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Opening Thoughts

Whats up guys and gals, CaptainPlanet here to present the Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report: Don’t Panic. This week, I’m not gonna lie: the Meta does not look so good. After last week’s record-setting number of F Tier Heroes, this week managed to add another to the grouping of Heroes with under 5% usage (and further muck up my infographic templates). Fear not! While the “Defense” Heroes have been stuck in the Overwatch “basement” for some time, many of the Heroes who have now joined them have the potential to climb back into relevance with a few minor tweaks. With Season 2 of Ranked Play looming on the horizon, it’s far too early to call the Meta broken just yet. Don’t Panic.

As always, Raw Data for this and subsequent charts can be found HERE . The data is now presented as separate sheets for each Map, for better and more detailed tracking. A Summary Sheet can also be found HERE but its much less pretty. REMINDER: This Data was collected from the Eleague Qualifiers Week 2 (NA + EU), where 1 Hero Limit, and Stopwatch Format was used for Payload Maps

THE TIERS

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S Tier (>=95% Usage Rate*): Zenyatta, Lucio

A Tier (>80% Usage Rate):

B Tier (>50% Usage Rate):Zarya, McCree, Reinhardt

C Tier (>20% Usage Rate): Genji, Reaper, Winston, Tracer

D Tier (>5% Usage Rate): D.Va, Roadhog

F Tier (<5 % Usage Rate): Widowmaker, Ana, Soldier 76, Mercy, Symmetra, Bastion, Mei, Pharah, Hanzo, Torbjorn, Junkrat

*What is Usage Rate? For every match, I record the time spent on each Hero and divide it by that match’s total time duration. Each of these Data points (a number from 0-1) are then summed across all sides of all matches, then divided by the total number of sides and converted to a percentage to produce a Hero’s overall Usage Rate.

The Tier Ranges I’ve chosen** reflect different states of “Balance” in the Meta. This week, the Meta that is being analyzed is the Meta of 1 Hero Limit, and Stopwatch Scoring for successful attacks on Payload Maps.


S Tier “The Overpowered Heroes”

Discord Orb. Speed Boost. These are the abilities that we will all look back on as the elements that define the Meta of Overwatch Season 1. Pro teams are experimenting with faster and faster lineups, leaving little room for any other Support classes. Speed Boost puts the pedal to the metal for these rush strats, while Discord Orb functions as a nitrous boost by enabling easy picks. These two healers’ dominance is a product of the current Meta – one that favors their unique set of skills. From new player to pro alike: if you want to win, make sure you have a Lucio and a Zenyatta on your squad.

A Tier “The Core Heroes”

For the second week in a row, a top-heavy Meta has siphoned away usage and picks that would normally help to produce A Tier “Core Heroes”. Perhaps we should not be so worried by the lack of A Tier Heroes because if any Heroes reach >80% usage ion the future, one of the following things has to happen:

  • Zenyatta or Lucio loses ground to Ana and/or Mercy – good for the Meta, but unlikely at the moment.

  • Zarya, Reinhardt, or Winston gains more ground at the expense of the other Tanks – bad for the Meta, as it will mark the continued reduction of “Tank parity” that the Meta initially demonstrated after Ana’s release

  • McCree, Genji, Reaper, or Tracer gains ground at the expense of other DPS – bad for the Meta, as it represents a further polarization towards particular “solved” DPS Heroes, feeding into the idea that one DPS or group of DPS Heroes are better than the rest

B Tier “The Favorites”

Reinhardt made a comeback this week, barging back into the B Tier due mostly in part to a significant reduction in king of the hill matches played in this week’s dataset. For whatever reason, pros banned king of the hill maps at a much higher rate in this weekend’s qualifiers than last – the very same maps where no one would be caught dead playing a Reinhardt. Per this week’s Win Shares data, it seems that Reinhardt is still a liability on Offense – teams may want to swap off him sooner or simply start matches with a Zarya, this week’s highest non-Lucio, non-Zenyatta Hero in terms of usage. McCree anchored the B Tier, although he’s been steadily losing ground since his “re-tooling”.

C Tier “The Balanced Heroes”

Genji and Reaper held steady this week both in Tier and in Usage as Overwatch’s “second-class” or “map-dependent” DPS. Tracer’s ability to stick around in the C Tier – gaining usage rate despite the drastic reduction in king of the hill maps played – proved a hypothesis I had been musing. In any Meta that features a 100% Zenyatta pickrate, there will always be ample room for Zenyatta-seeking missiles in the form of Speed-Boosted Tracers. Tracer’s jump in usage ate directly into McCree’s lineup slot, accounting at least in part for his gradual decline. Finally, Winston dropped out of the B Tier to the C Tier, swapping spots with Reinhardt due to the aforementioned king of the hill map reduction this week.

D Tier “The Meta Dependent Heroes”

D.Va lost usage, Roadhog gained usage, but both remained in the D Tier. D.Va – like McCree – has seen a consistent drop in usage since Ana’s release, but her fall can be traced more directly to Zarya’s popularity rather than Tracer. While D.Va’s buff to her Defense Matrix is admittedly quite strong, the Meta has moved past this towards Tanks like Zarya and Winston whose main attacks cannot be absorbed by D.Va’s signature shield. Roadhog’s slight increase in usage may be a ripple effect from the king of the hill map reduction or just noise in the data – the flesh-based Tank still has very little room for error in a Discord Orb-based Meta.

F Tier “The Barely Used in Tournament Play Heroes”

There were 11 Heroes in the F Tier this week, so I’ve devoted the entire main body of my report to them and their plight. Let’s get to it!

** I do not chose the placement of Heroes in a Tier, only the Range which defines the Tier. By determining Usage Rate directly from Hero Time Played in Tournament Matches, my data is Objectively determined, and not subjective at all.


Don’t Panic.

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For a more interactive chart that you can mouse-over to highlight:

Click this link for Overall

Or this link for Offense/Defense/KotH Breakdown

A Worrying Trend

Last week, I speculated that I had accidentally caught the F Tier in a strange spot. This week, it appears that this conclusion was wrong. Zenyatta and Lucio have appeared in essentially every lineup both this and last week, leaving only four slots for other Heroes to fill. Lineups have room for two DPS, and currently these slots are filled by a rotating cast of Genji, McCree, Reaper, and Tracer only. Most teams would have at least one tank, maybe two, so that leaves 1-2 slots left for the remaining 18 or so Heroes – leading to the “F Tier-pocalypse” we see today.

My data last week only encompassed the Faceit Eleague qualifiers played on the weekend and there was some evidence during the week that indeed, there was some Meta recovery. By this I mean that Pharah-Mercy duos were popping up from time to time in ESL’s Battle for the Atlantic finals during the week this week – a phenomenon I predicted would occur as more teams swapped to Tracer instead of McCree as their primary damage dealer. Now, with a fresh weekend’s set of Eleague data, it appears that it was ESL that was exhibiting a transitionary Meta – or at least that the Pharah-Mercy usage reports were anecdotal at best. For two weeks now – since the minor changes to McCree and Ana – the Meta has featured the highest number of F Tier Heroes since I started doing these reports back in closed beta.


A Grain of Salt

This is cause for some alarm, but an alarm that must be taken with a grain of salt. My data is based on usage rates – time played on Heroes divided by total time available – and represents the decisions of players at the very top of the Overwatch food chain. Just because a single week (or a few weeks) of data placed Heroes like Pharah, Mercy, Soldier 76 and the rest in the F Tier does not mean that these Heroes are objectively “bad”. They simply are not being played very much at the highest levels. There could be several reasons for this. Perhaps the current Meta forces them out of their lineup slots due to particularly strong abilities or the speed of engagements, as is this case for Mercy, Ana, and Solder 76. Perhaps they’re effective, but only for extremely specific areas of maps like Junkrat – so their overall numbers suffer.

Usage rates often fail to tell the whole story as individual weekly snapshots, which is often the place from which I draw most of my “written” content. Usage rates gain significance when looked at through the lens of many weeks of data or when paired with balance changes, and even then only long-standing trends should be looked at with any concern. The F Tier Heroes presently fall into two categories: Heroes that have consistently been stuck at low usage for many weeks independent of balance updates (Bastion, Torbjorn, Hanzo…the “Defense” Heroes), and Heroes whose fall can be traced to the Ana Release changes (Soldier, Pharah, Mercy, etc.). The former are the ones who are truly “weak”, truly “underpowered”, as their low usage has persisted through several different Overwatch Metas. The latter are a product of the current Meta, and still have a decent (subjective) power level – they are just ill-fitting to the present state of the game.


Moving Forward

With this in mind, it is important to not overreact to Heroes like Pharah, Soldier, Mercy, or even Ana accounting for significant parts of the F Tier just yet. These Heroes at least have a history of being Meta-relevant, and their power level has not decreased drastically. They simply lie just slightly below the strength of Meta-relevant Heroes, and “pros being pros” have optimized them out of existence. Minor changes either to these Heroes or the Heroes that have crowded them out of their lineup slots could easily result in the dawn of a new Meta. The Defense Heroes, on the other hand, seem to be in need of more significant help. All things considered, it has been very rare that significant changes to the Meta have occurred without Blizzard intervention since the adoption of the 1 Hero Limit format, so it may all come down to Jeff Kaplan and crew to make a decision with the data and feedback we as the community can provide.


Offense / Defense Payload Win Shares

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Data “As Is”

Zenyatta and Lucio once again stood out in Offense / Defense win shares due to their incredible usage rate overall – unfortunately making this data somewhat meaningless. Nearly all teams, both on offense and defense – and on wins and losses – included a Zenyatta and a Lucio in their lineup. So much for a varied Support Meta! Genji, Zarya, and Winston also had high usage in offensive wins, while McCree, Reinhardt, Zarya, and Reaper had high defensive win shares.

Offense vs. Defense

When comparing Offense and Defense wins – a couple of heroes jump out for their lopsided winshares. For example, Genji was used in 65% of successful attacks, but only in 23% of successful Defenses – demonstrating his strength in this Deathball Offense Meta. Other Heroes that shared a similar trend include Tracer, Winston, and even Ana – all due to their leaning towards offensive usage rather than defense. On the flip side: McCree, Reinhardt, and Reaper were much more likely to anchor teams’ defenses this week.

Offense vs. Offense – Defense vs. Defense

Of course, none of this analysis means anything if we don’t compare offensive wins to offensive losses and defensive wins to defensive losses. Comparing offensive or defensive successes to their respective failures demonstrates where improvements in Hero choices may be made. Like last week, Winston and D.Va were much more likely to result in an offensive win than an offensive loss – Winston had a 22% higher usage rate and D.Va had a 18% higher usage rate in wins. On the DPS front, Genji and Tracer both had roughly 11% higher usage in wins than losses – further evidence of the success of Deathball offenses in the current Meta. Strangely, the final Hero that had significantly more usage in offensive wins than losses was Ana with a differential of +9% usage. This could be due to teams using her in successful “stomp” strategies against lesser teams, or maybe there’s actually something to the offensive Ana triple-Support comp.

McCree, once again, had a huge disparity in his usage in offensive wins vs. offensive losses – nearly 39% differential bias towards losses. This gels with the observation of Tracer and Genji’s successes on offense – these two heroes are the obvious choices to fill what would usually be a McCree lineup slot. Teams which run Genji/Tracer on their attacks will tend to finish maps faster than teams with a McCree – so naturally these stopwatch-scored matches would impact McCree’s offensive win shares negatively. The same pattern repeats itself with Winston and Zarya at Reinhardt’s expense: assaults with the faster two Tanks result in faster stopwatch times than Reinhardt-led attacks, driving his offensive win shares down.

The defensive success to defensive failure differentials gave us a little bit more data this week than last week. In stark contrast to his offensive numbers, McCree had higher defensive win shares than losses, joining Winston and Zarya. Zarya’s success on defense makes sense for her team-wiping Graviton Surge, and a defensive McCree has plenty of time to set up in an advantageous position to force the enemy to come to him, rather than the other way around. Since Winston had a positive differential in win shares on both offense and defense, he should probably just be seeing more play in general. Contrast this to Reinhardt, who saw a negative trend on both offense and defense. Teams that play Roadhog on defense also seem to be suffering in mounting successful defenses, perhaps due to his ultimate-charge feeding liability as an entirely health-based Hero.

Final recommendations:

If I were the coach of a professional team, I’d be yelling at my players to give me more, More, MORE! The Meta is quickly trending towards Offensive Deathballs – teams need to stop trying to force McCree and Reinhardt on offense and fill these slots with two of D.Va, Winston, Genji, or Tracer. I would also try out a few triple-support offenses with Ana, just to see if there was anything actually significant about the slight positive differential in offensive win shares. On Defense, I would caution my team to stop using Roadhog and Reinhardt as often – instead rolling with a Zarya or Winston. McCrees should be added liberally to most of their Defenses, except in specific maps or situations where his lack of vertical mobility could be a major hindrance.


Let’s talk swaps

Swaps “To”

Tracer kept to the trend of leading swaps “to” this week – defending her title as Overwatch’s top overtime stall hero. Reaper and D.Va made up the next tier of swaps, primarily for their strength in specific mid-map areas. Maps in Overwatch tend to have three different base characteristics to various areas within them: degree of space (closed vs. open), number of flanks, and verticality. Various maps combine these three elements, and various heroes are better at operating in different mixtures of these spaces. Teams will often roll out with a very specific team composition in mind for taking the first point of a map, only to immediately switch gears upon reaching one of these unique mid-map areas. Reaper is the closed-in space specialist, but he also thrives in areas with high verticality by using his Teleport ability set up flanks from surprising angles (seriously – just watch Surefour play Reaper on stream). Thus, Map areas like the Shuttle Room of Watchpoint: Gibraltar are a Reaper playground: the ground and rooms of this section of Watchpoint are extremely cramped, and it has multiple levels of operation for Reapers to Teleport around.

D.Va by comparison is more biased towards Verticality than any other map element, and much moreso with the rise of Zarya in the Meta. One particular mid-map area where D.Va shines is Hollywood’s “Roofs” phase. Defensive setups on Hollywood often revolve around setting up a contingent of Heroes atop the roofs, but a D.Va can simply bunny-hop up to meet them and either completely knock them off or provide enough pressure to force a retreat. Securing the roofs as D.Va can give either team the high ground, and also provides her with a bit of protection from one of her natural counters – Zarya – who has no easy way of reaching the roofs herself.

Swaps “From”

Reaper had the most swaps “from” this week, for exactly the same reasons he was highly swapped “to”: Reaper often finds himself used on certain mid-map areas, between areas that do not fit his archetype. Zarya played foil to Winston and D.Va as teams would usually begin with a Zarya and swap to the two higher mobility tanks as the payload moved along its path. Tracer also had a high swapped “from” rate, indicating that she, McCree, and Reaper were competing for lineup positions in a similar manner to the Zarya/D.Va/Winston tank shuffle.


Final thoughts and shoutouts

As always, none of this Data could exist without the help of the Competitive Overwatch Community – so remember to check out my Competitive Overwatch Beta Twitch Directory! This Directory features all of the Twitch Streams and Social Media of as many of the people who helped make the Beta Competitive Scene great that I could find. Get out there and give these people a Follow – without them there would be no Competitive Scene and no Overwatch Hero Meta Report. This week I will also be doing a “Meet the Players” article highlighting the best players from Overwatch’s Competitive Scene who received nominations for the Overwatch World Cup! If you’re super hyped about BlizzCon’s premier Overwatch Event, and want to support your country’s best and brightest, I suggest you give it a look. I will make [this link]() live as soon as the voting opens tomorrow!

Until next time,

CaptainPlanet