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Opening Thoughts

What’s up guys and gals, CaptainPlanet here to present the Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report: The Tanks’ Last Stand. It’s been several weeks since last report chronicling the rise (and peak!) of the Tank Meta at MLG Vegas and I’ve returned from my secret mountain hideout bearing good news and bad news. Bad news first: I was unhappy to discover that Hanzo was not the secret counter to the tank meta, and that the tanks still reign supreme in tournament play. Now for the good news: Tank (and Ana) nerfs are finally coming! This past Thursday, Blizzard announced the rollout of a new public test realm which included changes to Roadhog’s hook – quickly dubbed “Hook 2.0” by the community – and a re-balancing of D.Va’s health and damage. The changes, for reference, can be seen below:

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Direct Link

If these changes go through as-is, you would be hard pressed to find someone who does not believe that the days of the tank meta are numbered. This means that the coming weeks will be very important from a historical standpoint; while there may not be much change in the “live” meta, these last days will provide a final reference point from which to compare how effective or ineffective the PTR changes end up being. Luckily for us, the Overwatch Winter Premier group stages kicked off this week, providing what may be one of the final looks into the tank meta as we know it. Let’s jump right into this tournament’s tiers and usage discussion:


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Tiers

S Tier (>=95% Usage Rate): Reinhardt (96%)

A Tier (>80% Usage Rate): Lucio (92%), Ana (91%)

B Tier (>50% Usage Rate): D.Va (78%), Zarya (68%), Roadhog (66%)

C Tier (>20% Usage Rate): Tracer (25%), Soldier 76 (23%)

D Tier (>5% Usage Rate): Genji (15%), Mei (10%), Zenyatta (10%), Pharah (6%), Sombra (6%)

F Tier (<5% Usage Rate): Symmetra (3%), Reaper (3%), Hanzo (3%), McCree (2%), Torbjorn (2%), Winston (1%), Junkrat (0%), Bastion (0%), Mercy (0%), Widowmaker (0% - 0 picks at all)

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 / Usage Discussion

This week the relative usage numbers (see top of page) of the tank meta “core heroes” (Reinhardt, Lucio, Ana, D.Va, Zarya, Roadhog) all rose and continued an interesting trend of diversification that is making me hopeful about the potential effects of nerfing its members. All of these heroes obviously have high overall usage, but it appears that there is are still some situations where they are not used 100% of the time.

Lucio, for example, is the first choice replacement for teams running Symmetra and Torbjorn on defense where he used to be an instant-lock on all game modes. Reinhardt – who was the only hero with balanced usage across the board – was able to surpass Lucio both this week and at MLG in part due to Lucio’s drop in defensive usage, something that has not happened since early November during the Nanoboost-powered Beyblade meta. Long gone are the days of Reinhardt being a detriment on king of the hill, he is now Overwatch’s most well-rounded hero in terms of game modes. Ana has the opposite problem as Lucio: she’s first up for replacement by teams that run Zenyatta on offense. This is mostly in part due to Complexity’s Sombra lineup and FaZe working with their Genji ace, Shadowburn: both of which work much better with Discorded targets to focus down and destroy. These two teams’ strategies, along with a hefty amount of Mangachu on Pharah were even enough to propel Genji, Sombra, and Pharah out of the F Tier this week. Finally, Roadhog dipped in usage on most king of the hill maps in favor of Tracer and Soldier 76.

So why should these cracks in the tank meta armor give us hope? We have been stuck in the grips of at least triple tank since the fated D.Va / Soldier 76 patch in mid-November – who cares about a little bit of diversity at the top? My take on these slight inroads heroes like Symmetra and Torbjorn have made into Ana and Lucio’s usage mean that Blizzard is getting closer to more fully diversified “overall” meta.

Here’s how it might happen. The upcoming changes will likely reduce the usage of tanks and that usage has to go somewhere. If this usage is spread out to already-specialized heroes – Sombra, Tracer, and Genji on offense…Mei, Torbjorn, and Symmetra on defense to name a few – we could actually be heading towards a “rock-paper-scissors” meta instead of a “rock smashing against rock” meta. Future offenses could consist of dive comps centered around Tracer, Genji, and Winston, or whatever you want to call Complexity’s EMP-farming Sombra lineup. Defenses could strap in, drop their Lucio, and go full builder with Symmetra and Torbjorn – or utilize a crossfire setup with Soldier 76, McCree, Hanzo, or Widowmaker. The tanks (sans Roadhog, if Hook 2.0 releases as-is) will still play a vital part in these lineups, however they may cease to be the focus. D.Va will still be able to harass defenders from high ground, Zarya will still be strong and well-rounded – but without as many D.Vas to feast on. Reinhardt will still be essential on defense, but may not be as needed in the greedier dive comps.

This is all just speculation on my part, but I am rooting for more balance changes that promote the “specialist” heroes and bring true diversity to the team compositions that we see in tournament play.


What do the Pros Think? Do they know things? Let’s Find Out!

I’m excited to see what the pros cook up when the PTR launches, but what do they actually think of the slated changes? I’m just a guy who writes about the best Overwatch players and the heroes that they play – if I were reading this report I would much rather hear what those players had to say than my own opinion. With that in mind, I reached out to several pros, stalked many of their streams, and collected their thoughts on the PTR as it stands:


From Shake, Complexity’s Ana player

CP: Shake, as Complexity’s Ana player you obviously have a deep knowledge of the hero. She has only received one nerf – a reduction in the healing buff from her Biotic Grenade – how does this feel to you in a general sense? Will this prevent her from being played, will it not affect her at all, or will it fall somewhere in-between?

Shake: I think the nerf to biotic grenade was necessary. I’m actually not sure that the nerf is significant enough. I think Ana will still be a very strong pick after the patch and will probably still be the most ran support in competitive play. Zenyatta will probably be used a bit more in certain areas, but I think overall Ana will still be the strongest support.

CP: What were some of the nuances to playing Ana that could be affected by this nerf? Can you still out-duel flankers from time to time or are dive comps going to be much more effective against her?

Shake: I think you’re going to see Anas use their grenade more offensively after the patch. Right now I use my grenade defensively as much as I do offensively, but after the patch I think the effect of the grenade on enemies is stronger than its effect on your team. Ana will still receive the same self-healing from her grenade, but it will reduce the healing she receives from Lucio or other healers on his team. Her survivability and dueling capability shouldn’t be significantly affected by the changes.

CP: You think this nerf was necessary, but do you think it was the correct one? How would you have done it differently, if you disagree with the change?

Shake: I really like the change they made but I’m actually not sure it was a significant enough nerf. I’m happy they didn’t do something drastic and over-nerf her though. I think a duration nerf to the grenades buff and debuff could be a good next step if she is still overpowered after the patch.


From Hymzi, Team Finland and Ninjas in Pyjamas’ Roadhog God, his take on Roadhog and an indirect quote from Geoff Goodman:

Hymzi: Hog is dead if the changes stick. Geoff (Goodman) said the hook will probably be the 2.0 one and they would somehow up the hogs survivability instead. Sure you could still get stuff done with him, but the pre-fight picks are now 80-90% less (if breaking/LOS the hook remains this easy) and I’m sure there is always a hero that fits better no matter what comp you go with. Still have to test it out in scrims, but pretty sure that’s what’s going to happen and to be completely honest I don’t mind it at all if hog takes a step back.


From Hyp3d, Immortals’ D.Va and Zarya player, his take on the D.Va changes:

Hyp3d: D.Va is actually really hard to gauge. I have been shying away from her, but I still think she will probably still see a lot of play on any map where you’re on offense and you’re trying to push someone off of high ground…so like Hollywood or Dorado…maps like those. King of the Hill I’m not sure. Also, she’s still good in dive [comps] – instead of monkey-Zarya you could do monkey-D.Va or Zarya-D.Va. It’s hard to say though.


Finally from Surefour’s stream, his take on how Hook 2.0 should function:

Surefour: [I think that] they should have it so that the hook actually pulls faster after it hooks them because it should make sense that after they go around a corner it doesn’t pull them. But [sometimes] there’s cases that if they jump they can sometimes reach that corner so it kind of @#$%’s up the Roadhog. So if it still pulls fast but people are able to get around the corner it’ll stop the pull, but it won’t stop those long range, jumping around corners kind of things.

(I believe he means long jumps here)


It sounds like the pros are not that optimistic about Roadhog making it in the future if he ships with Hook 2.0, but are not ready to say that he won’t get more work before the PTR ends. Shake thinks that Ana will still be the strongest support, but perhaps the nerf to her healing effectiveness will reduce the usage of tanks, without affecting her own. Hyp3d is already shying away from D.Va in his own testing and I imagine she’ll be harder to top off without that 100% healing boost from Ana’s grenade.


What’s next for the Hog mains?

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Speaking of Hymzi, I thought it would be interesting to look into the players who have been playing the most Roadhog in my database to see what other heroes they are known to play. The results were surprising. While I’m sure all of these players are extremely good at other heroes – certainly much better than most of the world – when it comes to tournament play some of these players are Roadhog “one-trick-ponies”. Players like Hymzi, ConnorJ, Ube, and Birdring have played negligible amounts of non-Roadhog heroes – at least in tournaments that I have covered.

However this does not mean that they are not skilled at other heroes – far from it – it just means that I cannot speculate as to which hero they will move to if Roadhog falls out of the meta. Perhaps they will follow Twoeasy, Surefour, or Gods and swap to McCree and Tracer. Maybe they will move to McCree and Reaper like Gods and Taimou (‘member when Taimou used to play McCree? I ‘member). Or maybe they will stick to tanks and become full-time Zaryas like Harbleu, Manneten, and Mendokusaii – although I think Mendo would much rather play a DPS hero again. A final interesting note is that Twoeasy was recently (as in, publicly acknowledged as I type this) cut from FaZe for reasons I’m sure are unrelated to impending Roadhog nerfs. Twoeasy will no doubt land on his feet with another team in short order, but he probably won’t be playing Roadhog.


The Most Popular Professional Overwatch Team Comps Over Time

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For this week’s report, I also created a graphic demonstrating the most-used lineup by pro teams in tournaments dating back to the Beyblade meta, pre-Blizzcon. I was motivated by how biased the meta was towards the Ana/D.Va/Lucio/Reinhardt/Roadhog/Zarya lineup in MLG Vegas (a staggering 33% of all play time in that tournament was played with this lineup) and this week’s drop-off in “meta-share” of the same lineup during the Winter Premier group stages. I wondered whether if other weeks even came close to MLG Vegas, and how far back I had to go to find a week where the top lineup did not include the 5 hero core of Ana/D.Va/Lucio/Reinhardt/Roadhog.

As it turns out, the answer to the first question was “No, MLG Vegas was the highest lineup-share of the past seven weeks.” However, this is not so surprising as huge LAN tournaments tend to force teams into practicing whatever their take on the strongest lineups are at the moment. For MLG Vegas, it just so happened that most of the teams agreed with each other – not uncommon for squads all hailing from the same (NA) region. The drop in this lineup’s “meta-share” this week could be due to several factors: different teams, lower sample size, fixed map pool with more king of the hill, higher representation of FaZe / Complexity who run some counter-meta lineups, etc.

The answer to the second question was that you have to go back all the way to November 20th (the weekend following the Soldier 76 and D.Va buffs) to find a week where the top lineup did not include the core of Ana/D.Va/Lucio/Reinhardt/Roadhog. You’d have to go even further – all the way back to the November 11th report covering the World Cup – to find a week without the five hero core and Soldier 76 or Zarya. The upcoming changes should at least knock Roadhog out of “top lineup” status, but we will have to see what lineups pop up out of PTR experimentation in the coming weeks.


Final Thoughts

It’s good to be back and good to hear that Jeff and friends were quick to address lingering concerns from the past year. They stated early 2017 release for Oasis and guess what: it’s already out. They heard all of our complaints and saw all of our memes about the tank meta, and now we have Hook 2.0 and a rebalanced D.Va and Ana to play with on the PTR. 2017 is starting off bright for Overwatch, but it’s only just the beginning. Get out there on the PTR, try out the changes, and be sure to give Blizzard good feedback. The more we use this tool they have given us, the closer they get to making a more enjoyable experience for us all.

 

Until next time,

 

CaptainPlanet