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A Comprehensive History of Overwatch Metas Part One: The Beta

Thanks to Overwatch League, a lot of new people have been watching Overwatch esports, which is awesome. These new people have been treated to a wide variety of strange metas, varying from Dive to GOATs to Barrier spam. Some might think that the meta has always been like this at the pro level.

Not so fast. The game’s pro scene is well over three years old at this point, and constant meta changes have brought every hero in an out of the professional level. Yes, all of them.  

One might wonder, “How was it that (insert currently trash hero here) was meta before?”. Buckle up, this series will take a deep dive into the history of pro metas, from beta all the way to the current OWL. This is gonna be fun.

The Beta: Speedboosts, Snipers and Orbs.

Image Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Even before Overwatch was officially released the game had a professional scene. Since the beta was going through constant significant balance changes, there were several distinct metas in the beta, many of which seem downright bizarre in the context of today’s metas.  

First thing to keep in mind: No hero limits.  

Hero stacking was prevalent in the beta at the professional level, most notably with Lucio. The game only had four supports at this time, and only three of them could actually heal. Aside from a very weird period of time about mid-way through the beta (that will be addressed later) Lucio was about as close to a must pick as you could get. As in, he was seen essentially everywhere. On almost every map teams would have at least one Lucio at all times, except on King of the Hill.

On King of the Hill, two Lucios was often the name of the game. This was as ridiculous as it sounds. Also keep in mind that Lucio’s speed boosts were even better back then than they are now.

The only other key player who stuck around throughout the entire beta was McCree. This was because of the insane amount of damage he did. For one thing, McCree had much more range to work with before his attacks actually began doing less damage. Because the pros can do insane things with McCree, he was pretty busted at any range.

“That’s Okay, get close to him then!” one might say.  Well, then you were dealing with Fan the Hammer.

Which did 420 damage in beta. Keep in mind McCree’s combat roll ability reloads for him. So FTH+Roll+FTH did 840 damage.

McCree was by far the best DPS in the game for the majority of the beta. He was effective at every range, and Deadeye was one of the better ultimates in the game due to a lack of D.Va to mitigate it.

This was the meta for the majority of the beta, with one very notable exception.

Orb-Ital Destruction

Image Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Invented by Cloud9 mid-way through the beta, the now infamous “Orb-ital Destruction” team composition became the name of the game at the professional level for a short period of time. Zenyatta was already a good pick, but teams realized that A) his orbs stacked, so two Zens could put two harmony orbs on one hero and B) they didn’t disconnect from said flankers when the Zen went out of line of sight. Also keep in mind that Symmetra gave 50 shields to everyone with her E-ability.

What happened: Take Two Zens, a Sym, and Two Tracers/One Genji and One Tracer/Two Genjis (Pick one). Put shields and two orbs on the flankers to turn them into unkillable gods. Most teams opted for the Lucio in the sixth slot, but in the end of the day one could have run an offensive Torbjorn and it probably still would have been okay. It was insane. Fortunately, the devs responded by nerfing Zenyatta and Symmetra. Sym would stick around for a little while longer and slowly fade. Zen would be relegated to dumpster tier by the end of the beta and would stay there for a long time.

Other Strategies

Image Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Winston and Reinhardt were the tanks of choice, but a lot of teams didn’t even bother with tanks in certain situations. 2/2/2 hadn’t really been defined yet, so teams were still experimenting. Widowmaker was also a common occurrence, as she could kill both Tracer and Zenyatta with a body shot. Zarya also saw a bunch of play, especially on offense. Playing defense? Junkrat was often the hero of choice. Both Mercy and Pharah were also seen everywhere; Pharah for the good damage she put down, and Mercy because of her consistent healing, and the fact that she would often get her ultimate (which, remember, was team Resurrection) less than a minute into the game.

There was also some interesting niche compositions. The first iterations of “Protect the President” came late in the beta. These compositions were played on certain escort maps, and consisted of Two Reinhardts, Two Widowmakers, One Mercy and One Bastion. 

The beta was a weird time. The game was horribly balanced for a professional level of play, and everyone knew it.  Blizzard eventually began balancing for the pros a little bit, and things got quite a bit better and quite a bit less weird.


You can follow me on Twitter @GtSputnik or ping me on Discord (SputnikGT#2845) if you would like to talk Overwatch!

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Featured Photo Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

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