Overwatch Tier list and Hero Meta Report #15: Balance Changes and You

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Opening Thoughts

Whats up guys and gals, CaptainPlanet here to present The Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report #15: Balance Changes and You. Something amazing happened before this Week’s Tournaments: Widowmaker and McCree were nerfed! You can find much more detailed notes here: http://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20745235963, but my "Too Long; Didn't Read" version is this: Widowmaker’s body-shot damage was reduced, her Ultimate cost was increased, and McCree’s Fan the Hammer damage was decreased. What does this mean for the rest of Overwatch’s cast of Heroes? As we will soon see, any Balance Change in Overwatch will have far-reaching effects ranging from direct effects to those nerfed, Secondary effects that boost Heroes into vacant Lineup slots, and even Tertiary effects resulting from the Primary and Secondary outcomes. Before I break it all down, let’s look at this week’s Tiers:

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As always, Raw Data for this and subsequent charts can be found HERE. REMINDER: This Data was collected from the GosuGamers weekly NA and EU tourneys, where 1 Hero Limit, no 2CP Maps, and True Stopwatch Format was used

The Tiers

S Tier (>=100% Usage Rate*): No one!

A Tier (>80% Usage Rate): Mercy,

B Tier (>40% Usage Rate): Lucio, Reinhardt, Reaper, McCree, Soldier 76, Pharah

C Tier (>20% Usage Rate): Roadhog, Zarya, Winston, Tracer, Junkrat, Symmetra

D Tier (>5% Usage Rate): Widowmaker, Genji, D.Va, Bastion

F Tier (<5 % Usage Rate): Mei, Hanzo, Torbjorn, Zenyatta

*What is Usage Rate? It is NOT the percent chance of seeing a particular Hero in a Match, it’s actually a little different than that! Please see this glossary page explaining the term. 

The Tier Ranges I’ve chosen** reflect different states of “Balance” in the Meta. This week, the Meta that is being analyzed is the Meta of 1 Hero Limit, 2 CP Maps Banned, Stopwatch Scoring.

I will continue to track the S Tier for when the time when a non-1 Hero Limit format Tournament returns, but once again the GosuGamers Weekly Tourneys used 1 Hero Limit Rules so there were no S Tier Heroes to Report. 

The A Tier -- “Non-Negotiable” Core Heroes -- lost yet another Hero: McCree. This leaves Mercy as Overwatch’s only "Hero you should probably be including in every lineup for every situation". Mercy’s core abilities shine in the 1 Hero Limit Format: while she has the strongest single-target Heal in the game she does not scale as well as Lucio when stacking is allowed. Her Ultimate is the main reason Mercy sits atop the rest of the Overwatch Heroes -- allowing teams to Attack or Defend with no regard for their positioning or even the outcome of the battle.

The B Tier -- “Negotiable” Core Heroes -- are starting feel a little crowded, which is a good thing. These Heroes are the first Heroes in a “Standard” Lineup that will be swapped out depending on the situation and all of these Heroes were often being swapped within their Tier and with the neighboring C Tier Heroes. McCree’s Fan the Hammer nerf was enough to drop him to the B Tier; Widowmaker’s nerfs elevated Soldier 76 and Reaper as viable DPS substitutes while granting Pharah ground by removing one of her strongest counters.  

The C Tier -- “Balanced” Heroes -- should revert their description to the “Specialist” Heroes. All of the Heroes who reside in this Tier had large biases towards Usage on Offense or Defense this week, which ultimately lead to a drop in their overall Usage Rate. As I’ll get into in more detail below in the Offense / Defense Breakdown, Zarya and Winston both saw much greater Usage on Offense than Defense, while Symmetra, Junkrat, Roadhog, and Tracer all saw elevated Usage on Defense. 

The D Tier -- “Almost Viable” Heroes -- are Heroes who are just a minor Balance Change from breaking into a few niche Lineups. Widowmaker’s fall from grace ended here, implying that she may have been hit just a bit too hard with the nerfbat. It is interesting to note that Genji has also joined her in the D Tier -- likely due to Week-to-Week fluctuation and the incredible difficulty in mastering the Hero.

The F Tier -- “We Exist, Barely” Heroes -- once again saw a negligible Usage Rate this week. I have heard rumors of Zenyatta strategies being attempted in Pro Scrimmages -- primarily to counter the brewing Roadhog Menace. Only time will tell if we see a return of everyone’s favorite Robot Monk. I should also remind any Console Players who may have come across this list by chance that this Tier List is constructed from PC Tournament Data Only. After 10s of questions of "Why is Torbjorn F Tier"...these things need to be said. 

** I do not chose the placement of Heroes in a Tier, only the Range which defines the Tier. By determining Usage Rate directly from Hero Picks in Tournament Matches, my data is Objectively determined, and not subjective at all. 

***By Amateur Teams I mean Teams that didn’t include any Closed Beta players, or Teams that didn’t have a trackable GosuGamers Ranking -- for the most just part Teams who simply hadn’t competed in any Tournaments yet.


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It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world
— Crappy Quote I Stole from the Wikipedia entry for the Butterfly Effect Movie

Whenever Balance Changes occur in a game as dynamic and complex as Overwatch, the effects of the change can reach far beyond the Heroes who have been targeted. Obviously, this is what the Developers want -- slight individual tweaks which then cascade into a flurry of reactions that hopefully result in a better overall experience for every player. This Week’s Balance Patch made slight**** changes to Widowmaker and McCree and judging by the graphic above -- the resulting Butterfly Effect has begun to infect the Meta. To help make sense of the waves of changes in player behavior and Hero strength, I’ve divided the effects of Balance Changes into Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Effects.


Primary Effects

The Primary Effects of Balance Changes are the outcomes for the Heroes who receive Balance Changes. For Widowmaker and McCree, the Winners and Losers Infographic above speaks for itself: the Primary Effect of last week’s Balance Patch was that Widowmaker and McCree both were fairly significantly nerfed. Widowmaker in particular saw a drop greater than 50% drop in Usage Rate -- translating to a reduction from 0.72 Widowmakers per lineup per match to 0.17. Pros have been dropping Widowmaker for a myriad of reasons -- citing her lack of 1v1 capability, the change to her scoping animation upsetting their rhythm, and of course the reduction of body shot damage. The general consensus in the Competitive Scene was that Widowmaker was not necessarily an innovative Hero to play -- or play against -- but that her body shot damage combined with the rate at which her Ultimate Charged made her a certified lock for a Lineup slot. Thus, the Primary Effect of Rebalancing these two Unbalanced characteristics of the “Old” Widowmaker is that the not-fun, not-interesting, but not-overpowered “New” Widowmaker tanked in Usage. I rate the Primary Effect of Widowmaker’s Balance Change as “Slightly Too Severe” -- but let’s wait to see the Secondary and Tertiary Effects of the Balance Changes to make an overall judgment. 

McCree, despite the roughly 30% drop in Usage, is still in a pretty good place thanks to how absurdly high his Usage Rate was prior to his Balance Change. That said, any reduction in Usage of one Hero necessarily has to be absorbed by other Heroes -- so I rate the Primary Effect of McCree’s Balance Change as “Successful” for bringing him back to a reasonable Usage Rate and opening up Lineup slots for other Heroes.

Secondary Effects

McCree and Widomaker's drop in Usage Rate gave rise to the Secondary Effects of Balance Changes. All of those Widowmaker and McCree picks had to go somewhere, and Heroes that directly benefited from the redistribution of these picks demonstrate the Secondary Effects of Balance Changes. This week, the Lineup slots were primarily redistributed to Soldier 76, Reaper, Tracer, Pharah and surprisingly Roadhog. Soldier 76, Reaper, and Tracer are easy enough to explain: Widowmaker and McCree are both strong Hitscan DPS so their Lineup slots were absorbed by these three other Hitscan DPS. Pharah’s boost in usage is almost entirely due to the loss of her natural counter in Widowmaker. As for Roadhog, let's try a little creative writing exercise to explain his rise to glory: 

What if I told you, that Overwatch’s next Hero had an ability that could Stun as effectively as McCree’s Flash Grenade, but at a 21 meter distance? What if I told you, this Hero could deal enough damage to fully combo-kill a 200 Health Hero -- except that he could do it every 6 seconds, instead of 8 seconds like McCree? What if I told you, this Hero could also heal for half of his 600 Health? That would sound pretty imbalanced right? Welcome to Overwatch’s newest Hero: StreetPig....I mean Roadhog. It is true that McCree’s Flash Grenade combo can still do more damage to a Tank if you Flash/Fan/Roll/Fan, but many Pros are beginning to ditch the Six-Gun Outlaw for Roadhog -- and they’re using Roadhog to do all the things McCree used to do, but from the safety of range. I expect Roadhog’s popularity in the Competitive Scene to continue to rise, which will give rise to the the next level of Balance Change Butterfly Waves: the Tertiary Effects. After seeing growth across the board in five different Heroes’ Usage Rates due to the drop in just two Hero’s popularity, I rate the Secondary Effects of this Balance Change as “Highly Successful”. Secondary Effects of Balance Changes tend to come back to bite you, however, so I hope someone at Blizzard is keeping a close eye on Roadhog in particular. 

Tertiary Effects

Tertiary Effects of Balance Changes are usually minor fluctuations in the Meta caused by Secondary Effects. These Effects are a bit harder to spot, as diminishing returns begin to come into play the deeper down the rabbit hole of ripples caused by the Balance Change wave you go. In fact, I would not have noticed the first of these Tertiary Effects if someone had not exclaimed to me: “I expected Pharah to have gained much more ground without Widowmakers!” I too speculated that Pharah would have seen a larger increase in Usage following Widowmaker’s nerf, but her somewhat muted growth seems to be the result of Roadhog and Soldier 76’s own explosion in usage. Due to her somewhat predictable mid-air movement, Pharah is still especially susceptible to long-range, Hitscan DPS. This makes Soldier 76 just as effective a counter to an Attacking Pharah as Widowmaker. Roadhog also makes for an extremely effective counter to Pharah: while his Hook is not Hitscan, its Hitbox is sufficiently large that snagging a Pharah out of midair is no challenge to a skilled Hog. 

Winston suffered from Tertiary Effects of this Balance Change as well. Roadhog’s rise has taken some of the Lineup slots Winston used to enjoy (especially on Defense), while the rise of one of Winston’s main counters -- Reaper -- also contributed to his drop in Usage. Success of Tertiary Effects are much harder to rate -- especially in the first week following a Balance Change -- so I will leave the rating of the Tertiary Effects as “To Be Determined.” 

Overall, the nerfs to McCree and Widowmaker seem to have been a net positive for the Competitive Meta of Overwatch. Despite Widowmaker’s unfortunately extreme drop in Usage, the positive outcomes of her Usage’s redistribution has achieved what Blizzard set out to do...for now.


the return of the Interactive Historical tracking sheet

This week I’m excited to bring back my Meta Report Historical Interactive Sheet! It’s been five weeks and five Meta Reports since Overwatch’s Open Beta, so I finally have enough Data to present something worth checking out. See below for a gif demonstration of the Sheet’s capabilities, and instructions to download!

Download Link + Instructions:


1. Click the Download link at the top of the file

2. Once the file has downloaded, open it and Click "Enable Editing"

3. Click "Read-Only" in the dialog box that pops up

4. Click "Enable Content" to enable the Macros needed to run the sheet


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This week’s Offense / Defense Bias Report was quite exciting on the Defensive end, and much less so on Offense. Widowmaker made a surprise appearance as the Hero most biased towards Offensive Usage despite her drop in Overall Usage -- pointing to her losing many more Lineup slots on Defense than Offense. If we turn our attention to the Defense side of the Graph, we can see the two Heroes who usurped much of Widow’s Usage on Defense: Soldier 76 and Roadhog. 

I spent some time describing how both of these Heroes are comparable in effectiveness against Attacking Pharahs as Widowmaker, but that only scratched the surface of their Defensive Bias. Both Soldier 76 and Roadhog share a common ability: a Self-Heal. With a Self-Heal, both of these Heroes can be much more effective in strange areas set up around a point defense -- they do not need a Mercy nearby to recover from long-range poke damage from the Attacking Team. For Soldier 76 in particular, his Self-Heal is much more effective in an entrenched position -- rather than on the run -- and so fits a Defensive setup more than an Attacking Team on the move. Soldier 76 can also heal his Mercy, allowing her to recover from the same long distance poke damage.

Icarus' corner

This week, as always, I partnered with Icarus to compile the data necessary for both of our Meta Reports. If you'd prefer your Meta Reports in audio/video form, head over to his YouTube channel, or check back here around every Wednesday of the week! 

Final Thoughts and Shout-Outs

As always, none of this Data could exist without the help of the Competitive Overwatch Community -- so remember to check out my Competitive Overwatch Beta Twitch Directory! This Directory features all of the Twitch Streams and Social Media of as many of the people who helped make the Beta Competitive Scene great that I could find. Get out there and give these people a Follow -- without them there would be no Competitive Scene and no Overwatch Hero Meta Report. I'd also like to thank the Blizzard Developers for actually making some Balance Changes and giving me lots to talk about! I'm still waiting for that D.Va buff :)

Until next time,


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