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A new age of Overwatch has arrived—first refined in European Contenders, before crossing the Atlantic to the Americas and spreading to Korea, while somehow skipping China entirely. I’m talking about the triple-tank, triple-support meta, a deathball where the sum of its parts is far greater than the whole.

* The traditional 3-3 composition includes Reinhardt, Zarya, and D.Va as tanks, with Lúcio, Zenyatta, and Brigitte as supports. Some variants substitute Winston for Reinhardt, Moira for Zenyatta, or Sombra for D.Va.

This article is not about this team composition, which has quite a few variations*. Rather, I want to explore how a fundamental strategy shift has demanded that we change the way we look at Overwatch statistics. The rules we learned in the inaugural season no longer apply: DPS heroes are not securing kills, ultimates are being used as chess pieces as often as game-winning plays, and efficiency both in the macro and micro sense wins the day.

Overwatch is different now, but it’s no less exciting. To show just how the game has changed since we left it in Brooklyn last summer, I tried to answer three questions:

  1. What is different?
  2. Why is this the case?
  3. Who are the best examples of the changes in play we’ve been seeing?

Let’s start with the easiest: what’s new?

The most obvious difference between the inaugural season meta and what we’re seeing in 2019 is the team compositions. Of the six heroes that comprise the traditional 3-3 composition, only Reinhardt had less than 75% usage in the first week of play. This was because he was often subbed for Winston in the more mobile version of 3-3. Combined, Reinhardt and Winston totaled 83% usage as main tanks in 3-3, while the rest recorded the following usage rates:

  • Lúcio: 91%
  • Zenyatta: 83%
  • D.Va: 83%
  • Brigitte: 82%
  • Zarya: 75%

This lineup, however, is only the skin of a multilayered onion of statistical changes. The 3-3 lineup is beautiful (and terrifying) because its composite heroes perform better—so much better—together than apart. There’s no better way to compare the boost in effectiveness these heroes enjoy when combined like Voltron than by using the ample data from the inaugural season as a baseline. Last year, these heroes were sometimes used together, but never in the combinations we see today; the full power of the 3-3 composition had yet to be discovered.

Focusing on the main tanks, Brigitte, and Lúcio, here are some statistics that changed by more than 15% relative to last year’s league averages:

Reinhardt:

Hero damage done Earthshatter stuns Damage taken Objective kills Eliminations
2019 values 7,870 5.79 14,873 7.74 15.3
Relative to 2018 season +28.9% +33.7% +19.1% +22.0% +23.8%
Difference from 2018 season +1,765 +1.46 +2,382 +1.39 +2.9

All stats are per 10 minutes.

Winston:

Hero damage done Jump Pack kills Players knocked back
2019 values 7,071 6.65 73.0
Relative to 2018 season +26.2% +35.3% +35.8%
Difference from 2018 season +1,469 +1.73 +19.2

All stats are per 10 minutes.

Brigitte:

Inspire healing Defensive assists
2019 values 6,286 24.6
Relative to 2018 season +73.9% +29.5%
Difference from 2018 season +2,672 +5.6

All stats are per 10 minutes.

Lúcio:

Offensive assists Heal Song ratio** Speed Song ratio** Players knocked back
2019 Value 11.0 32.56% 67.44% 37.0
Relative to 2018 Season +55.3% -30% +30% 67.6%
Difference from 2018 season +3.9 -14.02% +14.02% +14.9

All stats are per 10 minutes.

**Ratio of time spent on speed vs. healing and vice versa

Why are we seeing these differences?

At the highest level, this boils down to—well, there are two densely packed deathballs running into each other, of course there’ll be more healing and damage. However, there’s a bit more nuance to it than that when it comes to individual micro plays. For example, while Brigitte’s Inspire healing is through the roof in 3-3, her uptime on the buff only increased from 32% to 36%. The Inspire buff is not being applied at a faster rate; it is being applied to more heroes on average who have higher health pools that can tank more damage (and thus be healed more).

In a different instance, we can see that the hero damage of Reinhardt and Winston is vastly higher than last season. It’s easy to attribute this to the density of opposing 3-3 lineups, but it’s more fun to put some efficiency stats behind the theory. For Reinhardt, players are averaging 1.81 players hit per Rocket Hammer swing, which is up 23.2% from 2018. Winston is hitting 0.95 players per Primal Rage swing, up 43.0% from 2018, and 1.70 players per Tesla Cannon tick, up 24.5% from last season.

Basically, 3-3 is a main tank’s playground: with so many enemies piled close together, they can multiply the effectiveness of their cleave-like damage. Ever wonder how Reinhardt players like Qiulin “Guxue” Xu can charge an Earthshatter in 7 seconds or less? Turns out, hitting as many people as possible when they’re caught in a Graviton Surge is quite effective:

I also want to highlight changes in the way Lúcio is played in 3-3 compared to last season. Statistically, we can see a large change in Heal/Speed Song ratios this season compared to last, as well as the increased rate of offensive assists and players knocked back. Thanks to the presence of a second area-of-effect healer (Brigitte) in a 3-3 lineup, Lúcio players do not need to spend as much time idling or amping their Heal Song.

Instead, Lúcio players in 3-3 comps are the playmakers. Their speed boosts power engagements and disengagements, and they are the driving force behind the increase in offensive assists. The data reflects this change in play: unconsciously or not, most Overwatch League Lúcio players now spend nearly 70% of their time played on Speed Aura, up from just 53% last season.

Like the change in Lúcio players’ tunes, their boops have much more potential to change the course of 3-3 teamfights than any of last year’s metas. Rather than primarily existing to ward off flanking Tracers and peel leaping Winstons from their second support, Lúcio players these days are called upon to play both defensively and offensively. To this point, they’ve been knocking back over 50% more enemies than they were last season, and it’s easy to see why, with so many potential combos a single boop can set up. A fast-thinking Lúcio can disrupt an enemy Reinhardt’s Charge, knock an enemy team into position to be Earthshattered, or even bop players as a Graviton Surge ends to ensure multiple Self-Destruct Kills.

San Francisco’s Grant “Moth” Espe put on a great show against the Dallas Fuel that showed the potential of Lúcio in 3-3 with this play, broken down by league analyst Josh “Sideshow” Wilkinson:

Who is shining in this meta?

Moth was just the first example of a player who demonstrated the changes in individual play seen in 3-3. One other Lúcio I’d like to give props to was Gladiators support Benjamin “BigGoose” Isohanni, who exemplified the new era of Lúcio play in a more statistical sense. While splitting a loss to Seoul and a win over the Shock, BigGoose ranked first among 22 Lúcio players in both rate of players knocked back (44 per 10 minutes) and Speed Song ratio (78%). It’s no surprise given what we know of BigGoose’s play: he’s one of the speediest Lúcio players there ever was.

Now onto Reinhardt. Initially, because hero damage and average players hit by hammer swings both increased by roughly the same amount, I expected the Reinhardt player who ranked first in rate of hero damage to lead in this “swing efficiency” metric. Vancouver’s Sang-Beom “Bumper” Park and his top-ranked 9,036 hero damage per 10 minutes, however, only ranked 21st out of 24 Reinhardt players in swing efficiency. Most of his damage was simply dealt quickly rather than efficiently—stomps tend to have that effect.

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Instead, the Reinhardt player who most closely followed the theory of “the more people I hit with my hammer, the more damage I’ll do” was Guxue, who ranked third in swing efficiency with 2.03 players per hit and fifth in hero damage per 10 minutes with 8,624.

Thank goodness Winston players actually did follow the predicted trend: by and large, the players who hit the most enemies with Tesla Cannon and Primal Rage swings also tended to lead in hero damage. My two superlative Winston players of last week were the Los Angeles Valiant’s Pan-Seung “Fate” Koo and the New York Excelsior’s Dong-Gyu “Mano” Kim, who posted the following marks (ranks among 15 Winston players):

Player Hero Damage/10 mins Primal Rage efficiency Tesla Cannon efficiency
Fate 8,580 (2nd) 1.50 (1st) 1.90 (2nd)
Mano 9,453 (1st) 0.96 (3rd) 2.26 (1st)

Hitting more than one player per Primal Rage swing or more than two players per Tesla Cannon tick is extremely impressive, but it’s the type of play we expect from Fate and Mano. Finally, let’s look at which Brigitte players were dishing out the most Inspire Healing (rank among 24 Brigitte players):

Player Inspire healing/10 mins Inspire uptime percentage
Agilities (LAV) 7,164 (1st) 41% (3rd)
Munchkin (SEO) 6,797 (2nd) 36% (T-12th)
Bazzi (HZS) 6,721 (3rd) 36% (T-12th)

It’s interesting and perhaps not surprising to see that Jun-Ki “Bazzi” Park and Brady “Agilities” Girardi both rank so high after battling each other in a highly contentious five-map set, though it seems Agilities did a better job of keeping up Inspire. The middling Inspire uptime rankings that Bazzi and Sang-Beom “Munchkin” Byun posted also seem to confirm the earlier assumption that it’s not about the uptime, but about who and how many players the buff is applied to.

The changes in these stats only scratch the surface of what’s new in the 2019 season. With more games to come, some trends will dissipate while others will be revealed. Some teams have only played a single match, after all, and we have yet to see each team’s true potential in the new frontier of 3-3.

Ben "CaptainPlanet" Trautman is the statistics producer for the Overwatch League global broadcast. Follow him on Twitter!