Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report: Whose Meta is it Anyway?
What’s up guys and gals, CaptainPlanet here to present the Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report: Whose Meta is it Anyway? I’ll be honest, this week was supposed to be about tanks. Between D.Va’s buff, Roadhog’s emergence, and Reinhardt’s steadfastness, it looked like we had traded one three-headed monster for another. But then, Hercules arrived to slay the Cerberus that was terrorizing Dreamhack and Apex. Misifts – famous for winning the Overwatch Open and bringing the Beyblade lineup to the forefront of Overwatch – pulled it off again by snatching the finals from Fnatic while utilizing a truly unique lineup.
NiP, Fnatic, Complexity, and the rest of Dreamhack’s competing teams emulated the D.Va-Soldier 76 lineups first displayed at Apex, but Misfits knew their tank play could not stack up after dropping Kryw and his world-class Zarya. The squad went back to their roots – and the drawing board – moving former-support Zebbosai to Widowmaker to provide covering fire for Soon’s Tracer and Nevix’s Genji. This new take on dive lineups also featured only a single tank, Skipjack’s Winston, and the regular complement of healers in Ana and Lucio. I will get more in-depth about how and why this lineup worked later in the report, but first let’s see how overall hero usage panned out between Dreamhack and the semifinals of Apex.
S Tier (>=95% Usage Rate): Lucio (97%)
A Tier (>80% Usage Rate): Reinhardt (88%)
B Tier (>50% Usage Rate): Ana (68%), D.Va (68%), Roadhog (67%), Soldier 76 (56%)
C Tier (>20% Usage Rate): Zenyatta (34%), Zarya (32%), Tracer (26%)
D Tier (>5% Usage Rate): Winston (16%), Genji (14%), Mei (14%), McCree (6%), Widowmaker (6%), Sombra (6%), Reaper (5%)
F Tier (<5% Usage Rate): Hanzo (3%), Pharah (2%), Junkrat (1%), Torbjorn (0%), Symmetra (0%), Bastion (0%), Mercy (0%, actually zero picks, no rounding)
Caution: take the F Tier with a grain of salt … it only represents the usage from a single tournament: the Overwatch World Cup. It is not meant to tell you that your favorite Hero is garbage nor is it meant for you to use as ammo to flame people in ranked play. Let’s be nice to each other.
Additionally: I do not chose the placement of heroes in a tier, only the range which defines the tier. By determining usage directly from hero time played in tournament matches, my data is objectively determined, and not subjective. I call these ranges “tiers” for SEO reasons, not because I enjoy making tier lists… Google just really loves the word “tier” for some reason
Soldier 76: +16%
When it comes to counters, D.Va is to scissors as Zarya is to rock. Two weeks have now passed since the Sombra patch and we see its outcome clearly with D.Va’s skyrocketing usage rate in reaction to the nerfs to her primary counter. In today’s triple-tank lineups, D.Va is trending towards becoming a required piece. NiP, the fathers of the triple-tank lineup, may have even lost their semi-final match against Fnatic because they refused to play D.Va against their opponent’s first point defense. Fnatic stationed their hitscan dps above the point, able to duck behind the surrounding ledges of Volskaya Industries to hide from Hymzi’s hooks. These hooks and Zappis’ Genji were the only means for NiP to contest Fnatic’s defensive setup and Fnatic was able to outlast NiP’s many assaults for a rare first point hold. A simple swap from Zarya to D.Va would have easily chased Coolmatt69 and Buds from their perches, but NiP’s reluctance to drop their Zarya for a shiny new D.Va was their downfall.
Reinhardt, Roadhog, and Soldier 76 along with D.Va make up the four non-support members of triple tank lineups. Roadhog’s Hook serves as a spark plug for assaults and defenses. His pickoffs signal that it is time to attack. Soldier 76’s damage buff has brought him back on top of the Overwatch DPS pyramid, pushing out McCree and Reaper due to his superior effective damage range. Good luck getting close enough to the “new” Soldier 76 as a Reaper or McCree, a good Soldier player will simply back up and pick you off from distance. Both Roadhog and Soldier 76 work best from behind cover, and Reinhardt has moved up in usage to fill that role.
This brings us to Zenyatta, the reactionary mover in the current meta. In the Beyblade days, Mei was the reactionary hero – a counter to the popular strategies of the time. Now that D.Va has forced Zarya out of the triple-tank lineups, Zenyatta has become the counter-pick of the week because his Discord Orbs are no longer being removed by Zarya bubbles. Zenyatta – not Reaper or Mei – is actually the best counter to tank heavy lineups because of these Orbs. Discord places a huge “kill me” sign on an already huge target and its 30% damage increase reduces these beefy heroes’ survivability significantly. The deeper we dive into tank heavy lineups – and as long as Zarya stays out of the meta – the more I expect Zenyatta to climb in usage.
At least three of these heroes’ reduction in usage in tournament play can be traced back to the rise of D.Va. Zarya was already mentioned; the nerf to her shields was also a nerf to her damage and when paired with a buff to D.Va’s health and damaging movement speed and this was more than enough to push Zarya down. It’s a common move to play Reaper into tank-heavy lineups, but the current D.Va-centric lineups actually make life difficult for Reaper players. Reaper operates best from close range, but if a Reaper ever gets hooked by a Roadhog then he’s forced to Wraith Form away without doing any damage. If a Reaper does get the jump on the Reinhardt/D.Va/Roadhog trio, the D.Va can simply absorb all of his damage with her Defense Matrix, Deathblossom or not. Finally, with less Zaryas running around, Reaper has less non-armored targets to shred. In the new triple tank lineups, only Roadhog is un-armored and is still a threat with his massive damage combo. Finally, D.Va is one of Winston’s natural counters due to her ability to headshot – the only tank that can do so besides Roadhog. Winston’s giant head means he stands no chance against a D.Va in a 1v1 damage battle and his usage has suffered in kind.
Ana and Genji are a bit more difficult to explain. The increased Zenyatta usage had to come from somewhere and teams like Misfits and Complexity chose to sub out Ana instead of the ever-essential Lucio. Misfits acutally played zero Ana at all in the matches I recorded this week, a strange occurrence indeed. Genji’s main strength in a tank-heavy meta is how quickly he can build ultimate by spamming shruikens into large easy-to-hit tank targets. However, Genji needs lineups full of heroes that complement his flanking abilities to truly excel: dive comps. Most, if not all teams except for Misfits were not running dive comps so it’s not surprising that Genji’s usage took a hit and that Misfits accounted for over a third of all Genji usage on their own.
Whose Meta is it Anyway?
Overwatch players – myself included – use the word “Meta” so much that it has lost all meaning. At some point during their Dreamhack preparation, between dodging Roadhog hooks and flying D.Vas, Misfits decided they had had enough of “The Meta”. They did not have a team full of amazing tank players like NiP, but what they did have was a world class aimer (Zebbosai), a world class Zenyatta (Hidan), an Overwatch World Cup qualifying Tank (Skipjack), a Flex with an amazing Genji (Nevix), a Quake legend (Cooller), and the world’s best Tracer (Soon). What I’m trying to get at here is that Misfits has one of the greatest collections of individual talent in Overwatch. Oftentimes when discussing the “The Meta”, individual and team performances are lost among the analyses of hero usage, map choices, and balance changes. When you’re working with the depth of skill that Misfits’ has, who cares what everyone thinks the meta is. In Hidan’s own words:
“Fuck the meta.”— Mikaël 'Hidan' (@Misfits_Hidan) November 26, 2016
What was Misfits up against?
Team Hero Usage for this week
Just looking at the top heroes played this week paints a clear picture of the current meta composition: the triple-tank lineup consisting of Ana, Lucio, D.Va, Roadhog, Reinhardt, and Soldier 76. Triple-Tank lineups “aren’t supposed to work” because tanks are not supposed to deal enough damage to fill a lineup slot that is usually reserved for a DPS. However because Ana and Nanoboost was released – and because players quickly improved with Roadhog and his Hook combo – teams found that these Tank lineups do more than enough damage to stand alongside traditional 2/2/2 compositions. Recent nerfs to Zarya and Ana have only slightly altered the core lineup and strategy around this lineup; Nanoboosts are now saved for the newly buffed Soldier 76 and D.Va instead of Reinhardt and Reaper. For brevity, I am going to call this lineup as “Triple Tank DS” (D.Va+Soldier) moving forward, since I will be referring back to it often.
Many games this weekend ended up being mirror matches, pitting this “meta” composition against itself. Triple Tank DS does a couple things very effectively, one of which being “shield-busting”. Many engagements in Overwatch center around Reinhardt’s shield, or more specifically the instant that it breaks. The first moments of these Triple Tank DS mirror fights usually play out one of two ways. Either the Roadhog’s fishing attempts strike gold and all hell breaks loose, or the combination of D.Va and Soldier 76’s spam and Roadhog’s right-click blasts busts one of the Reinhardt’s shields … and all hell breaks loose.
Following a shield break, these engagements are much more dynamic. The surviving Reinhardt can charge in, creating space for his Soldier 76 in the back line. The D.Vas can attempt to fly into each others’ backlines to harass supports or to chase players off of the high ground. All the while, Roadhog hooks continue to fly. Between Ana’s single target healing output, her grenade synergizing with Lucio’s AOE heal, Soldier 76 and Roadhog’s self-heals, and D.Va and Reinhardt’s high armor count it seems difficult to imagine situations where anyone actually dies in the Triple Tank DS lineup. Indeed, many Triple Tank DS mirrors came down to who could combine their Self-Destruct and Earthshatters the best, or who got the best Nanovisor off. So, how did Misfits do it?
The Misfits “Secrit Strat”
Team Hero Usage, with Winrates
The beauty of Misfits’ dive comp – which I will be calling “High Dive” to differentiate it from other dive comps – is that they may be one of two teams capable of even considering running it. The individual skill required on each element of their lineup – from Zenyatta to Tracer – is what makes the whole lineup tick. If Zebbosai wasn’t hitting his shots, if Hidan wasn’t juggling his Discord Orbs, if Soon was just slightly more stoppable on his Tracer, Misfits would not have been able to secure the kills they needed to break up the Triple Tank DS lineup. In fact, staying married to this lineup at times even lost them matches against Fnatic in their 3-2 finals win: there was a moment on Temple of Anubis where Zebbosai’s inability to get on the point as Widowmaker led to a Fnatic full hold and eventual map win.
But, it did work well enough. Not only did Misfits execute their strategy well, they were also the only team even considering it: on their own they accounted for 80% of all Widowmaker usage, 61% of all Tracer usage, and 50% of all Genji usage this week. At minimum, this gave them an advantage against teams that had spent the entire week scrimming against tank-heavy lineups, but there’s more to it than the element of surprise. High Dive takes a traditional dive lineup consisting of Genji, Tracer, Winston, and Zarya and removes the Zarya for a Widowmaker. This changes the geometry of its engagements slightly. Dive compositions try to blow up the defending teams’ supports and squishy heroes, and do so by creating split-second distractions to give them safe windows to “dive” into the defending back line. Traditional dives use Winston to make space and draw attention away from their flankers by tossing a Zarya bubble onto the him as he leaps in. This works against the seemingly un-killable Triple Tank DS by removing their source of healing. After all, your lineup’s healing output does not matter when all of your healers are dead.
High Dive also creates space in two ways, instead of one. First, the Widowmaker makes her presence known ideally by picking off a target (as Zebbosai demonstrates in this clip) – but missing still does the trick. Knowledge of a Widowmaker’s existence causes the defending team to duck behind cover – be it the Reinhardt’s shield or otherwise. High Dive can then pick and choose their engagement based on the Widowmaker’s scouting to jump on the defending supports. High Dive can also respond freely to most defenses’ reactions. Triple Tank DS may choose to dive onto the Widowmaker with their D.Va, but this leaves their core even more vulnerable to the Winston/Genji/Tracer assault. Similarly, Triple Tank DS may try to get to High Dive’s supports but a combination of D.Va, Roadhog, and Soldier 76 isn’t going to out-damage Winston, Genji, and Tracer with a Widowmaker providing suppressing fire. If Triple Tank DS chooses to stay together and wait for High Dive to come to them, the Widowmaker gets to operate freely and the Genji can spam shruikens from outside of Hook range until he builds Dragonblade. It’s a hard strategy to deal with.
However, there’s a reason not many teams run this lineup: it’s only hard to counter because of how good Misfits’ players are their respective heroes. If the Tracer is not Soon, IDDQD, or Surefour there’s a very high chance they are just going to get hooked, blown up by Soldier 76’s Helix Rocket, or similarly eviscerated in the melee. If the Widowmaker cannot aim on Zebbosai’s level, the defending team can outlast the pressure and deal with the dive more easily when it comes. If the Zenyatta is not getting his Discord Orbs on kill targets, then the Genji and Tracer cannot kill the supports fast enough. If the Lucio does not hit his Speed Boost at the right time, the High Divers will never get to the back line. And so on.
Does this mean the Triple Tank Meta is Dead?
Hardly! However, I do think it’s about time that we re-define what the word “Meta” means. The point of a meta report is to analyze what heroes the pros are currently playing the most and why. When it comes to the actual numbers, that is all. The rest of my content is based on observation, interviews with pro players, and my own interpretation of tournament results. When I refer to the meta, I am only referring to a loose collection of the most-played heroes – and maybe one particular lineup archetype. What’s the current meta then? The meta for this week was the Triple Tank DS lineup: Soldier 76, D.Va, Roadhog, Reinhardt, Lucio, and Ana. But this lineup was not the one that won Dreamhack. Nor does it mean that playing this lineup is automatically going to win all of your games when Season 3 releases – although it’s probably not going to lose you many either. Individual skill and team play will always be the best element for you and your team to focus on, and my first recommendation for those seeking advice. But if you happen to have an amazing D.Va player on your squad, that probably won’t hurt :)
Final Thoughts and Shoutouts
I will caution readers again that Misfits’ High Dive lineup worked primarily because they are who they are: one of Overwatch’s top teams. Trying to run it in your own team compositions when Season 3 drops may not have the best results, unless you and your buddies consist of an amazing Widowmaker, Zenyatta, Tracer, Genji, and Winston. Also, this was not the only lineup that Misfits even ran – it works mostly on offense and not on defense where they used a more traditional Soldier 76 DPS setup. Shoutouts to Dreamhack for putting on what ended up being a really thrilling semi-finals and finals, despite the extreme technical difficulties on the way there. Finally, good luck to everyone in Season 3! May your rankings be high and your placements go well.
Until next time,