The third season of the Overwatch League kicked off this past weekend. Amid rumors of where and when the Chinese homestands would be rescheduled and a more general unease around hero pools in competitive play, the weekend also gave the community actual games to analyze. With hero pools on the horizon, here is a look at general hero usage during Stage 4 and playoffs of last year compared with hero usage in the first week, and a few slightly-too-early predictions about which heroes will be off the table for teams first come Week 4.
General Overwatch League Hero Usage
Looking at last year, Orisa was the dominant hero picked in the majority of compositions, followed by Mei, Lúcio, Ana, and D.Va. After that, compositions diverged regarding flex supports in Moira and Baptiste, flex tanks in Roadhog and Sigma, and a variety of DPS heroes including Reaper and Hanzo. These statistics back up the idea that tanks and supports are far more static than DPS heroes, where the usage rate drops significantly after Mei, by nearly 20 percent.
This year, Mei is once again toward the top of the list with an 83.3 percent usage rate. The only heroes above her are Reinhardt (88.94 percent) and Lúcio (a whopping 91.83 percent). If hero pools were to begin next week, the heroes most likely to be at risk of a ban would be Reinhardt, Lúcio, Mei, and McCree (41.94 percent usage rate), eliminating the popular Mei/McCree combo of obnoxious slows that allow McCree to shoot freely at his opponents.
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Last year during one stage of the 2-2-2 role lock, Toronto relied heavily on Orisa as their primary main tank and a near-even split between D.Va and Roadhog for their flex. Meanwhile, Andreas "Logix" Berghmans played whatever his team needed him to while Lee "Ivy" Seung-hyeon was primarily on Hanzo. In Stage 4, Toronto was a team in flux, and this was demonstrated by Logix's spread of heroes as well as Liam "Mangachu" Campbell's appearance from Contenders to the Overwatch League to be the team's Mei player.
In their series against Paris, Logix's Widowmaker was impressive on the maps he did play, and Lane "Surefour" Roberts' Reaper was used in tandem with Brady "Agilities" Girardi's Mei. Like most teams, the main adjustment for Toronto would be finding a substitute for Mei on their DPS line. Another interesting statistic for Toronto is that they did not play Orisa at all, despite an overall league usage of 26 percent (split between teams like Toronto, who did not play her, and teams like the Paris Eternal, who played her for the majority of their matches).
The Paris Eternal have a different look this year and that's reflected in their statistics. Last year, Terence "SoOn" Tarlier was placed on hitscan heroes as well as Reaper and Tracer when necessary, set up by George "ShaDowBurn" Gushcha's Mei. They were well above the league average when it came to both Widowmaker and playing the Orisa/Roadhog combination.
This past weekend, Jeong "Xzi" Ki-hyo took over the hitscan role with one of his historically-favorite heroes, McCree. What was more surprising is that Paris relied on his Symmetra fairly frequently, actively driving up the league average almost single-handedly (outside of starting a composition by using her Teleporter to get to a point). Paris also had an interesting main tank situation with flex tank Choi "Hanbin" Han-bin unavailable to play until Paris' next match in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 22. Instead, they relied on both main tanks, Benjamin "BenBest" Dieulafait and Jeong "NoSmite" Da-un, to run a Reinhardt/Orisa combination, with NoSmite swapping to Reinhardt when they wanted BenBest on Sigma.
New York Excelsior
Stage 4 and the 2019 playoffs heralded the return of DPS player Park "Saebyeolbe" Jong-ryeol to the stage, where he famously said that Bastion was fun because he could pick his nose while playing him. Jokes aside, the interesting things about New York were their Bastion compositions and also how they swapped between DPS players despite Jeong "Nenne" Yeon-kwan and Hwang "Fl0w3R" Yeon-oh playing the same heroes outside of Fl0w3R's Pharah.
This past weekend, Hammerstein Ballroom reverberated with cheers for flex tank Choi "HOTBA" Hong-joon and his massive D.Va bombs that opened up space for DPS players Jeong "Nenne" Yeon-kwan and Saebyeolbe alongside flex support Bang "JJoNak" Seong-hyeon (who really should be counted as a DPS player for this team half the time anyway) to raze through their opponents. Lee "WhoRU" Seung-joon also set up plays with his Blizzards and main tank Kim "Mano" Dong-gyu was remarkable as always. New York have a large amount of flexibility among their DPS players and should be able to swap them out when necessary as pools eliminate certain DPS heroes. Mano is both a strong Reinhardt and Winston, leaving only the question of how both JJoNak and Jeong "Anamo" Tae-seong will react to certain support bans going forward.
London ran back their inaugural season championship roster, only to have that roster falter a bit through the GOATs era and have shining moments of brilliance through Stage 4 and playoffs, albeit inconsistently. The team swapped Kim "Fury" Joon-ho onto Orisa duty while giving Hong "Gesture" Jae-hee Sigma and heavily relied on Park "Profit" Joon-yeong's flexibility.
It may come as a surprise to some who only saw him this past weekend, but Park "Babel" Sang-joon was more of a hitscan player on the likes of Widowmaker and McCree before his Overwatch League debut. That being said, his Mei was fairly strong, setting up Lim "Glister" Gil-seong on a variety of heroes, particularly Reaper and McCree.
Going forward, it will not only be interesting to see how this young team bounces back from their loss on Sunday, but also how well main tank Choi "JMAC" Jae-han can stand up to opponents in not only the Reinhardt 1v1s but also other heroes when Reinhardt is inevitably banned come Week 4. He was a standout on LGE.Huya but appeared to struggle against Toronto's Adam "Beast" Denton and NYE's Mano.
Last year, Boston was a team in flux, with continuous player swaps, including Jeffrey "blasé" Tsang off-role as a flex tank. Main tank Cameron "Fusions" Bosworth didn't look as comfortable on Orisa as he did on Reinhardt or Winston.
As Fusions himself said in our interview with him, he hasn't been known as the most flexible player and it's something he's working on for this season. He spent his first series of 2020 primarily on Orisa -- Boston was another team driving up the Orisa average -- much like his Stage 4 last year, while Park "axxiom" Min-seob played the Reinhardt. Again, when Reinhardt is likely banned come Week 4, it will be interesting to see how Boston shifts their tank players. Boston was an outlier this past weekend due to Seo "Myunb0ng" Sang-min's Baptiste, which he spent 83.4 percent of his time on -- well above the league average of 18.9 percent.
Los Angeles Gladiators
The Gladiators' 2-2-2 Stage 4 and playoffs showings were dominated by swapping their various DPS players around, including João Pedro "Hydration" Goes Telles' stints on Sigma and Wrecking Ball in addition to his signature Doomfist. This was supplemented by Surefour on Reaper (which we saw him play this week in Toronto's match against Paris).
This year, the Gladiators look to rely on both of their main tanks, Roni "LhCloudy" Tiihonen and Son "OGE" Min-seok, to rotate through tank bans. Both played Reinhardt this past weekend with OGE bringing out his signature Winston as well. The major difference for the Gladiators this year is in their DPS line, where they'll look to start Gia Huy "Chris" "MirroR" Trịnh, Kim "birdring" Ji-hyeok, and Jason "Jaru" White depending on which heroes are banned.
Los Angeles Valiant
Last year, Kyle "KSF" Frandanisa alongside Johannes "Shax" Nielsen took over hitscan duties on the Valiant with Agilities filling in the Mei role as well as showcasing his Pharah. Both KSF and Agilities were flexed where the team needed them at the time. The Valiant also played a bit less Moira than the league average and a bit more Zenyatta, which makes sense due to Park "KariV" Yeong-soo's fragging abilities.
Entering this past weekend with scrim rumors on their side, the Valiant delivered fairly well despite their loss to the Vancouver Titans (who are again looking like one of the best teams in the league). KSF took over the Mei role to set up Kai "KSP" Collins, who was the team's primary hitscan and Reaper player. New main tank Rick "GiG" Salazar looked solid on Reinhardt. Additionally, the Valiant were one of the teams that didn't play Orisa at all through opening weekend.
The Fuel entered this season with a revamped lineup around the former Boston Uprising tank duo of Noh "Gamsu" Yeong-jin and Lucas "NotE" Meissner as well as DPS players Kim "Doha" Dong-ha and Jang "Decay" Gui-un. Doha played the Mei (one of Decay's primary roles on the Gladiators toward the end of last season) while Decay played more hitscan. A lot of Dallas' success will likely be riding on this DPS duo, although the Fuel do have both Zachary "ZachaREEE" Lombardo and Dylan "aKm" Bignet as well. All four of these players have fairly large overlap in their previously played hero pools outside of Doha.
The Titans were arguably the best GOATs team of 2019, and had a few difficulties transitioning into the 2-2-2 meta during Stage 4 and playoffs. While they kept winning, for the most part, they didn't look nearly as indomitable as they had in the GOATs meta, and rotated through DPS players Kim "Haksal" Hyo-jong, Lee "Stitch" Chung-hee, and flex player Seo "SeoMinSoo" Min-soo depending on what they wanted to play with Mei or how they wanted to set up some of these players on their signature DPS picks like Haksal on Genji.
Historically, Baek "Fissure" Chan-hyeong has a honeymoon period with teams before any communication problems arise. He looked strong this past weekend, and additionally has that aggressive forward-facing playstyle of former Vancouver main tank Park "Bumper" Sang-beom, which the team relied on through Stages 1-3 and the GOATs meta. This is primarily the same team, and we saw similar strategies from them in giving players room to pop off on their signature heroes, whether it was Haksal on Genji, Stitch on McCree, or even a surprising start for flex support Ryu "Ryujehong" Je-hong on Ana.
San Francisco Shock
The San Francisco Shock won the championship last year thanks in large part to their versatility as a team, which shows even in a snapshot that only covers Stage 4 and their playoff performances. The Shock had (and still have) multiple specialists that they could start on rotation depending on what type of composition they wanted to run.
The star of the Shock this past weekend was "It's OK because Ana is a sniper too" Park "Architect" Min-ho, who was given a last-minute nod over starting flex support Park "Viol3t" Min-ki. Matthew "super" DeLisi once again shone on Reinhardt, DPS player Kwon "Striker" Nam-joo showcased his hitscan and Tracer prowess, and Grant "moth" Espe helped drive up the Brigitte averages, although these statistics are obviously skewed due to the fact that San Francisco (alongside Toronto, Boston, and the Gladiators) played only one series.
Based on these admittedly limited statistical snapshots of teams, Reinhardt and Lúcio very likely could be banned come March. What was more interesting was the split between teams that heavily favored certain heroes counterbalanced against teams that didn't play those heroes at all (like Orisa).
Statistics courtesy of Overwatch League Stats Lab.