Overwatch Tier list and Hero Meta Report #19: the eve of ana

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Opening Thoughts

What’s up guys and gals CaptainPlanet here to present The Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report #19: The Eve of Ana. This week’s Report covers Data from ESL’s Battle for the Atlantic Showdown and will stand as a final reference point before the coming storm. Yes, I'm speaking about the release of Overwatch’s newest Hero, Ana, and several Balance Changes that by now have released for a variety of Heroes. Today, I will be diving into some more detailed analysis of Hero Swaps -- including both “Swaps TO” and “Swaps FROM” Data -- as well as the usual Tier List analysis. Finally, I will make some preliminary predictions regarding how the Meta will look next week based on what I saw on the PTR and whisperings I have heard spread throughout the Pro Scene -- and we will revisit these predictions in Report 20 to see just if any of these predictions bear fruit. As always, I will be starting with this week's Tier List -- which is getting a slight makeover this week!


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As always, Raw Data for this and subsequent charts can be found HERE . The data is now presented as separate sheets for each Map, for better and more detailed tracking. REMINDER: This Data was collected from the ESL Battle for the Atlantic Qualifiers (EU Week 2), where 1 Hero Limit, Limited Map Pool (Lijiang Tower, Dorado, Numbani, Watchpoint: Gibraltar, and King's Row), and Stopwatch Format was used for Payload Maps

The Tiers

Now that 1 Hero Limit is the Law of the Land, my Tier Ranges need a little bit of a makeover. Moving forward, the Tiers will be as follows:

  • S Tier: >95% Usage Rate. This should highlight the Heroes which are "overused" in Tournament Play -- and thus may be targets for future Nerfs. A Hero exceeding 95% Usage will be especially hard to reach now that I normalize my Usage Rates by Time as well -- a Hero will have to be used not only in 95% of matches, but 95% of all time played in a particular Tournament. Of course, any cutoff that I choose for any Tier is subjective on some level, but I figured 95% would fit nicely as a symmetrical pair with F Tier's current 5% cutoff on the low end of the scale. 
  • A Tier: >80% Usage Rate. The A Tier stays the same, but loses a little bit off the top end to accommodate the new S Tier. 
  • B Tier: >50% Usage Rate. Many people were confused by the “Old” B Tier because it had a much wider range than all of the other Tiers. Now, both the B and the C Tier will have the same range -- 30% -- and the Tier List as a whole will be symmetrical in its Ranges (5 - 15 - 30 - 30 - 15 - 5). This means the B and the C Tier will contain Heroes with somewhat similar roles and uses, and “In-Meta” Heroes will fluctuate between these Tiers quite frequently. 
  • C Tier: >20% Usage Rate. See B Tier’s explanation. Note that Heroes in the C Tier still fall into an “acceptable” Usage Rate (at least, in my subjective opinion).
  • D Tier: >5% Usage Rate. D Tier remains unchanged.
  • F Tier: <5% Usage Rate. F Tier remains unchanged

Now that that’s out of the way, let's actually look at This week's tiers:

S Tier (>=95% Usage Rate*): No One! 

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

B Tier (>40% Usage Rate): Pharah, Soldier 76

C Tier (>20% Usage Rate):  Winston, Zarya, Reaper, Reinhardt, Roadhog, McCree

D Tier (>5% Usage Rate): Tracer, Genji, Torbjorn, Hanzo, D.Va

F Tier (<5 % Usage Rate): Widowmaker, Symmetra, Junkrat, Bastion, Mei, Zenyatta

*What is Usage Rate? For every match, I record the time spent on each Hero and divide it by that match's total time duration. Each of these Data points (a number from 0-1) are then summed across all sides of all matches, then divided by the total number of sides and converted to a percentage to produce a Hero's overall Usage Rate.

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, Map Pool consisting of Dorado, King's Row, Numbani, Watchpoint: Gibraltar, and Lijiang Tower, and Stopwatch Scoring for successful attacks on Payload Maps.

S Tier: The Potentially Overpowered Heroes. Even though last week Mercy would have reached the newly adjusted S Tier, no Hero reached a Usage Rate of greater than 95% this week. This can be attributed at least in part to ESL’s Map Pool for the week -- consisting of Dorado, Watchpoint: Gibraltar, King’s Row, Numbani, and Lijiang Tower. Without Hollywood in the Map Pool -- and with a larger than average King of the Hill representation -- Mercy’s Usage took a slight hit this week. I cannot tell if Mercy's Usage will increase or decrease as Pros either pair her with Ana or sub her out entirely, but I expect Mercy to have the only realistic chance of reaching the S Tier in next week's post-release Report. Except for McCree, of course. 

A Tier: The Core Heroes. On the eve of Ana’s release, Lucio and Mercy control the A Tier as Overwatch’s only viable Healing Supports. Much could change in the coming weeks with Ana on the loose and buffed Zenyattas stalking the Payload, but Lucio and Mercy stand as the previous Meta's “OG” Healers that all future supports will be compared to. This is actually the first week that neither of these Heroes reached at least 90% Usage Rate, but this may just be a new trend emerging in response to the migration of my process a Time-based system rather than Pick-Based -- not to mention the limited Map Pool from which this Data was pulled. 

B Tier: The Favorites. With the re-shuffling of the Tiers, the B Tier and C Tier will generally fill with many of the same kinds of Heroes -- Heroes who are used often enough to be considered "Balanced" but that don't appear in every single lineup like the A and S Tiers. Moving forward, the B Tier will signify the “Favorites” of the Balanced Tiers -- those Heroes which have a Balanced Usage Rate but rise above the masses for one reason or another. This week, the B Tier features Soldier 76 and Pharah -- the two defining DPS Heroes of the pre-Ana Meta. These two DPS rose to prominence following the McCree and Widowmaker nerfs: Pharah due to the loss of her natural predators and Soldier 76 to fill the Hitscan gap they left behind. Judging from reports from the PTR and now with the Live Patch both Soldier 76 and Pharah may soon become endangered species -- but I will get to that later. 

C Tier: The Balanced Heroes. The C Tier is filled with a pool of Heroes that appear in many if not most games, but are usually not used for more than specific parts of Maps. This is especially apparent when looking at Hero Swap Data: the C Tier Heroes account for a great deal of the “Swaps From” top rankings. For example, Heroes like Reaper excel in closed-in spaces -- but  Maps often only have limited areas that feed into Reaper's playstyle. Reaper’s Pick Rate could be high, but due to his high Swap Rate and the low overall Time Spent on the Hero, he ends up being in the C Tier instead of B or A. Other Heroes like Roadhog and Pharah were used as “safe” first-point specialist picks -- Heroes that can react well to a variety of unknown Opponent lineups -- but then were usually the lineup slot first swapped out for a better counter as the Match progressed.

D Tier: The Meta Dependent Heroes. These Heroes have the potential to reach the Balanced Usage Tiers but are crowded out by popular Meta Heroes, Map trends, or strategies. Tracer fits the bill here -- she’s a King of the Hill specialist but there’s simply not quite enough King of the Hill Maps being played to boost her numbers north of 20% Usage. Genji is a Hero who I expect to skyrocket in Usage in the Post-Ana Meta -- a Nano-boosted Dragonblade will haunt the dreams of many Pros and Pub-stompers alike. One final note: check out Hanzo! This is the first week in recent memory that Hanzo has escaped the F Tier -- and unfortunately it’s going to be a short-lived excursion. Hanzo has been stealth-nerfed with the release of the Ana Patch by Blizzard’s change to their “around corners” hit-detection netcode. No more random Headshots hitting an enemy you cannot even see!

F Tier: The Out of Meta and in need of a Buff Heroes. The cratering of "Defense" Heroes is becoming more than a trend. Out of the six Heroes who crystallized this Tier just prior to the release of Ana:

  • Four are classified as “Defense” by Blizzard
  • One is Symmetra, who is can basically only be used on Defense
  • One is Zenyatta, who hit 0 Usage Rate for the second week in a row. 

Blizzard heavily buffed Zenyatta in the new Patch, but it seems that there’s a systemic problem with all of the “Defense” Heroes in Overwatch. Overwatch by its nature is an “Offense” oriented game that revolves around getting Picks and steamrolling a 6v5 into a Team Wipe -- meaning the best Defense is a good Offense. It looks like somehow, some way, the Devs need to figure out how to buff their “Defense” specialists in such a way that they’re viable on Defense but not overpowered on Offense (see: Old Widowmaker). Any ideas?

** 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 Time Played  in Tournament Matches, my data is Objectively determined, and not subjective at all. 

The Eve of Ana


A meta - Crystallized

Artist's interpretation of Pharah -- soon to be extinct and fossilized. R.I.P.

One of the most interesting things about doing Meta Reports is what happens when a big change comes through. This week, all of my Data was taken from Tournaments that occurred immediately prior to the release of Overwatch’s newest Hero, Ana, and a bevy of Balance changes which gives me the unique opportunity to save a point in Overwatch’s Meta as a reference point for future comparison. Just looking at the Historical Tracking above we've already experienced several "Crystallization" moments just in the past 6 weeks or so: the rise of the McCree/Widowmaker Meta before their June 14th nerfs, the subsequent rise of the Soldier 76/Pharah/Roadhog Meta which emerged after McCree and Widomaker's fall, even a strange week of 0HL which demonstrated just how wacky the Meta can get with free reign on Hero Picks.

The interesting fact about Meta Crystallization is not that the Meta has reached a steady state -- it's that external factors force a dynamic Meta to suddenly and severely change, leaving behind a lasting image of itself in time. While the Pre-Ana Meta was certainly dominated by the Mercy / Lucio Support Duo paired with Soldier 76 and Pharah as main DPS -- the Meta was starting to show signs of adjustment right up until Ana's Patch hitting mid-tournament for ESL. McCree had begun to rebound, Roadhog had begun to decline, and Reinhardt had begun to crater -- who knows what an Ana-less Meta would have looked like in just another week's time! Moving forward, try to think of Crystallized Metas like this week's Data Point as  Fossils: they serve as a long-gone reminder of "how things used to be" and also as an indicator to how the game is about to Evolve. 

A meta - evolved

To build upon my Nature-based analogies, we can think of Overwatch's Meta as an Ecosystem filled with Heroes who feed off a resource called Hero Usage. Occasionally, this Ecosystem is subject to calamities in the form of Balance Changes, Hero Releases, and even Tournament Format Changes -- altering the amount of the limited Hero Usage "food supply" Heroes need for sustenance as their natural abilities become favored or un-favored in the current Ecosystem.

In this week's extreme case, a new Hero has entered the scene to compete for Hero Usage, splitting the share of the resource of this Ecosystem even further. Furthermore, several "old" Heroes have received not-so-random mutations in the form of Nerfs and Buffs. In Nature, random genetic mutations are exactly how they sound -- random -- but are responsible for the evolution of all species we see today. In Overwatch, the Developers get to play God with the genetic code of its Heroes and choose the mutations they think will give neglected Heroes a greater share of the Hero Usage Pie. In a sense, Blizzard's Balance Developers attempt to shape the evolution of the Meta Ecosystem by directly tinkering with the evolution of its Heroes -- but in the end it is the players who control the distribution the Ecosystem's main resource. How will they respond? 

The next Evolution - Predictions

With all of this talk about the future Meta its time to make some predictions. I'm going to blast through all 22(!) Heroes and predict what Tier they'll fall into next week and why -- who wants to take bets on how many I get correct?

Ana: C Tier. The Pro community is completely split on the idea of Ana. The more conservative players seem to lean towards sticking with a traditional (read: Mercy + Lucio) Support setup in their lineups, while the more creative Teams have jumped on the Ana - Zenyatta bandwagon. On the other side of the gun, McCree mains maintain that McCree's buff and Ana's lack of mobility gives her a ticket straight to the dumpster, but Nanoboosted Genji mains beg to differ. 

Bastion: F Tier. No significant changes occurred to everyone's favorite Songbird-controlled Murderbot, and no new synergies have come to the surface that could drag the poor bastard out of the F Tier. Try again next time, Bastion. 

D.Va: B Tier. D.Va is BACK IN THE FIGHT! After many weeks of languishing in the D and F Tiers, D.Va received some very significant buffs to her Ultimate and a partial Hero Redesign to boot. Her Ultimate now costs 15% less, explodes 1 second faster, and no longer kills Hana Song in her human form. Furthermore, D.Va's Defense Matrix is now a Toggle-able ability with a 1 second cooldown between Toggles and recharge meter, allowing smart players to selectively delete single projectiles or entire Ultimates. D.Va could even reach the A Tier, but I believe unfamiliarity with the Hero will hold her back slightly. 

Genji: C Tier. Genji's Usage in the Post-Ana Meta will be entirely dependent on the strength of the Ana - Genji Ultimate combo, and if its Team wiping ability is consistent enough to justify including Ana in a Lineup in a Meta that's sure to be filled with her natural predator: McCree.

McCree: S Tier. Speaking of which, McCree. McCree received what seems to be a small change -- a reduction in his falloff damage. Unfortunately, Overwatch is home to some absolutely dirty McCree mains: I'll let iddqd's PTR McCree clips speak for themselves:

Pharah: D Tier. McCree makes Pharah's life a living hell, and adding a new Sniper Hero in Ana doesn't help Pharah's situation either. Sorry Pharah, it's Mother's Meta now. 

Reaper: C Tier. McCree's usage is about to skyrocket, which will force Soldier 76 and Pharah out of their lineup slots. Reaper, on the other hand, should be relatively unaffected due to his specialist role as a close-range brawler. 

Soldier 76: D Tier. Soldier 76 received a "minor" change similar to McCree's, but his will push his usage in the opposite direction. McCree and Soldier 76 are always locked in a battle for Top Hitscan DPS, and for now the duel was won by the Six Gun Killer.

Tracer: D Tier. Tracer has not received any buffs that could help her escape the D Tier, and she's one flashbang + Headshot away from a McCree kill at all times. No change to her Tier can be expected. 

Junkrat: F Tier. Junkrat, like many Defense-oriented Heroes, has been losing more and more ground lately to Offense-oriented Heroes who can be effective on both sides of Payload. Junkrat received no Balance Changes or new Synergies and thus seems unlikely to improve his standing.

Hanzo: F Tier. Hanzo had a brief moment in the sun outside of the F Tier this week due to the limited Map Pool favoring Maps he shines on, but the update to the "Around the corner" hit detection netcode should be the nail in the coffin for this Hero. I see no hope of escape from the F Tier without a significant Balance Change.

Mei: F Tier. Mei will see increased usage because of a stealth nerf to Self-Healing: all Self Healing effects now count towards Ultimate Charge. Most Heroes received an increase in Ultimate Charge cost in response, but not Mei! This slight increase in usage should not be enough to help her escape the F Tier, however.

Torbjorn: F Tier. There's no place in the Meta for Builder, Turret, or Defense Heroes  -- so why would a Hero who's all three be anything other than F Tier at the Pro level?

Widowmaker: F Tier. Teams in the new Meta already have a sniper, and his name is McCree. Or Ana. But certainly not Widowmaker. Does this mean Widow is obsolete? Only time will tell.

Reinhardt: C Tier. Reinhardt was already on the decline prior to the crazy buffs D.Va received, and the return of shield-busting McCrees should hasten his freefall. Reinhardt will still be a good include on Payload Maps, but perhaps only for certain areas and only on Attack instead of for both sides of the Escort. However, I could be underestimating the synergy he shares with Ana's Nanoboost -- I'm prepared to take a loss on this one. 

Roadhog: C Tier. Roadhog should see some swapping around with Reinhardt and Winston on Attack to pair with D.Va, and also has good synergy with Ana. Not enough to reach B Tier though.

Winston: C Tier. See Roadhog.

Zarya: B Tier. Zarya is built to hard-counter many of Ana's abilities, and also is a good annoyance to McCree. Combine her shield abilities with her Combo-enabling Graviton Surge and you've got a recipe for the B Tier. 

Lucio: A Tier. Whenever a significant change occurs, everyone likes to go back to their old favorites. For this reason I believe Lucio and Mercy will continue to hold down the A Tier as the most "familiar" of the four Healing Supports. 

Mercy: A Tier. I don't think Mercy has quite the potential to exceed 95% Usage this week, but her Usage Rate should remain easily high enough to reach the A Tier for her status as Overwatch's best Main Healer. Her Damage Boost will also be a staple of McCree-laden lineups, enabling the gunslingers to score easy picks consistently.

Symmetra: F Tier. Similarly to Junkrat, there's simply no room for a Defense-Oriented Hero in the coming Meta. Symmetra's status as a non-Healing Support also seems confusing with the release of Ana and the assumption that Zenyatta will be viable now. Symmetra...what would you say you...do here?

Zenyatta: B Tier. Zenyatta was the second recipient of immense buffs along with the release of this patch, and I think this should be enough to propel him all the way to the B Tier. His health has (finally) been increased from 150 to 200, and his Transcendence Ultimate now gives him double movement speed so that it can be used as a super-initiation move. 


What do you all think of my predictions? Let me know on Twitter @CaptainPlanetOW !

Let's Talk Swaps - round 2

Last week, I debuted a new bit of Data Tracking -- Hero Swaps. Due to time constraints, I was forced to only count "Total Swaps" with no delineation between "Swaps TO" and "Swaps FROM" Heroes. Many of my readers clamored for this Data split and this week I'm happy to oblige their requests (not to mention, it helped me catch a few bugs in my code!). The result can be seen below:

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I never expected Hero Swaps to be so different between "To" and "From" until I actually made this chart. After analyzing the interaction between To and From, there seems to be a couple of interesting Trends at play. Tracer leads all Heroes on the Swapped TO chart which serves as evidence as her "Panic Button" role when Defending Points during overtime. I also (anecdotally) noticed that many Teams would swap to a Tracer mid-KotH Match instead of starting with her, potentially as a way to hold the Point after initially capturing it. Reaper held high rankings on both the To and From charts due to his status as Overwatch's premium close-range brawler -- a role that only fits certain areas of each Map. Soldier 76 had a similarly balanced To and From ranking because of his ability to solo-hold high grounds -- areas which  only occur in specific locations much like Reaper's closed-in spaces. McCree oddly had a high bias towards being swapped To rather than From, presumably to fill a void in a Team's overall ability kit with his Stun Grenade or Ultimate. 

On the other side of the coin, Pharah had a higher biased towards being swapped From rather than To. Teams would often start with a Pharah on King of the Hill Maps before swapping off to a Tracer upon securing the Point, but also would choose Pharah for their initial Attack or Defense lineups as a safety pick to react to unexpected Opponent Lineup decisions. It was for this same reason that I suspect Roadhog was often Swapped From: he's one of the safest initial Hero Picks for both Offense and Defense and an early hook can turn the tide of a fight. Unfortunately, when both teams roll out with a Roadhog one of these Teams must lose an engagement. In Overwatch, the Losing Team swaps Heroes much more often than the Winning Team, and this week Roadhogs were often the first target subbing out for a new Hero. 

Final Thoughts and Shoutouts

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 a shoutout to a secret redditor who's reached out to help me with some very exciting developments for the Report. I can't wait to buckle down and keep creating new content to show you all, and this should help me out immensely. You know who you are :)

Until next time,



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 is on break this week, but check out his channel for great content!

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