Get excited everyone because the Overwatch League is back in just under a month. February 15th at 11 am we will see the first match which features season one champions London Spitfire face off against second-place finalists Philadelphia Fusion.
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Perhaps the biggest criticism of Overwatch League’s Stage One was the prevalence of the ‘Mercy meta’, but Stage Two has had no similar complaints.
With the patches that nerfed the seemingly ever-present healer Mercy to a level where her resurrect ability no longer made her a must-pick, other healers and compositions have been allowed not just to exist in the Overwatch League, but to flourish.
Stage One’s favoured composition by far was a dive composition – one designed to enter and exit combat quickly – with Mercy at its core, using her Resurrect and Valkyrie abilities to cover for any mistakes made by teammates who had been picked off early in a fight. Ironically, this also meant those dive compositions were missing Lucio, Overwatch’s only hero with a speed-enhancing ability – one of the core elements of dive.
With Resurrect and Valkyrie’s powers reduced, however, the Overwatch League has become a much more competitive, balanced and fun esport.
Team compositions have often changed now to a more standard dive composition which often looks like Lucio/Zenyatta/D.Va/Winston/Tracer/Genji. These compositions aren’t necessarily inherently interesting, but they do require a higher level of skill and awareness from the players themselves as no longer can you get picked off first in a fight and have it go unpunished thanks to Resurrect. One lost Ultimate ability now changes the tide of a fight.
The better part of the Mercy meta’s departure, though, is that same traditional dive composition is absolutely not the only way to play (in the same way the Mercy meta was). Triple tank plus Zen/Lucio/Junkrat has appeared on quite a few maps since. Quad tank plus Moira and Lucio (affectionately named ‘The Slambulance’) is often used when little time on a map is remaining and teams want to rush a capture point.
The diversity goes beyond the tank numbers, too. Casters who feared Widowmaker and McCree – two interesting hitscan heroes who have no self-healing abilities – might depart the new meta due to the disappearance of Resurrect have been pleasantly surprised by their continuing viability. Even Hanzo has seen some appearances beyond a sonic arrow in the opening seconds of a map.
Sombra, too, has seen an upswing in popularity on maps such as Volskaya and Route 66, where hacking one or two health packs allows not only extra healing for the defending team but a regular source of ultimate percentage for Sombra’s EMP, which she can use often and to devastating effect (though given recent Sombra nerfs where hacked health packs don’t provide ultimate percentage means this will probably disappear in Stage Three).
The common feature in all of these new compositions is that all players have needed to up their skill to engage in the new meta where the first pick is of enormous importance.
What makes the nerf of Mercy absolutely perfect, however, is that she’s still a viable pick. It’s not seen as ludicrous to include a Mercy in your team – there’s still a place for her. Sometimes that place is in the sky in a Pharmercy combo, other times it’s damage boosting a McCree or Widowmaker and providing that Resurrect option. The nerf hit just the right spot, and Blizzard should be applauded for sticking to their guns and finding a level that works.
Stage Two has really shown that the Overwatch League is learning how to progress and thrive as an esport – now all we need is that damn Symmetra buff.