Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report: Lord, Have Mercy
What’s up guys and gals, CaptainPlanet here to present the Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report: Lord, Have Mercy. This week was a week of many firsts. It was the first time the pro scene played on the live patch in several months. APAC was the first non-world cup tournament of 2017 to field teams from four separate regions. And most surprisingly, it was the first time Lucio fell below 70% usage – all the way to 13% since Overwatch’s release. Mercy’s rise, Lucio’s fall, and more will be discussed, but let’s first see where the rest of the heroes ended up in this week’s Tiers:
S Tier (>=95% Usage Rate): Mercy (95%)
Tier 1 (>80% Usage Rate): D.Va (88%), Zenyatta (82%), Tracer (80%)
Tier 2 (>50% Usage Rate): Winston (71%)
Tier 3 (>20% Usage Rate): Genji (30%), Soldier 76 (26%), Roadhog (21%), McCree (20%)
Tier 4 (>5% Usage Rate): Widowmaker (16%), Pharah (15%), Lucio (13%), Orisa (7%), Reinhardt (7%), Ana (6%), Zarya (5%)
Tier 5 (<5% Usage Rate): Doomfist (4%), Reaper (4%), Sombra (3%), Junkrat (2%), Torbjorn (2%), Bastion (1%), Mei (1%), Hanzo (0%), Symmetra (0%)
What happened to Lucio?
This patch will go down as one of most impactful changes to Overwatch, if only because it dethroned Lucio as the most consistent, highest usage hero. Some claim that Blizzard balances Overwatch around Tracer – who has received zero changes since launch. But if Blizzard has a vision for Overwatch that always includes Tracer, they have done a better job of ensuring that Lucio remained front and center among the cast of heroes at the pro level:
Unlike Tracer, Lucio has undergone significant changes. However, none of the nerfs and readjustments have been able to reduce Lucio’s Speed Boost and peel strength to a level less powerful than the benefits provided by Overwatch’s other supports. Until now, of course. Mercy not only knocked Lucio out of S Tier, but all the way down to third most used support at a meek 13% usage rate behind Zenyatta at 82%. The power of Mercy is so strong that Zenyatta leapfrogged Lucio because he pairs better with Mercy than present-day Lucio could hope to.
Mercy needs to be in constant contact with her teammates to provide healing or damage boosting and relies on her mobility and passive healing to keep herself safe. Sometimes, however, Mercies require outside healing to supplement their own passive ability. Previously, before the nerf to his Healing Aura’s radius, Lucio could provide this supplemental healing. Indeed, the last time Mercy was at such a high usage, Mercy and Lucio were Overwatch’s primary support duo:
This time, things are different. Lucio’s auras are much smaller, so he can no longer simultaneously heal a Mercy in the frontline while peeling for the backline. Zenyatta certainly cannot peel as effectively as a Lucio – Zenyattas are usually the hero that needs peel after all – but he can at least consistently heal Mercies at a distance with Orbs of Harmony. This implies that Ana could be paired well with Mercy as well, but Ana suffers as long as Winston and D.Va are used at a high rate. Ana has strong long-range healing, but Winston Bubbles and Defense Matrix can shut down her healing entirely while Orb of Harmony remains unimpeded. If Winston and D.Va’s usage starts to fade, I expect to see more Ana in place of Zenyatta alongside Mercy, especially on defense where long sight-lines allow her to see flankers coming.
At APAC, Mercy was used in nearly every team composition. She was even slotted into non-Pharah lineups, two of which combined for over 50% of all lineup time played:
The Korean teams in attendance, MVP Space and Afreeca Freecs, tended to swap Mercy into the Lucio slot in their dive lineups, relying on their already strong Tank/DPS play to combine with the strength of the new Mercy. The two Taiwanese teams, Flash Wolves and AHQ, played a dive-shell comp with their McCree aces as second DPS instead of Genji/Soldier. This difference in DPS preference revealed a difference in reaction to the lack of Lucio in the backline. The Koreans would send in their Tracer and Winston, relying on the D.Va to protect the backline, or combine with the frontline attack. Depending on whether the Korean squads employed a Soldier 76 – preferred on defense – or a Genji, the Zenyatta could be left completely alone in the backline. For these teams, this was an acceptable risk given the strength of their dive coordination: losing a Zenyatta is a drop in the bucket so long as the dive group wiped out the enemy.
The Taiwanese teams approached this differently, with their McCree picks. McCree is a much more effective anti-flanker with Flashbang than Soldier 76, provided the Flashbang hits its mark. Luckily for McCree players, the D.Va Defense Matrix nerf went live alongside the Mercy rework, so Flashbang has a much lower chance of being absorbed. Additionally, Mercy’s damage boost is quite deadly combined with McCree – 30% extra damage is 30% extra damage, but McCree’s burst damage is much harder to heal than Soldier 76’s high, but constant output. Combine Mercy boost with Zenyatta Discords and headshots, and I have to predict we’ll see more McCree in the future.
The only non-Mercy team composition that clocked in with over a percent of usage was a traditional dive, played by Miracle Team One on Nepal Shrine and Route 66:
Unfortunately for Miracle Team One, they lost all of those matches with that team composition. Recently on Around the Watch we interviewed Jason Kaplan and Jamerson, and they believed that the strongest APAC teams may still be able to run traditional dive lineups and defeat Mercy comps. I remain unconvinced, but it gives us something interesting to keep an eye on as GC Busan and Runaway roll into APAC for the upcoming playoff section of the tournament. But until then, it’s Mercy’s meta. We’re just living in it.
Lord, Have Mercy
The Mercy rework has changed the landscape of Overwatch as we know it. While Mercy was already used at a near ubiquitous rate at the Bronze to Platinum, the patch that changed Resurrect to an ability and created a brand new ultimate, Valkyrie, brought the higher levels of ranked play into the cult of Mercy:
Similar bumps occur at Diamond and Grandmaster
This same phenomenon was not occurring in esports data sets because the pros played on a completely different patch – patch 1.14 – on tournament realms provided by Blizzard. They had good reason to do so: the initial iteration of the Mercy rework was met with much criticism due to how … impossible … she felt to kill. An ancient patch from July of last year that granted a reset on Guardian Angel after resurrecting combined with “new Rez” suddenly felt overpowered. This then combined with 10 second Resurrects and a new bug that allowed Mercys to maintain their Guardian Angel momentum after cancelling it to create a fight-prolonging, moth-lookalike, annoyance machine. The pros were right to hide in their castle in the sky and continue playing on patch 1.14 while the developers sorted out the mess on the earthly ladder.
This week, the developers released several changes that attempted to address the issues detailed above. Valkyrie was toned down to grant one bonus Resurrect charge max and Guardian Angel’s “Reset-on-Rez” mechanic was removed. Satisfied for the moment with these changes, Blizzard decreed that the tournament realm was to be updated to the live server patch. This brought us to today where finally, we now have esports data to analyze the impact of the Mercy patch. Surely after reworking the hero and then toning down Valkyrie and Guardian Angel Mercy was in a well-balanced state at the pro level, right?
The Mercy rework has catapulted Mercy into must-pick range pro level, even with the nerfs to Valkyrie and Guardian Angel. Resurrect was always a game-changing ability, but it was previously locked behind its status as an ultimate ability. Even then, Blizzard had noticed that Resurrect felt unfair to play against. A team might commit many ultimates and positioning to mostly wipe an enemy team, only to have their work undone and severely punished by a single ability. Still, pros rarely played Mercy because all other supports provided more non-ultimate utility with their cooldown abilities and required less babysitting. Indeed, Mercy was the support class with the lowest usage in the weeks leading up to her game-changing rework:
The other supports fit into more team comps because they were less dependent on other heroes to function. Lucio peels for his backline with boops and can provide Speed Boosts for flanks. Zenyatta can secure picks with his high auto-attack damage and provide vital debuffs for dive comps with Discord Orbs. Ana’s burst healing and long-range healing is unsurpassed and Sleep Darts and Biotic Grenade nullify entire ultimate abilities. Old Mercy’s mobility was comparable to Lucio’s, but none of her non-ultimate abilities had the potential to change the course of a fight. Instead, she could only damage boost or heal one person at a time and her Guardian Angel ability was focused around keeping herself from dying rather than affecting the enemy team.
By changing Resurrect to a cooldown ability, Blizzard has introduced more consistent utility to Mercy. She has been granted an ability that can change the course of a fight that is no longer gated behind an ultimate but still seems to be a bit over-tuned. Several trackers have reported Mercy’s near 100% usage in ranked play and we can now say that this is a trend that the pros agree with as well:
Rather than counter one huge push involving multiple ultimates and huge investments into positioning, Mercy players can now punish many small picks that would otherwise cascade into larger engagements. Remember the often-cited statistic about how first picks are the most important indicator to winning a given fight? Not so, with the availability of new Resurrect. Previously when teams secured that vital first kill, it served as an indicator to bum-rush the enemy team to take advantage of the 6v5 numbers advantage. Now, teams have to be more careful. If the Mercy successfully Resurrects the “pick-ee”, diving in after a pick can leave the attacking team out of position and vulnerable to counter-dives.
The Resurrect change has altered the way teams approach fights and I have not even started analyzing the power of Valkyrie. Valkyrie is as powerful – and potentially more powerful than – old Resurrect in terms of how it can change the outcome of a teamfight. My personal take on the ability is that the additional mobility is the most important aspect of this multifaceted skill. I have yet to see a pro reliably kill a Mercy under the effect of Valkyrie using their own aim, which means that Mercies in APAC were essentially un-killable for 20 seconds while chain healing/buffing teammates and Resurrecting multiple times. Something about the movement seems to be throwing players off. Most have simply resorted to using auto-aim ultimates like Tactical Visor and Deadeye instead:
All of this has combined to push Mercy to the forefront of Overwatch as the highest usage, meta-defining hero. Like many meta-defining heroes before her, she has brought a couple friends along with her as well!
Several heroes appear to have hitched a ride with Mercy to tiers of higher usage. Since these heroes were not as ubiquitous as Mercy, we still have to question whether it was Mercy who boosted them or the map choices of the APAC premier. Many of these heroes definitely benefited from the narrow map pool of APAC where maps like King’s Row and Overwatch’s newest map, Junkertown, were commonplace. Consider Orisa for example, who was used for more than twice as much time on Junkertown than any other map:
Widowmaker had similar Junkertown-centric usage as Orisa, but McCree and Roadhog were used on many other maps. These two heroes appear to be regional favorites: McCree approached 50% usage from the two Taiwanese teams, AHQ and Flash Wolves, while Roadhog was preferred by Blank and Envision:
Maps and regional preferences aside, there are reasons to play certain heroes alongside Mercy more than others. I already spoke about McCree above and the reasons Taiwanese teams may have found him valuable alongside Mercy and Widowmaker can claim similar benefits from a damage-boosting Mercy beam. When it comes to tanks, however, Roadhog and Orisa are uniquely positioned to extract the most value out of Resurrect compared to the rest of their brethren.
“But why not Reinhardt or Zarya?” you might be wondering. Despite packing much more powerful ultimates than Orisa and Roadhog, Reinhardt and Zarya are weaker than Roadhog and Orisa in the seconds after being ressurected. When Zarya dies, she loses all of the damage-boosting charge that she has built up over time and resurrect does not restore that charge. Similarly, when Reinhardt dies his shield does not instantly recharge. If a Reinhardt were to have his shield broken and then die immediately afterwards, resurrecting him would bring back a shield-less and very unhappy Reinhardt.
Orisa and Roadhog – since all of their abilities are cooldown-based – do not have the same problems and can fight at their full power immediately upon being resurrected. Roadhog’s Resurrect synergy is obvious: he’s massive, and nigh un-killable. Roadhog’s 600 HP is the highest in the game and in a meta without consistent Ana usage, his Take a Breather ability has no effective counters. Orisa suffers from from having a huge head hitbox and low mobility, but her barrier uptime and Fortify damage reduction gives her more immediate survivability than a shield-less Reinhardt. There still are plenty of reasons to run Reinhardt and Zarya in Mercy-based lineups and D.Va and Winston are still the most-used tanks by far. But when it comes to resurrect priority among Overwatch’s tanks, Roadhog and Orisa are the best options on paper.
Final Thoughts and Shoutouts
Shoutout to Blizzard for not only reworking Mercy but also quickly pushing out fixes and tweaks to re-balance the rework. While I’m fairly certain this is the patch we’ll be seeing at the World Cup – they have no time to make changes at this point – I’m also fairly certain that Blizzard has a close eye on Mercy’s status throughout the coming weeks. Shoutout to Jason Kaplan and Jamerson for coming on my podcast and helping me talk through the Mercy changes, their insight informed a lot of the analysis in this report. Finally, thank you to gywha, who created this report’s lovely thumbnail!
Until next time,