Baptiste, Overwatch’s 30th Hero, was launched this Tuesday on all available platforms after a testing period on the PTR. The former Talon agent, now combat medic’s powerful kit was displayed in the announcement video, highlighting the Immortality Field’s ability to counter lethal ultimates such as D.Va’s Self-Destruct and Junkrat’s RIP-Tire. Immediately after, Overwatch League announced that Baptiste will be playable at the highest level during Stage 2, with other major Hero changes and a new map pool.
This combat medic is no angel of mercy.
Play Baptiste now on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One!
— Overwatch (@PlayOverwatch) March 19, 2019
To further understand the role Baptiste will play in Stage 2, we discussed first impressions of the Hero, potential meta shifts, and the wide array of nerfs and buffs coming to Overwatch League with players Jacob “JAKE” Lyon, Harrison “Kruise” Pond, Seong-hyeon “Luffy” Yang, Nikola “sleepy” Andrews, and Min-ki “Viol2t” Park, as well as coach Joshua “Elbion” Tuffs.
“No Dying on my Watch”
When Baptiste was first playable on the PTR, Sleepy, support player for the San Francisco Shock, was concerned, but hopeful. “My first impressions – I thought he was pretty broken, he seems really strong, but obviously when they put a Hero on PTR, I feel like it’s mostly like a rough draft. I think there will definitely be changes to him that’ll be really good, but i think if they probably nerf him he will still be good, just not broken.” While changes were made to the Hero throughout the PTR process, they were predominantly aesthetic, with Baptiste’s immortality field receiving visual and auditory changes.
This ability to save teammates from certain death reminded Sleepy of frustrating abilities that countered opponent’s skill he found when playing League of Legends. “Like Tahm Kench would just, if you’re taking a bunch of damage, you’re probably gonna die, but oh well, he has a negating ability so you just take some and you’re still fine. Same thing with Baptiste now, oh my Reinhardt messed up, don’t worry I have my E. You can’t die now. I’m not a fan of it coming in, but you have to accept it.”
JAKE of the Houston Outlaws also has theories for how professionals will use (or abuse) Baptiste’s immortality field. “One thing that really scares me about that character is the combination with Widow, because on certain maps, like 2CP, your Widow can basically stay near the spawn and actually have an effective LOS, and the only answer in the past has been a widow duel. But with the field used properly, it can be really annoying like if its put around a corner and your widow just free peeks, there’s literally nothing in the game that kills her, because she’s immortal.”
While this support Hero has a great amount of utility, and has even been heralded as the one that will bring the end to the triple-tank, triple support GOATS meta, JAKE believes that Baptiste is not inherently overpowered. “He has to rely on his teammates heavily, like a lot of his skills are about enabling teammates and about making them successful. So he’s only going to find room in comps where his teammates really benefit from being enabled. I think it’s actually unlikely that he’ll see much play in a GOATS comp because he doesn’t deal the DPS and have that ult like Zen that keeps you alive. He’s going to be a character that relies on enabling teammates in a way that I think GOATS won’t be able to use.”
End of an Era?
If GOATS will not be a natural fit for Baptiste, where does this Hero belong in Stage 2? Viol2t of the San Francisco Shock disagrees with JAKE’s assessment, instead arguing that “teams will be able to utilize him in the GOATS meta. Baptiste seems pretty strong, but in the GOATS meta, I don’t think that with Baptiste in, GOATS is going to disappear.” Shanghai Dragons’ Luffy is still unsure. “I am not sure where Baptiste belongs in the meta, just because Zenyatta’s discord orb and transcendence just seems to be far more effective than what Baptiste has to offer at the moment. So more considerations need to be had.”
With Zenyatta’s kit being valued and utilized throughout the league, Sleepy has a theory as to how both Heroes can become staples in Stage 2. “I love to theorycraft for [the] next metas and so far my assumption for the next meta is somewhat like Stage One of last year, where it will be Orisa, D.Va as your two tanks, and then your DPS are gonna be Junkrat and Baptiste, and then Zen Mercy again. Because I feel like Baptiste, Zen, [and] Mercy synergize really well together where you can get any rez off with Baptiste.”
The Paris Eternal’s main support Kruise agrees with the potential for seeing Orisa more frequently due to Baptiste’s enabling abilities. “I like the kit. I think that you’ll be able to run Orisa/Bastion comps more, just set them up on the payload. I think the kit’s really unique, I like it, I like the design. I think it’ll be fun.” With Blizzard’s map pool including Junkertown, the home of the legendary pirate ship composition which typically focuses around an Orisa and Bastion sitting on the payload, the survivability of this cheesy strategy has just been buffed due to the addition of Baptiste.
hooo boy Junkertown in stage 2 map pool with Baptiste active
hope yall are ready to talk like pirates
— Ben Trautman (@CaptainPlanetOW) March 19, 2019
Orisa has also been buffed independently of the enabling abilities of Baptiste. JAKE shares that while many Heroes, including his favored Junkrat, have been buffed before Stage 2, “the Orisa buff struck me as the biggest buff in the patch, reducing the movement penalty when she’s firing. So in the past, Orisa firing basically locks her and she’s static. But now she’s actually going to be a lot more mobile, a lot more able to quickly rotate, so the whole composition being based on the Orisa, now the whole composition can play faster and just a little quicker on the rotations.” A more mobile and survivable Orisa could unlock a variety of new compositions, especially as the map pool contains settings where the omnic tank has more viability, such as Hanamura and Junkertown.
Changing of the Guard
Alongside the introduction of Baptiste, other support Heroes have been adjusted in this most recent patch. Zenyatta notably has received a nerf to his Orb of Discord, reducing the damage effect from 30% to 25%. To compensate for this decrease in overall team damage potential, Zenyatta’s Orb of Destruction has increased from 46 to 48. Viol2t “With the nerf I think that it might affect how I use Zen, but in overall spaces, it seems like Zen’s attack [and other] parts of his kit got stronger, so I feel like it will be very beneficial towards my play, but I will have to see.” Fellow Zenyatta player Luffy agrees that Zen will continue to be a staple. “Even though the Orb of Discord was nerfed, the left click was buffed, so I don’t think there will be a major change in the meta in terms of Zenyatta.”
Viol2t’s teammate Sleepy also believes that Zenyatta’s role in compositions will not be reduced due to the recent changes. “Zen’s actually a really balanced character. It’s just that other Heroes maximize him and make him really OP. So last year, it was Mercy, Mercy made Zen really strong. And now this new Hero, Baptiste is also going to make Zen really strong so put them both together with Zen, it’s going to be really broken. So that’s why I think the Baptiste is going to be really good with Zen rather than the Zen player playing Baptiste, it’ll be Zen and Baptiste playing together.”
Lúcio has also received a variety of changes, reducing the effect of his speed boost in heavy tank compositions. Lucio’s Amp it Up speed boost was reduced from 70% to 50%, while his Cross Fade speed boost was reduced from 30% to 20%. The March 19th patch notes explain that “Lúcio’s ability to increase his teammate’s speed was too strong, especially when used on high health/low range Heroes.” Kruise still has little worries about Lúcio’s status in the meta. “I don’t think the Lúcio nerf’s that big. I think they’re just trying to nerf team-oriented side of it, trying to nerf GOATS with that. Like the Zen change is through the team, not him, the Lúcio change, it’s through the team, not him, so it’s not that big of a deal. Lúcio will be fine. Speed is such a key part of Overwatch still.”
Ana also received a nerf to her ultimate, Nano Boost, reducing the instant heal effect from 300 to 250 HP, once again to reduce the impact on Heroes with high health pools. Sleepy sees the addition of Baptiste though, as more of a reason to not expect much Ana play in Stage 2. “Baptiste is just a better Ana. Ana’s biggest downfall is that D.Va’s a big counter to Ana and on top of that, Ana doesn’t do a lot of damage, whereas Baptiste, I’m pretty sure does almost as much damage as Zen, minus the discord. So that’s why you’ll see him a lot more than Ana, because he does have really good AOE [Area of Effect] healing which is really effective. He also has a lot of damage on top of that, whereas Ana doesn’t really have the biggest damage numbers.”
Preparation meets Opportunity
With a new Hero, new map, and a wide array of Hero changes combating the long lasting reign of the GOATS composition, players and coaches have much to prepare for in order to set themselves up for success. The multitude of patch changes is giving Sleepy much to practice. “It’s really hard, this is one of the first patches in a long time where they’ve changed a ton of characters, like Junkrat got changed, Lúcio got changed, McCree’s getting buffed, Zen got nerfed, like all this new stuff. It’s really hard to prepare for it as a player and a team, you just gotta take things as they come, and go with the flow. I’m a Zen player, but I still will learn the new Hero just in case I have to play him.”
Kruise sees the new stage as a chance to explore new opportunities in the game alongside his team. “I think it’s hard because Overwatch hasn’t had too many big patch changes with so many changes. I personally like having new stuff to play. I enjoy it. It makes the game more fun and I like dedicating time to figuring stuff out. For me, I’m just going to play a lot and see what feels good, at the end of the day that’s what you need to do, you just have to figure it out by playing a lot, figure out what’s good by trying things out. Also, we rely on our coaching staff as well. If you have really good coaches, they should be able to work out what’s good, you know, they should have an eye for it in a sense from doing all the background work.”
So how do coaches prepare for so many changes, especially when new Heroes and maps are involved? Coach Elbion of EU Contender’s British Hurricane describes the initial process as such: “When a Hero comes out much of the process is comparing them to what’s available. Is their mobility on a shorter cool down than Winston’s leap? If so they’ll be harder for enemies to dive, and vice versa. How does their damage, healing, or damage blocking ability compare to other Heroes in their role? Checking their damage fall-off range, if they have one, and comparing it to different sight-lines on various maps can tell you a lot about where they’ll be effective. Similarly, what high grounds they can reach with their mobility and so on.”
Once coaches have a solid understanding of the Hero’s strengths and weaknesses, Elbion says that the next step is to consider placement in the meta. “The simplest thing to do is take compositions that are meta at the time and begin replacing Heroes within that composition with a new Hero. So for Baptiste many people are thinking about how he could replace Brigitte in GOATS. Obviously, he just doesn’t do critical things that Reinhardt or Lúcio do like shield damage and speed his team around. And from there you just start testing things, seeing how they play out. And generally by trial and error you’ll figure out more about the intricacies of the Hero and develop your own framework for how to actually think about the Hero.” These processes will likely determine whether or not Stage 2 will indeed see a major transition from the triple-tank, triple-support GOATS compositions we have come to know and…love?
GOATS’ Impact on Overwatch League
As much as two living goats were cheered for at the Blizzard Arena in last week’s Watchpoint, the GOATS composition has been received negatively by many fans. With the Overwatch development team actively working towards reducing the power of this composition, JAKE empathizes with those who dislike triple-tank, triple-support. “I think the main problem with GOATS from a spectator perspective is that the critical elements of the game, like those key moments, as a pro player you see that moment and you see the shift in the battle and that moment of advantage. It’s really difficult to actually see that. And even as a pro player, you have to watch carefully and notice all their HP, and notice ults, to really understand which team is in the lead and which team is winning or losing.”
Some members of the community including NA Contenders caster Andrew “ZP” Rush argue that GOATS will have a positive lasting impact on the game. JAKE gives an example of how these microplays, while beneficial for player development, could cause confusion for viewers. “There’s really small plays, like for instance, Transcendence relies on line of sight to heal allies. So a Reinhardt can actually get into a friendly Graviton Surge and just put his shield between the Zen and the other Rein, and then the other Rein wouldn’t be able to get healed. I think for most people that’s a confusing interaction, because it’s like, why is the Rein shielding when the grav is out? Why isn’t he hitting?”
The legacy of GOATS / 3-3 will be felt for a long time after the current meta passes. The overall skill level of comp OW has been forever increased because of forcing players to value positioning and cooldowns more than ever before. This levels up players even after a meta shift
— Andrew Rush (@TempoZP) March 14, 2019
JAKE notes that the potential return of DPS Heroes such as Junkrat and Widowmaker due to the integration of the most recent patch notes could provide a more accessible viewing experience. “Just identifying what’s going on and why somebody died [in GOATS] is really difficult for the casters, for the viewers, even for the pro players. I can really see from a new viewer or player perspective, just not knowing what all these abilities do would kill the fun, because it is a game of abilities. If it’s Widowmakers sniping each other, anyone can tune into that and be like, that’s pretty sick, that Widow is like, on another level. That is obvious showmanship, and it’s a little harder to tell in GOATS.”
While we will have to wait until the beginning of Stage 2 to see whether or not Baptiste and the array of Hero balance shifts will have an impact on the professional meta, viewers may celebrate the peak of GOATS play this weekend as the top 8 teams of the Overwatch League compete for a total prize pool of $500,000 in the Stage 1 playoffs. Preparation for the next stage has already begun for many coaches and players, but only time will tell which Heroes, compositions, and ultimately teams emerge as dominant in future stages.
We would like to thank JAKE, Kruise, Luffy, sleepy, Viol2t, and Elbion for their time and input.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.