And your ranked games might be next.
If youre an Apex Legends fan, youve probably been here before: a final zone out in the open, with little to no cover to hide behind. One team holds the god spot while the zone begins to close, forcing the other surviving squads out into the open. You do your best to scramble to an undersized rock or box, but it turns out you’re just easy pickings for the winning squad, who collect the win as you get sent back to the lobby.
Its a common-enough scenario most Apex players can relate to and one that plays itself out far more often at the highest competitive levels of the game, like the Apex Legends Global Series. And while there have been several legends that have sought to remedy the problem of not having any cover to play safely behind in the past, most of those characters have been stop-gaps at best. Theyre legends like Gibraltar and Newcastle, whose cover only lasts a limited amount of time for players to play behind.
But a new legend is creeping into the meta and into ALGS team comps lately, one that solves that problem without the need for solid cover at all: Catalyst.
Catalyst wasnt considered very powerful by most of the games top players when she entered the game on Nov. 1. Many were hoping her abilities would completely counter Seer, which turned out not to be the case since Seers ultimate can still reveal enemies beyond Catalysts Dark Veil ultimate. As such, many teams left her by the wayside, even after her ultimate received fixes to ensure Bloodhound scans and Seers heart sensor passive ability couldnt work through the wall. Seer, many pros argued, was just too powerful, and Catalyst couldnt do enough compared to the information Seer could provide and the attacking and rotational utility of characters like Valkyrie and Horizon, or the defensive prowess of Wattson.
Lately, however, Catalyst has been spotted in several pro team comps, and a few teams have already brought her out in ALGS play. APAC North was one of the first regions to get in on the Catalyst action before EMEA tried it out as well. But is the Defensive Conjurer strong enough throughout the game to justify her spot in the meta? Or is she just another experiment that teams will abandon?
Aurora, the former Major Pushers/Team Empire squad, have long been known as a team unafraid of running off-meta team compositions. Notable for succeeding with Bangalore and Mad Maggie comps in year two of ALGS, they were among the first in EMEA to bring out Catalyst in the competition. And the team has demonstrated one of the things that Catalyst is best at, regardless of if she stops scans: denying space to enemy teams.
In the clip above, Aurora have a player out and Horizon Union are a full three-man squad. Using Dark Veil to cut the final zone in half, Aurora eliminate Horizon Unions ability to use their numbers advantage and surround them. Instead, Horizon Union tries to swing around the side of the wall just before the final zone cuts them off, and two players get downed because of it. Suddenly, the numbers advantage is on Auroras side, and even though both their players are low, its almost impossible for Horizon Unions last player to push forward and take advantage of that since theyd need to go through the wall to do so or slowly boost up over it with Valkyries jet pack. No matter what option they take, Aurora still have the advantage, and they cleaned up the game because of it.
Soon enough, North American squads were trying out Catalyst as well, including TSM.
In this endgame from Esports Arenas Series E tournament, ImperialHal turns an entire section of open and unplayable land into free real estate for TSM by using the Dark Veil. While the other two remaining teams in the shrinking final ring are subsequently forced to fight on the other side of the wall, TSM are free to throw grenades and shoot in at them, and use a Horizon gravity lift to get angles above the wall. Verhulst even throws out a Black Hole ultimate on TSMs side of the Catalyst ultimate, which pulls players through the Dark Veil, slowing and blinding them.
Put all that together and its easy to see why Catalyst has been spotted in more and more teams as of late. Thats not to say shes a perfect character or at the top of the meta, however.
Catalyst shines in the endgame and in tight spaces. Out in the open during rotations, however, she doesnt offer as much to a team, especially on more open maps like Storm Point. When shes not locking down doors and dissuading enemy pushes with Piercing Spikes, she takes on something akin to Caustics old role in ALGS play: a powerful endgame ability kit that needs to be carried a bit by teammates in getting there.
The ultimate isnt perfect in endgames, either. While the Dark Veil ultimate obscures vision and can deny space to enemies, that might not matter if your entire team gets scanned from behind the ultimate with a Seer ultimate. That exact scenario happened to FURIA as they tried to fend off Sentinels and NRG in an endgame.
While the Catalyst ultimate does well to trap Sentinels and give FURIA a place to play from that previously would just be out in the open, NRGs Seer ultimate instantly reveals FURIA from behind the wall. And if a team can track you with a Seer ult, the Dark Veil doesnt matter very much. Bullets pass through it like its thin air and now the Catalyst team is put at a disadvantage by the Dark Veil since they cant see beyond it from their side.
Still, there are remedies to Catalysts weak points as a character. Valkyrie is an obvious character choice since she can make life easier for a full team rotating by giving everyone in her squad the gift of flight (or at least falling with style). Horizon is a good pair as well, using her Gravity Lift to give Catalyst another movement option. And pairing Seer with Catalyst can make life very easy for a team if theres no Seer ultimate available on the opposite side of a Dark Veil.
While Catalyst might not become meta in the sense that Valkyrie or Gibraltar once were, shes not going away anytime soon. At one point, the pro Apex meta dealt heavily in absolutes: Wraith, Wattson, and Pathfinder, then Gibraltar, then Valkyrie and Caustic. These days, that sort of absolutism is gone and the diversity of team compositions opens the door for Catalyst (provided she doesnt barricade it first). While her abilities might not shine as much in the early and mid-game, her ability to turn unplayable ground into winning positions for teams in the endgame makes her valuable enough that it would be surprising to see no one give her more chances as the first ALGS split winds down.
Despite the fast judgment that Catalyst wasnt very useful outside of her ability to hold doorways, it seems the newest character in Apex will be in vogue as ALGS teams careen toward their regional finals and the Split One Playoffs LAN beyond that. And a changing, diverse meta is always exciting to play and watch.