Tournament map systems continue to be the hot button issue of December as we wake up to news of a bizarre u-turn by Intel Extreme Masters, who have been forced to institute fixed maps for their $100,000 IEM Gyeonggi Overwatch Invitational set to commence Friday 16th December.

Coming only hours after their previous announcement, the IEM news post offered the following:

"Rulings 9.1.1, 9.1.4, and 9.1.5 in the original IEM Season 11 rulebook incorrectly stipulated an Overwatch map pool and map selection process that wasn’t in compliance with Blizzard’s tournament specifications. The process has since been adjusted, and the revised map pool for the Overwatch IEM Gyeonggi Invitational is as follows:"

The original map draft system was to use a reduced pool of nine maps. The new changes see Eichenwalde, Volskaya Industries and Numbani re-added to the map pool, whilst King's Row, Dorado and Temple of Anubis are removed to maintain the same total. The new official map pool is as follows:

  • Hanamura
  • Volskaya Industries
  • Watchpoint: Gibraltar
  • Route 66
  • Lijiang Tower
  • Ilios
  • Numbani
  • Hollywood
  • Eichenwalde

The map presets for the five fixtures are shown below:

Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Game 4 Game 5
Misfits vs. Lunatic.Hai Hollywood Volskaya Lijiang Route 66 Numbani
Luxury Watch Red vs. Kongdoo Panthera Eichenwalde Hanamura Ilios Gibraltar Numbani
Winner Match One vs. Afreeca Freecs Blue Gibraltar Ilios Hanamura Hollywood Lijiang
Winner Match Two vs. Rogue Route 66 Lijiang Volskaya Eichenwalde Ilios
Grand Finals Hollywood Eichenwalde Lijiang Route 66 Gibraltar

Although we see different maps for fixtures in the same round, there is a method to the madness where each game in a series is tied to a specific game mode. Certain map pairings being switched around between the quarters and the semis, so whether you start on the left or right of the bracket you will see comparatively similar maps.

Interestingly the new system means that the teams seeded to the semifinals only have to play 7 of the 9 maps at most in order to win, whilst all other competitors will potentially have to play all 9 maps en route to a championship victory. Rogue will not have to play Numbani or Hanamura, whilst Afreeca Freecs Blue will avoid Volskaya Industries and Numbani.

The change to fixed maps may actually prove to be a boon to the newborn European teams who now have a much more focused practice schedule for their opening fixtures in addition to time saved no longer needing to study or practise map draft.

In the grander scheme Blizzard are clearly attempting to put their foot down on the issue of map drafts and have ended any speculation as to who exactly had been forcing these rules. IEM Gyeonggi joins MLG Vegas and NGE's Winter Premiere on the list of $100,000 fixed map tournaments set to commence in December.