Overwatch is in an odd state for competitive play right now. On one hand, aside from one open week, the game hasn’t yet gotten into the hands of the majority of players for an extended period. On the other, it has had a rapidly competitive scene develop as a result of the long-running closed beta.
The competitive meta for Overwatch is far from set, but with the Best of Beta tournaments here in Australia and more major international events, there’s a lot to unpack that’ll likely set the tone come launch day. With this in mind, let’s have a look at the basics of what’s happening now, and what we might expect from Overwatch’s pro play in the near future.Game Types and Map Picks
Overwatch’s twelve maps bring with them four different modes – Assault, Escort, Control and Hybrid. These will bring a lot of variety to the way competitive matches are played and drafted, but bring with them their own sets of rules. The following is the inbuilt rules for Blizzard’s competitive play, but some tournaments have seen fit to alter this for their tournament.
Usually, both teams will have a chance to attack and defend on a map. If a team wins both sides of the game, they take the overall win. If teams tie here a decider is played out and a sudden death round is held, with a point capture map often used as it gives teams an equal standing to shoot for the win.
As the game launches and bigger tournaments are held we may definitely see more elegant ways to pick maps up – be it pick and ban style or something completely new. At this stage it’s worth skimming the rules of tournaments you’re interested in watching, as the picking system can vary greatly depending on region.Picks and Roles
Currently most teams follow double role compositions. You’ll pretty much never see a team that doesn’t draft two supports – either double Lucio or a single with a Mercy. Double tanks have also been popular. The tank and offense hero roles are the ones open to a little more switching, with one player often opting to switch between a defence hero like Widowmaker and a frontline damage dealer during the game. Winston currently seems to be the tank of choice for zone capture scenarios thanks to his close range power and bubble shield, with some teams even running double monkeys to great (and amusing) effect.
Hero switching is a big part of both Overwatch’s variety and its strategy. In most esports players are locked into their drafts before the game begins, but having the option to change up weaknesses or to move to exploit your opponents on the fly adds quite a new dynamic to the game. Switching does have downsides, such as losing controlling abilities or ultimate charge, but it can be used to great effect to surprise a dominant draft with a scenario they weren’t prepared for. Even so, swaps have been uncommon across recent matches, with some teams changing two to three heroes with others not changing at all.
If the starting team composition is strong and the players work together well, the combinations possible with that lineup should provide enough opportunity to win. I’m sure in the future we’ll see team strategies develop wholly around swaps, but currently that sort of strategy is yet to dominate.Competitive Hero Pool
While Overwatch has a roster of 21 heroes spread across its four classes, the current competitive hero pool is sitting at around half that, with a few more used as niche picks for moment to moment plays. If you’re hoping for big hooks, Reaper ultimates and Mei blizzards in the upcoming tournaments you might be a little disappointed, because they’re some of the most notable heroes being outclassed right now.
Pharah, Genji and Soldier 76 are all sitting at around the lowest rate of viable picks, with Mercy, Lucio, Widowmaker, McCree and Winston being pretty much must have options for teams. It puts the variety of Overwatch’s lineup in an odd spot as some heroes just outclass others in the same role, making it more useful to run two Winstons or one with a Reinhardt than picking a D.VA. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to the dominant competitive heroes on launch and how Blizzard balances and adds to the roles in order to keep picks interesting in Overwatch esports.
As much as I’d like to see Mei and Roadhog played on a regular basis by pros, they’re currently not stable picks for the meta. I think in the future once more variety emerges Mei will become invaluable for teams looking to play aggressive and block off solo pick ups, combined with strong flankers.Buffs, Nerfs and the Unknown
While we won’t know how our favourite heroes will turn out until Blizzard rolls out the launch patch notes, it’s fair to assume some buffs and nerfs will be rolling out from beta feedback. One example of this comes in the form of the support pool. Lucio and Mercy are still the most viable supports in the game, but this is due to a largely small range of support options.
Zenyatta especially is nearly never picked. He’s easily counterable due to his tiny health pool – 50hp – and 100hp of shields, which regenerate but don’t do anything to mitigate high damage skillshots from Widowmaker or burst damage like McCree. Currently he’s just very poor due to players of an equal skill being able to kill him one way or another before he has a chance to become useful. His Orb of Discord works especially well with a communicative team to dispatch tanky targets and he’d provide some nice support variety with a few tweaks that stop him from being one-shot.
McCree is a very high performing hero in the competitive meta, a priority pick on both sides in a match. With one of the highest DPS values in the game at the moment, a quick escape and a stun, McCree can work wonders in a competitive line up. From current win records and pick rates he’ll probably see some minor nerfs to bring him more in line with other aggressive heroes like Tracer, who’s seen a similar overly-powerful run.Overwatch’s competitive scene is only just about to kick off, with plenty of meta diversity and new compositions once the game and its 21 heroes are in the hands of everyone. As with all their games, Blizzard is committed to the long running support of a title and have plenty of experience keeping a game as close to balanced as it can be. With new heroes set to mix things up in the months following Overwatch’s release, it’s a great time for players to jump in and experiment, maybe even helping shape the new meta.
Overwatch launches on May 24th for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.