Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report: The Pacific Meta Divide
What’s up guys and gals, CaptainPlanet here to present the Overwatch Hero Meta Report: The Pacific Meta Divide. This week the second season of Apex kicked off in the midst of two huge north american-based tournaments, giving us a rare view into two different region’s take on what hero compositions in Overwatch work best. What happened next? The results may surprise you! Clickbait aside, this week I will be examining the differences between Korean meta, NA meta, and NA-teams-in-Korea meta because they were all a bit different. I will also break down some of the plays, players, and questions that intrigued me during the opening matches of Apex, because those games happened at 2am pacific time and I know you didn’t stay up to watch them. So I did for you – cheers! And since I’m in a rhyming mood, here are this week’s Tiers:
S Tier (>=95% Usage Rate): None!
A Tier (>80% Usage Rate): Ana (92%), Reinhardt (91%), Lucio (86%)
B Tier (>50% Usage Rate): D.Va (79%), Zarya (71%), Roadhog (61%)
C Tier (>20% Usage Rate): Tracer (27%), Soldier 76 (22%)
D Tier (>5% Usage Rate): Genji (15%), Zenyatta (10%), Pharah (10%), Winston (8%), Symmetra (8%), Mei (6%), McCree (5%)
F Tier (<5% Usage Rate): Reaper (4%), Sombra (2%), Torbjorn (1%), Widowmaker (1%), Mercy (1%), Hanzo (1%), 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 / Usage Discussion
This might be the first week that Symmetra has had more than 5% usage since old school Symmetra with near-instant teleport roamed the streets of Closed Beta King’s Row and you can thank this week’s Symmetra-map-heavy pool for that. Both the Winter Premier and Apex had fixed map pools that included Hollywood and King’s Row, then Alienware Monthly Melee allowed players to draft their maps which also led to more of the same. All of these factors combined with the recent rework of Symmetra was enough to catapult her playtime this week to 7%, which is quite a lot for a hero that is most effective on only a couple first points of a few maps.
While the Koreans have a relative preference for playing Genji compared to other heroes, Shadowburn and Agilities actually made up the bulk of Genji usage this week. For good reason too – since these two players are some of NA’s best Genjis and even in the tank meta both FaZe and Immortals saw fit to build their lineups around them.
The bulk of the Zenyatta usage this week was due to Forsak3n providing Discord Orb support to Shadowburn’s Genji, and Shake’s Zenyatta fitting into Complexity’s Sombra offensive comp. Look for more Zenyatta usage now that the Year of the Rooster balance patch has hit and teams jettison their Anas in favor of Zenyatta in dive comps.
Almost all of Pharah’s usage time was tied up in Ube, Luminosity gaming’s “Flex” dps player. You’ll also note that – outside of a small blip from Rascal – almost all Pharah usage was in teams that had a losing winrate this week. Maybe Pharah wasn’t such a great idea after all…
What’s the deal with the NA vs. Korean meta?
Or should I say, the Korean + top NA teams vs. the rest of the world. Data first, thoughts later:
These are the team compositions most used in the opening matches of Apex, which featured an even split between top north american* and Korean teams:
And these are the team compositions most used in the final online rounds of the Winter Premier and the Alienware Monthly Melee:
There’s a pretty stark difference don’t you think? Bear in mind that the Apex dataset includes only four matchups with 16 total maps played, meaning that low sample size could be at play. But just looking at Quad Tank making up >30% of all match time played in 72 non-Apex games while it’s not seen for even 1% of Apex is telling. What’s going on in NA Overwatch while Cloud 9, Fnatic, EnVyUs, and Misfits are gone? Why are all of these teams defaulting to Quad Tank?
The answer could be skill gap. The NA teams invited to Apex were invited for a reason: they represent the best our region has to offer – at least in the opinion of OGN’s organizers. There are other, non-tank-based lineups that are serviceable in the current meta, however they require more skill to execute than the “simpler” and much more consistent tank variants. Misfits notably ran a heavy dive comp from time to time in their matches, and Taimou was heard lamenting the ineffectiveness of quad tank vs. Korean Genjis in Flame’s discord this week. Teams with marquee talent on their rosters can afford to play less “safe” comps and given the skill of Korean Overwatch teams perhaps they’re being forced to in order to keep up.
On the flip side, there were a lot of Tier 2** fighting for huge prizes in their own right this week. When faced with the stress of staying relevant while being sponsored by a big org or finally breaking out in the scene these teams opted for a much less risk-averse approach to their matches the moment things went sour. Backs against the wall, Pharahs turned to D.Vas and Soldiers turned to Zaryas. In hero usage terms, this emerged as a spike in NA-in-NA Quad Tank usage.
* Argue about the semantics of EU players living in NA all you want
** Same goes with this designation – for sake of argument let’s call non-Apex invited teams Tier 2 for now
Because I love large, nearly incomprehensible charts I made one to illustrate the effect of “being in Korea” on the meta. You can use this chart to do your own further investigations on hero usage by filtering using the top-left chart, but for the moment let’s look at this overall view:
Here, I’ve highlighted the Hero usage from Korean teams in green. As it turns out, Korean teams seem to have a pretty balanced hero usage, showing a slight preference for Solder 76 and Genji out of the DPS as well as Mei on certain maps. Compare this to the NA teams playing in NA, where almost all non-support hero usage is eaten up by tanks:
Bear in mind that the Korean data is – as stated before – based on only 16 games vs. the 72 of the NA in NA set. Now if we look at the NA teams playing in Korea, something interesting stands out: a streak of Soldier 76 usage.
Is this the influence of Korean players on their NA guests? Or is it just low sample size? Korean players’ preference towards Genji and the uptick in Soldier 76 usage by NA teams competing in Apex will be something to keep an eye on as more data rolls in – and as the next balance patch rolls out.
A Rare Top 10 List
To avoid dropping even further into tank-fatigue, I wanted to do a special segment highlighting the storylines of Apex Season 2, since most of you were probably asleep when the matches were going on and/or were not even aware it started. I present: 10 things I liked, and didn’t like about the Apex opening group stage matches
1. Mickie’s game-sense
We all know Mickie, EnVyUs’ newest member and breakout star in Apex Season 1 is good at Overwatch, but the more I watch him the less and less I’m convinced that he doesn’t have a spidey-sense when it comes to being in the right place at the right time in Overwatch. There are times that it seems like Mickie sees things happen seconds before they actually do, like this clip on King’s Row:
EnVyUs has MVP Infinity on the ropes so what does Mickie do? He leaves the brawl on the point and beelines for MVP’s spawn door realizing that Easybro has swapped to Bastion either through divine guidance…or hitting Tab. Countered before he could even leave spawn, Easybro hopelessly fires into Mickie’s Defense Matrix while EnVyUs cleans up on the point. Sure, Mickie or anyone on EnVyUs could have just been spamming Tab and watching MVP’s lineup, but this next play from Mickie defies human reaction time:
I’m about to put Mickie on trial for witchcraft for that Graviton deletion. Yes, EnVy may have noticed that Whynot’s Zarya was mysteriously missing from combat and were on high alert for a surprise. But to not only guess where Whynot would come from but also have the reaction time to get Defense Matrix up – that’s full spiderman right there.
2. Nanohana/Flow3r and Pine potentially being forced off their Luxurywatch teams
The Korean netizen scene has dug up information that Nanohana and Pine have CSGO VAC bans in their past and have also been circulating highly-inappropriate-at-best chat logs from their TF2 days. I’m not going to get much more into the details, but those interested can read more here. While the western Overwatch scene has their own bits of VAC-banned player drama, Koreans netizens are much less forgiving. Pressure is mounting from the public for Luxurywatch to remove Pine and Nanohana from their rosters (both have already been fined), to the point that fans are considering boycotting sponsors that align with the team. Pine is not currently playing in Apex Season 2, but Nanohana has already played and excelled in Luxurywatch’s 3-1 victory over Misfits. If LW Blue were to lose him it would not only shake the balance of Group B of Apex Season 2, but also mean that Misfits get the short end of the stick having played the stronger version of the LW Blue team.
3. Nevix’s willingness to play support, despite his well-documented skill in playing DPS
Nevix does this thing every season where he gets top 5 world ranking on two different accounts, usually by playing Ana and a cast of DPS heroes. He’s been asked to step up to fill the DPS role in the past, notably at the Overwatch Open where he played arguably the best Mei of the tournament. This could be a good or bad thing: either Nevix is the perfect teammate willing to play any hero, any role to get the win – or he’s being crowded out of his true potential by the likes of Tviq, Mannetens, and Zebbosai – all extremely skilled players in their own right. The skill potential of the Misfits roster cannot be denied, so how the roster shakes out moving forward will continue to be a compelling storyline.
4. Misfits ‘Diving’ right in
Misfits has a history of bucking the meta dating back to the aforementioned Overwatch Open, where they ran Mei to great success against the Beyblade-heavy lineups of the time. Continuing the trend, Misfits won Dreamhack Winter with a Widowmaker-supported dive comp into Fnatic’s tank-heavy lineups. A major roster shakeup, investment by the Miami heat, and a trip to South Korea later, and the Misfits are still refusing to go all-tank, all the time. Unfortunately for Misfits, the patch that nerfs D.Va and Ana and reworks Roadhog had not yet dropped – so their use of Pharah, Widowmaker, and Genji on Volskaya Industries did not end up getting the win. Perhaps they will have more luck in their next matches now that the Year of the Rooster has begun. An interesting note about Misfits and Widowmaker though: there does not yet seem to be a consensus over who gets to play her. As it stands,
Tviq plays Widowmaker when they need Zebbosai on Zarya and Mannetens on Tracer
Mannetens plays Widowmaker when they need Tviq on Genji and Zebbosai on Pharah
Zebbosai plays Widowmaker when they need Tviq on Genji and Mannetens on Tracer
Will one of the three Widowmaker players rise to the top? Or will she be a flexible lineup pick moving forward?
5. Teams running single support lineups
The meta has frozen to a complete stop (Pharahs nonwithstanding) in NA, but the teams competing in Apex are much more flexible with their team compositions. One interesting such composition I noticed was teams that drop Lucio to play with only a single support – Ana – and swapping in a Winston. This was performed by two teams, EnVyUs and LuxuryWatch Blue, the former on Temple of Anubis defense and the latter on Volskaya Industries offense. Both teams were making use of heroes that had an element of self-heal to their kits (Roadhog and Soldier 76) so the burden on the single Ana was reduced. The success of these compositions was mixed however, EnVy lost their map while Luxurywatch won. This may end up being a one-time thing as well, since Ana’s Biotic Grenade bonus healing is being reduced in the next patch.
6. C9 Adam’s Symmetra play against Conbox Spirit
Cloud 9 ripped off a 3-1 win against Conbox Spirit in their first official match since acquiring Gods and at least part of it was due to Adam’s amazing Symmetra play. Good Symmetras are very hard to come by in the pro scene and Adam does all of the little things you need to do to make a difference. More importantly, it seemed like Conbox was completely unprepared to play against a Symmetra at all: Adam was able to quickly get out a Shield Generator on Hollywood and place it in a fairly common NA spot, but Conbox was unable to either find it or destroy it. This lead to an easy full-hold on the first point by Cloud 9. Adam also did something very interesting on Hanamura with Symmetra, but to set it up lets talk about…
7. Whatever the hell this strategy used by Conbox Spirit on Hanamura first point offense is called
It’s a brilliant way to get their entire team safely through the choke and right onto the point through good cover. All you need is a Mei and good team communication – so good luck actually pulling it off in ranked play ;). Despite the clever play strategy, Cloud 9 got a little lucky here: Conbox did not go looking for the Shield Generator. I spoke with Adam after the match to find out where exactly that Shield Generator was placed and as it turns out, Conbox ran right by it on their way to the point. Furthermore, Adam confirmed my suspicion about his turret placement: as soon as Cloud 9 realized what Conbox was trying to do Adam quickly re-distributed his turrets along the left side of the point – and to great effect. Watching the clip, you can see Conbox’s Mei melt almost instantly upon crossing the threshold of the point, forcing out a premature Ice Block. After this disruption, Mendo is quick to clean up with a Nanovisor and Cloud 9 easily held the point.
Gods is the story of the month having been picked up by Cloud 9 just before their trip to Apex and wow, has he paid off for them already. I’m feeling vibes of EnVyUs trialing Mickie here. Between being cut by NRG, trialing for RNG, and getting picked up by Cloud 9 Gods entered a top-secret hyperbolic time chamber, trained with androids programmed like Tviq and Surefour, and doubled his hero pool. Now instead of Widowmaker Gods, McCree Gods, and Roadhog Gods we also got to see Genji Gods, Pharah Gods, and more. His newfound flexibility will be very important for Cloud 9, who already sport two very flexible dps players in Surefour and Mendokusaii, as it will help “meta-proof” their lineups. This isn’t to say that Gods’ “old” hero pool has declined in strength at all however: his Roadhog play on Route 66 was essential to Cloud 9’s first point defense of the map which even included Adam playing Mercy.
9. Rascal’s defensive Pharah on Eichenwalde
On their way to a 3-0 sweep of Fnatic, Rascal of Kongdoo Panthera pulled out a Pharah on defense despite Fnatic utilizing Soldier 76, an obvious counter to the hero. Pharah is also generally used much more often on offense than defense in general, using range to safely fire rockets at less-mobile defensive setups. In typical “Korean star player fashion”, Rascal did not care about any of these norms and was an absolute terror to Fnatic’s feeble attempts at breaking through the choke. Using Eichenwalde’s high roofs and buildings – similar to King’s Row Pharah play – Rascal rained death from above and even survived a direct Roadhog Hook with a quick concussive shot. Fnatic was eventually able to take the point, but Rascal continued wreaking havoc on his Pharah and Panthera quickly stymied Fnatic on their escort path.
10. Western teams’ inability to win on King of the Hill
Did you know that every western team, even Cloud 9 who won 3-1, lost their King of the Hill matchups? It’s a curious trend to keep an eye on as the tournament progresses as king of the hill maps are seen as the more “deathmatch-y” maps in Overwatch and western teams see themselves as superior “deathmatchers”. Maybe the western teams were slower getting up to speed against their Korean opponents (king of the hill was always played first), or maybe there’s more to it.
Final Thoughts and Shoutouts
Shoutout to OGN for once again setting the standard for Overwatch tournament production. Their stage, the hype videos, the post-game interviews, Monte and Doa casting all make for an extremely entertaining viewing experience. If only it wasn’t so late at night! I’m actually starting to get a little worried about the lack of Overwatch tournaments announced post-Winter Premier LAN. As far as we know, there is nothing scheduled – not even a Gosugamers weekly – besides Apex Season 2 which would leave the competitive community without much going on. Maybe the NA teams will take some time to relax, recover, and retool after all of the roster shuffle drama going on. Or maybe, there’s another tournament just waiting to be announced! We’ll have to see. Finally, a reminder to check out Around The Watch: my podcast covering the Overwatch esports news of the week. This week, we’ll be joined by a special guest, straight outta Seoul, South Korea, it’s Mendokusaii! Tune in thursday evening for this week’s episode.
Until next time,