The 10 most competitive Maps in AoE2:DE

Arena and (especially) Arabia are the two maps that see the most competitive play in tournaments and high Elo ranked games. Therefore the Devs made them permanent maps for ranked play.

But what map is number 3? And what maps follow up?
To find an answer I looked at the map list of all “S Tier” tournaments that took place since the release of DE. (I excluded tournaments like KotD3 which only featured Arabia and the Deathmatch tournament). Overall I made 5 lists for each: Nilis Apartment Cup 3, Hidden Cup 3, Red Bull Wololo 1-3, Battle of Africa 2 and 2v2 World Cup. (I treated all 3 Wololo tournaments as one list…).

Each time a map was on the map list for a tournament I gave it a point. I also gave each map that is one of the 10most played 1v1 ranked maps a point (according to
I also grouped similar maps together.

According to those points I made a list of the most competitive Maps:

  1. Arabia
  2. Arena
  3. Golden Pit / Gold Rush (5 points)
    4-5) 4 Lakes [Cross] (4 points)
    4-5) Akropolis / Team Akropolis (4 points)
    6-7) Hideout (3 points)
    6-7) Islands / Team Islands (3 points)
    8-13) Land Madness (2 points)
    8-13) Valley (2 points)
    8-13) Golden Swamp / Cup (2 points)
    8-13) Ghost Lake (2 points)
    8-13) Sokotra / NotSokotra (2 points)
    8-13) El Dorado (2 points)

Honourable Mentions:
Chaos Pit (seen in a loot of lower tier tournaments, but more of a team game map)
Cenotes (was once created to be the ultimate competitive map but never got to the same status as Arabia)
Fortress ( is usually played in the Regicide game mode)

Ok. Now we got 13 Maps in my list. Many occupy the same slots.
Can you guys help me sort them from 1 to 10?
What map should be placed higher?
Which 3 maps don’t deserve a spot in the top 10?
Would you want the places 3-5 to also be permanently available in matchmaking just like Arabia and Arena?

-forgot “El Dorado”, added it to the list…

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Land Madness is the only map that is not one of the standard maps right now. Does that mean it should stay out of the list? Or ask the Devs to finally include it in the game?

Oh, oh, do that second one.

Land Madness is essentially the no walls mod of maps. It’s not for everybody or every situation, but similar to more closed maps like Arena I think this extra open map has a spot for it in the scene.

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Serengeti is pretty competitive as it’s like Arabia but almost impossible to wall.

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Yes, Serengeti is also a good map. It was only used in one of the big tournaments, that’s why it’s not on my list. I would like to see it in the ranked map pool more often :slight_smile:

i wouldn’t have any of the standard DE maps in my top 10. they don’t have enough choices

a competitive map needs a counter-strategy for everything. for instance, offense beats expansion; defense beats offense; expansion beats defense. and the best strategy needs to vary based on the game situation / map generation / scouting / what opponents are doing

the fullwall maps will never be “most competitive” because nothing counters expansion

the water-dominated maps don’t work because offense and defense aren’t really separate concepts. and you kind of just do the same thing every time without any counterplay

the close-spawn maps don’t always support defense or expansion, and they become too much about laming. defense doesn’t mean walls. defense means using the time it takes the enemy to walk to your town to end up with a bigger/better army

that leaves open land maps and hybrid maps

arabia (or some clone of it) might eventually become top 10 (for 1v1) depending on how the game balance changes. the map is too barren/empty, so focusing on castle/imperial is not a good fit for what the map actually contains. if expansion was outward/forward instead of inward/backward, then it might be top 10, but when all the resources are behind walls in your base there’s not enough counterplay/variety

i wish all the different arabia clones in DE were more about creating different situations based on where resources are rather than just being about slightly different ways to build walls. the minor differences in the maps don’t really add much if the whole problem is that you never have to leave your base for anything because wood is inside, gold is inside, and farming is the only food source

acropolis does at least force outward expansion, but the map is too much like a scenario instead of a random map. gold rush is kinda similar

land madness was created to avoid the wall/FC monotony that arabia had turned into. but i made that map long before franks were given so many stacked bonuses, so it’s hard to recommend it for the current state of DE

so for DE balance, my top 10 maps would just be 10 hybrid maps. unfortunately the ones included with the game aren’t good enough

maybe nomad (before they turned it into a scenario) could have been a top 10 teamgame map, but it’s not a good 1v1 map with the DE water balance

four lakes / golden swamp / hamburger are more like scenarios rather than random maps
scandinavia / continental are too easy to wall
islands / team islands / migration / mediterranean / baltic are too water-dominated
archipelago / coastal are not balanced enough


Megarandom is the best

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Offtopic but Nomad is my favorite map, I wouldn’t mind if it would be the 3rd permanent map in the ranked pool

Honestly 1v1 nomad is pretty bad from a competitive standpoint.

It’s not bad but has some issues… deers generation is sometimes quite unbalanced (often one player can take berries + 1 group of deers with just one mill while the other can’t), in general I don’t really like food distribution, I’d prefer a standard 2 elephant + 3-4 deers like in arabia. Sometimes pond generation is unbalanced too.

I understand your concern. When evaluating maps from a purely objective view on the random map generation I would also not include all those standard maps. There have been better ones created for tournaments.
However, my list tries to find what the general playerbase might perceive as being the most competitive maps (and that are the maps they recognise from seeing pros play on them in tournaments).

It used to be the case:
If you want to perform on a high level in AoE2 -> you have to master Arabia.
That’s why Arabia has an 80% playrate in high level 1v1 ranked.

What I would like to see:
If you want to perform on a high level in AoE2 -> you have to master all of the top maps.

But there has to be a general consensus on what the top maps are!

Megarandom has been streamlined and now has a lot less random starts then it used to have in order to make it more palatable for ranked play. I don’t really agree with that trend. I think they should reverse the changes and make it more random again. But they should make it a top map for quickplay, not ranked…

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How about this idea:
We abandon random resource generation maps, and create standard maps like Starcraft 2 but with very little variation. Deer etc spawn location is fixed. They still move around but you know where they are. Tree clumps, gold, stone etc are also in fixed location.

Instead of having Arabia, we have tournament Arabia without any map generation variables. We have tournament arena without variation. This would ensure maps are absolutely fair for all players.

I know random generation is fun and was the way to play it in the past 20 years. But when fairness is the priority, randomness needs to go.

For the topic, I think the most competitive map are Arabia and all of its variants. Open map and hard to wall promotes aggression and mobility, which is exciting for people watching and casting the match. Aggressive play style can also secure more areas and more res than turtling and playing defensive.

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Not a fan of this idea in the slightest

Maybe just an custom map like “Mirror Arabia”, but no, a grade of randomness is good for gaming. This is not chess, its AoE

I get your point but I don’t think it will ever happen in Age of Empires 2. Maps like that have existed for 20years but they never really caught on.
It’s quite easy to make “mirror maps” in the scenario editor but they have been mostly used in “fun” community teamgames. Though there also exist some competitivly used maps like Cup which always come in the same shape… But the Devs almost never implement those fixed maps into the game.

My problem with maps that are very similar to Arabia is that most people see them as pointless and just play Arabia.
I think an alternative like 4 Lakes is much more interesting. It is also an open and aggressive map but it comes with a completely different meta. Different Strategies, different build orders and other civs are stronger on this map.

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I feel like random map generation is tied into the gameplay of AoE2 deep enough that if you change it you change other things quite fundamentally. Most of the dark age is more or less the same each game, so what you’re doing in that time is thinking about how to do it on this map. You have a starting scout, you use it to find your resources, retrieve the sheep, and maybe boar or deer too, find where the enemy lives, find his resources, see if he throws up a barracks and maybe then see if he starts walling. Those last too are still kind of useful on a fixed map, and technically you could still need to retrieve sheep too, but that would be more of a chore than an act of scouting. A randomly generated mirror map would change the gameplay a lot less, but if this game would transition to fixed maps I would personally advocate for removing much of the dark age. There’s no point in it.

I also think fixed maps would centralize the meta even more. AoE2 would become more of a solved game, as it takes away one of the reasons for variation. Your base is horribly open? You go aggressive. It’s not fair, but it is kind of fun to sometimes have to change your plan based on the map. This impact too is less with random mirror maps. Sure, you always know that if your map is bad so is his, so there is less variation, but it’s more then none.

That reminds me, I had to go find that mirror map showmatch/tournament I heard about a while back. I’m actually kind of curious what that was like. But in all honestly I kind of like the mildly random non-mirrored maps we’re used to just fine.

Edit: I guess mirrored random maps would be kind of decent on variety, as you can mirror on any of four axis (horizontal and vertical are functionally the same, as are the two diagonals, but it will add more doubt in figuring out which axis it is this time) and you could have generations that are staight up mirrored (if you have a forward gold on your right flank theirs is near it on their left flank) and rotated (if you have a forward gold on your right flank theirs is on the other side on their right flank). That could maybe work…

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lol. the game mode is called Random Map, not fixed map

aoe2 already supports completely symmetrical scenario maps. you can play those if you want. you will find that they are very shallow and repetitive because age of empires does not have good unit balance and variety like starcraft does. once you find the best build order with the best civ, you can do it every single time because the game doesn’t have any disruptive options

if we had flying units like starcraft and asymmetric civilizations and didn’t start with the fastest unit in the game to get nearly complete information about what opponents are doing, then maybe it would work. but the game isn’t even close to any of those things

after you lose in a RTS, you want players to be able to figure out what they could have done differently or what weaknesses their opponent’s plan had. aoe2 on static maps will be full of build orders that don’t have counters and mirror matches

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I think there is a middle ground between fixed maps and “why does my island have less gold and wood” maps.

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