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Opening Thoughts

What’s up guys and gals, CaptainPlanet here to present the Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report: New Metas Come in Threes. Last week, I presented the first week’s worth of data for the new season which included an exciting new trend: the emergence of the 3x3 strat as a viable option for competitive play. I made half a prediction regarding this lineup: either it would be solved by the writing of this week’s report, or it would become the face of Season 2’s new Meta. Two weeks of Season 2 have gone by, and it’s starting to look like the latter. There’s hope on the horizon for some variety: many of the “top ranked” have been noticeably absent from the weekly tournaments leading into the Eleague LAN – your EnVyUses, your NRGs, your Rogues – which may mean that the 3x3 lineup is only viable at “lower” levels of professional Overwatch. One thing can be said for certain however: when NiP and the teams who have adopted the lineup they created roll out with three healers and three tanks they win – and they win a lot. Before we revisit the rest of my predictions from last week and dive into the inner workings of the 3x3 strat, let’s see how it has begun to influence the overall Hero usage with this week’s Tiers:

I’ve now begun to track all of my raw data in a much more database-friendly manner. You can now sort by any dates starting with Season Two, but keep posted for me eventually adding legacy data. This week’s data pre-sorted can be found HERE . The data is presented Row-wise for each Map Side. This Data was collected from the Lenovo Cup Group Stages, and the Gosugamers EU and NA weekly tournaments that took place September 5th-11th

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S Tier (>=95% Usage Rate*): No one!

A Tier (>80% Usage Rate): Lucio

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

C Tier (>20% Usage Rate): Genji, McCree, Winston, Tracer, Reaper, Roadhog, Ana, Mercy

D Tier (>5% Usage Rate): Hanzo, Mei, D.Va, Pharah

F Tier (<5 % Usage Rate): Junkrat, Soldier 76, Widowmaker, Torbjorn, Symmetra, Bastion

*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.

S Tier “The Overpowered heroes”

Another week has passed without any Hero reaching the S Tier – but it was we had a near miss. Lucio’s 94.29% usage just missed the 95% usage rate cutoff, so I’ll address his trend a little bit here. Despite Ana being the linchpin that ties the 3x3 strat together, Lucio still fills the role as second support run in the lineup. Even the modified 3x2x1 strat that runs a Hanzo swaps out the Zenyatta – leaving Lucio and Ana to duo-heal the team. This is due not only because his Speed Boost is still extremely strong, but because his Heal Boost synergizes so well with Ana’s Biotic Grenade. Lucio’s usage has nearly reached the S Tier once again because he’s equally useful in non-3x3 lineups – which is no different than previous Metas.

Lucio’s usage bump seems to have stolen directly from Mercy – given that Zenyatta loses usage directly to mutant 3-2-1 Hanzo strats – which is actually an interesting development given these three support’s history.


Direct Link

Mercy’s usage in recent times has been attached at the hip to Zenyatta – not Lucio. As Zenyatta rose, Mercy fell and vice versa. Only when Zenyatta was completely out of the scene – and during a week where 0HL was allowed – did Mercy’s drop in usage become tied to an increase in Lucio appearances. It seems the 3x3 strat, or even just Season 2 in general, has altered how supports are being evaluated in the professional scene. At the present moment, Ana and Lucio are on the rise, while Zenyatta and Mercy are sloping downward.

A Tier “The Core Heroes”

See above.

B Tier “The Favorites”

This week, the B Tier was populated by the Core Heroes of the 3x3 strat. Zarya and Reinhardt are the premier tanks of the 3x3 and 3-2-1 lineups – Zarya for her all around solid toolkit and Reinhardt as the primary Nanoboost target. Toss a Zarya shield on a Reinhardt, give him a Lucio Speed Boost and a Nanoboost and he can run at the enemy and secure at least a kill or two, charging the rest of his team’s ultimates in the process. Zenyatta broke into the B Tier despite losing some ground to Hanzo in the 3x3 strat in particular as he’s a popular choice in non-3x3 strategies, especially on King of the Hill alongside Lucio.

C Tier “The Balanced heroes”

This week’s C Tier is massive, and it’s in the middle of an identity crisis. While the B Tier featured Heroes used in both 3x3 and “traditional” lineups, the C Tier represents the Heroes primarily used in one composition but not the other. Genji and McCree sit atop this tier as the preferred DPS in non-3x3 lineups. It’s worth noting that Genji has continued to climb in usage after what was objectively a nerf to his double jump and ultimate. It’s largely due to the 3x3 lineup that Genji’s climb has been somewhat muted: despite the nerf, his Dragonblade is still the primary way to force out defensive ultimates and his Reflect provides insane 1v1 counterplay. McCree will always be a favorite among top-level DPS players who can lean on their superior aim to dish out damage, but his usage may continue to diminish if the Meta continues to trend towards 3x3 mirrors. Unfortunately for would-be cowboys, McCree’s long range poke damage only serves to further feed the opposing Ana’s ultimate charge. He cannot deal enough damage to pick off Tanks with their large health pools – Ana will simply out-heal him.

The next set of Heroes in the C Tier shined in King of the Hill maps: Winston, Tracer, and Reaper. When was the last time you saw a King of the Hill match without at least a Winston and a Tracer? I can’t remember either. While Reaper was not as ubiquitous on KotH, he was and is still a solid map-dependent pick across all map types. Next up are Ana and Roadhog – the two Heroes who primarily only saw play in the 3x3 lineup. Roadhog fills in as the third, flex tank: depending on the team and map, his position may be occupied by Winston instead. Ana is self-explanatory, her superior ultimate charge rate can be best abused with the help of three huge tank health pools to dump heals into, so she’s tied to the 3x3 lineup for the foreseeable future. I will be interested to see if Ana’s usage can stay at a relevant level if Blizzard ever does reduce her effectiveness in this context, because she is a rare sight outside of this composition. Teams will instead run a Mercy, who still made the C Tier cut this week despite dropping nearly 22% usage from last week. I am not optimistic about Mercy moving forward if the Meta continues marching to a 3x3 tune, that lineup only has room for one single-target Healer and Mercy competes too directly with Ana.

D Tier “The Meta Dependent heroes”

The four Heroes that comprise the D Tier each have an individual story that explains their position. Hanzo has been sneaking into the 3x3 Meta, mutating the triple-Tank, triple-Support lineup into a 3-2-1 by taking Zenyatta’s place. Hanzo’s arrows are reminiscent of pre-falloff damage nerf McCree: a single headshot on an unlucky defender can break the whole engagement wide open. It also makes a bit of sense to remove Zenyatta from the 3x3 lineup in some scenarios anyway. Ana has superior single target healing and Lucio provides AOE healing to top off minor poke damage – so all Zenyatta brings to the table is a 30% Discord Orb, above-average projectile damage, and potentially the strongest defensive ultimate in the game. By utilizing Hanzo in the early stages of a Map – before ultimates can be charged – you trade Zenyatta’s mediocre healing and streaky damage for superior mobility, still admittedly still streaky but much higher damage, as well as an offensive zoning ultimate that charges much faster than Transcendence.

This is not a one-size-fits-all substitution by any means – you’ll often want Zenyatta in the later stages of the match – but seeing Hanzo slide right into the 3x3 shell is not surprising. Mei and D.va appear in the D Tier this week primarily due to their Map dependent effectiveness. By now, most Overwatch players can agree that Mei is an absolute monster on final point or first point defenses – but these engagements rarely add up to a large share of the total match time. Mei is tentatively being tapped as not quite a counter, but more of a major annoyance to the 3x3 strat as well. Her Ice Wall can prevent Ana’s healing by blocking her line of sight and her ability to freeze Heroes is one of the better ways to nullify a Nanoboost – but only if you manage to survive the rampaging Reinhardt’s hammer swings. D.Va was used a decent amount in final point defenses as well as Numbani offense where she was heavily picked to counter defensive Torbjorns. Unfortunately, D.Va is especially weak to Zarya and Roadhog – mainstays of the 3x3 lineup – and I do not expect her usage to climb much higher in the current Meta. Pharah, like her counterpart Mercy, is on the decline once again, and just barely missed the 5% F Tier cutoff at 5.04% usage rate. While the old Dive Meta and the 3x3 Metas clash, sadly neither have room for Pharah as a DPS option.

F Tier “The ‘Even Season 2 cannot save you’ Heroes”

The F Tier remained uninspiring once again this week. Soldier 76 dropped back into the depths, a less-effective alternative to McCree that falls into the same Ana-ult-charging traps has no place in the present Meta. Junkrat runs into the same issue – he can break through Reinhardt’s shield quickly but spamming grenades around corners can be a double-edged sword if he fully charges Zarya through her shield barriers. The Defense Heroes once again brought up the rear: Symmetra, Bastion, Torbjorn, and Widowmaker having low usage in the Pro scene is a non-story at this point. I should note, however, that none of these Heroes are objectively “bad” if you’re very good at them or choose to run them on ladder. If the 3x3 strat really takes off, you can often surprise an attacking team with a well-placed Bastion – the OG Tank-melter. At the Pro level, teams will simply swap Heroes temporarily to blow up the Bastion, but in Ranked Play you can expect to get more effectiveness out of a single-Hero counter. So please, take the F Tier with a grain of salt…it only represents present usage at the top levels of Overwatch, it isn’t meant to tell you that your favorite Hero is garbage. (although, if you play Symmetra on offense I have no sympathy for you)

** 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.

Historical Tracking


For a more interactive chart (also less messy looking):

Click here

**Hero Picks/Swaps, and their Success Rate


For a more interactive chart (also less messy looking):

Click here

New Metas Come in Threes

Can the NiP strat be countered?

The 3x3 strat seems like the kind of lineup that should have counters. It features three huge Tank bodies – walking targets – and two low-mobility Heroes in Zenyatta and Ana. One option to counter the 3x3 could be to take out the Ana or Zenyatta from range with a Widowmaker or Pharah, or to get up in their face with a Tracer or Genji and break them from within. Another option could be to take advantage of the large, juicy targets with Reaper and/or Roadhog’s shotguns. Mei’s freezing abilities can slow down and stop a Nanoboosted Reinhardt in his tracks. If you’re in dire straights, a Zarya Graviton Surge or a Reinhardt Earthshatter can also end a boosted rampage. All of these options seem good on paper, but the 3x3 strat has its own advantages – synergies that could completely nullify all of these supposed counters from the start. To start with a simple example, a well-practiced 3x3 team will know to position their Ana such that she has line of sight of her tanks while preventing line of sight from any long range threats. The remaining resistance of the 3x3 to its supposed counters lies in two synergistic elements: Ana’s insane ultimate charge rate, and how armor interacts with damage reduction.

Armor in Overwatch

Armor, shields, and health combine to make up a Hero’s effective health pool, and each has its own advantages. Shields can recharge themselves without the help of a healer, giving your Mercy a breather simply by ducking around cover. Armor has a built-in damage reduction as long as there’s still armor present on the Hero – reducing incoming damage by 5 or by half if the incoming damage does not exceed 10. Health….is health. Armor’s damage reduction is one of the key elements that allows the 3x3 strat to work. Break out your notepads and pencils, we’re going to do some math:

Let’s assume we have a Nanoboosted Reinhardt charging directly at a Reaper. Reaper is one of the Heroes you’d usually choose to counter Tanks – his Hellfire shotguns deal a large amount of consistent damage to big targets that eat the entire spread of each burst. As the Reinhardt moves closer, the Reaper begins to fire…

The first important thing to note is that damage reductions in Overwatch are calculated on a per-instance basis. This means that the calculation is applied to each individual pellet of Reaper’s shotgun blast. From Furiouspaul’s website and the Oversheet, we know that Reaper’s shotgun pellets each do 2-7 damage, depending on the distance-based falloff. By now, the Reinhardt is all up in the Reaper’s grill, so we can assume 7 damage per pellet. It’s also important to note that armor reduction is applied only after all other reductions – but since in this case since each pellet deals less than 10 damage the order of operations does not matter. The calculation then looks like this:


20 pellets X (7 damage per pellet * 0.5 Nanoboost damage reduction * 0.5 Armor damage reduction)


With less words,


20 * (7 * 0.5 * 0.5) = 35 total damage per shot


If we remove the Nanoboost or the armor:


20 * (7 * 0.5) = 70 damage per shot


And if we remove both, the Reaper would deal 140 damage per shot. Let’s examine this in the context of “how many shotguns to the body does it take to kill a Reinhardt vs. a Reinhardt with Nanoboost”:

A “regular” Reinhardt has a health pool comprised of 200 armor and 300 health. Due to normal armor mechanics, the Reaper will deal 70 damage per shot until the armor is depleted, so three shots for 210 damage. Two more shots at the fully unmitigated 140 damage leaves the Reinhardt at 10 health…close enough. Call it 5 total shots.

A Nanoboosted Reinhardt has the same health pool, but an additional 50% damage reduction added. The reaper will need to deal six shots at 35 damage a piece to break through the armor, then four shots at 70 damage a piece to reach the same 10 health level – a total of 10 shots.

The problem is – Reaper only has 8 ammo in his clip! Even if the Reinhardt stood still and the Reaper hit all of his shots directly into his center of mass, the Reaper would have to reload in the middle of the exercise simply to solo-kill the boosted Reinhardt.

But Captain! What about Headshots?

Right you are! Let’s do a quick calculation, assuming 60% of the Reaper’s pellets hit the Reinhardt’s head. Another note: damage increases due to “crits” in Overwatch apply before any form of damage reduction. Here’s the math:


12 pellets X (14 headshot damage per pellet * 0.5 Nanoboost damage reduction * 0.5 Armor damage reduction) + 8 X (7 damage per pellet * 0.5 Nanoboost damage reduction * 0.5 Armor damage reduction)


With less words,


12 * (14 * 0.5 * 0.5) + 8 * (7 * 0.5 * 0.5) = 56 total damage per shot.


If we remove the Nanoboost, or the armor


12 * (14 * 0.5) + 8 * (7 * 0.5) = 112 damage per shot


Applying our previous method to determine “shotgun blasts required to kill the Reinhardt”:

Four shots of 56 damage deals 224 damage – removing Reinhardt’s armor buffer. The final 276 health will require three 112 damage shots to reach – for a total of 7 shots. Even under ideal conditions, it takes a Reaper – the alleged Tank killer – nearly an entire clip to kill a Nanoboosted Reinhardt.

This is actually completely insane, because we haven’t even factored in any external factors. The Reinhardt could have a Zarya barrier, granting an extra 200 health to protect his armor pool for even longer (and yes, armor’s damage reduction still applies from behind the barrier). The Reinhardt could have his Ana’s Biotic Grenade buff, boosting her own heals as well as the Lucio’s and/or the Zenyatta’s. Let’s not forget that the Reinhardt is not just standing still – he’s a giant, German wrecking ball dealing 150 damage in a wide arc in front of him every second. The Reaper never stood a chance. For fun, I went through each Hero’s theoretical maximum “single damage instance” and determined how much damage it would do to an armored, Nanoboosted target.

You can find the list here

Keep in mind this is only on a per-instance basis, not a damage-per-second measure. I did include some of the rates at which abilities like Zarya’s particle cannon and Mei’s Ice Gun tick, so if you want to do your own DPS calculations feel free to.

What can Ultimate Charge do for you?

Of course, an unkillable Reinhardt juggernaut cannot be considered overpowered if he can be countered by other ultimates. Zarya’s Graviton Surge can lock him in place, your own Reinhardt’s Earthshatter can stun him long enough to focus fire or outlast the Nanoboost, and Mei’s Blizzard can slow him enough for your team to escape. All of this means nothing, however, because of Ana’s ultimate charge rate. The 3x3 strat gives Ana three big Tank bodies to surround and protect her that can stand up to poke and other long range damage. Roadhog used to be known as an ultimate battery for opposing teams, but the rate at which Ana’s ultimate charges has flipped the concept on its head. Under the right circumstances – like the 3x3 strat built to abuse it – Ana can build to her Nanoboost faster than any other Hero in the game.

The rate at which she charges ultimate allows the lineup to effectively snowball their way through games. It starts with a boosted Reinhardt or Winston diving in and getting a couple of kills, often times leading to a team wipe or creating space for the rest of the team to move in and secure cleanup kills to charge their own ultimates. By the time the enemy team can recover, the 3x3 has a massive ultimate advantage, and can cash in on their game-changing Tank ultimates like Earthshatter or Graviton Surge. The cycle then starts to repeat – every fight the Ana has her ultimate up, creates an unstoppable armored frankenstein of a tank, which in turn helps the rest of the team charge their ultimates, ad infinitum.

So wait, can the NiP strat be countered?

Pros who’ve played against it bemoan the lack of counterplay, because there’s really no “good” counter to the strategy. There are two ways to attack the strat, first by eliminating the Ana’s tanky batteries, and second by going directly for the Ana. Lineups can attempt to abuse the large size of the Tank targets by running a Reaper and a Bastion and just blowing them up, but smarter teams running the NiP strat will simply swap to a Bastion-countering lineup to make them pay. Mei’s Ice Wall and D.Va’s Defense Matrix can be used disrupt the line of sight from the Ana to her targets, but the former can be solved by good positioning of the Ana, and the latter is a heavy liability against a lineup that runs both Zarya and Roadhog.

The counter strategy that has the most promise is a heavy dive lineup, utilizing flankers that can get behind the meaty line of tanks to assassinate the healers who lay hidden in the back line. The main obstacle to this strategy’s effectiveness is it’s just straight up hard to execute well, and very few teams outside the very top of the scene have the skill to pull it off. The 3x3 strat may prevail more often than its best counter, strictly because of its simplicity. We have not yet seen any of these top teams face off against the NiP strat – except for Rogue two weeks ago who beat it – so it is hard to tell if the lineup can hold its own once the big boys return from vacation. One thing I can say for certain: the Eleague LAN is going to be nuts.

Predictions Revisited

Last week, I made a few predictions based on the direction the Meta was moving Season 2’s inaugural week, let’s see how close my predictions landed to the actual outcome!

  • Mei will become Bae

Between the implementation of Time Bank and Pros softening on their hatred of 2CP maps, the Tournament Meta will require teams to put a premium on final-point defenders in order to make the most of the new system. Mei, with her new ultimate radius and ability to wall off all the first points of the 2CP maps is now perhaps one of the strongest of such defenders. As teams practice these maps in an effort to out-game their opponents in map bans, we will begin to see an increase in her overall usage.

Strike one! Mei actually lost usage this week, as more teams adopted the 3x3 strat and found Mei’s counter potential lacking. This could also be due to noise in the map pools chosen week to week, so keep an eye on Mei moving forward to see if this becomes a trend.

  • Pharah will peak next week, and then regress

Pharah has all the makings of a Hero that players are only experimenting with because of a new patch, only to steadily decline in usage as pros optimize her out of their lineups. Despite Mercy’s resurgence, there’s simply too many viable counters in the present Meta now for Pharah to succeed. A similar fate befell D.Va after she received her buffs way back in mid-July – she had extremely high usage until pros realized that Zarya hard countered her, and she regressed.

**Pharah did indeed make a U-turn in usage after peaking last week, as expected. Pharah fell into the trap of being a shiny new toy that Pharah mains bring out of the closet every time a new balance patch goes live, only to find out that she still can’t make it with the big boys. Maybe next patch, Pharah fans.

  • The NiP strat is either the new “Cancer”, or it will be “Solved”

It’s far too early to tell whether the Triple Tank, Triple Support strat will become this Season’s version of Orb-ital Destruction or the 2/2/2 strats of old, but I feel confident saying it’s either going to be broken, or easily countered – nothing in-between. It’s one of those strategies that’s just so weird that either there’s an easy counter no one has thought of yet (Bastion/Mei?), or the only viable counter will be itself.

Unless EnVyUs or Rogue are cooking up some super secret strat to bring to Eleague, it’s definitely looking like the NiP strat has become the face of the Season 2 meta – at least for now. I will be interested to cover its rise from a numbers standpoint, but the Pro scene is already pretty unhappy that a new “Cancer” lineup has been born so early in the patch cycle.

  • The Dive Meta as we know it is dead

The Dive Meta was predicated on two things – Zenyatta’s 50% Discord Orb and Lucio’s Speed Buff. While Lucio’s Speed Boost is still amazingly strong, Zenyatta’s Discord Orb’s nerf has reduced the consistency of getting picks early in the fight to start off engagements. A buff to Mercy bringing her back into relevance has also changed the landscape. Teams using Mercy can punish Dive strats by forcing a team to spend all their ultimates to secure a team wipe, only to negate all of their work with a Ressurect. This favors entrenched defenses, and forces the Meta to be much more about effective positioning rather than speed – at least on defense.

To be determined on this prediction. Dive lineups, when executed at their peak effectiveness, may be the one non-mirror comp answer to the 3x3 lineup, but the caliber of the teams in the last few weeks have not been quite the level of pulling it off.

Deep Dives with the Captain

This is a new segment I’m going to start doing to help teach myself more about using Tableau, so I can make even better infographics and data-based analyses for you all. This week, I’ll be examining the success of two teams that have been using the NiP strat, and compare it to two teams that have not.


Direct Link

NiP and LW Red, despite being known for the 3x3 strat, are not necessarily running these heroes all the way through the maps. Dorado Offense, and both sides of Kings Row show some Genji and McCree picks, perhaps at the end of the map where Ana cannot find advantageous places to position herself. It’s interesting to note that out of the various maps that the NiP strat is being run on, Hollywood Defense seems to be the only one with a negative outcome. At the same time, Ana actually has a positive correlation towards wins in this scenario – so perhaps LuxuryWatch tried a traditional Genji/McCree/Reaper lineup and quickly learned their lesson.

In an overall sense, it’s easy to see why the 3x3 teams run the strat – there’s much more success across many more picks compared to the non-3x3 teams. Dorado in particular looks like a slam dunk for the lineup, and 3x3-averse teams can be seen avoiding it like the plague judging from their Hero picks. One thing this graphic does not show is that the 3x3 strat has begun to invade King of the Hill. While NiP and LW Red played traditional KotH team comps, Tempostorm busted out the 3x3 in the finals of the Gosugamers NA weekly after losing 4 straight KoTH matches in a row to Rise Nation. Tempo ripped off three wins in a row behind Managchu’s stellar Roadhog play, and took home the prize.

Final thoughts and shoutouts

Shoutout to my buddy Thund3rwrath and Icarusgamers for helping me confirm most of the math behind the armor calculations this week! Also shoutout to lbc for telling me how damage reduction stacks work in the first place. Finally, Overbuff is hiring! If you want to work with me and the Overbuff content team, head on over to our job posting blog for more information.

Until next time,