Overwatch Hero Meta Report #7: We're all tracers now
Look at this Infographic, isn't it pretty? If you don't think so, let me know exactly why in the comments of the Reddit thread
What’s up guys and gals, CaptainPlanet here to present Overwatch Hero Meta Report #7: We're All Tracers Now. By now, you've probably noticed something a little different about the Meta Summary graphic above: I've completely overhauled it! This new, improved representation shows not only Hero Tiering (which has also been slightly adjusted in values), but also allows you to track your favorite Hero's popularity over time. Like it or don't like it? Let me know in the comments of my Reddit thread! Getting back to the subject at hand: we’ve now had another week of Tournament play following the Zenyatta nerf, giving the more time for the Meta to crystallize and new Team Compositions to emerge. This week -- as the title of this Report suggests -- a lot of these lineups involved quite a bit of Overwatch’s most popular (and recently, most controversial) Hero: Tracer. Blizzard also broke their multiple-week trend of Tuesday Balancing this week -- no patch notes for me to review means we can get directly into this Tracer-filled Report. Cheers Loves!
Week 7s Tiering Results: for the extensive Map-by-map, Offense/Defense/King of the Hill Raw data, Click HERE
We're all tracers now
Have we hit Peak Tracer yet?
Tracer has had quite a week! First there was buttgate, then there was her appearance in the new Animated Short: Alive, but what I'm concerned about is the Meta. Luckily for us, she's made a huge splash there as well! To put Tracers dominance of the current Meta in context, let's analyze some facts about Overwatch and its Competitive Meta. An important fact to understand about highly picked Heroes is that they tend to be Supports -- Healing Supports. In six past Meta Reports, the most picked Hero has been either Lucio or Zenyatta without fail, and prior to this week un-Nerfed Zenyatta was the only Hero to ever exceed a 100% pick rate. This makes sense: there's only four "hard" Supports in Overwatch (Zenyatta, Symmetra, Lucio, and Mercy) -- only three of which can actually heal. A healer's job is essential to any Team that wishes to succeed competitively, so seeing Zenyatta and Lucio dominate the top of the rankings comes as no surprise.
This does, however, make Tracer's vault to the top spot of Week 7's Hero Rankings that much more impressive. While only four Supports only have to fight for lineup slots, damage-dealing Heroes have twelve other Overwatch Agents jockeying for position. Tracer's greater than 100% pick rate and leading spot is a first for Non-Supports in the Competitive Meta, and some may think she's finally reached the position a strong Hero and fan-favorite of the franchise deserves. Unfortunately for all the Tracer fans out there, there is a dark side to her sudden rise in popularity which speaks to Balance issues that lie just beneath the surface.
Confounding Factors, King of the Hill's Skewing Effects
This Meta Report takes Hero counts from all Maps, not just Payload or Control Point Maps, which can sometimes lead to interesting outcomes. It's a pretty simple reasoning: King of the Hill Maps are essentially "Offense Only" Maps, Tracer is an Offensive Powerhouse, ergo Tracer's numbers get inflated a bit by King of the Hill Maps. This "Tracer-flation" has happened in previous weeks, however this week marked the most extreme warping of the King-of-the-Hill-Only Meta to date. Examining the King of the Hill stats, we can see that besides Tracer's ridiculously high Pick Rate, strategies were fully centered around "Buff the Tracer", "Hard-Counter the Tracer", or both. Lucio, Symmetra, and Zenyatta's prominence speak to the fist strategy, while Soldier 76, Reaper, and Winston feed into the second. King of the Hill in its current state has become nearly unwatchable for all but the most devoted of Tracer fans: games have devolved to Tracer-duo vs. Tracer-duo duels where you can't tell where TwoEasy's Pulse Bomb ends and Mendokusai's begins. I find it strange that Blizzard has let one of their three current game modes become so lop-sided in their quest to create a Balanced Overwatch. When nearly half of Overwatch's Hero pool is seeing less than 5% Pick Rate for an entire game mode, you know that this King of the Hill Meta needs addressing.
The Agent Behind the Curtains
If you ask a random Overwatch Pro about their biggest Tracer-related Meta complaint, they'll instead point you to another Hero: Symmetra. Ever since the rise of Orb-ital Destruction, Symmetra has been a shadowy but ever-present force in nearly every Meta dominating lineup and the secret to her (and by extension, Tracer's) strength is her Photon Shield. Photon Shield grants 50 additional Health to a targeted teammate in the form of Shields, lasts as long as that teammate remains alive, and has a short cooldown allowing you to buff your entire team. Tracer, with her low 150 Health total, gains an inordinate amount of power from this simple 50 Shield boost -- accounting for a 33% increase in her total Health from a single buff! I'm beginning to think the February Shield-healing mechanic change may end up being the decision which most-defines the pre-release Meta. Allowing Shields to be healed (as well as buffing other aspects of Symmetra to be sure) has now led to the rise of two separate "Meta-warpings" to date. I don't know the solution to this secret Symmetra problem (and the pros were just as divided), and I'll be watching intently to see who takes the brunt of the Nerfbat: Overwatch's Darling Tracer or the real problem -- Symmetra.
As usual, I'll start off this week's Offense/Defense Bias Report with our two largest outliers: Zarya and Junkrat. Zarya's surprise standout on Offense this week originated from a very specific strategy. The Capture Point portion of Hybrid Payload-Capture Point Maps like King’s Row and Hollywood saw a great deal of Offensive Zarya play by attacking teams who used her as a preventative measure: playing the odds to guarantee breaking through a successful Defense after fully charging her Graviton Surge. These stats were further inflated by the popularity of King’s Row in particular; this map was played nearly twice as much as the second most picked Maps and its first Checkpoint is prime real estate for a big Zarya Ultimate. On the other side of the coin, Junkrat similarly benefited from the popularity of King’s Row. The entire journey of the Payload on King’s Row is one giant is set up like one giant Chokepoint, making Junkrat grenade-spam exceedingly effective.
The rest of the Heroes were surprisingly Balanced in their usage on Offense and Defense, with a few notable exceptions. Soldier 76 was utilized often in the CrossFire Defense to combat Double-Tracer Offenses -- either pairing with a second Solider or a Widowmaker to combine their strong Hitscan damage to snipe the buffed-up Flankers. Genji had a bias towards Offense primarily due to teams using him on the first point of Numbani -- a vertically-oriented space where an Offensive Genji can reign free to hunt down Defending Widowmakers and Zenyattas.
Map Breakdown - Travelling to: Numbani
Brief Map Summary
In the second week of my Map Spotlight series -- where I choose one map to feature regarding map-specific Hero usage in the current state of the Meta -- we’ll be travelling to idyllic Numbani. Numbani is a hybrid Control Point / Payload-escort map where Attackers must first take control of the payload’s location before escorting it through two checkpoints to win the match. Numbani’s long respawn path and tight corners on the first point mean big payoffs for teams running Heroes like Symmetra and Torjborn on Defense. The long, winding roads also prove a boon to Tracer (who I’ve already covered extensively), giving her lots of room to operate and play into her ability to quickly return to the action after dying.
Individual Hero stats
Numbani is a perfect setup for Tracer-based lineups due to its long, flat roads between the second and third checkpoints and myriad flanking routes for her to take advantage of. Combine this with excellent spots for Torbjorn Turrets and the importance of Symmetra's Teleport to a Defending team with a long run back from spawn and the synergies begin to pile on. It comes as no surprise then that Tracer and her Buff-Buddies show up repeatedly in the Individual Hero stats for this map -- with Zenyatta making a showing a significant increase in usage compared to his overall rate as well. Lucio rounds out this section as a highly picked choice on Offense, no doubt due to his overall well-rounded skillset and Movement Speed buff's added importance in the winding roads of Numbani.
Team Composition stats
For each control point of the Map, I tallied the varying compositions that teams used on Offense and Defense. I then constructed an “uber comp” for each leg, based on these data as well as some weighting to compositions which succeeded in either Attacking or Defending. As you may notice, the optimal Offensive lineup did not change too much from point to point; this was mostly due to teams subscribing to a mentality of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Genji was a surprisingly popular Offensive pick, and Torbjorn even made an appearance for the second escort leg. Winston's usage speaks to his ability to chase off Defensive Torbjorns from their Line-of-Sight Turret-building spots as well as to harass less-mobile Zenyattas from their positions and general wreak havoc on the back line of the Defense.
Defense, just like last week, showed a bit more variability. Given time to set up an entrenched Defense on the first point, teams tended to opt to go for McCree (and Widowmaker, to a lesser extent), Torbjorn and his Turret, the usual Tracer-Symmetra duo, rounding it all out with a Reinhardt to spot-protect the Torbjorn while the Symmetra tries for an early Teleporter. The next two escort legs were dominated by Double-Tracer lineups -- which were quite popular with IDDQD and Reunited among other teams. After the first checkpoint, Numbani loses a lot of its verticality: transforming the map into a Tracer playground. Symmetra, as always, sticks around to buff her Tracers and Zenyatta and Lucio complete the Triple-Support lineup that has become the norm in many maps. Soldier 76 made a surprise appearance as a final Checkpoint Defender: his strong Hitscan damage was essential to beating back a buffed Tracer's assault.
Things I like and Dislike
1. The Meta has started to Polarize again: We’ve had two weeks for the Meta to settle down post-Zenyatta nerf and while Zenyatta himself stayed relatively constant in pick rate, the rest of the Meta has begun to move in strange directions again. Many Competitive level matches have devolved to “who has the best Tracer duo?”, and the underlying reason seems to be Symmetra’s shields. I wonder which of these two Heroes Blizzard will target first with nerfs?
2. Team EnVyUs’s continued absence: EnVyUs sat out yet another week of Tournament play, depriving the Overwatch community of some potentially exciting matches. I’m sure they have their reasons...maybe they’re as sick of the Meta as the rest of the scene.
3. IDDQD still hasn’t been picked up by a team: This is the third time in a row I’ve included this gripe -- but I’m starting to hear some rumblings, rumblings that say IDDQD has a sponsor! Perhaps we’ll hear later this week of a new entrant in the Overwatch horse race.
4. We got a new developer blog this week about a divisive community issue: Netcode: Tim and Phil to the rescue! No time to explain all the details, but the option to enable a 60Hz client refresh rate in custom matches HAS BEEN CONFIRMED!!
5. Overwatch continues its aggressive publishing schedule for shorts, with “Alive”: Blizzard published their second animated short last weekend as a Playstation promotion event and in typical Blizzard fashion, it was AMAZING. This short seemed to raise more questions than answers, and gave quite a bit of depth to a few of everyone’s favorite characters. Haven’t seen it yet? Watch below!
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 every Wednesday of the week! In the meantime here's his most recent Report:
Check it out, you'll love it :)
I'd like to give a special shoutout to Reddit user Fonjask, who mentioned to me that he'd been using the Raw data from these Reports to make Individual Hero Tracking graphs for his friends -- this idea was so cool that I had to ask him if I could steal it! The result is what you see at the top of the Report: my newly overhauled Meta Summary Infographic. It's great feedback like Fonjask's which motivates me to keep this content fresh, so to all those who've made it this far: thanks for reading and keep all the good feedback coming!!
Until next time,
-Changed Tiering Percentages Slightly, added "F" Tier. Tiers are now
-Slightly Changed Tiering Colors in Ubersheet to accomodate Tier changes
-Overhauled Meta Summary Graphic to include Individual Hero Ranking Tracking
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