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Meta Review: ESM Invitational Tournament

Shanghai Invitational

As seen from the Overwatch League Playoffs and Overwatch World Cup, the current meta is pretty set. The predominant tanks are Orisa and Sigma, supports are generally Moira and Lucio and the best damage heroes are Reaper, Mei and Doomfist. While this looks to be shaken up a bit with the upcoming patch, the Esports Shanghai Masters Invitational presented a parting look at this double-shield variant.

But especially with the Chengdu Hunters in the mix, it was assumed that the tournament would not only see meta team compositions. Though variance was easily predicted, the variety of compositions seen, particularly in the finals, was extraordinary.

A Tame Start

The ESM Invitational tournament started with a bout between the Hangzhou Spark and the Shanghai Dragons. But as far as the meta went, this was quite tame as each team ran their own variant. Shanghai opted for the Reaper-Mei damage line, and the Spark tried to counter it with the Reaper-Doomfist option. This did not work for them, as they fell 3-0.

The subsequent match saw a bit more hero swaps as the Chengdu Hunters faced off against the Guangzhou Charge. This match saw a fair bit of the meta played, but introduced the Pharah-Mercy, or ‘Pharmercy’ combination. This was first seen on Nepal, with the mirrored Pharmercys of each team squaring off in an aerial onslaught. Additionally, this was where Chengdu brought out Wrecking Ball for the first time, but they would not use the hero much for the rest of the match.

ESM Invitational
Image Courtesy of Hangzhou Spark Twitter

On Hanamura, the Hunters’ first point defense revolved around Bastion, which necessitated Baptiste as a support for his Immortality Field. This held stalwart, and on their attack the team came out with Symmetra to teleport to point. This caught the Charge a bit by surprise, leading to a point capture and 2-0 lead. The final map was King’s row, where the Hunters attacked with a Doomfist-Reaper proving effective against the Reaper-Mei. Their defense is where things started to change up though. They chose to run Widowmaker, Junkrat, Ana and Mercy. This forced the Charge to bring out Hanzo, Mei, Zenyatta and Baptiste for the streets phase. Both teams ended Point C on their main meta variants, and Chengdu took the match 3-0.

A Spectacular Finale

The championship match of the ESM Invitational between the Shanghai Dragons and Chengdu Hunters was one for the ages. As presumably the last show-match before a meta shift, one would expect both teams to have mastered the current meta and just run that. But this matchup presented more of an overview of past metas, showing double-sniper, Sombra-dive, Classic dive and more.

On Lijiang Tower, the Dragons started with the Mei-Reaper meta against the Hunters’ Pharmercy-Doomfist. This went back and forth, and eventually Chengdu pulled out Wrecking Ball and Winston/, but ultimately to no avail as they lost the map in a close 2-0.

On Hanamura attack, the compositions started the same as Chengdu broke through Point A on their first attack, then changed out the Pharmercy for a Mei-Lucio combo. This took them to an easy capture of Point B. The Dragons came out with Reaper-Mei on attack against the Bastion composition the Hunters ran on this map earlier. After ceding Point A, the Hunters mirrored Shanghai for Point B, but lost it as well. The map went on through another cycle with the same compositions, until Shanghai used Pharah, Hanzo and Zenyatta to take Point A on the third cycle and win the map 5-4.

The third map saw a few less changes as the battle shifted to Hollywood. Chengdu’s Pharmercy-Doomfist saw Shanghai bring out a McCree on Point B. They both changed back to normal for Point C though. The Hunters played a short bit of Widowmaker on Point C, but were unable to take the final stretch and switched back. When the Dragons were on the offensive, they played Reaper-Mei and were mirrored by the Hunters, but won the map 3-2.

ESM Invitational
Image Courtesy of Chengdu Hunters Twitter

Route 66 saw an astounding amount of hero variance. Chengdu started with Pharmercy, Hanzo and Baptiste against Orisa, Roadhog, Hanzo, Widowmaker, Baptiste and Zenyatta. The Hunters recognized the double-sniper and ran a Classic Dive variant, substituting Wrecking Ball for Winston. Shanghai eventually wrangled this with a counter-dive of Winston/D.Va, Tracer, Sombra, Lucio and Brigitte/Moira. Chengdu brought out their own Sombra but were stuffed just meters from the map finish. Shanghai’s attack brought out true Classic Dive, but swapped to double-sniper shortly thereafter. For second point defense, the Hunters tried a Sombra-dive to middling success until the Dragons swapped to Mei, Wrecking Ball and D.Va to take Point B in overtime. Point C saw Reaper-Doomfist versus Mei-Reaper, as Shanghai took the map 3-2 and the series 4-0.

Despite the lopsided scoreboard, this match was much closer than it appears. Rather than sticking to predictable compositions, the teams truly tested each other’s ability to adjust on-the-fly. It was also a fitting farewell to the current meta, as the PTR patch seemingly will bring other heroes like Reinhardt and Hanzo back into frequent play. Only time will tell in which other ways the meta will change. But for now, it seems as though the true key to changing the meta is to play against the Chengdu Hunters.


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Featured Image Courtesy of Hangzhou Spark Twitter

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