Article 8: Overwatch Hero Meta Report #5: the Omnic Crisis



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What’s up guys and gals, CaptainPlanet here to present Overwatch Hero Meta Report #5: The Omnic Crisis. As you may have guessed from the title, we have reached a tipping point in the Competitive Overwatch Meta: Teams have begun to realize they must field multiple Zenyattas or lose. In last week’s Report, I predicted incoming Balance Changes from the Dev Team to bring the supposedly peaceful Omnic Monk back to earth, but it seems I was only half-right. Blizzard maintained their weekly Patch Notes streak, but no (major) changes appeared for Zenyatta. Instead, we got these:

Reacting similarly to  last week’s Lucio tinkering, the Devs reverted Genji's Health reduction -- placing him back at 200 HP --  but nerfed his overall damage by 20 percent. Blizzard stated that they were happy with the 150 Health version of Genji, however after listening to community feedback they opted to experiment with nerfing his damage instead of relegating him to glass-cannon status. This allows players to more safely utilize Genji’s Ultimate, instead of trying to snipe players across the map with Shruikens for the entire game. This change, however, seems to only further cement the strength of the Orb-ital Destruction Lineup by making it harder to pick off a Flanking Genji. 

After several weeks straight of buffs, Mei received some re-tuning to reduce her power level in a change that seems primarily aimed at casual/pub play. The Devs were concerned (and rightfully so) by the strength of Mei’s Alt Fire, which was causing many players to completely ignore her Primary Fire. By adding damage fall-off and reducing its fire rate, Blizzard intends to limit the playstyle where Mei simply spams her icicles at a chokepoint, hoping to get a lucky Tracer or Genji headshot. 

The source of everyone’s problems himself, Zenyatta, received a slight nerf to Discord Orb -- many more mechanics can now dispel the debuff. For this week in particular, little to no experimentation occurred on the Competitive level with regard to this change. In fact, by including Transcendance as an ability that can remove Discord Orb, Orb-ital Destruction seems to be even more blatantly it’s own counter -- further warping the Meta. 

Finally, several other Heroes received buffs and nerfs which had little to no impact on Competitive Play. Symmetra has had her Teleport charge rate nerfed -- but this had no impact on the Orb-ital Destruction Lineup of which she's become a staple. Winston's jump cooldown was reduced, which may aid teams in jumping on backline Zenyattas, however Discord Orb still makes Winston a giant walking target. Hanzo's Scatter Arrow can no longer headshot, should reduce the amount of whining in the community about the ability at the very least. Enough of this Patch Note review though, let’s get to the analysis!*


*Actually, just kidding! Just as I was preparing to set this Report to live, Blizzard released a new Patch: finally nerfing Zenyatta. You can see this change, and the Developer's comments below:

Ding-dong, the witch is dead!

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Week 5's Tiering Results, with CaptainPlanet and Icarus Tiering (for the extensive Map-by-map, Offense/Defense/KotH Raw data, Click HERE)


As I stated last week, Icarus has been helping me compile this data and does his own YouTube-based Meta Report! If you’d rather learn about the Competitive Overwatch Meta via that medium (and to hear his sexy Aussie voice), check out his Report above!


**Note, since writing this Report, Blizzard has heavily nerfed Zenyatta. See above for the changes!

In last week’s Report I extensively covered Orb-ital Destruction: the double-Zenyatta Lineup which has been torching the Competitive scene. After analyzing its dominance, I concluded that a significant Balance Change was likely to occur to reduce some part of this Team Composition's effectiveness, and left it at that. We certainly got some Balance Changes this week, but the nerfbat swung and missed the most blatant target -- and now Zenyatta’s power level has grown out of control. We now have an Omnic Crisis on our hands. This week, Zenyatta had a patently absurd overall pickrate of over 150%, which means that Teams are either playing Orb-ital Destruction, or they’re losing to it. Since I already spent last week covering how Orb-ital Destruction dominates the Competitive Scene, I’m going to instead propose a series of potential nerfs to Zenyatta and discuss their implications. 

1. Reduce Discord Orb’s debuff by 20-30%: Discord Orb is a problem. When you first start playing Zenyatta, you may see this ability and think “Cool! A Tank-Killer!” The problem is, this incredible debuff can be placed on squishy of Heroes too, reducing their time-to-kill to a lucky headshot. To make matters worse, Discord Orb is often even too strong for its own intended purpose -- Tanks on the whole have been on the decline because of it. Reducing Discord Orb’s effectiveness would bring it back into line with Mercy’s Damage-boosting beam, prevent two-shotting Low-Health Heroes, and preserve its effectiveness for focus-firing Tanks. 

2. Reduce Zenyatta’s auto-attack damage: Zenyatta deals an incredible amount of auto-attack damage as a Support class, making him a formidable duelist. Prior to the changes to Shield Health, this was Zenyatta’s main form of staying “Balanced”: his lack of mobility and low Health pool offset his Offensive power. Now that Zenyatta is not quite so much of a liability Health-wise, he can out-damage Heroes trying to get the jump on him -- especially when Discord Orb is involved. Reducing Zenyatta’s auto-attack damage will increase his vulnerability to ambushers like Winston and D.Va which will help teams develop counter-strategies to deal with him.

3. Add an “out-of-combat” Cooldown to Harmony Orb’s Healing: This change is aimed primarily at the the Flankers who make up the majority of Orb-ital Destruction’s Lineup. Currently, a Harmony-Orbed Tracer or Genji can jump in and out of action with no delay or consequence: Orb of Harmony’s constant Healing begins as soon as these Heroes take any damage at all. By adding an “out-of-combat” cooldown to the Orb’s Healing -- that is to say, the Hero must not take damage for some time before the Healing begins again -- you force these Flankers to pick and choose their battles and slow down their assault.

4. Add a set Duration to Zenyatta Orbs: Currently, Zenyatta's Orbs function as “Fire and Forget” buffs/debuffs which last as long as Zenyatta is alive. Blizzard recently altered a few abilities to add ways to dispel Orb of Discord in particular, but outside of these specific situation his Orbs last forever. If each Orb had a set duration, Zenyatta and the players being buffed by him would have much more to consider, raising the skill ceiling and potentially nerfing the Orbs’ effectiveness. 

5. Root Zenyatta in place while Transcendence is active: This change is a little bit out of left field, I'll admit. Zenyatta can move while channeling his Ultimate -- I propose that Blizzard instead root him in place while Channeling. This would force the Zenyatta player to think more carefully about when and where to use the Ultimate, as well as force their teammates to return within the radius of the Aura if they’re far away. 

There you go Blizzard, 5 ideas -- free of charge. 


The heart of the this Omnic-based crisis is Blizzard having to balancing Heroes as a response to them being picked twice. Overwatch is a game where its creators refuse limits on Heroes -- be it switching Heroes throughout matches or having lineups featuring multiple copies of the same Hero. While Hero-switching is highly encouraged, problems arise when Blizzard is forced to nerf a Hero not to balance its strength as an individual, but to address a problem when multiple of this Hero exists in a lineup. Currently, Zenyatta is the only Hero really seeing much “Stacked” play, but the 2x Lucio, 2x Winston, 2x Reaper strategies of February’s Meta indicate that this may become a recurring issue. 

I’m all in favor of multiple-Hero compositions arising for certain parts of maps, but when stacking Heroes becomes the norm un-warping the Meta becomes a sticky situation. Applying a change to decrease the effectiveness “Stacking” a Hero has the potential to over-nerf its Solo capability -- something Blizzard is no doubt wrestling with Zenyatta even as I write this report. Personally, I believe Discord Orb is the root of much of the Omnic Crisis unfolding here and luckily nerfing Discord Orb probably will not instantly render Zenyatta useless. That said, I have been consistently surprised (in a good way) when Blizzard has made changes addressing problems in Overwatch, and I am content to sit back and see how they solve this one.***

***Well will you look at that: Blizzard did create a change that I was not able to predict on my own! Changing Zenyatta's Orbs to be line-of-sight based seems to be a much stronger nerf than I initially expected -- instead forcing players to play much closer as a team. 


In the finals of the Gosugamers NA Tourney, something strange happened. Team EnVyUs rolled out a crazy Defensive setup involving not one, not two, but three Soldier 76's on Watchpoint: Gibraltar to successfully defend against Mix^'s Orb-ital Destruction assault, winning them the Tournament. Because this lineup was used in the final game, no one got to see whether or not this was the cure to what's quickly becoming a very stale Meta. Luckily for you all, I was able to catch up with EnVyUs's Coolmatt69 and Minstrel to learn more about this strategy:

CaptainPlanet: This strategy was crazy, but was it actually designed to beat the double-Zen lineup? Was it something you developed in your scrims?

CM69: We've used it in scrims with good results against that comp on that map, so it was something that we tried developing and improving for that purpose. We also tried it on dorado with limited success.It also gets pretty weak on the last objective of Gibraltar. 

Minstrel: It's heavily dependent on the ability of people like Tracer and Genji to get to the Soldiers. So Gibraltar Hanger is the best area for it probably. Other places it could be viable too. 

CM69: So our conclusion was that it's just going to be most effective in an environment like the Hangar on Gibraltar with super limited entry points...

Minstrel: Where it is hard for genji to climb up without wasting his dash. The Hanzo wallhack arrow can also cover all entrances possible on Gibraltar Hanger
so you can just spam with grenades/scatter shot when a sniper tries to peek a door or whatever. [It’s] hard for Genji to climb up.

CM69: Meanwhile Genji is getting shot from 2 or 3 other Soldiers who are each in a position that's also difficult to reach. 

CaptainPlanet: That does seem like a unique space. I mean a Genji-difficult space. 

CM69: Yea. Dorado second objective Defense was the other place that came to mind for us to test it, but we couldn’t really make it work as effectively. 

So there you have it -- unfortunately this was a niche strategy for a specific Map location. At the same time, we're lucky that teams were obviously quite aware of the Orb-ital Destruction problem and were doing their best to combat it. Luckily, judging from the 3/22 balance patch, this will all be moot in the coming week's Tournaments, setting up a much more dynamic Meta. 


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Week Two of the Offense/Defense breakdown has again yielded some surprises! The first, most blatant example is the favoritism of Soldier 76 on Defense -- thanks in part to the above Triple-76 strategy used by EnVyUs on Watchpoint: Gibraltar to try to fend off Mix^’s Orb-ital Destruction deathball. Going by percentages, Soldier 76 was picked 1700% more often on Defense than Offense, translating to a telling 18 vs. 1 pick spread. This likely resulted from Orb-ital Destruction forcing out other Offensively-strong, but less mobile Hitscan Heroes from their usual slots. For example, you’ll notice McCree and Reaper being picked much more often on Defense as well. Overall, this week’s Offense vs. Defense split was much more drastic: the only Heroes who had relatively balanced popularity either had extremely low pickrates like Bastion and Torbjorn, or were well-rounded supports like Lucio and Mercy. I see this as indication of an extremely warped Meta: Orb-ital Destruction is by far the most powerful Offensive strategy, so there’s no room for any non-Zenyatta/Tracer/Genji Heroes (and, randomly, Winston) except on Defense.


1. It took a bit too long for Zenyatta to get nerfed: I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, but something needed to be done to fix the state of Competitive Overwatch. Players were frustrated, viewers were bored, and the Meta was more warped than ever. Thankfully, Blizzard finally did something about the Omnic Crisis today (3/22). 

2. The nerf DID finally happen!

3. Mei wasn’t the solution after all: After seeing a huge surge in popularity among the pros last week, the 3/17 Balance Patch resulted in Mei dropping back down significantly in pick rate. I guess the only reason she saw so many picks last week was due to her possibly OP Alt-Fire, but now that she's been nerfed slightly teams have gotten off the Mei train. 

4. IDDQD still hasn’t been picked up by a team: IDDQD is #1 in the world (via Gosugamers), and it’s not really even close. When they play in tournaments, they rarely drop a single match: in fact they’ve only lost 4 tournament matches total since their inception. While large gaming organizations Cloud9 and EnVyUs have already made forays into the scene, IDDQD remains sponsor-less. Who will be the lucky Team to pick them up? Will we see Liquid.IDDQD, TSM.IDDQD, or EG.IDDQD in the future? 

5. The new Animated Short, "Recall," is amazing: if you haven't had the chance to check out the most recent short featuring Winston's origin story and his efforts to bring back Overwatch, you are missing out. Blizzard has always done amazing cinematic animation, and Overwatch is no exception. Watch the video below:


This week was the last week of four in a row where I've actually been out of town and away from my computer over the weekend. This means I finally have some time to sit down and bust out some during-the-week content for you all! Hopefully the Meta clears up a bit as Balance Changes come through and I have plenty of things to discuss. As always, if you do have any comments or feedback, please let me know in my Reddit thread which accompanies each report! Finally, please keep submitting your Plays of the Game for my future Top 5 POTG series featuring you, the community! Submissions must be sent to my email, with the subject line "POTG" and recommendations for social media shoutouts. 


Until next time,




-No changes this week!

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