For the first time, Blizzard is implementing Hero Pools into Overwatch and professional League play. This new format is aimed at adding diversity to the games that are played each week, but so far feels like a sloppy way to avoid the meta becoming stale. Each week four heroes will be removed from the hero pool, one tank, two damage dealers, and one healer.
The only heroes up for removal from the hero pool are those with at least 10% playtime in the previous week of the Overwatch League. This week, D.Va, Lucio, Reinhardt, Ana, Mei, McCree, Moira, Doomfist, Widowmaker, and Winston were all on the chopping block. In the end, Reinhardt, McCree, Widowmaker, and Moira were cut.
Banning Reinhardt is huge, considering he was a staple of the meta regardless of off-tanks. At times, Orisa could be seen on two-capture point maps, but she is still less effective than the German engineer. The mobile and aggressive position that Reinhardt can take on the point, in addition to his proficiency at creating space, made him the go-to choice. Reinhardt will most likely get swapped out for Orisa on Capture Point maps or defensive positions, while we will probably see Winston replace him for dive compositions.
McCree & Widowmaker
McCree leaving the hero pool is extremely sad, considering that we had the option to ban Mei from professional play. McCree was a great mid to long-range damage dealer who focused on flanking the enemy and providing pressure from a distance. His flashbang stopped him from being jumped on and instantly shut down. Widowmaker being removed from the player pool solidifies the current thinking that we will likely be seeing a double shield or dive meta 90% of the time. Reaper will most likely replace McCree, in that he can work with Mei at close range to pump out insane amounts of damage, while minimizing the potential to escape. Widowmaker was the solid choice for maps like Blizzard World and Junkertown, those that offered the longest sightlines in the game. Pharah can apply pressure well and has been played on Ilios by a few teams, but isn’t a consistent choice for most maps. Additionally, the Sombra and Doomfist combination works well for a dive meta, especially with the ability to hack an Orisa to let Doomfist charge right in on her and her teammates.
Of course, the healer with the least amount of playtime on the charts got cut, but I think most people are okay with that. Lucio can be extremely entertaining to watch at times, and who doesn’t love a highlight reel filled with nutty sleep darts on a raging Winston. The Ana and Lucio combination fulfills the needs of the team consistently, but expect Baptiste to come out with Orisa on defense. Moira saw play in specific scenarios, and some teams don’t have a healing player that can perform on Ana at the same level as players like Jjonak and Kariv. We’ve also seen Brigitte played occasionally, with very little success. She could be viable with Lucio, but the healing output of the team will be cut severely.
There are mixed feelings in the community about the new changes to the Overwatch League format. Last year, the meta known as GOATS dominated for three Stages, making Overwatch stale and unexciting to watch. The answer that most proposed was for Blizzard to consistently balance and change heroes, shifting the meta slightly with each change. Instead, Blizzard and the development team at Overwatch decided to implement the new hero ban system to add variety in gameplay.
Only time will tell how this new system fares, but it does make certain teams look less terrifying in the power rankings.