Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report: A Tale of Three Tournaments
What’s up guys and gals CaptainPlanet here to present the Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report: A Tale of Three Tournaments. This weekend, Contenders Season 1 finished its group play, the Overwatch Premier Series crowned a champion, and Apex minted two out of four semi-finalists. Not bad, as far as Overwatch esports weeks go! Contenders and OWPS gave me a natural break in competition to do a bit of a longer retrospective on the events, so the latter half of this report will be going down a rabbit hole of pro overwatch storylines over the past month. These three tournaments* were all played on the same patches, at the same times, but in wildly different regions and thus had very different outcomes in their hero usage. Before we travel to the past, however, let’s look at the present with this week’s Tiers:
S Tier (>=95% Usage Rate): Lucio (96%)
Tier 1 (>80% Usage Rate): Winston (86%), D.Va (80%)
Tier 2 (>50% Usage Rate): Tracer (72%)
Tier 3 (>20% Usage Rate): Zenyatta (49%), Genji (35%), Ana (33%), Soldier 76 (26%)
Tier 4 (>5% Usage Rate): Sombra (18%), Doomfist (18%), Reinhardt (15%), McCree (13%), Zarya (13%), Pharah (9%), Roadhog (8%), Junkrat (8%), Mercy (7%), Reaper (5%)
Tier 5 (<5% Usage Rate): Widowmaker (4%), Mei (2%), Orisa (1%), Torbjorn (0%), Hanzo (0%), Symmetra (0%), Bastion (0%)
The Effect of the Junkrat Patch
This chart depicts the changes in hero usage during this trio of tournaments and identifies the week where patch 1.14 – the Junkrat patch – hit the tournament realm. As we can see from the chart, Doomfist immediately took a nose-dive due to the nerf he received to his Rocket Punch’s hitbox, while other heroes enjoyed a spike in usage. Roadhog was buffed alongside Junkrat in this patch, allowing him to heal and enjoy a 50% damage reduction with Take a Breather all while moving. Zarya, Reinhardt, and Ana were less direct beneficiaries, however. Zaryas were able to maintain insane levels of average energy by feeding off incidental Junkrat damage, Reinhardt helped provide cover for the Junkrat, and any team that expected more of these two tanks from their opponents could get more done with their Ana not losing her heals to Defense Matrix and Winston bubbles.
But why then, did Doomfist bounce back this week? We can trace this to China, where the top teams in the Overwatch Premier Series preferred to play Doomfist. In the Grand Final, Jason from Vici Gaming spent over half of his time playing Doomfist, while Leave from champion Miraculous Youngster had around 20%.
Throughout OWPS, the Chinese teams seemed to zig when the other regions zagged, starting with the Pharah-Mercy comps and ending in this insistence on playing Doomfist after his nerf. Truth be told, I’m not sure why this happens and I cannot rely on my usual method – reaching out and asking them directly – as I have no contacts in the Chinese scene. Could it be that these teams are lead by their DPS players, and their hero choices are beyond question? Or have Chinese Doomfist players realized that their opponents still have not found out a way to counter them, and are exploiting a weakness? Or something else entirely? What do you think?
Are We Having Fun Yet?
You might have noticed the higher than usual (read: more than zero) usage of heroes like Mei and Orisa. As Contenders ended, several teams found themselves not only eliminated from playoff contention, but also unable to play spoiler to potentially knock another team out of playoffs. These teams – Eunited, Bazooka Puppies, and Kungarna – decided to have a little bit of fun. We saw entire matches of Orisa, offensive Meis, and more – leading to more variance in overall usage at the lower end of the scale.
The final interesting bit about this “closure” week is that this leaves us still in a relatively dive-dominated meta at the pro level. Junkrat, Doomfist, and Roadhog have all begun to be used to great effect on certain maps but in a summary sense, the dive core heroes are still used in nearly every lineup. This means that – barring any sudden changes in strategical approach to their opponents – the finals of Contenders and Apex will likely look similar. After all, Contenders and Apex are going to be played out on the current Junkrat patch – patch 1.14. No Mercy shenanigans for our pro players, at least not anytime soon.
A Tale of Three Tournaments
In the spirit of using stats to tell a story, here’s a chart that attempts to tell a tale of three tournaments. The past month and half, Overwatch fans have been blessed with four major tournaments – OPC, OWPS, Contenders, Apex Season 4 – the latter three of which I’ve been covering personally. This chart does the following:
- Lets you select a hero
- Displays average play time for each player (just for sorting purposes, relatively meaningless)
Allows you to mouse-over each player’s entry to display:
- Average time played
- Matches Played (minimum of 5)
Clicking the bar then filters the Map Chart to the right, displaying what maps the selected player used that hero on
On the surface, this is a huge data dump – a data overload even! However, I am here to help. Having watched the tournaments and witnessed the storylines that developed, these player/hero pairings provide a foil for me to spin a yarn about the meta, stars, and team compositions in this trio of tournaments. Join me…as I start with Doomfist.
Contenders – and my coverage of Apex and OWPS – launched on the Doomfist release patch, a patch that significantly changed the way pros approached the meta. At the time, Doomfist’s Rocket Punch hit-box was massive and made one-shot kills on all targets a near-certainty in the right hands. However, not all Doomfists were created equal. Even though Doomfist certainly received more love and practice from the pros while he was still on the PTR than any other new hero, some pros came waltzing into Contenders with some new swagger. Swagger, and a big fist:
After the dust had settled on the first few weeks of Contenders, all anyone could talk about was Leaf and his Doomfist, the stars of a GamersOrigin squad that no one predicted would perform well. Leaf had put in the work, discovered mechanics that other players hadn’t dreamed of, and knew how to react to any situation to change positioning on the fly with Doomfist’s high-mobility kit. No other western Doomfist save Effect – whose dominance was somewhat muted by his other stellar teammate’s antics – was carrying as hard as Leaf. In fact, Leaf used Doomfist in more matches than any other player in my dataset – even including Jason, his Chinese equivalent. As we can see from the chart, Leaf and GamersOrigin did not even come close to the winrate Effect and EnVyUs enjoyed in their Doomfist games, but without Leaf GamersOrigin would certainly have been more in the red. Looking across the pacific, Chinese and Korean players alike took to the hero religiously – even more than their western counterparts:
Throughout the Tournament Trio, even including the post-Doomfist nerf patch, the East has preferred Doomfist much more than the West. They found ways to fit him in alongside their traditional Dive shells as well as adapting the brawl-y, Reinhardt/Zarya/McCree style favored by Western teams on maps like King’s Row. Oddly, outside of GamersOrigin, the EU region remained mainly dive-oriented in their strategy while teams like Envision learned from EnVyUs and integrated Doomfist in their composition from time to time. Recently, Doomfist’s deadly Rocket Punch hitbox was reduced and his popularity in the West dropped off noticeably, except for Effect who brought him out in a final match vs Rogue as “practice”, as EnVyUs had already clinched the matchup win. Across the Pacific, Apex and OWPS teams continued on un-concerned with the Doomfist change, their players seemingly having discovered a new hero with complexity and carry potential rivaling Genji’s.
Doomfist’s nerf and drop in usage was also precipitated by a new oppressive force on the meta: Junkrat. Junkrat excels on many of the same maps that Doomfist did because of their ability to abuse chokepoints. Doomfist did it with impossible-to-miss punches, while Junkrat does it with unrelenting spam and burst damage. Some players took to the rat faster than others – notably Taimou who played Junkrat before he was even buffed:
But other regions caught on once he was buffed. Junkrat’s usage was highly map dependent, so the players you see here were also the players who happened to play on Junkrat-friendly maps. I even had to relax the minimum matches played to 2 instead of 5 due to this extreme dependency, as many players only had a few chances to play Junkrat friendly maps. Due to the low sample size, it appears as though Junkrat usage only led to varied success, but this could just be noise. Anecdotally, it did appear that many teams wanted to work Junkrat into their strategies, however some teams simply had better team play and Junkrat players than others. Junkrat may have had a somewhat inconclusive result in terms of match winrates, but there was one hero that took me by complete surprise in this regard. This hero, in fact, seemed to be primarily played in wins across the board. I’m talking about…
Why did Widowmaker players tend to win? Were these teams just so confident in their Widows that they saw it as a ringer strategy for specific maps? Why didn’t other teams gameplan against this? Or try this? Or maybe, if your Widow is good enough, there is no counter? IWidowmaker was also buffed alongside Junkrat, receiving reductions in her grapple hook cooldown and wallhacks on those affected by her Spider Mine, but that alone can’t explain the overwhelmingly positive winrate. I obviously have no idea what I’m talking about, so I reached out to LiNkzr, Gigantti’s ace DPS and Widowmaker expert about this, to try to get to the bottom of it:
CP: Alright LiNkzr, I have a problem, a Widowmaker problem, and I need your help. First question, What makes a map a good Widowmaker map for you? Is there something that makes your team feel like it’s a particularly good pick?
Lk: All the Widowmaker maps, or the ones that I favour the most…Watchpoint, or Ilios Ruins for example…have long flanking routes.
CP: So you can almost always find plays where you have plenty of warning when flankers are coming?
Lk: Yea. With new mine (more experimentation required), you could play it on more maps. Cover an angle with it, etc. But mainly, you use the new [Grapple] CD to escape Winston/Genji and you just keep shooting. There’s more maps where Widowmaker is viable than just Gibralter or Ruins Point though.
CP: How about the offensive side of things, you’re obviously creating space but also trying to get picks?
Lk: Yea, so Widow’s main job in every comp is to apply immense amount of pressure. I think most [good] Widows have that thing where it’s like “they have a god widow, we gotta kill him / be careful” vibe. So that makes the enemy [commit] more mistakes by default. You focus enemy tanks for easy headshots against comps when you have a Zenyatta. Ana comps, you have to be more greedy and do consistent damage all around. Picks aren’t necessary. But when fighting starts and if you don’t put [out] consistent damage and get kills, there’s no point in playing Widow, because Soldier does more. So with Widow you have to 1. Occupy the enemy, 2. Make them do inefficient stuff, 3. Kill.
CP: Is there a base level of Widowmaker skill that you need to force your enemy to react? Like a certain amount of respect? It looks like not every team can pull this off…
Lk: Based on the chart you showed me, these guys are 1. A good team to play around Widowmaker, 2. A good enough Widow. Not perfect / not top-tier aimer Widows can do a lot with a good team. Like they can occupy the enemy and make them do inefficient stuff without getting a lot of kills, but that’s enough. Widow changes playstyles quite a bit, compared to a normal peeling comp with soldier, or heavy dive with Genji, since you want to commit to fights for space. But this leaves your backline vulnerable, there are lots of in-game decisions to make.
CP: Do you actually have less peel in a Widow comp, compared to a Soldier comp?
Lk: Yea. You don’t want to peel, unless your opponent does something dumb. Widow can get away on her own, and Widow/Zen is brutal. Headshots on tanks, Bodyshots on Tracers is a one-hit KO…so peel isn’t necessary. Sometimes you can just punish tanks and flankers who overextended without their backline’s help, due to the pressure Widow puts out.
CP: Last question: I have to imagine the Grapple CD changes made this “no-peel” Widow style of play more viable?
Lk: I haven’t really found the style of Widow I want to play with new Grapple yet. You can use it often for some cheeky picks, but sometimes it’s so crucial. It depends a lot on your Mine positioning and map-awareness. You always use Grapple after the enemy has used their cooldowns, never before. But yea, I need more time to experiment.
Thanks LiNkzr for the deep dive!
Final Thoughts, about Pharah and the APAC Tournament
I mentioned the regional differences in Doomfist play, however the greatest difference in regions was the amount of PharMercy play in China’s OWPS tournament. The Chinese teams were incentivized to play PharMercy on maps like Ilios and Lijiang Tower, as well as the ruleset requiring them to play Bo5s on these maps, but some of these teams seemed to play the lineup exclusively – similar to how some of our western EU teams played Dive most of the time. LinGan Esports and Lucky Future were two such teams, who played a PharMercy comp for more than 50% of their entire time played:
Western pros may gripe about the legions of Mercy mains on their competitive ladder, however it appears that the Chinese region has Mercy mains residing on their most competitive teams! This makes me excited to think about how these teams will fare in the upcoming APAC invitational – a tournament that will bring together some of the most competitive teams from all four regions: KR, NA, EU, and CN. Will the Chinese one-trick PharMercy teams dominate with the new Mercy? Will the Doomfist-loving Koreans reign supreme? Or will the West come out on top, despite EnVyUs not making the trip? When are the invites even going to be announced!? In the meantime, let’s kick back, relax, and watch the finals of Contenders Season 1 – it’s going to be hype.
Until next time,