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Opening Thoughts

What’s up guys and gals, CaptainPlanet here to present the Overwatch Hero Meta Report: A Hint of Pharah. This week’s report is going to be quite a bit shorter than usual because…the professional meta has not really changed that much. Yes the professional meta only: so please stop bugging Jeff Kaplan on the forums…


My advice for climbing the ladder is always to take the heroes that you’re best at and find a group of players that compliment your own pool – not to blindly stick to meta picks. Sticking to what the pros play may make sense, but only if you believe that you’re at or near their level. Remember when Genji dominated the meta? How many people in ranked can actually do the things that Shadowburn, Seagull, and Kyb can do? I definitely can’t! Anyway, off my soapbox and to the task at hand:

We’re all waiting on pins and needles waiting for the patch that’s cooking on the PTR to release, but until then the Winter Premier group stages have been more of the same with regard the tanks’ dominance. This, however, has led to a new phenomenon: effective counter lineups! As it turns out, running predictable defenses where the only reliable hitscan hero is one of your supports (Ana) is enough to bring the Pharahs out of the woodwork, to the tune of 22% usage rate on offense in this week’s matches. This week, I’m also joined by Phaz, the support player for Rise Nation, who will be shedding some light on what to expect in the pro scene once the patch does come. Let’s jump right in to what will hopefully be the last week of tanky control of Overwatch’s tournament scene with the usage tiers!

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S Tier (>=95% Usage Rate): Reinhardt (97%), Lucio (96%), Ana (95%)

A Tier (>80% Usage Rate): No one!

B Tier (>50% Usage Rate): Zarya (79%), D.Va (79%), Roadhog (52%)

C Tier (>20% Usage Rate): Tracer (26%)

D Tier (>5% Usage Rate): Soldier 76 (18%), Genji (16%), Pharah (14%), Mei (8%)

F Tier (<5% Usage Rate): McCree (4%), Zenyatta (4%), Reaper (4%), Winston (4%), Symmetra (3%), Sombra (2%), Torbjorn (0%), Widowmaker (0%), Hanzo (0%), Junkrat (0%), Bastion (0%), Mercy (0 picks this week)

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

Tank Meta Discussion

In this week’s Winter Premier matches, there was a fairly clear consensus on using three heroes: Reinhardt, Lucio, and Ana. I say fairly because while Reinhardt was present for >90% of map time played on offense, defense, and king of the hill matches Ana and Lucio had a bit of specialization going on. Ana was jettisoned on offense in some – usually Sombra-based – lineups for Zenyatta, driving her usage down to a measly 86%. Oh no, poor Ana! Lucio was similarly subbed out on some first point defenses for builder heroes – Torbjorn and Symmetra – and sometimes Mei as the speed he brings to lineups is less required when the enemy team brings the fight to you. Zarya and D.Va maintained relatively similar usage compared to last week’s matches – D.Va because of her crazy survivability and stalling strength and Zarya as D.Va’s natural counter and a damage-dealing monster in her own right. Roadhog dropped in usage this week, although this was likely due to a larger amount of Nepal (the only king of the hill map in the Winter Premier group stages pool) being played this week. You will notice that Tracer’s usage spiked in response to the increase of king of the hill maps played, eating directly into Roadhog’s totals.

Pharah…is back?

I know you all would love to read more about the tanks and healers of the tank meta but something legitimately interesting happened this week. Pharah…is back? As meta enthusiasts you all probably already know that as a meta crystallizes into an agreed-upon state, it can start to become predictable. This gives rise to more specialized meta counters and brings elements back into the game that would otherwise be unplayable. For the tank meta, this counter-meta element is offensive Pharah. It’s one of those few strategies in Overwatch that seems like it would work well on paper that actually translated to working well in practice. Lately, teams in the Winter Premier have been running defenses that consist of and Ana/Lucio/Reinhardt /D.Va/Zarya core + 1, and that +1 has begun to trend towards Roadhog in most cases instead of Soldier 76.

You’ll notice that this defensive lineup is devoid of long range hitscan, meaning that all Pharah has to worry about is D.Va’s Defense Matrix, Ana snipes, and Roadhog flanking hooks. Playing Pharah on offense takes advantage of immobile defensive setups that expect the offense to come to them: spamming rockets from outside of hook range forces them to either tank the assault with Reinhardt’s shield, use up Defense Matrix charge, or hope the Ana can hit three shots in a row before the Pharah can drop behind cover or be healed. This either forces the defense to move or shifts the balance in the “shield battle” towards the offense, both of which are ideal outcomes for an attacking team.

Since the pros are way better at Overwatch than me, they realized this a long time ago. Pharah had started to sneak back into lineups in last week’s matches and has spiked this week to an overall usage rate of 14%, up 8% over last week. Her rise is even more significant if we look at offensive usage only, where she’s grown to 22% of time played by teams on offense, up from 10% last week. Mangachu and Ube were the heralds of this new Pharah usage, using her primarily during the street phase of King’s Row where she has many corners and roofs to peek around while maintaining long lines of sight.


Direct Link

Will this Pharah usage carry over if the PTR changes go through? It’s hard to say. It does seem like at least quad tank lineups will be a thing of the past, but there should be some triple tank lineups floating around. 2/2/2 lineups with at least a Soldier 76 should be enough to ward off most Pharah play, however if Symmetra and Torbjorn continue to be viable picks for first point defenses in hitscan-absent lineups, Pharah can be a good counter to them as well by out-ranging Torbjorn’s turret and being generally untouchable to Symmetra’s damage. In the meantime, if you are sick and tired of multi-tank lineups and want to make a difference on offense, I would suggest you emulate Mangachu and Ube and pull out your Pharah!

Pre-Patch Speculation with Phaz

Phaz was nice enough to join me and discuss his findings after 15+ hours of PTR scrims regarding Hook 2.1, D.Va, and the meta as a whole. Let’s hear what he has to say!


CP: First order of business, we’re now on Hook 2.1 on the PTR and I think a lot of people who haven’t played the PTR extensively believe that Roadhog will dip in usage post-patch. Do you think this is true? Why or why not?


Phaz: I don’t feel this is completely true. [From my experience in] PTR scrims thus far, you can pretty much play everyone in the meta and this applies to Hog too. What the new hook does is makes it so you are trading less bs/random hooks for the ability to one shot almost every character. Mix that with the Ana nerf to her Biotic Grenade and pretty much every hook you get whether it be Lucio/Ana/Reinhardt etc, is a kill. I think Hog’s overall pick rate will suffer a lot because like I said you can play a lot of different heroes right now and even though I think he’s still quite good – and maybe in fact better in the hands of a few players – he will suffer greatly from the Ana grenade nerf and Reaper being able to be played again.


CP: What hero / heroes do you think will eat into his lineup the most, and in what context?


Phaz: The nerfs made to Hog don’t really screw as much as the nerfs to the other characters like Dva/Ana. Him losing +50% heal amp Ana Grenade was giving him so she could heal him quicker or so he could press E and full heal quicker and Dva being less tanky makes it so she can’t ‘matrix out’ someone like Zen/Reaper out of a fight. I don’t think there is a specific lineup I can reference as my team and teams were playing are playing a different thing every time they come out pretty much, but if Hog is giving you trouble going Reaper to melt him or Zenyatta to discord him are things you can do this patch which you couldn’t do before mainly due to Dva like I said.


CP: I see. So its not like he’s being benched for like McCree, itls more that his counters are more effective against him?


Phaz: Exactly, he can still be played it’s just he lost a lot with the Ana/Dva nerfs. Due to Dva being nerfed, you can actually play Reaper/Mccree and others


CP: Speaking of the D.Va nerfs… My, and many less-skilled players’ take on the health redistribution is that she should be weaker to heroes like Reaper and that almost all of her usage will be eaten up by Zarya. I’ve seen pros laughing at the idea that Reaper would do well vs. D.Va even with the change – can you explain the error in this thinking and where you think D.Va will end up post-patch?


Phaz: If people don’t think Reaper can work, they should get back to scrimming. We saw Reaper ran by Envyus in the MLG Finals where his number one counter Dva was still a thing and now that she is ‘less than a thing’ I still think he is very good. I’ve been mentioning this for months, but I’ve noticed Envy/Fnatic run Reaper more than every other NA team for awhile now. I think his ability to remove people from a fight and then just Wraith [Form] away to safety.

In the hands of the right player this is extremely strong and of course he was one of the best team fight winning ults in the game. I don’t know think he’s the reason for D.Va being less played as I think his play rate will be low too compared to 76/Mccree/Genji, but I think he’s a good pick and something we’ll see a lot more because Dva will also be less played. Dva is weaker to all heroes, before you would see Dva’s 1v6 or get hooked and just shift away, but with the Ana nade nerf and her being less tanky this probably won’t happen as often. She isn’t an unkillable beast like she sometimes felt like before.


CP: Got it. So you named some dps heroes that would be played instead of Reaper, do you think we’re headed back to a 2/2/2 dominated meta? If so, what are the 2 dps heroes that will be played?


Phaz: Probably, but I’ve also seen people run quad tank and triple tank or even triple DPS lately so it’s hard to say. 76 will still be strong, Sombra might be experimented with a bit more, McCree can actually be played again, Pharah might see a lot less play due to McCree, Tracer still has a purpose in dive comps or even just poking/flanking the backline and Genji will be played a lot more because he can actually kill people because people don’t have 600 hp each.


CP: Are those lineups map-dependent at all? For example, are the tank-heavy lineups skewed towards a particular map, or offense/defense?


Phaz: I think safe bet is Rein/Zarya/Lucio/Ana/Genji/Mcree, but there is so many characters you can fit into these slots like playing Winston/Dva (Or Zarya) / Lucio / Zen (Or Ana) / Genji / Tracer in a dive comp or mixing up Genji / Mccree for Reaper / 76. You can play Dive/Normal on any map and have it work, both comps might add/subtract a character here and there depending on map, but that usually depends on your team’s players and/or the enemy’s teams players. For example Renegades will probably come out Pharah over Tracer/Genji on Mangachu in dive.


CP: Last question – out of the lineups that you’ve faced, which one has the most potential to be the next meta-dominating lineup? Or is there even one?


Phaz: Not really, I don’t think you’ll see that. Like I said, the meta will be team based and you’ll see some mirror, but it will be based off teams. The [PTR] meta isn’t ‘THESE 8 CHARACTERS, BUT MAINLY THESE 6’. The meta is everything…even Torb. I think every character besides Junkrat/Bastion (I’ve seen a team run Mercy over Lucio all scrim so I don’t know about her) will be ran and probably to great success. It will be like previous metas, you’ll see Genji meta with Beyblade mixed with Hanzo/Zarya wombos, maybe mix in some quad tank in there with some Tracer/Genji dive. Nerfing Ana’s healing and making Dva less played will open the doors for everything.

Here’s hoping Phaz is right! Huge thanks to him for taking the time and putting in the effort – you can catch him and the rest of Rise Nation play this weekend in the Alienware Monthly Melee, and follow him on Twitter and watch him on Twitch

Final Thoughts

I hope, and simultaneously don’t hope that Blizzard drops the patch tomorrow. Why? Because one of the biggest Overwatch tournaments with the world’s best teams is happening tonight at 5am eastern time: OGN Apex Season 2 featuring the likes of Cloud 9, EnVyUs, Misfits, and Fnatic. A release of the patch would help remedy the current woes with the tank meta and hopefully bring about the change that Phaz predicts will happen, but could throw that tournament’s group stages into disarray. What player wants to play one day’s worth of matches in one meta and another in a completely different one? It’s an unfortunate Catch 22 that Blizzard finds themselves in. Hopefully they at least patch between days of Apex, and not mid-match….

Finally, remember to check back here at Overbuff later this week for Around the Watch Episode 2, which will [hopefully] be entirely in audio and go off without a hitch! I’ve never set up and hosted my own audio podcast before, what’s the worst that can happen right? knocks on wood Join me, Harsha, Pesto_Enthusiast, and special guest Tifa, the manager for Complexity as we discuss the week’s Overwatch esports news. I’ll see you then!


Until next time,