Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report: Junkpocalypse Now!
What’s up guys and gals, CaptainPlanet here to present the Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report: Junkpocalypse Now! Why now? Those of you who have been following the Overwatch pro scene have watched as Contenders, OWPS, and Apex operated on a patch behind live to preserve the competitive integrity of their matches. But last weekend, this finally changed. After playing for over a month on the Doomfist release patch (1.13), the mythical Tournament Realm updated to 1.14, the patch that buffed Junkrat. And with that update, the Junkpocalypse began.
Well, not exactly.
Junkrat was certainly used much more than perhaps any other time in the post-beta Overwatch days this past weekend, but it was far from the end of Overwatch as we know it. Junkrat and Junkrat compositions were certainly the story of the weekend and an oppressive force on maps that they excelled on, but just like with any significant change, the pro scene had not yet found its “meta consensus”. Before we dive any deeper into the Junkrat-filled insanity of King’s Row, let’s look at the wider effects of Patch 1.14 on the pro meta with this week’s Tiers:
S Tier (>=95% Usage Rate): No one!
Tier 1 (>80% Usage Rate): Lucio (94%), D.Va (84%)
Tier 2 (>50% Usage Rate): Tracer (71%), Winston (70%)
Tier 3 (>20% Usage Rate): Zenyatta (49%), Ana (36%), Genji (36%), Soldier 76 (30%), Reinhardt (28%), Zarya (21%)
Tier 4 (>5% Usage Rate): Junkrat (11%), Sombra (11%), McCree (11%), Mercy (10%), Doomfist (9%), Pharah (7%), Widowmaker (7%), Roadhog (7%)
Tier 5 (<5% Usage Rate): Reaper (3%), Mei (2%), Torbjorn (1%), Hanzo (0%), Orisa (0%), Symmetra (0%), Bastion (0%)
Junkrat sits at 11% usage, Lucio somehow is not >95% usage and Reinhardt and Zarya are chilling in Tier 3. How cool is this patch? While this is simply one week’s snapshot in time, when was the last time you remember seeing numbers like this? To better illustrate the actual changes that occurred due to patch 1.14, I created a chart compares this week’s hero usage to the average across the past month of pro play on 1.13:
Immediately the most interesting thing to note is that Junkrat was not even the biggest winner of this patch, it was Reinhardt! Reinhardt enjoyed a boost thanks a multitude of factors, the primary of which being Junkrat’s relevancy. Even though Junkrat is now a DPS monster, he’s still fairly weak to long range damage due to his lack of defensive abilities. Enter Reinhardt, who can provide him with a mobile shield whenever he needs to leave cover. Reinhardt also benefited from being strong on maps where Junkrat is strong – like King’s Row – where the width of the payload path is narrow enough that his shield provides better coverage and his charges and Earthshatters are harder to dodge than other more wide open maps. The combination of these factors bears out in the data as well. If we look at team compositions for example, we find that while the most used team composition with Reinhardt was a Junkrat-based lineup, the next five lineups did not include a Junkrat:
We see a similar story on King’s Row, the most popular Reinhardt map by far:
Junkrat was therefore definitely a factor in Reinhardt but an increase in his King’s Row usage seems to do most of the explaining for his huge gains this week relative to patch 1.13:
In fact, if you were to use my chart to repeat this exercise with Ana and Zarya, you would also find that much patch 1.14 play time came on King’s Row by the Chinese and NA regions. With that in mind, it bears mentioning that Reinhardt, Zarya, and Ana were already popular picks on Kings Row ever since Reinhardt and Zarya’s buffs in patch 1.13, so the increase in usage could not have only originated there. To investigate this, I created a large and ugly chart to quickly split out hero usage gains by map, to find that Lijiang Tower - Control Center seemed to also have contributed to these hero’s gains:
Reinhardt and Ana were also helped by increases on Volskaya Industries and the Nepal maps as well – all of which featured close-quarters fighting that was perfect for their hero kits.
I expect to see more Reinhardt, Zarya, and Ana if Junkrat’s usage continues to climb and teams become familiar with the new meta. Reinhardt provides the defense vulnerable Junkrats need, opposing Junkrats keep Zaryas at 100% charge, and if Reinhardt and Zarya are seeing play, Ana can exercise the full extent of her hero kit without having to worry about having her heals blocked by Winston bubbles or D.Va Matrices. Similarly, as more Reinhardt, Zarya, and McCree see play, dive heroes like Tracer and Winston’s usage may decrease as non-dive heroes take their lineup slots. Currently this split seems to be heavily map-specific, but who knows how many maps pros will attempt to fit Junkrat onto. Speaking of which, I’m excited to finally utter the following words: let’s talk Junkrat.
The care and feeding of Junkrats
Why was Junkrat always Tier 5?
To talk about how Junkrat has improved, I want to first define why pros found him next to useless. His damage, while significant, was inconsistent and difficult to target. His bombs were a lesser version of Pharah rockets, as Pharah could shoot straight-line projectiles for the same amount of damage at any distance. Pharah had better mobility, and therefore better survivability than Junkrat, as neither have any defensive cooldowns besides Concussive Blasting or Concussion Mining away. Speaking of Concussion Mine, Junkrat only had one on a lengthy cooldown – not that great of an option if you’re banking on it to be both an escape and a source of burst damage.
Junkrat also suffered in the D.Va-dominated Dive Meta because all of his abilities except for Steel Trap could be easily absorbed by Defense Matrix*. Finally, his Rip-Tire was easily counterable by pro-level focus fire and aim due to its loud and slow approach – often also leaving the Junkrat vulnerable and easily killed while ulting. Junkrat’s kit was built for close-quarters fighting on maps like King’s Row, but the he wilted on these maps under the pressure of Dive Meta comps that could easily dive, blow him up, and move on before Defense Matrix expired.
* This at least is still true on patch 1.14, however it is less reliable on the Live patch, patch 1.15 due to Defense Matrix nerfs
Now, why is Junkrat suddenly better?
All it took was two changes: allowing him to store two Concussion Mines, and buffing the speed and wall-climbing ability of his RIP-Tire.
The first change added to his already incredible burst damage, but more importantly it gave Junkrat more flexibility in how to use his mines. Instead of having to choose between saving his skin and disrupting a dive, a Junkrat can now do one, the other, or both. Diving Tracers and Genjis now have to worry about a 240-damage wombo-combo strictly from Concussion Mines, before also considering incidental damage from his Frag Launcher. Being able to stockpile multiple mines for future burst damage also has made dives on close-quarters maps much more risky. You can still dive the Junkrat and try to kill him while Defense Matrix is active, but now you were gambling with a much higher risk of a team wipe if you failed to do so before Matrix expired.
Whenever you buff or nerf and ultimate and a non-ultimate ability in the same patch, there’s a chance that they feed into each other and in case of Junkrat, Concussion Mine, and RIP-Tire, this is exactly what happened. More consistent and valuable Concussion Mine usage started to generate more ultimate charge for Junkrats, which meant greater numbers of more effective RIP-Tires. RIP-Tire is balanced around its ability to be killed by the opposing team, because at 600 max damage at detonation it can kill any hero in one hit. Having played on the Live 1.14 patch for some time, pros were already well attuned to the speed of the new RIP-Tire – so attuned that they knew to avoid it at all costs lest it claim multiple lives as they tried to blow it up. EnVyUs – being EnVyUs – nonetheless figured out a way to use RIP-Tire to gain 10s of percent gain on Lijiang Tower without killing a single member of Envision:
Talk about Zoning Ults! Turns out when you make an ultimate powerful enough it can spawn-camp an entire team when piloted by the likes of Taimou. The speed buff of Junkrat’s RIP Tire was so good that it was actually too good. Portions of it were changed as a bug fix under today’s 1.15 patch release:
This bug fix does not take away the infinite wall-climbing antics that Junkrat players enjoyed on 1.14, but it does mean that the Tire itself is a bit easier to hit in the air:
The crazy thing about this is that the pro scene now has to play with this “bugged” RIP-Tire for the next few weeks, until Contenders and OWPS reach playoffs at least*.
* I am not sure when Apex will be swapping over
Team Comps, Maps, and Players oh my!
Bugged or not, these buffs to Junkrat only increased his usage to 10% overall, due to Junkrat’s heavily specialized abilities. This past week he was used most on King’s Row like Reinhardt, but he also saw significant play time on other maps as well:
Junkrat is a beast on Nepal Sanctum due to the point’s proximity to both a “room of death” and a pit, areas where Concussion Mines can wreak havoc on an attacking team. Sanctum also has many corners and choke points to bounce Grenades around to prevent certain routes of attack while staying safely out of line of sight. Nepal Sanctum and Shrine were also the home of the second-most used Junkrat lineup – one that was only used by Chinese teams:
This lineup was divided into two groups of three: a Junkrat/Winston/D.Va frontline and a McCree/Lucio/Zenyatta backline.
The Zenyatta supported the frontline with Orbs, where the D.Va and Winston babysat the Junkrat’s immense damage output. As the enemy team came through the choke, the frontline would back onto the point into the McCree’s firing range as well. Unfortunately for Team CC in this particular match example, Miracle Team One was able to defeat them with a Pharah counterpick and a couple huge rezes from their Mercy player.
Let’s also look at FNRGFE, who showed us how to execute the most-used Junkrat lineup:
This Reinhardt/Zarya/Ana/Junkrat composition has less vertical power than the Winston/D.Va lineup, but it still has plenty of horizontal mobility and makes up for its verticality challenges with higher overall damage and healing output. After picking off McGravy, FNRGFE demonstrated its power by sending half their team towards in the form of a Nanoboosted Reinhardt with Lucio Speedboosting and Ana healing:
At the same time, FNRGFE sent their close-range damage dealers – the Zarya/Junkrat duo – through the hotel to catch the retreating Envision group in a crossfire of explosions and fully charged Zarya beam. Buds nailed the main Envision group with with a Concussion Mine, then ducked back out to support the Reinhardt + support group as Clockwork provided fire from behind on McCree. Eventually the combined pressure from multiple directions was too much to overcome and Envision melted. In FNRGFE’s case, it was Buds who played Junkrat, but let’s also see who else was playing him across teams and regions:
Junkrat Players, Assemble!
Buds played more than double the amount of Junkrat compared to his NA peers, but Time from team Oh My God played the most out of all regions. Unfortunately for Time, he only won in a quarter of the Junkrat games he played, but we can see that Junkrat’s success seemed to depend on the player/team rather than being consistently winning or losing across the board. Junkrat also was much more popular in the NA and CN regions compared to KR and EU, however this was due to the lack of King’s Row played in the latter. TviQ and Leaf were the only EU players to bust out the Junkrat, and they both did so on Lijiang Tower. I expect to see EU and KR play just as much Junkrat as the other regions if they have more King’s Row, Nepal, or Lijiang Tower in their maps played, but who knows what crazy compositions will come out of Apex playoffs.
Final Thoughts and Shoutouts
Shoutout to the update to the Tournament Realm that brought about this big meta shakeup, even if RIP-Tire is a little bit buggy. Ultimately, the Concussion Mine change seems to be the most impactful of the two updates to Junkrat’s kit, so perhaps we’ll continue to see just as much Junkrat on his strongest maps even as the Tournament Realm continues to catch up to Live. Good luck to all of the Contenders teams going into this weekend, as it is the final weekend before playoffs begin. Some teams like Rogue sit on the bubble, and need to defeat the EnVyUs juggernaut to punch their ticket to LAN. They’ll have their work cut out for them having to go through Taimou’s Junkrat, however. Remember Rogue if at first you don’t succeed, blow them up again!
Until next time,