Now that the 2019 Regular Season has come to a close let’s take a look at how tank players became the headlining making stars of the OWL. Just glance at the candidates for MVP this season, and it becomes clear which role dominated the majority of the season. Almost all of the MVP candidates are tank players or have otherwise made their mark flexing on tank. Undoubtedly, tank play was critical to the 3-3 meta — a seemingly obvious statement. And yet, the tank role evolved into something else in 2-2-2, and now again in the new Sigma meta.
DPS often get the bulk of the attention with their flashy highlight reels, but it’s the role of the Tanks that set most of those plays up. This season tank players have a newfound relevance, although they were always a vital part to any team. However, with the shift towards tank heavy compositions, tank play has become even more central.
This year tank players had an abundance of personality. “The Tank of Personality,” as opposed to the cult of personality, will be a continuing series focusing on tank players and the role they fill in their team. How these players ended up where they are, how their playstyles are defined and how their over the top personalities catch everyone’s attention.
Front lining in GOATs :
Last season, damage dealers took center stage – think Joon-yeong “Profit” Park, Nam-joo “Striker” Kwon or Do-hyeo “Pine” Kim. Although there were exceptions to that, like Baek “Fissure” Chan-hyung, who became a household name on the LA Gladiators. The role of damage dealers has changed drastically since Season One. The GOATs meta, or 3-3, forced DPS players to flex to Zarya or Brigitte. A position and a meta that many DPS players struggled with.
This season teams lived or died off their main tank player, in part, due to the dominant GOATs meta, or 3-3, that reigned for more than half of the season. GOATs turned the spotlight on Main Tank players, because of how important the main tank role was in GOATs.
Reinhardt, a hero wielding a shield and hammer, is an essential member of the team in GOATs. He is the frontline of your team, frequently in-game and out, as many Main Tank players are also shot-callers for their team. Reinhardt does not do the bulk of the damage in GOATs- like Zenyatta, or a Zarya does. However, his role in GOATs is unique, and the core of any team. They set the tempo and make decisions on whether to play aggressively or defensively.
So much of the GOATs meta revolves around the Reinhardt 1v1 and also seemingly inconsequential use of cooldowns. Which Reinhardt has the weaker shield? Which Reinhardt has an ultimate ability? Does the Zarya have a bubble? Does the Brig have an armor pack? Etc.
This year many main tank players were recognized for their playmaking abilities. Players like Park “Bumper” Sang-beom and Matthew “super’ DeLisi became household names with their Reinhardt play. Both players are very aggressive and confident Reinhardts. Their rivalry only intensified because of how dominant both of their respective teams were.
Tanks in 2-2-2 Meta:
Even as the GOATs meta died with the introduction of role-lock and the 2-2-2 setup, tanks took on a different role. Yet the meta in many ways continues to revolve around them. Orisa and Roadhog became the tank duo of preference. The meta in Stage 4, which some have coined “Ice Fishing”- at its very core was tank synergy. Orisa’s halt ability and Roadhogs hook pulled enemies away from their teams for an instant kill. 3-3 is gone, but tank heavy compositions are still the name of the game.
Many teams benefited from this shift in meta because they had players that were great Roadhog or Orisa players. Many focused on the re-introduction of damage dealer and the growing importance that DPS players would have in this new meta. Still, teams with strong frontlines did better.
For example, the London Spitfire main tank player, Jae-hee “Gesture” Hong, was known to have a great Orisa after their inaugural season championship win. London looked reasonably good at the start of Stage 4, and many wondered if they would return to form and make another historic playoff run.
Other teams like the Florida Mayhem looked entirely different in Stage 4, when they added Beom-Jun “GARGOYLE” Lee to their roster. GARGOYLE’s Roadhog was legendary; he once had a 93% hook accuracy on one round of defense. While Mayhem’s season was already decided, his performance on Roadhog gave Florida Mayhem fans hope for next season.
As the playoffs started, the meta shifted because of the introduction of the new hero Sigma. In the playoffs, the preferred tank duo is Orisa and Sigma. The double shield meta, as some are calling it. In this new meta, Sigma plays a critical role. He has high damage output, and he has a versatile shield. His accretion ability, which is in the form of a giant rock, can stun Doomfist or other enemy members. Again the role of tanks took another turn, and teams were forced to adapt.
Personality and Storylines
This year, there were a lot of characters, but undoubtedly some of the biggest personalities came from tank players. Matthew “super’ DeLisi often displayed a lot of confidence. Or Park “Bumper” Sang-beom would be trash-talking every team. Players were willing to show-off and trash talk for the fans, but many of them had continued narratives about their own play and their role in their team.
Narratives, like any compelling storyline, are filled with their own villains and heroes. However, it’s important to note that the OWL isn’t fiction and not all of these players get their so-called “anime ending”.
Each forthcoming piece in the Tank of Personality series will tell tales of character development of underdogs and of victors, of revenge and of loss. It seeks to look over some of those narratives, and remind us all of the people and teams that make esports great- and the reason we all keep coming back.
Featured photo credit to Robert Paul For Blizzard Entertainment
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