by [EmP] heimdelight
And the Caldera looks as hot as ever. On par with Terra Therma, the terrain at the top guarantees slow heat dissipation. From what I can guess from the screenshot on the right, we are looking at the C4/C5 open area, the B4/B5 foggy lake, and the B3 'Mech Factory. The camera seems to be at the D5 ridge.
That being said, we can expect a very similar map layout with the addition of more terrain to make the maps boundaries stretch farther than they did before.
So take these three variables into account: Wide open areas, long distances, differences in elevation. Depending on 8v8 or 12v12, Game Mode, Team Tonnage, or Weight Class Distribution ruled by the league, those three variables will lead you into finding what can work best for a dropdeck and 'Mech.
This is solely my opinion, and doesn't reflect EmP in any way. We all take each other's suggestions into account and during practice, put the ideas into action. These next two paragraphs regarding loadouts and positioning are what I'd theorize are good areas/'Mechs to utilize for a competitive win.
One of my rules of thumb is to shape the dropdeck around initial/secondary positioning. That means, choosing an area that the team will go to, and hopefully engage with favorable position. For low tonnage dropdecks with a lot of lights, mediums, and maybe one or two heavies, weapons with medium/short range become a bit more viable in a game where, majority of the time, both teams end up getting in a brawl. These brawls mostly occur around the middle, "Caldera" section of the map, or on the outskirts of it. That being said, assign a streakboat like a StormCrow (JagerXII has done well in this competitively) to pick off lights, using the ridges to, "Peek Streak", and lights with medium/short range lasers that put out good DPS in hot environments. Other mediums should follow that same thinking, as well as other possible heavies. So my advice, use the outside ridges to get the right positioning. I don't recommend crossing Caldera, since it opens a lot of 'Mechs up to easy focus and peek shots from the enemy. Only sort-of go in if the enemy does, or if you can catch the enemy on really bad low-ground.
For heavier decks, you could go with a few long-range LL/ERLL 'Mechs with Gauss to sit on the outskirts while medium-range 'Mechs control the engagement at the Caldera where the long-ranged 'Mechs are able to cover them. On the Assault-based decks, movement becomes very limited due to the low speed. This coupled with wide open valleys meant teams had to be 100% sure they could rotate into the open to another area without getting shot. Lights on heavier decks should take long-range engagement into consideration, that means RVN-2X or 4X with 3xLL or 2xERLL.
The heavier the deck is, the more you should expect to trade for a decent amount of time.
"Beautification" is the word PGI used to describe what they are doing to maps, and it's the right word - The new Caustic Valley looks gorgeous. However, looks are, as we know, just aesthetic and how the map actually plays out is the important part. I made sure to play it for a few days before giving a complete review, especially since there are a few important things from the preview to touch base on.
First of all, the map layout is essentially the same.
Caldera in the middle, outer ring of cover, main valley around the Caldera, etc. The middle of the Caldera is hot.
Remember those "C" shaped pipes? Well, they don't give nearly as much as a problem as I thought. In fact, only parts are sticking up enough to block any 'Mech movement archetype. The other half of it is buried mostly underground, so you walk over it pretty cleanly. That being said, this pipe will become the least of your worries.
One of the first things you'll notice about the new Caustic is that the outer-rim seems, "closer" to the caldera, and there is slightly more cover out there. I have a feeling this is due to the bulkiness of the caldera itself. Before, the ridge of the caldera was easily traversed, and NASCARing around the center was pretty easy, too. Now, the ridge is filled with tall, jagged rocks that can easily block your 'Mech, and can be utilized as great spots for jump-jet equipped 'Mechs.
Speaking of NASCAR, the new Caustic Valley still has a lot of it. After many PUG playthroughs and testing run-arounds, the large center-focus of the map (with no incentive to be in the hot middle) causes players to rotate around the valley between the caldera and the outer ridges. Often, players stay close to the caldera for cover, since being in an open valley results in death.