Between the Overwatch World Cup, Overwatch League Preseason, and the start of OWL Stage 1 there was plenty of time to analyze the map pool and predict team performance and potential strategies. But given the relatively quick turnaround between the London Spitfire’s Stage 1 playoff win and the start of Stage 2, there remain a number of topics about the ensuing meta that warrant discussion. The Overguard is featuring Dave Cecconi, known for his r/competitiveoverwatch “10 Amazing Statistics” posts, for a detailed analysis of the new hero balance patch, Stage 2 map pool, and how they should interact and affect the meta in the Overwatch League’s upcoming slate of matches. Dave and The Overguard can be reached on Twitter if you have any feedback or questions about the following examination of dives, tanks, and map pools.

Dive: Rumors of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Given the opportunity to choose, the Mercy “moth” meta was probably the last patch players would have selected for the Overwatch League’s inaugural season. Besides being a nightmare for both casters and audiences to follow, a low-skill ceiling mechanic like Mercy’s resurrection offsetting early eliminations did not sit well with the constituency. The Mercy meta gave OWL teams the choice of playing what could ultimately be whittled down to two main playstyles: Dive or Anti-Dive. The former, traditional composition including high-mobility heroes like Winston, D.Va, Tracer, and Genji and the latter, increasingly popular comp using Junkrat alongside some Orisa and Roadhog halt/hook combinations.

Dives are effective, but require both strong communication and, in most cases, a potent Genji-Tracer DPS duo. The combined mobility of those DPS with tanks like D.Va and Winston allows teams to challenge and displace opponents with positional advantages. Dive compositions also enable teams to coordinate and focus down key targets in a way that more passive compositions cannot.

Teams not comfortable running dive in Stage 1 were forced to play more passively as a result. The Houston Outlaws are a great example of a team who successfully recognized early on that they lacked the necessary components to employ the dive approach effectively and swapped in Junkrat, McCree, or Widowmaker instead to try and punish overaggressive opponents whose tanks were looking to pressure Houston’s backline.

One reason anti-dive compositions worked in Stage 1 was simply the presence of Mercy. A damage-boosted Junkrat, McCree, or Widow could often interrupt an enemy attack by quickly bursting down incoming tanks. Even when being pressured on the high ground, Mercy was usually capable of mitigating Tesla Cannon or D.Va Blaster damage while her DPS found cover. And crucially, if a diving Tank or flanking DPS was able to make a pick it often came at the expense of a one-for-one trade that could be easily offset by a defending Mercy’s resurrection (causing many teams to opt for the safer, but less consistent picks offered by an attacking Widow).

Now that Mercy will be getting less burn overall, anti-dive compositions — at least the way they were employed on the previous patch — won’t be as popular. Dive compositions will be subject to less incoming damage from enemy DPS without Mercy’s damage boost and thanks to the attacking team spawn advantage, the value of one-for-one trades in the new meta will once again shift heavily in favor of attacking divers.

Of particular note is also the major hurdle of communication for newer teams trying to run dive. Now, with two-to-three months of shared playtime under their belts, it is entirely plausible that squads like Boston, London, Philadelphia, and the L.A. Valiant could be even more effective in Stage 2. Does this mean that dive compositions will become even more popular in Stage Two? And if so, how will teams elect to try and counter it this time around?

One Tank, Two Tank, Red Tank… Quad Tank?

New York Excelsior run Quad-Tank & Moira to roll Horizon Lunar Colony: Point A

When the Junkrat and Mercy changes were announced many predicted that something analogous to 2016’s tank meta was right around the corner. The appearance of tank-heavy compositions structured around Moira in the recent Overwatch PIT Championship and BEAT Invitational — two online Tier 2 tournaments already employing the newest Overwatch patch — also spurred debate in the community surrounding the viability of these tournaments as legitimate indicators of compositions and playstyles we should expect to see in Tier-1 play.

Monte shared some valuable insight about correlating data between Overwatch League and Tier-2 tournaments when he appeared on Episode 19 of Thorin’s OverSight series:

“When you think about the LAN environment, DPS like the hitscan characters are a lot better on LAN than they are online because of the instant hit registration and the higher tickrate. So it’s a lot easier to one-clip somebody as a Tracer when you’re playing in the Overwatch League than when you’re playing on an online server.”

He continued: 

“One of the things that you see with triple-tank and quad-tank is that it’s much easier for bad teams to play that and get wins with it than something as finicky as having a very well-coordinated high-skilled DPS duo dive on supports. So when Tier-2 teams do something, it’s not only the coaching, it’s simply the ability of the players to communicate with each other and playmake. … I still think we’re going to see tons of dive. With less Mercy and resurrection, the value of dive goes up… goes up significantly because you can trade one-for-one again without a resurrection ruining your day.”

Monte makes several good points about why hero pick-rate and composition data don’t always translate between tiers. That said, he only demonstrated why evidence of a tank meta in a Tier-2 tournament does not, in and of itself, corroborate the likelihood of a tank meta in Overwatch League. The fact that we’re seeing three- and four-tank compositions being utilized in PIT, BEAT, and even the Tespa Collegiate Overwatch Series is worth noting, but tells us very little about the likelihood that a quad-tank around Moira could consistently counter dives in the top tier.

One thing often mentioned by OWL casters and analysts is a team’s comfort composition that they can fall back on if their current strat isn’t working. This argument favors running dive since it can work in (almost) any attacking or defending situation on nearly every map. Traditionally, quad-tank has been a situational composition because it completely saps a team’s mobility. Tank-heavy compositions lend themselves to confined, narrow passages with limited access to high-ground because they force opponents to engage in close-quarters. Conversely, maps that feature high-ground above or near objectives have not been ideal for quad-tank defenses due to the lack of ranged damage output. If displaced, or forced to commit to the objective, there’s no resetting to the high ground during the team fight either. Also, quad-tank comps are susceptible to being wiped by opposing ultimates like Sombra’s EMP or the area denial spam heroes like Junkrat when grouped together.

Quad-tank defenses could, at the very least, make opponents think twice about running standard dive compositions. We witnessed quite a few scenarios last stage when Mercy was able to heal her Widowmaker, McCree, or Junkrat long enough to disengage from an attacking Winston or D.Va. So it stands to reason that amped up Lucio heals plus Moira — who provides 20 more healing per-second to multiple targets than Mercy — could very easily disrupt an attack that fails to focus supports.

But even that level of healing won’t stand a chance against a well-coordinated dive that prioritizes healers. It then becomes a question of if defending tanks can register enough kills to win team fights. If it comes to a war of attrition, quad-tank defenses won’t have the luxury of trading their healers to an attacking team with spawn advantage. For that reason, it’s more likely that we’ll see teams opting to run three tanks with a flex DPS like Soldier, Tracer, or Junkrat instead.

Considering the aforementioned, Stage 2 still features a map pool that can make quad-tank a viable strategy in several scenarios: Given how difficult it can be for attacking teams to reach the rear-catwalk on Point A Gibraltar, it’s possible we’ll see some teams try to run quad-tank defenses with a Soldier and solo-support Ana providing cover — ironic given the fact that Moira is the expected linchpin.  The confined space of Hollywood’s first point could make for an interesting quad-tank battleground too, as would Point B Volskaya, and several Control maps like Lijiang’s Control Center (where we’ve already seen DPS like EFFECT and SureFour swap onto Zarya in Stage 1) and Nepal’s Shrine or Sanctum (where teams also flexed onto Roadhog in Stage 1).

The Case for the Classic Comp: 2+2+2 = Zzz

Notorious Free-Agent Dafran demonstrates the potency of a backline Tracer

Before Mercy became the Overwatch fixture, top-tier Tracers provided an alternative for weak dive teams because the hero could single-handedly give her side an advantage with an early pick in the enemy’s backline. However, OWL teams realized early in Stage 1 that sending out a lone Tracer proved too high a risk since the best-case scenario simply caused the enemy Mercy to resurrect early for an even team fight. Alternatively, if the flanking Tracer was eliminated in the difficult-to-reach backlines, her Mercy would be unable to safely land a rez and the opposing team would gain an easy 6 v. 5 advantage.

It could take each team a match or two before they determine what compositions work for them in the new map pool. Some teams are sure to give triple- and quad-tank a try early on, while the Valiant, Dynasty, Spitfire, Uprising, and Fusion are likely to continue leaning on dive comps. But as we ease into the stage, there’s a good chance you’ll be seeing plenty of Tracer-based 2/2/2.

Now that McCree and Widowmaker are off the board, and with Mercy mostly out of commission, teams could experiment with Tracer and Junkrat to counter dive. Tracers should find themselves with plenty of 1-on-1 opportunities with Zenyatta once the enemy team commits to the dive. Without the use of their discord orb, it will be very difficult for enemies to achieve enough damage output for a successful attack. Junkrat should once again become key to the new meta, but will have to be positioned more conservatively without Mercy’s resurrection available. Players like Jake may be forced to reconsider holding high ground or positions away from the core of their team now that opponents can comfortably focus the lone Junkrat first. The ability to burst down enemy tanks and barriers while keeping flanking attackers honest with traps and area spam should continue to be a critical component of many defensive comps.

Despite being a strong dive team themselves, Seoul showed in the opening stage that they were also very good at anticipating opposing dives. They would briefly disengage as a unit before going in with their own Rip-Tire once the enemy D.Va and Winston’s movement abilities were on cool-down. Now, having the added benefit of a Lucio speed-boost to properly disengage, I expect to see them experiment with this style more often in Stage 2 using some combination of Tracer, Genji, and Junkrat alongside Winston, D.Va, and Zenyatta. Given the combination of strong tank and Junkrat play, the Houston Outlaws are another team who could benefit from this playstyle.

Another team that could resurge to life in this new meta is the Dallas Fuel. Prior to the last patch, EFFECT was one of the most lethal Tracer players in the world thanks to his ability to clean up enemy backlines without much help from his teammates. Many talked about Dallas’s experience in the previous meta within the context of how it limited the play of their own support players being forced to use Mercy. But one could just as easily make the argument that the Mercy meta hurt EFFECT more than any other player in the league. The new meta will once again invite Tracer placers to flank and harass enemy backlines with first kills becoming permanent. Players like EFFECT, Saebyeolbe, Danteh, and even Linkzr or Clockwork should be able to play Tracer more confidently without having to worry about Mercy negating their life’s work.

The New Map Pool Looks Delicious

Shanghai Dragon Off-Tank Geguri shows off Zarya’s prowess on King’s Row 

Old-school cartoons like Bugs Bunny or Tom and Jerry would depict hungriness with hallucinations of gourmet cuisine. Characters would even go after their own legs thinking that they were sizzling T-bone steaks. So maybe it is due to a five-week, steady diet of Junkertown and Horizon Lunar Colony, but — I am looking at these Stage 2 maps and all I can see is eight, juicy, steaming, nine-ounce filets cooked medium-rare and placed tantalizingly close to my face.

I’m willing to consider that part of my excitement over the new maps stems from just how fatigued five weeks of watching, re-watching, and VOD-reviewing the same eight-map rotation has left me. But, this new map selection is legitimately diverse and should make for some entertaining meta strategies. And it’s not even a simple matter of expecting different compositions or strategies across the new maps; there is also genuine diversity within each category pairing.

According to both personal bias and some community consensus, one of the more exciting maps to watch during Stage 1 was Temple of Anubis. Unfortunately, the setup of Horizon Lunar Colony does not exactly force attacking or defending teams to change up strategies much (aside from the NYXL quad-tank). For example, Point A on both Anubis and Horizon featured, for the most part, the defending team planting their Orisa shield and Widowmaker on the high ground. Attacking teams were in turn forced to run more mobile tanks like Winston and D.Va in hopes of disrupting the high ground, leaving the attacking Widowmaker at a disadvantage without a barrier to scope behind. At least Anubis saw some more variety on Point B as teams could swap onto Reaper, while Horizon compositions typically remained from Point A to B.

In Stage 2 however, there is noticeable diversity between the pairings. Just look at the two Assault maps: Volskaya could see defensive teams run Sombra while Soldier and the rest of the team spread themselves across the high ground that overlooks Point A. Meanwhile, Hanamura will invite defenses to get more tanky and potentially even run Mei on the opening point (or Point B if you’re LiNkzr).

Stage 2 maps present a number of opportunities for teams to try running specialists on certain points too. Could we see Mei on Hanamura or Nepal Village? How about Doomfist on King’s Row, or even PharMercy on some Lijiang Tower maps and Nepal: Sanctum? One map in particular that most teams are excited for is King’s Row since it lends itself so well to Zarya and Reinhardt with its narrow passages for engagement and Pharah with its extensive vertical channels.

Another wrinkle that teams will have to consider is that hero flexibility will play a huge role during Stage 2 given the inter-map diversity from point-to-point. Tank-heavy compositions are likely to see an increase in pick rate in response to both the map pool and new hero balances. Teams could switch between triple-tank and 2/2/2 very often as a result. Not only will the second DPS be required to flex to Off-Tank, but the main DPS will also need to swap between a variety of heroes depending on the situation.

Stage 2 will ultimately reward the most flexible teams. While dive is sure to feature prominently, the map pool will even up the odds quite a bit by requiring teams to run tankier compositions. Even the best dive teams will be forced out of their comfort zone far more often than in Stage 1. For that reason, I expect to see some surprising results coming out of the first week with matches that should feature a variety of familiar and novel strats.

Featured image credit goes to Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Words by Dave “BenchMobDC” Cecconi

Edits by Théo “Tepojama” Salaun