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Opening Thoughts

What’s up guys and gals, CaptainPlanet here to present the Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report: Tanks for Watching! This past weekend was huge for esports in Overwatch with two premier tournaments occurring: IEM Gyeonggi and MLG Vegas. Both of these tournaments were also played on a newly released patch, which included the Symmetra rework and a slight Zarya nerf. Very rarely do we get to see the results of a balance patch on the pro meta so soon after its release, and this weekend was doubly exciting for it. In the weeks leading up to the patch release, there was evidence that the pro scene was headed towards a meta that was entirely dominated by tanks. Indeed, in last week’s report four of the top six heroes used were tanks, but I wanted to withold judgment on the direction of the meta until Symmetra was released into the wild. Well, a week later here we stand with a hefty slice of Symmetra-including, professional Overwatch data and I think it’s time to call it. The Tankening is upon us.

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

A Tier (>80% Usage Rate): Reinhardt (90%), Lucio (89%), Ana (86%)

B Tier (>50% Usage Rate): D.Va (73%), Roadhog (64%), Zarya (51%)

C Tier (>20% Usage Rate): Soldier 76 (36%), Tracer (21%)

D Tier (>5% Usage Rate): Mei (14%), Zenyatta (14%), Genji (13%), Winston (10%), McCree (7%), Pharah (6%), Reaper (6%)

F Tier (<5% Usage Rate): Symmetra (4%), Sombra (2%), Mercy (1%), Torbjorn (1%), Hanzo (1%), Widowmaker (0%), Junkrat (0%), Bastion (0%)

Caution: take the F Tier with a grain of salt … it only represents the usage from a pro tournaments. 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

Tier Discussion

Despite the “doom and gloom” of the Tankening, a significant hero usage milestone occurred this week. Pop the champagne bottles, because this was the first time in several weeks, maybe months, that Lucio has not been the top-played hero in a week’s worth of tournament play. What happened to everyone’s favorite Brazilian speedster? Taking a look at the usage summary chart, we can see a drastic dip in Lucio’s defensive usage thanks to the Symmetra rework. Still considered to be the “core-est” of the “core” heroes, Lucio was the first in line to sub out on first point defense for teams wishing to set up a shiny new Shield Generator – a tactic used to great effect by Cloud 9 and EnVyUs at MLG Vegas. Zarya was the other noticeable mover this week, picking up 10% usage over last week, and 30% usage over a month ago in line with D.Va’s usage rate explosion. Zarya stole much of this usage from Soldier 76, who is down 20% usage in a month and Tracer, who dropped 13% in a week.

The Post-Tournament Symmetra Report

How was she used?

Last week I painted two different pictures of Symmetra usage and as I predicted, the actual outcome fell somewhere in between the two extremes. The teams that did run Symmetra used her on the maps she was known for in her Closed Beta heyday: Dorado, Numbani, Hollywood, King’s Row. Teams like Cloud 9 and EnVyUs opted to sub her in instead of Lucio for first point defenses, valuing her Shield Generator more than Lucio’s Speed Boost on entrenched defensive setups.

If we look at the teams that used Symmetra, we see a spread that either had time to practice her on the PTR before MLG/IEM, or that had players who were well known for playing her in Overwatch’s early stages. The latter, Internethulk, demonstrated an effective play-style that made use of the change to her turrets in particular. In a match against Cloud 9 on Dorado, Internethulk used the removal of the turret cap to place turrets along potential flank routes, giving EnVyUs advance warning to the movements of Surefour’s flanking Tracer. Teams using Symmetra in IEM Gyeonggi and MLG Vegas also had a much higher chance of full-holding first points compared to the larger spread: 47% of Symmetra first point defenses ended the side at the first point compared to 32% of all heroes on Numbani, Dorado, Hollywood, and King’s Row. This rate would have been even higher too, had Cloud 9 not run into EnVyUs in the semifinals.

What does this tell us about Symmetra?

The new Symmetra is disruptive, but not quite in the way that was expected. There are not any “tanked up” DPS running around, but her Shield Generator is an incredibly powerful tool for hybrid map first point defenses. Instead of replacing a DPS or a tank she slots in instead for Lucio, whose Speed Boost is not needed nearly as much on defense as it is offense. Teams using Symmetra were still using more than 2 tanks on average, and once that Shield Generator came online it was nearly impossible for the attacking team to kill it – much less take the point.

Also, it created this horror:


I can only think of a two instances off hand – both from Cloud 9 – that resulted in the shield generator being destroyed. The first was the most successful: on Dorado offense Cloud 9 had to commit three players to dive the heavily protected generator and kill it, dying in the process. The rest of their team was able to clean up and take the first point, but Cloud 9 would eventually stall out before the second point. The second scenario was either a complete accident, or moment of brilliance: Mendokusaii on Tracer stickied Internethulk’s Symmetra on King’s Row just as Internethulk put down his Shield Generator – killing both in the process. Unfortunately for Cloud 9, this was one of the many Symmetra-defense full holds that occurred during MLG.

Final Verdict

Despite her low overall usage, Symmetra is back. She will always be flirting with the 1-10% usage range simply because of her niche skillset working best with hybrid map first points, but this should not be taken as reason to not play her yourself. For players looking to improve their Ranked Play results, I emphatically recommend running Symmetra for your first point defenses, as well as both for both points on 2CP maps. Building a Shield Generator and babysitting it with turrets can win the game on the spot due to how many resources attacking team has to commit to destroy it while dodging six defenders with an additional 75 health. In non-Grandmaster tiers, good luck finding a team capable of doing so. Symmetra mains, your time is now!

Tanks for Watching

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Looking to MLG in particular, the top five team compositions speak to the current state of the meta. The Overwatch pro scene has reached a point where five heroes are core, only two heroes fit the sixth flex spot, and three different takes on counter lineups have appeared, albeit built around a tank-heavy core. Enough with the vagueness however, let’s dive right into it.

The Meta Lineups

There were two takes on the meta on display this weekend at MLG built around the five hero core of Ana, D.Va, Lucio, Reinhardt, and Roadhog. The first and most used was the Zarya variant and the second was the Soldier 76 variant – Quad and Tri-tank lineups respectively. Following the Sombra-release, Soldier 76/D.Va-buffing patch, the Soldier variant was the most common of the two, with teams making use of their shiny new toy Soldier 76 and his beefed up damage output. However by the time MLG Vegas rolled around, teams had begun to realize that something was not quite working with this lineup. “Nanovisor”, for how scary it seemed on paper, was getting shut down too easily by enemy D.Vas – whose own usage had rocketed upwards as well. Soldier 76’s usage has since dropped on all fronts except defense where he can post up opposite the rest of his team to create deadly crossfire and force the D.Va to choose between shutting him or the rest of his team down. In the finals FaZe chose the latter, which gave Harryhook’s Soldier 76 a free trip to the shooting range where he mowed down FaZe attackers uncontested.

Despite Soldier 76’s strength on defense, his offense and king of the hill usage has slowly been absorbed by Zarya, who worked her way back into the flex spot as D.Va’s usage grew. Zarya does was Soldier 76 cannot, although without the same effective range: filling a role as one of the few heroes that performs well against Defense Matrix. This relationship between Zarya and D.Va came to a head this weekend, where teams finally decided after weeks of devoured Nanovisors that Soldier 76 was not pulling his weight on attack and king of the hill. Despite how obvious it seems on paper, Zarya is still not quite the perfect counter to D.Va however. Top D.Va players will always be looking to eat Graviton Surges, as Mickie demonstrates in this clip from the finals:

“Ogon po gotovnosti…wait what?”

The Counters

Two distinct counter lineups and one “we have a Shadowburn” lineup popped up as responses to the meta compositions at MLG Vegas. It’s worth noting again that these three “counter” lineups still preserved a tri-tank core with a single flex hero that defined their flavor, so for better or for worse the most used counters to quad-tank are different versions of tri-tank lineups. Is the end of 2/2/2 upon us?

Mei to the rescue!

This lineup included a Mei in place of Roadhog, creating a lineup filled with impactful ultimates to be used on a single central control point. Mei does well in tank-heavy metas because of how easy it is to freeze large targets, and she’s doing especially well in a D.Va-dominated meta because her main fire is not countered by Defense Matrix. Mei is also one of the few heroes that can usually survive being hooked by a Roadhog, allowing her Zarya to save her bubbles for this lineups’ supports. Additionally, Mei’s Ice Wall can be used to deny healing to the enemy team by cutting off their Ana’s line of sight – providing further utility on top of its usual team-splitting use.

The Pharah Solution

This Pharah-flex lineup was run initially by Fnatic against FaZe, utilizing Hafficool’s skill with the projectile based hero. Having fought through several teams on their way to the semifinals, Fnatic realized that the meta lineup included zero long-range hitscan, freeing the skies for Pharah’s rocket deluge. Hafficool only had to worry about Ana and the occasional Roadhog hook while making the most of his freedom of positioning – rather than being grounded by an enemy McCree or Soldier 76. FaZe however was quick to pick up on this strategy – but instead of swapping Buds or Twoeasy to Soldier 76 they instead put Shadowburn on Pharah themselves. This should give hope to Pharah mains in ranked play if the “pro meta” leaks into the ladder: if your opponents insist on quad-tanking against your team, you can expect clear skies ahead.

The Genji Ringer

The final lineup can trace itself back to FaZe who for obvious, Shadowburn-based reasons used a lot of Genji on their way to placing second in MLG Vegas. On the ranked play ladder, more often than not the best way to climb with your team is to play to your strengths. When you have the world’s best Genji player, you can make a good argument for doing the same at the pro level as well. FaZe’s Genji usage was well-practiced – and you could tell by how each Nanoboosted Dragonblade occurrence played out the same exact way. Shadowburn almost always began his murdering by dashing upwards above the enemy team to provide line of sight for Rawkus’ Nanoboosts and prevent unfortunate “Boost-io” mishaps. Then, Dragonblade unsheathed and dash cooldown reset, Shadowburn would bee-line for the supports and take them out with two or three quick slashes. Vulnerable, the rest of the enemy team could be dealt with by the rest of FaZe. As nice and clean as the Nanoblade sounds on paper however, the meta lineup still has plenty of ways to counter it: namely clutch Roadhog hooks and Reinhardt Earthshatters. Just like with the Pharah solution, if your ladder squad has an amazing Genji ringer – you would be well-advised to have them and your Ana watch try to emulate the Shadowburn/Rawkus duo in your own matches against the Tankening to come.

Why is the Meta Lineup so good?

When explaining hero strengths and team compositions in Overwatch it’s easy to fall into the trap of just listing off positive aspects without considering weakness, or really diving into the why of what makes things work. I could tell the same old story about how Roadhog can combo any <200 HP hero every six seconds. I could tell you about how D.Va’s Defense Matrix was always borderline overpowered, but went unnoticed because the changes she needed to make her viable (movement speed) at the pro level were not addressed until recently. I could say the reverse thing about Ana – that Nanoboost was only part of the problem and her healing output is the battery that makes these tank lineups possible. Instead, I’m going to focus on the elements of these heroes that are supposed to be weaknesses, that instead get muted by their mutual synergies. I will caution that I am speaking in general terms – these are not stated design goals of Jeff & friends, but common complaints I have seen in the scene.

  • Tanks aren’t supposed to do more damage than DPS heroes.

There is a common perception that tanks are supposed to deal less damage than DPS heroes either due to effective range or overall damage output. Reinhardt can only deal damage from close range, but Lucio’s Speed Boost allows him to get into melee range to start swinging his hammer for 75 damage swipes. New D.Va is like a flanking Tracer with 600 health who can out-duel Soldier 76 – this patch’s top DPS – in a 1v1 thanks to Defense Matrix. Roadhog…is Roadhog. We know what he can do. Finally despite the continued nerfs to Zarya, her damage at full charge still competes with top DPS heroes. At the pro level, players like Coolmatt69 and Harbleu were still dancing around king of the hill maps with >70% charge most of the time, largely unaffected.

  • Healers aren’t supposed to be able to out-heal DPS heroes

And they can’t, unless we’re talking about healing tanks. A team’s Soldier 76 might get popped for a quick 2-shot kill by a McCree before their supports can react, but it is much harder to do the same to heavily armored and/or high health tanks. This could be balanced around the healer not being able to out-heal a Soldier 76 with decent aim landing a slew of headshots, but one Biotic Grenade, a couple of darts, and a quick self-heal later and that Roadhog is looking as good as new – with 30% ultimate charge in Ana’s bank account to boot. Without grenade, or even with reduced effectiveness of the grenade, and this doesn’t happen.

  • Tanks aren’t supposed to counter their “on-paper” counters

On paper, Reaper is a tank counter. I know this, because many of you have asked me the same question: “Why isn’t Reaper being played? He’s a tank counter, right?” And you’re right, Reaper looks like he should murder tanks: he has shotguns, he works best up close, and it’s really hard to miss giant targets from his effective range. However, this is where the combination of the four tanks can work together to defeat a common foe. Roadhog can hook the Reaper into range before he’s ready, forcing an early Wraith Form and retreat. D.Va and Zarya can respond to surprise flanks, absorbing his shotgun blasts with Defense Matrix and bubbles. Finally if all else fails, Reinhardt can bring the ultimate hammer down with Earthshatter to cancel any Deathblossoms when Defense Matrix is on cooldown. Ana can also turn the tides on a Reaper driving his bullets into Roadhogs un-armored flesh with a quick Biotic Grenade and heal as well.

Hope on the Horizon?

I just spent a paragraph describing why Reaper isn’t a perfect counter to tri/quad-tank lineups, but EnVyUs’ success running Reaper against FaZe’s meta lineups on Nepal and Temple of Anubis may represent a breaking point in the meta for this “tank buster”. One unmentioned reason why Reaper fell out of the meta in prior weeks was a lack of armor-less tanks – Roadhog, Zarya, and Winston to a lesser extent. At MLG, EnVyUs may have noticed that enough Zarya and Roadhog were being played together to move Harryhook off of Soldier 76 and onto Reaper on these maps where most of the fighting was up-close and personal. As it turns out, perhaps the meta just has to have 2+ unarmored tanks to bring Reaper back, or maybe EnVyUs can just run whatever they want.

If the meta continues to move further and further into tankland, counter-lineups like the Mei lineups run by Complexity, or the Pharah lineups run by FaZe and Fnatic will begin to gain more traction. However whenever one team is so much better than the others, they can just say “screw the meta”, come up with whatever strategy they want, and execute it with success. Maybe we should ask Taimou nicely to play less Roadhog…


As a distraction from all of the tank discussion, I compiled a list of every players’ hero performances at MLG Vegas (see the image below)

Direct Link

With this chart, you can click on each hero and each players play time and winrate is displayed to the rigt. Caution: the winrate is determined on a per-map basis, so teams like FaZe and Fnatic, despite reaching the semifinals, will have a <50% winrate.

Final Thoughts

MLG Vegas and IEM Gyeonggi were incredible tournaments and made for a very exciting weekend. I wish I could have been on-site for either, but then I would not have been able to put out a fresh Meta Report in a timely manner! Congratulations to EnVyUs who cemented their place at the top of the Overwatch pantheon, and Luxurywatch Red who have proven themselves worthy contenders on the worldwide stage. This will be the last Meta Report from me until the new year, the players (and myself!) need a break after all. See you all in 2017!


Until next time,