Overwatch Meta Update and the History of Graviton Surge
Whats up guys and gals, CaptainPlanet here to present a quick meta update plus some additional goodies. This week is an abbreviated meta report, because the pro scene has been playing their matches on a patch that is now two weeks old – meaning that the data presented close to irrelevant to the ranked ladder you play on each day. This weekend the pros will move onward to the Junkrat-buffing, Doomfist-nerfing patch, but the rest of the world will also move on to the Junkrat-nerfing, D.Va and Mercy-reworking patch that will presumably release alongside the new Junkertown! map next Tuesday. Regardless, there is one last week of pre-Junkrat pro Overwtach hero usage to be analyzed and there were still some interesting things that occurred. In this meta update, I will stick to the superlatives of this week of pro Overwatch and then investigate a strange regional disagreement between Genji and Doomfist. But that’s not all: I will also break down a play that the observers missed in Contenders, then accidentally end up giving a history lesson on one of Overwatch’s most iconic abilities: Graviton Surge. But before we get to that, let’s take a peek at the pre-Junkpocalypse Tiers:
S Tier (>=95% Usage Rate): Lucio (95%)
Tier 1 (>80% Usage Rate): D.Va (93%), Winston (92%), Tracer (86%)
Tier 2 (>50% Usage Rate): Zenyatta (62%)
Tier 3 (>20% Usage Rate): Doomfist (38%), Genji (25%), Soldier 76 (23%), Ana (22%)
Tier 4 (>5% Usage Rate): Sombra (11%), Pharah (10%), McCree (10%), Mercy (10%), Widowmaker (7%), Reinhardt (5%)
Tier 5 (<5% Usage Rate): Zarya (4%), Reaper (2%), Mei (1%), Junkrat (1%), Hanzo (0%), Orisa (0%), Symmetra (0%), Torbjorn (0%), Bastion (0%)
The Tiers speak to Dive’s grip on the pre-Junkrat meta. Looking at their usage over time, Lucio, D.Va, and Winston maintained their dominance while Tracer has recovered some ground recently:
This was due to these heroes being used in nearly every team composition this week. We have to go all the way down to the 9th most used Team Composition, a Zarya/McCree/Doomfist lineup, to find a combination of heroes used that does not include them:
One of the more interesting things that I noticed about the overall Hero Usage this week was a regional disagreement in Doomfist usage. Korean and Chinese teams seemed to prefer Doomfist over Genji, while NA and EU teams appeared to build their lineups the other way around:
Why could this be? The difference was so stark that I reached out to western teams to make sure that they were still able to practice on the “Doomfist-patch” tournament realm. They assured me that they could, and that the answer lay in how they prepared for their opponents. Some teams like Envision had identified opposing players who contributed to their team’s success inordinately more than their teammates and had planned accordingly by committing to an all-in Genji dive which broke Kungarna’s back:
But there was more to it than just a strategy decision by some Western teams. It turns out the Doomfist usage was very map-dependent, in addition to region-dependent:
China seemed to really prefer Doomfist comps on the three Ilios sub-maps, Temple of Anubis, and Dorado. Koreans played a lot of Doomfist on Hanamura, Horizon Lunar Colony, Eichenwalde, and more. But why was there such a huge map difference relative to the western teams? Once again, we have stumbled upon a phenomenon created by the Overwatch Premier Series’ strict map pool:
The reason behind China’s the difference in China’s Doomfist usage on Ilios compared to the rest of the world is that…they simply played much more Ilios than the rest of the world this week. The same phenomenon repeats itself for Temple of Anubis and Dorado as well. Finally, there were also more players playing Doomfist in general in the CN and KR regions than EU, where Leaf was the only standout, and NA where many players played Doomfist but only for a short amount of time:
The Doomfist/Genji regional disagreement may have initially seemed like a real phenomenon when looking at summary data but the real story lay in the combination of factors that led to the overall result. That said, the upcoming Junkrat patch may render all of these trends null and void, so we can only speculate where the meta will go from here. Rather than concern myself with hypotheticals, let’s instead analyze a play that the observers missed in last week’s EU Contenders that had a huge impact on the outcome of a match!
Monkeying around Off-Camera
Misfits was well on their way to stomping GamersOrigin on King’s Row, a map that GamersOrigin had chosen to best suit Leaf’s Doomfist. In the previous fight, Manneten caught nearly all of GamersOrigin with a well-placed EMP – leading to a full team wipe. Despite the long distance the payload still had to travel after the fight, Misfits was still able to push the cart uncontested to the point, where they faced meager resistance. Sure, TviQ reflected a Deadeye then converted that ultimate charge into a flashy-dashy sequence where he wiped GamersOrigin players who were streaming onto the point. But something else was at play here:
Before TviQ even reflected Hqrdest’s Deadeye, before he even pulled out his blade GamersOrigin was alive, yet not on the point. How could this be? Were they pulling a C9? By the time the first GO player began to contest the payload (and ultimately die to TviQ’s blade), the payload had reached under two meters to completion:
Something else must have been going on. And that something…was Cwoosh:
Cwoosh, thankfully, was recording his PoV for this fight and posted this clip on Twitter after the end of the match. Watching as the time ticks down, we can see that Cwoosh prevented most of GamersOrigin from exiting the spawn for 10+ seconds, allowing Misfits to push the cart uncontested and for TviQ to perform his clean-up heroics. Behind every flashy DPS highlight that the observers catch, there are actions missed that contribute the same if not more to a team’s victory. Sometimes it’s big Ana Sleep Dart, other times it’s a Lucio knockback, this time it was a Primal Raging Winston in spawn. Shout out to Cwoosh for remembering to hit record, otherwise we would have missed it!
And speaking of big plays…
The next evolution of Graviton Surge
This is a play you’ve probably already seen coming form the OG Zarya: Zunba of Lunatic Hai. But this play was so good, that while I was hyped up about it I accidentally chronicled the story of Zarya and the evolution of Graviton Surge usage as Overwatch matured as a game. What follows is that history. First, let’s look at how Zarya herself has evolved and how her place in the overall meta has changed:
The History of Zarya and Graviton Surge
Early in Overwatch’s lifetime, Zarya enjoyed stable usage primarily on offense as a “point-cap guarantee”, by combo-ing her Graviton Surge with a multitude of offensive ultimates. In those days, Pharah-Mercy was much more common and pros were less proficient at interrupting a Rocket Barrage-ing Pharah, so Graviton-Barrage team wipes were as common as combining Graviton with Dragonstrike, Pulse Bomb, or Death Blossom. Also during that time, D.Va’s Defense Matrix was not a resource meter, it was a cooldown ability that could be baited out and wasted. Gravitons were rarely countered and extremely effective, so there was not a lot of pressure to innovate how to use it. Back to Zarya, you might have noticed something interesting with her usage in late July of 2016:
Pharah and Mercy dropped off the map, while Zarya’s usage jumped noticeably. What happened here was a buff to Zenyatta’s health that brought him from 150 to 200 total effective HP. Zenyatta’s Discord Orb, at the time, provided a 50% damage increase to the target is was attached to, which instantly meant the end of Pharah when combined with the hitscan hero buffs that accompanied this patch.
After this change, Zarya benefited from a combination of factors including removing Pharah (a soft counter), her ability to cleanse Discord Orbs from herself and allies, and the continued availability of strong combos like Pulse Bomb, Death Blossom, and Dragonblade as Tracer, Reaper, and Genji wreaked havoc on Discorded targets. Coincidentally, this July 19th patch was also the patch that changed D.Va’s Defense Matrix to how it functions today, but the prevalence of Zarya and D.Va’s tendency to melt under the pressure of a 50% Discord Orb kept her usage down. With D.Va relatively out of the picture, there was nothing outside of Genji deflects that could counter Graviton Surge, and little innovation happened at this point in time either. But then came Ana:
When Zenyatta’s Discord Orb was finally nerfed, it made room for Ana and Nanoboost and ushered in what was known as the Beyblade meta. Here, the way Zarya and Graviton Surge were used began to change. Teams realized that because Ana’s ultimate charged so quickly, they could afford to play Nanoboost as soon as it became available on a Zarya to hasten how quickly she could get her Graviton Surge out. This then allowed them to use the second Nanoboost when their Reaper had charged Death Blossom. Combining the two, or even just the Death Blossom often spelled instant death for the enemy team, as Nanoboost provided a 50% damage increase and 30% speed increase at the time. Using Nanoboost to supercharge the rate at which a bigger ultimate – like Graviton Surge – was a new concept in Overwatch and had changed the way players approached the hero. Zarya players were always able to put out huge amounts of damage at full charge, but receiving and making the most of Nanoboosts pushed those players further toward a DPS mindset, despite being tanks. Indeed, several top rankers of Season 2 played Zarya as their top 3:
Then Season 3 began, and this concept of Nanoboosting heroes with big ultimates became even more important. Season 3 increased the cost of all ultimates across the board and removed the speed portion of Nanoboost. This global nerf to ultimate charge rate meant that tanks and heroes like Reaper with slow-charging ultimates needed help from abilities like Nanoboost to maintain their prior ultimate cadence. Unfortunately, this had the effect of neutering Reaper – who relied heavily on the speed portion of Nanoboost – but tanks thrived.
note the D.Va spike highlighted
Why? You can thank to the incredible healing output of Ana whose Biotic Grenade provided 100% increased healing at the time, compared to 50% now. To run more than two tanks, however, lineups needed damage. It took some experimenting, but pros eventually realized that plenty of tank-centric damage could be had simply by feeding Nanoboosts to Zarya and relying on Roadhog Hook 1.0 pick-offs.
While Zarya and the other Tanks thrived during this period, a balance patch that temporarily made D.Va an unkillable annoyance-machine forced Zarya players to further change how approached Graviton Surge. Suddenly, with sufficient numbers of D.Vas in the meta, Graviton Surge usage became a mind-game, a game of chicken with the opposing D.Va player who became a constant threat to delete the Graviton Surge from existence. Zarya players had to adapt, and we soon saw players learn to fire Gravitons at their feet to avoid Defense Matrix’s area of effectiveness.
watch Voll flick his Grav at his feet to avoid a potential Defense Matrix from Hyped
D.Va’s effective health pool was eventually nerfed, but she also received a change to Defense Matrix in late February that removed the minimum distance requirement for Defense Matrix to be effective. This meant Gravitons could now be eaten right out of the barrel, as long as the D.Va was looking in Zarya’s general direction with Defense Matrix up. Once again, Zarya players had to adapt and change how they used their Gravitons and it took some experimenting to come up with ways to safely Grav without losing it to Defense Matrix. In the clip below, Zappis demonstrates one such way:
D.Va’s Defense Matrix may gobble up everything it sees, but it cannot eat a Graviton Surge that is out of its line of sight. Knowing that Manneten was lurking around the corner with Defense Matrix ready, Zappis fired his Graviton into the wall: preventing its absorption but still sucking in many Misfits players. Gigantti may have only converted this into a single TviQ kill, but this example demonstrates the technique well. Teams will often use this “line-of-sight” mechanic on maps like Nepal Village and Sanctum, where thin walls and chokepoints provide plenty of coverage for “Wall Gravs”. Teams have also learned to place their Gravitons on the ground behind a Reinhardt’s shield, which also provides a similar protection from Defense Matrix as a map wall.
Get to the point already!
Alright alright alright! Finally, now that I have dumped all the history of Graviton Surge usage in Overwatch on you all, we can talk about how insane Zunba’s Graviton was. Here’s the clip again for reference:
Some might argue that Zunba’s Graviton was a reactionary play, because it was fired in the general direction of the Soldier 76 above and at roughly the same time as the Winston bubble. As a counter-argument, Zunba kind of has a history of insane Gravitons. Luck or not, I hope that pros and casual players take note of this as a legitimate Graviton Surge strategy – as it could be the next step in the progression of skillful Gravitons. By launching the Graviton above the Winston shield, Zunba has obviously pulled all of Meta Athena’s players out of its protection – but there’s more than just Winston bubbles that a High Wall Grav can counter. In fact, here’s a list:
If you drag your opponents sufficiently high off the ground, you can prevent Soldier’s Biotic Field from healing your opponents.
If your opponents are not able to touch the ground, their Reinhardt cannot Earthshatter.
If the Reinhardt is out of the Graviton Surge, he will not be able to shield his team while they are floating up in the air either.
Orisa will similarly find it difficult to block any incoming fire with a ground-based shield.
You may even be able to prevent a Torbjorn from building a new turret*, but if you’re a Torbjorn in a Graviton I doubt your first reaction would be to start building a turret.
High Wall Gravs, if you can pull them off, appear to have a huge upside and I hope we get to see more!
Final Thoughts and Shoutouts
An abbreviated report requires an abbreviated final word. Shoutout to Zunba for being a total beast, and to all of the Zarya players out there who have improved, theorycrafted, and evolved alongside Overwatch itself. Shoutout to Cwoosh as well, for putting in the off-screen work and remembering to push record so we could see the magic.
Until next time,