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Natural Selection Wiki
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Matched Play (aka Darwin's Thunderdome, Thunderdome, TD) is the automated matchmaking system in Natural Selection 2 introduced in Build 337. It was first officially mentioned in a Blog Post in March 2020. Testing began in early 2021 and by summer 2021 UWE released a Q&A.
The game mode is purely 6v6. The system automatically groups 12 players based on their geographic location and their Hive Skill, with the aim of normalizing latency among all clients. Matched Play ranks and skills will use the player’s current community rank until that player’s first Matched Play round is finished. Afterwards, the Matched Play skill-ranks will be handled separately. Map Voting is a priority-choice system, which means your first choice (of max 3) gets the greatest weight. Based on the choices all players that voted for at least 1 map and locked their vote the system chooses one map according to weighted votes.

With Build 343 Matched Play saw its full release. This came among other things with a great increase in server performance and fully functioning Group system. Also more Votes are available while on the Server. The intermission can be skipped via Vote, and if a Player leaves for whatever reason this will trigger a vote to draw the Match upon the start of the next round.

Getting into a match

Matched Play

From the Main Menu, clicking PLAY opens the Play Menu and selecting MATCHED PLAY will open a Menu with three options: Search, Group, and Private.

Search: will start a search for a public Lobby. If no Lobby can be found within a reasonable geographical distance and skill level a new one is created.
Group: will bring you to the Group Screen which allows you to invite one or two friends to play with. After at least one other player has joined, the Group Leader can search for a match. There can only be a maximum of two Groups in one Lobby and no more than one Group per team. Players that are part of the same Group will play on the same team. If the Group cannot find an appropriate public Lobby, they will start a new one. If two or more members of the same Group volunteer to command, the Lobby does not progress beyond Waiting for Commanders unless someone outside this Group volunteered too.
Private: will start a Private Lobby. This Lobby functions very similar to the regular Lobby, with the two major differences being that a Private Lobby can only be entered via Invite (this means no Groups can enter a Private Lobby, and games in Private Lobbies do not count towards Matched Play Rewards.

Upon entering a Lobby, each player can volunteer to play as Commander. Once volunteered, the decision is final and cannot be reverted. If more than two players volunteer, the system selects two out of the volunteers. The process will not progress unless there are 12 players in the Lobby and at least 2 have volunteered to play as Commander.
After volunteering to command or after 2 Commanders have been chosen, players can vote for Maps. Each player can select up to 3 Maps in descending order of preference, including a Random Map. The system picks the Map with the most votes (weighted by preference). Once the Map Vote is locked, it is final and cannot be changed. After 75% of players voted on maps, a timer starts limiting the time for the remaining players to vote.
From there on the Lobby progresses to the Planning Phase where the players see which players were shuffled onto their team, which map was selected, which side they are going to play first and which second. Field players (of both teams) can also select their preferred Lifeforms. This has no direct effect on the game, and is just a tool to help organize the team strategy. The chat in the Planning Phase is invisible to the opposing team.
During the Planning Phase, a server is spun up and once that is done, the players will automatically connect to it. After a short waiting period to give players a chance to connect, all players are sorted to their respective team, commanders are automatically put in the command structure, and the round starts. After the first round, teams are swapped automatically after a short break in the Ready Room. After the second round, players are given a short time to look at the post game stats and say their goodbyes before the server shuts down automatically and everyone is sent back to the main menu.

Stages of a Lobby


Players who intentionally leave an ongoing match will be penalized from using the feature, so as to encourage players to not create a detrimental experience for their teammates whom they match with.

  • 1st penalty is for 1 hour
  • 2nd penalty within 7 days time is 3 hours
  • 3rd penalty within 7 days time is 24 hours
  • 4th penalty within 7 days time is 3 days
  • 5th penalty within 7 days time is 7 days
  • If any incident occurs it resets the 7 day clock! So if your 2nd penalty occurs on the 6th day, you have another 7 days you have to complete without incident again, else you get the 3rd penalty.
  • Penalties are sequential in both directions, earned and lost. So without further incident within that rolling 7 day period your status will revert to the prior penalty step. Meaning if you’ve earned the maximum 7 day ban it would take 4 weeks to essentially “reset” your penalty level to 0, but you would be able to use the system again as soon as the first 7 days passed. But should you have another incident soon after that, it would go right back to a 7 day penalty

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List of Flavor Text during Server spinup  

Reticulating Splines
Overclocking The Mainframe
Retro Encabulator Vanes Warming
Readying Ready Room
Recalibrating Phase Matrix
Adjusting Flux Capacitor
Buying Aurora Tickets
Programming MAC Coffee Routine
Charging Sentry Batteries
Refueling The Jetpacks
Changing Exosuit Oil
Restocking The Thirsty Onos
Unpacking The Mines
Nanite Server Cooling Initiated
Infesting Network Cables
Computing Solution 42
Negotiating With HAL
Calibrating Dropship Flight Plan
Putting Nutrients In The Mist
Unwelding The Vents
Herding The Nanites
Fading Through Folded Space
Relocating The Dope Fish
Bulk Ordering Clogs
Finding The Lost Babblers
Generating Gorge Love
Restocking The Armory
Containerizing Alien Eggs
Refilling Shade Ink


This is a list of all balance changes exclusive to Matched Play:

Variable Regular Matched Play
Max number of Web charges 3 1
Gorge Base Health 160 190
Cyst build time 4.5 seconds 3.3 seconds
Aura reveals Health Yes No
ARCs Health / Armor 2600 / 400 2000 / 500
Maximum number of ARCs 5 4


You can earn rewards for playing Matched Play, after unlocking the Rewards Screen. The rewards are awarded for Playtime on the field and as Commander, and for victories on the field and as Commander. The rewards can be either Skins, Badges, or Calling Cards.

Full reward list


Calling Cards

Calling Cards are images shown to a player on their death screen.

Calling Card Name Optained
Skulk Huggies Skulk Huggies 3 Wins in Matched Play.
Dont Blink Don't Blink! 7 Wins in Matched Play.
Baby Marine Baby Marine 13 Wins in Matched Play.
For Science For Science 15 Commander Wins in Matched Play.
Locked and Loaded Locked and Loaded 17 Wins in Matched Play.
Mad Axe Gorge Mad Axe Gorge 9 Hours of Playtime in Matched Play.
Also rewards a Shoulder Patch.
Ned Rage Ned Rage 23 Wins in Matched Play.
Turbo Drifter Turbo Drifter 25 Commander Wins in Matched Play.
Urpa Booty Urpa Booty 27 Wins in Matched Play.
Sad Babbler Sad Babbler 33 Wins in Matched Play.
A Job Weld Done A Job WELD Done! 37 Wins in Matched Play.
Balance Gorge Balance Gorge 43 Wins in Matched Play.
Lork L0rk 47 Wins in Matched Play.
Lazy Gorge Lazy Gorge 55 Wins in Matched Play.
Battle Gorge Battle Gorge 60 Commandr Wins in Matched Play.
Skulk Slippers Skulk Slippers 70 Wins in Matched Play.
Shadow Fade Shadow Fade 75 Wins in Matched Play.
Burnout Fade Burnout Fade 85 Wins in Matched Play.
Over 9000 Degrees Over 9000 Degrees 90 Wins in Matched Play.
Lerked Lerked 200 Wins in Matched Play.
Gorge Table Flip Gorge Table Flip 250 Wins in Matched Play.
Angry Onos Angry Onos 350 Wins in Matched Play.
Oh Noes Oh Noes 400 Wins in Matched Play.
Shoulder Patches
Calling Card Name Optained
Eat Your Greens Eat Your Greens Owning the Eat Your Greens Shoulder Patch.
Kodiak Kodiak Owning the Kodiak Shoulder Patch.
Reaper Reaper Owning the Reaper Shoulder Patch.
Tundra Tundra Owning the Tundra Shoulder Patch.
Reaper Leviathan Reaper Leviathan Owning the Reaper Leviathan Shoulder Patch.
Peeper Peeper Owning the Peeper Shoulder Patch.
Summer Gorge Summer Gorge Owning the Summer Gorge Shoulder Patch.
Pumpkin Patch Pumpkin Patch Owning the Pumpkin Patch Shoulder Patch.
Haunted Babbler Haunted Babbler Owning the Haunted Babbler Shoulder Patch.
Reinforced Reinforced Owning the Reinforced Shoulder Patch.
Reinforced Elite Reinforced Elite Owning the Reinforced Elite Shoulder Patch.
Godar Godar Owning the Godar Shoulder Patch.
Saunamen Saunamen Owning the Saunamen Shoulder Patch.
Titus Gaming Titus Gaming Owning the Titus Gaming Shoulder Patch.
Legendary Snails Legendary Snails Owning the Legendary Snails Shoulder Patch.
World Championship 2014 World Championship 2014 For owning the World Championship 2014 Shoulder Patch.
Calling Card Name Optained
Natural Causes Natural Causes Cannot be Optained. Shown when dying to Natural Causes.
Babbler Surprise Babbler Surprise Cannot be Optained. Was cut from the game.
Chroma Onos Chroma Onos Cannot be Optained. Was cut from the game.
Pudgey Pudgey Cannot be Optained. Was cut from the game.