The Overwatch League has had a wonderful start in Stage 1. The league performed above expectations and is largely seen as a success. There are twelve teams competing in the biggest esports league for a playoffs spot in August.
The League is divided into four stages, each comprising of five weeks. The game will remain on the same patch through a stage so as to create a fair and balanced system for all the teams. Stage 1 saw the usage of the infamous ‘Mercy Meta’.
The Mercy Meta is a nickname given to the patch for Stage 1. Hero changes made to Mercy meant that the character was a bit overpowered in competitive. The ability to resurrect without any delay, high manoeuvrability and excessive healing made Mercy a must pick in all compositions. Any character that becomes a must pick in Overwatch is broken. The game at its core is about diversity in hero composition. The game has propagated being able to counter an enemy lineup with something different.
This so-called ‘Mercy meta’ allowed teams space to make mistakes. Since Mercy could instantly resurrect up to two allied heroes in her ultimate, team fights would be heavily dependent on whether or not Mercy’s Valkyrie was online. The elongated team fights would often result in teams having a very Mercy centric approach to team fights. The knowledge of whether the Valkyrie is available to the opponent becomes a crucial factor.
Stage 1 saw certain western teams just playing the meta and farming ultimate charge for Mercy. They would then take the fight only when they had the Valkyrie available, which often resulted in lopsided team fights. This also made for poor viewing experience on the part of the fans. The Mercy meta was hated by players and fans alike.
There has been a consensus amongst fans and players alike that Mercy needed to be nerfed. The character made for the viewing experience to be dull. We list out a few flaws with the Mercy Meta.
The ability to resurrect two teammates without any delay is a very high reward low-risk gameplay. It also made Mercy a must pick in most hero compositions. The Valkyrie’s movement ability also meant that it was difficult to shoot down a Mercy in her ultimate.
The constant resurrections meant that a 6v6 FPS game turned into an 8v8 FPS game theoretically. It made for frantic and messy team fights with a lot riding on the heroes Mercy would be able to resurrect.
Teams would often be caught unaware when an enemy hero, supposedly dead, would rise to deal damage to them. Stage 1 saw Chaos being the theme of team fights and presented a poor overall experience.
Overwatch is a very fast-paced game with a high skill cap. There are characters such as Genji which require a higher skill ceiling than other heroes. However, the Mercy meta did not reward high skill plays.
A DPS such as Effect would take down two opponents, but they would easily be brought back into the fight. Teams were much more focussed around peeling for their mercy or drawing out the ultimate usage from the enemy Mercy.
There was a distinct lack of tactical strategy in Stage 1. The focus was more on Mercy and her ultimate usage. The idea of not having good plays rewarded felt very counter-productive. Teams would often invest a lot of skills and ultimate only to be countered by a single Valkyrie
Team Synergy is one of the key components to a successful Overwatch team. However, that being said Mercy simply erased any good enemy plays. Mercy’s playstyle has always been based less on skill and more on positioning. But her kit was never so powerful that she would be a must pick in any composition. In stage 1, there was no other hero that was a must pick in the meta. While Tracer is a strong character and was regularly picked, she was not a must pick in any composition.
If a team is able to use ultimates to get kills on characters out of position, a Mercy would often just fly in to resurrect someone. She would then fly off, unharmed and without any risk.
Jeff Kaplan announced changes to Mercy which were implemented midway through the Stage 1 in public matchmaking. However with Stage 1 already underway, the rules forbid any changes to the esports map midway. This ensured a level playing field for all the teams involved through a stage.
The Changes to Mercy’s Ultimate Valkyrie:
These were significant changes which basically rendered Mercy not viable in competitive. While teams will still use Mercy when there is a Pharah or bastion involved, it is not a must pick in the game.
As we see the changes to Mercy take effect, the meta is already shifting. We are seeing more tank heavy lineups in matches. There is also the traditional Dive Meta which is still effective right now.
Teams are happier with the meta for Stage 2. There is no single ‘must-pick’ hero right now. Teams can adapt, form new strategies and not have to worry about a Mercy ultimate which can bring back multiple opponents. It creates a back and forth tugs which is always good for the game as a whole.
We will have more skill based, versatile and favoured support heroes such as Lucio, Zenyatta, Ana, and even Moira. Several professional support players have made their name in Overwatch on some of these heroes. We have all see Ryujehong’s Ana, Dhak’s aggressive Lucio play as well as Jjonak’s Zenyatta. Getting to see professional players comfortable on their favourite heroes is definitely exciting.
The removal of Mercy and the presence of Tracer is going to favour more tank heavy lineups. We see Ana making a comeback, especially with the increase to her damage being quite significant. It was overshadowed by the Mercy changes which made her a must pick.
The addition of Moira favours the usage of multiple tanks in a small chokepoint. Her orbs can do AOE healing which is good when you have a tank heavy lineup. It also means that she will be able to charge up her ultimate much faster.
With Roadhog being a viable pick and damage dealer, tank heavy lineups will focus a lot on positional mistakes. A mistake in the new meta will be punished and cannot be brought back by Mercy.
We will also see a turnaround in the fortunes of certain teams. Dallas Fuel has always favoured a tank heavy lineup and the new meta will favour them a lot. With Taimou almost certain to be shifting to the Roadhog, we will see a new look from Dallas Fuel. Some teams such as Shanghai Dragons have also shown us that they prefer playing Zarya on certain maps with more efficiency.
Another playstyle which is completely different to the tank meta mentioned above is the Dive meta. The Dive meta is prevalent on some teams right now. Boston Uprising, London Spitfire are well known for their execution in diving on the opposition support. London has the best offence when it comes to targeting the enemy Zenyatta. Boston Uprising, on the other hand, is well known for their Dive. Their coordination and synergy are well established which ensures the high success rate of their Dives.
The Dive meta cannot be ignored as it has been prevalent for quite some time. Teams such as Dallas Fuel and Boston Uprising have been playing a Dive lineup through most of their STage 1 matches. A dive composition basically means that the team will dive on a particular target and use their resources to remove him from the fight altogether. It gives them a small advantage and they can capitalise on it to win the team fight.
A Dive meta requires a high level of coordination and communication. While Previously the Dive compositions were not as effective simply because their target would be brought back from the dead. In the new stage, however, teams will be able to effectively win team fights on the back of a successful dive.
Boston Uprising will have a big advantage as they have been one of the best teams using the Dive play-style.
There will be more playstyles showcased during Stage 2 of the Overwatch League. The Dive meta and the tank meta are just some examples of what might be good in the upcoming stage. However, the removal of Mercy opens up the playing field and we might also see the first Symmetra being picked up in the Overwatch League.
Stage 2 also has a different map pool. We will witness some classic maps such as Kings Row, Volskaya Industries, WatchPoint Gibraltar, Route 66 etc. These include some classic maps which will see a lot of new strategies, allow for a varied type of gameplay and are more familiar to the fans.
The Overwatch league has shown an ability to adapt to the needs of fans and viewers. The community is constantly providing feedback on the heroes and the game itself. The first match for Stage 2 will be between Seoul Dynasty and Los Angeles Valiant on 21st February 2018 and will be streamed on Twitch.