Apex Legends, like all live service games, has an ever-shifting meta. Whether that's the best guns changing with patches and balances or new Legends coming in strong and immediately topping our tier list before getting nerfed to oblivion (looking at you, Seer), things change and there's nothing we can do to change that.
But it's not all about keeping your eye on the patch notes to see what's been buffed; for example, the Longbow currently feels pretty strong, despite a nerf not too long ago. But that's not the point, you can also work out the meta by simply playing the game - and especially at the highest level. Take to the higher end of the Apex Legends ranked ladder or tune into the ALGS Qualifiers and you'll see things that you had never even thought of before.
The latest meta craze in the Apex Legends Global Series is a combination of Valkyrie and Caustic - usually ran with the competitive staple of Gibraltar. Valkyrie's ability to swiftly reposition combined with Caustic's toxic defenses is brutal, and players have worked out exactly how to use and abuse the duo.
Valkyrie and Caustic Is the Latest Apex Legends Meta Combo, and It Sucks
13 of the squads in the NA ALGS Qualifier 3 Finals were using a Valkyrie/Caustic/Gibraltar lineup, with Season 9's high flyer featuring on another couple of squads. The era of Bloodhound is clearly over, despite their ongoing Old Ways, New Dawn lore event, as the tracker was only picked by one NA squad, Noble, this weekend.
Caustic dominance is nothing new, but this is the first time the professor of poison has been so readily accepted on North American shores. He was quickly adopted by EMEA squads throughout the first year of ALGS action, and Athaim's NutsuruSama was awarded the Apex Predator of the APAC South ALGS Chmapionship as Caustic.
However, the new meta combo gives many more options to the bad doctor's arsenal. Rotating early with Valkyrie can let you hunker down in zone and build an impenetrable fortress of gas traps. A Missile Swarm, Nox Gas Grenade, and Orbital Bombardment can deal huge damage (and stuns) to opponents without firing a single bullet. But one technique is the most efficient, and the most broken.
If you land out of bounds with Valkyrie, you have 15 seconds to return to the playable field. This was recently reduced from 30 seconds, but it still seems too much. 15 seconds is more than enough time to pop a Phoenix Kit, to unload a few R-301 magazines into the heads of unsuspecting teams below, or to drop a Nox Gas Grenade onto a team and watch your enemies scatter. Drop down after, and you only need to do minimal damage to win the fight.
This tactic is everywhere in competitive Apex Legends at the moment - from the smallest teams to ImperialHal's TSM. And while manipulating your surroundings to your advantage is an important part of battle royale games, abusing the out of bounds timer ultimately feels cheap.
Of course, it doesn't come without its risks, but the potential rewards are far greater than the chance of coming face to face with Martin 'gdolphn' Skrydstrup's Sentinel:
Caustic offers a different, defensive playstyle that is important for players to have as a valid option. It could be argued that a movement meta would be more fun to watch (RevTane excepted), but having a balanced roster of Legends with varied playstyles can only help create more interesting tournaments. That said, the sheer lobbies full of Caustics can feel dull at times.
Caustic has played an important role in Apex Legends esports to date, and it looks like his alllyship with Valkyrie will keep him in the relevant conversations as we launch into the Pro League lobbies of ALGS Year 2. But something needs to be done about the out of bounds strategy that can be so easily abused.