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Esports Overwatch

The Crafting of the Overwatch Meta: A Brief Review

Sombra

The ever evolving esport community has, and will always play a major role in the creation of a meta within its digital playground. Like other esports, the Overwach meta is always shifting and always evolving. Since launch day on May 24th, 2016, we have seen players of all levels tinkering with the rules and balance within Overwatch to gain a competitive advantage.

Players sought to gain an obvious advantage by learning to exploit the tools offered by Blizzard within the game’s walls. This meant gaining a deeper understanding of the game’s build, Hero abilities, map layouts and so much more. Two year’s into Overwatch’s existence, we have seen shift after shift from meta to meta. Meta’s ranged from very simple and easily understood compositions and styles, to long, drawn out periods of very effective hero compositions. These meta’s reigned supreme for no other reason than lack of balance within the game itself. The community would find these balance issues, study them, and exploit them to gain any advantage that they could.

With Overwatch League and the Overwatch World Cup gaining popularity and accessibility to thousands of community members, we are seeing these shifts continuously. The exposure pro players receive through streaming and PlayOverwatch‘s OWL and World Cup Broadcasts put revolutionary play styles on display for the world to see and critique. Blizzard’s response to that community feedback has created and maintained a continuous cycle of evolution within the Overwatch community.

Experimental Beginnings

Naturally, the experimenting had begun. The search for the first Overwatch Meta was on, and it yielded many mixed results. One of the first mechanics players sought to exploit was overall damage and killing potential from a single Hero. Remembering back to the game’s May, 2016 release date, McCree stood out as the perfect tool for the job.

McCree’s unique ability layout allowed for consistent usage of his: Fan The Hammer, alternate fire. With accurate long and short range damage output, McCree owned the early Overwatch scene. Tank and squishy alike cowered from the Hitscan’s incredible flexibility on the battlefield during this meta period. Since then, changes to his damage output, and other Heroes kits, like D.Va’s Defense Maitrix and Winston’s Bubble, seemed to really damper the Cowboy’s potency. Coincidentally, he now requires a large amount of support from his surrounding team to stand out and live up to his absolute potential under the current meta.

Overwatch
Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Another extremely powerful early meta that passed by rather quickly is widely referred to the community as, the Beyblade Meta. An obvious next step for the meta progression. Instead of utilizing one hero’s abilities, why not take advantage of a pair of impressive abilities.

The support Hero Ana was the first post-launch character addition to Overwatch. An impressive kit allowed Ana to quickly carve her place in the meta at hand. Perhaps most important was her ultimate ability, Nano Boost. This resulted in an overall enhancement to a target teammate through faster movement, increased resistance to incoming attacks and increased damage to outgoing attacks. This combined with Reaper’s Death Blossom ultimate ability found a rousing success. The overpowered Nano Boosted Reaper Death Blossom coined the name, Beyblade.

Dive! Dive! Dive!

Soon, entire team compositions found their place in the Meta. The unification of well synergised Heroes very quickly proved to be too much for those who chose to resist the current meta state. For a time, a composition featuring Lucio, Zenyatta, Winston, D.Va, Tracer, and Genji proved to be the one composition to rule them all.

The Dive Meta had begun. A direct result of changes and buffs straight from Blizzard Headquarters. D.Va received a major buff allowing her to better utilize her Defense Matrix. This enhanced D.Va’s ability to protect her team from ranged attacks for up to four seconds. This ability, paired with a Winston and his Shield Bubble supplied enough support for their team. The combined damage and AOE Healing of the comp allowed for maximum damage potential and survivability. 

Standard dive
(Photo Courtesy of Josh Armstrong)  

The goal was to have unmatched mobility, while also maintaining a balanced healing base for the team. With the mobility as a clear strength, the team would move and strike as one. Inflicting massive amounts of damage on a specified target for a brief period of time, then regrouping and pushing the next target.

Dive quickly took over. The interesting aspect of this composition was the lack of counters to it. Due to the lack of competition, the only real response when competing against Dive was to mirror it with a Dive of your own. This attribute unfortunately made the other 18 hero options irrelevant and matches were regularly dominated by the six Heroes pictured above.

It was an incredibly mechanical time. Players with overwhelming mechanical skill really shined in this meta. Matches would constantly be decided by great skill and many would argue this period was when some of Overwatch’s best and brightest really put on a show.

Watching Over You

Much of a meta is dominated by the damage-dealing Heroes. Naturally, there will be times where a support Hero gets the usage it deserves. Up until recently, Mercy was the go to pick for many compositions. Since then, she has undergone multiple changes and nerfs to her kit, allowing other support Heroes to excel in her absence.

The greatest benefit to having a Mercy came from her Resurrection ability. The ability allowed for a complete shift in a team fight. Early on, Mercy’s Rez was her ultimate ability. Following a lost engagement, Mercy could immediately revive all five of her fallen teammates as if the previous fight hadn’t even happened. 

Mercy
(Photo Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment)  

Following a change from Blizzard, her new ultimate ability, Valkyrie, took over. This change moved Rez to a cooldown ability. Her new ultimate now granted Mercy the power of flight, enhanced speed, ability to damage boost and heal multiple targets at once and a complete reset to her Rez cooldown timer. This reset made it possible for Mercy to Rez, Ult, Rez in the middle of a team fight, thus swinging the fight overwhelmingly in the Mercy’s favor. 

Many edits and nerfs have come Mercy’s way since this meta took over. Numerous would argue she is now a much more balanced Hero because of them.

Flex Appeal & Current Meta State

It seems as if every Hero has a place in the current meta. Many severely underused Heroes have seen a major uptick in playtime in the recent months. Heroes like Doomfist and Sombra have been staples on Overwatch World Cup rosters throughout multiple group stages. The destruction of the Mercy meta has opened the door for Lucio, Zenyata, and Ana mains to reunite in their healing efforts once again. Even a major rework to Symmetra’s kit has helped spark interest into a previously despised Hero.

Though Brigette does have a very powerful hold on the current meta, she has been going through several changes of her own. Most of these changes have been well received and have had an overall beneficial effect on the meta.

Bridget’s Shield Bash, Doomfist’s Rocket Punch, and Sombra’s Hack allow for a team to take advantage of stunned or disabled opponents with ease. This style of play is a headache for Dive Compositions. It helps to protect exposed Heroes and offer a swift stun counter to any who dare stray to close.

 

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