.
What makes Melusi unbearably OP is not only what the Banshee does, but what it denies an attacking team. To safely take one Banshee off the board, the attackers must sacrifice a key piece of utility, or risk great personal harm to clear a path to the objective. This can range from Zofia and Ashes breaching rounds, to Sledge's frag grenades, and more. One Banshee demands the attention of one or more attackers to safely dispose of from range, potentially more if the device must be destroyed in melee. This also occupies time, with those precious seconds being vital to the success or failure of a round in the current meta - and that brings us nicely to two very important points. Firstly, Melusi currently has three Banshee gadgets. The amount of utility required to dispose of three Banshees is equivalent to 30% of an attacking team's utility, assuming every operator has usable explosives.
Given that many attackers will take claymores or pick operators that serve purposes other than utility drain, that percentage becomes significantly higher. Secondly, all the above assumes the use of Melusi in isolation. What it does not cover so far is the usage of Jager and Wamai gadgets to protect the devices from throwables, the usage of Goyo's Volcan shields and Maestro's Evil-Eye cameras, the usage of Castle barricades and even utilities such as barbed wire and deployable shields. All of these defensive gadgets and utilities can combine in a broad variety of ways which has led to the so-called '20-second meta' (or more unreservedly, comments equating R6:S to ‘Utility Drain Simulator 2020').
Melusi in her current form, if released for use in the competitive arena, will serve only to swing the meta further in favour of defenders. This will be a huge detriment to predominantly frag-heavy teams such as this season's G2 superstack and will slow the game down again. Whilst it could lead to more last-second clutch situations, which are undeniably exciting, the frequency with which these situations take place will increase and thus the hype that a last-second clutch play generates will deliver diminishing returns.
Lion, when he was released in Operation Chimera (Y3S1), completely disrupted the meta and was an ever-present in Pro League. He made it incredibly difficult for defenders to roam, lent great strength to an attacking side and solidified the meta for a season. Melusi could do something similar, solidifying the 20-second meta for seasons to come without major reworking. Whilst it is reasonable to assume that she will be subject to a number of bans from attacking teams, that opens up the potential for one or both of Mira and Echo to step back into the playable operator meta, and so even if Melusi doesn’t directly affect the 20-second meta with her own devices, by occupying a ban slot, she allows Yokai drones and Mira windows into the mix once more, powerful operators that in their own way contribute to the R6:S 20-second meta.
Another thing that adds to the increasingly defender-sided meta is the addition of proximity alarms. Great intelligence-gathering tools for defenders, these devices can be shot, struck, destroyed by grenades or otherwise detonated via the same means as most deployables that aren’t operator gadgets. However, the shrill beep that an alarm emits when crossed is enough to swing a round in the defender's favour, with not only the intelligence factor but also the psychological factor of 'oh god, they know where I am' and finally the physical factor of turning and shooting to disable the device.
Whilst Melusi is a sign of defensive fortitude being bolstered and expanded in competitive R6:S, it does open some interesting ban options. Echo and Mira will likely no longer be the immediate, go-to, staple picks in most levels of ranked and competitive. We will see more site-changing Mira windows and last-second Echo clutches taking place.
However, ways and means of countering Melusi must be at the forefront of every coach and analysts' mind now. With Ying recently being buffed, Fuze receiving a buff and most teams defining their defence by defending their utilities rather than doorways and entrances, a Jager ban can really shake things up and is now potentially the winning play. Removing Jager's ADS's allows grenade-wielding operators the chance to shine, in a meta where the wasting of grenades and other utilities is a core component of any strategy, the removal of the ability to defend utility will surely be even more paramount to success. With bullets being rendered ineffectual by Melusi's Banshee, will her arrival only strengthen the 20-second meta, or be the straw that breaks its back and leads us to a throwable-dominant meta? Will the player’s ability to ban operators be its own balancing tool, or will the meta continue to slow down the game further and further?
Only time will tell.
Images via GINX | Ubisoft