Overwatch League to Introduce Hero Pools

by in General | Jan, 31st 2020

The Overwatch League has struggled since its inception to find a way to keep the meta from getting stale. From restricting the copies of a hero for each team to one early in the game’s life to last year’s change to 2-2-2 roster locking and countless balance patches in between.

Yet, despite all these attempts to prevent it from becoming too stale, the game constantly found itself locked into metas that are excruciating to watch. Especially the infamous GOATS meta that lasted for half of the season last year. Many considered it the most boring to watch in the game’s short history.

Now Blizzard decided to take a more drastic approach to try and prevent stale metas from forming. They announced Overwatch Hero Pools are coming to the game in March.

Blizzard Says

According to a developer update released, the new system will look at the champion play-rate data from the previous week of Overwatch and ban one tank, one support, and two damage heroes for the following week. Heroes can’t be banned in two consecutive weeks, though. Blizzard noted this only affects ranked play. Quick Play and Arcade would be staying as is.

The system will also be coming to the Overwatch League on March 7. However, it will operate differently than for normal ranked played. Here’s more on the announcement:

  • The heroes will be randomly selected from a group of eligible heroes based on play-rate data from the previous two weeks of Overwatch League matches—only heroes that are being played regularly can be pulled from the next hero pool.
  • No hero will be unavailable two weeks in a row.
  • Overwatch Hero Pools will not be used for midseason tournaments, the play-in tournament, playoffs, or Grand Finals. All heroes will be available for those matches.
  • Teams will be informed of each week’s Hero Pool approximately one week in advance of matches.

The system would keep the meta from getting stale by forcing players to change their picks every two weeks. However, there are concerns that the system will handicap teams in their planning for each match. Teams would need to find out who is banned every two weeks while traveling to the next homestand location.

Another issue is that the system will unfairly impact teams. Most of which have completed their rosters for the season, who may have picked up one-tricks based on meta expectations. There are fears that a pool that leaves their hero banned could leave them scrambling to adapt in just days to play someone else at a high level. Whereas before, they’d have weeks to prepare for a patch.

Isaac’s Take: Dual Stale Meta

I’m worried that teams will take advantage of the system to force in just two metas, one for one hero pool.

Then one for the second one after the top heroes in the first pool get banned, resulting in a constant rotation between two pools and thus just making a warped dual-meta for the season.

Blizzard is willing to go with a different approach based on community and pro feedback.

Hopefully, a problem comes to light, we aren’t stuck with it long. With this being Blizzard and all, I’m afraid it’ll be an agonizingly long time before any fix gets brought up.

I also take issue with Blizzard determining what’s banned in each pool. That’s something that should be left for pros to do at the start of a match like in most esports. It shouldn’t be for the developer to choose every week. However, if a hero has a game-breaking bug or one comes out days before a match, it makes sense for them to ban it instead.

Hopefully, this all works out and Overwatch finally gets beyond the incredibly stale metas it became known for. I still have my doubts.


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