Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report: Overwatch Contenders Review
What’s up guys and gals, CaptainPlanet here to present the Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report: Overwatch Contenders Season 0 Review. This past weekend, Season 0 of Overwatch Contenders ended and champions of NA and EU Overwatch were crowned: congratulations to Immortals and Eunited! To celebrate, I’m doing a meta report based on the past month’s worth of Contenders data to give the tournament a proper send-off. As such, all data presented will be cumulative across this June 3rd to July 2nd time period unless otherwise indicated. Not to worry, it’s not like the meta has changed in the past month anyway…right Reddit? Let’s try to answer that question with tiers for a month’s worth of Overwatch:
S Tier (>=95% Usage Rate): Lucio (97%), Winston (96%)
Tier 1 (>80% Usage Rate): Tracer (90%)
Tier 2 (>50% Usage Rate): D.Va (70%), Genji (60%), Zenyatta (59%), Soldier 76 (51%)
Tier 3 (>20% Usage Rate): Ana (24%)
Tier 4 (>5% Usage Rate): Pharah (12%), Mercy (11%), Sombra (10%)
Tier 5 (<5% Usage Rate): Zarya (4%), Reinhardt (4%), Roadhog (3%), Widowmaker (3%), Reaper (3%), Mei (1%), McCree (1%), Torbjorn (0%), Bastion (0%), Hanzo (0%), Orisa (0%), Symmetra (0%), Junkrat (0%)
To kick off this analysis, let’s do a quick check-in on how the recent balance patches affected the usage rates. You may recall that between group stages and playoffs, Reaper and McCree were slightly buffed and Roadhog was nerfed: Reaper gained an instant life-steal to his damage and McCree’s Deadeye charge time was drastically reduced. But, the tiers above show hero usage across the entire tournament…how can we tell if these buffs worked? Not to worry, see below:
Looks like this buff did not really have much effect on McCree just yet, but Reaper’s usage noticeably increased. Teams have begun using Reaper as additional “point-clearing” insurance on offense and defense on 2CP maps like Temple of Anubis, where one must secure two-ish team wipes in a row to cap the point.
Diversity of strategy, but not of team composition
Converging Contenders Team Compositions
Looking to the month’s usage numbers, and if Reddit, Twitter, and the Korean blizzard forums are anything to go by, the meta may be getting a little stale. Indeed, if we track Winston’s usage over time as a way of plotting the popularity of dive comps, it either started coming into the vogue in early March, or late January:
Two patches occurred near these dates that helped contribute to the rise of dive. First, on January 24th, Ana’s Biotic Grenade healing bonus was decreased from 100% to 50%. Its duration was also decreased, which functionally neutered the healing output enjoyed by tank-heavy team compositions. Second, Winston received a nerf to his head hitbox size on February 28th, just before the open qualifiers of Contenders Season 0 kicked off. If we look to hero usage across both regions during Contenders, we see Tracer, Winston, and Lucio as near unanimous picks, with teams flexing between Genji, D.Va, and Soldier 76, and then Zenyatta and Ana, and then Pharah, Mercy, and Sombra as we move down the line:
This regional preference used to be much more pronounced, especially when it came to whether or not D.va was a required pick:
Compared to the open qualifiers, both regions have now fully adopted D.Va as Dive’s fourth required member. It’s also interesting to note that NA’s usage of Pharah increased noticeably, although this was primarily due Immortals’ preference for playing Pharah on Lijiang Tower and Oasis during their playoffs run. Finally, let’s look at the drop-off in Soldier 76 and Genji usage across regions as well:
As D.Va’s usage has increased, teams have not quite solved the problem of what to do with their flex DPS players. Some teams, like FNRGFE, Kungarna, and Immortals, have dedicated D.Va mains that give their DPS players the flexibility to chose between a Soldier 76 or Genji + Tracer dive comp. For Kungarna, that meant Babybay on Soldier 76 and Mykl on Tracer. For Immortals, that meant mostly Genji and Tracer for Agilities and Grim respectively, with a little bit of flexing:
However some teams do not have the luxury of a D.Va main, like Misfits, Eunited, and Movistar Riders. These teams were forced to swap back and forth between triple dps, Soldier/Tracer/Genji dive, and D.Va/Tracer/Genji dive as their Soldier players flexed onto D.Va when needed:
The output of these situations has lead to the general decrease in overall usage of Soldier 76 and Genji. As of the end of Contenders Season 0, there appear to be three dive variants.
First, the Soldier/Tracer/Genji triple DPS dive, which is on its way to becoming a niche comp as the need for D.Va can no longer be ignored.
Second, the Soldier/Tracer/D.Va dive. This one is interesting because I have spoken to EU Contenders players who have told me that they believe is the strongest version of dive and that their region is actively practicing.
Third, the Genji/Tracer/D.Va dive which was ultimately used by the two regional winners, Immortals and Eunited.
While all of these compositions are very, very similar on the surface – built around a core of Lucio, Tracer, D.Va, and Winston – their execution varies wildly from team to team and this difference in approach has defined the evolution of dive strategy diversity as the lineups themselves crystallized. I’m talking about…
Active vs Reactive Diving
There are two ways to play a dive comp and the balance between the two defines your team’s “style” of diving. All dive comp teams fall on a spectrum of Active vs. Reactive diving and there are merits to both approaches. Some players – like TviQ, one of the minds behind early Rogue’s “Proto-Dive” Comp believe in Active diving. Active diving is probably how most people imagine diving: a split-second, all-in initiation on an identified, possibly weakened target to secure a fast kill and supreme position. If executed properly, your team can win fights while behind in ultimate advantage, because the best counter to any ultimate is simply killing your opponent outright. Watch as Immortals executes a perfect Active dive to blow up Babybay and wipe all of Kungarna in the span of about five seconds:
The instant Immortals knows that Grimreality has secured the stick on Babybay, Kariv Transcends in and Agilities and Fate dash in behind him in unison. Verbo even speeds in to provide backup in the form of Speed Boost and some non-trivial Lucio Boop damage.
Active diving is all fun and games, until something goes wrong. And in Overwatch, there are a million and one things that can go wrong. The all-French version of Rogue famously demolished the NA scene with an over-Active dive strategy, exerting their will and confidence to never stop coming at their opponents. However, when Rogue traveled to Korea, this Active dive success vanished. Why? As Lunatic Hai’s coach described it, Rogue had become predictable.
Reactive diving is a direct counter to Active diving that works by baiting your opponents into making the first move. Active diving has a very short window during which it must secure its objectives, otherwise your opponents will have to time to react to your all-in. Hence, Reactive diving. If your opponent’s diving heroes dive too deeply, you can easily surround them and destroy them. If your opponents commit ultimates as an opener, you can choose to counter them with your own support ultimates or retreat to safety. Failing that, there are plenty of tools like Lucio Boops, D.Va Booster knockbacks, and Winston ultimates that Reactive teams can utilize to lessen the impact of “strike-first” ults from Active teams. Looking back to Lunatic Hai, this was as easy as watching several months of Rogue game tape, realizing they always made the first move, and planning accordingly.
Active diving is the strategy that should work 100% of the time, if everything goes 100% according to plan. Reactive diving is the strategy that is more realistic, tuned to deal with unpredictability and human error. In practice, the optimal dive is likely a combination of the two: the teams who can make the decision whether to strike first or retreat to safety. Immortals does both, and more, in this clip:
Fate strikes first by dropping off the balcony to pressure Azk below, which prompts Dahang’s late Transcendence. Mesr leaps directly into the mass of Immortals players, perhaps hoping to prevent what Liquid thought was an all-in Active dive. But it was a trap: we see Shadder2k turn around to find Grimreality had flanked him and Fate – having finished off Azk and returned to the high ground – joined him to completely surround him. He dies, and Mesr follows him to his doom shortly after, allowing Immortals to chase down the rest of Liquid at their leisure. A bit of Active dive, with some Reactive improvisation leads to an Immortals team wipe.
Quick interlude for a pretty chart
As I record data for Meta Reports, I note down where hero swaps happen. Below, you can see the results of this:
This chart needs a little bit of explaining, since the data presented is as dense as it is colorful. Each circle represents a hero “swapped to”, from another particular hero. The size of the circle correlates to how often this particular swap of Hero X to Hero Y occurred during Overwatch Contenders Season 0. Then, the color corresponds to the maps on the right, and by mousing over each circle you can learn more about each swap. Confused? Just look at this gif:
Is this information ultimately useful? Maybe not, but at least it makes for a very pretty chart. Some of the particular swaps that jump out are the big blob of Reinhardt -> Winston swaps on Hollywood’s Roof phase, a large amount of Soldier 76 -> Mei swaps on Temple of Anubis second, and Ana -> Sombra swaps at the same place. None of these really surprising to an experienced player, but perhaps this information may help guide newer players in making good swaps at the right time in ranked play.
Why did my favorite team perform poorly in Contenders Season 0?
Why did more established teams falter in Contenders? It was strange to see. Cloud 9 was out before the playoffs, LG Evil was eliminated by FaZe off-stream, and Misfits was handled by Bazooka Puppies and RiP to finish last in EU. This is where we wade into a quagmire of speculation without statistics to back us up – we must rely on our own research and intuition. What follows is a matter of my own opinion, and you may agree or disagree with my assessment as you wish. I believe the surge in unsigned team success and failure of some old-guard teams in contenders can be traced to three main sources.
1. Only the top six from NA Season 0 playoffs were granted a spot in Season 1
We could see this coming in the distance as soon as Contenders was announced, therefore it was the easiest thing to point blame at. But it is actually not fair to blame Blizzard for this: they made it abundantly clear that two of Contenders Season 1 spots were locked in for Rogue and EnVyUs. They did it for good reason too: woe be unto anyone who thinks that these two teams would not slam any non-Immortals challenger produced from Contenders Season 0. However, the situation created by these Season 1 byes was such that simply by having a “bad day” during playoffs was enough to miss the mark.
Just ask LG Evil; they placed second during Open Qualifiers Day 1, then went undefeated in Group Stages (albeit in a fairly weak group). When playoff day came around, because only six teams could qualify, whatever two teams that lost twice were out. So when Kungarna upset LGE 3-1 in the opening round and FaZe was smacked by Immortals, these two teams unexpectedly found each other playing for their Season 1 lives, after having finished first and second in the first day of Open Qualifiers. FaZe probably expected to lose vs. Immortals, but LGE may have been unprepared for this high pressure situation – leaving one team on tilt and the other prepared to fight. Or, LGE simply had two bad matches in a row, on the worst day to have two bad matches in a row. Regardless of the reason behind LGE’s shortcomings, the result was the same: FaZe took the series 3-0, and LGE had to go home.
2. Pressure vs. Hunger
Any follower of traditional sports knows the motivating power of being an underdog. For both regions of Contenders, we have seen the rise and success of several underdog teams. Cut and/or dropped due to their personal lack of success in the scene and their former organizations’ lack of certainty about the Overwatch League, these players created mix teams exclusively for Overwatch Contenders. They grinded through scrims, and brought a sharpened competitive edge to the most important tournament of the year so far, to prove that they really do belong alongside the world’s best.
When you are a team with something to prove, but nothing to lose, that is when you are at your most dangerous. Teammates are more open to compromising, better at communicating, and less likely to point fingers of blame when problems arise. These teams put aside difference and do anything to secure that win and to prove their worth. This is why in both regions, teams like Kungarna, FNRGFE, 123, RiP, and Bazooka Puppies both impressed and upset some of the projected favorites to reach Season 1. These teams had the competitive fire and confidence to reach out and punch the big boys right in the mouth. Kungarna in particular directly contributed to the demise of both Cloud 9 and LG Evil, and I would not expect any of the aforementioned teams to remain unsigned before Season 1 begins in August.
Speaking of Cloud 9, the flip side of these hungry unproven mix teams are the “proven, but in decline” signed teams. These teams – like Misfits, Cloud9, Movistar Riders – had all the same pressures to succeed that the hungry teams did, but had the added pressure to perform to the expectations placed on them by their organization and their fans. After all, Contenders Season 1 is the premier Overwatch tournament that will allegedly feed into the Overwatch League itself and a team as invested in the scene as Cloud 9 expected their team to be in the Overwatch League as favorites to win it all.
On some level – whether they realized it or not – these players were playing for their livelihood. By failing to qualify for Season 1, they would lose the chance to demonstrate their value for the Overwatch League, which means there was a high risk that these players would be cut so that the organization can make the moves it needs to make to be a part of the league. The difference in perspective is clear. The teams who had nothing and were fighting to attain something were the ones who out-performed the teams who had something and were frightened that they were going to lose it all.
3. Egos in Overwatch
Managing egos was essential to success in Contenders Season 0. Starting with open qualifiers and moving through groups into playoffs, each team had to play up to sixteen matchups of 2-4 maps each…which is a lot of Overwatch. Pros in Overwatch did not get to where they are without being supremely confident in their abilities and takes on the game, so one of the most important elements to a successful tournament run is making sure that your team does not destroy each other as tempers rise and blame accumulates over time. Thus, ego management.
This concept may explain why Immortals improved over the course of the tournament to the point where they looked nearly untouchable in the playoffs. Immortals’ players were naturally ego-less players and after bringing in a new GM, Coach, and two demure, but skilled Korean players, their support staff gained a level up as well as their team’s skillbase. A quick perusal of coach Ookz’s Twitter shows a team that is quickly becoming friends in real life, as well as the game. And GM Joshua Kim shows us that the team is even gym-training together. This out-of-Overwatch team-building is vital to maintaining a healthy mental state and nipping ego-based issues in the bud before they grow – and seems to be a model for successful teams moving forward.
But this is not to say that teams with big egos cannot succeed. Taimou recently revealed on stream (and had to delete the VOD because of other, inflammatory commentary) that EnVy has reached the point that they can openly criticize each other and receive that criticism without bruising each other’s egos, thanks to how long the core team has played together. I believe there are a few such teams that have reached this level, where the size of egos do not matter and experience triumphs over all. Looking to EU contenders, Eunited is a perfect example, where the core four players have been together even longer than EnVy – and after winning Season 0 of Contenders they have proven their ability to succeed. By now Rogue may also make that claim, with aKm, winz, KnoxXx, and unKOE having played together since Overwatch’s inception – and having famously French-sized egos to boot. This makes these cores of players extremely valuable. There’s no cheap substitute for group experience in esports, bootcamps can only get you so far. Immortals has to invest time, personnel, and resources to catch up, but for the moment it seems to be succeeding. I cannot wait to see how they square up against Overwatch’s titans in Season 1.
Final Thoughts and Shoutouts
That’s it from me! Shoutout to Blizzard and Carbon Entertainment for putting on successful – and massive – Season 0 of Overwatch Contenders. Critics were quick to claim that Contenders’ stream times often did not really make sense for East Coast viewers, or that not enough matches were streamed in general. Or that the matches they wanted to see were not streamed. Or . But where were those same complainers when Carbon adjusted their stream times due to concerns levied? Or when it was announced that Season 1 of Contenders would stream every single match played? While it’s easy to get worked up in the moment, Blizzard and Carbon did improve over time during what they have consistently maintained was a learning process. Will Season 1 of Contenders still be gripped by dive comps? I’m not sure. But I know a certain cough Doomfist cough hero who may have something to say about it by the time August rolls around.
Until next time,