Overwatch Hero Pools Will Be Limited to Masters and Grandmasters


by in Overwatch | May, 1st 2020

Overwatch’s Hero Pool system has been radically redesigned to use data from the Overwatch League and will now only be applied to matches at Masters and Grandmasters level. This fixes one of the biggest complaints that casual fans had about playing Overwatch at a low to medium competitive level, that matches were already diverse enough.

The cutoff for this new system will be at 3500 SR or the bottom tier of Grandmasters. However, that does not mean that you could not run into the Hero Pool system if you are in placements or if you are approaching the threshold.

Hero Pools Will Be Temporarily Disabled

This change will go live after a period where Overwatch will be patched, but will in the meantime have hero pools disabled for all skill ranks while this is being worked on.

“Competitive Play at lower skill tiers already sees a tremendous amount of hero composition diversity in their matches, and we don’t think they need a system like Hero Pools to encourage even more,” Overwatch developer Scott Mercer said in a forum post.

“Unfortunately, this is a change that will require a client patch, and we’re a bit too far along in the development process for the upcoming 1.48 patch to add a new feature like this one. This change will take a bit more time to implement. While we all wait for this feature to go live, we’ve decided to temporarily disable Hero Pools from being used in all Competitive Play games. We’ll switch them off next Monday morning, May 4, when the Hero Pool normally rotates. For the vast majority of our competitive players who are ranked Diamond and below, this brings their upcoming future without Hero Pools to them way more quickly.”

Solving the Problem

As part of this change, hero pools will now be using Overwatch League data, to not only bring some parity between what players are seeing on broadcasts and what they can use in game, but also to solve the variance issue where one group of powerful heroes would be banned one week, then not the next, and so on.

“While initially our data showed that there were many similarities in hero usage between online high-level Competitive Play and OWL matches, online hero usage over the last few weeks has seen a lot of changes due to the release of Patch 1.47’s balance updates, Experimental Card, and Echo,” Mercer continued. “There were some significant differences between online hero picks versus the most played hero compositions in Overwatch League. Determining Hero Pools with online data did achieve our goal to increase hero variance in matches, and the point of Hero Pools is NOT to just ban the heroes that some players might dislike or consider overpowered.”

A Delicate Balancing Act

One problem that Blizzard faced in balancing out how hero pools were balanced was that popular heroes would get played a lot due to the meta, and would immediately get banned the following week. The changes look to solve that issue.

“While the current algorithm makes heroes with higher usage-rate percentages also see a higher chance of being rotated, that does exacerbate the chance of heroes repeatedly being removed,” Mercer concluded. “Also, highly played heroes the community really likes seeing played have the same chances of being rotated out as highly played heroes the community doesn’t like. The goal is to create variance in the available heroes week to week, and that means there will be a wide range of reactions from the community on each week’s Hero Pool from “the comps we see in OWL this week should be super interesting,” to “ARGH! This week’s pool is the WORST!” It all depends on which heroes you like to play and watch.”

These changes will go live on May 4 when Hero Pools are disabled and will be iterated on in a future patch so hero pools can be re-enabled for Masters and Grandmasters play.

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