Overwatch Tier list and Hero Meta Report #16: I've got the whole hog from above

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Opening Thoughts

What’s up guys and gals, CaptainPlanet here to present the Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report #16: I’ve got the Whole Hog from Above. Now that it's had some time to crystallize, the Meta which has emerged is presently dominated by the three Heroes I allude to in the title -- Soldier 76, Pharah, and Roadhog -- a veritable ManBearPig, a Cerberus, or any other three-headed allusion that you can think of which I have not yet made. The Pros call it a Pharah Meta, the Casters call it a Tank Meta, and the Data suggests it’s a Soldier 76 Meta -- in reality it’s all three. The rise of the three-headed, Meta-Consuming Beast of course was born in the ashes of the McCree/Widowmaker Balance Patch: these formerly downtrodden Heroes have taken center stage in revenge. Two weeks have now passed since Widowmaker and McCree got a touch of the Nerf Bat and the Meta has continued its endless march with...or without them. In an effort to study the continuing effect of the fated Balance Patch, this week's Report will return to the Winners and Losers of last week to see if the budding Trends we saw last week continued -- or if Widowmaker and McCree managed to recover from the initial shock.  Before we get to that though, let’s take a 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 Alienware Monthly Melee, 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, Lucio

B Tier (>40% Usage Rate): Soldier 76, Reaper, Reinhardt, Pharah, Winston, Roadhog, Zarya

C Tier (>20% Usage Rate): Tracer, Genji, Widowmaker

D Tier (>5% Usage Rate): Symmetra, Junkrat, D.Va, Hanzo, Torbjorn, McCree

F Tier (<5 % Usage Rate): Mei, Bastion, 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 a time when a non-1 Hero Limit format Tournament returns, but the Alienware Monthly Melee utilized 1 Hero Limit Rules so there were no S - Tier Heroes to Report. 

The A Tier: The “Non-Negotiable” Core Heroes. The A Tier is the highest attainable designation in the 1 Hero Limit Format and for the first time since its adoption it is populated solely by Healers. This is reminiscent of the Closed Beta, No Hero Limit Formats where Teams would either stack Lucios or Zenyattas (when Zenyatta was overpowered), which led me at the time to conclude that Overwatch needs more Support Heroes.  I still believe this, so before you go clamoring for Mercy or Lucio nerfs: consider instead to simply call for more Supports to be added to the game first (or for Zenyatta to be buffed, the poor thing).  When there’s only four Support Classes -- only three of which can actually heal -- it stands to reason that these Heroes will naturally dominate in Usage Rate. All of that said, Lucio's climb back into this Tier this week was due to the amount of King of the Hill matches nearly doubling -- a game mode in which this AOE-based Healer excels. 

The B Tier: The “Balanced” Heroes. I had refrained from calling the B Tier the “Balanced” Tier for several weeks, primarily because until last week it only housed a few Heroes, despite its large Usage Rate range (40-80%). It seems that last Week's six B Tier Heroes was no fluke: the B Tier finally seems to represent those Heroes who are “Well-Balanced” in their Usage Rate. These are the Heroes who are being swapped out often with other Heroes who share their Tier, as well as with the Tiers below them. When constructing a lineup to try out an experimental Offense -- or make a desperate swap for a Point Defense -- this is where you should look first. 

The C Tier: The “Meta-Dependent” Heroes. This Tier now represents the Heroes whose usage is dependent on the state of the current Meta. You’ll notice that Widowmaker has regained a bit of her Usage following her nerf to reach this Tier, while Genji and Tracer fit Metas which are a bit less Tank-Heavy. 

The D Tier: The “Specialist, or Weak” Heroes. These Heroes excel at one thing, and one thing only. Symmetra and Junkrat are the masters of chokepoint Defenses, Torbjorn finds a home on Numbani and Hollywood Defense and D.Va does as well as a counter to Torbjorn on Offense. Hanzo and McCree fall under the “weak” category -- McCree for his recent (possibly too strong) nerf, and Hanzo simply because Widow does everything he can do, but better. 

The F Tier: The “We Exist, Barely” Heroes. Once again saw a negligible Usage Rate this week. Remember those rumors I heard about Zenyatta Team compositions making an appearance in Competitive play? Apparently, they were all dead wrong: Zenyatta had exactly 0 picks out of >900 Data points from the Alienware Monthly Melee. Blizzard, I have the evidence you need to buff Zenyatta -- just pull the trigger!

** 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. 

I've got the whole hog from above

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The first thought that came to my mind when I saw how far Widowmaker and McCree had fallen after "The Great Balancing" was “I wonder if this is an overreaction, or if they’ll bounce back?” So I did what any sensible human being would do: I made another chart! Many of my readers theorized that Widowmaker would climb back in Usage -- and they were right -- but I doubt anyone could have predicted how far McCree would crater this week.

The biggest winner of "The Great Balancing" has turned out to be Soldier 76, who's stolen over 50% Usage Rate from the likes of McCree, Widowmaker, and even a little bit from Junkrat and Symmetra. Roadhog's rise similarly draws some picks from McCree and Widomaker, but may also account for the continuing drop in Reinhardt's numbers as well. Pharah and Reaper both also continued their upward trends, the former due to the loss of her McCree/Widowmaker counters and the latter in lockstep with Roadhog as his primary counter. The middle Heroes, from Zenyatta to Lucio, seem to be mostly noise, or King of the Hill based. 

The meat of this Meta Report will dive into analyzing the Winners and Losers of the Patch, and why these trends are emerging the way they are. "I’ve Got the Whole Hog from Above" refers to the three Heroes who define the current Competitive Meta: Soldier 76, Roadhog and Pharah. They, along with Reaper dragged along as a Roadhog-specific counter, are the big winners of the Balance Patch, but why?

Practical usage vs. skill ceilings

I have been dancing around a specific topic for some time now: how much influence Individual Skill has on the Overwatch Meta. After the nerfs to McCree and Widowmaker, the time has finally come to dive a little deeper. When making Lineup decisions, Teams know that Individual Skill only represents the surface to a myriad of skill-based considerations. When evaluating a Hero on a solely individual basis -- one must consider the Skill Level of the Player (Individual Skill), but also the Effectiveness of that Hero (rough power level) compared to the Skill required to reach peak Effectiveness as well as the time required to reach that Skill Level. This is quickly getting confusing, so lets look at some very simple graphs and examples. 

I will start with a Hero which has a relatively low Skill Ceiling: Winston. There is not all that much you can practice with Winston in terms of optimizing your play, because his Tesla Cannon does not need to be aimed nearly as well as almost any other Hero. As a Winston player, you can practice jumping Butt-first to avoid getting headshot***, practice your Shield placements, learn where you can take shortcuts with your jumps, but compared to other Heroes in Overwatch Winston is child's play. For this reason, Pros are not big fans of playing Winston, or having Winston played against them: it is simply too easy to be fully Effective with him. Winston’s extremely low Skill Ceiling required to reach full Effectiveness was one of the main motivations to use the 1 Hero Limit system in the first place -- one Winston is balanced around his relatively low damage and pop-able Shield, but two Winstons represent an unstoppable Offensive and Defensive Juggernaut. 

The recent changes to Widowmaker and McCree did were deeper than a reduction in damage potential -- they removed the high Skill Floor shared by both Heroes. The only elements of McCree and Widowmaker's kits which made it through "The Great Balancing" untouched were Widowmaker’s headshot damage as well as McCree’s left clicks. I suspect this demonstrates that most Heroes are balanced around a certain theoretical “Damage output” as calculated out on paper by Developers (and hopefully tested!), however in practice the “Effectiveness Range” created by crossing Player Skill with Hero Power Level ends up being much more important to a Hero’s standing in the Meta. Consider Genji: a Hero that Pros and Casual players alike would agree has the potential to be absolutely dominant when placed in the right hands. Genji currently does not see nearly as much play as Reaper, Soldier 76, Pharah,  or other DPS characters simply because the amount of skill required to play him at an acceptable Effectiveness is not a good use of Players’ time. Stepping off my soapbox and getting back to the Three-Headed Meta Dragon at hand: how does all of this apply to Pharah, Soldier 76, and Roadhog?

***It's a real technique, I swear

The three headed meta monster has a reaper tail

Artist's Interpretation of the Current Meta

Artist's Interpretation of the Current Meta

When the Skill Floor drops out from under two Meta-Dominating Heroes, other Heroes with higher Skill Floors rise to take their place. Soldier 76 and Roadhog have both jumped into McCree’s old spot -- each performing one aspect of the "Old" McCree’s kit at a slightly lower level. The Old McCree dealt similar auto-attack damage as Soldier 76, but Soldier 76 is more effective at long range at the cost of lacking a Stun ability. Roadhog on the other hand takes over “Stun Duty” with a Stun that works from range (Hook) at the cost of slightly less overall Combo Damage. Combine the two, and you essentially get one Mega-McCree -- and both are more Effective at lower Skill Floor. Roadhog in particular has few counters nowadays: he pretty much singlehandedly dragged Reaper -- his only semi-counter -- up in Usage for the second straight week. This, plus his status as an “Ultimate Charge Battery” have been the only things keeping the Pig of the Streets in check. Soldier’s Usage was similarly through the roof this week -- netting an absolutely insane 100% Usage in Team Defenses -- a number unheard of in DPS classes. Soldier 76’s climb continued by filling the Hitscan gap left by McCree and Widowmaker, but was also boosted by his ability to counter Pharah.

Pharah also increased in Usage for the second week in a row without her natural McCree and Widowmaker predators, but I just spent a good deal of time demonstrating how effectively Soldier 76’s long-range poke deals with a slowly floating Pharah -- seems counter intuitive doesn't it? I’ll ask you to remember what was really nerfed in Widowmaker and McCree’s Balance Patch: their Skill Floor required to reach full Effectiveness. Pharah has continued to climb because she’s re-discovered an ancient evil -- an evil which has not seen the light of day since the Closed Beta. Of course, I'm talking about the Dreaded Pharah-Mercy Combo. A match made in heaven, Mercy’s damage boost artificially increases all Heroes’ Skill Foors by shifting their entire damage range up by 30%, but she’s especially effective when paired with a Pharah. Taking not only X and Y dimensions into account -- but also Z -- Pharah has the greatest mobility of any Hero in the game and Mercy is only as good as the Heroes she can attach herself to. This is the reason players choose to stick with Pharah-Mercy duos instead of Widowmaker-Mercy, or McCree-Mercy: Pharah brings the mobility that other damage-dealers simply cannot hope to emulate. This is also the reason Pharah has continued to gain in Usage in the present Meta, despite the immense popularity of one of her direct counters.

the Interactive Historical tracking sheet

This week I’m excited to bring back my Meta Report Historical Interactive Sheet! It’s been six weeks and six 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

5. ENJOY! I highly recommend checking out McCree's drop, it's spectacular


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This week's Offense / Defense Bias report may be the most biased yet! Starting with Offense, Teams seem to have decided that Zarya is literally only worth using as a "Point-Buster" -- a way to bust through the powerful first-point Defenses that Opponents will create in order to prevent the Attacking team from snowballing their way through the subsequent points. Zarya IS the snowball: Teams only need her Graviton Surge + one other Ultimate to secure a Team Kill, leaving the other four Ultimates available for future pushing. One such "Other" Ultimate is Pharah's Rocket Barrage -- so it's no surprise to see her alongside her Pink-haired gal-pal as the second-most Biased Hero on Offense. 

However, what would an Offensively Biased Hero be without her counter? As Pharah Rises on Offense, so does Soldier 76 on Defense -- the Yin to her Yang. Soldier 76 is incredibly adept at plinking Pharahs out of mid-air, and his Biotic Field's Healing ability allows him to take odd positions to get better sight-lines without having to be near a Healer. Symmetra and Junkrat were surprisingly never used on Offense at all (well, surprising for Junkrat anyway), demonstrating their roles as true Chokepoint Specialists. Rounding out the Defensive bias are the "Panic Button" Heroes -- Tracer and D.Va -- generally only picked to steal a couple extra seconds in Stopwatch Mode on a Final Push. 

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! Icarus finished early this week, check him out below!

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. This week I'd also like to give an extra special shoutout to you: the Community. I've been getting a lot of really excellent feedback lately, and you should all know how smart, and pretty, and excellent you all are. Much love from the Captain :D

Until next time,


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