Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report: Balance, or Lucio?
What’s up guys and gals, CaptainPlanet here to present the Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report: Balance, or Lucio?. This week’s report includes matches from the NA-based Rivalcade Rumble, the EU-based HND Invitational, both of which actually occurred two weeks prior while I was out of town travelling. Luckily(?), no NA or EU tournaments occurred this week, which means that this is still somewhat topical. The only significant matches that occurred were the opening matches of Apex Season 3, which I also included in this report*. It seems like taking a vacation was timely for another reason: it’s the first time in months that Overwatch has enjoyed had several consecutive weeks where the meta has not been dominated by a single composition. Maybe I should take time off more often? Despite the diversity in team comps, Lucio was still the hero of choice for nearly every pro team’s lineup needs, but this (well, last) week there were even some compositions that he didn’t get used. Pretty neat!
* As well as the Overwatch Pacific Championship, which I’m omitting due to time. I’ll cover these matches some time in the future!
There’s one other reason to be excited about Overwatch this week: The Overwatch World Cup Committee voting has begun! And I’m one of the nominees for Team USA’s Committee! If you’d like to vote for me, make sure to do so May 4th at midnight, and also remember that you’re voting for the committee that selects the team, not the team itself. Trust me, you wouldn’t want me to be actually playing. If you’re interested in why I think I’d be a good committee member, check out this video I made showing why.
Enough politicking, it makes me feel gross. Let’s look at the Tiers from the past two weeks of pro Overwatch play!
S Tier (>=95% Usage Rate): Lucio (98%)
Tier 1 (>80% Usage Rate): No one!
Tier 2 (>50% Usage Rate): Soldier 76 (65%), Tracer (64%), Winston (56%), Ana (53%)
Tier 3 (>20% Usage Rate): Reinhardt (46%), Genji (44%), Zenyatta (41%), Roadhog (37%), D.Va (35%), Zarya (29%)
Tier 4 (>5% Usage Rate): Pharah (10%), McCree (8%)
Tier 5 (<5% Usage Rate): Mercy(4%), Sombra (2%), Widowmaker (1%), Hanzo (1%), Mei (1%), Orisa (1%), Torbjorn (0%), Reaper (0%), Junkrat (0%), Bastion (0%), Symmetra (0%)
There was no set consensus on any particular hero besides Lucio in the pro scene over the past couple of weeks, which means that the future of Overwatch is looking bright. While I have set my usual five “tiers” of pre-determined usage ranges that I’ve been using for some time, this week was one of the few where visible tiers – at least at an overall view – started to emerge. Lucio was obviously a cut above, but the next “soft” tier of heroes included the likes of Soldier 76, Tracer, Winston, and Ana.
Soft Tier 1
Soldier 76 and Ana stood out because teams use them on defense much more often than any other mode. The pair are often used together in advantageous positions overlooking the point (and the rest of their team). The Soldier 76 - Ana duo is one of the hardest tag-teams to successfully pick off if they have time to set up in the high ground or with safe lines of sight, since the Soldier can peel for the Ana and has his own source of healing to supplement her own. Many times a Tracer can and will get right on top of an Ana and nearly 1-clip her, only to eat a Helix from her Soldier 76 partner. Similarly, a Winston may leap onto a Soldier, only to be immediately slept by his accompanying Ana. Sometimes, it seems, Overwatch’s lore turns out to be a good model for how to play the game:
Winston and Tracer were much more well-balanced in their usage, due largely to their status as NA/EU Dive Comp must-haves. Winston has catapulted to the top of the tank rankings and owes a debt of gratitude to Blizzard for altering how his Bubble Shield’s cooldown functions and to KnoxXx and Miro for demonstrating how effective a great Winston can be. While Tracer has not enjoyed a similar buff/hero change, making Roadhog’s Hook
more fair behave appropriately and the rise of juicy Zenyattas to 1-clip certainly has not hurt her in the effectiveness department. She’s the most versatile and effective DPS in the current pro meta, because her mobility is unmatched by any ground-based hero and her ultimate charges so quickly that world-class Tracers like SoOn and Stitch have free reign to Bomb at will.
I’m interested to see which style of dive comp comes out on top at Apex: the western “Rogue” dive involving a trio of DPS (Genji, Soldier 76, Tracer) plus a single Winston or the “Korean” dive which uses a D.Va instead of a Soldier 76. Both sides – Western and Korean – have already begun to copy each other’s style. Rogue’s first matches are late Thursday night, and I may just have to stay up and watch them live. Regardless, let’s move on to the next “soft” tier of heroes: Reinhardt, Genji, Zenyatta, D.va, Roadhog, and Zarya.
Soft Tier 2
This next level of hero usage represents the heroes that were being swapped in and out of various compositions, or that were used on different maps, or that were used differently by different regions. In short, these were the heroes that were a lot more dependent on individual teams’ strengths and needs. For example, these heroes showed a high degree of variability across regions:
However take Korea with a grain of salt: there are only 8 matches from Apex in this dataset out of the 82 recorded. To illustrate this, you can check out this chart that shows how much each team contributed to the total usage numbers:
It’s still worth nothing that there was a large disparity between EU and NA teams with regard to Roadhog, Genji, Zarya, and Zenyatta usage – and for those that are wondering yes, I am counting Rogue and EnVyUs as NA for this exercise.
If you combine all of these differences together and also notice that Ana had a high degree of regional variability to her usage we can come to only one conclusion: EU likes Dive more than NA, and NA prefers Triple-Tank lineups even though I’m counting Rogue as NA. The difference is even more striking if you play around with this chart, which shows the heroes that each team used the past few weeks, ordered from greatest to least number of heroes. Click on any NA team except for Rogue, and you’re bound to find three of their players spending a decent amount of time playing tanks. See Selfless for example:
Kresnik unsurprisingly only played tanks, Emongg played Roadhog 84% of the time, and Sinatraa – their Tracer guru – actually spent 53% of their match time on Zarya. Triple Tank is alive and well, on the NA side of the Atlantic anyway. The same exercise can be repeated for many of the EU teams with Dive Comps by the way, here’s Laser Kittenz as an example:
I found it really interesting that it seems like we only have a “healthy” meta because two of the main regions cannot agree on what team composition is the strongest. And this is without even really having enough Apex matches to include Korea either. If there was more cross-region play, more EU vs. NA or EU vs. NA vs. KR LANs, would the meta have reached a solved state by now? Or are we finally in a golden age of Overwatch? What is there to do about the third “soft” tier of Overwatch heroes – the niche map-specific heroes like McCree, Pharah, Mercy, and Sombra or the fourth “soft” tier, which seems to be the final resting place for Defense heroes? Are we balanced, or is it all a mirage? I’m not sure, so I made this Strawpoll where you can let me know what you think!
Lucio Looms Over All
All of this talk of a healthy meta is fun, but one hero still remains above – looking down on the rest from his pantheon of near 100% usage. Does this near-essential hero have an Achilles heel? Why does it always have to be the Bard class that ruins things for everyone else? Despite a rework several weeks ago, Lucio was still present in team lineups across all three regions for 98% of all match time played. At this point, it’s actually easier (and more interesting) to look at the few times that Lucio wasn’t present in a lineup. So I did that. Of the 82 matches present in this report’s dataset, 13 of them contained a period – even if extremely brief – where Lucio wasn’t present on one of the teams.
This jives with my map/hero breakout chart, which if you scroll through the maps shows that these Lucio-less comps tended to occur mainly on Watchpoint: Gibraltar, with some instances on other hybrid maps maps like King’s Row, Eichenwalde, and Numbani as well as instances on Oasis and Dorado.
You may also notice that all of the Watchpoint: Gibraltar instance included Rogue…well there’s a reason for that. They’re actually pioneers when it comes to the Lucio-less defense on Watchpoint, their favorite map. Let’s take a look at one of the matches – MatchID 001279 – with my Match History Searcher * to see what Rogue’s been up to:
* note that this is a work-in-progress chart that I’m using, it only detects heroes at the first swap so it misses Taimou initially being on Hanzo
Or, you can just check out the VOD
Rogue has Watchpoint: Gibraltar down to a science. On offense, they run their usual “Rogue Dive” comp with occasional swapping by NiCO to D.Va when needed, since very few teams stand a chance at stopping Rogue on offense on any map. On Defense, they have time to set up both at the first point and in the Hangar phase of the payload escort their team in a very specific “split” way that ends up being difficult for a Lucio to heal:
In this screengrab** we can see uNKOE and Winz stationed above, with aKm slightly out of frame to the left, while NiCO, SoOn, and KnoxXx cause mayhem on the cart below. The melee surrounding the cart conflict is much too dangerous for a Lucio, and with reduction to his aura’s size Winz can no longer heal or speed boost them from the ledges above. Rather than forcing him to brave the lion’s den, Rogue has opted for Plan B: do more damage in less time with Discord Orb and hope that it outweighs losing some healing and speed, and that uNKOE + a single Harmony Orb can get keep the crew alive in the meantime.
** apologies for the quality…this is just what 1080p 60FPS Overwatch looks like on YouTube
EnVy’s first major push came after an insane, possibly no-look Taimou hook onto SoOn that snowballed into a team wipe, but then it took Lui and the rest of EnVy a really long time to take the high ground while pushing the cart to the first point. By the time Lui had reached the top ledge under Mickie and Chips’ watchful eyes, Rogue was turning the corner staring down their barrels at him:
Lui got blown up, SoOn made it to the cart with KnoxXx and Pulse Bombed Cocco, and the fight was already over by the time NiCO hunted down a retreating Taimou. The cart had barely turned the corner at this point, and Rogue already had the high ground back in possession:
This moment encapsulates why Rogue has no need of a Lucio on the first two points of Watchpoint: Gibraltar – what the hell is a Lucio even supposed to do with this spacing? The aura change only exacerbates his uselessness; for Rogue it is better to have a long-range damage, debuff, and spot heal from Zenyatta than no healing or speed at all.
In this particular match versus EnVyUs, Rogue able to maintain the same composition throughout the first and second phases largely in part to – in my opinion – EnVyUs’ team composition being unable to contest Rogue’s positioning. Mickie on Winston was their only threat to get up and down on Watchpoint’s notoriously vertical spaces, and he never got any help in that regard. How was Taimou supposed to hit Hooks from poor angles after the 2.0 change? What was Cocco supposed to do as Reinhardt besides babysit the cart and wait for SoOn to come Pulse Bomb whenever he felt like it? The answer to the final question is likely “Earthshatter uncontested whenever he felt like it”, but the rest of the team comp didn’t seem to add up.
As Rogue has shown time and time again, it takes more than one player to put pressure on an uNKOE and aKm duo on the high ground, much less a trio that includes a Winz Zenyatta as well. There’s a reason matches against Rogue on Watchpoint rarely escape the hangar phase: they can use and abuse the high ground with their Luico-less defense, especially against teams that don’t adjust their team composition to contest it directly. I’m not one to ever advocate not having a Lucio on your ranked ladder team, but if you’re on Watchpoint: Gibraltar and your opponent doesn’t have any vertical mobility, you could probably get away with it.
Final Thoughts and Shoutouts
Shoutout to the HND Invitational, Rivalcade Overwatch Rumble, and of course OGN Apex Season 3 for providing me with a lot of high quality matches to pull from for this week’s report. Shoutout as well to Phaz and xRetzi for coming on this week’s Around the Watch Podcast, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in any of the 16 episodes we’ve recorded so far. Finally, shoutout to Blizzard for nominating an absolutely stacked group of analysts, casters, and player/coaches to the Team USA World Cup Committee: no matter which of us is ultimately picked for the actual spots I have faith that Team USA will be in good hands. Remember that you can vote up through midnight on May 4th, so get out there!
Until next time,